Thursday, 24 December 2009

Christmas Eve 2009!

It's cold outside, nearly -12C last night - the logs are on the fire, the dog's snoring on the couch, the tree lights are on and it's really cosy inside. Perfect for Christmas!

Susie had to work right up until today. She's now sitting on the couch with the laptop on her knee. Later we go to Anne's for a Christmas Eve dinner. Yesterday I had a day with Colin B. We went for lunch to JJ's in Partick and then up to Comet to look for a pc tower. Lots of flat screened tellies, but only two pc's neither of which was appropriate. However, it was a good day. I got up this morning at 6am since I was wide awake and wrapped Susie's Christmas presents. This is a real improvement on previous years when I would wrap them at five-to-midnight on Christmas Eve and she would open them at five past midnight. They were wrapped for ten minutes!
Anyway, wherever you are and whatever your circumstances, may I wish you the happiest Christmas you've ever had and the joy of Christ in 2010! Best wishes, Paul

Sunday, 13 December 2009

MS update

I apologise to Graham McKenzie-Smith for posting so much at once. Graham says that my blog reminds him of waiting for a bus: none appears for ages and then two or three arrive at the same time! Ooops! I did it again (mmm, I think someone else said that?). No matter. I need to include this bit.
Health is much the same. I feel very tired and run out of energy quickly. My GPs (both of whom are leaving - I hope that's nothing to do with me being on their books) have experimented with various painkillers (on me, that is). I have persistent pain in the left side of my head that can be overbearing. Due to the kindness of friends, I've been pointed in the direction of a specialist who may be able to help. I've been referred, now. Hopefully, it won't take too long to get an appointment. Tiredness affects me hugely. If I've not slept well, the pain is worse and my walking worse the next day. I do attempt to sleep, but sometimes, that seems out of our control.
Susie and I are going to visit Pauline and the folks down there between Christmas and New Year. I'm looking forward to that. Alan and I can lounge around his place with the wood-burning stove on while drinking gallons of tea. Bliss!
Watch this space for an update. Well, Graham, I hope that wasn't too long for a third entry today??

Carnoustie 2

This will make more sense if you read the previous entry first (the one immediately below this one).

Carnoustie 2

So, the high jinx continued with lots of 'carry-on' and lots of laughter. We all enjoyed it. Here are a couple of pictures of Matthew showing off how strong he is. I hope he didn't damage his back in the process! Luckily, I'm a bit of a light-weight (as you all know), so there was no risk of him injuring himself lifting me! I forgot to mention that we had a balcony too. It overlooked one of the holes on the Carnoustie golf course, but, being a heathen as far as that particular sport is concerned, I've no idea which one.

Christmas Dinner

Last year, before Matthew left for Iraq, we had our Christmas dinner. Yes, in November! We all love Christmas, and we miss Matthew terribly when he is away, especially at that time of year. So, we brought it forward. It dawned on us that Linda and Andy (Susie's sister and her husband) would be down in this part of the world on the Saturday before Matthew left for service overseas; so, with excitement, Susie phoned Linda and suggested we all have Christmas dinner together. I think there were tears on the phone! "Yes!" was the reply to the invitation. So, the table was set and crackers were provided (by Linda and Andy) and presents were put under the tree which was hastily put up, and we were ready! Matthew had stayed away at friends the previous night and only just arrived in time! But, we had a fun time.
After the starter and main course, Susie had made one of her legendary cheesecakes, which was awaited with anticipation and eaten with great respect. It was lovely. I think it is safe to say that all of us enjoyed ourselves and it made an occasion out of, not only Christmas, but provided  a good send-off meal for Matthew as he travelled to a far distant country which is in terrible turmoil. God be with you, son.
Saying goodbye to Matthew was not a parting I was looking forward to. But, I must honestly tell you that I believe a miracle took place in this regard. There was so much prayer for him and for us as a family around this time that when it came to the parting it was impossible to be upset. I mean that. Susie said goodbye at the house and I drove him to the airport at six o'clock in the morning. When we got to the airport, it was as if a cushion was around us. I found it impossible to be sad. We said our goodbyes and he was off. Just like that. Thanks to all who supported us in prayer. Now, we trust in God and pray for the next six months for his safe-keeping and safe return. I look forward to the end of May 2010!

... Well, I have been busy!

I know, I know! All of my resolutions about keeping this blog up to date! I thought it was a few weeks since my last entry and Jane kindly pointed out last night that it was October that I last made an entry. Oh, dear! I know what my New Year's resolution is going to have to be. This just won't do!

So, let me fill in what's been happening....


Our main news is that Matthew has gone overseas to serve with H.M. Forces. Before he left, he had just over a week at home and during that time we had a few days through in Carnoustie at the Links Hotel. We had a great time.
We booked a room which turned out to be a suite. Very nice. There was a double bedroom and a lounge. A bathroom with separate shower and bath and an additional toilet. Susie and I had the double room and Matthew had a very comfortable folding down bed which he dragged into the lounge part and made that into his bedroom. There was a small kitchen area as well and Matthew and me had many a cup of tea. I've put a

picture here of Susie and Matthew in the room. It was a nice and relaxing time, but, I must put in a couple of funny things that happened.
The first was a simple but amusing affair. On leaving the room, we found ourselves in a long corridor stretching to right and left. We turned to the right and walked through a set of swing doors and then along another bit of corridor
toward another set of glass swing

doors. Spontaneously, Susie began to ballet dance (for no reason we can think of other than her spontaneous fun-loving nature). With arms swinging and graceful movement of the limbs she tra-la-la'd her way along a bit of corridor. She went through the glass door and turned to hold the door open for Matthew and me. To her horror, she found that it wasn't us behind her, but a totally unknown man who took advantage of the door being opened for him and passed on through. Susie was mortified! She couldn't believe that a total stranger had witnessed her pirouettes and the rest. Gasping in horror, with hands over her mouth, she asked "How long had he been there?" The truth was that we weren't very sure, because we hadn't taken particular notice of him, or of Susie's antics. We did have a laugh, though! The other incident was really funny. Poor Susie! We are not laughing at you - we promise, sort of. Susie has been on a health and fitness drive recently. We also must congratulate her on losing about a stone and a half in weight - and she's not quite finished there. She's got a small amount left to go. Matthew and I are very proud of her for her achievement.

Well, this story is good! As part of her health and diet drive, Susie has been going swimming regularly. It's not uncommon for her to pop into the pool on the way home from work and do 30 - 50 lengths. And so, with the Links Hotel having its own  pool it was too good a chance to miss for her to get a few extra lengths in and for Matthew and me to splash about a bit. So, picture the scene: Susie is powering away doing length upon length of the pool; Matthew and I have done a few lengths and now loitering at one end of the pool chatting and generally doing nothing. Matthew was trying to totally relax, let himself be supported by the water and hold his breath (with his head under the water) for as long as he could. After a few tries at this, Susie arrived at our end of the pool having completed another length. Matthew had an idea: "Mum. I'll hold my breath and see how many lengths you can do before I have to come up for air." "Are you sure?" said Susie, "What if you pass out under water? Will you be OK?" "I'll not pass out under water, Mum, all I've got to do is stand up and take a breath if I run out of air!" "Anyway, Dad's right beside me to keep an eye on me anyway." So, without further ado, Matthew gently sank under water and Susie powered away to complete as many lengths as fast as she could. Now, it's a shorter pool that the usual sports centre size, but still reasonable in length. I stood beside Matthew to alert him to the number of lengths that Susie had completed. As she returned to our end, finishing the sixth length, Matthew emerged from the water to take a breath. Not bad - six lengths. So, after a moment's recovery, Matthew said, "OK, mum. Let's do it again - but, this time go for eight lengths!" "Are you sure?"
"Yes, Mum, let's try it!"
So, again with arms and legs powering away in the breast stroke Susie began length number one. All was going well until Susie had just turned at our end to begin length number five. Half-way through this length (as Susie was swimming away from us and therefore, couldn't see us) Matthew popped his head out of the water, took a breath and said, "I really can't be bothered doing this again," So, he stood with me as we watched Susie approaching the far end of the pool.
I think we had the idea at the exact same moment! We looked at each other with mutual understanding and Matthew gasped in a deep breath and disappeared under the water again. Susie turned onto length number six. She ate up the yards of the pool and turned quickly onto length number seven. When she was about a third of the way towards the other end I tapped Matthew on the shoulder and he popped up out of the water and continued his chat with me until Susie approached the far end again. As before, he took a deep breath and sank under the water. This time as, Susie reached our end, Matthew was opening and closing his hands and wringing his hair in the manner of someone who can't hold on much longer. Susie gasped "Is he Okay?"
"Quick!" I said, "Get another length done!" So, away swam Susie with renewed vigour and determination. Again, when she was part-way down the pool I tapped Matthew on the shoulder and up he came for another chat, until Susie approached the other end and then, with practiced ease, he took a breath and slipped silently back into the water.
I think it was on lenght number fourteen that Susie began to get really anxious for her boy's wellbeing. However, with my encouragement she lashed the water to begin length number fifteen. This time, when she was part way down the pool, Matthew sprung out of the water, out of the pool and headed for the changing room. When Susie turned, this time, I was standing over the part of the water where Matthew had been and was saying "Matthew? Matthew? Where are you?" While I tried to part the water with my hands in pretence of searching for him! Susie stood up where she was and yelled out "Is he Okay? Where is he?" We couldn't let her be anxious and worried for more than a second or two. At that moment a smiling Matthew appeared from the changing room and confessed his sins: that for the last ten lengths he had been taking a breather and was really quite relaxed! Susie said, "So, you both have let me do all those lengths - and I was doing them as fast as I could!"
"Och!" replied Matthew, "Look at all the good it will have done you!"
I think Susie has forgiven us, but actually, I'm not sure."

Another activity that Matthew and I have done throughout his teens, is arm wrestling. I've always had strong arms and, althoug he put up a good fight, I've always won. So, as in the photo, you can see that we replayed the event, this time with me a little older and him a lot stronger and fitter (he is in the army!). Well surprise, surprise. He thrashed me! I didn't stand a chance. Mind you, we do want our soldiers strong, don't we?

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Late post

Oh dear! I've been lazy at updating this blog. To be honest, I got a bit frustrated with as the editing features don't always do what they're supposed to do. I know they have an interface (that I'm using now) for non HTML writers and it's supposed to convert what you do efficiently into web format. The problem is when adding pictures. If I upload a picture, the upload facility puts it at the top of the text I'm writing and I've got to drag it to the correct position. I don't mind that. But, what happens is that when I drag it to where I want it, a whole lot of spaces appear in my text - maybe ten or more lines of emptiness that I've then got to delete and re format. By the time you've added a few pictures I'm just about demented! Then after I've re-re-re-re formatted the post I'm working on, I maybe notice a slight formatting error somewhere - so, I correct this and then all the spaces re-appear! I know, I should learn HTML, but I really don't want to.
So, that's part the reason for the delay in updating my blog. The other is that I've not been too well, I suppose. But, I'll talk about that in a minute.

MS Update

I've not missed a day's work, but, it's been hard sometimes getting through each day, if I'm honest. I've had terrible trouble with the pain in my head and have been trying out different painkillers, which I'll talk about in a moment. I've not felt very well (related to the pain) and my walking is noticeably worse, at least to me. On the plus side, I have two rest days every week since I've given up dental practice, and that gives me a chance to recoup some energy. My dear wife, Susie, is working so hard and I wish I could make life easier for her, but at the moment I can't. I'm thinking of starting a new business from home and I'll write something about that later, either in this post or another.
Pain control: I was trying the fentanyl patches (a synthetic morphine type drug). I think they helped a bit, but made me a bit 'high' and I didn't like that. So, I stopped them and with great difficulty managed to make contact with the MS nurse at the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow, where I am a patient in neurology. After I managed to speak to her, she said there were a number of drugs I could try. The one she recommended first was Tramadol which I think is similar to the patches, but I said I would give it a go. I've now got some on prescription, but I had some in the house and did a bit of self-medicating and basically, took too much too quickly! I was FLYING last Friday and then when I 'came down' I felt so ill all weekend that I didn't get out to Church at all and going back to work on Monday was 'touch and go'. Anyway, the doc's given me a lower dose to get started on and I'll let you know how that goes. In relation to this, I had an email from an 'old' friend who was telling me about a friend of hers who is on a totally different pain control regime from the one I'm on, so if I don't get any success with this change, I'll be looking in to that option. The difficulty is trying to balance pain control with still being able to function. There's no point in being so 'doped up' that I can't work, or at the other extreme, being in so much pain that I can't get off the couch! Watch this space!
As far as walking's concerned, it's only been bad since the weekend, so I hope that passes and goes back to what it was before. (Notice I didn't use the work 'normal'!). My balance has been very bad too, but I hope that is only as a result of my foolhardy medicine-taking!
Now, that's the MS out the way, so we can get on to the interesting stuff!

Outside storage

This is funny! Let me explain. We live in a converted farm steading with four other homeowners around us, so it's important to take care of the appearance of 'our bit' so it doesn't impact detrimentaly on others who live here. Well, we have a metal coal bunker which used to be square and quite tidy, but now is sort of diamond-shaped through lots of regular use. We also have one of those green storage cupboards that we bought in B&Q which has sagged a bit and the doors don't meet properly. Coupled with a hose reel and a couple of watering cans, plant pots and a high pressure jet washer sitting beside the cupboard, things were beginning to get untidy. So, what to do about it? Well, we decided to get rid of the old bunker and storage unit (they're sitting round the back at the moment, anyone need a coal bunker?). During the summer (well, the summer months would be a more accurate way of putting it), Alan (Martin) helped me clear the ground and empty the storage units and bunker and move the stuff round the back, then Colin (see previous posts) laid the slabbed base for me (Matthew, I think, helped get them from homebase). So, then the units had to be designed. I did that! It was quite fun to measure all the available space and ask a joiner to build the units for us: two bunkers (one for coal and the other to house the water tap, hoses and watering cans, etc.) and a traditional 'sentry box' type storage shed or cupboard. The joiner built them and then phoned me to ask me to buy a woodstain so that the fresh unprotected wood wouldn't sit out in the rain and bad weather we have had recently. So, this is where things began to go wrong! I bought 'Golden Harvest' wood stain, which I thought would be a good choice. Wrong! It should really have been called Fluorescent Orange! It was awful, and when driving home you could see it from a quarter of a mile away. Actually, you probably could have seen it from further, but the trees mercifully obscured it. So, I then went out and bought 'natural wood', which looked a whole lot better on the tin. But, painted on over the aforementioned Golden (Fluorescent) Harvest (Orange), simply made it look like a yuchy caramel colour. The outcome? It's going to be repainted a matt off-white colour. Can't wait!

This picture is taken after painting over the 'Golden Harvest' colour, which luckily, I don't have a picture of.
DDU Dental Teacher of the Year Nomination

I had a lovely surprise this month, I got an email informing me that the dental students at Glasgow Dental School had nominated me for the above award. Each UK dental school can nominate one teacher and then out of two finalists a winner is chosen. I already know who the two finalists are (neither is me!), but it's a huge honour to have been nominated by our students. I sincerely thank them.


My dear son, Matthew, is on final training before leaving for service overseas in mid-November. That will not be an easy parting, so I would ask that you remember us all in prayer.

Susie, Matthew and myself earlier in the year near Elgin

Future business proposal

I have got to be practical. I may not be able to do dentistry for as long as I would like, so the decision has to be made as to what I can do if I have to give up paid employment. I have had a serious think about this and what I think I will 'have a go' at is some sort of 'multi-media' type business. If I consider my non-dental skills, I am musical and I am quite good with computers. I've done audio and video editing and enjoy that sort of thing. I could reasonably easily, without too much financial outlay, set up a business coverting video to DVD, with nice labels or use 'lightscribe' to give a nice professional finish, I could put cine film onto DVD and edit videos and put menus in them and such like. I would also like to do something with music and may try composing on a small 'home industry' level. I'll see how it goes and announce here when I'm up and running!

I think that's more than enough for now. If you've read all of this - well done. If you're starting at the last paragraph, then I understand! 'Til next time.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Dumfries and Galloway

A few weeks ago, when Matthew was on leave from the forces, he and I escaped down to Dumfries and Galloway for a couple of days. For a long time back when we get the chance, we like to go somewhere interesting for a day or two. We have no timetable to go by and we like to 'play it by ear'. That's a nice way of saying that we do what we want!

We drove down on a Thursday afternoon via Girvan and then the satnav led us through the Galloway forest. It's a lovely road if you like hiking. Just keep your eyes on it or you'll very quickly end up in a ditch! Single track for much of it with virtually no other traffic, no mobile signal and lots of trees. It's a most bizarre experience: miles of driving through an empty forested landscape and then, suddenly to come upon a house with cars in the middle of nowhere! How do these people live? Where's the nearest Tesco? Do they have a phone that works and where do they get their water? I could think of a couple of people who wouldn't mind living this way, but, it looks pretty hard to me.
Anyway, we arrived in Newton Stewart and stopped for a bite to eat and then made our way to Wigtown where we stayed in one of the nicest guesthouses I think I've ever been in. It's called Brora Lodge and is owned by a very nice couple who never seem to wear shoes, at least that was my impression. I've stayed in a lot of places - some clean and some quite dirty. But, this place was immaculate. When I commented to them (I've forgotten their names), they said that they furnished it as if they were going to be the guests - it's how they would have liked it. I thoroughly recommend it if you're in the area.
On the Friday, we worked our way south from Wigtown towards Whithorn, stopping of at Garlieston, at least I did. Matthew slept in the car - still catching up on his sleep from his training. I like these old villages. Whereas, the main cities in Scotland, such as Glasgow and Edinburgh and urban towns and villages have 'developed' for modern usage, these old villages have remained as they are, with little change, for hundreds of years. When you look at them, you can just imagine them bustling with activity in the days when there were hundreds of fishing boats in Scotland. Catches coming ashore to be sorted, baskets of fish and horses and carts to take them to the fish fish markets. Other trades and businesses would thrive in support of the fishing industry and the little towns would not be lying almost silent, sadly, as today. I stopped and looked out across the bay towards the pier listening to the Curlew with it's so evocative cry.

From there, we continued along the country roads to the Isle of Whithorn and then Whithorn its self. If my memory serves me correctly, Garlieston was the only stop we made when it wasn't belting down with rain. By the time we covered the extra few miles south, the rain was on again - this time with no respite.

Whithorn is a town of incredible significance to the Christian in Scotland. This was the place that St Ninian came to and built a small chapel called 'Candida Casa' which means 'White House'. It became a centre of pilgrimage for centuries, but gave the man a centre to work from in the preaching of the gospel in Scotland a century before St Columba came to Iona. St Ninian must have been a man of real fire! Stained glass windows portray him as the meek saint with mitre and staff - but, this man was responsible for the conversion of the lowland Picts of Scotland - he must have been filled with the pentecostal fire told of in the New Testament. In those days (397A.D.), when travel was so difficult he even reached the eastern coast of Scotland, and his own disciples reached as far as Shetland! Read a brief account of his life here. He was responsible for building the first abbey in the British Isles and two of his pupils at Whithorn were responsible for the teaching of Columba and the baptising of St Patrick! A spiritual giant indeed - and sadly, virtually unknown. I must say that Whithorn is one of my favourite places in Scotland. The Abbey is gone now, except the crypt and a small part of the original Church, but the buildings in the main street of Whithorn are built from the same grey stones of the abbey, apparently some with original carvings evident! It was too wet for me to get the camera out in Whithorn, but you can read a little more about it here - and also, discover a little of the amazing collection of Christian carved stones of antiquity, of which there is an amazing collection in Whithorn, just behind the main street.
After Whithorn, we had planned to travel up the west road back to Wigtown, but gave up because of the heavy rain, driving back to the guest house to drink tea and lie on our beds and read books. Oh, the joy of being a couple of blokes on holiday!

New floor

I'm assured that some of you are interested in houses. You know, the sort of things that people get done to their homes, etc. etc.. Yep, I know guys, probably better to skip this bit and read the next section. For those of you still reading, we had a new floor put down in the hall, yesterday. The reason for this is that we live in an area where there is a lot of muck and dirt about and it's all to easy to walk this in to the house. The other reason is we wanted to do it! It's an oak floor with a lacquered finish and it looks great - see the photo (remember to click to see the full size pic).
The feature which I like best, is the recessed door mat (you can see this in the picture). The new floor stops short of the door by about two-thirds of a metre and the door mat was cut to size to drop into this recess. The benefit of this is that it's a good thick mat, it doesn't move when you step on it or obstruct the door, and also that it encourages everyone to wipe their feet as they enter. I saw this in a show home (don't ask me how I ended up in a show home!) and thought it a great idea. It took a little phoning around to locate a carpet shop that stocked it and then it was simple to tell them the exact size and get them to cut it for me (Susie would like me to point out that I did none of this except go and pick the thing up!...but, it was my idea!!). Easy. Next time you pop out to visit you can wipe your own feet on it and test it yourself!

Rainy August!

Well, it's been wet! The BBC tells us that it's been the wettest August since (I think) records began, but, it's also been the warmest. I think most of us missed that aspect of August because it was raining and it felt cold. But, we're only the people getting wet, not the scientists telling us what we are really feeling.

Well, I've been lazy despite resolutions to pay more attention to this blog. Sorry, if you've been checking back looking for updates.

So, what's been happening? Well, as far as MS goes, it's still there! My walking is slightly worse and my balance along with that. Especially, when I'm tired. Also, I've had terrible trouble with the pain in my head, which is quite debilitating. I was at the docs the other day and since I'm on the maximum daily doze of pregabalin (I mention this in a previous post so won't bore you with repetition), so, he increased the fentanyl patch strength (a synthetic morphine type drug absorbed through the skin), which I've only just started and won't know the true effects until I get back to work. It does seem to be helping, although I've had a few instances of pain, but, it's true test is when I'm in a day-to-day work situation that I'll know the true picture. However, it has made me feel a bit nauseous and lethargic. My driving seems to be OK, which is a big concern. Talking of driving, a dear friend from school days gave me a 'mobility scooter' which had belonged to her mother. I don't need this yet and I hope it's a long time before I do, but, it was a generous gift and I really appreciate that. It folds down and is in the boot of my car. We all had a shot of it round the house - it's actually quite good fun! I just got an email from her a few days ago to tell me that her mum had passed away in her sleep last weekend, which I was so sorry to hear about. When I was at school, her mother fed me on occasions when it would have taken too long to get home and back for whatever event was on in the evening. I have happy memories of her and my sincere sympathies go to the family. Bless you all.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Armed Forces Day

OK, that's the MS update out of the way for a while. Now I can write about interesting things! Like holidays.
I had four weeks of holiday. Lucky me. Matthew was home for the first week of it. That's when the UK 'Armed Forces Day' took place. Matthew was keen to go along and as his parents, we wanted to go and support him too. It was a great day out and I only wished it had been advertised better as a lot of friends and contacts said they would have come 'had they known'. The first problem was that a lot of standing would be involved. Susie thought of this first and declared "We'd better take the wheelchair."
"Oh no" thought I, "not the wheelchair!" I don't know about you, but, the thought of 'giving in to MS' and sitting in a wheelchair is not a nice thought. I had to admit, though, that it was a practical idea and I overcame my pride and agreed we should put it in the car. I just prayed that I wouldn't meet anyone I knew - which I did. Sigh!
So, we duly arrived and parked somewhere near. I then had to get into the chair and be pushed to George Square. The next problem was that there were about three layers of people around the perimeter fencing and, in the chair, there was no way I would see anything. Not a problem when you've got a big uniformed paratrooper with you: " 'Scuse me, please! Make some room here - oh, thanks very much." I was now at the front - brakes on!There were marching bands, soldiers, marines and RAF. There were veterans who were presented with badges of recognition and the Last Post was played. A Nimrod flew over and, other than a brief disturbance my some thoughtless protesters (they caused a lot of noise just after the service had been remembering the fallen soldiers from all conflicts), it all passed of very well. Susie tried on a parachute and then took a photo of Matthew with a 91 year old veteran which ended up in our local paper and on the BBC - see this link.

Click picture to see full size.

After the proceedings were over, we went for a pizza and had a good natter. It was after that, when Susie was enjoying the freedom of getting me moved quickly from A to B and then to C, we took a little diversion along the lower part of Buchanan Street in Glasgow, which is a pedestrian area. Loads of people and, of course, a former dental student who looked down on me in the wheelchair "Oh, hello Mr Sharkey!" Cringe.

MS update

I keep forgetting to give an update on MS! Everything else seems so much more interesting, but, here goes:

As I've mentioned, I learned a lot in May when I got a straightforward virus (the microbiological type - although I did recently have a PC version too). My temperature was 38.8C when the doc measured it and luckily it was fairly short lived - at least the viral symptoms were - luckily I'm still here. I knew already that MS behaves badly in high temperatures and that is exactly what happened. I could move my legs, but, couldn't 'weight bear' as the physios would say. I was very weak and lost strength in all my body, including my hands for the first time (I kept dropping my mobile phone when I was trying to text). My balance was non-existent and even when trying to sit up in bed to have a drink of water I would fall back down! Susie had to hold me up by the shoulder and also help me hold the cup to my mouth! I felt like a baby - totally dependant on someone else! I must be honest and say that, for the first time, I wondered if this was a glimpse of what the future could hold. I hope not, but, I'll just take one day at a time - and I'll trust God for each of those days - and not think too far ahead - as that can cause some anxiety and I don't think that's wise. I had other problems too. I don't really want to talk about them here. Sufficient to say that the district nurse had to be called out to help me - and it was very uncomfortable! That should get you thinking!
I was very weak for about two weeks and didn't drive. Matthew, who got home shortly after that, was an immense help to me bringing me tea and food in bed and then when I did manage to get up and was a little more mobile, he was my chauffeur as I wasn't up to driving for a while. Even when I did go back to work, I was really going through the motions and was so grateful when the University term finished and I had a whole four weeks off to rest - and to recover.
Where has that left me? I've given up general dental practice in which I was working two days per week. I now have only my three days teaching at the dental school in Glasgow. Hopefully, having rest days during the week will mean I can give more to my teaching job. That's the plan. My only other report to do with MS is that I had to give in and use a wheelchair when we were on holiday, but, I'll talk about that in a minute - in the next post.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Not plane spotting

On Wednesday, I and a friend did not go plane spotting at Edinburgh airport.

We didn't. We went plane observing. Honestly. He had a new camera to try out and I brought a flask of tea. I couldn't believe it when a genuine plane spotter came and asked us "if we got the reg of that little Swiss twin turbo that came in about half an hour ago?" I was gobsmacked. They do exist.
It was a great day out. We had a flask of tea and filled rolls and saw some lovely aircraft close-up.

My friend (who wishes to remain strictly anonymous) got some really good photographs, despite the changing weather conditions which went from glorious sunshine to an electrical storm, dark grey skies and lashing rain.

Bird feeder

I love my bird-feeder!
When Matthew was last home I asked him to drill some holes and place this bird feeder so it can be seen from the lounge window. Here are some photos taken through the window:

I know that this is a bluetit. He (if it’s a ‘he’) is looking a bit old and weary. Remember to click for the bigger picture!

I think these are Green Finches, but I’m not sure. Any ornithologists out there?

This is a beautiful little bird. This is a Gold Finch. Lovely flashes of yellow on his wings and a distinctive red face.

This is a Great Spotted Woodpecker. There are two of them. One has a peachy underside near the tail and the other has a bright red underside. One may be a Middle Spotted Woodpecker, I’m not sure, but as long as he knows who he is we should be OK.

There are others, but for now, I’ll make this the last. These are one of my favourites – the Housemartins. They nest under the eaves of the houses here with mud built dwellings and swoop around the houses catching insects in the air. They are the true acrobats of the skies. It’s like watching the Red Arrows on display. They swoop and dive and with a dozen to fifteen of them at a time it is a display worth watching. If you’re sitting outside reading or having a cup of tea they will streak past you like a bullet within inches of your head. I can think of one or two friends who might find this a bit disturbing! Here are a couple of chicks near to leaving the nest:

Church camp (2)

I ran out of time to finish talking about the Church camps. Anyone reading this who has never experienced these events may find what I say a bit strange and not be able to relate to it very well, so, I'll try to explain things in detail as I go along.

In the last posting I talked about where we held the camps. I should talk about why? and also refer to what goes on?

Why? Easy question and easy answer. The Church camps give an opportunity for Christians, either members of our Church or those associated with it, to get together for a concerted and focused time of thought, reflection, teaching, prayer and opportunity to get help with issues and problems in our lives that are causing us trouble (this could be anything from those who haven't yet made a decision to follow Jesus Christ and are looking for the experience of forgiveness of sins and receiving God into there lives [a very, very real experience] or those seeking the experience I mentioned before called the baptism of the Holy Spirit (a second experience for Christians [see Acts 2 in the Bible] in which a powerful filling of the Holy Spirit takes place with the associated experience given to "speak in other tongues") to those who have drug or alcohol addictions or been involved in the occult or witchcraft and feel a shadow has entered their lives and are looking for God to remove this from them and set them free. If you're reading this and haven't heard anything like this before, then could I refer you to the first Christian book I ever read called The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson. You'll find a lot will make sense after you read that. (Available from Amazon, etc).
What? What takes place? There are 'meetings' (services) morning and evening with a mixture of Bible teaching/exposition and prayer (mornings) and a preaching-type meeting in the evening, often with the opportunity to respond and come for prayer afterwards. Examples of sermons are available for download here. In the afternoons, there are often activities for children/young people, or after lunch the more mature among us go for a long nap!

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Church camp

Well, it's that time of year again! Church camp. The youth camp has already been with glowing reports on facebook from some of those who were there. This week sees the first adult week (the second week being in August after the English schools have broken up for the summer) taking place at Gartmore House, near Aberfoyle. It's worth taking a minute to think of what takes place, why and firstly, where. When I first started coming along to Struther's Church back in the early 80's, we had camps at Wiston Lodge, near Biggar (I know some of the readers here go back before that, but, I'm just a 'new boy'!). The hall probably sat 120 at a push, it's hard to say. Camp lasted two weeks and a lot of people actually slept under canvas or in hired caravans. The facilities were 'basic' to say the least and the water frequently stopped in hot weather, or simply through the high demand of all these people wanting to wash and drink tea! In the picture above, the meeting hall (games hall) is on the extreme left in white. What the picture doesn't show is the sloping campsite and the huge fanged midges we had to put up with. It all came to a head for me one camp when I remember being in the middle of the field (campsite) smeared in insect repellent, which I couldn't wash off because the water had gone off, just having been to the toilets that wouldn't flush and just thinking "I hate this place!", strangely enough, it was within twenty-four hours that Mary Black (our late minister) said that "the cloud had moved on" (reference to Moses and the children of Israel in the wilderness, who knew it was time to move camp when the pillar of cloud moved forward). The much-in-need-of-a-wash congregation were divided in their opinions as to whether this was a good thing or not - my response was "Hallelujah! Let's go somewhere else!"
However, Wiston was a place of many happy memories for many of us who found God there in depth. I received my baptism in the Holy Spirit there, which changed my life. Many found miracles of healing or deliverance from demon power there. I witnessed a few of these and thrilled at the moving of the power of God. Lives changed forever.
There are many funny stories too. One of my favourites is about in the last few years there when we had the marquees (large tents) for our meetings. The marquee sat at the bottom of the camping field and a cable to supply power for the lighting, sound, keyboard, etc., ran through the trees, across the path and into the chalets. The meeting was in full swing with lighting, sound and music when one of the girls in the chalets wanted to dry her hair with her hair dryer. "Gosh!" she thought, "I wonder what that plug is for? Mmm. It probably isn't anything important." and she unplugged it. You've guessed! The power to the tent was being run off a single 13 amp socket. While she began to dry her hair the whole meeting was plunged into darkness. No music, no sound, etc. While she hummed away to herself Andrew Collins was racing down to the chalet as quick as his two legs would carry him to find out what had gone wrong! Luckily, power was restored, although it probably took that young lady a little longer to dry her hair than she imagined!

We've been to Biggar High School and Craigie College in Ayr. Now, we have a lovely venue in Gartmore House. We have running water, showers that stay hot and a lovely big hall. Numbers have increased probably to 400+ at some meetings and it's all very comfortable - except I think for those in tents, the last few days: the rain has come down as only it can in Scotland. I hope they all stayed dry! I've managed up on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. I'm planning on going tonight too, so I'd better go and get ready. More about the camps in the next posting. 'Til then.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Dundee and Brechin

It has always appealed to us as a family to have a night or two away from home when the opportunity arose. This week, with me being on holiday, and Matthew still home we took the opportunity of escaping these four walls and heading north of the Tay to the City of Dundee. We booked online using a website that I'm not seen before: and easily secured accommodation that was simple but comfortable. The weather both days was hazy but bright and gradually getting sunnier as the day wore on. We left home around lunchtime and arrived in Dundee less than one and a half hours later. We checked into the hotel and after the obligatory cup of tea, dozed for an hour or more! In the evening we took a drive up toward Brechin along the A90 which is an excellent road, but, watch out for the speed cameras! I've wanted to visit here for a while as there is an old Celtic or Pictish round tower dating from between the 9th and 11th centuries. It's intact and although the Cathedral that is next to it was closed (and I don't think access is permitted to the round tower) we got some good photos from the outside. Et viola:

There are only two round towers left in Scotland, but, quite a few in Ireland. The ones, apparently, that show similar carvings to the one at Brechin are from around the ninth century so, I imagine, that's why this tower is sometimes called 'Pictish' - I suppose we'll never really know.

Today, we simply had breakfast and after returning to the room to rest a bit, we went to see the Discovery - Captain Scott's ship that left for Antarctica in 1901 - and ended up ice-bound for two years, eventually 20 miles from the open sea! It got free after a major thaw and the use of explosives to break up the ice. The exhibition is very good and the ship is impressive, if a little difficult to navigate with a walking stick!

Some photos below. The other project I and my good friend Colin, have begun is to build a computer. I'm hoping to get it finished tomorrow - I'll keep you updated on whether it works or gives out some blue smoke all of a sudden!

Matthew at the helm and the Discovery from the starboard side.


I can't believe it's almost a month since I last updated this blog. Suffice to say that the last few weeks have been really exhausting and I've not done a lot except working and sleeping. While I'm on the subject of working, I've eventually decided to give up general dental practice. I've worked as a general dentist for twenty-three years - after I left the hospital service in 1986. It's a major change for me as I consider this to be 'what I am' - if you can follow that train of thought. I have always enjoyed the whole experience of dental practice: being at the heart of a team that looked after patients' dental needs. It's what I do. I'll miss the patients, the staff - everything about it. I'm finding the hands on work alright - I may be a bit slower than I was - but, it's really the whole effort of getting there and not having any rest time during the week that is the problem. Hopefully, I can find something to do from home to keep me busy. I'm keeping the three days' teaching going and hopefully, the rest days will make it a bit easier.
Anyway, on a nice positive note it's the end of the academic term. In fact it ended on the 19th June and last week we had some 'in service' time which was good. I gave a presentation on an educational theme about giving effective verbal feedback. It seemed to go down well, but, it's the first time in years that I've been nervous about speaking on front of people. I did it from a seated position, which seemed to be acceptable.
I'm planning on having a few days' rest and catch up on a few things I've got to do and then see what the future's going to hold. Matthew is still here and due back in camp next week. We had a couple of days away in Dundee and I'll post some photographs in the next posting.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Back - at last!

Well, I'd better get this blog updated! I'm having gentle nudges from friends to remind me!
To be honest - it's been a difficult month. No matter, we're now into early June and things are looking up - including the weather! The last week has given us some of the loveliest weather I've seen for ages. It's been really hot and sunny - and lucky me, I've managed to see some of it, while poor Susie is working all the hours of the day and right into the evening. I hope this coming weekend is good again.
So, what's been happening? Well, I've been back at work a couple of weeks now after my episode of illness as described in the previous post. If I'm honest, I probably went back a little early as my son pointed out to me. I have been very, very tired and have slept some evenings for one to two hours before going to bed for the night! Matthew got permission to come home a little early from Iraq to help out at home when I was ill. They are 'closing down' Iraq anyway, as far as the British army is concerned and they shunted him out early when they heard that his poor ol' dad was in a bit of a state! He was a great help here. He brought me endless cups of tea in bed and prepared food for us (he's turned into a budding chef). When I was a bit better he drove me to doctors and chemists and eventually, for coffee and a short walk (um, from the car to the coffee shop). He gave us very practical help and Susie and I really appreciated that. In the first few days before he got home (when I was stuck upstairs in bed), dear friends from the Church dropped in and made me lunch and stayed to chat for a while. A great big thanks to you - you know who you are. Even the builders were really kind to me and made sure I was ok. Bless them.
One funny thing to come out of all of this is that I can't remember much about the first week of illness. I am reminded that I spoke to various people on the phone and some visitors who came. I have almost no recollection of this. If I said anything unusual or out of character (oh dear - the mind boggles) - I'm really sorry - I had a temperature of nearly 40C and those few days are all a blur! Happily, things are a lot better now.
The occupational therapist came today to check that the work done in the house is satisfactory. She was really delighted and took a couple of mobile phone pics to show her colleagues. She also asked me how the builders were - and I told her that I couldn't fault them - that I could only speak really highly of them. If anyone is reasonably local and need a builder - then I can recommend a good one - just contact me. Basically, I'm fine. Just tired. I've decided to give up dental practice at the end of June as it's too tiring. It's not the work that's hard, but all the travelling and the time it takes getting there and back. I'll miss it - I've always been a 'hands-on' dentist - and although I'm keeping on the teaching, I'll really miss 'being a dentist' - if you can follow that!
Other news: One of my jobs at the University is to organise visits from foreign students to the dental school. The last four weeks a young lady from Saveetha Dental Institute in Chennai has been visiting us. I've had less teaching commitments that usual so I've been able to show her some of the sights around Glasgow. Here's a photo I took during a short stop at the quadrangles at Glasgow University.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Building works

Stirling Council have given me a grant to get some alterations done (I do pay a proportion). Actually, I don't get the money and they set the specifications for which alterations take place. I thought they'd just fix a downstairs shower room, but, they said to me that the grant was only awarded once and they would identify the 'needs' and address them. So, begins the list of what they're doing: a wet room, a wider door to it, a wider front door and a ramp to provide level access at the front door. This is the bit I was most nervous about as I've seen some of the metal ramps that are built beside some houses. Anyway, that's not what they've done. They've lifted the slabs on the patio and relaid the whole thing as a ramp with an attractive retaining wall. The builders have been amazing (a private company - if anyone wants a good recommendation!). They're almost finished and it's really beginning to take shape. I've posted some photos.
Lucy tries out the new ramp

Below is the new shower room. It was amazing to watch them work and rip the room apart before rebuilding it with new floor and shower tray - then the floor gets laid on top of that and sealed at the edges.

This is the new front door from the inside. It's wider and the there's no step as you enter.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Weekly update 8th May 2009

A bit late with my weekly update, I know. Last weekend is a bit of a blur. Our 22nd wedding anniversary was Saturday, and we went out for a nice lunch to celebrate. On Sunday, dear friends Bill and Margaret took us out for a lovely lunch in a nearby restaurant. We were extremely well fed and the service was quick and courteous and the conversation good!
Then I woke up about 3am and realised I was feeling unwell (um, not related to the lovely meal, I think that this had been building up for a few days). I managed to get back to sleep, but, by 6am was really unwell with a high temp and all the usual symptoms of a gastro-intestinal bug. Work that one out yourselves!
By 9am I could not support my own weight or walk. Susie had to support me when trying to move from the bed to the toilet, etc. Even when sitting on the bed I would fall backwards and had to get Susie to support me while having a drink of water.
Other problems developed too and eventually the NHS24 service was called. They spoke to Susie first and then to me. The chap on the other end of the phone wanted me to 'come in to one of our treatment centres' - I told him I couldn't get downstairs and he eventually agreed to get a doctor to come to me. I think all the symptoms (other than the viral ones) were just an exacerbation of the MS. Whether is was the virus or the high temp (MS gets worse in high temperatures) I don't know, but, thankfully I'm a bit better now and able to walk albeit like the original rubber man! I hope my walking gets back to 'normal' (the new normal!) and I can get back to work and regular life! I'll leave it there for now and update soon.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Weekly MS update

I've decided to have a weekly update especially related to the MS. A couple of things have happened that have brought this about. Firstly, I received an email from friends of a friend who are quite some distance from us here in Scotland, whom I suspect have an MS connection; and secondly, my dear wife, Susie, and my good friend Colin, have (how shall I say?) suggested to me that I concentrate more on how MS is affecting my life as this is the part that is central to what people want to read about. So, I've decided to write a weekly update specifically about MS and its effects, and will be titled weekly update and will be in a different font colour and size (as per this entry). Any other entries will have titles that describe them and be discernible by title and font size and colour (black). OK. So, let's move on. Please do feel free to contact me to tell me your thoughts and suggestions. As of today, I'm putting an email address on the blog so that you can contact me directly - without feeling that the only way to do this is to leave a comment.

MS weekly update 26th April 2009

It's been a difficult week because of pain. I mentioned in a previous entry in the blog that the three main areas MS affects me are walking and balance, fatigue and neuropathic pain. The pain affects the left side of my head and radiates down my neck. It's like having toothache in your head. It's severe, localised and debilitating. I only have relief from it when I'm asleep, which makes sense as the nerves reduce their activity in sleep and I often don't have any pain for a few minutes after I wake up in the morning. When this pain first developed just over a year ago, I began to take ibuprofen 400mg increasing to four times daily. After approximately three or four months of this I found that it just wasn't controlling the pain. I would sit with my head back resting on the back of a chair and be unable to function in any way - work or conversation. Anything. Susie eventually called my GP (I was going to wait until I saw the consultant - she felt this was too far away), and he prescribed diclofenac. I took it faithfully, but, it didn't really help much. Luckily, my appointment with the neurologist was coming up!

When I described the pain to the neurologist he simply said that he could help.He prescribed gabapentin for me. I'll leave out the funny stories about how euphoric it made me (I loved the world and everyone in it for about two weeks!). It helped. It was day and night compared with the other analgesics. I had about 80 - 85% control over the pain and I was able to work most of the day and function reasonably normally. However, if I stepped up the dosage during a bad few days of pain then it made me feel so lethargic and tired that I lay on the couch and slept most of the time.

A couple of months ago, having previously spoken with an oral medicine consultant who recommended a different drug with less side effects, I saw the MS specialist nurse and asked if I could change to pregabalin, which is more expensive, but, has less side effects. I found the same euphoric side effects initially (as the consultant said, I 'stepped up' the dosage too quickly - but, you don't get any pain control unless you take the tablets!). I certainly had better pain control and I wasn't so tired. In fact, I felt the best I've felt for ages and didn't have to lie down so much. I felt I'd got my life back. However, this week has been bad. Whether the pain is worse and simply 'breaking through', or whether the drug has less effect now after a 'honeymoon' period, all I know is that the pain has been back with a vengeance despite the fact that I've been taking the medication religiously. So, what next?

When I spoke to the Oral med consultant, he said that I should try a combination of medications. He suggested fentanyl patches. These are similar to nicotine patches but contain a synthetic opioid. I haven't got these yet, but I think I'll ask my GP to prescribe them. The one side effect that's common with them is constipation - so, I'm off to Tesco to buy a couple of litres of prune juice - just in case!

The molecular structure - for those who like to know these things!

Other areas that MS affects me are standing for any length of time, little irritating things like crossing my legs or getting out of the car. Anything that involves accurate movement of feet or legs. Strangely enough, driving is OK, probably because I'm seated and my feet know what to do. I don't have the balance problem in the car - I think that this is because the seat is molded and helps a lot with support. I'll leave this week's report there and hopefully, have an update on the pain management next week. 'Til next time.

Friday, 24 April 2009

So, how is the MS?

"I've updated my blog!" called Paul. Susie was in the bedroom next door. It was late and she was in bed, propped up by a miscellany of pillows.

"What did you write about?" came an immediate reply from the long-suffering spouse.

"Em, the Easter Conference and then that programme I saw on iPlayer - you know, that Narnia Code one."

"And, did you write anything about MS?" came the immediate retort with a little more than a hint of reprimand.

"No, I forgot."

"You forgot! But, that's what people want to read about!"

"But, I don't want to write about MS!"

The deafening sound of silence threatened from the next room.

"Oh, OK. I'll do it in a day or two." The husband sighed.

A couple of days later he began to type: "So, how is the MS?......"

A few weeks ago, as chronicled here, I changed my painkillers to a new 'next generation' alternative. Apart from making me as high as a kite for a few days, the pain control was quite good and I felt better than I have done for almost two years. The last couple of days have been a bit rough, though. Whether I had an immediate 'honeymoon' effect from the medication, I don't know; or whether recently, the pain has been worse - I just can't tell. But, I've tried to augment the pain control with ibuprofen with little success (do you really want to know this?!). I'm hoping that this is just a minor blip and all shall return to what it was last week! I'll let you know.

The rest of the MS is as it was, I think. It's hard to tell. My walking varies from morning 'til evening. I can walk better after sleeping and it gradually gets worse throughout the day. My balance is bad all of the time and I've had a couple of near-misses as regards falling, when I've just managed to catch onto some item of furniture or kitchen worktop just in time. I think it's only a matter of time before someone has to pick me up in the pedestrian precinct in Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow! I can't wait.

Let's return to Easter weekend as it's more interesting!

We had a visitor.

The visitor

A strange thing happens on a semi-regular basis every few months in our house. A woman with the same features as her ladyship arrives at the airport/bus station/or on the doorstep looking for somewhere to stay. It's a pretty good deal, actually. She loves ironing and, in return for a bed and a little food she clears the ironing basket. Bless her. The really strange side of it is this: from the moment she walks in until she departs, there is ceaseless conversation between her and the aforementioned spouse. They've known each other for a long, long time, and yet, they never seem to run out of something to say to one another. Bewildering. The other side of this phenomenon is that I get totally ignored. Actually, that's fine.

I'll put a photo of her here so that you also can be confused. Is it the spouse? Is it her sister? It's hard to tell. One of the ways you can tell the difference is to observe certain habits. This particular version (the Polly version) has a habit of disappearing off to warmer parts of the world at cold times of the year. She insists it's not for holidays. But, we ask ourselves, are there any witnesses to this tale?

As usual, if you want a closer look, simply click on the image.

If you can enlighten me on any aspect of these siblings, or their unpredictable - and sometimes downright strange - behaviour. Then please do. I've been trying to understand them for many, many years with absolutely no success.
I've uploaded a photo of both of them together so you can play spot the difference.
Until next time.