New Year’s Day

Posted by DMC on 1 January 2010 in Diary |

Well, we’ve made it to another year. Traditionally this is the time when one makes New Year resolutions, dieting, drinking less, exercising more etc. I had no intention of doing any of these things instead I intend to pursue last year’s policy  of Carpe Diem (Live for  the Day).

Today saw another milestone in this blog when we exceeded 150,000 hits


4 January 2010

Posted by DMC on 4 January 2010 in Diary |

We are in the coldest winter spell for over a decade, possibly longer. Having said that the sparkling frosty landscape is set off by absolutely beautiful blue skies, more  reminiscent of Switzerland than grey dreariness are a typical English winter’s day.

In the second test match against South Africa, England had a great start with two wickets for 12 runs but let South Africa off the hook by allowing them to finish last evening on 276 for 6. This morning saw a dramatic half-hour or so with the last four South African wickets falling for 12 runs. England then went in, with its tail up, but this immediately changed when we lost a wicket with the second ball. After that followed the inevitable English collapse, we then regrouped and managed to end the day  only 55 behind with three wickets in hand.

I wrote to the MND Association, following up on earlier letter, concerning the provision of a leaflet to be given to newly diagnosed MND patients. What I said was  that rather than individual patients collecting information piecemeal, as indeed I have done, could not the Association take the lead and design and provide a template, for such a leaflet, to be distributed to (hospital assessment) teams to be completed by the hospital OT.

What I have in mind is that this leaflet will not only include simple cheap practical DIY suggestions but will also list all the organisations that cover  that particular patient’s needs. The name address and contact details, for example, of social services,  the district nurse and so on. It should also include details of what the  patient is entitled to such, as Attendants Allowance or perhaps a Blue Badge. Also, what, for example, AbilityNet  can, or may, provide and how to start this process. What the NHS will provide free and what they might provide that will be means tested. A list of useful websites …….and so on.

I know that all of this information is available from other sources but to bring it together in one bespoke document for each patient would be an enormous help and indeed could make an early substantial improvement in that patient’s quality of life.

Perhaps the Association could run a one day training courses for specialist OT’s who form part of MND Assessment team’s. Not only could they be briefed on the problems that MND patients are likely to face, and suggest some practical solutions, but could also deal with this question of putting together a specialist leaflet that each patient.

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5 January 2010

Posted by DMC on 5 January 2010 in Diary |

The severe winter weather continues so the golf course is closed. In any event, I would not have been tempted to walk around the course in the freezing weather, instead I spent a little longer in bed listening to the first day of the second  test match, against South Africa, which started with the almost daily predictable drama we have come to expect, the loss of two of the remaining English wickets in the first over. Fortunately Prior and Onions managed to drag the score on so that we were only left with a deficit of 18 when South Africa opened its second innings.

The great excitement today was Anthea coming to do my use nails, both feet and hands. Although I had a perfectly good arrangement at the Saffron Walden Community Hospital with a charming poderist for my feet, hands were not part of the deal thus my taking the matter up with the Deputy Speaker, Sir Alan Hazelhurst. (Our local MP). He is still battling away in the background for the Essex County Council to provide a fingernail service for Essex residents. I believe he is winning but in the meantime ‘my lovely’ decided that the whole business of driving to Saffron Walden etc. was just too much of a fag and has made arrangements for me to be topped and tailed at home, of course, at our expense. I suppose we are one of the lucky ones and can afford it but I will still battle away to get this service providing free for others who are not as fortunate as we are and can afford it.

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6 January 2010

Posted by DMC on 6 January 2010 in Diary |

The Siberian weather continues, with overnight temperatures as low -16°C, with another snowfall overnight in some places in the UK as much as 35 centimetres but not so bad here at home.

The test match is also Siberian from the English point of view. South Africa declared at 447 for 7 leaving it almost impossible for England to win and most unlikely to survive for a draw.

With all the excitement of Christmas I do believe that I have forgotten to mention a milestone in my life. My dear wife insisted that I gave up driving in November. She accepted that I was safe on straight roads but very suspect when it came to bends, which is not a good recipe for safe driving. I gave up without a struggle as I realised that she was right. The problem was not so much grasping the steering wheel, as my fingers curled naturally with the MND, but it was the weakness in my arms, in particular the right one, which locked from time to time and would have made it difficult for me to swerve in an emergency.  I would never have forgiven myself if, as a result,  I was responsible for an accident. In the event Alice sold my lovely old Rover for such a small amount of money  I’m ashamed to mention it, but at least it went to a friend.

Another great escape for England in the test match. In a nail-biting finish, our  number 11, Onions, survived the last 17 balls, to achieve a draw,  which means that England cannot now lose the series.

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9 January 2010

Posted by DMC on 9 January 2010 in Diary, Videos |

I have another truly inspirational video for you, The Amazing Young Man. You absolutely must take time to watch this video from beginning to end.  I guarantee that this phenomenal young man will put you in a better frame of mind as a result. If this does not move you, then nothing can. It should make you thankful whatever you have.



14 January 2010

Posted by DMC on 14 January 2010 in Diary |

My quarterly MND assessment at Addenbrookes Hospital today. Really there was very little to discuss other than the obvious deterioration of hands, arms and particularly legs. As usual I pressed Dr Alan to predict the rate of deterioration. Unwillingly he agreed that I would almost certainly eventually lose the use of my hands followed by my legs but could not predict when – although he thought possibly within a few months. In fact, I’m doing better than he predicted last March where he suggested I might lose the use my hands by the end of the year i.e 2009, but then, as he says, he always opts for the shorter timescale. This way anything longer is a bonus. He thought we would have a better idea at the next assessment in April. By then I will have paid another visit to Papworth hospital, so the respiratory side of things will also be clearer.

Seeing the deterioration in my legs and the difficulty I had rising from the chair, the doctor kindly agreed to write and start the ball rolling about the possibility of a chairlift. These things can tend to take some months to sort out so it’s not too early to plan ahead.

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16 January 2010

Posted by DMC on 16 January 2010 in Diary |

The third day of the fourth test match against South Africa started with the home side being 215 for 2, against England’s abysmal 180 all out yesterday. Our captain,  Strauss, was out first ball which  rather set the tone for the rest of the innings. Then, there was the added complication of the South African opener Smith, clearly being out at 15, and the review umpire failing to notice that he snicked the ball and,  as a result, wrongly failed to give him out. Smith went on to score 105 which may well have sealed England’s fate.

Whilst I was finishing reading a fascinating book entitled Yemen by Tim Mackintosh-Smith, which broadly covered the period that I spent in southern Arabia in the late 50s early 60s, another book arrived, this from my kind brother-in-law, Col. John Garton-Jones. Amazingly, this book was also about the same region and the same time period. This book, Roads to Nowhere – a Southern Arabian Odyssey, was written by an old mutual friend, John Harding, you was a member of the Colonial Administrative Service and acted as an Assistant Political Adviser in the  Eastern Aden Protectorate,  as an administrative officer in Aden and finally as a Political officer in Lahej and Radfan. It really looks an interesting book and I shall enjoy reliving old times through its pages.(My lavatory book at present is a tiny volume by Alan Bennett, Clothes They Stood up in.)

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17 January 2010

Posted by DMC on 17 January 2010 in Diary |

Last evening, we received the telephone call that we have dreaded for some time. My mother’s 90 year old husband, Richard, (is he my stepfather once removed!?) was taken to hospital with a minor stroke — the second in two days. Fortunately, we have some very good friends in the area, indeed, I have known John and Anne Prytz since they both got married at 19, some 57 years ago. Anne is kindly holding the fort, looking after my mother and awaiting the outcome of the hospital tests. We will then have to decide what to do from this end.

I’ll say no more about the South African test match other than that it finished a day early with an ignominious defeat for England.

On early Sunday mornings, on Radio 4, Mark Tully frequently broadcasts a thought-provoking programme called Something Understood.This week the topic was Absolutely Honest from the New Unique Broadcasting Company Ltd. In this programme Mark Tully asks if absolute honesty is always the best policy and questions the philosopher, A C Grayling, about his suggestion, that dishonesty can sometimes even be virtuous. I advise my readers to listen to the whole of this broadcasts themselves, if they possibly can, but I reproduce here  a couple of extracts which I found particularly interesting which, of course, should be read in the context of the whole discussion. The topic was particularly interesting to me, in particular, as to how honest you are, or should be, with someone who is diagnosed with perhaps, say, a terminal illness. Let’s make the proposition even more difficult and say it was a very young person who has been diagnosed with an incurable disease and has only months to live.  First of all then, there was Eleanor Brown’s amusing, if somewhat unkind poem, on the subject of honesty, Bitcherel

You ask what I think of your new acquisition;
and since we are now to be ‘friends’,
I’ll strive to the full to cement my position
with honesty. Dear – it depends.

It depends upon taste, which must not be disputed;
for which of us does understand
why some like their furnishings pallid and muted,
their cookery wholesome, but bland?

There isn’t a law that a face should have features,
it’s just that they generally do;
God couldn’t give colour to all of his creatures,
and only gave wit to a few.

I’m sure she has qualities, much underrated,
that compensate amply for this,
along with a charm that is so understated
it’s easy for people to miss.

And if there are some who choose clothing to flatter
what beauties they think they possess,
when what’s underneath has no shape, does it matter
if there is no shape to the dress?

It’s not that I think she is boring, precisely,
that isn’t the word I would choose;
I know there are men who like girls who talk nicely
and always wear sensible shoes.

It’s not that I think she is vapid and silly;
it’s not that her voice makes me wince;
but – chilli con carne without any chilli
is only a plateful of mince…

I do hope that Mark Tully, for whom I have the greatest admiration, and  Prof Grayling, will forgive me for paraphrasing their very interesting discussion and hopefully getting somewhere near the honesty they were trying to demonstrate. If there is any  ambiguity in what I say, I can only plead with the reader to access the actual discussion for themselves.

Two researchers at Brunel University have suggested that there is no consensus in our society about ‘ What honestly is’.  Asked to comment on this,  A C Grayling wrote an article entitled,  Don’t Dismiss  Dishonestly It Can Be Virtuous. Grayling defined honesty ‘as the sincere attempt to stick to the truth, to tell the truth, to act with integrity, to deal with others fairly and justly’. He emphasised the importance of sincerity with the interests of others in mind. Mark Tully suggested there must be times when you honestly feel, you sincerely feel, that it is not right to tell the truth. Prof Grayling said he particularly liked what the Church of Scotland says, that there are times when to tell an untimely truth is a sin and suggested that you can do a great deal of harm to tell someone the truth at an inopportune moment. Take a simple example, suppose you’re halfway through a dinner party and your spouse says to you, ‘ how do I look’ and you think they look absolutely ghastly, this is the right moment not to say that.

So it can it be virtuous to be dishonest sometimes, provided the concept of sincerity is always present. So the corollary of this is, there are times when it is not right to be honest, even when you are asked for it or, it can be untimely tell the truth but sincerity can be very helpful too.

This extract from Anne Frank’s diary shows just  what a tangled tale the business of honesty is:

‘Oh my, another thing item has been added to my list of sins. Last night I was lying in bed, waiting for father to tuck me in and say my prayers with me, when mother came into the room, sat on my bed and asked very gently, Anne, Daddy isn’t ready, what if I listen to your prayers tonight? No, mumsie, I replied. Mother got up, stood beside my bed for a moment, and then slowly walked towards the door. Suddenly she turned, her face contorted with pain, and said, I don’t want to be angry with you I can’t make you love me. A few tears slid down her cheeks as she went out of the door. I lay still thinking how mean it was of me to reject her so cruelly but I also knew that I was incapable of answering her any other way. I can’t be a hypocrite and pray with her when I don’t feel like it.  It just doesn’t work that way. She cried half the night and didn’t get any sleep.

Father has avoided looking at me and, if his eyes  do happen to meet mine, I can read his unspoken words .How can you be so unkind? How can you make your mother so sad? Everyone expects me to apologise, but it’s not something I can apologise for because I told the truth and sooner or later mother was bound to find out anyway’.

Mark Tully suggests that there is a niggling feeling within us that makes us feel uncomfortable when we are dishonest. This discomfort is beautifully illustrated by Georgina Blake’s poem The Teacup Storm

When the seed
    of honesty

I should have walked straight by
Trampled it not heard its cry

The seed
    of honesty

I kicked it around
For I knew it instantly

I could not bear to hold
        it in
          my hand

For there was
    my tomorrow
    my wish
    my dream
    my sleep
    my scream
    my yesterday

The seed
      of honesty

As love
I could not eat until it
was planted

Then as if by torrential tropical
    sudden rain

It sprang to life
Cast a shadow by
    my window
Tempting me to pick its fruit
    a snow white
      rosy red
Once bitten would turn
Trapped as Jack was I
    In the giant’s lair

Its aromatic taste told not
    of what would be
    until it flowered


The seed

Then I could see
How…one person’s laughter is despair
      in another’s eyes
How …even with one word a page
      may stain

How … from a tiny drop of rain
      storms rage

Why was this seed not taken by bees
    Driven by seas

Why fall


When the seed
    of honesty

I should have walked straight by
Trampled it not heard its cry

The seed
    of honesty

Then I could see
How from a tiny drop of rain
    storms rage.

So there we have it, the moral dilemma of when dishonesty may be virtuous and the guilt that can be associated with it.

Today,  Sunday, was a particularly sociable one as we had arranged for Ali and Graham Mackrell to come and have a drink at lunchtime and Jane and Kit Orde-Powlett in the evening. Despite the potential problems on the home front with Richard, we decided to go ahead in the hope that all would be well, as indeed proved to be the case. Lantern Thatch was looking at its best. The iconic Christmas card thatched cottage with a blazing log fire glowing on the ancient oak timber framed sitting room – a welcoming sight. Much Bollinger was consumed.

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18 January 2010

Posted by DMC on 18 January 2010 in Diary |

We received a very welcome telephone call from Richard today. He has been released from hospital with a relatively clean bill of health. At least that’s his version of it! (They’re a tough breed these old naval types). We will just have to keep our fingers crossed (and everything else!)

Jodie, from AbilityNet, came today to instruct me in the further use of voice activation on my laptop. I really must try to avoid the temptation of using the one finger that still works and see if I really can carry out the whole process by voice. He also set up my Sony E reader which will be fine as long as I can still press the buttons.

However, I gather that there are a number of new types of E-readers coming onto the market in the next few months which, hopefully, will be able to be operated by voice or foot.

Speaking of gadgets I have certainly not given up on the idea of my own feeding device or bionic gloves. I have been given some new contacts through the Disabled Living Foundation and at least one of these is looking promising.

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19 January 2010

Posted by DMC on 19 January 2010 in Diary |

I caught the train to London today for the first of this year’s meetings of the Kings College branch of the Arbitration Club. Fortunately, like the Mother Club the meetings are held, at a solicitor’s office,  just behind Liverpool Street Station, so  the journey was not too exhausting.


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