Monday, 30 August 2010

A Victorian past

The village where we live is largely Victorian. Its origins are earlier with a 12th century church and a 12th century Cistercian Abbey. Similarly there are 4 or 5 larger houses plus a castle which pre-date the Victorian era together with some 20th century housing including our own. During the reign of Victoria the building of the military hospital was crucially important as it had so much encouragement from the Queen who visited often when staying at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. The railway was extended actually up to the hospital itself. A jetty allowed wounded soldiers from the Crimea and later wars to be disembarked from the naval ships into small boats which could land the wounded close to the hospital.

Not only did the hospital dominate the eastern edge of Southampton Water up to the River Hamble, but its domed chapel became a yachting landmark. Larger houses were built for the army medical staff and smaller houses for the other personnel. The village supplied choirs for the 12th century church, the Victorian church built much nearer the heart of the Victorian village, and the Chapel Royal in the Royal Victoria Military Hospital.

The advent of the station meant people could live outside Southampton and commute to their places of work and so more Victorian and Edwardian houses were built unconnected with the hospital, such as the two next door to us. Long ago the larger house was divided into two and its coach house sold off but pleasingly in recent years it has undergone a real metamorphosis. The house next door to us has had a chequered past. It was owned by a gentleman with other property who abandoned it during World War II. It deteriorated throughout the forties and fifties when village children used to play in the abandoned house and garden.

Later it was bought by a civil engineer who terraced the sloping back garden and renovated the house. When he sold it, it was bought by a man who built our house in part of the large garden. When he moved into the newer building he sold on the Victorian house but in the sixties and seventies these houses were regarded as too large and old fashioned so it became a rest home. When the rest home changed hands it was already in need of essential repairs but the new owners didn’t lift a finger for twenty years whilst the top of the roof blew off, drains collapsed and water poured down the side of the house into the foundations.

When the house was sold a few weeks ago we were convinced yet another Victorian house would be pulled down and replaced by flats as has been the case elsewhere in the village. Yesterday we were surprised to see and hear large objects such as carpets and radiator covers being thrown out of the windows and landing in the garden. Being curious we went round to see our new neighbours who turned out not to be developers at all. They have the vision to see that what appears to some as a wreck, is a fine Victorian house and they are going to restore it. Never have we been more surprised and delighted. Eventually when it is all done and they move in we shall be living next door to a beautiful house and very pleasant neighbours.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

97 not out

In a week’s time my mother will be 97. She is already weighing up the possibility of making it to 100. She reckons that as she is in good health and has no worries she stands a good chance. On the whole her family have all been long-lived, even her parents who started out their lives in Glasgow. I think she is puzzled that I have no enjoyed good health but unfortunately, we don’t know all my genetic heritage.

Like all her family, she is small with a great sense of humour. She managed to entertain her great niece and husband, whom she hadn’t seen for a great many years, for two hours recently and she had them in stitches. Quite a bit of paper was used in writing messages as sadly she is stone deaf. I am not sure whether her hearing aids help or not. They are not always worn and frequently not switched on. We have all tried over the years but a certain stubbornness remains. As her mother was deaf too (although she did wear and use her hearing aids successfully) I think I probably will go the same way, particularly as I have had tinnitus for some time. When I am able to emerge from the bubble I intend to go to lip-reading classes to forestall the inevitable.

My mother is a great reader and always has been, like her mother before her. It is partly out of interest but also because the deafness reduces her ability to communicate with other people. Although she is, in fact, very sociable not everyone has the patience to maintain a conversation with someone who is deaf.

She still likes to go to Church, largely out of habit as she can’t hear anything except the hymns and she tries to position herself near the organ so she can hear it. When she retired from nursing she used to man (or woman) a stall for her church thrift shop as it gave her a real interest. She lived with us in a flat in our house for about nine years and it was a very successful and happy time. She now needs 24 hour care and so lives in a rest home quite near us. As I can’t go to the rest home at the moment for fear of infection, she comes to us and I try to organize her favourites for tea. As it is the strawberry season and this is a strawberry growing area, we have made the most of these fruit recently. It has not been easy for her during the past few years when I have been ill but she is a real source of strength and humour for us all.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

The weekend

This weekend we have a full photography course. I don’t think we’ve had many in the past few years. Prior to the course the models are organized and the locations arranged. We are able to use either of the two Anglican churches in the village and English Heritage allow us to use the Abbey on Southampton Water. One of the churches is Victorian and the other Medieval so we are particularly lucky.

The models are usually students. They have to be very patient as the course participants are often slow and they have to be hardy because part of the course takes place outside and wearing a bridal dress in January while people take ages looking at the back of their cameras, demands a certain stoicism.

On the Friday Ray has to blend the group together. They may have travelled a long way as they come from all over Europe, they may be a little shy, they will not all know their way round their own equipment and they will all be at different levels of attainment. On the first day they work in the studio learning about lighting and classical lighting patterns for portraiture. They learn about facial analysis to portray their sitters to advantage and they see demonstrations of lighting patterns and set up their own. In the afternoon they take photographs of models to put what they have learned into practice and also to build up their portfolios.

Each day we go to a local 15th Century pub for lunch and that is an opportunity for the group to relax. On Saturday the students learn about the equipment needed for a wedding shoot. Often their cameras are too complicated and can easily be switched to the wrong setting. They are not always robust enough for cold or wet weather so Ray has to be very patient in advising them about simple, robust equipment that they should buy when they have established themselves in business. I sort out all the wedding dresses, flowers, veils etc. and we have to have enough to suit the various sizes of our models.

Wedding shoots take longer now with digital cameras as the students rely very heavily on looking into the back of the cameras after each shot and on Photoshop to correct their mistakes. Film users usually have their photographic knowledge in their head and try to get the shot right in the camera rather than spending hours rectifying later. But that is a generalisation and some digital camera users are very talented.

On Sunday there is another environmental shoot this time at the Abbey and in the afternoon they look at the business side. So many course participants are not only wanting to improve their photography, but also to change direction either part or full-time. Over the three days a good atmosphere develops and many remain in touch not only with us but with each other. On Sunday night we are both tired, particularly Raymond, of course, but usually well pleased.

Friday, 27 August 2010


Later next month I’m returning to something I really enjoy doing – singing. As a youngster I started in the church choir and thoroughly enjoyed taking at first small and then larger solo roles in the school operas. An aunt advised me to have singing lessons as she thought my voice would last longer! For several years I did just that and found out how much there was to learn, so I improved my knowledge of music, had vocal training and learned to sing in different languages.

For many years I sang in concerts and master classes. I also enjoyed taking part in choirs and vocal ensembles. One of the highlights was singing the Verdi Requiem with the World Festival Choir at Wembley Arena with Pavarotti as the tenor soloist. In my early forties I scaled down my singing as the children were growing and I had returned to teaching. When we moved to where we live now I joined the church choir and coached the younger choristers by giving them vocal training. So the wheel had turned full circle.

I particularly enjoyed it when Jonathan and Anna joined the choir. The month before Christmas we would do carol concerts, sing for the elderly in rest homes and for the patients from the Channel Islands at the Castle where they stayed while undergoing radiotherapy. It was always a busy but rewarding time. Jonathan and Anna received Bishop’s Chorister awards and in turn both became head choristers.

However, times change and now we are a smaller, largely adult choir and I no longer do the vocal coaching. I have had to take time out for chemotherapy twice in the last few years and the CHOP-R affected both my speaking and singing voice, fortunately only temporarily. So now I am contemplating returning and it will take a little time to restore my breath control and ability to sing with ease. But my aunt was right, singing lessons do preserve the voice and I shall enjoy making music and, I hope, being useful.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Requiem for Eyebrows

I’m a bit miffed. I was so pleased when my eyebrows returned as my hair is still convict short and they made me look more normal but now the eczema has taken them. I call it eczema because it’s the nearest rash that I think people know about but basically it is one of the symptoms of graft versus host disease. My eyelashes have nearly gone too and I did wait some time for them to return.

Although my recovery has been a little up and down, on Monday when we saw Bob at the Royal Marsden, he was wearing a mask. He has another virus infection which has apparently been going around. In fact, in the clinic I counted about ten patients wearing masks so at least so far I have been spared that. I have been very wary of crowds and public places although in summer there are far fewer infections to worry about.

As I wrote before, my PET scan is booked for 6th September and I hope to receive the results within a few days. It takes at least two days to interpret but as the last one was a little inconclusive we all need to know whether the lymphoma has returned. This really is a crucial test and because I keep referring to it, it is obviously on my mind. I try to be relaxed about everything but it’s always there at the back of my mind. As I have to fit pentamidine inhalation also into that same visit to the Marsden, it is going to be a busy day.

We plan to go to London on the Sunday evening as it will be an early start on the following day. Fortunately, we can stay with Jonathan which takes the stress out of trying to reach London by 8.30 in the morning from home with all the usual rush-hour traffic. It will be really good to see Jonathan and Josie.

Anna has now applied for three university lectureships and she has one definite interview so far which we are really thrilled about. She is having to juggle so many balls in the air with the adult and continuing education which has been already offered. However, she obviously would really like one full-time post and we think she has a lot to offer and really deserves the opportunity.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

The case continues

Raymond’s case against Biffa regarding his accident over 4 years ago is now in the hands of the Court. A meeting was held between the parties to decide upon a timetable for the remaining witness statements and medical reports. It is fairly likely that a result will be achieved by negotiation otherwise if we wait for a court hearing it could go into the middle of next year. It would be a real load off Raymond’s mind if it could be settled soon but it will have to be settled for a figure which is satisfactory to him.

The trouble is that we have heard from other people who have had to make claims against big organizations, that the settlement figures have been ludicrously low. I hope and pray that is not the case with Raymond, not just as far as the money is concerned, but I don’t want him to be bitter about what is happening. He still suffers as a result of the accident and some of the pain he is now getting in his lower back seems to stem from injuries received at that time.

Raymmond has no plans to retire and wants to go on running the courses but it is not so easy as it was before the accident. Above all I think he wants to be vindicated. It is after all a black and white case but it is very difficult to get justice unless you have a lot of money. In other countries such as Australia and New Zealand they don’t make victims go through all of this stress, some of which is as bad as the original accident. There are straightforward no-blame compensation payouts which would save people having to wait years for compensation.

If you don’t have stacks of money here you either have no recourse to justice or you have to accept a no-win no-fee solicitor. In the latter case it pays the legal team not to bring the case to an immediate closure because their fees accrue the longer the case takes and they make their money not so much in the percentage of the compensation, but in the fees for their legal services which are part of the costs. We have now received the timetable as a result of the recent meeting and can only hope that this ordeal will soon be over.

Monday, 23 August 2010


I’ve just come back from the Marsden Hospital. Ray is tired because a lot of concentration is needed driving on the motorways, so he is resting. Although the cyclosporine which the hospital put me on last time helped a little for the first few days my skin is now as bad as ever. Dr Potter has prescribed some more tablets as he says that no creams will be able to solve the problems of GVHD and it has to be attacked from inside the body. So we will see.

I am tired because of lack of sleep. I spend 24 hours a day itching and it just takes over your mind. I am praying I will get some relief. However, some patients with Graft Versus Host Disease have it so badly they have to return to the hospital as in-patients so goodness knows what they are going through.

It is six months since the transplant and I am thankful that in so many other ways I am better. A PET scan is arranged for 6th September so they can check up whether any lymphoma remains. Dr Potter did say that as the donor graft is so strong at the moment it will be also strengthening my immunity to fight the lymphoma which is promising.

The weather at the weekend was very uncertain. We had planned to go to the airshow at Shoreham Airport but it turned out to be showery and the cloud cover was very low so that the Battle of Britain re-enactments would be difficult or impossible to do. In the event we went to see my aunt and cousin who had been planning to visit Shoreham like us, but who had also been put off by the weather. It wasn’t the Saturday we had planned but it turned out to be fun anyway.

It has been good to get out and about again. Six months is a real landmark and I’m certainly grateful for all the care that has been given to me.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Being re-energised

After so much sun we have a dull day. We hope it will brighten up tomorrow as it is the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain and we are thinking of going to Shoreham Airport. Last week when we went to a restaurant with other members of the family overlooking the airfield they were practising a dog fight using a Spitfire and a German fighter plane. Several members of my family were involved with the production of the Spitfire and the noise of its engine is unmistakable. We won’t mind if it is dull as long as it doesn’t rain.

For a few days my skin calmed down but now it is red and angry again and nothing I try is working. I sleep very little at the moment and I am also keeping Raymond awake which isn’t good. The main problem is that the cause of this problem isn’t an allergy but directly related to the graft versus host problems. I hope they may have some more answers at the hospital as we are going to the Marsden on Monday.

For a while when I was very ill Anna suspended her PhD studies but we had a long talk the other day and she is determined to restart in a few months. The time away has made her decide to adapt slightly what she has been doing so that it is more in line with the forensic work she is now involved in. She is very pleased to know that I want to start again too. It is interesting that the months of suspension have made us both reconsider our topics and the relationship with supervisors.

Anna seems re-energised and I think the successful teaching at Oxford and supervision of the dig in Turkey have done her good. She is now waiting for two universities to indicate whether they would like to interview her for a lectureship. It is a difficult time for graduates now as far as employment is concerned. It will be very good if we can both start studying again in February as we encourage each other.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Lazy weekend

The fine weather has returned with a vengeance. It’s lovely to know it is not autumn yet and summer has plenty more in store for us. This year has been exceptional for having the deer and the foxes not only in the garden at the same time, but interacting. However, the garden is proving useful for other creatures too. We have several rowan trees and their clusters of berries are attracting lots of birds. Similarly the jays are particularly fond of the cooking apples. We have at least two hazel trees too but in all the years we have lived here we have never been able to sample a single nut; the squirrels are always ahead of us and this weekend was no exception with the squirrels doing acrobatics within the tree causing it to shake ferociously.

In other years I would have been outside in this sunny weather but this year I have had to be careful. This is a little sad as I especially enjoy eating outside. Perhaps next year I shall have made sufficient progress for things to be different.

We had a very lazy weekend. Jonathan came down by train from London on Saturday to see us for a few hours. I was thrilled he made the effort and he does seem to enjoy coming here. We had a buffet lunch so that no one had to spend ages in the kitchen cooking. However, I did make a fruit tart. Jonathan is a very good cook but like a lot of men he doesn’t do desserts so I am able to keep a little ahead.

In the late afternoon we went to Hamble Point and saw three liners go down Southampton Water, headed by Queen Mary 2. It is a great sight and good to know lots of people are setting off on an exciting voyage. There really is nothing like a trip by sea. At the moment we can only dream and recall our cruises of two years ago. Summer this year has been a time of recovery but a little in limbo. There is always another PET scan ahead which might reveal something nasty. We have to learn to keep that at the back of our minds without it always dominating the present.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

The bubble then and now

When I entered the bubble in February this year I knew how seriously the fight to prevent infection at a crucial time would be waged. My bubble had four walls and entry into the bubble was limited. Cleaning took place several times a day and nurses used strict methods to prevent hospital acquired infection.

Before I even came home the family had thought carefully about how to make the home as clean and safe as possible so I came home to another bubble. My contact with other people was limited and everything I used, whether crockery or bed linen was tested for cleanliness. Gradually I grew stronger, was less sick and my medication was reduced and to my great joy I was allowed to eat a greater variety of foods. But the bubble remains even though it is unseen.

I have been asked by several people when I am likely to recover and you can see the surprise on their faces when I say it takes a year. However, because of growing stronger I have grown a little complacent about infection, particularly as in summer few people have coughs and colds. The Marsden medical’s staff’s reaction to Bob’s sniffles and slight cough was a real wake up call and when we reach the end of summer I am going to have to be very careful.

Jonathan came to see us yesterday and is so keen to take us to concerts in London. We would love to go, especially as we could stay overnight with him. I was so nearly tempted to go to a concert in December as a family and then common sense prevailed. I know I shall be invited to all sorts of events at the school where I used to teach but I must refuse as children come into contact with younger brothers and sisters with infections such as chicken pox and measles. Of course I have had all these ailments and once had immunity, but no longer and these illnesses often quite harmless for children, are not kind to adults.

It’s going to be a challenge because I have enjoyed some of my outings this summer and however careful we are there are going to be some risks. But we have come so far. The bubble still exists and I have to have the self-discipline to stay within it. It is the key to better health in the future.

Friday, 13 August 2010


Today has a chilly feel about it. I went out earlier and found the wind very keen. I still feel the cold quite badly anyway so it did not feel like summer. I am glad the weather yesterday was better.

We went down to Worthing to see my aunt, cousin and to meet with relatives over from Canada. We had lunch at the Sussex Pad which is very near to Shoreham Airport. They were practising for the forthcoming air show. It was fascinating because they were performing a dogfight between a German fighter aircraft and a Spitfire. David from Canada works in the aircraft industry but hadn’t seen one before. I think he was very startled to realise that my Aunt Irene had helped to build them during the Second World War at the Supermarine Aircraft Works in Southampton.

We had a relaxing lunch after which Raymond, Wendy and David went for a flight over that part of Sussex so they could see the various landmarks including Arundel Castle. We were very glad the weather was good otherwise it would not have been a good experience. I was quite tired and the eczema on the palms of my hands was very painful but I enjoyed the day and the last time I saw Wendy was when I had just graduated and my mother paid for me to go to Canada where I stayed with Wendy’s family.

Today my skin is a little better. It is now very flaky but less red and angry. I am still not sleeping but I am sure the cyclosporine is beginning to work. We have had an easy day today and it was good to welcome Anna back from Turkey. She does find it cold after the hot temperatures she has been experiencing. Tomorrow Jonathan is coming down from London just for the day and it will be great to see him.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Balancing acts

One thing I do know about recovering from a bone marrow transplant is that it is not an unbroken road to recovery. When we went to the Royal Marsden on Monday, Bob, who had his transplant at the same time as I did, was suffering from a slight sore throat and cough. By the time we arrived he was in a side room, had already had his chest x-rayed and there was discussion going on as to whether he should be readmitted to the ward where he could be closely observed.

I suppose that as there are fewer coughs and colds around in summer we had become a little blasé about the dangers of infection. I was of a mind that it was a calculated risk but all the time the medical staff are very keen to know that you are keeping well and we have to understand that small infections which we could easily shrug off in normal times, are much more dangerous when you have no immunity.

Progress is a balancing act. I was gradually taken off the steroids and anti-rejection drugs and shortly afterwards developed graft versus host disease. The consultant is pleased that this has demonstrated that the graft has taken and it is able to fight disease (important for long-term survival) but he has said that at the moment the graft is too strong and although I have tried to tolerate the effects of GVHD, enough is enough. I have been put back on a fairly small dose of cyclosporine (anti-rejection drug) with the hope that this will calm down the eczema which is difficult to bear as it is all over every part of my body. The process of recovery is trial and error as far as the drugs and their quantities are concerned as everyone is different.

I am impressed at the staff’s level of concern for us as individuals. Their other balancing act -which they do seem to get right - is the absolute professionalism which runs alongside knowing us as individuals and the friendliness which that engenders. Every time we go there, although the driving is tiring for Raymond and it involves some expense, we both heave a sigh of relief and remind ourselves how thankful we are that we made the decision to go there for the treatment.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Our family roots

About thirty five years ago my cousin brought his wife and children from Canada on a visit to the country where he had been born. I only remember meeting him once as a child of about twelve just before emigrating, when he called on my grandmother whilst my mother and I were visiting her. He must have lived fairly close by because he came by himself on foot. The family emigrated to Canada for economic reasons and they seemed to have found greater job security and better financial prospects. His father had been involved initially in the shipbuilding industry and later aircraft as were many of the family and the fortunes of both industries were precarious in England.

My cousin was keen for his family to meet their family in this country. Nowadays probably much better contact could have been kept by email but in those days it was by post which was not very useful if you were not a good letter writer, so in many ways he felt he had lost touch. We were very glad to re-establish contact and I visited them in Canada just after I graduated. I noticed that whilst my cousin was perfectly assimilated in Canadian life there were remnants of his Englishness. When Canadians immediately asked me what I would earn as a teacher now I had graduated, he gently reminded them that this was not a question that was asked in England. He was a gentle, kind and hospitable man but he died young and we did not keep in contact with his wife although his daughter did keep in touch with my aunt.

His daughter is my cousin once removed and today she has arrived in England with her husband for them both to re-establish contact with their roots. She has a real hunger about where the family came from and last year tracked down Jonathan and Anna from Facebook. I too made contact and through Facebook she managed to contact another of my maternal cousins. In turn I was able to learn the email address of her aunt, another of my first cousins, and we have been in communication ever since. It was a real joy to me to rediscover another cousin of my own age to whom I feel very close. Later on this week we are having a small family reunion in Sussex. No doubt our lives are very different but what binds us all together is this sense of family and belonging. I am very glad I have this strong genetic link with my maternal family and in the last three years their love has done so much to sustain me. This is one of the reasons why I feel that to conceive children deliberately with a view to cutting off half of this genetic link, is wrong and the fulfilment of the childless couple’s wishes can never ever compensate for bringing a child into the world who has been deliberately deprived in this way.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Cowes Week

We chose a good day to go to the Isle of Wight as it was breezy enough off shore for the yachts but sunny and warm onshore. We managed to see the two twelve metre yachts recreating the original America’s Cup Race arriving at Cowes.

It was a lovely calm crossing both ways and I always enjoy the chain ferry connecting East and West Cowes as it reminds me of the floating bridge which used to connect the two sides of Southampton when I was a child. We were fortunate in being able to use the Island Sailing Association because of our membership of the Royal Naval Sailing Association as it was a comfortable stopping off place for a drink, lunch and a good view of the water.

Most people interested in the racing gravitate towards the Royal Yacht Squadron and lots were sitting on Cowes Green listening to the race being broadcast. It brought back memories of bringing the children over during Cowes Week and picnicking there. It was so lovely having a normal day going out together and enjoying each other’s company.

Unfortunately I didn’t sleep well. My whole body is red and my face feels as if it is on fire. I hope they have some suggestions when we go to the Royal Marsden on Monday so I can achieve some relief. At the moment the itching and soreness occupies my mind 24 hours a day. I am trying to keep busy to help take my mind off it a little.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Being idle

After an early start yesterday and a sleepless night I was surprised not to feel tired until mid evening. I think this indicates my idle life at the moment. This morning we received a welcome email from Anna to say she had arrived in Istanbul and met her friend. She will be leaving Istanbul this evening for the archaeological site. Last time they travelled by train on a sleeper which was a wonderfully old-fashioned way to travel, meet people and see the country. Once they get to the dig they will be out of reach of mobile or internet communication so we won’t hear from them until they journey back to Istanbul some time next week.

Unfortunately, I had another setback in that I was quite sick during the night. I think I just have to be prepared for this. I did get back to sleep and slept very well so Raymond let me sleep in. This was kind but the only trouble is that it takes me about two hours to go through all the preparations in the morning so that I am ready for the day, so the morning has now gone. If I had some significant work to do, I suppose this would be very difficult.

I am feeling better today although my skin isn’t. I have looked on the web at all the advice but it isn’t really very helpful basically because it can’t be cured, only relieved. I try to find things to do to distract myself from it but it is a 24 hours a day problem. In the literature from the hospital they describe possible skin rashes on hands and feet but not all over. But enough of moaning.

The wild creatures in the garden are still a source of real joy and interest. The long dusks and dawns have meant regular visits and they seem totally unaware of our existence. The back lawn which is mown is there so that the fawns can run around, the apple fallers are a source of food for the deer and playthings for the fox cubs, the woodland provides shelter and the flowers (what is left of them) in the flower beds are a source of food. Fortunately, because we are at home and not always busy, we see them during the day as well. It is a source of real wonder that this world exists in parallel to us but we were always so busy that we were not aware of it nearly so much. Perhaps being more idle is not so bad after all if it means being able to share in this pleasure.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Troublesome skin

I was awake all night as my skin was really irritating. Gradually I saw the sky begin to lighten and I realised we would have an early start as Anna was catching the train at 5.56 a.m. and Ray was going to walk to the station with her. We both got up and, as is our usual practice in the summer, looked out of the window at the back garden. A whole drama was played out before our eyes. A young stag came on to the upper lawn followed by two fox cubs. The stag did his best to shake off his admirers who were later joined by two more. While the stag stalked off to the garden next door, the fox cubs proceeded to play and jump around delighting us both.

We saw Anna off for her third trip to Turkey. Cranfield University and possibly another excavate the site every summer and this year she is one of the supervisors. She is quite used to travelling on her own but we always feel just a little anxious for her.

When Ray came back we had breakfast together and it was lovely and quiet. I do love the early mornings and lately I have been missing them because I have had to sleep late as I have had troubled nights.

Getting myself ready is quite an ordeal now with the eczema. I have Oilatum in the bath, treat my scalp with special lotion, then moisturize from head to foot with quite a thick lotion provided by the hospital. There doesn’t seem to be any improvement whatsoever so it is quite difficult to be optimistic. I console myself with thinking that if I didn’t do all of this, it could be even worse.

However, the early start means we can complete our admin. and have plenty of time left for other things. The day looks as if it will be fine and it will be good to get outside but I shall be glad to receive a message from Anna to know that she has reached Istanbul safely.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

This week

Today is overcast and the change to a slightly cooler temperature is most welcome. Raymond did some good work in the garden and then watched the Hungarian Gran Prix. Anna is home from a successful week at Oxford and preparing to depart tomorrow for Turkey where she is supervising on an archaeological dig. This will be her third summer out in very rural Turkey and she loves it there.

I got up very slowly this morning. My skin was very bad during the night so I had little sleep. I have a rash from my scalp to my feet and it is not only excruciatingly itchy but also sore. I am conscious of it every minute of the day and now it has reached my face which I had hoped was the one area I could keep free. Although it has been very hot I am wearing long sleeves all the time and covering my legs, partly because I think the rash is unsightly but also because I am less likely to touch it. I am hoping and praying that my immunity issues will gradually be resolved so I can get back to normal.

Often at this time of year we are away on holiday but I don’t think we shall go until September. If we are here during the first week of August we like to go to the Isle of Wight for Cowes Week. Ray, of course, loves the actual yacht races while I soak in the atmosphere. Cowes is always absolutely buzzing as people are there from all over the world and the normally sleepy little town comes alive. We are planning to go in the middle of the week so I hope the weather will be good. It is wonderful to go over from Southampton on the standard ferry so that we really feel we are amongst the racing and can look down on to the decks of the yachts and see the crew at work. We get so close to the boats that I am amazed there are no accidents but the ferry masters take it all in their stride.

In a couple of months the weather will grow colder and people will start having coughs and colds. At that stage I shall have to be very careful about mixing with numbers of people as my immunity is still low, so we must make the most of our opportunities while the risk is lower.