Stuart Heydinger-the South Pole and Back

George W. Warhurst was my mentor, sidekick and sometime saviour while I was at The Times from 1975-1984. George, or Bill as he was known to all, was a greatly undervalued photographer. His somewhat dishevelled appearance and kindly diffident manner belied his inner strengths and tenacious spirit. His hair seemed to go in all directions at the same time and he was never without a small cigar on the go, a habit I took up for many years. He always wore a tie and a suit, a crumpled corduroy suit, but a suit never the less. He used a couple of battered M3 Leicas for his work and specialised in working in low light without a flash, a style I have followed ever since.Bill Warhurst crop.jpg

Bill Warhurst at a Times function in the late 1970’s

He covered the 1968 student riots in Paris producing some stunning images that re defined, ‘Paris by Night’. He sat it out in Tierra del Feugo on the southernmost tip of South America for many weeks waiting for Francis Chichester to round Cape Horn to make a simply brilliant picture of Chichester and his tiny Gypsy Moth riding the giant storm tossed waves of the cold grey South Atlantic, produced at considerable risk to himself and his pilot after one of his empty film canisters became stuck in the wires controlling the aircraft wing flaps. He also saved me from being shot by an RUC Policeman in Northern Ireland. He pushed me to the ground as the officer took aim during a street riot at the time of the Bobby Sands hunger strike at the infamous Maze prison. I rolled over on the ground to see Bill jumping spread eagled in the air as a plastic baton round passed between his legs.

George was named Bill as his father who was named William was called George and he was also a photographer on the Times but in an earlier period. Bills father George was one of the first photographers to join The Times in the early 1920’s and became famous by being the official Times photographer on the Howard Carter excavations of the Tomb of Tutankhamun in Egypt.

Both George and his son Bill were to die far too young and both in tragically sad circumstances. Maybe the curse of the Egyptian King really does exist.

 

Bill, my friend, will live on in this story he told me while on a long drive to Strasbourg to cover the opening of the European Parliament. It’s about yet another photographer called Stuart Heydinger who worked for The Times in the 1950’s. It’s a great tale of derring-do and management stupidity. The story may have grown a whisker or two over the years but I believe it to be essentially true.

It’s 1957 and Dr Vivian Fuchs ( later to become Sir ) and Sir Edmund Hillary were jointly attempting the first Trans-Antarctic crossing via the South Pole. The Joint Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic team consisted of Fuchs who headed up the British team and Hillary who led the New Zealand group. Both men were attempting to put to rest the heroic failure of Shackelton many years earlier. Fuchs was to advance from the Weddle Sea in the west and Hillary from the Ross Sea in the east preparing a return trail of supplies.

The Times was of course more than just a little interested as they had the exclusive first reports of Hillary’s ascent of Everest by James Morris (now Jan Morris ) only 4 years earlier. The Times were helping to finance the South Pole expedition.

The editor of The Times, after seeing The Daily Mail’s Noel Barber scoop the world with an exclusive front page blast, ‘Mail Man reports from the South Pole’, (or ‘Barber’s Pole’ as some Fleet Street wag had it ) demanded that his newly appointed picture editor, Franklyn Wood, send his best photographer to the South Pole immediately and wait until Fuchs and Hillary met up. Simple.

Franklyn Wood was a recent high calibre scalp from the Daily Express and according to Heydinger, ’A great newspaperman’. He understood immediately the problems of getting pictures back from such a remote inhospitable location. Woods sent his communications manager, again poached from The Express and an ‘old hand’ down to Muirheads in Kent. Muirheads were developing a ‘transmitting machine’ but they only had a prototype to show. When they heard what The Times were proposing they willingly handed over the prototype against a firm order from a production model later. The transmitter needed to operate over a radio and had to hooked up to a converter-AM to FM which not only added to the expense but also to the bulk of this  priceless equipment.

Wood sent for his toughest operator, Stuart Heydinger, ex British Army parachutist in post WW2 Palestine. A tough cookie indeed.

The ‘boys’ in The Times darkroom organised his mobile darkroom kit for processing 120 roll films and making prints on the ice cap but didn’t supply any blackout material.

 

Stuart was sent to Christchurch New Zealand first class on a Quantas flight. The valuable valve driven transmitting equipment occupied it’s own seats in the cabin to avoid any possible damage in the hold.

Stuart travelled via Sydney where there was a cable from the US commander of  Operation Deepfreeze, Admiral Dufek, indicating he would be happy to help getting him to the Antarctic. Operation Deepfreeze was the US Navy support operation to the scientific research station on the ice and had a base at Christchurch NZ.

 

Stuart Heydinger writes.

 

‘When I arrived at my hotel, I rang  up. They sent a staff car and brought me to the Admiral. They gave me bad news: the ice runway at McMurdo had broken up due to an unusually mild Antarctic summer . They could not operate their long range wheeled aircraft. A US Navy ship was due to sail south in two weeks. It looked as though Franklyn had put his head on the chopping block for nothing. One good thing, the Admiral and his wife and daughter had  rented  a bungalow in the city, and that night he invited me home for a drink – and  some. Then the panic cables started to arrive – and one suggested I put my Para training to good use and jump in.

PREPARE YOURSELF FOR LEAVING AT ONE HOURS NOTICE EQUIPPED PARACHUTE SELF AND TRANSMITTER FOR DROP STOP STANDBY AT HOTEL OR LEAVE ADEQUATE INSTRUCTIONS OF WHEREABOUTS FOR QUICK GETAWAY.

 

 

So Stuart went off to ‘Parachutes R Us’ or the local equivalent on South Island NZ to buy a parachute, one usable in Antarctic conditions presumably.

In the meantime back in London, Franklyn Wood was charged with procuring an airliner that could fly over the Antarctic Ice Cap and from which Stuart could make his heroic jump onto the South Pole. As you do.

Picture Editor Wood arranged that the Times late night driver take him and Eddie Price, The Times Chief Wireman on a secret mission to the fledgling London Airport out on Hounslow Heath to the west of London. He approached Air New Zealand first, an office copy of the Times Atlas of the World ( concise edition ) tucked under his arm and enquired if they flew anything that could get over to the Pole and back, unfortunately they had nothing but recommended he try Quantas, the national carrier for Australia.

Wood checked the distances involved with the Quantas Chief Pilot by using that well known measuring device, the ‘rule of thumb’. He literally measured his thumb across the pages of the Times Atlas of the World and pronounced that this was so many thousand miles and did they have anything that could do the job. ‘Sure we do, we can supply a four engine, three tail-fin Constellation airliner, no problem’. Costings which came to several thousand pounds were verbally agreed. Wood then asked if they could cut a hole in the floor so that his photographer could jump out over the South Pole. ‘Sure’ they said ( and at this point I can only conclude that the Quantas people were trying to amuse this deluded man until the people from the funny farm came to take him away ) ‘we can do that, insurance could be a problem though’. A somewhat dejected Norman left after being told that the insurance for plane and crew would be roughly equal to the entire turnover for The Times Newspaper for the past year.

SH writes…down in the Southern hemisphere

Admiral Dufek thought I was crazy. He took a real shine to me. He said,” Heydinger, why are you not afraid to die ” I told him I would rather that, than go back to London without a picture. I really meant it.

In the meantime a friend of London based photographer Bill Warhurst who was a Lieutenant in the NZ Airforce invited Stuart for dinner. It was he who procured the ‘chute.

Stuart, received a cable the following day.

 

CANCEL PARACHUTE JUMP SOONEST STOP WOOD STOP.

 

Back in blighty The Times had got into bed with The Daily Express whereby the Express had cut a syndication deal to publish any photographs taken by Stuart at the same time as The Times, mainly I would think to get one over on their arch rival the Daily Mail. The great beasts of Fleet street always enjoyed playing these expensive games and none more so than the Beaverbrook Express and the Harmsworth Mail and now the slightly more refined Astor’s ( who owned The Times ) wanted to play.

 

SH writes.

During this frustrating period a US Navy type P2V Neptune (aircraft) came into our lives. We saw it circling low over Christchurch several times. Its tail fin was painted scarlet as were the wing tips. And it had skis!

 I rang at once Commander Merle McBain, the Admirals ‘Man Friday’. He knew what I was thinking. “No go,” he said. We learned the machine was desperately needed at McMurdo. The 2000 miles flight from Christchurch to McMurdo was beyond the plane’s normal maximum range, in consequence it had additional fuel tanks fitted, adding ten percent to its weight. To get it into the air it would be blasted off the runway with sixteen JATO canisters (jet assisted take off). The crew was made up entirely of volunteers, one, the navigator, was the only survivor of a similar attempt a few months earlier, to get a Neptune “down south”. It had crashed on landing.

 The machine was due to take off on Sunday morning. Bertram Jones The Daily Express Sydney correspondent and I invited Admiral Dufek, and his wife – and two US Navy Captains whose vessel were in harbour at Port Littleton to dinner at our hotel Saturday evening. It all went very well. At the end of the evening we said our farewells – two staff cars were waiting at the door of the hotel. Mrs Dufek took me to one side and whispered in my ear, “Don’t worry Mr Heydinger, Dufek is going to put both of you on that P2V.”

 Early Sunday morning we got a call from McBain, giving us the great news. A car would collect us in two hours. I wrote a farewell note to my wife, and placed it on top of my ‘civil’ clothes in a suitcase I left with the concierge. The Neptune (it had retractable wheels in the skis, of course) was flown from the NZ military airfield to Christchurch Airport to take advantage of a longer runway. The news had got around that a Neptune was going take off with JATO, and there were quite a number of Christchurch citizens gathered to watch the event. The crew, Jones, and I, posed for a group photo taken by a Navy photographer.  We roared along the runway under power of two piston engines and two auxiliary  jet engines, and then the JATO blasted us up into the sky. The Admiral called on the RT, and wished me a safe flight.

 The flight was noisy but smooth. One of the crew members grilled us giant steaks, and served us coffee. There were three US Navy vessels on station between Christchurch and McMurdo, and as we approached Antarctica, the navigator plotted the huge icebergs that were appearing below, on a chart, as a likely crash landing place, in an emergency. It took eleven hours to reach McMurdo. The pilot had not made a ski landing before, and he made five dummy descents before he put the machine down on the ice with a series of alarming thuds. Marking the start of the runway was the brilliant red tail section of the previously wrecked Neptune. I had finally made it to the Antarctic, exactly two weeks after I had  arrived in New Zealand. All I had to do now was get to the South Pole.

Heydinger and Jetto.jpg

Stuart Heydinger © with his trusty Rollieflex about to get aboard the US Navy type P2V Neptune (aircraft)…To get it into the air it would be blasted off the runway with sixteen JATO canisters (jet assisted take off). 

 

 Within a few days by using all his guile and cunning Stuart arrived at the McMurdo Sound US Naval Base on Antarctica to get organised for the historic moment when Fuchs and Hillary were to meet. He and Jones ‘commandeered’ a tracked vehicle to transport all the stuff brought out from the UK. The Muirhead wire machine, the converter, his precious cameras, the mobile darkroom and of course his overnight bag all contained in a wooden crate, made by The Times carpenters back in Printing House Square in London. Although Stuart was aware that the ‘competition’ had already arrived some days earlier  I can’t imagine how he felt when he discovered in the press room five other journalists also waiting for the main event already there and had bagged the best chairs. A United Press ( UP ) correspondent, Noel Barber from the Daily Mail in London, a couple of New Zealanders including a photographer and the ‘embedded’ Times reporter.

Stuart, not a man to hang about particularly after discovering that there was ‘competition’ moved all his kit two miles up the road and around the corner to the New Zealand base.

Hillary arrived at the South Pole first in early January 1958, much to the annoyance of Fuchs who was still some days way out in the white Antarctic wilderness. By the time Stuart had arrived Hillary was back at McMurdo Sound. Stu shook hands with Hillary and received a somewhat frosty reception that had nothing to do with the freezing conditions but had everything to do with all his amazing transmitting machines.

Stuart laid his plans quietly and away from the rest of the press pack with the local radio operator handing him the technical instruction manual for the Muirhead kit which Eddie Price had given him back in London. The radio-man was not enthused.

On the 20th of January 1958 the momentous meeting at the South Pole happened. I leave you for a moment in Stuart’s capable hands.

 

SH Writes.

Three days before the Fuchs’s party were expected to reach the South Pole, Admiral Dufek arrived at McMurdo by sea – he routinely divided his time between Christchurch and the US Navy’s main Antarctic base.  Next day, at “cocktail hour”, he invited the press corp for drinks in his quarters (officially, the US Navy was  “dry”, but the Admiral had a supply of bourbon whisky – for medicinal purposes). Commander Coley, the officer in charge of flying was present; and Ed Hillary turned up from Scott Base. After several drinks were downed,  the Admiral sent for food from the “chow house”. The party continued and he came and sat next to me. Helped by the alcohol, I launched in to an impassioned plea for a flight to the Pole. The fatherly Admiral said it was getting late in the flying season for flights up to the Polar plateau . My response was to ask why the hell had I risked my neck flying to McMurdo, when now, I  could not go on to  the Pole. That bourbon had some kick! The Admiral got up and took Commander Coley to one side; they were having an earnest discussion – Coley didn’t look at all pleased.

 Admiral Dufek took his seat again, and banged on the table with a glass. “.Gentlemen, a  P2V will be flying to the Pole tomorrow morning; you are all welcome to come along. And turning to Hillary, said  “You too, Ed”. Hillary sat poker faced. Later he was scathing about my plea to the Admiral: “You laid it on a bit thick,” he said. Perhaps so; I had had tears in my eyes, But they touched “old Dufek’s heart.

 The flight to the South Pole took four hours crossing over the awesome Beardmore Glacier, stairway to the Polar Plateau. First crossed by Amundsen, then Scott and now Heydinger.

The press party of six reporters and two photographers overnighted in a Jamesway hut part buried in the snow away from the main South Pole base.

Stuart takes up the tale….

Next day, high excitement -alternating with frustration after several false alarms – Fuchs’s SnoCats trundled into view. The “historic” meeting was at hand. Bunny Fuchs jumped down from the leading vehicle, and Hillary went forward, hand outstretched. I prepared to take a six “yarder” with my Rolleiflex. (On news shots, I never used the focusing screen. The front of the camera’s metal hood could be pushed down and the scene viewed through the opening.) All the reporters had cameras – and little idea – I said to them, “Stand here and we will all get a picture. What a hope! They ran hither and thither, like a bunch of idiots. None of them got a picture of the original handshake. They had the pair shake hands again. Breathless from the high altitude and the dreadful cold, I made my way slowly to the Pole Station darkroom. I missed the celebratory meal laid on for the explorers, and developed my film. The image of the meeting would prove  to be an “icon”. However, it would have been even better without a New Zealand reporter in the background, directly behind the outstretched hands of Hillary and Fuchs. I made radio prints for my Muirhead Transmitting Machine and waited for the return flight to McMurdo.

Stuart and the other photographers made their pictures, the handshake, close ups of grizzled faces, beards encrusted with ice. Good dramatic stuff. These iconic images could well have been the last Stuart or any of his reporter colleagues ever took.

Fuchs on the left meets with Hillary at the South Pole by Stuart Heydinger.jpg

Fuchs on the left with Hillary photographed by Stuart Heydinger©

Stuart again…..

Lying on the floor of the Neptune, everyone doing there best to look suitably brave, we waited for “blast off”. Lining the runway to watch were the newly arrived explorers. The Neptune started to move, gathered speed, and then the JATO kicked-in. The aircraft surged over the snowy wastes of the Polar Plateau, shuddering and leaping under the enormous thrust…….and didn’t become airborne! No longer on the prepared runway, one frozen snow-ridge in our path, and we would have cart wheeled to kingdome come . Our pilot was Commander Coley who had been against Pole flights that were not operationally necessary. I now understood why. His skill at the controls had undoubtedly saved our lives. He taxied back to the start point.

 Examination showed four of the JATO had not fired !                                                                                                                                                                                                                              There were insufficient reserves of JATO at the Pole base, it meant waiting for a second Neptune to bring in more. Hours later the cylinders arrived, and we climbed aboard our Neptune once again. I would rather have taken the train! This time there were no heart-stopping moments. At McMurdo, I managed to get a lift to Scott Base in a Weasel (a vehicle with tracks), where my picture transmitter was about to enable me to scoop the world.

London and the world knew what had happened because the BBC managed to get a radio signal out but what was really needed was photographic proof. All the photographers had essentially the same material and were all in the same boat together. On the ice cap there was no darkroom and certainly no transmission facility.

Or so everyone thought…

The radio operator at Scott Base, the same one who was schmoosed by Stuart a few days earlier, worked tirelessly to get three of Stuarts pictures ‘out’ that he had managed to develop and print in advance at the South Pole. After many delays caused by poor atmospheric weather conditions the word came back from Wellington NZ that the images were of ‘acceptable quality’ and would be passed on to Melbourne in Australia where they would be ‘boosted’ to Baldock in Hertfordshire in the UK before being sent by a GPO land line to Brent International Exchange. I ask the reader to consider all of the above when they ‘ping’ a picture from their camera-telephone in a matter of seconds to anywhere in the world at the press of one button.

It was two in the morning but full daylight under the ‘Big Eye’ of the Sun in the southern hemisphere when Stuart returned to the press billet euphoric with his world exclusive scoop. His colleagues were fast asleep…it had been a tiring day!

The first the opposition knew of this was when they started to receive cables screaming,

‘ TIMES OF LONDON HAVE PICTURES STOP WHERE ARE YOURS STOP ’

Now, although Stuart Heydinger was a tough cookie, ex Para in the British Army and hero of many different scraps around the world, He still took a couple of right handers from one of his so called ‘colleagues’ in particular the UP Correspondent who objected that Stuart, a Brit, was living off a friendship with the US Navy and furthermore that The Times had syndicated his pictures to Life Magazine in America basically scuppering his own UP South Pole coverage for all time.

Stuart relates what happened next…..

One evening I confronted him (the UP Man) about his bitter personal attacks. It resulted in a violent battle on the ice. I suffered a broken nose (a rather prominent feature, which made it an inevitable target for an aggressive fist), and he acquired, among other assorted blows, a boot in the groin. The Marquis of Queensbury rules didn’t apply in Antarctica! That night the Navy surgeon put some stitches in my nose, and promised to reset the bones at a later date. Which he did eventually, complete with plaster cast.. Prompting one tough Seabee (US Navy Construction Branch, CB), to enquire of me, “When is the next ‘Smoker”, Tiger?”

Heydinger broken nose.jpg

Stuart with his broken nose © Stuart Heydinger archive

It would take Fuchs and his party six weeks or so to complete the crossing of Antarctica, and arrive at Scott Base. A trying period in the confines of the Press quarters, for my morose adversary and I. But, thankfully a US Navy vessel arrived at McMurdo in the meantime; on board were a bunch of journalists, some from Fleet Street. They could not have been more welcome.

Despite the angry words and the thrown punch Stuart was quietly admired by his colleagues and he became a good friend of the Mail’s Noel Barber who some years later helped to alert a Doctor when Stu went down with severe sandfly fever in Amman in Jordan.

Weeks passed and a bruised and exhausted Stuart returned to blighty. He was feted by his Picture Editor and the management of The Times even being honoured  with a reception hosted by the Chairman, The Honourable Gavin Astor in the Blue Room at Printing House Square. A £200 bonus was a welcome addition.

A few months later the newly appointed Franklyn Wood, who was after all only reacting to his masters requirement left the Times. Maybe he was seen as just too expensive.

Stuart continued to have a much lauded career on The Times where he travelled the world non stop covering stories in the Middle East, Algeria, Singapore, Corsica and the EOKA uprising in Cyprus before  joining the Observer as their ‘Top Man’. After being wounded in Kashmir he carried his cameras out of the country in a bucket of water after he fell into a river to stop the film drying out prior to developing them.

In 2009 he gave a set of original prints to his home town of Kingston upon Thames for their permanent archive.

Interesting fact. Stuart started off in newspapers as a cartoonist for a local paper in Folkestone.

Hey, that’s what I wanted to do.

I am indebted to Stuart Heydinger who as an 92 plus year old photographer now lives with his partner in Germany.

My first draft of this essay was written not knowing if Stuart was still alive. I tracked him down and he very generously offered to read my scribblings and amend and correct as necessary. I did say that the story that I had written may have grown a few whiskers over the years in the telling, his response was, ‘Whiskers, maybe a full grown Bernard Shaw beard would be more like’.

Over a period of a couple of months in 2010 Stuart travelled back in his memory bank and re wrote his history ….there are no whiskers here, no embellishments, no hyperbole, just the truth….which is so much stranger than any fiction.

You couldn’t make it up.

Thanks Stu.

 

 

….many years later I climbed Snowdon in Wales with Sir Edmund Hillary and the remains of his Everest team including Lord John Hunt and George Band. It was the 25th anniversary of the 1953 assault and Ed and the team had brought along their families including grandchildren. I was unceremoniously booted out of the Pen-y-Gwryd Hotel their old training base hotel at the foot of Llanberis Pass for attempting to photograph the gang leaving for a light early morning stroll up Snowdon by a pith hat wearing Christopher Briggs the slightly eccentric owner of the hotel.

Lord Hunt, the elder statesman of the team hung back and suggested I follow and do my pictures down the road.

I hung back and followed and watched as Hillary and the whole gang went way out of shot as they climbed up what seemed to me to be a vertical cliff face.

I was supposed to meet up with Ronnie Faux, the Times reporter who specialised in stories about mountain climbers but as Hillary et al disappeared I had no alternative but to follow. I had no provisions, no water, no chew bars and I was wearing a pair of shoes that I wore when I married  my new wife Val a few weeks earlier. I left her with about 80p sitting at a beautiful waterfall a few miles away, as I was only expected to be away for half an hour !

I climbed and fell and used my long telephoto zoom lens as a kind of rock axe to hold onto the crumbling scree face.

After about 4-5 hours I reached a ridge a few hundred feet below the summit where I caught up with the Everest team having a picnic ! Lord Hunt enquired as to where my food was and upon realising that I had nothing proceeded to break up his sandwiches and fruit cake so as to give me half, what a really nice man.

I made a group photograph on the ridge with a tarn in the background and asked where they were going next. ‘Down…that away’. The downward vertical path didn’t look inviting so I elected to climb to the top and take the train down.

By the time I arrived the last train had gone and only the staff train was waiting to take the summit workers down the mountain. I wasn’t allowed on board as it wasn’t allowed that ‘tourists’ could travel on the staff train. It was suggested that I walk back down the mountain, keeping to a prescribed path. I suggested, by sitting on the railway tracks in front of the train that nobody was going anywhere unless I was on board. The stand off lasted a few minutes and I was given a seat.

When I returned to my car I found a note from Ronnie Faux tucked under the wiper blade, he had arrived after me but still managed to walk to the top of Snowden and back before me.

I picked up Val about 8 hours after leaving her near the water falls….she had spent the 80p within  ten minutes of my departure on an ice cream and had eaten nothing else all day.

A couple of years ago I found an old print of my Snowdon group photograph faded and stained by chemicals over the years. I made a decent copy and posted it to; Sir Edmund Hillary, Wellington, New Zealand. That was it, no real address but I guessed everyone knew where the Bee Keeper lived. Within a week I received an email from Ed’s wife thanking me on Ed’s behalf for the print and explaining that Ed wasn’t very well.

 

Ed died a few months later.

EVEREST TEAM HILLARY IN 1978 PIC 2-203 copy.jpg

George Band, Charles Wylie, Lord John Hunt and Edmund Hillary just below the summit of Snowdon in 1978 on the 25th anniversary of the conquest of Everest in 1953 taken by Brian Harris for The Times © 1978

The cross over interest here is more than just one photographer relating another’s tales of yore. Both Stuart and I have had the most marvellous of lives travelling the world at someone else’s expense, we have both seen history in the raw and both had the ability to be able to communicate that back to our respective reading audience, we are privileged.

A final coda to this chapter….

I also photographed Sir Vivian Fuchs at the Royal Geographical Society in London.             I made a quite formal study of the man. The sort of image that befits a man of a certain generation.

CH13-Fuchs by Harris and Heydinger.jpg

Imagine my horror when the picture ran across the back page of The Times with the top left hand corner cut out….why ?…oh to accommodate an old file photograph of Fuchs meeting Hillary on the South Pole taken by …yup, the rather wonderful Stuart Heydinger.

END © text by Brian Harris and Stuart Heydinger. Photographs © Stuart Heydinger and Brian Harris at The Times.

Thaxted 2018

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0.55 My Magic PSA Number

18 months after having my somewhat invasive Brachytherapy treatment for Prostate Cancer written about in earlier postings…and having certain levels of anxiety along the way I have been offered a discharge from Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.

Which means I’m better…or as better as I will ever be.

Brachytherapybeads.jpg

I’m sure you will be relieved to know, this is not a selfie, but a picture taken from the Wikipedia Brachytherapy site…but I do have 66 of those little radioactive critters deep inside me…

 

This morning I went to see Andrew Styling the Senior Urologist at Addenbrooke’s Hospital who is in charge of my case…he smiled and asked if I knew my numbers ( PSA Numbers )…I hadn’t been told my results by my GP after blood was taken last week, so was pretty darn chuffed when Andrew told me that my PSA number was down to 0.55, exactly half of my last count back in November 2017…and very very much down from the 6.7 PSA count when I went in to have the ‘op’ in the autumn of 2016.

Brian Prostae Happy Day 14 May 2018_BH8_5197.jpgA photograph of me by Nikki…’lookin’ pretty darn chuffed’

So, what is this PSA thingy, what’s the test and what does it show….The Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Test is NOT the be all and end all, it’s not the magic bullet…it’s an indicator, a bit of a red flag, if the numbers rise – then your GP should-must take this seriously and refer you to the Prostate Cancer experts…as far as I understand and from what I have gleaned over the past 20 months, the PSA numbers will give a decent indication if there is something wrong…if the PSA numbers stay static below a certain number, then that’s fine…but if they start to rise and go beyond the latest ‘Nice Guidelines’, then that’s the time to go for further examinations. I’ve been told that it’s not a reliable indicator and indeed some GP’s and practices still don’t see the need and almost actively discourage men of a certain age from having the PSA tests…all I do know is that it worked for me.  Here’s a link which explains in much more detail: https://prostatecanceruk.org/prostate-information/prostate-tests/psa-test

So, now Nikki and I can go away this year to Tuscany without the dreaded spectre of this eminently curable disease travelling along with us.

Brachytherapy and the wonderful Oncology and Urology team at Addenbrooke’s Hospital have saved my life…here’s a link to a far fuller explanation of what is involved on Wikipeadia…as long as the cancer is caught early enough…which means having regular  blood tests to determine you all important PSA numbers. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brachytherapy

So here’s the advert guys…go get your bloody PSA done…Prostate Cancer is one of the few cancers that can be cured…as long as you get there in time…there is no excuse !!!

 

 

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My friend Glynn

Glynn Griffiths my wonderful friend, a friend as close as a brother, my touchstone                     in all matters of life, has died. Glynn was 67 and leaves behind his                beloved daughter Georgia and Annie his soulmate.

Brian's book launch day by Brian harris__1010038

Glynn at my book launch in the Hoop and Grapes pub just off Fleet Street, London, May 2016

 

Glynn had just started out on the next stage of his eventful life. He had his sculpture studio in Cheltenham where he made so many of his impossible dreams involving mother-earth and man-made come to life.

He recently bought a campervan before buying ‘Haddie’ his beautiful house boat moored at Hebden Bridge. For the first time in many years he had his entire ‘Art Book’ collection out of packing cases and on shelves waiting to be read….in short Glynn was chilled out and happy.

Glynn Griffiths Exhibition-Growth, 'Gravity & Balance' at The Ho

Glynn Griffiths Exhibition-Growth, 'Gravity & Balance' at The Ho

Glynn Griffiths with his daughter Georgia at his Exhibition – ‘Growth, ‘Gravity & Balance’ at The Horse Box Gallery, 50 Grosvenor Hill, Mayfair London.

 

I knew Glynn for nearly 30 years since he came to this country from his native South Africa with his wife Annie back in the mid 1980’s. He came from Jagersfontein a small town in the Free State and trained as a photographer on the Cape Times. Although his yearning was for the Veldt of South Africa, he was a British subject, and proud of his family roots in South Wales.

 

Glynn Griffiths in 1997 ?

Glynn in the Canary Wharf Indy offices in the 1990’s

 

Glynn was an established photographer of some note in SA and upon arriving in London he had little trouble getting photographic assignments from the British press based then in Fleet Street. He started ‘shifting’ for the London Evening Standard while living with Annie in a campervan parked up on the South Bank in the centre of London. Before long a photo editor recognised Glynn’s ‘artistic photographic’ talents and suggested that his style of photography would be more suited to the newly launched ‘Independent’ newspaper.

Glynn Crossroads squater camp BH8_0624

Glynn was taken aboard the fledgling ‘Indy’ first as a freelance and then onto the staff. He covered the usual gamut of assignments for a daily national newspaper: portraits, hard news, overseas stories and soft features.

Following the Kings Cross fire tragedy where over 30 people died Glynn made one his most definitive images of Kwasi Afari Minta, who was severely burnt but survived. The picture won Glynn a first prize in the prestigious World Press Photo Awards.

Kwasi Afari Minta

In 1988, he covered the Clapham rail crash close to his then home in south London where 35 passengers died. His powerful picture was the first to cover the entire front page of the paper, Glynn had well and truly arrived and made his mark. He became known for his quiet observational intelligent photography and was trusted to make ‘something’ from nothing. In October 1989, he was sent to cover the San Francisco earthquake where over 60 died and thousands were injured. During just a matter of hours on the ground he produced a fine coverage resulting in a front-page news picture and a back-page photo spread.

Glynn covered the transitional elections in Namibia and South Africa. He spent time on Mount Athos communing with the monks and making a fine set of quiet contemplative images there but perhaps Glynn’s most recognised and almost certainly his most favoured photograph was of Nelson Mandela at his final election rally in Cape Town during the first all-race South African elections in April 1994.

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Nelson Mandela photographed by Glynn and published by Gerry Brakus in The New Statesmen in 2013

 

Glynn was one of the sweetest most charming of men in the tough world of news photography. He made friends with most that he met…I have never heard a bad word against the man, few can be as well liked in our business.

xThe Indy Guys in B&W at the Kalamazoo Club by Brian Harris 190915_1008453

Glynn Griffiths on the left, with on the back row, David Sandison, myself Brian Harris, Mykel Nicolaou, and Guy Simpson and Laurie Lewis in front…photographed by my son Jacob S. Harris at the Kalamzoo Club in London.

Independent Newspaper Photographers night out. 29 Oct 2015

Photograph of Glynn with his Independent Newspaper photographer friends at one of our London based memory lane evenings. L-R: Back row Tim Sanders the Indy cartoonist, Nick Turpin, John Voos, Glynn Griffiths,member of the band,Craig Easton in glasses. Front row: Laurie Lewis, Brian Harris, David Sandison, Kay Richardson, Guy Simpson and Tom Pilston…photographic selfie made by precariously balancing my very expensive Leica M9 on a wine bottle.

Laurie, Glynn, Guy and John Nov 2016 -

A charming quiet evening in an Italian eatery in Camden, London with Laurie Lewis on left, Glynn Griffiths, Guy Simpson and John Voos…I’m behind the camera

Independent Newspaper Photographers night out. 29 Oct 2015

Glynn and John Voos catching up at yet another photographers night out in London

A collection of photographs showing Glynn top left at the 30th Indy Foreign desk bash at the Frontline Club, with David Sandison at my book launch, at a gallery gig in east London where Glynn showed off his major piece made from nails and scorched wood and meetin’ and greetin’ at yet another opening…

After leaving the Indy in the late 1990’s to once again pursue a freelance career Glynn took up freelance picture editing and left London with his family to live in Cheltenham.

Glynn Griffiths Solo Art Exhibition at the Parabola Art Gallery,

Glynn Griffiths Art Exhibition at the Parabola Art Gallery, Cheltenham, England. Work by the artist Glynn Griffiths

Glynn Griffiths Solo Art Exhibition at the Parabola Art Gallery,

Glynn Griffiths Solo Art Exhibition at the Parabola Art Gallery,

Specimen 1101, Beech, polypropylene rod, pyrographic markings at the Parabola Art Gallery, Cheltenham, England. Work by the artist Glynn Griffiths 

Glynn Griffiths Solo Art Exhibition at the Parabola Art Gallery,

Glynn Griffiths Art Exhibition at the Parabola Art Gallery, Cheltenham, England. 

Glynn became frustrated with the limitations as to what he could achieve visually just by using a camera…photography per se began to bore him, photography was merely the means to an end and the end became the motive for Glynn’s next endeavour.

In his early 60’s Glynn went back to school…to Wimbledon College of Arts where he studied for an MA in Sculpture. His work involving ‘mother nature and handmade product’ was challenging to the uninitiated. His references were the deserts of his homeland in South Africa, he was excited about dry bones, a feather, a scrap of wood or iron weathered by the elements which he used in assembly’s contrasting with Perspex, cable ties, nails and hardware bought from his local store.

He sold several pieces, one piece made to order for a client in America and more through various galleries in London and Cheltenham. In the mid 2000’s he was awarded the Clifford Chance prize and exhibited in their Canary Wharf offices receiving much praise for the scope of his work.

Glynn is seen below installing his work in the plush Canary Wharf offices of Clifford Chance…photographed by David Sandison ©

Glynn Griffiths Exhibition-Growth, 'Gravity & Balance' at The Ho

Glynn Griffiths Exhibition-Growth, ‘Gravity & Balance’ at The Horse Box Gallery, 50 Grosvenor Hill, London.

Glynn Griffiths Exhibition-Growth, 'Gravity & Balance' at The Ho

Glynn Griffiths Exhibition-Growth, ‘Gravity & Balance’ at The Horse Box Gallery, 50 Grosvenor Hill, London.

Glynn Griffiths Exhibition-Growth, 'Gravity & Balance' at The Ho

Glynn Griffiths Exhibition-Growth, ‘Gravity & Balance’ at The Horse Box Gallery, 50 Grosvenor Hill, London.

Glynn Griffiths Exhibition-Growth, 'Gravity & Balance' at The Ho

Glynn Griffiths Exhibition-Growth, ‘Gravity & Balance’ at The Horse Box Gallery, 50 Grosvenor Hill, London.

Glynn Griffiths Exhibition-Growth, 'Gravity & Balance' at The Ho

Glynn Griffiths Exhibition-Growth, ‘Gravity & Balance’ at The Horse Box Gallery, 50 Grosvenor Hill, London.

Glynn Griffiths Exhibition-Growth, 'Gravity & Balance' at The Ho

Glynn Griffiths Exhibition-Growth, ‘Gravity & Balance’ at The Horse Box Gallery, 50 Grosvenor Hill, London.

Glynn Griffiths Exhibition-Growth, 'Gravity & Balance' at The Ho

Glynn Griffiths with his daughter Georgia at his Exhibition-Growth, ‘Gravity & Balance’ at The Horse Box Gallery, 50 Grosvenor Hill, London.

 

In the mid 2000’s when both Glynn and myself were going through our own personal crisis we both talked our problems through with long conversations as he commuted by motorway from Cheltenham to London…I called them our M4 chats. We started a photo-exchange where once a week we would make a photograph, print it and write something on the print about our thoughts for that day. We kept this going for over two years and I have over 100 original Glynn Griffiths photographs and drawings all signed and annotated…some of my most precious possessions.

The photographs below are all © owned by Glynn and are reproduced in the form as presented to me, ie a small image on an A4 size piece of paper, hence the large amount of white showing at top and bottom of image.

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I asked Glynn to help me photo edit my auto-biographical book in 2014-5. We spent several days in the cold of my garage going through hundreds of proof prints before getting my selection down from and unmanageable 2000 images to an almost manageable 3-400 photographs.

Brian Harris book editing by Picture Editor Glynn Griffiths

Glynn editing down the thousands of images to a manageable 400 plus for my book…we finally got it down to less than 200.

Some months later myself Glynn and designer Professor Phil Cleaver spent many 18 hour days and nights moving images and words around on screen and in hard copy before finishing my project at the printers. Not a bad word was said, not an argument, just complete calm…without Glynn I would still be shuffling my work about completely lost in the confusion of editing.

Brian Harris book editing with Professor Phil Cleaver of et-al D

Glynn and ‘pooch’ editing Brian Harris’s book ’…and then the Prime Minister hit me…’ with Professor Phil Cleaver of et-al Design

Brian Harris print day for '...and then the Prime Minister hit m

Glynn at Geoff Neal Printers in Feltham, west London checking the print quality

 

Glynn had many who loved him: fellow photographers, editors, photo editors, his family and friends in South Africa, his drinking pals in Cheltenham, Glynn was not a drinker – preferring a half pint of beer or a glass of red wine with some good conversation and fine home cooking

Glynn Griffiths in Thaxted.

Glynn Griffiths enjoying our wonderful Lasagne and several bottles of Montepulciano at our home in Thaxted…watched by his new best friend, Thelma

Glynn Griffiths and Thelma Niv 2014 5326

Glynn mellowing in our home with Thelma…the other cat

 

…Glynn was the arch polymath, he was a photographer, an artist, a sculptor, a cartoonist, a photo editor

 

Some of Glynn’s wonderfully dry wit showing through in his cartoons

 

…he could mend things and make things… only a month ago producing a fantastic sculptural piece consisting of a hill of bicycles, seen below, that occupied a roundabout in Cheltenham to celebrate a Round Britain Cycle Race.

Bikes by Glynn

Glynn was just so many things…he was in fact a renaissance man through and through, with his ‘hippy’ clothes and ponytail, his grey beard and funny hat.

GLYNN GRIFFITHS BLUE BH2_0084 Striking a pose as W.G. Grace

Glynn Griffiths

…and with his ‘Pooch’ at his studio in Cheltenham. Photograph by Tom Pilston ©

…and seen here photographed by David Sandison in 2009…at Cannizaro Park, Wimbledon, as part of the PARK09 exhibition

Only a couple of weeks back he came down from Hebden Bridge in his motorhome to help me celebrate my 65th birthday in Southend-on-Sea with my partner Nikki and my son Jacob. We enjoyed the ‘best fish and chips in the world’ and walked the ‘prom’…we enjoyed the penny arcades and Glynn was happy.

Brians 65th birthday Southend 2017_L1013817Brians 65th birthday Southend 2017_L1013805Brians 65th birthday Southend 2017_L1013801

Glynn with Nikki, myself and my son Jacob in Southend-on-Sea for my 65th birthday…on the prom prom prom…and in the penny arcades…September 2017

He followed us home to Thaxted and we spent the night putting some red wine away and the world to rights…in the morning I cooked breakfast, bacon, toast, eggs and baked beans. Glynn asked me why I stored my tins of baked beans upside down in the store cupboard. I replied that if the tins were upside down in store, when you opened them the beans were at the lid end and they all came out in one hit rather than having the hunt the last of the beans out with a spoon. He thought that was one of the most wonderful of ideas and in his last text to me a few days later he thanked Nikki and I for our hospitality but most of all he thanked us for showing him how to store his baked beans, he said it’s always wonderful to learn something new at 67!!

On the morning of the 16th of September I helped Glynn pack up his campervan with a case of Adnams Claret and a couple of large A2 size photographic prints from me to him as a present for all his hard work on my book. He said he was finally going to get around to reading it now he had the space and time. He drove out of the car park in Thaxted en route to the Tate Britain in London where he could park up for the weekend for free…and that was the last time I saw him.

 

My dear friend Glynn, I will miss you so much but I am privileged to have known you…you lovely gentle guy. RIP.

Brian Harris Book LaunchGlynn signature BH8_0688 copy

 

 

 

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Death of a Princess

Death of a Princess….20 years on

Death of Princess Diana BY BRIAN HARRIS ©

The Funeral of Princess Diana at Westminster Abbey, London, Britain. Her flag covered coffin is taken into the abbey followed by L-R, Prince Charles, Prince Harry, Earl Spencer ( her brother ) Prince William. COPYRIGHT PHOTOGRAPH BY BRIAN HARRIS ©

 

I am neither a royalist or a republican but the death of Diana, Princess of Wales on 31st of  August 1997 affected me more than I expected at the time and now 20 years later, her untimely death still resonates.

 

In the first instance as a working news-press photographer I only ever photographed her four times…once on her wedding day in 1981 photographed  from afar perched on Ludgate Circus Railway Bridge as she and Prince Charles left St Pauls Cathedral followed up by being a Royal Rota photographer on their honeymoon visit to Wales. The third time was when she left hospital after giving birth to Prince Harry, all for The Times newspaper. The fourth time was her funeral at Westminster Abbey for the Independent on Sunday.

Diana front page

Princess Diana leaving hospital after the birth of Prince Harry

 

When working for The Times, photographing the workings of the Royal family was all part of a day’s work as a jobbing news photographer but when I joined The Independent in 1986 the ‘Royals’ were a complete no no…unless their lives impinged upon constitutional issues. The paper had a policy that we just wouldn’t cover royal stories, be they good bad or indifferent.

 

When Diana and her lover Dodi Al-Fayed along with their driver Henri Paul died in that spectacular car crash in the Pont d’Alma underpass in Paris in the early hours of that fateful Sunday morning I had just returned from a family holiday in France.

Unusually I woke early and turned on the radio. At 4am the first news from Paris was being broadcast on the BBC World Service, nothing confirmed but by reading between the lines and the cautious way the news was being reported I suspected something far more serious had happened than was being reported at the time.

I made some coffee and had breakfast, something told me this was going to be a long day.

I phoned David Swanborough, the picture editor at The Independent at about 5 in the morning and the well oiled machine of covering a major news story went into gear.

David wanted me to go to Paris but I said that by the time I got there Diana, alive or dead, would be on her way home to the UK…I asked to ‘hover’ around Buckingham Palace so as to be able to document any reaction by the great British public.

By 7am I was ‘hovering’ outside the Palace, but the news hadn’t filtered through to the populace just yet. The place was quiet, deathly quiet, there was no indication as to what would follow over the next seven days.

By mid-morning crowds started to congregate at the palace gates, some bought flowers, a few embraced but most stood silently and wept quite openly. It was a sensitive time to make photographs so myself and a few other photographers stood back…and then something strange happened…the people turned on the press, reporters with their notebooks quickly put them away but the photographers with their large black intrusive cameras were targeted…for the first time I heard their anger and the words…‘…you killed our Princess…’.

The week of mourning started and as this was now a ‘constitutional story’ the editor of The Indy released us from our self-imposed ‘no Royal stories’ policy and allowed us to cover the story as a major news event. As few on the staff had much knowledge of covering Royal stories I helped the picture editor  co-ordinate our coverage.

By mid-week the funeral date had been set for the following Saturday…photographic positions had to be arranged on the funeral route and passes negotiated. I personally checked out several of the allocated positions for our photographic team but with less than a week to get the event organised the likelihood of everything being ready on the day seemed to be remote, even though I understood the ‘Palace authorities’ were going to use the arrangements already in place for the funeral of the Queen Mother.

Death of Princess Diana BY BRIAN HARRIS ©

 Flowers and tributes to Diana on the Mall near St James Palace

I spent a couple of nights sleeping in my car in the St James area while photographing the hundreds of thousands of bunches of flowers being left on The Mall leading up to Buckingham Palace. This was safer to photograph than at Diana’s home at Kensington Palace where I and several other photographers were chased from the scene as we attempted to document the grief openly displayed to the refrain…’you killed our Princess…F**k off…’

 

On the Thursday evening I began to feel quite ill, it was only a year after I collapsed in Poland with ‘A Typical’ Viral Pneumonia in both lungs and I was still quite weak. I found an A&E department open at UCH in central London and collapsed at the entrance, my car parked half on and off the pavement outside. The medics rushed me inside and gave me a shot and told me to go home and go to bed, my temperature was rising fast. I reported to my GP who concurred with the UCH staff. I explained I had a funeral to cover on the Saturday so was prescribed some pain killers and anti-biotics to see me through the next 48 hours.

 

Saturday, the day of the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales. Our team of photographers had been sent to their various positions, some in London and some on the route to where Diana would be laid to rest at the Spencer family home of Althrop in Northamptonshire.

I was positioned on a huge stand outside Westminster Abbey along with a hundred other photographers and television crews. We arrived early as dawn was breaking to get through the various security cordons to take up our allocated positions on the stand and settled down to wait. Not really knowing what to expect I took as much photographic equipment with me as I could carry from my car parked on the southside of Westminster Bridge. I arrived carrying four Nikon cameras a full set of prime lenses from 18mm extreme wide angle through the mid range normal lenses to 300mm and a giant 600mm f4 along with a couple of tripods and a monopod…plus some sandwiches and water.

The crowd of mourners swelled and swelled…there was a terrible deep sounding murmur of grief and maybe a little suppressed anger, something quite disturbing and something i’d only heard once before and that was at the funeral of Rajiv Gandhi in India back in 1991.

 

As the funeral cortege came into view and all lenses were focused in that direction my mobile phone started to ring….it was David the picture editor….’You must get a picture of the flowers with the word ‘Mummy’…we can see it on the TV …’ he shouted….I was lining up the big wide shot at that stage so couldn’t swing the telephoto lens round to pick up the words, so I shouted back that that wasn’t the picture…take it from the agencies !. I have never thought it a good idea to replicate what was seen on TV or shot by someone else…I always preferred to furrow my own field.

 

The funeral over I hot footed back to my office in Canary Wharf Tower…leaving the massive studio tri-pod behind to be picked up later…it never was !

 

The editor of the Independent on Sunday ( the IOS ) back then was Rosie Boycott. I got on well with her but the picture desk team were being railroaded by the news desk jockeys into using images that supported their text and agenda rather than letting the best, the strongest images speak for themselves. I made a sized print of my front page offering of Diana’s coffin draped in her flag watched by her boys, her brother and her ex husband, and stuck it on the previous weeks IOS paper to show what it would look like…bit cheeky but Rosie was won over and I think the IOS had the most stylish coverage of the funeral of the ‘Peoples Princess’ out of all the ‘Fleet Street titles’.

INDY DIANA FUNERAL 2322

 

 

Post Diana, street and news photography has got so much more problematic…the public still hate us, we still killed their Princess…but wasn’t it ‘the public’ that bought the newspapers that published pictures of Diana day after day …anyone with a large pro camera is either the killer of Diana or a paedophile or both….our profession changed forever after that fateful evening in Paris 20 years ago.

Death of Princess Diana BY BRIAN HARRIS ©

Death of Princess Diana. Flowers and tributes on the Mall near St James Palace

RIP Diana…the Peoples Princess

 

 

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Thaxted Nikki-Jacob-Brian 140517_5321.jpgCelebrating my new low all singing and dancing PSA numbers with Jacob and Nikki and a bottle of Champagne

To say the past months have been pretty darn stressful would be a major understatement and I must say a heart felt thanks to my partner Nikki for putting up with me during this time.

Following on from the Brachytherapy operation on my Prostate last November in Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, I can now report that six months after having 66 radioactive implants injected into my Prostate my all important PSA numbers are down to 0.89 which as Andrew Styling, the Radiographer Advanced Practitioner looking after me says is ‘wonderful’.

https://www.prostatecanceruk.org/prostate-information/prostate-tests/psa-test

https://www.cancer.gov/types/prostate/psa-fact-sheet

Last August (2016) when my Prostate Cancer was diagnosed  my PSA numbers were 5.57, which while not mega high, they were increasing enough on my previous years tests to alarm my GP at Thaxted Surgery. When I went in for the operation the numbers were slightly increased to just below 6. After the op. I returned for my six week check up and my numbers were down to 2.6 and so, now six months on I’m very happy, delighted even that my PSA is 0.89. I will be going back for a further check up in six months time and Andrew expects to offer me a discharge then if I want it…although I can elect to remain a patient until I’m completely happy with the results. Isn’t our woefully under resourced National Health Service a wonderful thing.

As the implants in my Prostate seem to be working…certainly the side effects, although minimal compared to Chemo or Radiotherapy treatment, have been interesting. On occasions the gurgling inside me sounded like the spin cycle on our washing machine. There have been days, sometime a week or more when I haven’t wanted to be too far from a loo…and when I needed the loo, i needed it like NOW !! Longs walks have become a distant memory, although this weekend I did manage a mile or so with my son Jacob.

My thanks go to all on the Oncology team at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, the aforementioned Andrew Styling, Radiographer with a terrific fireside manner full of compassion and concern: Dr Simon Russell Oncologist (link below) and Mr Christof Kastner Consultant Urologist (link below) plus all the support nurses and admin staff…a cracking bunch of medical practitioners.

Brian Harris May 2017

http://www.cuh.org.uk/addenbrookes-hospital/services/cancer-services/who-we-are/consultants-and-other-doctors/all-consultants/dr-simon-russell

http://www.camurology.org.uk/about/staff/christof-kastner/

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Prostate Cancer-six weeks after the ‘op’

I’m feeling bouncy and chipper….maybe not as bouncy as these chaps photographed by me a few days ago…but bouncy enough at the mo !

Southend on Sea, Essex, England UK. 8 January 2017Six weeks and counting……

Six weeks after my Brachytherapy ‘procedure’, a quaint euphemism for having a dozen or more needles inserted through one’s perineum to allow 66 radioactive seeds to be injected into the prostate gland to encircle and trap and kill the cancer cells,  I can report that…..all is well !!

Yesterday I went back to Addenbrooke’s Hospital just south of Cambridge. I had various appointments: a scan, weight check, bloods and a consultation all stretched out over a two hour period…can you believe that I was in and out of the Oncology department in under 50 minutes and 30 of those minutes was for my consultation with Andrew Styling the Radiologist.

Andrew has a wonderful bedside manner, he listens, he really listens to you and you feel as if you are his ONLY patient, he responds to your questions, and yes I had a few, rather than speaking from the NICE (National institute for clinical excellence) guideline book,he will let you go off into flights of fancy before gently bringing you back to reality all in all he’s the guy you need to keep you calm.

Andrew confirmed that my tiredness and general feeling of loss of omph was quite normal and under the circumstances after having a major procedure such as I had had my symptoms were quite normal and to be expected. That was quite a relief to me. I was told that I really didn’t need to be seen after the six week period, rather 4 months, but the 6 week time frame was what NICE insisted on after an operation.

We talked peeing, and passing motions and erections and I ticked all the boxes, my plumbing was working as was to be expected, not perfect but quite serviceable.

Blood was taken for a new start point for my PSA numbers, any numbers from before my procedure were now irrelevant…the new numbers were now my new datum point. I was told that the PSA numbers could be up, down or no change, which doesn’t seem very scientific, but that’s how its done. This afternoon, less than 24 hours after my Addenbrooke’s appointment Andrew telephoned me at home to tell me that my numbers were ‘excellent’, they couldn’t be better…I have a PSA of 2.65 (for a man of my youth it would be normal to be from 0-4), so right on the button…before the procedure my PSA had risen from the mid 5’s to over 7, that’s when my GP became concerned…and the rest, is now history I’m very pleased to report.

Tomorrow I start at my local gym, some lightweight cardio exercises to get my muscles back into shape with the carrot of getting some skiing in this season if at all possible.

Guys, none of the above would have applied if I had ignored my numbers, what my body was telling me and having a GP surgery in Thaxted that has a positive and holistic approach to the patient. If I had ignored my warning signs, constant peeing, if I had ignored the PSA numbers, if I had buried my head under the duvet then I may be writing a far more serious blog here…..PROSTATE CANCER is one of the cancers that can be cured…..IF YOU GET YOURSELF SEEN TO BEFORE ITS TOO LATE.

Let me add as a caveat here that PSA numbers are NOT the be all and end all, in fact some GP’s don’t believe in PSA numbers at all. Some PSA numbers can, according to research, be misleading…..here is a link, there are 100’s on Google ( natch )…but from my personal point of view I’m glad to be through this rough patch and it wouldn’t have happened if my numbers had not been monitored and interpreted by a team that cared.
https://www.reference.com/health/causes-high-psa-levels-prostate-fb08f6f5bd14ac1e?qo=cdpArticles

I managed a 2.5 mile walk a couple of days ago along the front at Southend on Sea with nurse Nikki who has been brilliant with coping with my slightly maudlin attitude of recent weeks. I didn’t feel as tired as I have done, in fact I felt quite invigorated and I made a few half decent snaps which I post here to jolly up this blog.Southend Pier, Southend on Sea, Essex, England UK. 8 January 201

 

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Guys….get that finger up the bum and survive Prostate cancer….part 2

What a wonderful National Health Service we have in the UK….Thank you Nye Bevan who was responsible for establishing our cradle to grave health service when Clement Attlee’s post WWII Government came into power in 1945…..

…and a giant thank you to all the staff employed by our NHS who have looked after me over the past few months…with only a very small hiccup the system has worked brilliantly.
From my first PSA check up at my local GP’s surgery in Thaxted, though to the team at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge…I can’t thank them enough and in a way this very personal blog is part cathartic for me, part a continuation of my ‘cri de coeur’ to all those guys out there who should be getting themselves checked out for any early signs of cancer in the Prostate and partly a thanks to the medical team who looked after me in Addenbrooke’s Treatment Centre (ATC) on Tuesday this week.

‘Nurse’ Nikki dropped me off at the ATC and I immersed myself into the gentle but oh so efficient care of the medical team.

I was encouraged by my dedicated nurse, Chloe, to get undressed and get into bed but as I wasn’t scheduled to ‘go down to theatre’ until early afternoon and as I wasn’t ‘ill’ I stayed in my civvies until the appointed hour and read my papers and book. I was quite determined to maintain some level of independence and maybe prove to myself that there was nothing wrong with me, a form of denial, maybe?

Members of the ‘Theatre’ team came around clad in green and ready for action, double double checking who I was, scanning my leg band, scanning my wrist band, making sure the collars and cuffs matched !

And then it was time…two green clad theatre attendants appeared out of nowhere at the end of my bed, angels or angles of death, to take me down…to take me to my end…these were all the rapid distorted thoughts racing around in my head.

I walked to Theatre, following my angels who engaged me in ‘distraction’ small talk…they tried their best, but if I could have found an exit door I would have been off, fear, fear of the unknown was beginning to take me over.

Standing at the door of the Operating Theatre, watching phantasmagoric shapes dressed in green through the frosted glass moving around and getting ready for me was a wake up call….this was really going to happen, this was real. Me standing there clad in my back to front NHS gown covered by a wonderfully cosy Austin Reed dressing gown of some vintage and a pair of Greek slippers with pom poms…my attempt at being an individual and not just another piece of meat.Pom pom slippers.jpg

Pom Pom slippers all the rage for the man going to the Theatre…..

I asked for the surgical instruments to be used on me to be covered up before entering Theatre, I had a very good idea of what was to be involved and had no need to see the ‘instruments of torture’ lined up in front of me. I also asked that my catheter be taken out while under the general anaesthetic if at all possible. Both my requests were adhered to.

The Theatre doors opened and at least 15, maybe more, green clad nurses, surgeons, consultants, anathaethetists  stood there all waiting for me. I felt very humbled. The surgical team was led by Mr Christof Kastner and Dr Simon Russel and Radiographer Andrew Styling kept me fully informed at every stage of my procedure…to you and all the team…my most sincere thanks.

Strapped to the gurney, legs akimbo, oxygen mask on, a line into my hand and goodnight Vienna……

I understand the operation, the Bracytherapy, took an hour and a half plus the same again in ‘recovery’. I had a fear of waking up during the procedure, but of course i had no knowledge of anything that happened while i was out.

The recovery team, fast working and juggling their time dashing between monitors and patients were efficiency personified. The senior member, a beautiful woman from Poland with a wonderful Slavic profile and her side kick  from Spain, she had lovely warm eyes…was I in heaven ?….. ‘Have i been done…have I had had it,…have I had my Bracy…’ ( I was told by the Senior Staff Nurse that these were my first words on coming round a few hours later…they were happy to see me reacting positively).

Back to the ward where the House Team led by a woman from Lithuania gave me buttered toast and a ‘nice cup a tea’, followed later by a Salmon sandwich on brown bread…with more tea.

Within an hour after shooting and posting a selfie on Face Book I asked to get up and go for a walk…I wanted to prove to myself that my positive frame of mind could be replicated by putting one foot in front of the other…I wanted to show that I wasn’t a bed bound ‘ill’ person…..I wanted to show that I could go home…I had been told it was a possibility as long as I passed enough water and emptied my bladder three times and my blood pressure numbers stabilised. I drank two litres of water, lots of tea and ‘peed’ for England.

after-the-op

Being positive and indicating that I’d like to go home now please….

‘Nurse’ Nikki and Jacob came into visit me and waited until late evening when my BP numbers had stabilised and I was allowed home…..now, I don’t know about you, but i think that is absolutely bloody marvellous, only 12 hours after admittance and less than 7 hours after coming out of Theatre where I had 66 x 39.5 uGyh-1 M2 Radioactive Implants inserted into my prostate carefully  positioned to enclose my two small cancer growths which they are going to kill over the next few months……I was on my way home !!!

My last check out was to be scanned by the night nurse with a Geiger Counter to make sure my Radioactive pellets were doing what they said on the tin ( A lead container was actually on my bedside table just in case I peed out a Radioactive pellet !! )…I clicked and made all the right noises, just like James Bond did in Dr No…but unfortunately there was no Honeychile Riider played by Ursula Andress in attendance !

Now, a couple of days later, I’m feeling fine, a tad slow, but up and about…but no heavy lifting, no bike riding, no sleeping alongside pregnant women, no under 5’s on my knee and no making babies for a year or two…hey ho !

In the meantime i will be catching up on my DVD box sets…I started with Carl Sagen’s COSMOS yesterday…and the first episode brought a tear to my eye as took onboard just how insignificant we are in the matter of all things….we are all mortal and hope to be around for the three score and ten…so guys, those of a certain age, please go get yourself checked out for this eminently treatable cancer, if caught early enough…its the one YOU CAN BEAT !!!!!!!

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