I collected £57 for Bloodwise

I did my collection at Tesco’s largest store on the Wirral last Sunday morning. It was breezy and cool but dry and the collection location was inside the glazed, enclosed canopies that Tesco seem to like.

I have to say that when compared to my previous stint, it was not a resounding success.

Now, I was collecting on a different day, a different time of day, at a different Tesco (Bidston has a different demographic from Heswall), at a different time of the year (the end of January is always a stretched time for a lot of people), so that might have something to do with it.

I knew that collecting from 10am on a Sunday, as the store just opens was always going to be a challenge, but when I had collected precisely nothing by half ten, I was beginning to question whether it was worth the cost of my diesel to get there. I’d be better off just making a donation myself and staying at home. Things did improve over the next hour and a half, though, but I was disappointed with collecting over £100 less than I had last year at Heswall. And last year there were two of us collecting for that two hour slot, not just me on my own as I was on Sunday.

As last time, it was interesting to note who was making the donations. Once again, it was older people and those with young children. Young adults were the least generous and I did notice a lot of people seeming to deliberately use the “IN” door when leaving the store, so that they didn’t have to walk past me. Eye contact was virtually non-existent.

I also noticed that many of the people who did donate, were not at all interested in the name on the bucket. I could have been collecting for anyone, it made no difference. They just dropped a few coins in the bucket and walked off. They might have been donating to the Wirral branch of the Ku Klux Klan for all the notice they took of the banners and the bucket.

Last year, we had a lot of people stopping for a chat when they donated. “My Dad had leukaemia” or “I have lymphoma” type chats – people relating to the charity and us as collecting volunteers. This year, absolutely nothing. The name change meant nothing to the people. Only one person asked what Bloodwise meant in the whole two hours I was there. When I explained, he said “I assumed that it was about diabetes or HIV or something”.

It would be interesting and informative, I suspect, if it were possible to collect under the old name on one weekend and the new name on the following one, with the same people collecting at the same times etc. But that’s not to be.

I am grateful to the kind and generous people of Bidston who did drop a few coins in my bucket last Sunday morning and I do know that friends who collected later in the day had a bit more luck than I did. But I do have the impression that collecting money for this charity has been made a whole lot more difficult.

And, that’s a crying shame.

Not The Flying Scotsman and AdBlue and tin-rattling (again)

That most iconic of Britain’s steam locomotives, The Flying Scotsman (4472, when I were a lad, but some other number now) has just had a major overhaul and is back on the track after several years of absence.

She (he? it?) was due to take a train from Manchester Victoria, up to Carlisle on the settle line and then back via the mainline to Manchester on a 12 hour trip yesterday, arriving back at around 19:15. I thought that I would go and have a look at her arrival.

Once I had got to the station, via a tram which was completely full of angry Manchester United fans (always a pleasant experience 🙂 ), I had a look around the newly refurbished station to get a good vantage point. A decent chap on the ticket barrier would let me through with a nod and a wink so as to get to the correct platform, but suspiciously, he hadn’t been told that the train was coming in… Because it wasn’t.

I found out via Twitter that it had a problem with its brakes and was therefore not in a fit state to haul a train all day. It was likely that an alternative loco was to haul, but that’s not quite the same thing, and since it wasn’t very warm, I decided to cut my losses and head home.

As I was leaving the office car park, I remembered that the train was due to be passing Eccles station about 15 minutes before arrival at Victoria, so taking a leap of faith, I parked my car close to Eccles station and waited there.

A darker, wetter, more forlorn station it is hard to imagine. extremely poorly lit, it would be a dangerous and nasty place to stand around at night waiting for a train, especially if you are a lone woman. But last night there was a family and a few others waiting for the special to come through. Chatting to one lady, it turned out that the FS was actually running, but as the second loco in a pair at the front of the train, with an old diesel pushing at the rear. How they coordinate the power output of these three engines I have never been able to work out, but it obviously works and the train was due in at exactly the time I expected.

What I wasn’t expecting, was for it not to stop.

I found myself the best place I could to have the steaming locos slow down and stop right in my frame and waited a few minutes. On cue, the single light of the front loco came around the bend half a mile up the track… it was obvious that this train wasn’t going to stop…

It thundered past the platform, at probably 60 or 70 mph, with full steam, smoke, whistle, the works. The flames from the fire lit up the smoke in the darkness and it was a fantastic sight. The smell of the smoke lingered long after it had gone through.

I got one shot…



I should get out more often taking photographs of these things – they are really interesting and photogenic. We have loads of preserved lines in the NW, so it’s not hard to do.

On the way home, the warning came on the dashboard of the car that the AdBlue tank was once again running dry. This system is the one that clears some 85% of NOx emissions from exhausts and is a good thing. VW are. allegedly, going to retro-fit millions of systems in their diesel cars to get round their emissions problem. Let’s hope that they fit tanks big enough to last between services.

Mercedes lied to me. They said it was a system I didn’t need to worry about and that the additive would last between services. Once again, it hasn’t. There are 2,000 miles to the next service.

Good job I bought a couple of litres and kept it in the boot, just in case.

Right, it’s time to go and rattle a tin at Tesco in Bidston on behalf of Bloodwise. It will be interesting to see what a difference this stupid name change has made. You have already read my feelings on this…

More later.

An evening with The Speaker

That was quite an experience, but as I had hoped, an interesting one. Tonight was the night I gave my little speech to invited guests at Westminster as part of the Lymphoma Association’s launch of a new policy/lobbying document.

They are raising awareness of the long term psychological impact of being a “survivor” in order to try to get more support for those that need it. They have used my story as part of the document and asked me to tell it tonight.

On arrival at Portcullis House, the working offices of most MPs, queuing for about 20 minutes before going through full airport security to get in, we waited in a holding area until being ushered through the tunnel to the Houses Of Parliament and into The Speaker’s quarters. This isn’t where he and his good wife live, but the public rooms below. They are, as you would expect, very grand with high ceilings and very nice wallpaper, courtesy of a previous occupant of the position. Paintings of some of the previous Speakers look down on you – literally and figuratively I suspect. It will be the wigs that do it.

The Speaker himself joined us and introduced the event, which consisted of several short speeches by the Chief Exec and other members of the charity board. And one from me.

All in all, it was a good evening and I had some very nice feedback from people in attendance. Surprisingly, I didn’t feel nervous, although friends from Manchester support group said that I looked it (!) and all in all it was an interesting thing to do. Let’s hope that those there in a position to help actually do so.

I had a glass of The Speaker’s wine and some of his sausages on sticks, so that’s all good.

Unfortunately… the train home has been delayed by half an hour due to a “medical emergency”. I’ve never seen anyone having CPR for real before, so having to swap trains is actually a minor inconvenience compared to what that lady was going through. I hope she’s OK. Will have missed the last tram back to the office now, though, so it will end up a very long day.

Now… Where’s the tea trolley?

A return to the past and a visit to Parliament

I’m not sure that it’s ever a good idea to go back to the past, but on Saturday we went back to Parkgate for the first time since moving away last August.

After a visit to the joinery shop to order the French doors to the living room first thing, a trip to the tile shop in Chester was necessary to order some additional tiles for the floor of the entrance hall. We are going to use the spares that we have from the kitchen, but don’t quite have enough to cover the whole hall, so a few more are needed. Since it was lunchtime by the time we got over there, it was decided that lunch at The Marsh Cat might be a good idea.

It was very nice to eat there again and say hello and catch up with the folk there. We sat in the conservatory where we used to far too often in the past and watched the world and her husband pass by.

It is a nice place and we had a very good lunch. We even took half a bottle of their decent wine home – something that was remarked upon by the waitress. “I’ve never known you two to take half a bottle of wine away with you!” She said. “I’ve never driven here before” was my reply.

I have to say that I found it a bit emotional. I don’t miss living in the village at all. I don’t miss the house. But I do miss sitting in that chair, at that table. Just a bit. I wasn’t expecting to feel like that. And it is a bit sad that the only thing that I have missed is a restaurant, but we did visit often and enjoyed the food and the attention of the staff.

I’m not sure when it might be that we will go back, but I’m sure that won’t be the last time we make the effort.

The good thing is that the money that we haven’t spent there since moving will pretty much pay for our holiday in Norway in March. So that’s a good thing.

On other matters, we have had a quote for installing a new log burning fire and will try to organise that as soon as we can. The French doors will probably be delivered next week, but we will need to wait until the weather improves a bit for that work to be done. The Building Regulations process is being done properly this time! On a downside, with the incessant rain we have suffered over the last 6 weeks or so, a slight damp patch has appeared at ceiling level in the living room. It looks like this coincides with the bottom of a valley gutter, so it looks like I will be climbing onto the roof at the weekend, provided the bloody rain stops.

And finally for tonight, I have been invited to speak at a presentation on behalf of the Lymphoma Association in The Speaker’s House in the Houses of Parliament next Monday evening. It’s been a very long time since I have been there, so it should be interesting, especially given the audience. I might even buy myself a new suit at the weekend 🙂

“The Bungalow” and a sincere “Thank you”

Have been a bit busy over the last month, as most people are at this time of year. What with office Christmas dos, shopping (not much of that!), Christmas and New Year itself, it’s been the usual sort of December here.

What has been occupying my time, especially over the actual 10 days away from the office, is doing more work on the bungalow. I am slowly getting used to saying “the bungalow” and not “the house”, but it still doesn’t seem quite right. A bungalow is what old people live in. A bungalow has connotations of living by the sea, in one’s dotage. “Let’s buy a bungalow near the sea when we retire”. Let’s not.

As some previous posts here confirm, this bungalow is actually a pretty good property for where we are in our lives right now. We are not old, but we are getting there. When the work to it is complete (more of that later), it will have been dragged screaming and kicking in the 21C, having languished under the previous owner in the early 80’s. It’s surprising how much work actually needs to be done to achieve this. But, living in a one storey property is actually no different from living in an apartment or a flat, once you are through the front door. We just have the benefit of garden to three sides and, remarkably, the cows in the fielded next door for neighbours. I have to say that this is a pretty good spot and I am glad that I was persuaded to come and have a look.

So, this week, I have mostly been laying more new flooring. Having done two bedrooms a month or so ago, it was now the turn of the study and the inner hall. The latter was a complete pain, given that it has six doorways to contend with. However, once the study had been cleared, the task for both rooms was pretty much completed by 9pm that night. Skirting boards etc followed the next day as did redecoration of the study, before putting all the stuff back in… Just some making good of walls and architraves to complete now.


Usually the week between Christmas and New Year is a bit of a lost week, but having done this work, it’s good to look back and see that more has been achieved.

I have mentally set a target of completing the works to the bungie by Easter. That could be achievable, depending on the weather, and depending on whether the bathroom is included, but it would be good to have the living / dining room completed by then. A man is to be phoning us this week with a view to surveying the fireplace for a replacement and the French doors are pencilled in for installation over the next few weeks – definitely weather dependant!

Oh, mustn’t forget the garden…

I had intended to try to see the new Star Wars film at the cinema this week, as I understand from reliable sources that it is “a-maze-ing” :), but that will have to wait until later. Maybe we can go next weekend.

So, what does the New Year bring?

During the week, we went up to Keswick to buy some thermal underwear for our forthcoming trip to Norway, which is now only 9 weeks away. Although the winter here has been ridiculously mild – I have had to scrape frost from my windscreen only once so far this winter – that’s unlikely to be the same that far north. So, proper Norwegian merino wool long-johns and base layers are now waiting in the drawer. Very flattering! This reminds me, I must organise a hire car for a day whilst we are there, so that we can do a bit of exploring around the fjords. And I must get my sensor cleaned professionally before I go.

Other things to look forward to later in the year is a first visit to Orkney in June and the Leica trip to Lisbon in October, a weekend that may turn into a week, if something interesting can be organised.

As a round up for the year, once again, I am delighted to be here to thank everyone who has supported me through the year. Given that I am in remission now, and have been for a while, I am starting to feel a bit of a fraud, when it comes to “suffering” from this disease. As of now, indeed, as of July 2010, I haven’t really been suffering from this disease at all, but part of that wellness is down to the people around me, who love me and support me and pick me up when I’m feeling a bit down. I honestly don’t know what I would do without you.

Thank you.

Wishing everyone who reads this a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year.