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.

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.

All gummed-up

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.

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.

In the meantime: A photoer and his fingers

I’m working on a slightly more complicated posting, using photos I took at the top of Tate Modern, on June 22nd 2018. But I don’t want to be hurrying that posting, so in the meantime, to get things started here today, here’s another photo I photoed on that visit:

I like how we can see the details of his rucksack straps. I like his hair, a lot. I like how you can recognise St Paul’s, even though St Paul’s is out of focus.

But, I love the fingers of his left hand. That’s a classic digital photoer thing. At all contortional cost, those fingers must not get in the way of the camera. So, he does that absurdly exaggerated thing, to make entirely sure.

I have my internet connection back (thanks to The Guru)

Indeed. So that means I can post things properly, using all my fingers rather than just one, on a screen I can actually read without taking my glasses off and without putting that screen one inch away from my eyes. The nightmare, for the time being, has ended.

My thanks to Michael for yesterday’s posting, telling you all that I hadn’t died, but was merely out of touch, and for general moral support.

And my special thanks to The Guru, for talking me through all the intricacies of getting reconnected. My best guess is that in the aftermath of the Eclipse outage starting, I tried to rescue matters and that was when it really got bad, because then, when Eclipse got back on track, I didn’t.

One thing I can tell you. Internet outage trumps rather bad health. If you are poorly and without an internet connection, the priority is to get your internet connection back again. Then you worry about health. Or, maybe that’s just another way of saying that my health is not that bad. I suppose if you’re dead, getting your internet back wouldn’t make that much difference.

Anyway, hello, again, and it’s great to be back and gibbering away incontinently, rather than “texting” on the abomination that is my horrible, horrible, insane, mobile phone. Thank goodness (the goodness of The Guru) I don’t now have to start faffing about posting photos on that damn thing, and can go back to using a proper computer, in a big old suitcase, with a big old screen and a big (although actually not that big) keyboard with actual keys on it, and a mouse, as nature intended.

Big Things above three urinals

Indeed. To celebrate being able to post photos again with ease, this:

We’re in the Gents, at the Lord Palmerston pub, Dartmouth Park Hill. Although, they call it the “Lords”.

The above photo was photoed in 2015. I’d just been checking out the view from that Bridge that goes over Archway, from which you can see London’s Big Things for real. I went back to this Lords Toilet more recently, to try to get a photo that would work for the permanent top of this blog, but the Big Things had gone. Shame. Maybe looking at giant architectural penises proved off-putting for those seeking to piss through their own smaller penises.

Hello again

Yes, hello, from my mobile.

My mainframe computer is still failing to connect itself to the world, so I am typing this in with one finger, into my mobile. Since I don’t yet know how to post this, I will end this now and try to do that. Fingers crossed.

LATER: It worked!

I hope to start doing actual posting again quite soon. But it’ll be on this and consequently rather different.

Technical difficulties with Brian’s internet connection

This is Brian’s blogmaster Michael here. Brian has just called me to tell me that he is unable to post at the moment because his home internet connection is not working. He will resume posting when it is fixed. We are not presently sure how long this is going to take.