Wednesday, 30 May 2012


The usurper

To start, and to completely not set the tone, a picture of Cyril taking it easy and commandeering my seat in the garden.

I’m having a new sort of chemo on Friday.  For this particular flavour of swamp juice I have to take steroids for three days before the treatment.  Suffice it to say I’m buzzing around like a mad thing.  This makes sleeping a tad difficult but on the other hand it’s nice to have some energy.  I’ve been making the most of it and getting out and about.

On Tuesday evening we went back to Mitchell’s Fold, one of my favourite places in Shropshire.  It’s an old stone circle with fantastic views.  We went there as the sun was going down.  Look how beautiful it is:

No words needed.  Oops.

On Wednesday morning the other-half continued work on transforming the front yard to a garden.  The house was built, we think, in the 1860s.  So he decided to go all Time Team and dig a test pit to look for archeological treasures.  He found bits of pottery, several bits of broken clay pipe and what is either a rusted hinge, or as we choose to believe, an Anglo-Saxon cloak clasp.  We even had a ‘finds tray’ just like the archeologists on telly.    

Yes it's a hole in the ground.  Life isn't all golden sunsets you know.

Then we walked the 200 yards or so to the end of our road to see the Olympic torch go by.  Old Cynical Della would’ve have sneered at this but New Improved Della (yes OK that’s up for debate) enjoyed it.  The atmosphere was great.  My old chum T was horrified at how I’d gone all establishment.  Rest assured T I scowled at the Coca-Cola float as it went by, I still know how to stick it to The Man.

If you look closely you can just see the flame
Then after that (are you keeping up?) the other-half, Sis No 3 and I went to Morville Hall Dower House near Bridgnorth.  The garden of the house has been transformed over the last 20 or so years by the tenant Katherine Swift.  She’s written a beautiful book about it ‘The Morville Hours’, which includes gardening, history, life, the universe and everything.  The garden was absolutely stunning.  It’ll be even more fantastic in a few weeks time when all the roses are in bloom.  I intend to go back then.  We took a gazillion photographs, here are just a few.

The Dower House

Then finally we went into Much Wenlock the real home of the modern Olympic Games (scroll down on the link to find info about history of the games) and had tea and cake.  A very eventful and really enjoyable day.  I’m a happy bunny. But just to end on a grumpy note (I wouldn't want to be too out of character) if you do click on the link to Much Wenlock I can only apologise for the truly dreadful olympic mascots.  What were they thinking?

Sunday, 27 May 2012


Clive church.  Look, not a cloud in the sky
We've been lapping up the sunshine over the last few days.  Sis No 3 is back in blighty for a bit so we took antoher trip to Hadnall Country Gardens and drove about for a while enjoying the views including Grinshill and Clive (see above) and Moreton Corbett Castle (see below).

Oops, didn't mean for photo to include an acre of mud.  Must work on my framing.
Today we had lunch in the garden courtesy of Sis no 2 and her sainted husband (who puts up with more than we will ever know) supervised by their stripey-faced cat.

This is natural.  No paint involved.

But while all this sunshine has been very welcome, both Cyril and I have suffered from some unwelcome warmth.  We've both had high temperatures.  Despite banishing the germy other-half to the spare room I still managed to catch his cold.  One of the delights of chemo is that it lowers your resistance to infections and, if you do get an infection, it can take hold rapidly and you can ending up spending several days in hospital.  The chemo nurses and the oncologist have been at pains to point out that if my temperature goes up to 37.5 for half-an-hour I must phone the hospital.  Well on Thursday night I really didn't feel well and my temperature reached 37.6 (at which point the themometer sounded an alarm - as if I wasn't panicked enough already).  Over the course of the next twenty minutes my temperature went down to around 37.2 and down a bit further over the next couple of hours.  So I managed to avoid a trip to the hospital but it was touch and go for a while and I was a fretful bunny (having heard lots of stories of people feeling a bit unwell one minute and ending up being barrier nursed in hospital the next).  Chemo has obviously not impaired my imagination nor my ability to be a drama queen.

Cyril was much braver about his bout of illness.  He went off his food again and was a bit listless.  Once we got him to the vets he regained some of his omph when we tried to get him out of the cat box.  The vet opened the door of the box and actually stood the box on its end and shook it.  Cyril managed to brace his three legs against the sides in such an arrangement that he was wedged in.  The vet was impressed with his determination.  Anyway the diagnosis was that there was nothing too much wrong, a slight temperature (and before you ask no I do not share a thermometer with the cat) and a bit of a gassy tummy.  He seems much better now and is back noshing as normal.

Finally, my mate F brought my attention to Isaac's wedding proposal.  I think this is doing the rounds at the moment but if you haven't seen it click here.  It may be no great shakes that it reduced me to (happy) tears as I cry at everything at the moment but I showed the other-half and there was definite eye-leakage.  In fact he had to compose himself and wait for his eyes to be less red before he could go outside to work on the front garden.  So if you watch it and aren't moved you are officially a hard-hearted Hannah or Harry.  Happy weeping.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Off cheese and cheesed off

Summer's here - but that won't stop me moaning

Do you know how long it is since I had a proper cup of tea?  (That’s milk, no sugar please).  Flipping ages that’s how long.  And I really, really want one.  It’s not that I don’t like the green, white and chamomile varieties but there are times, like first thing in the morning, when they just don’t hit the spot.  You just can’t smack your lips and go ‘aaah’ over a pot of raspberry leaves and wood shavings. 

It’s not just tea either.  Since I was diagnosed with crappy cancer back in January I’ve been reading bits and pieces about diet and getting advice from people who are going through the shenanigans themselves.  I’m trying to take a balanced view and ignore some of the nuttier corners of the internet.  However, it seems that avoiding dairy might be a good idea.  So that’s what I’m trying to do.  I’m happy to have oat milk on my cereal but it doesn’t cut the mustard in a cuppa.  And dairy is in everything (nearly).  As a fellow dairy-avoider warned me ‘if it comes in a packet you can’t have it’.  It’s amazing how often the dreaded words ‘whey powder’ crop up in the list of ingredients.  And it’s not just hidden dairy.  Two of my most favourite things in the world are cheese and crème caramel – both now off the menu.

Red meat also seems to be a bit of a no-no, although I’m eating a small amount as I need to watch my blood count as a result of chemo.  Not eating red meat isn’t as difficult as the dairy thing because I was a cute-atarian for quite a few years.  A cute-atarian (copyright me) is a sort of vegetarian who avoids meat on a scale of cuteness.  So fluffy lambs, bouncy bunnies and bambi were avoided at all times.  Big eyed cows and lovely pigs also never used to pass my lips.  Chickens (not so cute) were eaten occasionally and fish (not remotely cute) were fair game.  This system does fall down a bit as if I followed it to the letter I should have been scoffing lots of snails and oysters (but you can take these things too far).

Anyway, no dairy and little red meat.  I’m a nightmare to cook for.  No wonder Sis no 1 ran off to Bermuda to get out of her meals on wheels duties.

Another reason why I’m cheesed off – I saw the oncologist yesterday.  A different one again this time (not the anti-Doogie sadly).  She was nice and informative, I’ve no complaints there.  It’s just that my CT scan showed no change since the last scan which was done two chemos ago.  Don’t get me wrong, no change is much, much better than growth or further spread of the cancer but, as the oncologist said, after the four chemos I’ve now had in total, the docs were really were hoping to see some shrinkage.  So I’m going to have a different sort of chemo from now on (Taxotere).  After two tries of the new swamp juice I will have another CT scan to see how things are going.  I may have to have a further two chemos after that.  I know all this scanning and treatment is better than the alternative but this chemo lark is getting a bit wearisome now.  Here’s hoping that Taxotere does the trick.

OK I’ve finished moaning for now.  Summer’s here!  We have had two warm days on the trot and my energy levels are heaps better.  We’ve been back to Country Garden Roses, a lovely nursery in Hadnall, and bought loads of plants ready for the new front garden (to be transformed from boring paving to floral idyl) .  It’s a lovely place to walk around at the best of times and even better when you come across a flopped out (and very chunky) cat in one of the greenhouses.   

Hello Chunky

We’ve also been back to Attingham Park and checked out developments in the huge kitchen garden which included gorgeous borders and had a stroll around the grounds  looking at the general loveliness.

Finally you aren’t getting away without me including yet another photo of my three-legged mog.  Cyril loves the warm weather.  Just like the Country Garden Roses cat he loves to flop around in the sunshine too.  I think I might join him.

And yes, that IS a load of booze you can see through the window

Monday, 21 May 2012

Hello sailor!

A nifty new tifter

Have you seen the weather forecast?  Summer’s arriving on Tuesday.  Apologies to sis no 1 who has just gone on holiday to Bermuda only to find that rain is forecast there for several days.  Anyway I’m all set for summer.  I have a new hat (which really is called ‘hello sailor’).  I shall either look like the cat’s pyjamas or, more probably, like Hyacinth Bucket on a boating holiday.

The other-half is, and has been, suffering.  Loudly.  Firstly, the GP reckons he’s got a trapped nerve in his back.  Secondly, he went to a stag party on Saturday and claimed not to have a hangover on Sunday (didn’t look that way to me, not that I’m complaining he was very subdued all day).  And now he’s coming down with the lurgy (the common cold).  He and his germs have been banished to the spare room.

I’ve got an appointment with the oncologist on Wednesday where, amongst other things, I’ll get the result of my latest CT scan.  Cue much chewing of finger nails.  I can’t even resort to alcohol.  I tried a glass of wine the other day (purely medicinal you understand) but my taste buds have gone all peculiar and it tasted vile.  No alcohol?  Oh the horror!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

A pair of crocks

Thanks A!
Since I last posted I’ve been going through the regular post-chemo slump, which I’ve whinged about on previous occasions, so I’ll spare you a repeat of that particular yawn-fest.  I think my energy levels are slowly on the up again, although I’m now in my prone-to-infection stage.  So a lot of daytime telly is still being viewed.  I’m not sure what is happening to me, but I used to be able to watch most TV programmes with a hard heart and flinty look in my eye (unless it was anything about kittens obviously).  Now all sorts of daytime mush makes me cry.  I’ve even started blubbing at 60 Minute Makeover (and not just in sympathy at the awful things the decorators do to people’s homes).  If I start getting weepy over Bargain Hunt I’ll get professional help.  A few other things have been going on here as well as me going squared-eyed in front of the idiot box:

I had a CT scan a couple of days ago and will see the oncologist next week for results.  While setting up for the scan the radiographer asked me if I’d returned to work.  I explained that I’d been signed off for the duration of chemo because I work in a big building and would come into contact with lots and lots of other people thus increasing my risk of contracting an infection.  I didn’t put it like that.  I just told him where I worked and said it was full of ‘germy people’.  He gave me a hard stare and asked me to repeat myself.  Turns out he’d misheard and thought I’d said my workplace was full of ‘German people’.  I’m hoping I clarified matters as I don’t fancy having ‘rabid racist’ written across the top of my medical notes.

Remember the sorry tale of the jigsaw, the cat and the vase of flowers?  If not, use your imagination or read about the whole puzzle palaver here.  Well, I don’t deserve it, but our sophisticated chum M sent a replacement jigsaw (it’s the personalized one, a photo from our wedding last year).  Thanks very, very much M!  Rest assured that no vases of flowers will be left in puzzle proximity this time.  I can’t promise that there won’t be feline involvement of some sort though. 

The other-half and I went out today for supplies.  What a pair of crocks we were.  The other-half has done something to his back yet again (and is at the doctors as I type) and I was feeling tired.  So the pair of us went food shopping in a sort of hobbly/wilty/generally pathetic way.  But on our return home I discovered a lovely surprise.  Flowers from A (see photo above).  Very unexpected, very welcome and very touching.  My cockles were warmed.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Lord Snooty and the man of many projects

A hard day's night

First of all let us discuss Lord Snooty, or as he’s usually known in these parts, Cyril the three-legged monster cat.  He’s had me worried over the past few days.  He’s been going off his food (a thing largely unheard of).  First he started just licking at his grub in a half-hearted manner and walking away rather than noshing it all down in three disgusting gulps and then demanding more.  Next he started turning his nose up at his dinners altogether.  Now you may think this is just typical picky-cat behaviour.  But he’s already on posh cat food.  When we first got him home from the rescue centre, eight long months ago, he would happily nosh on an own brand supermarket cat food, then he stared getting more high flautin’ tastes and we had to move on to Whiskas and Felix.  A few months later those manufacturers were rejected and we moved on again, thanks to a hefty bank loan, to Sheba (queen of cat foods).  And now we appeared to have reached the Great Sheba Impasse of 2012.  Luckily, just before we placed an order for caviar with Fortumns and Masons we realized our mistake.  We had unforgivably brought Cyril a box of poultry favoured Sheba instead of purchasing the fishy delights variety he prefers.  Rest assured the correct food has now been purchased, sampled and received Lord Snooty’s full approval.  Calm has been restored at Discombobulated Towers.  Although I suspect some kind of atoning sacrifice to the cat gods may be necessary on my behalf.

Now on to the man of many projects.  A couple of years ago the other-half transformed our back yard into a garden (see below) and very chuffed I am with it too.

Back yard April 2010
July 2010

July 2010
I could add many more photos showing how it's developed into a much less manicured patch now (I do favour a bit of chaos) but I will spare you.  Especially the poor relatives who have sat through the whole 'garden transforation album' on several occassions without (apparently) slipping into comas.  (Argh this text change problem is driving me bonkers, I've tried all sorts and nothing works I tell you!)

Anyway not content to rest on his gardening laurels, laurels which include working on our allotment I might add, the other-half had decided to also transform our (smaller) front yard into a garden.  I think it will look great but am not looking forward to the swearing and moaning which will undoubtedly accompany this feat of engineering, design and tormented artistry.  The front yard plan has been on the back burner for a while but may well start today (good weather, hurrah!).  But yesterday the other-half announced plans to also re-design the water feature in the back garden.  Again the plans sound great but I suspect there will be a deal of water-feature-angst in the not too distant future.  I, of course, am playing the health card and will be far too delicate to help in such matters.  Instead I shall languidly supervise for five minutes until the swearing gets too much for me then I shall take myself inside to watch black and white films and eat grapes.

Talking of languid, the picture at the very top of this post shows the other-half (with Lord Snooty) preparing themselves for the hard-core gardening chores ahead.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Soup stories

Look, no common old Heinz for me

Well my new role as a lady who lunches continued on Wednesday when I met up with work chums and caught up on all that’s going on.  It was great to see everyone.  One of the highlights was the waiter getting totally confused and thinking that two of our party wanted bread and butter only (without the soup).  The reasons for this mistake are too complicated to go into, but it amused us no end that the waiter thought they were such skinflints.  After more confusion the soup arrived, it was lukewarm.  Yum.

On Wednesday afternoon, our sophisticated chum M brought over some homemade soup so that dinner was sorted for the next day (chemo day).  It was such a nice thing to do.  It warmed my cockles in more ways than one and was delicious too.  Maybe next time I go out with my work pals we should place our lunch order with M.

I got my fourth lot of swamp juice (chemo) yesterday afternoon.  I half expected a long wait after the last appointment (when I was seen about fours late) but I was plugged in and ready to go within minutes, this time in the swishy new chemo suite too.  At last I am being treated with the respect I so richly deserve.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

A giddy social whirl

I have been rushing around like a long dog.  I don’t know what that phrase actually means but my dad used it and I like it.  When I googled it the nearest thing that came up was ‘rushing around like a fart in a colander’.  I like that too.

On Friday evening I had dinner with sisters no 1 and 2 where the other-half valiantly tried to kill himself by over-eating.

On Saturday we went to a village called Melverley where S and J were staying in a very picturesque campsite by a river and a 15th century church (see below).  (I have no idea why this section of blog has chosen to appear in a different font from the rest of the post.  I find it really annoying but I'm trying to be free and easy and let it go without resorting to tranquilizers).

Sorry, couldn't work out how to get a photo with both the church and river in

Intriguingly there was a plaque on the church gate saying ‘Most motivated village 1991’.  I wonder how that was judged.  It was a shame there wasn’t another plaque below the first saying ‘Yeah, that was 20 years ago and since then we just couldn’t be arsed’.

On Sunday evening we headed into the big city, Church Stretton, to celebrate M’s (otherwise know as our sophisticated chum) Big Birthday.  A great time was had by all (even though I’m a wimp and the strength of the curry I ordered brought a tear to my eye).  By the end of the evening I was very sleepy and looking forward to my bed.  Unfortunately we had a white-knuckle taxi journey home.  The idiot driver drove round the narrow lanes like a man possessed.  By the time we got home the adrenaline was coursing round my body as fast as the idiot had been driving and I was wide awake.  Thank goodness for sleeping tablets.

The following morning we were off for a special breakfast to celebrate J’s birthday.  Posh sausages all round.  Little N, age two and a half, tried my wig on.  He looked a lot better in it than me.

Being a social butterfly is hard work you know, so I’ve spent today lazing around.  On Thursday I have my fourth lot of swamp juice (chemo) so I’ll probably be confined to barracks again for a while.  It was great to be out and about and feeling almost normal again.

In other news I have something revolting to report.  I’ve written previously about the cat’s habit of wobbling around on the side of the bath while I’m trying to have a relaxing soak.  Well he’s now taken to drinking my bath water.  Oh yum.  I think he needs therapy.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Nutty knitters

Bishop's Castle - where the residents are bonkers

I went to Bishop’s Castle today to buy The Mugs I Have Coveted For a Long Time.  That done we went to the coffee/second hand book shop for a cuppa sadly Amos, the resident ginger cat, was nowhere to be seen.  Then we mooched.  While mooching we discovered that a knitting frenzy had been going on in the town (Bishop’s Castle is that sort of place).  Bollards and railings all around the town were wearing what I can only describe as leg warmers.  There was also knitted bunting including outside the church.  Proof below.  Fantastic.
This is knitted bunting - honest.
Earlier in the morning I had a fairly upbeat (hurrah) appointment with the breast specialist.  She is happy with my response to chemo and so I will carry on and complete my course of chemo (another three lots of swamp juice) and then have a mastectomy followed by radiation therapy.  This was the original plan but had the specialist not been happy with my progress the chemo would have been interrupted for the operation. 

Yesterday my pal C came round and whisked me out for plant buying and lunch at Country Garden Roses in Hadnall.  Thanks C!  It was lovely and lunch was yummy.  Also, to top it all, a chunky black and white cat followed us around. 

On Wednesday my chum R visited.  R and I used to job-share and I shamelessly used to raid her tuck drawer – which was appalling seeing as she was pregnant at the time so I was stealing food from an expectant mother.  She must have forgiven me though (or realized that I am a complete glutton) because she had cooked some delicious food for me.  I am a lucky ducky.