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,

Brian Micklethwait

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.

At the Royal Victoria Docks in March 2012

The basic reason I do personal blogging has always been that I don’t want any constraints placed by some agenda, in my case a political one, on what I consider to be interesting, or beautiful, or amusing, or interesting, or just likeable in some indefinable way. The rule I try to stick to is: Never, if I actually do not, say what I think or feel that I am supposed to think or feel. If that results in “contradictions” between things I consider of interest, so be it.

All of which is a preamble to saying that I hope I never stop doing postings like this one, with photos like this:

All of the above photos were photoed in March of 2012, on the way to (photo 1), on the way from (photo 28), or at or from (photos 2-27) the Royal Victoria Docks, which are out beyond Docklands. This evening, I came across a little directory, where I’d put them all, with something like this in mind. All the work of selecting had been done. So here they all are. And yes, you are right, I do have very conventional tastes in sunsets, with interesting things in the foreground. But if you ever decide to dislike something you like, because other people also like it, more fool you.

I love how shoving up great clutches of photos like this is so much easier than it was at the old blog, and that it is easy for you to click through them, if you want to, just as slowly or as quickly as you like, without a lot of backwards-and-forwards-ing. I don’t think that’ll ever get old.

Two Big Things were, at that particular moment, under construction. They were finishing up with The Shard, and they were building that weird cable car thing across the River, having, in March 2012, got as far as building the towers but being yet to attach the cables or cable cars.

One of my favourite Things at these docks is the new footbridge they built across it. It’s great to look at, and it’s great to look from.

I really hope that by the time half decent weather returns, some time around March 2021, I’ll be in a fit state to take advantage of it, and do more of this kind of photo-perambulating.

Cricket contrasts

This is remarkable:

Although, Pooran might have thrown a catch to the nearby fielder and got the batsman out. All he did was save a few runs. So, not ten out of ten.

I also recommend a look at the scorecard, if you care anything about cricket. Biggest successful run chase in IPL history, apparently.

Thankyou Maia Bouchier, who I once saw play in an otherwise all male cricket match at Lord’s between my old posh school and another posh school. (Memo to self, transfer to here two blog postings I did about this strange event.)

I misspent (by which I mean I greatly enjoyed it) quite a bit of today watching Essex get their draw against Somerset, and win The Bob, as I hear they are now calling it. This was a very different sort of game to that IPL game. For starters it went on for five days, yet it was still a draw. But despite it being a draw, Essex won. You don’t see that very often. Meanwhile, that IPL game, like all IPL games, was all done in a few hours.

The only major thing these two games had in common, aside from both being cricket matches, is that, because of The Plague, there was nobody watching them at the actual grounds where they were played.

A sound file with sound advice about photography

Testing testing:

Wow, that worked! First time. A long line with progress on display, just like the real internetters do. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I wasn’t expecting anything that good. Go WordPress.

The sound file is of me picking the brain of my friend Bruce the Real Photographer. His advice about photoing is very clear and down to earth. I did a posting on BtRP way back in 2006, which included this interview. Now I’m trying to transfer that posting across from the old blog to this blog. It’ll be a while yet before you see that, because the photo-presentation angle of that is complicated. But meanwhile, ff you fancy the idea, have a listen.

Progress and the personal touch

The two photos below, taken at Chateau Michael Jennings, remind me yet again how valuable personal face-to-face contact is in an age of radically progressing technology. The irony being that a lot of the technology that is now progressing most radically is all about making such personal face-to-face contact less necessary. But the more such technology progresses, the more valuable it is to be sitting right next to someone who knows how to get the best out of it, and can watch you failing to do that and can correct you. What’s that you say? Zoom? Two problems for me there. One, my regular C20 computer has no camera pointing at me. Plus, I tried to get Zoom going with just the sound, for a meeting, but the damn sound didn’t work. I’ll only get Zoom going when someone clever pops by and helps me do it.

These photos were taken somewhat over a year ago, when Michael was still regularly tweaking this blog, this posting being the one on the screens. They illustrate one of the improvements of this blog over the old blog, which is that (be warned) the old blog didn’t work nearly so well on mobiles or tablets. This one works much better on such modernistical contrivances:

Another friend is due round soon to help me with get the best out of my new Dyson Graven Image, before Winter arrives. I probably could get this working okay by reading the damn instructions. But, personal face-to-face guidance from someone who already knows will work far better.

Pavlova reflected … twice … and now here

One of the things I have learned from my stats page, which has been operating since the end of April of this year, is that quite a few of the people who come here like to rootle around in the archives. This makes sense. Much of goes up here doesn’t date. A pretty photo is a pretty photo, no matter when it was taken.

So, every so often I do a burst of transferring stuff to here from the old blog, making you liable to bump into it here. (At the old blog, you’re liable to be bombarded with “not secure” propaganda.) And yesterday, I was mostly been concentrating on Pavlova. Some of the postings at the other end of that link have been here quite a while, but several went up here yesterday for the first time.

And my favourite Pavlova photo that I copied across was, this one:

Which originally appeared on the old blog in July 2015.

I liked that photo in July 2015, I like it now, and I believe I’ll like it in 2025. And I hope something similar applies to you, if not with this photo, then maybe with some other photo, or some other bit of verbals, from way back.

A sunset fifteen years ago

Fifteen years ago today, I did a posting at my old blog, which later got transferred to this blog, which featured the sunset, as seen and photoed by me in Hampstead.

Here is one of those photos, which I chose for the roof clutter:

Very urban picturesque.

I seldom do sunsets, if only because others do do them so much. What can I add? But sometimes the sky is just so dramatic that I can’t ignore it, and so contrasty that even I can’t go far wrong with my photos. These photos are worth another look, if you like that sort of thing.

Shard and Shard-on-screen

I have spent some of today transferring postings across from the Old Blog to This Blog, most of them being from January 2015. It’s a slow process, and I was combining doing it with other domestic activities, so not a lot of them got done.

But some postings did find their way here, several of them involving galleries of photos. This photo, one of the ones in this posting, seems to me to be worth another mention here:

The trick with photoing what photoers are photoing and what photoers are seeing on their screens is to do it at dusk, when artificial light and natural light are about equal. In regular daylight, the screen doesn’t stand much of a chance.

I also like the one where I aligned one of the turrets on the top of the Tower of London with the Shard, to be seen in this posting. Nice sky.

How to be optimistic about your own country

Just came across this quote in a posting at the Old Blog, and immediately transferred it across to this blog:

The state of the world is now such that, if you want to be optimistic about your own country, don’t whatever you do look at your own country. Look at all the others.

Wise words, I think, that will bear repetition, hence me repeating them in this posting. They are my words, so I’m biased. I originally wrote them in connection with China’s high speed trains way back in 2011. Miraculously, that link still, or at any rate now, works.

A favourite posting featuring Dame Edna

As already reported, those who now dip into the Old Blog are no longer greeted with the Screen of the Red Death. But Google still says it’s “not secure”, and the whole point of this New Blog is it works far better, no matter what kind of hardware you are using. So, I’m still transferring stuff from the Old Blog to here, whenever the mood takes me.

Yesterday I transferred a particularly favourite posting, from way back in 2007, which featured a photo by me of a celebrity whom I encountered in Piccadilly Circus:

There is also, in this old posting, a photo of men wearing mankinis. Being photoed by others besides me, naturally.

All this happened on the one afternoon.