It Can Happen To Anyone (Part 2)

On the 2nd of November 2009 I turned 50 and started to think about mortality and how stupid I had been about not having any life insurance. I didn’t want my Sisters and Brothers worrying about the cost of my funeral when I had gone and there was an advert on the TV constantly for Sunlife Axa over 50 plan. I sent off for this and that was another thing ticked off my list. My funeral would be paid for now, (after two years anyway. So that will be after November the 9th this year),  AND they gave me a free 16″ HD ready TV which is now beside my bed.

Just over a month later it got terribly cold and every time I breathed in when I was outside I was getting excruciating pains right in the centre of my chest. They were like a fist squeezing really hard. It got so bad that I was almost doubled over with pain so I took myself off to the A+E at Barnet Hospital. There they did an ECG which showed no abnormality in heart function so I was mightily relieved about that.

The pain carried on every time I went out but luckily during that time the only time I went out was to go to Tesco over the road to get a few groceries so I was never in the cold that often. I had no pain when lifting stuff apart from when my ME was starting to go through a bad phase and the pain was too much in my arms and legs or couldn’t move at all.

I made an appointment with my GP’s Surgery in February 2010 because something was causing this pain every time I went out and it was getting worse. I saw a nice, young Doctor that I hadn’t seen before at the Surgery and I thank God I did. He referred me to a Cardiac Specialist who normally was seen at Barnet but an appointment was made for me to see him at Edgware Hospital.

An ECG was done there and nothing out of the ordinary showed up until I started on a treadmill then something ‘strange’ was showing up although I wasn’t in any chest pain because the room was warm but I was a bit breathless. I couldn’t do much on the treadmill anyway because of pain in my legs to do with the ME. As soon as the nurse put it on the second speed I couldn’t keep up and very nearly went flying off the back almost giving her a coronary.

I went back into the specialist who, after looking at the results, said that I would have to have an angiogram because something wasn’t right and I would need further investigation. I very quickly got that appointment and had to go to Barnet about a fortnight later. He also put me on a GTN spray, (Glyceryl Trinitrate), that I had to spray under the tongue evey time the pain started. It eased a little bit but didn’t completely take away the squeezing in my chest.

An angiogram is a tube that is put into a vein, normally in the groin, but mine was put into my wrist for some reason. (I still have the scar). Although a local anaesthetic was put on the area where the needle went in it was still painful. I was also worried because I had been told before I signed the permission form that there was a 1 in a 100 chance that this procedure can cause a stroke, heart attack or even death. I felt I had no choice but to go ahead.

Strangely enough, my darling little Yorkie had had to be put down the previous October, (I will do a post about him soon too), and I had always been worried that I would die before him but since his death this worry had left me. Isn’t that strange? So death didn’t frighten me at all.

I think with most people it is if they have pain when dying rather than the dying itself that is the terrifying thing. Anyway …..

I could see the screen and where the cardiologist was putting the little tube and dye coming out every now and again. I didn’t know what the heck I was looking at. All I knew was he was taking, what seemed to me, to be a very long time and I was feeling extremely uncomfortable.

It had been pre-arranged that I would stay in overnight because, as I told you in my last post, I had nobody that could take me home and stay with me for a few hours so that is what I did.

I’ll tell you something – It is VERY difficult to tell people that you have absolutely no-one – They find it difficult to believe. Yes, I am the eldest of six but my Siblings all live 300 miles away and my next Sister down has a very important job hiring and firing teachers in the whole of Cumbria so, although I had Karen down as my next of kin, I hadn’t told her or the rest of them what was going on as I didn’t want to worry them so as I say, I had nobody, and stayed overnight on the Cardiac ward just, as I thought, because I didn’t have anybody to take me home and keep an eye on me because of complications.

The next morning the Sister said I should stay until a Doctor had seen me but I felt uncomfortable that I was taking up a bed so took myself home. I forgot to say – After my angiogram I was told that I had Ischaemic Heart Disease and I had two heart arteries/veins that were 95% blocked and another that was 90% blocked and they were too far gone to have stents put in to open them up so I had to have a CABG, (I still laugh at the way they say that. I had to ask what a bloomin’ cabbage was). It stands for Coronary Artery Bypass Graft. Heart disease is something that is endemic in my Mother and Father’s families and indeed, Dad had a stroke when he was 49 that took away his right side and his speech so I didn’t have much luck on the gene front unfortunately. I expected to be put on a waiting list and I would hear from them about six months later

At home I started to feel really ill. I think I was in shock and even though I wasn’t breathing in cold air I was getting the pains as if I was. I called NHS Direct to ask for advice about what I could do to ease the pain but when I explained what had happened over the previous couple of days she blue lighted an ambulance and paramedics were knocking on the door about five minutes later. They did an ECG and again, it didn’t show up anything to worry about but after telling them about my angiogram they took me back to Barnet and after a few hours in A+E, where another normal ECG was done, I was put back on the ward I had left that morning attached to a telemeter.

I must say to people that all the way through this my ECGs never showed anything abnormal so if you have the tight gripping pain that I have explained you must have further investigation.

The Doctor came round just before lunch time and said to me that he knew I’d be back. Apparently I was supposed to be signed out the previous morning but with me worrying about taking up a bed, I hadn’t even given that a thought. He said that I would have to stay in hospital until I had the CABG and this was such a shock and suddenly became so real that I almost had a heart attack there and then. Six months on a waiting list and I would have had plenty of time to think about it but this immediacy just took my breath away and from then on I felt like I was having an out of body experience and it was somebody else that this was happening to.

I stayed at Barnet for three weeks until a place was found for me at a hospital that could do the operation. Other people on the ward kept going off for theirs at various hospitals including Harefield, which I was hoping for because I had read how good it was. I was getting bored to tears but the nurses kept me smiling and laughing. Those girls truly are Angels. Finally I was told I would be going to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, (familiarly known as Barts), in the east end at Smithfield, on the 28th March, (Palm Sunday), to have my operation the day after. As it was close to Holy week this gave me an inner peace that I hadn’t felt before. It felt wonderful.

I expect the worst possible outcome with things nowadays so anything else is a bonus and I had prepared myself for dying. Before I left for Barts I rang my Sister and told her what was happening and to tell her that I loved them all in case anything went wrong. Then the ambulance came and I was transferred.


It Can Happen To Anyone (Part 1)

I can’t believe I have forgotten how to blog.

I used to do one in 2003 until about 2006/7 on 20six. I would often do 3-4 posts a day but can I for the hell of me think what I used to post.

I had a slight stroke in 2007 and parts of my memory have just totally obliterated and they won’t come back. This was on top of a long term illness that I had and still have, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis or popularly known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. That crept up on me pretty slowly.

Up until 1993 I often worked anything from 10 to 20 hour days. I enjoyed work but then I started to feel tired all the time, no matter how much sleep I had. I managed to carry on working for another three years but then I just couldn’t go on. I often couldn’t move so I knew that something serious was going on.

I went to my GP and he started to refer me to various ‘specialists’. I think I attended, over a few years, just about every hospital and doctor that knew something about it in North London AND even a couple of psychologists. Yes, there are still doctors that believe ME is something psychological and not physical. I can tell you all that this is such a load of rubbish.

After all the suggestions I have heard I think it may have been a tick bite as I used to go for long walks in the country and I loved fell walking and even running sometimes, (When I was young I used to represent the County in fell running when Cumbria was still Cumberland and I was quite good at it). I didn’t remember having a virus which was another suggestion put forward so I’ve settled on it being a tick as when walking through grass you get bitten all the time and I was.

I found this difficult to accept as I was, I thought, at the peak of physical fitness and I started almost going out of my mind trying to work out what was going on and “Why me?”

One of the psychologists I saw prescribed Fluoxetine for me, or Prozac to give it its more general name. I hated this as I thought something like that was for people who were depressed and I was only fretting about the illness and didn’t classify it as depression on top. Anyway, I thought I’d give them a try and after a couple of weeks it was as if a magic wand had been waved and I started to accept the illness. This was a relief as, although the illness was still there, I wasn’t going mad with my brain turning over and over trying to work out what had happened.

I can tell you that the hardest and saddest thing about a long term illness is you lose your friends. Before it got a proper grip of me I started going out less and less as after work I just wanted to eat and sleep and when I stopped work I stopped going out altogether too. Not many people will carry on visiting you when we all used to hit the pubs and clubs a lot then suddenly you aren’t there. You are slowly forgotten about. One friend did stand by me. He had been a friend since I first came down to London and we were like Brothers, (I’ll do a post about him one day because he was such a good guy and a great deal of fun). He died a year past last October and I miss him like mad. I’ll tell you about his illness when I do a post about him).

Next post I will carry on with what other, more serious illnesses I got.

I started off saying that I couldn’t remember what I used to blog about but I’ve got stuff for the next 2-3 posts now, haven’t I?

Silence WAS Golden


Recent news of the closure of 400 libraries, which is a terrible crime, took me back to the early 60s of when my Mother started taking me to the library.

Tullie House library in Carlisle was like the inside of a castle or a palace to a small boy. I think back to it now and the smell of books, wood and floors polished to a such a high sheen that shoes squeaked when walking on it brings a smile to my lips. Those floors were not polished with large, electric buffing machines but people down on their hands and knees.

Libraries today, although functional, have no heart in them. Back then Tullie House was a place that demanded respect but didn’t need to ask for it. It was just natural to respect it.

The best part of all was the silence. Todays libraries are just as noisy as everywhere else. You just want to get in and out of them as quickly as possible.

The only sounds in Tullie House were whispering, muffled coughs, squeaking shoes and the librarians stamping return dates in the books. It was a place I didn’t want to leave but as Mam wanted to get her shopping I had to grab a couple of Herge’s Adventures of TinTin and maybe an Edith Blyton then slowly walk to the librarian’s desk, (I didn’t run because Mam couldn’t shout at me in there otherwise people would shhhhhhh and point hard at the silence signs), have my books stamped and immediately look forward to my visit a week later. I was already working out which books I would select.

Queen Elizabeth II and Burmese for the 4th Plinth

This is a subject that has been close to my heart for quite a number of years but I put it to the back of my mind until my Sister came down from Carlisle last Summer and I thought, ‘That’s good. I’ll be able to visit a few places in London while she is here’, (I’m not able to get out much these days due to illness which I may write about in a future post), and one of those places was Trafalgar Square to see what was occupying the 4th plinth.

First I must say that I am a total ‘modern art’ luddite. I expect art to be like John Constable, Hans Holbein and sculpture to look like people, horses etc. Things that will stand the test of time and still be art in the future. How can a shark in a glass case, an unmade bed, Anthony Gormley having 24,000 people standing for an hour a piece on the 4th plinth be called art? I’ve no idea what they teach students in art college nowadays but if it is how to throw a few sheets and pillows around a bed and carefully place a few cigarette stumps in various places or even to conceptualise what these things mean to them then I say HUMBUG!

 Anyway, I’ve raised my blood pressure and turned a sentence into a paragraph, which I didn’t mean to do, and my subject went off on a tangent. Back to the main topic of this post.

I had read up on what was on the 4th plinth, ‘Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle’.

From the name of it I thought, “Well it is in the right place as it is Trafalgar Square which was built to commemorate Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson’s victory over the French and Spanish fleets during the Napoleonic Wars in 1805′.

It is a representation of Nelson’s ship HMS Victory designed by Yinka Shonibares, an Anglo-Nigerian chap, who has made the 37 sails out of an African-style cloth and put the whole thing in a bottle, (I think it looks more like a demi-john jar used by home brewers myself but I won’t split hairs). He stated that ‘it explored British colonialism and the expansion of the British Empire made possible by Nelson’s victory or’Nelson’s Legacy”.

Pretty heavy stuff that, isn’t it?

Yes, I knew when the British Empire spread and of course, because we ‘ruled the waves’ thanks to people like Nelson, we could go just about everywhere around the Globe. I assume that Mr. Shonibares using African-style cloth for the Victory’s sails hints at trade that opened up between us and others around the world because surely it cannot mean anything to do with the slave trade as we abolished that a few years after Nelson’s victory thanks to William Wilberforce amongst others but maybe I’m wrong.

The bottle, I admit, had, and still does, baffle me.

I must admit that I liked it BUT it is not a statue which I think should be on it. I asked a few people what they thought of it and what it meant to them and every single person said it was ‘A ship in a bottle’ and whether it looked good or not. Meanings of it were lost on them until I told them, so as far as what the artist wanted people to think of it had totally failed! As far as I can tell ‘modern’ art means something to the actual artist and perhaps a few people they have explained what it means to. To the rest of the populace it is just whether it looks good or not and that is it. Anyway …….

I’m supposed to be writing about Queen Elizabeth II and the 4th plinth here I am once again getting away from my main subject but I must say a little more. (I could never be a reporter because writing or even thinking about something opens up a multitude of avenues to me and I have to be careful I don’t go too far away from the main intellectual thoroughfare or I will end up talking about a totally different subject and just forget what I was thinking/talking/writing about in the first place and cannot get back!

It was blown right up yesterday afternoon and pressed to the forefront of my brain when our London Mayor, Boris Johnson, revealed what is to be put on the plinth in 2012 and 2013, after they had won a competition set by The 4th Plinth Commission, and to say I almost burst a blood vessel would be an understatement.

Link to that article :

The one for 2012 is a bronze of a boy on a Rocking Horse designed bya Scandinavian duo called Elmgreen and Dragset, (I have a problem with ‘designed’ but never mind). They say that it questions the tradition of large scale military monuments.


The one for 2013 is an  ultramarine cockerel designed by German artist Katerina Fritsch and it is to be built in France. Built? That doesn’t sound too artistic to me. She purports that this symbolises regeneration, awakening and strength.

Mmmmm again.

I reckon the average man, woman and child, British or Tourist will say that it is a boy on a rocking horse, for the 2012 one, and maybe the kids will like it and the second one will obviously be a Big Blue Cock!

Let me calm myself down for a moment.

The plinth is not there for art. I can’t remember who decided to put ‘modern art’ there in the first place. *another edit* Probably Red Ken Livingstone or someone of his ilk. It had stood empty for 150 years quite happily after money had run out to put an equestrian statue of King William IV on there which was originally planned but since it has been used for art it has caused a lot of commentary, not about the art itself but what should be a permanent statue on there.

Sorry it took so long but now I get to the main reason for this post.

Queen Elizabeth II became our oldest Monarch in history in 2007. There were no firework displays etc. and I imagine Her Majesty didn’t really want that pointing out a lot but on September the 9th 2015 she will become our longest reigning Monarch and that is indeed something to celebrate.

Something else I forgot to point out is that we should have a recognisable figure on horseback on the 4th plinth as that is why it is there. George IV is on horseback on the other corner, the original playboy Prince when he was Regent for his Father George III during his unfortunate bout of porphyria. The two people in the southeast and southwest corners of Trafalgar Square, although probably known in their time, do not mean anything to the majority of people. I have no idea who Jellicoe is without looking him up and if he and the chap as the other statue are not well known then perhaps even they should be put somewhere else where they would be better appreciated.

Now, we finally get to it. (I bet you are saying Thank God for that). I had better give you some background on Burmese.

Burmese was a beautiful, black coated mare, born in 1962, given to the Queen by the Canadian Mounted Police, (who also trained her), in 1969. and quickly became a favourite of Her Majesty. She rode her side-saddle for 18 consecutive Birthday Parades until June 1986 when a lunatic in the celebrating crowd fired blank shots which startled Burmese and Queen Elizabeth, without being thrown, quickly brought her under control and carried on.

Burmese was retired after this incident to Windsor Great Park where she enjoyed being put out to pasture until her death in 1990. She is buried there.

After this incident Burmese was not replaced and although the Queen absolutely adores horses and rides often, I assume her councel persuaded her to use a carriage in the future for parades which she has done ever since.

Now ……

The Queen has reigned over us for so long and has done an absolutely super job for a young woman that was thrust upon the throne, perhaps too early, due to a change in circumstances after her Uncle, King Edward VIII abdicated and her Father, King George VI had to take over the Throne. To have a statue of her on her favourite horse on the 4th plinth in Trafalgar Square, (which is actually owned by the incumbent Monarch), would be not just wonderful but the correct thing to do.

I would like to see a statue similar to the one they have in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.