I met a girl

December 31, 2017

I met a girl

I met a girl and liked her oh

A special girl I liked her oh

She made me feel so special so

She soon became my lover oh

And soon the girl I loved her so

A special girl, I loved her oh

So told me yes and wed me oh

Still she was my lover oh

The girl she gave me children oh

A boy, a girl to watch them grow

My girl became a mother oh

But oh she was my lover oh

She came with me to London oh

Left her friends and family oh

Far from home together oh

My wife and one true lover oh

When cancer came a knocking oh

A tumour growing fast or slow

Stayed at my side to love me oh

My strong and faithful lover oh

I met a girl and loved her oh

I’m with her yet my heart aglow

Through thick or thin she’s with me oh

She’ll always be my lover oh

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No Dogs, No Gypsies, No Irish

December 29, 2017

I thought of the time the famine came

When hunger drove them frae their hame

To Scotland and England tor work they came

No Dogs, no gypsies, no Irish

Or the lairds that drove them frae their glen

First the sheep then the grouse moved in ye ken

Under that bridge sheltered heilan men

No Teuchter, no Gypsies, no Irish

Should I recall the wandering Jew

Wha fled from whip and pogrom too

Built homes and synagogues, lives anew

No Yids, no Gypsies, no Irish

I thought of the Lithuanian crew

Wha came to build our railways true

Built churches, grottos, families too

No polacks, no Gypsies, no Irish

Or Italians who came with a dream

Of art or shops that sell ice cream

Brought beauty and sweetness to our scene

No tallies, no Gypsies, no Irish

The Jamaicans came, Ugandans too

Adding spice and colour to our motley crew

Brought food, culture and ganja too

No blacks, no Gypsies, no Irish

This island has been formed it seems

By folks who left their homes with dreams

Always the claim of bursting the seams

No immigrants, no Gypsies, no Irish

My grandparents of Scottish and Irish descent

Mother born in London to Scotland was sent

I came to London when work was absent

No immigrants, no Gypsies, no Irish.

They tell us our ancestors out of Africa came

Searching for food, a hearth and a hame

How can we hate those who try for the same

Immigrants, Gypsies or Irish

But what of the child who was lain in a manger

Took to Egypt escaping a terrible danger

Open your hearts to welcome the stranger

In an immigrant child he may lay

My Journey with Cancer

December 29, 2017

It is said that the longest journey begins with a single step. Of course not all journeys are alike. There are journeys of pleasure, a trip to see somewhere new or to meet a friend. A journey of necessity, to do something routine perhaps or see someone you’d rather not be meeting. I want to describe a journey for you, not in detail, in the hope that if you are making the same journey that it helps a little to know others have made the same type of trip. The journey is definitely a journey of necessity, a journey to cancer and back but this time to arrive at hope.

I noticed the pain in my mouth. A stabbing sharp pain at the back and I recall thinking that I had eaten something rough and cut the roof of my mouth. Nothing to worry about, so I left it to heal. A few weeks later It hadn’t improved much so my next step was to try to look, but it’s the back of the mouth and you can’t see much there anyway when looking yourself. Try feeling instead? So that’s what I did and found a small, hard lump that was painful to touch. It must be an abscess, I thought. I was already taking antibiotics for something else,  so I was confident they’d deal with it.

The course of antibiotics came and went, but give it time I thought, it’ll clear. But it didn’t. What next then? A chat with my wife! Something along the lines of, remember I said my mouth was sore? There’s a little lump there, that’s not going away and the wise response, go and see the doctor then!

The GP looked, prodded and referred to the ear, nose and throat department. The start of the tests, X-Ray, CT scan, MRI scan and more prodding. Not an abscess. Time for the specialist surgeon to have a look. Ah, he said having a quick look and prod, it’s a tumour, probably benign. I’ll take out out a week on Thursday!

The operation came and went, the tumour was removed, healing begins.

Then came the summons for a meeting. I felt confident that result would be benign, no further treatment required.

The meeting was happy and relaxed from the outset, so my confidence in the outcome seemed confirmed. I remember the first time the cancer word was used in the meeting I felt a shiver of fear. It’s a word which seems final and once said the pace of the journey speeds up. Time for a second operation. The surgeon described it in great detail, he would remove the section of the small palate with some tissue, take a section of skin from the left arm for the new palate with an artery for its blood supply and take a section of skin from my tummy to rebuild the arm. The artery for the new bit of soft palate would go in via the neck so it could be connected to the blood supply. In theatre for 10 hours or so and hospital for 2-3 weeks.

The stay was actually 12 days for me and I came home to be with my family.

Everything was healing nicely with one exception, the skin graft on the left arm. Much back and forth having dressings changed, before it was finally decided that the graft had failed and was dead. Did that mean a second skin graft? I dreaded a positive response to that question and the reply was no, let’s treat it with honey and see how we get on.

So the treatment with manuka honey began, coating the graft with it to slowly soften and remove it, to see what was underneath. Weeks of patiently redressing and applying the honey until, the new healing skin was revealed as the graft came away. The graft had failed, but had it really. The arm had a scar, certainly, but the skin was pink and new and healing. Was that really a failure?

The cancer journey continued of course. Radiotherapy but no chemotherapy required. 6 weeks of treatment but all the indicators are that the cancer was removed. I am healing again, slowly but surely getting well. I am progressing towards hope. I was very fortunate to have the support, love and prayers of my friends and family. Perhaps the journey would have been shorter if I had spoken about the pain sooner, found the lump faster and made fewer assumptions that I knew what was going on? Sharing led to the right direction, get it checked, it might still be an abscess, but get it looked at just to be sure.

The journey will continue for many years to come as checkups will happen and become less frequent over time. But the pace of the journey is calmer now, giving to body time to heal and adjust to the changes that were made. I do believe that the cancer is gone now and that I am a survivor. But when I look the scars on my arm, I know that this was a success and I have faith that, from what we might see as failure, can come the greatest success of all, new life.

Haikus for Hattie

December 29, 2017

Leaves fall to the ground

Hattie the spaniel runs happily around

Scattering leaves to the sky

Hattie on the floor asleep

Tired from chasing a bouncing ball

Dreaming of fields of green

Christmas Time is Coming

December 29, 2017

Decorations on the high Street

The car parks are all busy

Santa’s waiting in the grotto

Shoppers in an awful tizzy

(Chorus)

Christmas time is coming

Shops full of Christmas cheer

By the time that Christmas is over

Chocolate bunnies will be here

The adverts on the telly

Are showing the latest toys

Gadgets for all of the family

Fun for girls and boys

(Chorus)

Christmas time is coming

Pubs full of Christmas beer

By the time that Christmas is over

Chocolate bunnies will be here

The TV schedule’s busy

All competing for the ratings

The latest costume drama

Or watch some people baking

(Chorus)

Christmas time is coming

Although some doubters sneer

By the time that Christmas is over

Chocolate bunnies will be here

Brown boxes keep arriving

They wear a crooked smile

The driver runs when he hears the dog

He’d run a nervous mile

(Chorus)

Christmas time is coming

Hold the mistletoe and leer

By the time that Christmas is over

Chocolate bunnies will be here

The only thing that’s missing

Is the baby from the crib

Delivered on Christmas morning

With a diaper and a bib

(Chorus)

Christmas time is coming

Let’s share some Christmas cheer

By the time that Christmas is over

Chocolate bunnies will be here

Let’s have a lovely Christmas

With family and friends

Eat too much, play Christmas songs

May the party never end

(Chorus)

Christmas time is coming

Leftovers make Boxing Day fayre

The sales are round the corner

Chocolate bunnies coming here

(Hop, hop)

The Cancer Express

December 29, 2017

All aboard the cancer express

The train is leaving the station

Leave your hat, coat and clothes on the rack

Next stop’s an operation

The surgeon awaits in his cap and his gown

All surfaces gleaming and clean

To cut out the tumour and hope that it’s gone

To recovery, then Home from the scene

Waiting patiently then as meetings are held

The cells are grown in a culture

Unfortunately these cells were not benign

Cancer hovers around like a vulture

Operation number two comes and goes

More removed, rebuilt, reconnected

Then on to the ward for recovery time

Meetings held and the patient inspected

More treatment required to ensure that it’s gone

Radiotherapy at the next station

Feeling sick, sore and tired, but struggling on

Still recovering from the ablation

While the family awaits looking on from outside

Catching up to request information

Then hanging on grimly while we ride inside

Biting tongues or displaying vexation

All aboard the cancer express

Don’t despair is a difficult mission

But we travel together seeking success

Long life, happiness and remission

To a Robin

December 29, 2017

Robin, oh robin why do you stay?

Your mate has left, she’s flown away,

Through wind and rain, frost and snow,

You guard your territory and do not go

To Spain or Portugal your mate has fled

In warmer climes to make her bed

While you are left to do your best

In hope of building next year’s nest

I first saw you searching the ground

But of course Hattie spaniel also found

With a leap she sent you into the trees

Hiding yourself in the branches you freeze

In summer the swallows from Africa fly

Performing dances in the bright blue sky

But as winter approaches they flee away

Oh Robin, oh robin why do you stay?

Here you remain, eating a berry

On Christmas cards you’re painted as merry

But life for a robin seems lonely and hard

Reality now, not what’s shown on a card

The fruit becomes scarcer and harder to eat

The hunters are searching, be quick on your feet

Flash of red in the branches as shelter you seek

The life of a robin is not for the meek

In my mind it is you that live it the best

Returning each night to sleep in our nests

But my heart’s with the swallow off seeking some heat

When the chill in my bones ache my hands and my feet

Robin, dear robin, oh why do we stay

When sunnier climes are not so far away?

But the call of our home seems sweeter and softer

Stay home instead in the warmth of our laughter

So rest my dear Robin as, I will rest too

Some fruit I will bring you to help you get through

The worst of the winter time still lies ahead

But springtime will promise us summer instead

Horses, big, powerful, fast, beautiful, scary creatures with a mind of their own. Some people reading this will agree with all of this description, whilst others will scratch their heads and mumble, “Scary? What does this guy know about horses?” Truthfully not that much but I do have a history and history is where knowledge and experience develop.

Like many Scottish working class children in the the 60s and 70s my sole experience of horses was of a pony variety. Seeing them on the beach at Ayr or at a School fayre (not my own school I have to add) and horses on the TV. Horse racing, Folly foot farm, the Lone Ranger, the High Chapperal and Black Beauty. These four legged creatures were exotic and exciting and beyond my reach. I was a young reader and began to devour the westerns of Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour where the villians were obvious and heroes, brave, handsome and would leap aboard a horse with scarcely a thought. Who wouldn’t want as a child to be a cowboy or an indian brave on his trusted steed? The horse rider inside of me ached to leap aboard and gallop into the sunset like my heroes.

The opportunity, when it arose, came as a surprise. I lived in a post war prefabicated house, a prefab as it was always called. Living on a short road where there were only two cars. At the end of the road was a field and beyond this a coal bing and a brick work. I remember the field especially as I would often play there. I remember walking there with a puppy who liked to find old broken bricks from the brick work and carry them around in his mouth. He was unpredictable and prone to violence, I vaguely recall but my dad gave him away in the end as a guard dog to a man who owned a scrap yard. So I wandered the fields without him again.

One day I went to the field to cross over to the brick works. I liked to sneak into the cooling areas where the bricks had been fired and the air was hot and shimmered with the disappating heat. In these days of health and safety and security I am sure these things are unheard of, but then I seemed to wander at will. As long as I was home for meals, and bed noone seemed to mind much. That day when I climbed the fence I saw the horses grazing in the middle of the field. I walked towards them, wondering where they had appeared from, sure that they hadnt been there the previous day. A plan began to emerge in my mind about riding around in the field on the back of one of the horses but the lure of the hot bricks was too strong and a good plan takes time, right?

Days passed and I asked around about the horses. A boy I knew told me that someone had told his dad that the horses belonged to some gypsies who were keeping them there for a while. How long I asked, but no one seemed to know. So I would walk in the field handing the horses grass, which they cautiosly took from my hand, ready at any moment to bolt. A good plan takes time but how long did I have?

The day arrived quite by chance. I’m not sure what made that day any different but the plan was to feed a horse some grass, walk around to it’s side, put two hands on and somehow leap astride. I mean that’s how it’s done in the movies, right? As a plan it might have been flawed from the outset by a few things. At age 7 or 8 I wasn’t the same height as my film heroes, oh and the horse had no idea that the plan included him standing quite still whilst this little upstart tried to leap higher than his own height on to his back. Flawed from the outset! However, the plan swung into action quite smoothly, some grass was accepted with nose and neck pats, then round to the side, two hands stretched up and a few big hops. Failing that let’s grab some mane. Of course I had chosen the leader of the herd, who reacted by stepping aside and back a little to show he didn’t want to be jumped on.

Now any good plan should include a fall back position, what do you do if things go wrong? The fallback plan of try again wasn’t really a plan at all. But once made I followed the plan. Of course the horse had given me fair warning that he didn’t want to play at all so a renewed effort lead to a headbutt and a floored, would be rider. Perhaps that should have been the end of the lesson, but my teacher wanted it to be clear with no misundestanding. He reared majestically over me, perhaps his nostril flairing and eyes wide, or maybe this was an addition that I imagined later. He seemed huge to me as his hooves thundered towards my head. I could only close my eyes and wonder if the explosion I seemed to hear was my head being crushed by those hooves.

I heard shouts, screams, (from me I think) and a neighbour chased the horse away. He had reared again (another warning perhaps?) but the man had been watching events unfold from his window and tried to stop it. “Quick before he comes back”, he shouted in my ear and half lifting, half dragging took me from the field. The man was shaking, I was crying, it was awful.

It took me a long time to understand that the horse himself had been afraid. Afraid and perhaps angry with this creature who tried to dominate him. His reaction might seem excessive but I have no way of knowing what had happened to that horse before and whether my actions triggered a memory. I do know that had he wanted to his hooves would have damaged my skull beyond repair, so his intention was to frighten not to kill. Of course I didn’t know that at the time, I only knew fear. Shortly after the horses were gone from the field, to where I don’t know, but his actions changed me a lot. It was a strange Summer, my friend broke his collar bone when we were playing batman or superman games. The brickworks were declared out of bounds when an elderly man was found dead among the bricks. I remember talking to him and sometimes bringing him sandwiches or fruit. He told me that it was dangerous among the bricks but I thought I knew better. Soon after my grandfather died and we moved to the other end of the village. Houses were built on the field and my life changed in lots of ways.

Horses, big, scary horses. My dreams of riding one seemed to die that day in the field. I could still look at them, feed them from my hand as long as they were firmly on the other side of a high fence. I still thought, they were amazing, beautiful animals, but though I was through with horses, were they through with me?

of their own. Some people reading this will agree with all of this description, whilst others will scratch their heads and mumble, “Scary? What does this guy know about horses?” Truthfully not that much but I do have a history and history is where knowledge and experience develop.

Like many Scottish working class children in the the 60s and 70s my sole experience of horses was of a pony variety. Seeing them on the beach at Ayr or at a School fayre (not my own school I have to add) and horses on the TV. Horse racing, Folly foot farm, the Lone Ranger, the High Chapperal and Black Beauty. These four legged creatures were exotic and exciting and beyond my reach. I was a young reader and began to devour the westerns of Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour where the villians were obvious and heroes, brave, handsome and would leap aboard a horse with scarcely a thought. Who wouldn’t want as a child to be a cowboy or an indian brave on his trusted steed? The horse rider inside of me ached to leap aboard and gallop into the sunset like my heroes.

The opportunity, when it arose, came as a surprise. I lived in a post war prefabicated house, a prefab as it was always called. Living on a short road where there were only two cars. At the end of the road was a field and beyond this a coal bing and a brick work. I remember the field especially as I would often play there. I remember walking there with a puppy who liked to find old broken bricks from the brick work and carry them around in his mouth. He was unpredictable and prone to violence, I vaguely recall but my dad gave him away in the end as a guard dog to a man who owned a scrap yard. So I wandered the fields without him again.

One day I went to the field to cross over to the brick works. I liked to sneak into the cooling areas where the bricks had been fired and the air was hot and shimmered with the disappating heat. In these days of health and safety and security I am sure these things are unheard of, but then I seemed to wander at will. As long as I was home for meals, and bed noone seemed to mind much. That day when I climbed the fence I saw the horses grazing in the middle of the field. I walked towards them, wondering where they had appeared from, sure that they hadnt been there the previous day. A plan began to emerge in my mind about riding around in the field on the back of one of the horses but the lure of the hot bricks was too strong and a good plan takes time, right?

Days passed and I asked around about the horses. A boy I knew told me that someone had told his dad that the horses belonged to some gypsies who were keeping them there for a while. How long I asked, but no one seemed to know. So I would walk in the field handing the horses grass, which they cautiosly took from my hand, ready at any moment to bolt. A good plan takes time but how long did I have?

The day arrived quite by chance. I’m not sure what made that day any different but the plan was to feed a horse some grass, walk around to it’s side, put two hands on and somehow leap astride. I mean that’s how it’s done in the movies, right? As a plan it might have been flawed from the outset by a few things. At age 7 or 8 I wasn’t the same height as my film heroes, oh and the horse had no idea that the plan included him standing quite still whilst this little upstart tried to leap higher than his own height on to his back. Flawed from the outset! However, the plan swung into action quite smoothly, some grass was accepted with nose and neck pats, then round to the side, two hands stretched up and a few big hops. Failing that let’s grab some mane. Of course I had chosen the leader of the herd, who reacted by stepping aside and back a little to show he didn’t want to be jumped on.

Now any good plan should include a fall back position, what do you do if things go wrong? The fallback plan of try again wasn’t really a plan at all. But once made I followed the plan. Of course the horse had given me fair warning that he didn’t want to play at all so a renewed effort lead to a headbutt and a floored, would be rider. Perhaps that should have been the end of the lesson, but my teacher wanted it to be clear with no misundestanding. He reared majestically over me, perhaps his nostril flairing and eyes wide, or maybe this was an addition that I imagined later. He seemed huge to me as his hooves thundered towards my head. I could only close my eyes and wonder if the explosion I seemed to hear was my head being crushed by those hooves.

I heard shouts, screams, (from me I think) and a neighbour chased the horse away. He had reared again (another warning perhaps?) but the man had been watching events unfold from his window and tried to stop it. “Quick before he comes back”, he shouted in my ear and half lifting, half dragging took me from the field. The man was shaking, I was crying, it was awful.

It took me a long time to understand that the horse himself had been afraid. Afraid and perhaps angry with this creature who tried to dominate him. His reaction might seem excessive but I have no way of knowing what had happened to that horse before and whether my actions triggered a memory. I do know that had he wanted to his hooves would have damaged my skull beyond repair, so his intention was to frighten not to kill. Of course I didn’t know that at the time, I only knew fear. Shortly after the horses were gone from the field, to where I don’t know, but his actions changed me a lot. It was a strange Summer, my friend broke his collar bone when we were playing batman or superman games. The brickworks were declared out of bounds when an elderly man was found dead among the bricks. I remember talking to him and sometimes bringing him sandwiches or fruit. He told me that it was dangerous among the bricks but I thought I knew better. Soon after my grandfather died and we moved to the other end of the village. Houses were built on the field and my life changed in lots of ways.

Horses, big, scary horses. My dreams of riding one seemed to die that day in the field. I could still look at them, feed them from my hand as long as they were firmly on the other side of a high fence. I still thought, they were amazing, beautiful animals, but though I was through with horses, were they through with me?

Olympic Ring Ting

August 27, 2012

Posing at Dorney lakes.

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