Monday, 31 December 2012

Just one big normal end to the year

Our Christmas day was spent at Carole’s house.... Carole is my husband Mark’s first wife, and mother of his first 2 children....and the woman who generously shares her children and grandchildren with me.
Liam, anticipating all the good things to come.
So much going on.....
It was a lovely day. The 4 grandchildren were the centre of attention, and amused us beautifully.

Dexter’s reciting his words in his recently performed nativity...
“ Aye up Mary, it’s off t’ Bethlehem for us”....or something very similar, had us rolling around.

Liam’s Twinkle twinkle little star had me all choked up.
 The rendition of “ We wish you a merry Christmas......... to you and your king”, rather than kin, had daughter in law Sarah desperately trying to get a 21 year old as well as the 4 year olds to listen, and learn the proper words....all to no avail.
No, we'll sing the words we want to sing....
so much concentration required to play with the cracker presents

Carole and Peter’s efforts to ensure everyone had a good time were much appreciated. Her surprise Christmas grotto, with a covering of cotton wool snow, required little boys to don cardboard and tinsel snow shoes.....a brilliant invention.
The snow shoes had fallen off by this stage

Three days later I met up with  Annie ( Moving On). We used to work together in Kirklees, but have really only got to know each other well since she moved to Spain and we have become part of the amazing  blogging community. Annie persuaded me to blog when I moved part time to France.... and she has since become my role model for all sorts of things....including making chocolate. It was wonderful to see her in the flesh again... and we have plans to meet up in Spain next year.

Me, on the left, with Annie, at her reunion with many of her friends from when she lived in Huddersfield
 A day after that Mark and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary.....with all the same people we celebrated Christmas with,  as well as Mark’s ex mother- in law and Mark’s sister and 2 of her children, and her soon to be daughter-in-law. ( We are very fond of Mark and Shardae, as they announced their engagement when they were staying with us in France last summer, and we are really looking forward to their wedding).

Clark helping us celebrate

celebrating 20 years of incredibly happy marriage

Anyway....” It were another good do”, held at our local pub, the Stubbings Wharf, made famous by Ted Hughes when he was moaning about the dreariness of what he saw as the depressing Calder valley. We were not depressed, despite the continuing rain.
My only other news is that whilst feeling very well, in the window of wellness that occurs between chemo treatments, my hair has now gone. All the wigs and scarves I had at the ready are now being used for real. It feels strange, and was certainly quite traumatic when it started falling out in what I called  nest- fulls. However, a week or so on, and I am more used to it.


 Christmas has been good, the wedding anniversary was lovely, and I am full of hope for an excellent 2013.

A very happy New Year to all of you.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Normal.......well, nearly normal.

I have been longing for feeling normal again after my surgery, and now, my first session of chemotherapy.
It isn’t just feeling normal that is holy grail like at the is doing normal things. I want to just wander into town to potter around and pick up a few Christmas presents. That hasn’t really been possible. Walks have been exhausting, Mark doesn’t like leaving me on my own for more than about 20 minutes, and organising  all the appointments for treatment, follow - up, blood tests, wig fittings, etc etc seem to take forever. All of this of course, underlines the fact that cancer and its treatment now dominates our lives...... and I want normal !

So...although my initial reaction to my first chemo session was to require extra pain relief, and a trip to the wonderfully supportive oncology ward at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary last weekend....since then, I have recovered well. After a couple of days of pain, total exhaustion set in...which is not long as you don’t try to do anything. I drifted from bed to sofa, from dreams to rubbish on TV, a few conversations, and directions to Jess as to where to place tree decorations....and then...suddenly, 2 days after that.... I recognised, starting to feel “normalish”.
Thanks for getting the tree and decorating it Jess.... a really good job.
Yesterday, I made a cake. It wasn’t a special cake. In fact I couldn’t even remember my normal Victoria sponge ( with a hint of chocolate) recipe. It is one I have used for years. I never have to look it up, I just get the right amount of stuff out of the cupboard and do it. For some reason I could not remember how many eggs, how much butter, sugar, flour......Then, I realised I had no idea where I even got my usual recipe from in the first place. So, for the first time in a long time, I consulted Mary Berry, and went for her creamed recipe rather than the all in one, never being a fan of all in one stuff.

The cake is great...... and drinking coffee, and eating cake that I have made just feels amazing.........really, really, normal

Monday, 3 December 2012

Valley Light Parade: Hebden Bridge

A shop window in Hebden Bridge......depicting...... Hebden Bridge

Hebden Bridge has been part of the Calder Valley Lights Parade this year...last week it was held in Todmorden, this week, here in Hebden Bridge and next week it will be in Mytholmroyd.

It has involved children making lanterns in workshops held all over the 3 towns. It has involved market stall holders, canal boat owners,brass bands, drummers, shop keepers, schools, teachers, parents, pupils......and last night, in Hebden Bridge, it seemed to involve everyone who lived within miles of the place.
handmade lanterns adorned the streets
The Christmas lights were turned on, the flame thrower played with fire, the bands marched, the lanterns swung high in the sky, the children laughed and the beautiful canal decorations changed colour in time to the music.

I do love Hebden Bridge



Friday, 30 November 2012

Alice grandmother

Alice Ellen Redshaw 1911 -1996

My maternal grandmother was born into a mining family in Lamesley, County Durham. Her first job was in a bakery in Chester le St when she was 14, and then when she was 18 she moved to London, accompanying her younger sister, where they both found jobs “in service”. Alice lived in London for nearly 70 years....but home was always the north east, and she never lost her beautiful geordie accent.

Alice met my grandfather, Thurlo Basil, who had also come to London for work. He was from a large family ( 13 children) in Herefordshire, and he found work in London as a window cleaner.

Alice got pregnant......they married in July 1931...... and Joy, my mother was born in December 1931.
Frail Alice Ellen with her new husband Thurlo

Life was tough for Alice, window cleaner/ painter and decorator/odd job man Thurlo was a gambler, a womaniser and a heavy drinker. There were several occasions when Alice came home from work to find her few pieces of furniture had been sold to pay off gambling debts. Thurlo was also a violent man. Alice suffered back eyes, swollen cheeks and once, a broken arm.

Roal Navy Deep Sea diver, Thurlo Basil Dawes
The outbreak of war in 1939 was a bit of a blessing for the little family. Thurlo joined the Navy, and left home for 5 years. Alice and Joy, who was nearly 8 when the war began, had a few years of peace and quiet on the domestic front. Joy, evacuated from London to her paternal grandmother’s house in Hereford, returned to London and to her mother, when she discovered she hated her grandmother nearly as much as she hated her own father.
Alice on the right, with Joy, my mother.....happy days when Thurlo was at war.
( about 1943 )

Alice had been pregnant again when Thurlo left for the war, but baby Beryl died before she was 6 months old, from meningitis. I don’t think Thurlo ever saw his youngest daughter.

Alice started working in a school canteen, as a dinner lady, and by the time I was born ( 10 years after the end of the war), Alice was canteen superviser. Alice was the first person in our family to have a “ superannuated” job......meaning she got a pension. Alice was incredibly proud of her kitchen, her team of dinner ladies, and the meals that they produced. At Christmas she went into work at 3am, to put the turkeys on for Christmas dinner......all fresh ingredients, cooked on the premises. She saved 3d and 6d pieces all year round, to put in the Christmas puddings ( no Council health and safety issues in those days), and she was always so proud of the Christmas cakes she and her team produced.
Alice in the centre, surrounded by her team of dinner ladies.

Alice's school Christmas cakes....children at the counter, waiting to dive in. 
Alice put up with being beaten up,  and with her few possessions being sold off periodically. Her daughter’s Christmas presents even vanished once on Boxing day, when Thurlo needed cash for an unpaid debt. Then, as she approached retirement, and receipt of that pension she regarded so highly, she discovered that he was having yet another affair.  In 1970, when she was 59, after nearly40 years of marriage, of beatings of drunken brawls and countless affairs, she finally had enough. Alice divorced Thurlo and came to live with us, until she managed to set herself up in a little flat a few miles from where we lived.
my favourite photo of "Nanny"....grandma Alice...this is how I remember her, wearing one of her great home knitted cardigans.
When she retired, she spent her “lump sum” on a 6 month trip to South Africa to see her favourite sister-in-law, and then she returned to live in her lovely little flat, where she was finally safe and very happy.
Alice in South Africa.....a free woman, at last.
Alice made the best cakes, knitted the best sweaters, and was a perfect grandma. Her life was tough from the start, and she soldiered through to make the best possible life she could for my mother.
oh, the cakes she used to make.......her pastry was to die for, and she loved nothing more than cooking for parties.

Thurlo was diagnosed with lung cancer in the mid 70s...... Alice looked after him until he died, and she always let him think...that if he was well behaved.....she might take him back ! ( I don't think for one minute, she would have taken him back but she always said she had never loved anyone else, and it didn't hurt anyone to let him hope).
Great grandma ( still referred to as nanny) and my daughter Jessie

A photographic collage I put together a few years ago, from top left:
Mary Esther Sumner, mother of (top right) Alice Ellen Green, mother of (centre) Alice Ellen lovely grandmother, who was mother of (bottom left) Joy, who was mother of (bottom right) me......mother of (centre bottom) a very much younger than she is now, Jessie, whose middle name is of course, to keep the name going......



Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Back in touch

Facing major surgery as the start of what hopefully was going to be curative treatment for cancer, I kept one thing in mind.

Post operative pain relief has developed quite a way since my appendix operation in 1964.

The infamous PCAs ......patient controlled analgesia, means that patients can give themselves doses of morphine as and when they need it, without any risk of overdose. If there was one thing that I was “looking forward to” about the surgery, it was being able to give myself morphine..... it seemed so outrageous, even illegal....but perhaps a slither of a silver lining to this cloud of being ill.

So.... there I was, lying on my amazingly modern electric profile bed, hooked up to various clearly life supporting fluids..... and I reached for my PCAs button..... I found the profile bed remote control, the TV remote control, the emergency button to call a nurse and the light switch...... but no PCAs control. I could see the PCAs machine, with its tube of morphine locked in place..... where was the button ??????

I pressed the button to call a nurse.... and she explained that I had been very sensitive to the morphine administered during the operation, and had spent a long time in the recovery room.....recovering. So, the bottom line was that I couldn’t have any more morphine. My blood pressure and oxygen levels were very more morphine ! They did give me something slightly stronger than paracetemol, but nothing really exotic or exciting.
So, there it silver lining.....removed.
Hospital band : "Mad reaction to morphine in surgery".....Mad ??????
Since then ( my "successful" surgery was actually 3 weeks ago today), I have made a good post op recovery, discharged after 3 days, but then a few days later, readmitted to hospital with a probable infection. 6 days later, I was discharged again, and this time, I am really making progress.
Being admitted to the ward I used to work on was fascinating. I always had incredible respect for the nursing team on "my" ward, but being on the receiving end of their skills and care was something out of this world. They are an amazing team of professionals, I could not have wished for better care. Nothing was ever too much trouble, and their ability to make me feel safe ( and pampered) was wonderful.

dont you just love those pressure socks?
So, now, I am home, preparing to start chemotherapy at the end of next week. I am feeling stronger every day. I can now concentrate on a crochet pattern, visitors' conversations, TV programmes which last more than 25 minutes, novels that are slightly more stretching than the latest Jodi Picoult.....and catching up on blogs I have missed, or skated through during the last few weeks. I also, cant wait to blog about something other than being ill.
I am planning a blog about my "less than loopy" grandmother, as opposed to my "loopy" grandmother, and intend to fill my days with things that do not neccessarily revolve around cancer.

Alice Ellen, my not so loopy grandmother.
Basically, I feel as if I am back. I have missed blogging, but have been thrilled to have received so much support from blogging friends. So thankyou all, and I'll be dropping in to see what is happening in your worlds regularly from now on.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012


I am posting this as the quickest way of letting friends know what is happening. I am also getting in touch with people separately, but it is taking a bit of time....... I have been completely overcome with the wonderful messages of support I have received over the last few weeks.

I am having a hysterechtomy next Tuesday.... there is no evidence that the cancer has spread, but as it is an unusual strain I will very likely be having chemotherapy afterwards. The op will be in Leeds, but follow up treatment will be in Halifax...the hospital I love, where I worked for 3 years ( on the gynaey ward ! ).

Thankyou again for all the support..... I'll be back blogging again as soon as I can.

Janice x
Looking forward to recuperating in France......roll on the warm weather next spring.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Displacement Activity

I have 3 more days to wait before I will know what treatment  I can have for my recently diagnosed cancer. This means Mark only has 3 more days of “activities” to design to distract us both, before we start to plan the next stage. He has been amazing. I have spent the last 3 weeks, not cooking, not cleaning, not washing or ironing...and it has all been done perfectly, with no instruction or supervision from me.

Mark bought the new Jamie Oliver cookbook, with 15 minute recipes. He has successfully created several meals that look quite like the pictures...although I think the 15 minute idea has gone out of the window.


I have been taken on an early Christmas shopping trip, to buy the grandchildren all manner of gorgeous playthings. ( he knows it is impossible to be depressed when planning things for our 4 beautiful grand children).

I have been on short walks through autumn leaves....Hebden Bridge looks lovely at this time of year.
sitting on the fence in our garden

I have been taken to lunch at an amazing number of delightful cafes..... I particularly liked the Blitz war time cafe in Hebden Bridge.

 We went to the bird sanctuary at Martin Mere, partly to see the trees we had planted in Mark's dad's name, and to sit on the bench we have had placed overlooking one of the lakes...but also to visit our favourite hide, to watch the water fowl.
I have increased my reflexology sessions  from 1 to 2 sessions a week

We went to the Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield.....this was a bit tiring, but a great trip out, and I enjoyed seeing the setting for the gallery, the superb Hepworth collection, and the other exhibits which are presented so well.

 We walked along the canal near our house, on an afternoon when the sun filtering through the trees made spectacular reflections on the water.
We have popped into friends and families' homes for endless cups of tea, sometimes calling in when grandchildren were home !

We have planned out TV viewing like a military exercise.....ensuring soaps have been recorded, in case I run out of things I want to watch..... “Homeland”, “The Thick of It”, “Have I got News for you?”,  “Getting On”,  “Modern Family”, “QI”, “Mock the Week”, and our current favourite, smulchy American apple pie, with a bit of a hard edge ( sometimes)... “Friday Night Lights”. ( Not to forget “Pointless”  !!!!)

Daughter Jess has just got up, and has decided we should watch the edited highlights of last night’s X Factor ( skipping the really awful bits, and just watching the awful bits). Oh well, what can I do ? I’ll just have to watch it.
Jess, glued to X Factor, after having made me a coffee .
All in all, it’s quite interesting having  those around me organising  things...they’re all doing a great job.