Getting on with life

I am sure you will all agree that it is reasonable to be knocked a bit sideways when you learn that you have to accept you have limited time left. Certainly I spent weeks after hearing the news just NOT thinking straight. The big problem was not knowing how much time and this was reinforced when my doctor called and explained gently that it could be longer than had been suggested even, possibly, as long as a couple of years.

That demanded that I put my brain back into gear – albeit a very low one. No way was I prepared to sit around for a couple of years just waiting to pop off.

However, the big project on which I have spent probably a third of my working hours over the last four years is/was a ‘companion’ to my wife’s novels. This was to include not only details of how the novels were written but quite a lot about the places in which they are set – which are nearly all in the west country of England. Marcia’s descriptions of place are very evocative with the result that we started to get emails asking for photographs and more and more detail about the real places into which her fictitious characters roam (over half her readership is overseas so that is perfectly understandable) . It was as a reaction to those messages that I started the Friday blog (see sidebar to the right).

The ‘companion’ was to include details of the locations past and present and was to be illustrated by photographs (most of which were mine). It was the ‘past’ bit that has taken a great deal of time to research and I fear most of that work will be wasted.

So what is this big project? Well, instead of worrying about it going into book form (which would mean it would have to be finished to be anything at all), I have set up a site A Companion to the novels of Marcia Willett which has quite a bit of good stuff up already but is very much work in progress. It is the perfect project for someone in my position. It will only take a month or so for it to have enough information there to act as a reasonable reference source for Marcia’s readers but it is something to which I can add whenever I feel up to it – after all it is an almost infinite project. What could be better than that?

If you want to have a look, please click here and if you felt you could follow the site that would be absolutely wonderful.

Aspirations

Some while ago I was asked to define my political thoughts and I came up with the following aspirations. That needs a bit of explaining. I think the problem with politics today is that parties think in terms of policies in such a way as to suggest that they have lost sight of what they are there to do. I think that if we thought about what we wanted to achieve first and foremost and then looked at ways and means as to how they should be achieved, we would find two things. The first is that most people actually agree on the ‘whats’ (usually much to their surprise) and secondly you find people from all parts of the political spectrum talking to each other in a generally constructive rather than destructive way.

Here are my ten top aspirations. Please let me know if you disagree with any of them.

No 1: To create an educational, training and employment culture in which all have the opportunity to fulfill their potential no matter how great or small that potential may be.

No 2: To create an economic model where stability, sustainability and the mental and emotional well being of the people are as important as growth.

No 3: To create a culture in which small businesses (the key to the provision of employment) can flourish and so become the real engine rooms we need as the old ways of earning a living become redundant.

No 4: To reduce dependence on imported energy to a minimum. If there should be a serious energy crisis on the mainland, it would good if it made no difference to the UK.

No 5: To reduce dependence on imported foodstuffs to a minimum. It seems silly to be importing food while we have underused farmland and people without jobs.

No 6: To create a social culture in which communities thrive on self-help and reduce their reliance on centralised state benefits. Here I expect to see some controversy but the present system where all in need no matter where have to meet the same criteria to receive the same benefits or care seems to cumbersome to ever achieve very much. Decisions based n thinking about people’s needs and the available local support etc. seems a better option.

No 7: To reduce the gap in the living standards between the richest and the poorest. Reduce not eliminate: it can never be eliminated but that gap is too wide today.

No 8: To ensure that the weak and vulnerable are cared for in a proper and fitting manner. This is now rather personal (for obvious reasons).

No 9: To ensure that the nation’s assets (natural and man-made) are properly maintained and improved.

No 10: To ensure that our defence forces are sufficient for the calls made on them and that we learn (or relearn as we have had to so many times in the past) that it is men that matter (and women too, of course) more than material. You cannot pull trained people out of a bag when you need them. Obviously the hardware is important too but we seem to spend huge sums on ‘stuff’ for which there seems to be no real purpose.

There you have it. No policies just a map for thinking straight.

Thanks for all the fish – and farewell

Having had a good relationship with so many people that I have never met – on social media and in the comment columns of some of our (better) newspapers, I feel rather guilty that for the last six months or so I have gone very quiet. So I decided to explain all in this blog.

Day one: Friday the thirteenth. The thirteenth of March 2015 to be exact. This isn’t really day one but it seems the right place to start this blog.

So day one: a room in our hospital with four people being me (obviously) my wife Marcia (who many will know as she is a very popular novelist), a consultant nurse and a surgeon. It is his unpleasant duty to tell me that a recent scan has uncovered a tumour in the oesophagus just above my stomach, that a biopsy has indicated that it is malignant and that as things are I have a life expectancy of between four and six months.

Oddly, at the time I found could take part in a reasonably intelligent and unemotional discussion as to the options open to me. It was only later that I began to suffer from shock – and I think the same thing was true for Marcia.

The first item on the agenda was to take a decision: to operate or not to operate. Such an operation would involve some pretty formidable surgery which could easily prove fatal to a seventy-six year old man with a heart condition (plus problems in other areas which are showing the signs of age), would be followed by a long period of discomfort assuming I survived it and there would be absolutely no guarantee that it would be successfull. Did I want such surgery? Did I want to go away and think about it before coming to a conclusion?

Can you imagine how horrid it is to have to give that sort of news to anyone? How often do we stop and think about the way the medics have to cope day in and day out with dealing people in my position?

A quick look at Marcia and a prayer of thanksgiving that we understand each other as well as we do and can almost read each others’ thoughts to make sure that we had come to the same conclusion and I found myself saying, quite simply: ‘Thank you but no, thank you,’ or words to that effect.

And so home with a good deal to think about and with both of us fighting to remain unemotional (and, sadly, not always succeeding).

Day sixteen: having rejected surgery, the next stage was a PET scan and today there is a meeting with an oncologist (rather than a surgeon). The PET scan confirmed the presence of that tumour and also showed I have secondaries in my liver. Now for a different decision: to see if the cancer could be controlled using chemotherapy (the medics ruled out radiation treatment as being fairly useless in my case). This one is a more difficult decision than the first so we listen very carefully to everything that the oncologist has to say and leave it at that for now. We need to give ourselves time to talk this through and so we leave for home with a good deal to think about and with both of us fighting to remain unemotional (and, sadly, not always succeeding).

The facts are simple: if no treatment is given I shall die within months (although nobody can predict how many), if treatment is given that time will be extended by a few months (but, again, nobody can predict how many) and the treatment will have unpleasant side effects (although, because we are all different, nobody can tell exactly what they would be nor how unpleasant). So does treatment offer an extension of quality life or not?

The decision is not so simple but suffice to say that we decided against treatment as we felt that the repeated trips to the hospital alone would create more stress without taking into consideration the side effects and we feel that after thirty-five years of happiness it would be dreadful if the end was one of misery. Better that it be a bit shorter but as happy as possible under the circumstances. In short, time to move on.

Now, nearly a month after Day One, I am still finding it difficult to come to terms with what I now know but now I feel more able to share it with a wider audience (I have already explained the position on my regular Friday blog).

Before I finish there is one thing I would like to add. We have the most wonderful health service and the medical staff are fantastic. Of course there will be times when we want more from it than we get but I would ask those who have to wait longer than they want to in A & E or those who suddenly find that an operation has been postponed to ponder on the fact that for the vast majority of people on this planet there is no A & E and operations are not even a faint possibility.

I welcome comments from anyone who feels that they have a worthwhile contribution to make and I will respond to any comment that requires a response – until the time comes when that is no longer possible.

Will I write any more blogs here? I honestly do not know. Certainly I have no desire to write more than I have about politics. So – on the basis that this may well be my last blog – many thanks for all the fish and farewell.

General Election and the Debates and How Much We Subsidise Big Business

Originally posted on Madkentdragon's Blog:

So the debates are going ahead whether the Prime Minister takes part or not, fine – but I won’t be watching.

Why?

Well, I sat and watched all the debates last year and quite honestly, they were all a waste of time and effort.

How many of the statements of intent have come true?

I’ll give you an example “I agree with Nick” – but what did Nick do?

He backed down on all just to become a part of the government.

I will state here that I was brought up as a Liberal and when they became the Liberal Democrats, I was over the moon; it looked like we had strong party leaders who could influence government. Do I vote Lib-Dem now? That’s between me and the ballot box – if I told you what I voted and you followed suit and it was a disaster, I’m not taking…

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Balls and the EU

Isn’t it time that the cold light of day be allowed to shine in on this whole EU matter. There is no good economic reason for being a part of the EU (or if there is one I have yet to see it expressed by way of a convincing argument). There is no good economic reason for leaving the EU (or if there is one I have yet to see it expressed by way of a convincing argument). So, sorry Mt Clinton, for once it is NOT “it’s the economy, stupid”. In that case what is it all about? Well, it could just be that the EU has overstepped the mark when it comes to ignoring people. There are tensions building in the EU which are disturbingly similar to those that built up in the old Austro Hungarian Empire prior to WWI. Clearly these tensions have been created mainly by the introduction of the Euro – but the way that was handled was hardly a prime example of democracy at work. It could be that deep down a lot of people are beginning to think, “The EU is going to end badly – and fairly soon by the look of things. Perhaps the risks associated with taking the UK out as soon as we can in a planned, controlled and civilised way are far less than the risks associated with remaining in the club.” I’m not saying it is – but I for one am now coming round to that way of thinking. Up to now I have wanted the EU to sort out the democratic deficiencies it has created and become properly financially accountable and under those circumstances I would have voted to stay in the club. However, the handling of Greece (and whether we like it or not the people in Greece have spoken) in recent days suggests that the EU cannot offer any solution other than brute force. OL – economic brute force for now but . . . Now, if you don’t give a toss for democracy you will think very differently. If that is the case, please stand up and be counted AND tell us what form of governance you would suggest for all nation states in the EU.

Yorkshire First – Standing Up To Be Counted

Having worked with Lucy Brown for a number of years and both influenced her political thinking (or at least had some small part in it) and been influenced by her, I consider Yorkshire First to be a most important development which I hope will be replicated in other counties.

Yorkshire First – Standing Up To Be Counted.

Yorkshire First – Standing Up To Be Counted

Originally posted on One Yorkshire Voice:

So, barring problems with nominations or any other twists and turns in the saga that constitutes my life at the moment, it gives me great pleasure to tell you I’m intending to stand as a candidate in the local elections in May for Yorkshire First.

For those of you who haven’t heard of YF, they are a group of people from across the political spectrum who are united in their belief that Yorkshire folk deserve more control over our own destinies. A core belief is the principle of devolution to the lowest feasible level; that is, bringing decision-making closer to the people that those decisions affect.

It’s early days and there’s a long time to go before May. However, I’m really looking forward to working with Yorkshire First and getting our message out there. No doubt I’ll post much more regularly in the coming months and I’d highly recommend…

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