Monday, 28 July 2014

A lovely boy

Yesterday we had the rending experience of having our beloved cat put to sleep. All the more difficult for us because he didn't pass in the night and spare us the awful decision.

In the space of  a year he'd lost a lot of body weight but had remained interested, agile, affectionate and of good appetite. We were expecting the worst as the weight loss had withered most of his muscle - he was literally skin and bone. He was sixteen - the same age as my boys. As poignant as anything else is the passage of time and how we've all aged in the eight years of friendship. Where did it all go ?

In the last few weeks he'd shown signs of dementia, sleeping in odd places, toileting where he shouldn't, showing little interest in us. We accepted this as he was showing no signs of distress or pain and we were prepared to put up with it for as long as it took (cats can go on for years like this.)

Over the last few days I could see real sadness in his eyes, weakness and slowing of movement, "Dad, I've had enough."

Yesterday his back legs went lame - disablement was one of the trigger moments for euthanasia which I'd been waiting for.

The family's walk into the operating room was difficult. We'd huddled in a corner of the cheerful and busy reception area while one woman caused a big jolly fuss over buying special pet food and prolonged our suffering. The vet began to outline available treatment but I shook my head and said, "I think it's time." the vet said "Yes. It's not our policy to recommend that but your timing is perfect." This was the most reassuring thing I could have heard. To keep him would have been selfish - his future was nothing but physical decline and the vet confirmed this. One of the boys walked out of the building - he was too self conscious to let anyone to see him cry.

Scruffy was polite and brave as ever, did exactly as he was told and didn't need a sedative before the injection was administered. His leg was shaved and his last moment was of caring ladies around him, foremost his 'Mum',  "Good boy, Scruffy, Brave lad." The last sensation to leave is hearing. I'd wanted to pull the needle out. Instead I watched the blue stuff go in beyond the point of return. Come back ! Come back !

He went limp and as he buckled they lay him softly on his side careful not to bang his head. A pink child's plaster was put on his leg, which was a nice touch. I straightened out his tail and kissed his forehead. His passing was beautiful. We were all too choked up to speak.

An expensive cremation follows but he cost us so little and gave so much over the years that we owe him that.

Never a tooth or a claw bared in anger - never a fly, mouse bird or hair on head harmed (except for me when I'd teased him too much.)

I'll miss the cuddles, the loud purr, the snoring, the farting, his single pink paw, his brush against my ankles - the head buts and even the house full of fur and his messy food splashes. Most of all I'll miss seeing him lying on wifey looking at her adoringly and reaching up to her shoulder with his pink paw whenever she wasn't paying him enough attention.

He loved being held and carried - I'd often walk around with him clinging to my shoulder and you could rock him like a baby. A real life teddy bear.

When I first met him at the rescue center eight years ago the lady had looked me up and down said "I have just the cat for you." and ushered him in. He'd been there so long, because no-one wanted him, that he'd become the resident cat with a free run of the place without being caged. He'd stolen a doughnut from the staff room the day before. She picked up this living mass of fur and cuddled him, "He's a LOVELY boy. His name's Scruffy."

And that was exactly right. He was a lovely boy. And that's from one who was never very keen on cats - but then Scruffy wasn't really like a cat. He was very special and every other animal seemed to think so too and would treat him as though he were royalty - even dogs. And where they didn't he knew exactly how to pull rank. Perhaps it was an aura - perhaps it was just his halitosis.

RIP Scruffy. The house is empty without you and you're being missed sorely. We can't wait for you to come home. XXX

(Sorry to be so Mawkish. I'm not speaking about it in real life but feel safe doing so as unknown E-K)

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Beat Box Brilliance

Stick with it. He gets the audience on their feet in the end.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Where does E-K shop for his clothes this season ?

Next menswear

Marks & Spencer's menswear
It's almost as though M&S are willfully trying to put themselves out of business - all this chap needs is a hat and some specs and we won't need to ask Where's Wally ? Go to their site for a right laugh but be sure to wear sunglasses as the colour mixes can be startling.
 "Get the look" they say on the advert with this picture:
 Wtf ?  WTF ??? 
The "I shat myself at the airport after check-in and all I had in my hand luggage were my trunks." look.
(This is not a joke. See for yourself !!!)

Thursday, 17 July 2014

How's your hamster ?

If you've ever had a litter (litter ?) of hamsters then you'll know that these sorts of antics are going on all the time.

And in slow motion...

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Full Throttle

This was a surprise find. I expect The Stranglers will have a new album out soon then.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Train Driver Aid

"Single Yellow"

As a Health & Safety Rep for my union I was included in joint management/executive meetings on safety issues.

One of the most interesting things was to go through the reports for SPADs (signals passed at danger by drivers without proper authority) What became obvious to all was the amount of problems that were being caused because of distractions which occur in the distance between the yellow and red signals. Thankfully these are extremely rare events.

This led to the excellent and aptly named "Switched On" poster campaign in mess rooms and booking on points highlighting to drivers the need to remain alert after receiving yellow signals. This can be a problem when they become so numerous as to be routine.

Thankfully I've never had a SPAD in 23 years of driving but each of us accepts that they can happen to anyone. It really is something drivers fear and can lead to months of re-training, psychiatric assessment and even dismissal in the worst cases. Obviously a SPAD could cause an accident but the risk of this happening has been reduced by the introduction of automatic braking systems (TPWS) at strategic points to stop trains shortly before a red. Britain now has the safest railway in Europe and this is not least because staff are monitored and assessed so closely if they've recently completed training or been involved in an incident. A TPWS activation is - as far as the driver is concerned - taken as seriously as a full on SPAD even if the train was stopped and the incident hadn't involve a signal being passed at danger. It is considered to be a precursor to a serious mishap and the driver is put in the 'at risk' category and subject to interviews, tests and intense scrutiny for a while thereafter. It is a tough thing to go through when it's your job on the line.

The following SPAD scenario is typical of what might go wrong:

A 20 mph temporary speed restriction has been imposed and a driver reaches the warning board just having passed a single yellow signal (the next one - possibly a mile away - is red) and then he stops at a station to drop off passengers where he is spoken to by a guard/passenger/platform attendant about timings. After leaving the station he reaches the speed restriction, watches his speedo and sounds his horn for the engineers standing trackside - he then reaches the 'T' board marking the end of speed restriction where he needs to take full power to get his speed up if he's on a gradient... around the next bend he sees the red signal he's forgotten about. Too late to stop in time as a train travelling at 60mph takes half a mile to stop.


I now wear a rubber charity band and as soon as I pass a single yellow signal I move the band from my wrist and put it around my hand. It acts as a permanent sensory reminder that I am in a high risk situation and it doesn't come off of my hand until I see a green signal. That it is sensory rather than audio/visual is the important part as the mind seems to screen out audio/visual far quicker than sensory (audio/visual alerts already exists in the form of the Automatic Warning System but clearly it is imperfect otherwise we wouldn't still be having incidents) The bands also work in the dark and are worn and so are much less likely to be lost or left behind somewhere unlike other reminders such as putting a glove on the controller or writing on the speedo with a temporary marker.

I've found it a simple, cheap but highly effective solution to destractions. (Most of the best solutions to problems are the simplest in my book) The mind is frequently drawn back to the band therefore to the yellow signal which has long passed out of view.

After two years of using my system I've reported my findings to the regional manager who is - full credit to him - most encouraging and keen to take it up. The first batch of Train Driver Aid bands is being commissioned now. To be bought by drivers on a voluntary basis with the money going to local charities. So the Train Driver Aid doesn't just assist drivers, it gives aid to charity too.

I'm now hoping to get the band assessed by the Railway Safety Standards Board as I think it can make a  huge contribution to the situational awareness of drivers  throughout the rail industry and might help reduce the risk of SPADs everywhere. SPAD avoidance is top of the list with every rail industry operator these days.

Without looking what was the first thing I said at the beginning of this article ?

Try putting a rubber band around your hand and reading it all again. See how much more focused you are on the first statement no matter how many distractions are thrown at you.

(The 5 minutes take to read this is typical of the time between yellow and red signals)