Sunday, 29 May 2016

Big C Little C

For the newly diagnosed..

Nothing will ever be the same again. That much is certainly true. You will mourn and mourn long and hard for the life that you have lost and that is ok. But there are some things that I would like to tell you - some things that I discovered during my own journey. I have found these things to be true - for me anyway and I would hope that they may help you.

You have joined a club that you never wanted to be a member of. It has probably surprised you just how much is going on in cancer land - much of it positive and hopeful. But really you would rather not have known - not ever - not really. I remember a newly diagnosed friend whispering to me about how annoyed she was about some friends running marathons for her. Because although she knew they were being kind, she didn't want to be that person that they were being kind to. She didn't want to be there. She has since run several marathons herself, but at the beginning she couldn't, not then. She had to accept, as all the diagnosed and those who love them must, that life has changed forever. Yet this change, though so terrible (in the full sense of the word) has so much in it that will be good. You will see things with new eyes. Gratitude will surprise you when you least expect it. Nothing will ever be measured in the same way that it was before. Some of it, and this is difficult to believe now, will be better. It will be richer, stronger and more clear sighted. You will wonder why you ever worried about the things you worried about. You will be taken aback by the amount of love you feel for those you love. 

You will learn to be patient but you will be less accepting of religious rubbish. "All things work together for good" is not a trite throw-away line to be delivered by someone who is trying to say the right thing. It is a strong wall to hide behind in times of deep, deep trouble but it is not an easy wall to get to. To learn to say this and mean it comes out of experience, an experience of seeing amazing things happen in deep and dark circumstances. Take the kindness that people offer because you will gain strength from it. Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit and therefore a supernatural thing. Let people love you, bake pies, do your ironing, take your kids out. This will help practically and somehow, in some deep way, you will actually gain strength from it. 

Speaking of the supernatural, I would say, take all the treatment that is offered to you but do not forget the power of God. He does not play odds or percentages. My own survival percentages were very low - I would not get past five years. That was eighteen years ago. Learn to look for him in all your dark circumstances. Now is one of the toughest times. So much time being spent being called into doctors rooms to hear results or sitting on plastic chairs in hospital corridors or waiting in rooms for the curtain to be pulled back as the consultant sweeps in. You think that you will never laugh again - laugh properly - not for the benefit of calming someone who you love. You will though. It will take you by surprise probably. But you will feel joy again. A different kind of joy but joy nonetheless. 

The truth is that despite the worst possible diagnosis, there is still a lot of living to be done. It is a different life and everything in it will be measured differently, but it is still there to be lived and you must make sure that you continue to live it. 

Thursday, 26 May 2016


Last week we took ourselves off to Stratford Upon Avon for a few days. We had a lovely time. Really lovely. We went to Shakespeare's Birthplace which was excellent even though I can normally live without guides in period costume invading my personal space. I think this goes back to a very scary experience at Wigan Pier Museum which had a Victorian Schoolroom with a terrifying school teacher. It's a miracle anyone ever leant anything in Victorian England. Anyway, I digress. We also saw a play - as you do. We didn't do a Shakespeare. There were only tickets for Cymbeline, which I know less than nothing about, except that there are not a lot of laughs. So we decided against that and I was quite glad, Especially, when queueing in Lakeland, (Thanks for asking - I got a really nice stir-fry pan - with a lid. I love Lakeland) I heard a lady telling the cashier that she had been to see Cymbeline and that she came to see all the Shakespeares but that this one was bum numbing. (Don't blame me - her description) We went to see Cervantes' Don Quixote with David Threlfall and Rufus Hound. 
To my shame, I probably know less about this than I do about Cymbaline apart from some vague childhood memory of Peter O'Toole bellowing "To Dream The Impossible Dream" at a windmill. (This may not be an accurate memory) I'll be honest. It was a stellar night. One of the best nights at the theatre - ever. Funny, sad, inventive and not too long, which was important because our seats were sort of stools that we had to perch on like Andy Williams in those 60's TV specials. We had a lovely meal in the RSC as well to complete an excellent night.
On a tiny tiny low note. When you have done what we did in Stratford, I'm not sure what else there is to do. We spent a pleasant enough hour sitting by the river watching Spanish children trying to torture the swans and then crying when they got a nasty nip back. Entertaining enough but I'm not sure we would have been able to keep our kids happy if they had been there - especially as HOH and I seemed to bring the average age down to about eighty. I'm not expecting Vegas or the Grand Canyon in a balloon or anything but I think we more or less felt that we had covered anything when we left. Besides, we had to go. We had a date in Bristol on the way back. At IKEA - oh yes, oh yes. Told you it was an excellent break. 

Wednesday, 25 May 2016


Last week was our Silver Wedding Anniversary. I know I know, you can't believe it. Too young you cry and I can understand that. But twenty five years it is. We celebrated by clearing off to Stratford for a few days, leaving our dog and his separation issues with FOW2. I would just like to thank her here for coming home from Uni to do this for us and also to apologize for her having to be in the garden at 3am while said dog insisted on crying and seeing if he could see us coming back. Anyway, more of Stratford later in the week but I just thought I would leave you with a couple of photos of us all those years ago so you could see how mighty fine we were. And for all those chums on Facebook who said that we don't look any different - well we all know that's not true but don't think that it's not appreciated.


Sunday, 15 May 2016


So Sally Brampton came to the end and walked into the sea to die. I found her writing on depression the most instructive and enlightening I had ever read. Many years ago a friend at work suffered the suicide of her brother. On the day she came back to work, because everyone felt so awkward, the manager put me and my friend in a corner of the bank to check a long list of regular payments. A job that would supposedly take a week. As we halfheartedly ticked away at boxes on forms that we weren't reading properly, we began to talk about her brother. She was upset at his selfishness and I completely understood that. She was dealing with the fallout; her  mother's anguish, her own terrible loss, the annoyance at how stigmatised she felt. I could do nothing but agree. How could he treat those he loved like this?
Years later I read a column by Sally Brampton on suicide and suddenly, I at least partly understood. 

Killing oneself is, anyway, a misnomer. We don't kill ourselves. We are simply defeated by the long, hard struggle to stay alive

People with this level of depression don't make an effort to kill themselves. They make an effort not to take their own lives. Every day that they are this depressed, they make a gargantuan effort to stay with those they love. For some, eventually, the effort gets too much. 

It is very dark out there sometimes for some people. I can get a bit frustrated at Christians who talk about God being light (which he is) and because God is everything therefore there is no room for dark - so let's all just cheer up a bit eh? 
But John talks about God being the light that breaks through the darkness which surely acknowledges that God knows that some people are having really hard times. 

If I am told to bring salt and light to people's lives, I have to first acknowledge that some people are in the dark. I'm supposed to bring light, not make them feel worse for being in the dark in the first place. Life bites people on the bum sometimes. Do I believe that God has the power to break through all this darkness and bring clarity and light? Yup I do. Does that diminish the reality of the suffering for the sick, the lost, the lonely? What do you think? 


Saturday, 14 May 2016

May Books of the Month

Didn't know if you would be interested but these are on the reading plan for May. Bit late really, have already read a couple. I know there's a lot and I haven't won the pools or anything not that I'm a gambling woman you understand. A couple are car boot finds etc. Some are new though. I like a book.
The Jazz Files - been seeing this around on the ACW site for a while now. Sometimes Christian writers trying "a bit-Christian" fiction can be tricky I find but am liking the look of the subject matter and first couple of chapters are rollocking along nicely. 
Wonderful Weekend Book - I have already scooted through this. Lots of impractical ideas really about your weekends, but it is written in such an engaging way and the overriding principle about doing all your work in the week so you have a day for rest is excellent. Reminds me of another principle oh yes Sabbath I think it's called.
You Are A Badass. Probably terrible self help book but find this kind of thing totally irresistible. Probably proof of some deep-seated personality defect (Also probably not that deep-seated.)
Diary of an Ordinary Woman. Have never read any Margaret Forster. Read her obituary and wanted to. So I bought this. It's not rocket science.
H is for Hawk. Everyone raves about it. 50p at the boot sale. What do you want? Jam on it?
Still Foolin' em. I love Billy Crystal ergo I will love a book full of his anecdotes with sleeve notes by Steve Martin and Robin Williams. Theirs was a gang I always wanted to join.


Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Just normal

There's been a lot of fuss about the weather. Suddenly, the sun has come out and everyone has gone a bit bonkers. Everyone in Plymouth is dressing like it's as hot as the Durrells. (I can live without seeing those bits of you young sir to be honest)  But, whisper it, round here it's not that warm. The sun has been out but there is still quite a stiff breeze up your whatsits if you stand still long enough. Street coffee culture can prove quite difficult when you have to put stones on everything to stop it flying away. Round here having lunch al fresco is even more difficult because you have to fend off stonking great seagulls all the time. It's not very Italian really. 
Now they tell us that the sun is finished and torrential rain will follow. I could have told you this was going to happen as HOH was out in the garden with his watering can over the weekend. Always a sure sign of inclement weather to follow. If you need to check the time when it will actually be tipping down in England - because of washing on lines or other considerations - I suggest about 10.15 am on Tuesday. That is the time I will be outside trying to take some publicity photos of recalcitrant old people getting on and off a shopping bus.You would think it would be a simple task. Experience tells me it will not. Old people tend to spend a lot of these shoots shouting "Oooh don't you include me in that, I look terrible" and then writing to their MP because they are not in the newspaper. 
For the Brits amongst us, I do hope you are doing ok with the referendum. I can't say I am. It's the way that every single sentence has to be followed by a single opposing sentence. So you hear someone say "Coming out of the EU will compromise our security" but this has to be followed - I think it is actually The Law now - by "The Out campaigners say it will definitely not compromise our security." so you are back where you started. Yesterday, we had a speech where our Dear Prime Minister warned us that Churchill would have wanted us to stay in to avoid World War and Pestilence. This was countered by Boris Johnson singing Ode To Joy in German for some reason - making us all very uncomfortable. I am trying to make an informed choice here!
I didn't watch the BAFTAs but was pleased to learn that Peter Kay (Probably the only living comedy genius now Victoria Wood has gone) and Wolf Hall (The best thing on the telly... er just ever) won big. I did watch the BBC Shakespeare Hollow Crown thing and enjoyed it very much. Then all the Shakespeare experts said it wasn't very good and the iambic pentameter was all wrong. No idea. I enjoyed it. (Struggled a bit with Sophie Okonado as a 15 year old schemer, because she is so luscious and because her husband actually DID look about fifteen.)
It's just very normal and a bit boring week here but best get back to it. I think I should be quite grateful for normal. At least I am not trying to visit a hospital in Allepo this week. God Bless Them.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016


I'm a bit worried about Facebook. Not the actual multi zillion dollar machine itself obviously just what happens on there sometimes. It's not just Facebook - it's a lot of Social Media generally. I think there is a fine line sometimes between sharing and bragging. Now I like a nosey and I love it when people put photos up of themselves and the things that they are doing. It's nice to leave a comment - especially when you live a long way from the person. I love wedding and birthday photos and pictures of new chubby babies. I love photos of days out to interesting places. It's generally a pleasing thing. I just think it's a bit weird sometimes when people put posts up like "Had a great time with my friends last night". Why wouldn't you say that to their face - as you left their house? Why wouldn't you turn round and say "Oooh thanks, I had a lovely time" and kiss them on both cheeks or give a cheery wave? Why do people go on and on about how great such and such a person is and say how close they are etc. Wouldn't you just say so? To them? When they are in the room? Why are you telling us? I sometimes wonder if people see posts like that about themselves and are surprised about how awesome they apparently are or just how epic the walk round the reservoir was when they just thought it was a nice hour out. 
The answer must be partly, I suppose, that the post is really for others to see - to show how popular we are are and what an amazing life we have. But then how is that received by those who don't have an amazing life? What about the lonely or the struggling or those who weren't included? How do they feel I wonder? Is it like being back at school and finding out that everyone had been out playing without you? What about preferring the weaker brother?
Then you get these little things that say things like "Share if your daughter is awesome" What difference does that make to anything? If I don't share does that mean that my daughter isn't awesome?  The weirdest one is "Share if you hate cancer." Seriously? Do they get many people who don't hate cancer? It's all very puzzling.  

Maybe it might be a bit more honest to post something like "Had..... round for a meal. Not a sparkling evening really. Was quite relieved when they left and I could catch up on Pointless." 


Monday, 2 May 2016

Age Related Musing

These are my favourite flowers - peonies. They seem to have a short season so I buy them much more often than I usually buy flowers because I luf them. They are blousy and bright and in your face. A bit like Bet Lynch behind the bar in Coronation Street. Then, after a couple of days they open really wide and the colour starts to change - fading down to a very pleasing creamy colour. 

Now they are not as barmaid-busty and the petals become much more delicate and sometimes bits fall off. They are still lovely though and perhaps even a bit more interesting than they were in the first flush of youth.
So I was thinking - do you think they remind you of people? We may not be as bright and bushy tailed as we were but maybe still interesting, still pretty in a sort of droopy kind of way and still pleasing to an experienced eye.I expect it's just me then.
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