The pram

When I was about 6 or 7 years old, we lived in a house on the outskirts of Port Sunlight village, 156 New Chester Road to be exact. To the rear of the house were a set of garden allotments, which were a great playground for children of my age. We got up to all sorts of mischief, which generally resulted in a telling off by one or more of the gardeners.

On one particular day, my younger brother Williams’ pram was parked at the back of the house while he was indoors for his afternoon sleep. I thought that he would not mind if I borrowed the pram for a while. With a few friends we decided to see how many could ride in the pram at the same time. I think that we got seven or eight in the pram or hanging on to the outside. Of course, for this to count as any kind of record the pram must move a certain distance, so I pushed the pram a couple of yards. As the road was slightly inclined, I quickly lost control. In a state of panic, I pulled the brake, which resulted in the pram stopping immediately. It was at this instant that the practicalities of Newtonian mechanics became apparent to me, i.e., a body in motion will continue unchanged unless a force is applied to cause a change. The result was that while the pram stopped, my friends inside spilled out of the front into a heap on the road. Fortunately, there were no broken bones, but there were a number of cuts and bruises, and I had to explain to my mum how the pram got so scratched.

The next day, at school, the headmaster asked what had happened as a large portion of the front row in assembly ware either plasters or bandages. There were even a couple of black eyes. I don’t have a photo from the actual event, but this grainy picture shows my class a couple of years later. Maybe somebody remembers.

Church Drive Junior School. Class of 1969-70


The Fifa world cup has only just finished. Unfortunately, neither Wales nor England came out victorious, although both gave a fairly good account of themselves.

My memories of the world cup go back to the final in 1966, the year England did manage to win. We were staying at my Nain’s house in Barmouth. I remember the final, but I did not see it. Instead, I was fascinated by the people on Barmouth High Street. Back in 1966, televisions were not as ubiquitous as they are today, so people who wanted to see a particular event had to find a friend or relative who owned a television and hope to be invited in. Gwynfor Owen owned the radio and television shop on Barmouth high street, two or three doors down from Nain’s. For the duration of the world cup, he put a television quite high up in the shop window so that passers-by could see live pictures from the matches. From the first-floor window we had a good view of people as they passed by.

Classic photo of England team after world cup victory

For the final, quite a crowd had gathered. So many that they spilled onto the road, which was narrow and one-way. As the match progressed and became more exciting, the crowd got larger and less inclined to move along. In the end the traffic came to a complete standstill. As Barmouth High Street is the only road along the coastal route the queue must have stretched for miles. When the final whistle was blown, and England had won there were celebrations in the street. I guess that it took a while for the traffic flow to return to normal.

Another time the High Street was closed was when my mum took her piano home to Port Sunlight from Barmouth. The piano, which was a self-playing pianola, was in the parlour on the first floor. Since the piano was installed, the house had been altered so that it was no longer possible to carry it down the staircase. Instead, it was taken out through the first-floor window, which, in turn required removing the window frame.  All in all, this was quite a palaver. Getting the piano through the window needed a front loader and several removal men. Of course, the street was blocked with traffic being redirected by the police. The event made the national newspaper, the Cambrian times.

In January 2014, a severe storm damaged the railway line and parts of the coastal defences near Barmouth. As a result, a couple of stranded trains had to be transported by road from the coastal stretch to safety in Chester. The most difficult part of the journey was getting the train past Nain’s house. This was well documented by the BBC.

Train being transported through Barmouth. Nain’s house (Glanaig) on left

I think that Nain could have told us many stories about the things that could be seen from her first-floor window. She and Taid had the perfect place in the centre of the small town. Their home was constantly visited by people from all over the place and all were made welcome.

Nain = Grandmother, Taid = Grandfather in Welsh.

Just as an afterthought, my latest scan showed no undesired activity in or around the operation site, so I am good to go for another three months.

Two years

Today marks two years since a glioblastoma was discovered inside my head. Since then, I have had one operation, radiation therapy, electric field treatment, cytostatics and loads of different tests and scans. After all of that, I am still here and feeling healthy.

The results of the latest MR-scan will be here soon. Then we will open some bubbly.

This lapwing (Tofsvipa in Swedish) Vanellus vanellus, sums up my feelings towards cancer.

Tick the box

Spring and summer, for me, means getting out into the countryside. Either for long walks, bike rides or a round of golf. Churchill once described golf as an effective way to ruin a good walk. The way I have been playing lately, I tend to agree.

Being out in the countryside also means being exposed to the perils and deadly threat of wildlife such as ticks.

In my opinion, ticks serve no useful purpose in the greater scheme of things and therefore, if they disappeared, they would not be missed. As vectors for Lyme disease (also known as borrelia) and tick-borne encephalitis, TBE, ticks do pose a serious threat to our health and wellbeing. I therefore, took the opportunity to get vaccinated against TBE, when out shopping a couple of weeks ago.

My dislike of ticks started when I was a child and used to go on walks in the hills behind my grandparents’ house in Barmouth. I don’t recall ever being bitten by a tick, but the fear of them has been ever-present ever since.

Proof of TBE-vaccination

A number of years ago, I was on a ride in the countryside when a call of nature required me to take a discrete stop by the roadside. Much relieved, I continued my ride, but after a short while, I noticed something moving just above my knee. It was a tick, I quickly brushed it away and continued, but I started getting an itchy feeling, the sort that can turn up just at the mention of tiny creature that try to nourish themselves on my blood. Slightly irritated, I stopped just to check, and found another trying to creep under my cycle-shorts. Fearing the presence of more unwelcome passengers, I turned off the road onto a deserted logging trail and found a large boulder on which to stand. Sure enough, I found another tick preparing itself for a few microlitres of my precious blood. Just to be sure that I had no more ticks, I removed my jersey and shook it thoroughly in the hope that I would be rid of any more ticks. As the logging trail was deserted, I did the same with my shorts [in order to avoid chaffing, cyclists have nothing between their shorts end skin]. Just as I stood clothed as I was born, waving my shorts in the air, an elderly lady rode sedately by. “Watch out for the ticks!” I called, but received no reply.

So, if you are out in the countryside, watch out for ticks ….. and cyclists!

All quiet on the western Front.

I just took a look at the read-statistics for my blog for the last couple of weeks. On average the site receives a visit every third, which is quite good considering that it has been neglected for some time. Almost half a year has passed since my last entry.

For the past six months, I have been at work on a 50 % basis. Some time in the office and some time working from home. I have found working again to be inspiring, but at the same time very tiring. Fatigue is one of the main symptoms of treated glioblastoma and the accompanying treatment, and I can assure you that it needs to be taken seriously. I am now looking forwards to a long summer break to recharge for more activities in the autumn.

The last couple of weeks have been a bit stressful. I was at the hospital for an MR-scan, a routine that I must go through every three months. Waiting for the results is unpleasant as for every day that passes, the worry that all is not well grows. I could at last read the results of the scan this afternoon. They could not have been better. No change in status since the last scan and no signs of cell-growth in the operated area. What a great relief that was. I was also at the ophthalmology department today for a series of tests of peripheral vision. Even these tests returned positive results. So, all in all, things are looking good for the future.

This afternoon, I spent a few hours with colleagues from Mistra at the Stockholm Museum of photography, Fotografiska, to see an Andy Warhol exhibition and a load of other fantastic works of photographic art. We followed this with a glass of wine before returning to our homes. Very soon the holidays will begin.

For copyright reasons I cannot publish any of the works on display at the museum. Here is my interpretation of one of the photographs!

Man in checkered shirt (Photo Bitte)

Knitting, a pastime for all

Knitting has become very popular in recent times, and while I cannot claim to be a pioneer, I can trace my knitting roots back to about 1966 (The same year England won the world cup in football).

My mum was an avid knitter and would regularly produce loads of items as an opportunity presented itself. Items would include pullovers, cardigans baby-clothes, gloves, mittens, hats, and a variety of items that sold well at the annual church festival. Not only did Mum hand-knit, she also used a tabletop knitting machine.

This machine took a while to set up, with a number of hooks and levers. Adjustment of said hooks and levers determined the type of stitches leading to the creation fantastic patterns. The knitting machine, once set up, was easily worked by pushing the handpiece back and forth to create row after row of knitted fabric.

On one particular occasion, the machine was set up to knit the sleeve of a pullover, with a new ball of wool loaded and ready to go. Mum was busy getting dinner ready, and I could not resist the chance to show my creative skills. I pushed the handpiece back and forth again and again. As I did, the sleeve grew and grew until the entire ball of wool was consumed. I was very pleased with myself having produced a magnificent, perfectly straight pullover sleeve about 3 metres in length. We were not a happy family that evening!

Significant shrinkage

Winter arrived in Uppsala a few weeks ago, with temperatures getting as low as -17 °C. This led to most of the shallower lakes freezing over. There was an insignificant snowfall during the cold period, most of the snow melted when the temperature rose to slightly over zero for a few days. The result was lakes with mirror-like ice, 20 cm thick. The temperature is now a few degrees below zero. It is a real paradise for skaters and others wishing to enjoy the ability to walk on water.

A trend in Sweden over the past couple of winters, fuelled by a need to get out during the periods of restrictions, is winter bathing. We, Bitte, her sister Annika and me, have joined the winter-bathers and have joined in the trend with an ambition to bathe at least once a month for the whole year. This ambition was fulfilled during the last weekend when we took a (in my case, very brief) plunge in a nearby lake.


I have to admit that, while there is a certain degree of trepidation before entering the water. Winter bathing is quite exhilarating. However, the production of adrenaline and various endorphins, which contribute to the feel-good effect of winter bathing, are coupled to a less endearing effect on the male members (pun/double entendre intentional) of the species.

We intend to continue in our endeavours to bathe, at least, once a month during the coming year. With that I wish you all a very merry Christmas, and a happy and prosperous new year.

Merry Chris tmas


The agonising wait for the results of the PET scan is over and the results were good news. The scan showed an absence of areas with uptake of the radioactive marker, which means that there is no tumour activity present in my brain tissue (there was no feedback as to the presence of other activity!). The next MRI will be in three months, but in the meantime, everything looks good, allowing us to celebrate with a glass of bubbly and to enjoy the rapidly approaching festive season.

We restarted the Optune (see: Make it work, treatment, but this is causing a great deal of discomfort in the form of an itchy rash and extensive areas of blisters. Assuming that the benefit from this treatment approaches the expected limit through a monomolecular or exponential function, most of it will have already been gained. We have therefore, after weighing the discomfort experienced against limited increase in benefit, decided to take an extended break from the Optune treatment. The positive result of this decision is that I can let my hair grow again. How much is a question for the future.

Should I go for Chris 1976?

Passport photo 1976

Mohican Chris?

or, perhaps be a bit more adventurous, Like Martyn Poliakoff, Professor of Green Chemistry, Nottingham?

Cast your vote in the comments section.

On the subject of hair, I am reminded of the first time that I performed in public, which was in 1975. With my brother, David, on cornet, a friend, Philip Ostle on drums and me on clarinet, we played “Aquarius” and “Good morning starshine” from the musical “Hair” to rapturous applauds. Most of the public were related to us, so they were not impartial. A more critical audience may have been a bit less generous.

The Shining

I got the results of my latest MRI scan a couple of weeks ago. I followed a short period of worry about what they may, or may not, reveal. When they finally arrived in my medical file, we could read a load of technical details about uptake of contrast agents and a few other things and the conclusion that there were no new signs of cancer cells in my brain and that the region around the operation area was essentially unchanged.

Naturally this leads me to ask the question: “Does essentially unchanged mean yes there are some indications of change but too small to define? The answer is of course a definite maybe, or as seen in “The vicar of Dibley”

After a brief discussion we decided that a PET scan was in order. I went to the PET centre on Friday and was injected with a very small amount radioactively labelled methionine and then had some pictures taken with a very fancy and expensive camera, equipped with a cheap and nasty waste-paper bin.

After the scan, I avoided people, especially children and  on the expectant mothers, as I was in a radiative state = Shining.

Our very own PET Caesar

So now, a few days later, I am patiently awaiting these results.  Hopefully there will be nothing to worry about, and we can get into the Christmas spirit (both metaphorically and literally). Christmas cake and puddings have been made and are happily marinating in the pantry.

More to follow.

Stow the chowder

While doing a postdoc in Sherbrooke, Quebec, I was invited to Rhode Island to give a seminar about my research. Bitte and I drove from Sherbrooke to Rhode Island, a journey of 550 km. Our car was a second-hand Renault 5. It did not have air conditioning, so with temperatures in excess of 30 °C and humidity close to 100 % it was a fairly sweaty journey. At that time, 1987, small cars were only just appearing on the North American market. Most people drove around in fuel consuming monsters.

The seminar was really well received and afterwards we were treated to a barbeque at our hosts, Raymond and Marianne Panzica, with fresh lobster and swordfish as the main attractions. The lobster was so fresh that it was still crawling around in the kitchen when we arrived.

We had taken a few days off for the return journey. Marianne recommended Cape Cod as an absolute must for the trip and suggested a visit to Thompson’s Clam Bar for dinner.

We drove to Cape Cod and found a nice boarding house along the south coast. In the afternoon we took a drive up the east coast and enjoyed the beautiful scenery. We even tried a short swim in the Atlantic. It was a very short swim as the sea was very cold. This is because the waters off the east coast come from the Labrador current, which brings cold water from Newfoundland. In the evening we went for a swim off the south coast where the water was much warmer, coming from the north Atlantic current from the Caribbean. All very interesting, if you like that sort of thing.

A consequence of the meeting of these two currents is that there are a lot of nutrients in the water and therefore lots of fish, whales and other wildlife. This is probably why the whaling industry was established around Rhode Island and neighbouring Massachusetts.

Of all whaling stories, Moby Dick is probably the best known. Chapter 15 tells of how Captain Ahab and Queequag go ashore in Nantucket, just off the coast of Cape Cod, and enjoy the local clam chowder. It is for this local delicacy that we were recommended to visit Thompson’s Clam Bar.

Thompson’s Clam Bar had (after suffering serious damage due to hurricane Bob in 1991 and subsequent difficulties, the restaurant is no longer there), seating for over 500 guests, most of whom arrived by car. In order to avoid car-park chaos, the restaurant had a valet parking system. So, we arrived in our little Renault while all of the other guests arrived in Chevrolets, Buicks and other similar beasts. It must have been quite amusing to see our small car together with all of the others.

The food was fantastic as was the service and the general atmosphere. Having written this, I think that I will make a chowder later this week! Any leftovers will be stowed away😊 If you are also tempted to try your own chowder, I can recommend this presentation on Youtube, where the connection between Moby dick and clam chowder.

The book is a bit of a hard slog to get through, as is the 1956 film with Gregory Peck. However, there is a short version also available on youtube. We found this originally on a recording of 10 classics in 10 minutes, which is also worth looking up.

I hope you enjoyed this long and rambling post.

Finally, don’t forget to do as Captain Ahab did and “Stow the chowder!”