Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Que Sera Sera

Day 1 of the radiotherapy stint is now safely ticked off on my list. It wasn't a zapping appointment - that starts today - it was a 'getting ready to be zapped' appointment, where they needed to get the machine programmed in with the right co-ordinates.

I have to say, that the radiotherapy bit of the big scary hospital is SO MUCH NICER than the chemo bit. I went with my mum, and the people in the waiting room were more relaxed, and some people even smiled! Some ladies in there weren't wearing any scarves, wigs or bandanas, and just had a fraction more hair than me. They looked really good. Maybe in a couple of weeks I'll join them. I don't look too bad now from the front, but when I turn to the side I seem to have a huge bit of skull that sticks out at the back. Gosh, I'm so vain!

There was a lady in the waiting room making a massive proggy mat. She had a wooden frame with a bit of hessian sack attached to it. She had loads of small strips of felt and was progging them through the holes in the hessian with a progger-thing. It's something my mum used to make when she was a little lass, so she got all excited when she saw it, and joined in - much to the lady's delight. (She was there as an 'official proggy mat-maker, by the way, not just a random lady carrying her hobby around everywhere she went.)

I was called by a nice chap called David, left mum happily progging away, and followed him into a little consultation room where he explained all about the next 3 weeks. He gave me a timetable with all the dates and times on and asked if they all seemed alright. The 'sports day' time was a bit dodgy, so I asked if that one could be changed.

'Ah, you'll be wanting to watch your kids,' he said.

'I'm not bothered about them,' I replied, 'I just want to run in the mothers race.'

He looked me up and down. 'I bet you run it in bare feet,' he said, a little smile appearing on his face.

'How do you know that?' I asked. I wondered if he thought I was Zola Budd.

'I can just tell,' he said knowingly, and left it at that.

A bit later, I was ushered into a little changing cubicle where I had to strip to the waist and put on a terrible little spotty tunic that had velcro-ed shoulders and sides. I didn't know how much time I had, otherwise I was going to start doing a Bucks Fizz Eurovision dance impression in front of the mirror, and whip the tunic off in one big rip. Thankfully I didn't, as they soon came in to get me, and lay me down on the zapping bed.

The radiographers were called Ruth and Robbie. I could imagine them on Britain's Got Talent, as they were a pretty impressive double act. He was slightly camp, and enjoyed dancing around the bed I was lying on, putting felt tip pen marks all over me. She was the sensible one, and kept checking to see if he'd done it right.

They got me in position, then left the room whilst the machine zooped about on its practice run. They told me that whatever happened, I had to KEEP STILL, and NOT MOVE!

Before they left, they pressed 'play' on the little cd player. I wondered what music they had chosen for me. Within a few seconds, Doris Day started belting out 'Que Sera Sera,' at the top of her voice. It was lovely, albeit a very surreal experience lying there - arms above my head, boobs out, alone in a room listening to Doris. I wanted to sway my arms in time to the song and sing along with the chorus, but thought better of it. In fact, I'm not sure I even breathed!

Anyway, job done, and all I had to do was drag my mother away from the proggy mat, grab a coffee and head home.

So when you press play on the clip above, make sure you think of me - in fact, why don't you try it yourself - and see if you can lie there throughout the whole song without moving a muscle - not as easy as it sounds!

Monday, 28 June 2010

England are Dead...LONG LIVE BRAZIL!

The radiotherapy slog starts tomorrow - but so too does the countdown to the 20th July when I can honestly say...'Get in, its all over!'

My appointment is at lunchtime tomorrow at the nasty big hospital in town. I'll be home for 5 minutes, and then back into town to a place right next to the hospital...for an appointment with my cricket team! Yes, we are playing a VERY good team tomorrow evening - it'll be full of young county players, and the ground is like Lords with proper seating etc. I think they manicure their pitch there - I've never seen any clumps of nettles like we have at our place - which is just as well really, as we don't want to lose their ball when we start slogging it for four.

I hope we try a little harder than those overpaid, arrogant, petulant buggers from the England football team.

Before 'the match,' the 9 year old was playing footy for his school in a little fete tournament. They had to play 5 games in the blazing sunshine, and in one game they only had 3 players to start because the rest of the team had got held up in the sweety stall queue. They ran on heroically one minute into the game - mouths stuffed full of bubble gum and toffee chews, and went on to win the match and, the entire tournament.

Maybe that's all Rooney needed at half time - a couple of toffees.

So, at least in our household we had a football hero yesterday. He was very proud of himself and his team, but after watching the 'big boys' on the telly, he ripped down the England flag that was sellotaped to the stair window in disgust, muttering 'bloody Germans, bloody Rooney,' and replaced it with his own little medal.

With regard to the rest of the World Cup, he's in a dilemma now. I have shown him 'youtube' coverage of the Hand of God Maradonna goal - so not only does he now dislike the Germans - he would also hate to see Maradonna's Argentina team win....

...I think he needs to take a leaf out of the 6 year old's book. She is a glory seeker of the first order, and at the start of the world cup, she abandoned all faith in the England nackers, and wedged the flag of Brazil in her window. It has been fluttering there grandly ever since....go on Brazil!

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Why Walk When You Can Fly

Gosh - I've just noticed that a lot of my latest posts have been so long! Blah blah blah!

Time for another song then, I think.

Hubby and I have seen Mary Chapin-Carpenter LOADS of times live, and she's great. This song is one of my favourites. Best line to listen out for - 'In this world you've a soul for a compass, and a heart for a pair of wings.'


Thursday, 24 June 2010

A Little Old Man Called Joseph

I met a little old man this week called Joseph. He was about 90 years old.

I had to go to the hospital to collect a prescription, and whilst I was waiting for it, he shuffled up carefully to the counter, handed his prescription in, sat down next to me and smiled. He was immaculately turned out with neatly trimmed snow white hair and a great big hearing aid clipped on to his right ear.

I couldn't help but notice as I checked him out, that he was wearing a jumper and a coat.

'Silly old fella,' I thought, 'Its 24 degrees out there, he must be daft.'

So in a big loud voice, I shouted to the daft, deaf old man, 'Blimey, aren't you hot with that jumper and coat on?'

He smiled.

'I was in India in the war,' he began.

'Oh God, not the war,' I thought, 'I'll never get away now.'

 'I was with the RAF there for 3 years. I was only 18,' he continued, 'and they said to me that if I got used to the Indian heat, then I would always be cold when I came home to England. And they were right.'

I smiled back. He wasn't such a daft old fella after all.

'My uncle George was a spitfire pilot in Burma,' I said.

'I spent some time there too,' he replied, 'and also in Singapore.'

At this point, he stopped, and I could see that he was thinking back to when he was a young lad. His eyes misted over slightly with tears, and then he looked at me, wondering whether he should continue. Should he open up that little memory box in his head and share what was tucked in there with this young stranger.

'There was a bomb,' he said quietly. 'which was the start of my deafness.' He pointed to the big hearing aid. 'But my friend was in the next room, and he was killed. His face looked so serene.'

I didn't know what to say. The prescription lady came to the rescue and called my name. I signed for my drugs, then sat down again next to the old fella. I wanted to say sorry for thinking that he was just some doddery old deaf bloke, and sorry that he'd had to experience such awful things, but instead, I said that it was lovely to meet him, and thanked him for telling me his story.

There'll be lots of people wandering around with their own boxes of memories in their head. Some they'll be glad to open, some they'll keep firmly locked away. I'm not quite sure what I'll do with my cancer memory  box yet. Will it be an open box or will I lock it away. I suppose by writing this blog, the box is well and truly the minute. Maybe on the 20th July it will be time to stash it away in the hoy in room in my head, just like old Joseph had done with his memories of the war.

I don't know why that lovely old man opened his locked box for me the other day. Maybe he read my mind and thought - 'I'm going to put this young whippersnapper right,' or maybe, as I'd rather believe, he had sussed me out with my bandana head and thought he'd let me know that however hard it is to go through difficult times, you can stare those days in the eye and move on - all the stronger for it - even though it may still bring tears to your eyes - many, many years later.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Happy Fathers Day

When I was about 10 years old, my dad drove me and my brother all the way to the South of France in a Citroen 2CV to go camping for 3 weeks.

Before we set off, my brother and I were placed in the car, and the tent, the lilos, food boxes, clothes, and all other manner of kitchen sinks were packed in around us so that we couldn't move. The little car was stuffed to the gunnels. Apart from the ferry crossing, I didn't see my brother for 2 whole days when we finally fell out of the car, blinking in the blazing sunshine, at Les Arcs campsite.

We had the most fabulous time. Dad and my brother ate nothing but the 4 million Vesta currys they'd packed, and I ate hot dogs. Loads of them. In fact, I ate so many, that I puked up one night.
'I've been sick,' I reported to dad.
'Oh that's good,' he replied, 'whereabouts?'
'In the sink.'
'Oh God.'
Poor dad had to clear up 10 hot dogs from the campsite sink. He couldn't believe that I'd swallowed them whole.

He took us to Monte Carlo, and as a good, responsible father, left us outside whilst he wandered in to one of the fancy casinos for a look. Two minutes later, he was hoyed out by 2 french bouncers. Seemingly, you weren't allowed in wearing a cheesecloth shirt, brown shorts and Jesus sandals. We laughed for ages about it over ice cold litres of panache each - (that's shandy in English.)

He took us snorkelling in a lovely secluded cove one day. My brother set about collecting clams. The only place he could store them was down his trunks, and when one of the little buggers decided to 'attach' itself to him, my dad found super-human strength to prise the mighty clam apart. Thanks to my dad, my brother went on to have 4 beautiful children.
I, of course, laughed and laughed until sundown, when I discovered that I had 10th degree burns on my chest from the sun. 'Dad, man, that NACKS!' I squealed as he roughly slapped the aftersun on like lard on an English Channel swimmer.
My brother was pleased to see me in pain. Served me right for laughing at his clammed 'bits.'

Dad also locked me in an outside toilet for 30 minutes. He didn't mean to, but as him and my brother tucked into the lovely french nosh at the restaurant, they suddenly realised that I was missing. He had bolted the door from the outside to keep me safe - not thinking that his daughter wasn't Houdini, and wouldn't be able to get out. I was fine about it. I knew he'd come back to get me eventually, and God knows why, but I sang an old geordie song - 'Cushy Butterfield,' 87 times to keep my spirits up. My brother smiled quietly when I sat down to eat my cold cheese omlette. He had enjoyed his half hour of peace.

I got my own back on my dad by sending him into a shop to get me some envelopes. I told him that the word for envelope was 'singe.'
Poor dad spent 15 minutes in there with the 2 bewildered shop ladies asking, over and over again - 'Avez-vous des singes? Singes? Singes!'
He didn't realise that he was actually saying, 'Have you any monkeys? Monkeys? Monkeys!'
Not sure I've ever been forgiven for that one.

Other minor things happened on that trip. An articulated lorry crashed into the side of our 2CV with me shouting 'Dad man, Dad man!' helpfully in the back as it got closer and closer to us on the roundabout.
Our tent also collapsed in the middle of the night, and my lilo burst, so I had to sleep the rest of the trip in the dinghy. Yes - we also took a dinghy.

With dads in charge, anything can happen. With my dad, this is still the case, whether he's walking into glass doors, falling into pizza restaurants or booling up to ancient Roman bath houses with his trunks rolled up in a towel asking '1 to swim please,' to the horrified English Heritage lady.

My 9 year old sometimes says to me - 'That's what Granda would say,' or 'That's a Granda face,' or 'that's what Granda would do.'

'Jolly good,' I say, 'because if I can be half of what Granda is, then you'll be a very lucky lad.'

Happy Fathers Day, dad - and to all you other dads out there. Have a lovely day.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

The Angel with the Tattoo

I remember dad once took me and my brother to Gateshead Stadium to watch an athletics meeting in the 70's. He was pals with Brendan Foster, the distance runner, and so we went armed with 4 bits of cardboard - each with a letter on - 'B' 'R' 'E' 'N'.

I remember the buzz in the big stand as he ran. I held up the 'B' and the 'R' proudly and shouted 'Bre-en, Bre-en!' as he cruised down the home straight to victory. It was brilliant, and I became a big fan of athletics. When you see these athletes in 'real life' you appreciate just how amazing they are.

During the 80's I used to love watching Sebastian Coe, Steve Ovett and Steve Cram - three British middle distance runners that competed against each other on all the great occasions. Seb Coe was the posh looking one who seemed to sail effortlessly around the track looking lovely, Ovett was the ugly one who also sailed around the track, but who didn't look as nice, and then there was Crammy, the local boy with the golden curls, who on his day, ran like a gazelle.

There were some occasions, though, when I'd find myself yelling at Crammy on the telly. Whenever he got tired, and hadn't paced himself as well as he should, he would run down the home straight, his head wobbling all over the place, and his feet looking like they were running through sticky tar. 'Howay man Crammy, keep yer head still for God's sake!' But you knew his body had 'gone' as the competitors flew past him to victory.

I kind of know now, how poor Crammy must have felt when his head went all wobbly and his legs just wouldn't work properly. He would know that all he had to do was run another 100metres -  a simple task, but his body wouldn't let him - just as my body protested last night at the cricket. Angels v's 8 young county whizzkids.

Dad and I had been to the hospital in the morning for my ct scan. It wasn't so bad. I came out with 4 little tattoos. The only trauma of our visit this time, was when we were leaving. The revolving doors moved slowly around, and as I left the building through the door safely, dad walked straight into the glass.
We are probably the only people ever to leave that horrible place roaring with laughter.

Dad turned up to watch the cricket. I'm surprised he didn't have 6 bits of cardboard with him,  'S' 'H' 'E' 'N' 'T' 'S.'

I knew what I had to do. Bowl straight, field the ball well, don't lose my wicket early, and get a few runs.
In my first over, I hit the young batter in the guts with a full toss, hoyed the ball so wide and so high that it almost hit a couple of seagulls innocently flying past, and pretty much 'went all to hell.'
In the field, I ran about like a new born lamb for 10 minutes, then brought myself off after only 14 overs - my head was wobbly, my legs were like lead bollards. I felt like a knackered Crammy.

Opening the batting, I faced the 4th ball, went for a whack, and the bloody stumps and bails went flying. I wanted to shout 'B*S*ARDS!' but this was cricket, ladies cricket, so all I could do was trudge off and pretend I didn't care.

Husband was furiously frustrated with me. All that practice in the garden. 'Why the hell did you try and slog it?!' he cried, as I arrived back at the club house. Just like me, yelling at the telly all those years ago - 'why the hell didn't you pace yourself, Crammy?'


'Have you had a tattoo today?' my protective dad, and biggest fan, asked husband quietly.

Frustration. It brings out so many emotions. We can yell at Steve Cram and Robert Green on the telly because they are supposed to be better, we can yell at our wives in a village cricket match because you desperately want them to be better (in their performance and their health) or we can just say 'hey don't worry about it, you've had a bad day, just do your best next time...'

I'll go with my dad on this one. I do have a bit of an excuse I suppose, and I will have to work hard to gradually build up all the fitness that's withered away over the last 6 months. Its bloody frustrating knowing that only a few months ago, I would have bounced around that pitch all day long.

In the clip above, Crammy is at his very best. He sits at the back, then gradually pulls away and wins the race by a mile. Patience, and I'll get there too - my own little Commonwealth Games.

Meanwhile, I'll continue to do my best with the lovely Angels and I'll still yell at all the athletes, the lazy, useless, overpaid footballers (unless they win the world cup) and all other sportspeople on the telly, whether they've had a tattoo that day or not....

Monday, 14 June 2010

Gifts from Scotland

When people go away on their hols, they usually bring something home to remind them of their stay. This year, I bought 2 nice mugs that were on 'spesh' in the shop, and some shortbread for our neighbours who had looked after our hens and had watered my tomatoes.

The kids spent Nanny and Grandads pocket money on a jigsaw, a bubble wand and a clever little device that was a telescope and a microscope, but they also brought back some other special treats that were completely free of charge.

The 6 year old, for the last couple of days, has been scratching her head in a frenzy-like way - a bit like the last time she had nits.

'You're head will still be full of sand,' I said, 'Gizza look.'

I inspected her head closely, and sure enough there was still half a beach stuck in her head, but I also saw a little creature, and another one, and another one. Bloody nits! Jumping and dancing around in her hair like they were at a party. How the hell has she caught nits when she's been off school for 2 weeks?!

I did the usual mad scratch of my own head, and then remembered that I didn't actually have any hair to infest! Lucky me!

The 9 year old, meanwhile had one big fat nit in his scarecrow hair, but nothing else.

'I think you'll be ok,' I reassured him, but as I looked closely at his face, I noticed a little dot of mud on his eyebrow.

'I thought you'd just had a shower?' I asked, squinting at the dot of mud. He assured me he had scrubbed every last bit of his body. 'Well what's that bit of mud on your eyebrow, then?' I asked, trying to brush it off.

'I couldn't get it off,' he said, flinching, 'it's just a spot.'

'Keep still, then, and I'll scratch it off,' I said, pinning him down.

I got my nail, and scratched of the mud spot thing, then inspected it closely.

It was a bloody tick!

'What's a tick?' he asked, horrified.

'Its an insect that sucks your blood and can give you diseases,' I replied, reassuringly, 'nothing to worry about, but just have a good check all over your body to make sure there's no more.'

After a minute of frantic searching, he couldn't find any more, but inspected the little creepy crawlie tick and half a dozen of his sister's nits closely through his brand new microscope. I think he was wondering if they were from Scotland. How would he know? Well, they'd be tartan of course!

Saturday, 12 June 2010

A Fond Farewell

I actually cried on the way up the 126 steps as we left last night. The 9 year old thought he'd upset me by covering my back with that sticky-jack weed, but it wasn't because of that - even though it was a little sod thing to do.

Maybe it was because during this last week, as Confucious dad said, it was a chance to be fun and frivolous. No hospital appointments, no drug taking...and no wig-wearing. Trudging back up the steps meant that I would have to start focusing on the ct scan, the boob tattoos and the 3 weeks of radiotherapy.

But hey - I'm psyched for all that, and at the end of the 3 weeks, on July 20th to be precise, it will all be well and truly over - apart from follow ups etc.

So I don't really think it was because I was having to face reality again.

Maybe it was relief.

A bit like when I left the chemo ward for the last time. I'd made it, I'd done it. I'd crossed a finishing line. We didn't think we'd get to the cottage, but we did - thanks to 2 little oystercatchers.

But I think it was more than that.

For many, many years as a kid and as a wife and mother, I have turned to say goodbye to the little cottage on the 100th step, before it disappeared behind the wild garlic, the nettles and the sticky jack weed.  I'd always looked back and thought - 'Ahh what a shame, we're leaving, but we'll be back next year - bye for now.'

This time, as I turned to look back at the little cottage for one last time yesterday, I think that I'd lost a bit of my 'indifference,' and my 'taking things for granted attitude.' 

Has the last 6 months just turned me more emotional? Or am I starting to see people and places with new eyes and with a new attitude. I love that cottage by the sea, and instead of giving it a couple of air kisses, I wanted to give it a great big hug and a heartfelt, teary farewell.

And so, back to reality - ct scan on Tuesday morning....and a cricket game on Tuesday evening with the Angels....and, of course, many more wonderful memories to look back on at our place by the seaside.

England Hooligan

Thursday 10th June

'Don't forget!' The chemo nurses reminded me as I left ward no. 1 for the last time, 'you'll burn more easily in the sun!'

'Yeh, Yeh, I know,' I said, skipping out. I'd read about 4 million leaflets about chemo side affects. Of course I knew about the bloody sun. What do they think I am for God's sake? Stupid?

Last night, I had a little chuckle when I saw the weather forecast - 'It'll be hoying down with rain in the north east,' the lady said, 'and glorious sunshine where you are, Shents.'

So what did I do the next day? I went to the play park with the kids, left the suncream at home and sat watching the kids zoom around in the blazing sun. It was lovely....until I looked in the mirror this evening. I have a bandana tan. If I just added a little bit of red face paint vertically over my head, it would be more of a St.George's cross tan - well alright, St. George's BURN - on my face - a red stripe across my forehead, and a red stripe down my long pointy nose....just in time for the world cup - I look like I have been branded with the England flag. Take the bandana off, and I look like the perfect England hooligan. Come on England!

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Come To Heal

Monday 7th June

I can’t tell you how much it means to me to be here with my little family.

The tide is way, way out, and it’s the kind of day where the pale blue sky and the sea merge into one. There’s a small sailing boat in the distance and it looks as though it’s suspended by a thread in the air.
Husband has spent the first few days sleeping. He needs it. A combination of working hard and worrying hard. His body has been winding itself up into a tight spring over the last 6 months, and if we’d left it any longer to come away, someone or something would have suffered when the spring snapped. Thank God, then, that this place can unwind him gently and safely.  I’m beginning to see the bloke that I know and love emerging out of the stress and worry. He’s relaxing. It’s good to see.
For me, well – my junky veins are still nacking, but my mother of all coldsores has nearly gone and my mouth ulcers have finally disappeared which means that I can enjoy eating and drinking again. AND,  guess what – my hair is making a brave attempt at returning. It’s peeping through my skull, whispering ‘is it safe to come out now? Has the nasty chemo gone?’ There’s a layer of white, fluffy downy stuff which is about 3 millimetres long, and a hint of a dark brown 6 o’clock shadow. It’s quite exciting!
The kids, meanwhile, are in their element here.  We managed to climb up a treacherous gorge this morning for a couple of miles. We were doing really well until we came across an extremely tricky bit. We were faced with a deep pool of water flanked by steep, slippy, mossy sides. I managed to cling to the side and edge myself along to safety, but the 9 year lost his hold and slid down the sheer drop desperately trying to save himself by clutching onto wild garlic, stones and soil. He landed in the pool of icy water – right up to his waist. His sister, clinging for dear life further up the slope was laughing so much she nearly joined him. The irresponsible mother loved it. I feel like I'm getting stronger by the day.
I’ve had all sorts of medicine to treat this bloody cancer, but this place definitely has healing powers that no other drug can match...and what’s more, it doesn’t make your hair fall out!

Stinking, Sinking Seaweed

Sunday 6th June

Well, today I was going to write about our rockpooling session, the 10 cygnets on the swan pond, the 6 year old on the monkey bars in the play park, the 9 year old and his dad playing football like Brazil on Port Carrick beach, and the lovely sunny day.

But then, at 7.30pm the kids had a bit of an adventure.
We decided that we’d have a bonfire on the beach. The sun was out, and it was still warm, still and bright.
‘I’ll build the bonfire, if you two get gather some driftwood,’ I instructed, sending them off down the beach.
I set about collecting some flat stones, arranging them in a small circle and building them up like a little dry stone wall. In the middle, I scrumpled up some newspaper and placed some skinny little sticks on top. All I needed now were some bigger pieces of wood. I looked down the beach, expecting to see the kids, arms full of sticks, traipsing back along the shore. No sign.
‘Where the bloody hell are they?’ I thought, setting off to find them, following their little tracks. They’d completely disappeared.
I wandered along to the point where you can see onto the next beach, and was relieved to see a red and yellow dot in the distance – the 9 year old. Trailing behind him was a pale yellow dot with red rubber shoes – the 6 year old. They were miles away.
I yelled and whistled and gestured madly for them to come back at once. I had my furious, shouty shirt face on – not that they could see, but they obviously felt it because they both turned around and started trudging back. I glared at them for a while, and then, happy that they were on their way home, I muttered all the way back to the bonfire.
After 15 minutes, there was still no sign of them. Surely to God they’d have made it back onto our beach by now? I waited another few minutes until finally a 9 year old boy appeared, holding a red rubber shoe and looking slightly distressed.
‘Oh God,’ I thought. ‘Where is she? What’s happened to her?’
The 9 year old walked towards me, close to tears, saying ‘sorry mum’, over and over again.
‘She’s been captured by Somali pirates,’ I thought, ’or swept out to sea by a tsunami.’
I was about to shriek at the 9 year old when suddenly I caught sight of a little girl clutching the other red shoe, covered from head to toe in seaweed. She was wailing.
‘What the hell happened?!’ I yelled.
‘Sorry mum,’ said the 9 year old, still on the verge of tears. ‘We got stuck in sinking seaweed...’
The 6 year old wailed her way towards me. Seaweed was clagged and hanging from every part of her body. She looked like a mini sea monster, and she stank – absolutely STANK of sewers.
They had tried to take a short cut back and had walked through a huge pile of rotting seaweed. The 6 year old had lost both her shoes and had sunk and squelched up to her waist in the stinking heap. Her brother gallantly went to her rescue, recovered her shoes, and was totally traumatised by the whole event.
‘Next time I ask you to get some sticks,’ I said calmly, hoying them both in the shower, ‘just get some bloody sticks, will you?’
The neighbours, meanwhile, smiled politely, quietly closed their door and stayed inside for the rest of the evening.

Neighbours From Hell

Saturday 5th June 

We’ve finally made it...we have arrived at our bonny wee cottage in Scotland and it is beautiful.

As I write, I am gazing out across a mill-pond sea as the sun sets. The tide is on its way out, and the Isle of Arran has emerged out of the haze in the distance. I can see a heron, and my little pals the oystercatchers are wandering along the sand looking for their supper.

The journey was painless. The kids were stuffed neatly in the back of the car with all the buckets, spades, wellies and....a Concept 2 rowing machine. Yes, the husband has insisted on bringing it along with us and is currently rowing like mad outside whilst taking in the splendid view. The couple in the neighbouring cottage must think we’re bonkers. They’ve already been treated to the 9 year old’s Britain’s Got Talent act. He can take his t-shirt off and put it back on again whilst hula-hooping. He’s practiced it all evening at least 152 million times – right in front of their window.

The 6 year old, meanwhile, arrived for lunch at the Burns Country Smokehouse en route to our cottage, and pointed to a sad looking teddy bear sitting on a shelf in their kitchen.

‘That’s my teddy!’ she exclaimed.

Sure enough – it was! She’d left it there 12 months ago when we last visited, and the owners had kindly kept him safe on the shelf until we came back for him. He stank of cullen skink and smoked salmon, but he recognised his careless owner and she was pleased to be reunited with him.

So you see, our neighbours seem fairly nervous of us at the moment, and I suppose with a strange rowing man, a hula-hooping boy and a girl with a teddy bear that stinks of fish, they have every right to be. Maybe they’re clinging to the fact that ‘at least the wifey seems normal.’

Hmm, I wonder how long I should leave it before nonchalantly walking past their window, scaring them to death with my skinheed look?!...


Friday, 4 June 2010

Thank You For Being a Friend

When I was at uni in Birmingham, I shared a house with 4 other pals - the pals that I went to Beijing with last October.

In our 2nd year, our house was a dilapidated old terraced house. When you flushed the toilet, water dripped onto the fridge in the pantry below. Our TV aerial wire came in through Pete's open bedroom window, across her room, into the hallway and into the lounge. In the winter she would freeze to death, just so that we could watch 'Neighbours.'

I won the best room in the big raffle when we moved in. It was a big, cold room with a double bed, and it had a great view of people on the top deck of buses that stopped outside my window. I would often wave to them when they stared in at me whilst I was getting ready for a busy day of PE lectures.

The downstairs bathroom wasn't really fit for bathing in, so we turned it into a garage, or 'hoy in room.' Anything that we didn't know what to do with, we hoyed it in the hoy in room. Bikes, rocking chairs, broken tellies, cardboard boxes, beer all got hoyed in.

We were quite embarrassed about our awful house. My dad often laughs about the time he drove 4 hours from home to pay us a surprise visit, and knocked on the sky blue door, expecting me to embrace him warmly and invite him into our lovely home. All he got was a very reluctant 'do you want to come in?'

Our 3rd year house was very palatial in comparison, and having lived and survived the 2nd year together in 968 Pershore Road, we were all extremely good friends. Such good friends, in fact, that we would often borrow each others clothes...well, Niki's clothes actually...when she was away for the weekend and didn't know.

Pete and I had a great time wearing all Niki's outfits when she wasn't there. She shopped at Next and had a wardrobe full of lovely gear. She only found out that we'd been wearing her things when she discovered snotty hankies stuffed up the sleeves of her jumpers - left there carelessly by Pete. On one of the weekends that Niki was away, we stuck new labels in her clothes to hide the Next tags. All her clothes suddenly came from Mark One, Littlewoods or Oxfam. We thought it was hilarious.

So, when Niki came to visit on Wednesday this week, she finally got her own back. Never before have I had anything that she would consider wearing in my wardrobe...until now.

After exchanging hugs and kisses, she didn't wait to be offered a nice cup of tea or a gin and tonic after her long drive. No. She marched straight into our bedroom sniffing out the wigs like the childcatcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

'Aha!' she exclaimed excitedly, and picked up the shorty wig which had been dumped on the dressing table. By now, the 6 year old had appeared on the scene. Without hesitating, Niki stuck the wig on and admired herself in the mirror.

'Put it on backwards!' said the 6 year old, 'mum does that sometimes.'

So Niki put it on backwards, and we roared with laughter. She looked just like a Badger's arse. (Not that I've ever really seen one.) She then tried the other wig and rather liked it.
The 6 year old thought it was fabulous that this mad woman had been in the house 2 minutes, and was trying her mums wigs out.

I thought it was great that I have friends who don't feel like they have to nancy dance around delicate subjects like wigs and baaldy heeds. That's the way it should be, and that's why I love her. She represents true friendship.

Another friend, Jill (my best friend from schooldays) came all the way to Brampton on the Lands End to John O'Groats bikeride just to deliver some  knickers for me and Suze. On this long journey, instead of knickers, she managed to organise, from Canada, 3 family meals delivered to my door for the freezer. They were delicious.

Other friends have given me bottles of fizz, flowers, scarves for my baaldy heed, travel magazines, and much to the posties amusement, a sherbet fountain even arrived anonymously in the post yesterday. LUSH!

And finally, by taking the time to read this blog, sending me words of encouragement and thinking about me, I think you are all brilliant. I love you all, and you can come and try the wigs anytime...just don't leave any snotty hankies in them!