A quick update about my situation vis a vis coronavirus.
In view of the the coronavirus situation I thought I would let all of you know about what is happening with me.
WHERE I AM AT
With my lungs probably still damaged from the cancer that nearly killed me less than a year an a half ago and my immune system almost certainly still compromised from the chemo used to treat that cancer I am in an at risk group. Therefore my external activities for the foreseeable future will be kept to a minimum – I hope to still visit the two libraries that are within walking distance of me, and for the moment I intend to keep on doing my own food shopping, although I have a backup plan in place should even these excursions have to stop. I have already put my plans to return to work on hold, and my employer has indicated that he will try to arrange for me to do some imaging from home while I cannot risk travel by public transport. I am at the moment quite well, and definitely do not have a fever – I have been taking my temperature daily for several weeks now and it it is consistently reading in the 36 degrees range. My life is never exactly a dizzy whirl of social activities in any case, so such a minimalist approach as I am having to take is probably less of a hardship to me than it would be to many. Good luck to all of you finding ways to cope in these difficult times, and I will try to find more things to blog about in the coming period. Here are a few recent pictures to finish:
An anniversary, some thoughts about autism, the London Mayoral elections and diplomatic immunity and a lot of photographs.
I have various things to mention besides the main subject of this post, and a few links to share. First up, in accordance with this blog’s “reverse tabloid” policy regarding such matters comes…
I recently suffered a problem with my email settings that caused two things:
I missed some of your posts because they were going to my spam folder.
A couple of commenters waited longer than they should for a response from me because due to the same issue I did not initially see the comments.
I have now resolved the issue, and all should be back to normal.
THE NARROW ESCAPE
Exactly one year ago, on October 8th 2018 I was so ill that I had to be given a half-size saline drip and a lot of further assistance to get from the flat I was then living in to an ambulance that took me to Queen Elizabeth Hospital. I will be visiting that hospital under my own steam today for a hearing appointment. I have written various postsabout the illness that nearly killed me and my subsequent gradual return to health and fitness.
There is a coffee morning taking place at King’s Lynn Library tomorrow between 11AM and 1PM. At this time of year various shops and businesses have an “autism hour” during which they make particular efforts to be more accessible to autistic people. Of course many of the changes they make could and should be made permanently anyway – are such things as ultra bright lights and loud “music” really necessary to attract allistic customers?
The London Mayoral election campaign is now in full swing. There has been much entirely unmerited excitement about the decision of Rory Stewart, who knows precisely nothing about London, to stand. If I lived in London my vote would unquestionably go to Sian Berry, once again the Green Party candidate, with a second preference for the incumbent Sadiq Khan (they use STV for the London Mayoral elections). Here is an article in inews inwhich Ms Berry takes aim at Mr Stewart with (IMO) deadly accuracy.
Jerry Coyne at whyevolutionistrue has put up a post about Anne Sacoolas’ abuse of “diplomatic immunity” after she killed Harry Dunn in a hit and run accident. She is very probably going to escape unpunished for killing someone because neither of the two countries has a leader who can even be hoped to do the right things. For those who use social media look up #JusticeForHarryDunn. My own view is that diplomatic immunity should be waived, she should be done for causing death by dangerous driving and hit with the maximum possible punishment for that offence (on the grounds that her attempted use of diplomatic immunity counts as the absolute reverse of co-operation).
First up, a warning to arachnophobes – there is a spider coming up. Now, my usual sign off…
An account of two staging posts on my journey back to health and fitness, plus a few links and plenty of photographs.
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).
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:
A brief account of the last 10 months, having reached a major turning point in the story of my illness and recovery.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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).
An autistic cancer survivor’s eye (and ear) view of yesterday’s World Cup Final at Lord’s.
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.
An account of Lashings World XI’s visit to Charterhouse School, Godalming on Sunday July 9, with lots of pictures.
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…
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:
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 Iqbal71), 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.