Category Archives: holiday

I’m still here…

Obviously, the periods between my posting on the blog have been getting longer and longer, but I have never gone nearly 4 months before. So maybe it’s time to pick this up again.

I have been prompted by two things really. Firstly, the retirement of a colleague recently who chastised me for not posting an update for a long time. He has a family member who has a similar condition to this and we have chatted about similar experiences. I hope he drops by and see this and is enjoying his life outside the office.

Secondly, through my contacts on the NCRI, I was approached this week by a big pharmaceutical company who were looking for some insight into drug and immuno therapy from a patient’s point of view. I pointed them to this blog and shared my experiences in a phone interview last Friday. The contact there is presenting to the great and the good of his organisation next week and I was happy to help him get a message across. They may have some exciting news to share with the world later, which will obviously be good!

I had my 6 month check-up with my consultant in June and I am pleased to say that things are still looking good from a health point of view. Next one will be in December and once again, there is no need for a CT scan this year. I’m now into my 8th year with this, 5 years post-maintenance.

Another birthday has also been and gone and I’m looking forward to a session with a local blacksmith next weekend. Ann bought me a Saturday morning’s experience there – I will be making a poker for the fire, apparently. Watch this space…

We have spent an excellent week on Islay with some good friends and it was a really good experience showing them around a place we know and love well. They hadn’t been out to a Scottish island before, and I suspect that they will be back soon. What’s not to like? We were very fortunate with the weather and the lack of midgies – if the former is bad and the later are out, it can be a bit miserable out there.

Here are a few photos from the week

Port-Charlotte-Rainbow

Sunset-over-Lochindaal

Lagavulin

Portnahaven

The new car is going extremely well and is a delight to drive and I am pleased to say that the satnav works perfectly. Which makes a nice change. I must go out and wash it shortly…

My task now is to find a suitable venue for everyone to meet for the Leica Forum Challenge in Rome in October. I have dinner for 40 sorted, but finding a suitable cafe in the centre of the city to meet at lunchtime is proving to be a challenge in itself.

Answers on a postcard please.

And, I promise that the next update will be before Christmas…

 

 

That’s the One Challenge over and done for another year

If you have never been to Lisbon, I can recommend it wholeheartedly as a really great city for a weekend break. Surprisingly hilly, but really interesting, with very friendly people, excellent prices, even at 1€ = £1, good food and, for us at least, excellent weather in mid-October.

It was a good One Challenge this year, with 30 people about to send me their photographs for judging later and 40 for the dinner on the Saturday evening. A good time was had by all and it was great to see so many “old faces” and new ones. 300€ prize fund up for grabs later in November.

I have a choice of two shots to enter, and think that I have decided which one, but will inevitably change my mind three more times before plumping for the wrong one, but that’s OK.

Here are some shots from Lisbon  – not including any taken during the Challenge period of course!

bethem-bins

Always nice to see the bins and a sign to the toilets in front of an ancient building…

bethem

if-i-had-a-hammer

lift

pigeon

On our return, we spent a couple of days in Kent – where we had to find the Mercedes dealer as I posted last time. Amongst a visit to Chartwell (definitely worth a visit) and Leeds Castle (definitely not at £50 for two adults…), we spent some time on the beautiful Dungeness shingle. Really is a fabulous place.

dungeness-colour

power-station

dungeness

The pub with rooms was all a bit odd. The room was “quirky” in as much as it had a huge copper bath in the middle of the floor and a lit open fire in the corner, together with a door lock that broke on the last morning meaning that we couldn’t return to the room to check out, but the evening food was excellent. Breakfast was a bit chaotic, though, which did detract from the experience, a bit. As did the cost.

Oh well. You only live once.

Following all the buggeration by Olympic Airways and the long lost trip to Milos, I have been advised by our travel insurance company that they are going to pay our claim in full later in the week, which is excellent news. I am also going to pursue a claim for compensation from the airline for the cancelled flights, as is one’s right under EU law. So far, the Greek authorities are not responding to letters, or emails, so I think that I will use one of the “no win no fee” companies that specialise in these cases. 75% of the compensation is better than none.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have any further contact from the warden of my friend’s flats, so I fear that I will not have been able to pay my respects as I had wished.

Twitter isn’t the same without him.

It’s been a long time

Well. It must be about 7 weeks since I last posted an update here. That hasn’t happened in the last 7 years, so I must be getting into a much more relaxed frame of mind about things.

The Orkney holiday is a dim and distant memory now, but there is a large canvas on the wall in the spare bedroom of the Ring of Brodgar as a reminder of a very good holiday. It is a long way there, though, but we made it back in one piece in two days, so that’s not too bad. Now, in August, everyone in the world seems to be on their holidays and those of us who are able to take one outside of the school holidays feel a bit left out. So, a couple of nights away in a country house hotel in south west Wales have been booked, so that’s something to look forward to. Will try to get to Tenby for the first time ever – it looks really nice – provided we can avoid the crowds.

A birthday has come and gone since my last update too. It’s a bit upsetting when you have received a letter from a pension company saying that you have to decide what to do with your pension fund at your birthday. Nothing makes you feel quite as old as when you have to deal with a pension. Still, it wasn’t a very large pot, so I took the tax free lump sum of 25% and we will have the bathroom refurbished with that money (if we can ever find someone to do the work for us…). It’s also been my Dad’s 80’th birthday this month, so I went to visit him and my Mum and take them for lunch a couple of Sundays ago, which was nice.

Health-wise, things are fine. I am pleased that I decided not to have the CT scan this Christmas coming. It’s one less stress-inducing event that I can probably do without. I attended a meeting of the National Cancer Research Institute consumer forum last month and it will be good to get into that more deeply as the autumn comes along. I have a two-day training session to look forward to in September, which will help a great deal. Unfortunately, I found that the other lymphoma consumer on the panel, a man with whom I have exchanged a couple of emails and met for the first time at that recent meeting, died unexpectedly this week. That’s a bit of a shock as he seemed perfectly well when I met him and he was good company in the workshop sessions. I know that he will be missed by the NCRI. Let’s hope that I can take up the baton he has left behind.

I have also attended two fundraising events on behalf of Bloodwise. Firstly I shook a bucket (without shaking it) at Aldi in Neston and raised £35 in two hours. Takings are down over the year without a doubt. Last weekend I helped out at the Strawberry Tea, organised in a house and garden also on the Wirral. Again, takings on a like for like basis were down again here too. All a bit disappointing, but it was a good afternoon and lots of people enjoyed their scones and strawberries. And lots of tea.

This weekend coming will mark the first anniversary of us moving to this bungalow. Blog posts previously have charted our progress in doing the place up and we are definitely coming to the end of the interior now. I mentioned a while back that we had ordered a new front door. This was delivered and installed a few days before we went to Orkney and has made a huge difference to the look of the bungie from outside and brought loads more light inside.

Once the bathroom is done, I think I will gather a collection of before and after photographs into an album, to remind us of the hard work and time that has been put into transforming that old lady’s bungalow into our home.

So, as the summer, which really only lasted two days in July this year starts to turn to autumn (14C on the way home this afternoon), thoughts turn to Goodwood Revival in September and the Leica One Challenge in Lisbon in October. These things come around so quickly…

 

 

 

Blitz. And a place called Hope

Well, more of a war of attrition really, but after some extremely hard work on behalf of Ann, double digging this plot and removing at least three wheelie bin loads of roots and weeds, the Lost Garden of Comberbach is finally looking pretty good.

We did manage to plant the trees last week and today, I laid the turf. It looks good already, but will obviously need time to settle down and fill in the joints.

So, in nine months, along with all the other things that we have done, we have gone from this

IMG_6811

to this

L1006041

Now, that is what I call “progress”.

Tomorrow, the slate threshold for the French doors will be collected and I will fit that on Monday. I will also be able to finish the final pieces of skirting to the living room and the painting can completed.

The new front door will be installed on 13th June, which will make a huge difference to the look of the place.

Not sure what we are going to do with ourselves now that this is coming to an end. Move on to the back garden, probably.

And all of a sudden it’s June next week. Again.

Time to think about the summer holiday. Orkney this year, in a cottage that is walking distance from Skara Brae, so that should be good in the long, long evenings up there in late June. It’s a long drive just for a week, but we do get to stay at The George in Inveraray on the way home, so that’s good. However, our stop on the way up is north of Inverness, so that will be a bit of a trek one Friday in a few week’s time.

June is also the time to see my consultant for 10 minutes. I am sure that it will be business as usual when I see him. To be honest, I don’t think that six-monthly check-ups are even worth it any more, but seeing as BUPA pay him about £250 every time he sees me, I am sure that we will carry on like this over the next few years. I am pretty sure that if this were an NHS clinic, I’d be on 12 monthlies by now. What these appointments do, though, is get me thinking about “things” again, despite the fact that I’m feeling very well. I AM very well. But the upcoming clinics just get you to think about what might be to come a bit more often than during the rest of the year.

One interesting thing that seems to be emerging from studies of people who have had stem cell transplants ( a real possible treatment for me some time in the future ) is that they seem to be presenting with heart disease much more often than the general population. Given that the process involves harvesting your stem cells, growing them in the lab, while simultaneously killing off your entire immune system, such that you have to spend three weeks in complete isolation in hospital as they reintroduce your stem cells and you grow yourself a new immune system, is it any wonder that other parts of the body decide to rebel? Heart problems could be a price worth paying to avoid the consequences of not having a transplant, though. I don’t know. If ever that were to be a possibility, that’s a long way off, so I shall file that under “not yet pending” and not worry about it.

What I have also learned over the past weeks, having attended the Lymphoma Association’s Annual Conference in Nottingham at the beginning of the month (and elsewhere) is that it is a good idea to volunteer for clinical trials if one is available when you next need treatment. There is a lady who attends the support group in Manchester for example, who was on a trial for a new antibody therapy and her disease has been all but wiped out completely. To be fair, so has mine at present, having had the best standard treatment available at the time when I needed it. I have said this before, and I will no doubt say it again, but I am a very lucky man. I know it. And I am very grateful.

A question was asked at the Conference as to whether there was a link between pesticides and herbicides used in agriculture and lymphoma. The expert consultant on the panel (who also happens to be on the NCRI Committee that I joined recently) suggested that there was a definite link, when the population as a whole is considered. It is impossible to say whether an individual’s lymphoma can be attributed to these chemicals, but the growth in incidents of lymphoma over recent years mirrors, but lags behind, the growth in the use of agrochemicals. Never was there a better time to eat organically and stay away from farms than in the 1960s and 70s.

Oh well… If only we had known then, what we know now.

It doesn’t really matter what the cause is, or was. I have this and while it’s dormant now, it’s not going away permanently and I’m fine with that. What does matter, and I believe and hope that things are improving, is that we as a society, continue to reduce the use of agrochemicals and give our children and grandchildren a chance of avoiding lymphomas, or any other disease for that matter.

If the link with farming is proven, (can you prove that?) wouldn’t it be nice to live long enough to see that the incidence of new lymphoma falls year on year as the use of agrochemicals reduces too?

Bill Clinton once said “I still believe in a place called Hope”.

So do I.

(Blimey, I’m sounding like a tree hugger)

(Blimey 2, I have actually written something about lymphoma in this blog about lymphoma. What is the world coming to?)

 

 

Taking one’s chances

I was a bit of a moaning Minnie about the weather up here earlier in the week. While others at home were enjoying lovely weather, but had to be at the office, we were suffering with single digit temperatures, high winds, low cloud and rain. Neither of which are fair really. While it’s nice to have decent weather, it’s nicer to have it when you can enjoy it. 

So, apologies for moaning a bit. 

However, when this is the main holiday of the year, you just have to put up and shut up. So I have. 

And now, today, despite it still being cold and windy and rainy, just getting out and about can be rewarding. 9 miles of walking through the Cuillins and over headlands has given me these photographs. And sore Achilles’ tendons. 

But that’s good. 

Onwards and Northwards tomorrow. 

   
  

 

I’m not a very good tourist really.

Been back at work a couple of weeks now. As always, the holiday is a now distant memory but I have been going through photographs this evening, partly to see what is worth sharing or printing and partly to find an entry for the Challenge. Entries have to be with the organiser (me) by the end of tomorrow, so I have found the best of a bad bunch to include.

As you will have seen, the holiday was pretty busy – not relaxing at all, really. It’s rare to have a relaxing holiday since we always try to do too much. Far too much.

I have this thing about it probably being the last time I will ever pass that way again, so have to cram as much into the visit as possible. Alternatively, a thing about seeing as much as possible on a first visit to a place (particularly on foreign jaunts) so that on a return visit a more relaxing time can be had. Only, it never works out that way. We never go back – there is always somewhere else to see, where you haven’t been before – and the whole charade starts again. No half measures of just taking a part of a place in.

I’m not a very good tourist really.

So, on reflection, what were the highlights of this holiday?

It WAS nice to go back to Bordeaux and visit Leoville Barton again. Organising it for first thing on a Monday morning, when staying 60 odd miles away on the other side of the city was a huge schoolboy error, but we got there in time and had a fantastic tour courtesy of the charming Alexandra. Our timing couldn’t have been better – the first grapes had been brought in from the vines on the Saturday and we were the first people to taste the grape juice from 2014, just starting its fermentation in the oak vessels. What a privilege.

vessels Juice

A couple of days later, while having a tour of the Chateau where we were staying (Chateau de Mole), I asked the owner about Petrus, the world’s “best” red wine. It’s only about 10 miles away from there. Apparently, until fairly recently, the property at Petrus was little more than an old farmhouse and some outbuildings. Only in the last few years has the owner built a “chateau” of any size or quality. It’s a bit of a shame, really.

PetrusAs with many luxury goods, it’s the handmade and traditional methods that cost the money. Doing it properly all through the process. Plus the rarity, small production and quality of the vines and terroir of course. It’s a bit like paying £160k for a Ferrari 458, when a Jaguar for £100k will go just as fast, be as exciting to drive and so on. But what it won’t have is a handmade body or engine. It’s a bit like buying a Leica…

Moving away from Bordeaux and the region, after making a mistake with a hotel in Ambialet, we came across the bridge. The Millau Viaduct.

An earlier post on that day actually has some of the better photographs of it, taken with the iPhone, but I still cannot get over how amazing coming across it through the fog was. A sight never to be forgotten.

Millau-Viaduct

Skipping past several days, I just need to write about Monaco / Monte Carlo.

What a weird place. I described driving into the principality from the autoroute as feeling like walking into a Bond Street jewellers. They know you can’t afford anything there; you know you can’t afford anything there. But they still let you in, just to have a look around, and it’s fine so long as you know your place, and leave.

We found that Monte Carlo had policemen on every other corner. Apparently, they have monitored CCTV on every street and microphones in every lift. No local police (all brought in from France) and the locals are not allowed in the casinos.

Walking the grand prix circuit was interesting and makes you appreciate the skill and sheer lunacy of the drivers.

Cannes was nice and we had a very good lunch with an old friend who lives there and Nice the next day was the sort of city that you could live in. If you were lucky enough to have to live on the south coast of France. A really brilliant market.

And to wrap the fortnight off, a trip to Istanbul.

We met some really nice people, in the hotel, restaurants and new friends at the Challenge.

People rave about the city and it does have some stunning architecture. But I never felt comfortable there, particularly outside of the tourist areas. The streets were absolutely packed with people. It was claustrophobic, especially around the spice market and the streets leading back up the hill.

Still, if you want to see the Blue Mosque, or the Aya Sophya, you have to go there. I’m not sure about this chandelier though…

SophyaThis is a failing on my part and one that I freely acknowledge. My lack of engagement with the city will be reflected in the Challenge entry and without a doubt, the scoring.

I’m not a very good tourist really.

Oh, and Asda cocked up the processing of my films…