“At the age of twenty seven, copper-haired Maggie Hope had already foiled a plot to assassinate Churchill and blow up St Paul’s, saved Princess Elizabeth from being kidnapped, rescued a captured pilot from Berlin, taught at a school for Special Agents in Scotland and prevented First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt from being implicated in a lesbian murder scandal which would surely have led to America refusing to join in the War.”
I think it’s the gritty realism of the Maggie Hope novels that most appeals to me.
This time, we said, we are definitely going to take Considerably Smaller Suitcases.
Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been planning our second Grand Tour. Autumn come she will and we’ll be hopping on and off trains with gay abandon, clutching our trusty Interrail Passes and Considerably Smaller Suitcases.
What with Manchester and London Bridge and elections, I’ve been tiptoeing around social media of late, in an attempt to avoid the slabs of pure venom which are scattered amid the good stuff. So, it was only this morning that I hit upon a post sharing the shattering news that one of my heroes – Tom Isaacs, president and co-founder of the Cure Parkinson’s Trust – died last week. His passing was, apparently, “unexpected and swift”. He was just forty nine.
“Now, I have to tell you about the possible complications,” says the Good Doctor. “These are incredibly rare: I’ve done many, many lumbar punctures and no-one has ever had a problem but, legally, I still need to tell you.”
“Can I say that I’d rather not know?” I ask.
“I’m afraid not,” the Good Doctor tells me.
We hope you found the wallpaper steamers we left out for you. If by any chance you finish the walls tonight, feel free to make a start on stripping the ceiling. We won’t be back till teatime tomorrow so keep going for as long as you wish.
We were nearly late for the appointment. Couldn’t find anywhere to park. The only spaces near the hospital were for wheelchair users – don’t you think they could be further away? After all – they’ve got wheels.
So, the professor got me to walk up and down a bit and prodded me and said ‘yes, that’s Parkinson’s.’ My wife said ‘how can you tell just from that?’ The professor said ‘well, there are other signs too. Your handwriting has got very small, for one thing. And your facial muscles seem a bit frozen – you seem to be finding it difficult to smile.’ ‘Well, that could be,’ I said, ‘because you’ve just told me I’ve got Parkinson’s.’
“Now, we need to make sure that all the points have contact with your skull. If you look at the screen, you’ll see that most points are showing red at the moment.”
I look at the screen and indeed, on the diagram which represents my skull, there are many, many red spots – a positive plague of red spots.
“Now, when the points have sufficient contact, they go green. So I’m going to manipulate the points until they have contact. It is not painful – a bit like having your head massaged.” And off he goes.