Tuesday 26 April 2011

an Easter garden party

No, we haven't been to Buckingham Palace - this garden party took place in Bristol at Steve's mum's house.  Over the course of two days, members of the family got together to tame the jungle that has taken over the back garden, cutting back brambles, overgrown shrubs and self-sown ash trees, shredding and bagging the debris.  By the time we had finished, it was possible to see out of the window where Steve's mum spends most of her time, right down to the end of the garden.  We also managed to do a bit of spring cleaning in the house, socialise with the family, be entertained by Esme, chat to Steve's mum and to visit Beckford's Tower outside Bath - so a good job done and a successful weekend all round.

As well as fighting weeds, Steve has been fighting off a cold and seems to be winning, although he is still not fully recovered - he starts and finish the day with bouts of coughing, with the occasional sneeze in between which may be caused by hay fever or dust from the spring cleaning. Although his energy levels are understandably a bit low, he hasn't lost his appetite or developed flu-like symptoms (which is what happened almost two years ago in Florence, shortly before he was diagnosed with mesothelioma on his return home).  

Although Royal Wedding fever seems to be gripping the country, we will shortly be celebrating something much more important for us - our 39th wedding anniversary on Mayday.  We have something special planned, but if you want to know what it is you will have to come back and read the next blog!

Friday 22 April 2011

Hot and cold

Steve's throat infection has turned into a common cold - how frustrating is that when the weather is so warm?  The cold itself is not a big issue - we all get them. But when you have mesothelioma and have undergone pleurodesis (the "talc" op which sticks the pleura back together after fluid has been drained from the space in between) there is always a nagging worry that a big cough will undo the glue, open up the gap and allow fluid to build up again.....And the thought is always there in the back of your mind - what if this cough isn't a result of a common cold virus, but the meso flaring up again?

We try to put such thoughts to the back of our minds and concentrate on Easter joys - hot cross buns for breakfast this morning, choosing easter eggs for Esme and Zac our great neice and great nephew, looking forward to meeting up with the wider family in Bristol over the weekend and enjoying the wonderful weather. 

We have more things to look forward to next week. Between then and now, I hope to tick off a few more jobs on the to do list, if I can resist the temptation to sit in the garden with a good book - one of the things I was looking forward to doing after finishing work, but have yet to have the time to indulge!

Tuesday 19 April 2011

a day of frustrations

Bar the occasional sniffle which hasn't developed into anything, Steve has been very fortunate not to have come down with coughs, colds or flu since he was diagnosed with mesothelioma in June 2009.  Until yesterday, that is.  

He noticed his throat was feeling prickly as we walked into town in the morning, but thought it might have been caused by a bit of breakfast cereal.  However, by the end of the day, his voice was deep and croaky; he most definitely has a throat infection. Whether it develops into anything else, or whether all the things he has been taking to help boost his immune system will knock the infection back before it develops into anything more serious - in particular a bad cough - remains to be seen. We are still hoping to meet up with the wider family in Bristol over the Easter weekend, especially as the weather looks good, but will see how he feels over the next few days before making a decision.  

Yesterday was also frustrating for more mundane reasons. We went into town on a mission to sort out some financial matters, but didn't have all the documents needed to complete the first objective at Building Society No 1. An online systems failure at Building Society No 2 prevented us from achieving our second objective.  The bank where we had hoped to sort out our third objective was closed for refurbishment and the nearest branch a good hike away in the wrong direction. So the main mission was a complete failure. 

However, we did return with a new cafetiere to replace the broken filter machine and fresh coffee, so enjoyed a good cup of coffee with lunch, which cheered us up - helped along by sunshine and blue skies!  Listening to the news on the radio this morning and reading about the hardships and suffering of others puts our day of frustration into perspective.  A mere blip in otherwise very enjoyable lives, in spite of the ever present spectre of mesothelioma.

Saturday 16 April 2011


Well, perhaps SOS is a bit OTT - it wasn't an emergency, but we have been fully occupied with DIY for the last few days....Not at home, but in Bristol where we have been helping son Jack with painting and decorating, flat pack furniture assembly and fixing, decisions about flooring and providing a sherpa service to transport heavy items.  Fit and strong as Jack is, there are still some things that need more that one pair of hands to construct and fix, or more than two wheels to transport.  We were happy to provide support in both respects.  In return, Jack will help with DIY at our house sometime later this year.

We'll be back in Bristol again very soon for a Wride family get together to spring clean Steve's mum's house and cut back/tidy up the garden.....I wonder whether we can persuade everyone to come back here and do the same at our house.  We've been out and about and staying away from home so much these last few weeks, that only basic jobs have been done in addition to packing, unpacking and repacking.  

A friend asked whether I was enjoying putting my feet up now I'm "retired" which made me laugh - our feet have hardly touched the ground since the end of March and it looks like life will carry on at a similar pace for the rest of April, most of May and up to mid-June when Steve has his next assessment. However, although I finished work nearly three weeks ago, there is still paperwork to deal with. Amongst the letters waiting for us at home last night was one from my occupational pension scheme confirming that my pension and voluntary early leaving compensation benefits have been authorised - which is great, except that they have made a mistake about the date of my last day of service. Ho hum - another thing to sort out.....

With no word from Steve's legal team, the jury's still out on whether the damages case will go forward as planned in early September or will be withdrawn.  Not much point in getting stressed about it in either event.  I know we have done everything we can in terms of going through the evidence with a fine tooth comb to highlight all the records of asbestos in the building where we believe Steve was exposed whilst doing some demolition work as a student.  

In fact, the last systematic review of all the disclosed documents revealed that asbestos insulation board (AIB) was used under all the windows in the building in question. Although now sealed/encapsulated to minimize the risk of fibres being released through accidental damage, this safety measure was not put in place until 2002, long after Steve's six years as a student in these rooms with exposed AIB panels. School children, teachers and support staff have developed mesothelioma through exposure in similar circumstances.  Perhaps we should consider making a damages claim on that basis, if the current case is withdrawn....

No matter, the sun is shining and it's a special weekend for two dear friends - Happy birthday Sally for today and Ian for Monday - enjoy your celebrations!

Sunday 10 April 2011

hot hot hot

Paint the sky blue, switch on the sun and turn up the thermostat - what a wonderful weekend!  

The world came out to play in the brilliant weather and what nicer way to spend it than with friends - a late and very long lunch and leisurely with Jon, Sally and Gina in their garden on Saturday afternoon, great food and wine and company as ever - thank you!  This afternoon we treated ourselves to a National Trust tea with Ian and Ruth at Greys Court.  They earned their chocolate cake by cycling over the Chilterns from Goring station to get there.  I'm afraid we took the easy route by car....Well done you two!  

As the evening wore on, the sun was still shining in the New Theatre where we thoroughly enjoyed the warmth, excitement and energy of a Buena Vista Social Club live performance.  One of those rare occasions when the audience was on its feet, singing, clapping and dancing - what a good job we'd had that chocolate cake earlier on to keep us going....  

One weekend doesn't make a summer, but that was a great beginning!  

Thursday 7 April 2011

packing up and packing it all in

Last Thursday was a day of packing up.  We took down and packed up the exhibition from the Gallery at Chipping Norton Theatre, took it home, then packed our bags and headed north to Huddersfield where we spent the evening with Katie, catching up on news and talking about the future over a good meal in one of the town's friendly Italian restaurants. On Friday we packed up again and moved on to Richmond further north in Yorkshire via the splendid cathedral at Ripon, the awesome ruins of Fountains Abbey and the amazing Studley Royal Water Gardens World Heritage Site.

Helen and Rob's house in Richmond was our base for the next few days, a great chance to relax with our hosts and friends Anne and Colin.  We caught up on everyone's news over a meal out on Friday night.  Saturday was a day to see the sights of Richmond on foot, from the walls of the Castle high up on the hill overlooking the town, down into the Swale valley, up to Culloden Tower on the hill opposite, back down the hill then up to the main quare where the market was in full swing.  Three of us did the tour of Richmond's Georgian Theatre Royal before heading back to the house for lunch.  In the afternoon it was back down the steps to enjoy the white water of the River Swale, over the bridge to the former railway station, now an arts centre, cinema, cafe and specialist shops, followed by a walk along the line of the former railway track and round the river to Easby Abbey before heading back into town.  More food and drink to keep us going in the evening an a hilarious board game which tested our powers of communication to the limit!

On Sunday we set off in heavy showers to Reeth, deeper into Swaledale for a walk in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.  My purchase of waterproof trousers from a local shop did the trick.  No sooner had I put them on than the sun came out and stayed out for the rest of the walk.  We walked along the river, crossed the water and climbed up to Maiden Castle, an iron age fort on the opposite bank, then made our way back to Reeth for a well earned cup of tea and a snack before heading back to Richmond.  

Steve did splendidly well in spite of his creaky knees and compromised lung - not to mention the lack of strenuous exercise over the winter hibernation.  However, the fresh and walking had taken its toll by the evening and we were ready for bed when the time came.

The party broke up after breakfast on Monday, Helen heading off to work in Penryn.  Rob took Colin and Anne back to Leeds to catch the train south and we headed off home via Saltaire where we wandered around the famous Salt Mills and enjoyed looking at the collection of David Hockney paintings, drawings and photos over lunch in Salts Diner.  Thank you so much Helen and Rob, Anne and Colin for such a wonderful long weekend! 

The last few days have passed quickly.  We've just about finished unpacking but still have to find a home for the exhibition artwork, bits and bobs.  I've been to to the GP surgery to give blood samples - my last blood donation was in a batch which caused one patient to have a severe reaction so it needs to be tested in case there is a problem.  

It's also been a slog writing a note for the Counsel in Steve's damages case setting out our views on whether the case should go to trial in the light of the recent sample test results and our expert witness getting cold feet because they didn't show what he had expected.  The legal team may pull the plug without an expert witness to support the case. We hope they will get a second opinion given all the information in the disclosed documents which identifies over 60 positive samples of four different types of asbestos in the building where we believe Steve was exposed in 1971 when carrying out some demolition work as a student.  However, we shall just have to wait an see what the barrister says.

The good news is that the sun is shining, the weather is warm and we have a good idea of how we would like to celebrate our 39th wedding anniversary on Mayday.  That's much more important than worrying about a court case that may or may not happen in September.  Carpe Diem as they say!