Wednesday, September 30, 2009

James Martin's Mole Saga

TV cook James Martin has already boasted about how he likes watching the look of “sheer terror” on cyclists’ faces as he forces them into hedgerows.

Now he has his cross-hairs set on a harmless bunch of moles plaguing his local football field – and they’re not even wearing lycra.

He is stumping up cash to help pay for a professional mole killer to cull the black, velvety-furred creatures near his mansion in Stoke Charity, Hampshire.

Wonston parish council asked him to help out, and the carrot-chopper whipped out his chequebook quicker than you can say guaca-mole, mole marinieres, mole-saka, or jam moley-poly for that matter.

But no, Martin is no cook on the wild side and has no plans to flambé them. He just wants the field de-moled so it’s as flat as one of his soufflés.

“Whatever I can do to help out with the playing field and make it safe for the kids to play is great. I have no idea how many moles he will catch,” he leers.

“But they won’t be stuck on sticks or sautéed!”

Wonston parish councillor Gaye Finn-Kelcey was clearly relieved, adding: “I’m very glad to hear that James won’t be skewering them because moles don’t taste nice.

“Even our cat which used to bring moles into the house didn’t eat them.”

Meanwhile, Martin has been bragging about Saturday Kitchen, claiming it has just got its highest ever viewing figures with “a 33% share of the viewing audience and 2.5 million viewers tuning in to watch the show.”

“It has also been commissioned for a further two years, so thanks for all your support with the show and here’s to a 100 more (sic)!” he says.

Oh Christ, I hope not.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Floyd To Be Cremated In Banana Leaves

On my last blog, I wrote about the confusion over Keith Floyd's funeral arrangements. Now it turns out he is to be cremated in a banana leaf coffin in Bristol, the city where he ran a string of restaurants and launched his cooking career.

A public memorial service will take place at Ashton Court Mansion at 11.30am this Wednesday before a private service for family at Canford Crematorium.

The humanist funeral is being organised by Floyd's partner Celia Martin, who the wine-quaffing raconteur had been living with as he battled bowel cancer.

Ms Martin has chosen a handmade woven coffin made from banana leaves for the eccentric entertainer - because of its environmentally friendly nature, and partly as a humorous nod to his love of cooking with leaves.

She said: "It will be a sad day. I'm still trying to organise the funeral and it's taking up all my time. But that's probably quite a useful thing isn't it - to take one's mind off things.

"But goodness knows how one will feel after the funeral - I think there will be a sudden drop when everything goes quiet."

She added: "There have been some wonderful tributes to him. The answer phone has been clogged with messages from his old friends."

She said she had received support from Floyd's old friends Marco Pierre White and Jean Christophe Novelli in arranging the funeral.

"Marco was an enormously good friend of Keith's and he and Jean Christophe have been tremendously kind and good after Keith's death too. They have been very supportive," she added.

"The funeral's not going to be sombre, it's going to be musical.

"Keith was hugely fond of music; it played an important part in his life.

"And that's why there will be quite a few bits of music and some very nice tributes paid by some very good friends."

The music is being arranged by music producer and songwriter Bill Padley with the help of Floyd's son Patrick.

Ms Martin's local funeral directors, AG Down, are arranging the humanist service.

A spokesman for the firm said any donations should go to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and the Big Issue magazine.

Floyd passed away while watching TV at Ms Martin's home in Bridport, Dorset, two weeks ago. He was 65.

He had returned to Britain three weeks before to start chemotherapy for bowel cancer, and died just before the publication of his latest autobiography Stirred But Not Shaken.

The pair had celebrated Ms Martin's 65th birthday with a lunch of oysters, potted shrimps and partridge at celebrity chef Mark Hix's fish restaurant in nearby Lyme Regis.

It was to turn out to be the famous cook's last gourmet meal.

Floyd’s autobiography will be launched at Marco Pierre White's Knightsbridge restaurant Frankies on October 6, and will be a tribute of Floyd's life.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Confusion Over Keith Floyd's Funeral

Keith Floyd’s life was a chaotic affair, so perhaps it’s fitting that confusion surrounds his funeral too.

The TV cook parted with his long-term manager Stan Green some 15 month ago, and largely due to ill health, had no-one representing him when he passed away in Bridport, Dorset, last week.

Green says he has had a number of calls from Floyd’s old friends asking about the funeral, but no-one seems to know who is organising the arrangements - or even where or when the service is going to be.

“It’s all up in the air,” Green told Chef Sandwich. “No-one’s got a clue what’s going on. I don’t know if it’s going to be in Dorset or France for that matter.

“Keith was estranged from his children until recently, so I don’t know who’s going to be looking after the funeral. Like a lot of things in Keith’s life, there’s a lot of confusion.”

He said he had had no word from Floyd’s long-term friend Celia Martin, who Floyd had been staying with for the past few weeks, and had no idea whether she would be organising matters.

When we contacted AG Down, her local funeral directors in Bridport, they confirmed they were dealing with some of the arrangements, but that nothing had been decided yet.

“Nothing’s confirmed,” a spokeswoman said. “We don’t know when it’s going to be, but it probably won’t be this week.”

Floyd’s old friend Marco Pierre White said he had also not heard anything about the funeral.

Floyd had returned to Britain three weeks ago to start chemotherapy for bowel cancer, and died just before the publication of his latest autobiography Stirred But Not Shaken.

A book launch had been planned at Pierre White's Knightsbridge restaurant Frankies on October 6, and was due to go ahead as a celebration of Floyd's life.

But when we contacted White’s manager at the restaurant, he had few details. So it doesn’t even look like that’s been confirmed.

Well, I hope they do him proud, and send off the old wine-quaffing gastronaut in the spirit he deserves.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

James Martin Forced To Eat Humble Pie

By 'eck. That bloooody James Martin has slammed a hornets’ nest into a hedge and they’re all now after his sticky Parkin cake.

All I can say is it couldn’t happen to a nicer fellow.

The anger at the plump pudding chef’s boasts about causing a group of cyclists "sheer terror" as he test drove a Tesla sports car has been fast and furious.

And to make it worse for Martin’s PR people – not to say Tesla’s who are trying to distance themselves from the row – it looks like boiling on for a while.

Normally what happens is the crass, brain-dead celebrity is told to issue a grovelling apology (he has) and the matter quickly blows over.

Trouble is it doesn’t work if the star is an arrogant, overpaid twat, as happened with Gordon Ramsay during his bust-up Down Under.

Martin is even less popular. He isn’t even liked by his team at BBC One's Saturday Kitchen. Insiders tell me he is always asking for big pay rises, and sulks when he doesn’t get them. He keeps storming into offices, whining about how he is the star of the show, and it wouldn’t get any viewers without him.

How many deranged, menopausal women can there be in Yorkshire? I’m sure most of the viewers are people with such bad hangovers that they’ve forgotten they’ve even switched on the TV.

Occasionally, they risk a squint at the screen and spot a cheesy-faced owl with a Ralph Lauren curtain draped over his paunch giving yet another recipe for Yorkshire pudding, or a handy tip on how to cook kippers in a jug of boiling water.

Martin clearly knows even less about presenting than he does about cooking (what sort of credentials do you get for having been “trained” in one of Antony Worrall Thompson’s kitchens...) And he should be grateful if licence fee-payers pay him more than a fiver a show.

In fact, I hope the Beeb is soon pressurised into having to come clean on how much its “stars” are paid, because when people see how much gobshites like Martin pocket each week, they might start voting with the remote control. Or even better key one of his sports cars, as many cyclists are threatening to do.

Indeed, I think the BBC better start scratching around for another northern cook to appeal to its Yorkshire demographic because the 37-year-old won’t easily get away with this one.

Campaign group the Cyclists' Touring Club has been inundated with complaints from angry members. An anti-James Martin site on Facebook, and a thread called ‘#jamesmartinisacock’ on Twitter are attracting thousands of comments from angry people.

And to make matters worse, Olympic gold medallist Bradley Wiggins weighed in to give him a kick-in on his Twitter site. “Meal suggestion for this Saturday Kitchen for James Martin, Spotted DICK!” he writes, and: “Hey James Martin, How about COCK au vin this Saturday.”

Someone even attacked his Wikipedia entry, beginning his biography with “Martin grew up on a coal barge, where he was assistant bell-end.”

The TV cook became a figure of hate when he took the ill-judged decision to write a reactionary, Jeremy Clarkson-esque piece for the Mail on Sunday. It’s quite easy really, pick a subject you know will appeal to the Top Gear crowd...speed cameras, traffic humps, lorry drivers, pensioners in the fast lane etc and then write a piece called something like “Why I Bloody Hate Caravans”.

In Martin’s case, he or probably someone who wrote it for him, begins: "God I hate those cyclists. Every herbal tea-drinking, Harriet Harman-voting one of them. That's one of the reasons I live in the countryside, where birds tweet, horses roam, pigs grunt and Lycra-clad buttocks are miles away.”

Then he spots the group dressed in "fluorescent Spider-Man outfits, shades, bum bags and stupid cleated shoes".

"Twenty minutes into my test drive I pulled round a leafy bend, enjoying the bird song - and spotted those damned Spider-Man cyclists.

"Knowing they wouldn't hear me coming, I stepped on the gas, waited until the split-second before I overtook them, then gave them an almighty blast on the horn at the exact same time I passed them at speed."

He added: "The look of sheer terror as they tottered into the hedge was the best thing I've ever seen in my rear-view mirror."

Martin now says in a statement on his website: “It was never my intention to offend the many cyclists who share our roads across the country. What was intended to be a humorous piece was clearly misjudged. Further more I do not condone any form of reckless driving.

“Once again, I am sincerely sorry for any upset caused in relation to this article.”

Trouble is people aren’t stupid, it wasn’t a flippant remark or a drunken misquote. He’d presumably written the remarks in crayon and subs had checked the copy. Even the Mail themselves have now removed the offending paragraphs about seeing cyclists buried in the hedge.

And even if the BBC press office publicly torches Martin’s sports cars, dresses him in lycra and makes him cycle to the studios each day with “I’m green and clean” tattooed on his forehead, he won’t get out of this one.

And if he does, he’ll have more jam than he sticks in his fucking cakes.

:: This blog eventually became a bestselling book, called Down And Out In Padstow And London by Alex Watts, about my disastrous attempt to train as a chef, including stints at Heston Blumenthal's Fat Duck and Rick Stein's kitchens in Padstow. You might like it if you're a foodie or have ever entertained the ridiculous idea of entering the padded asylum of professional cooking. It's here on Amazon as a paperback or Kindle book if you want a read...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Keith Floyd's Last Gourmet Meal

Keith Floyd once said if he were to die tomorrow, he’d choose oysters for his last meal. And as it turned out, he did.

The legendary TV cook’s last gourmet feast represented everything he loved about food – seasonal, local and above all simple.

Heart problems, a series of operations for bowel cancer, and a general falling out of love with food in recent months had left him pushing morsels around his plate in restaurants.

But as he tucked into his last lunch - a £120 three-course meal at celebrity chef Mark Hix’s restaurant in Lyme Regis, Dorset – he said he hadn’t felt better for months.

It was the Floyd of old – not the frail-looking shadow seen in last night’s documentary Keith Meets Keith. He was chatting with the diners, and savouring every mouthful of food.

He had taken his partner Celia Martin to Hix Oyster and Fish House to celebrate her 65th birthday.

They began with a champagne cocktail on the sun terrace overlooking the harbour. Then followed a glass of white Burgundy before they moved indoors to the best table in the house for a plate of oysters and potted Morecambe Bay shrimps.

For the main, they shared a bottle of Cotes de Rhone red. Floyd had ordered grouse, but the kitchen sent him partridge and bread sauce by mistake. But nothing was going to spoil his good mood that day, and he tucked in just the same.

“The sun was shining on the terrace, it was a glorious day. He was lovely – he spoke to a few of the other customers in the restaurant – he was charming,” Jonathan Jeffrey, general manager of the restaurant, told Chef Sandwich.

“He had a drink outside then he moved in to have his lunch, he got here about 1.30pm and left about 3.30pm or 4pm. He was out with Celia – it was her birthday, and they were having a laugh together."

Floyd finished the meal with apple pie and perry jelly, and several cigarettes and a coffee on the terrace.

He asked to see Hix, but when told he wasn't there, he left him an invitation to the launch of his autobiography at Marco Pierre White's Knightsbridge restaurant Frankies on October 6, which will now go ahead as a celebration of Floyd's life.

Floyd and Celia went home for a siesta to her nearby house in Bridport, where the cook had been living for the past three weeks to start chemotherapy for bowel cancer.

He was looking forward to watching his interview with Keith Allen at 10pm that night, but died in his sleep before the programme started.

Celia said: "It was my 65th birthday yesterday and we started off by going to see the specialist to do with his cancer. He had some very good news and he was very optimistic of his chances of beating it.

"We then went to have a pub lunch in Lyme Regis. He said 'I have not felt this well for ages'. He had a very good last day."

The couple watched University Challenge while waiting for Keith Meets Keith to begin. Celia said: "He had already seen the TV programme because they had sent us the DVD. He liked it very much, he thought it was so brilliantly made and so truthful. He said it was an award-winning programme.

"He laid down on the sofa and I thought he went to sleep. Then suddenly his breathing became erratic.”

Celia dialled 999 and put him in the recovery position on the floor. Paramedics spent nearly an hour trying to revive Floyd.

She added: "It was so bizarre, we were sitting down to watch the documentary at 10pm but by that time he had died. It is all a bit of a shock.

"He was feeling so much stronger since he had been in Bridport. We were going out every day, either shopping or to the pub or play boules on the beach. He was not drinking a lot, he had really given up drinking, but he was smoking too much.

"I'm still in shock, I feel like he is still here and I cannot get to grips with it. There is still his cigarette ash around the place and his clothes are still in the washing basket. I'm expecting him to get out of bed any minute.”

Mr Jeffery added: “I feel very privileged because I had a chat with him on the terrace before he left. His programmes were what got me into cooking.

“He made cooking acceptable, he was the one who led the way, he was absolutely amazing. I think it’s really sad, it’s terrible.”

RIP Keith Floyd: No More Heroes

They say you should never meet your heroes. I learned that very early on in journalism. But even though I had the chance to meet my all-time hero Keith Floyd on a couple of occasions, I shrank away each time.

I wanted him to remain in my thoughts as the bow-tied roué lambasting the cameraman Clive, glass in hand, pan-frying sweetbreads and truffles, and heartily recommending that half the bottle of red should go into the beef daube, and the other half into the cook.

I wanted to remember him in his prime, drunk on the riverbank, hurling stones at a hapless fisherman who’d failed to catch any trout for the show. Cooking and playing for a Welsh rugby team, then skidding on his studs and scattering food across the floor.

That scene in Padstow, when he pretended to forget the name of a young Rick Stein as the fresh-faced cook, and his eventual usurper, squirmed on camera.

I wanted to remember him making mashed potato with a young Marco Pierre White. Serving a fried beer-mat to a man who’d complained about his schnitzel. Putting all his money on the roulette wheel and drinking into the small hours after a particularly bad night’s service.

I wanted to remember his refreshing, self-deprecating humour when it came to his own cooking talents. The live cookery demonstration when he left the giblet bag inside a roast duck.

But perhaps most of all I miss his infectious love of food, and his humbleness and readiness to accept where he came from - unlike many of the new breed of celebrity chefs spawned from his success.

Quite simply, he was a man who never forgot he was just a cook.

On one early Floyd On Fish show, he opened his box of knives and told viewers: “So you see the importance of my little black box is that it’s actually got the tools of my trade in, and if the worst comes to the worst, and the BBC goes bust, then I can still get a job as a cook anyday.”

I don’t want to remember him as the frail, doddering, aged-beyond-his-years man in last night’s Channel 4 documentary Keith Meets Keith.

From the moment the great cook was shown sleeping on a hotel sofa like some befuddled Chelsea pensioner, his energy and spirit finally succumbing to a lifetime of fags and booze, it was clear it was going to be uncomfortable viewing.

I tried to switch over several times, but this was Keith Floyd...

He might pull through and show his old magic, even a glimmer of it would do, but by the end I felt overwhelmingly sad.

The whole show – not helped in the slightest by the faux sensitivity of Keith Allen and crew – wreaked of mortality. It was like watching the last hours of a dying God.

It was obvious Floyd didn’t have long, and as it turned out, just a few weeks. Minutes before the documentary was aired, the legendary raconteur died from a heart attack while watching TV at his partner Celia Martin’s home in Dorset. He was 65.

Paramedics battled for 45 minutes to save him but he could not be resuscitated, his ghost-writer James Steen said.

Floyd had returned to Britain three weeks ago to start chemotherapy for bowel cancer, and died just before the publication of his latest autobiography Stirred But Not Shaken.

A book launch had been planned at Marco Pierre White's Knightsbridge restaurant Frankies on October 6, and will now go ahead as a celebration of Floyd's life.

A short statement on Floyd's website says: “On Monday, September 14 2009, Keith passed away. He will be greatly missed by many.”

The only faintly watchable bit of last night’s documentary was when Floyd called most of the celebrity chefs who fill our screens “c****”.

Fittingly, the likes of Jamie Oliver and co were quick to pay tribute to the man who had paved the way for their careers.

Oliver said: “Keith was not just one of the best, he was the best television chef. An incredible man who lived life to the full and an inspiration to me and to so many others.”

Antony Worrall Thompson added: “I think all of us modern TV chefs owe a living to him. He kind of spawned us all.

“He turned cookery shows into entertainment. He lived life to the full and didn't care what people thought about him.”

Born to a working class family in Somerset in 1943, Floyd was educated at Wellington School before first becoming a journalist for a local paper in Bristol.

But that didn’t last long, and he decided to join the Forces after watching Zulu and rose to Second Lieutenant in the Royal Tank Regiment.

While in the Army, he played a major role in the kitchen and so-called 'Floyd nights' became the stuff of legend.

After leaving the forces, he flitted between jobs as a barman, dishwasher and cook before opening three restaurants in Bristol.

It was in one of those that he had his TV break, when he met BBC producer David Pritchard, and Floyd on Fish was born.

At its peak, the show was broadcast in 40 countries.

But it was this fame that led to his undoing and the failure of four marriages.

Although clearly a natural in front of the camera, he often reflected that if he hadn’t gone into TV, he’d have been a lot happier, and would probably have still been running a bistro in Bristol.

“There is Keith, who is just a cook and doesn't want to be famous,” he once said.

“He wants to lead a simple life, go out to dinner with his mates, go fishing. Then there is this other person, Floyd or Floydie.

“He is universally popular. People are so obsessed with Floydie that Keith can never lead a quiet life. It is unjust. I don't want to be Floyd. If I've influenced people, then I have. But I've got no idea who Floyd is. Not a clue.”

His fans knew who he was though, and loved him all the more for it.

I can’t tell you how said I am at his passing.

I’ll leave the last line to Floyd’s favourite band The Stranglers...

No more heroes anymore.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Keith Floyd: Stirred But Not Shaken

I wrote on this blog in July about the tragic news that Keith Floyd – one of my all-time heroes, and the man who inspired me to retrain as a chef - has cancer. The response rather surprised me. I had little idea of the level of feeling involved, and from all corners of the world.

The legendary TV cook had touched so many lives, it seemed, inspired so many people to get their hands dirty in the kitchen, and Delia aside, vanquished those dreary, sterile, studio-set cooking shows to hell in a chicken basket.

Of course, Floyd’s stardom led to the rise of twats like James Martin and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, not to mention Jamie Oliver and Gary Rhodes. But it was worth it, wasn’t it? Just for one show of the bow-tied roue on Floyd on Fish?

Well, the old soak doesn’t think so.

He has described how he would like to “napalm the lot of them”, and his battle against cancer has, if anything, intensified that bile.

But it’s not the Valentine Warners and Hairy Bikers who have really got him down.

It’s the genuinely-talented cooks who swapped kitchen life, and all its treasured pressures and camaraderie, for the plastic, pretentious world of television.

Floyd – clearly pained by the monster he has created - seems far more hurt by the celebrities who actually deserve the title ‘chef’, namely Marco Pierre White and his former protégé Gordon Ramsay.

Okay, Ramsay has wealth and fame far beyond what he would have got if he’d stayed in the kitchen, but what has it got him? His reputation is pretty much now in tatters.

Floyd, 65, savages Ramsay with the highest honour kitchen sledging can muster - the very Château d’Yquem of put-downs - and calls him a “c***”.

He claims that the likes of Ramsay and White have been "seduced" by TV glamour, insisting "television is crap", and that the "w*****s" on programmes do not understand the "language" of food.

“Some of them are terrific guys and some of them are absolute arseholes,” he adds. “Marco Pierre White is an extraordinarily good cook, but Gordon Ramsay, who used to be the pastry chef for Marco, has gone on a celebrity zig-zag, which is why I call them c****.”

He makes the comments, appropriately enough, in a Channel 4 documentary to be shown tomorrow (Monday) night called Keith Meets Keith.

The other Keith is that oh-so-hell-raising actor Keith Allen, in comparison to who the scourge of the celebrity chef is but a flea-bite on the arm of a tattooed giant.

Why they got the Sheriff of Nottingham and not Johnny Vegas to present the show, I have no idea. The roly-poly comic seems to genuinely love Floyd, and often sits for hours watching re-runs with a can in his hand. “It’s like drinking with an old friend,” he once said.

But Allen it is, and after getting nowhere with Floyd’s former agent Stan Green, he eventually tracks down a frail-looking, walking stick-aided Floyd at his farmhouse in rural France.

Fags and booze are to the fore, and Floyd dismisses the modern generation of TV gastronauts as “a bunch of arseholes”.

“The ill-conceived idea that all these w*****s who turn up on TV are chefs is a failure to understand the language. People who cook are cooks, a chef is a head of a restaurant kitchen,” he says.

Although Floyd only mentions Ramsay, pictures are flashed up of the Hairy Bikers, Jamie Oliver and Rick Stein (who his ex-producer David Pritchard formed into a poetry-spilling ‘mini-me’ when Floyd suffered his own zig-zag.)

Floyd tells of his money problems and says his rambling farmhouse in Avignon is being re-possessed by his fourth ex-wife Tess, 42.

Allen, father of pop star Lily Allen, and general all-round gobshite, asks Floyd: “Do you get foxes here?”

Floyd replies: “No, but I’m going to.”

The pair are filmed drunkenly singing, very badly, at a hotel piano, but Floyd is no arse and soon sees Allen for what he is.

The next day over lunch, Floyd tells Allen to “shut up” before being helped away “to go on a sofa”.

Allen, who at another point is called “a prick” by Floyd, said of the wine-glugging cook: “He’s mentally as sharp as ever and just as opinionated.”

Since the filming, Floyd has had chemotherapy and five operations. He has also published Stirred But Not Shaken: The Autobiography by Keith Floyd, which is out next month, and deals with how four marriages went down the pan and the money ran out.

At one point in the book, in true Floydian spirit, he deals with the health problems that have blighted him in recent years...

“The banquet was in honour of some long-deceased French chef — although as far as I could see it was nothing more than an excuse for the mother of all piss-ups,” he writes.

“Soup was served, oysters were gulped and a whole lamb was carved by an ancient maître d’ who looked like a cross between Dr Jekyll and the Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Sweetmeats and trifles came and went.

“Bon Appetit! Keith Floyd enjoying a meal with a bottle of wine in a typical pose. Bare-knuckle boxing took place, port and whisky flowed as the night turned into dawn and I finally floated along the teak-paneled corridor to my bedroom.

“Later, I don’t know how long afterwards, I reached out a hand to press the bell for a steward.

“My mattress was hard, I needed a glass of water and what with the tubes in my nose, I couldn’t breathe properly. No steward arrived. Just a man in a white jacket with a stethoscope and a briefcase, from which he took a syringe and injected my arm.

“Strange, I thought.

“Morning came — along with a group of people who stood round my bed, talking about me while they pressed their cool fingers over my stomach. ‘How did you enjoy the dinner?’ I asked them, by way of conversation. Silence.

“‘Wasn’t it a great night?’ I said. ‘I mean, there was the port and the boxing, there was the whole baron of lamb, and then there was dawn. How do you manage to have such a place in what appears to me to be a hospital?’

“It was a hospital. ‘Mr Floyd, you have been hallucinating,’ said one of the group. ‘The medication we had to give you in order to keep you alive together with the effects of — how can we say it? — an overindulgence of alcohol. . .’

“It was unreal. The whole banquet thing had been a complete figment of my imagination. ‘You were suffering a nasty case of delirium tremens,’ continued the man, whom I had by now realised was a doctor. ‘DTs, Mr Floyd. We have played our part.

“Now it is for you to play yours. Drink again as you have before and you will die.’ That was a year ago, in the spring of 2008 and I’m thankful to say that somehow or other, I’m still here.”

I do hope he gets better. But even if he doesn’t – what a life!