The Anonymous Widower

Skills And Post-16 Education Bill

On this page of The Times, there is an outline of the bills that the government will bring forward.

The title of this post is the name of one of the proposed bills.

This is said about the proposed contents of the bill.

A right to government-funded training for all adults lacking A-levels or the equivalent. The bill will also extend the student loan system to those who want to study at local further education colleges. All adults will be entitled to four years’ worth of loans for training or education that can be taken at any point in their life.

I know one person, who will be overjoyed, if he is still alive; John Eardley, who was my Personnel Officer at ICI Runcorn around 1970.

I can remember a story he told.

After a meeting with several union representatives, one of them asked if he could have a personal chat with John. The guy was a foreman in their vehicle maintenance department for ICI’s specialist chemical transport.

He told John how his last daughter had got married at the weekend and he perhaps needed to do something more challenging.

John found him an interesting position. He became a volunteer for Voluntary Services Overseas.

His job was part of a small team, who went to Zambia to sort out the elderly buses in Lusaka.

John was an excellent Personnel Officer and his guidance on personnel matters certainly stuck with this twenty year-old graduate, as I then was.

The Skills And Post-16 Education Bill appears to be what John really needed in the 1970s for the many employees he developed.

I can certainly see members of my own family, who would have been empowered by such a Bill since the Second World War! These include my father, mother and sister for a start.

It should be noted, that I am the first of my family to go to University.

Conclusion

I am totally in favour of this proposed Bill.

 

 

May 11, 2021 Posted by | World | , , , , | Leave a comment

Station Reopening At Bow Street Brings First Trains For 56 Years

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on the BBC.

Hopefully, I shall be able to visit this summer.

It must be around sixty years since I was last in that area. I can remember my father driving his MG Magnette (676 RME) on the beach at Borth, whilst we spent a few days at a B & B in Savage’s Garage in Aberystwyth.

February 15, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

The Death Of My Son George

In some ways our youngest son; George, was more my baby, than my wife’s!

When you have three children under three, you have to devise a system so they can all be fed, watered and managed.

In the early 1970s, I was working at home, writing software for the likes of companies like Lloyds Bank, Plessey, Ferranti and others, usually by means of a dial-up line to a company called Time Sharing Ltd. in Great Portland Street.

  • So most days George sat on my desk in a plastic baby chair, as I worked.
  • C would look after the two elder children, generally taking them to the park or friends.
  • George was still in nappies, real not disposable. We did use a nappy service!
  • I sometimes wonder, if I can still install a proper nappy on a baby!
  • I would feed him as I worked.
  • George also used to come with me to visit clients, I had to meet at Great Portland Street. Usually, the secretaries would steal him away.

It was a system, that worked well for all of us.

Of our three children, George was the only one, that C thought could be coeliac, as I am. Mothers know their families! We once tried to test him with a self-test kit from the Internet. but the results were inconclusive.

I now believe he was coeliac for one genetic reason. His daughter was born with a severe congenital hernia of the diaphragm and research shows this can be linked to a coeliac father.

At least I was lucky with my three boys in this respect, but it points to George being coeliac.

George worked in the music business and was the sound engineer on some of the work of Diane Charlemagne. I met Diane once, when I stood on The Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, which I wrote about in Fun and Games at the Fourth Plinth.

  • Diane was working as the security guard and it was an amazing coincidence, that we realised our connection through George.
  • She spoke highly of his work.

Sadly Diane died of kidney cancer in 2015.

George didn’t drink, but he smoked heavily and not just tobacco. He also lived on a very gluten-rich diet of Subways and the like.

I suspect that his immune system was as good as much protection as a chocolate colander in a tsunami!

I have discussed this with doctors, who specialise in cancer and they feel that it could have contributed to his death from pancreatic cancer.

  • George died at home.
  • He was not in much pain due to the morphine he was controlling through a pump and the cannabis he was smoking.
  • One day, he was in bed and talking to my then aristocratic girlfriend and myself, when he just expired.
  • There was no drama and he just went to sleep.

A few minutes later, my girlfriend and the housekeeper, laid out the body for the undertaker.

I had been at George’s quiet death, just like I had been at the birth of all three sons.

Looking Back

George died ten years ago and his death has left some marks on my mind.

  • Because of our early relationship, some of my grief for George was more like that of a mother.
  • George died a peaceful death, which with modern medicine should be almost a right for many!
  • His death has driven me to fund and take part in medical research, especially for pancreatic cancer.
  • I also feel strongly, we should steer clear of cannabis, eat sensibly and check as many as possible for coeliac disease.

But now above all, I have no fear of Covid-19 or death.

 

May 1, 2020 Posted by | Computing, Health | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Ipswich Lockdown

Around 1960, my parents bought a second home in Felixstowe, where they eventually retired some years later. This memory could have been earlier, as we were always going to Felixstowe, often staying in the Ordnance Hotel.

In those days, there was no Southern by-pass to the town, so you had to go around the old by-pass, which now passes the current Ipswich Hospital before taking the Felixstowe Road from St. Augustine’s roundabout.

We used to go to the house in Felixstowe most weekends and I can remember one trip, where instead of going around the town, we went through it past the old County Hall and up Spring Road.

I can remember looking out of the MG Magnette (registration number 676 RME) and seeing that the streets of Ipswich were completely deserted.

The reason was that the town had been hit by an outbreak of polio and people weren’t venturing out.

Strangely, I can’t find anything on the Internet about this polio outbreak!

March 29, 2020 Posted by | Health | , , , | Leave a comment

Preparations For War

I always remember a tale told by my mother about her mother, who was born in Dalston in the 1880s.

In 1939, my mother asked her mother, if she was ready for the inevitable war.

The reply was as follows.

I was caught out in the First War and I’m not going to get caught out in this one!

I’ve got a hundredweight of jam and a hundredweight of sugar in the cellar!

Do readers still know what a hundredweight is? – Fifty kilos.

From what I know, my grandmother was rather a forceful woman of very strong Devonian ancestry, with the Yeoman surname of Upcott.

In this war against COVID-19, I may have made a few preparations, but nothing like those my formidable grandmother would have made.

March 17, 2020 Posted by | Food, Health, World | , , , | 4 Comments

Thoughts On eScooters!

Consider.

  • This article on the BBC is entitled Emily Hartridge: TV Presenter And YouTube Star Dies In Crash. It is an extremely sad tale and it has led to the inevitable call to ban electric scooters.
  • There is also this article on the BBC, which is entitled Iris Goldsmith: Teenage girl dies in ‘quad bike’ accident. This is another extremely sad tale and many are questioning, what a teenage girl was doing, riding a quadbike.
  • And then there’s this article on the BBC, Which is entitled Govia Thameslink Fined £1m Over Gatwick Express Window Death.

Young people and some older ones too, often do stupid things.

Many also crave danger and go mountaineering, riding on the tops of trains or jumping into rivers from a great height.

Doing things out of the ordinary is a natural reaction and is one of the reason, why humans are the most successful species on this planet.

I think the problem is the way we bring up children.

  • My parents let me do anything I wanted up to a point.
  • They also taught me lots of skills.
  • From about twelve, I used to cycle all over London.
  • I spent endless hours in my father’s print works doing things that would be frowned upon now, because they are too dangerous.

A couple of months ago, I was interviewed by a sixth-form girl student, in the volunteering I do at Barts Hospital in giving experience to prospective doctors.

She had lived in an over-protective environment and hardly left home on her own.

It was almost child abuse. She didn’t say, but I suspect she’d even been driven to and from school.

When it came to our own children, C and myself were fairly liberal and it was strange how, two became very street-wise and had the occasional scrapes, whereas the other was generally well-behaved.

Perhaps, we didn’t get everything right, but I like to think, we gave them a good appreciation of risk!

And that is one of the mot important things to learn in life, as often, those that ca’t assess risk, come to unfortunate ends.

I do feel my youngest son’s unhealthy lifestyle was a factor in his getting pancreatic cancer, especially if he was coeliac like me! But then he wouldn’t get tested!

His daughter though, seems to have a good appreciation of risk, but then if your father dies, you probably do!

To return to the eScooter, which is where this post started.

They Look Fun!

They certainly look fun and I constantly want to have a go on one.

Remember, I have crashed a twin-engined aeroplae and ridden horses in the Masai Mara.

At seventeen, I also sat on the back of a motorcycle, the wrong way round and went through the Mersey Tunnel.

Was I wearing a helmet? Of course not!

Are They Dangerous?

The risk depends on where they are used and how competent the rider is!

Ask any A & E doctor, what sport causes the most injuries and they’ll say something like rugby or horse-riding!

When A & E doctors start complaining about eScooters that will be the time for action.

Would Training Help?

Training isn’t the important thing.

However experience, especially that gained in a safe environment is important.

But to legislate that training should be mandatory will only have the reverse affect.

Conclusion

It’s a difficult problem, but we must teach everybody to appreciate risk.

When I joined ICI in 1969, I went on a formal Health and Safety course.

It has proven to be invaluable all my life an I haven’t worked on a chemical plant since 1970.

July 17, 2019 Posted by | Health, Transport, World | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

My Unusual Body

I say unusual, but I suspect there are others out there with similar problems to me.

I was delivered in 1947, by the almost exotically-named; Dr. Egerton White, who was the family GP. He had all the expected characteristics of a three-piece suit, a corporation, a long watch chain and the obligatory Rover car. He also had a rather unusual blotchy skin, that leads me to think he was probably of mixed race.

I was small in stature, not the healthiest of children and was always going to see him and his partner, a Doctor Curley!

  • At times, I would cough my guts out for hours on end.
  • Later I remember my mother saying to my future wife, that I had difficulty eating as a baby, and I would fall asleep as she fed me.
  • Often I would spend three or four months away from school and I can remember spending hours with my head over a large jug of hot Friar’s Balsam.
  • At one point, someone said it could be the lead in the paint in our house, so my father burnt it all off and replaced it.
  • My mother used to make gallons of home-made lemonade according to one of Mrs. Beeton’s recipes, which must have helped, when I drunk it.
  • Doctors White and Curley were puzzled and at one point the new-fangled drug penicillin.
  • It should be remembered that in the 1950s, even in leafy Southgate, where we lived, the air was thick with the pollution from coal fires for a lot of the year.

In the end, one thing that helped was a nasal spray cooked-up by a pharmacist called Halliday. I can still smell it and suspect it was little more than the base chemical still used in some nasal sprays available from pharmacies.

Although my poor health persisted at times, I still managed to pass the 11-Plus and get to Minchenden Grammar School.

But I remember in the first year, I had virtually a term away.

From about ten or eleven, my health gradually improved.

I can suggest these reasons.

  • Getting older helped in some way.
  • I was exercising a lot more by cycling around, although it was up a hill to get home.
  • My parents had bought a house in Felixstowe and we would spend weekends there. Although, as I got older I hated being away from my friends with little to do, so I tended to stay in and read.

In the 1960s, my health seemed to improve dramatically, when I spent three years at Liverpool University and a year afterwards working for ICI at Runcorn.

Liverpool is a Maritime City and in those days, the air was much better than London.

But I also got married in 1968 and I can never remember serious noughts of coughing, sneezing and breathing difficulties in the time Celia was alive.

Although, she did often say that before I went to sleep, I would always sneeze three times and sometimes she would even count them.

She also regularly said, that my sneezes were rather violent at times. They still are!

In the late nineties, I was diagnosed as a coeliac. Regularly, I’d go to the GP around the turn of the year with a general run-down feeling.

Nothing specific, but then an elderly locum decided I ought to have a blood test, which would be the first of my life!

The result was that I was very low in vitamin B12. As a series of injections didn’t improve the situation, I was sent to Addenbrooke’s Hospital for tests.

I was diagnosed as a coeliac, initially on a blood test and then by two endoscopies. Note that Addenbrooke’s used to do them without anaesthetic, as it means the patient can easily get into a better position and doesn’t break teeth. It also means that the hospital doesn’t have to provide as many beds for recovery. Certainly, I’ve had worse experiences with highly-capable dentists!

I thought this was the end of my health problems.

It certainly seemed to be, except for occasional breathing difficulties early in the year. I can remember having difficulty climbing Table Mountain.

My stroke was brought on by atrial fibrillation three years after Celia died.

It happened in Hong Kong and before it happened in the restaurant of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, I had had a walk and remember how well the air felt early in the morning in the City.

The doctors said I had had a serious stroke and I was kept in hospital for twelve weeks on the 29th floor of a hospital with the sun streaming through the windows.

I remember one incident, where I was accused of throwing my water away and not drinking enough, as I wasn’t urinating. But I was drinking, so they checked my waterworks thoroughly and put in a catheter. Nothing improved. Thankfully, eventually they gave up!

So where was all that water going?

Another curious thing in Hong Kong was that their automatic blood pressure machines sometimes didn’t work well on me in the morning. So they resorted to traditional devices and a stethoscope.

After the stroke, I was put on long-term Warfarin and I have been told several times, that I if I get the dose right, I won’t have another stroke.

Now moved to London, I possibly made the mistake of moving to a house, which gets too hot.

One day I collapsed, panicked as I thought it was another stroke.

It wasn’t and UCLH thought that I needed to be put on Ramipril, Bisoprolol Fumarate and Spirolactone.

Since then another cardiologist has dropped the Spirolactone.

As I said my body is unusual in strange ways.

  • If I have an injection or give a blood sample, I don’t bleed afterwards or need a plaster. With a new nurse, it often causes a bit of a laugh!
  • My nose seems to be permanently blocked and I rarely am able to blow it properly.
  • My feet don’t have any hard skin, which is probably unusual for my age.
  • I used to suffer from plantar fasciitis, which seems to have been partly cured by the Body Shop’s hemp foot protector.
  • I drink a large amount of fluids, with probably six mugs of tea and a litre of lemonade or beer every day.
  • I always have a mug of decaffinated tea before I go to bed.
  • I often have half-an-hour’s sleep in the middle of the day. As did my father!
  • My eyes are very dry and I have a bath most mornings, where I put my head under the water and open my eyes.

Perhaps, the strangest incident was I went to sleep on the floor after a lot of tea, with the window open.

I woke up to find I couldn’t see! There was nothing wrong with me, but my large living room was full of steam, like you’d get if you leave the kettle on.

I came to the conclusion after that incident, that the only place the water could have come, was through my skin.

This was also suggested by a nurse, who said he’d got leaky skin.

As someone, who understands physics, could this leaky skin be the cause of my problems?

And do the drugs make it worse?

My Grandfather

He died at forty, long before I was born.

He was an alcoholic, who eventually died of pneumonia.

Could his drinking like mine, have started because of a need for fluids?

I used to drink a lot of beer until I was about twenty-four, but my father had suffered so badly emotionally because of the death of his father, that he had instilled the right attitude to drink deep in my mind.

Conclusion

This has been a bit of a ramble!

May 29, 2019 Posted by | Health | , , , , | 2 Comments

England In Kaliningrad

There is a good chance, that my great-great-great-grandfather; Robert Muller, came from East Prussia, the capital of which was Konigsberg East Prussia was annexed by the Soviet Union after the Second World |War and Konigsberg was renamed Kaliningrad.

My father was about fourteen, when his grandfather died and my father once told me, that his grandfather had told him, about meeting Robert, who would have been his grandfather’s grandfather.

Apparently, the elderly man didn’t speak any English and only spoke German. Knowing that my male line is Jewish, I wonder if it wasn’t German but Yiddish.

Konigsberg was an important city and the Prussian

Wikipedia has a section about the Jews in Konigsberg, where this is said.

The Jewish population of Königsberg in the 18th century was fairly low, although this changed as restrictions became relaxed over the course of the 19th century. In 1756 there were 29 families of “protected Jews” in Königsberg, which increased to 57 by 1789. The total number of Jewish inhabitants was less than 500 in the middle of the 18th century, and around 800 by the end of it, out of a total population of almost 60,000 people.

Speaking to someone at the German History Museum, a lot of Jewish men had to leave East Prussia, when they became adults, unless they were protected.

As Robert would have been a young adult,, when he turned up in Bexley, I suspect that soon after he qualified as a tailor, he left the area.

This keeping out of the way of trouble, is very much a family trait.

Konigsberg was at that time a port city and there was quite a lot of trade with London. So I suspect getting to London was not that great a problem.

I very much regret not asking my father for more details.

Like me my father was an atheist, although with a Jewish philosophy of life. He was also very much against fascists, communists and dictators of both the left and right. He was proud to have been at the Battle of Cable Street, when the East End of London stopped Oswald Mosley and his Blackshirts.

In some ways, I regret not being at the match tonight. But then I was advised that there would be trouble.

I have been to the Polish border with the Russian enclave. I wrote about it in At Poland’s Border With Russia.

June 28, 2018 Posted by | Sport | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Thoughts On Alcoholism

In the last month or so, I’ve done something that I’ve never done before in my life.

I’ve drunk perhaps half a bottle of beer when I’ve got up. Admittedly, I’d left the bottle half finished by my computer.

It was good.

In the 1960s, I could drink a lot of beer. I just seemed to need it.

About that time, I decided I needed to drink large amounts of fluids and swapped to tea and Coke.

My doctor understands my needs for fluids and the practice nurse has the same problem. The nurse puts it down to leaky skin, which he has.

I actually love walking in the rain, so that might help explain it. We all live by the laws of physics.

My father warned me off alcohol in a practical way, by giving me halves of Adnams down at Felixstowe Conservative Club, whilst we played snooker, when I was about fourteen.

My father drank a lot of fluids, but I never saw him drunk and most doctors would say he was a sensible drinker. Like me, he also drank a lot of tea!

He had a reason to control his drinking! His father had died from complications of being an alcoholic at 40, when my father was about twenty.

My grandfather had lived just around the corner from where I live now and my father had once told me, he had drunk large amounts of beer and had moved on to whisky.

Around 1900, there was very little to drink except beer, so did my grandfather’s need for fluids mean that he turned to what was available?

Now I like a good beer and know of its properties to slake a thirst when you’re dry. I’ve worked in foundries in the 1960s and beer was always available.

So is there a type of person, who needs a lot of fluids and if beer is available they turn to it. In some cases does this lead to alcoholism.

As to myself, I must have gluten-free beer and because I’m on Warfarin, I must keep my alcohol consumption down.

So I now drink a gluten-free beer, that is just 0.25 of a unit and tastes like real beer from Marks and Spencer.

But then it is real beer, as it is brewed in Southwold by Adnams.

My life has come full circle.

 

 

March 18, 2018 Posted by | Food, World | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Reflections At Seventy

I completed by seventh decade this morning at about three, if I remember what my mother told me about the time of my birth correctly.

Dreams Of A Shared Retirement With Celia

Perhaps twelve years ago, my wife;Celia and I made a decision and that was to sell everything in Suffolk, after she retired from the law in perhaps 2015 or so and retire to a much smaller house in somewhere like Hampstead in London.

I remember too, that we discussed retirement in detail on my sixtieth birthday holiday in Majorca.

But of course, things didn’t work out as planned.

Two Deaths And A Stroke

Celia died of a squamous cell carcinoma of the heart on December 11th, 2007.

Then three years later, our youngest son died of pancreatic cancer.

Whether, these two deaths had anything to do with my stroke, I shall never know!

Moving To Dalston

Why would anybody in their right mind move to Dalston in 2010?

It is my spiritual home, with my maternal grandmother being born opposite Dalston Junction station,my father being being born just up the road at the Angel and grandfathers and their ancestors clustered together in Clerkenwell and Shoreditch. My Dalstonian grandmother was from a posh Devonian family called Upcott and I suspect she bequeathed me some of my stubbornness. My other grandmother was a Spencer from Peterborough and she could be difficult too! But that could be because she was widowed at forty-nine!

Celia and I had tried to move to De Beauvoir Town in the 1970s, but couldn’t get a mortgage for a house that cost £7,500, which would now be worth around two million.

So when I gave up driving because the stroke had damaged my eyesight, Dalston and De Beauvoir Town were towards the top of places, where I would move.

I would be following a plan of which Celia would have approved and possibly we would have done, had she lived.

But the clincher was the London Overground, as Dalston was to become the junction between the North London and East London Lines. Surely, if I could find a suitable property in the area, it wouldn’t lose value.

But I didn’t forsee the rise of Dalston!

Taking Control Of My Recovery

I do feel that if I’d been allowed to do what I wanted by my GP, which was to go on Warfarin and test my own INR, I’d have got away with just the first very small stroke I had in about 2009.

In about 2011, one of the world’s top cardiologists told me, that if I got the Warfarin right, I wouldn’t have another stroke.

As a Control Engineer, with all the survival instincts of my genes that have been honed in London, Liverpool and Suffolk, I have now progressed to the drug regime, I wanted after that first small stroke.

I still seem to be keeping the Devil at bay.

Conclusion

I’m ready to fight the next ten years.

 

August 16, 2017 Posted by | Health, Transport, World | , , , | 2 Comments