Roger Bannister RIP

I grew up listening to my parents talk of the legends that lit up the austerity of post-war Britain, two names that stood out because of the sheer magnitude of their achievements were Edmund Hillary and Roger Bannister. The latter died last weekend and is of course remembered for running the mile in less than four minutes. Instead of monetising the success, he retired from competitive athletics “to do something serious”, he had got what would have been called a proper job.

“Now that I am taking up a hospital appointment I shall have to give up international athletics. I shall not have sufficient time to put up a first-class performance. There would be little satisfaction for me in a second-rate performance, and it would be wrong to give one when representing my country.

He worked as a neurologist for the rest of his practicing life.

How times change.

Inspired by John Naughton

We can still admire his landmark run in May 1954.

Walter Becker RIP

I somehow managed to miss out on tickets for the forthcoming Steely Dan/Doobie Brothers gigs, they were on my musical bucket list and will have to remain there.

It was with great sadness that I read of the death of Walter Becker. The tributes will flow from those who are far more entitled to comment on the technical elements of the music that Steely Dan made. I just know their first four albums as the soundtrack of the years 1972-78 and that Reelin’ in the Years still makes me smile and want to dance. I remember the excitement that I felt when I managed to buy an import copy of the single at a wooden record shack in the Haymarket in Newcastle. I know I had it on the album but it was a great single, so when it played out it was finished, it didn’t merge into the next track – some of you will understand the feeling.

Had I realised that they were a “jazz” group it is doubtful I would have shown such interest or had such enjoyment. Thank goodness my ears were my only arbiters.

Richard Williams blog.

London Jazz News.

The Guardian

Once more:

Lefsetz on George Michael…

“Music, when done right, is undeniable. It doesn’t matter what the critics say, it doesn’t matter what you believed yesterday, it doesn’t matter what your friends have to say, you’re immediately infected, the sound just makes you feel good, puts a smile on your face, makes you glad to be alive.”

Full article here – worth a read.

Tony Cozier RIP

28f689a545b42ab060511ce61d0a2b57Never presume.

One of the wonderful things about radio is that you make your own mind up about the person whose voice you can hear and it’s rare that you get it right.

I first heard Tony Cozier’s voice commentating on cricket during the Headingly Test in August 1966, England were defeated by an innings and 55 runs despite a dogged partnership by Basil D’Olviera and Ken Higgs. I was at scout camp in the Vale of Glamorgan and I remember one of the older boys making a comment about the West Indian commentator that these days would be considered downright racist.

Tony Cozier was from Barbados and had the accent to prove it. It wasn’t until I went to Bristol to watch the WI v Pakistan match in the World Cup in 1999 and was able to see into the commentary box with binoculars whilst listening to Test Match Special with an earpiece that I realised that the man I presumed looked like Sobers, Hall or Lara was white.

He came to cricket comentary from journalism and it showed in his approach. His wonderful voice was part of the coverage of every West Indian tour, a knowledgable, informative and entertaining commentator who was able to see and acknowledge faults in his own team and deeply regretted their fall from the pinacle of world cricket. He also knew that was the way with sport.

Another part of the sound of summers has left us RIP Tony Cozier, a full obituary here.

“The people who fail try just as hard” – David Hepworth on Henry Worsley

The sad story of the demise of Henry Worsley  passed me by – I was probably too wrapped up in something oh so important.

Here’s David Hepworth’s take on things from his blog

Henry Worsley’s last message is a rare episode in the narrative of human accomplishment. It’s not often we get to hear the sound of somebody failing. But, as he says, the same thing happened to Ernest Shackleton. He shot his bolt. He came up short.

The same thing happens to most people who try difficult things. They fail. All political careers end in failure. The team trudging off the pitch disconsolate and empty-handed at the end of the big final tried just as hard as the team dancing with joy for the cameras.

Because we can’t face this truth we always tell ourselves that the winners – whether explorers, athletes, politicians, actors or scientists – won through because they tried harder and longer than anyone else. They didn’t. The only difference between the winners and the losers is this. They won.

and here is Henry’s last message, so dignified, so brave.






2016 #

Look out your window I can see his light…

In the week of David Bowie’s death there has been much outpouring of grief. Someone said to me on Tuesday, “ever since Diana the British seem to have taken to weeping and mass emotion after the death of someone / anyone famous”. A trifle cynical perhaps Mr B, but I don’t disagree.

Here is the most even-handed obituary that I have read, it’s by Richard Williams and those with a very long memory will remember him as the very first host of the Old Grey Whistle Test even before whispering Bob. Showing my age, I enjoyed Williams’ writing in the Melody Maker in the 70s and he still helps to shape my musical tastes.

I particularly like this piece and that he admits to not liking some of Bowie’s music particularly the Ziggy Stardust period.

For many years I dismissed David Bowie as a shallow opportunist. What was he doing that Andy Warhol and Lou Reed, conceptually and musically, hadn’t done with more wit and originality? I saw him at the Greyhound in Croydon in the summer of 1972, supported by Roxy Music in a pub room that can’t have held more than 200 people. He did the Ziggy Stardust thing, he and the band in full costume, and I didn’t care for it much.

Those particular songs still don’t do anything for me, but time sometimes dissolves prejudices and now I can see that what I took to be shallowness and opportunism were aspects of what we call the pop process: the way things evolve through mimesis and metamorphosis, adapting to their time. And the response to the sudden news of his death leaves no doubt of the profound impact he had on people whose lives were then in the process of being formed.

It continues here.

For me, I loved Ziggy Stardust & subsequent albums, wandered away during the Berlin trilogy due to a busy life but thought Let’s Dance etc was wonderful. A true artist who wasn’t afraid to try different things, to accept that sometimes they didn’t work, to learn from that and then move on.

My favourite lyric come from the song Bewlay Brothers on the album Hunky Dory. I have no idea what it means but I just love the words.

And my brother lays upon the rocks
He could be dead, he could be not, he could be you
He’s chameleon, comedian, Corinthian and caricature
Shooting up pie in the sky

RIP Mr Jones and thanks for all the times I helped the people dance with you.

2016 #15


Aubrey Sheiham RIP

Photo_-_SheihamI was aware that Dr Sheiham’s views produced vitriolic opposition from a lot of people, for a lot of whom I had little respect. I did meet him, briefly, whilst I was doing my first job at The London Hospital in Whitechapel where he seemed to be held in high esteem. His first contentious paper was published during my student days in 1977 but his name really came to my attention when I started working in general practice in 1981. He was viewed by my principals as someone who wanted to take the bread from their mouths and whose views were seeking to undermine their means of making a living. One of these individuals had shared with me his way of making money from dentistry which were progressively large fillings followed by root canal treatment and crowns. I wouldn’t have chosen that route for my family or myself so I was pretty sure I didn’t share his views on Sheiham either. His paper had been published in the Lancet which my  brother, who was just about to publish his first research paper, assured me would not publish dodgy research.

Dentistry, like many walks of life, has never liked people who question the status quo, the respect for Dr Sheiham from his peers and research colleagues is clear in this piece from Cochrane UK.

The fact that he started in periodontology alongside one of my heroes the late Bernie Keiser only increases my respect. There was a cohort of “awkward squad” perio people that I was fortunate enough to encounter during the days when I was realising that there was a lot more to dentistry than amlagam and acrylic, turbines and forceps. So many of them died young too, Bernie, John Zamet, Marsh Midda and more recently Graham Smart.

One obituary was published in the Guardian:

No dentistry means unhealthy teeth; therefore more dentistry means healthier teeth. There may be some truth to the first part, but the epidemiologist Aubrey Sheiham, who has died aged 79, questioned the second – and got into a heap of trouble for doing so. In 1977 he published a paper in the Lancet reviewing the evidence for the six-monthly dental check-up. He concluded that it may well do more harm than good. Continues here.

Another in the Lancet

2016 #6

A life worth remembering

This is the time of year for looking forward, perhaps taking stock and learning from the past but not dwelling on mistakes.

I was preparing to use this weekend blog to list my “achievements” of 2015, books read, films and plays seen, miles travelled, flights taken (& missed), hotels away from home and yadda, yadda, yadda. People do this either in blog or social media so perhaps I should join the gang? There’s a fine line between marketing, blatant self promotion and seeing your own life through rose-tinted spectacles – not that there’s anything wrong with donning the specs now and then. It doesn’t come naturally to me and I tend to hide my lamp under a bushel, and whilst I do agree that, “the unexamined life is not worth living” I’ll let my actions speak for themselves and stick to doing the examining and reflecting (mostly) on my own, thanks.

The catalyst for my change of mind was reading the summary of the obituaries from The New York Times , one in particular caught my eye and my imagination. This was a report of the death of Nicholas Winton who died in his sleep in hospital at the age of 106. His death was reported on the website of the Rotary Club of Maidenhead where Sir Nicholas, he was knighted in 2003, had lived. Born in London of a German-Jewish family who converted to Christianity, his father was a merchant banker, he was brought up in comfort and attended Stowe School. He worked in banking in Berlin and Paris, learned to speak the local languages then returned to London and became a stockbroker.

He was a skilled fencer and enjoyed alpine sports but on a whim in December 1938 he cancelled a skiing holiday to join a friend in Prague who was helping refugees. Here he found vast camps of Jewish refugees living in dreadful conditions, there were restrictions against their immigrating to the West but the UK was an exception.

This is not the place to list what he manage except to say that using his own money for bribing officials and other legitimate expenses he managed to help 669 children escape certain death by transporting them to the UK.

The point of this tale is that he didn’t tell anybody about it and it was only when his wife found his scrapbooks with the lists of names, photographs and reports in 1998 that it came to light. His first reaction was to tell her to throw them away as they would not be of interest to anyone.

So please click this link to read about a someone who really did something and then got on with his life. I hope it will inspire you.


PS My year in summary: I made a lot of mistakes, and turned a few of them into new Terms & Conditions and hopefully a few more into lessons learned. Going with the flow usually seems to work out though. Thanks to photographer Paul Clarke for this summary which I have borrowed. Of course if folks didn’t post things like Paul’s on social media I wouldn’t have read it and repeated!

2016 #2

Oliver Sacks – R.I.P.


The neurologist Oliver Sacks has died in New York. There is a full obituary in The Guardian here.

I read the piece (below) in the New York Times earlier this year after listening to a review of his autobiography. Like most of us I would like to think that I could be so eloquent about our approaching demise – like most of us I know that I almost certainly could not be.

My Own Life
Oliver Sacks on Learning He Has Terminal Cancer

A MONTH ago, I felt that I was in good health, even robust health. At 81, I still swim a mile a day. But my luck has run out — a few weeks ago I learned that I have multiple metastases in the liver. Nine years ago it was discovered that I had a rare tumor of the eye, an ocular melanoma. The radiation and lasering to remove the tumor ultimately left me blind in that eye. But though ocular melanomas metastasize in perhaps 50 percent of cases, given the particulars of my own case, the likelihood was much smaller. I am among the unlucky ones.

I feel grateful that I have been granted nine years of good health and productivity since the original diagnosis, but now I am face to face with dying. The cancer occupies a third of my liver, and though its advance may be slowed, this particular sort of cancer cannot be halted.

It is up to me now to choose how to live out the months that remain to me. I have to live in the richest, deepest, most productive way I can. In this I am encouraged by the words of one of my favorite philosophers, David Hume, who, upon learning that he was mortally ill at age 65, wrote a short autobiography in a single day in April of 1776. He titled it “My Own Life.”

“I now reckon upon a speedy dissolution,” he wrote. “I have suffered very little pain from my disorder; and what is more strange, have, notwithstanding the great decline of my person, never suffered a moment’s abatement of my spirits. I possess the same ardour as ever in study, and the same gaiety in company.”

I have been lucky enough to live past 80, and the 15 years allotted to me beyond Hume’s three score and five have been equally rich in work and love. In that time, I have published five books and completed an autobiography (rather longer than Hume’s few pages) to be published this spring; I have several other books nearly finished.

Hume continued, “I am … a man of mild dispositions, of command of temper, of an open, social, and cheerful humour, capable of attachment, but little susceptible of enmity, and of great moderation in all my passions.”

Here I depart from Hume. While I have enjoyed loving relationships and friendships and have no real enmities, I cannot say (nor would anyone who knows me say) that I am a man of mild dispositions. On the contrary, I am a man of vehement disposition, with violent enthusiasms, and extreme immoderation in all my passions.

And yet, one line from Hume’s essay strikes me as especially true: “It is difficult,” he wrote, “to be more detached from life than I am at present.”

Over the last few days, I have been able to see my life as from a great altitude, as a sort of landscape, and with a deepening sense of the connection of all its parts. This does not mean I am finished with life.

On the contrary, I feel intensely alive, and I want and hope in the time that remains to deepen my friendships, to say farewell to those I love, to write more, to travel if I have the strength, to achieve new levels of understanding and insight.

This will involve audacity, clarity and plain speaking; trying to straighten my accounts with the world. But there will be time, too, for some fun (and even some silliness, as well).

I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential. I must focus on myself, my work and my friends. I shall no longer look at “NewsHour” every night. I shall no longer pay any attention to politics or arguments about global warming.

This is not indifference but detachment — I still care deeply about the Middle East, about global warming, about growing inequality, but these are no longer my business; they belong to the future. I rejoice when I meet gifted young people — even the one who biopsied and diagnosed my metastases. I feel the future is in good hands.

I have been increasingly conscious, for the last 10 years or so, of deaths among my contemporaries. My generation is on the way out, and each death I have felt as an abruption, a tearing away of part of myself. There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever. When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate — the genetic and neural fate — of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.

I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.

Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.

Correction: February 26, 2015
Because of an editing error, Oliver Sacks’s Op-Ed essay last Thursday misstated the proportion of cases in which the rare eye cancer he has — ocular melanoma — metastasizes. It is around 50 percent, not 2 percent, or “only in very rare cases.” When Dr. Sacks wrote, “I am among the unlucky 2 percent,” he was referring to the particulars of his case. (The likelihood of the cancer’s metastasizing is based on factors like the size and molecular features of the tumor, the patient’s age and the amount of time since the original diagnosis.)

Oliver Sacks, a professor of neurology at the New York University School of Medicine, is the author of many books, including “Awakenings” and “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.”


Per-Ingvar Branemark – R.I.P.

250px-Branemark_headshot2I was very sorry to hear of the death of Per-Ingvar Branemark who died on December 20th. at the age of 85. He had been ill for some time.

The discovery in 1952 that titanium would integrate with bone flew in the face of conventional thinking at the time. The finding which was by chance, as so many in science are. He was researching blood flow in the bones of rabbits and found that the titanium optical chambers of the microscopes could not be removed. He termed this phenomenon “osseointegration”.

I don’t know how the jump was made to the application in dentistry, Sverker Toreskog once told me that he had suggested it to Branemark over coffee one morning in Gothenburg, but Branemark constructed “fixtures” of pure titanium which were carefully inserted into the implant site. His first patient was Gosta Larsson and the fixtures were still in place at the patient’s death 40 years later.

The first presentation of his research work was in 1978, more than a quarter of a century after his initial findings. Such dedication to the research into the process of integration and its use in dentistry needed a team of physicians, dentists, biologists, engineers, metallurgists and physicists under Branemark’s leadership. His meticulous procedures and attention to detail meant that by the time he released his findings the procedure was already tried and tested.

Unfortunately dental implants had a very poor reputation until the discovery of osseointegration, with patients suffering from their loss and often being worse off than before treatment. So in may ways Branemark was swimming against the tide of opinion and history and was facing a great deal of scepticism from medical and dental colleagues. He struggled with funding for his research and was eventually funded from outside his home country.

The fact that dental implantology is now seen and taught as a part of mainstream dentistry is a testament to the rapid growth and great success of the procedures that he pioneered.

The world, not just dentistry, owes a great deal to this meticulous and dedicated man whose findings have brought benefits through increased quality of life to millions.


The man who made people smile. here

Per-Ingvar Brånemark. here

Obituary Dentinal Tubules: here


%d bloggers like this: