Euthanasia does exist

Thinking about my Mum this morning, and her distressingly hard departure from this life. The Liverpool Care Pathway mentioned in this post has since been discredited.

Too late for her, unfortunately.


During the last quarter of her life, my Mum was often ill. Her breathing problems became so bad, there would be crisis after crisis, occasions where she was not expected to survive. After recovering from these, she would usually say the same things, and have an identical conversation with me. She lamented the fact that voluntary euthanasia was illegal in the UK. She could see a future where she would not want to go on, but be unable to end her life with dignity, at a time of her own choosing. A vocal supporter of the ‘right to die’ campaign, she would always tell me that she did not want to, in her words, ‘end up as a cabbage’.  There were numerous times, when she would ask me to reassure her that I would advise any medical authorities that she was not to be resuscitated, and that her life was…

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Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Weights and Measures.

I woke up quite late this morning, no idea why. But I was thinking about millimetres, for some reason.
Come to think of it, I remember the reason, as it had to do with it being spelt differently in America. (Millimeters)

By the time I started to see things in England described in litres, centimetres, or millimetres, I was already pretty old. This country still cannot seem to make its mind up about the metric system, even though we changed to decimal currency in 1971. Directions (and signs) are still given in miles, and most haberdashery shops will sell you cloth by the yard. When you go to buy carpet though, it is sold by the square metre, and I have to use Google to translate that into something I can understand.

Petrol is sold in litres, as is milk, wine, juice, and soft drinks. But I can still buy a ‘gallon’ bucket, or a ‘five-gallon’ container. Meat, cheese, and loose produce are now sold in kilos and grammes. That means little to me, so I translate that into pounds and ounces in my head. (A kilo is 2.2 pounds) I have no concept of how long one centimetre is, but an exact idea of the size of something that is a quarter of an inch long.

Clothing is another problem. I can still buy shoes in a size I recognise, but the length and waistband of trousers is show in centimetres. Before buying most clothing, I have to translate the number from inches, so I know what to order. When it comes to large items like cookers and washing machines, the dimensions are all stated in centimetres. But I have an extending tape rule that has feet and inches on one side, so I measure with that so I know something will fit.

It is not unlike having to use two different languages. Imagine ordering clothes in Italian, but having to read direction signs in German. Remember the old saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”? In my case, that is true.

Much of what I learned at school from 1957 is now obsolete. Telling younger people about such ‘ancient’ measurements usually brings on a smile, followed by a look of complete boredom. However, some of those old measurements still exist, in specialised forms. Take a ‘Furlong’ for instance. This originally derived from ancient farming measurements, and came from two words ‘Furrow long’. This was the ideal length to plough a furrow in a field for planting. At school, I had to learn that there were eight furlongs in a mile, so the length of one was 220 yards. You may think that this is of little use today. But did you know that every horse race in Britain is still measured in furlongs?

I also had to learn that one furlong was equal to 10 chains, with one chain being 22 yards. There was even a physical metal chain used to check this. If you think this is silly and outdated, then you should know that to this day, one chain is the distance between the wickets on every cricket pitch in the world.

Fluid capacities were important too. Not centilitres or millilitres, I had never heard of those. We had Gallons, Pints, Gills, Flagons, Bushels, Pecks, and Firkins. I knew the relevance and size of every one, by the age of eight. And not all of those have disappeared. Beer is still sold in pubs here in pints and half-pints.

I could go on and on, but I can see your eyes glazing over from here. A Hand was used as a defined measurement, stated at four inches. Who uses that these days? Every horse is still measured in hands, so it is widely used by horse breeders and trainers, stables, and jockeys. When I was young, an average weight of a grown man was said to be around 11 stone. So if someone was 30 stone, you knew that they were very big, and almost certainly obese. When I am weighed at the doctor’s now, they tell me my weight in kilos. For me to make any sense of that, I have to translate it to stones and pounds.

So the next time you are thinking about how long, wide, or heavy something is, just hope that someone doesn’t come along and change all the measurements to something you will never understand.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Times change.

We are all aware how fast things change. I am using a computer to type this, yet when I left school, I never imagined that such a thing would exist. And I am posting this online, over the Internet. Who could ever have thought of that?

Whenever I complain about how things are, people wisely remind me that ‘times change’, or ‘it’s just progress’. Staring at mobile phones all day is progress then, I assume. I do try, I really do. Look how much I use technology to blog, and to spread the word about everything from how much it rains, to the stories I have written. But I confess that it is never less than a daily struggle, trying to keep up with those changing times.

As I get older, I complain a great deal. Regular readers will no doubt have noticed the increase in that, I’m sure.

Much of what I lament is caused by the addition of rose-tinted spectacles, and they make me firmly believe that everything was better ‘before’. Before times changed, and before so much progress. Does anyone under forty realise that their beloved smartphones and Internet televisions will be laughed at in thirty year’s time? I don’t know, and it doesn’t really matter.

But they will be.

Is life really so much better because you can switch on your house lights from the bus, by using an app on your phone? Well that is certainly progress, but is it either a good thing, or necessary? I struggle to believe it is.

When you are young, moany old codgers get on your nerves, always going on about how things were so much better ‘before’. They did it when I was young, and now I am upholding the tradition. And for you younger readers, a word of warning.

You will do it too.

You will hear yourself saying that your old X-Box was better than whatever is around when you are seventy years old. You will drone on about films and TV shows being so much better in your youth, and how the celebrities and stars of your day were much better-looking, and nicer people too. You will bore the pants off the future younger generation by going on about the food you used to eat, and how you used to cook it. The fast-food places that no longer exist, and the shops that closed down when you were in your sixties.

You will tell them about High Street Shops, and how you could buy just one cake in a baker’s. Regale them with how good it was to go to a doctor or the hospital, and not have to pay. You will become misty-eyed with memories of how people got state pensions, winter fuel allowance, and free bus travel when they were old. Of course, you will not have any of that for yourself, but you will remember when other people did.

You will find it hard to cope with progress, and increasingly difficult to change with the times.

I know, because I can see into your future.

And it is the same as mine.

Rainfall Nostalgia

As I was woken up during the night by yet another downpour, and that rain is still falling as I sit at my computer, I got to thinking about rain.

No surprise there, as anyone who has ever read this blog will tell you, I write a lot about rain. A lot. Having to walk a dog in all weathers, and with outbuildings liable to flood when ground water gets to too high a level, I can assure you that rain matters a great deal to me.

But what about before? Before I retired, and had time to resent the rain spoiling my free time, restricting my movements, and making my daily dog walks miserable.

I didn’t even own an umbrella until 2001.

That was the year I started working for the Metropolitan Police in London, and could no longer drive to work.

I had to either get a bus, or walk for almost thirty minutes to my new place of employment.

That meant being out in the weather dressed quite smartly, and then having to work a long shift with no facility to change wet clothes. I suddenly realised that you could get very wet in just thirty minutes.

I started by buying a weatherproof coat. That offered some protection, but my trousers and shoes still got soaked of course. I wasn’t too bothered about my head, as I had little hair to worry about, and what was there was cropped very short.

But by December of that year, I decided I definitely needed an umbrella, if I wasn’t going to spend the first period of my shift trying to dry out, sitting in damp clothes.

Remembering the old adage ‘You get what you pay for’, the John Lewis department store was my umbrella shop of choice. Not for me one of those over-sized and ubiquitous golfing umbrellas, which are totally impractical on the crowded streets of Central London. No, I had need of a classic ‘brolly’, a Gentleman’s Umbrella. Black of course, with a wooden handle, and a traditional slide and catch. The ‘automatic’ variety did not appeal at all.

I paid extra for one that was ‘guaranteed windproof’. The wind can be fierce along the streets of that city, especially in between high-sided buildings.

It was just what I needed, and kept me dry for the next eleven years, never letting me down, and never once blowing inside out in high winds.

I still have it now, and it is as good as it always was, exactly eighteen years later.

I think I am going to need it today.

The Barber’s Chair: Sports and Politics

It has been many years since I last had to go to a barber for a haircut.
In fact the last time was in 2000, almost twenty years ago.

From a very young age, until my late forties, I was a regular at the same barber shop in south London. Never one to let my hair grow, (it has never touched my ears, let alone collar) constant trips to see the barber were just an accepted part of my routine. Once I was working, I would have to go at weekends, and that meant they would be busy.

Back then, two barbers worked flat out dealing with the constant flow of customers. They rarely had time to sweep up the cigarette butts and huge amount of hair on the floor, and I always knew I would not get their best efforts when they were that busy.

As is common with hairdressers, they chatted to the customers. Both the one whose hair they were dealing with, and those waiting on the seats close behind too. Invariably, the talk would be about football, and because of its proximity to the ground of the local football club, Millwall, that team would feature.

Trouble was, I wasn’t a Millwall fan. I supported Tottenham, in north London. Admitting that would have been close to sacrilege in that company though.
So when the talk started about Millwall’s successes or failures, I went along with it, nodding or shaking my head at the appropriate time. Even during the summer, when it was cricket season, they still talked about football, and Millwall. Nobody even mentioned cricket, they just commented on what they expected of their local team when the next football season started.

As I got older, I became more reluctant to keep quiet. On occasion, I might even debate the poor performance of the local team, comparing it to other teams in that league who were doing well. Sometimes, this resulted in what some writers would describe as an uncomfortable silence.

By the time I was in my late twenties, I had started working shifts. This meant that I could now make the trip to the barber during weekdays, and often found the place empty. Even though I had moved a considerable distance away by then, it would never have occurred to me to use a different barber.

One weekday morning, I found Mustapha (the owner) alone in the shop. He was pleased to see me, and started to cut my hair. Our connection was so established by now, he never had to ask me what I wanted, and I always knew how much to pay. As he snipped away, he smiled at me in the mirror. “I meant to say, Pete, while nobody else is here. If I were you, I wouldn’t get into arguments about football. They might not end well, as some of those supporters are pretty tough guys, and can be violent”.

It hadn’t occurred to me that not being a supporter of the local team could put me in hospital, so I thanked him for his advice.

Changing the subject, he asked me “How are you doing at work? I bet the ambulances are still as busy as ever?” I chatted for a while about my job, then mentioned that I had become heavily involved in the union, and was about to become a local organiser. He had finished my hair, and was holding the mirror up, so I could approve the cut at the back. Even though we were alone in the shop, he leaned forward, speaking softly.

“Ah, politics and unions. I wouldn’t mention those either”.

Postcards From Blogging Friends: Part Ten

This will probably be the last in this series for 2019.

I would like to once again thank everyone who took the time and trouble to post the cards to me, and to let you know that this series was incredibly popular. The posts have been some of the most-read during that past year.

Scottish writer and blogger Mary was kind enough to send me two views of her holiday destination, Gomera.
(She has a new book out, here’s a link)

Eddy Winko (made up name) is British blogger who lives in Poland.
He included a postcard in a box of soaps I ordered from his wife.
(Gosia makes wonderful soaps! Here’s a link to those)

Looking forward to lots more cards in 2020!

A Random Memory

Wandering around on a cold bright afternoon with Ollie, it often surprises me what pops into my mind.

Once my Mum was in her eighties, and could hardly see, she often spilled things down her clothes as she was eating. On occasion, I would visit her to find her sitting in a top or dress that was obviously quite badly stained. I would point this out, and offer to find her something to change into from her wardrobe. But every time she was adamant that there was nothing there, that her clothing was not stained, and she was fine as she was.

She didn’t have any loss of mental faculties at that time, so I suspect her reluctance to believe me came from a mixture of embarrassment, and natural stubbornness. One evening, I was due to take her to a restaurant to celebrate some occasion. I arrived to find her wearing a rather fancy black outfit that was quite obviously spattered with stains from what she had been eating the last time she had worn it. I mentioned that she might want to change, as many other people would be there, and might wonder why her top had so many marks on it. She became unreasonably angry, and told me that if I was that bothered, she would stay at home.

I took her as she was, feeling sad that a once elegant and immaculate lady was perfectly happy to be seen in food-stained clothes by an assortment of family and friends.

Not long after this twenty year-old memory had been in my head, I saw a fellow dog walker, with her two dogs. One of them jumped up to me a few times, leaving muddy paw prints on my trousers, and then on the sleeve of my coat. She apologised, and told her dog off for jumping up. I assured her it wasn’t a problem. “They are only my dog-walking clothes, don’t worry”.

Maybe it runs in the family?