The Saturday Slant - Vandals or victims?

Queen's Diamond Jubilee Commemorative Garden off Brendon Walk, Blackpool and (below) the grubby plinth
Queen's Diamond Jubilee Commemorative Garden off Brendon Walk, Blackpool and (below) the grubby plinth
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It’s a sobering thought, but today’s mindless thugs and foolhardy vandals are destined to grow up - if they ever grow up, that is - to become the frail vulnerable pensioners of tomorrow.

And by then they should have entirely changed their viewpoint on anti-social behaviour, especially if they or their property happens to be on the receiving end.

The muddied plaque at the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Commemorative Garden off Brendon Walk, Blackpool

The muddied plaque at the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Commemorative Garden off Brendon Walk, Blackpool

Eventually, tables will surely be turned, but then vandalism is nothing new, is it?

Spooling through miles of microfilm researching for the 100, 50 and 25 year ago panels for my Tuesday Memory Lane page, I am no longer surprised by reports over the decades of such sad antics. In particular, teenagers wreaking havoc in Fylde coast parks and cemeteries and other public spaces. Never on homeground.

I can’t say I am entirely innocent, either. But my indiscretion was limited to plucking about a dozen long flower stems from a particularly-colourful front garden when I was 14. On school camp at Harlech, we had to be enterprising when it came to costumes for the annual fancy dress competition.

While I might have resembled a spring bride my aim was merely to mimic Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who had visited North Wales just nine months earlier. He famously achieved celebrity status as the guru and spiritual advisor to The Beatles, having introduced them to his Transcendental Meditation technique, and they had attended his lectures in Bangor.

I improvised his “look” by commandeering and draping white plastic table cloths from the dining marquee about my person, the unkempt hair and beard fashioned from strands of unwound string.

And the outfit was topped off with a giant daisy chain, hence the “need” for those flowers. Only these turned out to be dog daisies - and they ponged, which was, I suppose my punishment. But I did come second.

And so back to local vandalism. Over the last few weeks, although I have not witnessed the action itself, I have certainly seen the results of the handiwork of yobs on land at the corner of St Walburgas Road and Poulton Road, Blackpool.

Earlier this week I parked up on Brendon Walk and strolled across to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Commemorative Garden, as it says on the muddy plaque, officially opened on May 30, 2012 by Coun Gillian Campbell, portfolio holder for housing and Bill Rogers, Blackpool Coastal Housing vice-chairman.

The garden, where one of the six silver birches has now been completely uprooted and destroyed, is not in some hidden corner of a park but in full view of motorists, pedestrians and local residents.

Yet somehow, at sometime, furtive and feckless types have managed to wreak havoc on this community area, repeatedly ripping off the ties each time they are replaced, and pulling over the young trees.

The big question is: Why were these trees not given the same fighting chance as those surrounded by strong mesh, in a smart row, along the grassed central reservation of the nearby dual carriageway?


What were you doing five years ago this week?

Ask me that question about any other time than winter 2009 and I’ll hesitate with the answer.

But five years is an easy one. I was travelling up and down the M55. I had been doing that every Monday to Friday since the start of December, apart from Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Years Day.

This was no office commute. I had a daily date with my destiny, and by this time was more than half way through 37 sessions of radiation treatment for prostate cancer.

It laid me low for a few months afterwards, but once the permanent feeling of “jet lag” and other unpleasant side effects had gone I was back in the office and told the editor I felt a feature on being diagnosed, living and having treatment for cancer might just encourage a few male readers to get themselves checked out.

After all, early detection is key and my openness about my condition prompted at least one colleague to seek out the simple blood test for PSA(prostate specific antigen), whose levels can indicate cancer. He says it probably saved his life because soon after my radiation course had finished he was also heading down the motorway for treatment at the Rosemere Centre at Royal Preston Hospital.

Long before that you need a transrectal needle biopsy and, in fairness, the medical team ensure you are as relaxed as possible during the mildly-uncomfortable harpooning of a dozen samples for cell examination under a microscope.

No pun intended, but I honestly thought those days were well and truly behind me. But last week I found myself once again lying on my side, knees beneath my chin, undergoing a biopsy.

I should get the results before the end of the month, which is when I leave The Gazette after 41 years and seven months for a less-stressful lifestyle to fight the disease for a second time.

Instead of getting my five year all clear, this psychological milestone was marred by the news the cancer is back. Or, more likely it never went away, dormant rogue cells, missed by the radiation, now springing to life as my body has been two years free of hormone implants in my stomach wall.

In recent weeks I have had a full body nuclear bone scan, CT scan and MRI scan and the good news is the disease does not appear to have spread.

Prostate cancer has hit the national headlines this week with the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) issuing guidelines that thousands of men with low and medium risk cancers should be advised to avoid immediate treatment such as radiotherapy or surgery to be spared the inevitable harsh side effects.

Instead they should be offered “active surveillance”. I have followed the NICE reports with a vested interest. Without a hint of self-pity, where do I go now? My cancer was deemed inoperable from the outset, so surgery was always out of the question. Nor is a lengthy session of radiotherapy even an option for second line treatment.

That leaves experimental procedures such as high intensity ultra sound and cryotherapy - basically, one boils, the other freezes - but both can seriously affect your quality of life. Then, again, I could opt for active surveillance, continuing the six monthly checks that detected my current state of play.

But as I wrote back in April 2009: “At least I am now in that system for life whatever it throws at me.”