Tuesday, 10 November 2015

My Mum

Sorry, but it's another sad post. Today (10th November 2015) would have been my mum's 85th birthday. She died on November 13th, three days after her 80th birthday in 2010. Here is a photo of her when she was 17 years old. Dad had this turned into a Bakelite ring with the picture somehow imprinted into it. He seems to have mislaid it though, but here is the original black and white photo, probably taken on an old Box Brownie.

Grace Anita Gregory, later Tomlin

It's actually a photo of a photo so it looks a bit fuzzy. It would have been 1947, so just after the Second World War. I think my vintage mad daughter Miss Pond will love the hairstyle.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Our Garden's Now Gone

Gardeners Lament

We cleared out the garden today:
it really was time
as the weather was fine
and the grass was looking like hay.

The Roses were all overgrown:
while the Dandelion weeds
had spread all their seeds
among the Potatoes we’d sown.

The Slugs and Snails had a rave:
they all gobbled through
every plant they could chew.
There wasn't that much left to save.

And so we built a bonfire:
chucked everything on,
our gardens now gone.
One allotment, half acre, for hire!

Slight exaggeration, Our garden is much tinier than half an acre! But most of it has gone. Now it's autumn, the plants were getting a bit leggy, very chewed up by slugs and snails and looking more like a jungle than a traditional pocket handkerchief suburban garden. I don't actually have any photos of our almost empty garden, so here are some photos of other gardens. 

This garden is associated with the Bloomsbury Group

Roses and Lavender, a classic combination

For me, the Delphiniums are the highlight of this garden

A walkway leading to a relaxing seating area looks very inviting

Bright colours massed together to provide a delightful display

Mixed planting among grasses with an enticing view of the house beyond

A traditional cottage with a lush lawn and planting - lovely

You can almost smell the blossoms and feel the sun's heat in this view

An unusual Japanese style garden

I hope these lovely photos have fed your imagination with ideas for next year's planting.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Into Every Life A Little Rain Must Fall

This is a shorter post, but rather sad.

In 2012 I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. After surgery, I needed a course of chemotherapy. I joined an online forum on the Breast Cancer Care website. There were about 26 members all together. As we all started treatment in or around February 2013, we thought it appropriate to call ourselves the February Valentines. We are still in touch, on Facebook, we have a secret, closed group, so nobody can read what we talk about on there.

Most of us are quite well and cancer free. But sadly, four of our number developed secondary or metastatic cancer. That is, their primary cancer has spread to other areas of their bodies such as bones, liver, lungs or brain. Three of those have succumbed to the disease. The first was Sandra, whose cancer spread to her brain. The second was Annabelle who had bone and brain metastases. This Monday, 14th September 2015, Kim passed peacefully away with her family around her. Naturally we are all very sad, and it has brought back the fear of something like this happening to any one of us. It's not impossible, as my poem below (written one year after my treatment) highlights.


One year ago we met. 
Just one year - and yet, 
How can I ever forget! 

Sometimes I catch your shadow, 
Sneaking down an alley, 
just around a corner, 
in the darkest recess of my brain. 
Stalking me - 
the ghost of what once was
and what might be again. 

I thought I had expunged you, 
drove you from my head 
in the halcyon days when poisons 
in my blood rid me of your threats. 
I believed you would be gone for good! 
But here you are, my stalker, 
waiting, while fear of your return fills my mind. 

Oh Cancer, why are you so unkind? 


The fourth member has secondary breast cancer in her spine, but is responding well to treatment. She will never be cured, but we are hoping she has a good few years yet. I obviously can't post any photos of these beautiful ladies. It wouldn't be appropriate,and I'd have to check with their families which would take time. So here are a few of myself when undergoing treatment, and just after.

About to begin my second treatment

No hair, eyebrows or eyelashes! In fact the only scraps of hair I had left were little patches on my shins.

New hair sprouting

Now you're talking

Cheer up, you have hair!

Wild woman of Sawley

Blimey, it's gone mad!

I keep it shorter now, easier to manage and look at those gorgeous eyebrows. They used to resemble giant caterpillars!

None of the Valentines will ever forget Sandra, Annabelle or Kim. 

My Wish

Cancer 'ain't gonna get me.
Cancer you dirty swine.
No, cancer 'ain't gonna take away
another Valentine.

First you took our Sandra,
then lovely Annabelle
and now you've taken Kim.
Cancer - go to f*^#!%$ hell!!

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

My Crappy Lungs

I can't remember the exact date, but some time during the 1990s I was diagnosed with Bronchiectasis. No, not Bronchitis - look at the word again. It's pronounced bronk-ee-ecktassis. Here is a brief explanation:

"Bronchiectasis is a long-term condition that affects
the lungs. It is defined by inflamed, permanently and
irreversibly damaged airways. Common symptoms
of bronchiectasis include a chronic cough, producing
sputum (phlegm), recurrent chest infections, fatigue
and breathlessness. Bronchiectasis is not to be 
confused with bronchitis and, unlike chronic 
obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), it is not related
to smoking. However, it is not advisable to smoke."

Now for the technical stuff:

Bronchiectasis is a long-term condition which affects your lungs. It is defined by inflamed, permanently and irreversibly damaged airways. Common symptoms of bronchiectasis include a chronic cough, coughing up sputum (phlegm), recurrent respiratory tract (chest) infections, fatigue and breathlessness.

In bronchiectasis two things happen:

Damage to an airway – making it unable to clear mucus
Infection of the mucus in the blocked airway
Process of damage to airways
Process of damage to airways
Process of damage to airways
In bronchiectasis parts of some airways become damaged and widen.
The areas are permanently / irreversibly damaged by inflammation and produce excessive mucus.
The airways lose some or all of their ability to clear mucus. Mucus gathers in the damaged airways, creating an environment where bacteria can grow. This can lead to repeated chest infections and as a result your airways become scarred and more inflamed and produce even more mucus.
Sometimes the airway becomes blocked or ‘plugged’, affecting airflow. Surrounding lung tissues and airways can also become affected.
The damage to the airways can be thought of as a ‘vicious circle’. In order to manage bronchiectasis the circle has to be broken.

Causes of bronchiectasis
In bronchiectasis the damage to the airways is usually caused by infection such as:

Previous pneumonia
Whooping cough
Tuberculosis (TB)
Other causes can include:

Obstruction or blockage in the airways: this can be due to a growth / tumour or something that has been inhaled, e.g. a peanut
Autoimmune diseases (e.g. rheumatoid arthritis (RA), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE))
Inflammatory bowel disease (e.g. crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis)
Cystic fibrosis
Disorders that affect the function of the cilia
Immune deficiencies
Chronic asthma
Alpha 1 / antitrypsin deficiency
Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA): this is an allergic reaction to a fungus called aspergillus (usually in people with asthma or cystic fibrosis)
In about 50% of people with bronchiectasis no cause is identified.

Common symptoms include:

Chronic productive cough
Coughing up sputum: this can vary in colour and quantity
Recurrent chest infections: this is due to bacteria growing in the damaged airways
Fatigue: this is often a result of coughing frequently during day and / or night as well as fighting off infections
Breathlessness / wheezing: this is due to the inflammation / blockage of the airways
Symptoms may vary from day to day and will depend on the severity of your disease. It is likely that you will have ‘good’ periods (when you feel well) and periods when your condition deteriorates and your symptoms increase. This is known as an ‘exacerbation’.

An exacerbation is when your condition deteriorates and your symptoms increase. When this happens you need to access medical advice as soon as possible as you may need antibiotics and / or further treatment.

Changes to look out for include:

Increased coughing
Increased amount / consistency of sputum
Darker colour sputum
Fever or chills
Aches and pains
Blood in sputum (haemoptysis)

Sounds nice, doesn't it. I have had Pneumonia, and I've had Pseudomonas. I've also had Pneumonia and Pseudomonas together. Friendly little souls these bugs. I just wish they weren't so friendly with me. So, I usually end up with a temperature of about 39-40 degrees 'c' and blood pressure right off the scale. Unable to function, or understand what is happening to me, struggling to breathe. The only treatment is 14 days on intravenous antibiotics. I usually have Tazocin, or Meropenem. Stop me if I'm boring you - oh you can't, not unless you stop reading. 

Normal treatment is inhalers. Here are the ones I use:


You put one of the capsules in the device, press the button to crush the capsule, then take one puff as the lovely lady in the next photo is doing. I take this once, in the morning.

Fostair Inhaler

Ventolin Inhaler

Due to treatments for various other condition, my veins are shot! Cannulas have to be replaced every 36 hours, so they gave me a PICC Line, or Peripherally inserted central catheter. A PICC line is a long, thin, flexible tube known as a catheter. It is inserted into one of the large veins of the arm near the bend of the elbow. It is then threaded into the vein until the tip sits in a large vein just above the heart. 

Where it fits

In situ

As my oxygen levels were lower than 88% I also needed oxygen for 10 days. 

To make it easier to eat, drink and speak, I used nasal Cannulae most of the time

Four times a day, I also used a nebulizer for saline. I still used this once a day at home.

And I also use a salt pipe now. This performs the same thing as the nebulizer, but is portable, quiet, and rather pleasant.

I also take tablets. Two Carbocysteine every morning and two every evening. These are to keep my sputum runny. Then on Monday, Wednesday and Friday I take one Azithromycin. This is a prophylactic antibiotic, to try and prevent any chest infections.

Now for my room. It was lovely being on my own, because I didn't feel as though I had to join in anybody elses conversation, and my phone calls were also more private.

All the comforts of home

And the view from my garden

One of my chemotherapy group, Yvonne, sent me this lovely balloon as a get well gift.

This was my third visit to the hospital for treatment. The second time, I was trained how to do my own antibiotics, which meant I could go home after five days and do the treatment there. This last time though, I was far too ill, and on oxygen therapy too, so I had to stay in for 15 days in total. Not looking forward to that again!!

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Butterley Vintage Trains

On Saturday 29th August, our son Jonathan and his wife Rachel took us to the Butterley Midland Railway Museum, Ripley in Derbyshire. The weather was perfect for a day out, sunny with a little cloud, warm but not too hot, with a gentle breeze. 

The first thing we looked at was the indoor model railway layout.

No Chris, it won't fit in our bedroom!

There were so many things to see, we didn't have time to fit it all in. But we did get a ride on one of the vintage trains. This carriage was 3rd class, but quite comfortable.

Back to the future?

This is the Wedding Belle train, which can be booked, but we couldn't get on it. Anyway, there were more interesting things to do.

Wedding Belles are ringing.

The second train we took a ride on was the Ashover Light Railway. It was quite noisy, but very exciting. It took us through some amazing woodland which we were told was home to foxes, rabbits, Little Owls, and Buzzards could quite often be seen flying overhead. Sadly we didn't see any of these, just a couple walking their dogs and a man on a bicycle. 

Filling up with water for the return journey

Chatting to the driver after the ride.

Checking the wheels

To the woods!

These photos were taken inside the exhibition hall, which was full of engines and carriages in various states of disrepair.

Looks familiar!

Thank goodness for all the seats!

Another familiar name.

My luggage

Half way through our visit we went to one of the cafeterias. Chris and I had poached egg on toast, Jonathan had a cheese and tuna toasted sandwich with salad and crisp and Rachel had the same, minus the tuna. We all had a huge mug of coffee.

Later on, before leaving, we popped into the second buffet room where we had buttered scones with jam and a mug of tea. It was a really interesting trip, but we were quite tired when we reached home. 

As well as the vintage train weekends, there are Diesel and steam weekends, Teddy Bears weekends, 1940s weekend, 1960s weekend, and several other events. To find out more visit:

or telephone: 01773 570140

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Poetry and me

Everything comes back to my mum. She taught me to read and write at the age of 3, using a book from the public library called 'Tip The Dog' She also taught me to recite 'Someone' by Walter De La Mer. She loved books, even though she was always too busy to read herself. I think she had an ulterior motive, because by the time I was 8, while she was ironing or doing something else equally boring, she would pass me the newspaper to read to her. She actually missed quite a lot, as in her day, most children left school at 14 and began work.

One of the Tip learning to read books

The first poem I wrote myself was one about autumn, when I was five. Can't remember much of it, but it was something like: "Autumn leaves are falling down, red and green, gold and brown." Not bad for a 5 year old. Anyway, my class teacher liked it and suggested that the school pianist set it to music and I spent about an hour while the pianist mucked about with chords, but we never managed to do it. This disappointed me, and I didn't write any more for years. In fact when I went to grammar school, we would have poetry classes and I HATED it.

But when I turned 40 a few years ago (ahem) I decided I enjoyed poetry after all. Alfred Lord Tennyson is one of my favourites. The Lady of Shalott being my most favourite. Here is my favourite verse in my favourite poem by my favourite poet:

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

She left the web, she left the loom
She made three paces thro' the room
She saw the water-flower bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
She look'd down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack'd from side to side;
'The curse is come upon me,' cried
The Lady of Shalott.

It is a rather long poem, so that's all you're getting. Another favourite by Tennyson is Mariana, again a long poem, so here is just one verse:

All day within the dreamy house, 
The doors upon their hinges creak'd; 
The blue fly sung in the pane; the mouse 
Behind the mouldering wainscot shriek'd, 
Or from the crevice peer'd about. 
Old faces glimmer'd thro' the doors, 
Old footsteps trod the upper floors, 
Old voices call'd her from without. 
She only said, "My life is dreary, 
He cometh not," she said; 
She said, "I am aweary, aweary, 
I would that I were dead!" 

You might think these are rather gloomy, and you'd be right, but I do have some favourites that are rather more light hearted. Here's one I wrote myself (yes, honest).

Jennifer Bream

I used to envy Jennifer Bream
her long red hair and skin like cream,
her eyes that sparkled like Emeralds fine,
I used to wish these things were mine.
But you wanted a girl with cheeks like a Rose
and freckles across the bridge of her nose,
with glossy brown hair and dark chocolate eyes.
You wanted me - to my surprise.
So now I don’t envy Jennifer Bream,
her near perfect looks are no longer my dream,
because Jennifer Bream doesn’t have you —
but I do.

And one for Christmas:

The Disgruntled Fairy

Well - here I am,
look at me;
the fairy on top of the Christmas tree.
Dress all torn,
wings all tattered -
and a magic wand that's bent and battered.
My rosy cheeks are a little bit faded
and my smile is looking decidedly jaded.
I wish that Christmas was over and done
as these pine needles stick in my bum,
but I'll just sit tight,
even though
I suffer from serious vertigo!
For two whole weeks I'm perched up here
then it's back in the box for another year,
squashed between a bauble and a bell
no wonder I end up looking like hell.
I suppose one day they'll throw me out
with the left over turkey and brussel sprouts
'til then they gaze at me from afar -
but I wish they'd swap me for a bloomin' star!

Silver, by Walter De La Mer

Slowly, silently, now the moon
Walks the night in her silver shoon;
This way, and that, she peers, and sees
Silver fruit upon silver trees;
One by one the casements catch
Her beams beneath the silvery thatch;
Couched in his kennel, like a log,
With paws of silver sleeps the dog;
From their shadowy cote the white breasts peep
Of doves in silver feathered sleep
A harvest mouse goes scampering by,
With silver claws, and silver eye;
And moveless fish in the water gleam,
By silver reeds in a silver stream. 

Finally, one by Sarah Teasdale - The Look.

Strephon kissed me in the spring,
Robin in the fall,
But Colin only looked at me
And never kissed at all.

Strephon's kiss was lost in jest,
Robin's lost in play,
But the kiss in Colin's eyes
Haunts me night and day.

And so, I still keep trying. Some would say very trying. I'm still waiting to write my masterpiece, if I ever do, you'll be the first to know.