Sunday, 29 November 2009

The Supreme Court

During the week our new 'Supreme Court' incurred the wrath of consumer groups by ruling in favour of the banks about overdraft charges. The court ruled that the Office of Fair Trading didn't have the power to investigate banks charging for unauthorised overdrafts. That means that they can go on charging - and won't have to pay back the £billions they've made from it. Personally that doesn't seem unreasonable to me. I don't quite see why savers should subsidise spenders. (I was going to say spendthrifts; but that wouldn't be fair on many who go into the red.)

Meanwhile Gary McKinnon's hope not to be extradited to the US for hacking into the Pentagon's computer in his hunt for UFOs has been disappointed with the Home Secretary's refusal to block the extradition. It may be that the extradition treaty is a bit unequal, but I don't believe he has less prospect of a fair trial over there than here. I hope that the judges listened to the Chief Rabbi's thought for the day on Friday ( 'In the long run a system must be fair if it is to survive' was how he ended. He was talking about justice. He said there's only one verse in the Hebrew Bible which tells us the reason for which God chose Abraham, from whom Judaism, Christianity and Islam all trace their belief in one God - which is Genesis 18.19 'For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment'. He said that the word judgment ('mishpat') means legal justice, but the word 'sedaqa' translated in the AV as 'justice' in fact has no exact English equivalent. It combines both justice AND charity. Another translation says 'righteousness', but that sounds a bit religious to me. It reminds me of Portia's speech in The Merchant of Venice,which I've mentioned before: 'The quality of mercy is not strained...It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice.' I hope that his Asperger's Syndrome is taken into account whereever his trial takes place, that justice is tempered with mercy.

Today is Advent Sunday. Part of the collect (prayer) for today goes: 'that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious Majesty, to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal'. That must be the ultimate Supreme Court. It's good news that 'he' is Jesus Christ, who perfectly combines sedaqa and mishpat. The best thing one can do is to throw oneself on His mercy, I reckon.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

'For this relief...'

I'm glad to report that my experiences with my new dentist and the swine 'flu jab this week have been positive. The dentist, John, was genial and even reckoned I've done quite a good job at cleaning my teeth. I've become so used to being told off for not doing it properly that I made my apologies in advance. Anyway although I've got lots of fillings he said I kept them surprisingly well. And I didn't need treatment, apart from some scaling. He didn't recommend Corsodyl which I'd been told to use previously - discolours your teeth apparently. Just use salt and water. The best thing is that the practice is disabled friendly, and they're used to dealing with people like me. It was a good find.

As for the 'flu jab, I had my favourite practice nurse who was kind to me. She confirmed that I only need one jab. In the event I've not had any side-effects, no sore arm and fluey symptoms. Amazing. Rachel suspects my nose might be changing shape....

On Wednesday evening we went to the annual social of the Oxfordshire MNDA at the Bear and Ragged Staff in Cumnor. Jan and Joanne were there, and we had a good chat with them. So were a lot of other people, quite a number with MND too, and some who have got involved because of partners or relatives who have died from it. It was good to get to know a few more, though my conversations in a crowded pub are a bit limited. Chatted to Rachel Marsden, the nurse i/c of Oxford's MND Centre, about a meeting we're both involved in on 28 January for vicars-to-be about disability and terminal illness. She is an amazing person. Anyway it was a good evening.

PS The title of this blog comes from Shakespeare....

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Pearls before swine flu

I liked this pearl of wisdom from Sue Townsend, of 'Adrian Mole' fame. She's now registered blind and has had a kidney transplant. She's three years older than me. 'Be positive as you get older, or more dependent. Don't mourn the things you've loost. Concentrate on what you have and all you still can do. And accept help with good grace - it's quite fun being pushed round Selfridges in a wheelchair' (Times magazine). Good advice for grumps like me. (ST has just published 'Adrian Mole: the Prostrate Years. On the cover the 2nd 'r' is crossed out. I just thought I'd mention the book in case she'd like to mention mine on her blog....)

Busy couple of days ahead: meeting my new 'special needs' dentist tomorrow for the first time, and then the MNDA Oxfordshire Branch Social. Hope that Jan and her daughter will be there too. Today I've been summoned to have a swine 'flu jab on Thursday - which seems a wise precaution as with MND you have breathing complications. Although, Jane came back from a meal for Women of Worth (and who merits the soubriquet more?) last night with dire tales of people being off work at the JR for a week after having it. I'm hoping that prevention will be preferable to the real thing in my case!

On advice from a couple of my readers, I've begun following 'The Thick of It' on iPlayer. It's a contemporary equivalent of 'Yes Minister'. While it's quite an entertaining take on political life, it piles on expletives to make up for its lack of wit. I gather that there are two explanations: either the corridors of power may these days be full of four-letter words and that Malcolm Tucker, No 10's foul-mouthed director of communications (aka king of spin), may be based on a real life holder of that position - in which case it's another sorry commentary on the state of Briitish political life - or that this generation of comedy script writers lack the sophisticated vocabulary of their predecessors. Or perhaps I'm becoming an aging fuddy-duddy.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Good friends and specious slogans

Well, that weekend was pleasantly different. Sam the blogger and his family left this afternoon after a couple of days here. Jess enjoys the attention they lavish on her! It was the first time they'd visited us in our 'new' home - incredible to think we've been here for ten months already. But it's still fun to show off our home and area to new eyes. Yesterday morning we went to the local rec - which the children enjoyed a lot - and then we wandered through to the Cornerstone Coffee Shop, where we enjoyed their 'squares', coffee and drinks. By the time we got home, the rain was beginning.

A bit of rugby watching (in which Scotland beat Australia - respect to Andy Robinson, whom the English RFU must be regretting sacking now) , Cluedo (which I lost, or rather Sue won), dog-walking and Strictly (which Ricky Groves lost), and talking completed a good day. More food and fellowship completed a good weekend.

Rob pointed out to me the irony that Richard Dawkins has chosen two Christian children, unbeknown to himself, for his latest anti-religious poster campaign ( 'Please don't label me. Let me grow up and choose for myself' is the slogan. The first sentence is all right, but the concealed implication is that children can grow up without presuppositions. Or to put it another way that children live in a vacuum. Every responsible parent brings up their child within a moral framework, but that doesn't preclude their making authentic decisions as they grow up. Indeed a child brought up without a sound moral basis will actually be less equipped to make a valid choice than one who is brought up to value belief. It's naïve to think that any child is a blank page. But it's nice to know that even militant atheists identify Christian family-members as archetypes of free and happy children.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Random thoughts

Mary kindly answered my question in the Bach posting: 'No, not chance at all.' And of course I agree. I suppose I'd identify that as a major product of faith: life has meaning. It's not a random succession of chance events. Never was. Never will be.

Jane's made our Christmas cake today. The fruit was soaked overnight. This morning she mixed the rest. Remember when your mother let you scrape out the bowl? Well, Jane gave me a teaspoonful - not bad! And the new oven seems to have done a good job of the baking - nice and even. So now she's wrapping it in foil to mature until it's ready to be iced. Happy days! Talking of which we're looking forward to a visit this weekend from my fellow blogger, Sam, and his family. I hope they're not too disappointed with the new house - which of course is smaller than the vicarage, and chickenless. He and his sister Rachel enjoyed collecting the eggs every day. I fear feeding two goldfish won't be quite as much fun.

Yesterday Jane introduced me to the joys of shopping in Didcot, which were considerable, I must say. Much better than the tawdry mess that the centre of Oxford has become. Cornmarket is a shocking amalgam of styles and shabby shop fronts, or rather mainly coffee-bars and fast food outlets. Anyway found a great shop in Didcot, Robert Dyas, where we bought a wind-up front and rear light which I hope will fit on my electric wheel-chair for night-time journeys. One minute's wind will give half an hour's light. Sounds eco-friendly. We also ventured into son of Woolworths, Alworths, not as much, but lots of the old favourites, like Pickn'Mix sweets, toys and household goods. Seemed to me well-done. Rumour has it that the old Woolies in Wantage is going to be Cargo. It'll be nice to have something there again.

PS I have a feeling that it's Stir Up Sunday this weekend. That's pudding-making time. My Anglican readers will be reassured to know that I can still recite the OLD collect by heart. And talking of things Anglican I guess we attended a historic event last Sunday evening in the licensing of the redoubtable and unstoppable Barbara Webb as priest in charge of the parish of Shippon near Abingdon. I don't know quite how to explain the historic nature of the occasion, except to say that Barbara would have been entitled to retire quite a few times.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Scientists talking

I've read a couple of articles recently about eminent scientists, who said things which interested me. Here are couple of quotes:

He (Prof John D Barrow, Professor of Geometry (and formerly of Astronomy) at Gresham College, London) says that physicists tend to study the laws of nature: 'The laws are very mathematical but very mysterious. You cannot see or touch them. There are mysterious symmetries in the universe. It is no coincidence that biologists like Dawkins feel very uncomfortable with religion and unanswered questions because they are dealing with the messy complexities of nature. Physicists are very used to laws of nature that have no explanation of the same sort. They are used to dealing with uncertainty and being undogmatic. There is a real cultural difference between biologists and physicists.' (Cam Issue 58)

Prof Michael J Reiss (Professor of Science Education, Institute of Education, London): 'I see it as the whole of creation, for all eternity, being held in God's care. The whole of this world would cease to exist if God didn't continue to maintain it.' 'An acceptance of evolutionary biology is beginning to help Christians to answer questions that have previously been theologically troubling, such as the problem of suffering. In the evolutionary view, organisms that lack the capacity to suffer lead less successful lives - they die earlier and leave fewer offspring. Creation over countless years has evolved the ability to be sensitive. Theologically it means if we want a world in which we have joy, we may also have need of a world in which there is suffering.' (Christianity 10.09)

Monday, 16 November 2009

Bach to the rescue

Had a rather bad day yesterday - not physically, but emotionally. I was grumpy and touchy and didn't much feel like being polite to God, which was not good it being Sunday. So apologies to people I was more than usually rude to. Puzzling why it might be, my conclusion's been that John's death and the service affected me more than I was conscious of. I'm used to funerals and grief and so on, obviously; but our having shared MND and faith, I suppose, gave this added potency, or got a bit deeper. After lunch today I turned on the radio in the sitting room. It was tuned to Radio 3. It was a concert performance of Bach's St John Passion from Cleveland in the US given by Apollo's Fire (aka Cleveland Baroque Orchestra) conducted by Jeannette Sorrell and IN ENGLISH. * It was electric. And I just listened to it for the rest of the afternoon. In case you don't know, it's basically St John's account of Jesus' last hours from when he goes to the Garden of Gethsemane till his death on the cross, with poems and meditation on the way. It's achingly beautiful music, and was performed with wonderful vividness and intensity. There's one aria after Jesus' death where the bass sings with the chorus doing a backing track. The only version I can find is a bit quaint, but you'll get the point.

My precious Saviour, let me ask thee,
(Backing) Jesus, thou who suffered death,
Since thou upon the cross wast fastened
And said thyself, "It is fulfilled,"
(B) Livest now forever,
Am I from dying been made free?
(B) In the final throes of death
(B) Nowhere other guide me
(B) Can I through this thy pain and dying
The realm of heaven inherit?
Is all the world's redemption here?
(B) But to thee, redeemer mine,
(B) O thou, my dear master!
Thou canst in pain, indeed, say nothing;
Give me just what thou hast earned,
But thou dost bow thy head
(B) And sayest in silence, "Yes."
(B) More I cannot wish for!
More I cannot wish for!

Yes, indeed. I think I'm more human now. An odd thing is, unlike most Radio 3 broadcasts, you can't listen to that one again (presumably to do with rights). Was it just chance I tuned in?

*(I hate it when purists insist on music being sung in a language the audience can't understand. Sing Verdi in Italian in Italy, Janacek in Czech in Czech Republic - but allow us to understand it, please! Just don't be an elitist snob.)

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Farewell to John

Quite a week one way or the other. For one thing the grass seed has started coming up. Jane and Bryan sowed it at half-term, wondering whether it was too late to germinate. So maybe in the spring the lawn will a carpet of lush green. I ordered a Kozee Toze (sic) for my wheelchair at the weekend, and on Thursday night, while Jane was out, a UPS van pulled up outside and the driver brought a parcel to the door and rang the bell. Although I'd left instructions for it to be left inside and despite my rather feeble shouts, he stood there for a minute or two, and then just drove away. I was so frustrated! I sent an email to BenefitsNow, complaining - and then phoned on Friday morning.... Oh dear! They hadn't even dispatched it yet. So I apologised! Such is life. The mystery of the UPS delivery which hasn't been repeated remains

Book no 2 is steaming ahead, in between social events. I think I now need to some serious reading to sort out some of my thinking on what exactly I'm thinking about life after death. I'm wanting to start each chapter with a quotation from literature or something, like T S Eliot's 'the intolerable wrestle with words and meanings'. He was talking about writing poetry. But it aptly refer to the increasing difficulty of physical speech with MND - in which case you eventually lose it - but that doesn't mean relationships with others or with God have to be lost.

Something I read in today's notes set me thinking: '‘The truth is that the whole point of Jesus’ work on the cross is to make a way for us to know God (John 17:3). This isn’t a casual relationship – we’re welcomed into the family! Not only does God possess the power to do anything and everything he wishes, but he is also passionately interested in your prayers because he is passionately interested in you’ (Jonathan Bell in Closer to God)' Really? Do we really believe that?

Today we've been to the service celebrating John Walliker's life and faith. It was a bit hairy getting up the very undisabled-friendly (I mean, disabled unfriendly) steps of Quainton Baptist Church, and even more hairy coming down in my wheelchair carried by four very helpful men, slightly tipping forward. However we made it, and it was worth it. Four cracking worship songs (In Christ alone, Be Thou my vision, The Lord's my shepherd, There is a higher throne), personal family readings and memories, and a real sense of trust for the future both for him and the family. Jan was amazingly brave and together.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Check up

I had my four-monthly check up with Lesley, my lovely and second-favourite physio. As readers of MDB will know, after Jane, Lesley is my primary carer, and she's brilliant. She was here this morning, and found that I was a bit stiffer than before, especially around my hips; i e I tend to bend through my back rather than from my pelvis. It's not the best news, because once your muscles get shorter you can't stretch them longer again. So it looks as though I'm going to have to let Jane be as brutal with me as Lesley is. It doesn't half hurt when she really extends my muscles! But no pain, no gain.... Something else she noticed was that I have started to tilt my head a bit to the right. Nothing to worry about, but same problem about muscles. Jane and I reckon it probably goes back to when I injured my shoulder tipping over in my electric wheelchair.

I asked Lesley whether she ever found her job depressing, because she works mainly with patients with MS and MND - who obviously don't 'get better'. She clearly has found ways of coping with it professionally. But it sounds as if the Health Trust managers have little imagination about her sort of work. After all, how do you quantify the positive 'outcomes' when your patients have degenerative neurological conditions? Proportion of patients cured? Amount of hospitalization prevented? Amount of GP/consultant hours saved? Well, I guess the recovery rate speaks for itself. But the cost benefits for the NHS (physios don't cost much) must be huge, and the care benefits for the patients of physios, OTs, speech therapists etc is GINORMOUS. After all, they're the first line of palliative care, which must be a national medical priority now - since the alternative is unthinkable.

'It's not fair!'

I do wish Alex Ferguson, knight of the realm, would grow up - and get a sense of perspective. For the third time this season that I'm aware of he's had a whinge about the referee. He sounds like a petulant schoolboy, 'It's not fair!' said with sniffling whine. This time he was upset that his team, Man United, were beaten by a single goal by Premiership rivals, Chelsea. The experts seem divided on whether there was any off-side in the melée following free kick which led to the goal, but that's really not the point. Some decisions go your way and some go against you. Referees do their best - for a great deal less reward than players, and managers - and they do a good job. That's the way it goes, laddie. Just get on and stop complaining. Stop undermining them. And stop contributing to a culture of blaming everyone else except yourself. Life is unfair, we used to be told - and, although I believe it's ultimately profoundly untrue, it's not a bad working hypothesis to be going on with! Fergie old chap, many many people have worse things to complain about. It was Remembrance Sunday, remember?

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Days of rugby and sadness

Had a great afternoon yesterday watching the international from Twickenham with Peter. A glass of Dr Hexter's Healer - a very mellow brew, I must say - and some tasty oven-baked chips helped sweeten the pill of seeing England go down 18-9. I know 13 of our squad were out with injuries (which does by the way make you wonder about what rugby union professionals are subjecting their bodies to nowadays...), but I was pleased to hear that there wasn't too much excuse-making afterwards, certainly not from my companion, who knows his rugby. As Wales v New Zealand was on BBC, I was able to record that and watch it at home (round Strictly - Jane thinks rugby's a bit rough). That was a closer match and Wales COULD have won, or at least drawn, especially when Martin Roberts had an unpenalised high tackle near the end. I suppose because it was closer (19-12) Wales did more complaining - what with Leigh Halfpenny moaning about the pitch (Wasn't it the same for both sides?) and Warren Gatland, the coach, moaning about the officials being biased. The ref may have missed the high tackle, but I doubt it would have made a difference to the result. And I didn't see evidence of bias. Refs and umpires, like all of us, make mistakes, though remarkably few in my view. At school I used to be told, 'The umpire's decision is final,' and we then got on with game.

After an afternoon of escapism, I turned on the laptop and opened my emails. One had the subject 'John'. It was from our friend Jan. You may remember we met John and Jan in the spring at the MNDA Spring conference in Taunton, and then in July at Waddesdon Manor. A year ago John went to his doctor with a suspected stroke. It turned out to be MND. The email brought the message that John had died on Wednesday. It can be a vicious illness. John had an amazing degree of faith and courage, and a great sense of humour. We've lost a friend. But John would have said what my friend and co-author Jozanne says, 'Jesus is my hope and heaven is my future.'

This morning I tuned in to Morning Worship on Radio 4 ( 'On Remembrance Sunday, a programme specially recorded at Camp Bastion, the main base for British forces in Afghanistan, presented by army chaplain Rev Andrew Martlew'. It was, I thought, a far more moving picture of the real war than any others I've heard or seen. I suppose it was the measured reflection on experience by the professionals, which seemed to carry much more power and conviction than the breathless reporting of journalists or the shrill denunciations of phone-in programme contributors. Listen for example to the young soldier who gives mouth-to-mouth to a dying comrade within days of his first posting or the sergeant who lays out soldiers and children in the mortuary and reflects on his own daughter. I think it was the most potent introduction to Remembrance Sunday I've experienced.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009


Yesterday morning I listened to a riveting edition of The Choice on Radio 4. Michael Buerk was interviewing Paul Moore, who hit the headlines as the whistleblower of HBOS's foolish policies which eventually contributed the banking fiasco last year. As The Times reported when he gave evidence to the Treasury Select Committee, 'Paul Moore, a former partner of KPMG and head of group regulatory risk at HBOS between 2002 and 2005, accused the bank of "a total failure of all key aspects of corporate governance" and said that he was repeatedly rebuffed and thwarted when he tried to register concern.' He was sacked by Sir James Crosby, the chief executive. It was a remarkable story of faithful witness in the highest reaches of corporate finance. I've no doubt there are others. What was special about this one was the contrast between the anything-goes culture of the banks and the integrity of their head of regulation - and also the rock-like faith of his wife. Well worth listening to:

Today we had our friends, John and Mary, to lunch. They are two of our oldest friends. We bought our first house 35 years ago in their parish in Hertfordshire, and have remained in touch ever since. John appears in 'My Donkeybody' as the person who reassured me about MRI scans. Although he had a brain tumour, he is still going strong. We had a good meal and enjoyed catching up. Time flew by. He always blesses me when we say goodbye - I suppose that's appropriate, since goodbye means 'God be with you'.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

The solemn and the trivial

We returned to Stanford today for the funeral of local legend, Richard Speed. He was an unassuming but immensely talented man whose wide influence in the creative arts and education was witnessed to by the packed church. It was nice to see former curate and now vicar of Uffington, Rosanna Martin, presiding beautifully over the celebration, and to hear old friend, New Orleans jazz singer, Lillian Boutté, sing the Lord's Prayer and 'What a wonderful world'. We also enjoyed meeting, for the first time, my successor, Tim Rose, whom we liked.

On a querkier note, as we drew up in the disabled bay outside the village hall, we noticed, in the centre the ten-metre square patch of grass opposite, a new stake with a notice saying, 'Take away your dog poo', with underneath presumably the dire penalties for failure. As we left after the service, lo and behold, there was a man wearing a musty green gilet on which were the words 'Environmental Warden'. We watched him as he closely inspected the ground before driving away in his shiny white Vale of the White Horse District Council van. 'What would he have done if he'd found some "poo"', Jane mused. 'Taken it away for DNA analysis? And then had a DNA identity parade of all the dogs in the village?' I muttered something about the canine stasi moving in, as we drove home. I grow old.

Aspirin science

I thought I'd reproduce what John commented a couple of days ago, as I thought it was rather pithy:
"One of my favourite economists, not himself a religious man, wrote this about science and values: 'Why should one be frightened, I asked, of taking a stand on judgments which are not scientific, if they relate to matters outside the world of science? To recognise the claims of science in fields where scientific method was applicable was one thing; to attempt to claim scientific sanction for judgments of questions not capable of scientific proof was another. The one was an obligation on rational man; the other, the stratagem of spiritual uncertainty. Was it not only the timidity of an age which had lost all confidence in ultimate values which led us to attempt to claim "scientific" justifications for attitudes which in the nature of things could not be justified (or refuted) by appeal to laboratory methods?'"

We heard this morning that scientists have revised their advice about aspirin as a prophylactic against heart attacks, unless you've already had stroke or previous episodes. Not so long ago, I received advice to take half an aspirin a day from a doctor (not my GP) in the light of my chloresterol. The Drugs and Therapeutics Bulletin now reports the risk of internal bleeding offset any potential advantage. According to the BBC, 'Between 2005 and 2008, the DTB said four sets of guidelines were published recommending aspirin for the "primary prevention" of cardiovascular disease - in patients who had shown no sign of the disease.
These included people aged 50 and older with type 2 diabetes and those with high blood pressure.' Many thousands have, not unreasonably, followed the 'scientific' advice. 'But the DTB said a recent analysis of six controlled trials involving a total of 95,000 patients published in the journal the Lancet does not back up the routine use of aspirin in these patients because of the risk of serious gastrointestinal bleeds and the negligible impact it has on curbing death rates.' What do you know? The scientists have changed their minds.... Last night we heard Prof Nutt on the World Tonight pontificating on politicians' inability to grasp the difference between 'belief' and 'fact'. 'They believe it, and because they believe it, because they're politicians, they think it IS true. And that's why they think they don't need experts, because they think they know the truth, and they don't. They're confused. They think their beliefs are facts and they're not....' No doubt the advice we were given about aspirin - until this morning - was given because of 'facts'. Isn't it time for a bit of intellectual humility all round? One of my favourite quotations comes from the unlikely figure of Oliver Cromwell: 'I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken', which I think he said to his fellow Puritans.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Saints and science

One of the things I have to admit I miss about non Anglican worship now is the rhythm of the church year. So it was nice to wake up this morning to a rather good service on Radio 4 from Aberystwyth. It was marking All Saints' Day, and contained a fine explanation of saints drawn from the book of Hebrews in the Bible, as well as a good variety of music - which is sadly more than can be said 'Songs of Praise' this evening. Some dire musical performances which seemed entirely at odds with with the words and of course, by and large, the old stereotyped image of saints as specially good people. Actually they're simply ordinary believers - like the McFadyens who provided the most moving interview.

I came across this in an article today. It seems to me to be germane to what I said about Prof Nutt and the supposed absolutism of science:
'Throughout the report the authors pit the objectivity, rigour and precision of ‘science’ and psychology against the subjectivities of religion and ‘values’. In so doing the report ignores the social, philosophical and value systems that the psychological sciences themselves inhabit,.... The authors seem to believe that the ‘scientific’ evidence over which they preside allows them to police the boundaries of ‘normality’ and their apparent ability to attach values (‘positive’) to psychological observations has a degree of confidence that is breath-taking.' It was in 'Changing Sexual Orientation and Identity? The APA Report' by Andrew Goddard and Glynn Harrison, on the Fulcrum website. We need to keep insisting that even 'science' inhabits social, philosophical and value systems