Finding our feet in village life

We are all gradually relaxing into our new home and getting used to the changes. The psychotic cat is transformed and now goes out into the garden all the time, even enduring a huge rainstorm on Sunday afternoon. We realise she has probably never seen grass before. When we took her in, she had been found in a cavity wall in Putney and then came to us with a stone paved garden so the huge expanse of grass, trees and plants is probably a bit of a culture shock for her but she seems to be enjoying it. The matronly cat has been out and about visiting the neighbours. We discover this when Doug, the owner of our house 3 families ago comes to visit and says “Ah! This is where you live” when he sees her. He is now in his 80s and a little frail but is able to tell us how the house was when he lived there and how the stairs have been moved. It sounds as though they were originally a beautiful sweep of Victorian stairs instead of the oak stairs we have now but he also tells us that part of the house has been traced back to 1700 and that it was originally an alehouse. The removal men who went to the local pub the night we moved here came back and told us the same story so there must be some veracity to it. We have realised that the middle of the house, which is now a dining room, is quite old and that where the wood burning stove is a range once stood. Doors have been blocked off and stairs moved but it’s quirky and despite us taking the wrong route through the house at times, we are getting used to the layout.

We are blessed with visitors and friendly passers-by. Having run out with oil during the last blog, the oil company pulls out all the stops and deliver oil the same day. The boiler engineer comes back on Saturday morning and does what needs doing so we have heat and hot water which is wonderful. It’s surprising how quickly a house cools down without central heating so having it back is fabulous. We are gradually building up a list of people we know we can rely on to help us. One of our failed roofing contractors, Seve, also lists himself as a handyman so as the washing machine is not plumbed in, we ask if it’s a job he could tackle. Yes it is and he is with us within the hour, completing the job which costs £10. Brilliant.

Every morning I wake up to a view of the castle. Yes, it’s the one where Henry IV was born, son of John of Gaunt. I remember all this from reading Richard III at school so it’s really quite exciting to be on the same spot. Oh, I suppose you’d quite like to see my view. P1000031 P1000032 P1000022 P1000038 P1000035 P1000036 P1000042

You have views of the castle from the house, a view of the house from the castle, sunset over the castle and sunset over the garden. There will be more shots later as I get more organised but I hope these satisfy for the time being. Mark’s cousin and her husband drop in on their way back from York to be the first family members to see the house. Much to our delight, they love it, commenting on the proportions of the rooms, the size of the garden, the quirkiness of its layout. We can still get Majestic to deliver wine and the delivery man today says “What a beautiful house!” as he drops off the cartons of precious liquid (which I can’t sample these days). People in the village hear we are interested in history and drop off books and a dvd about a re-enactment at the Castle and the history of Old Bolingbroke which used to be one of the chief market towns in Lincolnshire at one time.

Just a small taste of what it’s like living in a small village after the bustle of West London; today as we are preparing to go out we see a neighbour, John, walking along with his dog. He is the neighbour who made a point of letting us know when the bins had to be put out on the day we moved in. He asks us about our oil situation and recommends a piece of kit he has bought for his oil container. Apparently we have an expensive thing attached to ours which sends a reading to a plug in the house telling us how much oil we have but, as you might expect, our vendors have taken the plug with them. We are telling John this who immediately says he thinks he has part of his previous kit and will drop off the plug bit in case it will work with ours. “One thing you don’t want to do” he says, conspiratorially, “is join the Parish Council”. I ask if it is like Midsomer Murders and he confirms it is. He doesn’t mention names but there are obviously people who are best avoided but he says he will let us make our own minds up about who is who. And with a cheery “Dib dib!” he is gone. Mr Mason chats over the garden fence with a man who owns a house behind ours and the following morning we have a card through the door welcoming us to the village.

We have an organic farm on the other side of the village and I decide to give them a try. I make an order online and see they deliver on Wednesdays and Thursdays. As we will be at Charing Cross on Wednesday, I ring them to say they will have to leave the boxes behind the conservatory if they deliver on Wednesday. A very nice lady called Marjorie answers and she asks whether there are any vegetables we don’t like as they will tailor the boxes for us. I can only think of fennel except I can’t think of the word although I can see the vegetable in my mind. I explain I have had chemotherapy and lost a lot of my words and she says she understands perfectly as she has had breast cancer. Luckily I remember the name of fennel but we have a good conversation about services locally and what worked and didn’t work for us both. They supply a huge range of organic fruit, vegetables and salads, most of which they grow themselves and they will provide boxes with produce we actively like which sounds great. They are also very well-priced and it’s interesting to see where they sell in London – Pimlico, Hampstead Heath, London Fields and, especially for Ms Marsden, Salusbury Road Primary School in Queen’s Park, every Sunday from 10 until 2.

Getting alternative treatment here will mean going to a hospice which feels a bit grim. I know they are there to make life feel better but it’s still a step I haven’t taken before and although I could have had treatments in a local hospice in London, I always chose to go elsewhere. Here there is no elsewhere and I have no choice. Again, it is the nurse from the local practice who phones to give me information about Macmillan nurses and hospices without me having to chase them. It feels like there is time to give more personal service here, that people have time to stop and chat rather than them actually being more friendly.

Mr Mason makes his call to Alex, the lime plaster roofer, sans teeth but with smoke bombs, to tell him he has got the work and he says he will be able to start in about 10 days’ time. When I speak to Lee to tell him we will not be using his company to fix the roof, at the end of the call he says “Enjoy your lovely home”. We feel we have made the right choice, not because everyone else seems to love the house but because we are loving it. We are now open for visitors (who don’t mind boxes).

Everything you wanted to know about lime mortar but were afraid to ask

OK, so it’s a subject you may never have discussed at a dinner party or over the post office counter but I really feel more informed now on the topic of lime mortar than I ever have before. We need minor repairs done to the roof of the house so I invite a number of tradesmen to come and have a look and give us a quote for the work they think needs doing. We had a survey done before we bought the house but felt the surveyor lacked a little in imagination and possibly experience. He assessed the age of the house as being built in 1900. This we know immediately is wrong but let it go and concentrate on the meat of the survey, part of which is that there is a small amount of damp coming into the house.

When we move into the house, we see small patches of damp but the house doesn’t smell of damp and considering it hasn’t been lived in for two years, it is in remarkably good condition. So, with Mr Mason pulling faces that say “Do we really have to do this NOW?” I contact several roofers to come and do their worst. Within minutes, we have responses and have the first roofer coming over that very day. He has been a builder for several years but has had an accident at work and is only now just getting back into building work again. We find people in Lincolnshire like to stop and have a chat and this includes tradesmen, the postman (Tim) and just about everyone else. So, Seve, the first roofer, suggests a few solutions and then is on his way having given us a day rate and an assessment that the work will take up to one and a half days to complete.

Tradesman 2 is Ambrose. He’s very ruddy faced, as a proper roofer ought to be, but also shocks us by saying he is getting old and that he will be 50 this year. Mr Mason and I had been mentally assessing him as in his 60s but mentally he is definitely older than the age of his teeth. Speaking of teeth, Ambrose and Seve both seem to have relatively full sets but the next roofers seem remarkably lacking. Next we have Lee who is amiable but I like less. His quote is cheaper than Ambrose’s, has no front teeth and suggests at one point spraying a weatherproof coating over the roof. Mr Mason’s face must have told him he was on the wrong tack as he shut that option down quickly.

At 5pm we have our final roofer, Alex. He has a range of teeth missing and his clothing is covered in paint and what-not so he looks the part. He is also Scots which may have something to do with the lack of teeth (sorry, Scottish readers). Alex talks the hind leg off a donkey. He starts talking at 5pm and leaves, still talking all the way down the drive just after 7pm. But he is interesting. We discover he is a specialist in old buildings, especially those which are listed. Ours isn’t listed but we know it’s not originally Victorian having lived here for just a few days. He talks lovingly about different kind of bricks, building methods, pantiles and the difference between lime mortar and any other kind of brick filling. Yes, I’ve forgotten all about it already yet I know lime mortar is very important. I know we are going to use his services rather than the others’ when he suggests putting smoke bombs up the chimney. The expression on Mr Mason’s face is a picture.

We continue working on the house during the week, planning each day to go out but having something preventing us. The bed we ordered, as you know, went AWOL. By Monday I have emailed MFW with a strongly-worded missive and later I am called by a lady called Carol who is the Customer Service manager. She tells me the bed was out of stock which is why only half was delivered. In a Universe somewhere, this makes sense but I am too tired of the whole thing to question her logic, especially as she seems to have been actually doing something about it. She has found another bed which is very similar and emails a picture over to us. If we like it, she will order it and it will be with us the following day. We like it and agree. The bed arrives the following day. We dismantle our bed and move it into a spare bedroom. We unpack the new bed. It is damaged. Part of the metal is bent so I email Carol a photo and we then go and put our bed back together again so we have somewhere to sleep. The work is agony but Mr Mason can’t do it on his own so I take oramorph and continue. It’s hard to breathe when I bend over so that makes it even more difficult and I just feel cross. In the night, Dog gets up a couple of times which is unusual for him. I think it is because we are sleeping in a different room but when we get up in the morning, it becomes obvious that there is no heating and he has just been cold. We check the oil level which shows about 3/4 of a tank and although I look up the manual of the boiler online, we can’t get to the bit we need to fiddle with so start phoning around for an engineer. Someone can come the following morning at 8.30 so we know we’re in for a cold night. Dog gets his pyjamas on.

Carol asks if we can live with the defect or do we want another bed delivered? We say we will try to put it together and see if it works. The damage appears to be at the back of the bed where it will not be seen so we decide this is OK. We put the new sheet on, open the new duvet cover and then the new packs of duvets. We have chosen wool again (honestly, if you’ve never tried it, do. It’s the most comfortable thing to sleep under and really seems to regulate your temperature) and have bought a spring/autumn weight and a summer weight. We look to see how they clip together. Ah. One has button holes and the other has button holes. Hmmmm. Neither has buttons which means they will not join together. I phone the company (Soak and Sleep – what a rubbish name) and explain my problem. She knows exactly what I am talking about and can arrange for the summer duvet to be collected and a new one with buttons on delivered when they have some in stock.

The engineer arrives at 8.30 on the dot the following morning and is a cheerful man who explains to us how the boiler works. He also tells us that part of the problem is that we are out of oil. Yes, our lovely vendors omitted to tell us that the gauge on the tank does not work. We phone a local oil company and beg them to try and come out today. They promise they will try and that’s where our story ends for today. We seem to have had a range of minor disasters ever since we moved in but we have also had some lovely events and I promise they will be in the next blog. More than anything, I wanted to catalogue for myself everything that’s been happening so that when everything is running pretty smoothly, I can sit back and really appreciate it. And there will be lots more about lime mortar when Alex starts his work on the roof, I promise.

Reach for the Sky and then break it

Where to begin? Well, we are in and finally, we have tv, phone and broadband! Woo hoo! The saga of getting Sky to get their act together is tedious and very, very long. Over the weekend, Ms Marsden sends me the email address of Jeremy Darroch, Chief Exec of BSkyB so I email him a lovely, polite letter which, if you want to read it, you can find here.

The result of the letter is that I am contacted by a nice lady called Karen who apologises and tries to get things moving. I explain how useless the weekend Sky Help Team have been over the weekend and, essentially, how rude they have been. Telling someone without a reliable phone or broadband connection to ‘speak to the team you last spoke to’ is really, well, taking the piss. Karen seems no nonsense and takes on the challenge of dealing with the numerous people who need to come to the house and drill holes through the wall, plug things in and climb up the telegraph pole outside the house. The week is so chaotic with things to do and phone calls to make that I can’t remember exactly what happened or in what order. We have a lovely man from BT who comes to assess the situation and we have a lovely chat with him. He explains the technicality of the situation and promises to try and escalate it for us. He also tells us that within a year or so we will have fibre optic broadband as he knows which exchanges it is being installed in. As he is not selling us anything, we believe him.

In between the Sky fiasco, I order a new bed from the Memory Foam Warehouse. A couple of years ago, we bought a fantastic mattress from them and now I want a bigger bed with the same fantastic mattress. It is all due to be delivered on Monday. On Monday, a very nice delivery man arrives with the mattress and half the bed. He is very obliging and carries it upstairs for us. I get on the phone to the office to tell them only half the bed has been delivered and we put away the spanners and other tools so that we don’t dismantle our bed without another one to get into. By Wednesday, MFW decides they will just despatch a whole new bed for us. Karen from Sky keeps badgering those who need it and Mr Mason ferries things to either the local tip or a charity shop. I order a new freezer and a tall fridge for the kitchen.

Our postman arrives and introduces himself (his name is Tim) and we have a bunch of flowers from the local Methodist church plus wine from next door neighbours and a whole sheet of information from Andrew who runs the local Friends of Bolingbroke Castle, telling us about meat and organic vegetable deliveries which are made to the village together with which days which wheelie bins have to be put outside. It is incredibly helpful and very touching that people go to such trouble to welcome us to the village.

We have a visit from another BT engineer who is also extremely helpful and he drills holes and puts the cable where the previous engineer says the best place will be. He tells me about which country shows are worth going to in the summer and leaves having set up everything he can possibly set up. After he leaves, we pull phones from their removal boxes and plug them in and, lo and behold! They work! Very shortly after I have a call from Karen who sounds quite triumphant and excited on my behalf that, at last, we have a phone service. Things are progressing. The only downside is that as I exit the room while the engineer is busy with cables, I inadvertently break wind rather loudly. I hold my head high and continue with whatever I am doing. Mr Mason says as long as the engineer didn’t cough or pass out, I am pretty sure to be undetected.

By Friday I am thoroughly sick of the MFW bed people. I phone them 3 times and each time am told the same thing – that they will call the bed distributors who will endeavour to find out where the second bed might be. On the third call, I have a minor explosion. I speak to a nice lady called Elizabeth but use rude words and tell her in no uncertain terms how fed up I am and that if I ran a company such as theirs, I would track items in and out of a warehouse rather than let them go willy-nilly. She promises she will see what she can do and will call back on Saturday. We go off to register with a local GP practice and apart from taking insufficient paperwork, they ring me as we are making our way home to tell me that the GP will not be able to prescribe any repeat medication unless I have proof from my last GP that I  was prescribed it, just until they receive my notes from London. I think this is in case I ask them to prescribe a shit load of controlled medicines, even though I look like a mild-mannered middle-aged woman. I cannot take any more complications so I decide to think about this on Monday when I have an appointment. At least they are able to give me an early appointment – take that, London GPs! At home, as I sit down, I notice there is a third light shining on our router and yay! We have broadband! It’s too late to call Karen or for her to call us but we connect up as many unpacked devices to it as possible.

Saturday dawns and we wait for the bed people to ring. They do not. In the end, I give up and call them myself, speaking to Jed, one of their customer service people. Mr Mason and I both spoke to Jed on Friday and when I called a third time, not one of our calls was logged meaning, to the layman, that nothing had been done. I have had enough of Jed telling me he can do nothing until Monday and I ask to speak to someone who knows what they are talking about. He does not sound best pleased but I really don’t care at this point whether I ruin his entire weekend with a mis-placed comment. He passes me to Lee who clearly, by his tone, has been appraised of my mood. Lee gets both barrels, together with the explanation that I am not angry with HIM but I am just expressing myself. He promises he will look into things on Monday and gives me a number he says is his direct line.

Not wishing to waste the day, Mr Mason and I decide to move a bookcase from one sitting room to the other so we can site it behind the tv and phone. It’s not heavy but a trifle awkward and we manage to shunt it from one side of the house to the other without breaking anything. In order to make things neat, I disconnect the aerial so wires can go through the bookcase and then I plug the phone back into the socket. We make sure the bookcase is lined up properly and before we load it, I ask Mr Mason to check the phone is working. It is not. Neither is the broadband. I must have plugged the phone in wrong. I try to pull the plug out and it won’t come. It’s stuck. I must have pushed it in the wrong way round. Calamity ensues. I find these days I can’t take set backs any more. Everything is like a disaster. There is no leeway, no give in the fabric of my life. We pull the bookcase out. We unscrew the cover to the socket and then try to remove the plug. It won’t come. I try banging it with a screwdriver at which point the whole cover comes apart with bits flying everywhere. Now I have really broken it. Mr Mason fetches the pestle from the kitchen and bangs it with that, eventually getting the plug out. Now I have to reassemble the socket, putting in a springy bit of wire that holds the flap closed. I can’t believe that after all the problems we have had this week, I will have to ring Karen to explain I have now broken the bloody socket and it’s hard to mend things with tears in your eyes. However, I calm down and start to work out how it goes back together again, managing to fix the little flap bit and pop the back onto the cover. We have a spare plug so decide to use that and not to push the bookcase back so hard this time. I reassemble everything with Mr Mason’s help and then we check the phone. It works! I check the broadband. It works, too! I am an engineering genius.

Our saga continues but the main thing is that the house is good, we have enough space and the air is fresh and clean. I am tired (bed by 8.30 most nights – truly a Mrs Dormouse) but in a good way. And at least I still have a bed for the time being.

Dear Mr Darroch…

Jeremy Darroch is the Chief Executive of Sky plc. Here is the email I wrote to him last week.

Hi Jeremy,

I hope it’s a nice Sunday morning where you are. The email headline says it all, really, but let me go into a few details for you. We decided to move and as soon as we had exchanged contracts, I got in touch with Sky to arrange tv, phone and internet as we were moving from West London to rural Lincolnshire. We really need to have access to a phone as I have secondary cancer, Stage IV. That’s the one you don’t recover from, in case you don’t know. But you possibly do know people who have or have had cancer which makes the actions of your teams even more shocking.

So, the services were ordered on 2nd March and appointments were arranged for 13th March – one for the phone and broadband and one for the tv. When the tv engineer arrived – a nice man called Mark who really does your company credit – he expressed surprise at the phone appointment and advised us to call in. Now, here’s the difficulty. Mobile service is very patchy and even when you get service, it’s likely to drop out. So I called and spoke to someone who said “I’ll put you on hold” which he did and then never came back. I rang again and spoke to a pleasant Scottish lady who I explained my situation to. She said there had been ‘a delay’ and that I could check online to see when things would be resolved. I explained we are in an area where mobile and dongle services are iffy. I asked if she would try and call me on Monday 16th to tell me what was happening at which point, of course, we lost service and it was the end of the afternoon. (I have faith in people doing what they say they will do so didn’t start worrying until around 3pm).

I thought I would alert Sky Customer Help Team. Really, Jeremy, they should be re-named; it is so inappropriate. You can only use a few words on Twitter, as you know. I directed them to my blog, Tangling with Cancer, so they could see I was not messing about and to try and exert a little pressure. Their responses were just directing me back to the people I had unsuccessfully spoken to on Friday. No help whatsoever.

My situation is this. I have incurable cancer and have treatment every 3 weeks to keep it at bay. I nearly died in September due to a toxic reaction to a particular kind of chemotherapy which damaged my heart and it’s taken me a long time to recover physically from the treatment, let alone deal with the effects of the cancer. We have moved to a rural village to breathe fresh air and for a better quality of life. The one thing I really, really need is access to a reliable means of communication ie a phone. If I spike a temperature overnight or can’t breathe well, I need to be able to call an ambulance or a doctor. Actually, speaking of doctors, that’s another problem Sky has given me. The plan was to go and register with a GP on Monday. This is now not possible as we will have to wait at home to see if Sky are going to do anything about the phone or not. I don’t know if anyone is going to arrive to deal with it because no-one has told me. But, back to the plot. I need access to a phone as I explained. My husband has parents who are aged 88 and 90 who live in Hampshire. Their only means of communication is a phone so should anything happen to them…. you can fill in the dots but it might be some time before we found out which would leave them frightened, upset and confused. My husband is an only child and his mum had a TIA a couple of weeks ago so we worry about them anyway.

The big question is – what are you going to do about it? I hope you’re not going to shrug it off like your Customer Help Team (and really consider a name change for them, I urge you). Would this service be good enough for someone you love? No, and it’s not good enough for me, either. I am classed as a vulnerable person because of my disability, not because I want to be but because that’s the hand life has dealt me.

Please get it sorted. I would be very grateful. And you can find my blog, Tangling With Cancer, by clicking the wordpress link below. You should give it a read. Thousands of people seem to enjoy it and last time I counted it was in 49 countries. At the moment, Sky doesn’t come out too well.

Kind regards,


No phone, no broadband – thanks Sky!

On 2nd March, knowing we were moving, I got in touch with Sky to arrange phone, broadband and tv services. They sent me mail confirming that the work would be carried out on 13th March. The engineer arrived this afternoon to set up the tv service but was surprised when I mentioned we were also expecting another engineer to set up our phone service.

As we are in a tiny village, the mobile service is intermittent and I cannot rely on that in the event that I need to go to hospital or call a doctor. This is why I planned in advance. Having cancer teaches you that, if nothing else. I managed to call someone at Sky to ask what was happening. The first person put me on hold and then never returned. The second person told me there had been ‘a delay’. Why was I not told this? No sensible response. I explained my circumstances – I have terminal cancer and need to be able to contact relevant services without worrying about not getting a signal. I could have checked online. Oh yes, except that would require broadband – which Sky have not installed. I am now using a dongle which at present is doing the job. Thanks Three – at least  you’re keeping  your end of the bargain. I asked when the line would be fitted. Apparently no-one knows, it’s all a mystery and it’s all shut over the weekend. On Monday they might know more. I will have to phone back…on a mobile that keeps losing signal. She went to check my mobile number at which point we lost signal.

So, for the weekend and who knows how long we have no phone and I cannot reliably know I can access medical services if I need them. I know you’re all going to be fascinated by this saga so I will update the blog (read in 49 countries the last time I looked) when I hear from Sky about how they will rectify this.


Well, as promised, here is Sky’s response: Evening Shelley – when an order is delayed we have a specialist team who work on the order to push it through as quickly as possible – even more so in situations where the phone is a necessity. When we have an update for you we’ll contact you directly. If you wish to discuss the issue further we would advise that you contact us using the number you’ve used previously. Thanks, Kei.

They seem to have ignored the fact that I can’t easily use my mobile and that they have left me stranded without a phone in a situation which makes me very vulnerable – despite my planning ahead, all to avert exactly this situation. And how caring does the response sound? It’s pretty much a standard, poor customer service response. Maybe if they read the blog they would have some idea of just what we’ve been going through for the last 3 years and why a reliable phone is so essential. As promised (and now requested), I’ll keep you posted as to how they choose to deal with their situation.


So, Sky’s final response last night goes like this… ‘ If you wish to discuss the issue any further Shelley you are free to discuss it with the team you’ve contacted previously. Thanks, Kei.’

This appears to be Sky washing their hands of any responsibility for the service they offer (and take money for). They know I do not have a reliable mobile signal and I have explained that I got cut off every time I phoned them yesterday because the signal keps dropping out, yet they think this is a reasonable ‘solution’ to my problem. And yes, it’s clearly my problem rather than theirs. So not only do we have no reliable access to healthcare services until they deign to install the phone but we are also out of contact with Mr Mason’s parents. As you might remember, Mr Mason snr celebrated his 90th birthday at the end of February. Let’s hope nothing happens to them, either as we’ll have no way of knowing. Mrs Mason snr did have a TIA 2 weeks ago and that’s also worrying. I hope you don’t think I’m moaning but we really, really need access to a reliable phone service and I feel so disappointed and let down firstly by Sky just not keeping us informed of what was happening but also the very poor customer service response. It’s a shock to say it but Virgin Media at least listened and responded in a human way.

Happy anniversary!

As you know, in the Mason household we are busy sorting, sifting and throwing things away in preparation for our move on Thursday. I have a large collection of papers in the sitting room and today they have to be gone through. I spend most of the morning in bed with a chemo headache which refuses to abate but likes to cling on, booming away behind my eyelids. I vainly try the Post Office mail redirection helpline but, of course, despite advertising chirpily that they are open, no-one answers the phone. I give up and decide to make sure we have electricity connected and then book a train ticket home for Mr Mason jnr who is going to come and help us move in. After a snooze, I eventually prise myself out of bed and make my way downstairs to face the awaiting paperwork.

One of the first things I find is the pathology report I received on the day I was initially diagnosed with cancer, exactly 3 years ago today. It’s a bit of a gulp moment as I read it through and remember the day I went with my lovely friend, Mrs Halford, and we saw a consultant whose interpersonal skills were so poor he should probably not work with live patients. We are now 3 years down the line and those years have flown by alarmingly quickly. Combined with finding old school reports, cards – particularly birthday cards from Mr Mason jnr which start ‘Dear Mother’ and usually contain instructions such as ‘eat lots of cake and so forth’ – and other memorabilia, it’s a bit of an emotional day. Eventually, I have sorted enough papers out to feel satsified. The rest of the pile will just have to be chucked in a box by the removal men.

Tomorrow most of the packing will be done and then we have a day to clean before everything will be packed into the van. I am almost tempted to pay tribute to the Australian who posted himself back to Australia in a box by allowing myself to be packed into the van but I suspect the idea is more fun than the reality and anyway, we’ve probably thrown away all the small bottles that I could posibly wee into.

I know we’re embarking on a big adventure, one that should enrich our lives and give us the peace and wide open spaces we have always dreamed of but when I left Maggie’s on Friday, I felt bereft. My stomach clenches and I feel really sad and quite sick. We have brought our two beautiful children up in this house, we know the area, we have friends within a few minutes’ walk and I know my way around Charing Cross so well I can direct other people. Seeing our home dismantled is thoroughly unsettling for me. My head knows what will happen but my heart just can’t keep pace. I feel as though anything I put down will be packed up and that I need to carry all the things I need for the next few days around with me like a snail with its shell. Time will sort things out and this time next week, as Mrs Halford puts it, we’ll be in our new crib.

Don’t think for a moment that I am regretting our choice – to move into a house we have been in for a maximum of 15 minutes – but it’s just with chemo, waiting for CT scan results and not being able to find anything, it all feels a bit much. This time next week, things will be very different.

Friday the 13th

Everyone knows how tiring and stressful moving home can be. I just want to add the weight of my voice to that. Oh, it is SO tiring and SO stressful. Even the most simple thing like getting electricty connected to the house for the day we move seems a trial. Our address does not exist. We are quite happy to stay with the company who currently supply us with electricity but they want to connect us to a house called Castle View when we will be Castle House. I don’t imagine the owners of Castle View would be too happy to wake up and find we have changed their electricity supplier. How can we get round this? We need either the number our house occupies in the road or the serial number of the electricity meter. Once again, our vendors are proving tricky to get hold of.

In the week we are due to exchange contracts, they go to ground and don’t respond to texts or emails. As they live in Saudi, telephone contact is not really going to happen. They give information about replacement windows which is, well, not correct shall we say, and this means they will have to provide an indemnity policy should the local authority decide to penalise us over this. They are not only uncontactable but seem to have forgotten to instruct their solicitors to exchange contracts once everything is ready. Cue rush of blood pressure and our buyers in tears. We suggest the buyers might like to come over at the weekend to ‘measure up’ so we can reassure them that we really are planning to move. They are distraught, their solicitors having told them that exchange will happen “tomorrow” for several days. We share complaints and they leave feeling reassured.

On Monday, at the point where we have decided WE will pay for the indemnity policy, our vendors resurface and with just 6 minutes to go before the end of the working day, we have exchanged contracts. A bottle of champagne is put into the fridge by Mr Mason and I delay taking pain medication as long as I can so I can enjoy a sip. I bite the bullet and arrange for Sky to supply us with tv, internet and phone, despite my better judgement. The following day we cancel our service with Virgin Media only to be told we will have to pay a disconnection charge of over £200. We have been with Virgin for many years and this seems wrong, especially as the ‘disconnection’ does not involve anyone physically doing anything like coming to the house. I speak to the Customer Services man who says if he could waive it he would but he can’t. He urges me to complain by writing a letter but I would rather use social media so I tweet and Facebook outlining my complaint. Within minutes I have a response and by the end of the day they have withdrawn the disconnection charge and apologised profusely.

It’s at this point that the fibromyalgia really seems to flare up, leaving me in more and more pain, making it difficult to get comfortable and leaving me very, very tired. It is difficult to stay awake past 8pm and I certainly don’t want to get up before 10am. My day is shrinking dramatically with so much to do. Nearly every plan I have to meet with friends before we go is postponed or cancelled. I really am finding it hard and, with such a short day, I still need a nap in the afternoon. My friend, Ms Marsden, often refers to me as Mrs Dormouse and I really think the dormouse is making a comeback. We are still sorting through the last few areas which haven’t been looked it. It’s hard to know what to do before the removal men come and what to leave for them to do. The moving and all its attendant needs are happening alongside the usual medical and hospital appointments. This week it is oncology, a CT scan (to check whether the current treatment is working – slightly scary) and chemotherapy.

The removal men start packing on Friday morning, the same day as chemo, and will then continue on Wednesday and Thursday next week, delivering half our posessions on Thursday and the final load on Friday. Yes, it’s Friday 13th. Why – do you want to make something of it?