My exploding head

My head is going to explode. Perhaps not literally but it feels so full of stuff that I am sure it will go bang at some point. I just can’t handle too much information any more. I can’t carry it around in my head. There isn’t enough space. Jury service has been interesting, stimulating, depressing and exhausting, all in equal measure. After a week, I am so very tired that I stay in bed for most of Saturday and cannot be prised from the sofa on Sunday. I sleep and sleep but still can’t muster enough energy. The court we are sitting in seems to be the very furthest one from the jury room involving stairs going up and then coming down again the other side. I can’t fathom out why. Before undertaking jury service, I did explain that I have trouble with stairs. I didn’t say “I get a lot of pain from going up just one flight and every time I stand up I feel as if I am 100 and none of my limbs work” because that would have been absurd. True but absurd. On the second day of sitting on the case, I remind the clerk that stairs really are painful for me and she asks one of her colleagues to take me round another way which involves going through the Judge’s dining room. Obviously we can only go when they are not eating so it’s the first and last time I get to go that way. The other days I haul myself upstairs, walk what appears to be at least 100 yards and then, and only then, am allowed to take a lift up one flight of stairs. Many of my fellow jurors, seeing I get special treatment, decide they want to take the lift, too, much to the consternation of the clerk whose job it is to keep us all together and not lose one of us.

For the last 2 days we have spent our time wrangling over details, bits of information, facts and the like, poring over actual pieces of evidence and arguing about the merits of the defendant’s case. There is a lot of information, not all of it pertinent to the alleged crime but the details have to be drawn out and picked over so we can form a credible response. And we don’t agree. We are truly divided and I am not for swaying. Sadly, the detail of our deliberations has to remain private but I was not impressed by some of the prejudice I saw and the absolute lack of reasoning power of some of my colleagues. The case was serious and carries a hefty prison sentence if found guilty which requires, in my opinion, a concerted effort to try and reason our way through the evidence. Apparently not everyone thinks like I do.

After reaching our verdict today, I ask if I am able to be released. Engelbert Humperdinck springs to mind. Happily they agree and I am let loose to run free again.  But we have a bit of a disaster at home. Mr Mason’s coffee machine has stopped working and we don’t know what is wrong with it. He has tried coaxing it by pressing different buttons, taking all the water out and starting again but it is stubbornly refusing to work and Mr Mason is bereft.

And it’s THAT time of year again. The one where we must send in our tax returns by the end of the month or else we will be hung, drawn and quartered. This year, looking over the financial details of 2012/13, I am catapaulted back into the days of being diagnosed with cancer and the giant hole it made in my working life. Being dropped almost immediately by the company I was contracting with and then working my way through the maze of financial deprivation wasn’t a good thing to look back on. Who wants to look at their finances when they are sick and worrying about whether they will live or not? Not me. But this year will be different, better and brighter. There is a lot to live for.

Enduring jury duty and postal woes

Things are conspiring to make me jolly cross. You may remember the Christmas parcel sent to Miss Mason which got as far as Belfast and then lingered, doing nothing. Well, it made its way back to us rather than proceed on its way to Thailand. It came with a nice letter, telling me off for putting offending articles in a parcel – in this case some Paul Smith aftershave, intended for Mr Safaie – but without the aftershave which, I imagine, some of the postal workers in Belfast now smell of. All the presents were ripped open and so Mr Mason sealed them all up again and we took the parcel back to the post office we posted it at originally. One piece of good news on the horizon was that it cost less to post this time as it was a couple of hundred grammes lighter. Instead of paying to send it again, we actually got a refund and the parcel is now on its way to Bangkok. Forgive me if you know the story thus far.

I duly told Ms Mason her Christmas presents were finally on the move and she rubbed her hands together and looked forward to opening them with something like glee. Then fate stepped in. Although it hasn’t been reported in the British tv media, there has been a lot of trouble in Bangkok with protests and, more recently, bombings. Some people have been shot and it seems there are water cannon and rubber bullets being deployed with great abandon. Yesterday, it was announced that there would be a State of Emergency declared with effect from this morning. Well that’s just brilliant. First of all British postal services wouldn’t take the parcel and now Thailand is doing everything possible to prevent its delivery. Does Miss Mason not deserve her new knickers and nail files? She has actually got more than that but I don’t want to give the game away entirely. I do enjoy buying things for the offspring. It’s lovely to do all the things that I didn’t experience when I was a child/young adult/adult with my parents. But really, Bankok! What appalling timing!

So today has been day 3 of jury service. I am starting to get to know my fellow jurors, some of whom are lovely and some slightly unhinged. In the jury room in general, amongst all the jurors for all 13 courts, there seems to be a large preponderance of Daily Mail readers which depresses me. There is also a man many people tell me smells of vodka. This is very specific and I suspect is the opinion of people who don’t drink alcohol, or certainly not spirits. I haven’t been close enough to check for myself but I may give it a whirl tomorrow morning. I overhear people discussing Benefit Street, a tv series about a road in Birmingham which has a large number of benefit recipients living in it. There are some sad examples of child rearing by a couple who are not out of their teens but already have 2 children and scant understanding of how to bring them up. Swearing and foul language abound. It just underlines the fact that some people haven’t had great examples of how to behave, live or raise children and might require some support or extra input in order to help them become good and useful citizens as well as raise children who are both happy and with aspirations. I don’t think it says anything particularly terrible about the people who live there but it provides much fodder for those who like to find people worse of than themselves and point to them as examples of what not to do. Adler had some great ideas about society and community and occasionally I find it soothing to read his ideas of training children and involving the whole community.

I have to say it is an interesting if not exhausting week. I am not used to regular morning starts. When I work, it is often from home and does not require getting up at 7.30. I know, I know; the rest of you are all out there, buzzing around and working like demons all day every day but I am not made of such stern stuff and find it all too much. My rock’n’roll lifestyle is such that I have been in bed before 9pm on both days so far. Tomorrow is the fourth day of the trial I am sitting on and it is proving very interesting and illuminating but alas, I cannot tell you more.

Here’s an extra special hello to all the people from outside the UK who read my blog. I love looking at the readership, broken down by country and wonder how you all find it. Do stop by to say hello!

Trying times – geddit?

Last week I went to two meetings at two different venues, both of which I used to work in back in the day, as the young people say. First it was a half day on a new study I am on the steering group of, held in the building which used to house Quit and then on Thursday another half day at the NICE offices which still is the base of the British Council in London. When I worked for the British Council, back at the tail end of the 1970’s, there was a bar in the basement and a restaurant with waitress service. No-one thought anything of people going to drink in the basement at lunchtime. The bar was busy and popular and it was common to go down there with a group of friends and have a drink. How times change!

The other thing reminiscent of the late 1970’s is my hair. Having grown somewhat, as hair does, it now looks like a perm which is growing out. If I have it cut, as you would with a perm to cut out the curly bit, it will only grow back in the same way, unlike cutting a perm out. I think I am going to have to see it through and see where it takes me. I decide another colour will help so I change myself quite dramatically before going to meet 2 friends for coffee and cake on Saturday. One of them is my partner in crime, Ms Marsden, and the other is Jet, one of my blog friends who I have never met before. We rendezvous at Patisserie Valerie in Chiswick. Such sumptuous cakes! We find a table right at the back and spend a lovely couple of hours tossing ideas and stories about, chatting easily like old friends.

This week is all change. I am on jury duty and, after a lot of waiting around,  I am put on a trial. This is the third time I have been a juror while some people I know have never been one so I don’t know whether to feel privileged or put upon. While I can say nothing about the trial I am sitting on, there seem to be plenty of strange fellow jurors I could tell you about. I feel there will be trouble with a 60-something Liverpudlian man who is keen to tell me what the essential elements of the case are and where the defence barrister has gone wrong. I suspect conversations with him will be interesting. I have not yet confessed I am a magistrate after a woman announce loudly “ANYONE can be a magistrate” which has elements of truth to it but is not strictly true. I certainly know people who I think shouldn’t be allowed within a mile of any criminal court decision-making but luckily who is appointed as a magistrate is not up to me. Luckily for the defendant, we are a varied group of individuals of mixed race and age and hopefully will have varied opinions as to what has happened. Our deliberations will be interesting and whilst I can’t report what they are, I will be able to give character sketches of the individuals. Watch this space!

New Year blues

I’m feeling a bit coldy. You know how it goes. My nose is tickly, my throat feels a bit tickly and I am sure by tomorrow I will be streaming with cold, despite the number of blood oranges I have been consuming. Having ordered 5kg of blood oranges with our weekly organic vegetable box, I feel I must be awash with vitamin C which should ward off all kinds of horrible cold viruses. I suppose it’s common to feel a bit under the weather in January. Classic New Year blues.

Last week was quite busy at home and at play. Mr Mason and I are turning the house upside down, ferreting out clothes, books and dvds we no longer want and boxing them up to get rid of. It feels quite therapeutic but is also a bit tiring, even though there are great memories surfacing along with the dross. Miss Mason, when she was less than 3, drew a wonderful octopus which had an enormous number of arms and took up a whole sheet of A4. In the corner, she drew a very small Humpty Dumpty and, so proud was I of my gorgeous girl’s artistic endeavour that I put it in a frame. Thinking she would be pleased, I showed her the framed drawing whereupon she embarked on a ferocious tantrum complete with vomiting and passing out. Miss Mason was very good at throwing a tantrum which I am pleased to say she has grown out of. The experts were obviously correct in advising us to ignore them.

I visit the Maggie Centre on a regular basis to meet the others in the Young Women’s group (please don’t laugh) so Wednesday was taken up with that and a long natter with my friend Ms Marsden. I also have a new compression sleeve to collect from the lymphoedema nurse as the others are making my arm quite sore in the crook of my elbow. My journey home takes place in the school rush hour and, walking through Hammersmith station, I am nearly knocked over by a couple of small schoolgirls who, instead of clutching cans of soft drink, sweets or crisps bought on the way home from school, are carrying takeaway cups of coffee. They look about 12 and are high on caffeine instead of sugar. Ah, how the times change!

On Thursday, I do what feels like a million errands. And I am not exaggerating. Honest. I go to Maggie’s to meet a research nurse from Guy’s Hospital who I am working with on a project to develop a device which will detect cancer cells during breast surgery. We discuss the project which is applying for further funding and then discuss trials involving lymphoedema patients which sound really interesting. My next port of call is back to Jeanne, the lymphoedema nurse to collect my new sleeves which were not available the previous day. They are black and softer than before so I have high hopes. I really like both the lymphoedema nurses. They are so warm and human which, possibly surprisingly, is quite rare in the cancer world. There has to be an element of self-protection for people working with patients who possibly have a terminal illness but I suppose the lymphoedema duo are working with those who have survived long enough to develop the condition and so can relax a bit. They are both delightful and scatty and very, very helpful. The next stop is the breast clinic. I have discovered some red marks on the side I had my mastectomy which look like tiny burst veins but, cancer being cancer, they need checking out by someone who knows what secondary cancer looks like. My friend, Ms Cantini, something of an expert herself gives advice via text but I still have to go and see the breast care nurse who, happily, can see me after her ward round. I show her the offending marks and she agrees, they are burst veins probably caused by radiotherapy and that she saw someone with even better burst veins recently but that this is the quite unusual. It’s a relief, I won’t deny. She also throws in an appointment with the lady who provides prosthetic breasts as she also thinks my current prosthesis isn’t really working. If I had the time and energy, I would write a whole blog on the hopelessness of post-surgery bras. The idea that they fit and allow you to look just as you did before someone took a scalpel to you is, quite frankly, bollocks. Perhaps prosthetic bollocks would look better. Who knows?

On the way home, I walk back from the tube station as I need to collect a prescription from the GP. Of course, it is not correct so I ask the receptionist if she can get the GP on duty to change it. This she does. It is still wrong and I cannot summon the energy to ask her to change it again. Sigh. But I do see something which disturbs me. Outside the local supermarket, a small-ish dog has been tied up and is waiting patiently for its owner. I pause to speak to it and then see its claws are painted bright red. No wonder it’s whining. I don’t think I have enough varnish to paint Dog’s nails and I’m pretty sure Mr Mason would have something to say should I attempt such a feat. But Dog is busy sporting his new snood, knitted by yours truly and ensuring he stays warm and cosy by day and night. I have taken photographic evidence of the latest in Dog couture but, as an appetite whetter, I am going to give you Master Mason in antlers. Those of you who know Master Mason, including Ms Atherton, will be surprised he acquiesced so readily on Christmas Day but he wore antlers for a good hour or so and here is the evidence.



Merry 2014!

The poor are blamed for everything

It’s been very quiet on the blogging front since Christmas but now I’m back, dragged unwillingly from the delightful torpor of Christmas afternoons by the fire into the maelstrom of ‘sorting the house out’. This is because Mr Mason has taken the bit between his teeth and is going through the house like a tornado. This means particularly sorting out our bedroom which is, I admit, long overdue. Taking a break from my sorting of books, I check my email and am find a delightful missive which makes me smile and wonder. Yesterday was Mr Mason’s birthday and I ordered him a tweed jacket and some very smart trousers but they weren’t delivered in the time frame specified, even though I had paid extra for the service. Luckily, they arrived the day before his birthday but the email was an entertaining extra. This is what they said. “Please accept my apologies for the delay. There were a few issues regarding power cuts related to the poor which send our systems offline for an entire day.” Hmm, those damned poor people again, interfering in my postal deliveries!

So, Mr Mason’s day begins with a skype call with Miss Mason in Bangkok and continues with an exciting viewing of the latest Hobbit offering in 3D. We did not expect the 3D addition so it was quite a thrilling addition. Yes, we are easily pleased. The film is the usual serving of elves, hobbits and dwarves battling with orcs, silly jokes and lots of things being killed. The best line in the film is “Dad, why are there dwarves climbing out of our toilet?” Sorry if that’s spoiled the whole trilogy for you. Blame it on the poor. Mr Masons’s day gets better and better as Master Mason and Ms Atherton appear as if by magic and we whisk him away to a local sushi bar where we are served with lavish portions of fabulous food and then given a free dessert followed by tea. It’s a nice little restaurant that hasn’t been open long so we have tried to patronise it as often as we can and the owner tells me friends we rook there recently have since returned to eat which is great.

Christmas was lovely. We all wear reindeer antlers to show just how jolly and festive we are. Some of us wear them with pride, others under suffrance but we have a really good few days and Dog is ecstatic to increase the number of his pack while Master Mason stays with us. The present to Miss Mason and her fiance is a bit of a disaster. Posting it on 10th December we feel we have plenty of time, particularly as Christmas is not an event celebrated much in Thailand so postal services will not buckle under the weight of a million cards and parcels. The parcel still does not arrive so eventually Mr Mason, swearing loudly at the automated voice, gets though to a real person at Royal Mail. They are able to track our parcel to Belfast where it has not been able to fly as it contains ‘something’. The parcel is not going to Miss Mason nor, it seems, is it being returned to me. It is just languishing, having a rotten time of it. I now have to go to the Post Office to claim it back by listing everything it contains and how much it cost. Presumably they then convene a ‘contraband party’, open all the presents in a festive flurry before hopefully returning the parcel to us so we can repeat the whole expensive performance over again. Meanwhile, Miss Mason is left with one slightly dodgy party whistle and no gifts. What a let down. At least the poor are not blamed for this fiasco although I have yet to enter into written dialogue with Royal Mail so I wouldn’t count it out just yet.

As for myself, I have found my energy to have deserted me in a big way for the last few days. Sleep has become an annoyingly rare commodity, despite waxing lyrical about the benefits of sleeping under a wool duvet and on top of wool pillows. The wool duvet is, I have to say, supremely comfortable and I would highly recommend it. It still doesn’t lull me to sleep and by day I don’t like to sleep for fear of missing something or waking up grumpy and still not sleeping through the night. All this culminates in an extreme exhaustion which requires me to do nothing except sit and wait for it to pass. Yes, we have been here before and I know there is nothing to do about it but it still drives me nuts. If only I had the energy I would go and find some poor people I could blame my situation on.