Paul – Love & Loss (part 1)


Thus far I haven’t been able to blog specifically about Paul and our relationship, but today, 10 years on from the eve of his death, it seems a fitting occasion, so I’m giving it my best shot, though much abbreviated.

If you missed how we met you can find the story here:

I had two marriages behind me and he was into his second of what I thought initially was a happy marriage. I was enjoying my newfound freedom as I had been more or less tied to husband number one since I was a mere child of 14 and soon after our divorce I married husband number two, so I certainly wasn’t looking for a new relationship.

Following two encounters with cancer and radical surgery I embarked on a degree course which I found quite challenging – and one evening I was doing work for college at a friend’s house, as my parents’ home was being rewired and they were having central heating installed, so their house was in a complete mess. The phone rang and Barbara answered it and it was Paul for me (Mum had told him where I was and given him the number) and he asked if I would meet him for a drink.

‘I’ll bet your wife doesn’t know about this’, I scoffed.

‘She’s gone’, he said briefly and I responded as one might expect, but I was really busy and wanted to get on with my assignment.

‘But I have so much work to do’.

‘I thought you were my friend?’ I melted, as he obviously needed someone to talk to.

We met at an old coaching inn and visibly upset he filled me in on the detail and also about his first marriage and the reason behind that divorce. He was partially covering his mouth, clutching at his chin and fighting back tears. I reached out to touch his hand in a gesture of support.

‘How did you know I wanted you to do that?’ he asked and I was hooked!

His story is as long and convoluted as mine and too involved to tell in a blog, so here is the abridged version:

When we first met he was estranged from his own grown up children, but before the divorce many years earlier, he had been a devoted father. Since that marriage broke down it had become increasingly difficult to see the children as they were growing up, and he had little contact with them.  His second divorce proved just as difficult and protracted – and even then he was still paying maintenance to his first wife, so once again his assets were to be decimated. He was broken.

Apart from his own three children he had three stepchildren (also grown up by that time) and throughout both marriages he worked full time as a tutor (latterly commuting 100 miles daily). Any spare time was spent on the never ending DIY, as he would usually buy older properties, live in them whilst doing them up, then sell. The process was repeated and I think in total he had lived in 17 or 18 homes in his lifetime.

We became a couple. He wasn’t perfect and neither am I, but he was probably very close to the man of the dreams I had as a young girl – the man I never thought existed. I was happier than I had ever been – and he started to laugh again too. We sometimes fought, but were totally devoted to each other and my heart would skip a beat whenever I saw him after being away from him for a few days. My sons and their families loved him and he them. After the birth of his eldest son’s first child, her maternal grandfather urged his son-in-law to let Paul know – and he made contact. I then cajoled Paul into rebuilding a proper relationship with them and they have been very supportive of me too.

Paul with my grandson

It was awhile before I discovered what an exceptional artist he was, as I had never seen him paint. It was only when he had to leave his lovely big cottage and move to a two-up two-down on the wrong side of the tracks that I saw his portfolio and his unique talent. I bought him a small sketch book and he started drawing on our many drives out into the country. He loved landscape and worked fast and would be onto his third drawing when I hadn’t even finished my first! I encouraged him to start painting again and even sent off applications for him to submit to various exhibitions, but he refused point blank.

It was a particularly cruel blow when I became seriously ill again and we both thought I was going to die just a year into our relationship. Without Paul’s help and sheer determination I don’t think I would have survived. You can read more about it here, here, here and here.

I introduced Paul to Hong Kong where some of my family live. It inspired him – the hustle and bustle of ships in the very busy harbour jolted his dormant talent into action again and with the flat 13 floors up overlooking the West Lamma Channel, he dragged the dining table closer to the window so he had a better view and set about looking for wood from the building site below, on which to paint. The Chinese workmen were very bemused by the tall, skinny, bearded gweilo, stripping plywood off old doors and nicking off with it! He bought paint, paper and ink too and produced one painting after another. His passion for his work had returned! He started submitting his paintings and drawings to exhibitions and entering competitions – and was a regular winner, especially at London venues and one of the prizes was a one man show in Bloomsbury!

Hong Kong Central.jpg
Hong Kong Central
misty ships copy.jpg
Misty Ships
Pearl Of The Orient 2.jpg
Pearl of the Orient
The Golden Arches of Cheung Chau scan.jpg
The Golden Arches of Cheung Chau

My father became terminally ill with cancer and was confined to a wheelchair and as I had no siblings I felt I should do my best for my parents. I worked two days a week at a factory near Paul and he would take me to work on Monday, then drive me the 30 miles down to my parents where I would stay till Thursday when he would collect me and I would work again on Friday and then spend the weekend with him, so it was very much a part-time relationship.The house next door to Paul came up for sale and my father would have moved quite happily, but my mother just wouldn’t budge.

Dad died in year 2000 and I retired from my job in 2005, but was still commuting to spend three days with my mum who by then was suffering with vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s, therefore two parts of the brain affected. She had Meals on Wheels coming daily and her neighbour, Jean, popping in several times a day to check on her when I wasn’t there. The situation was becoming quite stressful for everyone and Paul and I didn’t manage to live a normal life together. The house next door became for sale on two more occasions, but Mum flatly refused to move.

Finally Paul and I made a decision; throughout 2006 I scanned the Internet for property we might afford in Scotland and we visited Dumfries and Galloway several times to look for houses big enough for all three of us (perhaps just with a garage suitable for conversion to a granny flat) and intended to move somewhere near the artists’ town of Kirkcudbright. We reasoned Mum was so far into her dementia that she wouldn’t remember that she wasn’t ‘ever going to leave’ her house. It would mean that we could live as a proper couple  and so we would finally get married. 2007 was to be our year.

Harbour Kirkcudbright


Willo’s Wacky Wardrobe

It somehow seems rather arrogant to think that someone might have any interest in what one wears, but over recent years strangers have been stopping me in the streets, events, art galleries, public transport etc, to tell me how much they like certain garments and ask where they came from (a boost to one’s ego when approaching 72). When they hear they are homemade – or adapted from something else, they are even more interested. (Of course I’m invisible if I’m just traipsing around in my everyday gear).

For all those who like my clothes there are probably many more people who think I’m somewhat eccentric if not bonkers! However, the numerous and varied people who have complimented me seem to be level headed and quite sane, so I thought it might be interesting to share my ‘style’ more widely.

To give you a bit of background, I have mainly had to make do and mend, which is something people of my age and from a working class background will be familiar with – and, as this extract from my as yet unfinished autobiography will illustrate:

The autumn was approaching and it was time to wear a coat for school. To my horror I discovered Mother working away at my grandma’s treadle machine, making me a coat. Although I was only five years old I knew that little girls didn’t wear black clothes made out of a very old grownups coat and I also knew that set-in sleeves are not meant to have puckers around them. I tried to persuade my mum that I would be warm enough going to school in a cardigan, but she would hear nothing of this and off I was sent to school in the hideous coat, anticipating it would be used as more ammunition from the class bullies. I waited till I was out of mother’s sight and whisked it off and bundled it up under my arm. I would rather freeze than wear it. But I still wasn’t safe as I had to hang it on the clothes hooks at school and it would stand out like a sore thumb against the pastel or primary coloured garments in the cloakroom. I had a plan; I would turn it inside out and show the lining. Alas this wasn’t much of an improvement as it was black & white herringbone, so the overall appearance was grey and little girls didn’t wear grey coats, either. My plan failed!

When I was in my teens we didn’t have movements, cultures or trends like Goth or Steampunk; they might have existed elsewhere, but not in my provincial little town of around 6,000 – 7,000 people. As I was at art school I was probably referred to as a beatnik or hippie, but from my late teens I did have a love of everything black – black stockings, black eyeliner and my already dark hair dyed black. Very little money was available so I was unable to go out and buy new things and even when I started work I had to hand over my pay packet to my mum, from which she gave me pocket money. I managed to save enough to buy a brown leather outfit (they didn’t have it in black), which I still have today (or did have till a recent visit form one of my granddaughters, when she went away with the skirt saying, ‘this is awfully short, Grandma!’ She wants the bomber jacket too, but sadly, as yet, I have been unable to find it).

I remember in the late 60s causing a mild sensation when I was working as a draughtswoman at our local planning office. It was all terribly county, all the guys wore suits (or tweed jackets with leather patches on the elbows) and ties. The women wore smart skirts, blouses and court shoes. Most of them felt they couldn’t possibly start work until they had read their newspaper from cover to cover – and it was a place where everyone was addressed by their titles – Mr, Mrs & Miss and so on. Our boss was the lovely Lt.Col. Tomlinson (affectionately referred to as ‘T’), whom everyone adored. He had his own office along a corridor and usually had his door open so he could see who was passing. One day I marched by, wearing a black top with black midi skirt and black boots, when I suddenly heard his voice bellowing my name! I heeded the call and went into him, ‘What is your first name – and what are you wearing?’ he harrumphed. He muttered something about the suffragette movement and indicated I should do a little twizzle for him (it was 1969) and then, after some consideration, he murmured his approval. In the whole history of the office I was the only person he addressed by their first name. I felt smug!

 Having originated from a fairly frugal heritage I went off to live in Zambia in my mid 20s and there I learned what hardship really is, not so much for the expatriate (though there were times when we all had to tighten our belts), but for many Africans who, out of necessity, had to recycle just about everything. Even we expats washed our aluminium foil and plastic food bags and hung them on the line to dry. From the Zambians I learned that there is always another use for everything and having spent 17 years in that sometimes harsh, but otherwise wonderful country, the habit of recycling has remained with me – much to the horror of my family who would describe me as a hoarder! That might be true, but my stuff doesn’t just lie around piling up, it does eventually get transformed into something to wear, something to decorate the house or into my artwork (see heading above).

In Zambia we paid little heed to fashion, as choice in clothing or fabric was very limited and our main concern was to buy or make something minimal, light, cool and could be ironed. The latter intended to kill off the larvae of any putzi fly that may have laid eggs in one’s clothing whilst it was hanging out to dry. (Upon contact with human skin the eggs hatch and the larvae burrow into the skin and develop into fully grown maggots).

One of my favourite outfits of all time (worn here at a wedding in 1972). The feather boa I bought myself, but the skirt and blouse were bought by my first husband when he went on a short course to South Africa in 1971 – and I had asked him if he would bring back much needed clothing. I was astonished when he returned with such lovely garments, as never before had he bought me any clothes (and never since). However, it seemed he had  a brief encounter with a woman he met in the hotel and she had chosen the garments for him. I still have the blouse and  can just about get into it! (although I have had to replace the shirring elastic many times and once whilst ironing I burned a hole in one of the sleeves, which I stitched up and then put a matching seam in the other sleeve!).

Fast forward to around 1991/2 and this is what I was wearing (back to black – or monochrome at least):

Christmas with Paul c 1992
No idea what I’m chewing on, probably a pencil. or paint brush.  Note the short hair (as a result of my chemo).

I always thought I had been born 100 years too late and there was a point in the late 90s when the content of my wardrobe was so dark that I couldn’t find anything! It was then that I made a concerted effort to lighten up.

To return to the steampunk mentioned earlier; about a year ago I was clearing out some of my mum’s old specs and took them along to the recycling bank, only to find that they didn’t want the cases. I went to throw them into the refuse bin, but hesitated as I thought it a terrible waste, so brought them home, pulled them apart and reconstructed them. To complete the task I needed craft felt, paint, laces and a glue gun (all of which I already had). I cut a rough pattern and by trial and error arrived at my steampunk hat.







Apologies for the poor quality selfies!

Work in Progress

Evicting the snails from my extension roof has meant many weeks of climbing out of the bedroom window to collect the little critters. Every time I ventured outside I cast my eyes over the dilapidated back wall of the main building and wondered what I should do with it. Ideally remove all the rendering, but over the 200+ years the building has been changed considerably; windows added and the original window bricked up, so to reveal it would be problematic when the rest of the building is stone. The obvious answer would be to get the wall re-rendered, but I can’t afford to do that, so I started patching up the rendering, but of course it still looked a mess even when repainted as I couldn’t match up the pebble-dash finish. Also some of the earlier layers of paint had fallen off and try as I might I couldn’t remove them all to make a fresh start.

Throwing out some of my superfluous casts gave me an idea – why not stick them on the wall, make a feature of them, together with a bit of mosaic. And the louvre doors in the loft (that were on built-in wardrobes when we moved into the house) – perhaps I could cut them in half and make mock shutters? Mmmm…

So began the work in progress…


I hadn't realised the doors weren't identical (they were on separate cupboards originally), but that didn't deter me!
I hadn’t realised the doors weren’t identical (they were on separate cupboards originally), but that didn’t deter me!
My favourite bit of the gecko is the end of his tail - a mug handle!
My favourite bit of the gecko is the end of his tail – a mug handle!


this looks weird from this angle as the perspective is meant to be viewed from below
this looks weird from this angle as the perspective is meant to be viewed from below
This was the most difficult piece as I had to work from a ladder and therefore couldn't stand back to view.
This was the most difficult piece as I had to work from a ladder and therefore couldn’t stand back to view.
All a bit of a pointless exercise as my courtyard is so small that I had to stand on a ladder to take this photo. Still, it keeps my neighbours amused!
All a bit of a pointless exercise as my courtyard is so small that I had to stand on a ladder to take this photo. Still, it keeps my neighbours amused!

Watch this space… !

Be Careful What You Wish For

When I got back from holiday I discovered my rosemary bush had died, but I had seen a trailing variety in France and thought I would treat myself, so ordered one from the Internet and planted it on the roof of my small extension. The planting instructions said a sunny aspect, so I thought a perfect spot would be just outside my bedroom window where I also have other herbs, but as it grows bigger I plan to move it to the edge where it can cascade over the wall.

In the years I used to garden for my parents I rarely came across any slugs, so was somewhat horrified when Paul and I moved here, to find this garden overrun with them – but we never got any snails. I had read that slugs will gorge on anything, but the same source informed me that snails are good for the garden as they only eat rotting vegetation. I desperately wished we had snails instead of slugs!

Over the past few years I have notice the slugs diminishing and snails arriving (I cannot discover why this is) and guess what, these snails HAVE NOT READ THE MANUAL! They chomp voraciously on anything green and juicy, leaving death and destruction in their wake!

                             DSC01306          DSC01270


Imagine my horror when I looked out of the window one morning and saw two snails chomping merrily on my newly planted rosemary. I was out of the window in a trice, flinging the two culprits off the roof terrace in the general direction of my dustbins below, but then I saw them – another snail and another, rampaging over my 12 sq metres! I didn’t count, but easily 15 of the terrible terrestrial gastropods banqueting on my container plants! I was so angry that they also joined their friends over the side.

When I went around to the bin a short time later I discovered most of them had  done a runner bunk, but I was riddled with guilt – two cracked snail shells and two dead snails. Murderer! Call myself a compassionate carering person? No way, I was fast becoming a serial snail slaughterer and resolved to change my ways, but how could such a slow creature with such a beautiful shell (based on golden mean proportions and something to be admired) cause such devastation?


Next day, armed with a carrier bag I went on my early morning snail hunt and picked off 18 snails. I then transported them to the waste land across the road at the front of the house and carefully placed them one by one on the ground. The following day 11 snails, next day just just one – ha-ha, I’ve cracked it! But the day after there were 12 – and each day I followed the same ritual (transportation across the sea road), but when I returned I found another little critter munching on a pieris! Yesterday a bumper bundle of 36! Who will rid me of these troublesome beasts?

           DSC01295      DSC01297

DSC01282   DSC01319

A Week in France (part 2 – Carcassonne – The Cité)

You can’t visit Carcassonne without going to see The Cité, the medieval citadel restored at the end of the 19th century. Unfortunately the day we selected was cold, dark and dreary with a gale blowing, so my photos don’t do it justice. (The featured image was taken on a different day).

IMG_4457     IMG_4465

DSC01072     DSC01076

DSC01077     DSC01092

Basilica of St. Nazaire and St. Celse in The Cité

DSC01088     DSC01083

DSC01084       DSC01082

In the basilica Craig invited me to sit next to him for a few moments and Tony, sitting behind him, whispered, ‘are they here?’ Craig confirmed that they were, as he had seen two of them. Before I could ask who they were talking about, four men appeared in the semi darkness in front of the altar and began to sing. Goose bumps rose on my arms and tears ran down my cheeks, not because I am a religious person, but because it was so hauntingly beautiful. It occurred to me that I should be recording them, but I was so captivated I just couldn’t tear my eyes from the group and they only sang one other piece before drifting into the darkness as mysteriously as they appeared.

The men are Russian, from the ensemble, Doros and various members busk at the basilica throughout the day for a couple of months. I found one of the men selling their two CDs, one of religious music and the other of Russian folk music. I bought the religious one, hoping that the first number they sang would be on the CD, as I was fascinated by the juxtaposition of countertenor and oktavist or Basso Profundo (I’d never actually knew the word oktavist until I just looked up the name for someone who sings below bass!).

When I played my CD at home I discovered that the song I particularly liked wasn’t on it, so I searched the Internet to see where I could find their collection, but nothing at Amazon and nothing on iTunes – nothing at all – anywhere! It appears you can only buy their CDs from the basilica (and presumably anywhere else they are singing), however, I did find several videos on YouTube, from people who had visited the basilica and various other venues. I’ve copied the links to some of them here and hopefully you will be as enthralled as I was.

by Gordon Burns uploaded to YouTube on 20 September 2010

by SUMMIT Mountain published to YouTube 11 Sept 2014

Towards the very end of the next video you will catch a glimpse of a bare breast, so if it is likely to offend you, please do stop the video before it reaches 6.29. Otherwise it is well worth watching and gives you a great tour of the Cité on a glorious day.

by ChippycreekFilms uploaded to YouTube 24 January 2012

On our outward journey Tony had driven us to Liverpool John Lennon Airport and left the car there, but I only stayed with them in France for a week, as another friend was arriving the day I left. This meant I had to make my own way back from the airport. The flight from Carcassonne took two hours, but my 50 mile journey by bus, two trains and a taxi from Liverpool took more than three hours!

When I got home I thought I should try and write some thank-you notes in French to Tony and Craig’s friends who had so graciously invited us for meals. (I could have consulted two of my granddaughters, but they were just about to start their exams and one of my sons could have helped, but he was in the Middle East at the time). Knowing that you can’t trust Google Translate to mean what you intend I also looked at other translation sites on the Internet and between those and my English/French dictionary, I set about the drafts. I diligently cross-referenced everything and after three days I felt reasonably confident so wrote and posted the cards, with fingers crossed that I hadn’t inadvertently said something like, ‘your mother is a whore!’

A Week in France (Part One)

Apart from two day trips to Boulogne, I had never stayed in France and never thought I would. My late partner had intended taking me to Paris and various places in Italy, but when he died it didn’t occur to me that I would be going to either of those countries. So what a wonderful surprise when my friends Craig and Tony phoned me one evening last year and asked if I were free to fly with them to Carcassonne at the end of April – at their expense! Could I let them know within the next few minutes as Ryanair was offering very cheap flights, but time was of the essence as the prices could increase at any moment. I was flabbergasted, but they insisted it was their payment to me for sometimes looking after Craig’s mum before she went into care and for likewise looking after their dogs whenever needed (Craig is an international floral designer and so they are often away). I quickly checked my diary, reminded them that with my disability I am not the easiest guest, especially with the amount of time I need to spend in the bathroom, but still they persisted and so I said yes! They insist I’m not a guest, but family member. Either way, I’m not  the best person to accommodate and reckon that out of every week, I must spend the equivalent of one day in the bathroom.

The Garden

IMG_4372      IMG_4460_2

I tried to learn a bit of the language (from tapes) before going as they have several French friends in the village where they have a house. In reality I was absolutely hopeless (the situation never occurred where I might have said, ‘sur le Boulevard St Michel’ or Je ne veux pas boire de vin’!). I was rather thrown in at the deep end on the evening we arrived as we had been invited to dinner with five of their friends, all of them with as little English as I have French! Poor Tony and Craig had to translate for us. Of my seven evenings there, four were spent in the company of their friends – lovely people – and great food!

An Evening at Le Clos des Framboisiers

DSC01024  DSC01029

DSC01032  DSC01039

DSC01037        DSC01036

In the villages I was captivated by the terracotta-tiled roofs, pale honey coloured walls, shuttered windows and railings draped in lacy lilac wisteria – everything I imagined of southern France, but what took me by surprise were the number of advertising hoardings and soulless retail parks on the edges of the villages. Nevertheless they did not stop my enjoyment – and ignoring those I otherwise found the experience enchanting.



Narbonne Cathedral

IMG_4441     IMG_4431

IMG_4437      DSC01004

DSC00999   DSC01001

DSC01007       DSC01009

People watching in the square at Narbonne

Vide-grenier at Ventenac-Cabardes




IMG_4469     IMG_4477 IMG_4475       IMG_4473

Vide-grenier at Azille

DSC01047   DSC01056

DSC01045   DSC01044

DSC01048   DSC01070


DSC01012   DSC01016

IMG_4467   DSC01174

At a morning market in Carcassonne I bought three pairs of shoes (call me Imelda) at a grand cost of 6 Euros – and no, the spotted ones aren’t odd (well yes the are in the photo) as they each have a partner, but I rather like wearing one of each. Much more fun!

Thanks for reading


Not My Idea of Fun!

Yesterday I set of early to drive the 60 miles or so to collect the bulk of my grandson’s effects from his student accommodation, as already his first year is over and after the summer he is moving into a house with friends. He wasn’t returning with me, as he is helping the 3rd years with their degree show, so will come here later in the week.

Everything was going swimmingly and I was happily listening the The Archers on Radio 4 when the cheery voice of local traffic news chipped in ‘…..the Leeds Half Marathon is underway and bus services will be interrupted due to the closure of Kirkstall Road… it is estimated that it will reopen by 3pm.’ What! It was not yet 11am and I was on the A65 in Kirkstall! Too late – my lane of traffic was suddenly being directed over to the right hand side of the road as hundreds of runners appeared from nowhere in the left hand lane!

The sun was shining and I was beginning to swelter inside my very slow moving car and I wished I had brought water with me. At least we were still moving, albeit at snail’s pace along the wrong side of the A65, but then I could see we were being forced off the main road to the right onto a side road and unknown territory. As my destination was the car park on Kirkstall road, opposite my grandson’s accommodation I really didn’t know what to do, as the thought of spending the afternoon in the car didn’t really appeal.

Just a short distance along the side road I spotted a retail park and the Morrisons Logo, so did a sharp left. At least I would be able to get a drink, use the loo and phone my grandson – who immediately went online for traffic news and did a recce outside to check on the road and the car park nearby. He phoned me back, yes indeed the runners were making their way past his accommodation; the car park was full – and closed! There was no point in me trying to find another route because my destination was inaccessible in every respect. The better news was that the road might be clear by 1.15pm.

Off I went to Morrisons for a coffee and egg sandwich and a wander around the store. In one of the aisles I encountered a young boy and as I tried to make my way around him he snatched off my glasses and started waving them around. Fortunately I recognised the signs and didn’t make a fuss, though I was wondering how I was going to get back home with broken specs – or to my destination for that matter. In the nick of time the boy’s father turned around and came to the rescue. He apologised and said his son was autistic. I had already guessed that and put my hand out and introduced myself to the young lad. Surprisingly he took my hand, gave me his name and made eye contact with me.

After an hour of wandering aimlessly around the store I thought I would go and check on the road situation and was very pleased to find only a few stragglers left and pockets of spectators still spurring them one, “Come on love, you are doing brilliantly, only a couple of miles to go – you can do it. 60 lbs she’s lost!” OMG, why do they do it when the pain is etched on their faces and they can hardly put one foot in front of the other. I really admire runners, though it isn’t for me, but was seriously worried about some of the tortured creatures who were almost crawling towards the finishing line somewhere in the distance. Several ambulances screamed by and I wondered how many more would be doing so before the race was over.

DSC01125   DSC01132

Behind the ambulance you can see the line of traffic I was in the hour earlier.
Sartorial elegance

I waited there until the road reopened and arrived at my destination only three hours late – and then realised I had foolishly forgotten my luggage wheels! Carrying the heavy packed boxes one by one to the car would have taken forever (and been backbreaking), so we unpacked the stuff, filled the suitcase, wheeled it – and carried the empty boxes to the car, refilled the boxes and went back to the flat with the empty suitcase and started all over again. It took us three trips! It was 5pm when I headed back home and many miles down the road I negotiated a round-a-bout and can you believe it – found the road to Ilkley closed!

I had been invited initially for coffee, but then dinner with friends who live en route. When I finally got to Ilkley I pulled over and phoned them to say I’d be late. My sleeping bag was still at their place from when we went to France together last month (blog to follow), so they invited me to stay overnight. They didn’t have to twist my arm and I was able to chill out with a couple of glasses of wine – and they found me a new toothbrush!

I waited for the work traffic to clear this morning and then set off home. Almost as soon as I was on the motorway the traffic ground to a halt. According to the radio – an accident – and then two accidents within a few miles! No sooner had we started moving from the first accident, than we were into the next one. Finally off the motorway I was held up again by road works! It took me two hours to get home.

I notice my left front indicator switch was running quickly which is a sure sign the bulb had gone, so checked it. I appeared right, but not only that, the other front indicator wasn’t working either! It couldn’t be that both bulbs had fused – must be a fault of some kind, so off I went to the garage and my friendly mechanic came to check out the problem. He told me to switch on the hazard lights – nothing! He lifted up the bonnet and had to shove and pull to access the first bulb and suddenly both lights came on! So at the moment, fingers crossed, everything is up and running!

This is now my sitting room after unpacking the car!


I’m One of the Lucky Ones

Having an ostomy is a daunting experience no matter what the reason/s that necessitated it, so imagine if you had one and then couldn’t get or couldn’t afford the supplies to manage it and instead of proper ostomy appliances, you had to use carrier bags, tin cans, plastic containers etc.

Now we ostomates (the word given to us ‘baggies’ and I’ve been one for so long that I remember the debate as to whether is should be ostomate or ostomist) sometimes acquire supplies that we can no longer uses for whatever reason – for example at one extreme we will die, but in a less dramatic way, we might find them unsuitable and have to find alternatives – or we just might move on to some new method of managing our ostomy. At that point our old supplies are superfluous, but what to do with them, as we can’t send them back and it seems a terrible waste to dump them?

A member of The Colostomy Association is trying to gather all our surplus stocks together to send to people in need worldwide, but of course this costs money so is looking for donations however small.

If you are interested in this project you can read more about it here:

Thanks for reading.

My new cancer blog here:

In Praise of the Pakistani Bus Driver

Wait ages for a bus, then three arrive
Wait ages for a bus, then three arrive

I recently needed a minor operation on my eyelid and not knowing if I would be able to drive after the op I took a taxi to the hospital. I would have taken the bus, except it would have been two buses and, as I had to be there before 9am I would have had to pay the fare (can’t use my Senior Bus Pass before 9.30) and that would have been more than the taxi fare.

Arriving at the hospital very early, I bought myself a cup of coffee and sauntered down to the department, checked in and took a seat in the waiting room. I looked at the notice board to see who was on duty and the waiting time. Making myself as comfortable as possible, I removed my coast and fleece and settled down for the long wait ahead and wondered how it could possibly be a 30 minutes wait, when I was the first person there?

Five minutes later I was interrupted from my reverie when a nurse called my name, so left my half drunk coffee and went through into the consulting room. The doctor, not the one I had seen at my initial consultation, didn’t think she could actually do the surgery and so decided instead to cauterise and curettage the little growth. It was all over and done within 10 minutes (the most painful bit being the local anaesthetic into my eyelid), so I made my way back to the café with my coffee where I waited to kill time till 9.30 when I could use my bus pass.

I watched two buses come and go and when the third one appeared I checked my watch and found it was nearly half past, but I knew it was a few minutes fast and it would only take me 30 seconds to get to the bus shelter. I dithered, remembering the last time I had arrived early at a bus stop. It was a lovely day in the summer and I had walked down the road to catch the bus into town to economise on fuel for the car. There was a short queue of elderly people, so without checking my watch I assumed the watershed had passed. Not one, but three buses arrived at the same time – just like that old saying.

Enjoying the warm sun on my back I waited patiently as the others boarded, marginally aware it was taking an inordinate amount of time and of the faint chinking of coins, but mainly rummaging through my bag to find my camera, to take a picture of the three bus phenomenon! As the man in front of me moved into the bus I stepped forward and placed my pass on the reader, ‘Good morning, town please!’ The middle-aged driver grunted something unintelligible. ‘Pardon?’ I asked. ‘Too early!’ he yelled, indicating my pass still on the reader. ‘Oh, what time is it?’ It was 9.28. ‘Oh, I suppose you want me to get off?’ ‘Either that or pay the fare!’ ‘How much is it?’ £2.50! ‘I’ll get off!’ picking up my pass.

I smiled sweetly at him whilst thinking ‘jobs worth!’ but then had some sympathy, as he wouldn’t have been able to issue me a ‘free ticket’ before 9.30. It was mainly his manner that had annoyed me, but I had been about the fifth person to plonk my bus pass down and so he must have been rather exasperated. He did seem a little surprised that I had chosen to get off as the other pensioners had paid up, but I was on an economy drive and wasn’t going to pay £2.50 to travel less than two miles. Perhaps my imagination, but I’m sure he had rather a sheepish expression on his face as he closed the doors, but a smile and a few kind words cost nothing!

As the bus pulled away I was aware of a bus heading in the opposite direction, but standing at the bus stop directly opposite. The driver poked his head out of the window, called over to me and asked if I knew the location of the community centre. I gave directions and realised he was repeating them to someone who had alighted from his bus and as he pulled away I saw the passengers, one with a white stick and the other with a guide dog.

Counting my blessings I sighed and walked across the road, thinking ‘well, I’ve missed one bus, so what difference will it make if I miss another’. The lady with the stick took my arm and the one with the dog walked behind as we slowly made our way to the Community Centre. I gathered they were attending the first coffee morning for blind and partially sighted people at the centre and so had never been there before. I saw them safely inside and hurriedly made my way back to the bus stop and by a stroke of luck was in time to catch the next bus! On my journey into town I mused that indeed it is an ill wind that that blows nobody good – and apart from that I was feeling better about the earlier incident and pleased that I had done something useful instead of just idly wasting time.

So it was that I was now standing at the bus stop at the hospital, wondering if I should get on and face the wrath of the driver or remain at the stop for the next bus. By now the anaesthetic was wearing off and my eye was becoming quite painful, so I tentatively stepped onto the bus. ‘Am I too early to use my bus pass?’ ‘Are you going into town, love?’ I nodded. The young Pakistani looked kindly at me and said, ‘your pass won’t register yet, but just get on – it’s fine!’ I thanked him profusely and headed into town from where I could connect with my bus home. I wondered what Mr Grumpy would have done?

Ninja Nanna – A Week In The Life Of….


Ninja Nanna in offending hat!

My grandson is in his first term at uni and today I took some food and a few things over to him, travelling by train. Being mindful of him not wanting to spend much of his free time with his grandmother, the plan was to empty my small suitcase of goodies and place them in his rucksack, then head back home straight after buying him lunch.

It wasn’t a very auspicious start, as the train was already full of drunks at 10am. After 90 minutes of torture I arrived at my destination to find the station swamped in police, clad in hi viz vests. Eventually finding my grandson in the sea of yellow, we decided to have lunch at Wetherspoons, which is on the station concourse. The establishment was heaving, but it was bucketing down outside and not wanting to walk far and get soaked, we decided to brave the revellers. At the door we were unceremoniously stopped by two security guards, ‘I’m sorry madam, but you will have to remove your hat!’ I laughed, ‘You are kidding?’ ‘No Madam, we can’t let anyone in today who is wearing a hat.’ Why?’ ‘Because there might be trouble, there is an English Defence League March and also a football match in town today.’ Much bemused, I dutifully removed my hat and wondered what I could hide under there that I couldn’t conceal inside a suitcase or rucksack, for neither was searched.

In spite of the hordes, Wetherspoons didn’t disappoint. I’ve only been there on four occasions, but the guys and gals who work there are always swift and courteous and seem to have the knack of spotting me peering over the bar (I’m very small), whereas in other pubs I might wait for ages as other customers reach over me to be served until I yell, ‘am I invisible?’ (Ladies of a certain age will know exactly what I mean!).

It’s been quite a week; last Friday night I went to lock up and in the semi-darkness I noticed something shoved through my letterbox and when I couldn’t pull it through I switched on the light and was quite disturbed as all was revealed.

IMG_4044   IMG_4045

IMG_4047   IMG_4048

I have been given blood on a few occasions, but didn’t recognise it as being the average catheter, so wondered if it could be just an elaborate Halloween prop. Anyway, I decided to take it to the police station the next morning.

Having waited 10 minutes to be attended to, I waved my arms around to attract the attention of Ms Plod behind the counter and handed over the offending item. Giving it a cursory glance and without removing it from the plastic bag, Ms Plod declared, ‘it doesn’t look like real blood to me – and it was Halloween last night – nothing to worry about, I’ll stick it in the bin for you!’

Returning home I searched the Internet for Halloween paraphernalia and thus far haven’t found anything remotely similar. I would imagine quite a pricey piece of equipment to be stuffing randomly through people’s doors, so I wondered if something more sinister might be afoot. I am a volunteer at our local HIV support group and as there is still a great deal of stigma around people carrying the virus, I wondered if I might be a target too?

Yesterday I saw this in a Disabled Parking Bay just around the corner from the same police station:DSC00887

A disabled police force – that explains a lot!

When I returned from visiting my grandson today I was greeted by two large dog turds dumped under my front window. Bad enough, but just to the side of them is a lamppost on which there is a sign warning of the offence of dog fouling and the prosecution that ‘may’ follow! And just over the road from me is a field that runs the length of the street, where people walk their dogs all the time.

What happened to our green and pleasant land, when people dumping litter were fined; where little old ladies could wear hats; when police respected the rights of disabled people and when you wouldn’t expect to find what might have been a used cardiovascular catheter stuffed through your letterbox?