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  • Writer's pictureAustin Birks

Review of 2022 - In Short: No, Thank You… Things Can Only Get Better

One of the benefits of being a rather sad, old, English gentleman like myself, is the fact that even though technology allows us to have everything at the tip of our fingers, I like to have a desk diary. To those of a certain age, they may not know what a desk diary actually is. It is a handy bit of kit that allows me to book appointments which is great. But even better, it allows me to remember things, so every day is different. When you think that there are 365 days of the year, unless you write stuff down, then you forget. But with this I do not, and actually, it is very useful, as Clint Eastwood reminds me of the “The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly”. And quite frankly, 80% of 2022 was in the second and third category, having said that, the 20% that was good was very good.


So, lets start off with the year starting badly when my dear old mum died in the early hours of December 14th, with my sister and myself at her side, as she went to meet her maker at the age of 94. On January 28th, we said a very fond farewell to mum when she was buried with my dad, her beloved Johnny, united in death as they were in life.


On February 9th, my next door neighbour and best friend Geoff died suddenly. That hit me very hard. He was such a great bloke and I loved the man.


On February 19th, I noticed a nasty skin disease starting to spread across my chest, legs, arms, and back, big yellow, pussy, spots that liked to group together for family selfie shots.


On February 22, Rolf, one of Yvi’s family died in Germany. Clearly, things were not getting any better, and in fact they got worse as Putin invaded Ukraine. The first war in Europe in 70 years.


By February 27th, the skin rash was all over my face. Indeed, that morning when I woke up, I noticed that a rather large chunk of my face decided not to join me in getting out of bed, and decided to stick to the pillow case. Truly unpleasant (photos enclosed).


March 8th, attended Geoff's funeral, a packed crematorium for a great celebration of a good life, well lived, by a good man.


On March 10/11th, I co-chaired a bus conference at Aston University, really enjoyed it had some excellent speakers and great presentations.


March 26th, went down to Wiltshire to attend a special Karate course with Sensei Akita, a phenomenal Karate man, I really enjoyed it and we all learned a lot.


March 30th, I was informed that a 25 centimetre blood clot was identified in my left leg from the knee up towards the thigh, when I went for an ultra sound to see if what we thought was a pulled muscle, was indeed a pulled muscle, which it was not, as it was in fact a monster blood clot. That was a surprise, I can tell you. The immediate result of this was I was sent straight back to the cancer ward where I was given a large box of injections that I needed to inject into my stomach twice a day, something that I am doing to this day. The idea being to thin the blood and eliminate the clot (update on clot it actually solidified and is now a permanent feature).


May 3rd saw my 62nd birthday, so we enjoyed a wonderful family meal at the Vine Inn, a splendid gathering with lots of laughing to boot.


On May 8th, the family, neighbours and friends of Geoff gathered in the garden of Clent Cottage where Geoff's son Richard unveiled a dedicated bench to Geoff’s and Brenda’s memory. A fitting tribute to two lovely human beings.


May 14th saw the Karate residential course in Weymouth and what a cracking course it was, great technical and challenging Karate, and as ever enormous fun at the social event. Train hard, play hard.


May 27th saw the unwelcome return of my skin rash but this time it focused on my head. This resulted in complete makeover of my bonce that needed all my hair to be shaven off and the scalp basically did a NASA impression of the moons landscape in all its horrific glory (photo enclosed).


July 16th saw Sensei Peter Manning coming to my dojo to deliver a brilliant course followed by grading exams for 5 of my lads. All 5 passed. One third dan, two second dans, and two first dans. Much to my relief, they all passed and did themselves and me proud.


July 27th saw me being informed that following X-rays it appears that I need a hip replacement operation. It would appear that the combination of over 50 years of martial arts training and the cumulative effects of chemotherapy has my left hip “shot to buggery” as the old saying goes. The right hip is also showing wear and tear but the left is a mess. Bad news is, there is a 3-year wait on the NHS while private health care is 20k a hip, so bit of a dilemma.


July 16th saw an excellent Karate course with my dear old friend Sensei Paul Haworth 4th dan. We trained together at Uni and here we are 44 years later still doing what we love.


August 31st, I met an amazing man, Dr Ronan Traecy is a hip replacement specialist who has a specialism in Karate replacement operations, with over 200 under his belt, if you pardon the pun. Think I have found my man.


September 19th saw the nation pay our respects to her majesty the Queen. What an iconic and wonderful monarch she was. Symbolised everything decent about this nation. God bless her!


October 7th saw the launch of my book “My Journey”. Over 90 people travelled from all over England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and Poland to attend. My dear friend Mike Woods and myself attempted to entertain those gathered as we re-enacted several blogs from the book. Lord Peter Hendy, who wrote the forword, attended and kindly spoke as eloquently as ever, as family and friends from all elements of my life and times gathered. One of the best days of my life and times, I can tell you.


In stark contrast, the death of my dear friend Mark Wilkie who I attended uni with back in the day, hit me an many other people very hard. Mark was a great guy who was universally loved and liked in equal measure. His funeral was attended by so many people. Most of us had to stand outside, and listen to the numerous brilliant eulogies that Mark rightly deserved.


Sunday 6th November was an interesting day, when I collapsed when I was teaching Karate. It was quite spectacular, as I did in diving terms a full pike with half twist, as I hit the deck. The next day I realised why, as a large cut on my arm turned a green/yellow colour so straight to A and E, as there was a concern I had sepsis (Photo enclosed). 8 penicillin tablets a day for 14 days was the order of the day, as my broken body sought to fix itself.


But, it did not, as on Monday 21st, whilst at Warwick hospital I suffered a heart attack, or at least that is what the nice paramedic ambulance driver told the And E department when I heard him say “We have a 62-year-old man with a suspected heart attack”. Lord, I thought, he means me. On the positive, on the 40-minute journey I managed to flog a copy of my book to the other paramedic. I always keep a couple in my bag, and it became a stocking filler for his wife, to whom I dedicated the books. So, Carol…enjoy. The result of all this was one month of beta blockers to slow the heart rate down, which it did.


Friday 9th December saw two interesting events. In the morning I had surgery at Coventry hospital where my port was removed, a port is a disc that is inserted into your chest so that the chemotherapy can be easily inserted. Now, unfortunately for me, I had managed to grow a second blood clot in my chest that had attached itself to the port, resulting in the irregular heartbeat in the top chambers of the heart. So, the port had to go, and it did, that was the morning entertainment.


In the afternoon I attended the Fellows lunch of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, at the swanky Park Regis hotel in central Birmingham. Unbeknown to me after a fine Christmas lunch much to my complete surprise I was awarded with a Meritorious award in recognition of my outstanding service. The President of CILT my friend Alan Jones made a very kind speech and I was given a standing ovation as I collected my award and made a small but cringy thank you speech. Truly a great honour and one I will cherish.


Saturday 10th December saw my dear friends Mike and Richard take their respective second and fifth dan exams under Sensei Peter Manning which they both passed, which was just brilliant.


So, that was 2022. What a year that was, as I write this, my scalp is covered in a thick cream designed to stop my scalp shedding its skin. With splits and cuts on my fingers and feet that do not seem to want to heal anytime soon.


Next Wednesday, I have my 80th dose of chemotherapy and do you know what? Bring it on, it keeps me alive, and no matter how bad things get, I celebrate the simple fact that I still have the gift of life and time. So, 2023 welcome, let us see what we can create together, good and positive things methinks.


Happy New Year, One And All!


Austin “lucky" Birks






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