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Showing posts from 2016

You Have been loved: an appreciation of George Michael

Christmas Eve 2016. I was enjoying my family’s tradition of a pre-Christmas evening meal and, as always happens when we gather, conversations about music were inevitable. My 29-year-old son, a gifted, knowledgeable and dedicated choral singer, startled his two sisters, both also experienced, talented and committed choristers, by stating that George Michael was the best interpreter of rock and pop songs of his and any generation. His elder sister, never short of an opinion and never one to shirk a good-natured argument, was surprised that her brother, a rational scientist with a professed love of some of the great choral works should heap such an accolade on a rather unlikely idol. However, a brief discussion of the merits and scope of George’s work and technique led quickly to appropriately harmonious agreement. We listened to Last Christmas, reminiscing as so often before about that iconic video of the snowy Alpine holiday. 
Just 24 hours later, George Michael was dead, the latest o…

A Wombling Merry Christmas: an appreciation of Mike Batt

Among the Christmas hits that dominate the airwaves and form the soundtrack to any visit to a supermarket, garden centre or restaurant from mid-November onwards, one of the less commonly heard is Wombling Merry Christmas, which was a Top Ten hit in 1974, riding that year’s wave of popularity of the furry eco-warriors and their pre-news TV show. At one level, it’s just another identikit Christmas song of the sort that has been churned out over the years: a catchy tune, with cliché lyrics overlaid with sleigh bells. And of course in 1974, a 7” single was a perfect stocking filler for children who had fallen for the lovable litter-pickers and their music. It couldn’t fail at the time, but is now too often overlooked.
But listen again, or to any of those songs performed by a band of men dressed in furry costumes, and there’s a lot more to it than just a novelty song. Yes, it’s got all the Christmas clichés, but there’s more than a touch of class about the melodic progression, the orchest…

Life is a Rollercoaster: Diaversary Reflections

This is an update and re-edit of a post previously published as My Diabetes Story. Today (19-12-2016) is my diaversary, a term used by people with diabetes to "celebrate" the anniversary of the day when they discovered they were to live the rest of their lives with an incurable but manageable condition. I was diagnosed on 19th December 1997, at the age of 40, and here's the story.

Until that age, I had lived a life with minimal contact with the health service. I had a couple of standard childhood illnesses, leading to a couple of spells off school before the age of 10; I then managed an entire secondary school career without a single day's absence. I fell off my bike at the age of 13 on the first day of the summer holidays and suffered a straightforward arm fracture, which mended in the standard six-week time frame. And that was about it. Prior to my diagnosis with diabetes in 1997, I had worked for 17 years as a teacher with a total of four days off sick (two lots …

With a Little Help from my Friends

The reason for the title of this post will become apparent when you have read it. I am always very reluctant to use my blog or social media to be negative and critical, but I feel the need to pass comment on a matter which has already attracted much comment elsewhere. Diabetes Care.
I won’t bore readers who already know me with chapter and verse on my Diabetes story – it is in this postif you don’t know it. Suffice it to say that I have been most fortunate, in that I have lived for almost 19 years with Type One with minimal complications, good health and no significant impact upon my life and work. All I would say is that this is thanks in no small part to my own efforts, the care and concern of my immediate family, and in practical terms, the input of the health care professionals with whom I have dealt on a regular basis. Diabetes is hard work, all day, every day.
Six years ago, as a result of my consistently unproblematic condition, it was suggested to me by my hospital clinic tha…

It Came Upon The Midnight Clear

We have reached that time of year when Christmas music, be it sacred or secular, assaults our senses. The canon of secular songs forces its way into our consciousness from early November onwards whether we like it or not, and even though many of those songs are on our guilty pleasures list, it is difficult to avoid tiring of them before Advent has started, let alone Christmas. I try in vain to avoid them until well into December, yet have to admit to a frisson of childlike excitement when I hear Fairytale of New York or I Wish it could be Christmas every Day, to name but two, for the first time each year. And when Perry Como sings It’s beginning to look a lot like ChristmasI have to agree with him.
Fortunately, sacred Christmas music is a little easier to avoid, in that it is less commonly heard in supermarkets and garden centres, but one is nevertheless likely to have sung O Come All Ye Faithful several times before we get anywhere near the “Happy Morning” on which we can sing “Yea, L…

A letter of hope

A few weeks ago, I was asked by one of my many friends from the online community to write a "letter of hope" addressed to those new to Type One diabetes, either in their own right or as parents. 
The lady concerned, Maureen, lives in Australia and has a son with Type One. She finds that in Australia, with its smaller population and vast size, it is less easy for people with diabetes and their families to connect with each other, and so she is putting together a website of resources. 
You can read about her project on her blog here: and follow her on Twitter as @mumoftype1
So this is what I wrote, and I offer it here as my piece for World Diabetes Day:
Dear Dia-buddie,
You, or your child, have just been diagnosed with a condition. Not an illness, not a disease, but a condition.
It’s a shock when it happens. Right now, it must seem to you and your loved ones to be pretty bad news. I hope you haven’t just heard a load o…

I Vow to Thee my Country

I Vow to thee my Countryis the obvious title for this post. I used to have mixed feeelings about this hymn, feeling that it perhaps glorified war and praised blind obedience. But I was wrong. It speaks eloquently and movingly of the values of those generations from the first half of the 20th Century who gave their lives, or scarred the rest of their lives, so that we who came along later could enjoy the fun, freedom and prosperity which they didn't. It also speaks, in the second verse, of a more noble and ideal kingdom, of which we all dream. And it's a perfect song for this rather different post:
This is a sort of guest post, but an unusual and special one for Remembrance Sunday. It is written by my late Grandfather, Cyril Edward Cyphus (1895 - 1989), because 100 years ago, he was one of tens of thousands of soldiers who were living in that man-made hell called the Western Front. He was 21 years old in 1916, a gentle country boy, born and raised in the village of Littleworth i…

Sa Jeunesse

Sa Jeunesse.Your youth. A French song title for this diabetes-themed post. It's a song wrtten and performed by that incomparable Franco-Armenian nonegenarian chanteur Charles Aznavoura singer-songwriter sadly under-recognised in the English-speaking world. It's a eulogy of youth, and as such is a song tinged with melancholy about the passing of time: the title comes as the end of a refrain that exhorts young people to make the most of their youth while they can: Il faut boire jusqu'à l'ivresse sa jeunesse: drink up your youth until you're drunk on it
Not a bad piece of advice in my view, but I'm more inclined to say enjoy every part of your life, because in many ways, the best is yet to come as well as being in the past.
Aznavour is clearly troubled by the ageing process: some of his best known songs like Hier Encore and La Boheme express the nostalgic regrets of a middle aged man who wishes he was young again, and in so doing, he gives voice to feelings th…

It's Only Words

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me". Well, I'm not so sure. This familiar saying came into my mind when pondering this post featuring my thoughts about an old and over-familiar issue: words and diabetes.
I always like to use song titles for my blog posts, so a 1968 Bee-Gees song, Words, covered more recently by Boyzone, fitted well. "It's only words" says the song, but words are powerful things, and people with an incurable condition get quite upset by ill-chosen words that lead others to misunderstand, under-estimate or even stigmatise their illness. Especially if those careless words come from professional journalists who should know better.
It happens regularly in the media, and the UK's mid-market tabloids have a particularly poor record in this respect. The Daily Mail upset a lot of people with diabetes this last Saturday (24th September 2016) with a sensationalist front-page banner advertising a diet to "beat d…