Making a pig’s ear of it

It’s been a while since I blogged and the consequence of that is I receive emails asking why I am not blogging, so much so that it is easier to blog than reply to all the post. And it’s lovely to know people miss me when I’m gone. Actually, I haven’t really been anywhere except on a trip to London for a Hula Hoop meeting. Following the scandal from the last meeting I attended (low calorie Hula Hoops vs the normal kind) we have ditched Jaffa Cakes and gone with my suggestion of Tunnocks Tea Cakes. They are not a hit. Someone thinks they have jam in the middle which, of course, they don’t. It’s Chocolate Mallows that have jam in them. So now I am tasked to find a new cake/biscuit which we will all like, which is individually wrapped and easy to transport. Any suggestions gratefully received.

We have lovely friends to stay and the dogs are over the moon by the attention, sausages and belly rubbing they receive. Our last guests are Ms Marsden and Ms Howard and they are fabulous, helping out in the kitchen, easy to entertain and extremely generous with hugs and butter dishes. The weather is really hot so we spend a morning on the beach, paddling and collecting shells. Also avoiding a man with a huge, agressive dog and his huge, aggressive family. They look like the sort who are looking for trouble and for a while we are identified as IT. It is beautiful on the beach, though, unlike the horrible family who continue giving us ‘evils’ for the rest of our stay. We decide they will all suffer from a dreadful polyester heat rash in their most intimate places together with bad sunburn through the holes in their string vests and that satisfies me. We visit antique shops, have lunch in a pub garden and manage to fit in a visit to the Chocolate Drop, the best chocolate shop in the world. They have single estate chocolate and a huge number of flavours in dark, milk and white. They are also extremely generous in the samples they give. If you visit us, you should put it on your list.

Monday sees me back at Lincoln having chemotherapy. This time I am put in proximity to other patients, a woman having her first treatment who laughs nervously and brushes it off as if it is nothing and a woman who faints when the nurse tries to take blood from her. When the nurse comes back to try again, I distract her (the patient, obviously) by showing her the tapping technique from EFT and she manages to give blood this time without passing out. The following morning, Mr Mason leaves early to go and visit Mr and Mrs Mason Snr. Mrs M Snr has been displaying signs of Dementia and it’s something we can’t leave. Without siblings, Mr Mason has to go and help make some decisions, even though his cousin has been doing sterling work by visiting every week. This leaves me with Dog and Lark who cry when he leaves. I feel horrendous after chemo so my 2 days in bed dissolve in front of me and I get up and pretend I feel normal. Our gardener, Gavin, calls on the second day and arranges to come round to see if there is anything he can do. Obviously I have a manic spate of cleaning and tidying so he doesn’t think I’m a lazy cow and then we spend an hour and a half chatting about all sorts of stuff. He’s a good man.

The dogs play me up. They try to play in the house (strictly forbidden due to size) and Lark goes back to square one with her house training which Dog complains about. Instead of resting in bed and sleeping, I am up and down stairs repeatedly. Lark has developed a passion for cauliflower stalks (raw) which she pesters me for and when they get through her digestive system, the smell is horrendous. Dog needs lots of cuddling. I attempt to bribe them for some quiet time with treats. A Jumbone each in the morning and a couple of pig’s ears in the afternoon. Lark has decided the best thing to do with most treats is bury them. If she’s not in the garden, she buries things in the house. I go to put a load of washing on and find a pig’s ear (partly chewed) in amongst the dirty washing. Later on she whips out a Jumbone from somewhere and Dog looks peturbed as to why he has not been given one. Explaining that he ate his in the morning does not compute. There is another pig’s ear in amongst the clean duvet covers waiting to be put away. Another stuffed into a backpack flap. These are not individual ones; they are being recycled like she’s a spy on the run.

So I will have one more night of naughty dogginess this week when Mr Mason spends a night in London for a meeting and then we’re back to normal. I’m tired, not sleeping well and worrying about each and every temperature I get but all in all, doing well. It seems my temperature increases a few days after chemo and it’s difficult to decide whether it’s a hospital matter or a ‘sleep it off and see how it goes’. My oncologist favours the former and gives me a big lecture about what might happen if I don’t go to hospital and how long I might have to stay. As usual, I manage a few tears. “I didn’t mean to make you cry” he says, kindly. I explain I cry at just about everything and I think I see him make a note.

On the subject of notes – Note to guests – check bedding for pig’s ears.

Lark’s Diary VII

Normally in the country it’s a bit quiet. When the sheep were in the field opposite they shouted at me sometimes so I barked back at them, although I don’t know what they were saying. They didn’t seem to talk Dog. At night we hear owls which I think are a bit scary but I just snuggle up to my Mum a bit closer and then I feel OK. Sometimes a car will go past although more often we have tractors and then every day we get horses. They make a funny noise and smell a bit funny, too, so I just bark from the fence in the back garden in case they try to come and get me. We also get fast planes that whizz by overhead. Sometimes they are so fast you can’t even see them. Now I’ve said it’s very quiet I have made it sound very noisy but it’s nothing compared to a town, especially somewhere like Boston where there is a big market. Whenever I hear my Mum say Boston I always think “Oh, no!” and hope I’ll get left in the car to have a good snooze. They have a bus that drives through the market very slowly making a horrible loud beeping noise and it’s always trying to run me over and then I get tangled up with Archie and Mum and Mark and they all say “Oh, Lark!” My Mum did pick me up once when I was scared and that was nice but now she says I’m a Chunky Monkey. I’m not sure what that means but she doesn’t carry me about so much these days. I do have a monkey which can fly through the air for me to catch but she never says that monkey is chunky. It also makes a funny screeching noise which is not in Dog but I expect it’s saying “Please don’t bite me, Lark” or “You are so fast and clever, Lark” or something like that.

Anyway, the other night it was quiet until all these machines started making a noise. There were lights and lots of tractors kept going past. Archie didn’t like it and he barked so, of course, I had to bark with him as it’s one of my favourite things and if Archie doesn’t like something, then I worry because he’s such a tough dog and knows so many things. Mum said it was the farmers bringing in the harvest and working overnight which I think is a bit rude, ruining my sleep. Mark brought one of my beds into the bedroom so Archie could sleep in that and I snuggled between Mum and Mark. Archie even got on the bed at one point but he stood on my head and I nearly died so he had to go back in his bed. The other bad thing is that when a field is harvested (that’s the proper word), you get all these horrible little black flies called thunder flies and they make you itch like crazy. I thought they would make a noise like thunder which would be a bit alarming but they are just silent and itchy. Very, very itchy. Hrrhhmmnph. That is a Dog noise you make when you are very itchy.

Every so often, Mark goes into the garden and takes a big machine out which cuts the grass. I don’t know why he bothers because it’s nicer when the grass is long and you can hide in it and eat it. It’s also good for hiding things in. It looks like a bit of a boring job so I thought I would make it more fun. He has green slippers and I thought they were perfect for hide and seek so I carefully took one down from the bedroom and popped it into the machine while he was taking a break. When he started it up again, it made a funny noise, and so did Mark. He made quite a lot of noise, actually, and said my name a lot so I expect he was saying what a good game it was and how clever I was to think of it. Mum says she is going to buy him a new pair which I think means we’ll have more to play with. Unfortunately his slipper now has a big hole ripped in the side of it so he won’t be able to wear it again but it was such a good game, I don’t think he minds one little bit.

I like lots of different foods but there is one thing which is yucky and that is cheese with blue stuff in it. Mum was giving me a chewy thing that she wanted me and Archie to eat. I ate one and Archie had to eat 2. I gobbled mine down quickly and Archie ate his first one but didn’t want to eat the second. I thought I would get it but my Mum took it away and wrapped it in blue cheese. She cut me a piece, too, just to be fair, but honestly, it must have been created by pigeons because it tastes so foul and only pigeons are stupid enough to make something to eat which is not nice. Archie ate his in one bite, including the bit he thought was yucky but I expect he couldn’t taste it with that horrible cheese on it. Who would have thought there would be horrible food in the world?

dolcelatte_cheese_16x9This is the yucky cheese and these are the noisy planes.

There’s a hole in my bucket list

My keys have gone missing. We are quite relaxed with keys, Mr Mason being unable to find his on a regular basis, so when he can’t find his, I give him mine and then he forgets he has my keys, despite the fact they have a distinctive key ring from San Marco in Venice. My keys are not used that much, though, and are most often found in my bag as Mr Mason usually does the locking and unlocking. Then comes the day he cannot find his keys and asks for mine. They are not in my bag – not in any bag I’ve used in the last 6 months. They are not in jacket pockets or pockets of jeans. They have just vaporised. Mr Mason ploughs on, looking through coats I’ve not worn since last winter and gamely looking at mutual backpacks we took somewhere a long time ago. They are not to be found. We do have spare keys, we discover, sitting in a little pot the vendors left. When Mr Mason goes out, if I am not in the sitting room, kitchen or garden, I like to be locked in because I can’t necessarily hear anyone coming to the back door and it is rather a long way away. This used to alarm Mr Mason before I lost my keys but now he is doubly worried that some catastrophe will happen and I’ll be locked in with no way out. I point out that I can get out of the front door (bolted shut) or the downstairs toilet which has a door into the garden. He still worries and we have the same conversation each time.

Today it’s the car service in Boston. Put a search in Google for anything in Boston without specifying UK and you get all the results from Boston, Mass. If I have time, it’s quite interesting to compare how many fishmongers there are over there and how they ever get their hands on a nice fillet of smoked eel, I will never know. No fish smokeries at all. Talking to a visiting friend at the weekend, I mentioned that I would like to go to Boston as one of my final trips and for just a split second, I could see he though I meant Boston, Lincs. Philip, our friend, is the dogs’ new best friend. For a gift he bought them a pack of finest Lincolnshire sausages, all to themselves. Dogs really do go crazy for a sausage; it’s not a myth. He also bought us humans some lovely presents, including a mug with a giraffe as the handle to perpetuate the online debate that if a giraffe drank a cup of coffee, would it be cold by the time it got down its neck. What do you think? Yes, we do have too much time on our hands sometimes.

I’ve been thinking a bit about the old bucket list idea. I find it hard to get up each morning and spend the day appreciating every moment. Another of my online friends died this week. She had been to the USA with her family just having a good time when she fell ill and died within 2 weeks. That’s the sort of thing that really scares me. I picture a gradual decline because, I suppose, it would still allow me some modicum of control but of course, it’s not like that for all of us. Clearly going from being well enough to travel to the USA to dying is far too fast for my liking and for those who knew and loved her, I extend my deepest sympathies. Incidences like this pull me up short and I then do try to appreciate each day, if not each moment. It’s still hard though, because it does still rain and computers do silly things (never their operators) and you run out of milk or bread or rice. Yes, there was an amazing cluster of dragonflies in the garden this morning (yep, that’s the official collective noun) and the sun is shining and we’re not impoverished or at each other’s throats but there is enormous pressure to love everything and everyone when you know you are terminally ill. Unless you are like a nurse I spoke to when I had had a poor prognosis who recommended I told everyone I didn’t like a) that I didn’t like them and b) why. She thought it should be used as a time for revenge.

So, back to the bucket list idea. I’d like to go to New England. I’d like to see the Northern Lights. These are 2 big trips and I don’t know how many I’d be able to fit in. And I have to be selective. I’d like to spend some time away with my family. Thailand, Norway, South Africa and France are high on my emotional trips because there are people there I love and would like to see more of but I’d also like to discover more places. I don’t want to jump out of a plane or start a new hobby. I’d like to dress differently in clothes I wouldn’t perhaps usually buy. That’s easily done. I’d like to have something published – not so easily done, I suspect. I’d like to be thought of as kind and helpful and hopefully funny but that’s where I slide away from the whole bucket list idea. I don’t think I’m going to get very far with concrete ideas although there is a part of me that would like to have that list – to be that organised and controlling. Because that’s what it all comes back to – control – and that’s the one thing we can’t have. With the diagnosis of secondary cancer, it’s been brought into much sharper focus although we’re all really in the same position. Maybe there’s just a hole in my bucket list.

Tiger, tiger, burning bright – why didn’t you protect the ducks?

The last few weeks are full and busy. We have visitors who arrive laden with chocolates, flowers, presents for the dogs and, more importantly, themselves to entertain us. No-one minds when I drag myself off to bed early and don’t over indulge in wine. We take a trip to Chester to see our dear friends Mr and Mrs Hurley, she who has been to hell and back with treatment and an incredibly long hospital stay. As we arrive, I am grabbed and hugged and sobbed over, so intense is the emotion. It is truly wonderful to see them both looking so well and before we know it we have been talking for 4 hours and Mrs Hurley is looking decidedly tired. It’s a real frustration – you look forward to seeing people so much and then after a while you can’t even hear what they are saying, the tiredness which overwhelms you is so great. And yet you don’t want them to go. I don’t want to leave, either, but we have a long drive home so we need to go. They are tolerant with Lark who manages to sneak upstairs and carefully remove a small bear which takes her fancy. She takes it into the garden to chew and throw around and they still smile fondly even though I suspect they would like to throttle her at that moment. The sausage she buries carefully under the bush is dug out and given quietly to Dog who doesn’t mind the dirt. The journey home is excrutiating and I am in pain which I can’t shift. It is such a relief to see our gate and tumble into bed.

Saturday sees the sun shine and the Old Bolingbroke Village Fete. It really is like an episode of Midsomer Murders. Held in someone’s garden, we turn up to see how many people we now know and it’s a pleasant surprise. Those who do know us say hello and those who don’t also say hello and introduce themselves. I meet our next door neighbour for the first time, thus puttting to bed the rumour that I don’t really exist or that I am a Mrs Rochester-type character. I meet people’s wives for the first time and feel we’re starting to become known which is very nice. There is a tea tent with home-made cakes, a home-made cake stall which is laden with fabulous creations. Someone tells us there are mostly one or two people who create all these comestibles and there is a rumour that Doug who used to live in our house has bought a cake made by me. But it’s false – I haven’t made anything but next year I just might. There are a couple of very sad tombola stalls which we feel obliged to try, winning a deodorant and some washing up liquid. There is a large game of skittles being run by the vicar who looks exactly like a Midsomer Murder vicar. He is rather portly and wears a battered straw hat. As far as I know, that is the extent of the Midsomer Murder similarity. No-one was killed by drowning in cheese (a new death designed by my friend Miss Ede and myself, following a visit to the Louth Cheese Shop) and I don’t think anyone ran off with the church money.

Our very good friend Mr Giffin comes to visit and brings his dog, Ludo, with him. Ludo is a very agreeable black labrador with an unhinged streak. Arriving late at night, Lark decides she must repel all boarders and barks herself silly, making Dog join in. She shows a very aggressive streak in defending the house and its occupants and it’s only as they are preparing to go 2 days later that she thinks she might quite like to play with Ludo after all. Dog steps up into the Top Dog role beautifully, seeing Lark’s more extreme attacks off by protecting Ludo and putting Lark’s head in his mouth at every opportunity. He is saying for all the world “This is not how we behave with guests”. Dog is much more socialised than Lark which is something we need to remedy.

House training progresses well until a wet spell of weather sends us back in time. Lark decides she cannot possibly go to the toilet outside when it is raining. I put on a coat and hat and take her outside on her lead for at least 10 minutes and she stands miserably around getting wet but doing nothing. No sooner are we back inside than she has weed on the utility room floor. Dog is clearly joining in the training effort and when she poos right in front of him in the conservatory, he barks at her to tell her it’s not on. If only he could communicate a little clearer, she would get it, I’m sure.

The district nurse comes round to check my bottom but, to my joy, it is a different nurse. I have been brooding on this problem all week and have decided to ask her to take the cushion away so there will be no need for anyone to come and examine me. This nurse is reason itself and I explain what happened last time and she rolls her eyes and says sometimes the healthcare assistants get carried away. She looks at the cushion which I tell her isn’t even very comfortable and she agrees and lets some air out. She is more than happy not to come and check me over weekly and instead we settle on a very agreeable telephone call once a month and a call from me in between if necessary. I realise how stressed I have been feeling over this issue and feel very relieved we have come to an agreement. I really don’t want to fill my week up with medical appointments which is surprisingly easy to do. Even appointments like Reiki start to come burdensome when they are tacked on to a chat with the nurse and an appointment with the physio. I would really like some days where we have absolutely nothing in the diary at all so we can just drift about and do whatever we feel like during the time I feel energetic. I have really started to notice if I miss a morphine pill. The aches and pains that come with its omission are excruciating and oral morphine doesn’t have the same effect. Fortunately the symptoms disappear once I have had 24 hours on the right medication but yes, I suppose I am now addicted to morphine. Not something I had ever expected but it has become an essential part of every day living. I also feel like raging against the unfairness of this illness, how it hits people of all kinds, young and old and, more importantly, people I love. So I am sending a huge wave of love to my friend Ms Baranska who is struggling at the moment and could do with some very positive vibes.

Living in the countryside means we see lots of animals. Some are squashed on the road but we also see the live ones, skipping along include huge hares (how lovely they will taste in the Autumn) and deer (ditto). There is an ostrich farm near us and they have a few ostriches knocking about in a field nearby, wobbling their heads and looking confused. We buy our eggs from a farm that raises turkeys, ducks, geese and all kinds of other birds. You go down a driveway and into the yard where they are all milling around happily and eventually someone comes out and sells you the most delicious fresh eggs I have ever tasted. This time, Mr Mason gets out of the car and speaks to the farmer. Then he comes to the window and says “Get out of the car! Quick! Come and see this!” He is not usually an excitable chap so I am curious as to what has got his dander up. I get out of the car and about 6 feet away, I see this.


He is so close I could have touched him but I am not that simple. There is a long, complicated story behind his stint on a poultry farm but that’s for another time. The sad thing was a fox got in and killed 17 ducks so there were no duck eggs for us. Now, with a tiger in the yard, that’s one hell of a gutsy fox.