Thanks again for all the messages. I know many of you are keen to visit Bart. I think it’s unlikely that he’s going to want any visitors while he is in hospital, assuming he is back home this weekend or shortly after, as hoped. Currently every day seems to be bringing new challenges – so the epidural came out today and this has led to yet more pain. While the new ward Bart has been moved to is quite strict about moving around as much as possible, currently he often just wants to sleep. But he has managed to get into a chair a couple of times today, and I am sure a jog round Clapham Common isn’t so far away…
I will let you know when Bart is ready for visitors. In the meantime, thank you for making him feel so well supported by all his friends.
Bart is doing loads better today. In some ways the pain is worse because he’s much less drugged up than yesterday, but he is in good spirits and the (amazing) nursing staff tell me he’s made really good progress. He should be transferred from the high dependency unit to a normal ward very soon. Sitting up in a chair is next on the agenda, then walking, then home…
Bart wanted me to let you know that he had his operation today and he is ok. He had a really difficult day as he was in theatre for four and a half hours – much longer than projected – because they had to do a much larger incision than planned. I have yet to speak to a doctor to find out why this was. But the epidural didn’t cover this extra area and it’s left Bart in lots of pain. This didn’t stop him from joking in the various native languages of the NHS staff caring for him, as he drifted in and out of consciousness in the recovery room. And when I left him this evening the pain seemed to be under control and he was able to sleep. I think it will be at least a day or two before he’s able to sit up and entertain visitors, but I’ll keep you posted.
Thanks so much for all your good wishes and support.
Well, here I am twiddling my thumbs, trying to think of ways to pass the time before I go to bed in half an hour, so I don’t think too much about tomorrow.
Further to my previous about politics, a couple of thoughts have since occurred
a) by 2017 there should be a further significant factor tearing the Tories apart. If Cameron is to be believed (and who can forget his promises to abolish the debt by 2015 and bring down immigration to the tens of thousands by the same date – ‘no ifs, no buts’ – why on earth didn’t Labour make more of these lies during the campaign?) he will not seek a third term. That means that by 2017, the jockeying to succeed him should have begun. I see two factions emerging which can be mapped onto the evident chasms within the party which I described in the previous post. So we could have Michael Gove (please let it be Mr Toxic) as leader of the swivel-eyed ones, the hard right which will make no real concessions on Europe or Scotland) versus Big Fat Boris (yes, let’s make an issue of how he looks, just as the Tory press did so effectively with Ed), our jolly ‘liberal Tory’ chump, who will lead the Big Business faction and those desperate to keep their jobs at any price, even if it means staying in Europe.
b) If there is indeed a catastrophe for the Tories around 2017, then this allows for the possibility of a new government comprised of a progressive alliance between the rest of the (minority) parties which might take as its premise (if we all agitate enough) the need for fundamental reform of our rotten political system by moving to proper PR. Can’t see the LDs, Greens or UKIP objecting, can you? In that scenario, could Labour, knowing it will probably never have a majority again, once more ally itself with the Tories to defeat PR? Or will it seek to preserve its core vote from further depredations?
Gotta love you and leave you now. But don’t go away thinking I’m rabidly anti-Tory (I have quite a number of Tory-voting friends and I admire Thatcher much more than ‘Teflon Tony’ BLIAR – at least she had principles, even if I disagreed with them). I salute the Tory achievement last week (Labour were so inept strategically that they certainly didn’t deserve to win) and hope they enjoy it while it lasts…
Ok, I’ve broken my ‘fast’ twice on the same day. Soz. I will return to my Trappist ways on the subject for while 🙂
And so to bed. Next time I post, I’ll be on the mend – yay! 🙂
We went to Bournemouth and had a wonderful time. Totally different to what I’d been led to believe. Strongly recommended…
So that’s it folks – a selection from the hundreds of photos taken Friday-Sunday by well-wishers, our photographer Paul and ourselves. In due course I will try to put more of them up on a sharing platform like Picasia, so you can see the full Monty. For now, I’ll leave you with this last one. Soon I hope to look like this more consistently again – but less scrawny… keep your fingers crossed for me tomorrow and I hope to be back to annoy and provoke (and, of course, engage and charm 🙂 via the blog before too long. Lots of love to you all and THANKS AGAIN FOR THE OVERWHELMING LOVE AND SUPPORT WHICH SO MANY, MANY OF YOU’VE GIVEN ME.
not sure if I will have time to do a proper narrative about the wedding and honeymoon but here follow 3 posts mainly filled with pictures and brief self-explanatory captions / descriptions. All I can say is that the three days were perfect (genuinely) and the best preparation / distraction possible for tomorrow. With all your help, support and love, I am going to knock this thing on the head!!
For those who’ve come to the blog late, a little reminder. Owing to the urgency of the situation, Anna and I got married on the second day it was legally possible to do so. We decided on the shortest form of ceremony possible, with the fewest people possible in attendance, simply to save time and energy. We then decided to include Anna’s family in the wedding brunch, as well as the photographer, our friend Paul (who was at school with me in Tanzania in 1963!)
Once this nonsense is sorted out, we will be having a big reception / party for ALL our friends, perhaps in the early autumn, so please don’t feel hurt if you weren’t invited. We had to keep everything very small scale to sort it in the very limited time-scale avaialble.
So here I am with less than 24 hours to go before I get sliced open 🙂 On the train back from honeymoon yesterday, I had a real stab of fear about tomorrow, but it passed quickly. And I had an excellent night’s sleep – no kidney pain and no sweats – as if the bugger realises that there’s little point now in continuing to plague me, because it will soon be in the post-histology human waste-bin. I’m going to spend part of today catching you up with events of the last three days (not least to prevent my mind drifting too much onto unwelcome subjects); but first a few reflections on last week’s Tory triumph.
I am gutted that my pre-election-results post of last Thursday afternoon got mangled up and lost in the WordPress entrails. It was an (ahem!) trenchant critique of the failures of Labour’s election strategy and the reasons why the party was facing failure (though, like everyone else, I didn’t anticipate the scale of the humiliation.) As I said in that ‘lost post’, despite my vow to back off politics until I’m better, just as I can deviate occasionally from my alkali diet, so I think I’m allowed to break my politics fast from time to time, especially on such a momentous occasion.
I start this commentary on the election result in the mood of apparent despair and disgust at the British political scene which Shelley articulated in his great political poem / song, ‘Men of England.’ (If you don’t know it, check it out at http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/183987)
Tempting though it might be for those of us who are left of centre to accept the apparent logic of Shelley’s argument, we can’t, however, give up. But we have to start by being realistic. None of us should under-estimate the scale of Thursday’s disaster. Indeed, I think that, other things being equal, the Labour project is definitively finished. In 1981, the labour historian Eric Hobsbawm wrote his prescient The Forward March of Labour Halted?, and his thesis was immediately vindicated by the crushing defeat of Michael Foot’s Labour in the 1983 election (with which Miliband’s has many parallels), leading to the eventual emergence of ‘New Labour’ (or Tory-lite.) Why do I think this?
Scotland will be SNP for at least a generation, if it stays in the Union that long. The easy harvest of Scottish MPs is over for Labour (deservedly so – it’s served Scotland very poorly over the decades)
Even if it does remain, the only way that Labour can regain ground in Scotland is by becoming more like the SNP (anti-austerity etc) This is precisely the strategy which will make it impossible to regain ground in England. You can’t have the same party pursuing different strategies in different parts of the same country.
If Scotland leaves, the already huge ‘natural’ Tory majority in England will be enhanced by the proposed boundary changes shelved while the Lib Dems were in the Coalition. This will give the Tories an extra 20 seats, and their opponents 20 fewer, making the chasm between Tory and Labour even greater than it already is
There is no longer any thing remotely resembling an industrial working-class (the catalyst and necessary precondition of the Labour movement) in the UK. What now exists is a 90% demographic which considers itself, rightly or wrongly, as middle-class (especially in aspiration) and an under-class (the main UKIP constituency) which has no real political traction under the present system (see below) and is in any case more right-wing in many respects than the Tories
Labour has seriously alienated formerly loyal left-of-centrists like myself by remodeling itself as Tory-lite, a process which began under Tony BLIAR. The grandees of the thoroughly discredited ‘New Labour’ project (Iraq War, widening inequality, less social mobility, the cripplingly expensive PFI strategy, kow-towing to Big Business and Big Lobbies) apparently believe that success will return once Miliband-era Labour returns to its ‘roots’ in ‘New Labour’ (a proposition which seems to me thoroughly deluded, as the 2010 election surely demonstrated). If they go down that track, they certainly won’t be taking me along with them. Miliband has been accused of being too Left, hence the failure of last week. Too Left? Really? He endorsed the £30 billion Tory ‘war on the poor’ cuts which are about to be unleashed, he wanted to keep Trident, etc etc.
However, there is no reason for those of us who are left of centre to despair. Other things are not equal (and will certainly be less so under the Tories). Indeed, I strongly believe that the Tories will seriously fu** up – and very quickly – because
If austerity continues, Scotland will break away. Who wants to be remembered as the Tory Prime Minister who broke up the United Kingdom? But Cameron is caught between the rock of his swivel-eyed back-benchers who are little England nationalists and the hard place of an SNP which clearly has an overwhelming mandate not to submit to Tory ideology. His back-benchers will never forgive DC if he makes too many concessions to the SNP, particularly if England seems to lose out by comparison; and if he doesn’t offer enough, bye-bye Scotland!
Europe. This is where we can really rub our hands in gleeful anticipation, particularly those of us who remember how the Major government tore itself apart over the issue, leading to 13 years of non-Tory – or Tory-lite –rule. Cameron has got himself stuck in an even harder place than Major by promising a referendum. His swivel-eyed anti-Europe back-benchers (80-100 strong) will only support DC if he campaigns openly for Brexit. They may be counting on the fact that Europe will probably make only limited concessions to keep Britain in (otherwise every other country in the EU will start demanding similar concessions.) Britain may be terribly important to Europe (ahem), but there are 27 other members who will have to agree to said concessions, and one veto from one country (Latvia? Cyprus?) will be enough to stymie them.
However, DC will also find himself caught between the hugely influential pro-Europe business lobbies (who fund his party) and the anti-Europe lobbies (who also fund his party) – and will have to choose between them – which will cause immense bitterness and a desire for revenge on the part of the jilted party. An equally agonising choice will have to be made between the varied non-UK-based media barons who swept DC to power, with a similarly painful outcome likely. On the one hand you have the rabidly anti-Europe Murdoch press which will never forgive DC if he doesn’t do all he can to create a situation (Brexit) which allows Murdoch to extend his already far too extensive control of UK media outlets (which European anti-monopoly law has thus far prevented him from doing) and turn the UK into the politically eunuch-like and forelock-tugging entity which once-rebellious and radical Australia has become.
On the other hand, he will have to battle with the tax-haven-domiciled Barclay brothers who run the Telegraph stable, which is pro-business first and foremost (remember how they wouldn’t report the most recent HSBC scandal, leading to the resignation of their star journalist, Peter Oborne) and will therefore be desperate, whatever they say now, for the UK not to leave Europe.
So, I can’t wait for autumn 2017, which is when the Brexit referendum will be due (according to present plans, but don’t count on it not being brought forward to try to limit the political fall-out) and the Tories will be in the trough of mid-cycle unpopularity, not least because of their on-going austerity measures which everyone will be totally fed up with by then. Catastrophe beckons for the Tories, which ever way the referendum goes – not to mention what happens with Scotland…
We who oppose the Tories must learn from their brilliant election strategist Lynton Crosbie (give the devil its due) and adopt his key tactic right away: this is to drive a wedge between the different factions of which your opponents are composed and set them at each others’ throats. Just as LC got the SNP and Labour quarrelling viciously in the run-up to this election (shame on Miliband for falling into the trap), let’s all get the pro- and anti-European Tories at each others’ throats, by constantly asking the most ‘innocently’ awkward questions, whenever we can…
That said, there’s no disguising what an appallingly dysfunctional ‘democracy’ Britain is. How can it be possible that 4 million people vote for UKIP (whatever you think of them) and they get only 1 seat, whereas, 1.5 million people vote SNP and they get 56?? It’s plain ludicrous. I voted Lib Dem (there, you see how honest I am) in 2005 and 2010 because they were the only party which promised electoral reform (and that was the only reason I voted for them, hence my reluctant return to Labour last week). Once in coalition the LDs did, indeed, attempt to push through the most diluted form of Proportional Representation in the form of AV (at least it was a step in the right direction) but were stitched up and defeated by both the Tories and Labour combining together.
As this stitch-up suggests, any party which gets into power through the ‘first past the post’ system by definition has a vested interest in keeping it. The only way to get a proper democracy in which everyone can really feel their participation might count for something, and which will therefore properly engage them, is to have PR. How to achieve that seems to me a far harder problem to resolve than helping to engineer a Tory self-destruct by 2017. Don’t mistake me: I think Tory-lite will almost always a better alternative than Tory-heavy. But we need a new dawn, in which you don’t ever have to feel you have to vote for a party you don’t like simply because you like another one even less…
I began with Shelley. Despite the apparent despair of his poem, it is, of course, an attempt to shame and galvanise his public into action. Think of what has been achieved since his time by radical thinking such as his – the elements of democracy, religious emancipation, education for all, rights for children, votes for women, the welfare state and hundreds of other progressive measures – all opposed by the Tories, the party of the rich, the powerful and vested interests first and foremost, whose media allies fool most of the people most of the time that it’s otherwise. In our millions, our individually tiny efforts can combine to bring about the next stage of the revolution which is needed in British political life. Let’s respond to the challenge not with despair but in the spirit of Shelleys’ incomparable call to arms in ‘The Masque of Anarchy.’ (see http://www.artofeurope.com/shelley/she5.htm)
Gotcha! Just when you thought it was safe to check out for a few days! I’ve washed my hair (and dried it upside down), I’ve checked my wardrobe, got everything together I need, made a few notes for my thank you speech at the wedding brunch, had my dinner. And here I am, getting nervous about tomorrow. There’ll be no election news until much later, there’s no football on, I don’t feel like reading – I won’t be able to concentrate. How else to lose myself for a couple of hours before I go to bed? The blog! How it makes you live in the moment. But don’t worry, this will be (fairly) brief, a couple of highlights from each day.
Wednesday morning, I wake from a good night’s sleep feeling full of beans; it’s as if I’m simply not ill any more. Very weird. Somehow, Ravilious’s ‘A Wet Afternoon’ has got into my dream life. Now I understand it quite differently to before. The figure’s heading church-wards, yes, but now he’s striding, not slouching or fading away on his right hand side; and the alley he’s traversing is between preternaturally thick hedges of holly, Britain’s commonest variety of evergreen, all the more telling against the bare winter background. Overnight, it’s become a painting not about death but life. It’s all in the head, I remind myself, keep that strong.
After a massive vanilla protein shake, a good third of my daily needs, now part of my new breakfast regime, I could almost bring myself to go to the gym. But I have an appointment with my G.P., Dr Rugina, to discuss the mechanisms of referral to the Royal Marsden. When I get to the surgery at 9.15, five minutes early, there are several anxious-looking women patients outside who inform me no-one’s come to open up. Some have been waiting half-an-hour. We chat, we try the number of the other surgery in the practice. Nothing. Suddenly I spot my good Rumanian doctor further down the street, speaking animatedly on the phone. I wander over, closely followed by a Somali family.
‘Unbelievable,’ Dr Rugina smiles ruefully. ‘I am so sorry. Because I’m just a locum, they don’t give me keys. I’m trying to get hold of the practice manager.’
‘Well,’ I soothe, ‘I can’t stay, perhaps we could discuss a few things out here?’
It’s blowing a gale, but Dr Rugina risks all his papers flapping away as he opens his file and makes some notes.
‘I’ll find out about all the procedures for referral in the next couple of days,’ he assures me, ‘I’ll make you an appointment for Monday morning, direct into the system and let you know.’
I leave him to his street-corner surgery with the Somali ladies.
Much of the rest of the day is spent in gathering swirls of excitement. What a week lies ahead! The Election, the Wedding, the Honeymoon and the Surgery. And there’s a bit of outstanding good news which I can’t share just at the moment. (Blatant narrative manipulation, indeed, but done for ethical reasons.) It’s difficult to concentrate, even on the blog.
Late afternoon, I pick Maddy up from nursery. It’s the first time I’ve done this solo since the end of March. My friend Ursula is going to come for a couple of hours to keep me company at Anna’s and act as insurance while Anna does her evening class at Birbeck. But as we reach each landmark, the culvert, the railway bridge, the shop on Eversleigh Rd, I feel ever more confident. Maddy strides beside me, munching her ‘treat’ of cheese biscuits, telling me about her day and asking about the wedding. She seems to be over her misgivings – a great relief.
By the time Ursula arrives, Maddy’s finished her dinner. My friend reads to her, inspects her bedroom, plays with her and, after guiding her up and down the outside corridor on her trike, helps me get my little girl ready for bed. Between times, over another delicious meal-on-wheels, this time supplied by Anna’s sister Kate, Ursula and I catch up. She’s as busy as ever, with her drama and yoga teaching, her four children, her several lodgers and the new man in her life. Ursula has amazing energy and spark for someone of (roughly) my generation and I feel like I’m greedily feeding off it. She also brings us our very first wedding present, which I leave for Anna to open!
Once Anna’s back, Ursula heads off on her extraordinary light-weight aluminium bike. Anna’s brought the bridesmaid’s dresses with her and Maddy’s in paroxysms of excitement as she tries everything on. She and Isi are going to look like sisters on Friday. I won’t say more about the outfits – you’ll see them in the photos. I’m a bit alarmed how hard Anna’s pushing herself, however. Not only is there a ton of stuff still to get ready for the wedding, but she’s going to work for the Labour Party on Election morning, knocking on doors, urging supporters to get out and cast their ballots. We could have got married tomorrow, Thursday, the first day allowed to after handing in our notification of intention to marry. But some things take priority. 🙂
The only difficulty of the evening arises when Anna reminds Maddy that we’ll be going away for two days’ honeymoon after the wedding. All dressed up in her bridesmaid’s gear, she bursts into tears and clings to her mother. It doesn’t take as long as the last time to calm her down, but I anticipate a sticky good-bye when the time comes on Friday…
An excellent sleep, then I’m off on errands. I’ve seen my ‘girls’ for the last time until the wedding (we’ve decided it’ll be more romantic to observe convention, not see other this evening, go separately to Wandsworth Town Hall.) I drop Isi’s outfit at Elena’s. She insists I stay for breakfast and cooks me the tastiest miniature tomatoes on toast, washed down with the usual fabulous coffee. Her new bubba, Lucia, is growing apace and she and I gurgle at each other during breakfast. She seems to like my funny noises and faces. Glad I haven’t lost my touch.
Then it’s to the station to buy tomorrow’s tickets for Bournemouth. While I’m there, Pippa, Mr Khoubehi’s Registrar, phones and I’m able to ask some useful questions about the op and its aftermath. Histology results from the kidney will be available eight days after it comes out and the week after I should have a meeting with the C and W oncologist. She apparently collaborates closely with the Marsden, but she’ll only have have access to therapies which have been formally approved by the NHS and NICE. She has no objection to me seeking a second opinion after the histology results are in, but she cautions that many of the RM’s more experimental procedures are usually only at the trial stage. Finally she explains that the reason for the 3-month delay between the op and having another lung scan is to give the tumour time to grow – if it’s going to. Being kidney cancer, it could lie ‘dormant’ for some time…
Greatly reassured by the conversation I rush home to sort two further legal documents (it’s never-ending!) On arrival, I find more wedding presents, one very thoughtfully left overnight by me by my Head of Department, Lucia, whom I feel is fast becoming a proper friend as this mess goes on. She’s been 100% supportive throughout and couldn’t have done more to recalibrate my relationship with the college (remember I was supposed to retire on Aug 31 – and may still do so!) There’s a big box from Hilly, a package of books and music from Nick (as well as a learned article on tax law – revenge, perhaps, for the caption on his photo J), a trio of Indian classical music c.d.s from my distinguished colleague and friend Nirmala Rao – and lots of cards. Don’t think the postie’s ever been busier round no 37…
Sally pops in to say hello. We go to Social Pantry for a vegetable juice and catch up. She witnesses the legal stuff and then very helpfully goes to the Post Office to send it registered on my behalf. She’s offered herself unstintingly and I feel a little bad that I haven’t been able to take her up more often.
The lunch-time news is all about the election or, rather, what’ll happen after no-one wins a majority. I watch it eating the rest of Elena’s beef casserole from yesterday, which is melt-in-the-mouth tender. I think she wants to convert me to a carnivore…
A couple of hours on the blog, though very annoyingly I lose my marvellously and maturely insightful post J on the election. Ah well, foolish to compose on-line, even something short. Still I get Tuesday’s post up and write a few more notes for this one. Then it’s a quick check of the emails; some lovely ones with ‘virtual’ flowers attached, others commenting harshly on British politics, others just sending best wishes for tomorrow. What’s left? The hair-wash. Nervous I might fu** it up and looked like a burst pillow tomorrow, I ring to see if Enzo can do it again. But he’s not there today. I try to remember everything he told me. The results you’ll see in the wedding photos.
Not sure why, I think quite a lot about my parents, and their wedding in 1947, immediately before they left for their new life in Tanganyika. I have some lovely black and white photos from that occasion. And strong memories of the incredibly tender letters my father wrote my mother the day before the ceremony. How different ours will be from theirs, but no less meaningful and long-lasting, I hope. I have a sudden image of my father, striding down the sandy path from our house in Manyoni to his office, whistling the tune from My Fair Lady
I’m getting married in the morning
Ding dong! The bells are gonna chime
Pull out the stopper,
Let’s have a whopper!
But get me to the church on time!
Are you reading this, Paul, my trusty chauffeur? 🙂
I have to leave you for a bit (wedding and honeymoon fast approach). I’m gutted that the internet blew up just as I was posting ‘A Note on Politics’ for Election Day, Just as I deviate occasionally from the alkali diet, so I thought, I can surely break my politics fast on such an important day? But perhaps it was another sign to steer completely clear for the time being…
I have a rough draft of a post for yesterday but it’s been a long day already and I have lots to do to get readier than I am for the big event tomorrow. Can’t remember when I last felt these kinds of nerves…
So I will probably be leaving you until Monday at the earliest – unless I can find an hour or two to update you on yesterday and today later this evening. Essentially, I’ve continued these last two days in the calm and optimistic mood you left me in on Tuesday night. But I’m getting more and more excited as tomorrow morning approaches. I remember finding a cache of letters my father wrote my mother the day before they married (what happened to it?) In those times (the late 1940s), there were four postal deliveries daily and he made sure to avail himself of every one, even though he was so busy getting ready. In the last one he sent, on the eve of the wedding, he wrote (I can remember it verbatim): ‘Darling, I can’t wait to hold you in my arms tomorrow.’ You’ve said it for me, dad and I wish that you and mum and all the family could be here with Anna, Maddy and me to celebrate our special day.
Lots of love to you all, dear readers, and I’ll try to post pictures of the wedding and Bournemouth on Monday
ps several people have been demanding to see ‘the wedding haircut.’ Caroline diplomatically suggested I use this one, considering how sh++ I looked and felt the day she came round to photograph me 🙂