It turns out I occasionally suffer from Pneumothorax.

I was listing to the Jeremy Vine Show on BBC Radio Two today and there was a segment about the benefits/perils of being tall/short. Really I’m neither tall nor short – I just did a search online for what is considered an average height and I scrape in at the average (I actually thought I was a little short!) Anyhow, the doctor on the show was talking about various medical conditions which are either more common in taller people or more common in shorter people, and Pneumothorax was mentioned as something more common among taller people. The symptoms sounded familiar so I looked it up.

The common symptom is a sudden sharp chest pain followed by pains when you breathe in. You may become breathless. In most cases, the pneumothorax clears without needing treatment.

I’ve had this since occasionally since I was a teenager, although some pains can be in my upper back, and I had put it all down to stress pains – thinking about it now I realise I have two lots of pains, some stress, and some of this more sudden pneumothorax.

A pneumothorax is air that is trapped next to a lung. Most cases occur ‘out of the blue’ in healthy young men … Most occur in healthy young adults who do not have any lung disease. It is more common in tall thin people

I’m thin!

About 2 in 10,000 young adults in the UK develop a spontaneous pneumothorax each year. Men are affected about four times more often than women. It is rare in people over the age of 40. It is also much more common in smokers compared with non-smokers. Cigarette smoke seems to make the wall of any bleb even weaker and more likely to tear.

I grew up with parents smoking all of the time so I’m sure this has played a part. I had asthma too and still suffer some years when I get hayfever.

About 3 in 10 people who have a primary spontaneous pneumothorax have one or more recurrences at some time in the future. If a recurrence does occur it is usually on the same side and usually occurs within three years of the first one.


Leave a comment

Posted by on 27 April, 2015 in Health and Fitness


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Limits of Adhesion

Last week was a week of glorious sunshine. On the best day I was down to jeans and t-shirt when out cycling. On Friday I was called out to visit a client, he’s a farmer and lives at the end of a long gravel track. As a pulled off the road onto this track my front wheel slid out. Luckily, through a combination of the tyre finding some more stable gravel to top it sliding further, and my instinctive reaction to sort of lurch the bike up, I managed to stay on the bike and even keep pedalling. My left foot had also immediately pulled itself out of the pedal strap in preparation for a fall. It was a close one. The warm week had lead to the gravel track being extremely dried out and dusty, which I hadn’t taken fully into account when I arrived, so this, along with simply too much speed as I overconfidently joined the track had been a cause of my almost demise. All right, ‘demise’ is a little extreme, but I would have met with a grazing bump had I actually come off – this is one reason why I wear gloves all year round (fingerless ones at least), just in case. I came off a moped onto a gravel track during my foolish high-school years, so I know what a mess gravel can make of flesh.

adhesion1The road sweeps round to the left, and I turned off left onto the gravel – not so grippy when dry.

Then today I was off to do a spot of shopping, taking a route I often take. Turning off one road, which requires a sweeping left manoeuvre and then sweeping round to the right – all which can be taken at speed, I suppose at between 20-25mph, which in a 30mph zone is fine, right? Today I don’t think my speed was any greater than usual for dry conditions, but as I leaned my bike in to take the left, cutting in close to the apex, mid-corner my senses detected a slide. I’m riding a road bike, a ‘push-bike’, not some MotoGP or Superbike, but at times it can feel like that as I hunker down and take a bend at speed – it’s thrilling really! But when it goes wrong it all happens so quick, like within the smallest fraction of a second, but I feel it, and I react, bringing the bike a little more upright and allowing myself to travel out wider, on this occasion across the white line into the other lane. It really does remind me of motorbike racing, the way the riders can skilfully bring the bike down so low in a bend, you can see it is on the limit, actually sliding a little, but they manage that slide. On my bicycle my instincts always prepare me for this particular junction, first as I approach the turning to be aware of cars approaching from behind (I’ve had one motorist come round me on the junction and effectively cut me up – preventing me from travelling out wide as I normally would, and had I not been aware of this and let up on my speed I would have met with the side of their car) and these days I like to keep out wide before the turning, even indicating late, to prevent motorists from considering a pass – my speed is adequate for such a pass to be foolish, but some motorists just see a bicycle and think “slow” without actually judging a cyclist’s speed fairly. Further, my instinct leads me to look ahead so that I can intuitively bring my speed down ahead of time should there be oncoming traffic – if there isn’t then I have space on the road to play with, or slide into, or I suppose, come off into without meeting with another vehicle should the worst ever happen.

adhesion2Turning left here is fun to do at speed, with a sweeping right-hander to follow.

My last ‘almost off’ was some years back on a wet road which had a film of mud on. Again it was on sweeping bends that I like to take at speed, but on that occasion the front wheel slid out, and ‘somehow’ my reactions counteracted the slide and I somehow stayed ‘upright’ and on the bike… albeit ending up off the road and my pedal collecting some grass. That was a close one, and even though I laughed at myself thereafter I have always taken those bends a little more cautiously since.

adhesion3It’s down-hill here, and the sweeping right-hander is nice to ride.

continental_contactI’m confident on my bike because I ride so often, and I like how my senses guide me, and in these cases I love how my body reacts in these split seconds when, to be fair, I’m a little too eager or I have misjudged the limits of adhesion between tyre and road. I’m not foolish, I plan ahead and respond to the conditions and what’s around me – this happens both consciously and intuitively. I’ve not had an actual off on my bike for over a decade (black ice and a pedestrian were to blame for the last two), but at the same time I can’t ignore these little hints, these little warnings telling me a limit has been reached or for a spit second, exceeded, and within the space of four days I’ve had two hints. I’m wondering if my Continental-branded tyres have lost grip with age. The front wears slowly and is a few year’s old and while still in good tread I do now wonder if it has indeed lost some of its gripiness and should be replaced regardless.

Some years back, when I was in my 20s (which I’m sure is relevant!) I bent my last car when I managed to spin it round on a slightly wet back-road at a relatively slow speed (but obviously too fast for the conditions). My car collected a farm wall as it span round and I came to a halt facing in the opposite direction. Luckily no other vehicles were around. I had done the silly (but fun) thing of changing my car’s suspension very recently, which had obviously altered its handling, and on that morning my car had already given me a hint that I was pushing a bit too much speed on bends for the grip provided by my budget tyres – I had felt the hints of a slide a few minutes before on a previous bend… but I was not used to feeling a car do that, and I wasn’t aware of how ‘close to the edge’ I was, and I ignored the hint.

The moral here, is to not ignore the hint, and if you ignore two or more then you may be pushing your luck!

Leave a comment

Posted by on 27 April, 2015 in Cycling


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Amazon’s Ts&Cs

We all know the game. We want to sign up to some online service and we’re presented with the usual check box: ‘Click here to confirm you (have read) and agree with our terms and conditions…’ We check the box and carry on our way. It’s called the biggest lie [link].

Recently Amazon have been badgering me to update some details so that I can continue selling stuff via their Marketplace. 1) I kept putting off doing this, 2) the e-mails weren’t addressed to me, so I could have considered them bogus (as other had as I discovered when I searched online.)

Dear Seller,
As we informed you in our previous two emails, additional information is required for your Selling on Amazon payment account. To provide this information, please sign in to Seller Central ( using the email address and password associated with your account. Follow the instructions displayed in the notification box on the first page in Seller Central to continue.
It is essential that you provide this information in order for you to remain eligible for our Selling on Amazon programme. If you do not do so … you will not be able to open your Selling on Amazon payment account and you will not be able to continue to sell on Amazon.
Kind regards,
Amazon Payments Europe

The safest thing for me to do was to sign into my Amazon account and see what flags up. And something did indeed flag up.

I found myself on a page of bumf amongst which were links to 5 lots of things to agree to.


The Amazon Services Europe Business Solutions Agreement, Amazon Services Europe Privacy Notice, Amazon Payments Europe Agreement, a Privacy Notice, and the Amazon Payments Europe – Selling on Amazon Acceptable Use Policy.

The first one is an Amazon-killer at 36 pages long (if you choose to print it out to read at your leisure.)


Obviously I wouldn’t be reading all of that but I think the actual reasons I well let my dealings as a seller with Amazon is because of what details they want and because I sell very few items with them now. They want either a driver’s license or passport and for some reason I don’t feel comfortable sharing these details with them and to have them stored in their systems all for the benefit of selling an occasional item over the course of a year – it’s certainly not worth my time to read all of their pages of terms.

There reasoning is, they claim, because “EU regulations require us to collect certain business and personal information from our sellers and to take steps to confirm their identity.” I sort of accept this – after all, PayPal have something similar in place, but in the end, perhaps it’s best I just sell only on Ebay from now on to avoid a further lot of hassle and nonsense.

Leave a comment

Posted by on 25 April, 2015 in Ebay, Technology


Tags: , , , , , ,



I was having a conversation with my mum about retirement, I’m not sure how it came up, but anyway, the gist of it was that we have known people who work all of their lives, retire, and then die shortly after, or be in poor health and not be able to enjoy their retirement as planned.

Here in the UK the retirement age is set to increase to 66 by 2020, because apparently we are now living longer. I’ve had a few family members die before they’ve reached that age so it does makes me feel like there is something wrong with the system.

I think it’s all well and good if you find yourself in a career that you enjoy and your work is just what you do, but for many their job runs them into the ground, they can suffer both physically and mentally because of their line of work, and should they even reach retirement they will be far past their prime and unable to enjoy life thereafter.

Coincidentally I came across this poem in The Children’s Encyclopedia (volume 3 p.1720):

After Sixty Years by Egbert Sandford

I’m pensioned – well,
I must not mind ;
The best is not
Always behind.
Maybe that my
Remaining years
Will bring new songs,
New sighs, new tears.
But if God wills,
And I will too,
Much yet remains
For me to do.
And bird and beast
And flower and star
As ever my
Companions are.
I’m pensioned – well,
I don’t mind ;
The best is not
Always behind.

Egbert Thomas Sandford was a regular poet for the Children’s Newspaper, which spawned the Encyclopedias, and I was curious to find out when he actually died – perhaps it would back up my claim here, that not everyone gets to enjoy their retirement once it arrives, but perhaps he lived to a ripe old age. Sadly I cannot find that information online. I have stumbled upon an online collection of The Children’s Newspaper – I have registered with the website which has allowed me to search within the scanned pages, but that still hasn’t answered my query to I have contacted the team with the hope that someone there might know.

Edit: I got a reply from Look and Learn… but sadly no joy. The question remains unanswered: When did Egbert Thomas Sandford die?

Leave a comment

Posted by on 24 April, 2015 in Books


Tags: , , , , , ,

Giving to Charity

snowdon_challengeThe Snowdon group seen from the east; the highest point, seen above,
is known as Yr Wyddfa with an elevation of 1,085 m (3,560 ft).

A couple of days ago I was sat at a public spot in the virtual world that is Second Life, the location was one aimed at helping newbies, and someone brought up the topic of giving to charity. I don’t know if they were trying to be offensive and intentionally trolling but they were making various points about scams that have occurred online and in Second Life in the past where, for example, an individual has conned people out of money by making them think the money would go to charity, and he was also asking if we all give to charity whilst insinuating we were just sitting around helping people use the virtual world rather than helping starving children in Africa, for example.

When people start throwing accusations around, intentional or not (they can be received as such), it’s hard not to react, either by speaking your defence, or quietly thinking it to yourself, with things like “well, what do give to charity?” or throwing out some things you do or have done for charity as points of self-justification.

For various reasons I rarely give directly to charity, I’ll not get into that here because it’ll just be me trying to justify things, either to any potential readers, but largely to myself. However, I think one reason I rarely give is because it has become a reaction to the request – once you start saying no it becomes easy to stick to that – it becomes an automatic response, whereas if you sometimes give or sometimes don’t then you have to justify your reasoning in order to come to a decision, no or yes, and if yes, how much. It actually makes me feel awkward to be asked, like, you feel obliged to give, or guilty for saying no. Sometimes it can feel offensive to be asked, or you feel like you’re being offensive for declining.

Someone who was a friend of mine a while back in Second Life, although we had talked less and less up to this point, sent out messages to all her friends asking if we would donate to some cause, something to do with a friend or family member which I had nothing to do with. I thought at first that her account had been hacked and it was a bogus message, but when I asked her about it she said it was genuine, and so I took offence to this (I think my initial reaction was one of offence but I chose to give her the benefit of the doubt), it struck a nerve – like she was guilt-tripping me about something to do with someone I knew nothing about, and I used that as my reason (to myself) for removing her from my friend list shortly after. To be honest we had talked less and less so I would have cleared her off my list sooner or later – that sounds harsh but some of us keep these social networking friend lists relevant and she wasn’t a close acquaintance any more, which is always a shame.

Now the table has turned. The day after that confrontation in Second Life I received an e-mail from a charity website – a message and request sent out by my mum. The cause is very personal to us both and not only do I want to donate but I want to be involved in some way other than just donating some money and so I want to put the story here in the off chance that some people in my small circle of followers or perhaps casual visitors may take it to heart and feel compelled to donate too. Which I immediately realise is somewhat hypocritical of me, but I’m not asking, because I know it can be offensive to be asked, and I don’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable, I’m just putting the opportunity here because I feel compelled to do so. I don’t want to guilt-trip anyone, I just want to put the story here for the sake of sharing it. I call it a story but it is true.

Edit: It turns out that both my brother and sister have put out ‘similar’ requests in their own social networking circles, although their approach is a little different to mine.

The story:

Last year my dad died, actually he was my second dad – I was unfortunate to loose one at a very young age, but fortunate to have a second. He had various things wrong with him in the end, a lot of which had just been compounded from issues he’d had all his adult life – I’m not sure what actually popped-him off, so-to-speak, a heart attack caused by lung problems I think, but he was also developing dementia. I didn’t really acknowledge this at the time – the signs were quite gradual to me I think and what in hindsight was deterioration I just thought was depression at the time. But it wasn’t all so bad, some aspects seemed to cause him to say funny things which just seemed to be part of his personality. My mum saw things a little differently though, again in hindsight for me because she understands dementia and Alzheimers better than me, having had other relatives have it. I think, in hearing about other people’s cases, we were lucky the dementia hadn’t got to too low a point when he died.

“Dementia Is a Group of Symptoms. Dementia isn’t a disease. It’s a group of symptoms that affect mental tasks like memory and reasoning. Dementia can be caused by a variety of conditions, the most common of which is Alzheimer’s disease.” –

My parents were both assisting with research into dementia up until that time and my mum has been further active in her help since. Now one year on and she has felt compelled to take part in a sponsored walk, although it’s a little more than a simple walk – it’s a trek up Mount Snowdon in Wales and back, at Midnight, called the ‘Snowdon Midnight Challenge’, which takes walkers 7-10 hours to complete.

So this was the e-mail I received out of the blue from her, asking me to donate. I followed the link to the website where I read my mum’s words – words which were very emotional for me to read and the message contained things she had kept quietly to herself because it’s a topic that is just too emotional to talk about (although it is getting easier). I’ll share her part here, in case you choose not to follow the link below:

When my late husband Bob was diagnosed with dementia, there was no help or advice available. The Alzheimers society are building up a network of advice and information centres, support groups and activities in your local area. This will help carers and people living with dementia to live full and happy lives. I have a back problem which has limited my physical activity in recent years. I am now going to the gym and increasing my walking gradually. I have stopped smoking … The Snowdon Challenge will be a massive accomplishment for me and a  positive way of remembering my wonderful husband Bob.

[Update] It is now February, I haven’t updated this page before now because it makes me cry. Feb 14th, valentines day was our wedding anniversary. We were married for 30 years. Alzheimers disease and other dementias can effect young and old. My grandma and my aunty had Alzheimers disease. It is heartbreaking to see someone you love living with dementia, but so much can be done to improve people’s lives. I am a volunteer with the Alzheimers society and see first-hand what is being done to fight the disease. I am doing the Snowdon Midnight Challenge to raise awareness of dementia and in memory of those I have lost…

[Update April] Only a month to go. My training came to a bit of a standstill as I had an operation on my toe … Back to the gymn and the dog walking every day now… –

The line about her wedding anniversary was such a strong one for me to read. I knew that day would be a hard one for her but we never spoke about it. Of course I am obliged to donate, but I don’t feel obliged, I feel compelled. It is really only over the past year that my mum has taken up walking since my dad wasn’t capable of participating, but it’s still only a casual thing for her, and she may have walked up Snowdon with my first dad, now, even though I have no doubt she will succeed in the challenge she needs all the support she can… she deserves the support – it’s such a beautiful and heart-felt reason for her to take part.

My initial reaction was to consider throwing a lump sum at the donation box on the web page, even though I’m not a wealthy person myself – it would show the support she has. My second thought was that I need to give her some of the money she has put forward to take part in the event – a lot of money by her own standards. My other thoughts were to write about it here (which I have done, as you see) but also to take part in the event in my own way, but how? I’m not sure.

Climbing Snowdon as part of this challenge is her event and so me taking part in that would not be right, plus all places are filled. The other option is for me to meet her at the end, as a surprise – the location of the start/finish is within cycling distance for me (I wouldn’t want to drive there since she will be taking the train). But cycling there is not so straightforward an option. Some lead-up training will be required because I rarely do the 75 miles in a day that are required. It’s a midnight challenge so knowing what time the walkers arrive at the finish is a little unknown – I would like to be there when she arrives at the finish but that, thinking about it, is going to involve me cycling in the dark (and sitting around when I arrive) – I think cycling the route required to get there in the dark may not be so sensible – I rarely cycle in the dark and when I do it’s on local roads I know. The other issue is, are ‘spectators’ and well-wishers to be welcomed at the finish since part of the event is a breakfast for the walkers – as a non-participant I wouldn’t want to consider gate-crashing that even if it was possible? I may have to quietly consult the organisers over this.

Anyway, here is the link to my mum’s donation page:

Image source:

Leave a comment

Posted by on 19 April, 2015 in Cycling, Internet, Psychology, Second_Life


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Climate Change Blame Game

Back in February (2014) I began typing this post… I kept saving it to my Drafts without finishing it, and then I did the same in October (2014), so finally I’ll now get it finished…

It must be a good few year’s since Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ aired on TV in the UK, but the film stayed with me. I think I liked it because it seemed that someone had finally gathered the facts together and displayed them in a clear, indisputable way, demonstrating that we are causing the Earth’s climate to change, drastically, and what the effects and dangers are and will be if left unchecked.

I have always had the mind-set that we are responsible for this planet of ours, that we need to look after it, and in true Ray Mears bush-tracker style, we should leave it how we find it (or ideally better off). Recycling as much waste as possible, turning lights off in rooms that aren’t being used and not driving a car unnecessarily all form part of this mind-set. However, I recognise that not everyone lives like this, some people fail to see that the attitude of “What difference can I make?” actually scales up to “A big difference” when everyone chips in and plays their part. Accepting that we, as individuals, are all responsible for the health of this planet is important, so being shown clearly that we are each responsible for global warming is important too.

Some people disagree with the fact/idea/possibility (whatever you want to call it) that we are responsible for climate change, but I think that’s besides the point.

Having this attitude of “What difference can I make?” or worse, “It’s not my problem [someone else can clean up the mess.]” or not even thinking about it as if it is a problem that will just sort itself out, perhaps within a few generations, is a sorry attitude to have. Therefore, when someone disputes that man is causing global warming, it sounds like they are endorsing reckless and Earth-harming behaviour by us humans. I do accept that the Earth, and Sun, go through phases which can cause the climate to change, but Al Gore’s presentation showed to me that the extreme changes that we have seen since the Industrial Revolution are caused by the way we burn fossil fuels.

chilling_starsYou can understand my concern, therefore, when I picked up the book The Chilling Stars by Henrik Svensmark and Nigel Calder (back in February 2014) because it’s all about how the stars are actually the cause of climate change.

Anyway, that’s as far as my efforts went in writing about this… I just wanted to get these paragraphs out of my Drafts folder.

I’ve written before about my cycling, recycling and energy-saving efforts.

Leave a comment

Posted by on 16 April, 2015 in Books, Cycling, Psychology, Science, Technology


Tags: , , ,

Nicholas Poussin


In addition to re-reading books about megalithic sites (see my previous post for details), I have been working my way through Volume Three of Arthur Mee’s Children’s Encyclopedia.

In Chapter 14 of the Art category, on page 1681 I was reading about the French artist Nicholas Poussin who lived from 1594 to 1665.

He was the first great classical painter… All his life he had had an intense love for ancient history and classical art and legend. He painted a large number of pictures of old story and mythology; and the canvases seem to have been worked on partly by a historian who had a passion for being right in details, and partly by an artist who had a passion for magnificent landscapes and scenes of bygone times.

It would seem that to him the actual old world with its trees, hills, temples, and groves was more important than the men and women peopling it…

Perhaps you can see my link here.

Sadly there were no examples of this passion for temples and groves in the encyclopedia itself, so I consulted Google (where his name is spelled Nicolas rather than Nicholas). What I came across was his painting titled “The Birth of Venus” seen above.

The last book I read about megalithic sites was Uriel’s Machine by Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas. In it they talk about the history of global floods and indeed the story of Noah. What I saw in Poussin’s work was this story. It is Noah I see in his Ark at the top left, releasing his doves, it is the angels smiting the sinners as the storm brews.

In other work figures are depicted with staffs, which again after reading could be considered to be sighting staffs, or measuring rods.


And as was likely to be the case, I’m not the first to pick up on these things, or the possibility that Poussin was a Freemason:

Leave a comment

Posted by on 10 April, 2015 in Art, Books, History


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 160 other followers