Whitney – “An angel reaching for the sky”



I am becoming increasingly anxious about my medical condition, which has been diagnosed as aortic stenosis, or to us laymen – a dodgy heart valve. My worries started when I realised that despite a mountain of blood pressure reducing drugs, my BP was still quite high – just before the time when my next twice-daily dose was due to be taken. During most of the intervening period, the BP was impressively low, but it concerned me that only a few hours later, it was back up again. This didn’t seem to be quite as it should be to my, admittedly non-medical, brain.

So I started to do some more research to try and assess the severity of my condition and how long will it be before I really need to get serious about having an operation.


The first thing I have established is that heart valve replacement is inevitable. It is not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’ as there is simply no alternative treatment. I also learned that the longer I leave it, the more damage I will do to my heart and the higher the risk of me suddenly becoming the ‘late -Mobi’.

With this in mind, I made another attempt to get hold of the results of the cardiogram test I had last December at Bumrungrad to try to see how bad my condition is, and this time I was lucky, as the nice man on the phone emailed me copies of all the reports within an hour of my enquiry.


I have tried to understand the various ‘Doppler Measurements & Calculations’, and I confess that  most of them are still a mystery to me, but I have been able to establish that certain key readings concerning my aortic valve have deteriorated since the previous test was done in June 2010. The Doctor’s summary report states my condition as being ‘moderate to severe’ which is none too encouraging.

On the positive front, the readings that I was able to decipher do not appear to be as bad as those quoted in clinical papers that I have studied, although they are by no means very encouraging.

I am also concerned about taking too much daily exercise; I now learn that too much exercise can cause heart failure, as exercise puts the heart under more pressure because of the impaired valve. I also better understand why I was feeling so tired, breathless, feint and generally shitty when I first started to take exercise a few months back. They are all symptoms of aortic stenosis – not just because I was unfit. Anyway, given that most of these symptoms have either reduced or disappeared completely, I think I will continue with my daily walks, but ensure that I do not overdo it, as I have done on a few recent occasions.


But, as a medical expert has told me in unequivocal terms, the bottom line is that I need surgery, sooner rather than later. I am going to Bangkok next week, (Wednesday), and try see a specialist at Rajawithi Hospital, a government hospital, which I am told is the number one hospital in Thailand for heart surgery.

 I will have to join the queue and it may take a while to be seen (I may even have to return 2 or 3 times) but eventually I will get to see the consultant who will schedule me for surgery, if he decides that I need it.

This might all take a few weeks, maybe a month or more, but the advantages of going this route are two-fold. As stated, Rajawithi has the best surgeons, provide the best after care and have the lowest mortality rate, and, equally important, it will be a lot cheaper than going to one of the private hospitals.

So wish me luck and I will duly report on progress.


“An angel reaching for the sky”

Last year Amy, and this year Whitney…what is it with these singers? They seem to have it all, but in the end they turn out to be mere mortals, like the rest of us imperfect citizens of Planet Earth.

I am sure that there will be millions upon millions of words written in tribute to Whitney over the coming days and weeks and endless speculations – even conspiracy theories – on how she died, why she died and whether it needed to have happened or could it have been prevented.

Even barely two hours after her death, Twitter has already gone viral…

So I will just confine my own uttering to state that for a long period of my life – most of it during my ‘Insurance Years’ in the UK – Whitney was always there, with her incredible voice and her towering ballads that couldn’t fail to move and inspire even the hardest of hearts.

What a God-given talent! What a waste of a beautiful person who I believe still had much to give, despite the ravages of recent years.

My own tribute to Whitney is not a Whitney song, but that hauntingly evocative song which was written by Brian May as a tribute Freddie Mercury, but has since become an anthem for the ‘good who die young.’

 If you have a few minutes to spare , please click on the link below and listen to this incredible song – and for goodness sake, GIVE IT SOME WELLY! …but keep a tissue to hand….


One by one

Only the Good die young

They’re only flyin’ too close to the sun

Cryin’ for nothing

Cryin’ for no-one

No-one but you…

R.I.P. Whitney; from one recovering addict, to one who never quite made it.





Bits and Bobs


I regretfully note that I was spot on when I predicted in a recent blog that the recent Russian and Chinese vetoes at the UN Security council were effectively giving the Syrian regime a ‘licence to kill.’

I believe that history will record that the two-nation veto, used  for unquestionably political and self-serving purposes, was one of the most despicable acts carried out by so-called responsible world states in the past thirty years. The continuing suffering and death to the people of Homs and elsewhere are testament to this gargantuan error of judgement.


Thai floods…

I had to chuckle recently when I read that in her Saturday talk show, P.M. Yingluck  admitted that severe flooding may recur and that participation from all related bodies is crucial to ease the situation. She went on to say: “her government will help locals in flood-prone areas to adapt themselves to a new lifestyle, for example, by introducing them to jobs in water-related fields.”


The mind boggles…. scenes of the movie ‘Waterworld’, where the entire planet was permanently flooded, immediately spring to mind. Is the lovely Miss Yingluck telling us that these folk will be living in a world perpetually surrounded by water and that they had better get used to it and adapt? It certainly seemed so….


A Concert for George…

Thanks to Roger,one of my readers, I learned about this excellent concert that was staged as a tribute to George Harrison at the Albert Hall in London, exactly a year after his untimely death. It has to be one of the truly great live concerts of all time and stars a veritable ‘who’s who’ of great musicians: Eric Clapton, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Billy Preston, Malcom Abbs, Gary Brooker, Jules Holland, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, and so many others.

And what about Joe Brown? Where has he been for the past 40 years? and what a performer! – especially his amazingly emotional closing song, complete with ukulele solo…


Not to forget the opening section of Indian music, written by Ravi Shanklar, (plus a small piece by George himself), played by the most extraordinary and wonderful collection of Indian and western musicians and singers. It totally blew my mind away and set me up for the incredible western music concert that followed, featuring George’s own eclectic output of original, wonderful songs.

It is said that the main Beatles song producing partnership of Lennon/McCartney was so good and so prolific that George’s songs rarely made it onto their albums. This may have been true, but when they did, my God, were they ‘good-uns’!


‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ with a soaring Clapton solo stands out, but for me, the high point of the night was when Paul McCartney started playing a ‘honky tonk’ version of ‘Something’ on yet another ukulele, (George’s favourite instrument), and after a minute or so, it somehow morphed into the full orchestral version in all its majestic glory – truly one of the greatest love songs ever written… ‘Something in the way she moves’….


BUTT…BUTT…BUTT…I don’t give a hoot…




Tinkering with a Material World…



Last Saturday, two Brits, both in their thirties, were killed in separate accidents while riding their bikes, without helmets, on the Darkside.

I am currently discussing this subject in Thai Visa as, ironically, I had only recently started a new thread to point out the dangers of driving at speed – without helmets – on a dangerous road that has an increasing amount of traffic on it, when news of this double-tragedy came to my attention.

I was also prompted to raise the subject of reckless drivers as every day, when I take my afternoon walk, I pass by a memorial stone set on the grass verge, in memory of yet another English motorcyclist who died on this road a few years back.

So it was with no great surprise but with much sadness that barely two days after I started the thread, I learned that two young men ‘met their ends’ on what is fast becoming an accident black spot for irresponsible farang motorcyclists.

In the first accident, the man attempted to overtake at the same time as  a pick-up truck was coming in the opposite direction towards him. He clipped its side mirror, resulting him losing control, falling down onto the road where he was crushed under the wheels of  10 wheel truck which was following on behind.

I wonder why he would attempt to overtake on a dangerous two lane road, when there was an oncoming vehicle, making the manoeuvre even more risky than it already was. He was in such a hurry…


The second accident involved a man who was staying in Pattaya ‘proper’, but had driven out to the lake on his bike to get drunk at one of the Lakeside bars. On his return journey, he ‘met his maker’ although I have no detailed information as to precisely what happened.

It is a small world, for I discovered yesterday that this particular unfortunate victim had been living with one of my ex-girlfriends. Some of you may recall her; a lady, (who I called ‘Tan’), from Nakhon Sawan, who I had a short, but very tempestuous and traumatic affair, back in April, May and June, 2010, all faithfully recorded in my blog at that time. You may recall that I got pissed and she dumped me. Now that’s something new, ain’t it?

I have nothing but painful memories of Tan as I was very fond of her, but I wouldn’t wish the death of a loved one onto my worst enemy and I do hope that she manages to get through this difficult and sad time in one piece.


A Lustful Gentleman

For those of you who may be interested, at long last I have been making some progress on my novel and a couple of days ago I wrote around 4,000 new words after spending a day or so ‘getting back into it’ and reminding myself where I was at. Now I have recommenced, I am resolved to keep the momentum going and hopefully I will be publishing some new ‘sections’ soon.

I am currently reading Tolstoy’s ‘Resurrection’ which I will comment on when I have finished, (along with Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’, which I finished reading recently), but in the meantime. I will just mention that I was interested to note that Tolstoy had started a new chapter, every time there was to every ‘break’ in his narrative, usually every 2-3 pages.

So, as I am sure that Tolstoy knows best, I have decided to adopt a similar format for my  novel. Currently, my chapters are quite long and contain a number of natural breaks – marked by asterisks – occasioned by ‘time shifts’, either forward or back, and I shall now covert these breaks into separate chapters. As you will see, the original lengthy chapters will now be changed to ‘parts’: ‘Part 1 is  ‘Na’; ‘Part 2,  Ying’; ‘Part 3,  Toby’, and so on.



A post script… to my piece the other day on the valiant Captain of the Costa Concordia

After his retirement, Winston Churchill was cruising the Mediterranean on an Italian cruise liner and some Italian journalists asked why an ex British Prime Minister should choose an Italian ship.

“There are three things I like about being on an Italian cruise ship,” said Churchill.

“Firstly their cuisine is unsurpassed, secondly their service is superb and then, in times of emergency, there is none of this nonsense about women and children first.”

‘Nuff said…


Two Film reviews

1. Tinker Tailor Soldier, Spy

As some of you may know, I am a life-long fan of John Le Carré and he is one of my favourite 20th Century authors – although he is still going strong in this, his 70th Year!

‘Tinker’ was a classic of the cold war spy genre and it wasn’t long ago that I watched, (and wrote about) the BBC 1979 adaptation, which I enjoyed very much, although I found the back ground music somewhat grating.

So it was with great anticipation that I sat down to watch the 2011 celluloid version of Le Carré’s classic.


On the whole I did enjoy it and I think I will probably watch it again as I feel it is that rare kind of film that requires more than one viewing to fully appreciate its ‘finer points’

I have to say that if I hadn’t read the novel and recently watched the BBC version, I doubt that I would have had much idea about what was going on. The film is a ‘film noir’ to outdo all ‘film noirs’ and I think you would have you be a bit of a clever-clogs to really follow all the nuances of the convoluted plot if you hadn’t previously read the book or seen the BBC adaptation.

But given that I had and I did, I managed to follow where the film was going – just about, as they did change some of the finer points of the story line, and I found some of the scenes quite breath-taking in their ability to evoke to bygone age and atmosphere.

I am also now devoted fan of Gary Oldman who gave a masterful portrayal of George Smiley, but I do feel that most of the other main characters were pretty one dimensional. Not the actors’ faults, as they were all top drawer, and did their best with the material at hand, but more a fault of the scrip and the film itself. The exception to this was Smiley’s wife, who we only ever caught the briefest glimpses of, yet in some indefinable way, we somehow knew all about her.


It is a ‘patchy’ piece of work – brilliant in parts and sometimes baffling, but never, as some have asserted, boring. The plot moves along in brief ‘snapshots’ of dialogue and action and as a consequence, sometimes you have to be pretty quick-witted to fully appreciate what is actually happening.

Overall, it was an enjoyable ‘ride’, and I particularly loved the scenes of the spooks’ 70’s ‘office Christmas party’, which were so evocative, grotesque and somehow, almost scary.

I also loved the ending, but I won’t spoil it for you.

Oh… the music is just totally brilliant!


2. George Harrison – Living in the material World

I will always go out of my way to see the work of certain actors and directors – a select few, who, in my opinion, can do no wrong.

By way of example, I will always watch an Al Pacino or a De Niro film – even if it is a bad one,  as by their very presence, they will somehow drag it out of the mundane and make it a pleasurable experience.

One of my favourite directors is Martin Scorsese and to me, he can do no wrong, ever since I saw Taxi Driver all those years ago. Since then he has followed up with masterpieces such as Goodfellas, Casino and Gangs of New York, to name but three of many. Recently, his production and directorial contributions to the TV series, Boardwalk Empire has elevated it to the echelons of all time TV greats, such as The Sopranos.


Scorsese also has also directed a number of notable documentaries through the years, almost always connected in some way to his love of music and music performers. His latest, about the life of the Beatle George Harrison, is a feast for the eyes.

To any Beatles fans, lovers of popular music, or just someone interested in the life and times of this fascinating and talented man, then this documentary is a ‘must see’.

I sat down to watch it at around 10 p.m and sat transfixed, hardly realising that the clock was almost at the hour of 2 a.m by the time the final credits rolled down the screen – along with a few tears rolling down my cheeks…

There is no narrator and no quoting of dates or facts, just a cinematic account of the life of George, from his earliest days in the Beatles right up to the day of his death from cancer in 2001. The story is ‘told’ through mainly previously unseen footage and magical interviews with so many friends and family who knew him and lived through those life and times with him.


I have a new respect for Paul and Ringo who clearly gave very honest, heartfelt and sometimes surprisingly vulnerable accounts of themselves and their relationships with George and their times with him – both good and bad. And there many others; Eric Clapton, John Lennon, both of George’s wives, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Tom Petty, Phil Spector, Yoko Ono, Jackie Stewart and so many more.

Some of these people were interviewed especially for the film and other interviews were taken from archive footage, much of it never seen before. And at the top of the list of interviewees is George himself, speaking from his very early Beatle days, almost up to the time of his death.

George was a fascinating man who lived a very full life, from his music, to his film production, to his love of cars, to garden design and to his almost fanatical involvement in Indian mysticism and trans-meditation. Through the years, this quiet but obviously highly charismatic character acquired  an incredible array of devoted friends from all walks of life.


I particularly loved the videos of the impromptu sessions shot at Bob Dylan’s home recording studio in New York when members of the ‘Travelling Wilburys’, (George, Tom petty, Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne and Roy Orbison), collaborated on a new song . It is pure magic.

But there again, there are so many magical moments

This wonderful documentary is a film not to be missed.


BUTT…BUTT… BUTT…BUTT… I don’t give a hoot!…

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