Tuesday, 29 January 2019


Brussels protesters
Our special Christmas present from Edwin was a surprise trip to Brussels. He suddenly produced two tickets and said we’d need to get away after my radiotherapy was over. He even booked a fine hotel for us. We didn’t know then that Ann would have had her cataract operation two days before. Now she is wearing dark glasses and can’t read anything but at least we should enjoy a couple of quiet days.  We are flying BA from Heathrow. Terminal Five is very up-market, they’re playing Mahler mood music in the toilets.

In Brussels, we did enjoy a very quiet day on Saturday, the constant rain allowing us only to explore the local side streets. The restaurants are all heavily meat pushers; the choice of vegetarian was limited, and combined with gluten-free for Ann, almost non-existent.
Cathédrale Saints-Michel-et-Gudule

On Sunday, the afternoon brought a brief gap in the rain, allowing us to escape and look for the Bronte presence in Brussels. We walked from the hotel towards the Cathédrale Saints-Michel-et-Gudule which Charlotte as Lucy Snowe attended for confession and mass as described in Villette. En route (I am getting back into my French), we were caught up in a mass protest rally and herded by the police—who would not let us leave the crowd—away from the Cathedral. We had had no warning there was to be a protest - but 70,000 people were marching for the environment, and like it or no we were part of the protest. Ann wondered that, when they finally split up after the march, how many would go home in their diesel cars to a Sunday roast? The best way to save the environment is from individual actions, not calls to governments, such as to go vegetarian.

Commemorative plaque to Charlotte Bronte
We finally escaped down a side road to find a plaque commemorating M. and Mme. Constantin Héger's school and the site where Charlotte lived in Brussels - but the plaque is all that is left.

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Facing demons

Ann overcoming her demon

Ann had her cataract operation yesterday, and has survived. We cannot pretend that Ann was not nervous. Yesterday, the consultant had given her a prescription for Valium, which we'd had great difficulty in getting dispensed because he'd put the wrong date on! Even a second prescription faxed through to Boots had another wrong date, but the pharmacist agreed to dispense it. Ann took two before we left, but they didn't make much difference.

We arrived at the clinic early and joined into a line of people already waiting. The nurse double checked which eye was to be done, and marked it with a clear line drawn with an indelible pen. Then she started to apply the drops - some to numb the eye, and others to dilate the pupil. The consultant, Mr Ramsey, came out in scrub gear to talk to his patients and reassure them. His stated policy is to make the NHS service as good as or better than private care. It was certainly fast - we were in the next day. Progress was made by a theatre nurse shouting "Ready" down the corridor, and with each call a new patient was delivered, or a treated patient was collected.

Gradually the queue moved along until it was Ann's turn. Mr Ramsey came through again to look at the pupils, and said the woman next to Ann was well dilated and he'd do her next. It seemed unjust as she'd only had one set of drops, and Ann had already had five sets. As people came out, they seemed relaxed and talked of how easy it had been, so Ann was very calm. However, when this woman she came out, she was half-carried by the nurse and Mr Ramsey, because she'd fainted! Then it was Ann's turn. Ten minutes later, there was another call of "Ready" and Ann was brought out, shaky but relieved and upright. She has faced her biggest demon and conquered it.

Tuesday, 22 January 2019


Ann attended an appointment at the cataract clinic this morning. She has been on an indefinite waiting list for two years at Bury Hospital, so they transferred her to Thetford which has a shorter list. The health centre there is a new but ugly building, shaped like an oval and with huge weird drapes hiding a glass roof over the dome.

In the waiting room, an old man with a crutch stood to his name and hobbled slowly towards the door. "Take your time," said the nurse. It's strange how a small inflexion can change compassion to sarcasm. This voice bordered on neutral and could be taken either way. "How are you?" he asked in a reversal of roles.

The eye clinic looked oddly temporary with the illuminated chart propped on a towel dispenser against the wall, and a printer sat on the couch.  I was sat on a chair holding the door open, and people passed through as though the room were a corridor. The machinery too looked basic, nothing like the sophistication of Spec Savers or Vision Express.

Finally we were called in to the great man - it was Mr. Ramsey, the same man who had diagnosed Ann's macular hole when she developed blindness in one eye some ten years ago. He explained the mechanism and virtues of cataract surgery, then out of the blue said, "we have a cancellation. You can come in tomorrow." Ann agreed straight away - she had been dreading waiting on a list and might have changed her mind had she been forced to delay. So tomorrow we have to turn up at 9:30 for the op. I think she is incredibly brave, and it was certainly faster than Bury.

Monday, 21 January 2019

Hundon Eclipse

Total eclipse over Hundon
I did it - I actually managed to get up and step outside at 5a.m., still in my pyjamas and into a bitterly cold hard frost. But the sky was clear and the stars bright as I glimpsed the super-blood moon low in the western sky.

Rhetorical question: are bosses the same the world over?
I had a piece of work due for Friday, but come the afternoon my boss said she would be away on Monday, so gave me an extra day to work on it. Come this afternoon I logged on to send it in, only to find an email from her with a whole new paper to review and include, plus another section. She wants it in for tomorrow, but that was a day I had planned to take off!

Finishing late, and it growing dark, I chose to walk the dogs closer to home, along the reservoir road at the top of the hill rather than in Clare. Hundon reservoir is well hidden, despite being the highest point in East Anglia. The air was still and the puddles still frozen over. It was deserted as I looked down on the far hills in the gloomy dusk; quite alone and peaceful after a full and busy day. Then home for a cup of tea. Perfect.

Please add a comment if you would like to share something about your boss
Mail comments to: grandad.john@2from.com

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Family visits

We had a brief but welcome visit from son Ben and his family, Kaz and Luke, yesterday. They would not stay the night, being concerned that I might be too ill, but we took them for a good lunch in the Swan in Clare, a warm and friendly medieval coaching inn with an old fashioned coaching fire to keep the cold at bay. Luke is 16 now and selecting the subjects he wants ready for the 6th form college. He hopes to specialise in computer science/programming, which is a very sound choice these days when so much of our existence is dependent on a hidden programme somewhere.
Super moon over our garden

Coincidentally, we had some messages from Luke's great-grandfather this week. We have never met the man, but he's 93 and also enjoys programming and tinkering with computers for amusement. He also enjoys researching family history, and was working on Luke's tree when he discovered us, and contacted us through Ancestry. He is one of the last survivors of the war, having been a PoW in the Burma campaign, but Luke says he won't talk of it. He is often invited to present a wreath at the Cenotaph on Armistice Day, but always refuses because of the terrible memories it invokes.

Tonight is a full moon, and it's exceptionally large and bright. A total eclipse is scheduled for the early hours.  I'll try and be up to witness it if clouds will permit. In the meantime, Ann photoed it over our garden, and Matthew sent a picture he took with his new camera. Very impressive pics.

Friday, 18 January 2019

Getting good service

The pain and discharge from below are so bad that today I phoned the Oncology nurse at Addenbrooke's on the special help line they provided. I explained the problem, but couldn't help directly; but she did agree to ask the oncologist. Later she phoned back to say that it wasn't the radiotherapy, and the oncologist had no direct experience of this problem. He advised that I phone my GP. This I did, and sure enough within a short time there was a prescription for a cream and antibiotic waiting at the pharmacy for me to collect, and the message to get straight back to them if it didn't improve over the weekend. Definitely one nil to the GP!

Ann is looking for a new reading lamp for her room. The present one is very old, and gets too hot to sit under. We went first to Glasswells in Bury to search, but they were all very pricey and we rarely find anything we like there anyway. Today was no exception - the range of lamps was very limited. Then we went to the furniture showroom, a large warehouse type of place in the middle of nowhere, that has all sorts of end-of-line items, but they too were fruitless. Finally, she has ordered one on line - a cool LED lamp with five dimming positions, and half the price of anything in Glasswells. It will be delivered tomorrow. No wonder stores are closing all round the country - on line shopping is so much more convenient, with a vast selection, and competitive pricing. I can see a time when there will be no department stores left, except for the tourists on Oxford Street.

Thursday, 17 January 2019

The Duke stops Brexit

The news has just broken that Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh was in a road smash. Everything is being said about the Duke, including reading prayers for him. He is 97, and clearly in no fit state to be driving; but they are called the Queen's highways, so I expect he feels entitled to charge about on them with impunity, long after the age at which we mere mortals would be banned from taking the wheel. But not one word has been said about the condition of the other poor driver whom the Duke ran into. Yet another example of gross overprivilage of the few. But at least it's pushed Brexit off the lead story.

Ann is unwell today; she struggles on, but had to cancel her hair appointment. She is carrying a heavy load just in looking after me now, but somehow she always gets everyone else's problems too. I walked the dogs today, but it is very painful below, and I think it would be more accurate to say I hobbled round with the dogs. It was a beautiful clear day, with a bright, light blue sky after a dusting of snow this morning, but I could not walk far and was glad to get back under my blanket.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

A Health Bulletin

People keep asking how I am getting on, which is kind and thoughtful, but I find I'm saying the same thing to everyone. I therefore am publishing a bulletin like a pregnant royal to announce the state of play of my body. As a measure of my improvement, I got out twice today! I have picked up the thread of work (happily I can work from home), and this afternoon I managed to sit through a presentation in Cambridge, between dashes to the loo. I am definitely gaining in strength, doing more and feeling less tired after being blasted by the radiotherapy, but I'm still very sore below, as though it has burnt everything in the area. My taste has altered too, and coffee tastes foul. I guess it will just need some time to heal now.

Illness certainly shows who one's friends are. Many people have rallied round, with offers of practical help as well as sympathy. Equally, we have discovered how incredibly cruel and nasty some people can be. At the first hint of disease, and with Ann in plaster from her fall last year, her sister slammed the phone down on her and said she didn't want any more contact. Her children have followed suit, so we have lost contact with the two great nephews. On my side, one of my children has refused to have anything to do with me, and sent not one word of concern or care. I still don't know what caused the rift, but as he ignored all my initial attempts to contact him, I will probably never know. Now, I just don't want to speak with him again either - thus does enmity grow.

In contrast, this morning we were invited for coffee to Robin and Yvonne's, a rare and welcome chance to get out and a change of scenery. Unfortunately, they too have some internal family difficulties, and they too won't discuss it. These family fallouts seem remarkably common - but what chance the world, when even kin hold rancour close.

Monday, 14 January 2019

Loneliness and gay roles for gay actors

Who Cares?

Who cares?
None - but the lonely piper
Churning out his dirge across the stair
That leads down, down, down to dark despair.

Who cares?
None - but the dark moon howling
In the silent night; calling at the last
Those dear departed dead loves of my past.

Who cares?
None - but my heart, which beats slower
With each passing stroke, reluctant yet to flee
From hopeless, hapless, love of she.

An article in The Guardian today (gay roles for gay actors) highlights the problems modern actors face in following their trade, i.e. should any actor play a role as someone other than themselves. This is a real problem for the profession: should women play male roles (e.g. Glenda Jackson in Lear - brilliant!); should non transvestites cross-dress to play women (Charlie's Aunt); should actors be padded out to play fat characters (Falstaff); or healthy people play the roles of invalids or people with some form of mental disability (A Day in the Death of Joe Egg)? Eddie Redmayne was in trouble for this recently in his role as Stephen Hawking. The problem is, he portrayed Stephen deteriorating from full vigour to severe disability. No actor inflicted with motor neurone disease could do this, so should they select an actor with some other disability to mimic a different disability?

I am happy with gay roles for gay actors if the actors are the best in their trade; but in fairness, I would then like to see straight roles played by straight actors, which is never going to happen. No - let our actors continue performing their trade: they are a mirror to reality, and must never be confused with reality itself. The problem with PC is that it is only ever applied by the vocal minority. It's a bit like Brexit, where a very vocal minority are making every effort to thwart the wishes of the silent majority. Would I could wave a wand and it would all be over with a clean out!


And so I am alone,
more alone than I have ever been,
no one at the end  phone
or here to walk the path with me.
So this is what was meant
how the story meets it end.
no one by my side,
not brother, cousin, child nor friend.

Ann's poem reflects so closely that which we all feel deep down. Loneliness. That sense of isolation, no matter how we disguise it with the idle chatter of friends or the distractions of a busy life. In the end, our inner being is ours alone, and the journey through life is a journey we must take for ourselves.

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Death comes In dreams

Clare lights with The Bell and Annie
Clare always had pretty Christmas lights, which are still up. Ann says this will bring bad luck to Clare as it's well past 12th Night. It was certainly nearly bad luck for me. I went to The Bell for a coffee, but had to dash for the loo before I could order. Though a large hotel, there is only one cubicle in the Gentleman's and that was occupied. I stood in the corridor with rapidly increasing anxiety until I could wait no longer, so dashed into the Ladies' in desperation. I streaked past the washbasins almost in a state of exposure, but just made it. The cubicle there is tiny and almost impossible to turn round in or adjust one's clothing. To avoid further embarrassment, I left rapidly and washed in the Gents'.

Moving On

I do not spend time idly wishing
for things that are now lost:
the love that I've been missing
now belongs locked in the past.

The bird upon the swaying tree
sings a sweet, soft melody,
but it does not keep on tweeting
of things that will never be.

You can never make good cider,
with life's worm-eaten fruit;
wait for the warm glow of summer
and pick from the tree anew.

The stream will keep on flowing,
the waters fast move on;
I will not keep on dreaming
of a life that is clearly gone.

My body is at a low ebb. Only two hours sleep last night before I awoke to wee, and then only dribbles despite the urgency. I do not know if it is the after-effects of irradiation, or some manifestation of the cancer. I smell like a sewer – it is always bad when one can smell oneself coming. I do not think it is the smell of cancer (see "The smell of death"), but I suspect it arises from a permeability of the inflamed bowel wall. It is a strange battle, not an angry fight of open warfare, but more like a fifth column undermining the integrity of the whole, working undercover to bring disruption and sew doubt.

I awoke with memories of uneasy dreams. I was accompanied by a band of my children, attempting to reach the edge of a deep valley. I had been there before many times in previous dreams, but had always approached from the far end, usually having emerged from some tunnel. Now the track took us past a nest of tiny cobras, each erect with flared hood and menacing, and before us was a conveyor belt feeding a furnace that we had to cross. Though silent now, I knew a great lump of coal would soon drop from the chute, and the thing would start up. One of the children started to play with the conveyor belt, and I had to warn him to keep away, least he be caught up in it when it started up.

Ann's new poem too is about moving on. It is as though she read my dreams through that union of mysterious synchronicity that has been with us since we met. She too can smell the smell of decay. The time to move on comes closer now and I must prepare the way.

Friday, 11 January 2019



Through everything I have been,
wished for, or dared to dream,
You are a constant at my side,
my dearest friend, my one true love,
my steady ship upon a sucking tide.

And always I have loved you,
so proudly watched you,
felt your strength guiding me,
living life alongside me.

When dark storms came,
sad memories, distant dreams,
We battened down together;
faced the warlike weather.

How could our story be
that two souls so lost at sea,
would find such gentle harmony
within each other's company?

Ann's new poem is about companionship, a reminder of how valuable and supportive our friends and some relatives have been. She particularly had been my one true companion, there through each turbulent day to cheer and sooth the troubled brow.

I enjoyed a visit from Chris today, the husband of Bible Ann. She was too ill to come with him, but we played some good chess. Though born in England, his parents moved him to Zimbabwe as a small child. Then it was still Rhodesia, and they worked on the farms until the coming of independence in 2000 forced them to flee leaving everything behind.

British colonialism is generally frowned upon these days, but Rhodes united a number of territories and waring tribespeople, all with diverse languages, cultures and leaders, and brought peace and prosperity to the region with the emergence of a new country. This coexistance collapsed with idependence, and many millions of people fled the country, with a majority of the remaining Zimbabweans living in total poverty. Chris's father could have chosen Australia to emigrate to; they'd still be there if he had, such are the vagaries of fate.

Addenbrooke's had warned me that the two weeks post treatment might be the worst, and they were right. Though getting stronger and eating better, down below is hell. I am going every two hours, with very disturbed sleep, it burns like fury, and seems to take for ever to wee. The other side is also painful, and for the first time in my life, I've developed haemorrhoids. The pain eases with painkillers: regular doses of ibuprofen and paracetamol. I don't generally advise anyone to waste their pennies on proprietary brands, for the generics are identical and a fraction of the price, but I do recommend Anusol - the relief is well worth the money!

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Road ahead closed

We visited Haverhill yesterday. Haverhill is not somewhere we talk about much, but our good friends Rae and Malcolm live there and we were invited for coffee and chat. Their road is closed for sewer repairs, so we had weave through the shoppers by approaching via the High Street. Driving towards their entrance, we passed the "Road Ahead Closed" sign, and inched up through parked workpeople's cars towards the barrier where a large glaring yellow excavator was dredging up the road. The man driving looked more and more surprised, then apprehensive as we approached, thinking I was about to take him on in a daring challenge, and looked most relieved when I suddenly swung into the gate, just missing his little barrier.

Yesterday too, Edwin landed at Heathrow on his return from Israel. The airport was closed for an hour due to another drone sighting, but he missed the delays. He drank a good quantity of champagne before landing and stayed in a hotel overnight. I picked him up today from Cambridge station. They have done away with the 20 minute (or even 5 minute) stopping places; there is drop-down only there now, or pay over the odds for 10 minutes in their main carpark. I joined several other cars, cruising round, until Edwin rang to ask, "where are you?" and I could finally dash into the queue of cars, and urge him to sling his case in quickly. I had the dogs with me, thinking they'd be delighted to see their master back, but they were somewhat aloof as though sulking that he'd left them. They came round once we were back home and were all over him.

Ann had to see the glaucoma clinic in Bury early today, and is on the waiting list for cataract removal. She has already been waiting for two years, and is considering going privately. Coming home, a neighbour came up to intercept us with news of our next-door neighbour who spends every winter in India. He has had a massive stroke out there, and is currently in hospital and unable to return home. He is the third man in our road to have had a massive stroke, and the road only has four houses! I am the fourth man - not a nice prospect. Given a choice, I think I'll stick with the cancer: at least I can still think and act for myself.

Monday, 7 January 2019

More bad news

The new year is continuing as 2018 left off. We've just heard that Tony, Lucy's partner's father, formerly a leading nuclear physicist now with Alzheimer's, has been admitted to hospital with what sounds like a septicaemia. He is having IV antibiotics, and sounds to be very weak. His son is distraught and spent the whole night with his mother at the hospital.

I often liken life to being put in a long line, walking slowly up towards the pit of extinction. We start off at the back of the queue, but by my age I am among the group at the very front, waiting to drop over. Occasionally, young people are rushed up to the front, and jump in front of us. It is hard, but there is no escape. I will continue with this blog of my journey, but regret I will be unable to send back messages. It must be like falling into a black hole; death is the horizon beyond which nothing ever returns. One regret is that I shall not be able to report back from that dark pit; but I shall continue with this blog for as long as I can, and relate as much as I may.

It is recommended that one should take up an intellectual hobby to slow deterioration of the brain. I continue to do a crossword each day (really half a crossword, as Ann usually gives me half the answers!), and I am learning a language. The language is VBA - a programming language for manipulating data in Excel. Probably not much use for the holiday in Portugal, but it keeps the brain ticking over.

Bible Ann suggested yesterday that I must have got job satisfaction as a doctor. 'Tis strange, but I used to think of my life as a GP as a job rather than a vocation. It was something one 'got on with'; a long waiting list 'to be got through'. But struggling to wee at 4 o'clock in the morning, I remembered my work on the genitourinary (GU) wards; the many men coming in with retention writhing in pain; and the blissful smile when I passed a catheter to relieve them. Of course, like all pleasures, it didn't last long: we generally then had to tell them they had an enlarged prostate, and were being fast- tracked for prostatectomy.

Edwin has just phoned us from Israel. He's had a brilliant time, and after witnessing a Bar' Mitzvah in Jerusalem today, he told us he wants one. He was put off though when Ann mentioned that he would have to be circumcised first.

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Bible Ann

Being a man does have its disadvantages. When I pee now, it dribbles out slowly, with an occasional  tendency to squirt sideways onto my boot. I dare not go to a live theatre show, for I might not make the interval; and if I did, I would probably miss the second half, for there is no admittance to late comers.

I am definitely getting more absent minded too. Ann tells me so many things, but I'm blowed if I can remember half of them the next day. I have resurrected my old camera with the idea of taking it for some good shots of Clare when I walk the dogs, but I forgot to take it. Coming in from walking the dogs this morning, I took my old shoes off, but forgot what I was doing and put them on again.

Bible Ann and her husband Chris called this afternoon. She is called Bible Ann to distinguish her from all the other Anns we know, and because she always produces her bible to quote to us to promote her faith. She has severe Parkinsonism, so walks in bare feet to feel the ground. Today she was too ill even to carry her bible, and had to borrow one of ours to quote from, but she objected to it because it talks of God and the Lord, rather than Jehovah. I always try to be gentle with her, for she is old and frail, even by my standard, but I can never accept that there is only one way to know the world of the spirit. Each of us must come to it in our own way, and life's whole meaning can be seen as an exploratory expedition to find that way. But in no way is mine the 'right' or only way, anymore than is any other person's.

We can share our experiences, and the ways through which we have found a truth, but our inspirations are no more than the flashes of a glow-worm compared to the bright arc-light of uncomprehended reality. For I am certain that there exists a level of which we remain unaware, lying beyond consciousness just as consciousness itself lies beyond the cells of the brain, and they beyond the constituent atoms, and they too beyond the energy that chrystallised into their being. We get hints of this throughout our lives, too easily dismissed as 'coincidences' or chance, yet these flashes occur too often to be blindly dismissed. We should learn to recognise them, to accept them, to work with them, and thereby to grow as the spiritual beings we are.

Feel free to add a comment if you would like to share a spiritual experience
Mail comments to: grandad.john@2from.com

Saturday, 5 January 2019

Post DXT

Diarrhoea bad
It was cold after walking the dogs through the field, with an air temperature that didn't pass 2͒ C all day. Waiting for Ann in The Swan, I succumbed and ordered a double brandy, to keep the cold at bay. Only later did Ann tell me that alcohol, along with spicy food, was verboten for the next couple of weeks. It certainly can inflame the bladder/colon. I deteriorated again after my lapse, with pain from both exits. At least Ann keeps us well provisioned against need.

Listening to another episode of Billy Connolly, I was moved in a different way when a reporter asked him, "What does it feel like to get a knighthood when you've come from nothing?"

Sir Billy bridled at this. "I did not come from nothing! I came from something - something special!" It set me thinking of my own roots, not a Glasgow tenement, but a tiny upstairs flat above a bakery in Leicester, during the bombing and the blackouts. Unlike Connolly, I have no affection for the city of Leicester, nor for Coventry. I could not wait to leave, and have no desire to go back to either place. But it did remind me that my parents too were not "nothing", but were equally special. Too easily have I thought of what they could have done or should not have done; but they gave me freedom to choose, and that is of huge value. I may have made some bad choices, but they were my choices: no one forced me down a road I did not want to travel. My lessons have been learnt the hard way, but they were my lessons, and forged the man I am become.

I do not know the cause of my bladder cancer; probably it will never be known. But I did know, as we all do deep down, that certain food stuffs, or excess alcohol cause harm. No one made me eat unhealthily, nor booze until the cells suffer. My life is my own.

Friday, 4 January 2019


Two wonderful new poems by Ann, reflecting the emotional upheaval that hits us all when cancer strikes, and the support given by the few who count.


Like an exclusive club
they sit crutching one another,
wishing each other health
drinking water from plastic cups,
no Waterford crystal here,
just disposable kidney bowls
hairless heads
wrapped in flowered bandannas,
or home knitted bobble hats
wrought by loving fingers,
there is gentle charity
in each soft, weak smile
of camaraderie,
and huge humanity.
Lip Service

They come and go
with fancy words
and Judas' kisses,
touching sorrow
digits never dirtied,
souls never bleeding,
but yet, they touch you
more than the love
or the constant ardency
of the faithful band
who always have your hand.

I considered the crudity of radiotherapy (DXT) in previous articles where I likened it to "burning the witch". In some ways, it is just as crude. Lines of people waiting treatment of all ages and backgrounds, rows of old men drinking to fill the bladder for their prostate therapy; women for breast or ovary cancer; younger people with brain cancers; or children with leukaemias. Many in caps to hide their chemotherapy-induced hair loss. All get the crude blasting of the rays. Somehow, it is reminiscent of bygone days of treatment with insulin, or cold douches, or ECT: violent, indiscriminate, yet it is all we have.

I have to strip to my underwear, and pull them down to expose the tattoo marks to line up the lasers. I never pull them enough, so the young girls (radiotherapists always seem to be young girls) end up pulling them down further, exposing yet more of me to their indifferent gaze. They then push their hands under my buttocks to pull me about and line me up accurately. It is fortunate I'm in no state for arousal, or I might get more burnt than the bladder.  One day we will have potent treatments against cancer, perhaps a simple inoculation to stimulate the appropriate white cells to march against the invaders. Then shall we be unshackled form these mighty machines, and they will be no more than a curiosity in some documentary of the past.

Sir Billy Connolly sums it up in an article in The Mail today: "As bits slip off and leave me, talents leave and attributes leave. I don't have the balance I used to have, I don't have the energy I used to have. I can't hear the way I used to hear, I can't see as good as I used to. I can't remember the way I used to remember. And they all came one at a time and they just slipped away, thank you. It is like somebody is in charge of you and they are saying, 'Right, I added all these bits when you were a youth, now it is time to subtract'."

Thursday, 3 January 2019

The tormented life of Gingers

Further to Lucy's comment on discrimination against Gingers (see Bad-dreams-and-golden-hopes),  new comment has come from Matthew:

It's fair to say that I also fall in to the ginger minority and can relate only too well with what Lucy has added. Secondary school for me was four long years of torment and hell as the only ginger lad in a year of 200 pupils! Verbal and physical abuse were an all too common occurrence and little was done by the school to do anything about it.
It wasn't until I grew a good six inches between Easter 1995 and the start of the last year of secondary school in the September that it largely stopped as I went from being one of the shortest in the year to one of the tallest! Poor mum, though, as I grew three shoe sizes in six months and it cost her a fortune!
Nowadays I don't get the abuse, people seem to have better things to do, but I have joined a new minority, that of the geeks! I love my sci-fi, fantasy and video games and I'm proud of it. Tall, ginger, big bushy beard and geeky as hell - be who you want to be and enjoy life :-)

New Year Spread
Thank you Matthew. He and Rosie did so much to support us over the last month, coming over faithfully, helping to ferry me to hospital, and there for my birthday and New Year. They even did the full spread on New Year's Eve, and great it was, even though I could manage little of it. But today was my last treatment day. So many good people have rallied round to give lifts, or to help in other ways, one soon learns who one's true friends are. Matthew even went up to bring his mother, the Great X, down from Middlesbrough for my birthday, and she too showed kindness or consideration. Rosie is a professional chef, and even prepared a batch of soups for use over the days to come, even with her own mum ill in hospital. 
Matthew, Ann, John, Anne and Rosie

As for Ann, she has been a true saint, having to run the home virtually alone all month while running after me, ferrying me to hospital so many times and sitting among the many very ill patients with so much patience herself. She has suffered more than anyone, seeing me ill, yet having to nurse me and get on with life, and losing her 'holiday of a lifetime' to the Holy Land, a place she has always dreamed of visiting. If I get over all this, and can continue to work, I am determined that we shall visit, for she deserves no less.

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Bad dreams and golden hopes


Without you
there is no me
no New Year
no fresh poetry
just winter frost
cold winds' icy blast
for you are my all,
my present and my past.

A warm poem from AE to greet the New Year, shrouded as it is in uncertainty.

A horrid dream last night was of a man crouching to wee, when a small terrier-type dog ran up and bit his exposed part, shaking and biting. I tried to get it off him, thinking I would have to kick the brute, then I woke, and realised the dreadful pain he was suffering was my own. I woke every couple of hours needing to go to the toilet, having to sit each time, and the pain is intense. Accompanied by nausea and pelvic pain, it is not my best week. Nineteen down and nearly done now.
Ann and John New Year's Eve 2018-9

In the treatment room today, there was an air of camaraderie, for many of us recognise each other, and there were New Year greetings, and general pleasantries. One of the regulars was talking to a new woman who had accompanied her partner for his treatment, and was giving her guidance about the best way to park, and how to obtain the reduced rate weekly parking ticket. This is such a helpful feature of Addenbrooke's where the whole set up seems designed to benefit the patients rather than the administrators.

Tom Utley's column in the Daily Mail reflects a view I've shared on several occasions (see Paulo's Abba Party). We older white folk are definitely an oppressed minority now. We are completely under-represented in film, television, and news broadcasts, except for the wrong reasons (usually as victims of youthful violence). I firmly believe we should see a TV series on 100 people who changed the world later in their lives, to complement those series of success because they were women or people of colour.

A comment from Lucy: 
I am part of the ginger minority of the world! We are underrepresented in film and screen. It is no longer legally acceptable to verbally abuse people based on their gender, race, sexuality or age and rightly so. Yet ginger people receive hateful abuse every day, especially in schools, and nothing is done! I know so many kids who are tortured at school for having red hair. My friend’s son was kicked and hit at secondary school every day with little or no intervention from the teachers. He was called a ginger c#%! daily. Our hair and skin is so much a part of our identity. Imagine the outrage if this had been abuse targeted towards black skin or any other minority. So yes, I am part of the ginger minority and I am considering setting up a ginger manifesto to protect future school kids with red hair from receiving such horrific abuse that others are now protected from by society and law.

Please add a comment if you feel part of a neglected community
(regret Google can't seem to get their blog comments to work)
Mail comments to: grandad.john@2from.com

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

New Year's Day

It is the first day of the year. I sat wondering what to put into the blog, when a fantastic message arrived from my grandson, Luke. He is the first one to respond to me request for comments, and he has sent such a good message, I feel that my blog has been written for me.

I saw in your blog a request for special memories of 2018 in your blog the other day, and I've been pondering upon it for a few days.

If you were to look at the news across the year, 2018 has been a shockingly atrocious year. It will be remembered for the Brexit shambles going on, worries about the economy, murders and the Royal Family becoming more a media circus. However despite the wider country deciding that this year has been a shambles, there were some positives for me to take from this year. There was the amazing World Cup run England embarked on earlier in the year. I performed in my school talent show this year, which is a standout memory. I really enjoyed my visit to Lanzarote, visiting the volcano on the island and some of it's unique surroundings. And how could I possibly forget my birthday weekend! What a party!

The thing is that a lot of 2018 won't be remembered by large memories. When remembering the good memories of 2018, I'll probably be just having a conversation with someone and suddenly they'll pop up, or I'll just be lying in bed and suddenly a small smile will pop on my face and I'll think "I remember that". And that's the gist I've got from this year. It's been quite a tiring year, because it's been so repetitive. I can't speak for everyone else, these are just my general opinions on the previous 364 days, but for a while now I've just been getting the impression that next year is going to be a better year (not that 2018 has been bad to me), and I hope that I'm right. But can anyone see into the future? And would anyone really want to?


Thank you Luke! We had son Matthew with his partner Rosie and her mum Anne staying to celebrate New Year's Eve, with Matthew first-footing, so we hope for greater things and better news than the past 12 months have brought us. But, Luke is so right. We cannot see into the future, and would we really want to? As always, we can only find strength to face whatever may be thrown at us.

Best wishes and a Joyful New Year to each and everyone of you!!