Friday 30 July 2010

Birthday wish 2010

Dreams can come true
Look at me babe I'm with you
You know you gotta have hope
You know you gotta be strong


I started last year's birthday wish list with words from Dreams Can Come True.  It seems appropriate to use those words again this year as, in many ways, dreams have come true. 

Leo the tumor is still stable, as far as we know. Now that the side effects of chemo have more or less worn off, Steve is feeling well in spite of occasionally complaining about his numb feet. He's seen in Katie's 21st birthday and my 60th yesterday (although the jog to pick up my bus pass will have to wait until November!) 

Those of you who are joining us for the celebrations this weekend will be able to see for yourselves just how well he is doing - still strong, still full of hope, still bopping!  My dearest birthday wish is that this state of affairs continues for at least the next 12 months.  

We are making the most of this very precious time - it's been great seeing and hearing from so many friends over this last year and we are looking forward to more face-to-face reunions this weekend!  

We'll raise a glass to those of you who can't join us, and to all the meso warriors, their families and friends who are putting up a strong fight against this disease, like Steve, as well as remembering all those who sadly lost the battle, including Steve's dad.

But there's no time to be sad - it's all systems go now!  Katie and George will be arriving soon.  The work computer is switched off.  Time to transform my office into a bedroom for Jack. The party lights have been collected and delivered to the venue.  The main food order has been dispatched ready to pick up tomorrow.  Cards, messages, flowers and presents continue to arrive. 

I am feeling overwhelmed by all your kind words and generosity. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I think this has been, and continues to be, the best birthday ever!

Wednesday 28 July 2010

busy busy busy

It came as a surprise to see that the last blog was eleven days ago.  The time has flown by, being busy busy busy.....

In the last couple of weeks we have enjoyed a great tea party on a Thames Steamer to celebrate the ruby wedding anniversary of our friends Elizabeth and Roger.  

That was followed by a long weekend in Yorkshire to visit our daughter Katie and her partner George who recently moved into a wonderful new flat in a converted mill.  A belated house-warming meal in the flat and eating out together gave us the opportunity to catch up on their news and admire the new accommodation.  While we were there last Saturday morning, we did the tour of Huddersfield town centre which has some grand Victorian buildings as well as good modern architecture on the Uni campus.  Later that day we took the train into Leeds for a walkabout, ending up at a riverside Tapas Bar where we enjoyed a meal and a couple of beers outside in the early evening sunshine.

I've done a few day's work this week, but most of the time seems to have been spent on preparations for the big party to celebrate my significant birthday, which is tomorrow. Nevertheless, we managed to make some time this evening to meet up with an old friend, Richard, over briefly from France, as he can't stay for the celebrations this weekend.  

As I write, Steve is finishing my birthday card - another Wride "special." He has had to up his game this year to compete with two amazing cards which arrived in the post this morning, one from Chris and Glyn in Cornwall, and the other from Sue in Combe.  Each card has fantastic original artwork.  I am SO impressed - thank you, thank you, thank you :-)

Our wonderful friends and neighbours have rallied round to loan us cool boxes and bags so we have somewhere to store the food supplies which are beginning to arrive for the party.  We can hardly move in the back room down stairs for boxes - balloons, helium gas, lights, tablecloths, glasses, plates, cutlery, napkins, non-perishable items of food, drink.......and that's not counting the things stored off-site, the main lights being collected on Friday afternoon and the fresh food being collected/delivered on Saturday.  Now I understand why people employ party planners to do this sort of thing!

I think tomorrow will be a relatively relaxed affair - ticking off more things on the party "to do" list, making the house ready for Katie and George who are coming on Friday, and our son Jack who will be traveling here on Saturday with nephew Nick, Kate his partner and daughter Esme (who now has two teeth!) to help us get everything ready for the event at the venue.  

However, the champagne is on ice and, all being well, Steve and I will be able to spend some time together and have a good meal out before we are swept off our feet! 

Yesterday, a friend asked tentatively about presents. I can honestly say that I had not given it a thought.  I have already had the BEST birthday present I could have wished for - Steve is still here, very much alive and kicking, just over a year after being diagnosed with mesothelioma.  What more could I want?

Tomorrow I'll look back at last year's birthday wish list and think about the year ahead.  If you are curious about what that might involve, you'll have to come back!

Last but not least - I don't get my bus pass (or state pension, for that matter) tomorrow!  Since April 2010, everyone has to wait longer for their bus pass as the pension age for men and women is "equalized."  In my case, it will be November 2010...But it may not happen 'till I'm 65 - if at all - based on the current government's thinking.  The bus pass party will just have to wait :-))

Saturday 17 July 2010

Living on the edge of a volcano

If you wonder where we have been, we've were living on the edge of a volcano  (a dormant volcano, I hasten to add!) for a week on the Greek island of Santorini, one of the relatively few Greek islands we had yet to visit over the years.  It was simply wonderful.  

Our holiday home had uninterrupted views of what remains of the volcano and the islands of the caldera, as well as the main town Fira perched on the cliffs in the middle distance, and Ia in the far distance.  The comings and goings of ferries and cruise ships entertained us over breakfast on the terrace in the morning and drinks on the balcony in the evening.  

We could have sat there all day just drinking in the view, but resisted the temptation and got out and about on foot and using the local bus service to explore the area of Akrotiri where we were based, and lap up the photo opportunities walking around the cliff top towns and villages and going up and down on the cable car which links the port and the town.  

Lots of steep steps, which were more of a problem for creaky knees than Steve's lungs, so we now have firmed up calf and thigh muscles as well as rapidly fading sun tans!

With fewer visitors than normal for this time of year, we were welcomed warmly by the Greeks who earn their living from tourism with little extra dishes and drinks "on the house" like it used to be in the days when you could buy a good meal for relatively few drachmaes.  All helped to contribute to a great break!

The day after we returned we went to London for the launch of the RPS International Print Exhibition, which includes one of my photos, and today we joined in a riverboat party on the Thames to celebrate the almost 40th wedding anniversary of Elizabeth (a friend from my school days in London) and Roger.

Congratulations and love to both of you for the big day tomorrow!

Monday 5 July 2010

ferry, ferry good!

It's OK - the title of today's blog is not a typo.....It's just that we seem to have enjoyed a lot of ferry crossings recently - in the Lake District, at Bristol harbourside and most recently, the Itchenor ferry which links the village of Itchenor with Smugglers Lane, Bosham, which is part of Chichester harbour.  

We spent the weekend with our friends Anne and Collin in Chichester and excellent it was too!  On our last visit in September 2009, the occasion was the Goodwood Revival and Steve was half way through his chemo. This year, chemo-free, we enjoyed ourselves beside the seaside with a wander around the village of Bosham, lunch on the terrace of the Ancre Bleu watching the tide come in, a stroll around the harbour and headland to catch the ferry to Itchenor, where Steve and I delighted in the photo opportunities offered by the boatyard.

Beautiful weather, excellent food, plentiful wine, great conversation and the perfect hosts - in short, a wonderful couple of days away from home. Thanks so much Anne and Col!  We look forward to returning the favour in the autumn!

If you want to know more bout our next ferry trip, drop by next week!

Friday 2 July 2010

Action Mesothelioma Day

Today, the first Friday in July, is Action Mesothelioma Day.  The theme of this year's campaign by the British Lung Foundation is "Be asbestos aware".  Today's blog is my contribution to raising awareness of the risks associated with asbestos and highlighting some key facts about mesothelioma, the cancer caused by exposure to asbestos dust.

Key Statistics

Mesothelioma is a malignant cancer which develops between 15 and 60 years after exposure to asbestos in the two-layered membrane surrounding the lungs and lining the inside of the rib cage (pleura)

• Mesothelioma kills one person every five hours in the UK, yet only six per cent of people are aware of the disease

• The rising number of deaths from the condition is linked to the use of asbestos in the building industry up until the mid 1980s

• The number of mesothelioma deaths each year in the UK has increased from 153 in 1968 to around 2000 today

• Experts predict that we will face a mesothelioma epidemic between 2011 and 2015 as the death toll rises

• It is estimated that between 2006 and 2020, 30,000 people in the UK will die from mesothelioma, and that 90,000 will have died by 2050

Do you DIY?

Many people believe that asbestos is a thing of the past and are not aware that they could still be at risk today. The British Lung Foundation’s national campaign Be Asbestos Aware focuses on the risks to homeowners who do DIY in their properties.  If these were built between the 1950s and mid 1980s, they may contain asbestos. Astonishingly, asbestos was even being used in some cement products up until 1999.  So - don't take risks!

Top Tips

  1. Asbestos containing materials in good condition are not a health risk and should be left alone
  2. Never sand, drill or saw objects which may contain asbestos such as textured ceiling coatings, floor tiles or asbestos cement roofs
  3. Common places where asbestos could be found include floor tiles, toilet cisterns, textured ceiling coatings, asbestos cement roofs, soffit boards and linings of boiler cupboards
  4. Always seek professional advice from your local authority or an accredited asbestos removal company before thinking of removing asbestos materials
  5. Always make sure you have the correct personal protection equipment including:
    • Properly fitted mask to the standards EN149 (type FFP3) or EN1827 (type FMP3)
    • Overalls and boot covers – most home improvement stores will stock these
  6. If you are doing DIY in your own clothes, remove them carefully to avoid excess dust and wash straight away, separately from other clothing, in a washing machine
  7. Make sure you use a mask whilst dealing with them
  8. If you are working with asbestos materials always dampen down the surface to avoid producing dust
  9. Don’t smoke, eat or drink in the work area
  10. If you disturb asbestos do not use a domestic vacuum cleaner as dust may pass through the filter – hire a special (Class H) industrial vacuum cleaner that complies with British Standards – Look up ‘asbestos safety equipment hire’ on the internet for where to find one
  11. Do not put asbestos waste in the dustbin – seek advice from the council about how to safely dispose of it
Steve's exposure to asbestos was as a student in the early 1970s whilst demolishing walls and ceilings to create a large open plan studio at his place of study. That unprotected experience earned him a bit of money for Christmas but will cost him his life.  Please don't let that happen to you or your loved ones.