My Skoda.

Nowadays Skoda cars are well thought of and stylish. They are,after all, made by VW.

This was not always so. Skoda does have a proud history of making stylish and popular cars since the turn of the 20th Century, but during the era of communism in Eastern Europe, they became a bit of a laughing stock in the west – yes they did  export vehicles! Like most things made in communist countries they were made of inferior materials with (often) poor quality control.

skoda 1970 100

I bought a Skoda in the late 1970’s – not new of course, I paid only 170 pounds for this car, and drove it for over two years. The doors did not lock – who would steal a Skoda?? The heating didn’t work – in UK a slight problem! ….. and the four speed gearbox only had three gears – and yet this care drove me around for 2-over two years, inexpensive to run and surprising fun to drive … a characterful car you might say.

Eventually this vehicle started to give problems. The three gears became two, the accelerator cable snapped, the clutch started slipping, and rattles became louder and louder. Of course these things were all fixable, but what was more difficult and expensive to fix was the rust which seemed to infect the body at a great pace. Through all of this the engine never ceased to give sterling service. It – as it always had – started first time, it ran economically and powered the vehicle through all of it’s ups and downs. A solid and reliable engine trapped in a body which was falling apart.

The point of this story is that I see this as analogous to my situation. My mind is sharp, my emotions are strong – my ‘engine’ is working well. My ‘bodywork’ is not so. Illness is causing my running capacity to slow and operate less efficiently. If only the bodywork could be replaced ……!

In the meantime so long as my engine is working I will keep the vehicle running as long as it will and as efficiently as it is able… like my Subaru.





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As we get older life changes, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worst. Whichever way you view it it changes.


I have always felt  that life goes in phases, and during each of those phases we are dealing with different challenges and opportunities ……. teens, career choices, career development, relationships, children, and the onset of ‘the later years’. We all can remember the “oh no I’m 40” feeling and then “my god, 50, better check my retirement plan, and then 60, time to plan what I will do in retirement” …. and so on until suddenly we find ourselves in ‘old age’, with illnesses we would never have dreamed of, and the realisation that our life is truly finite.


There are times when illnesses get us down, when we can’t do what we used to be able to do, when life appears to be getting harder , when it is easy to feel depressed, down, and longing for the past.

Then is the time to think of those times when life was different, when things came easily, when fun was truly a part of every day. Those times are still in our hearts and our heads and should never be allowed to leave. They are the memories which will sustain us to the end, they are part of our life – our finite life – and should be cherished.



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Tomorrow is our grandson’s birthday – he will be 2 years old.

In a couple of weeks time I will be 70 years old.

The circle of life continues. Young Hamish has his whole life ahead of him. He has so much to look forward to. He has a loving family, he will have myriad opportunities, and he will be making his way in a world full of change and promise.

I can still remember rationing in the UK, I can remember life without TV, without central heating, without a telephone, without a family car. What did we ever do without the internet?

So much has happened in the world since I was a child the mind boggles when one thinks about it. What will the world be like when Hamish is 70?


Speculating can be fun, but practically impossible to imagine – such has been the pace of change since I was born. The important thing to recognise, though, is that life is a circle. We are born, we live life, we grow older, we die.


That is the fact of life, a fact we need to embrace. The next generation is for the future.

Young Hamish will have a great birthday, and hopefully, a great life.



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Time flies.

Several months ago my wife – who was born and brought up in Hong Kong – got word that her secondary school was holding it’s 50th anniversary celebrations and all alumni were invited. She has kept in touch with many of her classmates – they were the first year group to go all the way through the school, and are very close. As the months passed the momentum for a massive reunion built up and soon all of the classmates had committed to go.  A new ‘whats app’ circle was created and pretty soon floods of comments, exciting news and enthusiasm dominated every day communications in our household.

Flights were booked, hotels were identified. We decided that I should go for a few days with her, a holiday of our own, and then I said I would leave her to it when the real celebrations started – 4 days of partying was planned, some formal, some less so. The planning lasted many months with both of us looking forward so much to the trip.

Every detail was pored over – from what we would do on our 4 days together, to what dress she would wear to the formal Grand Ball! I would be long gone by then and it would be a ‘friends paradise’ ! Best left alone by me ! Hotels were booked well in advance, seats on planes secured, every detail ticked off.


The months became weeks, the weeks became days. I planned my medication cycle so that I would feel as well as possible for the trip, my wife planned every detail of the visit, her clothes, her case contents, her make up ….. over and over again – much debate, much contact with friends – “what will you wear?”

Eventually the day of the trip arrived and we were up at 4am to catch the Cathay Pacific flight to Hong Kong – the adventure had begun. From day one it was fabulous. We really enjoyed our time together even as the flurries of ‘whats apps’ deluged her phone daily. After a lovely four days – in which I had the pleasure of meeting some of the friends she had spoken about over the years, it was time for me to leave, and time for the ‘partying’ to begin. As I flew home her weekend of nostalgia and fun, of excitement and laughter began in earnest.


I won’t go into the detail of her fabulous four days – suffice to say it was everything she hoped it would be – and more.

She returned home on the fifth day, tired but exhilarated. Everything had gone so well. The grandeur, the fun times, the emotions – all surpassed expectations. She was radiant.

It is now a week since her return, and all the planning, the looking forward, the talking incessantly about we/she will do – is over.

That’s the thing about time – it marches on. It is coming, it is soon here, and then it is gone. Every moment must be cherished. What is left, however are the memories and in the end memories sustain us.


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latest entry …… new ideas.

Yet again too long in posting. Going through much – physically, mentally, but it has led me to a slight change in view point. The heart problems worsen, the Myeloma seems to be doing better, despite the side effects of the ‘maintenance therapy’. Indeed it has all started to get me down, so I have decided that a change in viewpoint is appropriate, not so much a ‘sod it I will just have a bloody good time’, but a ‘learn to live with it’ decision. It is what it is, and I don’t intend to get paranoid about it. If my taste buds are rubbish I will skip the red wine, stick to spicy foods I can at least taste, and welcome the weight loss – unless it gets too silly of course.


I will learn to pace myself and not feel guilty about it, I will manage the ‘specialists’ and not let them manage me – I am sufficiently knowledgeable to be an active partner, and they are both up for this.

I will not get paranoid about things – after all we are all dying! The danger is not in dying but it is in never having lived ( the life you want) – Marcus Aurelius.


Next month I will be 70 that’s a milestone for me. Aging is part of getting older anyway – the illnesses just make it more visible. Okay, my dad died recently and was 92 ……. but my mother died when she was 51. Life is what it is , ‘we can love it or list it’ ……. or leave it before we have got to the point where we feel satisfied. Being on the death bed with regrets is a fear for all of us. I have no items on my bucket list, and I consider that to be a real plus point for me….. I have done all I wanted to do . Not an exotic list of     “done that, tick that one off” – but a satisfying one.

So I will just get on with it and meet the bridges I need to cross when I reach them. Fingers crossed for me??

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Yonks and yonks

It seems an age since I wrote in this blog, and indeed it is. Why is that?

Maybe it is because I have been feeling better since January. No chemo, results since transplant good, no treatment for a while. It seems odd that I would not write whilst well, but maybe that is because of the therapeutic effect that writing the blog has. Feeling ok, no need to write, too busy. That is silly,of course. About two months ago I started on my ‘maintenance therapy’ – a drug called Thalidomide ( yes the very same one!)

Wow it hit me like a steam train. I won’t go into the details – too gory – but suffice to say I discontinued the drug unilaterally after one month. After a few days I started to feel better again, and now I feel good again. The haemotologist is now trying to get me on ‘Revlamid’ …. the next level of maintenance therapy. He is struggling because I am not ‘sick enough’. Here in Australia drugs are monitored by the ‘Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme’ which in essence means that very expensive therapies (as this is) have to be ‘justified’. My haemotologist is working very hard at trying to manipulate results to get them to agree to it. I’m sure he will succeed eventually.

The medical system here is very good from my point of view. Brilliant doctors, great hospitals, caring treatments. My cardiologists as well as my haemotologists have been excellent. Yes, I have private medical insurance, but this is inexpensive, and I could get the same attention on the public system –  just less of a choice of docs/appointment times. The whole of my Transplant therapy was done in the public system and was excellent. No complaints, it makes me a supporter of ‘socialised medicine’ ……. the kind the US health lobbyists hate. All citizens of civilised countries should have access to high quality, affordable health care.

A while back I made a promise to myself to stop listening to the news, and this was good for a while, but I have lapsed recently – leading to my chagrin and depression meter soaring. Think ……. the Brexit silliness in the UK, the shooting frenzy (again) in the USA, Civil war in South Sudan as well as Syria, the world economy still in the doldrums!! OMG!!media

One bright spot – England Rugby is in the ascendency. Now number two in the world after whitewashing Australia here in oz (my adopted country) – England is my birthplace and I have always supported England Rugby – loyalty rules !!

So ….. no more news for me. I fill my days walking my lovely and loving dogs, and listening to spotify and sonos  whilst ‘tending house’. We have the beach, woods, open spaces, and sunshine. Perth is a great place to live a laid back life whilst still having ‘all mod cons’.beach

Do I need anything else?




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The big sho(r)t

Last week we went to see the movie “The big short”. As you probably know it is about the global financial crisis caused by the greed and willingness to be less than honest of bankers. This of course led to the biggest ‘property bubble’ in history and to the  destruction of the lives of many thousands of people. Not the bankers, of course, because they all covered their tracks by watching each others backs and betting against their own products which they knew were likely to fail. Never mind the poor ‘schmucks’ (like you and me) who were conned into buying these dodgy products, and thus losing most of their life savings, their houses and their livelihoods in many cases.bankers

I have seen many, many documentaries and reality based movies on this subject and it never ceases to amaze me that nothing whatsoever happened to the banks, their rich employees, and to the ways they do business – which is much the same now as it was then.

Of course I haven’t trusted bankers or financial advisers since that ‘crisis’. I decided to buy only property direct. I built my own house, I bought land (“They’re not making it anymore” – Mark Twain). We all have to have somewhere to live and something to live on ( ie income) and so I thought this would be cast iron investment. A house to live in and land to sell to give me an income in my old age. Well, things have a habit of not turning out as we want. The value of the land has dropped, as has the value of the house.

The powerhouse of the modern world – China – is in the doldrums and everyone else is ‘catching a cold’ …. apart from the bankers of course. The share prices of the banks are down – but bankers bonuses are up (logic???).

So – what to do? Buy shares in banks?


Of course everything has more than one perspective. My health problems have given me a different perspective on life and purpose. I have learned that in reality the only thing one needs in life is good health. At the moment I have that. Next year I may not. The land will still be there, and it will make absolutely no difference whatsoever to my health or to my ability to ‘live my life’.

We are not rich, but we are not poor, making us fortunate in the grand scheme of things. Like everyone we still fret over financial problems, over life’s complexities, over what to have for dinner. That’s life.

I would still trade everything I had to not have heart problems or cancer.

“Almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”   Steve JobsSteve_Jobs_Headshot_2010-CROP



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Out with the old, in with the new.

It is now 2016, and all around the world millions of people will have made their annual ‘New Year Resolutions’. Many, if not most, of these resolutions will not last the year out. It is a bit of fun, a thing we do at this time of the year. Sometimes they are serious and are treated as such by the people who make them – and maybe that’s a good thing, particularly if it leads to an enhanced lifestyle.imagesresolution

The slogan ‘out with the old, in with new’ seems to be rather popular at this time of year too. The new year can herald an opportunity to start over, to cancel all moral debts, to become a  new person, a better person.

But can it? Can we really sweep away the old, can we really forget what has been and only look to what will be?

Our lives are shaped by the past. We are the sum of all our choices – the choices we made and which cannot be undone. When one has lived for quite a while the number of choices made through a lifetime is quite vast. We all hope that the majority of our choices through life were, indeed, the right ones. But how will we ever know?memoreis

Our memories are all we have left when the end comes. Those memories have been created by the ‘old’. There are bound to be good memories as well as not so good ones. and we understandably will file the nasty ones under ‘almost forgotten’.

Remembering good times, fabulous moments, exciting experiences is what makes us. Nostalgia is a much maligned word. Nostalgia is not a hankering after the past in my view, it is a fond remembrance of moments of our life. It is a positive recollection of good times, successes, proud moments, exhilarating experiences. What’s wrong with that? Why would would we want to sweep away our ‘old’.

If we are lucky, we still have time to make more memorable moments. The ‘new’ can be brought in without sweeping away the old.

So I will not be sweeping away the old, just bringing in the new, and trusting that they will combine to make more wonderful ‘old’ memories.memories

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A new year.

This is being written on new years eve 2015 – 2016 looms. The end of the most challenging year of my life. I has been a lengthy period since my last blog, caused by treatment induced lack of enthusiasm. I am now in day 84 of my stem cell transplant, and it has gone well. I have pleased myself and the haematologist, so that is something major to be grateful for. Later than originally planned because of the heart hiccup already mentioned in a previous blog, nonetheless a success so far. The heart stuff has led to three heart procedures, if it’s not one thing its another!

So what now? I feel good at the moment, I am getting back to being able to do the things I used to do, and feel almost like I used to. Not quite – fatigue is still a problem, lack of hair has defined my new “Heisenberg” style, but all this is okay compared to what was. I’m not complaining.

…….. so 2016 – what will it bring? What do I want it to bring? What am I prepared to do to ensure that every day I am now blessed with is a good one?

Learn a new skill? Travel?Change my lifestyle or carry on regardless?

This is for me to ponder in 2016. After having gone through a year of ‘challenge’ and come through it rather well, I am determined things will not merely ‘drift’ until the bloods deteriorate or until my heart starts being naughty again – but what to do?

Watch this space.time-for-change

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The end of the season.

………. here that means the end of the football season (Aussie rules). The big grand final is on Saturday, but all around in the parks and recreation ovals the footie posts have been taken down. In their place the cricket pitches are revealed once again, ready for the upcoming summer sport – cricket.dogimages

Wow, it only seems like yesterday that autumn was here, winter was approaching and all the talk was of the football season ahead. A blink of an eye later and it’s gone for another year.time

I m not a football fan, but I use this scenario to illustrate one of the frustrating realities of life as one gets older – time goes by much quicker.

Of course it doesn’t actually pass by quicker – but it sure seems so. There is a saying that age doesn’t matter, that it is simply a state of mind. I have tried to follow this belief as the years have passed by quicker and quicker. The annoying thing is that there is truth to the notion that it’s all in the mind. I still feel young, I still think like I did in my twenties and thirties, I still want to enjoy and excel in the same things. The problem is that my body is interfering in this endeavor. Obviously I don’t expect to be playing rugby, or squash as I used to, and the sporting love of my life – skiing – is a million miles away from Western Australia ( my choice to live here, no grumbles), but the damned thing just doesn’t work like it used to …. ie properly!

Heart problems, blood cancer, endless doctors appointments and the scourge of chemotherapy have conspired to control my life in a way which I could never have imagined as twenty or thirty something. It is worth noting at this point that I have always eaten healthily, been active, maintained good body weight, never smoked. In fact never ill at all up until my heart attack 3 years ago. So much for a healthy lifestyle as the answer to longevity!!!waiting at the doctors office

So – another season passes by and I have yet another doctors appointment this afternoon, It’s almost becoming my hobby! I have always been positive and I do my best to maintain a sense of humour, but the onset of another cricket season, when I thought the footie season had only just started has startled me.

This leads me to make two final points. First the standard advice of making the most of your youth is actually good advice. Never put off until tomorrow what can be done today.1e1a27c8180e1987ab85f9b2f36587cfSecondly I constantly remind myself that so many of my friends and never made it to being older, so it is a stage to be cherished.ageses

Finally a challenge for all you entrepreneurs and scientists : if you can find a way to slow down the passage of time as one gets older you will become the richest person in the history of this planet. Good luck.goldes

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