Wednesday, 2 March 2022

6 years on - a birthday letter to Steve

Had mesothelioma not cut short your life in 2016, today we would have been celebrating your 75th birthday.  As it is, today we're marking six years since you died and tomorrow, the anniversary of your funeral when family, friends and neighbours came together to celebrate your life.  

I haven't been able to meet up with family and friends much these last two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic which effectively closed down the world for a lot of the time. Barriers came up between countries and "stay at home" and "self-isolate" instructions were issued within countries.  

Two years on and Coronavirus is still with us.  However, it feels like life is adapting to a new normal and that is largely due to the roll out of vaccines, one of which was developed here in Oxford on the same medical campus where you took part in so many clinical trials for mesothelioma.  How wonderful is that?  

Double jabbed and boosted (but taking sensible precautions like mask wearing where appropriate and washing/sanitising hands as and when necessary) I started venturing out into the big wide world last autumn.  Initially visiting places around the UK to get my photography mojo working again and enjoy a change of scenery, and more recently to Spain when the opportunity came up to stay in a place I have long wanted to visit - the Muralla Roja (Red Wall) in Calpe where we visited together many years ago.  

I think you would have loved Muralla Roja as much as I did. The place lends itself to the sort of graphic images you created!  Inspired by you, I'm hoping to produce a set of prints myself, based on the architectural abstract images I took while I was there...

While in the area, I wandered round Calpe old town exploring the 
narrow streets and historic buildings.  Emerging from a narrow passage and turning a corner, I found myself in a small square, bounded by the whitewashed walls of a church, with a couple of tall cypress trees reaching up into the blue sky and a bench lit up by a shaft of sunlight.  And I was transported back in time.  We had sat on that bench many years ago to rest our feet and drink water.  I can remember you taking some photos of the cypress trees against the whitewashed walls and blue sky.  You made one of those photos into a greetings card; I still have one.

I must admit, I had one of those moments...sitting on the bench alone where I had sat with you many years ago.  The tears welled up and I was glad to be wearing sunglasses!  But it was lovely to experience such a happy memory, so vividly.

All being well, I'll be traveling again soon to Paris, Athens and Andalusia in the spring, and a photography road trip along Scotland's North Coast 500 in the autumn.  And I hope very much, in between these trips abroad, to visit family and friends in the UK that I haven't seen in person since lockdown started in 2020.  Lots of catching up to do, covid and wars permitting...

In other news, our son Jack is still living here with me for the time being - what we thought would be a short temporary arrangement in the first lockdown has gone on much longer than anticipated...but he'll be moving on soon, back to London to live with his fiancĂ©, Laura.  Yep!  You read that right - he's engaged!  It's been a delight to welcome Laura into the family.  I know you would have got on well.  So sad you will never meet each other, but so happy for both of them!

Our daughter Katie and husband Davie have moved back to Oxford and now live within walking distance, close enough to meet up easily/be around if needed, but far away enough to be independent.  Perfect!  You would be proud of all the work they have put into doing up their new house - it looks great. Katie has certainly inherited your design skills. 

As for me...after "retiring" twice already, I'm going to do it again at the end of this year - finally leaving the planning profession as I step down from the Guernsey Planning Panel in December.  Time for some new blood for the Panel I think, and a new challenge for me, maybe...

...After 15 months or so of letting my camera gather dust, I picked it up again in earnest as I started traveling last autumn.  My photographs have been well received where I've shared them, been published and awarded on, received a special mention in the Travel Photographer of the Year Competition and been featured in this month's edition of X-posure Photography magazine which is devoted to female photographers..

As I write, it's just under a week until the launch of Shot By Women, an image library which promotes the female gaze in the world of editorial and commercial photography.  I've signed up as a contributor and was thrilled to be one of their featured photographers recently, promoting the launch of the platform.  

How it all pans out, we'll just have to wait and see...but it's exciting to be in at the start of something different and a bit special!

Last but not least, our memorial to you...We thought you should be remembered with an artwork of some description and ended up choosing to contribute to a "human sundial" to be installed at Osney Lock Hydro, a green energy scheme on the  Thames near where we live, that we both supported. The sundial is a set of mosaic numbers and pictures of local wildlife set into the ground in front of the Hydro building.  The "hand" of the sundial is made by someone standing on a central mosaic platform so that their shadow points to one of the numbers to tell the time.  

It's a beautiful original artwork that will eventually be accessible to the public.  I was invited to get involved with the central platform where the human stands to cast a shadow.  I helped the mosaic artist with the design which centred on a depiction of the sun and also cut, laid and stuck the first piece of tile in the centre of the sun. I'm not sure whether I was a help or a hindrance (it's not something I'd done before!) but I was invited to return for a few more sessions working on the central platform, so hopefully I improved as I went along.  

All the mosaic panels are now completed and installed, and we're waiting for a date for the grand opening which had been postponed due to the pandemic.  Maybe next year I can share a photo to show the sundial in action!  For now, here's a couple of iPhone shots of the work in progress and in situ.  I do hope you think it a fitting way to remember you.  

Until next year, all being well xx

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

5 years on - a letter to Steve

Can it really be five whole years since your last breath?  

The run up to yesterday's anniversary was all too familiar in some ways...Six Nations rugby matches to enjoy on the TV (and a repeat of England's victory over Italy!) plus memories of Valentine's Days past, with your last card to me still having pride of place on the mantlepiece in the bedroom where we had our last conversation on the morning of 15 February.

But in other respects, it's been a year like no other - something happened which was unimaginable this time last year.  The world has been closed down with the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.  Plans to mark my significant birthday abandoned before they had got beyond the ideas stage; travel arrangements, hotel and B&B bookings cancelled; contact with family and friends for the most part limited to phone calls, WhatsApp messages, emails, FaceTime and Zoom meetings; groceries and other items delivered rather than shopped for in person...And the human touch limited to those you share your house with or in your support bubble.

For many people, it has been difficult living with uncertainty about the future.  I won't pretend it's been easy for me, but the experience of supporting you through mesothelioma for the best part of 7 years has helped.  I know much better now how to live in the moment and seize opportunities as they arise.  From being an inveterate "planner" with a good idea at the start of the year as to what would happen and when during the next 12 months, I got used to living with time horizons no further into the future than your next quarterly assessment.  Even looking ahead during that three month period came with health warnings that things could change without warning (and they frequently did...) So in that respect, I was better equipped than most to deal with the strange times we have all experienced since the first England lockdown in mid-March 2020. 

In other respects too, I consider myself to have been more fortunate than most when it comes to living through lockdown, with a garden to enjoy, a park at the end of the street and lovely walks close by. The street's WhatsApp group has been hugely supportive of each other and is still going strong. I'm now on friendly first name terms with most of the people living in the street; I've got to know some of neighbours much better as I talked to them from a safe social distance while taking a series of lockdown photographic "rainbow" portraits to keep the creative juices going.  

I have a confession too.  There is another man in the house! Don't jump to conclusions - I don't think that anyone could take your place...But when working from home became not only possible but mandatory, our son returned to live in the family home whilst working remotely.  We never imagined back last spring that he would still be here approaching a year later, so we've had to adjust as we've gone along.  

It's been mutually beneficial.  Lovely to have someone to talk to, hug from time to time, do the heavy lifting/carrying so as not to aggravate my back problems while pain management injections have been cancelled during the pandemic.  He's got me out walking, encouraging me to explore an area I thought I knew well, but now realise had not really got off the beaten track.  I'm much fitter as a result!

In return, he's had someone to discuss work with, cook meals for him from time to time, share a love of walking with and convert to "Strava" to keep track of where we've been.  It will be strange when he finally leaves..whenever, that will be...

I've had little face to face, in the flesh contact with our daughter and her husband since the pandemic stopped "normal" life.  We did manage a weekend away in the Cotswolds for my special birthday...

...and have had occasional socially distanced meet ups since then, but it's difficult when they currently live so far away.  So most contact has been "virtual".  However, they are in the process of buying a house within walking distance of here.  If that all goes through, it will be wonderful to have them so close at hand.  Fingers crossed!

I've used the lockdown periods to progress work on the house, which is moving forward after the disruption of building works in 2018/2019.  I think you would approve of the things that have changed.  As I stripped wallpaper, I even discovered a note we wrote on the wall in 1995, the last time the living room had been stripped back to the plaster.  You can just about make it out...Quite nostalgic...

As I write, we are in lockdown 3, but at long last, there is some light at the end of the tunnel as vaccines are rolled out. I've had one dose already.  It remains to be seen when life will return to the "new normal".  Where we will be when I write this time next year?  

I can't finish without mentioning the Mesowarriors, who were such a big part of our lives for such a long time. I'm still in touch with friends in the UK, USA and Canada who lost their loved ones to mesothelioma, like me.  We are bound by a common thread which not even a pandemic can destroy. Although you lived much longer than most diagnosed around the same time as you in 2009, the amazing Mavis Nye (diagnosed around the same time) battles on, Wonder Woman that she is - acting as a focal point for those who find themselves dealing with this man-made cancer either as a personal diagnosis or as a loved one/carer.  Hope lives on through her, and long may it last!

Saturday, 15 February 2020

Four years on....a letter to Steve

On 14 February 2016, we exchanged Valentines cards, had a few beers with family and friends while cheering on England playing in one of the Six Nations rugby matches on TV.  Later that evening, we hatched plans to make life easier for you by converting the first floor bedroom into a bedsit of sorts, so you didn't have to make the increasingly difficult journey up and downstairs.  

On 15 February 2016, I brought you a cup of coffee in bed around 8.30am.  Our daughter, visiting at the time, was already up and out on a refresher driving lesson. You were due to go to your first music therapy session later that day, at the local hospice.  Appointments were in place for a further course of radiotherapy; your next session was to be the following day.  We knew you were getting closer to the end of your life - nearly seven years post-mesothelioma diagnosis - but, based on the consultant's advice, thought we had still had a few more months to prepare ourselves mentally, emotionally and practically.  

Then the unthinkable, but inevitable, happened.  By the time I returned to the bedroom half an hour later to collect your empty coffee cup, you had breathed your last.  Life would never be the same again. 

Today, unprompted, I woke up at 8.45am.  Exactly four years since the day - and probably the time - of your death.  In some ways, it feels like a lifetime ago; in other ways, it feels like it's only just happened; the memories are still so vivid.  But life goes on...

If I learned anything from your experience with mesothelioma, it's not to take anything for granted.  If there's something you want to do, then do it (if you can) rather than put it off to another time on the assumption that there will be another opportunity.  

So I have taken that thought to heart, relishing the opportunity to travel while I'm still mobile and able to enjoy the experience, with a fascinating trip to Bolivia last summer ...

Lying down on the job and jumping for joy with the Frui gang at Uyuni Salt flats, Bolivia

...and the most amazing experience visiting Ethiopia in January...

With the Mursi tribe, Omo Valley, Ethiopia

as well as visits to family and friends in Europe (don't get me going on the B word.  Thank goodness, you missed all that...)

With the ex-1Xers Doel, Belgium
and, of course, closer to home in the UK.  Our friends and neighbours continue to support me in every way imaginable.  For that I am truly grateful. 

But by far the biggest event of the year, and the one which brought the most joy (and tears) was the wedding of our daughter Katie to Davie in the Scottish borders last November.  I had the honour and pleasure of walking her down the "aisle" to the ceremony - a role that would normally have fallen to you.  

Although you were not there in person, you were remembered with love in the speeches of both the groom, Davie, and the Maid of Honour, Kathleen.  I have to admit that tears were steaming down my cheeks as I listened then...and again now, as I remember.  But it was a truly joyous and magical occasion, which you would have loved.  So I will finish this "letter" to you with some photo memories of the day.  

Who knows what the next 12 months will bring, but you can be sure I will be seizing the day, especially as the next big birthday is on the horizon...

With love that will not fade away xx

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Anniversary musings....

I'm thinking of you especially today, Steve.  

We should have been celebrating our wedding anniversary together.  Instead, I am marking the day without you, for the third time since your death in February 2016.  

It's got me thinking about anniversaries when we were together.....including the memorable trip to Marrakech to celebrate our "Ruby" wedding anniversary, toasting each other on the roof terrace of the KozyBar, watching the storks fly back and forth from their nests on the walls of the El Badi Palace.  

Believe it or not, I was back there a couple of weeks ago, at the end of a second tour of Morocco with fellow photography enthusiasts.  The storks were settling down for the night, but we watched from the roof terrace of the bar, drinking wine as the sun disappeared from view, the mosques became illuminated and the call to prayer echoed around the city. 

It was a calculated risk, taking the group to the same place where we had celebrated a special anniversary, but the right decision.  I now have more happy memories to keep me going when the going gets tough.

There is another important event on the horizon this year. Our daughter is getting married in November!  You would love her partner, Davie.  So sad that you won't be there to walk her down the aisle - or more precisely to where Davie will be waiting for her, as (like our own marriage) as this won't be a religious ceremony.  But it will be a joyful one!

You would also be very proud of our son Jack, who has just completed the London Marathon.  Where does he get his strength and endurance from I wonder?  ;) 

Rather than running away from home like I did on the first anniversary without you, or spending the day alone with my thoughts like last year, I will be with others, hosting a meal here to say thank you for some of our lovely friends / neighbours who have given me practical help and emotional support when I need it.  That's a good way to spend a special day.  

You will be missed.  

You are missed.  

But you are not forgotten.  

Remembering you with love xx

May 2012 - Marrakech

May 1972 Oxfordshire


Friday, 16 February 2018

Two years on....

Well Steve, we have reached the second anniversary of your death. Your last Valentine to me has pride of place on the mantelpiece, as it did last year and the year before.

I was stirred yesterday morning by bright sunshine slanting through the blinds and it took a few seconds to wake up properly before the significance of the date kicked in.  I confess I shed a tear on reading lovely messages from friends who also remembered this anniversary.  

However, it wasn't all sadness.  Daughter Katie joined me at lunchtime, and we walked, talked and dined together and toasted your memory.  She has returned to London this morning, so a chance to finish this post to mark the second anniversary of loosing you. 

Unlike last year, the run up to this anniversary has not been nearly as stressful.  Maybe its because I’ve been through many of those “first time without you” experiences and survived, even though its been difficult at times.....such as when I walked out of a Cuban music evening barely able to hold back the tears - the only person trying to salsa without a partner - remembering how much we enjoyed dancing together....

While the Steve-shaped hole in my life is still there, the void is slowly being filled with new experiences of living as a single person.  

I’ve carried on our grown up gap year, traveling far and wide over the last 12 months: Namibia, Scotland, Portugal, France and New York City, as well as getting out and about in the UK, meeting up with old friends, making new friends and enjoying some quality time with our grown up kids along the way.

The camera has been my companion on these travels, and photography is still proving to be a creative and social lifeline, as it was when you were alive and going through treatment.  For some reason, a few days ago I was flicking through old photos of our travels together, and I came across this one of you in Spain, at the memorial to those innocent people who lost their lives in the Madrid train bombings back in 2004, before you were diagnosed with terminal cancer.  The image has taken on a new significance now, watching you walk away from me in the darkness, but towards the light flooding in from above.  Sadness and hope at the same time.

I’m still in touch with the Meso Warriors - mainly those who have lost their loved ones to mesothelioma - but also the amazing Mavis Nye who was diagnosed with the disease around the same time as you but is now in remission after taking part in an immunotherapy drug trial which has given hope to so many.  Mavis has even started up her own charity to help others in her position and their families.  I was honoured to be invited to the launch and to take some photos to record the launch last December.

People like Mavis and Linda Reinstein in the States (who runs the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organisation) have my utmost admiration for the work they do.  I sometimes feel guilty that I’m not more actively involved in mesothelioma awareness advocacy, especially now this blog is only updated infrequently.  However, people still read it from time to time, and I’ve had nice messages from those who have found it helpful, including a lady who had no idea what to expect at the Coroner’s Inquest but didn’t find it quite so scary after reading about my experience on the blog, so I guess that’s a contribution in some small way....

The idea of creating a public artwork as a permanent memorial to you has moved forward another baby step, with discussions about its form (a "human" sundial) and location in what will be a little pocket park next to the Thames at the Osney Lock.  However, its taking a while to get lottery funding for the overall landscaping scheme, and there is no sign of anything happening on the ground as yet. Hopefully, some time over the next 12 months, the project will reach fruition, or at least take another step forward....

Who knows what the next year will bring to me, our family and the wider mesothelioma community?  It will be interesting to look back in 12 months time to find out.  Until then - your memory will not fade away.... 

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Not fade away... a year on

Well,'s here....the first anniversary of your death.  

In some ways it feels like only yesterday - the memories of your last weekend are so vivid....watching England play Italy in the Six Nations rugby match; exchanging Valentine cards; making plans to convert the bedroom into a bedsit so you didn't have to climb stairs which you were finding a struggle; bringing you a cup of coffee in bed the next morning and listening as you told me about your dream, then returning a short while later to find you had taken your last breath....I still regret that I wasn't holding you in my arms at that time.

In other ways, it feels like a lifetime ago, so much has happened and so much has changed since then...

For the first six months or so, the challenge was getting through all the stuff that has to be sorted out when someone dies: notifying people and changing all things held jointly into my name; dealing with Probate and attending the Coroner's Inquest; deciding (or not deciding) what to do with your personal effects; trying to catch up with the urgent household stuff that had been put on hold as your health had deteriorated, and dealing with my own health issues.....

Over the last six months or so, I've been distancing myself from things like that, quite literally in one way, with lots of traveling (Italy, Romania, back to Italy, Cuba and Belgium, as well as staying with family and friends here in the UK).  

I've consciously distanced myself from mesothelioma too; stopped the google alerts, taken a long break from writing the blog, which is almost at a natural end anyway; not looked too closely at what's happening with the Meso Warriors in of other deaths from mesothelioma just stirred up all the negative emotions again - and there seemed to be so many: Andrew's Nancy, Amanda's Ray, Sue's Big G to name but a few - although the news that Mavis is still in remission brings me joy, and I am in total awe of Lou in Australia who just seems to keep going somehow, no matter what happens.

Throughout the last 12 months there have been emotional and poignant milestones; the first anniversaries of our significant dates.  

Your birthday last March was a quiet affair, just me and our kids Jack and Katie having a meal out.  In truth, I think we were all rather preoccupied with thoughts of your funeral which took place the day after, at 3pm on the third day of the third month.  Given your love of numbers, we thought you would appreciate that....

In May, the first wedding anniversary without you was spent in the company of photography friends in the Netherlands.  I had run away from home...just couldn't bear the thought of being in Oxford without you on that day.

I ran way again in July, to celebrate my birthday with Katie in Italy and meet up with our friends Giuseppe and Maria Adele in Rome.

In September, we scattered your ashes on the River Thames, to the north of Oxford. I carried you to the end of the street, then Martin your brother carried you the rest of the way, and we all walked (me, Jack and Katie, Martin and Mary) along the towpath for three miles or so, passing some of our favourite haunts and riverside pubs on the way, before finding a quiet spot for the little ceremony.  We end up at The Trout, where we had a lovely family meal and raised several glasses of fizz in your memory, before walking back home. 

I like to think of you, floating down the Thames, passing close by our house, through the centre of Oxford and on via Reading (one of the places you grew up) and London (where I grew up and Katie now lives), out into the ocean and on around the world, carried by tides and currents. 

The elements - fire, water, earth and air - were a recurring theme in your artwork.  On the way home after scattering your ashes, it struck me that your mortal remains had already passed through fire, air and water, so I completed their journey by burying the last few particles in the earth of the large pot in which the Japanese maple is growing, just outside the kitchen windows.  Its pink leaves and red stems light up the sideway in the spring, turn a beautiful fresh green in summer and glow yellow, orange and red like fire in the autumn.  A lovely reminder of you as the seasons pass.

In November, we scattered ashes on water again.  This time it was your mum's turn, in Bristol on the River Frome, and the occasion was marked by the family having tea and cake at the little refreshment kiosk at Snuff Mills.  Perhaps a little bit of you will be reunited with a little bit of your mum, one day somewhere out in the waters of the big wide world....

Knowing Christmas would never be the same without you, Jack, Katie and I opted for something completely different this year.  We rented a house in Bruges, went sight-seeing in Bruges and Ghent.  We enjoyed sampling gluhwein, waffles dipped in Belgian chocolate, frites dipped in mayonnaise and other local delicacies (but not all at the same time!) and I met up with photography friends while Jack and Katie explored Antwerp independently.  I think it helped us being somewhere completely different, but some things were still the same, including taking your thick, white walking socks to act as stockings for the kids' presents....

Our friend's Ian and Ruth came to my rescue on New Years Eve, organising a diner party with games so that I wasn't at home alone at the start of the year.  

Indeed, our friends have come to my rescue many times over the last 12 months, including me in invitations to events, meals and trips away in the UK, as well as offering and providing practical help and emotional support. My photography friends abroad have been wonderful too, not to mention other members of the family, especially those who live in Bristol whom I try to see when visiting Jack.  I am very fortunate to have such a good support network.

However, as a widowed friend of a friend said, "I have lots of people to do things with, but no one to do nothing with." And that's how it feels sometimes.  I still find it strange to come home to an empty house.  I'm still not used to the sound of silence (music is played more often now, as is the radio.) Cooking for one doesn't feel right ....perhaps I should invite people round for a meal more often.

I know from the phone calls, messages and cards that many of our friends have been thinking of me - and you - as the first anniversary of your death approaches.  They say I have been strong, but I have probably cried more in the last couple of weeks than during the last six months put together, knowing that this day was approaching.  

What is it about anniversaries?  They are just dates...days like any other day; they come; they go.  But they are a trigger for memories, happy and sad, the good times and the bad, and times for joy, quiet reflection or celebrations, depending on the occasion...I suppose it's because they are important personal milestones which mark the passage of time in our lives, that we cannot let them pass without acknowledging them in some way.

Even with family and good friends to support me, it goes without saying that I still miss you, even though its been a year now and life goes on regardless.

I miss the physical stuff...your presence, your touch; our morning and goodnight kisses; holding hands and having cuddles; dancing with you...  

I miss the sound of your voice; your laughter; your smile; the twinkle in your eye; your enthusiasm; your creativity...

I miss hearing your opinions - even though I didn't agree with all of them.  I miss your delight at solving a particularly tricky cryptic crossword puzzle and your patience when you had to explain some of the clues and answers to me - crossword puzzles have never been my forte.  I even miss those occasions when tensions had built up and you would loose your temper like an explosion, but you would calm down so quickly after letting off steam, rather than sulking...

I miss your practical chauffeur has gone, along with the car; my IT consultant is missing (although Jack is a good substitute); I no longer have my design consultant (although Katie steps into your shoes when needed).  There's no one to advise me about the right screws and rawl plugs to use when putting things up on walls, hold the bottom of the ladder or the other end of a tape measure.  Google can fill the gaps in my knowledge but can't help to fold a king size duvet cover, which is a lot easier when there are two of you!  And of course, you were always much better at housework than me....

Until today, my last emotional milestone in the year since your death was yesterday - Valentine's day.  For more than four decades, I have received a handmade, personal Valentine card from you on this day.  I still have them all.  Looking back now, the card you gave me last year feels like premonition...why else choose the theme "Not Fade Away" inspired by the sixties song sung by the Stones and Buddy Holly.  

Of course, there was no Valentine card from you this year. But last year's card still sits on the mantlepiece in pride of place. The last creative act you did, the day before you died.  The ink may fade but the sentiment will not. 

I used to be a bit sceptical when people said they thought about their lost loved ones every day.  Now I get it.  It's not that you occupy my waking thoughts, all day, every day.  But after sharing our lives for more than four decades, you are woven into the fabric of my personal history and the lives of our children.  That doesn't stop, or cease to exist, simply because you have died.  

Having lived in the same house for so long, there are also many physical reminders of you everywhere, from the odd notes written in your hand scattered around the house, to your art work on the walls and the kitchen cupboards you built over 20 years ago...not to mention those personal effects which are still around....some now in use by me, others put away in a memory box, some still awaiting a decision or action.  

And's arrived at last. The day I have been dreading. This time last year, there was pandemonium in the house, with so people coming and going - medics, GP, Police, the hospice nurse, undertakers.  Katie returning from a refresher driving lesson wondering why there was an ambulance in the street outside; having to tell he that her dad had just died.  Then having to tell Jack the same, by phone....then the rest of the family and close friends. There were tears, tears and more tears...No wonder I have been dreading this anniversary.....  

But now it's dawned, unlike last year, I feel strangely calm and peaceful, which has come as a bit of a surprise.  It's only the start of the day, I maybe different when Katie arrives later....But we have made it this far, in spite of the overwhelming feelings of loss and grief which engulfed us this time last year and for a long time afterwards.

I still find it difficult to look very far ahead into the future. Nearly 7 years of not thinking beyond the date of your three monthly hospital assessment is a hard habit to break.  But now there are plans in the pipeline up until July, when Jack will once again be riding the Etape, the mountain stage of the Tour de France open to non-professionals.  I will be there as the support team this year!  

Between then and now, there is more traveling...picking up again on our extended grown up gap year so rudely interrupted in June 2009 when you were diagnosed with mesothelioma and told the average life expectancy was 12-18 months.  Belgium calls in March, followed by work in Guernsey, then a big trip to Namibia and shorter trips to Scotland and Portugal.

But apart from travel and photography, I have little idea where my life is going at the moment. There is no clear direction of travel. I am reluctant to make regular commitments.  I'm still living very much in the day. That's the inheritance of living with a mesothelioma diagnosis for so long.  Perhaps I shouldn't worry about it, but just carry on going with the flow....

However, there is one thing I want to progress this year, and that's the idea of commissioning an artwork as a permanent memorial to you to be installed at a place nearby where lots of people can see and enjoy it.  That can be my mission for 2017.  When it comes to fruition, I'll post another blog entry.

Until then, or until the next significant event or anniversary, in the words of the song "A love for real not fade away..."

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Jack's big bike ride in Steve's memory

As I write, the Tour de France cycle ride has reached stage 20 - a mountain stage in the French Alps between Megeve and Morzine - around 146 km, with four big climbs (and descents) along the route.  It's the last mountain stage of Le Tour 2016, and a tough one even for professional riders.  Catch it on Channel 4 right now if you are in the UK!  

My son Jack cycled this section - known as L'Etape du Tour - three weeks ago, when it was open to non-professional riders, in memory of his father, my husband Steve, who died in February some seven years after being diagnosed with mesothelioma.

I'm delighted and very proud to say that Jack finished the official course along with his two teammates David and Gair, and they even cycled a bit further to make up for the fact that the official route was shortened due to the risk of rockfalls on one mountain section.  

I'm also relieved to say that they all came home in one piece and recovered quickly.

And I'm absolutely delighted that Jack's efforts have already raised over £1800 for Mesothelioma UK, a charity which supported us through Steve's cancer.  

Jack's Just Giving page is still open for donations.  You can access by clicking THIS LINK! 

Well done Jack and all the others who took part.  You are all very wonderful!  

And another big thank you to all of you who generously sponsored his ride in Steve's memory.  

You are all very wonderful too :)

Now enjoy some photos of the big bike ride !!