Prepping for a week off

The problem with taking a week off from work is that you have to do two week’s work in the week before you go away and then, inexplicably, two week’s work when you come back. I have never been able to understand quite how that works, but that’s the way things are and always will be.

So, this week, at the office, it’s all go, making sure that as far as is possible, things can carry on regardless next week. I have a great team of colleagues and consultants working on our behalf and they are all quite capable of managing without client interference for a few days. That said, there is always something that crops up when it’s least expected that could do with dealing with there and then, so inevitably, this means that the Blackberry comes along for a ride too. While mine will be switched off most of the time, I might take a few minutes each day just to make sure that anything really urgent or important gets a nudge in the right direction. To be out of touch for even a few days at a time is no longer the “done thing”.

With the advent of ubiquitous and pervasive technology such as Blackberrys and iPhones, with roaming of mobile phone networks and WiFi on every corner, the temptation to answer the odd email or respond to the odd text message is difficult to resist. This is especially true when you have live projects on the go – and I have four, all of which need daily tending. I will just have to resist temptation to check too much.

When on a main holiday, and since that awful period ten year’s ago when I only managed to take eight day’s leave in an entire year (a period which I am convinced had a substantial part to play in my subsequent illness), I have always tried to take a full two weeks in the summer, I think that it’s actually easier to let go of things. That middle weekend seems to me to be crucial in the relaxation process. During the first week, you know that you don’t have to pack up and go home within a few days, and during the second, you have, with a bit of luck and a bit of sunshine, wound down sufficiently to make the whole exercise worthwhile. With only a week, that luxury of properly trying to wind down is not there and there seems to me to be little harm in keeping in touch with things at home, provided they don’t get in the way of the core “holiday time” during the day. So, next week, I can see the odd 10 minutes at the end of the afternoon, being devoted to “not losing touch too much”.

It’s so much easier in the long run.

Now, to start getting the film and batteries and lenses sorted for the trip…

The Psychologist

What an interesting afternoon. I attended a meeting with a psychologist for the first time in my life yesterday. Well, that’s not quite true, Ann is a psychology graduate, but that’s not quite the same.

As part of the PhD study that I mentioned previously, I attended a session at the hospital to assist in the development of an evaluation process for people diagnosed with NHL. It would appear that there are standard psychological testing systems regularly in use for cancer patients, but none specifically for those of us with NHL. With a bit of luck, and some hard work on the part of the PhD student (!) this will change.

There were two patients there, myself and a slightly older man (Man 2 – we remained anonymous for the purpose of the study) and we spent a couple of hours talking with the student and her assistant about our experiences. With just the two of us there, we both had plenty of opportunity to speak freely and at length in response to the ongoing discussion. If there had been more than just the two of us, I suspect that we, as contributors, and the student doing the research, would have got less out of the session.

By happenstance, Man 2’s experiences were slightly different from mine – everyone’s disease is different – so the session managed to cover quite a broad spectrum of what it’s like to be diagnosed. He didn’t realise that he had NHL until inexplicably he lost a lot of weight and had the night sweats (two of the classic symptoms). My experiences meant that I knew I had it before I had the symptoms and could therefore “be prepared”.

We went through several pages of “needs” identified as part of the general cancer patient questionnaire and in some detail discussed how these needs were relevant to our situation. Since everyone is at a different stage of life and disease, it was interesting to learn what Man 2’s needs were, compared to mine.

The “needs” covered sections such as the psychological support ones, financial, sexual, relationships and so on. The sort of things that one would expect in a study like this. What was most interesting was how the two of us were open and seemingly honest about sharing some pretty private thoughts and feelings with three complete strangers. I have never spoken of such things before, outside of the family. Indeed, there were probably things that I said yesterday that I have never said before. I suspect that it is inevitable that some things remain unsaid in normal circumstances. When speaking to a stranger, who is interested in understanding the experiences and thoughts, somehow it’s easier. Much less personal and less likely to cause upset.  I can’t remember what they were, but one seems freer to talk openly to a stranger somehow.

Both of us agreed that some of the “needs” were not relevant to our situation at all; body image, for example. With some cancers, melanoma or breast cancer, body image after treatment can be particularly relevant and important to the mental wellbeing of the patient. With lymphoma, for the most part, no one can tell that you are or have been ill. 

The whole session was most enlightening and extremely well chaired by the student, given that this was her first session. I will be interested to read the summary of her findings in due course.

Maybe I would benefit from finding a Dr Melfi . (Yes, I know she was a psychiatrist..) Or maybe that’s just for the likes of Tony Soprano. Either way, as I said in the meeting, I always feel better about the situation after having spoken about it.

I felt much better yesterday. Yesterday was a good day.


A new beginning

I am rather hoping that there are still people reading this blog!

Like many people, I have been very disappointed to read that many international corporations, such as Google – the owners of the Blogger site – do everything that they can to avoid paying their corporation taxes. We would all like to pay less tax (at least, 99% of us would, I suspect), but for the most part, we pay up and shut up, seeing taxation as a necessary part of running a civilised society. Not so for some of the biggest companies in the world.

I have already stopped shopping at Amazon and I no longer buy my coffee from Starbucks (it was filthy anyway). I have a problem when it comes to Apple, who also practice this off-shore nonsense, so I suppose I could easily be accused of hypocrisy in this small step to put the world to rights, but the alternative is probably no better. At least I buy my Apple stuff from John Lewis, who DO pay their taxes and do support the British economy properly.

There is the wider context of buying locally, of course and we are doing everything we can to do that too. The scandal of the Romanian horse meat in ostensibly beef products which has broken this week, demonstrates that even the food chain is completely out of control. We are proud to only buy our meat from the local butcher in town. We are pleased to buy locally produced eggs and “Buy British” wherever possible in Sainsbury’s. We do not shop in Aldi, Lidl, or any of the other supermarkets which have a positive “Don’t buy British” ethos.

So, after nearly four years of having this blog hosted over on Blogger, I have moved it, lock stock and barrel to WordPress.

I played around with other alternatives, especially Tumblr. I have friends who seem to be able to use Tumblr quite successfully (if their Twitter feeds are anything to go by!), but I just found it incomprehensible, despite several rainy afternoons of effort. Within one hour of setting up the WordPress account, it had imported the whole of the blog, including all the photographs, comments over the years and so on. Very impressed. The formatting, or “theme”might need a little tweak here and there, and the number of “widgets” on the right hand side is fewer than on the Blogger system, but overall, the new look is very pleasing.

So, if you do follow this blog, and I am very grateful that you do, I am delighted to continue our relationship here on WordPress (you have obviously found it otherwise you wouldn’t be reading 🙂 )

Thanks for reading there over the years and the support that you have offered me, both through the comments facility and off line. It really is appreciated, and has helped me through a most interesting period of my life.

Onwards and upwards!

Paris and a psychological study

As hinted at last time, we didn’t go to London for the weekend.

We went to Paris for lunch instead.

Now, this might sound a bit extravagant and it is. But it made some sense at the time. The cost of a hotel room in London is approaching £150 for a night these days, plus, of course, there’s the train fare to get there from the folks’ house, dinner to pay for, and so on. Having been a collector of AirMiles (I still can’t get used to the name “Avios”), I reasoned that it would cost us a lot less to go to Paris for the day.

The parking at Heathrow T5 Business Car Park – the one with the pods – was the same as two tickets to London from Maidenhead. Two return flights to Paris via Avios was £60. By the time the train at the other end was factored in (more of that in a moment), the whole thing cost a lot less than the hotel in London would have cost on its own.

So, there we were at around 6 am getting a pod from the Car Park to T5. As always, passing through security there on the way out was a breeze, and we had some breakfast while waiting for the plane.

On arrival at Charles de Gaulle, we had a different story. They were working on the railway link to the city that weekend, and we were forced to get a shuttle train to another terminal, then find a bus to be taken to another railway that was working. This probably added half an hour to each of the journeys that day.

Still, we got into the city at around 11 and made our way to a restaurant recommended by my friend Nigel, who lives in the city. It opened at 12, so we were one of the first people in.

Le Soufflé” does what it says on the tin. It’s a soufflé restaurant. You can have a three course soufflé meal if that’s what floats your boat. We chose from the traditional menu, which still had a “mini” soufflé as part of the chicken main course.

Here’s Ann, when the first course was brought…

And on conclusion of the pud…
It was a real experience, and easily the best lunch we have eaten in Paris for a long time. A bit bizzarre though…
On leaving the restaurant, we did the usual stuff of walking along the river, into Notre Dame and finding a place for some coffee, before heading back to the airport, arriving back in Maidenhead at around half nine. A really good day out!
I have also been to see my consultant for a three-monthly “watch” part of the “watch and wait” regimen that I am now on. Nothing untoward found, which is good and the news is that he won’t be going to Australia until May at the earliest, so I will be seeing him for a last time in April.
He has asked me to take part in a psychology study being undertaken by a PhD student at Chester University; something I have gladly volunteered to do. The session will take place next Friday. The have some concern that they don’t have the opportunity to offer much in the way of psychological counselling as part of the standard diagnosis and treatment, so they are looking for volunteers to offer their experiences. Let’s see what we discover at the end of the week.
The new car is going very nicely, but I am currently disappointed with its fuel consumption. This will no doubt improve when it’s properly run in, and the warmer weather comes, but I am only getting mid-high 40s, when I think I should be getting in the 50s somewhere. BMW’s claim of 60 mpg is, as usual, complete nonsense. I do wish that te EU would get their act together and provide realistic figures.

Venice to look forward to next, but lots of work to do before we get there. I am also starting to put together a new project that may see us through another few years and it’s good to be starting something new.