Thursday, 28 June 2012

Loo with a view

Even as I sit here writing with biblical style storms raging - you know the Proper Ones where you don't even get to count to one thousand between the thunder and lightening, where the dog is cowering, electrical things are unplugged and people are tweeting pictures of flooding (go to the hashtag #newcastleendofdays for amazing photos) I still love the north east.

As it's my adopted or second home (the first being a little corner of Yorkshire where I was brought up) I love that I live just a couple of miles from a gorgeous beach, on an amazing snaking coastline which if you come inland from has some of the most stunning scenery and fantastic heritage - castles and Roman bits a-plenty!

It's also only about 20 minutes into Newcastle, small enough to feel safe and welcoming, large enough to be buzzing and cater for all tastes. It's the city of my youthful party days, now the place where I exercise my more cultured side (ok and still the occasional party night...)  One of the things I love is that there is always loads more to see, things I still haven't been to, or new stuff that come along. Oh and I absolutely adore the bridges.

At the weekend we went to the Baltic, once a flour mill sitting on banks of the Tyne now an international arts centre, which we've been to many times before but this time we climbed to the very top floor to have a special meal at Six, the restaurant there. I'd never been before and was wowed by the food, the service - and the toilets. I love checking out toilets in places (and I'm sure I'll write a Duff Guide to them some day) but the ones at Six will take some beating - surely the loo with the best view... What do you reckon? (and if you're interested in finding out about the food too I've written a review at

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Back in the Dare

I sadly missed out doing the Visual Dare last week - and I really missed doing it too. This week another great pic as always from Angela - and here is what it's made me think of..!

It wasn't the first time they'd strolled past the building, as tall as a tree with a tarpaulin curtain pulled tight over the top. The noise this time though was unmistakable. As he stepped forwards she tried to pull him back. He shrugged her off. She moved to another gleam of light, putting her face against the rough wooden wall. They peered into the dark, shapes coming into focus, getting sharper and closer. For a few seconds, the silence of shock hung in the air. Heads pulled back, they looked at each other and said, in one voice, “It’s you.”

Saturday, 16 June 2012

You can’t always get what you want

I have been lots of things this week. I have been: nervous, anxious, impatient, upset, disappointed, cross, guilty, resigned, battered, bruised and very tired. But one thing has remained constant - I remain nippleless (at this point it may be worth reading the previous post if you haven't already - and if you are squeamish dear reader, look away now!) 

After more than 18 months of waiting for what I was hoping would be a last bit of plastic surgery and final operation, I came round from the anaesthetic to hear two nurses discussing across my trolley that it 'hadn't all gone to plan'. Not a good wake up call. 

Mr Plastic Fantastic told me in his lovely lilting Irish accent but with a little less twinkle in his eyes that because of the damage to the skin caused by radiotherapy he’d decided it was too risky to do the normal nipple reconstruction we were all geared up for. He had though done the other bits of nip and tuck to perk up the perkiness, and balance the boobs up more - and as a bonus thrown in some liposuction by taking out some fat around my hips (to use in the op - not just because he thought I could do with less of a muffin top). Warning here ladies - lipo HURTS!

It's taken a good few days to work through the flurry of feelings and thoughts, especially in the fug of post op drugs. I know it seems in some ways so silly to be upset about something which in the wider view of things is such a trivial and minor point (or two points). And it does seem trivial, which is where the feelings of guilt come in. But I know having this done for me was as much about the psychological as the physical. This was the Last Thing, the Final Bit, the Drawing of the Line. From when I was diagnosed I tried to keep things as 'normal' as possible, carrying on working, telling very few people, staying as independent as I could be (not always good or helpful in retrospect - I may write the Duff Guide to having breast cancer - how not to do it!). I knew from the beginning that I wanted every bit of reconstruction and to eventually look as 'normal' as possible again. But I also know, that so many things have changed in so many ways – and many for the better - they will never be 'normal' again - at least not my old kind of normal.

This time four years ago I'd just been told I had cancer and although I always felt I'd be OK, I hadn't even been told what my chances of 'survival' (as they put it) would be. I would do anything to say alive - and I did – being chopped up, burnt, poisoned - anything. So of course I am happy, lucky, grateful to be here today, moaning about the fact that I don't have nipples. Maybe it's time to embrace my non normality, after all I’m still here to live with it.

Monday, 11 June 2012

The cherries on the cakes

Like buses, I have waited 18 months for one operation and then two come along at once. Hot on the heels of last month's hystericalectomy (as it's known in our house, given hilarity around some of the after effects in particular a severe effect on my short term memory - hopefully just temporary) comes my - also hopefully - final bit of nip and tuck.

Tomorrow, 21 months after a breast reconstruction that at least gave me some kind of lady lumps back, I am getting the cherries on the cakes. Yes dear reader, I'm talking nipples. (The list of things I once thought I would never talk about with strangers but now do quite merrily really is as long as a piece of string). 

It's four years to the day since my original mastectomy, and a time I get quite reflective but also look forward. And this for me will be a step forward -  not back to normality as I will never be 'normal' in the same way again - though as the wonderful Whoopi Goldberg once said, 'Normal is nothing more than a cycle on a washing machine.'

As I now recognise I suffer from POT (pre-op tension) I've not worried about the fact I've felt too tired and distracted today to do much work and been instead glued to the Leveson inquiry and Twitter all day. Hey, noone can tell me what the right thing to do is the day before you're due to get nipples so I have to make it up.

My POT tends to come from having to relinquish my usual control freakery (in MY plan I will be in, I will have the op early, I will be out and home by tea time...) and from the frustration of being asked the same question several times, sit around for hours in a not very comfortable environment and pass the time by playing my favourite game of 'how I'd improve this particular bit of the NHS'.

But there are things i actually like, in fact LOVE - oh yes... The anaesthetic bit - ooh I love that. The gentle slipping off into a deep sleep, totally oblivious, which is usually welcome as I won't have slept the night before. I'm sure I'm usually mid-sentence when I conk out too - which would usually be considered the height of bad manners.

And then there's my plastic surgeon - I don't just love him, I have to 'fess up, I am totally IN love with him. Before he became my knight in a pinstripe suit I always thought that those women who wanted to marry their plastic surgeon only did it to make sure they could get cheap face lifts - but no, now I am one of those women. He's not film star material and would not normally attract my attention - although always dapper and smartly dressed, with twinkly eyes and a twinkly Irish accent, I think it's probably one of those hero fantasy attractions that psychologists would have a field day with. No matter, I will look forward to the four minutes I have of his undivided attention pre op when he may draw on me with a pen, and then the couple of minutes post op when he will reassure me all went well, bursting with obvious pride at his handiwork. And then he will ask him to marry me... (erm no, I made that bit up!!)

So off I go to do my usual pre op all night tidying/ ironing/ doing random things to keep busy - and I will see you on the other side - with cherries on top!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

I Dare

Another fab picture prompt from Angela's Visual Dare - this one evoked great memories so is not exactly fiction...! 

I hold the memory in my hand. Golden hair flopping onto his face, absorbed in the words coming to life. Reading was our time, just us two and our own space, doors to the real world shut as the pages opened. Gradually he read to me, then wanted to read by himself, then didn’t want to read. I knock, the safe way to enter a teenager’s bedroom. He sits long limbs crossed, messy mop of hair tumbling forward onto his iPad. Big blue eyes shining curiosity look up, a smile breaks, revealing a dimple, ‘Hi mum.’ Some things don’t change.

Friday, 8 June 2012

The Good, the Bad and the Ugli

It's one week into my vegan venture and it is certainly proving an interesting and enlightening experience. There's been good days, bad days and some in between and I'm learning lots including:
  • how rubbish labelling is on many products and in many supermarkets
  • how many odd and unnecessary ingredients are put into food
  • how having to read the labels doubles the time it take to go shopping
  • how it can save you money if you get fed up, give up and vow not to go shopping there again
  • how something labelled vegetarian, organic or dairy free is not necessarily vegan friendly
  • how going out may mean you can't eat a lot but can still drink a lot - bad combo
  • how fab it is to stay with friends who are vegetarian, and used to be vegan, who cook something wonderful without you feeling like you've been awkward
  • how Bill Clinton and Michelle Pfeiffer are now vegans
  • how you can find some lovely cafes in unexpected places.

And so far I haven't really missed the cheese!

If you want follow my vegan venture, the good, the bad and the ugli fruit I have a facebook page here to like if you like!

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Dare day

My response to this week's dare from Angela and another inspiring photo (thanks!) is posted below... I'm going to try to use Angela's new whizzy linky thing so fingers crossed (despite being, or so I thought quite comfortable with techy stuff, I'm very definitely still not comfortable with Blogger - and neither is my iPad, which means that I can't at the moment use that to use my blog - very frustrating... Rant over!).

Do take a hop over to Angela's blog which is here, as well as these weekly prompts she is posting some really interesting and useful stuff about plotting and storyboarding... I'm looking forward to reading more.

The water embraced her like an old friend, hugging her close, comfortable and comforting.  She sank into the blissful blanket of calm. No noise, no one else, no thoughts, no things. A precious, tranquil, time stopping slice of stillness. A moment that felt reality was on pause, suspended forever. Then someone pressed the play button. The peace fractured as a muffled noise reached her. She sat up and shook the watery serenity goodbye. As she blinked she heard the cry, 'Muuuum, what are you doing? We need you!' She wiped her eyes, sighed and replied, 'I know, I'm coming.'