Friday, 7 December 2018


In October my brother, CJ, and I went to the 1950s Museum in Denbigh, North Wales. It is a fascinating place and, for those of a certain age, it evokes many memories and, for those who are younger, it doubtless causes differing degrees of disbelief. I hope to write a few posts on the museum but this one is specifically on smoking and the, now, unbelievably different attitude to smoking's acceptability in every aspect of life. Who, for example, could ever believe that this advert might actually produce positive results:

I'm sure some of these pictures will bring back memories for some of my older UK readers:

Capstan Full Strength, Senior Service and Players were preferred by men and were rarely (if ever) sullied by a filter tip (I'm pretty confident in saying).

Balkan Sobranie were favoured by people who wished to make a statement (I'm not quite sure which statement) and people who just loved the 'different' taste. My Grandmother smoked Woodbine from pre-teen years (illicitly) until she died at the age of 93. My special treat for her on occasion was to bring in a box of Sobranie.

I had completely forgotten about Park Drive but that was the cigarette that my mother smoked until she gave up - possibly in her 40s. However until she died (again at the age of 93 like her Mother) she always craved a cigarette after dinner.

Pipe tobacco. My Dad smoked Condor (or occasionally St Bruno) all his life (he died at 94). My Uncle smoked the pipe tobacco Cut Golden Bar or Gold Block until he gave up some time before he died (as his Mother and Sister had done at 93).

I gave up cigarettes in May 1967 just having bought a box of 50 Piccadilly Tipped and smoked 3 of them. I threw them across the office declaring I would never smoke another cigarette as long as I lived. The office junior scrabbled round picking them all up and made off with them after asking if he could have them before I changed my mind. I have never smoked a cigarette since.

Morris Thompson Edwards

Thursday, 29 November 2018

The Master Barber's Shop

In October I visited Southport - a seaside town north of Liverpool. It is a town which I knew well as a young man. Like so many places the main shopping street is a shadow of its former glorious self. However there is still one splendid emporium: a 'proper' barbers. For those of us in the Apostrophe Club it should be noted that the shop is called The Master Barber's Shop.

Saturday, 24 November 2018

Seven Dwarfs - Revised

In response to the fact that so many of you spotted the duplication of one of the dwarfs, Adrian has 'found' the seventh dwarf whom he managed to 'lose' and here are the seven dwarfs resurrected. 

Friday, 23 November 2018

Seven Dwarfs

I expect that almost all my readers will know that the Seven Dwarfs in the Disney version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs were named Happy, Doc, Grumpy, Sleepy, Bashful, Sneezy, and Dopey. 

However in 1916, Snow White was produced for the first time in film by Paramount Pictures, adapted from the 1912 Broadway version. This was during the silent film era and at this time the  Seven Dwarfs were named for the first time Blick, Flick, Glick, Snick, Plick, Whick and Quee.

Tolkein also was very keen on dwarfs and it was he who coined the plural of dwarf as Dwarves.  We know the names of the lines of Dwarves of the 7 founded, these are: Longbeards, Broadbeams, Firebeards, Ironfists, Stiffbeards, Blacklocks and Stonefoots. However we only know the name of the father of the first line (Longbeards) which was Durin. 

All that was simply to introduce you to a composite of seven of the pictures I took of Joshua. Adrian, that wizard of photo manipulation, produced the following:

Monday, 19 November 2018

Art v Reality?

When my visitors mentioned in the last post were here I, of course, took lots of photos. I have only used a few but it was quite interesting to see several which formed part of a long sequence of Joshua running along a ridge above me at Garry Sands. Straight out of the camera they looked like the first two with dark foregrounds and were, I though, quite 'arty' and I liked them. However with a little tweak, they became visual records of a moment in time and little more.

What thinkest thou?

Tuesday, 13 November 2018


After my October visit to my brother and sister-in-law (blog posts still to come) my God-daughter, partner and their 4-year old came up to see me from the other side of darkest Manchester. I apologise for mentioning the name of That Place which is at the other end of the Lancashire Road to the fair city of my birth.

It really was great to see them even though, for various reasons including the English schools half-term only being a week long, their visit was short.

They were fortunate with the ferries and young Joshua even enjoyed the ferry journeys. 

The weather wasn't too bad either (for Lewis) and we got to see beaches and the Arnol Blackhouse and the Garenin Blackhouse village. Everyone was disappointed, though, to find that we couldn't go inside the blackhouses at either place because they were closed. 

However the beaches and the Callanish Standing Stones were open! So was the Callanish Visitor Centre where we had a very enjoyable lunch.

I thoroughly enjoyed the visit and so, I think did my visitors. 

Haste ye back!

At Garry Sands - Traigh Ghearradha - Stacs and pools (full of little fish)
Sand is interesting
Chasing a ball is even more interesting
Traigh Mhor

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Over The Rainbow


Saturday, 3 November 2018

Twenty Years On

On 3 November 1998 an event of great significance to me (if not in the greater scheme of things) occurred: I was operated upon for prostate cancer and had my prostate removed. At that time it was an operation involving major surgery and a long stay in hospital. Now it is possible to have it removed by keyhole surgery.

It happened as a result of my GP asking a consultant urologist to examine me and perform a biopsy despite the fact that I had no evidence of prostate problems never mind prostate cancer. Indeed to all intents and purposes I was as fit as a fiddle and felt great. The only problem was that I knew that I had cancer. I just had no idea what sort or where in my body it was. 

The rest of the story is history and I have been treated ever since as a result of the cancer cells that had already escaped into my body before the operation.

Those decisions by the medical profession as well as their skills have given me 20 wonderful years. For the most part they have been amongst the best years of my life and include a decade of a whole different life in New Zealand.

So today I shall raise a glass and toast the dozens of people in the medical profession, together with many other people, who have been instrumental in not only keeping me alive all these years but also enabling me to have a great quality of life.

Thank you one and all.

Friday, 26 October 2018

Home - again.

I arrived home last night. The original plan had been to come today but several texts from Calmac made it clear that the weather could well affect the ferries today and tomorrow and they could be cancelled. As I had to be back this weekend and for appointments at crack of dawn on Monday and visitors arriving on Tuesday, I decided to make a run for it yesterday. I was obviously not alone and the ferry was full of vehicles. The ferry was actually the MV Isle of Lewis which is covering for the MV Loch Seaforth which is having her annual overhaul in Aberdeen.

Today broke with a stiff breeze from the North (the worst direction for the Stornoway to Ullapool ferry) but cold and sunny. As the wind rose the sea swell got worse. The ferry left Stornoway after lunch but it came past my house and when that happens you just know it's going to be a choppy crossing in places. Shortly after these photos were taken I received a Calmac text saying that the ferry would not be coming back tonight. There could be considerable disruption because the supermarket was short of some things this morning and the freight ferry won't be running today or overnight either and they do not open on Sunday.

The picture on the right shows the position of the ferry in the last of the photo sequence below.

Sailing up the coast and towards the rainbow.
Into the rainbow
Turning across the direction of the swell
Turning towards the South and East
Next stop Ullapool (nearly two hours away)

Monday, 22 October 2018


Invictus: Latin adjective, "unconquered, unsubdued, invincible."

I'm not a Royalist as such. I'm not a particular follower of the Olympics or of athletics competitions.

However, having watched Prince Harry at the opening of the Invictus Games I was exceptionally impressed by his sincerity (and the fact that there wasn't a cue-card in sight). So I decided to learn something about the Invictus Games which he brought into being after a trip to the Warrior Games in the USA in 2013 when he saw first-hand how the power of sport can help physically, psychologically and socially those suffering from injuries and illness.

For those who might not know, Prince Harry was a member of the armed forces who saw active service and rose through the ranks to be a Captain in the Blues and Royals and served in Afghanistan.

Most of us will never know the full horrors of combat. Many Servicemen and women suffer life-changing injuries, visible or otherwise, whilst serving their country.
The Games embody the fighting spirit of wounded, injured and sick Service personnel and personifies what these tenacious men and women can achieve post injury. The Games harness the power of sport to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation and generate a wider understanding and respect for those who serve their country.

"The Invictus Games is about much more than just sport – it captures hearts, challenges minds and changes lives."
Long may it continue so to do.

Friday, 19 October 2018

A Funeral By Any Other Name

Funeral: noun,  a ceremony or service held shortly after a person's death, usually including the person's burial or cremation.

I've had an aversion to the term 'funeral' for a very long time. My son, Andrew, insisted that he would not have a funeral to mourn his death. He had made all the arrangements for a 'celebration of his life'. My dear friend Mo (of recent posts) also insisted that no one should mourn her demise but should celebrate the life she had had. I, too, have made such desires known for the inevitable event (long off though I hope it is).

A few days ago I went to a celebration for a life lived. It was quite a long service in terms of physical minutes (well over an hour) but it seemed very short because of the nature of the celebration.

There was so much happiness expressed for a life lived. That is something I have not seen on Lewis.

In fact, therefore, whatever one calls the service the generic term is a funeral and it can be religious or non-religious, a mourning or a celebration as is decided upon.

I was intrigued by the recent celebration I attended which was held in a church and was a religious service. All the celebrants were female: the vicar and the person who conducted the service (who was a friend of the deceased and, I assume, a deacon); and those who delivered the eulogy and the readings (Proverbs - The Hymn to a Good Wife and Roald Dahl's 'Be an Enthusiast'). The SoSo Choir (of which the deceased was a member) were also all-female and performed 'The Rose'. I think the Church Wardens were female as well. As The Dylon said "The times they are a-changin'. ".  I would add "..and about time too."

The service had a very different feel to any other I have attended (although it's by no means the first with a female celebrant).

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Last Man Standing

In July I wrote a post entitled Mo about a very old friendship and Mo's demise in June.

In late summer 2012 I drove Mo and her sister-in-law by marriage, Di, from Di's home near Liverpool to a villa in the small village of Belforte in Tuscany via France, Switzerland and the Italian Lakes. It was Mo's 70th and she had treated us, her daughters and son-in-law to a holiday in a villa there. I blogged about it at the time.

Di had gone to Canada for the celebration of Mo's life and her son, Ben, had stood in for me to read the eulogy that I had written. Just over a week ago Di, a robust lady if ever there was one, died suddenly. 

Mo's daughters,  for whom Auntie Di was very special, came over from Canada. I am, coincidentally, on The Wirral less than 20 miles away.

Today I attended the celebration service for Di's life. The church was packed. I don't think that I have seen as many people at a funeral service outside of Lewis.

I've been acquainted with Di for nearly 60 years. She was a lady who was proud to be an 'old-fashioned' wife and mother for whom family was everything. However, today I learned so much about her from the eulogy that I did not know. She was, indeed, a special lady.

The comment that disturbed me, though, was that, of the trio, I was the 'last man standing'.

Di, Fiona, Mo, Heather, Jefferey at Belforte. I'm taking the photo! 

Sunday, 14 October 2018

I'm Getting a Complex

On Thursday Anna and I went to our favourite Bishopbriggs watering hold for breakfast. Café Torino is usually humming and the previous week we managed to get the last available table when we went in. On Thursday there was no-one in when we arrived. I have to say that quickly changed.

When I stopped for a late lunch on Thursday at The Greyhound Hotel just south of Shap exactly the same thing happened. The lunch was, by the way, excellent and very reasonable too.

On Friday morning when CJ and I went for breakfast at Isabelles (sic) in Heswall it was, unusually, empty although, yet again it changed once we'd settled down to our crossword.


 And on Saturday we breakfasted at Brunch in Heswall:

Then we went to the 50's Era Museum in Denbigh. It wasn't the best of weather and the tourist season is drawing to a close and we started with another crossword and coffee at one of their period tables as the only visitors. We spent several very enjoyable hours there reminiscing.

By the time we got into the town centre the wind was beginning to howl and we found an absolutely delightful café - Denbigh Secrets or the Secret Courtyard Café - right opposite the car park. Yes, you guessed it. Lunchtime was well over and we were the only customers although I'm sure they were busy earlier on. They served 4 different very wholesome home-made soups and yummy home made cakes too.

Friday, 12 October 2018

In Search of Cures

"It's how you tell them that matters." That's what is said about jokes, I believe. So entitling this post "In Search of Cures" sets minds off on a particular train of thought rather than if I'd said, for example, "In Praise of Drug Companies" which would almost certainly have elicited instant critical debate.

I've just spent three days in Glasgow: Monday and Tuesday having CT/MRI scans and a bone scan and Wednesday having my 16-weekly Drug Trial Review. All funded by drug companies and, in part, by cancer charities.

I don't know how many medical trials there are going on in the world at any one time but it is probably thousands and, of those, the majority will probably involve drugs and, therefore, drug companies.

I am a participant in a trial for a drug specific to the cure and/or prevention of prostate cancer: a cancer for which I was first operated on 20 years ago and for which I have been receiving treatment ever since. I understand that the trial runs for 6 years. I don't know how many countries are taking part but there are a lot of languages on the medicine literature.

The Trial is a 67:33 double-blind trial. A blind or blinded-experiment is an experiment in which information about the test is masked (kept) from the participant, to reduce or eliminate bias, until after a trial outcome is known. It is understood that bias may be intentional or subconscious, thus no dishonesty is implied by blinding. If both tester and subject are blinded, the trial is called a double-blind experiment. The 66:33 means that 67% of the participants get the real drug and 33% get the placebo.

All this is done to satisfy the drug company that the drug is efficacious. If it is then the results will be used to convince the powers that be in the countries throughout the world to licence the drug for general use.

I have absolutely no idea how many scientists and researchers it takes to produce any particular drug nor what a trial and, if successful, subsequent licensing costs. Back in 2013 in a BBC article it was said that patents are generally awarded for 20 years but 10-12 of those years are typically spent developing the drug at a cost of about $1.5bn-$2.5bn. The remaining years are used to make the profit before the drug is made by generic manufacturers. However lots of drugs never get past the trial stage and only a very small number of drugs are 'super-earners'.

I have little doubt that there is much for which to criticise drug companies but I shall leave that to others.

As a beneficiary of their drugs in general and of this particular trial in particular I have to say that I'm not feeling in a critical mood.

Saturday, 6 October 2018


I left the Island on the 0700 ferry yesterday morning. When I left home at 0530 it was dark. Dark! Last time I left on the morning ferry it wasn't just light, the sun was almost up. For me the weather isn't the defining factor of determining when winter starts or ends. Nor is the solstice. So far as I am concerned it is winter when one leaves for the morning ferry in the dark.

Living on Lewis gives one a rather different view of life in so many ways. For me it is not really the weather that defines the seasons. It can rain cats and dogs at any time of the year. Summer gales are (or appear to be) becoming more frequent. The average temperatures in the winter and the summer don't appear to differ anywhere near as markedly as, say, Cheshire where I used to live before I came to Lewis in the '70s.

When I was writing that I wondered how much of it is perception (those long hot summers of my youth and the bitter winters of, say, 1947 - which I can remember!) and how much is reality. So I looked up the averages. What I've not been able to find out is what period of years the averages cover.

The one statistic that stands out of me is the daylight hours. Like all statistics though it they don't tell the full story. There may be only 18 daylight hours on average in June but that doesn't tell the whole story. The sun just dips under the horizon and, on a clear night, one can still read a newspaper at 1am (if one wants to waste those beautiful moments reading a newspaper - personally I'd rather walk along the beach).

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Five Minutes

Everyone, except the young (which is, I admit, quite a lot of the world's population) knows that as one gets older time speeds up. For all sorts of reasons this has been in my mind a lot recently. 

It's not that long ago that I was celebrating my fiftieth birthday in this house with a partner (no, YP, not a wife) with a settled and potentially 'boring' lifestyle ahead. It all felt pretty good to me. 

Even in my wildest dreams I could not have imagined how my life would alter. 

Next year I shall be 75 (DV, NP).

I was stirring a paella recently. "Stir constantly until the water has been absorbed." I think that's what one is supposed to do. So, to keep myself from total mental shutdown, I decided to think about time.

How long is five minutes?

If you are running to get to the airport gate and you are six minutes away, five minutes go so fast you wouldn't believe it.

If you are running out of time in an exam five minutes is no time at all.

If you are waiting for an egg to boil then it's five minutes.

If you are stirring a paella it's long enough to get bored.

If you are waiting for the train or a bus in a downpour with no shelter it seems like an interminable age.

Of course all that translates, the necessary changes being made, to 5 weeks, months, years, decades and so on.

I'll leave you with the 'modern'* version of 'Time's Paces'
When I was a babe and wept and slept,
Time crept;
When I was a boy and laughed and talked,
Time walked.
Then when the years saw me a man,
Time ran.
But as I older grew,
Time flew.
Soon, as I journey on,
I'll find time gone.
May Christ have saved my soul, by then

* Guy Pentreath (1902–1985)

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Paying Taxes

I usually avoid any sort of confrontational post and this is not meant to be either confrontational nor controversial. However  I have always had an aversion to injustice. So when the Archbishop of Canterbury criticised the big companies (singling out Amazon) for not paying tax and called for the abolition of zero hours contracts for workers, I agreed with him and thought nothing further of it.

Then a lot of criticism arose because the church invests some of its £8 billion of investments in Amazon. According to The Financial Times, the Church of England fund has become the top world performer  with a return on assets of 17.1% boosted by investment in global equities and private equity. The Church also uses zero hours contracts.

Then whist considering the criticisms and trying to justify to a friend what the Archbishop had said it suddenly occurred to me that the Church doesn't pay tax either. It is exempt. 

Amazon acts within the law (whether one likes the law or not) as does the Church (whether one likes the law or not). 

Perhaps when the Government finds a way of making companies like Amazon pay tax it should also remove the exemption for the Church.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Just Saying...

I went into town today. The Christmas cards are out. I'm told that the mainland Garden Centres have all their Christmas stock out. 

I've made two of my Christmas cakes. Only four to go. 

Looking on the bright side there's only 96 days and it will be the shortest day and the days will start getting longer again. I realise that that doesn't work for my readers in the Southern Hemisphere. Sorry about that. 

All this is strange in that my 'summer holidays' won't happen for another three weeks when I 'go South' to see my brother and sister-in-law.


Wednesday, 12 September 2018

You Should see The Other Bloke

A couple of months ago I was diagnosed with a carcinoma on my nose and a melanoma or two on my forehead.  This morning the consultant surgeon who removed the squamous carcinoma on my neck four years ago removed the nose lump and grafted skin from my neck to repair the hole.  The amount of damage on my forehead was such that she removed various bits so that they could be sent to the pathologist for analysis. 

I have to say that the whole operation was quite amazing. I had read some while ago that the anaesthetising of the nose was a deeply unpleasant experience so, whilst I wasn't concerned about the operations themselves, I was dreading the anaesthetic. As it was there was less discomfort from that than from the average taking of blood from one's arm and, as you will know, that is a pretty okay event.  So all in all there was no pain or discomfort and I haven't even had to take a paracetamol since the anaesthetic wore off. 

The nursing care was a mixture of efficient professionalism, comforting reassurance and light-hearted banter helped by the fact that one of the nurses had looked after me when I had my first bout of sepsis. 

My plans to go South and stay with my brother and sister-in-law have been thrown into the dustbin because my stitches will not come out for two weeks by which time it will almost be time for my Cancer Trial Review in Glasgow.  So I have re-scheduled the visit to October when, hopefully, there will be no obstacles to a relaxing time away.

Anyway the Good News is that I've been told not to undertake any strenuous work for the next week or two. Seems a bit unnecessary to me but I'm not going to argue. Hopefully I will be spending more time sorting my photos and catching up in Blogland.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Twelve Months On

I cannot believe that it was twelve months ago today that I received the phone call from a surgeon at  Ayr Hospital telling me that I had a kidney stone blocking the exit to my right kidney and that he wanted me to return to hospital immediately (fortunately I was in Glasgow an hour's drive away) and have the stone removed.

Since then I've had 10 hospital admissions related to problems caused by the kidney stone (including four admissions related to sepsis). Of course it's not as simple as that because most of the problems have arisen because of damage caused by radiotherapy in 2009.

Add to that all the hospital visits relating to the cancer treatment and the Drugs Trial I'm on and I must have spent a decent part of the last year at medical appointments of one sort or another.

Anyway my hospital visits, per se, is not really the point of this post because, despite all the hospital etc visits, I feel as fit and healthy as any person my age and am able to live a very full and active life. For this I never cease to be thankful.

At a time of criticism of the NHS I just want, for the umpteenth time, to sing its praises and, of course, praise the wonderful people who work in it.

My pal Anna was up from Bishopbriggs for a few days and we had (as always) a very enjoyable time. As it happens the weather on two out of the three days were also glorious so we went for a walk in the Castle Grounds. It was Saturday morning and all the mountain bikers, walkers and even some less usual modes of transport were out and about. We had a gentle 3 mile walk and it was glorious.

At home the garden is well past its summer best but there is still quite a bit of colour in the Crocosmia, Mombretia (the original or naturalised Crocosmia) Japanese Anenomes, Livingstone Daisies and the Lavatera.