Kate's Blog

Follow me if you will as I try to navigate through the ups and downs of my world.

I'm writing this blog to help me make sense of all that has happened - from my diagnosis with non-Hodgkins lymphoma while pregnant with my third child in May 2008
, through to my reflections on chaotic family life as I try to pick up the pieces of my life again.

The kids are so small, and I'm working hard to keep us all safe and to stay in remission.

Stay with me - it won't be all doom and gloom I promise!

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Happy Christmas....of course

A belated Happy Christmas to everyone and lots of good good wishes for the new year. I've been woefully inadequate in my posting and my reading of my favourite blogs. But full action will be resumed in the new year. It's just been a lovely - but full on - Christmas. Hattie has chicken pox - the first spots appeared on Christmas Day(!) and the others have variations of a sick/flu bug which is going around. But, still lovely despite all of this: the right combination of being at home and seeing all the family. And there's still the new year knees-up to come! Exhausting.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

This Christmas

It'll be turkey on Christmas Day - I'm making chestnut and sausage stuffing, my lovely roast potatoes (I hope they'll be lovely!), lots of other bits and pieces and chocolate prune and armangnac pudding with rum butter. It's my first Christmas Day in my own home with just us and the kids. My first Christmas day where I'm in charge instead of my mother. And I'm excited. I want it to be perfect.

We're off to stay with my mum, my brother and sister, their partners and my four small nephews on Boxing Day - and that'll be lovely too. The kids all adore each other; seven cousins aged between 7 and 6 months, with another coming in March, will certainly make for chaos. Proper family chaos that's for sure!

Due to my German heritage, Christmas Eve is important to us too. We exchange our presents entirely on Christmas Eve around a tree festooned with lit candles (try buying the tree candle holders anywhere in this country..... I've had to resort to ebay!), and we eat bockwurst and potato salad with rollmops. I'm not making the Stollen though - that's still the domain of my mum who makes perfect batches - I hope enough to take one home for us. We have a magical Christmas angel who comes to light the candles on the tree when it gets dark while the kids outside the room press their ears to the door to see if they can hear her speak or catch a glimpse of her out of a window as she flies away. When I was a child, Father Christmas didn't figure at all in our Christmas, he was always a mystery to me really; but for my kids I've had to build him into the story -without Father Christmas things are too complicated at school and with their friends, so now he comes and leaves the stockings later on Christmas Eve. In that way we can leave a mince pie and a glass of whisky for Santa and a carrot for the reindeer.... and attempt to amalgamate the two traditions. I'm always confused though and have to remind myself who does what - when I was a child the Angel came back to leave the stocking!

I'm coming up to two years in remission. This year I'm going to a New Year's Eve party. I haven't felt able to since the diagnosis. Two years ago at Christmas I was going through radiotherapy -and due to my poor prognosis I had very little confidence that I would be around for the next Christmas. Last Christmas I was still hounded by profound anxiety and ill health. This Christmas I think I believe I might just be here for the next. That's progress for me. I think I can face this New Year with new optimism. Life's a scary business that's for sure.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Weekend Bliss

My mother is having the kids this weekend. I'm picking them up from school and driving them up the snowy - but thawing - A1 into Northumberland. And then I'm driving home without them. The joy! Two mornings without being woken at the crack of dawn, two evenings when we can act like relaxed, sane people - the world will be our oyster!

I don't think we have plans to do much really, and we're too skint for anything too glamorous. But, we can read the papers from cover to cover without interruption. We can watch more than one episode of our beloved Mad Men box-set without falling asleep because it's so late. We can please ourselves. A little light lunch in town? Yes please. An afternoon trip to the cinema? Quite possibly.

We've all been on top of each other during these past couple of weeks - and I've been getting quite stressed and more shouty than I've wanted to be. This weekend is coming at just the right time. Thanks, Mum.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Fed Up!

It's so cold! It was -11 when we set off on the school run this morning. It took me the best part of half an hour to de-ice the car and get it vaguely driveable.

Because our backyard - where we usually park the car - and the back lane too, is like a snow-covered ice-rink, the car was parked about a ten minute walk away from the house on the main road. So the de-icing happened with the kids and Hattie in tow. Suffice to say Hattie did not enjoy the experience - and lets face it, neither did I.

And then we got stuck pulling away onto the road. Cue lots of wheel spinning and snow flying. We have a big heavy car which is not 4-wheel drive. And don't I know it? We're not equipped here in England for this kind of thing. Even up here in the north.

So - even the most everyday tasks become major deals. I suppose there is a sense of achievement which goes along with getting the kids in through the school doors. Hmmmm.

I've got lots to do - it's Christmas soon - hurry up and melt, snow. Enough already.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Cooking and Cooking and Cooking Some More

And now to more prosaic matters. The cold cold weather and crazy snow has had the same old effect on me - I've been cooking like a dervish.

We've lit our woodburner every day for the past week - the warm, sauna-like heat a balm for the terrors which hit us when we venture out of the door. It's a military operation getting the kids to school or buying a pint of milk. I've given up entirely on the car for the time being.

And I'm cooking. I've made my jars of pear chutney, ready to give to people as Christmas presents. A certain skint state has forced presents of economy this year - but corny though it is I've had much more pleasure from my rows of beautifully sterilised, prettily lidded and labelled jars, than I have from lining up bought gifts in previous years. And there's still homemade lemon curd and honeycomb to be made for the same lucky recipients.

And I have been cooking my way through the latest Nigella Lawson book as I threatened to do. Today we're having meatloaf - not something I've really thought to cook before, being English through and through. But this looks delightful with slices of egg running through the middle, and bacon wrapped around the top. Not a vegetarian's idea of heaven, I'll agree, and certainly not the lightest of meals it's true. We don't eat that much meat ourselves - but there's something about the snow that makes me want to snuggle right down with food and warmth and forget about other more aesthetic pleasures.

I'll let you know how the meatloaf turns out.

Snow - thinking of Dickens!

Snow weighing heavily in the gutters on the roofs. Snow lying wonkily along silhouetted branches. Snow feet deep on paths, hedges and pavements. Snow breathing, snow falling and snow settling on a new, stark landscape where nothing seems the same.

Old people, bent like sticks, wrapped up fruitlessly against the cold, struggle along the streets clutching packages of precious rations in their hands. With luck their tins and jars will last till the 'snap' is over - make a nice ham sandwich and a cup of tea against the cold! Breath rising in the cold house, saving the heating, they huddle next to the one bar on the heater.

Kids - blurs of colour aganst the white - slip and slide, their shrieks hanging in the cold air, static and frozen in time.

Cars, driven by the most intrepid and devil-may-care, slide and skid around the bends in the road, their tyres spurting sludgy snow onto those venturing out on foot.

And we, watching the snow falling, falling, falling tune our radios to the local stations to hear the latest on whether the school is open - radiant hope and exhilaration only a moment away for the children.

And it's still November.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Beer and a Latte?

I spent the weekend pulling pints and making complicated coffees on the enormous coffee machine at my mum's picturesque pub on the beautiful Northumbrian coast. She and my sister run the pub - it has its own micro brewery which brews fantastic beer if you're into that sort of thing (I'm more a whisky girl myself), and serves amazing food in the evening, so much so that the bookings are taken weeks ahead.

This weekend and next they're short-staffed so I was drafted in. I was working in the evening too - remarkably stressful having to glide around taking orders, opening wine while trying to look as if I know what I'm doing when I don't! I wasn't invited into the kitchen. Thank heavens.

I was rather tired by the time I finished on Sunday afternoon. The weather was terrible all weekend and consequently the pub was constantly completely packed with walkers trying to wait out the deluge. Many hot chocolates were consumed (by them not me!)

I left the kids behind in Gateshead on Saturday morning with poor Roger who was exhausted at the start of the weekend and beyond exhausted by the end. When I walked back in last night at tea-time chaos reigned with Hattie shrieking, Ed upside down on the sofa and Martha giggling horrendously in that particular way she has.

I finished making the tea, and after the usual bathing and reading and all the other bed-time mayhem, sank onto the sofa for an hour before springing upwards once more to tackle the ironing. Roger who had arrived home on Friday from work with the usual pile of marking and other work, retreated upstairs to his study. And much, much later we muttered goodnight to each other before falling asleep. I think we've exchanged a couple of sentences -if that - this weekend. Crazy - but at least I got a lie-in on Sunday morning before I started work. That's more than Rog got.

Monday, 15 November 2010

De Duh De Duh... De-Duh

I've started another writing course at the university here in Newcastle. It's full of confident people discussing the merits of the iambic meter. Hmmmm. And now I have to write a poem for Thursday. Why do I do these things?

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

To Newcastle

Recently I went to hear Ian McEwan speak at the Newcastle University, just over the river from where we live in Gateshead. He was amazing - so clever, articulate and erudite. Well, what would you expect from Ian McEwan?

I left here at 6.30pm. Rog had just walked in the door while I attempted to make a pretty sharp exit. And I left - the kids to their bed-time routine and the house to its mess.

Later, after the event I walked on my own back to the car across the beautiful old campus, underneath the ivy-covered arches and I felt acutely transported back to another time in my life 20 years before.

You see, I did my undergraduate degree at this university, far away from what was my home then in the south of England and when I worked it out it really was 20 years ago - more - when I started.

Walking across the flagstones past the building in which I had studied, all those years ago, I passed a group of students - kids they looked to me - with arms linked, all chatting and laughing. I felt as if I was passing myself coming the other way. Would I recognise my 41 year-old self, filled with different pre-occupations, hurrying back in the other direction to my three children? Would I have expected my life to have been as it has?

Cutting through onto the road I'd parked my car, the hospital loomed dark against the night sky. And there too were so many memories. In that hospital was where I'd had my three babies, and also where I'd had all my cancer treatment. The actual ward three storeys up where I'd endured my chemotherapy and my bone marrow transplant had been due for demolition not long after my treatment finished. The building was shaped like a thin arm and for a long time the partial demolition cut open the end so one could see inside the three storeys at once like a tube with the end severed. Into that maw I could see the space where the beds had been, hanging open to the elements. Because there were people who were so very sick in that ward, fresh air was not allowed. Instead there was some kind of system which kept the air purified and hideously stuffy - it was one of the many discomforts about staying there. I would drive past and feel glad that there was air in there at last.

Now, however that part of the hospital has been entirely demolished, and the cancer centre rebuilt elsewhere in the city with flash new facilities and all mod-cons - that's where I have my appointments now. And back at the old hospital the space where I had all my treatment just doesn't exist anymore. It's thin air. And that makes me feel very very strange. It's almost like a dream - or a nightmare. It's almost like it didn't happen. But that ward, those rooms, that space where my worst nightmare did come true are etched in my mind and in my memory. I dream about them and they don't exist anymore. I cannot successfully convey how uneasy their absence makes me feel.

Driving home over the beautiful Tyne Bridge, the river lit up by lights on the Millenium Bridge and the Sage, I realised what a connection I have with the city of Newcastle. It's my home now - my adopted home. Twenty-two years ago I came here to study English at the university. I had a fabulous time and made friends and memories which last until today. Then I left for a few years - did my teacher training in the south and worked for a while down there. But the place lured me back and for the past 14 years I've lived in Northumberland and then the city. I've married here, had my children here, nearly died here and hopefully will grow old here.

I miss where I grew up and those country lanes along whch I walked and rode are part of my fabric but this city is a shape superimposed on top, blending and blurring until I almost can't tell which came first. My southern accent will forever mark me out as a newcomer, my children are already skilfuly mixing the Geordie and the South in their speech. And they truly belong to the city, born in the centre. This is their home.

(apologies for this re-posting!)

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Birthdays Etc

Just totally exhausted. A weekend of birthday celebrations have taken their toll - including yesterday taking 6 very over-excited children to the cinema and for pizza.

And now I have to iron lots and lots of shirts and a plethora of school uniform. I'm watching the X-Factor results but they're not helping. Am kind of fed up with the X-factor although have just seen Kylie who I do quite like in her pop-disco kind of way.

Another week of packed lunches and school runs loom. But I'm off to London on my own next weekend to see a friend so that'll keep me going.

Must head to the gym this week as well - have managed to enjoy quite a few birthday treats myself over the weekend!

Friday, 5 November 2010

Bonfire Night and Ed

Out of our loft bedroom window we have a panoramic view over the city. This evening, after dark, on my way to put Hattie to bed we paused to watch the fireworks exploding in jewelled colours near and far, wherever we looked. Hattie was frightened and transfixed in pretty much equal measure.

It is Ed's birthday today - and I've always told him that fireworks went off everywhere in celebration on November 5th 2003. Being born on Bonfire Night clearly has nothing to do with it! And tonight he was off with his dad and sister to watch the fireworks at the park near our house.

But Ed has never been scared of fireworks, even as a very young child - while Martha has always been terrified until this year. And tonight he told with me with entire seriousness that the reason for this was that he'd heard fireworks just after birth. True he was born at 7.30 in the evening which is firework time, but he was also minutes old and in a hospital. But who am I to argue?

Anyhow, I'm excited and pleased for him that he's reached 7. But he's not a baby anymore - he's far from being that newborn in a spotty babygrow. And I'm sad at the way time marches on.

Tomorrow we're taking Ed and some friends to the cinema and for a pizza. Sounds rather exhausting!

Now, it's an episode of Mad Men and then bed to continue 'The Slap'. What an exciting life I lead.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

To Bhutan

I got up at 3am this morning to take my mum to the airport. She's going to Bhutan - how amazing is that?

As she disappeared into the airport out of the rainy night dragging her bag behind her, I had to suppress a fairly large pang of envy. While she was heading adventure-wise, I was heading back to making three packed lunches and the school run.

Oh how things change - the boot is on the other foot now. I remember so clearly today, my mum dropping me at Victoria train station aged 19 with a rucksack I couldn't carry, terrified and starting an overland trip through Europe: final destination - Kathmandu. A few years later after university, I travelled in the States and then went to Canada for a fabulous solo trip. And in between those trips were many visits to Florence, Rome, Berlin and Paris to name but a few. I think my mum was always envious. My parents couldn't really do a huge amount of travel abroad due to my dad's haemophilia as well as more latterly his struggle with HIV. They travelled in their campervan around Scotland and Ireland and a little in France but that was really the limit.

Now, that my dad has so very sadly been dead for the past 12 years, my mother has her footloose freedom just as I've lost mine. And now it's me waving her off with wanderlust in my heart.

I'm sending her all my love on her travels. She's pretty brave really, setting off on her own at 62 to a relatively little-known place a long way from home.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Diary of a Harrassed Mother

Kate is hassled. She is the often failing mother of Ed (7), delightful in a loud, herd-of elephants, trumpeting sort of way, Martha (5) quite self-possessed and very stroppy already and Harriet (2) who is convinced she’s in charge, and often actually is.

6.20: Alarm goes off. Or rather annoying clock radio starts playing ‘Today’ just as the business news starts. Through my sleep fuddled brain I remember that this is Tuesday. If this is Tuesday then I need to get up especially quickly. Ed who has haemophilia has to have one of his IV injections this morning. Preferably while husband is still home so that he can hold his hand (and mine) through the agonising process.

I shower at the speed of light, throw on whichever clothes are on the top of the pile of clean ones which came up from the drier (ahem, a couple of days ago actually) but haven’t yet been put away, and rush downstairs ignoring Hattie’s shouts to be ‘getted from my bed’. Trying not to trip over Martha who is following me like a shadow grumbling quietly, I rush between the bedrooms laying out clothes for Hattie and school uniform, peering with bleary eyes to see if yesterday’s jumpers will do again for at least today. Ed’s usually won’t.

7.am: Ed’s treatment. I find the vein first time thank heavens, so not too much trauma to us all. Ed disappears straight away back upstairs to continue building his enormous lorry terminal which takes up his whole room and involves every bit of furniture, cushion, piece of bedding and wooden bricks he can lay his hands on. Weakly I raise my voice at his retreating back and implore him not to make a mess. This phrase falls on deaf ears.

7.15: porridge on to cook (now a daily must since I watched a programme about salt in breakfast cereals - damn TV). I did remember to switch on loaded dishwasher last night though unlike the night before. This represents an achievement.
Harriet appears downstairs with her dad who has got her dressed. This is his job every morning – hooray. She declares that it’s not rainy enough for a ‘fudd’. She means flood – and has been absolutely obsessed with them since the week before when I had to drive through a flash flood on the way back from picking up the kids from school. Granted actually it was scary – I had a nasty moment when I thought I couldn’t go backwards or forwards. Shades of ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’. We had to go through it. It’s a big topic for Hattie.

7.20: Packed lunches next: husband’s first and then the kids. Why didn’t I make them last night? What’s wrong with me? Moment’s pain, long-term gain. Remember that. I hate packed lunches. Have to dodge cross teacher husband running around flinging things into his bag and muttering about how late he is again.

7.25: Porridge is served. No – I haven’t finished the lunches yet; I’m multi-tasking. I quickly chop up strawberries and chuck on blueberries – see, how spoilt they are. They would of course infinitely prefer coco-pops and after clearing up the sticky mess which Hattie leaves all over herself and the table, so would I. They’re allowed corn-flakes and things at weekends. Mainly so I don’t have to make the bloody porridge.

7.30: husband leaves for work and children eat their porridge. I finish the lunches dodging Ed’s accusing and critical attempts to see what horrors I’m putting in there. ‘Why can’t we have crisps every day like everyone else?’ is a constant and very tedious refrain.

7.30: I long for peace and quiet, a strong coffee and an almond croissant. Maybe a long and comfortable train commute (first-class? why not) and then a lovely day writing successful and witty pieces in a fun, lively environment. Glass of wine after work? Why not. Etc

7.35: I shoo/usher/yell at kids as they make their way upstairs to get dressed. The notion of brushing teeth before putting on uniforms is somehow so terribly hard to grasp. This is important to a mummy but extremely unimportant to an Ed who often appears back downstairs with toothpaste all over yesterday’s carefully preserved school sweatshirt. Martha shouts several times about what Ed isn’t doing to get ready, while running giggling like a dervish between bedrooms. Butter woudn’t melt with Martha.

7.45: Kids still not downstairs. Plenty of strange and very loud hootings, rumblings and thumpings from Ed’s bedroom. My blood pressure is starting to rise. Sometime ago I came to the startling conclusion that I like quiet in the mornings. Unfortunately I’d already had the kids by then. Meanwhile Hattie is still slowly smearing porridge around the kitchen, eating the fruit but nothing else.

8.00: Kids have been practically dragged downstairs as I can’t bear the noise upstairs. I’m filling school-bags with reply slips for photographs, parents’ evening and payment for music lessons. Both Ed and Martha have been singled out as being musical (cue much maternal pride and bemusement) and have been offered lessons at school on a scheme to nurture early talent. Great of course despite having to lug a cello and violin as well as bags, packed lunches and Hattie up the steep hill to school. Oh and having to pay £20 a week.
Hattie is hosed down and gets down from the table. She immediately tries to take whatever Ed is holding and shrieks when he won’t let her, “Give it, you little boy boy”, which is her most desperate insult. Sometimes mummy is a little boy boy too.

8.15: Martha has her hair brushed and wriggles and complains while I try to put it into a neat pony-tail like other girls have. I am torn between being pleased and annoyed that she is not interested in looking pretty and neat. I wet the brush to tackle Ed’s unruly mop and straighten his collar and check he has his trousers on the right way round. Hattie’s shoes are discovered upstairs in yesterday’s swimming bag (??) and coats are forced on.

8.30: In the car. I put on make-up quickly by rear-view mirror, having realised that I look completely wild. Cello, violin, bags, packed lunches, my hand-bag, shopping bags for exciting trip to Sainsburys, and spare clothes for baby are strewn in the back. And off we go.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Christy Moore

I've just been to see Christy Moore singing at the fabulous Sage Concert Hall in Gateshead. What a beautiful voice that man has. His music is deeply moving. I enjoyed every second - I literally felt transported.

I'm going to force Hattie to listen to him all day tomorrow on my ipod. She needs some lessons in soul.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Whisky, Red and 'The Slap'

Home from Scotland just in time to see the X Factor. That said, after 8 hours of Hattie shouting in the car (with Ed and Martha contributing) over Harry Potter on the Ipod - I'm not sure that I can cope with anything noisier than a darkened room and a very large whisky.

And.... very exciting. My copy of the December edition of Red was waiting for me on the doormat. And there, in black and white was MY ARTICLE!! The photos aren't too bad considering I'm not exactly a natural supermodel. It feels a bit wierd but I'm very pleased with it.

Definitely a darkened room and some whisky.

P.S Has anyone read 'The Slap' by Christos Tsiolkas? I read mixed reviews but am now, only a little way in, completely hooked. So far so good I think.

Friday, 29 October 2010


We've been up here in the Highlands of Scotland for the past week and are finally packing up to come home. It's been a lovely week - all the family here at the start: nephews, my brother and sister and my mum, and then people gradually drifting home until all that's left is our immediate family and my mum. The weather has been truly Scottish - rainy and windy, so much so that today I haven't really fancied putting my nose out of the door.

We all try to get together around this time each year. Twelve years ago my dad died at the age of 54 after a protracted struggle with HIV - contracted after he was given infected blood products with which to treat his haemophilia. I was 28, my siblings younger and my mum was 50. He didn't get to meet our partners or any of his 8 grandchildren. His death tore our family apart - we all adored him and nothing has seemed the same for our family since.

A year after he died we scattered his ashes up here in the Summer Isles at a place he'd always loved and now we gather each October just to be together.

I truly miss my Dad. I got on with him so well. He was a deeply humorous, very intelligent man - and we would sometimes talk late into the night about anything and everything if the opportunity presented itself. He would have been a tremendous support for me in the past couple of awful years. But so much more than that, he would have been so happy to see my beautiful family, and such a lovely grandfather to the kids. We've all missed out. But him more than anyone of course.

So, dad - I want to say that I miss you. But you know that - or maybe you do if you're somewhere around. Now though I have to go and get your youngest granddaughter from her afternoon sleep. Cross Hattie and you get a cross Hattie is all I'll say.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

No Results and Nigella

Well - no results I guess means good results?

I'm still feeling under the weather and inexplicably really feeling more than a little low, but I did haul my ass to the gym yesterday so I'm pleased about that.

I've just bought Nigella Lawson's new cookbook, 'Kitchen', in an attempt to cheer myself up. It's truly lovely - maybe I should cook my way through every recipe in the book a la Julie Powell and Julia Child - but don't worry, if I do I won't blog about it! I might just mention the odd delightful concoction.

Damn! Hattie's just woken up too early from her afternoon sleep after a crazy hailstorm which clattered in a very un-necessary loud way on the slopy loft roof and velux windows. I could hear it on the baby monitor which we still use because she's two floors up when I'm downstairs. Shall I ignore her sporadic cries of 'mummeeee' for a while as well?

Quick cup of tea I think.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010


So, I went to the hospital today. The consultant checked my back and felt my neck for lumps. She acknowledged that it was indeed lumpy and when I asked her if she was worried she said she wasn't. Immediately after that she asked me when they last took blood and said they should do it today. I'm trying to imagine that it was just a co-incidence that she decided to mention that directly after feeling my neck. I guess it is just routine - that said, they haven't been checked since April. The doctor seemed fairly casual and I made an appointment to come back for my next routine check-up in January. I hope she's not thinking that she'll see me sooner.

Blood results won't tell me directly anything definitely about whether the cancer has returned or not. They test for liver function, red and white blood cells and also there is a check on whether a certain scary marker has risen or not. If that marker has risen, that can indicate tumour growth, but it doesn't necessarily. Then they start those horrible CT scans. Even writing this is making me feel panicky.

Lets hope the blood tests were just routine and that they're fine. Oh my God.... I hope.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010


I'm feeling low. Tomorrow I have one of my three-monthly check up appointments at the hospital. If you've been following me for a while, you know how I feel about these, and if you haven't you can no doubt guess.

As usual when these appointments roll around I'm feeling rubbish. It's sod's law that I should have sinusitis just before it - something which harrassed me all of last year but which has stayed away for longer this year as my immune system improves. But now I've painful lumps in my neck which are always a cause for concern, despite logic telling me they're not cancer lumps but sinus-y,virus-y lumps. I'm feeling exhausted which is a cause for concern despite too many late nights, sinusitis, and the worry which sits very heavily on my shoulders at times. And I don't want to walk in through the doors of the hospital feeling anything less than brilliant.

I'm taking Hattie with me. My friend has offered to look after her for me but I've decided that I need her. As much as anything else she is a talisman for me - to ward off the fear, and to make me feel normal..... not someone living with cancer, living with the terror of dying young. I can't disappear into myself too much when I'm in the waiting room if Hattie's running around - although I may regret it after I've been there a while with a crazy toddler.

I wish I could run away from everything sometimes. Still, time ticks onwards and I'm still well....I hope. I think the emotional legacy of what happened to me is something which will take a lot longer to fade. On the surface I look fine - but underneath things are often in turmoil.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Apprentice Joy

I love 'The Apprentice'! Oh how I love 'The Apprentice'. My all-time favourite TV show (maybe apart from Mad Men) is back. Hooray! Could they all be any more self-deluding? It's hard to know whether to laugh or cry. I've been trying to stick to my diet but I HAD to eat some Smarties in celebration.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010


Here's a poem I wrote a while ago.

Fighting Tigers

In Ancient Rome
slaves would fight savage, crazy tigers.
The stadiums - filled with screaming, lustful citizens -
must have echoed; ricocheting back to the roaring crowd.
But close up, I’d imagine that things felt a little different.

The sweaty piss-stained legs just holding the body upright.
The stave, sharpened to a comic point,
the roar of the crowd a scratchy whisper
as cat creeps nearer – great stripy tail twitching.
Carnivorous breath imagined hot on the cheek,
Or legs
Or back
While heavy barbed claw, quick as a viper
swipes the very life from you.

Thrusting a stick was never a good defence
in the face of such menace.

And so it is today.
The tiger I fight is a different kind – you’ll have guessed.
The snarling stripy metaphor not even a good one.
I should have tried harder.

The immediate terror, the fear is buried.
It doesn’t have a shape, or fabulous fur
burning bright.

My tiger, to flog a dead horse,
Is nebulous.
Whether it gets me in the end or not depends on luck;
on a body sensible enough to recognise and destroy
what hasn’t been invited and which shouldn’t have come.

Maybe it helped the Roman slave to be able to see what
he was fighting.
Not much though in the end.
He still wound up dead.

Fighting tigers is not really advisable.

Under any circumstances.

Friday, 1 October 2010

To Newcastle

Yesterday evening I went to hear Ian McEwan speak at the Newcastle University, just over the river from where we live in Gateshead. He was amazing - so clever, articulate and erudite. Well, what would you expect from Ian McEwan?

I left here at 6.30pm. Rog had just walked in the door while I attempted to make a pretty sharp exit. And I left - the kids to their bed-time routine and the house to its mess.

Later, after the event I walked on my own back to the car across the beautiful old campus, underneath the ivy-covered arches and I felt acutely transported back to another time in my life 20 years before.

You see, I did my undergraduate degree at this university, far away from what was my home then in the south of England and when I worked it out it really was 20 years ago - more - when I started.

Walking across the flagstones past the building in which I had studied, all those years ago, I passed a group of students - kids they looked to me - with arms linked, all chatting and laughing. I felt as if I was passing myself coming the other way. Would I recognise my 41 year-old self, filled with different pre-occupations, hurrying back in the other direction to my three children? Would I have expected my life to have been as it has?

Cutting through onto the road I'd parked my car, the hospital loomed dark against the night sky. And there too were so many memories. In that hospital was where I'd had my three babies, and also where I'd had all my cancer treatment. The actual ward three storeys up where I'd endured my chemotherapy and my bone marrow transplant had been due for demolition not long after my treatment finished. The building was shaped like a thin arm and for a long time the partial demolition cut open the end so one could see inside the three storeys at once like a tube with the end severed. Into that maw I could see the space where the beds had been, hanging open to the elements. Because there were people who were so very sick in that ward, fresh air was not allowed. Instead there was some kind of system which kept the air purified and hideously stuffy - it was one of the many discomforts about staying there. I would drive past and feel glad that there was air in there at last.

Now, however that part of the hospital has been entirely demolished, and the cancer centre rebuilt elsewhere in the city with flash new facilities and all mod-cons - that's where I have my appointments now. And back at the old hospital the space where I had all my treatment just doesn't exist anymore. It's thin air. And that makes me feel very very strange. It's almost like a dream - or a nightmare. It's almost like it didn't happen. But that ward, those rooms, that space where my worst nightmare did come true are etched in my mind and in my memory. I dream about them and they don't exist anymore. I cannot successfully convey how uneasy their absence makes me feel.

Driving home over the beautiful Tyne Bridge, the river lit up by lights on the Millenium Bridge and the Sage, I realised what a connection I have with the city of Newcastle. It's my home now - my adopted home. Twenty-two years ago I came here to study English at the university. I had a fabulous time and made friends and memories which last until today. Then I left for a few years - did my teacher training in the south and worked for a while down there. But the place lured me back and for the past 14 years I've lived in Northumberland and then the city. I've married here, had my children here, nearly died here and hopefully will grow old here.

I miss where I grew up and those country lanes along whch I walked and rode are part of my fabric but this city is a shape superimposed on top, blending and blurring until I almost can't tell which came first. My southern accent will forever mark me out as a newcomer, my children are already skilfuly mixing the Geordie and the South in their speech. And they truly belong to the city, born in the centre. This is their home.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Thursday Moaning and Hattie's New Pants

I'm tired of being skint. I know that I'm a whole lot better off in many many ways than the majority of the world's population. But that doesn't help me feel better today, although it damn well should. I had to squeeze a measly £20 out of the cashpoint to put enough diesel in the car to stop the fuel warning light from flashing.

I can't find work and I can't see how I can fit work into the week along with the kids- but many many do just that I know. I NEED to earn lots through my writing. Is that too much to ask?

I'm feeling very very tired and am having strange pains and strange skin things going on. Underneath everything else I'm worried that the cancer has returned. I'm seeing my consultant in a couple of weeks - an appointment I'm already dreading.

And I'm toilet training Hattie. Cue total obsession with lovely, new, stripy pants - pulling trousers down to admire them approximately every couple of minutes, lots of theatrical sitting on potty complete with arranging hands on knees to best effect. Lots of jumping up declaring that 'nothing's coming!' and then wet pants and trousers a few moments later. She doesn't seem to have grasped that it's supposed to matter if you wet yourself and that you're meant to wee in the potty. To her - wet pants? wet potty? C'est la vie. It's all good.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Getting On and My Cat Bill

I wish I was as flexible as my cat Bill. He's just jumped high onto our wall with seemingly no effort at all. He has all the insouciant casual, unselfconscious grace of the young, as well as a completely wonderful long stripy tabby tail. I see this beauty in the children too (not the tail as well though thankfully). No achy backs, strange pains down the side of legs. They can fall asleep in the car with their heads at strange and wondrous angles to their heads, and wake unscathed ready to spring into action. No paracetamol for them just to get through the day.

In small and insidious ways - and some of them not so small and insidious - my body is hinting that I might be getting older than the 25 that I feel myself to be, inside my head at least. I realised the other day that my eyes weren't quite as x-ray like as they have been. I've been blessed with very good eyesight - have always wowed the optician if I go for a check-up. And I've always taken my good eyesight for granted. But although, heaven forbid, I think I'm some way away from needing glasses I think I can detect an almost imperceptible change. And not for the better.

I can understand why my 62 year old mother says that she can't believe she's 62. I imagine I'd feel that way at 92 - although if the creaky body continues to go the way it inevitably must, I'll no doubt look it. Quick - run to the Pilates class.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Christmas Comes Early

Yesterday I had to have my photograph taken with the kids to go along with my article which is coming out in the Christmas edition of Red Magazine. A more stressful and potentially humiliating activity would be hard to plan in my opinion.

The make-up artist(!! No, no heavy make-up!!), sent by the magazine, was due to come at 2.45, and the photographer travelling from London up to the North of the country just to take our picture, was coming at 3pm. The kids were due home at 3.30 and then we all were heading to the park, dressed in scarves and boots and hats, despite the warm weather, in order to pretend it was Christmas. I'd drafted my mum to come too for moral support, and bribed the kids' good behaviour (and mum's!) with the promise of pizzas and special yoghurts with special corners which are the current longed-for treat in our house.

I had been dreading this - by the time the morning came, I was in an agony of nerves. I HATE HATE HATE having my photograph taken. I don't know what to do with my face. My eyes start to water with the effort of trying to look 'normal'.

The photographer was lovely though and with gritted teeth I posed as best I could. Ed, though, absolutely loved it. He chatted/ flirted with the pretty photographer (yes, he's only 6) and posed and posed and posed. She paid him the ultimate compliment and said that he had a look of the young Mick Jagger! Wow, I hope my son grows up to be as beautiful as him. I cheered up immensely then. He seems a bit of a show-man too, my Ed. Oh dear.

Martha looked beautiful and Hattie looked beautiful and uncooperative.

Now all I have to do is wait with toe-curling anticipation to see how I look. Heaven help me!

Monday, 13 September 2010


I went to London this weekend to stay with a friend. I had a lovely time with no kids with me. I could do exactly as I pleased. Thanks Sophia.

But, just to remind me where my responsibilities truly lie...

This morning Ed woke with the biggest bruise into the muscle on his calf that I have EVER seen. It was hot and swollen and looked terrible. I swear it covered most of the poor child's leg. He tried valiantly to persuade me that he didn't need the Factor 8 injection which treats his haemophilia, but in the end (after taking him to school and then realising he really DID need his treatment, and bringing him home again to do it, toddler in tow) I gave him a big dose. I found the vein first time and all worked perfectly. This was only the second time I'd done this on my own without Rog for moral support, so I was very pleased with myself. I dropped him off at school and proceeded with my scintillating day which was as follows:

Go to supermarket in pouring rain with Hattie and do huge and horrifyngly expensive weekly shop.

Realise I haven't had any breakfast, and feel very hungry while shopping, nobly avoiding the resulting temptation to fill the trolley with loads of unhealthy things.

Drive home and unload Hattie and shopping - still in the pouring rain.

Make Hattie her lunch and unpack said HUGE weekly shop while she eats it. Feel even hungrier but plan relaxing lunch once Hattie is in bed for her afternoon nap which she keeps forgetting to sleep through....but that's another story. Start to feel a bit weak through lack of food as Hattie slowly savours every bite.

Hattie finishes and just as I'm about to head bed-wards with her the phone rings. It's Ed's school. They're worried about his leg - can I come and check it?

I put Hattie back in the car and drive back to the school.

Poor Ed's leg looks even worse - It is clear that I can't leave him at school, go home and put Hattie to bed and eat my lunch. I need to take him to the hospital.

Off we go.

Two hours later, after having contained an increasingly hellish Hattie in a treatment room with high examination couches big enough to scramble onto and then fall off, expensive looking equipment to fiddle with, and taps which automatically turn on when you put your hands under - imagine the delight?!, we leave the hospital just in time for Martha to finish school. Ed has been fussed over appropriately and has been changed to twice weekly home treatment (hooray, more battles) and I STILL hadn't eaten....anything at all.

And I needed to give him another treatment before he went to bed. Before that I cooked the kids tea and once they were in bed, cooked our meal. Now Ed has just been sick all over his bedding - copiously! Aaargh.

It's 10.30pm and I haven't tidied the kitchen or done the dishwasher or put another load of washing on. Roger works well into the night most nights so he can't be depended on to do these things. And I'm writing on my blog - because I want to. It's the first bit of time alone I've had all day. But now it's getting late and I'll have to stop. I've exciting news regarding my article for the magazine, but it's going to have to wait.

By the way I've been trying to fix my comment form thing because I think it wasn't working properly and was annoying to use, but I'm not sure if I have! Is this better? If you can bear to leave a comment, please let me know!

Roll on tomorrow.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Can't Write... Just Can't

What I would like to know is..... why, despite reading lots and lots and lots, can't I write 2000 words in the form of a decent short story??? How can it possibly be so unbelievably difficult. Yesterday I sat down in front of the netbook (an achievment in itself) and wrote 750 words worth of rubbish.

F. Scott Fitzgerald I am not.

Damn Damn Damn.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

September - Can it Really Be That Time Already?

The kids went back to school today. They felt nervous - new teachers and new classes, and I felt nervous for them.

But for Martha her nerves were mollified to a large degree by her shiny new uniform. For Ed, fairly black and blue from haemophilia related incidents (ie Ed being silly!), I was worried all over again that I have to trust someone else with his care. I have to trust that the school have remembered and keep remembering that if he bangs his head someone has to pay attention. I hope his new teacher knows these things - I went in to see her this morning to quickly chat and she seemed dismissive, but I guess I should give her the benefit of the doubt on the first morning of the school year. Ed and I have such a volatile relationship, but I love him more than my life - he's growing up - 7 in November! - and he wants some independence and I have to let him find his way without cocooning him in cotton wool. And I don't. Ed plays football, climbs on everything, rushes around crazily like any other boy. But he does have such a serious condition and I worry that because he is so unconcerned and blase, that rubs off on the people around him who are responsible for his care.

Martha's new teacher is Ed's old teacher. She's great.... so that's alright.

And Hattie apparently doesn't sleep anymore in the afternoons. That's ok then. It's not as if I've been longing for the peaceful afternoons in term-time when I can catch up with jobs at home, write my blog and do my other writing. It's not as if I feel as if I'll go slightly crazy home with a bonkers 2 year old all day.

And that's about it at the moment. I've been a bit absent from blogland this summer- I'll try to post more often - even if I do have Hattie hanging off me.

Oh - and I have to go back to work - we're too damn skint. I need to try to find some teaching which will fit in with everything else. Hmmm. To fit in with the cooking, cleaning, washing and shopping and general child stuff which seems to quite satisfactorily fill the week on its own.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Green Man Festival

Oh oh oh the rain in Wales. We put the tent up in TORRENTIAL rain on Friday lunch-time which didn't stop until Saturday evening. We were so wet - the tent was wet before it was up, and wet inside when it was up. The kids were dripping, I was wet through to my underwear despite big waterproof coat and wellies. Because it continued to rain - nothing dried, so we continued to be wet.....for a long long time.

I must confess to having several rather large sense of humour failures - and would have packed up and come home at several points over the weekend was the car not parked a 30 minute walk from the tent, and had we not had so much (wet) kit that it needed at least 4 journeys to get it all back again.

And the festival? It was great. It would have been more fun and less totally knackering without an increasingly overtired 2 year old, and without the rain and without the mud. I've never seen mud like it although I gather that festival old-timers are well used to such a phenomenon.

I was all set to see the Unthanks and the Flaming Lips on Saturday night. It had (finally) stopped raining and all I needed to do was get Hattie to sleep in her buggy rather than her soggy bed in the tent. Ed and Martha had been promised a reasonably late night and were buzzing with excitement, and even I was feeling the festival vibe just a little bit.

And would she sleep? Not a bit of it. We pushed her here, we pushed here there - and she just squealed more and twisted more and showed no signs of slumber. By 8.30 pm I gave up, took her back to the tent on my own where she immediately fell into a deep and happy sleep and I sat reading a book by dwindling light with the sounds of happy music fans in the distance. Rog came back a while later, we put the others to bed and then off he went again to listen to the Flaming Lips stumbling back in again at 1.30 am. To be fair, he did offer to stay so that I could go but I was in too much of a grump by then.

And by all accounts that night was the best night ever at the Green Man Festival.

By Sunday, all was blue sky and sunshine as we packed away, and with the bloody car full of all the soggy, muddy kit - I began to feel a sneaking fondness for the whole dirty, smelly festival experience. None of us had had a shower since Friday, the toilet facilities left much to be desired especially with small kids in tow - but somehow I realised I was just a little bit sad to leave. And I even might just consider going again. Not until Hattie is at least four though - or maybe three. That's next year... I need to learn my Green Man lesson!

Monday, 16 August 2010


And now we're home after a long long drive in the car on Saturday with a two year old who managed to stay awake, with only a 20 minute window in the morning, until 10.30 pm when we finally got back.

Arriving with 3 sleepy and cross kids - we'd dropped my step-son at his mum's on the way - a car-full (and I mean full) of stuff, with a boot we couldn't open until we'd taken all the bikes off, was not the best of fun. Also the cats had left us a few 'presents' - need I say more - around the kitchen, some quite old and unpleasant. The teenage neighbour we were paying to feed them and let them in and out (early-ish every morning, and late-ish every night) hadn't taken her job as seriously as we'd have liked. So once the kid were in bed, we spent a (happy!!) hour scrubbing and cleaning before sinking into bed. It's a cattery next time we go away longer for a weekend I think!

A big trip to the supermarket yesterday and piles of washing to be done compounded the 'back home' feeling. But we're off to Wales for the weekend camping at the festival - I say 'but' as if that's a cheery thought, in fact, with the weather helpfully dreadful as only English summer weather can be, camping is seeming a little daunting.

Will I be relieved when school starts again? Yes and no. We are having a good time really - and we're lucky that Rog being a teacher means we have lots of time off together. So things are ok really. And I've finished my article - give or take a little tweaking, so I'm pleased about that too.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010


It's raining and raining and raining up here in Scotland. It's the kind of rain that you'd take a deep breath to go out in even waterproofed from head to toe. So we've kind of been cooped up today. Consequently I cooked - and now we've all eaten far too much spaghetti bolognese and apple and strawberry crumble. Strange combination know but hey we're in the middle of nowhere you know and I had to use the fruit I had. It tasted good.

Now Roger's making me watch a programme on the Normans - actually it's quite interesting but after the fuss I made about it I'm determined not to admit that.

I think we'll have to do some exercise tomorrow whatever the weather. Or maybe I'll just get stuck into my book for a while longer.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Stac Pollaidh and Much More

We're having a lovely time up here in the Highlands after a rather inauspicious start. Inauspicious as the kids were being monstrous and I couldn't imagine enjoying spending large quantities of time with them (I love them.... but you know!!!). But things seemed to have settled. Or rather Ed has settled down which has helped us all to settle. And he has quite a lot to cope with - giving him his regular treatment for his haemophilia has, for the past couple of weeks, been awful. I haven't been able to find a vein and the resultant poking and re-positioning of the needle has meant that Ed got very stressed. Not to mention his mother. Tonight he has the most enormous bruise wrapped around his shin and calf and his knuckles on one hand are black with a new bruise and his hand swollen and puffy. We're trying again tomorrow -it should have been tonight but he was vehement in his determination not to have the treatment. So we compromised, trying to give him some sense of control over his condition. But if I can't do it tomorrow morning we'll have to make the 4 hour round trip to Inverness where the nearest hospital is, so wish me luck.

But back to Scotland. We have been for a picnic bike ride and been on several long walks and I have achieved something which I have always wanted to do since long before I was ill. A couple of days ago, while my mum (who was up here for a few days) looked after the children for us, Roger and I climbed a mountain near the house called Stac Pollaidh. It's not the highest mountain in the world (607 metres) but it signified to me a return to good health and reasonable fitness which nothing else quite could have done for me in the same way. It was hard going and the last part was a real scramble but reaching the top was such a kick.

We had coffee from our flask up there on the top of the mountain surrounded by nature at its most fabulous and powerful - and I felt literally and figuratively on top of the world. I've taken pictures and when I'm home I'll post them on the blog because I want to show you what I did. In our family I've always been known as the bookworm who'd rather stay behind and read than stir myself in any strenuous way. But if my illness has changed me in any fundemental way I think it is that I value my body, its health and fitness and what it can do, much more highly than I ever did before. I still want to lose weight but I'm less focussed on that now. I'm enjoying being active and eating well - not a bad way to live I reckon.

Talking of books - I've just finished Audrey Niffenegger's book, 'Her Fearful Symmetry' which I really enjoyed. I didn't think I'd found it scary until I had a night of terrifying dreams at least ostensibly connected with it. Now I'm reading Penelope Lively's latest novel, 'Family Albumn'. I love Lively's writing - I read her children's books avidly when I was a kid: 'The Ghost of Thomas Kempe', 'The Wild Hunt of Hagworthy' - and her books for adults are beautiful with her intricate and unsettling characters.

And I have a real, proper deadline by which I have to send my piece to the magazine I mentioned before. It's going to go in the Christmas edition of this upmarket and glossy magazine. And I'm going to be paid! Proper money! And a reasonable amount too. I'm totally excited and totally terrified and have major writer's block. The deadline is August 25th - so I'd better get moving. Suddenly it seems an impossible task. But I do really hope it might be the start of something for me so I want it to be the absolute best it can be. No pressure then. And writing it while trying to have a family holiday is certainly not easy as I'm discovering.

We're here until next Saturday and then home for a few days to prepare the camping gear, before we head off to Wales for The Green Man Festival. I'm kind of looking forward to it and dreading it in equal measures. It's that obstreperous 2 year-old again putting a spanner in the works. But when she talks about Incy Wincy 'pider climbing up the pout - all is forgiven. Oh the folly of parenthood.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

What's Going On

I'm getting into cycling! The whole family are getting into cycling. We have been given by a friend, whose kids have grown too big, a sort of trailer thing for Hattie which attaches around the wheel of an adult's bike. Rog's not mine, I voted early on!

But we're off to Scotland on Saturday for a couple of weeks, and we've decided we HAVE to take the bikes and the trailer with us so we can go off for lovely picnics in the wilds. However we also have 4 kids (my 12 year-old step-son is coming too) and lots and lots of stuff as you can imagine. So for the past couple of days we have explored EVERY option you can imagine to carry 5 bikes and 6 people on a 9 hour car journey. Tomorrow we're fitting a tow-bar and a flash bike carrier for a fair amount of money. The picnics had better be worth it!

It is lovely to be considering such things - two summers ago surviving chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant and radiotherapy were the preoccupations which filled my mind.

I've had some tentative good news regarding my writing. A big glossy national magazine are interested in commissioning an article - but it's not final yet! I'm excited though anyhow. I feel as if some of my recent hard work might be paying off at last. Watch this space!!!

P.S. on a completely different note - does anyone else have an extremely obstreperous 2 year old who runs the whole household with the ease of an experienced tyrant? Mine is very exhausting..... I'm trying not to wish for her to become 13 when at least she'll be sulky and silent and .... oh hang-on... argumentative and difficult. Hmmmm. Well, 16 then. Ok, 35.

Ear-muffs at the ready for that long car journey!

Friday, 23 July 2010

School Holidays

It's the last Friday of the school term. In an hour I'm going to fetch the kids from school and then the long six week holiday stretches ahead! I don't really mean to make it sound like that. We have plans - camping in Yorkshire, heading off to the Highlands of Scotland and camping in Wales - and that'll be fun I'm sure, but oh so exhausting.

I'm feeling well actually - so exhausting doesn't really matter I guess. But I'm enjoying my peaceful space in the afternoons while Hattie sleeps and I can write. And I'm really writing - committing to spending regular time every afternoon writing at least a little. And that's why I've been neglecting my blog. But I've been missing it too so I'm going to post a bit more often again. And I'm certainly going to miss that window of peace in the middle of the day - September will promise some peace from that point of view.

But the summer holiday is also a welcome release from the tyranny of routine - from packed lunches, ironing uniforms and the clock-radio coming on at 6 bloody 20 every morning! We've pizza and chocolate tea-cakes for tea as a celebration.

On a more serious note though I'm a bit worried too. Ed and I seem to be falling out a lot at the moment. He is cheeky at only 6 and a half- always has an answer for everything and can wind me up quicker than anyone else I know. I seem to be especially short-tempered at the moment... and we're not a good combination when things get like that. I adore him with a passion but he really doesn't know when to stop and I don't seem to know how to keep calm. I don't want to spend the summer holidays shouting - so deep breaths before the school run. I'm the adult here.... and I'd do well to remember that.

Monday, 12 July 2010


I'm tired at the moment. I have a clinic appointment on Wednesday. It's just a check-up but I'm kind of dreading it. I've been having loads of headaches and have itchy patches on my arms and legs which can be a symptom of something nasty.

I'm just so fed up with it all. Worrying is exhausting. Living in this way is exhausting - sometimes I still can't believe it's happened to me. I feel like a different person. And I was quite happy with the person I was before this.

As usual life is busy. Martha had her summer school concert this afternoon. She had a third hearing test this morning which she failed - next step, the hospital. And both Ed and Martha had swimming. Hattie ran crazily around the cafe while we watched them through the window until I felt quite frantic. Hattie doesn't stop talking by the way. Ever. And then we came home to tea - well the kids lolled around while I made it. Then bath, pyjamas and Ed's weekly treatment which always seems to come at exactly the most tiring and stressful moment. He has a bleed in the muscle of his arm and he's black and blue - hs legs look quite shocking, as I noticed while he was swimming. I haven't actually told the swimming teacher about the haemophilia as I'm always there at the pool with him, but I wonder if maybe I should. Otherwse I might get a call from social services. Can you imagine? Nightmare.

With posts like this it's just as well they've been thin on the ground recently. I know, I know..... I should count my blessings. It's easier said than done sometimes That's all.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Saturday Evening

I'm waiting for my 'Jamie Oliver' stuffed peppers to cook. They smell good so that's a start. Am fancying a glass or two of wine tonight as well...

The kids are (finally) tucked up in bed after being exasperating and tiring in a Saturday sort of way if you know what I mean.

Tomorrow we're going to check-out campsites in the Yorkshire Dales to prepare for our first week of the summer holiday. I'm hoping the trip will be more successful than our Easter visit to the Lake District when - to sum things up - we were very COLD in our frosty tent.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010


I know that I'm really neglecting my blog at the moment.

Life seems to be getting in the way.

I'm doing lots more writing which pleases me immensely even if it'll quite possibly never see the light of day. I'm also working on a project - looking through an aquaintance's book to give my considered opinion(!) It's become quite a lot of work although I just really agreed to read it as a favour and now I'm in the awkward position of needing to be honest. But, what the hell do I know?

I have a really sore lower back too. It's my old problem giving me hassle but still in the recesses of my mind I'm worrying that it's really a tumour forming around my spine. Nice image - and one which stays with me a little too clearly in the middle of the night. I'm having some physiotherapy for it tomorrow so hopefully that'll ease it, and put my mind to rest too.

But I'm managing to go to the gym, or go swimming at least twice a week and I'm starting Pilates tomorrow evening. A more flexible me is just around the corner!

I'm waiting for a positive result from one of my 30 letters that I sent out to local high schools, asking for a couple of days work in September. On the other hand, I'm enjoying my time with Hattie and my days have a nice peaceful rhythm to them with a good afternoon patch to write in before the kids come back from school and while Hattie has her sleep. Long may Hattie's afternoon sleep continue in such a satisfactory way.

Maybe I can find work in the New Year instead! No-one can accuse me of not trying. Is it my fault that there're no vacancies at the moment.....?

I'm kind of getting the feeling that Hattie needs me at home at the moment. I get a wierd impression that she kind of senses all that we missed out on together when she was born and she needs to make it up now. On the other hand, that could be a convenient thought to justify staying away from teaching just that little bit longer.

Inconsequential I know, but do you have a bread-making machine? I have just got mine and I LOVE it. Some weeks I'm almost making a loaf a day.

And, have you read 'Kafka on the Shore' by Haruki Murakami? It's compulsive, deep and thought-provoking but also amazingly readable. I'm planning on finishing it tonight. I think it's one of the most interesting books I've ever read.

Saturday, 26 June 2010


Wish I was at Glastonbury. I'll have to make do with watching it on TV. Not quite the same. How good are 'The Scissor Sisters'? Not sure they're exactly Glastonbury style.... but never mind.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

New Boy

I have a new nephew!

He was born this morning at 9.10am. Now there are 7 cousins, all born in the past 6 and a half years. Phew. Kind of exhausting. But I can't wait to see him - hopefully I'll manage at the weekend. It's a four-hour round drive - but I reckon a new nephew is worth it.

Just thought I'd let you know.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Football and Wine

Oh.... I'm neglecting my blog at the moment. I'm trying to write lots of different stuff, find time to use my new breadmaker and do all the other myriad things which seem to soak up time. I have a whole novel to read before my book group meets on Tuesday! Hmmmm!

And the football! As I write, Rog is glued to the boring and very very loud England vs. Algeria match. Apparently it needs to be so loud so that he can hear the commentary. But all I can hear is the awful trumpet things - voovoozalers (I have no idea how to spell that word). I really dislike football - or rather I can tolerate it for about 5 minutes and then I want to scream. But in the interests of marital harmony I won't scream - even if we weren't able to go out tonight (yes, we had the rare offer of a babysitter - can you believe it?) because of the football.

I think I'll open some wine - alcohol is possibly the only way forward.

Monday, 14 June 2010

What's Going On?

So, what's going on with me at the moment?

I want another baby although I spend most of my time being absolutely overwhelmed with the children I have. Not being able to have any more children - after the hideous chemotherapy thing - doesn't help. It's not good to think that your body doesn't work like it should do/used to do just 2 years ago.

I want to go back to work for a couple of days a week because I'm feeling overwhelmed and at times isolated and frustrated by all the endless repetitive duties at home. I'd love some chat and a good giggle with new colleagues. I'm good at getting on with people and am quite sociable. It'd be satisfying to have an existence separate to my family which takes place out of these four walls. Oh, and we badly need the money. But.....

I don't want to go back to work. Hattie's only just 2 and I missed out of loads of good time with her in her first year. Teaching English in a secondary school is pretty exhausting and demanding - especially teaching those younger kids. Bring on the A Level is all I hope and pray! And there's work to do in the evening. Back to the issue of feeling exhausted and overwhelmed with looking after 3 kids, two kittens and a house. Returning to work has to add to that pressure - what with Ed's haemophilia (yes, that's still going on... he has a bleed in his ankle at the moment, the school rang me today and I fetched him and injected him) and Hattie being bound to experience the whole gamut of childhood illnesses the moment she's ensconced in nursery.

I want to go to bed really early every night to indulge my old passion.... reading that is. But I want to stay up late enjoying the peace once the kids are in bed, watching rubbish tv and writing my blog.

I want a dog because I'm feeling broody and the kids would love it. I don't want a dog because I'd have to look after it and I'm tired of looking after things and people.

I want a campervan for totally fun family holidays. I want to ride a motorbike or a horse across Mongolia ON MY OWN.

I could go on but I imagine that you catch my drift.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Happy Birthday Martha

It was my beautiful daughter Martha's 5th birthday yesterday.

Today she had her birthday party - she was confident and polite and glowed through the whole event. I'm so proud of her - so pleased that we could focus on her properly and happily. Her past two birthdays have been, for me anyhow, connected with so much angst and worry. At her party there were parents who didn't know that I'd been ill - to them I looked like any other slightly harrassed mother trying to keep things going in a party-like direction. And that's how it should be.

Over the past two years I really didn't ever imagine that I could ever really be free of the legacy, even as far as my appearance was concerned. But now I look tanned from the totally amazing weather in Scotland last week, and apart from needing to tone up and continue to get fit (and lets face it, one doesn't need to have cancer to get a bit out of shape!) I don't think that I look much different to how I looked before I was ill.

She's an amazing little girl, Martha, and she's had a truly tough time - a tough time before she was even old enough to start school. But... so pretty and carefree today in her new birthday dress, she looks like a girl who has a happy future. And that's my birthday wish for her.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Scotland, Sun and Seals

The weather is fantastic up here. There is a huge garden into which the kids can be shoved (or encouraged, should I say?) as early as they like in the morning. The house stands on its own in the middle of nowhere with a fabulous view, so we don't have to worry about the kids making noise too early outside, the way we do at home in our street if they want to go out and play in our tiny garden.

I haven't got the lead for my camera to put my photos on the computer so I'll have to post the photos when we get home. But it is really really beautiful and the weather is HOT for goodness sake, right up here in the north of Scotland.

I'm walking a lot but I'm also eating lots of good things too - well, I am on holiday! I'm hoping that the walking will cancel out the calories and replace the gym for the week - but really, I don't care that much I've just realised. 'Wolf Hall' is nearly finished as I'm managing to fit in quite a chunk of reading in the afternoon while Hattie sleeps - at home I've always got so much to do. And Rog and I are enjoying having some time together with the kids away from all the hassles of home.

Last week was a bit stressful - I got a bug which made me feel so unwell that I becme convinced all over again that the cancer had returned. I had such a heavy feeling in my stomach that I was really worried that I had a tumour in my liver. The cancer can return in any organ which isn't very helpful or easy to live with - and this is guaranteed to make even the most laid-back person worry. Although I have been feeling much more confident recently that my health might hold out, and I might just make that magic 5 years in remission - it really shook me to realise how close to my heart that anxiety still is. Anyhow - I feel lots better now as you'll have realised. It was just a bug.

Our friends are arriving to stay with us on Thursday evening. I'm really looking forward to see them - they're old university friends so they've known me for a very long time, right back to those free student days. But we haven't seen each other for three years - before we had Hattie and before I was ill - because they live far away from us on the Isle of Man, so a visit requires a flight or a ferry journey. It'll be lovely to catch up and we can enjoy playng host in this lovely house of my mum's. We're planning a boat-trip around some of the most remote islands to look at the seal colonies and the sea-birds. I hope the sea is not too rough - and Hattie isn't too much of a pain.

By the way, Hattie was pretty awful on the 9 hour car journey on Sunday as expected. We arrived with her voice ringing in all our ears - having strained ourselves to listen to Harry Potter on audio-book over the noise for some of the journey before giving up. There's only so many raisins, fruit-bars and bananas one small girl can stick in her mouth in one day we discovered. Helpfully, she slept for a total of 20 minutes all day compared to the 2 and a half hours she can easily manage at home. Looking forward to the return journey.....

Anyhow - I'd better finish 'Wolf Hall' before our friends arrive. Off to bed with my tea then.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Off To Scotland

We're off to Scotland for the half-term break tomorrow. Away for the whole week - I can't wait.

I am slightly less enthusiastic about the 9 hour drive with a small tyrant in the car. This afternoon on the 10 minute drive to pick up the kids from school, Hattie wailed and cried and shouted at me because she wanted me to close MY window which was open approximately 2 inches! Reasonable? I think not. On the way home she yelled all the way because she dropped her small plastic red teaspoon which she likes to carry around with her for absolutely no apparent reason that I can see.

I've just remembered that 2 year-olds are not that big on reasonable - how could that have slipped my mind?

Actually do you find 5 and 6 year-olds all that reasonable?

At what age exactly do kids become reasonable? Let me know.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Where Have All The Comments Gone?

Am having 'comment problems' - they're not showing up on my blog! Of course I know that you all will be trying to comment, unless everyone has unilaterally decided to boycott me which is a possibility but would seem a little unfair! Paranoid? Me?

While I'm here I must just exclaim at how tyrannical Hattie has become seemingly overnight. She has transformed from an easy and delightful, laid back baby into Pol Pot! 'Hattie do it', is her favourite and oft-repeated mantra. It's all very very exhausting.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

This May I'm........


For the past two years our garden has been a source of embarrassment -even if I have had a pretty good reason for the neglect, what with my survival kind of taking centre stage, and my exhaustion meaning that the sofa was more appealing if I had any child-free time.

But this May, I'm feeling well. Not tired - hence my gym visits, and feeling much more confident that I might just get to next May with a bit of luck. Gardening seems a positive investment in my time and energy. Martha and I are spending time together digging, weeding and watering and things are looking better on the green front. Admittedly Hattie is not entirely an asset when tidying up the garden - pushing her toys into my brand new lupin indeed! And the kittens are keen on helping with the digging in their own particular way. However it is a very good thing to be alive and well and in the garden at all.

We're planning a rasberry and pear crumble made with fruit grown from our own garden. We won't be able to make the crumble until next August - but that's ok, we can wait.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Thomas Cromwell and the Gym

OMG!!! I went to the gym again. And cycled and treadmilled until I was worried about my rapidly increasing heartbeat. Phew. I'm very proud of myself.

And this morning I took Hattie shopping and we bought her new sandals to celebrate the start of the lovely summer weather.

And at the risk of repeating myself I have to rave again about 'Wolf Hall'. I feel as if my life is a mere shadow compared to the world I'm inhabiting whenever I find five minutes to open the book. I keep expecting to bump into Thomas Cromwell. You might think he's unlikely to be in the gym though, or in the shoe department at John Lewis..... but I'm not so sure.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

This Week

Yesterday I was 41.

This morning I went to the gym in an attempt to ward off the advancing years.

Now I'm very very tired and want to eat biscuits while reading 'Wolf Hall' by Hilary Mantel which is amazingly, wonderfully brilliant by the way.

Or, snuggle down like the baby every afternoon and SLEEP!

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Why I can't Get My Arse into Gear - an essay

Ho hum.... birthay parties - Hattie's 2! Also washing, cooking, cleaning, ironing and shopping. And reading Michael Frayn's 'Spies' at top speed so that I can be useful when I take top dollar from some poor unsuspecting student who's coming here tonight for tuition before her English A Level. Only joking! Actually, I'm quite good at the teaching thing on the whole, although having to use my brain after 7pm is quite a stretch these days.

I'm struggling with my regular sinus thing at the moment - attractive red eyes and all, but I'm just about to start on my millionth course of antibiotics so maybe I'll make a miraculous recovery in the next few days. My immune system's still not 100% so there we go.

And it's my birthday next week. For a long while it didn't seem likely that I'd see my 41st birthday. But here I am and all that stuff......

Am not really managing all the writing projects and ideas for more writing which are swirling around unwritten or at best half-written. I don't have enough time after I've done all of the above.... and I do have to fit in some TV and reading down-time too. I guess successful writers are quite a disciplined bunch. I wish I wasn't quite so easily distracted. Oooh - another cup of tea I think while the baby sleeps before I have to go and get the kids from school. See what I mean?

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Clegg, It's A Trapp!!

What is going to happen after the election results on Thursday? I cannot IMAGINE how the Lib-Dems could possibly possibly contemplate any kind of alliance with the Tories. Surely that would split the Lib-Dem party in two? I'd be furious if I'd voted Lib-Dem (I'm a Labour voter through and through in case it's not obvious) as no-one would vote for them and expect that vote to help the Tories into government.

I can see that there's a bit of an insuperable problem here to be sure. Labour did not regain enough seats to hold the confidence of the country (why the hell not?) and it would be kind of difficult to see how they could form an alliance - even if various other fringe parties joined with them and they limped towards a majority, and govern with conviction.

But, If I had the chance I would urge Nick Clegg to think very very hard before he joins with Cameron. I think Cameron is a sly and slippery character. At least with Thatcher (and I certainly had no love for her the old battleaxe) one damn well knew what one was getting if one voted for her. Cameron's untrustworthy and insincere, not that game-show host Clegg doesn't ooze a certain smarminess. I guess there are some things which the two parties may have in common after all.

It might be that it would be best for Labour if some alliance between the Tories and Lib-Dems does happen. There'll be chaos and instability and when another election has to happen in a few months as a result, Labour may be voted in with the majority they should have had on Thursday if people hadn't had some foggy idea about voting for change without being clear about what change they wanted or indeed whether they really wanted it.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

I Hait Mum

So, another bank-holiday weekend bites the dust! What did we find ourselves doing on our extra day off work and school? Buying shoes for the kids, that's what!! I have my regular sinus thing back again which makes me feel totally totally rubbish (struggles to find polite word...) and trailing around looking for shoes to fit Ed who seems to have mysteriously impossibly unusually shaped feet, was not helping matters for me. Cue lots of shouting and tears from us all - when we got home not in the shoe-shop, although lots of furious hissing was employed there instead - and cue huge amounts of guilt from me about what an appalling parent I am. Not helped by discovering Martha's touching message for me which was on the floor of her bedroom. 'I hait mum'. Hmmm.

She later amended it to 'I love mum', but only after I'd produced the first offending note and she felt sheepish.

I hope the kids don't all end up in therapy in 20 years time expanding upon exactly why they all 'hait' mum.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Two Years On

This week, surprisingly in many ways, has become a very significant week for me.

It's nearly Hattie's second birthday and the two year anniversary of the week that an x-ray discovered a huge tumour in my chest. I've come on such a journey in those two years; such a significant and torturous journey that I'm nervous to try to write this post - I need to do my experience justice, I need to untangle it and describe it so that I can live it and know it and put it away into the past. Does that make sense?

On Monday I took Hattie back to the Special Care Baby Unit where she'd spent her first 8 weeks of life. This is where the start of my drama unfolded itself as I visited her from a different part of the hospital, unhooked from my chemotherapy drip for a precious half an hour. It's where the photo was taken of me holding her on my 39th birthday, less than two weeks after her birth with Ed and Martha either side of me, my hair shorn and skin yellow, looking as close as I hope I ever come to death before I'm an old old woman.

I wasn't sure they'd let me in to the unit - I imagined they'd be busy and distracted, and I pressed the buzzer very tentatively, memories flooding back.

"Oh yes! I remember you, of course I do! Come in."

As I wheeled Hattie in her buggy through the unit she was wriggling to get down. How different to the last time she was here. We'd had to rush her back to the unit when she'd been out with us for a day as she was too still and pale. She'd had a blood transfusion and another overnight stay. Now, a beautiful, fiery and opinionated blonde toddler - a miraculous metamorphosis. All around in the bays were tiny tiny babies. I found myself standing in front of the bay which Hattie had been in for weeks. One of the nurses pointing to a space remembered exactly where Hattie had been.

Everyone was so pleased to see us well and healthy.

"You look a whole lot better than you did when we last saw you," I heard over and over again. Smiling, nearly crying really absolutely overwhelmed by the smells and sounds, I said helplessly over and over again,

"I am well, I'm very well. I just wanted to say thank you to you all!"

The nurse who'd spent a lot of time with me when Hat was in the SCBU had a day off, so I didn't see her much to my sadness. I'll never ever forget that she'd gone to buy a cake and made a card with Hattie's hand and footprints which was waiting for me on top of Hattie's incubator when I came in on that birthday. Of course I still treasure that card today. I asked the other staff to remember me to her and to thank her again for me. As we walked around Hattie became increasingly and uncharacteristically quiet. It almost felt as if she knew or remembered something about the place we were in.

Later downstairs in the hospital cafe I sat with my coffee and didn't know what to think or feel. This was where I'd sat so many times before. And now, here I was in another place and time with Hattie covered in strawberry cupcake - I figured she deserved a strawberry cupcake - and with a second chance maybe.....maybe... ahead of me.

And then on Wednesday I went to see my consultant for my three-monthly check. Not that there's much to do these days because unless I go and mention some specific ache or pain to be investigated, they're not routinely scanning me anymore and nothing really happens at these appointments. But she told me that she'd just been to Switzerland to speak at a conference about non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. I had Hattie with me at this appointment - just to set the scene, squeaking and wriggling - and I have to say that my first thought was one of envy. Imagine having a high-powered career and having to be in Switzerland rather than making tea seven days a week! Anyhow. She said that there'd been lots of positive feed-back regarding the prognosis of people with my very rare form of the disease (she'd only treated 15 people with it in her whole 25 year career) since some new treatment was trialled, given along-side the chemotherapy. And I was lucky enough - and I use the word 'lucky' carefully - to be one of the first to be given this treatment. Although the cancer is so rare that there aren't loads of usuable statistics regarding prognosis, it seems that the use of this treatment, Rituximab, means that survival rates might change from as low as 30% (beyond terrifying) to over 80%! That's incredible.

I'm quite overwhelmed really, when I think of how many times I've been lucky since I was diagnosed - given that I was so bloody bloody unlucky to have developed this fearsomely aggressive cancer in the first place. I was lucky that the A and E doctor listened so carefully to the desciption of my symptoms, when I walked into the hospital off the street at 30 weeks pregnant and that she didn't just dismiss me as tired and pregnant as my GP had done only 3 weeks earlier. By the time someone did listen to me I apparently only had about three weeks to live and obviously my unborn baby was in great jeopardy too. It also turned out to be for the best, in some wierd and scary way, that the GP did dismiss my symptoms when he did, as every day counts with premature babies and they would have made me have Hattie much earlier then the 32 weeks at which she was born. And at nearly two she is fine now - no-one would be able to guess at her bumpy start. There was a very narrow window of time when I could be diagnosed and treated with any chance of survival and Hattie also would be ok. One of us or both of us could so easily have died.

I was lucky to say the least that I fell into the hands of my consultant - one of the top doctors in the country in her field. I was lucky that she knew about this new drug and its possible benefits and was able to put together a treatment schedule which in her own words was 'aggressive' in order to give me the best chance of survival. I was lucky I survived the actual caesarean - they were worried that my heart and lungs might not cope with the pressure of the tumour while I was under anaesthetic, and I was lucky that Hattie went from strength to strength every day. I was so so lucky that my body responded as well as it did to the treatment I had for those long months. And two years on Hattie and I are so so lucky that we're here, in remission and thriving.

It's kind of hard to express my thoughts about all of this and impossible in some ways to describe the desperate path down which I've been forced to travel. Snapshots, experiences, emotions, smells and tastes are locked inside me and only inside me. Even the people closest to me cannot share those. Perhaps they may become woven into pieces of writing I've yet to create, hidden or maybe disguised inside other shapes. It's such a cliche to talk about the way an experience like this changes one's life - that it makes one appreciate the small things in everyday life for their value. I'm still working on that one really, but it is true too, like all cliches. Having one's assumption of immortality shaken to the core, an assumption which we all fundementally carry around childlike inside ourselves, is like living through a private and invisible earthquake. And that is certainly life-changing.

The doctor said that she doesn't think it's going to come back. She's never said anything approaching that before. She knows that I know that that statement doesn't come with any kind of guarantee. Earlier in our appointment she'd reiterated that people were 'in trouble' if it did return. My regular check-ups will continue until I've been in remission for five years - and I'm only one and a bit years into that period. But I felt the significance of what she said and understand it to be in some way an echo of the way my own confidence - the confidence that maybe, perhaps, I can think again about having a future - is very slowly returning, jerkily in fits and starts but returning nonetheless.

At the end of the appointment I walked down the corridor of the hospital holding Hattie's hand, the doctor on the other side. She asked Hattie if she could hold her other hand and Hattie very solemnly gave it to her.

"This is the first time I've held a hand as little as this for a very long time. It's lovely!"

And as we went our separate ways it was funny to think that in some ways she envied me my life at that moment just as I had earlier envied her hers.


Two years ago my family were just embarking upon this journey. Now we're here in this place, in our present. The most I can hope for - and it's hoping for the world - that the ripples from that stone thrown into the centre of our lives continue to reverberate outwards until they're so faint that they're no longer visible. Just known about and of course never forgotten.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Sunday's Coming.....

Today I wore my new Merrell walking boots when we went to Fountain's Abbey. They helped me to walk miles and miles - or so it felt. I came home and cooked pitta bread pizzas for the kids and aubergine parmigiana for us. Now I have quite a sore throat and quite a croaky (I think alluring) voice.

Tomorrow signifies back to school stuff - lots of washing and ironing of work shirts and school uniform. Martha has been invited to one of those annoying birthday parties which pepper the school term-time weekends. Of course she doesn't think they're annoying - for her they signify social success and prompt great excitement. Which is why they cannot be missed on any account. So in between the domestic jobs and cooking a promised roast chicken, I'll be spending two hours watching Martha shrieking with friends.

If I can't go back to Majorca, I'll take Ed and Martha at school all day and a bit of peace and quiet for Hattie and I.

By the way - the writing of this post is being regularly interrupted by purring kittens wrapping themselves around my neck and falling on random keys. I think I've done quite well.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Election Fever

So, we're coming up for election here in in the UK. Last night was the first of the American-style televised debates between the three leaders of the main parties. Frankly I found that it made frustrating and depressing viewing.

It was clear to me that Gordon Brown was the most statesmanlike, most convincing, most confident and articulate and by far the least oily of the three. However the pundits and polls did not agree with me. But, I kind of don't think they would whatever had been said. I'm not sure that Gordon Brown can do anything anyhow to change the set perception - he's got the hardest job, trying to persuade people to vote for him again, well of course it's human nature to criticise, moan and complain especially here in Britain and such fun too. Our health service and education system are generally infinitely better now than they were when the Conservatives left Downing Street - and most importantly Labour have a moral and social conscience sadly absent from the "I'm all right Jack" philosophy of the Tories.

Change is always tempting. But remember those dreadful dreadful Thatcher years when all that was good in our country was destroyed? It'll happen again if we let ourselves be duped by the empty, smarmy rhetoric of the Tories. Never was Shakespeare's phrase, 'smiling damned villain' more apt when one thinks of David Cameron. Things could be SO much worse and people should be very, very careful what they wish for.

As for Nick Clegg - he was ok. Reasonably reasonable, measured with little to lose and everything to gain. But he didn't come over as a prime minister and he scored easy points for being personable in a manufactured kind of way.

Here's my election poster then, stuck in the window of my blog: VOTE LABOUR! You'll regret David Cameron, I predict, and when you do it'll be far, far too late.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Camping and Kittens

We went camping. All was fine, even if it did take us a little longer than planned to put up our huge and complicated 6 man tent. I did cook risotto on our camping stove and all seemed to be going swimmingly. We went to a tiny and beautiful campsite in the Lake District. There was plenty of space for Hattie to run free and horses, lambs and cows to admire on the farm.

And then night fell. And the temperature fell... to -4!! I don't think I've ever been so cold. We realised that our sleeping bags were hopeless for such temperatures. I was really worried about the kids, especially Hattie as she's so small, I wasn't sure that she'd be able to snuggle herself in her sleeping bag through the night. But they all seemed fast asleep, while Roger and I froze through to our bones and lay awake as the minutes ticked by.

Eventually morning came - needless to say we were up very, very early. There was frost all over the tent and all over the field we were in. We headed into Keswick for a huge revitalising breakfast. Cooking another meal on our stove balanced upon the frosty grass was beyond me at that point.

And after a cold and grubby morning we packed up and came home. I'm getting better sleeping bags before we try that again.

And today we got the kittens - they're crazy, like a couple of extra toddlers. Just what we need!! But the kids are delighted. We just have to teach Hattie not to squeeze them quite so enthusiastically!

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Home Again

We're back!

It was lovely.... just lovely. We read, swam, sunbathed when the weather allowed it, and explored the island in our TINY hire car. We had coffees galore in lovely cafes and wandered around markets, ate seafood, and didn't have to worry about anyone else but ourselves for a whole week. It really was as good as it should have been.

The hotel had a spa - and when we arrived at the hotel I was handed a voucher. Not only had my mother volunteered to have the kids she'd also booked me an amazing massage with a chocolate wrap - Easter theme I guess!?! So Saturday saw me covered in chocolate and wrapped in clingfilm with only paper knickers to keep me company. Thank heavens it WAS only Saturday - and the beauty therapist - who did see me!

I read voraciously, but did manage to talk to Roger too. Now I'm right in the middle of 'The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest' and back with the kids. I cannot put it down but am having to. Torture!

The kids were really well behaved when we were gone and had a fantastic time with my mum. Hattie was furious with me the whole of yesterday, saying 'stay Grandma' and pushing away my kisses. She's melted a bit today - but still mutters about her Grandma if she thinks I'm getting too familiar. I think she did really miss me - but I know she was just fine with my mum too.

My aches and pains have pretty much disappeared - that's good! But I did discover, as I'd suspected, that my tiredness is not just to do with the kids. I had my moments of exhaustion in Majorca and my energy levels were not brilliant. Of course back home I don't have the option of taking a nap when things become too tiring, and that's really what I need to do.

And tomorrow, we're taking the kids camping for a couple of days. The forecast is ok, but I'm feeling weak at the prospect. Can we remember how to put up the tent? I'll have to somehow make risotto on our camping stove. Oh oh oh - it's a far cry from lounging in Majorca. And we're getting our kittens on Wednesday. Much excitement all round and debating about names. Daisy and Bill we think. Don't ask!

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Back in a Week!

So we're nearly off and away. I'm very excited of course but am literally running around trying to get everything sorted and organised so I can pack the kids off to mum's and not worry more than lots and lots!! The weather is so terrible here at the moment that I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a bit of good weather. Where did Spring go?

I've got a pile of new books to read when we're away, including Hilary Mantel's new book, 'Wolf Hall', and I might try to get my hands on 'The Girl who Kicked The Hornet's Nest', which apparently is out in paperback TOMORROW! The problem is that if I start to read that, I won't be able to put it down. What great company I'll be.

I feel as if I need this break almost more than any other I've had - the aches and pains are still there, and I haven't had them checked out, but I'm ok with that. We'll see how things are when I come home.

That's it then for a week or so. I'm not taking my netbook with me. I was going to but instead I've decided to have a real break from everything including my writing. So I'll post when I get back. But I'm sure you'll all survive somehow without me. Ha ha.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Monday Morning City

The sooty streets are shiny with rain. Driving over the Tyne Bridge - watching the people hanging off ropes, dangling over the river repainting meticulously the bones and body of the bridge - the traffic slows to a stop.

In the centre of the city, the shoppers unconcerned with the rain clog the pedestrian avenue. It's Easter and people scurry in and out of the shops. Old women carry mountains of chocolate eggs for their grandchildren, choosing carefully for each beloved treasure. Younger women manoeuvre buggies laden like shopping trolleys, the child hidden among the wrapping, patient and resigned.

Outside the overheated shops the homeless Big Isssue seller competes for attention with the busking saxophonist and the Polish accordion player who's always in the same place.

Containing all these existences and many many more, the city heaves and swells around the dramatic river which travels onwards to the sea, gulls calling and squawking in the salty air.