Saturday 30 November 2013

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Farewell" to a gentle genius of a crossword composer known as 'Araucaria' or John Graham

John, one of the most admired and best-known crossword setters in the English language, known for his idiosyncratic style and extended anagrams compiled crosswords for the 'Guardian' for over 50 years, better known to readers by his pseudonym, 'Araucaria', has died at the age of  92.

In a crossword in January he announced to his loyal cruciverbalists or solvers that he was dying from cancer. 'Araucaria', he said, 'has 18 down of the 19, which is being treated with 13, 15' which translated into  'cancer''oesophagus' and  'palliative care' with the solutions to  other clues being : 'Macmillan', 'nurse', 'stent', 'endoscopy' and 'sunset' and when asked why he had decided to reveal details of his illness in a crossword ? said: "It seemed the natural thing to do, somehow."

What you possibly didn't know about John, that he :

* was one of a family of six children who in the 1920s found their entertainment in wordplay, charades and puzzles and would share the 'Times' crossword with his parents and brothers and sisters, who together would also engage in cryptic word play and in setting simple puzzles.

* was brought up in academic Oxford, where his father was the Dean of Oriel College and later Principal of Cuddesdon Theological College and then Bishop of Brechin and he himself, after leaving school, read classics at King's College, Cambridge, till the age of 19 when the Second World War intervened in 1939.

* took a pacifist position at the start of the War but changed his mind and later said : "I thought to myself then, if I'm going to fight, I must do the nastiest job I can think of, in terms of killing people, and the best way to do that is to be a bomber pilot. I finished up as the person who drops the bombs, not the pilot – an observer, they were called in those days."
* joined the Royal Air Force in 1942 at the age of 22, flew in 30 'night-intruding' operations in Baltimores and Bostons over Italy and forced to bale out, went into into hiding from the Germans, finding refuge with an Italian family, who hid him in a stable and took Italian lessons from a school teacher billeted with the family and in return taught her English and Latin.

* was rescued by the Americans and got 'mentioned in dispatches', an honour which he played down saying  : "you always got, if you baled out and the enemy did not catch you".

* went back to King's College after the War, to read theology, was ordained in the Church of England in 1948, then worked in a succession of curacies and chaplaincies including Reading University in the 1960s and later St Peter's in London's Eaton Square.

* in 1958, on the strength of  success in winning the Observer's crossword setting competition two years running, was taken on by the then Manchester Guardian as one of its small band of crossword setters with his first clue in his first puzzle setting the standard for what was to follow: 'Establishment cut to the bone? (8,5)' for 'skeleton staff'.

*  found that composing newspaper crosswords, which started as a sideline became a necessity at the end of the '70s, when loss of income resulted from his divorce which meant he had to give up his church living.

* chose Araucaria as his 'nom de plume' since it was the botanical name for the monkey puzzle tree and 'monkey' had been a term of endearment in the Graham family.

* evolved the artform of the cryptic crossword, produced themed puzzles on topics such as the 'British shipping forecast' and the '250th anniversary of the death of Bach' and invented the 'alphabetical jigsaw puzzle'.

* had his last puzzle for the Guardian, published with the clue : 'Warning not to outstay welcome I encountered in African country (4,2,2)' was: time to go and the solutions to other clues as :  'second wind', 'nil by mouth' and 'cottage hospital.'
*  held his final living was as rector of Houghton and Wyton in Cambridgeshire and donated his oesophagus for research to the MRC Cancer Unit at Cambridge University.

* was the master of the very long anagram and was proud of  'O hark the herald angels sing the boy's descent, which lifted up the world' which translated into 'while shepherds watched their flocks by night , all seated on the ground'.

Letters in the Guardian today expressed his followers sense of loss and celebration of the joy he had given them.

Paul and Vicky Faupel who lived in his village of Somersham in Cambridgeshire wrote :
'Learned, erudite, eloquent, witty and self-effacing about his sharp-minded crossword-setting skill – he was all of those and more. He will be long remembered and sadly missed by us all.'

Professor David Stephens :
'Warm summer days on the beach, Dad with the Guardian crossword firmly on his lap, Christmas specials and the call from the lounge, "just one clue left!". All was right with the world. Farewell, Araucaria, and thank you.'

John Purkiss :
'For my 80th birthday last year, my family commissioned a killer-grade personal crossword – my life in a crossword. Never has a gift brought such pleasure. It took me two days to complete except for one last clue which took 10 days! I feel I have lost a friend of some 30 years.'

Brian Booth :
'If, on opening the Guardian on a Saturday, I punched the air and yelled "Yesss!", my wife knew what that meant: an alphabetical.'

Wal Callby :
'Will never forget laughing out loud when I got 'Over-complicated way to say "were you our teacher?" Answer : 'Tortuous'.

Marion Bolton :
'My favourite clue was 'Excellent host, or absent-minded pet owner (4 7 3)'. 'Puts himself out'.

Journalist, Simon Hoggart in his tribute in the Guardian wrote :

'There could be few greater satisfactions than doing battle with that warm, nimble, generous yet invariably cunning mind. And he was loved. Yesterday a colleague in Parliament, a crossword fan himself, said bleakly to me, "He's dead!" and had no need to explain who he meant.'
'He gave great entertainment to a great many readers for more than half a century and inspired a younger generation of crossword setters.'

'John was also one of the gentlest, kindest and most diffident men I have ever met.'

What better epitaph might a man have ?

Thursday 28 November 2013

Britain is no country and London no city for old men trying to cross the road in safety

If one measure of how much a country is mindful of the frailties for its old men and women,  is how it cares for their safety as pedestrians in its towns and cities, then Britain fails miserably. This is evidenced in a study carried out by Dr Laura Asher at the 'Department of Epidemiology and Public Health', University College London, involving 3,000 pensioners and published in the journal 'Age and Ageing' which has shown that traffic speed has a greater priority than pensioner pedestrian safety.

The study :

* noted that pelican crossing times are regulated at an  average walking speed of 1.21 metres per second while the average crossing time for old men was 0.9metre per second and just 0.7metre per second for old women.

* showed that 76% of men and  85% of women aged over 65 walk slower than necessary to use a  crossing and need to almost double their speed to get across safely.

Dr Laura herself said that old people :
*  need walking "as it provides regular exercise and direct health benefits. Being unable to cross a road may deter them from walking, reducing their access to social contacts and interaction, local health services and shops, that are all important in day to day life.”
"are more likely to be involved in a road traffic collision than younger people due to slower walking speed, slower decision making and perceptual difficulties."
*  when hit " are also more likely to die from their injuries than younger people. Having insufficient time at a road crossing may not increase the risk of pedestrian fatalities but it will certainly deter this group from even trying to cross the road."
 Dr Jennifer Mindell, senior author of the study, said of old people that :
" They have insufficient time to reach the far side, so may decide not to even try. The impact on the older population is therefore not just the immediate risk of injury. Feeling that you cannot negotiate the outside world causes psychological distress. It also deters people from even going out, feeling they are unable to cross roads safely."
The good doctors, however, are not without their critics : Enter Peter Box, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s 'Economy and Transport Board'. According to him, Dr Laura didn't get her 3000 timings right and the 'formula' local councils used actually gave people far longer to cross the road than her ‘flawed research’ suggested. ‘Timings have to strike a balance between traffic flow and pedestrian safety, but the emphasis is always on safety,’ he said.
Despite Peter's assurance things have taken a turn for the worse for old men trying to cross the road safely in London with crossing times being cut as part of the 'Smoothing Traffic Flow Strategy',  one component of the 2010 Mayor of London, Boris Johnson 's 'Transport Strategy' leading to a reduced ‘invitation to cross’, green man time. The reduction has galvanised a group of old men and women called 'Loud Minority' (left) into action with their video 'Hey Mr Boris" video with "Four out of five older people can't cross the roads at the lights":

The ‘Smarter Crossings Campaign' has also sided with Dr Laura and is calling for the ‘green man’ sign to last an extra three seconds so young and old can all cross in time and the 'Living Streets' charity behind the campaign said the ‘green man’ time was out of date and did not reflect present day. I'm not sure what they mean by this. Are they saying that when the pelican crossings were first installed in 1969, old men and women were walking at a faster pace than they are today ?

Tuesday 26 November 2013

Britain is still a country for and says "Happy birthday and good luck" to an old bass guitarist called John McVie, who gave his name and life to a band called Fleetwood Mac

John, whose surname, combined with that of Mick Fleetwood led to the creation of 'Fleetwood Mac' and who is being treated for cancer is 68 years old today.  

What you possibly didn't know about John, that he :

* was born in Ealing, West London and at the age of 11, passed the 11+ exam and went to Walpole Grammar School where his music teacher gave pupils space and time to use school facilities to practise and listen to their 'new wave' music.

* at 14, began playing guitar in local bands, covering songs by 'The Shadows' and acquired a pink Fender bass guitar,  bought for him by his father, the same model as that used by his early musical influence, the late Jet Harris.

* left school at 17, trained for nine months to be a tax inspector before accepting the offer of a place in John Mayall's
new band, the 'Bluesbreakers' and under his tutelage, learned to play the blues by listening to B.B.King and Willie Dixon records.

* in 1966, Peter Green (right) was asked to join Mayall's Bluesbreakers as the band's new lead guitar player, after Eric Clapton had left and when Mick Fleetwood joined as drummer the key players in what was to become, 'Fleetwood Mac' were in place.

* at the age of 22, was asked by Peter to join him and Mick for a recording session in which they made 'Curly', 'Rubber Duck' and an instrumental called 'Fleetwood Mac' and when Peter formed his own band, 'Fleetwood Mac', joined them in  1967.

* was in demand after the group's first album, released in 1968, became an immediate hit and established it as a major part in the English Blues movement, started playing live gigs in blues clubs and pubs and scored a string of hits in Britain and enjoyed success in Continental Europe and produced 'Albatross' :

* following the departure of Peter Green from the group in 1970, persuaded his wife, Christine, seen next to him on the right, who before their marriage had been the lead singer and piano player of 'Chicken Shack', to join it and in 1975, achieved worldwide success after recruiting American singer-songwriter duo Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham.
* in 1976, at the age of 31, during the recording of 'Rumours', after years of his heavy drinking, experienced his marriage unravel and divorced Christine the same year and at the same time saw the album sell 40 million and top the U.S. chart for seven months and until Michael Jackson released 'Thriller', was the best-selling album of all time.

* in 1981, at the age of 36, went on the road with the 'Bluesbreakers' for a 'Reunion Tour' with John Mayall and the following year toured America, Asia and Australia.

* since an alcohol-induced seizure in 1987 finally prompted him to kick the habit, has been sober ever since and avoided the tragedies in the band's history when  :

- Peter Green, dependent on LSD, left in 1970 and later diagnosed with schizophrenia, suffered financial problems which led to him working as a hospital porter and even a grave digger.

- guitarist Danny Kirvan became an alcholic by the age of 22, developed mental health problems after he was sacked from the band for his increasingly erratic behaviour and eventually became homeless on the streets of London.

Everywhere :

Little lies :

Dream :

Saturday 23 November 2013

Britain in 2013 is no longer a country for old men performing in Monty Python's Flying Circus

When this group of young men made the last and 45th episode of 'Monty Python's Flying Circus' in 1974, they had a collective age of 162. Now as a group of old men planning to make a comeback in the 'Circus' they have a collective age of 357 years, which end to end would take us back to the year 1656 with Oliver Cromwell governing Britain as Lord Protector.

Britain in the 17th century was a very different country to Britain in 2013, so too was Britain in 1974, a very different country to the one we have today. What people laughed at then, people do not necessarily laugh at now. However, after years of feuding between themselves, these old men have decided to put their differences aside. As the 'Daily Mail' reported : 'History has proved that when it comes to even the most bitter of showbiz feuds, nothing dampens the flames of mutual hostility better than a liberal injection of cold hard cash.'
Nowhere was the bitterness as intense as that between their two unofficial leaders : John Cleese and Eric Idle. Seventy-four year old John, whose post-Python career saw him slip from one-time Hollywood A-lister, to being forced to sell off some of his art collection and movie memorabilia, fell out with seventy year old Eric over the spoils of the hugely successful stage show, 'Spamalot', which was billed as being ‘lovingly ripped off’ from the 1975 movie 'Monty Python And The Holy Grail.'

Back in 1969, on the surface, they appeared to be a happy-go-lucky bunch of intelligent young men, Terry Jones and Michael Palin were both Oxford University graduates, while Eric Idle, the late Graham Chapman and John Cleese went to Cambridge. Together, they delighted in creating deliberately juvenile, comic sketches and songs such as 'The Dead Parrot', 'Nudge-Nudge-Wink-Wink', 'The Lumberjack Song' and 'The Ministry of Silly Walks'.

After the Python Series ended in 1974, they went on to score film hits with 'Monty Python And The Holy Grail' and 'The Life Of Brian'. However, behind the scenes they were riven by ego clashes and bitter jealousies. For his part, Michael Palin, who went on to carve a niche as a presenter of tv travelogues with his own BBC series, has long maintained that John Cleese was an irritating perfectionist, whose high-handedness became the source of endless in-fighting.

The old men today, from left to right :

70 : Michael Palin :
71 : Terry Jones :
70 : Eric Idle :
72 : Terry Gilliam :
74 : John Cleese :

Meanwhile, 'Monty Python' fans from Buenos Aires to Bacup have reacted with joy after hearing that the five are set to re-form for a stage show, confirmed when John tweeted : 'Monty Python is set to be a flying circus all over again'.

These old men, may be as funny and feel the same as they were 40 years ago, but the country in which their brand of humour was so well received certainly is not. To say Python humour is timeless is simply not the case. They made us laugh because of who they were and what they said and did then : one contemporary face of the 1970s.

I've picked up this tweet from John Cleese :
John Cleese @JohnCleese 22 Nov
A Python fan told me today "Watching very old men being silly is funnier than watching young ones being silly".

Thursday 21 November 2013

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Farewell" to a brilliant, self-effacing scientist and twice-over Nobel prize winner, called Fred Sanger

Fred, who has died at the age of 95, was one of only four people to have won the highest honours in science, the Nobel Prize twice, placing him in the company of Marie Curie and the only person to have won twice in chemistry.
Professor Colin Blakemore, former Chief Executive of the Medical Research Council, said of him : 
"The death of a great person usually provokes hyperbole, but it is impossible to exaggerate the impact of Fred Sanger's work on modern biomedical science. His invention of the two critical technical advances – for sequencing proteins and nucleic acids – opened up the fields of molecular biology, genetics and genomics."

What you possibly didn't know about Fred, that he :

* was born in Rendcomb, Gloucestershire, just before the end of the First World War in 1918 and at five, moved with his family to a small village in Warwickshire, was taught by a governess and brought up in the Quaker religion by his father who had been an Anglican medical missionary in China who converted to Quakerism and who, as a medical doctor encouraged his interest in biology. 

 at nine was packed off to the Downs School, a boarding school run by Quakers near Malvern and at 14 to the new liberal Bryanston School in Dorset, where he liked his teachers and particularly enjoyed scientific subjects.

* at the age of 18 in 1936, won a scholarship to study science at St John's College, Cambridge and was attracted to biochemistry by the excitement for the subject shared by the young members of the department working under Frederick Gowland Hopkins, the Nobel prizewinner who had discovered vitamins. 

* experienced  the loss of both parents dieing from cancer during his first two years at Cambridge, where he was a pacifist and member of the 'Peace Pledge Union' and the 'Cambridge Scientists' Anti-War Group' where he met his future wife, Joan, who was studying economics at Newnham College.

* graduated at the time of the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, was excused national sertvice and as a conscientious objector and given permission to study at Cambridge dividing his time between studying for a doctorate and carrying out research into nitrogen uptake in potatoes.

* over the next decade, worked on the chemical structure of proteins and developed methods to determine the building blocks of the hormone, insulin, something thought impossible and which led to the first of his Nobel prizes in 1958.

* provided an essential step for the laboratory synthesis of insulin and a major advance in the treatment of diabetes and opened a floodgate of research into the way hundreds of proteins, which he referred to as 'the machinery of living matter', conspired to create and sustain a living organism.

* in 1962, at the age of 44, moved to the new Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology along with Nobel laureates Max Perutz and Francis Crick and began working on the problem of sequencing DNA, developed the 'Sanger sequencing' method to read DNA code and awarded a share of the Nobel prize for chemistry by the King of Sweden in 1980.

*  didn't court fame, describing himself as "a chap who messed about in his lab" and rejected a knighthood because, as he told a journalist in 2000, he did not care to be called "Sir" and  "a knighthood makes you different, doesn’t it, and I don’t want to be different." 

* retired at the age of 65, in 1983, to devote time to his garden, exchanged his laboratory bench for one of a cabinetmaker and messed about on the river.

* was honoured when the Wellcome Trust named the 'Sanger Centre' after him but only agreed after warning the founding director "It had better be good.", opened it in person in 1993 and saw it become Britain's home for the 'International Human Genome Project' and saw his work pave the way for the identification of the first complete human genome sequence published in 2003.

* in 2007 the British Biochemical Society was given a grant by the Wellcome Trust to catalogue and preserve the 35 laboratory notebooks in he recorded his research from 1944 to 1983 and in reporting this. 'Science' noted that he was "the most self-effacing person you could hope to meet", was now spending his time gardening at his Cambridgeshire home.

* said he found no evidence for a God and so he became an agnostic and told the 'Times' in 2000 : "My father was a committed Quaker and I was brought up as a Quaker, and for them truth is very important. I drifted away from those beliefs – one is obviously looking for truth, but one needs some evidence for it. Even if I wanted to believe in God I would find it very difficult. I would need to see proof."

* at the age of 87 was interviewed about his life in 2007

Tuesday 19 November 2013

Britain, already no country today, will be even less of one for its 'explosion' of old men tomorrow

Lord Filkin, who is a 69 year old member of the House of Lords, which is dominated by other old men, has chaired a Special Committee on 'Public Service and Demographic Change' which has produced a report, 'Ready for Ageing?', about future old men. It concluded that Britain, as a country, is "woefully under-prepared" to cope with an expected explosion in the number of old men and women. It blamed successive governments for their failure to tackle policy issues generated by the ageing population and warned that the biggest threats are to already stretched health and social services.

The Committee, however, was no friend to future old men because it :

* cited recommendations made by 58 year old, Lord Turner, 'Chairman of the Pensions Commission', who had said the threshold for the state pension could rise to 70 by 2030, thereby committing millions of future old men to a longer and longer working life. Translated into committee speak this became :
"People should therefore be enabled to extend their working lives if they wish to do so, as a vital part of the response to increased longevity."

* suggested a review of pensioner benefits, which currently include free public transport and a winter fuel allowance for over-65s and TV licences for the over-75s -universal schemes which critics claim waste money as many pensioners are relatively wealthy.

The Committee heard evidence about the scale of the demographic change coming between 2010 and 2030 and that there :

* is expected to be a 50% increase in the number old men and women aged 65 and older and also a  doubling of those aged 85 and older.

* is a prediction of a 50% increase in old people with either arthritis, coronary disease or strokes and an 80% rise in those with dementia to nearly two million.

* in two decades, would be a doubling in the number of households where disabled elderly people needed informal care from their relatives or friends.

Lord Filkin himself said :

The changes recommended by Lord Filkin and his Committee, raising the prospect of Britain becoming even less of a country for old men than it is now, may still be some way off, but methinks, it's just a matter of time before their eventual implementation.

Sunday 17 November 2013

Britain is no longer a country for and said "Goodbye" to its oldest man, Ralph Tarrant, after he had given it over 110 years or 40,000 days of his life


Ralph, who reached the age of 110 in July and still did some shopping, cooked for himself and enjoyed the occasional glass of whisky, died at the end of last month. 
Back in July he said : " I don’t feel my age, certainly not in my head. I sometimes get a few aches and pains and I’ve been ill recently but I’m getting my strength back now. I’ll be happy as long as I can get about under my own steam and I can do that quite well now.’

What you almost certainly didn't know about Ralph, that he :

* was born in Nottingham in 1903 and moved with his family to Sheffield at the age of 7, was 11 at the outbreak of the First World War and 13 when he left school and started work as an office boy a a steelworks.

* might have seen this elephant, used for haulage in a Sheffield munitions yard during the War,

* met his future wife, Phyllis when he was 19 years old in 1922 and married at the age of thirty in 1933, six years before the outbreak of the Second World War and remained so until she died on New Year's Day 2012, aged 102.

* during the Second World War, served as a corporal in the Royal Air Force with 201 Coastal Command, based in  Scotland.

* became an estimator and steel inspector before eventually selling insurance for Refuge Assurance until his retirement 45 years ago in 1968.

* on his last birthday, the youngest of his two daughters, 67 year old Chris, flew in from the USA to organise the family gathering which, by that time, consisted of  four generations with : 7 grandchildren, 11 great grandchildren and 3 great great grandchildren.

* said : "There’s no need to live too carefully, I smoked until I was 70 and I still enjoy a drink. I don’t know what the future holds, but I’ll keep going as long as I can."

Ralph was in :

1906, 3 when the first dreadnought, a new and powerful battleship is launched

1908, 5 when Kenneth Grahame published The Wind In The Willows

1909, 6 when the first old age pensions were paid
1910, 7 when Edward VII died and George V became King

1911, 8 when the National Insurance Act is passed allowing workers unemployment  and sickness benefit for the first time.

1914, 11 in August, when the First World War began

1916, 13 when at the Battle of the Somme was fought and tanks are used in battle for the first time.

1918, 15 when the War ended in November and women over 30 are allowed to vote

1922, 19 when the BBC was founded

1926, 23 when workers held the General Strike

1928, 25 when universal suffrage was introduced and everyone over the age of 21

1930, 27 when Frank Whittle invented the jet engine

1936, 33 when television began in Britain

1939, 36 when the Second World War began

1940, 37 during the Battle of Britain

1942, 39 when the Beveridge Report was published proposing  a new welfare state.

1944, 41 when the Allies invaded France

1945, 42 when the Second World War ended

1947, 44 when the school leaving age was raised to 15

1948, 45 when the National Health Service was founded

1952, 49 when George VI died and Elizabeth became Queen.

1954, 51 when post-War food rationing ended

1955, 52 when ITV began broadcasting

1956, 53 when during the Suez Crisis in Egypt which proved that Britain was no longer an imperial power.

1960, 57 when Britain is became increasingly affluent with 44% of households owning a washing machine.

1962, 59 when The Beatles released their first single, 'Love Me Do'

1963, 60 when 'Doctor Who' was broadcast for the first time

1964, 61 when the last executions in Britain were carried out

1967, 64 when colour TV began

1970, 67 when the minimum age for voting was lowered from 21 to 18

1971, 68 when Britain switched to decimal currency

1972, 69 when the school leaving age was raised to 16

1973, 70 when Britain joined the EEC, forerunner of the European Union

1975, 73 when the Sex Discrimination Act was passed

1978, 75 when the first test tube baby was born

1979, 76 when Margaret Thatcher became Britain's first woman prime minister

1981, 78 when Prince Charles married Diana

1982, 79 when the Falklands War was fought against Argentina

1984, 81 when the miners strike began

1987, 84 when corporal punishment ended in state schools

1990, 87 when Margaret Thatcher fell from power and was replaced by John Major.

1994, 91 when the Channel Tunnel opened

1997, 94 when Princess Diana died

Thursday 14 November 2013

Britain is no country for and says "Farewell" to an old classical, religiously inspired composer called John Taverner

John, who was born during the Second World War, has died at the age of 69 and will be remembered for his 'Song for Athene', at Diana, Princess of Wales's funeral in 1997 and provided a lightning conductor for the grief of the watching millions.

Alleluia. May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.
Alleluia. Remember me, O Lord, when you come into your kingdom.
Alleluia. Give rest, O Lord, to your handmaid, who has fallen asleep.
Alleluia. The Choir of Saints have found the well-spring of life and door of Paradise.
Alleluia. Life: a shadow and a dream.
Alleluia. Weeping at the grave creates the song: Alleluia. Come, enjoy rewards and crowns I have prepared for you.

What you possibly didn't know about John, that he :

* was born in Wembley Park, London, to Presbyterian parents, who ran a family building firm, gave him a religious upbringing and nurtured his musical talents with him composing and studying the piano and gaining a music scholarship to Highgate School, North London.

* was profoundly affected by a performance of Mozart's, 'The Magic Flute', the only opera he thought transcended western tradition and studied for a time with the pianist Solomon (right), before entering the Royal Academy of Music.

* while still a student at the age of 22 in 1966, saw his dramatic cantata, 'Cain and Abel' win him the 'Prince Rainier Award' and was 24 when 'The Whale',  with its mix of electronics, football rattles and even a whip and based on the biblical story of Jonah, bring him public attention when premiered in the London Sinfonietta's 'Inaugural Concert' and released on the Beatles Apple record label in 1970.

* of his relationship with the Beatles said : "I was less surprised at John Lennon's enthusiasm, but I was surprised at Ringo's," and became the only classical composer of his generation with his luminously thin figure, flowing hair and otherworldly stare, to approach pop-star fame.

* in 1971, saw Apple release 'Celtic Requiem', with its Irish folk tunes, electric guitars and children's songs and the themes of preoccupation with death, fall from grace and loss of childhood innocence and the transition from darkness to light and had the good fortune, when Benjamin Britten heard it, recommend him to the Royal Opera and bring him an opera commission at the age of 27.

* converted to the Russian Orthodox Church, which he said, filled him with a sense of "homecoming" and in his works from this period, 'Kyklike Kinesis', 'The Immurement of Antigone' and 'Palintropos', sought a voice which could combine Orthodox beliefs with creativity which culminated in the 'Akhmatova Requiem' in 1981.

 * in 1980, at the age of 36, suffered a stroke which left him partially paralysed for a time and not expecting to compose again and when he did, produce a rare secular work, 'To a Child Dancing in the Wind' in 1983, set to a poem by W.B.Yeats, dealing with the loss of childhood innocence and in '84 unified his faith with his music in 'Ikon of Light'..

* created 'The Lamb' in 1982, in a choral setting of William Blake.

* suffered a devastating blow at the age of 41, with the death of his mother in 1985, but was given hope at the shrine of St Nektarios on the island of Aegina, south of Athens and began work on 'Eis Thanaton', set to 'Ode to Death' by Greek poet Andreas Kalvos.

* in 1989 his preoccupation with Man's exclusion from the state of paradise informed his colossal, two-and-a-half-hour work, 'Resurrection' and its pendant work, the string quartet, 'The Hidden Treasure'.
* had adopted Mother Thekla, Abbess of an Orthodox monastery on the Yorkshire Moors, as his spiritual mentor, collaborator and adviser until, in 2003, when his increasing interest in a more universalist philosophy, led to a breakdown in their friendship.

* in 1990 at the age of 56, was diagnosed with a hereditary condition, 'Marfan syndrome' and remained in a critical condition for some time after an operation, but nonetheless, continued work on 'The Apocalypse', a massive work for soloists, chorus and orchestra, which at one time he thought might be his last.

* at the age of 57, in 1991, married Maryanna Schaefer and moved from the house where he had been born to Sussex. and used Greece as an increasingly important refuge and a haven for composing, returning to opera the following year with 'Mary of Egypt'.

* produced one of his longest works, a seven-hour dusk-to-dawn vigil, 'The Veil of the Temple' at the age of 59 in 2003.

* in the 'Requiem' in 2008 for cello, soloists, chorus and orchestra, drew on texts from Sufi poetry, the Catholic Mass, the Koran and Hindu words from the Upanishad and explained that "the essence of the Requiem is contained in the words 'Our glory lies where we cease to exist' " and it was a story about a "journey" and becoming "one with God".

* at rehearsals, before the premiere of 'Sollemnitas', suffered a heart attack and spent months in intensive care and living in a new world of constant pain and shortness of breath said that it was "a kind of ecstasy, in a way. Having pain all the time makes me terribly, terribly grateful for every moment I've got."

* last year produced 'The Death of Ivan Ilyich' and said he felt particularly proud of the piece, based on Tolstoy's novel and as an epiphany of pain transfigured into music.

Once said :
"I wanted to produce music that was the sound of God. That's what I have always tried to do."