Thursday 30 July 2009

The Last Day

Today was my last day of treatment at the Tom Wheldon Building of the Beatson Cancer Hospital in Glasgow: Scotland's centre of excellence for cancer treatment. It is the end of over seven weeks of weekday attendance. It was a day of very mixed emotions. Of course it will be good not be be cooked any more. Mind you the last information I was given was a warning that I would continue to cook for the next two weeks and then the radiation effects would cease and I would start the 'recovery' process. Well I feel great today and have no plans for feeling otherwise!

I will miss the afternoon group of people whom I have met and who have, for the most part, bonded so well. In particular I shall miss Junior and Marlene who have been such an inspiration to the group. I already miss Brian who left a few weeks ago but who was the ringleader and who named Junior, himself and me the Three Musketeers. I shall miss Alastair who has so many things wrong and yet is one of the most naturally humorous and droll of people. I shall miss Robin, Bill, Raymond, and Nan. Even Cathy the new girl on the block was proving to be a wonderful recruit to the cause. I will miss the lot of you.

And I will miss the staff. What wonderful staff the Radiographers are. It is a serious and demanding job. We (the afternoon crowd) estimated that about 500 people a day pass through their hands. I have no idea what the success rate of radiotherapy is but whatever it is a huge number of people are alive today because of the job radiographers do. And the staff of T R C at the Tom Wheldon Building do it with professionalism and good humour and tolerance.

The positioning of each person in the machine is crucial and involves some manipulation and fine tuning of our body position on the slab. When one of our number made a comment on the 'manipulation' of his legs, one of the staff had us all cracking up when her response was reported back as "if you hear a crack, make a wish". I bet I know who it was too!

Thank you one and all. It's been a challenging seven weeks at times but I shall miss you all.

The Tom Wheldon Building at The Beatson

Thanks Nan.

A Recipe Book with some real goodies - Thanks to Junior and Marlene

Raphael: The angel of divine healing. From Marlene.

Breakfast at The Rio Café

I was invited out to breakfast with friends today. It was a fascinating quartet who sat down to eat. One living in Spain, one in Dubai, one in Glasgow and me, a transient occupant of this City with a heart split between New Zealand and an Island in the Atlantic off the West Coast of Scotland. We met at The Rio Café in Partick. The original idea was for an eggs benedict breakfast but one of the company doesn't like eggs so that was a nono. One preferred eggs florentine leaving one eggs benedict and....me. Now I'd actually been off food for a while and couldn't even be tempted by an absolutely delicious Moroccan lamb dish at the Café Hula on Monday evening which I just about managed to pick at when out with David. But this morning my appetite returned and I managed a breakfast which far exceeded my total food intake since Sunday!

The Rio Café

The breakfast I polished off!

I Have a Theory

For many years I have had a theory about the way toilet rolls are hung. I have been hanging a lot of them recently so I thought that is a particularly appropriate time to see if my theory is correct. Question: Do I ask the question first or tell you my theory first? Well I expect the maximum number of responses I'll get will be about five. I know it's many years since I did stats at Uni but even my brain cell can tell that I'm hardly going to get a representative sample of the world's population or a statistically significant result. But wotthehellarchiewotthehell lets be adventurous and go for it.

Toilet rolls can be hung with the paper running down the wall as in the first photo:

or away from the wall as in the second photo:

I have a theory that which way you hang the roll generally depends on whether you are male or female. Am I correct?

Mixed Messages

Yesterday and this morning I have woken (at Gaz's flat in Glasgow) at 0600 to the sun streaming into my bedroom. Yesterday this lifted my heart because we've had such miserable weather for weeks and I wanted to get some particular photographs before I left Glasgow for home. So I went through to make a cup of tea and, of course, switch Samantha on. Merde! Il pleut. Well, pas exactement mais presque. And when I looked at the pavements it's clearly rained heavily during the night. Tant pis!

The sky from the bedroom at 0600

And from the kitchen
PS. I did manage the photos during a weather window in the late morning.

Monday 27 July 2009

It's 0530

It's 0530 on Monday 27 July 2009. The sun rose 20 minutes ago although it's been light for ages. It's a warm morning (for Lewis!) at 13 deg with a mild southerly breeze. It's cloudy with some vague promise of a glimpse of sun. It's damp and there are showers spattering the horizon in several directions. It's a fairly typical July morning on a Scottish Hebridean Island. So why am I telling you this? Because my Brother, CJ alias Scriptor Senex, and Jo alias Wife Who Loves Tea have just set off on their journey home to the Wirral on Merseyside. Firstly, however, they have to catch the ferry from Stornoway to Ullapool where they arrive on the Scottish mainland 2 hours and 40 minutes across The Minch.

CJ's been here since the middle of May. It'll be very odd without him. We get on rather well. There will be no one with whom to share the crossword over morning coffee. No one to remember to switch off the stream into the garden pond at night when I forget. No one to whom to say "Please will you remind me to....." And when I come home on Friday from my last stint of treatment in Glasgow no meal will be waiting for me. The house will be empty.

Travel safely both of you.

Sunday 26 July 2009

For Heather

Friend Who Knows Too Much has a Daughter Who Draws. Especially for you. Walls can have eyes.

Friday 24 July 2009

Glasgow Cathedral: Part 1

Earlier in the week I mentioned that I had been to Glasgow Cathedral. It was raining. I've been waiting for some sun ever since so that I could get some decent photographs of the exterior and the surroundings. As the sun has steadfastly refused to show its face I have decided to give you a glimpse of parts of the Cathedral.

The original nave having veen destroyed by fire in the 1100s the present nave was consecrated in 1197 and extended and completed between 1207 and 1232 - 260 years before Columbus discovered America.

The Quire screen behind which is the eastern arm or Quire and below it the Lower Church

In the Lower Church can be found the Blackadder Aisle built by Robert Blackadder who was the first Archbishop of Glasgow (1483 to 1508).
It is a quiet sanctury full of light and contrasting with the rest of the building.
It is a good place to pray for friends.

Thursday 23 July 2009

Death in Victory

I have been hoping to blog about Glasgow's Cathedral (or one of them) but for the last couple of weeks the opportunity to get some decent photos when it's not raining has eluded me. I have, however, been round the Cathedral. I love old churches because one can soak up so much atmosphere. I have been in churches which repelled me with overwhelming feelings of ungodliness and I have been in churches (one being the Cathedral at Rheims in France) where, on standing in front of one of the chapels I was suddenly and for no apparent reason, overwhelmed by a feeling I could not explain and stood there with tears streaming down my face.

Glasgow Cathedral is certainly a place of great atmosphere but what struck me was the very large number of memorials to the victims of war from centuries ago to the Gulf War. One such individual memorial bore the words "Death is Swallowed up in Victory". This theme is commonly used. For a nation unbeaten on it's own soil by a foreign power since 1066 such words come fairly easily. Whilst not a pacifist I am very conscious of the evils of war and the readiness with which the human race apparently resorts to it and I find it difficult to say that there are winners and losers in war. There are, it seems to me, just various degrees of loss the least of which we term 'victory'. And every nation goes to war with its God on its side; often the very same God.

So, returning to the theme 'Death is Swallowed up in Victory' what do the vanquished put on their memorials? After all, with 100 million people losing their lives as a result of war in the last century there are a lot of memorials.

Last Post

I was just catching up with a few blogs before breakfast as is my wont when I read Scriptor's latest entry entitled Last Request. It made me wonder. If I knew this was to be my last posting what would I say? Now there's a thought!

Immediately the words of the Confession from the Church of England's Book of Common Prayer, which I must have recited many thousands of times in my life, immediately sprang to mind. "We have done those things which we aught not to have done and left undone those things which we aught to have done." Never were truer words spoken of man.

Blogging Concern

A friend telephone me the other day and said "You haven't blogged for three days and I'm getting worried. Are you ok?" Actually I had blogged and I was ok. She just hadn't refreshed her browser. The person concerned is one of my dearest friends of long standing so a concerned call was not to be unexpected.

However in Blogland where many of us have never met face to face the concern is often just as real when a fellow blogger is sounding down in the dumps [another phrase for you Scriptor] or disappears off the face of the computer for a longer than usual period. Sometimes a quick email just reassures one. However when a blogger like L'Archiduchesse disappears unexpectedly and without warning for over a week one begins to get concerned. L'Archiduchesse is at an age and in one of the most vulnerable places to pick up something like swine flu. On the other hand anything could have happened or not. Now I am one of the world's natural optimists and don't generally worry about things either. But when a regular blogger just disappears without even saying 'au revoir' I begin to wonder. I do hope you are ok L'Archiduchesse.

Wednesday 22 July 2009

England v Australia: The Ashes

I'm back! I'm afraid that, rather like the English Cricket team but for a considerably shorter period, I have been performing below par and I've not felt like blogging. That in itself should have been an indication to me that all was not as it should have been. Anyway I feel ok tonight and am back on blogging track. And my chosen subject? Cricket. Why? Well that's interesting because it is a while since I was an avid cricket follower. But I now have two persona when it comes to cricket: as an England supporter and as a New Zealand supporter. The thing that both persona have in common is a wish to see Australia beaten. So on Monday 20th July when England won (and Australia lost!) the second Test at Lords there was great celebration and I was amongst those happy with the result. The first Test had been drawn.

Peter Siddle (Australia) loses his middle stump and England had won

England's Andrew Flintoff's team-mates mob him after his removal of Peter Siddle

Now I appreciate that many readers of this blog will find cricket to be a closed book and a rather curious game played by Countries of the now long gone British Empire but even those who are in that category may find the following of interest. The Ashes is played over five matches in five locations within either Australia or England. This series is being played in England (and, just to complicate matters, Wales). When England last beat Australia in an Ashes Test at Lords (many would argue the spiritual home of British cricket) the world population was 2.2 billion. Today it is 6.7 billion. The land speed record was 272 mph, now it's 764 mph. The average house price was £515 and now it's £189,000. So when was the last time England beat Australia at Lords? Seventy five years ago!

So here's hoping for a good result at the next Test starting on 30 July.

Sunday 19 July 2009

The World Will Never Be The Same

The MV Isle of Lewis today had her first scheduled Sunday ferry sailing - ever. The largest of the Outer Hebrides, Lewis was, until today, the only Island not to have any Sunday ferry service. Until now that has suited Caledonian MacBrayne who run the ferry services to the Islands but the introduction of road equivilent tarrif fares and the increase in traffic resulting from it has now made it worthwhile. Whilst there is a vociferous minority who are opposed to the Sunday service on Sabatarian grounds and some who feel that it will spoil the Island's Sunday in other ways it would seem that a very large proportion of the Island's population will welcome the new service. Not long ago there was opposition to the introduction of Sunday flights to Stornoway and now the flights on Sunday are exceptionally busy.

MV Isle of Lewis raising her bow for the first scheduled Sunday intake of cars

The route

Who stated that The European Union (which Caledonian MacBrayne are alleged to have cited as the reason for having the new service) did not have a right to overrule the word of Christ. (I think I have paraphrased him correctly)

Members of the Lords Day Observance Society opposing the new service

And those applauding the action

Cars waiting to board the ferry which carried an almost capacity vehicle cargo.

Photos are from the television news programmes

In Buchannan Street

For the last five weeks I have on many occasions walked along Buchanan Street in Glasgow. It is pedestrianised. There is much street theatre and entertainment. One lady who seems to be there every day and all day in every weather is The Accordionist. She always plays happy tunes and I am glad to say that such people now seem welcomed rather than persecuted as they were not so very long ago. She has my admiration. What I want to know, though, is how long an accordion which is played six days a week for, say, 6 hours a day lasts! And that goes for arms too!

Friday 17 July 2009

Steak Pie

A few days ago I blogged on Steak Pie and Kindness. Heather commented that I hadn't put a photo on. The reason was simple. When I saw the steak pie and put it in the oven the last thing that occurred to me was it as a subject for the blog. It was, after all, simply a steak pie: beef in a thick gravy covered by pastry. What's bloggable about that? Well we now know. But hindsight is a wonderful thing. Actually having just thought about it hindsight is a terrible nuisance. It causes us to re-consider, ponder, mull over and generally get our knickers in a twist over things which would have been better left unthought about. But, hey, that's just an off the cuff morning ramble not a philosophical statement!

Thursday 16 July 2009

Flora Edwards: 1909 to 2002

Mum was born 100 years ago today. Flora Edwards née Body died at the age of 93 on 15 March 2002. Forty years earlier we had been on holiday in Scotland: it rained a lot when we holidayed because we did so amongst hills and mountains and in August during, of course, the school holidays. August was also the wettest month of the summer. As readers know photography was a family pastime and rarely were we to be seen without a camera in hand. Which was how I managed to get this photo. I had no time to focus, properly aim or indeed think as I walked towards Mum and she struck the pose. I had the camera at my side and just pressed the button. That I only managed to cut off Mum's feet was a miracle. It is one of my favourites amongst the very many photos I took of Mum.

Tuesday 14 July 2009

Formation Flying for Fish

Over the weekend the gannets, gulls, terns, skuas and heaven knows what else were all congregating in the bay below the house. Evidently there were shoals of fish there and the gannets and terns were diving, the gulls picking up what they could and the skuas trying to get anything they could to hand over their catch even if it was already in their stomach. Given that I am a long way from the bay and the gannets in the photo were quite a way out I was pleased to be able to capture these gannets as they dived for food.

Steak Pies and Kindness

I was introduced to steak pies last week!

As I've mentioned I attend hospital every weekday at the moment and the same people meet every afternoon; in my case in the waiting area for Treatment Room C. They are a great crowd and we have a good time waiting. For men there is a preparation time before the appointment of between an hour and half an hour so, combine that with the vaguaries of transport and hospital parking and we spend a lot of time together.

It's an absolute riot. One chap comes with his wife every day and she is a wonderful chap too! She remembers all the names as well and keeps us all right. Anyway her husband, Harry (referred to universally, apparently because his father was also Harry, as Junior despite being somewhere around my age ) likes his steak pies. Another, Brian, has decided that he together with Harry and me are the Three Musketeers. If you could see us in action you'd understand. The first rule of our waiting area is that you are not allowed to be miserable or feel sorry for yourself. After all we are all there for the same reason: to survive the Big C.

The subject of steak pies arose last week and I said that I couldn't ever remember having one. Well. What happened on Thursday? Marlene (Junior's wife) brought me a book which had a green cover (I'd said that I once read a book: it had a green cover) and he handed me a parcel and said "Here. That's your dinner."

When I got back to the flat and opened it what did I discover? A steak pie. I put it in the oven that evening. It was so tender and delicious. I was bowled over. Both by the pie and by people's kindness.

Sunday 12 July 2009

Statues, Longfellow and Other Thoughts

I love statues and suchlike works of art. Not all statues, of course. Just like a picture, for every thousand (or whatever figure) we see, one will strike us as important for some reason: we may love it or hate it but we will notice it. The moment I saw this statue (an enlarged version and details can be found at Soaring Through The World In Pictures on the posting entitled Stepping Stones: William Hamo Thorneycroft: 1878 which I posted earlier today) in the Kibble Palace last week I fell in love. Seldom have I seen such love and care brought to life from a block of marble.

When it was first exhibited in Glasgow in 1880 it was accompanied by the couplet "Pausing with reluctant feet/where the stream and river meet" which, I have since discovered is from the poem Maidenhood by Longfellow. What a coincidence.

Why a coincidence? Two reasons: Firstly it links the statue with those of you in the USA who read this blog because Longfellow was American and secondly because only a short while ago Heather quoted from Longfellow's Song of Hiawatha which I subsequently included in a posting on 7 July entitled Lunch at Duck Bay.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 1807 - 1882 was an amazing person whose talents were far wider than 'just' writing poetry.

Feelgood Strawberry Pudding

Last Sunday I made a Strawberry Pudding and later promised to give you the recipe. The recipe is simple enough but the timing is quite important because it should be lightly iced but not frozen solid when served.


40 g (1 1/2 oz) Caster sugar
1/2 lemon
1 x 300ml pot double cream
250ml (9 fl oz) natural yoghurt
8 meringue nests
450g (1lb) strawberries

1. Line a 2lb loaf tin with cling film (glad wrap). Place the sugar in a saucepan. Add 30ml (2tbsp) water and the juice of half a lemon. Place over a medium heat and cook until the sugar has dissolved. Cool.

2. Whip the cream until it stands in peaks. Fold in yoghurt. Crush meringues into chunky pieces and add.

3. Place 300g (10 1/2 oz) strawberries into food processor. Add cooled syrup and blend until smooth to make a coulis.

4. Stir half the strawberry coulis into the cream mixture. Mix lightly, stirring to create marbled effect. Spoon into loaf tin, layering with the remaining strawberries. Place terrine in the freezer for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Across The Moor

Yesterday CJ and I went across the moors into the interior of Lewis. There are found the Airidhs or Sheilings (summer houses) about which I could write a few stories and a separate posting. I may do one day. In the meantime this windy road gives a little taste of Lewis. In the second photo the transmitters on the right hand horizon provide the television pictures to the Island.

Saturday 11 July 2009

A Long Way From Home

The Tahitian Princess passed by the house this evening on her way to the Faroe Isles. It's not a particularly large cruise liner but it seemed quite big compared with the usual fishing boat that plies this side of The Minch. The many large tankers and so on that go up and down The Minch rarely come over this side (the defined shipping lane for tankers is away from the Island). Anyway I thought it was worth a photo and mention because she is a long way from home and her usual haunts in the warmer climes of the Pacific. The mountains in the background are the Scottish Highlands.

The Flight Home

Flying home yesterday the weather was beautiful so the Captain decided to fly lower than usual over Loch Lomond and some of the Highlands before climbing to the usual cruising height. I have got so used to flying over the Highlands that I often don't even look out of the window except when I know that Lewis will be visible and I can feel the emotion of homecoming. But it was very satisfying looking down over the Loch where I had walked a few days ago and then over Ben Lomond which, as I mentioned in a recent posting, I last climbed with Gaz a few years ago. I may have got used to the experience but I never tire of the awesome beauty of nature.

Friday 10 July 2009

Five Minutes Short

I couldn't decide this morning whether to give the posting the title I've used or 'You've Gotta Laugh'. Anyway the intention of this posting, I assure you, is to make you smile and for absolutely no other reason.

As my regular readers will know, I am in Glasgow during the week at the moment and I fly home to Lewis at the weekends. This evening is fly home time!

Every weekday I have to make the journey across Glasgow from Gaz's flat to the Beatson Cancer Unit for radiotherapy treatment. I was warned of various side effects the treatment could have and I mentioned one of them in Where The Sun Don't Shine. Well so far I'm doing good as they say. The side effects are manageable and people with a headcold are worse off.

However there is one side effect causing a problem. Well, actually it's not necessarily the side effect. Another way of looking at it is that there is a lack of public loos in Glasgow strategically placed on my route home.

One of the requirements for the treatment is a full bladder. No problem. But, of course, it doesn't empty immediately after the treatment and the critical time for me is 35 minutes after I leave the hospital.

The journey home time depends on the wait for the train but apart from that is approximately 6 mins to the train from the treatment area, 14 on the train and 20 from the station to the flat. That equals 40 minutes. And, of course there is usually a wait for the train even to add on to that. So the difference between journey time and time I can hold out is about 5 minutes at minimum and usually more. That can be critical. The mind makes the problem huger and HUGER as I walk up the hill to the flat. And then the three locks needed to undo the front door never open smoothly when one is in such a hurry.

Of course I could wait in the hospital and start the journey later but I'm not sure if that would work. And if I did that sensible thing then I would not have the fun of posting this. Anyway I have discovered a more enjoyable solution. Coffee!

I now stop at one of the cafés between the station and the flat and have a coffee and do the crossword before the walk up the hill. Neat, eh?

Thursday 9 July 2009

Another Storm Brews

Everyone seems to be blogging about clouds and storms and tempests and rain. Given the clouds visible from the flat yesterday I thought that I'd just post them too. And, no, nothing came of them.

Dead Bagpipe

Walking along the banks of Loch Lomond on Tuesday I looked down and, lo and behold, down on the shoreline was a dead bagpipe. R I P.

Wednesday 8 July 2009

It's TV, Jim, But Not As We Know It.

I am an avid watcher of the Tour de France. Because I'm at Gaz's in Glasgow I thought that that would make things easier in one way and more difficult in that I'm out a lot and couldn't find a recorder amongst the vast array of electronica in the flat. Then I realised that I didn't need one. I have SKY in New Zealand but Freeview in Scotland. But Gaz's SKY is not SKY as I know it. I can record TV programmes, PAUSE LIVE TV, replay live tv and I know not what other possibilities there are available. I tell you it's TV, Jim, but not as I knew it.

Anyway today was the fifth day of the Tour and Fabian Cancellara retained the Yellow Jersey although the stage was won by a Frenchman, Thomas Voelker. Never again will he have to buy his own pastis in a bar in France.

Tuesday 7 July 2009

Lunch at Duck Bay

I was reminded by one of Heather's recent beautiful postings Papa's Little Bunny of the Song of Hiawatha by Longfellow. A beautiful poem and one I have always liked and admired. One of the verses is:

By the shores of Gitche Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
Stood the wigwam of Nokomis,
Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis.
Dark behind it rose the forest,
Rose the black and gloomy pine-trees,
Rose the firs with cones upon them;
Bright before it beat the water,
Beat the clear and sunny water,
Beat the shining Big-Sea-Water.

Today friends took me to the banks of Loch Lomond, about which the verse could have been written, where we had lunch at the Duck Bay Marina Hotel where I had, not that long ago, attended the wedding of their daughter. After lunch we walked for a short while along the Loch. I can not believe that it is only a few years since Gaz and I walked up Ben Lomond on the other side of the Loch. It was, I think, the last Munro that I climbed.