Email from my brother down under: why he has it harder than me

Not sure I sure if I should share this mail with you all, but what do you think?
Hi Fay,
How are you holding up now you’re back at home? Hope you’re not chowing down on Salt and Vinegar flavoured crisp sandwiches now you’ve been cut off from dad’s cooking. Those things will kill you. What you need are Cheese and Onion flavoured crisp sandwiches. Wash it down with some Cherry Coke and you’ll be back on your feet in no time.

So the clocks go back here tonight which is bad. Not only does it mean winter is on its way but small children and animals don’t give a tinker’s cuss about what time the clock says. “I think you’ll find that the clock says you have to stay in bed another hour,” I’ll say to Eva when she spring launches herself out of bed tomorrow. “Okay daddy,” she’ll say, “I’ll go back to bed. Sweet dreams.” And then that nice little fantasy I was having about Eva actually doing what I say will be shattered by Eva in real life demanding her breakfast when the clocks clearly say it’s six in the effing a.m. on Sunday morning goddammit.

One good thing about the arrival of autumn is that we can finally burn out some bush/tree stumps in the garden. The local council put up this blanket ban on fires during summer because it might burn down some protected native areas wildlife or something. If you look around the place it’s mostly grass and cows so I don’t know what their problem is. Well, grass apart from the reserve up the road from us that is. But that’s uphill, everyone knows fires like to travel to the lowest geographical point on the map. Or is that water?

Anyway we get to burn out some stumps that Juliette cleared out over the summer. Juliette, a.k.a. Edward Scissor Hands, managed to clear a massive area of our garden which has made moving the grass easier and helped cut down on the mosquito retreat we seem to have going. Bottom line is that we’ve got a tonne of branches and two stumps to burn down. Of course we could spend two days digging and cutting out the roots to those stumps but you know, fire.

So this leads me nicely to why I have it harder than you with your cancer thing. Last year we bought as brazier to use one day as night time heating for the time when the kids finally grow up, clear off and leave us to sip wine and stargaze on the veranda till the small hours rather than what we do now which is watch An Idiot Abroad on the computer while clock watching for 9pm when we have to turn in to bed because no way either one of us getting a full night’s sleep. So, this brazier has sat all summer in the garage with a bunch of blackened sticks sticking out of it. This was from my first attempt to burn a load of the branches when E. S. Hands esquire cut down half of our garden. Green wood doesn’t burn too well and the evidence in the brazier backed this up.

So yesterday I dragged the brazier out onto the lawn and set fire to those sticks just to see if the wood had seasoned enough so that next weekend we could actually start a proper fire. Success! The brazier full of wood burned really well and the sticks burnt down to hot coals in about half an hour. The problem was the brazier was on the lawn which I was supposed to be cutting, so I checked how hot the coals were and moved it and the ash plate (which theoretically caught any embers dropping onto the floor) into the garage. The thing was just mildly warm so I knew it was safe. But then I thought what if Juliette and the kids get back and they open up the garage to get feed for the chickens and Sam toddles to the back and sticks his hands into the coals and gets burnt? No, that’s not going to happen, I’ll put some water on it. So I grabbed the half bottle of water I had in the garage from my camping trip a couple of weeks ago.

You see I always take water with me when I go camping and use any empty bottles to pee in because it’s a real pain to get up and go to the toilet in the night. Because tents aren’t sound proof and a continuous whizz into a bottle makes it obvious what I’m doing I’ve perfected a weeing action that actually makes it sound like I’m decanting port. True story.

Anyway I’d chucked the pee bottle when I unpacked the car two weeks before but had a half full bottle of water in the garage festering away. Brilliant! So I poured the water onto the warm coals, the thing spat for a bit but then went cold and safe. Oh no, that’s totally not what happened. What happened is that I poured half a bottle of piss onto some apparently really hot coals and turned my garage into a sauna. A wee stinking sauna that smelt of kidneys and piss that is.

Two weeks before I’d obviously thrown out half a bottle of spring water and kept hold of half a bottle of my urine. Brilliant. Great clouds of piss stinking steam bellowed up from the brazier and in less that thirty seconds my view of the exit quickly got obscured by the fog (bearing in mind this is a garage and the exit was big enough to drive a car through). It wasn’t fire, it wasn’t dangerous, it was just my own little stinking piss pea souper.

The whole garage stank like a public toilet and as I emerged into the fresh air trailing piss-steam like Doc Brown jumping out of a time travelling DeLorean I just dry retched onto the grass and cursed my own stupidity. I cut the grass for an hour, went back and it still smelt like I’d hosted The Homeless Person’s Public Toilet Contest 2012. I gave up and shifted the brazier up to one of the paddocks by the water pump. I’m hoping a dose of rain will clear it out. Did I mention the brazier can double as a barbeque? Mmmmmm.

That night we were sat down watching something and Juliette snuggled up, sniffed a bit, paused and said “Have you been … have you been smoking? What have you been doing in the garage?”, “Getting a Turkish bath in my own piss steam m’dear, tis all the rage.” I replied.

Yeah, I didn’t really. I just had to set fire to some rubber tyres in the garage to clear the smell out. She’ll totally freak when she finds out. Keep it a secret eh?

Love Mark xxx


Of course I will, you lot won't breathe a word either......will you?

And as always, my dear dear brother........

Reasons to be Cheerful Week 13 #R2BC

It's the time of the week to look back and link up to Michelle's Reasons to be Cheerful. I know I say this every week, but it is a favourite of mine. It's all too easy to get wrapped up in the rubbish but if you really think about it there are always glimmers of loveliness. Don't forget you can join in, it's easy. Just write a post and link it up. I would recommend it, very therapeutic! Oh and before I forget, I'm hosting next weeks! Eek!

I came home from staying at Mum and Dad's last Saturday. It's great to be home and sleeping in my own bed! Plus I get to cuddle up to Fritz and MrC!

Although I had an awful gallbladder attack which I blogged about here, the injections the out of hours GP gave me seem to have helped relax muscles and generally ease the surgery pain. Bonus! I'd like to say it was worth the attack for that side effect.....but I'd be lying!

Amy has been home this week although she goes back Friday morning. It's been fab to spend some time with her, even of its under these circumstances. She completed an inventory of my freezer, so I've now a list of foodstuffs and quite a few suggested meals!

She also invited her mother-in-law to be over and I spent a pleasant couple of hours catching up with Jane and have arranged to see her next week too. Jane is a brilliant crafter which includes quilting, crocheting, sewing etc, so I'm hoping we'll have a couple of hours crocheting and she can improve my technique!

I don't want cancer or #tedthetumour to take over my life at the moment, but it's hard for it not to. I'm recuperating and waiting hear about what the've actually found. Had the date through for my out patients appointment where I will find out the histology. So I'm pleased the 24th of April is next milestone to aim for, so in the meantime I'm just going to enjoy resting up.

And finally I would like to play tribute to my sister Joy who graduated on Saturday. Joy's worked so hard to get her degree working full-time and looking after her wonderful family. I'm so proud of her! She is my inspiration! And is now studying for her BA!

I'm honoured to be hosting next week, so don't forget to check back then and I really would urge you to join in too! Go on, you know you want to!



I spent some time in a wheelchair today and it was an eye opening. I had surgery a couple of weeks ago and need to walk everyday increasing the distance gradually. However today my Mum and daughter,Amy, decided to combine my daily constitutional with a little shopping trip. I could manage the walk there and back, but wandering around the clothes racks would soon bring the trip to an end. And there is nothing worse than an aborted shopping trip because one party faints on you!. So I agreed to be pushed around in a wheelchair, I'd take one for the team.

It was a weird sensation seeing all the clothes from a different angle and on a plus side I got to really look at what was on offer while I was 'parked up' for Mum to have a rummage while I tried not to say 'Yeah, I know' in an Andy stylee.

Now I may have been feeling a bit paranoid and a fraud but I don't think that excused the lack of eye contact from other shoppers. I know I wasnt exactly at their eyeline but no-one looked at me at all.

I was invisible

I'd like to think it was because I was carrying jackets, handbags and had a basket full of the latest summer fashions (Amy got a gorgeous pair of lacy flat shoes in the childs section and no VAT! Sometimes it's good to have small feet) and I couldn't be seen underneath it all.

But the cashier didn't look either and spoke the whole time to my Mum

"hellloooo, I'm the one with the credit card even if I can't actually see the display to put my pin number in! "

But I suspect it's because we, the British Public, don't know what to say or do. So take the easy option and ignore.

I'm lucky, for me my wheelchair trip was a one off. But how does it feel for people who use them all the time? I'd like to think I make eye contact, and see a person not a wheelchair but I'm not so sure.

It's certainly made me think, has it you?


A gall bladder; my humble saviour

Yesterday was an ouch day. In fact it was a 'what the bloody hell was that for?!! ' day. I had a gallbladder attack which was so bad, we had to call the GP

The gall bladder is a small pear-shaped organ on the underside of the liver that is used to store bile. Bile is made in the liver and is stored in the gall bladder until it is needed to help the digestion of fat. So in theory the more fatty food you eat, the more chances of an attack. If you want to read more about it, here's a link to the NHS site

Yesterday I wasn't sure if I was hungry or feeling a bit nauseous, I'm out of sorts and taking painkillers, appetite is up and down. So I ate a banana. That's low fat, right? Well my body thought otherwise and the gallbladder went into overdrive

It started with an ache in the middle of my chest, just under the ribs. That's my first sign of an impending attack so took some solpadeine and omeprazole which usually works in about 20 minutes. So I lay back on the sofa praying. Not only cos I couldn't imagine coping with the pain on top of recovering from a nephrectomy, (when I'd hoped they would also remove the gall all but blumming didn't) but also MrC was cooking roast chicken, which smelt awesome (he doesn't cook often and I was really looking forward to it!)

But it wasn't to be. The pain increased to the point I was crying, I couldn't tolerate any noise and I was just concentrating on breathing through it. I was worried about throwing up! I'd burped earlier in the day and that had hurt like hell on my surgery sites, so throwing up? O M G! Was going to be intense.

It felt like someone was stood in the middle of my chest. Just the one foot. On the ball of that foot. In a stiletto heel. A red one! (do you get the picture?) It's was very intense with breakthrough electric like pain. On a pain score it was a 9 and almost unbearable. I was tense and the pain on the surgery site was increasing too.

The GP arrived just in time and suspected an infection in the gallbladder because I hadn't set it off with food. He talked about admitting me to hospital and I'll be honest I didn't care, I just wanted the pain to stop. But he decided to try and get the pain under control first so two pricks in my bum later and a course of antibiotics he left ( tramadol and a muscle relaxant in case you've got a dirty mind!)

We were to call back in an hour if things hadn't improved, it was a long hour. (MrC went off at one point to pack an overnight bag ) But eventually the intense pain lessened, and the break through pain went from searing lightening strikes to a fist thumping through my chest (I did think at one point is this what it feels like to be in the film Alien) And then all of a sudden I realised it had stopped. I couldn't stop smiling, it was like a release from feeling so crap, to no pain.

I when I say no pain, the surgery site pain was relieved too. I spent the evening resting in bed and have done the same but on the sofa today. I feel a lot better and on the plus side, I'm feeling better all over. I was worried about the discomfort from surgery and that it didn't seem to be getting better. Either I was turning a corner anyway, or the injections I had, especially the muscle relaxant, helped ease things and let me have a goodnight's sleep.

I can finally see a definite improvement, the light at the end of a surgery tunnel and long may it continue.

If you remember ted the tumour was found by accident when my gallbladder was under going an ultrasound. So it may be very painful, troublesome and unpredictable but it helped find the tumour then and helped relieve things now.

Just don't make a habit of it please

If you have any tips on how I can stop an attack I'd be grateful for a comment and if you think you may be a affected with a gallbladder problem then pop yourself off to the doctor. It's more common than you think!



Email update from my brother: cockerel & alpaca

It's Saturday, so another eagerly awaited email from my brother down under. I wasn't sure if he would write this week as we managed to Skype last night. The kids were adorable and my nephew looks so much like his Dad!
So I was very pleased upon checking said inbox to see he had! I had to read it in stages due to laughter. My staples came out yesterday and I'm convinced my insides will burst out if I cough or laugh too hard!
So, grab a cuppa and enjoy (hopefully it will make you laugh........ but not so much your insides burst)
Hi Fay,
Good to see you on Skype this morning even through the chaos, chatter and interference being run by your niece and nephew. Honestly I reckon if I had a couple of coked up chimps with me they’d sit still longer. I can’t even begin to imagine what’s going through the kid’s minds though when every Saturday morning we sit down to talk to a computer that for the rest of the week doesn’t talk back.

Anyway, I’m keeping it short this week because after being away last weekend at an SCA event I’m looking forward to a sleep in. Speaking of being away you’ll be pleased to hear that my cack in a bottle (an authentic smell of Cheapside circa 1377) came last in the Arts & Sciences competition. It’s like sniffing sh*t wasn’t something people really wanted to ponder too much on before putting pen to paper to mark me on historical accuracy.

I also had to stop someone from pouring it into their glass too at one point which led to a “warm discussion” on the merits of putting a warning on the bottle lid.

I consoled myself with the second place for my Anglo-Saxon honey sweetened cider in the same competition (now all drunk) and the Silver Arrow in the archery competition (now hanging in my garage). Silver was of course second place and not first, but I’d made repairs on the gold arrow the night before as a favour because I was the proud owner of a tube of Super Glue (both arrows were previously broken wooden arrows sprayed their respective colours). Sadly the glue had set in such a way so that the gold arrow was kind of bent. Who wants a bent golden arrow? Not me. You can keep it, oh yes. I’d much rather have the silver one which still had it’s elegant straightness … and gold is so gauche don’t you think?

So this week one of our cockerels died. We had three cockerels left here by the previous owners and now we’ve got two, which is much better. Obviously zero cockerels would be best but Juliette with her vegetarian ways thinks Father Time should handle the problem rather than me with a machete, a wooden tree stump and the opening lines from A Tale Of Two Cities. The cockerel who died was called Unpopular Cockerel. Obviously if he had a name among the chicken folk it might have been Charlie or Steve or Zin'rokh, Destroyer of Worlds or some such, but to us he was Unpopular Cockerel because none of the other chickens liked him. He’d get chased away by the other cooler cockerels and was generally seen on his own or being chased across the fields by the alpacas to the tune of Yakety Sax.

True to his name he also died in an unpopular way; I found him floating face down in the alpacas’ drinking water. He’d obviously been there a couple of days because when I fished him out he was a bit green around the neck area. So Unpopular Cockerel took his first and last short flight via an over arm shovel fling into the neighbouring ditch, there to be a meal for the rats, insects and bacteria which would strip his unpopular carcass to the bone in a week. A sad end to a sad life. He could have been so much more. Roast chicken, chicken casserole, fried chicken, chicken burgers …

The thing was the alpacas hadn’t complained about having a dead chicken in their drinking water. Basically because alpacas are from the camel family they make two camel’ish noises. The first is a warbling noise like a tauntaun from The Empire Strikes Back. In case you don’t remember it’s the animal that they ride around on the ice planet of Hoth and when Han’s tauntaun dies he slices the tauntaun’s belly open and stuffs Luke inside the guts to keep him warm (with the line “and I thought they smelled bad on the outside”). I bring this up only because I Googled how to spell tauntaun and found out they do tauntaun sleeping bags. This is a piece of marketing genius.

The second noise alpacas make is a sort of disappointed sigh. It’s the noise I imagine the Queen makes when looking into the Royal Biscuit Barrel and finding out there are no Chocolate Hob Knobs left. They make these noises all the time whether there’s a dead chicken in their drinking water or not so it’s kind of hard to spot when something is wrong. They amble up to have a drink, warble like a tauntaun, spot the dead chicken and give a disappointed sigh. They come up to the fence, warble like a tauntaun, spot me holding out alpaca pellets and give a disappointed sigh. Same noises, no difference.

Anyway, as we don’t know if Unpopular Cockerel was done in by the other chickens, the alapacas, a disease, old age or just falling in and drowning, we put a fence post in the drinking water so that if another chicken falls in and they’re not dead they can climb out. Obviously they’d feel a bit foolish and might ruffle their feathers a bit and pretend they meant to fall in on purpose but no harm would be done. Putting the piece of wood in though led to all four alpacas peering at the post for the following two days. Dead chicken there’s no staring, bit of wood and they’re all giving it the Paddington Bear hard stare. I don’t know, funny animals alpacas.

Anyway, my first e-mail to you mentioned Juliette’s nipples and she told me I wasn’t to write about them ever again so I’m glad I got to the end without them being mentioned. Chin up, hope you settle in back home okay and you don’t miss Dad’s cooking too much.

Take care of yourself, love Mark xxx
As always Mark........

1 year old

Well I may have missed the birthday by a day, but who cares? It's all relative. My blog is a year old!

I started it as a way to put some order into the chaos of my mind following the news of uterine cancer. Who knew that a year later it would be still helping me but through kidney cancer this time??

In the past year I've blogged about

Hysterectomy and subsequent all clear from that cancer

Many recipes have been written up, blogged and linked with Reluctant House Dad's Recipe Shed and Mrs M's Meal Planning Mondays.

Meal Planning Mondays has also turned into a place I celebrate/commiserate with weight loss or gain

I've lost nearly four stone and guest blogged over at Kate's Five F's Blog

I've linked up most weeks with Michelle's Mummy from the Heart Reasons to be Cheerful, and even guest hosted it once!

Discovered a tumour (which I called Ted) in my right kidney, which was removed on 14th of March

Emails from my brother have proved popular

Damaged my coccyx or what I call my #brokenbum

My daughter graduated, then moved to London for her first job

I've been happy, I've been p*ssed off, I've been all the emotions in between

My son celebrated reaching manhood, with his 18th birthday

I was at risk of redundancy and happily secured a job, which I've continued to enjoy

I've been sleepless and joined a gym!

Discovered a love (if not an aptitude) for photography, with pictures peppering posts

Visited the Eden Project for the first time and now can't keep away

Walked 13 miles for St Lukes and raised over £500

So 185 posts covering a multitude of emotions and events. I've learnt a lot about myself, shared a lot more and met some wonderful people along the way.

Wonder what the next year will hold?

Well if I've got anything to do with it weight loss will be in there, with some keep fit thrown in for good measure. I'll continue to fight cancer and sort my emotions out in writing. Celebrating my families successes and shouting from the roof tops how proud I am of them all will also feature! And I will carry on wrapping it all together with a smile, will to succeed and a positive attitude

So let's raise a glass to the next year and beating effing ted to a pulp! Who is with me?



Reasons to be Cheerful #R2BC Friday 22nd March

It's that time of the week to look back and celebrate the good things which have happened this week and link up with the wonderful Michelle at Mummy from the Heart. Go and take a look at her super doopa updated site by clicking here

It took me hours to write a progress post earlier today (RCS Syndrome) so I'm going to have to keep this one brief and to the point (famous last words!)

  1. I'm out of hospital and recuperating at my Mum & Dad's
  2. Dad is feeding me really well with some amazing meals
  3. Mum has made sure I haven't had to lift a finger (which is good, because I literally can't)
  4. Surgical clips are due out tomorrow
  5. I can now sleep in 3 positions!
  6. I walked today (2 minutes there and back!)
  7. I did it twice!
  8. My daughter is coming home for a week on Sunday to look after me
  9. My son has stepped up to the plate and has really looked after his Dad (normally my job!)
  10. I'm hoping to get back to my home at the weekend, yay!

Roll on next week when I'm sure the pain will have lessened!

RCS Syndrome

It's Thursday and how do I feel? I don't think tired is a descriptive enough word to convey how I feel. My arms just typing this feel like lead weights, it's like my batteries have been almost discharged and I'm running out of energy. I'm like the bunny with the wrong make of battery. But I will improve!

Came out of hospital Monday (was planned for on Sunday) as I'd a little crisis at home. MrC was taken ill and couldn't look after me. I experienced a whole raft of emotions. I was angry at him for not being able to cope for a few days, upset and guilty that I was angry at him, guilty more so because it was probably all the stress of me being hospital, which was making him ill, pissed off at the cancer for disrupting everyone's lives, pissed off with myself for being pissed off and get the picture.

Had a good cry, a great chat with my nurse (who was amazing) and another night was arranged which took the pressure off everyone. I'm grateful MrC was sensible enough to admit he couldn't cope, before things got messy! It's made me realised he's more poorly than he's actually letting on! (he's still poorly, but getting there)

I was discharged Monday and went back to Mum and Dad's, where I still am.

Aren't parents amazing? I'm so lucky for a start they are able to look after me, but they are just so calm and pragmatic about everything, and take things in their stride. (especially Mum) Their walk-in shower is a godsend! Mum even dried my hair for me (MrC would've tried know what I'm saying) Plus Dad is an amazing cook!

I've been treated to amongst other things, steak with white bean mash (it's the future!), warm pear and walnut salad, homemade macaroni cheese (comfort food) and runny scrambled eggs which always remind me of being off school when I had some teeth out and he looked after me.

I'm taking things very gently and easy. Had a walk earlier today, managed about 50 metre's! I'm finding it hard though as I keep comparing my progress with my big operation last year. I just seemed to improve quicker then. Or maybe I'm suffering from RCSS, otherwise known as rose coloured spectacles syndrome.

Was talking with @IanBoylett on Twitter who was diagnosed with kidney cancer and had a nephrectomy last year, picking his brains. Ian has put my mind at rest. He said:

' I thought keyhole surgery was a couple of days in hospital and a couple of weeks off work so was fed up v early on lol '

He was out of action for six weeks. I was also under the impression keyhole was quicker and easier. My experience at the moment doesn't support that impression!

I'm out of sorts mentally with everything and I keep questioning myself. Am I trying hard enough to get better or am I malingering? Because I've not felt myself, acting out of character, I keep second guessing and comparing with last time.

But I've got to stop!

Last time was just that, last time. Things are different, changed. You can only compare like with like. They are different operations, under different circumstances. I will feel better soon.

The staples (may get a photo beforehand!) come out tomorrow and the plan is to go back home when my daughter comes down from London for a few days. She's amazing too and with my son's help (who has been keeping an eye on his Dad) I will be fine, back home and sleeping in my own bed!

It can't happen too soon. I will miss my Dad's cooking but not as much as I'm already missing this handsome chap!

And I must remember, it's only been 8 days!



My brother's e-mail; his nearest town's history

I got sent this one on the day of my surgery. I love my brother but it wasn't on high on my list of priorities. If I thought I was going to die on the operating table, I may have found time to read it. But my blog isn't called Glass Half Full for nothing.
It's rather long, having all the drugs pumped into me (mind you they are rather nice drugs) meant my eyes didn't focus too well, so only just finished it myself. And as usual, thought I should share!

Hi Fay,
So I don’t know if you’re going to get this e-mail before your surgery because I’m posting out on my Wednesday night which equates to your Wednesday morning. Eva’s got a world globe, a crappy five dollar one that has a sloppy over lapping join down the Prime Meridian which makes the UK look about 10 miles across, but if you were to push a knitting needle through England through the core and out the other side it would come out somewhere near New Zealand. I’m literally on the other side other planet to you. Being in England there was always that comfort that you could think “what are they doing?” and be sure that if you were having breakfast or watching “Strictly Come Dancing” it could roughly equate to what some one else was doing and you could just give them a call. That totally disappears when you’re on the other side of the world. So sadly while you’re undergoing life changing surgery I’ll be fast asleep. I could stay up if it would help. E-mail me in the next 5 seconds and I’ll do it. No? Okay, night then….

So this week I got our Honda serviced. I bit like you really. Actually that reads all kinds of wrong, I’ll just get some mind bleach. So this week I got our Honda serviced, totally not like you, although I don’t know what you get up to in your spare time … Okay, so this week I got our Honda serviced and they said it would take a couple of hours. A couple of hours in Cambridge I thought? What shall I do?

In ancient Rome a common way of saying goodbye if the 2000 film Gladiator is anything to go by was to say “Strength and honour” and thump your chest before raising your arm in a clenched fist salute. In Star Trek the Vulcans say “Live long and prosper” before doing the difficult double fingered V-sign. In our house there’s so much to do that if Juliette leaves me alone for the day she has her own saying - it’s “Be productive”. This is while I give the one fingered salute behind her back. Ha, ha, ha. That’s not true really about the finger. It’s both hands I do it with. I make both hands bob up and down like a Whack-A-Mole game too. Ha, ha, ha. Not really. (Insert your own uncomfortable long pause here.)

So when I said I’d be spending two hours in Cambridge there was some talk of me “being productive” but I won the argument by saying that it’s sometimes okay to stop and smell the roses. Or in my case, stop and have a coffee while reading a book. Now if you were to take a look at Google Maps you’ll find a large lake in Cambridge called Lake Te Kouto. It’s interesting because the lake was formed after an earthquake several hundred years ago which meant the land dropped around twenty meters. It’s like a man made quarry in the middle of town without looking like a quarry (I’ve just found you can Google Image Lake Te Kouto too). It’s a very pleasant lake because you can walk around it and all around the sides there are steep banks with hundred year old trees on it. Of course now it’s known as Lake Death (da, da, daaaaa!) because a tree fell over thanks to the trees all growing at twenty degree angles because the sides of the slopes are so steep. The tree in question killed a dog. It’s a ticking time bomb of tree death park I tells yea.

So I thought I’d take a shortcut through Lake Te Kouto to get to town. I found what remained of the downed tree, it’s stump perfectly lined up pointing to the only doggy poop bin at the lake. So if anything there was a warning from nature to stay away from doggy poop bins and let your pooch’s crap decompose where it likes. Further on I did find evidence of the council doing something about potentially dangerous trees; two white men with crusty dreadlocks (the badge of an arborist) , both dressed in green and the sort of harnesses used to repel down cliff faces were coning off a tree before taking it down with an impressive collection of chain saws. This was an observance to safety I’d not seen in New Zealand before.

For public access there are many paths cut into the sides of Lake Te Kouto that are so steep and without any sort of physical barrier between you and a tumble into the void that Bear Grylls would be happy to stumble off of one to demonstrate how to survive if one were to be stranded near a landscaped New Zealand lake. Whenever I go down one of these so called foot paths with Eva I’m like “No, Eva, daddy will walk on the outside”, and she’s like “Look daddy! A snail shell! Rocks!” and I’m like, “Look Eva, instant death. Do you want me to have a heart attack? Slow down, stay away from the edge, get back, get back! We’re nearly at the bottom. I’ll have to rope us together next time, Jesus Christ who made this path? We didn’t all grow up in the bleeding Himalayas.”

But I managed to clear Lake Death and found myself on Victoria Street, the main street through the centre of town. It’s interesting because I once took the piss out of the Cambridge street layout to a local. I said that they built the main street all the way towards the river and then realised that they’d aligned it in such a way that to continue Victoria Street they had to build a massive bridge over gorge through which the mighty Waikato River ran. The Waikato River is the reason why the whole region is called Waikato and it’s not a particularly wide river, but it’s swift and deep. It’s pronounced Why-cat-O for some reason, when for my money and reading skills it should be Why-kate-o (although you can pronounce it like you’re a Japanese Samurai with a long drawn out O if you want – yes I’m looking at you University of Waikato radio advert guy).

If you see this gorge it should by all rights should have a rope bridge spanning the gap with Indiana Jones, Short Round and Willie Scott crossing it. They’d have just started laying out the kerb stones and someone would have gone “Oh f*ck! We’ve only gone a pointed the street off a bloody great cliff. Now we’re going to have to put up a bridge.” To be fair they did put up a bridge worthy of bungee jump or two but failed to make it very wide. Cars crossing it have to be careful not to high five their wing mirrors as the drivers try not to look over the side and wonder how long it would take before they hit the water if the bridge collapsed.

Where am I going with all this? Oh yes. I was in town and I decided I’d go to the Cambridge Museum to find out more about the town I’d chosen to live closest to. When I got there (it was near the bridge, next to a Liquorland, which if you’ve never heard of this store it’s basically a barn sized off license - the clue's in the name really) I found a building that once was the town’s courthouse. Obviously it wasn’t anymore because they’d white washed the raised words saying Court House and painted Cambridge Museum next to it. The doors said it would open at 10amand as it was 9.50am I sat down on the world’s most uncomfortable bench and tried to read a book.

Shortly after an old man and woman arrived and proceeded up the path to the museum with the old man kicking the hedges that bordered the path in a manner of someone checking to see if the hedge had sprung an air leak or something. You’ve got to look out for those flat hedges. To my surprise they pushed the door open and went inside. I waited because it wasn’t 10am but then a young mum and her two boys turned up and did the same (but without the hedge kicking). Feeling foolish I walked up and went in.

I read few information boards in the entrance and then wandered into a room on the right containing Victorian pictures of men sporting various forms of facial hair and the determined look of the patriarchal Empire builder. Another kindly old gentlemen (not the hedge kicker) came out from the back and explained that they were inundated with visitors this morning (five, six if you count me) and that the curator would be with me shortly. He then asked where I was from. “England?” he asked, obviously deducing it from my accent, “Six kilometres out of town.” I replied. “Marvellous,” he said, “some people live all their lives in Cambridge and have never visited the museum.” I found that hard to believe what with being so close to a Liquorland but I let it slide. He then handed me a glass marble. “Have a look around, “he said, “and put the marble in the cup next to the display you like the most.” Fantastic, an interactive museum! So I had a look around and learnt the following …

Cambridge was formed in 1864 as a British army outpost because it was the last place a paddle steamer could get up the Waikato River. Hence Victoria Street heading off a cliff. Folks actually used to turn left at the cliff and go down to some long vanished docks. Boy did I feel stupid. Cambridge was named after the Duke of Cambridge who was in charge of the army at the time. Cambridge was formed because of some nasty land wars going on between the Maori and the Colonial Government called the Invasion of the Waikato. The Maori lost, all very complicated, but at the end the Twelve Star Redoubt as the fort was called got eventually taken down, farmers moved in, drained the swampy land, planted trees and started farming cows. Then the folks in Cambridge settled in and sent their sons off to World War I (1914-18), then World War II (1939-45), then the Vietnam War (1955-75) and then first showing of Star Wars (1977).

There’s a story to all this though because although the museum was only two rooms and it was packed full of nick-knacks and stuff that had been carefully collected to show the history of some of the long running local families, there in one corner was a glass case showing Maori artefacts. Most of the objects involved stuff for clubbing Maori enemies over the head because if there’s one thing the traditional haka at the start of the rugby should tell you is that Maori aren’t backwards at coming forward to rip their enemies heads off and spit down their necks.

There, on top of the cabinet, was a purpose built model display. On it was scale models of Maori lookout towers, canoes, war parties, a bit of cannibalism and stuff like that with little information cards telling the reader what the Maori and English names were for all the hardware. Brilliant. However for some reason, someone had at some point (and then someone must still think it was okay today) collected a load of …
Well, have you ever been to a charity shop or a playgroup and had a look at the plastic dolls. There’s always a black African girl doll there somewhere. Law of averages. That’s cool, that’s groovy. Anyway sometimes they’re the little four inch size dolls. This happens to be the exact scale fit for this little Maori model. All I’m saying is I’m impressed that they managed to find twenty off them and make grass skirts for all of them too. Can’t quite see such a display going uncommented in say the British Museum or the Louvre, but you know, most people in Cambridge don’t even visit Cambridge Museum. And come to think of it, I haven’t seen any Maori in Cambridge either. I wonder why?

In case you’re wondering I placed my marble in the cup next to the display of little drawers that when you opened them contained stuff like snail shells and rocks. Eva would love them. She loves Extreme Snail Shell and Rock Collecting.

After you reminded me last week I've totally forgotten about it being Mother's Day in the UK on Sunday. Looks like I'm going to have to Moonpig the sh*t out of that problem. Hope your operation goes well. Obviously let me know if it doesn't, I’ll totally fail to do anything about it. If I were religious I’d pray for you but I’m not, so the closest I can do is just think about you. But not when I’m asleep obviously because then I’m dreaming about being an awesome zombie slayer.

Love Mark

As always Mark

So, show Mark some love too in the comments, and ask him a question or two for the next email from down under

I'm not chunky!

Hooray, it's finally happened and #Tedthetumour plus my right kidney has been removed. It's felt like an age to get to this point. I'm still in hospital, home tomorrow or Saturday, but am doing really well.

So interested in the details? Then read on

Wednesday I presented myself to the Freedom Unit, part of Derriford Hospital at 11.30am. I'd followed the fasting rules to the letter (last meal at 7am, last clear fluids at 9am. I'd even set alarms to make sure I didn't miss the deadlines and therefore food!) and sat in the waiting room, feeling relaxed and prepared. (that last bit maybe a lie)

My first consultation was with the anaesthetist which went smoothly. I even found out why they always ask about loose teeth (apparently there is a chance teeth are knocked and broken, but was assured they have insurance to pay for dental treatment....gulp) Followed swiftly by the nurse who asked the same questions all over again, including could you be pregnant. Hello? You know question 4 where you asked about previous surgeries? Hysterectomy?? ( she did apologise and said it has to be asked )

Back to the waiting room for about 20 minutes, everything's going smoothly, before seeing my consultant. I would love to able to say I like the guy....but I can't. He has the bedside manner of a dead duck. I had warned MrC, but I'm sure he thought I was exaggerating. I wasn't. But I don't have to like the guy, just so long he's good at his job. And he must be with a manner like that. Apparently I'm chunky, his words. He said them the first time I met him when he told me the tumour had a 90% chance of being cancer. Maybe I'm being unfair to the guy, maybe I don't like him more for the cancer news than the word chunky.....? Either way you don't call a lady chunky and certainly not one you are telling probably has cancer to boot!

But anyway, he explained the risks, complications etc, but nothing mentioned about the gallbladder, the reason why I had an ultrasound scan which found #tedthetumour in the first place. So I asked 'and you are taking the gallbladder too?' Fraid not was his not so cheery reply. Great! So another surgery sometime soon to go through. He then proceeded to tell me he couldn't actually see any problems with my gallbladder on the CT scan, so I shouldn't be having any pain. WHAT! NO PAIN!? I'll give you no pain!! Bless the young doctor with him, who said the gallstones don't show up well on CT's, but from the ultrasound it was clear I did. I was ready to lamp the consultant otherwise!

So, sent back to the waiting room to contemplate the bombshell of still having a gallbladder. I tried to put a positive spin on it by saying if that's the only thing to go wrong we'll be lucky. 40 minutes later I'm eating my words. Apparently the bed manager is struggling to find a bed for me! WTF!!! The next half an hour was the longest ever. All the time I've spent worrying and stressing, to get this far and have no bed? I was mentally writing a scathing blog post, MrC was writing a press release when we got the news "we found one!"

All hands to the pump from there and I was in being put to sleep ( not in the sick animal way ) in 15 minutes flat. But the best was yet to come. The bed they had found, was actually on a private ward! So I've my own room, own toilet ( although not used it yet what with a umm, catheter in ummmm, place ) nurses who have time to nurse, no one else to see my bare my bum when trying to get comfy in bed and beautifully prepared food.

I am so lucky!

Am doing well, #tedthetumour has been sent off for analysis and I will know the results in four weeks. My consultant has said in his opinion it was cancerous, but what does he know....I'm also not chunky!

It's time

Time has been an issue for me. At the beginning of this process I complained about how long I needed to wait and now I can't believe the operation to remove my right kidney (where #tedthetumour currently resides) and I hope my troublesome gallbladder, is actually happening.

The last four weeks have been very hard for me to cope with, because basically I haven't. And that in itself has been hard to deal with. My ability to cope with whatever life has thrown my way was something I've been proud of. I've spent a lot of time looking for the answer to why I couldn't just get on with things.

I hated the person I'd become. A person who cried at the drop of the hat and it didn't matter where. ( Luckily they know me well in Tesco ) A person who couldn't concentrate on a task. A person who flipped out as soon as the stress level rose by a milimeter. I just couldn't understand why I was reacting like this.

I've spent a lot of time trying to work out what was different this time round, to find the answers and to find me again.

I've spoken to people, a lot of people. People who know me well, people who only know me as @FayC and an avatar pic, people who have professions and experience in helping people like me (lets face it, I've talked to anyone who'd listen and maybe some who didn't want to!) and they've all said the same. 'Its normal to feel and act like this'

A someone who was shouting from the rooftop, woe is me?? Really??

It wasn't until someone I love very much described me as a lab rat, scrabbling around a maze trying to find the way out (an apt if not very flattering description!) that I realised the damage I was doing to myself and those around me.

Just because I was being told its okay to cry and get upset, be self absorbed and question 'why me?' it didn't make it right.

So my answer?

Stop looking and just accept.

Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them.

Albert Einstein

So it's with this new found wisdom that finds me due at Derriford Hospital for the usual pre-op stuff to get through (which includes the donning of the sexy stockings) and hospital gowns which don't actually close so your neighbours get a flash of your bum everytime you move.

another thing to accept!!!!