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Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Happy New Decade, The First Brit, My NHS and My George 3rd

Happy 2020!

As we enter a new decade, with what feels like more change and uncertainty than ever at home and abroad, let's reflect for a moment to get things into proportion. How many times have you heard people say that they have never known such unpredictable, such depressing times in politics at home and globally?

Yet, let's just reflect for a moment. The 1930's and 1940's with WW2 and National Socialism were clearly immeasurably worse than anything we have seen since. I grew up in the 1970's and 1980's with the miners' strikes, the three-day week and the general shoddiness of UK factory goods. Rubbish was piled up in the streets, we had no electricity so my mother 'cooked' for us on a small gas burner and the Soviet Union refused to take British exports due to the poor quality. Then the world was shaken in 1986 by Chernobyl, the world's worst nuclear disaster, contributing to the fall of the Soviet empire and the realisation that man could quite easily destroy all life on our planet. In 2001, 9/11 unleashed a new type of terrorism, more evil that anything we had seen since the war. Then the 2008 recession was the worst in our lifetimes following which we started to see countries falling out of favour with globalisation and starting to look inward again.

Technology will continue to change our lives and our world - mostly for the good

So perhaps things are not so bad today? What is sure is that two areas of change are unstoppable and will affect us all in many ways: Technology and Climate. I believe these will impact on us in the new decade in many ways, both good and bad. If we do wake up to try and save our planet, we will be forced to change many of our old behaviours. The tech revolution will continue, bringing many benefits (particularly in health) and many societal changes that will be hard for people.

Vast areas of Australia are currently burning over Christmas as every state is now over 40 degrees C

But I remain optimistic about our futures, provided we embrace change and don't try to deny and delay the inevitable. Let's get on with it!

Happy New Year!


The First Brit - 10,000 year old man from Cheddar Gorge

This is what our ancestors looked like according to scientists

I watched an extraordinary documentary on Channel 4 that was originally broadcast last year I believe.

The story was told by the impressive group of ancient DNA experts at the Natural History Museum, genetics professors at UCL and archaeologists who worked together to analyse the entire DNA of Britain’s oldest skeleton for the first time.

Beforehand, facts about Cheddar Man were sparse. His skeleton was unearthed in Gough’s Cave, Cheddar Gorge, Somerset in 1903. He was 5 ft 5, 10 stone, and died in his early twenties about 10,000 years ago.

Using the latest sequencing technology, the scientists conducting the full DNA analysis promised to tell us what he looked like, where his ancestors were from, and how he related to us today. At the time, the UK was connected to the continent, so people could just walk straight here across Doggerland. No ferry required!

10,000 years ago, people could walk across Doggerland to the UK

Scientists were able to create a model of Cheddar man using DNA from his skeleton. They appear quite confident in their results and say that he originated from the Middle East. The supposition is that UK man started off having black skin 10,000 years ago and it gradually became lighter, presumably due to our climate. A bit of a surprise perhaps for many people and a re-think about their origins and ancestors!

Cheddar man's skeleton from 10,000 years ago

My NHS and My George 3rd

On December 1st, I thought that I had food poisoning or a stomach bug of some sort. So I stopped eating for 24 hours and waited for it to pass. It did, but then it came back with a vengeance again and again. As a result, I ate very little over the following three weeks and lost over 6 kilos. Eating even the smallest biscuit gave me quite considerable pain.

At its worst point, two weeks in, I spent 3 hours on the toilet and I didn't know which way up to sit as my body was attempting to evacuate every last drop inside me from both ends at once. I have never felt so ill for so long.

At about that point, I contacted my local GP who saw me the same day and arranged for me to come back the following day for a full set of blood tests, the results of which were ready the following morning. I had another same day appointment at which my GP referred me for further tests. To cut a long story short, I had 3 sets of blood tests, a urine test, stool analysis, several detailed physical examinations, X rays, a CT scan and an endoscopy over the 2 GP visits, 3 visits to the John Radcliffe and 1 to the Churchill hospitals. All came back normal so they don't know what was wrong with me.

In the 18th century, Doctors must have often done more harm than good

I was constipated for much of this period and my life was in danger of resembling the scenes from the film The Madness of King George, in which George the 3rd had a small army of so-called 'Doctors' who would examine his urine and stools everyday and make diagnoses and recommendations based on comparing samples from one day to the next, all of which they kept in large white urns.

Obsessed with the king's stools

I am pleased to say I am largely back to normal and I am even more pleased that I live now, in the 2020's and not back in the 18th century, when anyone fortunate enough to be able to afford to see a Doctor was usually diagnosed incorrectly and administered 'remedies' that made you worse. I still have more tests to do. To be continued.

[In early January 2020, I had a sigmoidoscopy, the final test, along with the results from the biopsies, confirming that all was normal. The Doctors can't say what caused my illness and have advised me to take a tablespoon of golden linseed with breakfast every day to minimise risk of re-occurrence!]

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