Into the Internet Black Hole

What? Oh Hello!  Where have I been?
LOST – Lost in a black hole called black-hole– ‘our service provider didn’t organise things properly’… As in, we have moved … all the way to … next door. ‘Oh, yes, it is all organised,’ they said, ‘we will cut your phone off at the old address and have you connected (new line required) and all you will have to do is take the equipment – plug it in – and there you are – only one day disconnected’

They said.

Oh, you’d like to know who? TalkTalk.

Now, I had only recently gone over to them, mainly because BT were being really intransigent. It seemed that I had to take out a new contract with them as we would be moving to a new address, so we would be seen as a new customer … however, as we were already with them at our present address we were not eligible for any of the reduced rate offers open to new customers … because we were a current customer.

UM? So on one hand we are a new customer but on the other we are not? Talk about having your cake and eating it … that is BT – not us!

So we looked around – and took recommendations – and checked prices – and rang and asked questions. And switched to TalkTalk. All went well and smoothly initially, their router arrived, we plugged it in – it worked fine, phone continued as usual … until the move about a month later.

First someone at TalkTalk didn’t actually book OpenReach to come and do the line connection when the move was ordered. Fortunately, as we hadn’t heard anything we chased TalkTalk up. Apparently the notes were there – but the booking hadn’t been made. The operator then said he’d booked it for the day of our move – 1st May. However, we later got an email from Open Reach confirming an appointment to connect us up on the 9th, however we had organised to move out of the old house on the 1st, so the move went ahead. (meaning – 1 week without phone or internet – instead of one day)

On the 9th of May, in the  last half hour of the afternoon slot, an engineer turned up. He connected up everything in the house, went to connect up outside and then told us – he couldn’t. It seems that Open Reach (a different part if it)  hadn’t done some of the preparation work. He said he would report it and that we should see someone within a couple of days, but that we needed to tell our service provider to get them to pass on the problem, and to tell them ‘it needed two men and a cherry-picker to take the new cable through the trees’.

We contacted TalkTalk to tell them, they said ‘we will order an engineer to come to connect you’ whereupon we told them what the engineer had said, they said ‘we will order an engineer’. We were given a booking time, Friday that week – no one turned up at all.

(two weeks without proper internet – or phone.)

So back to TalkTalk – trying to make sure they really understood that it was preparation work that was needed.

Eventually, another (single) engineer arrived, saw the problem – but he DID arrange for the work to be done the following day. Then we should have been connected!  Or not!

 (three weeks without internet or phone connection)

It seemed there was some kind of problem in the actual line further up towards the village. He put in a request for it to be looked into … and nearly a week later … we were actually connected. (four weeks without internet or phone)

Nearly a month after the move! On top of that they have not retained our old phone number! The one we’ve had for over 40 years.  This because … when I eventually got high enough up the ladder to speak to someone who could ask WHY BT wouldn’t let us keep our number – it turns out that the County Council hadn’t notified Royal Mail that the address we had verified two years ago was verified – and so didn’t appear as a ‘proper’ address to allocate a phone number to – unfortunately getting to this point meant that by the time this was sorted out and Royal Mail had added us to the verified address list – we were now so long disconnected that TalkTalk could not now apply for our old number back! You just couldn’t make this us!

The number they have given us is just weird – no location has a number starting with 2 in the whole of the Liskeard area code!  So, rant over – I now face making sure all our contacts have this new number.

wp_20180622_13_27_06_proLastly, just as we get online again, my dear mother, who has been in poor health for a long time with sever vascular dementia, lost her ability to swallow.
Imagine – no one knowing our new number yet trying to call us!
Since then I have been in a different black hole – this one created by the whirlwind of seeing someone very close pass away and organising all that must follow.

 

So, dear, patient readers – thank you for being there and for reading even though this blog has been beset with long pauses and gaps this past year or so.

PS

I will update on my healing process and other interesting developments soon …

Best Ann

ps If you are reading this on email and would like to comment just click onto the title and it will take you to the actual blog – so you can comment there 🙂
If it is the first time you have written a comment don’t worry if it doesn’t appear immediately, your first comment has to be verified (to keep the spam-bots out) and I do this personally – so I am sure to see your comment – thanks for reading – Ann

pps – if you are reading on the email and can’t see a video when it says there is one – again , please go to the actual blog by clicking the title – then it should appear 🙂

***

Remember – reviews of books are a great way to say ‘thank you’ to an author if you like what they write  🙂 Thank You

A touch of Spring and The Follow-Up

I wanted to bring you a montage of Spring (flowers, pond videos etc) to entertain you all before I went back to my stage 1 breast cancer journey tale. If you’ve just arrived the first instalment is HERE and the second HERE. 

So here is Spring – Cornish style (well in my garden anyway)

You can engage in some peaceful Newt Watching  [click here if reading on email  ] and just listen to the birds in the background! Or a wriggle of Tadpoles [click here if reading on email]
and just look at the flowers – all late – but here they come – and a nice bumble-bee too –  new life – JOY !

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And so now, in a relaxed and positive frame of mind, on to the second part of today’s blog, my stage 1 breast cancer journey continues …

The Follow-Up

Maybe I had over-done it at Belly Dance the Thursday before – but my breast was a bit tender and the bruising was still changing from blue through those wonderful yellow shades, so didn’t look a pretty sight (see below) Not that it would bother the surgeon, I’m sure. He was mostly interested in the healing of the incisions … which was good 🙂

He then went through the results: No cancers cells detected in the margin of ‘healthy’ cells they took out with the tumour. (GOOD NEWS) No cancer in any of the 4 lymph nodes that they took from under my arm. (Extra GOOD News!)

Of the tumour – a total of 22mm – the central 9mm was Grade 2 stage Invasive Ductal Carcinoma – the outer layer ‘intermediate* grade’ Ductal Carcinoma In-Situ (DCIS) (*as in between 1 and 2) Not such good news – as the grade 2 is invasive –  and had already broken out of the milk duct it began in.

To mop-up any stray individual cancer cells – or other cells in the breast that were planning on turning cancerous – 3 weeks radiotherapy was recommended. This is not without risks, varying from minor to major, from as common as one in four to very rare, and can be very uncomfortable and tiring at the time and for a while afterwards.

Then he told me that the cancer was Oestrogen Positive. {often written ER+ because the Americans spell it Estrogen} This means that the cancer uses oestrogen to stimulate it’s growth. Now, being past menopause – you would think there wasn’t too much oestrogen kicking around anyway – however, there’s enough to be a problem! So the recommendation is a five year course of oestrogen blockers ‘hormone therapy’ – that stop the uptake of oestrogen by the cancer cells.

Which – hang on ladies – can throw you back into all those menopause symptoms you thought you had at last got over! Yep! Hot flushes, night-sweats, brain fog – whatever was in your bag. And after doing five years to get through it ‘cold-turkey’ (i.e. no HRT – one thing that is shown to increase chances of breast cancer) is a teensy bit annoying.

However – there are more than one ‘family’ groups of oestrogen blockers – and if you don’t get on with one – say after 6 months (because it takes at  least that long to settle into it) you may be changed to another to find one that does suit you. They say it is rare that someone doesn’t get on with any but with my reactions to so many medicines (and anaesthetics!) I’m a little trepidatious but I intend to take it up…

WHY? well, because taking the oestrogen blocker stops the cancer cells getting hold of their growth boosting ingredient – and this is shown to give a better chance of surviving after having breast cancer treatment.

The doctors will use a tool called Predict – to tell you what your long-term chances are if you ask (that is – five years and ten years after surgery and whichever treatments you have).  Once you have all your details you can find it for yourself here :  PREDICT

The difference that oestrogen blockers make in an oestrogen-positive cancer patient with my details (age, how detected, size of tumour, HER2-,  grade, treatment plan) is 2.9% after ten years (from 79.2% still alive after 10 years, to 82.1%)

So … watch this space – as they say … quite a while to go yet though – radiotherapy first … and I’m not really looking forward to that either having watched Dad go through it all not so long ago!

Oh, I promised you a picture of how it is healing up? … hang on … there – healing well – complete with ‘interesting colours’  🙂wp_20180428_07_30_40_pro

Let me add – this is just my experience. I couldn’t find any early stage breast cancer stories on blogs – so decided that I would do it – for others who want to see what this stage is like ( as opposed to the drastic cases usually written about) Being positive, being informed, and getting on with it, is my way through. Hope you found something useful – and if you want to share your experiences please do use the comments. If you want to praise the bounties of Spring – you can do that too!  🙂

Best Ann

ps If you are reading this on email and would like to comment just click onto the title and it will take you to the actual blog – so you can comment there 🙂

pps If it is the first time you have written a comment don’t worry if it doesn’t appear immediately, your first comment has to be verified (to keep the spam-bots out) and I do this personally – so I am sure to see your comment – thanks for reading – Ann

Plan of Action and Operation

primroses-with-redIn the last instalment of my stage 1 breast cancer journey – I had just received The Letter – and had an appointment to go and talk with the surgeon about my treatment.

So it was back to the Primrose Breast Care Centre and there I was met by a Primrose nurse and, having dis-robed my top half, was decked in a pink mini-cape. The surgeon then joined us to examine the problem.

To start with, I think the amount of bruising was exceptional, the Primrose nurse said ‘Oh my’ and she must see it all. I was asked twice if I was on any blood thinners – like aspirin. I am not.** see below **

I have to say that there were now two hard lumps, one about the size of half a marble, the other slightly smaller, that had come up with the bruising. I had put this down to the two sites of sampling, but when the surgeon said that the cancer sites (lumps) were quite palpable I had to say that they were not until the biopsy!

From the scan they had looked quite deep, but I was told they were here, where these two  ‘now palpable’ lumps were, therefore not far beneath the skin.

What can I say… if these, not-deep cancers, were not able to be felt – what chance to feel any deep-set ones! Yet the mammogram found them! So, as I said last week, if you get the call to the mammogram – GO!

Once dressed we met again to discuss the treatment, which had already been discussed with the medical team and a recommendation made. This was to remove the two lumps (a lumpectomy) along with a margin of cancer-free breast and also to remove one or more sentinel lymph nodes from just into my armpit.

Both the lumps and the nodes would be examined to check that there were no cancer cells, a, on the clear margin around the lumps and b, in the lymph nodes. If this is the case then, after time for healing, we can go forward to the next stage of treatment –  three weeks of radiotherapy.

** I thought I would look up the non-prescribed supplements that I take – in case any of these are blood-thinners… Cod liver oil, Vitamin D (used from October to May – while the sun isn’t strong enough to make vitamin D in the skin) Glucosamine and Chondroitin, Magnesium glycinate (half daily recommended dose) 3mg Boron, Vitamin B complex. The internet offered so much that was confusing and contradictory that I had another idea! No. 3 son is the one with the PhD in microbiology and works in a business that works with pharmaceutical companies – so I asked him. He came back with ‘there a whole lot of stuff that’s contradictory out there’, but, Chondroitin and Magnesium have scientific evidence of acting as blood thinners. Nothing wrong with this usually, but not good if you would like to avoid bruising. So I cut out both for a week before the operation **

The Operation Day

Another early morning – I really don’t do early very well but I was up early enough to shower and eat my usual breakfast one-egg omelette (breakfast was allowed as long as it was eaten before 7 – as my operation wasn’t until later in the afternoon).

The Husband dropped me off at the hospital at about 7.45am (about the time I start to wake up usually) and I made my way to my first stop – the Primrose Centre. I was armed for my waits with my kindle and a downloaded copy of Terry Pratchett’s ‘The Fifth Elephant’ – something easy to read, funny and distracting. I didn’t have much time to get stuck in as, within a couple of minutes of my appointment time, a nurse took me through to go through paperwork with me – mainly about the exercises to do after the operation and when and how to remove, or have the dressings removed, when the time came. A few minutes more and it was an ultrasound scan – from the same radiologist – who then drew on my breast to indicate the precise areas of the lumps as guided by the scan.

From there I had to head down to Nuclear Medicine – where a blue radioactive dye was injected into my breast so that it would flow through to the sentinel lymph nodes – whereby they could be made visible to the surgeon.

As it happens, I then had a two hour wait until I was due at my next appointment venue – the ward where I would go through all the preparations, checks and paperwork prior to the operation itself. It was a beautiful sunny day, if with a cool wind, so I set off to walk down behind the hospital to where I had seen a pond marked on trips with my Dad to the lowest areas of the hospital where the radiotherapy department is tucked away. The pond had both tadpoles and fish, which were diverting to watch for a few minutes, and a seat in a sunny spot that was ideal for reading, and chuckling, over Pratchett’s story.

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my ‘bit of brightness’ dressing-gown

Later, after waiting between being ‘seen’ (that saw me reading and chuckling to myself – over the book I was reading – other waiting patients probably thought me mad) and after blood-pressure taking nurse, chat with surgeon, who further annotated my chest with arrows pointing to armpit and breast, and finally the anaesthetist, it was – get changed! Oh yes, and pop on these pressure stockings! SO tight to get on – even when I read the tiny instructions and did it the right way – yes, I have well-developed calves!  Then the usual, oh so elegant, hospital gown and then, my flash red ‘silk’ with-Peacocks-and-Chinese-blossoms-all-over-it dressing-gown, to cover it all. Well you have to look bright sometimes … and off we went for a little walk to the prep-room, to be administered the anaesthetic  >>> . . . . .  .   .    .     .       .

.    .     .    .   .  .  .  . . . . . … and woozily I was called back to the world. And the fun began. I had said to the anaesthetist that I didn’t do well with general anaesthetics – well the last time I had them – over 24 years ago. I was, confidently, told that anaesthetics had moved on since then.

Hmm, not for me it hadn’t. So they gave me an antiemetic (anti-sickness drug) to dissolve under my tongue – then tried with the sips of water again …. OOops  no go!! I guess, finding me coherent, if still sick, they decided I was fine to go into the next stage of recovery, where, nibbled ginger biscuits and sips of water were tried … OOoops! no go! So it was that they gave me an intravenous antiemetic … then a cup of tea! Down in sips – and …. OOOOps out again!

Seems my body still doesn’t like anaesthetics! By now the woman who came in well after me was happily feasting on tea and sandwiches! So – this aspect is just how it affects me! They decided they’d call the Husband anyway as it was getting late  … which they did … and sent me off with him, a couple of packets of pain-killers and a sick bowl!

Next morning I was fine – managed to eat quite happily! I also polished off the rest of the Pratchett as I didn’t feel up to doing much else! I took a couple of pictures – so that anyone interested in what the operation looked like at this stage can compare, should they need to.breast-after-op-crop Not much additional bruising to be seen, just in two places. The dark bruising towards the nipple is still what remains from the biopsy – and nothing to do with the operation. (note: my phone doesn’t have a ‘selfie’ camera, just an away facing one, so it makes taking these pics tricky!)

This is also the morning to begin the exercises – and though the dressings pulled the skin they were attached to – these were fine, not actually hurting. Certainly worth doing to make sure flexibility and strength are maintained!

The First Six Days

All week it has been sore! I’ve been taking one paracetamol and one ibuprofen every four or five hours – and that includes half-way through the night when the ache/pain woke me. A few days I found I just had to go and lie down, and easily slipped into a doze. An hour later I woke feeling much refreshed. Maybe this is the effect of the painkillers (medicines I rarely take and then usually only one at a time or they knock me out) or the healing process I do not know – but it’s good to listen to your own body and follow it’s instructions!

Wearing a bra overnight is weird – but recommended and I would say it does help support, and therefore not pull, on the operation sites. A bra-extender was recommended to counteract the tightness of your usual bra brought on by the swelling from the operation. As I’d not thought about it until a bit late, I constructed my own from an old bra, cutting the two fastenings off and sewing them back together – it has worked really well, making the bra far more comfortable! For anyone who thinks about it earlier they are easily available on eBay or Amazon.

DAY 7

I was told to remove the waterproof dressings on day seven . Options were given a, do it yourself, b go into a practice nurse to have it done, or c, if you were worried or had extensive surgery (like a mastectomy) to go back into the Primrose to have it removed. I opted for a.

Then, in the shower, the steri-strips all peeled off. Leaving the naked lines of the cuts visible. Not too bad looking, though the one under the arm feels lumpy, and the waterproof dressings had started to irritate my skin and cause a rash. breast-dressings-off-cropBoth cuts are about 5 cms long. The bruising from the operation has also faded a bit now – though there’s still some from the biopsy. Whether this was because I’d cut out the magnesium and Chondratin or because there is less force in an operation, I do not know.

So this is where I am, recovering …

… and I hope that this has been of some use to anyone facing the same level of diagnosis. As I said – I’m blogging this experience to help anyone else going through it, now or in the future, to have some kind of comparison – as most blogs seem to be about the worst cases – rather than the early ones.

Thank you if you emailed me with kind words, they are appreciated.

Thoughts, Comments, Questions – All are welcome, you know I love to hear from you.

Best – Ann

ps If you are reading this on email and would like to comment just click onto the title and it will take you to the actual blog – so you can comment there 🙂

pps If it is the first time you have written a comment don’t worry if it doesn’t appear immediately, your first comment has to be verified (to keep the spam-bots out) and I do this personally – so I am sure to see your comment – thanks for reading – Ann

And Now This …

And now this … those of you living near me probably know already … as I have roles in so many local groups that I found I had to tell a lot of people (so that I didn’t let anyone down at the last minute).

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primroses

Oh! Why?  

Glad you asked, well, my three-yearly mammogram came round about six weeks after Dad’s funeral. I went along – as I always do – quite happily, being sure that I felt no lumps or anything unusual – and I do check.    . . . First a bit of history …

Back in 2003 a mammogram had found something suspicious … that call-back, followed by a biopsy a couple of weeks later, resulted in a diagnosis of Micro-calcification. (poem from the time below)

Evidence of micro calcification

I find myself aware of life, all life
taking care not to harm
even the ant. Just as when expecting,
an un-thought, instinctive  
seeking wholeness and health.

I ask, ‘worse case scenario’
tuck away pieces of terminology
seek little more, seem un-worried
but later, research thoroughly
– the odds work both ways.

Biopsy; as always, do as I’m told
be as still as I know how
the conscientious student
the un-worried patient
put it all at the back of my mind.

From the bath I rescue
both silverfish and spider, for once
pray for myself instead of just others.
Then the letter, and my relief reveals
to me the degree of my anxiety.

Ann Foweraker

Nothing to worry about after-all !

Then a few years ago I had a sort-of sore feeling in my left breast when I lay on that side, nothing to feel lump-wise, just sore – a bit like an old bruise that still hurts when pressed. The ‘soreness’ didn’t go away, so after a few weeks I saw the GP, who referred me for a mammogram just to be sure – it showed nothing to worry about at all ! (and the soreness went away too after a little while)

Then this latest mammogramand the call-back. Immediately I checked again – I still couldn’t feel anything untoward! So set off in a hopeful mood – that this would also be a false alarm

In Plymouth’s Derriford Hospital we have the Primrose Breast Care Centre – here everything for breast care is drawn together so you don’t have to wander around the hospital, going from department to department. It is a charitable foundation working with the NHS to provide the best breast care experience and, completely coincidentally, something that one of the groups I’m involved with had recently voted as this year’s charity to support.

First it was in to take another set of mammograms – to check the area they were concerned with – though they took scans of both breasts – perhaps for comparison.

These must have been sent almost straight into the Radiographer, for that was my next port of call, within a few minutes. The doctor then did a ultrasound and told me, in a kind way, that there were two patches, right beside each other, that, in his opinion, looked very like cancer, and that he was usually right 19 out of 20 times. So he would need to do a biopsy.

There’s me thinking I would have to wait of a couple of weeks for this, as before – but no, within a minute or two he and the nurse were ready to perform the biopsy, the skin numbed and the needle guided by the ultra-sound scan. It wasn’t too painful – an odd tugging feeling in the breast as the needle ‘clunked’, twice, and it was done – the nurse pressing down to stop the bleeding and then putting paper-stitches and a waterproof dressing over the wound. After a meeting with another Primrose nurse to fill out forms, I was ready to go home.

Apparently the pressing is supposed to stop bruising – all I can say – is it didn’t work very well for me! I know I bruise easily – I’m always finding bruises on my hips and shoulders where I’ve caught something, so lightly I can’t remember doing it – but the bruise is there anyway.

breast-cropThis photo is after three days. You can see the site of the biopsy, where the tape was – it left un-bruised lines, and even the water-proof dressing curbed the depth of bruise – but the rest of the bruising spread far and wide! (Don’t be alarmed – it looks a lot worse than it felt – actually the main soreness was around the site of the needle insertion – the red dot)

 Then – about a week later – The Letter. ..

I’d definitely been diagnosed with breast cancer … and a trip into the Primrose Unit again beckoned, this time to discuss treatment with the surgeon.

My reaction? Well, to be honest – pretty miffed! I was just ready to get going again on so many fronts. Yet, somehow, not altogether surprised as I have seen, over the last ten years or so, so many people who have cared for others (often with cancer or another life-threatening, or debilitating, condition) who have then gone on to develop cancer themselves. . . it almost seems as if it is catching – but of course – it isn’t.

My next reaction – research! No point in panic or upset – I’ve just got to get on with it – but find out all I can! That’s me 🙂

Why? Oh Why? Am I blogging this?

Well, because my cancer is (provisional) stage 1 (Early – invasive ductal carcinoma) and, luckily HER2 negative (so, not aggressive) and when I was researching I found that there are many, many blogs out there about aggressive, or late-discovered tumours – but few about the early ones, therefore few to compare with.

AND because I couldn’t feel ANYTHING that would have warned me – even when I had the re-call letter and gave it a really thorough checking out! ONLY the MAMMOGRAM picked it up. So I want to say, when you get the call for your mammogram – GO! I’m only glad my call came this year – not in another couple!

One thing I know – there are hundreds and thousands of people out there who have had breast cancer – survived – and living life to the full – so if you’d like to share here – please do – as always, I love to hear from you – on this or anything else…

And that’s me for today … Best ~ Ann

ps If you are reading this on email and would like to comment just click onto the title and it will take you to the actual blog – so you can comment there 🙂

pps If it is the first time you have written a comment don’t worry if it doesn’t appear immediately, your first comment has to be verified (to keep the spam-bots out) and I do this personally – so I am sure to see your comment – thanks for reading – Ann

Apples and Memories

This week, on a warm day I went into the apple store and realised, by the fermenting aroma, that it was time! Time to sort out all the remaining apples and chuck out all the mouldy ones.

Now a really organised person would have been doing this all along – they’d have done this every time they collected apples – not dashing in, grabbing a few and flying out again, often at twilight, when sorting apples in an unlit shed is not easy.

Red admiral - telling us the apples are ready!
Red admiral – telling us the apples were ready!

As I stood turning over each of the apples that still looked good to check for damage, and chucking the obviously past-it apples into the bucket, I remembered picking this crop. We did it over a number of warm days, the butterflies dancing and tasting apples that had already fallen.

In past years Dad has always been the most assiduous fruit-picker in the family, he’d check the fruit, wait for the dew to dry and then set off into the orchard with a wheelbarrow full of boxes, and steadily pick apples and lay them out in the apple store all day, or until the apples that were ripe were all gathered in.dad-picking-apples-holding-on-2017

This year, ill as he was, he still wanted to help. So, over a few days, he did. I helped him walk down to the trees we were going to pick, and he held tightly to a branch and picked with his free hand, or propped himself against the trunk, and did the same. An hour or so of this and he was exhausted, but happy to have done his bit for that day, and after I’d helped him back he’d settle down in his armchair, feet up, and would swiftly be asleep. wheelbarrow-apples

trug-apples

 

 

 

 

dad-with-howgate-wonderThere had been an excellent crop, with some real whoppers from the Howgate Wonders – an apple I love to recommend as it is sweet enough for an eater, mushes down like a cooker (needing no added sugar) is a heavy cropper and keeps really well! Here’s a snap of Dad holding one, though not the biggest, of these lovely apples.

All this is going through my mind as I sort the apples, and here we are, the second week of April and I still have a range of apples left.wp_20180408_15_17_11_pro
They do not look as pretty as the chilled, native and imported, apples in the supermarket, but they haven’t been sprayed with pesticides or herbicides.wp_20180408_15_16_56_pro

They haven’t been waxed or coated in shellac . . . and if you don’t like the sound of these ‘old apples’ please note that *’apples you buy from the shops are usually anything from a few months to a year old’ * Times Newspaper 10/4/18

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Yet even after all these months, peeled, they still taste wonderful, are free – wp_20180408_15_17_23_pro

 

 

and I reckon I have at least nine kilos left!

 

 

The mouldy and too-damaged-to-eat apples I’ve spread out on our open-top compost heap – where it won’t take long for birds to find them to have nice, unexpected, spring feast.

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What have you been up to this past week?

What annual jobs in the home or garden are you tackling?

Do let me know in the comments – I love to hear from you 🙂

 

ps If it is the first time you have written a comment don’t worry if it doesn’t appear immediately, your first comment has to be verified (to keep the spam-bots out) and I do this personally – so I am sure to see your comment – thanks for reading – Ann

 

Hello Blog, it’s me – been a long time …

Hello Blog, it’s me – been a long time … I’ve missed you.

I missed a lot of things in the past nine months. I tried, I really did, but a blog a month was all I managed – why? Well, I didn’t want to write about the main thing in my life back then as it wasn’t only mine to write about, but now, now that my dear and lovely Dad has passed away, and I am just resurfacing, I can say – yes, looking after Dad took most of my ‘spare’ time and all of my emotional effort to remain cheerful and upbeat for him at times when I really wanted to cry. He always hated to be dependant in any way – and I could not let any strain show for his sake.

frank-foweraker-recent
Taken just before his 90th birthday

So we saw him though operations and radiotherapy and the realisation that the cancer had come back into his lymph nodes and that nothing more could be done. He had his last wish and died at home in our lovely old house, where he’d lived for the past twenty-seven years, having seen his grandsons arrive from all over the world to sit with him in the last days, hold his hand, talk or watch old episodes of Dad’s Army with him when he was really tired.

Yet, he was 91, an age he’d never expected to reach when he was young. He’d had a varied and interesting life and had achieved much.9781909936904-Perfect_FINAL copy Sadly he never got to see the second volume of his memoirs in print – but he did write it, and I will edit and have it published. However, this second volume only takes him from 18 years to 28, so I will have to add a little to fill in the remaining years even if only in bullet pointed highlights. This is one of my targets for this year, even if my own writing takes a back seat.

I don’t think many people expected to do a music hall sing-along at the funeral tea – but that is just what one of his grandson’s arranged. You see, Dad had been talking about this song two Christmases ago, and it was found and played to him … with resulting laughter all round. Here’s a youtube link to a video of him listening to it:

And this is the original – so you can hear properly what the hilarity is all about.(Note:it pauses half way through to turn the record over!)  Dad would have loved it, proper Cockney humour and a proper old-time sing-along!

So that’s where I have been and what I have been doing while I’ve not been talking to you, dear blog readers…

What has the past nine months brought you? Happy times? Sad?

Do share – because I really do like to hear from you

x
Ann

Happy Christmas 2017 & Wishing you a Peaceful and Joyous 2018

For my last blog of 2017 I’ll bring you

– a glimpse at this year’s cake (Christmas parcel)

wp_20171222_11_39_35_proA ‘how-to’ may appear in the recipes before next Christmas 🙂

wp_20171222_12_57_04_pro–  this year’s door wreath wp_20171223_15_26_22_pro– and this year’s tree (same as always) wp_20171223_15_27_30_pro

Thank you for dropping in and reading my blog over the year- eclectic and (this year – due to family illness) erratic as it has been – I hope it brings interest, information and entertainment as well as my news on the writing front- and that you’ll be dropping by again throughout the coming year.

Sending You All Good Wishes for You and All Yours for the coming year!

Best – Ann

Planned Parenthood – early medieval style

It is amazing where researches for a book take you. Regular readers will know that I am embarking upon my first historical novel – and that it is set in early medieval times – late AD600s to be precise.

So my wise-woman is going to help a female Saxon slave to ensure she doesn’t conceive. Umm – and how does she do that? The male in question is not going to be party to any care that needs taking – so off into the depths of the internet I go – following one thread after another until I find some answers – and other interesting facts…siphium

One thread took me back so far that the herb in question had become extinct even before the years I was looking at! But was fascinating anyway. A herb that was the making of Cyrene – wanted for so many reasons apart from that of being the most effective contraceptive potion available. The plant was known as Silphium and it featured on the coins of the country – that’s how important it was! It appears to have been only able to grow in a narrow strip of land – and, despite many attempts, could not be propagated anywhere else. Seeds simply did not grow, roots or cuttings did not work elsewhere.

Silphium had properties that also made it a go-to culinary condiment and ingredient, where leaves, stems and roots were used – as well as making the meat of sheep grazed on it most wonderfully tender. It was used to treat a wide range of maladies – and then there was its powerful contraceptive properties.  It was so valuable that Julius Caesar had a cache (1,500lbs or 680kg) stored in the official treasury. Ultimately it was harvested (or eaten by the sheep) into extinction!

Medical Texts from ancient Greece and Rome

In many medical texts available at the time, there were lists of mixtures designed to ‘hurry the menses or cleanse the womb’, therefore these mixtures were usable to end an unwanted pregnancy, especially very early or before it had begun! One version of the Antidotarium has several recipes for ‘quickening the menses’ utilizing a number of herbs including arum, birthwort, artemisia, century plant, lupine, pepper, Queen Anne’s Lace, myrrh, licorice, pennyroyal, rue, peony, parsley, and cypress.

Did they work?  Well, I’m not sure about pepper but pennyroyal, parsley, and Queen Anne’s lace for instance, are so effective that modern women are recommended to avoid them if they want to become pregnant. In fact, for many of them to work, the concentration had to be so high as to be dangerous to the women themselves. (Yes, I’ve looked a lot of these up – and many are on the Poisonous plants list!) oueen-annes-lace

Herbs could also be used as physical barriers for conception or as pessaries, pulped and often mixed with pungent oils, honey or even animal dung. Ewww!

I need something that would be growing in Ireland at the correct time, and so far have settled on Queen Anne’s Lace – the wild carrot. Modern day use of this as a contraceptive suggests a number of ways, but chewing the seeds for a number of days after intercourse looks like a method that could have been used in Eire in that time, and would be a safer alternative. Apparently it works because chemicals in the seeds block progesterone synthesis, thus disrupting implantation thus preventing pregnancy.  I wonder – how did they find that out in the first place!?

Now to find out if the plant grew there, then! Harder than you might imagine as it will only be if it has been traced by pollen in samples or if a book written, at the correct time in Eire, mentions it, even though it is described as a native plant nowadays – I have discovered this does not necessarily mean it grew there in AD 600.

Do you end up down the rabbit tunnels of the internet – just because you looked up one thing?

Have you ever wondered how they managed these things back in deepest history? – when being pregnant was a very dangerous condition – resulting in death more times than we like to think about.

Do share your thoughts – as always I am fascinated to learn

X    Ann

 

Mud & Poetry – Port Eliot Festival 2017

All the Arty stuff seems to come together for me – first it was the belly dancing – then the Poetry.

This time we were back at the Port Eliot Festival – yes I’ve written about being there before – but this year was different – in a couple of ways.

To begin with it had been raining – and I mean seriously raining (should have known that a dry weekend for Glastonbury would have to mean a wet one later on!)

I normally wear only sandals – nearly all the year – though I will wear boots in winter when the rain makes my feet too cold, but not if it is dry and cold. This year, middle of the summer, I wore my sandals but packed my glittery canvas slip-ons and my common green garden wellies. Thank goodness I did.

‘Is it really bad down there?’ I asked at the gate. I have seen falsified reports of mud on the TV on previous years where they must have persuaded the lithesome girls to paddle in the mud at the edge of the river to ‘make a story’ out of what were a few puddles here and there. The guy grinned, and said, ”tis a bit’.

So wellies on, and feeling a bit weird, I ventured down. No sooner than I was though the gate and I could see the main route down was mud. (DOWN being the operative word, a steepish sloping field) I picked my way carefully down, thinking I really didn’t want to stand up before an audience plastered top to toe in mud. It was a real possibility! wp_20170730_12_49_16_prowp_20170730_12_49_53_prowp_20170730_12_50_22_pro

At the bottom, the two main tents, Park Stage and The Ace of Clubs stage tent, were marooned in a veritable SEA of MUD! Squelching through carefully this I stepped over the temporary bridge over the HaHa – wp_20170730_12_51_11_proto a relatively clean and well-drained wp_20170730_15_50_07_proarea that surrounded the main house – like a different world!

 

From here up the hill the other side, via the gravelled tracks, to the walled garden, where some areas were thick with mud, while others relatively unscathed. Here the Liskeard Poets were to give the first show of the day in the Tiddy Tent. Thankfully, this year a tent that held not just the electrical equipment, but one that was also was big enough for performers and a decent-sized audience, all undercover, with overspill space to the side.wp_20170730_10_35_28_pro

Even though we were on quite early for the last day of a festival – we had a significant audience, which grew as passing people heard and joined those listening.

Then off to look around and listen in to other poets, music, comedians, and dance to the great music in the Ace of Clubs – until it was the turn of a few of us to try our hand on that same stage. I watched as they scraped a layer of mud off of what was, beneath, a green ground mat, then scattered straw all over it. The effect of this was to gather a lovely halo of straw around your wellies as you walked across the inside of the tent. This was going to be weird – I would prefer to be barefoot while reading poetry (if you gave me a choice) but to stand there with wellies with a muddy-straw fringe – well!

The first three of us up took to the stage between the music acts, pop-up poets were designed to entertain while those behind removed or placed equipment. We performed against this – and to an audience who weren’t really expecting poetry at all – and a full bar operating in the background. A challenge we all rose to – belting it out! Here’s my ‘The Novelist’

The second pop-up poets slot we did was slightly more challenging – in that this time we followed a Pole-dancing demonstration and had to stand part way behind them as they dismantled their poles!

I spent quite a bit of time listening the poets in the more refined space of the new Poetry Tent between and afterwards and wondered how well some of them would have got on in the Ace of Clubs!  Port Eliot is always a fabulous festival – but this year was more memorable than most!

Are you into going to festivals?

Do you like the variety – the wildness – the camping?

Do Share – you know I love to hear from you

ps  if reading this on email to see the video you need to click into the blog post title at the top of the page 🙂

Belly Dance Hafla & at the Edge

Many of you know that one of my passions is the belly-dance classes I attend. I’ve been shaking it all about for nigh on seventeen years now.

The first time I was introduced to belly-dance, however, must be more than twenty years ago – when a belly-dancer came to our village WI, told us of the true history of the dances (celebratory or in commiseration, by women – for women) and got us all up and shimmying. Unfortunately she wasn’t running classes, and it wasn’t until a number of years later than I discovered Jules. I had been learning Cornish Dance for a millennium event, but that finished and my friend asked if I would be interested in going to belly-dance instead! Was I? Too right I was!

Our group holds an annual Hafla ( a belly-dance party) with which we raise funds for MacMillan Cancer support (in memory of one of our members). Belly-dance groups come to perform from all over Devon, Cornwall and beyond and great fun is had by all while raising a goodly sum for the charity! For this one we did a veil dance – lots of swishing of gauzy fabric! a youtube video can be found here

Our group, known as Shimmying Jewels, also dances out a few times a year, sometimes at Calstock Festival, sometimes at the Tavistock Edge Festival.  A couple of weekends ago it was the latter. We were all set with two performances and two dances in each part of the town (though the second dance was more as backing-dancers to a dance duet by two of our members)

The first dance was to a lively tune with a refrain that extols the ample virtues of Egyptian Ella – a belly-dancer. (And that’s almost a truism, some of the best belly-dancers are of very ample proportions, but with fantastic control over their sinuous movements!) Jules choreographed a stick dance to this – which means that a brightly coloured stick is used to enhance the moves.

I was hoping a video of this was going up on youtube – but it hasn’t arrived yet (I will link to it when it does) In the meantime here are a few stills. wp_20170708_12_08_06_prowp_20170708_12_08_28_prowp_20170708_12_10_32_prowp_20170708_12_08_32_prowp_20170708_12_10_40_pro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, if you fancy belly-dancing – and know where you can join a class but are wondering what to wear – I may have just the blog for your right here  which also goes a long way to explaining what I love about belly-dance.

Though I just love to dance … any dance really … belly-dance has a special place in my heart!

Do you love to dance?

What type of dancing do you do?

Do share- you know I love to hear from you!

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