Saturday, December 19, 2009

Maurice and Olivia

Oh dear, over a week since my last post! Maurice arrived from New Zealand on December 12, and survived the journey with only a bit of jetlag, so we've been keeping him and Olivia fairly busy since then. This evening they've gone to a carol concert at the Albert Hall with Sue and Lyulph; earlier I took them to the Imperial War Museum where we looked through the Holocaust exhibition. Its difficult to comprehend how an advanced society can be led into such inhuman behaviour, though I always think of Milgram's 1974 work on 'The Perils of Obedience' as a partial explanation. No people is immune from the extreme forms of racism, given the conditions.

Maurice & Olivia are certainly getting a broad programme - yesterday we went to the Bloomsbury Theatre for the Atheists Christmas show, some of which was brilliant. I particularly enjoyed Brian Cox's ten minute on the creation of the universe, (an earlier version of which is at was disappointed this wasn't one of the evenings with Richard Dawkins.

Olivia, who is going to do law at Auckland University, accompanied me to a meeting with prison officials to hear about their proposed Belief in Change programme, in which prisoners coming to the end of a long sentence will be guided towards a crime-free existence after their discharge, using mentors of their own faith, but also through mentored discussions among themselves based on common faith-based values. It may sound like a good idea, but I'm afraid there are serious practical difficulties with it.

Maurice came with me to the annual Martyrs Day seminar I chair in a committee room at the House, on human rights in Bahrain, where the government is an hereditary dictatorship. He also sat in on the Equality Bill second reading. I'm tabling amendments to bring discrimination on caste grounds within the scope of the Bill, to which the Government response is that there's no evidence of a problem. It would be miraculous if somehow, the deeply ingrained prejudice on caste in south Asia was somehow jettisoned by migrants to the UK from that part of the world.

Friday, December 11, 2009

From my postbag

David Ritter of Greenpeace told a meeting in the Palace of Westminster that cattle rancing was responsible for 80% of Amazonian rainforest destruction. We could eat less beef.

Eleven Ahmadis have been murdered in Pakistan this year so far because of their faith. In most cases local mullahs have incited hatred against the Ahmadis. Many of these mullahs have armed guards paid for out of public funds, but no protection is afforded to the victims, and the murderers are hardly ever caught and punished. Extremist organisations such as the Khatme Nabuwwat freely incite hated against the Ahmadis and call on people to attack them.

The UN General Assembly's Third Committee has condemned the Iranian crackdown on protests against the sham elections held in June. The regime tortured and executed hundreds of demonstrators but was unable to prevent huge gatherings.

The Gatwich Detainees Welfare Group draws attention to the increasing number of detainees being held for months or even years, because there is no realistic prospect of their removal The Group also draws attention to the prevalence of drug and alcohol abuse in detention centres, on which Alan West gave me a complacent and uninformative reply:

3 Dec 2009 : Column WA73

Immigration: Detention Centres


Asked by Lord Avebury

    To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their response to the warnings they have received of the prevalence of drug and alcohol abuse in immigration detention centres; and what assessment they have made of whether contractors managing these centres provide adequate staff to monitor the use of these substances, and take action when evidence of abuse comes to their attention. [HL129]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): Each immigration removal centre (IRC) has a security department responsible for identifying threats, including drugs, and for developing strategies, responses and actions to counter these and to manage the risk.

For security reasons, we are unable to reveal the detail of the strategies. However, they are designed to minimise illegal entry to the centre of prohibited items including drugs and alcohol.

All removal centres are adequately staffed to provide a safe and secure environment for staff, detainees and visitors alike. Detention custody officers are all trained in searching techniques and substance awareness. All drug finds and incidents of trafficking are reported to the police and, where appropriate, detainee visits are monitored or visitors banned.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Olivia's visit is flitting past, and tomorrow she stays with Kina overnight before they go to Paris for a few days. Maurice arrives on Saturday for Christmas and the few days up to the new year. I've hardly been to the House at all, but as my strength is improving, the goal is a return full time from the beginning of 2010. Its said to be 6-8 weeks for broken bones to heal, and tomorrow will be 7 weeks since the accident.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


Olivia arrived this afternoon after her long flight from Auckland, and Lindsay went with Kina to pick her up from the airport. She did get some sleep on the flight, but quite understandably went to bed early after an hour or so.

I've got to the stage of walking the whole way round the park, about half a mile, which is OK if I take it slowly. The leg doesn't hurt except at night when its just uncomfortable enough to stop me going to sleep. I'm still having to sleep on my back, and it doesn't feel natural.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Slow but steady progress is all I can report. I'm slightly puzzled to get a circular letter from the local authority saying they will make an appointment for me to see one of their physiotherapists will contact me within four weeks to make an assessment of my needs, because if I need anything apart from the exercises the hospital prescribed, it would surely be a good idea to get on with it. I'm still doing the same exercises, going out for short walks, and moving about the house, and I suppose that five weeks after the accident the bone must have started to knit.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Victoria has spent the day here too, and among other things has unearthed useful documents from the archive. Doris has been here, a refugee from her flat where the landlords have been installing central heating - a bit late!

Yesterday I spoke to my sister Livy, who at the age of 83 is in a care home in Sydney. Frances and Johnny are trying to organise a move for her to Canberra, to make it easier for them to visit. She sounded quite cheerful, though I know she's not in very good health.

An interesting meeting yesterday with Shi'a friends discussing the history of Islam, and the current problems of Shi'a communities in countries where they are a minority, and particularly Saudi Arabia.

This afternoon I went for a walk, just to the children's playground. My leg is getting on fine, and the only problem is that my sleep pattern is disturbed, probably because I have to lie on my back.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Victoria was here all day yesterday very kindly and usefully helping with paperwork, and is coming back again next Tuesday. My leg continues to make good progress, and I have abandoned the crutches for a stick around the house. I'm still sleeping on my back, an unnatural position for me, which makes me snore loudly and has compelled Lindsay to sleep in the spare room. I'm intending to have a short trip in the car to see if I have any difficulty with the leg movements that are necessary for driving, but I don't anticipate that there will be any. Its only two weeks until Olivia arrives, and I want to be able to get around then.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Not a great deal to report, with continued but slow recovery of strength and mobility. Had a visit yesterday from Liz and Donna, occupational therapists from King's, to discuss aids to getting in and out of the bath, and for the time being I have to be content with showers. Except in hot countries, I hate showers, because they entrain cold air, so that one is never warm all over.

Victoria has been here all day, and we have made some good dents in the paperwork and filing. I have sat up all day, and made two trips downstairs and back, and it hasn't been painful sitting at the computer. So its all go for the polevault in 2012, and in the meanwhile to be able to join the outings with Olivia, who arrives in two weeks' time!

The operation was called 'Dynamic Hip Screw Fixation', a common procedure for an extra-capsular fracture, ie one that is sustained outside the capsular attachment of the hip.

The prosthesis consists of a large screw which is inserted into the head of the femur using continuous x-ray observations in operating theatres, and held in place by a metallic plate resting onto the side of the femur bone.

The fracture is reduced by longitudinal traction applied using a special traction operating table. The other leg is moved out of the way. The surgeon stands to the side of the affected hip joint. Using continuous, x-ray emissions from an image intensifier the reduced fracture is visualized prior to making the incision to confirm proper reduction of the fracture. Then, a 6cm to 8 cm long incision is made along the top outerside of the femur bone. This exposes the subcutaneous fat. Further dissection of the muscular layer is carried out by using a blunt instrument. The femur bone is exposed. Under the x-ray guidance of the image intensifier the procedure is visualized on television screens. A guide wire is inserted into the head of femur using a battery operated power drill. A suitably sized screw is fixed into the head. This is connected to a mechanical plate with three to five holes along its length and held in place by screws. Images confirming proper placement of the screw and plate are obtained. The wound is closed in layers using stitches and a dressing is applied prior to the patient leaving the theatre.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


I didn't realise the disadvantage of having to use crutches for the simplest tasks in the office, with mounds of paper accumulating all over the place. The act of retrieving one pile requires moving a chair so that one can sit down on it to reach the pile. Then having picked it up, working on each individual document requires a variety of further actions: it can be binned, or filed, or be scanned and sent with a covering email to someone, or reference to be made to another document already in the files, and all of these mean getting around the office with bits of paper. If something is knocked off the desk or table and it finishes under the piece of furniture, as happened just now with Lindsay's clock, its a job to retrieve it, let alone put it back together. Victoria has been tremendously helpful, and of course dear Lindsay is too wonderful for words.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Saturday evening

Three weeks since the operation, and slowly gaining strength. This morning I had a shower upstairs, and in the afternoon went downstairs and sat in the front room for a couple of hours. The Eritrean Ambassador kindly paid me a call in the late afternoon. Yesterday Victoria spent the day here helping with paperwork, and I had a Skype call with Maurice and Olivia. We're enormously looking forward to their visit and I hope by then I'll be fully mobile. A major disadvantage of having to use crutches is that you can't easily carry things such as books, papers and mobile from one room to another.

Frank and Ros

My nephew Francis and Ros, on their honeymoon in Auckland, where they visited Maurice and Diana. She has four children and so does Francis. They each have a modest house, and their living arrangements will need a bit of planning.

Friday, November 13, 2009

LI Award

Receiving the Liberal International Freedom award from the LI President, John Alderdice, at the Party conference in Bournemouth, with Ros Scott, President of the Party.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Images of my left hip, before and after the operation to put it back together. The metal plate is apparently made in only one size, but I'm going to have a look at what there is on Google about this technology. Not surprising that its still a bit painful after three weeks, though its certainly improving gradually.

Today I had an appointment at 10.45 at King's orthopaedic clinic, waiting until 12.15 to be seen. The doctor said he thought a mistake had been made, because there isn't any treatment needed. But L asked what was required to improve my bone density, and they took a blood sample.

I managed to sit at the computer for most of the afternoon, but there's a huge backlog.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Back at home

My first entry since the Thursday before last, I think, a whole 19 days, spent in King's College Hospital, and then in 'King's at Lewisham', two wards rented by King's for patients being rehabilitated after an operation, or being held between operations. I'm still fairly immobile, getting round with the help of crutches, and having to do exercises that will bring the leg muscles back into full use. The doctors say that will take 4-6 weeks. Lindsay has been absolutely marvellous, trundling all the way to Lewisham every day, fetching me home yesterday and looking after me now I'm confined to the first floor - though I can manage the stairs with some difficulty. The bath is still a problem, and for the time being I can only sleep on my back, which makes me snore, unfortunately for poor Lindsay. She's threatening to sleep upstairs in JW's room.

There's a huge and growing file of Parliamentary correspondence, because I can only spend a limited time sitting at the computer. But I'm sure my strength will grow every day until I'm back to normal in a few weeks.

Whenever I spend any time in hospitals it always strikes me that a high proportion of their patients are there because of damage they have inflicted on themselves with tobacco, alcohol or obesity. The staff say they do what they can, but obviously they haven't the time or the skills needed to get patients off these habits. I do wonder if it would be cost-effective to employ social workers, as they do in St Mary's Paddington for patients whose alcohol consumption is a contributory factor, but covering all the bad habits leading to unnecessary burdens on the NHS.

Surely the tax system should also be used to the maximum effect possible, to reduce consumption of disease-causing substances. The University of Sheffield has demonstrated convincingly that a 10% hike in the cost of alcohol would produce substantial health benefits, and similar effects would no doubt be achieved if fast foods were made more expensive.
Lindsay writes: Eric returned home yesterday from Lewisham Hospital. He has a good four weeks more of convalescence and we hope that by January he will return to Parliament. No doubt the next blog will be from Eric.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

This is Eric on Monday this week, with Lindsay, welcoming friends from the Bahrain Freedom Movement. Eric is receiving regular visits from the physiotherapist, who has him walking up and down the corridors and even climbing stairs. We're still unsure whether or not he'll be allowed to return home before the weekend, so if anyone is thinking of visiting Eric in Lewisham Hospital, please ring Lindsay first on 0207 640 2306

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Visited Eric in Lewisham hospital this afternoon He has been sitting up for much of the day, reading and listening to music. A4 Marlowe Ward, on the fourth floor, with a lovely view of a park, is much quieter than the acute ward at King's, and has only four beds in it. Eric is making good progress, but it will be slow as most bones take about 6 weeks to heal. Old friend from the Press Gallery, Mike Steele, came to visit.

Eric's nephew, Francis Keighley, married Ros Rice in Canberra today. If only we could have been there to join in the celebrations with their two families. We wish Francis and Ros all joy and happiness. Lindsay

Friday, October 30, 2009

Lindsay writes: This afternoon Eric is moving to Lewisham Hospital, Lewisham High Street, south London, to convalesce for about a week. He will be in A4 Marlowe Ward, which is in the women's and children's wing of the hospital, on the 4th floor. This is part of King's College Hospital, based at Lewisham. It is a rehabilitation ward and has "dedicated input from a ward based Physiotherapist, Occupational Therapist and Social Worker", should he need all three!

Visiting times are 2pm to 8pm. Please ring Lindsay (0207 640 2306) to let her know if and when you might be visiting. Parking is available at the hospital, at £2 an hour.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Lindsay writes: Eric in good spirits today - he has walked from his bed to the corridor, with the help of a physiotherapist. He has banished the morphine as it makes him too fuzzy and sleepy and is coping well enough with the occasional paracetemol. His doctor is arranging a bone density test, to see why bones seem to be breaking apparently so easily. Eric may soon be moved from his present acute ward to the King's recuperation ward at Lewishham hospital, where he will receive much more intensive physiotherapy, for some days before returning home. As well as Lindsay, Eric received visits from Benny Sedaka and Felicity Devonshire, Philip Epstein and son Lyulph.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Lindsay writes: No plaster cast was necessary as a large metal (could it be Titanium?) plate/screw is holding his left femur together. This operation is called Dynamic Hip Screw Fixation, and if you want to be blinded by science, his doctors advise you go the to AO Foundation website. Eric is making good progress. His physio got him out of bed today, made him stand up and has given him various exercises. Now that the operation anaesthetic/epidural has worn off, he's not quite so comfortable as yesterday, but managing well enough on paracetemol.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Visiting Eric

Lindsay Writes: This morning's operation to repair Eric's broken left femur went very well. When I visited him this afternoon, he was sitting up in bed looking very cheerful (see photo) and relaxed. He was in no pain at all, not from his leg nor from the rib which he broke over three weeks ago.

Physiotherapists will be getting him out of bed tomorrow, sitting in a chair.

Saturday 24th October

Lindsay writes: Eric had the operation to put a pin in his left leg early this morning. He is now back on the ward and the ward nurse tells me he is pain free. I'll be visiting him shortly.

Friday, October 23, 2009

News about Eric - Lindsay writes

The good news is that the consultant says that the pain which Eric has been experiencing in his chest for the past three weeks is caused by a broken rib. We have no idea how this happened, as we can’t remember Eric falling over. Broken ribs are very painful and take quite a few weeks to heal, but are fortunately not serious.

However the not so good news is that during his visit to King’s College Hospital haematology department this morning, Eric tripped and fell down. In doing so, he broke the top of the femur of his left leg. It’s likely the orthopaedic surgeons will operate on him in the next 48 hours, to put a pin in the leg. If all goes well, he will probably be discharged from King's in a week. He's being given morphine for the pain at the moment. Victoria and Alan came straight over to King's when they heard the news.

When I left the hospital an hour ago, A&E staff said Eric would be going up to Twinings Ward. Victoria and Alan are with him at the moment, and I will return later on.