25 June 2011

Stephen O'Rs Poomully

Friday June 24, Poomully Mana, Kerala, India (in Monsoon time- the best time to be here unless you are only interested in going to the beach - the monsoon is soft and moist and it freshens nature and makes sounds soft. It is easy to think and muse.
It is monsoon here in Kerala where I have come to deal with the word incurable. Incurable is the word Doctors use to describe my medical condition. In the late seventies I had a medical procedure called a MYELOGRAM that was used in the days before Cat Scans and MRIs. It involved injecting a contrast agent into the holy of holies the spinal cord. The spinal cord does not have a mechanism for expelling foreign matter so when they ‘attempt’ to withdraw the oil-based fluid they of course can’t and in a majority of cases after some time has passed (usually around 20 years) it acts as an adhesive and sticks the nerves together and thereby hangs the problem.
When you try to use one of those nerves it will move all of the nerves that are adhered to it – this cause the brain to over react and send messages to all the parts served by those nerves, to go into spasm and/or pain. The magic word is ARACNOIDITIS – the word arachnoid as many of you may know refers to spiders and it is only when a cadaver is cut open that you can see the inside of the
spinal cord is decorated with what looks like spider’ webs. So this problem is more accurately known as an inflammation of the sub-arachnoid space. End result is pain, continuous pain that can only be treated by the recommended use of narcotic medications and ultimately morphine. Arachnoiditis is also known as Cancer without the release of death. So be wary of having a back operation heed
the early signs SERIOUSLY.
When one takes even the junior narcotics like I take one can get into a bit of a blurred existence. Two years ago I came to this Ayurvedic Hospital in the Palakkad District of Kerala I experienced a complete absence of symptoms and without symptoms I no longer needed medications. Unfortunately this only lasted about 2-3 months and then slowly my ordinary day-to-day life (driving, shopping, cooking going to the theatre or movies trying to write sitting up etc) took over and before long I was back working out the highest dose I could take and still operate in the world. After one year I decided to return to Poomully for the longest time I could manage and see if it made a more permanent change to my situation.
As I write the ancient temple across the track is finishing 5 days of reciting the Vedas twenty-four hours a day and the last guy sounded like a jazz-rock singer of the sixties.
Poomully runs a very strict regime where basically you have to agree to do anything they tell you and eat or drink every thing they give you including in my case 6 individually made medicines which they adjust every few hours a day. All medicines are made from leaves, bark and branches gathered in the time-honoured way by the hill tribe people from the forests that remain. Kerala is blessed in many ways  - 2metres of rain a year therefore hydro -electric power, massive forest and fields, an ancient internal water transport system.
Out of a population of  more than 60million,  20 million are catholics – catholocism started here when St Antony arrived after the death of Christ.
There is also a large percentage of Muslims and all appear to share schools and public facilities without a problem. The biggest asset this state has is a 95+% literacy rate and almost no corruption. Many of these wonderful things appear to exist because Kerala had a Communist Government for 50+ years since independence in 1948.
Ayurveda is about 3000 years old so far and translates as ‘ knowledge for a long life’ and has been offered to people free here at Poomully for over 650 years The locals can come to three free clinics a week for no fee but in most cases they must pay for the medicines. The accommodation is housed in the three-storey,  250 year old ‘bachelor quarters‘ that was attached to the 1650 sq ft palace that was demolished in the 1970’s due to lack of funds and a high Palace tax.
There are two resident Doctors and two visiting Senior Doctors and about 26 staff for a maximum of 9 patients (currently about 6.) The food is medicine here and is good but after a week or two you remember this is a hospital not a ‘spa’ . The cost is 100 Euros per day - that covers absolutely everything except transport to and from whereever you come from.
I have to stop now but for the next six Fridays I will write from here although the schedule is very busy from 5:30am till dinner at 7pm.

Good night to you Dear reader -  it’s China for at least 3 weeks, then India, then the Arab world and onto 16th Century Europe (primarily England and Holland but touching on the Portugal, Africa and the Americas. Good Health to all and get a second opinion at least before letting the Doctors cut you.
China Part 1.
It has been said that most people’ s knowledge, and understanding of China is based on their local Chinese restaurant. Where I grew up there were no Chinese restaurants but Chinese New Zealanders ran many of the fruit and vegetable shops, in our city and market gardens.
The only time I focused on Chinese people being different to the rest of us was when I was about fifteen or sixteen, as a member of the school army cadets, I was taught how to shoot and care for rifles and machine guns and how then how to organise a squad so that individual protestors in the streets could be shot without anybody being able to identify the soldier who fired the bullet that killed the protestor.
In the film, the protestors were Chinese and so was the person who was killed. The Chinese were the enemy was the message I was left with.
My neighbor a very smart woman believes the Chinese may well have plans to invade Australia. China invaded Tibet in 1965 to re-establish direct control over what they see as autonomous region of China. They also attempted an invasion of Vietnam unsuccessfully for over a thousand years. I am not aware of China invading any country that was not on their borders in its 3,000 plus years of (known) history.It has rarely been to war with other societies except Tibet and North Vietnam. In Hanoi
you can visit the Ancient Temple, which is said to be the first University in the world or visit any of the pagodas and you can see China's legacy.
On the other hand China was invaded three times - first by the Mongols who in 127-1386 became the Yuan Dynasty and then the Manchurians in through Korea to become the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912). Then in the 19th century a coalition of European and American forces (partly in response to the Qing Government attempt to close down the British and European drug trade that at its peak had 40 million opium users taking the foreigner's opium that came from Bengal and Ottoman-controlled Turkey). The main reason, apparently, for this invasion (that included destroying the Emperor’ s palaces) was to force the Chinese to open 5 Ports, including Hong Kong and Shanghai, to the Westerners.
Societies could only fully develop when they were organized with a professional educated administration. Early societies were often based around the idea of the powerful man, family or clan who appointed people to take positions in Society. We can see that this led to great inequalities and ultimately to weakness through cronyism and nepotism.
China was not the first to become an organized state - Egypt and Tunisia had been organized states before China. The knowledge and management required to build the pyramids are signs that engineers, architects, managers and stoneworkers had been brought together to realize these buildings. When the Arabs invaded these countries as they expanded out across the top of Africa the organised states ware not there to defend then.
China on the other hand was unified from 7 kingdoms into one Empire in 221BCE and thus ended the warring states period that had plagued the seven societies. So the first Dynasty of unified China, The Qin, began as the organised society building on the benefit of the massive logistical planning that was required to defeat the six other kingdoms in order to create a unified China.
Stephen O’Rourke


A Dream

I dream of an old friend
who is wearing women’s clothes.
His wife watches fondly.
I’m the one perturbed
disturbed and anxious.
Shocked hot and sweating
I want my man friend back
I don’t care for his womanly
hair, his sexy short dress
I feel my blood freeze but
he’s completely at ease
his children secure, safe
in his mumsy embrace.
When I wake from the
cloying depth of my dream
he stays trapped with me
though he died years ago.
Joselyn Duffy Morton ©


Summer flowers
For a while our garden looked not too bad – then we didn’t get any rain and it lost its lustre. ed

Music at Petignac

photos Roger Morton

This year was the 25th anniversary of La Fete de la Musique and also the25th anniversary of the piano festival at Petignac. It is our favourite festival. My cousin, F-A flew down from Brussels for it and once again she loved it. Set in a large manoir amidst a spacious garden, the atmosphere is one of charm and pure delight. And when you are hungry or thirsty, there’s food and drink sitting outside in the dusk. Not a wrong note.
Inside one is knee-deep in pianos – last year I counted 7 Steinways.  One would like to be in half-a-dozen places at a time, there is so much going on. By chance we went upstairs and caught the end of a dark-haired woman playing. Then to my surprise the man sitting next to me stood up and seemed to modestly suggest to two or three other men in the front row, that perhaps he should play. Up he went and for the next hour we listened to some perfect Chopin. Magic. (Later we discovered he is not a professional pianist but an eye doctor in Bordeaux. Wild.)
On going downstairs, we found three teenagers on three pianos seriously playing the same pieces whilst outside various groups played jazz, blues and sang to relaxed groups of spectators. Our favourite Seven Sons (with a showing of ‘five’) didn’t disappoint. They have a grand sound with Paul’s expert fingering on guitar, Rob’s unique bass, Fred’s emotive harmonica, a new drummer who seemed very at ease and Keith’s voice effortlessly holding the audience in trance. It was too short. I know they are having problems but I hope they manage to resolve them as singularly and collectively, they are a fine bunch of musicians and we don’t want to be deprived of the music they make.
Joselyn Duffy Morton

Fred on fiddle

BBC, Radio 4 Extra

Hello again,
I am a fan of Michael Morpurgo's writing and last November I was pleased to be able to broadcast a repeat of the wonderful Radio 2 production of Michael's acclaimed children's novel , War Horse.
Originated at the National Theatre in 2007, the stage play has sold over a million tickets. This breathtaking and emotional production has also been a huge success on Broadway, so I was not surprised to see that War Horse scooped up five awards in New York last Sunday at the annual Tony Awards (which recognise and celebrate excellence in live Broadway theatre).
We can’t bring you the stunning visual effects of the stage play, but you can hear our powerful radio dramatisation of War Horse later this year on Radio 4 Extra.
On Wednesday this week, I attended a modest awards celebration - worlds apart from the Tony's - but nonetheless tremendously important for the future of Radio Drama. The awards were for the winners and runners-up of the Carleton Hobbs  Bursary and Norman Beaton Fellowship, BBC Radio drama initiatives under the umbrella title Soundstart, providing the opportunity for actors to win a contract for five months working with the prestigious BBC Radio Drama Company.
Both schemes attract interest from actors who are keen to add Radio work to their career. The Carleton Hobbs Bursary is aimed at actors graduating from the UK-wide accredited Drama Colleges, and the Norman Beaton Fellowship at actors who, though already professional, have not come into the profession via a traditional Drama training route.
Over the years more than 160 actors have launched their careers through these events. The Carleton Hobbs Award was started in 1953. Ted Kelsey (familiar to many of you as Joe Grundy in The Archers) was one of the first winners. You have probably heard many of the winners and runners-up in numerous radio dramas, including our own interactive drama, Chain Gang.
Here is more information on Soundstart, with a complete list of winners from 1953 - 2011:
I was interested to note that Anthony Daniels was a Carleton Hobbs winner in 1973. Anthony completed his contract with the Radio Drama Company - and thereafter his BBC radio career ended - as he took on the role of the body and the voice of the droid C-3PO in Star Wars. He voiced the character in all three parts of American National Public Radio's dramatisation of Star Wars, and reprised the role in various animations, audiobooks and promotional works.
In addition, Anthony was the voice of Legolas in a 1978 animated adaptation of Lord of the Rings.
As fans of Radio Drama know - it' s all in the voice.
Mary Kalemkerian
Head of Programmes, BBC Radio4 Extra

24 June 2011

Cover caption

Seven Sons playing at Fete de la Musique at Petignac on Saturday 18 June
Photo:Roger Morton

10 June 2011

Stephen O'R's trip

In my ‘plan’ I would just be be arriving at Singapore which has 3 of the best
airports in the world. There you can believe that fantasy about travelling and having a good time.
The terminals are spacious and well-served with showers, massage, restaurants,hairdressers, pharmacies, a swimming pool and three hotels with good beds and showers and total silence and black out. We are talking a transit passengers’dream.
So that is where I would be in the world that revolves around me but of course the world does not revolve around anyone. Barrack, Bono, Madonna, Hilary,Gaddafi- no -nada- Nietzsche-no and no f-cking way. The world only revolves and sometimes you can get on and sometimes you can get off.
This time I could not ‘get on’
That's right, 'Could Not!!'
Why because I switch on my phone and found the message box was choker. A close relative of mine no names no pack drill was in a state of total freakout and I realized I was ‘it’. It was going to be up to me to sort it. No I wasn't going to India via Singapore I was going to cancel my trip that I had been trying to take since January.
I had a discussion with the individual in question and she was flipped.She had been off for a walk and she had to walk past a house known locally as ‘The Dungeon’ and she became convinced that the three men who were standing out the front of the dungeon were going to kill her. No doubt this was going to happen.
This was not a good start to the day because when she got to work it became clear to her that everybody in the office was involved in a scheme to drive her out of her job. What could she do but run from the office and attempt to contact me and one other so that we could help her.
I woke with her and yes she was very disturbed which I had seen before in her but at least this time she was talking openly to me so I got the whole story uncensored. After some time the battery on my phoned began to die and I said I would call her back.
I rang my Doctor’s surgery but she was not there, her receptionist told me to ring her at home but I like my Doctor and knew she was under a lot of pressure and did not want to disturb her at home.
Next on my list was a therapist I had talked to over three years. Recently I had done her a favour and so I rang. Answering machine, left a message and about 2 hours after she called me back. This women used to be a psychiatrist and she is very bright and experienced. She grilled me for information and within ten minutes she had a diagnosis. Schizo-affective disorder.
Schizophrenia has within it a range of varieties and schitzo-affective disorder is a debilitating condition involving bizarre interpretations of seemingly harmless things and this can be combined with delusional paranoia and a bunch of other symptoms.
It was around this point that I realized my ready packed bags, my stack of medicines, my  wallet-full of crisp Euros and me were not going anywhere.
I rang my wife many times before I remembered she was in Melbourne in a meeting or on a plane and therefore not getting the messages. It was at this point that I realized there was my trip was off, so I began the task of cancelling or postponing all my travel and watching vaguely as the computer asked me if I was sure that I wanted to cancel my long-booked frequent flier ticket.
‘Yes’ I clicked and so whanged the elastic cord that had been pulling me toward the only
nice thing about flying.  The only nice thing about flying is the moment they close the doors and you are  protected from all the slings and arrows that the world insists on throwing at you.
Another long talk with the person of interest and I was only able to end it when my pocket phone rang and released me. The call was from a friend who lives in  his own private valley on a large farm that used to be referred to as 'Hopeless' even though the name that was painted on the old green fridge serving as a letter box at the gate was 'Hopeful'. My friend is a retired chemical manufacturer who had bought the farm off his surrogate father – a recently died 90 year old Radiologist who used to fly from one country town to another in his own plane. He was the spitting image of an old English actor named Wilfred Hyde - not only did he look like him, he behaved like him. The farm was to this guy a place to play and he would get on one of the trail bikes or more recently the 4wheel drive bike and go looking for things that need fixing. But my friend Robert put an end to that hippie sort of stuff and planted about 15000  olive trees each with their own computerized watering and feeding system. He built a couple of dams the size of Sydney Harbour then built a large warehouse factory building and added a fork lift.
He now produces a high quality olive oil which wins gold medals all over the place. He is ringing up to wish me Bon voyage so I have to tell him the story. After he says why are you still being a parent? I realize the conversation is influenced by the effect of a joint or three so it meanders more than this story.
His first wife had been a Maori jazz singer who was shooting up H and so the link is that she became schizo and finally died of liver failure from all the stuff she was taking. But it's not possible to stop being a parent and so when children or people are freaking out ya have to do something about it - even if it means cancelling the trip to a Ayurvedic hospital to try and reverse the condition that I have, that resulted from a chemical injected into my spine by someone like my Friend David the dead Radiologist.
Now take a back seat chronic pain you have been trumped.
So tomorrow I will pick up the person of interest from the airport – assuming she comes- and begin the process of getting her to go to the GP for a referral to the trick cyclist. How long this process will take, only time will tell but an old girlfriend of mine who is a psychologist said it could take a year or more plus medication to get to the bottom of this problem. So there goes India, there goes all my money and my ability to travel for the near future and probably beyond
And so the wheel of life slowly turns while the finger writing on the wall never pauses and we go this way and that before senility comes and we revert to adolescence and end up eating white bread sandwiches that have had their crusts removed.
But maybe not,  maybe the 'revolution' in medication for schitzo-affective isorder is  miraculous and quick and once again Iwill turn my body towards Kerala and Ayurveda.
Good nit maybe China next week,  gods and wives willing.
Sent from my iPad
Stephen O'R