Week 742

Sunday, 12th March, 2023

I talk throughout the day to people around the country and abroad. I even talk to my wife at times … particularly when I need food. Most of my remote friends use Whatsapp which is an internationally available service and free to use. It is almost entirely used through mobile phones and one of its biggest assets is that, unlike texts, Graphics (photos etc.) are free to send. It also allows us to send attached documents. I have a mobile contract with EE which has unlimited calls and texts but an attached graphic costs an additional £0.73. So, if I send you a graphic by text, you know I think you’re worth at least £0.73 – which is a lot!

The other point about Whatsapp is its security. It includes end-to-end encryption which means nobody else can intercept and read it which is why politicians favour it. It’s not so usual to be talking to people 50 metres away by Whatsapp but that’s what happened this morning. Michelle, from the house you can see on the right, sent me a Whatsapp message asking if I was OK because she hadn’t seen me for a while. More or less checking up on the old people. Even so, she’s a lovely girl and very kind. People here are, generally.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip4

This is what my Social Secretary requires for her next smartphone. It has all the attributes of her current phone but folds the screen in half to slip discretely into her bag. I like to keep my staff happy.

A 5 mile walk in the Spring sunshine this morning. Lovely! the condemned man freed to enjoy his final days. Heard from Michelle, M, Kevin, Julie, Nigel and John Rid this morning. Leaves a warm feeling of friendship.

Monday, 13th March, 2023

A relatively warm night of 11C/52C. Beautiful morning – warm and sunny but a bit windy – for a walk by the beach.

Ironically, I fully support this strike.

I had two phone calls last week, the first asking me to meet the consultant on Thursday and the next day asking me to go in on Tuesday instead. This morning we are told the dates of the Doctors’ strike – Monday to Thursday morning – which suggests it may impact my consultation. Ironically, I fully support this strike but I will be disappointed if it affects my health.

Is it inappropriate to discuss toilet paper? Well, tough …. or, in this case, soft. Toilet paper involves shopping. Shopping, in a long marriage, involves discussion. When I say ‘discussion’, I insist on thickly quilted toilet paper. (Don’t ask!) However, we may have to dispense (to coin a phrase) with toilet paper altogether.

Kelp, I need somebody ….

This morning, the news breaks that the stuff that we think rapidly biodegrades, as it is flushed down the sewers, actually includes a ‘forever chemical’. Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) are a large, complex group of synthetic chemicals that have been used in consumer products. It has carcinogenic properties and is used in the production of toilet paper to prevent pulp clogging up the machinery. PFAS never breaks down so is ever present in the environment. No more toilet paper? Now what are you going to do? At least the Blog remains educational.

Went on to the beach where the sea was retreating then on down the Marina Promenade which looked quiet as boats moored away from the wind. These experiences are too nice to lose!

Tuesday, 14th March, 2023

A beautiful, sunny morning to … talk about cancer. What more could one want. At least my consultation hasn’t been cancelled … yet. Mid day will be one of the ‘life’ moments whatever the verdict. Rather holding my breath this morning which isn’t easy because I’ve decided to stay busy – cleaning the car, tidying the Office and the Gym. Managed a beautiful urine sample to take with me.

I’ve cleaned the car. It’s 10.00 am on the first day of the doctors’ strike and I have had no contact so it looks like my meeting will go ahead. At this stage, do I want to know?

Well, now I do know. I have extensive prostate cancer. They think it is still confined to the prostate but I have to have a bone scan to see if it has gone further. If it hasn’t, I will take hormone boosting tablets followed by 3-monthly injections to shrink the prostate and the cancer within. Then I will have to have radiotherapy to ‘eradicate’ the remaining tumour.

The foreseeable future in the medical services was what I was hoping to avoid. I’m not scared of dying but the banality of being a health statistic is what I was hoping to avoid for a few more years at least. I have people to see and places to go, things to do.

My biggest fears are that the tablets are likely to encourage weight gain. The radiology means a 30 mile round trip to Brighton 5 days a week for 4 weeks and will dominate our lives. I can’t bear putting my Secretary through that. Health and survival are set to dog our lives for months if not years to come.

I will not subject my wife and friends to that. I have to learn to keep it within myself and to deal with it alone.

In my beginning is my end. In succession
Houses rise and fall, crumble, are extended,
Are removed, destroyed, restored, or in their place
Is an open field, or a factory, or a by-pass.
Old stone to new building, old timber to new fires,
Which is already flesh, fur and faeces,
Bone of man and beast, cornstalk and leaf.

East Coker – T. S. Eliot

Wednesday, 15th March, 2023

Who the hell is that?

The world looks very different and rather bleak this morning. There is a feeling of ‘What is the point of anything?‘ about it. I am going to be going through the motions but I will try to keep it out of the Blog as much as possible. Had delightful talks with Kevin and Julie last night. M said nice things from Florida and Bob and Liz sent lovely messages as well.

It sounds churlish but I find that sort of thing difficult to hear. Makes me feel ‘needy’. I suppose I am but don’t want to admit it. Have to let everyone else get on with their lives. Having said that, I am going to contact John and Nigel this morning. Been promising them a proper catchup for weeks.

I have a plan. I’ve started the course of hormone medication – not something that a man wants to submit to. I’ll probably have to go out and be fitted for a bra. To compensate, I am going to stop eating and live on fluids for a few weeks. It will mean I have less energy and I may have to moderate some of my exercise goals initially but I will hope to build them back up as time goes on..

What is this?

In other news, British Gas are here this morning servicing the central heating. It used to be a straight forward thing at one time – when they were called The Gas Board. It hasn’t been called that since 1972 which shows I haven’t moved on much. In those days, people had separate water tanks in the loft and the boiler was drop-fed. It was all very ‘mechanical’. Now, it feels quite out of my comfort zone. It is quite an involved service which involves inspecting the gas boiler in the Utility Room, the cylinder in what was usually called the Airing Cupboard, the Hive controls and the smart meter.

The cylinder has a compression chamber which is quite beyond me although we also had one in Greece. We have separate controls for upstairs and downstairs. This is the first house where that has been available but it is very useful so the Hive system has two, separate controllers. Joe, the British Gas man has been lovely and efficient. He finished by checking every radiator – 15 in all – in the house. He even found a loose socket in the Utility Room and fixed it for us before leaving. They may be a bit more expensive than individual traders but you do get what you pay for with excellent service.

I have been phoned this afternoon by the Nuclear Medicine Department of Chichester Hospital. What the hell am I doing? I have to spend over 4 hrs on March 28th being injected with a radio active substance that will give me an extra 1 in 5000 chance of cancer in order to investigate an existing one.

Thursday, 16th March, 2023

A good night’s sleep and the most beautiful, warm morning of blue sky and sunshine. We had shopping to do first thing. It was nice to be distracted and normal.

I received emails of sympathy from my sisters yesterday. Although I know they mean well and I love them for bothering, it is not what I want at the moment. A copy of the letter from my consultant arrived this morning and seeing the words unfortunately we have diagnosed rather extensive prostate cancer in black type made it all the more real.

I’ve decided that I need to build a bunker in the garden for the time when I am radioactive. An escape from the world. It’s amazing how much help one can get with such a project. The internet is full of advice and guidance. I haven’t told my wife yet in case she objects to the disruption but I’m telling you. It will have to have an internet connection and fresh coffee on tap. Otherwise, I’ll be ok.

Although I’m hoping to stick to the timetable, our October trip North may have to be moved on to November. You heard it here first. Keep your diary open.

Friday, 17th March, 2023

A depressingly grey and wet morning although relatively very warm at 11C/52C. It echoed exactly this day last year – in New York. We were there, quite by chance, on St Patrick’s Day and the city was absolutely flooded in green.

17/3/2022 – Fifth Avenue, New York

Actually, it made the visit more interesting and vibrant although the restaurants were very full and the streets were blocked off for the procession.

Received a lovely email letter from Dr John Ridley this morning. He is an amusing mix of ancient & modern. He has lived in the same house in Catterick since he got married 50 years ago. He has a boat on Lake Windemere which he sails regularly. He drives a Jaguar car and and takes the elderly and disabled on tours of Fountains Abbey. He goes round the North of England giving talks on his time as a Village Headmaster and he sings in a Folk Band. And then, he holidays in … South Korea.

1990s style

This morning he told me they had just had their Kitchen replaced for the first time in 30 years with their first ever DISHWASHER. He was very excited. Can you imagine living without a dishwasher all this time. It made me think back to our first dishwasher – a Hoover in 1984 – almost 40 years ago. I still can’t stack it without finding extra pieces of crockery after the wash cycle.

Dishwasher owner – going places. Love innovation and sucker for gadgets. It wasn’t long afterwards that I got a mobile phone. At home in Helme on the Pennines, I was shocked to find we had no 2G mobile signal and I had to drive out to the ring-road to make and receive a call. It was more trouble than it was worth but it was PROGRESS. I loved it. More than 30 years on, I am constantly using Whatsapp on my mobile to chat to random individuals.

The weather must be so much better in North Yorkshire. Julie is sitting out in her garden drinking coffee. It would be very diluted if I did that down here this morning.

Saturday, 18th March, 2023

Bad night. Radio on. Didn’t help. Shipping Forecast wasn’t riveting. Even Farming Today was a rehash of the week’s programmes. Anyway, it helps to drive the demons out for a while.

My Memory Box threw up a time in 1983. We had a log fire in our lounge and, to save money, we went to the nearby woods to collect logs. Usually, it was early on a Sunday morning because we weren’t completely clear if it was legal or not so we chose a time others were still in bed. Not so many young, married couples got out of bed early on a Sunday morning …. to collect firewood. No power chainsaw just a bow-saw and my youthful energy. It felt quite illicit at the time which gave it an extra frisson of enjoyment.

A year later, we had bought a house in an acre of grounds, had a number of huge trees felled and logged and the new log burner had fuel for the rest of time. Pauline will be keen to tell you that she still wears that jumper. I don’t. Nor do I have the moustache or what the school kids always described as my porn-star glasses.

Turned into a lovely, sunny day so going out for a walk. While I was out and to show a sign of optimism, our application for a French vignette issued to show our car’s compliance with European Emission Standards – Crit’Air – arrived to be mounted in the windscreen for our next French trip which can’t be far away. As a fuel-efficient, Hybrid, our car is awarded the highest criterion No. 1. It is needed when driving in most major cities of France – Paris, Lille, Bordeaux, etc..

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