Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Hanging Out With Slugs

In spring last year I scattered lettuce seeds in the soil but as green dots rose from the ground and the sky darkened, a slime of slugs congregated for alfresco dining.  Mr H did an after dark patrol picking the grey spoilers off the ground but the hard core had knives and forks at the ready and ensured my second sowing met the same fate.

I secretly slithered a third crop of seeds into the soil and followed with my organic anti slug warfare, I built steel egg shell barriers, prepared copper frames to be launched at the first sighting of slime trails. My smile was wider than four slugs gathered nose to tail when I beat them in their race to my lettuce.

This spring I dress in camouflage as I sow my seeds, like my persistent approach to a slow recovery I announce to the sleeping slugs...

let the battle commence

They shimmer with fear in their hiding places, but send a cheeky snail to attack through the window. They have not encountered such resilience before, my pilates has strengthened my muscles as well as my resolve, my pink pilates ball can crush in one roll.

On Saturday I was introduced to Ernie the Slug by Folk On. Their song delighted the audience at the concert to celebrate Jons life; Jon loved Folk On! Funds were generously donated to The Jon Fredrickson Fund for The Brain Tumour Charity

As slugs are distracted by my egg shells, the lettuce gets stronger. Slugs and snails will slither no more on my patch....

Monday, May 27, 2013

Happy Friends and Converse-ations

I giggle behind my hand in our local Deli as a coffee cup steams in my hand; I lean towards Sue as we talk in soft voices sharing gossip and news. 

                 "A Friend is a person with whom one enjoys mutual affection and regard; one  
                attached to another by affection or esteem ; a favoured companion"

Definitions which fail to capture the richness of friendship.

Friendships sheltered me when a hurricane of change blew my life into fragments. I clung to the tiniest gestures, a trip out for a coffee when I could  barely walk; an unexpected visit lightened the black cloud which had settled on my shoulders;  fifteen minute piano lessons at home with encouragement when little progress is made; the unexpected offer of a trip to Westonbirt, not knowing I am desperate to go; hours on the phone listening as tears drip off my nose and anger bursts from every pore; an arm when I want to swim; shared delight when my Converse become glued to my feet; an offer to shop and lunch.

The arms of long term friendships envelop me. New Friends have been blown my way on wispy clouds when the hurricane of change was too much for others. So many Sues I have nick names; 'old' Sue, Swimming Sue, Piano Sue.... Cathy, Chris, Val, Jon, Jacky, Corinne, Michele, Erwin, Ron, Eleri, Mark, Jayne, Owen, Linda, Julie, Steve, Bryony, Paul, Anne, Jane, Dave, Kate, Maja, Helen, Mike.
My friends and foundations; Mandy & Pete, Adrian & Helen, Luke, Lois, My Mom. 
(forgive me if I have forgotten any of know who you are)

Mr H; the brick wall that protects me when the wind of exhaustion takes control, the arms that direct me when I don't know where to turn; the heart that beats beside me, the shared laughter when the sun shines.

Friendships are my precious flowers which I nurture and feed to ensure they grow.

The only way to have a friend is to be one
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Hidden Chelsea

My teeth rattle as the wheels rumble along the uneven paths, bums and backs swarm like bees hunting pollen.  I glimpse flowers, trees and grass between legs, a bit of stone path, rectangular shrubs, iron art work; like a jigsaw without the picture I am unable to piece the gardens together.  I stand from the wheelchair and see a tree surrounded by flowers but moving further is thwarted as others vie for my space. Mr H is anxious I will tumble and persuades me to sit back in my throne on wheels.

When Mr H manages to secure us a spot, I snap at eye level flowers and sculptures hanging from the sky. Macro photography is my passion so not being able to see the bigger picture matters less.  As we trundle along Mr H plants sweet kisses on my head as he describes the water features, buildings and sculptures he sees from up high.

Share my day in this pictorial video blog: (have the sound on)

Thick clotted cream oozing from warm scones lathered with lemon curd and strawberry jam devoured after pale finger sandwiches followed by more cake than Mr Kipling could imagine; finishes off our wonderful trip to London. A Christmas present cream tea in a five star hotel from our dear friends.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

High Heels and History

I am packing for an adventure; we are off to the 'Centenary Chelsea Flower Show', My last visit was five years ago before BT, this visit I have a wheelchair on standby. I search among my shoes for Converse and flat boots as distant memories of high heels stamp into my mind.

My first recollection is of clip clopping around our Cul-de-sac dragging a pair of Moms' winkle pickers along on my tiny feet as I pushed my dolls pram. I stood tall as my clip clop, scrape, clip clop, scrape made the pavements tremble. I couldn't chase the boys when they stole my pram, the shoes were my jewels.

As I grew up I wore flatties from Clarkes; comfort was my game. Frustrated with my individual style my sister, an avid follower of fashion, insisted my new school shoes had heels. We walked into the shoe shop and Mandy took charge:

Try these on

No I don't like them 

TRRRRY them on

Shoes shoved onto my feet, Mandy insisted I have them, even though I was like the leaning tower of Pisa. My eyes lingered on the rail of flat shoes; as an inexperienced stilt walker I peered down at the two inch heeled brown shoes. I stumbled out and like a circus clown clung onto the window ledge of Woolworths as I shuffled along sidewards, snarling at Mandy:

I hate them, I hate them

Back in control I wore flat shoes on the wards, but off duty my heels got higher and higher, in 1982 a black pair of winkle pickers became the centre of my world. 

After the brain surgery my neighbour bought me a pair of ugly, functional navy lace ups to wear over my foot splints. My high heels were redundant but I knew it was only a matter of time before I would be clip clopping again.

At home I worked my lazy foot and ankle, I shouted at them, willed them to move, pulled  them with a scarf, drove Mr H bonkers each evening when I squealed:

Look I think it moved; watch me, WATCH me...

Eighteen months later I dragged all my heels out onto the floor, staring longingly at each pair I slowly dropped them into a black bin bag. Like a sad pass the parcel the shoe bag was offered to the girls next door then Mandy and Lois; the remaining pairs were re-homed in St. Peter's hospice charity shop.

As we plan for Chelsea my collection of shoes has re-grown and like the flowers we will see, I have shoes of every colour. 

I hope my 'Hotters' and 'Converse' attract a Gold Medal and Best in Show! 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Jumping to J in Memory of Jon

Jon was stolen from us by a Brain Tumour a year ago today.

Jons smile lit up like the sun in a clear blue sky. His young face told a more mature tale. We were drawn together by an invisible ribbon... a shared experience and the love of sticky iced buns!

I was fascinated by Jons calm aura. I am blessed that our paths crossed at a Hammer Out Brain Tumour support group and for the friendship we shared. Jon was courage epitomised. Like a stick of seaside rock he had special stamped all the way through.

Jons wicked sense of humour and his ability to play with words always made me smile; his texts kept me entertained:  “Roses are red, violets are blue, I can’t do poetry but I can make you laugh”!

When my driving licence plopped on the mat; Dorothy, my MINI, became Our Girl. On our first sea side trip, Jons grimace and puff when I suggested 1970s' music was enough to tell me he did not approve. Jon was a lover of Folk Music, so Folk Music it was.

We wore sun hats and clashed walking sticks as we strolled side by side along beaches and sea fronts. We ate ice cream with chocolate flakes dripping in raspberry juice overlooking a seaside pier. On the pier our giggles, like seagull cries, filled the air as we poked our heads through boards; a Victorian man holds a lady in his arms.

Jon launched ‘Tiggers travels’ . Tiggs jumped into Jons pocket wherever he went, wearing his Bristol Rovers hat and scarf.

Jons parents Jacky and Roy, are organising a concert in his memory on 25th May 2013 it is no surprise that tickets have SOLD OUT.  Proceeds will go into ‘The Jon Fredrickson Fund’ with the Brain Tumour Charity to support essential research into brain tumours.

Jon I miss you so much; God Bless x

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Holler and Whoop - Six in the Pool

I have grown stronger flippers since Caribbean Calypso- Kindness-of-strangers and my dip in the warm Caribbean sea.  A weekly dip-in-the baby-pool with the incredible support from my friend Swimming Sue has helped bravery bubble to the surface.

Before I was touched by the Brain Tumour, at my best I could manage 42 lengths in the big pool, but the baby pool has been my safe haven since I dipped my toe back into water.

But today the baby pool is full of Moms, babies and small children learning to swim. I  spoke to the life guard last week about BT and my endeavours, so when  I approach the big pool they switch on their Water Baby Dawn Radar

Sue slides in first then hovers as I approach the step ladder like a tight rope walker, three rungs down we high five and whoop.

The water is cool but my adrenaline pumps, I do a courage test by walking until I am out of my depth then swim back to the shallow end, a swim smile washes over my face. 

I launch myself again swimming like a bullet, my eyes glued to the end of the big pool! 

We share more whoops and hugs at the deep end. Trying to launch from deep water proves to be the ultimate challenge, I hang onto the rail with a white knuckled grip then after several false starts I am off, Sue swims by my side talking to me: 

slow down and breath, slow, breathe, slower, breathe

I reach the shallow end for the second time!!

I need to work on my 'launch in the deep end' technique; My one legged push off from the wall did not work so I wade out of my depth again and do a small one legged study of starting to swim in deep water. I try several methods a haphazard let go of the rail, grab it again, let go approach works until I build up speed with my one legged stroke. I need more practice.

Six  lengths later I am done in and the empty, gloriously warm baby pool invites us in for a few water baby widths.  I am as excited as the day I first wobbled across the Hospital Physio Gym unaided, accompanied by squeals and tears. 

Lots more practice and one to one swimming lessons and Dawns' Swimathon in the big pool will be my next challenge so watch this space and have your pennies ready to sponsor me.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Having My Wings Clipped - Interesting Bums

I used to fly everywhere, zipp in and out of traffic in the car, pop out to the shops, think nothing of spending a whole day out, I could walk for hours regardless of terrain.

Now, like a new Mom, I ensure I have planned everything to loo stop detail to give my outing a chance of success. A day out on Saturday at the Malvern show required a Mobility scooter, rented from Event Mobility, a fabulous charity which provides scooters at events and shows.

I booked one a couple of years after my tumour surgery, smiling to myself in the knowledge that I would only be using it once; we enjoyed the show peering at stalls, a special day surrounded by flowers and a group of friends. But the following year I needed one again, the feeling of failure lingered behind my smiles; perhaps I hadn't worked hard enough at the gym or at walking. I didn't go last year.

This year I decided it was unfair to deprive Mr H of the day, and time with friends would be good. I am beginning to accept that scooters play an essential part in days out; I plan to employ my helmet smile and smirk strategy.

I booked my scooter in advance. Dressed in four layers, hat and gloves I sit on 'Celebrity' and win the fight against the cold as it waits impatiently to seep into my bones.

Mr H and I arrive early so that I get a chance of seeing things before the ant like crowds appear, the floral marquee is a joy, the smell of lily's fill my senses as I  pass on snail mode. I am the first to spend money as I treat myself to three Auriculars, their exquisite petals will give me pleasure on my table outside the back door.

We meet up with friends when they arrive but separate after a coffee and chat. I encourage Mr H to dip in and out of the plant stalls while I linger on 'Celebrity', most of the stalls are too small to ride into, I park up and get off when my itch to mooch overwhelms me.

The crowds build and Mr H walks in front waving his arms like a bird trying to take flight, creating space for me to manoeuvre along the paths. I try not to drive over toes as I stare at  bums, some get a longer stare than others, small and pert versus, large and wobbly, I wonder what mine looks like when I am off the scooter.

The myriad of bums and backs soon prevent glimpses of stalls but I persuade Mr H to explore and find the plants we desire.

Sunday Mr F(atigue) teases, he suggests I have energy when I wake, but as soon as I try to hoe at the allotment I feel awful and Mr H says 

sit down you look ashen.  

The three hours in the car, constant movement and concentration at the show have drained my battery...again.

My wings may be clipped but as I step outside the back door today I spot my lettuce leaves breaking through the soil and my new Malvern Show plants grin at me, pleading to be planted. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Head Case - Episode Two

I slept well last night, I knew how to sleep without ripping the wires out of the recorder or off my head! Another wash at the sink this morning, I I can't wait to get the web of wires removed so that I can have a shower and wash my hair.

I tried two approaches to carrying the wires around:

1. The dangling down my back style
2, The front shoulder approach m

I found the back dangler pulled gently on my hair and irritated me. The
front shoulder was more comfortable and reminded me of when I plaited my long brown hair many years ago.

No, I am not naturally blond, good job I had my roots done before this event. 

After my surgery I was not allowed to dye my hair for ages so the grey shone through; I hadn't realised I had any! Eventually I had it coloured to match my natural darkish brown mmmm, then gradually became bombshell blond again.

I digress. 

So today the wires came off with only the odd sting, the smell of acetone replaced the super glue and became my new perfume. The clear advice given by the excellent physiologist worked. Twenty gorgeous minutes in a warm shower, two washes, two conditions and lots of combing and the job was done, minus a few hairs mind you!

Now I wait  for the results, but at least I know something is happening in my grey matter....

I am off to treat myself to a cappuccino at my second home; but no cake I am on a diet!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Have you really looked at a Buttercup

Their golden smile spreads along roadside verges and paths, they glow in untended gardens, they spring forth in clusters when the warm sun brings them out of hibernation. Unchallenged stalks stay close to the ground but the powerful green stems can push the flowers up to dance above long grass.

This spring I need to collect some Buttercups. I scan fields and hedgerows in anticipation of spotting an otherwise unnoticed bloom.

Today the disabled parking space at Ham Wall RSPB bird reserve awaits my friend and I, but birds are forgotten when I see Buttercups on paths as we arrive. I stoop with my plastic bag and scissors and inspect this miracle which I picked as a child to hold under a friends chin, a yellow shadow confirmed a love of butter!

Each of the five wax polished petals shine readily when turned towards the sun.  The open petals display the myriad of tiny curved stamens as hairs shimmer from the stem. 

As I pick, damselflies flitter around with invisible wings, they settle on leaves until another disturbs their sunbathing and their blue stick body floats away. I drop my buttercup bag and walking stick and click and click until I am sure I have an in focus picture of these wonders of nature that I have discovered through buttercup hunting.

I shout and point when a warden alerts us to a Bittern in flight,  Marsh harriers and a Hobby. But my hesitant steps on uneven green paths have delivered the winning treasures.  

I invite you to step outside, find and stare closely at these golden beauties before they drop their petals and hide for another year.

Head Case - Episode One

I am having a 48hr outpatient Ambulatory (walking about) EEG (Electroencephalogram) to record any epileptic activity as my drugs are not controlling all my seizures.

First the Neuro Physiologist, measures my head; ladies size I hope; then she marks twenty five spots evenly around my scalp. She scratches the skin at each spot, it feels like a tiny emery board (for the men, that’s a cardboard nail file); certainly nothing like a session of leg waxing!

The smell of the super glue fills the air as the electrodes are secured to the spots.  I fire question after question like bullets at the lovely lady. The wires are hooked up to my recorder – some of you as 'young' as me will understand when I say it's a bit bigger than the size of a Sony  Walkman (15cm x 10cm). 

I have to record my meals, any episodes, attacks or seizures and a general summary of my activity. I have no intention of writing about the cake I eat!

I must press a red ‘event’ button attached to the recorder if I feel any symptoms.

I carry the recorder like a small handbag across my body but I won't be swapping it for one of my Radley handbags.

 I leave feeling a bit like lady Frankenstein but the words of ‘Wendelly’ my friend at our local cafĂ© make me feel better: ooohhh the wires are all different colours; they look lovely!

When Mr H came home he asked if I had hurt my neck,

No I am just getting used to the presence of the wires

The plait of wires slips down my back and gently tugs on my head to remind me they are still there. I can't feel anything else, the recorder is silent.

I nervously press the red button as though it will burn my fingers when nausea rises from its rest and my cotton wool head appears; no tears this time.

I feel anxious for the first few hours, questions buzz in my mind and I get agitated when I accidentally catch an electrode on my woolly hat; but as the hours pass, like the Buddha I become calm and contemplative

I manage to catch a few zzzzzz, the wires are long enough to be able to turn in bed and I wedge the recorder down the side of my bed lever which I use to help turn over. My sleep is light, a wash at the sink this morning was easy and reminds me how far I have come since the many weeks of washes by my hospital bed when I couldn't stand or walk .

Back to the hospital this morning for a battery change...

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Hole in my Head, Helmet and Hats

I wore one of my summer caps for the first time this year as the hot spring sunshine bounced off my head.  I used to pride myself on never wearing a hat on rambles and mountain climbs, they were for sissies and ruined my hairstyle. But now Hats fill several drawers, are dotted about on kitchen work surfaces and snooze at the bottom of shopping bags; Accessorise (in the 70% sale) has become my shop hot spot, I am an authority on Hats.

Caps and straw hats have the summer covered, I cope with the unpredictable winter temperatures by stocking up on woolly ones of various colours and thickness's.

After my rare brain abscess and minus a piece of skull; medically called - No Bone Flap, but nick named sunroof, my party piece was to get unsuspecting friends to gently rest their hand on the top of my head, then I coughed so they felt my brain rise through the gap (covered with my scalp of course); one look at their faces and I would double up laughing.

The pay back for my jinx was a bespoke designer helmet; it was hate at first sight. But I was told he had to be worn to protect my brain from injury until the hole was re-roofed. 

disguised him with a hat and would balance him on my head to get in and out of cars but immediately take him off once safely inside. Bus trips were different, I reluctantly kept my promise to Mr H to wear him when I was on my own. I used a head down approach to curious stares until I developed a grin and smirk strategy. I kept my head up and grinned with a cheeky smirk when I met a stare;  I would walk by giggling because the other person either wore the dropped gaze or smirked with me.

Now hats rule because cold bites sharply and the recent sun makes my head hot and sore; I assume my titanium plate, put in to close my 'sunroof', makes my head more sensitive.

My helmet now rests up-side down nestled among the packets of cereals, He is my hiding place for the treats I have been telling you about; sssssshhhhhhh

Monday, May 6, 2013

Grubby in the garden

The garden calls for attention, its sullen stare makes us feel guilty as it has taken second place to the allotment. We dedicate our bank holiday weekend to it and are rewarded with blue sky, floating clouds and sunshine.

I want to sort out my small vegetable patch which has pride of place outside the back door next to the greenhouse. This year I have more space now the allotment is an established member of the family, I will grow mixed lettuce leaves which I can pick, serve and eat straight from the garden, my own back door vegetable shop. I will also plant some aromatic herbs.

I want to do so much but Mr fatigue still has me in his grip.  Mr H said I should add 'Grouchy' to the Blog Title, cheek. I want to try and lay a small path to make access to my veg plot easier but he replies: 
A) we haven't got any slabs
B) are you off your head
C) where on earth would you get the energy or balance from to lift and lay them...
D) I will do it once we have bought some...

Grrrrrrrr. I storm off....slowly...

Like a stubborn Carol Klein I try to move pots, dead head plants and clear the patch but ten minutes in I feel sick and my head is heavy, low work does not suit me. Mr H takes one look at me and says enough:

Why don't you re-creosote the shed instead? It's a sit, stand job and I will do the veg plot

Good plan..Smooth 70's on the radio I hum my way through songs as I turn me and the shed dark brown.
After the surgery Mr H would put a sun lounger out at the front of the cottage and it was a joy just to sit and watch him while he gardened. It was hard for me to stand from the chair let alone garden. Like a judge at the Chelsea flower show I would mark his efforts out of ten. I progressed to short standing up jobs; trimming the lawn edges was my favourite with long handled edging shears. Now I can do short sharp bursts of gardening. 'a bit at a time' is my motto; but I always want to do more.

My main job is to make drinks and provide snacks, I offer Mr H a banana when he sees me munching but he is not so easily fooled:

Open your mouth


He moves towards me and I back away, Open your mouth, let me see what you are eating!

Giggling I move away as I tell him Banana

He spots my treats in the kitchen, my sweets are banana flavoured so I am telling the truth...sort of.

Friday, May 3, 2013

A Day in London and One Proud Wife

I didn't blog yesterday because I had been kicked round the boxing ring. My writing had a flat battery, I kept putting my fingers around the pen but nothing happened. I was forced to spend most of the day lying on a sun lounger in our garden soaking up the rays.


Because I went to London for the day.

The special event was Mr H's Graduation (that's the G for today) for his Masters degree with a DISTINCTION. I planned the day down to loo stop detail in the hope that Mr Fatigue would not start chewing too early:  

  1. Got a mid morning train - not too much waiting around. 
  2. Organised assistance at the train station - London Paddington is brilliant for this, I love the buggy and how we pass others who wait to find out which platform they need. 
  3. My Sister and Niece came with us - only told them they were my assistants once we were there!
  4. Took Taxis in London - we saw some of the sights which we would never have seen in the underground.
  5. Planned lunch in a quiet restaurant right by Imperial College - too much noise drives me mad.
Mr H looked splendid in his gown and we were lucky because as we went for photographs the kind lady took one look at me (not Mr H) and said Ah bad leg you come through here...Mandy, Lois and I shared a raised eyebrow glance..but the result was no steps or waiting. 

We approached the venue where Mr H celebrates his momentous achievement, heads moving slowly from side to side in awe of the building standing pompously before us.
Like a hungry shark, I snapped away with my camera...

We wandered around in a circle to admire the Albert Hall before another sit down in its cafe;  I was the only one captured in action...cream tea; don't mind if I do.

As Mr H was settled in his seat in the stalls, we sat above on the level with no steps, but behind other people so I stood to spy him below. They said no clapping between graduates but when Mr H got up on stage, like football supporters we clapped and whooped; his grin widened. He deserved it for all his hard work! 

One very proud wife.

Today I have cancelled my dip in the baby pool, in the hope that tomorrow Mr Fatigue will loosen his grip.