Saturday, 29 May 2010

Amber's Dragonfly

Photos Copyright: Maggie May

There was an announcement on our local radio yesterday, that it has been found through studying surveys, that people who live in Clevedon, have an average life span of 85 years. That is much more than many other places round here.
Well yesterday, my son took me to Clevedon (in Somerset) for the day.......... so heres hoping that it has added on a few hours of life to all of us!

I have started to feel quite well again after my virus and the shock of the cut finger and so far, antibiotics haven't had a detrimental affect on me....... well maybe my bowels, but we won't go into that.
So when Sam asked if I'd like to go with him and the girls to Clevedon which is small a sea side town not too far away, then I quickly made sandwiches and took clothing for any situation, which meant my bag was full of sun hats and cardigans and rain gear because the weather here could do anything.
As it happened, it turned out to be warm but not hot and a gentle sea breeze seemed to make us feel refreshed most of the time.

Being Friday, there were not too many people about as the school that my granddaughters go to had a non pupil day and broke up for half term a day early. That meant we had the beach to ourselves. It was a lovely change for me to go somewhere different.
The girls enjoyed collecting pebbles and using them for artwork. The top photo is Amber's dragonfly and Sam was trying to see how many stones could be successfully built one on top of the other. I think eight was the limit.

We eventually walked miles along the cliff top walk and we had a really lovely time. Today my daughter is coming for a few days with our grandsons, so I am going to be rather busy over the long weekend of the Bank Holiday.
Things seem to be getting back to normal and I feel very contented.
What will you be doing, I wonder?

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Chiming ..........

Photo Copyright: Maggie May

I had felt so ill over the last week.
My own GP had said that he was not going to give me any antibiotics because I had been on chemo and it would have a detrimental affect on my body. So I struggled on not knowing if it really was a virus or something more sinister. In fact I felt physically and mentally at an all time low.
Today was the day I was to go to the hospital on the hill, for the results of my recent CT scan.
I knew as soon as I got up that I was better. I put on some very colourful clothes, a bright bandana and some very large earrings and thought *To Hell with every one......... no matter what they tell me today, I know I feel fit now.*

Sam, my son, was going to meet me later on and hopefully go in with me when I saw the doctor.
I got a bus into town and ignored the hospital bus that went up the very steep hill and took me to the door. Instead, I walked up the hill and sat down on a wall half way up to recover a bit. I felt good again, doing this. Believe me, when I say it was a hill..... I am talking about steep....... very steep.
Sam got there in time to go in with me and we heard the good news, together that there had been no sign of any infected lymph or any sign of cancer on the scan.
So I was told to get on with my life and come back in three months. I was advised to work if I felt like it but to be prepared to be tired.

So after phoning relatives with the good news, I was eventually home and in jubilant mood.
I felt quite thirsty after my lunch so I thought I'd have a glass of water. I was standing over the sink when the glass slipped out of my hand and not knowing that it had already broken, I instinctively put my hand down into the sink to retrieve it.
Bad mistake.
I realised my little finger had jagged down on a sharp piece of glass. It bled a lot and I suspected it had gone in deeply.
My first aid training came into operation. I jammed wet wipes and kitchen roll onto the wound and applied pressure while holding my hand above my head.
Every now and then I went to pick up broken glass and wrapped the bits in newspaper and taped it together. Not an easy thing to do while trying to apply pressure and elevate.
Every now and then, I peeked at it and the blood was flowing freely. I guessed I would need stitches.
So I reluctantly had to call Sam and ask him if he could drop me off at the local hospital in the Minor Accident & Emergency Dept.
He could only drop me off as it was almost school pick up time.
I was beginning to feel a burden and a nuisance though Sam never gave me any cause to feel that I was.

After hours of waiting and an xray, it was revealed that I had managed to slice the end off the bone in my little finger (from inside,) and I had the finger stitched.
The worst part is, that I now have to take antibiotics, whether it has a detrimental affect on my body or not because of the serious risk of bone infection following chemo.
Do I just love hospitals, do you think? Or am I just clumsy?
I hate to think how I will have a shower tonight. I am thinking plastic bags and rubber band round wrist.
I am so annoyed to have put myself into this silly new risk after all I have been through and the contentment of the three months ahead, now being shortened again by incapacity.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Playground Mentality

Photo Copyright: Maggie May

This is not cause for excitement. I haven't had a rapid hair regrowth.
This photo was taken deliberately with messed up hair ages ago, as I wanted to illustrate a post about a bad hair day. It is somewhere in the archives if you want to look it up.

While I had the children with me last week, Amber the oldest, was sitting snuggling up to me and she had put her hand under my headscarf and she remarked about my hair growing again. I let her see the new growth. It is mostly white and fine like baby hair. If I run my hand over the scalp, then it feels quite prolific. Most of it is very short and, maybe under half an inch. However, there are rogue hairs about an inch long, every now and then. They stand up tall like a plant sucker does.... reaching for the sun. Some are darker coloured.
I had been wearing a cotton head scarf as we are now in the throws of a heatwave in England and I had never realised before how one's head can get so easily over -heated and sweaty in Summer weather, as well as painfully cold in the Winter.
Our hair seems to moderate the amount of heat we need in just the right way.
I had taken mine for granted before and it wasn't until I lost it all that I realised this.
So don't worry about bad hair days. If you have hair, then enjoy it and be glad.

Anyway, when I put the scarf back on, Amber said, *Granny, you are only wearing a hanky. Aren't you scared it will fall off and everyone will think you are bald and make fun?*

*Do you really think people would do that?* I asked
*I am still the same person that I always have been and if people liked me with hair, then they would probably still like me without. Don't you think that they would realise that I was having chemo even before the scarf fell off? Surely they would think I was brave for still going out.*

I went on to explain that if a person did laugh (and I suppose that there are people who might), then they were not really friends at all or very nice people and that it is silly to laugh because no one knows if it might happen to them one day when they are old.
I have got to be careful not to worry them about getting cancer as children. That must be devastating. They think it just happens to older people and that is how I intend to leave it.

Sam is back now and has taken the girls home. I have been terribly ill with this wretched bug that I caught off Granddad. He is much improved but still taking it easy. I think it is years since we both felt so ill. Even compared to chemo.
I am going to Oncology on Wednesday, so will ask about what I am dealing with. Is it really a virus? Or is it something worse? You see, I am thinking about those rogue hairs, galloping away faster than the others.
Why was I born with a questioning mind? It works against you at times.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Carrion Crows v Blackbirds

Photos copyright: Maggie May

You will remember from my earlier post, *dicing with death,* that my neighbour had to postpone her tree pruning because the men who had started to cut back the branches found a black birds nest with fledglings in it. It is against the law in England to interfere with a wild birds nest (though I don't know who would ever be around to prosecute anyone for doing this.)

Well it appeared that the blackbird parents continued to feed the young as I saw them going backwards and forwards with beaks full of worms.
A few days later, there was a commotion going on in all the back gardens. I opened the window to investigate and saw carrion crows calling out loudly and flying around and distressed blackbird parents calling out in protest.
I can only assume their young have been eaten.
If I had have been more up together, I am sure that I could have taken pictures, but it is just as well I missed the actual killing.
Seems to have been a lot of hard work for the blackbirds to try to raise them, all for nothing and the tree lopping had to be postponed for nothing too.

Very shortly after all this, the blackbirds returned to my shrub. You can see in the above photo, just where it is located. They go in somewhere at the top nearest my neighbour's side with nesting material.
These blackbirds need a medal for perseverance, starting all over again to try and raise another family or maybe the natural drive they have to produce live young is very powerful. I really hope those carrion crows don't get the next brood because I feel like shooting them!

If you have been reading my posts regularly, you will know that I have been looking after the girls while their dad went to the south coast on a course that involved an exam. I was really looking forward to doing this. Unfortunately Granddad got very sick within a day of having them here and he was diagnosed with a bad chest infection. He was really ill so couldn't do anything that he normally did to help out.
Within a very short time I was feeling very achey and ill too, so I have had to tumble into bed as soon as the girls went to school and rest. I did go to the doctor to ask him what was going on with me. Difficult to know when you finish chemo, whether cancer is causing a problem or if it is a virus.
The doctor thought it was because my immune system has been stretched to the limits and is working extra hard after six chemo sessions.
Anyway, the girls have been extremely good considering they have never been parted from Sam for so long and they have told me that they like being here because they have a fun time.......
Just Sod's law that we had to get sick on the very days we needed to be well. Sam has to go away again in about a months time for more exams, so we will have another stab at it then.

Footnote: Since this post was published, my neighbour has been in touch with me and told me the adult blackbirds are still going back & forth to the nest in the Eucalyptus. The babies can be heard calling out.
I must have another pair in my garden.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Our New Toilet Seat

What depths have I sunk to....... posting pictures of our toilet on the net? I never imagined I would ever do such a thing.
The old seat was very unstable and moved about as we sat on it, though it was in good condition apart from that.
One afternoon, a couple of weeks ago, Harry arrived back from town with the new blue seat and started to replace the other one. He finished the job about five minutes before the girls were due to come back from school.
Sam called in to pick the girls up and saw the seat, adjusted it a bit and then went on to use it.
I went with him to pick the girls up from school, as it is good exercise for me, secretly thinking that I would try out the new toilet seat when I got back. How childish is that?
What happened? The girls saw the new seat and had to try it out. They spent time arguing about who would be first.
So it was well used by the time I got to it.
I think the design is meant to be a rain drop in a pool of water.
Don't you think it looks like a giant eye staring at you?
A bit off putting.

I can't believe what I did this week. On Saturday I received an appointment to go to the hospital to get the result of my recent CT scan. It was right on the time that the children would be needing to be picked up from school. I have cancelled it till the following week.
I decided that, as I was looking after the grandchildren all this week, that I didn't want to know. I can wait till next week what ever the news, good or bad........
I would never have been able to do that before. The suspense would have been too much for me. I wonder is that progress with my anti worrying techniques or is it negligence?
Maybe I am just expecting good news..........

Saturday, 15 May 2010

The Grandchildren and Teeth

Photo Copyright Maggie May

It appears that the grandchildren have come to stay early. They arrived on Friday evening with bags full of their belongings. However their daddy will be here until Monday morning and then they will be alone with Harry and me.
Amber the oldest granddaughter has no teeth in the front of her mouth at all because being seven, that is what happens to the baby teeth. They all seemed to go one after the other and the tooth fairy was very busy for a few weeks. She will look very different when the new ones come through. I always think that baby look disappears when that happens, as they look more grown up.

I was worried about my teeth at the beginning of the week because I hadn't been able to have cleaning or dental inspections while having chemo and for some reason or other, I was convinced that chemo had wrecked them.
My appointment was for Friday afternoon but early in the morning I had a telephone call to say my dentist had to cancel as he wasn't in that day. I wasn't very happy about that.I felt that I'd waited long enough, though it wasn't the dentist's fault.
Anyway, I went along to the hygienist appointment and had them all cleaned professionally.
Although she isn't a dentist, she did assure me that my mouth wasn't full of cavities (as I'd imagined) and she said my mouth, teeth and gums were in good condition. So all the mouth wash I used was obviously a good deterrent against decay during chemo.
I have another appointment in two weeks to see the dentist anyway.
In my last post I mentioned the poem below that was going around in the seventies and eighties and we all thought it was very funny. I hope you have time to read it.

Pam Ayres

Oh, I wish I'd looked after me teeth,
And spotted the perils beneath,
All the toffees I chewed,
And the sweet sticky food,
Oh, I wish I'd looked after me teeth.

I wish I'd been that much more willin'
When I had more tooth there than fillin'
To pass up gobstoppers,
From respect to me choppers
And to buy something else with me shillin'.

When I think of the lollies I licked,
And the liquorice allsorts I picked,
Sherbet dabs, big and little,
All that hard peanut brittle,
My conscience gets horribly pricked.

My Mother, she told me no end,
"If you got a tooth, you got a friend"
I was young then, and careless,
My toothbrush was hairless,
I never had much time to spend.

Oh I showed them the toothpaste all right,
I flashed it about late at night,
But up-and-down brushin'
And pokin' and fussin'
Didn't seem worth the time... I could bite!

If I'd known I was paving the way,
To cavities, caps and decay,
The murder of fiIlin's
Injections and drillin's
I'd have thrown all me sherbet away.

So I lay in the old dentist's chair,
And I gaze up his nose in despair,
And his drill it do whine,
In these molars of mine,
"Two amalgum," he'll say, "for in there."

How I laughed at my Mother's false teeth,
As they foamed in the waters beneath,
But now comes the reckonin'
It's me they are beckonin'
Oh, I wish I'd looked after me teeth.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010


I have recently been for a CT scan in our large city hospital.
I had to arrive early and drink a jug full of insipid tasting liquid that looked like urine, very slowly over a period of 45 mins. I soon calculated how quickly/slowly to drink it and got down to my last cupful of liquid that had to be drunk inside the scanning room.
"Good," I thought, "I will soon be in the scanner and then out of here."
Suddenly all hell broke loose. Alarms going off everywhere. Staff came out and told us to leave the premises as they were fire alarms.
Still clutching my drink, I moved down the long corridors with all the other out patients and headed for the street. There is a fairly large forecourt outside the hospital but that was soon filled up with patients and staff.
No sign of Harry, who had been with me. Another woman had also *lost* her husband, too.Within five minutes the Fire Brigade arrived. The first fire engine parked along the side of the hospital and the crew disappeared inside the building. I was hoping they'd rescue Harry wherever he was, but they weren't letting any of the public back in.
Eventually, Harry came out, looking sheepish. He had decided to go to the toilet on the way out of the building.
Words failed me......... isn't that just what you are NOT supposed to do?
Well when Nature calls......... as it obviously had, I suppose you have to go but it wasn't as though he'd had to drink all that liquid like I did.
Two more fire engines arrived. By now I was wondering if my appointment would still be valid.

After much coming and going, the Fire Brigade left and the hospital was declared safe to go back into.
I was very near the front of the surge of people returning
and as soon as I sat down in the out patient area, my name was called. I managed to lie still under the scanner without coughing, as I was getting over a bout of laryngitis. That had been my main concern until the fire alarm incident. Would I stop coughing long enough to have the scan?

As we left the hospital, I was still telling Harry how unwise it was to go into a toilet when there was supposed to be a fire. He replied that he didn't smell any smoke so thought it was not an emergency!

Last week, I was rather surprised to be given a Councelling Appointment that I will attend very soon. It is five months since the moment I heard that I had cancer, and after completing six sessions of chemo therapy it seems strange to get the offer of councelling now. I really needed this last November when I first was diagnosed, as I was then shocked and angry and frightened and upset. I had felt that I'd lost my identity and purpose in life, suddenly being an invalid and not being able to work. However, I soon discovered that I was a fighter, more than I had visualised and I learnt to live each day as it came. This was so not easy for me and I am still learning.
I will go to the appointment this week, if only to tell them that I needed to talk when I was first diagnosed.

Then there is the question of my teeth.
I was told that while I had chemo, I could not have any dental work done because of the risk of infection. I was appalled by this because I have always looked after my teeth. (Unlike Pam Ayres) Does anyone remember her poem *I wish I'd Looked After My Teeth* ?
So this week I have also got a dental appointment and I believe I see cavities when I look at my teeth. I dare say that chemo blasts away enamel too. I am not looking forward to this appointment as I am squeamish about teeth but even more squeamish about losing them.

I must also get an appointment to see my chiropractor soon. All that sitting about while I felt ill was not good for my back and I have twinges much of the time.

You might wonder why I chose bunk beds to illustrate this post.
They are the ones the girls sleep in when they stay.
Next week Sam, my son, is going away to the south coast for some training for a course that he is doing. So I am having the children for the week. I am quite looking forward to it, as I feel very much up to doing this now. I have missed looking after them while I was on chemo. All being well, it is just a question of feeding them, taking and collecting from school, amusing them until shower/bath time, putting to bed x 5 days. Sam will be back on Friday evening so I won't be putting them to bed early that night.
I might not have as much time for blogging next week though...........

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Dicing With Death

Photos Copyright: Maggie May

This is the view I have from my back garden of a lovely, tall eucalyptus tree. It belongs to a neighbour further up the terrace.
It is good to see trees and greenery in city gardens as the birds use the trees for nesting and perching.
My neighbour is very fond of any wild life that visits her garden and she puts out bird feeders, like I do.
I had seen blackbirds using this tree on a number of occasions and I regularly get a couple of them searching for worms in my garden. I don't have any lawn but they seem to know which bushes to search under for choice worms and I only posted about the way that they can pile half a dozen worms in their beaks without dropping any, the other day. It is amazing to see them at work.
Earlier in the year, I did think blackbirds were interested in nesting in my tall Eleagnus shrub and a nesting couple went back and forth for several days with twigs........ obviously starting a nest.
I don't know for sure what scared them off, but one evening I saw a huge carrion crow peeping over the wall, watching the proposed nesting site. Its face looked positively evil.
They stopped visiting the shrub after that, but continued to look for worms, especially during the evening.

The other morning, I heard the sound of a chain saw. I knew what it was because my neighbour had told me about the intended lopping of the eucalyptus tree.
The noise went on for a while. It certainly wasn't unusual. The tree is regularly cut back every few years in order to keep the tree's growth under control, as we all have fairly small gardens here.
Suddenly, the noise and commotion seemed to stop abruptly and the tree was left much taller than it had been on other occasions, but I soon forgot about it.

Later on in the day, I heard that the men had found a nest in the tree with several blackbird fledglings in it. They had feathers but were obviously dependant on the adult birds for food and protection. The men were postponing the rest of the pruning for a month in the hope that they will have flown the nest by then.

My neighbour was filled with remorse at having the tree surgeons in as she is the last person who would have caused harm to any wild life.
I must admit that I hadn't given a thought to the blackbirds being in the tree, though it was obvious that they were nesting somewhere near to me.
I thought that the poor fledglings would be abandoned after that intrusion, because the men had taken half the branches off the tree as you can see from the picture below and the saws did make a terrible noise.
These things happen, it wasn't done on purpose.

That night, I had my granddaughters for a sleep-over and next morning, while I was tidying their bedroom, I saw Mrs Blackbird sitting in a tree at the end of my garden with worms neatly draped in her beak. She flew straight to the eucalyptus tree, so I knew that the fledglings were still alive.
However, they are not out of danger yet because they now have to face that horrible carrion crow while they are learning to fly, as well as the half dozen or so cats marauding around the area, not to mention the fox. Oh well........ it doesn't pay to get too sentimental about them. It does seem to be a hard life though, if you are a bird.......especially if you are a feathered variety.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Blessings and Surprises

I am lucky that I can count my blessings. They are many and one of the blessings that I have is the friendship of people from afar, who I have never met in person, as well as people who I can give a hug to, who I see regularly.
The person who sent me this tag in a special packet from overseas will know who they are and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your generosity.
I know that I am surrounded by love and friendship.

Photos copyright: Maggie May

As well as the blessings of friends who have been persistently praying for me and sending positive vibes and wishing me well, there are the blessings of the unexpected happenings.
I had thought that the pots of tulips that my friend, Squirrel gave me last Christmas, had nearly come to an end. The tulips were all a lovely shade of pink and just recently, bright orange ones appeared. Just as I thought they were the last ones to break through, some almost black ones appeared too.

Today is election day in Britain. I wonder what surprises might be in store for us when the votes are counted. I wonder if it will be a surprise?

The unexpected is always happening. Life is full of surprises.
A not so brilliant surprise was this egg that was left on my path by Mr Fox, who I haven't seen for a good while and I had thought he might have died of mange because of the sorry state he was in. Obviously he or another fox still comes to my garden and deposits eggs at random. This time there was just an empty shell.
The blackbird decided against nesting in my tall shrub, even though she /he had started to build a nest. It really wasn't the safest place to raise a family. However, the male comes regularly into my garden and gathers worms for his family. Now how does he manage to drape half a dozen worms in his mouth so neatly? You would think that when he opened his mouth to pick the last one up, that the rest would fall out. That never happens.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

The Merry Month of May

I expect that many of you will remember the weeks I spent making rag jackets for my son, granddaughter and a friend for the May Day procession of the Jack in The Green Festival, while I wasn't well. These are the three jackets in the above picture.
The walk took place on Saturday.
The making of these jackets really did give me a purpose to get up and go, when I was going through the uncharted waters of chemotherapy.

Sam and Amber left the house early on Saturday morning. The weather forecast was not good, but it kept dry.
Millie, the youngest granddaughter was not capable of the long walk from the harbour side to the site in Horfield where the procession ended, so it was decided that I would look after her and meet them half way, later in the afternoon.
Millie was happy to go on the swings in a Park about a mile and a half from where we live. It was still quite a hilly walk for the two of us but we did it with no problems.
Very soon we heard the beating of the drums and the sounds of the melodian, violin and pipes, so we knew that the procession was nearing the place where we were waiting.
Millie was pleased to be reunited with her daddy and I was very warmly greeted because most of the group knew that I had undergone chemo and admired my effort to get there, and of course, I'd made the jackets!
I must admit that they are among the nicest group of people that you could ever come across.
I was able to complete the walk (another 2 miles or so) and we ended up on Horfield Common where the Jack was *killed* and dismantled.
I dare say there are some deep folklore beliefs involved in all of this, but I am not at all interested in them.
What I am interested in, is the close-knit community spirit that goes on in this group and the way they react warmly to all those around them. I also love processions.
They inspire tradition and a community spirit that is sadly lacking in our area today.
I was so pleased that Amber could manage the long walk from the very beginning to the end and also that I could make the occasion too. I had no idea whether I would be well enough to go until the last minute and I was glad that the weather kept dry because the very next day turned out to be extremely wet in the morning.
Whatever the Jack did..... it has been raining and cold ever since.
If you would like photos of last years Jack in the Green you can read about it on my blog here.......
or you can find out more about the festival here. ( On the official site.)

Photos copyright: Maggie May

May is also the start of the summer and it is also the month of my birthday.
The green flowers in the garden are, I think, some kind of early clematis. They seem to battle through a passionflower every year, though the passion flower has been severely stunted by the bad frost of last winter and is still a brown mass of twiggy like bare stems. I do love to see these green flowers though.

Dicentra Spectabilis, otherwise known as Bleeding Heart, is another early flowering plant that seems to come out in my garden year after year, no matter what the weather throws at it. A truly lovely flower.

The primulas below have been nibbled by something or other, maybe from the little elves that live under the blue toad stool. I love the colour of the blue primula.
I wonder what the weather will be like for the rest of May this year?
Do other readers love this month, as much as I do?