My Mum’s Mum “Grandma Manning” could be a bit of an old “Battle Axe at Times. My Grand Father “Pop Manning”  had lied about his age so he could fight in the First World War and in the Second World War he served as a Chief Petty Officer in the Navy on a Destroyer. He wasn’t a guy to be messed with but my “Gran Manning” used to shout at him as though she was his Commanding Officer, she was furious and she had been berating him for falling asleep in the rocking chair holding a cup of coffee, the chair had still been rocking when he dropped the cup he had made no attempt to clean it up and she was mopping the spilled liquid off the floor while at the same time telling him off for being clumsy and lazy. It was about 10 minutes before she noticed that the chair wasn’t rocking anymore and he wasn’t breathing anymore, he had died at the age of 62 having a brew in his favorite chair. He never felt at home on dry land, and I think sitting in his rocking chair reminded him of the swell of the sea beneath the HMS Vivien, that’s the way he would have wanted to go.

My Dads Dad ” Solva Pop” (so named because they had the Post Office in Solva Pembrokeshire) had just been told off by my other Grandma “Solva Gran”, she had been moaning all day because for some reason the privet hedge was looking a mess, he used to spend hours in the garden and it was normally immaculate his lawn was mowed in equal-sized up and down stripes and it looked like Wembley. He had a fantastic display of roses,  (roses are not a good idea at Wembley and they had punctured many of my footballs). Gardening was “Solva Pop’s” favorite past time, even though he wasn’t feeling well he couldn’t stand it looking untidy, neither could he stand my Grandma’s constant nagging so he had gone out to prune the privet hedge, ( incidentally privets make great goals, they don’t pop your football and you don’t have to go and fetch it when you score ), he was attacking the privets with the shears like a man possessed and probably muttering to himself about Nagging Women and Kids playing football on his garden, when he suffered a massive heart attack and died, he was 62, but he too was doing what he liked.

The last words my Mum ever said to my Dad was “Is that your second Chocolate Cream Eclair you greedy so and so, What did the Doctor tell you, You won’t be happy till you kill yourself, will you?”. My Dad had gone off in a huff, but the Doctor who had fitted my Dads pacemaker had told him to take it easy, make sure he took his heart tablets and to go easy on the dairy products etc, his cholesterol was through the roof and under no circumstances had he to walk both of his extremely boisterous dogs at the same time, which would pull his chest muscles and put even more strain on his heart.  

My Dad wouldn’t be told and he took absolutely no notice of the Doctor, he continued to do exactly what he wanted to do and eat what he wanted to, unfortunately, while he was out that same night walking both his dogs he had a massive heart attack. He was dead before he hit the ground, to make matters worse his dogs had dragged him over the grass verge next to the dual carriageway, he wasn’t discovered till the next morning. Was I sad that he had died like that? Not really, because I know he wouldn’t have felt a thing, he was walking his beloved dogs and that’s the way he would have wanted to go. He was also 62 and there was a worrying pattern starting to develop if you were a Male in the Crampton family

Historically the Women in the family live to a ripe old age but that almost changed when my  older Sister who was born 5 years before me was only 52 when she suffered a stroke (a blood clot in the brain), she was very lucky to be alive but it affected her particularly badly she thought that the stroke had disfigured her face (nobody else did) and for several years she wouldn’t even go out of the house, it seemed to me that rather like the Baddy in the film “Blade Runner” the guys in our family have a built-in obsolescence date and go out like a light before their 63rd birthday, that I didn’t mind so much. I’ve always been a pretty fit and active type I love sport and the outdoors, the last thing I would want would be to end up bedridden or housebound like my Sister.

The years ticked slowly away and I had reached the same decade of my life  that my Sister was in when she was struck down, I’d already had a couple of health issues, pains in the chest amongst other things,  these were mostly self-inflicted and caused by pushing cars, lifting heavy objects, and the stress of watching my cars be paint strippered on CCTV, finding out who had done it, being helpless to prosecute them and wanting to kill them instead, but not wanting to go to Prison for the rest of my life for Murder, you know, the usual sort of problems anyone in the Motor Trade has to deal with.

One of the above issues was causing me problems and I was having sleepless nights. I could still remember being lectured by my old boss “If you keep burning your candle at both ends, you won’t live to see 30” I continued with my somewhat hectic lifestyle and had been on borrowed time for 20 years, now it was my girlfriend who was lecturing me, shes not the most sympathetic person that I have ever met, and she gave me an ultimatum “Either stop moaning or go to the Doctors” In all honesty, I was in excruciating pain and I couldn’t have stopped moaning even if I had wanted to so I went to the Doctors.

My examination reminded me of an old joke!

A guy goes to the Doctors, after being examined the Doctor tells him he has bad news and he only has 10 to live, the guy says 10 What ?, 10 Years ?, 10 Months ?, 10 Weeks ?, 10 Days ?, 10 What for Gods sake? And the Doctor says 9, 8, 7, 6, 5

After questioning me about my diet, alcohol intake, career choice and family health history he decided that I was like the guy in the joke I was a heart attack waiting to happen, he told me to open my shirt and hooked me up to an ECG machine which measures the electrical impulses given off while the heart is beating, I was pretty sure it was stress and pulled chest muscles that were the cause of my discomfort but when the Doctor looked at the printout he said, “Do you have anybody who could run you to hospital?” I said “When” and he said “now, or I’ll have to call an Ambulance” 

There was no way I was going in an Ambulance so I pulled my mobile phone out of my shirt pocket and pretended to call my girlfriend I didn’t want to worry her so I would be driving myself but I wanted the Doctor to think otherwise, then I realised that the ECG self-adhesive electrodes stuck on my chest had been right next to my shirt pocket where my mobile phone had been, it was on silent and I had 5 missed calls and several text messages, when you leave your phone near a computer you can hear the signal it gives off a pulse and makes a buzzing sound like morse code through the speakers, the phone signal must have interfered with the ECG and caused the irregular spikes on the Graph that the machine had produced, the Doctor was having none of my explanation and he ordered me to go to hospital.

I was given another ECG and this time I made sure to switch my phone off completely. I hate hospitals and this one was no different, I was waiting for my results and it was purgatory being on the ward. There was an old woman who was obviously in pain she was under heavy sedation but she was still moaning and shouting for help, the Nurses who were short-staffed and overworked were just ignoring her. The lady turned her attention to me she had mistaken me for her son and she was begging me for help, she pleaded with me to take her home but there was nothing I could do for her. Neither could I endure staying in the hospital for another minute longer I just wanted to go home too.

The Ward Sister refused to discharge me and she further suggested that I contact my next of kin to tell them that I would most likely be spending the night under observation at the Hospital as they were waiting for a Doctor to look at my ECG results. I had no intention of staying  and I told her I was going home whether she liked it or not. She advised against it and made me sign a disclaimer which effectively said “I’m an Idiot, I have been warned not to go home and If I die there it’s my own fault” I couldn’t argue with the facts so I signed it and off I went.

I think the hospital decided to teach me a lesson and they kept me waiting for several days before they rang to tell me that the Doctor couldn’t see anything abnormal, but he still wanted to carry out more tests, one of them would be where I had to run on a treadmill whilst being coupled up to another ECG machine. It had been an anxious few days, the waiting wasn’t helping matters and I was still feeling dreadful. I was determined that if I was going to die it would be on my own terms so I decided that I would give my heart one of my own tests and if I survived it, my heart must be ok.

If I was going to die I wanted to go doing something that I really liked, however, my girlfriend wouldn’t agree to this, I could see she was working out the pros and cons in her head when I suggested it, Pro being that she could possibly be rid of me at last, Cons being if I did die in a compromising position how would she explain it to her family, my family, my followers on Twitter, the police, the ambulance men, the coroner, the pathologist, possibly an inquest and perhaps the Daily Newspapers, also if word got around how I had died, once she’d grieved over my death for a few hours her chances of finding another boyfriend who wouldn’t be afraid to date her would have been severely reduced. I thought she was being a bit selfish but despite my best efforts, I couldn’t persuade her otherwise so I came up with another plan. I like mountain biking too but to a lesser degree.

Another of my favorite jokes

An old man wanted to marry a 24 year old girl.

His friend told him, “You can’t marry a 24-year-old girl.”

He said, “Why not?”

The Friend said, “If you marry a 24-year-old girl, you’ll have to have sex with her and that could be fatal!”

The old man thought about it a moment, shrugged his shoulders and said, “Well if she dies, she dies.”

I loaded my mountain bike and set off for Helvellyn which is a mountain in the Lake District, the summit of Helvellyn is 3,117 feet above sea level and is the highest place in Britain that you can legally be on a Mountain Bike. The climb is a killer but the descent on a mountain bike is possibly the most fun you can have with your clothes on. Just to be on the safe side I was wearing a Skid Lid and my Heart Rate Monitor which I programmed to the recommended upper limit, it would sound a warning beep if my heart exceeded 220 minus my age in beats per minute. 

The ascent is so steep that most of the way It is impossible to stay on the bike and pedal. I was having to carry my bike over my shoulder, my heart was pounding and the monitor was beeping constantly It sounded like a lorry was reversing up the mountain. I wasn’t going to quit and the monitor was getting on my nerves so I took it off and put it in my rucksack. I had a HD Go Pro Camera recording my trip and had everything planned carefully,  if the worst were to happen I would be able to record a last message to the rest of my family, and also a message to my best mate telling him where I had buried the massive fortune that I had made in the Motor Trade (that’s a joke in itself), I would be sure to knock off just before I finished giving him the imaginary directions.

By the time I had gotten to the top my heart rate monitor would have exploded, all I could hear was the sound of my own blood pumping around my body. On reaching the summit the first thing I saw was a dog wearing a rucksack on its back, I thought I must be hallucinating due to the altitude and physical exertion. The ride did almost kill me, but it wasn’t the exertion, it was the rocks I hit when I was going down the mountain at full speed. I was wearing special riding shoes with cleats in the sole, the cleats lock into the pedals and allow you to pull up with your legs rather than just being able to use downward force to propel yourself forwards. I was going too fast, even though my bike is fitted with Disc Brakes I still couldn’t stop in time, bikes don’t have ABS so I couldn’t swerve either. I saw the rocks which had been set into and all across the cycle path too late as I came round the bend and I hit them dead centre, normally you would fly over the handlebars but I was attached to the bike pedals and I did a complete somersault before crashing to the ground a few yards further down the track. I landed sideward’s and I felt my ankle crack. I thought my leg was broken and I could see it swelling before my eyes.

My mishap was only a short way from the summit and I had visions of having the embarrassment of being carried down by the mountain Rescue team, but fortunately, my bike also has GPS so I plotted the shortest route down to civilisation, by the time I got to the bottom my leg was so swollen that I couldn’t move it or bend my foot I would never make it back to my car which was on the other side of the mountain about 10 miles away by road, so I used my mobile to look up a local minibus firm on the internet, they came and picked me and my bike up and took me back to my car. Note to self Mobile Phones = Good in a crisis, not so much in the Doctors Surgery!

I survived my Mountain ordeal, but my heart was to be put to the test several more times before I closed my business (covered in other blogs). Although I was confident that my heart was strong I was very worried (and still am) that I would fall victim to a stroke like my Sister, I have researched the symptoms and possible preventions, no one was there to help my Sister and the F.A.S.T –E.R  you act with a stroke victim the better their chances of survival and recovery.

Signs of a stroke = 
F = Face, has their face fallen on one side? Can they smile? 
A = Arms, can they raise both arms and keep them there?
S = Speech, is their speech slurred?
T = Time, Time to call 999 if you see any single one of these signs.

There are other signs too, apparently depending on which part of your brain the clot is affecting, you can get a strange taste in your mouth, like the taste of pennies, or you can smell something not dissimilar to burning toast. These symptoms are very annoying as though I don’t often get the urge to suck coins, I have a very short attention span and I am always incinerating bread, and most other food types.

So how do you prevent a stroke,

1) healthy living – well that’s not going to happen in my case.

 2) apparently if you take an aspirin a day it interferes with the formation of Thrombi which causes your blood to clot, I’m allergic to Aspirin so that’s not going to happen either. 

3) Avoid stressful situations – Hello !!! I’m in the Motor Trade, there isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that that’s going to happen.

I had hoped that my new job selling Websites to the Motor Trade was going to be a lot less stressful than selling cars to privates but it hadn’t got off to a good start.  I was already quite knowledgeable about building websites but I had only had a couple of days training on other aspects of the business such as Search Engine Optimisation and Analytics, this wasn’t nearly enough, I still had a lot to learn. I had been studying all the sites that we had produced and looking through the analytics I made notes so I could actually contribute to the meeting the next day if I was needed and I had been up till the very early hours of the morning preparing. I was feeling tired and under the weather before I set off.

My new boss had sent out an email telling our customers about my numerous years of experience in the Motor Trade and offering my services for questions and answer sessions. I  had arrived early for the meeting, I was really only there to accompany a colleague and observe his presentation,  but he was well over half an hour late,  I hate being late so I was already stressed and had gone in to apologise,  the clients had read the introduction email and took the opportunity to grill me on several aspects of the Motor Trade  .

The 2 partners had built a successful business and were almost ready to take the next step forward, one of the guys was very laid back and wanted a website, it seemed like the other guy didn’t, he was very cautious (rightly so) and his surly attitude made it obvious that he didn’t want to spend the money or commit to a 12-month contract, it may have been unintentional but it seemed like he was doing his level best to spoil my presentation, I was being bombarded with questions about the Motor Trade and how our website would help and improve their business and make their lives easier.

There had been some questions that I didn’t know the answer to, and I had tried to phone my Boss but he wasn’t picking up. I hate being made to look stupid and I should never have been put in that position It was like being on Mastermind, or being interrogated by a couple of Detectives using the good cop bad cop routine. I was in a very awkward position and was furious that my colleague was late and that he had dropped me in it at the Deep End, I was extremely hot and uncomfortable in the office, and then it happened I got a bitter taste in my mouth and an acrid burning smell in my nostrils, it had to be the first signs that I was having a stroke !.

The thought of having a stroke in the middle of a business meeting with strangers and being miles away from home was my worst nightmare, it was more the embarrassment than anything but my heart started to race and I could feel adrenalin soaking through my body as I looked for an opportunity and an excuse to get the hell out there. Trying to look as nonchalant as possible, I felt at my face to see if it had fallen but I couldn’t tell, so I switched on the front camera on my I phone and looked at my reflection in it, I wasn’t looking my best, I was bright red, just then the door opened and I was saved by the Cavalry, it was my tardy colleague I introduced him very quickly then made the excuse that I had to go and call the office.

I hurried back to my car, got in, reclined the electric seat closed my eyes, and waited to die, It never crossed my mind to drive to the Hospital or ring an Ambulance. I was happy that I was about to break tradition, sitting in a Mercedes Benz wasn’t exactly how I wanted to die, but I was going to be the first guy in 3 generations of the Crampton family to pop his clogs without being nagged to death by their spouse.

In fact, it would be exactly the opposite as I prepared myself for the worst, I recalled possibly the best time of my life when my girlfriend and I were walking hand in hand through the breaking surf around the point at St James Beach. It was the last day of our fantastic holiday in Barbados, the sea looked like it had started to boil around us then it became alive as a shoal of flying fish breached the surface of the water and flitted past us, there were hundreds if not thousands of them and they were so close we could have reached out and touched them, it was a perfect moment and it was surreal, neither of us would have believed our eyes if the other hadn’t been there.  

I had started to relax,  and my heart rate was slowing down, I could no longer taste anything, or smell anything unusual or out of place. It was a miracle! I waited another few minutes until I was satisfied that I had no other symptoms before returning rather sheepishly to my meeting. It became clear that my hurried exit and “call the office ” story were not as convincing as I had hoped. I think my clients were worried that they had upset me, my new colleague had no idea what was going on and he was looking at me very suspiciously, I was getting agitated and was looking round the room as I could smell the strange burning smell again, it was very strong, but it didn’t seem to be bothering anyone else. I scanned the room looking for the source, unless I could find it I would have to assume it was just me and go and “call the office, sit in the car and dream of my Happy Place again”  I spotted the coffee percolator behind me it was hidden from view by the arm of the sofa where I was sitting, The Glass Carafe had boiled dry and wisps of smoke were coming from the coffee grounds that were all that was left in the bottom.

The moral of my story is,

1)    history doesn’t necessarily repeat itself but will let you know definitely if I reach 63,

2)     never read a medical book or you will think you’ve got every disease under the sun,

3)    Ignorance is Bliss!

4)     if you have  a Coffee Percolator in your office “FFS Make Sure It Doesn’t Boil Dry, or you could give someone a stroke!”