We spend a lovely weekend with our first non-related house guest, Ms Marsden. She arrives with chocolate, biscuits and a gorgeous handwash and we reward her with pasta and a glass or two of wine. She is the sort of house guest who fits in immediately, offering to make cups of tea and even doing the washing up. She says all the right things about the house and we take her to trawl round the charity shops in Horncastle (at her request), ending up in the old Coop building which has become an antique shop with a parrot, the shop becoming crazier as one progresses through it. Before we go out into the backyard, I say to Mr Mason that we should prepare her. A woman passing by says “Oh, yes, do. I haven’t been here for 3 months and it was a shock”. The backyard is a cacophany of porcelain and china, set out on trestle tables that obviously sit there whatever the weather. It is a sea of plates, cups, chamber pots and assorted pieces of glass, some broken, some looking like they have been there for years, all waiting to be picked up and loved. Ms Marsden copes admirably but is visibly shaken and says a few rude words. All in all, though, Mrs Marsden should be proud of her daughter and the way she has been brought up. Well done. I’ll bet it was a tough job.
This week we have the roofers in. The main roofer, Alex, has no front teeth as I may have mentioned before but his team are all present and correct in the dental department. As is the way with tradesmen, once they get their teeth into a job, there are other things which are found to be wrong and, as we’re hunting for the source of a little damp, it’s important we get it right. Not the cheapest quote, we feel they do know what they are talking about so when the initial estimate rockets to over 4 times its original, we still feel it’s OK. One of the chimneys needs rebuilding completely and so they will get the chance to produce lime mortar. There is a lot of discussion on the type of bricks we need – we’re in a conservation area – and whether we will need Building Control to get involved – not if we’re having less than 25% of the roof replaced – and now we’re needing scaffolding and a skip and more boxes of tea. Luckily in this day of technology, they can actually show us photos and videos of what they are seeing on the roof so we can see there is damage.They tell us stories of how one of them didn’t used to like heights (making roofing a strange career choice, surely) and how they once got stuck on a roof. Their client had to go to work which was fine but about 5 minutes after she left, one of the ladders fell down leaving them stranded. And obviously the mobile phone was in a pocket on the ground. I believe they were up there from 8am until she came home at 6pm. The best story is the one about how they are all frightened by spiders. As they deal mostly with old properties and rip up old roofs, spiders come with the territory. I have no idea how they manage that one but I have a few entertaining images running through my brain. Alex, the boss, still likes to talk the hind leg off a donkey and repeats stories endlessly, sometimes in the same session, but he’s happy.
Dog is thoroughly anxious about having people on the top of his house. He likes the roofers – they are all nice men and friendly to him – but he shows his anxiety by rushing round the garden and throwing himself around. On day one, someone forgets to close the big gate to the drive and Dog makes a break for it. I am working in the study and come downstairs to hear more about the roof when I realise he is missing. He is not upstairs or in either sitting room so we go into the road and call him. From somewhere near the pub he comes rocketing down the road, pumped full of adrenaline and crazier than usual. He wants to be one of the boys, part of the gang but sadly doesn’t have the brain cells to manage this. At night he is totally chilled, no longer plagued by urban foxes so he can just relax.
The psychotic cat has gone wild. She has discovered grass and trees and her animal side which includes weeing in the garden and killing tiny voles and field mice. These she juggles wildly with a slightly mad expression on her face. She lays on her back in the sun and rolls from side to side in ecstasy. When not killing voles or practising her circus skills she sleeps on my bed, taking up as much space as possible with her new-found status. I thought the matronly cat was beyond catching anything as she is around 11 and likes to take things easy these days. Going to let Dog out last night, she is sitting on the path and Dog pays her attention as he goes past, sniffing her excessively. It’s only when she stands up that I see a freshly caught vole at her feet. As Dog goes indoors, I hear a crunch and see her start to eat it, despite my admonishments. It’s her cat nature. She caught it and she’s damned well going to eat it.
Sitting down in the evening, we see something big but almost white swooping around the castle. It alights on a fence post and we see it is an owl. I think it is a tawny owl but when I look it up online, I think it’s actually a barn owl. It is beautiful and clearly searching for voles of its own. And all this seen from the comfort of our armchairs. We are very lucky.
Seeing the GP, I ask him to transfer my oncology care to the local hospital. He says he will set the wheels in motion and when it will happen, he doesn’t know. I will get a letter. 3 weeks goes by awfully quickly and we realise that we will have to go to Charing Cross for my next treatment on 22nd. I get a letter from the local hospital asking me to see someone on 1st May from the clinical oncology team in the ante-natal department. The last bit confuses me but I suppose it will all become clear. So it’s an early start next week and crossing fingers that it won’t take 2 hours for the chemotherapy to come up from pharmacy again. It’s a big deal starting over with a new oncologist. Will I like him or her? Will he/she have enough experience? Will they understand me and my complicated diagnosis? It’s all a bit of a worry but, like moving hundreds of miles away, it’s a step I’m prepared to take because ultimately I think it will make life better. And I think my current oncologist would be prepared to offer advice if asked as she knows my situation so well. I also make contact with the local Macmillan nurses this week. The nurse who rings is very helpful and willing to give up her time. She tells me about various services she knows about and gives me tips on where else I can find out about groups or complementary therapy. Although she doesn’t have to, she wants to come out and meet me to have a chat and get to know me. She asks how I chose my GP as most people would go to one in the nearest town whereas ours is a little further away. I tell her I looked at reviews online and also liked the fact they have nurse practitioners so have a more rounded experience as a practice. She tells me she used to be a practice nurse there and that I have made an excellent choice which really cheers me up. Another important choice is getting a cleaner. The house is not difficult to keep clean but with 3 animals and 2 humans, floors are constantly in need of washing, bathrooms cleaning – you know the drill – so we find a woman who runs an introduction agency. I have quite a long chat on the phone with her and then she comes to meet us. She is entranced by Dog and this sets her off telling us lots of animal stories (a kitten found in the middle of the road, that kind of thing) so it’s quite a while before she gets round to explaining how her service works. She vets cleaners and will find someone who will be suitable. They are insured (but only against major damage) and will not work with bleach or scour your bath in case they damage it. Do we have a feather duster on a long pole? Er, no. She tells us where we can get one and goes on to explain how much she loves cleaning. It’s a strange world. She phones later to tell us a lady called Janet will be calling us. Is that OK? Other than possibly objecting to her name, I can’t think of anything to say other than “yes”.
But this week also sees me making a difficult phone call to my son, Mr Mason jnr. I steel myself before I make the call and then, after a brief preamble I cut to the chase. I say I have something to tell him. “Dad and I have bought Crocs”. He sounds suspicious when he asks “Why?” I explain about the early morning dew, the faff of putting on shoes when going out into the garden each time. “OK”, he says, “as long as you promise never to wear them when you go out”. I promise (and mean it). Phew. I think we got away with it.