Today was a wet and blustery day as the weather forecasters had predicted and it made me doubly glad that I had squeezed in the cutting of the lawns yesterday whilst we had a beautiful autumn day. Today, though, Meg and I were up a little late and eventually once we had got ourselves up and breakfasted made for the Methodist drop-in centre which we are now going to make part of a regular routine on Wednesday mornings. We were not at all disappointed but quite the reverse. We were made welcome on the ‘Chatty table’ which is a feature of the drop-in centre and were quite quickly made welcome. When I popped to the counter to order some cups of tea and toasted teacakes for the two of us, I got into conversation with the person serving us who, as it turned out, came from Bolton in Lancshire. I had mentioned that Meg and I were going up to Bolton on Friday to the funeral of Meg’s cousin and when I mentioned the name of he crematorium, it transpired that some of her relatives were interred there. She had been born and grew up within a short distance of Burnden Park which in the 1950’s and 1960’s was of the largest and superior grounds in the country. In its heyday, Burnden Park could hold up to 70,000 supporters but this figure was dramatically reduced during the final 20 years of its life. The eminent figure of the time was the centre forward Nat Lofthouse who is still remembered by football fans to this day, not least for inflicting an injury in a goal mouth scramble to Bert Trautman, the Manchester City goalkeeper, who played the remainder of the Cup Final with what turned out to be a broken neck. On the Chatty Table, we got onto the subject of where people came from and one of the ladies mentioned that she was brought up in the Isle of Dogs. I asked her if she remembered the dramatic floods that afflicted eastern England in the spring of early 1953. The 1953 flood is the most recent large coastal flood in Europe. The devastating North Sea flood of 1953 caused catastrophic damage and loss of life in Scotland, England, Belgium and The Netherlands and became one of the worst peacetime disasters of the 20th century. 307 people died in England, 19 died in Scotland, 28 died in Belgium, 1,836 died in the Netherlands and a further 361 people died at sea. The lady to whom I was talking remembered the whole family getting into the topmost part of the house – she was 8 years old at the time (as was I) and evidently an experience that had stayed with her throughout her life. So all in all, we had a pleasant series of lttle chats and other people who were disabled in a variety of ways gave us some tips and hints about the easiest way of gaining access to the building (avoiding two short flights of stairs that could create problems for some and are a bit difficult for Meg as it happens)
I received an unusual and quite pleasant text message about a day or so ago from one the of the senior partners in the medical practice which looks after Meg and myself. In the past, I have been asked to play the role of ‘patient’ (I won’t say ‘model patient’) and have agreed to be interviewed by traineee medical students. The whole point of this, I suppose, is to get students exposed to patients at even an early stage of their career and to help them listen to case histories, ‘listen with an inner ear’ and so on. I think I have done this two or three times before but the doctor wondered if I might be able to put myself forward again but he anticipated that it might not be possible because of my caring responsibiities for Meg. I did indeed explain that caring for Meg indeed took all of my time and,regretfullly, I could not spare the time away from her to talk to these young medical students. Still, it was nice to be asked and I suggested to the doctor that it might be possible to assist him in the future if circumstances change.
The airwaves have been filled all of the day with the absolutely terrible tragedy in which a hospital was hit by a missile in Gaza city with an estimated loss of life of the order of 500 and may yet rise to about 700. Many inhabitants of Gaza have fled to the confines of a hospital imagining it to be safe from missile attack and hence the number killed may exceed the number of patients being treated. The Israelis have been very quick to deny that it was anything to do with them and have released some radar images which strongly suggest the blast was caused by a misfired rocket – launched by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) group. Of course this is being regarded with complete sceptism by the Arab world and in the past, the Israeli Defence forces have initially denied being involved in similar disasters. In his particular case, though, it does appear that the Israeli account is more credible than the Palestinian counter claim but the thought of a massive loss of life in a hospital makes one shudder at the horror of it all.