If you are a regular reader of this blog (thank you) then you might know that I am a huge admirer of Amelia Earhart, the pioneering aviator – or aviatrix as female pilots were known in her day.
In 1932 Amelia became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. This year, on 2 July, it will be 80 years since Amelia, aged 39, and her navigator Fred Noonan disappeared in their Lockheed Electra aircraft somewhere over the Pacific Ocean while attempting to circumnavigate the globe.
There has been much speculation over the years that they survived somehow, were stranded on a remote island, were taken prisoner by the Japanese, were shot down by the Japanese, were spies, had turned back, or even that Amelia survived and lived under an assumed identity.
Having read books about Amelia and her last flight (see illustrations) it seems to me that they ran out of fuel looking for the almost impossibly small Howland Island, their next scheduled stop-off, in the middle of a huge ocean.
I used one of Amelia Earhart’s famous quotes in my previous blog entry, That Was The Year That Was, but this month I have been thinking about another of her phrases: “The most difficult thing is the decision to act. The rest is mere tenacity.”
This strikes me as very true, and certainly applied to my first big adventure of 2017 – undergoing an operation here in Orkney at Kirkwall’s Balfour Hospital. Do not fear, delicate reader, I will not go into too much detail.
But, briefly, I noticed towards the end of last year that my belly button had changed shape, and not just because of my liking for beer and cakes. Rather than be a stereotypical man, and ignore this development, I decided to act.
A visit to the GP soon followed in early November and I was told I had a hernia. The doctor said it was a common condition in babies and older men (thanks Doc) and only required a small operation. I have been lucky in that I have never had any kind of hospital operation before and so to me it seemed a more daunting prospect than the doctor implied – but I knew I had to see it through.
The service I got from the NHS here in Orkney was excellent. By early December I had seen a specialist who confirmed the prognosis and discussed with me whether to go ahead with the operation. I knew it was for the best. Soon afterwards I got the date for the big day, Wednesday 18 January.
I did not look forward to the operation but was able to put it to the back of my mind and enjoy Christmas and New Year. If I am honest part of my concern – and this will sound melodramatic – was the fact that my father died in hospital last year following an operation. Ridiculous, I know, but there you are.
Anyway, my operation day arrived and I went to the hospital, with my wife Kathie Touin, who has been a wonderful support all the way through this process. Because we were going to be out for a long time our dog, Roscoe, came along as well and spent the day in the car with occasional walks with Kathie to explore the hospital grounds.
I must say the team at the Balfour Hospital were brilliant – helpful, friendly, reassuring, amusing and professional. I was the second person into the operating theatre and was back in the ward in time for a light lunch.
By 4pm Kathie, Roscoe and I were home. I was walking about very carefully, and I am under instructions not to lift heavy objects or to drive for six weeks, but I had successfully undergone my first operation.
To be honest, this procedure did not require much tenacity from me, I just had to keep turning up in all the right places, the credit should go to the NHS in Orkney, along with Kathie. Nevertheless I certainly did not regret my decision to make the first visit to the doctor and follow this through.
While I am recuperating I am spending much time reading and listening to the radio. One of the programmes I’ve heard, courtesy of BBC iPlayer Radio, was a fascinating BBC World Service programme, The Why Factor, about regret…
A nurse who has spent many hours looking after terminally ill patients told listeners that in her experience nearly all regrets fall into five categories:
- Not living a life true to yourself (by far the most common regret, apparently)
- Having worked so hard
- Wishing had taken courage to express feelings (about others, or oneself)
- Wishing had stayed in touch with friends
- Wishing had let oneself be happier (ie not wallowing in feelings or giving power to feelings that hold you back).
I have always told myself I do not have regrets, and that what has happened has happened, but if I am honest that is not strictly true. We all have some regrets, it is part of being human.
However I am lucky, I believe, in having chosen to move to Orkney with Kathie nearly seven years ago. It means, essentially, that I am able to lead a life that is true to myself – as was the case in a previous phase of my life with the nearly 24 years I spent working at the BBC (though I probably worked too hard).
Finally in this blog, two contrasting pieces of music I am listening to regularly – one is a relatively straightforward production, both in terms of the music and the video, the other is more complex. By the way, I do not see straightforward and complex as good or bad, just different.
Here is Louise Jordan with her song, In The End, from her album Veritas. Louise writes in the sleeve notes: “I hope it encourages each of us to realise the power we have to make a positive change in our lives.” I thought the lyrics appropriate to this blog entry…
And here is Agnes Obel with Familiar, a song you may be familiar with (sorry about that) but which I only stumbled upon when Bob Harris played it on his BBC Radio 2 programme towards the end of last year (thanks Bob). I like the track’s air of mystery, both musically and lyrically…
More about Amelia Earhart
Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amelia_Earhart