Hopefully we are nearing the end of our third lockdown of this Corona-virus epidemic. Anyone remember the smallpox and polio vaccinations carried out for the same purpose –  to save your life from those ghastly diseases – as today’s vaccinations?  Those vaccinations took place nearly sixty years ago.  Today (March 2021) I had my second jab of the Pfizer vaccine.  No problem!!  When I enlisted into the Royal Air Force on 27 Nov 1951 I was getting jabs in both arms at the same time, for all sorts of things, for eventual service at any unstated destinations abroad.  And I am still here.

OK, so what I am blathering on about is, what do we do with ourselves during these lockdowns.  As you may have seen my earlier blogs about Family History, this is a change.   Years ago, I had purchased an ‘antique’ Mah Jongg box while on holiday in the West Country.   I found it on a Barnstaple market stall.  So why did I buy it?  I had been the ‘stand-in’ for my wife’s weekly game of Mah-Jongg for several years and we did not have our own set at that time.   But what I found was in a desperately sorry uncared for state.  So now all these years later I decided that it was time to try and make it a bit prettier.  Repair the broken and missing parts and give it a general clean-up.  But where to start I asked myself.  I would have to manufacture a new front and back.  A broken edge needed filling in somehow and a new coat of varnish perhaps.

Using my stand-by phrase of ‘Plan, Prepare, Produce’   I sat down and made some rough sketches and measurements to see what I needed.  Cleaning materials, wood cut to 3/16 of an inch in thickness and somewhere I could obtain whatever I would require.   Sandpaper  and wood glue from the local D.I.Y., no problem.    Then a very good friend of many years said he could cut some wood if I had it.  Yes, I had a half circular table top, made of what appeared to be mahogany.  Ideal.  In no time at all my friend cut two pieces that would become the front and back panels of the Mah Jonng box.

After it was cleaned up and the back panel fitted and glued in, it began to look very different.  Then I repaired the damaged back edge, put a little handle on the top of the front panel and after it was slotted in the box began to look much improved.  I could not get it perfect because the front panel should have had a 1/16in grooved slot for a similar sized tenon to slide into it.   For the moment it will do.

The tiles are made of bone.   Originally, the box was well designed with dovetail joints for the four corners.  But the manufacture was poor for whatever reason.  The brass corner pieces are rough, badly fitted and poorly secured.  Its weight is 7 pounds, not something you will want to carry far by hand. Hopefully the final tasks of improvements will be undertaken before the next twenty years have flown by.

Identifying the photos below:

 1: Carcase with shelves and brass handles fitted.

2: Back view with the new panel fitted.

3: Front view with panel ready to slide down to close the box.

4: Side view showing the brass corner pieces to be worked on next.

5: The Bamboo set of tiles.

6: The Circles set of tiles.

7. The Character set of tiles.

8: The Flowers, Winds and Dragons set of tiles.

One day (soon, I hope) I might feel like continuing.  Wellbeing is the problem over the October 2021 to whenever 2022.   In October I had a double return of discomfort from an old car crash injury.  Twice in three weeks I had discomfort from a long ago fractured pelvis.   I ended up going to a physiotherapist but in all honesty the problem had passed by then.   But a week later in late November I had an excruciating pain in my left hip joint.   It turned out to be sciatica.  This is an incredibly awful pain going down from the hip through the thigh muscles to the big toe.  Walking is not easy, I had to get a walking stick, which helped to take the weight off the hip joint.  I am still using it at times nearly three months later and I am more comfortable now.  But after any exercise, the muscles are quite sore the next day.

Google’s advice is slim too.  Even suggests calling one’s doctor.   I thought that might get some good advice but she only gave me the NHS physio website.  Three weeks later a letter offered me a visit to Tewkesbury Hospital.  A printed sheet of what exercises to do and that was it apart from confirming my hip joint was OK.   The pain continued.

A visit to the “cranial” physio did give some pain relief, temporarily.   You get a day or two ‘free’ of pain in the real sense of the word.  But the feeling of not being clear of the problem is always there.  You can wake up feeling like you are back to ‘normal’ until you take those first few steps down the stairs.   Then the hip joint feels the effort of getting down those stairs and the thigh muscles hint of giving way at some point. 

Perhaps the warmth of Springtime will give me the right feeling to go back on my morning walks, not too far but with the benefit of getting back to ‘normal’ again.  Apparently only time can heal this problem. Then I can try and finish off my Mah Jongg box in my garage workshop.


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