‘So how bad was the operation?’

‘So how bad was the operation?’

My heart attack has had such a sobering impact on so many of my friends, colleagues and family that I felt motivated to write these articles. Two people have given up smoking and another is now taking statins.

I have to issue the statutory warning that I’m not qualified to recommend the use of any medication. There are vague stories about adverse effects resulting from the continuous use of statins. 

Feedback on here has been sparse to date but I’ve had a number of replies via the social media links to the file. If viral propagation takes place (one share so far on Facebook) we might just make a difference by helping others to avoid complacency and self-deception and face up to reality.

This time, for the benefit of those who are facing a bypass operation, here’s how it goes:

On the day, and I was postponed twice because of more urgent cases, the porters arrived to wheel me, bed and all, into the theatre. I now understand how difficult it is to coordinate these affairs. Some patients also have diabetes and there’s a limit to how long such people can fast, as we all have to before an operation (‘nil by mouth’). Others have defective heart valves, too, or both ailments combined. It ain’t easy!

A nurse arrived and gave me a little calm-you-down pill (and what wouldn’t I give for a bottle of those) and in I went. In the theatre anteroom, I was asked to take deep lungfuls of oxygen to oxygenate my blood. This is because they have to stop the heart and hand your bodily functions over to a machine which monitors your vital signs. Then they squirted anaesthetic into a cannula in my hand and I was gone, in an instant. The next thing I knew it was 2.30 am and I could hear a soft voice telling me to wake up.

In other words, the operation itself is a push-over, except for the 2% chance you won’t make it! The trade off here is that, without the operation, I would have lived for around 4/5 months.

I felt no pain, just a slight soreness in my chest where they ran down my sternum with a small circular saw! I was aware of my right leg, too, where they harvested the vein they required. I have no varicose veins so this was straight forward. ‘The body is a rich source of spare parts’ the surgeon told me. ‘You have twice as many veins as you need’. Sometimes they use a redundant vein in your chest. I really think they enjoy cutting people up.

I was wheeled into theatre at 3.30 pm and the operation lasts around five hours. They like to keep you sedated for six hours so my 2.30 am wake-up call was spot on. Everything must have been OK.

I’d made friends with a guy called Albert and I was vaguely aware they were having trouble waking him in the bed behind me. My wife and eldest daughter Sally had arrived by this time and we were all concerned. I’m not sure what happened to him. New Cross is like a small city.

Sleep became my biggest problem. I’ve never been able to sleep on my back and I couldn’t sleep on my side until my sternum had more or less healed (after around a month) so I slept in the comfortable chair beside my bed most of the time, and the same when I got home. A nurse asked me to get into bed at one point so I waited until she went off duty and got back in my chair.

Because I had three stents fitted (@ £1050 each!) my blood had to be just right. I needed extra anti-coagulant because the stents are a foreign body but, too thin, and the vein grafts won’t heal. The surgeon and his team have to walk a tightrope. The result of this is that I ended up with around 1.2 L of fluid (mainly blood) in my chest cavity, which caused my left lung to collapse. My blood/oxygen levels were within specifications on one lung only. I used to be a pro trombonist, which probably explains this. Added to this, there was a temporary system failure with the result that the X-Ray images couldn’t be accessed on computer for a while.

The draining and re-inflation process was pretty unpleasant. I shall say no more.

They usually get you walking about the day after the operation but the above setback delayed my stroll for a day. I then spent a day or so walking the corridors carrying a bottle of blood joined to a tube that went into my left rib cage. This caused slight inconvenience at bed time, more reason to sleep in my chair.

I stood in front of the mirror in the ensuite bathroom. I had a multi-headed cannula inserted into the main artery in my neck, a tube leading from my ribs into a bottle, another cannula in the back of my left hand, plasters on my chest and leg, surgical stockings, and bruises around my abdomen where the anti-coagulants were administered at bedtime (to guard against DVT’s).

‘Good grief!’ I thought. ‘You look as if you’ve been hit by a truck’.

Despite it all, I’m recovering well and feeling better than ever. Shortly before rounding off this blog I went on a three mile march, descending and re-ascending around 300 feet and I felt great!

Looking back to my first admission by ambulance, I’m still in awe of the skill and professionalism of all those concerned. The ambulance personnel had sent precise details of my condition to the hospital and I was wheeled straight into the ‘Lab’ from the vehicle. A smiling and confident multi-national team approached me and it was obvious they all knew exactly what the problem was and where they had to go to put it right. Access to the heart artery with the stents was via my right wrist, with a local anaesthetic. I still can’t believe it.

Their fast and efficient response minimised damage to the heart muscles cause by the restriction of blood flow. This is very important.

In no time at all I was in bed wondering what had happened. I was still as high as a kite on morphine, too. And so very tired!

At my lowest point I dreamed my grandfather, a regular soldier, was standing at the foot of my bed holding his rifle. He looked so young and so frail. His eyes looked without seeing. Heaven only knows what he’d seen. ’Chin up lad’ he simply said.

I awoke with a start, my eyes dancing around the deserted ward in the subdued light. It had all seemed so real, as dreams often do, especially in the confused state people enter following major surgery.

What I’ve been through is nothing. Nothing.

Action Heart: a follow-up

I had my first session in the superbly equipped hospital gym Monday 7 December. Everyone walks up to a bank of blood pressure machines as they enter. Because this was my first visit, I also had a portable ECG monitor strapped to my waist and a series of contacts attached at intervals around my chest. The equipment sent information by a wireless link to the hospital system during my session. The staff already had my history in their file which they had clearly studied. They finally printed out a graph which, too, goes in my file.

Everything was OK and my closing B.P. was 116/76. My opening BP was 140 over something which is as high as they wish it to go. I travel to hospital on public transport, a journey requiring two bus routes. This being my first trip, I began to think, at one point, I was going to be late. This illustrates how insidious stress can be. In my case, because I’m a punctuality freak anyway, the prospect of being late caused me extra anxiety.

I’ve got the times sorted now, so I’ll be OK next time. Unless one of the buses is late!

The session begins with a warm-up procedure not unlike those pictures we often see of old-timers (like me) staying healthy, followed by sessions on cycles, treadmills and other exercises. I’m required to register the degree of hardship on a little card I carry with me as they turn up the dials, which also records my blood pressure at the start and end of the session. It’s my responsibility to read the data to the reception staff before I leave. This is all part of a growing tendency over here to expect patients to be actively involved in their treatment. Or are they just shifting part of the blame?

On the subject of stress, I have an appointment with a counsellor 21 December. I know, because I’ve tried and failed, that I need help, here. An over-active mind is the culprit, I believe, and I was interested to read that many of our favourite physicists suffered in a similar way, many of them turning to alcohol as a solution. Not that I’m claiming to be as clever as Richard Feynman. I wish…

My heart attack and a warning to others!

On August 19 I began to experience a severe pain between my ribs as I sat in my chair. I hadn’t been exerting myself. That afternoon I’d eaten some very spicy food at a funeral wake so my initial idea, that it was indigestion, was plausible. Normally, on those rare occasions I suffered from indigestion, a glass of milk would do the trick, turning off the pain as though someone had turned an ‘off’ switch but this time nothing worked and I began to change colour slightly.

We called an ambulance and the crew hitched me up to an ECG machine which confirmed that I was having a heart attack. Within less than an hour of telephoning for assistance, I was in the laboratory at New Cross hospital, Wolverhampton, three miles away through heavy rush-hour traffic, having stents fitted as I watched the whole process on a monitor, which helpfully showed a ‘before’ and ‘after’ picture.

I then spent around three days in hospital before being discharged with a warning that bypass surgery would also be needed to repair other diseased arteries that were not accessible to stents. This operation was carried out October 7 and I am now well on my way to a full recovery.

Where did I go wrong?

I have always believed that the worst lies are those we tell to ourselves and, looking back, I can see where I went wrong. Added to this, there’s the overarching problem that we all tend to believe that bad things only happen to the other guy. To be fair (to me) during my lifetime this has generally been the case. The objective of this post is to help others avoid the mistakes I made.

There are many reasons, apart from vanity, that caused me and all those who know me to react with surprise at the news of my attack. There is no family history of heart disease – my parents both lived to the age of 95 – and I had always eaten a healthy diet and taken plenty of exercise. I have never smoked cigarettes and although I puffed a pipe, without inhaling, the surgeon informed me that the pipe had not caused my condition.

(I have not smoked it since my attack because the presence of nicotine in the blood has an adverse effect on the health of arteries, whether inhaling or not.)

I had been telling everyone that I hadn’t displayed any symptoms, because I believed it to be true but, now that I am virtually fit again, I can really tell the difference. For example, after swimming two lengths I had found it necessary to take a short rest and put it down to my age, 75 years, and the fact that I did not swim every day. I had never been a strong swimmer and water is not my natural element. Shortly before writing this, I had been on a walk lasting around an hour which involved a very steep, half-mile-long uphill stretch, without any of the ill effects I had experienced previously. Again, I had always believed that old age was the culprit.

My cholesterol level had usually tested to 5.2 which is higher than the target level but my doctor said that they don’t just look at this figure but take family history into account. I grabbed onto this information, also reminding myself that other factors, such as hormones, proteins and enzymes in the blood also played a part.

I had also read of a man in a small Italian fishing village who found, during a routine medical examination, that his cholesterol level was so high he should have been dead. In fact he was as fit as a fiddle. They are now trying to synthesise a protein discovered in his blood to use as medicine. This was further evidence to me, as I sought to believe what it suited me to believe, that my cholesterol level was nothing to worry about!

In fact, around ten years ago, I had approached my doctor with the proposition that I should take statins. Bringing up my file on computer his verdict was that I didn’t need them. The criteria have changed since then so that, with the same profile, I would now be prescribed statins.

The verdict

My opinion, for what it’s worth, is that years of stress and overwork cause my heart attack. I am informed that, under pressure, we go into ‘fight or flight’ mode. Our ancestors would rapidly assess a situation and decide whether standing and fighting or running away would be the better option for survival. Either way, the liver pumps cholesterol into our veins to prepare us for action. In our modern lives we are under different, sometimes invisible, pressures with the result that our stress is frequently bottled up. Where I live, just getting out of the end of the road into the traffic can be bad enough.

Creative people also experience stress during the agony of creation and I often tell people that writing music is every bit as difficult as it looks.

Added to all this, I lost everything in life not once but twice. Just one such experience can drive strong men to suicide.

The Heart and Lung facility

Wolverhampton’s new Heart and Lung facility has been described as the best in the world! I can believe it. A helicopter pad is under construction so that patients far and wide may ‘enjoy’ the benefits. All nurses and other staff enter data via hand-held devices resembling a cellphone which is sent by wireless to the databank whence it can be accessed instantly from anywhere. X-Ray and Ultrasound images are stored in a similar way. Every singe time I received attention I was asked to verify my date of birth, name and address. They also checked my hospital number against the one on my wrist-band.

(It is this same, rigorous attention to detail that causes Britain to be a much harder target for terrorists.)

When I regained consciousness after surgery I found myself in a large, open plan area, in semi-darkness. Shadowy figures silently went about their business. Every bed had its own set of colourful monitors. I began to think I’d been abducted by aliens.

Action Heart

But the fun doesn’t stop here. Allied to the amazing treatment and care I received is a program called Action Heart. I am attending a series of eight lectures on heart disease and related subjects such as diet, exercise and stress. Also, when I was signed off by the surgeon, I automatically received a phone call from my local hospital calling me in for a fitness assessment in preparation for joining the hospital gym. This involved a test on a treadmill, wired-up to an ECG machine. My blood pressure was also monitored and they looked for (and found) a rapid recovery of all signs when I was finally allowed to rest. When they showed me the well equipped gym my jaw dropped. It’s BIG.

And all this is free.

Much is said about the comparison between Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) and the insurance-based system in the USA. Of course, we pay for our system too. Money is deducted from our pay which goes into a National Insurance fund for state pensions etc. and part of the tax we pay goes to the NHS.

The economic arguments used to justify the insurance-based schemes are not as clear-cut as they are sometimes made out to be. Fit workers are more efficient and one of the biggest problems faced by industry is uncertain staffing levels, especially in SME’s that always suffer from ‘small team vulnerability’ (a useful American expression).

The NHS was created by the Attlee government that was voted into power at the end of WW2, which also conceived the Welfare State and began a massive program of social housing. This Labour government was arguably the greatest democratic government ever seen.

I am not a party-political animal and believe that the tendency to align oneself with closed-system ideologies – the ‘isms’ – is always a sign of mediocrity. The Universe just doesn’t work like that. Nevertheless, I am, in my ‘heart-of-hearts’ (now freshly mended), a Socialist and probably always will be so that it is totally abhorrent to me that people should be denied the care and treatment they need because of their financial circumstances.

One thing is certain; my treatment and care was so good that I cannot imagine how it could be improved upon. But it will be. You’ll see.

On the gradual deterioration in relations between Islamic and non-Islamic peoples.

I have published my opinions on here previously regarding the rise of Islamic influence in Britain. I justify diverting away from the chiefly musical content of these blogs by reference to the extreme dangers we all face, dangers that are far worse than any we have faced since the world-changing conflicts of two word wars, because of their clandestine nature.

The role of the USA in these matters has to be considered alongside the main issues. America has been accused of behaving as if it has a ‘divine right to police the planet’.  Is this a fair criticism? Might it be that, in the absence of global agreement on standards of behaviour, the world needs a ‘maternal’ force to guide it? With its economic and military might who better than the US? The problem here is that we all need an external force brought to bear upon us to ensure we do not stray from the ideal (whatever that might be) and, because the US would be self-appointed in this role (as, arguably, it already has been) it would inevitably lack essential constraints.

I recently wrote the following letter to the Muslim Council of Great Britain and sent copies to key figures in British politics. In it, I describe my considered opinions regarding a situation that will lead to the Apocalypse unless more people wake up to the dangers we face.

Harun Khan, Deputy Secretary
The Muslim Council of Britain
PO Box 57330,
London
E1 2WJ

Copy to Prime Minister Mr. David Cameron

26 January 2015 Dear Mr. Khan

On the continuing deterioration of the relationship between Islamic and non-Islamic peoples

[These matters have nothing to do with race. The problems presently discussed are of a cultural, not racial kind, and particularly relate to those aspects of culture that stem from religious dogma.]

I have been intending to write to you for some time and was finally motivated to do so by a recent statement, in response to current government actions, that the Muslim community resented the implication that it is separate from the rest of the country. The purpose of this letter is to attempt to persuade you, not only that it is separate, but that Muslims are chiefly responsible for the division.

I also wish to focus your attention, should this be necessary, on how wide the division is, with little sign, in the foreseeable future, of significant reconciliations taking place. The problem, as I see it, will worsen unless something is done to halt the decline and it must be done as soon as possible. Unfortunately, such action may provoke increased acts of terror or, at the very least, a further deterioration in this state of affairs, the fear of which may be the most important cause of apathy to date.

In my childhood, this little country had the courage to declare war on the most efficient fighting machine the world had ever seen. It remains to be seen whether or not we can find it within ourselves to resist the expansion of Muslim ambitions which are even more sinister because of their clandestine nature.

I have made only brief sojourns into the realms of philosophy for two reasons: it will be ‘old stuff’ to you and you have clearly been unimpressed to date. Nevertheless, I felt it necessary to include these ideas, for the sake of completeness, as I attempt to convince the Muslim population that it might just be wrong in its approach to mankind’s general predicament.

I also believe that, within around 50 years, Britain will become an Islamic state. It will happen simply because, with current levels of appeasement and positive discrimination, there will be nothing to stop it from happening. Britain will then descend into an abyss of in-fighting between rival factions characteristic of Islamic countries throughout the world. I do not wish this state of affairs to take place in my country.

Please note that I did not head this article by referring to a division between, for example, Islam and Christianity (I have no interest in sectarianism) preferring, instead, to deal with the problem that followers of Islam will always experience, in my view, as they attempt to interact with those, whoever they may be, who do not happen to share their ideas. The problem, quite simply, is that it is your way or no way.

A particular cause of concern to me is the way in which Muslims, who are characteristically highly motivated, are gradually occupying key roles in society. As this tendency attains its full potential for success, Muslims will no longer need to seek to make changes because they will be making the rules.

An example of the dangers we face can be found in the case of Baroness Warsi, who resigned her cabinet position, warning that the government’s stance is counterproductive at a time of heightened national security. In other words, do it her way or face the consequences! Her position in government must be of value or it would not have been created. Her absence, before a replacement is appointed, would therefore have been damaging. I claim that it was intended to be damaging and that her actions are part of a sectarian quest to make profound changes.

Another motivation for writing is that I believe the Government acted unwisely in response to events in Iraq and Afghanistan. Attempts to force Western ideas of democracy on the region, especially when backed by armed intervention, stem from a complete failure to understand the way things really work. I stated years ago that we would fail and, in the process, make matters worse. The legality of the moves was also questionable but international law is complicated and what we really need is a set of agreed principles to govern behaviour that are truly objective and free from sectarian and cultural bias. Now we are witnessing some rather naïve attempts to salvage the mess by the use of initiatives that have the potential to embarrass all of us.

At the outset, of course, we have to establish the existence of a deity, without which these arguments become irrelevant. I do not propose to follow that avenue of thought because I believe that we will become embroiled in bottomless speculation. Nevertheless, the fact that a deity may not, in fact, exist must surely bring some sense of perspective to this issue which is in danger of becoming de-railed by conflicting presumptions about the nature of God and what various people believe, for reasons of their own, to be God’s ‘commandments’.

This problem is exacerbated by the fact that the tendency to align oneself with closed-system ideologies, or ‘isms’, is always a sign of intellectual mediocrity; the Universe simply doesn’t work like that. (Even the economic theory of monetarism is an example of fundamentalist thinking.) Those responsible for such folly are often highly intelligent, well educated and experienced people. Human nature is, indeed, complex.

As I see it, gods do not create men. Men create gods. The style of god invented will stem from social requirements; a wayward society needs a vengeful god, etc.

Nevertheless, we have to deal with the situation that exists where men, and the culprits are generally male, with a strong, clearly defined personal agenda, attempt to create a world that falls in line with their grand conceits. (There are biological reasons why they do this, related to the subject of procreation, but I do not intend to go into that here.) If you challenge the idea you challenge the man, who will typically become closely identified with his own beliefs and will be often deeply resentful of any challenge to them.

The problem with Islam

I claim that religion must be kept out of public life, where it has no place, and I can sum up the reason in one sentence:

It is unreasonable to make statements and to take actions, based on beliefs, that affect those who do not share those beliefs.

In other words, believe what you like, within reason, of course, but do it at home. Interestingly, secular France is the only nation that has attempted to keep religion in its proper place.

If we give the problem of world affairs due consideration, I feel sure that most people would agree that the ultimate goal for the human race is the creation of a global family of mankind and the establishment of a level playing field for all, regardless of race, colour or creed. Achieving this will require compromises to be made but this requirement takes us to the root cause of the problem; everything a Muslim does and thinks is governed by the will of God who, alone, is perfect. This is true, to a greater or lesser extent, of other religions but Islam stands alone in world history as being the most autocratic, dogmatic and unyielding faith men ever devised. How, then, can we achieve the level of compromise needed when to do so requires ‘God’s laws’ to be modified or watered down? The simple truth is that we can’t, which explains why so many have called for a separate, Muslim parliament operating Sharia law and it would not surprise me if those who guide us are foolish enough to let this happen, one day, thereby creating a nation-within-a-nation.

The ceramic pigs

I referred, above, to positive discrimination. An example occurred recently where Subway agreed to stop selling pork products in many of its stores to avoid offending Muslims. I was furious to read of this but a more significant example occurred in Leicester, a few years ago. I shall use this incident as a case-history where each claim is analysed.

The statement, below, is by Leicester Federation of Muslim Organisations spokesman Yaqub Khan. I found his remarks to be characteristically glib and facile, so much so that I could not let them pass without a challenge.

He was referring to a collection of ceramic pigs displayed in a front window, perhaps rather mischievously, by a resident. Muslims have learned how easy it is to further their cause because of the tendency to allow positive discrimination to reach unacceptable levels. Their statements are frequently cleverly worded and require analysis in order to produce a counter-argument. Our decision-makers rarely find time to do this. They also feel constrained by the fear of possible recriminations and by accusations of racism or bigotry.

A spokesman for Leicestershire Police, at the time, said it was investigating the matter and that a file would be submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service, which would take the final decision on whether to press charges under the Public Order Act. Compare this with the impotence shown in dealing with Muslim preachers of hate and you might understand my annoyance with Leicestershire Police (positive discrimination again). Go to Luton any day of the week, for example. A few years ago, as I walked past the Islamic stall that is always set up in the centre of town, I was followed up a flight of steps towards Luton Station by a young Muslim girl. As she walked beside me she repeatedly told me that I am evil!

The statement

Mr Kahn said that more than 1,000 worshippers attending weekly prayers at the nearby mosque passed the collection of pigs. He claimed that the resident was aware of the potential for offence to be caused (which she probably was, but it shouldn’t really matter) and explained that the pig is mentioned as being ‘unclean’ in the Koran, and is regarded as an offensive animal by Muslims, who are forbidden from eating it.

‘There are rules which, as good citizens, we have to observe. We are a multi-faith society and we, as Muslims, respect other faiths practised in this country, so I think, in return, they should respect ours. Something like this is taken very seriously by Muslims and it is a very sensitive area.’

A quote from the Koran ‘Let there be no coercion in religion’ that was displayed alongside the pigs was also seen as provocative. Mr Khan said ‘The Koran is a sacred book. If that is placed in a window where pigs have been placed then that is even more offensive. It may be a trivial matter for some sections of the community but it has to be dealt with.’

Where do we go from here?

I started as closely to the origin of this matter as I was able to venture and I decided that the existence or otherwise of a deity had to be the starting point. When ideas and principles are based on religious beliefs the existence of a deity has to be established in order for such ideas and principles to have meaning. Learned books have been written on this subject so I decided that, because both Theism and Atheism still exist, none of the previous attempts to find a solution could have been successful. I therefore decided that my own ideas would be based upon the following claim which I hold to be self-evidently true:

Because there is proof neither for nor against the existence of a deity the only satisfactory and, ultimately, productive stance to assume at the outset of any discussion on these, and related, topics is that of the agnostic.

Of course, it could be argued that, since God created the Universe, he was able to create it any way He wished and therefore who are we to question His wisdom? I cannot believe this line of thought will offer any practical usefulness since it could be used to prove any point so we have to try to find an objective approach if we are to avoid the potentially catastrophic results of basing rules for human behaviour on belief systems. (A religion is a set of sectarian propositions.)

Having decided this, I also decided, some time ago, that beliefs must be kept out of public life where they have no place. History provides so many examples of the failure of attempts to marshal our affairs by means of principles that are based on unsubstantiated beliefs.

Beliefs divide people.

Mr Kahn’s claims

‘…the pig is mentioned as being “unclean” in the Koran, and is regarded as an offensive animal by Muslims, who are forbidden from eating it.’

OK. Eating pork that has not been properly prepared, especially in a warm climate where few people owned a fridge, would have been dangerous and I wouldn’t like to live in a pigsty, either. But does this represent Muslim views in their entirety? Of course it doesn’t. Millions of intelligent, decent people eat pork every day so there can be no validity in the claim that pigs can be offensive for any reason other than the common sense reasons given above. My own claim is that, having created a religion which, in this case, has these strange ideas about pigs, surely followers of the religion choose to be offended. They cannot move on from this to inflict their ideas on others or to claim that respect for their views should automatically follow.

‘There are rules which, as good citizens, we have to observe…’

I’m not quite sure what Mr Khan’s idea of a good citizen is but it is likely that the concept would have to be framed within constraints laid down by Islam, a religion that does not have a particularly good record in this respect.

‘We are a multi-faith society and we, as Muslims, respect other faiths practised in this country, so I think, in return, they should respect ours.’

A multi-faith society? Does he refer to the situation that prevails, where different faiths grudgingly co-exist (so-called ‘multiculturalism’) or is he pointing to an ideal where different religious leaders might come together and join the best bits of all faiths into one? This is an unlikely prospect. Amalgamation often works but it won’t work here. Do Muslims really respect the views of others and, in any case, what do we mean by the word ‘view’, especially in this context?

Should I be required to respect the views of others? Not necessarily. It depends on the particular views expressed and I definitely do not respect the view that ceramic pigs should be offensive, in fact I find the idea laughable.

Everything Muslims do and think is governed by the presumed will of their God. To suggest that compromise is needed, in order that integration can take place, is to suggest that the will of God is less than perfect, otherwise, why would it require modification in order to fit with the requirements of others? It is easy to see why Muslims adopted the simpler idea that their God is, quite simply, infallible and that, therefore, we should all abide by His rules, regardless of what non-believers may think. This notion is, of course, the root cause of the troubles we are dealing with currently.

‘Think’ is a significant word. Whether we are able to adopt religious views or not it is self-evident that the only way to achieve a level playing field is by striving for solutions based upon objective reasoning. Other methods have failed. Badly.

‘The Koran is a sacred book…’

I always have trouble accepting the idea that physical objects, including the ‘graven images’ in some Christian churches, are anything more than just that. A physical object, such as a building or a book, cannot be sacred. No matter how closely we analyse them it is likely that they will still reveal themselves to be lacking in any other determinable attributes and unless we can demonstrate, beyond reasonable doubt, that it is otherwise, we cannot impose our ideas on others and, by so doing, claim a lack of respect has been shown. Beliefs and religious notions dwell in the ‘hearts and minds’ of people, not in symbols, images or objects.

‘… It may be a trivial matter for some sections of the community but it has to be dealt with.’

It is a trivial matter. The question of eating pork or not eating pork or, equally, of possessing ceramic pigs, or not, is intrinsically inconsequential and importance can only be ascribed to the acts on the basis of man-made beliefs. If I enter a room and see someone poised, dagger in hand, ready to attack my friend it will be important to stop them. There is a difference.

I particularly dislike Mr Khan’s claim that the above problem ‘has to be dealt with’. No, it doesn’t. Muslims must modify their views into a form that is more likely to allow the integration we all hear about so often. That’s the ‘truth’ of the matter. The suggestion that even another person’s quote from the Koran is holy is totally unacceptable. The idea that there should be no coercion in religion is an idea that cannot be patented by Muslims. It is a principle we should all abide by. I believe it is fair to say that, in the real world we see and touch each day, Muslims practise the ideal far less than Christians do.

Islamophobia

The word deserves a special mention since it is taking the world by storm similarly to the way in which the expression ‘multi-tasking’ still captivates female hearts. It’s one of those glib expressions that falls from the lips far too readily.

It means ‘fear of Islam’ but changes its meaning when used by those seeking to attain a slick and easy advantage over their opponents. My advice is to be afraid. Be very, very afraid. The achievements of terrorists are being over-stated but the dangers are being underestimated. Anyone, especially those with criminal connections, can obtain an assault rifle and ammunition. It then becomes the easiest thing in the world to walk into an establishment and shoot people, especially when the perpetrators of the crime welcome their own death. But terrorism is the great Leveller. One man with a rifle can lock down a city, or even a government (as happened in Canada recently). If enough attacks are mounted against key targets, damaging communications and transport, the economy could be destroyed and civilization would rapidly descend into chaos. Enemies would exploit the confusion with consequences that seem ridiculous in the calm light of day.

There is a tendency to feel secure behind the means and prowess of modern warfare but this is an illusion. Terrorists have no intention of facing us in a straight fight because they would lose and they know it.

A ‘red-herring’

Another error is involved in the frequently heard claim that it is only a minority of Muslims who pose a threat to non-Muslims. This belief in ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Muslims represents a ‘red herring’ for the following reasons:

1) History is not made by the moderate majority but by individuals within the wider community who possess a clearly-defined personal agenda.

2) The so-called ‘minority’ comprises an unknown number of people but will certainly be many millions strong.

3) ALL Muslims are ‘on the other side’. (They can’t forgive us for not being Muslim.)

The purpose of my last claim, 3) is to emphasise that Muslims believe what they believe more than non-Muslims believe what they believe, which has a bearing on my claim, above, that Britain will become an Islamic state.

Muslims do not play fairly

There is a serious imbalance between followers of Christianity and Islam regarding tolerance. Whereas Muslims are able to build mosques around Britain, benefiting from of a level of tolerance for which Britain is rightly famous throughout the world, Christians have little chance of being granted similar privileges in Muslim countries. Indeed, it is an offence to convert to Christianity, a crime that, in some countries, is still punishable by death.

At first sight it is praiseworthy that Britain, typically, continues to offer such tolerance in a world that is constantly under attack from the effects of Muslim dogma but this is a narrow and short-sighted point of view. In reality, such a hopeless imbalance will create a society that, ultimately, must fail. Muslims in Britain, or their forebears, came here in the first place because, for whatever reason, they preferred it to their country of origin (why else would they come?). How can it make any sense for them, having arrived here, to seek to make changes in order to create a society of which they approve?

The wider view (much wider!)

Powerful evidence now exists that mankind is not alone in the Universe which poses new challenges and new questions to be answered. Heaven would surely have to find space for every creature that has ever existed and those yet to exist in time and everywhere in space (whether infinite or not), provided, of course, they pass the ‘test’ for admittance. Would all self-aware creatures be required, ideally, to be or to become Muslim and how would all this affect Mecca? Clearly, inhabitants of spinning planets and rotating galaxies would be unable to face Mecca, even if they could locate it, so would there be other Meccas and what impact would that have on the status of our own Mecca which, by virtue of the newly-found competition, must lose some of its omnipotence?

People in various occupations often move away from problems, figuratively and literally, to obtain a clearer view. The more I move away from current disagreements and tensions that are based upon sectarian religious notions the more ridiculous it all becomes.

So there you have it. The views, not of an extremist, or someone with a grudge, but the views of an ordinary, educated, Englishman who seeks a harder response to the challenges we face before everything we have ever worked for, hoped for and fought for disappears without a trace,

yours sincerely,

John Morton.

...’Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the faith: all know how to die but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith.’

Sir Winston Churchill.

Related Scales; chord/scale relationships

The following is an extract from my FREE PDF document of scale and arpeggio exercises for jazz trombone. I am publishing part of the introductory notes here because it might be of interest to others who have posted similar articles.

FREE download of the complete file from the link at the bottom of the page at
http://www.arranging-composing.com/about.html

RELATED SCALES

An important aspect of harmony in jazz improvisation is the matter of related scales. All diatonic chords are served by the notes of the particular key or mode. The 3rd and 7th functions of a chord are most characteristic and will acquire emphasis in melodization where it is desired to reaffirm the underlying harmony. The 5th acquires significance in diminished, leading note 7th and augmented chords.

Melodization has to accommodate both the chord itself and the prevailing key, which may be in the form of the nominal key, temporary modulation or a ‘tonal cell’ (the llm7 > V7 progressions that abound in jazz and standard songs).

Modal harmony will tend to avoid using chords foreign to the scale that destroy its purity so the forms of melody/harmony correlation will be mainly diatonic, except where altered upper functions occur (e.g.♭9, #9, #11).

With chromatic chords, the related scale will generally be the one from which the chord is borrowed so that, for example, a Bb7 chord will probably be related to the scale of Eb major, in which it forms the dominant chord.

(If we play the scale of Eb beginning on Bb, which may not necessarily be the case in real music, we obtain the Mixolydian mode which is another way of viewing the subject.)

Augmented triads and the many variations of the augmented 7th chords are related to one of the two forms of the whole tone scale (exercises 41/43).

Diminished 7th chords are often melodized by a scale comprising alternating whole tones and semitones (exercise 37). String of Pearls is probably the most appropriate name for these scales. Since dim7 chords resemble ‘flattened’ ninth chords with roots omitted, the scales can be used with these chords, also. Just as there are three dim7 chords, there are three of these scales, too.

Some writers have attempted to define a related scale for all chords, no matter which. In my opinion, those who advocate extending the list of scales are rebels without a cause because we already have the option to use notes in continuity or in simultaneity. In other words, if we take the notes of a chord and spread them through time we produce a melody, or scale, and if we take the notes of melody, or a selection from the melody, and use them in simultaneity, we produce a chord. Of course, neither of the results will necessarily be acceptable in their raw state but that doesn’t alter the principle.

But, rather than dismiss the idea out of hand, let’s look at it in more detail.

Two notes in continuity or simultaneity form a melodic or harmonic interval respectively. Three or more notes of different pitch moving stepwise in the same direction are required to generate scalewise motion.

An online search using ‘related scales’ as a search term quickly reveals a bewildering number of scale/chord associations. The problem is that we may require up to 6 notes of different pitch, the exact number depending on the starting point and the number of degrees in the scale, to define a scale type (i.e. before the characteristic note or notes occur). In addition, most tunes regularly feature chord changes at the bar or half-bar, placing severe constraints on the space available to incorporate such differently identified scales in a melodic line whilst, at the same time, ensuring smooth harmonic connections  (which may already have required the insertion of unessential notes).

Tunes intended to be played at a fast tempo (e.g. Limehouse Blues) have less active harmonic changes (thereby providing more musical space) but the velocity itself will become our enemy, anyway, because rapid changes in tonality are difficult to listen to and the subtleties of the additional scale identities will become lost.

Another important fact, that’s often overlooked, is that our awareness of tonality exists both simultaneously and continuously so that the tonality of the approaching bar (or half-bar) may sometimes be anticipated (you might, for example, play a b♭ as an **unessential note over a G7 chord if the note plays a prominent part in the approaching bar). Anyone who has attempted to play jazz lines over a chord sequence will have experienced the occurrence of notes in the melodic line that contradict the harmony, and the difficulty of avoiding them without destroying melodiousness (and performing theoretical back-flips in order to justify their actions).

Because of the above considerations I concluded that the best solution was to limit the list of related scales when I produced the scales/chords document but I am open to debate.

Regarding the absence of the various minor scales: the modes, including the Aeolian (natural minor) occur during the stepwise permutations in the major scale exercises. Jazz lines are concerned with the tonality of the underlying harmonies and, when we add to that the many factors involved in playing solo lines that are musical in effect, jazz musicians will rarely avail themselves of the different forms of the minor scale in creating their music.

‘Master your instrument, master the music and then just play’ Charlie Parker.