Tough Call

HG55.jpg

Life can be tough and unforgiving. Moments come along which demand hard decisions. I have just had a 'moment.' One when I have had to strip emotion and irrational thinking out of the process and do the right thing. We all face such calls but knowing it is a common experience makes it no easier on the soul or the conscience. 

There is a time when young sparky things grow and mature into older girls with their creaks, strange noises and need for constant attention. They, in fact, reach a point where they go beyond economic sustainability. That is, they cost more to maintain than the value they give. Saying goodbye is hard though. So many good times, so many memories, so many shared experiences. Going for a younger model is not a decision taken lightly, by anyone, but sometimes you know it is the right thing to do. 

A fond farewell then to HG55 WWV. I've never owned a car for so long or done so much with one. 205,000 miles and a huge chunk of shared family time. Who could forget the glorious fishing road trips, the hundreds and hundreds of school runs on Sunday nights, the hell that was the Paris ring road, the voice from the back seat on the M 25 saying, "Dad, there's a policeman driving up beside you and he's waving at you." The truth is, I'm saying goodbye to a big part of our little lives and that kind of hits home. 

I was actually going to authorise the service work until the nice gentleman from probably the best Land Rover specialists in the south called me and said, "I'm so sorry Mr Crumble, in my haste I embarrassingly neglected to forward page 2." Page 2 wasn't good. The first of sixteen items was "Front suspension lower arms worn; £795.52." Cumulatively, the decision was made for me, no matter how much I railed against the injustice of engineering wear and tear. 

So, for the first time in probably twenty-two years, I am without a Land Rover Discovery, having owned several. With the replacement cost knocking on the door of £70k for the new model, (with bits), it may be some time before I have another. The other old girl is though, hanging on. Not so easily replaced.                                             

Journal

It was a curiously melancholic week leaving much to reflect on. The passing of Professor Stephen Hawking attracted the kind of attention that such a full life deserved but one which will only be seen in it’s true perspective with the passage of time, and how appropriate is that. When I heard the news I resolved to write a blog post about him which would have been wholly inappropriate coming from someone who barely scraped a ‘C’ pass in physics O-Level and who hardly understood anything in A Brief History of Time except the punctuation. I was anyway only going to highlight three points. That Professor Hawking proved to us all that even the most catastrophic physical disability need be no reason to  dim the lights on the human spirit and soul, that he opened the door to science for many, many school students across the world bringing vision and excitement to the most complex of theories and of course, that it is rare for any generation to live with one of the ‘Greats,’ among us. Fortunately for my readers, my friend Ilyas Khan, who is chairman of the Stephen Hawking Foundation, gave an appropriately eloquent and loving tribute to the man in a BBC television interview. It is well worth watching.

Ronnie 'Annie' Oakley on the left; NI

Ronnie 'Annie' Oakley on the left; NI

On Thursday I learned that a very old friend and mentor from my days as a young soldier and junior NCO in the RHF was moving from hospital to a hospice. We haven’t seen each other for half a lifetime but an exchange of texts, (he was unable to talk), brought many happy memories back. Happy, incidentally, is a relative term. In this case we’re talking about a shared brew in a downpour, which only served to wash away some of the week long oil and mud encrusted grime on the North German plain, a quick joke at the gates before a patrol in Armagh or our epic double act at the Battalion Christmas Concert in Hemer in 1979. It should have won a BAFTA but the judges didn’t much get round the lively regimental cabaret scene that was BAOR.

Andrew White

Andrew White

Friday and a drive down to Cirencester to attend a memorial service for another Army chum who sadly died last month after fighting a bastard brain tumour over the past two years. He saw it off for much longer than was expected but that rather summed up his go-forward never-look-back approach to life. Tenacious, bordering on obstinate, he was never going to detune his approach to the world because of some irritable health issue. The memorial service was genuinely thoughtful and therefore memorable. There were a few tears, many more light hearted moments with some moments of quiet reflection on the passing of a strong personality. His three children spoke wonderfully well. They were warm, engaging and witty. As I listened I thought, ‘Andrew, that’s your legacy right there.’ Afterward, as we chatted over drinks, I heard voices and saw faces together I haven’t seen for 20 or 30 years. At one point I closed my eyes and thought, ‘this could so easily be then not now.’ Overall, I think I rather prefer memorial services to funerals when the grief is simply too raw to engage with the family on any level. I would prefer of course, not to go to any, as would we all. I have already lost more of my Army contemporaries than is fair or reasonable. 

twickenham.jpg

Saturday saw a really rather chilly and wintry trip to Twickenham, the best part of which was the apres’ in the car park before the match. A memorial service for English rugby might be an appropriate next step but as a friend said, ‘it’s a good thing it’s only a game.’ Having deluded ourselves over the past twelve months that the dark days of 2015 were far behind us this Six Nations has been an absolute shocker. While the rest have swiftly caught up with England our team have gone into reverse. Whatever the coaches and players say our boys simply looked knackered. They lacked a yard of pace, any fizz or imagination. It is an uncomfortable truth for the RFU that in pursuit of greater revenue they, and Premiership rugby, are driving English players into the ground. Players need some down-time. What made the game more unpalatable was the £130 that my ticket cost. Thats £1.62 per minute of play and on the basis of what I watched on Saturday has no justification. Obviously, I got to sit just a few seats away from the noisiest and most animated Irishman in the ground but I can live with that. They earned their moment. I was left pondering on the way home though the wisdom of taking Mrs Flashbang to Twickenham in the snow for a birthday treat. For the same money we could have enjoyed the 8 course tasting menu with wine at our local Michelin starred restaurant. Life is all about choices.

The Eagle Has Landed

Laura: Dead Sea To Red Sea

One of the strands of life that I find especially enjoyable at the moment is quietly observing the number of ‘Mums’ who are dropping their Tesco’s shopping bags and saying, ‘I’ve been a good wife, a good mother, a good employee.... now….. it’s me time,’ and are going off and doing interesting and challenging things. Some are doing courses in this that or the next thing, some are becoming magistrates, some councillors, some are starting businesses, some seek adventure or find confirmation or afformation of their being through sport or coaching. Some do so simply by helping others. I think it is kind of cool. This wave of enthusiasm for rediscovering their joie de vivre does no doubt, leave some husbands sitting at the bottom of the garden wondering whats happened to shake, rattle and roll their little world. I think it's joyful..... kind of reaffirms the very good decision making we made in choosing these girls all those years ago!

And in that warm spirit of enthusiasm I get to welcome Mrs Flashbang home having just completed her Dead to Red Sea Charity Bike Ride and big thanks to friends and family who have supported her! (How bad is it by the way that I seem to have broken the spin dryer?). Well done hon!

 

That's My Girl

A quick update from our intrepid explorer in the Middle East for her kind supporters.... the call went something like, 'I'm having the time of my life.' On you go then love. Clip above from some self satisfied sod who just got himself a drone... (I do secretly have drone-envy, IWOOT).

Lau, the Flashbang thing was a joke love... not an instruction...

Lau, the Flashbang thing was a joke love... not an instruction...

Diesel, Arthur and I meanwhile are all doing as well as can be expected. If in passing there are any experts out there who know where the powder goes in the white washing machine in the outhouse, (it's one of those that lights up like a Tardis when you press 'On') or indeed where one finds the powder, then do please feel free to call. 

 

 

 

Flashbang Away!

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That's Mrs Flashbang away then on her charity fund raising trip cycling from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea, (don't panic, she has more luggage than just a Sainsbury's plastic bag). Good luck to her, and to those of us left behind; that would be me and the dogs. She'll be joining her Dad on the trip, who actually started these international charity bicycle endeavours 25 years ago. I did a few of the early ones at the end of which I swore I was done. If every bike on the planet was melted down and turned into paper-clips I wouldn't lose any sleep. Still, these challenges raise huge amounts for charities and thats a very good thing. 

Only the one for dinner tonight then..

Where's that cook gone?

Time of the Month

I arrived home last night after a hum drum day to a quiet house. It’s that time of the month. The Coven was gathering for their alleged monthly ‘Book Club,’ get-together which was surprising because the skies were quiet and subdued. On the evening of last month’s Circle we witnessed the biggest lightening storm in the south for years which was much more aligned with my deep seated suspicions. There was a note, ‘food in the fridge.’ She left me a mackerel. I wish she hadn’t. Now I would be the first to agree that mackerel are a fine and unfairly underrated fish but sometimes a man just needs more than a mackerel and some salad. A glass of wine cheered things along but a quick look at the television soon dampened the moment. My televisual tastes tend to be eclectic so I watched ten minutes of Australian Masterchef for inspiration before returning to my mackerel. Boy those young Aussie’s can knock together some decent scran. Their Asian-fusion-cooking-thing was way above my pay grade; impressive but why do they get so emotional? What is happening to that country? It’s only food, not a cure for cancer. In the end I gently fried my fish in butter, ate it with the pre-prepared salad and mused over the old days. What wouldn’t I give for a waltz down the old hotplate in the cookhouse?

Private Chris David at Patrol Base Wahid, (Helmand 2011) He and other chefs had to conjure up three meals a day for around 140 hungry troops against a backdrop of almost unbearable heat.

and in the good old bad days; 1 RHF in Crossmaglen in 1977. Conditions were cramped to say the least.

In my time the jokes about Army catering, which were anyway a hangover from National Service days, were misplaced. I always though the Catering Corps worked miracles with the modest budgets they had to work with and on operations what they produced from the smallest of facilities was nothing short of brilliant. As a young soldier I had no complaints and as a young officer life just got better. Except when on duty as Orderly Officer. One of our duties for the day was to attend meals in the Cookhouse with the Orderly Sergeant, check the food was of a good standard and take any complaints from the boys. It was an arcane task probably left over from the Crimea or the Haldane Reforms, who knows? I found it a bit embarrassing and intrusive standing watching the lads eat and rarely were there any complaints. Except if there were no chips; that could cause a riot. No chips and no tea and the British Army ceases to function. I wish I could break the habit even now but I don’t think I ever will. In Food Top Trumps, chips beat salad every day of the week. If only Mrs Flashbang could grasp the concept….

Army cooks themselves were a resilient bunch who took and gave stick and banter across the hotplate all day long. Oh and they could shift a trolley load of beer and perform with the rest of them in their down time. And didn’t they just. The night when on guard duty as a young Jock L/Cpl, when we caught a drunk cook rogering the Officers Mess Christmas turkey, still gives me episodes. You couldn’t make it up….. Anyway, here’s the Crumble tribute to Army cooks, bless ‘em..

Home Alone

they arrived....

they arrived....

If you have ever suffered from abandonment issues worry not. You are neither unique nor are you alone.  I’ve been scraping by for the last five days myself. She left with a cheery wave last week to spend a week with her sister detoxing, (whatever that is), and promising to return, ‘glowing.’ ‘You could get out of a hot bath glowing,’ I muttered as she disappeared in a cloud of dust down the track.

So, it’s been just myself and the boys, (the dogs that is for the Crumble boys are well off and away doing their own thing). So we’ve been here on a boys-will-be-boys self-catering hell-raising week at the homestead. In a manner of speaking that is. Hell-raising in this instance is outrageous behaviour such as leaving the washing-up until the morning, leaving loo seats up all over the house all the time and listening to Radio 4 until I fall asleep.

As Mrs Flashbang was leaving she said, ‘I’ve left some things in the fridge for you.” That was a nice touch. Unfortunately, when I arrived home this evening I realised that all the ‘things,’ had been either eaten or binned because they were either unsuitably healthy or just morbidly tasteless. I had though, forgotten to go to the supermarket today. The resulting rummage around the cupboards and freezer was somewhat disheartening. Given there were things in the freezer labelled before the Internet was invented that was a big no-no. The cupboards revealed things previously unknown to me although I should be absolutely honest and say the last time I looked in there was around 1995. Really though, what in the flying fuck are Cannellini Beans, Bijoux Verts Lentils and Aduki Beans? Is she secretly trying to finish me off by covertly feeding me cat food? I can’t tell you how much my heart soared when I spotted a good old fashioned and honest tin of baked beans at the back. There it was, almost hidden in shame in the darkness when all of us boys know it should be at the front, gleaming with pride and shouting, ‘I’m a tin of baked beans and I’m proud of it.’

My Sabatier Cook's Knife. Bought in 1989 at Peter Jones. if she ever legs it, the Cook's Knife stays; (hopefully not embedded in my abdomen).

My Sabatier Cook's Knife. Bought in 1989 at Peter Jones. if she ever legs it, the Cook's Knife stays; (hopefully not embedded in my abdomen).

Then, the dilemma. Do I go for the failsafe backstop of beans-on-toast or do I risk the out of date chicken fillets in the fridge? “Well,’ I thought to myself, “I have two boys. They do scary, boy stuff all the time. I’m not going to let two chicken fillets that are two days after their sell-buy date turn me into a big Jessie. I need to look my boys in the eye.’ I did what every Dad on his own would do. I made the all time best ever-chicken sandwich, (or ‘stack,’ as us cool Dad’s know them).

Whilst I was chopping and cutting it took me back a wee bit to the days when I got seriously into cooking. When I was on my own it became slightly obsessive. I even did a couple of cookery courses and delighted in entertaining in what I like to think, became a culinary hotspot in Islington for good wine and food and all done from the smallest of kitchens. My flatmate at the time and I used to argue and bicker like two old queens over important matters like sauce consistency and the crispiness of our crunchy roast potatoes, (I’m a Delia man as far as they are concerned). The passion for cooking dissipated in time though, mostly because I married a better cook.

not the best chef in Islington

not the best chef in Islington

I do think, men tend to focus on single issue challenges, climb that particular mountain and then move on to the next. When for example, I rediscovered fly-fishing, which I had not done since my younger days I tore into it with passion, commitment and unrestrained enthusiasm. Having drained the bank balance somewhat, and having achieved a modicum of success I drifted away from fishing for trout in the chalk-streams and took on the bigger and more industrial challenge of salmon fishing. That had a whole lot more deleterious effect on the bank balance but the reward for success was commensurate with the challenge the Atlantic salmon present. Salmon fishing is just special and really, you do not have to catch a fish to benefit from the joy of chilling while standing in a river casting a fly, even badly, while embracing the peace and unending theatre of nature that surrounds you. It is so very cathartic.

Another example of a rabid obsession was the Annual Airfix Modelling competition at the boy’s prep school. I don’t think the Crumble boys had a losing year. They did the modelling but it was a great excuse for me to go and buy all the bits I wasn’t able to have as a kid. Front and centre was a paint spray gun. Oh how we all wanted one of those when I was young. You get a very nice effect with a spray gun rather than brushes. Your helicopter landing to pick up wounded soldiers on an LZ with flashing helicopter lights, a starlit sky and sound effects really comes to life with the spray painted cam work and the desert floor moulded out of plasticast. Not that I took it seriously or anything.

Spitfire pilot being rescued in the Channel - very cool model. Think that was our finest modelling moment in the barn.

Spitfire pilot being rescued in the Channel - very cool model. Think that was our finest modelling moment in the barn.

So, what will be my next challenge? Do you know, I am not so very sure. I started the year with a whole bunch of resolutions, none of which are even close to being started never mind completed. We are at the time of year when I start to feel the old familiar tight knot in my stomach, when my mind begins to wander and I find it difficult to concentrate. Those same feelings you feel when you fall in love. I can sense those big salmon are coming to the end of their long journey from the feeding grounds and are heading to the Tweed. I find myself watching clips on YouTube and checking out salmon fly retailers, (not that, like all fisherman, I need any more flies), yet I have nothing booked.

Bliss

Bliss

Is this the year I break the dependency and move on? It is, with such weighty matters as these, that we gentleman must grapple whilst our wives disappear to apparently, detox. I fear I have no answer at present but at the very minimum, this rambling post has allowed me a break from my more weighty posts which I’ve been playing with about Dunkirk and St Valery and I do want to get those right, if not this.

Highs & Lows

Special, it was all a bit special.

That was a weekend of mixed emotions.

The Lions series ended yesterday leaving many of us with something of a forlorn and empty outlook on life. As one friend said as we watched the post match interviews, ‘what am I going to do now?’ It has been a fantastic six weeks of exhilarating, tense and good-to-watch rugby played by some of the Jedi Masters of the sport. As a shop window for sport in general and rugby in particular, nothing else comes close. The very idea of throwing together a squad from four nations and with only a few days training, packing them off to play the world champions in a three match series on the other side of the earth sound like Mission Impossible from the get-go. Many thought it would be. Perhaps they didn’t give enough credit to Warren Gatland’s mystical ways with coaching, or the manner in which players grow six inches when they put on that red shirt but the thrilling series that we have just enjoyed will live very long indeed in the memory. The downside of the hard fought drawn series is of course that there are some big and useful takeaways for the All Blacks in terms of their preparatory work for the World Cup in two years time from the perspective of competing against the Northern Hemisphere teams who have measurably improved since 2015.

There has though been some critical background noise about Lion’s tours, mostly coming from English clubs. The sounding off is less about the efficacy of the Lions from a sporting perspective but more a cynical and manipulative attempt to grab more money from the funds that the Lion’s tours generate. They can mostly bugger off. They have no support from rugby supporters of any hue and precious little from players, for whom being a Lion is a crowning sporting achievement beyond pounds, pence, PR and advertising. If the English clubs, and World Rugby for that matter, want to take us on then they are welcome to try. They will be disabused of their greedy and selfish motives pretty damm quickly. 

If those two had been around there would have no need for Hadrian to build a wall.

If those two had been around there would have no need for Hadrian to build a wall.

 

 

The rest of the weekend has been a bit hum-drum, mostly spent staring into the black rugby void with a bit of Test cricket on the box to jolly things along. With Mrs Flashbang away cycling Hadrian’s Wall and the kids all off doing what grown up kids do, it has also been a self-catering event. Yet again I met my nemesis and my nemesis yet again won. I hate dish-washers. There must be a smart engineer somewhere who can design a dishwasher that is easy to use, easy to load with controls that have some logic to them and one that doesn’t turn what’s left of our wedding presents into crystal dust. Having made a best-efforts go at loading the wretched thing I get to play hide-and -seek with wherever she’s hidden the little bloody washy things that go in the little slot. I gave up, emptied the machine and washed everything by hand which I much prefer to do anyway. I’ll master it one day though….. I will.

Bastard dog

Bastard dog

Happier days

Happier days

We end the weekend however with a bit of trauma. Actually, quite a lot of trauma. I loved my  Costa del Mar sunglasses. I really did. They have been everywhere with me for the best part of fifteen years. I’ve travelled with them, fished, driven, danced, watched cricket, barbecued, walked, worked, sailed, slept………….. everything. Just a moments inattention and they’ve been trashed. I swear I will swing for that bloody dog. I am not usually one for getting attached to, ‘stuff,’ but I’m genuinely a bit upset about my Costa’s. They’ve become part of me. Or they were. I think they are the best sunnies in the world. I don’t suppose they could be repaired? In the darkness, there is always light. I’ll be on the phone to Florida first thing; right about the same time I'll be registering my interest for the next Lions tour in South Africa in four years time..... 8,000 folk already have!

Into Each Life, Some Rain Must Fall

Yesterday was an interesting day but actually, the fun actually started the evening before on the train to Waterloo.

Whilst on my way to a dinner in aid of the fantastic Children's Trust I received a call from the Coastguard saying the US Coastguard had received a distress signal from the Golden Arc Expedition. That was interesting because the expedition finished 8 weeks ago and one of the boys is now in Barcelona and the other is in New Zealand. After a flurry of calls to locations east and south we established that the signal must have come from the VHF radio which was stolen in Puerto Rico back in November. Whilst no one would wish ill on anyone at sea there is a certain karma there. Mrs Flashbang relaxed and we went to dinner.

During dinner I discovered that my imaginative and audacious plan for Mrs Flashbang's birthday present the next day had one minor flaw. I didn't have the winning raffle ticket. I wondered if I would still have a wife the next morning.

The next morning I was relieved to find I still had a wife and lucky me, a flat tyre. It was raining very hard. I called recovery and a jolly man appeared an hour later. It was still raining. The jolly man stopped being the life and soul when he split the locking nut when trying to remove it, 'it's very common on Land Rovers sir.' I've been driving them for 30 years but you learn something new every day. With the wheel stuck he called the recovery truck and I wait for two hours. It was raining just a bit harder when they came and took my car away to the garage for repair. I was left to ponder just what the cost of 'well, its a very tricky and niggly job sir,' will be.

I had a quick lunch with a friend and we laughed about it all.

I stopped laughing when I returned home. I could hear the dogs were distressed. That would be because of the water pouring out of the front door. There was a lot of water. Burst pipes will do that. Four hours later, I finished the initial clean up and waited for the plumber. Happy Birthday plans were amended somewhat.

Still we said, 'no one got hurt.'

Just then daughter called. Daughter has always wanted to fly in a helicopter. She had just ticked that box being medevaced off a Swiss mountain with a suspected broken arm. 

Poured an agricultural sized gin and Mrs Flashbang said, 'What else could possibly go wrong?' 'Well,' I thought to myself quietly, 'it is only quarter past eight.' 

Barrett's is a Bastard

The biggest boost to a soldiers morale is hearing your name at 'mail call!' I should say, given the imperious advance of technology, 'in my day, the biggest boost..........' That is, right up until you heard the oldest and most worn line in the book, 'Crumble! Give this to McTavish.' Try it with the kids at Christmas; it is the joke that keeps on giving. I remember one day my heart soared when my name was called out and I walked back to my billet with a letter in hand from my girlfriend of the moment who I hadn't seen for some months. While it wasn't the most upbeat letter it wasn't the one every man jack hates to receive. In it, she detailed with great care, a list of ailments that would befall me should I continue to smoke. It was a long list although she ended by pointing out that it wasn't exhaustive. You're damn right it wasn't. She didn't mention bloody Barrett's...

So, I've got Barrett's Oesophagus, (I wish he'd take it back). While smoking isn't exactly the cause it almost certainly contributes to the condition and at best, we can say that smoking is kind of unhelpful here. So what is it? Simply put, BO is a condition where the sphincter like valve between the oesophagus and stomach loses it's elasticity allowing acid from the stomach to splash up and burn the lower end of the oesophagus. Doesn't sound good does it? It isn't. The area that becomes damaged provides a fertile breeding ground for a Defon 1 really nasty cancer. That's why I have the joy of having a routine two yearly check which is better than not having a two yearly check. Right up until the point when they call and say, 'hmmmmm, could you pop back; we would like to have another look.' 

Just want to point out that this would never have happened if John Hurt had gone to the QA in Portsmouth with his really extreme Barrett's Oesophagus.

Just want to point out that this would never have happened if John Hurt had gone to the QA in Portsmouth with his really extreme Barrett's Oesophagus.

So I did. I had a lesion. Now the word 'lesion' doesn't sound too bad. The second doctor I saw though didn't call what they found a lesion. He called it a granular cell tumour. The second doctor got my attention. The surprising little detail they omitted though, until my third visit for an ultrasound, 'we have to find out how deep it is,' was that this unwanted new resident in my oesophagus was out of the Barrett's zone. That is, by a freak coincidence, in having had the routine endoscopy they picked up this other squatter. Bear in mind, this thing was tiny, only 4mm but by the time it was removed last week it had grown to 20mm. Yep, I've seen Alien too...

Subsequently,  I found myself in the operating theatre for the apparently small procedure, ‘we’ll just go in and snip it off,’ last week. It turned into a rather longer 2 hour procedure. I am now not on the pre-Christmas liquid diet I had envisaged. The day after the op I felt like a troop of Royal Marine Commando’s had climbed up my oesophagus using ice axes and crampons. It did in fact, hurt like buggery. Still, that’s me having ticked the box marked, ‘my first operation,’ and hopefully it will be another handful of decades before the next...

Bit premature there son........

Bit premature there son........

The family reaction left me somewhat bemused. Mrs Flashbang abandoned me as I was being wheeled away to go shopping then home, ‘call me when you’re ready to be picked up.’ My daughter didn’t call but spoke to her mother on the grounds that I didn’t display much empathy when she had her wisdom teeth out. One son, who has watched every single episode of House and knows more about medical complications than the average consultant did call but was slightly more interested in the procedure than I found comfortable while the other son messaged from his expedition saying, ‘so, is this the moment we put your Bucket List together Dad?’ charming……....

For what it is worth, and this is the point of the post, if you suffer from persistent acid reflux and heartburn, go and see your GP. Many souls knock back a few Rennie's or Gavascol and soldier on. That is not the correct drill. Some GP's will upgrade the usual remedies by prescribing Omeprazole which is a quick and easy fix but may cover up a more ominous problem smouldering away. An early diagnosis of Barrett's is obviously better than a late diagnosis. There is more to write on the subject, from a slightly more serious perspective, with regard to diet and I will do that in due course.

In the meantime, I'm very much looking forward to my return to the QA in Portsmouth for my follow up scope in Dec with the Olympic Endoscopy champions led by Professor Bhandari. If you want to see an example of world class medicine in the NHS, it's right there in Portsmouth.

Mrs Flashbang; Trendsetter

So, still just the two of us holding the fort at home with the dogs. The girls are obviously missing us though..........

They sent some balloons. That's nice. Perhaps it will catch on. Perhaps Hollywood megastars when unavoidably denied the opportunity to grace the stage at the Oscars or BAFTA's to collect their shiny awards could send a balloon instead. Julia Roberts would look very fetching on a balloon and think of the nonsense it would save with the new frock and make up thing. Anyway girls, thanks for coming...........