Sunday, 29 May 2011

Bacon aroma

There is something about the smell of fried breakfast wafting on the breeze that cannot be ignored - and I didn't.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Another year. same pub ...

... and some of the same lovely people - two sessions on the go, one inside, one outside. Cracking music last night but boy, was it cold although we were snug as a rug in Franc the Van.

Thursday, 26 May 2011


I felt a little sad as I stood with my feet on the loft ladder, looking up into the attic at the roll of green canvas that is our frame tent. How I love pitching it, hanging up all my little hooks and hangers and the hanging pockets. Then there's the creation of my in-tent shower unit and all that entails - I'll miss it.

But the up-side is that I've been packing Franc and deciding what will go where and how. We used to fill the car to overflowing just for a weekend and I have a feeling it's going to be a bit like that with the van. There's still a tent to put up as we're taking our dining tent so that we can entertain in comfort. Of course all my solar lights have to go too and they are even now being charged in the occasional burst of sunlight between showers. It's all rather exciting!

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Floral excess

A local charity runs a hanging basket service. I distinctly remember deciding that, as the baskets had gone up on price, I wouldn't buy any this year. Instead I took a trip to the garden centre and returned with a couple of ready-planted containers which simply fit into the baskets we already have. We also bought some trailing lobelia at the garage sale on Saturday.

So imagine my surprise when I received an email from the charity saying my three baskets were ready for collection. I queried it of course but, no, they found details of the cheque I'd paid back in October. We picked them up yesterday and even though the price was higher, they're certainly good value and brimming with plants.

We've now got three baskets at the front, one at the back and a whole host of pots planted up by the garden door. The consequences of my geriatric memory will be quite lovely in a few weeks when everything is at its height of flowering. I don't know about you, but here what rain we have had has made very little impact, so nightly watering will be essential.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

What a bed!

Franc's bed is soooooo big - I had to put out a hand in the night to check hubby was still there too! We had a wonderful night's sleep - our first in the van - on our friends' drive. Goodness knows what their neighbours thought was going on.

Today we've been studying the manuals - there's so much to learn and work out - but I think we're nearly there. Our dear friends gave us an enormous solar panel which they'd had for their caravan and now no longer use so when we park up for days at a time we won't be running the leisure battery down too far.

I'm trying to resist making the list for the weekend just yet. I'll have to amend my standard things-that-I-take-camping list quite considerably. Already I've identified one thing that could easily have been left out: the maypole (oh well, the extendible extra tent pole then), which would normally travel with the rest of the tent poles. I've refurbished the maypole ribbons - they're all new - but they wouldn't have been much use without the pole.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Smoked and happy

It was the first woodland barbecue of the season this evening when most of our family gathered over a washing mashine cylinder (yes, true, they make great barbecues) and partook of yummy spare ribs, sausages and burgers. Our granddaughter discovered the fact that pine resin makes an excellent glue and both she and our grandson climbed a young oak to the topmost branches. I could barely watch for fear they should fall.

We arrived home smokey but happy to prepare Franc the Van for his first outing tomorrow. Our plan is to test him out with an overnight stay on our friends' drive! I'm wondering if I'll have the confidence to have a little drive of him - not sure if I'm feeling bold enough yet, but maybe.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

I love Franc

He's here, we're collected him today and he's just wonderful. He's really mine but I could see that by the time my hubby had driven him home, he'd falled in love with our Romahome too. It's the incredibly creative design - every nook and cranny is cleverly utilised - that gives Franc (named after his registration number) his appeal.

We had an easy journey both down, nearly to the south coast, and back again. The lovely lady who sold Franc to us was so worried when we got there because he refused to start. This had probably been caused by a bit of sitting around for the winter and one or two short bursts of ignition as he was moved in and out of his parking space. She had even spring-cleaned him for us, although he seemed perfectly clean when we saw him a week ago. I felt quite sad for her when we took him away. Owners of motorhomes can develop strong emotional attachments to them - I think it's a bit like selling your house.

It's intended that we take Franc to visit some friends on Saturday and that we will stay our first night in him on their drive. Quite a soft option I know, but it will give us a chance to put the seats down and make up the bed and all that that entails before it really matters the weekend after when we're off to our first camp of the season. It's soooo exciting!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Patience's virtue

OK, I admit I may have a bit of a thing about jackets. I love them - particularly if they have a peplum at the back. (Peplum: a little frill or pleats which stem from the waistline and sit on the hips). Along with replacing all my other items of clothing by equivalents at least two sizes down, I've accumulated my fair share of jackets. I have to confess to a lovely little brown linen-mix one acquired yesterday on my charity shop tour but today takes the biscuit.

Yesterday I found a nice black leather jacket in the local hospice shop. I passed it up because it was slightly too big and I think I'm still losing weight although very slowly now, but also because the finish had "gone" on both the shoulders and therefore I thought it overpriced at £20. I was sorely tempted though - if only because I would like to think the hospice will be there for me if I need it. A leather jacket would be a nice addition to my collection because it would fill that gap between casual anorak and winter coat. I resolved to be patient and surely within the next few months, at least before autumn set in, I would be rewarded.

Today in an animal charity shop (always lower priced I find) was a black leather jacket, in a more suitable (for me ) style, the right size and at only £8. Quod erat demonstrandum!

Banking on it

Tomorrow should have been the day when we pick up the campervan however things have not gone quite to plan. The money for the purchase had to be released from an investment account. I instructed it to be paid as quickly as possible into a current account with another bank. It would take four days to arrive.

I anticipated a further delay upon transfer to the vendor and checked with my bank how long it would take. They told me it would be credited the same day. Hence we arranged to collect the van tomorrow in the knowledge that, like the deposit, the balance would be with the vendor by then.

You guessed. It didn't. The vendor sent a text this afternoon to say it still hadn't arrive despite me sending it over at 8.30 am this morning. I called the bank. It turns out that the deposit was small enough a sum for a fast transfer whereas the balance being a larger amount is over their limit; it would take three days. Why did nobody tell me that? To put it mildly, I am not a happy bunny.

The lovely lady who is selling the van said that she trusted us and would be happy for us to pick it up anyway. I didn't like the thought of her waking in the early hours of the intervening morning wondering if she'd just been subjected to a con. Let's face it, con artists are brilliantly believable and seemingly trustworthy otherwise they would never succeed. So we've delayed the pick up for a day. Fingers crossed the money appears in the vendor's account on Wednesday; I'm banking on it.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Pins & needles

One of the side effects of the chemo protocol which I'm on is pins and needles in fingers and toes. As I've been blissfully free from most of the side effects - and the odd occurence of tinnitus stopped after the first three cycles - I wasn't expecting to experience anything new. However over the last couple of days I've realised that not only do I have a funny dead feeling in a couple of my toes but also very slight pins and needles in a couple of my fingers as well.

It's known as peripheral neuropathy and there's not much you can do about it. I probably had these side effects with my toes last time, but because I'd stubbed a toe from each foot pretty badly around that time I'd put the odd sensations down to that. As I've just had my last dose of chemo it shouldn't cause any problems with my treatment regime. According the information I've found the chances are theat the nerve endings will repair gradually though it may take months. There is some danger of permanent damage - but I don't suspect that will be the case.

All in all an odd sensation in one or two toes and one or two fingers is a small price to pay. It won't stop me doing anything and doesn't impede me in any way, so I'm not complaining.

Saturday, 14 May 2011


O Great Rain God

Thanks very much for the 30 minutes I spent in the sun with Radio 4 this morning.

Any chance you could hold off until I've line dried three loads of washing?

Your humble servant .... etc.

My deep recesses

There's been something quite strange about this early spring and the unseasonally hot weather. Don't get me wrong. I've loved the sun and have welcomed the opportunity to soak up it's vitamin D-making rays. I always knew it made sense to be exposed to a certain amount of sunlight.

But this year, lovely as the weather has been, my instincts have alerted me to the fact that such clear blue skies are not normal. It has engendered in me a primeval flutter of concern. Perhaps even more acute has been my underlying concern for water. Maybe we notice things about climate during our lives that we aren't even aware of. Could my brain have logged the fact that when the sun is in such and such position the norm is near-galeforce chilly winds and torrential downpours?

It's probably not just weather that we're tuned into. There have been a couple of occasions in the past where I have found myself inexplicably tuned into the behaviour of animals. I'm not an "animal person" really. My keenest interest in animals is our cat and my frequent shopping in animal charities' charity shops!

The first incident was where, driving back from the next village probably around this time of year, I noticed a sheep at some distance from the rest of the flock. It was sitting down. For no reason that I can explain I actually stopped the car, reversed back, parked, leapt over the gate and walked up to the sheep and took a look. It merely sat there and looked at me. I even rang the owner who said it was probably sunbathing: "they do you know". Feeling very foolish I forgot about the matter until three days later I heard that the animal in question had been found dead that afternoon. Wierd or what?

Similarly a few months after that a retired hunter was lying in a meadow nearby our house. It was about eight-thirty in the morning, the sun was out, the birds were singing. I had an inexplicable feeling of concern. Again, almost the same thing happened. The owner's husband said: "don't worry, he'll just be enjoying the sun." That horse died just a few days later.

I can't explain what caused my concern for these two animals, just as I can't explain my unease about our current unlikely weather patterns. But I can guess that somehow my 60+ years of observing what is around me leads me to notice when something is odd. Maybe in all the flocks I'd observed I'd never seen one where a sheep was sitting so far from the rest; maybe I'd never seen a horse lying down at that specific time of day. My subconscious has probably recorded the fact that I've never experienced such intense rays of sunshine and such scarcity of rain at this time of year before. These instincts are surely the ones that have kept homo sapiens alive and kicking. Hm, perhaps it's time for a sacrifice or two to the rain god?

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Immortality regained

It was back in 2008 I think that a routine blood test (I hadn't had one since my last child was born some 25 years previously) revaled my failing thyroid gland. At the time I asked what would happen if, instead of taking a daily tablet of synthetic thyroxine, I managed my diet better and ate things that might enhance thyroid function. The GP told me that gradually over a few years my body would decline and I would die.

It's not easy coming to terms with one's reliance for future life on medical science and the necessity to pop a pill a day. Whereas I'd breezed through life with no serious illness, bar having my tonsils removed at five and an odd week in an isolation ward (just in case I had something nasty) when I was 13, facing mortality was another matter. That diagnosis somehow diminished me. I was less of a human; I was certainly no longer immortal.

I believe we all live in a state of denial of our own mortality. To do otherwise would, I'm sure, lead to global insanity. No, we have to carry on from day to day secure in the knowledge that other people die suddenly, other people have life limiting and terminal illness but that we ourselves and those near and dear to us, are immortal.

Labouring under this misconception for about 50 years I found in my mid-life that it made a lot of sense to come to terms with my mortality to a certain extent. It didn't seem sensible to deny the inevitable. As 60 approached I became even more aware that life was limited and I was beginning that mid-life wind down. I started to think about tidying things, organising for the rest of my life properly and accepting what was really important and what was not; coming to terms with things I could no longer do, or no longer do as well as I once did.

That second diagnosis back in November - which came with some scary statistics - brought me up short. Short in meaning that I immediately made plans for end of my life. I sorted out insurance, a will, all the many web sites I hosted for people. I closed the business - I put my life on hold for chemo. Even my eventual demise and what rituals might follow formed part of my thinking. Before the diagnostic surgery I lodged with a friend a letter for the family - just in case I didn't make it through. I always like to plan for the worse case scenario. If you can tackle the worst case then the rest is easy. And that was how at that point I viewed my life, or rather my oncoming death.

It was this pragmatism which led to a failure of grounding - a tendency to move elsewhere, and certainly not forward, before my time. Both my Reiki practitioners detected it somewhere in the region of my knees. Both told me so. I was perfectly aware of it. My delusion of immortality had slipped and I was peeping through the door of inevitablity.

That might seem sensible and even a realistic approach, but it's not a good way to proceed. What quality of life can anyone have if they are constantly reviewing their own demise? In any case you lovely readers were carrying me along on a crest of optimism and faith in my survival. How could I let you all down?

So I've been working at it. I had new business cards printed and a couple of days ago designed myself a new web page. I've piched for some more work. We are buying the van. This morning I woke at some ridiculously early hour planning what would go where when we packed it for a week away in August. And it was at that point that I realised I've regained my immortality.

The point at which I cease to be has receded to the degree where I no longer contemplate it; it no longer has a place in my planning. I'm back with you folks, I'm going to live forever. The transition has been gradual but now I really believe, once again, I'm immortal.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Whoopeee! - it ws meant to be

Today had a lovely drive down the A34, over the South Downs and almost to Portsmouth. We met a delightful lady who gave us a couple of hours of her time showing us round her Romahome Dimension. Just as I had speculated the other day when we lost the one at the dealer's, this is the answer to everything.

It's slightly older and a bit cheaper (which is exactly what I was hoping for) but still with only 16K on the clock! Rather than describe it - here's a typical model. All that and only 15.5 feet long - that's 4.7 metres in European money. So small I might even drive it myself sometimes!

I'm terribly excited and so is hubby. We just have to sort out payment and collection and then the UK's our oyster. Nice.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Just a little excited

Didn't I say somewhere earlier on that not getting the campervan the other day was all for the best? Well yesterday I found a private sale, an older van - which is what I preferred - of exactly the right model. It's quite a long way away but I've done loads of diligent research and I think all the claims are kosher. I've spoken to the seller three times and feel happy dealing with her. So fingers crossed, it looks like we'll take a look early next week and then .....

Saturday, 7 May 2011


Just had lunch with one of our daughters who really likes my salad dressing and has asked me to pop it on the blog - so here goes.

Holly Cottage Dressing
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Malt vinegar
Lemon juice
Crushed garlic
Lazy chillies (lots)
Ground black pepper(lots)
Turmeric (lots))
English mustard (lots)
Whole grain mustard (lots)
Fresh chopped chives if you have them
Herbs - whatever's in season or mixed dried

I mix ingredients in an empty oil or vinegar jar - your own judgement as to quantities. Keep in fridge. I usually consume the whole bottle within three or four days, so I have no idea how long it will keep. Shake vigorously before serving because the sludge is the best bit!

Friday, 6 May 2011

The day after

Today, the day after chemo, I feel a little bit like I would if I'd had an overdose of alchol last night. The brain is slightly less functional than usual, patience is rather short and my head is just a little heavy - that's all the side effects so far but then it is the first day.

Over the last five cycles I've managed to negotiate the constipation issue and manage the Lactulose doses so that long sessions viewing the inside door of the WC aren't necessary any longer (if you get my drift). That was certainly the worst bit of the first couple of cycles. The chemo and the sickness preventers do seem to muck about with the function of the alimentary canal.

Of course the weather helps me to feel food - it's glorious today, far too hot to be out in the sun I've discovered. So I've managed to do a few more little jobs one of which was to sort out my jewellery. Someone mentioned to me the other week a silversmith they still know, who used to work round here. Back in the 1970s I asked him to reset a stone from a ring, a topaz. I remember this particularly because he did it free on the grounds that I sang for free and he enjoyed my singing; therefore it was a fair exchange. Having been reminded of this I set about the unstructured mess of jewellery boxes and found it, cleaned it up and I'm now wearing it. It fits much better than it ever did.

On top of that I sold another two garments on ebay - it's amazing what people will buy. My buying totals are still under my selling totals for the last 30 days and I've just about bought everything I need in a smaller size now, so I might well come out of this with a profit since I've several garments still to sell and there are quite a few watchers on some of them.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

'Twas not meant to be

I was hoping to feel good enough to take a look at the Romahome in Reading tomorrow but sadly it's been sold already. Maybe we should have just taken a flyer and bought it over the phone before anyone else could get a look in. On the other hand another one will likely turn up. It may well be older and therefore cheaper and we might in all probability be so glad we missed this one. There is also an upside to this tale - our youngest daughter is using us as a delivery address for a baby buggy which we only found out will arrive here tomorrow and I was wondering how we'd manage a trip to Berkshire at the same time.

On a completely different note, my Google Alert for the name of the village in which I live in has turned up the Islamic Society Of North America's calculations for prayer times here which I am delighted to tell you are, for today 5 May: Fajr 04.10, Sunrise 05.26, Zohar 12.59, Asar 18.11, Magrib 20.33, Isha 21:50 - all these calculations are based on the Asar Calculation Method: Hanafi. Well you live and learn.

Vein attempt

I'm in the chemo dayroom with the first of the infusions being pumped into me. The staff nurse had two attempts at inserting the cannula - then handed me over to a doctor who succeeded at his second attempt. Apparently chemo causes (irreversible, I asked) hardening of arteries hence the increased difficulty in connecting drips to veins in my hand. I suppose it's a small price to pay. Anyway everything is going to plan this time which is great.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

All systems go

What another lovely day, but I do wish for rain now. My poor garden is drooping its head with thirst.

I had a blood test done yesterday and was able to ring today to find out the results, and they're fine. So tomorrow I'm off for my last (for the time being) dose of chemo therapy. Bring it on. I might have a go at a blog using my smartphone while I'm there.

And the day after, if I'm feeling OK enough, we're going to look at the Romahome - if it hasn't been sold by then.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Interesting times

As one of my friends pointed out on Facebook, it's been a real Disney weekend with the princess marrying her prince and the forces for good getting the bad guy. On that last point I've found it difficult to rejoice in the death of anyone. Who is to say that even the most evil-inclined terrorist could not be turned into a force for good? Would it not have been better to have taken him alive? - if of course it really was him. The conspiracy theorists are already on the case.

I find myself becoming more and more worried by West tryng to fulfil the role of a global police force. What gives us the right to insist that our form of democracy is the best and only acceptable method of government? Such arrogance is dangerous in itself. Let's face it, we can't even decide here in the UK which voting system to use and are therefore having a referendum. All sides of argument are claiming - with some justification - that the others are unfair. Maybe there's a lot to be said for benevolent dictatorship!

Sunday, 1 May 2011

It is the first of May, for it is the first of May

And what a glorious day it is. We popped up to church for the 9.30 am service - with a lesson reader, two church wardens, choir of four, organist, and a couple in the congregation. I've now made my peace with the dear old CofE content in the knowledge that I'm unlikely to effect any great changes in its operations during my lifetime.

We were then treated to a tour of a neighbour's garden and coffee. This was quite unexpected and a delight and will shortly be followed by Sunday lunch with friends. I will take my branch of may (hawthorn) bedecked with some ribbons in celebration of this great day.

A branch of may I bring to you, and at your door it stands
It's nought but a sprout but it's well budded out
It's the work of the Lord's own hands.

(only this year it's not just a sprout well-budded out, but branch in the fullest of blossom)

May I wish everyone a very happy first of May and every sort of fertility that you would wish. :)