Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Happy New Year

 
 
Em and Dan
 
 
Ok so not quite New Year, although it will be for my lovely  friend Lu in New Zealand in a few hours time, bless her, not seen her for 5 years or more, but NZ is a bit too far for me to travel.
I had a fab Christmas with another great friend Em, and her partner Dan and Em's mum and Dan's parents, way too much to eat, seemed to do nothing but eat both days, Em and Dan did an amazing job with the food, really was superb, just need to get out cycling now to burn it all off! I managed to not get carried away with the drinking, which I am pleased about, after recent events I am not that interested in drinking, certainly not to excess, so that has got to be a good thing.
Can't believe there is only one day left of 2014, will be so good to see the back of it, it really has been a rotten year, started off awful and has ended pretty grim, actually  that's not strictly true, as I feel really good now, just bit of a rubbish time up until a few weeks ago. I do feel very positive about 2015, I have loads to look forward to, and now I only have myself to look out for so it should be rather good.
 
Boxing Day

Gin Cocktails
 
 
Despite what I said earlier about drinking, I did visit a Gin Distillery, ok so I was only the driver and I had a non alcoholic Cocktail, but I did buy some Bombay Sapphire Gin and very nice it is too, the site  in Hampshire is well worth a visit, have a look at http://distillery.bombaysapphire.com/
 
 

Crosby Beach
 
 
Last Sunday was one of those perfect winter blue sky days, heavy frost, very cold and not a cloud in the sky, so I jumped on the train to the other side of Liverpool, just up the coast and had a lengthy walk from Bootle past Liverpool Docks and onto Crosby Beach. Was a really fab day, and it brought it home to me so clearly that this is what I enjoy most, out exploring with my camera, I don't need all the grief that I have had in the past year, I have some great friends and I have a great hobby so I am really very lucky. The main reason for going to Crosby, apart from it being really rather nice, but was to see some statues on the beach, around 100 of them in fact! They are life size cast iron figures by Sir Antony Gormley, and they are really rather good. There is something rather haunting about the way they stare out to sea and appear to be walking out into the water as if driven by some unseen being, calling them, reminds me of the Eloi in HG Well's "The Time Machine" well worth a visit, some details here  http://tinyurl.com/kan5mxm
 
The Talbot, Bootle
 
 
No I didn't go into The Talbot, Bootle is not the most salubrious of places and it does seem to have its fair share of dodgy pubs, although the people are great, they just don't have time for people with more money than sense.
 
A very Happy New Year, see you in 2015!
 






Monday, 22 December 2014

Merry Christmas

Westminster Bridge

St Paul's
 
                                Trafalgar Square                                    
 
 
 
A few days in London last week was fun, a walk round looking at the lights and a trip  to the 02 Arena. The streets were heaving at this time of year, but was still good and if you are prepared to walk there are still plenty of interesting quiet corners. I went into Foyles bookshop for the first time in years, quiet it certainly wasn't, but interesting it was, you could spend hours in there, if of course you are interested in books.
 
Phoenix Theatre
 
Almost opposite Foyles on Charing Cross Road is the Phoenix Theatre, now home to 'Once' the musical. I really want to go and see this, loved the film, it was so moving and real. Ronan Keating is now starring in the musical, not 100% sure that he is ideal, more likely getting a well known name in to boost ticket sales, but I may be proved wrong, some friends are seeing it this weekend so I will see what their verdict is. Before 'Once' 'Blood Brothers' played for around 21 years at the Phoenix and that was a truly memorable show, and for a while one of the Nolan sisters played the lead and she was really very good.
 
 
Frozen Yogurt

02
 
 
The other day I had a trip into Manchester on the train, £5 return, so why drive! I wouldn't have driven anyway, I am not a huge car fan, spent way to much on them when I was younger, so if I can I walk, cycle or get the train. The idea of Manchester was for Christmas shopping, which went well, but I did manage to buy myself a few presents as well and also got rather side tracked by some second hand bookshops including Empire Exchange, which is more a collectors shop rather than just books, some great wacky stuff in there.
 
Empire Exchange
 
 
There are still some very sleazy backstreets in Manchester city centre and some decidedly dodgy looking clubs and pubs, I kept focused on the job in hand and resisted the temptation to go in any of them.
Little Lever Street
 
 
A quick mention of another exhibition at the Pyramid and Parr Hall in Warrington, that is coming to a close. Cantered around the anniversary of WW1, there is some superb artwork on display, from local schools and colleges and also a very moving Audio Visual display.
 

Pyramid and Parr Hall
 
 
I no Christmas can be a very difficult and sometimes lonely time, (I spent last Christmas in hospital) but make the best of it if you can, Merry Christmas.


 






Saturday, 6 December 2014

Europe

A year ago on my birthday, December 1st I was in hospital, this year I was in Paris, after a 1600 mile drive round Europe. Luxembourg City, Swiss Alps, Milan, Lake Geneva and Paris.

Luxembourg City

Swiss Alps
 

Really was a stunning week, only a couple of slip ups with the driving so I think I did pretty well, even driving into the centre of Milan and Paris. Paris was nuts to drive in, the big roundabouts are a free for all and the orbital motorway makes our M25 look like a drive in the park! High spots were driving high into the Alps on a closed road to get to the top and find the road completely blocked by snow, then the sun came out and it was really stunning, although a local did give me a real telling off as we shouldn't have been there.

Milan Cathedral

Biella

View from the bedroom in Biella Jailhouse
 

Staying in an old jailhouse in Biella in Italy was quite something, the most beautiful setting, all cobbles, old buildings and few cars. The Eiffel Tower in Paris was very special, lit up at night with the top disappearing into the mist, all of Paris was very special, really would love to go back. The low spots were a couple of arguments with my friend, culminating in a horrendous fight in Paris on my birthday, we are now no longer friends. I do feel awful about it, we had had such a great time, and it was my fault, I said some things I never should have, it had been building up for sometime, I just lost it, my ex friend can be very rude and has very bad moods, and I think I just couldn't take it anymore. I do feel sad, as when it was good between us it was very good, and we had been best friends for some years, but deep down I new something like this was going to happen eventually, so now at least I can move on and get on with my life, it won't be easy as I will miss her something rotten, we would talk every day on the phone, sometimes for hours, so there is going to be a big void in my life, but what was the alternative? Holding my tongue and being walked all over? I am a soft touch, but even I have limits.


Thursday, 20 November 2014

Clatterbridge time again

Last Tuesday I had my 3 monthly scan and nothing had got any bigger which is a huge relief, so I must be doing something right. My consultant did say that the nodules that had appeared at the last scan where my Kidney was removed had disappeared, this also was a huge relief as he had played them down 3 months ago, I guess he didn't to scare me to much, which to be honest would have scared the life out of me if I had known something new was growing. Well that at least will keep me settled over my birthday, Christmas and New Year. The clinical trial I was supposed to be starting in October has now been put back till January at the earliest, due to red tape between the EU and the Pharmaceutical company in the US, I am quite pleased about this, as I do feel pretty healthy, and wasn't looking forward to starting a course of treatment during the winter, especially as this week is one year since I first went into Hospital, which as you can imagine gives me very mixed emotion.
 

Well that's all the medical stuff out of the way, so next week I am going on a road trip to Italy! I really am not sure what I have let myself in for, it started of as a day trip to Belgium, now it is two nights in Switzerland, two nights near Milan and a night in France on the way back, I am doing the driving and I have never driven abroad, and at this time of year, so I think I am a little crazy! 'He who dares wins!' as Del would say. It really is just a case of get off the ferry and head south, we have no where booked for the nights, so anything could happen, this maybe my last blog post, one thing is certain with Sarah it will certainly be an adventure, we come back on the 1st December on my birthday, so it will certainly be a contrast to the 1st last year, in agony in hospital!


Liverpool Water front

Talking of Sarah, bless her, she had told me to not go out last Saturday as she was sending a surprise present for my birthday, and didn't no what time it would be delivered, the surprise turned out to be her, which was rather amazing, so we had a trip around Liverpool Saturday and Sunday, Saturday night we managed to drink a very large amount of wine and nothing to eat, so were ever so slightly drunk, ooops!
Lime St

Warrington Central

Barley Mow
 

Sarah does drive me nuts at time and we do have a bit of an unusual friendship, but I love her to bits and do make the trip to Southampton once a month to see her, so it rather special that she came up to see me, especially as this was the first time she had been here when I wasn't in hospital.

Anfield

The Beatles


Thursday, 6 November 2014

Raining Cats and Dogs

I generally walk into town to go to the shelter where I walk the dogs, along the way I meet a lot of cats who are quite friendly on the way out, but by the time I return, smelling of dogs, they run a mile!

Tia



I have got into the habit of walking the larger dogs as they seem to be the ones that get out least, they are certainly lively, one of them Bernie, is a big black shaggy affair who goes nuts once he is let of the lead, he charges you then at the last second turns, so his body slams into your legs, he hasn't knocked me over yet, but it will happen.

Bernie


Tia is a St Bernard, and is as nuts as Bernie, once of the lead they both chase me round the field, trying their hardest to send me flying! There are two other St Bernard's I have not walked yet, Kayla who is larger than Tia and looks just as nuts, and Teddy who is massive and will probably pull me along on my face, but I will have a go.

video
Tia up to her usual tricks

 

Monday, 3 November 2014

Hearing Aid

This morning I went to have a hearing aid fitted, can't say I am very happy about it, hearing aids have always been associated with Aunty Doris and her infernal whistling! Its not that bad to be honest, very small and I have got used to it straight away. My hearing is really not that bad, just in some circumstances I struggle hearing people, so I thought I would give it ago.

South Wales
 
I have just got back from one of my jaunts south, was really good fun, South Wales and Hampshire. It was freezing cold in Wales, my friends are renovating an old house, so was not the warmest place, but was great to see them and be back in the Valleys, the house really is gorgeous, detached 4 bedroom and large walled garden all for a fraction of what they would have paid back in Sussex. After Wales I went to Andover and spent a few days with a fab friend and her partner, their house is the complete opposite, newly built so it is very well insulated, even with no heating on it was very warm.
 
Mr Tank
 
I was really very glad to get back north, while I did have a great couple of weeks in the south with some great friends, I have got into a bit of a routine now, what with dog walking most days and getting on with my photography and exercising daily. I have neglected the cycling in recent weeks, mainly because I have been walking so much, 7-8 miles a day, this includes walking the dogs. I can now walk most of the large dogs, and some of them are very large indeed, they are not difficult just very strong and a bit boisterous.

West Meon Station

Privet Tunnel
 
Whilst in Hampshire I went on an organised walk with the Railway Ramblers, this was on northern section of the long closed railway from Alton to Fareham and included visiting Privet and Tisted stations which are both now private homes, and very attractive ones as well. The following week I went back on my own to have a look at West Meon and Privet Tunnels, the south portal of West Meon tunnel was rather overgrown, it involved a lot of climbing up and down cuttings and hacking through the undergrowth, quite proud of myself as almost a year ago I was in hospital fighting for my life.




Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Raining Cats and Dogs

Most weekdays I go to my local RSPCA dog shelter to do some dog walking, I have only been doing it for a couple of weeks, but it is now part of my routine and I love it. Most of the dogs are subject to a cruelty case so unfortunately I can't post any photos. I do love dogs, but it would not be sensible for me to have one, so this is the next best thing, most days I will walk three dogs separately, and each day will be with different dogs as there are around 35 at the shelter. It is very relaxing, the paid staff are very friendly and easy going so apart from the rain today it is very good therapy, and also it gives some purpose to my daily walks into town.
I had a visit yesterday from a couple of ladies from The John Holt cancer centre, this was to arrange for me to be part of their little buds scheme, basically someone comes to see you once a week as a buddy for a few hours, to get you out in the community doing things. I do feel rather strange about doing this as for the last few years I have been acting as buddy to other people, and now the roles are reversed which is not a nice position to fund myself in, but as always there is an upside, I myself could become a buddy to someone with cancer, I just have to wait until a year has past since my diagnosis, this will be at the end of November, so hopefully after Christmas I will be able to support other people struggling, to be honest I will be much happier doing this as I am not really one to go out asking for help, so we shall see.

 The Forth Bridge
 

Now the weather is taking a turn for the worse I am starting to catch up on a lot of PC work with my photographs. I have around 30,000 negatives, around a fifth of them have been scanned, so I still have a fair bit of work to do.. Through a couple of Facebook groups I have been posting some of my collection of Motor Racing photos from the 1970s and 1980s, I am quite taken a back by the interest they have generated, it is so good to be able to share them with people who either remember the days fondly or are involved in running some of these cars today, I even had some correspondence with a chief mechanic from one of todays F1 teams! It makes all the hard work worthwhile, just a little sad my father isn't around to see its he used to take me to Silverstone and Brands Hatch and he would love all the You Tube clips and photos that are on the net now.

1984 Donington 500


Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Long time no post

When I started this blog the idea was to chart the progress of my cancer, and how it affected my day to day life, it has certainly changed my life but not in the way I would have expected.

CT scan at Clatterbridge
 

I have been incredibly lucky, my scan at 9 months since diagnosis showed no change to the Tumour on my  remaining Kidney, of the three Mets in my Lungs, one is the same size, one is smaller and the other has disappeared altogether. To put this into perspective, this last Monday I went to the funeral of my amazing friend Roz, she was in a better position 9 months ago, her cancer hadn't spread, so when her Kidney was removed at the same time as mine, it was hoped that was the end of it, sadly it returned with vengeance. Seeing the way Roz had to fight every inch of the way for the last 6 months of her life has left me with very mixed feelings, why her and not me?

Near West Kirby, on the Wirral

The river Dee at Shotton
 

While I have always been reasonably fit, this past 6 months I have worked very hard to get extra fit, partly through having the time, but mainly through the desire to not let my cancer beat me, I have and still do struggle mentally, although a  lot of that is caused by my position in life rather than just the cancer, and I am now making some life choices to be able to move forward.
So what have I been doing this past month! Unfortunately I have been to another funeral, the father of a very dear friend, who also died of cancer, like buses they tend to come at the same time. I have also been trying to get a PIP claim sorted, but it now looks like that could take up to 10 months from application, from what I have read online, this is a complete shambles and a disgrace, poor Roz died before she even got an assessment for her claim.

At long last I went to see Les Mis, incredible show
 

Its not all doom and gloom, apart from walking 5 miles a day, I have been doing a lot of cycling, around 15 a day, including a ride into Manchester the other week, a ride around Chester and a ride back from Southport. At the weekend I came back from a couple of weeks in the south, mostly spent with Sarah in Southampton, where we went indoor Skydiving, now I really don't like heights, but I really enjoyed it and now want to do the real thing, I no it will freak me out completely but I will be so proud of myself afterwards, that's if I survive of course! To be honest me and Sarah were rather lazy, last weekend we watched the whole of Ashes to Ashes, a fab TV show, around 24 hours worth I think, 'He's killed the Quattro, he's bloody killed my Quattro!' Gene Hunt, what a legend.

Ashes to Ashes






Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Clatterbridge once more

CT scan at Clatterbridge today, not much news as I wont find out the results till next Tuesday, but I did speak to Roz Vaughan, a remarkable lady who has had a horrendous time with her cancer, when I think back to December last year and we were both in identical positions, yet she is now fighting for her life. Of to Whiston hospital tomorrow to visit her, the very least I can do.
Funny sort of day today, recently I have been so listless and disinterested in anything except walking and cycling, but today I have been far more productive and positive than I have for a long time, I think it is because several people very close to me are really suffering, either with their own illness or the illness of a family member, this has really brought it home to me how lucky I am, I am sure I will have problems to face soon enough, but I need to make the most of this time and stop feeling sorry for myself and getting upset about the things missing in my life, and instead use to the full the things I do have in my life, especially the freedom and fitness that I have.

Keep eating the salad
 

I am off south again on Thursday, going to London to see Le Mis with a couple of friends then a few days in Southampton before heading back north on Sunday. I quite enjoy the driving these days, I put some good music on, then the distance just flies by. If I could get a Disabled Railcard I would quite happily go by train, but I need to be awarded a PIP claim to qualify, the PIP claim can take up to 25 weeks, mine has already been 15 weeks. What seems to happen, is you apply for these benefits when you are at deaths door, then by the time they have got round to assessing you, you are either dead, or not nearly so bad so they say you don't meet the criteria. I am not holding my breath on this one.
Almost forgot, I have tickets to see John Bishop in Bournemouth in October, should be really fab.

John Bishop


Monday, 25 August 2014

August Bank Holiday

Its been a month since I have posted anything, not really sure why, but I have been out and about enjoying myself.
I have my next CT scan tomorrow, always a difficult time, its funny but I get more worked up about the scan, than I do about the results when I go back a week later. I should find out more about the clinical trial and when I have to have Biopsies done etc. I really don't know how to feel about starting the treatment, the thought of getting ill is not nice, I rely so heavily on being fit and active, to start struggling is not a nice thought, especially with summer coming to an end, once the wet cold weather starts it is always hard to be motivated to go out and exercise, so feeling rubbish through my treatment will be doubly hard, but I am determined to keep at it and get out on my bike as much as I can.
Don't mess with the Tax Man! I put in a claim for mileage allowances over the past three years, and I was told that I was not entitled to them, but that they have re calculated my tax and I now owe them £400, if its not broken, don't try to fix it!

Sunny morning in Bruges
 

I went to Bruges the other week with Sarah, just a day trip but it was so much fun, we set of from Southampton at 9pm on the Tuesday evening for Dover then got the 4.20am sailing to Calais, with Sarah driving we got to Bruges around 8am, was a gorgeous day, sunny and warm, we had a boat trip down the canals and climbed the 366 steps up to the Bell tower.
 
 
366 steps later



Sarah did an amazing job driving on the right, I have not done it yet, so well done to her, we got back to Southampton around 1am Thursday morning. Friday lunchtime she had to go to Eastleigh and her car wouldn't start and it was terminal, so we were extremely lucky to do the miles we did without any problems.

How to overtake on the left
 

When it is good between me and Sarah, it is amazing, we do have our ups and downs, we both have issues of various sorts, but the spontaneous times are the best, on the way back from Bruges we called in at Adinkerke, and Sarah saw a sign for a War Cemetery, which was quite small so I suggested going to Ypres. Ypres cemetery is on the edge of the town with over 2000 stones including one German, the only other person there was someone tending the gardens, it was the most perfect moment, so peaceful and so moving, we were both very affected by the place, we spoke to a couple of locals who then pointed us in the direction of Tyne Cot cemetery not far away, so off we went. Over 10000 stones at Tyne Cot, an incredible place, although quite busy it was so peaceful, there is no way to put into words the feelings you have when you see these regimented rows of stones, so many with no name, an experience that neither of us will forget.

Tyne Cot Cemetery


Monday, 14 July 2014

Runcorn

We have had some gorgeous weather recently, I really can't stay indoors when the sun is shinning, so have been out walking and cycling every day. A couple of days ago I cycled to Runcorn, outward via the Bridgewater canal and return along the Trans Pennine route, was about 25 miles in total, was pretty easy, so quite pleased with that, obviously its mostly flat so I shouldn't have any real problems. Tomorrow I am going to get the train to Southport and cycle back, I think its a bit over 40 miles, so that will be the furthest I have been since last August, I know I wont have any real problems, so quite pleased at my level of fitness.

 
The Bridge, Runcorn

 
View down the Mersey towards Liverpool
 
 

Since I left hospital I haven't real set out to get ultra fit, I have only really done what I was doing last year, but with a lot more determination and a lot more satisfaction, especially as I still have an unwanted passenger clinging to my remaining Kidney.