I came, I saw, I had a MAGNIFICENT time!!

All week we had been watching the weather in the UK – the “Beast from the East” causing chaos, with drivers stranded, airports shut down, villages cut off…but all the time, the little north west corner of the British Isles seemed to miss the worst of the weather. Then Storm Emma started romping up the west side of the UK…but veered over to Ireland just before reaching the top of Wales.

We had to get up early, at 5.00 am to drive over to Lyon, but I’d actually woken at 2.30 and not got back to sleep. I was actually much perkier than I’d imagined I’d be. We set out to Lyon airport hoping that the plane would not be cancelled. It wasn’t even delayed!!

Wearing a double surgical mask and latex gloves, to protect from infection – as these days were the days when my white blood cell count would be at its lowest, and I would be most vulnerable to infection – I cut a slightly pathetic picture. We comandeered a wheelchair at the airport and Mr FD pushed me through. I’m very glad, as it was quite a trek to get to the correct terminal. We went through security (surprisingly there was no queue at all) – I caused some problems as I explained about the stent for chemo, and they wanted to see proof of this. It was in my handbag, which had already gone through the scanner, so people were running aroud to fetch it. Then I had to be scanned with a hand held scanner rather than go through the walk-through scanner. It all took a bit longer than usual, but we had plenty of time. As I was in a wheelchair we were allowed through passport control ahead of others (huzzah!) and soon got settled on the plane. I plugged in my earphones and listened to a podcast for the flight. At Manchester we waited until everyone had left the plane, and then climbed the steps into the terminal building. As I entered the bhuilding I slipped on some very wet rubbery matting, and fell down: luckily I went quite slowly, and nothing was hurt, but the cabin crew and pilot who were just behind were very helpful and sympathetic.  Also luckily, a wheelchair had been left at the top of the steps and we were encouraged to use it – which meant priority going through border control!! Although we’d been so slow there weren’t many people left waiting anyway. Then we took the time to organise a wheelchair for the return journey, at Manchester airport. Later on, Mr FD contacted Lyon to organise assistance at that end too.

Mum had said she’d pay for car hire, so we went andpicked up the car, then drove to mum’s, in Liverpool. We had lunch, and then my sister arrived from Leicester (not held up by snow at all), and my brother from Stokesley (near Middlesborough) Despite the fact there was still a lot of snow on the east side of the country, he had encountered no problems with the trains getting over. It was lovely seeing them all! We sat and chatted all afternoon, as I had to take it easy, while Wonderful Mr FD went on a mission to buy, and then put in place, a new toilet seat for mum. We had dinner and then, as I’d been awake so early, suddenly fatigue hit me. I was in bed and asleep byabout 9.30, I think!

On Friday evening, we had hastily arranged a meet-up for lunch with my nephew Conor (Judy’s son) and my niece Rose (Mike’s daughter), her husband and baby, over in Manchester. So after relaxing all morning, while everyone else went out shopping for a disabled friend of mum’s, or taking things to the tip, or buying supplies of logs, we all set out for lunch.

Here we are at Croma Pizza, passing Billy the Baby round the table – except not to my end, as I had to stay away from babies (hotbeds of infection, apparently. And Billy was quite snuffly).

There were some, let’s say less traditional pizzas on the menu, but I decided to have

Baked garlic mushrooms, served with (quite a lot of) rocket and a slice of olive bread

Then I chose another starter for a main course, which was a chorizo and Bury black pudding bruschetta, with a goats’ cheese and beetroot side salad. It was very nice.

and with it, I drank a delicious Manchester craft beer, called “Manchester Skyline”

For dessert I chose a “Banoffi Mess” – basically Eton Mess, but made with bananas, meringue, ginger biscuits and cream, with toffee sauce. It was a bit of a disappointment – masses of cream, big chunks of meringue, two slices of banana and one crumb of ginger biscuit. It let down what was an excellent meal, and although I did mention it to the waiter no more was said about it.

Afterwards, Judy and mum went back to Liverpool, while Mike, Mr FD and I went to spend the afternoon with Rose, David and Billy.

Billy in his bouncy chair

I spent some of the time “resting my eyes” but it was lovely just chatting with them, and watching them play with Billy. I kept my mask and gloves on for the whole time, to avoid any infection. And then Mike, Mr FD & I set off for the Bill Bailey comedy gig – this was our Christmas present for Mike. We arrived quite early, but that was fine. I sat in my seat and “powered down” – that is to say, pulled my hat and hood over my eyes and just sat quietly with my eyes closed, relaxing and conserving energy.

Here we are, after my powering down, waiting for the show to start.

It was a very good show – Bill Bailey is a slightly surreal comic, but we thoroughly enjoyed the show. Here is a review of the show from The GuardianOurs was a little different, set in Manchester rather than Southend, but – ad libs aside – it was basically the same. We got home at about 11.30, and we went straight to bed.

On Sunday morning, mum went to church, but I decided it wasn’t worth expending more “spoons” than necessary, considering we had the Elbow gig in the evening. ( The “spoon theory” is a disability metaphor and neologism used to explain the reduced amount of energy available for activities of daily living and productive tasks that may result from disability or chronic illness. … A person who runs out of spoons has no choice but to rest until their spoons are replenished. from Wikipedia) So Judy, Mike & I looked at an old photo album, discussing who the various members of our family were, as Mike has spent quite a lot of time researching our family tree. Unfortunately, while we have great grandparents who were Irish, this is not enough to entitle us to an Irish passport. Mr FD played about with mum’s computer, organising our boiarding passes and assistance at Lyon airport for the journey home.

After lunch, Mr FD and I set off for the hotel in Manchester that we’d booked for Sunday night, about a mile away from Manchester Arena, where the gig was being held. For some reason, the Sat Nav didn’t want to work in Manchester city centre and we couldn’t find the hotel anywhere. We were just about to start a blazing row when Mr FD said “Look!” and there it was, in front of us. Getting to it was another kettle of fish, due to one way systems and taxi/bus lanes, so in the end we parked the car in a carpark and walked! Again, I saved my spoons, while Mr FD went to try to get the car to the hotel – another difficult time, but he finally made it.

We took the tram to Victoria Station, which is next door to the Arena, and Mr FD went to the Box Office, while I sat with a coffee in the station buffet. We grabbed a bite to eat at Greggs (I had a cheese and onion pasty.) and then headed to the Arena. You may remember the terrorist attack that took place in Manchester in May last year. I had imagined it taking place in a large plaza area outside the Arena, but when I saw how narrow the walkway and foyer area are, it is no surprise that the effects were so devastating. There was good security – only ticket holders being allowed up to the walkway, and then passing through X-ray machines at the entrance to the Arena itself.

Again, we were early, so I “powered down” until the support act, John Grant, came on. And then – huzzah! – the main event. Which was excellent! (Review from the Manchester Evening News)

Mr FD’s photo from during “Mirrorball”


After the show we left by a fairly quiet exit, and were lucky enough to be able to hail a taxi straight away. It was a 5/10 minute drive back to the hotel. We thought about going to the bar for a drink, buit they’d stopped serving – and really, that was a good thing, as I was dropping. Even though I was buzzing!!

The next day, we had a full Northern breakfast – sausage, bacon, fried bread, fried potatoes, mushrooms, tomato, black pudding, baked beans, fried egg (which I’m not allowed to have) – plus trimmings (toast-and-marmalade, juice, coffee) and then made our way to the airport, pausing at Asda for a few last minute purchases of the DVD of “Death of Stalin”, some magazines, Zantac indigestion tablets & Tiger Balm (cheaper in the UK!)

Mr FD wheeled me through the airport, on the pre-booked wheelchair, which gave us Fast Track through security and a designated seating area in the very crowded departure lounge. I bought some huge slabs of chocolate (CDM!)

Then we were given a heads-up to the departure gate, so we were there before everyone else, and a very nice gentleman then wheeled me to the plane, so we were in our seats and luggage stowed before the usual scrum. At Lyon, we waited until everyone had got off, then were met by a man with a wheelchair, who wheeled me swiftly through the terminal. When we reached the back of the queue for border control, a quick Excusez-moi! and we were fast tracked through Passport Control. Pausing only to pick up the hold luggage, the man insisted on wheeling me right to the car in the car park. And we headed home, arriving at 6.30 pm.

Today I’m a little fatigued, but not too bad. I slept until about 8.30, when the nurse arrived for my weekly blood test. I wonder if it will show my white blood cells are down?

It was the most amazing weekend. Mr FD was a complete star throughout, looking after me, organising everything and allowing me to just rest and to enjoy myself. Even if I have caught an infection (and I was very careful, using hand sanitiser after every bathroom visit, in between bathroom visits, after touching stuff…Etc etc. Plus my double mask protection and latex gloves in crowds & public places) it was worth it!! It did me the most enormous amount of good.

And thank you all so much for your positive messages of support – they have been very much appreciated.


New neighbours

Hello, Dear Ones! I hope all is well with you.

Yesterday I had a bit of a lazy day and a bit of a rushing about day.

I had two blood tests to have done: one at home, Friend Claire, who is our local nurse, came to do the first. We knew that she was arriving quite early, so I was up at 7.00. Then, almost as soon as she had done that, it was off to Roanne, to the hospital, for the second. I was going to go by myself, but as we’d had lots of snow, and the roads hadn’t been cleared (unusually), and I haven’t driven for over a month, Mr FD decided he would come with me and drive. I’m glad he did. The drive was okay, but he’s better than I in the snow.

We got back just before 11.00, and I got a phone call to say that my “front door” (as we’ve taken to calling the box for the Hickman line that’s going to feed the chemo into my body) won’t be fitted until 21st Feb. This is cutting it fine for having chemo before the Elbow concert (leaving here on 2nd March) – we shall see what appointment they give me for the first chemo session, but if it’s the week of the concert we may ask for it to be deferred.

This was the rushing about part of the day.

We then lazed around for an hour-and-a-half, until our friends arrived and we went next door to the Hotel de Londres

(that’s our house, to the left)

We haven’t been here for many a long year, as the previous owner was a bit of a plonker. (That’s the polite word) I won’t go into details, but suffice it to say none of the English in the surrounding area go there, and lots of the locals eschew the place too. He has sold it now, and yesterday was the opening “under new management”. The new management are a reasonably young couple who had been struggling in a restaurant some kilometres from here, where our friends used to go from time to time. As the couple had moved here, our friends wanted to come and support them, so we joined them. Any excuse to go out for a meal!

Gratifyingly, the restaurant was quite full of people, many locals (including the owner of the restaurant round the corner – sussing out the opposition, I imagine!), and the 13,50€ Menu du Jour was good value.

ENTREE: choice between a huge Salade Niçoise or 2 slices of paté en croute + salad

MAIN: choice between langue du boeuf ( beef tongue – shudders theatrically) or marinaded pork, plus pasta & sauce

CHEESE: fromage blanc, or fromage sec. The cheese course  (fromage sec) was three smallish pieces of cheese, but Mr FD said they were all nice. I had fromage blanc.

PUDDING: choice between pannacotta, tiramisu speculoos, chocolate pot, crème brulée.

The portions were enormous – perhaps they could cut down on the sizes a little – and I was able to take quite a few leftovers from our party for the Poor Cats.

After that meal, you can imagine that we spent the rest of the afternoon quietly dozing on the sofa. I was joined by a couple of cats, and I browsed some magazines Mij had brought me, and slept.

Today has been a bit (bit ) more energetic. A later get-up time, but then I did my 15 minute mile walking indoors. I then entered a few more competitions (all these holidays I’m going to win!!) and read a few blogs. A tad of admin left over from before Christmas…then help Mr FD unload the shopping. Thanks for doing it, Mr FD.

Then, I finally made myself get round to sorting out the top drawer of my filing cabinet – I’d done the bottom two with teaching resources, but the top one, for other paperwork, had just had stuff dumped in it. I needed to find some information, so I knew I had to tackle it…I’d been putting it off for weeks

So, I put 2 hours on my phone, & told myself I’d keep going until the timer went off…actually I finished (mostly) before the timer went off, which was very pleasing. I feel extremely virtuous now. I am going to try not to use my computer (except for inspiration/instruction) during the afternoon, but rather do craft/ reading etc. Says she, happily using her computer!! I will finish this, and then turn it off! Except I have to make a birthday card for my MiL, so it will be on for inspiration!!!

I’d better go and get on with it!

Sunday doings

Yesterday it was the Cycle Club AGM, so Mr FD, as treasurer, toddled off at 9.30 to help prepare the room. As I’m only a hanger-on I didn’t need to attend, so I had a lazy morning with a hot water bottle, a blanket, a cat and my Kindle – I’m reading another enjoyable book from NetGalley, which I’ll be reviewing soon – I also listened to the day’s meditation from Pray As You Go

which has been a great help through these past months.

Mr FD phoned me at about midday to say that the meeting had finished, and there was a Kir to be had, so off I went. Actually, although Mr FD had saved me a cup of kir, by the time I got there people were starting to drift away, so I had a few minutes to gulp it down and make a bit of small talk, before we all (including the hangers on) trooped over to the Hotel de la Poste for a meal.

The choice for starter was sausage salad, with beetroot, and potato salad, or gateau de foie de volaille. Although I’m not a great liver fan I chose this, almost immediately (but slightly too late!) regretting my choice! I can take chicken livers, whereas calves’ or lambs’ liver is beyond me, but I didn’t really fancy either choice.

It wasn’t too horrible: in fact the sauce was delicious!I managed to finish it all except what I thought was a mushroom perched on top, but is, in fact, a chicken liver. That got slid onto Mr FD’s plate!

Next, the choice was trout, or slow cooked pork. I chose the pork:

This came with some gratin dauphinoise, a few courgettes a couple of green beans and a smear of butternut squash purée. Delicious, but I could have done with a few more veggies!

Cheese was next:

From top to bottom: soft cows’ cheese with shallots, Brillat Saverin, and Cantal Vieux.

Finally the dessert trolley…we were sat in the middle of the “U” shaped table formation and were a little nervous, as here at La Poste one is encouraged to try 3, or even 4, desserts. We were concerned that they would run out, but it was OK, as at various times a waitresss would come out of the kitchen with another plate of something yummy in her hands.

I chose fresh fruit salad and Gateau Ste-Honoré, but from memory there was also: tarte aux abricots, tarte au chocolat, tarte tatin, tarte au praline, iles flottantes (soft meringues in custard with a caramel sauce),  pistachio-and-chocolate gateau, Black Forest gateau, a choice of ice cream/sorbet, raspberry bavarois, and tiramisu. We finished with coffee and petits fours.

There had been wine included in the price, which was 25,75€ per person (32$ / £22.50) Not cheap, but certainly not extortionate!

We walked home (all of two minutes!) and I prepared the Poor Cats’ food. Mr FD went for a walk while I went to feed the cats, and then as he watched the football results I fell asleep! I snoozed for about 2 hours – which put pay to my ideas of getting to sleep earlier (at the moment I’m lying awake until gone midnight, then waking up at about 8.15. It’s not ideal, really)

After a bit of bread-and-cheese, Mr FD asked what I wanted to watch on TV. Well, way before Christmas we had watched series 4 of “Line of Duty” – we’d not seen the previous series – and were seriously gripped by it! So Mr FD had ordered series 1,2 and 3 on DVD, but we never quite got round to watching them. They were just what I fancied, so we thought we’d watch the first episode of Series 1…and then we thought we’d just watch the second episode…and then, well, let’s watch the 3rd episode…!! If it hadn’t been 11.15 we might have watched the next one too! Series 1 is just as gripping as Series 4 was!

For those of you who enjoy police procedural series and haven’t seen this, I thoroughly recommend it. It’s on Netflix, aznd possibly also on the i-player.

We are now tantalisingly putting off watching the last two episodes until Wednesday evening (as tonight is catching up with Call the Midwife and Modern Life is Goodish, and Tuesday is Silent Witness night.)

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!)

Christmas Doings 2: Boxing Day

There was an organised walk from church planned for the afternoon, and Mr FD was up for it, so the morning was spent doing various enjoyable things – reading, blogging, listening to the radio etc. Then, after a hurried piece of cheese on toast at 11.15, we set out to borrow our friends’ dog, Marvin, as we thought he would enjoy the walk. Then we drove down to Clermont.

Marvin was very well-behaved in the car: he sat in the footwell, and quivered. I stroked him a lot to reassure him, and finally he settled down between my feet.

We arrived at the car park where we were all meeting, but had to hang around for quite a while, as other people who were coming got lost. Finally everyone arrived and we set off

We headed up the Vallée de Sans Souci, to the Squirrels’ Cascade

It was lovely – people swapped walking partners, as we went, and Marvin had a great time with Clio, the labrador. There was a puppy with us too, Narda, but she was kept on the lead as she was rather over excited by the whole event! She’s the dog being lifted up in the photo above.

When we arrived back at the car, Rob (our rector) & Caireen (his wife) invited us back to the house, “for some leftovers” We were expecting a turkey sandwich and a cup of tea – and ended up having a delicious 4-course meal! Red pepper & sweet potato soup, turkey dinner, with all the trimmings, cheese, and mince pies! Goodness me!

Marvin was thoroughly spoiled and loved the attention. He isn’t allowed on the furniture (except his chair) at home, but here he was positively encouraged onto the sofa!

He was given a bowlful of scraps to eat as well. Rob and Caireen would have adopted him on the spot if they could have done! He was splendidly well-behaved.

And after a lovely meal, we drove home, arriving in time to feed the cats, who sniffed my jeans very suspiciously.

A really nice day, with really nice people.

Mr FD, me and Marvin

My consultant phoned me yesterday – both the bone scan and the organ scan were normal, showing no signs that the cancer has spread!

I know we’re not out of the woods yet, but the relief that both Mr FD and I felt was enormous. Thank you, God.