Monday, December 20, 2004
It so happened that Prince Charles and Princess Di were visiting our Deeside Leisure Centre. We councillors and our wives were invited to attend.
Although my wife and I had a 'car pass' the heavy traffic and police meant we were a bit late getting there. We were unloading my wheelchair from the boot of our car. John Collins (our District Treasurer) and his wife came to assist us. I kept telling John to go or they would be locking the door before he got there as security was very heavy. But John refused to leave me, saying "I'm not going without you Glyn".
When we eventually arrived at the door it was locked, but we showed our passes to the security blokes and they allowed us to go into the foyer. The door to the main hall was also locked, so we sat on a sofa in the foyer and waited to be let in.
After sitting there chatting to each other for about 15 minutes, Charles & Di came out of the main hall. They stopped by us for a chat and Charles asked us if were councillors.
Charles appeared quite interested that I was a councillor, albeit in a wheelchair. "And what do you do in addition to being a councillor?" he asked. When I told him that I was a very busy farmer he appeared to be genuinely interested. He asked me what type of farming I did. When I told him that we had a herd of pure bred Guernsey cows he mentioned that they had a Jersey herd.
We chatted together for about 15 minutes. Di looked very demure (and also very slim) as she chatted to our wives.
Eventually, the other councillors came out of the main hall. Some of them were furious as the hall had been so crowded they had barely seen Di and Charles. "Trust Glyn, the jammy beggar, catching those two royals like that!". We tried telling them that it had not been deliberate, it just happened because we had arrived late!
Sunday, November 21, 2004
My previous Diary was about our stopover at Singapore en route to visit our son and his wife. They live near Melbourne, Australia where our son is a vet.
When we arrived at Melbourne we were looking through some farming magazines of our son's. I noticed an advert about an agricultural show 'near Melbourne'. We phoned the show secretary for more information. She told us that it wasn't far from Melbourne, just about 100 miles (such distances mean nothing to the 'Ausies' as it such a large country - in fact, we have a map of Australia, and interposed on Europe it stretches from the east coast of Ireland to the south border of Scotland, over to Moscow, then down as far south as Egypt!).
The friendly secretary insisted that we really should go as it was their centenary show, and we would be treated "like royalty". So off we all went, our son and his wife and my wife Margaret and myself. I had asked our son if he could borrow a quad motorbike for me, which he did.
We booked into a motel for the night and then had a most enjoyable day at the agricultural show. The Australians that we met were so 'laid back' and friendly. Our time at the show was most enjoyable, me hurtling about on the quad bike.
When it was time to leave the show, I passed a police sergeant sitting on his BMW motorbike. The police guy called after me "Hey! Come back, cobber!". I reversed my quad back to him, wondering if I was going to be told off for using an unlicensed quad! But all he said to me was, "I could do with one of them on my small farm!". I replied, "I'll do you a straight swap for your lovely motorbike!". He said, "I would Taffy, but it isn't mine, it belongs to the police department". I then said, "I know that the police have a way of detecting folk, but why did you call me 'Taffy', as I had only said a few words to you??". (Taffy is another word for 'a Welsh person'). He replied, "As soon as you started talking I knew that you were a Taffy because my brother is in the Police in Cardiff, Wales"!
He then kindly asked me if I wanted help loading my quad onto our trailer. I asked him as everyone is so friendly, why did he have a revolver in its holder? He told me that his gun was basically to deter drug smugglers!
Sunday, October 3, 2004
My wife and I 'stopped over' at Singapore whilst we were en route to visit our eldest son and his wife in Melbourne, Australia.
We waited for our luggage, which included my wheelchair, to appear on the airport's conveyor belt. Some time passed with no sign of my wheelchair. The aircraft was prevented from taking off until the airline staff found my elusive wheelchair. After all, we could not allow another aircraft to take my precious wheelchair to some other destination! They eventually found it and we then spent a few very pleasant days in Singapore.
We stayed at the Weston Stamford Hotel, a beautiful circular building with 72 floors. It was the highest building in Asia at that time. We had arrived at 2am and were very tired after our 20 hour, 6,807 mile flight. We went straight to bed, desperately wanting a good night's sleep (I can never sleep in an aircraft).
But at 6am we were woken by a lady enquiring if we would like to go on a free bus ride to a shopping centre followed by a visit to the infamous Chang Hei prison. We decided to accept the invitation, although an extra couple of hours sleep would have been apprecaited!
Singapore is a very interesting place. At the time of our visit they had some very strict laws. For example, chewing gum was not allowed. They had corporal and capital punishment, in particular for drug smuggling.
It was a beautiful island, spotlessly clean and very pro-British. English was the dominant language, and all the road signs were in English. The people were very polite and friendly, and nothing was too much trouble for them including assisting disabled folk.
Sunday, September 5, 2004
Everything is relative, and although I'm unable to stand, let alone walk, I realise that there are folk much more unfortunate than myself.
Even though I've been in hospital a number of times, either with an MS relapse, or when my diabetes has gone through the roof, or when my prostate cancer has required attention, I realise that in reality I have much to thank God for.
There is a particular episode from my life that I remember most vividly. It was during the last world war of 1939-45.
The pleasant quiet summer afternoon was shattered by the rat-rat-rat of machine guns firing.
My friend Lester and I were quite used to this noise and carried on picking mushrooms in one of our bottom fields. It was in 1941, we were 11 years old, and frequently we would see Tiger Moth bi-planes towing cone shaped targets for those marvellous Spitfires to practice firing at.
The planes flew over the river Dee that flowed between Flintshire and the Wirral with Liverpool further on. On this particular afternoon however, when we eventually looked up, we saw that neither plane was towing a target. To our horror, we saw that one of the planes carried the hated German markings.
This plane and the British plane and were having a dogfight. We dropped our mushrooms and ran home. I suspect that in more Southern areas like Kent these dogfights were more prevalent, but not in our area.
Later, we were very sorry that we didn't stay to watch the dogfight, but we later heard that the British Spitfire shot the German Dornier down.
We returned to the field as soon as we were able to have a look at the crashed Dornier. We hoped to collect some 'souvenirs', but the police had arrived to keep us 'vultures' away.
Almost every night we could hear the German bombers flying over. It was very spectacular watching the searchlights frantically seeking these German planes.
I was very fortunate during the war. The only danger that I encountered happened one day as I was cycling down the hill on my way to school. I almost crashed my bike into a hole in the road made by an artillery shell that had exploded on the road.
Now that I have MS and am no longer able to work, I have something that I never had before: the time to reminisce and realise and how very fortunate I am to be 'reasonably' healthy.
Sunday, July 4, 2004
"You, Glyn, are the most stubborn and determined patient that I have ever had", said our District Nurse Jean.
I like to think I was at least partly responsible for her obtaining her well deserved MBE. Not because she was an excellent nurse, as they are all excellent. It was because she had in her spare time raised over £100,000 with her coffee mornings and concerts for our cottage hospital's patients.
"Oh Jean!", I replied, "but why would you say such a thing about me?". "Becuase as soon as I've left you, you will be off on your 'motorbike' (quad scooter) again, won't you?". "Err... yes, Jean", I replied, meekly. "Good for you Glyn! You just will not give in, will you?!"
So I said to her, "But is it because of or in spite of your and my wife's ministrations that, after I've had a nasty MS relapse, I keep bouncing back so well?". "I have no idea, Glyn. But will you do me a favour please?". "Of course, Jean. What is it?". "Will you go and see a local lady with MS? Ever since she was first diagnosed, being an only child, her parents over-pampered her, even stirring her tea for her. Perhaps you can try and get her to come out of her house."
I went to visit her a number of times.
I would literally beg her to come out for a run in my car. Anywhere! But she kept refusing. I saw that she had a typewriter and I wrote letters to her, but unfortunately she never replied to me or anyone else. She was just sitting there, vegetating.
After her parents died she went into a nursing home. As far as I know, she's still there. What a sad tale. If there is a moral to her story it's this: 'whilst one can, DO, with determination'. OK?
Sunday, May 16, 2004
In the early 1980s, when this dratted MS was just starting to affect me, my wife Margaret and I went for a short break to York.
Whilst we were there I decided with Margaret's agreement to hire a rowing boat to go for a trip down the River Ouse. I had never rowed a boat before, and I was surprised to find how easy it was.
I assumed that Margaret would be very impressed with the professional manner of my rowing, and we went speeding down the river with ease.
After we had gone about half a mile, I thought that we had better make our way back to base before our allotted time was up. But what a difficult job that turned out to be. We were now rowing against the current. Needless to say I was well and truly knackered!
As Margaret was pregnant, she couldn't help. I was very tempted to dump the boat, but that meant losing the deposit. Through sheer perserverence I managed to get the boat back to the starting point. Never again did I want to go in a rowing boat!
But some years later, after we had three sons and two daughters, we bought a superb 14 foot Skipper sailing dinghy. We joined the Bala Sailing Club where I took a crash course in how to sail. I needed to learn how to sail against a prevailing wind. This involved 'tacking to the wind'. With some tuition I soon got the hang of things.
As BSC members we were expected to do a duty about 6 times a year. As we didn't know the finer rules of dinghy-racing we were given a 40hp rubber dinghy, which was a little easier to handle. We were required to wear wet suits because the water was so very cold. If you were to fall in without a wet suit on, you could die of exposure.
I have ridden and enjoyed motorcycling over 1000s of miles, and have done two sponsored tandem parachute jumps, the first from 10,000 ft and the second from 16,000 feet. I didn't particularly enjoy the jumps, but it felt excellent raising money for MS research.
For the sheer thrill and enjoyment I would say dinghy sailing is my favourite pursuit. Alas this is just a fond memory now.
Saturday, March 20, 2004
"You will have to go into hospital", said my doctor. This was in 1980.
I thought to myself, poor chap, he's obviously overworked. How could I, a very busy farmer, possibly afford the luxury of 'skiving' in a hospital?
"We have just taken over a badly run-down farm, and there is a tremendous amount of work to be done. There's no way that I'm going to any ruddy hospital", I told my doctor.
As I got up to leave his surgery, he told me bluntly "Look Glyn, please sit down. I don't usually tell my patients so bluntly, but as you are so stubborn, I'm going to be blunt. We (a consultant had also seen me) suspect that you may have a spinal tumour. This could be what's causing your falls, and why you sometimes walk about as if you're drunk. It could also be the reason for this unexplained fatigue you're having".
"That's all very well", I told him, "but there's no way you're getting me into any hospital until I've finished off our Spring work".
So, after working very hard, I managed to complete our Spring work of ploughing and seeding. I checked into our hospital the following day.
The Registrar who booked me in happened to be a neighbour. He asked me, 'What do you want first Glyn, the good news or the bad news?"
Being a coward, I asked him if I could have the good news first. He told me that I didn't have a spinal tumour. However, they would like to give me an injection in my back, and perform a lumber puncture (spinal tap), as they now suspected that I may have multiple sclerosis.
So they performed the lumbar puncture, telling me that I mustn't lean out of my bed afterwards. No problem, I thought. But later on I was reading a book, and as I have two left hands and ten thumbs, I dropped my book on the floor, and had to lean out of my bed to retrieve it. As I was leaning right out of my hospital bed, a ward Sister snapped at me, "What on earth do you think you're doing, leaning out of your bed like that?". I jerked back up quickly, too quickly, and I had a nasty headache later for my stupidity.
When the test results came back, the Registrar (my neighbour Brian) told me that it was now confirmed that I did have Multiple Sclerosis.
So that was the 'bad news'. Being quite ignorant about what having MS meant, I asked Brian for an explanation. He tried patiently to explain what MS was. "If you could imagine that over there is a generator producing electricity. Then there is an electric motor here, needing this source of electricity. But the cable carrying the power has become frayed, making it difficult for it to carry out its important function. That basically and very crudely, is MS."
And so my life with MS had begun.
Sunday, February 1, 2004
It has been said that getting married and moving house are the two most stressful things one can do in a person's life time.
Margaret and I were married in 1955. Since then, we have lived in 8 different homes!
My first home was on my father's farm in Flintshire, where I worked very hard, unpaid.
My loving father compelled me to leave school (which I had loved) at the age of 13. I worked very hard for Pa until I was 25. Then, after a disgraceful family dispute, my father decided to disown me - I was going out with an English girl, a heinous crime according to Pa, and just the excuse he needed. I could see no future working for him, unpaid, any longer.
In 1955, I married Margaret and other than our clothes and my ex-army Norton motorbike, we had less than £4 to our name. But we managed.
I began work as a head tractor driver on a large farm in Cheshire. We bought just the essential bits of furniture from a Cheshire store, who gave us 6 months free credit. I was working more than 72 hours per week and took home to our cottage - after deductions for rent, milk, eggs, insurance and tax - £10. Margaret was also working part-time at an egg packing station, bringing home another £5, so our combined income was an astronomical £15 a week.
However, in less than 2 years, we had saved £120. I was desperate to have our own farm. With an aunt of Margaret's standing as a guarantor for £500, we applied for and obtained a 11-acre Flintshire County Council farm.
After much hard work, we progressed through a series of larger farms, to a 36-acre, then a 65-acre, finishing up on a 120-acre farm milking about 70 Guernsey cows, plus their followers.
Now we have retired from farming altogether, and for the first time in my life, I am living in a detached house with Margaret and our son, Russ. We are all very happy here.