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The Doctor's Consultation by Dr. Iain Corness

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

The Doctor's Consultation:  Happy Birthday, Mum!

by Dr. Iain Corness

My mother had her birthday the other day. She is now 87 years old, or in Mum’s eyes, I would say she is 87 years young, a very vibrant, alive and aware octogenarian! She has been a widow for 28 years, living on her own and fending for herself in the cold climes of the north of Scotland.

As opposed to the local Thai ‘model’ where grandparents care for their grandchildren, while the parents go to work and supply the financial needs for the family, my Mum has pursued a very independent life. Not that we aren’t close, but we don’t need to live in each other’s pockets. Mum delights in the visits of her children and grandchildren, and for me, it is an annual event that my wife and I look forward to.

However, for the elderly in your family, the late life period has to be one of transition and adjustment to loss. This includes retirement, relocation, and bereavement. At a time where one would imagine everything would nicely settled, it really is quite the reverse.

The first of these changes to be met is generally that of retirement. One minute you are an important member of a work team and the next day you are unwanted, sitting on the job scrap-heap, even if you now have a gold watch to tell the time.

Around one third of all retirees show difficulty in adapting to this change in their circumstances. That change includes not only having no regular daily work, but reduced income and differences in the way the retiree is perceived in his or her society. The once power broker is now powerless!

Relocation is another of the stresses of later years. The family home is sold as the children have left. Smaller quarters are settled into until it becomes obvious to those around the elderly person that household chores are too much and so the next relocation occurs to the Retirement Village, that veritable Disneyland of fun and frivolity for the aged. This is, however, the precursor for the final move - to the Nursing Home.

All moves are traumatic (remember moving to Thailand for example?) and for the elderly, it is no exception. However, this can be reduced by making the elderly persons feel they have some say, some control, over the move. Retirement Villages should be chosen in consultation with the elderly themselves. While we “know” what is best, we should not take away all of the decision making processes. Just because someone has lived a long time doesn’t mean that they don’t know what they want.

Finally, bereavement. The complex phenomenon of bereavement becomes an integral part of an elderly person’s life. The death of their spouse produces a loss of companionship which in turn produces a decline in social interaction. These may precipitate acute illness and in fact men have a high mortality rate in the two years after losing their spouses. (See, men do depend more on women!) But not only do spouses die, but also siblings, friends and the people next door. Old age can become a never ending trip to the cemeteries.

No, whilst we think we care and look after our elderly relatives, there are many times when we forget to put ourselves in their shoes, and expect an immediate agreement on the future placement, instead discussing options with them. Our Mums will always be people we are indebted to. Happy birthday, Mum!

Agony Column

Dear Hillary,
I have often considered becoming an ‘Agony Aunt’ as the benefits of doing so appear to be positively outrageous. Gifts of chocolate and champagne, red carpet treatment and adoring readers to name but a few. ‘Cheek to Cheek with Cherry’ or ‘Knock Knock with Nok’ would suit me admirably. Wee Nit, however, is concerned that I might have to lose some tackle. Please advise me if amputation is an essential requirement to fulfil the functions of an Aunty.

Dear Mistersingha,
In your case, since ‘Misters’ are male and ‘Aunties’ are female, you would indeed have to tackle this tackle problem head on. However, the benefits you assume that we Aunties receive are not quite so cut and dried. We have many correspondents who promise us “gifts of chocolate and champagne” but never deliver, and you are a prime example of this. The “positively outrageous” benefits are sullied by the positively outrageous offers from the “adoring readers” as you put it. Offers and promises that are broken more often than a politician’s pre-electoral promises. The balls in your court I believe, Mistersingha. While the waiting is mine, I hope the “agony” will be yours.
Dear Hillary,
Although I really enjoy your column each week (it’s the first one I turn to) I am left wondering whether the letters you receive are real. Surely some of your writers are not that silly? Or is it me that is so silly? If the letters are real, do you pick the pen names for the correspondents, or do they? I am interested to know.
Enquiring Mind

Dear Enquiring Mind,
Like you, I also wonder if some of the writers are “that silly” (why does the name Mistersingha come to mind, I wonder?), but you only have to look back a few issues and you can see that many of the correspondents are very regular with their tales of woe. I can assure you that all the letters I receive are real, whether arriving by email or per the hard-working postie. The Nom de Plumes are often picked by the writers, but if not, I will choose something suitable. There you are, feel better now, Poppet? Were you happy with your Nom de Plume?
Dear Hillary,
Thank you for belatedly publishing my corrections to a letter I sent you some weeks ago. As one of literally dozens of readers who enjoy your weekly column, I feel I should tell you a story about my former secretary who was also fond of chocolates. Over time her body began to fill out to where she could barely squeeze between the armrests on her office chair. One day she came to work with a huge box of chocolates and sqeezed (sic) into her chair. At day’s end, after polishing off the entire box, she stood up and the chair went with her. Despite the efforts of my entire staff, we could not remove the chair, and she began to panic. We rushed her to the hospital where she was wheeled directly into the OR. A while later a surgeon came out and told me I would have to make a decision - my secretary or a perfectly good office chair. Long story short - my new secretary fits easily into that chair, and snacks on nothing but granola bars. So you can see my concern that you might also be eating too much chocolate with potentially disastrous results. Therefore to help you get over your addiction I am sending my chauffeur to your office with a box of granola bars and some Gatorade.

My Dear Tully,
May I say just how touched I am that you would worry about my figure, that might end up suffering from balloonism, as opposed to bulimia, occasioned by a surfeit of chocolates. Alas, if that were really only the case! You only have to look at the unfulfilled promises such as those I receive (or more correctly, don’t receive) from Mistersingha, and to quote just one example, “I have assembled an Amphibious Tuk-Tuk Squadron to safely convey your chocs and bubbly.” Needless to say the squadron must have sunk. Or this one from In Love and Broke, “By the way Hillary now that we have the Champagne and Chocolates out of the way 30,000 is available to you.” Nothing received. Nothing! Even you, Tully my Petal, have joined the ranks of the “bag wan” (sweet mouth) with your “spending money that he could be buying chocolate’s and champaign (sic) for you.” And now, with an amazing display of largesse, you are offering to send round chauffeur driven Granola bars and a bottle of Gatorade. More than likely, these won’t turn up either. Finally Tully, my keeper of the dictionary, both you and your efficient (and slim) secretary are still unable to pick up your spelling boo-boos. The word “squeezed” has a “u” in it after the “q”. Rather than sending the slim secretary to Hawaii or wherever for creative accounting classes, investment in a spell-checker for your word processor might be a better proposition. And since the chauffeur is obviously underemployed delivering mythical goodies, there’s savings there for you too. Tully, the things I do for you!

Camera Class:  The lens problem explained. Which lens? For what? And why...

by Harry Flashman

Ever wondered why the pros all walk around with special jackets full of photogear and different lenses and three cameras slung around their necks? Is this a kind of photographic masochism, or is there a good reason for this? There is!

The reason is called “quality”. Pro shooters have to return to their editor or client with a professional image, giving the best interpretation of the subject and finally be pin sharp in its definition. Something you can’t get with a point and shoot camera.

To illustrate this situation I thought I should give you some ideas on the lenses I use, for what and why. Now if you own a 28-105 mm zoom or whatever, don’t despair, just adapt your thinking to use the zoom at the wide angle when I mention wide angle lenses and the other end of the scale when I mention telephoto lenses.

The three principal lenses are Wide, Standard and Long, and for the purposes of this article I am not including “extreme” examples. Consider Wide to be around 28 mm, Standard around 50 mm and Long around 100 mm. So you can see, the average zoom lens will cover these focal lengths.

Let’s begin with Wide lenses. These are the lenses for 99.9% of landscapes. You get a wide angle of coverage, you get great depth of field and as an added bonus you get blue skies! Even in Bangkok. The reason is that you have a wide angle of sky “squashed” into a 35 mm negative, so the colour is denser than it would appear to the naked eye. I have always said that photography is the art of telling lies with a camera.

The Wide lens is also the one you should use in low light situations, such as twilight, as most Wide lenses have larger apertures which let more light in to the camera. This means that you can get readings like 1/30 second at f 2.8, at which you can hand hold. With the average Long lens (or zoom in the tele position) it would be 1/4 second at f 5.6, a shutter speed you cannot hand hold.

The Standard lens is actually one of the most neglected lenses in your camera bag. This is the focal length that most closely approximates what the human eye sees. Use this lens and you get the most “life-like” image that people can immediately relate to. No strange distortions in the foreground or on the edges either. For example, if you want to photograph food, pull out the trusty Standard lens. Stand on a chair and you get what the diner sees.

The Standard lens is also very good for getting either full length portraits or waist up pictures. Again, it is the lack of optical distortion which is important, and you can also use aperture settings around f 4 to blur the background.

So to the Long lenses. The focal length of around 100 mm would be more accurately called a “short” telephoto, but this is a common focal length and one that many of the zooms can cover. This is the lens you use to do all portrait shots. This lens will give you flattering views, without enlargement of the nose, and slightly compresses the image. When combined with a wide aperture of say around f 4 to f 5.6 this blurs the background enough to produce an uncluttered image.

The ability to compress the final image makes the Long lens the ideal one to show traffic jams or parades. Use a high viewpoint and look down the road when a parade is coming and you will get an image that appears to show that the road is just crammed with floats, one almost on top of another. Or better still try Sukhumvit Road Bangkok from the overbridges.

Finally, it is important to remember that Long lenses are not a substitute for walking in close, especially at night, when the flash burst does not carry all that far.