Sunday, 30 September 2012

Eurogamer 2012

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Arriving at Eurogamer 2012
Had a great weekend in London. Our main aim was to attend Eurogamer 2012 - all three days of it!

With Nathan being in the business then it is important to go and find out what is happening in the gaming industry - or that's what he tells me anyway! :-) Laura (my daughter) came along too - as a big fan of Skyrim and so did Mr M - friend of N's and another keen gamer who plays everything!

It is interesting to see what new games are coming out on all the different consoles and systems and have a go before anyone else. What I find more interesting though at the "Developer Sessions" where you can go and listen to the people behind the games who give presentations on how they came up  with the ideas, made the games themselves or found backers to finance and market them. So although it was lovely and sunny in London over the three days - we spent a lot of the time in the dark inside Earl's Court.

N taking it seriously :-)

L and M contemplate Assassin's Creed III

I saw quite an intriguing one - called Unfinished Swan which looked very arty and cool - and was a pretty unusual game. It involved a completely blank screen and you had to fire paintballs at various parts of it - and only then could you see what was there. Sadly it was so busy - and thee were only two screens with this one on that I didn't get to have a go. So - I am not sure what the aim of the game was - but it might be fun.

Beautiful - but what's it all about?
 My favourite one that I DID get to play was called Hell Yeah! and involved a dead rabbit that was out to get his photos back from the paparazzi. Sounds pretty mad - and it was - and very funny. It was cartoonish and clever - I couldn't really get into realistic killing games where you see people/aliens/animals being blown to bits in a shower of red.

Those are the most popular games though (with blokes)  - and the biggest queue every day was for Call Of Duty Black Ops - a graphic war game. I think the ratio of the sexes was 10 to 1. Ten males for every female. That's definitely more than last year though.

A friendly alien and I'm not sure who else...
 One of the most fun aspects was the CosPlay - where people turned up dressed as their favourite character from a game. There were quite a few Marios and Luigis as well as some very impressive Etzios and Altairs from Assassin's Creed. The costumes were so intricate and detailed - amazing! Shame I didn't get a photo of one of those!

Food and beer gets the thumbs-up at Belgos

In the evenings we did something different. The first night we went to an old favourite (and a place we visited at the beginning of this blog before my big operation) Belgos. I had my honey beer - I feel it has life-giving properties :-) Had lovely roast chicken with beer and apple sauce and it was delicious as ever. Served by waiters dressed as monks. What is it about London that everyone likes dressing up??

Hilarious night at the comedy club
The second night we went over to the beautiful area of Little Venice - via Warwick Avenue tube station (made famous by the song by Duffy) to the Canal Cafe Theatre. We had food in the pub underneath - The Bridge House - which was yummy. I had some of their salmon fishcakes with little gem and beetroot salad - accompanied by some of their rustic bread and oil/balsamic dip. Very, very nice :-) Then we popped upstairs to see the comedy -  The News Revue. It was four very talented actors - who from their bios spend a lot of their time doing Shakespeare. In fact one of them played Paris in the ill-fated weather-blighted production at Stafford Castle that we nearly saw. (It was rained off before Romeo and Juliet even met!)

Two blokes and two girls who did an amazing show of singing dancing and sketches all based on recent news. Extremely funny - we had a blast! I can't recommend it enough. They do this ever-changing show with an ever changing cast every Friday and Saturday night. A great time was had by all!

The tardis outside Earl's Court tube station
It is a tiny little theatre so we were sat right up by the stage. Don't worry though - it's not one of those shows where they pick on the audience - although Laura was worried that they might!

The hotel was pretty nice in Kensington and only a few minutes walk from Earl's Court - and even closer to the tube station. Although the room we had was the smallest I have stayed in. Only just room for a double bed - we could hardly walk round it. Was fine though - as we were out all the days and evenings. The two singles rooms were pretty spacious though.

Outside Earl's Court tube there was an actual Police Box - with a blue light on top! An actual working one where you could go in and use the phone to call them. It was a very handy meeting place whenever we went back to the hotel before the boys.

Fish and Chips p- Brown styleee

On our last evening there we met up with London friends Si and Heidi. In fact Si spent the day with us at the Expo. Heidi joined us for dinner at Browns down at Canary Wharf. We had a good night catching up - and enjoyed a couple of bottles of wine. I had fish and chips, the cod in tempura, with tatar sauce, tomato sauce and crushed minted peas. Tasty but not quite as nice as the meal at the comedy club - but a lot more pricey! N enjoyed his Boar Burger and M loved his venison - and although there was nothing vegan on the menu they did make a special pasta dish for Laura.

So it is a pretty good place - in a lovely waterside location in the docklands. I guess they mainly cater for those pesky bankers - so like to charge them a lot!

Heading back to the hotel after a fun evening

It was a really nice last evening in London though. Can't wait to go back.
Hmm - what should we go for next time?

Back to reality now we're home. I am off for my monthly visit to the consultant tomorrow. I'll let you know how it goes...

Friday, 21 September 2012

Naked man in the Library :-0

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Heehee - thought that would get your attention. Well you won't be disappointed :-) I was working today - so that Tracy could have the weekend off. So I was on my own. It was pretty busy at times but when it went quiet I thought I'd take a few photos of my library. (In my tea break!)

At work today :-)

Looking out from the Counter

This is me sat at my counter - the public computers are over by the windows. Then there is the view from my counter. As you can see - it did go a bit quiet! Don't worry there were plenty of customers later. I am pretty excited as not only do I have the Children's Laureate Julia Donaldson coming to my library - but also famous poet Simon Armitage!

Julia wrote The Gruffalo and the Gruffalo's Child among many other things. She is coming on a Wednesday in October at the invitation of the children from Silverdale Junior School. She is going to do a reading and some singing  - I can't wait! Although she did say that she WOULDN'T do The Gruffalo. She must be a bit fed up of it by now Maybe she'll do my favourite - The Highway Rat:

'Give me your buns and your biscuits! Give me your chocolate ├ęclairs!
For I am the Rat of the highway, and the Rat Thief never shares!'

I love him!

As for Simon Armitage - our Poetry tutor Caroline (Hi Caroline!!) knows him well and recently arranged his epic journey along the Pennine Way - where he took no money and had to barter his poetry for food and shelter. Apparently he passed a walking sock round after doing recitals in halls, pubs and people's homes. It was on Countryfile a while ago - did you see it?  

He is doing a special reading at Keele Uni in October but in the afternoon, as a special favour for Caroline he is coming to Silverdale Library to do a special session with her group of aspiring poets. They use my library every Thursday to write poetry - they are a really fun group. I wonder if he'd mind me asking him what it was like to interview Morrissey, as I only discovered today that he has done that! :-) Heehee - perhaps I should stick to asking about poetry.

How exciting will October be????

The Mystery Naked Man

As for the naked man - I have a photo of him on my wall by the counter. We have a whole range of photographs on loan from the Borough Museum, of scenes from the old Silverdale Colliery.

I have often wondered who he is - and have asked a few customers who have told me they used to work at the pit, if it is them! No-one has owned up to it yet!!

Do you recognise him??

In other news - with my other hat on as Parish clerk - we have commissioned a new Noticeboard for the village. It just happens to be positioned outside the Library! I think it is an attractive addition to the frontage. It is better than the old black broken one that was full of spiders every time I had to open it up and put some notice inside. This one is lovely - and has a metal back inside so that I can use magnets to put the notices up.

The New Noticeboard

Close-Up Version

It is almost time for Eurogamer again. Last year we went - and that is when I had just found my lump in my neck and had no idea what was in store for me.This year I am clear of cancer!! What an eventful year it has been since the last one :-)

Sunday Lunch with mum and dad :-)
 I am looking forward to it - I love going to London anytime - there is always so much going on. I'd be quite happy to live and work there. If it wasn't so expensive! Anyway - I'd miss my family - and we couldn't go out for lunch on a whim like we did last Sunday :-)

At the moment I am waiting for Nathan to get back from London - he went yesterday to go to a Dev Camp (I think it stands for Development or Developer's Camp) with Microsoft. As Windows 8 is out in October they want there to be some aps alreadyt available - so anyone who is working on one could go along and learn how to get it one there in time. All very technical! Who knows Interference might be on there by the launch! Since it was launched as a phone ap we've had loads more players and some hilairious games. You are all very welcome to join in the fun!

On a random note - I think I might have to have my hair cut soon! It is growing quite quickly now and getting a bit out of hand. I might get it trimmed - so  that it will grow back at an even rate.

Although now that the weather is turning decidedly nippy the wigs do keep my head warm!

Better call it a day there - I have to be up for work in the morning. :-)

Saturday, 15 September 2012

I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes.

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Ha ha - you'll be singing that song all day now :-)
Still got the tingling in my fingers - and it is in my toes a bit now. Consensus is that it is nerve damage from the chemo. It might go - in a year or so :-)
Beautiful Flowers
Still not heard anything about my physiotherapy - I guess I'll get an appointment through soon.

In the meantime I am keeping as active as possible and still enjoying work. Yesterday my old friend came to visit my library. I used to work at Staffs Uni with Phil, but hadn't seen her for years.

She had a job interview coming up (in a school library) so she wanted to have a look around our children's section. It was lovely to see her and have a discussion about children's literature.She loved my library - but then everyone does :-)

 I remember we used to both have a day out every Wednesday when we took the train to Manchester to attend the university on day release to get our Library Qualifications (Post-Graduate Diploma in Library and Information Studies if you want me to be more specific!). We were both lucky enough to be sponsored by the uni for two years. It was great fun!

She brought me some gorgeous flowers and cookies (Sorry we ate the cookies before I could take a photo). They are huge gladioli - we were (are) both big fans of Morrissey back in the day :-) They now look very nice in front of my fire.

I am happy to say that she let me know that she got the job too! Yay!

Monday, 3 September 2012

Catching up with my PEG Buddy

Had a very pleasant visit to the hospital today. We have taken to parking in the new multi-storey car park now - especially on a hot day like today as it is in the shade! It meant we had a cool car to come back to.

I checked in at the screen in the main atrium, then proceeded down to Reception at ENT. We sat down and I said to Nathan "What a shame we haven't seen Frank for a while." as I surveyed the waiting room. Nathan pointed behind me and said "He is over there!" So we swapped seats to sit opposite them. Frank was the chap who also has CUP and I met him when we were both in hospital at the same time to undergo the torture that is known as PEG Insertion. :-)

He looked SO much better than last time we saw him. He is still using the PEG as he cannot swallow solid food yet. He can drink okay though and has been doing more. He did admit though that if he is busy one day he needs to have a day of rest the day after. The consultant had told him it will be 18 months before he is back to full strength.

He said to me "Oh you've had your hair cut!" He was pretty surprised when I told him that it had all fallen out. His is as thick as ever. His wife told us that their hairdresser had advised him to use Baby Shampoo - so maybe that's what saved it. Mind you he only had one session of chemo - so that could be it. Anyway I've decided I should use Baby Shampoo now too - since I have very soft fuzzy baby hair growing back. :-)

I got called to the Sub-Waiting Room 1 - and we did not have to sit there for long before a nurse popped out and called my name. We'd seen Mr Fong - the smiley one - earlier so I'd presumed that that we would be seeing him. However when I got in there were two consultants I'd never seen before. One at the computer and one in the chair near the examination chair. He shook my hand and asked me how I'd been. He was very charming and smiley. I told him that I had tingly fingers and that my shoulder had been getting more stiff and sore.

He had a feel around my neck and then got out the camera to look inside my mouth. Then he said "Which nostril do you usually have this up?" I told him the right and he went ahead. He was really good though - it on;y brought tears to one eye! He had a good look around and said that everything looked fine especially my vocal chords apparently. That's good to know. He asked about the boobogram and I told him that they had only found a cluster of harmless cysts.

He said that he would organise some physiotherapy for my shoulder. The other consultant at the computer said that as I had tingly fingers in both fingers - not just on my bad side then it was almost certainll due to the chemotherapy. He said it might go - only time would tell. As my treatment was this year then there was still a chance it might go.

That chemo has a lot to answer for :-) Can't complain though as it did the business! My next appointment is in four weeks time on October 1st.

Sunday, 2 September 2012


Arriving at the Olympic Park
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I can't believe I got to go to London for the day to see the Paralympic Games!! Clever Nathan managed to get us tickets to go in the Stadium and see some athletics.

We had to set off very early - as they advised that it could take up to two hours to get through the "airport-style security" and our session started at 10am.

We owe gratitude to Nathan's parents who got up at some unearthly hour to take us to Stafford station for 5am. We weren't the only excited people getting a train to London at that time though :-)

We couldn't get lost!
We changed at Birmingham and got into Euston just after 7.30am. From there we hopped on a tube to Stratford Station. There were bright pink signs everywhere telling people where to go for the Olympic venues.

We followed a growing band of Happy people out of the station and through the Westfield shopping centre and along the road to the Olympic Park. All along the route were Gamesmakers, dressed in Olympic pink, some on foot others on high chairs with megaphones who were jollying everyone along, telling us which side to go in and asking others what they were coming to see. Some were going to the Aquatic Centre and others to the Velodrome as well as the Olympic Stadium itself.

We got to the gates in less than fifteen minutes, and there was no queue for the security. There were multiple gates you cold choose to go through and dozens of security points with x-ray machines. We were directed to one, where we had to put our belongings into a plastic box and it was sent through the machine. Meanwhile we had to step through a security archway. Exactly like at the airport. We were through so quickly! Then we just walked into the Olympic Park and started having a wander round. We were so early - it was only just after 8am, so we had time to find the food areas and have a bacon sandwich, before going into the stadium itself.

Nice bacon butty!
 We saw the shop which I'd heard so much about. It had Alton Tower-style barriers outside, as if they were expecting a queue later. So, I suggested to Nathan that we go in early while it was quiet. It was massive inside - like a warehouse- with so many t-shirt designs, hoodies and souvenirs. Since it is such a one-off event for us we decided to get something to commemorate our visit.
My Paralympic Hoodie :-)

Nathan got a black hoodie and I got a grey one. It is certainly warm!

Then it was coming up to 10am so we headed over to Bridge D (as instructed on our tickets) and into Section M01. We found out way to our row and it was still empty so we got to our seats easily. We were sat at the back of the first tier, just behind where the three flagpoles were for the medal ceremonies. It was a great view from up there and pretty soon the stadium filled up and got noisier.

It's a Big Shop
 There was a commentator telling us what we were going to see and how things would work. Our slot was from 10am to 1.30pm - the whole morning session. We saw so many events - there was never a dull moment!

There was Long Jump going on at the far side of the track where the Cuban athletes were doing some fantastic lengths. As each competitors started their run up we were encouraged to clap in time - getting faster and faster as they approached the sand pit and jumped.

The Cauldron and the Scoreboard
 Just in front of us was the starting line for the 100 metre races. We saw lots of heats of the women's - some of whom had guides to run with them to get them going in the right direction. It was cool how they ran with them (they were all men) and then made sure they got over the line first. If the guide went over first they'd be disqualified. I didn't realise that the guides got medals too - if their runner did! As long as they'd been in all the heats with them to. i guess they train as long and hard as the women themselves.

We are really there!
We saw wheelchair races and also the men's two hundred metres final featuring Richard Whitehead, where he won the gold medal and set a new world record of 24.38 seconds too. He was so happy to win - he did a whole lap of honour. The noise was almost deafening. (I had thought ahead and NOT worn my new hearing aids - as I figured it was going to be a bit loud!). We were lucky enough to see a few medal ceremonies too - including Richard's. it was very emotional to see his tears and watch the Union Jack being hoisted while we sang the National Anthem. What a moment!

It wasn't the most moving moment of the day though - that came in the men's 1500 metres when Omar Hassan, the only athlete from Djibouti, was lapped twice by the rest of the field and yet carried on, painfully slowly on his own for the last two laps of the track. We thought once everyone else had crossed the line for the final time he would have stopped and given up - but no! He carried on, on his own, to louder and louder cheers from the 80,000 strong crowd. As he passed each part of the stadium, the audience rose to cheer him on and when he eventually crossed the line it was to a standing ovation and the loudest cheers of the day. What an inspiration - even though he had hurt his ankle at the start he showed such bravery and determination to finish that race come what may!  I had tears in my eyes by the time he finished. What a hero!

You can read the full story here

The Copper Box - with encouraging message outside :-)
 We came out of the stadium at 1.30pm so happy that we'd been able to be part of it. it was a wonderful experience. Out in the park again it had got very busy. As predicted the queue for the shop was round the block and the food courts were busy, with no seats available. We wandered round, after eating some pizza standing up, to see some of the other venues. The Aquatics Centre was impressive and we walked towards the Velodrome and the Basketball Arena. Also we saw the Copper Box where the Handball, Goalball and the Fencing take place. You couldn't actually go in without a pass and they were all sold out.

We walked around the base of the awesome sculpture that is Orbit and saw lots of people going up in the lifts and walking down! It towered over the Stadium itself. There was entertainment wherever you went from some old-style clowning and acrobatics to singers with guitars and our favourites - a bunch of crazy folk who were enacting various sports through the medium of dance.

It was 4.30pm before we left the park and headed back to the station. I was so happy to have experienced part of this historic occasion. Thank-You Nathan for getting us tickets :-)

Tomorrow it is back to reality. I have to go for my next check-up with the consultant. I seem to have developed a tingling in my fingers - which is a bit unpleasant, Not sure if it is due to the tightness and stiffness in my neck. I hope he doesn't say I'm doing too much!!  He did say I had to keep active!! :-)

We will see what he says tomorrow....

Part of the Aquatics Centre

I Hear Drums...

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......I can play them too!!

On Friday I went into work because I'd arranged for Art Brasil - a drumming group - to come into the Library and hold a free workshop for our customers. Well, it was mainly for children and their parents but they said that Nathan and I could join in too!

Awesome drumming group
 I was pretty excited by this! A couple of year's ago Janet (yes - my good friend :-) and I went to the Victoria Hall and saw a Japanese Drumming Group who were out-of-this-world. It was a fantastic experience. We were both moved by it all. We even looked up to see if there was any way of joining a class round here - but they were all off in Edinburgh or London.

So when Art Brasil said they'd do an African Drumming session I thought it was a chance not to miss! Plus I wasn't sure how the people of Silverdale would take to drumming so was worried that no-one else would turn up. I needn't have worried - we had over twenty kids and parents!

The session was run by Mika and Leandro, who were great at getting everyone involved and making the session fun. We were each given a small stool to sit on and a drum to hold between our legs. Mika told us that the drum was called a Timbre and we could get two distinctive sounds out of it. One was called a Tone - which was obtained by hitting the drum on the edge with your fingers and letting them bouce off - the other is called a Bass and obtained by hitting the centre of the drum with the flat of your hand.

She also got us to relax our hands by shaking them. She said if they started to tingle as we played we should blow on them and rub them to get rid of it. They had just come back from the Notting Hill Carnival where they had been drumming for eight and a half hours! I bet their hands were sore after that!

She then got us to copy rhythms that she did first - with a variety of tones, basses and hand claps. We played "Follow my Leader" for a while as we all got used to the drums and remembering rythms.. Then she got us to play "Forbidden Rhythms". She played us one rhythm - a tone, a handclap followed by two bass notes - which if we heard it we were NOT to copy. So this time Leandro played us a variety of rhythms and tried to catch us out by putting in the forbidden one every now and then. I have to say we were pretty good and not many of us slipped up no matter how hard he tried!

It was such fun the hour went by in a flash! They told us that they were setting up classes for younger children and older children - but didn't say there were any for adults.

Could my drumming career be over so soon????

Audacious Audiology

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On Wednesday I had to go to see an Audiologist about my tinnitus. It's been there since I had my chemotherapy. I was kind of hoping that it would just go away itself - but it hasn't. Not even reduced at all. It's not too bad most of the time - but I do have a problem hearing if there is any kind of background noise too - like in the car or a busy pub or restaurant.

I had an appointment at 9am at the local Bradwell Hospital just round the corner. As we set off the heavens opened and there was an absolute deluge as we got to the car park and dashed in. We got soaked - so did lots of others people just arriving. I couldn't see a sign for Audiology - so I asked at Reception. The Receptionist took my name and then asked me to sit on a seat on the corridor just outside the toilets! On the stroke of nine a young man came out of another door and asked me to follow him.

We went down a corridor and into a room. he told me he was the Audiologist (isn't it awful?- I didn't catch his name and couldn't read his name badge) I blame the tinnitus :-)

Anyway he asked me a few questions about my hearing, such as had I ever had any hearing loss or trouble with my ears before now. I told him I hadn't. Then he asked about my recent health and I gave him a potted version of what had happened since this time last year. (Yes - it is a year since I found that not-so-innocent lump in my neck!) I mentioned the chemo and he did say it could cause nerve damage.

He then said he was going to put me in a soundproof booth and test my hearing. I sat in there with headphones on and a button to press, in my hand. he asked me to press each time I heard a sound. He did each ear separately and some of the sounds were deep and I could hear those pretty well. The higher pitched ones sounded exactly like the tinnitus and I had trouble telling when they were there.

He also did the same tests when there was a rushing sound in the background.

When he'd finished and I'd emerged from the booth he typed my results into his computer, then showed me the graphs. He explained that I had mild to moderate hearing loss in each ear - with my left one being the worst. I was shocked by this as I'd just assumed the tinnitus was getting in the way of me hearing properly. He said that everyone has the noises in their head but when they can hear properly  and their hearing is good then they don't hear them. However, once your hearing is damaged then the tinnitus is heard instead. It seems that I am not picking up on higher frequency sounds very well.

He then said that if I wanted I could try some hearing aids as they would help. he did stress that he never tells people they HAVE to have them - just if they want to. I was mildly horrified at the thought - thinking of the huge pink things I've seen people have in their ears. I asked him to show me what one would look like. He went over to his drawers and brought out a small box. I was amazed to see how small it was - with just a clear fine tube that goes onto the ear. No moulded plastic - just a tube with a tiny blob on the end that goes into the ear.

One of my new hearing aids - next to the TV remote
 So, I thought about it for a second then told him I would give them a go. He said okay do you want to make an appointment or should he just do them now? "You can do that?" I asked and he said yes - he just needed to connect each hearing aid to the computer, which would set them to the perfect setting for each ear according to my test results. It was fascinating! He set them up then he measured my ears - to see how long the clear tiny tube needed to be. Then he tried them on me and checked the volume. Everything suddenly became a lot louder! Especially my own voice :-) It was surprising how much I'd been missing.

Then he got me to put them in myself - which is a doddle, then he showed me how to work the volume button and the three different modes they can be set to, then how to switch them off and change the batteries. He then sent me off with six month's worth of batteries and a book so that I can pop in anytime and get more. This is a fantastic service! I had no idea that I would walk out of there after just one hour with two perfectly tuned, discreet hearing aids.

I was still a little worried when I came back into the corridor wearing them - did they look obvious?? Nathan is very observant so I was sure he'd tell me how they looked. I came out smiling and he saw the batteries poking out of my handbag. He said "Oh - you have batteries" (I told you he was observant!)  "are they going to make you a hearing aid?" I just stood there smiling and moving my head from side to side - but he still didn't spot them! I didn't have my hair on either!

So that made me happier about having to have them. I said "I've got them already" and he had to look really hard to see them :-) The Audiologist said that I should wear them all my waking hours for the first eight to ten weeks just so that my brain can get used to the new level of sound and adjust to it. I have a form to fill in after eight weeks to say how I am getting on with them and request another appointment if there are any problems. How awesome is that service??

So I am trying to get used to hearing every single sound around. There is a mode where I can just have them front-facing - if I want to listen to someone while in a noisy environment and there is a Loop setting for places where there is a loop fitted. The normal mode had the front and back microphones on so I hear everything!

It feels a bit weird - but they are very comfy I can hardly feel that I am wearing anything!