Thursday, 2 June 2016

Philharmonia and philately

Various varieties of attractive mushrooms in baskets
Borough Market, May 2016
There has been a long weekend, which in my case extended to Tuesday due to my habitual day off, and it feels as though I have packed in several weekends' worth of excitement. Things that happened: I did not buy a tenor saxophone mouthpiece, I met a man who struck up a conversation (and this in London, mind) and who then offered to sell me a baritone saxophone, I bought said baritone saxophone, I met a lot of fans of the football club Sheffield Wednesday, I met two people I last worked with in 1988 (and one of whom I had not seen since then), people who weren't Lola II and Mr M came round to my house and stayed overnight and I think I managed to behave as a welcoming host rather than a reclusive hermit, two other people who still weren't Lola II and Mr M came round to my house and had a play with the baritone saxophone and were almost as excited as me, and I went to an organ recital. And this doesn't include regular ordinary things like cleaning, cooking, food shopping and running. And I went to my physiotherapy appointment about my painful shoulder.

The previous week-and-a-bit was also full of mysteries and wonders which did include Lola II and Mr M as well as the rest of my UK-based family and a little bit of non-UK-based family. Things that happened: I attended a Study Day about Type 1 diabetes and exercise (a blog post on that subject is a complex scholarly work and still in the pipeline), stayed with Lola II and Mr M, went to Borough Market and the Museum of London with Lola II, attended the UK-based family event, had lunch at a nice garden centre in Little Venice, didn't attend the non-UK-based family event (but neither did the non-UK-based family so that was all right), and spent a day with mum and a Postal Mechanisation Man sorting through dad's collection of philatelic material. I'm using the word 'philatelic' loosely to mean anything relating to the postal service.

I think I should stop complaining about being busy because this now seems to be my normal state. Since I bought the Fitbit there have only been two days when I haven't walked more than 10,000 steps without any extra effort - I thought I would have to try much harder.

I shall pick a few highlights from all the things that have been happening.

The non-UK-based family event involved a cousin who had been in touch to see if he could catch up with us on his way through London. We very nearly put mum and dad in a taxi for an hour and me in a car for even longer in order to meet at Lola II's house but in the end, for various reasons, we didn't. This was a good thing, because the meeting that the cousin was attending between flights took up all the intervening time and he didn't make it to Lola II's house either.

Dad's philatelic collection is big, very big. We have been trying to whittle it down now that he is not actively collecting it any more. One large chunk is all about Postal Mechanisation - in basic terms, the use of machines rather than people to sort mail. Just to prove that for any human interest there is an interest group, there exists a Postal Mechanisation Study Circle (PMSC), whose newsletter led me to contact its Secretary to see if they could provide any support in disposing of dad's collection in a more constructive way than through the medium of a bonfire.

Having spent four hours in his company, I can say that the Secretary of the PMSC is a lovely man. He extended a trip to London with a Tube journey out to mum and dad's house and went through the entire postal mechanisation collection with enthusiasm and excitement. He took a small proportion away with him for auction, and left the rest in piles representing valuable material, stuff that might sell on eBay, and a disappointingly small amount that could be thrown out. There is still much work to do - this collection is perhaps a quarter of the stuff that's still in boxes and cupboards - but I can't manage any more at the moment, especially with the LTRP and the new saxophone-related activity.

The new saxophone-related activity started with a proposal to meet up with people who were kibbutz volunteers at the same time as me back in 1987-88. The proposed venue was Baker Street, and there is a shop nearby that had been recommended as somewhere that would allow me to try out different saxophone mouthpieces, because I had been told that the difficulties I had with the low notes on my tenor sax might be resolved with a different mouthpiece. The tenor sax is extremely heavy, and usually when I go to London it is to the outer fringes where my family lives, so this was a perfect opportunity to get the sax to the shop without a great deal of messing about on the Tube.

So I arrived at the shop with my tenor saxophone and they duly provided me with different mouthpieces to try. It became very clear that the problem was between the mouthpiece and the chair - or possibly the saxophone itself. None of the different mouthpieces solved the problem, so I sat in front of the cafe next door (it was a lovely morning) with a cup of tea and pondered my options. This is when conversation started with the chap at the next table about saxophones and he offered me the baritone sax which was to be found in the basement of his shop across the road. A friend had recently managed to borrow one of these and told me it was worth more than his car, so the £100 price tag seemed like a bargain, especially as it played much better than my tenor sax.

This left me in London with two large saxophones and a meeting in the Baker Street pub - it is a large pub but none of us anticipated that it would be entirely full of football supporters due to an event known as a 'play-off' (I had to ask) which would allow either Sheffield Wednesday or Hull City to be promoted to the Premier League. This pub was restricted to the Sheffield supporters - Hull fans were refused entry and directed to a different pub to avoid any trouble. Unfortunately kick-off was not until 5pm so the pub would be full to bursting for several more hours. Which meant that I and my two large saxophones were not ideally suited to a quiet pint and a chat with ex-volunteers. We eventually decamped to an alternative location and had a lovely time.

There was a lot more activity to come within the long, long weekend, but I shall jump to the physio appointment I had on Tuesday to see if anything could be done about my painful shoulder. This was damaged during ski holiday #2 and has been giving me some trouble for two months but only in certain movements: applying the car handbrake, removing tight clothing over my head, carrying heavy luggage up steep stairs. I wasn't optimistic that physiotherapy would achieve anything, but in fact it achieved a diagnosis of inflammation in the joint between the top of the humerus and the acromion process of the shoulder blade causing some 'impingement'. Three treatments were suggested - a stretching exercise I should do a few times a day, anti-inflammatory gel and ice. It should get better slowly, but I have the option to contact the physio again within a month if I think I need to.

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