Dog’s Neighbourhood Watch

My blog has come to life. Now, like a naughty schoolgirl I get reminders of homework blogs I haven’t handed in. You’re late! they chortle. People will be missing you! Why? Does someone need the tone lowering in their vicinity? I am, as you know, adept at that.

Not much new has been happening around me lately. I miss paddling on Saturday due to extreme fatigue but this is not news. I also miss a team meeting which I suggested which is really not cool. I manage to weed out DVDs we no longer want and send them off to their new homes so that now I can sit and look at the shelves which look so tidy. For anyone who knows our book and DVD collection they will know this is actually quite big news.

During the week I am invited to a spa day at Brown’s hotel. Brown’s is apparently the oldest hotel in London. I counter this by saying that Kettner’s is the oldest restaurant in London and that shuts them up. Who? you cry. Well, it’s a bit of an uncomfortable story, being on the receiving end of something nice when the people giving it are a little, how shall I put it? Self-absorbed? The story goes like this. I am tired. We all know and are sick and, well, tired of hearing me say this but it’s true and I can’t escape it, much as I would like to. Someone at Maggie’s notices this and thinks she will do something about it so she arranges for me and a few other people to go to Brown’s Hotel for a bit of a spa day. It’s sponsored by another charity and Maggie’s will get us a taxi there so all is good. The agenda for the day shows yoga to start with followed by a ‘Head in Heaven’ treatment with a light lunch and makeovers happening all day.

We arrive at Browns and are met by a very nice lady who shows us up to a suite. The suite is fabulous with bowls of tulips and hyacinths everywhere and a bathroom full of Ren products (I restrained myself and only brought a soap home). We are offered drinks by a waiter and all do a lot of smiling. We are offered seats and then the squirming begins. I can see why it all went wrong. There was no plan. No matter how free and easy and informal you want a session like that to go, there has to be a plan. No plan = stuff goes tits belly up. It is suggested that we all introduce ourselves so we do this briefly and then the organisers (I hasten to add these are NOT Maggie’s staff) begin to talk about themselves. One of them has had a double mastectomy in the past and is now fully reconstructed, one of them tells us she likes hugging and feet and will be attending to both during the day. The last spot is reserved for the makeup artist who works with the stars and will give us tips and techniques throughout the day as well as making us up. She begins to tell us how she has not had cancer but has had 2 scares so she knows how we feel. Umm. No. You don’t but good on you for trying. We are then asked what we would like to do. The day is ours! We all sit and look at each other. It is decided that the makeup lady to the stars will do a visualisation. I sit in a comfortable chair and do what I do best which is fall asleep. Periodically I open my eyes a bit to see if people are still doing a visualisation or whether she has stopped droning on. It is hard to tell because some people have their eyes open and others are closed. Eventually, I manage to wake up sufficiently to move in my chair and that seems to be the signal for the visualisation to finish. Hurrah. We are told how this group of women moved to Cornwall, one beginning an organic skin care company and the other starting a charity for women to have somewhere nice to go. The other one is the makeup artist who has been working for 4 days non-stop and keeps telling us how tired she is.

I am going down to the Spa for my Head in Heaven treatment. It is divine. A lovely woman massages lots of oily stuff into my face and then massages my scalp. It really is fabulous and relaxing and I could do with a lot more. When I arrive back at the suite, lunch has arrived. In a moment of inspiration they have ordered the afternoon tea so we have an array of tiny sandwiches and little cakes to contend with. Every time a plate is emptied, another full one is put in its place. There are even scones with a massive bowl of clotted cream and it is all delicious. It’s nice to have lunch and to chat but the women running the day really seem to clump together and talk about themselves quite a lot. I had been looking forward to being made over or having my feet massaged or even, as was on offer at one point, having the makeup lady do a Reiki session for me. Nope. None of it happens. They eat cake and drink tea and that’s it. No makeovers, no food massage, no Reiki and thankfully, no yoga. We all eat cake and drink tea, too, and then at 3pm it’s the end and we all get up to go, uncertain whether another taxi is coming to collect us but they don’t know about that, either.  I am offered the choice between a candle or some face products and I choose the latter.

It’s a strange day. I feel I have had some very nice things happen to me but also that I have somehow missed out something which was half-promised but which failed to materialise. It leaves me curiously unsatisifed. I present Mr Mason with the bar of Ren soap and know he will not appreciate how expensive this stuff is. And he doesn’t.

In the evening we watch a documentary on apes and monkeys. It is fascinating and we are given a display of Dog’s Neighbourhood Watch skills when the howler monkeys start up. We are always able to tell in television drama whether the animal noise is real or not. Dog will only respond to animal noises made by an animal. Humans pretending to be dogs or other creatures just don’t cut the mustard for him. Where would Percy Thrower be if Dog ruled the world? Once the howler monkeys get going, Dog goes to the window to look for them. He pushes the curtain aside and looks up and down the road. No sign of them there. He then goes to the back door to peer out into the garden to see where they are. It perplexes him when he can’t find them. Eventually they quieten down and Dog goes back to bed and back to sleep, one eye ready to open at the slightest animal sound.

Next time, I’ll tell you about the time Mr Mason gave Dog artichokes for supper. Commonly known as ‘fartichokes’ for their flatulent power, Dog’s duvet hovered about 2 feet above him all night and I nearly died of asphyxiation. There. That’s something to look forward to.

Tea with Sandra Bullock

Today I am at the Young Women’s Group at the Maggie Centre. In enabling my membership they have clearly stretched the point regarding age. We spend a comfortable hour talking about some of the aspects of how cancer has impacted on us individually. Although we are all very different people, we recognise themes and threads from each others’ experiences and the talk is not maudlin or depressing. It’s a space we can talk openly about how we feel and our interlinking experiences form us into a definite group. Our membership ebbs and flows as life pulls members back into work or further treatment and as new young women find us. It’s a good space to have. Our conversation is so intense and centred around cancer that I forget to tell everyone about my recent encounter with Sandra Bullock. It’s either that or my memory is worse than I thought.

On Saturday afternoon I have tea with my friend Emma. It’s a birthday treat and she invites me to a lovely hotel overlooking the Thames at Richmond. The weather is wet in an American horror movie kind of way – the sort of weather you see in films when you know there are people holding huge, cascading hosepipes to replicate a downpour. This one is real and, despite offering her a lift, Emma decides to walk from her home to the hotel. We drive and park right next to the hotel entrance. In the 5 steps it takes me to get from the car into the lobby, I am soaked. Emma, already waiting in the lobby is beyond wet and sheltering with a group of open-mouthed tourists who cannot believe this British summer. You wait until Wimbledon, I think.

We squelch our way through to the restaurant where we are given a table with a lovely view over The Thames where even the river traffic has stopped because of the deluge. Our attention is soon drawn by the 2 glasses of champagne which are put in front of us, followed shortly by tea and a stand with elegant sandwiches, scones and an assortment of tiny cakes. We are very democratic and eat one of every time of sandwich each. But we are terrific gluttons and Emma thinks we need another round of sandwiches each which duly appear. Beyond a low partition in the restaurant a loud party of women are having tea in what we think is an unreasonably exciteable way. We scrutinise the back of their heads and think ‘hen party’ but we’re proved wrong when they burst into a very loud rendition of Happy Birthday. The party at the next table join in gamely. Eventually they get themselves together and stagger off, women of a certain age on a good afternoon out. A short while later, the second round of sandwiches and a scone each into our tea, the Maitre D’ asks if we would mind moving to the bar area as the restaurant is being set up for dinner. We are quite happy with this and are duly moved.

By this time, the rain has cleared and the sun has come out. It is now blazing into my eyes, making all conversation impossible so I move to a chair with my back to the window and facing the party who joined in the singing earlier. There are about 6 people and a small boy all enjoying tea and chatting quietly. That’s Sandra Bullock, I say to Emma. ‘No, I don’t think so’, she says. It is, I insist, trying not to look whilst looking hard. We eavesdrop a little on their conversation, hearing that they plan to eat dinner within the next couple of hours after a short walk and where they are going for dinner the following evening. Sandra and her son head off for their walk while the rest of the party go elsewhere. As soon as they are gone, a woman who is having a drink at a table next to us says ‘Wasn’t that Sandra Bullock?’ The waiter reappears and confirms it is, indeed, Sandra Bullock and that she is very nice. Emma comments her skin is very good and we agree she looks good in the flesh. The waiter then proceeds to have a cab driver kind of conversation. ‘We’ve had them all in here’. You know how it goes. He mentions an actress who was in the restaurant recently hiding away because she is pregnant and doesn’t want anyone to know yet. Hmmm. We leave feeling full and happy. The rain has stopped and we walk back into Richmond so I can catch a bus home. We critique people who walk past the bus stop. Famous or wannabe? There are quite a lot of wannabes and several women wearing shoes we wouldn’t be seen dead in. It’s an entertaining end to a good afternoon.