Two Developments

An account of two staging posts on my journey back to health and fitness, plus a few links and plenty of photographs.

INTRODUCTION

This post details a couple of staging posts on my recovery from the cancer that almost killed me at the back end of last year that occurred on Thursday and yesterday respectively. I end this introduction with a mini-challenge – below is a photograph of mine with all the colour removed – can you identify the butterfly in it? (answer located in the photographs at the end of this piece).

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THURSDAY: THE SIGNATURE DISH

Due to my illness and the fact that this requires over an hour of cooking time I had not done it in about a year, but, emboldened by my all-clear on Monday and generally improving state of health I had resolved to try it. I obtained most of the necessary ingredients by way of an online Sainsbury’s shop, delivery arranged for 3-4PM on Thursday. However, I realized that I had forgotten to order lemons and went across the road to the local shop to buy them (annoyingly they came packaged in plastic – ugh!!). I could simply refer you to my first ever blog post and leave it at that, but I am going to describe the process as it occurred.

Just after 5PM I squeezed the lemons (four of them), assembled my extra flavourings (two teaspoons ground cumin, one tea spoon ground coriander, one and a half teaspoons salt), and measured out 150mls of water. Then I prepared the ginger paste by chopping half a ginger root into chunks, adding a little water and whizzing them in my mini-blender until the mixture was paste-like. After that I started cooking the chicken thigh fillets in the pot I would be assembling everything in for the final stage (a minor irritation – there were five of them, when six what have been a much better number). While the chicken was cooking I chopped the stalks off the fresh coriander (a 100g bunch) and then chopped half a head of garlic as small as I could manage. Once the chicken was golden on both sides I placed it in a bowl and covered that bowl with a plate. Then I put the garlic in the pot and stirred it while it cooked for a minute, before adding the ginger paste and stirring the mixture together. Then I added the fresh coriander and extra flavourings to the mix, stirring it all together for about another minute before adding the chicken and associated liquid from the bowl. Then I added the lemon juice and water, and stirred again. At this point I turned the heat up for long enough to get the mixture bubbling, turned it down again and put the lid on the pot. I then left it for 15 minutes to pick up flavour (my evening carer arrived at this point and was impressed by my efforts). A quick taste of the mixture confirmed that I had not lost my touch, and I then started the water boiling for the pasta accompaniment (the original recipe from which I created my version stipulates rice as the accompaniment, but it works at least as well with pasta and the latter is easier to cook). Once the pasta was cooked it was ready to eat, and I served myself two of the thigh fillets, and spooned a decent quantity of the juices over my pasta. It was an excellent supper, and I shall eat the rest of it tonight.

SATURDAY – TO TOWN AND
BACK UNDER MY OWN STEAM

I had arranged to have lunch in town with my aunt, and had decided to use the occasion to test out my improved health by walking there (and, I hoped, back). We had arranged to meet up at 1PM outside the Lynn Restaurant. My music session (at the Discovery Centre, which from the point of view of the walk to town is effectively the same as starting from my bungalow) ended at 12:15PM, which left me 45 minutes to reach my destination, and I had some library books with me – my plan was to take a view at the train station as to whether to divert to the library to return them or take the more direct route to my destination. When I checked the time at the station there were 20 minutes remaining, which was enough for a quick call at the library to return the books. I duly arrived outside the Lynn restaurant dead on 1PM. My aunt suggested a new restaurant which had opened up where Top Shop used to be, but when we got there it turned out that we would have a long wait for our food, so we reverted to the Lynn Restaurant. The meal was excellent, and at the end of it I felt strong enough to make the return journey on foot, and again went by way of the library to take some more books out.

I was very tired by the time I arrived home, but for the first time since becoming ill I had walked to and from the Town centre unassisted.

CODA: THIS MORNING

This morning once my carer had called I went out for a walk, and emboldened by yesterday, I went to The Walks, heading as far as the Vancouver Garden, where the bandstand is located, before returning by a different route – taking the path the St John’s Walk, and then heading along Tennyson Avenue, crossing the main road at the lights and taking a cut through to Columbia Way that I have known for some time although not used in a while – it involves several short sections of firm but unsurfaced road which can be traversed in one by a pedestrian but not by a motorist.

LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS

I have a few links to share before we get to my usual sign off:

Now for my usual sign off…

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Four shots from music

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Three shots from the new restaurant.

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Four shots from the Lynn Restaurant

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The door to the hobbit quarters!

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The butterfly featured in the intorduction to this post – a red admiral.

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A painted lady.

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When the sun catches them at the right angle the feathers on a magpie’s back look blue rather than black.

The Big C: My Story

A brief account of the last 10 months, having reached a major turning point in the story of my illness and recovery.

INTRODUCTION

This post appears at this time due to news that I received yesterday, which while not entirely unexpected was nevertheless excellent to receive. We start with a…

TIMELINE OF EVENTS

This is a story that has been ten months unfolding, the key dates being (as far as I can remember them):

  • October 5th 2018 – Early return from work due to illness.
  • October 6th 2018 – Trip to Godalming to visit my mother and see the town cancelled due to illness.
  • October 8th 2018 – Hospitalized, so weakened that a saline drip was needed to get me from the flat I was living in (two outside staircases, one of them spiral, from street level) to a waiting ambulance.
  • October 9th-11th 2018 – Investigations reveal that the mystery illness is in fact stage 4 testicular cancer and that there are a number of metastases, including large tumours attacking both lungs (the brain and spleen are also host to smaller tumours).
  • October 12th 2018 – Bluelighted to Addenbrookes just in time to save me from an operation that had it been performed at that time would probably have seen the end of my life.
  • October – December 2018 – Once stabilized there follows a seven week period of intensive chemotherapy to deal with the tumours.
  • December 9th – discharge from Addenbrookes, arrive at new bungalow in North Lynn to begin recuperation.
  • December – January – in and out of Addenbrookes for various reasons, including an internal bleed caused by blood thinners working too effectively.
  • February – March 2019 – a couple of admissions to QEH for breathing difficulties (the second certainly brought on by anxiety)
  • April – July 2019 – A period of consistent improvement, assisted by regular physio sessions at The Norfolk Hospice, Tapping House, leading to:
  • July 12th 2019 – At Addenbrookes for operation to remove the testicle that was the cause of all the trouble.
  • August 1 2019 – New physio sessions at Tapping House start.
  • August 5 2019 – CT Scan at Addenbrookes, although due to my veins not co-operating (six failed attempts) they cannot inject the usual contrast medium.
  • August 9th 2019 – appointment with clinical psychologist Dr Amy Daglish at QEH, leading to the arrangement of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy sessions which will start at end of August.
  • August 12th 2019 – appointment with Dr Danish Mazhar at Addenbrookes. Brings the hoped for and almost expected news that I am officially clear of cancer. My next appointment is two months away, and they will be steadily decreasing in frequency, although I will continue to be checked on for the next 10 years. On the way home I arrange to visit NAS West Norfolk’s allotment in West Lynn, where a sensory path is being laid that afternoon.

SHOUT OUTS

Another bulleted list as I do not wish to give these an official ranking order:

  • All the staff at Addenbrookes who were part of my recovery from oncology consultants Dr Danish Mazhar and Dr Han Wong through all the nurses I encountered to all the wonderful support staff who helped at various times. Also and overarching this to that great institution that made it all possible – The NHS.
  • My family, who have been incredibly supportive through all this.
  • NAS West Norfolk who have been incredible throughout this very difficult period. The comments in response to the announcement on their facebook pages of my ‘all clear’ have been amazing to read. It will not be too long now before you have a fully functioning branch secretary again.
  • James and Sons of Fakenham who have kept my job open for me through all this time – I expect to return to work in the spring of next year (given the damage to my lungs returning to that workplace during the winter months seems not to be sensible).
  • Various of my fellow bloggers who have been very supportive through these months (you all know who you are!).

For pretty much the first time since becoming ill I now look to the future with confidence rather than mere hope.

PHOTOGRAPHS

First up, I have just sent an email to the Independent Living Group asking them to include some of my photographs in their Disability Pride Digital Photography exhibition. As well as a link to this blog in the body of the email I attached 10 photographs, one my desktop background image, taken in Cornwall last year, and the other nine recent shots for reasons that should be obvious to anyone reading this post:

Carbis Bay II
The desktoip background image

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Here are some shots from the allotment area:

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A large and colourful fly.

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Red Admiral and bee enjoying same plant.

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The remainder of my pictures…

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Some shots from the new music sessions, which started at the discovery centre this saturday.

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A ridiculously extended car seen from my window on Saturday.

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A map of Addenbrookes, on the back of a leaflet which had been discarded carelessly on the ground floor of the carpark, and which I picked up rather than leave lying around.
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A beautiful Red Admiral.

Health Update

The latest (big) news on my health situation.

INTRODUCTION

In the last week there have been two significant milestones in the story of my recovery from the cancer that nearly killed me back in October. In this post I deal with them in turn.

THE BIG OPERATION

I went into hospital early on Friday morning to have the original source of all the trouble, my right testicle, removed. Since they had decided they were keeping me in overnight anyway my surgery was performed quite some time after my parents and I had arrived. It went well, and I was transferred to a recovery ward for the night. Once I had demonstrated that I was able to walk the following day they were ready to discharge me, but not before they had taken me off the morphine based painkillers I had been on, limiting to me to paracetamol. Fortunately the pain from the operation site is not actually as bad as all that, and the paracetamol are sufficient for the job.

THE BIG NEWS

On Monday I was back at Addenbrookes to see the oncology people. They were happy with the state of the operation site. Far more significantly they confirmed that my tumour markers are now back at normal, healthy levels. After a couple of appointments next month (which were set up just after we had left Addenbrookes, and which I found out about the following morning) it will be three monthly, and then six monthly check ups for a five-year period. Once I am fully recovered from the operation I will be on the last (admittedly long) road to a full recovery.

TAPPING HOUSE

On Tuesday afternoon I visited the Norfolk Hospice at Tapping House to discuss future physio options. They can offer me Thursday morning sessions there, and of course I will be taking them up. I am thinking at the moment of notifying them that I will be ready 2 weeks today (next week is probably pushing it too far).

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign-off…

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The Greatest World Cup Final Ever

An autistic cancer survivor’s eye (and ear) view of yesterday’s World Cup Final at Lord’s.

INTRODUCTION

First a little bit of background about the occasion from my point of view. On Friday I went in to hospital for a procedure known as a “Radical Inguinal Orchidectomy” as the latest stage in the treatment of the cancer that less than a year ago threatened to kill me. The operation was performed under general anaesthetic, and I was kept in hospital overnight, and only discharged on the Saturday once I had demonstrated my capacity to walk unaided. Thus yesterday, the day of the Mens Cricket Cup World Final, was my first full day out of hospital after the operation.

THE MATCH ITSELF

New Zealand had beaten India through a splendid display of controlled seam and swing bowling to qualify for the final while England had disposed of arch-rivals Australia with satisfying ease to book their place in the final. Everything seemed to point to an England win, but New Zealand had dealt very well with theoretically far superior opposition in the semi-final. As it was on free-to-air TV (the first time any cricket match in England has been thus broadcast since 2005) I was initially picked up by my father and taken over to my aunt’s house to watch the match. England bowled well to restrict New Zealand to 241. New Zealand however learned well from the England bowlers and England were soon behind the required rate. I missed a tiny bit of the England innings when I was taken home, being by then thoroughly exhausted. Back in my own home I listened to the astonishing climax and followed the ball-by-ball updates on cricinfo. The possessor of the coolest name in international cricket, Colin de Grandhomme, bowled the most economical allocation of 10 overs by anyone in the entire tournament (1-25), but Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes kept cool heads and kept England just about in contention deep into the final overs. When the final over began England needed 16 to win, and they got 15 of them to tie (aided by a very fortunate four overthrows which gave them six instead of two on one of the deliveries), which meant a “super over’. Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler took centre stage once more, while after a long delay Trent Boult accepted responsibility for bowling the over for New Zealand. England made 15 runs of the over. 24-year old Jofra Archer accepted responsibility for bowling the final over, while New Zealand sent out Jimmy Neesham and Martin Guptill. Archer’s first delivery was somewhat harshly called a wide, and then Neesham blasted a six, at which point it looked all over for England, but Archer responded and eventually it came to two needed of one ball, with Guptill on strike for the first time. Guptill hit it out into the deep, where Jason Roy fielded, and arrowed in a superb throw to Jos Buttler who whipped the bails off to run out Guptill, who was obliged by circumstances to go all out for the second. Thus the super-over contest had also ended in a tie. The next method of dividing the two teams if the super over did not work was on boundaries hit, and on that criterion England were ahead and so finally, after three previous losing finals (1979, 1987-8 and 1991-2) England’s men had won a cricket world cup. The Women’s cricket world cup is also held by England courtesy of a wonderful piece of bowling by Anya Shrubsole at Lord’s two years ago. This is the first time any country other than Australia have held both men’s and women’s world cups simultaneously. A low scoring day provided just about the most thrilling contest ever seen in any sport, with England taking the spoils by the narrowest possible margin – the cricket equivalent of winning by a Planck Length!

This match is ‘Exhibit A’ in the argument against anyone who dares claim that cricket is boring. Cricket has produced plenty of extraordinary games before in its long history – Warwickshire v Hampshire in 1922, when Hampshire recovered from bowled out for 15 in their first dig to win by 155 runs, Headingley 1981, when Ian Botham, with assistance from Graham Dilley, Chris Old and Bob Willis gave England something to defend when they seemed down and out, and Willis than saved his international career by taking 8-43 to win it for England being just two that spring to mind. Also, the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th test matches of the 2005 Ashes series were all classics in their different ways.

This match on its own would probably be sufficient to call this the greatest world cup ever, but there were plenty of other good matches along the way.

Ben Stokes with his Herculean efforts in this match redeemed himself completely for a somewhat chequered past. Also, he has shown a consistency here that has previously eluded him – his 84 was his fourth 80-plus of the tournament and he also scored a 79. One way of accommodating him in the test side, which needs to be thought about would to gamble a little by having Ben Foakes at five, followed by Stokes, Gregory, Bess, Archer, Leach and Anderson, meaning that Stokes would be fourth seamer, backing up the main attack of Archer, Anderson, Gregory and the spinners.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign-off…

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Lashings Weekend

An account of Lashings World XI’s visit to Charterhouse School, Godalming on Sunday July 9, with lots of pictures.

INTRODUCTION

My mother has just spent a year teaching at Charterhouse School, Godalming (it moved to its present site from the original London Charterhouse in 1873), and the cricket coach there is the former Surrey and England quick Martin Bicknell who also happens to be the current captain of the Lashings World XI. Thus they came to Charterhouse on Sunday to play the school side in the morning and an adult team in the afternoon. I was there to see both games…

GETTING THERE

The journey from King’s Lynn to deepest Surrey (my mother had booked us two nights at an air bnb near Ockley which is roughly midway between Dorking (Surrey) and Horsham (Sussex), two places with fine cricketing connections. Dorking was the home town of Harry Jupp, an adhesive opening batter in the 19th century (when W G Grace clocked up his 50th first class hundred in 1875 Jupp was second on the list of first class century makers with 10). There is a story that once when playing in a benefit game at Dorking Jupp was castled by the first ball of the match and promptly replaced the bails, and when a fielder dared to ask “ain’t you going out Juppy” he said “No, not at Dorking I ain’t”. Jupp played for England in the first ever test match and found himself keeping wicket as well as performing his regular role because the tour party’s only specialist gloveman, Ted Pooley, was in a New Zealand prison after a ruckus involving a betting trick. Horsham meanwhile is associated with the Tate family who produced two England players, the ill-starred Fred Tate (one test appearance in which he dropped a crucial catch and was clean bowled with England a boundary hit short of victory, and the legendary Maurice, star of two successful Ashes series (1926 and 1928-9) and also a bit-part player in the 1932-3 triumph under Douglas Jardine. Here are some photos from the journey and of our accommodation:

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I spotted these on the way out of King’s Lynn
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A stately home just visible from the motorway in central Essex.
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The first of four shots from the bridge at Dartford.

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A natural pond immediately outside our accommodation.
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This picture is above the bed in the only private bedroom (there is also a bed in the main body of the cabin, which my parents took enabling me to have some privacy.
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Some pictures (five in total) from inside said bedroom – the wood panelling and a lack of functioning lights made the entire building a trifle dark, and the bedroom a lot so.

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On the morning of the big day.

THE DAY ITSELF

The weather was poor at first, and we retired briefly to a coffee shop in Godalming itself when  it was obvious that the first match would be delayed (since I am having an important operation on Friday – posting may be light in the near future – it was important that I should not over exposed to the cold and wet). We ended up missing the first four overs of a contest that had been reduced to 12 overs per side (the second match was played over the full 20 overs per side that had been intended). As captain of Lashings and coach of the school team Bicknell could not lose the first match. In the event the school side came out victorious, as Lashings were not at full throttle in that match. John Emburey, considerably older than most of the rest of the Lashings squad, took a particular hammering in that game.

This match was followed by a lunch in a marquee which featured an auction and a business card raffle (we used mine, as I was the only one of the three of us who actually had one, and we also used my email address as I am less bothered by spam, since I receive huge numbers of emails anyway). The auction items were ludicrously over priced even allowing for the fact that this was a charity event (I speak with a degree of knowledge given my occupation when well).

The afternoon match featured an adult team in opposition to Lashings, and this time Lashings did not hold back. They started by making 161 from their 20 overs (Faisal Iqbal 71), a very respectable total, which rapidly looked much more so, as Lashings opened the bowling with Sir Curtly Ambrose who bowled a couple of overs at something approaching full hostility – comfortably the quickest we saw all day -, on which the opposition could hardly lay a bat and Devon Malcolm who was also difficult to get away (after four overs the opposition had limped to 5-1 and the victory target of 162 looked very distant indeed. Even Emburey’s spinners had more zip to them in this game, and Lashings ended up winning by 54 runs. Among others who were involved for Lashings on the day were Bickers himself (of course), Chris Lewis (the shiny scalp, once a matter of choice, but now one suspects a matter of ,was in evidence!), Kabir Ali and Saqlain Mushtaq. An official report on these matches can be seen here.

The business card raffle draw came out in my favour – I won a bottle of wine which looks decidedly drinkable.

Finally, before my photographs from the day a note on a couple of Charterhouse’s own cricket connections: In a cricketing context undoubtedly the most famous of all Carthusians was Peter Barker Howard May, but the remarkable late Victorian figure of Robert Montagu Poore also merits a look.

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These pictures are presented in the order in which they were taken. In a few cases there are two different final pictures from the same original – if you fancy a challenge see if you can identify them.

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This remarkable building houses the Godalming branch of Costa Coffee.

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An action shot.

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The players together at the end of match 1.
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Bickers at the mic.

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Various Lashings players are in this shot, with the towering (literally and metaphorically) figure of Sir Curtly Ambrose near right.

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This was the last shot I got before the battery in my camera ran out.

World Cup Final Stages Approaching

A look at the permutations for the semi-finals of the Men’s Cricket World Cup (nb the inaugural Women’s Cricket World Cup took place in 1973, two years before the men got started), plus a shed,load of photographs.

INTRODUCTION

The 2019 cricket men’s world cup semi-finals are all but sorted now. This post examines the possible permutations.

FAREWELLS

Afghanistan, The West Indies, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Bangladesh and Pakistan are heading home after the group stage unless Pakistan can beat Bangladesh by 320 runs or thereabouts (due to the workings of “net run rates” Pakistan cannot go through if Bangladesh bat first).

LOOKING FORWARD TO THE SEMIS

Barring an astonishing miracle result for Pakistan against Bangladesh the semi finals will be Australia v New Zealand and England v India. Three of these four teams definitely deserve to be there, while New Zealand are somewhat fortunate, and arrive in the semi-finals on a serious downturn having been thumped in their last two games, one by England.

SEMI FINAL 1: AUSTRALIA V NEW ZEALAND

Australia will be heavy favourites for this one, having played well throughout, while New Zealand have been poor in their last two games. Although I would love to see New Zealand deliver a sucker punch to the Aussies I cannot see it happening, therefore my prediction for this one is that Australia will win and go through to the final.

SEMI FINAL 2: ENGLAND V INDIA

Having put themselves under pressure by indifferent early from England have hit top gear just in time, despatching India and New Zealand in their last two games, both by comfortable margins. India had already secured their place in the semifinals by the time they came up against England. In view of the record of chasing sides in this competition so far I reckon that whoever wins the toss must opt to bat first and get their runs on the board. If England win that toss and make the right decision I reckon that they will win, just as they did in the group game between the two sides. If India bat first they will be favourites but I will not rule out England completely even then. Overall prediction: England, but I would not put money on it.

POTENTIAL FINALS

  • Australia v England – This will depend heavily on the toss – if England get their runs on the board they will be favourites, likewise Australia. I think England would be marginally less likely to lose chasing than Australia, so by the thickness of a cigarette paper I make them favourites if this final materialises.
  • Australia v India – Again this will come down to the toss – assuming they make the correct decision whoever wins it collects the cup.
  • New Zealand v England – New Zealand would be cock-a-whoop at beating Australia but may also be unable having achieved that to summon up the resolve for one last effort, and based on the group game between the two I would make England firm favourites for this one.
  • New Zealand v India – India would be favourites for this one for the same reasons as England in the one above.

Of these potential finals I would most like it to be New Zealand v England, with England b Australia 2nd choice and New Zealand v India third choice. A win for either New Zealand or England would be a first in the men’s world cup, while for India it would be their third triumph and for Australia their sixth. A final thought: If the miracle happens in the Pakistan v Bangladesh game then I believe that sheer relief at managing to qualify will be enough to propel Pakistan to victory – in that circumstance they would be alone among the four semi-finalists in having no pressure on them.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign-off…

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Gettring really good pictures of these butterflies is a challenge – this one is porbably my best yet.

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A female pheasant views the world from atop a car at The Norfolk Hospice, Tapping House.

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The weights we use for some of our exercises during therapy sessions at Tapping House.
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Raffe prizes at Tapping House
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I bought a ticket to support the cause, and this would be my first choice prize should the opportunity arise.

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The World Cup So Far

Some thought’s on the cricket world cup 2019 and some pictures.

INTRODUCTION

This is my first post for a while. I have lots of pictures to share. Aside from my continuing recovery from cancer (I have am expecting a date for my operation in the not too distant future, having recently had a pre-operation assessment) the cricket world cup has been centre stage for me since it got under on May 30th.

AN OVERLONG TOURNAMENT

Today is the 19th day of the tournament and the game currently taking place between Bangladesh and the West Indies marks the halfway point of the group stage (match 23 of 46). The reason why cricket world cups stretch on like this is because by and large only one match is scheduled per day (there have been a handful of days with two matches in this one, but very few), because the TV companies prefer it that way. During the last world cup I produced my idea for how to run a cricket world cup and not have it take such a ridiculously long time, and I reproduce that below:

THE SUTCLIFFE FORMULA

There has been much talk at the Cricket World Cup about how the tournament should be formatted, especially given that there are those who would reduce it to a ten team tournament (so utterly harebrained a notion that I do no more than mention it). Several of the associate nations at this world cup have given good accounts of themselves, with Ireland having a strong chance of progressing to the quarter finals.

My formula for a Cricket World Cup would be as follows:

16 teams to play in the tournament. Stage one would involve two groups of eight teams, the top four from each group progressing. Each group would play its matches in sets of four (hence two groups of eight), making seven rounds of matches for each group, to played on alternate days (i.e. this stage would span two weeks, with each side having a day off between matches.

After the group stage would be a three day break before the quarter-finals, which would be played all on one day. After a two day break the semi–finals would take place. Then following another two day break the final would take place. This would mean that the tournament would be played in a period of three and a half weeks (a sensible length for a global tournament).

As for the TV people: If they don’t like it they can lump it.

THOUGHTS ON WORLD CUP 2019

Apart from being miles too long once again this has been a good world cup so far. It has not featured the ludicrously high scoring some predicted, and the highest successful chase has been of a mere 244. That could go today however, as Bangladesh are 70-1 after 10 overs chasing 322 to beat the Windies.

PICTURES

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We begin with more on goldfinches….

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