2 December 2010

Posted by DMC on 2 December 2010 in Diary |

The winter conditions prevail except that our little part of East Anglia is being spared the worst. Even our dear old donkey, Mouse, has ventured forth from her stable. It may, of course, have something to do with the pail of hot water that ‘my lovely’ has been taking to her each morning in this cold weather. The donkey seems to love this rather bland treat and drinks a whole bucket full.

I mentioned a few days ago about all the kind people that visit the house from social services and the NHS, in contrast to the situation in the USA. We’ve had two further examples of this over the last couple of days. Two different inspectors have been here to check over the wheelchairs and the hoists. Presumably this is all to do with health and safety but nevertheless it is reassuring. The hoist man told us that they had to take the hoists away every six months to service them but presumably they provide temporary replacements.

Having extolled the virtues of our NHS and social services I was shocked to hear today that there are some hospitals in this country where the elderly are appallingly treated and neglected..

The report said that some were left pleading for food or water, others were left in their soiled underclothes or bed linen and so on. The government’s answer to this is to create, or should I say to recreate, the appointment of an independent Matron in every hospital, who will presumably answer to someone other than the hospital board or the CEO, concerning the welfare of patients. In my youth all hospitals were run by a Matron and I do mean run. Matron was like the captain of the ship, her word was law. A consultant only crossed Matron at his/her peril.

This report, which also mentioned problems of the elderly feeding themselves, prompted me to resurrect my feeding frame for the elderly, which readers may recall I had designed and of which I had four prototypes made. I had previously decided to wait until the outcome of the Mitt Wipe was known before pursuing this idea.. However, this report makes it apposite to get on with it straight away. Accordingly, I have today sent off a proposal to one of the U.K.’s leading entrepreneurs to see if I can interest him in pursuing the idea. The beauty of this invention is that it enables even the most feeble patient to feed themselves with the minimum of effort. Once in production, it should have appeal for all hospitals and care homes, internationally..  On this one I have not taken the precaution of an intermediate patent but will have to do trust to the honesty of the person to whom I’ve made the proposal.


3 December 2010

Posted by DMC on 3 December 2010 in Diary |

My non- sporting readers must forgive me but most of the world’s newspapers are full of FIFA’s decision to award the 2018 football World Cup to Russia and the following one, in 2022, to Qatar. England were humiliated by being eliminated in the first round and only attracting one vote additional to their own representative. This, after the humiliating picture of our Prime Minister, our future king Prince William and Beckham grovelling and humbling themselves before individual members of the committee in the hope of attracting their vote. My own view is that FIFA should have been much more honest when they invited bids, making it clear that they would favour a country which has never hosted the event before and one which would widen the interest of football beyond the current leading nations in the game. In other words, they were not interested in preaching to the converted. Had this been made clear I believe we could have gracefully declined submitting a bid and  saved the country the £15 million, which apparently, the bid has cost us.

The second cricket Ashes series started last night in Australia with England once more dominating the event. They bowled out Australia for 245 runs having dismissed three of the top batsmen, for two runs, including Ponting, their captain, for a golden duck (out first ball without scoring) very early on. England survived the one over  remaining after the Australian innings and now has to go on tomorrow to score something in the order of 400 runs to ensure one their first victory.

One of my readers asked me about, Mouse, the donkey I mentioned a few days ago. She lives in the paddock at the side of our house and was originally one of a pair.

Her companion was called Henrietta but she unfortunately died a few years back. Both were rescue donkeys and came from the Wood Green Animal Shelter. We have no idea how old they are, all,’ my lovely’ was interested in is that they needed some TLC (tender loving care). In fact, at one stage we also had three sheep. One of them was blind and had suffered from meningitis as a lamb and as a result its head was stuck on one side and could only walk around in circles. This rather bizarre situation prompted me to write some children’s stories entitled Woody’s Tails! (Woody being my dear old black labrador, again, alas now long since dead).

Alice is what you might call the Bridget Bardot of Clavering. Certainly, in the past, she would’ve never turned an animal away that needed some love and attention. Indeed, some neighbours moved recently deserting their two cats and after attempting to get them to acknowledge their responsibility and failing, she has taken them on herself. On the other hand, she is not sentimental about. Animals. Henrietta, I recall, ended up being fed to the local foxhounds. No point in wasting good meat, she said. I remember a neighbour of ours keeling over in the garden, a few years ago, and being found by his wife dead, face down  in the compost pit. I used to jokingly say just hope I don’t keel over in the garden!

‘ My lovely’ has always supported a number of animal charities and was frequently shocked when overseas by the way the locals treated their animals. I recall on one holiday in Greece being kept awake all night by a barking dog. The following morning, Alice insisted on finding out exactly where it was being kept and, having done so, she found it chained up in the yard, clearly neglected. As a result, when she returned to the UK, she contacted the appropriate animal protection organisation in Greece and had the dog removed to a safe and comfortable environment. None of this has much to do with anything in particular other than to demonstrate the loving caring creature she is. On the other hand I should perhaps mention that she is also a bit of an enigma, in that if we ever come across a pheasant or rabbit which has been knocked into my car and is still alive, she has no compunction about putting it out of its misery by ringing its neck or finishing it off with a hammer, which I certainly would not be capable of doing.

I promised my readers I would not go on about cricket – indeed I’ve already received one complaint -so I will not labour the fact that England had another fine day in the field with Cook batting all day for 136, not out, leaving our team with a score of  317 for the loss of only two wickets, one of which was, our captain, poor old  Strauss who was out third ball.  England have put themselves in a very strong position to win this second of the five Tests.


4 December 2010

Posted by DMC on 4 December 2010 in Diary |

Today is the day of the Gordon’s Golden Wedding party. They are having an open house for the afternoon for a glass or two of champagne and tea. Sadly the logistics of getting me up into the house and into their reception room, particularly in this freezing cold weather, makes it too difficult for me to attend. Fortunately I saw Douglas here last week and congratulated him on his 50 years of marriage then, so I may be forgiven for not attending.

I wonder if any of the readers recall me mentioning the 7 million letters that the Inland Revenue had to send out explaining why they had made an error in the tax that they had, or had not, collected. In most cases it was the latter case and they were making demands for repayment. Around this time I received a very substantial demand which, with the help of my good neighbour Edward Oliver, I was able to challenge and point out that I suspected the situation was the other way around, they owed me money. You can understand therefore how pleased I was yesterday to receive a substantial refund. Having said that Edward popped in this morning to check over the figures to make sure they are not made yet another mistake.

I tried to get Edward to fit the Ergo armrests which the MND Association have kindly provided for me so that my hands could’ hover’ over the keyboard. Unfortunately they proved to be a more complex piece of engineering equipment that could be fitted by an ordinary mortal so I shall have to get somebody who knows what they’re doing to clamp them to my table.


5 December 2010

Posted by DMC on 5 December 2010 in Diary |

Another uncomfortable night. In the early hours of the morning my joints really began to feel quite painful knees, hips and shoulders. This despite taking 400 mg. of Ibuprofen plus 1000mg. of paracetamol. Tonight I shall switch to the stronger Diclofenac  recommended by Dr Chris Alan, plus 1000 MG of paracetamol and see if that works. Having said that I know that the Diclofenac is recommended for rheumatism. I don’t think I suffer either from rheumatism or  arthritis as I have no pain during the day. It seems that the joint just stiffen up in bed.

Most of the snow has now disappeared from the garden and the weather appears to be getting slightly milder. I venture forth outside for the first time for three or four weeks when I get wheeled to the pub next door to lunch on Friday. Whatever the weather, however, I intend to go, as four people are coming from London and one from Newbury in Berkshire.

I was a bit alarmed yesterday lunchtime when I found that I was unable to get out of my NHS rising chair even with’ my lovely’ assisting with the lifting belt. In the end we had to use the hoist. I had a sinking feeling that this was the beginning of yet another phase, however, I’m pleased to say that when it came to the evening we did manage a normal manoeuvre, onto the gutter frame with the assistance of the lifting belt, so hopefully the legs will last a little longer.

The local MND Association representative, Janet Fray, and her husband Colin, who live in the village, called in today to see me, and Colin very kindly fitted one of the Ergo armrests. No easy task as it was quite a sophisticated piece of equipment with a number of fine adjustable elements. I think this will work fine to take the weight off my arm and allow my hand to hover over an access the mouse and the laptop keys..

The Saturday evening cricket was just as exciting as the opening day. England only lost 2 more wickets and when rain stopped play were 551 for wickets. Cook had scored another magnificent century (148) and Kevin Pieterson was not out  having scored 213.

England kept up the good work on Sunday to run up a total of 620 for the loss of five wickets, with Peterson ending with 227. They declared overnight leaving Australia a target of 356 to make England bat again.


6 December 2010

Posted by DMC on 6 December 2010 in Diary |

I managed to get myself in a frightful muddle over the last two or three days entries as much as anything because I realised that I could not bang on about the cricket as my readers are worldwide and the great majority of them, first of all, wouldn’t understand what I’m talking about and, in any event, would not be particularly interested. There was also the complication that the live cricket started at 11 a.m the previous day in Australia which  would be the next day in the UK!  Having said that anyone who loves cricket will understand the excitement that is being felt by the possibility of England giving its old enemy, Australia, a good thrashing over the Ashes Test series. I will say no more about this as those cricket aficionados will know exactly what I’m getting at.

Having seen the daily number of hits over the past week, on this blog dropped by around 1000 a day. I hope that the cricket entries were only partially responsible, which leaves me wondering whether people are genuinely getting bored with the whole thing. At the rate of hits I was receiving at the end of last month I had every expectation of going through the 1 million hits mark by Christmas. In retrospect I should have realised that very few people will probably login between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day so I should expect a falling off of interest. Quite simply people have other things on their minds. With the drop-off in readership it is doubtful now whether this target will be reached by the end of the year. Half the problem is that very little is happening to me now in this rather inclement weather. I have not left the house for three weeks or so and most days nothing very exciting or interesting, occurs on which I can report,

Maybe my readers may be interested to know how I spend a typical day.’ My lovely’ looks in to check on me at around 5 a.m. when she gets up – I’ve tried to convince her to stay in bed one hour longer but she insists that she has far too much to do in preparing for the day. Before she comes in at 7.00 a.m, to enjoy an early morning cup of tea together, I will have completed 30 minutes or so of stretching and bending exercises in bed in the hope of keeping my joints going a little longer.

After our tea before she either washes me, or on alternate days, I have a shower. I access the bathroom on my gutter frame,  still managing (just) to shuffle up the ramp from the bedroom to the bathroom. Then having dressed me we have breakfast. I can still manage to feed myself awkwardly, perhaps with a little help. Then its teeth, with me using the electric toothbrush with two hands, and finally,’ my lovely’ shaves me using my new electric razor. Following that, depending upon my state of urgency I either go for a walk, up and down the house a couple of times, or go straight into the bathroom to sit on the loo. Readers may recall that I have what is known as a BioBidet which both washes and dries – with hot air -  and thus avoids the indignity of having my bottom wiped.

We were able to resume using the BioBidet once we had the new stand-up hoist, kindly provided by the NHS.. It works a charm. It lifts me to my feet and once my knees are released from the hoist, and I am able to take the weight on my legs and I can then  move to my frame. Later on, if my legs give out, we will carry out a similar manoeuvre accept that I will be lowered into a wheelchair.

I then do my morning walk, if I have  not done it already, and end up in my study chair in front of my laptop for my mornings ‘work’. I start off by publishing the previous day’s blog entry and perhaps making a start on the current day’s entry, if a piece of news has inspired me to want to make a comment. This before I deal with my e-mails, of which there are usually half a dozen or so, and then any necessary telephone calls I need to make. This process can take me half of the morning after which I will deal with any matters which came in the post. If I have any time on my hands before lunch I can then read and take a further walk up and down the house..

I have three sources of E. Books. through Kindle software; through Digital Editions (Amazon) and through My Reader Library, where I may have bought books through other sources such as Waterstones. The beauty of reading on the laptop is that I can open the book using my voice commands – it will automatically go to where I told it to leave a  bookmark – and I can turn the pages, whilst I read, with the command ‘Page Down’.

Over lunch I may watch the news headlines and then one of my favourite programmes, Judge Judy. How I would have liked to have had the same power to determine cases using my judgement and common sense as opposed to being bound by the strict rules of evidence, when I was acting as an arbitrator. I was able to do this on two occasions and it certainly saved the parties a great deal of time and money and I believe produced an equitable solution.

After lunch I’m supposed to ‘have a rest’ but this is something I’ve always found it difficult to do. Admittedly, in my comfortable NHS lounger chair, perhaps in front of some boring TV programme, I probably nod off, from time to time, for 10 minutes cap naps Then, I once more, check, my e-mails and deal with those and any further telephone calls.. Maybe then some more reading before tea at 3.45 when’ my lovely’ – who is an antique fanatic, – and I watch Flog It. That finishes about 4.30. I will then take a further walk, in order to stretch my legs and spend what time I have left  reading before I have my evening whisky. (Since this freezing cold weather we have been unable to find a solution to me having an evening cigar without freezing to death through an open window.)

We then usually watch the news and weather until about seven when we have supper. After which there is usually some interesting television programme amongst the allegedly 147 channels on our FreeSat, in front of which both of us drop-off from time to time, which will take us up to our bedtime at 10 o’clock. By emptying my bladder before I retire I have no difficulty in going through the night which is a blessing for Alice.

If she had to get up every night and come down to give me a pee, by the time she had gone through the process of removing the respirator and dealing with the bottle, she probably will be so wide awake that she would find difficulty in getting back to sleep. Before very long she would become so exhausted that we would require some outside assistance. We know we are going to need help some time but am putting it off as long as possible as it would be quite an expensive undertaking.

After all that I think that the reader deserves a little light relief. At this rather cold and uninspiring time of year I can think of nothing better than to show you the  pictures selected by the National Geographical Magazine  Best Pictures of the Year. Click here on the National Geographical Pictures to see them. They will also appear in the Photo section of this blog


7 December 2010

Posted by DMC on 7 December 2010 in Diary |

From the long description I gave yesterday of a typical day in the life of … The reader will appreciate that there is not a great deal of excitement or interesting events  on which I can report. In fact, the highlight of my day today was to have been the second visit from Charlie, from Ability Net for some further training on voice activation but his wife telephoned me, an hour or so before he was due here, with the sad news that he was in bed with a fever. I certainly didn’t want him to risk life and limb on something that can certainly wait, and told her so. I hope he recovers soon so that we can rearrange our training.

 However, in the normal way, the day goes by quite happily following my routine particularly if I have a good book on the go. Presently I am reading Prof Steven Hawkins’,  Grand Design.

I promise this will be my final report of the second Ashes Test (only three more to go!!). Australia put up a pretty good show on the fourth day ending 238 for four when rain stopped play. Needing only 119 to wipe out England’s lead there was a strong probability that England would have to bat again to ensure a win. However England bowled them all out before lunch winning by 71 runs and an innings. A handsome win which put England well on the way to retaining the Ashes.

In all fairness it might make the whole business of cricket more palatable, to those who have no interest in the game, if I were to extract from Wikipedia the brief description of how the Ashes came into existence.

The Ashes is a Test cricket series play between England and Australia.  It is international cricket’s most celebrated rivalry and dates back to 1882. It is currently played  biennially, alternatively in the United Kingdom and Australia……

The Ashes comprise five Test matches, two innings per match…… if the series is drawn in the country already holding the Ashes retains them. (England holds them at present) show

The series is named after a satirical obituary published in a British newspaper, The Sporting Times, in 1882 after a match at The Oval in which Australia beat England on an English ground for the first time. The obituary stated that English cricket had died, and the body will be cremated and the Ashes taken to Australia. The English media dubbed the next English tour to Australia (1882 — 83) as a quest to regain the Ashes.

During that tour a small terracotta urn was presented to the captain of the English team… by  a group of Melbourne women. The contents of the urn were reputed to be the Ashes of an item of cricket equipment, possibly a bail, ball or stump (one of the three forming the wicket)

Since the 1998-99 series, a Waterford Crystal representation of the Ashes has been presented to the winners of the Ashes series as the official trophy of that series.

Our snow has virtually disappeared although there is a very heavy frost and nasty looking foggy mist. It is barely above freezing. Scotland has seen the worst of the weather, in places up to 2 feet of snow.


8 December 2010

Posted by DMC on 8 December 2010 in Diary |

Yesterday I mentioned that I was reading Prof Stephen Hawkings’ book, The Grand Design. I really ought to say little more about this book. Although the authors write in fairly plain language, inevitably one gets involved with quark’s, neutrons, protons, atoms and the like and numbers so long that the number of zeros would take several lines to type out, for example 10 to the power of 500. Although I like to think I understand what I’m reading at the time I would not relish the idea to have to sit examination having finished the book.

The object of the book is summed up in the first chapter where Prof Hawkins poses the following questions which have puzzled me for decades. Typically:

  • How can we understand the world in which we find ourselves?
  • How does the universe behave?
  • What is the nature of reality?
  • Where did all  this come from?
  • Did the universe need a creator? and in a later chapter
  • Why is there a universe?

In dealing with such questions Prof Hawkins says things like “if you go far enough back  in time the universe was as small as….. 1 billion-trillion-trillionth of a centimetre”.

You are left wondering how on earth they ever arrived at that figure, certainly before the advent of the computer but I do not have the temerity  to question someone so eminent as Prof Hawkins.

In any event, this very, very, very ‘tiny  ‘spec was all that existed in (‘ space’?) before the big bang from which all the galaxies and the universe have been formed. Before the big bang it seems that time did not exist! Prof audience confirms what seems now to be fairly common knowledge that the big bang occurred 13.7 billion years ago. Just what time of the day it was is yet to established. If I understand you correctly physicists are able to look back to a 200th. of a second before the event and are hoping to get even nearer to the precise moment of the big bang using the giant collider in Switzerland.

From the best of my recollection nowhere in the book did the authors questioned the existence of God. However, I was certainly left with the impression that the answer to the question ‘ Did the universe need a creator?’ was in the negative. Having said that I suppose it leaves people with faith in a higher being asking the question who was responsible for that tiny speck , being there in the first instance, and then causing the big bang.

Following on from that Prof Hawkins also agrees that the earth was formed 4.5 billion years ago and that humming noise had only been on it for a minute fraction of time, 200,000 years. I wonder how much longer we will be here?

What has blown my mind for decades is the concept of infinity and the fact that the whole universe is constantly expanding (into what? (Infinite space!!). Presumably, from knowing the rate of expansion, scientists were able to work backwards to establish the age of the universe. You would think from this expansion that everything you see on a clear starry night would be getting farther away from you all the time. However, nothing is that simple. Prof Hawkins explains this phenomenon by saying that distant galaxies recede from us as if the cosmos were on the surface of a giant balloon.

As the balloon expands the galaxies themselves stay constant in relation to their component parts and only move away in relation to other galaxies. At least, I think that’s what he was saying. Despite being the most eminent of all MND sufferers there is little chance of him reading this blog so I’m probably quite safe at making that statement.

The problem with this sort of book it is that it is very hard to get your head round some of the quantum physics or the multiverse laws of nature which vary depending on where you are in the universe I think I generally understood the individual examples given but when it came to the relationship between these individual laws I was lost. For example, I cannot pretend to have understood a fraction of the explanations given about the nature of the universe, basically because I’m not a physicist but the book gave me the gist of the answers to the questions that I posed above.

It also confirms that there are billions of galaxies with Suns around which planets orbit, which seems to me to confirm the probability that some of these planets have some life form, of what form  depends on a number of variables, but maybe Star Trek, Deep Space Nine is not too far from the mark. It is a fascinating book but what I have written above is probably far too simplistic as every proposition or more seems to depend upon other laws or propositions (except the M-theory). So take nothing but I have said for gospel. If you are interested get the book for yourself, free, as an e-book on Amazon..

This seems an appropriate  place to reproduce some wonderful photographs I have from a collection of shots from above the Earth, to shots from outer space..

Aerial shots from above the Earth.  (Setup Slideshow — From the Beginning. Change slides manually

Shuttle  (Setup Slideshow — From the Beginning. Change slides manually

Great shots from space



9 December 2010

Posted by DMC on 9 December 2010 in Diary |

Today is my mother’s 94th. birthday. You don’t have to be a genius to work out that she was only 17 when I was born but, at  least, she was married! Not that it seems to matter a jot today, with around 30% of babies born, out of wedlock, in the UK. In the early Thirties however society was not so broadminded.

She is in excellent shape physically, slim and with the mobility of a much younger woman. Unfortunately, she is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease which puts a bit of a strain on her present (third!) husband, Richard. My goodness, what a star he is. Certainly the best thing that ever happened to my mother. He was in the Royal Navy, and is in reasonable health, apart from a dicky heart, which seems to be under control, he is very jolly for someone over 90 and utterly dedicated to looking after my poor mother.

I wonder if you should tell someone when they are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease?. Of course, they have a right to know but why worry them with the burden of that knowledge, particularly someone like my mother who is a bit of a worrier, anyway.. Certainly for the first year or two, hopefully the only outward signs would be being little forgetful, which is what people anyway come to expect when they get to a great old age.. (What I believe is politically correctly called ‘short-term cognitive impairment’. I’ve always said if I can remember that, I’m not suffering from it!). As soon as you put a label on something, then, in some people, that in itself creates anxiety and therefore a lessening of enjoyment of life.. I have told my mother not to worry about forgetting things. Don’t we all get up to the top of the stairs and wonder why we’re there and then only remember when we get down again?. At least, I used to, a year or two back when I could still climb the stairs. What I told her was, the day that she opens her front door, looks at me and says ’not today thank you’, and shuts the door again, then I know she’s in trouble. Before then she shouldn’t worry If I ever developed Alzheimer’s I think I would rather not know. Where that leaves the Dr, of course, is another matter.

There is also the carer to consider By not telling the patient the carer is carrying a heavy burden. Not only the physical task of looking after the patient but also the heavy conscience of keeping them in the dark.

Following on from this question about letting people know people know, I suppose the answer is  ‘it all depends’. Of course, everyone has a right to know and is it morally wrong to deny them that right. Certainly in a young adult I believe they should be told. Although, we did have one friend in his middle age who, when told he had Parkinson’s Disease, rather than becoming a burden on his family, tragically committed suicide. Had he not been told he would certainly have enjoyed at least another year with his young family before the disease became obvious . What if you are told that your young wife has no more than six months to live and she was ignorant of the fact? Would you not be tempted to make every day of that six months as fulfilling and happy as possible, until she notices that she is not entirely well. The minute she was told then her ability to enjoy the everyday things that we all enjoy, would be diminished. The same dilemma would face parents of a teenage child who contracted a terminal illness with a short lifespan. A moral dilemma indeed.

With MND, on the other hand, not even the doctors treating you,  know with any degree of certainty, how fast you’re going downhill and therefore how long you might live. The doctors are unlikely to tell you a great deal unless you ask some the direct questions and then they would usually say that every patient is different and they can only take it week by week.

However, if you are of an  enquiring mind and have access to the Internet you would, no doubt, read up about your disease. You would find that the statistics say that 50% of patients who contract MND will die, on average, within 14 months of diagnosis, which could mean as short as nine months or as long as 18, pretty alarming. Am I one of those, you might ask?

Your doctor may well be able to say that he does not believe so and that you have every chance of being in the second, two — five years  survival category from diagnosis . Even that is not particularly satisfactory as it can take some months to confirm the diagnosis as you had to undergo great number of tests to eliminate other possible causes. If you have to have these tests, under the NHS, then the process is inevitably even further prolonged. In my case,  for example, I was aware of a weakening in my left arm in September 2007. Going to the gym three days a week I noticed that side was finding it more difficult — I thought the weights were getting heavier! I was fortunate although I sought no advice until I had a BUPA check-up   the following January. Having medical insurance, all of my tests were carried out in a week or so. Even then after nine separate tests the neurologist was not entirely certain until I was sent off to one of the country’s leading doctors in MND, Prof Nigel Leigh at King’s College Hospital, London who was able to confirm the diagnosis.

Then there is the one in 10 lucky person who could last 10 years. (When I heard that I put up my hand and said I would opt for that one). Be there as it may the harsh truth is that because every patient is different and there are variants of the disease, until it attacks your throat and therefore affects your breathing,  swallowing and speaking, the prognostication is difficult.

There are even individuals who don’t fit into any of these categories. My own local MND representative has suffered from the disease for around 20 years and todate it has only affected his legs. The classic example of a long survivor is, of course, the famous Prof Stephen Hawkings, who was struck down in his youth some 40 odd years ago. How does he survive? I imagine he has a team of nursing assistants round-the-clock who ensure that he can breathe and does not choke on his own mucus. Does this mean that if I could afford this degree of attention, (which I certainly cannot) that I too could live to a ripe old age? I must remember to ask this question on my next assessment, merely as a matter of interest. But then even if I was told that by having the same degree of care, I could live for many years, would I really want to, being totally unable to move or speak and only communicating by eye movement?. As it is I go crazy not being able to scratch an itch; pick up a piece of paper; open a book or to get up out of a chair and do things which I would have done naturally without a thought.

So I suppose it comes back to the original question that I posed, at the beginning of this rant, as to whether a person should be told how long a doctor believes that they have to live and give the classic answer i ‘it all depends’.

What you say to the patient, as opposed to the carer, of course, is quite different. I don’t have any doubt that caring for someone, even in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, can be very stressful. You never quite know what they did do next and they are very easy to lose when shopping. I remember my great-grandfather living with us for a short while, who suffered from that condition, who was brought home, more than once by a kindly neighbour, who found him wandering about not remembering where he lived. I can’t remember that this was ever called Alzheimer’s in those days, just old age


10 December 2010

Posted by DMC on 10 December 2010 in Diary |

Today was my first trip outside since  16 November, when I last went to the golf club.  Dr Julian Critchlow, my good friend and joint literary executor and his his solicitor partner, and also my good friend, Simon Tolson and wife Charlotte, all drove up from London to very kindly give me lunch at Jamie Oliver’s dad’s pub, The Cricketers, next door. Julian’s partner, Lucy, who get on very well with Alice, was also supposed to come but sadly was in bed with a fever. My other joint literary executor, a solicitor and poet extraordinaire, James Snowdon Barnett joined us from Newbury, Hampshire  and’ my lovely’ made up the numbers.

I was wheel-chaired to the pub which is probably just as well as we had an elegant sufficiency of champagne and wine and one great advantage about being in a wheelchair is you cannot fault flat on your face!

It was a very jolly lunch and the food was excellent and. Jamie had been inspired to write a Betjeman-esque poem about his visit today. (Reproduced below) .  It was inspired by an event which happened some years ago. A gang of us who, since time immemorial, have occupied the front row left of the Warner Stand at Lord’s, started meeting for a Christmas lunch in Paddington. You can imagine they were rather liquid affairs. On this particular occasion, around four o’clock, I decided I’d had enough as the boys were then beginning to get stuck into the port. I went to Paddington Station and got on the Circle line. The carriage was warm and comfortable and I nodded off only to wake up having been around the entire Circle line once and ending up five stops past Liverpool Street where I needed to get off. You can imagine the boys didn’t let me forget that for some time and it was the memory of this journey with no end (being on the Circle line) and the fact that our nearest railway station is called Audley End which prompted James to write the following?.

                                               At Audley End

For my very good friend, Professor D. Mark Cato. (My emphasis)

I ignore Ugley and its Ugly Green

Little and Great Chesterford hold nothing for me

I have traversed through Catmore End

and those other Ends at Shaffonhoe and Duddenoe

But for me there remains only Frog End

So near (mere hair’s breadth from Shepreth)

Snow End, Green End, Mill End, Wood End,

and even (may I add) Catmore End

tread little on my sorely traversed soles

Are there no ends to Ends?

Having written that Jamie reminded me that this was our 39th. year of friendship. The 25th. I recorded on an engraved glass as follows:

As we grow older

And pleasures are harder to obtain

We should savour more

Those few who thankfully remain


It was lovely to see Charlotte again with Simon and they were both on extremely good form. They went off after lunch and Julian, who always enjoys a good cigar, came back to the house where we were allowed to smoke by an open window in the breakfast room. All in all a very happy day.

.After a telephone call, in the earlier part of the day, with dear Jo (Sassons), my MND coordinator-having returned to work two days week after having her baby-she suggested increasing my nightly Difenac painkillers to two 75 m.g plus two 500 mg. Panalgesics. This seemed to do the trick and dull the pain of my stiff joints so I got a good night’s sleep.


11 December 2010

Posted by DMC on 11 December 2010 in Diary |

This afternoon, two of the Clavering’ old faithful’s’, Barton and Judith William-Powlett came round to tea.. Judith came bearing her beautiful Christmas cake which she has made for me for at least the last 25 years, knowing my penchant for a good moist fruit cake – she is a great cook and her cakes are the best. We shall miss the WP’s at Christmas as, being located near the church, we traditionally dropped in for a glass of champagne after the morning service  before returning home  Christmas lunch (or is it Christmas Dinner on this particular day?).

Judith and Barton had just returned from India and regaled us with stories about their two weeks there ending up in Kerala, on the south-western coast. Cochin, Kerala was the location of my triumphal first game of team cricket at the ripe old age of 70 in October 2003. (See Anecdotes- The Cricket Match). It really is an extraordinary part of India quite different from the rest of it. A sort of Eastern Norfolk Broads. Like me the WP’s spent one night on one of the straw boats, that ply the waters there, having selected a menu, taken food with them and their own chef. A must if you go to that part of the world.

My first experience of India was in 1959. I had travelled back from Australia to Columbo – to what was then Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) -j first-class on the P & O Oriana (or was it the Canberra?). Those were the days when they had two (or was even three? ) Classes of passenger, First, Second and Steerage – Shades of the Titanic. It was a great way to travel and very luxurious. I seem to recall we dressed (black tie) for dinner every evening.

You imagine my shock, on the first night on shore, having met a very distinguished academic who was also alighting at Columbo who offered me a bed for the night, when I found myself sleeping in the YMCA, behind a curtain on a camp bed with grey greasy sheets and no air conditioning. What a tremendous contrast to the luxury I had enjoyed over the previous three weeks.

My reason for disembarking in Ceylon was that I intended to travel through India to Baghdad where I had been offered a partnership. This despite it not being the most auspicious time to go to Iraq as the dictator Kassem had only recently murdered the Royal family. But then the story of this Indian trip and my time in Baghdad is already well documented in my autobiographical notes and this is not the right place to reproducible it all.

Other than perhaps to say that when I arrived in Baghdad I was immediately incarcerated, with a number of other tourists, as there had been a typhoid epidemic in India and we had to be quarantined for three weeks.

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