December 1st is the first official day of summer here in New Zealand. The above photograph of a Jacaranda, one of hundreds in bloom here at this time of the year, is perhaps inappropriate as the tree is not a New Zealand native species but the Pohutakawa which is and commonly known as the Kiwi Christmas Tree, has yet to put on its finest display.
This first week in December was a milestone in my treatment for myeloma as it was the last chemotherapy of the cycle. It has been eight long months of treatment having to suffer the many side effects in addition to the grief of losing my wife so an end to the chemo is something of a relief. Those side effects can take as long, if not longer, to dissipate after treatment stops as the chemo itself so I am not expecting any sudden relief.
With the myeloma now under control the next question is how long will that be before a relapse occurs which is inevitable. The prognosis is almost impossible to predict and could be measured in months or years. After a relapse you go back to chemo again which is never so effective the second time around. So far there is no cure for myeloma but new drugs are continually being trialled and life expectancy extended.
After my wife Sue died of secondary bone cancer in May 2020, the combination of my treatment for myeloma and the Covid 19 virus epidemic kept me trapped here in New Zealand. The recent discovery of vaccines to protect against the virus plus an end to my chemo treatment should mean I can now return home to the UK, however, I would be foolish to do so in the middle of a UK winter with the virus still a threat and my immune system currently in a much weakened state. I am therefore planning a return mid April 2021 when the UK might be a safer place.
More Humour from Uncle MurdoPam Ayres is a funny poet from Berkshire although some of you, particularly the younger generation or those who live outside the UK, may not have heard of her. Here she talks about retirement and how married couples get on with it, in particular if you live with a husband who knows it all.
English Premiership Rugby, Tri Nations & Autumn Cup.
Round 3 of the 2020/21 season began on Friday 4th December with Northampton Saints, who so far have not won a game, visiting Bristol. This will be the final round of premiership rugby before the first European Cup games get going next weekend. You can expand this page to see the English Premiership Rugby reports and current standings by clicking here.
The Mendip Cave Registry and Archive (MCRA)
I was contacted recently by Maurice Hewins of the Wessex Cave Club who sent me the words of a caving song I had forgotten and which I have now added to the collection on this web site. The song collection has been archived by the MCRA on their web site for posterity but Maurice would like to make a recording of a bunch of cavers singing the songs and when I return to the UK next year I will organise a singing session on Mendip to do just that.
In the meantime Maurice has made the above video of some of the songs which is a sort of documentary of their origin. These songs are possibly one of the most recent examples of genuine folk songs and are a history of Mendip caving in the 50's and 60's. You can now subscribe to the YouTube MCRA cannel here where you will find a collection of videos about Mendip Caving.
These never ending talks that keep being extended look as though they might be coming to an end finally although I anticipate we will still be talking to the EU about a Free Trade Deal for the next 10 years. I appreciate that many of you have no interest in this subject but if you wish to read more then you can expand the page by clicking here.
12th December 2020
Quite an important day for me as I reached the grand old age of 80 years old.
I decided that the occasion should also coincide with consigning my late wife Sue's ashes to the Pacific Ocean. Sue and I discussed this when she was diagnosed with terminal cancer and agreed that I should do it at Orokawa Bay. Sue had never visited this beautiful place but had seen my photographs and liked the idea. At the same time she also approved my proposal to walk the Macmillan Way in the UK in aid of the Macmillan Cancer Support Charity in her memory as we had walked large sections of this long distance footpath together.
I invited some friends and relations to meet at Waihi Beach on the morning of the 12th at the Southern end of the Coromandel Peninsula and where the 2.5km walk to Orokawa Bay begins. The plan was to have a picnic on Orokawa beach and all were invited to 'bring a plate'. This is a Kiwi expression and the idea is to bring food, not an empty plate which has happened before! I would provide the liquid refreshment.
I purchased a few bottles of Freixenet Cava which is a Spanish sparkling wine and one that Sue and I with our witnesses Jill and John Manchip had over indulged in at our wedding breakfast in Edinburgh which was at a little Spanish restaurant in Rose Street way back in 1975. Kelly and Dave agreed to organise chill bags and to carry them to the beach and I carried the champagne flutes and Sue's ashes. Then Sue's sister Maryanne kindly invited everyone round to her house near Katikati for a BBQ to finish off the day in some style.
The day dawned a bright and sunny 20 degrees which was ideal weather for the event which you can see from the above slide show we all enjoyed. Terri and Byron Bentley came down from Auckland as did Sue's brother Phil. I waded into the surf where Sue's ashes were duly consigned to the Pacific Ocean and one or two tears were shed.
Back at Maryanne and Fred's house we continued my birthday celebrations until Fred fired the Weber up and proceeded to cook the eye filet steaks which he had ordered specially from the local butcher from the firm he used to work for in Auckland. Maryanne laid on all the salads but Fred's steaks were the pièce de résistance, cooked à point and melt in the mouth delicious. Terri baked me a birthday cake to which Maryanne added a huge plate of fresh strawberries to complete a meal fit for a king.
A big thank you must go to everyone who contributed to making my 80th birthday one to remember.
My latest health developments.
After finishing chemo I experienced a marked reduction in pain levels and on my 'Barfday' was mostly pain free after walking 5k. I was therefore optimistic for the future but I still had the pain in my ribs which had started about a month ago. The cancer clinic told me to see my GP about it which I did and she arranged an X-ray and an ultrasound scan. The result show I have a bone fracture in one of the vertebrae and lesions elsewhere so I have been referred back to the cancer centre urgently.
This ridiculous Kiwi health system is so fragmented that you often have no idea who is supposed to be responsible for your care. To my mind the cancer centre should have investigated the rib pain which would have saved time and money. My money!
Even though the drug regime I was on was prescribed jointly by Tauranga hospital renal and haematology departments, when I finished chemo it was back to the GP for a hypertension prescription although antibiotic and antiviral drugs continued to be prescribed by the hospital. The GP actually asked me if I still wanted some of the other drugs I was on. I said I thought the other drugs were to combat the chemo side effects but that I was not a doctor! Unbelievable!
Now that the GP has referred me back to the hospital I suppose the drug regime could change yet again? Fortunately I have an understanding pharmacist who will re-do blister packs of pills if things do change again.
This latest development is a setback but is one to be expected as the Myeloma progresses and I will know more once I see the specialist again. Unfortunately that said specialist has gone away on holiday for two weeks so I spoke to cancer nurse Moira who checked the latest x-ray against the one I had back in May and told me there was very little difference that she could see. Once again it would seem I am the victim of the NZ health ministry system fragmentation as it would seem the GP has seen fractures and lesions that were evident 6 months ago.
Moira also informed me that she can see on her computer record that the GP has now requested a MRI scan. It would be nice for the patient to be told what was happening to them.
More Humour from Uncle MurdoMurder seems to have been carried away with seasonal goodwill of late and has now sent me a link to the video of Fascinating Aida singing a song in Edinburgh apologising to the Scots on behalf of the English for voting for Brexit.
Fans of this satirical trio might seek out their Christmas song as which is even ruder.
Jacob and Christine, my landlords, dropped round to wash the roof and presented me with a Christmas basket of goodies. After they had finished I plied them with Harvey Wallbangers. Two of the nicest landlords a tenant could wish for.
Boris gets Brexit done at last
Boris and EU boss Ursula von der Leyen seemed to have clinched the deal during a phone conversation on Monday. Ursula insisted that the UK would have to accept that if we were to change access for fishing vessels in British waters that the EU could then impose tariffs on all British goods, not just fish, but Boris was having none of it.
"Viel Hummer, kein Hammer" said Boris meaning "Lots of lobster, no hammer" and after consulting with EU leaders the "hammer" clause was removed.
Boris had said he wanted 50% of fish quota's returned to the UK on January 1st 2021. The EU had offered 25% with a transition period of 8 years until Britain became in full control of its own territory. Boris eventually accepted 25% but with a 5.5 year transition period. The current British fleet could not catch that many fish so they needed time to invest in new vessels to have the catching capacity. After June 2026, 10 years after we voted to leave the EU, we will finally have full control over our own territory and fishing quotas will be negotiated annually.
There were a few more conversations and things to sort out but on Wednesday evening Ursula asked Boris "Do we have a deal?" "Ja" said Boris and bar a few last minute changes to the fish quota's the deal was indeed done. And about time too!
My admiration in all this must go to the negotiating teams and especially the chief negotiators Lord Frost and Michel Barnier who showed extreme patience while the political shenanigans of Napoleon Macron in shutting the French border to trucks on the pretext he was protecting his country from the virus might have made lesser men walk. The exhausted British negotiating team were flown back to Britain in a RAF transport on Christmas Eve.
English Premiership Rugby Union
Round 4 was hit by the dreaded Covid virus with two games cancelled. London Irish reported several covid infections so this meant their fixture against Bath at the rec was cancelled. Premiership Rugby awarded 4 points to Bath and 2 points to Irish.
Similarly Leicester reported infections so their game against Newcastle at Kingston Park was cancelled and premiership Rugby awarded 4 points to Newcastle and 2 to Leicester.
You can expand this page to see the English Premiership Rugby reports and current standings by clicking here.
Chris Hockey's New Year Message
Not to be outdone by Uncle Murdo, Chris Hockey sent me the video below saying 'Music often shows us the way':
The video is by an American called Daniel Emmet who was a finalist on NBC's America's Got Talent TV show. It is Nessun Dorma from Puccini's opera Turandot but entitled "No Corona" with the words in English hoping the virus will leave us in 2021. Amen to that.
Fund raising for Macmillan Cancer Support 4 different ways:
On my return to the UK I will be organising a sponsored walk to raise funds for the Macmillan charity along the Macmillan Way West. I am also a cancer victim and undergoing treatment in New Zealand but in the meantime, depending on your location, you can donate with this widget below directly to the Macmillan charity by subscribing to the JustGiving web site:
The Covid epidemic has hit charities like Macmillan very hard as most fund raising has been forced to rely on internet pages such as this one. Macmillan has lost a third of its fundraised income due to the pandemic. It is very difficult to get people to part with their hard earned cash on-line rather than appealing to their better nature's face to face. 'Tis the season of goodwill and Macmillan would appreciate whatever you can afford because you might need them some day. Remember that 40% of the world population will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives and nearly 10 million a year will die which pales Covid into insignificance.