Monday, 10 December 2018

Mellish Christmas Letter 2018

I guess that it is time to put finger to keyboard and recount the 2018 family adventures. The best Christmas present of 2017 arrived four days after Christmas – Georgia Rose Reynard Mellish, a sister to Henry.
With Granny!

Proud parents, Lawrie and Emma

As some of you know from posts on Facebook and my Blog I was not suitable for an Alzheimer’s drug trial due to not having the propensity for developing excess Beta-Amyloid in the brain. The research company Re:cognition contacted me to ask if I would be willing to go for genetic testing. There is a link between the APOE4 gene and Alzheimer’s and they want to monitor people who have this gene to see if they develop Alzheimer’s. So I had a DNA and later got the results.
Basically we all have the APOE gene and there are three versions of this APOE2, APOE3 and APOE4 (I do not know what happened to APOE1!!). If you have a single copy of APOE4 the genetic risk of getting Alzheimer’s increases by 25%, if you have two copies it increases by 55%). Understand that with genetic risk factors it does not mean that you will get the disease and if your genetic risk is 0% you can still get it - it is just one of the factors that can cause it.
Anyway the result of my test shows that I have the APOE3 gene (not the APOE4) so that genetic risk is 0% in my case. It also means that my children cannot get the APOE4 gene from me - so they cannot have two copies of the gene as you can only get one copy (max) from each of your parents.
So that is good news, it doesn't mean that I cannot get Alzheimer’s but the chances are considerably reduced. I can of course get another form of dementia - but so far so good!

In March the family gathered together to celebrate the 40th birthdays of Andrew and Gaew. They treated us to a great family meal and we all gathered for Sunday lunch at our place the following day
Back row Andrew and David
Hélèna, Emma and Sam holding Georgia
Julia, Henry, Gaew and GOM (Grumpy Old Man Barry)

Back stage visit to Twickers, a 70th birthday present to me
from Billie my God-Daughter

In May my 70thbirthday celebrations continued with my “Supercar” driving day, the present from the children. It was great fun although getting out of the GT40 was not easy!

Early June saw us having Tea on the Thames – a 70thbirthday present from friends of ours.

Later in June saw Julia and I jetting off to Bali – it was our 70thbirthday present to ourselves. It was a long flight – about 17 hours in the air but a great place to visit. We had a fabulous time although the weather was playing up – rain despite it being the “dry season”.
Our own plunge pool
Dining in our private cocoon

Present from our first hotel

Stunning scenery
View from the breakfast table
Fabulous places to visit

Life could be tough

The next few months were somewhat dominated by a very painful varicose ulcer on Julia’s leg. She was in considerable pain which necessitated a morphine patch – the pain went but she then felt nauseous all the time. Sometimes you just cannot win! Thanks to the Tissue Viability Nurse the ulcer healed, but Julia is waiting to hear from the hospital as she needs laser surgery on her left leg. This somewhat restricted our trips to the lodge in Devon as Julia was unable to sit in a car for four hours plus.

In October Julia celebrated her “coming of an age”! The family all came down for a birthday lunch. Andrew and Gaew took us both out on the day of her birthday and late in October we spent a few days in Norfolk with her twin sister and husband. 
Henry helping to blow out the candle
Friends joined us after the family meal
Andrew and Gaew treated us to dinner on the great day itself

Almost inevitably there was the passing of some friends and relatives. Particularly poignant was the death of Angela, wife of my college friend Pat. They were due to come to England this year, they live in Australia, but sadly never made it. Angela was at college with Julia so we had been friends for fifty years. 
Alec, husband of my cousin Maureen sadly died in October. We could not attend his funeral as we were away on holiday. I am so glad that we were able to spend a couple of days with them both just before last Christmas. We shared a bottle of champagne and had a great time laughing and talking, a good way to remember a lovely man. 

We hope that you had a good 2018 without too many aches and pains. Wishing you all the best for 2019 along with good health, prosperity, and happiness

Happy Christmas

Love, Hugs and Prayers

Barry and Julia

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Homily by Fr Frank Daly

At the 11 hour on the 11 day of the 11 month, exactly one hundred years ago today, at this precise moment, the guns fell silent. And in that silence the hope was born that this so-called ‘war to end all wars’ would never happen again, that the hubris, pride and arrogance that caused it would never resurface and that the 20 million lives lost would not be for nothing.
"This act of remembrance which we gather for every year has of course a special poignancy today – it is something we must do, wear our poppies, gather in silence – and for many of us the reasons are personal, as we commemorate members of our own families who are among those countless dead. And so the guns fell silent – only they didn’t, and they haven’t and they aren’t.
That same cynicism of cigar-smoking, brandy swilling generals that sent thousands of men over the top like cannon fodder to instant and painful death without any thought of who they were, their families and where they came from is still alive and well today.
"My sister in the ministry, Rev. Angela, wrote in the Hinckley Times this week that in remembrance today we not only remember their sacrifice but all the times we got it wrong. We must remember our own mistakes if we are to move forward.
"Those mistakes are still being made, that pride and hubris still exists, internationally, nationally and personally. Our country which prides itself on its sense of honour and justice has in many ways shamed their memory.
"Much of our economy is enhanced by the arms industry which makes over 7 billion pounds every year from the sale of weapons to countries often of dubious integrity. Trillions of pounds are spent on the creation of a weapons system that could destroy the whole planet in a week. How can we lament the effects of war if we are profiting from the sale of the means of promoting it? How can we pray for peace when we are producing the very means of destroying it?
"This is the greatest hypocrisy. We have also created a so-called ‘hostile environment’ to actively prevent those who are feeling the effects of war today, the butchering of their families, the destruction of their homes, fleeing for their very lives, from finding safety and asylum here, because we feel they are just ‘migrants’ and a drain on our economy.
"I ask you, how many of you standing here in front of me today have actually met a refugee face to face and listened to their story? How can we make judgments about them when we have never met them? How can we turn them away when they have escaped the very thing we are commemorating today?
"The words read to us by the Rev. Dimitri were chosen specially for today from the very earliest days of the Christian Church: “where do these wars and battles between you begin?”, asks the apostle James.
“Isn’t it precisely in the desires fighting within you? You want something and you can’t have it so you are prepared to kill to get it” We have developed what we might call a ‘culture of entitlement’ which tells us that we can and must have anything we want whenever we want it, even if it is at the expense of others. Every angry word, every selfish thought or action has shamed the memory of these men who sought no more than to serve, a thought becoming increasingly alien to our thinking.
"Every complaint, every outrage or outburst, every time we blind ourselves to the sufferings of others with an over concern for our own profit and welfare, we dishonour those who gave so much so that we could be free from all of this. We can only honour their dying by our living, and we do so by rooting out every drop of self-interest within us so that we can open our hearts and minds to others and live peacefully and justly with them.

"The Christian faith which frames the lives of so many of us, tells us that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the only way to the world’s salvation – the gospel of peace, reconciliation and forgiveness, the gospel of putting others before ourselves even at great cost, as did he who gave away his whole life so that the world could be saved from itself.

"This is the message of truth for all times - you find your life only when you have lost it for others – a message that is more appropriate and necessary today than it ever has been. No amount of flag waving, poppy-wearing, wreath laying, or all too brief moments of silence can ever truly honour their memory, when deep down our own needs and interests remain of paramount importance.
"It is only in the way we shape our lives today, allow our thinking to be changed, our hearts to be touched and our attitudes to be transformed, that we can create any lasting memorial to them. We can only honour their dying in our living, which surely will be our pledge to them today and for ever."

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Sir Philip Green

He may not be the most likeable of people, although it is hard to judge never having met him. But his public persona is rather naff. However he is innocent until proven guilty.

Sadly wealthy and powerful people have manipulated the judicial process ever since there was one. As I understand it several people, mainly/all women have received sums of money from him in return for which they signed NDAs. The Telegraph was going to report this and Sir Philip took out a temporary court injunction to prevent this. A full hearing is due to take place "soon". Lord Hain revealed this fact and Sir Philip's name as the man behind this using Parliamentary Privilege in order to get round the injunction. So as I understand it there are two points in question - the use of NDAs and the use of parliamentary privilege. 

Many of us have signed NDAs, the ultimate one which I have signed is the Official Secrets one. But I have signed many customer ones when commercially sensitive information was disclosed to me. I also signed one when I left my last employer and this covered the terms of my termination agreement. It would appear that NDAs are also being used when people make allegations and they are "bought off" with sums of money and they promise to say anything more. Who is the "guilty" person in these cases probably varies. I can understand an innocent person succumbing to paying out rather than be tried by the media! I can also understand someone raising a legitimate complaint being bought off as it is so much easier than fighting expensive lawyers and a court case. Should this type of NDA be made illegal? Probably easier said than done as no matter how careful the wording of the law there will always be a clever lawyer who will find a way to get round it. 

To move to the issue of Lord Hain and his revelation in the Lords. Should he have done this? Is the fact that it was Sir Philip behind it all relevant? Personally, on balance, I think Lord Hain was wrong. But the cat is out of the bag and who knows where it will run.

Saturday, 20 October 2018

Update on drug testing

Update on drug testing - as you know from earlier posts I was not suitable for the drug trial due to not having the propensity for developing excess Beta-Amyloid in the brain. The research company Re:cognition contacted me several weeks ago to ask if I would be willing to go for genetic testing. There is a link between the APOE4 gene and Alzheimers and they want to monitor people who have this gene to see if they develop Alzheimers. So a few weeks ago I had a DNA and I got the results yesterday.
Basically we all have the APOE gene and there are three versions of this APOE2, APOE3 and APOE4 (I do not know what happened to APOE1!!). If you have a single copy of APOE4 the genetic risk of getting Alzheimers increases by 25%, if you have two copies it increases by 55%). Understand that with genetic risk factors it does not mean that you will get the disease and if you genetic risk is 0% you can still get it - it is just one of the factors that can cause it.
Anyway the result of my test shows that I have the APOE3 gene (not the APOE4) so that genetic risk is 0% in my case. It also means that my children cannot get the APOE4 gene from me - so they cannot have two copies of the gene as you can only get one copy (max) from each of your parents.
So that is good news, it doesn't mean that I cannot get Alzheimers but the chances are considerably reduced. I can of course get another form of dementia - but so far so good!

Who knows what tomorrow will bring..............

Friday, 15 June 2018

The Change of Life

I was reading the online press this morning when I realised that many of the articles were about people and things that I neither know about or care about. 
What is a reality TV star? Should I care about Kim Kardashian? Who or what is Towie? When they write about pop I am hard pushed to distinguish between the name of the band and the song. Should I care that Wayne Rooney's car has been towed away?
I find it hard to distinguish between the female tennis players from Eastern European countries, they all seem to shriek and squeal with great aplomb which I am sure is designed to put off their opponent. Is that sporting or fair?
Many writers seem to care nothing for spelling, grammar or punctuation (so any mistakes in this post are my merely trying to keep abreast with the times). 
I then realised that at last I really have morphed into my dad. I am happy!

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Letter from America Number 2

6472 Crystal Springs Drive
San Jose
California 95120
Phone: 408 323 9624
April 3rd 2000

Dear all,
Well we have survived our first three months here in San Jose, despite the inclement weather that we have been suffering from. When we arrived rainfall was below seasonal average, now its above it! We must have brought it over from England.
The area in which we are living, the Almaden Valley is very pleasant. It nestles under the Cinnabar Hills and in may respects is similar to English suburbia except that most of the houses are ranch style! The area is fairly historical (by American standards). As you will know from the name of the hills (Cinnabar is the name of the ore that quicksilver comes from) you will probably guess that it is named after the Almaden which is the famous Spanish Quicksilver Mine. Quicksilver is used in extracting gold and so the quicksilver mine which was developed in the 1850s became very profitable due to the high demand for quicksilver during the great Californian Gold Rush. You will probably gather that I have been reading about the area as I didn’t have a clue about any of this before we came over. About a mile from our house is Quicksilver County Park which contains the remains of the mines and township that grew up around it. We were going to visit last weekend for a ramble but once again the weather intervened - more of that later. 
We have been fairly active in getting out and about. We went to go whale watching and were all set, Helena and friend were in the car and I was locking the door with Julia when the phone went - it was the boat company - the trip was off due to high winds. As we were all set for the off we went instead to the John Muir Woods just north of San Francisco the on to Point Reyes which is a lighthouse on the National Seashore Park. It was very spectacular but windy, gusting up to 58 mph so we were glad not to be in a boat. We went out two weeks later to see the whales - we had a very nice boat trip but no whales, third time lucky we hope.
Helena had her 13th birthday on march 27th. We celebrated as a family by going out for a very nice brunch the day before. She has yet to have her party. This will probably be on the 16th April. This coming weekend we are going to Monterey to stay with friends which should be good fun. Pat is a friend I met through scouting and he and his wife Laura are a lovely couple. We will drive down to Big Sur which is very spectacular, its rather like the Cornish Coastline. I have been down there but this will be a first for Julia and Helena. Monterey also has a fascinating aquarium, its the best I have ever been to and you can easily spend a day in there. 
Over Easter we are planning to drive to the Lava National Monument which is in the north of California. There is also the National Redwood Park which should be beautiful walking country.
As I mentioned at the top we did plan to go walking in Quicksilver County Park but the weather beat us again. The temperature soared to the high eighties and even I thought that there were better things to do than go walking in that heat. So after Mass it was brunch on the decking by the pool  and the rest of the day was spent reading the paper with the odd swim to keep cool. It can be really  tough but someone has to do it. No doubt we will get used to the heat but it was about 15 degrees hotter than normal (and was lovely!). Even Julia put her swimming costume on and went for a paddle on an air bed (she didn’t go in and I’m not brave enough to push her).
On Saturday we learnt what a rain check really is and have one to prove it! We went to buy some sun loungers but they only had one that we liked. So we were given a slip labeled “Rain check” and when more come in, the shop will mail us and we present the rain check and will be able to buy the other loungers, still at the sale price!
Helena appears to be doing well at school, it isn't easy for her as she is so young but she is more than holding her own. Some of the work is easy, but some of the project work is very advanced, she has to do proper footnotes, bibliographies, indexes etc.
I took part in a 10 km race the other week, I ran a personal worst - 45mins 47 seconds but I am starting to lose a bit of weight and get faster. I am due to run another one in a couple of weeks so I can measure the improvement, if any!
As you can gather we are enjoying life here, we miss the boys and our families and friends but there are compensations and it should be a great couple of years.
We hope that everything is going well for you and yours.
Take care
Barry, Julia and Helena.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Letter from America - Number 1

I found on my computer in a folder named America the first letters that I wrote up when I started my assignment in San Jose.  They were in .lwp format (Lotus Word Pro) and I did not know how to read them on my machine as lwp is not compatible with the usual programmes such as Word.  Anyway a friend suggest that I try Google Docs and there is a program there called Cloud Convert. it works! So coming up next.............................!

6472 Crystal Springs Drive
San Jose
CA 95120
408 323 9624
27 Feb 2000

We have now been here for a couple of months and I thought that the time was right for a progress report on our American adventure. We are now settled in and the house feels like home. For the first few weeks it rather felt as if we were living in an hotel. I think that there were a few reasons for this; it was all so new to us; the house was only partly furnished and it felt so empty. Over the Christmas period there were nine of us sleeping at 19 Murray Ave, to find only the three of us here felt quite strange at first. For years you dream about the children leaving, well we left the boys and its a very odd feeling!

Helena has settled in at school, we were rather concerned about this as she is the youngest in the school by 18 months but she has coped (and the school has coped with her!). Her work is coming on fine and she is making lots of friends. A couple of weeks ago she went was asked to go to Lake Tahoe to the "place in the country" of one of her friends. This little place is on five levels with its own lift, by the shore of Lake Tahoe with its own jetty (the boat is in storage for the winter). For those who don't know Tahoe is in the Sierra Mountains and is a great ski resort - in the summer its water skiing and hill walking. Helena had a great time, making her parents very envious.

Last night was a special evening - I took Helena to a dance! It was the Father-Daughter Dance at her High School, I could not have imagined this happening in England. It was a great evening which we both thoroughly enjoyed.  We started out by meeting up with some friends of Helena's (with Dads) in a Chinese restaurant and then going to the dance. It was semiformal which meant party frocks and suits (for the men). It was the first time that I had worn a collar and tie since we have been over - business dress is rather less formal than in England. I haven't yet worn shorts to the office but no doubt I will when summer comes. What impressed me most was how friendly everybody was, they made us feel very welcome. When we got to the dance other friends of Helena introduced themselves to me and then to their dad's, even if we had gone by ourselves we would have ended up in a big group. The other impressive thing was how determined everybody was to enjoy themselves, we were dancing the whole time. Helena even managed to overcome her embarrassment at my dancing abilities.

Helena has joined the Track and Field team, and on Saturday she had her first race which was also her first run since she had been here. The school advised
us that she settle in before doing any sport - there are no regular PE lessons. We went along to the track to watch and meet up with the team and Helena was persuaded to run - I was proud of her as she was very nervous and is very unfit. On Monday she will start training and will soon be back to form as they train six days a week. School sport is taken very seriously here - I guess its because of the number of sporting scholarships that are available at university.
Work is going OK, I am running my first project, there are three residents; from Germany, Australia and the Czech republic. It all seems to be going well. We had a get together here on Friday night with a colleague and his project team. We thought it was great success  I just hope the others did. Mark (my work colleague from Australa) brought his wife and boys - the children spent most of the evening in the hot-tub with Helena and her friend from next door.

Julia has not yet ventured into the tub, she is waiting for the air temperature to rise, but I think its great. Last Monday was President's Day,(Washington's birthday) and I took the day off work and we all went on a drive through the mountains and ended up at Santa Cruz - lunch on the beach followed by a walk in a coastal nature reserve. When we got home Helena and I spent a hour in the tub - not a bad way to spend a day in February. We have booked a trip to go whale watching - the whales migrate twice a year and go along the Californian coastline, so next Sunday we will be leaving Santa Cruz harbour to see these great mammals. We are hoping that the weather will be nice. At this time of year its very changeable, one day pouring with rain and very windy, the next clear and sunny. We did have one spell of 60 hours continuous rain, so its not always sunny in California. The good part is that once summer starts it doesn't rain for about six months, well that is
what the locals say we will have to wait and see.

Last week we held our first dinner party, we entertained Peter and Mildred Woods and two friends of theirs. Peter married my cousin Sheila (they lived in Canada) who was tragically killed in a car accident 20 years ago. We had not seen Peter since the accident. Peter and his second wife Mildred were visiting friends in San Jose, hence the dinner party. It was a great evening, Mildred is a lovely person, I just hope that we meet again before another twenty years are up. We are now in touch with Peter's three children via e-mail - the web is certainly a way to keep in contact as its very easy to knock up a few lines and send them. Peter's son Fred is getting married on June 24th. I am Fred's Godfather - I must confess to not being very diligent in my duties. We would like to get up to Canada for the wedding, but I am not yet certain if I will be able to get time off from work as it’s only a couple of weeks after Andrew's wedding.

We have also had our first house guest, a friend from work who spent six days with us. We went to Alcatraz. Although it poured with rain we had a good time, it is a fascinating island and the guided tour (on tape) is very good. I had been before in the sun when it seemed quite a nice place to spend a few years. In the cold and damp it did not seem so inviting!

Julia has settled in and made some friends; when the weather clears they are going to explore the local countryside - there is a Country Park complete with quicksilver mines a mile from the house. She has been busy making marmalade, from oranges in the garden. They look lovely but have a rather sharp taste, not nice to eat but the marmalade is lovely. There is an olive tree in the front garden so we should be having home-grown olives in the dry martinis. She is also venturing onto the Californian roads, if you saw the way they drive it is a venture as indicating is an optional extra. 

I cycle to work, its five miles which is not too bad excepet that the in the last mile the road climbs 400ft! My waistline is slowly recovering shape although I have not yet lost any weight.
Helena is recovering from having had four teeth removed, this was as her mouth is too small (though to her here talk you would doubt this!). She starts the orthodontic treatment when her mouth is healed. We have also bought the bridesmaids dress for the wedding in June. A totally unbiased opinion from her parents is that she looks lovely. We now have to buy Julia's outfit.

The excitement of moving in and settling down is fading and we have to start the realities of everyday living, keeping to budget etc. The first few weeks were expensive buying all the staples etc. for the larder, gin, tequila etc. and the luxuries like herb's, flour, sugar etc. etc. In general things are cheaper over here although herbs, spices and things like that are dearer. Meat is cheap, well beef is,lamb is very expensive. I am not sure what they do with sheep or is it just that they don't have any? I must finish now as we have been invited out to Sunday tea to some Australian friends - its very cosmopolitan out here.

We hope that life is treating you all as you deserve (or perhaps somewhat better than you deserve)

Barry, Julia and Hélèna