For newcomers

At the bottom of each post there is the word "comments". If you click on it you will see comments made by followers, and if you follow the instructions you may also comment and I always welcome that. I have found many people overlook this part of the blog which is often more interesting than the original post!

My blog nick-name is SIR HUGH. I'm not from the aristocracy - my middle name is Hugh which relates to the list of 282 hills in Scotland compiled by Sir Hugh Munro in 1891. I climbed my last one (Sgurr Mor) on 28th June 2009


Monday, 8 October 2018

If at first...

There may be some correlation between my problem with the lock and the book I have just finished. This morning in the peace and quiet of my study after a refreshing night's sleep I studied the lock and bludgeoned my brain. If you look at the photo you will see the spring has two legs sticking out. The counter-intuitive solution (to me) was to cross these over and hook each onto the opposing sidebar so that they became cross-legged and therefore under much more tension. Manipulating that and holding everything together whilst replacing the back plate was akin to brain surgery, more of that shortly. Having solved the locating of the spring I found the dam thing still didn't work and I had to disassemble and reassemble several times until I found out how the circular piece of metal attached loosely to the back plate fitted so that it would pick up the inside mechanism when the key is turned but I got there in the end. I am still awaiting a reply from Securit and the lock is fitted and the other woodwork tidied up.

My version of mechanical surgery didn't have the potential for total paralysis or death risked by Henry Marsh, an eminent neurologist specialising in brain surgery, which he describes with candour in his book Do No Harm.

Brother RR who comments here suggested this book to me over a year ago and I think he thought I was too squeamish to take it on. For years I have attended a small reading group and Henry's book was suggested by one of the other members as our latest read, so I was committed. I read the first hundred pages at one sitting and rattled on through the rest pretty quickly even though it did become a bit repetitive. There are twenty five anecdotal chapters describing individual case histories intermingled with  the agonies of communicating difficult information to patients and relatives and the the burden of decision making on all concerned.

In Henry's early career he seems gung-ho, and he has much to say about his frustrations with the NHS, but experience over the years sees him becoming more tempered. I did question his motivation for writing the book, was it partly egotistical? He is obviously caring and compassionate about his patients, and he has spent a lot of time travelling to the Ukraine on a voluntary basis to assist with neurosurgery in primitive and unpleasant conditions and this is obviously altruistically motivated.

Unless you have had direct and upsetting experience of brain surgery with close relatives or friends I would recommend this book as a rewarding read. One member of our group had unfortunately had a related family experience and had been unable to read the whole book but had just dipped in but still made a strong contribution to our discussion.


  1. There's an ironic twist here. Henry Marsh's second book, Admissions, reveals that that during his spare time (the little he has) he goes in for DIY. At a high craft level.

    I didn't infer you were squeamish about medical matters, you told me so on several occasions.

    Why did he write the book? In order to tell the truth about a job that most outsiders tend to romanticise or, at the very least, misunderstand.

  2. Now it's 98 comments. No doubt we should have "moved on" as you suggested.

  3. Sorry, the above is now out of date.

  4. i wanted to add that this 'achievement' needs to be extracted and made a separate story in its own right, like collections of letters between historical personages - but as it would have been impertinent to, as it were, cross their T, i make it here, that thread natural successor : you cannot allow such a interesting - no, fascinating - train of thoughts and counter-thoughts - to simply lie untended in the weed choked crannies of your archives : how then, sir ?

  5. gimmer - Since this became a targeted mission I purposely kept out of it. Up until that point I was drawn into the unusually lengthy development, and as RR says in his last comment "dialogues are one of life’s great opportunities" but this one became, in my opinion, somewhat artificial and a preserve of the two who spawned the notion of a century. I don’t deny there has been interesting and wide ranging content from the two main contributors, and others, and I welcome that.

    I make a point of replying to all comments as promptly as possible, and I try hard to include or promote further dialogue, but I don’t often get re-comments from my replies to comments, although I would gratefully say that you are an exception.

    I'm not sure what format you are suggesting for preserving the opus, but whatever, I would welcome more wide ranging comments in future, although I acknowledge the subject of many of my posts is pretty narrow, generally relating to my outdoor activities, but I do try to spice these with debatable observations.

    Bloggers thrive on comments and if they reduced to almost nil I would see little point in continuing.

    I was dismayed to read that the 1093 posts I have published to date are now regarded as “weed choked."

  6. A dialogue is between "two or more people" that's why I used the word. After all, Gimmer contributed and was welcome, as would anyone else have been.

    The target may have been "somewhat artificial" but I hope the nature of our responses to each other wasn't. There are other things besides "interesting and wide-ranging content" you know; style plays a part.

    However I began to realise that rabbiting on within Conrad Walks without reference to your posts (even though walking and related matters cropped up quite frequently) might be seen as a sort of metaphorical succubus (incubus?). The concept - my fault entirely - was impolite. I broke off reluctantly since I was sustained by Phreerunner's cheerfulness and adaptability, could have reached a thousand (Would that be more or less artificial?) But I think it is now at an end.

    I think you are slightly unfair to Gimmer: "weed-choked" refers to the archives not the archives' contents. But then how often is yesterday's post consulted? I may be alone in that I re-read through my own archives, agonising at the boo-boos and crowing over the bits that still please me (a diminishing asset I should add). I tell myself I do this to avoid repetition but I lie.

    Gimmer's suggestion is generous but perhaps the very idea of blogging is ephemeral. The past, says LP Hartley (Some of his novels aren't half bad; esp. The Go-Between, also turned into a magnificent movie), is another country, they do things differently there. Also the past has endings and this is one of them.

    But let not the idea of a dialogue die. That it should not be cut off simply by the appearance of another post.

  7. RR - Your reply illuminates and defends your position well. I just felt it was better to let you get on with the project rather than have me intervening and sidetracking you from your thread with Phreerunner.

    Yes, I do often look back at my own posts, partly from curiosity and partly, I suspect from egotism rather than critique, although I do find woeful and embarrassing examples. The comments are frequently more interesting than the post.

    My routine motivation arises from the the Stats in Blogger Dashboard which show the number of pageviews for each post with the options for daily, weekly, monthly and all time selection. That often shows me that someone has been looking at older posts and I trawl back and re-read. The pageview stats are a mystery - I often have several hundred a day, but suspect many of them result from roaming search engines and the mysteries of Google's and other's algorithms for promoting websites to the first page.

    Another mystery comes from the most frequently viewed posts of all time, and to illustrate this here are the leaders:

    Photos furnish a blog
    Nov 2, 2013, 5 comments

    Inov-8 Roclite 400 GTX boots - review
    Mar 6, 2011, 4 comments

    Welsh Boundary Walk - Whitesands Bay to Abercastl...
    Jun 15, 2011, 1 comment

    Kinder Scout
    Oct 18, 2016, 6 comments

    Circuit of Killington Lake
    Feb 15, 2013, 3 comments

    If you want to read any of them they can easily be found using the Search box on my blog, which is a facility that goes some way to ensuring that subject matter of old posts isn't always lost forever. The review of the iconic Roclite boots is understandable, as is the title Welsh Boundary Walk, but the others are inexplicable; yes those numbers following are the number of pageviews.

    Also on the subject of comments I believe that many readers never get that far. I often promote my blog to people I meet on my walks, but not indiscriminately, but I think that many never notice the small printing of the word "comments" at the bottom of each post and don't get there. Even if they do, unless they are computer savvy it is not the most user friendly procedure to put a comment up for the first time.

  8. RR - exactly - the merit of - e.g. the Iliad - and myriad others - shines through the fabled cobwebs of many ancient libraries - it just that weeds was more appropriate a word for an out-door blog.

    Hard to say how to enshrine the thread - maybe a special link on your landing page - all golden scrolls and quill pens.

  9. Gimmer: As a magazine editor I often had to instruct graphic artists to come up with something that set the scene for an article. It came as a shock to discover that life in industrial publishing had scrubbed away all traces of imagination that had initially accompanied these unfortunates into art school. Left to themselves they might well have come up with "golden scrolls and quill pens". I'll credit you here with a sense of irony - would you prefer sarcasm? - while drawing a veil (another from the same cupboard) over ideas from Boy's Own Paper, circa 1910.

    No need for any self-flagellation on your part. There is evidence to show that Wadham (fondly and no doubt inaccurately imagined for a passage in Gorgon Times) equipped you for more demanding fields of endeavour.

  10. I've come back to this thread in the absence of another repository for my random and, apparently, jejune, comments.

    Recently I was introduced to Christopher Logue's 're-imagining' (i can think no better expression for the results) of the Iliad (hence the hook for an earlier post I made elsewhere) - a better example of immortal words living again through other eyes (minds ?) could be hard to imagine: it prodded me to re-read an actual recognised text to remind myself of the power of the ancient language (now that is wishful thinking - it's more than many lifetimes since I learnt ancient Greek - and struggled even then !): how many libraries have cobwebed copies, seldom drawn from the worm-holed shelves, but how powerful remain the words and ideas on the fusty vellum leaves within ! Ideas, thoughts and expressions written then, centuries before the usual suspects like the Bible, Shakespeare or even BP or Kephart - are common now - not quite 'up' with the first two, but nevertheless a surprising number.

    CL himself was always on my 'suspects' list - but this, his magnum opus, is of the highest order of language and imagination.

  11. gimmer - That brings back powerful memories of listening to Logue's recording of his poetry on a 45 rpm ep disk called Red Bird which we listened to over and over again at those 'parties" in friends' houses when the parents were away back in the late 50s and early 60s. We were all blown away with this performance read against the cerebral jazz group lead by drummer Tony Kinsey - I'm not sure who was in the rest of this small jazz group, but to mind this whole production was a classic. I have tried to search for a copy of the record which is long gone from my collection, and now through a couple of clicks I have found it indirectly on You Tube. via a blogger whose comments are also of interest. Thanks for being the catalyst.

  12. Gimmer: You have the advantage over me. For most of my life I found it hard to get along with myths and the wilful activities of the gods. The stories offended me insofar as they appeared to have no rules and I, scrabbling about in my own backyard (a room definitely without a view), trying to put together plots which proceeded logically from A to B, felt they offered nothing for my instruction. I had a similar antipathy towards novels where drug-taking predominated. VR, who went on to sixth-form and might well have gone to university had domestic circumstances allowed, was well versed in this form of literature and did her best. For decades I preferred my own, more mechanistic attitude.

    But God - or perhaps The Gods - hadn't done with me yet. My best friend Richard, who'd done so much to shape my musical tastes, kept on making insistent noises about Wagner. I took a few faltering steps. But it was only after Richard's death, twenty years ago, I tackled the long hard grind that eventually allowed me to listen to the music objectively. Yes it was splendid. But I needed to take one final step and that occurred comparatively recently. Watching my Met version of the Ring for the second time I found myself sucked into the final 45 minutes of Die Walkure where Wotan - faced with his disobedient daughter - struggles with the conflicting requirements of being a parent and being a god. And I was there, I was moved.

    But that, you will say, was as much music as myth. I agree. But last year I noticed a review of Seamus Heaney's translation of Aeneid VI. I'd seen Heaney at the Hay Festival and was struck by his humanity as well as his skills as a poet. It was after all only a paperback. And finally I found someone who could convert pre-Christian poetry into modern-day language without the jarring neologisms. Here's how it starts:

    In tears as he speaks, Aeneas loosens out sail
    And gives the whole fleet its head, so now at last
    They ride ashore on the waves at Euboean Cumae.
    Where they turn round the ships to face out to sea.
    Anchors bite deep, craft are held fast, curved...

    Perhaps I'm influenced too by another late-life discovery, sailing in Nick's yacht. It's been a long time and arguably classics have arrived too late to be any good. But then the other times were not wasted. There were things I needed to know. And now there's the possibility of an admixture. Ironically the one subject at school I slipped into effortlessly was Latin, if only for a couple of years.

    I salute your discovery (re-discovery?) Curious the random nature of these trajectories and yet are we entitled to say they are random?

  13. The one thing i remember from book VI of the Aeneid is the 'backbone stiffening'

    "facilis descensus Averno;
    noctes atque dies patet atri ianua Ditis;
    sed revocare gradum superasque evadere ad auras,
    hoc opus, hic labor est."
    etc etc

    only this remains - a very useful quote at business meetings - of whose attendees few have even a word of Latin, so explaining the sombre message to the incurably blind hand wavers was a sure-hit delight - and occasionally remains so !
    I preferred Caesar's Gallic Wars - simpler and more relevant - stuffing the Gauls was on the agenda even the '50's, at least to the BGS 'educators', many of whom had served in Normandy, with fond memories of perfidy and treason to sustain them.

    I agree it is quite hard to get along with Greek myths and legends, schooled as we are in the ideas of cause and effect, personal responsibility and social conscience, but once one learns to put aside those bedrocks of Christian philosophy and belief, the annoyance fades and one can join in the fun: that capricious behaviour of the Immortals was less central to Romans - who had sterner stuff on their agenda - Prussians to their Austrian cousins, perhaps. But the same sacking awaited them all.

  14. Gimmer: Perhaps I was a little over-rosy-tinted in my allusions to learning Latin. It was, as I said, a mere two years' instruction. I've just looked at a master chart for Latin verbs and discovered I stopped well short of both the subjunctive active and the subjunctive passive. Deo gratias, one might say. As it is, though I'm familiar with your first line, the rest would be a struggle.

    "only this remains" may be useful at business meetings but might it be synonmous with that unpredictable catchall, AOB? A reasonable assumption was that most of those present - having interpreted AOB as green on a traffic light - wouldn't wish to linger but too often there was some contrarian who, like nature, abhorred a vacuum and was prone to utter that spine-chiller, "This won't take long..." VR, my spouse of 58 years, surprised me when we moved to Hereford, first by volunteering to become chairman of Belmont Rural parish council, and second by turning out to be the most ruthless governor of other councillors' tongues. Implacable interruption was her most powerful tool. Where was she when - for the Keighley News - I covered, in successive years, the AGM of the Eldwick Horticultural Association? Waiting for me in London was the answer.

    A final note on Latin. I did not enjoy the communal existence thrust upon me by RAF national service. Luckily, it seemed, Horace had been there before me and I pasted his personal slogan inside the door of my bedside locker: Odi profanum vulgus et arceo.. No one was foolish enough to ask for a translation.

    Might it have been at Thornhill where I conceded Latin for German and French? I can't be sure. What I do recall is that a year or two later BGS demanded my preference between the two during the summer holidays and my father neglected to send in my choice. I was moderately competetent in French but was doomed instead to wrestle with all those German verbs which immediately change their meaning when a preposition is attached. In the 1970s I started to take private lessons in French and these continued until the beginning of this year when my current teacher died. My German remained modest until I took up singing and now am more comfortable in German than any other language. How it resonates. Here's Schumann:

    Im Rhein, im heilige Strome,
    Da spiegelt sich in den Well'n
    Mit seinem grossen Dome
    Das grosse heilige Köln...

    Query: Is it more painful to undergo sacking or pillaging?

  15. Wise move that - lucky you didn't have a Greats man in your billet - maybe he would have merely added 'ditto'.
    Interesting point about German - often so harsh and guttural, but when sung, to the right words and music, can be sublime - maybe another facet of the doppleganger id.