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05 October 2017

Olympics for the Elderly

      We are all getting older, folks, and also living much longer. A friend of mine recently attended a birthday party for a man who is 105 years old. We oldies are the ones who bother to go out and vote. Because we do our civic duty regularly I think we are owed the opportunity to integrate more into society, and what better way would there be than to be able to join the sporting fraternity. Sports of all kinds have a huge following, and I don’t see why we oldies should be reduced to watching them in front of a TV with a glass of beer and a packet of pork scratchings.So I’m proposing an annual Olympics for the Elderly (some of us might not be able to wait for the 4-year cycle to come round). Here are my Event Categories:   

  •       Motor Racing
  • ·         Spatial Awareness
  • ·         Athletics
  • ·         Rowing
  • ·         Tennis
  • ·         Ice Skating
  • ·         Cycling
  • ·         Fencing
  • ·         Boxing
  • ·         Climbing
  • ·         Table Tennis
  • ·         Weightlifting

Motor Racing

The task is to knock down the most pedestrians with a Mobility Scooter along 500 metres of a typical High Street.

Spatial Awareness

The task is to park a car in a really stupid place so that buses can’t get through and pile up behind. The winner is the one who accumulates the largest number of buses.


This is a timed event, and the aim is to achieve the fastest time in getting out of a bath.


This involves teams of two. Four couples sit in a long narrow boat. The couple that has the most serious row about housework leading to one pushing the other into the river is the winning couple.


The person displaying the biggest swelling on a tennis elbow gets the Gold.

Ice Skating

The same High Street used in the Motor Racing Event is covered in hard-packed frozen snow, and contestants have to walk 500 metres carrying two bags of shopping. The winner is the contestant with the largest number of broken bones.


Another team event, in which the teams have to separate 500 kg of household waste and place items in the correct re-cycling bin.


This is a Male/Female team event. The two males stand on opposite sides of a 50 metre fence, at one end. The two females stand similarly at the other end. At the firing of the starting gun (and assuming nobody has a heart attack) the male contestants start creosoting their side of the fence, working in the direction of their female partners. Meanwhile the females gossip over the fence. The winning team is the one where the male has reached the point at which he is creosoting his partner’s elbows AND she has also covered the greatest number of subjects on which to gossip.


When the bell rings, the first one to reach the phone wins. (Sadly, after a life time of blows to the head they are both demented).


This takes place on the north face of the garden rockery, and the contestant who has removed the most weeds gets an advantage.
There is a second stage involving climbing the stairs to bed, in which the contestant with the advantage from the first stage gets to start half way up the stairs. First into bed wins. (People who live in bungalows are disqualified).


This event involves two partners watching TV. One asks the other to pass the remote control. One successful lift of the ‘remote’ is all that’s required, though extra points are awarded if the recipient is then able to switch channels. There is an elitist group of seasoned practitioners who go in for an extreme (though some say altruistic) version of the sport, in which one person keeps the ‘remote’ on top his head and his partner lifts it from that position, thus taking a weight off the other’s mind.

Table Tennis

A married couple sits at the table, one at each end. When the bell rings they assume it’s a marketing call and remain seated, after which the man says, “More potatoes please”. The woman asks, “How many?” He replies, “Four love” .. which turns out is the winning score.

Events unlikely to be successful

An assortment of gymnastics have been tried but abandoned because of certain difficulties. They include ..

   Parallel Bars

                Time-wasters trying to order drinks

             Vaulting Horse

                Easily confused with Climbing.


                See Vaulting Horse

             High Bar

                See Parallel Bars


                Likely to upset people with tinnitus.


                Long-term accommodation costs for spectators waiting at the finish line.

             High Diving

                Uncertainty about the stability of incontinence pads.

So join me now in the slowest-growing bowel mass movement in the history of mankind.

27 August 2017

Cogito ergo sum (atheus)

Loosely translated this means I am a pompous git for spouting Latin.

More tightly translated it means I think, therefore I am (atheist).

And so I return to a subject on which I have pontificated before (see God and Religion )

I had better make it clear at the outset that I am not implying that people who believe in God don’t think! Obviously they do but follow different thought patterns to those that lead me to an atheistic position. Since time immemorial Jewish scholars have debated over the meaning and interpretation of the scriptures, obviously involving a good deal of high-powered thinking which, in the end, lead them to maintain their beliefs.

Christians and Muslims have done the same.

I simply find myself unable to accept the existence of either the God of the Bible or the God of the Qu’ran.

Are they two different Gods, or the same God being interpreted in two different ways? What about the multiple Gods of India? Humanity has believed in and worshipped countless numbers of Gods over the millennia. I am sympathetic to the view that rather than humanity being the creation of God (whichever one you believe in), God (whichever one you believe in) has been “created” by humanity.

I subscribe to an online discussion community called Quora and some of the most frequently occurring questions relate to God and Atheism. A common question is something along these lines .. How does an Atheist prove there is no God? Since I don’t believe in anything that cannot be proven beyond doubt it follows that, in my mind, there is no God, and since you cannot prove the non-existence of something I do not feel the need to produce any such proof. More to the point, I believe it is incumbent upon those who believe in the existence of God to provide proof of His (or Its) existence.

The usual come-back to this challenge is the assertion, “I have faith in His existence”. The Encarta English Dictionary defines faith as  belief in, devotion to, or trust in somebody or something, especially without logical proof.

Another common question is along the lines of  .. "How do atheists maintain good moral behaviour without religious commandments? This is preposterous. Human beings don't need religion in order to behave properly. A civilized society that has no mutually beneficial rules of behavious is doomed to collapse. Conversely, religious groups demonstrably have no monopoly on good behaviour!

Now I submit that you are perfectly entitled to be endowed with this faith (in the existence of God), but you are not entitled to present it to others as fact. I believe that people have every right to believe in whatever God and teachings that they wish, so long as they: (1) bear no malice towards me, and (2) feel no compunction either to persuade or force me to adopt the same views.

For my part I have no wish to turn Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, etc., into atheists. Atheism is not a proselytizing condition. Other people can reach that state of mind, as I did, by questioning their own beliefs in their own time, should they wish to do that. 

As has been stated by me and other more learned thinkers (such as Richard Dawkins) the reason most of us are Christian/Muslim/Hindu/Catholic/Protestant/Shia/Sunni/Atheist is because from the first time after our birth that we were able to understand anything our parents told us who and what we were; and their parents had done the same to them .. and so on back into the mists of time. As a child we learn first from our parents, and what they tell us is true fact, for we have no way of knowing otherwise, or even thinking we ought to question what we are told. “Give me a child till he is seven, and I will show you the man” (Aristotle).

I was told it was fact that God existed, that he knew my every move, and if I was good I would go to heaven; if I was bad I would go to hell and burn forever. I had a childhood imbued with fear. I was told the Bible was Holy and I was expected to read it .. which I did in my early years without questioning a single thing I read .. talking snakes, talking donkeys, a man inside a fish, slavery, animals in ark, submission of women to husbands, virgin birth, life after death, the psychotic episode that is “Revelations” .. to name but a few oddities. I had no reason to doubt the existence of Heaven or Hell. I was expected to go to church every Sunday, and for the greater part of my life had feelings of guilt if I did not do so. 

By the time I was 70 I had re-read large parts of the Bible (and the Qu’ran) with an adult mind, and decided that much of it was patent nonsense. I could also see that religion had caused, and was still causing, much conflict and evil around the world. We are currently suffering the latest manifestations of evil in the activities of fanatical Muslims calling themselves “Islamic State”, who feel compelled to rid the earth of every human being who doesn’t submit to their particular thought process.

I have therefore turned my back on religion. I have Christian friends who accept me for what I am, and for that I am grateful. I offer them reciprocal acceptance and respect. They are good people. I have also been told by others professing to be Christians that I am misguided, mentally unstable, and destined for Hell. I'm not sure they are good people.

I recently listened to a young lady calling into LBC to explain why she had abandoned Christianity for Islam. The general gist of her reasoning was that there was too much flexibility in Christianity, not enough compulsion to understand the Bible in detail, too little firm guidance. What she wanted was a firmness of purpose in her religion, and praised the fact that so many Muslims are expected to learn the Qu’ran by heart. When the presenter suggested to her that over the millennia humanity had evolved, and that what was written thousands of years ago could not be applied rigidly to how things were today, her response was that religion had evolved .. and this is how she explained that evolution: "First there was Moses, then there was Jesus, and then there was Mohammed; and HE was the FINAL MESSENGER". In other words, all that we need to know ended in the 7th century.

What a gloriously simplistic thought process! And how lacking in proper thought.

Cogito ergo sum atheus.

©Lionel Beck
August 2017

01 January 2017

Close Encounter with the NHS

An Appreciation of the NHS in Malton & Scarborough.
For most of my life my heart and I have been on good terms. It has faithfully pumped its way through life’s journey without complaint or incident. A few days before Christmas it ruined its reputation having suddenly realised I’d just had a 79th Birthday. It didn’t like it. Sitting in front of a troublesome computer one day, my heart decided to remind me of my age by starting a hundred-metre sprint all on its own, leaving me feeling light-headed and decidedly unwell. I was thankful at least for the fact that I was experiencing no pain.

I got myself home and my wife got out her faithful blood pressure machine from which we discovered my blood pressure (normally good) was through the roof, and my pulse rate was 135 per minute. That didn’t sound (or feel) like a good scenario.

Malton Hospital
My wife drove me to Malton Hospital – a small local hospital just 8 miles away – where they have a walk-in centre. I was seen immediately by a Nurse Practitioner who started a series of tests. There was a “safety-first” kind of assumption that I had had, or was having, or would have, a heart attack, and with the attendant danger of a stroke. Soluble aspirin and a GTN spray under the tongue were administered.

She decided I should be in a bigger hospital, either York or Scarborough. There had been reports of a serious incident on the main road to York so it was off to the seaside for me, and an ambulance was ordered. It arrived quite soon. I was trundled into the back of it and hitched up to monitors. This was but a short visit to Malton Hospital, but within five minutes of my giving the receptionist my details and reason for being there I had been seen by an attentive Nurse Practitioner, a provisional diagnosis made, early treatment administered, and my next destination organised.

The Ambulance

The three paramedics were caring, good-humoured, and meticulous about what they were doing. I couldn’t have asked for more care and attention. This was my first experience of an emergency ambulance, and whilst the equipment and the medical treatment afforded was beyond reproach, the experience of lying on one’s back, seeing nothing of the outside except the sky through a roof light whilst negotiating corners, roundabouts, speed bumps, stops and starts, provided a less-than-ideal travelling experience. I asked the lady attending to me how many patients they had to treat for travel sickness. She replied, “Quite a lot!”

At some stage on the journey, with my heart still sprinting and my blood pressure high, we pulled off the road so that an injection could be administered. Approaching Scarborough we came up against heavy traffic with little movement. My paramedic looked at the traffic stretching out in front of the ambulance and said to the driver, “Let’s do this properly”. The driver flicked a switch and an electronic voice came from the dashboard .. “999 Mode engaged”. I heard the sirens start, and saw glimpses of flashing blue light reflecting off surfaces. Suddenly we were moving quite fast, and before long we’d arrived outside Scarborough Hospital’s Accident & Emergency Department, and I was being trundled into the corridor leading to the A & E cubicles.

Scarborough Hospital
As we have (sadly) come to expect these days, there was a queue of trolley-bound patients along the corridor (though it was good to see the queue was not too long). Nevertheless, after the paramedic had had a word with a staff member I was told we were jumping the queue. I found myself in a cubicle, cannula inserted, drip connected, pads and wires slapped all over my chest, all plugged into a monitor; temperature and blood pressure taken; a junior doctor sitting herself down beside me asking for personal details and the symptoms that had led me to my current position.

Another junior doctor came along and asked me a series of questions clearly designed to see whether there had been any impairment to my brain functions:
“Remember this address .. 42 West Street, then please answer some questions ..”
What’s your date of birth? What’s your name? When did the 2nd World War end? Can you count from 20 down to zero? What’s the name of this hospital? Roughly what time of day do you think it is? What was that address I asked you to remember?
“42 West Street”. Sighs of relief .. especially from me!
After about an hour of monitoring and observation I was transferred to the Coronary Care Unit and placed in a ward of four beds. I was offered a set of pyjamas, but by this time, my wife, who had returned home from Malton and picked up all the stuff I would need, provided the necessary attire. A nurse re-wired me to a monitor by the bed and remarked, “Oh I can see why you’re here” as the heart monitor began registering about 130 beats per minute.

Now, as to the little problem of one’s personal bodily functions and their needs I was quite happy to pull the curtain around my bed and use one of the bottles provided, but for a more serious need – which was beginning to exercise my mind – I would insist on getting out of bed, unplugging myself, and walking a short distance down the corridor. This provided grounds for serious concern for the nurse assigned to my care; she was perfectly charming but adamant that anything could happen in the toilet and there’d be no monitor to say why! She was clearly very worried, and I could see the litigation papers in her eyes, but I had to insist as politely as I could, even offering to sign a disclaimer, that I had my wits about me and knew what I was doing. I reminded her there was a nice big emergency pull-switch in there, and in any case I would rather die in the toilet than use a bed-pan!

I was happy to note that my heart rate eventually slowed down to about 80, but by the time I’d returned from a call of nature and plugged myself back in again, it was back to about 110.

During the periods when I felt well enough I laid there and enjoyed the banter between the three other men in the room. They had more serious conditions than mine but were cheerful and kept themselves entertained with their own little stories. The four of us passed some of the time watching each other’s heart monitors, with their pulse rate displays fluctuating between 55 and 125. It was more exciting than watching TV.

I was seen by a very pleasant Cardiac Consultant who shook my hand and introduced himself. He said I was presenting something of a challenge, because my heart appeared to be beating normally .. just too damned fast! Moreover I had no pain. It soon became clear I was to be there overnight, with further assessments in the morning, after blood tests and a chest x-ray.

A lady came round with a menu sheet so I could choose my evening meal. It was a good selection.
The staff became used to the idea that from time to time I was going to unplug myself from the monitors and take a walk along the corridor, then plug myself back into the mothership on my return to the ward.

After a night’s sleep interrupted several times for injections, blood samples, temperature and blood pressure checks, I was provided with hot water, flannels, soap, towels, toothbrush and toothpaste. Breakfast was brought in later, consisting of cereals, toast, marmalade and other spreads, and a choice of tea or coffee. Strangely, a “Full English” fry-up was not on offer!

After another day, and a second night of tests and observation, a second (equally pleasant) heart Consultant had concluded that I had suffered the symptoms of Angina (something caused through age-related hardening of the arteries, or clogging of same, and not always causing pain) and I would probably be allowed home late afternoon of the third day with appropriate medication, but subject only to my passing a physical test on a treadmill. By this time my heart rate was at a more respectable level.

In due course I was taken to the physio room and I was wired up to two computers and invited on to a treadmill which would put me through three stages of exercise over a period of about nine minutes. I started three minutes of easy strolling on the level, then an inclined walk at a faster rate for another three minutes, concluding with a very fast walk “uphill” for another three minutes. I didn’t fall over and I passed with flying colours. My Consultant came in to check the results, and told me I could go home, armed with a shed load of medication, and he would arrange to see me again in Malton Hospital in a couple of months’ time.

Apart from breakfast, the menu choices were surprisingly extensive. The food was of good quality, tasty, well cooked, and hot. (Well, apart from the salad dishes!) I’ve had much worse in some cafés.

Hygiene was exemplary. There were dispensers of anti-bacterial foam at the end of every bed, and in every doorway. Each morning, two or three very cheerful ladies (one of them singing enthusiastically) completely stripped the beds, disinfected the mattresses (top, underside, sides and ends) then all handrails etc., then re-made the beds with fresh sheets and pillow-cases. (The beds themselves were hi-tech with press-buttons to lower or raise them, raise or lower one end at a time, or indeed convert them into a giant chair.) After all this the floors were cleaned.

The Staff
Where do I start? From Consultants, Junior Doctors, Nurses, Health Care Assistants, to Catering and Cleaning, I encountered nothing but harmonious efficiency, good humour, kindness and compassion.

On my last night they brought in an elderly man who was a severe dementia case. He was constantly distressed, constantly on the move, talking nonsense, and trying to get out of bed. Watching three nurses attend to him was a master-class in good humour and kindness, demonstrated most eloquently by one nurse who was left standing at his bedside for about an hour, holding his hand, talking to him, calming him, and keeping him in the bed rather than out of it. Later another nurse
marched in and cheerily announced to the rest of us that it looked like being a long night, before handing round blindfolds and ear plugs!

I hate applying ethnic labels to people, but sadly it appears to be how the world wants to work. For example, how relevant is it that the nurse calming down the poor old guy with dementia was black? How relevant is it that the two junior doctors who first saw me in A & E appeared to be Chinese? How relevant is it that one of our ward nurses (all of whom appeared to work long shifts) might have been from the Philippines? How relevant is it that one of my heart Consultants might have been a Pakistani or an Indian? How relevant is that other nurses and doctors were just Yorkshire lads and lasses (or to coin a phrase used on survey forms, White British?)

You see, I’m using phrases like “appeared to be”, and “might have been” because really I don’t feel the need to find out. They just made up a brilliant kaleidoscope of multi-ethnicity: colleagues working together with smiles on their faces, and treating their patients like human beings in a manner that human beings normally like being treated.

So, the only relevance of their ethnicity was simply this: what I experienced was a microcosm of the way the World Outside ought to be! Should any members of such prejudiced groups as the British National Party, or Britain First or perhaps the more extreme members of UKIP fall ill and be thrust into the care of somewhere like Scarborough Hospital, they might just stop banging on so much about immigration! Or am I being naïve?

My final thought is in regard to the NHS itself. There are two opposing extreme views: (1) it is the ‘envy of the world’ .. in which case one might be forgiven for wondering why the rest of the world hasn’t copied it .. or (2) it is a bloated, inefficient, badly managed bureaucracy, in need of privatisation. But as usual, nothing is that black or white (except perhaps black and white), and although we all know of examples of some dreadful NHS hospitals, they are a minority. I am just grateful that having paid my taxes throughout my life I have always been able to receive good medical care as and when needed, free at the point of delivery.

So, I’m grateful to Malton Hospital, Yorkshire Ambulance Service, & Scarborough Hospital.

©Lionel Beck
29 Dec 2016