Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Eastenders

Today's posts are quite TV-oriented, for someone who rarely watches TV, and never watches terrestrial!

So after my week in the jungle, I developed an infection and was readmitted to the Royal, but this time, it was post-pathology so I was put in the non-oncology gynaecology ward for Glasgow's east end. My 'catchment' hospital (when I don't have suspected cancer) is the Queen Elizabeth, but given my consultant works out of the oncology unit, I was sent back there.

My first day was spent alone, but Marcel came through from Edinburgh to visit so that was nice.

Later that afternoon two young girls were admitted. One said she was 23, the other 19. They were typical salt-of-the-earth east end girls. 23 had three kids who were 1, 2 and 3. 19 had two kids who were 3 and 1. Both were in with suspected ectopic pregnancies.

23 looked shocked and asked the nurses not to mention to any of her visitors why she was in, 19 hadn't a clue what it meant and said she wasn't that bothered as long as she was still allowed out for a fag break!

After my fifth birthday, the only places I have lived (in Scotland at least) are Newton Mearns and Dowanhill (Glasgow's West end). Broad Scots was something my grandparents spoke, and to a lesser extent my parents, but it was entirely alive and going as strong as ever over there, just 9 miles from my sheltered existence. I definitely live in a strange and alien bubble down here. I've lived abroad, so know you need to tone down your Scottish accent for foreigners, these girls had obviously never experienced anything of the sort and spoke to a succession of foreign consultants without the slightest attempt to make themselves easier to understand. As someone who works with Scots from time to time, this was a fascinating opportunity to watch Scotland in action.

Visiting hour came. There was a strict two to a bed policy... or so it said on signs up everywhere. No one was coming in for me that night so again I was left people-watching. 19 had her boyfriend and three friends around her. 23 had her sister and a child. At that point a noticeably drunk man staggered in, stinking of booze and fags, he stood in front of my bed eyeing up both 23 and 19, who were similar medium-build brunettes. He sidled over to 23 and said 'hello, hen', 19, raging, eyed him back and shouted at the top of her voice 'that's no me, ya daft cunt!' and he then staggered to her instead. There were hissed words in hushed tones for the next ten minutes then the drunk man left again. 'Thon fucker didnae even know his own wean!' she exclaimed. It transpired that he'd not seen his daughter in six years and had heard she was unwell so had dropped by to visit and accidentally sat down at the other girl's bed as he didn't recognize her! She ranted and raved for the next few hours about him being useless, other than the fact that he'd been so embarrassed he'd left her his pack of cigarettes.

We had some fun chats - when 23 told me she'd done all her Xmas shopping already in her local pub, where a guy sells stuff like Xboxes for £20. Hmmmm 樂 And 19 told me she only ever got pregnant when she got high on cannabis, so she was going to stick to booze in the future!

Every morning, both were taken to be scanned as they needed the foetuses to grow to find where they were hiding. On day three, 19's was found and she was operated on and ended up in a fist fight with a nurse when she said she wasn't allowed out for a fag break until she could actually stand up after the anaesthetic. (She apologized later once she'd calmed down!) On day four, 23's was found too, but it wasn't ectopic after all! The pregnancy was completely normal so she was allowed home. As she was leaving, I wished her well. She replied that she was going home to tell her partner she was pregnant. She looked vaguely concerned. I asked if she thought he was going to find it daunting to have a fourth kid in four years and she laughed and said, 'it's no that that's worrying me, it telling him it isnae his, it's his best pal's!' GULP!

It was a very entertaining week, but they were lovely girls, in their own way, just not very similar to the ones I come across in my usual day-to-day. I guessed I learned there's a bigger world out there, than I remembered.

I'm a celebrity (but in the east end, not the jungle)

I've never been in hospital before, not really. I had the five babies, but with the first two I had so little clue what I was doing I spent my hospital stay engrossed in them and didn't notice anyone else in the ward and for the last three I left hospital within 24 hours of the birth so had no time to befriend anyone. When the purpose of your hospital stay is childbirth, by definition you have a companion throughout your stay!

So, at the ripe old age of 50, I went in for my first operation. There were a number of stress factors: I'd never had surgery, I'd never had an anaesthetic, I'd never been in hospital, they had told me they weren't sure what they'd find but whatever was cut out would be sent to pathology for cancer screening, I'd been given high odds it was cancer (60%), my family were in pieces and I wasn't exactly looking forward to leaving them having to step up to doing all my jobs as well as their own and visiting me at the same time.

I was to come in for 7-30 on the day of the op, fasted and ready to go. Although I wasn't scheduled to be on the table till 14-30, they wanted a standby in case the 9-00 didn't show. I was shown into a ward and made to sit on a bed with the curtain drawn. There was someone else in the next bed, but I couldn't see her. A student nurse came to check us in. I was asked loads of questions - was I on any regular meds, had I ever had an anaesthetic, did I take drugs, was I an alcoholic, was I allergic to anything, did I know why I was there that day etc, etc.

Then they moved on to my neighbour. I worked out from the date of birth she gave that we were the same age. This put me at ease already as I had only been to one group meeting before the op, where the procedure and post-op physio was explained. In the group there were about fifteen women and even the youngest was old enough to be my mother. I had come home with the distinct impression that I didn't belong there and fate was taking the piss.

My neighbour was asked all the same questions and gave similar answers to me... similar until they asked if she knew what she was in for, when her reply was 'well, I'm hoping it's a boob job!', the student nurse sounded flustered, started leafing through her notes and trying to find the simplest way to explain it was actually a hysterectomy. She was so busy trying to do her job well, she hadn't noted the cheeky tone in my neighbour's voice. She burst out laughing and explained she was pulling her leg but added that if they could see a way to fixed her boobs while she was under anaesthetic anyway, she'd slip her a cheque!

The nurse left and we sat behind our curtains, quiet for a few minutes. It was 8 in the morning, we were both hungry and thirsty (we weren't even allowed water) and we had at least six hours ahead of us. I went to the loo and keeked round her curtain to say hello. A beautiful, and much younger-looking than me Pakistani woman was sitting on the bed, her long hair in pigtails. We started to chat and the next six hours, that I had been dreading, passed too fast and in fits of laughter and camaraderie. She'd had operations before so could put my mind at ease, she told me she'd negotiated holding on to one of her ovaries (I couldn't as both had tumours on them) as she remembered her mum being so unhinged during menopause, she'd often thrown plates of curry at her dad and she'd had to try to scrape the turmeric stains off the walls! She told me her parents had arranged her marriage at 16 and she'd had three boys by 19. She told me her husband was a lovely friend but she didn't fancy him at all so she used to make up gynae issues and tell him her doc had told her to avoid sex for six months, when in reality he'd said a week! She told me the secret to her youthful looks was some dodgy Botox cream her sister bought on holiday in Turkey and since she'd started using it her wrinkles had all gone! She mentioned the boyfriend she had had since her divorce who asks her to marry him every year at the bells, so she's started avoiding him at New Year to save the embarrassment of saying no again cos she just wasn't into him enough for that! She had me in fits of laughter and I felt I'd known her my whole life. It's weird to think we were both there terrified we might be dying and having what felt like a ladies' spa day. I can honestly say I enjoyed that morning more than most social occasions I've had for years!

After the operation we came round to find ourselves in a ward of five. Interestingly, the ages were much better than at the pre-op - well, from a social point of view, at least. I am 50, so was my new friend. There was a 40, a 56 and a 76 too. It was the dreaded oncology post-op ward. We all knew that but a snooty older woman in the end bed hadn't quite sussed it. We were all post-operative and fairly helpless for the first twelve hours. A nurse came round carrying cloths and a basin and asked who'd like to be freshened up first. Mrs Snooty on the end actually came out with 'Well, I deserve to be washed first as I am having to deal with the fact I have cancer, unlike you young things!' The youngest of us all calmly replied 'This is the oncology ward, we are all waiting on pathology reports, so you're no different to the rest of us!' That was met by a tut and a 'Well, it's harder at my time of life, my husband is in a terrible state and so is my daughter and her kids' to which the youngest again replied, ever so calmly 'I realize, it's not what anyone wants at any age, but your child is fifty, mine is ten'. Silence fell and as my pre-op friend and I bonded with 40, and 56, 76 sat chewing a wasp in the end bed!

It really was a strange experience. I was thrown in with a group of people I would never normally have met - a teacher from Ayrshire, an NHS administrator, my pre-op friend who ran her own letting agency, and the grumpy granny on the end. We shared a highly intimate experience, both of post-op pain and of whiling away the waiting time till the pathology reports came in. We sat in hospital gowns and no make-up, showing our true selves in a way you never do with strangers and bonded in the best and worst of circumstances. We laughed our selves silly every night trying to identify what the food was, we cried together in fear for our futures. It was a truly incredible experience and one I'll never forget, obviously.

When I came home, the kids were watching I'm a celebrity - a group of people who knew nothing of each other thrown into the jungle, make-up free and eating the oddest of meals and I thought to myself - I've actually just been through exactly the same experience - well, I didn't need to eat worms or spiders but the rest was fairly similar.

Since I've come home, I've heard from the others that I was the only one whose pathology came back negative so their stories will all continue, but we've kept in touch so I'll be there if they need a chat.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

A real live Chuggy

I have found my Xmas present, if anyone is still looking...




This has been restored with so much love! I could definitely look after it well! 😏

Or even this one if you're feeling really adventurous...

Glasgow, Xmas 2018



Here's a pretty wee video of Glasgow this Xmas - probably worth archiving in case we have power shortages and feral children roaming the streets here by this time next year, given the current government...

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Just a thought

For all the last nearly three months have been difficult, I have had access to care when I needed it and it has saved my life. Everything they cut out of me, they cut out of me on time, when it was still at the pre-cancerous stage. There are women, wives, mums, fifty year olds all around this world suffering from exactly the same issues as me, but they find themselves in Syria, in Gaza, or in the Yemen. They are displaced Rohingya people, or refugees fleeing other crises, of which there are too many to mention. Those women are the same as me, but their fate won't be, and that is not right. We need to be acutely aware that it is simply a fluke of birth that sees my situation end differently to theirs and we need to think of a way to start righting that wrong.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Day 75 takes the biscuit

Biscuits

It's been another interesting few days on my 'death bed' - I thought the latest update might give you all a laugh...

As I said last week, I spent most of the week waiting on a scan that never happened, and having no treatment in hospital other than the odd paracetamol so I got sent home to free up a bed. 

This morning the phone went and it was my GP. I have never actually met my GP, despite being with the practice more than four years. It's a big medical centre with nearly a dozen (lovely and helpful) doctors, but today my own GP decided to chase up my case... He seems very nice!

It was an interesting conversation. He said he'd seen on my notes that after my visit to the GP in a lot of pain last Thursday, they had sent me to hospital for a scan but couldn't see the scan results so was ringing to ask me what they found! I filled him in on that one and got a sigh or two. He then asked if they'd discharged me with a course of strong antibiotics. I said they had discharged me without so much as a paracetamol. I asked if the antibiotics he was suggesting were to treat the intra-abdominal abscess that I think I have and the GPs at my practice think I have but the QEUH registrar thinks I might not have. He replied that they might of course help with that but he meant them to deal with my wound infection. I wasn't aware I had a wound infection, especially given no one looked at it in the hospital other than to acknowledge I had a hole in my front and suggest I take a shower to keep it clean! Oh, he replied, shocked again - it's just that when you were here on Thursday, we swabbed it and you have three different infections going on in there, the most concerning of which is E. Coli.

Well, whoopdefuckingdoo. ♪♩♫♬♫All I want for Christmas is E.Coli...♪♩♫♬♫ Has a certain ring to it, doesn't it? 

The doc hopes he hasn't wrecked my Xmas but he'll have to prescribe some antibiotics you can't drink alcohol with! Seriously, I'd happily forego my weekend glass of wine forever if they could just get me back on my feet!

Saturday, December 08, 2018

The saga continues

So... They couldn't fit in a scan as an emergency outpatient on Tuesday, so they sent me home, they couldn't fit in a scan as an outpatient on Thursday so they admitted me to do it on Friday, they couldn't fit it in on Friday so they called over to the main building today to be told they can't do them at the weekend so I'm being discharged to come back for a scan next week as an outpatient. This is getting tedious 🙄

Friday, December 07, 2018

56 days, plus 13, plus 2



It looks like I might have spoken too soon on Tuesday. My attempt at an NHS-free week didn't even reach the 48 hour milestone.

The day had started stressfully as I had pre-booked a taxi to take the kids to school as Thomas wasn't home. The taxi had not turned up and when I rang to complain they'd blamed the O2 network outage. The upshot was that I paid over a tenner to have my kids delivered to school late. I was not amused.

By lunchtime eating had become a trial as sitting at a 90 degree angle was becoming increasingly difficult. Something was burning deep inside me on the left of my wound and something was making the surface of my skin so sensitive, I could barely brush the back of my hand against my abdomen. I googled again, desperate not to end up 'back inside'. I couldn't work out what it could be. An infection seemed unlikely given I was on my 12th straight day on antibiotics. Had they left the scalpel in there by mistake? 

I had been booked in with the nurse once again to change my dressing on the Thursday at 3. 

I found sitting in the car almost impossible so had to recline the seat on my trip to the medical centre. I couldn't sit in the waiting room because I basically couldn't sit. The nurse took one look at me and called the doctor in. She'd seen me on Tuesday and saw a difference. After a poke and a prod, he decided I needed admitted for a suspected abscess deep inside on my left hand side. The weans were dumped on Charlotte though asked to be in charge of making some sort of meal as she had a university economics exam the next day so was studying in her room. I texted Thomas who had braved going to his office in Edinburgh rather than working from home for the first time in weeks to say mum was driving me to hospital though this time the GP opted for QEUH, and I wasn't going to argue.

On arrival, I became aware myself of how taxing even walking was becoming. They brought the Registrar in who examined me and helpfully suggested that maybe during the original operation, they'd cut the supply to or from my left kidney and that was potentially the problem. My blood and urine tests were all fine and infection free but that could be explained by the fact that as a reasonably young (!) and healthy (till 11 weeks ago) person, my other kidney would simply have taken over all function.

To ascertain if this is the issue there are two problems. Firstly, I need transferred to the actual main 'Death Star' building for a renal CT scan (I'm currently in the maternity and gynaecology block) but no appointments have become free over there today. And secondly, my veins have all thrown in the towel after nearly a month of abuse and they can't CT scan me until they can get the dye into me through a cannula. All attempts at putting one in yesterday failed ☹️

So I'm stuck here thumb-twiddling once again, missing my normality and my family life. I have well and truly had enough now. And that's before anyone tells me how to fix my kidney, if it turns out to be that, or what hypothesis B is, if it isn't that. 

I feel autumn was only just beginning when my life spun off into some parallel and unpleasant universe. I missed all of autumn, the beginning of winter and the whole Christmas season. Santa still hasn't done any real shopping, I haven't heard a single Christmas record or seen any Christmas lights or markets and I'm missing the whole build-up with the kids. I've missed the school Christmas gala, the open classroom day, the p7 Christmas assembly. The Santa Dash on Sunday is out both as a participant and as a photographer 😭 And our annual trip to IKEA'S party has been cancelled too. Next week the girls are carol singing in Silverburn - is there any hope? 

I'm going to get to January bypassing Christmas altogether at this rate and that's not nice when you have a young family.

I'm sooooo feed up.



Wednesday, December 05, 2018

56 days, plus 13

So, let's update the saga.

I had psyched myself up to being fighting fit and running round the shops doing Xmas shopping by post-op day 20.

Ok, so I hadn't factored in that once they opened me up, they'd perform a sigmoid colectomy, on top of the full hysterectomy and the fix of the umbilical hernia. The fact that each of these three operations has a predicted minimum six week recovery time estimate didn't faze me. Surely it's like sticking three pies in the oven to cook at the same time instead of one - you just do your six weeks simultaneously, reducing the timings by half as I'm younger than the average person undergoing these procedures and I'm never ill. If I can go shopping within 24 hours of giving birth, how hard can it be?

Well, that doesn't seem to be exactly the path I'm travelling, strangely. Having got home on day four after the original op, everything went ok for the first two days. I checked the instructions on how to get well sooner and even went on the prescribed five minute walk twice a day. The others from my ward, who I'd kept in touch with, weren't even out their pyjamas yet so I was feeling well-smug.

The slight redness above my belly button only really started to worry me on day seven when I noticed my skin was becoming hard. By day eight it had crept across my stomach and by day nine I could no longer sit at the dining table. My entire stomach was red, hard and nipping like mad. I called NHS 24 who decided it sounded bad enough to send an out-of-hours GP to my house. I haven't had a GP come to me since I was four years old. Christ, I thought, I must be at death's door! I was told to ring back on day ten if it hadn't improved. It hadn't worsened, but it hadn't improved. A second GP came out to me in the middle of the night. (I'm definitely dead!) She looked at the wound, the red, my blood pressure and temperature and phoned me an ambulance. I was going to need IV antibiotics as I'd developed cellulitis...

At 4am I left for the Royal again. She almost sent me to the QEUH, my fingers were very much crossed as they have free parking and decentish food, but at the last moment she decided she wanted me back under my original consultant so off I went again to the Royal. By 10am I was on the ward with tubes in all my veins again.

In my seven days absence, ward 56 had put up two Christmas trees. The only positive moment for me that day was when they explained that I would be moved to the other half of the ward from last time. I'd been in 56B as it was the oncology gynaecology ward the previous week, but my pathology results meant I was now bumped down to 56A which is standard gynae for Glasgow's East end. And what a different experience that was, but that can be a post in its own right!

I was poked and prodded for another whole week till my veins actually started to nip with the amount of IV going in and blood coming out. The redness slowly subsided but the pus from the infection needed an outlet, so my beautiful and neat scar split to let pus, by the coffee-cup full ooze from my front. It looked not unlike that scene from Alien crossed with Vesuvius on 24/8/0079! They warned me that the three tiny holes that had opened along my scar might pop and merge to become one large grape-sized trough and what do you know, they were right! Apparently it'll heal over but it is un-sew-up-able! So having had my umbilical hernia fixed after 18 years to make my belly button look normal, I now appear to have two belly buttons! Joy! I'll spare you the photo (for now at least|).

I was finally told my infection levels were passable on Friday at 1pm so they were willing to discharge me with oral antibiotics and a nurse to care for Vesuvius. Thomas was working so mum drove in to get me. I hadn't factored in that the Royal pharmacy would actually take till 6-50pm to send up the antibiotics to let me out! FFS! They even tried to tell mum she couldn't wait as it wasn't visiting hour! I pointed out she wasn't a visitor but a taxi driver who'd been waiting five hours so we were given an uncomfortable little cupboard to wait in!

Home at last but I am actually feeling more run-over-by-a-truck than first time round. I've had to go to the GP every other day for my dressing and yesterday the pain had become so bad I was taken back into the QEUH for tests to see if I was developing a new infection, but apparently I am not, I just have a lot of bruising on the inside post-infection and post-op.

I'm still so foggy-headed I can't even do my Xmas shopping online. I was really sure I'd be fully recovered by now, other than my ability to lift things, so I'm not in the best of moods.

Hopefully I will manage a whole week without visiting the A&E department. I've manged 24 hours so far, fingers crossed.

Saturday, December 01, 2018

The Barras


Léon is very European. There's nothing he loves better than sitting at an open-air café, then wandering aimlessly round a typical southern European market. Recently he was lamenting the fact that northern Europe is much less market-y. It suddenly struck me I hadn't been to the Barras since the older two were wee so I told Léon Glasgow had a market too and although it was maybe a little different to what he was used to, I'd take him along for a look...


Off to the Barras we went one Sunday just after lunch (note to self, go much earlier next time, as most things we starting to pack up when we arrived). However, Léon's reaction was wonderful! First we passed a guy selling bootleg cds from a camping table. Everything was on display of a sheet, the corners of tightly held, ready to leg it if the police came round the corner. Léon naively asked why the covers were just poor photocopies! Lol. Then it started to rain so we moved to the undercover bit. Every stall was more peculiar than the next; a mix of items, I'd tend to bin or give to charity: books, cds, ornaments that came out of the ark, odd mismatching wine glasses and assorted plates, used bras and slippers! We moved on to furniture, obviously from house clearouts, ranging from ornate, to chuck-outable tack. The traditional Scottish sweetie stall with jars of soor plooms and cinnamon balls drew in the girls, of course. Léon's mouth fell open when we rounded a corner to a stall selling only used miscellaneous cables; there were scarts, kettle cables and all sorts of transformers that seemed of little use to anyone piled a metre high like the biggest plate of black spaghetti you ever saw! To one side was a box containing, I'd reckon, over 500 old remotes for TVs, DVD players and satellite systems. Again, I can't imagine these were flying off the shelves! Lastly, a stall selling leather belts at £2 less than he'd recently paid on Amazon was the clincher. 'Oh mum, it is just like walking through eBay!' he smiled, 'When I'm older I'm going to get a stall here and make enough to buy my first Porsche!' Nothing if not an optimist, my boy! We came home with a quality German Bierstein and an ornate Aztec/Spanish chess set.

I must take him up again to experience the magic nearer to Xmas, health permitting.


Get-well flowers



I came home from hospital yesterday after my second week-long stay.

Waiting for me were these two beautiful bunches of flowers. Big thanks to Linda and Robin for one and to the mystery sender for the other as there was no card included! Much appreciated whoever you are! 🌝

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Save our lollipop lady, now!

On Friday, the parents at Kirkhill primary, East Renfrewshire received this cryptic message:

'Please note, due to personnel changes in the authority, there will be a new School Crossing Patroller at Kirkvale Drive/Kirkvale Court in the New Year.


This seems to be admin speak for 'we're moving your lollipop lady elsewhere'.

Well, we, the parents at Kirkhill, are not happy about this and we won't be going down without a fight.

I have been a parent at that school (continuously) since 2002, which possibly makes me the most 'senior' parent at the school. I've been through quite a number of crossing patrollers over the years, all pleasant enough; they give you a nod as they cross your child over but Stephanie, our Stephanie, is not like that. She is made from another mould entirely. Stephanie has been at our back gate for a number of years and is right there at the heart of our school community. She has amazingly learnt the name, not only of every child using the back entrance, but their nursery and high school siblings too. She has learnt the parents' names and jobs too. She asks after everyone as you cross the road, she wishes you a lovely day doing whatever you are off to do in the office. Every morning we are greeted with a huge smile, no matter the weather, she remarks to the kids about changes of hair style, new shoes and all the rest. She notices everything and makes every one of us and our kids feel like we are the most important people in the universe.

On snowy days, she turns up early and grits the paths, she helps drivers as their car wheels spin in the snow. She comes along to all the school shows and cheers on each kid as if they were her own - probably because to her, they are. As a parent, you know that if you're running late, your child will be taken under her wing and cared for. That level of trust matters a lot. 

She deals with the dangerous and abusive drivers in a calm and authoritative manner too, which can't be easy.

Moving Stephanie to another school simply to meet some administrative criterion is the most infuriating thing I have heard for a long time. Someone who had invested so much of her own time and energy into being part of our community deserves her place. To us parents, she is the first school face of the morning and last in the evening. Stephanie is Kirkhill Primary and we call for the authority to reconsider their decision. It would take years for anyone to be able to come close to filling her shoes...

So let's all get writing to ER, our councillors and similar. We can do this! 

Thursday, November 22, 2018

56 days

The nightmare started on September 26. September 26 is the anniversary of the day I moved in with Thomas many, many moons ago, so we'd been looking forward to celebrating our semi-anniversary until the world came crashing down unexpectedly...

For many years, I'd say most of my 40s, I've had health issues - digestion issues, prolapse issues, general gynaecological aches and pains that eventually got put down to IBS with a wee bit prolapse. By the middle of last summer I was signed up for prolapse surgery until, when I went in for the pre-op assessment, the consultant took one look at my age and tried her best to warn me against it. A last-ditched attempt to fix me was made - this time through pelvic physio. That began this February and went on till September. Still I had terrible bloating, constipation, a bladder that needed emptying too often but would never fully empty, back pain, an inability to wear any clothing round my waist (for all those who thought I thought I actually looked good in those leggings - it was that or my nightie!) and the fatigue linked to always being in pain. So yet again they started going on about irritable bowel syndrome and how I needed just to get on with it. I asked if they could check where things were sitting because I felt crap, to put it nicely.

On September 25 I got a phone call in the car out of the blue asking if I'd like an ultrasound at the Victoria Infirmary the following day. Hallelujah! I thought. I picked up the kids and threw them off at home then zoomed in, not sure I would make it by my 3-45 deadline. If not I was just going to have to miss it. (Imagine I had...) A doctor came out and took me in to a dark room, asked me to empty my bladder then started looking around inside with a wand. I should have noticed it sooner but wasn't really concentrating. I've only had that kind of scan before when pregnant. She was silent, her nurse was also completely silent. The machines were facing away from me so I couldn't see what they were seeing. She was printing photos and I could hear her measuring something, the way they do to date a foetus. It went on way too long and way too quietly. There was no general chitchat about what I did or my kids etc. When she finally put on the lights, I caught the look in her eyes. I turned to her nurse who also looked at me in a strange pitying way but said nothing. And then it struck me. The look in the radiographer's eyes was the same look as I had seen back in 2004 when I had gone for a scan, 8 weeks pregnant, unsuspecting and they had had to tell me there was no heartbeat and I was about to miscarry.

The doctor asked me into her room and told me she had found some concerning 'masses' growing on my ovaries and that she wanted me to go for an urgent CT scan. I asked how worried I should be and she said she couldn't answer my question, and therefore in doing so did basically answer it indirectly with the word 'extremely'. She said she wanted a scan of my entire torso to see if there were any other 'masses' in there. If she had actually said the words 'I think you have advanced ovarian cancer and I want to check if it has spread to your kidneys, liver and lungs' she wouldn't have been any more clear. They did blood tests at that point and told me my CA125 markers were extremely elevated. I was told I'd have a scan within the fortnight. 

I drove home in shock and parked in front of my house (I've no idea how) and phoned Thomas inside to come out. I relayed what had happened.

The next fortnight, which included poor Léon's birthday was spent in a daze of phoning and getting no info and googling and concluding I wouldn't see Christmas. I had every ache and pain listed as I always do because of all my health issues. I had to turn down two jobs as I couldn't sleep so couldn't concentrate. I could barely speak to the people I met on the school run or in the supermarket. I would  hyperventilate in Aldi and find myself unable to buy dinner. We spent most evenings in tears, trying not to freak Anna and Amaia out too much. Charlotte sussed it immediately and also went into a meltdown, not great two weeks into uni. Léon sussed it too, but as an optimist who remembered less of his grandfather's cancer years, assumed I'd be fixable.

After two weeks (which felt like 20) my scan came through. I went in and afterwards, asked what would happen next. They actually replied - 'we've no idea, we only scan, we don't deal with results'. Another two days meltdown ensued. I tried ringing the original consultant at the Vicky but got nowhere. Eventually on the first morning of the October week, I cracked. I phoned my GP in tears and asked if there was anything she could do. Five hours later the Vicky consultant phoned to say she thought, looking at my scan, that it hadn't spread though couldn't be sure but she'd arrange for a full hysterectomy within two weeks. She stressed over and over the need for haste.

The next day I flew to Italy. I needed to be away from all this as they weren't going to see me that week anyway (I'd double-checked). I sat in the sun and contemplated the fact that I was now 'only' looking at a contained cancer. Still I knew how many years I'd been unwell so it was hard to fully believe until they opened me up but at least for the first time in three weeks I could actually breathe, sleep and eat. Before I had started having crazy thoughts - my granny - Phyllis Buchanan - had died of cancer at 50 so I was going to die because I was called Phyllis Buchanan and I was 50. Every comment from the kids, even as small as 'will you do my hair for prom mummy?' was enough to send me into waves of panic and hysteria. I wondered if this would be my last flight, my last visit to my in-laws. My mother-in-law kindly offered to take me to her hairdresser one afternoon to cheer me up and I couldn't get past the thought that I'd be losing my hair six weeks later, so it was lovely but pointless. That's how unstable I'd become and Thomas was exhausted both from being both parents and my personal psychologist, while scared witless himself!

When we got back, we saw the original consultant who said I'd be done and dusted within a fortnight. If it hadn't spread yet, they didn't want to risk it spreading by holding off. Two weeks passed however and I heard nothing. I rang her again and was told my case was now with the oncology team at the Royal Infirmary. I rang them and after much passing from pillar to post, I was told they hadn't even put me on their system yet and they hoped they could fit me in by the end of November or early December! It would be a minimum of five weeks despite my being told I needed it to be two, max. The only thing worse than being told you have a cancer which has spread, is being told you have one that hasn't and then being left so long it does. Mental torture doesn't come close...

We started to melt again. Suddenly though, a consultant from a third hospital phoned and asked to see me ten days ago. He examined me and asked if I couldn't feel the tumours given they were already grapefruit-sized (>10cm each). This was the first time anyone had mentioned size and I was shocked. He told me I was carrying the equivalent of a twin pregnancy of 16-18 weeks. That would explain why my clothes felt a tad tight and none of my recent dieting had worked. He explained that often when they go in they find things not on the CT scan like it having spread to the lymph nodes and generally terrified me again... I was given some scary odds: 60% of people with my scan turn out to have cancer, only 15% of ovarian tumours are found at the pre-cancer stage and these are almost exclusively in women aged 20-40...

Eight days later he pulled me in. I was unconscious for six hours and he removed my uterus, tubes, ovaries, the tumours, and my cervix. When I was still barely conscious the surgeon also explained he'd found some worrying cells on my bowel so had brought in a third surgeon while I was unconscious to perform a bowel resection and send that off to pathology too. My dad died of bowel cancer in 2012. This frightened me witless. Nothing had spread to the lymphs however, which was something.

Pathology took six days and they rang yesterday:
Bowel: severe diverticular disease - painful but it won't kill me.
Uterus: ok
Tubes: ok
Cervix: ok
Ovaries: Pre-cancerous tumours that had not yet turned dangerous despite their size.

Bloody hell! I have aged ten years in the last 56 days but it looks like I might get to see my son graduate next summer, see my daughter through her time at uni, listen to my son's orchestra some more, see my little girl leave primary next summer and my littlest girl might even have me around long enough to remember me. In the last 56 days I have learnt that nothing matters in life beyond health, not really, because without it, you have nothing. If you have any aches and pains jump up and down till someone looks inside you. A little later for me would have left Thomas a widower with five kids in his 40s, would quite frankly have killed my mother and would have changed all the kids forever.

So apologies to friends who I've seemed a bit standoffish with recently, especially on a certain bus trip to Edinburgh in October when I couldn't really speak, let alone chat - my mind was elsewhere. Putting one foot in front of the other and not falling over took all my concentration. Thanks to those who have helped with my kids at Halloween etc, no questions asked. Thanks to teachers who've hugged away the girls' worries over the last few weeks when they confided their cancer fears in them.

And now I only have to deal with getting back to full strength with no sick pay, with Thomas trying to do all my school runs on top of his own full-time job, while contending, of course with having taken 6 hours to go through menopause rather than the usual 5+ years - that's going to be fun!

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Going awol

I'm going to be disappearing from all my usual haunts (the school run, Aldi, Blogger and Facebook) later in the week and I am not yet sure when I'll be back. After being hit by a few health issues over the last six weeks (yes, that's why we've been acting a bit odd), I'm going in for a big op on Thursday, so I'll let you know how that went once I'm out of the woods. Thomas is going to be demented playing both mum and dad, doing all the school runs while running both halves of our business, and worrying about me at the same time, so please bear with us if things slip a little. See you on the other side. Phyl x

Friday, November 09, 2018

More Titanic homework


So, Amaia's researching the Titanic and spent this evening making tickets for all the different classes. When she looked up the third-class tickets she was more than impressed that you could get to the USA for just a fiver, especially given she has more than a fiver in her piggy bank.

Then she came out with the sweet but daft statement: If only I had a time machine, I'd go back to 1912 with my fiver and buy a ticket for the Titanic. It's such good value!

I can see a wee flaw with that plan!

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Titanic homework

Me: What are you doing, Amaia?Amaia: I'm making a model of the Titanic out of a kitchen sponge!Well that's innovative!... silly me! Should I point out those sponges float or would that just be cruel? 😜

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Sunflower extravaganza...

        

Over the years, I have grown my fair share of sunflowers in the garden. I usually plant around 30 and end up with about a dozen (thanks to the weather and the slugs). Granted, they don't turn up till about October given the climate, but we get there.


This year we had the hottest and most prolonged summer since we've been in this house. I knew this year I could end up with something rivalling my trips to the South of France or Italy (almost...)


So, I coaxed fifty little seeds till they were about 15cm tall in my greenhouse, and then I planted them all round the garden in June as always. I sat back, camera ready and waited, and waited... 

And believe it or not, this is what Scotland's best summer of the new millennium yielded from those fifty little plants. Seriously? Is that the best you can do?! I give up!


Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The youth of today

Charlotte was talking about uni this morning on the school run. Maybe I should start calling it the educational establishment run now she's left school but the others haven't... (I have to drop her at Mearns road to catch the No.4 bus to Glasgow uni as First have stopped its coming to Harvie avenue - it's not like anyone needs a bus from half of Newton Mearns that goes to Glasgow uni, is it?! Grrrr)




So, she was saying something about having a lecture in the McIntyre building and I commented that the John Smith bookshop was in there when I was a student so we had never used it for classes.

I then remembered it was where you went for NUS meetings and all our protest marches had set out from there. I then fondly told her of our great protests - the RIP free education marches of '86 and '89 when student grants were scrapped in favour of loans and where we'd carried a coffin from the McIntyre down to town picking up the Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow Tech and Strathclyde uni students en route before holding a rally in George square and marching out to Queens Park.

I told her about the Mandela protests and our small part in the fight to overthrow the Apartheid regime in South Africa during my student days and our campaign to make Winnie Mandela rector and give Mandela the freedom of the city of Glasgow, then I explained Apartheid to the three wee ones as I drove. Charlotte was listening quite intently, then came out with a comment that blew me away...

'But that was before social media! You did all that and the only people who saw you were doing it were the ones you actually marched past? How did you motivate people to protest if you couldn't get your message out to the wider public?' I explained that it would have made it into the papers or on to the BBC back then and everyone would have known. She found it hard to imagine mainstream media actually reporting anti-establishment news. Her generation assumes that if you protest you need to livestream it on Twitter or Facebook as it won't show up in the newspapers or the TV news. Interesting, if a tad Orwellian.

Monday, September 17, 2018

My sweet, innocent little friend


Charlotte's sitting watching Friends on Netflix. She's back at the beginning when Ross and Rachel first get together. Amaia, who's never seen it before is sitting with her. The happy couple are canoodling in the hallway. Ross comes out with something like: I really want to make it up to you for last night. Maybe we could go to a fancy restaurant? Rachel smiles at him sexily and replies: Oh yes, and maybe afterwards we can go back to my place for some... dessert! Ross's eyeballs fall out his head and immediately Amaia pipes up indignantly: Well, that's the stupidest thing I ever heard! It's obvious that dessert is going to be much nicer in the fancy restaurant rather than them going home and making like Angel Delight or something at Rachel's flat!

Léon is currently trying desperately not to point and laugh. Sweet! He then suggested I note it down here so he can show her it in a couple of years once she's more worldly-wise!

Monday, September 10, 2018

Happy families

It's a bit of stressful time at the moment.

First there's Marcel - my number one and usually very capable child. At 21, he's been living in Edinburgh for over three years. This summer, however, he managed to get himself not one but two jobs and his eight hours a day, seven days a week have resulted in him having run out of time on the flat-hunting front. Instead of lining up his next flat which he needed to get from Sept 1, he left that to his slightly more laid-back flatmate, who has enough money for hotels and who also has a girlfriend round the corner. Marcel has now moved back home and is booking flat viewings by the dozen from across the country at ten a week while shouting expletives, punching the air and muttering under his breath about never leaving a job to someone else if you can do it yourself. Of course, he's also having to commute to Edinburgh three days a week for his Apple job and uni starts next Monday! He's contemplating sleeping in the library from then!

Then there's number two. She's no longer stressing me but I couldn't say the same last weekend: I got a text from Spain saying the single mum she had been au pairing for had decided to give her ex husband the kids three days early and had disappeared off to visit her new boyfriend three hundred miles away, leaving Charlotte homeless, but I wasn't to worry because she'd moved in with the mum's (single, forty year old, lives alone) brother and they were having a lovely time getting to know each other over wine!!!! Do you trust him? I asked in the calmest of voices, trying not to shriek or squeak! Turned out he was a lovely guy who paid for her food, lent her his travel cards and drew her maps to the beach and tourist sites of Valencia, worked on a work presentation all weekend, and waved her off on the tube to the airport on Monday morning but that doesn't mean I slept a wink till she got off the plane on Monday afternoon!

Number three is usually happy to have his brother home, probably because he only comes during holidays and they sit and watch movies or play play station together, but this time he's gammoning away: Marcel is taking over my room with his bags, and I can't sit on my spare bed to get dressed in the morning because Marcel is asleep in it, and I have to get dressed in the dark because he isn't up yet and when are you going to convert the spare bathroom into a guestroom like you've always said  you would mum, so I can get my room back NOW!!!

Number four isn't overly annoyed though First's decision to terminate the number 4 (ie Glasgow uni) bus at ASDA now means that school run has been moved to ten minutes earlier to let Charlotte jump out at Mearns Castle where she can catch the bus to uni and this is worth a rant or two in the morning.

Number five is still in full packed lunch meltdown. Apparently packed lunches are worse than smallpox and syphilis rolled into one and if I just whine another week, maybe they'll give in and start buying me school lunches again! (Maybe I should take up lotto to see if I can win a year's subscription to canteen lunches at Kirkhill primary)

Reminds me a bit of my first (German) mother-in-law - she also had five kids and used to say to me: Kleine Kinder, kleine Sorgen, große Kinder... I was meant to fill in the blanks myself, I think I get it now!

Number six, aka my dearly beloved, has manged to do all sort of damage to himself over the weekend. He slipped on the wet kitchen floor at 1am on Saturday morning and it was after two before the adrenaline shakes had worn off enough for me to get him into bed. Saturday morning I was up again before nine and got Charlotte to take 3, 4, and 5 to their Williamwood music lessons while I got six x-rayed: nothing broken - just a twisted knee and a strained Achilles tendon. Now, he would probably deserve sympathy if he'd been running a marathon but given he slipped on an ice cube he was putting in his white wine because he hadn't chilled the bottle enough, I'm not so sure!😂

Even the hamster has been so awol this weekend, I was beginning to wonder if she'd kicked the bucket until I heard her drinking this morning.

I'm fine... well as fine as someone can be this close to the Tory party conference announcing whether or not my husband is an illegal alien who needs to be booted back to where he came from.

I'm seriously considering remortgaging the house before the pound collapses anyway and pissing off to somewhere Mediterranean for the October week where I can recharge my batteries in the sun far from all the madness, only question is whether to go alone or take this bunch with me!



Thursday, September 06, 2018

A dramatic loathing of sandwiches

We spotted the issue when Amaia was about two... no matter how much coaxing and cajoling, the girl who happily downs the spiciest Mexican or Indian food, any amount of pasta or other more boring offerings, just reacts to sandwiches in the way most family pets do to the sight of the local vet's surgery!

All through nursery we tried to break her and got as far as jam or honey, but that was about it. It isn't that she doesn't like bread, it is that she thinks savoury food ought to be hot and therefore ought not to be on bread! So as I said last month, packed lunches have begun.

Charlotte returned from Spain on Monday. Charlotte is Amaia's bestie and confidant. At bed time, she showed up in Lot's room with tears rolling down her face. 'It's not that I haven't tried, Charlotte, I have but I just hate everything about school lunches now', she wailed dramatically. 'I've tried them for three weeks now and I'm just soooo depressed!'

Sigh! It's going to be a long ten years!

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Hair today, gone tomorrow


Anna can be impulsive and determined at times. Only Sunday, she suddenly came out with the notion that she ought to cut off all her hair and donate it to the Little Princess Trust. Her friend Inishka had done that last year, but at the time she hadn't really considered it, she was simply very proud of her (and her sister Ameya) for doing so. I'm not sure why the notion suddenly came to her now.

On Monday, she reiterated the idea but again, I figured she'd give it up after a day or two. But on Tuesday, she went over to the hairdresser and asked for an appointment, and when they said they actually had one free immediately, she simply sat down on the first seat and got on with it.

She certainly has balls!



Thursday, August 16, 2018

Charlotte's school leaver's certificate


I thought I'd sneak out a wee post about this while she's in Spain, on the beach at a wifi-free zone, because she'd probably be mortified at my public celebration of her hard work and dedication! 

What can I say? It speaks for itself, and I'm sure she will continue to devote her incredible work ethic to her future uni studies too! It's a shame they don't put the bands on in Scotland as they do in England, as she got a band one in everything she has ever sat other than Higher History, which she missed by 1%! Not being home, she hasn't found out this year's bands yet, but they were all ones at the prelim stage too. I guess she can go and see school once she comes home.

This is one proud mummy. I must have done something ok over the years.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Distraction tactics


Today is the day I have been semi-dreading since Amaia started nursery in 2013! At nursery she was home by lunch time and for the past three years she has had school lunches provided by the Scottish government, but today was pay day! Either I start coughing up £2 approx per day for lunch, or she needs to take sandwiches. A tenner a week isn't dire, of course, but when you multiply it by the number of kids I have, it is a non-starter, and I can't exactly be seen to be giving Amaia preferential treatment simply because she is better at stubborn stand-offs, so it is all or none.

The problem is Amaia hates sandwiches. For years I thought she was just being annoying and fussy until it suddenly occurred to me that there was actually a logic to her whole standpoint. In Amaia's head savoury food is hot, sweet food is cold. She'll eat a gammon steak or a slice of bacon but a gammon or ham sandwich is entirely unacceptable. Salami, chorizo or serrano ham is something you get hot on a pizza, not a cold sandwich filler, and until recently cheese had to be melted on toast or on a pizza. Our one saving grace is her huge love of salad. 

It's odd as she's not a fussy eater in general - she eats most things including the most exotic spicy dishes filled with hot chillis, but that savoury hot, sweet cold rule in her mind is hard to break. She won't eat cold boiled eggs though loves eggs. She waits for things like apple crumble to cool down before eating it... She also used to hate ice cream as it was too cold! If a meal cools down half way though, she stops eating altogether until we permit her to leave the table and reheat it in the microwave!

I could of course solve it by giving her only jam, honey and chocolate spread for the next ten years but I suspect my dentist friends would have something to say about that, so it's not happening!

So distracted by a cute hamster, her name in bubble writing and a compartmentalised box, she's gone in today with a buttered piece of bread, some tomatoes, cucumber and mixed stuffed olives. ***

Hopefully some time over the next year I will get the filling into the sandwich!

***Update: Well, today was a complete disaster! The juice from the olives leaked onto the bread and the custard creams (that I didn't even know she'd sneaked in 😂) so she came home and made super noodles as she'd eaten nothing at school. Tomorrow we're going to try lots of tiny Tupperware boxes 🤔

Back to school


So another year begins. s2, p4, and p7 - the magical year, or rather the one that is meant to be magical anyway. Most of p7 focuses on growing up, maturing, preparing to leave the only school you've ever known, and widening your friend group to prepare for a class full of strangers, with the odd familiar face. For Anna, this was always going to be a poignant year, as she is one of the youngest in her class and unlike her three predecessors, not quite as full of joy to venture onwards and upwards. I have no doubts that by next June Kirkhill will have worked its wonders and got her ready and excited for Mearns Castle, but she definitely isn't going into p7, desperate to rush out the other side!

With Brexit, it's going to be an even harder year for Anna. While her friends feel anxious at the thought of moving together to a school ten minutes away, Anna has at the back of her head that this could be her last year in an English-speaking school, in the only country she's ever known as home with all the friends she has in the world. With a deal already negotiated, she would have had a full year to psych herself up, even for the unthinkable to her, which would be moving abroad to a school speaking Danish, or worse still one speaking a language she doesn't know many words of, such as German, but with the government's dithering and game-playing, lives of families, adults and children alike, are up in the air. At fifty I am finding it hard to prepare myself mentally for what lies ahead, as I ride the roller coaster of  'today we probably have to leave, tomorrow we maybe don't' over and over and over with every new headline and reneged promise. What this is doing to the mental health of our ten year olds is unimaginable and also unforgivable.

Let's hope she gains some clarity soon, and hope even harder it is clarity which will allow her life to go on happily as it always has with her wonderful friends in her lovely school, following in the footsteps of her older siblings.

Les frontaliers

My French family lived 4km from the French-German border. They all lived in France and spoke French at home, but they all worked in greater Saarbrücken and spoke German at work. They were known as frontaliers - people whose lives take place equally on both sides of a border.

My Danish family, for the most part, live in Copenhagen and again have been known to work on the other side of that Bridge, in Sweden. Again they are people whose lives take place equally on either side of the border.

Had I moved to France or Denmark, there is a great chance I too would have become a frontalière. 

When the Tory government decided to exclude this type of British emigrant (I refuse to segregate them using the superior 'expat', as they are no different to people like my Danish husband or French ex-husband, who simply chose to exercise their EU treaty rights by working in a fellow member state) from the Brexit vote two years ago, they showed an outrageous lack of understanding or respect for these people.

Even if they actually bother their arses to negotiate some sort of deal, which at the moment looks slim, they have no concept of what they are doing to these people's lives. If we withdraw from the EU, British citizens living in member states will become landlocked where they live, unable to work in a different EU member state. The government is so ignorant of how people actually live that they haven't even taken into account that this is a completely normal way to live on the continent, where landmasses touch and no borders exist. The people who will be most affected by their idealistic pie-in-the-sky Brexit are those who had no say in the matter - those like my husband, those British citizens relying on work in one member state to pay for their home in another.

They are so blinded by their own insular outlook that they don't even know that this is absolutely normal abroad.

Monday, August 13, 2018

A 25 year mortgage


Twenty-five years ago today, I got the keys to my first west end flat. Top, left, 9 Havelock street. I remember it vividly... Friday 13 August 1993! There was an omen in there if I'd looked for it, I think!😉 I was never the superstitious type, but I do remember thinking it was a funny choice of day to take on a twenty-five year loan.

Our removal men dumped all our furniture (most of which we'd bought at the Barras and various other second-hand places) on the pavement as they couldn't block the single-lane one-way street. An old busy body came marching up the street and looked us up and down... Are you moving in or out? she asked, or rather demanded. In, I replied tentatively. Good! she spat back, 'cause I hated the people before you - loud, dirty, loose morals... OMG, I thought, what have we done?!

Not only did it turn out she lived in number 9, but she lived directly beneath us and having been there since 'the Clydebank blitz', she assumed the role of close-matriarch and acted as if she owned the whole block and made all the rules! She was an absolute nightmare. On numerous occasions I found her in my kitchen going through my fridge and when I learned to lock the storm doors we used to see her beady eyes peering through our waist-height letterbox at various times of the day and night! 

When we decided to sand our floorboards, I elected André to go down and ask if there was any time she was usually out so we could do it then so as not to disturb her. I won't live below sanded floors, was her ever so helpful reply! Every time I hammered in a nail to hang one of my photos, she was up like a shot screaming through our letterbox, and eventually being completely ignored by us as we hid inside giggling. 

After about two years a nephew turned up and carted her off to an old folks' home and peace returned to Havelock street!

So if things had remained as they started out in that flat - with both of us young and reasonably happy, my mortgage would have been up today. No more sending £1000 a month to the Bank of Scotland - boy would that have been nice! But it wasn't to be... we drifted apart and separated 12 years later and so my current mortgage still has twelve more years to run (assuming we get to stay here in the UK).

Would I trade my current husband for no mortgage? You bet I wouldn't! I am older and tireder now, but he and our kids are definitely worth £1000 a month!

Summer holiday 2018

We took off a week at the beginning of the holidays when Thomas's sister was here, and another last week as we had some odds and ends to get sorted. The first was a holiday in the sense that we went up north with a tent for four days in the sunshine. The second was less so as we had one day trip in the grey to celebrate Charlotte's magnificent straight A school-leaving results (she got an A in all 17 SQA exams she took in high school 🌝), but we mostly spent it getting the cooker fixed, and filling in tax forms, having meetings with the accountant, attending family birthday celebrations etc.

Neither, of course, was a holiday in the normal sense. When you work for yourself, a holiday isn't a week's paid leave. It is a week you don't work, don't get paid and which therefore results in your chasing your tail for the following month trying to fit in the five days you dared not to work. Unpaid holidays and contractual obligations are the bane of the freelance life...

As a mixed EU couple, facing mounting concern over a no-deal Brexit, what we really needed this year was to get as far away from the UK and its mind games as possible. While many of you are worrying about the financial prospects of a no-deal Brexit or which brand of baked beans to stockpile, those of us in a 'mixed' marriage face the prospect on March 29 that he loses his right to work and live in the UK, to renew his mortgage package and continue using our GP, on the very same day as I lose my right to flee to the continent with him. In the no-deal scenario, everything that has been negotiated for EU citizens hits the fan and no guidelines for their treatment will exist. We will have to rely on the unilateral goodwill of the Tory party (don't choke on your breakfast!) When we apply to renew our mortgage deal next summer, our bank will have no guidelines on whether he is eligible so I can probably work out the answer to our application already. We are hearing daily of EU citizens whose landlords are refusing to renew their leases as they do not know what their tenants' status will be. And where does that leave children like mine? UK citizens whose parent has no rights in the country in which they were born?

So, this year we could really have done with seven weeks island-hopping in the Cyclades or sitting wifi-less on some remote Mediterranean olive farm. As someone who works from home, I usually crave people on a holiday. My ideal is a city break or a busy beach just to remind myself I am not alone and isolated on this planet, but this year, I really think escaping the world would have been nice. Spending some time alone and unstressed with my husband would have been wonderful as it would have helped us to have built up some mental strength to face the terrifying seven months that lie ahead.

Already yesterday Whatsapp was buzzing with the mums in Anna's class trying to arrange the p7 prom in June 2019. I had to tick that I was interested, but in reality, I have no idea if I will be there taking photos of Anna in a pretty dress, or if I'll have had to pull her from school and leave the country. I'm already a nervous wreck and term hasn't yet begun.

Yesterday Anna actually said to me - When you take this year's back to school photo mum, we should try to make it extra-special in case it is the last ever one here in my home. Ten year olds shouldn't be living with stresses like that!

I am starting the new term more exhausted and stressed than I finished the last one and that is so far from what I need right now.


Monday, August 06, 2018

Happy Birthday


One of these babies weighed in at just shy of ten pounds, starting out life in 3-6 month clothes and looking somewhat like a sumo wrestler, the other was closer to six pounds and looked tiny and dainty. One of these babies is eight years, 207 days old, the other was eight today... So of course, it goes without saying that Amaia wishes her baby cousin a very happy birthday. LOL. (The second photo is just for proof).



I didn't wake up dead

I mentioned my little hang-up back in December... But it would appear that I woke up alive yesterday and even made it all the way through to midnight. I think that might take a few days to digest. I have become the primary Phyllis, after five decades as the subsidiary Phyllis. So from here on in, I'll be winging it, I guess.

Dying yesterday would have sucked. It would have felt like no time at all. My own son is 21. Hers was 24 so there was very little difference there, though obviously she didn't also have kids all the way down to eight. I don't feel terribly different to how I felt at 25; she probably didn't either. Life can be so cruel and unfair at times. My dad never did get over it enough to talk to me in any depth. Only on the day his dad died when I was 22, did we come anywhere close. It took reading his memoirs to really get a feel for how he had dealt with his mum's early death. Everything about my childhood would have been different, had that bit of history changed. I'd have known my granda, or rather Linda would have, as Phyllis the 2nd would never have existed. Instead he was a distant, quiet man, whose façade was impossible to penetrate. Dad would have had a lighter heart too.

I'd like to have known her. Like her son (my father) after her, she died of something that is completely curable today; it was simply caught too late and that is fate's cruellest blow.


I guess from here on in, I should try living a bit for both of us. Here's to Phyllis the first. RIP.

Friday, August 03, 2018

Now you see me, now you don't!

Charlotte has been in Madrid since June living with a Spanish family with two little girls who need a daytime adult to supervise them while their parents are out at work. We've had weekly face-times lamenting the 40 degree weather, the hardships of having your own pool and the sheer trauma of being forced to the restaurant every other night as a thanks for her babysitting! Finally on Wednesday, the parents' own summer break began so she came home to Scotland, fully five days after the wonderful Scottish heatwave threw in the towel.

She turned up in shorts and looked positively frozen. It's fully six weeks till uni starts but only two till the wee ones return to school. Four whole weeks alone, twiddling her thumbs in the drizzle lay ahead.

By day two she was twitching about the weather. I, half-jokingly, said - Why don't you log on to the site where you found the first family, in case anyone else is needing help with their kids. Some people may have contacted you, if you've not been on for a while... 

She logged on for the first time since May. Several emails awaited... She opened the first - a photo of the biggest dog you've ever seen greeted her - someone needing a doggy-sitter wasn't really her cup of tea. She's never been overly fond of dogs, having proclaimed at five that the only good kind of dog is a dead one, preferably with no teeth! 

Message two was from a woman with a Russian name based in Spain. All it said was 'I need an au pair' - no when, no mention of ages, numbers, genders of kids, no info at all. Still - it was a possibility...

She opened the third one and was greeted by a woman on a carousel smiling with two kids around the age of Anna and Amaia. Her message read 'Divorcee seeks company for three week holiday to Alicante. Your duties would be to play with my girls on the beach all day and swim in the sea. I will provide you with your own room in a beach house. I also need someone to accompany me to the restaurant every night at my expense!' Start date was to be next week and finishing fully seven days before freshers' week at Glasgow. It's a hard job obviously, but someone had to make that sacrifice!

Looks like Lotsie is off to Spain again! Tickets booked already. She might just have time to wash out her bikini from last time! God, I wish I was eighteen again. I have Charles Aznavour playing on a loop in my head... Il faut boire jusqu'à l'ivresse sa jeunesse... Wonder if anyone on the internet is looking for a fifty-year-old au pair...🤔

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Highland games

Pollok park

I think I need to educate my half-foreign offspring a bit more on Scottishness...

Today we went to see Dundonald Castle. As we arrived in the town there was a large sign advertising their Highland games which seemed to be taking place in August. I overheard the following conversation between Anna and Léon.

Anna: What on earth are Highland games? Do they race Highland cows instead of horses?
Léon: Don't be daft, it's when men in kilts flick those big stick things!

Friday, July 20, 2018

Camper vans

At the ripe old age of fifty, I wonder if I have finally got slightly too old for tent camping. I don't think the person who invented double air mattresses had fifty somethings (or forty somethings, in the case of my dearly beloved) in mind! In some fantasy world, where I actually have enough money, I often think it would be nice to have a camper van. I've never fancied a caravan, not since my dad's pal managed to coup his on the way down the Ayrshire coast when I was a teenage new driver, but a camper van would be steady to drive, be weatherproof and you could have a decent bed and even a wee toilet. The problem that always strikes me though, when I'm mulling this option over (other than the lack of money in my bank account for a spare car!), is that we often go to Italy, where the streets of the old towns are narrow. Sometimes I struggle to squeeze my rented Fiat 500 down them, so a camper van would be a non-starter. The same can be said of many of Scotland's more remote single-track roads with passing places, so holiday weekends would be out too. If only there was some way to drive a camper van on holiday but also have a car ready and waiting when you arrived...

Silly I know... and then we went camping in Drumnadrochit! There were many camper vans around the field where we had our tent. They all looked the same but one caught my eye. The van had a Dutch number plate but was flying a Croatian flag, and contained a couple who spent all their time in Croatian football strips watching the world cup on a tablet... intriguing. It caught my eye because unlike all the other camper vans they had actually brought their car too, and what a cute little thing it was! Older than the ark, I wondered how they'd actually trusted it to get from Zagreb/Amsterdam to the north of Scotland, but still I had to get a photo. You see it was a saloon Chuggy, except it wasn't... maybe it was some iron curtain Chuggy clone from the 50s or 60s, I don't know but isn't it cute?



And as for their wee camper van - it seemed perfect when you looked in - bedroom, kitchen, loo, exactly what you needed! For the whole three days it was there, I kept passing the little Chuggy clone and smiling to myself that they'd had the balls to bring it this far. During the day they went out on the small roads in it, and at night they cooked and slept in their van. I did think that as there were only two of them, it must have been very lonely trip up to Scotland in tandem, all the same.

On the last day, we all had to be out by midday. As we were taking down our tent, I noticed they were taking down their flag pole! That's when I caught sight of the little sliver of turquoise barely visible inside! OMG. How cool is that?!


Somehow everything that had been on the floor of their van had been pulled up to the ceiling, freeing up the space to pack the wee Chuggy thing as it was small enough to fit in!!!

Now, that has really got me to thinking. We'd need a tiny car that fits in a camper van. I'm thinking something like this that they are selling on ebay today would work. What do you reckon?! 😜