Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Memorial Walk for Don Craig 01.12.57 - 25.04.15

Don Craig taken 12/08/2001
This must be some kind of record! Neglecting a blog for over 2 years! What happened? A bit difficult to say but perhaps I thought I was talking to myself and got bored? Still, I happened to mention on Facebook that I was the proud owner of a fitbit and would be doing more walking and Joy Shallcross that I got to know through her lovely blog asked if I would be blogging about my walks again? It would appear that dear Joy liked my writing (thank you Joy) ...... so perhaps I shall be content with a quality audience rather than quantity!

So, why have I acquired a fitbit? Well, back on our Anniversary on 23rd April 2015, John and I went to Norwich for the day and did loads of walking and I ended up totally knackered! I couldn't believe why as I have been doing my exercise bike for 30 minutes every week day and have done so for a long time. It occurred to me that walking uses entirely different muscles and suggested to John that I'd much prefer going out walking, especially first thing in the morning, to get some air and really enjoy some exercise rather than using the exercise bike ..... a real slog if I'm honest! We've been neglecting our walking and I really enjoy it, so that's what we've been doing since then. One morning we even got up really early and just about caught the sunrise; totally wonderful being out that early in the morning. John then happened to mention that a fitbit is a good way of recording progress and steps and so ...... one early Birthday present later ...... and I have a fitbit! This is a remarkably addictive gadget that I'm sure I will report on further!

But, at this point I'm sure someone will wonder why this blog entry is entitled 'Memorial Walk for Don Craig'? With very great sadness, we found out on Monday 4th May that Don, a very dear friend, had passed away on Saturday 25th April of a heart attack. He was only 57 years old. My John had known him since they were at Southgate College together, so from when they were both 16 or 17. Don was a really great friend and, in turn, I had known him from when I first started going out with John in 1981 and you couldn't wish to meet a kinder person. It is very hard to really describe Don but he was eccentric in that old fashioned English tradition of eccentrics. When John first knew him, he was a bit of a latter-day hippy type with long hair, afghan coat and flares. Through him, John developed his love of all sorts of progressive rock music and an interest in hi-fi and over the years we went to many concerts with him. He loved so many groups that it would be hard to say what was his favourite. Don helped John make the huge speaker cabinets that we still use. They are so big they people think they are wardrobes. Don was passionate about environmental issues, with a natural garden full of native trees and plants designed to attract lots of wildlife. For many years, he did work for the British Conservation Trust Volunteers and he loved walking and bird watching. He wasn't terribly keen on conventional social activities; we couldn't persuade him to come to our wedding for instance ..... but that was just Don!

We got together pretty much every week. He had an irascible sense of humour and was good company. But why eccentric? I could never get him to share a meal at our house. However, every week he would bring round his fish and chips. Our old cat used to recognise his car and would be sitting by the front door almost before we even realisd he was there. I couldn't get him to use a plate ('why create washing up!') and so he'd eat it from the paper, having first giving a bit to our cat. Any leftover chips or batter would go home with him to feed the birds in his garden. It took me ages to work out his Birthday; John had never thought to ask! Eventually, I somehow found out and so, on the nearest visit to his Birthday on 1st December I'd give him a suitably jokey card and my Annual 'Christmas' Dundee cake would be his Birthday cake.

He was so caring in a very understating way, spending years caring for his Mum whose health has never been very good and caring for his partner's many illnesses. However, he wouldn't want praise for this; Don just got on with it.

He was able to make and do just about anything and had a wide variety of jobs over the years, most involving maintaining machines but he did so many major DIY jobs at his Mum's house and then his own that he really could turn his hand to anything..

Without going into too much detail, we found out that there wasn't going to be a funeral and that Don was going to be cremated on Tuesday 12th May at mid-day (today). I have personally found this very hard to take. I understand how it has come to be and it is not for discussion on this blog but I can only say that I have felt a profound sadness that Don would be 'alone' at this point. In all honesty, Don would find my thoughts ridiculous! I'm sure he would say that he is no longer in his body and that, in any case, being the centre of attention would be the last thing he would want. All very true! However, I said to John that we needed to do something to mark his passing; just the two of us. I couldn't do it today, so we decided to do it last night.

I decided to make a wreath arrangement from ivy, honeysuckle and lilac blossom from our garden. Here you can see that Flossie decided that she had to come and supervise!

She looks a bit 'miffed' here :)

OK ..... I guess I won't win any prizes for wreath making but it smelt heavenly and I think Don would have approved that it was hand-made by me.

We then walked over to the Lea Valley Park. It was at a more southerly bit of the Lea Valley park that Don used to do work with the BCTV and he often walked over there bird watching, so it seemed appropriate. When we got to a stretch of the Lea that flows reasonably strongly, we stood on a bridge and I let it drop into the water.

Perhaps we should have said a few words. However, neither of us really knew what words to say. It has been such a shock and I don't think it has really sunk in that we won't see him again.

This photo looks like the wreath is going to get stuck in the bank, but it didn't! It drifted off down the Lea and out of sight. I like to think that Don will know that we were thinking of him. We really are going to miss him a very great deal.

We continued our walk round the Lea Valley park, hearing our first cuckoo of the season and coming across the first Canada geese chicks.

It is also lovely to see the male swan being so protective over his mate siting on her eggs. We'll be back on another day to see the cygnets once they've hatched.

All around, so many signs of new life and fresh greenery but tinged with sadness because Don won't see and share any of this anymore.

We walked a total of 4.94 miles and I managed to get the fitbit to 'clock' its first 10,000 steps.

RIP dear Don from Elaine and John xxxx

Sunday, 6 January 2013

A Varied Old Week!

Before Christmas, I spent a lot of time making extra special Christmas tree decorations for close family and friends and the Tiger was neglected. I really want to finish this during 2013 and here it is at the beginning of 2013 on 2nd January before I re-started it.

I'm also endeavouring to take more photos of Flossie. For some reason, over the last couple of years she disappears whenever I try to take photos. I don't know if she doesn't like the flash or the sound the camera makes when you operate the zoom. Either way, I've decided that this year I must try to take photos of her as often as I can to try and make her see that the camera isn't something to be frightened of.
She's actually very photogenic, so it's worth persevering with. I will be trying to take more photos of Minstrel ....... and I think his black and white colouring makes him a different sort of challenge!

On Friday evening, Mum and I visited my brother and he is much better. It turned out that he didn't have septicaemia and the clot in his vein has gone down. Rowena did find out one piece of information; apparently, during the original operation in November, his thoracic duct was nicked! Although it was grafted, there is a slight question as to whether all these 'infection like' symptoms and the swelling round the neck wound have been caused by leakages from the thoracic duct! The doctors at Queens are trying to get more definite information from Barts but it is annoying that Queens didn't originally have this information.

And on Thursday, I wrote a letter of complaint to a hospital. Not about Paul, but about my Mum. On the 4th-5th December, she was in our local hospital to have a die test on her bladder as her routine check had shown that her bladder looked a little inflamed. This routine check is because she is in remission from bladder cancer, originally diagnosed in 2005. However, within 4 days of coming out of hospital, Mum was covered in a red rash ...... and after a visit to her doctor, she was told she had scabies! She can only have got it in hospital! She was very upset about this, especially that she might have passed it onto us. Added to which, when Paul was initially ill, and very poorly, she didn't want to visit him whilst there was any possible chance of passing it onto him. In the end, she didn't feel able to see him until the Saturday before Christmas; all very distressing. It will be interesting to see the response to my letter. Mind you, Mum had her follow-up appointment on 2nd January and thankfully she's been given the all-clear. This is such a huge relief that I can't possibly begin to describe the relief.

Then Friday ....... I spent a frustrating morning going round and round the website of HMRC to complete setting up both myself and John as self-employed. I was trying to find out how to set up the payments for Class 2 NICS ..... but they certainly make it hard to find the information you need!

And finally, I spent a lot of time on Friday investigating the best approach to take in setting up a website for John's Candle making business as The Candle Cellar. So far, I've only set up a business page on Facebook but he does need a website as well. I will try and blog about how I get on, but by the end of Friday, I was beginning to feel a bit overwhelmed by all the information I'd found :)

And after all that ...... perhaps another photo of Flossie is called for :) Unfortunately, it shows th main problem with flash; alien eyes :)

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

More Positive Post Bank Holiday

Well ... just found out that Paul has had three scans of his neck today! Perhaps scans are like buses. None for ages and then they all come together! Seriously though, the scans show that the blood clot has gone down, which is good. The neck swelling is the lymph glands in his neck. This could be because of the normal response everyone has when they get bad infections; their glands go up. It could also mean that the lymphoma is mutating into a more aggressive form which is not so good and can only really be determined by yet another biopsy. They really aren't sure but for the moment the antibiotics will continue for 7 to 10 days and they'll see how he goes. Thankfully, he slept better last night so feels better in himself. Rowena feels more positive that they are doing all they can, so that is good.

One other good piece of news. My Mum had a die test on her bladder on the 4th December because her latest checkup revealed inflammation on the lining of her bladder and they weren't happy about this. Mum had bladder cancer diagnosed in 2005 but, because she went to the doctor early enough, it was caught and merely needed treatment with primarily the German measles vaccine and she was cleared within a year and just has to have regular check-ups. Today she had the appointment to follow up this die test and happily everything is OK. No return of the cancer which was my biggest worry. The doctor said the inflammation might just have been the result of a urine/bladder infection that Mum wasn't even aware of or might even have been caused by the original cystoscopy check which can be an irritant for some people. Anyhow, it was a huge relief for me and a huge relief for Paul and Rowena as well.

Note to Self ... Don't Get Ill At Weekends!

Seriously .... just don't!

Paul had a scan on his neck on Monday but even my sister-in-law, after watching a few scans being done, could tell that the operator wasn't very experienced! He couldn't find the clot! Only muscle! And there's Paul with a swelling on one side of his neck and not looking particularly muscley elsewhere!

The Consultant wasn't happy with the result and said he'd put a call out for a more experienced person to do one on Tuesday. However ...... oh yes ...... Tuesday was the 1st January and a Bank Holiday ....... and they couldn't find anyone! They do admit that Paul's situation is very much 'of concern' but they couldn't find anyone ....... and I thought hospitals were supposed to staff themselves regardless of weekends and Bank holidays? Clearly not!

So, you have been warned. Just make sure you can plan any major A & E situations for Monday to Friday 9am - 5pm! OK?

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

New Year, New Beginnings?

A New Year and perhaps a New Start for my neglected little blog! Why have I neglected it for so long? Well .... since about August, John and I have been putting a lot of effort into his candlemaking business. You can see some of what we've been up to on the Facebook page I've set up; selling candles as The Candle Cellar.

Also ..... if I'm honest, I was beginning to think I was talking to myself pretty much and why bother! However, I've been reconsidering this in the 'quiet' period you get between Christmas and New Year and realised that I actually don't care! I merely want to record the handicrafts I do and the walking John and I do and that is an end in itself!

Also ....... this New Year starts on a slightly bad foot as on the 5th December 2012, my very dear brother was diagnosed with lymphoma cancer and it has changed my outlook in many ways.

Anyhow ..... not only has the blog been neglected but our walking has as well! In December, I even ended with something I've never had before ..... A Bad Back! And I realised that not walking regularly was a possible contributing factor. So, today we had a little walk round 'Our Patch' over in the Lea valley Park. It was a beautiful day for walking, although everywhere is very muddy because of all the rain we've been having. We walked for about 1.5 hours and covered about 4.5 miles. It certainly cleared some cobwebs!

There is so much wildlife over in the park that it really lifts your spirits. And my spirits do need lifting. I am sorely worried about my brother at the moment. Whilst walking, my thoughts constantly stray to saying the words in my head 'Please God, let him get better'.

He is actually in hospital at the moment. At the end of November, he had some lumps removed from his neck and on the 5th December, he was told he has lymphoma cancer but that it is treatable. However, he then proceeded to develop a very bad infection in the wound that was initially just a solid mass of infection that pressed on his jugular vein and has caused a clot. He did come out on Christmas Eve but just last Saturday, he went back into hospital with suspected septicaemia. He has been having alternate bouts of severe shivering followed by drenching sweats. On Sunday, they determined that it wasn't septicaemia but today they are wondering whether the shivering and sweating is a function of the lymphoma cancer. The swelling on his neck actually got bigger on Saturday as well, which they were very concerned about. He was due to have a scan today to check that out but I haven't heard any more on that.

All in all, I am worried sick about my 'little brother'. It certainly makes you sit up and re-think exactly what is important.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Scratching Post Charity Needs Votes To Win £5000

Phew ...... stretching creativity to its max! Although I've always thought that Tweeting was for the birdies, I've succumbed to Twitter ..... but only for a Good Cause :)

I think I've mentioned before that Flossie and Minstrel came from The Scratching Post, a little Cat Rescue Charity that operates in the Cheshunt/Enfield/Waltham Cross area in Hertfordshire/North London/ Essex UK (and actually in the areas surrounding there as well)?

Well, this month (September 2012), they are in a competition where they stand to win £5000! This is money they could desperately do with! To put it in context, £5000 would just about cover a low month of vets bills!

All they need to do is collect the most number of votes from people in this month and they'll get it.

Sounds too good to be true? Well, let me explain!
A UK pet insurance company (link below) gives money away each month to a charity and the Scratching Post has been chosen as one of the charities for this month. The top prize of £5000 goes to the charity with the most votes!

To help, you need to be a Facebook user and need to log onto https://www.facebook.com/FeelGoodPark.  It only takes 5 mouse clicks: Just go to the page, Choose Vote for a Charity (the box near the top), Authorise the App (it's nothing sinister ..... honest!) and then click on The Scratching Post and finally click the pink Submit paw. 

Right at this moment, they are at 2nd place and I have been submitting messages to all sorts of groups on Facebook and cat related websites to try to get as many people as possible to vote for us. Then ..... Twitter! Decided to bite the bullet on Twitter and try to use that as well to contact people. I can honestly say I don't know what I'm doing, but I'm giving it my best shot :)

Friday, 29 June 2012

My Last Post Before Our Holiday

Here's a little 'something' I at long last finished the other day! A crochet kitten! I used a free pattern from Beth Webber.

Why did I make it? Well ..... my son left home to set up in a flat with his girlfriend in January, but he sorely misses our cats! Although they did entertain the idea of possibly having a cat in their flat, I think they have (thankfully!) decided that a flat is not really the right place for a cat. It wouldn't really be fair. So ..... I thought I'd crochet them one!

I was aiming to make him to look like Minstrel but, as a very novice crocheter, I couldn't quite work out how to do the white on the body to make the 'tuxedo' bib under the chin. I must actually say that I found the pattern a bit of a challenge and I'm sure I went wrong a couple of times.

I also haven't quite got the ears right ...... but try as I might, I couldn't make it appear more like the examples in the pattern. Also, for ages I pondered how I could give it whiskers as the pattern doesn't have any whiskers ...... and no whiskers just didn't seem right!!

For several weeks he wasn't finished whilst I wondered what to do! Then John had a good idea! We have a swift tag gun that shops use to attach labels to things. What if we put several tags into the whisker area and then cut off the square end of the tag? We tried it ...... and they make pretty effective whiskers. So ..... yesterday off he went to be an 'indoor cat' for James and Liz :)

Finally ...... we're off on holiday to Devon tomorrow! I have a horrible feeling that they are having even wetter weather than we are ..... but never mind! I always take a craft activity with me and I shall be taking my cross-stitch tiger. I know I haven't blogged about him for ages but I have been steadily doing a little bit most weeks even though I've been doing lots of other projects in between.

Here is how he looked the last time I blogged about him back in October last year (believe it or not!) .....

And here he is now ......

Let's see how he looks by the time we come back :)
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