Wednesday, 20 October 2010


A COUPLE of weeks ago, my granddad had a stroke. It was a complete shock, as to me my grandfather has always been the strong one of the family, nothing could ever happen to him. He is recovering well (he could walk and talk immediately after) but not completely healed, but was in high spirits and good shape at a celebration for his and my gran’s Diamond wedding anniversary only a week after the stroke. He even gave a speech.

On Sunday, in the middle of church, a lady in the congregation had a TIA (a mini-stroke). She had plenty of people around her to help, many of whom had been with her during her recovery from a full stroke just a week before, and she was talking and joking very soon afterwards. The congregation, luckily, included several nurses and a doctor. I’m very glad she was OK, but it shocked me, reminding me of my granddad but also alerting me to the fact that I have no idea how to recognise a stroke or have any idea what you need to do in such a situation. This despite the fact that I’ve seen adverts explaining what to do everywhere.

To my shame I’ve never really read them. I know they say “Act F.A.S.T.”, but I had no idea what F.A.S.T. stood for. So, because you can never repeat something important often enough, I went away and found out, and decided to post it below. The acronym was chosen because the faster a patient experiencing a stroke is seen to, the higher the change of recovery. The letters stand for things to look for to recognise a stroke, and then act immediately.

F. Facial weakness – can the person smile? Has their mouth or eye drooped?
A. Arm weakness – can the person raise both arms?
S. Speech problems – can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?

If a person fails any of these tests…

T. Time to call 999.

Plenty more information at the Stroke Association website (
The NHS have an Act F.A.S.T test here.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010


Rachel's sister Diana has taken to creative writing of late, writing some excellent poems. I hope she doesn't mind me using this style (modified where I feel the urge to ramble) to attempt to describe the wedding of Rachel and I in September. She's much better at it than I am, I just wanted to give it a go.

A STODGY breakfast; wandering barefoot and trouble-free.
A shower, a shave. Another shave. Another shower.
Putting on my suit. Getting too hot and taking it off again. Several hours still to wait.
Walking around in my fancy suit, slip-sliding in my grip-free shoes.
One last cup of tea.
Another shave; another look in the mirror, checking that everything is in order. My hair looks fine, stop playing with it.
More pacing, more packing.
Bradley off to collect button-holes and Rachel’s suitcase: the day according to schedule, so far.
A run through of the speech, to nobody, yet anybody. Another rewrite of that pesky sentence.
A quick freshen up; the suit on for good. Time to go.

Getting lost in Burnham but arriving in good time, alongside my ushers. Wandering around the grounds, enjoying the atmosphere. Slip-sliding in my shoes some more. Buttonholes ready. My team looking dapper. The choir rehearsing.
This is gonna be good.
My family arrive, all really excited. I’m not nervous: this feels right.
Guests start to arrive, the photographer zooming in on instant reactions, often based on blurry eyesight.
A lot of hugging, a lot of excitement.
A lot of make-up now on my shoulder.
Perhaps I should go with the formal peck on the cheek or handshake, suggests the vicar.
I try.
More make-up on my shoulder... some people are just too friendly.
Quick! Inside! Rachel has arrived!
Sitting at the front, hubbub around me. Anticipation builds; adrenaline kicks in. Am I nervous? Not about being married, but what if I stumble, trip on my words or Rachel’s train? No time to think this thought all the way through... she is here.
Standing, facing the front. Everybody else can see her. I await my cue to turn.
Harry smiles at me. This is it.

There she is.
The smiling begins.
There she is: my fiancée, my Rachel, looking stunning. Look how beautiful she is. And...
...yep, she’s crying.
We face Harry; the ceremony begins - all according to plan, except perhaps the emergency hunt for tissues. She’s crying: I’m smiling. I can’t stop smiling.
Excellent hymns, excellent readings. The choir are magnificent, the service truly uplifting, a feeling shared by all. Our vows said, heartfelt and honest, but we are the centre of this event – no time to sit back and savour. So up we get, for further blessings – prayers from Helen, another hymn, the signing of the register. Much amusement and congratulating, next it is time to walk through the congregation. We thought this bit would be nerve wracking, but now we’re having too much fun.
Let the photos begin.
Time to stop smiling? Nah.

Family, friends, happiness spread among them all. This is a good day, though something funny has happened to my hair.
Lavender: once in cones, now down my back. The photos will look spectacular though.
The car. That horn. We’re off!
Time to calm down, time to say hello to each other. Time to cuddle and let it sink in: we’re married at last. How brilliant is that?
We made a child’s day by waving as we waited at the lights. A bride and groom in a fancy car alongside a family saloon beneath junction 6 of the M4.
Pootling to the reception, a tranquil haven amidst the commuter belt. Posing, celebrating, then boarding the ferry. Welcome, says Fraser, to Queen’s Eyot.
Meeting and greeting, posing and smiling, guava and Cava.
Surprise music, surprise coincidences, surprise guests (but welcome).
Ladies and Gentlemen, please stand for the arrival of the bride and groom.
That, we momentarily have to process, is us.

Food. Conversation. People meeting and befriending, unlikely duos and teams building: fun all round.
The challenge of guessing latin species table names falls to the curse of Internet phones.
The challenge of making balloon animals of latin species table names falls to the curse of having chosen complex species. Instead, silliness prevails. Yet somehow, iPhone-less, the grandparents guess Sarcophilus harrissii.
Speeches of impeccably high standard, unexpectedly poetic and personal. Such sentiment highly appreciated.
My turn.
The results of the balloon competition announced, it is time to get soppy.
No really, she didn’t believe I was proposing. Numerous times I had to ask!
Speech over and lavender removed from pockets, I’m still smiling, and it’s time to party.
The first dance; twirling with that train. Twirling to Train. We should have practised this.
Oh well!
Soon come the rest of the wedding party, jiving and twisting to the sounds of Jam Hot. We chat with newcomers and see off others, so glad they could come. Some people dance, others eat cake, others escape to the lawns on this mild September evening.
Another postcard, with chimpanzees.
The band are back, let’s dance some more. Look at me in my suit of balloons!
Then the conga heads for the door. Quick! Time to change, everybody is waiting! Time to leave the island, not even time to say thank you or good bye – it is off to Gatwick for us, and Italy beyond.
No time to reflect, just time to smile.
Me and my wonderful wife.