17. Mar, 2018

In my last Blog I proposed offering details of how this 75 year old has attempted to plan for the future.

Between then and now, the BBC has produced a truly excellent 10 part series entitled "Holding back the Years" weekdays 9.15-10.00am.   It has somewhat upstaged me for it is essential viewing for not just us oldies but for everyone….

“There will be no justice in Athens until those who are not hurt feel as indignant about it as those who are.”
[Thucydides, two and a half thousand years ago]

All I can do is applaud the general advice offered in “Holding Back the Years” and demonstrate how it is possible to adapt much of it to one’s own specific case, as I had already done to mine.

Despite being a very fit indoor rower for my age, I am not so short sighted as to assume this will always be the case. Elizabeth’s acute arthritis is a constant daily reminder to us both.

Plan for the future remembering that we are indeed not islands.

The first essential was to adapt our home. We accordingly installed a stair lift, converted a conventional bathroom into a wet room, obtained mobility scooters to “give Elizabeth her legs back, ” and put a landline telephone in every room.

The second essential was to establish a “Circle of Support” for time of need within our own social environment…a small North Norfolk market town of some 3,000 people.
Small it might be, but it contains everything we need for everyday living…
Surgery (ambulance depot 4 miles away, Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital 20 miles), dentist, solicitor, undertaker, chemist, optician. A twice weekly mobile bank and ATMs
(Retained fire service, quick response police),
Builders, plumbers and decorators, gardeners, computers.
Supermarkets and sufficient outlets for everyday living
Public Transport
Bus routes (not on Sundays) south to Yarmouth, North to Cromer, west to Norwich and access to rail, National Express, airport and rail station. Taxis.

Having been flying computers for thirty years, we are well and truly computer literate. My advice is to get to be the same. This is the safety net for everything from grocery supplies to new friendships across the world.

With a secure base secured, it was time to turn to the third essential… not to give up on those activities that have made us who we are. “Don’t give up on things because you are old, because you are old when you give up on things.”

My personal priorities are intellectual; creative and aesthetic; emotional; financial; social, underpinning them all with good health and fitness and  seeking FUN.

They are interlocked in the sense of the little boy whose parents told him they were taking him to see  The University. They showed him the Senate House, the lecture halls, the seminar rooms, the halls of residence, the laboratories, the gym and playing fields and of course the student bar. Asked what he thought, the little boy replied, “Great, but where is The University?”

Such has been my personal approach to “Holding Back the Years.” Whatever you are contemplating at hopefully a younger age do not forget that “AGE IS COMPULSORY” and above all…
“As you are now, so once were we,
As we are now, so shall ye be.

10. Mar, 2018

So wrote Shakespeare in describing the seven acts of a man’s life-

The Infant,
The School Boy,
The Lover,
The Soldier,
The Justice of the Peace,
The Pantaloon (approaching dotage),
Second Childhood.

He certainly nailed it, but what he did not say was the speed at which one passes from infancy to old age. Now at 75, I feel qualified to report.

The sad fact is that barring accident, old age is inescapable and it comes on in barely noticeable increments. Physically, looks fade; hip, knee and ankle joints become less reliable; excess weight appears from nowhere; spectacles and hearing aids become indispensable; you are in the market for a mobility scooter and finally you learn the three basic rules of old age…”never pass a public lavatory, never waste an erection and never trust a fart!”

Socially you find yourself increasingly driven into the company of others of your own age. Conversation becomes limited to illness; who has recently died and of course mutual grandchild worship. Political discussion is limited to an unquestioning repetition of “Daily Mail” editorial material. You find yourself being treated as a village idiot by well-meaning but patronising shop assistants

Mentally, you find that although your long term memory stays more or less intact, short term memory declines. “Google” usage increases to make up the short fall. Sustained concentration becomes increasingly difficult.

Then to cap it all there are those depressing sales booklets that arrive through post advertising all sorts of incontinence helps, gadgets to pick up dropped objects from the floor, large numbered mobile phones, remedies for indigestion, diarrhoea, constipation and all sorts of muscle rubs, long handled scissors for cutting toenails, devices for putting on socks, support tights, aprons for cover while eating, thick handled cutlery etc., the list goes on.

Welcome to our and what will be, your world….

“As you are now, so once were we,
As we are now, so shall ye be.”

When I first read this memento mori in Norwich Cathedral at 15, it meant nothing, but now, sixty years later…

On the other hand…
I accept that the battle against age and the passing of time can never be won, but I, for one am fighting a bloody good rearguard action!

In my next Blog article I will describe my own personal choice of strategy and tactics. They will almost certainly not be yours, but if someone out there benefits from my hard won experience, I will feel justified in having made the effort.

9. Mar, 2018
3. Mar, 2018


Historical research has often been likened to doing a complex jigsaw with an undisclosed number of pieces missing and no picture on the box. There is then the question of deciding if what evidence there is, is biased and to what extent a judgement based upon it can be considered probable, possible, improbable or impossible. (Surely the instinctive steps we al take when reading a newspaper or watching a television broadcast?) Take for instance the following story


16th June 1647, Mr. Thomas Inkle son of a wealthy London Merchant and brought up not to look beyond profit and loss in anything, set sail in the good ship ‘Achilles’ for the West Indies. There he would make his fortune buying and selling.

Running short of provisions, the Achilles was forced to put into a creek on mainland America in search of fresh supplies. A landing party including young 20 year old Thomas Inkle waded ashore, unaware that they were being watched by a large band of Native Americans.

Having imprudently advanced too far into the thick forest, the English were attacked and nearly all slaughtered by the Indians. Inkle managed to escape by running deep into the woodland. Finally exhausted, he just flung himself down on the ground to recover.

He was not alone. Standing over him was a beautiful, naked Indian princess. Never having seen a European before, let alone one clad from head to foot, she promptly fell in love with him and he with her. Wishing to keep Inkle safe from her own people, the girl took him to a cave where he could hide while she undertook to bring him food and water.

Over the next few months as the two young lovers grew closer they developed as language between them. Thomas thus discovered that her name was Yarico, the daughter of a chief and soon swore that he would like to take her back to London as his wife. He made this a solemn promise and told her of all the wonderful things he would buy her.

Then it happened. Yarico sighted a ship off the coast. Sending signals by day she attracted a rescue party and led Thomas to his fellow countrymen through secret forest paths.

Learning that the vessel was bound for the slave markets of Barbados, he became thoughtful and all he began to see in Yarico was the time and money he had lost while hiding from her people. How was he to explain away his bride to his family? Did he need to?

On landing and true to his upbringing, Thomas Inkle promptly sold Yarico as a slave to a Barbadian merchant.

In trying to get him to change his mind and stand by his promises the poor girl told Inkle she was pregnant by him.

Inkle’s reaction? To marry her as promised? To support her and his child and take both to England?
Not exactly…
He promptly doubled the price he had been asking for her from the purchaser!

A sad tale and one I have just written but if I give you its provenance how reliable was it as my source of evidence? If proved genuine, would the sources make it more or less dishonourable?

I first encountered it in Volume 1, number 11 of “The Spectator Papers” written of Sir Richard Steele and published March 13, 1711.

On further research I discovered that Steele, in turn, had based his account on that of Richard Ligon, Gent., in his “A True and Exact History of the Island of Barbados (sic) in 1673. I next discovered that this was but the second edition, the first having appeared in 1657, within but 10 years of young Inkle’s shameful treatment of Yarico.

So did Ligon invent the story to sex up his book bearing in mind that the small British community on Barbados at the time would have detected a fabrication at once? Was the story widely known at the time but apocryphal-the 1650’s equivalent of our “did you hear about the woman who dried her poodle in her microwave? Alternatively did the events really happen as detailed? If so, all of them or some of them? Is there any other evidence to support Richard Ligons’s account? For sure Inkle would have felt no shame in letting it be known any more than the slave traders on the island.

So then, your view of Inkle and Yarico?
What does the available evidence suggest about the story… probably true, possibly true, improbable, impossible?

Does it matter anyway?


1. A True and Exact History of the Island of Barbadoes. By Richard Ligon, Gent., 1673. First Edition 1657
Spectator papers #11, March 13, 1711.
Sir Richard Steele.

23. Feb, 2018


As I have often written, at the end of the last Ice Age, what are now the British Isles were uninhabited…it was too cold for people.

Then the climate changed and it became warmer, human beings crossed “Doggerland,” the land bridge from Europe to Britain. Collectively they are known to archaeologists as “North Western European Hunters and Gatherers- farming had not yet been discovered.

Descended from them was “Cheddar Man” whose skeleton was discovered late in the 19th century.

Why did they come? Certainly to make a better life for themselves and who knows, perhaps to escape persecution. Sounds familiar? It should do, for these have been the motives of every family of immigrants that have crossed our shores from that time to this, doing the same thing for the same reasons even as you read this article.

These Middle Stone Age immigrant's needs were universal...water, food, secure shelter, clothing and ease of transport. Following the relatively woodland-free chalk and limestone uplands they found them all in the Cheddar Gorge.

There were caves for easily defended shelter; water for drinking and an attraction to the animals that provided a ready source of food and clothing.

Like the many other newcomers over the 300 generations that separate them from us, these Mesolithic hunter-gathers brought technological innovation. They knew nothing of farming, ceramics and metallurgy but were skilled flint workers. They had the bow and arrow, sharp cutting tools and had domesticated dogs for help in hunting animals funnelled into the gorge in search of water.

So much we already knew but only now, thanks to several years of painstaking research with advanced technology do we seerealise that Cheddar Man had brilliant blue eyes and of course, black skin.

This must pose two major problems for you racial bigots out there. What if YOU are among the 1 in 10 indigenous Brits out there who are genetically descended from Cheddar Man and his people?

Secondly, is he one of US or one of THEM or are YOU one of THEM or one of us?