27 Endangered Species

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We’re living through strange times, which shows as humans how we’re social animals and crave contact with our species. Like others of you earlier last week, I received a text from the government telling me I was on the ‘endangered species’ list due to my underlying health concerns and I ought to be extra careful to avoid catching Corona Virus.

In addition to this, I had to complete a ‘ReSPECT’ form,https://www.resus.org.uk/respect/ which although not legally binding, gives medics a guide about how you wish to be treated as you near death. My health remains reasonably stable but this took me back to 2017 when I started this blog, having been diagnosed with Mesothelioma, and then to September 2018, when the disease started regrowing, and I had been told I’d probably got months rather than years left to live. I’m not scared of dying, Jesus has taken care of that, but getting Covid19 and dying on my own in a hospital ward seemed too lonely and not what I’d imagined, so the form helps care for my wishes. The doctor who prepared the form with us said that if I was admitted to hospital and put on a ventilator you’re so seriously ill, that even if I did recover, I’d be very unlikely to ever return to the level of health I enjoy at the moment. All of this has reawakened some previous dormant emotions and thoughts. In fact I believe if Covid 19 is to do one thing it is to make us think about our own mortality and realise how out of control we are.

As part of the current Covid 19 restrictions we can no longer meet together as a church family so like many of you we are meeting on video conferencing software and as we can’t be together on a Sunday morning for collective worship we are broadcasting on a Youtube channel . https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5rINTZ0_1fguNo-tH-IQsw

Sunday morning past we looked at a part of the bible called Psalm 90. the key verse is 12:

Teach us to number our days,
    that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Biblegateway.com NIV

It teaches us to remember we are mortal and have a finite number of days of life in our bodies and more pressing is our souls which the Bible teaches live on either in heaven or hell and according to the Bible these are vastly different places to that portrayed in print, film or many other types of media.  Recently late one night I was listening on the radio to a program presented by Colin Murray, I can’t remember the title or exactly what the conversation was but I pricked up my ears when I heard Murray say what  his idea of Heaven was. I hoping I’m quoting him correctly, he said when Gareth Mcauley scored for Northern Ireland v Ukraine at Euro 2016. He said he’d like to live that moment over and over again. To be fair to the bloke, I understand his joy, I love football and it was the first NI goal at a major tournament for 30 yrs, fair play. See the reaction of the fans below:

However my second thought was, he really needs to raise his expectations somewhat, I’m confident Heaven is better than that. Who’d want to miss out?

Before the great lock down, I managed a couple of enjoyable trips out. My son and I met up with our friends Ste, Keith and Alistair up North for Luton’s away game at Wigan. It was a long way to travel for a 0-0 draw but it was about the journey and the people, great to see our friends and be with 1200 Luton away fans. Away games are always a lot of fun. As Keith who is from Glasgow said as we left the ground,”I do miss the police horses separating the fans”. Football has changed a lot in the past 2 decades. It was also an historical trip, as it was one of the last round of games to be played before the EFL cancelled all games.

I’m a bit behind the curve on this, but if you like football and you’re looking for a film to watch, I believe in miracles is a good watch. It charts the success of Nottingham Forest from 2nd division also rans to double European champions all set against a late 70’s sound track.Thankyou to Graham for the recomendation.

I also managed a cheeky trip to the St Neots Beer Festival with my friends Phil and John. It was a good evening and was nice to spend time with them and also sample some unusual beers. Although I did draw the line at liquorice porter… Yakima Gold and Brewers Gold from Crouch Vale brewery were good.Beer festival 1

In these times of houseboundness, walking the dog has become the escape pass, the recent round of good weather helping.

in the park

There doesn’t seem too much else to write about at the moment. I hope you keep well.

 

 

26. Four Weddings and a…

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Hello again everyone, it’s been a while but perhaps not too much has happened of note, I guess dear reader you can be the judge of that . My health remains relatively stable although I’ve noticed I’m slowing down and my physical endurance has lessened. In other news there has been a major change at home as we’ve adopted Ellie, a 2 yr old border collie cross. She seems to be settling into family life and is a lot of fun, and hopefully she’ll  help all of our mental health.  Those of you who have followed the blog for a while will remember the earlier blog (no.4) when with the help of dad we put some fence panels.  We’ve now had to extend the fence panels with trellis to make jumping on the wood store and then over the fence less attractive. See the background of the shredder photo later in the blog.

In wider family news, Mum is in hospital having had an op to remove a cyst on her ovaries. It turned out to be a 10 kg lump which the surgeons thankfully successfully removed in what was a big operation; no wonder she was feeling rough. She’s on the mend but is yet to be discharged. Regrettably there has been a fire at my parents home which started in their neighbours garage and spread to my dad’s garage and shed; both have been destroyed including most of my dad’s tools and other stuff collected over 50+yrs, I’m gutted for him. Thankfully the fire brigade were able to prevent it spreading to their bungalow although there is smoke damage. My brother has been super, taking charge of the situation. Although stuff has been destroyed we’re grateful nobody was hurt or worse.

We’ve also attended the first of four weddings we’ve been invited to this year. There are phases of weddings… those of your peer group and now we feel our age as we’re being invited to the weddings of the children of our friends. It was lovely to be able to go to the wedding of Jake and Izzy which was held in a lovely converted barn complex just outside of our home town of St.Neots. Photos below.

We had had to get my Son a new suit, he’s growing up fast!

We had another chance to go and see Luton play with the group of friends that we play fantasy football league together. Originally we were all from St Neots and now I’m the only one still living on the town. Some of us met up for the Luton v Cardiff game as 2 of our no. are Cardiff fans. First stop was a cafe for an all day breakfast- top nosh , and then on to the game which finished 1-0 to Cardiff 😦 ah well. The joy was in meeting up together and enjoying watching Phil and Noah having to sit on their hands as their team scored. Great that Phil was kind enough to loan Neil his  hat for the photo;)

We’ve also had the opportunity to do do some pre spring gardening. many thanks go to our friend Lucy who provided both expertise and elbow grease to significantly improve the look and health of one side of the back garden. My job was feeding the shredder, which had a voracious appetite occasionally choked with a blocked throat. Cate and our son finished the shredding later in the day. Thanks also go to our lovely neighbours Alan and Kath for the use of their green bin after we filled ours.

 

I took part or rather partook at a mini beer festival held by the scout group my son is part of. It was great to meet up with friends and also taste some previously untried ales. Micro Brewery, the Potton Brewery Company presented some nice ales.

 

I also introduced my German friend Philip to a particularly niche piece of British culture…..the raffle, where I won 10 kg of potatos, yes really! Split between Graham and myself as he both bought the ticket and carried them home afterwards- stirling effort sir.

wiggins_podium

If you don’t believe it’s niche then cast your mind back to 2012 when Bradley Wiggins became the first Briton to win the Tour de France. As he stood aloft the podium on the Champs Elysees a microphone was thrust in his hand to address the crowds and he says “I’ll go and draw the raffle numbers” most of the worlds press and  fans looked quizzical, bar the Brits who were laughing heartily at his parody of  village fetes, school fayres and social clubs and indeed beer festivals across this fair Isle of ours.

Of recent times, we’ve been watching the detective series ‘Bosch’ with our daughter.

BoschS4_090517-0639.ARW

We’re just starting season 5. As humans we have a great need for justice and to see justice done. Maybe that’s why we like Cop shows. I’m glad that even although we live in a world where there is a significant amount of injustice ultimately we can know there will be justice served up by almighty God and the Hosts (Armies) of Heaven when Jesus returns and everything will be made right.

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”[a] for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.
quoted from Revelation Ch.21 v1 (NIV) translation.

That is because the biggest injustice of all time was Jesus being punished for the wrongs of others that they (we) might be made of the same standing of Christ the first born Son, simply through faith

Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory
quoted from Romans  Ch.8 v17.

Therefore he returns not as saviour but as judge…. both hooray and eeek for ultimate justice.

25 Happy Christmas

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Here we are again with my 25th post, which nicely coincides with Christmas Day- the 25th December… accidental coincidence. I wonder if I should get a silver something to celebrate the occasion. As per the last few posts, my health has thankfully remained stable with no noticeable deterioration, except my mental health and my ability to cope with stuff to the point where I’ve decided on the advice of good friends and my GP to try using anti-depressants. It’s too early in the cycle to say if they’re effective yet.

I am however thankful to God for his kindness to me, I do wonder what is ahead and although I am fearful of the way that I will decline. I try to trust God’s sovereignty over this as well as my family’s future although I am finding this difficult. What does that mean you may ask, well as a Christian, I can trust God’s promises to me in the bible that my life isn’t out of control and mastered by random events or the carbon in my cellular structure, but in the hands of Him who sees the whole picture of human kind and beyond, not just the minutiae of the detail and therefore knows what is best. Family life continues to be somewhat fragile in nature. I guess it’s understandable, but hard never the less: it’s this that makes it hardest for me to trust God, but we do.

As life continues apace, we’ve had an impromptu trip up to Bridlington again where we met up with Cate’s parents. It was brisk on the beach and both our children loved running around on the beach with my father in law’s guide dog. Some days I think I’d quite like a dog and then I remember one thing- vets bills, although my resistance is wavering. Our 24 hr stay in Brid ended with fish and chips and mushy peas for some, curry sauce for others.

brid 2019-2

My son and I have managed our first trip this season to Kennilworth Road to see Luton play with many thanks to our friend Iain. Unfortunately, whereas the last 2 seasons we’ve swept all before us, this season in the 2nd tier of English football, is more sobering and we lost on the day we visited (to compete well you have to have the best players , to get the best players you have to spend big and that is beyond LTFC’s means at the moment) some of you in the UK may have seen the news article about 2 weeks ago regarding the overspending of clubs in the 2nd tier of English football in a gamble to get promoted to the premier league where the proper big money is. Football is almost a metaphor on life and as I discussed with one of my work colleagues it would be a lot easier if you didn’t care. Unfortunately I do and my tribal loyalties lie with Luton Town.

Ltfc2

Suffice to say my big coat came out again for the football!

In our house, we’ve had a new kitchen fitted, I held out for 20 yrs, which I think is commendable – the kitchen wasn’t new when we moved in and we (Dad and I) replaced the worktops in 2010, but I’d finally lost the will to fix a draw front back in place for the umpteenth time. We spent 3 weeks with the house covered in a fine film of dust eating easy to cook meals from cartons, take-aways and the generosity of friends, however it’s very nice to now be cooking, eating and living in the new kitchen. We look forward to a nicely browned turkey in it tomorrow.

On TV, we recently watched a documentary made by and about journalist and broadcaster, Bill Turnbull and his diagnosis of prostate cancer. It was called ‘Staying Alive.’

bill turnbull

You can view it here: https://www.channel4.com/programmes/bill-turnbull-staying-alive

Turnbull 65, his face swelled with the side effects of chemotherapy, was shown trying chemotherapy, cannabis for medicinal purposes (although he was at one point shown off his face giggling) and adopting a healthier diet. He did admit he missed eating and drinking things he enjoyed. However, even after all his endeavours, his PSA reading continues to rise. Maybe because I’m not driven to somehow defeat cancer, I’ve taken a different approach. I’m now enjoying whatever I like to eat and drink… Cate now thinks it will be a race between heart disease and cancer for me. In fact I believe, rather I know, I’ve been freed from the fear of death by the once and for all death and resurrection of Jesus…it’s brilliant, rather He is brilliant!

I’d previously knocked my obituaries section on the head but I’m reviving it (if you’ll excuse the term) for a person who played out one of my favourite memories of childhood. Of whom am I speaking? Former England Cricket captain and broadcaster Bob Willis. He died aged 70. His cricketing Zenith came at Headingly in 1981, which somehow remains (despite the competing claims of Edgebaston 2005 and Headingly 2019) the most resonant of all England Test wins. The match is best remembered for Ian Botham’s batting, but it was Willis who achieved the truly incredible: with Australia needing just 130 to win, he raced in, eyes blazing, over after over, to bowl them out for 111, finishing with eight wickets for 43. If you don’t like or understand Cricket… what’s wrong with you?

Bob Willis1

Finally let me wish you a very Happy Christmas please don’t let the season pass you by without considering the man who gave the season it’s name. The God man, a man of sorrows who’s birth we celebrate as he came with one purpose, his mission was to die. 600 yrs before his birth, Isaiah the prophet wrote this as recorded in the bible, ‘He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care.’ Isaiah 53v3 NLV.

Yet he lived a perfect sinless life and was murdered for us who all justly live under the curse of death. Yet Jesus broke that curse for all who believe in him so that we might have eternal life. ‘For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.’ Romans ch6 v23 NIV

Through his sorrow we receive Joy!

Happy Christmas friends!

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19 NewYear greetings

Hello one and all.

Let me start with my health news.  I continue to recover from the stroke with more  functionality returning to my left hand. However, fatigue continues to be a problem, I usually have to sleep every afternoon and this is something I have to give in to; for example, the middle weekend in December, Cate’s family came down for a pre Christmas, Christmas lunch, as we knew that we wouldn’t see them over the holidays, I was so tired after main course I had to lie down and didn’t make it to pudding.  Those of you who know me know I enjoy food and hence leaving the table mid meal was a big deal. Thankfully Cate saved me some and I indulged on christmas pudding and custard for supper. When people ask me ‘how are you?’ I reply ‘average’ as as I awkwardly am not sure how else to respond truthfully. The reality is I’m recovering slowly from the stroke but the cancer is alive and active and think I’m probably starting to feel its’ affects in my bowel.

As I posted in my last blog the new wet room has allowed me to be much more independent but I was recently reminded of a funny incident in hospital. Cate, bless her, used to arrive every day before 9 so she could help me get into the shower, I wasn’t safe on my own, trust me when I tell you it’s a lot easier to strip naked in front of your wife than it is a nurse. However, on one of the first occasions I was sitting on a stool in the shower and as Cate went to turn the shower off she accidentally set it to cold. I promptly jumped off the stool like a scolded cat without remembering at the time I couldn’t walk and my left leg was pretty useless. Down I went like a sack of spuds but thankfully I was unhurt and it was therefore funny… however we didn’t share the story with the medical staff!

Back to Christmas, I admit we didn’t think I’d see this and I noticed people seemed to be expecting us to plan an extra special celebration, whatever that looks like. We were careful to keep our expectations in check for the festivities and not over play it. As we did last year, we were able to attend the school Christmas concert which is held in the historic building  of the local parish church. Our daughter plays in the school band of which we’re very pleased for her developing the God given gifts she has.  She also did a reading which was from Luke chapter 2 and included verses 13 &14 (this is the account of the angels appearing to the shepherds, announcing the birth of Jesus)

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom his favour rests”

I must have read it or heard it read hundreds of times, but it struck me we often miss the point or rather mistranslate the point.  If there’s a row at work or anywhere during this season some one will say” what happened to peace on earth and goodwill to all men”, even the Queen alluded to this in her speech to the nation on Christmas day.

However, that misses the point. I think it means with Jesus – God in flesh – coming to the earth and through his subsequent death peace with God is possible… ‘ with whom his favour rests’. This last phrase shows us we can have peace with God and be part of his kingdom by his grace not through our own good works.  No matter how good we try to be we can’t reach the standard that Jesus sets by his life. Don’t get God confused with the fairy tale of Santa Claus where we have to be good to receive our presents. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFytqODSp7Qa  God says if you think you’re good then there’s no place in his kingdom.  Once we realise how far from God we are then we can call on Jesus for forgiveness – SUPER EH?!

My only contribution to the Christmas festivity preparations was that I kept our (rooted) christmas tree alive in the garden during our long hot summer. My favourite decoration is a children’s nativity scene as shown below and as featured in last years blog at this time of year…. see if you can spot the differences in the photo below and the blog from last christmas

As last year, we purposely had a fairly low key New Year celebration we and stayed in just the four of us. I felt melancholy about the whole affair and when people kindly wish us a happy new year. I’m not sure this is a ‘happy new year’ but still a joyful one as has been explained through and documented in earlier posts

I didn’t want to do any obituaries this time (I’m not even sure how it started) however, in an error last time and as pointed out by one keen eyed reader, I should have included Stan Lee creator of marvel comics and the chap behind, the hulk, iron man, black panther, spider man and the fantastic four amongst others. Again however, death doesn’t recognise the festive season so here is my pick of the others.

Paddy Ashdown or rather Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon was a prominent politician here in the UK being a former leader of the Liberal Democrat party (arguably the 3rd party of UK politics), he died aged 77 after revealing he was suffering from bladder cancer.  Ashdown was seen as a bit of an action man of UK politics, probably due to his previous career as a royal marines officer. This probably served him well in a role as High Representative for Bosnia-Herzegovina during the Balkans war of the 1990’s.

Finally actress Dame June Whitfield died aged 93, appearing in radio and tv comedy roles since the 1950’s. She was a regular of tv for me growing up in the 70’s and 80’s staring along side Terry Scott in domestic sitcom  Terry and June.  Later, during the 90’s she had a renaissance as Edina’s mother in  Ab Fab.

Let me finish by saying I hope you had a happy and blessed Christmas and experience a joyful New Year.

 

Funeral Plans

Hi all, Cate here again.

Caleb’s funeral will be on Tuesday 13th July at 1pm at St Neots Evangelical Church.

Please see the link below for more details and how to book.

Sadly numbers are still restricted which is why we need to have a booking system, but we would love to have as many of you there as possible.  We won’t know exactly how many we can safely fit in until everyone books and we see what the groupings are, so please do book if you would like to come. The service will be live streamed from the SNEC Services YouTube channel for those unable to attend. The link to that will be on the website too.

https://www.snec.org.uk/policies/caleb-saunderson-funeral

Meso Far So What Now?

Hi everyone, this is Cate.

For the last 4 years I have co-edited these blog posts along with our daughter Briony (she’s better at grammar!) but for this one, I am the author…it’s a daunting task and the reality is, it means this is the post we’ve all been dreading.

The deterioration that Caleb told of in his last blog took a sudden step up in pace last week, and there’s no easy way to say it, so I just will, he died on Thursday afternoon.  He was at home with his family close by and although absolutely heartbreaking, it was very peaceful for which I am very thankful.

The last few weeks have been difficult as his strength weakened and the frustration that went with that, but equally we’ve had some very lovely times catching up with friends and family that in some cases we haven’t seen for some time.  Meeting the newest member of the family, reminiscing about Uni days, early work days, old cars, a cow called Samantha, lots of tea and cake (fruitcake and wensleydale of course!), kebabs, McDonalds, Speedway, walks by the river (the joy of realising we could manage the dog and the wheelchair!) Lots of laughter and lots of tears.

Caleb did not fear death – he looked forward to meeting his Saviour Jesus and we take great comfort in knowing that he is now with Him in that place where there is ‘…no more death, or mourning, or crying or pain…’ (Revelation 21:4).  This doesn’t mean he wasn’t sad to be leaving us, he was, or that we are not sad to have lost him, we are, personally I feel like a part of my heart has been ripped out, there have been many tears and there will be many many more, I am sure.  But I also have an indescribable peace and quiet joy from knowing that the certain hope Caleb had in Jesus, is now a certain reality.  Caleb was precious to Jesus, so precious that He died to pay the penalty for his sin and precious enough to call him home to be with him forever.  Please don’t be upset at me referring to Caleb’s sin – yes, he was a great bloke, I know that, I have loved him for almost 28 years, but he was a sinful bloke, I know that, I have loved him for almost 28 years!  And Jesus loves him even more than I do! I know that one day I will see them both – I look forward to that day.

Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.’ John 6 : 68-69

32. All change here please

All change at platform 6 please as the train terminates here.

After 4 yrs since being diagnosed with mesothelioma, and after being given an initial statistical life expectancy of 12 months, my health although slowly deteriorating (I’m getting weaker), has remained relatively stable. Three weeks ago that changed. What started as minor temperature spikes and feeling unwell has continued. The hospital have been super and treated me quickly with antibiotics and steroids for the minor infection which cleared up pretty quickly. I even nicked one of the kids school covid tests to confirm what I already knew. It wasn’t a covid infection. However I’ve been fatigued and feeling rough ever since. Blood tests revealed that my liver function numbers are currently going off the scale. The conclusion being that the cancer is metastasizing into my liver but as the doctor said “You’re not turning yellow yet so it’s still working”. Although arguably inevitable, the sudden speed of decline has shocked me, I’m so fatigued most of the time I’m a bit useless. For the last 4 years I felt like a bit of a fake, but no longer, this feels cruddy all the time. I’ve had both an iron infusion and a blood transfusion which were disappointing in that they didn’t have their normal revitalising effect.

iron..rusty water
red cells

The situation has also initiated a grieving reaction with us again not experienced since 2017. I think this is healthy though, especially as we don’t grieve like those that have no hope.

13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. from the Bible, 1 Thessalonians ch. 4 vv13-14

The facts of the matter are that the genuine historical Jesus is who he said he was and His promises for a flawed hypocrite like me hold true. Especially if the rest of what he did already does.

That is not to say emotions have not been somewhat heightened in the Saunderson household the last couple of weeks….. not helped by a bit of steroid fueled ‘roid rage’. However I believe much like drunkenness, ..it really wasnt’t the beer or steroids that were talking, the words/anger/were in there anyway just released by alcohol, steroids or other factor. It’s what the bible calls original sin and what we so clearly observe in children. and are less able to see in ourselves.

However life does continue with it’s many joys, one of which was going via ‘Zoom’ to Jonny and Lucy’s wedding. Jonny was one of the lads in a youth group I used to help run back in the day. It was great to see some of the other lads spotted around the Zoom screen too and Dave the Best Man actually at the ceremony.

Jonny and Lucy

It’s been a joy to see our parents again after lockdown has ended, especially for Cate with whom I made a birthday trip to South Yorkshire. It’s been 9 months since they last saw each other in person. Obviously we carefully studied the guidelines on hugging first…..ha ha ha.

Cate and her parents…strong XX gene
Cate and her Bruv

I’ve also had a cracking day out to the RAF museum at Hendon courtesy of my good friend Rich. We saw the only restored JU87 Stuka dive bomber in the country.

Rich, me and a JU87

31,This is just the trailer

Social media, and I include this blog in that, is like Match of the Day (for those who don’t know, this is late Saturday evening must see tv 😉 in the UK). How so, you ask? Well, it’s just the edited highlights of the days top flight football and not the dull troublesome bits. As my pal says about the subject,”you never see the tears of a clown”. Well although I report some of our family news, the truth is life can get a bit tetchy at times, which I don’t report on. However a highlight since I last posted, was Briony becoming an adult officially. We have acquitted all of our legal responsibilities unless she wants to go into higher education when the government are interested in us again…in the form of a tax. I’m also a YouTube ‘star’ or rather contributor, since our church posted a video interview with me in a series called ‘Real Lives’. To be honest, I hate the sound of my own voice, but in case you’re interested here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S8aR5cwpKcs&t=4s

Birthday girl with her new Oboe

I thought I’d lead into this blog with a tale of warmth about a trailer. This is not a story about an unreliable film trailer , you know it promises so much but is a poor representation of the film when you eventually get to see it, this is a robust reliable trailer that helped explain the meaning of ‘de facto’. The more observant among you will have spotted said trailer in the last blog supporting a motorbike and a teenage boy. The said yellow trailer belongs to my dad and had been at my parents house from my brother and I being kids, then for about a decade it lived at my brother’s house while he did a lot of home construction and renovation. And for the past 3 years, its lived at our house. All 3 of us think it’s pretty handy to have access to a trailer but none of us really wants to keep it in our garden; its a bit of an eye sore in the front garden and Cate refers to it as the skip! A few years ago, pre covid, (remember?), we had a friend round for Sunday dinner. Phil studied political science at university, and Briony and he were talking around the subject when it got onto North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un. Briony asked if said man was a king, Phil replied “he was a de-facto king,” Briony asked what de-facto meant. I said, the yellow trailer belongs to Grandpa, yet when Uncle Nathan had it for a long time, he was the de-facto owner, now I’ve got it I’m the de-facto owner. It has done so many handy jobs, in act I should have blogged about this last time out, but in between lockdown 2.0 and 3.0 we drove to just outside Norwich to pick up a lathe purchased on Ebay. Sold unseen, always nerve wracking, but it was good. This was a replacement for the one destroyed in the fire in my dad’s garage. It was a nice day out and included the first time I’ve eaten a Subway, yes really! My dad has given it a clean and a paint and it’s now installed in the rebuilt garage.

sad sight
Subway stop
Installed

Since then, the trailer has moved 2 sofas for friends moving house and gathered 2 loads of wood, thanks to Reece and our friend Rich for doing the heavy lifting, I did the supervising.

Although my health has been relatively good although limited, ‘a man’s got to know his limitations’, if you know you know. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uki4lrLzRaU

As my body weakens and my health limits me, it feels very emasculating. However, a few weekends or so back I logged up all the afore mentioned wood with the chainsaw, using a chainsaw gets the testosterone flowing, Grrr. and it feels amazing to think you’re providing for your family in a useful way. I couldn’t have done it without Reece who did all the labouring and heavy lifting. He worked really hard, also doing the clearing up afterwards.

More rust than paint
Grrrrrr. Ave it
|Top Labourer

It then came time to split the wood with the axe. That is beyond me physically, but Reece did a fantastic job with the swinging blade, this time with me labouring for him, and Cate stacking the wood.

Axeman
Splitting
Job done!

Those of you who follow me on Facebook will know how incredibly blessed I am to have had the first covid vaccine injection and so has Cate now, which makes it a double blessing.- she gets it as my carer.

Back of the Net

I’m struck that the vaccines are being hailed as the great saviour of humanity which of course they are, but only a temporary one. Apparently, dependant on my length of life, I will probably need a covid vaccine jab every year to refresh my antibodies as the virus redresses itself. Of course if Mesothelioma or Covid wasn’t going to get me then I won’t out survive some other malignancy, or heart disease, stroke or everyone’s perennial favourite old age. In a nation/society, where Covid aside, we like to think we’re immortal, I’m surprised at how many people believe there is something after death…. ‘he or she..insert name…..will be looking down on us now‘. I don’t know if this is a genuine belief or a desperate grab at some kind of hope. I believe in life before death and after death, mainly because of the promises of Jesus Christ, as he claimed ‘I’ve come they might have life and life to the full”. John ch.10v10 and whoever believes in him (Jesus) shall not perish but have eternal life. John ch3v16. That’s what keeps me going. Check this out if you want to know what it’s like not to be scared of death, it’s a good poem.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-KIfoR_Lus

Post script.

I wrote the paragraphs above a few weeks back since then I’ve had some more medical interventions. I was having a succession of headaches over a number of weeks so the hospital acted swiftly and gave my head a MRI scan. They were delighted to tell me I had no lesions on my brain but it did show I’d had some more strokes. they were fairly minor and were adjacent to the damage caused by my previously some what larger stroke over 2 yrs ago. That is probably why I didn’t notice them. Cate did point out they might have happened when I was on my own, hence not noticing them or maybe I just went a bit vacant, not uncommon for me. That was on the Friday I had planned to use the chainsaw on the Saturday on a second trailer load of wood we had previously collected. Cate banned me! However, she had relented by the following weekend by which time the medics had me on a double dose of blood thinners (anti coagulant) however by then I pointed out I had now got a pair of chainsaw safety trousers (unlike the pics above) so had mitigated the risk. The wood was sawn by me (Reece labouring), chopped by Reece and stacked by Cate. There were no incidents of note.

Photos Reece with new axe and finished stack

The axe man with his newaxe and the work of his hands scattered behind him
Job done again, lovely tessellation with a similar aesthetic beauty to dry stone walls

Happy Easter everyone- don’t miss the man at the centre of it all.

30. Happy Christmas.

Here we are again, coming up to one of my favorite times of the year, although already curtailed by another government cycle of lockdown, release, lockdown. Friends of ours who live in West Africa have returned to the UK temporarily, and we joke with each other that they have returned from a part of the world with notoriously unstable governments to a totalitarian regime in this country. where we are under benign house arrest. Just to echo and before there is a storm in the comments, it’s a joke everyone, but as the saying goes, ‘many a true word said in jest’.

I was reminded not to miss the point when Brian a friend from work sent me this link to a school nativity

production. I suspect we get taken in by images on cards of Mary, Joseph and a new born Jesus with a healthy glow of light around the stable. It’s all very cosy. However, if we examine the bible text, was there an inn keeper or stable? The account given to us by Dr Luke in Ch. 2 reads:
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

We note that Joseph was returning to his home town where you would naturally expect a family member to let them stay, yet we see there was no place for them in the guest room, was that because of their social isolation due to Mary’s unexplained pregnancy? So they end up with the animals. Not ideal and in my opinion, not very cosy, and where does she put her newborn, what if we also exchange the word manger for animal feeding trough. To be honest, it’s wretched, here we see the King of the universe entering space and time, and exchanging the riches of heaven for a life of human poverty in a part of the world occupied by a brutal foreign power. Ultimately, he is to be murdered by the occupiers, at the bequest of their hosts with a criminals death on a Roman cross. Yet he does this willingly for our sake. Its pretty comfortable to leave Baby Jesus in that manger and not see the man who lived the life we could never live and is sacrificed on a cross to die the death we should have. And yet through this and his subsequent resurrection, we don’t need to live under the curse of sin or in fear of death. Christmas is different this year for sure but Jesus brings us hope. To quote somebody else:

Covid cannot cancel Christmas,
It is the context for Christmas
because here is where Christmas shines.
It shines in the dark.
Glen Skriviner

Our church Christmas carols were different this year with carols by carlight in the local school carpark with an open top double decker bus acting as the main stage.

Christmas carols Covid style

Life has continued for our family in an air of ‘normality’ we’re very thankful that both Briony and Reece could attend school all term with minimal disruption. The stability of my physical health is another thing to be thankful for. Reece and I have been doing some fabrication (that’s not writing fake cheques for the uninformed!), we made a table on wheels for the garage using an old exercise bike frame and a piece of worktop from Dad’s more than extensive collection of wood. Photo shows Darth fabricator and son. No star Wars based remarks in the comments please. Remember folks, Star Wars is a successful work of fiction not a way of life.

Photo

Darth Fabricator and son

We also had a ‘pre tier update’ meeting at my Uncle’s farm in Cardington with my cousin Philip and his lad for a bit of moto crossing. initially we were going to meet up on Mon 21st but when it was announced that Bedfordshire was going into tier 3 we moved it to the preceding Friday as the boys finished school early, good job we did as between then and the Monday Bedfordshire went into the new tier 4, called as such for political reasons to avoid saying lockdown. A pre lockdown good time was had by all, a broken drive chain called stumps just as the umpires were offering the light. Unloading and jet washing took place in the dark, ‘fun’.

Cold Hands!
Pre unloading

Finally may you genuinely know the peace of God this Christmas time.

29. Silver Star

This blog is an addition or rather an addendum to the previous one. Firstly, I want to explain something that might have been misinterpreted. Last time out, I said I’d refused further treatment as I wanted quality not quantity. What I should have added, was that immunotherapy has a host of potential side effects, and whilst not as likely or predictable as chemotherapy, the risk remains. As my health is currently very stable and we’re enjoying that, and thanking God for His mercy, we didn’t want to put that at risk. Maybe that was an error on our part but we’re confident we’re supported in God’s hands and cast ourselves on His mercy.

Another potential misunderstanding was my comment on the governments reaction to Covid19. I wasn’t suggesting civil disobedience but just gave my thought of ‘we’ve all given up living to try and avoid dying.’ This was summed up nicely more recently in a Vox Pop from Barnsley, in South Yorkshire, as they entered tier 3 Covid restrictions. I have a soft spot for Barnsley as it’s the home town of my wife Cate, and most of her family still live in and around there. For instance I was delighted when their football team survived relegation on the last day of last season along with Luton. I have a happy experience of being welcomed into Cate’s family. With that in mind we took notice of the TV news when the tier 3 restrictions were imposed on South Yorkshire and then Barbara the pensioner gave one of the most reasoned well thought out town centre Vox Pop’s of the last long 7 months. Enjoy the video. She articulates well the point I was trying to make in my last blog.

https://youtu.be/JlY0HMHTAvs

Cheers Barbara. Red, blue, yellow or green whatever your colour, surely being in Government is difficult and unenviable work.

On a happier note, Cate and I celebrated our silver wedding anniversary. Though no trips to Rome or Paris for us due to health restrictions both governmental and self imposed. We had a lovely day trip to Belton House in Lincolnshire. I say Belton House but really I mean the attached parkland. I was pleased at this, as if you’ll excuse my ignorance, when it comes to art, architecture and interior design, but if you’ve seen inside one historic country pile you’ve seen inside them all. We had a super walk around the parkland with the dog in tow, or rather vice versa, she was towing us! We spotted the herd of ‘wild’ deer who leaped over the boundary fence from a standing start… impressive. We finished the walk with a cream tea. Once home we went to a local Italian restaurant La Cucina which I would recommend to all you locals.

My health remains stable thankfully in part, to another iron infusion, last count I was up to 11g/dl, a new record high for me, I’ve got another blood test next week. Anecdotally, I feel as well as I have done over the last 12 months. Photo below shows the bag of iron, albeit too far away.

My Son and I have just completed another little project, making a fire pit from an old washing machine, the drum is ideal. We both love fire, I think in another life in a parallel universe, away from the love and discipline of my parents, I could have been an arsonist. Roll on 5th Nov.

We’ve just had the half term holiday here in the UK. We got a few jobs done including cutting back the hedge. I say we…. the worm has turned and I’ve transferred wielding of the hedge trimmer to my son. I neither have the strength or endurance these days or arguably the balance. I decided that getting the job done rather than me going to A&E was the better option even if it felt like relinquishing my weak hold on being Alpha male. I hope the old boy thought getting to use the hedge trimmer was more of a privilege than a chore. I remember as a boy being peeved that Dad used to get the ‘glamour’ job with the hedge trimmer or chainsaw and my brother and I got to help clear up. With hindsight, both my brother and I reached adulthood with all the digits on both hands intact.

We also had a daytrip to the Norfolk coast, namely Holkham Beach. It was fresh as one might expect for October in the UK, but lovely to have such freedom and let the dog have a different walk to normal. To have the means to get there and the health to walk is a constant reminder of God’s mercy and kindness to us. The beauty of the beach, dunes and sea is also an aide memoir to praise Him.

28 Where’s the Pause Button?

Sorry for the long delay in posting, to be honest, what with the coronavirus lockdown not much noteworthy has happened. Arguably, one of the biggest thing was my much loved Luton Town FC surviving (that is avoiding relegation) by winning the last game of the championship season. It was like a throw back to the 1980’s but no David Pleat in his brown suit running across the pitch following Raddy Antish’s late goal at Maine Road in 1983 to Relegate a pre moneyed Man city. For the really keen/committed amongst you, watch these:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CvvjUelc0k.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=os3oOE3UFag
And now the new season has started with a win over Barnsley and Wayne Rooney’s ‘Dodgy’ Derby County (as bent as a 9 bob note), family bragging rights to me haha.

My health continues to be fairly stable. I’ve had 2 iron infusions of late to combat anemia which seemed to have helped, giving me more energy, increasing my Hb level from 7-8 g/dl to about 10g/dl p. To contextualise that, healthy men generally have a Hb reading in the range 12-18 g/dl. An iron infusion is given via a drip into a vein and looks like rusty water, which I suppose it is minus the tetanus. I still get very tired, pretty easily but I’m pleased to have recieved this to improve my quality of life. Regarding life I’ve out lived the Argos Catalogue. we were both born in 1972 yet despite the naysayers I’ve survived longest…
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-53592591.

More recently, I was invited to see the Oncologist to discuss some immunotherapy treatment which due to Covid is now available on the NHS. This was the same guy who told me in Sept 2018 “you’ve got months rather than years.” I reminded him of this and he responded in good humour to say “I don’t mind getting it wrong the right side of the line” I agreed. I turned down the opportunity of further treatment as to quote from the funeral of an old Christian friend Maurice Cirket. Maurice had turned down days away from home to have Kidney dialysis and it was said of him “Maurice went for quality rather than quantity.” It influenced my approach considerably, seeing the confidence he had in Jesus to keep Him to the end and through the curtain of death.
I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.  2 Timothy ch.1 v12 NIV Bible

So wrote the Apostle Paul to a young Christian Pastor called Timothy in Ephesus, Which is in Modern day Turkey.

During Lockdown, we’ve been blessed to have access to a garden through the back door, and a local park with 80 acres of open space and trees less than 15 mins walk away. I was slightly peturbed to see all the public shaming of people who flocked to the London parks on sunny weekends. I’m guessing a lot of these folk had been shut up in tower blocksfor weeks previous and just wanted fresh air and greenery to look at. Due to population density, everyone else wanted to do the same thing. In the Uk we all seem to have accepted lockdown fairly unquestionably. The thing is when you’ve been told you’ve got limited life expectancy or say you’re an octogenarian, then  months stuck in doing very little bar running your mental health aground, is a large percentage of time out of what you’ve potentially got left and as the title says there is no pause button to pick it up again, that’s gone forever. A quote I heard which I like was ‘ everybody is so busy not living to ensure we don’t die‘.

I guess the reality is it’s the same for all of us as we don’y know what’s around the corner.
Teach us to number our days,
    that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
God tells us in the Bible in Psalm 90v12.

I was shielding during Lockdown as the government decided I was vulnerable, (see my last post) but whilst not being cavalier or stupid, I adopted a liberal approach to it based on the reasons above and that I don’t fear death as Jesus is who he said he is and has done what was and is promised.

One of the highlights of the summer was the chance to get away on holiday for a couple of weeks up in Yorkshire and Northumberland respectively. It was not a staycation, which must be the most misused word of the summer, Like millions of others we happily take holidays in this sceptered Isle. Of course a staycation is when you can’t go on holiday so stay at home and maybe have a couple of daytrips out. The misuse of the term staycation stinks of classism. Our first week was in Bridlington, a place we’ve visited many times due to the kindness of my brother in law Pete and has been documented in this blog before. It was especially nice to meet up with our friend Andrew this time around. We know Andrew from his time living down here and we got to know him as we were part of the same Church family. He has now moved to near Malton with his work. On the day he visited we wandered into Brid along the front and purchased and consumed, Hot doughnuts, Ice cream cones and fish and chips… in that order. I did point out to Him that whilst I wasnt too bothered about my coronary health anymore, he probably ought to take more care. Here we all are on the harbour wall minus me behind camera. Good social distancing don’t ya think?

Andrew and the 4 fairer looking Saundersons

Fraisthorpe Beach

The second week we went to Boulmer in Northumberland. The wide open beaches were lovely to walk the dog along and my newly working iron infusion gave me alot more energy which was handy. As we do when up in the North East we arranged to meet up with our friends the Mowats, this time ina small seaside town/Village called Amble was chosen where it was planned to consume fish and chips. Unfortunately as we were about to leave our holiday home to travel south to Amble we realised the dog was missing and had some how escaped the dog secure garden. To be fair, she is quite athletic and I don’t think the side gate was as big a challenge as it could have been. Pandemonium ensued in the ranks and whilst I held the fort the other fitter 3 family members ran off to look for her. Eventually Cate had a call on her mobile “Have you lost a dog?” “YES!” came her slightly hysterical retort, “she’s in the back of my car” Que relief. I turns out Ellie was chasing another car, when a kindly gentleman stopped and scooped her up into his. A rendezvous was agreed and all was well. She’d gone about a 1/4 mile up the road. We all descended on to Amble and enjoyed fish and chips I even took a nostalgic stroll down memory lane and had a can of Ben Shaws bitter shandy, although I think it was probably Bass Shandy we got from the chip shop as Kids round at our Nan’s house and we thought we were as manly as Dad! I don’t think my brother and I have achieved that yet.

I though I ought to post this sharpish before we have another period of benign house arrest.

24. Biker boy

I can’t believe this is the 24th time I’ve posted and I’m a bit late with this one so please accept my apologies. I thought it would fizzle out before this but in health terms, I’m plodding away with little change bar I’m increasingly fatigued. Most of the time, my get up and go has got up and gone. However, I’m keeping doing most things. Family life seems a bit dysfunctional which is disturbing, I’d like to blame the kids but I think it probably lies as much at my door.

That aside we had a great holiday up in Northumberland including a couple of beach days when Cate and our son had some swimming time. I stayed safely guarding the picnic…’very noble’ I hear you say. Going to Northumberland also means we can call in to see our friends Keith and Lucy and their family in Newcastle. We’re very grateful for their hospitality. We had a trip into the city centre which is nice and went to the Baltic centre for contemporary art (I don’t get it to be honest!). Whilst travelling there we saw the Gateshead Millennium Bridge operating to let a boat through. The whole thing pivots using hydraulic rams to push it (I get that!)

Prior to that it was good to see our daughter perform in her school summer concert. She played her flute in the show band and also did a solo playing her guitar and singing. She also helped compere the evening. It was a proud moment for us.

After we got back from holiday it was good for us to be able to help at the kids holiday club which ran at our church for a week. The week after our daughter received her GCSE exam resuts. She did well and got all the results she needed and is now studying A level History, English Lit, and Music Tech.

Cate has completed the Bedford Twilight 10k race with our friends Lorraine and Helene. I put in a shift as a spectator with Helene’s husband Jonathan…very grateful to Jonathan for driving us there and back.

Coincidentally with this being my 24th post Cate and I celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary . She’s been an absolute rock putting up with a lot. When she said in sickness and in health in 1995 in a church building in Barnsley she clearly really meant it! We ate our traditional Curly Wurlies albeit not by the sea this year but at \Grafham Water. prior to which we’d enjoyed a nice meal in the Wheatsheaf in Perry. By the way the wording on the cups of tea is purely coincidental.

curly wurly

A couple of weekend’s back, I got to ride a bike for the first time in 18 months. I’ve already given my bike away as I couldn’t get to the end of the road without running out of puff. We hired an electric bike at Grafham water, which is our local reservoir. You still have to pedal but it powers your stroke and makes it a lot easier. Poor Cate, who is the fittest in our family was struggling to keep up with my son’s teenage legs and my electric assisted legs. It was a lot of fun and genuinely gave me a lift. My Mum already uses an electric bike and I’m sorely temped to buy one too. I also had a ride out this time as a ‘backie’ with our friends Pete and Trix on their HD’s. To be honest, I’m more a fan of Japanese, Italian or British sports bikes although it was a lot more comfortable on the back of a HD especially with a cissy bar aka back rest. It was a lot of fun.

We’ve also had a family day trip to Barnsley to celebrate my mother in law Ellen’s 70th birthday. It was great to see everyone with 4 generations of the family there.

Imellen and kids1

Of late, my son and I have been getting into the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) albeit we’re a bit late to the party. The last film we went to see was Spiderman Far From Home.

It was an enjoyable yarn but the part that struck me was PLOT SPOILER ALERT in the final scene as Mysterio aka Quentin Beck the villain of the piece having been defeated after his illusions and special effects are stopped utters these words ‘people really will believe anything’.this reminded me of a quote or misquote attributed to late 19th and early 20th century writer G K Chesterton

‘When a man stops believing in God he doesn’t then believe in nothing, he believes in anything.’ https://www.chesterton.org/ceases-to-worship

This led me to think is what we believe important?
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.‘ John ch.3 v16-18https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+3&version=NIVUK

The answer is clearly ‘yes! A matter of life or death beyond our own inevitable mortality.

Bill Shanklythe Liverpool manager supposedly once said ‘Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.’https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/bill-shankly-remembered-11-brilliant-10156199

I think that he was good at football but less good at philosophy.

We’ve not taken any league football matches in yet this season. But we did manage a couple of pre season friendlies’ one with Luton playing at Bedford Town with my Dad and son, we also bumped into my Uncle Richard there which was nice. I also took in a pre season game at St Neots with Graham, Mike, Phil and Mike.

My son and I have also got new Luton Town shirts. His is the current season navy away strip which is nice but arguably one for the purist. Mine rather fittingly is a retro home strip from the 1980’s again one for the purist some would argue.

luton townshirts1.1

I’ve also had a trip with our friend Graham to sample the fish and chips at the new shop, Erics, in St Ives (Cambridgeshire!). they were good.

erics1

In weather news for my regular readers, my summer shoes have been out, used and are now packed away again and I’m looking forward to getting my big coat out again.

23 Sporting Life

Welcome back regular readers and hello to any one visiting for the first time.   As per the last few months my health remains pretty stable although there is a slow degradation. I seem to be increasingly fatigued and it doesn’t take much to tire me out, I’ve lost about 6kg (13.2lbs for any US or older UK readers) over 2 months and my appetite is increasingly suppressed. I’m currently recovering from an infection which has laid me low the last few days, I don’t have much left in the tank and this seemed to lay me out. I found this incident frustrating and it reminded me of the real situation we’re in. My left hand is still only semi usable which continues to frustrate me greatly

Over the last month we’ve put a lot of effort  to move stuff back into the garage from our storage unit, in someways I found it emotionally difficult; stuff was given away or dumped that i’m no longer able to use. However there is a cathartic value to that, not all the stuff has come back but has been transferred to a much smaller and therefore cheaper unit.

We’ve also managed to put up a basket ball hoop on the back of the house. I say we, but to be fair, my Dad did all the grafting and I passed the tools and fasteners at the right time.

 

Much like Elton John, or any-other ageing rock band my farewell tour continues. This time to a number of sporting venues. First my dad, my son and I went to see qualifying for the spring nationals at Santa Pod race way. It’s the first time I’ve been to see live drag racing.

It was super.- Noisy, smelly and very fast.. a bit like me… well 2 out of 3 isn’t bad.

I’ve also been to see England v Afghanistan at Old Trafford in the cricket world cup thanks to my friend Ste seizing an opportunity of late unsold ticket availability. It was a  very special day out as we witnessed a world record number of 17 six’s being scored by one  batsman in an ODI, namely England captain Eion Morgan. As one reporter wrote‘ the fielders were spectators and the spectators fielders’ , a cracking day out and special thanks for Ste and Amy’s hospitality which included boiled eggs for breakfast laid the day before by their own hens.

caleb and ste old trafford

Finally and probably the most spectacular of the trips was to the FA cup final courtesy of our friend Graham. We saw Man City demolish Watford in a record equalling score of 6-0.  I did feel sorry for Watford until my fellow Luton supporting colleague at work reminded me ‘ you never feel sorry for Watford’. The reality is the only sorry bit was when John Stones hit the bar for Man City as it didn’t turn into 7-0 which would have been a stand alone record in it’s own right. It was an amazing day out and the first trip to the now not so new Wembley stadium for my son and I.  Football aside it was great to spend time with Graham and his son chatting away and sharing some humour.

I found singing the cup final hymn ‘Abide with me’ particularly emotional. Part of that is the way God has given us song to connect words to our emotions and singing it with 85000 other people is stirring. Suddenly you and tens of thousands of other people make a connection which isn’t otherwise evident as we all sit in silence  with each other on the train before and after the game.

Part of the connection for me is the circumstances surrounding its original penning. There is a thoughtful piece about this written by a professor at Bournemouth University. I’ve linked it here. http://theconversation.com/a-hymn-confirms-that-the-fa-cup-final-is-a-matter-of-life-and-death-26359

I think my greater connection is in singing the truth of the songs words.  I understand the same truth the author Henry Lyte knew and experienced that is that through faith in the finished work of Christ Jesus. I don’t need to fear death as new life forever awaits and we both can be assured that God will abide with us. The words of the song are below:

Abide with me: fast falls the eventide;
the darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide:
when other helpers fail and comforts flee,
help of the helpless, O abide with me.

I need thy presence every passing hour;
what but thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with thee at hand to bless;
ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s dark sting? where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if thou abide with me.

Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes;
shine through the gloom, and point me to the skies;
heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
in life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

I disagree with the university professor in his article when he wrote:
The literal message of the verses of the hymn is a mournful mastery of death. In Henry Lyte’s hymnal poetry it is God who gives succour to the dying. But for today’s secular crowds and audiences, God is not available. So where is the Thee of the hymn?

He says God is not available, I understand the point he’s making but I think he is badly mistaken as the reality is that we’ve chosen not to look for God.  Clearly his handy work is all around us, in the Bible Romans ch1 vv 18-20 says this.

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

we are without excuse‘ i.e we can’t plead ignorance before God but thankfully because of Jesus if we’ve put our faith and trust in him we do not need to fear the wrath of God. In fact, we are reconciled to him and he abides with us and we can enjoy him.

In other family news, our daughter has finished her U16 schooling which was celebrated with the school prom. She looked lovely and many people say ‘you must be so proud’.  Obviously I am proud of her and I know what they’re trying to say however, seeing my daughter use and develop the gifts God has blessed her with makes me more proud of her  an example  included her getting an award from the school music dept for her contribution to that area of school life. I’m sure you’re all impressed that I got dressed up for the photo.

all-three-pre-prom.jpg

I’ve decided to knock the obituaries on the head for the sake of brevity.  Sorry if that disappoints, brill if you’re pleased.

 

22.Fraud

“You’re a fraud Caleb Saunderson” thus I was greeted by our friend Amy when we saw her last week. We usually bump into her and the rest of her family at a Christian conference/celebration called Word Alive, held at Pontins, Prestatyn in North Wales. According to the doctors I was unlikely to be there in 2018 yet here I was again in 2019. Again, I am much blessed with limited deterioration in my health. I can’t say I was running around but I was able to get around the site. I do have to sleep most afternoons (you’re all jealous…admit it!) to counteract the fatigue. It’s great to banter with Amy and we’re very pleased to call her and her family our friends.  On the way to Prestatyn, we stayed overnight with Cate’s family and collected a homemade meat pie from my mother in law which we took with us. It was super, thanks Ellen!

Family life in general has felt a bit fragile, the children’s behaviour and anxieties have been amplified and a lot of pressure is piled on Cate as I’m unable to drive or contribute as effectively to family life. I think my brain injury (stroke) has also accentuated some of my character flaws which isn’t very helpful to the overall mix. I believe some of the children’s issues can be attributed to the expectation gap of what hasn’t happened yet. My disabilities were highlighted to me when Cate used my drill to put holes in the wall for some furniture in our daughters room. I really feel this quite deeply, as traditionally this was my role, but I’m glad to have completed some successful training. (The lift up desk is still firmly attached to the wall.)

Top news is the drift trike is up and running.  It needs some tuning  but it goes and straight ‘out the box’ which was pleasing.

 

My son has also shown me how to build a stove from bricks courtesy of his training at Scouts. I’m glad none of the neighbours had washing out. The bacon tasted good, the frying pan was wrecked!

stove 1

Since I last posted, I’ve read 2 books. Yes I know for some of you that’s small fry. However for this engineer (there’s more culture in yogurt) that’s a library’s worth. I think it means I was into the books.  The first was called ‘The life you never expected’ (thriving while parenting special needs children)- by Andrew and Rachel Wilson.
The second was called Sevens Heaven (the beautiful chaos of Fiji’s Olympic dream) by Ben Ryan.

 

 

‘The life you never expected’ was a very important book which surprised me.  The book was  recommended and loaned to us from our friends Ben and Suzy. Neither of us have special needs children so why so good a book? It seems the authors had gone through a similar process to us. As the blurb says This is not just a book for families and friends of special needs children, but for all who have been thrown a curve ball in life, and need to know how to lament, worship, pray and hope.  I found it refreshingly honest with grief yet funny and not without hope.

Again the honesty of the second book was part of it’s attractive nature. It tracks 3 years of  Ben Ryan’s coaching of the Fijian ascent to rugby sevens Olympic glory. It is a great sporting tale and an antithesis to the greed of modern sport , and the science of data harvesting and analysis. It also has sadness mingled in with the triumph, I found the book strangely emotional by the end but I am a bit of a sop these days.  Thank you Pete and Lucy for the gift.

Easter is always a special time of celebration/remembrance for Christians. Jesus’ unjust death on a Roman cross taking the sin of all those who would trust in Him and His subsequent resurrection from the dead changed history forever. It is the foundation on which our society in the UK has been built, an uncomfortable fact for many.  On Easter Sunday, half way around the world in Sri Lanka,  amid joyous celebrations, some of my brothers and sisters in Christ were being martyred for their faith. They weren’t as the BBC put it ‘Easter worshippers’ (do they worship some sort of gender neutral Easter bunny?) They were mainly Christians who were  murdered because they believed that Jesus is who he said he was and offers new life in Him. We weep with them and hold to the hope of eternal life in Jesus.

One of our friends from our church family, David passed away last week, I was priviledged to be asked to pray  his family this Sunday at our church service. I started by reading 1 Thessalonians ch4 v13-14 from the Bible. It says: 

13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.

There is a refreshing freedom for David’s family and those in Sri Lanka also, that the pain of loss and separation isn’t without hope and therefore isn’t in vain.

This leads us into a happily, sparsely populated obituary section. First up is Billy McNeill, he died aged 79 after suffering from dementia following a glittering career in football that will be difficult to match. McNeill was the first Briton to lift football’s European cup (now distastefully named the champions league) having captained his Celtic side to victory over Inter Milan in 1967 in Lisbon and were aptly nicknamed the ‘Lisbon Lions’. In fact, the whole team were local lads, born within 30 miles of Glasgow. It hasn’t happened since or unlikely to happen again. McNeill  also won 9 league titles with Celtic as well as Scottish cups. He went on to manage Celtic to 4 titles and 4 cups, also Aberdeen, Manchester City and Aston Villa. Legend is a term bandied around these days but in this case probably justified.

Another member of that same team Stevie Chalmers also died this week aged 83. He scored the wining goal in Lisbon, quite something to tell the grandkids!

Peter Mayhew played the giant Wookiee Chewbacca in 7 Star Wars filmsover nearly 4 decades. he was 74 at his death.  Basically he had to show the emotions of the character just using his eyes and body language.

Boon Gould was the guitarist & saxophonist and founding member of band Level 42. They enjoyed chart success in 1980’s& 90’s.He was 64.

As we’re short of obituaries this blog I thought I’d write about the slow death of free speech. Unless you’ve been in a news blackout you will have seen that Australian rugby union star and probably the Wallabies best player Israel (Izzy) Folau is highly likely to be sacked for an alleged homophobic message on social media. What he actually posted on his account was a paraphrase of a verse from the Bible that up holds the position of 2000 years of Orthodox Christianity here are the words that Folau posted followed by the Bible passage 1 Corinthians ch.6 v 9-10

Warning drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, idolators, Hell awaits you, repent only Jesus saves.

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men[] 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

I concede that what he posted was insensitive and antagonistic and probably unwise. I think there are more helpful verses he could have quoted but tbf I don’t know what prompted the post in the first place. The verse from the Bible was actually written to the Church in Corinth to address the problems within it.  Interestingly when the president of the European council Donald Tusk said ‘a special place in hell awaits brexiteers without a plan’ there was less outcry and he still retains his employment. Clearly the place of your eternal destiny isn’t the issue here but something else.

However, the bigger issue I have is the response in this country to England Rugby player  Billy Vinupola. He ‘liked’ the original Folau post and was then forced to post this defence:

So this morning I got 3 phone calls from people telling me to ‘unlike’ the @izzyfolau post. This is my position on it. I don’t HATE anyone neither do I think I’m perfect. There just comes a point when you insult what I grew up believing in that you just say enough is enough, what he’s saying isn’t that he doesn’t like or love those people. He’s saying how we live our lives needs to be closer to how God intended them to be. Man was made for woman to procreate that was the goal no? I’m not perfect I’m at least everything on that list at least at one point in my life. It hurts to know that. But that’s why I believe there’s a God. To guide and protect us and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

His reward,- his club Saracens disciplined him, The RFU warned him for his conduct and Channel 4 sacked him as an analyst for their rugby coverage. If you notice the nature of the post. It is confounding that Saracens would imply it lacks ‘respect’ or ‘humility’ unless now any opinion that contradicts the Western consensus is disrespectful and proud.

Folau is of Tongan heritage and Vunipola is from Fiji, both islands in the South Pacific ie they have been bought up with a different moral values than most white westerners. Read what former rugby player and now tv commentator Stuart Barnes wrote in his times column “I loathed the way those Islanders formed a circle post-match and give their praises to what I regard as a fabrication”. He went on “but I am a child of the enlightenment; fortunate enough to have the benefit of a reasonable education“. The insinuation seems clear, the problem is these islanders and their made-up God. If only they had the benefit of a proper education.    We are entering a new era of western colonialism that says you poor ill educated islanders, only me as a privileged educated white man knows whats right and you better believe it or else. It is both patronising and arrogant, and some might say racist. Barnes retains his employment in the media.

Just because you disagree with someone or their actions doesn’t mean you hate them. If we get rid of public discussion and only certain opinions are valid then we end up with a totalitarian government and all freedoms will be put to the sword. The only upside I see to Folau’s sacking is it makes Australia’s participation at the up coming rugby world cup to be more limited than it could have been. Without him they are unlikely to be good enough to go all the way and win it.

It would be easy to think that christianity says only ‘good’ (whatever that means) people go to heaven when in fact the opposite is true. In the Bible-John ch. 3 vv17&18   Jesus says 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.  It’s not our moral choices that save or condemn us but our response to Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Finally Luton Town have been promoted to the Championship (the second tier of English football) 10 years after the FA forced us in to the non-league. COYH.

Below are pre match nerves before the 0-3 win at Accrington on a pitch more akin to an allotment.

prematch nerves

 

 

21. A New Hope

Time marches on and waits for no man yet procrastination is the thief of time. Because of our uncertain future we try to live in the now a bit more but it’s difficult.  Again, my health remains stable and there hasn’t been any notable increase in the cancer symptoms for which we’re very grateful to God.

Back in no.11 release of this blog, I said how we were enjoying watching two crime drama series, namely Endeavour and Shetland, with our daughter and how I was unsure whether I’d get to see the next series.  Well the good news is Endeavour has just finished it’s new run and Shetland concludes next week  and I got to see them both.  My continued good health has also given me the opportunity for two visits with my son to see the super Hatters, thanks to my friends Graham and Iain.  Both games resulted in good wins for the Hatters and reinforcing their position at the top of league one or div 3 in old money.  With this seasons current success following last seasons promotion and in honour of our player Kazenga Lua Lua  us fans now sing

Que Lua Lua
we’ll put the champagne on ice
we’re getting promoted twice
Que Lua Lua

I could have had a third trip to coincide with the visit of my friends Keith and Ste from Newcastle and Liverpool respectively.  I say could have, as after buying the tickets SKY TV decided to move the game for the purposes of TV so we couldn’t go and went to see St Neots town instead which was a good experience albeit with fewer fans.  The pic below shows us with a framed Andy Johnson Everton shirt as kindly givento Ste by the afore mentioned Graham.

me ste and keith with andy johnson shirt

Whilst at one of theses matches we had a plumbing  event at home when water appeared coming from the kitchen light fitting.  I’m very grateful to our friend Dan for coming over at short notice and replacing the leaking valve in the bathroom whilst I was out.

Since last time we’ve had three generations of Saundersons on wood sawing duty.  My 79 yr old Dad on the saw with me ‘labouring’ and my son stacking. It was like my childhood again, as I didn’t get to use the saw then either although to be fair my left hand still isn’t strong enough at the moment to repeatedly feed food into the saw.  We ended up with a giant jenga puzzle.  Very grateful to my Dad for his help and top hard grafting.

I’ve been well enough to return to work 2 mornings a week which has been great and it’s good to feel useful again.  Good to use my new concessionary bus pass as well,since i’m not allowed to drive anymore and my license now resides back with DVLA

My good health and unseasonably warm February weather has also allowed us a trip to the coast during half term.  We visited Thornham on the east coast and following fish and chips at the excellent Erics we walked to the beach where it was warm enough for me to have an afternoon nap.  We also enjoyed lunch outside on four consecutive days!

asleep at thornham

February saw the first cut of the grass of the year which is way too early and probably a gross tactical error ie. a rod for my own back.- once you start you have to continue.  I’m hoping for rain all March to limit any garden activity!

cutting lawn

It was good  to be able to go with my dad to see my cousin Daniel at the open day of his agricultural engineering business FarmserveApart from sitting in some great tractors (he is a dealer for both Landini and Kioti tractors) I also had a go with an inverter welding plant.  These are less than half the size of traditional welding plants and on my limited experience, easier to use.

farmserve open day

I’ve been enjoying reading Guy Martin’s latest auto biography ‘We need to weaken the mixture’. For the uninitiated Martin is a truck mechanic and former professional motorcycle racer, he also has made a number of Tv documentaries usually aired on channel 4 and usually involving  some sort of challenge. Recent docs have included Martin claiming the fastest lap of the  Nürburgring in a van. Part of the joy of reading the book and watching the documentary is seeing the van get transformed from a fairly standard transit to a mid engined animal. The book is full of these sort of tales which give me great interest and amusment. TBF Martin is a bit marmite and much like english stilton cheese is an aquired taste. Thanks to my brother in law Pete for the Christmas gift – Good man.

Following my last blog I was contacted by an Australian lady called Barbara Gannon . She claims to be cancer free after a Mesothelioma diagnosis. Thishas been achieved by ‘super charging’ the body’s own immune system by ‘natural means’ using a type of ketogenic diet reinforced by a boat load of ‘natural ‘ supplements (the most famous ketogenic diet is the ‘adkins’ diet, and as  I understand it, no carbohydrate is consumed and the body uses fat as it’s energy source?). If you want to know more,here’s the link to her website-  success follows me

I want to take the claims at face value although some of you may call me naive and call it quackery.However others might say and “if I were in your position why not try it, what have you got to lose?” .  Well,much like I didn’t want further chemotherapy, I haven’t got the gumption or where with-all anymore to go through a high discipline massive change of lifestyle which if successful would have to be maintained for the rest of my earthly existence. I don’t want to sound selfish but I’ve had some time to think about my death and I’m not just resigned to it but actually looking forward to it although not the means to get there. I have absolute confidence in the finished work of Jesus Christ and despite my dark heart of sin (or rebellion against God) I can be sure he has served the sentence and taken the punishment I deserve in my place. Its  a good place to be. I would love you to have the same assurance as it’s freely available to those who ask.

And on that note we’re into the obituaries which sadly are packed this drop.

Actor Albert Finney died aged 82 and although Oscar nominated a number of times he didn’t win in his own right.

Fashion designer and iconic industry figure Karl Lagerfeld died officially aged 81 although some thought he was up to 5 years older.  Healways good for a quote,although some believe he was misogynistic, however one that sat up for me was ‘jogging pants are a sign of defeat that you’ve lost control of you life (www.harpersbazaar.com/fashion/designers/a26405187/karl-lagerfeld-quotes/)However to be fair this is from a man who had powdered white hair in a pony tail and wore sunglasses all the time.

Mark Hollis, the lead singer of 80’s famed band ‘talk talk’ died aged 64, he was seen as somewhat of  a music innovator and widely influenced later musicians.

Andre Previn was a musician, composer and conductor has died aged 89. a giant in the classical music world, he wrote several film scores and yet in the UK  he is more widely known among cultural philistines like me for his part as ‘Andrew Preview’ in the 1971 Morcambe and Wise show Grieg’s Piano Concerto sketch enjoy it here.

Another musician who sadly passed away  was Peter Tork of ‘The Monkees’ fame he was 77.

The final musician to be recorded is Keith Flint of dance music band, the Prodigy. I remember my university days of the early 90’s punctuated  by Prodigy music. Latterly, I came across him running a motorcycle racing team- TTC (team traction control) which won 2 isle of man TT titles with Hutchy (Ian Hutchingson) on board. Flint was 49 and it would seem very sadly took his own life.

Finally 1966 world cup wining England keeper Gordon Banks OBE died aged 82. He arguably made the save of the century from Pele at the 1970 world cup finals watch it here and wonder how it stayed out

That’s it for this blog. next time we may have had Brexit the emphasis on the May… excuse the unintentional pun. After all, the delay is all an establishment conspiracy!

 

 

20.what’s next?

New year, new start or so ‘they’ say, whoever ‘they’ are. Often the reality feels different like ground hog day where our lives can feel in a constant loop.  New year didn’t release us from our problems, anxieties and hang ups, yet thankfully my health has been pretty stable and very slowly more usefulness is returning to my left hand although I don’t yet  trust it with glassware or crockery.  My walking is also improving which allowed us a pleasant walk around the RSPB reserve at Sandy surrounded by everything coated in a heavy layer of frost. We didn’t see much wildlife as we’re a noisy lot and the animals had long scarpered. Trying to keep our son on the marked paths was difficult! The woodland scrub is out of bounds, rightly so to protect the wildlife habitat.  All he wanted to do was climb trees and described the woods as “what a waste” because he was barred from entry.

rspb

I’m blessed that the meso doesn’t seem too troublesome at the moment although my breathing can get laboured fairly quickly on exertion ie. climbing the stairs etc. In a way the stroke has made this better as I have to move more slowly.

I thought I’d start the actual content of this blog, telling you about a film I watched over the Christmas holidays.  It was a comedy called ‘What we did on our holiday’ and stars Billy Connolly, David Tenant and Rosamund Pike.

 

 

 

I won’t do a review for fear of giving a spoiler of the event on which the whole film pivots. Connolly plays Gordie, a grandfather who has terminal cancer (you see the link now) the whole family is getting together to celebrate his 75th birthday and the film examines the strained relationships of family life.  It is a very funny, sad, moving and poignant film.  At a similar time to the film being on TV over Christmas, Connolly was in the news as he had made a bio doc discussing amongst other things, his Parkinson’s disease diagnosis.  It was a 2 part documentary called ‘made in Scotland’,  you can watch it here

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0bwzhxx

In the documentary, he said “My life is slipping away and I can feel it and I should. I’m 75 and I’m a damn sight nearer the end than I am the beginning.” he also stated ‘he wasn’t scared of death, and laughter was helping him cope with Parkinson’s disease and he viewed old age as an adventure that was preparing him for the next episode in the spirit world’

Connolly is a funny, engaging character who I warm to, albeit he can be very crude and blasphemous at times.  I think I warm to him as he not from the privileged Cambridge footlights school of comedy.  Rather a former welder from the sadly much diminished Clyde shipyards.  I found the statement about being prepared for the spirit world quite intriguing, it falls into the category I call pseudo Christianity.  It takes a little part of Christianity or another religion and calls this out as a truth without embracing the whole gambit because it probably has parts the owner finds too difficult or unpalatable because they challenge their lifestyle choices.  The Bible is very clear and in  Hebrews chapter 9 verse 27 says:

Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment

However as that verse is rightly meant to wake us up or shock us into action the next verse (29) applies the soothing balm should we take it

so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him

Let me encourage you to investigate this for yourself and have the same joy and peace that I’ve experienced because of Jesus.  A good place to start is by reading the gospel of John, this can be done online here:

https://mobile.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+1&version=NIVUK

By all means correspond with me if you’d like to know more or I’m happy to meet up to chat.

Furthermore to Billy Connolly’s bio doc being broadcast he then had to relesase a statement saying sorry for “depressing” fans after describing his life as “slipping away”.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-46769046https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-46769046

Is this what we’ve become…it’s hardly a big shock as 76 year old man with Parkinson’s disease describes his life as slipping away yet we somehow want to anaesthetise ourselves from the thought of death.  We like to think we’re immortal, ” 50 is the new 40″ goes the phrase. Yes, medical science and better working conditions means we all live longer than past generations in the western world, where we  generally have access to good medical care and health and safety legislation.  However, I well suspect that phrase isn’t used in large swathes of Africa and Asia and for those with lower incomes in the western world.  I pray Connolly will find salvation in Christ before he has to meet him in person as judge.

In family life, we had a weekend away on the Yorkshire coast with Cate’s brother Pete and his family. It was meant to be a celebration for Cate’s parents 50th wedding anniversary but sadly they couldn’t come due to my mother in law having excruciating back and hip pain.  So, us kids went and had fun anyway.  It was certainly bracing but it’s great to be by the sea and it was lovely seeing Cate’s family.  In anticipation of this trip and a couple of planned football matches I invested in a new coat.  It turned out to be one of my better decisions and helped keep me warm especially when I had to use the wheelchair.  Holding my nephew whilst fast asleep also helps keep you warm, as well as having my heart warmed becasuse he was happy to sit on my knee and fall asleep.

brid wheelchair 1

The trouble was, I then started nodding off and had to wake myself so I didn’t drop him. The weekend ended with fish and chips…get in!!

There has been some progress on the drift trike but with no practical input from me, I’m limited to being a design consultant and occasionally fetching tools or holding things whilst my Dad welds them in place.  The engine is now mounted – check out the exhaust- how cool is that!?

trike-engine1.jpg

There haven’t been many Luton Town (LTFC) updates recently but, despite some setbacks all is well.  Sadly our manager, Nathan Jones who, over the past 3 years got us promotion last season has left for pastures new, or rather, was tempted away by a bigger fish.  Nathan Jones was always going to leave LTFC at some point as he was very good at his job and ambitious and that is how football works.  However, the manner of his departure in the middle of a transfer window left a bitter taste.  He was tempted away to manage Stoke City who are owned and financed by the Coates family who own Bet 365.  Denise Coates was the highest paid CEO in the UK last year although, to be fair, apparently is the 2nd highest tax payer in the UK according to the times newspaper.  Part of the bitter taste is that LTFC have repeatedly turned down betting sponsorship for the club as they believe it promotes the wrong example to the players and the fans.  It was thought Nathan Jones shared that belief, however money talks and the Coates family have deep pockets or, as my mate Neil said ‘they’ve got rich by taking millions of pounds from lots of people with shallow pockets but when the fun stops they can all stop right?‘ the last bit being a parody from the lame effort of the UK betting industry to manufacture a moral conscience.

responsible_gamblingright

Thanks to my pal Rich, I’ve also had a trip to the Imperial War Museum at Duxford airfield  (or IWM Duxford as it’s called for the Instagram/Twitter generation) thanks.  It was a good day out and we both agreed it was nice to read the info boards without a little voice saying “I’m bored”.  It was very cold there, surprising that on an airfield in January! They should have planted trees round the apron to cut the wind chill down 😉   New coat came in handy again!

 

 

And onto the obituaries which were happily light this blog until the last couple of days with some late entries.

Phil Masinga was a south African footballer and died aged only 49.  He is most well known in this country for his time at LEEDS Utd in the early 90’s.  He was signed at the  same time as fellow SA footballer Lucas Radebe.  In international football he was most famous for scoring the goal in the qualifying competition that sent Bafana Bafana to their first world cup in 1998.

 

 

Hugh McIlvanney was recognised as one of the best sports journalists of his generation, he died aged 84 having only retired aged 82.  I’ve read that he was the antithesis of the twitter age (the I newspaper) he had a eye for the trivial details of that which he saw .

Unless you suffer from stomach ulcers we’ve probably all used the NSAID drug Ibuprofen as a pain killer ( I know I have) , the man credited with being one of the main players in it’s discovery Stewart Adams OBE has died aged 95.  Ibuprofen is one of the worlds best selling drugs.  On leaving school he had an apprenticeship with a Boots pharmacy before going on to do a degree in pharmacy and a PHD before joining the research department at Boots in Nottingham.  He eventually became head of pharmaceutical sciences with Boots.  I think its interesting to note he did an apprenticeship, a form of employment training which has been sadly neglected by successive governments of all colours.  Many of my work colleagues successfully trained by a similar route.

Comedian Jeremy Hardy has died aged 57 of esophageal cancer he was a committed socialist.  Many have published condolences including labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Clive Swift was a classically trained actor who, having had a number of stage parts is best known for playing Richard Bucket (pronounced bouquet), the down trodden husband of social climber  Hyacinth in TV comedy ‘keeping up appearances’, he was 82.

My last piece is for Argentinian footballer Emiliano Sala.   He isn’t officially deceased as yet, but the plane he was travelling in disappeared from radar above the English channel 2 weeks ago and has reportedly been found on the sea bed.  To be fair, this is a fast moving news story.  Sala, 29, had just signed for Wales based English premier league team Cardiff city.  He was their £15M great hope to score goals as he had done previously at French team Nantes.  In fact, he was travelling from Nantes to Cardiff when the disappearance happened. Tributes were paid at the game at Arsenal when he probably would have  made his debut and Arsenal even included his name in the match program with the Cardiff city line up.

18 A stroke of genius

Sorry for the radio silence, the following paragraph should explain.

It turned out it wasn’t a stroke of genius but an ischemic stroke, the type where a blood clot in an artery stops the supply of blood and therefore oxygen to the brain and the corresponding part of the brain stops functioning. Amusingly I was in trap no.3 of the gents at work when I collapsed and got stuck between the pan and the wall. I couldn’t get out which was because my left arm (in fact my whole left side) was paralysed but I hadn’t realised that. Thankfully my colleagues/friends realised I’d been missing too long and effected a rescue mission, eventually opening the lock of trap no.3 from the outside and getting me off the floor. Special mention goes to Adrian who lifted me off the floor. I can’t remember if it was then or when the paramedics arrived I was hearing the term ‘stroke’ being used, however, I wasn’t thinking ‘oh dear I’m having a potentially life ending or life changing incident… all I’m thinking is ‘ I’m about to get carted out of the gents and through the office on a paramedics rescue chair, yet my trousers are round my ankles and i’m in just a shirt , socks and boxer shorts’. Thankfully they must have read my mind and ensured my decency before said carting out.

I was taken along with my boss Dave, who kindly accompanied me, in the ambulance to the Luton and Dunstable hospital. After some consultation I was moved again under blue lights to Charing Cross hospital in London where the they performed a thrombectomy. This involves putting a needle plus attached tube (canular or catheter) into an artery in my groin, this is then threaded all the way to my head under CT guidance where the troublesome clot is removed. This undoubtably helped to save my life and aid a more speedy recovery. I spent a week in Charing Cross in the HASU ward (hyper acute stroke unit) before being transferred back to my local hospital for rehab where I spent a further 3 weeks. As I’m writing this some 8 weeks later I have had a good recovery and I can now walk. My left hand is still affected though, the fine motor skills have not yet returned and I am still suffering immense fatigue. Amazingly although the part of my brain that was affected is now dead other parts of my brain are re-wiring to pick up the functionality I lost. My face looks a bit more symmetrical now compared to the photo below which was taken the day after the stroke happened.

20181012_183712

You may have seen in the news that former olympic athlete Michael Johnson also had a stroke. michal johnsonin thetelegraph he told of how it took olympic determination to walk again. I kind of know what he means. I have to think so hard to use the fingers of my left hand I reckon it would be easier to get the object of choice to levitate than for me to pick it up.

michael johnson

This has had some implications for my meso treatment. I was due to have some further chemotherapy. However, in a mutual decision with us and the oncology consultant we all agreed that I’m too weak for chemotherapy, and that the balance of side effects v possible benefit when thinking about quality of life had tipped the wrong way and treatment would potentially hospitalize me. Additionally as theorised over in the last blog I wasn’t suitable for any trial treatments either. In both cases, I was kind of glad the decision has been made for me as I was very worried about further chemo treatment as I knew how it previously would lay me out for 3 days. The implication of this is that my medical care has passed from the Oncology to the Palliative team which has some significant emotional baggage attached to it. However, I can honestly say to you I’m looking forward to dying because I’m going to meet Jesus “the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God”(Hebrews ch12 vv2 & 3 ESV Bible).

I’m not looking forward to the process of getting there, and the grief and pain I feel for my family hurts deeply and often overflows, yet I can genuinely relate to what the apostle paul wrote to the church in Philippi (which is in Greece and as recorded in the bible in the book called Philippians ‘For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.’) He wrote this while under arrest and awaiting trial in Rome and probable execution. I thank God for blessing me in this and pray it may hold fast to the end.

In all this I did at the start wonder what it was all about, e.g. if I’ve potentially only got months to live, why would God make this happen to hamper the time left? Yet, I’ve learnt that God keeps his promises, if nothing else, Christmas teaches us this, and he promises that if we’re Christians – part of Gods kingdom, all things work for our good. Therefore the sovereign God without equal or rival knows stuff we don’t. Whilst I was taken completely by surprise by this event, God wasn’t.

Whilst I was tucked up in hospital and Cate was staying in london with me, Cates’ parents came down to stay with the children which was fantastic. During this period our friends from church very kindly cleared our garage to a storage unit and designed and organised for the back of the garage to be converted to a downstairs bathroom/wet room and additional utility area. This is now finished and operational. It’s fantastic and has made our lives so much easier. We are very grateful to a number of people and thankful to God that he has put us together in our church family.

In other news the drift trike build has taken a signficant delay however we have had another day on it with my son and Dad doing the work as I took on the role of supervisor which included a 2 hr nap after lunch.

20181130_121854

In other news I think the victory at the supreme court of Ashers bakery over the cake with the pro gay marriage message was good news for free speech – especially for bloggers like me as the court agreed that you can’t force another party to promote a political message or view you are opposed to – one of the foundations of our democracy.

and onto the obituaries…I’ll be brief…

From children’s tv, John Cunliffe creator of Postman Pat died aged 85, Geoffrey Hayes who was famously one of the faces of ‘rainbow’ died age 76

Burt Reynolds died aged 82, as did Buzzcocks front man Pete Shelley of a suspected heart attack aged 63

politicians didn’t escape either. On this side of the atlantic, Baroness Trumpington died aged 96, whilst in the US, former president George H W, Bush died aged 94, he was widely recognised as the last president who tried hard to work across the political divide of party politics.

17. Getting Active

A few blogs ago I wrote an analogy likening myself unto a dysfunctional ship set adrift on an ocean.  So far whilst the ship has a dodgy engine and the winch gear was tangled the sea was fairly calm.  Much like we see a weather front coming across the Atlantic Ocean we’re about to enter into one also.  My last scan result showed the cancer is active again.  Surprisingly the increased activity is in my abdomen and not my lungs but I suspect my lungs aren’t far behind. I’ve also lost 5 kg (that’s 11 lb for the U.S. and over 50’s readership) since my last visit.  It does let me of the hook a bit with my fat belly which it turns out isn’t all beer and bacon and is also formed by some free fluid.  That’s not meant to be in there if you were wondering.

So, after a fallow period our emotions are heightened again. I was sharing a bit of Lego time with my son the other night and it just broke me.  He didn’t know how to react but we had a cuddle and it made me feel better, I hope it did the same for him.  It’s very difficult to read children in these situations.  I’m not saying this feels like being diagnosed again but it does seem similar to that.  The urgency to do that which is left undone, to say things yet unsaid has returned. The sand in the hour glass of my life has started running through again.  The reality is that it never ceased but the flow seems to have increased.  However that statement is profoundly untrue and is based on my feelings.  Unfortunately doing stuff and making decisions based on feelings not facts seems to be the zeitgeist.  Feelings can be very deceptive in my limited experience.  Our days are numbered for us not by us and the same is true for all of us not just me.  The famous Jewish King, David (as in the star of David) wrote this;

Psalm 39:4-5: “Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is…….Each man’s life is but a breath”.

Prior to that the famous Israelite leader Moses (of ten commandments fame) wrote;

Psalm 90:12: Teach us to number our days,that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

I’m reading the book of Ecclesiastes in the bible at the moment.  It was penned, under the inspiration of God, by King Solomon, son of the aforementioned King David and a king blessed with immense wisdom (and wealth).  On the face of it it’s a rather depressing read it opens like this;

Ecclesiastes 1:1-2: The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem: “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”

He goes on to say that for all our toil and hard work, what’s achieved is left to the next generation and we’re forgotten.  The wise and the fool,  the rich and the poor, ‘the same fate overtakes them both’.  It continues in this vein until the very end of the book 12 chapters later when he concludes;

Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind.
For God will bring every deed into judgement,
including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil.

I’ve said this before many times in my blog but we’re just not up to keeping the commandments of God.  Only one man did, Jesus Christ – the God man.  And God loved us so much that Jesus took the punishment of disobedience we deserve and died in our place.  And we have new life in him through his resurrection from the dead.
‘Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.’ says Psalm  34:8.

The storm clouds are approaching, the wind is whipping up the waves, the swell is increasing.  Science has let me down (not that I trusted in it), modern medicine has no answer, philosophy won’t help me now.  I claim Jesus as my refuge from the storm.

After that rather deep start the medical bit is that I’ve been offered more palliative chemotherapy. It’s different to the previous type and apparently is in in oral form so no drips to put up with.  Apparently approximately 1 in 4 respond to it but of course it’s only prolonging the inevitable.  There’s also a potential discussion with a Mesothelioma expert in Leicester about taking part in trials.  With my previous malignancies I’m not an ideal candidate, as generally speaking they prefer a blank canvas.  Deep down I’m not sure I want to go through it all again.  I’m getting tired of it mentally and physically and the thought makes me turn away.  I’m not sure if that’s a selfish attitude but that’s me baring my heart.

Life continues bringing much joy.  Cate and I celebrated our 23rd wedding anniversary. She’s a real rock and has a lot to put up with in me.  We went away to a village on the North Norfolk coast called Thornham. We had a few walks, lazy mornings and ate very well.  Sunday afternoon was spent sitting in the dunes on Thornham beach with our now traditional cup of tea and Curlywurly.  It’s only a tradition of 1 year which we started in Aldeburgh last year.  It was thought it wouldn’t be repeated so what a blessing.  The sky was big, the beaches vast, and the people few.  We read Psalm 19 together.  It starts;
The heavens declare the glory of God;the skies proclaim the work of his hands. See what you think.

I noticed whilst we were away that I wasn’t up to my normal indulgence level of food intake when eating out.  I didn’t fancy pudding and just felt full.  As such the news of my scan on our return wasn’t such a shock.  Arguably my favourite meal that weekend was at Eric’s Fish and Chips in Thornham.  It’s a sit down affair and not the cheapest but I reckon it’s probably the best I’ve tasted.  The fish is coated in beer batter and cooked in beef dripping!! Along with, as my friend Graham calls it, ‘Yorkshire Caviar’ (Mushy Peas) and washed down with elderflower lemonade, it was superb. Graham is my reference point for the quality of fish and chips up and down the land and has visited many establishments as proof.  He rates Eric’s up there close to the Wetherby Whaler which he say’s probably serves the best fish and chips, but by his own admission comes top as it’s in Yorkshire and has such happy memories of childhood.  Graham and his lad support Bradford City.  No premier league nonsense with them – Ave It!  Youtube Ave It 

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In other news, following the go kart success, my Dad, my son and I are starting a new build – a drift trike.  The idea came from watching Youtube sensation Colin Furze.  Colin is a crazy inventor type with over 6.6M subscribers and among his credits has built the worlds fastest bumper car for Top Gear with ‘The Stig’ at the controls. If you don’t know who he is or what a drift trike is use the links below.
Youtube Colin Furze Drift Trike
Youtube Colin Furze Worlds Fastest Bumper Car
We already had an axle, my dad had the steel, the BMX front end came from a pal at work, the wheels from Ebay etc etc.  We were going to use my Dad’s old lawnmower engine but it was a bit tired so we got hold of a Chinese Honda clone from Gumtree.   For the mechanical geeks amongst you the crank output shaft was the wrong size so we turned it down by starting the engine and introducing it to an angle grinder.  The keyway was cut in with a Dremel.  It’s somewhat crude and I’m sorry if that appals the purists amongst you – get your eyes round this.  Youtube Angle Grinder
Anyway we’re at an early stage but the photos give you the gist.  I hope to update in future episodes.  I’ll be honest, finishing it in due time does concern me.

And on to the obituaries. The outwardly saddest one this blog is that of journalist and presenter, Rachel Bland.  She was a familiar voice on BBC radio 5Live. She was 40 years old and left a husband and 3 year old son.  Breast cancer ended her days.  She did an awful lot raising awareness of both the disease and death itself.  Writing in the Huffington Post before her death (quoted in the Evening Standard  Evening Standard 4/9/18 Rachel Bland) amongst other things, she wrapped up presents ready for her son all the way to his 21st birthday. I won’t be doing that.  Everyone makes choices but it’s too weird for me, a bit like voices from the dead. Perhaps I’ll change my mind? One thing that struck me, not just about her death, but also other cancer deaths is the commonly used media phrase ‘…. lost their battle with cancer’.  As if they had any choice.  It’s not as if different tactics or more grit and perseverance changes the outcome.  What if someone decides against further treatment, are they ‘losing’ by throwing the towel in?  I guess it’s a useful turn of phrase for the media, and meant well, but cancer is usually an ambush rather than a battle and the consequences out of peoples reach.

Kevin Beattie was a former professional footballer who, with Ipswich Town won, both an FA Cup and UEFA Cup winners medal under Bobby Robson’s tutelage.  He died age 64 of a suspected heart attack.  His career was dogged by ‘misfortune’ and injury and he retired aged only 28 in 1981 before making some attempted comebacks and finally calling it a day in 1986.  This was long before the days of multi millionaire footballers and he had cared for his wife who suffered with MS for the last 20 years.  Why do I tell you about Kevin Beattie?  About 20 years ago, at a children’s camp we were helping with, there was an evening with an ex-professional footballer who had played with Beattie at Ipswich. I think his name was Derek Jefferson but I’m not sure.  One of the kids asked him what was the furthest he’d seen anyone kick a football.  His answer – Kevin Beattie – from level with his own 6 yard box, to land in the opposing penalty area. Impressive!  I digress, but additionally he told a great story about thumping the then Leeds Utd and Scotland player, Billy Bremner, in the kidneys at a set piece and then having to hold him up so he didn’t collapse.0_Kevin-Beattiers

Finally Chas Hodges, of singing duo Chas and Dave, died aged 74.  They were part of my childhood with songs like Rabbit, Ain’t No Pleasing You, and the two I remember most easily Ossie’s Dream (for Spurs 1981 Cup Final Song), and Snooker Loopy.  The latter being sung with the snooker professionals of Barry Hearn’s Matchroom Sport stable. I found the statement released by Chas’ family interesting.
‘For the record, we would like to clarify that Chas did not die of cancer. The doctor’s final diagnostic was pneumonia and the cancer was under control at the time of death. We feel this is important to state as Chas wanted to bring comfort and hope to people suffering with cancer through his own experience with the disease, and it would mean a lot to him that the hope remains.’ (https://metro.co.uk/2018/09/25/chas-hodges-family-clarifies-performers-cause-of-death-7979059/)

Probably by the next time I post we will have had to make a decision about future treatment.

16. To me, to you.

Welcome back readers old and new.  I thought I’d start this blog with something I should have included in my last blog, but lacked access to the photo I wanted.  I usually finish with the obituaries but I’m starting with one today, that of Barry Elliot aka Barry Chuckle, one half of the Chuckle Brothers.  Not to everyone’s taste but making children (and adults) laugh for over a generation.  Their televised show Chucklevision ran from 1987 for 21 series over 22 years.  Their catchphrase ‘to me, to you’ has entered the vernacular and is virtually guaranteed to be heard at some point during any amateur furniture move in the UK.  But why have I made a big deal of this.  Back in 2010, whilst camping on the Yorkshire coast, we went to see their live show in Scarborough.  It was genuinely funny, the kids loved the slapstick and there was enough to keep us ‘grown ups’ entertained as well.  However what I thought was the best moment, as is often the case, was a piece of unscripted improvisation.  The Chuckle Brothers (CB below) had invited 3 children from the audience up on stage for a sort of game show.  I’m not saying what I’ve written below is verbatim but it’s the best my memory allows.

CB “Contestant No.1 where are you from?”
“Leeds”
CB “Contestant No.2 where are you from?”
“Dewsbury”
CB “And finally, Contestant No.3 where are you from?”
“Cheshire”
CB “Oooooh Cheshire! I hear in Cheshire they put fruit out on the sideboard even when folk aren’t coming round!”

Cue much guffawing from the over 25’s. The next day Cate and I were getting food ready (or similar) and turned around to see our two wearing cut out masks (as below) from the night before’s program.  Happy memories.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There have also been several other notable deaths since I last posted. Kofe Annan, the former secretary general of the UN who had to deal with the Iraq war crisis. Senator John McCain who although flawed (as we all are) was held in high regard and in later years was a thorn in the side of President Trump, which endeared him to many. Finally Aretha Franklin, the much vaunted queen of soul (music).  According to the BBC news, the funeral service was over 6hrs in duration and was attended by the ‘great’ and the ‘good’ including a former US president giving a eulogy. To keep expectations in check I expect my affair to be much shorter and attended by the hoi polloi.  Of course death is the great leveller and our earthy status and grandeur of dispatch doesn’t ingratiate us with God.  He effectively asks one key question – Did you know and were you known by me? Only through his son Jesus is this possible. No other is good enough to stand in our place and shield us with his blood.

I read an interesting article in the Spectator (link below) by Colin Brazier, the Sky News presenter and journalist.  Sadly, his wife died of breast cancer earlier this year leaving him and 6 young children.  He makes several points but the main point is that funerals should give the opportunity to grieve and not be a yee-hah of colourful celebration. https://www.spectator.co.uk/2018/07/let-funerals-be-sad/  

Maybe grown-ups can handle the cognitive dissonance required in ‘celebrating’ a life rather than, you know, being all morbid. But I seriously doubt children can.

The old stuff — the black and the solemn — works because it distills the wisdom of ages.

He says his reasons ‘are logical, not theological’ and I find myself in agreement with him, however I have a theological rub on it too.  In a recent sermon, the poem Aubade by Philip Larkin was quoted;

Most things may never happen: but this one will.
….what we know,
Have always known, know that we can’t escape,
Yet can’t accept.

Death is the final curtain we all pass through. Yet we try not to think about it. What if there is an afterlife?  What if we have to answer for our actions? Wearing jolly clothes at the funeral dulls the senses and tries to push away the pain of the division before us and the questions it poses. I appreciate many people see it as a celebration of their loved ones life, and I get that, but I believe it misses the mark.  John chapter 11 in the bible recalls the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.  Why is it important?  It both proves Jesus is who he says he is – the son of God – and shows why he has come.  Jesus distils it for us in verse 25 & 26. Jesus talking to Martha (of Mary and Martha fame) it says;

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

I’ve heard this oft quoted at funerals but not the vital last sentence that turns it back on us.

In family news we’ve had a busy month, hence the later than planned blog drop.  We were very happy to be guests at James and Alice’s wedding. It was a beautifully joyful day which truly lifted the soul.   Neil and Andrea, Alice’s parents, are dear friends to us and we’ve known Alice since she was born.  Somewhere, there’s a photo of me holding Alice on a pillow at the hospital as I was too scared to hold her ‘normally’ in case I dropped her.  Cricketing friends of mine understood.  Any prospective parents ought to know I’ve gained confidence and aptitude since then.  The ceremony was held at James and Alice’s church in York, St Michael le Belfrey, which is squarely next to York Minster.  A lovely setting and a scene which especially the foreign tourists couldn’t get enough of.  Due to the location, many of the guests, including us, took a coach from the reception venue to the centre of York.   The happiness started early as a few of us men were united  as the last Indian wicket fell en route to give England victory in the first test match.  At the ceremony I was sat on the end of a pew, virtually at the back of the building, next to the central aisle and was able to witness Neil and Alice talking together as he prepared to walk her in. I shared the common joy of the moment but I have to be honest and say I felt slightly envious of Neil.  I think my use of the word envious is too strong but I can’t find a more suitable word. I don’t need to explain further.  The chap who gave the address spoke from 1 John, a book in the bible which speaks about the love God shows us.  This wasn’t the ‘love, love, love’ of the royal wedding but the sacrificial love of God shown in his son Jesus.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  1 John 3 vv9-10

This is just such a joy filled photo – Congratulations James and Alice.Alice and James

After the celebrations we travelled from York (or rather Wetherby where the reception was) to Bridlington on the North Yorkshire coast – one of our regular spots. It was fun and I enjoyed watching (rather than participating) the other 3 on a climbing wall (my daughter was the fastest climber) and my son snorkelling in rock pools.

 

From there we went north to Warkworth in Northumberland.  The big sky and massive beaches are awe inspiring and we also enjoyed the castles.  Alnwick Castle is still a family home but also the location of some of the filming for the Harry Potter films to the delight of my daughter.  I personally preferred the ruined castle of Warkworth where we witnessed fighting knights, the barber surgeon and the armourer where Cate showed good perseverance to make a chainmail keyring. My son also enjoyed a lot of sand dune surfing.  The dunes there are very high.  It was a real highlight to also see our friends Keith and Lucy and their family.  A friendship of 25 years and renewed on a bi-annually basis on average.

 

On the way home we called to see Cate’s brother Pete and meet our new niece.  Why does new birth bring such joy?  As I wrote in my last blog, it is the sadness of death and the great joy of new born babies that help convince me that we are made in the image of God and not just developed mammals with much bigger brains.  Congratulations Pete and Manda.IMG-20180908-WA0005

In holding a new born baby it ought to be noted that it was the 20 year anniversary of the Omagh bomb, the Real IRA car bomb that killed 29 people in the County Tyrone town.  The BBC made a point that a pregnant woman was killed along with both her unborn twins.  Of course we weep at that that tragedy, deepened by the needless death of two unborn children and as a result of human wickedness. By contrast, back in May we saw scenes of unbridled celebrations as The Republic of Ireland legalised abortion.  According to UK government statistics (link attached) 194,668  abortions were carried out in 2017. 2017 Abortion statistics

Prior to our holidays we met up with the Rodgers family who were back from the U.S. on holiday.  All of our children bar one were on camps and it was good to chew the cud together and renew our friendship.  We miss them.  Friendship is one of the great joys of humanity and a good gift of God.Blake and Jen

The holiday season finished with the annual holiday club at our church.  We had approximately 100 children everyday enjoying some Pirates dishing out ‘Tiswas’ type fun with shaving foam, water, flour, and erm …. soil.  More importantly they also heard the good news of Jesus and how he changes lives.holiday club

My son and I also took in our first competitive Luton game of the season. An EFL trophy win over Brighton & Hove Albion under 21’s.  A more one sided 2-1 win you’re unlikely to witness.  It was my son’s first evening game under the lights.  A very low attendance but an experience all the same including his first extortionately over priced half time hot dog.  He’s also had a birthday including a trip to one of two local aquaparks. Entrepreneurialism at it’s best using one of many disused gravel pits.

Finally in this addition we come back down to earth with a dose of hard reality.  Monday I had a CT scan to see if there has been any disease progression.  I usually have a CT scan with ‘contrast’.  This involves injecting a dye into your bloodstream mid scan which basically shows all your veins and blood system so the radiologist can distinguish them when analysing the results.  The side effect is that it makes you feel unnaturally warm even hot, especially around your nether regions.  It’s been a while since I’ve wet myself but that is how I remember the feeling.  We go this coming week to see the consultant and get his opinion on what the scan has revealed.

 

 

15. Anniversary Special

Welcome to the anniversary edition of the blog. Well in truth it’s not the anniversary of the blog but the anniversary of my diagnosis.  Even that’s a kind of half truth.  Not doing too well am I.  I was diagnosed with peritoneal (abdomen) meso in May last year and then right side pleural (lungs) meso in early August.  In fact this time last year I was well into my 3 week stay in hospital with an infection in my pleura following the biopsy.  With curtains around my hospital bed, and Cate sat by my side, the consultant told us the bad news that we’d been expecting.  We held hands and tried to fight back the tears in front of him.  I guess he’s been part of that scene many times unfortunately.  He told us informally then that most meso sufferers have a 12 month life expectancy.  I’ve since had a letter off one of my other consultants, to my pension provider (more of that in a later blog), confirming that.  So here I am, still here and enjoying life, feeling very blessed to still be active(ish) and able to write this.  Regular readers will know I like graphs. Below are 2 graphs taken from an Australian study http://erj.ersjournals.com/content/38/6/1420 . The study was with 5 decades of data up to 2005.  It includes all types of meso, and all cases independent of age or sex or previous health history.  These all have a bearing on survival.  It includes data from the now defunct Australian asbestos mining town of Wittenoom  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wittenoom,_Western_Australia  The second graph shows the different cell types of meso.  I have epithelioid mesothelioma.

F4.largeF3.large

As you can see I’m now into the lower parts of the curve.  At 12 months most of my fellow sufferers are already meeting God and giving account of their life.  It feels surreal but also as if I’ve been given special dispensation to get on with my life.  A special gift which I ought to use wisely. I should use it to the give honour and glory to God.  It doesn’t often look like that though.  We’ve been looking at the book of Ephesians at church these past months.  Ephesians is a letter written by Paul (Often referred to with the prefix ‘The Apostle’ or ‘Saint’) to the church in Ephesus, which is modern day Turkey. One of the stand out parts is chapter 5 verse 20, ‘….always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ’. This is a hard teaching.  It doesn’t say be thankful for the stuff we perceive as good or nice but be thankful for everything.  This therefore means being thankful for meso.  Thankful for being taken away from my loved ones earlier than the average.  Doesn’t seem right does it?  Yet if Jesus took all the filth of my life and this forces him, or rather he willingly goes, to the depths of hell and takes the full wrath of his father God upon him at the cross then surely all parts of our life are to be thankful.  Especially when we are then offered a place at his table and new life for evermore.  I can’t really say ‘it’s not fair’ can I?  This is all part of his grand plan. Something that moves the end of time closer. Another vital tooth on a cog in a mechanism of inevitability as history reaches it’s conclusion.  And I’m part of it.  That is a real privilege and one which demands my all if I am a follower of Christ. This is what real life means.

It doesn’t take much personal examination to find that dirt and mess. The times I’ve unjustly dealt with the children. The impatience of having things not go to my plan. The anger at my comfort being upset. The laziness of not dealing with the things that actually matter. The former poet laureate John Betjemen wrote;
Not my vegetarian dinner or my lime juice minus gin,
Quite can drown a faint conviction that we may be born in sin
(Huxley Hall quoted in Magnificent Obsession by David Robertson)

It gives a freedom in life far different from the freedom of living life as a surfer or a hippy or even a middle class person from a Cambridgeshire market town. ‘God’s grace gives us the opportunity to fail’ is an oft quoted phrase from the pastor of our church. And he’s right. Enjoy the guilt free opportunity to fail!

School has finished for the year but before it did I had the opportunity to take part in the annual summer fete at my son’s school. It’s always good fun meeting our friends, enjoying a beer and a burger and helping to raise some money to provide school resources. Last year I was too ill to go and rather ironically Cate was too ill to go this year after being struck low with a stomach bug. It was particularly disappointing for her as, after 8 years serving on the PTA and helping organise the fete, it was her last one as my son goes to secondary school in September. I helped on the ‘bric-a-brac’ stall. It’s a lot of fun cutting deals with folk. There were some real bargains to be had, especially early doors, but I suspect there were a few frustrated parents as their offspring returned with arms full of ‘treasure’. Below is a photo from the fete with my friend Andrew (he has an excellent taste in hats)  who is currently cycling up and down mountains in Germany, Austria and Switzerland and writes an excellent blog about it https://seariversandmountains.wordpress.com20180713_174936

We also had the first annual awards evening at my daughter’s school. On a stifling hot evening in the sports hall the school did a good job and it was entertaining. We also were very proud parents as she received a music subject award. She enjoys music and works very hard. Additionally the music teachers should take some considerable credit for helping inspire her. I’d love to take some credit for this but the height of my musical ability stretched to playing the wood block at a school concert when I was about 11 or 12. Cate is the musical parent and she has just achieved grade 8 in piano. This was the culmination of 10 years work since restarting exams previously given up as a 14 yr old. In this time she has had to bring up a family and deal with my health disasters.

When I last posted the FIFA world cup was just starting and now it’s all over. Football nearly came home but we fell just short. It started with hosts Russia playing Saudi Arabia which I think were the lowest 2 teams in the competition. The greater drama was off pitch with either side of FIFA president Gianni Infantino sat Vladimir Putin and Crown Prince Mohammad Bin-Salman. As Russia hammered their guests 5-0 Putin had to call up all his diplomacy skills to avoid celebrating and offending someone who is also involved in a proxy war in Syria! putin

England did well in the competition and although it was so much more than the pre tournament expectations, ultimately I’m not sure they are as good as we think they are. Of 7 games, we won 3, drew one (well we won it on penalties) and lost 3. Harry Kane won the golden boot yet to be honest fluffed his lines in the key game against Croatia. All the talk was about how it was such a young team and we’re building for the future however all I could think for me was that we need us to win it this time not in 4 years time! It’s possible, but highly unlikely, I’ll be around for Euro 2020. For the rest of you, I don’t want to be the prophet of doom, but arguably winning the Euros is harder than winning the world cup. I think the standard is higher and there is no Saudi Arabia, Panama, Tunisia or Australia in Europe unless you’re watching Eurovision. My memory of this world cup is the generosity of hospitality shown by our friends Graham and Ingrid who hosted the Colombia, Sweden and Croatia games at their house. A great sense of community and friendship.

I’ve also taken in my first Luton game of the new season under the lights at the New Erie (Bedford Town) with my friend Sean and his dad Pete. It was also good to bump into my Uncle Richard who is an Eagles season ticket holder. I like talking football with him as he has a less ‘rose tinted spectacles’ approach than most. To be honest it was a pre-season friendly and with only four days to go to the season opener proper it was effectively an under 21 Luton side that appeared. They played well with a good intensity for a friendly, probably with a view to trying to break into the first team. Again looking good for the future.20180731_211133

As always I’ll end with the obituries. First is the death of BAFTA winning Peter Firmin, 89. He was the founder, along with Oliver Postgate, of Smallfilms. More importantly for my life he was the creator of Bagpuss, the stop motion annimated stuffed toy cat, who along with the other characters mended toys found by a little girl called Emily. Apparently one of the characters, Proffessor Yaffle, a wooden woodpecker bookend, was based on philosopher Betrand Russell. Now there was a man who lived without hope. I fondly remember watching Bagpuss at my Nan’s house. Only 13 episodes were ever made.Peter-Firmin-and-Bagpuss-with-Bafta-982364

Finally was the passing of my Uncle Arthur. Uncle Arthur was actually the husband of my Dad’s cousin but was always Uncle Arthur to me. He was a skilled mechanic and owned and restored a Ford Model T. I remember him for his dry wit and healthy disrespect of authority. He lived a full life and his funeral was packed. Yet even at the age of 87 I felt a palpable sense of grief. It is this grief at death and the great joy of news of new born babies that help convince me that we are made in the image of God and not just developed mammals with much bigger brains. Whilst at his funeral my cousin Philip and I took time to look at our grandparents grave which is in the same graveyard. Both of them passed away before we knew them however reading the gravestone there was an uncomfortable symmetry. My Father was 16 and his mother 47 when she died. This is where my daughter and I will be if by grace we reach our next birthdays.

14. Left of Centre

Picking straight up from last time I thought I’d kick off with the grandly titled Football Fantasy League AGM and awards.  A great time was had by all and to have these people as our friends is very dear.  I didn’t win anything this year but came second in 2 competitions – but who remembers second place?FFL 2018

Why not play a game of guess the teams from the photo without zooming in too much?  I’ll give a prize to the winner.  As a help, there is one international team and one from an overseas league, the rest are English domestic teams. Subjects of the photo need not apply!

Knocking a football around in the garden was good fun especially when it went over the fence (more than once) and various implements were found in the garage along with a step ladder and a roll of gaffer tape in an attempt to retrieve it.  It probably had a 2 in 3 success rate, including some historic finds.  The ball that got hammered 2 to 3 gardens away didn’t come back.  The noise it made on landing from behind the 6′ panel fences was rather alarming :-0  It reminded me so much of my childhood playing sport in my parents garden with my brother.  Recovering football and cricket balls became an art form.  It wasn’t necessarily gaining access to our neighbours gardens that was troublesome, it was the escape. Hastily placed logs or buckets always allowed the fence to be scaled from our side, the return usually involved more of an unaided run up.  We certainly learnt how to play straight at cricket as the alternative was 6 and out.  Back to the AGM and the laughter flowed.  It’s lovely to have some of the second generation participating as well, not just in the competition, but in the laughter, fun and banter too.  In fact I laughed so much I started running out of air meaning I go bright red in the face.  Singing has the same affect.  It’s a shame. I like singing. Singing connects our mind with our emotions. It’s a wonderful gift from God. It helps us to sing truth. I sing most when meeting together with our church family and I now notice if a line of a song goes on too long for my lungs as I have to throttle my volume back or stop. Some might say that’s a good thing 😉

I said last time that I didn’t think I’d make the annual football BBQ this year. That goes for singing songs at church too. My deterioration hasn’t accelerated and stuff is still ok. It’s weird, I feel like a bit of a fake.  When we said goodbye after the BBQ in Sept. 2017 and set off driving home, I remember the silence in our car.  Cate and I both had tears in our eyes.  Without saying it out loud we didn’t think we’d see some of our friends there again.  Now the good bit is that all our friends there are Christians too.  So ultimately I will see them again in the new creation after Jesus’ magnificent return.  Every eye will see him and every knee bow down the bible assures us.

As you will recall I was waiting on the results of my latest CT scan.  Well the good news is that there has been no change in the meso.  That fits with how I’m feeling.  Again we are thankful to God for his continued kindness.  The strange thing was as we drove away from the hospital Cate and I both sat in silence.  Normally we will chat away together.  It took a while before Cate managed to articulate what we were both feeling but not understanding.  In the 3 months since we last visited hospital we’ve got used to our new normal and we put to the backs of our minds my illness and situation we find ourselves dealing with.  A visit to hospital starkly reminded us that it’s not gone away and placed it into the centre ground again.  Once it had been said it cleared the air.

Since last time it was great to see my daughter participating in her school’s summer concert.  There was 2 hours of musical entertainment and a lot of talent on display which is a credit to the school.  It’s fantastic, as a Dad with very limited musical ability, to enjoy and celebrate my daughter’s success.  I think the star of the evening was a chap called Ivan who appeared on stage in a skull mask and a leather trench coat.  Dispensing with both by mid performance he sung a self penned song to a self recorded electro beat track.  That took some courage.

Of course as  an Englishman I should probably pass comment on the royal wedding.  It seemed to have all the build up, and with an English prince marrying an American actress, the UK tabloids were loving it.   However the star of the show was the American Bishop Michael Curry who delivered the sermon.  Not only did he go over (read double) the time allocated for him but he delivered the message in a style which seemed to shake up the normally staid and somewhat reserved character of such high church occasions.  He centred on love, all sorts of love but more directly sacrificial and redemptive love. If nothing else he was certainly charismatic.  It sent the ‘Twittersphere’ into overload.  One that I noted was from ‘Jewish atheist’ (Wikipedia)  and former Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband.

Miliband

It gave me a wry smile. I’ve heard it said a few times “If Jesus were here today and did those miracles then I’d believe.” Of course that may well happen, far be it for me to limit God.  However based on what I observe that’s unlikely. 2000 years ago a man called Jesus from Nazareth, in what is now Northern Israel, did loads of miracles yet ended up with most of the ‘believers’ deserting him.  In fact some of his own countrymen were so outraged by his claims that they arranged for him to be betrayed by one of his close friends before handing him over to the occupying Roman army who executed him.  We’re no different to those folk who lived then.  The rub is though, that this Jesus, if the miracles weren’t enough to give proof of who he said he was, was raised from the dead which was the ultimate proof he was the Son of God.  There is compelling evidence that Jesus is who he said he was and has changed lives including mine.  Judge it for yourself.  The link below is really helpful.  It’s written for students but don’t let that put you off. http://www.uncover.org.uk/john/watch/

Since last posting my son and I along with our friend Derek (former work colleague) and his son went to watch some box kart racing at Wickstead Park, Kettering.  It was a good laugh with karts ranging from the fun to the well over engineered. See below.  Derek also sorted us out with a trailer load of wood. It’s only June and the log store is full.  Get in.

Of course June has brought us the greatest sporting event in the world.  The FIFA world cup. I love it but get barely anytime to watch it anymore.  It’s great when you’re young and your worry is whether your parents have booked any family social event that might hinder you watching 3 matches a day for 2 weeks. Once the business end of the tournament starts, the reduction to a game per day or less seemed like a hole in time had opened.  My first WC memory is of España ’82. Northern Ireland beating Spain. Hamilton crossed it, Arconada got a hand to the ball only to steer it to Gerry Armstrong who hammered it in. Brazil 2-3 Italy, probably one of the greatest games ever including a Paolo Rossi hat trick.  Scotland going 1-0 up against Brazil with David Narey’s fantastic opening goal being described at halftime by pundit, the late Jimmy Hill, as a “toe poke.”  The BBC switchboard went into meltdown as enraged Scots called in.  It also led to the notorious song of the Tartan Army ‘We hate Jimmy Hill, he’s ……..’.  Scotland lost 1-4. My greatest WC memory is 1990 and nearly crashing thru the ceiling of my friend Andy’s house as 4 or 5 of us watched England beat Belgium in the last minute of extra time.  A sublime Paul Gascoigne chip from a free kick on to a superbly executed David Platt volley.  The 2018 WC nicely coincided with a similarly themed sports quiz held at our church.  I really enjoyed it together in a team with some friends and neighbours.  It was hosted by an organisation called Christians In Sport who have produced this thought provoking world cup video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PC41uY71OB0 One of the chaps who hosted gave a talk to tell how for most of his adult life he had been a “lefty Trotsky” type who had no time for Jesus.  It was when his 17 yr old daughter became a christian he began to investigate for himself and not just pass it off as all the cliches he’d previously believed. That was 12 years ago. I presume he still supports Labour.  For the record I think we came second.  My favourite question – Who did Brazil play in the opening game of France ’98?  Clue: It was their last appearance at a WC.

We’ve also had a few days away during half term.  We went back to Filey, a place I’ve grown to love since Cate introduced it to me about 25 yrs ago.  We always love crabbing from ‘The Brigg’, a sandstone and rock promontory.  The crabs there are wilder and therefore harder to catch than the ones in harbours and mudflats.  It offers a much greater sense of sport and therefore achievement.  We are so blessed by God to be able to do these things together.  The greater sport is making sure you don’t get caught there by the rising tide.  I never cease to be amazed and transfixed watching waves crashing in.

It prompted a rather spontaneous art purchase by a chap called Ian Mitchell. This harbours good memories.cobble.landing

To keep a left wing theme I thought I’d cut down to just one obituary this post.  Baroness Wilson of Rievaulx was more widely known as Mary Wilson, wife of the former Labour prime minister Harold Wilson.  She died earlier this month aged 102.  She was an accomplished poet and far from just being the wife of the PM, she had strong political views of her own which didn’t always agree with her husband.  It’s hard to imagine the changes she would have witnessed from the end of the first world war and the great depression, through the second world war and the social revolution of the 1960’s into the internet age of social media.  We’ve come such a long way in those 102 years.  We now have ‘Love Island’…..(man shakes head).

 

13. Fantasy League

Hello everyone.  Just a very brief update this time as time has escaped me.

My breathing has remained very stable and although laboured at times when doing some activities, the everyday stuff still happens as normal, whatever normal is.  I’ve stopped taking the steroids altogether now.  I originally started taking them to reduce inflammation in my lungs for which they were very effective.  Apparently you can’t take them forever and I think I feel better in myself for not taking them.  My appetite has certainly decreased which is helpful. One of the unwanted affects of stopping them is that my back and knees now ache again. I have had 9 months of limbo dancing and gymnastics ….. well, ok maybe not, but all my aches and pains disappeared.  I’ve also had a another CT scan this week.  It’s hard to know what to really hope for or how we should react.  I’ve had so many CT scans and been exposed to so much x-ray radiation I reckon I should either have super powers (I’ve tried stuff but nothing manifesting itself so far) or I’d get another cancer later anyway.  In short, we’ve got so much to be thankful to God for.  This extends far beyond this physical realm.

This afternoon we’ve got the grandly titled ‘Annual awards and AGM’, aka barbeque, of the football fantasy league I’m part of.  It was set up about 15 years ago by our friend Andy (who is now a vicar in west London) to keep a group of us from St Neots (I’m the only one still here) in touch, with the added bonus of competition and banter.  There’s a lot of love from the guys and their families for us and we’re very grateful for it.  I have to be honest and say after last years ‘AGM’ I didn’t expect to be at this one.  We have a good God.  It will also mark the debut of my new 2018-2019 Luton Town shirt.  It was a  lovely birthday present from Cate and the children.  The style of these new shirts is ‘muscle fit’ or in my case, as Cate calls it, ‘podge fit’.  I think the photo explains.2018-2019 Home

I get the results of my CT scan at the end of next week. I’ll let you know what they show and whether I’ve won any prizes at the ‘AGM’.  I’m sure you’re all gripped by that one.

12. Celebration

Well here we are again, on the verge of the British summer.  I think this is my favourite time of the year as nature literally comes into bloom and the hues of green take on a deep richness. It’s not too hot either.  We also have two separate doves’ nests in our garden which Cate and our friend Lucy only discovered when cutting back some of the rapidly growing foliage (many thanks Lucy).  The said sites have been left as is and undisturbed and we hope we will be in the right place at the right time to see the fledglings fly.

First up in this posting is an apology from last time.  I should have written about the arrival of a new prince into the British royal family. Louis Arthur Charles or to give him his full title His Royal Highness Prince Louis of Cambridge. He is fifth in line to the throne so to be fair he’s unlikely to see too much action. I’m not totally convinced by him sharing his name with a long line of pre-revolutionary French Kings, but hey, it’s a name.  I always feel sorry the Duchess of Cambridge who only hours after giving birth is subject to a full photo call in front of the worlds press as she leaves hospital with her new born. I think she probably knew the score when she married the heir to the throne but the experience must be something else.

My breathing continues to be fairly stable. There seems to be a slow decline but we feel so blessed to be able to do all the things we are and maintain relationships. We’ve just returned from a Church Weekend Away.  This is does what it says on the can, the church going away for a weekend which in this case was a former country pile called Letton Hall. We should have been staying at the house but because we booked too late we stayed off site.  We booked late because we expected my health to be significantly worse by this point. We’re grateful to God for his mercy. The weekend away was excellent. It was well organised and it was just lovely to spend time with our church family in a great setting.  A chap called Steve Smith, from a mission charity called SIM (not the disgraced former Aussie Cricket team captain), helped us get into a part of the bible called ‘The sermon on the mount’, recording Jesus’ words. It’s very challenging. Jesus turns all our thinking on its head. I think the main outcome is that you realise it’s not about doing stuff and getting it right.  It’s about a relationship with the living God. It shows us up and puts us in the wrong and Jesus in the right.

On the first bank holiday in May Cate ran in the Milton Keynes half marathon as did our friends Mike and Ben along with approx 5500 other people many of which were doing the full marathon.  The temperature was the hottest early May bank holiday at 27°C (80°F for our U.S. readers) since its inception in 1978. Runners were dropping like flies and the small army of St John Ambulance volunteer medics, who normally make up the spectator numbers, earned their stripes that day.  The finish line was inside stadium MK and I was relieved just to see Cate (and our friends) finish given the conditions. This consequently pushed the times south with all three of them some way off their PB’s. I’m so proud of Cate to have trained and pushed herself to achieve this and, what seems like madness to me, actually enjoy running.

 

As previously promised, we attended the last home game of the season at Kenilworth Rd. We went with our friend Graham and his son who is the same age as my son.  The trip started well as we stopped at Hitchin for a proper cooked breakfast (at lunchtime) which included a full fried slice (of bread). I’ve found these are becoming a rarity in cooked breakfasts.

When I was a boy, I have very happy memories of being with my brother at my Nan and Grandad’s house. Nan used to cook us fried bread and cut it into soldiers for us both to consume, which we did with gusto.   As an adult, I tried a few times to create that same taste but was unsuccessful. I put it down to it being associated with a happy memory rather than the taste. That is until in conversation with Mum, I realised Nan used to fry the bread in lard (pig fat).  It tasted really good but apparently blocks your arteries. For my now liberal views on cholesterol, see blog no.7.

Following brunch, Graham kindly paid the bill and returned to the table with some complimentary lollies announcing to the boys “Here you go lads, I’ve managed to negotiate a free lolly”.  Cue much laughing from me. We continued to the football and what turned out to be the best footballing atmosphere I think I’ve ever been in. It was rammed to capacity, with over 10,000 spectators in the ground that day.  The singing never stopped which included a few ‘tasty’ vitriolic songs about the FA and the EFL (see previous blog) but our favourite was as a parody from Herman’s Hermits;

Woke up this mornin’ feelin’ fine

I’ve got promotion on my mind

Nathan’s taking us up like he said he would, whoa yeah

Somethin’ tells me I’m into something good

I haven’t got any good footage from the home game, but the last game of the season away at Notts County gives you a flavour.  If you’re really keen, follow the link. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_SOQSDRdoVM

We managed to invade the pitch afterwards (with a few thousand others) and the boys enjoyed some knee sliding faux goal celebrations and sitting in the home dug out. My son even decided to use his empty ‘tic-tac’ sweet tub to have some Kenilworth road mud to keep…..mmmm.  Fantastic day out.  Luton will be in the same league next season as Graham’s team, Bradford City.  There was talk on the journey home about possibly taking in the away fixture at Valley Parade.  I’d like that so I hope it comes early in the season and my decline stays on its current trajectory.

 

In the program notes that day, the Luton manager, Nathan Jones (he of the song above) wrote of his faith.  After thanking his family he penned the following:

“My faith has also played a big part. Everything I believe is God’s will, so I praise the Lord for bringing me to do it …… Everything happens for a reason – it’s God’s will – and I’m immensely proud to lead the club.”

What does he mean by the will of God?  This is a difficult subject and whole forests have been felled to document the thoughts of men (and women) on this.  However, we know from the bible, and experience, that God is sovereign over all. That is, He reigns supreme, without rival or equal, in unattainable majesty over everything. As one writer puts it:

There are no limits to God’s rule. This is part of what it means to be God. He is sovereign over the whole world, and everything that happens in it. He is never helpless, never frustrated, never at a loss. And in Christ, God’s awesome, sovereign providence is the place we feel most reverent, most secure, most free. https://www.desiringgod.org/topics/the-sovereignty-of-god#

The bible says this “Not one sparrow falls to the ground apart from our Father in heaven” (Matthew 10:29). “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord” (Proverbs 16:33). Therefore, God’s will is his control of all things including Luton’s ascent into the third tier of English football.  What does that mean for me? It means God is in control of my illness and my families sadness. I think it’s easy to say God is in control of the good stuff and thank him, but I say from experience that it’s harder to say thank you for the difficult stuff.  What we’re going through isn’t a cosmic accident or a chance happening. My friend George, who I know formerly as a ‘yooff’ in St Neots and is now the leader of a Church in Nottingham, sent me a very kind email.  In it he helpfully wrote the following “….what God has called you, Cate, and the children to go through.”  We’re privileged to be called to be part of God’s plans for his glory – to big God up.  What I can say with confidence is that He uses all things to ultimately bring him glory and honour.  In the bible it says this:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…..” (Romans 8 vv28 -29a)

So I pray that we might either suffer well or be miraculously healed to God’s glory.

I feel I always ought to apologise for my obituary section.  I’m not overly morbid, really, but I think I write it because it’s on my mind and we’ll all be the subject of one sooner (me probably) or later (the rest of you unless you drive dangerously).

I’ll start with a near obituary.  Sir Alex Ferguson is regarded by many as one of the greatest football coaches/managers of the beautiful game and some believe he had the ability to stretch time 😉.  He has, thankfully, just survived having emergency surgery for a brain haemorrhage.  In the media frenzy that surrounded the news, one of his former, now retired (famous) players, Ryan Giggs, was quoted as ‘praying’ for Sir Alex’s recovery.  As far as I know Ryan has never expressed faith in God so it begs the question, who was he praying to? And does God listen if it isn’t done in faith? This segues nicely into comments made about, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, the new album by Sheffield band The Arctic Monkeys.  It has a style that has been likened to that of the now deceased International star David Bowie.  I heard it said on the BBC Radio 2 breakfast show that Bowie “….would be looking down smiling….” It’s reputed that Bowie ‘found God’ in the later days of his life. https://www.thesun.co.uk/archives/news/113368/how-cancer-stricken-atheist-david-bowie-found-god-in-his-final-weeks-of-life/ Therefore, if he was in heaven I’m convinced he would be too taken up with the awesomeness and holiness of God to be disturbed by the darkness of this world by ‘looking down’..  Likewise if he isn’t, he’ll be wailing and gnashing (his) teeth (Jesus’ words in Matthew Ch.13 v42) tortured in hell unable to enjoy the gift and joy of music.  I suspect ‘praying’ and ‘looking down’ are both figures of speech with little real meaning when used in this context, but so much greater meaning in the bigger context.

Dennis Nilsen, a notorious serial killer, died in prison aged 71.  I remember as a boy his arrest and trial being frequently in the media. He was caught after the drains near his flat blocked with the remains of his victims.

Dame Tessa Jowell died from a rare brain tumour earlier this month.  She will be most remembered for her part in winning the Olympic bid for the 2012 London games and its subsequent delivery.  I have fond memories of going to the opening day of the athletics in the Olympic stadium, now renamed The London Stadium and subsequently hijacked by West Ham Utd.😉

Lastly, 104-year-old scientist David Goodall left his home in Australia and flew across the world to end his life, or rather have someone in a Swiss clinic end it for him. He didn’t suffer from a terminal illness but wanted to accelerate his eventual death due to his diminishing independence.  He was euthanised or more accurately put, killed. Euthanasia seems such a clean word for something that is so severe. Being killed is what happens to accident or crime victims. Being killed is what cancer or motor neurone disease does to you. Being killed is what is done at the hands of ISIS.  Being killed is not the word we choose to use when done by choice at the hands of a doctor or by a lab technician. Trust me when I say I have much sympathy with some of the arguments used to justify it but you can tell my views on the subject from the tone of this writing.  I am strongly opposed to the introduction of ‘euthanasia’ through law in this country for many ideological and theological reasons but also because of mission creep or legislation slip.  What would be introduced with so many controls will weaken as time goes on and eventually those deemed different, or of no value, or the wrong type will get drawn in. But that could never happen in a civilised society could it?……..

As I deteriorate I guess the rubber will hit the road and I’ll have to see if I hold so tightly to those principles. In the Psalm 139 v16 it says ‘All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.’  I take great comfort that my days are held in the hands of a God who cares for me.

Congratulations go to my cousin Laura (cousin once removed to be technical) who got married to Carl.  It was great to be part of their wedding celebrations, all getting dressed up for the occasion, and we thank them for that.  It’s fun watching all the young lads, who haven’t met before, gravitate towards each other and unite around a football and some grass outside. It was also  lovely seeing our extended family and catching up a bit on each others lives.

Yesterday we had a royal wedding and an FA cup final. There’s also European cup final in a week and I might have had another CT scan all to comment on in the next blog.

11. What’s Normal?

Welcome back and hello to any new readers.  Since I last blogged my health, or more accurately my breathing, seems to be reasonably stable. There has been a slow decline however this has corresponded with me reducing my steroid dose.  I originally started taking steroids way back last summer to reduce inflammation in my lungs.  They worked well and my breathing improved significantly.  However, you’re not meant to take them long term due to side effects – muscle wastage, bone weakening (I take a nasty little tablet once a week to counteract this), diabetes, ‘moonface’ (notice my changing face through this blog) and weight gain (I can eat for my country at the moment) to name a few.  You do have to ask if it really matters if you’re going to expire shortly anyway?

I’ve tried a few days of self-medicating to see if my breathing improves by raising the dose back to what it was. I tried this successfully last summer to make sure we were able to get to a Luton pre-season friendly v Bedford Town at the ‘New Erie’.  If I’m honest I felt nervous in case it didn’t work as that would point to the meso growing again.  I felt nervous when just thinking about trying in case I didn’t like the answer.  It did work but not nearly to the same degree as in the summer of last year.

We all know decline is inevitable, the cords of death are entwining me, but as things progress we seem to find a new normal and go on from there.  Life is a bit slower but we’re coping reasonably well.  I’m still able to do most everyday stuff as long as I don’t push the pace when I huff and puff and go red faced.  In an in-car conversation last week we were all talking about illness and being sick.  My daughter, who has a particular skill for the odd outrageous comment, said of me, “well you’re not properly ill, you’ve got a fake illness.”  We understood what she meant, we just adjust to the new normal.

She also makes the occasional astute observation.  Our car has a ‘SPORT’ button on the dashboard.  You press it and it seems to give the car a bit of a pep up when accelerating.  I guess it adjusts the fuel injection map in the ECU to deliver more fuel. I call it the ‘less economy button’.  She suggested it made no difference at all, it was purely psychological and merely acting as a placebo.  Maybe she’s right –  as long as we feel the part we therefore act the part.  ‘If it feels good, do it’ is the resounding gong of my generation and those following.  I read an article on the BBC this last week entitled 21st Century Spirituality’ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idt-sh/spirituality Only 2 of the soundbites offered actually identify themselves, one a humanist, the other ‘sufi’.  Here’s the quote from the humanist, Simon;

“You don’t need to be dying to ask fundamental questions. (but my life it helps – Ed.) Through constant examination and reflection, my values continually shift and evolve.  As a humanist I create my own meaning, and for me this is centred on my relationships with others and making a positive contribution.”Simon

As we live in the age of the easily offended, be warned here comes the offence.  I find this quote almost intellectual bankruptcy.  As Christians we’re mocked for basically believing in an historical Jesus who clearly shows us the way to God and sets a clear datum line, or benchmark, as to what is an acceptable way to behave.  Not that behaviour gets us favour with God but it does show us what God is like.  Above we have someone saying “….. my values continually shift and evolve …. I create my own meaning .… making a positive contribution.”  I’m sure Simon is lovely guy who is a decent employee, neighbour and mate who makes a ‘positive contribution’ to society.  I’d probably enjoy spending time with him.  But he makes his own values up as he sees fit and creates his own meaning whether that be real or not.  Let me explain my point.  Let’s say for example, what if Simon has a liberal view of sexual ethics and intimate relationships.  What if he thinks adultery is basically ok.  This is often seen as subjective, ‘they just weren’t happy’, ‘they found more meaning in another relationship’ etc etc.  Adultery is subjective until it happens to you or someone you’re close to.  Then it becomes objectively, absolutely, definitely wrong! ‘If it feels good do it’ maybe fine for you but not necessarily for someone else. Who makes the rules then?  How might you say to Simon it’s wrong? We can say it’s wrong because of the pain it causes, the guilt it leaves, the chaos left in its wake.  But it’s wrong, not because of what we feel, but because God says it’s wrong and it offends him.  He knew what it would do.  Ultimately Jesus knew what it was like – to be betrayed by someone – even to death. The difference is he accepted willingly the consequences of that betrayal as it would give humankind life. Not only life, but eternal life through faith in his finished work on the cross.  He lived the perfect life we can’t live and dies the death we should have.  Find freedom in him, through his love, not through self expression and doing what you think is right only to find it was all a house of cards.

As our daughter grows up it’s been great to be able to watch ‘proper’ TV shows with her, it’s been good fun.  Over recent months we’ve all enjoyed crime dramas Shetland and Endeavour. I think Cate and I enjoy the bleakness and abruptness of the landscapes shown on Shetland as well as the drama which is what we’re supposed to be enjoying.  For those who don’t know, Endeavour is a prequel to an earlier TV show running from 1987 to 2000 called Morse.  Both follow the adventures of the eponymous hero Detective Constable/Detective Sergeant/Detective Inspector/Detective Chief Inspector Endeavour Morse.

Our daughter got very into the drama and was quite worried at times when he was faced with danger.  Of course, Cate and I were fairly relaxed.  (Spoiler alert) We had watched, way back in 2000, a well-aged, hoary headed DCI Morse suffer a heart attack and die.  We knew he wasn’t going to suffer a fatal blow in the prequels.  On a deeper level it describes our situation and to quote Billy Graham, ‘I’ve read the last page of the Bible, it’s all going to turn out all right.’ (See blog No.9).  Here comes the rub.  At the end of both series (or seasons if you’re from the US) the station announcer said that they would be returning for a new series (season) next year.  That’s when I feel it inside. I probably won’t make the next series.  Little moments like that are what sometimes catch me unawares and cause my grief to well up unfettered.

On a positive life moment, I said back in blog no.5, I wasn’t sure I’d be wearing my summer shoes again.  Well think again, the recent 3 day April heatwave has given them their 2018 debut and a free transfer from under the bed back to the hallway storage 😊 #middleagedman.shoes

For the last 5 years, over the Easter holidays, we go to a Christian conference/bible week/celebration called ‘Word Alive’. There were approx. 4500 people on a Pontins Holiday site in Prestatyn, North Wales.  I’d like to be able to recommend it as a holiday destination but I’d be disingenuous. Prestatyn is OK with a great beach (v.good for cricket) but Pontins has seen better days.

However, we were there for the conference.  There’s all sorts going on – Bible teaching, topical and ethical issue discussion, singing, bands, comedians, resources, sports and much more. It was a wet and muddy week and despite all the plethora of activities on offer, my son made some of his own entertainment with a tennis ball …. Eeek.  pontins

One of the lovely things about the week is often meeting old friends from different parts of the country.  One of these was Paul who I know from the church I went to whilst a student 20 odd years ago.  He was awaiting a hip operation and we exchanged notes about being in hospital and the affects of anaesthetic.  He told me something very helpful.  He reminded me of the story of The Pilgrims Progress. If you haven’t read it, it’s a book written by Bedford’s most famous son, John Bunyan, recounting a dream whilst locked up in Bedford gaol for illegal preaching.  It has been continuously in print from it’s first edition in 1678.  The main character is called Christian, and it tells the story of his journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City.  It is Christian allegory expressing the journey through life and death, and into the afterlife.  Death is represented by crossing a river.  Christian’s friend Hopeful has to support him from drowning and being washed away in the current.  The inference is that if this was projected into reality Christian is having a difficult death. Back to our chalet at Pontins, Paul reminded me that the destination was still reached by both Christian and Hopeful.  Amongst all the doubt, angst and worry it doesn’t change the destination and it doesn’t change the outcome when we know Jesus.  We then prayed for each other. Fantastic.

Great news last Saturday when Luton Town FC were promoted to League One (the 3rd tier of English football) after a draw away at Carlisle.  It’s been a decade since we were in that league following three successive relegations culminating in 5 years in the non-league wilderness.  Luton were deducted 30pts that final season for financial misdemeanours which sealed our fate. One of my favourite banners at Kenilworth Rd. is ‘Luton Town Est 1885, Betrayed by the FA 2008’.  My son and I are going with our friends to the last home game of the season next week.  Expect some on pitch action photos …… not involving the players 😉

I’m not sure how helpful my ‘obituary’ section is but I enjoy writing it and it reminds us of the fragility of life and surety of death and therefore how we need to be ready for it without regret.  It’s been another bad month for the rich and famous.

Among others, former US first lady Barbara Bush, campaigner for social justice and adult literacy, and the only first lady to see both her husband and son become president.  Dale Winton, famed with art students of my generation, who didn’t have lectures, for Supermarket Sweep.  Tim Bergling, aka DJ Avicii, at only 28 yrs old.  You may not know the name but I reckon you will have heard some of his music – probably the now apocryphal and misleading ‘The Nights’ or ‘Wake Me Up’. Cracking tunes!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UtF6Jej8yb4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IcrbM1l_BoI

Actor Bill Maynard famously played character Claude Greengrass, a loveable rogue in the long running drama Heartbeat. He always wore a neckerchief, as did my Dad because he was very susceptible to getting a stiff neck whilst at work in a factory with big open doors that encouraged cold drafts.  As such he was nicknamed ‘Greengrass’. In 1990 when I started work in the same factory, his colleagues couldn’t always remember my name so I was called ‘Son of Greengrass’.

Ray Wilkins, or ‘Butch’ as he was affectionately named, passed away aged 61.  Wilkins was a professional footballer of some repute having played at the top level both here in the UK and in Italy.  He represented England at 2 world cups.  One of my boyhood memories is of him being sent off during Mexico ’86 (the first Englishman to do so in a World Cup) for throwing the ball away in protest which hit the referee.  When famous football ‘people’ die there will often be a minute’s applause at football grounds around the nation the weekend following the death.  This seems to have replaced the minutes silence.  Indeed, at the earlier referenced pre-season friendly we attended, there was a minute’s applause for Bradley Lowry, the 6 yr old Sunderland fan who grabbed the hearts of the nation and lost his life to neuroblastoma – a rare type of cancer.  The thing that strikes me is that during a minute’s silence you are forced to think about death and the destiny of the deceased and what that means.  The minute’s applause dulls this completely, in fact I think it reflects society completely in that it pushes the consequences of the sad death out of the mind completely.

Eric Bristow was arguably the first superstar of darts and a five time world champion.  His funeral was held the day before what would have been his 61st birthday.  He also was the subject of probably my favourite lines of ‘sports’ commentary, vocalised by the late Sid Waddell.  When Bristow won his fourth world title in five years, Waddell delivered the classic line ‘When Alexander of Macedonia was 33 he cried salt tears because there were no more worlds to conquer. Bristow’s only 27!’.

Hopefully the last Luton home game of the season, a family wedding and a church weekend away to report on during the next broadcast.

10. Living the Dream

Hello again readers, thank you for sticking with it.  Since I last corresponded I’ve had the results of my post chemo CT scan.  Thankfully these have showed no change in the Meso, both in my plural space (lungs) and on my peritoneum (abdomen).  This means the chemo has done what it was meant to do and the ‘pain’ was worth it.  We are very thankful to God for showing us this mercy.

Cate and I recently attended a Meso support group put on by Mesothelioma UK http://www.mesothelioma.uk.com/  This is the charity, Cate with our friend Lorraine, raised money for in her half marathon last September. 20170902_115642

It was very helpful.  We met some other Meso sufferers and their carers (Cate is my carer 😊). One of the men we met had survived over 5 years since diagnosis.  That gives us a kind of hope that there might be more life to live than we’d previously expected.  I’d geared myself to die this year (statistically most Meso patients survive one year from diagnosis) and I probably still will but meeting this chap left me with a strange feeling. Of course I want as much time as possible with my family enjoying the good gifts that God has abundantly blessed me with.  I also know there is even more in store for me in the afterlife and it lasts for eternity.  Regulars will know from previous blogs that at our church we’ve been looking at the last book of the bible, Revelation, which talks a lot about the afterlife. Well we’ve now finished it ….. some of you will be glad to hear.  The penultimate chapter (21) holds the words that are often used at funerals, especially at the graveside where the emotion is raw and the tears flow.

“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” ©biblegateway.com

What an amazing fact.  Not so much that the ‘bad’ stuff is blown away, and trust me that there’s been plenty of tears in this house, but the fact that God will ‘dwell’ with his people.  I’ve previously told you I’m an engineer, but to narrow that down I’m a design engineer with a diesel engine company.  Some of you will know that engines have camshafts in them.  The area of the cam where there is no further movement of the cam follower is called the ‘dwell’.  On the ‘dwell’ maximum lift has been achieved, there is no further lift available.  This is important as we digest this verse from the bible.  God will dwell, or live, with his people therefore means we can’t be ‘lifted’ any closer to God.  The relationship between God and man is perfect, not marred anymore by the darkness of this world or sin as the bible calls it.  The thing is if we’re already a Christian nothing can change the way God views us.  He already sees us as perfect through his son Jesus.  The full meaning of that last sentence is almost, if not, beyond human understanding. The next verse continues;

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”

I’m looking forward to being made new as this version of me is tired in many ways.

Going back to the support group we also listened to a couple of talks, the first by one of the doctors at Papworth Hospital who leads a lot of Meso research, the second by a solicitor who leads a team to get compensation for people in our position.  The doctor who spoke presented some of the streams of research and trials that are happening around the UK and beyond.  The UK has the highest mesothelioma occurrence per head of population in the world.  He was one of the doctors who treated me in Papworth last summer when I had the infection (empyema) in my pleural cavity.  He did tell us afterwards that although the infection nearly killed me, there are some observations or circumstantial evidence that it possibly helps fight against the Meso as lots of disease fighting cells flood the area.

Since I last blogged we’ve had the great freeze, the ‘Beast from the East’.Snow1

And as may have happened to others of you our boiler condensate pipe froze up and the boiler stopped working.  So I found myself before work on a Friday morning climbing out the landing window onto a snow covered garage roof with a headtorch on.  Our neighbour Andy, who lives behind us, called round to make sure everything was OK.  As this has happened before I had previously put a coupling in the pipe so it undoes easily and then the ice falls out (usually).  Cate is then dispatched to the loft to hit the reset button on the boiler and hey presto, heat is restored to the house.  Why do I tell you about this rather mundane piece of home maintenance?  Well once the freeze was over and normal weather conditions were resumed I decided to head back out on to the garage roof to reconnect the pipe so the condensate goes down the drain.  Except this time I took Cate and Reece with me.  It occurred to me that when this happens again (twice in about 7 years so far) I might not be here, therefore we needed a bit of technology transfer.  Currently my son has the practical acumen but isn’t strong enough to undo the coupling so Cate is there to be the muscle.  I don’t think it will be long before he is.  I do find it rather difficult leading these impromptu training courses with the future in mind.  I’m leaving the chainsaw training alone for the time being.  You can go through life without an arm but it’s better to have both and you’ve still got to make it to A & E in plenty of time. Anyhow my brother is handy with chainsaws!

When my mind wanders from the moment to the future I have this rather dark humorous thought that perhaps I could go on a low level crime spree in the hope that if I get caught I’ll be dead before the criminal justice system is able to pass judgement.  A bit like the TV show ‘Breaking Bad’ where apparently (I’ve not seen it) a teacher with terminal cancer decides to financially look after his family upon his death by cooking up and selling crystal meth.  I wasn’t thinking quite that scale. Maybe just a pitch invasion at Luton mid game.  For those of you who follow football you’ll recognise that there is a steadfast rule to one person pitch invasions that is as true as Newton’s laws of motion.

  1. The pitch invader runs on to the playing surface, often with arms raised aloft.
  2. A pursuit ensues with a (usually) slightly overweight steward wearing an oversized hi-vis jacket.
  3. The steward will fall over in the pursuit and the crowd will cheer loudly.
  4. Eventually the invader will succumb to the overwhelming number of stewards (think the battle of Rorke’s Drift in the film Zulu). The crowd cheer loudly again as the trespasser is led away.

The trouble is I’d run out of breath before I’d even made it to the centre circle and what sort of a spectacle would that be for the paying public?  And, of course, I’d be leaving my 11yr old son stranded in the stands …. “I’m sorry officer you can’t arrest me my son is in the stands.” If you don’t believe me read this. https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/12/18/sunderland-pitch-invader-chelsea_n_4464036.html  I need to put these thoughts to bed but it does bring me amusement.

FBL-ENG-LCUP-SUNDERLAND-CHELSEA

It’s great seeing people to chat to or who call in and visit.  A couple of weeks ago I had a run of four curries in eight days.  The first of these was with my cousin Dan.  He has always been particularly keen to look out for me over quite a few years of ill health. We had a good night out at the curry house on the end of our street. We discussed many things and I’m more clued up about the workings of a tractor gearbox now.  Dan also serves on a team that goes out early Sunday morning in Bedford to give breakfast to those sleeping rough. He told me of a recent experience that has a dark irony about it considering many of those sleeping rough have problems with alcohol addiction.  He asked 2 of the men if they’d slept ok (Saturday night/Sunday morning) but they replied that they’d been up all night.

“What do you do all that time?” Dan asked

“Wander up and down the streets of Bedford” the 2 chaps say

“Isn’t that boring?”

“No!  we watch the Police herding the drunks down the high street when the night clubs are turning out at 4am”.

No comment needed.

My second night out was with my friend Alden who lives round the corner from us.  Our boys are at school together and also Scouts – both have a penchant for fire lighting!  It was great conversing with Alden, he cuts straight to the chase regarding my health and there are no elephants in the room.  I like that.  We chewed the cud over a few topics including the state of the nation.  In many ways we share very similar views including some political opinions but have a different world view.  He sees everyone as basically good with a few bad eggs (say Robert Mugabe). With my bible world view googles I see everyone as ultimately bad with only one good egg …. ever – Jesus Christ.  The trouble between good and bad is deciding where the dividing line is.  It’s very subjective.  Jesus is very objective by comparison.  I apologise if that sounds arrogant or dismissive but I can’t underplay who Jesus says he is – The only way to know God. I write this blog on Easter weekend when we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Was a man called Jesus of Nazareth executed by the Romans approx.2000 yrs ago?  Absolutely!  That is a reasonably uncontested historical fact.  Was Jesus who he said he was -The son of God – is the key question. After all, that’s why the Jewish religious leaders with the help of the Roman authorities killed him.  He claimed to be the one promised from the beginning of time who would go as lamb to the slaughter to die in place of those who know they aren’t good enough and cry out to God.  And then, as prophesied hundreds and thousands of years before, he rose from the dead to give his followers new life and have that life to the full. It’s hard to believe that someone can rise from the dead, but this is what lies at the heart of the Christian faith and there is solid historical evidence. https://www.bethinking.org/did-jesus-rise-from-the-dead  If this Easter you want to know more about who Jesus is and how much he loves us then read the Gospel of John in the bible https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+1&version=NIV

In this blog’s ‘who’s died recently section’ it’s been a bad month for celebrities.

Roger Bannister – The first man to run a mile under 4 minutes

Trevor Bailiss – The inventor of the clockwork radio

Jim Bowen – TV presenter of ‘Bullseye’.  The game show that saw speedboats abandoned near pubs and working mens clubs all around the Midlands and North of England.  It also spawned the phrase that has entered the vernacular ‘lets see what you could have won’.bullseye

Ken Dodd – Comedian, famed for his incredibly longs shows and hate figure of the inland revenue.

Prof.Stephen Hawking – Theoretical physicist at Cambridge University, who although suffering from a rare form of motor neurone disease continued to be a leading world figure in his area of academia.  He also brought cosmology science to the masses as an author.  It was, some years ago, during one of the launches of one of these books that the media picked up on his atheism and a quote – ‘there is no God.’  This was the soundbite that obviously was meant to help sell books.  It was all over the morning news and upon reaching work, my then boss, who was probably best described as agnostic (?) and knew I was a Christian, said “for a clever bloke, that was a pretty stupid thing to say.” Mmmm I thought.

Finally, some Aussie cricketers have been caught ball tampering. Before we go throwing too many stones from a moral high ground, I suspect they aren’t the only team at it. There seems to be a level of sympathy, albeit low, for Cameron Bancroft and even captain Steve Smith.  There seems to be very little for David Warner.  I suspect this is because of the proverb, ‘those who live by the sword will die by the sword.’  The story is still unfolding and maybe one day the whole truth will out.  It does highlight the differences between the sporting psyche in Australia and the UK.  Would Prime Minister May have made any announcement if Joe Root and Co. had been caught in the same situation?

9. All At Sea

Well my final chemo cycle has been dispensed.  Below, for the sake of tradition, is me on a drip (the drug is hidden under the green bag) with the very lovely Cate.20180201_123908

It was pretty undramatic in one sense whilst being a tad traumatic in another. Undramatic in that nothing really happened, I felt ill for a few days before recovering as is the normal way.  A tad traumatic in that it was the last cycle, and that has implications.  Those of you who have known me for a while will remember in 2014 I was diagnosed and treated for bowel cancer.  That’s why my nickname is Lucky 😊. I had surgery followed by several courses of chemotherapy to treat and cure that.  I remember receiving and completing the final cycle and feeling so relieved.  No longer would I have to feel ill every fortnight (the chemo cycles were every 2 weeks) and hopefully I would regain some strength that had been sapped from me over the approx. 6 months of treatment. More importantly I had the rest of my life to look forward to and everything I hoped that would entail, maybe even grandchildren at some distant point in the future.  This time it’s so different. The future is considerably shorter.  The chemo has definitely helped with my breathing. It has allowed me better health than I would have had it’s pretty fair to assume.  Please humour me and look at the graph below which helps illustrate my point.  The engineer in me loves graphs.Lung health

On the X axis is time and my nominal ability to breath is on Y axis. Please bear with me as the graph is just a big approximation. The blue line represents the historical timeline up to now. The traumatic parts are the red, green and purple lines and their behaviour.  What fall off will there be, (A) exponential, (B) polynomial or (C) linear? One for the maths lovers there. Or none of the above, I haven’t drawn the miraculous healing one on.  Of course, me hypothesising over this isn’t actually going to make a difference.  Only One is in charge of the destiny of our lives and beyond, and that is almighty God.  Everyone knows this deep inside whether they choose to acknowledge it or suppress this truth. If people genuinely believed there wasn’t a sovereign being, a God, then we would live our lives in a different way that didn’t conform to the God given morality of conscience and community.

At the moment I feel a little bit like a ship pushed out to sea.  Previously it was a ship that had some broken bits and only one engine working properly.  But now we know it’s going to crash and I’m concerned how rough the seas are going to be.  Will it be dashed apart on the rocks or slowly sink as the hull fills with water.  However, the one thing I hang on to is that the Captain has stayed on board. Jesus Christ is who he says he is and like a good captain he’s not into abandoning ship. I want to hang on to the hope he offers and let him guide me to the end and beyond to eternity.

In family life we had a few days away at half term in a place just North of Bridlington on the North Yorkshire coast.  Many thanks go to my Brother in Law, Pete, who has a static van up there.  It really is quite a home from home and is lovely and toasty warm with full central heating.  To be fair it had to be as the weather was …erm … bracing, as one might expect in February.  However, as Cate and I learned from our time living in Norway some years ago, they had a great phrase, ‘There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.’  Therefore, we wrapped up nice and warm and got ourselves down to the beach for some walks.  There is something which is intangible about walking by the sea that brings great satisfaction.  We also had a trip slightly further north to Filey to repeat the exercise.  It was proper cold there, and wet!

 

Whilst there we watched live, in the car, on a phone as Elise Christie crashed out of the 500m short track speed skating at the winter Olympics. How technology has come a long way since my childhood trips to the seaside.  Both Cate and I have quite a soft spot for the Winter Olympics probably due to our time in Norway where the kids are born wearing skis.  To be honest I think I prefer them due to the adrenaline rush.  Let’s face it there’s not many sports at the summer games where if you fall over it hurts a lot.  At the winter games falling over always hurts and then some.  It was great to see Lizzy Yarnold defend her skeleton bobsleigh title, the first Brit to do so.  Gold medals for Brits at winter Olympics are as rare as rocking horse doo doo so we have to glory in the one we have.

Whilst away we also watched a couple of films, Dunkirk and La La Land. Obviously different films, but I liked the latter a lot more than I thought I would and I can see why it won so many awards. The cinematography is superb.  For the uninitiated, Dunkirk tells a version of the evacuation of approx. 330,000 British and French troops from the Northern French coastal town of Dunkirk in 1940, during World War 2.  It was helped by many private small boats assisting the Navy to get closer to the beaches to pick up the troops.  This has coined the phrase ‘the Dunkirk spirit’.  On the other hand, La La Land is a musical that tells the story of a wannabe actress and a jazz pianist, come would be jazz club owner, as they make their way in the Hollywood/Los Angeles entertainment industry.

 

Not only are the film genres and stories so different, so are the messages.  Dunkirk is effectively a grim and grimy film about death which has salvation at the end.  It’s also a story about community, about sacrifice and the greater good.  La La Land (spoiler alert) is a film full or vibrant colour yet about the individual.  Its message is one of putting your career ‘dream’ over that of relationship, that of the individual’s pursuit rather than that of sacrificial relationships. One film left me with hope, the other left me feeling slightly empty (that’s not to say it’s not a very good film/musical).  I think in western society the individual, and ‘what I want’, has trumped (no pun intended) community.  It’s often about ‘my rights’, not ‘how we can help each other?’ ‘I’m alright Jack’ is the oft used phrase to describe it.  As part of our church we meet regularly as smaller ‘house’ groups and we are looking at a course about basic Christianity called Life Explored http://www.life.explo.red/ . This week the bible passage we looked at was from Luke Ch.19 about a chap called Zacchaeus. He was the model individual, out for himself, who kicked relationship into touch, that is until he met Jesus.  The text is below;

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” ©biblegateway.com

Let’s be clear, Zacchaeus was about as popular as a poo in a swimming pool. Not only was he working for the occupying Roman army collecting taxes, he gained his wealth by over taxing people to cream off the excess.  When Jesus wants to be friends with this ‘bad’ man everyone is shocked. And after meeting Jesus, Zacchaeus is a changed man.  As Jesus says, he has received salvation.  It’s the same today.  We think we have to be good to know Jesus, yet it’s not until we realise how bad we are, spiritually bankrupt so to speak, that we meet Jesus …. And he welcomes us.  It also shows the same truth today, that it’s not religion, it’s relationship.  Jesus isn’t a power, a force, a theory, but a person who we can know.

Back to the film, it did have a great line that made me laugh.  One of the main characters, Mia, can’t find her car and the other, Seb, shows how if you point the locking remote control at your head it amplifies the signal and unlocks the car.  Seb then says “You find your car quicker but it does give you cancer”.  I’m finally seeing the link.

Whilst away it was great to see one of my old uni mates, Paul, who made the trip over from Bradford.  An even more impressive effort given the amount of fuel a 4.6 V8 Range Rover uses.  It doesn’t half sound good though! Good to have some banter together and laugh at the trauma of sorting children out with dressing up costumes for World Book Day. I think his 3:30am finish is a new record.

We also had UK staple of fish and chips. Fish and chips taste so much better at the seaside and it’s the law in the UK to eat them whilst at the coast.  I enjoy them with mushy peas.  On our way home we called into to see Cate’s family for tea where we had the northern favourite (and one of my favourites) of meat pie and mushy peas. Mushy peas twice in a week was well over my safe ration allowance.

My garage clearance continues apace.  Ebay have made a health profit on the back of this so let me encourage you to find value in the clutter.  One mans junk is another man’s treasure…..or woman’s. On discussing the emptying of the garage, one of my pals, Steve, who helped clear a lot of the wood (into his garage ha ha), carried on the black humour theme. “If Jesus gives you a miraculously healing you’re going to kick yourself.”

My cousin Rachel and 2 of her girls came up from East London to visit us.  It was lovely to catch up on each other lives.  Rachel’s dad, my Uncle Dave, passed away when she was 19 yrs old and she shared with us how she became a Christian, a disciple of Jesus Christ, the very night it happened.  I’d not heard her testimony of those events before.  We were all in the room listening including my Dad who was best friends with Uncle Dave.  They then prayed for me.  It was a sweet, precious time and we’re thankful for that.

I watched the last half hour of The Brits this last week with my daughter.  For non UK readers The Brits are the UK music industry awards. She updated me on youth culture that has passed this old man by.  I hadn’t even heard of Dua Lipa.  I observed a couple of things.  Rita Ora (who I have heard of) performed with curly hair wearing a jump suit.  Both Cate and I commented she looked a bit like Janet Jackson or even 5 Star.  Google it kids.

The other part which sparked my attention was Stormzy receiving his award for best album.  Now what I know about ‘Grime’ you can write with an oily finger on the back of a fag packet.  Never the less, he started by giving the glory to God.  Nice one Stormzy, he obviously realises who gave him the talent and work ethic.  See blog No.3.

My son and I managed another trip to Kenilworth Road, this time with my Dad. The game was largely entertaining, with Luton, having bossed the majority of the play, coming from 2 goals down to draw 2-2 with Cheltenham.  It should have been 3-2 to Luton but the referee, who was wearing a Cheltenham shirt under his kit, disallowed the goal by failing to play advantage and pulling the play back to award Luton a penalty kick. Bizarre.  Some of our fellow fans were rather upset.  The penalty was saved, and pandemonium broke out.  Football does have the ability to send the average person apoplectic with rage.20180224_143059

Finally, in my now seeming regular who’s died recently section, we note the death of Billy Graham. For those who don’t know, he was an evangelist who preached the message of Jesus to hundreds of millions of people across the globe.  Even the BBC and the Guardian Newspaper gave him a glowing obituary. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-13374487.  Many quotes have been attributed to him and I guess we have to trust the sources that they are true.  Here are 3 favourites I’ve read over recent days.

His first is probably the most important.  “I have one message: that Jesus Christ came, he died on a cross, he rose again, and he asked us to repent of our sins and receive him by faith as Lord and Saviour, and if we do, we have forgiveness of all of our sins.”  If you’d like to know more what Mr Graham meant by that see https://stepstopeace.org/?utm_source=bgea%20facebook&utm_medium=post&utm_campaign=wp&utm_content=wp&outreach=wp%20memorial%20link The video is a bit ‘cheesy’ to a UK audience, but the truth remains the same.

Secondly, a quote which apparently Mr Graham took from a 19th Century evangelist called DL Moody. “Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.”

The final quote speaks to me as we’re currently looking at the last book of the Bible, called Revelation, at our church. “I’ve read the last page of the Bible,” he once said. “It’s all going to turn out all right.”  This is so true if you’re on the right side.  If you’re not, it’s more than worrisome.

I’m not sure how I’m going to start my next blog.  It won’t revolve around treatment cycles but I should have the result of a CT scan.  I’m not quite sure what we do with that result but I’ll let you know all being well.

8. What might have been

Well this is old news for a lot of you but there was no David and Goliath like giant slaying at St James Park back at the beginning of January.  Luton acquitted themselves well and played good football, not resorting to long ball, but switched off for 10 mins when Newcastle scored 3 goals.  We scored early in the second half and soon after had a second ruled out for offside. That would have made an interesting finish but to the victor the spoils so well-done Newcastle United.  To be fair though, they’re not a great team and they’re going to struggle in the Premier League, especially upfront.  We had a great experience at NUFC and an even better one seeing our friends the Mowats who looked after us for the weekend.  Mr M and I also enjoyed sampling some ‘fruit of the grain’ in the form of a couple of single malts.  If I’m being honest there is a tinge of disappointment we didn’t win and more than a feeling of injustice.  It transpired later that Saturday evening, when watching Match of the Day, that the second goal wasn’t offside.  See what you think below.  What would have happened if it had been allowed? If only the VAR (Video assistant referee) trial had been there instead of on the south coast at Brighton and Hove Albion.

There has been a lot about injustice in the media during the last month including about John Worboys.  Worboys aka ‘the black cab rapist’ is about to be released on parole after serving approximately 9 years of what was an indeterminate sentence.  A lot of people, especially his victims, have felt an enormous sense of injustice.  They argue that firstly 9 years hardly fits the magnitude of crimes he committed and that he is still a danger.  I don’t want to go into the rights or wrongs of the parole boards decision on these pages but look at another aspect.  One of my habits on a morning is to look at the front pages of the papers on the BBC website.  On the 7th January one of these caught my eye.  It was the front page of The Daily Star.  I should point out I’m no fan of this red top and you’d be advised to read other papers.  You can see the headline below and a link to the article on their website (don’t stray on the other links whilst there please!!)

https://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/latest-news/672073/John-Worboys-black-cab-rapist-sex-offender-london-west-end

Daily Star 2018-01-07

I don’t know or not if he’s become a pukka Christian, only God knows the heart, yet it begs the question, can he be forgiven by God?  An even greater example of this are Fritz Sauckel and Joachim von Ribbentrop (I’m grateful to Mike, the pastor of the church we’re part of, for lifting this example from one of his sermons.)  They were both tried at Nuremberg after World War II and found guilty of war crimes, and subsequently hanged. Sauckel was the Head of Labour Supply for Nazi Germany. He worked millions to death without mercy. At the time he was described as, “the greatest and cruellest slaver since the Pharaohs of Egypt.”#1  Ribbentrop was Foreign Minister of Germany from 1938-1945. He personally persuaded leaders of neighbouring countries to deport Jews to Nazi extermination camps. Therefore, he too had a hand in the deaths of millions.

Henry Gerecke was Army Chaplain to the War Criminals at Nuremberg.  He tells how one day Sauckel asked to speak with him.  He asked Gerecke to read the Bible and pray with him, and then prayed himself, “God be merciful to me a sinner.”  Over time he professed faith in Christ.  Gerecke became convinced he was a real Christian.  Ribbentrop also claimed to believe in Christ.  Before he walked to the gallows he told Gerecke that he had put all his trust in Christ.  When an American officer asked him for his last words, he said, “I place all my confidence in the Lamb who made atonement for my sins. May God have mercy on my soul.”#1 (#1 Don Stephens, War & Grace, Evangelical Press, p.259)

Were they genuine? Again I don’t know.  Gerecke himself thought they were.  Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that they were.  The question remains. If God is fair and just, how can he forgive people like Sauckel, Ribbentrop and Worboys who are guilty of the most terrible crimes?  First, lets be clear forgiveness by God plainly doesn’t mean we escape the consequences of our crimes.

And here comes the trouble, we naturally want fairness and that to us that hardly seems fair.  But we need to stand back a bit.  I said in an earlier post that we often try to compare ourselves to people like the aforementioned three men.  And to most people’s eyes we seem to be better or nicer or more upright in character than these men. In the bible we read the following in the letter the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome.

There is no-one righteous not even one;  Romans 3 v10

…. for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, …… Romans 3 v23

These verses paint us in a different light. None of us match up to a perfect God.  None of us can jump high enough to reach his bar.  All of us offend, or to use a bible word – sin, against a holy God. And I can see that in my own life.  Even a lot of my ‘good’ deeds are actually tainted by selfish motives.  I guess you’re not so different from me?

The key point is the rest of the verse that precedes and follows in Romans 3 v23 and 24.  Let me show it to you below.

There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

First, ‘There is no difference’, male or female, black or white, rich or poor, wise or foolish, Nazi war criminal or Joe/Joanna Average, we’re all guilty in the sight of God. Second, ‘and all are justified’.  The term ‘justify’ is a legal term from the law courts which means to be declared ‘not guilty’ and in the right.  This is not some gradual moral change in us, it’s a legal verdict that changes our status before God in an instant.  We were guilty but God declares us to be in the right with him.  Third, ‘freely by his grace’, not because of our performance, but as a free gift of his grace, to all who trust in him.  This is one of the great things about the gospel. It’s the great leveller, there is no difference, we’re all guilty, we’re all saveable. This way is for all who trust in Christ.  Fourth, ‘through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.’  We were redeemed, i.e. bought back at a heavy, heavy price.   God is a God of justice.  Sin and wrong doing can’t go unpunished. But He is a God of amazing love and the innocent Jesus took our sin in his body on the cross.  God the Father put the punishment we deserve on his son. Greater love has no man than this that he gives up his life for his friends. Therefore, on our death, or upon the return of Christ, we’re judged by God.  We’re either found guilty and horribly punished for eternity or found in Christ and passed innocent, spending eternity in paradise.

Interestingly if we’re forgiven it gives us the ability to forgive.  Some of you may have seen or read in the media this last week about the former Doctor to the United States gymnastics team, Larry Nassar.  He was sentenced to 175 years in prison for sexual abuse of those under his care.  Many of his victims bravely testified in court including Rachael Denhollander.  Her testimony is on a link below which shows both the grace and justice of God.

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/incredible-testimony-former-gymnast-confronts-sexual-abuser-court/

My health has been fairly stable since I last blogged of which I’m very thankful.  Chemo cycle No.5 passed off without drama although I was given 2 units of blood the following day as I was anaemic again.  Below is the obligatory photo of me on a drip, this time receiving my O+.  Someone has said I should call the blog ‘Drip Advisor’ 😊.  Thanks to Matt for that one.

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In family life I’ve continued to try and leave things in a reasonable state upon my death by clearing the garage of some of my motorbike ‘junk’.  I had a lot of parts for a Honda CB175 and there had always been a plan to build a field bike (that’s an unregistered bike you use off road) together with my son.  I’m thankful for my friend Paul who helped me sort it out on a Saturday morning.  It was a good time and quite cathartic. On the opposite hand it was quite difficult as I realised it was something else that I wouldn’t achieve.

One of the best channels on TV is Quest.  This is poor man’s Discovery Channel – but it is free.  Basically, it’s a documentary channel including lot’s of engineering-based shows.  One of these is ‘Café Racer-Naked Speed’.  For the uninitiated a café racer is a standard motorbike made to both go and look faster.  A racer for the road so to speak.  My son and I started watching one of these the week before we sorted out the garage. There was a feature about an 11yr old lad and his Dad building a CB175.  The parallelism of it all was very real and a bit difficult. It made me well up.  On a happier note all the assorted bits of our bike sold for just over £200 on Ebay which helped sugar the pill a little.

The black humour of family life continues.  Whist travelling back from Newcastle a conversation took place, initiated by my daughter, around what day funerals take place.  This quickly moved to what day my funeral might take place. My daughter requested Wednesday and my son Monday based on that they would get a day off school and these were the worst days of the week.  Nice thinking and made us all laugh.

I’m sorry but this post seems to be sombre.  I assure you we are taking much joy in life at the moment.  However there have been a number of notable deaths since I last posted. My friend Graham, who I’ve mentioned before, passed away.  His funeral was a lovely balance between joy and sorrow, between laughter and grief, as we remembered Graham and his life and how it had touched us.  And of course, it was filled with hope.  Graham is now with Jesus.

Another notable death, that I’m sure you’re aware of, was that of former professional footballer Cyrille Regis. He was one of three black footballers, with Laurie Cunningham and Brendon Batson, who in the face of racism effectively paved the way for the many black footballers who now play at the top level now. 9ea75682-6ad8-11e7-9575-882aa2208a4d_1280x720_090203

His death was a shock.  He was only 59.  Yet like my friend Graham there is joy in the sorrow.  Regis was a bona fide Christian and regularly spoke about it.  I thought it was interesting that it was rarely mentioned on the mainstream broadcast media, specifically the BBC.  The only exception was from the BBC Midlands correspondent Pat Murphy (a very good broadcaster) who having actually known Regis must have seen how it made the man. Regis became a Christian following the death of Laurie Cunningham in 1989. If you’d like to know more I’ve put some links below.

Video https://youtu.be/hHIocADtd3U

Audio  https://mobile.twitter.com/cis_uk/status/952914999873359876?ref_src=twcamp%5Eshare%7Ctwsrc%5Eios%7Ctwgr%5Enet.whatsapp.WhatsApp.ShareExtension

Written http://www.cyrilleregis.com/my-story/faith/

Also prominent in the media was the death of Dolores O’Riordan, the lead singer of band ‘The Cranberries’. Again, another shock at the age of 46, a year older than me. The Cranberries were big in the 90’s and two massive hits with ‘Linger’ and ‘Zombie’. The latter of the two was a favourite tune of mine and it wasn’t until I read some of the news articles I realised it was about the ‘Real IRA’ Warrington bomb blast.  Sometimes this changes how you listen to a song.  I distinctly remember hearing a techno remix of this song in 1995 whilst driving from Manchester to Bradford on the M62, en route to visit my friend Paul.  The link to the original video is below. The imagery is…. erm, interesting…… some might say blasphemous or offensive.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Ejga4kJUts

As a foot note some of you may remember in one of my early posts I wrote about the death of singer Tom Petty.  It turns out he had a cardiac arrest due to an accidental overdose of pain killers taken in part for a broken hip. Shockingly in the U.S., in 2016, opioid-related overdoses increased by 28%, killing 42,249 people.

Next time I write I should have had my last cycle of chemo.  That is both reassuring and frightening.  After this I’ll probably have a scan to set a datum for the extent of the meso and then, to steal a song title from the afore mention Mr Petty, it’s ‘Into the great wide open’.  Of course, that’s not really true, as in reality I’m in the care of a loving God who knows the future.

7. Brick by Brick

Well the Christmas season has come and gone as has chemo cycle no.4. The run up to Christmas was punctuated by me being hospitalised again.  This time for 2 nights with a chest infection and the subsequent treatment with IV antibiotics. Having had stays in 3 local hospitals over the last 6 months I can recommend Hinchingbrooke in Huntingdon as serving the best breakfasts.  Sausage, mushroom and scrambled egg are available.  Hinchingbrooke and Papworth also have free wi-fi, unlike the leviathan that is Addenbrookes in Cambridge. However, as you might expect, the phone signal is very good in tech savvy Cambridge, whereas it’s nearly non-existent at the other two – just be careful with your phone contract data limit. I trust this public service announcement is of use to the more local readers.

The chest infection did however remind me of my fragility and really put me back.  What was effectively a cold turned more serious pretty quickly and my breathing deteriorated equally as fast. The upside was when the family visited me in hospital and took me downstairs to the café in a wheelchair my son did the driving and we had a bit of a laugh fooling about, much to the chagrin of his sister and Mum.20171219_204310

The good news was that I recovered reasonably swiftly and although I wasn’t out in time to enjoy the company Christmas meal I’ve been reliably informed that some of my colleagues stepped into the breach to ensure the food wasn’t wasted.

On Christmas Eve our daughter was baptised during the Sunday morning service we have as part of our church worship.  It’s a full dunking in a purpose-built pool in the building and I was well enough to take part which was a real blessing and quite emotional.  Some people have asked me “you must be really proud” meaning of our daughter for taking the step she has.  I think that proud is probably not quite the right word.  Cate and I are really delighted she has been baptised and publicly declared her faith in Jesus Christ, but not proud.  It’s something we’ve been careful not to push her into (excuse the pun). Unless it’s a personal faith then it’s useless.  The faith of your parents, or friends, or whoever doesn’t hold any sway with God.  Baptism is a picture of what has already gone on inside, death to sin and being raised to new life in Christ and was the practice of the early church in the time after Christ ascended to heaven.  Of course, Christ himself was baptised.  We pray that she will keep going to the end and prove her faith of worth, as I would to.

 

The baptism photos also revealed the increasing size of my decreasing hairline.  I went home and had a buzzcut.

We had a good Christmas as a family with both sets of parents with us for Christmas day lunch, and my brother and one of our friends, Susan, with us for tea.  Apart from brussel sprouts (which you have to eat at Christmas by law in the UK) I really enjoy the Christmas food.  One of my great delights of the festive period is cheese and specifically English Stilton which our household only seem to buy at Christmas as I’m the only consumer.  It has a lovely strength and I wonder if once the fridge door is shut it’s scaring the life out of the Brie and Camembert like a British army Sargent major doing drill.  My favourite meal was on the 27th, the day after boxing day using up all the left overs.  Cold turkey and gammon with chips and gravy, and the crowning glory – bubble and squeak – which is all the vegetable left overs chopped up and fried together.  Having a terminal illness certainly releases you from the fear of high cholesterol and I’ve enjoyed a freedom in my diet of late.  Fried bacon tastes so much better than grilled!  Cate is concerned that if God in His mercy were to miraculously heal me from this cancer then heart disease would follow soon after.

On boxing day we had a lovely time with my Uncle and Aunt at their farm south of Bedford. Some of my cousins were also there and all our children.  Great fun was had after lunch with the children (and occasionally an adult) charging around on the go-karts and motorbikes.  Mechanical breakdown of a go kart and simultaneous running out of fuel of a bike forced the close of play which worked out rather well as everything was only just packed away before the rain came down.  More fixes to do but as I said in a previous blog that’s part of the fun.  This maybe weird but I quite like the smell of 2 stroke fumes.

We also had a few days up North with Cate’s family which also brought us snow and then we were back home for new year.

New year was a bit melancholy with a sense of foreboding.  Although we’d been kindly invited over to see the new year in with our friends we stayed in with just the four of us and were in bed before the midnight hour.

On the 2nd January we took a trip to London, primarily to see Lego Brick Live at the Saachi gallery.  There were various themed rooms for freestyle Lego building including Star Wars, Minecraft, architecture, a graffiti wall, go-karts, a ski slope and a pit of Lego not to name everything.  There were also professionally built Star Wars models.  I’m no Star Wars fan (only seen episode 4 -1977 film – all the way through) but these models were more than impressive.  A terrific way to earn a living I reckon.  Most time was taken constructing a bi-winged spaceship although if space is in a vacuum i.e. there’s no atmosphere and therefore air, why do so many spaceships have wings?  It was good fun.

We had a quick walk around the rest of the gallery before leaving.  The gallery has been bequeathed to the nation and will be renamed the Museum of Contemporary Art for London.  It’s fantastic that this sort of art has been made available to the public and isn’t just the preserve of those in the art world. Unfortunately, as you may well know there is more culture in a yogurt than an engineer and I struggled to understand many of the pieces.  To me some of it was 6th form schoolboy titillation dressed up, however much of it was trying to make an important political point.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

We wandered back through Leicester Square and eventually to Covent Garden where we met an old friend Chris who we know from our time living in Norway some 15 years ago. He was over visiting family, and to chat again was a real tonic and quite uplifting.  He is a youth worker for a church there and it seems God is doing remarkable things there amongst teens and early twenties.  The day was finished off nearly missing our train home (20 seconds later …..) as I didn’t realise the electronic scoreboard at Kings Cross was correct when it said there was a platform 0.  I’d assumed it was 10 and the no.1 wasn’t illuminated. The station announcer saved the day.received_10156189879329883

Luton Town continue to top League 2 taking 9 pts from 12 over the busy Christmas period. I’ve tried to tell my son isn’t always like this.  He expects a win every week now. This coming weekend sees the game away at Premier League Newcastle United in the 3rd round of the FA Cup.  Currently 55 league places separate NUFC & LTFC in the football pyramid.  The two of us are looking forward to going to see it in what is the archetypal ‘David v Goliath’ clash, the underdog against a much stronger and more powerful opponent. The phrase gives away the Christian heritage we have in the UK (of which some are keen to dismantle) as this is a bible account that has entered the common vernacular.  As a boy this was up there as one of, if not my favourite bible story. You’ll see why below.

The account is dated around 1000 BC where the Israelites are facing off against their enemies, the Philistines. The young shepherd (and one day to be the famous king) David takes supplies to his brothers who are serving in the army.  There he witnesses the Philistine champion Goliath, a giant of a man of 3m in height and wearing a coat of armour weighing nearly 60 kg, taunting the Israelite army and challenging them to a ‘winner takes all’ man on man duel.  The Israelites are terrified of him, yet David is appalled at this fellows arrogance toward God’s people and therefore towards God.  He offers to go and fight him and despite attempts to dissuade him, siting his youth and Goliath’s obvious fighting experience, David uses examples of him killing both a lion and a bear whilst tending the sheep to persuade otherwise.  David chooses 5 smooth stones from a brook and puts them in his shepherd’s bag and goes out to meet Goliath at the battle lines.  Goliath is disgusted that the Israelites have sent a ‘boy’ out to fight him and the following exchange takes place as recorded in 1 Samuel Ch.17 of the bible.

He said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. “Come here,” he said, “and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and the wild animals!”

David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

David promptly took out a stone, put it into his sling and hit Goliath in the middle of the forehead.  Goliath collapses face down to the ground before David takes the Philistine’s own sword and beheads him.  The Israelite army promptly rout the Philistines.  Can you now see why this was boys own stuff?

There are two things that strike me about this story. First is the confidence David has in his God.  This is also my God.  My family and I are facing a different challenge to David however it does feel similar in some ways.  I have confidence that God will also deliver me.  Whether that be through a miraculous healing or through the veil of death I don’t know (I suspect the latter) but one day, as eventually befell the then King David, we’ll all have to face up to our death.  This maybe sooner for some (me) than others. I can have confidence not because I’m good, I’m not – just ask Cate and the children ….. bear with a sore head, but because of what Jesus has done through his sacrificial death on a Roman cross.  And as I have some life still to be lived and enjoyed I can do this knowing that new life is mine through Jesus’ subsequent resurrection.  These facts give a real freedom that I’d love you all to know.

The second part of the biblical narrative above that struck me is the description David uses to describe God – ‘….the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel.’  This is similar language as used in the book of Revelation which describes the end of the world, the battle of Armageddon and the return of Jesus Christ the victorious king.  Better to bow the knee to him now.

Next time I post we’ll see if Luton can pull off a giant killing and I should have started my 5th and possibly penultimate round of chemo.  I hope you all have a happy 2018.

6. Good News of Great Joy

Spoiler Alert – If you’ve not read part 5 then this contains plot information 😉

The good news is that the results of the CT scan were positive. There was no change in the meso build up, so the chemo is doing it’s job.  Of course it doesn’t change the conclusion but we’re grateful to God that it’s holding it back somewhat.  I certainly have felt the benefit over the last month or two.

In addition, we also celebrate the good news of Christmas at this time.  Last night we had a super carol service at the church we’re a part of. Cate sang as part of an acapella group.  Truly uplifting.20171218_152615

The danger of Christmas is that we leave Jesus in the manger where he is unthreatening. Remember what the angels said to the shepherds on the hillside, “Today in the town of David a saviour has been born to you; he is the Christ the Lord.”  They are saying this is God’s king come to reign.  They also told Mary “ ….his kingdom will never end.” Let’s remember to pay due respect to the king and bow the knee to Him.

Happy Christmas to you all.

5. Not racing ahead

Thanks for tuning in again.  Normal service was resumed in that chemo cycle no.3 seemed to take pretty much the same course as cycle 2.  The only main difference being that I had to take 3 days off sick from work as opposed to 2 the previous cycle.  I guess it’s probably a cumulative effect. Maybe the 4th cycle (if I have it) will render me useless for 4 days.  There’s probably a mathematical word for this however I am unable to recall it as I’ve never known it.  I did also get a bag of blood this cycle to boost my red blood cells which were flagging due to the affects of anaemia and chemotherapy drugs.  Add this to the steroids dexamethasone, which I have on treatment day, prednisolone, which I take everyday to help regulate my breathing, and I was ‘on it’ by that evening.  I could have gone out dancing, well in my head anyway.  Below is my now traditional picture of me attached to drip, this time O+ve I think.

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My friend Rich gave me a helpful book called ‘Rejoicing in Lament’ by a chap called J.Todd Billings.  If you were thinking that anyone with a name that starts with an initial is usually American you’d be correct. ‘J’ or Todd or even Mr.Billings also has incurable cancer and he’s at a similar age and stage of life as me and my family  Although I’m not far into his book there are a couple of things that have really resonated with  me.  One of these is the subject of anger. He quotes a note he received from a friend who was angry about what had happened to him.  He says that he ‘didn’t feel like he had the energy to be angry, to complain in protest to God’.  This I get.  I haven’t felt angry about what has happened and for this I’m very grateful to God.  I do have a rightful sense of injustice that this is a manmade cancer i.e. caused by asbestos, however I don’t believe I’ve been done an injustice by God.  A few really well-meaning people say “you really don’t deserve this.”  To be brutally honest I do find it slightly annoying.  I know people mean it in a very kind way and I’m knocked over by people’s kindness to us, but it is as if they are therefore a judge of what is good and bad and decide about who gets cancer and who doesn’t.  I know they genuinely don’t mean it like that but in my mind that is the extrapolation of the phrase.  The truth is that the sun shines on the righteous and the unrighteous alike.  To be honest what I deserve is to be judged by God and punished for all the times I’ve kicked what he wants into touch.  Yet in his mercy he decided to punish his son, Jesus Christ, instead and I can be declared innocent by true belief in his work.

As an aside Mr Billings also mentions that he had to wait for insurance approval for the drugs to be used for his treatment.  It reminds me how thankful I am to be able to be treated free (I know we’re taxed) within the NHS and the lovely care I have had.

I may not be angry, but I become angry more easily.  This isn’t good. I lose my temper quicker and it isn’t a nice trait.  This is generally exposed at home with Cate and the children. If anger is a sin then I guess the whole situation I’m in means the veneer of respectability is easily stripped away and it comes to the surface quicker. Things generally do come out when we’re stressed, under pressure or angry.  It’s worth noting the words of Jesus in Matthew Ch.15.

Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”…….

……. “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”

Jesus seems to have understood the nub of the matter.  The things contained in depths of our own being are the things which come out when we’re under pressure and are the very things which convict us before each other and more importantly before God.  We don’t really have a defence. We’re guilty. And the sentence handed down is eternal punishment, to be cast into hell to be tortured.  It’s a frightening thing to fall under God’s judgement.  Jesus is the only person who stands in the way.  He says trust in me.  That I’ve done and by God’s grace, his free underserved gift, God the father credits the righteousness of Jesus to me. Brilliant eh!

Last year my son and I, along with my Dad built a powered go kart. My mum was a real star as well providing lunches, snacks and drinks at mid-morning and mid-afternoon, as well as additional cups of tea as required.  My son also got a vast selection of chocolate goodies that only nannas can get away with supplying.  It was a self-funding project after buying a lawnmower from our local dump, fixing it and selling it on Facebook.  It’s been a lot of fun and of course it needs fixing every so often which I think is part of the fun.  This last month’s job was new wheel bearings, fixing a puncture and tightening the chain …. Oh yes and the brake calliper fell off.  The vast majority of the work was done at my parents and we usually run the kart there as they have a big garden.  Bless them as they don’t seem to mind my son or me (only very occasionally, just for testing purposes … ahem) cutting up the grass.  They must love us.

A few little things during the past 3 weeks since I last posted have given me cause for sadness.  I have a pair of summer beach shoes, basically a trainer with holes in for aeration (although that’s not important but I’m an engineer and I like the details) , which I transferred from our hallway to their winter hibernation under our bed. Will I get them out again and wear them? I hope so, I don’t know so.

The 4” air outlet hose (remember details are important) on the back of the tumble dryer broke.  No problem I thought, and promptly went to the draw under my bench in the garage. I found some more hose and some cable ties and then replaced the broken part – Ta Dah. However, the barb in the story is the thought of who will know where all those little bits are and who will carry out the quick fix in future.  This is where I must trust God for everything and I go back to the wise words of my American pal from a couple of blogs ago.

Cate and I also had the opportunity to go to the Annual Charity Scout Ball. We had attended the previous year also when it was clear something unknown was up with my lungs as I wasn’t really up for dancing.   The ball was a lot of fun, getting dressed up to the nines (it was a 1920’s theme), having photos taken, enjoying the musical entertainment, and most importantly enjoying the company and conversation of good friends.  Will I wear my dinner suit again?  I’m sure I could create opportunity but probably not at the next Scout Ball, nevertheless we’ll trust that to God rather than speculating.

Scout ball

On a bitter sweet note, I went to visit my friends Graham and Sue.  Graham is in the last stages of terminal prostate cancer and is now bed bound.  Sue, his wife, is faithfully and lovingly caring for him.  It is sad to see how the disease has reduced Graham from a strong man (I was always impressed at the size of his forearms!) to someone needing help in even the little things.  It was however a sweet time as we talked and discussed life, death and things in between. Furthermore, it was sweet as Graham has every assurance he will fall into the arms of his saviour, Jesus Christ and live forever with him.  Before I left we prayed together – it was a privilege. I did however find the visit somewhat sobering as it projected a picture of what the future holds for me.  I want to keep faith to the end as Graham is doing.

A happy time was watching the wedding video of our friends Dave and Beckah whose wedding we’d previously attended (see post no.2)  It’s a great video, well produced and edited, showing not just the events but the emotion of the day also.  Enjoy it here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FCSdeGAStME&feature=youtu.be

Watching it made me cry. First with joy as I saw how happy the two of them are and the excitement of starting a new life together.  Second with sadness.  I’m sorry it has this tinge on everything. As Dave and Beckah start a new marriage, mine is effectively slowly coming to a forced closure.  I don’t want it to end this soon but that’s the hardship of reality.  Cate is a lovely lady, she puts up with a lot and I love her very much.  In the bible some Jewish religious scholars called the Sadducees tried to catch Jesus out with a clever question about marriage and death. It’s recorded in Mark Ch.12.

Then the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question.  “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.  Now there were seven brothers. The first one married and died without leaving any children.  The second one married the widow, but he also died, leaving no child. It was the same with the third.  In fact, none of the seven left any children. Last of all, the woman died too.  At the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”

 Jesus replied, “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?  When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.  Now about the dead rising—have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the account of the burning bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?  He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!”

It’s good to know that I have first, through Jesus, eternal life, and second, in heaven we’ll be so taken up by the glory of God (as are the angels) that marriage won’t seem to matter.

As the Christmas season approaches it was super to be able to attend our daughters school concert which was held in the town parish church. She was playing flute in the show band and also did one of the bible readings. The musical talent on display from the school was outstanding and we were really proud of our daughter and her contribution.  It was also great to start getting in the ‘Christmas spirit’, if that’s the right phrase, celebrating the birth of Jesus.

There has also been celebration in one half our household of Luton’s recent good form taking us to the top of league two. Furthermore. we reached the FA Cup third round draw where we pulled a hopefully lucrative tie versus Newcastle United away at St James Park.  There’s a plan to attend with our Toon supporting friends, the Mowats, however we’ll be sitting in amongst the enemy.  Sitting on our hands will be the order of the day.  Not sure how to react if Luton score let alone win.  I comfort myself that this is highly unlikely even if they are the world’s greatest team. I think it should be a great experience for my son to see Luton playing at one of this country’s bigger stadiums in front of potentially 50,000 fans.  I did ask my daughter if she’d like to come pointing out the possible fan numbers. She responded with a great put down.  “Dad I’ve been to the Olympic stadium with 80,000 people in summer, why would I want to go there in winter?”  Fair point, well made.  I do need to convince my oncologist that to try and have the best chance of attending I want to push potential treatment back a week.   Although to be fair that’s what happening, but it would be nice to have his blessing.

This week we will receive the results of the CT scan and dependant on them, another course of treatment.  It’s been pushed back a day due to scheduling issues which does potentially cast doubt on my appearance at the company Christmas dinner next week. I don’t really want to miss out on good food and beer (although I usually pass on the latter as I’m driving) and some good laughs with my colleagues, all at the generosity of my employer.

Is the treatment working?  Pragmatically or experientially I think it has slowed the rate of decline in my breathing and I’ve enjoyed some relative good health. Or is it just a placebo effect or wishful thinking on my part?  I guess this week’s meeting will put some scanning science meat on the bone of my observations.

 

 

 

4. Can’t See The Wood For The Trees

After posting last time I’ve had a very polite letter from Environmental Health at our local council.  It turns out that the ‘samples’ I gave whilst in hospital just after chemo cycle 1 contained a nasty little parasite called Cryptosporidium.  I would seem it was this little critter rather than a reaction to chemotherapy that hospitalised me last time around although being full of poisonous drugs really didn’t help.  Environmental Health’s interest is in trying to find the source of the infection which interestingly is resistant to water chlorination.  All this was kind of good news as it made me less nervous about cycle 2 and I think it probably relieved any guilt my oncologist felt.

Before cycle 2 I had some kidney function tests to determine how well or otherwise my kidneys work. This is to tailor the chemo dose so the body is exposed to the correct amount as the kidneys remove it from the blood.  As it happens my kidneys aren’t as efficient as they might be where as some people “pee like a race horse” (My oncologist is always good for a quote).  This meant my dose was reduced for this cycle.

chemo round 2

And it seems it was all a lot better this time although to be honest it was going to be hard to make it worse.  I felt completely fatigued and ‘off it’ on both the following Monday and Tuesday and although I got up both mornings with good intentions of going to work, by the time I’d had breakfast and showered that was me done for.  I daren’t have trusted myself behind the wheel of the car or to make any decisions that would expose the company to risk.  So, in summary a lot to thank God for.

I was well enough in the weekend after chemo for a trip to our friends’ wedding near Lambourn in Berkshire.  Cate and I travelled down on the Friday and went out for a meal together where I consumed the finest venison steak I’ve ever had.  The conversation was gentle and although we weren’t deliberate in avoiding the subject of the situation we are in, without meaning to it often crept back in.  Maybe it should and maybe that’s right, after all 22 years of marriage shouldn’t have any elephants in the room.  We both commented that it hangs around in the background like a dull grey cloud.  Presumably this won’t lighten.

Cupples wedding2

Our conversation as a family has also reflected this and has taken on a dark humour which to us is quite amusing. I hope you’ll allow me to tell you my favourite two quotes.

After finishing the shed (see the previous blog) yet before filling it with all the garden equipment in the old shed ……

Son – “Dad, when your gone I’m having that shed as a den”.

Cate – “When Dad’s gone I’ll still be here! And you’re not having it as a den because I’ll                  still need a lawnmower”.

Our daughter recently went on a residential trip with the school. In a quieter moment her form teacher (who is aware of our situation) asked how I was.  Her reply – “He’s dying but he’s fine”.

I think the humour helps us not to be so murky about life but I think it also shows the assurance we can have in the eternal life offered through faith in Jesus Christ.  This life isn’t it in other words and the warning to all is be ready for the next.

There has also been the celebration of Halloween (31st Oct.) since I last posted.  As I’m a Christian and not a pagan I can’t get all up for celebrating Halloween.  I realise for most people it’s just a bit of fun but if the embodiment of evil is the devil then maybe one of his biggest successes is that we don’t take him seriously.  I mean you wouldn’t go out dressed up as Peter Sutcliffe, Jeffrey Dahmer, Fred West or Myra Hindley for example, yet they must be good examples of the work of the devil, just better behaved.

On a happier note this Halloween was the 500th anniversary to what is often cited as the start of the protestant reformation.  This is one of the most momentous moments of human history when a German monk called Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the castle church in the town of Wittenburg. Whilst Luther was exposing some of the corruption within the church more importantly he ‘rediscovered’ the gospel, or good news, of Jesus Christ.  One of the main things Luther recognised was that peace with God can be found through faith in the work of His son Jesus Christ.  As a monk Luther tried to do good works or acts of duty as commanded by the church but realised they were never enough, he could never be sure if he was right with God.  His realisation through the bible was that we can be justified by faith alone not by good works.  The reformation swept across Europe and brings us the freedom we have in this country to worship.  Luther was a flawed man just like me, and the reformation was at times dangerously used yet ultimately brought light.  I love this quote posted by a chap called Glen Scrivener on the 31st Oct. this year;

Thankfully, tomorrow is a double celebration. On October 31st, 1517 — 500 Halloweens ago! — a movement began that decisively left “the dark ages” behind. It believed in the unquestioned triumph of Christ over evil and ushered in freedom and joy. One of the slogans of the Protestant Reformation was Post tenebras lux: After darkness, light. This is the joyful conviction that can sustain us through the darkest night. If the gospel is true, then there really can be a happy Halloween.

Read the whole article at https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/don-t-waste-the-darkness

I’ve also been working again on my ‘legacy’ (see the previous post).  Dad and I have built a new fence.  The previous one or what was left of it was exposed for all to see once I moved the old shed to the dump.  To be fair to call the old one a fence was an exaggeration. Again, my Dad was a legend and worked like a trojan and I’m very grateful to Him. I found it physically very hard work, a job I once would have easily taken in my stride now reduces me to regular rests and has me goosed by 3 o’clock. It’s hard work accepting this.

fence with dad2

Another legend was my brother.  I’d stored some wood (for the log burner) in my Dad’s garden.  My brother logged it all up with a chainsaw and then split it all with his axe. Now for those of you who don’t know my brother, he’s a strong man.  As I am slight and weedy he’s the exact opposite.  It’s as if he got given all the red meat and greens to eat when we were growing up 😉.  He definitely did get my grandad’s genetics who was a professional boxer.  Watching him chop wood was a sight to behold.  Strong man + good technique + ‘Stihl’ quality axe = wood everywhere!  Dad and I could barely keep up loading the block.  My son and his cousin had fun loading the trailer.  I want to feel I have provided for my family in ensuring all 3 wood stores are full for the winter.

Wood Store 1

There is a deep psychology in chopping and stacking wood.  It’s linked to man’s ancient need to keep himself warm.  Let me give you 2 quotes from a fantastic book, Norwegian Wood Chopping, Stacking and Drying Wood the Scandinavian Way by Lars Mytting.

Norwegian Wood Chopping

…. using a sharpen cutting edge – for thousands of years the most efficient battlefield weapon of them all. Modern life doesn’t give many opportunities to compare to this, to engage in a serious act of violence one day and enjoy the fruits of it the next, and all without doing anyone any harm.

All his life he’d chopped his own firewood.  And although he’d put away his chainsaw for good now, he still enjoyed the feel of each log in his hand, the smell that made him feel he was at work inside a poem, the sense of security in his stack, the pleasing thought of the winter that lay ahead, with all those hours of sitting contentedly in front of his wood burning stove.  In much the same way, I suppose that no one gets tired of carrying bars of gold, he knew what he held in his hands was insurance against the cold to come.

Thursday sees chemo cycle no.3.  After that a CT scan to see if it has slowed the progression of the disease.  My thoracic specialist consultant tells me that it’s only successful in about 50% of people. We’ll see which side of the divide I fall.

3. The Calm Before The Storm

Perhaps so far my blogging has had a dour twist to it, and so it might, however life continues with its many joys.  We managed to get away for half term, thanks to Cate, to a lovely village on the Suffolk coast called Orford.  On the Saturday we caught the ferry across the river to Orford Ness in the teeth of ‘Storm Brian’.  Orford Ness is a featureless spit of marsh and shingle with a somewhat interesting recent history. From around the First World War onwards it has been used for military research culminating during the Cold War with nuclear bomb experiments (the detonation thereof rather than actual nuclear explosions themselves).  The bleakness belied an eerie beauty and the way it is now a flourishing habitat for fauna and flora alike perhaps underlines this.

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As we walked around ‘Storm Brian’ was reaching it’s highpoint and walking into the wind was somewhat hard work for me.  At about 14:30 the National Trust wardens started rounding everyone up to get them back to the mainland before the ferryman decided to call it a day.  The ride back across the river was mega. Water was splashing over the sides of the boat, fortunately we had our waterproofs on but not everyone was so prepared which was funny. Schadenfreude.

We also managed a gentle bike ride around Rendlesham Forest.  There was added excitement as we kept being buzzed by an Apache military helicopter, presumably on a training mission.  We told my son it was looking for him because he’d been to the toilet in the trees 😉.

It was notable on both trips out that I’ve gone from being, in the past, the pace setter, to the lack of pace setter.  What I mean is I now bring up the rear and the rest of the family potter along at my pace or wait for me to catch my breath.  Times like this remind me of my increasing fragility but also remind me to enjoy the now and be thankful to God I still can enjoy them with everyone albeit at a somewhat slower pace.

In my thoughts I’ve been wondering, when I’m gone and cultivating the daisies what my legacy will be to my family and to the wider mankind.  We all want to leave a legacy, be it preserving our name through our offspring or by being known to have achieved something. For a lot of us it seems to be building a pile of possessions.  House, bigger house, car, better car, motorbike, bike, home entertainment system, tools, and increasingly experiences. The list is almost infinite. ‘Affluenza’ certainly is a disease that afflicts western society.  So what have I achieved during my somewhat shortened lifetime?  What will I be remembered for, if anything?

Some people have a bucket list of experiences they want to do before they die.  To be honest they’re usually pretty self-indulgent and don’t add anything to the greater humanity.  In my experience people’s retirement plans often seem to be of a similar vein.  Mine quite possibly would be too.  For my part, and this may seem weird, I’ve managed to replace the garden shed.  The wood on the old one had gone partly rotten, so I decided whilst I still had a level of fitness I ought to build a new one as my contribution to the family. A legacy so to speak.  I should point out this isn’t the only contribution to family life I’ve made over my lifetime, just one of the most recent.

I had a sunny day off work, and with my 77 yr old Dad we built the shed.  I like working with my dad, he’s great.  He’s a patient man and we seem to go at a similar pace and enjoy a tea break about the same time.  We can usually put the world to rights while we are at it. It took another couple of days finishing off (especially transferring all the hooks and shelves), painting and the like and that was it.

And what now? Surely my memory will be more than ‘He built a nice shed’.  Today we celebrated  Harvest together at the church we’re part of.  It’s a good tradition stretching back hundreds, if not thousands of years.  There’s a cracking passage of the Bible in Luke 12 recording Jesus’ words on the subject.  I’ve copied it below © New International Version from biblegateway.com

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” 15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

So what does this mean for me?  All those ‘things’ I own are worthless especially as my life is being demanded of me.  So does this mean it’s wrong to work hard or to become wealthy? No, I don’t think it does, in fact the Bible commends us to work hard even when our boss’ eye isn’t on us.  I think it’s where we attribute our success to.  The oft used term ‘a self made man’ would seem to come in direct conflict with Jesus’ teaching above.  So therefore, we are to acknowledge where good gifts come from and thank God for his kindness.  This is most clearly seen in the gift of God’s son Jesus Christ, as a sacrifice taking the punishment we deserved when he was crucified and then rose again to new life. If we thank and acknowledge him in this matter then he promises to give us new life also.  So what about my legacy? Is it one of a good shed builder or of someone who acknowledged God’s goodness and will be saved from the coming wrath?

A legacy I want to ensure I leave is to cement my son in his support of the magnificent Luton Town FC.  My dad did it to me so why should he escape.  With the highs and many lows it has helped mirror life itself to be fair.  He has now managed 2 home games this season, with a win and a loss and with Town in the promotion places of League 2 he’s a now a confirmed Hatter. Poor lad. COYH.

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Of course, the decision still has to be made about the next round of chemo.  It does hang over us like a cloud because no one knows the future except God himself and we don’t know the outcomes.  Good job we don’t.  I do know he’s the sovereign God and he holds me in his hands.  Barring a catastrophic fatal incident, I’ll update you in the next post.

Just a note to those reading this who are unfamiliar with WordPress blogs.  When you are at the top of the page there is a button on the right-hand side that says ‘Follow’.  If you click on this and enter your email address it means you’ll get a notification every time I post something new.  Of course, you may not want to know.

2. Turbulent Takeoff

Well I left you as I was about to start chemo.  The day was all pretty undramatic and happy, and I was well looked after by the staff at the Macmillan Woodlands Cancer Centre at Hinchinbrooke Hospital.  I was hooked up to drip of several different drugs the two on the money being ‘Premextred’ and Carboplatin.  Carboplatin was decided on as the lesser side effect causing drug when compared to its cousin Cysplatin.20171005_122307

Once Cate had left for a bit I popped the headphones in and started listening.  I had a rather eclectic play list.  I’ve looked back at the history on my phone and here it is, all the right songs, not necessarily in the right order. ©Eric Morcambe.

Tom Petty: Free Fallin’, I won’t back down, Running Down a dream, Learning to Fly, Into the great wide Open.

Keith and Kristin Getty: Joy has dawned upon the world

Bananarama: Cruel Summer

Stuart Townend: My Heart is filled with thankfulness

Iron Maiden: Fear of the Dark

The last of those was probably subconsciously inspired by a 2 talk series we had the last 2 weeks at our Church. They were ‘Fear of Death’ and ‘Fear of the Unknown’.  I guess Maiden fit into the latter.

http://www.snec.org.uk/sermons/listen/the-fear-of-death

http://www.snec.org.uk/sermons/listen/the-fear-of-the-unknown

In terms of my thinking I dealt with the former subject in my previous post however the latter is something that I struggle with. I guess there is the fear of how I will feel as I deteriorate, my breathing is slowly becoming more difficult as the pleura (lining around the lungs) thickens.  At the moment we’re functioning as a family but the time will come, and is coming, where life will become more difficult. I worry about that level of disability.

I worry about my family’s future provision. Not so much in monetary terms, but in relational, social, emotional and spiritual aspects.  Who will teach my son to shave and how to behave toward girls? Who will give away my daughter at her wedding if she decides to get married? Who will hold Cate when everything is going pear-shaped? Who will teach the values, from the bible, of what it means to be like Jesus? Who will lead our family?  That’s the job I was given, to lead the family.  In the book of Ephesians, in the new testament of the bible, the responsibility given to husbands and how they should treat their wives and children is one where there is great expectation.  A lot of modern thinkers try to rubbish the instruction given to wives in the passage without studying the greater emphasis given to husbands i.e. behave like Jesus Christ.

A friend of ours who serves with the US military and has been on tours of Afghanistan very helpfully told me “God looks after your family even when you’re not there”.  So where did his assurance come from?

Jesus plainly tells us in the bible in Matthew Ch.6 not to worry.  Easier said than done Jesus, after all you are the Son of God.  But he goes on to say not to worry because the birds of the air and the flowers of the field don’t sow or reap, or make beautiful clothes yet they are looked after and provided for.  How much more valuable are we than birds or flowers. God is described as our ‘heavenly father’ in this passage.  That is the all-powerful God can also be called father, well at least to those who know him.  Therefore, the all-powerful God can be trusted to care for us like a father. The passage is bookended by the key point.  Look to Jesus first and put Him first and the rest will follow. The forerunner says ‘For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also’.  What we pour our time, effort, money and emotion into, that is where our heart truly is. Is that Jesus?  The tailpiece says ‘But seek first His kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given you as well’. When we seek to put what Jesus wants first then the rest follows suit.

It seems my American friend was right.

Anyway, music was listened to, chemo was dispensed and I was dispatched home. That was Thursday.  Friday was ok. On Saturday I felt fatigued but battled on. Sunday started ok and slowly degenerated. I spent the afternoon on the sofa drifting in and out of sleep and hence I managed the Lithuania 0-1 England game without too much trouble ;-). The real trouble started about midnight when I started with diarrhoea. I saw every hour on the clock until 6 in the morning and at one point couldn’t be bothered to go back to bed so lay frozen on the bathroom floor.  Even water was going straight through me and that was the problem.  I had got dehydrated and so Cate phoned the hospital helpline. To be honest I hadn’t felt that ill for years. Two community nurses came to see me with a plan to put me on IV fluids at home however after taking my temperature I was admitted to hospital late morning thru’ A&E, to AAU, and finally to a ward at 02:30 the following morning.

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Three days of fluids later I was feeling a lot better and released back into the real world.  Again, I was well cared for.  The smart money seemed to think this was a reaction to the chemo and as the oncologist put it “it’s bad form for oncologists to have their patients admitted”.  As such we need a serious think about what we do for the next course.  Changing nothing isn’t an option.  Do we go for a ‘weaker mix’ and therefore less effective regime of chemo? Do we preload with drugs which help prevent diarrhoea?  Do we not continue?  I can’t really afford to miss another week of my life like that.

My escape from hospital was good news in that it meant we were all able to attend our friends, Dave and Beckah’s (#goingcronin) wedding on the south coast.  It was a great wedding which included an ice cream van serving pudding – “99 please”.  I had the great privilege of being asked to pray for them during the service.  Cate and I also managed a cheeky dance at the reception without embarrassing our daughter too much.  I looked down at Cate, she had tears in her eyes.  We didn’t  need to exchange words, we both understood the poignancy of the moment.

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