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.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Composer & Conductor Christopher Whelen

Christopher Whelen
I never knew my uncle Kit. This is not surprising, as although he was one of my father’s  two half brothers, none of them knew of each other’s existence.

The two brothers were born two years apart, Christopher in April 1927, and Michael, my father, in April 1929. They were both born in London, one in Earls Court, one in Westminster. They shared a father, but their mothers never knew about each other, and the two boys never met.

The two half brothers, born 2 years apart...... I think if they had bumped into each other they might have thought they could be related !
My grandfather, William Murch Whelen married London Coloseum Orchestra violinist Winifred Westwood in 1926, when she was about 5 months pregnant with Christopher. Then in 1928, he married  my grandmother, Queenie Gilbert, when she was  also about 5 months pregnant with Michael.

( Incidentally, when he married Winifred in 1926, he was already married to Hylda, who was living in Scarborough, with their 14 year old son at the time......Hylda had not seen her husband since 1915). That is yet another story.
As far as I know William  either never lived with Winifred, or at least had abandoned her before the birth of their son. Christopher never met his father. Winifred told her son that his father had been Irish, but that was all he ever knew about him, as Winifred would not have his name mentioned.

Christopher’s father was not Irish. He was born in Plymouth in 1880, the son of Florence Murch and her Liverpudlian sailor husband, also William Whelen. Christopher’s great grandparents had been Irish, as there is evidence that they came to Liverpool during the potato famine in about 1848/9.
Christopher was christened at St Martins in the Fields in London, and spent a happy childhood looked after by his single parent mother and his Godmother, musician Mary Gotch. Christopher proved to be musically gifted and became a chorister at New College Oxford, and later attended Worksop College where he studied piano and cello. He later studied clarinet and composition at the Midland Institute in Birmingham. At the time, his mother was playing the violin with the Midland Light Orchestra, and Mary Gotch funded much of his private education.
Worksop paid for by Mary Gotch
After 2 years RAF National Service, in 1948, Christopher decided he wanted to conduct, and wrote to several orchestras seeking an opening. Rudolf Schwarz, the newly appointed conductor at what became the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra responded to his letter, and he studied under Schwarz and became assistant conductor. During this time, his mother Winifred became a violinist with the BSO and the little family moved from the midlands to the south coast.

Christopher with his mother Winifred

Christopher became an advocate for the music of Arnold Bax, which was not particularly popular in the period immediately after the war. The young conductor and the aging composer struck up a friendship and several pieces of correspondence between the two survive, providing interesting information about Bax’s life, as well as Christopher’s developing career. Through Bax, Christopher met the famous pianist, Harriet Cohen, ( Bax’s “mistress”) and she became a friend and supporter of Christopher’s musical ambitions.
Christopher Whelen and Arnold Bax

Harriet Cohen
Christopher found that in order to further his career, he really needed to be based in London. In the early50s he was appointed as Musical Director at the Old Vic. He was awarded the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge medal for conducting in 1955.
Christopher wrote the music for the Fu Manch films

He began to compose more than conduct and wrote film scores as well as pieces for radio and television. He wrote a number of musicals, including  “The World of Paul Slickey” (1960) in conjunction with John Osborne.
( It was a dismal flop ! ).
Christopher’s many pieces hardly survive today in that often they were played live on radio....and in those days were not recorded to be retained. He became fascinated with the combination of drama, the spoken word, poetry and music, and wrote the very first ever opera for television,
 " Some Place of Darkness"

He died in September 1993, at home, where he lived with his life long partner Dennis Andrews. They had met at a concert in Bournemouth in 1948 and were then together for 45 years.
Christopher ( Kit)on the right and Dennis in their home, near Oxford
When I discovered Christopher’s existence.....long after his death, and a couple of years after my own father’s death..... I was able to make contact with Dennis ( then in his late 80s) We had lunch together in Oxford, and we spent hours talking about this amazingly talented Uncle of mine who I had never met. Dennis and I remain in contact, and he has recently asked me if I would accept a ring that Kit had made from the only thing he ever owned that had belonged to his mysterious father....a fob stone from an old fob watch. Dennis is leaving it to me in his will... Christopher wore the ring always....his only link with the father he never knew.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Rings and things

Blogging has become important to me over the last year. At first it was a way of recording what I saw as an exciting phase of my life, as we settled into living in two places, Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire, and Caunes Minervois in the Languedoc in France. Then it became about connecting with other people and their lives. The last few weeks have made me realise that it is this connection with other people and their lives that is really important to me.

Discovering that I have endometrial cancer means that the life we had planned for the next year or so, is on hold. We should be in France now, then we had a month trip to India planned before Christmas. Then we were intending to spend a couple of months travelling in the US before returning to France next April. So......not a lot, apart from scans, MRIs, blood tests, surgery, chemo and radiotherapy are being talked about now. As anyone who has been on “the cancer journey” knows, it takes over.

I am determined it will not take over.  I intend to continue blogging.....and it will not be a cancer journey blog, although I have complete admiration for people who have decided to do this. I will refer to is there.....but it is not going to dominate my thoughts, or my life.

So....whilst waiting for final tests to stage my cancer and determine treatment..... I will continue to blog.....from Hebden Bridge for a while, as I have said, the planned autumn trip to Caunes is on hold.

Rings and things

When I went through my father’s desk, after his death, I found an old Parker pen case. It contained 2 broken rings, 2 gymnastic medals won by my father in 1943 and in 1945, and 2 enamelled badges, one saying PREFECT, and one saying “HOUSE CAPTAIN”.

The badges were important to him...he left school at 14, but was honoured to have been thought worthy of wearing those badges in his last year at school. He had told me about them. I also knew about the gymnastic medals....again, he had been very proud of them. I knew nothing of the rings.

The first was a broken, man’s signet ring. The initials on it were JG, so I supposed it had belonged to my great grandfather, Kent shoe maker Joseph Gilbert. It was rose gold, and I decided to have it melted down to make a ring that I would wear. I did this a couple of years ago, had a diamond from my grandmother’s engagement ring placed into it, and have worn it ever since.

The other ring, looked like something out of a Christmas cracker, so I ignored it, until recently when I was having another piece of jewellery repaired. I took in to “Max”...the jeweller in Hebden Bridge, where everyone takes their broken jewels for him to work  his magic on them.

I asked him if it was worth doing anything with, or was it muck, 18c gold and diamonds he said.....a Victorian setting. He then explained about how diamonds were cut differently when they needed to sparkle under gas light rather than electric light.

The ring is mended.... and although I cant be certain, I suspect it was Joseph Gilbert’s wife’s ( my great grandmother, Edith Woolley....or just possibly, her mother’s, Esther Spice). I am searching for old photos of these formidable women, to see if there is any evidence of the ring on their fingers.
Great grandmother Edith, father Mike, grandmother Queenie & Great great grandmother Esther
I held out a small hope that it might have been my great grandmother Florence’s ring....the one who gave birth to my bigamist grandfather. My daughter Jess gently suggested to me that possibly, had it been Florence’s ring, bigamist grandad would probably have given it to wife number 1 or wife number 2 rather than my grandmother, who was wife number 3. Oh well....I will probably never know which of the gorgeous women who came before me wore it......but now I am wearing it, and I love it.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012


Just another brief note: unfortunately my test results were positive, and I have endometrial cancer. Various other tests have to be undertaken to determine what treatment I will be having.

I feel bad posting something so general, and not responding to all your kind and positive messages personally, I seem incapable of accessing people’s email addresses from their profiles.

I think I will return to blogging at some stage, but don’t know what form that will take yet.

Thankyou,  to everyone who has contacted me through blogging. You have all been so kind, and I do intend to keep following you all.

Janice x

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

A quick note

Just a quick note..... I have been remiss in keeping up with all the wonderful blogs that I follow, and have not felt able to blog myself. I have been undergoing tests for cervical cancer, and am now awaiting biopsy results. Basically I am having difficulties focussing on anything much at all.

Whatever happens, and I am trying hard to keep positive, I will return to reading everything  “my blogging friends” write, and being involved in your worlds again. Although I am reading most posts at the moment, commenting seems a step too far when my mind is mush !

Love and best wishes to everyone

Janice x