Sunday, September 28, 2008

Strike September...........

Can't believe we're all but in October. And I'm not ready for autumn, because I'm still half looking for the summer we never had to finally arrive.

So stuff your russet apples and ruby leaves, I've decided to escape back to the sunshine for just a wee while bit longer.

With any luck the world as we know it will crash in the interim and I may never come home.

If not TTFN....................

Meanwhile here's Billy Bragg with a good song for the moment.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Nothing to declare?

I had a lovely trip. The people in Barajoz were wonderful. We did a fair amount of work on the project during the day, but they laid on lots of cultural events in between.

They are very proud of their cuisine and the local jamon, which is the best in Spain. So we were lucky enough to eat quite a few typical meals, including one of their winter staples of soup and meat and chickpeas. They are also influenced by Portuguese cooking as the border is only 5km away. So we also sampled beautifully cooked salt cod, with delicious tomato sauce.

They took us to see the town of Caseres, which is a World Heritage site and has architecture dating from the Romans, through the Moors, to Christian and Jewish settlements.

And I was given a beautiful Spanish fan, which the women still use, because day time temperatures can go above 40C! I'm not very good at using it yet, I lack their deft flick of the wrist, but I will practice using it when I'm away on holiday.

Madrid airport's new terminal is very impressive, I'll post photos later, and contrast it with Heathrow's Terminal 5, which is drab by comparison, like someone who always uses magnolia paint just to be on the safe side.

We got caught up in the new passport control at Heathrow, which was a shambles, kids in new uniforms looking like it was their first day at school sending people down blind roped-off canyons because they hadn't bothered to check if their routing system was working, a passport control officer literally snarling at poor Chinese student who couldn't understand her, folk taking your photograph, with no explanation as to why or what they would do with it.

I haven't experience such naked aggression on arriving in the UK before, I thought I had landed in another country. Then you arrive in Terminal 5 and suddenly you're a potential customer again. Customer Service should apply on arrival, not on the other side of passport control. I only saw one mature female customs/immigration officer treating people with the dignity they deserved.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Lovely to me

I'll be gone for a bit - off to sunny Spain - Barajoz, on the project visit I mentioned.

Here's a picture of their castle, and as you're all lovely to me here's Lucky Jim singing that very song. See you.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

My water but............

three quarters of the year
and still the dial is stuck on rinse
but there's constancy to rain,
a fidelity in gloom

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Carol Ann Duffy's brilliant poem

This is the link to the Guardian article that includes her poetic response to the fact that one of her poems has been removed from the English curriculum because it deals with knife crime.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Aging dogs

G has been scratching his right, front elbow a lot. I've had a good look at it and he has a wee growth on it. At first I ythought it was a tick, as we've walked in deer country recently, but it is too firmly attached, so it must be some sort of warty growth. But it is better to get it properly checked, particularly as his scratching is irritating it and making it bleed.

He's been a very healthy wee dog, as most mongrels are, but I fear time is catching up with him at 12. He already has a heart murmur, though it doesn't seem to slow him down, but then he is still lean and pretty fit.

I'm ticking off tasks on my "to do list" before I go away next week. Yesterday I saw the Community Services supervisor and arranged for one of his teams to do some work on the new borders in the big garden. Tomorrow I'm seeing a plantswoman about ordering new plants from her to put in the ground next Spring.

The weather has been really poor for the camera this year, I'm just hoping we get a better autumn and I'll maybe get some decent shots.

Although I think all the practical stuff I'm doing at the moment is crowding out any creative feeling. I just hope it returns at some point, as I feel rather flat without it.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

rain () rain () rain () rain () rain () rain ..............

A day to hunker down and watch Scotland play footie and Andy Murray try to live with Nadal in the US Open semis.

This is what it should be like. I went a walk in the hills on Thursday. The heather is still out, though fading fast.

I think the Gulf Stream has slipped, either that or the Gods are definitely agin us. A few hundred years ago we'd be burning somebody at the stake by now for the state of this summer.....

PS Scots write the best pop tunes ever and Annie Lennox is a goddess.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008


The first day of autumn has arrived and I'm making homemade soup to celebrate, with black Tuscan kale, bread and garlic. To be followed by apple crumble made with from the first apples from the garden. And I ate my first plum straight from the tree today. And the blackbird has speared his claim on at least six lusciously ripe figs.

This is my season, my time of year.

I wrote this wee thing after reading the Crow Country book that I mentioned a few posts back.

His book proposes
the idea that all enquiry
is a form of love.

So, one lump or two?

Monday, September 01, 2008

Quick Tit Fitter

This is my husband's name for the prosthesis fitter and I like it as it makes me laugh.

N and I made our annual pilgrimage to her last week to get our falsies checked out. We've both got used to the process now, though this time we discovered that we had to wait in the main waiting room, where all the women waiting for test results have to sit - which I happen to think isn't fair on them or us.

But this is a piece I wrote the first time I went:

By November the wound had healed and I decided the time was right to visit the prosthesis fitter to get a proper “falsie”.

Up until now I'd been making do with the soft kapok prosthesis given out on the ward after the mastectomy. Having breast cancer makes you into a project manage as you try to keep track of appointments for blood tests, chemo, physio sessions and now the prosthesis fitter.

I discovered that the fitter had an open clinic at the hospital once a week and by chance her day there coincided with my next chemo, so I arrived at the hospital well before treatment, and after chalking up my name on her blackboard list took a place in the queue, which was seated in the corridor outside her door.

I felt rather out of place, as almost every other woman there was over seventy. But I got talking to the wee woman beside me, who told me that she was there to find out if she could get a lighter prosthesis, because she liked to swim as it helped her arthritis and her present one was so heavy she was in danger of sinking like a stone. She joked about being like Wilma Flintstone with a boulder in her bra.

When my turn came I found the fitter friendly and welcoming, with the no nonsense air of Girl Guide pack leader.

She sized me up with a look, which her trusy measuring tape then confirmed. She told me I was a 36, which I knew, and a C cup, which was news to me as I'd always thought of myself as a B, but then I was having to take steriods as part of the chemo regime.

Oh the irony of gaining a cup size, just as I'd lost a breast!

Then, rather like a shoe shop, she went away to the store cupboard to look out for suitable falsies for me to "try on".

This left me a bit taken aback, no-one had explain the process to me, but somehow I’d stupidly imagined that I’d get a cast made of my right boob and they’d mould a match for the left.

I should have known I’d be an off the peg girl even when it came to spare body parts! I then wondered if it really was going to be like trying on shoes, and I’d have to walk up and down the room to see if the prosthesis was a comfortable fit. She came back with three boxes, and took the first prosthesis out and expertly put it into the empty left side of my bra. It certainly wasn’t lightweight, and I immediately appreciated how much your chest wall muscles must support the weight of real breasts.

In her Yorkshire accent she said “Put your top back on love. Now I’ll stand behind you like this and pull your top tight under your bust, and we’ll check in the mirror to see if you’re in proportion and symmetrical.

Then she sighed and said “No, no, love this one won’t do. Can you see how it’s too big in the lobe area of the breast? Right let’s take it out and we’ll try another one instead.

I whipped out the prosthesis and handed it to her. It looked and felt like a jelly that had been made with too much gelatin.

She put the next one into my bra.“ Now let’s look. Oh yes that’s much better! I think that’s the one love. I’ll not try the last one, cos I know it's a bigger make than this one. Now love, you know you can get two bras a year pocketed on the NHS free of charge, just hand them in here and we’ll post them back to you. And I’ll give you a catalogue for a specialist bra company. We’ve also trained staff at John Lewis, Debenhams and Marks and Spencers to help you buy suitable bras. What to look for love is one that has good thick straps, cos you’ll have noticed that the prosthesis is heavy and also you need one with cups that come up and cover the top of the prosthetic breast. I’ll point out some in the catalogue that I recommend.”

She marked a few off in the booklet with a pen, and then she put the prosthesis into a box and handed it to me. “Now love once you are all through your treatment, you’re getting radiation are you?” I nodded. “ Well once your skin’s all settled down again come back and see me, as you might be suitable for a new prosthesis we’re trying, it has a sticky on pad, so you can wear it on the chest wall, and it’s much lighter than the one you’ve just got – but you can’t use one until you’re all through your treatment. So that’s you love, and the washing instructions are in the box, just use warm soapy water and pat it dry. That’s all there is to it really!”

I stumbled out of the room with my box, a bit gobsmacked by the woman’s Gatling gun approach, though I couldn’t fault her thoroughness.

However, the old lady I’d been talking to wasn’t wrong, the prosthesis was bloody heavy. It occurred to me if I learned to whip my bra off quickly I could readily adapt it into an offensive weapon.

Apprentice is the Bionic Woman! See her use her armour-plated bosom to clean up this town!

So just as I’d predicted at the time of my diagnosis I was now bald with one breast.

“What am I? A freak, abnormal, aberrant?” I asked myself.

It is fine to decide to be different, like being a punk or being into body piercing; but my altered body state made me realise just how much most people like to blend in, to be part of the herd, to be a person that nobody gives a second glance to, except maybe to think, “I wonder where she got those great shoes?”

And then it hit me,from here on I was going to have to work at blending in, I was going to have to think about necklines, straps, communal changing rooms, swimsuits, getting undressed on the beach etc, etc. I rather tearfully I stumbled off to chemo.