Coming round after a Lost Weekend…

It’s been a long time since I posted, but I’m sure you understand why! Last weekend was my “Lost Weekend” after the second session of chemo.

For my own benefit really, but for anyone who might be interested, I want to record how I felt, and what I did/ ate in that weekend.

THURSDAY: Chemo session. Got home at about 18.00, had a cup of tea. Went to bed. Slept.

FRIDAY: Nurse came for injection to boost white blood cell production. Day spent sleeping/ listening to podcasts in small chunks. Drank about 1.5l of cranberry juice/water through the day. Breakfast: slice of marmite toast, half a cup of coffee. Lunch: slice of marmite toast. Got up round 18.00. Dinner: half a tiny baked potato and cheese. Felt sick. Went to bed about 19.30. Slept. Moulting started in earnest overnight.

SATURDAY: Day spent sleeping/ listening to podcasts in slightly larger chunks/ some activity on FB. Drank about 1.5l of cranberry juice/water through the day. Breakfast: 2 slices of marmite toast. Lunch:2 slices of cheese on toast + tomato soup. Got up round 17.00. Dinner: small amount of pasta, sauce & cheese. Felt less sick. Went to bed about 20.30. Slept. Moulted.

SUNDAY: I meant to get up earlier, but couldn’t be arsed.  Morning spent sleeping/ listening to music, or podcasts/using FB.  I got up around 16.00, finally having a shower (Mr FD was probably quite relieved about that!) but not getting dressed. Wrapped myself up in PJs, fluffy dressing gown and thick socks.Generally still very dopey, so snoozed, half watched some TV. Went to bed about 20.30, slept reasonably well. Moulted.

Breakfast: 2 slices of marmite toast. Lunch:2 slices of cheese on toast + mushroom soup. Dinner: A small amount of gnocchi and pasta sauce, yoghurt with jam

MONDAY: Got up around lunch time, morning spent sleeping/ listening to music, or podcasts/using FB. Got dressed. Afternoon spent on sofa, snoozing, watching daytime TV. Went to bed about 21.30. Didn’t sleep well. Drank reasonably well – about 1.25l

Breakfast: 2 slices of marmite toast. Lunch:2 slices of cheese on toast + mushroom soup. Cereal bar and pineapple in a pot. Dinner: A medium amount of a sort of “sausagiflette” – like tartiflette but made with sausages.So basically, potato, mushroom, onion, sausage, spinach and raclette cheese. Yoghurt and jam.

TUESDAY: Because I’d slept badly the night before due to a sinus headache, Mr FD was a bit worried. When the Nurse came to take blood for my weekly blood test he asked her advice, and they decided I should go to the doctor. An appointment was made. Marie-Laure (Nurse) had the usual difficulty taking blood – it is very lethargic, my blood, and it’s really hard to find a vein. She tried two places and finally squeezed out just-about-sufficient for the blood test. Went to doctor in afternoon, sinus infection diagnosed, and – due to low blood cell count – everything was thrown at it: anti nausea tablets, anti biotics (dissolvable ones. BLEUCH. Plus, as they are strong, likely to cause nausea, and diarrhoea. Yay!), yeast (dissolvable in water. BLEUCH! to restore gut bacteria destroyed by the antibiotics)

It was a difficult day – lots of crying. Fed up with moulting, and my pillows are covered in hair. I wake up with moutfuls of hair. It’s NOT FAIR! Mr FD got the worst of it from me. God got complained to. Felt dopey for most of the day, but perked up after dinner.

So do Fat Dormice!

Breakfast: 2 slices of marmite toast. Lunch:2 slices of cheese on toast + marmite.  Dinner: Smallish portion of chicken, pasta, sauce; cereal bar, pineapple in a pot. Took yucky antibiotics. Went to bed about 20.30. Didn’t get to sleep until about midnight; woke regularly and for long periods of time. Usually with mouthfuls of hair, despite wearing a hair-covering.

WEDNESDAY: Took horrible medication with large glass of cranberry juice/water; took anti biotics dissolved in water (BLEUCH!) quickly followed by a large bite of marmite toast!  Morning spent doing some paperwork on computer & reading blogs. Mr FD shaved my head, as I am fed up of moulting like a cat!

Breakfast:2 slices of marmite toast & a banana. Took yeast + a chocolate Dime sweet crunched up immediately! Lunch:Antibiotics. followed by handful of strong flavoured snacks, 2 slices of cheese on toast, cereal bar. Afternoon: walk to post office & around the block (about 500 m) followed by 20 minute snooze and some afternoon TV.  Dinner: Antibiotics followed bgy strong flavoured crisps, medium sized bowl of chilli + garlic bread, apple compote, chocolate biscuit.  Yeast taken with Dime sweet. Bed at 22.30. Slept through (almost!) until 7.45.

The walk, albeit only 500 m or so, took me about 20 minutes, and required two sit-downs on the way. The sit downs were partially to enjoy the sunshine and breathe some fresh air, but it was hard work!

I think my eating is back to normal, albeit smaller portions, but I still have the horrid anti biotics/ yeast combo to take for another 6 days – it makes my stomach fizz, and feel bloaty, but (so far) I’ve not had the expected diarrhoea. The other interesting thing is how my tastes have changed: while I still enjoy sweetish things, I am certainly not eating so many. During the first few days, I didn’t want any strong flavours, except for Marmite (as one can see from the amount of marmite toast I’m eating!), and the smell of cooking was horrid! And coffee, which is my go-to hot drink, has a rather unpleasant metallic taste – I can have the breakfast coffee, but after that it is not at all appealing. I’m not really enjoying any hot drink – tisanes taste too weak, or just not-nice. I’m not a tea drinker, but I’m thinking I might try a cuppa, just to see if I enjoy it. I do need to try to drink a bit more, as the Nurse said I need to aim to drink at least 1.5l a day, and I don’t think I’m doing that.


I’m not looking for sympathy here (though it’s always nice to have some!) but I thought you might be interested to read what a “Lost Weekend” is like – although this one has come with the added joy of the sinus infection! It’s also useful to have a record somewhere.

I have 1 more session of FEC 100, which is this current cocktail of poison, and then I go onto another regime, which will have different side effects: judging by the amount of anti-nausea medication that is prescribed, they are expecting more sickness. Plus this will affect my nail beds, so I have to put on a special kind of nail varnish, and rub an ointment around my nails twice a day. Stupidly, I’m already looking ahead and dreading that: sufficient unto the day…and so on!

We have booked to go on the Cycle Club short break, down in the south of France, which is the weekend after my next session. I will be tired still, but eating OK. I’m planning on spending the 5 days relaxing in the sun (while being fully covered, as I should avoid sunlight apparently) either in the holiday village, or on the nearby beach. Some reading, zentangling, and other relaxing activities will take place.

I’ll try and post tomorrow – I have a book review and three, yes, THREE, blog appreciation awards to acknowledge!!! Sorry it’s taken so long.


Hooray for me!!

As you might know, French bureaucracy seems to be one of the biggest nightmares for many people living here – including the French themselves!

About this time last year, I was contacted by a (possibly new) organisation called DIRECCTE (Direction Regionale des Entreprises de la concurrence, de la consommation, du travail et de l’emploi ) (No, I don’t know either!!) that informed me that because I was providing training I had to have a “registration number” and in order to get this I had to provide vast swathes of paperwork, including an entire Course Plan (IN FRENCH – so I had to translate my planning for an entire course of 30 hours training into French. A very useful waste of several hours). Thankfully, the very kind Director of ILS, one of the companies I have teaching contracts with, helped me to complete the appropriate forms.

Now, a year in, I have to provide a Bilan Pedagogique et Financier – basically giving information about hours teaching, and money earned in doing said teaching. It needs to be done by the end of April, but I had set myself a reminder for the beginning of March telling me Not To Put It Off (I know myself well!) but to start looking at it and working out what to do. As I know I won’t be working in April, I thought I could get on and do it.

Thanks to some fairly assiduous record keeping (most unlike me!) I think I have completed it correctly – although there’s a couple of sections that I’m unsure about. However M. Khodri (the very kind Director) has said he’d check over it for me on Wednesday. I’ve got to go to Clermont for an opthalmologist appointment, so I can pop into ILS then.

But just the fact I’ve got myself into this almost-finished position, well ahead of time, is very pleasing!!

….Not this time, I’m not!!!


On other news: I’ve got an appointment at a wig specialist tomorrow, and Friend Alison is coming to help me choose. I will post a picture.

At the party on Saturday, someone remarked that I still had my hair.

“Yes,” I said, “it is still firmly attached!” And took a handful and pulled to demonstrate. Except, I demonstrated that it wasn’t quite as firmly attached as it had been! I’m beginning to find that it’s starting to come out – not in great swathes, but just the odd few hairs. Hey-ho; I knew it was going to happen, so I’m okay about it at the moment. The time when I have to face a Baldy Dormouse might be a bit difficult, but I know it will grow back (though possibly greyer than it is now!) and I know it’s a sign that the chemo is doing its job, so I hope I won’t get too upset.


Surprise Christmas present!

Well, not quite a surprise, as Mr FD kept telling me it was on its way, but a surprise because I had no idea what it was.

It arrived today (not a Pusheen cat!) and I am delighted!

As the blurb says “365 Days of Art is an inspiring daily journal designed to help you nurture your creativity and develop a love of art” It gives 365 prompts to various art projects to complete:

Day 282: What is in the jars? Pickles?Fruit? Insects? What would you store in these jars?

Day 330: Add flowers to the stalks

It is something else to add to the things to do during my days at home: I do my 15 minute mile, using a Leslie Sansome YouTube video, and then I enter competitions…Really, by the law of averages, I have to win something! My poor friend Cathy is the “Scape Tagger” when it’s a FB competition, when I have to tag someone. She’s been tagged several times today! (Mind you, this pays her back for all of those “Like-and-share” pictures I get from her!!) I try to blog too – you might have noticed an upsurge in blog posts recently! Then I might do some zentangling too, although competition entry took over an hour today: there were lots to enter! It’s practically lunch time (scrambled egg today)

In the afternoon I will maybe continue zentangling, but I will add my 365 Days… to this now. I listen to Pray As You Go, and read another poem from “The Splash of Words”

Mark Oakley spoke to us at the  Vocation Discernment weekend in Budapest during November. He is an inspirational speaker and the book is really interesting. The blurb on Amazon reads: For those who know they enjoy poetry, and those for whom it is just a memory from schooldays, here is a rich feast that enables us to rediscover poetrys power to startle, challenge and reframe our vision. Like throwing a pebble into water, a poem causes a splash of words whose ripples can transform the way we see the world, ourselves and God. The Splash of Words argues that belief in poetry is vital for understanding that God is in the world as poetry is in a poem. It includes 40 poems from contemporary poets, as well as poems from earlier generations. Each is accompanied by a reflection, based on a deep understanding of poets and their art, which explores why poetry is vital to faith and how scripture, liturgy and theology are all poetry in motion.

I would argue that if you think you don’t like poetry this is an excellent book to help you, not understand poetry, but to experience it, to feel it, to grasp the very edges of what the poet is saying.

And usually too, I will read some of my French novel, although I have rather neglected this recently.

As the weather gets better I will try to get outside too for some sunshine (should the sun ever return!!)

So…lunch time now!

PS – We finished watching Line of Duty Series 1 last night! We decided we couldn’t wait. We now have to try not to watch Series 2 till next week. Otherwise, we’ll binge watch and it will all be finished!

Seven Things…

I thought I’d change the look a little – though not much, I’ll admit! I feel I ought to use the same header photo as always, simply because it is a view of the “small French village” about which I write (occasionally!) Mr FD took the photo, looking towards the old chateau quarter – you can’t see our house in it, but the chapel and the ancient walls date from the Middle Ages.

Otherwise, I don’t have much to say really…but perhaps it would be a good thing to “borrow” MrsM’s idea


(actually, it’s just evolved into “7 things that I’m grateful for & that have kept me going over the past 7 days”. But never mind!)

So, in this week that hasn’t exactly brought me the best of news, what made me happy?

1. THE CATS – as always, our cats have been a source of pain and pleasure. Bib seems to find it impossible to pee in the litter tray (though she will happily poo in it!) – she’s been checked over by the vet & there’s nothing physically wrong. But when she’s curled up in a small furry ball in your arms, it’s very hard to get cross with her! Jasper is our hefty bedtime companion, and spends a lot of the night mounting a take-over bid for the entire bed. He’s still a biter though, so we need to be careful. He’s not a lap cat, not at all, but last week, he crept onto my lap and lay there for a couple of minutes. It may happen yet!

Jasper, planning his next move.

2. BUYING A NEW TOP – Okay, we don’t have a lot of spare cash to be throwing around, but I’m afraid that the day after I’d been told I was going to need chemo, I went online and ordered this.I know it was naughty of me…but I did so like it!

tiny picture!

3. MR FD – but of course! He’s been a rock through all of this. He can’t quite grasp all my mood swings (and, sorry, dear, I fear they’re only going to get worse!) and sometimes he tries to tell me stuff when all I want is for him to hold me – but I know he is doing his very best, and that this is hard for him too.

An unflattering photo of Mr FD taken, when he was unawares, having just found the fève in the Galette des Rois. “Do I have to wear the crown?”

4. FAMILY & FRIENDS – messages of support, offers to knit me a hat (thanks, Michelle!), gifts of unscented handmade soap (“because chemo can affect your sense of smell”), promises to make me look glamorous (that will be an impossible task, I fear!), constant checking up, and offers to do things for me, Mum sending me a cheque “in case you need to buy expensive bras”…So many lovely people who care about me. It is very humbling.

5. PIZZA & WINE – Yes, I know I have to eat healthily – Dr Meunier emphasised this (and the need for regular, outdoor activity) – but the evening after the diagnosis, I wanted pizza. And wine. We’d bought “FD’s Juice Box” from Noz that day – a litre carton of Argentinian red wine, which isn’t half bad, for 79 cents! – and that, with the pizza made a good comfort food meal, followed by Thornton’s chocolates and “Taskmaster” on TV.


 I know I’ve already posted it, but I wanted to say a bit more. Clare Kenty is someone I met during my first year at Lines. Such fun, and even then she seemed grounded and sensitive. I say “even then” because she was young, smoked, smoked weed, and was a bit “out there”. Now, she’s moved to Canada, married and is into veganism, “womb wellness” (?!) and other stuff. None of which floats my boat, but each to their own; she has obviously found contentment. But this, this was just what I needed to hear at the moment I needed to hear it.

7 – GOD – I know that if you’re not a believer, you might think I bang on about Him a bit too much. Sorry about that, but more and more I find that I need to remind myself of His goodness, and His love for me. And you. Some people might ask “why has God allowed you to get cancer, if he’s so good?” I don’t think he has “allowed” it – cancer is a natural thing – stuff mutates, and that’s what these cells are doing. It’s just my tough shit that it’s happening to me! If you look at so many things in creation, they are of a consequence of other things. It’s likely that my cancer is a consequence of being on the Pill for 25 years or so…I don’t know why it was created so, but there you go. I trust God to see me through. You’re probably sick of it by now but here it is again:

Sorry…this has ended up being about cancer again. I must stop banging on about it. There are other things than that, Fat Dormouse!

Just like buses…

I like a nice wedding, me – as long as I know people there, of course.

I went to my God-daughter’s wedding three years ago – it was a lovely occasion, but I was a bit nervous of knowing just the bride, her mother & father. I’m not great at meeting people for the first time and making small talk. Happily, there were two very old friends who I’d lost touch with, and we had a great time, catching up, talking and soon. But that had been mly first wedding for donkey’s years.

My niece, Rose, got married two summers ago, but that really was a quiet “do”. The whole family met for a meal the night before, then Rose, and David, my mum, my brother, and David’s parents went to the registry office, and we joined them for a cup of coffee afterwards. And that was it.

That was it for weddings – we’d not expected them really – young people very often don’t get married. My other niece, Ruth, has two children and has been living with Dave for several years, my nephew Kieran has two children and has been with his girlfriend for several years…So Mr FD and I were delighted to be invited to the wedding of my Godson’s brother and his girlfriend.

We are very close to Alison and Kit, my Godson’s parents, and it is always a pleasure to see them when we’re in the UK. The date of the wedding is 7th April, and I’m keeping my fingers very firmly crossed that treatment will be finished, and I’ll be allowed to travel.

Then, last week, I get a text from Ruth “Hey, guess what! We’re getting married! You’re invited! 7th April!”

WHAT?! The same date! When you’ve had all those years to decide to get married, and you choose the same bloody date as the wedding we’re already going to !?! Oh, for goodness’ sake!

We’re going to the wedding we accepted the invitation to first – of course – but we hope to be able to get up to see Ruth & David either before or after their wedding – but it is quite a long way from Abergevenny to Newcastle-on-Tyne!!

Zav, Isa’s wife-to-be, wanted to have 1,000 paper cranes at the wedding venue. There’s a link to one article about the significance; here’s a quotation from another, which says:

Traditionally in Japan, the bride’s father made the cranes and presented them to the bride on her wedding day. Today, the cranes can be made by the bride’s parents as a gift and well wish for the newlyweds. The bride alone or the couple together can also take on the task, learning patience, commitment and communication in the face of a long challenging task. Or, folding the cranes can be divided among many friends and family, and turned into social events and fun times spent together ahead of the wedding

I asked Alison recently how many they’d made “About 65” she said, despâiringly… I’m not sure they’re going to manage the desired 1,000, if I’m honest! So guess what I’ve zentangled as a wedding present!

Yes! A crane! I haven’t decided if it’s finished yet, or if I want to add some colour, or a background. What do you think?

So, for us, weddings seem to be like buses: none for ages then two come along together!! Let’s hope I’m able to go to either (or both!)

Thoughts on Budapest Retreat

Hello everyone! I’m back after a wonderful week away in Budapest. I had three days of retreat, at St Arnold’s Retreat House, followed by 4 days being a tourist with a friend.

The retreat was a Vocational Discernment retreat, with a group of about twenty five people from the convocation. It was led by a wonderfully inspiring man, the Revd Canon Mark Oakley, Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral, and was entitled “This is my son, listen to him”

Mark is speaking at Greenbelt 2018 – if you’re going, don’t miss him!!

I’m not really sure what I’ve taken away from this time: I didn’t know what to expect when I went, but it wasn’t what it was (if you see what I mean!)

Mark Oakley is a poet, and a lover of poetry, and he introduced us to some wonderful poems. He talked compassionately and wisely, about “the collage of God”, about God as Love, about listening in the silence.

I took some notes about what he said, and they aren’t terribly coherent, but I shall include some of the phrases that I jotted down here. Maybe they will resonate with you.

  • When people are in my presence, how do I make them feel?
  • God loves us as we are. He loves us so much that he doesn’t want us to stay like that.
  • Jesus sees our full stops and changes them into commas. (That is to say, he sees and understands where our blockages are, and enables us to change, and to continue the “sentence”)
  • Live up to God’s voice that speaks of our worthiness, and don’t live down to the voices that speak of our failings.
  • God is the cause of our wonder.
  • God sees what is good, and true and beautiful in our souls.
  • Lord God, help me to find my true self so that I can find you.
  • Read between the lines (of scripture) and find the love.
  • When I let go of who I am I can become what I am meant to be.
  • We are here to give voice to God.
  • We are in danger of living unawkenede lives, surrounded by and listening to lies, both internal and external.
  • How can I think critically and live faithfully?
  • The rumour of God: we live as if it is true.
  • A life of faith, not certainty.
  • There are 2 bowls of water spoken about in the Gospels: that of Pilate – indifference and apathy – and that of Jesus – service to and love for others. Which bowl do we choose to pick up?

Some of the poems Mark led us to were beautiful. For copyright reasons I do not put them on here, but here are some links, with one line from each that really resonated for me:

The Real Work, by Wendall Berry :: It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,

Let Evening Come, by Jane Kenyon :: Let it come, as it will, and don’t be afraid.

Love after Love, by Derek Walcott :: Sit. Feast on your life

Love, by George Herbert :: You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat

In the Dark, by Robin Fulton MacPherson :: Some things are best seen, unseen.

The Journey, by Mary Oliver :: One day you finally knew what you had to do…

And, finally, the poem that, I think, in the end, sums up what I learned from this retreat, (and sorry about the swear word in it)

Getting it across, by U.A. Fanthorpe :: I am tattooing God on their makeshift lives

Or…the easy messages Are the ones not worth transmitting

Or…They are the dear, the human, the dense, for whom My message is.

Birds on the Wire

We were at Friend Richard’s for apèros on Tuesday – which was lovely. He provided so many delicious nibbly things that we didn’t need dinner when we got home! We sat outside until gone nine, watching the light fade over the hills, and the bats come out. He lives at the end of a road up in the hills – beyond him is a forest track, and a lot of trees – so the views are lovely.We could see the lights of the village twinkling in the valley, as the stars started to appear above us. All this, good friends and good wine. What more could you ask for?

One topic of conversation was the signs that autumn is on the way, and Friend Alison mentioned how she has noticed the swallows are now starting to gather on the telephone wires, and twitter about whether it’s time to set off for the South.

Whenever I see this sight, I always say (or, at least think) “The birds are writing music again”!

Someone else thinks this too…Or,at least, thought about how birds can make music. Not quite as delicate as sitting on wires, there is a Liverpool artist, who left  large pieces of paper, marked with music staves, on the ground in various parks around the city ,and then waited to collect pigeons to  contribute to her music. From the position of their, um, “droppings” she collaborated with a musician to convert this into a piece of music.

If you link to this article you can hear the music that was finally created.

Hey, listen! They’re playing our tune!

Another piece of music created from birds is one I think I have linked to before. In fact, I much prefer this one to the pigeon poo music. It is made from the positions of the birds on the wire:


One morning while reading a newspaper, Jarbas Agnelli saw a photograph of birds on an electric wire. He cut out the photo and was inspired to make a song using the exact location of the birds as musical notes. He was curious to hear what melody the birds created. He sent the music to the photographer, Paulo Pinto, who told his editor, who told a reporter and the story ended up as an interview in the newspaper. It ended up Winner of the YouTube Play Guggenheim Biennial Festival.

I’m not at all musical, but here’s a challenge to my musical readers: can you make music with the birds?