Beware the Ides of March

My dad, through the years until shortly after his illness in 1983

Last week, I realised that it was exactly 38 years since my father had his first of three subarachnoid brain haemorrhages. He was 38 years old.

This has been the first anniversary of Dad’s first haemorrhage without Mum which is maybe why I’m writing about it now. I’ve also been scanning a lot of photos from my Mum’s collection which is helping piece together some of the puzzle.

The soothsayer in Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar warned the Roman emperor about the 15th of March, “Beware the Ides of March”. It’s a phrase that took on a very real meaning for our family.

On Tuesday 15 March 1983, my father Keith Saunders was in his birthplace of Nottingham to deliver the 1982/83 IEE Faraday lecture The Photon Connection about how fibre optics (light) would revolutionise communications. Shortly after he had stepped off the stage in Nottingham (I think it was at the Royal Concert Hall) he was giving an interview to the BBC about the lecture tour when he suddenly felt very ill. He turned, vomited and collapsed onto the floor. (I’ve often thought, somewhere, at some point, the BBC had footage of my dad vomiting!)

It had begun as an ordinary Tuesday in March but one that changed all of our lives forever.

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Buffalo! Bison!

Musk oxen on Windows 10 lock screen

Yesterday, my Windows 10 lock screen started to show this image of musk oxen, native to the Arctic.

Because they look a bit like bison, it reminded me of when I was younger, getting ready for school and saying bye to my dad as he left the house for his 20-minute walk to Exacta Circuits in Selkirk.

Every morning, when he put on his coat, I’d step out of my bedroom, which was next to the front door, and as he opened the front door to leave I would say, “Buffalo!”

And Dad would turn to me and reply, with a big grin, “Bison!”


In related news, did you know that “Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo” is a perfectly valid sentence in English?

It means, “Buffalo bison that other Buffalo bison bully also bully Buffalo bison.”

Robot AM radio

robot-am-radio

I used to have a bright yellow one of these AM radios which I found on The Old Robots.

His (or her, I never thought to ask) eyes lit up when people spoke or music played, as I listened to Radio Luxembourg beneath my bed sheets late into the night.

And thus began my love of radio. Now sometimes my eyes light up when people speak or music is played.

Surfing giant waves in Portugal

When I was a boy, growing up in Selkirk in the Scottish Borders (about 40 miles from the sea), I was given a Hang Ten t-shirt from my American cousin Charlotte in California. She grew up in Hawai’i and told me the significance of the name:

Hanging Ten is a surfing maneuver and is considered one of the most impressive and iconic stunts one can perform with a surfboard. Hanging ten is when the surfer positions the surfboard in such a way that the back of it is covered by the wave and the wave rider is free to walk to the front of the board and hang all ten toes over the nose of the board.

(Source: Wikipedia)

Perhaps in an ideal world I would then say that wearing my green and white striped Hang Ten t-shirt, as an eight year old, inspired me to learn to surf and I became one of Scotland’s finest surfers ever.

But it’s not. And I didn’t.

But isn’t that video just incredible, and beautiful and terrifying.