Thursday, 4 December 2014

Autumn Dinosaurs

We've been walking with dinosaurs, the Crystal Palace dinosaurs to be more specific.

Crystal Palace is the oldest dinosaur park in the world (opened 1854, five years before Darwin's Origin of the Species).  These victorian dinosaurs are interesting for what they tell us about what mid-19th century scientists knew about dinosaurs.

The dinosaurs fell into disrepair after the five in 1936 that destroyed the Crystal Palace, but were restored in the 1950s and in 1973 they became Grade II listed.  After further restoration in 2002, they became Grade I listed in 2007.

The dinos look great with trees in autumn colours as you can see from the photos.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

The Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red

The Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red is the title of the sea of ceramic poppies in the moat of the Tower of London.  It comes from a poem written by an anonymous soldier in the Great War, which ends:

I put my hand up and see the land of red,
This is my time to go over,
I may not come back
So sleep, kiss the boys for me

Today is Armistice Day and we went to see the poppies at the Tower of London.  It was a moving display and once again brought home how the poppy has endured as a symbol for war dead, particularly those who perished on the Western Front.

Poppies grow naturally in conditions of disturbed earth and were seen in large numbers on the battlefields of the Napoleonic Wars, and then a century later in the Great War.  The Canadian surgeon John McCrae wrote the famous poem, "In Flanders Fields", which linked the battlefield poppies to the graves of the fallen.

If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields

Monday, 6 October 2014

Getting in touch with my inner Tarzan

Yesterday 7 of us did the Go Ape course at Trent Country Park in North London.  It was an amazing experience.

In case anyone is not familiar with Go Ape, it is a sort of aerial obstacle course or high ropes forest adventure, that sort of thing.

After getting kitted up with sit harnesses and karabiners and then having our introductory training, we were ready to tackle the course.  Well sort of ready - we didn't know what to expect.

The zip wires were exhilarating, especially the skateboard zip and long final one.  The Tarzan swings were exhausting, and those swinging rope steps and swaying barrels were just horrible.

After finishing the course, we went to the cafe for coffee and cakes and then went for a stroll to see the old Sassoon mansion, now part of Middlesex University.  But we were in for a shock - the university's iconic Trent Park campus is now derelict.  The students have gone and the buildings empty and fenced off from the rest of the park by tape and fences.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Sound mirrors

As no one correctly guess the purpose of the concrete defence structures, I going to tell you.

The cylindrical tower shown in the first photo of my earlier post is a Martello Tower .  Martellos are small defensive forts built in the early 19th century and there are quite a few on the south and east coast

However the other structures are more interesting and much rarer.   These are sound mirrors.

The sound mirrors were built in the late 1920s and early 1930s as an experimental early warning system of enemy aircraft.  Several were built on the south and east coast, but the complex at Denge is the best preserved.

As shown in the photos, there are three sound mirrors at Denge:  a 200ft curved wall, a 30ft circular dish with a metal microphone pole in its centre (which is seen in the photo), and a smaller shallower 20ft dish.

Sound mirrors were effective at detecting slow moving aircraft long before they came in sight.  The sound of aircraft engines was concentrated at the focus of the mirror where a microphone was located.

Sound mirrors became less useful as aircraft became faster and they finally became obsolete after radar was invented.  The experiment was abandoned prior the Second World War and the sound mirrors were left to decay.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Old defence structures on remote Kent coast

These buildings pre-date radar.  Can you work out what might have been their function?   The shape might give you a clue.  Ask your friends and family?

They are made of concrete and do not involve radio waves or any other form of electromagnetic radiation.  I will reveal the answer and tell you about their history in my next post.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Can you guess what these are?

We've returned from a few lovely sunny few days in a remote unspoilt part of Kent.

We took loads of photos, but before I tell you more about the trip, you might like to guess what this is:

OK That was the easy one, but it gets harder now.   What are these structures then? 

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Another bout in hospital

You may have noticed that I've not posted much in the last few weeks.  Part of the reason has been that I've had another wound infection and had to go back into hospital for another debridement.

It turned out there had been tunneling and undermining of my wound.  A structural engineering problem?  As far as I can make out, it is a bit like that.  There is a cavity underneath the regrown tissue my wound.  Just as well, there wasn't a cave in or roof collapse.

Anyway after 5 nights in hospital I was discharged with a vac dressing and antibiotics.   I hope this means that my wound will finally close soon.  It has been going on for far too long.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

354 and the the nature of coincidence

I've just finished reading "She is Not Invisible" by Marcus Sedgwick.  I almost didn't read it because I'd previously tried to read "White Crow" by the same author and given up part way through - it was sooo boring.

"She is Not Invisible" is the complete opposite - a real page turner.  There was no way I was not going to finish this book, and quickly too.

It is the story of Laureth, her young brother Benjamin and a toy raven called Stan, who decide to fly to New York while their mother is away for the weekend.  Someone has found their father's notebook in New York, when he was supposed to be in Switzerland and he's not answering his phone.  Laureth thinks he must be in trouble and persuades her 7-year-old brother to travel with her on a hair-brained but spirited mission to rescue him.

They meet up with the mysterious Mr Walker who found the notebook, and follow a trail of clues (some true some false) to their father's whereabouts, encountering some unusual locals along the way, some more helpful than others.

What's this got to with 354 and the nature of coincidence?  Laureth's father was obsessed with both, and this provides another dimension to this story.

The characters, particularly the protagonist Laureth, are engaging and likeable.  The only thing I wasn't sure about was the ending, but I won't reveal it here.

I've given this story 4 stars.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Travelling on the Petworth Pullman

We spent a few nights at the Old Station B&B at Petworth in Sussex in one of the their restored Pullman carriages, Mimosa which was built in 1914.

Pictures convey the experience far more than words.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Another lost railway walk in North London

Last Wednesday evening we set off on this 4 mile country walk in north London. It is nearly all on paths other than a small section in Hendon.

We started from Brent Cross tube and walked to Mill Hill East tube via various parks, a 13th Century church, Sunny Hill (magnificent views), Copthall Fields (once the great park of an old mansion), and a disused railway (Copthall Railway walk). The latter has an interesting history - well those of us who like old railways find it interesting.

A tiny bit of history
The Copthall Railway walk was part of the old Finchley Central to Edgware steam train line constructed in 1872. In the 1930s there was a plan to electrify the line and convert to to a tube (part of the Northern Line). However electrification was completed only as far as Mill Hill East before the plan was abandoned in the 1950s. This is why the Northern line has a odd single track one station spur called the Mill Hill East branch. The remaining line continued to be used for goods trains until the 1960s when the tracks were lifted.

And here is a photo of one of its old railway bridges:

Bury Abbey Gardens...

...was where we were a couple of weeks ago.  And where I took this photo.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Demons of Ghent - a supernatural thriller with intriguing subplots.

I've just finished reading Helen's Grant's latest book - The Demons of Ghent - the second novel in her Silent Spaces Trilogy.  I mainly borrow from my local library, but I decided to buy this one rather than wait for it to appear in the library.

Veerle is now living in Ghent, but finds it hard to settle down to a new school and life with her father and his unsympathetic partner.  She makes friends with Bram, a local boy, who introduces her to his hobby - climbing and exploring the rooftops of Ghent.  He tells her about a local legend involving a old painting, demons on the rooftops and some long undead local citizens

After hearing about several unexplained deaths, Veerle and Bram witness the murder of one of Bram's friends on the rooftops.  As well as danger from whoever or whatever is stalking the streets and rooftops, Veerle's escapades bring her into conflict with her family and also with her boyfriend Kris.

The book is a little slow at the start, but the tension gradually builds to a white knuckle climax.  Veerle's complicated personal life adds another dimension to the plot which keeps the pages turning.

Despite not being quite as good as the first novel in the trilogy (Silent Saturday), this book is a great read for anyone who likes creepy YA fiction with strong characterisation.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Weird rock formations - where and what?

In a later post I will tell you where these pictures were taken and what caused these weird stoney structures.

In the meantime would anyone hazard a guess?  And no, it isn't Easter Island...

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Lost railway walk in North London

This 4.5 mile walk has a rather boring and misleading official title.

It is virtually all off-road but doesn't go through any parks. Instead it follows the routes of two abandoned railways connected by a section through two woods.  It forms London's longest Local Nature Reserve complete with bats, squirrels, wildflowers, butterflies and even the occasional munjac deer.

Uncowed by the forecast of rain, rain, and yet more rain, we set off last Wednesday in glorious evening sunlight.  We encountered overgrown platforms, colourful road bridges, disused stations, abandoned tunnels, dreamy woods, panoramic views and a spooky green man.

Any guesses which walk this is?

Ways to See a Ghost

I have just finished reading Ways to See a Ghost by Emily Diamond.

It is a story about a two teenagers, Gray and Isis, and their interactions with ghosts, UFOs, spirits, clairvoyants and other strange forces.

Is it a ghost story?  Well, sort of.  The main ghost characters - Angel and Mandeville not malevolent.  But there is supernatural evil in the form of a horrible creature that threatens both ghosts and humans.

Along the way, we encounter UFO sightings, seances, a society of fake clairvoyants, and a bunch of avid but nutty UFO hunters

Both Gray and Isis have complicated relationships with their parents and this gives the story an interesting and sometimes funny subplot.

However in some places the writing was too verbose and the pace tended to slow rather than pick up towards the end.

I have given it 3 stars.

Mystery shopper visits opticians

I am thinking of getting new spectacles with the latest Transitions treatment.

The prices at my regular independent opticians are uber-expensive, so this time I'm shopping round.

First stop: supermarket opticians.

It was easy to phone up and get the appointment for the eye test.  The staff were helpful, the basic eye test was OK but not as thorough as my regular one.  The price was £15 compared with £35 at the independent.

They had a good selection of frames, including several rimless, so there were a couple that I would have been happy with.  Pricewise, they are the high myope's best friend as they let you have thin lenses at no extra cost depending on your prescription.  Higher degrees of myopia qualify you for higher index specs and with my prescription I could get the thinnest (1.74 index)  lenses.

The total price for varifocals with my choice of designer frames is £99 all in (or 2 for £157).

The main downside is that you can't pay extra to have transitions or to choose your lens size - I wanted both.  What a shame!

But all was not lost.

The dispensing optician showed me some cycling sunglasses with removable prescription inserts. You can choose darker sunglasses by getting the insert tinted as well. I decided to get two pairs with different tints which should correspond to Class 3 and Class 4 sunnies (£157 for the two). They are expected arrive in a fortnight.

Next Stop:  Internet Opticians

I still want a new pair of varifocals with transitions for indoors and less bright outdoor conditions.

I decided to buy an frame of the same make and model as my current one online and send it off together with an old pair of lenses to an online optician specialising in reglazing.  They claim to be able to get the critical measurements (eg Pupillary Distance etc) from your old specs.

At this stage it looks as the varifocals with transitions from the online optician plus the two pairs of varifocal cycling sunglasses plus eye test from the supermarket opticians will be around half the price of one pair varifocals plus eye test at my regular opticians.

But how will the quality and fit compare?

I will post an update when both sets of specs are received.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Marooned at the Airport for 15 days

It is 3 weeks since I last posted, but there was a good reason - I spent much of May in hospital due to a major setback with my reconstruction.


I was in hospital for 3 days at the start of May with a minor wound infection which was debrided and then I was sent home with antibiotics.  Unfortunately within a few days the infection became much worse and I returned to hospital with a more advanced wound infection.  I was urgently admitted to hospital and had surgery the same evening.

This was followed by a fortnight in hospital on IV antibiotics - my infection due to a Gram-negative bacteria called Morganella Morgani.   Sounds nasty.  The name reminds me of the Arthurian sorceress Morgan le Fay.

Unfortunately these bacteria are not sensitive to the antibiotics I had on my first admission.  By the time I returned, the doctors knew  what bacteria were responsible from the tests done on swaps from the first debridement and therefore what antibiotics would be effective.

During my second period in hospital I had several washouts and debridements under general anaesthetic plus a couple of dressing changes in the ward.

Now at last I'm back home with a vac dressing and will need to keep returning to hospital on an outpatient basis until the wound can be completely closed.

Alas the infection has really messed up my reconstruction and I will need further surgery later this year.

Such a bummer!

Friday, 2 May 2014


Amazing place - check-in machines, coffee shops, concourse seating and electronic display boards.

But not an airport - actually a modern hospital...

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

The messengers

Today I read "The Messengers" by Edward Hogan.  His other book "Daylight Saving" was well-written and impressed me enough to want to read more of his books.  I'm glad I did -  "The Messengers" is an even better read.

The Messengers is about a teenage girl, Frances, who has blackouts followed by an irresistible urge to draw. And recently her drawings have become both better and much weirder. Frances discovers that she is drawing scenes of a person's death that will take place in 2 days time.  She has only two choices: show the picture to that person within that time frame or someone she cares about will die instead.

She learns all this from a young man, Peter, whom she has recently befriended.  He is a messenger too, and says that the death is preordained and messengers are powerless to do anything other than pass on the message to the victim.  Frances rebels against this negative view and believes that the future can be changed.  She starts trying to save the people in the pictures and persuades Peter to do the same.

I can't tell you any more or I will spoil the story for you.  It is a gripping read.

The book also explores complex themes such as families and family breakups, belonging, loyalty and personal power and responsibility.    The characters are sensitivity drawn and the pace is well-handled.

The Messengers is a multi-layered  page-turner.  I've given it 5 stars.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Making inroads into Footsteps

During my recuperation, I have still managed to do some work on Footsteps.  It has been in fits and starts as my concentration is not fully functional yet.

Today was spent working on a chapter in which Ellie finds out what is in the old box she found under the floorboards.  Of course I'm not going to tell you here what she discovered.  You will have to read the book.  When it is completed and published that is.

I made a decision at the outset to try out the Snowflake method for planning, plot and characterisation.  I found it incredibly useful at the start.  Even my incomplete Snowflake plan was enough to give me the confidence to finally start writing.

I've more or less been following the plan for the first eight chapters, but it will soon be time to give my Snowflake an overhaul and update.   This will be the time for more detailed planning of the next 8 chapters.

Yes I know what Hemmingway said about first drafts.  Footsteps will end up being re-written several times before it is complete.  However without any planning I don't think I would even get to the re-writing stage.

Novel writing is always a marathon, never a sprint.

Monday, 21 April 2014

DIEP Surgery + 16 days

I'm now just over 2 weeks post surgery. The worst part was the night after the operation when I had to keep very still. No turning of my head and no arm moving. I had to ask the nurse to scratch my nose for me! I kept asking the nurse what the time was and each time it was only about half an hour after the last time. That first night went on for ever!

After that I generally slept ok at night and relaxed during the day. The nurses were able to check my reconstruction without waking me up which was amazing. I was in the High Dependency Unit for 3 nights. Within a few days the physio had me up and walking down the corridor clutching a bag of drains. A couple of days later I was down to one drain and then finally the last drain was out and I was discharged a week after my operation.

I've been home just over a week now. The only complication I am having is purple patches and blisters. My surgeon is keeping an eye on them and taking photos for comparison. He thinks it is just bruising and bleeding from all the Clexane jabs.

The purple seems to be turning red, which hopefully is a good sign. I am due to see him again on Wednesday.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

D(IEP) Day + 1

So far so good.  It is over 24 hours since I came out of theatre and I feel reasonably OK.  I will be in a high dependency unit for a couple of days, then back to a regular ward.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

DIEP-Day - 2 The big clean

With the help of the house robots, I gave the house a thorough clean today.  I'm not going to be able to do housework for a while afterwards and I don't want to come back to a tip.  Gave the garden a bit of a tidy as well.

Tomorrow I will have my swimming lesson and then I will mow the lawn for the first time this year.  Then it will be packing my bags in preparation for a very early start on Saturday.  I have to be at the hospital for 7:00am

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Living with cancer uncertainties

This is part of a poem I read long ago - a fragment of Fragment.
I think about it sometimes, particularly when I read the blogs of others who are snared far deeper in the same net.

Only, always,
I could but see them---against the lamplight--pass
Like coloured shadows, thinner than filmy glass,
Slight bubbles, fainter than the wave's faint light,
That broke to phosphorous out in the night,
Perishing things and strange ghosts--soon to die
To other ghosts--this one, or that, or I.

DIEP-Day -5 Pre-op assessment

I had my pre-op assessment today.  Just the usual tests, form filling in, questionnaires.   The nurses were very pleasant and I feel like I'm in safe hands.  I found out more about the operation and recovery.  I will be in a high dependency unit for a few days which sounds a little scary, but it is really just so they can keep close tabs on my flap.

I will have to be very careful when I finally get home - not lifting things, no cooking and no housework, at least initially.

By this time next week will be a couple of days post-surgery.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Visitors to my blog

My blog has been going over 7 months now, and thus far I've received just under 8,000 pageviews.


Actually 8,000 isn't that much.  I'm sure if I was the Pope or the Queen or a film star I would have got that many views in the first half hour.  But I'm not so I'm quite happy with 8,000 views.

What I have found interesting is how many different countries visit.  I've now found a mapping gadget to add to my blog. (and I deleted the goldfish while I was at it as I was getting a tad bored with them).  The only thing I don't like about it is that if you click on it to see a larger version, it does show a few annoying ads.  I hate blogs with ads and I never intend to put any on my blog, but the map gadget does look nice on other blogs.  Just avoid clicking on it and you won't see the ads.  If they annoy me too much, I will ditch the gadget and replace it with something else.

7 days to go or DIEP-Day -7

By this time next week my operation will be finished and I will starting the recovery process.  I can't wait to get it over with.

Of course there is trepidation - is the recovery process as bad as everyone says?  My recovery from knee replacement 3 years ago was nowhere near as bad as I expected from reading people's accounts on the internet.  Perhaps I will be lucky again?  Or perhaps everything will go pear-shaped this time?

What will be really brilliant about reconstruction (and the symmetry procedure on my other breast) is being able I am normal again rather than deformed.  I want to leave this cancer well behind and get on with my life.  Some people have their world defined by their breast cancer "journey"- I hate the word. I'm not on a journey, I'm just having treatment.  OK?

I want to finish treatment and be able to wear a swimsuit and other clothes without looking weird.  I want to be able to get changed in front of other women at the gym without freaking them out.  At present I go to a curtained off cubicle to get changed.

Of course the fear never goes away.  If I use one of those online calculators, it indicates that my chance of surviving the next 10 years is just under 80%.  And of course, even if I survive 10 years, I am not out of the woods.  Those 10 year survivors include people who already have metastatic cancer which will get them in the end.

I will never be out of the woods.

But the longer the cancer stays away, the more drugs there will be to treat it and this is an area where £Squillians is being spent on research. New drugs are being approved all the time: Perjeta, TMD1, GMDC0941, Neratinib, Everolimus, Tanespimycin, Bevacizumab.

Maybe we really are (or will be in a few years) at the cusp for a step change in treating cancer?

Just after the Second World War, it was like this with TB.  Before antibiotics, TB was one of the big killers of young and middle-aged people.  The only treatment was rest and surgery to collapse a lung.  And once TB spread to other parts of the body, you were a goner.  Even when it went into remission and you were allowed to leave the sanitorium, you knew it wasn't cured. It was just arrested.

And it could come back.

Then within a few years TB was completely curable with druge - antibiotic treatment swept away the sanitoria and the mutilating TB surgery.

Maybe it will be like that with cancer?  Maybe within 5 or 10 years?

Friday, 21 March 2014

T shirts made from trees

I bought a few things at the recent Marks and Spencer Sale.  Among them were a couple of Tencel T shirt (less than half price).

Tencel sounds like one of those fancy technical synthetic materials that cling and don't absorb moisture.  In actual fact, Tencel is not synthetic at all - it is made from wood pulp and is what is termed a cellulosic fibre.  It is deemed to be a manufactured cellulose fibre because the wood is chemically processed and then extruded in the same way as synthetic fibres such as nylon or polyester.

It belongs to the same family as Rayon/Viscose fibres, discovered over a century ago.  All those bamboo clothes that have been promoted heavily in recent years are also in the same family.  Bamboo clothes are made from Rayon/Viscose using bamboo instead of wood.

Tencel, or Lyocell to use its generic name, is actually a third generation manufactured cellulose fibre and is claimed to be far more environmental friendly than similar fibres. It uses the lyocell process in which the chemical solvent is continually re-used in contrast to the much older viscose process which involve more toxic chemicals which are released into the environment after use.  Bamboo, although heavily promoted on environmental grounds, typically uses the viscose process

Tencel shares many properties with other cellulose fibres such as cotton, linen, ramie and rayon, being soft, absorbent and biodegradable.  It drapes without clinging or building up static.  There is evidence that 100% tencel fabrics inhibit the growth of bacteria.

I try to avoid synthetic fibres for clothing in contact with my skin.  For shirts and underwear I normally go for fibres such as cotton, silk and wool.  I bought a couple bamboo T shirts a few years ago, which I do like.  Having discovered the advantages of Tencel/Lyocell over bamboo, I will buy the former in future.

Despite its superior characteristics, Tencel clothing is often less expensive than Bamboo.  The advertising/marketing hype seems to have worked and bamboo is regarded as a premium product, whereas many people have not heard of Tencel.  I certainly hadn't before the M&S sale.

Shiverton Hall: Harry Potter meets Stephen King

Shiverton Hall by Emerald Fennell is a creepy horror story set in a boarding school in the country.  Arthur gets a letter out of the blue congratulating him on winning a scholarship to Shiverton  Hall.  He quickly makes friends with a small group of other teens who have one thing in common - they all had an imaginary friend when they were younger.

On Arthur's first night, he hears a warning from a mentally deranged former student that the friends are coming.  The school has a history of supernatural forces attacking nice and occasionally not so nice people leading to their unpleasant death.

Arthur has the usual school story problems, threats and intimidation by the bullies, success and failure in sporting and academic pursuits, a crush on the most beautiful girl in his class.  At the same time, sinister forces are gathering.  Arthurs friends start to see unpleasant versions their old imaginary friends, and they have to find out what it all means.

I can't say more about the plot without revealing spoilers, but the pace and creepiness do really pick up towards the end.  The first part of the book in contrast felt unpolished and inconsistent, with frequent POV shifts which felt disorienting and irritating.  The last third was much better crafted.

The writing wasn't consistent enough or the plot strong enough to earn the coveted 5 stars, but I did give it 4,

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Date for DIEP reconstruction

I now have a date with DIEP: Saturday 5th April.

It will very good to get it over with, but I can't help feeling a little apprehensive - what if it all goes wrong?  It is a very long operation - 6 hours or so - and although I've had quite a few operations in my time, I've never had a really long one. I just hope I wake up at the end!

I won't bother describing the DIEP procedure - if you want to know you can google it and many of you who are reading this blog entry will know what is.  I've been studying various  websites with images wondering exactly how mine will turn out.  The quality of the cosmetic outcome does seem quite variable although most people are pleased with the result.  Patient satisfaction may well depend on where you started from.

When you think about it, DIEP is a nice concept.  Getting rid of abdominal fat and putting it to good use elsewhere.  I hope the recovery period is not too long or too unpleasant...

Friday, 28 February 2014

Falling off a mountain

I've not written very much in the last month as I was expending so much energy dealing with the fallout from a holiday accident.

We were holidaying in Fuerteventura, which by the way is a great winter destination.  Away from the resorts, it is a friendly relaxed sort of place with some great coastal and mountain walks.  The flights are very reasonable in January and, best of all, it is warm, dry and sunny in the winter.

My husband fell off a rough non-path while coming down from a mountain and injured his leg.  He had to be rescued by the local emergency services - both the Fire Brigade and Ambulance were involved as you can see from these photos.

He had a ruptured quadriceps tendon and had surgery in Fuerteventura and was eventually repatriated to England.  He was in hospital in Spain for 3 weeks, and I kept jetting backwards and forwards between Fuerteventura and London, in order to juggle my own medical appointments with staying with him.  Our travel insurance put me up in a comfortable hotel in Puerto Rosario, the pleasant laid-back commercial capital of Fuerteventura.

Eventually we managed to get him repatriated and he is now home and in the NHS system now after many twists and turns.  Lessons learnt:

1/  Travel Insurance Emergency Assistance are prone to go off in tangents and get things muddled.  Considerable effort is needed to get them to focus on the required end point - repatriation.

2/  Getting followup care in the NHS after an accident abroad can be very challenging and GP's  don't always know the right route into the system. After over 2 weeks of frustration and confusion, we found the key.  It is really simple once you know how.  Get your GP to write a letter referring you to the Fracture Clinic at your local hospital and then take the letter to the hospital in person.  Voila!

Monday, 17 February 2014

Moondial: atmospheric and strangely moving

I bought Moondial by Helen Cresswell after reading rave reviews of the 1980s BBC serial of the same name.  I watched the DVD of the serial before reading the book.  I enjoyed it, but not as much as I thought I would.  Over-rated, slightly confusing and the ending didn't quite work.

I've just finished the book and it was so much better: well drawn sympathetic characters, a touch of humour, evocative descriptions of the house and gardens, and the dreamlike quality of the moonlight. The serial was very faithful to the book, but it just couldn't carry it off.  Perhaps our imaginations can conjure up atmosphere and setting in a way that eludes the harsh lense of a camera?

And the ending was beautiful written:  moving without being sentimental and just the right amount of magic.

Moondial is the story of three children who become friends and have to overcome supernatural evil as well as their own fears and problems, despite living in different centuries.  Minty in 1980s Britain has a mother who has gone into a coma after a road accident, Tom, a Victorian servant boy, living far from home is dying of consumption and misses his little sister, 18th century Sarah walks by moonlight and is a prisoner of the day.

I've given it 5 stars and added it to my list of Top 100 Children's Books.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

No More Chemo Curls

They are gone.

At least for now.  I wonder if they will grow back?

This morning I went to the hairdresser and had a good haircut.  Although I did like the curls, they were getting too long and too fluffy and had to go.  Getting my hair cut probably got rid of a lot of split ends as well as the weaker hair that grew back initially.

It is over 15 months since I last had a haircut and my return to my favourite hairdressers is yet another symbol of normality returning.  My hair is as thick as ever and I love it.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

I've finished my Herceptin treatment.

Last Thursday was the last of my Herceptin treatments.  Yippee!

A huge thank you to the chemo nurses and reception staff at Ward 7A at Barts.  Your kind and friendly manner made a big difference to me, and also, I'm sure, to others who pass through your doors.

I just hope it all works and I never come back!

My first session on a cold dark November day over a year ago seems a long way off now.   The nausea and vomiting after FEC was the worst ever, but at least it only lasted a couple of days per cycle.  Fortunately I only had 3 cycles of FEC and then moved onto Herceptin and Taxotere.  There were more symptoms with Taxotere but at least you skip the nausea and vomiting...

To all who are about to start a year of treatment, keep remembering the old Persian proverb:  "This too shall pass"

Friday, 10 January 2014

Herceptin year drawing to an end.

I had two appointments this week, one with the plastic surgeon to discuss further reconstruction plans and then my penultimate Herceptin treatment.

The discussion with plastic surgeon helped me get clear about my options and I've now decided to go for a DIEP reconstruction.  This will involve a long operation to transfer fat from my abdomen to my reconstructed breast.  There seems to be a long wait on the nhs for plastic surgery so I am also investigating other options.

The following day, while the Herceptin was dripping in I managed to fall asleep twice and the nurse had to wake me.  It is the first time I've fallen asleep during Herceptin and I'm not sure what this is telling me.

It is strange to think I will soon be saying goodbye to Barts after going there for regular appointments for over a year.  I really hope I don't end up back there with a future recurrence.  I know there is no point in having more than a year of Herceptin - there is good evidence that the benefits are the same for one year as for two.  But all the same, while I'm having Herceptin I feel that level of protection is in place, which will soon be snatched away and all I will with have left is my daily Anastrozole tablet.