Monday, 31 May 2010

The Wild Willy Man

It's Bank Holiday Monday, and the sun is out - hoorah!

This is the day of our BIG County Show which is held at the rugby ground on the outskirts of Corbridge. Its a magnificent event. Huge tents displaying rabbits, guinea pigs, and other pets, marquees filled with best dressed sticks, flower arrangements, sponge cakes and home crafts. There are parades of gorgeous farm animals, falconry displays, motorbike displays, Cumberland wrestling, and a fabulous funfair. There is even an RAF Battle of Britain Memorial flypast with a Spitfire.

What a great way to spend Bank Holiday Monday...

...if you like hoards of folk, nose to tail traffic, and spending a bloody fortune. So we steered well clear!

Instead, I decided to take the kids for FREE to Belsay Hall where there's an art exhibition on called 'Extraordinary Measures.' Belsay is a big favourite of ours, and when I thought about it, I hadn't taken the kids out on an adventure for ages - since the 'bloody lump,' in fact.
For the last 6 months, I've only really been ferrying them about to their activities - gym, cricket, drama, swimming....the bare minimum. I don't think I've really felt like doing anything else, but today, I really felt like getting out!

When we checked in, the kids were given a very fancy 'art detective' brochure to make them feel like important art critics. One of the artists displaying their work is a fella called Ron Mueck.  He sculpts figures using a sillicon-ish stuff. One of the exhibits - 'Wild Man,' was the best. He is a giant bloke sitting on a chair, stark naked. The detail is unbelievable - the hair on his body, his veins, the folds in his flesh AND...

...The 9 year old's mouth dropped in disbelief when he saw the big naked man with his bits hanging out, and I was amazed that the 6 year old didn't point, laugh and declare in a very loud voice - 'look at his willy!' I think she was stunned into silence - for the first time in her life!

It was such a good exhibition, that after a stroll around the gardens, a look around the castle, a jam sarnie and a hike around the woods, the 6 year old asked if she could go and see the wild willy man again. We did. He's great. Unfortunately we weren't allowed to take photos, but I've attached a picture of him. You'll just have to use your imagination to place my 2 shocked kids standing next to him. I don't know who looked more horrified - wild willy man or the 6 and 9 year old!

I am now starting to worry about the 6 year old's 'What I did in the holidays' essay. It might read something like this -

'In the harph turm hollidays my mum diddint want to gow to the show in corbrij. so insted she tuk me and my bruvva to see a wiyld man with a big willy in a big horl. it was reely gud but the man sed she wasent alawd to take fowtergraffs.'

It was a splendid day out, and despite my 'baaldy heed' I am now starting to relax and feel like the old Shents again. The Shents with a bit of energy to do the things she wants to do without the weight of chemo on my shoulders. Hoorah!

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Home Sweet Home

He's home. My little lad is back!

The bus pulled up bang on time, and as the little hoodlums filed off, we could see that the bags under their eyes were as big as the bags that contained their wet, stinking gear.

'Your children don't sleep,' croaked one of the teachers. She'd completely lost her voice, and the bags under her eyes were big, saggy and black. 'But we've had a great time,' she added. I think I believed her.

'How did the problem solving go?' I asked another teacher, who didn't look quite as wrecked as the first.

'They weren't that good at solving problems,' she said thoughtfully, 'but they were excellent at creating them.'

The 9 year old was very tired, but when I got him home, he sat on the settee with me and his little sister as his audience, and he told us everything that had happened from the moment the bus had pulled away on Wednesday, to the minute it pulled back into the layby outside the school 2 days later.

It had been brilliant. He'd survived the ghyll scrambling the canoeing and the archery, but the biggest achievement for me, was the fact that he'd managed to make his bed, set the table for dinner, make a packed lunch, use one squirt of soap, 4 squirts of toothpaste AND wear more than one pair of underpants. All without the assistance of his shouty, yelling and bawling mother....

....I wonder how his teacher had lost her voice?

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

A Team Building Trip

By the time I was 9 years old, the only school trip I remember doing was a walk to the bottom of the playing field where the railway line ran. We all stood in a big long line and waited for a train to come. It wasn't just an ordinary train though - this one had the Queen on board...or so the teachers had told us, because even though I stood waving madly, scanning every seat as it flashed past, I still didn't see her, or her crown, or her corgies. The whole trip lasted about 10 minutes, and once we'd waved, we all trooped back to the classroom, a little bemused, to do more sums.

My little 9 year old, on the other hand, has set off today on a 3 day adventure in the Lake District with his class and 4 brave teachers. They will be staying 2 nights in an outdoor pursuit centre, and will be ghyll scrambling, kayaking and taking part in lots of team building activities.

When the parents were summoned to the first meeting about the trip, we were shown a dvd of last year's kids enjoying all these activities. It was wonderful watching these little kids helping each other through tunnels, working together to solve problems, and congratulating one another on achievements.

I must admit, I have serious doubts about our little band of hoodlums. As soon as someone pops their head out of a tunnel, it will be squashed by someone's size 2 wellie. Problems will be solved by a good old scrap, with teamwork consisting of everyone shouting 'fight, fight, fight,' in complete unison. I hope I'm wrong. The teachers seemed both confident and determined this morning that class 4 would surprise everyone - in a positive way!

My own worries aren't with the activities themselves, they are with my son's lack of ability in the domestic department. They will all be expected to make their own beds up, prepare their sarnies for lunch, wash the dishes and sweep the floor. Scrambling up ghylls will be a breeze for my lazy little boy compared to those tasks!

And so, as bags were loaded into the boot of the bus, parents said farewell to their little darlings. Cuddles, hugs, kisses, hair ruffles and...tears. No prizes for guessing which mum cried! (see right) Admittedly, there were a few damp eyes as I looked around. There's going to be some very quiet households for the next few days!

3 days without my little lad, then. Will he survive? More to the point, will I survive?! I wish I could have stowed away on the bus with them...

Tuesday, 25 May 2010


I would think that most people have a teacher from school days that may have inspired them a little.

There were a couple of teachers at my school who I was particularly fond of. One was a little spinster lady with wild, wiry hair and spectacles who taught us geography. She had travelled extensively, especially to Africa, and loved nothing more than to set up slide shows of her adventures - inspiring us all with her tales of apartheid and the Berlin Wall. She wasn't your typical hero, dressed in her swishy patterned skirts and her orange lippy, but we all loved her, and many of us travelled because of her.

My history teacher was also a bit of a hero. She had a pair of bright red shoes, and a pair of bright yellow shoes, and we would take bets on which pair she would wear. She used to describe my history essays as Catherine Cookson novels - but it was her fault they ended up like that, because she brought the characters to life in my mind.

My ultimate hero teacher, however, was my PE teacher - no surprises there then! She was only about 10 years older than all of us, and when she arrived, she breathed new life into lessons that had previously been as entertaining as swimming the channel wrapped in a duvet.
She had energy, a sense of humour, and above all, she was bloody brilliant at hockey. Within a couple of years, all the school teams were winning things - even beating some of the scary teams from the toon. She even got our team through to the National School Hockey finals after we became 'champions of the north.'
She also had links with 'mentally handicapped' groups in the region, and in the 6th form, she had us all helping to take groups bowling, and ice skating. We helped at the Mentally Handicapped Games at Gateshead Stadium, and I remember chasing a young lad for 400m around the track after he'd crossed the finish line but hadn't realised that he'd finished! We both got a big cheer!
I looked up to this teacher hugely, and she inspired me in many ways.

20 years after leaving school, I was keen to track down this teacher of mine. After a couple of emails, I soon found her, but was devastated to learn that she'd had a stroke a couple of years ago, and had spent 8 months in hospital fighting for her life. They didn't think she was going to make it, but she did.

I've recently been reunited with this old teacher of mine. She can't talk, and has only recently started walking with a stick. Her best friend, who used to tag along on the school ski-ing holidays and who once played hockey for England, spends much of her time and energy helping to care for her friend. She is very quiet hero.

On Sunday evening, it was my PE teacher's birthday, and I was invited, with the kids, to go to a pizza place in town to be part of the celebrations. I was tired, I was hot, and so were the kids. My teacher doesn't know about my cancer thing, so I would have to wear my hot, scratchy wig. I nearly didn't go.

When my teacher came into the restaurant, helped by her best friend, her face lit up when she saw me and the kids. My 6 year old gave her a big cuddle, and my 9 year old smiled shyly. I think they struggle to imagine the dynamic young teacher that I have described to them so often, but they both know, because I have told them, how much this lady with a stick means to me.

My wig felt like a bearskin hat, sweat was dripping down the side of my head, and the pizza tasted of...cardboard, but I'm so glad I went. I think my face lit up when I saw her come through the door too, because despite everything that has happened to her, and everything that she is having to cope with now, she is still my hero, and always will be.

Friday, 21 May 2010

A Little Lad Called Colin

Way back in July 1990, when my friend Susie and I did the real-life journey by bike from Lands End to John O'Groats, as with the chemo journey, I also came across some marvelous people.

There was one person who stood out most of all on our trip and he came in the shape of a little lad from Liverpool called Colin. He must only have been 10 or 11 years old.

On our 17 day trip, all we had were our bikes, a couple of panniers strapped to the back containing a 2 man tent, a cooking stove, some shorts, t-shirts, a cagoul, socks and knickers - oh, and about 15 quid to pay for food and campsites.
 After a few hard days cycling, we arrived at a campsite somewhere in Merseyside.
'Sorry love,' the grumpy gadgie at the office said, 'this campsite is for families only.'
'But we've cycled 60 miles today. We're knackered, starving, and once we've eaten our beans we will go to sleep and be away by 7am.'
'Sorry love - got to stick to the rules.'
'Well, what will we do then?' we asked helplessly, too tired to smack him on the nose.
'There's a garage down the road,' he said, 'ask them.'

Like two lost souls, we set off again to find the garage - trying not to cry at the pain in our backsides.

We soon arrived at the garage, and I bought a packet of custard creams before asking the man where we could park our tent for the night. He explained how to get to a campsite 10 miles away, and I was aware of a little lad dressed in cycling gear standing behind me. He didn't say a word - he just waited patiently to buy some sweets.

I remember standing outside the garage with Suze, stuffing every last custard cream in my face, and looking on in awe as the small little boy sped away at 100mph in the opposite direction.

'Howay then Suze, we'd better get going before it gets dark.'

And off we set, pedalling like 2 old biddies, despite the custard cream energy boost.

After about 20 minutes, I looked behind me and I could see a little dot of black and yellow on wheels speeding towards us. As the bumble-bee thing got closer, I realised that it was the little lad from the garage.

He soon caught up and came up beside us, beaming and puffing.

'Me mam sez ye can stay at our house,' he gasped in a gorgeous Liverpool accent.

We pulled over - actually - we nearly crashed into a verge of nettles.

'Me mam sez ye can camp in our garden,' he smiled.

And so, somewhere, I couldn't tell you exactly where, but somewhere on a housing estate in Liverpool, we pitched our tent, taking up all the space in Colin and his mam's little garden.

His mam cooked us tea, ran us a hot bath, and gave us a couple of beers. Colin grinned all night long.

We had the best sleep ever, and after a nice breakfast, we cycled off with our new pal, who wanted to come with us for the day. Our little guardian angel.

I often think of that little lad and his mum, and the kindness that they showed to 2 nacker-brained girls on their great adventure needing help along the way.

Journeys like that, and chemo journeys can be incredibly tough at times - but if we don't make them, then we may never get to meet the wonderful people that are out there, as well as experience the warmth of friendship and family that we already have, and may sometimes take for granted.....keep celebrating, all of you - there are plenty of reasons to do so...

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Welcome to John O'Groats!

Make sure your sparkles are chilled cause I've made it to John O'Groats!

I will write more tomorrow as I'm a bit of an emotional wreck at the moment - hugs, kisses with the nurses etc. They too have a small bottle of sparkly each for tonight - they are very special people - as are you lot, my lovely family and friends. Even though many of you live miles away, you have all helped me to get through this sodding chemo and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

One Sleep to Go

Last night, as I snuggled into bed and closed my eyes, all I could see was a blond ponytail swishing from side to side getting nearer and nearer and then a red cannon ball approaching me at 152 miles per hour. Arrrrgh!

I have had my Angels Cricket team debut!


We were playing a fairly rookie side - this was their third year in the league, and they were a really nice bunch of lasses - all ages, and all shapes and sizes. Their pitch was glorious - set high up on a hill in the Tyne Valley with spectacular views. It was a beautiful sunny and still evening, perfect for midgies who must have heard I was in town and were looking for a wig to nest in. Ha! I was wearing my nana-bandana!

The home team went in to bat, and their first shot came shooting along the ground towards me. I thought, 'I'll gather this up easily.' However, I just fell over, got up, and fell over again! It was as if someone had given me a set of jelly legs! It was so embarrassing - nearly as bad as the mothers race in sports day when I tripped with 10 yards to go and dived head first over the line - I even did a forward roll and grazed my elbow and knee. (But I still won.)

And so, with only one ball bowled in the game, my brand new cricket whites were covered in grass stains, and my 9 year old was laughing his head off back at the pavilion.

After the 20 overs, they had scored 140-something. We needed to do some serious slogging to get anywhere near that! However, they had a secret weapon - in the shape of a young lass with a blond ponytail and an exocet missile bowling action. She was seriously scary, but even against this weapon of mass destruction, we managed to put together 70-something runs. We lost, but we'd got our first point because we'd scored over 50 runs! Howay the lasses!

I can't tell you how fabulous it was out there last night. I love sport, I adore playing sport, and I get a huge kick out of being part of a team. My hockey team would have been playing in a league game tonight - I can't quite join them yet - but being in this cricket team has been a new challenge and has given me just as much (if not more) pleasure as the hockey did. The fact that I feel like I've done 18 Great North Runs in a row this morning is irrelevant - it feels GOOD!

Meanwhile, there's one sleep to go til my last chemo, and I have a simple request for all of you. Get yourselves a bottle of sparkly (a bottle of pop will do), hoy it in the fridge, and if all goes well tomorrow with my bloods etc. and I get the chemo as planned, I'd like you all to raise a glass to celebrate the end of this phase of the treatment. I will also raise a glass of pop to thank you all for your help and support throughout these crazy few months....and then we'll have another one after the radiotherapy....and another one after each Angels game...and another one for luck....

PS - The picture above shows just how lovely the setting was. Give it a click to make it bigger.
By the way - girl no. 15 is their weapon of mass destruction!

Monday, 17 May 2010

Captain Fantastic

There's only one 'C' word in our family at the moment - and that's Cricket!

Hubby took the 9 year old along to his first ever proper game of cricket, and I took the 6 year old to her cricket training session down at our local club. I was hoping to join up with the boys and catch the end of their game, but it was all over and done with in 2 hours! I thought cricket games went on for days on end, but not this one!

I loved watching the 6 year old dashing about though - if you bowl the ball in exactly the right place, she can give it a massive slog.

I scoffed a delicious bacon sarnie, and got regular 'live' updates from the 9 year old's game. He had been given the job of captain, and it sounded like he was well into it - shouting captain-like things to encourage his team, like 'just get some runs!' and 'don't get out!'

They lost the game in the end, but I have never seen my little lad so buoyed up and excited when we met up at our local tea room. 450 million hours in our garden with his dad - bowling, hoying, catching and slogging balls into our neighbour's garden, and finally he gets to put all that practice into a real game.

To finish the day, we watched England v's the Aussies in the final of the World 20/20 cricket. We slaughtered them. The cool, calm captain, Paul Collingwood from Shotley Bridge - a stone's throw from where we live, got the winning runs. I bet his mother was proud.

In a truly irresponsible way, we celebrated England's victory and the 9 year old's debut down at the pub when all good children should have been in bed.

As we clinked our glasses, the 9 year old said, 'I can't wait for next Thursday...'

I racked my brain - 'Another cricket match? Football? Ah yes - the class trip to the outdoor activity centre!'

'No, mum,' he smiled, 'By next Thursday you'll have done your last chemo and you'll be feeling well again.'

I know you're supposed to be quietly modest about your children, but I think I'm even more proud of my son than Mrs Collingwood is of hers...

Friday, 14 May 2010

Don't Mention the War

When I saw the young, newly qualified doctor that day back in December, he never once said the word 'cancer.' He danced awkwardly around the nasty word and chose instead to use phrases like 'difficult times ahead,' 'you can get counselling,'  'have you got family around you,' and he even asked 'what did you think it was?'

He said everything apart from the 'c' word.

I remember sitting there numbly, and thinking - 'just write the bloody letter to get me referred, little doctor boy, and please stop talking.'

I often wonder if he looks back on our consultation. When I first walked through the door, I bet he thought - 'oh here's another one of those bloody mothers with an earache.' Next thing - he's stumbling, stuttering and fumbling to find the right words, and making a right bloody hash of it....just like Basil Fawlty.

When I left the surgery, I sat in the car for a while, cried, and thought about what had just happened. Everything was ok that morning when I'd packed the kids off to school, and now, one hour later, everything had changed. The GP was scared. I was terrified.

I drove into the village. I needed to post a parcel, and I needed some cash. As I got out of the car, I could feel the weight of a big sign across my shoulders saying, 'this wifey is doomed.'
I stood behind an old bloke doddering about at the cashpoint and I remember distinctly thinking (and nearly saying out loud) 'how the hell did you get to be so old? How come you're still alive? And I bet you're a grumpy old bastard.'
This old guy was probably a really nice grandad who bought his grandchildren sherbet fountains and took them on adventures, but I just saw him as a lucky old sod - and I'm sorry about that.

Its very strange what goes through your mind in the moments after you've just stared into the eyes of cancer.
On my short drive home that day, I thought about the things that I might never see - not the things I'd already seen.

For my little boy, out of all the things I could have thought - there was strangely one thing that seemed to bother me - and that was that I might never see him play his first proper game of cricket. Why the hell that little thought popped into my head, I don't know - probably because its something that he absolutely adores, something that he's good at, and something that I see him and his dad doing when I close my eyes and think of them.

Cancer is a scary word, but I can say it now without falling into a heap on the floor. I wonder if my young GP has practiced saying it too.

On Sunday - I shall watch my little lad play his first game of cricket.  The only thing that will stop this from happening will be hoying down rain, snow or gales - not cancer.
Its not an important game, but for me, its a VERY important game, and I will treasure every moment of seeing him out there.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

A Very Sweet Tooth

The little 6 year old and I have many things in common. We are both extremely competitive, we can both burp our names, and we both like cheating in snakes and ladders, or any other board game for that matter. However, there is another common bond - and that is our mutual love for sweets - or 'ket' as we say up here. Not Mars bars, Maltersers or Double Deckers, not sticky toffee puddings, crumbles or creme brulees...but the nasty sugary sweets that make your face twist with sour-ness, and your teeth disintegrate.

When my dad was in charge of Christmas dinner one year, he knew it was pointless serving me the horrible sticky Christmas Pudding. Instead, I was served a Barrett's Sherbet Fountain. It was delicious.
The hedge at the top of my mum's cul-de-sac probably still has at least 427 empty sherbet fountain wrappers stuffed in it (complete with the licorice stick - didn't like that) - my way of getting rid of the evidence after a sneaky trip to the shops on the way home from school.

And so, with the same love of 'ket,' it was without surprise that the 6 year old was summoned to the dentist today for her first filling.

I was filled with dread. I bloody hate dentists - ever since I sailed over the top of my handlebars at the age of 8, and dug my 2 front teeth in the tarmac.

The 9 year old had told the 6 year old that all she would have to do was hold her mouth wide open for 20 minutes, and she'd be alright. She had practiced this on a number of occasions in the car - training for her trip to the dentist.

How things have changed!

The dentist lady was lovely! She didn't whop out a great big needle and a pnuematic drill - it was like being in a cbeebies programme! She sat a Barbie doll on the 6 year old's knee and did everything to Barbie that she did to the 6 year old - she even put LIP GLOSS on her her when her lips got dry! 6 year old thought it was great! Not only did she get her tooth fixed, but she got a huge sticker AND a makeover!

Of course - you know what's going to happen now don't you. She's not going to religiously brush her teeth twice a day for 20 minutes a tooth, nor is she going to drink water and snack on celery for the rest of her life. No. She's going to scoff even MORE bloody sweets so that she can get to see the nice lady with the lipgloss again!...

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Listening to the Birds

Sometimes in life, I think you've just got to say 'ahhh sod it.'

With a couple of weeks to go until our final exams at university, my friend and I decided to say 'ahhh sod it,' and we booked ourselves a last minute cheap holiday to the Algarve to 'revise.' How the hell we paid for it I've got no idea, although we both had jobs - Peta worked in the local off-licence, and I worked a couple of doors away in a veggie restaurant called 'Wild Oats.' Together, we managed to keep our housemates alive on leftovers and cheap plonk. I guess that we must also have made enough dosh to jet off to Portugal!

We packed our rucksacks and waved farewell to our stressed housemates.

'Blimey, Shents - what we doin?' Peta kept saying on the plane.
'We're going to a warm place to revise for our final exams,' I reassured her.

We did manage to do a little bit of revision, but we did get a bit distracted by the sunshine and the pool, and we couldn't say no to the diving competitions with our neighbours (a load of old fellas and wifeys) or the beer....

....and so we returned - fully refreshed, brown as berries - and nowt the wiser for our final exams - but we still passed!

And so, with all that in mind, as I was tending to my little plants in the garden last night, my 2 little pals, the oystercatchers, flew overhead.

'P-weeep, p-weeep! Just get the bloody cottage booked, man!' they called.

I looked at the diary....Chemo, feeling cack week, radiotherapy, doctors appointments, dentists, school fairs, school trips, cricket matches, football matches, birthday parties......but there was one week standing out with lights flashing all around it. There was nowt booked in.

Without trying to get too excited, I checked the availability of the cottage. Unbloodybelievable - it was available. But what if I wasn't ok to get the last chemo? What if feel crap for 2 weeks instead of 1? What if I got an infection or took ill after the last chemo?

'Sod it,' I thought, and booked it. Cinders and her little family WILL go to the cottage after all...I hope!

Monday, 10 May 2010

Don't Call Us, We'll Call You

When I was a kid, every Spring we would stay in a cottage on the west coast of Scotland. It was so near to the beach that if you fell out of bed, you'd land in the sea.
We had some wonderful times there as a family, and we were often allowed to take friends - I used to take my best friend Jill, and my brother even took his girlfriend once - a canny but annoying young lass who whined a lot.
The cottage was teeny, with an outside toilet and shower - full of massive spiders. Needless to say, it was the one week of the year when I never got washed once - it was great.
We would spend most of the time rockpooling, shell-hunting, gorge climbing and exploring - and all the fresh sea air would make us ravenously hungry, so we would pull the little drop-leaf table outside and feast on endless 'French' lunches - baguettes, cheese, ham....and fudge. Dad would just sit in his little 'heaven' sipping contentedly on a glass of red as we searched for driftwood to build big beach bonfires.
These holidays were magic times.

So when the 9 year old was born, I made a little pact with myself, and promised that I would introduce my own family to this magical place, and take them every spring.

The cottage hadn't changed much when we went back that first year - they'd been 'done up' a bit, and they'd even managed to put a toilet, shower and basin into the old boots and coats cupboard.
On that first trip back, though, there was one thing that really struck me. We parked the car at the top of the cliff - stuffed to the gunnels with seaside crap and food - and as we made our way down the one hundred and thirty something stairs, I was quite overcome with the feeling that I'd 'come home.' It wasn't just the beautiful sight of the little cottage waiting for us below, or even the stunning view across the sea to the Isle of Arran, it was the smell and the sounds. Wild garlic was EVERYwhere on the side of the cliff, and its potent smell reminded me of all the happy years I'd been to this place. And the sounds? Oystercatchers - lovely little seaside birds in black and white with long, bright orange beaks and their distinctive 'p-weeeep' sound.

We've been back there every spring since then - we even had a week with Jill and her own lovely family one year. Sadly, we've had to miss out this spring, but you know, a funny thing's happened recently. We live out in the countryside, about 30 miles from the coast - but every day this week I've watched 2 lovely Oystercatchers fly over the garden with their familiar call - 'p-weeep, p-weeep.'
I don't know about you, but I like to think they're from that little place I like to call home....

(Click on the photo of my lovely holiday place at the top of the page to make it bigger. See if you can spot something sparkling next to the bonfire) Also - click on the p-weeep to hear the oystercatcher! 

Friday, 7 May 2010

Go On the Angels!

The Angels have had their first bit of action...without me on the pitch (but there in spirit!), and you can read all about it on our new Angel blog!
I didn't write the write up because I wasn't there, but you can see how well the lasses did!

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Midgies and Minnows

Q - What do you call a man with a spade in his head?
A - Doug

Q - What do you call a man with a sewing needle on his head?
A - Fred

Q - What do you call a girl with a wig on her head who stood outside watching football with 4 million midgies?
A - Rashid

Yes, I am now known as Rashid (pronounced Rash-heed in this part of the world)
I have the spottiest, itchiest head in the world thanks to all the bloody midgies who decided that my wig was a nest last night!

I was watching the most important derby game of the season - not Man united against Man City, not Newcastle v Sunderland, but our village Under 9's Rangers team v the village Under 9's United team! MASSIVE game. Huge build up, with lots of playground taunting - 'We're gonna beat ya' 'No-oh yer no-ot,' 'your team are ru-ubish,' 'No-oh we're no-ot.' etc. - a bit like the days of Kevin Keegan and Alex Ferguson - remember? 'I will loove it if we beat them, loove it...'

Unfortunately, my 9 year old couldn't be there to play for the Rangers side - he was playing cricket - but I thought I might feel better with a bit of fresh air and a bit of a shout on the sidelines, so I took the 6 year old and off we went.

It has to be said that Rangers are considered to be the 'reject' side of the village. The team is made up of all the kids who weren't selected for the United team, not necessarily because they weren't good enough...they just weren't picked.  Everyone grumbled and groaned at the time, but no-one was prepared to do anything about it, until one of the dads reluctantly stepped forward and set up another team to give all the 'rejects' a chance to play. Did he know anything about football? Not one bit, not a sausage - but if it wasn't for him stepping 47,000 miles outside of his comfort zone, all these kids wouldn't be able to play the game they all love so much...

....and so with the scene set, the game began, The Big Fish against the Minnows. 
In just 60 seconds, Rangers took the lead.
I wanted to start chanting 'one nil, o-o-ne nil, one nil, one nil,' (sung to the Amazing Grace tune)
But then United equalised, then scored another. Half time - 2-1 to United.
I spent the half time break scratching and itching, flapping and swearing as the midgies began their assault. I desperately wanted to pull the wig off and have a damned good scratch but I didn't think it was appropriate to do that at such an important game.
With the second half underway, United went 3-1 up, then 'GET IN!' as Rangers got one back to make it 3-2. 'Come o-o-o-o-o-n Rangers!'
But then, despite heroic performances from all the Rangers, it went to 4-2, and as the final whistle went, 5-2 to United.

A brilliant performance, despite the final result, and I think all the boys, including the dad manager, felt very proud. The minnows hadn't exactly eaten the big fish, but they'd given him a bloody big fright!

As for me and the 6 year old, we returned home happy too. I couldn't stand the wig on any longer, so drove home totally bald, much to the delight of the 6 year old who sat there laughing all the way home with a HUGE rip in her school dress after climbing over the fence at the football field. What a pair, what a team!

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

My Favourite Things

I can't remember exactly what story about the kids I was telling at work one day, but at the end of it, I do recall my work pal saying - 'Your kids live in a lovely little Enid Blyton world, don't they?'

I love Enid Blyton stories. At the age of 11, I had to have an interview to get a place in my school.
'If she asks you what books you read, whatever you do, DON'T say Enid Blyton,' dad said, even though he was secretly hoping I wouldn't get in.
'Well who shall I say I like then?' I asked, also hoping I wouldn't get in, but hating the thought of being turned down.
'Just say that you read the Chalet School stories by Eleanor M Brent Dyer,' dad said confidently.
But who the hell is she?' I asked blankly.
'No idea, but she's an ex-pupil,' said dad shoving me in the door.
Hoorah for Eleanor M Brent whatsit, because she gave me a ticket for a wonderful education, but her stories were crap, and I still love Enid Blyton.

So it was with great sadness that the Blyton of my kids' lives was rendered useless for 5 whole days with Bank Holiday Monday being the ultimate in crapness, as a fed up little 6 year old girl lay next to me, sobbing into the pillow.

'This has been the boring-est day EVER!' she exclaimed.
'All because of that stupid bloody lump!' she howled.
'When are you going to be normal again?!' she wailed.
'I can't remember what your hair was like!' she sobbed.
'And....,' she said, looking for a final, dramatic statement with snot bubbling in her nostrils, 'You can't even play draughts!'

If Enid had written the story, she'd have written about naughty Gollies leaping out in the dark, dark woods to pull the stuffing out of Mrs Tubby Bear. She may have described poor Aunt Fanny not feeling too canny....but there would always be a happy ending - Noddy and Big Ears giving the Gollies a damned good bashing, and Julian, Dick, George and Anne coming to the rescue, with good old Timmy, and a bottle of ginger beer.

And so, calmly I explained all this to my little girl. She had to be patient. She had to be brave, and although it wasn't the most wonderful day in the world, there would be some pretty wonderful days to come...and whilst I was on, I reminded myself of that too.

Which brings me to another of my favourite things - The Sound of Music.
When the 6 year old was 2, or she may have been 3, we recorded a little number which I've attached. She's singing along to 'My Favourite Things,' and starts off quite shyly with Julie Andrews singing beautifully in the background. Towards the end, you'll see she blasts out the words in an almost Johnny Rottenish way...its wonderful, cheesy I know, but it represents that Bloody Awful Bank Holiday Monday, and the good times we'll have when its all over...enjoy!

Tuesday, 4 May 2010


Normal service will be resumed soon...this last round of chemo has been an absolute sod... I'm ok, just 10 rounds with Tyson...promise I'll be back soon!