Monday, 26 December 2011


Just re-watched The Nativity aired by BBC 1 last Christmas. It's beautiful. Please catch it on DVD.  In the meanwhile quickly get onto BBC iPlayer-the last 5 or so minutes are truly magical as the shepherds and magi come to worship the 'new born King'-think it's only available for 5 more  days.

Here's the trailer

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Gambling and Christmas

Interesting stuff from Roy Hattersley in today's Daily mail.

There is something incongruous about promoting gambling as a family friendly activity. And indeed there is a marked contrast between Christmas and gambling. At Christmas the infinite God became small. In gambling it's the dream of turning something small into something outlandishly large.

Hatteresley does not hold back from criticising his own party,

Supporters of the law which promoted the creation of mega-casinos — and the related decision to allow gambling adverts on television — will argue that, in a free society, men and women should be at liberty to spend their money as they choose. That’s true.
But that does not detract from the obvious truth that some freedoms are corrosive to the good society and, although they should be allowed, should not be encouraged.
And the decision to promote gambling as a weapon in the war against economic decline — shamefully taken by a Labour Government — is an affront to the idea of Britain as it was and as it ought to be.
Once upon a time, we built our greatness on engineering and textiles, shipbuilding and steel. We made railway engines for the world, our ships carried cargoes across every ocean and — even in more recent times — we aspired to play a major part in the information technology revolution.
The idea that our country will benefit from encouraging people — some of whom cannot afford it — to feed small change into slot machines is an affront to the memory of what we used to be. And, more important, it holds back — rather than encourages — the regeneration that we desperately need.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

'You sound just like my beautician'

Patients never cease to amaze me with their varied comments to me.

Today I was trying to help a 49 year old lady find some good motivation to give up smoking. It's well recognised that fear of illness does not seem to motivate, hence the ineffectiveness of health warnings on packets of cigarettes.

Taken from google images and demonstrating the striking effect of smoking
So I chose to go with the fear which is so strong with so many of us in our botoxed, youth orientated culture-vanity and ageing! Smoking has significant ageing effects on the skin and it's not too difficult to see the changes without the need to ask or smell the tobacco.

I'm not sure if was flattered or not as she parted with a,  "you sound just like my beautician".

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

For unto us a child is born

Last Sunday as part of our Handel at Advent series at Grace Community Church,  I spoke form the Old Testament prophet Isaiah's words in chapter 9.

'For unto us a chid is born, unto us a son us given. And the government shall be upon his shoulder. And his name shall be called, Wonderful Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of pPeace.'

I mainly focused on the 'Wonderful Counsellor.' Take a listen here if you'd like.

Our assistant minister Martin Salter did a great job of finding some lovely you tube clips to go with it. Please watch below a theatre company from Vienna doing a very original version-it's magical.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Side effect of the day

The more I prescribe medication the more I realise that side effects play a huge part in patient's lives. Many of us  forget to think about side effects when patients consult  us. When I do think to take time to ask patients it's surprising what I hear.

Yesterday a patient with migraine told me that she had stopped her Topiramate some weeks before. She had been troubled by overwhelming urges to throw herself off the escalator at the local shopping centre. She had read in the drug packet literature that suicidal ideation could be a problem with the drug. Since stopping it, her rather bizarre urges had completely disappeared.

Fortunately she had worked this out herself and can now safely go to Milton Keynes to shop! If the motorist should always, 'think bike' I guess the doctor would be well advised to frequently' think drugs'.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Mary Stanford

Just back from few days near Rye in Sussex. Lovely part of the world and all new to me.

Whilst in a bookshop read the story of the Mary Stanford lifeboat disaster of 1928 (it was only a short book but got so engrossed that read the whole thing-I guess I should have bought it!). It's a truly tagic tale of duty, heroism and selflessness. And made all the more awful by the fact that the attempted rescue was unnecessary since the crew of the stricken vessel had already been rescued by another vessel.

You can read a detailed account here.

I visited the memorial in the churchyard at Rye Harbour. It was bleak and cold and sadly a rather forlorn place. Seventeen men lost their lives including a father and two sons. I guess being a landlubber I rather take the RNLI for granted, but thank God for people willing to risk their lives to save others.

It seems that sacrifice is built into the fabric of what it means to be human. Whether a mother's love, a soldiers bravery or a lifeboatman's (or woman's) instinct.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Menin Gate just before the Last Post
Really enjoyed a day trip to Ypres (leper) in Belgium the other day with my good friend Mark. The whole area is somewhat hallowed ground with nearly 60,000 British and Commonwealth names  inscribed on the imposing Menin gate. And theses are 'only' those who died and have no known resting place. There are literally thousands more commemorated in cemeteries large and small all dotted around Ypres. Every night at 8pm the traffic is stopped  and the buglers play the Last Post. Since 1928 it has been played every night (apart from during the Second World War when the Germans stopped it). I quite expected that there would be a dozen or so the night we were there, but we counted about 300 and apparently there's often up to 1000 people!

Mark at Tyne Cot pill box
Just outside Ypres is Tyne Cot cemetery, the largest and most visited war cemetery in the world. We visited it just before dusk when it was bitterly cold and which somehow contributed to the ambience of being at the place where such sacrifice took place and where it is commemorated.  There are about 12,000 graves here and another 24,000 names of those with no known grave. There are three German pill boxes still within the cemetery and they are a poignant reminder of conspicuous bravery. A number of VCs were awarded in capturing similar such defences.

At Noel Chavasse' headstone 
For me paying a repeat visit to the headstone of Capt Noel Chavesse was the most poignant. He was the only man to be awarded two VCs during the First World War. He was a doctor originally from Liverpool and he was also a committed Christian believer. His father who was the Bishop of Liverpool wrote with heavy heart to Noel's brother Bernard telling him of Noel's death. They are brave and faithful words.

You will have heard by this time that our dearest Noel has been called away.... Our hearts are almost broken, for oh! how we loved him. Your dearest mother is pathetic in her grief, so brave and calm notwithstanding. But again and again, we keep praising and thanking God for having given us such a son. We know he is with Christ, and that one day - perhaps soon -we shall see him again. What should we do in such sorrow as this, if we could not rest on the character of God, on his love, and wisdom and righteousness....

A message from the other side

No, not that side! But thank God got through surgery ok yesterday. And thanks to all for love support and prayer.