Thursday, 30 September 2010

100th Birthday of the Blog 

Did I really write that much?

"I have started this Blog after having been diagnosed with Prostate Cancer on Friday 18th June 2010. It will serve several purposes. It is a way of keeping family and friends informed. (don't stop calling!) It may help others in a similar situation who I hope will also win their battle; and it will help me to focus in the months ahead".

Yes, that's what I wrote as the heading for the very first Blog and it has been the 'flag' ever since. So how has it worked out so far? Well it has kept my family and friends informed, that's for sure. We have 26 followers, including our latest only yesterday, a big welcome to 'Australian Satirist' who has an extremely interesting Blog himself; check it out. 26 followers (the inner circle I call it) may not seem many, but it is a fraction of those who view the Blog every day, which is now averaging around 90 to 100 and growing. People tend not to comment via the Blog but it does bring me many e mails, texts and phone calls which is just fantastic. I know from these communications that the Blog has helped others, and it has been part serialised on local radio, with a more prominent spot planned on the morning show, going out in October. It has also helped me beyond belief, far more than I could ever have imagined when Sasha made the suggestion back in June. It is something that I look forward to producing on a daily basis, never knowing what I am going to say, and it has been a real anchor in some very choppy waters. 

Sometimes your support might come as a simple text saying 'good luck today', or an e mail saying 'loved the Blog, made us all laugh', but don't ever underestimate just how these little touches make such a massive difference to my day. Added together, they are the main reason I have grown in strength after those dark days in June. I would like to also thank some very special people who have been there constantly for me throughout all of this, and always there when needed. Beverley, what a star, always there with a smile and a laugh, pretending not to be as worried as me; you are such a very special person and so many people love you, but not as much as I do girl! My daughter Sasha, who phones, hardly missing a day (and needs a car if anyone out there has some money?), also Lucienne and Chantal, always in touch and ready to help if needed. Paul my older brother, (he tells everyone he's younger!) pushing me to get things sorted whilst having worries of his own. Sue, for all her well informed advice help and support. Paul, my mate at Uni, always a joke to share, a laugh to be around, and promising to push my wheelchair next term :-). Man U Dave, there on the texts with every footie match. Finally Chaz, my friend from way back, for keeping tabs on me every week. 
To end this 100th Blog I am going to repeat something that I said at the beginning, and you must, on reading this think very hard....Is there anyone that you could help by passing this message on to them?

"My advice to all men over 50 is this. Every year, without fail, go to your doctor and ask to have your blood tested for psa, the chemical that only the prostate gland produces. You will get the result the following week. Even if it is slightly raised, say 3 or 4, (mine was 4.6) ask your doctor to examine you internally. It may put your doctor off lunch, but hey, what price? Your doctor will then know, as mine did, whether or not to send you to a specialist. If you catch this early your chances are very good! I had never felt fitter when I went to have my blood test, so don't be fooled into thinking that you need to feel unwell to have prostate cancer".

Me with my 'Nannan' in Ireland (she was lovely)
I dedicate this 100th Blog to my Grandmother, who planted 'good' in me.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

I have felt like a Celt ever since I can remember. My feelings were compounded by the way people treated me when I moved over to England as a child. I felt very Irish, and paid the price for that in the playground. Ireland is still my first country; I believe you are what you feel in your heart.
Me in Ireland behind the plough, with my Grandfather's help, as my Grandmother looks on.

As a young adult, if England played Scotland at football, I would support Scotland without question. On joining the Army, I liked the Scots lads far better than the English, which must have confused them, because I sure as hell sounded English! However, when I moved to live and run a pub in Scotland, that changed almost overnight. It didn't help that I had an English accent, but you'll only know what I mean if you have lived up there. I have always said that you need to experience depression before you can talk about it with any conviction; well the same can be said for racism.But, to quote a wee bit of the Scottish National Anthem, 'those days are past now, and in the past, they must remain'. Oh why don't I treat you to the whole thing......

O Flower of Scotland,
When will we see
Your like again,
That fought and died for,
Your wee bit Hill and Glen,
And stood against him,
Proud Edward's Army,
And sent him homeward,
Tae think again.

The Hills are bare now,
And Autumn leaves
lie thick and still,
O'er land that is lost now,
Which those so dearly held,
That stood against him,
Proud Edward's Army,
And sent him homeward,
Tae think again.

Those days are past now,
And in the past
they must remain,
But we can still rise now,
And be the nation again,
That stood against him,
Proud Edward's Army,
And sent him homeward,
Tae think again.

0 Flower of Scotland,
When will we see
your like again,
That fought and died for,
Your wee bit Hill and Glen,
And stood against him,
Proud Edward's Army,
And sent him homeward,
Tae think again.

From the many international rugby matches I have been to, I know that anthem off by heart, and it can be very rousing when sung by 50,000 Scots in full kilt. Sorry England, but you need a new National Anthem, God Save the Queen has to rate amongst the worlds worst, don't you think?

Three of my daughters were brought up in Glasgow, and when I looked out of the window this morning, I thought to myself, 'What a Dreich day'. I say Dreich, because no other word in English could describe the scene outside with such accuracy. My interpretation of this is, miserable, damp, slightly misty and a bit cold. The point being, I was thinking Scottish! I sent Sasha a text, knowing she would be sat on the bus to Angel, on her way to work and asked if she could add to my list. She came up with 10 words to every one of mine, the texts just kept pouring through. You also have to remember that some words are used all over Scotland, but others are just typical to their area. In no certain order, here's a few we came up with, and I bet Chantal and Lucienne could add to this.......

Awa n bile yer heid - Go and be sick

Boak - Vomit

Braw - Brilliant

Gadgie - Chav

Gallus - Daring

Glaikit - Stupid (it's a special kind of stupid!)

Peely Wally - Pale

Rammy - Fight

Scunner - Nuisance

Wean - Child

Wheest - Quiet

Coupen - Face

Pure Reekin - Very smelly

Crabbit - Bad Tempered

Ken what am sayin? - Do you know what I mean?

Lang may yer lum leek - May you live long and keep well

Pack the heid in - Stop before you get in trouble

Dinnae teach yer granny tae suck eggs - don't try and teach someone, something they already know

Yer married tae the moon - You're mad

Yer bums oot the windae - You're talking rubbish

Am pur done in - I'm tired

Ma heids mince - I'm confused

Hell slap it intae ye - It's your own fault

Willnae - Will not

Scunner - Irritating person

Wee hen - Little girl

Blootered - Drunk

Ah dinnae ken whit yer sayin - I don't understand you

Gies a swatch - Let me see

It's a braw bricht moonlit nicht the nicht - It's a good bright moonlit night tonight

Now you can just go up to Scotland and everyone will understand you, but be warned, most people you speak to will be Polish, so get a wee bit of that in yer Craic! When England play any other team, the Scottish will support that other side. I would go as far as to say that if both teams were playing on different TV channels, they would rather watch an English defeat than a Scottish win. But being a Celt, I can sort of understand that, and if you look at this list of battles between the two countries, I guess most neutrals would probably come down on the side of the Scottish.

All credit to Beverley, she phoned the Consultants secretary in Newcastle at 8.30 this morning, explaining that we were both getting more than a bit worried at the delay. The secretary, Susan, said that she couldn't locate my file just now but that she would ring straight back. An hour and a half has past and nothing yet, I guess it must be a big filing cabinet.

Ah ha! 3 hours later and Susan has just phoned me. She has spoken to Mr Paez, who has said that he has written to my GP and also referred me back to the Carlisle Royal Infirmary, to a Mr Umez Eronini, who is a consultant there. (I panicked! "Back to Carlisle?") But she said that Mr Paez had looked at all my notes and scans, and decided that I was in relatively little immediate danger. He had said that there was no point in me traveling all the way to Newcastle, just so that he could refer me to Addenbrookes, when I could travel 20 miles and be referred from Carlisle. I might not even have to go to Carlise, she informed me. (So why was I referred to Newcastle?) I continue to trust a system that communicates very little, in the hope that this is how things are meant to be, knowing that there is little I can do but wait.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Went to the Doctors this morning to pick up the letter that I need, to prove I have cancer. It's OK saying it, but you do have to prove it to different bodies so that you can then, ironically, enter the semi lucrative world of 'Cancer Benefits'. It cost me £15! I shouldn't have been surprised, after all, you need a tax disc to have a car, and a TV license for a TV, and they both cost a lot more than £15 and only last a year.

Yesterday at Uni the lecture was all about 'Expedition Planning', such an exciting subject and so much to take in. Over the coming weeks we are having various skills days, which will include navigation, camouflage & stalking, then a few nights out in the countryside around the campfire practising bushcraft. I seem to have a problem with Navigation, even at places that I have been several times before. In the Army, I was usually chosen as back marker on patrol, because letting me lead was just a bad idea. It left me with an ability to walk backwards very fast, but I've never found the job in civilian life where that was deemed to be an advantage! Camouflage and stalking can be fun. In the Army, you had to beware of Shine, Shadow, Silhouette and Shape; or was there a 5th one? Again, not much use in civilian life as you stalk your way around the office, camouflaged as a filing cabinet. Then there's bushcraft, which I have always believed is driven by necessity. I was fined about a weeks wages in the Army because I wouldn't eat some big juicy live beetle larvae. I explained to the Sergeant that if I was out in the wilderness and starving, I would munch them like smarties; but not for his amusement.

This first year is all about the actual planning of the expedition, so by the end of the year we will be capable of doing exactly that. Then comes the best bit, when next year we have to plan and then execute our own expedition to anywhere in the world; though our tutor does have to approve it. I love how 24 of us, are just left to fall into natural groups over the coming months, and we have no idea who will be in what group at this stage or where we will be going. It could turn out to be 2 groups of 12, 5 groups of 3 and a 9, there are multiple permutations. Two people are already discussing Yellowstone Park, but Paul and I are being a bit more adventurous, and thinking maybe Madagascar!

'Biodiversity' was the subject this afternoon, and just as I thought that taking photos of Wildlife was the name of the game, today it was all about drawing plants. I thought my drawing days were over after last year, but as I sketched away at these little plants, Katie's voice was still there, egging me on. Plants are easier to draw than people, as long as you destroy the plant when you've finished, nobody is any the wiser. We have to be able to identify an array of animals and plants by the end of this year, and know a good deal about them. I shouldn't have wasted the last 50 years walking in the countryside, I should have looked at what I was walking past! I remember the plants that hurt me, like thistles and nettles, or plants that fed me, like blackberries and mushrooms, but the rest were just a sea of green, flecked with coloured bits. I thought, 'they don't know my name and I don't know theirs; we just had a respect for each other.

Thanks Sue for the 'NHS complaints procedure', but will probably give it a miss, I suspect it is designed to put us off and it sure worked on me; it's longer than Lord of the Rings! I have 'a secret daughter' coming up to see me on Saturday for a few days, so I am really looking forward to that. As I mentioned to Sasha earlier today, if you get the Blog by E Mail, you can't open any videos, and they just look like photos, so it's worth opening the Blog occasionally, and it boosts my hits :-)

Well I wanted to put a few photos on tonight but the downloading facility has decided to go to bed before me, sorry! I've got tomorrow off, ahhhh...................zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz


Sunday, 26 September 2010

My site hits have trebled overnight by putting the link on both the Macmillan and Prostate Charity sites. I sit here at 4 a.m. looking at the statistics, unable to sleep for no apparent reason, so thought I would retreat to the attic with a nice cup of tea. Funny how tea has always been the choice of remedy, to sooth every possible crisis that we come across in life. Even when my Dad died, the nurse said, "come on, let's go and have a nice cup of tea". My settings on this Blog allow me to automatically e mail just 10 people with the Blog as soon as I post it. However, Luci, my no.2 :-), says that she preferred it when she could read my Blog at night on the site, and does not like it arriving on her phone as an e mail. If you are one of the others who gets this e mail and wants it stopping, please let me know. I understand what Luci means and think I would prefer to receive it the way she likes to.

This is the 97th posting on this Blog! Had you told me on 18th June, that I would be nearing the 100th entry, yet had no treatment of any kind, I would have laughed. If you learn anything from this Blog, learn this. If you get Cancer in Cumbria, try and go and live further south, preferably around London, because I am not even sure if there is a system up here!

I wrote to my consultant, Mr Bashir, 2 weeks ago; no reply. I wrote to the PALS section at the hospital; no reply. My own doctor, who I was told to be the only person who could drive this forward, told me last week that it was,"out of my hands now"! Well if it's not in her hands, who's hands is it in? Last week, she left me with the number of the Consultants secretary in Newcastle, who she had just spoken to. She commented on how nice this lady was and to just call her if I had any concerns about my appointments. Well when I phoned up, being perfectly pleasant to her, she wasn't nice to me! I could tell that even though I was speaking, she wasn't listening or taking in what I was saying. I've heard nothing since and still no appointment, so I am going back to my doctor again tomorrow. I bet you think I am making this up, that nothing could be this farcical outside a deliberate act in a circus, but no my friends, this is all real and happening now!

Prostate Cancer is curable if caught in the 'early stages', but surely the 'early stages' are no longer 'early' as time advances. Ken Hom found that out when he was diagnosed in March this year. His treatment didn't start until the beginning of August, so using that as a measure, you could say that I haven't waited that long yet. (though I don't know how aggressive his cancer was) You can check out his story at the link below.

I am not sure if I would have chosen the same treatment that he did, but the choices are not easy and all have their ups and downs. I look at it this way, the less Prostate cells you have in your body, the less likely you are to get a rogue one. Anyway, I must be confident, or I wouldn't have just bought another tax disc for my car; though it was for 6 months!

Sue tells me that Cancer Patients at Leeds Hospital do not pay for parking, which is not the case in Carlisle; so another campaign to start I think. Do they charge in your area?

Do you recycle everything that you can? We do, but is it worth it? As the week goes by, the box under the stairs slowly fills until it gets difficult to close the door. Then I transfer it to the boot of my car, intending to take it to the recycle station next time I drive out. But then I forget, until next time I need to use the boot of the car. I then have to move the recycling waste into the back seat area, and finally I go to empty it all out when the car is so full that I can barley see out, above the cans, bottles and cartons. Beverley washes the waste before putting it into the recycling box and the dishwasher will often have more litter in it than the bin! On balance I think the whole process is worthwhile, even if it is to remind me weekly, how much wine we drink, because of the amount of bottles, and how good Beverley's cooking is, from how few cans there are.

I have an appointment with the Student Disability Adviser at 4 p.m. They are already planning how best to help me continue my studies when I come home from hospital. If you want to see Customer Service at its best, then look no further than Student Support at Cumbria University.

I've just heard on the news that, 'New guidelines have been issued by the United Nations on the torture of prisoners'. That's reassuring, don't you think? It's nice to know that when you are being tortured to death, that it is all being done in a way that is approved by the UN.

Ok I started to get bored and I am sorry!
I have added a few links to the Blog which will hopefully boost the viewing ratings :-) which are still very good. Currently, we get between 50 and 80 hits per day on the site, but it is difficult to know how this is broken down. 70% are from the UK and the other 30% from about 15 other countries, but this varies from week to week. Some people tell me that they view the blog once a week, others are there every day! But I am delighted that there is even 'any' audience looking in, and thank you so much for sticking with me.

It has been a learning process for me, I can do things on here that I didn't know were possible a few months ago. Downloading photos is still a pain but apparantly it is a problem on the site that they are working on. You can sit there for ages and it rejects the same photo 6 times, and then suddenly it will work; same for videos.

The timetable starting Monday has me down for 'Expedition Planning and Skills', then Tuesday we move on to 'Biodiversity'. No doubt a hefty assignment will follow each of those as they fill my rucksack until my knees bend! On Tuesday morning I have asked to sit in with the 2nd year students on 'Creative Writing', as I may take this as an extra module.

This has to be one of the funniest cards ever!!!

Remember this beautiful little guy below, well we have him identified....


Simon says.....It's a Fly Agaric (amanita muscaria) with most of the spots washed off it. One bite will not kill you, but it might make you throw up and hallucinate! Nice. Apparently often confused with Cesears mushroom, which is delicious.

Had a lovely dinner with Ruth and Nick last night, such nice people and very good fun. Nick had Cancer 20 years ago and he's still going strong, so there's encouragement if I ever needed it.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

I suppose this little video clip, sums up the spirit of last week.

One bite and you'll probably die, but don't you just want to lick it?

I tried to identify this from a book when I got home, and it came down to two; one edible and one poisonous. It was in a birch wood, which I think is significant, but what's his name Simon?

So we made it into the local paper again this week............

We watched the new Robin Hood film last night staring Russell Crowe. I thought it more believable than the original story which made out that Robin Hood was really a nobleman who had been ruthlessly dispossessed of his land and property. I could never believe that a member of the aristocracy would rob his own kind and give to the peasants. This take showed this boyhood hero of mine, had actually started out as a common archer in King Richard's army. Now when it comes to Robin Hood 2 & 3, you can believe that he just might rob from the rich and give to the poor.

Beverley is making a 'Runner Bean Chutney' right now, not something that would have even entered my mind when seeing that vegetable on offer earlier in the day. Bet it will be good though, with some tasty Lancashire cheese.

Here is the link again to the Prostate Cancer Charity; there's loads of useful information on it.

Friday, 24 September 2010

They want to train ME up to drive the University Mini-Bus; well I'm up for it but I hope they know what they are doing. It's not the driving, it's the navigation that I am not so hot at, but there will be a dozen other people, and one of them will surely know the way.

I got a lovely E Mail today from Kim who moved to France recently, just to say how much she enjoys the blog, and offering to come over and put the Councillors who voted for the felling of the Tree, through the guillotine. Thanks for that Kim, we did have our chance in history and missed it, guess that's why we all want to live in France.

Last night, I gave up around 10 p.m. and went home. There have been many a time in my life where I have been the last man standing at the party, but it wasn't worth even trying to keep up with the youngsters. Penrith's pubs were teaming with very pissed students, who were going through the spirits in every bar like a cloud of locusts. They all seemed to be armed with a permanent marker and even I didn't escape being drawn on. 'Kiss my dick', was the inscription that I had to try and remove from my arm when I got up this morning. I tried soap, aftershave and Gin, managing to blur it at least, but I suspect I was removing a layer or two of skin in the process. However, when I arrived on campus this morning, my skin problems faded, as I was faced with the remnants of the night before. Some didn't even make it out of bed, but those who did had all tried various potions to remove the marker with some scary results!

So another week passes and I still have no appointment for the Freeman's Hospital in Newcastle. Maybe I have upset them and they are sulking, I don't know. I just have to believe that I am just not an urgent case and that they are a very competent outfit; there is no other way of looking at it without scaring myself. I have to pick up a letter from my Doctor on Monday, to prove to the University that I have Cancer. They will then be able to get funding which will be used to help me to study at home after surgery, and also someone to look after me in class for a few months until I am up to speed. Fantastic to get this kind of help and it will hopefully mean that I can pass the first year with acceptable marks.

So the fun week is over and we have all been inducted into everything from the Library to the Laboratories and the Cookhouse to the Countryside. On Monday, reality kicks in and away we go, the start of three glorious years, leading into my new career as .................?

Thursday, 23 September 2010

I wish that I had the time to tell you all about today; maybe I will on the weekend. The Wildlife Media, Forestry, and Conservation students, all went out for a very educational team bonding day around Lake Ullswater. However, I have just a very short time before I meet all the others down at the pub for a gathering. It rained very heavily all day today, and even though I had waterproofs on, it made little difference. You know when you are really wet, when it reaches your underpants, well mine were soaking. If I had pissed in them, it would have just made me warmer, not wetter!  I learnt more today about The Lake District, how it was formed geologically, it's ecosystem and history, than at anytime in the four years that I once lived on the shores of Ullswater. I was even shown a carnivorous plant that lives in the sphagnum moss. I have to go now while I still have the energy, I knew this week would be fast paced but I am enjoying every minute!        

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Come on, up on your toes!

A seagull...even I know that!

Taking photos of Butterflies
Well, it's a bird.

Our mate, the Robin.

It's late and what a day. You'll have to forgive me as I cheat the clock by putting some photos up of today's trip to the RSPB Nature Reserve at Leighton Moss. I even got asked to take some shots of the student visit for an RSPB magazine AND they offered to pay me for doing so! Of course I declined, it's a charity, what do you take me for, some two bit horse thief? I've sent them a CD with the photos on which came out really well. Another mental day tomorrow with activities all around Lake Ullswater, relating to Media, Forestry, Ecology, Adventure and lots of other things that I don't even understand yet. I promise I will write longer on the weekend, when I wake up....zzz  zzz zzz

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

I had an E Mail today, to say that the Chief Exec of Eden District Council has appointed an Investigating Officer, to examine the conduct of the Planning Committee. Also, a letter of support from one of the Councillors who had voted to preserve the Tree. All this won't save the poor tree now, but it will certainly focus the thoughts of the Planning Committee, when they think of bundling future cases through without any regard for local opinion.

Today, we all piled into mini buses and went up to Carlisle for a tour of the Photography and Filming Complex. It was amazing! I won't bore you to death but the media facilities were like a mini visit to the BBC. At lunch time, Paul and I met up with Julie, Denise, Jean, Lucy, Nikki and Matt from last year; great to swap stories, have a laugh and catch up. Then it was back to Penrith for the rest of the day. The afternoon was a bit of a killer, with 'Understanding Referencing'; but followed by a lecture on 'Lyme Disease', which was very interesting and had us all scratching. I'll certainly check myself after every walk in the countryside!

Tomorrow we are at a bird reserve all day, so the telephoto lens is definitely on the list of things to take, along with the packed lunch. I wonder if birds know that we have reserves just for them, or if they just randomly fly into them, wondering why the people are all hiding in little sheds, peeping out at them. Two of our group both have the name Carla and there's also a Carly, so they are my newly learnt names for today; just 16 to go!

I can smell the curry wafting up the stairs, Beverley must have taken lessons in Calcutta, because her curries are far better than the local Indian. Mango Chutney at the ready........

Monday, 20 September 2010

First day at Uni was really good! Thanks Paul for the lift there and back. 24 others on the course, but this time I am the oldest, for sure! Most were around 18 to 22 with 3 or 4, including my mate Paul in the early 30's bracket. About an even mix of male to female and best of all, no obvious plonkers, just nice sociable folk. I don't know how long it will take to remember all those names, if ever. So far I've got Paul, Patrick, Sarah and Paz; only 20 to go. No, 19, because of course, I know my name! It did worry me that one of the girls, thought a 'snail' was an 'insect'! The course leaders, Fiona Stoddart and Paul Horton seemed so enthusiastic and their 'buzz' really gripped everyone, making the next 3 years something very exciting to look forward to.

So much to take in today, and for the rest of the week, we are in every day. Registration, a tour of the campus and a brief outline of the course and timetable were given today. Then there was the hour and a half torture of the presentations, given by the Chaplin, Health & Safety and Students Union. The Chaplin explained that it was his job to make us feel safe, and that he was immigrating to Australia next week! The Health & Safety woman thanked the Chaplin, introduced herself, and then said, "It is the Chaplin's job to make you feel safe, but it is mine to make sure you are safe". The nurse pointed out that it was her job to advise on safe sex and contraception. She laughed when I told her she was too late by 40 years!

My time table gives me Monday and Tuesday mornings off, and all day off on both Wednesday and Friday. Luxury, you might think, but there is a vast amount of filming and course work, including Ecology, Biodiversity, Expedition Planning, Animal Behaviour, Creative Writing, Investigative Techniques and Conservation both on land and in water. They explained that meeting 'dead lions' was vitally important, and I thought we were trying to protect them!! In our first year, sometime early next summer, we are going to Finland, inside the Arctic Circle for 3 weeks, then the year after we stay in the Gambian Jungle for the same amount of time. First frozen then baked, wow, scary or what!

It was great to see some familiar faces today, especially Jan who looked after us all so well last year. I had texts from Denise, Lucy, Julie, Jean and Nikki, to say that they all really enjoyed their first day on the Art stuff (not sure what their course is called). I think they were building a paper tower and drawing pictures of each other; far to 'Arty' for me!

No appointment for the Freeman's Hospital at Newcastle yet, the clock ticks on, but I feel good just now and even forget about it all for long periods of time.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

I am starting my 'Wildlife & Media'  degree tomorrow, but what is Toad trying to warn me about?
I am so looking forward to tomorrow, when Paul and I head off on the first day of our 3 year BA Hons Degree at Newton Rigg. A whole fresh set of people to work with and a completely different subject to last year. The Access course in Art & Design changed my outlook on life and helped me to give different priorities to many things; and if the list needed focusing any further, cancer certainly did that.

Check out this link if you want to see the, ' da Vinci' robotic surgery in full flow. It's great that we have people who can come up with this kind of technology, people who can use it, and yet who in our society, will never be referred to as a 'celebrity'.
daVinci Prostatectomy

I wonder if the fungus scraped from my 'Joc itch' has started to grow in the laboratory yet, or if it is still in it's envelope, in a drawer feeling a bit peckish by now? It must be confused, because it seemed happy on my groin and had got used to the routine of sleeping, warm and moist all night, being showered every morning and then having cream rubbed all over it; though it treated it as breakfast. Well be warned mystery fungus from Northern Cyprus, they will identify you soon and then send me the potion that will finish you off for good! Nothing personal you understand.

You know, I almost feel like the original 'Daniel', nobody at my school or even when I joined the Army was called that. Not like now, it is the chosen name in 'Chav Land', with shouts of "DANIEEEL!" ringing through every supermarket. I used to respond with shock every time, thinking I had done something wrong! Names run in generations don't they? In general, names like Arthur, Dobbin, Cyril, Iris, Hilda or Joan are from the 40's or 50's, and even though they do appear occasionally, we are now in a generation of Cherry pie, Autumn Wind, Sky Hawk and Dobongelbrin. OK I made the last one up, but that's the way it goes, as everyone strives to mark their child with the most original name in the playground. I thought I was being original with Chantal, Lucienne, Sasha, Maria, Sofia and Kyle; at the time, I didn't know anyone else with those names. I wasn't given a middle name, why not? I gave all my kids a middle name: Susanne, Danielle, Louisa, Alejandra, Noemy & Troy. The Maria and Sofia have several other names inherited from their natural parents. I figured that if they didn't like the first name, they could use the second one. If I could choose a middle name, I would go for 'Xavier', I always thought it sounded cool; Zavie Sencier! There are people with fairly ordinary names, who try and fiz them up, like Sharon, by pronouncing it Shaeron, or boys called Trevor who call themselves 'Thor Hammer' just doesn't work, does it? (see I didn't mention you Chaz :-) Then there are those who you ask their name, and they reply, "Anne". Then you ask them to spell it, and they say, "A, H, N, G". OK I'm exaggerating, but you know what I mean? Boys that get called 'Sue' learn to get tough quick, whereas girls that get called 'George' are delighted because it sounds sexy. When you are a little baby girl, being called 'Pixie' won't be as endearing when you are a 24 stone teenager, but maybe slightly better than the baby boy who is christened 'Hercules' and fails to make it past 7 stone. Taken to it's natural end, I suppose we will eventually have playgrounds full of children called, gsuebf, hdfvgdf, dsufy and gstrriuofjfh. Teachers will not be able to pronounce their names, so the kids will just have bar codes on their foreheads, which when scanned will reveal their name and kill head lice at the same time.

WARNING! As from tomorrow, some blog entries may start to become very short as my Uni work piles up. In fact, I may even have to miss some entries, as I spend 2 or 3 days, sleeping under a bush, waiting for the 'Great Spotted Bustard' to make it's once a year, 15 second mating dance. But hang in there with me, because we are running at over 70 hits a day on the site, and you don't want to miss the happy ending, do you?

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Remember the tree? Well it's nearing the end, sorry! My letter to the council below explains everything, but in a nutshell, they had a secret meeting and the rest is history. But hey, come on people, we didn't believe we lived in a democracy anyway, did we?

Daniel Sencier
X, Wordsworth Terrace

Letter to Eden District Planning Committee – 18th September 2010

Tree Preservation Order No 134, 2010. Voreda House, Penrith

I opened the Herald this morning with some shock, to find that last week, the Council Planning Committee have decided that this tree can be cut down. Local residents and the Planning Department assured me from the start, that I could never win against the NHS.
But I am livid at the process that I have just been witness to.

I have a letter, which I have enclosed, from the council, clearly stating that, “You are able to support or object to the serving of the order, as explained in the Formal Notice. All objections or representations should be received by 6th October 2010”. When I made the original objection to the tree coming down, the council voted for the Tree Preservation Order, and told me that I would be kept informed as to what would happen next. Nobody has been in touch so I assumed that all was safe until 6th October.

Having consulted with the residents that I represent, and seeking advice from our own professional contacts, I posted our ‘support’ for the tree preservation order on Friday 17th September, and copied in, by e mail, all councillors on the Planning Committee that same day. This was well ahead of the deadline of 6th October, but we had no idea that a meeting had already taken place.

Unknown to us, the Council Planning Committee invited the NHS to their meeting last week, to further discuss the felling of the tree. We, the residents who were objecting, were not even told that this was going on behind our backs. A bit like having a court hearing, where the ‘prosecution’ is invited but the ‘defence’ is not even made aware that the trial is taking place! You would not think that possible, would you, but it has just happened!

Am I living in, ‘the land of make believe’? Can you really sit there as our representatives and treat us with such contempt? I have written letters, e-mails and made phone calls, to both the Planning Department and Councillors since the Tree Preservation Order was granted. Nobody has replied to me!

I have to ask myself if this was some cloak and dagger exercise, requiring cunning and stealth. But having experienced a Planning Committee Meeting, the explanation is just a little bit more pathetic than that. If you are a large organisation, like the NHS, Alba Proteins or Sainsbury’s, the Council will take you seriously, and bend over backwards to accommodate you. However, if you are a resident of Penrith, a person who elected this Council to serve you, then as far as Eden District Council are concerned, you are invisible; get used to it!

Yours Sincerely

Daniel Sencier

I have now made a complaint to the 'Procedures Department' but I think they will wear me out first! :-)

My 'seasickness' has calmed today, just a bit in the morning but it seems to be getting better. Another person who may experience sickness today is my daughter Chantal, who is passenger with Sasha as she drives on her first 'real drive' to Cambridge. It was so funny as she told me this morning how she pulled into a garage to fill up for the first time. How do I open the petrol cap? Which pump do I use? How the pump kept cutting off and it took 20 minutes to fill up! Well you just don't know when it's your first time do you? I look back on the first time I did many things and cringe, don't you?

I'm not sure when the first time I had sex was, though it sure wasn't when I first lay naked with a girl! It depends on what you count as 'sex'. It's not as easy as defining the first time you, 'ate an apple' is it? Well you don't spend hours talking to the apple, admiring it, getting closer, touching it, smelling it, tasting it and finally biting into it; you just do that last bit first. 'When did I first have sex?' is more like 'When did I first ride a bike?' You stand beside it, look at it's shape and trim, feel the hand grips, tweak the bell and horn, imagine the comfort of the saddle, see how firm the tyres are, and all this before you even try to mount it. Then when you get on, sometimes you just fall straight off, or you might go for a while and then just keep losing your balance and end up in a bush. It takes a while to get in full flow and once you do, you never forget how to do it again. Though you do get a bit slower and have to hold on more as the years go by.

Friday, 17 September 2010

As soon as I woke up this morning I was back on that ship in the North Sea. It's been an hour now and it's still with me, the feeling that I am floating rather than walking. The drug that the doctor gave me, Prochlorperazine, I have thrown in the bin. I looked it up online and discovered, that in small amounts it is used to stop people feeling sick, but I don't feel sick. In larger amounts this drug is used to treat psychiatric illness. Having suffered from depression at one time in my life, and taken antidepressants, I am very reluctant to ever take tablets like that again. Though at the time, I am not sure if I could have got through those dark days without them.

Today, I am writing my blog using some software called 'Macspeech dictate'. It is a very funny and weird experience, because as well as saying the words I have to say the punctuation. It is very accurate, far more accurate than similar software that I tried 10 years ago, when every other word was misspelled. It is difficult to know what to do with my hands as I sit in front of the laptop speaking. It doesn't feel natural, and I'm not sure whether it will come across as natural when you are reading this.

I went into a cafe yesterday, fancying a nice cup of tea and a toasted teacake. When I placed my order with the waitress, she asked, “would you like jam and butter or just butter”. This is where the fun started, because I thought she said, “would you like German butter or just butter”. I was thinking, how innovative for a small town tearoom to be stocking alternative butters. So I said, “I'll try the German butter, I've never had that before”. She didn't pick up on the fact that I'd said German butter, if you say it yourself you will see how close it sounds to jam and butter. She was probably wondering where I had spent my life, never having tried jam and butter before.
When she delivered my order to the table, I noticed that the butter was Irish, Kerrygold. So I said, “excuse me the butter is Irish”. She replied, “would you like English butter”. I said, “no, I was hoping for German butter”. This time, because of the context that I had used the word in, she took German to mean German; rolled her eyes and walked away.
She gave me that kind of look where she couldn't decide whether I had just escaped from a local mental home, or I was just a prat! As I sat sipping my tea, I knew that all was not right, I had missed something. When it dawned on me I burst out laughing, and on the way out, I tried to explain to the waitress, but I just dug that hole which brought me closer to her, 'escaped from the mental home' theory.

Sometimes it can be very funny when people misunderstand, I found this many times when on holiday in the USA. At one store I asked if they had any maps, not realising that the American pronunciation of 'map' sounds like our 'mop'. As the assistant walked through the supermarket with me, she said, "we have dozens of different kinds of maps, what kind are you looking for". “Oh just one that covers the whole area really, from here to Savannah”. My reply seemed to confuse her and even made her slightly nervous of me. All became clear when sure enough, we arrived at the aisle where there were dozens of mops. I said, "Oh you thought I said mops", she looked even more confused, until I explained, then she burst out laughing.

When I introduce myself as 'Dan' in America, they pronounce it 'Don'. I was in a restaurant one night and took a pause halfway through my dinner. The waiter came up behind me and said, “are you done”? Thinking that he had said, 'are you Dan', I replied, “yes”. He then picked up my plate with my half finished meal, and started to walk away as I shouted after him. At the time I wondered how he knew my name!

Well we must be coming into port now, because the house has stopped rocking and I almost feel as if I'm back on land. A fish finger sandwich with plenty of tomato sauce and a nice cup of tea should settle my head for the afternoon.

It's all about Pope Benedict on the radio just now, can I cope with any more of it? I come from a very Catholic family, and was christened Catholic when I was a baby. It's like being a member of a big worldwide club, and any country that I visit seems to have some evidence of Catholicism. I'm not sure where I fit in to the bigger picture, or if I fit in at all. Members of organised religions all seems so intolerant if you don't happen to be in their fold. I find it all very hypocritical, because if you are a member of any organised religion, surely you should be tolerant and want to reach out to others, and not close your doors on them? My father told me that, 'life is simple, there are good people and bad people'. Is it that simple?

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Got out of bed this morning fairly quickly, but as I headed towards the door, I felt like I was back on the ship to Amsterdam in that gale force 9. I sat down quickly and it soon passed. My 'jock itch' was no longer responding to the Trimovate cream, so I though it a good idea to try for a doctors appointment. Couldn't believe when they said,"can you come down in half an hour", I must be on the VIP list. I met a lovely friend in the waiting room, Diane, and we both greeted each other with, "how are you keeping", then laughed, because as we had just met in a doctors surgery, the answer was not going to be, "great, I'm really well", was it? Though she did look considerably better than I did :-)

The doctor called me in and I showed her the rash and explained the problem. She put on a pair of those latex gloves, (I would have) then decided that she needed to scrape some of the rash into an envelope, to send to the lab. Only then would they know which anti fungal cream to prescribe; but for now, it's just good old Canesten Cream to keep it under control. After laying on the couch for the scrape, she said,"OK, you can jump up now". I envisaged springing off the couch, doing a handspring, leading into a somersault and then landing on my feet in front of her. But as I slowly got up, I fell back again and the room seemed to turn slowly around me. It was half an hour before I could get up and then another half hour before I could leave the room. She checked my blood pressure, pulse, eyes and ears, finally consulting another doctor to get a second opinion. The first thing they did, was to reassure me that it was absolutely nothing to do with cancer. It was probably viral, and they prescribed Prochlorperazine tablets, which was a coincidence, because I nearly called my first daughter that. Only joking Chantal! I can't drive, drink alcohol or operate machinery, as the tablets may make me drowsy.

The doctor asked if I had anyone to take me home, so I phoned Beverley and the school but both on voice mail. I got hold of Ann who even dropped having her lunch to come to my aid.  I was so pleased to see her, because at that point, even the car park looked as if it had waves in it. She drove me around to the chemist and picked up my prescription, and it was whilst sitting in the car that normality started to return to my head. Thank you Sasha for your research into my new condition, "Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo', or 'BPPV' which I understand you have personal experience of. A big thank you also to Joy who saw me sitting on the 'old people's bench' outside the doctors and did offer to give me a lift home.

So that's it for today, I'm not going to 'blog on' anymore until tomorrow, because I need to rest.


Wednesday, 15 September 2010

No age on the back of this, I'd guess at me, aged 9'ish.
Got this great input from my long time friend Sue, she works within the NHS, very much from the heart and a picture extremely well painted.   

Hello Daniel,

OMG, don't get me started! All of us that work in the NHS (in whatever role) know that there are huge holes in the patient journey. Most of us desperately want to plug those gaps, and are often appalled at the quality of service offered by our individual Trusts. Believe me, everyone who works within the system IS trying; but the NHS has always relied heavily on staff going that extra mile (without time or pay being provided) in order to maintain standards. The government provide targets, insist on certain protocols, but don't back that up with hard cash. MRSA screening for instance has cost every hospital a fortune....and there's no evidence that it is reducing hospital acquired infections, it's just removing resources from elsewhere because of some PR exercise. The PCT's are in charge of most of the money, which follows the patient according to the decision of the GP and is capped by national tariff and 'capped' figures for the number of patients a hospital is expected to see in any given year (how DO we guess how many will fall sick at one time?). New treatments come along, but the same story, no money, and certainly not now; and with increasing patient awareness, the demand for cutting edge care is growing exponentially. 
Many NHS staff feel entirely doomed, running on the spot and hoping that the patients won't notice and don't suffer. This blog could help. Have a look at the CQC website, get on the board of your local hospital, join a patient focus group, ask questions, go to the PALS website, shout loudly....give yourself a laugh and follow the link below, there'll be another 'vision' for better care coming along any minute.
You've got the ear of your community, and the attention of a wider audience; start scratching and the void under the NHS will open before you.

I love the end bit, "....the void under the NHS will open up before you". Thanks for that Sue xx.

It's my first day back at Uni on Monday, a year ahead which will only be interrupted by surgery, I hope! The blogs may get shorter as the work piles up, but the timetable for the first week seems comfortable. A 'day out in the Lake District', a 'day at a bird sanctuary' and lots of advice on sex, drugs and .....referencing!

STOP PRESS! Just had a phone call from my doctor. That in itself is great because it shows that someone in the system knows that I am still here. She has been told, that only a consultant can refer me to Addenbrookes, but because I have cancelled the Consultants appointment at Newcastle, thinking I was going to Addenbrookes, they now need me to make another appointment for me at Newcastle, which they have promised to 'fast-track'. 
If the Consultant at Newcastle thinks that I am suitable for surgery at Addenbrookes, he will refer me and the funding will be no problem. The only reason that he would not refer me, is if he thought I would not suit, or benefit from the De Vinci Machine process. Not sure what that means, because I am a fairly normal body size and my prostate gland is a standard plum shape. 

So now, I wait for the appointment at Newcastle, then go see the consultant there, he writes to Addenbrookes, they send me an appointment to see their consultant, I go to see him, then he then sends me an appointment for surgery, then I go back down for surgery....blimey, I'm glad it's not Cancer.........!

I've bought stuff on E Bay but never sold anything that way. I've set everything up so that I can do that today. What will I sell? Must pick something easy as a trial run I think; maybe just a book. I need to buy an external hard drive, at least 1tb, so if anyone out there has one, please get in touch. What I would give to have a memory capacity like that. I haven't even got 'instant access' to the one I've got!  

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Someone in Doncaster has already invented what I asked for yesterday.
This is what my good friend Chaz e mailed me.....

"You raised a good point about health care in general – who is in charge of my recovery? Here in Doncaster the PCT introduced a ’Integrated Care Pathway’ (I know – has the ring of management speak about it) but it is a model that has a ‘case manager’ at the centre of patient care. The case manager takes you right through your care process and manages each piece – doctors, nurses, admissions, social care etc – it is patient centric. However the model was designed for primary care and not secondary care as in your case! But it does beggar belief that the NHS has a separate system for both primary care and secondary care. The reason is historical – and worth reading up on – just so you see how politics and vested interests have cocked up a great idea".

The Dark side of the Pub/Hotel Trade!

I first worked behind a bar in Harrogate during the summer of 1976. It was so hot that many pubs ran out of lager as Breweries struggled to keep up with demand. My Manager was a very big guy called Jed, he was ex Fleet Air Arm and from the old school of pub managers. A world where you had to be a prize fighter first and a landlord second. He would encourage the louts to take him on, he enjoyed it, and he never lost. When trouble started, my job was to run to the front door and lock it. That was because Jed didn't want anyone to escape, but equally so, he didn't want more coming in to help his intended victims. He was a lovely guy and taught me so much about the 'behind the scenes stuff', that customers rarely find out about. I'll never forget that Summer, it was the only time I ever threw a 180 at darts, and the only time I ever had sex on a pool table!

Although I was appalled at what Jed taught me in the cellar, when I joined Whitbread about 12 years later, it was all still common practice. My advice if you have to drink draught products is, stick to Guinness or Cider; unless of course you drink in privately owned pubs that haven't got a massive head office staff to support! Guinness is a very difficult keg to get into, and if you could put anything back into, it would spoil it; as it would with cider. Cask beer is the most abused and when you get a pint of this, you really don't know what you are drinking. When customers leave unfinished drinks on the table at the night end, or even during the day, this all gets poured together into a stainless steel bucket behind the bar. The bar staff are simply told that it has to be measured every day as Head Office get a rebate on the excise duty, or some other rubbish story. You can put anything in that bucket, lager, beer, white wine, spirits and a few glasses of water of course! Never put in red wine or Pernod, they will turn the whole bucket off.

Once the doors are locked at night, or early next morning when nobody is about, the sinister work begins. On a busy night there could be up to 20 buckets, so you had to work fast. Asbestos fining's are sprinkled into each bucket, this clears the liquid which is then poured into the filter pan. The result is a bright clear alcoholic liquid that can be added to any cask or keg beer. Casks are just easier to add to because you can put the filter pan directly on top of the cask, where as kegs have to be depressurised, and that is a little dangerous and takes time. If the resulting liquid is a little too light then you can add a bit of Guinness to darken it. The only important thing is that the liquid you are putting back looks clear. How many times have you stood at a bar, as another customer looks at his nice 'clear' pint, and says, 'Eee that looks grand'. It might look grand my friend but it's not what you think it is. Once you have adulterated the product, after all that is what you are doing, you then have to decide when to put it on sale. I would wait until the last hour on a Saturday night when nobody has any sense of taste left and the weights & measures guys are in bed. Put it on 'special offer' if you need it to move faster. I once sold a 22 gallon keg of neat slops on a Sunday lunch session, to a huge crowd of Rangers fans, just before a game. When it ran out, I put the genuine 'Scottish Tartan' on, and they all complained that it tasted horrible!

Does it still happen today? Well it still did 5 years ago when I left Whitbread Premier Inns, and I know from friends in the trade that nothing has changed! The only difference now is that Managers have to buy their own filter pans, and it is no longer part of the official training manual. Big companies press their managers for every dime of profit and the pressure is so great that they cut every single corner that they can get away with. Managers are not willing participants in this process, but they soon learn that they are managed out of the business, as they see their more willing colleagues climb every financial table above them. I won't even go into the food side of the business, because you would never leave home again. Avoid chain pubs and hotels everywhere, they could kill you!

Monday, 13 September 2010

Look, sometimes it just has to be about Cancer, and today I would like to share with you a letter that I wrote to my Consultant. In my experience, if you live in Cumbria and you get Cancer, it is a very different experience to the one you will get, living in London. You should worry, because you will have to take the lead in what happens to you. I would be interested to hear from anyone who is having a better, similar or even worse 'customer experience' than mine, ( as we need to make sure that others, who might not have the will to go through this process, are looked after and kept informed in a far more understanding way. 

Daniel Sencier
X xxxxxx xxxxxxx
XXxx XXx
9th August 2010
Dear Mr Jamshed Bashir,
                                              I am writing to you because I am extremely worried and even fearful regarding my progress, through a system that I am still trying to understand. As you know, I was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer on 18th June this year. Some cells were 3 and others 4 making a Gleason score of 7. However grade 5 cells were found, the most aggressive. I was grateful to find after the MRI and Bone Scan that the cancer appears to be confined within the Prostate Gland.

I am mainly worried because I don’t know whom, if anyone is steering my journey as to what happens next. I have not seen or heard from you since 18th June and my doctor has no idea as to what is happening, except what I tell her!

My worries are further compounded by some events over the past few months.

As you can appreciate, I had to take in a lot of information after you told me that I had cancer on 18th June, but I do remember being told two things by you…….

1.     That I would have an MRI scan; the results would be fed back to me within around 7 to 10 days after the MDT meeting.
 It took over 4 weeks to get this feedback, and only then because I phoned and got it from a very helpful McMillan Nurse. Apparently I should have been called in but nobody picked up on this, so I was simply forgotten! I was frantic and ill with worry during this time, and all needlessly so! I thought that I was dying!

2.     That there would be an MDT meeting within a couple of weeks of my MRI scan, and then I would be called in shortly after that to be told what the recommended course of action would be.
It was about a month until I was called in for this feedback, and incredibly, my notes were missing and nobody who had been on the MDT meeting was available. The Doctor who I saw was helpful and reassuring but no sign of my MRI scan or bone scan, though I did get the result of the bone scan.

My patient experience so far has been awful. Everyone I meet is so very nice, but I feel that I am in a system where nobody has any ownership of my case. I have now seen the Oncologist and decided on surgery as the best option. I have asked for a referral to Addenbrookes, mainly for family reasons and not having any family up here for after care. She is in the process of doing this for me.

If my experience since 18th June is normal, and what has happened to me is exactly as it was meant to be, then I think that there is serious work to be done in improving communication with cancer patients, and that PALS should perhaps take a serious look at this.

I would just like to ask, is there is an individual person who is monitoring, and is responsible for what is happening to me? Because I just feel that I am in a system, a river of people, which flows in one direction, with the hope that everyone eventually reaches the sea, but God help you if you get stuck, because nobody is looking?

Yours Sincerely

Daniel Sencier

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Me aged 7  
When I first moved over from the Republic in about 1957, there were some amazing discoveries to be made by a young Irish boy. I always felt sorry for the black folk, who were still openly referred to as Niggers, and people would cross the road to avoid getting close to them. Being Irish was considered just as bad, if not worse, but at least I was white and could hide my identity by just not speaking. I used to practise in my room, talking to myself and desperately trying to sound English. Now I wish I had my Irish accent back like all my cousins. Racism was rife, but being foreign was just one of many excuses that people would find to pick on you. If you were disabled, wearing callipers or built up shoes, you were considered fair game. We still lived in a time where most disabled newborn babies were smothered by the midwife, so there were nowhere near the amount of disabled people as there are today. It was only 12 years or so after the war, but I don't remember seeing any 'war wounded' people around. People with mental health problems, even depression, were simply put in mental homes and there was at least one of those in every town. If electric shock treatment didn't cheer them up, they were eventually moved into mental asylums and then just forgotten.

I had been used to going everywhere on a pony and trap back in Ireland, and even though I had seen cars, I had never seen so many as there were in England. We still had steam trains in Ireland but in England they were being phased out and the new diesel trains, although much cleaner, were nowhere near as exciting to watch. There was a big railway yard in Colchester where all the old steam engines were lined up, ready to be scrapped; a very sad sight.
Walking on pavements was a novelty, with big flat paving slabs that were so smooth. I was scared too walk on the cracks because that's where the worms would hide, so I preferred to walk on the road. The roads all had drains where all the water would go when it rained. I always wondered where the drains took the water too, and why they never got full up.  

When we moved out of the little caravan into the new council house, it had electricity and gas, both very new concepts to me that I would later experiment with; to my detriment. No more oil lamps to fill or candles to burn, just a flick of a switch. A bigger surprise than that,  and something I had never seen before, a staircase! I must have walked up and down it a hundred times in the first day, counting to 13 every time. In Ireland we got our drinking water from the well at the bottom of the field, and our bath water came from the huge barrel that caught the rainwater from the house roof. It took a lot of pans of hot water to have a bath in that tin tub, and you had to sit well up the other end when the new pan of boiling water was poured in! But now, I could turn on a tap and get hot or cold water, as much as I needed. The hot water even ran around the house through pipes and big cast iron metal blocks, to heat the whole place. But the best was yet to come, and that was the toilet. In Ireland we had a plank of wood over a bucket, and because I kept falling through the hole in the plank, my Granddad made a special plank for me with a smaller hole. I would then have to wipe my bottom with an old newspaper, which made it all black and didn't feel very nice. Emptying the bucket at the end of the day was a horrible job and I never knew where my Granddad used to put it; probably on the vegetable plot. But in my house in England, I had a toilet with a seat on it, and when I had finished, I just pulled a chain and all the horrible stuff would disappear like magic. The toilet paper was a dream, so soft, and even though I did sometimes fall through the big hole in seat still, it was nothing like falling into that bucket back at my Grand parents house!

No more warm milk straight from the cows, a milkman would just deliver 3 bottles every morning before we got up. We would no longer have to kill my pets to have chicken for dinner, we could buy one from a shop, dead, plucked, gutted, stuffed and even cooked! Butter came from the shop too, in square blocks, wrapped in paper, but it didn't taste as good as it did straight from my Grandmothers churn.
The postman In Ireland, Tommy Doyle, would bring the mail into the house and sit down for a chat and a cup of tea, but not here. The mail just dropped through the letter box and we never knew the postman's name. A big lorry, full of really smelly men, turned up every week to take our rubbish away. They would collect the bin from the garden, put it back where it belonged and close the gate after them. If you wanted them to take away an old sofa or a leaking boiler, they would be happy to oblige. I never saw a refuse collector in Ireland, I guess because we grew everything that we ate, hence there were no tins or packaging. Then what we didn't eat, we either fed to the chickens or put on the compost pile. At night, in England, lights would come on in the street outside, which meant you couldn't see the stars so well, but it did mean it wasn't as scary.

No more peat from the bogs now, the coal-man would just fill our bunker up once a month, and he looked blacker than the black folk. In Ireland, so many people called at the house all the time, mainly family and friends, just to talk and see how we were. In England, most people who came to the house were selling something; like Mr Miller with his brushes, the Insurance Man, the Avon lady or the Rag & Bone Man. Then there was the Policeman who called around every now and then, just to check, 'what my parents were up to'. You see, they were classed as 'aliens', which I thought sounded funny, making me the 'son of the aliens'. Of course they weren't 'up to anything', but it gave all the neighbours the security of knowing that the government were keeping an eye on all known 'aliens'.

I can't stress how very difficult it was for my parents being foreign. It wasn't really until I grew up that I realised just how bad it had been for them, because they didn't really have any friends to speak of. My Dad's family were all dead after the war, except for an Aunt who lived in Brussels. My Mum's family never visited because my Dad just didn't like them. I'm not sure why, because at the time, I thought you couldn't find nicer people anywhere. I am still in touch with my Uncle Paddy, who is the best of the best people I have ever known. He is my Mother's older brother, but I always thought of him as more of a Dad. Him and his wife Mary have always made me feel like one of their children, and no matter what ups and downs I have been through, they have always welcomed me back. "Welcome home Daniel", is what they greet me with when I visit. I would like to pay tribute to them both, as two of the finest people one could ever come across in a lifetime.  

Saturday, 11 September 2010

I missed a payment to the Child Support Agency(CSA) last month, I accidentally deleted the standing order. No beating around the bush with those guys. They sent a letter this morning pointing out that, they had far reaching and 'extensive powers', that they would not hesitate to use. They then went on to list them. They could, freeze my bank account, seize my property, confiscate my car, send me to prison, fine me an unlimited amount....the list continued! It reminded me of John Conner in Terminator. I thought the list would somewhere include, the CSA agent traveling back in time to execute my father before he could impregnate my mother.
They finished the letter with a paragraph explaining that if my first language was Welsh, and I wanted them to send me a translation, they could do this if I contacted them! Well, if I happened to be the only Welshman in 500 years who could not understand English, then I wouldn't have been able to read what they had just tried to tell me!

I have just installed 'Macspeech Dictate', enabling me to talk to my PC and it just writes down what I say. First I had to just answer around 300 questions, so that it could get used to the sound pattern of my voice. It's very good, but once you have been on it for a couple of hours you have to be wary when speaking to people. There is a tendency to start saying, 'Full Stop' at the end of sentences, or 'quit' before  walking away. Sometimes it just doesn't get what word you are trying to put across, and as you start swearing it doesn't help. It can even read my own scripts back to me, or any other document; so tomorrow I will have a go at writing the blog using this.

My friend Man U Dave is up above the Great Glen on the hills overlooking Lochness today, working with the Red Cross. It's my job to make sure that the most vital supply of all gets through to him and his group, as important as food and water. The football results! Manchester United, who I regard as the 'bucket team' that people pour themselves into, when they haven't got the courage to support the town where they are really from; are Dave's team (but he is from Manchester). Not sure how texts will travel up to where he is today, but we do this for each other whenever one of us is unable to get the results by any other means.

Beverley won a prize in a raffle a few months back, it arrived today. 8 bags of tree bark! I am sure she will find a use for some of it in the garden, but if you live near Penrith and want a bag or two, just let us know? Not sure how it would go in the wood burner but maybe worth a try. We used to burn peat when I lived in Ireland, it was readily available in the surrounding bogs. To look at it you wouldn't think it could burn, so on that basis, I'll have a go with the tree bark.

Me aged 3 outside my Grandparent's house in Ireland
Me in my first dress!
Not sure why us lads all had dresses for the first few years back then, I suspect it was ease of access to the nappy. I was allowed, as an incentive, to dump all my nappies in the ditch when I was finally dry at night. Total credit to my Grandmother who then had to retrieve them all when I wasn't looking, and sell them on after washing and ironing them, all over again.