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2 February 2011

Posted by DMC on 2 February 2011 in Diary |

I have had an entirely frustrating day today. First of all England lost the sixth of the cricket ODI’s in Australia in the last over but I have to admit it was an exciting game. Trott was again the star of the English batsmen with 137 Then I tried to come to grips with this new computer and first of all had problems with my voice activation, which after some time I only partially managed to resolve by plugging in the USB cable into a different port. Then I tried to edit my blog, using exactly the same method as previously and all I managed to do was to eliminate chunks of it, which I was fortunate to be able to recover. Maybe it’s all to do with the current programme being Vista as opposed to XP Professional but whatever it is I’m now stuck with it and will have to work out how to resolve the current problems I’m having.

Add to this the fact that my second landline has been out of order for the last two days and being hands-free is an absolutely essential piece of equipment, I feel as I’m having a really bad time. I’ve spoken to Orange who conducted some tests and it seems to have come down to the possibility that the handset itself is defective and until my son comes home, at the weekend, and I can move plugs about for me we will not be certain as to the problem. I’m sorry to be so negative that we all have those days when we wish we never even got out of bed.!

Have a look at this fantastic photographs of the famous Pulpit Mountain in Norway. If you  don’t have a head for heights don’t look!

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3 February 2011

Posted by DMC on 3 February 2011 in Diary |

A Happy New Year to all my Chinese readers. GONG XI FA CAI (for my Mandarin readers) KUNG HAI FAT CHOY (for my Cantonese readers) – I hope I got that right! In any event, I hope you all have a wonderful year of the Golden Rabbit.

After yet another session on the remote assist with Ben, of AbilityNet I hope to have sorted out  most of my computer problems

Another WendyLett sheet arrived today from me to try. This is a three-quarter length sheet which allows you to have an under sheet to give friction for your feet.

We will try this tomorrow and I will report back. Lynn, my OT, popped in just before lunch to check on the new shower chair which he says is still not quite right, so she has more work to do on that. She is a really caring conscientious person and is determined to do everything she can to make life easier for me. After I let her know whether this new Wend Lett is satisfactory  she is prepared approach our local PCT about their willingness or otherwise to pay for these sheets, as do the Somerset PCT as I gather they are quite expensive will stop

This afternoon one the ‘old faithfuls’,_Douglas Gordon, dropped in for tea and a chat. Douglas, my erstwhile stockbroker, founded the best village magazine in the country, which has been acknowledged as such. Indeed the village of Newport now runs a national competition, annually, to find the best village magazine.. Douglas also founded a croquet club in Newport, which seems to be going great guns.

Douglas’wife, the aptly named Cecilia (the patron saint of Music) is my erstwhile piano teacher (referred to in the following extract has’ the local piano teacher’). I can best recount my piano playing days by reproducing an extract from my autobiographical notes. From the chapter entitled Musical or Not!

I was at a supper party one day in my 40th year and a discussion ensued about playing the piano.  I heard myself say how much I would love to be able to play myself. I had, in fact, started once in my teens, but, having no piano of our own, I was forced to practice on a friend’s. After a couple weeks his mother could stand it any longer and my piano playing aspirations withered.

On the way home from that dinner party, musing on the things that we had discussed, I realized what a stupid comment I had made in saying how much I would love to be able to play.  If I really wished I could play the piano, what was stopping me? The following day I bought a piano and signed up with the local   piano teacher for lessons. I decided that I would get up every day at six o’clock and practice for 40 minutes.  I would give myself 10 years to see if I could reach a reasonable level of competence.  After a year or so I entered for my Grade 1 examination.. I was extremely nervous.  I remember that my ‘big’ piece was called something like Swans and Ducks, which I practiced assiduously, for weeks,  before the big day.

The day of the examination arrived.  I presented myself at the Village Hall, along with of a half a  dozen toddlers taking the same examination.. When it came to my turn I entered the examination with trepidation.  I marched up to the invigilator, who was busy recording the efforts of the last examinee.  I stuck out my hand which she ignored as she continued to write.  She impatiently waved me away in the direction of the piano.  I sat down on the stool and found that I could not get my knees under the keyboard. The stool was, not surprisingly, far too high as the last hopeful had been little more than 3 feet tall.  I spent the next few minutes working myself up into a muck sweat trying to wind it down.

By this time the invigilator was getting ready impatient and told me, rather peremptorily, “to get on with it.”  She immediately demanded an arpeggio, from the top down and up.  I had only been taught to play them from the bottom up and down, so  was immediately thrown off my stride.  I fumbled my way through that and the scales and so on, until I came to my ‘big’  piece.  Somehow I struggled through it until I got to the last eight bars by which time I could not recognize a single note. All I could see were, what looked like, black inkblots.

I achieved a score on 101 marks -the pass mark  being 100. So my piano career was off to a stumbling start. I continued to practice daily, as I had promised myself, and after 10 years reached Grade 5 level. I then assessed my competence and decided that I would murder the instrument no longer, and have never played a note since.  The piano was shortly after purloined by my musical daughter and I’m pleased to say that grandson Fred has just taken ( Mar.2009) his Grade 1 piano exam, and hopefully passed with flying colours.

A rather risque joke with apologies to my Greek readers. Giving back to the church

He did!

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4 February 2011

Posted by DMC on 4 February 2011 in Diary |

Kit Orde-Powlett came this afternoon for our first game of chess. He arrived with a chessboard and no pieces which he had forgotten! (How is it that brilliant people are frequently so vague?). Fortunately I had several sets and was able to provide a suitable roundup of chessmen. More than adequate compensation for the forgotten chess pieces were to jars of wife, Jane’s, delicious home-made marmalade. We played two games, both taking the best part of an hour and I suppose the kindest thing I can say about myself was that I held him at bay that long. For a man who claims to have beaten Kasparov, the past world champion, on his electronic  chessboard, I suppose I should be satisfied with my mediocre performance. I doubt whether I will ever actually beat him but I will, undoubtedly, learn something in the meantime. It was a very pleasant diversion which I hope we will repeat again soon.

The situation in Egypt is beginning to look very serious, there are thousands of, mainly young, people on the street who are determined to get rid of their long-term president, who are able to defy the curfew because they are being left to their own devices by the army who appeared to be neutral in this struggle. Although the Black Muslim Movement, the main opposition party, does not appear to be taking an active role in this revolution is hard to see how if Pres Mubarak gets overthrown, or voluntarily resigns, which now seems inevitable, how this country with an 80% Muslim population can avoid becoming an Islamic state.

England started its challenge for the six Nations rugby cup with a good win against Wales in the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, 19-26. Their first win against Wales in this venue since the 2003 World Cup

Look at these fantastic pictures and imagine how this place was built long before modern machinery was available to get the materials at their. China city in the mountains.

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7 February 2011

Posted by DMC on 7 February 2011 in Diary |
The ‘Thought for the day’ on Radio Four,  early morning was basically to enjoy every day as it comes. In fact, Carpe Diem the theme of this blog. Hard on the heels of this came the news, one of the major items of which was serious consideration being given by the British Government, to opting out of the European Human Rights legislation as it fails to take into account cultural differences between one country and another. It’s almost as if the journalists and the government minister concerned had been reading my recent blog entries! I wish!!.

Tomorrow I go to Addenbrooke’s Hospital to see the orthopaedic consultant concerning the painful joints I have suffered in bed. However, since I set the wheels in motion for my appointment, some weeks ago, I have to be honest, there have been fewer incidents of such pain in bed, and none anything like so severe as that which caused me to seek the appointment in the first place. Haven’t we all been in this situation with excruciating toothache only to get to the dentist completely pain-free and almost unable to identify which tooth it was. Anyway the die is cast and I will have to take up his appointment. No doubt the consultant will expect me to summarise my general physical condition and having given some thought to it, it seems to me that my legs are getting weaker, particularly the left one, but the process seems to have slowed down. When I do my perambulations on my pulpit frame, up and down the length of the house, three times a day, I wonder each time how long I will be able to continue this exercise. It is an effort but I’m still managing. Not bad, considering last June I was told I may have do reconcile myself to being in a wheelchair from then on. Both hands are pretty useless and half curled up. My arms, although just skin and bone, have possibly plateaued as I am still able to move them about, feed myself – after a fashion – , poke the computer with my left hand in a splint and to clean my teeth with my electric toothbrush, with one arm supporting the other. The night time breathing is taken care of by the respirator and during the day, although I  blow a bit when I exert myself, I certainly don’t need any artificial intervention to breathe at this stage.

Smiler came late afternoon, to spend the night, en route to Gainsborough’s house in Sudbury for a lecture tomorrow. Always great to see him and catch up on his news and his latest finds in the gallery.

I heard today from a dear friend Nancy (Osborne)  Daughter Kate, of whom I am very fond, has opted to spend four months of her gap year in Uganda teaching young children English and other skills. Kate has been there now just over a week and has decided to run a blog for the year that she is there. She has entitled this blog Kate’s East African Adventure, the address of which is http://www.kateineastafrica.blogspot.com/ She has just posted her first entry. I commend my readers to follow Kate’s progress. She is a model daughter coming from a loving, caring and giving family. An example to all young people. I just wish there were more Kates about.

Talking of Africa I think everyone will enjoy this.
Just click on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oiGKWoJi5qM

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6 February 2011

Posted by DMC on 7 February 2011 in Diary |

A tired old England side played the last of the seven ODI;s cricket series after 100 days in Australia. It’s been a long trial and all downhill since they won the Ashes. In this match they certainly let Australia off the hook, having got them 103 for 4,  then allowed them to clock up 279 for 7. In chasing this score England lost its two opening batsmen in the first two overs, Captain Strauss on the second ball and Davis in the second over, both for a duck. Even the good faithful warhorse, Trott, who has played magnificently throughout, failed on this occasion scoring only 14 runs. In the event England were all out in the 44th. over having lost the series 6-1.

They return to England with barely 2 weeks before the beginning of the World Series with four of their 15 suffering from injuries, probably the most serious of which is Morgan with a broken finger, who was our great hope for that series. Frankly, I doubt if we’ll even get to the knockout stage. I promise my readers to give only the scantiest of reference to this World Series as I know the majority of you are not the slightest interested in cricket.

Fortunately, my dear daughter Chloe, arrived mid-afternoon yesterday to spend the night and lend a hand to mum, looking after me for a few hours.

It was lovely to see her and, no doubt, even a short break from her family would have done her some good. As a working mum with three young children and a husband heavily involved in his legal work, she needs a little respite from time to time. As it turned out Chloe was an enormous help in sorting out my jumble of wiring from all of my equipment and labelling all the plugs and leads, apart from a few other little job she did for me. So, not much of a rest but certainly a change and great help to me

She brought with her to cards from my little granddaughter Lara, or rather one picture and one card. The picture had a very large sun drawn in the right-hand corner against which Lara had written proudly, I am 6! dear Gram Pa (Her birthday being on 9 January). Under the sun, or almost touching its rays, were two quite large, same height, figures,  one of Grampa, flatteringly dressed in shorts and a short sleeved shirt and the other of Lara wearing a floral dress with long curled hair -both appropriately labelled.. (Grampa’s large bald head adorned with a few flecks of what appears to be hair!). Both figures were holding a large flower. To the left of the figures and under a large cut-out montage of a Rain bow were a row of tall variegated flowers, appropriately labelled in case I didn’t recognise what they were!

The card, on the other hand, was written for a specific purpose. On the front of which was a passable drawing of a dog, labelled Woody (the name of my beloved black labrador who died a few years back; in fact before Lara was born). Inside, on the left-hand side was a large circle, divided into four quadrants, in each of which was drawn a heart. On the right-hand side was the message – the purport of the card –

Dear Granqa.

I hope you get better soon and  not your not happy . (Presumably, the double negative meaning ‘ not unhappy’)

I wish you are happy and I also wishing you a Happy New Year.

Lots of  love

Lara. XXO

***    alongside which she had pasted a shiny golden heart.

On the back of the card she had written a Happy Chinies New Year adorned above  and below with what she  considered were Chinese characters. (Apparently, there is one little Chinese girl in her class and they had obviously been told that 3- 5 February was the Chinese New Year.)

Now this reflects a kind and caring nature. Clearly inherited from her mother and grandmother before her. What a dear girl -she will go far. I sent her a little card with thanks, written out by her mum, assuring her that her picture of Woody had made me very happy and I loved her very, very, very, very, very much. I’m not sure that the children yet know about the  donkey’s demise, so that is something else that mum will have to deal with, certainly by half term when they are due to come here for the day.

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8 February 2011

Posted by DMC on 8 February 2011 in Diary |

Today turned out to be an absolute washout, apart from the hospital. It was my day to see the orthopaedic consultant concerning the painful joints from which I have been suffering in bed, from time to time. My appointment was scheduled for 9.40 and we are told to be ready two hours before that for the ambulance. In the event the transport turned up at 10 o’clock after I had sat in the hall in my wheelchair, for  an hour or so. Of course, one must be understanding as the ambulance service has to work out a route to pick up and drop them patients to make the journey is worthwhile.

Once I was in the Fracture Clinic, from which the orthopaedic surgeons consult, I did not have too long to wait. I saw a very nice young registrar (?) Henry Budd who was very helpful. Having discussed the symptoms he then ordered a number of x-rays is to be taken of most of my joints and then suggested that he would also like to have a bone scan for which I would need to come back on another occasion . I told him that I have so many hospital appointments and I would be extremely grateful if they could possibly fit the scan in on this visit and after some enquiries, Henry managed to organise it, which was very considerate of him as I have, no doubt, there is a waiting list of several months for this particular scan.

It turned out to be far more complex than I had originally envisaged. First of all I had to be injected with some sort of dye that would permeate the bones (?) so that they would show up more clearly on the scan. Then there was  a three-hour wait for the dye to circulate through the body, during which time I was required to drink 5 pints of water. This inevitably meant to 3 visits to the loo during the wait.. Fortunately I had taken the precaution of  taking my laptop with me so I could read whilst I was waiting. I made great inroads into Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.

The bone scan, as I said, turned out to be far more complex than I have envisaged. The main problem being that I cannot lie flat without a respirator otherwise, had I been able,  no doubt, they would have done my whole body’s scan  in one half hour operation. The extraordinary thing is they claimed that they could not find a respirator in the whole of the hospital. As it turned out they scanned the lower part of my body, up to my pelvis, sitting up on the scanning table with my upper body being supported at around 45° by a nurse. I was then moved, with great difficulty, into another room, where again I was propped up at 45° and the balance of the bone scan was done with a Gamma camera, photographing bits and pieces of my skeleton. The whole bone scan process taking two hours. In the event, I got home just before 6.00. in time for a well-deserved whisky before supper.

A pretty long and arduous day. I must say however that I have nothing but the highest praise for the large number of people who were involved with me during the day from the ambulance crew right through to the special taxi in which  they arranged  for me to be taken home. I cannot imagine receiving any better or more caring attention if I had been a private patient, which says much for the NHS. The only result I know of is that Henry mentioned that he could see no arthritis of any significance in the early x-rays. Beyond that we must await the bone scan analysis. I do not suspect that there will be anything of great significance but at least it will put my mind at rest.

At one stage, when I was being moved from one camera to another, as I emerged from the lift, who should entering it but my OT Lynn, with her mother in a wheelchair.   What a coincidence in a hotel hospital that claims to have something in the region of 12,000 patients daily,

After that rather long boring account of my hospital visit my readers deserve something more interesting. There are over 100 old historical photos in this PPS. You will recognize many famous scenes and people from the past. An absolute treasure trove of memories. Take your time and enjoy them. Click on Memories.

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10 February 2011

Posted by DMC on 10 February 2011 in Diary |

A  day of activity after a quiet day yesterday. Quiet in terms of people coming and going, that is. The only visitor being ‘Jane sheep’ who relieved Alice for a couple of hours and meantime massaged my hands and stretched my arms as usual. Despite the lack of visitors I still seemed seem to be very busy on the computer all day dealing with the blog, various e-mails and general business matters.

The first of my visitors today was my faithful secretary Doreen, on one of our fortnightly visits to sort out my papers and bring some order into my life. Apart from anything else, having been with me over 30 years, between us we both know where to find a particular file or document and therefore where to file incoming papers. I have every intention of working through my several filing cabinets, over the next year or two, file by file, and any papers which had not been referred to in the last 12 months will be shredded. This will be quite a task as some of them go back over 40 years.

Then this afternoon  two of Alice’s long-standing friends dropped in for tea – Beatrice Goldie, an erstwhile lawyer who lives in Saffron Walden and Christine Alexander, married to a retired engineer Jim, who lives just down the road in Wendens Ambo. This tends to be the way that ‘my lovely’ meets most of her friends these days. They come here either for lunch or tea. It makes a lot of sense because although there are in another part of the house I always have my buzzer on my wrist which I can still press with my right thumb, if I need help and need to summon  ‘my lovely’.

Christine told us an extraordinary story about one of her sons who lives in Australia. In fact he lives in Cleveland, near Brisbane, in Queensland where the horrendous flooding and cyclone occurred recently. Apparently the floods reached a short distance of Cleveland from the south and then stopped and the cyclone was just slightly to the north of where they lived and therefore blessedly they  suffered no damage. A miraculous escape from both of these meteorological disasters. Apart from anything else one must remember that people in that part of the world are uninsurable due to these potentially unexpected weather conditions and as such if you lose your home you can lose everything.

Now for something entirely different. Some  early historical videos of Charles Lindbergh’s flight across the Atlantic which are well worth the effort to watch. Simply open the file and copy htto;//www.airportappraisals.com/ into your server and click on it to see these original photographs and video.

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11 February 2011

Posted by DMC on 11 February 2011 in Diary |

The situation in Egypt seems to have reached some form of resolution with the resignation of Pres Mubarak. However, is this the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning of trouble in the Middle East?  Egypt was, or  rather is, Israel’s largest and closest ally, significantly supported, on the military front by the Americans. If this country goes Islamic, which looks extremely likely in the light of the fact that 80% of the population are already followers of that religion, might this destabilise the Middle East. This is an alarming prospect in the light of the fragility of the financial state of the world globally. I certainly do not want to appear to be a Jonah but I am concerned.

Switching topics to the other end of the scale, as they say, from the  sublime to the ridiculous.

When I wrote all that rather sentimental stuff about my dear granddaughter Lara and her card and picture to me, (see 6 Feb. entry) I wondered at the time whether this really was something I should be putting onto my blog. I was therefore greatly heartened to receive a delightful response from a reader telling me what pleasure it had  given to his wife, who is also suffering from MND and derived great pleasure from her own grandchildren. You can see this response, and indeed  responses to  entry, by clicking on the little icon, at the end of the entry, Comments on this entry.

When my daughter visited me recently she told me that she was becoming involved in an organisation called XLP which helps and mentors youngsters who are, or might,  get involved with local gangs and as a result possibly get up to no good. I certainly admire any young mum with three children of her own a part-time job and a household to run, who is also prominently involved in church activities, who is prepared to give up some of her precious spare time for such a worthy cause. This discussion, with daughter Chloe, reminded me of an initiative I took myself, just prior to the last general election, in suggesting, to the Conservative party, that they considered introducing a nationwide mentoring service for disadvantaged children. Maybe  my timing was not very good with  everyone focused on the election but at the time the idea did not receive a great deal of enthusiasm. However, with the UK having the worst record in Europe amongst young people for drugs, guns and knives, alcoholism and sexual activity and the Prime Minister’s flagship objective of the Big Society, I decided to try once more and attempt to interest the government in this idea. The letters I wrote, I believe  need no further explanation, so I reproduce them below:

15 Jan.2010

The Rt. Hon Sir Alan Haselhurst M.P

House of Commons

London

SW1A 1AA

E-MAIL ONLY

Dear Sir Alan

Re Mentoring

There were two pieces of news on the Today Programme this morning which, juxtapose, and prompt me to write to you.

The first point was that the children of Chinese and Asian parents do substantially better educationally than children of white parents. The second issue dealt with the futility of sending young offenders to prison and that a better way should be found for dealing with their disruptive behaviour or their drug or alcohol related problems.

I see that two issues connected. The reason why the children of Chinese and Asian are significantly more successful educationally is because they generally have caring and ambitious parents. These parents still command respect and as a result can still exercise a degree of discipline over their children’s behaviour. I have seen this particularly in my 10 years of lecturing in China.

The reason why we have so many white young offenders is through a lack of such caring parents for which the children have little respect and therefore beyond a certain age the parents are unable to impose any discipline, even if inclined to do so. These youngsters have no guidance, and no role model. I am not entirely blaming the parents as they themselves are the  victims of  the second or third generation of poor parenting. This then is a contributory cause of why the UK has the highest teenage pregnancy level; why 15% of children school leavers  are virtually illiterate and why a substantial number of primary school children do not possess the necessary  verbal skills to communicate with their peer group.

Forgive me, all of this is only too well-known to you and I do not imagine you take issue with me over anything I have said  and  would agree that the key to the problem is how to break this cycle of deprivation.

I have no time for the people who claim that lack of educational success and the incidence of crime is because of youth poverty and boredom. One of the most successful families I know is that of the level crossing keeper at Rhoslefain, in North Wales, who occupied a two-bedroom cottage, adjacent to the level crossing. They had nine children who have all have risen to the top of their chosen profession, some  professors, some doctors and others senior professionals, and  this was long before the day of tax credits. Quite simply, I come back to the point I made earlier all of these issues come down to the lack of caring parents. By that I mean parents who simply do not communicate with the children or are incapable of holding a conversation with them, let alone taking an active role in their emotional or educational development.

This long preamble leads me to the point of this letter.. I have long since held the view that it would be possible to have a nationwide mentoring system where, retirees like myself, would be prepared to take on a couple of families and act as a mentor, not only to the children but also to the parents, if they were willing to accept that sort of help. Of course, this would have to be voluntary arrangement and would only work where parents acknowledge that they needed to such help.

Yours sincerely

Professor D Mark Cato

And here is my follow-up letter to the Prime Minister which I will e-mail to his office. In the meantime I would be interested in any readers view on this proposal.

10  February 2011

The Rt. Hon, Prime Minister, David Cameron MP

10 Downing Street

London

Westminster

SW1A  2AA

Dear Prime Minister

Sometime ago, just prior to the last general election, I wrote to my local MP, Alan Haselhurst, who was at that time Deputy Speaker, suggesting a nationwide form of mentoring, mainly for the young people from disadvantaged homes. I thought it might give a boost to your election campaign. I attached a copy of that letter. I cannot recall whether or not I received a reply but if I did it was not very encouraging.

Hopefully the letter itself is self-explanatory but I could go on to say that what I had in mind was that the mentors could, if necessary, read to the children, help them learn to read and write, introduced them to the right organisations if, for example, they were say autistic and so on. I know the social services are charged with much of this work but are greatly overstretched. Also with your recent announcement about relaxing the intensive and obtrusive check-up on people involved with children this might be an apposite moment to consider this proposition.

I was going to suggest to Haselhurst that if the Conservative party liked the idea they could perhaps start off by harnessing all the Conservative Associations throughout the country who in turn could rope in friends of theirs who were retirees.

To my mind this idea fits very neatly into your vision of the Big Society. We have to make a start in changing the perception of the present generation of young in connection with drugs knife and gun crime, early sexual activity etc, even if the process takes us 25 years.

So that you can satisfy yourself that I’m not a complete lunatic, perhaps if one of your research assistants would care to look at my blog, www.dmarkcato.com which passed through the million hits  mark on Christmas day after 20 months and is currently running at around 2500/3000 hits a day worldwide.

I have MND and the blog is called Dying to Live. on which you will also find a short profile

Yours sincerely

Prof D Mark Cato

Watch this space!

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13 February 2011

Posted by DMC on 13 February 2011 in Diary |

This 6 Nations Rugby Union championship is now well underway. England played magnificently against Italy, yesterday ended with the impressive score line of 59-13 with Ashton scoring a record-break four tries. Wales had its first win after seven previous losses, against Scotland 24-8. Wales started in great style but faded in the second half and the game developed into a bit of a shambles, it  had nothing of the excitement, skill and fluency of the English game.

I have at last resolved the issue of turning over in bed and settled for a WendyLett midi.sheet. There is one which goes down three quarters of the length of the bed leaving an exposed undersheet at foot level. This enables the patient to get some friction on this undersheet a) for turning over and b)  moving up  the bed. When I first contacted Nordic Care Services, I promised I would give a fair and  and truthful report on the efficacy of their products. Having tried the two main types of sheets, both with the satin centre and nonslip sides, I have no hesitation in giving this product a 100% commendation. It really does what it was designed to do, make it much easier for a patient with weak limbs to turn over in bed.

Another  friend, John Lebus, whom we have known for many years, came round this afternoon to ‘babysit’ me while Alice went to one of her favourite antique fairs in Little Hadham. A number of these local fairs have given up this year, no doubt, due to the credit crunch people are just not spending money on frivolities, or knickknacks, as they have done in the past. John, who very sadly recently lost his wife after a prolonged illness, seems to be bearing up quite well and we spent a very pleasant couple of hours putting the world to rights.  If we’d been overheard we might have been accused of being a couple of grumpy old men. It was not so much that we were grumpy as we were concerned about the world into which our grandchildren and their children would be born  and the problems they would have to face, not  least of which might be ecological. However, I think it true to say that I was a little more optimistic than John in that I have always had confidence that the next generation will find a way of overcoming the mess that we leave for them.

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14 February-St Valentine’s Day

Posted by DMC on 15 February 2011 in Diary |

February 14 has become, by tradition, the date when  love messages are exchanged as a celebration of St Valentine the patron saint of lovers, or the object of one’s desire.. The date is marked by sending poems and simple gifts, such as flowers to loved ones or someone secretly admired.. By far the most popular gift is a dozen red roses usually accompanied by a Valentine card, smothered in hearts and other arrows, reminiscent of Eros, sent anonymously. The recipient being left to fathom out the identity of her secret admirer. I suppose in today’s modern society it could well be the other way around with the girls taking the initiative.

In the past  ‘my lovely’ and I have always made a little fuss of each other on St Valentine’s Day. I always used to manage to buy a rather large sentimental card and substituted the roses for a gift wrapped heart-shaped box of handmade chocolates with a St Valentine theme. This year, sadly we have both agreed that we will not make any special fuss as it really is impossible for me to do very much except purchase something through the Internet which, frankly, loses the personal touch.

I have always considered myself to be something of a romantic. When I was courting Alice and trying to convince her to accept my proposal of marriage I arranged a very special evening picnic on the eve of St Valentine’s Day 1961. (At least, I like to think it was St Valentine’s Day).

I was living in the British Protectorate of Aden, in  southern Arabia at the time -now part of the Yeman – and Alice was visiting from Kenya for the christening of, what is now, my nephew William. There was a very beautiful small crescent shaped bay at Bir Fikum, Little Aden. Happily it was the night of a full moon and in the afternoon I staggered across the desert with a windup gramophone and all the paraphernalia for a barbecue. We had our supper to the strains of Beethoven sonatas, sitting on a sandy ledge some 10-12 feet above the level of the silvery sandy beach. An incredibly romantic setting. We were sitting on the beach after supper, chatting away, when suddenly I heard a thump and then another one. I looked up to the cliff top above, to see a dozen black silhouetted figures of what was obviously Arab men or boys who were heaving rocks down onto us. Presumably they assume we were up to no good and in true Arabian tradition were prepared to stone us to death. Bear in mind this was at the time of the ‘troubles’ in Aden, when two Brits, out in the desert, miles from anywhere, late at night, were just as likely to be murdered, as not..

I had no choice but to race up the cliff yelling and shouting at the assailants and, thank goodness. they dispersed. After collecting our belongings and staggering back to the car we arrived only to find all four tyres had been let down. It was now well after midnight and the romantic evening had certainly been shattered. As we were close by the village of Bir Fikum, made from the packing cases which had contained the materials to build the local oil refinery, I had no choice but to beat on the walls of the nearest house and shout for someone to come out and help us, which I am relieved to say they did, eventually. It took some time, however, to locate a garage and knock up the owner in order to get the tyres pumped up and I did not get the poor girl back to, what is now, my brother-in-law flat, in Ma’alla straight, the home of many British servicemen at the time, until around 6.am, shortly before  he brought in the morning tea. The poor girl was so frightened about being caught out that she jumped into bed fully clothed, on concealing herself by pulling the sheets up to her neck so my brother-in-law never had no idea that she had only arrived home a short while earlier. (I’m not sure that he knows even today, but if he reads this he will be in enlightenment – too late for retribution). So much for my St Valentine’s Day romantic evening!

In fact, I’ve had a very frustrating day. My computer is still playing up and my voice activation not functioning as it should. which necessitated a long call to Ben, at AbilityNet, who, through remote assist, took control of my computer and attempted to remedy some of the defects but, despite his best efforts, did not succeed. We have agreed to be will have to  return to the to a regional laptop again before returning his current one. for some more work.

In addition to this frustration I had two Skype calls, one from the good doctor in Australia and another one from Paul. an MND patient who reads my blog. Although we could see each other quite clearly and they could hear me, for some reason, I could not hear them. I subsequently went through the whole business of diagnosing my sound system but without success so here again, I suspect, I will need some professional help.

A late visitors. Sue, the  local incontinence adviser, to deliver some more equipment for me to use on my days out when I do not wish to get involved with strangers over the loo. At least that was the idea.

She was as charming and sensitive as always in discussing the difficulties I might face if I Alice is not with me and has talked me into various options which, in the spirit of

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