Saturday 30 September 2023

The Saturday List #418 - My favourite slightly weird Instagram pictures of Mill Hill

 There are many rather twee pictures of Mill Hill. People love taking pictures of scenes such as the Angel pond with the church behind it. I rather in enjoy rather more left field scenes. Here is my selection

1. You don't need an expensive holiday in France to see the Eiffel Tower, it is on the drinks shelf at the Mill Hill Tandoori!

2. I am fascinated by insects, this handsome chap was in the back garden

3. My neighbours old shed. Sadly, the new owner removed this

4. There are many pictures of St Joe's looking wonderful in the sunshine. I prefer this, partially obscured by low cloud

5. I always love pictures of the M1 at sunset. This picture captures many of Mill Hill's defining features. The station, the M1 and the Broadwat. I rather like the polythene on the barbed wire

6. I was really proud of this picture of the fence at Mill Hill Broadway in the snow. A moment in time, so often we simply don't take time to look at things that are quite visiually pleasing. Frsh snow is a fascinating material.

7. I really love picturs in the mist. They have a sort of unworldly spookiness. This one of a tree in Lyndhurst park is another favourite

8. When the Covid memorial trees were planted, some amazing mushrooms appeared. Never seen anything like them

9. I've taken a lot of pictures of my studios (Mill Hill Music Complex) over the years. During lockdown, we cut back on maintenance to preserve cash. In 2022, we started repainting everything. I took this one of the studio 7 door before it was repainted. Those of you who were around in '77 and liked punk and reggae will see the accidental symbolism here

10. Frost is another thing that fascinates me. I love this picture. It sort of reminds me of the cover of a bad prog rock album from around 1975

That's all folls

Friday 29 September 2023

The Friday Joke and a few rather random Friday thoughts

 In true Barnet blogger traditions, we start the weekend with a Friday Joke. Once again, I'm endebted to the rather wonderful Robert Wilkinson for this. This one had me sniggering

It's been a funny old week for me. My sister has been over from Florida with her husband, which has rather derailed my diet. He keeps insisting on buying us slap up meals, as they are staying with us. All very tasty, but not so good for the weight. My brother in law Tim is a 78 year old working doctor. He's probably directly saved more lives than anyone on the planet, having had such a career and he has no plans to retire, although he has scaled his work back. As I'm sure you can imagine, he's a very bright and well informed individual indeed. He used to be responsible for running the ER facility that the the US Congress use. Like me, he has undergone radical prostatectomy surgery. It's been good having him around and chatting about it. Another thing we were discussing was the rising wave of vaccine scepticism. If anyone was aware of whether covid vaccines were dangerous, it would be ER doctors, who are on the front line of medical services. He tells me he's given up arguing with people who hold such views, but the evidence simply isn't there to support their arguments. Tim is vaccinated. If it was in any way dangerous, he'd be the first to tell family and friends. Tim worked through the pandemic and saw overloaded ER units. Of course, like any medicine, some people have adverse reactions, but this is true of just about every medicin (I'm allergic to penecillin). When I expressed my frustration with some of the arguements I see, Tim made a very good point. I know someone, who I trust implicitly, who can answer any worries I may have. Most people don't. The basic problem with vaccines is trust. Every time a footballer keels over or a member of the crowd has a heart attack at a game, the anti vaxxers use this to demonstrate the danger of vaccines, claiming it is a new phenomina. Sadly this is completely untrue. As a Man City fan, I recall Marc-Vivienne Foe dying on the pitch, long before COVID. I also remember one of my daughters friends, Shannon Powell passing away on a cross country run aged 14 in 2011.  She had an undiagnosed heart defect, I do wonder what would be said now?

On another note, I was disturbed this morning by the whole house shaking. I found this was due to a 2,000 ton train, laden with stone, hurtling past the back garden at 60mph. Our Railway SPAD, Mr Robin Morel, of Network Rail, kindly signposted me to this video, celebrating 10 million tons of aggregates passing my back door on the way to the HS2 project. This is a mind boggling tonnage. 

Having moved 10 million tons of stone (most of which passed by my back garden without me noticing until today), it is ridiculous that Rishi Sunak is planning to downgrade the scheme to a  railway to nowhere. The line needs to be built in full. Although the numbers are huge, it is a project that will last decades, if not centuries. The line at the bottom of my garden, to St Pancras, was built in 1868 and will celebrate 150 years in 5 years time. It is busier than ever. When Scott and Barlow constructed St Pancras, neither dreamed that one day it would house trains travelling to Paris in just over a couple of hours. The cost payback has to be calculated over decades and the benefits worked out in the same way. I know HS2 will cause a lot of disruption as it's built. The same was true of Crossrail, but once these things are built, we forget the moans and are delighted to have better transport. I use Crossrail all the time and travelled back from France on HS1 in August. If I was PM I'd be looking to build the line faster and be looking at what the next phase of the upgrading our railways should be. The idea that ten million tons of stone has been transported from Derbyshire to London, simply to be abandoned is insanity. I wasn't a fan of Boris as PM, but I admit that at least he had vision when it came to our nations infrastructure.

And finally, the band had its first rehearsal session since our rather wonderful gig at the Dublin Castle on 15th September. We spent the session trying to get a new number together. I think it sounds rather good and will fit in well. Gray Rambo and Fil Ross have put an absolutely killer drum and bass line down. At one point, I just sat there listening and grooving. It's not ready for the public yet, so here is a little sample of our last gig, why not join us for one of our upcoming shows - The Silencerz + The False Dots live at The Bull Arts Centre, Barnet. & MADCHATTER'S TEA PARTY: THE SHOALS + THE FALSE DOTS + DJ BELFAST ERIC IRVINE charity fundraiser on Sat 4th Nov at the Dublin Castle. Here's a preview. If you like Ska music, you'll have a banging night!


Thursday 28 September 2023

The Thursday Album No 1 - The Rolling Stones - Sticky Fingers

A new feature. Something I've wanted to do for ages.This is a journey through my musical development and an opportunity to listen to some amazing music. The albums that I spent far too long spinning obsessively. 

We start with The Rolling Stones and Sticky Fingers. This was released in 1971 when I was eight years old. My sister Val had the album in theorginal sleeve, with the zipper. Up until then, I'd liked some music, not in an obsessive way, but around this time, my brother built a top grade stereo system for my Dad. The enormous speakers would put many a carnival sound system to shame. Dad bought some headphones, which meant I could listen in peace. As it meant I wasn't annoying them, my parents just let me get on with it. We didn't have many records, but with its naught cover, I remember Val bring it home and playing it. The first time I heard it, I don't really think it registered. The sleeve interested me more. I think my main concern was that they should have put proper underpants under the zipper. 

As we didn't have too many decent albums (we had tons of singles, but these were a pain to keep changing), I started listening to the album regularly. I was going through a difficult period. Mum was going through her cancer and there was a bit of turmoil at home. I believe my Dad suffered undiagnosed PTSD during WW2 and he was not really coping well with Mum's illness. The album proved to be a refuge from the world. I knew every track intimately. 

Here is my take on them.

Brown Sugar - This is the Stones. The riff, the attitude, the references that I didn't understand. In some ways, it may be the best song ever recorded by the Rolling Stones. If I was asked to select one track to sum up the Stones, this would without doubt be the one. I suspect it is the most covered Stones track by pub bands. I still love it.

Sway - Another great track with a wonderful intro. You can tell exactly who it is after 3 seconds. A real trademark early 70's Stones sound. Slower tempo than Brown Sugar, but more expressive. I love that. The song always reminds me of getting out of bed with a hangover. Clearly I didn't have hangovers when I was eight, but I was intrigued why someone would boast about an demon life having it it's sway. In my naive, pre-adolescent mind, I assumed they'd written it for my mum and her battle with cancer. 

Wild Horses - I've never really been a fan of slow ballads. Mostly because I thought that none stands up to this. It is just such a good song. Well produced and possibly the best vocal performance ever by Jagger. I'm not generally a big fan of slide guitar, but on this track it works so well. 

Can't you hear me knocking - This songs is 2 minutes long, with 5 minutes of the Stones jamming. I was never too keen on the first 2 minutes, but this is the song where I learned to appreciate good rock musicians jamming. 

You gotta move - One of two tracks on the album I'm not that keen on. This was usually where I put the kettle on and went to the loo. I don't really like ploddy blues.It sounded like Steptoe and Son had managed to purloin a track. Fortunately it was the last track in Side One, so I'd usually just turn the album over at this point. 

Bitch - Although I think Brown Sugar is the best Stones track ever, this was my personal favourite at the time. Of course I didn't get the drug and sex references, but I just loved the groove of the song. I probably liked it as I thought it was about dogs. I love the up tempo beat and the horn arrangement. 

I got the blues - The other track I'm none too keen on. It just doesn't float my boat. Doesn't really go anywhere

Sister Morphine - I used to find this track a bit disturbing and difficult, but really liked it. As mum had been on Morphine, I associated it with her cancer, I still do, but I realised it was a briliant track.

"Here I lie in my hospital bed Tell me, Sister Morphine, when are you coming round again? Oh, and I don't think I can wait that long Oh, you see that I'm not that strong "

It seemed to sum up my life at the time. Of course, I had no concept that the morphine was not being used medicinally. Sometimes a difficult track helps you realise that other people are going through the same thing. The concept that Mick Jagger was sympathetic to my pain was a great help. 

Dead Flowers - To me this was a sort of throwaway track, but a very good throwaway track. For a song about your life falling apart in a heroin induced stupor, it's remarkably upbeat and fun. I sort of twigged it was about stuff I didn't really understand.

Moonlight Mile - I have always loved the unusual chord changes and slightly weird sounds. For me it brought images of Fenella Fielding in Carry On Screaming. The scene where she is attempting to seduce Harry H. Probably the lyric

"I am just living to be lying by your side But I'm just about a moonlight mile on down the road"

 Corbett's hapless detective played havoc with my pre pubescent imagination.  I sort of imagined that was how naughty people, behaved at the end of the moonlight mile. Since then, I've never been 100% sure whether deep down I'm an angel who wants to be a devil or vice versa.  My brother Frank, who had a massive crush on Fenella Fielding as a result of the film let me watch it once and I don't think I've ever been completely right in the head since. Musically, I think this has the best intro of any slow Stones track. 

There are many albums that have had a massive effect on me, but this one was almost like a lifeline. For maybe two years, I listened to it every day. 

Why not have a listen?

Tuesday 26 September 2023

Feeling human again - Rog T's cancer blog

There are many lessons that I've learned on this rather unwanted journey. One is that there are very difficult choices to be made and in truth we'd all prefer not to be in this position. Another is that there are lows and highs on the way and not all are when you expect them. Today has been a day of highs. Why? Well you may be rather surprised to hear this. I was advised when I had my radical prostatectomy (RP) on 9th August to avoid caffeine. Since then, I've been drinking decaf tea. I rarely, if ever, drink coffee, but I drink far too much tea. There are many things I've had to adjust to as the new me emerges post op. I am rather lucky. I seem to have no issues with continence at all. I am now 7 weeks out from the op. I had a cathetar for 2 weeks (horrible), I wore pads for 2 week (no major accidents) and I've just worn normal pants for 3 weeks. Last Wednesday, I wore a pad for security as I was meeting friends for beers and a curry in central London and I was nervous about the journey home. As it transpired, the pad was not needed, but the security helped me relax. 

My mens help physio, Mr Gerard Green informed me that my recovery was pretty remarkable, compared to most men he's seen. I am blessed (not least to have had an exceptional surgeon in Professor Chistopher Eden). Last Wednesday was an important personal milestone for me. It may sound silly, if you've never had continence issues,  it may be only psychological, but the fact I had a relatively boozy evening in town (I didn't go mad but drank more beer than I have since the op, by some distance) was a big deal. It was pleasant. Apart from a quick recap on how I'm coping, my evening was spent discussing football, the IT failure in air traffic control, beer and music. For a few hours, I felt human. It was great. 

Anyway, why was today a high? Today was another milestone. Not an intentional one either. I was at work and we'd run out of decaf teabags. I had a dilemma. Do I drink normal tea or do I drink camomile, that I can't abide. I thought "what the hell, I'll see how I get on with normal tea". So I had a few cups during the day. I realised why I've never really drank decaf before. It doesn't taste as good. What surprised me even more was that the caffeine made me feel great. I have been feeling quite morose since the operation, apart from when I've been busy. Right now I am actually feeling rather good in myself. It's given me a dilemma or should I say a choice. Do I stick with the decaf or do I go back to my old PG tips? I like the feeling of being me. However, I've been told caffeine irritates the waterworks. The question for me is whether or not I am healed enough for this to not be an issue. I don't want to suddenly find myself having continence issues, but I do rather like feeling human. I'm back home now and the dilemma is whether to have a cup of decaf or normal tea.  I may just have a glass of water instead, as I am not craving tea and I probably should drink a bit more of the stuff ( I have 1/2 litre at night an 1/2 litre in the morning). I think I will adopt a strategy of normal tea before lunchtime for the next few weeks and see how things go. It is all about balance.

As to my general health. I have a few issues that need resolving. I need to get my weight down. I have always kept myself pretty fit, but following an injury to my ankle in July 2022, I had to give up five a side football in March. The stress around the cancer lead me to get lazy and my weight has balloned to around 107kg. This is far too high and needs to be addressed (FYI I'm 6'1). I suspended my gym membership for September, but from next week, I will be back in there and aim to swim five times a week until I can get properly back to a full regime. I am back on salads at lunchtime and my aim is to get to 94 kg by Xmas. This should be quite achieveable, once I start properly exercising. 

I have also been advised that my cholesterol is high and according to my doctor,  I should be taking statins. I am not keen, as this will become a lifetime prescription. As my blood pressure is normally pretty good and my heart rate is usually excellent (according to my fitbit), I am not as concerned as my doctor seems to be. My resting heartrate is now more or less back to it's usual level of around 58bpm. It rocketed to 70 just before the op. 

I put this down to stress. The peak is the weekend before the operation. I was drinking to much and worrying too much. I am speaking to the GP cardio clinic on Thursday. I will tell them that I am doing nothing until after the new year, when my weight and diet should have regularised. Statins can affect your renal function and I want to be 100% sure that I am not having any more cancer treatment before I take that path. My brother had a bad reaction to them and I often have a similar reaction to him when it comes to medicins (erythromycin nearly killed both of us). This makes me very cautious indeed. Having said that, one has to be sensible. My view is that I address the weight and diet and then see. Today was the first day I've felt motivated to look to the future and address the other issues. 

I had my PSA results, which were very encouraging, being 0.02. This is exactly where they should be following the operation. Professor Eden advised me that I am statistically very likely to be completely cured of cancer, so life can progress. 

The only blot on the horizon, which is a big blot for me, is the lack of sexual function. Maybe I've been overly optimistic about timescales. There has been the odd murmour, but despite the medication, this has not been anything sustained or what I might consider a full erection. I'd hoped for something more at this stage, but I've been assurred that given everything else, it is likely to return. For some men this takes up to three years. I'd like to say this is not a big deal, but for me it is. Men don't really feel comfortable talking about such things, but we should. Sharing information helps you get there quicker. 

One thing that is clear to me from talking to other people who've had RP, is that I am extremely fortunate (which I put down to using the best surgeon in the UK). My wife tells me she is just relieved it's been addressed and the other things are less important in the scheme of things. It's a transition and I need to adapt. I was reminded of something my Dad once told me. He said that whether your glass is half full or half empty is irrelevant. What matters is that the Bar is still open and they are still serving. That is the bigger picture. And however I look at it, the bar hasn't closed just yet.

--- About this feature 

For those of you who are regular readers and have read the previous posts on Cancer, there's what this is all about. I write this blog because knowledge is power and if you know what you are dealing with, you have more weapons in the locker to fight it. It is a personal view, I'm not medically qualified. This is for the sole purpose of information for those who are interested.This is the latest installment in my occasional series about how I'm adjusting to living with a big C in my life. 

 For those of you who aren't, here's a quick summary. I'm 61 years old and in October 2011 I had a prostate biopsy following two "slightly high" PSA tests - 2.8 & 4.1. The biopsy took ten tissue samples and one of these showed a "low grade cancer" which gave me a 3+3 on the Gleason scale. I was put on a program of active monitoring. In early February, I got the results of the a PSA test - down to 3.5 and an MRI scan which found absolutely nothing, two more tests in 2012 were at 3.5 and 3.9, in 2013 my test was 4.0, Jan 2014 was 3.8, August 2014 was 4.0, February 2015 it was up to 5.5 and my latest in August 2015 was down again at 4.6. In October 2015 I had a transperinial Prostate biopsy, that revealed higher grade cancer and my Gleason score was raised to 3+4 (Small mass + more aggressive cancer). On 22nd Jan 2016 I had HIFU (Hi Intensity Focused Ultrasound) treatment at UCHL). 

My post procedure PSA in May was 4.0 which was down, followed by 3.7 in August, and 3.5 in October which means that the direction is positive . However in January the follow up MRI revealed "something unusual which requires investigation" After a follow up biopsy, it appeared this was nothing to worry about. My two most recent PSA tests were Ok (3.7 and 4.6) and an MRI scan in March was very positive. A PSA in October 2019 was 4.6, so stable and good news, the last in May 2020 was 5.45 a small rise, so worrying, however after a review against the most recent MRI, it was decided that this was fine. My two latest ones in February 2022 was 6.7 and October 2022 was 6.6 was stable. 

In March 2023 had an MRI scan that showed 'significant change'. This lead to a biopsy that indicated a tumour of 4mm that had a gleason score of 4+4. A PSA test in June saw a rise to 12. On 9th August, I had a radical prostatectomy and am currently recovering. Early days, but hopefully the surgery has curedt he problem of cancer. My continence is good, the next batttle is erectile function.

Got the picture?

And finally. I'm a musician. I am blessed to play guitar and sing in the finest band - The False Dots -  on Planet Earth and I wrote a song to get blokes to get a PSA test and talk about this stuff. Please have a listen. It's a banging tune! There is nothing more uplifting than hearing an audience join in for the last line!