Archive for February, 2017

‘People say I’m brave about cancer, but I’m realistic. I’m a storyteller’ (Steve Hewlett)

February 23, 2017

And so dear listener, I felt really strange on Monday but nothing to do with any virus. I had to turn down the opportunity to take part in an interview with John Ross Beattie on BBC Radio Scotland about some recent cancer statistics that showed that men with prostate cancer living in the most deprived communities in Scotland are nearly twice as likely to die from the illness as those in the most affluent postcodes. This time eight years ago I was finishing the first half of my treatment for this cancer before starting thirty-seven days of radiotherapy.

Those who know me know how passionate my thoughts are on so much of what is involved in that simple, but long, sentence. Why, I could even have brought in libraries and their importance to the community. Macmillan Cancer folk have an arrangement with Glasgow Libraries where on certain days they have information points and people to talk to about cancer. 🙂

Later that day, I heard that Steve Hewlett had died. Steve is (sorry) was a journalist and academic who was one of the best in both fields. He’d been Editor of Panorama for the Princess Di interview and presented Broadcasting House on Radio 4. He also recently had been taking part regularly on PM on Radio 4 talking about his cancer and its progress. He knew it was terminal.

I’d have loved to do that during my treatment. The only difference is that Steve knew he was dying and talked about that. I am still alive and still pestering people about going to gigs and going for coffee. 🙂

He was also a better broadcaster than me. I was once asked, live, to explain what radiotherapy was like. My reply?

‘It’s like being zapped by a nuclear zapping thing.’

Altho’ having heard Donald Trump trying to describe uranium and cybers (both of which can be ‘bad’ and ‘evil’ apparently), I don’t feel quite so bad.

Steve spoke with great dignity on whatever he was talking about – media mergers or his forthcoming death. I rush at things. My mother also spoke with great dignity when she decided not to have chemotherapy which would only have been a delaying process. I walked very slowly homewards from the hospital that night and then remembered I’d driven there.

I remember talking to J last year about a man called Jonathan Wilson (1970-2002) who used to write a column for the Scotsman called Dead Man Talking. He knew he was dying but he lived a lot longer than the initial prognosis.

Still, I have this blog. It started eight years ago and was designed, I thought, as a means of telling people how the treatment was going and would stop when the treatment stopped (if in fact it did – you can never be too sure altho’ I’m reasonably certain now…….Fate has just been tempted!!!!). Like me it has kept going and, like me, it can be a real pest. 🙂

I have done TV and radio and newspapers (my favourite quote for one of the Record pieces was ‘alarm bells started ringing when a nurse stuck her finger up my bum’ BUT this very simple test is one of the reasons why men won’t go and get things checked. To all women who have ever given birth, there are some men who consider this basic test to be invasive!)

I’ve done information talks and ‘manned’ information stands at various events* and done informal chats with many people in many situations and I’ve done it all being very positive but the question of death will always hang over people with cancer but it tends to come from friends and family.

*I haven’t done many recently and they’ve tended to be a wee bit freelance but if you, or any group with which you’re associated, want a speaker about prostate cancer or information stand for a health event, then contact Prostate Cancer UK’s Scottish office (for Scotland) on 0141 218 4760.

And when I talk about ‘still wearing that badge’, there are two. One is the ‘big sky’ badge which J gave me and the other is the Prostate Cancer Awareness badge for which a donation is good. Both are very positive and optimistic.

Mind you on one occasion, when teaching at college, in an all-male staff-room (not testosterone filled as I was full of oestrogen at the time) I had put up a notice saying,

‘which one of you bastards has stolen a dying man’s coffee?’

Unfortunately some students had come in to video me for something else and saw this. I later heard them talking about ‘poor John’ in the corridor. The next time I had them in class I had a lot of explaining to do – but it was worth it. The lesson plan was thrown out of the window. e was my curriculum leader. I don’t think she minded.

More people survive than die but what is survival? Ernie Walker was General Secretary of the Scottish Football Association when Scotland actually got to World Cup Finals. When he died, the press reported that he had been ‘battling prostate cancer for eighteen years.’ I’m sorry. That is no battle; that is a clear victory. 🙂

But I still cry at cancer ads on TV.

Sorry if this is a bit disjointed but it’s been written in one go and it did get started at three this morning and it’s only just gone four but sometimes scrawling a note to yourself just isn’t enough. It’s also been written earlier in the week than usual.

I might as well just stay awake and do some editing or send some mails pestering people about gigs and going for coffee. Well at least I’m alive to do that.

R.I.P Steve Hewlett.

Cya, still wearing both those badges and still keeping it simple.

Iaint850  and still available for gigs and for coffee…..whatever. 😉

And in other news….…I’m back at work but have been using the last few days to get fit; it’s days and it’s different but in ways I’d not expected; there was snow;  football and Gaelic are on the to-do list; and once I get rid of all the rubbish food in the house, I’ll start the diet. Oh, and I may be going to see the dragons in Edinburgh. What’s that, Skippy? Sorry. I may be going to see the dungeons in Edinburgh. 😀

Have I played Mariachi El Bronx here before? To hell with it. I’ll let David Letterman introduce them.

“I finally figured out the big, elusive secret to weight loss. Don’t eat! Who knew?” ― Richelle E. Goodrich

February 16, 2017

And so dear listener, by the time you read this, I will have returned to work and hopefully remained for the full shift and, also hopefully, I am okay about going back full-time (altho’ I’m part-time but you know what I mean) For new listeners, I have had viral tonsillitis and it took a lot out of me but I think my strength has returned. We’ll see.

I still make some throaty noises but I put that down to the heating being on a lot at the moment, but there’s another health matter to which I want to draw your attention.

I have from time to time said that I felt was carrying extra weight and folks have said, ‘No. You’re not.’ And I’ve listened to them and done nothing about it. But the weight is there and you should see me at the end of the day when I have no clothes on (Skippy, can we maybe re-think that line?) 😉

One problem is the irregular hours I have been working with basic nights and irregular days and no set meals pattern – partly cos I live alone (have I ever told  you that?) On some shifts I get a 6” Subway (veggie lite) and eat it over the course of the shift – well most of it. I often have to throw away bits before the next shift comes in as you don’t always get a chance to finish your food.

(It’s okay, Skippy, I have no plans to do any gags about six inches or twelve inches or any other related jokes that end with ‘and, no, I didn’t ask for a ten inch pianist.’)

And I did tell you about the emergency shift a wee while back that finished at 2.30 in the morning but The Bistro (you don’t know the nice and sleazy end of Sauchiehall Street if you don’t know The Bistro) obvs was still open and I went in to get chips and got a staff discount and a free bottle of water. 🙂

And on another occasion, one of the service users came back with an order for various folk (I’d not asked for anything) but also with a free chips’n’curry sauce. So I had it.  🙂

And there it is – the ‘c’ word – ‘chips’. I even mentioned them in a blog a couple of weeks ago and no matter which train station I go to after a back shift, I pass a chip shop and I also pass a KFC and altho’ I can say no to a chicken (Skippy?)  those new Zinger chips look good.

But I’m pescetarian! I shouldn’t be eating chips that are deep-fried! I have no idea what else has been fried in that oil! And, whilst it’s not ethical or medical, there’s no point in only being a semi-pescetarian. I decided to carry out some research.

I drew together an e-focus group; one gf (that’s gluten-free as opposed to anything else) and two vegans. All are very wary of chips. The gf would like to know a wee bit more about the backstory to the chips and it has to be oil in which nothing else has been cooked; and the two vegans have that same concern – altho’ one did confess to a liking for chips’n’curry sauce as well. I feel a fraud. ):

But I do wonder what fast food outlets are doing about this. I don’t know cos I don’t eat from them cos I’m pesectarian! Eh? But chips?

Anyway, one of the benefits of going to part-time days will be a serious look at my diet and altho’ I will not do the 5:2 diet which, as with all diets, requires a fair amount of food prep or just buying the stuff out of M & S, I will go back to the days when I used to prepare a piece for work and did no grazing……and cut out chips (and they are good chips, good people chips)……and I am okay for walking as I always have been altho’ I have de-shuffled an MP3player so that needs attention. I’ll be fine.  😀

But finally, chips played a very important role in my recovery. Not long after Cold Turkey weekend, my sister (then living in London) asked me to look at various properties in Glasgow on her behalf with a view to returning to Glasgow (which was a serious task I could concentrate on) and I remember being early for viewing for one (no surprise there then) and going for, and eating, a fish supper – sober.


Tioraidh, still wearing that badge and still keeping it simple.

Iaint850 and I told you it’d be Trump Free. Maybe more about babies soon-time.

So, the line-up for Glasgow Summer Nights at the Kelvingrove Bandstand has just been announced (and I’ve not yet got fully organised for the Aye Write Bookfest)

I note with interest that veterans like Nick Lowe (not the Nick Low I know) and Andy Fairweather Low are playing on Thursday, Aug 10th (and I once roadied for AFL in the days when you could make a couple of quid for yourself by helping to carry gear in and being there again at the end of the night to carry gear out – and get paid – but Andy’s team also invited us to the after-show party at the then Albany)

I am, as ever, open to suggestions.

Maybe Texas?

KT Tunstall?

But I want to mention a country duo who are on at the Bandstand on Friday, 11th August.  These are/this is The Shires………….and they are nothing like Alabama 3. Honest.

Welcome to the end of being alone inside your mind tethered to another and you’re worried all the time. You always knew the melody but you never heard it rhyme (Brandi Carlile – ‘The Mother’)

February 9, 2017

And so dear listener, technically I have now been deemed fit to return to work but I had planned to be working these last few days and then enjoy being off the rota and taking TOIL (Time off in Lieu) and not doing much. I’m bored but better and desperate to get back out there….you know what I mean. ):

Indeed uni-Sharon works in the same kinda field and a recent msg from her read, ‘I’ll be in touch when thugs calm down.’ I was halfway into my car to go and help out when the correction came through; ‘things, I mean things!’

So, I have seen much of the NHS on TV as well as experiencing it in the really nice Maryhill Health Centre;

I would like to congratulate j, the blog’s favourite Gran on becoming a Gran again (and I may have more on a similar story in a couple of weeks or so but subject to the usual lack of information); 😀 😀 😀

and I listened to someone else describing hospitals as really ‘depressing places’.

At one point the detailed planning for this blog (a post-it) read ‘hosipta spevial’ which loosely translates as ‘hospital special’. But other things have happened since.

So all I’ll say is that in my only in-patient experience (the ten days or so after the Cold Turkey weekend) I ate properly with three meals a day for the first time in years; was shown how to walk (as my balance had been, and still is, a wee bit affected) on the backstairs of Gartnavel by two brilliant and very patient female physios; and was given two pairs of Gartnavel pyjamas to take away with me by one of the porters/male attendants with the words, ‘I don’t want ever to see you fu*king back in here ever again.’ I suspect that he believed that my alcohol dependency was a behaviour and not a disease. But I never wanted to go back either. And I haven’t since. 🙂

The pyjamas were given away recently unworn as I don’t wear pyjamas; tbh, I don’t wear anything most of the time……..Thankfully I don’t sleep walk.

(Like many people, I keep a notepad by my bed. It can help sleep patterns. If you’re really bad with sleep issues, then write the problem down on the pad, scrumple it up and throw it away. The problem won’t go away but it’s now far enough away not to cause you problems until you pick it up in the morning……the things you learn working in a rehab……..but in my basically alcoholic gap year my bad writing and my addled brain made it virtually impossible to understand the next morning what had been troubling me…..’Scarlet Turkeys again’ was one)

And this week’s random Conversation of the Month took place in the Kibble Palace in the Botanic Gardens into which I had popped as it was snowy-raining and I wandered over to the leaflets bit.

‘Watch what you’re doing’, this man said to me.

‘What?’ I said back to him.

‘Oh, sorry,’ he said. ‘I thought you were my daughter.’

Thirty seconds later I saw him with his daughter. She looked about eleven with long black hair.

And why did I feel the need to tell my optician that I was getting my hair cut the next day? Y’see I had had blurred vision a couple of times the day after I went back to work so I decided to get my eyes checked and they’re fine.  I think it was ‘cos I had to keep pushing my hair behind my hair to get those strange goggles on but the thing I really like is when you get the peripheral vision test. That’s the one when you see a flash and you have to press a button on a controller and it was so like playing early Space Invaders. I was bigly good.

And finally, I have tried to explain to people that one of the reasons I turned so much to alcohol after mum passed away was the fact that I had lost contact, during her illness, with many groups of people and networks. The fact that the BBC had moved south of the river may or may not have been a bad thing. This graphic explains a wee bit more……it’s about five minutes long so please feel free to come back to it.

tioraidh, still wearing that badge and still keeping it simple.

iaint850, and all this free time I have just now looked so good four weeks ago BV – Before the Virus! I don’t even have things to talk about!

So I’m going to stop poking fun at the Donald. It’s too easy but his, and his team’s, pronouncements are becoming more and more frightening and further and further away from the truth.

Whereas this is so totally true. He said;

“I was a good student. I understand things. I comprehend very well, better than I think almost anybody”

Aye, Donald but how were you with Inter Library Loans? And how was your Harvard Referencing? And did you ever, like me, once get lost in the North Side of the UWS (Paisley) Library which I didn’t even know existed until about five weeks into the first term/block/trimester?

I couldn’t find the doors out which obviously were the doors in. I didn’t panic. I wandered round two or three times, pretending I knew what I was doing. And then I saw the multi-storey carpark, I kept it on my left and found the doors I wanted. I then plucked a copy of Der Spiegel from a rack and sat down as if nothing had ever happened. 🙂

So how did you really get on at Wharton, Donald and did you ever go the Library – or did you get someone to bring it to you? Write your essays for you? I get asked to do that but I’ve known too many students over the years who write their own. 🙂

Next week will be a Donald-free zone, I promise you!

And back to really important matters. I’d like to thank top snapper Zoe for this simple, but so appropriate, song to welcome a new lady baby into the world. 😀 😀


‘So many books, so little time’ (Zappa, Frank)

February 3, 2017

And so dear listener, as some of you know I’ve recently been hit by viral tonsillitis (as well as a tax bill and some very necessary work to the car and the annual fee to the Rosedale Park Residents’ Association) and my thanks to all those who asked after me. It was quite debilitating. It took quite a lot out of me. In fact, more than I expected. 😦

But I did go back to work and I did enjoy being back at work and some of the folk (and they’re very good folk, some of the best) were saying they’d not seen me and wondered what had happened and that was nice. 🙂

And then the next day, I felt very tired and put it down to being ‘very tired’ after the shift. And not because I missed my nap-time. It was a busy shift, but a good shift – one of the best. So the day after that, I was still very tired and went back to the doctor, a different doctor, but they’re all good doctors, very good doctors, and I’ve been signed off again.

jt, just take your effing time, this time. There will always be homeless people. ):

But I’m now officially part-time days which covers a range of shifts from 7 ish in the morning to finishing just after 10 at night. Which is where this week’s Random Conversation of the Month comes from…..but it’s not too random. Just the best level of randomness…….good people.

I finished my shift at 9.30 and was wandering along Sauchiehall Street to Queen Street Station (thinking chips, and they’re good chips, some of the best chips) when I heard this voice asking me how to get to Argyle Street. I explained ‘carry on walking and take the first on the right and keep walking. You’ll find it then.’

He explained he’d parked in King Street and was heading back to his car. Turned out he was an auditor working in Boots doing a stock-take.

‘Of course, it’d not always Boots. Sometimes it’s SuperDrugs; and we recently did Top Shop. Get around quite a bit actually. Can be quite exciting. Came out the side door tonight and found myself in a strange lane and wasn’t sure where I was.’

I said nothing but an odd memory floated past – not a good memory. Certainly, not one of the best. Bad hombres down south of Byres Road.

‘OMG!’ I thought, ‘How far away’s the first right? Is it soon?’ But I explained that all my family had been involved in the financial world so I knew all about stock-taking.

‘So what happened to you?’ he asked.

‘Oh’, said I. ‘I ended up an alcoholic journalist.’

At that point, he found first right all on his own.

Lucy Worsley reminds me of somebody. 🙂

So I explained last week that Donald Trump does not read books; I understand he spends his time watching cable tv and tweeting until his masters, Bannon and Kushner, call him forth to sign another Executive Order. But does that matter, I was asked?

Well, leaving aside the fact that reading some factual books on the US Constitution and how the American Government has worked over the years might help*, there are books out there that are worth reading for pleasure alone – altho’ I suspect the POTUS would prefer all-action American heroes. 😀

He’s not a great fan of the environment, but maybe, just maybe a novel where the trees fight back might just instil some fresh thinking. The book is called The Trees (surprise, surprise); it’s written by Ali Shaw; and described on the cover as ‘Tarantino meets Middle Earth’ – or would those artistic references only confuse him? Answers please on a postcard (remember them?) to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue……

* or maybe not, cos that’s what’s going to bring him down.

Mmmmmm, Becky, I have the smell of brie when I open the fridge. But it’s nice brie…..very nice brie…some of the best brie.

And Dennis K, I haven’t forgotten about the curry, but it will be  a good curry.

And those of you with long memories may remember that I used to attend a Glasgow University based dining cub called the Winers’ Club and the annual William Topaz McGonagall dinner is about to happen. I am tempted to go as there are many good men in that club – many, many good men in what is a good club – but I’m never sure about meeting up with groups of people who may not know my story – and it’s a good story – but I’ll have a wee think and I’d be interested in your views – you, the listener, as your views are important to me (Hang on! He doesn’t ask for peoples’ views, does he?!?!)…….but I’ve just checked and I’m working that night anyway…….there’s always next time.

But doesn’t the world seem so much safer when a lede item on the news is iceberg lettuce rationing.

And finally, only my work colleagues will understand this but thanks to the new e-system for paperwork and as database at the project, my first night back (on dayshift) saw me shouting at the computer, in total frustration, ‘Aw shit! Not another frozen running log!’

Tioraidh, still wearing that badge and still keeping it simple. Some of my life stays constant and I like it that way. 🙂

Iaint850, missing the Thursday Gaelic, tho’…….. 😦

So some nice thoughts about books. I’ve got a copy of the aye write brochure for this year and I’ll have a wee look through it later. Didn’t get to anything last year but plan to do more this year. And I’m open to suggestions. But lots of good stuff for bookophiles of all ages….including quite a lot of Gaelic-related and Western Isles stuff. And the lovely Mike Heron formerly of the Incredible String Band.

But wait, what’s this I spy? Two hours’ worth of Research for Writers showing potential writers how to use ‘the Mitchell Collection and online.’……..maybe this is a sign. I’ll say no more but here’s the link to aye write to click but make it a good click 🙂

So this week ended with me feeling a wee bit down. So I make no excuse for this choice of music, as every time I hear it, it brings a smile to my face. It’s a good piece of music, a very good piece – one of the best.