Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Birthday Celebrations

Gaew, our lovely Thai daughter-law was forty in February and Andrew our middle-son and her husband turns 40 tomorrow. To celebrate this "coming of age" they took all the family out for lunch on Saturday at Sea Salt in Beckenham - an excellent lunch and a great time was had by all.
The Family in Sea Salt
 On the Sunday the family gathered at Mellish Mansions in Bromley for the first BBQ of the year. We were not brave or stupid enough to dine outside. But I did BBQ roast pork and beer can chicken - you drink half a can of beer then put the beer can inside the chicken and balance it upright. The chicken comes out beautifully moist - I also used a smoker with cherry wood inside - beautiful! I even managed to get praise from Sam, my son-in-law, who is a chef.

From the back reading left to right
Andrew and David
Lawrie, Helena, Emma, Sam cuddling Georgia
Julia, Henry, Gaew and GOM (Grumpy Old Man)

Friday, 23 February 2018

The biter bit

Looks like the Mr "Call me Dave" Cameron's cunning plan to unite the Tory party by calling a referendum on whether we should leave the EU or not has really come unravelled. The Tory party is in completer disarray, if the Labour Party had a leader worth his salt they would be trouncing the Tories in the polls. As it is "JC" is staring at the ball with an open goal in front of him wondering whether he should kick it or not.

Is money the way to success in sport?

Yes! Old-fashioned is perfect!” chuckles Tom Tvedt, the president of Norway’s Olympic Committee, when asked whether the philosophy behind his country’s staggering Winter Games success may be, well, a little old-fashioned.
The Norwegians refuse to plough millions into sports that ordinary folk simply do not play in exchange for a brief medal-winning serotonin hit. They stress the importance of the umbilical link between grassroots and elite sport. And, unusually to British ears, they say local sports clubs are a core part of their success.
“Our vision is sport for all,” Tvedt says. “Before you are 12 you should have fun with sport. So we don’t focus on who the winner is before then. Instead we are very focused on getting children into our 11,000 local sports clubs. And we have 93% of children and young people regularly playing sport in these organisations.”
As Tvedt explains, this benefits everyone, because the more that people enjoy sport as kids, the broader the talent pool their elite teams will have later. “All our medals have come from athletes who have started in local clubs. If an athlete is good, we will then bring them to the Olympiatoppen, our elite sports centre, where the top sport science comes into the picture.”
To say it is working is a thundering understatement. With three days remaining of these Olympics, Norway, a country of 5.2 million people, has won 35 medals. Germany is next on 25, with Canada one further behind in third.

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2018/feb/22/norway-winter-olympics-success

Monday, 19 February 2018

Living long

The researchers say they have also found that common human vices do not necessarily need lead to an early grave, with many superagers saying they smoked and enjoyed a tipple. 
“We ask them why is it that you think you are a superager, how did you get here, and there are a couple of funny ladies and they will say, well it’s because I have a martini with my friends every day at 5 o’clock. Others have never had a drink,” said Rogalski. 
Being underweight also seemed to matter, with those who had a very low body mass index after the age of 80 more likely to die. “It’s not bad to be skinny when you’re young but it’s very bad to be skinny when you’re old,” said Kawas.
However, Rogalski added, that did not mean that people should take up bad habits to live longer, noting that some people might have a genetic makeup that allowed them to tolerate smoking and drinking.
Nonetheless, Rogalski thinks we can learn from superagers. “We are getting quite good at extending our lifespan but our health span isn’t keeping up and what the superagers have is more of a balance between those two, they are living long and living well,” she said.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Drug Trials

I have volunteered to take part in a drug trial. The drug is designed to stop the onset of Alzheimer's Disease which is the most common cause of dementia. I am still undergoing extensive medical tests to see if I am suitable. If nothing else I get full health MOT for free. So far they have discovered:
1. That I do not have cognitive impairment although the children have asked for a second opinion on that.
2. My folic acts levels are low so I am taking a supplement - found in the pregnancy care section in Boots.
3. It would seem that at some time in the past I have had a silent heart attack. I have seen the GP and have had further tests. I am seeing him on Saturday to discuss what happens next. They say not to worry as the last ECG was normal, so I am not worrying.
4. Had an MRI scan on the brain last Friday - no results yet. I wonder that they found anything to scan.

Following all these test my conclusion is that it is well worth volunteering. If nothing else you get a good check-up and if they do find anything you will know before the symptoms become obvious,

Friday, 19 January 2018

Fake News

Fake news is nothing new and no doubt dates back thousands of years. In mediavel times rumour and counter-roumor would be started during the various "wars of religion" that were prevalent at that time. In warfare the spreading of "disinformation" to the enemy was and is commonplace. In todays society with the widespread use of social media and the web its easier than ever to spread false news, many people think that if they see it on the web it must be true!
This was brought home to me when I recently saw the exhibition at Tate Modern  "Red Star over Russia" which chronicles the use of art and visual media in Russia 1905 - 1955 Lenin and then Stalin were probably the first people to use misinformation (or should this be disinformation?) on a wide scale. You could see how, as people fell out of favour (and were executed or banished) they were removed from photographs - it was as if they had never existed.
Hitler was also a master at spreading false accusations against individuals and racial, religious and ethnic groups. He was able to turn the whole country against the Jews, the Gypsies etc etc.
This brought me round to thinking about Trump, the Brexit referendum, Isis and the whole current political and news systems. Who or whom do we trust, we are generally very ready to accept "news" that agrees with our own personal beliefs and prejudices. Anything that goes against the grain is immediately suspect. We might believe the Guardian and suspect the Daily Mail, or vice versa. So how do we judge what is real and what is false? With a powerful few individuals owning multiple news outlets the fact that something is spread across multiple news media does not mean that is true. It could be that one individual is spreading the same line across all the media that he or she owns or is able to manipulate, be it newsprint, radio, TV, Blogs, Facebook etc.

How do we counter this and find out what is the real truth, if such a thing exists objectively? I am not sure if this is possible in today's world. The one thing that  we can be certain of is that when the board of football club says that they have every confidence in their manager and that they are 100% behind him that he will be gone in a matter of days or weeks.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

2017 - The Year of "Seventy"

Round the luncheon table

It has come to that time of year when I feel I should put finger to keyboard and write something about what happened to Julia and I (and the children) during the past year. Last Christmas and New Year were great. The whole family were down, although we were too busy enjoying ourselves to take a group photo!
Grandad teaching his grandson how to nap

Helena, Julia and I went to Herne Bay in the rain just after Christmas

Then at the end of January we had a "minor" mishap that has taken most of the year to recover from. To cut a very long story short following a succession of "colds and coughs" at the end of 2016that lasted several months Julia ended up in hospital at the end of January. After many tests/X-rays/scans etc the diagnosis was Vasculitis which is where the bodies auto-immune system attacks the blood vessels. In addition she had the Epstein-Barr Virus and the Influenza A Virus - quite a cocktail. Julia is still under the consultants and still gets tired very quickly - it has left her with damaged eyesight and hearing - so we both now have hearing aids!! Sorting this out has taken inordinate amounts of time but she is now much better than she was although still not 100%.

In March our God-daughter Billie, who is slowly recovering from leukaemia, married Tony, the son of good friends of ours, Aidan and Kathy. It was a fabulous occasion with much dabbing of wet eyes.

Tony and Billie with us and Father Tom
 Julia made a trip toYork and met up with old college friends. I went on a Church retreat to Merville in France so the year was fairly busy.

The "girls" in York -all went to St Paul's Teacher Training College 
Andrew & Gaew organised a family BBQ in July at their house. Sadly we cannot seem to find any photos of the event - but we do have this photo of a rather strange sporting event.




During the year we made several trips to our lodge in Devon. The one downside is that it takes us around 4 -4.5 hours to get there. But when we are down it is really fabulous. So all in all well worth the trip.

One of the gardens we visited

I turned seventy in October. Julia and I went to La Gavroche  for lunch to celebrate. Then at the weekend the children took me out for lunch. Well at least that is what they told me. I missed this lunch as they had arranged a surprise party for me. It was really great and I thoroughly enjoyed it all.


Alcohol was consumed!

The day after the night before!
Celebrations continued into early November as we spent a few days in Dorset with old college friends. Us "boys" all turned 70 in September/October.

Cutting our cake in RCET colours with Martin and John

Golden Cap in Dorset

Almost inevitably there was some sadness in the year, one of the penalties of getting older. My cousin Lesley's husband Ken died after a long illness. They lived in Canada and so we were not able to get to see them very often. We were not at the funeral; but I was privileged to be able to help officiate at the service when we buried Ken's ashes in his family's plot in Sussex.

Lesley and Ken with David, Julia and I on a visit to England in 2009.

Father Cyril, who was a retired priest and a great friend died early in the year. Cyril had been a great help to me and source of inspiration when I was in formation for the Permanent Diaconate.

Dermot Poston, my first English teacher at Aske's school died. Dermot was an inspirational teacher and introduced me to the delights of caving. What I did not know at the time was that my first day at Aske's as a pupil was Dermot's first day as a teacher! I got to know Dermot quite well over the last few years at various dinners and rambles courtesy of the Old Askean Association.

Dermot and Julia talking at an Old Askean Dinner


Two second cousin's on my dad's side of the family, Anni Martin and Peggy Dawson died. Both had been ill for some time but this does not make their passing any easier.

A deacon friend, Peter Rennie, tragically died far too young. Peter greatly helped me during my diaconal formation and was one of the deacons who played a major role at my ordination. This photo was taken at the post-ordination celebration.

With Peter Rennie, 8th June 2013

My cousin Tony, whom I spoke to on  4th October, my birthday, was taken ill and died on Friday 13 October. He was a lovely man and we are all recovering from the shock. Barbara, his widow, organised a wonderful funeral service for him which was a fitting tribute. We all miss him.

Tony, Barbara, Helena and Julia when they visited us in California in 2001
We ended the year with a three day break on the Isle of Wight, courtesy of Julia's twin sister Phil - she and her husband Peter gave me a two  night break in Shanklin  as a 70th birthday present - thank you both very much. We had a great time - I had not been to the IoW since our honeymoon some 46 years ago.

Beautiful but rather chilly
I end this missive on a very happy note. Emma, partner to Lawrie and mother to our only grandchild Henry, is expecting a second baby on December 31 - so the year should go out with a bang!

All in all 2017 was an interesting year, we hope and pray that it was a good one for you and yours.
Wishing you all Good Health, Prosperity and Good Luck in 2018
All our love and best wishes
Barry and Julia