Wednesday 30 November 2022

The Googlewhacker

 At the Birth of the Blob, I was much taken with googlewhacks and adjacent markers of unique contributions [goldiloxian, I'm l👁👁king at you]. Googlewhack was coined / devised by Gary Stock 20 years ago when the googleverse was much smaller. But the concept really took off under the ministrations of Britse comic Dave Gorman. He wrote a book about his journey: Dave Gorman's Googlewhack Adventure [2005].  The stand-up show is 100 mins on YT. Ever since, I've had Gorman pegged as a geeky but insightful commenter on the late stage capitalist human condition internet: and my sort of funny. Not that I've sent him me undies, or really paid him much attention these last 15 years. 

But a month ago, Gorman bubbled to the surface of life's porridge as two quite separate bollupes. First on Taskmaster Season Six with Al Murray, Sarah Pascoe, Paul Chowdhry and Rob Beckett. We've been binge-watching Taskermaster episodes almost daily for a month+ in an attempt to behave like a normal family doing dinner in front of the TV. Taskmaster is reasonably amusing not least because nobody takes themselves too seriously [lest unmerciful slaggin' result, I guess].

Then a month ago I was 10 minutes early for Wexford Science Café and went down the stacks to browse a book and came away with two: 1) The Ash and the Beech [2007] by Richard Mabey and 2) Too Much Information or: Can Everyone Just Shut Up for a Moment, Some of Us Are Trying to Think [2014] by Dave Gorman . . . of which we treat. The age we live in is peculiar in similar ways that the Roman Empire in, say, 675CE was peculiar - decadent, self-indulgent, heedless of tomorrow for us 1%ers. Filtered through the internet: the insanity and disconnect cranks up a level into truly bizarre.

Gorman's book is not tightly editted because his publisher reckons that Gorman's stream-of-conscious laying out of his niggles and quirks will sell a lorra books as punters leave the venue of another packed stand-up show. 2014 was seeing chinks of light round the dark clouds of post-crash austerity and a little more disposable income sloshing through the economy. That being said, the book is built to look chunkier than it may deserve: big print, 1.5 line-spacing, generous margins. 

In 2002, after the dot-com bust had cleared the internet air of some of the crazies, we were settling down to a quietly commercialized, still largely academic on-line world. Facebook, Twitter, Youtube were not even a malevolent gleam in a fell imp's eye. Amazon was still selling books on-line. Googlewhacks were . . . nice - wholesome, fun, quirky.

2022, the imp has slipped its nice mask and revealed a world of lazy-arsed journalism; cynical exploitation of people's generous nature; lies; political polarization and disrespect; overturning every sense of "value" except the monetary. 

  • 15 who-cares-tuppence?s about Richard Branson
  • 5 contradictory headlines from the Daily Express
  • 150,000 people paying pence to vote in X-factor
  • 7 celebs the back of whose head you've seen at a concert

Gorman is sharp enough to skewer some of the pretensions of influenzers and others who are cashing in on the internet. Don't buy this book, but ask if you can borrow it from the local library? I returned the copy I borrowed last Tuesday.

Monday 28 November 2022

The age of woo

One of the most interesting Big Science projects to come out of Trinity College while I was working there in the 00s was The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) fronted by Rose Anne Kenny FTCD, FRCP, RIA. TILDA recruited 8000+ representative  people over the age of 50 with the intention of monitoring their inevitable decline over the next many years. Such keys to a happy old age as gait, cognition, cardio and macular degeneration were measured on first visit to TILDA Centraal, together with various health and well-being questionnaires. I was touched when at about the same time the aged father of a palomino started to quote "My geriatrician says . . .". It showed an engagement with and active interest in the process of things fall apart as the various and sundry systems of homeostatic equilibrium prove unable to keep the corporeal ship of state steady as she goes.

Prof Kenny is clearly a geriatrician of note; who has put in the hours and should be worth listening to. And I've spent the last several days listening to her reading Age Proof, her distillation of an active life trying to make sense of decrepitude. This is one case where, I feel, the author shouldn't read their own stuff; because on her reading, the text is liberally scattered with , random , pauses at places , which make it difficult to follow her sentence structure. The problem with getting professional readers [apart from the Australian accents: looking at you Bolinda] to read sciency books is that they either mangle the long words or have big loin-girding pause before , say , Taeniopygia guttata. But I have to call out the hard G "lon[Gh]evity" and "[Gh]eriatrics", which, as you may expect from a book about aging, are used frequently.  I checked numerous on-line sources in case it was me being a self-righteous soft-G before I and E pedant. What next: Ghenetics? The Gheneration Game?

More to the point, I learned Chronotype is A Thing . . . the word was coined maybe 30 years ago but was popularized by Dr Michael Breus in his book The Power of When. Breus calls himself The Sleep Doctor which smacks of hubris. Move over owls vs larks on the Breus watch - sooo yesterday. Take the chronotype determinant quiz? But always know that you are welcome to join me in chronotype aardvark: characterized for falling into a drooling sleep while attending lunchtime seminars.  I can't convey strongly enough how this kind of plausibly possible simplification jangles my chain. I've had a contemptuous poke at zodiacal Sun signs but Dolphin - Lion - Bear - Wolf chronotypes are closer to Hans Eysenck's Personality Inventory (EPI) which measures-by-quiz two pervasive, independent dimensions of personality: Extraversion-Introversion vs Neuroticism-Stability and bins everyone into one of four bins. Eysenck was immersed in his own certainties about how the world should be was and, 20 years after he died, 26 of his peer-reviewed papers on race intelligence and personality have been withdrawn by his quondam employer as "unsafe". And check out this take-down by Alexei Guzey of St Matthew of Walker the other Sleep Guru [multibloboprevs]

Yer, like whatevs, this is the level of scienciness in Chronotypes:

  • Dolphins are wired and tired light sleepers; also highly intelligent, cautious, perfectionist and often anxious.
  • Wolves used to be owls: at their best in the evening and creative, impulsive, and emotionally intense.
  • Bears are median: deep sleepers while easygoing and social, fun-loving team players during the day.
  • Lions are early risers after a good night's sleep and are conscientious, stable, practical and optimistic with a tendency to over-achieve.

Prof Kenny devotes a chapter of her book uncritically promoting this saddo simplification of human diversity. Elsewhere in the book Kenny gives some gratutitous product placement to Calico the age-research spin-off of Google/Alphabet. It is unfortunate because Calico and Chronotypes are hostages to crap-detecting: citing them casts doubt on all the other research reported in the book. Likewise cold-water swimming and having a personal fitness coach. Great if that's your thang; but that's not the same as suggesting that it is appropriate for everyone.

tl;dr: But the take home is the same: good sleep, good diet, more exercise, all adopted early, is likely to yield a happier and healthier old age. It also means missing some hella fun parties when you're still young enough to get off on such things.

Friday 25 November 2022

The farmer's friend

Like all farmers, Peter Whatling of Hoxne, Suffolk was possessed or a gurt big lump-hammer . . . until he wasn't. Lump-hammers are the Great Persuader of rural life: if the tines of your bale-lift get bent out of shape; or a bolt just won't fit in the hole then a tuthree mighty tonks with a lump-hammer will sort it out. In November 1992, Whatling had been using his hammer [R on show in the British Museum] down the field and when he got home his hammer was missing. After a while of fruitless searching, he called on his neighbour Eric Lawes to make a few passes with his metal-detector. They did eventually find the hammer, but on the way Eric turned up the largest treasure trove of Roman gold and silver ever discovered in Britain. You can listen to Eric Lawes trying to remember the sequence of events. And here's his famous for 15 days obit. The story has been recorded when Roger Bland of the BM came down to talk to the Hoxne Heritage Group.

They grassed themselves up to Suffolk County Council, who sent their archaeological swat team the following day to painstakingly excavate the hoard maintaining as much archaeological context as possible; including lifting large blocks of frozen soil [did I say it was mid-November?]. Peter kindly created a wall of straw-bales to protect the archaeologists and their police escort against the whipping wind. The 1993 coroner's inquest in Lowestoft determined that the hoard was treasure trove and therefore the property of the state. But, by long-standing convention, the value of the artifacts was paid over to Eric Lawes as the sole finder. The boodle was valued at £1.75million, and Eric shared it with the tenant farmer Peter Whatling. In this case the owner of the freehold Suffolk County Council didn't get nuffink; and was put to some expense saving and cataloguing all the pieces.

They thought they'd revealed all the Roman material in the immediate vicinity but subsequent passes in 1993 and 1994 turned up even more, if less spectacular, historical artefacts. Analysis of the 569 gold coins (solidi):14,272 silver coins (mostly siliquae) was able to date the horde as the very end of Roman Britain because it includes coins minted for Emperor Honorius (393-423). Other details and and cross-referencing suggests a terminus ad quem [earliest possible date] of 408 CE.

In 409, Constantine III stripped all the legions from  Britain to deal with barbarian hordes closer to the Roman heartlands and in 410, 411 Emperor Honorius sent his Rescript to the plain people of Britain inviting them to look to their own defenses. The first Saxon raids occurred at about the same time and it is probable that a wealthy family, probably including one Aurelius Ursicinus, packed their portable property into an oaken chest and buried it somewhere safe. Clearly they never returned - unless you prefer to imagine a bloke in a toga fruitlessly casting about in the area after the above-ground ID had been disturbed.

It's also interesting that the gold coins had identifiable mint-marks from all over the Roman Empire from Trier in Gaul to Antioch in Syria. 85% of the silver coins have been clipped to retain the value of the coin while also salvaging some silver bullion; this defacement has removed most of the mint-mark information. The value of coins to us moderns is definitely more in the provenance and archaeological context rather than the silver. Hoxne bling!

When we joined the Euro-zone in January 2002, each country was invited to strike its own coins to its own design. Ireland struck 135 million €1s in 2002, compared to 300m in France and 2,000 from Vatican City. I thought it would be interesting to get 200 €1 coins from the bank every quarter and tally up the provenance. Presumably on day 0 all the coins from Allied Irish Bank would have a harp on the obverse. But as German, Greek and French tourists piled in to buy pints of Guinness with their small change, the All-Irish flavour of the coinage would get diluted. Something could be learned from the circulation of Euro-people from taking snapshots of Euro-coins. I was super busy in 2002 pushing the frontiers of human genome analysis with Ken Wolfe - and creating the persona of BobTheScientist - so that project never flew.

Footnote. The Hoxne Hoard, and subsequent rogue metal-detecting in the area, precipitated a new law "An Act to abolish treasure trove and to make fresh provision in relation to treasure (1996)". Treasure trove was the term used in British Common Law (dating back to Edward the Confessor 1,000 years ago) to cover valuables which had been hidden, buried or secreted, with the intention of recovery, for which no owner or heirs could be identified. Famously Sutton Hoo was deemed by the coroner to be finders-keepers because nobody intended to come back for the Great Man's helmet [L]! The 1996 act defined what exactly constitutes treasure.

Wednesday 23 November 2022

Violent Gibson

In the spirit of the sticker on Woody Guthrie's guitar "This machine kills Fascists" we're going to doff a bonnet to Violet Gibson, of Merrion Sq, Dublin who attempted to assassinate Benito Mussolini in 1926. Il Duce turned his imperious head as Gibson aimed her pistol and fired. The bullet snipped the bridge of his nose and Gibson was bundled to the ground and off the stage of history. 

Although born with every advantage as the daughter of The Patriarchy The Lord Chancellor of Ireland, the most senior person in the Law, Violet was "troubled" and had suffered a "nervous breakdown" at least once before an angel steadied her arm to point it at the Italian head of state. Like Gavrilo Princip = Гаврило Принцип, who successfully offed Archduke Franz-Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914, she died in custody rather judicially. Princip died of TB in jail in 1918. Gibson wasn't charged in Italy but deported "home" to England where she was committed to a psychiatric hospital, St Andrew's in Northampton, and existed there for another 30 years. She died as she approached her 80th birthday in 1956.

This story has been one of many obsessions of actor, politician and self-publicist, Dublin Cllr Mannix Flynn. Last month his machinations succeeded in installing a plaque on Gibson's childhood home. Flynn has a reputation for punching down on cyclists and NIMBYing the homeless, so it seems of-a-piece [ie slightly unhinged and resolutely against the flow] to be rehabilitating a supposed anti-fascist who died before he was born. Cue Woody: a genuine card-carrying undeluded anti-fascist.

Monday 21 November 2022

All at sea

The Youtube Algorithm delivered a rather Dude Bro video about hitch-hiking a ride on a DFDS container ship. It may have been because I went through a spell of binge-watching Chief Makoi a Pilipino Engineer vlogging his best life at sea. It all set me to thinking of the week I spent in  the Thames Estuary as a useless mouth an 18 y.o intern aboard a Trinity House service vessel operating out of Harwich. I'd left school the previous Summer and was still unconvinced that I should go to college so . . . gap year - before youngsters started to employ gap-year coaches to make their CV shine. I threw out an off-hand remark about running away to sea and bish-bosh-bash I was sent off to St Margaret's Bay in Kent to spend a night with Philip Walker, an old beau of my mother. In hindsight, this chap was vetting me to see if he'd totally lose face if he recommended me to his ex-colleagues at Trinity House(*) the corporation responsible for all the lighthouses, lightships, buoys, beacons and other navigational aids round England and Wales. I learnt how to make a vinaigrette that night, so the venture wasn't a total bust.

I must have passed mustard because shortly thereafter I was requested and required to report to THV Siren at 0800hrs on a Monday morning. Nobody knew what to do with me. I was only going to be there a wet week so it wasn't worth training me to a job of work. I'd be a liability sent down to the working deck to haul ropes and and diesel pipes. I spend two solid days in the chartroom behind the bridge cutting out updates to the chart catalogs and pasting over the old data. This was a boring chore for the three navigating officers; so there was an infinite backlog of fiches to be cut out and stuck into the correct place. If we approached a buoy to service it, I'd hear the commotion drift forward to look out over the foredeck at the activity and try to keep out of the way of actual crew who might be supervising the work. If I wasn't looking out at the horizon I was feeling decidedly queasy and so felt miserable pretty much the whole time.

In the week, we only spent one night at sea. The lads would try to get the ship back alongside shortly after 17:00hrs so that almost everyone could go home and sleep in their own beds ashore. It was pointed out that the officers mess had a larder with bread, cheese, pickles, UHT milk and fixing for mugs of tea or cocoa. And that's what I dined and breakfasted on in the nearly empty ship. We had the one night at sea because the crew had been servicing buoys and lightships at the far end of the territory and it wasn't worth the fuel and time to get back to port late and leave early the next morning. I retired to my bunk and fell into a nightmarish fitful sleep as we bucketed about hove-to in the North Sea.

When I got up for 'work' the next morning all the sailor civil servants on the bridge were looking unaccountably energized having been the first on scene after a collision between two freighters in the fairway. My first thought was "ye baastids; the most exciting thing that's happened to the ship in a decade and you let me sleep through it?" but this was sharpish replaced with "fair enough, I wouldn't have been any help". I have a vague memory of the superstructure of one of the ships poking out above the waves but that might have been wholly made up in my head. If anybody had died, I reckon I would have noted it; but then again with my blunted affect, maybe not.

I do remember the skipper postponing the morning's plan-of-work and going on a jaunt up river to return a lifeboat to one of the ships involved in the rescue. The lifeboat had been abandoned in the darkness after the rescued crew had been taken off it. There was some jolly talk on the Siren's bridge about salvage rights and the value of one lifeboat, hardly used. But the skipper didn't hang about in Docklands: we unloaded the lifeboat with the forward derrick and turned round to carry on working the buoys out at sea.  A couple of days later, I left my life on the ocean wave and went to work as a hospital porter.

By coincidence, that year saw the publication of the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972 (COLREGs). This superseded the 1960 regulations and was notable for implementing mandatory traffic separation schemes in busy maritime regions including the Thames Estuary and the Straights of Dover. Colregs does stop all the near misses that continue to happen because of the interface between navigational tech, navigators and normal accidents.

* Formally: The Master, Wardens and Assistants of the Guild Fraternity or Brotherhood of the most glorious and undivided Trinity and of St Clement in the Parish of Deptford Strond in the County of Kent!
Within a year I was enrolled at The Provost, Fellows, Foundation Scholars and the other members of Board, of the College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Queen Elizabeth near Dublin aka TCD.

Sunday 20 November 2022


An epicure's feast

Saturday 19 November 2022

Lá breithe shona duit

Sorry I can't be there . . . but at least I can send:

130,000 pixels, zero Joules. Χαρούμενα γενέθλια! Χρόνια πολλά της Αγίας Κωνσταντίας!

Thursday 17 November 2022

Copped a 'Rona

I think I really woke up to the presence of Covid when a case was reported on the floor where I used to work. That was on 7th March 2020. I've managed to dodge the virus for 980 days, while everyone else in our family seems to have succumbed at one time or another. The Beloved came down poorly last weekend. On Monday, Dau.II, who is visiting, and I went into town for supplies - more tissues! ginger ale! something nice for dinner! - as we left the house we are asked to pick up some Covid-19 tests. Reaming out TB's nose  showed the tell-tale Covid+ve line. There was no point in me doing a test then, despite sounding a bit barky: we could assume that we were sharing virus as we share so much else in our lives.

By Tuesday, I was def'ny unwell - not take to the bed and moan unwell but certainly not the full shilling. Didn't stop me sawing a load of fire wood, for example. Being sick was a bummer because Wexford Science Café was meeting on Tuesday evening to talk about wind-farms and it promised to be a bit of a punch-up. And this evening was meant to be a discrete knees-up with my former colleagues to acknowledge that I was one of six silver-backs who had retired from the Faculty in the last 3 years. I'll have to RSVP=No to that as well because, according to the instant gratification Covid-19 self-test [R], which I took an hour ago, I am still shedding virus. Dang!

And tomorrow I could have been judging some school science projects at a DEIS school in Gorey but that too has to be put on the long finger. Science Week 2022 has been rolling along without me this year!  Anyway, I am right glad about never having to pull a sicky at The Institute during the eight years I worked there. Despite being exposed to the usual blizzard of microbes at the beginning of every term.

Wednesday 16 November 2022

Get yer moobs out, Chris

When I were a nipper, it was rare to see a fat child. My mother's, not uncompassionate, assessment was "It's just his glands, poor thing". She didn't have the scientific language but her meaning was that obesity was physiological condition cause by an unfortunate defect: like having diabetes, cancer or a cleft palate. Glands are the pink bits inside us which produce hormones - small chemicals which are secreted into the blood-stream to act elsewhere in the body. You know the names of some: adrenalin, insulin, test♂sterone, estradi♀l. But I bet you can't spell all 60+ known non-steroid hormones [crib], let alone have an inkling of what is each one's purpose. CLOG hormones which have a role in this story: cholecystokinin, leptin, orexin and ghrelin, .

Now we have an epidemic of obesity and nobody really knows why. It's particularly distressing to see over-weight kids because their life-time health prognosis makes grim reading and because blaming them for their condition seems like punching down. Yes, yes, there's a punching duvet joke in there as you flush the poor beggar's head down the t'ilets at school. And if we want to make a stand, or spread the word, on childhood obesity, who better to front it than Chris and Xand van Tulleken who kid's TV teleprog Operation Ouch! - much gawped by my Gdaus?  Earlier this year they published a 7½ part podcast A Thorough Examination which explores the relationship between nature [genetics] and nurture [eclairs] w.r.t.obesity in 30 minute chunks

It's not the results of a double-blind case-controlled scientific study but the series hinges on an interesting anecdatum: Chris and Xand are identical twins but in their early 30s they started to diverge radically when they stood on identical side-by-side bathroom scales. Part of the of the experiment Chris O'Thin [RL] elected to eat an 80% junk-food diet [uo from 20%] for just a month which made his shorts longer [RR] put a lot of sag on his moobs and more grip to his love-handles. He'll be able to work-out these lard-kilos off in a similar amount of time because there is a certain inertia in human physiology: at age 42 it takes a big and/or continuous shove to disturb the set-points of our systems.

At age 48, I went paragliding, one of the mildly embarrassing outfalls from that weekend was being forced to stand on a scales to assign a canopy of correct [= sufficient] dimensions. I knew my weight had been stable 73kg for my 18-30 years and guessed it might be up 6-7kg. I actually clocked in at 86kg! and was mildly fat-shamed "someone's been telling porkies" by the instructor. But I shed all those extra kilos in 6 weeks = 800km trudging down the Camino two years later. Even living my best sofa in retirement, I'm still more or less at my 18-30 weight. So your/my current weight is not set in butter.

Mais revenons nous a nos Tullekens. 10 years ago, Xand went to New York for work at a time of relationship upheaval - including an unexpected offspring. His digs were above a friendly bodega, he was working weird doctory hours and he was tired and lonely. So his kitchen trash started to fill with take-away cartons and chip-packets and pizza trays. And he grew and outgrew his trousers. Chris, seven minutes older, was back in London, also doctoring, but getting married, keeping exercised and having a couple of kids with whom to play garden soccer. Plus, as health-care front-liners they both copped a 'Rona but Xand was much sicker - atrial fibrillation; A&E; long-covid.

Every time the brothers met, they'd go out for a meal, Xand would have two starters and extra fries and Chris would (under the guise of care) fat-shame his brother . . . who would double-down on the assault on his tum sense of self. One of the positive outcomes of their podcast journey was the realisation that Chris's gobby caring script was not helping the problem.

But the chow mein message of the series is everyone's beef with UPF = ultra-processed food 🍔🍕🍟. This is the stuff which we buy from the food aisles of supermarkets or through deliveroo which is a) triple-packaged and b) contains ingredients not normally found in the domestic battery de cuisine. Ground cumin is processed but frozen Indian onion bhaji and spinach samosa is UPF. even if mmmmm so Good. And get this: putting ORGANIC  in large letters on the front of the packet may be green-washing a pharmacopaeia of surfactants, antioxidants, emulsifiers, stablizers, sugar and salt in the table of contents.

In 1980 regular "raw?" potatoes, broccoli, milk and mince comprised 58% of the calories in average British diet by 2020 57% of the calories came from UPF. Not forgetting that there is a middle ground of processed food which includes ground cumin, wheat flour, rolled oats, minced pork.  This change in the national diet has been tracked by a 3-fold increase in folks "living with obesity". No responsible person (ie excluding headline writers) is saying X is caused by Y; but you draw your own conclusions when it comes from catering for your kids. We all love crisps and fried dumplings - they are designed by food engineers - making us love the product is their job. But for the kids maybe try just say No! ?

So here's your quiz.  Identify the products here without the bright picture on the package:

1) WTF1: Sugar, Vlargarine [Vegetable oils (Palm oil, Rapeseed oil), water, salt, emulsifiers (mono & diglycerides of fatty acids, polyethylene sorbitan monostearate), acidity regulator: citric acid, Vitamin E, flavouring, Colour: beta carotene), WHEAT flour (with calcium, iron, niacin, thiamine), modified starch (Maize), Vegetable Oil (Rape), Whey solids (MILK), Raising agents: (disodium diphosphate, sodium bicarbonate), emulsifiers (propane-1,2-diol esters of fatty acids), WHEAT gluten, Whole EGG powder, Vegetable Oil (Rapeseed), WHEAT starch, vegetable Oil (Palm/Shea), Fat reduced cocoa powder, emulsifier: rapeseed lecithin, Glazing agent: gum Arabic, Shellac, Whole hen EGG, SOYA flour, skimmed MILK powder, maize starch, humectant (glycerol), icing sugar (sugar, potato starch), Unhydrogenated vegetable fat, water, colour: (allura red AC, quinoline yellow, indigotine, sunset yellow FCF, carmosine, ponceau red R4, Black PN), Preservative: potassium sorbate, raising agent sodium dihydrogen carbonate, monocalcium phosphate

WFT2: wholegrains (rolled oats, wholewheat flour, wheatgerm), free range eggs, grapejuice concentrate, milled organic seeds (flax, hemp, sunflower & pumpkin), butter, organic seaweed mix (6%) (sweet kelp, dilsk, sleabhcan), flaked almonds (6%), coconut, raisins, dark chocolate (unsweetened chocolate, sugar, cocoa, butter, soy lecithin, natural vanilla) orange juice, orange oil (2.2%). allergens in bold print

WTF3: Irish pork (70%), Water, Pork Fat, Rusk (contains Wheat), Corn Flour, Leeks (2.2%), Salt, Flavourings, Black Pepper, Sugar, Yeast Extract, Stabiliser (Triphosphates), Preservative (Sodium Sulphite), Antioxidant (Sodium Ascorbate), Sunflower Oil, Natural Pork Casings

Monday 14 November 2022

Wes Ely New ICU Way

I just powered through another medical earbook on Borrowbox: Every Deep-Drawn Breath by Wes Ely MD. Ely grew up Catholic in Shreveport LA. He went to a Jesuit High School and still buys into [St.] Íñigo López de Oñaz y Loyola's slogan Ad maiorem Dei gloriam = To the Greater Glory of God. But he doesn't come across as obnoxiously certain that his Way is the only way. One thing that opens my heart to his story is that he changed his mind in the face of evidence that then current medical practice was not doing the best for critically ill patients. It was rather treating patients in ICU as wholly passive recipients of interventions by god-like physicians and discharging [bish-bosh; job done; can breathe] broken husks condemned to an extended period of pain, dependency and expense. Because ICU teams were too busy: stand aside I'm saving more lives they never had time for follow-up of their ex-patients.

One of Ely's epiphanies was meeting a young woman whose heart, lungs and kidneys had been fritzed by his, nominally successful, efforts saving her life. He looked down [dus wheelchair!] at her with chagrin and bemusement - but, god-of-tech-and-science, I saved a young woman's life: who /what is this?  It's all about the intubation innit? If you're sick enough to be in ICU, you often require help with breathing. Intubation is painful and bewildering and it is easier to manage if the patient is deeply sedated lest they attempt to wrest this invasive tube from their throats - let alone all the other catheters, cannulas, electrodes, lines, and tubes which are also hitched up to the body.

In 1978, we were living in a shit-hole bedsit in Dublin and a medical pal got me on the list of on-call orderlies at St James' Hospital. If one of the reg'lar staff pulled a sickie, I was called in to work his [all men] shift on a zero-guaranteed-hours contract. It sometimes paid the rent. I was almost always assigned to the male medical ward, which was filled with elderly gents, many demented, with an occasional younger diabetic.Shortly bfore I arrived on scene, one of the old boys, demented and with a urinary catheter, climbed over his cot-side in the night and fell to the floor. Big PITA for the staff: accident report form, audit from the matron. One of my job on night-shift became to tie the old chap's arms to the cot-sides with . . . bandages. He had grown up-children but they never rarely came to visit and he was lonely and looking to go home insofar as we could fathom what was going on in the shambles of his mind. Maybe if someone came every night to read the newspaper to him, it might have quieted his wandering anxiety. And I tell ya, lads, you don't want to see someone try to remove his urinary catheter by force.

Dr Ely would be with me on the read-a-bedtime-story front. His epiphanized new self is all for communicating with sick people even if they are comatose or demented . . . or intubated: because that puts the kibosh on speech. He and his staff hold the patient's hand [good move for starters!] and then ask them to squeeze [once for Yes, twice for No] answers to specific queries. Instantly, a whole class of occupants of numbered beds became people with needs, desires and suggestions. 

Around the same time he invited himself on a site-visit to an ICU in Denmark which was full of natural daylight and seriously ill people up and plodding about the ward with their saline drip. Many of the others, while in bed, were awake and interacting with staff and other patients or watching the weather unfold through the plate-glass windows. It's all about the meds! On his watch,they use non-benzodiazepine sedatives (either propofol or dexmedetomidine) because benzodiazepines like midazolam [bloboprev on death row!] induce a physiological and mental state close to death. Many of the homeostatic multiply-redundant mechanisms managing urinary flow, liver function, heart beat etc.  evolved for people who were upright and thinking and moving about. The delicate balance goes wonk if the body is immobile - muscle wastage is a standard outcome for bed-ridden people irrecoverable if immobility goes on for too long. But all the other systems are affected, sometimes permanently:

Calming the circulatory system excessively deprives the brain of oxygen, so it malfunctions and ICU delirium became common if not standard in benzo-treated patients. And these crazy visions would persist and recur long after the patient has been sent home as another Successful Outcome. Not so successful if you keep seeing panthers in your own kitchen and waking the entire household screaming at 3am.

Team Ely-ICU evolved a labored mnemonic to match APGAR [birth] or DABDA [death] which eventually stabilised as the A2F Bundle. This is meant to be a best practice list of Things To Do TTD or Things To Check TTC to maximize the chance of a discharged patient with some quality of life prospects.

  • Assess, Prevent, and Manage Pain
  • Both Spontaneous Awakening Trials & Spontaneous Breathing Trials
  • Choice of Analgesia and Sedation
  • Delirium: Assess, Prevent and Manage
  • Early Mobility and Exercise
  • Family Engagement and Empowerment

Set this against PADIS the Pain, Agitation, Delirium, Immobility, and Sleep Disruption clinical practice guidelines of the Society of Critical Care Medicine.

But Wes Ely's happiest Freudian slip was once to write I see you instead of ICU and adopt that as his motto.

Sunday 13 November 2022

Sun 13t Nov 022

Sunday round-up

Friday 11 November 2022


Anyplace where natural borders go wonk makes me wonder why: what combination of history, dynasty or inertia caused that political anomaly? I've been to Baarle NL/BE, for example, both actually and O'Blob: because who can resist an enclave in an exclave? Baarle is dynastic. Belgium has other exclave issues beside Baarle. Rangpur / Cooch-Behar shows similar entanglement unresolved by the partition of India in 1947. But shifts in the channel of the River Tumen has cut off part of China. While Steinstücken in Berlin was a more recent political outlier. The Soviets left exclave headaches in the CentAsiaStans when they dumped the SSR suffix and went independent. But that's all the concern of foreign Johnnies in distant places; surely nothing like that could hang on unresolved in modern times in . . . England.

Ahem, and like Not So - at least up until the great 1974 rejigging of county borders which I discovered while stalking our ancestral demesne in Wales.  As it happens, historical Flintshire Sir y Fflint included the largest exclave in England and Wales Maelor Saenseg [Saxon Princeland] wedging itself uncomfortably between the English counties of Cheshire and Shropshire [map R]. In 1974 Flint and Denbigh were merged into Clwyd which was itself dismembered by the Local Government (Wales) Act 1994. to give this map.

But the searchable, zoomable Historic Counties Map is endlessly entertaining:

  • Sedgeberrow, Worcestershire is wholly surrounded by Gloucs.
  • A peculiar gerrymandered ragged finger of Berkshire explores the backside of Wiltshire near Tidcombe
  • And Oldberrow, Worcs. is similarly invading Warwickshire near Stratford-upon-Avon.
  • Most of Newmarket was in Suffolk but that part was held in the jaws of Cambridgeshire and the historic racecourse was half in Cambs.
Closer to home there is a peculiar 120 hectare pene-exclave of Co Waterford 10km NW of Tallow:

That makes matter-a-damn bit of difference except in determining GAA loyalties. But Further north a ragged intrusion of Co Monaghan in Co Fermanagh called the Drumully Polyp made things awkward after the partition of Ireland 100 years ago: That's famous enough to attract attention: in the troubles but surely more so post-Brexit

Finally there are 50 hectares of Limerick in suburban Charleville Co Cork:

Wednesday 9 November 2022

POA come round in turn

[ejected prematurely 07Nov22, sorry]
On the 24th of last month I left attentive readers hanging with "It was an interesting morning because I secured cogent advice on two quite different aspects of living your best life" . . . and then only dealt with one such aspect. After I left the Ada Lovelace event, I went back to my old office to check in with two of The Lads who still inhabit that cramped windowless space. It was catch-up time and I mentioned, as a known fact, that my mother had died nearly three years ago. Mild consternation and condolences . . . then the chat turned to their aged parents, their care and inattention and inevitable decline. As women, they were having to shoulder the heavy lifting of elder care; exactly as they have done the lion's share of child care. We agreed that it was a wearing aspect of generational turn-over, that almost as soon as your own children were grown, women were requested and required to navigate and/or captain the foundering floundering ship of aged parents.  "You need to get a power of attorney sorted out, they have an excellent HowTo on [28 page; 500Mb PDF]". 

I was nodding along and contributing my 2c-worth when it dawned on me that by You need to get a power of attorney sorted out they meant Me. And of course it was true, the great circle of life comes round to each generation in turn. Within the last ten years, I've been in a lawyer's office with both my mother and my in-laws where the brinking generation have endeavoured to facilitate the transfer of some part of their agency and autonomy to a younger model.  It was just in good time. Two days later, I was driving somewhere with The Beloved and broached the idea of sorting our own powers of attorney = POAs; no point in delaying it.

It so happened that, the moment [24Oct] my cogent advice post was launched, all three of our adult children were upstairs asleep. I therefore sent them an e-mail proposing that the 5 of us meet in the Polytunnel at 11:00 that morning. And it was so! And it was so useful!! My experience is that if you internalize your thinking without action, then it is easy to descend into an echo-chamber of anxiety. I do this much less nowadays. It was super helpful to be told that I was talking bollix hadn't considered all aspects of the problem. And there were other certainties of the next 10-20 years which were not on the Agenda of the Meeting but nevertheless needed to be tabled for consideration. 

For example, my parents moved house to their final destination when they were the same age as I am now. Both they and I, in our late 60s could trip up [and not fall down] the stairs without a thought. As my mother approached her 100th birthday, it was clear that her stairs to be were an accident waiting to happen. And indeed the last time my father went down those stairs was backwards after midnight sustaining a hair-line vertebral fracture as he went down. The stair-lift we installed for my mother cost £3,000; and served her needs for only 5½ weeks before she in turn left home for hospital, nursing home and the great unknown. There is no re-sale value for stair-chairs. Our current house is much pokier more cosy than my parent's mansion and our stairs are steeper than allowed by current building regs, so a chair lift is not a solution to getting from the front door to the bath-room for anyone with wobbly pins or defective balance.

Not this week or this year, but we should think about our exit strategy to another place [like the Welsh example R] without stairs but within walking distance of a pub, a pharmacy and a post-office. I'm a simple chap, I don't desire to impress the neighbours with the size of my flood-lit West Wing. Just a spare bedroom / zoom-office and a sofa-bed in the living room to encourage visits from the grand-children.  And I suppose a wheel-chair accessible bathroom and some serious laundry facilities for when I go All Paris [in . . continent, geddit?].  Not New Ross! Please don't send me to New Ross.

Monday 7 November 2022


The BBC flipped the existential threat of Covid into an opportunty with their audio-series Outsiders about "writers on how lockdown has changed their relationship with the nature on their doorstep". The episode cited is a great fit because artist and naturalist Amanda Thomson, because being black and gay, could easily alienate comfortable insiders.  And wot if she did? I ask: good art, great art has to be about shifting our cosy certainties and disturbing the equilibrium. 

Thomson grew up in the bosom of her family in the village of Kilsyth: near to Kirkintilloch and about half way between Glasgow and Stirling. My latest Borrowbox audiobook Belonging: natural histories of place, identity and home is her elegy to home and a sense of place. The bosom of her family: her Mam and her grandparents and loadsa collateral relatives accepted her as who she was and that gave her the confidence to leave the little row of crappy houses in Kilsyth, go to college and make a name for herself in the wide world.

The milestone above is part of one of her art-in-nature works but damned if I can find the source again.

Her other book and my next page-turner is A Scots Dictionary of Nature and Belonging shares several lists of Scots words for our interactions with the natural world. Eskimos do not have 50 words for snow but the Scots have that many words for drizzle let alone such other outdoor experiences as:

  • lunky - close and sultry
  • merth - hot and sultry
  • mooth - warm and misty
  • tochy - warm, moist
  • awder - a light mist at sunrise
  • yowther - a haze near the ground
  • smoorach - a slight summer shower

If you don't want to die on your sofa y'have to get out in  some weather and if you have to be there then embrace it.  Belonging is a great book - a chronicle of epiphanies and insights and rare bird sightings - Nan Shepherd for the current age. if some of the meanderings off country walks into the darker streets of racism and disrespect make you antsy, then so much the better.

Sunday 6 November 2022

Estate Planning 1855 style

This last week I've been waxing a tad dynastic on account of research triggered by a planned gathering of the clan. One document which has been circulating around the family is a crap photocopy of a copy of a copy of a Will written in 1855 by Hardress Lloyd, my grandfather's grandfather - almost exactly 100 years before I was born. The will-writer Hardress died five years later in 1860. His oldest 'natural' son John married Susanna Colclough in 1872, sired 7 children [including my grandfather] and died in Jan 1883. Susanna’s mother Mary Rossborough-Colclough owned 13,000 acres of Co Wexford in 1872 which have helped lubricate the wheels of estate. At the end of last month I bit the bullet and transcribed the 4 page photocopy and here launch it into the blogosphere.

Exec Summary: Sarah Auliffe, the red-headed cook and the mother of the Gaffer's five children, gets an annuity of £100 paid twice yearly. The oldest John is the residuary legatee getting Gloster house and estate and what’s left after . . . Henry, Trevor, Sarah & Thomas are top-sliced £3,000 each.  John and Sarah Jr are living in Gloster; Henry and Trevor are in Belfast; Thomas at School in Sandymount. Henry is additionally left a house and offices in Liverpool. When this father died in 1860 Henry and Trevor trousered their share of the boodle and set out for New Zealand. Trevor restlessly left NZ soon after and died in a boarding house in Upstate New York at the turn of the century. Henry stayed and founded a dynasty of antipodean Lloyds some of whom were talented 20thC artists and one a internationally renowned plant geneticist.

Notes on the will

  • The document is 1500 words long but the tl;dr Exec Summ above contains all the essential information in 75 words.
  • The convention was [is?] to leave out all punctuation from legal documents after several court-cases resulted from ambiguous interpretation of meaning of certain commas.
  • Prolix is fine: " I give devise limit and appoint leave and bequeath the same . . ."
  • Lots of extra words are required against the regrettable tendency of legatees to die before their benefactor. Even as late as the 1920s, my pre-teen father caught pneumonia and fluttered on the edge of oblivion for a week before "the fever broke" and his immune system got on top of the infection
  • £3,000 in 1855 was a fabulous fortune in money: agricultural laborers were getting £30 a year; laborers in town £50; and junior ranks in the Army or Civil Service £200/year. 
  • Further result from clan gathering archival research: In 1930, my grandfather was harbourmaster at Dunmore East at a salary of £10 a month! . . . allowing that this came with a tied-cottage on the quay. So the fortune in 1855 had been spent - quite possibly by Grampa in his whoop-it-up days in California in the 1900s
  • Somehow a tinted ~1850s daguerrotype of Hardress [see below R] has come down to me: the youngest son, of an only son, of the youngest son, of John the Residuary Legatee of the said last will and testament
  • Sarah Auliffe's annuity is to be paid on "gale days" an archaic term from Middle English gavel (“rent; tribute”)

Last Will and Testament of LtCol Hardress Lloyd,
of Gloster King’s County. 15th June 1855

Notes on transcription: The right-hand margin has been copier-trimmed so some words have been interpolated. [Bob’s notes are marked with these brackets]. There is no punctuation or line breaks in the document, which runs to 4 pages. I have started new paragraphs where the text flips to Capital letters indicating a new section.

I Hardress Lloyd [R!] of Gloster House in the King’s County – esquire being of sound mind memory and understanding do make publish and declare this to be my last will and testament in manner and following:
In the first place I direct that I may be buried in the churchyard nearest to my said residence at Gloster House as privately as possible
In the next place I direct that all my just debts funeral and testamentary expenses be fully paid and satisfied by my executor hereinafter named as soon as conveniently may be after my decease
And Whereas I am seized of considerable real ffreehold [sic] and other estates in Ireland and a small Copyhold Tenement in England and am also possessed of considerable personal property of money in the funds and other General effects

Now I give and bequeath to my son Thomas Lloyd now residing at Sandymount near Dublin and to my sons Henry Lloyd and Trevor Lloyd both now residing in Belfast and to my daughter Sarah Lloyd now residing at Gloster House with me the sum of X [probably three (3) from context] thousand pounds sterling each to be paid and payable without deduction of legacy duty or otherwise immediately upon my decease to such of my said children as have attained the age of twenty-one years and to such of them as are under that age immediately on their respective attaining of the age of twenty one years
And I Direct and declare that the said several bequests of three thousand pounds each so made to my said children shall be charged and chargeable upon and payable out of all my said real ffreehold and other estates in Ireland and expressly charge the same with the payment thereof I also charge on[?] my personal Assets and effects with the payment of said bequests 

I Further Give and devise limit and appoint unto my said son Henry Lloyd my copyhold Tenement and premises consisting of my Dwelling House Offices and Garden situate in Edge Lane Liverpool To Hold [end of Page 1] unto my said son Henry his heirs and assigns forever in as full and beneficial manner as I have heretofore held and enjoyed and now hold and enjoy the same Provided however and it is my will that in case either of them the said Henry Lloyd Trevor Lloyd and Sarah Lloyd who are now unmarried shall after my decease happen to die under age or without leaving a widow or widower or lawful issue him or her surviving and without having by deed or otherwise disposed of the said sum of three thousand pounds so bequeathed to each of them respectively aforesaid then and in such case I declare and direct that the said sum or sums of the three thousand pounds so bequeathed to the person or persons so dying or so much thereof as shall remain undisposed of at the time of his or her decease as aforesaid shall go to and I devise and bequeath the same to the survivors or survivor of them the said Henry Lloyd Trevor Lloyd and Sarah Lloyd in equal shares and proportions and in the event of all of them the said Henry Lloyd Trevor Lloyd and Sarah Lloyd  so dying in manner aforesaid then I will and declare that the portion of the said several and respective legacies so remaining undisposed at the time of their decease respectively shall form part of fall into and go with the residue of my personal estate and effects 

I give devise leave and bequeath to my House Keeper Sarah Auliffe for her natural life one annuity clear yearly rent charge or sum of one hundred pounds sterling per annum without any deduction for legacy duty income tax or otherwise howsoever and to be chargeable upon and to arise and issue and to be paid and payable to her yearly and every year during her life out of all my said real and ffreehold Estates in Ireland and I expressly charge the same with the payment there and I direct that such Annuity or yearly rent charge shall be [end of Page 2] paid and payable to said Sarah Auliffe by half yearly payment on every first day of May and first day of November in every year during her life and that the first half yearly payment shall become due and be paid on the first of said gale days which shall happen next after my decease And it is my desire and I direct that in case the said annuity or any part thereof shall at any time during ther [sic] life of the said Sarah Auliffe be unpaid to the said Sarah Auliffe by the space of twenty one days after either of the said mentioned days for the payment thereof that it shall and may be lawful to and for the said Sarah Auliffe at any time into and upon my said real and freehold property in Ireland or into any part thereof to enter and distrain and to distress then and there found to lead drive to and carry away and the same to dispose of according to law for satisfaction and payment of the said annuity and all arrears thereof and of the costs of making such distress and proceedings connected therewith 

And as to and concerning the rest residue and remainder of my property estates and effects of what nature and kind soever whether real freehold copyhold or chattle and wheresoever situate I give devise limit and appoint leave and bequeath the same and every part and portion thereof to my son John Lloyd now residing at Gloster with me and to his heirs executors administrators and assigns absolutely forever Provided however and I hereby declare my will to be that in the case my said son  John Lloyd shall happen to die without lawful issue living at or born after his decease and without having by deed or otherwise disposed of the said residue of my said estates and Assetts real and personal hereby bequeathed to him then and in such case I direct and declare that the residue of my said estates [end Page 3] real freehold and personal so hereby bequeathed unto the said John Lloyd or so much thereof as shall remain undisposed of by him at such time of his decease shall subject to the lawful dower of his widow if any shall be surviving go to and I hereby give devise limit and appoint and bequeath the same unto my said son Henry Lloyd his heirs and assigns forever 

Provided that in like event of the said Henry Lloyd dying under the age of twenty one years and without having made any disposition of said residue of my estates then and in such event I declare my will to be that the said residue of my estates then and in such event I declare my will to be that the said residue of my said estates real freehold and personal shall subject to the lawful dower of the widow of the said Henry if any shall be surviving go to and I hereby give and devise limit and appoint and bequeath the same unto my said son Trevor Lloyd his heirs and assigns forever and in case my sons John Lloyd Henry and Trevor Lloyd shall die without leaving issue them surviving or having made any disposition of the said residue of my estates then I give leave and devise same to my own rightful heirs forever 

And I Hereby make nominate and appoint my son John Lloyd the sole Trustee Executor and residuary Legatee of this my said will hereby revoking and unnulling [sic] all former and other will or wills at any time heretofore made by me
In Testimony whereof I have hereunto and to a duplicate hereof put my hand and affixed my seal this fifteenth day of June in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and fifty five.

Signed sealed published and declared by the said    }
Testator as and for his last will and testament in presence    }
us who in his presence at his request and in the presence of     }    Hardress Lloyd (seal)
each other at the same time have hereunto set our     }
hands as subscribing witnesses    }
Andrew McArthur M.D. Shinrone
John Cuffe Steward Gloster 

Friday 4 November 2022

Across the borderline

When I left England for college in Dublin in 1973, my Dad let me hitch a ride on a business trip to Liverpool. Because he was launching the cadet branch of his dynasty we detoured into the wilds of NorthEast Wales to visit The Ancestral Home [R "Bod Idris yn Yâl"]. But wait, my more assiduous reg'lar readers cry, are not your people horse-riding people from The Big House in King's County?  And the answer is: Yes that is true; but where did they come from? They weren't, after all, found under a cabbage stalk near the Little Brosna River.  My parents had apparently last visited The Welsh Seat 23 years earlier detouring, after getting married in London, on the way to their honeymoon in Scotland. He may have written to tell the current owners that we were coming or maybe not; my father had a certain sense of entitlement about descending on Big House people unannounced. Whatevs, we were given a glass of sherry and a brief tour of the house and garden before haring off for dinner and bed in Liverpool. The one thing I remember about the visit was being told that the Flint / Denbigh county border went through the front door of the house.

I have a grá for quirky cartography. But this 'fact' is hard to verify because the Brits did a complete rehash of their county borrrders in 1974 when the Local Government Act (1972) was implemented. The "historic counties" of Wales were Anglesey; Brecknock; Caernarfon; Cardigan; Carmarthen; Denbigh; Flint; Glamorgan; Merioneth; Monmouth; Montgomery; Pembroke; and Radnor. Which is evocative but slightly cray-cray for the modern world: while these 13 administrative districts are all more-or-less the same size they are wildly different in populations from Radnor with 25,000 people to Glamorgan weighing in at 1,250,000 or 50x larger. Glamorgan contained all the coal measures, the docks, the iron-works, and the Principality's two largest cities Cardiff, Swansea . . . so jobs and the people to work them. 1974 replaced all the borderlines: splitting Glamorgan into 3 and chop&dicing the others into eight new units: Clwyd; Dyfed; Gwent; Gwynedd; Mid Glamorgan; South Glamorgan; West Glamorgan; Powys. As a kid I had a wooden jigsaw where each piece was a county in England & Wales. I knew those counties but I have only a hazy idea where Clwyd or Dyfed march.  The poor Welsh were subject to another administrative rehash in 1994 replacing the 8 1974 counties with 11 slightly different units.

But if the story about the border passing through the front hall of Bod Idris is not precisely true, it is close enough to make no differ. Getting the scope on the present day house, which we visited in 1973, is easy: It is a wedding venue and easily located on Google Maps satellite view:

The A5104 is the main road between Chester and Corwen and Bod Idris is half way crow-flies between Wrexham and Ruthin. It's okay if you've never heard of any of these comparatively small towns. Nicely someone has digitized the "historic" [i.e. pre 1974] county boundaries and colour coded the blocks:

I'm glad I sorted that out for us all!

Wednesday 2 November 2022

Didn't go down with his ship

In 1879 my grandfather was born, the youngest son, into The Big House in King's County in the Irish Midlands. He was 3½ when his father died and his mother followed 3 years later. The seven kids ran a bit wild as a sense of entitlement kicked off when parental supervision didn't kick in. Anyway, in due course, that sib-group scattered: got careers, got married, left home and only went back to visit. The house  was sold out of the family in 1958: too big, too leaky, for a normal family without servants to run the show. The house and grounds spent the next generation as a girl's boarding school. Over the last decade it has been restored to something close to its former glory and is coming back to life post-covid as an impressive Georgian wedding venue.

The current proprietor cares about history as well as gutters and architraves, and has cut a deal with the descendants of those seven wild youngsters of the late 19thC and we're all going back for a weekend in November. The last of the Magnificent Seven Wild Bunch's F1 [first filial generation] died 6 years ago. But there survive about 40 people from the F2, F3 and F4 generations aged, as they say, from 8 [mo] to 80 and most of them will be there. We have been tasked to bring heirlooms, pictures, docs and deeds; especially those with pictures of striking ladies looking louche beside open-topped motor-cars from 100 years ago.

That's all by way of introduction to a typescript which surfaced among my Father RN's papers consisting of notes about his early naval career. In 1997, he was approached by The Coastal Forces Heritage Trust to talk on video about his time dashing about in motor torpedo boats MTBs in the first part of WWII. The document I have was a sort of notes-to-self or rough script for his perf as Olde Salt Remembers.

Anyway, he and his pals listened to Neville Chamberlain's "sad little speech" on 3rd Sep 1939 from their MTB base in Malta. There wasn't any immediate change in the pattern of exercises and training through September and October but in Early November they were told to plan for a move back to the UK. The older crappier coastal defense craft were to be transport home in a big ship while the more sea-worthy craft were to travel under their own steam to French Inland Waterways via Mers el Kebir, Tunisia; Ajaccio, Corsica and Marseilles.  The Da's boat MTB 06 was a marginal case but he blagged his way onto Team Sea-worthy and they set off from Malta of Armistice Day 1939. The first leg went fine but as the weather turned shitty [worse than in the picture below sketched a month later] as they passed the SW corner of Sardinia and at 01:00, the auto-baling pumps crapped out, then the port-side motor failed and as dawn came up, the starboard engine chugged its last gasp.

They would have to abandon ship! But it was an orderly evacuation and the crew were able to salvage the personal effects and some of the moveable equipment as their escorting destroyer HMS Dainty H53 dropped down to windward to provide some shelter. The Da was the last to leave, being to step off his first command onto the Dainty's accommodation ladder clutching the wardroom clock. The Dainty's skipper took MTB 06 in tow but the line parted in a squall and it was agreed that MTB 06 should be scuttled by ramming [cheaper and quieter than gunfire].  It's in the interwebs: "15 Nov 1939 HMS MTB 6 broke down and was taken in tow by HMS Dainty (Cdr. F.M. Walton, RN). Later she broke adrift and was rammed several times by HMS Dainty. MTB 6 sank shortly before 2100 hours in approximate position 41°07'N, 08°03'E (off the north-west corner of Sardinia)". Could have been worse. A grounding accident 2½ years later spared him from having to confront Scharnhorst and Gneisenau in another cockleshell -  so my father survived the war intact . . . and here I am.