Sunday, January 30, 2011

All Good

It was so bitterly cold when I went down to find a shirt for MTL I wore the ancient mink. Would this be the day I’d get a bucket of Dulux poured over me? I asked our gentleman outfitter where he’d been the other day when the shop was closed and he had been at the dentist with a sudden problem – at the same time as me, so he didn’t get my dentist. As always he was very helpful. He had shirts with especially long arms (which MTL has) but not exactly right. We finally found one in the right Scottish oatcake shade, and he said try it and if it isn’t right bring it back and we’ll find something else.

On Friday C, the nurse came to start the 5th chemo,

‘We’re on the homeward stretch now,’ she said and we were pleased that his haemoglobin has improved and he’s gained a couple of pounds. To my delight she raved about – guess what – ‘The King’s Speech’ and as we go to Taunton on Monday to see the oncologist the plan is to scoot off afterwards to the Odeon. Fingers crossed we don’t have any delays to our lunch time appointment.

The lunch party yesterday was a big step forward. We both enjoyed it, MTL looked very handsome and I’m glad we made the effort. There were 33 guests and we only knew two – a young neighbour and the host. All the other guests were railway enthusiasts and to our delighted surprise we were placed on either side of the host. On my other side was a man who was very easy to talk to. He lost his wife four years ago and was making a good stab at carrying on - they had a loving marriage and from her photos she looked a special person.

‘Does it get any easier,’ I asked? ‘No – it get’s worse.’ But he wasn’t at all down – he visits friends in California, has two daughters, lots of interests and has written his life story, albeit the short version – 30 pages. I thought blogging would be something that would give him another interest and – at least feed- back on his writing, so he promised to get his granddaughter to show him how.

We hoped to see a Murray victory in Australia today but it’s looking grim. On the Scrabble front I’m having an exciting game with Kenju who usually licks me hollow, as does Kim and Belleek (all on side bar) but I’m getting better. I’ll tell you later why I desperately want to see ‘The King’s Speech.’ Too much excitement on a Sunday isn’t good for you ;)

P.S. Murray lost!

P.P.S. No Dulux and two separate strangers said 'What a nice coat.'

Friday, January 28, 2011

All the photos are there - not necessarily in the right order - to paraphrase Eric.

Problem is I can only post four at a time and they tend to slither around. This is another room at the Royal Oak Luxborough. I was going to post a sweet little pot of primroses my help S, brought me today.
The sad news is a 90 year old client of hers was knocked down and killed the other day and another client's husband died suddenly. I promised her I woudn't be the third. Fingers crossed.
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The Second Visit
Our Hertfordshire family arrived late morning, dumped their stuff and whisked us off to the Old Ship Inn at Porlock. Years ago my DIL and I both had an upset tum after a meal there and I was reluctant to go for years, but as usually happens it changed hands and redeemed itself. Then two or three years ago we were dining there with our Sussex family before they left for Australia and MTL had an arterial fibrillation episode. I was so thankful they were there - absolute rocks- and it all ended happily. There was another stand off from the pub but throughout the Hertfordshires have remained staunch fans especially in the summer when they eat al fresco. We had a pleasant meal and caught up on the last few months. I was pleased that #1 son saw an improvement in MTL. In some ways knowing exactly what the problem is makes it easier to deal with.

My Grandson T is doing a year's placement with a fashion firm in London and looked great in casual donkey brown with beautiful shoes which he had bought with a hefty discount and still were jolly expensive. MTL remembered always wearing Church shoes and T said he would too if he could afford them. Good to see # 1 son looking good in a new coat - influenced by his son. My work here is done:)

One of the rooms is dedicated to Laurel and Hardy.

The next day the boys decide they were going to cook roast lamb for us in the evening so we went at lunch time to The Royal Oak at Luxborough - known to us half locals as The Blazing Stump. T about to enter the Inn - who knew that tiny scrap would one day tower over me.

MTL reckons the Blazing Stump is now a gastro pub. It had a lovely glowing welcome but the room we normally use was taken over by 'the shoot' and we were shown into a smart dining room with me stipulating we didn't want a large meal. It was delightful - great wine, rabbit terrine with pear compote and bread to die for. I just kept on eating until it had all gone. Just found space for a creme brulee with mixed berries. Much later the lamb was so flavourful if it had been tied up one would have sucked the string. It was whirlwind of a week-end but we both felt stimulated rather than exhausted at the end of it.
Mind you I can't speak for the guests.
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Monday, January 24, 2011

It was agony Ivy!

That was then. Just recently I noticed a wobbly tooth. Centre of bottom row so not to be ignored. My charming South African dentist said we could extract it and replace it attached to a plate or extract it and replace it attached to a small bridge. Years of experience - with anything false that isn't permanently attached to my person - has taught me to leave them well alone. False eyelashes, nails, boobs (when I was thin as a lat) lenses have all come unstuck , dropped in the soup or slipped round the cleavage, so I plumped for the bridge.

There was an appointment for measuring and making a plaster cast. I did feel, when he was wresting the cast from my mouth that at least the wobbly tooth would come out with it - such was the strength required. Over the week-end with the boys here - of which more later - there was not time to be apprehensive of Monday's appointment. On the day, I forgot to take a couple of Quiet Life to steady my nerves as I wanted to try to buy a shirt for MTL. His weight loss means some clothes are too big. I found a good tweed jacket from his slimmer days but the new shirts I had bought him weren't right for the jacket.

We had just had a surprise invite to a railway lunch and as it was from our friend the Station Master we accepted - our first really public appearance since MTL's illness. Nothing looks worse than a collar two sizes too large so I planned to get a toning shirt from our local excellent gentlemen's outfitters. Alas it was closed, as I went down early.

The surgery was very quiet but I still had the obligatory ten minutes to wait which challenged my enforced calm and deep breathing. I reminded myself that said dentist had never hurt me.
Yet. After exchanging pleasantries with himself and his nice young man assistant I sat and was electronically lowered into a horizontal position where I could examine a map of the world if only I weren't dazzled by the powerful light above. I'm meant to avoid bright light - dilemma do I keep my very expensive specs which react to light, and risk getting them damaged (sooner or later something always drops) or bear the blinding light and an inevitable head ache?
The solution came in a blinding flash - I removed my glasses and closed my eyes.

I felt a sharp prick right in the corner of my jaw. That would be the local - he knows I don't really enjoy pain. Then there was a long slow throb of pain which seemed to last forever whilst the needle was kept in place. I managed to ask him why he was injecting there in the corner, when the tooth was in the middle. 'Because that is where the nerve is,' I was told.
That would account for the pain. I started my afternoon prayers a little early through the long silence as we waited for the local to take effect.

My exhalations were more like shudders and I couldn't stop my torso from moving in sympathy. There were a few muttered instructions - nothing to do with me, and action. I felt something and a sharp tug then I drifted into something like a reverie. Thank God that was the worst over but he's still to fit the bridge. The plan was to do it all in one fell swoop to save me frightening the horses. Alas - I was told because of the bleeding I had to bite hard on a pack in my mouth, go home and come back in the afternoon when the bridge would be fitted.

By the time I got home I was feeling delicate. MTL was sympathetic and said he would take me and bring me back after the bridge was fitted. After some soup - carefully adhering to the written instructions- and a rest on the sofa - head higher than feet - we returned to the surgery. All was pronounced well and the bridge cemented in. I'm quite used to it now- it actually feels better than the wobbly tooth and I haven't had to take any pain killers. I know there are folk who reckon it isn't worth the local to dull the pain but I'm not one of them.
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Friday, January 21, 2011

Just in Time

The Hertfordshire branch of the family are due before lunch and fortuitously the new kitchen chairs have arrrived. The ones on which I am NEVER going to stand. Honest Injun!

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

All Behind!

In more ways than one, thanks to a sharp increase in calorie consumption over the festive season. I’m also behind in posting; I blame changing duvet covers by shaking them vigorously over the banisters. As a result my shoulder is playing up again and until the paracetamol kicks in I’m hors de combat.

It’s now a year since Margaret, the glue that held our quartet together, deserted us for a new life in Cheltenham. As expected she has settled in well, joined lots of organisations and thoroughly enjoys being close to daughters and grandchildren. Meanwhile we have tried to keep the flag flying but have been hampered by Joy’s invalid husband having problems and Joy a new knee fitted whilst Jackie has had a hernia repaired and MTL and I have had ‘an interesting time.’

Yesterday, for the first time for months we met up at Bistro 16, new to us, recommended and just at the bottom of the lane. It was friendly, hospitable, good wine and good home- cooked food. We chose variously ham, egg and bubble and squeak and gourmet, corned beef hash with sauté potatoes and veg. The third dessert was Passion fruit cream mousse. It was like old times and we pledged to do it monthly and made our next date.

Meanwhile Margaret has been having computer lessons and is now on line. We had a hysterical time trying to exchange e-mail addresses. Do you remember what it was like when you first started? Miraculously I got an e-mail to her which she promptly returned. I sent her a photo of yesterday, but must phone her to tell her how to open it.

We now have three phones, one in the hall, one in the family room and one in my office. I had got to the stage where if it meant running up or down a flight of stairs I didn’t answer, so life is much easier now – thanks to our Australian son. I still refuse to answer at meal-times but it encompasses an efficient answering machine which I had fun in customising.

Thick frost today, bright sunshine and the birds are singing their little heads off. Thank goodness I’ve got them plenty of fat balls.


Sweet condiment sets

Caramel Banoffee crumble. The chef was delighted when Joy - 'a mature lady', approved his crumble.

White chocoate and stem ginger cheese cake - my choice.
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Monday, January 17, 2011

Gone in a Flash

Our Australians have been and gone and should be arriving any time soon in Sydney. In spite of lousy weather we had a great time. I was worried they would feel the cold after the tropical climate in Queensland, and they did, but not in the house, happily. In fact they started to leave doors open finding it too warm! May be the stuffing of the walls and lagging of the attic has helped, but we still have acres of unglazed glass.

Before they left we were delighted to hear our grand- daughter had been accepted at the University of her choice- albeit somewhat flooded at present. It’ll be all hands on deck to clear up the mud. It certainly is a land of extreme contrasts as illustrated in John O Brien’s poem:

“If we don’t get three inches, man,

Or four to break this drought,

We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,

“Before the year is out.”

And every creek a banker ran,

And dams filled overtop;

“We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanranhan,

“If this rain doesn’t stop.”

“There’ll be bush-fires for sure me man,

There will, without a doubt,

We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,

“Before the year is out.”

Drought, floods and forest- fires just go with the territory. At school our 10 year old grandson regularly recites:

I love a sunburnt country,

A land of sweeping plains,

Of ragged mountain ranges,

Of droughts and flooding rains,

I love her far horizons,

I love her jewel sea,

Her beauty and her terror-

The wide brown land for me!

They enjoyed the food especially bread and all the different cheeses. Our son made a smashing spag bog and an antipasta – something tricolour – tomatoes, red onion, Mozzarella cheese and a delectable sauce begging to be mopped up with crusty bread. I did my fail- safe roast chicken with lemon and garlic and smoked salmon and prawns were also popular.

One day we braved the rain and went over Exmoor to the Blue ball Inn. F said she missed the English country lanes. We rediscovered the inn when our French son was here and the food is still excellent. MTL had his favourite ham, egg and chips, K had Cumberland sausages on mustard, surrounded by a circular Yorkshire pudding. I should have taken a shot because it looked extraordinary. F had something more popular with teenagers but I can’t remember what. The vegetables were outstanding – about five different ones.

I usually avoid pastry but both F and I chose apple pie – custard for F and vanilla ice-cream for me. It was truly melt in your mouth time.

My new phone has just rung with the news that they are back home safe and sound. Deo gratias. We now have three phones, courtesy of K, so no excuse for not answering them - except for meal-times which are sacrosanct.

Our kitchen chairs are starting to fall apart. I was standing on one of them so - project for the week.

Inside the Blue Ball. It's like a Tardis with room after room. I like the old-fashioed Joanna.

This is the Blue Boar which the name originates from.

We are high above Lynton and passed lots of old snow drifts.
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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Susannah York with Kenneth More in Greengage Summer

Susannah York January 1939-January 2011 R.I.P.
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Friday, January 14, 2011

Hats off to the Aussies who come hell or high water just get on with it!

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Samaritan at Sea

In September 1942 a British troopship RMS Laconia was en route from Cape Town to Britain carrying 2,700 people. There were approximately 80 British women and children, 136- man crew, 103 Free Poles and 268 British soldiers guarding 1,800 Italian POWs. It was spotted by a German U- boat and torpedoed and The Laconia sank.

When the U-boat Commander Werner Hartenstein realised there were POWs and civilians on board facing certain death, he went against the order of the Nazi high command and determined to save as many of the survivors as possible. The submarine surfaced and took on board some 200 people and towed another 200 in four life boats – daisy chain fashion, and gave help to about 20 lifeboats and small rafts surrounding the U-boat.

They displayed a makeshift Red Cross flag and sent a message to the Allies to organise a rescue of the survivors. The British Commander in Sierra Leone informed the Americans to look for Laconia survivors but forbore to tell then of the U- boat’s rescue. Three days later they were spotted by a rookie crew of an American Liberator and were attacked.

Reluctantly Hartenstein had to abandon the life-boats and resume the normal activities of a hunting submarine. The German Admiral Doenitz sent a Vichy ship to pick up survivors and issued the Laconia Order to U-boat commanders not to rescue survivors in future. One lifeboat eventually reached the coast of West Africa and a British Merchant seaman injured in the American attack remained with the U-boat until it reached port where he was imprisoned as a POW.

Doenitz awarded Hartenstein an Iron Cross and offered him a desk job but Hartenstein preferred to stay with his men. Later his U- boat U- 156 was sunk with no survivors.

Last week I watched over two nights Alan Bleasdale’s dramatised version of this incident. As the characters came to life there were echoes of The Titanic. The story was told from the point of view of the U-boat’s crew and the passengers on the Laconia. I believe it was an Anglo German production so it was fairly even handed and was well acted by stalwarts such as Brian Cox and Andrew Buchan.

I was held because of the history of it but it was long winded. The camera man lovingly explored every inch of the German Commander’s face and also of the actress who played the mysterious German passenger. On the final night there was a programme interviewing six of the original survivors

‘We were torpedoed at 20.07 hours and sank at 20.45,’ one of them said

‘The Italians didn’t really want to be in the war.’ This was the general impression back in the forties.

Josephine Pratchet said her parents were at a dance on board and she and her brother were playing draughts. After the first torpedo hit there was a deathly silence and all the lights went out. Someone was buying a bar of chocolate and the rating insisted on writing down the details: ‘The accounts have to be right.’

Their father threw life –jackets at them and they ran to the station - they had been well drilled.

The Italians were locked in the hold and as they tried to escape they were fired on by the Polish soldiers.

There was blind panic – the boats were inadequate. One woman put her son in a boat and shouted,

‘Don’t worry I’ll see you later.’ but the rope snapped and the boy didn’t survive.

People in the water tried to get in the overloaded boats and were beaten off with oars.

Some went down with the boat and then when the boilers exploded were blown clear. Some Italians were shot trying to get on the boats.

In the morning there was no ship and hundreds of dead floating n the water. One survivor remembered a dead girl with her long blonde hair floating around her and a dead woman still wearing her hat. They were astonished and frightened when the U-boat appeared with machine guns but the captain spoke to them in perfect English and said all women and children would be rescued. He wore a battered white hat and had a ginger beard. They were given sustenance and the crew were very kind to them giving chocolate to the children.

‘Let’s hope nobody depth charges us whilst we’re on the U-boat,’ said one.

A 100 people were killed by the bombs dropped by the Liberator and when the U-boat resumed its duties-

‘He went down slowly so as not to rock the boats. A very thoughtful German.’

Back in the lifeboats they were rationed to 1 tab of water in the morning and 2 tabs in the evening. Some resorted to drinking their urine and at least one drank sea- water, went berserk and had to be put overboard. People started to die in the boats and they were gently put overboard and a prayer said but eventually they were just put overboard. Gradually they got weaker and just sat gazing into the distance. After 5 ½ days a battle cruiser hove in sight and they cried,

‘We’re going to be rescued.’ A rope ladder was put over the side for them to climb but none of them had the strength and had to be hoisted on board. As they saw the lifeboat drifting away they felt joyful.

When they heard in 1943 that the U-boat with Captain Hartenstein and crew had been attacked with no survivors, one said:

‘I was sorry in a way because he was a very nice man.’

These programmes can be seen on BBC2 iplayer.

The Laconia torpedoed by a German U-boat In WW2

An artist's impression of the U-boat crew rescuing the survivors

The noble German Captain and the mysterious German woman.
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Saturday, January 08, 2011

Dinner, Malfunction and a Brain –wave.

We chose the Quay pub near the harbour – it used to be The Red Lion when we first came and has had quite a few changes since but Joy and the cancer care workers had their Christmas Party there and enjoyed it. When we booked they said all the food had 50% off which seemed a friendly omen. It’s a good location – right by the sea and we managed to park round the corner. I was sure we could have parked right outside but MTL was being cautious and I was happy he felt up to the exercise.

The decorations were mainly gold and pretty, and it was very much the quiet after the storm so we were the only guests in our part of the dining area. It was pleasant to sit having a drink, deciding what to eat and be waited on by a pretty young girl. MTL chose broccoli soup, chicken and pigeon pie (not a local one I hoped) with the usual accoutrements and raspberry jam pudding with custard

. I decided to have two starters instead of a main and had a meaty pate with Melba toast – a treat I don’t often have - and in spite of the toast being slightly over done I relished it. Then red mullet with noodles in a sauce which would have been improved being less liquidy. No complaints about the lemon meringue pie with vanilla ice-cream. As we are nearing the end of a self- indulgent period I decided to finish it off with an Irish coffee which made me think of Mapstew - see side bar, and wish he was there with his music. As always on this special evening we remembered back over the years and particularly the last six months.

When we eventually stepped outside and looked out towards the sea I was struck by the stillness - no traffic, no people - there was a hush which made me feel at peace. Years ago when we had our cottage in Yorkshire we came out of the pub on the hill that drops down into Burnsall and whilst we had dined it had snowed and moonlight was shining on the river. One of the loveliest sights and sounds - we crunched back to the car- I've experienced. Such a lot of turmoil we had to endure from then. How lucky we are to be still standing – together.

The next day I was greeted by a blank page on my In-box. Frustrating because I could hear the ping of a message arriving and couldn’t read it unless it was a comment and went straight to my blog. Eventually I had to give in and called Tim the fixer. He picked up the mouse and immediately the picture was restored. I think I may have used an expletive. For some reason the picture had ridden up and was brought back by a quick click and drag. Something similar happened before and Kim told me what to do about it.

I wasn’t about to waste my call out fee so Tim did some tidying up and set defragmenting the? drive in motion, which went on long after he had gone. I feel sorry for him when he attempts to explain technical matters to me and often giggle but the gist is the computer uses files and then flings them all over the place – rather like teen-agers undressing - and the defragmenting tidies them all up and places then neatly side by side. Sort of. My first experience of the new VAT!

Yesterday the 4th chemo was started and I asked MTL what was the worst part. He said sitting for two hours with the drip. As the nurse is there for the whole time politeness made me switch off radios TVs etc, but I remembered our French son had sent a boxed set of ‘Yes Minister’ so got that in motion and both patient and nurse appreciated it. Wish I’d thought of it earlier. Not the river at Burnsall and no snow but the beauty is the same.

The Quay Inn in lonely splendour

This was a surprise present from Australia. Handmade in Noosa and perfect for the evening - I can even get my camera in. A shame you can't see the 3D effect of the flowers. It's not just and effect - they are separate.
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Wednesday, January 05, 2011

January 5th

Today is the fifth anniversary of Past Imperfect. It is also a very special anniversary for MTL and me. If you are new to the blog and would like to know why just follow the link( please God) and scroll down to January 5th 2009.
A Life- changing Day

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Another year bites the dust.

It was quite painless really. We have eaten less wisely than usual, OD’d on TV Dickens and ‘Stately Piles’ goings on and been guilty of much sloth. If there us a single person to whom I haven’t wished a Happy New Year I do it now – for the last time till next year. I always see Christmas and New Year as the end of a road and then there is a sharp left hand bend and we’re off in a new direction.

What’s gong on with the water levels? People in Ireland with no water at all and people in Queensland Australia with life threatening floods and another earth quake in the north of England. I hope the balance is restored soon and no more lives lost.

Hats off to Jennifer Saunders of ‘Absolutely Fabulous‘. On a radio programme with her comedy partner Dawn French she was bubbling with infectious mirth whilst on the long road to recovery after breast cancer. She told us she had a line in her body through which the chemo is given and that the line is removed in March. Hopefully MTL’s chemo stops mid April after his 8th session so I have a glimmer of what she feels. There were many newspaper reports of how ‘Jennifer has won her battle with cancer.’ But her husband Ade Edmondson told Rebecca Hardy this:

So, there is no battle. I hate the word battle. You just get battered with a load of drugs. People want the words “trauma”, “battle” and ” life-changing”, but it’s not a great three-part TV drama full of moments, it’s a long grind, like a slow car crash that will last five years and then, hopefully, we’ll get out.’

Every case is different and everyone had their own way of coping but I agree with the ‘long grind’ bit

We are going to be busy; the Australian branch of the family come next week, later the Hertfordshire branch, then the Warminster lot, followed by all the French taking us up to March and the Norfolk visit. That should make the time pass.

The sun is peeking out. Maybe we will go out for a meal tonight – we have an anniversary on Wednesday but the nurse comes for blood, so tonight could be the night.