PC 289 I had Dinner with Her Majesty!

Unless you are really really against any form of monarchy, I hope you will agree that the feel-good event last month was the celebration of HM The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. The four day party was held all over the United Kingdom, a wonderful celebration for a nonagenarian who has been the sovereign for 70 years. Her real birthday is the 21st April and she was born in 1926 (Note 1), but since 1748 the state has celebrated an Official birthday at the end of May or beginning of June when, in the Northern Hemisphere at least, there is a higher probability of fine weather. The main event is always the Trooping of The Colour on Horse Guards Parade, Whitehall.

Elizabeth had become queen on 21st February 1952, aged 25, on the death of her father; her coronation was 15 months later on 2nd June 1953. This was probably the first time I became aware of our monarch. My grandparents lived in Bath (See PCs 164 and 165) and had a monochrome analogue television, which in 1953 was extremely rare. The Coronation broadcast was in black and white with the actual television image 376 lines high; another 29 lines gave the circuitry time to prepare for the next frame! (Note 2) The screen was small but Granny had purchased a large magnifying square of plastic which fitted over the screen. I suppose it worked to some extent but the refraction of the light through the magnifying panel created its own colour – which was completely unrelated to the activities on the black & white screen – we might have had blue horses or red faces!

This year’s Trooping the Colour was taken by the heir to the throne, with HM The Queen in Windsor no doubt watching the ceremony on digital television. Some 1500 soldiers and 250 horses took part, with the colour of The Irish Guards being trooped. Kings Troop, Royal Horse Artillery (Note 3) also paraded before firing their 82 gun salute from Hyde Park. As Kings Troop paraded the massed bands played the Royal Artillery Slow March, one with which I was extremely familiar, having marched at Sandhurst to the same tune. The crunch of boots on gravel, the dust raised by marching formations, the sweat inside one’s uniform, the music in your ear as well as the inner voice reminding what the next manoeuvre was, well practised so almost automatic, is an ever present delightful memory.

And the title of this postcard? Well, the Royal Regiment of Artillery was formed in 1716 and its 250th birthday was in 1976. The Queen is the Regiment’s Captain General and she and Prince Philip were invited to have dinner at the Royal Artillery Mess at Woolwich in south east London.

The date finally agreed was 4th November even though this coincided with the climax of the 1st British Corps Commander’s Exercise in Germany, which meant that most senior Gunner Officers in Germany, including my own CO, couldn’t attend. I was a lowly Captain and volunteered to go, to join the twenty three Generals, 18 Brigadiers, 36 Colonels, 24 Majors and 21 Captains and Lieutenants – so I had dinner with the Queen, well, me and 121 others!

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh being welcomed by the Master Gunner St James’ Park, Field Marshall Sir Geoffrey Baker

Before dinner half the attendees met the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh in the East Ante Room, the other half after dinner – I was in this half. No Royal Artillery dinner would have been complete without the Post Horn Gallop being played by trumpeters and, after the long mahogany tables had been cleared of the candelabra, the central tablecloth being rolled up from either end and then pulled lengthways off the table, without any deviation.

It’s very unlikely the United Kingdom will see another Platinum Jubilee celebration so this particular weekend was even more special. Apart from Trooping the Colour there were parades down The Mall, a concert in front of Buckingham Palace and thousands of street parties up and down the country.

(photo courtesy The Times)

Older people were interviewed about where they were on the Queen’s coronation and the subject of ‘Coronation Chicken’ came up. The recipe for this was created in 1953, essentially adding curry powder to mayonnaise to make a chicken salad. One 78 year old said his mother didn’t like ‘that foreign muck’ – and later someone on the BBC had to apologise as a viewer had complained. It may not be something to say today, but then our attitude to ‘Johnny Foreigner’ was very different. 

All this military nostalgia reminded me of something I first heard in 1968, when in charge of the regimental rear party in Cyprus. Towards midnight the BBC World Service would broadcast the Shipping Forecast and then play an amalgam of tunes, the National Anthem, Taps and ‘For Those in Peril on The Sea’; it might even have included Abide with Me!! Far from home, this sort of thing tugs at the heart strings!!

During my military service I spent two years in the Ministry of Defence in the ‘procurement department’. We got an allocation of tickets for the Bucking Palace Garden Parties and I went both summers. I went out of interest, with some excitement, and loved the occasion. The tea? Not wonderful!! But who cared?   

Robert Crampton, a Times columnist, is an avowed Republican and in his weekly musings published over the Jubilee said he had never stood when The National Anthem is played. Think he’s confused! While its words reflect good wishes to the sovereign, surely first and foremost it’s the anthem of our Nation and deserves our respect and acknowledgement? (aka The Star-Spangled Banner or La Marseillaise.) 

          ….. and so into a new month!

Richard 1st July 2022


PS Sami (from the Hope Café) emailed simply to say he had arrived in Gujarat safely and would be in touch next month.

Note 1 Under the Zodiac star signs that makes her a Taurus, Celina’s sign. In our yoga studio two others share the same date! Us Scorpios complement Taurians.

Note 2 The next upgrade consisted of 625 lines

Note 3 Fifty per cent of King’s Troop is female.

PC 288 Oink Oink (1)

Before I start these scribbles about pigs, I need to write one of those spoiler-alerts that are so popular these days. I appreciate that Jews and Muslims are not fans of the pig; more about that later! So, if you are offended reading about this animal, don’t read any further – your choice! And don’t, as seems common these days when individuals get offended at the slightest thing, read on and then write some outrageous diatribe on my Twitter account. (Note 1)

I added a postscript to PC 104 from August 2017, the topic of which was customer satisfaction: “I know some of you feel that we have a bit of a fetish for pigs. ‘Tis true! For me it started in 1986, buying two of the famous Oslo artist Mona Storkaas’ ceramic animals in that city; one a seagull (Note 1) and one a …… pig!

Then I got a piggy money box …….. and the collection has grown! So we felt at home buying a duvet cover from Pigletinbed – but when I first read this, I sort-of read ‘Pigs Tin Bed’, not Piglet in Bed, which in the What3words locator would put you west of Cromer in Norfolk, UK at a Bed & Breakfast called …. The Pigs!! Actually not true; there is a B&B there called The Pigs but its three word address is dine.commenced.pheasants; maybe roast pheasant is on the menu?

It surely is one of the abiding memories of those who are parents, reciting the ‘nursery rhythm’ about five piglets. Holding on to your baby’s toes; “This little piggy went to market, this little piggy stayed at home. This little piggy had roast beef. This little piggy had none. And this little piggy (the little toe) went ‘wee, wee, wee’ …. all the way home.”  And you ignore the common knowledge that this rhythm, like all of them, has sinister overtones. In the tale of the pigs, one went off to the market to be sold, one was feed on animal bones, one was starved and one ran away in terror to escape his fate? And what about ‘Ring A Ring of Roses’, sung by nursery-age children holding hands in a circle and at the end, they all collapse on the floor giggling? The rose actually relates to the skin eruptions caused by the Plague of London in 1665, the posies were used to cover the smell of death and ‘All falling down”? Everyone died; nice huh?

I digress. For some reason pigs have a special place in our social history, presumably since they first became domesticated. The pig – sus scrofa domesticus – often called swine, hog or domesticated pig is an omnivorous, even-toed, hoofed mammal. Their size varies enormously, from 0.9m to 1.8m in length and weighing from 50kg to 350kg! Apart from its meat, the pig’s bones, hide and bristles are used in products. Each foot has four hoofed toes, with the central two bearing most of the weight. Globally there are about 1.5 billion pigs and virtually all of them are slaughtered aged between 6 to 10 months.

In the Christian bible (St Mark’s Chapter 5) the miracle of the Gadarene Swine recounts how Jesus, confronted by a madman called Legion (“For we (us madmen) are many”),  ordered the unclean spirit to leave him and enter ‘a large herd of swine, numbering some 2000, which then ran wildly down the hillside into the sea and were drowned.’ An early story of exorcism, but the translators obviously didn’t know that a group of pigs is called a passel, a team or a sounder, not a herd!

I enjoy eating pork and bacon, although my consumption of both has reduced considerably. There is nothing nicer, in my opinion, than a large pork chop whose skin has crisped nicely into ‘crackling’. In the first decade of this century I used to have one every Wednesday for supper; the habit became known as ‘pork chop night’ and that reminded me of the little advertising slogan “Friday night’s Amami night”.  The makers of Amami hair shampoo encouraged women to use it every Friday night, particularly in the interwar years 1918-1939!

So …. Pork! Belly Pork slow roasted in the bottom of the oven, Pork chops with crispy crackling, Roasted Pork Loin with apple sauce and sage, sausages made with pork meat and other flavours, Gammon (my mother made a wonderful boiled one, complete with orange breadcrumbs on the fatty side!), ham in various forms and bacon, either non-smoked or smoked. On those rarities when you’re staying away and order the ‘Full English Breakfast’ in the hotel dining room, it’s ‘yes’ to the ‘Black Pudding’, made from the blood of a pig’s liver. I think I can do without pig’s trotters and ‘brawn’ made from the animal’s head.

Whether you enjoy eating pork or using a pig-skin wallet for instance, the pig has been characterised countless times; some that come to mind are Pinky & Perky, Peppa Pig, Piggling Bland, Piglet and Miss Piggy.

Maybe the most famous are Pinky & Perky, a couple of anthropomorphic puppet pigs created by Czechoslovakian immigrants to the UK Jan & Vkasta Dalibor in 1957. The pig is deemed to bring good luck in Czechoslovakia. Originally called Pinky & Porky, difficulties registering the name porky as a character resulted in ‘Perky’. Their television series ran for 14 years until 1972 but was resurrected in 2008 in an all-new CGI animated TV series; a DVD entitled Licence to Swill (!!) was released in 2009. Eleven LPs, fifteen EPs and numerous singles were released! 

Piggy Banks originated in the C15th when people would use pots to store what money they had. Many household items were made from an affordable clay called ‘pygg’ so the pot became known as the pygg bank. The potters with a sense of humour would fashion the ‘pygg’ bank into the shape of a pig and the trend caught on. Here’s mine!

More next month

Richard 24th June 2022


Note 1 Difficult as I don’t have a Twitter account!

Note 2 Funny that I bought the seagull back in 1986, as here in the City of Brighton & Hove the seagulls wheel and screech, swoop and cor. They are of course the emblem of Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club and of our ‘Yoga in The Lanes’ studio.

My painting for our hot yoga studio, featuring their seagull logo

PC 287 Update from The Hope

On Tuesday morning I dropped into The Hope Café around 8 o’clock; I had an hour and a half before I needed to catch the bus to go to yoga in central Brighton. Josh waved as I entered, as I hadn’t been for a few days and it looked as though he had some news. As he prepared my double espresso he handed me an envelope and said it was from Sami, who had been in the day before.

I sat down and used my finger to open the envelope. A handwritten page was inside. Probably best to quote verbatim what he had written:

Hi Richard I was hoping to catch you before I left (‘Left?’ I thought, ‘where’s he off to?’) but I didn’t see you so thought I would tell you my plans. The Post Office Inquiry will not be completed until the end of the year and until it ends there wouldn’t be any firm offers of compensation (You will remember Sami was charged with stealing, sacked and made bankrupt. (PC 271)). Rather than just sit around I thought I would go to India. I had been reading some of your older postcards about finding your family roots, (Note 1) and realised I knew little of my own.

Ok! I know I was born in Southall in 1956 and that my parents had left India on partition in 1947. I also know that my English mother had worked for the colonial service in Gujarat but I know nothing of my father’s family’s surname Gupta.
(Bit like Smith!) I have been to the India Reading room in the British Library but feel the only way to find more is to go there. I am flying out today, Monday, and have a three month visa.

No doubt I’ll send you an email occasionally – my address is 

I’ll miss The Hope but before you know it I’ll be back. By the way I have bought Grisham’s latest book
(Sparring Partners); I bought a new Kindle as it’s lighter for travelling.

Best wishes and stay in touch


Having read this on Tuesday it was weird and coincidental (!) to see a news item on BBC South yesterday evening about another Sami, Sami Sabet, who had run the local Portslade and Shoreham Post Offices. This Sami had found himself in a similar position; in 2009 he had been convicted of a $50k fraud, given a year’s prison sentence suspended for two years and ordered to do 180 hours community service. Yesterday he talked of his life destroyed and we now know it was a known fault in the Post Office Horizon computer system! Shame on the management of that organisation.

I sent my Sami a quick email to say I hope his research bears fruit, told him to keep reading my weekly scribbles and wished him luck.

In last week’s post I mentioned the obituary of a Mark Sykes; “an art dealer, gun smuggler, gambler, jailbird, bookie, womaniser, racing driver and all round upper-class rake.” Having read my scribbles my brother wrote: “Perhaps there’s a challenge here; describe one’s own character in eight aspects!” The writers of obituaries are very objective, and rising to this challenge one is bound to be subjective! However if you feel able to, happy to publish and give the best description a bottle of champagne!

The Hope is not busy. Susie is also behind the counter, so Josh comes over for a chat. I like him and his partner Luke and we swap thoughts and inconsequential news:

Am I the only person who notices this phenomenon?” he asks.

“What are you talking about?”

“I am walking up a pavement and there’s a tree or a rubbish bin or a car half-parked on the pavement or a discarded supermarket trolley that constricts the width of the pavement?”

“OK! So?”

“There’s someone coming towards me and I guarantee nine times out of ten we meet just as the space narrows and one of us has to let the other go first. So weird!”

“Do you know? You’re right Josh, I have noticed that too.” I was about to recount my own similar observations but got side-tracked when I noticed Edith was not here. “Have you seen Edith recently?” I asked.

“No; let’s hope she’s OK.”

I asked him whether he had read my PC 284 Knowing your Nyms and Mnemonics from May? He hadn’t so I gave him a very sketchy overview and said that a xenonym is a name for a people or a language or a city which is not used by the natives themselves and, as an example, used Cologne as the international name for Köln. My little news item was that earlier this month Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoǧan declared that his country would for here-on-in be called Tűrkiye – so there will no longer be an association with the bird traditionally eaten at Christmas or indeed its meaning as something that fails badly or a stupid or silly person. We weren’t sure if this was a xenonym  and I don’t think I have never made any connection to the bird!

My other bit of inconsequential news was that here in Britain a new recruitment company, Indeed, is making a name for itself and building its brand with its advertisement strapline ‘I need Indeed! Indeed you do.’ I wasn’t sure whether the double entendre was intended in an advertisement on the radio a few days ago: “ ….. for instance an expanding Dental Practice has roles that urgently need filling.” We had a laugh and then he had to get back to the counter.

I looked down at my watch. “Gosh” I thought “ I need to get going or I’ll late for yoga. Waving a hurried ‘bye’ to Josh and Susie I hurried out of the black-framed door and off to the bus stop.

Richard 17th June 2022


Note 1 My own roots started in Durston Somerset in 1706, can be traced through India, New Zealand and the USA and thence to the United Kingdom.

PC 286 I’ve read that ……

A Mark Sykes (1937 – 2022), “an art dealer, gun smuggler, gambler, jailbird, bookie, womaniser, racing driver and all-round upper-class rake” has died; his obituary was carried in The Times on Tuesday 31st May. The Old-English word rake in this case means ‘a dissolute or immoral person, especially a man who indulges in vices or lacks sexual restraint’; reading of his life I felt he lived up to the moniker! Generally obituaries cover the lives of the great, the good and the interesting; certainly Mark Sykes’ life was interesting.

Sledmere House

But his name reminded me of his family and its own colourful past, so well described by his cousin Christopher Simon Sykes in his book The Big House – essentially a biography about Sledmere, a house in East Yorkshire. If you have never heard of it and are interested in how certain families are woven into our national heritage, this is a wonderfully engaging book. 

After reading it many years ago I just had to go and visit the house and see for myself the setting of so many stories. Today I remember ‘Old Tat’ Sykes the fourth baronet famous for his riding exploits, who was said to be one of the great sights of Yorkshire. (Note 1) who died in 1861 at the age of ninety-one; his son who started the day wearing eight coats, which were gradually discarded to keep his body temperature constant (Note 2): the 6th Baronet, Colonel Sir Tatton Mark Sykes, whose diplomatic career peaked in 1916 with the secret deal between France and Britain, the Sykes-Picot Agreement, which defined how the old Ottoman Empire would be split up, so drawing the boundaries of the current countries in the Middle East (note 3); and the fact that when Christopher Simon Sykes’ brother inherited the title in 1978, he told Christopher he would need permission to visit the house where he had grown up!! 

I have read that we are importing a nasty habit from America – distortion. Acknowledging that ethnic minorities have been woefully misrepresented in some of our films and dramas, now I sense we have gone completely overboard, with everyone anxious to show ‘they understand’ and wanting to right the wrong. The author Lionel Shriver (her best-selling book ‘We Must Talk About Kevin’) writes that ‘in a 2021 study by the Creative Diversity Network, ethnic minorities are over-represented in British programming in comparison with their share of the population by almost a factor of two. Black people are over-represented by 2.5 times. Casting of gay, lesbian and bisexual people in television productions suggests they make up 14% of the population whereas the true figure is 3%.’   

Shriver also revealed the results of a YouGov survey about how we British understand our diversity, on the back of an American survey which believed that 41% of the USA’s population were black, whereas the true proportion is about 12%. Here respondents thought the figure was 20% as opposed to 3%; other statistics Asian 17% (true 7%) Muslims 15% (true 4%) transgender 5% (true 0.4%) vegan or vegetarian 20% (true 4%). And finally a 2018 Lloyds Banking Group study found that representation of minorities in UK advertising has double in three years to 25%, twice the actually proportion!! Distortion plays to the fears of some in the population and leads to polarisation. (Note 4)  

I have also read that a chap who was Academy Sergeant Major at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst for ten years, Ray Huggins, has died. During his tenure some 5470 future officers trained at The Academy. Reading his obituary reminded me of the wonderful repartee these senior NCOs displayed. Huggins was RSM of Old College, one of three colleges, in 1966, during my second year. It wasn’t RSM Murphy Irish Guards (Victory College) but our platoon sergeant Staff Sergeant Cameron of the Scots Guards who berated John Treasure as follows:

“Mr Treasure, Sir, you ‘orrible excuse for a ‘uman. You know what Sir?” he screamed, jabbing his Pacestick (note 5) perilously close to John’s face, so much so one imagined he could have smelt last night’s garlic on Cameron’s breath, “there’s a c**t at one end of this Pacestick and you need to think very carefully before you tell me at which end, Sir!”

Staff Sergeant Cameron Scots Guards at the rear of the platoon

As an Officer Cadet the future King of Jordan’s status was no shield. Overheard during some inspection of his tunic, boots, rifle or hair, one of the RSMs: “Sir, there are two kings ‘ere sir, you sir and me sir. But ‘ere on my parade ground there is only king sir, me sir!”

One of his predecessors was a veteran of the Battle for Arnhem, Operation Market Garden, during WW2, an ASM JC Lord. His very first words to the assembled Officer Cadets were “Gentlemen. My name is JC Lord. JC does not stand for Jesus Christ. He is Lord up there (pointing skywards with his Pacestick) and I am Lord down here (pointing to the parade ground). I will address you as ‘Sir’ but I won’t mean it. You will address me as ‘Sir’ but make sure you do mean it’.

The skull of one of my great friends at Sandhurst, Martin Ward-Harrison, was quite prominent at the back, so much so that his forage cap sat right on the edge. Any hair beneath it was deemed too long and Martin forever had to have extremely short hair. Sadly Martin was killed in Oman ten years later, probably having grown his hair at last!

Richard 10th June 2022


Note 1 The other two mentioned were the City of York and the county itself!

Note 2 A catastrophic fire in 1911 left the building a shell. It is said that Sir Tatton Sykes was too busy eating one of the milk puddings, to which he was addicted, to pay much attention, but villagers and estate workers loyally rescued pictures, statues and furniture, china and carpets, and even doors and banisters.

Note 3 Mark died of Spanish influenza three years later aged 39 and was buried in a lead-lined coffin. Globally 50 million people died in this pandemic. In 2008 his body was exhumed so that samples of his remains could be frozen in liquid nitrogen and passed to researchers looking at how the virus passes from animals to humans.

Note 4 Apparently Britons believe some 20% of the population earn more than £100,000 a year whereas the real figure is some 3%.

Note 5 The wooden pace stick was like a large pair of dividers, capable of measuring the standard marching pace of 30 inches.

PC 285 Lyrical Too

The title could also be ‘two’!

I have seen some wonderful musicals over the years, either on stage or portrayed in celluloid. When it comes to lyrics, ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ from Richard Rogers’ film ‘South Pacific’ often enters my consciousness. In theory it’s sung by the actor Rossano Brazzi, but the Oscar Hammerstein lyrics were actually dubbed by Giorgio Tozzi.

In the story Emile de Bacque falls in love with a naïve American navy nurse Nellie Forbush and expresses his feelings for her on the beach. “Some enchanted evening, you may see a stranger …. across a crowded room …. and somehow you know …. you’ll see her again and again.” Decades have passed since I saw the film and I YouTube’d it. God! It’s become dated, someone singing their heart out to a woman who looks completely disinterested, like some cardboard cut-out! …… but the tune and lyrics stay with me!

I saw Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘The Phantom of The Opera’ twice and remain mesmerised by one song, The Music of The Night; the way it’s sung and its lyrics. To remind you: ‘Night-time sharpens, heightens each sensation, darkness stirs and wakes imagination; silently the senses abandon their defences. Slowly, gently, night unfurls its splendour, grasp it, sense it, tremulous and tender, turn your face away from the garish light of day, turn your thoughts away from cold unfeeling light, and listen to the music of the night.’ Just brilliant!

Some artists own a certain song and no other attempt can match it. If you hear the first few bars and words of ‘I want to dance with somebody’ the late great Whitney Houston immediately comes to mind. As does Jennifer Rush singing the song The Power of Love. “The whispers in the morning of lovers sleeping tight …… and the reprise ‘cause I am your lady, and you are my man, whenever you reach for me, I’ll do all that I can.” And of course the late Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing “Now I’ve had the time of my life, No, I never felt like this before, Yes I swear it’s the truth, and I owe it all to you.”  No sure anyone can separate the song from the dance sequence in the feel-good film; I certainly can’t!

I mentioned the use of Nessun Dorma by the broadcasters of the football World Cup in PC 283 Lyrics. Another song of the same genre that resonates is Caruso, a song written in 1986 by Italian singer-songwriter Lucio Dalla who dedicated it to Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873 – 1921).

The recording by Luciano Pavarotti has sold over 9 million copies. The song tells of the evening a couple of days before 48 year old Caruso dies of throat cancer, when he’s giving his last singing lesson to a girl with beautiful green eyes with whom he’s fallen madly in love. He brings a piano out onto his terrace overlooking the harbour of Sorrento and serenades her and the local fishermen. He sets the scene: “Qui dove il mare luccia, E tira forte il vento. Su una vecchia terrazza, Davntiot al golfo di Surriento.”  And the chorus is: “Te voglio bene assaje, Ma tanto tanto bene sai, E una catena ormai, Che scioglie il sangue rint’ ‘e ‘vvene sai.” You can Goggle-Translate it if you want but listen to the Italian lyrics, Pavarotii’s majestic voice and the music all together and I guarantee a shiver will work its way down anyone’s romantic spine!

I don’t imagine writing lyrics is any different from other creative activities; sometimes they flow, sometimes the inability to express oneself seems frozen in time.  One glaring exception was George Frideric Handel’s Messiah. The whole 259 page oratorio was written over just 24 days in 1741, at a rate of 15 notes per minute for 10 hours; some suggest he had some divine assistance! It was first performed in Dublin the following year. 

And how about this as a plea for someone to stay: “If you go away, on a summer’s day, then you might as well take the sun away, all the birds that flew in the summer sky, when our love was new and our hearts were high ……. But if you stay, I’ll make you a day, like no day has been or will be again, we’ll sail on the sun, we’ll ride on the rain …..” Simply love Neil Diamond’s version of this song written by Jacques Brie and Rod McKuen.

Often singers don’t get the credit they deserve. The other day we heard that Loren Allred had produced a demo recording of the song ‘Never Enough’ for the 2017 film The Greatest Showman. Having heard it, the actress Rebecca Ferguson decided to mime the words; who knew?!

You recall from my first postcard about lyrics that I thought ‘nights in white satin’ referred to medieval knights with silk tights? When I hear Stephen Sondheim’s song ‘Send in the clowns’, the clowns being the fools that should flood a stage if the production is not going well, I hear clouds! I have no explanation; just the way I heard it once and now they’re stuck!

Large numbers of musical groups have come and gone without me really knowing too much about them apart from their hit singles. When the lead singer of Meat Loaf, Michael Lee Aday, died in January this year I just about remembered the hit “I’d do anything for love”. The Streets of Philadelphia was a song about the awful impact of AIDS in the 1980s. I knew a few individuals

who didn’t make it and Bruce Springsteen’s 1993 song brings back the memories. “….Saw my reflection in a window, and didn’t know my own face, Oh! brother, are you gonna leave me wastin’ away, on the streets of Philadelphia.” 

More than one person told Marilyn Bergman that they had been married to her “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?”, broke up to “Where Do you start?” and divorced to “The Way We Were.” ‘That’s a great responsibility, being the soundtrack for people’s lives’ she remarked in a rather syrupy way!

Maybe a way to wind up these scribbles is to read the last two lines of ‘The Way We Were’:

So it’s the laughter we will remember

Whenever we remember the way we were.’

Richard 3rd June 2022


PC 284 Knowing your nyms and mnemonics!

An acronym is an abbreviation formed from the initial letters of other words and pronounced as a word; not to be confused with an abbreviation. Words ending in ….nym are often used to describe different classes of words and the relationship between words; nym literally means ‘name’ in Greek. The word ‘acronym’ appeared in The Times’ Codeword on 9 May 2022. It registered in my subconscious and for some reason I associate it with ‘mnemonic’ (don’t ask!) which coincidentally appeared in the same puzzle four days later on 13th May! This is enough reason to start scribbling!!

So first, what about the …. nyms? There is a long list of these and I thought I could just mention a few, not wanting to ‘nym’ you to sleep! Let’s start with ‘chrononym’, a term for a specific period of time, such as summer or week; ‘homonyms’ are words with identical pronunciations but different spellings and meaning, such as site and sight, or words with identical pronunciations and spellings but different meanings such as ‘coach’ (single-decker bus) and ‘coach’ (to train a team); we have all heard of a ‘pseudonym’, the fictitious name, especially one used by an author – for example JK Rowling’s series of novels under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, (Note 1); ‘synonyms’ meaning similar and opposite words; lastly in this selection ‘xenonym’, a name for a people or a language or a city which is not used by the natives themselves – for example the German city of Cologne is known by the Deutsche as Koln.

I couldn’t find acronym in my old dictionary (when I hear ‘acro’ I immediately think of acrow prop and their use in supporting ceilings etc!!). Here in Europe the acronym NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) is very much in the news at the moment. Set up in 1949 to provide collective security against the Soviet Union, one of its founding principles is an attack on one member is considered an attack on all. Finland and Sweden are currently seeking to join the alliance, the last thing that Putin imagined when he started his ill-fated invasion of Ukraine.

Other well-used acronyms whose origins are maybe unclear are RADAR (radio detecting and ranging), SCUBA (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus), WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant), AWOL (absent without leave), LASER (light amplification by the stimulated emission of radiation), FUCK (for unlawful carnal knowledge) and NASA. Most people know that Benelux is an acronym for the countries of Belgium Netherlands and Luxembourg and that PIN stands for Personal Identification Number but what about TASER? Actually the American inventor of this incapacitator Jack Cover was a fan of the Tom Swift books about an inventor of amazing gadgets so it stands for Tom A Swift Electric Rifle! You might have thought that COVID was an acronym but it doesn’t follow the rule of using the initial letters; it is simply the name for the virus SARS – CoV-2 or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2. Staying on the medical theme, AIDS is an acronym, standing for Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome and FACE Face  (Smile? Eyes dropped?) Arms (Raise both arms?) Speech (Speak and understand?) and Time (To call the emergency number) to assist in the identification of a stroke.

WAGs have been in the news here in the UK. For those of you bemused by this acronym, it came about when the Wives And Girlfriends (WAGs) of our national football team accompanied their partners at some football match in 2006, and were photographed by the paparazzi shopping. Two WAGs called Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy have been in the High Court in London fighting a libel case; in the popular press dubbed Wagatha Christie! The vacuous nature of the spat was neatly summed up by Hilary Rose in The Times: “Two women spending millions of pounds and hours of their lives slugging it out over something that doesn’t matter. The case will turn on such matters as who follows who on Instagram, whether you would be offended if someone unfollowed you, who said what to whom and why.”         Sad!

And given that a recent football player moved to an English club on a salary of over £440k per week I scratch my head and wonder how obscene is the amount of money washing around this sport, so divorced from the real world of its fan base. Being paid only 1% of this amount would be beyond most individual’s wildest dreams.

While BIT, a Binary digit, a basic unit of information in a binary numbering system, is an acronym, the BBC, BT, BACS and ISBN are not. Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) is an abbreviation as is LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender) but these days you could add the letter Q if you continue to question and a ‘+’ if ‘intersex’. 

Mnemonics are simple ways to remember sequences, items, ideas For instance the colours of the spectrum of light can be remembered by ‘ROYGBIV’ – red orange yellow green blue indigo violet. Then there is the rhyme mnemonic to remember how many days in each month – ‘30 days hath September, April, June and November. All the rest have 31 except February my dear son; it has 28 and that is fine, but in a Leap Year 29.’

With my navigator’s hat on, we have “Grid to mag add, mag to grid get rid.” This mnemonic helps when you need to convert a bearing on a map or chart to a compass bearing as the compass is affected by the earth’s magnetic field. If you are confused about Latitude and Longitude remember this connection mnemonic: there is an N in Longitude and an N in North. Therefore lines of Latitude must run east to west as there is no N in latitude!

Our Intake DS Staff Sergeant Cameron Scots Guards at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst would be amused, I hope, that I still remember GRIT Group Range Indication Type of Fire (Normally shouted with an urgent voice: “One section, 150m to front, machine gun in hedgerow, rapid fire!”, a very basic military infantry mnemonic.

King George III came to the throne in 1760. For those who had an interest in these things but a poor memory, the mnemonic ‘George III said with a smile, 1760 yards in a mile.’ sufficed. For those of you who have fully converted to the metric system of measurement, it’s nonsense!

Richard 27th May 2022


Note 1 Others include Eric Blair (George Orwell), Mary Evans (George Eliot), Charlotte Brontë (Currer Bell), CS Lewis (Clive Hamilton) and Agatha Christie (Mary Westmacott)

PC 283 Lyrical

If you are a regular reader of these electronic postcards you may understand that I sponge up news stories like an industrial vacuum cleaner and these often include the daily obituaries. Some have a passing interest, sorry, no pun intended here: others are full of nuggets of wonderful examples of living life, sometimes well, sometimes not so well! Recently I read of Sergio Costa, who founded the Costa coffee chain and, not anticipating the explosion of the British love for coffee shops, sold it to Whitbread for £23m in 1995. Whitbread sold the brand to Coca-Cola for some £3.9 billion in 2019. Sir Ken Robinson was another (See PC 195 Snippets September 2020) and then there was Doreen Lofthouse , who virtually single-handedly grew the strong menthol lozenge ‘Fisherman’s Friend’ into a global brand. Another who caught my eye was Marilyn Bergman who died in January aged 93.

I hadn’t heard of her and maybe you haven’t either? You will however remember, if you’re old enough, the 1973 film ‘The Way We Were’ with Barbara Streisand and Robert Redford. The title song ‘The Way We Were’ was sung by Streisand and has been recorded by many others, but its lyrics were written by Marilyn Bergman who, with her husband Alan, became one of the most successful song-writing teams in musical history. (Note 1) Marilyn also wrote, inter alia, the lyrics for ‘The Windmills of Your Mind’, sung as Steve McQueen, playing the part of Thomas Crown in the film of the same name, flew round and around the sky in his glider (Note 2). I just need to close my eyes for a second to visualise this sequence; in my ear I recall lines like ‘Like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel, never ending or beginning on an ever spinning reel.’ Just gorgeous!

From The Thomas Crown Affair

Prompted by Marilyn’s obituary I began thinking how lyrics constantly invade one’s conscious and subconscious; bear in mind when you read my thoughts, lyrics are very generational!! How often do I silently sing ‘Monday Monday, so good to me’ (Note 3) at the start of the working week or does it get drowned out by ‘just another manic Monday’? (Note 4). In PCs 109 and 110 (November 2017) I scribbled about my own classical and ‘pop’ music journeys and what follows are just incoherent thoughts in the same vein!

In 1967 The Moody Blues sang a song entitled ‘Nights in White Satin’. I don’t think I ever saw the words written down and always imagined knights, as in medieval gentlemen, wearing white satin tights, which must have been all the rage in 1415 when we fought the Battle of Crecy. Personally I hate silky, satin sheets, white or any other colour, preferring a 200 thread count cotton sheet and therefore the satin-tight wearing knight is a better image!!

In the same year, the year that Celina was born so a good year (!), Procol Harum sang ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ whose lyrics started ‘We skipped the light fandango, turned cartwheels ‘cross the floor.’ What’s intriguing is this phrase ‘a whiter shade of pale’. There is no RAL number for ‘pale’; ‘signal white’ is RAL 9003 and Pure White 9010 (Note 5)

Some years ago there was a documentary called “Searching for Sugar Man”; it was intriguing. It recalled a three decade search for Sixto Rodriguez, a singer-songwriter whose 1970 debut album had no success in the USA. However it had found its way to South Africa where it found favour in the dawn of the anti-Apartheid movement.  Rodriguez was found living right at home in Detroit, unaware of his fame in the southern tip of the African continent; the subsequent three-venue concert tour of South Africa was a sell-out!  His lyrics have been described as Dylanesque and anti-establishment and there is much to like on the album ‘Searching for Sugar Man’. The song ‘Cause’ has some lovely completely bizarre lines that make no sense but, sung to his music, fit so well. Please, if you have never heard it, look on line; it starts: “ Cause I lost my job two weeks before Christmas, And I talked to Jesus at the sewer, And the Pope said it was none of his God-damned business, While the rain drank champagne.” Later he sings ‘So I set sail in a teardrop and escaped beneath the door sill’; somehow I imagine that!

Water features in one of Adele’s songs: ‘Set Fire to the Rain’. One of the interpretations I read was that, as water and fire both erode and destroy, the process of setting fire to the rain uncovers the truth behind the lies.  

Rod Stewart’s another whose lyrics resonate with me. Years ago on an Air Defence reconnaissance in Gibraltar, his ‘I don’t Want to Talk About It’ went around and around: ‘…. And the stars in the sky don’t mean nothing to you, they’re a mirror’. His 2013 album ‘Time’ contained a song ‘Brighton Beach’ with some great lines sang in his gravelly voice: ‘I remember when you were only 17, you were the finest girl my eyes had ever seen. I guess you found it hard to simply just ignore, this scruffy, beat-up, working-class, teenage, troubadour. …… under the stars on Brighton Beach.’  

I have little interest in football but keep a weather eye on the fortunes of the local team, Brighton & Hove Albion, sitting in the middle of the Premier League at the moment. The current manager has had a fantastic season. But it was in 1990 that the coverage the World Cup matches was accompanied by Luciano Pavarotti singing Nessun Dorma. Did I care, did anyone care, what the lyrics meant? The aria (‘Let no one sleep’) is from the final act of Giacomo Puccini’s Turandot and by the end of the tournament I guarantee the fans in pubs watching the match could sing the lyrics without knowing what they meant!

And it doesn’t matter! More to come later in Part 2.

Richard 20th May 2022


Note 1 She also wrote the hit song ‘You Don’t Bring Me Flowers’.

Note 2 The original Thomas Crown Affair film was made in 1968 with Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway. A remake in 1999 starred Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo.

Note 3. The Mamas & The Papas 1966

Note 4 Manic Monday by The Bangles 1986

Note 5 RAL is a colour matching system used in Europe created and administered by the Gewrman RAL gGmbH.

PC 282 Back in The Hope

Cafés have been in the news recently as the population adjusts to more flexible working arrangements. Here Debrett’s, the British Guide to Social Etiquette that was founded in 1769, has issued advice on the problem of WFC (Working from Cafés) – not to be confused with WFH (Working from Home). WFH is all jolly well but it’s lonely and often the simple addition of being within sight and sound of others can lift one’s spirits. So those WFH have migrated to WFC! The issue Debrett’s has identified is that of table usage; become absorbed in your laptop and you hog a table for too long, depriving the café of income from new customers.

At one end of the spectrum, in Manchester and London the Costa chain is trialling soundproof booths you can rent for £13 per hour. At the other end the Hackney Coffee Company has introduced a policy of no laptops on weekends and after 1700 on weekdays.

The Hope has, you may recall, recently installed charging points so it’s a hot topic. Of course the primary purpose of a café these days is to host customers who are meeting friends for a coffee and a chat; in the Hope case this might also mean grabbing some delicious Brazilian pastry from the delicatessen next door!    

You will have read how I have come to enjoy time in The Hope Café, overhearing conversations that might contribute to some sort of post, getting to know Josh and Susie, meeting Sami and Edith. To conjure up tales from inside one’s head is always possible but people relate better to real life observations! I would like to think I am sensitive to the WFC issues and on busy days vacate my table after an hour or so.

This week I found Sami head down in a book, with a half drunk coffee and a crumb-scattered plate. His latest book is The Man Who Died Twice, the sequel to Richard Osman’s The Thursday Murder Club. He looked up and smiled as I approached; I sense his holiday has done him good or maybe it was giving his evidence to the Post Office Inquiry (See PC 235 Generosity in Government June 2021).

Hi! Richard. Glad I got that over …. but everyone’s been talking about the BBC Panorama programme ‘Scandal in The Post Office’ by Nick Wallis.”

“I’ve got it recorded but haven’t had time to watch it. Is it revealing?”

“Absolutely! The most significant case they reviewed was of Martin Griffiths. A sub-postmaster with an unblemished record of some 13 years in Great Sutton in Cheshire, a few months after the Horizon computer system was installed he had a shortfall of over £61,000. According to his widow, he was persecuted by the Post Office, made to pay it back and had his licence terminated. Unable to cope this father of two teenagers committed suicide.”

“Wow! That’s horrible!”

There’s more. A firm of forensic auditors, Second Sight, were investigating the hundreds of cases of missing money. A few days before they were due to report, the Post Office made a ‘take it or leave it’ financial offer to his widow Gina Griffiths on condition of her silence. They were worried that news of Martin’s suicide would have made headline news particularly for the tabloid press and the whole edifice of the Post Office would have come crashing down. The CEO of this organisation from 2012 to 2019, Paula Vennells, was made a CBE for ‘her services to the Post Office’. Now it’s been suggested she should have that honour taken away.”  

Isn’t she an ordained priest?

Sami nodded and shrugged his shoulders! ‘I don’t think being a priest necessarily makes you a wonderful manager and leader, or vica versa!’

I appreciate that this scandal may be of little interest to some, but for me and others it’s so utterly unbelievable yet jaw-droopingly true that it needs to remain in focus until those whose lives were destroyed, in some cases completely, see justice. Those responsible for the Post Office’s management and leadership during this time must be called to account in court.

I excuse myself and head back to my table, as I need to scribble something for this week’s post. Edith’s been rather down, reports Josh. He senses the whole Ukraine nightmare and the ridiculous use by Russia’s Putin of the word Nazi have reawakened nightmares of her own. While completely understandable, objectively it has caused many who had scant knowledge of the 1935-1945 period to reach for the history books, just as those who experienced it are coming to the end of their own lives. This is a good thing, understanding the past, particularly our own past, as it should help us to make better informed decisions today and tomorrow.

Josh hovers near my table, checking no one needs him, and asks for my opinion:

The other evening Luke and I had three other couples to supper and, after the main course had been cleared away and before some pudding, a couple got up saying they wanted to have a cigarette and headed for the front door. Another couple obviously liked the idea and joined them, leaving the table half empty! I want individuals to enjoy themselves but afterwards felt they could have waited until they walked home. Then I remembered how lovely a post prandial smoke was, so understood the urge.”

Wasn’t it just, sitting around the table, smoke from cigarettes and cigars mingling with the smell of red wine and meat! Later a glass of port, Cognac or Drambuie helped the conversation to flow. Times change and I understand your conundrum; are you gracious and don’t make a fuss or simply ask your guests to be patient? I wonder whether Debrett’s can rule on this conundrum! Should I write to them?”

Why not” says Josh then with a “sorry, need to get back to work, maybe see you next week?” he moves back to behind the counter.


Richard 13th May 2022


PC 281 Stepping Through Life

Some new acquaintances, a Ukrainian and her English partner, came to tea last month. I know I am sometimes insensitive but I just can’t help myself, wanting to understand how individuals came to be how they are, where they are today! What steps have led them to be sitting in our living room having tea and lemon drizzle cake with us? Then I had this image of stepping stones across a shallow stream, some stones small, others more like a boulder, some within an easy stride, others requiring a jump. You remember doing this, getting your balance, thinking how you are going to lift off through your feet, deciding which stone of two to step to, grateful obtaining your balance when you arrive; maybe stepping straight off onto another, maybe recovering your breath and pausing, assimilating, assessing?

If you look back over your life so far, you can see your experiences as these stones, these places you have moved through, sometimes changing behaviour to do so but more likely ‘more of the same’. Do you want to look under them to see what lurks in the darkness, or are you happy to see them for what they are, simple steps on your path through life? Most stones in a field have slugs lying under them and it’s damp and smelly; those across a stream are washed by cool water but contain a micro-kingdom of minute creatures and plant life. Revisiting one’s experiences can be cathartic and insightful or it can be painful and emotional. Experiences have happened and cannot be reworked or relived; they just are.

My advice is always to see them for what they are; don’t attach any unwarranted emotions to them and step forward to the next stone! Coincidently, my local Ekah yoga studio started their May newsletter with this quote from Abraham Maslow (he of the Hierarchy of Needs): “In any given moment we have two options, to step forward into growth or step back into safety.” I could add a third, ‘or to remain paralysed by indecision, fear and doubt’!!

Photo from The Times

Recently there has been some news coverage of how people look as they age and more importantly how they behave. We have always imagined that life expectancy would go on increasing as healthier lifestyles and better healthcare contributed to longer life; you may remember that in the USA at the beginning of 1900 the average age for a man was 46! Figures for life expectancy are very dependent on where you live. In the UK, in the most deprived areas where sadly endemic poverty, substance abuse and abysmal levels of expectation still exist, its 73.5 for men compared with 83.2 in the least deprived; for women its 78.3 compared with 86.3. Ten years of living lost just because you were born in the wrong place? In the words of the prophet: “Something must be done!”

Interestingly, as the end of one’s life becomes more of a fuzzy reality than something below the horizon, we stop investing in the future – for the future is here! The importance is to distinguish between being project-focused, ie getting stuff done and investing in the future and process-focused ie doing stuff and living in the present.  

Started in 2014, there are now five volumes of my scribbles!

And still with the life theme …..it’s getting better as far as ‘Living with Covid’ (Note 1) is concerned but there was a period just before Easter here in the UK when everything seemed to go tits up! Flights were cancelled, ferries didn’t sail, the M20 motorway to Dover became a lorry park and queues formed everywhere; ‘staff shortages’ became a defensive cry. One of the reasons may have been that the government increased the number of identifiable Covid symptoms from 9 to 11. Now the working population seem to think: “OMG! I have a sniffle/ache/memory lapse/itch/hot flush/brain fog/cognitive difficulties/red big toe. Maybe I have Covid?” in the manner of someone in a Bingo Hall shouting ‘Bingo’ – and so not turn up for work, for instance as security in an airport.

But they actually feel fine so when Lucy says let’s go on a four day break to Budapest and Alan says yes, let’s and they get to Luton Airport for their Easyjet flight, to find the queues are horrendous and why didn’t they allow enough time and when the local newspaper’s reporter shoves a microphone in their face to ask for their reaction, Alan says there aren’t enough staff, that the queues are horrendous and the country’s going to the dogs. Irony alive!

Stepping through life is often recorded in celebrating birthdays and Celina’s is coming up. She needed a new Kindle; her much-loved one is tired and we knew that the sharpness of the display had improved immeasurably. Amazon advertise a ‘Trade-in’ offer for an old Kindle. Send it back and they give you a £15 voucher and 20% off a new one. But if you are an avid reader you don’t want to be without one, for even a day. I ordered a new one, it arrived and we deregistered the old one. The Trade-In instructions are easy to follow and it’s gone; the offer of £15 plus 20% off a new one is now valid. I manage to find a real human to talk to in Amazon Customer Services and explained to John I had just bought a new one, wouldn’t be buying another new one for a few years and could he give me the 20% refund. This question was above his pay grade and I was put on hold; 10 minutes later a refund was agreed. You just have to ask!

When I started reading the last paragraph of Rose Wild’s Feedback in a Saturday Times a fortnight ago, my imagination went into overdrive: “While I was writing this a cow came crashing down the chimney bringing with it 100 years’ worth of soot and dust.” Once the absurdity of this picture dawned, I reread it. For ‘cow’ read ‘crow’!

Don’t be paralysed by the unknown; have faith that the step you take will be OK. And if it isn’t, that’s OK too, as you can learn from what transpired.

Richard 6th May 2022


Note 1 Had my Spring Booster Covid vaccine last week so all up to date!

PC 280 One’s Heart

My sensitivity to the one organ of the body without which we can’t live will become apparent in due course. But first let me explain why I needed to scribble something; ‘needed’ as in ‘have to’!

I enjoy a wide variety of programmes broadcast on television, from The Repair Shop (see PC 274 Tick Tock March 2022) through all sorts of films and drama series to Grand Designs, a programme of 22 Series, each of nine episodes, featuring individuals building their own ‘grand design’ house. I have seen many of these and feel there are two issues common to every programme; all builds go over budget and every woman client gets pregnant during the construction!

Sorry! I digress. Recently we have loved the final series of the BBC drama The Split about the lives and loves of a family law firm in London (Note 1). Of course these days if you get hooked early on you can use BBC iPlayer and watch the rest one after the other. It used to be that ‘to binge’ meant a period of excessive indulgence in an activity, especially eating, drinking or taking drugs. Nowadays you could add ‘binge watch’ to describe seeing every episode one after the other, being impatient with the TV scheduling! And this is not to say that the original binge activities are not mutually exclusive from each other and this new meaning.

If you haven’t seen The Split, here comes what’s known as a ‘spoiler alert’. I remember my grandmother betting on the football pools and the television announcer giving the day’s results saying: “If you don’t want to know the result, look away now.” (Note 2) In this final series, at the end of episode one, James is knocked off his bike and killed. The writer Abi Morgan writes: “To kill a much-loved character is always hard but I felt in a way this was the arc of his journey. One of the last things he says to his wife is ‘I don’t want to miss life, Rose.’ I thought if that’s what the audience is left with then what an amazing gift to have left everybody.” Not quite sure I understand this but I am not a writer of dramas so the nuance may be lost on me?

For me the issue is a more basic one, about his heart. Prompted by a shortage of people opting to allow their organs to be transplanted to help someone else, the law in England changed in May 2020. Now it is considered that you agree to become an organ donor when you die, providing you are over 18, have not opted out (still an option) or are not in an excluded group. Other countries may have different rules. I suspect we have all thought about being a volunteer organ donor and just never got around to it; now you don’t have to think about it!! Phew! All the details are found at www.organdonation.nhs.uk. Being reasonably young, James’s heart was a good organ for transplanting and it was placed in the chest of other chap; let’s call him Andy. All good and nothing for me to get incredulous about. Over the ensuing months Rose his widow comes to terms with James’ death and agrees with a counsellor that she’s ready to meet the chap in whose body her husband’s heart pumps.

She arranges to visit Andy and his wife at teatime. After the initial hugs and expressions of ‘heart-felt’(!) gratitude we get to the bit where for me time stopped. Rose just happens to have a stethoscope in her bag and, with Andy’s obvious consent, places the pad on his chest, over his heart. The only sound one hears is the regular beat of a healthy heart. But this is James’ heart, sorry, no, it’s now Andy’s – but Rose has heard it beating before no doubt, maybe lying with her face across James’ chest after an afternoon’s romantic country picnic. The turmoil of emotions she must feel were transmitted to us, the audience, well to me certainly. I can think of recipients of kidneys, bits of liver or bone marrow and I’m unaffected, but to personally listen to a sound you have known in another body is just so weird. Sorry rant over!

My sensitivity to the heart started in 2013 when I went to my GP with irregular chest pains. An ECG was followed by an Angiogram that found a reduction in the diameter of the main artery of some 80%. So the heart was fine, the piping needed replacing; a triple bypass sorted it out (Note 3). But I could have joined the 60,000 people in the UK who have a heart attack every year, away from hospital – of whom 5% survive!! I could have been one of those 57,000 – I could have died! Lucky, huh! Physically I feel fantastic and manage my five hot yoga sessions a week with ease, but there is this little piece of memory that keeps me smiling; put simply, I might not have been here. Today I went down to the beach, to look at the calm sea; (we have high pressure!) Did it make any difference that I was still here, that I hadn’t died? Would nature notice my absence? The sun will surely rise tomorrow, whether I’m here or not; funny thing, life.

Richard 29th April 2022


PS In PC 278 Unintended Consequences I wrote how us chaps must take care of our crown jewels. Jeremy Clarkson, writing in the Sunday Times on Easter Sunday, two days later, about his home gym, said this: “……  after a few seconds the pedal fell off the bicycle, which caused my testes to slump heavily onto the saddle. So I had to spend the next ten minutes uncrossing my eyes and  ….”!

Note 1. The issues covered included a long con artist, early pregnancy, an affair which is further complicated by a pregnancy, a divorce, a marriage and an unrealistic love affair. Exhaustingly busy!!

Note 2 This could have been Manchester United 1 Brighton & Hove Albion 3 – but maybe in my dreams?

Note 3. The human heart is about the size of a fist. For the new pipework the surgeon, or maybe one of his minions, took a vein from a leg. My left leg has a scar from mid-thigh to my ankle, some 65 centimetres of vein, to replace three pieces 8cms long??????