St Bede’s College, Manchester. Crash, Bang, Wallop.

When the new head at St Bede’s College, Mr Richard Robson, took over in January 1915 I vowed to give him time.  Time to sort things out, time to make the school recover from its lowest ebb.  But I fear he took on more than he or any other aspiring head could ever chew.  In the last week three items of news have come to life which seem to render this man’s efforts as falling short of the standards we were hoping to expect.

First came the news last week from the Daily Telegraph’s league tables for Independent School A Level results which placed St Bede’s College at 255th out of 291 Independent Schools.  Improvement after nearly two years does seem to be a negative factor in St Bede’s rush for glory.

And then in last night Manchester Evening News came the story of Mr Niall O’Hagan, a teacher at St Bede’s going on a drinking spree whilst in Lourdes supervising a party of about 20 children, leaving them to fend for themselves in a foreign environment and then turning up for religious events totally out of his head with alcohol.  It is all described here in this link to the article in the said paper.

He was tried by his peers found to be guilty and banned from teaching indefinitely.  The incident if nothing else shows the lack of discipline by staff that still exists at the school.  Mr Robson has made no affect in this very important aspect of school values.

Then to top all this off in the post this morning I received an anonymous letter posted in Manmchester Mail Centre at 6.26pm on 12th September.  The letter was addressed to Mr Paul Malpas, (Campaigner and Blogger), Boyle, County Roscommon, Eire.  It shows how far my fame has come, for the local postman delivered it to King House in Boyle, the place from which I do most of my work.

The anonymous letter , well written, which cannot be said of all in this genre says:-

“As a friend and guardian of the interests of St Bede’s, I hope this might be of some interest to you.

St Bede’s is on the cusp of closure.  I have seen the plans for its demise which have been conceived and drawn up by Des Coffey.  Next academic year it will reopen as the Manchester City Academy 11-16 (St Bede’s Campus) and Coffey has a list of the staff he rates and intends to keep and those who, like Joe Hart, are now under his regime, surplus to requirements.

The area known as Holly Bank has been sold off to pay off loans from the Salford Diocese and the Educational Trust Fund which has kept the College afloat amid a drastically falling role in the spend, spend, spend soon-to-end reign of Mr Robson.  The Regis building and grounds is going to market soon and the funds from its sale will go into the redundancy pot.
The plan is to keep the Prep department open as an independent entity primarily because its current head is the daughter of Brian Kidd and Pep’s children, along with the other MCFC offspring are enrolled.  The new head of the Manchester City Academy from 2017 is Mrs Alex Vyce – the daughter of Des Coffey.  She has been instumental in advising her father on those members of staff who are on board and on those who need to be jettisoned.  Mr Robson has been given 12 months to find a new job.  He has already had two unsuccessful interviews.  His biggest mistakes were to tell his paymasters at the Etihad that he could go it alone and to fall foul of Mrs Hunt, Head of Prep, when she refused to appoint his wife as a teacher.  Robbo withdrew his children in protest.

Coffey’s rationale is pathetically simple and all to do with his standing and status at MCFC.  He had been marginalised and shown the door under the new Spanish regime just as the good times started to roll and, in a desperate attempt to keep his  club suit and season ticket he embarked on his “educational project” to take control and gain greater influence at St Bede’s.  He installed the corpulent and dim-witted Fr Daly as a puppet Chair of Governors and bullied, marginalised, and dismissed governors and staff who had rumbled his ruse.
He must be stopped.  His abuse of staff, parents and children at st Bede’s is the scandal of our times.”

To anybody not in the know the weasel known as Des Coffey was supposedly Manchester City’s Education Officer having arrived in that position after many years struggling in junior education in Manchester’s inner city schools.  After a few years integrating MCFC Junior footballers into a failing St Bede’s College, he was co-opted onto the Board of Governors of the College to give some say to the football club that was throwing thousands at the College.  This fawning approach by the Diocese and the school had plenty of critics, myself included, who could only see the end result and if this letter is correct our prophesised end result has arrived.

As one former pupil said this morning after being shown the letter “To be honest none of it surprises me.  Absolutely appalling.  Private interest, toadying, nepotism, corruption, treachery, mismanagement.  And where are the children in all of this?  And the parents who are scraping the money together each week to pay the enormous fees?  Left hung out to dry.  Eughhh, what a cess pit”

I can certainly associate myself with the latter thought.  There was I 20 to 30 years ago, with four children at the school, busting my gut every week to afford the fees and it has come to this.  But for the Diocese and the Catholic Church it is just one more step on the downward slope.  The two interlinked institutions are bolloxed, never ever to be anything more than the stuff you accidentally step on on the footpath.  The way they dealt with the historic abuse of children at the school has now come home to roost  for the hierarchy of the Diocese and the antiquated clerics who told lies during the legal proceedings.  If we lost that battle on a technicality we, the forgotten, the abused, are definitely winning the war against this sham that is known as the catholic Church.

I would welcome anybody to comment on these ongoing events because if we left it all to the College, the Diocese and the Church we would learn nothing

Father, Dear Father

Last week in accordance with the habit of the Catholic Church, my father, 98 years and four months old, received Extreme Unction or the Last Rites, his supposed last appointment before shuffling off this nonsensical life.  His mother had given birth to a 2lb 2oz runt on 31st March 1918 during the last days of the German Spring offensive, the Kaiserschlacht, the battle where they ran out of weapons, ammunition, food and staying power which marked the end of the war.  For my father it was a beginning after the doctor threw the almost dead foetus to the end of the bed with the words”he’ll not last” ringing in his unformed aural cavities.  He proved the doctor wrong and was now proving the religious wrong.  I made arrangements to visit him if he had time to wait for me..  It was a few days before I eventually mounted the Fly Be steps at Knock Airport and flew to Manchester.

My father has been a resident of The Little Sisters of the Poor Nursing Home in Longsight in Manchester for the last few years.  He was about 95 when he was inserted and the Little Sisters were most perturbed that in his transition from sheltered housing in Didsbury to their place on Plymouth Grove his medical records had been lost and it was a few days before they accepted that there were no records.  He had never been ill; he had never taken any prescription drugs.  He had escaped the shackles of the horrible Big Pharma.  He came from an era when Big Pharma did not exist.  His hospital visits had only been to visit those less fortunate.  His only complaint was a busted knee that he had hurt playing football 77 years previously and he had learnt to live with that pain.  He was a farmer’s son and had always enjoyed good health and as a young man thought nothing of cycling down to his cousin’s house in Vauxhall in London and spending the weekend with them.  180 miles each way and not a bother on him.  He was a footballer, a cricketer, a fencer, played table tennis to a high standard, had even beaten Victor Barna and ate the best a farmer’s table could give him.

However these times were different, he was getting old and the Little Sisters was the place for him.  A splendid pile of new build on Plymouth Grove in Manchester; my mother had been on the Board of Guardians there 30 years ago, so his credentials were good and as far as I know he enjoyed his life there being coddled by a caring and attentive staff and being wheeled into Mass every day.  He had been born into a relaxed Church of England family in Denton and had turned to the Catholic faith in 1941 in order to marry my mother, part of a determined Irish immigrant family.  This custom of conversion was enforced in those days but not so much today and he became a more sincere and devoted Catholic than most who were born into and admitted that faith.

Our relationship had never been good from my baby boomer teen age days of the 1960s.  My carefree almost feral attitude did not gel with his conditioned pre-war being and my removal to Ireland had not eased the mental distance we had between ourselves, but that story is for another day and might never be told.  Suffice it to say that there was an uneasiness between us and remoteness does not help.

So there he was in comparative comfort, freshly Holy Viaticumised and made ready for the pearly gates and yet he lingered, he waited and wasted.  Why?  There did not seem a point and I got it into my head perhaps one last visit might help.  Oil on troubled waters, make peace with whatever was the niggle we had.  So that was why I landed in Manchester on 28th July 2016, eight days after he was shown the road to his maker.  Problems with our plane delayed my visit by another day and postponed my proposed meeting with my youngest brother, who had been a daily sentinel in this time of need.

By arrangement I stayed at Daughter No. 3’s house who dropped me round at the Nursing Home the following lunchtime where I met my brother Michael who guided me through the labyrinth of corridors and lifts to my father’s room.  He was sat there in an armchair, not comfortable because he was forever moving his upper body in the chair.  Blind, deaf, incontinent, emaciated and not able to walk, a death waiting to happen.  He had last spoken six days previously and although not comatose, he was as good as.  Michael had watched his deterioration over a few years but to me it was a total shock.  His arms no thicker than his wrist, his large claw-like hands shrunk to needle-like digits, his legs no thicker than his stick-like ankles.  A fit strong man reduced to his lowest common denominator.  I understood that he had been on a mouse-like diet for some time.  He had no flesh, just bone and tendon held together by an opaque epidermis.

Every now and then he lifted his head, opened his eyes and looked straight through us, not a flicker of recognition when I introduced myself, not a sign of pleasure or displeasure, just vacant emptiness.  It had been agreed with the medics that there would be no intervention, yet after coughing up blood two weeks previously, he had been shipped next door to the brand new Royal Infirmary and given drugs that had stopped the haemorrhage, so intervention was on the menu and they shipped him back to the Little Sisters after a week.  I was told there was little care at the Infirmary, a type of Liverpool Pathway philosophy until my eldest daughter, a highly qualified nurse, kicked off and put the fear of God into the ward staff which greatly improved the cleanliness of his surroundings.

He did not seem to be in any pain unless he had been dosed to withstand but on his return from hospital he started pissing blood which they had stopped reasonably quickly.  There just did not seem to be any quality to his existence.  He looked uncomfortable but he seemed not part of this world.  He was waiting, waiting, hanging on , for what?.  It was most distressing for me the newcomer, my brother had probably become immune.  I stayed an hour and had to go.  It was like the final flickering of a candle at it’s wick’s end, not giving any light worth having, just showing slight movement.

I returned to my daughter’s house trying to rid myself of the scene and was much relieved when ordered on to baby-sitting duties that evening whilst husband worked and spouse danced.  This at least had a purpose.

Bed at 10.00pm and up at 6.00am and prepared myself for another day, another visit, stupidly persuading myself that there will be improvement.  I was on my own and became alarmed when I walked in the room and found him slumped in the chair with his head between his knees.  I thought he had gone but his hands moved.  I pushed his shoulders back into the chair, my grip felt nothing but bone and his upper-body had no weight.  He must have slumped forward and had not the strength to bring himself upright.  In a more convenient position his demeanour did not change.  No sign of life, no flicker of emotion, no hint of having heard, having seen or having felt, just absolute nothingness.  All there was was a twitch of limb, a drop of head.  It was horrible to see.  The utter sadness of this extended demise made me cry.  Again I stayed an hour and became more and more overcome with misery at his state.  I wiped the tears from my eyes and left.  If only things could have been different.  It is a lesson I have painfully learnt.

Back to my daughter’s house and I just let these words  spill out onto the page.  I was bereft, more so now than I will be at his imminent funeral mass.  I started to consider my own farewell and I hope not to tarry when that day comes.  Johnny Walker, Mr Bell and Mr Jamieson will be on hand to hasten my removal, with the knowledge of having a far easier life than my father.

I am not here to champion the system of assisted death or euthanasia which some countries allow, as I fear malpractice if not securely monitored, but there must be another way.  The Little Sisters said that whilst there is still recognisable life they have to continue giving him drugs but what I saw was not life.  There was nothing happening in his consciousness.  A fly-wheel driven heart acting metronomically not realising when to stop.

A 21st Century Comedy of Errors

The main players in this incident packed story are Dr Kathleen Finan, medical consultant at Sligo General Hospital, Dr Una Clyne, urological consultant at Sligo General Hospital and Dr Kilian Walsh, urological consultant at Galway University Hospital.  There are two separate scenes, Sligo University Hospital ( now referred by SGH) and its murky corridors and a much inferior hospital to its big brother, Galway University Hospital (now referred as DUH) with its bright and breezy corridors hiding inefficiency and bad practice, but they are the two biggest hospitals in Ireland’s western province of Connaught, which provided most of the labour to rebuild Britain after the 2nd World War, which only proves these two hospitals are good at shovelling shit.

As I told you in my previous trilogy of blog postings, Two weeks of Trauma in late April and early May this year, that Helen, my wife of 43+ years had felt unwell, the local doctor advised I take her to SGH, where she had a heart attack (sic) and they helicoptered her down to GUH as the only way of saving her life.  GUH had the equipment, SGH did not.  GUH stabilised her condition and because they thought that she had had a heart attack, they gave her an angiogram, to find where the clot formed and the incision formed by the procedure became infected causing two further procedures to cut out infected flesh leaving a 100mm x 50mm hole in the top of her right thigh.  The results from the angiogram proved inconclusive.  No blockages found in the venous system, no stents needed: head scratching was the order of the day.

This drama started on 11th April and she was returned back to SGH on 18th April and released from there on 25 April to be tended by the local District Nurse.  The heart was not the problem now, it was responding to treatment and the wound caused by the angiogram was being treated professionally and well by the District Nurse.  The good news on that front was on the 18th July some 14 weeks after the angiogram, our wonderful District nurse Cait Daly struck Helen off her list and pronounced the wound completely healed.  A pity as I found her most efficient and caring.  The problem now was that in their scans of the vital organs in their search for the cause of the supposed heart attack (sic) they by chance had found a spot (sic) on her left kidney.  Dr Finan had noticed this but as she was no expert in Urology she referred us to Dr Clyne who said she was.  We saw her at an out-patients clinic in Sligo on about 25th May.  Dr Clyne, a large contemptuous woman, started to explain the problem.  Her bedside manner would put the fear of God in anyone.  We started to ask pertinent questions.  “Don’t ask me that, I’m only a surgeon” she said.  The upshot was that the spot (sic) was 8cm long and over 2cm was considered to be malignant and she was referring us immediately to Dr Walsh in GUH, the top bollocks in terms of kidneys in the west of Ireland.  So much for her claim to only being a surgeon.

Whilst we awaited Dr Walsh’s invitation we had an out-patients clinic on about 10th June with Dr Finan, a serious, concerned humourless lady who showed us how Helen’s heart, badly swollen after the heart attack (sic), had returned to roughly its normal shape and was improving by the day and by the way it wasn’t a heart attack, it was a pulmonary oedema.  This we were told some two months after the incident.  A pulmonary oedema is where the lungs fill with fluid, the heart looks for oxygen, does not get any and starts to close down.  Why or how this came about she was not able to answer.

However she showed us the scan on Helen’s kidneys, the right perfectly clear and kidney shaped, the left covered totally by a black shroud.  The spot (sic) had become an ogre.  We expressed our concern at the lack of contact from Dr Walsh at GUH.  She rang his secretary who said she knew of the referral and would shortly be posting out an appointment.  This was the 10th June, nearly two months after the discovery.

By the 10th July even our GP was getting concerned and rang GUH Urology appointments who told him that Helen would be given an appointment shortly but that they had only been notified on 28th June.  Porkies immediately crossed our mind.  Either Dr Clyne who was supposed to have notified GUH on about 25th May, or Dr Walsh’s secretary who said she knew about it on 10th June were lying or more than likely lax in their communication methods.  Our GP gave me all the contact details and told me to pursue the matter on a daily basis and suggested it would possibly be quicker if we sought a private appointment as opposed to one from out-patients.

After three more days of telephoning GUH and relating our story I eventually got through to a nice lady called Una in Urology appointments who said she would do her best to process the matter but having no faith now in the system I decided to go for the private appointment and rang Dr Walsh’s secretary who said that the doctor was going on holiday for a month and that the earliest date she could give me was 26th August, I took it and was told to bring €150 for the appointment when we arrived in August.

The following day Una in Urology appointments was as good as her word and an out-patients appointment came through the post for 18th July.  I cancelled the private appointment but was wary of this months holiday that Walsh was about to take.

18th July was a fine summer’s day as we presented ourselves at GUH at 2.00pm for the 3.30 appointment which was being held in the fairly new prostate clinic opened in 2009 so the plaque on the wall said by none other than a cousin of mine Mary Harney, Minister of Health at the time.  I thought the gods must be with us as we waited expectantly.  They unfortunately were not.

Mr Walsh, a tall lean man, as well as being top bollocks in kidneys was humourless and useless without notes, called us in to the room, sat us on two chairs and sat at his desk with his back to us as he pressed keys on his computer, flicked through his file of notes, occasionally turning his head to the side to presumably see if we were still there.  He went back to Helen’s file flicked through the pages once again, did some one fingered typing on the screen in front of him and then swivelled round in his chair and said to Helen, “you have been seriously ill” and spewed out a load of medical terms which by their tone seemed to suggest seriousness. ” The trouble is” he said “I have only got the notes from your stay here in GUH in April.  I have no idea of the improvement in your condition since then nor have I the results of the scans taken in Sligo.  They have not sent us any of your notes.  If I consider operating on you with the information I have in front of me the operation might kill you.”  Assurance in deed from the top bollocks.

“I don’t know what to do” he said with one eye on his forthcoming holiday.  Helen suggested he went on the internet and pick up the notes from SGH.  He shook his head “Impossible he said our two systems are incompatible, if we need information of this type we rely on the post”.  Technology raised its head and farted.  It is only July 2016 and the two hospitals rely on a system introduced in the 1840s.  When Ireland sells itself to the world it talks of its high tech philosophy, there is no country finer.  If Kilian Walsh is top bollocks in kidneys, Ireland is the same in technology.  My arse!

Mr Walsh sighed and said all we can do is start from the beginning again and send you for more scans, more bloods, more x-rays and we will see you again in two months time.  Obviously these malignant tumours get on fairly well without intervention.  This did not seem to be much of a Plan B.  SGH could have been on the far side of the moon for all he was concerned and besides as he knew and probably thought that we didn’t, he was off on a month’s holiday and fuck it, if she is still there when I get back I should have all the information I want, if not so be it.

Helen mooted the idea of having all the tests done on the same day to save multiple 160 mile trips.  “No chance” said Mr Top Bollocks.  It makes me wonder why consultant doctors are so humourless, contemptuous, so lacking in empathy, in fact so devoid of emotion but I suppose if looking at the dead and nearly dead all their lives such feelings come naturally.  I can only thank God for my endocrinologist Dr Wilma Lourens in SGH who puts all the rest of them to shame with her gentle coaxing, concern and humour.

And as a last thought considering the number of patients shuttled between the two hospitals by helicopter and ambulance each year, surely it must be within the wit of somebody in the Health Executive to make the two computer systems compatible even if they have to draft in some 12 year old from the local National School.  We now await that far off day in mid-September when Dr Walsh has all his notes and feels well enough to give us his best prognosis.  If you have a God pray for us, our problem is we don’t, so we have no Plan C.

Hark, I hear the postman delivering mail and lo and behold how efficient, two days after our abortive visit to Galway, we have another appointment with Dr Walsh.  Not in six weeks or even two months but in 11 weeks time, 24 weeks after the tumour was discovered.  My how the time flys, how lucky we are in having doctors willing to go that extra few yards and how lucky we are at having tumours willing to wait.

And one very last thing I would like to praise the kindness and sympathy of Noirin, the nurse in Walsh’s out-patients clinic who showed on the day what the medical professionals need to be aware of when dealing with patients.  Knowledge and surgical skills are one thing but care and appreciation of a patient’s condition is a far bigger deal altogether.

The Glorious Days Of Late Spring

Well the panic station weeks of April are thankfully now over and Helen is recovering well at home under my immaculate and dutiful nursing skills.  The District Nurse now sees her every other day to tend the massive wound which became infected after the angiogram procedure and had to be operated on twice to remove dead flesh.  However it should be fully healed by the end of the first week in June.  May I say here that the District Nurse service for North Roscommon centred in Boyle is as fine an organization as you could possibly want.  It operates on a seven day a week basis and is staffed by a fine team of lady nurses, chatty, humorous and most importantly very able.  Arriving like clockwork at the appointed time although covering a massive area.  A special thanks to Nurse Cait Daley who has done most of the dressings, for her close attention to Helen.

At this moment we are going through the grinding Out-Patient charade, where every man and his dog who thought he or she had some hand in Helen’s case wants to see her and do not much else.  Most of these visits are a complete waste of time and money and must be a mighty drain on the Health budget.  For us Sligo Hospital is a 70 mile round trip and takes four hours to complete and Galway Hospital is a 160 mile round trip and you could write off the whole day.  We have been to two on separate days at Sligo this week and two more at Galway next week with a further one in Sligo the week after and that is only round 1.

Helen is good, starting to do little bits around the house under my supervision.  A little ironing, washing up and a little bit of cooking.  I allow this because it is important that she keeps her hand in and does not lose the deft touches she has picked up in over 43 years of blissful marriage.  She has of course one or two problems still not sorted out but she is brave enough not to let it worry her.  She has lost a good bit of weight, she now weighs 60 Kgs but under my meticulous culinary care her appetite is improving slowly but surely.

We are having some glorious weather in these last few weeks of May and I am sure the sun is helping the recuperation process.  The garden is in a great state after a week of spring cleaning.  The hard standings have all been power-washed to remove the winter build up of moss.  The grass on the lawn has been cut to within an inch of its life and the edges strimmed.  A new pin comes to mind.

Our greatest pleasure at this time is sitting out on the verandah after dinner, coddling a glass of wine as the sun pours its penultimate rays down on us from the west.  We watch the small birds, robins, bullfinches, greenfinches and dunnocks as they gorge themselves on the organic porridge oats we leave out for them and after satisfying themselves bring a beak full back to their loved ones during this nesting season.  Our pair of robins have been with us all winter and the cock soon lets us know when the bowl is empty.  He sits on the newel post of the balustrade which runs round the verandah and looks mournfully into the kitchen.

While the oats are getting their evening hammering, the martins are flitting about in their last insect frenzy of the day.  They return to us every year from Africa at the beginning of May to the same nests as last year and if for some reason the nest has been destroyed they set about rebuilding it in the same place.  They have to get a move on because they have sometimes three litters to care for before flying back the way they came in September.

The hanging baskets are in full bloom, likewise the white lilac and magnolia bushes that stand sentinel in the middle of the garden.  The wisteria which we brought with us from Manchester 10 years ago is enjoying its best year yet and the drooping lilac bunches cover the balustrade, around the gutter and along the herring bone strutting in the roof.  The shame is that its flowering season is short and the petals drop off in a lilac snow storm after only a few weeks but it does have a less profuse flowering in September.

The Crumpety Tree at the bottom of the garden, which is an amalgam of hawthorn and elder gets more fairy story-ish as the years pass by.  The white hawthorn blossom is just appearing and the elder flower blossom still green and will npot be mature for at least a month.  Helen then picks it and makes elder flower wine and cordial.  Let us hope she is up to it this year.  Sitting here this evening with our glass of wine sure makes the heart feel good and hopefully Helen’s heart is of the same opinion.

As I write a greenfinch has just dive-bombed a dunnock from its place on the porridge bowl, helped itself to a morsel and sped off.  We have placed the bowl on a hanging basket under a large bunch of wisteria.  This stops the large birds, the blackbirds and magpies raiding.  They have enough to eat in the freshly mown lawn which they share with the wood pigeon, thrush and occasional pheasant.

Further along the garden, through the elevated section which is covered with pink granite chippings, the troughs of herbs, rosemary, chives, fennel,. thyme and mint are thriving and at my elbow the trailing begonias are in full bloom hanging out of their boxes along the west side of the verandha and beyond the begonias the lavatera is in bud and within a week we should have a mass of pink flowers.

Our rocking chair is vacant at the moment trembling in the slight evening breeze.  It has already seen ten of these annual cycles, nothing impresses it but it remains as good as the day I constructed it all those years ago.  Beyond the lavatera our boat lies on its trailer in the driveway, pristine after my son cleaned it of its winter grime and it now waits to be put back on the lake again.

Everything is tensed and at the same time relaxed.  Life at this moment is great.  However we have still a few hurdles to jump but that is the future, let us enjoy the moment and the glorious late Spring.

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