Bluebirds fly

I’m pleased with the continuing popularity of Somewhere Over The Rainbow, my Amazon exclusive non-mystery title. Politics is always popular and believe me it’s fertile ground for comedy.

Categories: General

Tiger who?

A habit has crept into modern journalism, one which I find annoying, but occasionally risible: that is, the insertion of explanatory words in brackets in direct quotes in news stories. I suspect that it is a product of the new age, where most journalists use mini-recorders rather than old fashioned Pitman’s shorthand.

Its purpose is to make the speaker’s meaning absolutely clear. Fair enough I suppose, but the golf writer who inserted (Woods) after Tiger while quoting Rory McIlroy this morning really did test the bounds of silliness.

Categories: Sport

Bada Bing

June 16, 2015 3 comments

Woke up this morning, got myself a gun . . .

Well, not quite, but I did go into full Tony Soprano mode when I read the lead story in today’s Herald, headed ‘Fears over “toxic” team of surgical consultants’ and realised that it referred to the Vascular Surgery Department at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

Here’s a sneak preview of next year’s Skinner novel, Private Investigations. It’s dedicated to a man called Dave Lewis, and his colleagues. He is a consultant surgeon in the ERI vascular unit and last year he and his team saved my wife’s life. She was under their care for a year, being monitored for a detected abdominal aortic aneurysm, a condition for which all men over 65 are now offered screening, but which also occurs in women.

Patients can live with a Triple A quite happily without needing surgery, but if they do, top level surgical skills are required. There are two possibilities in the latter circumstance. One is a keyhole procedure similar to a stent, where a tube is inserted in the ballooned artery to narrow it from within. The other is full-on intervention, highly complex life-threatening surgery, given the location of the problem.

I’m no mug. At the very start of the journey, when the condition was diagnosed and we were referred to Mr Lewis, I checked him out. I was more than happy with what I found; he’s one of the global leaders in the field. He explained the situation clearly at our first consultation and kept a close eye on Eileen throughout. Monitoring of the condition was regular and thorough, under the care of Neil Mitchard, our excellent practitioner nurse. When it did go symptomatic, and we went straight to A&E armed with a letter from our GP, Dave was there, waiting for us. He said that invasive surgery was necessary, urgently; however he would not operate that night, but wait until next day when he had his full team around him.

The operation took four to five hours; when it was over he called me from theatre, to say that it had gone as well as he had hoped, and that the patient was expected to make a full if lengthy recovery. Note: he called me, he didn’t delegate the task to a junior member of the squad.

That’s my experience of this so-called ‘toxic’ unit. But it’s not my only experience of the NHS and its internal politics.

Back in the 70s, as a civil service information officer, I had media relations responsibility for an extremely sensitive unit. In its relatively small management team, there were two senior consultants who would not speak to each other, literally. Ten years later, as an independent practitioner, I had as a client an NHS Trust. Some of the relationships between its management and its consultants would have been more suited to a primary school playground. There are rivalries within the NHS? Of course there are; they’re endemic. But are they ‘toxic’?

The Herald cites an independent report by two English consultants, which it says was commissioned by NHS Lothian. It quotes descriptions of ‘forceful and at times aggressive behaviour’. It says that consultants actively look for errors in each other’s work, taking notes and recording occurrences. To me, that is no bad thing; it demonstrates that there is no complacency in the department. But it goes on to claim that a ‘gang culture’ exists, with some of the consultants believing that one of their number is favoured by management.

It quotes a case in which a patient died. In fact routine major vascular surgery carries a fatality risk of maybe one in ten; in Triple-A emergencies, where it has ruptured, those are the survival chances.

Let’s consider the management which commissioned this report, and ask some questions. Why did NHS Lothian find it necessary to ask two men from far away to study and report on the behaviour of fellow professionals? Is its own control so inadequate?

The medical director of NHS Lothian is quoted as saying, among other things, that it did so ‘to ensure patient safety’. I’m sorry; that is an outrageous statement.

It implies that in some way patient safety was at risk, in a department which saves lives, my wife’s included, on a daily basis, and whose staff are regarded as world leaders, in a centre of excellence. During Eileen’s care we were told by a professional with no axe to grind, ‘If I had this condition there is no place I would rather be treated than in Edinburgh Royal.’

I must make it clear that I am not criticising the Herald, not for one second. It reported on a document that came into its possession, and it is entitled to call it as it sees it.

However there is one enormous elephant in the room, or in this case the operating theatre. How did such a sensitive, disturbing report ever come to be leaked?

At the beginning and end of the day it is the considered, but subjective view of two individuals, no more than that. There will be counter-arguments that have not been aired. And yet it has the protential to do far more damage to patient well-being than it could ever prevent.

At various locations across central Scotland right now, there are people who are in the care of the ERI Vascular Surgery Unit, at the same stage of their treatment that my wife was exactly one year ago. Every one of them will be alarmed by that report, yet in my experience, there is no need; they could be in no better hands.

I suggest that another enquiry is needed, far more urgently than the first, into the management that was unable to deal internally with bickering between its professional staff and which then allowed the fall-out to splash all over the public domain.

Categories: General


June 14, 2015 1 comment

The tiny town of Casavells from the roof of its palace. Immaciulate

Categories: General

Who are you, then?

June 14, 2015 2 comments

Encountered this guy this morning on a terrace in the Palau de Casavells. Very small and very shy. I’m not sure whether he’s a chick or an adult from a mini owl species. If anyone knows, please enlighten me.

Categories: General


June 13, 2015 1 comment

I am no lover of seagulls, and I would like the people in the house opposite ours to evict the rowdy family that has parked itself on their roof but there are places where sea birds do belong.

Seen this morning while we were having a coffee. That rock is a little island, home to families of seagulls. Often kids jump off the outcrop on the right into the water, no harm there. The four idiots in the photograph climbed on to the top, where most of the nests are, waving sticks to scare the adult birds off. God knows what happened after that.

One of the group was dive-bombed by a bird as he clambered down. He was scared, but got off lightly. If anyone broke into my house and threatened my kids, I’d bloody shoot them, no questions asked.

Categories: General


Thanks to the nice lady doctor at the Primary Care Centre in L’Escala, who patched me up after i did something really stupid and  rearranged three toes. Nothing broken but lots of blood.

Categories: General

Here comes the knight

Sir George Ivan Morrison, Sir Gareth Owen Edwards: about bloody time.

Sir Lenny Henry, Sir Kevin Spacey; why the hell not?

Sir Henry Angest: no way.

Categories: General


June 11, 2015 4 comments

In my search for a smile, I found a story forecasting that Lenny Henry is to receive a knighthood when the Queen’s Birthday Honours list is published on Friday, with smiling comments by the man himself.

Such leaks from the Cabinet Office have happened before, but it is apparently unprecedented for one to be confirmed by the alleged recipient.

In that new climate, therefore, I can reveal exclusively . . . I’m not on it.

Categories: General


June 11, 2015 5 comments

Having breakfast this morning, scanning BBC, Sky, the Guardian on my iPad. Eileen asked, ‘Is there any good news?’ Had a really good look; couldn’t find any.

Top story on Sky was of a British tourist who is under investigation for indecent behaviour in Malaysia as one of a group who stripped off on top of a sacred mountain. If there was ever a definition of a slow news day, that is it.

Categories: General


Okay, I stayed with The Interceptor to the end. Paul Kaye’s gone, but Trevor Eve as the bad guy is worth sticking with. However I wish the producers would remember that not everyone finds it easy to following t he mumbling of Londoners.

Categories: General

Not sure yet

Watching ‘The Interceptor’. Only saving grace so far, Paul Kaye.

Categories: General

No connection!

Every heard of a film called United Passions? No? God, you’re lucky.

Said turkey premiered in the USA last Friday, June 5. In its opening weekend, it grossed a staggering $918 in box office takings, staggering because that is not a mistype; I have omitted no zeros, not a single nothing. To put that in context, the US box office opening weekend record is held  by Marvel’s The Avengers, which grossed $207,438,708.

For those who give a toss about wasted resources on a global scale, United Passions is a French-made English language ‘drama’ about the origins of FIFA, the world’s most discredited sporting organisation. It cost around £20m to produce and 90% of that was covered by FIFA itself, making it one of the most expensive examples of vanity publishing every recorded.

It stars a number of hitherto respected actors, including Tim Roth, whose distinguished  filmography includes major roles in Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and Rob Roy, for which he won a BAFTA, and who is now wishing he had never, ever allowed his agent to talk him into playing Sepp Blatter.

He is joined in the stellar cast by Gerard Depardieu as Jules Rimet, Sam Neill as Joao Havelange, Martin Jarvis as Sir Stanley Rous, and Thomas Kretschmann as Horst Dassler, the dark figure behind FIFA and Havelange, and a man who would be on the FBI’s list for sure had he not been conveniently dead since 1987.

This sleazy product is not yet available on Amazon UK, only on the French site. If it is ever offered I may buy it, if only to find out how bad it is. At the moment, my greatest objection is to the use of the word ‘United‘ in its title, in case it leads the unworldly to imagine that it has any connection with Old Trafford.

Categories: General, Sport

New arrivals

Whatever the Spanish say about June 23 being the official date, summer has begun. The Bells are ringing in L’Escala.

Categories: General

Visca el Barca i visca Catalunya

Quarter to eleven last night in  L’Escala and the fireworks exploded. That’s what happens when Barca win the Champions League. Oh for such pyrotechnics in Glasgow next year.

Categories: Sport


June 5, 2015 1 comment

Poor old Charlie Kennedy. There should be privacy in death.

Categories: General, Politics

Bumper bundle

Out now in ebook format, a compilation of the first three Skinner titles. Here’s one place to find it:

Categories: General


For those who have never read Skinner’s Rules but would like to, and what the hell for those who have but lost their copy, there’s a special ebook offer running this month . . . no, scratch that a very special offer . . . no scratch that too, a ludicrously special offer. To find it, follow this link:

Categories: General


June 4, 2015 1 comment

Old Sepp may have said that he intends to resign as soon as his successor is chosen, a process that’ll take six months, but with Jack Warner about to open Pandora’s penalty box, how long will he actually stay in post? My suspicion is that he may be out of there in a few days, but if he does go what happens? Does the general secretary oversee the new election . . . and will he be a candidate?

The presumption is that a new poll will take place under the existing rules, those that led to Blatter creating his fortress. The last thing the game needs is a new Sepp, put in place by that rag-tag of corrupt associations around the world whose votes have been bought for the last five elections. The second-last thing the game needs is for its governance to be handed over to a Sheik from a nation with absolutely no status in the game, and two of those are being named as potential candidates.

In some ways, the situation was better with Blatter in post. Now the door is open for the devil we don’t know.

Categories: Sport

Mea culpa

Sorry I’m not on the newly launched programme for Bloody Scotland 2015. My fault, I guess.

Last year I was booked in to share a platform with the brilliant Caro Ramsay, but had to pull out, to my great regret, because of my wife’s illness. This year I was hot to trot, naturally, and waited for my hoped for invite with suitably bated, and fresh, breath. Very late in the day, the Director, offered me, by email, a panel. It was an exact repeat of one I was two days away from doing at another venue. I didn’t think that was a good idea from anyone’s POV, so I said so and turned it down.

No alternative was offered, so I won’t be there. Regardless, I urge you to give Scotland’s own crime festival your full support. It won’t be the worse for my absence, but let nobody be in any doubt, I am enormously pissed off to be missing it.

Categories: General

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