HAPPY NEW YEAR!! 2015 here we come . . .

HNY?!? or what I really prefer is to think of the 1st January as the first blank page of a 365 page book in which YOU can write what you wish ~ now ENJOY!!

Marl Coll Chapel steps

This is the view from the top of the steps of Marlborough College Chapel where I first met my future wife and where music became my main ‘raison d’être’. I returned there recently in the hope of arranging to have access to the organ having played it when learning and being the Chapel ‘organ-boy’ for the last two of my A-level years.

My ‘New World’ developed from this point and at eighteen years of age to find myself playing Schubert Impromptus on an open concert hall stage in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, a year after having left the Shire was spell-binding! Fortunate in that I was able to find a home in Hatch End with my ‘Godfather’ Patrick Vermont (a viola player in the LSO); my Auntie Marion (a cellist in the BBC Symphony Orchestra) and my Nana lived around the corner in Harrow, and my Uncle Stan (principal cellist in the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Beecham) who lived around the next corner in Kenton – he also just happened to have a superb Steinway Grand lurking in the corner of his lounge and an irresistible daughter in her early teens hardly ever at home! From that springboard I found music in abundance and a future career in architecture.

Whilst invading as many architectural practices as I could find invitations to, I stretched my fingers at piano masterclasses in The Guildhall School of Music under Kenneth van Barthold and piano dexterity classes with Anthony Kinsella in Belsize Park, where I also joined a whizzo squash club! It was a constant source of concern to my parents that I was being too easily distracted from my primary goal, having taking a year out before starting university, and that proved to be the case. In the meantime I managed to fall for the lovely Dékà, a 35yr old polish pianist who to my horror was teaching Dena, my Uncle Stan’s daughter, the piano! He turned on his heels and confronted me with the appalling news that I would never be good enough to earn a living from playing the piano. Architects earnt twice as much as musicians and I should take on board the fact that music looses much of its wonder and magic when it becomes a daily ‘job’.

My architectural journey in London started with two weeks in Robert Matthews office (RMJM) when they were ‘recreating’ Stirling and York Uni campus sites; I distinctly remember making revisions to Exeter Uni’s ‘water path’ links during my first few days! In between soirées at LSO rehearsals/concerts with Previn and then the internationally famous cellist/conductor Rostropovich, of whom I drew a very flamboyant energetic action sketch, I managed to spend several odd weeks with Erno Goldfinger and his beautiful French wife only to be told by employees not to stay as he would constantly interfere with your work to the extent of using your draughting pen for you! 

The amazing but v.young Norman Foster, yes!!, took me out for lunch as he had just been awarded a coveted architectural prize for my Father’s office building in Drakes Way, Swindon: Reliance Controls, sadly now demolished. I vividly remember his asking me to define my idea of Architecture on the back of a postage stamp and then telling me I was trying to run before I could walk! His office in Hampstead was a hive of activity and a really generous family business at that time.

My next interview was with Sir Basil Spence’s team based in Canonbury, a flourishing office in London, which resulted in a second interview. I was full of myself having fallen in love with Coventry Cathedral, bringing along extra art material and line drawings as requested which they applauded but we had an extraordinary disagreement over what I can only describe as my architectural philosophy ~ actually, I think I was a bit too full of myself and needed bringing down to earth, resulting in a resounding bump/bruised ego! (It might also have been due to the fact that I happened to mention Alan Watson, a family friend in Swindon, came third in the Coventry Cathedral Competition!)

With my ‘tail between my legs’ I arrived at an office secreted away above Leadenhall Market in Central London, climbed an ancient rickety wooden staircase and came back out with my first appointment as a junior architectural assistant with Fielder & Tatnall, F/FRIBA. There were just four rooms, one each for the two partners, one for the receptionist and the last with two drawing boards one of which was mine!! First drawing was for the street logo sign for AMP Insurance Group and the second for their lift housing gear room. We did Barclays head office and London branches, numerous schools, Goldsmiths College buildings, boathouses and accommodations, and alterations to a memorable semicircular building, the Punch Offices in Bouverie Street: a vast medley of exciting work. I survived for a year which ended with my having awful bronchitis, from trying to inhale cigarette smoke, resulting in six months convalescence in Mildenhall, nr Marlborough.

I eventually returned to London to pursue an amazing role as Architectural Assistant with Laurence King & Ptns, Gower Street, essentially Church and School Architects. I was attached to Laurence’s team upstairs next to his plush, well appointed office. Did I revel in the best world ever but as always we take too much for granted and leaving his office has to be my one big regret in life! We were mainly responsible for Exeter and Blackburn Cathedral, numerous churches and vicarages; I drew all the printed/published material, organ cases, the cathedral crossing in Blackburn alongside John Piper the sculptor, the new East Door in glass at Exeter Cathedral and a pair of squash courts for Framlingham College! I must comment on the fact that I designed the very first open tread cantilevered wooden staircase with a triple railing using stringed tensioned stainless steel wires ~ oh how I wish that I had registered it under a patent ~ my design has been copied and manufactured thousands of times since then so it must have worked despite the structural engineers having a nervous breakdown! Unbelievably a colleague of mine was designing a staircase for National Power’s New Headquarters in Swindon twenty years later: I placed my hand on his shoulder, said “excuse me, that’s a copy of the staircase I designed to lead up to the viewing gallery of the squash courts at Framlingham College” ~ Robert’s face was a picture! I was certainly one very privileged lad in a team of just three. We would frequently go to Covent Garden and on for black tie dinner events! Treats out for us, the ‘youngsters’ including seeing “Hair” the musical down the road ~ all quite unforgettable.

I tried unsuccessfully to get into the AA School of Architecture in Bedford Square, literally around the corner, but they didn’t seem keen on ‘mature’ students. I do wish that I had stayed at No.9 Gower Street and to overlook about qualifying as an Architect!

A brief afterthought:

Luke Chapman was the photographer of the picture below, which is my No.1 favourite photo of the city! It’s extra special as I submitted a scheme for the Greenwich Design Competition including a 500m long compass on the meridian line that the public could displace and watch in awe as it slowly navigated back to due north, hopefully knocking over members of the public in its path ~ no doubt the reason for my not being shortlisted!!

Day Surgery and Me “day”!!

Rainbow waves

Little time to say more than this day will prove how successful ‘spirit healing’ can be ~ I did at least “receive” a reassuring comment in my head whilst washing up last evening and heard myself say out loud “Thank-you” and related it to my wife! ( Now that I am here after my operation my wife will confirm that I was informed in no uncertain terms that I would be back at home in my own bed.)

More of that later this week because I shall start my retrospective blog from the Wednesday in mid-October when I was ‘blessed’! Ouch, I know that does not sound like me but I did receive one . . . . . thanks Sananada for caring,

The unbroken seal on Tutankhamun’s tomb, 1922 (3,245 years untouched)

The anaesthetist looked at me that lunchtime in the Day Surgery Unit and asked if I knew what the procedure was and I replied ‘TurbT’. “So you’ve had this before?” she asked, “Yes, this is my twelfth op” ~ her mouth dropped and her eyes stared with glazed amazement ~ “REALLY??” ~ “well, you have the file!!” I had not realised just how fortunate I have been to hang on to my bladder for this length of time, nearly thirty years. Then it was the nurses turn to ‘form fill’ and in walks the registrar to retrieve a consent signature, only to inform me that I will be going home tomorrow: “Sorry, not if I understand my consultant correctly! He indicated that depending on what he found would dictate whether or not I needed to be catheterised; I explained that with the cancer escaping my bladder putting a pipe in made matters much worse when they came to remove it, “so let’s plan on my going home and we’ll all be happy!”

Interviews over I return to my seat and pick up my book ironically called ‘Before I Go to Sleep’ by S.J.Watson, only to summoned to get changed to go down to theatre.

This is how I recounted on social media the following three hours:

Due in theatre early pm as 2nd on list

13.15 changed and ready for theatre

14.15 consultant sits down next to me in waiting area  and chats for 10mins ~ strange me thinks, never done that before ~ start to get cold

15.15 four theatre ready plucked turkeys have been in and gone down each in less than 5mins

15.30 back to nurses station ~ is there anything amiss ~ no, why? ~ cos I’m freezing f’kg cold after 2.5hrs waiting for some action!!! Oh, I’ll ring and check and let you know . . .

15.45 it’s fine, you are NEXT on the list!

16.00 theatre nurse arrives to take me down and sits down in same “chatty-chair” as consultant; 10mins later I ask if there is a problem ~ why, he asks, do you have something more important on? ~ Yes, my clothes please! 

16.15 Pre-op room and I am shaking from a hyperthermic reaction to the bleeding cold, only to be asked if I’m nervous ~ after 12ops, nah, I’m an old-timer mate!

16.30 give up getting cannulae in that vein, apply heavy, blue, impregnated wadge of bandage strapped on to stem blood flowing from hand double wrapped with tight strong tape which they say they hope to remove when I’m out cold ~ cold did you say, I’m f’kg freezing!

Find ‘special’ babies cannulae and start on left hand ~ you are shaking she says, are you cold? ~ no I’m f’kg f’zg and suffering from shock watching all my blood drain away before the bleeding’ op’s started ~ we’d better get you a blanket ~ stick that ~ just stick that stick in my b.vein so that when I am out cold I won’t kn . o . . w . . . any . . . m . . . !!

That Big ‘C’ Weekend Movie!!

That little one and a half minute trailer was too auspicious for words! When I said that I would “shrink them away before next holiday” little did I realise that is exactly what would happen. It was certainly cathartic to ‘produce’ an  iMovie, although I am just learning that the hard way, without appreciating the repercussions . .

. . which is where Merlin Energy ‘walks’ into my life!

My inspiration for writing this blog is threefold: firstly a friend/ex colleague said I should (thanks Fiona K-T); secondly needing to hug & share the grief of Mel & Sam following the death of their ‘Mumsie’; and lastly Christopher Reid’s ‘A Scattering’ which is “a slim, quietly devastating volume of poetry written as a tribute to the poet’s dead wife” (The Times, 27 Jan 2010). It won the Costa Book of the Year Award and I am privileged to share this extract with you as published that day:

Straight from the heart

Late home one night, I found she was not yet home herself.

So I got into bed and waited under my blanket mound,

until I heard her come in and hurry upstairs.

My back was to the door.

Without turning round, I greeted her, but my parched voice made only a hollow,

parched-throated k-, k-, k- sound, which I could not convert into words

and which, anyway, lacked the force to carry.

Nonplussed, but not distraught, I listened to her undress,

and then sidle along the far side of our bed and lift the covers.

Of course, I’d forgotten she’d died.

Adjusting my arm for the usual cuddle and caress,

I felt mattress and bedboards welcome her weight

as she rolled and settled towards me, but, before I caught her,

it was already too late and she’d wisped clean away.

~ Christopher  Reid ~

Z16

BEREAVEMENT : Missing someone isn’t about how long it’s been since you’ve seen them or the amount of time since you have talked together, it’s about that very moment when you’re doing something and wishing they were right there with you ~ please do remember they still are ~ just over your shoulder because they still love you too.

This is written for Lynda Bellingham as I am just beginning to appreciate how hugely courageous a person she was in the latter stages of her illness

“May she rest in peace”

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May 31, 1948 – October 19, 2014

I have used the .me suffix on this blog because I would never wish to impose myself on anyone.

This suffix will hopefully enable me to do just that, but in her memory, purely and simply because my experience having cancer changed overnight one month ago! No one can ever prepare you for that moment and no one really wants nor perhaps should live their life with that time-bomb potentially ticking.

Thirty years ago I had an operation to remove a kidney stone ~ not so ~ my first cancerous growth the size of a florin.

Twenty years ago I started numerous chemo treatments, day surgery ops and quarterly flexible cystoscopies which continue to this day.

Ten years ago courses of chemo became ineffectual and I started live BCG treatment.

Five years ago I became very ill with suspected TB from my treatment which led to my retirement.

One year ago I had the first major surgery on my bladder and was referred to the Oncology Team for review.

Three months ago I started a cold which became a cough which did not go away.

Two months ago I saw a locum doctor who diagnosed that my immune system was shot to pieces hence my cold virus was not being resisted.

One month ago I had a chest X-ray showing two shadows followed by a CT scan disclosing seven lesions/nodules on my lungs the largest being 24mm.

Secondary Cancer has to be respected as it cannot be cured but best scenario is it can be contained. Having ‘happily’ adapted to a life with bladder cancer I did not consider this outcome from a basic cough/cold!

Two weeks ago after my first CTscan a full body version with contrast die disclosed that the growths had shrunk and the debate started . . . those two weeks held me on ‘death row’ despite my brain begging for a reprieve . . . and there it was!

During the weekend that fell in the middle of my turmoil I made this short film to ‘free’ myself of disabling thought processes

My ‘world’ has now changed and I have a completely new perspective on life, hence this blog which I have now updated!

My story will unfurl into the most extraordinary sequence of events which will be difficult to put into words at times but it must be shared to help others in the same way as Lynda Bellingham has helped me.