Sunday 29 August 2010

Beside the seaside.....

Although we caught up with many friends and family members at my significant birthday party last month, sadly none of my cousins were able to make it and there was little opportunity to say much to those of you who were there.  

However, an invitation to lunch in Long Melford, Suffolk, last Sunday was a great opportunity to meet up with two of my cousins, Maureen and Rita, and their families to celebrate the "almost 40th birthday" of Maureen's youngest son James. Many thanks for an excellent afternoon, Maureen and John! We hope you didn't have too much of a hangover on your birthday the next day, James...

pre-lunch drinks in the garden at Long Melford

The lunch invitation was also a catalyst to meet up with other friends living in that part of the world and an unmissable opportunity to explore the Suffolk Heritage Coast - so that's what we did!

Our trip began on Saturday in Bury St Edmund's, where we stayed over with Keith and Glynis.  A welcome opportunity to catch up on their news in a relaxed fashion, see all the hard work they had put into their lovely listed building (at long last) and enjoy a walk around Bury on Sunday morning before heading off to Long Melford, just down the road. Great to see you both and many thanks for the hospitality!

Steve, Keith and Glynis in the garden at Bury St Edmunds
It was almost dark on Sunday evening by the time we reached our holiday house, located in a small village not far from the coast, so no time to get out and about that night.  

However, we set off on Monday morning to explore the area around Dunwhich Heath (National Trust), and walk along the coastal path dominated by views the dome of Sizewell Power Station in the distance, before diving off - not literally, I hasten to add- into Minsmere (RSPB reserve) on our way back to the NT cafe for food.

On to Aldeburgh that afternoon for another walk along the beach, taking photos of fishing boats and bits of rope as usual!  

We finished our Monday outing at Snape Maltings where we had a meal at the concert hall before going to a bewitching performance of a piece by Brian Eno inspired by the Apollo space mission, which was performed against a backdrop of film showing the first moon landing. At the end of the concert, we emerged into a clear night with a full moon rising over the reed beds, framed by sculpture. Pure magic! 

Tuesday saw us heading south along the coast to the village of Orford, arriving just in time to buy tickets for the one o'clock ferry to take us over the river to Orford Ness, Europe's largest shingle spit.  We hadn't realized that the ferry is only licensed to carry 12 passengers at a time and does a limited number of trips up until 5 o'clock - the last tickets for the day had sold out less than an hour after we had arrived at 11 am!

Orford Ness is an amazing place - desolate beauty on a huge scale, splattered here and there with a splendid light house, derelict buildings, structures and rusting detritus associated its military history. 

Orfordness lighthouse
The wind was almost strong enough to sweep us off our feet as we walked along the shingle spit between the lighthouse and the lookout tower.  We could see the weather coming from a long way off in the huge sky, but were lucky enough to avoid most of the showers - and were fortunate not to get soaked on the return ferry trip, by which time the water had become very choppy!

Steve battles against the wind, Orford Ness
Tea at Snape Maltings to warm us up, then home via Aldeburgh beach again, this time stopping off to see Maggi Hambing's sculpture - Tribute.  I don't know what all the controversy was about - I liked it very much, as did the kids using it as a slide and climbing frame!

Tribute - a sculpture by Maggi Hambling on Aldeburgh beach
Wednesday, we headed north along the coast to Southwold - a traditional seaside resort with a wonderful sandy beach and colourful beach huts, which is also home to Adnam's Brewery and an unusual collection of "amusements" on the pier - Tim Hunkin’s fascinating and entertaining hand-built machines.  Plenty to keep us occupied all day! 

Southwold beach huts

On Thursday morning, we packed our bags, said goodbye to our holiday house and headed north to Norwich where we stayed the night with Prue and David, having spent the afternoon enjoying ourselves at the Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts, at the University of East Anglia.

It was also a lovely opportunity to talk over a meal at the Unthank Arms that night and catch up on all the news we didn't have time to discuss about at the party.  Thanks Prue and David for being great hosts!

Steve, David and Prue
And so it was that we were on the road again on Friday morning, traveling home via the scenic routes to avoid the Bank Holiday motorway traffic jams. We even managed to pick up a replacement toaster, which had sold out locally and on line, when stopping briefly at Milton Keynes on the return trip.  

What a week!  We really enjoyed ourselves on our mini-break to East Anglia and now look forward to sorting out the hundreds of photos we took while away.  There was good news awaiting us at home.  Three of my images have been selected for the autumn issue (No 7) of Fotoblur magazine - I'm delighted!  Plus, the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre has asked to keep three of our pictures (two of Steve's and one of mine) on long term loan as they like them so much.  So if you ever find yourself in the NOC, look out for the colourful botanical canvases in the foyer!

More importantly, a mesothelioma patient in Devon is going to have his latest treatment in Frankfurt (chemoembolization with Prof Vogl) funded by the local PCT, given the good results achieved with treatments so far...that is SO encouraging as the date of Steve's next assessment comes ever closer.

Friday 20 August 2010

many happy reunions!

Although we were delighted to meet up with many old friends at my significant birthday party recently, there were some who couldn't make it for various reasons.  One such couple was Alan, a friend going back to my student days, and his wife Jane.  We finally caught up with each other yesterday over a coffee at the Ashmolean and discovered a mutual interest in photography, amongst other things, so there just has to be a photo on today's blog!  

The downside of having so many people at one celebration is that there isn't much opportunity to talk to each one individually.  However, we will be remedying that in the coming week when we're out and about again, making the most of this opportunity to do things while Steve is till feeling good.  

Steve's next assessment in early September is beginning to loom larger in our minds, and all plans beyond that date are subject to the proviso that all is well when he sees the doctor. Nevertheless, we are still looking ahead and trying to be positive.  Come back in a week or so to find out what we've been up to!

Tuesday 17 August 2010

appreciating the small things...

In my last blog, I mentioned that we now have a better appreciation of the small things that make life enjoyable. And that's what we've been doing today...

This morning, I had an e-mail to say that two of my photos had been nominated in the 4th Photography Masters Cup, one in abstract and one in architecture. O.K. - they didn't win, but it's got to be worth celebrating!  Scroll down to the press release (after Sew Seasonal) to find out more

Steve continues to re-live Sunday's aerobatic experience, still amazed that he was allowed (i.e. told!) to take control of the plane when they looped-the loop a second time.  I think he's missed his vocation.  He would make a great pilot, I'm sure!  Have to get him a pukka joystick for Christmas :-))

Sew Seasonal
Tuesday August 17th -  Saturday September 4th 2010

Allotments and the food and flowers they produce have inspired the embroideries and photographic images on display in ‘Sew Seasonal’. The exhibition features embroideries by Oxford Textile Workshop complemented by the digital images of Linda Wride, RHS Photographer of the Year.

The Oxford Textile Workshop are a diverse group of people united by their passion for embroidery and textiles. Whilst some members are professional artists, others are enthusiastic and highly-skilled amateurs. The group, which meets monthly to share ideas and participate in workshops, also holds exhibitions to showcase their embroideries. By responding to a theme, the group hopes that this exhibition will illustrate the wide variety of styles and techniques individuals can use.

Linda Wride is an award winning Oxford-based photographer who specialises in botanical images. Her photograph ‘The allotment in June’ was overall winner in the Royal Horticultural Society Photography Competition. Her winning image was from ‘Cultivating Communities’ a project based on and inspired by the plants, people and potting sheds of Osney allotments, off Botley Road in Oxford. The exhibition includes a selection of photographs from the project, including the RHS winning image.

There will be a chance to find out more when representatives from Oxford Textile Workshop will be holding ‘Meet the Artist’ sessions on Wednesdays 18th August and 1st September and Saturday 28th August, 11am until 1pm.

Embroidery by member of Oxford Textile Group

The allotment in June by Linda Wride

International Color Awards Press Release

LONDON (16 August 2010) Amateur photographer Linda Wride of Oxford, UK was presented with the 4th Annual Photography Masters Cup Nominee title in the categories of Architecture and Abstract at a prestigious Nomination & Winners Photo Show attended by over 40,000 online viewers who logged on live from 154 countries to see the climax of the industry's most important event for color photography.
The awards international Jury included captains of the industry ranging from Christie's in New York, National Geographic Channel, Fox Broadcasting Company, Amsterdam Worldwide, Kodak USA to Esquire in London who honored Color Masters with 235 coveted title awards in 31 categories. The judges reviewed thousands of images submitted from every corner of the globe online for eight weeks before making their final nominations and Linda's "Matra” and Supercin" exceptional images entered in the Abstract and Architecture categories, received a high percentage of votes overall.
"The Masters Cup celebrates photographers who operate at the highest levels of their craft," said Basil O'Brien, the awards Creative Director. "Linda's work represents contemporary color photography at its finest, and we're pleased to present her with the title of Nominee."
See the 4th Annual Winners & Nominees at
INTERNATIONAL COLOR AWARDS PHOTOGRAPHY MASTERS CUP is the leading international award honoring excellence in color photography. This celebrated event shines a spotlight on the best professional and amateur photographers worldwide and honors the finest images with the highest achievements in color photography.
Contact: Linda Wride

Monday 16 August 2010

The 14 month review

It's 14 months to the day since Steve was diagnosed with mesothelioma and, as he gently reminds me when I get a bit wobbly, he's still here!  Not only is he still here, he is doing well and making the most of life, as you will know if you have read recent blogs!

However, it's been a bit of a roller coaster ride since diagnosis, as any meso warrior and their families will tell you. On the downside, there is
  • the shattering of dreams, the fear and the numbness on initial diagnosis
  • the heart breaking experience of telling family and friends
  • dealing with a myriad of paperwork whilst still in shock, trying hard to remember all Steve's employment since leaving school and possible sources of exposure to asbestos over the last 45 years or so
  • the risk, pain and discomfort of undergoing the chest drain and pleurodesis operation
  • the disruptive effect of frequent hospital visits for radiotherapy, chemotherapy and scans/X-rays on our daily lives over a period of six months 
  • the side effects of chemo including fatigue, nausea, vomiting and peripheral neuropathy (numbness in fingers and toes)
  • increasing levels of stress and anxiety as each assessment approaches, wondering what the results of the X-ray/scan will show this time
  • living with the constant fear that every cough, chest twinge, loss of appetite or feeling below par might signal the growth of the tumour or its spread to other parts of the body
However, there have been the upsides too
  • we have been overwhelmed and touched by the love, good wishes, support and practical help offered and provided by family, friends and work colleagues
  • we have a better appreciation of the small things that make life enjoyable, be it a sunny day, a delicious cake, a beautiful flower, an inspiring view, a good bottle of wine, and delightful company amongst other things...
  • after years of saying we must be more sociable, we have at last got off our butts and done it
  • we have visited places and experienced things for the first time
  • we have benefitted from the experiences shared and support offered by our new friends in various online "meso" communities, and been inspired by their fighting spirit and positive approach to life
  • our life-work balance has changed and we really are making the most of this time together, while Steve is able to enjoy himself
  • we are encouraged by the broad range of research currently being undertaken to improve outcomes for those with mesothelioma and search for a cure
  • we take comfort from the fact that Steve still has treatment options, as and when they prove to be necessary
Life goes on and Steve is still here, extending the right hand "tail" of those with mesothelioma who live beyond the median survival rate (7-10 months) and firmly in the 40% alive a year or more post-diagnosis.  Long may he continue to extend the right hand side of the statistical curve towards the 1 in 10 who survive at least 5 years!

Sunday 15 August 2010

Biggles flies again (now with photos!)

Back in March, Steve was given a flying lesson as a birthday present.  After two attempts to get airborne were aborted due to bad weather conditions, it was third time lucky today as he finally took off!

When I say flying lesson, I don' t just mean getting up, flying a bit and coming down again.  We are talking serious stuff here - looping-the-loop, an aileron roll, a barrel roll, a stall turn and a roll-over-the-top, or Immelman roll.  If you don't know what those are, check them out on wikipedia!  

Not only that, but Steve took over control of the 1950s Chipmunk for the second loop-the-loop and on the final approach when landing back at Booker airfield, near High Wycombe!  So if, by chance, you were traveling along the M40 in that area between 2.30 and 3.30 p.m. this afternoon and had your attention caught by a small plane doing crazy things in the sky.....that was probably him!

What better way to finish such an exciting day than to end up having a delicious BBQ with the givers of this wonderful present, Jon and Sally.  Thank you so much for such an amazing experience.... Steve will be re-living it (and re-telling it, no doubt) for many moons to come!

I'll upload the photos in the next day or two.  Come back and re-live it with us soon!

Photos added :-)

magnificent man and his flying machine
under instruction

getting ready for take off!
wave bye-bye

en route to the runway

up, up and away!

coming into land, Steve at the controls

safe landing!
Pilot and co-pilot walk away, safe and happy!

Saturday 14 August 2010


In the last blog (12 August) I quoted from the website of Berrymans Lace Mawer (solicitors acting on behalf of Oxford Brookes Uni, one of the defendants in Steve's damages claim).  Steve has just pointed out to me that I got it wrong!  

What they actually say in relation to industrial disease cases is that given the potential for "tail" claims following on from the original claim,  "it is often inadvisable to consider an 'economic settlement' in isolation, without taking into account the workplace and the potential for similar claims." 

That sheds a very different light on the matter.......It looks like they might fight the case all the way and press for the minimum payout if found guilty, for fear that others exposed to asbestos dust at the same time will follow suit if Steve's claim is successful.  I imagine that they will make the most of the fact that, up to now, Steve has not experienced a huge amount of pain, loss of amenity or physical suffering as a result of his cancer, whilst playing down the fact that this will inevitably happen to him at some point in the future, ignoring the mental anguish that comes with that knowledge and dismissing the emotional turmoil we were plunged into in June 2009 and have had to learn to live with since then.  

Well - if they want a fight, they'll get one!  Unless of course, the case conference with our barrister next month throws up something unexpected.....

In the meantime, I will order a stronger pair of specs and brush up on my proof-reading skills......

Thursday 12 August 2010

growing old disgracefully while the due legal process grinds on

Setting mesothelioma aside - and that's a BIG ask - there are times when life feels like one big party. The last couple of weeks has felt like that...It's good to grow old acting a little bit disgracefully from time to time!  

Hard on the heels of my significant birthday party came Martin's (Steve's brother) birthday celebration in Frome last weekend.  We danced the night away to another good band and the birthday boy seemed to enjoy himself too!

A leisurely breakfast on Sunday morning was followed by a leisurely drive back to Oxford via the wonderful rolling downland of Salisbury Plain and the standing stones at Avebury, stopping from time to time to try our hand at some landscape photography.

I think that all this partying (not to mention the late nights) has finally taken its toll. We've both felt a bit whacked this week and I am still trying to finish writing all my notes to say thank you for the presents and making my party a very special occasion which neither of us will forget!  

In spite of taking great care transporting presents back home, the labels/cards became detached from two bottles of wine and two bunches of flowers. If these were from you, then I'm sorry not to be able to write to you personally to say thank you, but it's heart felt, none the less!  Amazingly, many of the flowers are still looking good and the remaining balloons are still decorating the ceiling in the front room!

I had hoped to tell you all about Steve's flying experience in today's blog - he was due to loop-the-loop in a Chipmunk airplane this afternoon.  However, the cloud cover is too low today, so the experience has been postponed again, but hopefully not for long this time....check back soon!  

The wheels of the legal system are grinding along slowly. At the end of June, papers were served on the County Council (education authority) and Oxford Brookes University (now an independent body) in relation to Steve's exposure to asbestos when he demolished partitions to create a big open-plan studio for the School of Architecture at the Polytechnic, when he was a student back in 1971.  Defences from both parties have been received, both seeking to shift responsibility on to the other for the liabilities of the old polytechnic. 

We are now waiting for a date from the court for a hearing at which directions will be given for the further progress of the case.  In the meantime, our solicitor has set up a case conference with the barrister in Birmingham next month to go through the defences in detail and Steve has answered questions raised by Brookes solicitors arising from his statement.  

The defendant's firm, Berrymans Lace Mawer, specializes in serving the insurance industry.  Their approach to occupational disease claims, including asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma, notes that such claims often arise from a workplace where many employees were exposed to the same regime and there is always the potential for "tail" claims to follow from the first claim. Their website goes on to state "for this reason, it is often advisable to consider an 'economic settlement' in isolation, without taking into account the workplace and the potential for similar claims."  That seems to suggest a preference for out-of-court-settlements where there is more than one potential claimant, as in Steve's case.  With the benefit of that knowledge, it will be interesting to see how this case progresses.

Our solicitor has a rather different view of damages in relation to mesothelioma.  In an article written in June 2010, he says:

One cannot possibly assess the effect of receiving a diagnosis of cancer. However, with many forms of the illness there is a degree of hope of “beating” the condition. Mesothelioma, unfortunately, is not one of those.  Life expectancy is, in the main, between six and 18 months.  The sufferer knows that the condition will prove fatal and that life sentence is severely limited.  Whilst one can attach some understanding to the valuation of the vast majority of injuries and illnesses within the personal injury context, none of us, who are free of the condition, can truly value the damages for this condition....

.....The assessment of general damages for a condition which the claimant knows will imminently end his life is fraught with problems. There is a clear danger of demonstrating a remarkable degree of insensitivity to the plight of the sufferer/deceased. Calibrating the scale of damages by reference simply to the duration of pain, some of which, in the early stages, may be relatively mild is wholly unsatisfactory. 

The mesothelioma sufferer will invariably have a “horrible” end to his life. The mental anguish cannot be calculated or understood. Whilst accepting that no amount of money can possibly compensate for the knowledge of one’s imminent death it would, in my opinion, be far better to award a single figure for pain, suffering and loss of amenity ... to all sufferers of the condition, irrespective of their ultimate life expectancy and/or the medical investigations that they have to undergo.  Putting a dying man or his widow into court to listen to lawyers debate the extent of his pain is improper and reflects badly on the law and our society.

Monday 2 August 2010

who could ask for anything more?

It has been the most amazing few days!  

One significant birthday has turned into a week long event. Cards started to arrive last Wednesday.  I was overwhelmed on Thursday, my birthday, by more cards, e-mails, messages and presents.  By the time our neighbour, Ludo, appeared with a bottle of pink champagne I was already in tears, which welled up afresh when bouquets of flowers started to be delivered.  

Steve and I went out for a birthday meal together Thursday evening.  We enjoyed a post-birthday supper when Katie and George arrived on Friday evening. After spending Saturday morning collecting food orders and more helium for the balloons, we had a post-birthday lunch with Jack, our nephew Nick, partner Kate and baby Esme who arrived from Bristol around midday.  

Getting the party venue ready for the celebrations was a mammoth task, but with a fantastic amount of help from Steve, Jack, Katie, George, Nick and Kate everything was transported to the community centre and we managed to finish transforming the place just as guests started to arrive.  

I was thrilled to see so many old friends from all corners of the UK, as well as Brussels and Vietnam (how impressive is that?) It was like the proverbial moment when your life flashes before your eyes, except in my case, the experience last many happy hours!  

There are too many of you to name and thank individually on the blog for making my birthday so special, including my "oldest" friends from school in London; friends going back to student days when I first came to Oxford in the late 60s; friends I used to work with at the City Council, some of whom are still there, and others who have moved on; friends from my current work who are actually scattered around the county, enjoying a rare opportunity meet up, along with their partners, children and grand children...

...Not forgetting our wonderful friends and neighbours from Henry Road and the wider West Oxford community, and those special people who have come into our lives via other routes and have been there for us ever since.  You all know who you are.  Last but not least, the family - Jack, Katie (and George, of course) Steve's brother Martin (with whom I share a birthday!) and Mary, niece Heather and her son Zac, nephew Matt and girlfriend Fliss, and Nick, Kate and Esme.  

Best birthday present of all, Steve was there, very much alive and kicking, notwithstanding the shattering diagnosis of mesothelioma last June.  Who could ask for anything more? It really was a very special celebration!  

The sun shone.  We had tea on the terrace overlooking the park.  Sol Samba the local Brazilian drumming band got us into carnival mood on the terrace then lead us into the main hall for the evening, where there was a buffet meal followed by a great session from the Pussycats which had us up and dancing the night away!  I hope you enjoyed yourselves as much as we did :-)

Here is a tiny snippet of Sol Samba in action - turn up the volume to get an idea of how it felt to be there!

Over the course of the next few days, I'll be in touch with you individually to say thank you for the amazing array of cards and presents which piled up on the table in the course of the afternoon and evening. I have finally been able to open them. The house now looks like a cross between a garden centre/florist, champagne/wine bar, chocolatier, delicatessen, jewelers, and art gallery with a book store corner!  

However, I want to say a special thanks to Ellie who designed and made the marvelous birthday cake (it looked wonderful and tasted delicious!) and those of you who helped set up the venue, lay out the food, clear away during/after the event and carry the important things back home!  We could not have done any of this without your help - a real team effort!  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I'm sorry I didn't have very much time to talk to many of you, in some cases little more than hello and goodbye - but we hope to catch up with you during the rest of the summer and autumn.  My thoughts are also with those of you who would have joined us had circumstances been otherwise - whether it was for a nice reason, such as a holiday or your own special family occasion, something more serious - being unwell yourselves, or looking after loved ones who are poorly - or being unable to get away from work through no fault of your own.  

If you want to know what you missed - here are some of the photos, courtesy of Steve and Jack.  For a change, I didn't pick up the camera all day.  We look forward to seeing some you your images too!  

And thank you all again for the most amazing birthday ever!  
Katie and Esme

Kate, Matt, Fliss and Nick

Martin and Mary

See if you can identify the rest!

thank you Steve and Jack for taking the photos and video snips!