Saturday, 3 October 2015

I agree with Brian Coleman - Consultations in Barnet are a waste of money!

Coleman ruled the roost before he blew it all
Back in those heady days when Brian Coleman was in his pomp in Barnet and was the only Conservative who had anything interesting to say, before he lost the plot, beat up Helen Michael and blew it all, he created something of a cottage industry in insulting the people of Barnet and inspiring bloggers to pick up their pens (or keyboards for those of you who are pedants). Brian seemed to miss no opportunity to insult the great unwashed masses. The sands of time have blurred the exact details in my mind of which particular consultation this was said in relation to (quite possibly the abolition of sheltered housing, but I am not sure. I remember the event clearly but not the context). Anyway, Barnet had done what it always does. It had come up with a rotten proposal, put this out to public consultation and then completely ignored the results. The hapless leader of the Labour Party, Alison Moore had challenged the Tories on the fact that they were taking no views of the those they had consulted. Various Tories floundered for a proper response, what can you possibly say? You give the public a proposal and they reject it. What possible reason could there be for ignoring them. A packed public gallery was getting agitated. Brian, as was his want, seized the moment. Again I can't recall his exact words, but if I can paraphrase, he stood up and said "Consultations are a complete waste of money, the public are too stupid to know what they are talking about, we've been elected to do a job and that is that". There was uproar in the public gallery, there was a look of shock on the faces of the Tories, Robert Rams sniggered inanely. But Brian knew exactly what he was doing. The Tories were losing the debate. You cannot justify the unjustifyable, but all of a sudden, the argument wasn't about the nasty cut the Tories were making. The story was "how can Brian be so beastly?". He sat down smiling, knowing it was job done.

At the time, I was incensed. Over the years, I've come to realise that Brian was right. Not that the public are too ignorant to be given a say in such matters, but in his assertation that consultations are a waste of money. We have just seen a library consultation, where the public comprehensively rejected all of the Barnet Tories ideas for reform of the Library service. What did the Tories do? They did exactly what they did in the days of Brian Coleman. They completely ignored the public. They have come up with a set of proposals that take no account of the views of the local populace. Will any of them have the cojones to echo Colemans comments that ordinary people are too stupid to actually make any useful contribution?

My own library in Mill Hill will be robbed of all its trained librarians. The idea is that it will be run by local volunteers. It seems the arguments that a professional librarian is a professional trade and requires a qualification counts for nothing. The Tories see the library as a large room with a load of books in. They don't see the need for anything more than Lidl style shelve stackers. The fact that a little old Lady in a wheelchair may come in with her granddaughter  and say "I read Wuthering heights by Emily  Bronte last week and really enjoyed it, can you recommend something in a similar vein in large print, as my eyesight is not what it was?" is not something they care about. Or the student who comes in and says "I am doing an A Level History project on the battle of Agincourt, what are good reference books to help me fill in the gaps in my knowledge about the period?". Or even the refugee who is trying to get a job and says "I have an interview for a job on Monday, are there any good books which can help me brush up my interview technique". Now as far as I can see, answering each of these questions has served a useful social purpose. For each of the people mentioned above, it could make a difference. I suppose a local Tory may say "do such people really exist?". Well each case is based on my own experience of libraries. My mother was severely disabled following a stroke. When she first came out of hospital, her only joy in life was a trip to the library in a wheelchair to select a large print book. My daughter has just started a degree course in history and did much of her reasearch from books borrowed from the library. As for the refugee. I volunteer at a homeless day centre and often recommend a trip to the library to jobless, homeless refugees. Not so long ago, one of the clients at the centre came in and told me he'd got a job. He bought me a book as a present. He said "Thank you so much for your recommendation of going to the library, I actually got my job talking to someone there". That is another function of libraries which is much understood by the bean counting Tory service cutters. They are a community hub.

But none of this matters. When I first started writing blogs, I had an intense dislike of Brian Coleman. As time went on, I realised that I was wrong. Brian was just a window into the thinking of the rest of his Tory colleagues. However misguided and wrong headed I thought he may be, he simply said in public what all f his colleagues say in private. If this wasn't true, they'd have kicked him out long before he got a criminal record. In fact, in many policies Brian was probably one of the more sensible and moderate Tories. It is a matter of record that he opposed One Barnet and his more Thatcherite mates ignored him.

The sad truth is that with all the money they've spent on the consultation, they could have afforded a few more librarians. Consultations are big business in local and national government. They are almost universally totally ignored. Take Heathrow or any major road. These are universally opposed by the local populace. Why wouldn't they be? The locals get no benefits and nothing but hassle. What is crazy is that it is often a legal requirement to consult but there is none at all to listen. Which is why, Brian Coleman was right. Why go through the pretence? Simply scrap the whole stupid charade and spend the money on something useful, like librarians perhaps?

Friday, 2 October 2015

Rog T's Cancer Blog - Everything you ever wanted to know about Transperineal Biopsy of the Prostate gland

For those of you who are regular readers and have read the previous posts on Cancer, you can skip this first paragraph.This is the latest installment in my occasional series about how I'm adjusting to living with a big C in my life.  For those of you who aren't, here's a quick summary. I'm 51 years old and in October 2011 I  had a prostate biopsy following two "slightly high" PSA tests - 2.8 & 4.1. The biopsy took ten tissue samples and one of these showed a "low grade cancer" which gives me a 3+3 on the Gleason scale. I'm now on a program of active monitoring.  In early February, I got the results of the a PSA test - down to 3.5 and an MRI scan which found absolutely nothing, two more tests in 2012 were at 3.5 and 3.9, in 2013 my test was 4.0, Jan 2014 was 3.8, August 2014 was 4.0,  February 2015 it was  up to 5.5  and my latest in August 2015 was down againg at 4.6.  I've no symptoms and sadly for a few people, if I'm gonna die soon, it won't be from Prostate cancer. Got the picture?

Firstly, a little warning. This particluar blog is not for the faint hearted. But I do believe that knoweldge is power, so I think this may help anyone facing this procedure understand what it is about, why you are having it and for me the most important thing of all, what you can expect.
So yesterday I underwent a Transperineal Biopsy of the Prostate gland. This is not the run of the mill prostate biopsy. It is a far more detailed and extensive version. Generally this procedure is used to get a "full picture" of just what is going on with the cancer in your prostate gland. A run of the mill biopsy takes 10-12 core samples from the prostate, mostly from the lower part of the gland. This takes 30-50 from all over. The transperineal biopsy gives a far more accurate picture. As I understand, if you live in the area covered by the Royal Free Hospital trust, this procedure is used when you've been on active surveillance for several years and they have some reason to want a fuller picture of just what your cancer is doing and how its developing. The booklet you get says "The reason this is done is because you have already undergone a number of biopsies (via the rectum) which have not indentified the coause of your elevated PSA; further transrectal biopsies would carry a significant risk if performed in this number.

The reason for the lower isk, is because it is a cleaner procedure. Wheras a regular old prostate biopsy involves poking a probe up your bum and snipping bits (cores) off your prostate for examination, the leaflet says of this procedure "The procedure involves using an ultrasound probe, inserted via the back passage, to scan the prostate. Biopsies are taken through the skin behind the testicles (the preinium) using a special grid. The sampling is targetted and and the number of samples taken depends on the size of the prostate, usually ranging from 30 to 50."

It is a procedure done in the day care unit. The leaflet you get tells you it is an overnight stay procedure, but this is not the case in Barnet. Personally I'd rather be in my own home. I am sure the Royal Free Trust do this to save money, but I personally am more than happy to be at home.

You are given anti biotics to take the day before the procedure. As it is done under general anaethetic, you also get a pre assessment in Barnet, a couple of weeks before. They take urine samples, blood pressure and check your medical history, so if you have to pay for prescriptions, don't forget to take your wallet!

So on to the day itself. What can you expect. Initially my letter told me to present myself at 7.30am, to eat nothing after midnight and to drink nothing but water after that. On Weds (the day before), the unit called me and told me that I ddn't have to arrive until 9.30am, as I was third on the list. I was quite happy with this. So at 9.30am, my wife dropped me at the day unit. I was advised to bring slippers and a dressing gown. I was shown to a bed. The first assessment was a nurse, who checked my blood pressure and pulse and ran through details of allergies, metal implants etc. Then I had the anaesthetists. They asked pretty much the same questions. They told me I'd have an oxygen line into my lungs, a catheter inserted and an ultrasound probe inserted into my rectum, so I may feel a bit sore in all three areas after.

Then another nurse came down. She told me the process of what happens when I wake up. Basically they'd ask me my postcode and date of birth to assess just how with it I was. Then my doctore arrived. He explained the procedure. He told me that after the MRI I had in January, the triage team (wwho manage my care) had decided that it was time for this procedure. Whilst my cancer and PSA has been fairly stable for the best part of fpur years, they felt they needed a better understanding of its aggressiveness and size across the whole prostate gland. He ran through a few "normal side effects". These are (according to the sheet)

Common side effects (greater than 1 in ten people)
Blood in urine for 10 days
Blood in semen for up to six weeks (apparently harmless and no risk to your partner)
Bruising in preineal area
Urinary infection (10% risk)
Discomfort due to bruising
Haemorrhage preventing passing of urine  (1 in 10)

Occasional Side effects 
Blood infection and septicaemia needing hospitalisation (2%)
Haemorrhage needing hospitalisation (1%)
Inability to pass urine.
MRSA (0.9%)

So these were the side effects I new about. In his talk, he added another one. Apparently it is common to be unable to get an erection for up to four weeks.  I asked when it was safe to have sex, to which he replied, more or less when you feel like it. He added that I may wish to wear a condom as it is likely to be very messy for a few weeks.

While all of this is not good news, I am of the opinion that as cancer is a life threatening condition, it is necessary and prudent to manage the condition, making these risks worthwhile.

I was asked to change into a hospital gown and paper undies. I was then given stockings to reduce the risk of clots in the legs. I must state at this point that I've been under the treatment of this team since 2011. When I started, the hospital was run by the Wellhouse Trust and this suffered a financial failure. The hospital was taken over by The Royal Free trust. It appears to me that the process and procedures, to my casual eye, seem to be more efficient and better run. There are all manner of minor things I noticed. On my last biopsy, I had the pre assessment, then had to fill the whole thing again with a different nurse on admission. This time, they simply gave me the previous form and asked me to check it. It gave me a degree of confidence that the place was being properly run.

So anyway the time came for the procedure. Previously a porter had come, put me in a chair and wheeled me t theatre. As I was perfectly able bodied, this seemed OTT. This time I walked in under my own steam. I was rigged up to a machine which monitored my pulse, blood pressure and various other sensors attached to my head and chest. A line was put into my right hand and I was told I was being given something which would make me feel a bit light headed. I felt a cold sensation in my vein. I was then told I was being given some anti biotics and pain killers. Then I fell into a lovely warm sleep.......

I awoke in a recovery area. The clock said 12.35am. I was busting for a pee. I felt as if I'd awoken after a heavy night out. The nurse came. I asked if I could have a bottle as I despwrately needed a wee. She must have decided I was with it, as I wasn't asked my postcode or date of birth. I was given the bottle and then started to wee. Oh lord. I realised my mistake. It felt like I was peeing battery acid. I was unprepared for this. When I finished, the nurse was quite happy. She said it showed everything was working.  She said they'd put 200ml in and I'd pee'd it out again which was good. I didn't think so. I was then taken back to the ward and given tea and biscuits. I promptly threw up. I was starting to worry, but the nurse said this was just the effects of anaesthetics. I had a drink of water and started to feel much better. Then I had to pee again. This was agony.

Then the nurse took my blood pressure and temperature and told me she'd call my wife and I could go home. By 2.45 I was back home. I had some lunch and then decided to go to bed and read the papers. Another couple of painful trips to the loo and I was feeling rather sorry for myself. Then I got  a text. A friend of mine contacted me to tell me that a good friend of mine, who plays five a side football with us, and who had lost his son in a tragic accident on Saturday was going up the pub for a deink with our five a side football boys. I had planned to have a quiet night in, but felt I should make the effort (strictly no alcohol though). As I was advised to avoid driving for 24 hours, I arranged for a friend to pick me up. I then had a sleep.

The human body is a wonderous thing. I suspect that had I stayed in I'd have felt rotten all night. As it was, I went to the Three Hammers, had three bottles of mineral water and a memorable evening. As a group, we turned out en masse to give our friend support. I cannot imagine anything worse than what he is going through, but he was telling us how his sons friends had rallied. He said he felt great pride in the fact his son was living life to the full. None of us know the future or when our numbers up. We can hide away, scared or we can live life to the full. I rolled in at half past midnight. My wife thinks I am mad, but in a funny way, I think it was the best thing I could have done. I think my friend appreciated the support and I was just pleased to see him out and perhaps having some of what will pass for normality. As my friends were aware of the procedure I'd had, a few of them were keen to discuss. I turned out another squad member had a similarly horrible procedure on Wednesday and another the week before. I guess we are "at that age".

I woke up this morning, had a pee. It hurt but it wasn't as bad as it had been. I will take it easy today and await the results with a degree of trepidation. So far, the side effects of the procedure seem on the mild side (apart from the battery acid wee wee effect). If you have this procedure, do ask if there is anything that can be done to mitigate this, as you've heard it isn't very nice, that is the best advice i can offer. I didn't and in hindsight I wished I had.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

A rant - Why I hate September

It's been a while since I went off on one about nothing. But now we've got that most awful month of the year over, I feel safe to share my feelings with you. Like most people raised in the Roman Catholic tradition, I am deeply superstitious. I have managed to pass this on to my children to such an extent that my son spent most of last night berating my wife for sending negative vibes to the Manchester City players in the champions league game. Neither of us will go to the toilet unless either City have just scored or the ball is in Joe Harts hands during a game. But I digress. You see I believe September is an evil, foul month, but I have learned not to speak ill of it, whilst it holds sway.

I can quote many examples of its foulness, not least that the Second World War, the most devastating conflict ever, was started in September. From the earliest days of my life, I've avoided it like the plague. I was born six weeks premature, in August, I firmly believe that this was a deliberate ploy on my part to damn well ensure that I avoided being a September baby. I also believe Virgo to be the worst, most unlucky sign of the zodiac, with Leo's (like me) being them best. Don't get me wrong, I've loads of friends and family who are Virgos who are lovely, but I believe this is an albatross they bear with dignity. Let's face it, what sane person would be a virgin, when they could be a lion.

When I was a kid, September was the month when the summer holiday ended and the new school term started. I always loathed this its a passion. When teachers said 'welcome back to a new school year' I just thought arghhhh nooooo. The last few days, we've had a typical September Indian summer heatwave. Like all things in September though, such a heatwave is a crap heatwave. The temperature is lovely during the day when you are at work, but when you get home it suddenly becomes too cold to spark up the Barbie and sit in the garden drinking beer.

For some reason it is also generally a bad month for the sports teams I follow. This season Manchester City had a sudden, inexplicable loss of form and a whole raft of injuries to key players in September. I believe that the only reason they won last night was due to the fact that when they were playing, some of the world had already entered October. Even the England rugby team lost a key World Cup game. I happen to believe the Welsh are immune to the curse of September, primarily because Wales is grim all of the time, so they quite like the month. This was born out by Wrexham beating Borehamwood a couple of weeks ago in the conference!

During last month, the usual September ill fortune befell us. A car drove into the back of us in Kilburn, I had a rotten stomach bug, we had loads of irrational hassle at work, from people being inexplicably difficult and stupid and I even had to deposit my two beautiful daughters in the desolate wastes of Yorkshire to start University courses, leaving our house empty and far too quiet. As listed elsewhere on this blog a friends family suffered a tragedy too awful to contemplate and I wasn't even able to celebrate the end of the month with a bottle of wine as I'm on anti biopics, due to the prostate biopsy I am having today. Had they scheduled the surgery for September, I would have asked them to reschedule, as there is no way I'd countenance such a procedure in such an awful month. 

There are a few other things about September that demonstrate its crapness. All of the months of the year until September have proper names. For example, August is for the Roman Emporer Augustus. With September they couldn't be bothered, so they simply called it the seventh month, which shows they couldn't even be bothered to count up to nine! There is even a song called 'wake me up when September ends'. A friend bought this for me years ago, knowing of my aversion to the month. Sadly, like the month, the song is a crappy, miserable dirge, that I can't stand.

I am sure that when the grim reaper comes knocking for me it will be in September, so the fact I've survived another one is surely cause for celebration!

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

The only solution to the Syrian refugee crisis

Firstly, credit where credit is due. The leader of Barnet Council has announced that the council will help resettle 50 Syrian refugees. This blog is not always a fan of our Conservative Council, but they have done the decent thing and credit to Richard Cornelius for displaying decency and humanity.

It gives me no pleasure iin saying this, but sadly it is clear that there is only one solution to the problem. It is not a palatable one, but given the threat IS pose to the residents of Syria and the threat their ideology poses to the wider world, I have come to the conclusion that putting a stop to their activities is perhaps the number one priority for the civilised world. And there is only one way this can be done. It will involve a massive loss of face for the west and will result in a huge foreign policy coup for the Putin regime. But we live in a grown up world and sometimes the only solution is the pragmatic one. In short, the West should reverse its policy of regime change in Syria and back the Assad regime. However vile and repugnant his regime was, we did not have the spectre of IS. Chirsitians and other minorities were relatively safe and there was no refugee crisis. If Assad took IS out tin Syria, the tumour infecting Iraq would be removed and IS would have no safe haven and supply bases.

This may sound like a repugnant prospect, given Assads appalling record on human rights, but as far as I can see there is no other credible alternative that will see the end of IS. The sad truth is that deposing dictators in Iraq and Libya has not delivered free and safe societies for the citizens of these countries. The definition of stupidity is to keep doing the same thing and expecting different results. The sad truth is that if you want to keep a lid radical islamic nutters inb the middle east, you need foul and repressive dictators. It gives me no pleasure to say it, but it is true and if you believe otherwise, you probably still believe in the tooth fairie.

Monday, 28 September 2015

The most horrible thing imaginable

On Saturday, I was driving to the gym as I usually do. As I was pulling into the car park I was listening to the news. I was vaguely listening, but was thinking about more urgent matters. As I pulled up my phone went. It was one of the guys I play five a side football with. He is not in the habit of calling on a Saturday morning. As I answered the call, I expected a request for a PA system or some info which may form part of a blog about some aspect of life in Barnet. People call me and email me all the time. When I answered, there was a strange tone to his voice. Not the usual jolly banter that team mates exchange. He said "have you been listening to the news?". Yes, I just had? Realising something was seriously not right and I'd not picked up on it, I asked. Nothing could have prepared me for the awful news that followed. One of our five a side squads son had died in a tragic accident. I was dumbstruck. A couple of weeks ago, we'd been having a curry and my friend was saying how proud he was of his son. And then it is extinguished. What can you say? I was dumbstruck. Over the past week, both my daughters have departed for University. On top of all the normal feelings a parent has, this tragic news sent me into a mild panic attack. When your children are small and at home, you can to some extent protect them. On the weekend when they leave home, to recieve such a wakeup call as to just what a punishing world we live in and how you have no way of protecting them, even if you wanted to, was devastating wake. I've always had a devil may care attitude to personal risk. I've always encouraged my kids to take risks, do sports, go out and enjoy themselves. I've always believed that life is there for the living and a soul that takes no risk doesn't really live. But have I really ever considered the downside? My Dad raised me to believe that we are lucky and that even when bad things happen, they are only there to educate us and help us grow as people.

Then something like this happens. You have to reevaluate your philosophy. How can anything good come out of such a tragedy? What greater purpose could such a terrible, random accident have? I am a person of almost unshakeable faith, but my faith has been shaken to the core. What should I say to my friend? How on earth can you do anything that can in any way help? I thought back to 2008 when my mother passed away. In the scheme of tragic events, the death of an 83 year old woman who was in poor health, had had a great life and was ready to take the next stage in their journey cannot be compared. But I was still incredibly cut up and upset at the death of my mum. Despite everything I loved her to bits and new I'd miss her terribly. One of my friends made a special effort to take me out, buy me  curries and pour beers down my throat. He gave me an incedible bit of insight. He said "look I know buying you a few beers and a few curries doesn't really help at all, but I really want to be a friend and I genuinely can't think of anything that could possibly help cheer you up right now, so beers and curries will have to do". And the funny thing was that in hindsight it did help. Not the endless hours of me morosely talking about my mum, but the odd snatches when we'd talk about the football, the news or other topics of the day. As the beers went down, my mind wandered from the all encompassing event. Maybe only for a minute or two at a time, but help it did. It was just good to have someone outside my immediate family circle, who were all preoccupied with the same thing.

Grief and bereavement is the most awful thing. I cannot conceive of anything worse than the death of one of my children. It is so horrible, that the mere thought makes me feel physically sick. The events of Saturday brought this home to me big time. For most of us we want to help but we don't know how. We don't want to intrude on others grief, we don't want to say the wrong thing. We don't want to bother people when they have all manner of more important things to do. So we do nothing. It is the safe option but are we really friends if we stand by when our friends most need us? What is the right balance? A card with a note saying to get in touch? An email expressing grief and saying we are there if needed? A telephone call? A knock on the door? It all depends on how close a friend, how the dynamics of your relationship work and how much time you really are prepared to give up. It is all very well saying "call me day or night, anytime and I'll drop anything and make time" But if you get that call and you say "Oh sorry, I'm busy, Auntie Peggie has dropped in for a cuppa right now" then the kind intent could cause more hurt than good. And what to say, as it is hard to know whether a friend would want to talk about their loved one and their loss, or whether they'd want to talk about anything but? And what happens if they open up and lose it ( I am sure I would?).  How do we deal with that scenario?

I can't help but think that I spent years at school learning Algebra, E=MC2, how to measure osmotic pressure and Shakespears sonnets, but they never taught me how to help a friend who needs it? Does no one really know? As a society, it seems to me that we are emotionally retarded. We simply want to pretend that everything will be fine and dandy. Value is put on teaching subjects that we never will use and no thought at all given to how on earth what we do when we have a friend who has suffered a loss which is almost unimaginably horrible.

So I have a simple plea. If you've been through such a thing and have something useful to say about the issue, please leave a comment. Please don't just cut and paste a load of links to "helpful charities". I do know how to use google and I can do that myself. I'd like people who have personal experience of helping a friend in such a situation to pass on whatever useful and helpful information you can.

One of the main reasons I writre this blog is I believe that as a community we could and should help and support each other. Sharing information is the most tangible way we can do this. 

How do you feel when you drop your kids off for University?

Over the last two weekends, I've had the pleasure of dropping both of my daughters off at their respective Universities in the north of England to start a new phase in their lives. This morning we awoke to a far tidier and quieter house. It is probably the biggest change in our household since they started school. Both journeys involved a round journey of 7-8 hours. Going up a car full of gear and a child in the back and coming back, the baby is gone with all their junk.

For our kids it is hopefully a new, rewarding and exciting phase of their lives. For us, things just got considerably quieter. For us as parents, we have the pride that both of the daughters have been able to continue their education at the college of their choice, doing subjects they want. There is however a twinge of sadness that we will not have them around. Who knows what the future will hold for them. Will they settle in? Will they be happy? For me I think it is great that they have a fantastic opportunity to be eased into an independent life. They are surrounded by opportunity and hopefully a great opportunity to meet new friends.

For us, we have a bit more time on our hands, a bit less mess to clean up, a few less meals to make. We won't be coming home to quite so many friends of our offspring dropping in, eating us out of house and home. Mind you we still have our teenage son, who is doing his GCSE's this year, so its  not completely dead in the house. Who will he argue with? He doesn't have his big sisters to comfort him when I tell him off. It is a big change.

It is all a bit strange at the moment. Exciting and a bit scary. Life is a funny old thing.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Rog T's Cancer Blog - What goes up, must come down?

Lets play PSA roulette?
For those of you who are regular readers and have read the previous posts on Cancer, you can skip this first paragraph.This is the latest installment in my occasional series about how I'm adjusting to living with a big C in my life.  For those of you who aren't, here's a quick summary. I'm 51 years old and in October 2011 I  had a prostate biopsy following two "slightly high" PSA tests - 2.8 & 4.1. The biopsy took ten tissue samples and one of these showed a "low grade cancer" which gives me a 3+3 on the Gleason scale. I'm now on a program of active monitoring.  In early February, I got the results of the a PSA test - down to 3.5 and an MRI scan which found absolutely nothing, two more tests in 2012 were at 3.5 and 3.9, in 2013 my test was 4.0, Jan 2014 was 3.8, August 2014 was 4.0,  February 2015 it was  up to 5.5  and my latest in August 2015 was down againg at 4.6.  I've no symptoms and sadly for a few people, if I'm gonna die soon, it won't be from Prostate cancer. Got the picture?

In February, I'd seen a reasonable jump in my PSA levels. I wrote a couple of blogs detailing how I felt.

Rog T's Cancer Blog - Friday the 13th, The day of doom?  and

Rog T's Cancer Blog - Part II - Friday the 13th, The day of doom? The NHS crisis bites

But that seems a long time ago. Since then, I've been booked in for yet another biopsy. This one is a more comprehensive version. It requires a general anaesthetic, I'm having that next week. And I got my latest PSA today, it is 4.6. This is down from 5.5 in February. Strangely I'd forgotten that I was 5.5 in February. I thought I was 4.0, so when he pointed out that it had gone down, I was mildly surprised. The term "stable" was used. When he said "stable", I though of horses bolting. Last night, I had a beer with a friend who hasn't had such good news. He is going in for a couple of days of surgery. He recently had a biopsy, which was clear, but a CAT scan showed up irregularities on his bladder and his urethera tubes. He'll be having surgery in mid October. One of the benefits of writing this series of blogs is that I believe it is beneficial for men to discuss health problems and share information. Many are. I believe the more information we have, the better the personal decisions we make. I also do not have 100% trust in the medical profession, so knowing the questions to ask and when to raise flags and say "whoa, hold on" is important. Cancer is a rocky ride and many aspects of the journey are scary. Talking to people with experience of such issues is vital, but how do you start a conversation if you don't want to talk about delicate matters.

The truth is with Prostate Cancer, men have things shoved up there bums on a regular basis. Most men do not wish the world to be aware of this fact. So they keep schtum. As a result, they cut off access to support networks and help. They miss out on helpful information as to how to mitigate some of the problems (for instance if you think the experience may be traumatic, ask for a general anaesthetic). If your PSA has gone up, but your doctor seems unconcerned, if you can't discuss your fears with someone else, how can you deal with them? If you have been prescribed hormone therapy and you've lost your sex drive, it can be a very lonely place. Since I started this blog, I've talked to dozens of fellow sufferers. Well over half of the guys I've spoken to have never spoken to anyone. Some have only spoken to me because their wives have raised the subject and I could see they are hellishly uncomfortable. In every case, they've initially been reluctant to talk, but once they get over their embarrassment, they can't stop. Cancer is such a scary concept, that they've tried to lock the mental demons away. When the flood gates open, all manner of strange concepts and misconceptions appear. Many of the people I know who are sufferers have lost parents or grandparents to the disease and this adds a whole other array of fear and dejection. Often though, unlike the lost relatives, they are in a very treatable position. Most will die with, not of the cancer. So why live with demons locked away inside? I guess the next episode of this particular series will be after my next biopsy. One last point, I noticed is that during the course of my eperience with PC, my PSA has gone down nearly as many times as it has gone up. It is not significantly higher than it was in November 2011. So despite four years of fear, worry and tensions, I am sort of where I started. A lot of worry for nothing? We shall see in the coming weeks.

The Friday Joke 25/9/2015

Three mischievous old Grandmas were sitting on a bench outside the nursing home when an old Grandpa walked by. One of the old Grandmas yelled out, 'Hey, we bet we can tell exactly how old you are!'
The old man said, 'There is no way you can guess my age!
One of the Grandmas said, 'Sure we can! Just drop your pants and we can tell your exact age.'
Embarrassed, but anxious to prove they couldn't do it, he dropped his drawers.

The Grandmas asked him to first turn around a couple of times and then jump up and down several times. Determined To prove them wrong, he did it. Then they all said in unison, 'You're 87 years Old!'
Standing with his pants down around his ankles, the old gent asked, 'How in the world did you guess my age?'
Slapping their knees, high fiving and grinning from ear to ear, the three old ladies happily crowed.....

'We were at your birthday party yesterday.'

Have a great weekend 

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Has George Osborne lost his marbles? £3m in aid to Chinese for Football coaching

It's an old cliche, but sometimes you just couldn't make it up. This morning the Daily Express is running a story detailing how the UK are giving £3m in aid to the Chinese for the purposes of helping set up a football coaching scheme. The plan is backed by the FA. There are so many things that are completely wrong about this, it is almost impossible to know where to start. This blog has argued, since its inception in 2008 for the FA, the government and the council to spend more money on coaching for grassroots football in the UK. I've spent the last seven years watching my son play youth football. I've seen some of his team mates from poor families (some of immigrants) turn up without football boots ( a whip round of well off parents has sorted such things out). I've seen pitches not properly maintained. I've seen us play clubs where they don't have proper kits. I've seen clubs running teams with no proper coaching and just enthusiastic parents, where talented kids are getting no help in developing into talented players capable of competing. There are so many things wrong with the youth set up in the UK, it breaks my heart. It is no wonder we produce so few world class players and it is criminal that so many kids who start out enthusiastic about football drift away because it is logistically impossible to play and develop. What is sickening is that The Premier League is awash with money as never before and a 2% levy on TV rights money would provide for the UK to have the best yout coaching facilities in the world. But no, the greedy owners of the clubs are not interested. They line their pockets and scour the world for the players we are not producing. I've long argued the government should act, but no they are not interested. There is clearly a case in the UK for investment. Especially as the Premier League is one of our nations most important brands.

As to foreign aid for football. I'd support this if it was for impoverished kids in Africaa, who football may make a difficult life bearable. But China is a mega rich country, second only to the USA in economic wealth. They have a space program, they win more golds than us at the Olympics. They make most of the products in our houses. Why do we need to support them. It is not as if they are a benign friendly regime and this is part of a rich program of cultural exchange. They are a nasty dictatorship. Religious and personal freedoms are limited. There is no democracy and if they were not so rich and powerful, Osborne would probably be calling for them to be boycotted. I've been to China. I was there in 1990, the year after Tianamen Square massacre. The people are fantastic, but the rulers are corrupt and nasty. It is a fact of life that we have to live with them, but by giving aid like this, we are perpetuating a very nasty regime. We are giving them a respectability they don't deserve. Just think of the message this sends. A whole generation of football mad Chinese youngsters will be brought up to believe that their government must be marvellous because the British Government and the Premier League are giving them such fantastic facilities. The Chinese dictators are no mugs. They know the propoganda value of such gestures.

If you want to know just how nasty they are, Google Dalai Lama, the religious leader of Tibets Buddists. This is a man of peace and wisdom, who is nearly universally respected across the globe. There is only one place where he is not. That is in China, because his moral courage stands in the way of Chinese hegemony in Tibet. It is sickening that Osborne is sucking up to such men. It is even more sickening that he is doing it when our own kids are deprived of the facilities he is setting up for them. I have to conclude that we are run by imbeciles.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Barnet Council website now fixed & the Council thank The Barnet Eye!

Regular readers will have read how on Monday, The Barnet Eye identified problems with the Barnet Council website. It appears that the Council IT (Capita) supplier put changes to the website live without doing any testing to see whether they worked. As a result, people trying to organise charity events were unable to submit license applications. As these have to be in 2 weeks in advance, this potentially would have caused many problems and cost local charities thousands of pounds, as well as causing unpaid helpers endless hassle trying to work out what was going on.

The good news is that the Council have fixed the site and even thanked the Barnet Eye for bringing the matter to their attention.

Hi, sorry for the late reply. This should have been changed. Thanks for letting us know.

They even apologised for the poor service!
Which just goes to show that blogging and tweeting in Barnet does get results. I am a tad disappointed, if not unentirely surprised that the Leader and the Deputy Leader of the council
couldn't be bothered to at least put up a note apologising and saying they'd try and ensure better service in future. I can't see either of them emulating the great wartime US president Roosevelt who had a sign on his desk saying "The buck stops here". I suspect in Barnet, the buck always stops somewhere else. Sad really, a bit of manners from the pair of them in at least acknowledging the fact the organisation they run had problems, which inconvenienced the taxpayers who pay their allowances, would have been pleasant.