Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Falling to bits

I booked an eye test today, mainly on the strength of getting a voucher offer of 20% off a pair of specs. I'm short sighted and use glasses to drive and watch TV, other than that I quite like my hazy world as I can't see people's dandruff etc and I have the camera adjusted to suit my right eye.

N. has a great new pair of designer frames, CKs I think, which look fantastic on her amazing Spanish face. Meanwhile I have a bog standard acceptable pair, which have lost one of the nose thingys, and which she got for me for £20, using my prescription, the last time she was in India.

It's two years since I had a test done and I've been putting it off because the last time I went it turned into a huge hullabaloo (splg?) and I ended up at the eye hospital. The reason for that was that I had to declare my cancer on the form, and the optician then found that my right pupil didn't dilate properly. Shine a light at it and it doesn't respond as quickly as the left eye. Now you'd think by the time I'd got into my late forties that someone would have noticed this before, but they hadn't.

So the optician wrote to my GP, who called me in to tell me she was referring me to the eye hospital. Of course no-one was actually saying that they thought the cancer had spread to my brain and/or eye.

But they didn't need to as I'm good at freaking myself out thank you very much, and I started to do some research, which included scanning loads of pix of myself from childhood to now onto the pc, and then blowing up the eyes in Photoshop. And to my relief I found that my right pupil was bigger in every single shot. Funny how no-one, including me, had ever noticed this before!

The appointment came through very quickly and off I went, armed with photocopies of my enlarged eye shots. The waiting room of an eye hospital is very scary place, for a start the coffee table books are all in Braille, and there are hand rails round all the walls, so I was in a right state by the time they actually called me for the tests. But they were very thorough, checking my peripheral vision and all sorts of other things, and they finally came to the conclusion that it was a long-standing condition which chemo had maybe made slightly worse.

So you can understand why I don't want to get another eye test! This one is with another company, which is probably pretty stupid as they won't be able to compare it with the last test, but I've already told them on the phone about the problem, so hopefully that will help.

And I may just get a great pair of specs!

I really do try to get on with life, but it's amazing the number of times the fear comes back to bite you on the bum, even when you are trying very hard to ignore it.
I'm reading Alan Bennett just now, he's had bowel cancer, and he wondered at one stage if it was possible to have cancer of the elbow, cos it had become painful.

BTW I caught the BBC R4 item on blogging today, both London based blogs on commuting, both women sounded good souls. I'd do a link to it, but I don't have time today.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Harvest is almost in

Harvest is almost in
Originally uploaded by gapyearwoman.

I liked this shot from the road looking into this field of bales.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Memory problems

I really don't like admitting it but extensive chemo has left me with a degree of cognitive impairment. When I'm writing I now find that I have problems retreiving certain words from my central filing cabinets. I also tend to confuse sound-alike- words with completely different meanings, as if I go into a particular drawer and rummage around for a bit before plucking at something thinking, "This must be it!".

And if I'm tired the problem just gets ten times worse. I can catch my mistakes, but only if I leave things for a while and then go back and read them over. It's all very frustrating, particularly when I used to write for a living.

So if you spot some really awful spelling or grammar please forgive me. Writing this blog is helping me to keep flexing my brain, and thankfully things aren't getting any worse, but equally they're not getting any better.

This is a paper on the problem.

Been a good weekend though. The Flower Show people have invited me to join them for lunch before the show opens next weekend. Just hope my prints are finished in time, the holiday weekend has affected the printing process. And GPS boy was in the local paper having won some big golf cup. The newspaper called him for a quote, and he dealt with them like some mini Tiger Woods.

Saturday, August 26, 2006


At Christmas we got a turntable that plugs into our stereo so we could play all our old vinyl. Today I was cleaning that room and put on some old albums, I don't usually get all nostalgic about old things, and I love my i-pod like life itself, but I'd forgotten how much fun lo-tech things can be. When the needle got stuck I just had to jump a little and it moved on, so simple. There was a time when I knew where all the scratches were on a well played album. And don't get me wrong most are in tip top condition it's just the odd one that's had a bit of a hammering.
I also love being able to just lift the arm to skip a track.

The dog just watched me like I was an eegit. I miss our old dog Andy, who we had in the 80s. He loved to dance, to Springsteen mostly, he and I would bop around the livingroom while he crooned along to Dancing in the Dark. He could smile too, if people met him on his own in our road he'd stop and smile at them before going on his way. He also did a great Elvis pout.

Heaven would be to have an old jukebox full of great music. There was nothing better than shoving all your silver into the jukebox and then trying to make your coffee last long enough to hear your track being played. Ah the randomness of life, i-pod on shuffle just doesn't come close.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Prose haiku

Picked up from Barbara's blog. Write a haiku using the word 'prose' within for a book competition which ends this month

Here's the link as for some reason it won't embed:

Here's mine:

Prose, born of
Prosa, the plain flower
of the open

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Book list

1.One book that changed your life? Tess of the D’Urbervilles:Thomas Hardy
2.One book you've read more than once? Grapes of Wrath:J Steinbeck
3.One book you'd want on a desert island? Some massive poetry anthology
4.One book that made you laugh? Catch 22:Joseph Heller
5.One book that made you cry? What I Loved:Siri Hustvedt
6.One book that you wish you had written? To Kill a Mocking Bird:Harper Lee
7.One book you wish had never been written? Thomas the Tank Engine,I loathed reading it to my son, dry as dust, but he loved it. My friend's son had a speak impediment and used to refer to the F*ck Controller, after that I was lost.
8.One book you are currently reading? Untold Stories:Alan Bennett
9.One book you have been meaning to read? Italian Food:Elizabeth David
10.Five people I am tagging: Blkbutterfly, Pi, Banana, Andre, and Motherdamnable

Poor N

My friend had to have one of her elderly cats put tp sleep yesterday. Poor C had been on a drip for 24 hours, but she hadn't improved. It's always really tough to have a pet put to sleep, but when you're living with Stage 4 cancer it must have a lot more significance. The vet told her to take C's corpse home and show it to Pusskass, her other cat. Apparantely he walked all round C's body sniffing her and then sat down and washed her ears. N was in bits. She said Pusskass just howled all night after that so she not sure it was such a good idea.

C was such a smart cat. My dog chases cats, so when we visited N's house C would walk in slow mo so as not to attract his attention.

Her son buried C in the garden beside another cat's grave and N's right breast. Yes her breast! When she had the mastectomy she asked to get for her breast back, and she took it home and had a wee service for it. I wish I'd thought to ask for mine, it somehow seems a very natural thing to do. I reminds me of the bit in Fried Green Tomatoes were they buried the wee boy's leg after he lost it in the train accident.

Enough of this morbid stuff I better go and walk the dogs.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

I'm probably the last person on the planet to see thisShakira spoof but it made me laugh.

Britain's good at it

I followed a trail from Jonny B's blog to discover that Britain is excelling in a new genre of writing, no not chicklit, Briget's big pants are old hat, no the in thing is young females blogging exclusively about very casual sexual encounters.

If we're that good at it I say let's make it a new Olympic sport so at least we can pick up a few medals, as in: "A Titarse wins the blonde, sorry the gold, for best kiss and tell with tuck and somersault".

The trail first took me to some daft bloke's blog, where he was defending a woman's inalienable right to tell all on the internet. (I wonder if he was one of the two characters in Men Behaving Badly who used to get off on the idea of lesbians scrapping.) Off course it is their right to do it, but they shouldn't start bleating when the red top papers get on their rather obvious trail and try to out them, especially if they've already signed a book deal. The tabloids are fighting to stay afloat, and some might have gone under already were it not for this type of story and Big Brother. While the Lebanon burned the Star had 9 pages on BB.

The actual blog in question is a big disappointment, no better than silly soft porn really, where the TV repair man immediately gets his kit off to tweak the lady's big knobs.

But it's good to know this is what the sisterhood fought for. I'm sure Simone de Beauvoir would have approved.

I wonder what random advertising the site generates, the telephone numbers of the STD clinics I hope. I also wonder if it's just a London thing. It would be very hard to be the only casual sex blogger in the village, cos you'd run out of material fairly quickly, well in the winter anyway.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Triptych leeks

Triptych leeks
Originally uploaded by gapyearwoman.

This is one of the shots I hope exhibit at my Flower Show exhibition. It is of the tops of their giant exhibition leeks. I like the way they look like hair or kelp/seaweed.

Schools go back tomorrow

Hallelujah!!! I don't really mean it........

I've just written this poem, it's still a bit rough, but I think I know what I'm trying to say.

The Sherpa

“Back to School!”, the chainstore
billboard bellows. This time
he’s goes back for the last time.

In the intervening years,
between the day he
sprinted into infant school

and now, I’ve stayed
sober, stayed sane, stayed
on track, and kept our pact.

Sitting here, sherpa-like,
I survey the final peak, hardly
able to believe I’ve got him

here, brought him this far. And
now, like some staggering groom,
I’m ready to set him down

on this threshold, this high plateau
and turn my gaze towards the
misty vistas that lie below

Saturday, August 19, 2006


I'm grateful to blogwithaface for adding my face, it is currently last on the left of the bottom line. BTW my portrait here is a composite shot I made of myself at all the stages of my life, child, teenager, bride, mother,patient,and the present.

Also interested to read that a poster on flickr,an Icelandic woman,has been picked up as a potential international photographer. This is her page which has details of the story. Nice to read of success straight from the net.

Last night was a lot of fun. T he meal was delicious at Hewats in Edinburgh. It was pouring with rain,stair rod stuff, so we took my husband's big golf brolly. When we left I stupidly picked up the wrong golf umbrella. M.was a bit miffed as his was a better one, with air vents or something to stop it blowing away. So after the comedy set we went back to see if ours was still there. The people who own the one I mistakenly took were still there eating, so the Aussie waitress said, "I won't tell them, it'll be our secret that their brolly has seen more action tonight than them".
I think this incident would the basis for a good short story.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Wedding Anniversay

Caught a radio item today about how wedding couples are now paying for professional dance lessons so they can trip the light fantastic at their reception.

This is where I don my grumpy old bag hat and have a mump. I wonder if the more spent on a wedding the shorter the actual marriage will prove to be?

When we got married we really needed the presents, and they weren't grand, just linen and crockery and bits and pieces. And we didn't end up owing the national debt of a minor Latin American country to pay for it. Our first flat was rented, the loo was off the kitchen, and the floor sloped at 45 degrees, so if you dropped an egg it ran under the cooker. We had students downstairs, who when they spilt red wine on the shag pile cut a square out with a Stanley knife, washed it and hung it out on the line!

And here we are 27 years later, almost mortgage free, and with our son in his last year at school. God knows where the time went, but he's still making me laugh and is still the best man I know.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

You don't need to become a Tory to be green

Our daily paper had a big supplement on being green. I read about Freecycle in it and joined up today.

This is what it is/does:

"The Freecycle Network™ is made up of many individual groups across the globe. It's a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (& getting) stuff for free in their own towns. Each local group is moderated by a local volunteer (them's good people). Membership is free. To sign up, find your community by clicking on the region on the left. You may then go directly to your local group by clicking on "Go To" or you may immediately joining by clicking on "Join." It will generate an automatic e-mail which, when sent, will sign you up for the local group and send you a response with instructions on how it works. Can't find a group near you? You might want to consider starting one (click on "Start a Group" for instructions). Have fun!

The Freecycle Network was started in May 2003 to promote waste reduction in Tucson's downtown and help save desert landscape from being taken over by landfills. The Network provides individuals and non-profits an electronic forum to "recycle" unwanted items. One person's trash can truly be another's treasure!

When you want to find a new home for something -- whether it's a chair, a fax machine, piano, or an old door -- you simply send an e-mail offering it to members of the local Freecycle group.

Or, maybe you're looking to acquire something yourself. Simply respond to a member's offer, and you just might get it. After that, it's up to the giver to decide who receives the gift and to set up a pickup time for passing on the treasure.

Our main rule: Everything posted must be free, legal, and appropriate for all ages."

I just got rid of an old leather chair that we'd got fed up with, it isn't comfortable any mpre and was just taking up space. Tomorrow night it will be history. I'm glad it's not going to landfill. Charities can't take it without a smoke proof label thingy.

Maybe I'll stop feeling the urge to look in skips now. I mentioned on another blog that I once actually bumped my car while rubber necking a skip. I was only doing about 10 mph in traffic.........

Marathon Picture

pack leaders
Originally uploaded by gapyearwoman.

This is the photo I promised of the half marathon leaders. The wee guy at the back won it. He morphed into a super hero towards the end of the race.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Productive Day

I've almost got all my plant pix interpolated. PC is behaving very well, normally it takes every bit of RAM to do each file up to 60mb.

Son saw school about rejigging his studies to accommodate the unexpected resit, and I think we've reached a good compromise on the other subjects that he'll do. Just need him to research university clearing rules on the courses he'd like to do before next Tuesday when final choices have to be made.

To clear my head N and I walked round by the coast with dogs and watched a whole bunch of seals coming ashore on a big sandbar. They are so funny on land, with all their blubber shaking about. Dogs had a ball trying to flush hares out of the sand dunes, with little success.

Writers' Group also met tonight for first time since the summer break. Lots of plans for the winter, so I'm looking forward to it. We had the Scottish travel writer Peter Kerr along tonight. He's a really nice bloke and told us some great stories about the vagaries of the publishing world.

It's my 27 wedding anniversary on Friday and we;ve booked to go out for dinner and take in Frankie Boyle's comedy set at the Festival. He's basing it on black comedians routines of the 1980s. It has got great reviews, so I hope it'll be a laugh.

There's a nip in the air tonight, first sense of summer drifting away. Plums and apples are riping in the garden. Life is full and good and I'm glad to be here.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Arrgh these insect bites

We get bitten to bits here every August, probably because that's when the harvest starts and the combines disturb all the sap sucking insects. When we first moved here I blamed our poor old dog for getting fleas and bathed him within an inch of his life. But I soon discovered that everyone gets bitten, and then like magic it stops as soon as we get the first night frost, usually around the first week in September. But September is a long way off, and working in the garden is just a chore when you leave 1% of yourself out there every time you go out to work the soil!

My astrantia elimination project is progressing, I reckon I only have about a sixth of the garden to dig it out of. Yesterday I visited the local Sunday market and bought up some perennial "rescue" plants, the ones that look sad now, but will be fine again next year. I got about five plants for £1 each, a huge saving. Best was a huge pot of pink Monarda, the plant which is used to scent Earl Grey tea. I've also created a euphorbia patch, moving some worthy seedlings and also introducing a fabulous new dwarf one called Blackbird, which as the name suggest has almost completely black foliage. I've put this one near my other new aquisition, a nearly black sedum. I love money saving ways of obtaining new plants, gardening shouldn't be about spending a fortune or instant gratification.

Sad news is the sparrowhawk has reached our garden, I had hoped the number of trees would stop it predating on the small birds that visit us, but yesterday I found a huge number of sparrow feathers under the plum tree and it won't have been a cat, as the dog makes sure they never tarry for very long. Anyway "visitor numbers" to the feeders are down this morning so something's up.

Saturday's half marathon race was a good event, the winning man did a really fast time, though I can't tell you how fast as stats like that go in one ear and out the other.
But I had to rescue a poor young guy from the first water station, as the combine dust had given him all the early signs of an asthma attack. He could have waited for the Red Cross ambulance to come round, but that would have left him standing around longer, and he wanted to get back to the changing room to his inhaler. So I drove him back to town. He was inconsolable at having to quit the race as he'd been training hard for it. I really admire asthma sufferes who take part in sport, it must be terrifying to feel your lungs constricting like that.

For some reason pictures won't load today, so I'll try to add a race picture later.

Saturday, August 12, 2006


N's MRI showed no further growth in her spinal tumour, so it looks like it has gone quiet again. She really thrilled. I think the lack of pain made her hope for the best, but nothing like those magic pictures to confirm it. She is back on Tamoxifen, which she took for 5 years, stopping eight years ago. Since then she's gone through the full gamit of oestrogen suppressing breast cancer drugs. But apparantely sometimes, after a sufficient gap, Tamoxifen, now a cheap wee generic drug which costs 20p a pop, can start to work again. Looks like it has in her case, let's hope it lasts for a while now, as the alternatives aren't great.

I feel much better after two days of slobbing around, think I just overdid things.
Although yesterday I did help a friend to burn back up system DVDs for her new laptop. I should charge for the number of middle aged women friends whose pcs I fix.
Installing virus software, fixing printers etc, etc. I'm a middle aged geek lol!

Also got asked to help some other friends with a travel business produce some promotional material. I don't have a big stock of travel pix so I've been trawling a few stock libraries for them. It is actually a great way to train eye and to see things from a picture editor's perspective. I found a few they may like, though tastes always differ. They seem to really like the Maldives shot of perfect sky and sea, with a wooden walkway going up the centre. I wonder for how much longer we'll be able to appreciate such places given they stick out of the sea like tiny low lying lily pads. I feel really ambivalent about travel these days, love to do it, but appreciate that I'm helping to destroy what I set out to see. Only good effect of latest scare is that our carbon foot print will shrink for a day or two, at at least until the airline shares have bottomed out.

Today I'm shooting a half marathon for the sponsors.Should be through by 3.30, then I have a piano lesson, which I've not practised for, so I better do something now.

GPS is away to a footie match in the West with friends. Husband is driving me round the half marathon course.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Blogger's Block

Not blogged for a few days, as I've been busy and also cos I didn't feel I had anything much to say.

Son got his exam results, of which four out of five were very good. The fifth was not so good, which means doing a resit, which in turn means changing his plans for next year. There's apparently a three step technique for communicating with teenagers:

- I feel. (name your feeling)
- When. (provide nonjudgmental description of behavior)
- Because. (give the effect the behavior has on you or others).

But I think you must have to a saint to use it, as it's very hard not to slip into the Nike technique of, "Just do it! OK!" after every reasonable enquiry is met with silence or shoulder shrugging.

Friends called to offer me the chance to jion them on a full day at the Festival, which was fun, last show was The Thai Lady Boys . Not something I'd have chosen to go to myself, but in the event great fun. Their finale had them all in pink mini kilts parading to the Proclaimers and Runrig, which went down well. Boy are those Lady Boys waxed to within an inch of their lives. They must have baths full of the stuff backstage.

Also went to a poetry book launch of Sushi and Chips at the Scottish Poetry Library. It was a nice night, and Colin's readings from the book were very enjoyable.

Still feeling tired, which is a pain. I think the funeral on Friday took a lot out of me. So I'm taking things slowly for the remainder of the week hoping to recharge my batteries a little. I have a check up which is starting to loom on the horizon like the first chink of a new dawn. If I don't feel better when it comes up I'll mention this fatigue, but I dread the tests that will then probably ensue.

N gets her MRI result tomorrow, in part that is on my mind too, but not as much as it is on hers. Only good thing is that she is pain free without taking any pain relief, so hopeful the volcano-like tumour has decided to go quiet again for a bit.
But as she says it's hard to plan anything, which in turn makes life and living a little too temporary.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Dads' dancing

Well ceilidh was fun, but too warm. The smokers had the best deal getting the cool air out in the street. Edinburgh is about to go into full festival mode, when it changes completely. Even just people watching in the street becomes much more interesting as wild artsy types turn up to throng the squares and closes.

I spotted lots of men doing Dads' dancing a la Peter Kay at the ceilidh. But I really liked one guy who just came it, took his jacket off, stuck it on a chair and just danced. And he was good dancer, fit looking and clearly enjoying himself. And there was this old lady who was clearly very happy to watch him. It reminded me of a great song by Lulu, I know, but she does do some good stuff, which is called "Poor Boys" , about the old dance halls in Glasgow in the '60s.

This morning I stayed in bed and listened to all my favourite Radio 4 shows. Desert Island Discs had the poet Michael Rosen
I really liked his choices, the link will take you there.
I'm sure it's no coincidence that he likes blues as his poems have great rhythm.

Also read the Sunday papers, I like the Scots guy Armando Iannucci's column in the Observer, he had a really funny bit on Blair believing that he is a timelord.

Met the toad again this morning, this time in the greenhouse, he's doing a great job as there wasn't a slug in sight.

My friend Judith has a poem here, it's called Something Strange and is about butterflies and this crazy weather. Checkout the Mouse page, as the link is generic.

Day feels a bit of a right-off, I can't do late night any more. I can't face picture editing, or taking at the mo. I think I feel another lie down coming on..........

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Early Morning

Couldn't sleep so I got up early and went out into the garden with a cup of tea.
I did some more digging, removing yet another barrowload of astrantia from under one of the apple trees, where it had choked out some irises . Even with the ground cleared the light there still isn't good enough for the irises to flower well, so I lifted the rhizones and cut them back by a third, to some healthy bits and then pared the leaves back by a third too, and replanted the lot into a sunny border.

Then I watered the greenhouse, and found a wee toad swimming in the water-butt. Don't know how it got in there as the thing stands four feet off the ground. I fished him out and set him down on the ground, there are other water sources in the garden, including two deep horse trough that have mini ponds in them, so he should be OK. Courgettes are doing well, the neighbours will start avoiding me soon as I try to palm my surplus off on to them.

Yesterday my husband and I (I sound like the Queen lol) attended the funeral of his Aunt C. She had been living with lymphoma for a while, but finally got very ill very quickly and nothing more could be done. The nicest thing about the whole funeral was that her son and two grandchildren played a piece of music that her son had composed. It's called Snowdrop, and is a jazz piece. They had a keyboard and double bass in the chapel and it was such a great change from the usual hymns.

That's my third funeral in three months, I guess I'm at that stage in life.

Tonight we hope to go to ceilidh, which should be a laugh. It's a fund raiser for friends of friends who are going off to cycle across Mexico. I don't know quite why they're doing the trip, but it sounds like a great one to make.

GPS (golf playing son) is in a championship final today, and his dad is caddying for him . I hope he pulls it off this year, last year he lost on the last hole. His handicap is down to 3.8, which is 0.2 below his target for the year, so he's doing well. National school exam results come out on Tuesday, so i hope he does as well in them.

Better get showered I'm filthy from all my digging.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Been offered

an exhibition of photographs at the local horticultural show. I took pictures there last year, and they want me to mount an exhibition of some of the shots. I'm excited about it as I hope they'll like the interpretation I've put on all they amazing things they grow. The Chrysanths were beautiful and I've done some fantastic duotones of them, their shape and form is just amazing. And the veg is equally spectacular, they have monster leeks, whose leaves trail like kelp in the sea, and I've done a really good triptch with a leek shot. I hope to weave in some outdoor things too, like some allotment shots I've done with lopsided huts and massive globe artichokes.

I've also been offered a wee bit of funding to do a chap book of the cancer chronicles series poem. I'm going to "produce" a readings night on the topic of health with the Writers' Group to launch it. We'll read from published and unpublished work on the theme of health, and we hope to make the programme varied and entertaining. The Scottish Poetry Library are being very helpful in locating some of the things I want to use. We'll sell tickets for a cancer charity, and my GPs surgery have said they will support it by attending and putting posters up etc.
We're going to included pieces of flash fiction, 150 words, based on the idea of casenotes and of people sitting in waiting rooms.

This is a recent poem from a group that I'm writing on the theme of memory being triggered by individual senses, this one is on taste. (In Scotland "hunt" can also mean to chase someone/thing away, as in "I hunted the doorstep salesman")I wanted to give it a kind of Lord of Flies take on childhood. Anyway comments are welcome, especially if you think there's room for improvement.

Taste buds

A rich, ruby ripple
bursts upon my
tongue, and we’re
in broken sunlight,

in a scrappy strip
of wood that screens
sixties ticky tacky houses
from a busy city road.

The canes are dense and
spiteful, like the bamboo
old Makepeace sees in the
fevered dreams his faded
wife reports to Mum.

We hunt other kids,
muzzles red-stained,
like hyeanas at a kill,
mouths jam-packed
with berry gore.

This glorious summer
glut could teach us that
good things are fleeting
and generally
come with thorns.

But the lesson’s
well beyond our
childish grasp, and so
life will blow us
raspberries instead.

What kind of art am I?

Thanks to Chief Biscuit for this.

You Are Best Described By...

Farbstudie Quadrate

By Wassily Kandinsky