Monday, 26 August 2013

R.I.P Frank

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I was so shocked and saddened this weekend when I found out that Frank - my PEG buddy, who had CUP like me and who had his first chemo session the same day that I did, has died. I couldn't believe it - it happened back in May. I hadn't seen it in the paper - or heard about it from anyone at the hospital - but I guess patient confidentiality is sacrosanct. It was very upsetting to hear - after all we've been through together.

The last time we saw him in the hospital was back in February:

"We had quite a wait in the main waiting room. That was fine though - as we saw Frank and his wife waiting there too so we could catch up. It was so nice to see him!

 He was looking quite thin - but he said that he had his PEG out a couple of weeks ago (horrendous experience he said - and I would agree!) so was actually eating real food now - supplemented by the liquid food. So, hopefully he'll fatten up a bit soon. Nothing tastes nice though - and he can't eat a lot. He has a very dry mouth and needs water with everything. It is some progress though.

The not so good news though was that he has another lump in his neck and one in his chest. So last week he was back having another scan. He was waiting for the results today. I hope it is not serious. On the good news side - they have booked a holiday and are looking forward to that in May."

The first time we met properly was in March 2012 - on PEG insertion day:

"So I turned up to Ward 107 yesterday at 8am with my little overnight bag and a sense of dread in the pit of my (empty) stomach. They didn't have a bed for me so sent me to the Day Room until they'd had the 8.30am Bed Allocation Meeting. In there I met a chap who was also in for the PEG insertion. I remember that I'd seen him before in the Radiotherapy Suite - he had a CT Scan with his mask just before I did. Another member of the exclusive CUP Club!

We exchanged stories and experiences so far - both very similar. He said that he'd said to his wife the day before "I want this day to go on forever" as he was dreading this morning as much as me. He said also that he was totally determined not to use this thing even though we had to have them put in. I agreed - although I guess one day we might just be glad of them. That's why I hadn't actually refused to have it done - though it was a close-run thing!

He hit the nail on the head when he said the worst thing was that we were going to be awake for the whole procedure. He'd had to stop reading the information leaflet before the end whereas I had read even more on the Internet and watched a video."

We saw him and his wife so many times in between - mainly in waiting rooms. He was always upbeat, cheerful and smiling. It felt good to be going through this with someone who had the same thing. We could compare scars and treatment plans. It won't be the same going for check-ups and not seeing him there. :-(

RIP Frank

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Trip to Liverpool

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Friendly Local :-)
 Look who I met when I went to Liverpool for the day last week. Firstly the seagull - just sitting outside the Walker Art Gallery - which was out first port of call.

We went up there on the train with Nathan's parents. They got on at Stone and we got on at Stoke - it worked pretty well! We changed at Crewe - and got into Liverpool mid-morning.

Ken Dodd at the station - tattyfilarious!

We were lucky to have a warm dry day too to wander around. We went because Nathan was at University there and he and his parents spent quite a lot of time there over the three years. They had wanted to go back for some time - it was lovely to go with them! I used to live right next door - in St Helens for six years - so I knew it quite well too. Although it had been quite a few years since I had been there too.

We met Ken Dodd at the station - in a sculpture called "Chance Meeting" that also featured the former MP Bessie Braddock - who did much to improve the conditions of the working class.- she was  a British Labour Party politician. Known as an ardent socialist and fiery campaigner, nicknamed 'Battling Bessie', her special interests included maternity, child welfare and youth crime. I'm not exactly sure why she is holding an egg though :-)

Me and Ken Dodd!
Battling Bessie Braddock

 We had a look around the Walker Art Gallery first - attracted to the old building by the brightly coloured birds all along its roof and under its eaves. They looked very effective!

Walker Art Gallery and its Birds!

Then we walked down to the Liverpool Central Library which had a very interesting "Literary Pavement" leading up to it. Some of the words were written in red and they were supposed to give you a clue to one of the rare books housed within. We managed to work out the line "The Cyclops in the Wood"  - but we haven't managed to guess which author and title it refers to. Any help gratefully received - we could win a prize!!

Liverpool Library

Literary Pavement

Games Room!!

Nathan was very impressed that not only did the library rent out games - but they also had a Games Room where you could go and play them - with Playstations and X-Boxes.

There was a huge circular children's area and on the day we were there they had a clown entertaining them! He must have been good as we  only saw one little girl screaming in terror at him.

Nathan's Mum admires the Spider Crab

Further down the same road was the Museum of the World, where we saw more weird exhibits and visited the aquarium on the first floor. I liked the pterodactyl skeleton flying over head and I did NOT like the Spider Crab - far too big ( and spider-like) for comfort.

Times for Lunch in The Welkin

We stopped for lunch then - went to an old haunt of N's - The Welkin. It is named after an old word for the sky - in memory of the "Father of Astronomy" Jeremiah Horrocks, who was one of Liverpool's famous sons. It was certainly busy - but we managed to find a table and eventually get served at the bar!

After we'd eaten N's mum and I went off to do a spot of shopping in the city centre while N and his dad stayed to have another pint and reminisce.

It's "Wind-Swept Man"

The centre was heaving with people and so many buskers and those live statues! We saw one called "Windswept Man" who was exactly that - he stood frozen in the middle of the square looking as if he was battling against a hurricane! There wasn't even a breeze! He got a lot of puzzled looks from passers-by. We thought he was brilliant! Lots of people were taking his photo and putting money in his tin. We stopped to watch some break dances too - they had a huge circle around them - you could hardly get down the street. What was sweet was an old chap who was trying to copy their moves. He was the star!

We visited some famous outlets and purveyors of fine clothes - for an hour or so. Didn't come back with too many bags! The boys were still in the pub when we got back!
Come On! We've finished shopping!

Into the Philharmonic Rooms

We then decided to walk up the hill to find The Philharmonic Rooms - a pub and old dining hall that used to be known as "the most ornate pub in England" It was most impressive with its wood panelling and stained glass windows and magnificent chandeliers.  We sat and had a drink before walking back down into the centre of Liverpool again.

The Bombed-Out Church - been like this for 60 years!

On the way we passed the Bombed Out Church - St Lukes. It has been stood empty with no roof since the Liverpool Blitz in 1941 when it was hit and burned out. Trees are growing inside it - and it does look rather nice.


N's Dad at The Adelphi Hotel
Before going back to Lime Street station to get our train back home we decided to go into the Adelphi Hotel - the one made famous by the TV series featuring it, with its staff and any visitors. We thought it would be nice to have an afternoon tea - as advertised in its glossy brochure in the foyer. Sadly though - due to staff cuts they no longer serve afternoon tea. They said we could sit in the sumptuous lounge and go and get ourselves a drink of tea from the bar down below. However - they would only let us take it in polystyrene cups - so we decided to pass on that.

It's "Windswept Man"

Water Feature in the City Centre

After that it was time to go back to Lime Street Station to catch our trains home :-)

The Famous Adelphi Hotel
The amazing library roof

I love this Library!!

Adelphi - nice but where are the Cream Teas????

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Daleks and Willow Trees

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Had an unexpected day off today :-) At the last minute I decided to take the day off - thanks Tracy for covering!! I really wanted to go somewhere to take a photo for the cover of my book - so that I can launch it on Amazon Kindle. I wanted a willow tree on the cover - for reasons that may become apparent if you read it! :-)

My first plan went somewhat awry when I asked the National Trust if I could take a picture outdoors at Biddulph Grange - and they said it would be better if I used one of their photos (I looked - they all had people on them - this book is set in the Victorian era!) If this wasn't suitable I could take my own photo - but they would charge and I would need public liability insurance to do it!

Westport Lake

Cute pigeon :-)
So instead I decided to go some where public and take a photo there. I found many willow trees just a few miles away at Westport Lake, What a beautiful place! There was so much wildlife too - we were watched by an inquisitive squirrel from his tree truck as we walked past and a pigeon sat on blinked at us as we stood close to him. There were so many ducks, geese, coots, swans and moorhens on the lake.

Every time we stopped to look at the view some came swimming up to us at speed hoping for food. We felt a bit bad for not having brought any bread - but I have just read that they ask you NOT to feed them bread as it doesn't have enough nutrients to keep them healthy. It is best to buy special food from the new Visitors Centre. We'll definitely do that next time!

Nathan took lots of photos for me - he is great at framing shots correctly. There are quite a few to choose from - so I will have to look through them all carefully. :-)

We walked round both the big lake and the small one. There were lots of people there - in fact there was a Race for Life going on too - as we saw lots of ladies in pink with the numbers on their backs.

It turned out to be quite a warm day - so we decided to go off to Nantwich to Snugburys Ice Cream Farm. You may have heard of it - every year the build an amazing straw sculpture in their field on the approach to the place. We had heard it was REALLY something this year!!

We could see it from the road - but when we got up close to it we realised that it actually lights up, moves and says "Exterminate" an awful lot!

Very impressive - it is made from five tons of steel and six tons of straw! It certainly is a great attraction - you should have seen the queue for ice cream. They were offering loads of flavours and a special "Da-Lick" ice cream which was a cone with three scoops of your choice - and a dalek wafer in the top and two mint choc arms sticking out of the front. Of curse - we couldn't resist that!

 Nathan had mint chocolate, chocolate brownie and death by chocolate in his (you may have spotted a theme there) and I chose honeycomb, banana caramel and my absolute favourite - rum and raisin. Yummy!!!!

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Edinburgh Festival

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We had a fab weekend at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival! It was so nice to catch up with Nathan's friend Danilo - who had kindly said we could stay with him for the weekend. The weather co-operated and it was fine and pretty hot some of the time. We set off up the M6 on Friday morning - then stopped at the country's favourite Service Station - Tebay.

 It's pretty nice to have a bit of lunch by a duck pond and then visit the farm shop afterwards. It made a nice break!  We carried on to Edinburgh - coming off the motorway over the border to take the scenic route. Saw a lot of wind turbines!

Lunch at Tebay
By afternoon we'd located Danilo's flat and managed to get a parking space in the next street. I like the sound of Orwell Place - not sure if George Orwell had connections with Edinburgh? There were a couple of roads named after him.

Then  we walked the thirty minutes or so into the centre of Edinburgh - which was packed with people and swelteringly hot! We had to pick up some tickets in the main festival box office in the High Street. It was so full of music and performers and all manner of dressed-up people trying to give us flyers for their shows - it was difficult to move!

Susan Calman
We had pre-booked tickets to see Susan Calman - and also the Festival of the Spoken Nerd - Full Frontal Nerdity. The first of these was early Friday evening - so we got the tickets and set off for the New Town to find the venue known as The Stand III. It turned out that it was in the basement of a hotel! We managed to get a nice cool cider full of ice in the hotel bar  - before going into the packed room below.

It was worth it - she was very funny. She's just come back from a trip to Venice on the Orient Express. I didn't realise that when you book a trip on that train you get a massive handbook through your door - all about the etiquette and dress code for the journey. Sounds wonderful!!

Nicely Chilled White :-)
When we emerged from that it was time to meet up with Danilo who had finished work and was on his way! We headed for the outdoor bars in George Square, where they were promoting a strange drink called Aperol - it was a liqueur made from oranges and apples - I think! The promo girl saw us waiting in the queue for the bar and told us that they'd run out of ice and the drink tasted "disgusting" without it. She offered us each a free pair of bright orange sunglasses if we would wait until the ice arrived. We waited for the sunglasses.....

We went off to another bar soon after and got a bottle of chilled white wine instead! Danilo suggested a very fine restaurant called Gusto, for dinner. There was a bit of a wait - but more wine in the bar waiting area went down well - until we got a table. It was worth the wait as the food was sublime! I tried calamari for the first time (well - just nicked a bit of Danilo's starter!) It wasn't as bad as I'd feared - nice and crispy in fact :-) I had chicken with polenta chips. It was lovely.

We did chat for quite a long time and it was after midnight when we finished and walked home.

Saturday was not quite so hot - but still no rain! We had some porridge made by Danilo - which was just gorgeous. He says you have to learn how to make porridge properly if you live in Scotland - but wouldn't divulge the secret recipe! He made it in a pan - not microwave - and I did see him put some butter in! It certainly set us up for a very busy day!

Busy Edinburgh - from upstairs at Garfunkels

We strolled into the city centre once more to see what was going on. We paused for a while to watch a very funny half-naked man with a red Mohawk haircut - juggle with a chainsaw. he was quite impressive - although he did remind me of Keith from the Prodigy in  his Firestarter days. We wandered through the main streets and squares, looking at the stalls in the Grass Market and by the time we decided to stop at Garfunkels for some early lunch we had a bag full of flyers to look through.

Just before we got there though we saw a Victorian-looking gentleman standing in front of us - with nothing in his hands. As each of us passed him though - he magically produced a calling card with the details of his show. We all decided there and then we'd have to go and see it.

We had also had a chat with a friendly chap with a coffin outside there. He told us about his play, on at 9.10pm that evening, in which a hypochondriac is tragically diagnosed with immortality. "It's a comedy - honest!" he said. We put that on our "to-see" list too!

Nick Hall - from Watford
After lunch we headed over to the Gilded Balloon venue - as that is where we were seeing the Full Frontal Nerdity later. We were once more accosted by a leafleter - who told us of a free show, starting in only 15 minutes in the pub across the road. It was a comedian who had been part of a comedy group called the Three Englishmen - but was now striking out on his own. We had nothing on - so went over, got ourselves drinks and stood (as the place was packed) to watch Nick Hall. He seemed a little nervous and was obviously used to performing in the evenings as he kept saying "tonight" instead of this afternoon. But once he got going he was very funny. Basically told us of his life so far - starting off in Watford where he was born and raised. It was very clever as at the end he managed to précis it all and give us a very positive message at the end. He was great - and got a big cheer after the hour was up. He passed a milk jug round for contributions :-)

In Rastamouse's Tent

We had a little time before the Victorian Magicians Morgan and West - so went to investigate what was going on in the BBC area in Potterow. We sat under the welcome shade of their big pink tent and watched the Rastamouse show. He made a brief appearance towards the end - but it was mainly embarrassed BBC employees singing and dancing and trying to get the little ones to join in. It as quite funny to watch :-)

We did get the "Make a little pie" song in our heads for the rest of the weekend though!

Morgan..or West...
Soon after that we were queueing outside the Dining Room in the Gilded Balloon, having our tickets checked, for the amazing Morgan and West.

As we entered the theatre there was one of them (sorry - not sure which is which..) sitting writing his journal on the stage. There was lots of magic - but the best thing about the show was that there was a story - and they were both very funny as well as being great magicians. Nathan told me afterwards that it said on the leaflet that they had won that show where magicians tried to trick Penn and Teller.

We liked it so much that we are thinking of going to see them again when they come to Stafford's Gatehouse Theatre on 2nd November. Want to come with us? It will be great!!

One funny part of the show was that they kept trying to sell us a tea towel with their names on as a souvenir. I guess they didn't do t-shirts in Victorian times! We liked it so much we bought one at the end :-) It has pride of place in our office now. No - we are not going to use it to dry up with!!

After that show it was very nearly time for the one that Nathan and Danilo had been looking forward to the most. Over in a lecture theatre at the University were the Spoken Nerds - consisting of a stand-up mathematician Matt Parker, a geeky songwriter Helen Arney and experiments maestro Steve Mould.

I have to say - as a non-scientist - it as very funny, especially when the experiments went wrong. I have yet to see a pickle plugged into the mains - as it fused when they tried it! Seems it would have gone yellow like a street light - I think!

It was really good and I think I kept up. Matt's binary scarf knitted by his mother was very impressive. There was just a joke at the end I was perplexed by - something to do with...I don't know. But it spelt out N E R D anyway. I think it was maths....
Definitely a good show - I would recommend it to anyone :-)

Yes - it really was a comedy!
By that time we were getting hungry and wondered if there was maybe a curry place in the centre of Edinburgh. Dan wasn't sure - but then we looked across the road and there was a man with a big sign saying Indian/Thai Restaurant this way. We followed the arrow and found ourselves above the High Street looking down on the crowds  and eating some very fine chicken satay and coconut rice, in my case.

We had ordered starters too - then realised that in less than 40 minutes we had to be across the road in time for the start of Life Sentence. The play about immortality.

Fun for all the Family!

We had to keep quiet and concentrate on eating - and we just made it across the road in time for.. well actually we were late. The play had started but they let us in quietly and we managed to get the last three seats. I don't think that we had missed much - we soon picked up what had happened and went with it. it was unusual - but very thought-provoking.

By now we had seen four very different and enjoyable shows - and we were too tired to stay out late. We walked home and went to bed!

Nathan and Danilo in Gusto

Me and Nathan in Gusto



The Forth rail Bridge
On Sunday morning, after porridge, we decided to go to South Queensferry for the morning before we went home.

Dan said we'd be able to see the Forth Bridge and maybe have lunch in a fish restaurant. We drove over there and it turned out to be a very pretty little village - houses all painted pastel colours. I did sneak a peek in through the library's window - to see how they had decorated it for the Creepy House Summer Reading Challenge. Could only spot a lame skeleton (not even life-size like ours!) and a cut-out picture of a witch.

Nat and Dan putting the world to rights :-)
It was a lovely place though - smelled salty and seaside-y. We had a walk and then gazed at the sea and the bridges. We had lunch at The Boat House, which had a lovely view over the sea. There was lots of fish on the menu - I had haddock and Nathan had fish cake. Scotland does very good food :-)

Sadly after that we had to get back on the motorway and wend our way back to England and home.

A Beautiful Day