Thursday 31 July 2014


Last year we enjoyed our visit to France so much that we decided to go back to the Luberon again this year and return to the little gem of a house in the picturesque hill village of Goult.  

After an early morning flight to Marseille, we picked up a hire car and made our way to our base for the first part of the holiday.  As the keys to the house weren't available until mid-afternoon, it was the perfect excuse to have a long, relaxed lunch at La Terrasse restaurant and reacquaint ourselves with the local rose wine...fine dining at a very reasonable price!

When we finally got hold of the keys (a long walk down the hill...and back up again...) it was lovely to unpack and settle down in the house we had fallen in love with on our first visit to the area, and to spend our first evening sitting on the little roof terrace with another bottle of wine and nibbles, watching the swifts swooping overhead as the sun went down. 

Over the next few days, we explored the local area.  We enjoyed the Art and Architecture walk through the vineyards of Chateau La Coste finishing with iced tea at the sleek, modern pavilion to cool us down after our long walk in the hot sunshine.  

One of the few places I know where you can sit on, walk inside and play with the works of art!

We headed east to the Valensole Plateau where we were lucky to see fields of lavender AND sunflowers out at the same time, although the visit was cut short to escape the bees which took a fancy to Steve - just a few snatched shots...

Rather than go into Aix en Provence as planned, we decided instead to visit the weekly market, 

then tour the local hill villages on our last day based in Goult, including a clamber around the cobbled streets of Lacoste (best known for its most notorious resident the Marquis de Sade who lived in the castle overlooking the village)

We also visited Menerbes, which some of you may have read about, or seen the film of, Peter Mayles book "A Year in Provence" 

and Lourmarin, with its vibrant cafe life and yet another castle!  

We would have happily stayed longer, but alas the rest of the week had been booked by another party so it was time to move on...

We took the hire car back to Marseille airport then caught the train to Arles, arriving in time for another long leisurely lunch before checking into our base for the second part of our trip, a small flat in Rue des Porcelets (Piglet Street!) right in the heart of the historic centre of the city.  

After settling in, there was enough time to go walk about and take in some of the historic sights including the Roman Arena and Ancient Amphitheatre. 

The next day we visited Arles Museum of Antiquity- a great place to learn about Roman Arles and look at the artefacts discovered in the town, including a complete Roman boat discovered in the Rhone.  

As well as Roman remains, Arles is also famous for Vincent Van Gogh.  Having visited the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam in June, it was fascinating to look around the newly opened Fondation Vincent Van Gogh in Arles where Van Gogh's painting are on show, along with other modern artwork inspired by his paintings, all in a rather fine building.

I don't know whether it was the build up of heat and humidity, the amount of walking/activity over the previous few days or the generous portions of food and wine consumed, but Steve lost his appetite and felt exhausted by Sunday.  As a result, rather than join friends for another big meal out as planned, we had a quiet morning at home.  Our friends Richard and Alison (who live in France) came to our little flat for a get-together the afternoon, which turned out to be perfect timing as it was then that the storm which had been brewing all morning decided to break and the heavens opened....It was lovely to see them and catch up with their news!

Steve was feeling better by our last day, so we took it easy with some gentle sight-seeing and had a light lunch at the Hotel-Dieu, originally a hospital built around a courtyard garden, where Van Gogh had voluntarily admitted himself when his mental health deteriorated.  The garden has been recreated based on his paintings at the time.

By late afternoon, we had collected our bags from the flat and caught the train back to Marseille airport in good time for our evening flight back to Gatwick, arriving home in the early hours of the following morning.  An exhausting but enjoyable trip....And we are definitely thinking about a return visit to our favourite house in Goult!

We don't seem to have stopped since our return from France, which is why this blog post is so late.  More of what we've been up to since then, next time.

Sunday 13 July 2014

That was quite a week that was...

That was quite a week that was, for several reasons....

...It was a very sporty week (as spectators) Wimbledon tennis; FIAF World Cup in Brazil; F1 Grand Prix at Silverstone; Test Match cricket and Le Tour de France, which started off in the UK.  We were spoilt for choice if we wanted to sit down and watch something sporty while taking a break from everything else that's been going on...

...It was a very physical the week - clearing vegetation, demolishing the remains of the old garden fence at the start of the week and putting up a new one, with the help of our friend, John on Thursday.  Looks good...Another step forward on the garden makeover!

...It was also a very sociable week - celebrating a second Christmas mid-week with our son Jack to make up for the celebration he missed last December, and meeting up on Friday with Paul and Berrie - friends of Steve's who go back to his school days - for a very leisurely lunch at The Punter pub on the Thames.

Last but least, it was a very special week for our friends Emily and Nick, who were married yesterday .... and what a wonderful occasion it was too.  Very personal and full of love from, and for, family and friends.  We felt privileged to have been invited and enjoyed every single minute!  It was also wonderful to meet up at the wedding with other friends old - and not so old - a great mix of generations!  Wine flowed, speeches delighted, music played, food was consumed, magic was performed and everyone danced! 

We taxied home at midnight with our friends Anne and Colin, who stayed overnight with us and helped us wake up this morning....

We said our farewells to Jack, Anne and Colin this morning and have been busy preparing for our next adventure which starts later today.  No time to upload photos now, I'm afraid. But there will be plenty when I post again.

Friends on Facebook will probably guess where we are from my daily picture posted on the 365 iPhone Project.  The rest of you will have to wait a while.  However, here is a small clue: we expect to be greeted by fireworks and dancing in the street tomorrow night, 14 July!  

A bientôt :-) 

Friday 4 July 2014

Mesothelioma Action Day

Today is Mesothelioma Action Day.  The event started in 2006 and has been celebrated every year since then.  Throughout the UK events are organised by asbestos victims support groups to raise awareness, remember loved ones lost to the disease and publicise the Action Mesothelioma Charter.  

Action Mesothelioma Charter

Mesothelioma patients and their families have a right to:
  • a speedy and accurate diagnosis, supported by a Multi Disciplinary Team discussion;
  • good quality information from a variety of sources available in different media and languages;
  • support of a suitably qualified nurse and other Multi Disciplinary Team members throughout their illness;
  • be considered for the best possible treatments available with the support and input of a Multi Disciplinary Team;
  • have up-to-date advice on benefits and help in applying for them, and receive prompt payment of benefits;
  • have legal advice and guidance from a firm of solicitors experienced in mesothelioma claims;
  • guidance on end of life decisions and care at home;
  • provision of a consistent nationwide service from coroners using a clear and open process with a maximum case length of three months.
We call upon the Government to:

  • have mesothelioma made a national priority by the Cancer Tsar;
  • fund good quality research, alongside other national bodies, on mesothelioma with a view to improving diagnosis, treatment and outcomes for patients;
  • support the production of clinical Guidelines on the best practice of diagnosis and management of mesothelioma;
  • ensure the Health and Safety Executive vigorously enforce existing regulations on asbestos
And call upon all employers to:

  • prevent future exposure to asbestos by providing a safe working environment with all necessary equipment to protect employees;
  • work with unions and individuals to ensure enforcement of current regulations to safeguard all employees;
  • identify all asbestos in their properties and organise its safe removal where practical or necessary when work is being carried out.
Mesothelioma is a malignant lung disease which results mainly from exposure to asbestos.  Someone dies every five hours from mesothelioma in the UK.  Not just statistics - real people, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, grandmothers and grandfathers, uncles and aunties, friends and lovers....

Wednesday 2 July 2014

Back to life, back to reality....

So...after a short escape to Holland, it was back to real life and reality.  It's taken a while to catch up after our visit to Amsterdam, even though it was only a short trip.  

After just one day back at home, I was off again - this time on a work-related trip to Guernsey for a few days, then working hard at home for the rest of the week.  

We spent the last day of June in Bristol, visiting Steve's mum on her 88th birthday - the care home gave her a great chocolate cake with candles, which was shared with all the other residents once we had been served!

We've also been catching up with our cyber family the mesothelioma warriors on Facebook in general and the other meso bloggers in particular.  Sadly, for the most part, the news has not been good.  

More warriors have fought and lost their last battle - our hearts go out to their families and friends left behind.  

Fellow blogger Lou is having a tough time on chemo in Australia; Tess in Kent is still feeling poorly after her last chemo treatment, so probably a wise, if difficult, decision not to have any more; Amanda and Ray only recently back from a holiday Italy were dealt a blow when they found out that Ray's mesothelioma is back on the march again, so they, like us, are looking at options but not letting it stop them enjoy life in the meantime.  Jim has been through hell with his chemo, but was determined to get through the full course of treatment as it's knocking back the disease and gives him more treatment options.   

Mavis in Kent has just taken her second dose of an immunotherapy trial drug at the Royal Marsden.  It's having some side effects including affecting her sleeping pattern, but she is managing well; listens to her body, eats well and takes it easy when she has to.  

Sending much love to you all x

Now July has arrived, that means its just under 7 weeks to Steve's next assessment, which will be at the clinical trials unit clinic.  We'll hear then if there are any trials recruiting which might be suitable for him and get some idea of how quickly his cancer is growing.  If the difference in size is obvious on the X-ray, then we know there is a problem.  

In the meantime, Steve is still feeling fine and not getting too puffed unless he's doing something strenuous, like carrying 20 kilo bags of "postcrete" from the car, through the house and into the back garden, where we are hoping to make some progress on replacing fences tomorrow, with help from a friend, John.  

Now that England is out of the world cup, I think we will be rooting for Holland!  Oh dear...Just seen that Murray has been knocked out of Wimbledon....Life is unpredictable, isn't it? 


Firstly, many thanks to all of you who sent good wishes and joined in the celebration of Steve's 5 year survivor anniversary!

As our Facebook friends know already, we marked this special occasion with a trip to Amsterdam - somewhere we had been planning to visit for years but never quite got round to it. However, it was the perfect choice for this occasion - our first adventure since Steve recovered from the side effects of the VanSel Phase 1 drug trail he took part in during the early part of the year.  A short flight, plenty to see and do indoors if the weather was poor, and a good base we could return to to recover, if it all got too much....

We planned to split our main time three ways - visits to some of Amsterdam's modern buildings around the docks and River Ij, including EYE, Holland's national film institute;


Muziekgebrouw Concert Hall (centre for contemporary and classical music); 


the wonderful public library and the Conservatoire school of the arts next door; 

Public Library

The Conservatoire

Arcam architecture centre and Nemo, a science museum whose amazing stepped roof terrace had water features, deck chairs, games and a cafe where you could rest the feet, quench your thirst and enjoy wonderful views over the city from a high vantage point.



We also spent time just wandering around the historic core of the city, from canal to canal, admiring the terraced streets of distinctive, tall narrow houses and the floating flower market, amongst other things.

There was some culture too - a visit to the Van Gogh Museum and to the Stedelijk Gallery, home of Amsterdam's modern art collection.  

Van Gogh Museum

Stedelijk Musuem

Plus a quick look inside the atrium of newly opened Rijksmuseum, although not enough time to view the collection on this occasion.


However, it was some of the unplanned events that we enjoyed just as much - seeing the Dutch getting behind the national team in the FIFA World Cup - the city turned orange on match day - balloons, streamers, bunting - plus people wearing T-shirts, hats, suits and onesies in orange...

....wandering through the leafy Vondelpark on our way to the Museum quarter...

....watching the surge of cyclists (living in Oxford, we are used to cycles...but nothing like in Amsterdam, where cyclists rule the roads and cycleways alongside the footpaths!) 

...and spending our last evening in the company of two photographers - Ricky, an accomplished street photographer based in Amsterdam and Jan, who is famous for his wonderful architectural images...Jan and his girlfriend traveled from the Hague just to join us for the evening.  We were honoured!  Thank you for making it a last night in Amsterdam to remember.  

Jan, Ricky, Linda and Steve

Add to that mix of happy times being based in a lovely flat in a traditional Amsterdam house, close to the museums but in a relaxed and quiet area (except for when the Netherlands won its world cup match!)

I do hope we will return one day...must try the pickled herring next time!

A short break but a very enjoyable one. Now we feel ready to tackle something a bit longer before Steve's next appointment in August....But in the meantime, it's back to life, back to reality....