Thursday, 31 October 2013

Mini Vampires and Tiny Witches

In case you haven't noticed today is Halloween.

Now usually this would mean frantic pumpkin carving, cake baking and candlelight. Tonight it will mean sitting in the dark and hoping no one calls. Now this isn't because of recent events or the fact I'm feeling a bit poorly but purely because I no longer have children of my own.

Spooky House 2005

When Andrew and Laurence were little I made cakes decorated with spiders webs and flies or marzipan gravestones. I put on my witch costume, which I still have, messed up my hair, doesn't take much, and do my scary make up. Then we'd wait and watch as various witches, wizards, and ghosts stumbled up the drive way with bags and buckets. We never went trick or treating as I disagree with it but I made sure my boys didn't feel left out by letting them dress up and giving them buckets and each time someone came to the door they got a sweet too.

Their biggest pleasure was my pumpkin though. I was pretty nifty in the carving and costume creation department thanks to my art background and the unveiling come dusk always drew gasps of delight. On one particular Halloween we got a knock on the door and expecting kids I opened it to find a well dressed city gent standing on my doorstep. He'd called to say how wonderful my pumpkin was and how he looked forward to seeing my next one. Yep, I was the pumpkin queen of Harlington for a brief period of time.

Graveyard 2007

However time have changed. My boys are grown up and neither will be here tonight and the strength in my hands no longer stretches to wielding a very sharp knife safely. I have bought a bucket of sweets though, just in case the odd fairy decides to try their luck but mostly I'm hoping for a quiet night.

So how am I, well I'm pleased to say I'm feeling better in all senses of the word.

I woke up this morning able to breathe without feeling as though my ribs were encased in iron. My cough has improved and my bunged up head has cleared.Thank goodness for antibiotics.

Emotionally things have improved too. The raw grief has passed and I'm feeling a lot happier, if that is the right word, about my decision. Sometimes I think grief is mostly guilt. To end the life of a much loved and loving pet is an awful thing to do but it is the final loving act you can perform for someone you love. Although the deep sadness remains there are chinks of light popping through and I'm concentrating on the funny, loving Tarmac, not the sad, ill one.

One thing Tarmac's death has shown me though is that no matter how deep or dark the tunnel there is always that pinhole of light if you look for it.

Witch 2008

The trip out yesterday did me the world of good. It was a mostly sunny, if not chilly day but in the car I was lovely and warm and shooting through the countryside with my camera on my lap allowed me to think of something else for a while. Sadly it didn't do much for Peter who has caught my cold and is himself coughing and sneezing all over the place. At least I hope it is my cold otherwise I'm in trouble.

Kath is still doing well though she had a slip on the stairs yesterday, almost giving her husband heart failure. It was nothing serious though and by her own admission came about by trying to do too much too soon. That is going to be my problem too. I just know that as soon as I start feeling better I'll be asking my body to do things it just can't cope with. That's the problem when you feel ill all the time, as soon as you feel the slightest bit 'normal' you go and overdo it and make yourself ill again.

I had two items of news yesterday which did bring me down a bit.

The first was from the Brompton to say they would not be getting the new drug they promised me until 'sometime in January' which means another two or three months wait before I'm free from the tyranny of daily drug prep. I'm more sad than annoyed as I was really looking forward to the new freedom it was going to give me. I was even eying up the autumn theatre programmes knowing that it would take me just five minutes to change my drug over rather than the 50 - 60 minutes it takes me now.

The second was from the Civil Service politely enquiring whether I was still alive as my pension was due to be released in two years time. Apparently I still qualify for an early pension under the old rules so could take it from the age of fifty five or I could defer it until sixty if I preferred.

This got me thinking. Without transplant I definitely won't make it to sixty. There is a chance I'll still be here at fifty five, if a slim one. And if I am still here then I probably won't still be working so an early pension would come in handy. On the other hand if I get my transplant there is every chance I'll make it into my seventies but I doubt very much that I'd want to waste a minute of my time working, so again, an early pension would come in very handy. So I've written off confirming my continued existence and asking for forecasts for both scenario's. After all I've worked continually since I was eighteen, only taking time off to have the boys, so I think I'm entitled to a bit of payback.

Well I have to go. Svet is going home this afternoon so we are having an early lunch before taking her to the airport. I'm going to miss her, she has been lovely to have around and I'm already looking forward to her next visit in January.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

A Tale of Two Kitties

I'd like to say thank you for all the support and kind messages I've received since Monday. They are very welcomed and it is lovely to see how many people understand.

The sun is shining on Tarmac this morning and if I close my eyes I can see him stretched out warming his tummy. When I woke up this morning, for a few delicious seconds, I'd forgotten so when I felt a sudden weight on the end of the bed I braced myself for the paw on my face and the cold nose touching mine. The weight stayed on the end of the bed though and when I pulled the covers back there was Smirnoff washing his tail.

Tarmac loved showing off his rather ample tummy.

Poor Smirnoff, he's a bit confused by all the extra attention he's getting.

Unlike Tarmac Smirnoff is very independent and is not a 'cuddly' cat. I won't say he's not affectionate because that would be wrong but he likes to express it in different ways. He won't sit on your lap but will sit beside you on the settee. He won't lie pressed against you on the bed but is happy on your feet. And he most definitely doesn't like being picked up and cuddled. Smirnoff shows his love by 'talking' to you with a series of squeaks and meows. He loves being groomed and will purr like a drain when you brush him nudging you leg with his head when you've done. And he is stoic when being cried on, which is a massive help.

Put. Me. Down. Now!
Some well meaning people have suggested the best way to dull the pain is to get another cat but it is far too soon. Besides I already have another cat but as much as I love him he can never replace Tarmac because Tarmac was most definitely 'MY' cat. So if Smirnoff cannot replace him how can a stranger? Added to that is the fact that Smirnoff is also elderly, only a couple of weeks separate them. I don't think it would be fair on Smirnoff to introduce a lively, bouncy kitten to the house. So for now we are staying a one cat family.

So how am I doing? Well exhaustion finally did it's thing and I had a long peaceful night. I've been force fed an omlette and have picked at some fruit. I'm crying less but when it comes it has the force and intensity that shakes my body until it hurts. I had a cleaning frenzy yesterday when everyone was out and was roundly told off when Peter got back. On the plus side the antibiotics seem to be kicking in and I'm feeling less raw and breathless this morning.

A brief lull in hostilities

I've decided to write this week off work wise. I'm not physically, emotionally or mentally in the right place to be dealing with other people's problems.

Later today Peter it going to take me out for a little drive. He thinks the distraction will help and I think he might be right, we'll see.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Funeral For A Friend

We buried Tarmac in the back garden this morning. Well when I said 'we' I mean Peter and Andrew as I just couldn't bring myself to stand in the garden and watch as he was put into the cold earth and covered over. They've put him in a sunny spot near the Silver Birch where he used to lie and sunbathe. It's a nice spot and I can see it from the kitchen window so will always be able to keep an eye on things. In the spring I'm going to plant a rose on the spot as a marker.

Sleeping in the sun
The trip to the vet was not as bad as I expected it to be. The vet was a new one, someone I hadn't seen before but she was so caring. I was a completely mess before I even got in there because in my heart of hearts I knew Tarmac would not be coming home alive.

He was throughly and gently examined and then the vet told us that his cancer had grown and she could now feel two other lumps. She gave us our options which were a course of steroids and antibiotics which might perk him up and keep him going for another few days or to end it there and then, before he really began to suffer. We were left alone for five minutes to discuss the situation but both Peter and I agreed immediately that we had to do what was right for him.

He was taken through to another room where a canula was put in his leg and I was allowed to cuddle him as the drug was injected. It was a quick and easy death and I knew I'd done the right thing when I saw all the pain leave his eyes and his face relaxed from the 'clenched' look he'd had over the last few hours. I also take comfort in the fact that the last thing he felt was me stroking him and the last thing he heard was me telling him how much I loved him.

Caught up to mischief
We wrapped him his blanket and put him back in the cat carrier where he stayed in the garage until this morning.

I haven't stopped crying yet. I have moments when I think I'm going to be fine and then something will set me off, walking up the stairs and not seeing him curled up by the airing cupboard. Watching TV and not having him on my lap. Waking up this morning and not feeling that little furry body pressed up against me.

Tarmac has been with my for my whole PH journey. He's lain beside me on days when I can't get out of bed. I've cried millions of tears into his soft fur when scared or ill. He's punished me for leaving him after a spell in hospital only to stick to me like glue for days afterwards. He's made me cry but he's made me laugh much more, from falling off the fence or down the stairs to walking into the French doors thinking they were open.

Tarmac has been my constant companion for fifteen years and I shall miss him everyday. He wasn't the brightest spark but his heart was bigger than anything I've even known. He knew I loved him and I know he loved me with such devotion he must have been part dog.

Asking for a tummy tickle

For the moment I'm devastated. I'm not eating, I can't settle, my lungs are on fire from the mixture of infection and crying and I know Peter is very worried about me. Life goes on though and I know the raw pain of grief will pass and I'll begin to remember only the good happy times.

I know there will be people out there going 'it's only a cat' but he was more to me than that and I know true cat lovers will understand. If you don't then please respect my grief.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Tough Love

Well I don't know what happened to the storm of the century but it didn't visit my village.

Yes we had some heavy rain and a bit of wind but nothing like the raging storm we'd been promised. That's the trouble with this country, we like to big things up and send people into a panic when there really is no need. Yes there were trees downed and there was flooding but nothing on the scale predicted and in all I think we got off quite lightly. However the travel companies have added to the 'chaos' by cancelling trains, grounding aircraft and generally buying into the whole 'it's going to be a disaster' culture whipped up by the media.

That sounded a bit grumpy but then I'm a bit grumpy this morning. I had to ring in sick as my cold has now descended to my chest and I'm coughing up gunk like there's no tomorrow. I'm so sick of my body where, unlike the weather, even the mildest cold turns into a major problem in the blink of an eye. I've tried to get rid of it, I was in bed by seven in an effort to sleep it off, though I'd already rung in sick by then so there was little point. The race is now on to get back to work by the weekend.

However my early night did not turn out as restful as I'd hoped. Within half an hour I heard a cat being sick and found Tarmac had hurled all over the spare bedroom floor. On my own in the house I had no choice but to get my gloves, bucket and cleaning liquid and sort it out. I'd only just finished when I heard a yowling from our bedroom and walked in to find Tarmac taking a wee on our carpet. This alternate vomiting and weeing went on for a further hour and I was on the point of calling the vet when he stopped as suddenly as he started. Thoroughly awake now I took a quick shower and got dressed ready to take off if he started up again.

I decided to call the emergency vet anyway and quick consult confirmed my worst fear. Tarmac had been diagnosed with cancer almost exactly a year ago and I was told he had weeks at most. We were sent home with me tearfully promising to bring him back if he showed any signs of pain or discomfort. Amazingly he rallied and was soon charging around the house like a two year old and fighting with Smirnoff so I put 'cancer' to the back of my mind and we got on with it. There was the occasional vomiting session but it didn't seem to bother him and he never seemed in pain so I left it for a few more weeks, and then a few more. Let me say here and now if there had been the slightest sign of distress I'd have been back at the vet in heartbeat. I would never let an animal suffer.

The advice I got was to keep him in overnight and monitor him. If he started up again or displayed any other odd behaviour I was to ring again and bring him straight in. I spent an uneasy night getting up and down to check under the rocking chair. Each time he was sleeping peacefully and I found myself hoping he'd pass peacefully in his sleep. By the morning, with no signs of any more vomiting, he was still there and for one brief moment I thought it had happened. Then he lifted his head and his eyes said it all. He struggled to his feet and wobble unsteadily to the bed, I picked him up and cuddled him gently, pressing my cheek onto the hard little head and I cried my heart out.

And so as I write this I'm bracing myself for the inevitable. I have an appointment and in my heart of hearts I know it will be his last. I've selfishly delayed just for a few more hours with him. I'm sorry I'm going to have to stop. The tears are falling so fast I can no longer see what I'm typing.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Strictly Stormy

My cold is at it's hiatus and has not improved or deteriorated overnight so I'm hopeful that I've turned the corner and am on the mend. There is still a massive question mark over work tomorrow but that can't be answered until later or even tomorrow morning.

Yesterday's trip out didn't help as much as I'd hope and instead of feeling revived and clear headed on my return, as I had on Friday, I just felt cold, shivery and miserable. I sulked through the rest of the day constantly sneezing, coughing and moaning about how rough I felt. I must have been off because I rarely complain but just couldn't stop myself. I did have a really good night's sleep though so that was helpful.

What is worrying me about my cold is my lack of appetite. I just do not want to eat. I'm drinking plenty but food just isn't cutting it. I've bought some raspberries and blueberries to snack on in the hope the sudden burst of vitamin C will improve things but they are hardly going to help with my little weight problem. However I do have a treacle toffee sponge sitting in the fridge, which might well be brought into service if I improve later today.

Storm clouds gathering over Harlington

Today is going to be one of sitting on the settee picking at fruit and drinking vast quantities of tea, honey and lemon and Complan. Andrew and Svet are going into London to see the sights as they didn't manage to cover everything on their last trip, so I have the house more or less to myself. They've promised to be back by early eveing though as tonight we are expecting 'The Storm', da, da, dah!

Yes a storm is forming in the Atlantic and is set to sweep over most of the country from midnight tonight. Why do these things always happen at night? The weathermen have been sending out increasingly panicked bulletins about strapping down any garden furniture and having your insurance company on speed dial.

I think we are in for a shower.

Now here in sleepy Bedfordshire we don't usually take much notice of things like severe weather warnings. The rest of the country can be knee deep in snow, water or hail stones and we get a light shower, we call it the 'Bedfordshire Bubble'. However this time Bedfordshire is right in the middle of the 'red zone' where the highest wind and heaviest rain is expected. I have a feeling it's going to be an interesting night. My heart goes out to our emergency services, they are going to be run off their feet.

And talking of interesting nights.....

Strictly Watch

Hurray! Dave has ditched the penguin suit and is back to his funny, uncoordinated, out of time best. The judges fought hard to keep straight faces while giving their critique but it was a losing battle and even Craig, fresh from his replacement hip op, couldn't stop grinning.

Others that impressed me were Patrick, despite having his wrist strapped up after an accident in rehearsals, Mark, though this week he was deadly serious, and Fiona, who for once didn't mess up.

Down at the bottom was Rachel who still seemed to be smarting from being in the bottom two last week. Unfortunately she failed to impress and got a roasting for her paso. I don't know what's happened with her. She started so well but all the energy and fight has gone out of her over the last couple of weeks.

Deborah was better than last week's jive but I found her dance a bit plody. Suzanna failed to impress too, which surprised me.

Top three this week Patrick, Abbey and Mark. Down at the bottom dear Hairy Dave, Rachel, Deborah and Ben, who despite improving has the ability to make every dance look the same. In the dance off by rights it should be Dave but I think the public will keep him out of the bottom two for at least one more week. The minute he does go into the dance off he'll be gone and Strictly will lose one of it's shining stars and great entertainers.

So I think it could be Rachel and Deborah with Rachel going.

Right time to watch the Grand Prix, India this week. I'm not that bothered to be honest as the odds are on that Vettel will win and become world champion, again. The only person who could stop him is Alonso but he has to win. What a choice, my two least favourite drivers. This is going to be one race I'm not going to enjoy.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Being 'In The Way' at Pizza Hut

My cold is progressing apace and my head feels like it is about to explode but so far my chest remain clear.

I'm doing everything I can to minimise the effects and am wafting around in a cloud of Olbas Oil and downing pints of honey and lemon, home made of course. Oh for the days when I could take a pharmacy's worth of cold remedies and stay upright enough to stagger into work. Not anymore, like everyone on a whole range of prescribed drugs I'm limited to old fashioned remedies, which frankly don't work but do act as a distraction while you are making them. All I can do is sit it out. 

Presents from Bulgaria
I went out yesterday as I always find being out of the house clears my head and I must say I didn't feel too bad. However the experience I had at the hands of what I can only describe as a blonde, dumpy, sour faced cow certainly made me wish I'd stayed at home. I can't be bothered to write it all out again so here is an extract of the complaint now winging it's way to Pizza Hut.

'Our first experience took place approximately four weeks ago, I’m sorry I do not have the exact date, and was very good. I’m disabled and although I can walk short distances, I usually get about on a custom made mobility trike that is so small it fits inside a cricket bag. We were welcomed at the door by a smiling waitress who asked how mobile I was and gave us a seat as close to the buffet and disabled toilet as she could. She then put my trike next to the till where it ‘would be out of the way and I can keep an eye on it.’ My whole experience was wonderful and I was treated with courtesy, compassion and care.

I so wish my experience yesterday, 25th, had been as good. Please keep in mind that we were visiting on the same day of the week and at the same time of day, around midday. On this occasion I had my husband, son and his girlfriend with me and I had recommended this restaurant to them based on my previous experience.

We were greeted at the door by an unsmiling blonde who looked at my scooter and sighed heavily. She then led us to a table as far from the buffet and the disabled toilet as she could get. When my husband objected asking how I was supposed to serve myself from that distance she said, ‘I’m just putting you somewhere where you wont be in the way. Its half term and we are going to get very busy soon.’

After further objection she very reluctantly led us back to the area where we'd been seated on my previous visit. We were given a table, again some distance from the buffet but not out of my walking range. When we requested the trike be tucked away by the till, as it had been previously, she refused stating that a chair was in the way which, for some reason, she refused to move. My husband was forced to take the trike and park it outside. This upset me as I was worried throughout our meal that my only means of getting around would be stolen as we hadn't brought the lock with us not anticipating any problems.'

It was a totally horrible and humiliating experience and it will be a long time before I darken their doors again. I was so distressed that when I ran into two colleagues from work afterwards I completely forgot Shaun's name, which distressed me even more. I just wanted the ground to open up and swallow me. Fortunately for me he is a really nice chap and forgave me.

My present to Svet

The rest of the afternoon was great though as we visited all my favourite shops. I resisted buying anything  but have come up with a few things I can hint about for Christmas. I did weaken when I saw an enormous tub of sweeties. My excuse it that they are for Halloween, I bought a similar tub last year and had loads over. Two birds, one stone, if this lot doesn't help my weight I don't know what will. At the moment sucking on a lollypop is helping my sore throat too, so maybe that should be three birds.

Talking about presents, Svet bought me some lovely things from Bulgeria. A bag of crystals, note books, chocolate and a cat calender. We are very alike in our tastes and she always gets it spot on. Andrew says she is equally delighted with the things I get her. This time a carved box in which to store and burn incense, with some fragrances inside, she was delighted I'm happy to say.

Oh yum!

So time to feed my family. Going out again this afternoon to try and get some fresh air but I suspect it won't be for long as I'm really feeling a bit poorly today.

One thing is guaranteed to cheer my up though. Hairy Dave is doing the Salsa on Strictly tonight. Can't wait!

Friday, 25 October 2013


I went to bed last night thinking I'd caught a cold and woke up this morning sure I had. Runny nose, sneezing and a slightly sore throat. Thankfully nothing on the chest yet but I have the antibiotics on standby just in case. I'm a bit annoyed as I've only just cleared one bug and now, wham! I've got another. I can't blame anyone at work though as the one person with a cold this week has studiously kept as far away from me as she could. Of course that is not guarantee of staying well as there are still the communal areas, such as the canteen, to worry about. However there is no use pondering over the cause, I've now got to put all my energy into getting rid of it before Monday.

The news on Kath is that she is home and doing well. Thank goodness. Seeing how well she looks makes me want my transplant even more. Waiting is so trying but it is all I can do.

Andrew's girlfriend Svet is with us for a few days. We picked her up from the airport yesterday morning and she has settled in nicely. Today we are taking her to Milton Keynes and subjecting her to Pizza Hut's lunch time buffet as I don't feel up to cooking.

The week has been a hard one, one way or another, with a very unsettled atmosphere due to all the uncertainty about shifts and collaboration. There are some very unhappy people around and the once lovely fun working environment has degraded to an atmosphere of resentment and anger. It's so sad.

Other than that it's been the usual slog of going to work, getting back from work and spending the evening sleeping in front of the TV. Gosh, I lead such an exciting life!

Tuesday night was a bit different though. I'd gone to bed early, around ten past nine, and was sitting up in bed reading. Peter was out and not expected back until after ten. I suddenly heard a loud bang coming from the back of the house. Several other bangs followed in quick succession and I really thought someone was trying to get in through the back doors. It they were then they were definitely up to no good as you cannot get into our garden unless you climb over the fence, it has no opening to to road.

I suddenly realised how vulnerable I was. A disabled woman alone, there was no way I was going to be able to fight anyone breaking in and for the first time in my life I was frightened in my own home. So what to do? I didn't want to call the police. I live in a remote village and it would take them ages to get here, besides until I knew for sure something was up I wasn't going to waste their time. I thought about calling Peter and was on the point of doing so when I heard a howling sound, then the lights started to go up and down and there was thunder and lightening. I breathed a sigh of relief, the noise must be next doors bins banging against the fence. It has happened before in windy weather but not to such an extent.

The storm vanished as quickly as it had arrived and left behind torrential rain, a sound I love. So I settled down turned off the light and drifted off to sleep.

This was a wake up call as when fit I'd have tackled anyone trying to get in, I did once, and I'd win. My weakness is a source of great anxiety and frustration as I know I'm in no position now to defend myself.

Bloody PH! It takes away you quality of life, you ability to travel, walk, or climb stairs. And now I can't even protect myself. Roll on transplant, I want my life back. I want to be me again! And I want it now!

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Strictly Lying In

Finally I've managed to get that most needed lie in. Without Papworth, flu jabs or work to worry about I not only had an uninterrupted night but managed to make it until eight thirty before being woken up by Tarmac wanting his breakfast.

Before I go any further an update on Kath. She was allowed home this weekend, only overnight but it's a start. If things continue to go to plan, and I see no reason why not, she will be allowed home for good at the end of next week. I am so thrilled for her. No one, least of all Kath, expects a clear path over the next few weeks and months. There are bound to be bumps, some big and some small, and it is going to take some getting used to being well again. However for Kath the miracle happened and I'm just praying I have an equally smooth ride when my turn comes.

The flu jab passed without incident, though the nurse giving it could have been a darts player and I've suffered no ill effects apart from a stiff arm. So another year another jab and all is well, thank goodness.

Andrew's home this weekend and is preparing for his first night shift on Monday. This preparation means staying up until five or six in the morning and sleeping the day away. To be fair it's no different to his behaviour when he was sixteen. Of course it means I don't get to chat to him as much and the only real indication that he is at home is the pile of dirty dishes in the sink each morning, no, he still hasn't managed to locate the dishwasher, and the motorbike gear strewn everywhere. However he's home and safe and being well fed, indicated by the way supplies are disappearing from the fridge/freezer, and I'm a happy bunny.

Today I'm taking it easy. True, I have some ironing to do but it isn't much and is mostly my uniform for work. I've planned ahead and prepared a massive cawl (Welsh Stew) that I bunged in the slow cooker and Andrew turned on before going to bed this morning. So the only cooking I have to do is make up the dumplings and sling them into the pot twenty minutes before serving. There will be loads left and Andrew will take some back to uni with him so he will have something hot to eat before going on shift. I will leave a portion out for him this evening and the rest will go in the freezer, though I might take some into work with me tomorrow.

In the news Eastenders viewing figures fell to less than five million this week and was beaten by the Antiques Roadshow for heavens sake.

Now I've watch this programme from the very first episode but it has lost it's appeal recently and if it were not for the fact it is on while I'm having my evening snack I wouldn't watch it at all. The main problem is that it has lost touch with reality in a big way. There were always the little niggles, mostly caused by filming six weeks ahead, such as snow falling when it is 20C outside, or characters walking into the pub in bright sunshine only to emerge, in EE time, ten minutes later into pitch black night.

However the big, big problem this week was Sam's kidney transplant. A week ago Sam and Dexter were in hospital where Dexter was donating a kidney and Sam was receiving one. Now this story was marred from the beginning by the fact Sam never mentioned dialysis once, when everyone knows, if your kidneys are not working dialysis will keep you going until a match can be found. This was totally ignored, probably to add tension to the storyline, and only managed to annoy me and several of my friends. The transplant happened on Friday 11th and Dexter nearly bled to death while Sam seemed to recover without any transplant medication being applied. This Friday, the 18th, Dexter was lying on the sofa, at home, still recovering from his ordeal while Sam was in the pub with a drink in his hand, admittedly a soft drink but even so. Anyone involved with transplants would tell you that he wouldn't even be allowed out after just one week. It takes longer than that just to stabilise the anti rejection medication. And no matter how close a match you are still going to need that at the very least.

You'd have thought the BBC would have learned from their Holby City fiasco when the mother of the donor got into the operating theatre to see the recipient, but no. The BBC seems absolutely intent on portraying transplant as inaccurately as possible. Do they not realise that some people take what they see on TV as gospel? I can guarantee there will be at least one person awaiting transplant out there who now think it's a doddle and that they will be home in a couple of days. How irresponsible can you get? I'd complain but I don't care enough about Eastenders enough these days to bother.

Strictly Watch

Well the star of the show this week has to be Mark. Not only was he dressed in gold lame and was dancing to one of my all time favourite songs from the 80's, yes really, I love MC Hammer, but he put on a brilliant performance. Mark just gets better and better and is it my imagination or is he losing weight?

Biggest disappointment, and I have to say this, even though it saddens me to the core, was Hairy Dave.

No longer as hairy as he was he's been spruced up, oiled, trimmed, tanned, forced into a suit the made him look like a stuffed penguin. Unfortunately this meant he'd lost the quintessential 'Dave', and although he got a higher score I found his dance a bit boring.

In fact I was disappointed by quite a few of the competitors this week. Deborah managed a jive without one kick or flick. Fiona almost fell over. Julian, well you are never going to make him look manly. And Suzanna looked like she had been electrocuted.

The biggest laugh and most interesting moment of the week was Bruno falling off his chair with laughter as the Judges talked about Rachel's bottom, a bit personal I thought.

At the top remains Patrick, Natalie and Abbey, though out of those three Patrick was my absolute favourite, though I do wish he'd stop pulling those stupid faces.

The final shock of the night was the dress Tess Daly wore. I absolutely loved it.

So for the dance off I see Julian, Deborah, Dave and possibly Fiona, though I think the later two have enough public support to keep them going for another week. If Julian is in the dance off this week he will go, unless he is up against Dave, as despite the public loving him the judges just want him gone.

Next blog Friday.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Canterbury Catherdral

Had my flu jab today and I think the nurse must have been in a bad mood. The way she hurled that syringe into my arm you'd swear she was practicing for an international darts tournament. Still it's all done and dusted now and with a bit of luck I will avoid the worst of the nasties flying around this winter.

So back to my trip to Canterbury.

This notice on the Bell and Crown Pub made me laugh.

After a good breakfast of sausages, beans and scrambled egg. Yes, I did managed to eat it all though of course with me it wasn't as impressive as it sounds. I'm talking about one sausage, a tablespoon of beans and the same of egg and I found even that a struggle. It was more than I usually had for breakfast though and I left the table feeling proud of myself if not a little nauseous.  The kids had left by then but their presence was still around in the piles of dirty plates and dropped food everywhere. Everyone looked a little sleep deprived and I'm guessing everyone was hoping they would not be returning.

A Beautiful view of the river

As promised it was dry and sunny when we left the hotel but blowing a gale and bitterly cold. Fortunately I'd predicted it would be a bit nippy so had packed my thermals and some warm jumpers for the trip. Wrapped up like Nanook of the North I ventured out and nearly got blown off my feet by a sudden gust of wind. We drove into the town center and found parking without any trouble at all.

Part of the old wall

Because rain had been promised later that day we decided to do the city walk in the morning and visit the cathedral in the afternoon. A plan that couldn't have worked better as it turned out. The city walk takes in some of the more noteworthy houses and landmarks and most of the city walls. You start outside the cathedral gate and you end there so pretty handy for us. I would recommend the walk but don't rely on the guide given by the tourist information place to tell you anything. All it does really is tell you where to go. We had to use our phones a lot to find out what it was we were looking at.

Canterbury Castle

We we not far into our walk when we came across the castle. Mostly gone now, and what's left in ruins, there was still enough there for some great pictures. I was absolutely delighted to find that wooden walk ways had been put up to make it easier for those of us on wheels. We spent at least twenty minutes there, probably longer and we were the only ones there. Clearly this place is not on the top of the 'things to do' list for most visitors, but I found it fascinating. I won't describe everything I saw but I've added as many pictures as I could to this blog. You can find more on my Flickr, link on the right.

Sculpture outside the Marlowe Theatre

They guide says you can do the walk in an hour but it took us nearer two with all the picture taking and Internet research along the way. I like to know what I'm looking at not just admire it because it's odd or pretty. So by the time we arrived back at the cathedral gate we were starving so went in search of lunch. You will not find any fast food places in the town center, thank goodness, but that doesn't mean you are going to starve. There are loads of cafes, pubs and restaurants offering up everything from Italian, Chinese and Thai to good old pub grub. Beware though, we went into one pub which was charging way over the odds. Six pounds for a bowl of soup and no main meals under twelve pound. A bit pricey when all you want is a light snack.

This oddly angled house is supposedly Mr Wickfield's
house in David Copperfield

In the end we settled on a small cafe called Brunch not far from the cathedral entrance and were so impressed we went back the next day. I got a big, and I mean big, bowl of delicious soup, and around half a loaf of brown bread to dip in it, for half the price the pub was charging. In the end with Peter's cheese and ham toastie and a lot of tea and coffee we spend around eleven pounds, cheaper than Burger King and much, much nicer.
Christ Church Gate, then entrance to the cathedral

We got another pleasant surprise when paying to enter the cathedral. I was charged half price and, as my carer, Peter got in free. I was so impressed by the help I got in the cathedral. There were people on hand to help me up and down stairs and basically they catered to my every whim. Anything I wanted or needed there was someone there to help, a lot of places could learn a thing or two from the people working here.

Canterbury Cathedral

The first thing we did was take a tour around the building itself. It was in the process of being cleaned and some of the most weathered stone was being replaced so some of it looked more like a building sight. However it was absolutely magnificent and the restored part was truly beautiful. However I'd run into a bit of a problem. The gale from this morning had gathered strength whilst we were eating and was now howling. I'd already had trouble keeping my camera steady in the wind during our walk, now it was being whipped around and shaken and there was very little I could do to stop it. I no longer have the strength in my arms I once did and find my camera heavy at the best of times. This situation wasn't helped by the fact the wind was getting through my layers and I was feeling very cold and therefore shivering. So I apologise in advance for the photos not being as sharp as they could be.

The clean bit.

Once inside, I had to enter around the back because of the steep steps at the entrance, I was entranced by the beauty and the size of the building. Now I'm not a religious person but there was definitely something special about this place. With help I got to see most of the interior with only a few places that were completely off limits and I was allowed to take photos everywhere except the crypt, which was a shame because it was my favourite part.

Some of the arches

The crypt is only lit by candles or very dim bulbs as it is here the oldest wall painting are found and they really are something special. I can't believe the colours are still so vibrant in places. You are not allowed to talk above a whisper either which adds to the sense of being somewhere very holy. It was in the crypt that I lit a candle for Anne, Kath and all those awaiting transplant, myself included of course.

The pulpit

At the back of the crypt there is one area of bright light which is where all the precious silver is on display. Again well worth seeing if you don't mind being watched by security the whole time. It is here that they display their most prized exhibit, a piece of bone believed to be from the skull of Thomas Becket. Don't get too excited though as it is so small you need a magnifying glass to see it. This sliver of bone was found under the alter where he was murdered so I'm guessing it's a good bet it really is his but I found it a bit weird. Even stranger was one of the guards/assistants sidling over to tell us that if we wanted to see more of Becket 'the Catholic church down the way has a whole finger'. Eww!

The one thing that did disappoint was the monument to Thomas Becket. It was so hidious I didn't even bother to take a photo. Really disappointing.

The chapter house ceiling

It was beginning to rain as we left the cathedral so we headed back to the hotel for a rest and a meds change before we ventured out to a lovely Italian restaurant called Posillipo. The food was absolutely delicious but by now I was feeling very tired so was unable to finish my meal. I would got back there in a heartbeat given the chance though. Highly Recommended.

Looking towards the Trinity Chapel

Thankfully the only coach party at the hotel was packed with OAP's so we fell into bed around ten and slept soundly until seven the following morning.

Close up of one of the many columns

I'll continue with my story tomorrow. I hope you don't find this account too boring and I hope you like the pictures. Again sorry for the quality of some of them. I'm hoping this time next year I can go back on my own tow feet and get some better ones.

Just realised it's Strictly tonight! Yay!

Friday, 18 October 2013

Visiting Kath

Well it's been a bit of a week all in all.

I've spent the whole time at work worried that I was coming down with something as I found it hard to breathe and I had a bit of a cough. However it must be something in the air there because one day at home and I'm feeling better. How Strange!

Today I visited Papworth with a mixture of dread and excitement. Dread because I'm always convinced they will find something that knocks me off the transplant list. Excitement because I would be visiting Kath after my clinic.

The clinic was running late as usual and, although my appointment was for ten, it was almost eleven before I got in to see the consultant. I spent some of the time whilst waiting running around getting blood tests and x rays and the rest sorting through the magazines where I found this little beauty. I must admit I came over all childish and laughed like a drain. When I was called into see the doctor I had a hard time containing myself as I couldn't stop giggling.

Unfortunately I was sobered up quite quickly. The was some good news but there was also bad news. On the bad side he concurred with Brompton in that there had been a downward turn in the last couple of months. The doctor was not unduly concerned though as he said it was unusual that I'd remained stable for so long anyway. He approved of the plan to change and increase my medication and hoped that would be enough to render me stable for another year or so, though 'hopefully we will get you transplanted before then'. It's always that word 'hopefully' and it's getting on my nerves.

On the good side I have finally hit eight stone or approximately fifty kilos and pushed my BMI up to nineteen. Although the doctor was pleased with this he said I was still under weight and he'd like to see me add a further half a stone and push my BMI up to twenty before he'd be fully happy. My weight problems are not bad enough to exclude me from transplant but the more weight I put on prior to the operation the easier my recovery will be. It makes sense but it would be a whole lot easier if I didn't have a drug that makes me feel constantly sick. Still I'm going in the right direction so it may not be totally impossible.

Then I was off to see Kath. I was doubting being able to see her yesterday due to feeling a bit off but the tests in the clinic showed up no problems so I was allowed in. Oh my goodness, I've never seen anyone looking so healthy. If you didn't know what she'd been through these past few weeks, and just saw her in the street, you'd never guess she's just three weeks post transplant. Kath gave me a hug which unnerved me a bit, as I didn't want to hurt her by hugging back, and then we sat and chatted. I'd only been given five minutes because it wasn't official visiting time but I think we managed to stretch it out to ten or maybe fifteen minutes in the end. It was obvious from the start that Kath was really, really happy and I felt tears coming as I shared in her delight. I found the visit very moving, very inspirational and, overall, too brief. We have agreed to meet for coffee when Kath can drive again as we are not that far away from each other. I am so looking forward to that day.

On the way home, and bearing in mind my 'put on weight' order, we stopped at KFC for lunch and then Tesco's where I stocked up on sweets, crisps and Complan. Of course I also added fruit and veg to the basket and guess what will be eaten first. I just can't help myself. Still when you think back to this time last year when I was barely eating at all I've improved and that has to be a good thing overall. I'm just hoping these new meds don't upset the apple cart and put me back down again.

Well I have a can of coke and a packet of hula hoops waiting while I catch up on my soaps. More tomorrow when I will continue my tale of Canterbury.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

The Trip Down to Canterbury

Well I'm back and it looks like I brought the weather with me, sorry.

I have had a magical few days despite the weather trying to intervene. There were a few hiccups along the way, more of those in this and later blogs, but all in all it was a very good trip. I'd love to put everything in one blog but it would be very long and very boring so I'm going to split it up a little bit over the next few blogs.

We set off on Wednesday morning around 0930 and arrived at Canterbury at midday, there was a bit of a hold up on the M25 but isn't there always. I must say from the outset Canterbury is very accommodating to disabled people. There are loads of disabled parking right in the town center including a purpose built car park with a toilet block attached. We didn't once have problems parking no matter how late we got into town. Most of the shops and attractions were very good with access too. There were only two things that spoilt it. One was the street cafe's, there a lot of these and the tables and chairs made staying on the pavement impossible. The other was the boards advertising pub grub etc that also blocked the pavements. On the other hand the main street and a lot of the side streets are pedestrians only so I could use the road without fear of getting squashed. Beware of the cobbled streets though. There are a lot of these and at some points I thought my teeth were going to come out of my head with the shaking as I rode over them.

The first thing that struck us was how unique the shops were, there was no Tesco's or Boots or WHSmith on the main street, these are all confined to a modern shopping center a short walk away. Instead you got lots of individual shops selling everything weird and wonderful. There was even a shop dedicated to witchcraft, which I found rather strange in such a holy city. We popped into a taco bar for a quick lunch and then set about getting our bearings and planning what to do on our first full day. The other thing that struck us was how empty it was. There were no crowds, yes there were a few school and OAP trips going on but they were being marched around by guides and were no trouble to us.

We found the tourist information place in an art gallery on the High Street and went in to pick up leaflets about what to do and took time out to tour the gallery while we were there. Around five we left the city and went to check in at the hotel, this was not such a pleasant experience. Despite me notifying them that I was disabled and 'don't do stairs' we were given a room on the first floor and they didn't have a lift. When I questioned this the receptionist looked at me as though I was the laziest person in the world and said 'well it's only on flight'. We explained patiently about my condition but she refused to budge as it would be 'too difficult to move anyone on the ground floor as they all belonged to a coach party and wanted to stick together'. So with the help of my oxygen and poor Peter, who was also carrying the suitcase, I made it very slowly up the stairs and then had to lean against the wall to get my breathe back. We then found that our room was as far away from the stairs as you could get. I have to say the stay at the hotel marred our whole trip. The room didn't even have a fridge to keep my medication in so I had to spend time morning and night making it up as I needed it. Anyone on Flolan will know what a pain that was. The room did have TV and wifi though so that was something.

We dumped our bags and I sat on the bed and rested while Peter went down for the bag with all my medication in it. Then we unpacked and made ourselves a cup of tea while we read through the leaflets and planned our trip. According to the weather man it was going to be dry on Thursday and wet on Friday so we decided to do the city walk and visit the Cathedral on Thursday and take in the museums on Friday. a plan that worked really well as it turned out. I then made up and switched my meds while Peter scanned the web looking for somewhere to eat, it was then our troubles really started.

While I was making up my meds a horrendous noise started up outside and it honestly sounded like a fight had broken out. The wall between us and the room next door was being pounded and there was running and screaming and shouting in the corridor. I rang reception and told them what was happening and about five minutes later a loud male voice joined in the row and suddenly it all went quite. It was only when we left our room to go to dinner that we discovered what had happened. The hotel was playing host to a school trip and around 60 kids were racing around the corridors screaming like banshees. I spoke to the receptionist again on the way out and I was directed to a group of very harassed looking adults. It turned out the kids were from Germany and very excited to be in England. Everything would calm down once they went to bed I was promised, it didn't. On our return from a very nice fish and chips we went into the bar for a drink before bed and there were a string of angry guests at reception all complaining about the noise.It was definitely going to be one of those nights.

Another struggle up the stairs and I changed and went straight to sleep, I don't know if the noise continued into the night as I went out like a light but they were certainly at it again at seven in the morning when we were woken by more screaming, banging and shouting.

Strictly Watch

Well you don't think I'd miss it do you?

Oh my goodness, what a show!! The star had to be Hairy Dave. He was fabulously awful but gave it his all and loved every minute. Unfortunately the judges hated it and he ended up bottom of the leader board, shame.

The usual suspects were at the top with Patrick, Suzanna, Abbey and Natalie all doing well. Mark, Fiona and Julian all improved and everyone else stayed more or less as they were. I loved Mark's dance it was very expressive and, although a slower dance, still gave him room to use his enormous personality to good effect.

The two I didn't like this week were Vanessa, what the hell did they do to her hair? I was so distracted by how awful she looked I barely noticed her dance. Rachel also left me cold, I don't know why, I just get the impression she is just going through the motions and not really 'getting' the dance. Sophie was also a bit of a disappointment but I think I probably expect too much after last week, I hated her dress as well, which didn't help.

Bottom two this week sadly has to be Dave, though he has a lot of public support as shown by the standing ovation, Vanessa and possibly Julian. Although Julian has improved he's a bit annoying and I don't think the public warm to him very much. If it is those three I think Vanessa will go.

It is still too early to say who might win but I think Patrick, Suzanna, Abbey, Natalie and possibly Mark will make it through to December at the very least.

The latest on Kath is that she is doing very well and posted a picture of herself on Facebook yesterday. She looks so healthy and I'm so pleased she is making such good progress.

More in my next blog when I will continue my personal Tale of Canterbury. I've put some pictures on this blog but haven't really sorted everything out yet. When I do they will be on Flickr, the link is on the right, and I warn you there are 249 of them.

Friday, 11 October 2013

A Bit Wet!

I hear that Kath is out of bed and back writing her own blog. This is terrific news considering it hasn't been two weeks since the transplant. I am really looking forward to seeing Kath when I go in for check up on the 18th.

It has piddled down all day today but that hasn't really bothered us as we'd planned a day mostly indoors at the various museums around Canterbury. First up was a trip to the Abbey which was a bit of an adventure on the trike but more on that in a later post. Fortunately it only started raining as we finished our tour.

We headed back into the center of Canterbury and stopped for a light lunch at one of the small cafes in the area. Then it was on to the Roman Museum, where unfortunately there happened to be a school trip consisting of millions of pre teens in attendance. Then is was on to the Heritage museum and we rounded up the day with The Canterbury Tales experience and 'experience' was exactly what we had, but again more of that in a future post. We were not allowed to take pictures in any of these places but I sneaked a shot on my phone of Bagpuss.

Last night we ate out at a lovely little Italian place and I'd highly recommend it to anyone visiting this lovely city.


Well got to go, please excuse this pictures, once again they are only phone shots and some, especially the sneaky ones, are a bit shaky.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Canterbury Day One

Hi all, just a quickie to let you know I am still alive and having a really good time.

We visited Canterbury Catherdral today and I took loads of photos, unfortunately I cannot download these until I get home so the pictures on this blog are from my phone and not as good.

Canterbury Cathedral

Although sunny for the most of the day it was windy and cold and I had to resort to getting a hat off a street trader to keep my ears warm. I looked rediculous but I was warm and dry so really didn't care that much.
The West Gate
I was brimming with excitement when going to the Cathedral and was expecting to pay the full adult price of £9.50 to go in to the grounds but to our amazement they only charge half price for me and, as my carer, Peter got in for free. Whilst in the catherdral I lit candles for Anne, Kath, myself and all those waiting for transplant and, after chatting to one of the officials there, prayers will be said tomorrow morning.

The Pilgrims Hospital, one of the many historical buildings in the town
I have to say they could not be more helpful, there were two lifts, one you have to request as it is operated by hand, so you could see almost everything. Even so there was still one area I could not get too, which was very frustrating. I did manage to see the spot where Thomas Beckett was killed but was very disappointed. It is depicted by a hideous modern sculpture of three swords dripping blood and a square marble stand representing the alter. Somehow it just didn't have the vibe of something historic and sacred about it.

Me in that hat.
We also did the wall walk, which took about an hour and found some really out if the way gems that were completely devoid of tourists. Even the ruins of the medieval castle had ramps and smooth walk ways so disabled carriages could explore without difficulty. Other towns could learn a lot from Canterbury's attitude to disability. The only problems I encountered all occured due to bad parking or street cafes blocking the pavement.

Right must go, as I said just a quick update. Will post a more indepth account with lots of good (I hope) pictures when I get back,