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One liner Wednesday…

“You can’t call me a dumb blonde,” she said, “I dye my hair!”

http://lindaghill.com/2014/12/03/one-liner-wednesday-putting-off-the-elusive-noun/

 

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Spreading myself thin…

As I intimated last week, life has taken a bit of a lively turn of late and I’ve been rather swept up in events.
Not only has much of this new activity directly affected my entire life, but as a result I’ve also found myself drawn to “other projects”, as we artistic types are so fond of saying (oops, I think my pretentions are showing) and whilst I’ve always considered Diary of an Internet Nobody to be the main forum on which to air my usual blend of eclectic and random ramblings, sometimes one outlet just isn’t enough and I’ve had to expand my protruberance into the bustling virtual village that is the blogosphere in order to accommodate material that comes from a slightly different cerebral direction.

Oh, and I’ve still not gained mastery over the art of short sentences.

First things first though: Let’s have a quick run through some of the unwritten stuff I’ve been working on for the last couple of months, much of it as a result of the main, soon-to-be-revealed event that has informed so much of my life recently.

As you may remember (possibly even without undue physical pain), I had started work on some new audio-visual projects before taking my unplanned sabbatical from the blog in October, a few of which I had previously inflicted on you allowed you to sample the delights of.
Well, as with most new toys, I got somewhat distracted with my new-found ability to produce sounds that very nearly conformed to what some folks might just, with a charitable spirit and one finger shoved in their ear, describe as “music”.

And you know what..?
Even allowing for my natural modesty and disinclination to blow my own trumpet (ok, it’s not much of a disinclination, I’ll give you that) I’ve got to say that I was impressed with the increasingly slick-sounding production that I managed to achieve with such limited (i.e. non-existent) musical training and minimal technology.
I won’t bore you with anymore details, we’ve a lot to get through in this post as it is, I’ll just furnish you with the links and you can judge for yourself.

To start with, here is one of my favourites, a jaunty little number called
SYMBIOSIS..

….followed by a piece that I composed with somebody particular in mind and inspired by their hometown;
TRAVERSE..

…ending with something that I partly named after my new address, after relocating (yet again) to alternative accommodation, for reasons which will become obvious soon, honest.
This one is called
SPEEDWELL.

There are other new examples of sonic improvisation, all of which will be available on the Sound and Vision page shortly.

Before we get to The Main Event, so to speak, I’d also like to share a few of the best of my recent photographs, (photography is something I’ve never been shy of claiming proficiency at) so here, in no particular order are my favourite pictures of the last few weeks.

First, some images of the incredible natural beauty we are so privileged to live beneath, the gorgeous panorama of the Devon sky, at both sunrise and sunset…

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Staying with nature, here are a few photos I’m especially pleased with, a couple of woodland scenes, some Christmas lights on the river at Bideford and some action shots of gulls feeding, taken at one of our most picturesque and peaceful local beauty spots, the wildfowl lake at Chivenor.

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Right then, that’s most of the unimportant stuff out of the way. Now we come to the main reason for my preoccupation and absence from this, my own little window on the world;
Love.

Yes, there really is no other way to explain it, I’m in love.

Now you may think that the most obvious thing to do (if you’re a blogger, that is) would be to write about something that is so deeply personal, and that’s exactly what I did.

But I didn’t think the way I wanted to approach this most emotive of subjects was…compatible with the tone of this blog, so I did the next most obvious thing.

I started a new blog.

A few of you have had a sneak preview of this project already (naturally I wanted people to read it, but after having sent links to one or two other bloggers and a few close friends, I thought I’d see how it did on its own, without promoting it on social networks and the other platforms that Diary of an Internet Nobody regularly appears on) although I have made an effort to keep the two separate, for reasons which will become clear when you read it.

Because you’ll all read it, right…?

The link below will take you to the first chapter of the story and you will find links to subsequent posts at the top of each one.
If you wish to leave a comment, which I’m always delighted to receive, please do so in the spirit of the new blog, or of course leave them here as normal.

You’ll see what I mean.
Let’s just say that “Dale” wasn’t invited to contribute…

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you:

A LOVE AFFAIR.

 

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I’ll be write back…

Stuff. It happens all the time.
I’ve had rather a large batch of Stuff though, all in one go.
Several batches in fact.

This over-abundance of Stuff has seriously impacted on my ability to post on Diary of an Internet Nobody, not just because of the amount of my time the aforementioned Stuff has taken up, but because a large part of what enables me to write is having the correct mindset and my state of mind has been somewhat altered recently.

Details of all this and more will be imminently forthcoming and I shall subsequently return fully to the blogging fray completely refreshed.

But never fear, this doesn’t herald the rebranding, upgrading, facelifting, supercharging or even slightly altering of the blog, it’s not the result of deep seated soul searching or self-analysis and it isn’t an exercise in some kind of playing-hard-to-get inverse subliminal promotion.

Nope, I’ve just been busy, that’s all.

So if you’re still interested and haven’t given up waiting, I’ll be write back, after this word…

AARDVARK.

 
7 Comments

Posted by on December 8, 2014 in aardvark, Blogging

 

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Picture this. Autumn colours at Arlington Court…

This weekend I’ve once again been playing host to my old friend Ho, who has been taking a well earned break from a frantic work schedule to join me for a spot of relaxation in the beautiful autumnal Devon countryside.
This time we decided to take a stroll around the extensive grounds of Arlington Court, ancestral home of the Chichester family for over 500 years.

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The house itself is an imposing stone built mansion, surrounded by rolling lawns, lakes, and woodlands, criss-crossed with pathways that lead you to various viewpoints overlooking not only the gloriously varied vistas of the estate but also the picturesque church of St James (not owned by the Trust, but adjacent to the house) which just happened to be staging a flower festival at the time of our visit.

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We began our tour on the front lawn of the house, heading down to the ornamental lake, stocked with lazily cruising carp and topped with a proliferation of water lilies, pausing on the way to admire the splendor of an ancient oak tree that has stood on the site since well before the house or grounds existed.
The tree is preserved primarily for the scientifically important and internationally recognised variety of lichen, moss and fungi that festoon its gnarled and twisted trunk.

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The church is just visible through the trees that overlook the lake, providing a focal point for visitors, an invitation to investigate the hidden beauty of the peaceful sanctuary as you make your way round the estate.

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But before we headed into the cool vaulted space of the flower-strewn chapel we made our way down the shady path amongst the trees to discover what the woods had to offer.

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Before too long we came upon a small camp in a clearing, complete with a traditional clay oven beneath the billowing folds of a parachute canopy, along with rustic huts constructed from sticks salvaged from the woodland floor.

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The woods have the quiet atmosphere of a primeval forest, rotting trees left where they fell, allowing the verdant moss to take hold and making perfect burrows for small animals and insects, creating shapes that look for all the world like the backbones of long-dead dinosaurs or mythical dragons.

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Occasionally a gate or stile will allow a view across the cattle grazing fields of the deer park, to the densely wooded slopes of the valley, the trees starting to display the muted tones of autumn foliage.

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We retraced the path back to the lake and made for the tower of the church, immediately seeing signs of the floral attraction within…
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…already catching the scent of the expertly designed bouquets before we even entered the light and airy space of St James’s, the vibrant colours of hundreds of flowers perfectly complimenting the stained glass windows and ornamental carvings on the walls.
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Our final two stops were at the formal and walled kitchen gardens, the latter of which provides fresh produce for the house and its cafe.
There was even an imperious peacock to welcome us to his domain, although he didn’t seem keen on me taking his picture and I required several stealthy attempts to capture him in all his iridescent glory.
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There is even an “insect hotel” high-rise apartment block for bees and other pollinators…
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…and there is always something intriguing around the next corner or through the next inviting door.
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…and of course the Chichester family symbol, a heron grappling with an eel, is in evidence everywhere.
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All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable visit to a place that I’m sure I’ll visit again and again, because there is always something new to discover.

Arlington Court house and gardens are open until the end of October, I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys relaxing amidst spectacular scenery, basking in the more genteel atmosphere of days gone by and leaving the stresses and strains of modern life behind for a few hours.

 

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Gadgets, gizmos and musical mandalas…

Yes, I’ve been fiddling with technology again, in pursuit of new and interesting forms of audio visual entertainment.

The latest addition to my electronic arsenal is nothing fancy or complicated however, in fact it’s nothing more than a child’s toy.
The Android phone application, Magic Paint Kaleidoscope, is a digital art maker that enables you to produce an infinite number of fantastic patterns in a variety of shapes and colours, just like the ones I remember seeing through the eyepiece of a cheap tin tube filled with glass beads when I was a kid, but with an added twist.
Once you have created your patterns, you can play them back, watching them evolve from blank page to mind-bending, multi-coloured mandalas before your eyes.

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Having got the hang of switching between colours and styles, discovering how to create specific designs by using various parts of the screen and managing to make some pretty pictures with vibrant colours and a distinctly psychedelic flavour, I began to consider the animation possibilities of this new gadget.

My first idea was to add small amounts of the design at a time, taking individual frames of each stage and then animating them to show the build up of the pattern, then possibly adding music to the resulting clip.
This worked fine, but it made for a rather jarring animation, each new layer of the design appearing instantly over the previous one, without the smooth drawing action I was after.
That was when it occurred to me to simply film the playback of the pattern and then dub music over it afterwards.

I hadn’t got as far as composing a custom soundtrack for the finished video at this point, so I used an old piece of music that I made a few months back, called Gothic, and simply kept adding to my pattern until the running time was the same as the music.
This is the result. I call it Kaleidogothic.

I watched it about half a dozen times before I stopped being incredibly impressed with my own staggering genius, (a fairly standard reaction I have to any flash of brilliant inspiration that comes to me) and then started work on a custom made, fully synchronised, bespoke tune for an all new project.

I turned to my trusty Oscilab loop maker/sequencer and, whilst watching the kaleidoscopic masterpiece that I’d carefully created, playing back on my phone, I composed and recorded a live mix on my tablet that fitted perfectly with the evolving patterns in front of me.
After that it was simply a matter of dubbing the sound over the visuals and voila! an original artwork with specially composed soundtrack.

So with no more ado than saying that I hope you enjoy my latest composition, allow me to present Psycheleidoscope.

I tend to get on a bit of a roll once I find a new muse, so I continued to play with musical ideas, attempting more of a long-form piece, without the accompanying visuals.
The result is an eight minute trance-like psychedelic jam, that I have uploaded to Soundcloud, which reminds me of the motorik rhythms of Krautrock.

So, lay back, close your eyes and chill out to the sound of Motorix.

MOTORIX – CLICK LINK

{All the audio visual experiments you could ever want are of course available via my Sound and Vision page}

 
4 Comments

Posted by on September 21, 2014 in aardvark, Animation, Arts, Music, Photography

 

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Picture this. Summer’s end at Broomhill…

With the days becoming noticeably shorter and meteorologists once again starting to reach for descriptions like “autumnal” to make “cold and wet” seem more acceptable, I thought I’d take the opportunity to visit Broomhill Sculpture Gardens again before the summer came to an end.

Plenty of the sculptures that I photographed in my previous post are still on display here and I know from several other visits to Broomhill that many of these are semi-permanent installations, giving them the feel of familiar old friends, aging gracefully amongst the trees and lush foliage of the beautiful woodland valley setting.
But there is always something new to see here and the gardens are currently playing host to the National Sculpture Prize, displaying work by the 2014 finalists in the woods and wildflower meadow down by the river.

Walking up the winding drive from the visitors parking area, the entrance flanked by sleek curving steel forms…

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…you encounter all manner of surprises, rearing above you from the steeply sloping banks or tucked away within the green alcove of a hedge.

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Reaching the top of the hill, your first view as you round the final curve in the drive is this impressive gryphon, towering over the terrace in front of the hotel…

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…where I sat for a few minutes, looking down over the valley, reading about the sculpture prize and enjoying a refreshing local cider in the late afternoon sun.

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Making my way down the zig-zagging path through the wooded garden, I first encountered sharply stylised African influenced stone figures…

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…juxtaposed with more abstract, modernist pieces, both on the ground and suspended in the branches overhead.

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The path eventually leads down to the lake, the area around it dotted with more sculptures, peering out from the surrounding trees and the still water itself.

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Following the meandering track back up through the woods, I couldn’t resist dropping in on the strange, post-apocalyptic world of the abandoned tennis court, an exhibit I am always drawn to when I come here and one that never fails to provide some striking images.

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Then I made my way to the main display area for the prize finalists, on the way passing what looked like a yoga lesson, frozen in time.

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Details of all the 2014 NSP finalists are included in the links at the top of this post, but here are a selection of some of my favourite pieces, starting with an oversized piece that reminded me of Alice in Wonderland, I can’t think why…

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And I had to get one final shot of this piece, another of my personal favourites, the atmospheric Watchers, frozen in enigmatic contemplation amongst the dappled shade by the riverbank.

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If you can get down there, I recommend that you visit the National Sculpture Prize exhibit at Broomhill, the voting ends soon and the winner will be announced in October.

 

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Everyday miracles…

Everyday miracles…

There are few things I dislike more than having to go to the doctor.
It’s not that I’m squeamish, I just don’t like being dependant on someone else’s opinion for my recovery, I’d rather just munch on a handful of painkiller, decongestant, or anti-inflammatory tablets and get on with my life.

However, there are some things on which you just have to get an expert opinion. In my case that has meant being signed off work with what I was initially told was carpal tunnel syndrome, but which the various medical practitioners involved now no longer seem able to agree on and may in fact be tendinitis.
I have a consultant appointment next week to be referred for either surgery or nerve conduction tests, neither of which sound like a fun day out.

I know several people who have had the procedure to alleviate CTS and have heard mixed reports as to its efficacy, but this relatively simple operation pales into insignificance when compared to some of the extraordinary results that can be achieved by modern surgical methods.
Two examples in particular have brought home to me just how fortunate we are to live in a time when medical science can be used to change people’s lives in ways that couldn’t have been imagined only a generation ago;

A little over a year ago I heard from good friend of mine up in Sussex who had some shocking news.
Due to continuing health problems (contracting multiple chest infections in a short space of time had left him seriously ill and dangerously short of breath) he had been told that he needed a double lung transplant.
Now, given the nature of such an operation the immediate concern was obviously the availability of suitable donor organs, so the only option was for my old friend to sit tight and see if the (necessarily tragic) generosity and thoughtfulness of a complete stranger would come in time to save his life.

As fate would have it, it seemed as if he’d barely had time to get on the donor register list before he received a phone call and made his way to Harefield Hospital in London where he was tissue typed and tested, before being informed that he’d been accepted as a recipient and booked in for surgery.

So on August 12th last year he had a double lung transplant.

Ten days later his wife was posting pictures of him sitting in the sunshine on a bench in the hospital grounds, and not too many days after that it was photos of him toasting us with a pint of his favourite ale in the beer garden of my old local.

And all the available evidence suggests that, a year on, he’s a new man, enjoying a new lease of life and a new perspective.

Let’s just go through that again slowly shall we?
Doctors open up your torso.
They remove both your malfunctioning lungs.
They fit a couple of nice healthy replacements.
They,…what, staple you up or something?
And off you go, the human equivalent of a Formula One car zooming into its garage bay for a three second pit-stop, then pausing only to warm up its tyres, heading straight for the checkered flag and the champagne.

Even now I have trouble getting my head round the amazing speed at which the human body can recover from what must be a deeply traumatic experience, not to mention the astonishing skill and dedication of the men and women who provide such an invaluable life-changing service to those of us who have come dangerously close to not finishing our race at all.

A big part of these of medical miracles is undoubtedly the human element, and not just on the part of those who perform the operations either. The support of loved ones, the will to survive and the strength and resolve of the patients themselves is also vital.
I know that my friend took great comfort from the good wishes and messages of support he received from far and wide via a Facebook group, set up to keep us informed about his life-saving transplant by his doting wife, the one person who provided constant love and encouragement through the whole daunting process.

But it’s the courage, determination and extraordinary strength of character, not to mention the irrepressible sense of humour, that make the subject of my second example of surgical wizardry so inspiring.

In an earlier post I mentioned that I’d recently met my sister’s new partner, an incredibly personable, athletic, funny and all-round nice guy called Oly.
Well, nice guy that he most definitely is, Oly is, um,..how shall I put this?…not all there.

When I asked him if he would mind sharing his story (as I happen to think it’s a truly inspirational tale) I had no idea that he would provide such a thoughtful and poignant piece of writing. I was expecting a timeline of surgical procedures and personal achievements that I could work into a……well, into what he has written.

So I’ll let Oly himself explain;

“I was born in 1984 with congenital limb deformities. 
In layman’s terms this meant I was born without both fibulas (calf bones) and missing digits on both hands. 
I also have one leg a few inches longer than the other, because one thighbone is longer than the other. (in case you’re wondering, it’s my left that’s longer). 
I’m told that my granddad took one look at me and said to my mother; “He’s still beautiful though”. 
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I spent the next 20 months or so as any other ‘normal’ baby.
You know the sort of thing, crying, pooping, eating. All the fun stuff.
In addition to this I had cosmetic surgery on both hands for functional reasons. I still managed to walk with specially adapted shoes and calipers though, and achieved this by 18 months old.
The next event of major significance was in December 1985, when I moved with my family from Bristol in Somerset to Crowborough, in East Sussex.
Part of this move found me being referred to Great Ormond Street Hospital, where a top peadiatric orthopeadic surgeon recommended that the only real option was an amputation. 
The only alternative would have been me spending the rest of my life in a wheelchair. 

The decision was made to amputate.
This must have been one of the most difficult decisions for my parents to make. Both being only 23 years old at the time, I don’t know how they did it. 
My younger sister was only 3 months old when they had to make this life-changing choice on my behalf, but I have never held it against them and never will. 

I had a double below knee symes amputation at the age of 2 and a half. This means they amputated through my ankles and wrapped the padding of my feet around the end of the bone. This gives extra padding to the end of the bone. 
From talking to other amputees throughout my life I’m told this is a good thing to have.
After speaking to my mother recently she tells me I was up and walking around on my prostheses within 6 weeks of amputation.
I never have liked sitting still. 
I even have a video of me in the hospital kicking a ball, only five days after having the limbs fitted.
My sister, who was 9 months old by then, was learning to walk at the same time. She seemed confused that she didn’t have to put on a pair of legs to stand up and walk.”
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I don’t believe I have sufficient powers of imagination to even begin to contemplate what that must have been like for a young boy growing up, and yet the man I have now had the pleasure of meeting on more than one occasion is way more athletic and sporty than I’ve ever been or will ever be, incredibly self-assured and confident, and has the barely suppressed energy and mischievous grin of a teenager.
But then he’s got a lot to be grateful for:

“I suppose the next significant part of my life would be playgroup.  Here I met Tim and Martin who would turn out to be my best friends and still are to this day. 
From memory my favourite time at playgroup involved ‘Bikes’. 
If you’ve ever been to watch banger racing, imagine that but with 20 or so 2 year old boys on trikes in a church hall. 
There was never any question of my ability to scoot round on a trike, I just did it. In fact from an early age I don’t ever remember my legs causing me any problems, “disabling” me, or preventing me from doing anything that I’ve ever wanted to do.
The owner of my local gym recently said to me “You’re the most least disabled person I know” Now he’s not one for words but I kind of got the idea of what he was trying to say.”

There followed an obsession with basketball, which consumed his life to the point that he’d sometimes be found clutching his basketball as he slept, and joining the cub scouts, where his pack leader encouraged the other boys to treat him no differently than anyone else, further bolstering his confidence.

I asked Oly for anything that could be considered a particular achievement for someone with his start in life and the list he provided just made me feel old and unfit;

“Dale asked me to provide a list of my “achievements” as he put it. To me, they are just my life.
(These are only the ones I remember, there’s probably a lot more)

Learned to walk. Twice.
Run.
Play football.
Swimming. (Representing England internationally)
Basketball.
Ice/roller skating.
Tennis.
Skateboarding.
Waterskiing.
Jet bikes/skis.
Bowling.
Piloted a glider.
Go karting.
Skydiving.
Golf.
Driving.
Badminton.
Rock climbing.
Abseiling.
Skiing.
Canoeing.
Zip-lining.
Most theme park rides (Even the ones where you dangle your legs)”

He is apparently too modest to mention that he works with disabled children at a local special school’s holiday club and also raises money for the extremely deserving Taylor Made Dreams charity.
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It was only recently that I saw Oly last, when I went to meet up with him and my sister, on holiday with my niece and nephew in Dorset. He was proudly showing off his fancy new carbon-fibre prosthetics with the Superman artwork on them and clowning around in the swimming pool legless just like anyone else, and I’ll leave the last word to him;

“Whilst writing this I spoke to my mum a lot and she told me a story about something that happened at the local park when I was about 3 years old. 
Mum and my Nan took me to Wolfe Recreation Ground and like every other child I wanted to go on the slide. There were two slides, one small and one big. 
Guess which one I went for. 
Now my Nan was always worrying about me. She turned to my mum as soon as I started to climb the ladders to the big slide and said ‘You can’t let him climb them’.
My mums response was ‘I have to let him try’. 
My parents have always encouraged me to try anything and everything and not let my ‘disability’ stop me. Being raised this way has turned me into the person I am today, I never let anything stop me from doing things, yes there are certain things I have to do differently but I will always find a way to do the things I want to.  In my 30 years I’ve never come across anything that I haven’t been able to do. 

For those of you who say “I cant” when you come across something a little bit difficult, my response to you would be; If you want it badly enough you will find a way.

Go on give it a go, you wont know until you try.”

{If you would like to read the full text of Oly’s tale, as written by him,  – edited here to save space – please go the the Oly’s Story… tab at the top of the page. Also see the comments below for Simon’s full account of that transplant ordeal}

 
4 Comments

Posted by on September 6, 2014 in Blogging, Guest spots., Personal anecdote, Science

 

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