Friday 28 May 2010

what we did on our holidays.....

If you were getting curious about the long silence, fear not. It wasn't a crisis.  We've been away. With volcanic ash and the threat of strikes disrupting air travel, we decided on a "staycation" and made our first (and I hope not last) visit to the Lake District.  As it turned out, the timing was perfect - the weather was good and the lakes and fells had yet to be thronged by visitors.

The journey became part of the trip; we travelled out via Bristol to visit Steve's mum and stayed over with our son Jack the night before setting out north the next morning. The call of National Trust tearooms lured us into Mosely Old Hall for lunch, then again later into Little Moreton Hall for tea and cakes before we finally reached the Lake District.  

The nice computer lady on the sat-nav told us to "take the ferry" (first time we had heard that instruction!) and before long we had arrived at our base for the week in Sawrey, within strolling distance of Hill Top Farm, Beatrice Potter's home. As we settled into our new home, Steve saw a rabbit in the field opposite our house - a descendent of Benjamin Bunny perhaps? 

In the days that followed we toured the area, starting at Hawkshead where we were entertained (and impressed by) by runners in the Ambleside marathon and visited the Beatrix Potter Gallery.  At Conniston Water in the afternoon, we watched the steamer Gondola chug over the lake rather more sedately than Donald Campbell's Bluebird going for the water speed records in the 50s and 60s which ended so tragically.

Later that day,we did the steep climb up Tom Ghyll to reach Tarn Hows, where we had a leisurely stroll around the lake before making our way back home. 

We headed further north the next day, back across Windermere, up to Ambleside, passed Rydal Water and on to Grassmere, where we stopped to stretch our legs and found ourselves looking at Wordsworth's grave, where the last of the daffodils were still blooming. Lunch in Keswick, still buzzing from the Jazz Festival that had just finished, followed by a visit to Derwent Water in the afternoon.  

We headed back over Dunmail Pass via Thirlmere which supplies water for Manchester, on a road constructed by the Water Board in the 1890s for carriages to circumnavigate the new lake created by damming two smaller lakes to make a reservoir.

We were a bit more adventurous the following day, heading out along Great Langdale and on up to Tarn Blea, where the blue sky was reflected perfectly in the still water.  This was followed by one of the most thrilling (scary!) drives we have had in a long time - over Wrynose Pass, down into the Duddon Valley then up and over the snaking hairpins of Hardnott Pass, descending into Eskdale and on to the coast.

After lunch and under clear blue skies, we walked the harbour walls at Whitehaven and looked out over the sea from the site of the former Wellington mine, now sensitively landscaped, to the off-shore wind farms and the Isle of Man. On our way back, we diverted to Waswater, stunning and still under a warm sun.

Mid-week, we had a National Trust day - walked to Near Sawrey to visit Beatrice Potters House, followed by a ferry crossing of Windermere and on to the Troutbeck Valley to visit Townend - a traditional Cumbrian farmhouse lived in by the same family for 400 years - a little gem.  A complete contrast in the afternoon, with a visit to Sizergh Castle and garden (and more tea and cakes!).

Steve had recovered enough from one scary drive to do another the following day, so we headed north east, up and over Kirkstone Pass in the cloud, which cleared on our descent to Deepdale and a stop at Brothers Water, before traveling on to Ullswater. A short detour took us to Aira Force, the most famous Lake District waterfall in the woods (and a convenient NT tearoom for lunch!) then on to Penrith for a wander round the town and castle before heading home.  

By the time we reached Kirkstone Pass the cloud had dispersed and we stopped to watch the mountain rescue team's dogs practice finding "lost" people scattered on the fell side, which they do every Thursday.  

Our last whole day in the Lake District was spend on the southern peninsulas, via Lakeside and Grange-over-Sands (or more accurately Grange over grass, as the shore is actually mud flats which have been colonised by vegetation) where the hot sun justified treating ourselves to ice creams before heading on the Ulverston for lunch and a walkabout.  

Managed to persuade Steve to have his photo taken next to the statue of Laurel and Hardy (the former was born there).

We then followed the coastal route north passed Barrow in Furness to take in the splendid views across the sands of Morecambe Bay, ending up at Roa Island (nature reserve) and Peel Island, which offered some good photo shoots with a wreck, life boat station and ferry.  

To make the most of the return trip, we stopped off at Crosby Beach to see Gormley's 100 men scattered along the sands (Another Place, to use its proper title) then on for lunch at Speke Hall, a little oasis right next to John Lennon Airport!
We arrived home late last Saturday, with over a 1000 miles on the clock, a little bit of colour in our faces and lots of dirty washing!  Looking back, it's amazing how much you can fit into a week when not flopping by a pool or splashing in the sea.  Steve did all the driving (as usual) and took it all in his stride, often literally.  However, with a week's worth of emails and post to go through and  many photos to process, it's taken a while to get round to writing the blog. 

But how wonderful to find that 11 months post-diagnosis, Steve is still going strong and able to enjoy such trips.  Can't wait for the next one!

Friday 14 May 2010

11 months on (almost)

On Sunday, it will be 11 months since Steve was diagnosed with mesothelioma. However, the monthly review is a couple of days early this time round as we will be otherwise engaged that day.  

Thankfully, as there is still no change in his physical condition - no pain or problems with breathlessness - Steve is still able to live a relatively normal life.  Emotionally, we are getting used to living with the mesothelioma time bomb, although it's not easy.  We try to make the most of life on a day-to-day basis, grabbing the opportunities as they come along, rather than planning too far ahead. In fact, we've returned to a pre-children lifestyle; doing things at the last minute has its advantages!  

That said, the emotions are still raw under a thin veneer of self-control.  In my case, it doesn't take much to start the tears welling up and bring a lump to my throat, as some of you will know.  But once the tension is released, I get on with life. Steve is remarkable. There are times when he gets angry (who wouldn't in his position?) but mostly he just carries on, occasionally reflecting on how fortunate he is compared to some who lose their lives much earlier, or who have other problems to contend with. As he remarked the other day, at least he doesn't have to worry too much about developing senile dementia (cue background music - Monty Python's Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.

On a serious note, there has been no change (as far as we can discern) since Steve's last hospital visit in March; the cancer still appears to be stable.  The next assessment visit is in June. No doubt, stress levels will start to rise as the date approaches, but we'll try hard not to think about that now. 

After what seemed like a long wait post-election, the country has a government; the election purdah is over. My report has been released; the work computer is switched off; the most urgent things on the housework "to do" list have been ticked off.  It's time to enjoy ourselves: I can feel a swallows and amazons moment approaching.  If you want to know more, watch this space.  

Saturday 8 May 2010

Milestones and celebrations

Looking back at the blog for 19 June 2009, three days after Steve's diagnosis, I wondered out loud how much more time we would have together - would he be here for his next birthday, or mine?  Well, I'm delighted to say both of those milestones have been reached and passed.

No 3 on my birthday wish list blog on 29 July 2009 was that the Wride clan get together at Christmas would be the best yet - and it certainly felt great to be able to carry on the family tradition last year with the side effects of chemo wearing off and in the knowledge that Steve's cancer was stable.  

Today we have reached another milestone - No 4 on the birthday wish list, both of us are here to enjoy celebrating Katie's 21st birthday today

Happy Birthday Katie!

We will pop the cork tonight and raise a glass to you, with lots of love.  Have a great day - see you soon, we hope!

We'll also be celebrating two other bits of good news - my big work report has passed the scrutiny of a peer group review with flying colours, so I don't have the prospect of a major re-write on Monday.  Secondly, one of my photographs has been selected for the RPS 153rd International Print Exhibition, which opens in London in July, then tours round the UK for a year. Steve's image Tulip Sky - blog 28 August 2009 - was selected last year, so I am delighted to be following in his footsteps with Lunch Box:

The next BIG milestone will be my significant birthday at the end of July.  Last year's Birthday wish No 5 was that he would come with me to collect my buss pass and we would jog home together.  We shall see!

In the meantime, there are lots of other things to look forward to and enjoy, starting with the launch of Oxford Artweeks today and the opening of the WOCart exhibition this evening.  

I think we will be having more fun than Messrs Brown, Cameron and Clegg and their respective colleagues.  We live in interesting times........

Sunday 2 May 2010

38 years on......and still going strong

On 1 May 1972 we were married at Wheatley Register Office, near Oxford and, being poor students, we celebrated with home-brewed beer, a home-made cake, other home-made edibles and a disco organized by friends.

1 May 2010 found us on the beach at Rhossili, on the Gower peninsula in Wales, watching the surfers, taking photographs and basking in the sun as the mist rolled back from the cliffs.  

Round the coast to The Mumbles in the afternoon for a walk along the prom, tea and cake al fresco, then on to Swansea for a wander round the marina and museums before heading back to our B&B for a bottle of prosecco and nibbles.  Photos will be posted soon!

When Steve was diagnosed with mesothelioma last June, I wondered if we would be celebrating our anniversary this year - but here we are, 38 years on and still going strong.  
Here's to the next one, and the one after - it would be good to make it to 40 years together!

Back to Oxford today in time for lunch with Jean, one of our neighbours.  Happy birthday for yesterday Jean and thank you again for a very enjoyable meal!  

Waiting for us at home was a letter from the solicitor enclosing the medical specialist's report for the court, much of which goes over familiar territory. Dr Rudd notes that expansion of the right side of Steve's chest is somewhat diminished as were breath sounds over the right lung.  
However, he assesses Steve's general condition as good, with no abnormalities noted in the cardio-vascular system, abdomen or nervous system. 

The report points out that estimating life expectancy is difficult because the course of Steve's illness has probably been modified by the chemo he had last year, and the very limited bulk of the disease at present, as well as uncertainty about future treatment. However, on the evidence currently available, he estimates Steve's life expectancy at 2 years, but with a significant chance that he may live more than three years, and a significant chance that he may die within one year.  Now that's what I call hedging your bets.  

Although his estimate underline's Steve's mortality, we have taken some heart from this medical opinion - it makes me feel more confident about the possibility of a ruby wedding celebration in 2012.  It also brings home to us once again the importance of making the most of these good times.  

If you want to find out what else we get up to by way of enjoying ourselves, you'll have to watch this space :-)) !