Blogs

The Brothers’ Reunion

Ceremonial meeting of in-laws, Ugandan-style. Bart welcomes Valentina, eldest brother Patrick's wife
Ceremonial meeting of in-laws, Ugandan-style. Bart welcomes Valentina, eldest brother Patrick’s wife
All together for the first time since January 1984! Bart and Maddy, Ames ('Nyani'), Lindsay ('Mpumbafu'), Patrick ('Mzee Mbuzi') - the four brothers ('ndugus')
All together for the first time since January 1984!
Bart and Maddy, Ames (‘Nyani’), Lindsay (‘Mpumbafu’), Patrick (‘Mzee Mbuzi Mbenzi’) – the four brothers (‘ndugus’)
Maddy takes a break from the boring catch-up on the Ipad
Maddy takes a break from the boring catch-up on the Ipad
Valentina listens raptly as Patrick and cousin Anthony discuss the future of Afghanistan
Valentina listens raptly as Patrick and cousin Anthony discuss the future of Afghanistan
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Anna and Lindsay’s wife Jenny compare their experiences of being married to a Moore-Gilbert
And Valentina adds her complaints
And Valentina suggests resignation is the best way forward
'Mummy, when are they going  to stop talking about  naval policy in Afghanistan?'
‘Mummy, when are they going to stop talking about naval policy in Afghanistan?’

 

 

The reunion takes it toll on Ames
Patrick’s lecture on the history of the Kenyan Lamu Port Authority and its implications for future western naval policy in Afghanistan takes its toll on Ames
And Lindsay!
And Lindsay!
And the gracious host!
And the gracious host!
But a few beers help the recovery process
Still shattered, we take to the beer
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That’s better! Dressed for a London summer 🙂

 

But we soon recover, in time to advertise Lindsay's son's business in Australia
Recovered enough the following days to advertise Lindsay’s son’s business in Australia
The farewell to Ames breakfast in Social Pantry prior to his departure home to California
The transformative effect of the brothers’ reunion on all concerned can be guaged at the farewell to Ames breakfast in Social Pantry prior to his departure home to California

Maddy’s birthday and party

Maddy inspects some of her presents
Maddy inspects some of her presents
Future rock star tries out her  first guitar
Future rock star tries out her first guitar
Uncle Ames helps construct the new wooden kitchen
Uncle Ames helps construct the new wooden kitchen
The birthday cake. Inevitably featuring Elsa from 'Frozen.' Expertly created by Grandma
The birthday cake. Inevitably featuring Elsa from ‘Frozen.’ Expertly created by Grandma
Party girl face-painted as the Sun
Party girl face-painted as the Sun
Maddy insists I have to be Kaa from 'The Jungle Books'!
Maddy insists I have to be Kaa from ‘The Jungle Books’!
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Maddy gets organising
With Grandma Caroline and Anna's help, Maddy prepares to cut the cake
With Grandma Caroline and Anna’s help, Maddy prepares to cut the cake
Maddy's aunt Gemma and partner Georgia contemplate what it is  to be Datch-Snatchers
Maddy’s aunt Gemma and partner Georgia contemplate what it is to be Datch-Snatchers
Maddy with further 'Frozen' booty
Maddy with further ‘Frozen’ booty
The feast
The feast
It's been a long  party. Up which nostril has Kaa disappeared to rest?
It’s been a long hard party. Up which nostril is Kaa disappearing to rest?

Bits and pieces

Dear all,

my good friend Jim Lander has reminded me  of the joyful news that the Director of Public Prosecution’s shameful attempt to prevent the victims of ‘Lord’ Janner’s alleged child abuse having their day in court has been overturned. Both her own chief legal advisor (whose advice the DPP ignored) and the independent adjudicator agree that a) there is ample evidence to charge Janner and b) that it is, indeed, in the public interest that the allegations be investigated in court, whether or not he has dementia.

I am sure that the efforts of many following this blog have played some small part in achieving this outcome. Well done us! Now we just have to get rid of this awful DPP, Alison Saunders, who has done so much to bring her office into such disrepute and public contempt 🙂 The Janner fiasco is simply the latest one she’s been responsible for…

One or two people have also asked about the result of the PEN prize. I din’t win 😦 There is  some consolation in the fact that that each of the four judges heavily backed a different book on the four-book shortlist. Thereafter, the result was achieved by aggregating second and third choices. Henry Marsh’s memoir of his career as a brain surgeon, Do No Harm came out on top. From the serialised extracts I  have read, there’s no shame in losing out to him!

Day one on the ‘biological therapies’ seems to have passed off without any noticeable downside, thought the side-effects apparently tend to become more apparent towards the end of the four-week cycle.

Hope to post the photographic blog later today

xx

 

Latest medical news

Dear all,

there’s some good news to report  from yesterday’s crucial meeting with the oncologist. There has been no spread or growth of existing lesions in the lungs between the scan of April 02 and that of of 26 June. Yippee!

Today I start a trial 4-week course of a daily dose of Sunitinib (Sutent) which is designed to prevent cancer cells dividing and therefore reproducing. It can even shrink existing tumours. However it doesn’t work with everyone and some people cannot tolerate the side-effects. Assuming I can tolerate them, we will know if the medicine is  working at the next 3-month scan.

I’m impressed by both the oncologists that I am working with at Chelsea and Westminster. The lead one works closely with world-renowned colleagues at the Royal Marsden, including Professors Larkin and Gore. Her deputy is just about to be made a consultant after  completing his PhD on renal carcinoma treatments at Cambridge. So he’s fully up-to-date. Fingers crossed!

In the meantime, I am returning to some of the alternative medicine thingsI was trying, notably a modified version of the alkali diet which I suspended after the operation in order to get as much protein down as I could. Having discovered that a daily teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda alakalises the body effectively (think Eno’s liver salts as an ant-acid – pretty much the same compound), I can continue to eat chicken and eggs to my heart’s content. I think I am at last beginning to regain a little weight.

It’s now exactly 7 weeks since the operation. The wounds have healed well though I still have some stomach discomfort and can’t really lift or twist. The biggest downside remains tiredness. I’m informed that I lost 70% of my normal strength and energy as a consequence of the operation and can only expect  to regain 5% a month until I achieve a 90% recovery of former strength and energy levels by next May. So it’s going to be a long slow process; but with patience and all the support I’m getting, I’ll get there.

One of the down-sides of this loss of energy is that I can’t do the blog to the level I’d like to. Besides the last few weeks have been intensely social (as well as exhausting) owing primarily to the presence  of various brothers who have provided a great boost to morale. I’ve focused on spending my energy on seeing them and have had little to spare for other activities. When I’ve tried to write a new post, I quickly feel overwhelmed by the effort.

However, I intend to post a photographic record of the main events of the last few weeks very soon

Until then, I send you lots of xx

Further Brief Update

Dear all, I am in the middle of preparing a fairly meaty post about recent developments, particularly in the fun department. However, owing to current low energy (the result, I think, of too much of the said fun), I’m not sure when this will be ready. Later this week, I hope. So, for the moment, a  brief update on this morning’s meeting with the oncologist. For reasons which will be explained in the longer post, when it goes up, the oncologist was reassuring and fairly optimistic, within the usual constraints. I will be having further scans later this week to determine whether the spots on the lungs have grown since April 02. At a meeting next Monday 29th (the day of the prize ceremony I am supposed to be attending), we will discuss these scans and which, if any, of the ‘biological therapies’ I will be given to start things off. The oncologist appears to think I am recovering very well from the op and that my intrinsic state  of health is good. Hence much depends a) on what is disclosed by this week’s upcoming scans and b) how I respond to the ‘bts’ – which will not become clear for 3 months or so after I begin them. It’s possible they will not work on me; on the other hand, they might even shrink the lesions; or somewhere in-between ie stabilise the cancer at its present size for some time at least. So much depends on the individual case. Lots of xx Bart

June 15 Update

Dear all, as promised, here is a quick update. Quick, because there isn’t a huge deal to update.

Anna and I went to see Mr Khoubehi this afternoon. He was pleased by how quickly and well his cutting is healing, pronounced what he accomplished inside as a success and reassured me that on-going tiredness, itchy stomach etc is all par for the course this soon after major open surgery.

On the other hand, histology of the dratted kidney confirms that I have Grade 4 Cancer, the most aggressive kind (this is relative, however, because Grade 4 kc is not as aggressive as G4 lung cancer would be.) Given we knew of its migration to the lymph glands and each lung, this wasn’t a great surprise, though of course one hopes for something lesser.

So there is little to add until next Monday 22nd when we have the first meeting with the oncologist. We should then have a clearer idea of when the next, all-important, CT scan is going to be (it’s apparently too soon after the operation to do one for the moment.) In turn, we should also have a better idea of if and when the ‘biological therapies’ will commence. My sense is there won’t be any very concrete news for a few weeks more since it is apparently unlikely that I’ll start ‘biots’ unless and until it’s been established that the lungs lesions have grown etc.

Morale continues good and I am getting to spend lots of time with family and friends. People comment that I look well, even tanned – the result, no doubt, of exposing the scars to the 2 hours uv radiation we have had since June 01. Brother Ames and I had a lovely 4-day break in Broadstairs, courtesy of Pia, who lent us her cottage. Ames took the opportunity to pen further scurrilous tales of his sibling’s quirks and eccentricities. Fortunately I control what goes on this blog. There is a fab Grayson Perry show on at the Turner Gallery in Margate, well worth a day-trip down from London if you like his stuff or are interested in ‘Englishness’ – a moot subject in UKIP-land! I also sat in the very shelter where Eliot composed the first lines of what became the ‘Fire Sermon’ section of The Waste Land (On Margate Sands / I can connect / Nothing with Nothing.’ A perfect riposte to King Lear’s claim that: ‘Nothing will come of Nothing.’ (not sure if I’ve rendered the caps correctly, but this isn’t going to be marked).

Broadstairs swell: lashed to the mast :-)
Broadstairs swell: lashed to the mast 🙂

It’s just great to be catching up with friends again. One or two at a time is all I can manage for the moment, but I’d love to see one and all if you can give me a little notice of when / if you want to come. I can happily manage lunch / tea out round Clapham Junction; and tomorrow will be having my first evening out in more than 5 weeks at a preview at Shoreditch Town Hall which I am really looking forward to.

Finally some good news, too, about my memoir. It’s been short-listed for the PEN prize for autobiography / memoir. See, if interested,

http://www.englishpen.org/events/prizes/penackerley-prize/

That’s all for now, folks. Next Monday I hope to report not only on the next medical meeting, but Maddy’s birthday party this coming Saturday. She is very excited about becoming the same age as her daddy – four (see earlier post!). And she has begun to show an amazing capacity for tact. When Anna asked her recently if she (Anna) was getting bigger because of Luke, Maddy responded: ‘Don’t worry, Mummy, your head is the same size as before.’ 🙂

xx Bart

Ames in typical day-time pose, thinking up further scurrilous tales
Ames in typical day-time mode, exhausted by composition of further scurrilous tales

Of Brotherly Banter: Or, An unexpected extra

Dear all,

as many of you will know, my brother Ames has been here since May 21, allegedly ‘looking after me’ (he has so far, nearly 3 weeks on, made 4 cups of tea, two helpings of mashed potato and drilled a couple of holes) 🙂 Despite his ‘care,’ I am making steady, if painfully slow, progress. I am beginning to understand that the surgeon was not exaggerating when he informed me that I ‘should’ get back 90% of my strength within a year (!!) Morale remains good and I am really enjoying seeing people again, so if you fancy a visit please let me know. June is quite busy but the month of July is pretty free.

To while away his long hours of paid holiday, and ever-emulous of his younger brother’s talents, Ames has decided to turn his hand to ‘creative writing’ of a humorous kind.  I have to say that his first effort below made me laugh out loud – and not always just at him. It is good to have someone taking the piss from time to time, especially now that it is no longer excruciating to laugh.

A brief warning: the following story, based on a true incident during the Bournemouth honeymoon, may not appeal to those who don’t like the scatological (toilet) humour sometimes characteristic of those imprisoned for a term in British public schools. It is for this reason that I didn’t write about the incident in the blog. But since Ames is clearly desperately seeking an audience, I’ve agree to post his first effort. Hope you enjoy it

xx Bart

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The Turd that Turned, and other stories: by Ames Gilbert

 

Foreword and Introduction

One recent bright and sunshiny afternoon, so rare but so welcome and appreciated in Britain, a friend of Bart’s called Melanie, temporarily overcome by her better nature, came to visit him and encourage his recovery. During the banter that inevitably followed the initial greetings and how-are-you?s, some amusing tales were exchanged. Ames commented that they deserved to be written down, and maybe even compiled into a book. Anyway, here is one of them, told with admirable attention to the strict truth and a sensitivity to the audience notably lacking in the original. I should add that Bart was surprisingly reticent concerning the details of the aftermath of his coup, so I have taken the liberty of extrapolating from what is historically known; alert readers who know much of Bart will agree that this is a highly probable conclusion to how those events would probably have transpired, and will attest to their likelihood. But I digress. The watchword henceforth must be, “On, on, on!”

 

Bart was honeymooning with his new bride Anna in Bournemouth, and, being acutely and preternaturally aware of how much of his vast wealth was needlessly trickling through his fingers at his (to him, surprisingly) marvelous and luxurious hotel, decided to turn an amusing accident that occurred there to his advantage.

 

The scenario: he had been consuming large quantities of a vile-tasting wheatgrass concoction on the advice of a supposed friend, purportedly to build up his strength before his operation, and the resulting output was precisely what an intelligent observer might have predicted from just a brief survey and educated analysis of the input. Though it is troubling to relate such a tale involving a close relative, and one who is as sensitive to his social standing as I naturally shies away from acknowledging the connection, it is my duty to make clear that Bart insisted on telling every detail to his reluctant audience, exactly as follows. Despite cries of anguish from his audience (mostly along the lines of, “too much information!”—though there was a strong representation in a minor key objecting on grounds of general lack of taste), he overruled us in his usual imperious fashion (those who know him will understand all too well what I mean by that!) and insisted on minutely describing every detail, regardless of his listeners’ constitution, age, or sex. And I should warn gentle readers that the following tale does require one to be in good physical and mental condition; you should steel yourself, and if you have any doubts, or have not taken your full course of vitamins today, you should refrain—by all means, set this missive aside, and wait until you are stronger. And certainly this story is hardly suitable for young children or those of a timid or frail disposition.

Anyway, it transpired that, after a lifetime of indulgence and habitual over–stuffing, his digestive system rebelled against this latest insult, and, after each dose of wheatgrass, showed its disdain by producing a series of gassy, frothy turds with what trained scientists term, a very low specific density. That is, they floated on, and to hear him tell it (with the relish to we have become accustomed but not yet inured), almost hovered above the water in the toilet bowl. According to Bart—and who could blame anyone who knows him if they were to suspect him of some exaggeration—after numerous flushes accompanied by stern lectures and vigorous encouragement, he managed to be rid of most of them. However, and now we come to the crux, after each episode, a small, particularly lightweight specimen would somehow separate itself from its fellows, hold back, and then emerge from around the bend, float upwards, and bob there quietly on the surface.

 

I would not be in the least surprised if Bart surmised that these turds were psychologically torn between hoping not to be noticed on the one hand, and on the other, hoping to be admired for their adroitness, stealth and foamy qualities. Assuredly, having a lifetime affinity for turds and known for his intense admiration of their almost infinite variety, he would have had great empathy for their dilemma. My point is, these lone turds would have remained un-noticed by most folk. However Bart, as all who have ever met him will avow, has a genetic anomaly that presents itself as a uncontrollable predisposition to explore, both physically and mentally, areas that are of interest only to average children between one and three years old. I am forced to borrow from the pop-psychology that is all the current rage, and state in the strongest terms that I have always suspected that he never actually outgrew that stage; hence the unfortunate result of not graduating and moving on like normal children to, say, the more mature interest in the curious mating rituals of Peruvian Banana slugs, means that to this day he is almost pathologically interested in the nature, function and production of turds, snot (of any form and consistency), vomit (especially projectile), and almost any other mammalian body secretions, whether solid, liquid or gaseous (those same highly–trained scientists in this case use a very specialized and erudite term, ‘yuck’)—the more disgusting and loathsome, the better.

 

So, both malevolent fate and his lower nature decreed that he would, against all odds, in fact be present to observe the return of the first of these talented but unusually shy turds; gazing into the toilet bowl for several minutes after his efforts had borne fruit (so to speak), as was his usual custom, his interest was, shall we say, titillated and engaged, and he took due note.

When the same sequence of events repeated itself on his next visit to the bog, and then again and yet again, specialized neurons in his fertile brain cogitated for a while, gears meshed, and then there suddenly flashed up a solution to his financial worries. He could both do his notoriously abstemious wallet a favour, and perhaps at the same time hopefully both impress and entertain Anna (with her sweet and trusting nature, pliable and rendered impressionable until this moment by the romance of the circumstances and surroundings), by playing a neat trick. Accordingly, in the deepest and darkest chasms and recesses of his mind, at the very rotting, pustulous and coruscating core where nameless forces and hideous djinns no doubt dwell, he fomented his plans and laid his dastardly plot.

 

This is how he acted to accomplish those nefarious aims. He waited until a very nice but naïve Eastern European clerk, new to her job and with perhaps an incomplete command of English, was on duty at the front desk and started ragging her. He described at her in excruciating detail how the toilet failed to flush properly, catalogued the sordid results in tones of woe, and loudly demanded immediate satisfaction. But this was not all, dear reader, the worst was yet to come. Though it be against your nature: picture him sullying the pure image of his new bride of just a few days before strangers by misusing Anna’s name, claiming that she was in a sharp decline due to the shock of encountering the turds so unexpectedly, and spent her nights in fear! O unworthy brother, deficient not only in morality but even in common decency, a shameless distorter of the truth! To drag the fair name of a young bride through this mire of delinquency, to associate her forever in the minds of others with this noxious scheme! Dear reader, is this not indeed outside the Pale?

Then, if you can, bring yourself to imagine the consternation that a probably highly–strung and well brought up Czech, Slovakian, Romanian or even Bulgarian girl would experience in this situation! So now the clerk, naturally rendered anxious both by training and her own innocent desire to somehow—anyhow!—placate this strangest of customers, most probably deeply unsure about the weird customs and rituals of the barbarian English, and desperate to avoid more lurid details about Bart’s misadventures with the hotel plumbing, offered to exchange his rooms, and not only that, upgrade to the superlative luxury suite—I imagine usually reserved for visiting minor members of European royalty, poor relations of maharajas, trainers of seals, and wholesalers of Italian olives.

 

Cleaving strictly to the essence of his plan, rejecting any impulses of decency or mercy, Bart proudly relates how he disdainfully refused this magnificent offer with brusque words and concurrent passionate waving of hands, making his refusal to meet these very generous terms clear beyond any possible misunderstanding. Finally, after reducing the no doubt terrified clerk to near tears, he demanded a fifty percent discount (the greedy dog!) of the rate of his present room. Dear and gentle reader, note the absolutely amoral quality of his deceit, the ignoble depravity of his demands! Observe how he counted on the fact that the receptionist would be too distraught and overcome at this stage to point out the obvious discrepancy and logical fallacy so presented; to wit, that he had been complaining about the inadequacy of the hotel plumbing, and this supposed solution he proposed would do absolutely nothing to reduce or eliminate the problem of recalcitrant turds, regardless of whether or not they were seeking fame and fortune. No, he counted on haranguing and harassing the unfortunate woman into agreeing to his proposal by applying intolerable mental pressures, accompanied with wild gesture and protruding eye. Who could withstand this simulacrum of insanity, played to minute perfection and so completely believable?

And so evil came to Bournemouth, and thus this most unfortunate of incidents came to an unconscionable but inevitable conclusion.

 

Although I have no definite proof, it is easy to posit that so relieved would Bart have been to save these few quid that he would almost certainly have spontaneously burst into song and run around the lobby, carelessly knocking over random chairs long settled by old ladies, together with assorted tea tables and the Victorian knick-knacks so essential from time immemorial to the smooth functioning of seaside hotels from Great Yarmouth to Bognor Regis, deep in the ecstasy that only a confirmed miser who has devoted a lifetime to saving his or her pennies can truly understand and appreciate. And I bet that anyone who knows him as I do would readily agree. In fact, probably so alarmed would have been both the receptionist and manager (who would undoubtedly by this time have arrived to investigate the unseemly fracas) at this new and unexpected turn of events that only a kindly and timely intervention by Anna could have persuaded them to desist from calling the specialists from Colney Hatch to come and remove what would have been promising to be at the very least an important and lucrative long–term client, and quite possibly a permanent addition to their nationally renowned collection.

 

And, frankly, I suspect that were that so, it would have taken quite a largish sum of money, and far more than Bart had ‘saved’, to persuade the manager not to call the authorities and collect his cut. Though Bart would probably stoutly claim otherwise, I nevertheless stand by my conjecture, based as it is on a lifetime of personal and often sad and disappointing experience with the protagonist in this drama. One only has to observe his jerky movements, rapid breath, and rolling eye as he so thoroughly enjoys the telling this sordid tale to all within hearing distance, to admit the possibility that perhaps the mental strain of acquiring two PhDs (three more than strictly necessary) has left him, shall we say, a trifle unbalanced, rendering him somewhat dangerous to himself and others.

 

Afterword

Gentle readers, you will notice from the style of writing heretofore presented that I have departed from those usual strict standards of clarity and brevity that were instilled into my very psyche by my learned and experienced teachers as they tried to instill in me the an appreciation for the pure and refined essentials of the precious language we share in common. “Short, declarative sentences” was their battle cry, and it sums up the very essence of what they went through frightful efforts to impart, and I to absorb and actualize throughout my writing career. Though I fear I have departed far, very far, from this noble tradition in this work, I do however have a ready explanation. This digression, exploring as I do the most remote and arcane reaches of the language, and employing an almost–Victorian superabundance of words, sentences sometimes a lengthy paragraph in extent, suffused with florid descriptions of every hue, using ten or twenty words where one would suffice—this work, dear reader, is in fact a marked tribute to my brother Bart’s prose.

 

Allow me to explain.

I have carefully studied the various tomes he has produced and thrust upon an unsuspecting world through lo! these many years, and, using a technique known only to a few, have often fallen asleep while reading those works. Hence, as I have slipped peacefully on those occasions from consciousness to the realms of Lethe, his words and more importantly, the style of those more than abundant words, have accompanied me on my journeys. Dear reader, I know you are astute (or you would not have read so far), I know you have a manifest breadth of vision (ditto), I know you are educated and well–read (ditto), experienced in the ways of the world (ditto), and so I know intuitively that you have come to an appreciation of what the sub-conscious does; Freud himself informs us that the ensuing dreams we remember reflect and memorialize the work done by the sub-conscious to bring meaning to the events of one’s daily life, to re-order those events and accumulated adventures of the day, to catalogue and process them, to fit and integrate them into one’s total experience.

 

And so it is with the works of my brother Bartholomew. His writing style has impinged itself into my unconscious, and is holographically therein stored, exquisitely adapted and individualized so as to be ready to be applied to my own writing, whenever fancy, impulse, whim, circumstances or external directive require—as in the present case. The end result of all this is, I can now by an act of pure will direct myself at any time to be more or (rarely) less obtuse, to bring obscurity to the plainest facts, to obfuscate where the call is for clarity, to darken that which was lit, hide what was formerly plain, quench any desire for informed instruction or learning, in short to write as if I also had a PhD—or two, or had entered (heaven forefend!) the sphere of politics. Now, no matter what the subject, I can choose to befuddle audiences, apply discrete and impermeable layers of ignorance, misapprehension, or confusion to any writing. And above all, I have gained the inestimable ability to misuse and abuse long words for the sake of it, just because I can. O Bartholomew, behold your literary as well as literal brother! What majestic, overweening and pompous power I have gained!

And so, dear reader, I invite you to judge the results for yourself. If my telling of this tale has brought you pleasure and understanding, share your enlightenment and joy with all you know—they doubtless will be eternally grateful; if not, kindly hold your peace, for surely you are mistaken and will inevitably come to realize your error in the fullness of time.