July 2010

Wednesday 1 July 2010

The press call for the Wobbly Banquet was terrific. Simply terrific. The plan was to stage a fine dining with jelly experience in the centre of Glasgow. It could not have worked better. The sun was out, the press were there and the pigeons kept missing.

I arrived about half an hour early and got all nervous. Slowly the team assembled, it was the usual suspects who support me magnificently fifty-two weeks a year; Alan, Tony, Adele, Linda, Gill, Gayle, Matt, Stephen and Sara. We were joined by the chef Jeremy Wares, who was diagnosed recently and we all sat around in black tie, eating jelly. Luxurious white tablecloths, plates of multicoloured jellies and pristine napkins. It was fabulous.

We ate jelly, we launched jelly at the photographers, I had jelly tipped over my head. Brilliant fun.

I did an interview with the Herald, the Glasgow based broadsheet which distributes across Scotland. I woke up this morning to find my picture on the front cover and the dining scene and associated story covering most of page 3. The story was probably the most accurate of any of the interviews I have done. It was an excellent piece, bolstered by a great quote we were given by Sir Michael Parkinson.

As we were finishing a photographer from The Sun turned up. True to form he wanted a photograph of a gorgeous blonde eating jelly. As I am not blonde Gayle stepped into the breach.

Thanks to the team at Dada, and especially Sharon. They are creative, clever and brilliant.

I will stop now as I have run out of enthusiastic-type words

Saturday 10 July 2010

I am delivering a speech at the World Parkinson Congress. I know nothing of delivering speeches. Okay, I have delivered to after-dinner speeches that these were to relatively small groups of people who were willing me to make them laugh. This speech is to the opening ceremony at the World Parkinson Congress. 4000 people. Most of them quite serious. Eeeek!

Being a science sort of person and believing there is science in everything, I decided there must be a set formula for writing a speech. I consulted Amazon. There are many thousands of books on speechwriting however, when you read the reviews many of them make a comparison to books by a Dr Max Atkinson. I bought lend me your ears earlier in the year and devoured it. It is an amazing book. It describes the nature of communication and the tricks which speakers use to make people clap (claptraps). It also explains the techniques of the ancient Greek art of rhetoric.

Having read the book, I wrote my speech. Generally I’m pretty happy with it. I shared it with a few people and took on board the comments and have reached a final version I am happy with.

Then I had a brainwave. I wondered would Dr Atkinson read the speech and comment on it. I looked him up on the web and found that he was involved in a television experiment in 1984 in which a lady with no political experience was trained up to speak at the SDP conference. It is a great program and can be seen here.

As time goes by I become less and less shy as a person, I have gone from someone who looks for excuses not to contact people to someone who is at least more comfortable with it (having to sell 36 tables this Banquet has been a huge learning experience). So I took the bull by the horns and contacted Dr Atkinson. Blow me, didn’t I speak to him this week and he wants to help. Fantastic.

The fallout from the press launch of the Wobbly Banquet continues. I was contacted by a primary school teacher who is keen to have a Wobbly Banquet in her school on the same day. The kids can make jellies and a bit of awareness can be raised in a comfortable, edible and Wobbly sort of way. My sister, Alison, is involved with teacher training in Liverpool and we are coming up with a potential plan. A Wobbly Banquet in schools across the nation. How cool would that be?

I was also contacted by Cameron House, a hotel and golf resort on the banks of Loch Lomond. They are keen to have a Wobbly golf day. Now, corporate golf days fall into the same bracket as charity dinners when it comes to established and fairly unimaginative formats. Even my un-creative mind can envisage greens dyed pink, people dressed in Its A Knockout-style costumes running across fairways trying to disrupt play, golf balls that don’t go straight and tee-shots played off wobble boards. What fun would be.

We also had the BBC around this week talking about a documentary on different approaches to fundraising. They seemed enthused. We shall see.

Whilst all very exciting, when combined with the end of financial year activities at work and not having time to do any running, I am a bit of a miserable git at the moment. Only 19 sleeps until holiday.

Monday 19 July 2010

Last Saturday I wrote to a contact in Scottish television, Karen Greenshields, to tell her about the World Parkinson Congress and particularly the opportunity the WPC presents to improve communication between patients and clinicians. This opportunity will only work if there are plenty of people with the condition at the Congress.

Karen picked up on this angle, however, after we had filmed the piece STV decided to run it alongside the stem cell story which broke on Wednesday. It amazes me how quickly these stories are put together and how the focus of the story can change over a few hours.

Vicky had her side of the story told in The Scotsman this week. She was happy with the story but she came across as being quite harsh! I had more e-mails and texts of sympathy because of who I live with rather than the condition! Both pieces are on the In The Media page.

In all the excitement I forgot to do simple things like renew the car insurance and order more drugs. I realised about my tablets when we were on our way to the swimming pool and had a brief freaking out moment. Ella helpfully asked “Will Calpol not do?” Even eight-year-olds say cute things sometimes.

The girls swim like fishes. All they want to do is swim. I don’t get the opportunity to sit in the sauna-like toddler pool any more and have to shiver in the 25m pool when we go to the local leisure centre. I made a rod for my own back when I set the criteria years ago for how long we would spend in the pool when we went swimming. The measurement was my fingers and, particularly, I decreed that it was time to go when my finger tips started wrinkling and going prune-like. Sure evidence we had been in too long.

The problem I have now is that the 25 m pool is Baltic. It is the home to a family of penguins. Try as I might the fingers refuse to wrinkle. Having enforced the rule vigourously in the past, it is now being enforced against me. It is so unfair.

I had a stroke of luck this week concerning my wedding anniversary. Vicki and I will be married 10 years this August when we are holiday. She is looking for a suitable gift and mentioned that she thought 10 years might be something to do with diamonds. This was not good news. With much trepidation I looked up the Internet and to my delight found that the 10th anniversary is the TIN anniversary. I checked on a number of different sites and they all verified that, indeed, a can of beans or Herge’s Adventures of Tintin would be a suitable gift. How much of the bonus is that? I might even stretch to one of those multipacks of beans.

Monday 26 July 2010

The early 1980s was a golden era for Irish sport. The rugby team were winning triple crowns and the football team was qualifying for world cups and won the home internationals for the first time since the First World War. In snooker we had the greatest player who ever lived. Alex Hurricane Higgins was simply phenomenal. In 1982 he won his second world title. The whole way through that tournament, Alex played scintillating snooker

Although it has never been publicly recognised, my sister Jenny and I played a pivotal role in his victory. Throughout that tournament we noticed that if we sat beside each other on the sofa with her gripping my left hand index finger then Alex would play well, make the difficult shots. The classic example of this was the penultimate frame in the semi-final against Jimmy White. If there has ever been a finer exhibition of playing phenomenal recovery shots because he was so nervous he couldn’t control the cue ball properly then I will eat a plate of broccoli. Quite stupendous, watch it here.

The final was against Ray Reardon. Alex was sensational. My finger was withered after two days of being in the sweaty palm of Jenny.

Alex died on Saturday. A homeless, drunk, shadow of his former self. Bob and Alan met him in Belfast last year and he signed a Wobbly top.

“To Bryn, good luck with your fight, keep your chin up, Alex “Hurricane” Higgins.”

Good luck to you Alex. If there is an afterlife, I hope you don’t bump into Steady Eddie Charlton!

Am I in danger of becoming a one trick pony? I think I am. I did some more interviews this week and all people want to talk to me about is Parkinson’s. I have huge amount’s of interesting chat. I can talk at length on many subjects at a moments notice. I have a hilarious story about inadvertently walking into a brothel in Montpellier with Eddie which would have the nation’s viewers rolling around the floor laughing. But no, every time a journalist speaks to me they want to talk about Parkinson’s. I am becoming the Leonard Nimoy of the Parkinson’s world.

We had cable television installed at the weekend. Fantastic. Rather than missing programs I can now record them so I can miss them at a later date. Total control over the programs I don’t watch. Our house has got a basement which is only about 3 feet deep. We use it for storing things that we don’t want but can’t throw away like wedding presents. It extends under the entire house and crawling around it is a bit reminiscent of an escape tunnel in a Second World War prisoner of war camp. Quite frankly it is extremely unpleasant.

The local stream burst its banks a couple of years ago and paid a visit to our basement. I knew there was carnage down there but I have avoided paying a visit. However, the arrival of cable television means that I had to brave the darkness (and the risk of having to spend two weeks in the cooler with Paul Newman) and get in there to run a cable. Much to my extreme delight just as I was going down into the pit Rebecca pipes up “can I come down?”. This is not the same as sending children up chimneys. A volunteer is a volunteer. She absolutely loved it. We were crawling about muck and dirt, finding long forgotten and largely destroyed artefacts (mostly in the form of cups plates and saucers from various tasteless dinner sets).

Ella was in a pickle because she could hear her younger sister was having a riot but she was really scared of going down herself. But, somehow, she felt she ought to. Rebecca took much delight in her torment and when Ella finally lowered herself in to the darkness, Rebecca did a lovely thing and passed her a cuddly toy she had found.

And said “I think that is a rat”

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