Birthdays come and go and the end of an era

Well then – another birthday bites the dust. I have moved into Area 51 …

I had some very nice presents from the family and we decided to buy a couple of watercolours from my friend Roy Alexander to go in the newly decorated living room. The link above is typical of his style, but the two we bought are of scenes in Snowdonia and are subtly different, and darker. They look terrific on the wall and we are very pleased with them.

As I have been hinting for a while now, another late “birthday present” is the completion of the maintenance. It really doesn’t seem like two years since I started that episode, but that’s the end of treatment for the foreseeable future. It does feel a bit odd, not having anything to “look forward to”. My “watch and wait” starts here and it’s going to be a period that I will need to come to terms with. Not thinking about it might not be a bad idea – let’s see how it goes.

I had a very good chat with my haematologist on Thursday and he has asked me to return 3-monthly for a general check-up. (Mental note – that’ll be after Copenhagen). Firstly however, I have a CT scan next Friday to establish the new “base-line” and he will advise me over the phone the results. Given that he has been manually examining me every time he has given me the Rituximab, I am not expecting to see anything untoward – I would be disappointed if there were anything, obviously. That’s not what the maintenance is about. I will write here after the results come back.

It was my sister-in-law Susan’s birthday yesterday and we gave her a couple of framed photographs as a present. She was very pleased with them, which is very good!

Next exciting event is Photokina in Cologne in mid-September. This is the biggest photography trade-fair in the world and is held once every two years. There are always new cameras held back for release at the fair and this year could be very exciting for those of us who love our Leicas. The company has taken an entire hall to itself, so something must be happening. There are plenty of whispers and rumours, of course, but a replacement for their flagship M9 is pretty much a shoe-in, as is a camera capable of taking their old SLR “R-series” lenses. I have converted mine to Nikon mount, but might consider converting them back if the camera, and the price (!) are right. It will have to go some to beat Nikon’s new D800, the replacement for my own D700. I will be taking the Eurostar to Brussels, then the ICE train to Cologne for a three day whirlwind visit. The train timetable is extremely good – roughly 4 hours from London. It would be difficult to match that by air, if you were going city-centre to city-centre. I’m looking forward to seeing just a little bit of Belgian and Germany countryside on the way. I might even blog on the way if the train has wifi…
I have found a replacement for a mislaid film holder for my flatbed scanner, so can now look at scanning the Hasselblad films from holiday properly. We need one final piece of work for the living room and a big, square photograph of Scotland might just do the trick above the fire-place. 

Lewis, Harris and a general catchup

Since last time, which is six weeks after all, we have been fortunate enough to visit a really fabulous island at the edge of Europe. Lewis, and its co-joined twin Harris, form the largest of the Outer Hebrides at the very North West of Scotland.

A three day journey there, via Bankfoot near Perth and Ullapool ended with the 2 3/4 hour ferry crossing to Stornoway, the capital of the islands and the only sizeable town out there. We were lucky that this little corner of the continent often has completely different weather from the rest of the country – this time it worked in our favour, as after a few days of somewhat mixed weather, it became settled and sunny, with high broken cloud. With the sun setting at around 23:00 and rising at 04:00, it never really gets dark at this time of year, so there is no excuse for not getting out and about.

We were staying in a very pleasant cottage owned by a very friendly couple in a sub-hamlet about 25 minutes from Stornoway, so it was very quiet but not so remote as to make life too complicated. Nearby, at Calanais, were a group of 5,000 year old standing stones which were an excellent place from which to watch the sunset.

With golden eagles flying above the cottage and seals in The Minch, between the island and the mainland, we only lacked for otters this time.

I bought myself a new Harris Tweed jacket while there. We found an excellent shop, The Harris Tweed Company in Grosebay,  selling quality jackets, unlike those found in chain stores on the mainland. There are some truly awful quality jackets about these days, so one has to be careful. It is most definitely worth buying from a shop where the provenance of the tweed and tailoring are known. Mine is a deep green tweed. I also discovered via the Harris Tweed Authority, that my Grandfather’s jacket must have been made prior to 1958, as it doesn’t have the reference number to connect it back to a particular weaver. Older than I thought, and older than me, it’s just starting to wear at the cuffs and inexplicably, it doesn’t fit me quite as well as when I inherited it 25 years ago. Oh well…

The tweed for my new one was woven by Donald John MacKay MBE in Luskentyre, not far from Gosebay. It’s quite an interesting concept to know who actually wove the cloth for the jacket you are wearing. He certainly has a magnificent view to ponder over as he makes the cloth

All in all, despite being a long way away, Harris and Lewis are fascinating beautiful places and I can see us returning in the future.
Got an interesting couple of months coming up now. After my birthday this week (thanks!) I have a trip to Photokina in Köln to look forward to in September, with a very busy time at the office in the meantime. Then it’s Copenhagen in October, then it’s the wedding, then it’s Christmas and another year over.
My last maintenance is now less than two weeks away. I’ve written in the past about what this might mean, so I won’t repeat myself more than I usually do, but it’s going to be interesting. We were discussing this with the Lymphoma Association Group on Wednesday.
Now, what can I do to avoid the Olympics..?