The Bells

With the approaching coronation of Charles III, there is apparently a need for more bellringers throughout the UK. This was highlighted by Swedish television the other day.

When I still lived in Port Sunlight, I learnt a little bellringing myself under the direction of John Hulse and together with some friends from the, now disbanded, Boys’ Brigade. While it looks simple, the ringing is quite complicated. Ringing in a group requires having full control over the bell, which weighed in at between 180 and 650 kg. The sequence followed specific patterns called out by the bell master. The patterns followed a simple set of rules which I used to write a computer programme to work out all the possible permutations. Nobody was ever interested in my programme, so I did not develop It further.

Practice was on Mondays with Services twice on Sundays and the occasional wedding on Saturdays. For funerals a single bell was rung, usually with a leather glove on the clapper to muffle the sound.

For weddings, we would ring the bells about five minutes prior to the arrival of the bride. If she was late, it could be quite tiring. When the bride arrived, we stopped the ringing and either sat quietly in the ringing room or snook out to the pub for a quick drink (underage!). If the weather was good, we would sit on the roof of the bell tower behind the ramparts and wait for the signal to ring the bells as the newlyweds left the church. On one occasion, one of the ringers was a bit bored, so he decided to walk around the top of the ramparts, with a drop of 20 m to one side. When we got the signal, we went back inside and rang the bells as for every other wedding. As the bride and groom were leaving through the main entrance, they were greeted by the fire brigade, who had been called by some neighbours worried by the people running around the roof. With the ringing completed, we crept out from the back of the church. We got a good telling off the next day!

All the time in the world

Back in 1969, the James Bond film “On her majesty’s secret service” was released, with George Lazenby in the title roll and Diana Rigg as leading actress. The film caused a stir because it was the first without Sean Connery as Bond.

For me, the film is most memorable for the song “We have all the time in the world” performed by Louis Armstrong. I wrote an arrangement of this song for Sixten Lakes giant sextet recently. The Giant sextet consists of seven to nine players, while my arrangement was for five players. Just like in Pirates of the Caribbean, these numbers should be seen more as guidelines.

The title of the song alludes to not having to hurry things as life is seemingly endless. My diagnosis from September 2020 initially changed this for me, giving a sudden feeling of urgency. Since then, I have undergone surgery, various rounds of cytostatics and radiotherapy, plus alternating electric field therapy, all of which have helped me reach where I am today.

This week, I got the results of my latest MR-scan. The images show that there are no signs of activity from the cancer cells and that the area surrounding the operation site looks completely healthy. Receiving this news is fantastic and allows me once more to say: “We have all the time in the world”.

Enjoy the music.

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.