Yes, we are all individuals!

Josh Friedman’s recent article for Time, “It’s Okay to Be a Coward About Cancer“, is an interesting piece about the language that surrounds the disease. It’s written from the perspective of someone who has experienced cancer for himself. In it, he takes issue with the dominant interpretative repertoires (*) of “fighting” and “surviving” the disease.

When I was first diagnosed with MCL, I initially adopted positions from the “fighting” repertoire. After all, it seems the logical thing to do. No-one wants to die from cancer – and not many people want to die,  ever! “Fighting” is how I perceived that the majority of people were talking about the disease, and I started to talk about it in that way too.

However, over time, I started to think of myself as being more of a survivor than fighter. This was because I found it difficult to declare war on my own body, regardless of its faults. But even that phase didn’t last long. These days, given my current non-treatment status, I feel more comfortable with the idea that I’m “living” with the condition rather than fighting or surviving it. My twitter and facebook biographies have reflected this progression over the last three years since my diagnosis.

While understanding and respecting Josh’s position, I think that rejecting the dominant fighting and surviving repertoires as cowardice undersells his own strength. Coming to terms with cancer by rejecting the culturally dominant discourses is definitely not cowardice. Taking a position against what the majority believe to be commonsense is always hard.

I wish him and all other cancer patients well, regardless of their approach to coming to terms with the disease and their own mortality. After all, in the words of Brian, “You are all individuals, you don’t need to follow anybody!”

 

(*) For those of you who aren’t discursive psychologists, interpretative repertoires provide commonsense and relatively coherent ways of talking about a topic, providing a basis for shared understandings to be reached. They are culturally and historically situated – for example, it is unlikely that a Victorian would have talked about cancer in the same way as a citizen of the 21st century.

760 years of the Seven

OK, so I know the event last weekend at Donington Park celebrated 60, rather than 760 years of the Seven, but it’s how I keep reading the logo. Sorry.

760 years of the Seven

760 (?!) years of the Seven – souvenir programme

In the end I only managed to attend the Friday evening event and joined a run out to Bakewell on the Saturday morning, but very enjoyable it all was. Even the queueing on Friday evening was a great (if a probably unintended) way to break the ice with fellow enthusiasts. I’d like to thank and congratulate the organisers from the Lotus 7 Club – you did an excellent job looking after so many people and their cars.

Friday evening’s event was held in the Donington Collections Museum. It had been some time since I’d last looked around it. The overwhelming impression you get is that they desperately need more space to do full justice to the exhibits. Even so, it’s a fascinating place and the normal entrance fee of £12 for an adult is a bargain.

F1 collection

Just a few cars from the museum’s enormous F1 collection

A Hesketh and a Lola

A Hesketh and Lola displaying some, well, very 1970s sponsorship

Saturday morning saw me return to Donington and join a run out to Bakewell. Unfortunately, as I was too busy looking at the route book and strapping myself in, I headed off last and spent the first few miles of the run playing catch-up. Through a fortuitous piece of satnav lunacy (I took a wrong turning), I eventually caught up with the pack just outside Hulland Ward.

I see you!

I see you!

The weather was perfect and after a brief stop outside Bakewell Showground I had to leave the group and head back home to join the rest of the family for a theatre trip. That was brilliant too (The play that goes wrong, as you’re asking) – even though there wasn’t a Seven in sight.

The gnu and friends at Bakewell

The gnu and friends at Bakewell

I missed all of Sunday as I needed to head ‘up North’ for work. I’m now looking forward to the 70th anniversary. I promise not to double book myself then …

Good news – and looking forward to playtime!

Hurrah! The good news on Wednesday morning was that my white blood cell (neutrophil) count was just above the minimum for “normal” adults for the first time in three tests. This would suggest that my bone marrow is hanging on in there after all. I’m therefore back on the watch and wait routine until September, assuming that nothing out of the ordinary happens.

My medical team remains of the opinion that I’m in the luckier 15% of people with MCL as it’s still behaving indolently rather than aggressively three years after diagnosis. There’s still no evidence to suggest that my survival prospects would be improved by taking the chemotherapy option sooner rather than later. I’m happy with that – but there’s a little voice nagging in my head telling me that if we really knew how to treat MCL, it wouldn’t be so. Some lifestyle changes – not taking on too much physically and mentally – also seem to be helping with the tiredness I sometimes feel.

This weekend marks the 60th anniversary of the Lotus 7 and the owner’s club have a celebration weekend at Donington Park. I’m going as it’s nearby and I’m looking forward to it. Something tells me the gnu is also looking forward to the event – you can see the gleam in his eyes headlamps.

Is it playtime yet?

Is it playtime yet?

Little darlings: Dealing with watch and wait anxiety

I’m three days away from my regular watch and wait appointment at the hospital, and I’m panicking again. Last time my white blood cell count was low, so I was “promised” another bone marrow biopsy if it hadn’t moved back closer to normal this time. They’re not fun. I can feel myself coming over all unnecessary as I contemplate the prospect. To try to distract myself, I’ve therefore spent the day doing two things I’ve really enjoyed.

This morning I took the gnu (or he took me, not quite sure which!) out along the roads to Carsington Reservoir and back. I even had time to pull into the visitor centre for coffee. That was just after he’d found an impressive turn of speed to overtake a couple of vehicles alongside the dam. There’s clearly nothing wrong with his fuel and exhaust system, unlike that of his driver. He’s a little darling.

Carsington Reservoir

Carsington Reservoir, as seen from the coffee shop

The gnu at Carsington

The gnu, as seen in the car park

The second was being taken on a date to see “Despicable Me 3” this afternoon. Like Mark Kermode I think that the minions can do no wrong. They’re little darlings. Watching them perform the Major-General’s song from The Pirates of Penzance was definitely the highlight of the movie for me. But I admit that I also found the fart gag before the film even started funny. Is that wrong? I even managed to put up with a little shit darling constantly kicking the back of my seat with something approaching good grace. If you were sat in Derby’s Intu Showcase, screen 2, row F, seat 5 for the 1700 screening, it’s you that I’m talking about. Don’t do it again. Ever. The next person you do it to might not be as reasonable as I was. Or enjoying the film as much. Or both.

That was my Sunday. Only three more sleeps until the watch and wait anxiety dissipates again.

Wallpaper stripping: messages from another century

A time capsule from 1999, found as I was stripping the wallpaper from my old room at my parent’s house. The discovery of these messages from 18 years ago affected me more than it probably should have done. Emily is still at school – it’s just that it’s bigger and she’s not a student! Jessica is still lovely, obviously. Steve is no longer at Acordis (but then again, no-one is).

Finally, Dad put the wallpaper up so well it’s been a real so and so to remove. Good job!

Emily is still at school

Emily still at school

Jessica still lovely

Jessica still lovely

Steve still at Acordis

Steve still at Acordis

RH did the work Nov. 1999

RH did the work Nov. 1999

RHS Flower Show, Chatsworth

A few photographs from my visit to the RHS Flower Show at Chatsworth. Fortunately the event organisers had resolved the difficulties with car parking and queueing that marred the event earlier on in the week. The showground was muddy, even in the marquees, due to the rain that had fallen. A few more duckboards and places to sit would have been welcome, but for a first attempt it was a very enjoyable day out.

foxgloves

A riot of colour surrounds you everywhere.

Good weather for ducks

Good weather for ducks.

Insect

I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords. After all, they have to be far less obnoxious than the DUP.

River Derwent

The Derwent, pictured from one of the temporary bridges.

Mud

Mud, but no hippopotamuses in sight.

Dandelion

Dandelion sculpture.

Become conscious

Become conscious of the air that surrounds you …

The time has come: What next for (the) Liberal Democrats?

I’m writing these thoughts during the last few hours of the general election, but won’t hit publish until just before the polls close at 10pm. I’m then going to bed, hoping that June 9th will bring at least some crumbs of comfort from a Liberal Democrats perspective. Net gains would be nice!

What has astonished me most about the campaign has been the sheer dreadfulness of Theresa May. I always suspected she was a dud, but everything that’s happened suggests she’s far worse than that. I think her weaknesses must have astonished many Conservatives too. While it was too late to change election addresses and candidate billboards (at least in Mid Derbyshire), it’s been noticeable that the ‘standing with’ and ‘strong and stable’ brands have become ever less prominent as the weeks have gone by. One can only wonder what would have happened if she’d undergone the journalistic scrutiny that the other party leaders have. Regardless of the result, I doubt strongly she’ll still be their party leader at the 2022 election.

Labour have had a good general election campaign. They’ve been helped by the collapse of Theresa May’s credibility and authority. Although they look certain to increase their vote share from last time, I wonder how this will actually translate into seats gained.

There were glimmers of hope at the start of the general election campaign for the Liberal Democrats. Exceeding 100,000 members is no mean achievement. I remember Tim Farron talking about this goal during the leadership hustings in 2015 and I genuinely thought that this wasn’t achievable in the short-term. As with so many of my political predictions, I was wrong. The manifesto is great – human, fair, evidence-based, rational  and costed. As the IFS pointed out, if enacted it would provide the best economic outcome for the poorest 50% of society, and by some margin. I’m really proud to be in the same party as the people who put this together.

However, our air war simply hasn’t worked – for whatever reasons. Vote-share looks as if it will be close to the 8% result in 2015. The otherwise welcome collapse of UKIP may sadly mean some lost seats. I sincerely hope that the ground war in our key seats has worked well this time and that my pessimism is unfounded.

I’ve no idea which pollsters will be proved right or wrong. I’ve been intrigued by the new YouGov model. If the trend back towards two party politics in most of the country has continued as expected, then I suspect models based on uniform national swing (UNS) will be more accurate. If there’s been a massive uptake in tactical voting, with young and non-voters turning out for the first time, then YouGov may be the real winners in this particular battle.

So, to my prediction, written a few hours before the polls closed. I think we’ll see a Conservative majority – probably around the 50-60 seat mark. (This implies that I think UNS models will be better than YouGov’s new one). Sadly, I suspect that this would put my party at the lower end of the YouGov 95% confidence interval of 5ish to 20ish seats. Possibly even below it. I really hope that I’m wrong about this and that I look totally foolish tomorrow morning. Regardless, I’d like to add my thanks to all of our candidates and their teams. You become and stay a Liberal Democrat through conviction, not because of a desire for an easy political life. I appreciate all that you do, especially as I am currently unable to do much myself.

Britain under a Tory or Labour government will be unrecognisable in 2022 as the privations of Brexit really start to bite. People that I love will suffer, so you can perhaps understand, a little, why I’m still incandescent with rage with the Brexiteers and their late converts in May and Corbyn. However, I’m no longer confident that the perpetrators of this national catastrophe will ever be properly punished by the electorate. It will be very simple for authoritarian politicians to try to shift the blame onto external causes. But I’m glad that our party remains on what I believe to be the right side of this argument, regardless of whether it is eventually an electorally successful position.

Somewhere in the attic I have a copy of Paddy Ashdown’s 1989 book “Citizens’ Britain”. If I remember correctly, he paints two opposing pictures of how the UK could be in the early 2000s. One is of an optimistic, open, tolerant and united Britain and the other is of a closed, insular, mean and unequal country. Citadel Britain. Up until June 24th last year, I genuinely thought that Citizens’ Britain would eventually be closer to reality. Now, I’m utterly convinced that we’re in the dystopia of Citadel Britain and see no obvious way out. I told you earlier that my political predictions are usually rubbish.

So now only one question remains for me. What next for those of us who want to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, balancing the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity?

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