I am spending a few days at the NCRI conference in Liverpool which is fascinating but also exhausting. So many new faces, new ideas, new inventions and new research to absorb. Charities I have never heard of, information sources I did not know existed. It’s all exciting stuff. We are situated in the BT Convention Centre near Albert Dock which is right next to the Liverpool big wheel and my hotel. The weather has been less than clement so the proximity of the venue to the hotel is particularly pleasing. It also allows nipping back for things forgotten and a little nap.
My nemesis from the un-nameable charity is here and I speak to a few people about the negative response I had when I offered my services. I ponder whether there was an evidence base in existence which said people should not be involved in cancer research less than 2 years from diagnosis. One person chokes on his drink and says “You can ask – I’m not going to” which implies he finds her fearsome and perhaps a tad unwelcoming, too. But the event is glorious in the amount of high-quality research being delivered and the stunning array of experts giving talks. There are posters to view and I spend some time talking with one of the authors of a poster about anticipatory medicine in end of life care. As this was certainly delivered when my mother died, I am interested in how the health professionals deal with this question and ask what kind of language they use, knowing very well the issue we are discussing. I am told there is not a single language and they all talk about things differently which leads to many opportunities for confusion and misunderstanding. At this stage of life, I would want the language to be clear and concise. The study has also looked at the feelings of the staff who are having to make these kinds of decisions and what worries them. Mostly, it is about getting it right.
People at the conference are varied, too. There is a definite group of younger people which is great. So many are, and I phrase this carefully, well past retirement age and enjoying the comforts of crimplene and stretch waistbands. I see a couple of Scouse brows between the hotel and the conference centre but on Monday night, there is a proliferation of them as Jessie J is playing in the other half of the conference centre. From about 5pm, a straggle of girls arrive and queue for entry. It rains and gets darker and they are joined by more girls, mostly early teens and some with parents, heads down, shuffling along with hands in pockets, unwilling to be plunged into an evening of teen adulation. Besides which, there is a double episode of Coronation Street on tv and possibly a new drama.
I find some time to meet 2 friends at the Tate Gallery on Tuesday afternoon. It is good to get out of the conference atmosphere for a while and really therapeutic to see them.
By Wednesday, I am truly exhausted. I go to a brilliant talk about depression and cancer, given by truly top international names in the field. One speaker is introduced as American and he quickly corrects this to Canadian. Ouch. Then I am out and back to the hotel to collect my bags. The young lad who is trying to find mind from the deluge of bags in his back office (his words, not mine) is a little spotty around the neck, looks slightly damp and has an amazingly creased suit jacket. But, after asking what they look like (one is black, one is red – does that help?), he eventually finds them and I am off to find my taxi has not arrived but in time to purloin one dropping someone off. At the station, waiting to be allowed onto the platform, I see Cherie Booth/Blair walking along, chatting to another woman. I think for a moment whether I should whip my camera out and take a snap but decide not to. She is wearing slingbacks and I see she does not have good ankles. Miaow.
On the train, a young lady gets on with the now obligatory Scouse brows and large plastic rollers in her hair. I wonder where she is going. I am now going to settle back and look out of the window, peering into people’s back gardens which, as we all know, is one of the bonuses of travelling by train.