Month: December 2020
Piece at Samizdata about the diagnosis/treatment imbalance in the NHS
Not much here today, what with yesterday’s dramas, but I have just ripped off a Samizdata piece, based on my recent medical experiences, entitled On the British National Health Service imbalance between lethargic diagnosis and really rather good actual treatment of serious medical conditions.
It features a link to this mighty beast:
That’s “Brunel”. Brunel has been giving me my first actual doses of cancer treatment, the third dose having been this afternoon. Two more, tomorrow and on the 31st. These treatments have been merely defensive, to stop my spine being damaged by the lung cancer tumor. Next week, if all proceeds as I hope, the actual attack on the tumor and on its spreading consequences will get under way.
I have lung cancer
This afternoon I sent out an email message to about fifty or more of my nearest and dearest, saying that I now have lung cancer. Since among my nearest and dearest are those who read this little blog of mine with any regularity, here is the full text of what that said, for all you good people also:
A message from Brian Micklethwait to as many of his friends, relatives and loved ones whom he can now think of to include in this email list.
Please pass this on to anyone else who you think would appreciate hearing about it, with whatever added apologies make sense for me having neglected to include them on the list to start with.
Dear friends, relatives, loved ones and well-liked ones:
About a week before Christmas, I learned that I am suffering from lung cancer. I had known for a while that something bad was happening. Apparently I have had it for some time, and it has been spreading. From what doctors are now telling me it seems that I may die quite soon. They don’t put it quite like that, but that is how it now sounds.
But, it may not be quite that bad. Being doctors, they are also giving me reasons for optimism, in among the gloom.
First, I do not have the usual sort of lung cancer, the sort brought on by prolonged and heavy smoking, having never been a smoker of any kind. I am told that this sort of “anomalous” lung cancer tends to respond better to cancer treatment than regular smoker-cancer usually does. I suspect that my very dusty home may be part of what set my cancer off, but the doctors prefer to doubt that, at any rather when they speak to me. Genetics? Other unknown environmental triggers? They prefer not to speculate and just to get on with treating me.
Second, cancer treatment has come a long way in recent years. A doctor recently told me that, had I been in my current condition a decade ago, his advice would have been: “Call your lawyer, your priest, and your undertaker, in whichever order you prefer.” Now, my chances are much better.
Third, because I decided to throw the kind of money I can spare at the private medical sector for the diagnosis part of my problem, my condition is now well understood, and I am now, already, getting cancer treatment, from London’s Royal Marsden Hospital in the Fulham Road, which is about as good as cancer treatment can be nowadays.
And, I’m getting this treatment on the NHS. The NHS is overwhelmed by people who have or say that they have medical problems of all kinds and degrees of severity. Had I relied on the NHS to learn the bad news I needed to know, I would probably still not know it. But, once the NHS knows that you have a serious and potentially fatal condition, it then moves fast, and not just technically well but with great human sympathy, if my early experience of treatment is anything to go by, and if what my doctors and my medically expert friends and relatives (such as my sister who was an NHS GP until she retired) are telling me is so. Especially if you are lucky enough, as I am, to live a mere walk away from the Marsden.
So, wish me luck. I may yet live for quite a while. My condition may stabilise. I may even recover. I now doubt that, but you never know.
Some of you will be content to tell me you are very sorry about all this, and that is fine. Such messages mean a lot, and if that is all you want to say to me that’s still a great deal. Just knowing that there are people out there who sympathise means a lot more than you might suppose. (A word of warning. Those who phone me may be subjected to some coughing at my end, a continuous cough having been one of the early signs of trouble.)
If, however, you would like to know more about how to help me in my weeks or months of misfortune, then keep reading, and I’ll tell you. (I have already embarked upon the years version of this scenario, being already over seventy years old.)
The problem is that, especially in these very socially separated times, physical help can be rather hard to contrive. Besides which, very close friends and relatives are already supplying crucial support in ways that are already helping me and cheering me up enormously. Thanks to them, and to the treatment I’ve already been getting, I have had a surprisingly cheerful Christmas.
But, there is something else I ask you to do, should you be so inclined. Don’t just email me about what you can do to help, email the person who is acting as my Senior Coordinating Friend, so to speak. This is Elena Procopiu (she at the top of the email list above). She is the elder sister of my beloved Second GodDaughter, and I am very close to her entire family. Email her, as well as me. Communicate with her about what you might be able to offer, should you be inclined.
I’m sure that all kinds of assistance, such as experience of similar circumstances as well as merely physical help, may materialise in this way.
But, let me now tell you what would really boost my morale.
Tell each other which of my writings you have most liked, and do so just as publicly as you feel inclined. Blogs postings, blog comments, social media, the lot. My circumstances are now no secret. If I do die soon, I would greatly prefer to do this in the knowledge that various things that I have said and written over the years have left behind them a trail of enlightenment and entertainment, and might be fondly remembered, for a while at least.
This is quite a lot to ask, because I fear that my more impressive pronouncements are scattered in amongst a vast pile of trivia and obfuscation. But, if you want now to cheer me up, try to dig out some of the more worthwhile things that you think I have said and done – often just sentences or paragraphs rather than longer and rarer stretches of eloquence – and hold them up for a bit of admiration and reflection.
Maybe there are photos I’ve taken over the years that you happened particularly to like. Recycle or link to them too.
Here might be a good place to start.
Or you could try here here.
Or here, which still seems to be working after a fashion.
Or you might care to sample some of these recent efforts, if you have the time.
If you recall having attended one or some of my last-Friday-of-the-month meetings at my home, perhaps because you were kind enough yourself to be the speaker at one or some of them and found that particularly helpful and stimulating, then please take the time to tell any other people who might be interested about that.
This is a lot to ask, but if you don’t ask for what you want in life, or in my case potential death, you are far less likely to get it, and this is what I want. If only a few people feel inclined to say and do things along these lines, it would cheer me up lot as I make my exit, if that is what is about to happen.
A late thought. My deadly sin has always been sloth. Had I merely died, one fine day, just like that with no warning, it is almost certain that I would have died failing to say or do many of the things I would have most wanted to say or do before going. As it is, having now been told about my possibly imminent death before it actually comes may turn into something of a blessing for me. Live every day as if it is your last, we are often told. That is pretty much what I am now doing, as best I can manage in my now weakened state. I still have a few public pronouncements that I’d like to offer to the world before I go, and there is every chance that I may now manage to say at least some of those things, the way I probably would not have done had I just died with no advance warning, and even if I had lived for quite a bit longer.
Which I may yet be lucky enough to do. If so, win-win.
Even if it goes win-lose, I don’t feel that I deserve the sort of send-off I am asking for. All my life, I have been showered with advantages, not least in the form of more unearned wealth than most inhabitants of this planet could ever dream of having bestowed upon them. I have not done nearly well enough as a communicator, given all the chances I have had, for me to be able to expect the sort of send-off that I would like and for it to happen of its own accord.
But, I nevertheless ask for it. This is what I would like.
It is putting it mildly to say that not everyone on this email list shares my political inclinations and attitudes, or for that matter aesthetic tastes and opinions. So if all you really want to say to me is: “Bad luck mate. Nice, on the whole, to have known you”, well, I’ll gladly take that.
I’ve tried quite hard to avoid grammatical errors and mis-spellings in this, but some will inevitably remain. It’s now time to stop this and just send it out. More to come, I hope, maybe from me, maybe from others, with news of medical progress, or perhaps just with news of how it all turns out. But if not, then: not. It was certainly good knowing all of you.
All the very best to you and yours,
If you are personally known to me and want to get in touch with my very dear friend Elena Procopiu, mentioned in the middle of the above text, I suggest you leave a comment below to that effect, and I’ll be sure that the connection is made.
A regular view of Battersea Power Station – but in the morning!
A couple more photos from Christmas Eve, the first was showing what a weird, for me, time of day it was, even though I was already two-thirds walked home by then:
I know. 10.20am. AM!!! That’s the big clock at the top of Victoria Bus Station. And yes indeed, look at the weather, too.
Yet the funny thing is about that time in the morning is that in many ways it resembles the time when it is about to get dark again.
Consider, for instance, this next photo, of a favourite view of mine taken from the same spot and at the same time as the photo above, but just pointing in the opposite direction:
That’s one of my favourite views in London, being from the road where Warwick Way turns right, past the big bus terminal, over the big railway line into Victoria, and towards Posh Pimlico and its posh antique shops, as you go towards Sloane Square, which was where I had just come from.
I have photoed the slowly changing scene that has been Battersea Power Station over the last few decades, many a time during those years. And I have photoed photos where the evening sun was bouncing up at me like a short-pitched cricket delivery off the pitch in front of me, from railway lines like that. But I don’t recall ever having before photoed Battersea Power Station in the morning and combined that with the reflecting railways lines effect. But Christmas Eve morning having been the morning, the sun was coming from the opposite of the usual direction, and there it all was.
I like how the railway line has to climb, and also curve like that to get itself in line, past those sheds on the left, in order to be high enough and pointing in the right direction to get across the river bridge.
This is really just a posting to see if posting has got any easier from the mess it was yesterday, but I also owe regulars here, after yesterday’s single and decidedly fiascotic (also time-cheated (small hours of this morning) posting. Which means I am now going to save it in my Word-clone before trying to post it here.
Seems to be working better. Good.
A 1950s YouTube video about cricket
Still gummed-up. Just too many things open, I assume.
One particular gummer-upper is leaving YouTube Videos open and paused.
Like this short bit of film (a bit over a quarter of an hour long) done in 1950 by the British Council about cricket and its magically universal, quasi-religious appeal. GodDaughter2’s Dad sent me the link to this many weeks ago, and I started watching, cringed a bit, but then, still determined to force myself to watch it all, in all its post-WW2, pre-Sixties non-glory, I kept the thing paused and open, until now.
In 1950 everyone English loved cricket, and assembled in suits at Lord’s to watch or, if they were a member of the miserable majority for whom that was impossible, no matter. All civilised or would-be civilised people, everywhere on earth, could listen to the cricket on the radio, thanks to John Arlott and his posh colleagues. Arlott himself spoke a bit un-posh, which meant that everyone could love cricket. Although of course, you were, then, ideally English-posh, you didn’t have to be English-posh. You merely had to aspire to that happy state, and who on earth, in 1950, did not do that? Then? Nobody. Look, even people in turbans could play or attend to cricket, no matter what their colour or their creed, or how amusingly and wrongly they spoke English, i.e. in the opposite way to the way other-narrator (besides Arlott) Ralph Richardson spoke English. You could be an Or-stralian, non-posh, even non-white and non-Christian and talk English like a music hall joke character covered in black make-up, and still be part of cricket. Cricket was ultra-inclusive.
There follow a string of comments to the effect that the world is crap now compared to what it was in the 1950s. (I dissent. For starters, I can now have a blog. Nobody could have a blog in 1950. Also, I enjoy T20 cricket as well as the day-after-day-after-day version of cricket which was all they had back in 1950.)
It all makes a fascinating contrast to the equivalent efforts now being made to make cricket really, properly inclusive, in the form of pieces of writings like this, by ESPN’s Daniel Brettig, about all the micro-aggressions that non-white cricket people still have to put up with these days, but really, really should not have to.
After yesterday’s beyond-the-call-of-duty activity here, both I and my computer spent today in a state of gummed-up inactivity. It was all I could do to get it to tell me the cricket and football scores. Apologies. Will have another go tomorrow.
Copland creatures on a keyboard
More creature stuff. Earlier this evening, I spoke on the phone with friends, exchanging Christmas greetings. The teenage daughter of the family is about to do Grade 8 piano or some such unimaginably precocious thing, and one of the piano pieces she’s doing is by Aaron Copland, entitled The Cat and the Mouse. The idea is that it’s the noise that happens when a cat chases a mouse over a piano keyboard. Never heard of this piece until today. For me, Copland is those cheerful orchestral pieces that everyone knows, like Rodeo and Appalachian Spring. I played a YouTube video of it, done by a kid, and I have to say that to me it just sounded like a fun piece of music.
But here’s a ten year old girl playing it at a Lang Lang master class, back in 2010. She certainly seemed to relate to it. Maybe the mere idea of it being a cat and a mouse running about on a keyboard was enough to get her going. So good is this Kate Lee that I found myself digressing into wondering what she is doing now. I could find nothing of hers since 2017, when she played the first movement of the Ravel Piano Concerto with her school orchestra, than whom she was decidedly better. Presumably she’s studying piano at some music college now, keeping her head down. With Lang Lang on her side, if that is still how it is, she should do well. But then again, how many more oriental piano prodigies are there out there?
Looking forward to hearing the friends’ daughter play this piece.
But not such a merry Christmas for her
Most dogs whom we encounter in nice, polite, safe little England are dogs who have bonded with humans, whom the dogs love, unconditionally. But what happens when dogs don’t bond with humans, but only with one another? Then, they are liable to love humans in another way, as in: I love duck, or I love rabbit. To eat. Ooh look guys, fancy some tasty human?
DOCTORS are today fighting to save the life of a woman whose face was completely skinned by a pack of stray dogs.
Where did this horror happen?
Relax. In Russia:
The predators ripped off all Tatyana Loskutnikova’s clothes and gnawed her flesh down to the bone during the sickening attack in Russia.
In Russia they have hungry packs of dogs. Like these, who were only doing what surely made perfect sense to them. Hellishly bad luck on the woman of course, but maybe she might have known better? Yes, you shoot the dogs, as they did. But you can’t really blame them, the way the Sun seems to.
Horse hearse – practising?
Today is Christmas Day and all that, and I hope you are having or had a good one. But today is also a Friday, which means it’s my day for non-human living creatures. So, today is the day to say that, just after I’d had another go at Mozart, yesterday morning, I was presented with this wondrous spectacle:
I have never seen such a collection of horses and riders before in London, doing this.
Odd, I think you will agree. At the time I had little idea of what I was merely at the time noticing and photoing. Now, looking at these photos more closely, I see that this is clearly a hearse, for carrying coffins to and maybe from funerals. But, London is locked-down. Why go to all this bother if nobody can be there? Besides which, who’d have a funeral on Christmas Eve? Maybe there are good answers to such questions, like: London Lock-down actually does still allow funerals, or: yes, people often have funerals on Christmas Eve in the morning. But to me, it makes little sense.
Unless … My best guess? Since the funeral business must have been so very flat lately, and because the roads of London are particularly empty just now, what they were doing was practising. Further guess: the lady riding at the back of this procession was the one in charge, watching all the riders and the lady stander in front of her, taking at least mental notes. Later she will tell them what they did right, and what they did wrong.
You frequently see police horses walking about in London, keeping in trim between demonstrations and such like. But, like I say, I’ve never seen this before.
Let me now see if the Internet can offer any further information about such enterprises. Nope, no exact fit. Plenty of horse hearse services, but nothing that seems to match. Can anyone enlighten me and the rest of my readers?
Merry Christmas – no sarcasm intended
On Christmas Day and the days surrounding it, my trickle of readers becomes even less of a trickle than usual, so the chances are that you are reading this posting, if at all, not on Christmas day itself, but rather some time in early January, doing a catch-up of what I have babbled and blogged about over Christmas, just as it is your occasional habit to do a catch-up of recent stuff here at other times of the year.
Nevertheless, if you are one of the self-selected few reading this today, only minutes or hours after I posted it, I wish you in particular a very …:
As I reported yesterday, I did a little walkabout yesterday morning, and I walked past many shops. But I didn’t see any signs saying things like that. How could you say that, in the window of your shop, totally closed for the duration, without sounding sarcastic and getting just broken glass or graffiti for saying such a thing? Or worse, of appearing to accuse passers-by of being the kind of heartless bastards who intend to have a merry Christmas and screw the rest of humanity? You couldn’t. Maybe its different in the less affluent parts of London, but in my vicinity, “Merry Christmas” is surely being spoken quietly but it is not being publicly proclaimed, in lights or in any other way.
Which means that above photo is from my photo-archive, having been photoed (in or next to (guess) the then still rather new Victoria Station shopping appendage) in the run-up to Christmas 2010.
I have other Christmassy things that I may or may not get around to reporting from my walkabout yesterday morning, but I just wanted to get that basic message up and posted, especially, as I say, if you are reading this on the actual day itself. Merry Christmas. You won’t want to go around shouting this in the streets to strangers, as I have myself sometimes done in the small hours of Christmas morning when returning home on foot from a Christmas Eve feast with friends. But, I hope you are having one nevertheless.