Autumn 2021 in UK

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Autumn & Winter 2021 in the UK


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Dunster Castle

September brings colder nights but the daytime can be pleasantly warm as the Autumn leaves begin to turn.
The photograph above is of Dunster Castle which is about 9 miles along the A39 from Williton towards Minehead.

I am well into my weekly course of chemotherapy treatment now after four injections. The side effects that are the worst this time are an essential tremor particularly in my left hand when eating, general weakness in my limbs, balance and unsteadyness when walking. Sleeping has been a problem with the increased dose of steroids and the doc has given me some sleeping pills which I use sparingly.

My calf muscle strain stubbornly refuses to heal despite regular applications of Volterol and the GP has referred me to the physio who will consult with me digitally! I am unable to walk any distance now so my regular walking exercise has ceased. I am booked for a flu jab in October and anticipate I will be getting a top up covid jab as well being one of the 1% classified vulnerable population.

I had a consultation with an NHS audiologist at Bridgwater hospital. Somerset NHS do not use Phonak aids so I was given a brand new pair of Danalogic hearing aids which are Danish. My hearing must have degenerated since I was last fitted with new aids in Cheltenham as I am again hearing sounds and frequencies which are new. I even had to turn the telly sound down two notches! Technology moves on and I can even adjust the settings using a smart phone app.

I have experienced one example of what may be Peripheral Neuropathy having being woken with what felt like an intense bone pain down both legs. This is a well known side effect of the chemo and must be monitored as permanent nerve damage can result if ignored. My doctor may decide to reduce the chemo doses should it get worse.

It is early days to assess how successful the treatment has been so far but my doctor says she is pleased with progress. The paraproteins have reduced from 13.1 to 7.9 g/l and the free lambda light chains have come down from 1037 to 39.58 mg/l. I have now had two doses of Zometa bone strengthener.

At the time of writing I am still not in my new apartment in Williton and am staying with my daughter and family in Stogursey. The reason for the delay in moving in is that the landlord found some problems with the plumbing which necessitated the whole shower to be removed and retiled. New carpets will not be laid until the plumber is finished which may be well into September.

My household effects are still on the high seas. The MV Tanjin Bridge is back off to Auckland so my container has been transhipped. Unlikely that will be delivered much before the end of September which suits my plans so I am not paying rent for an empty apartment I am not living in.

I traced the container which was transhipped on the container ship CMA CGM KERGUELEN which arrived in Southampton on 21st September. My container will there be loaded on a truck (subject to availability of HGV drivers of which there is a current shortage) and unpacked at Brittania's depot in Surry before being delivered to me in Somerset if my new place is ready.
The latest estimate for me moving in to my new place is dependent on plumbing being finished by 25th Sept. then new carpets are to be laid and the place cleaned. I now have a provisional date for occupancy of 6th October.

Interestingly the cost of shipping from NZ to UK was less than the cost of shipping from Southampton to Somerset. Container shipping efficiency has all but eliminated the cost differences of geographic position especially if it is Port to Port which is another reason why UK freeports are a good idea.

Eliza and Ian tie the knot

Mr & Mrs Hornby-Foster were betrothed on Monday 13th September 2021 in a clifftop ceremony at Gwbert in the county of Ceredigion, Wales which used to be the historic county of Cardiganshire.
Liza Hornby-Foster is my eldest grandaughter, daughter of Rebecca Calvert nee Biddle and Matthew Foster.

The whole event was held at The Cliff Hotel and Spa who put on a largely faultless event. The standard of accommodation was excellent as was the food which was of high quality and flavoursome, not easy to achieve when catering for large numbers.

Below is a slide show of a few random photo's taken at the weddding venue but not of the wedding ceremony itself which I am told is verboten!

I am told that modern wedding etiquette dictates that it's up to the couple to post the first wedding picture, which also includes the wedding venue and fellow guests and I expect you will already have guessed my opinion on this. Once I receive permission to do so I will post a slide show here and yer tis:

The happy couple were supposed to fly off from Manchester for a luxury honeymoon in Jamaica, however, at the last minute the Jamaican government decided to prohibit UK nationals from visiting so they ended up in Rhodes which I reckon is a much more interesting destination anyway and the weather is perfect there at this time of the year.

Health Update 16/09/2021.

I continue to make progress with the Free Lambda Light Chain now back down to 7.36 mg/l and the Kappa/Lambda Ratio 0.96 which is normal. The Paraprotein continues downward from 7.9 to 7.1 g/l and the Doc says that the cells tend to hang around in the blood long after the drugs have zapped them.

My calf muscle strain continues to give me problems and prevents me doing any serious walking. I was given an ultrasound scan to check for Deep Vein Thrombosis which was negative but so far they can not find the reason for the discomfort. In the meantime hot baths are prescribed.

2021/22 English Premiership Rugby begins.

The first round of the 2021/22 season began on the 17th September 2021. You can expand this page to see the individual match reports and current standings by clicking here which has expanded now from 12 to 13 teams contesting.

No puddings at Morries!!

A recent shop at Morrisons supermarket saw me come away empty handed for my Jam Roly Poly's and there was not a single pudding of any description on the shelves. The shelves were also empty in the cakes and pastry section and these shortages of stock they blame on a shortage of Heavy Good Vehicle drivers (HGV). BP has had to close some of it's petrol sations for the same reason.

The Road Haulage Association estimates the UK is short 100,000 drivers and the EU "rejoiners" or "remainers" as they used to be called blame Brexit. The ending of free movement has meant more red tape for those EU nationals wishing to work in the UK plus a decine in the value of Sterling has meant being paid in Pounds is no longer so attractive.

The real reasons for the shortage is a combination of things with Covid, Brexit and tax changes all having contributed. We are not alone in Europe as Poland has a shortfall of 123,000 drivers and Germany 60,000 but Brexit undoubtedly made things worse for the UK with our over reliance on EU drivers, especially Polish. You only have to look at the number of Polish HGV's on our roads to understand the problem.
Grant Shapps the UK Transport Secretary says that Covid lockdowns caused 40,000 HGV test to be cancelled and has said that Brexit actually helped him tackle the shortfall by changing the HGV testing rules to speed things up, something he would not have been able to do as a EU member State.

Boris is talking about bringing in new work visa rules and Shapps talked about bringing army drivers in to distribute petrol if there is a national shortage like there was during the 3 day week years ago but what about Jam Roly Polys's? Goverment priorities might be suspect if they want to keep the 'red wall' voting Tory!

Macron throws toys from Pram.

Emmanuel Macron is getting 'Napoleonic' again but this time the UK is not in his main firing line. The subject of his ire is a pact signed between Australia, USA and UK known as the AUKUS treaty which undertakes to sell nuclear powered submarines to Australia using secret technology from the USA and the UK and currently only shared by them.

Macron discussion with Biden

Unfortunately Australia had already placed a contract with the French for diesel powered subs worth A$90 billion which has now been cancelled and Mr Macron is 'not 'appy' having withdrawn his USA and Oz ambassadors in protest. He is saying that this is not how allies should behave in particularly America, renewing his call for a EU army, refusing to talk to the Oz premier, Scott Morrison, asking the EU to call off trade talks with Oz and sending them a big bill for cancellation fees.

French diplomats liken the UK to a vassal state of the USA whereas Boris would probably say we were a vassal State of the EU before Brexit. Dear old undiplomatic Boris who speaks perfect colloquial French waded in to the fracas with some 'Franglais'; "Prenez un grip and donnez-moi un break" said he. Emmanuel who speaks perfect English has not yet responded.

UK Covid Update 22/09/2021

As I write the latest UK daily infections are 34,460 and 166 deaths. At the same time last week there were 26,911 cases and 158 deaths so you can see that the UK is still experiencing significant deaths and infections despite around 70% of the population having been fully jabbed.

At the same time, at least in England but less so in the other UK countries, we seem to be almost back to normal as far as restrictions are concerned. Many shoppers in supermarkets are not now wearing masks, pubs seem largely back to normal social behaviour and major sporting events are taking place with little or no obvious separation of spectators.

Professor Sarah Gilbert who developed the Oxford vaccine says that Covid is unlikely to mutate into a deadlier, vaccine-evading, variant because it's run out of "places to go". She predicts it will become no more deadly than the common cold and it would seem that the UK government is of a similar opinion.

Latest Update 08/10

My weekly chemo is proceeding without problems but the side effects are becoming more intrusive. I am getting more pain in my ribs and lower back and my consultant has ordered a full body MRI which has a waiting list of about four weeks. That is just to check if there has been any additional bone lesions since the last full body MRI in NZ.
I am also experiencing increased lack of strength in my legs and this is a common side effect, particuarly in the upper thigh muscles whech make is difficult to stand from a sitting position. I knelt down to fix something the other day and could not get up. I had to crawl across the floor to a chair and haul myself up.

The good news is that after a regime of hot baths and excercises from the physio my calf muscle strain seems to be on the mend but I am now not fit enough to walk any distance. Consultant says things will improve as chemo progresses.
All the blood test results are moving in the right direction as well. The free light chain ratio is stable and within normal limits while the para-protein level is now down to 4.9g/l.

My household effects shipped from NZ arrived on 21st September and then sat in a port warehouse due to port congestion and a shortage of HGV drivers. The agents have even charged me a fee as they exceeded the free storage time allowed and it was beyong their control. It was beyond my control as well but I still had to pay!

No date yet for delivery but I will officially move in to my new home on 14th October but sans my NZ stuff means I will not move in until that arrives. At least I can get all the other stuff I need ordered and delivered. I have offers of assistance from friends once things are delivered.

Latest Update 12/11

I am now resident in my new home in Williton. All my household goods which were export packed in NZ in May arrived safely towards the end of October. I was delayed further when the gas central heatig boiler failed and had to be replaced but my new landlady, "Screech", was diligent in getting things done quickly.

I told her that up on the Mendip Hills 'Screech' is another name for cider and she said she was quite partial to a drop of 'Scrump' herself.

As far as my current health treatment is concerned I no longer have to travel each week to Taunton for chemotherapy as a travelling nurse now comes here to administer the drugs, even the ones that require an intravenous drip.
The drugs are delivered by courier in a chill pack and I store them in my fridge.

The hospital put me on a different anti-viral drug which produced negative side effects and which they have now told me to stop taking. Added to that and for the first time all the chemo drugs plus the bone strengthener infusion were administered on the same day.
This seemed to result in all the usual side effects being magnified to the extent that I had absolutely no energy, taste or appetite and generally felt unwell. I just sat in a chair and read most of the time.

My good friends the Hockey's and Mike Palmer have each visited twice now and their help in assembling flat pack furniture, getting everything unpacked and making the place liveable has been immense. I would not have been able to manage all that on my own and with my current state of health.

Even though I am currently suffering the side effects of the treatment my blood test results show it is working. When I began this treatment regime in mid August my paraprotein level was 13.1g/l and it is now down to 3.3g/l which is the main indicator of a reduction in the Myeloma. If no paraprotein cells can be detected in the blood then it is considered a complete response to treatment.
My consultant has suggested a pause in the treatment but so long as I can tolerate these side effects I prefer to continue so long as the blood test resuts show an improvement.

Remembrance Day Sunday Nov 14th 2021 Watchet

Watchet is an ancient port town dating from the 9th century under the Anglo-Saxon King Alfred the Great and developed as a port in the 19th with iron ore being transported down from the Brendon Hills by the West Somerset Mineral Railway peaking at an annual rate of 40,000 tonnes.

The West Somerset Railway connected the port with the Bristol and Exeter Railway and shipping movements reached a peak of over 1100 ships per annum.

Williton where I live is just a short drive from Watchet where my youngest grandchildren are both members of the thriving Sea Scout group who joined the annual Remembrance Day parade.
Due to covid restrictions there was no indoor church service so the ceremony was carried out outside at the war memorial after the parade. Fortunately it was a glorious sunny mild Autumn afternoon.

After lunch in Williton we discovered that my Son-in-Law, Tom, had left his proper shoes at home so couldn't dress smartly and my daughter Becky decided to wear his medals instead!
At Watchet Harbour a large crowd had gathered to watch the parade. By far the biggest contingent were the Sea Scouts consisting of Beaver's or Cub Packs and the older Scouts of which my youngest grandaughter Matilda is a member.
My youngest grandson Henry who is now 17 is a member of the Explorer Sea Scouts who wear a peaked officer's hat rather than the seaman's round hat worn by the younger scouts.

The parade was led by the Town Cryer who rang his bell and after a three "oyez" (from the 13th century French "oiez" meaning "Hear-ye") the parade moved off with the excellent West Somerset Brass providing the music.

At the war memorial the usual ceremony was held, hymns were sung and prayers said. Henry has been a member of the Scouting movement since the age of six and has not yet missed a remembrance day parade. He follows his grandfather who was a member for 26 years. It was a day to remember.

Update 11/12/2021

The side effects from my ongoing chemotherapy treatment became such that I was unable to tolerate continuing and the treatment has now been stopped for the last three weeks.
At a face to face meeting with my consultant she proposed that the treatment should now concentrate on getting me feeling well again before restarting chemo. A course of steriods and a blood tranfusion was prescribed.

On the positive side the chemo is working as it should to reduce the myloma cells and the paraprotein level from the latest blood test is now reduced to 2.0 g/l, down from 3.3g/l a month previous.

Ian and Liza Msc

The adjacent photo is of newly weds Ian and Liza Hornby-Foster, my eldest grandaughter and her new husband, who recently collected their MSc's at Newcastle University. They are both now working as Physiologists at Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton.

Me feeling so unwell has meant little acivity to report on this blog and I have not even felt up to sitting in front of a computer. So my regular reports on the Rugby Union Premiership have not continued and that has nothing to do with my support for Bath Rugby who have not won a game so far this season!

One consolation is that England Rugby won all of their games in the Autumn Internationals including just beating the World Champion Springboks. The highlight of that series though was France beating the All Blacks who remain my favoutites to win the six nations and perhaps become world champions next year.

It looks as though my one other sporting love, Test Cricket, and the Ashes Series has begun in an equally disappointing way with England getting a hammering at the Gabba. Not really a surprise the way our batsmen have been performing lately.

Apart from a few minor jobs like hanging pictures I am now settled in to my new home and look forward to exploring the locality once I am again fit and well.


Yet another new variant of the Covid19 virus has appeared which has once again sent the worlds scientists and politicians into panic mode.
New travel restrictions have been introduced and some European countries have introduced strict lockdowns. Britain, so far at least, has been fairly moderate in its reaction but you detect that Boris would like to go further.

In a commons vote to extend restrictions over 100 back benchers rebelled against the government but the bill was passed with the votes of the opposition.
A By-election in North Shropshire was won by the Lib-Dems overturning a 20,000 conservative majority.
12 Cabinet members indicated they were against any further restrictions being imposed without convincing data that it was necessary.
Boris's hands are tied it would seem and there will be no further restrictions before Christmas in England although other UK countries might.

Omicron graphs

Above you can compare the effect of the different variants. It is plain to see that so far the Omicron variant has had little effect of hospital admissions despite its high infection rate so the science is being ignored.

Perhaps Boris should reflect on the Church of England Book of Common Prayer:

We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts.
We have offended against thy holy laws.
We have left undone those things which we ought to have done;
and we have done those things which we ought not to have done;
and there is no health in us.

Health update on 18/01/2022

If you are wondering why this blog has not been updated for some time I can reveal it is solely to do with my state of health.
Just after I moved into my new home in Williton the side effects from the chemo hit me for six. You name it and I had it to the extent that I called a halt to the medication to give my body a rest.

Unfortunately I should have remembered that after my first chemo in NZ you then get the after effects which were worse than the side effects so I was just delaying the inevitable. I therefore agreed to continue the treatment with my consultant since when I have spent most days just sitting in a chair reading with no appetite and no energy to do anything so my festive season was anything but.

The only good news is that despite a months stoppage of treatment the paraprotein level continued to reduce down to 1.8g/l and free light chains remained at normal levels.
In two weeks time I will probably finish with the main Velcade chemo drug and just continue with the Darzalex every month which is a targeted monoclonal antibody that helps slow or stop the progression of multiple myeloma in several ways.

Darzalex is administered until signs of progression of multiple myeloma occur, or side effects become intolerable. It has been trialled up to 40 months.

Latest health review 03/02/2022

I have now had the final 8th cycle of treatment with Velcade, Dexamethasone and Darzalex. The blood tests show that everything is back to normal apart from the paraprotein which has dropped down to 0.4g/l. The consultant thinks that might drop to zero before too long and if so there would clinically be no sign of the Myeloma disease.

Quote's wot I like:

"Everything not invented by God is invented by an engineer".
Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh 10/6/1921 - 4/9/2021

Myeloma always returns except that I will continue to be given Darzalex every month which stops or slows down its return. Just out of interest the cost of the treatment I have just had cost the NHS £74,530. Had I stayed in NZ that drug is not funded.

Mucky Murdo appeared on the scene and stayed for three nights. I drove him round the countryside and we stopped at Cothelstone Hill and walked to the summit and back. About 2 miles, very slowly, but I did it. That is progress and my task now it to get back my fitness to walk the Macmillan Way West.

We visited the Palmers and Mac came over. We talked and talked until we were invited to stay for dinner and it was 10pm before we arrived back home. The problems of the world were resolved!

Rugby Union update 14/01/2022

Bath Rugby continues to lose games and languishes at the bottom of the league table although we did spark into life for the game against Quins, the current champions, where we manage to just beat them at the Rec.

PosTeam PlW D L Pts
1 Leicester Tigers 15 13 0 2 61
2 Saracens 15 10 1 4 53
3 Gloucester Rugby 15 9 1 5 47
4 Harlequins 15 8 0 7 43
5 Wasps 15 8 0 7 42
6 Exeter Chiefs 15 8 0 7 41
7 Northampton Saints 14 8 0 6 40
8 London Irish 15 6 3 6 40
9 Sale Sharks 15 7 1 7 39
10 Bristol Bears 14 5 0 9 27
11 Newcastle Falcons 14 3 1 8 24
12 Worcester Warriors 15 3 1 11 21
13 Bath Rugby 15 2 0 13 14

As you can see they Tigers are still up there at the top of the table but Sarries have their act together and have come flying up the table into second place.
Gloucester have turned their game aroound since last season as have London Irish but Bristol who reached the final last year have slumped as have Exeter,

Currently we have reached the second round in the Six Nations championship and the two top teams this year I forecast to be France and Ireland who both beat the All Blacks in the Autumn Internationsl Series.

England lost their first game at Murrayfield and should have won it. They dominated the first half and were seven points ahead with 10 minutes left on the clock when they lost their cool.
A superb cross cick to the corner was intercepted by hooker Cowan-Dickie who deliberately knocked on so Scotland were awarded a penalty try. Then, in the absense of a hooker, Jo Marler threw in but not the requisite 5 metres and Scotland slotted the resulting penalty to take the lead.

England were camped on the Scottish try line in the final minutes but after several scrums after England had tried to get a scrum penalty which Kiwi referee Ben O'Keefe refused to countenance, the final whistle saw Scotland hang on for a well deserved 20-17 victory.

Ireland demolished Wales in Dublin as did France in Rome where England went for a predictable win. They nilled Italy 31-0 for the first time ever to clinch 2nd place in the table but Scotland failed to beat Wales after Finn Russell was sent off for a deliberate knock on in the last quarter. The score was again 20-17 but this time not in Scotlands favour.

The best game was of course in Paris with Ireland against France who came out fizzing. The first was in just over a minute with a lightening inside pass from fly half Ntamack to scrum half captain Dupont put him over the line. Then a penalty goal after 6 minutes as Ireland hit back when Hansen intercepted the kick off to touch down unmolested leaving France wondering how that happened!

Ireland were under pressure and giving away penalties galore so that at half time they were down 19-7 but in the 2nd half Ireland became more disciplined and came back strongly to get within a point of France scoring two tries in quick succession.
France eventually scored their 2nd try but two more penalty goals put the score out of reach of the Irish and it finished 30-24.

French full back Jaminet is a place kicking find for France and he only missed one kick from many which were not easy.
So France is the only team who can win a grand slam but they have to beat Scotland and Wales away to do it. Beating England in Paris should be a doddle!

Health update on 7/03/2022

At the last update after I finished the second chemotherapy all the parameters from the blood tests were back to normal. The only contradiction was the paraprotein level which was 0.4g/l but on a downward trajectory and my consultant thought there was a good chance of getting it down to zero.

Unfortunately this has not happented and the level has risen to 0.6g/l. Although disappointing, paraprotein and/or light chain levels are very individual to each patient and can sometimes fluctuate up and down without causing too much concern.
I am continuing a monthly injection of Darzalex which is intended to delay the inevitable relapse as is a monthly infusion of a Bisphosphonate to strengthen the bones.
At the moment the side effects from the chemo are still evident, the worst being a complete lack of appetite and a feeling of nausea when eating sold food.

Rugby Union update 7/03/2022

The third round of the Six Nations went as predicted with England scraping a 13-19 win. From being 17 null down Wales fought back to in the 2nd half and England were lucky not to be beaten.
A rubbish game of Rugby when compared to the superb Scotland v France game which was a gem. Although France were the better side by far, Scotland gave them a game of it and outplayed them for a period in the 2nd half. There is no doubt that they Frogs are the best side in the world at the moment. Next Engerland meet Ireland at Twickers and will struggle before the final game against France in Paris where I predict France will win the grand slam and the championship.

Omicron graphs
Semesa Rocoduguni back to scoring tries.

Better new for my Barf boys who manage to beat Newcastle away 25-30 then the following weekend beat Brissle in a derby at the rec, scoring the winning try in the final minute for a 29-27 win lifting them off the bottom of the table for the first time this season. Come on my lovers!

The fourth round of the Six Nations was as I predicted except that the two top teams, France and Ireland made hard work of it.
For the first 20 minutes France dazzled us with their rugby skills until Wales found theirs and the game could have gone either way. Eventually French superiority was estanlished and they won 9-13.
Likewise England started the underdogs at Twickenham and lost Charlie Ewels to a red carded dangerous tackle after a couple of minutes. An Ireland penalty goal and try quickly followed but this seemed to inspire England to greater efforts who fought their way back to 15 all with 15 minutes to play.
In the process the English scrum demolished the Irish resulting in 6 scrum penalties out of a 15 match total but in the final minutes the 14 man disadvantage cuaaght up and the Irish scored two more tries to win 15-32.

If England can raise their game to the same level in Paris next week then I would give them an outside chance of beating France which would give Ireland the championship but on balance I think that France should become Grand Slam Champions.

England did not disgrace themselves but failed to match the rugby nous of ths French who beat them 25-13 to become grand slam champions.
Ireland thrashed Scotland 26-5 but the surprise result was Italy beating Wales in Cardiff 21-22 in the closing seconds. A fantastic result for the Azzurri, well deserved and great for rugby.

Spring has sprung so you van find the next installment of this blog here.

Fund raising for Macmillan Cancer Support

Macmillan walk dates

I will be organising a sponsored walk to be held from 28th July to 7th August 2022 to raise funds for the Macmillan charity along the Macmillan Way West in memory of my late wife Susan who died in New Zealand from a secondary bone cancer.This link will take you to a page describing the walk.

"According to Macmillan Cancer Support, up to 50,000 people are walking around today with cancer which has not been diagnosed during lockdown."
I am also a cancer victim for which I underwent treatment in New Zealand for Myeloma and will now continue treatment here in the UK.
Both Sue and myself were misdiagnosed in NZ by GP's for several months before being correctly diagnosed by hospital specialists resulting in an unacceptable delay in receiving treatment.
Depending on your location, you can donate with the widget below directly to the Macmillan charity by subscribing through my JustGiving web site:

Douglas Macmillan 1884 - 1969:
Douglas Macmillan
"Born in Castle Cary, Somerset, Macmillan was educated in Somerset prior to university in London becoming a civil servant in London. After his father died of cancer in 1911 he started a charity to help those suffering from the disease which was eventually named after him. He died of cancer himself in Castle Cary at the age of 85. "

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. 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.

You can expand this page to see how you can donate by clicking here.

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