Monday, 24 December 2012

Happy Christmas Everyone!

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It's Christmas Eve!!! It has been a busy day - as I'm sure it has been for all of you too.

I actually got up at 6am in order to be at Marks and Spencer's by 7am. We did make it for 7.20 and although it wasn't rammed there were quite a few people in the food section. That's what we'd gone for too!
We did see a huge queue stretching out into the street - it turns out they were waiting to pick up pre-ordered shopping. There were we breezing round and there was no queue at the till at all! It was pretty good - I might do that again next year :-)

We got back home before 9am and I had time to get ready to go to the hospital for my final appointment for the year. The waiting room was deserted and we didn't have to wait long to be seen. It was jolly Mr Uppal who was as happy as ever. I had brought him a tin of biscuits for the team to share at tea-break time. I thought lots of people would have brought them things - with it being Christmas - but he seemed very surprised and pleased :-)

He asked how I was doing - and whether I was eating and swallowing okay. I told him I was feeling great and could eat anything.  he felt my neck and then looked down my throat with the camera. He said that everything looking good. he also said that since I was doing so well then he could extend the time between check-ups to six weeks. Time off for good behaviour!

I was quite happy with that.

Things are getting pretty exciting for Nathan and his Windows8 app INTERFERENCE - he is featured on the front page of the Microsoft Windows 8 store! That means that we've had loads more players signing up for it. Also - if it stays on the front page tomorrow for Christmas day all the people with new laptops, tablets etc might download it too. He's having a mad rush tonight to move to a new server to cope with all the extra players. :-) Hopefully he'll be done before Santa arrives.......

I had a lovely week in the library with Tracy. It was pretty quiet - I guess most people were Christmas shopping but we found plenty to do. I completed my Quarterly Report and we had a lot of new books delivered that needed processing through the system. We did consider painting the library a seasonal RED colour - but we got some customers in then so we didn't get round to it. :-)

Bet they felt embarrassed when it didn't happen....
We were quite happy that the world didn't end on Friday 21st as we really didn't want to miss Christmas this year!

Some people cashed in on it though - as you can see in this poster from the Crown and Anchor in Stone.

 In the photos from last year I have a big plaster over my neck where I'd had a biopsy on 21st December. I didn't know at that point that it was cancer - they didn't confirm it until 9th January.

Christmas 2011

I just wanted to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas - and more importantly a very Happy New Year!

This has been quite a year for me - and although I am glad it is all done with it has been a very interesting and uplifting experience.

I have received some wonderful medical care from Mr Hughes, Mr Rowlands, Mr Uppal, Julian of the Awesome hat and many others. Especially my Oncologist Mrs Gahir and Wendy - the special nurse.  - and amazing love and encouragement from friends, family and especially Nathan. I couldn't have got through it without him!

 It has been quite a year and I'm really looking forward to seeing what 2013 brings.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Week Off :-)

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I had a lovely week off - needed time to do some Christmas shopping and clean the house in time for seasonal visitors!

Singing at The King's Hall

The week started well last Saturday when we went to see my good friend Janet's choir in a sell-out concert at the King's Hall in Stoke. It was so popular that we couldn't park anywhere near the hall - we had to walk quite a way to get there.
We were worried that we might miss the beginning but it turns out that the choir had had a small problem of their own. They had travelled from  Stafford on two coaches and when they got as far as Trentham roundabout they were picked up by a police escort. The police on motorbikes signalled for the coach drivers to follow them and promptly took them to Port Vale Football Club! They thought that they were away fans going to the match. The police were totally embarrassed when they boarded the buses and were faced with only women in evening dresses! Luckily the choir thought it was hilairious!
It even made The Sun, The Telegraph - and The Sentinel.

 They did go ahead with the Christmas concert though - and it was great fun. The first half were songs about love and relationships. The second half was all Christmas songs - with two sections where the audience were invited to sing along. It was great! Went to Hanley on Wednesday to try to get some presents. Did quite well actually. Thursday night we decided to pop over to our local The Wulstan for a well-deserved drink as we had spent the last few days rearranging and sorting out the office at home.

We were sat at a cosy table for two by the window - looking out at the frosty night from the warmth of the pub when the barmaid came over and asked if we would mind moving. She said there was going to be some entertainment on - so they needed the space where we were.

Tonight with Pat and Chris
We moved further down the pub while a couple of guys set up their equipment. We weren't sure what to expect but we thought we'd just have a drink then walk back home.

However, when they started they were amazing! They had guitars, a keyboard and a saxophone - as well as a tambourine. Before each song they recorded a back beat - using the tea chest that Chris was sat on as a drum and the tambourine and a shaky thing that made a rattling noise. Then they sang - songs by Oasis, Dire Straits (Fantastic version of Sultans of Swing)  and even one song by The Smiths (which impressed me greatly!) They both had really good voices and swapped around on the instruments - so were equally good at playing anything.

We were enjoying it so much we stayed until they finished their set and everyone had to go.
It was an unexpected pleasure :-)

In medical news this week: I went back to physio at the local hospital early Friday morning. I could report some progress with lifting my arm straight up - and also that the tingling in my hands was still gone. He told me to keep up the exercises and come back in 6 weeks. Scarily - my next appointment is in February!

Then when I came back from there we jumped back into the car and drove off to Stockport. I had an appointment at the BioBank This is what they are about - according to their website:

"UK Biobank is a major national health resource, and a registered charity in its own right, with the aim of improving the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of serious and life-threatening illnesses – including cancer, heart diseases, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, eye disorders, depression and forms of dementia. UK Biobank recruited 500,000 people in 2006-2010 from across the country to take part in this project. They have undergone measures, provided blood, urine and saliva samples for future analysis, detailed information about themselves and agreed to have their health followed. Over many years this will build into a powerful resource to help scientists discover why some people develop particular diseases and others do not."

I went a few years ago - there was a testing place in Hanley - I don't know if you remember it. Now they are recalling 20,000 of those half a million people to come back and have the tests and checks all over again. When I got the letter I said yes right away. Obviously with what I have been through this year I feel that medical research is more important than ever!

I was there about an hour and a half. They start with an online questionnaire about your lifestyle - what you eat, what you do, how much exercise you do, whether you ever feel down or depressed.
After that I was whisked off to get my eyes tested - with all the machines you normally see in the opticians. That was funny because the optician doing the tests seemed obsessed with my shoes! He wanted to know what they were, where I'd bought them and how much they were. he said "Ive seen that technology before!" I told him they were Sketchers and call "Just Walk" and were very comfy indeed. The soles are like big bubbles and they really are like walking on air!

After that I had to get my blood pressure tested, my height and weight recorded and my bone density, heart rate and artery stiffness measured. Seems my arteries are still very bendy and my bones are still dense - so that it good! my pulse was good too - but my blood pressure is a bit high. I need to do something about that.

The next booth was the exercise! This was the most fun. I had to cycle for 6 minutes and keep the revs up to 60 the whole time. It made it harder and harder as she increased the resistance - but I did it okay.

After that it was the turn of the vampires to take my blood (7 vials of it!!!) then I was given a pot and a tube and asked to provide urine and saliva samples in the privacy of the loo. There was a fridge in there to put them in when you'd done.

Lego Harry Potter
Then I was free to go. Not until we had eaten some of the free sandwiches and mince pies and satsumas they had thoughtfully provided for us. Nathan had been sat in the waiting room which had free drinks, magazines to read and a huge TV to watch. So it wasn't too bad for him.

  So being close to Manchester we thought we'd pop into the Trafford Centre and try and finish off the Christmas shopping. it was a vile day with torrential rain and cold winds. The car parks at the TC were full - with people parking on grass verges and anywhere else they could find! We did eventually find a spot and battled through the wind and rain into John Lewis.

Harry Potter and the Lego Christmas Tree
The Trafford Centre was beautifully decorated for the season - but we were particularly impressed by the Harry Potter and tall Christmas Tree made entirely out of Lego!
Someone must have spent a LOT of hours doing that! We didn't stay too long but I did enjoy going round Selfridges food hall and the Harvey Nicholls pop-up shop where we sampled Rhubarb Vodka made in Hereford out of potatoes! Very nice it was too!
So my week off comes to an end. I am looking forward to being back at work for the week before Christmas with Tracy. In fact the day I go back in on Monday - it's her birthday!! We were both December babies it seems :-)

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

All Quiet on the Western Front

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It's been a pretty quiet day in The Library. I guess the weather didn't help - it didn't really get light until lunchtime and the rain was cascading down the roads on the way to work. I wouldn't have ventured out if I didn't have to. Also I suppose lots of people are off Christmas shopping and doing other things to prepare for the coming celebrations.
We did have the last French class before Christmas - there were around 20 of them - all in pretty good sprits. "We're in the Alps" on lady enigmatically told me when they emerged for coffee at half-time. One thing I will say about the French class - the coffee they make smells divine! I hate coffee - but theirs smells just gorgeous. Definitely not your run-of-the-mill instant.
No lace ladies today - as they finished last week so that this Tuesday they could go for their Christmas Meal. They kept it traditional and went to Buffet Island - the Chinese restaurant down the road from our house.
Talking of celebrations - one of our regular customers (in at least three time a day!!) Mr Coxon had a birthday yesterday - he was 79! He is the one that we taught how to use Facebook - so he could talk to his son abroad - and see what he was getting up to. He came in this morning and told me he had a hangover. His son (now home) and ex-wife had taken him out for the evening. It seems that they got through most of the bottle of Irish whiskey that Tracy and I got him for his birthday. No wonder he had a headache and couldn't think straight :-0
He did make me laugh when he told me that his son had decided to stay over with him - and when he went to close the curtains he pulled the whole lot down on top of him! He described it like something out of Fawlty Towers. I think they managed to get them back up by using the fittings from the bathroom curtains. Sounded like quite a palaver!
 He says he doesn't feel 79!
Forgot to say that we put our tree up at the weekend too.
here are a few pictures. Boodle cat was pretty excited - by the empty box that the tree had come out of. Then he got bored of sitting in that and fell asleep.
This is how excited Boodle was....

The Finished Tree

Black tree - Silver decorations :-)
I am quite excited though :-)

Monday, 3 December 2012

Christmas is Coming....

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I can tell because I've received my very first Christmas present! It was a very nice surprise - it was given to me by the Lace Ladies who use the library rooms every Tuesday. It was their last session of the year - so Sue presented me with a lovely card and a beautifully wrapped present. It is very exciting :-)
Wonder what it is?

I am really looking forward to Christmas this year. This week I actually did my first FULL week at work. Yes I am officially back full-time. It feels great! To celebrate Tracy and I put up the library Christmas tree on our first Saturday together for ages. It was fun - and I think it looks pretty nice.
Small but perfectly formed...
 I had forgotten what it was like when we used to do Saturdays. We used to always have a little treat for our tea break - like toasted teacakes or crumpets. I only remembered that when we were going home. I will get back into it soon I'm sure.

So what else has been happening? Well on Friday I went to physiotherapy back at Bradwell Hospital. I had been doing the exercises - but had found one particularly difficult - lifting my right arm right up sideways. However - I did tell him that they were helping - as the tingling in my fingers has reduced by a lot. The Consultant had said this was due to stretching the nerves. The physio said that I should persevere - and to prove that I could do it - he lifted my arm right up above my head. it did hurt - but at least it can still go that high. He gave me another sheet with new exercises on just to help this.

I have to go back in two weeks.

When Nathan lived in Stone we used to pop into the Lymestone Brewery quite often to see Brad and find out what was going on. This week brad had exciting news - his first ever pub was opening on Thursday in Newcastle. We decided to go down and show our support - and have a good look at it! it is opposite Holland and Barretts behind the estate agents there. In fact there's a little alley way to get to it. We went down there a little too early - and it wasn't open, so we went off to find something to eat until it was. We decided to try Fallon's Bar and Grill - as we had never been there before.

Plenty of Tables to Choose from

Understated Christmas decorations
 It was pretty quiet (with it being early) but the barman was very friendly and smiling and made us feel very welcome. He showed us the specials board and asked where we'd like to sit. There was plenty of choice!

They were playing some very retro music - but really good. Lots of eighties and even seventies Tamla Motown stuff.

However when the food arrived it was absolutely delicious! I had opted for the chicken and leek pie - which took a while but was so tasty. Home-made with a creamy sauce and rich gravy and hand cut chips that were perfectly crisp. N had the home-made burger which was thick and meaty and came with the same yummy chips. We would definitely go back again.

When we'd eaten all that we thought the new Lymestone Vaults would be open. Sure enough it was. We were met by the smell of new paint and log fire as we entered. There were a few people in - but not many. The choice of beer included some Lymestone favourites - but also other guest ales. I chose half a Fiery Fox - a red cider that was still and smooth. Then we went past the bar and sat in the main lounge area. it really was like sitting in someone's front room! There were two leather sofas in from of a log-burning stove. There were a couple of dining tables and chairs behind - as well as a hat stand. The curtains made it feel homely too.

We enjoyed catching up with Mr M - our good CAMRA friend. Apparently the beer was very good! While we chatted and kept warm on a very frosty night the barman came and gave us some free duck and orange pie - which was nice! We wish the new venture all the success in the world!
N and M making themselves at home :-)

The Well-Stocked bar

Good Luck cards and Flowers for the first night..

Enjoying the Fire on a Frosty Night

Free Pie

Monday, 26 November 2012

November Check-Up

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Had a very pleasant visit to the hospital. We avoid any parking problems these days by just going straight to the multi-storey car park, rather than hunting for somewhere closer. It is just as easy to walk down to the Main Building. We saw that they were planting shrubs in front of the main entrance. There are also areas of grass - so it is looking very pretty.

It looked pretty busy inside the main atrium, but I checked in at the machine and walked down to the ENT Department, where it was much quieter. Nathan had brought his Kindle this time. last time I left it in the car - and neither of us had anything to read - and we had to wait over an hour. N's theory was that if we both came prepared - then we'd be in right away! So we bought a newspaper at the shop inside there - before going down to the ENT Waiting Room. Sadly we didn't see any sign of Frank. I had been hoping to see him so we could catch-up. Hopefully he's doing okay.

Needless to say - it worked! We were soon as to move to Sub Wait 1 by the Argos-type screen that flashes up numbers. I was 1303 today :-) As soon as I sat down there, a male nurse came out and called my name.

We went into the consulting room to find Mr Uppal. he was soon joined by Julian of the Awesome Hat (who had done a couple of my biopsies at the end of last year). i had just been saying to Nathan that we hadn't seen Dr Gahir for ages - when she came in too! She said hello - but I couldn't reply right away as Mr Uppal had a camera down my throat at the time.

It was lovely to see her though - she is expecting a baby! She said it was due in March. She looked very happy. She told me that I was looking well and she admired the thickness of my new hair. She told me that they had been discussing my case - as usual, and thought that maybe they should give me a scan. Seeing as I had adenocarcinoma, which is NOT usually found in the head and neck, they felt that they should keep an eye on the rest of me, periodically. She thought maybe once a year. It seems that I have had quite a lot of radiation already - so they do need to be careful not to give any more unnecessarily. So she checked when I had my last CT Scan - and it was back in June. So she said they'd do another next June.

She was scanning the results of the last one - she mentioned an unusual mark in the chest area. They had done the super-mammogram and ultrasound not long ago - and as I didn't have any symptoms of chest problems - like a cough - they wouldn't do a chest x-ray.

So they will continue with these monthly check-ups until June. They will also investigate unusual symptoms - if I get any! I told them I was feeling great and Mr Uppal said that I had recovered well from everything they had done to me!

I did ask him one question which I had been wondering about. Why I had never had a blood test. I thought that they could detect cancer in blood samples. I know that my dad has them - and if a certain chemical is raised - they would know whether the prostate cancer had come back.

Mr Uppal said that not many cancers have good markers - prostate is one that does - but most don't. So it wouldn't help in my case. "Maybe in 100 years we might be able to tell from blood" he said. Hopefully research will make it sooner than that!

So that was that. We were out before noon and I went off to work. My next appointment is on Christmas Eve!

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Four weeks go by so quickly!

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I have my regular four-week check-up tomorrow. It doesn't seem two minutes since the last one! I can't believe how fast they come around again. Must mean I'm keeping busy :-)

Well, I have started my Christmas shopping :-) Had a quick visit to Hanley on Wednesday afternoon with Janet. (Get well soon J!!) No I didn't injure her or wear her out shopping til we dropped - but she wasn't well the next day! I think I might do the rest online - it's getting far too risky to go to a crowded shopping centre. You never know what germs you might pick up!!

Serenaded while we ate
This week we tried out another new restaurant. Nathan said he'd seen a new place opened up in Newcastle - called Primus Bar and Grill. So on a very rainy Thursday night we decided to go and check it out.

It was pretty empty - but I think that was because it was such a filthy night outside - and there weren't many people about anywhere!

We were shown to a table downstairs by the bar - slightly disappointing as I wanted to go up the grand, sweeping chrome staircase to see what was upstairs.

Glitzy and very red!
 The menu looked intriguing - not a massive choice but unusual offerings - such as Pork Wellington. That is what N chose. I went for the chicken in parma ham with herby roast potatoes. There was quite a wait - which meant that they were cooking everything from scratch.While we were waiting the young bespectacled waiter who had seated us, suddenly got up, picked up a guitar and started to sing! he was great. He did Ed Sheeran songs, some Oasis, Stereophonics and David Grey. We really enjoyed listening to him, and made the wait for food very pleasant. Then the piping hot meals arrived and they were delicious. Beautifully presented and extremely tasty.  I loved the chicken and the gravy was yummy - it also came with cabbage and apple. N loved his pork Wellington with apple champ.

We decided to have desserts as the mains were so nice. I thought the Rum Ba-Ba would be nice as I'd had them a long time ago. I remembered them as doughnut shaped and soaked in rum. What arrived was a raisin sponge cake in custard. I have no idea why. N was happy with his chocolate fudge cake - especially as it came with chocolate custard! I tasted that - it was nice :-) So overall a good experience. It was a little lonely as there were so few people in there - but the live music made up for that. Definitely worth a visit!

We saw quite a lot of floods today - going over to Cheadle to see my parents then on to Stone to see N's. The A34 is still closed completely at Meaford. We had to find another way home. Hopefully there won't be too much more rain this week......

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Random activities

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What have I been up to since I last blogged? Well, I am almost back to full time at work - I have now added Fridays back into my working week. Feels very good to be back to normal - and not too tired.

Could come in handy...
It did make me smile when I saw a new book just arrived on my desk - especially after what I wrote in my last blog. Fate must be preparing me...

Away from work - but connected with Nathan's work - we did go out last week to meet up with some other app developers in this area. He had spoken to them online - and we met a couple of them  when we went to the Windows8 Launch - but they thought that regular meet-ups might  be good for networking and sharing info, news and and tips.

So on Monday night we went along to a new place (to us!) a Japanese restaurant in Stoke called MISO. It is kind of opposite Sainsbury's - but a little further along the road. We found a handy car park just across from it. It was pretty busy inside - as it seems that Monday night is all-you-can-eat night. It is not a buffet though, You have waiter service - and you are given a menu order form and each person can order up to five items off it.

 Then these dishes all come - and you are given another order form and you can all order another five items - and so on until you can eat no more!

N and Katherine at Miso

It was pretty nice food too. Lots of chicken, beef and pork dishes. plenty of sushi - fish or veggie style. Lots of rice, dumplings and spring rolls.

We met Chris and Katherine from Lightwood Games and Dave and Nick who some times work with them. I can't pretend I understood everything that they were talking about (I was the only one there who isn't actually a programmer) but it was very interesting and I had a fun night. Plus - the plum wine was gorgeous!!

We said that we would all do it again - maybe in Stone next time. it seems an age since we went to Chicos.

As part of my duties at clerk to Silverdale Parish Council I attended to the Remembrance Day Service last Sunday at St Luke's Church. it was a lovely service and it was sunny and not too cold as we stood in silence outside by the war memorial to honour the local men who had given their lives in the two world wars.

Gorgeous new window
Our Jack

Part of the Display

I was back at St Lukes again today - as it was the unveiling and blessing of the new stained glass window in honour of Lord John Cadman, Baron Silverdale. (1877 - 1941) The present Lord Cadman and his wife and family were present and the service was conducted by Bishop David Bentley.

Oil on Water Design

The window had been designed by Graham Chaplin from Hednesford and was really beautiful. It is a modern design - compared to the other ones - but it fits in so perfectly.

The background was meant to represent the patters and colours of oil on water - as Lord Cadman - or Our Jack as he was known in Silverdale - was a very important person in the oil industry - especially in the 1930s and during the war.

The "bubbles" contain pictures of him and his life and Silverdale.

After the ceremony there were refreshments and wine at the back of the church. the people of Silverdale are so lovely - and many of my library customers belong to the church - so I had plenty of people to chat to. I even had a word with Lord Cadman - he was telling us of his one previous visit to Silverdale when he was very young. The family live in Northampton now.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

I KNEW I shouldn't have said that....

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They do say "be careful what you wish for." :-)

I was just saying the other day that although I have seen lots of the new hospital, I have never seen the new Accident and Emergency block.

I had a very nice weekend. I worked on Saturday and then went to a (slightly belated) Halloween party in the evening. Then on Sunday I was determined to have a pyjama day - where I didn't get dressed at all but lounged around in my pjs all day. I like it because it felt a bit decadent.:-)

This was all going well until it came to bedtime at 11pm.

Now at the top of my stairs there is a step up to another little landing and the office and another set of stairs on the right - and a step up into my bedroom on the left. So I popped into the office to talk to Nathan who was still working. Then he went downstairs and I stepped down from the office and went to step up to the bedroom. Except I missed the step completely and fell headlong into the room. There is a fireplace just inside with a wall that comes out - and I hit the corner of this wall with my forehead. Rather hard.

I sat there dazed for a couple of minutes looking at my head in the mirror which seemed to be swelling up before my eyes. N came back upstairs and I told him I'd fallen into the wall. He looked at the egg-shaped lump on my head and insisted I got dressed as he was taking me to A&E. He did look a little alarmed!

So I got out of my pyjamas and into some random clothes. N helped me out to the car and we went to A&E! There weren't many people in Reception - and three members of staff on the nice new desk. One took my details and then directed me to sit on the red seats. I sat opposite a very smartly dressed man also with a head injury. He seemed to have a cut over his eye and blood had dripped onto his lovely white shirt. he was dressed in a dinner suit and looked very dapper with the shiniest shoes I've ever seen and a walking cane. Not sure what had happened exactly. he didn't look the fighting type!

Haha - maybe he was wondering the same about me.

Anyway he was called into a Triage nurse's office right away - and then a few minute later emerged and was directed to a different part of the waiting room.

I was then called in.

I thought she would stick a plaster on me and send me home but after hearing what had happened she went off, got a neck brace then lay me down on a bed and but some blocks round my head and secured me to the bed! I couldn't move.

She said she was worried about me having broken a vertebra, from whiplash due to the impact of wall.

I wasn't really expecting that! Next a porter was summoned to whisk me off to the "Ambulance arrival bay" as they were full everywhere else. I lay there for a little while, then was quickly moved to Bay B - like a small ward with cubicles. We had a bit of a wait there - and could hear lots of activity around - but I couldn't see anything except the ceiling!

Around 2am a nice young Irish doctor called Dr Eakins came to see me. He carefully undid my brace and blocks and had a feel of my neck and spine. he tested my reflexes and said that as it was painful at the back of my neck then I would need to be x-rayed before they could let me go home.

Just back from the hospital
So I was wheeled to another area to wait for the x-ray. Had a chat to a lady in the next cubicle who was waiting for her friend to come back from x-ray. he had fallen and head-butted a table. He returned with no broken bones but needed to go and get stitches.

Then it was my turn. I was taken into a huge room and a nice nurse put x-ray plates under my bed and I was x-rayed from above and from the side. It didn't take long. Then I went back to  Bay B to await my fate.

After a while Dr Eakins returned and said that  there was nothing broken - which was a great relief!
I was allowed up off the bed and he gave N a list of symptoms to look out for - he was to bring me straight back if I developed any over the couple of days. They included blurred vision, pins and needles, sickness, headaches, any excessive drowsiness..

By the time we got home it was 3.30am and I was starving! After a quick snack we went to bed.

24 hours later - a nice black eye!

Thank-you fate for arranging that for me!! Hmmm I was just saying the other day that I have never won millions on the lottery....

Friday, 2 November 2012

Appointments This Week...

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I've had a couple of medical appointments this week. What is great is that I hardly think (or stress) about them anymore! Just routine :-)

On Monday I went to the hospital for my monthly check-up. We ended up waiting for quite a while - as my notes hadn't been taken through to the consultant - so they didn't realise I was there until Wendy my ace special nurse spotted me in the waiting room.

Earlier a nurse had come out to tell some people that they would have to wait (or could make another appointment if they didn't want to) as their doctor had been called up to the ward on an emergency - as someone's airway had become blocked. That seemed fair enough to me - and most folk there accepted that. Except for one couple who were whinging and moaning about it to her. She explained as much as she could be they still stormed off.

I'm sure if they had been gasping for breath on a ward they wouldn't have minded if the doctor didn't come for a couple of hours because he was treating some mardy people in out-patients!

Anyway we eventually got in to see a new consultant. He was determined to do everything possible - so he was very thorough. Not just a camera up one nostril - but both! Plus a good look around the throat and vocal chords. He felt all around my neck and under my chin. He pronounced that all looked and felt good  though - so it was very reassuring. I am back there again in four weeks.

Today (Friday) I went to see the physiotherapist at the Bradwell Hospital. I am lucky that this is just round the corner from the house. I saw Paul and we had a chat about what I'd been through and had a look how far I could move my arm and neck.

He said that my joints are fine and I don't have a frozen shoulder - but the soft tissue, muscles and nerves are causing the problems with mobility and pain. He told me how nerves usually glide through soft tissue when you move - but when you get scars the tissue is very tough and can adhere to the nerves - so it hurts to move. The only thing to do is stretch - very gently at first, to try to make things better. He said (like the consultants have said) that nerves do take literally years to mend - so I need to keep up with the exercises he gave me.

They are a lot gentler than the ones from the last physio. So I hope they'll improve things for me gradually :-) I have to go back to see him in a month.

If you see me around - just ask me "Have you done your exercises today??!!" I need encouragement!!

The amazing main atrium

Fascinating Rosetta Stone

Outside the British Library

Egyptian hieroglyphs

Looking down at the main atrium

A Mummy!!!

I forgot to mention the other day that when we went to the Microsoft launch - we also visited the British Museum the same day. We got to London a little early - so wanted to make the most of it! I have been there for years - and had a hankering to see the mummies again :-)

We had a very interesting hour wandering round the exhibits in the Ancient Egypt section.

The Rosetta Stone is one of their prize finds - it is written in three different languages - so enabled academics to start to actually translate Egyptian Hieroglyphics.

It looks very different from last time I came. It is much lighter and more spacious than before. The atrium is huge and really lets in the light. Although quite a few of the exhibits have low lighting to protect the precious ancient artefacts. We saw quite a few mummies before it was time to go.

It does make you wonder about the rights and wrongs of having all this priceless and ancient art here. Looking at the mummies and reading how carefully they were prepared for the afterlife, all the things that were put in the coffins with them - favourite jewels, food and even  tools to help them in the afterlife.

They would never have imagined they'd end up in rainy London being photographed on iPhones in the future! It is quite sad that they have ended up so far from home.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Windows 8 Launch Party

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What an exciting weekend! I was lucky enough to accompany Nathan to the Windows 8 Launch party in London. Since he has an app in the app store in time for the launch ( Interference)  he is now part of Window8 Elite and got an invitation - with two tickets.

I have never been to anything like this before - so I thought it would be interesting. For a start the place where it was happening was not some swish hotel or high tech office block - but an old school which has been transformed into into a designer work space, called Modern Jago   in the heart of arty Shoreditch. Walking there we went past numerous art studios, video suites and print rooms, until we followed the fairy lights and entered Modern Jago. We had to hand in our tickets outside and get our hands stamped with a J, first though.

 Then as we went through the door we were handed a cocktail. Not sure what they were but there was a choice of alcoholic or non-alcoholic - naturally we chose the one with a kick! There was an almost blank canvas on the wall by the entrance - the "Windows 8 Elite canvas" where we were invited to put our names and any little pictures we wanted to. I'm not sure where it will end up - but a few people had obliged already. I just drew a rabbit and wrote Bunnery - and later Nathan drew the Interference logo and put the web address for it on. :-)
As we looked around the rooms - there were three big ones with a few smaller ones off them, we saw that they had put quite a few distractions there for the guests. There was a scalextrix track - where they were holding a tournament - with the winner being awarded with an X-Box at the end of the night.

Design your own t-shirts!

The Windows 8 Elite Canvas

In the next room there was a free bar - where they were holding a Mixology Lab - you could learn how to make your own cocktails! I had spotted a side-room (which it turned out was actually their Boardroom under normal circumstances) where they were printing t-shirts, I dragged N in there and we discovered that they had screen printers set up with a variety of designs and colours and you could choose any design - or more than one - and put them anywhere on a t-shirt you wished. We had to have a go! There was a chap who gave you a plain white t-shirt, then you could ask the guys with the screen prints to put them wherever you liked. Then they were dried under a hot-air machine, before being handed over to you. 

I chose a cool red design for the front of mine - but N had designs front and back on his!

Cool coasters
As we looked around the space with its randomly-wallpapered walls and mix and match chairs, retro coffee tables and posh art magazines, we were offered drinks - beer or wine - at frequent intervals. We were also given food in the form of mini-meals! N had a mini sausage and mash and I went for the fish and chips. That was just three fat chips and a goujon of fish with Tartare sauce and a wedge of lemon. Also they offered mini-burgers, mushroom risotto and some kind of salad. Later they came around with mini chocolate cakes, each with a big fat raspberry on top.

One of the most exciting moments just after we got there was to see Interference on the giant screens around the room. They were cycling through some of the apps that the Elite had produced and Interference kept coming on. :-) :-)
We chatted with other app developers. We had met a few in the pub round the corner while we were waiting for this event to start at 4.30pm. N and they had geeked out - and I had had a very nice Cappuchino and understood about one word in ten!! I did ask a couple of them about their apps. One had produced a Font Selector app and the other a very useful School/Uni Organiser. From the look of it you could put in your timetables, when work was due in, revision, how far through modules you were. 
It was really interesting how varied the apps were! On the screen I saw word games, an anatomy app (quite gruesome!) and one called Nearly Weds which was a wedding planner. Some very talented people there!

My T-Shirt drying off :-)

Around 6pm someone rang a school bell and we gathered in the main middle room while Paul and another guy (sorry - can't remember his name) gave a presentation about Windows 8 and how many potential customers the app developers would have. He was encouraging everyone to build more apps! He also held a draw to give away 6 new tablets. He said that everyone's tickets had been put into the draw. A chap in front of us piped up that his wasn't in - before rushing up to put it in the bucket!

They had Cocktail lessons

Sadly we didn't win anything - but Chris from Lightwood Games (also based in Stoke-on-Trent) won one. And of course - the man who had just put his in the draw also won one!! After that the event began to wind down. There was more chatting and drinks, but then the main lights all came on and we took that as a hint to be on our way back to Euston Station!

It was a fun event - great for networking. N will be back there in less than two weeks for an even more exclusive event to meet Steve Balmer, the current head of Microsoft who is coming over from the USA for a special event - a showcase session showcase. Sadly I have to stay at home for that one.

Interference on the Big Screen!

Monday, 22 October 2012

Girly Weekend in Oxford

I had a lovely weekend with Janet in Oxford. We had said, months ago - while I was still having treatment - that when I was feeling better we would have a weekend away together. A bit of a girly one with shopping and cocktails and relaxation. Maybe a bit of culture too :-)

England's First Coffee House

Chaps in the Fudge Kitchen making chocolate fudge
I have only been there once before - so I was looking forward to going back there and exploring. We went on the train from Stafford which just took a couple of hours. When we emerged from Oxford station, blinking in the sunlight, we saw an Open-Topped Bus Tour stand.

We decided to start with that - so that we'd see all over Oxford and we could decided where we wanted to go and what we wanted to look at more closely! Once we'd managed to get the hang of the earphones - and found a seat that didn't deafen us - we enjoyed being driven around while listening to an expert on all the history and buildings. I remember her telling us where Mr Bean went to University and why Percy Bysshe Shelley got thrown out of his. (He wrote a pamphlet on Atheism)

 We stayed at the Randolph Hotel and check-in after our bus trip round the city. It was pretty nice, and Jan had been upgraded to a double room. Both the rooms were nice - hers was just a bit bigger. Once we'd dumped out bags we had a walk around. Went down to the Botanical Gardens, we thought it might be nice to have lunch in a cafe there. However - they didn't have one. The nice lady in the shop directed us to The Oxford Rendezvous, which was a lovely cafe. We had chicken wraps and gorgeous pancakes for sweet. J's were filled with cream and banana and mine had a melted Crunchie bar inside - and was covered in cream. It was after 3pm by the time we got out!

We had to do a bit more walking after that! In fact we found the Carfax Tower on the map and headed that way. It is the only remaining part of the 13th century St Martin's Church and for £2.30 you can go in and climb the 99 spiral steps to the top. This gave us amazing views over Oxford - we could see all the colleges and towers and spires. It was quite fun just looking down and seeing what was going on in the City centre. The pavement art. protests, buskers and charity collectors dressed as hedgehogs. It is a lively place!

We also had a look around the shopping centre (mainly because J needed a new battery for her watch!) We tried some free samples of fudge which were so delicious that we resolved to hunt down the shop where it was made - no matter how long it took us - tomorrow.

Morse Cocktail
 We returned to the hotel to have a bit of a rest and get changed for the evening. Our lunch had been so huge that we couldn't really face a heavy three-course dinner in the hotel. We had seen quite a few nice restaurants and pubs nearby - so we thought we'd try one of them. First however, we wanted to try out the hotel's famous Morse bar which has featured in Morse and Lewis ( their writer Colin Dexter still lives in Oxford). We decided to try the cocktails, J tried the Cheshire Cat (champagne and orange juice)and I went for the one they had invented - The Morse Champagne Cocktail, which involved apple brandy and vanilla with champagne.  I was very impressed when mine arrived with lemon rind wrapped all around the stem of the glass.

Then we tried to get in Jamie Oliver's Italian Restaurant - just so we could say we'd been there! The polite bouncer told us that we'd have to wait for 45 minutes - so we decided we weren't that bothered! So we chose one opposite which had an unusual pizza menu. Fire and Stone only made us wait 15 minutes - and let us wait in the bar! Much more civilised. The food was yummy - and my dessert was quite different. Crispy cinnamon dough sticks with some of J's honeycomb ice cream. Quite a tasty combination.

The next day we made it down to breakfast for 9am. it was in a gorgeous high-ceilinged room.
it had all the college plaques around the walls and the heaviest-looking mirror I've ever seen. There was a good selection of cereals, fruits, pastries and cheeses and cold meats. Then you could choose a hot cooked breakfast and toast. We were pretty full when we came outside at 10am and walked over the road to the Ashmolean Museum. We had a peaceful stroll round the exhibits before making out way up to the rooftop restaurant.We only wanted to look at the view from the outside terrace - but it was so nice up there we decided to have a coffee/hot chocolate and read the Sunday newspapers on offer. Very relaxing!

When we'd got our strength back we carried on with our trusty free bus map, to find the Bodlean Library. You know me - I can't resist a library!

Coming out in 2013!
However, as we approached the street where it was located, we saw that the road was closed off. There was a big crowd looking down there - but we had no idea what was going on. Then we saw some people in Victorian dress and shiny black carriages on the street. The double yellow lines were covered by soil. There were cameras on booms all over the place and catering tents and editing suites. They were making a film!

People still dress like this in Oxford you know...

One of the doors into the Bodlean Library
 During breaks in filming they let people through the streets - but you had to keep moving and couldn't linger!

Inner Courtyard of the Bodlean
 We got to the Bodlean and managed to get inside to look at the Dickens Exhibition and the shop at least. Were were stopped going into the courtyard by more filming.

It looked very intriguing - we'll have to look out for that next year.

Yummy scones :-)
 Later in the afternoon we had decided to have a cream tea. I had read about one place that was meant to be Chelsea Clinton's favourite place - the Grand Cafe on High Street. We found it - and it's window declared that it was the first coffee house in England. It was very quaint - lots of mirrors and high ceilings once again.
More wandering round the streets - we saw Oxford University's Korean Society putting on a demonstration of their drumming skills.

Then we sought out and found the Fudge Kitchen where we saw chocolate and seasalt fudge being mixed, melted and poured out onto a marble table to cool. We tasted a few more then bought some of the divine chocolate one we'd tried the day before.

Good job there isn't one near where we live - I'd be getting fatter by the day!

The only way to travel in Oxford

Pretty soon it was time to grab our bags from the hotel and catch our train back to Stafford after a fun weekend. It's nice to get away - but nice to go home again :-).
Jan in the Ashmolean Museum

The newly Refurbished Ashmolean

Jan outside the Ashmolean

Relaxing in the Famous Morse Bar

Logical Place to be

Inside the Grand Cafe

Up Among Oxford's Dreaming Spires

Even the taxis are educational in Oxford :-)