Sunday, 29 December 2013

My 2013 Review

With only a few days left to the new year I am looking forward to starting 2014 with a fresh outlook.

2013 was a rollercoaster year for me. I'm not saying it was as bad as 2012, when I was going through all the transplant assessment etc, but still not a great year.

Sleepy cuddles with Tarmac
The big sadness fortunately came late with the death of my beloved Tarmac. Even now I have tears and that horrible tugging on my heart on days when I really miss him. Sitting on my own when everyone is out and he's not on my lap. Having a lie in and him lying close to me and not minding that I'm hugging him like a teddy bear. Not having him try and dig me out of bed for breakfast and most of all feeling poorly and not having him to lie beside me and keep me company. Smirnoff does his best but, as much as I love him, he is not my soft, rather dim, cuddly Tarmac.

There were up and downs with my health. As is the way with PH there is never a smooth ride and I've had more than my fair share of downs this year. Fortunately nothing that requires weeks on end off work. I think the most I had off was two weeks, so that is good, but it's been small niggles. I've had a lot of sore throats and sinus problems. And my breathing has deteriorated, as has my ability to walk around Tesco's. I'm far more dependent on my oxygen now. I'm sincerely hoping all this will improve in 2014.

Picking up my new car
Then there is my working life. The main problem is finally being dealt with. I know some of you are thinking that it took me long enough to do anything but I am a slow burner. I will take and take and take until finally I snap and when I do finally spring into action I see it through. Also in work there has been the constant upheaval of changing shifts, overtime and people being dragged in on their days off. In fairness none of this affects me as I'm currently on fixed hours and exempt from overtime but it is effecting everyone else and listening to things like parties, attendance at weddings and holidays being canceled make me feel enormously guilty that I'm unable to do my bit. Also in work I became totally stressed out when I was accidentally declared 'fit for full duties'. Fortunately this has now been sorted out so I can go into the new year with one less thing to worry about.

And finally the death of Anne Rea shook everyone to the core and made me rethink my desire for a transplant. Going to her funeral was both the saddest and most uplifting day of the year. Anne will be sorely missed for a long time to come.

Of course there have been some up's as well. The big one was seeing my Australian cousin, Jenny, for the first time in twenty years, and her family. Although it was only three nights we packed a lot of catching up in. We've tentatively set a date for me to visit her in 2016, hopefully by then I will be as fit as a fiddle and allowed to fly.

Laurence, James, Andrew and in front Luke
The other big highlight was my trip to Canterbury. Yes it was brief, cold and raining most of the time. Yes our sleep was disturbed by German kids running riot in the corridors. And yes they did stick me on the first floor without a lift and at the furthest end of a very long corridor BUT I loved every minute of it. I was immensely frustrated that I couldn't get up and walk around but my trike proved a God send, even if I did end up with black knees.

Also enjoyable was my trip to Aberystwyth. Again it was very brief but we managed to do everything we'd hoped to do. We sat in the car with the windows open in the evening eating curry sauce and chips. We, well Peter, walked the length of the prom at least twice. I, meanwhile, struggled with the tricky task of controlling my trike while eating an enormous ice cream and we laughed and giggled like a couple of teenagers. And we drove around the forest paths admiring the sheer beauty and wildness of the Welsh mountains.

Then there was the meal out with my brother and his family. How we enjoyed that night, I really hope we can meet up again very soon.

Ceiling of the Chapter House Canterbury Cathedral
There were other things as well, days out, time spent with the boys, and meals out, not always posh, a couple of burger vans come to mind, but I've enjoyed it all. And of course getting my new car.

I've so much to be grateful for this year but what do I hope for in 2014?

Well the obvious one is getting that much longed for transplant. Despite the efforts of the BBC, and Holby City, to scupper donation, more people are now on the donation list than ever before and the numbers are still growing. There has been talk of changing the system to an opt out one rather than an opt in. The human race is notoriously lazy, filled with good intentions but not actually putting them in to practice. By changing the system all those people who would like to donate but never quite get round to doing so won't have to bother.

In the absence of a transplant one thing is sure and that is my change of meds early this year. It was going to happen early January but that maybe in doubt now due to an administrative hitch. However it will come and end of January/early February is most likely. The new meds will be easier to prepare and will take me about an hour once a week rather than an hour every night. This will open up a whole new world to me and I'm looking forward to going to the theatre again.

The wild beauty of Wales
I'm also already planning our next holiday. We will be going down to Wales again, this time for a longer stay. And we are hopeful of making it to Edinburgh to see my brother, though that might be a bit far afield, we will have to see. We are going to go somewhere and do something though. I've decided it is no good hanging around and waiting 'until I get better'. I would be wasting years of my life doing that and there is always the possibility of never getting better. May as well grab the bull by the horns and just do it.

I have made two challenges to myself for 2014.

The first I've mentioned before. I'm fed up of sitting in front of the TV. It is destroying my brain and I've become far too addicted to soaps. So I've bought myself some artists materials and am going to try and revive my love of painting. I used to be rather good. I sold a few pieces and exhibited my work quiet often. I specialised in landscapes, buildings and the occasional portrait. Of course the combination of age and medication means my hands are not as steady as they once were and my eyesight is not so sharp but you never know. Expect to see pictures of my various attempts appearing on this blog.

Which leads nicely onto my next challenge.

I'm going to do the 365 challenge. This involves taking a picture every single day for a whole year. You can, of course, take more than one picture a day my you have to take at least one. I've enjoyed getting back into my photography this year and I'm hoping to take pictures of landscapes etc that I can then paint. Two birds, one stone.

So with the photography, painting, holidays and theatre trips I won't have time to dwell on when I will get my transplant and that, I suppose, is the whole point.

So all that is left for me to do is to wish you a very Happy New Year and I hope everyone has a better 2014, especially those waiting with me for transplant.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Our Christmas Day

Yesterday was the official Roberts Christmas day and a good time was had by all.

Yes we finally got to sit down, eat our turkey dinner, drink a little wine and exchange gifts. Although only two days after the actual day it felt like we'd waited ages.

Unable to get a fresh turkey from our local farm this year I bought a turkey crown instead. To be honest a whole turkey is always too big for the four of us, even with the vultures I've raised, so a crown would hopefully cut down on waste. I have to say it was the best decision I've ever made. The meat was delicious and really moist and carving it couldn't be easier. The was still plenty left over and because it is all white meat, no one will eat the dark meat, it will soon be gobbled up in sandwiches. I for one love a turkey sandwich with Branston pickle or sliced, pickled beetroot, so my lunches for work are sorted for next week. Laurence also took a good few slices for his work sandwiches too.

We started with a hot cheesy dip and finished with my beautifully smooth and creamy sherry truffle cup, recipe below. Then after clearing up, and I was helped by everyone, we sat in front of the TV and watched a film whilst sipping coffee and then it was the big gift exchange. I'm easy to buy for, anything from Lush or L'Occitane makes my day, as do chocolates, and I was in luck this year as I got something of all three catagories. I also got series one and two of Sherlock, which was a bit of a surprise but very welcome. I've now just got to find time to watch them before series three starts on New Year's Day.

I was also given a lot of travel stuff, miniature bottles of shower gel, hand cream etc. And a cook book for my slow cooker. At the moment I only use it for making cawl so this was a really welcome gift and everyone will benefit as I try out the recipes. The small stuff was given in anticipation of my transplant as I always prefer to take small bottles into hospital with me as they take up less room and I don't feel so aggrieved if I leave a bottle in the shower and it gets stolen.

Today I've hit the sales, well figuratively speaking, I've gone onto the Lush and L'Occitane websites and bought some of the Christmas stuff they are selling off cheaply for about a third of the cost it would normally be. So I am a very happy bunny indeed. And I won't need to buy any bath stuff for at least six months. What's not to like? I've also bought some artist's materials so I can start getting back into my painting.

This afternoon I'm going to sit with my feet up in front of the TV and sample my chocolates. After yesterday's massive cookathon I think I deserve a rest.

Creamy Sherry Truffle Cups

250ml double cream
4 medium egg yolks whisked
5 tablespoons - 75ml strong black coffee
5 tablespoons - 75ml sweet sherry
150g dark chocolate (70% cocoa)
90g milk chocolate
whipping cream
6 martini glasses

In a non stick pan bring cream to the boil and remove from heat. Whisk gradually into the egg yolks. DO NOT add cream all at once or you will end up with scrambled egg. Add the coffee and the sherry then cover and allow to cool.

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of boiling water and whisk into the custard half at a time. Divide mixture between the glasses and place in fridge, preferably overnight, to set. Decorate with whipping cream and grated chocolate. Serve with Amaretto biscuits Enjoy.

Right back in the kitchen I go but at least it means I get to use up the left over mash and veg. Today's offering honey glazed ham with bubble and squeak.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Simply Having A Wonderful Christmas Time

While I've got a few minutes between putting the turkey in the oven and preparing the veg so I thought I'd just do a quick blog update.

Yes today is actually going to be our Christmas dinner day as it is only one of two days during the Christmas period when we can all be together.

Thankfully, though some would say unhappily, my virus or whatever, rapidly improved during the week and so I was able to go to work and not have anyone cover for me. That meant, however, I spent Christmas Eve, Christmas day and Boxing day in work and to be honest it wasn't the entirely depressing time I'd imagined.

I'd barely got through the door at quarter to eight, on Christmas day, when I had a bucks fizz and a chocolate biscuit thrust into my hand. We were allowed out of uniform so everyone wore colourful Christmas jumpers and a variety of head boppers were on display. Every now and then someone would burst into song and the general atmosphere was happy and fun.

While we got on with the business of the day, much reduced I'm pleased to say, one of our supervisors was busy in the kitchen cooking us turkey with all the trimmings. I nearly fainted when I saw how much was on the plate but it was delicious so I tried my best. Unfortunately my best still left most of the meal on the plate.

The day actually went a lot quicker than I thought it would and I arrived home in time to catch the Christmas Strictly. I don't actually like the Christmas Strictly, it lacks the build up of the series and if one of the celebrities has been given a dance that doesn't suit them then there is no chance of a come back but being a true fan I couldn't not watch it.

After Strictly we sat down to an evening meal of home made meatloaf and barbecue sauce, recipe later in this blog. We shared a bottle of wine and I eventually fell into bed around ten after watching our favourite Christmas film Love Actually.

Boxing day was much the same work wise, though we all contributed to a buffet instead of having a full meal. I arrived home to a cup of tea and was swiftly followed through the door by Laurence who also worked over Christmas. We enjoyed a simple meal of spaghetti with tomato sauce and then settled down for an evening in front of the TV demolishing chocolates, biscuits and nuts.

We watched the new Open All Hours, which was very good but lacked something with the absence of Ronnie Barker. We then watched and joined in with The Big Fat Quiz of the Year on channel four. Andrew and Laurence formed one team and Peter and I the other. We won by two points, yay!

I was up around eight this morning to dress the turkey, which is now filling the house with a lovely aroma, and driving Smirnoff potty. The veg are all ready to go, as is the gravy, stuffing and bacon and sausages. I have skipped breakfast as I'm really hoping to do it justice. My eating has really gone well this week and, I haven't weighed myself yet, I'm sure I've put on a few pounds. With a bit of luck I'll have added that extra half a stone and reached my target. I'll let you know when I've plucked up courage to step on the scales.

Meatloaf with barbecue sauce

2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 clove garlic crushed
1lb 8oz mincemeat
8oz sausagemeat
4oz tomato puree
black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon Worcester sauce

Saute the onions and garlic in about 1oz (25g) butter until soft and translucent. DO NOT BROWN. Please in a bowl and allow to cool  for about 20 minutes. Add all the other ingredients with a pinch of salt and about one teaspoon of black pepper. Using your hands kneed ingredients until thoroughly combined. Transfer to a 2lb loaf tin making sure there is no air trapped. Smooth top with a palete knife until level and mixture is well packed down (if you don't do this the loaf will not slice but will fall apart). Place loaf tin on a baking tray and cook at 180 fan or 200 conventional for 45 mins - 1 hour. Lift baking tray out of oven carefully as there will be a lot of fat. Drain fat and allow loaf to stand for 5 minutes before tipping out of tin.

For the sauce
1 400g (14oz) tin chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon cornflower
3 tablespoons malt vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon tomato puree
1 teaspoon Worcester sauce
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon sugar
pinch of salt and pinch of black pepper

Place all ingredients into a non stick saucepan and heat gently while stirring until sauce begins to bubble. Take off heat and stir for a further minute to prevent sauce burning on the bottom of the pan.

Serve both with veg of choice and a good dollop of mashed potato.

Right got to go, I've just been given another bucks fizz and it's time to baste the bird.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

So Here It Is Merry Christmas....

The weather has been dire this weekend, very wet and very windy and it doesn't look like it is giving up anytime soon. So what better thing can you do except snuggle up on the settee with a purry, furry and watch the Strictly final. More on that later.

I finally started to feel a bit festive yesterday. I watched White Christmas while wrapping presents and then listened to Roy Wood singing 'I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day'. That song is my all time favourite Christmas song and guaranteed to get me in the mood no matter what.

I kept my word and, apart from cooking lunch, spent the whole day resting and I must say I feel better for it this morning. I still have a slightly dodgy throat and I still have my cough, I don't think I'm ever going to be free of that, but on the whole I'm feeling better. So I'm looking towards, I won't say forward because it just wouldn't be true, to a very busy festive week in work. I've drawn the short straw and am working right through Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day but come Friday I'm off and we will all be together. Then we will lock the doors and windows and have our own private Christmas celebration. That is what I'm really looking forward too, and that is what I will be focusing on to get me through this week.

Today I have something else to look forward too. Jenny and her family are stopping overnight on their way back to London. This time we will be taking photographs, which will be displayed here sometime next weekend. I still cannot believe we didn't take any last time we were together. This time I've been told to sit still and take things easy as they will cook for me. I'm still making a blackberry and apple crumble though, as they so liked it last time.

So this afternoon there will be a little flurry of activity as we remove the wrapping paper and sellotape from the dining table and Hoover up the glitter that seems to get everywhere without any help from us. Fortunately we've managed to restrain our 'dumping everything on the coffee table' habit and everywhere is still neat and tidy.

In the news I read two stories today, one made me feel really happy, the other angered me.

First off the exciting news that in France they have managed to implant the first totally artificial heart. The device weighs about three times that of a real heart and should keep the patient going for at least five years. The operation was carried out earlier this week and initial signs are good. This is potentially good news for those waiting for heart transplants. If this technique works it could be used to keep a patient alive, with a reasonable quality of life, until a suitable heart can be found. It could, with future refinements become an alternative to heart transplant for some patients. I am constantly amazed at these medical advancements, maybe one day a similar device will be invented for those of us in need of new lungs. Anything, it seems, is possible.

The piece of news that made me angry was a piece written in the Daily Mail. This piece is an interview with drug mule Melissa Reid's parents. In it they moan and whine about how unfairly their daughter has been treated. They complain that she will miss 'the best years of her life' in jail despite the fact that she will only be twenty seven when she gets out. Apparently their daughter's predicament is everyone's fault except her own. I would argue that if that's the way Melissa has been brought up to think then no wonder she is in the mess she is now.

Let's look at the facts. Melissa and her now friend, then stranger, Michaella McCollum Connolly, were caught trying to smuggle eleven kilos of cocaine out of Peru. When caught they cooked up an elaborate story about being kidnapped, drugged and threatened by a gang, none of which either girl could name or describe any members of. They said they were scared, didn't have a choice and didn't know what to do. Well of course they had a choice. They could have gone to the authorities at any point and said 'look I'm being forced to smuggle this stuff, please help me', but they didn't. Instead they went through with it because they thought it would be easy money, I think each one was promised £22,000 for packing the stuff, inexpertly, into their suitcases.

I suspect both girls could see only pound signs and were convinced that two young, reasonably attractive, giggly girls wouldn't attract any attention and they'd sail through customs without blinking an eye. Goodness knows how they were caught but something gave them away. Maybe there had been a tip off, maybe they had boasted to someone about what they were doing, neither strikes me as very bright, or maybe they were just a little too loud and giggly. How they were caught really doesn't matter but the facts are that they thought they'd get away with it and then lied about it.

If I were Melissa's mother, yes, I'd be bloody furious, but not with the sentence, the judge, or the officers that caught her. I would be directing all my anger at Melissa and asking her how she could be so bloody stupid. Her father thinks 'the sentence is too harsh and doesn’t sit with the crime. They’re first-time offenders and they didn’t instigate it.' No but they went along with it didn't they. Personally, if I were him, I'd be offering up a prayer of thanks that they didn't get given the full fifteen years Peru normally hands out for this sort of crime. Six years, with some of it possibly spent back in Britain, isn't that harsh considering what they've done. They would probably got the same or even worse in Britain.

And let's just say that they had got away with it. Would they have gone back and done it again? I'm willing to bet they would. I'm also willing to bet they would have gone on doing it as long as they didn't get caught. Sometimes you have no one to blame but yourself. Melissa and her parents would be wise to learn that lesson, preferably before she's released to do something else equally as stupid.

Strictly Watch

Well here we are with the last 'watch' of the series. Hasn't it gone quickly?

To be honest I wasn't really looking forward to an all girl final and in some ways my fears were realised. The show lost a bit of 'umph' that the male celebrities are able to give. There were plenty of lifts but they all felt rather safe. Even Suzanna and Kevin's neck breaking twirl came across as a little flat. I had to agree with Darcy, it just didn't have the 'wow' factor. On the other end of the scale Natalie's show dance was all a little too frenetic, they threw everything in and came across just that little bit desperate. Sophie and Abbey just did what they did best. They looked pretty and elegant and danced like dreams but again the 'wow' was missing.

Maybe I've been spoiled by the acrobatics of Lewis Smith or the sheer joy and style of Chris Hollins, his Charleston was even better than Sophie's, but the show definitely lacked 'something'.

Talking of which, I was surprised and bitterly disappointed that Sophie was voted off first and didn't get to dance her Charleston again. That was the one dance I really wanted to see. I was also looking forward to seeing Hairy Dave 'Dance Like Jagger' and Mark do his 'MC Hammer' but this year they just had a few seconds each in a group dance. Again, very disappointed.

Away from the dancing Bruce was having a whale of a time and at one point I thought he was going to give himself a heart attack. He decided to show the TV audience how busy he was during the show and demonstrated this by running up and down a flight of stairs several times. He must be remarkable fit for his age but I listened to the news this morning with some trepidation I must say. However he survived and made the most of his last chance to fondle Tess Daly's leg before flying off somewhere warm for the winter. I know he annoys a lot of people but I do hope he returns again next year.

Tess surprised us all by wearing something rather tasteful in the first show. She was back on form in the second show though, wearing a scrunched up, empty chocolate box. At one point she seemed to be in competition with Abbey as to how much she could toss her hair around. For goodness shake, why not have it styled so it doesn't fall in your eyes?

So the big moment came and all I could do was pray, 'not Natalie, not Natalie' and my prayer came true. Abbey is the new Strictly champion and, out of all of the finalists, probably the most deserving. Abbey, unlike Sophie and Natalie, had never danced a step in her life. I'm not sure if Suzanna had, I think I remember reading she'd had some training.  Anyway, out of all of them Abbey was the one who'd come into it without a clue and because of that reason alone, I think she was a worthy winner.

As I am working now until Friday. I'd like to take this opportunity of wishing all my readers a very happy and healthy Christmas. Take care and stay safe. Next blog Saturday.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

One Year On

It is exactly one year to the day that I was put on the transplant list.

I remember Peter, Andrew and myself jumping up and down as though we'd won the lottery. Of course the news came after a really terrible year of disappointment and jumping through painless hoops. It was as though Christmas had come early and I did nothing but grin for a week. I said at the time just getting on the list would be enough, it meant I still had hope, it meant there was a chance I'd beat PH and go on to live well into retirement. Foolishly I was convinced I was going to get 'the call' within days, or at most weeks, of going on the list. However as the weeks and months rolled past reality hit and I knew I was going to be in for a long wait but I still hadn't reckoned on hitting the one year marker.

During my wait I watched and waited while several of my friends went in for transplant. Some out comes were bad, poor Anne, some were false alarms, how Stacie coped with being sent home twice I will never know, and others, the majority, were roaring successes. Out of all of them the only person I can say, hand on heart, that I didn't feel a twinge of jealousy about was Kath. Yes there was a moment when I thought, 'why not me' but the overwhelming feeling was joy that Kath's two and a half year wait was over. Her transplant gave me renewed hope that sometimes the wait may be long but the end results are well worth it.

Of course none of this should overshadow the stark fact that more people die waiting for transplant than get them. Dan Male is a case in point, he waited so long that he eventually became too ill for transplant and died. I know, it sounds crazy doesn't it, that you can be 'too ill' for a transplant. In truth though it happens more often than anyone can imagine. Yes the focus is always on the part or parts of the body that need replacing but in truth the whole body is effected. For PH patients the lack of oxygen in the blood can cause damage to the brain, kidneys, liver etc, etc. And don't forget the drugs we take are toxic and are slowly poisoning us as they ease our symptoms. Most of us need regular blood tests to check our kidneys and livers are still working properly. Once your kidneys or liver starts to pack up, that's the end of any transplant hopes.

I am constantly urged to stop working, look after myself etc. Well I know all those making these comments have my best interests at heart but no matter how well meant they may be no one truly understands why I still insist in working.

There are two reasons. One is to remain as fit as I possibly can, for as long as I possibly can. My muscles are under attack from oxygen deprivation and lack of use. When, if, transplant come the better shape they are in the quicker I'll recover and get back on my feet. Even the short walk from car to desk will help keep my legs in shape. Sitting at a desk for eight hours a day helps with my core muscles. Writing and typing keep my hands and arms going. It's small steps in the big scheme of things but when I'm praised at the transplant clinic for keeping so 'generally fit' for 'someone as ill as you are', then it is all worth it.

The second reason is for my emotional and intellectual state. I like to keep my brain busy, staying at home and having nothing to think about other than my own situation or whether 'Kyle has slept with Kate and will Georgia find out' is not exactly the intellectual stimulation I need. I also know that I'd become very inward looking and depressed if I were cooped up at home. At work I get to gossip and laugh and feel I'm a useful part of a team. Listening to people moaning all day may not be everyone's idea of an uplifting day but most of the time it makes me glad for the life I have. There are some situations I wouldn't be in for the world.

So today I will probably spend some time having a little bit of a 'poor me' moment and a little cry but I will get back on the horse and hope that 2014 will be an easier ride than 2013 was.

So now I've got all that off my chest how am I feeling, well a lot better is the answer. I've had more bloods taken but I don't think they will show anything as things have improved dramatically over the last day or so. The little blisters or spots have gone and my mouth is still red but not dark red. The soreness has gone, more or less, sharp food, such as oranges, still makes me wince but on the whole it's back to normal. Thankfully my breathing has improved significantly overnight. My chest was declared clear again yesterday, which is supported by the fact that I'm not bringing any gunk up so it was suggested that my throat may have irritated my asthma. I was advised to continue with the meds I already have and to increase my asthma meds for the next week. Twenty four hours on my breathing has improved, so at least I know what was causing that. I've been given extra antibiotics in case things flair up during the holiday period but it looks like I will be well from Christmas, thank goodness.

Yesterday I went shopping, or at least Andrew and Peter did the shopping. I was wheeled around pointing out things we needed and grunting occasionally. We were in and out in under an hour and anything we haven't got now, we can do without. I spent the rest of the day resting, which is exactly what I intend to do today and again tomorrow. Looking at the weather I'm so glad I don't have to go anywhere.

Did I mention it's the Strictly final tonight? So excited! Who do I think will win? Well I'm backing Suzanna but I think it will be Abbey. Next blog, tomorrow.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Christmoose and the Tazmanian Devil

At least I am feeling better in myself but my mouth is a disaster area. The redness in the throat is reducing but my mouth is covered in tiny white spots or blisters and is very, very sore. I've read the leaflets for the mouthwash and it doesn't say anything about side effects making things worse. The most common reactions are headache and nausea, neither of which I've had. So I'm making another visit to the doctor just in case. As it isn't an emergency I've booked myself in for tomorrow morning. The leaflet for the antibiotics explained a few things though. It says 'may cause drowsiness, do not drive'. Really? Who'd have thought it.

Another day spent dozing and another vivid dream last night. Strangely very similar to the first one with the fields, stone hut etc only this time trains were involved. Yes I did watch The Great Train Robbery last night, more on that later.

Last night Andrew put the tree together for me. I sat and supervised, my usual role, and he raced around with tinsel and lights. I helped add some of the baubles and carefully placed Taz and Sergy the Meerkat among the branches.

I think that last sentence possibly needs and explanation.

Before children decorations in the Roberts house were small, minimalistic and as tasteful as Christmas decorations could get. When Children arrived and became old enough to really look forward to Christmas things changed. Kids do not do minimal, tasteful, chic. Kids do 'throw everything at it and hope for the best'. The general aim was to have as little of the actual tree showing as possible. Of course there was always a bit of rearrangement once they were in bed but the look, on the whole, was over the top. In an effort to maintain some taste I bought a white and silver star to go on the top which was repeatedly dropped but the boys or knocked off the tree by tiny pussy paws. Eventually it had enough and shattered. Salvation was just around the corner though and I was present with a toilet roll with wings, the product of many hours and a fair amount of tears apparently, in school craft class. It, and it's younger sister, adorned the tree top for many years, or until both boys were old enough not to throw a fit at these tatty angels removal. Unprepared for such ready acquisition we were now left with the dilemma of what to put on top of the tree. In desperation Peter grabbed a cuddly toy moose in a Christmas hat, I have no idea where it came from, and Christmoose was born and for several glorious years reigned supreme.

Last year though Christmoose went missing. We searched everywhere but couldn't find him. Early in 2012 we had extra insulation added to our loft and a lot of things were moved around. I'm sure he's up there somewhere, the question is where. Of course we didn't notice his disappearance until we came to decorate the tree and we were caught in a dilemma once again. For some reason I'd been sent a cuddly Tasmanian devil as a present and he was just lying around in the living room as I hadn't decided what to do with him so he took Christmoose's place as a temporary measure. Early that month Peter had been sent Sergy the Meerkat for buying car insurance and as a joke he added him to the tree too. Both were packed away with the Christmas decorations and, as Christmoose is still AWAL, they are back on the tree again this year. We like to do things differently in the Roberts household.

 I am feeling remarkable awake this morning but maybe that is because I've been sleeping so much. I'm due another tablet at lunch time so I'm not holding out any hope of staying that way. I will be asking the doctor about that too when I see him. Drowsy doesn't mean unconscious, at least not in my book.

As I mentioned previously I watched The Great Train Robbery last night and as a piece of drama it was very, very good. However it did make me realise that Ronnie Biggs notoriety wasn't really justified. He was a horrible man and remained so until his death. And as for his part in the robbery, well it was so insignificant blink and you missed it. Strange what self promotion will do. The real 'hero' of the caper was Bruce Reynolds, who served his time, dropped out of sight and lived quietly until his death.

Tonight I would urge everyone, especially those who have doubts about organ donation, to watch 'The Greatest Gift' on ITV1 at seven thirty tonight. It is about a man who was saved in the nick of time by a heart donation. One year on he talks about what it means to him and how he met and thanked the donor's family. Well worth a watch if you can spare half an hour.

Right time for the cat pee and sleeping tablet. Whoop De Doo!

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

In The Arms Of Morpheus

Well the new tablets are certainly having a weird and wonderful effect.

I spent most of yesterday drifting in and out of sleep and after three failed attempts to watch White Christmas, and missing most of it, I switched to music and listened to bits of Jesus Christ Superstar instead. Well it's sort of appropriate for the time of year.

Of course all the daytime sleeping meant I was wide awake at ten and so stayed up to watch the Lockerbie documentary. Gosh I remember this event so clearly. Laurence was three months old and I was giving him his late night feed while Peter was checking the doors and windows prior to going to bed. I'd just asked Peter to turn the TV off when the news flash came on. As a result we stayed up until around two or three in the morning just watching in horror as more details began to emerge. At the time it was one of the biggest acts of terrorism the UK and America had ever experienced. Decades later America learnt the hard way that it could be surpassed and I've no doubt some future event will overshadow 9/11 too.

It was almost one when I eventually put down my book and, to my utter surprise, dropped off like a stone off a cliff. It was then that I had the most wonderful, fantastic dream I've ever had.

I was running through open fields, I am always fit in my dreams, I don't think my subconscious accepts my actual physical state, and the grass is like that of Lords. Flat smooth and a vivid green. I'm with two other people but I cannot see them, I only know they are there and I can hear voices. I'm climbing over a fence and in the corner of the field is a large rock or boulder. Carved in the boulder is a door and across the door at three slats of wood, also painted green. I pull the slats away and enter the rock. It gets a bit Dr Who here as the inside is a lot bigger than the outside. Inside the rock are three shelves two on one wall and one on the other at right angles to each other. On each bed there is a pillow and a duvet. Despite no windows or artificial lights it is very bright and I can't stay in for long as my eyes are hurting. I come out and I'm suddenly in a room sitting at a table. My companions are still with me but but still out of sight. There is a table in the middle of the room and a very important looking man is sitting at it. It takes me a few minutes to realise I'm being questioned about a car theft, shades of The Bill. I'm lead out of a door on the other side of the room and I'm back in the field only now it is dark and the field is ablaze (Lockerbie) and I'm running as fast as I can but I'm impeded by something that keeps wrapping itself around my legs. I fight to pull it off and find it is a teachers' gown (Harry Potter) I keep running until my heart is pounding and I can't catch my breath. I heard pounding like horses hooves so I stop and turn to look behind me and...wake up.

For a minute I don't know where I am but I can still heard the thundering of hooves. I sit up and listen. The sound is sporadic and now sounds more like an elephant charging around. I'm just about to get up to look out of the window when I hear a mew and suddenly I know what it is. Andrew had given Smirnoff a large brown toy mouse earlier in the day which Smirnoff had now chosen to play with, rather vigorously, at five in the morning, in our bedroom. He was having the time of his life and I nearly had a flaming heart attack. I found the mouse and threw it downstairs and Smirnoff charged after it. Back in bed I dropped off very quickly again and was soon back in the field with the stone hut. I was on my own this time and it was beautiful. I lay on my back on the grass and the sun shone down on my face and I felt totally at peace. I was so at peace that I had real difficulty waking up. Even now sitting here with the reality of my situation fully exposed in the light of day I'm wishing I could go back to that happy place. If anyone reading this can tell me what this all means, please feel free.

So how am I feeling. Well apart from having weird dreams, courtesy of the antibiotics, I'm pretty much the same. My throat is still bright red but feels more comfortable thank to the mouthwash. It may smell of cat pee and it tastes truly terrible but it seems to be doing the trick. I'm sort of hoping to be back in work tomorrow but will take it one day at a time. I'm sure my colleagues would rather I was fit and well for my Christmas shifts than force myself in when I'm not ready this week.

I had a call from the Brompton this morning. It seems there is still a chance I will get my meds changed as planned after all. Carl is pushing and pushing for this to happen and will either ring or email when he has more news. As it stands my hospital admission for the first week in January still stands so that's a glimmer of hope to latch onto. It is so nice to be looked after by someone who genuinely cares.

In the news it's been a busy week for celebrity deaths.

First up was Peter O'Toole, the man with the most beautiful blue eyes in history. In this day and age his looks would have mattered more than his talent and he'd have probably ended up modeling for some perfume company. As it is he was an outrageous hell raiser who's private life lead to more headlines than his acting. Certainly not the image wanted by Chanel or Hugo Boss. However unlike some of today's 'stars' he will be long remembered as on of the greats.

Next we have Joan Fontaine, not an actress that has ever really been on my radar. Again she was more famous for her life long feud with her sister Olivia De Havilland.

Today news has come through that the 'Great Train Robber' Ronnie Biggs has died at the age of 84. Ronnie is probably the best known of the criminal gang having managed to escape and live in Brazil for 36 years. Gallingly he only returned to this country when he wanted something from it. His health started to fail and he'd more or less run out of money so back he came so the taxpayers he'd stolen from could pay for his treatment and his care. True he did go back to gaol for eight years but however you look at it, he was the one who got away.

Right time to slosh my mouth out with more cat pee, joy!

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Losing the Battle, Winning the War?

Hey ho, yes I'm at home, off sick, again!

This virus, or whatever it is, is really getting to me now. You think you've got rid of it, you begin to feel quiet well and then wham! It's back with a vengeance.

I went into work feeling slightly 'off' yesterday and as the day progressed I found myself feeling worse and worse. I was sick a couple of times and I felt so tired that it could have been Thursday not Monday. I woke this morning and had the usual brain versus body battle, body won on this occasion so I stayed in bed, rang in sick and then called the doctor. To be honest I don't know what he's going to do. Each time I've been there with it so far he's told me to rest, drink lots and get as much sleep as I can. I do all this, feel much better, go back to work and within a week it's back again. I'm guessing this pattern is about to be repeated. So long as I can be in work for next week I'll just go with the flow. All I care about is not ruining someones Christmas because they have to cover for me.

I would have added 'unless I get the call' to that but with the one year anniversary approaching this weekend I've sort of lost hope of ever getting the much longed for transplant. I'm sure I will pull myself around in the new year and once again will be filled with renewed hope and confidence that it will come. However I will never feel as hopeful or confident as I did this time last year, time has added doubt. I guess there is so many things stressing me out at the moment it is difficult to see anything positive.

Things like getting an email from the Brompton telling me my long awaited appointment to be put on Veletri might be delayed until February as there is an administrative hiccup delaying the signing off on the medication. I've no idea what that means but all it means to me is more disappointment and more delay. I seem to spend my entire life waiting for other people to do things so I can get on with life, and frankly I don't have the time to spare just hanging around.

So I will spend the day resting and feeling sorry for myself. Sorry for the moanathon. Right time for my appointment, wish me luck.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Strictly Semi Finals

Saturday was so busy I didn't get time to write my blog!

In the morning we headed to Hatfield to pick Andrew up for his Christmas break and I had a minor panic attack when I realised it is only two weeks away. That's the trouble when you are not having Christmas on the actual day, you sort of give yourself an extra week when actually in reality it is only three extra days.

Thankfully Peter's present got delivered just before we left so at least that worry is out of the way. I shall wrap it when he is next in work, which should be Tuesday and then I can relax a bit.

Anyway I digress. We were delayed on the way back home due to an accident on the M1. Thankfully we heard about it before we got onto the motorway and diverted to the A1(M) instead. This was relatively clear but it is rather the long way home. Infinitely quicker than being stuck in an hour's delay though. Incidentally this is the second time in two days we've almost been stuck in a severe jam on the motorway. Let's hope it isn't third time unlucky.

The afternoon was spent packing away my drug delivery. There was a lot of it this month and it all had to be checked against the delivery note and counted. Now normally I just glance down the delivery note to check everything I ordered has been delivered but, in view of the trouble I had ordering the stuff, I decided it would be better to make doubly sure. The last thing I want is to find I'm suddenly without needles or dressings on Christmas Eve.

Once that had been done I sat down for a chat with Andrew and a cup of tea and opened my post. There was a misery gram from the Lethal and Deadly. I'd forgotten my Warfarin clinic appointment. Rat's, I'd got it in my head that it was on the 20th, well it is now as that's when they've rebooked it.

The rest of the afternoon was spent going through the freezer and kitchen cupboards checking what I'd got in and what I'd still to get. I'm not one of these who thinks the whole day will be ruined if there is no sage and onion stuffing. Neither do I feel the necessity to stock up as though I'm feeding the five thousand. Anything I miss we can get by without and I'll be getting just enough and no more. After all it is just one day and you can only eat and drink so much.

I have made provision this year to allow my boys to have Christmas lunch without me should I be fortunate to get the best present of all. I've instructed Andrew on how to cook the turkey etc. I've also stocked up on a lot of 'bung it in the oven/microwave' meals that they can prepare with minimum effort. Yes Andrew can cook but you can only have so much pasta and besides they will want something they can whip up in minutes not hours.

To be honest I've lost hope for this year. I think it is far more likely that I'm going to be spending Christmas at my desk dealing with domestics than I am sitting in a hospital bed looking forward to a new life. I've now set my sights on 2014. This time next year I WILL have had my transplant, hopefully.

Today is going to be a restful day, well sort of. I've still got the ironing to do but thankfully not a lot of it. And I've still got Christmas cards to write. I'm doing them in order of ease of delivery. So cards going abroad go first, then cards being sent to different parts of the UK. Then the hand delivered ones for the neighbours and friends in the village and my colleagues at work. It still means writing dozens of cards but at least I don't have to panic about getting the hand delivered ones done today.

The Christmas tree goes up this week and I start putting out the cards we've already received. How are some people so organised? The tree I'm leaving to Andrew to do this year. I feel I've got enough on my plate as it is.

Strictly Watch

Well it was a bit of an up and down show but then it always is when the contestants have to learn two dances instead of one. I don't know why the emphasis is put on how difficult this task is. Most of the dances have been performed before or are similar to those they've already done and frankly, at this stage, they should be picking things up quicker anyway.

First up was Natalie and in between the first and second dances we were treated to the judges views. Surprisingly they said what I've been saying for weeks. Natalie's dances all look the same. She hasn't improved as much as the others and is now being over taken by some. So if they think that why do they consistantly put her at the top of the leaderboard and overlook mistakes? I think Natalie will make it into the final but she won't win. She has an unfortunate smug way about her, as does Artem, and I think she will pay for being the judges favourite. One thing I have learnt during my years watching Strictly, the public do not like favouritism.

Patrick was a charm. For me his Waltz was the best dance of the night, though I could have done without that tight lipped grin. Yes his Paso lacked a bit of shaping but I've seen worse get higher marks (Natalie). I would love Patrick to get into the final but unless the public get behind him I fear he may end up in the dance off again. If he is in the dance off with anyone other than Suzanne he's gone.

Sophie was elegant and precise as always. There was more animation in her face this week but once again she was deemed to be too stiff and too emotionless. Give Sophie a dance that requires effortless elegance and she excels but give her something needing a bit of facial expression and passion and she just can't do it. I'm not sure on Sophie and I can't say whether she will be in the final or not.

Suzanna I think will be the one to bow out this week unless the public save her from the dance off. Suzanna is nothing if not enthusiastic but sometimes it comes across as desperate. It doesn't help when the costume department dress her as a little girl or a sex goddess. She is neither of these things and I think, given the chance, she could out elegant Sophie. To get into the final she will need to reign in her facial expressions and work more on her feet. Should the dance off be between Suzanna and Patrick I think Suzanne will go. In fact if she is in the dance off with any of the other four Suzanna will go.

Surely Abbey has to be the odds on favourite to win. She has just got better and better and her self depreciating lack of confidence has won her legions of fans, including me, who couldn't stand her in the beginning. Abbey is the only one of the five guaranteed to make it into the final and unless something dreadful happens she has to be the odds on winner.

Right time to think about lunch. Next blog Friday (I hope).

Friday, 13 December 2013

Invincible Idiots

I so very nearly killed someone on my way home from work last night so I'm going to have a little rant, apologies in advance.

There is a road between the villages of Millbrook and Marston which has two long straights joined in the middle by a level crossing, which in turn is proceeded or followed, depending on you direction of travel, by a narrow, tight, zigzag bend. The whole road, apart from the crossing is unlit. Last night I'd crossed the lit crossing and had entered the first of the unlit bends where my headlights briefly shone across the road instead of down it. As I reached the apex of the corner my eyes caught a small sliver of light reflecting off something moving. Instinctively I pulled further out from the edge of the road, there are no pavements at this point, and thank goodness I did because looking in the rear view mirror I saw the car following me taking the same evasive measures. In his headlights was the black silhouette of a cyclist.

This idiot was riding along an unlit road without any pavements, without lights or reflectors on his bike whilst dressed from head to foot in dark clothing. My heart still flutters when I think how close I came to hitting him. If there had been a car coming the other way and I hadn't been able to pull out I'd have killed him for sure. The light I saw must have been my headlights catching on the wheel spokes and that was the only indication I had that he was there.

Once I'd calmed down I became really angry because, even though this idiot had done nothing to ensure his own safety, I'd have been the one taken to court and been charged with driving without due care or even worse death by dangerous driving. I could have lost my licence, which would have meant my job as I have no other means of getting there, and my only method of getting out of the house. All because it is more important to look cool than be visible.

Call me old fashioned but didn't the proficiency test once warn cyclists to wear bright, light reflective clothing at night? Of course the proficiency test is not compulsory but I'm thinking it should be. I also think bikes should have some sort of registration plates so that people who do stupid things on them can be spoken to and where necessary prosecuted. This is not the first brush with a cyclist I've had, nor is it likely to be the last but it was certainly the closest.

Apart from the journey home it was a rather strange day at work. I couldn't settle and felt a little bit out of sorts so was glad when the day was finally over and I was home again. That's the trouble when I only take part of a week off, I always wish I'd taken the whole week instead.

Today we are completing out Christmas shopping, well that's the plan, and on Sunday I'm going to make a concerted effort to at least get most of the Christmas cards written. We also have to tackle the more mundane weekly tasks like the ironing, grocery shopping and general housework.

Saturday is the big shift out of uni digs and home for Christmas for Andrew. As much as I've got used to the peace of not having him around it is always lovely to have Andrew back home. Of course he will be spending most of his time swatting for his January exams but will also help me with things like putting up the Christmas tree and decorations. Then we'll both spend the next few weeks pulling Smirnoff out of the tree and picking up and replacing all the baubles he's knocked off. When he and Tarmac we both little we were constantly pulling them out of the tree and most morning would come downstairs to find the tree bare, fallen over or both. On one memorable occasion Tarmac had opened all the present too.These days Smirnoff is much more sedate but that doesn't mean he won't have a go at the tree at least once.

Well I can't put it off any longer. Having had such a tough time getting my delivery I'd better go and check it is all present and correct.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Relatively Speaking.

Today is definitely going to be a do nothing day. I am exhausted but I would not have swapped the last few days for the world.

After twenty years apart Jenny and I were instantly comfortable with each other and more or less picked up from where we left off. I got the feeling that she was a little worried that it would all be too much for me and my health but I hope I put those fears to bed very quickly. Andrew, Laurence and Peter rallied around to help with the cooking and all the bits and pieces that go with having visitors so it really wasn't that much extra work for me..

I got to meet Glen, Jenny's husband for the first time, who coincidentally is a paramedic so he and Andrew had lots to talk about. I was also introduced to Jenny's boy's James and Luke. James the eldest got on really well with Andrew and Luke formed a special attachment to Laurence who dressed him up in some of his uniform and taught him some self defense moves. Luke was particularly impressed as the demonstration involved (some pretend) beating up his brother. However as with all six year olds the excitement, strangeness and tiredness soon took over and I have to say it is a long time since I last had a six year old sobbing into my shoulder.

Crisis was averted by the good old laptop and CBBC games. Sometimes technology is a wonderful thing.

On the Tuesday Andrew took our visitors for a walk around the village while I got on with making lunch. We had a full roast dinner followed by apple and cinnamon crumble or blackberry and apple crumble. Blackberries are unknown in Australia so this was something new as was roast potatoes.

It was really strange to think that blackberries, one of our most common wild fruits, are unknown is some parts of the world. I'm really looking forward to visitin Australia and finding out what fruits and veg we've never heard of. Laurence and Andrew found it really strange that the boys have never seen snow. They are heading north and will spend some time in Scotland so I really hope they get to see some when they are up there. Ideally they'll see a night light dusting and not come up against blizzards and ten foot drifts.

My cooking was punctuated by frequent calls too and fro from the Brompton, which spoilt things a bit. I am due a drug delivery on Friday 13th. The company doing the delivery were supposed to ring me on the 29th November to find out what I was running short on and arrange a delivery time. I'd heard nothing so on Friday the 6th I rang them. I could not get through as the phone was constantly engaged. Eventually I managed to find the number for their complaints department online and rang that number, as by now I was desperate to talk to anyone I could get hold of. By some miracle and a fourteen minute wait I got through to someone who couldn't take my order, I was through to the wrong department, but would ensure I was rung back. Nothing happened Friday or Monday. Frantic I rang the Brompton and spoke to Lisa as Carl was away and told her what had happened. Lisa was furious but said I wasn't the first person reporting a similar problem. Thirty minutes after calling Lisa I got a call from Healthcare at Home, no apology was offered and the person calling sounded like a sulky child, I was not impressed but at least I now know my drugs will be arriving on Friday, I hope.

After lunch we hopped in the cars and took them on a whirlwind tour of our bit of Bedfordshire. Unfortunately at this time of year a lot of things are closed so it was more a point at and drive past tour than a get out and look around though. So we drove through the Woburn estate, past the Millbrook training ground, through Ampthill, Milton Bryan and Eversholt. Our final stop was at Houghton House a derelict manor house. Here we could stop, get out and explore and it proved a big hit with James, who is very into history. Unfortunately I couldn't get from the car to the house so I volunteered to stay behind with Luke, who had fallen asleep.

One thing I found a bit odd was how cold they thought the weather was. We were wandering around the house in short sleeved t shirts, as we'd cranked up the heating for them and had it on during the day, which we don't normally do, while they had about fifteen layers on. I couldn't help thinking that if they think it is cold here in the south what will they make of Scotland. Of course it is their summer over there so they've come from temperatures of 30C plus so I suppose temperatures of under 10C must be a terrible shock to the system.

It was early to bed for everyone last night as they were off on their travels again this morning. It was only after they left that I realised we'd been so busy catching up that we'd completely forgotten to take any photos except for one of the boys together. Fortunately they are returning in two weeks and we are going to spend a little bit of time in London with them in the new year so I will be taking pictures like a mad woman.

So now the dust has settled the house seems overly quiet and empty but not for long. Andrew finishes term on Friday so this weekend we will be going down to Hatfield to move him back home for Christmas.

Right now though I'm looking forward to a quiet afternoon watching a film on TV, or should that be dozing through a film on TV and then an early night before work tomorrow. Fortunately I'm in for just one day and then off for the weekend. I just hope Healthcare at Home keeps their promise and this Friday doesn't turn out to be as stressful as the last one. Next blog Friday.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Strictly So-So

Well what a busy day I had yesterday. I cleaned the kitchen from top to bottom, dusted around the living room, with a damp cloth to stop dust getting into my lungs, and sorted out the mass of paperwork dumped on the coffee table. Meanwhile Peter sorted out the hall, at last it is tool free, and Andrew sorted out the under stairs cupboard so as a result we can actually fit the vacuum cleaner, mop and bucket etc in it. Today all I have to do is clean the bathrooms and prepared the spare room for Laurence, who is staying for a couple of days, while the boys tackle the vacuuming and mopping. To be fair it wasn't as bad as it sounds, everything does get a weekly going over but not all at the same time, so by the time I've tidied and cleaned the last room the first one needs doing again. That's the problem with PH, everything has to be done a bit at a time and as a result it seems never ending.

One thing I have gained from Jenny's upcoming visit, and for which I'm extremely grateful, is the acquisition of some new crockery. Our current stuff is over twenty years old and very cheap. It was bought as the kids started arriving with the intention that if something was dropped it wouldn't matter. In all honesty it has lasted a lot longer than we thought it would and although most of it has at least one crack or chip we've been putting off buying new stuff for a while now. So yesterday I bit the bullet, went online and found something I really like and bought it on click and collect. We will be picking it up tomorrow morning and will either send our old stuff to a charity shop or sort out the best pieces and stick them in the loft for emergencies or to give to Andrew when he first sets up home by himself. I will post a picture as soon as I am able.

I woke up this morning to the sound of a gently snoring Smirnoff.

Since Tarmac died Smirnoff has become a regular companion at night. He doesn't cuddle up the way Tarmac used to but prefers to stay near my feet at the end of the bed. He's also taken to sleeping with his paws over his nose which makes him snore. Sometimes he is really loud and he whistles on occasion too. He looked so comfortable and so sweet that I couldn't resist a picture.

I had a strange feeling last night that I  was close to getting the call. For some reason my ears really, really burned and I felt I was being discussed. Now it maybe that I was being considered for something or someone was having a really good bitch, I will never know but for once I wasn't disappointed to not have got the early morning wake up call. Of course I am still desperate for the call and if it comes today or in the early hours of tomorrow then of course I will go but if it comes sometime after Wednesday I'd be even happier.

I am feeling so much better today. Despite giving me a dodgy tummy in the beginning, these double strength tablets have really done their stuff. My chest is a lot cleared and I'm feeling quite perky again. The only thing I've been left with is being slightly more breathless but I can live with that. I'm also ravenous, so that's another very good sign.

Strictly Watch

It was a little bit of a flat show last night. The contestants had two dances to contend with. Their usual solo performance and then a group swingathon.

After the first set of scores Abbey was at the top of the leaderboard with Patrick a close second and Natalie, who continues to displease the judges continued to languish in third place. At the bottom, and deservedly so, was Suzanne after one of the tamest Argentine Tango's I've ever seen.

The swingathion really didn't change much. Patrick took the top spot while Abbey and Natalie took third and second respectively. Suzanne continued to bring up the rear.

All in all it proved to be a rather lack lustre night and I predict Suzanna, Sophie or Ashley to be competing in the dance off. I think Patrick and Abbey have won their place in the final, the question just remains who will join them. I'm betting it won't be Suzanna.

I'm A Celebrity Watch

Well what did I say? Yep the final is between Kian and David, two of the nicest contestants I think we've ever seen. I'm not going to predict but if they could both be crowned that would be the idea solution.

Right time to check on the washing and get the ironing done. 

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Making Decisions.

Sometimes you make good decisions, sometimes you make bad ones. Yesterday I did a bit of both.

As it was Peter's birthday the plan was to go out and have a lovely pub lunch followed by a bit of shopping and then a nice quiet evening with a few drinks and a good film. What could possibly go wrong?

Well for me the day wasn't that great as I was feeling a little off colour. I'd developed a nasty cough over the last few days, so bad my colleagues kept asking if I was OK. Always a bad sign, so I trotted off to the doctor's Thursday after work and, yes, I have a rattly chest but have caught it early. Antibiotics were prescribed, as normal, and that was that.

I woke up on Friday morning feeling less than happy with a very dodgy tummy. Now there is sickness going around work at the moment and I thought I'd got it. I managed some tea and a slice of toast in an effort to settle things and it did, sort of. I started to feel better and was looking forward to the meal out, I'd decided to stick to soup, and some quality time with Peter. Then the waves of sickness started again. This didn't seem like a sickness bug so suspicion fell on the antibiotics. I'd had them before though and they'd never upset me so I couldn't work out what was going on until I read the leaflet inside and realised he'd prescribed the double strength ones. Now I'm taking the things after meals and although I'm still feeling a little queasy I'm much better.

However yesterday that meant I was still suffering and as the time approached to leave the house I nibbled frantically on a rivita, these always help with my nausea, and began to feel better. As it was Peter's birthday he chose the venue and we ended up in a pub specialising in Indian food. I wasn't daunted though as they usually have a few English dishes running alongside. Not this time though. I scanned the menu with growing panic. The only thing I felt I could eat was the plain rice. Of course Peter knew nothing of how I was feeling, I didn't want to spoil his day so his mouth was literally watering as he read.

The waiter arrived for our drinks order and place a basket of poppadums in front of us with a variety of dips. I ordered a fruit juice and tentatively broke off some of the poppadum and started to eat. Well it was the best thing I could have done. After several mouthfuls my stomach stopped churning and I realised some of the problem was an empty stomach, by the time I'd downed two I was back to normal but still didn't want to risk eating anything too spicy. In the end I had two vegetable samosas, which were divine, and shared some of Peter's curry. Fortunately the portions were very big, and the dish mild, so he was happy to share.

Then it was off to the shops and I'm happy to say we broke the back of the Christmas shopping. We are more or less set now and the garage is turning into a little Aladdin's cave of beer, sweets and biscuits. All I really need now is the veg, fruit and turkey, oh, and the presents. These are proving very difficult this year as every time I go online to check something out the recipient turns up wanting to speak to me about something. Talk about frustrating.  Of course as we are not having our Christmas day until the 28th there isn't the mad rush to get it hear before the 25th, however I would like to see it arrive before then as the post is notoriously dodgy during the festive period.

Somebody did get an early present yesterday though. More through necessity than anything else.

Andrew has a phone that is three years old, ancient by today's standards. It no longer connects to the Internet, doesn't always receive or send texts and has a tendency to run out of credit on a regular basis due to Andrew being a cash strapped student. In short it is unreliable and will probably let him down when he most needs it. To be fair he has been hanging on until he starts working and was planning to renew it then. However we saw a great offer for a Motorola Moto G on a two year contract with a special deal for existing Virgin customers. So after a lot of thinking we decided to get it for him and pay the contract until he is in a position to do so for himself.

Of course getting it so early means we are paying for a month when it won't be used so after being unable to contact him all week, he was out of credit again, we decided to give it to him early. Needless to say he was delighted and we hardly got a peep out of him all evening as he got busy with setting it up and downloading all the apps he wants. As he now as wifi connection he can download a special app call Viber which he can use to text Svet in Bulgaria for free, hence saving both of them a whole heap of money. I've downloaded it too so we can keep in touch when he goes abroad. In short everybody wins. And he now has no excuse to ignore my texts.

In the news the saga of Derek Gates continues. If you remember he was the chap who had a heart transplant and promptly went back to taking the very same drugs that destroyed his own heart.

It seems he is now back on the list awaiting yet another heart as he's already worn the donor heart out. Now this does make me very angry indeed. If this man has already abused his precious second chance, why is he being given the chance of a third? A lot of people are dying everyday and would treasure such a gift and care for it as best they could. It seems Derek just wants to be able to continue with his criminal lifestyle. Even his family believe he doesn't deserve it.

So I take it all back. This man should not be given a third chance because that really would be a waste.

I'm A Celebrity Watch

At last Joey and Amy have gone. To be fair Joey did grow on me. Yes he is thick, and overtime I've come to believe it's more real than an act, but he is also a really nice bloke. He also pulled his weight in camp and did some of the nastier jobs without complaint, which is more than could be said for Amy.

This pampered princess cheated and lied her way through the competition. She just couldn't grasp that it was a team game and everyone was equal. She actually though she should be entitled to more food than the others for doing a trial. As Rebecca pointed out they are all hungry but Amy just didn't get it. Then we had contraband gate. Amy put the whole camp in jeopardy with her make up and bikini's (they were allowed three, Amy had ten) but it seems what Amy wants Amy gets. And Amy was extremely reluctant to help out with any of the day to day stuff in camp. Amy is nicely packaged but underneath there lurks something rotten.

So the three remaining are Lucy, David and Kian. To be honest I would have though David would have been one of the first off but his lovely gentle manner and evenhandedness has kept him in when more likely candidates have left. I'm not sure about Lucy but certainly Kian and David deserves their places in the final. It is nice to see really nice, decent people being rewarded for a change. What's inside will always triumph over what's outside, Amy take note. I think Kian will take the crown with David a close second.

Right time for a coffee and then a rifle through the cupboards for lunch. I'm still a bit touchy tummy wise so I think a light pasta will probably hit the spot nicely. Until tomorrow.

Friday, 6 December 2013

A Life Less Ordinary

Well it's has been a bit of a stressful week one way or another. Yesterday was a total nightmare.

First all our systems went down and once that was sorted out the fire alarm went off and we all had to stand around in a freezing cold, and very windy, car park. Then when the storm hit everything went crazy. Well they say thing happen in threes.

Once again we appear to have got away with very little damage here in my little village bubble. The last of the leaves on the Silver Birch are now carpeting the lawn and a few of the smaller twigs have joined them but all in all no damage. Sometimes living in Bedfordshire is a blessing as everything seems to skirt around us.

I also had my meeting with the Occupational Health doctor yesterday and fair play she admitted she'd totally misunderstood the situation. The report will now be altered to accurately reflect my situation. So all's happy in Hazel land at the moment.

This weekend it is all hands on deck to get the house ready for Jenny's arrival on Monday. I am so excited I have permanent butterflies in my stomach. To be fair there isn't that much that needs doing. A tidy up mostly as Peter tends to leave his tools in the hall when he's working on the cars. And I accumulate paperwork which never seems to make it upstairs. I'm pretty sure Jenny won't care how the house looks but I will feel better if it at least looks tidier than it does now.

Today is Peter's birthday so I'm treating him to a pub lunch and then we are heading to the shops to get our usual weekly groceries. Tomorrow and Sunday, between clearing up, I will be resting as much as possible in order to be in tip top condition for Jenny's arrival. The last thing I want is for illness to get in the way of this much longed for visit.

In the news this week there has been much ado about a man, I can't bring myself to call him 'gentleman', call Derek Gates.

This paragon of the community is a career criminal, drug users come drug dealer. Despite his past he was given the precious gift of a new heart and then promptly went back to his old ways. Of course the blood is up amongst the transplant community and there has been much muttering about 'wasting the organ' etc, etc.

Now while I am angry about what has happened I take a rather different view from my fellow patients.

I think it is very dangerous to call for transplant to be granted on anything other than clinical need. This man MUST have meet all the criteria at the time of his transplant. Getting put on the transplant list isn't easy. It is a long, tedious and frustrating process and more people are turned down than accepted. Apart from blood types, tissue types, height, weight and general overall health of the rest of the body there are factors that many people are unaware of. You are only put on the list if your are expected to have only a year or less to live. Many patients exceed this of course, mainly because once on the list your condition is very carefully managed to ensure you stay well enough for transplant. You have to have a better than 50/50 chance of making it through the operation. Mine is currently 85%, so not bad. And you have to be judged 'compliant' when it comes to taking meds and generally looking after yourself. They would not even consider you if they had any doubt you would undo all their good work as soon as you got the chance. What they do not take into account is your criminal record and nor should they. As with the law medical decisions must be based on facts not 'what if's'.

So Gates must have been able to convince the medical teams that he was going to behave himself after the transplant to be put on the list. Now either he is a very good actor or he genuinely meant it at the time, no one will ever know. I would like to be generous and think he actually meant it but pressure of circumstance resulted in him slipping back into his old ways. I know a lot of people will think otherwise.

The other distasteful aspect of this story is the number of people who say the organ has been wasted. Has it? Donors have no say as to who gets their precious gifts once they have died. All they know is that they will be helping someone to live. So like it or not this donor has got their wish and I think it is an insult to that family that the organ is now being abused however I think it is also an insult to call the donation a waste. Technically the organ has not been wasted and a life has been saved, even though it is a life we may not approve of.

There are calls for former drug addicts to now be denied transplantation for fear they will return to their old ways. Well if we do that for drug addicts what about alcoholics? George Best got clean, got his new liver and a few years down the line drank himself to death. So on that basis should we also include reformed alcoholics on that list? The list of reasons to deny people transplant could stretch on and on if we chose to look at it in that light. Fortunately we do not nor should we. Yes he is one very bad apple who will now spend a fair amount of time in prison but he is only one of many more who have devoted their new lives to help others.

I can't finish this blog without mentioned the sad death of Nelson Mandela. He is the ultimate example of someone who managed to turn his life around for the good of many at much cost to himself. He started out as a lawyer, was labelled a terrorist and finally became South Africa's first black president liberating millions of his fellow countrymen from oppression in the process. Some will always see him as a terrorist, most will see him as a saint. In reality he was neither, he was just a man trying to do what was right.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Strictly Musical

A quiet Saturday was had by all and I spent a great deal of it catching up on all the TV I'd missed over the week, as I do most weekends these days. As soon as we hit the last weekend in November that is it for us as far as shopping on a Saturday is concerned. I get a bit panicky in crowds at the best of times and being on my trike makes me feel more so. As for trying to find somewhere to park, well.

So we go out on a Friday, if we go out at all, and all our Christmas shopping is done online. This could be why I've missed the Christmas buzz these last few years but at the moment I have little choice. Maybe next year will be different and I won't care how far away from the shops we park or how busy it is. Maybe I'll be able to rough it with everyone else. What a joy that would be.

Seriously folks if you want to do something for me this Christmas that won't cost you a penny. Please say a little prayer that I get my transplant soon and, if you haven't already, sign up to the organ donation list.

Andrew is home this weekend. He only has two weeks left in college and then only six months before he qualifies as a fully fledged Paramedic. I can't believe how fast the time has gone. It seems like only yesterday we were anxiously waiting for his A level results. Now he's almost finished university. How did that happen? Of course he will still need to be mentored for a year but at least they will be paying him not the other way around.

In exactly one week and one day I will get to see my Australian cousin Jenny for the first time in almost twenty years. I am so excited, I'm bouncing around like a two year old. Goodness knows what I'm going to be like next weekend. All I can say is expect a blog full of gibberish, well more gibberish than usual, because that's probably what you'll get.

Strictly Watch

Well after last week's disappointing performances everyone appears to have upped their game. The result was a fabulous programme which I (almost) loved from start to finish. Even Brucie seemed more with it than usual. Yes it was Musicals week and nearly everyone gave performances that would not have looked out of place in the original films.

Abbie got the first perfect score of the series and it was throughly well deserved. Dancing to 'You Should Be Dancing' by the BeeGees. Not only did they look like seventies icons but they were dance perfect too. Abbie is now a clear candidate to win but she's not on her own.

Patrick danced a Charleston to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and came second on the leader borad. He was fast and light on his feet and for me should also have been given a perfect score. Unfortunately Craig appears to have a problem with Patrick and only gave him an eight. However second from top is not a bad place to be and I think he will also be in the finals. It is who joins these two in the final that is now in doubt.

Bottom two this week were Mark, yet again, for heavens sake give the man a break! I like Mark very much. He can move well for such a big man and no one can match his performance, which is never over the top. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for Suzanna who is so over the top with her facial expressions they are beginning to distract from the actual dancing. Suzanna started the series really well and I was quite hopeful but somewhere along the line she has decided that it is performance, not technique, that will get her through. Sadly she is mistaken and after completely messing up her foot work found herself in the bottom two.

Slipping down the leader board at a steady pace is Natalie, whose place in the final is now threatened by Ashley and Sophie. The trouble with Natalie is that she started really well but has failed to progress much and now the others, who have worked like stink, are catching her up and overtaking her. Natalie in my opinion, and it is only MY opinion, is rather too smug and has become complacent. Out of all the other competitors, who chose crowd pleasing upbeat numbers from well loved musicals, Natalie alone went for a rather depressing unknown number. Unfortunately for her the crowd and viewers expect a bit of showbiz razzmatazz on musicals week and Natalie failed to deliver. Even the judges were unusually critical this week, which surprised me as usually Natalie cannot do any wrong. Of course she was not helped by arrogant Artem who decided not to put a lot of hold in his American Smooth. About time he realised it's about Natalie not him and he shouldn't be taking chances with her. If she doesn't make it to the final he will be as much to blame as her, if not more so.

So top for me were Abbie and Patrick. Bottom two has to be Mark and Suzanna and I doubt Mark will survive a fourth visit to the dance off. However I would not be at all surprised to see Natalie there, I think a trip to the dance off might actually do her some good.

Right, better go, quiche today and I haven't done any prep yet. Next blog Friday unless something else hits me out of the blue.