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.

England Fold Like A Pack Of Cards

An account of England’s surrender in the first test match and a suggested 13 for the second test match.

INTRODUCTION

This post deals with the first Ashes Test of 2019 which ended yesterday in defeat for the home team by a thumping 251 runs. I did not actually get to follow any cricket yesterday as a hospital appointment intervened, and by the time I was home England’s humiliation was complete. However, I did follow most of the first four days, and I have followed enough cricket over the years to have a fairly good picture of yesterday’s events in my mind. An official match report can be viewed here.

PICKING UP FROM MY PREVIOUS POST

At the end of day three Australia led by 34 with seven second innings wickets standing. It was day four which killed England’s chances stone dead and illustrated all too vividly the utter folly of regarding Moeen Ali as a test match spinner, let alone as being good enough to be sole spinner.  On a pitch which was turning he went at four an over (seriously expensive even in 21st century test cricket) and only picked up two wickets, both long after England’s hopes had been dashed. Both Joe Root and Joe Denly were called on to bowl their part-time stuff as Australia forged ahead, a king-size indictment of Moeen Ali. and of the original selection of just one front line spinner.

Steve Smith, for all that can be (and has been) said against his personal conduct is without much question the best current test match batter in the world, so his second century of the match deserves full credit, but Matt Wade, who started his cricketing life as a wicketkeeper, also racked up a ton, and there were further runs all down the order, until Australia declared at 487-9 leaving England a purely nominal 395 to chase in just over a day.

England reached 13-0 by the close of day four. The aim on day five was preservation of wickets, with an outside possibility of having a dart after tea if the situation warranted it (I was envisaging for this scenario a tea score of maybe 200-2 and then sending in Buttler and Stokes to have an almighty bash, with the option of falling back on defence if that tactic backfired). In the event England failed even to begin to make a contest of it, and in a final indictment of Moeen’s earlier toothlessness Australia’s own sole spinner Nathan Lyon demonstrated that a genuine spinner could use that pitch, taking 6-49 (the other four wickets went the way of fast bowler Pat Cummins, the quickest on either side in the match).

CHANGES FOR THE SECOND TEST MATCH

England need to make big changes for the second test. I reproduce below my own squad of 13 for the second test, with the additional note that I just been listening to my controversial choice as opener score a superb half-century and an invitation to view an alternative set of selections here.

  1. Burns
  2. Beaumont
  3. *Root
  4. Roy
  5. +Foakes
  6. Stokes
  7. Lewis Gregory (with Anderson likely gone for the series it is surely time for this move)
  8. Chris Woakes
  9. Jofra Archer
  10. Jack Leach
  11. Olly Stone
  12. Sam Curran (could play in place of Gregory, Woakes or Archer)
  13. Matthew Parkinson (with all respect to Bess I gamble on the legspinner as second specialist spin option, in the knowledge that the skipper can bowl passable off-breaks if needed)

Given England’s current desperation in that regard I end with two tongue-in-cheek suggestions for finding a way to dislodge Steve Smith:

  1. Set 7-2 onside fields for Archer and Stone and absolutely pepper him with short stuff in the hope of unsettling him (the Jardinian approach)
  2. When you know he will be at the non-striker’s end at the start of over toss the ball to someone like Rory Burns, with advice to keep an eye on where he is and in his desire to get to the striker’s end he creates the opportunity for a bowler’s end run out (absolute desperation).

LINKS AND PICTURES

I have a few links to share before we come to the photographs:

Now for my usual sign off…

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This is a local Norfolk brewed Porter (from Sunday’s supper at Golding’s)
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An interesting tower near Ely
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Ely Cathedral from just outside the town.
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Various shots of Ely Cathedral taken while we made a flying visit to the town on the way back from my hospital appointment.

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The focal point of our visit – an excellent independent bookshop.

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The next three shots show that is not just insects, ducklings and moorhen chicks who sometimes use lily pads as a resting place.

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The last five pics show ‘mama duck’ with her now almost fledged brood of six youngsters.

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Addenbrookes Visit Brings Good News

An account of yesterday’s visit to Addenbrookes.

INTRODUCTION

Regular readers will be aware that I have had a tough time lately, including two unscheduled visitsTHto my local hospital. It was therefore with feelings of some trepidation that I approached my scheduled visit to Addenbrookes yesterday. I will take you through what happened at various stages of the day in the rest of this post.

CONSULTATION WITH DR MAZHAR

The encouraging news from this session was that my tumour markers are continuing to fall (having at one stage been up in the hundreds of thousands they are now down at 20). Immediately after this session I went for a chest x-ray, preparatory to an afternoon appintment with a respiratory specialist. 

THE RESPIRATORY SPECIALIST

Given my situation the news from this appointment could have been anything from dreadful up to reasonable (given the known state of my lungs it was not going be good on any normal definition of that word). In the event the news was, to adapt a line from S J Simon’s “Why You Lose at Bridge”, the best news possible – the lung infection had cleared up, and it is virtually certain that the main problem in my lungs is not, as some had feared, a case of Bleomycin toxicity. It is almost certainly caused by small scale haemorrhaging (the lungs act like a sponge, soaking up the loose blood, which causes some problems but explains why there is little external evidence in such cases). A CT scan has been booked to further check this out, and if warranted this will be followed by a bronchoscopy.

THE CURRENT SITUATION

My physical state is improving – while I found walking around the hospital tiring I did not actually need to stop at any point, and I never felt like I was close to trouble. Since I went public about having experienced such things I have had no further anxiety/ panic attacks (and given both my recent circumstances and my mental health history it is no great surprise that I did experience such things). The mild tranquilizers (Diazepam for those interested in exact details) that my doctor provided to help with this issue have worked so far. There is a long way to go yet, but at least at the moment I seem to be heading in the right direction.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Here are some photographs from yesterday… 

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The West Winch village sign
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This magnificent map adorns one wall of the waiting room for the respiratory clinic.
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The first of two shots I got of Ely Cathedral during the return journey.

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Physical Health Impacts on to Mental Health

An account of the last few days, explaining the current problems I am facing (regular readers will be well aware that I have been taking a battering in various ways over the last five months).

INTRODUCTION

Earlier this week I came out of one hospital visit caused by breathlessness only to go almost straight back in. Now I am back out again, but there are still problems – only they are mental rather than physical.

THE BOOMERANG DAY

On Tuesday I was discharged from Queen Elizabeth Hospital and came home. That evening when considering going to bed I became breathless, tested by SP02 on a machine I now have for that purpose, got a low reading and found myself heading back to A&E. I was tested there and we established that my machine always reads one or two points too low, and that at the hospital there was no major issue with my breathing. After a six hour wait for further developments I was moved to a bed, and I remained at the hospital until yesterday.

YESTERDAY

Yesterday evening, when I headed for bed, having made sure that my SP02 was not low, I became breathless just from thinking about getting into bed. I called my father, and with his assistance, having identified this as a panic attack, I eventually did get to sleep. I was up quite late this morning, but got my coffee going OK and checked in on the computer.

TODAY – BREAKFAST PROBLEMS

I was just preparing my breakfast (the cereal was in the bowl and I was opening the milk) when I had another breathlessness related panic attack and called my father for assistance. He came round, I ate the breakfast and have subsequently managed to get dressed and go out with him for a very short walk. I have an appointment at my GP surgery at 4:20PM to discuss my mental health situation (I am definitely in need of help in this department) and see what can be done about it. 

TOMORROW AND SUNDAY

These are the two days that will pose the most problems – I will be at Addenbrookes for most of Monday, and there are plans for a visit from Tapping House on Tuesday. That leaves something to be done about the weekend. 

FINAL THOUGHTS

My physical health is probably is good, given what has happened over the last few months, as it could be, but mentally I am struggling. I do not know why it is these recent incidents that have had this effect, but undoubtedly they have, and something needs to be done – I hope the doctor at my surgery can help with this. 

Marxism 2017: Day 2

An account of Day 2 at Marxism 2017.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the next post in my series about Marxism 2017. The event finished with the Closing Rally last night, after which I travelled back to King’s Lynn. I have quite a few more posts to do before this series finishes however. 

DAY 2

I was staying in a room in a University hall of residence about a 15 minute walk from the event, which suited me very well. I set off at about 9:20AM (the first meeting session started at 10AM, and I wanted to be early because the meeting I had chosen was likely to be very well attended. I arrived at Student Central at about 9:30 and took the stairs to the third floor as the meeting was scheduled for the Upper Hall (I am old enough to have attended meetings there when it was still called the Badminton Court). 

FAKE NEWS: MEDIA, TRUTH AND POWER – SIMON BASKETTER

This was a splendid way to start the day. There was some very entertaining stuff, with serious purpose. The events of June 8th showed everyone who was not already aware that there are limitations to the power of the media – our mass media were universal in predicting (and in most cases wanting) a huge majority for Theresa May and the SelfConservatives and of course she ended up with no majority, dickering with the foul bigots of the DUP to hang on to the power. Of course she is now so desperate that she is asking Labour for ideas (Jeremy Corbyn’s response: “I’ll give you a copy of our manifesto”). Here are some photographs to help tell the story:

UCL building
This building caught my eye as I walked past on my way to the event.
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Posters on the way up.

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Upper Hall
The Upper Hall at 9:30AM

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The view through one of the the Upper Hall windows
Food stand
A food stall (London prices are beyond my means – I was not a cjustomer)
Rose window
Rose window

big screen, UHBasketter

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Chair Sarah (one of the speakers at the meeting on Biodiversity and Species Extinction) and speaker Simon Basketter.
Sarah Ensor opens the meeting
Sarah introduces the meeting
Simon Basketter starts his talk
Simon speaking, careful not obstruct the screen.

FN1FN2Basketter at the micGraph1Graph2Broken NewsGraph3TrustGraph4Rogers + HammersteinLukacs

MARXISM AND MENTAL HEALTH – BETH GREENHILL

I will be giving this meeting a full post to itself in due course – it deserves it, and I have asked the speaker to email me all her slides, including those she did not get to use because of the importance I attach to this subject. For the moment here are a few pictures:

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A display on the main staircase at Student Central.

Tomas Tengely-Evans and Beth Greenhill (speaker)Four humoursBimaristansBeth GreenhillMarx at the asylumVygotskyAusterity Ailments

service maps

'Bildung'

MARXISM, NATURE AND SOCIETY – MARTIN EMPSON

Following the lunch break (picnics are something of a tradition at Marxism festivals, and I participated in the Norwich and East Anglia picnic) I headed to room 3E for this meeting. I would have preferred this talk to have been assigned a bigger room because the topic is so important. It was well attended, as it should have been. There were many outstanding contributions, including from those fighting against fracking (a particularly destructive method of extracting fossil fuels from shale). A woman who was born in Australia and whose father works in mining talked about her arguments with him and how she explains that she does not want people in mining to be jobless – she wants them to have jobs helping the environment, such as developing renewable energy sources etc. Here are some pictures:

PlatformBook displayRent controls now!big screen

IRELAND AND THE RISE OF THE RADICAL LEFT – GERRY CARROLL

Gerry Carroll is one of two members of People Before Profit elected to the Stormont Assembly in the days when that body still functioned. The other was Eamonn McCann. One of Stormont’s less charming features is a register that requires you to state whether you are Nationalist or Unionist – McCann and Carroll both wrote the single word Socialist in this space. People Before Profit are a cross-border organisation and they also boast three members of the Dail (the Irish Republic’s parliament), two of whom, Richard Boyd Barrett and Brid Smith were also at Marxism 2017. Gerry Carroll won his seat in West Belfast – Gerry Adams’ stamping ground. For an avowed non-sectarian to win in the very heartland of Sinn Fein is particularly remarkable. Carroll talked about both his success and that in the Republic. In the Republic much of the radicalism developed around the attempted imposition of water charges (yes – in Europe’s wettest country), but also of course the Republic became the first country in the world to vote in favour of equal marriage. 

After Carroll finished his inspiring speech various people in the audience talked further about some of the points he raised, filling out the picture. Here are some pictures…

Jasmine (chair)Capital 150Jasmine and GerryChair and speakerJasmine at the micGerry giving his opening speech

DID LENIN LEAD TO STALIN? – PADDY NIELSEN

After the second long break of the day it was back up to floor 3, this time room 3B for me. This meeting dealt with one of the more persistent accusations flung at the left (note, until the mid 1990s Socialist Worker retained its masthead stating “Neither Washington nor Moscow but International Socialism”). Nielsen set out the counter arguments excellently. Stalinism was a product of the isolation of the Russian Revolution – it did not spread elsewhere as the revolutionaries hoped, and it was separated from the revolutionary movement by a river of blood. Most of the old Bolshevik leadership who were alive when Stalin took power died at his hands. Here are some pictures:

Paddy Nielsen ready for his talkPlatformBook displayChair introduces meetingPaddy speakingPaddy in action

 

An Important Autism Related Document

Some stuff about autism, and on World Mental Health Day some stuff about mental health.

INTRODUCTION

I have various things to share in addition to detail of this document. Also, of course, there will be some photographs.

A DRAFT AUTISM STRATEGY FOR NORFOLK

Here is a link from which you can access the document and below my own saved copy:

Autism Strategy

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Overall I am not unhappy with this document, but there is one thing on which I have to pick them up – their use of the word ‘autistics’, which to me feels dehumanising as compared to such phrases as ‘autistic person’ or ‘person wiith autism’.

NAS SCHOOL HONOURED

The Sybil Elgar school in Ealing, which is run by the National Autistic Society, has had a visit from the Mayor of Ealing, who had the pleasant task of handing out awards to 13 students who have successfully completed the ASDAN transition challenge. To read more about this story click here.

WORLD MENTAL HEALTH DAY

For general information on World Mental Health Day and what it is all about please read this article. Also on World Mental Health Day is this courtesy of the TimetoChange twitter account:

mhd

THE PHOTOGRAPHS

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My parents’ new wood burner.

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Marxism 2: Friday

An account of the second day of Marxism 2016, with plenty of photos.

INTRODUCTION

This is my second post about the wonderful event that was Marxism 2016. This time I will be covering the events of Friday.

GETTING THERE

Although the first post in this series featured a shot of Walthamstow Central station the quickest way to get from the house at which I was staying to the event was by bus to Blackhorse Road station and then tube to Euston. Making my usual allowances for unforeseen (but eminently foreseeable) public transport issues I was treated to a very smooth journey, and it was barely even after nine o’clock (for a ten o’clock start) that I arrived at the Institute of Education building.

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Art at the top of the escalator shaft at Blackhorse Road station
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TFL advertising, Blackhorse Road
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The tiled logo at platform level (the victoria line is famous for having this feature at all of its stations)
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The timetable for Friday with my selections marked.

MEETING 1: AFTER THE PANAMA PAPERS – HOW THE RICH HIDE THEIR MONEY

Both of my first two meetings of the day were to take place at Nunn Hall on Level Four of the Institute of Education (the IOE has nine levels in total, with exits from the building on Levels three (street only) and four (street and back). Nunn Hall has one commanding feature – this painting, here shown flanked by posters:

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The “JOIN THE SWP” poster closest to the painting as A2 size to give you an idea of the scale of the painting.

This meeting, with journalist Simon Basketter as main speaker featured powerpoint slides, some of which I have photos of. A killer stat first: 44% of global economic output is reckoned to be hidden via tax havens.

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This is a real picture from 21st century London and that ferrari is gold-plated!

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This is a penthouse dining suite in one of London’s newer blocks – the developers claim that it caters to all income levels, but the cheapest apartments have a price tag of £715,000 – even further removed from affordable than the Gidiot’s version.

Moving on from the third picture above, many of London’s grander properties these days are actually not really dwelling places at all but ostentatious safety deposit boxes for the super-rich.

MEETING TWO: POLITICS OF THE MIND: MARXISM AND MENTAL HEALTH

This meeting, with main speaker Beth Greenhill was excellent, and her presentation featured one of the best logos I have ever seen. I have a few photos. During the discussion which folowed the main presentation lots of stories both good and bad were told.

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LUNCH TIME

Lunch time features what has become a Marxism tradition – the district picnic. London food prices being what they are, these communal picnics reduce individual expenditure quite considerably. Food and water duly consumed it was time for the afternoon sessions. I have no pictures of the food itself, but here is the symbol that denotes the presence of Norwich and East Anglia:

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MEETING THREE: SHOULD WE BE IN FAVOUR OF FREE SPEECH?

After making it clear that we should be and are in favour of free speech, speaker Esme Choonara went on to talk about some recent controversies and then to talk about two particular things that have been much misused recently – the No Platform policy and the concept of a safe space.

The No Platform policy, first established in the 1970s was originally intended specifically to target fascism in the form of first the National Front, and later the BNP. It was never seen originally as being a way to deal with general disagreement.

Likewise, the concept of a safe space was developed for a specific purpose. This dates from the Vietnam War and the idea was to have places where people would not be exposed to recruiters. Again this concept should not be used to ban contrary ideas.

We favour the maximum amount of free speech possible – restricting freedom of speech is a measure of last resort.

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Speaker Esme Choonara (left as you look) and chair Kambiz Boomla before the meeting
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Esme giving her talk.

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MEETING FOUR

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The verdict on this one was that it could be either.

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Speaker Michael and chair Sarah before the meeting.
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Michael giving his talk.

THE SECOND MEAL BREAK

For the first time at Marxism, the Norwich and Eats Anglia district picnic was happening twice a day, so I got some more cheap food. I also had a look around bookmarks (for the record, I bought two new and one second-hand book there over the five days).

MEETING FIVE: FIGHTING SEXISM TODAY: MARXISM AND WOMEN’S LIBERATION

This was a splendid way to finish the day. I did not stay on that long after the end of this final meeting of the day because I was already tired, and considered it sensible to get some sleep.

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Judith Orr (on the left as you look) and chair Despina immediately before the final meeting of the day.
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A topiary roundel near Euston station.

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Bus routes in the part of London where I was staying
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Blackhorse Road Station just before the bus arrived.