Roses in June

pink-roses-3421679_1920I’ve had a very busy blogging month, just not on this blog!

I’m still posting every day on my 3sixtyfiveblog and I’ve enjoyed researching and writing all the posts.

I’ve had some lovely posts about the special flower for the month of June; hence the photo at the start of this post.

One of my posts was about a Youtube film clip of the Yorkshire Rose Queen 1931. For anyone who knows and loves Scarborough the film clip is a little gem. You can find the post here.

The most viewed post was “Miniatures with a huge perspective” by guest writer, Michael Murray.

Michael writes:

Whilst visiting relatives I found myself discussing my novella Julia’s Room with my sister-in-law. She mentioned her fondness for short stories and revealed that she’d recently downloaded on to her Kindle one of the volumes from Guy de Maupassant’s collection.

Guy de Maupassant! The mention of the name instantly transported me back to my days as a drama student when I’d first discovered that wonderful author’s little jewels of short stories and read every one I could find. As soon as my sister-in-law and I finished our conversation I began browsing in the Kindle Store for Maupassant’s work. I was delighted to find his complete output of short stories, including many I had never heard of before: his novels were there too. I downloaded the first volume of his collected short stories for free and began to consume them with relish one after the other: as a chocolate addict might devour a large box of chocolates.

Guy de Maupassant was born on August 5, 1850 near Dieppe, in France, into a prosperous family background which included minor Norman aristocracy. He was nineteen and studying Law in Paris when the Franco Prussian war broke out. Maupassant volunteered and saw action as a private before later serving in the Quartermaster Corps. This is why the war and the Prussian invasion of France permeate some of his most memorable stories. Read more here.

The post which was tweeted and re-tweeted the most was “Who was the first woman to drive a London bus?”

When I was writing Jam for Tea I recalled that the first woman to be blasted up into space was the Russian, Valentina Tereshkova.

Sometime later I found myself trying to remember the name of the first British woman to make that exciting journey into space. It was of course Helen Sharman who was born in 1963 just one month before Valentina Tereshkova made her historic flight.

Learning about Helen Sharman inspired me to find out about other British women trailblazers.

I’ve read the stories of some amazing women and found some Internet gems as well.

For example, this YouTube film clip is a fantastic record of the first woman to drive a London bus. And if you want to know who she was, continue reading here.

You can find all my posts for June here and I hope you have time to read some of them.

Meanwhile, Michael’s latest novel, “Leefdale” has received some very positive reader feedback.

A thoroughly enjoyable and thought-provoking novel.

Leefdale is an intriguing novel full of interesting and convincing characters whose past lives and relationships are revealed during one eventful summer in a village in rural Yorkshire. There are multi-layered stories of love and attraction but also of deceit, double lives, conflict and intolerance. The setting and characters are well written and the themes are interesting and complex. Highly recommended.

At over eight hundred pages long, this certainly is value for money, and a read I’d thoroughly recommend to those who really like to get stuck into a good immersive novel. I suspect many of us are attracted to village life, where everyone knows their neighbours. The author lifts the curtains and reveals the reality. Even those closest to us can be hiding secrets, presenting a persona. To visiting tourists, all in Leefdale seems as quiet and tranquil as the village pond. But still waters run deep, and beneath the surface lurks all kinds of murkiness. Like a stone hitting the pond’s surface, a bunch of well meaning folk working with difficult youngsters move into The Old Rectory. This causes a ripple effect, and the fascination here is watching how those ripples play out. Story lines intertwine; some sadder than others, one is completely desperate, almost exasperatingly so in a how did anyone dig themselves into a hole that deep manner, while the Major sometimes made me cringe, other times I wanted to shake him, and occasionally I laughed at his antics, especially his newsletters. The author Michael Murray had me believing in all of them, and totally engrossed in their lives. A rich rewarding read, five easy stars.

You can read some of “Leefdale” by clicking FREE PREVIEW below.

For the last few days for some unknown reason, every time I add a book link to a WordPress blogpost it turns into an advert. Which certainly saves time normally spent on book promotion. And now with so many thousands (er, millions!) of books available for Kindle, anything which helps a book to stand out is appreciated.

We  started Kindle self-publishing in February 2012 and were lucky enough to be in at the start of the e-publishing revolution.

Our first title was Michael’s novel “Magnificent Britain”.

One reader said:

Warning! This book is seriously addictive! Sir Maurice Brearley, founder and sponsor of the Magnificent Britain gardening competition, is a man with secrets. Biographer Nigel Lush has been commissioned to tell Sir Maurice’s life story. He, too, has secrets. Lady Brearley insists, together with the publisher, that the biography must show what a wonderful man her husband is, but Lush receives a letter from someone whose dying father has a different story to tell. The old man says he knows Brearley from their time fighting together in World War One. Lush wants to add a postscript to his book but is unable to tell what he now believes is the true story.

Later, we read the personal testament of Sir Maurice, hidden until after his death, which tells his version of their relationship and the story behind his honourable discharge with crippling injuries. Will the true story ever be told? Not if Lady Brearley’s MI5 brother can help it.

This book is convincingly told and brilliantly manipulates the beliefs of the reader. We are told of cowardice under fire, punishable by execution if confirmed. We read of sexual entrapment to prevent a homosexual writer from telling what he knows. The story moves back and forth from the late 1960s to the First World War to the 1930s and finally to the early years of this century and very believably sets the historic scene with its class divisions and the illegal status of homosexuals in those days. It’s a most compelling story and a great study of the complex trap we set for ourselves with lies and deceit, even if originally well-intentioned. An excellent read and thoroughly recommended.

And now the advert!

It’s almost a year since I wrote the first blogpost that mentioned my cancer diagnosis.

It’s still here if you missed it.

Starting in August last year I’ve had 12 two-weekly cycles of a drug that targets bowel cancer cells called Cetuximab accompanied by two chemotherapy drugs. In March the oncologist changed my treatment to maintenance therapy by reducing the chemotherapy drugs to just one while continuing the Cetuximab.

I now go to my local hospital’s chemotherapy unit for about five hours every two weeks to get the Cetuximab and come home with 46 hours of chemotherapy in a pump.

So far the drugs are proving effective in controlling the spread of the cancer and shrinking the tumour in my liver. I am indebted to our NHS, its doctors, nurses, technical and support staff and the wonders of medical science. I didn’t expect that I would still be writing blogposts (albeit mainly on 3sixtyfive) a whole year after my diagnosis. And the pleasure that gives me is immeasurable!

Thanks for reading and hope you have a great day.

All best wishes,

Cathy 🙂

 

 

Advertisements

Hypocrisy, Secrets and Lies

I’ve re-posted this from my 3sixtyfive Blog and wanted  to add that You don’t need a Kindle to read Kindle books.

3 Sixty Five Blog

There are now thousands of Kindle titles available on Amazon. More books are added everyday by publishers and self-publishers and it’s impossible to keep up with the sheer volume and variety of titles available.

The likelihood of you finding “Magnificent Britain” by Michael Murray from a random search of the Kindle Store isn’t great. So I’ve written this post to help you because “Magnificent Britain”  will be free to download from June 25 – 29 (incl.) and I don’t want you to miss it!

“Magnificent Britain” was the first ebook Michael and I self-published with Kindle Direct and that was back in 2012 at the start of the ebook publishing revolution.

“Magnificent Britain” is a long novel which is ideal if you’re going on holiday and want something to immerse yourself in while you’re soaking up the sun. It’s a very readable novel but it’s not easy-reading. The themes are…

View original post 1,081 more words

I never intended to become a teacher.

classroom

If anyone asked me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I would always say I was going to be an air hostess. This was the glamour career of choice for many girls at the time. Air travel was becoming more accessible to ever more people and BOAC and BEA were household names. The air hostesses smart uniforms, white gloves and natty little hats plus apparently unlimited global excursions appealed greatly.

I never intended to become a teacher although as a child I enjoyed playing at schools with dolls and teddies and, of course, younger sister in my class. So I suppose I was unconsciously planting the seeds of my future career at the chalkface.

Boxes of chalks (the teacher’s weapon of choice in those days) were a regular feature in our Christmas stockings. Actually we never used a stocking for Santa: a pillow case was  more useful for the number of gifts we were hoping to receive.

We were supposed to chalk on a small easel but naturally we preferred to chalk on the paths in the garden and in the street outside. But unless it was for a hopscotch, no graffiti was allowed. Bucket of soapy water and a yard brush for any miscreants.

As well as playing at teacher I enjoyed organising. At one time my favourite pastime was to arrange ballet shows where my sister and I would jump up and down to records of Swan Lake and The Nutcracker Suite. Our parents were the long suffering audience who were expected to pay with real money for their home-made programme and paper cone of imaginary ice-cream.

At Brownies I entered enthusiastically into the events, badges and fund-raising on offer. I was thrilled when appointed as a Sixer and could lead my group at church parade. In my  teenage years I was a reliable volunteer for school and Girl Guiding events and spent several happy Saturday afternoons preparing the teas for the school rugby team and their opponents.

A couple of friends and myself collected the key for the school canteen from the school caretaker. The canteen was located in its own separate building. After making up a mountain of meat paste sandwiches, we put huge kettles onto the gas burners ready to fill the tea urns for when the sweaty, muddy youths had finished their exertions. The school cook provided the meat paste and some trays of left-over sponge pudding for us to slice up along with packets of Jammy Dodgers and Rich Tea biscuits.

At half-time we trotted out to the playing fields with plates of thirst quenching orange slices. We collected the chewed up orange peel at the end of half-time and returned to our kitchen domain. Three quarters of an hour later we handed the players their refreshments from behind the security of the serving hatch.

When the boys had gone we collected the plates and cups, cleared up all the mess from the tables and floor, washed up the pots and tidied the kitchen. We made sure the gas was turned off and after locking up the canteen posted the key through the caretaker’s letter-box. I doubt that a group of fourteen years olds would be given that amount of responsibility these days.

As I mentioned in The Day I Almost Met the Queen, in the Sixth Form I was appointed as a school leader. This was our progressive Headteacher’s alternative to school prefects. I enjoyed the role which provided several opportunities for organising younger pupils, events and equipment. There had been an expansion in higher education and teacher training was re-branded as College of Education. No fees to pay; a maintenance grant and cossetting college accommodation; rail fares between home and college re-imbursed every term; why not? And so, after a long summer working as a waitress, I went off to college to utilise my organising skills and learn how to be a primary school teacher.

To prepare for the course, the college sent a reading list.
The books were:
Laurie Lee’s “Cider with Rosie”,
“The Rainbow” by D. H. Lawrence,
“Children in Distress” by Sir Alec Clegg, the Chief Education Officer of the West Riding of Yorkshire County Council
and one other title.

Over the years I’ve struggled to remember what the fourth book was and failed. Until by chance my sister sent me a postcard from a collection reproducing old Pelican paperbacks. And on the postcard was the cover of the fourth book. I bought a 1p second hand copy of “A Guide To English Schools” from Amazon and the memories came flooding back.

paperback2

Back in 1969, I’d dutifully read all four books before the start of the course. I wondered what the significance of the titles was as I packed the books with the rest of my belongings in a large, heavy, old-fashioned trunk. This was collected from home and delivered to college by British Road Services, the road haulage arm of British Rail. I don’t know who at the college had sent out the reading list. They must have forgotten to tell any of the lecturers because no reference was ever made to the books at any stage in the course!

Thanks for reading my blog today.

You might also like Remembering the Nuffield Maths Project on my 3sixtyfive Blog.

Cabbage and Semolina“, memories of my 1950s childhood is still receiving reviews on Amazon. A reader called Patricia commented a couple of months ago:

Oh the memories came flooding back !Cathy I must have lived at yours because everything you describe happened at mine. We even had a green Ford Consul.!!!!! A fab and funny reminder of a magical era.

Thankyou, Patricia and for the five gold stars too!

Cabbage and Semolina
Ebook 99p Paperback £3.50 http://amzn.eu/4GIqj7W

 

 

 

The day I almost met the Queen!

the queen stamp

In the Upper Sixth Form I hoped to be appointed as a school prefect but our progressive Headmistress had other ideas. She discovered democracy and announced that the role of prefect was now abolished and in future five school leaders would be elected to undertake the prefects’ duties.

These duties mainly involved supervising the younger girls during wet dinner times and ensuring that all girls wore their regulation school beret on departing the premises at the end of the school day.

Needless to say there were few volunteers for the leadership roles and so the promised elections never took place.

By now I was planning to undertake a teacher training course so thought the school leader role would be an asset for my application form and the supervision of the younger pupils a useful preparation so I didn’t hesitate to offer my services.

The rainy day supervision was easy as the girls stayed in their allocated form rooms and entertained themselves in a reasonably orderly manner with the ever present threat of being turfed outside into the cold and wet if the teacher on duty had to be sent for.

We extended the role to include picking up litter in the corridors. Packed lunches weren’t allowed: all pupils stayed for school dinners or went home but a breaktime snack was permitted and resulted in discarded wrappers around the school. So we organised squads of first formers, under pain of being sent to run round the perimeter of the school playing fields if they declined to assist, to pick up the wrappers and bin them correctly.

The same year group was dragooned into cloakroom duty and required to hang up the outdoor coats that invariably fell off the overcrowded pegs. The inducement was the same although a few recalcitrant twelve year olds insisted they would prefer to run round the school field any day rather than do the tidying up but, of course, we’d have to catch them first.

I never knew if the school leader role enhanced my C.V. to get into my preferred teacher training college. After completing the application form it was handed to the Head who was supposed to write her confidential reference on the form and send it off to the college. Unfortunately she forgot to post my application form off and I had to get my place through the clearing house system at the end of the process.

However there was a completely unexpected bonus attached to being a school leader.

Our town was celebrating the nine hundredth anniversary of its magnificent Benedictine abbey. At Easter the Queen was scheduled to present the annual Maundy money to some worthy locals at a special service in the abbey.

Afterwards there was to be a reception and our school, with its newly opened school hall and adjacent kitchen, was selected as the venue for the local big cheeses to meet and greet her Majesty.

The local education authority’s catering service would provide the refreshments although the Queen herself would not be staying for lunch.

Our usual school dinner ladies were brought under the command of the Head of School Meals for the occasion, and we school leaders were drafted in to be the kitchen gofers.

The senior catering officer brought military precision to the preparations and soon had us girls chopping and slicing; buttering and spreading; fetching and carrying.

We’d been told to arrive at school at six in the morning and at eleven we stopped for refreshments. A very senior, suited gentleman appeared in the kitchen and thanked us all for volunteering and for our hard work. He then announced that, contrary to our expectations, it would not be possible for us to see the Queen and in the interests of security the communicating door between the kitchen and the school hall would be locked and remain so until the royal progress had ended.

The disappointment amongst the dinner ladies was palpable and expressed with Yorkshire forthrightness but the spokesman was not moved. The door would be locked and that was that. He left and we returned to our preparations.

The finger buffet lunch (sausages on sticks, cheese and pineapple on sticks, mushroom vol au vents and quiche lorraine included) was arranged on tables at the side of the school hall. The guests began to assemble in the school hall and when it was almost time for the royal party to arrive, sure enough, the doors through which we’d carried all the results of our morning’s labours were locked.

The atmosphere in the kitchen could have been cut with any one of the knives we’d all been wielding since dawn.

Then the senior catering officer threw the chef’s hat he’d been wearing all morning on the floor and in choice Anglo Saxon told us we’d cooked for the Queen and fetched and carried for the Queen and we were going to see the Queen regardless of what the high-and-mighty so-and-so might have to say on the subject.

This was the first time I’d ever heard an adult using the F-word and to say I was shocked would be an understatement.

His words were greeted warmly and warning us to keep the noise down he unbolted the serving hatches on either side of the communicating doors and raised them several inches.

We all had to kneel down on our side of the serving hatches and peer through into the school hall.

Fortunately the view was uninterrupted and we did manage to see the Queen as she was introduced to her waiting subjects. She was accompanied by the Chief Education Officer,  and a couple of gold-chained worthies and there was considerable bobbing and bowing.

I was surprised how diminutive the Queen was. She was wearing her trademark dress, coat and matching hat in pale turquoise; and we saw only fleeting glimpses of her face and inscrutable smile.

Still, the dinner ladies were satisfied; and after the Queen had left and the guests had enjoyed the lunch we did the clearing up in record time and polished off the leftovers, cheese straws and all!

Thanks for reading my blog today.

Hope you have a very Happy Easter!

All the best,

Cathy 🙂

You might also like my daily blog at https://3sixtyfiveblog.wordpress.com/

How shall we find the concord of this discord?

It’s been ages since I posted on this blog.
That doesn’t mean I’ve given up writing blogposts. On the contrary, I’ve had a blogpost every day for months on my daily 3sixtyfive blog: https://3sixtyfiveblog.wordpress.com/
Michael and I have also been preparing his new novel, Leefdale, for publication.
Obviously this has been a bit tricky as we’ve been interrupted every two weeks when I’ve had to go for my chemotherapy.
However, we got there in the end and Leefdale was launched a few days ago.
I thought I’d reblog this post from my 3sixtyfiveblog to tell you more about Leefdale.
It’s already been downloaded by some of our family and friends and initial feedback has been very positive so thankyou all for your support.
I’m working on my next Cabbage and Semolina Blogpost which is provisionally titled “Pianos, Pets and Pinnies” so watch this space!
All the best,
Cathy

3 Sixty Five Blog

Today I’m doing a book promotion for Michael Murray’s new novel, Leefdale.

As well as being the author of Magnificent Britain, Julia’s Room, and the best-selling detective novel, A Single to Filey, Michael has been my other half for over forty years. He’s been writing Leefdale and its companion novel, Magnificent Britain for over twenty years. Yes, I did say twenty! Magnificent Britain was published as a Kindle ebook in 2012 and is also available as an Amazon print-on-demand paperback.

Leefdale was published a couple of days ago and can be downloaded for a special launch price of 99p / $0.99. Magnificent Britain is £5.99 and both novels are in KindleUnlimited.

You don’t need a Kindle to read Kindle ebooks.

Leefdale is busily preparing for the 2001 Magnificent Britain Gardening Competition. Major Howard Roberts is obsessed with gaining the fifth consecutive gold medal for the village.

Unfortunately, the sale…

View original post 277 more words

Just in Time! My last blogpost in 2017!

It’s ages since I wrote a post on this blog.

But not as bad as Ruby Murray and the absent blogpost writer in 2016.

I’ve been a very busy blogger since November 3rd 2017 – just not on this blog!

You might enjoy my daily 3sixtyfiveblog which is an eclectic mix of Music, Books, TV and  Film, Healthy Eating, NHS, Living with Cancer, Blogging Tips, #OnThisDay and Flowers. There’s a short history of 3sixtyfiveblog at 100th Blogpost and my rationale for the blog is at First Blog Post.

Since my cancer diagnosis I’ve visited my local district hospital every couple of weeks either for treatment, scans or consultations.

I’ve become acutely aware of the pressure our NHS is under.

My generation is aging fast and every day more individuals become patients needing care. But where is the surprise in this? We’re the baby boomers! As I wrote in Your National Health Service in 2017

We needed more school places, more training, more jobs, more houses, more maternity services, more school places and injections for our children, and more doctors, nurses, dentists and teachers for them too. And now we need lots more health and social care for ourselves.

So why is the government so surprised?

Surely they knew we baby-boomers were there. They must have realised we were getting older? That we’d need more health and social care. Why wasn’t the Health Department making preparations? Why weren’t they planning for the increasing demographic? Isn’t that what government is supposed to do? And if they’ve been planning, well they haven’t made a very good job of it, have they?

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not complaining about the NHS, the staff, my treatment or anything to do with the day-to-day service we receive.

It’s the failure of the Secretary of State for Health to take personal responsibility for our NHS. In days gone by the politician heading a department was in charge. Now responsibility and accountability lies with the chief executives of the national Health Services. NHS England, NHS Scotland, NHS Wales, NHS Northern Ireland. It used to just be the NHS! The fragmentation goes much further of course into the multitude of organisations with fingers in the NHS pie.

If you want to have a slight freak out just watch this video from the King’s Fund which attempts to make sense of the NHS.

And in each local area there are the Sustainability and Transformation plans which supposedly plot the direction of travel for each region.

But there’s a new kid on the NHS block:

Accountable Care Organisations.

This is the latest scheme from the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, to introduce new commercial, non-NHS bodies to run health and social services without proper public consultation and without full Parliamentary scrutiny. 

If you’re in any way concerned about the future of our NHS you need to read Urgent Legal Action for Our NHS about the campaign #JR4NHS (Judicial Review for NHS).

My cancer journey has arrived at the start of Cycle 9 of my treatment.

I went to our local chemotherapy unit yesterday for an appointment that commenced at 8.30, finished just after 2.30 pm and was a cocktail of 11 intravenous drugs via my Hickman Line and one injection.

I’m having Cetuximab, Irinotecan and 5Flourouracil plus Calcium Folate and an assortment of anti vomiting, diarrhoea and allergy drugs every two weeks for 12 cycles.

I had a consultation with the oncologist after Cycle 6. I’d had a CT scan the week before and he was delighted to show us the before-and-after scans as the chemotherapy has shrunk the tumour in my liver considerably. The cancer markers in my blood tests are considerably reduced as well. So, so far, very good progress.

I had an MRI scan a couple of weeks ago which didn’t detect any more cancer in my pelvic bone so, fingers crossed, that might have been brought under control.

I also have 48 hours of chemotherapy at home via a pump connected to the Hickman Line which is disconnected by a nurse from the Community team.

I can’t speak too highly of the consultants, the chemotherapy nurses and the community nurses. And I’m so thankful that our NHS is here for me now I need it. But we can’t be complacent. The doctors, nurse, technicians and support staff can only look after us if the funding, in real terms, is made available. They’re doing a marvellous job in increasingly difficult circumstances. I can’t see any justification for the ever increasing syphoning off of public money for private profit. And if you want to read some details check out this page on the We Own It website.

Meanwhile, many thanks for the supportive comments, e-mails and Twitter messages.

Some of the side-effects of my chemotherapy are tough and it’s lovely to know that so many people are concerned about me.

It’s also time I thanked readers of our books.

We haven’t published anything new for quite a while but watch this space (or rather a future blogpost) as editing of “Leefdale” is going well. Christmas saw a spike in sales of “Cabbage and Semolina” in paperback. I’m guessing that several elderly relatives are having a walk down Memory Lane now the Christmas fairy dust has settled. And “Learning Lines?” both ebook and paperback is finding a niche especially in the USA. You might like to check out the Book of the Day on my website. There are links to all our book pages if you want to find out more.

I’d like to thank readers who’ve posted reviews recently.

“A Single To Filey” now has 247 mainly four and five star reviews with this addition in September:

Review ASTF

Thanks very much Stephen Sheppard! More reviews here.

“Cabbage and Semolina” has 143 mainly four and five star reviews with these recent additions:

Reviews CS

Thanks very much Isobel, Tantermount, Nadia and Amazon Customer! More reviews here.

My dad’s WW2 diary also had a pre-Christmas spike in paperback sales. And received this insightful review from a reader recently.

Review TV

Thanks to Paddywack as well! More reviews here.

Well, that’s all for now and thankyou for reading my blog today.

Hope to see you at 3sixtyfiveblog occasionally and every good wish for 2018.

new-year-2841111_1920

 

 

 

Vintage Radio and the Comedy Sofa

vintage radio
image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/vintage-retro-radio-an-antique-1216720/

I’m not usually a big fan of the radio

and apart from Radio 4’s “Today” don’t listen to any programme or radio station regularly.

Consequently

the massive expansion in niche, small scale radio outlets has largely passed me by. Until last Saturday when I found myself tuned into Surge Radio, a student radio station based at Southampton University. By the wonders of Wifi, I was listening to a live radio show produced for a very specific demographic and location and enjoying every minute of it.

What a contrast with the 1950s when all we had was BBC, BBC, BBC.

We always listened to the radio at teatime. “Children’s Hour” started at 5pm before the early evening News. The programme I remember was “Toytown” featuring Larry the Lamb and his clever sidekick, Dennis the Dachshund. In each story a misunderstanding occurred, often caused by Mr. Inventor, and involving Ernest the Policeman, the disgruntled Mr Growser the Grocer and the Mayor. I can’t remember any of the stories but the opening music is another matter entirely. “The Parade of the Tin Soldiers” by Leon Jessel remains a lovely, catchy tune to this day.

This version of The Parade of the Tin Soldiers performed by Nanyang Elementary School Recorder Orchestra in Taiwan is totally fantastic!

The News was broadcast at 6pm.

The newsreaders of the day spoke with an unrecognisable accent but we knew they were posh and in-charge!

Every week my dad bought The Radio Times

and went through it religiously, drawing a ring round the programmes he didn’t want to miss. He did the same for the TV programmes too. The Radio Times only had the radio programmes and one TV channel. Even after ITV started in 1955 their programmes weren’t included in The Radio Times. If you wanted to know what was coming up on ITV you had to buy the TV Times as well.

We still buy The Radio Times

but never go through ringing the programmes. With BBC iPlayer and the other catchup services there’s no point.

The BBC launched a second channel in 1964

and remembering the excitement is almost risible. We really were thrilled! But not so thrilled as a couple of years later when colour TV was launched.

Mr David Attenborough,

the controller of BBC2, planned for four hours each week of colour broadcasting. Challenging criticism that the programmes would be mainly repeats of programmes already seen in black & white, Attenborough said,  “We have to remember that 95% of people initially will not be seeing these programmes in colour, they’ll be seeing them in black and white. The shows that BBC2 will be scheduling will be exciting new shows in black and white. They’ll be that much more exciting and newer in colour.”

The first programme broadcast in colour was the 1967 Wimbledon tennis championship.

Our family were part of the 95% but eventually we got a colour TV and thought we’d arrived in broadcasting heaven.

And yes, that is David Attenborough of Life on Earth and Blue Planet.

We’ve come a long way

from the single TV channel and three radio stations of my childhood to the seemingly unlimited offer of 24/7 TV, radio, films and podcasts. And, of course, Surge Radio.

I was listening to The Comedy Radio Sofa

which is on for an hour at 10am on Saturday morning. My niece, Laura, is involved with the show and a few minutes before the start she’d Whatsappd her family and friends with an invitation to listen.

I’m not going to say that the humour was on my wave-length throughout the programme but I enjoyed the mix of live studio banter and pre-recorded sketches. Continuity between the components was good and the sound quality was excellent.

The performers were well prepared, assured and clearly enjoying themselves. Certainly an entertaining start to a dull and drizzly Saturday morning!

Thanks for reading my blog today

and, as always, thanks for the messages of support.

thank-you-2490552_1920
image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/thank-you-polaroid-letters-2490552/

Every Cloud has a Silver Lining

clouds
image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/sun-star-light-bright-clouds-sky-314340/

My lifestyle has been altered massively by my diagnosis and treatment. (See Don’t leave it too late! and Prickly Bottoms.)

I’ve had to make lots of adjustments to body maintenance including changes to diet, moisturising and taking plenty of rests. At times this can all be very irksome but is undeniably necessary.

However there are some unexpected benefits such as chocolate!

For several years I’ve been seriously weight-watching and have reduced from an all time high of 12st 13lbs to a steady and sustained 10st 4lbs which is about in the middle of the body mass index chart for my height. It wasn’t easy getting to my new healthy weight or staying there. It’s meant no cakes, biscuits, sweets, crisps, sugary drinks or chocolate for months and months!

But now I can have treats and don’t seem to put on any weight. Although the healthy eating reasons for not having fat, salt and sugar remain the same. So I’ve indulged on Bounty bars, Galaxy and peppermint Aero and haven’t gained an ounce! Yum!!

And then there’s Green People.

My skin has become extremely dry and needs daily smotherings of E45 lotion. The advice from the Macmillan experts is to avoid any scented skin products so I’ve started buying Green People shower gel, shampoo and conditioner and this has proved to be a great find.

The Green People story is fascinating.

In 1994, a young mum, Charlotte Vøhtz, was searching for skin care products for her daughter, Sandra, who had multiple skin allergies and eczema. Charlotte was looking for natural products that would be gentle on Sandra’s sensitive skin. She found that many so-called natural skin care brands used almost entirely synthetic ingredients and so Charlotte decided to resolve the problem herself. She teamed up with European researchers to create a range of skincare products that did not include sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS), parabens, phthalates, petrochemicals, alcohol (ethanol) or synthetic fragrances or colourants. The Green People range was launched in 1997 and appears to have gone from strength to strength.

The products I’ve tried are really good. They’re expensive but a little goes a long way. As well as becoming extremely dry my skin has acquired a severe rash from the Cetuximab treatment. The Cetuximab has its own special cream but my skin doesn’t need aggravating with anything harsh. So far the Green People shampoo, conditioner and shower gel are lovely to use and don’t make my skin condition worse. 10/10 and five stars for Green People skincare products from me!

And best of all, enforced resting provides hours of blissful reading time.

There are many horrible side-effects to chemotherapy of which some of the worst are vomiting and severe diarrhoea, fatigue and mouth ulcers. I’ve managed to avoid the first two but have been hit hard by the others. The only way to deal with the fatigue is to rest. For anyone who has spent their life doing everything at top speed, this necessity to stop and sit doesn’t come easily!

I’ve always loved reading and always have at least one book on the go and several more books in the waiting to be read folder. And in the last couple of months I’ve had the time to read loads of really good books (mainly on my Kindle). Getting lost in a good novel has allowed me to go to other zones for some release from the pressures and challenges of my changed life.

If you’re looking for a good book, I recommend all of these. They’ve each given me so much pleasure. Different genres; some books mainstream and some indie published; authors I’ve read before and some new ones. Each book a delight to read and a new world to inhabit. (I’ve linked each title to it’s page on Amazon in case you want to find out more or read the free sample.)

Awakening (Tales of the Known World Book 1) by D. N. Frost

Baby Dear by Linda Huber

Parallel Lies by Georgia Rose

Tipping Point by Terry Tyler

A Street Cat Named Bob by James Bowen

Mortality by Christopher Hitchens

One night, a week or so after I’d been diagnosed with cancer, I couldn’t sleep and for some reason remembered reading a review of Christopher Hitchens’ book, Mortality. With the wonder of Kindle I was immediately able to read the opening pages and I felt that the book matched my mood perfectly. Mortality is only a short book, about 120 pages, and I downloaded it and read it straight through that night.

Hitchens certainly tells it as it is. His reputation for plain speaking is vindicated in this book: there’s none of the glossing over of the worst aspects of a cancer diagnosis that you find on all the major cancer charity websites. Hitchens describes his experiences of treatment and subsequent deterioration in blunt, graphic prose.

But each chapter also includes some of the funniest and most acerbic writing I’ve encountered in a long time. Hitchens didn’t properly complete the book. The vicissitudes of the illness overcame his ability to continue writing. But he gave it a good go and continued writing for much longer than most people probably would. Mortality is a sad book but it’s uplifting and entertaining too. Not for the faint-hearted but well worth reading for its honesty ad truth.

This Crazy Thing I Call My Life by Jonathan Hill

He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly

The Prime Suspect Cases by Linda la Plante

Earlier in the year we watched the ITV drama series Prime Suspect 1973 which explored Jane Tennison’s early years in the police force. We found the plot in this adaptation of Linda la Plante’s novel, “Tennison”, to be stodgy and predictable but we greatly enjoyed the series for a number of reasons.

The costume designer is Amy Roberts who, according to the IMDb website, was nominated for an Olivier Award for best costumes for the 2009 stage production of The Misanthrope starring Damien Lewis and Keira Knightley. Well, Amy certainly deserved an award for the costumes in Prime Suspect 1973. She captured the spirit of the era beautifully and the series was worth watching for the costumes alone.

The music draws on some of the more obscure pop and rock hits (and misses) of the period: songs I hadn’t heard in decades plus a few of the better known efforts. Mixed in are some original pieces specially composed for the series which blend seamlessly with the authentic sounds of the 70s.

The lighting was the ultimate stroke of genius in the series. A drab lighting pallette conveyed the depressed nature of the economic state of the country reflecting the low tech quality of the TV camera work of the day.

A strong cast including a couple of veteran household names (Alun Armstrong and Ruth Sheen) brought real commitment to their roles. They had the attitudes perfectly and the ensemble playing of the various groups within the cast was exemplary.

Every prejudice that manifested all day and every day in the early seventies was captured authentically in this production. The embryonic feminism displayed by Jane Tennison was tempered by the chauvinistic prevailing norms of the era. Shocking levels of racism and homophobia percolating the script were presented head on with no compromise. If nothing else, this series was a celebration of progress. Yes, of course, there’s further to go and more to do. But compared with thirty years ago it was encouraging that attitudes had changed so much.

When Prime Suspect 1973 ended I noticed that three Prime Suspect novels were available in the Kindle Store for just 99p for the set. The three books are currently retailing at £9.99 so it was a good buy! I read the three novels one after the other and enjoyed reading them. The novels are rather dated now although there are some scenes which illustrate the institutionalised racism of the era very starkly.

The plots of the three novels are engaging and the character development of Tennison and her colleagues is very good. Overall, a good light read which reminds you how much better was the TV adaptation than the novels.

I was surprised to read that no further Prime Supect 1973 episodes are planned. Apparently there were creative differences between the TV company and the author resulting in a parting of the ways. What a pity: we were looking forward to more!

Girl in the Castle by Lizzie Lamb

Three Sisters, Three Queens by Philippa Gregory

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Lindisfarne by Terry Tyler

1984 by George Orwell

I’ve got a whole lot more titles parked on my Kindle and plenty of chemotherapy resting time in which to enjoy them. Proof indeed that every cloud has a silver lining!

clouds
image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/white-fluffy-clouds-blue-sky-211827/

 

September Song

berries
image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/berries-frisch-fruits-bio-autumn-2665250/

8th September 2017

Exactly four months since I had my GP appointment in May at the start of my cancer journey.

May to September

I’ve always liked that song.

It’s May to December really with a turning point in September.

Oh, it’s a long, long while from May to December
But the days grow short when you reach September
When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame
One hasn’t got time for the waiting game

Oh, the days dwindle down to a precious few
September, November
And these few precious days I’ll spend with you
These precious days I’ll spend with you.

I’m not all that bothered about the lyrics of the song, actually. It’s the melody I really like. Very hummable!

One afternoon last week, Michael and I were reflecting on how our lives have been turned up-side-down from May to September. And I started humming the tune  which stuck and I couldn’t get it out of my head. This was becoming more of an irritant than a pleasure so during one of my enforced resting periods I had a Youtube Fest and found lots of alternatives of “September Song” as it is properly known.

As well as all the usual crooners, Frank Sinatra, Andy Williams, & Co., there are some wonderfully unexpected arrangements of September Song.

I love this interpretation of the song by Lou Reed.

Lou Reed at his awesome best; and I can’t understand how I’ve got to this point in my life and never heard it before! Of course, I’ve made up for the omission with back to back listening since I found the recording.

September Song

was composed by Kurt Weill with lyrics by Maxwell Anderson for the 1938 Broadway musical production, Knickerbocker Holiday.

The song was originally performed by actor / singer Walter Thomas Huston. Walter probably has more fame as actor / director John Huston’s father and Anjelica Huston’s grandfather.

In 1950, Walter performed September Song again for film “September Affair”, starring Joan Fontaine and Joseph Cotten. In the film the two stars choose a gramophone record of the song to listen to as they fall in love. Walter’s  voice rings out as the lovers gaze mawkishly into each other’s eyes. Apparently the film remained popular for years and the song continued to gain performers and fans.

In 1955 the American singer, pianist, comedian and actor Jimmy Durante showed what he could do with September Song.

Durante’s distinctive clipped gravelly speech, New York accent, language-butchery, jazz-influenced songs and prominent nose helped make him one of America’s most familiar and popular personalities from the 1920s through to the 1970s. Durante often referred to his nose as the Schnozzola (from the German Schnauze [nose]), and the word became his nickname. Durante’s own accompaniment at the start of his September Song is quickly handed over to a heavenly choir and a rather nice backing band and piano accompaniment. I liked the contrast between Durante’s expected style and this rather plaintive version of the song. Worth a listen for 1950s nostalgia.

I’ve always loved Billie Holiday and a few years ago bought a double CD of some of her best known and best loved performances.

But the collection didn’t include September Song. Of course, you wouldn’t expect such a soulful singer to pass up the opportunity to perform a beautiful melody like September Song. So, I was delighted to find Billie Holiday singing September Song on Youtube.  https://youtu.be/OgwoGwGNgFY

Except it’s not!

Sarah Vaughan not Billie Holiday, according to every listener who’s posted a comment on the Youtube page. It’s still another lovely version of the song though.

This is a wonderful instrumental interpretation of September Song by Django Reinhardt.

Is Reinhardt the greatest guitarist who ever lived? You’ll have your own opinion but for me, no-one plays this or any other guitar piece better. Hope you enjoy it!

And I’ve saved the very best until last!

Of all the many, lovely September Songs I’ve listened to in the last couple of days this is my absolute favourite.

I love the tempo and the light, delicate phrasing; the long, lingering fading notes and the subtle contrasts; and the seductive accompaniment. One of the best Chet Baker covers I’ve ever heard. Just love it and hope you do too!

Thanks for reading my blog today.

It’s been a while since I posted an update on my treatment.

I’m halfway through the second cycle of my combined chemotherapy and monoclonal antibody therapy. I had an 8.30am – 4.30pm appointment in the chemotherapy unit to start cycle 2 for an amazing cocktail of twelve different drugs. This was followed by a 48 hour infusion of chemotherapy at home and now I’m on Day 8 of dealing with the side effects. I’ll tell you more about it another day but meanwhile, as always, many thanks for the good wishes and kind support which is really appreciated.

blackberries
image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/blackberry-berries-blackberries-200535/

 

 

 

 

No prickly bottom!

hedgehog
image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/hedgehog-child-young-hedgehog-1759006/

The soapbox part of my belated birthday greetings to our NHS  generated some interesting discussions with family and friends.

But did you see this on Twitter a few days ago?

I’d no idea that the private sector was so deeply embedded into our NHS.

The writer of the tweet received mountains of Twitter support and the story was reported in The Guardian last Saturday.

The Nova Healthcare website makes for interesting reading.

You might like the description of the facilities provided by Nova Healthcare on the fourth floor of the Bexley Wing of St James’s Hospital in Leeds. I thought St James’s hospital was 100% part of our NHS but it’s not so simple.

The report of the Care Quality Commission into Nova Healthcare also makes interesting reading especially on page 7. This tells you that 53% of patients of Nova Healthcare are funded by private insurance schemes; 40% by our NHS and 7% from Northern Ireland.

The cover of the CQC report asks: Who runs this service.

The answer given is HTI St James’s Ltd.

A quick search of the Companies House website indicates that three of the seven active officers of the HTI St James’s company are all based in Alpharetta, Georgia USA. That seems a long way from Leeds!

If you like reading balance sheets you can read the most recent accounts for Nova Healthcare up to December 2015 here.

On page 7, the CQC Report helpfully explains that Nova Healthcare is “part of Aspen Healthcare which became shareholders in 2015.”

You might find this article from May 2017 interesting: US owner puts Aspen Healthcare up for sale.

It’s been said somewhere that we take our NHS for granted until we need it and it’s only then that we start to realise what’s going on. Well, in recent weeks, my eyes have been well and truly opened to the extent of the privatisation of our NHS!

If you’re a Twitter user and a supporter of our NHS, you might like to follow @NHSMillion.

I went along to our local NHS hospital on 25th July to commence the second cycle of my chemotherapy.

The side effects from cycle one weren’t too bad apart from a massive lack of energy and considerable feelings of fatigue. But I was lucky in that I missed the vomiting and diarrhoea that makes chemotherapy so difficult for some patients.

A nurse checked my weight and blood pressure and I was getting ready for another round of prickly bottoms and an ice cold arm when the ward sister came to say that the oncologist wanted to speak to me before chemotherapy commenced.

The oncologist explained that the results of a biopsy on my primary cancer had revealed a “wild” Kras gene which meant that I could receive a targeted antibody therapy as well as the chemotherapy. The chemotherapy drugs would have to be changed to drugs that worked with this antibody drug but overall it would be a more effective treatment. It’s a treatment that’s specifically designed for advanced, metastasised, colorectal cancer to reduce the cancer and extend life. This is certainly an exciting development and I’ve an appointment to commence the new treatment next week.

The drugs are to be administered via a Hickman line aka a tunnelled central line. I never watch hospital dramas on TV and, being of a squeamish, wimpy nature, I usually close my eyes if any surgical stuff comes up in documentaries. But I thought I needed to know what the procedure entailed and found this to be the best explanation on Youtube.

The irony of this most helpful animation being produced by BUPA isn’t lost on me!

Once the Hickman line is in place it stays in until the end of the treatment. I shall be going for treatment in two-weekly cycles for twelve cycles. Day 1 of the treatment is as an out-patient of the chemotherapy department and I’ll be sent home with a pump attached to the Hickman line which will continue to deliver the drugs for a further 48 hours. A district nurse will come to the house to disconnect the pump and then it’s pick-and-mix time from an extraordinary array of potential side-effects. These include a skin infection that makes teenage acne look decorative. However, as the helpful Macmillan leaflets emphasise, no-one gets all the side effects and some people don’t get any side-effects at all apart from the fatigue and lack of energy which appears to be non-negotiable.

I’ll let you know how things develop and thanks, as always, for the messages of support.

thank you
image credit:https://pixabay.com/en/greeting-card-vintage-victorian-1001988/