Archive for the ‘grief’ Category

And D-day is here.  Thursday – Departure Day!!!

And here is the map of my proposed travels with my friend J.  We have organised it this way round so that we have the long river trip up the Yangtze on which to rest just in case we have a real problem with jet-lag, before the really gruelling days in Beijing.

Imperial Jewels of China Map

Tonight we have a flight from Manchester to London, then London direct to Shanghai. We arrive Shanghai at 5.0 pm local time tomorrow, Friday, which we feel will give us time to unpack, have something to eat, take a walk and get a good night’s sleep:

We have bought two extra days pre-trip excursion package before the official Tour begins, to get over any jet-lag and have some time to ourselves and I have booked a place on a special day tour with our same travel company as it is not included in the main trip: this tour goes on Saturday morning, to a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Suzhou – a Classical Garden called the ‘Master of Nets Garden’ known as one of the finest classical gardens in China.

The trip also includes a full-day guided tour to the city of Suzhou itself and a canal trip:  the brochure picture suggests to me that we will be on a part of a canal which gives us some insight into peoples’ back gardens and riverside use which I will find fascinating.

Built in 514 BC, the ancient city of Suzhou —42% of which is covered by water—is, I understand,  renowned for its canals, bridges and classical gardens, earning it the name “Venice of the East,” as well as its unique double-chessboard layout of canals and streets and I am really looking forward to this.

Then we have Sunday all to ourselves as the main body of our fellow travellers arrive during the day, in dribs and drabs, from various parts of the world.  The official Tour begins on Monday morning.

Our hour-long shuttle flight to London leaves Manchester at 19.35 and then our flight to Shanghai leaves London Heathrow at 22.35: these timings were booked by the tour company and should give us plenty of time to transfer since we will have completed all our security checks at Manchester.

My friend, who is going with me, lives south of Sheffield and is making her way by Taxi to the Airport.  My husband is kindly coming with me to help with all my luggage: my main suitcase which I shall check, my medical supplies suitcase, my gas mask and filter bag and my handbag.  I feel as if I should have a Sherpa with me.

I have upgraded my ticket one class to World Traveller Plus since I am tall and there are fewer seats in that area: hopefully this will also be useful if I do come into contact with anything that should prove to be problematic chemical-wise.

To begin with all went well.  Taxi to station in Sheffield, direct train to Manchester airport, text from J. to say she had also arrived safely but had already gone through Passport and Security

Since I had so much medical stuff with me my husband decided to remain at the Airport just in case of any hitches, until I rang him to say I was through security.  Well, in the event, he had to wait an hour: not because there were queues, but because I was detained for detailed examination.  I showed all my paperwork to the first man who stopped me, which he read, but they still wished to check the contents of the medical supplies case, which is quite understandable.  First of all I was asked to open and unpack the case in the open on the conveyor belt.  I refused and said that since everything in the case was, if not sterile, then very clean, I needed to unpack somewhere clean. They had no problem with that and the suitcase was taken by another young man who waited with it while I went through the X-Ray machine after which I was given the usual pat down.  We all moved off to a side room, not sterile, nor particularly clean, but at least private.  Both young men were very pleasant and when I asked them to at least change their gloves before handling all the suitcase contents there was no problem at all and they obliged at once.  It was embarrassing for me to have all the appliance stuff looked at in detail but since it did not seem to bother them, I tried to laugh it off as normal and understood that they needed to make sure that the paperwork matched the suitcase contents.  But then they said that I had to have an examination of my person:  two women arrived and the men left.  One woman stood by the door looking grim and never made eye contact with me, but the other talked pleasantly enough.  When she asked why I wore the appliance bag I said that I had had surgery.  She said she had never heard of such surgery, was very suspicious and said she  required to look at my scars at which she proceeded to get a wand of wadding, and actually rub it on my scars and then on the appliance bag.  At this I was outraged: as far as I was concerned we were trespassing into areas of my personal privacy to which she was not entitled.   So what if they had not heard of a particular type of surgery?  What about personal dignity?  So many people travel after surgery, some with life threatening diseases or terminal diseases, were they all subjected to this treatment?

I managed to hold myself together and concentrate on thinking that this would soon be over and was just an insensitive procedure by an ignorant official that it was necessary for me to endure so that I could make the trip I wished to.  But keeping calm was touch and go and psychologically very hard: disfiguring surgery is not something you get over, one always remains sensitive and private.  Well at least, most people of my generation do.

Finally, all was cleared, I zipped up my clothes, re-packed the suitcase, and finally left security.  But I was severely shaken and trying not to cry.  One woman walking past me said that she was furious at her treatment, and she had only been shouted at for being too slow.  When I rang my husband to say I was through he said he had been really worried at the time it took and J. had wondered what was happening too.  The interesting point is, that I am a white, well-educated, middle-class lady of 70: presumably not in the high risk category for terrorism activity.  If I had to undergo that, what happens to other groups of people?  And, having seen all the paperwork, checked my passport and checked the contents of the suitcase, why did they not believe my Doctor and my Pharmacist who would only prescribe such things for someone who had a bona fide medical issue.  I see no reason at all for them to examine my surgical scars.  I am very angry about that.

Anyway, I pulled myself together, and went to the Lounge which was lovely.  Free wine, water, fruit juices, soup, sandwiches, crisps, health food bars, fruit, magazines etc.  My friend J. was shopping and wanted to visit Costa for coffee: we kept in touch by phone and waited.

However, just before we were due to board we were informed of a delay in our shuttle flight of one and half hours.  At this point J, came and joined me in the Lounge and we continued to wait.

Without boring you with a blow by blow account, we took off at last, only to be told at Heathrow that we were being put into a holding pattern and would miss our connections.  For some people this meant their whole holidays had to be cancelled.  Since our suitcases were in transit we were given a hotel room at Heathrow, a night pack containing T-shirt, tooth brush and paste, deodorant, vouchers for food, vouchers for shuttle buses etc.

But this all entailed standing in different queues for hours.  Then they had to try to find us flights which could accommodate us. They found me a seat on a plane leaving the next lunch time (Friday) but had nothing for J. until Saturday. I refused to fly without her, and since I had requested oxygen they finally relented and found her a seat too.  Gosh, it was hard work and we had to make out that J. was my carer.  Something I would normally die before suggesting.

So, off we went to find our shuttle bus, our hotel and then stand in another queue while the hotel found rooms for us all.  We finally fell into bed at 1.0 a.m. in London, instead of being en route for Shanghai.

Image result for holiday inn heathrow

Our new flight left at lunchtime the next day, Friday, and arrived in Shanghai at about 7.55 am local time on Saturday.  After disembarking and going through Chinese Customs and Security followed by over an hour’s drive to Shanghai, there was no way we would be in time for the Garden Trip and we suspected we would be absolutely shattered anyway. A guide was meeting us for my booked trip to Suzhou, so, first thing the next day we would have to ring the Tour Company to advise them to cancel the Guide and the Garden visit as we would not be there.  So much for our pre-trip excursion and jet-lag rest.  A really disappointing end to an extremely upsetting day.

However, there was nothing for it but to just roll with the punches or we would end up nervous wrecks.

A short and somewhat disturbed night followed but we were sooo grateful to have a room and a bed to rest in, rather than be sitting for hours on plastic chairs in the airport.  We had a very good breakfast and then girded our loins for the next hurdle, Heathrow Security, to see if we could actually begin our holiday: initially, as we were checked straight through to Shanghai from Manchester, we would only have to go through Security the one time, but having left the airport we had to go through the process again.  My son texted that Heathrow had a bad reputation for the severity of its Security, for reasons I quite understand, but I was not looking forward to a repeat performance of Manchester.

Now, I freely admit that I was tired, worn out and feeling ground down by so many months of preparations only to feel that my efforts were not working properly, and I was  rattled and extremely distressed by Security at Manchester: but I thought I was prepared for Heathrow.  Not.

It began in a similar fashion: they wanted to look inside the suitcase and kept it on one side while I went through the X Ray machine thingy.  Then they did the usual body wand search just past the machine, and then a pat down.  But during the pat down they discovered the appliance and tried to look at it there and then in the middle of the hall of people.  Now, I realise that they did not understand what they were doing, but I explained what it was and again they said they had no idea what I was talking about and I had to physically restrain them from opening my trousers and pulling down my knickers to expose my stomach in the middle of the hall.   At the time it felt terrible.  But it passed.  Two women then came up and asked me to unpack my suitcase.  I said of course, but asked for a clean room.  They became most antagonistic and said that nowhere was cleaner than the conveyor belt and the public hall and I must do it there, in full gaze of everyone.  I showed them my paperwork.  They then said that if I did not like it I should not have packed my medical equipment in my carry-on case.  I explained that this was the medical and airways advice that I was following. They replied that whatever British Airways or the NHS permitted or said was of no interest to them, that they were UK Government Security and outranked all others.  I replied that I had spent seven months and some large some of money arranging this holiday, getting the necessary advice and permits and that my medical supplies were clean and needed to be kept that way. They repeated that they had no such facilities it was unpack there or not travel.  But of course, “It is your choice Madam.”  It was at this point that, overwrought and exhausted, I broke down and began to cry – in despair and frustration that no matter my preparation or planning it was not working.  I said that they left me no choice.  They replied that of course I had a choice  –   their way or no way.  I seriously decided that this had to stop, that I could not take any more, and that I must just call the whole trip off.  There was no point in taking a suitcase of dirty medication all the way to China.  At this realisation I became distraught.

I was inconsolable.  I could no longer speak, answer questions, or even move, and just stood in the line holding everyone up, with my face covered, shaking and with tears streaming down my face. 

I really felt that I could not deal with anything further.  I needed help and support and there was none.  People were stopping and staring but I was past caring.  The Security women tried to make me make some decision or move away but I could not speak to them or physically move. I do not know why but suddenly they relented and suggested that we go to a private room, although that had apparently been unavailable before, although they said that it was no cleaner than the rest of the baggage hall.  I allowed myself to be led there, and tried to unpack my case onto the clean towelthat I had packed in the top of the case to hold everything together.  Then my legs gave out completely and I had to sit down and ask for water. Since I was now physically unable to stand and the women were stuck with me in the room, they relented; one went back to work and the other got me some water. Both women looked intensely fed up and irritated.

Both Security processes left me feeling frustrated, violated, humiliated and with no provision made for personal privacy.  What was the point of all that paperwork if it meant nothing?  Cross-checked with my Passport it all gave assurance that I was who I said I was, and that my situation was genuine and the supplies guaranteed.  If Border Security wishes to physically check the medical condition of passengers then it should educate its staff to understand the conditions they may encounter.

Finally I was allowed through.   And after all that, to add insult to injury the woman who had brought me the water, patted my arm, smiled at me, and suggested I go and get a mug of sweet tea and have a piece of cake to get over the shock of the procedures.  WHAT? Dr Jekyll or Mr Hyde?

Even allowing for all of us perhaps being tired and for a possible lack of communication I find these two security situations to be illogical and a senseless use of time and manpower, let alone not what one expects from one’s own government.  I shall be approaching our Border Control and Security Offices to find out what was correct, and how to avoid similar experiences in the future.

At least I must be grateful for small mercies: a middle aged German friend of J who is married to a German Senator, was made to submit to an internal body cavity search when she tried to come into the country.  The world has gone stark, staring mad.  And this is terribly, terribly wrong – no-one should be treated like this.

However, enough of all that.

A very worried J. and a tottering I finally met up at Starbucks, had a drink –  a very large, very hot, very sweet hot chocolate in my case – and went to our Gate and Boarded our plane.  And, finally, our holiday was beginning.

Image result for holiday in china


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Warning: a grim, no-holds barred post.  This may depress you so no offence taken if you wish to pass by.

This weekend was my turn on the Cancer merry-go-round.  All weekend.

Researching information, data, following blogs, case studies, alternative treatments, supplementary treatments, tried and untried treatments.  And getting thrown about, sometimes nearly being hurled off, blown up in the air, dragged round on the ground – but trying to cling on for dear life to some kind of objectivity and clarity.  Readers, there is none.

Some people can be helped by some treatments, yet for others there is no help from any kind of treatment. Everyone is an expert in their own field: no-one seems to have the big picture.

Big pharmaceuticals fund research: but only if some kind of drug protocol might have proven benefits.  Obviously.  But it is so hard for other researchers to make any headway in getting funding to check out the effects of basic changes in lifestyle or diet which, if successful, would bring in no money to anyone.

Then there are the politically driven guidelines for medics who are not allowed, in the UK, to discuss any other treatments than those which have full official sanction and funding.    So there is no way to find out about unofficial treatments or experimental treatments unless one pays: and therein lies the next destabilisation.  The prices charged for the slightest thing are astronomical.  £190 for a telephone consultation.  £335 for some urine testing.  £3,000 per week in a German clinic – and that’s without paying for food or lodging.  And those views are not unbiaised either.

So there is nowhere I have found where one can have an objective discussion about the whole subject with access to current research papers both published and unpublished.  In New Zealand they are having some success with stem cell treatment.  But they use stem cells from fat.  In the USA and UK the research appears to be concentrated only on stem cells from muscle.  My knee surgeon dismissed stem cell treatment as expensive and useless for orthopaedic problems although I know from first hand testimony that this is not always the case.  My cancer surgeon dismissed chemo, radiation, and even immunotherapy as pointless and would not let me even discuss stem cell treatment, as being unworthy of note.  Excuse me?  My body, my future, my muscle mass loss, my mobility compromised, my unhealed scars: and we cannot even mention some treatments? Last night I decided to have a rest from the merry-go-round and watch some Netflix instead!!

However, this morning I begin the Roller-Coaster.  Never a dull moment at this Fairground.  I have just had to cancel my holiday innoculations because of advice that my immune system has enough to deal with already because of the cancer, so no unnecessary challenges.  The first meaningful change to my plans because of the liposarcoma.

My son has messaged me: he is trying to fit his work schedule round my next consultations in London in September and the proposed surgery in November. This makes it horribly real.  Shortly I will have to ring the Royal Marsden to speak to the Consultant’s secretary to find out whether they have a time-line and who will be available to speak to me about anaesthetic and medical allergies, and how we are going to find our way through this maze.  Although I left them with pages of details of my chemical allergies, I suspect these have lain in a file, unprocessed, because there is no way round or through these problems and they have not had to deal with someone like me before.

Which brings me to the post traumatic stress disorder I suffer from.  Because of horrific experiences in childrens’ homes and hospitals, both as a child and as an adult, this is real and present.  Institutions terrify me.  Hospitals speak to me only of death and suffering. And this morning I woke up triggered by the message from my son, lying here going through all the things that have happened to me.

Spending three months in Great Ormond Street Hospital for children when I was ten: I never saw my family as they did not have a car, public transport was not available, and they were not well off.  Being told by nurses that my condition was dirty and smelled foul:  I had ulcerative colitis and was a child.  What could I do?

Things like lying on a table surrounded by medical students of my own age, treated like a lump of meat while in stirrups and 12 men looked into my vagina. No permission asked, I never even knew it was going to happen.  I was never spoken to or acknowledged. Oh I am wrong, the consultant barked at me to open my legs wider as they could not see well enough.  I was 21.

Having friends and family come to my bedside from all over the UK and some just off the boat from Europe, to say ‘goodbye’ as I was not expected to live.  Yes folks, I have already done the gradual decline and debilitation journey to death.  Twice.  The months of slow loss of dignity, of strength, of autonomy. The hell written on faces who can only watch and wait. Admittedly I only got to a few days away from death, but I know the journey. And this morning it feels like yesterday.

Surgeons who inserted feet of dry gauze into a deep, deep wound surrounded by the most sensitive nerve endings in the body, without soaking it first so that it stuck to the dried blood in the wound: it had to be pulled out, millimentre by millimetre bringing tissue with it, while I was held down. Afterwards left in complete physical shock while the tearful nurses tried to pretend it had not happened.  When questioned one said I was so near her own age she could not cope with what I was going through.  This was not a one-off incident.

Allergic reactions to anaesthetic leaving me with such migraine pain that I lay rigid, cold, sweating, second by second, minute by minute, hour by hour, for three days.  It took six hours for a doctor on night duty to be free to come and see me, then longer to get the drugs, and then no effects from the morphine or other drugs.  One nurse said she had never seen anyone in such pain on a surgical ward.

These are just the tip of the iceberg: I feel it may be more than enough sharing.  These happened some years ago so I expect things are very different now.  It is just that these are all my mind and body know and consequently I am in full panic mode right now.  Those of you with PTSD know where I am at today. Curled up in bed, crying, hot, sweaty, trying to ‘write it out’ since I dare not go downstairs and inflict it on my husband.  He is worried enough.

I think this Roller-Coaster is going to be a long one.

So,  having depressed both you and myself, I am going to try to leave this Funfair for a while: I shall crawl out of bed, have a cup of tea, and pretend none of this ever happened, or could ever happen again.  Make my phone calls, then try to organise some counselling and support.  Then thrust my head deep, deep, deep in the sand and on to other things: the garden calls,  I need to write up a statement for Eddie’s Crowd-Funding, I want to think about clothes for China and organise a visa photo.  Not sure whether I have the strength, but I will try.

It’s so ironic that people think I am strong.  If they only knew what you now know.  Enough already. Worse things happening to others. Slap wrist, pull up socks, deep breaths, put smile on.  OK, time to face the day.


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They came to take Minstrel’s body away yesterday.  I remembered the day 20 years ago when he came to us.

I had driven over to Matlock to fetch him in a horsebox which had an open internal body so that the horse could see the driver and vice versa (my choice).  There was only a short partition between us meaning he could lean over, just, to us. He did not like the journey much and was shivering with stress so we stopped early on in the journey at a Newsagent to buy him some mints: horses usually LOVE mints.  Minstrel certainly did and my companion fed him polo mints all the way back to our house.  Minstrel’s stomach always ruled his life!

Saxon our remaining pony was adopted from a local animal sanctuary when Spot our first and oldest pony died.  Spot had been Minstrel’s companion and when Spot went blind Minstrel became his guide and security, leading him around the fields and standing guard over him when Spot lay down to sleep and rest.  When Spot died at the grand old age of 32 Minstrel was beside himself with grief: it came off him in waves so tangible that it affected all who came near him.  Before that I never knew that horses could shed tears.  Minstrel became iller and iller with grief, hence the adoption of Saxon.

Now Saxon is left alone.  He does not appear to be grief-stricken as Minstrel was all those years ago.  We left Minstrel’s body in the field for 24 hours so that Saxon could come to terms with what had happened and so that he was in no doubt that his friend had not just left, but had died.  For the first day and night Saxon stood beside Minstrel’s body but after that he drifted around the field.  After Minstrel’s body was taken away we brought Saxon into the stable for the night: the place where he felt secure.  But yesterday afternoon and today he has been standing at the top of the field looking for – what?  Something.  He is constantly scanning the horizon.  Is he looking for Minstrel or any horse/pack that he can find?

Saxon has always been a nervy pony and clearly hates being alone: in the horse world this means that he is vulnerable to attack by predators.  Some horses can cope, some cannot.

So what to do?

Husband resolutely states that this must be my decision.  However, he refuses to let local farmers run other animals on our land, which would provide company for Saxon.  He also refuses to let anyone else come and pasture and stable their horses with us, which would have also helped.  He suggested getting a pig or a goat, but they would be lots of work and more vets’ bills.  If I were younger I would leap at the chance but having a gammy knee is not the time to take on more work.

This appears to leave two alternatives.  One is to return Saxon to the Sanctuary.  But he has been here for over 12 years and is at home here.  He is also bonded to us.  I rang the Sanctuary today to find how they were doing and it appears that things were so bad this summer that they were one month away from having all their animals put down.  The last thing they can manage is yet another animal.  So that one is off the agenda.  Of course there are other sanctuaries but it seems hard on Saxon who is an old horse (27) with not many years left to him.  The second choice is another horse.  The lady at the Sanctuary said that they have a 12 year old Shetland pony who is beautifully natured and will get on with anyone.  He was abandoned some years ago on Shetland itself.  Forewick ChesterI don’t know much more about him yet.  He is only 35 inches tall at the withers (about 8.75 hands) so would, in theory, be easier to manage than a large horse.  Saxon himself is only 12 hands.

Also it appears that Shetlands are good-doers, hardy and easy to care for.  Tick, tick, tick.

The upshot is that Chester, for that is the name of the Shetland, is coming on Sunday morning to see how he and Saxon get on.  Of course this will be explained by husband to family and friends with uplifted eyes and a deep sigh, as being my choice:  I suppose it is, but only because all other avenues were closed off to me!

I hope that this will help Saxon to be happier, give Chester a good home and help the animal Sanctuary.  Nothing will fill that particular hole in my heart though.

(Husband has just come in and said that he dislikes Shetlands! OK but what does he want to do?)

As for me, apart from the internet I am holed-up and taking some days off away from the world.  I cannot speak to anyone yet without breaking down and it is taking all my energies just to get through at the moment.  Minstrel was cremated today and his ashes will be coming home in a few days.  I will scatter them along with those of his oldest and greatest friend, Spot, whose ashes I still have.

I have asked for a tiny piece of his forelock to keep in a drawer because it still smells of him.  These animals, they do so get into your heart.

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I have felt hugely supported by those of you who have contacted me.  Thank you so very much.

I have had comments here on the blog, on Facebook, phone calls, emails, and a wonderful bunch of Spring Flowers sent to me through the post.

(Image from Google)

It has been a surprise to realise that some people actually quite value this little blog: very humbling but also so encouraging:)

And you all struggle to improve your part of the world and spread help and compassion as you are able.  It is inspiring.  And although I feel rather self indulgent having written about my own struggles as if I were alone with my feelings it has been hugely helpful to have this concrete proof that I am not alone in feeling thus.

Some of you have explained to me how you manage with these feelings:

Several have said that they find it necessary to keep some distance from events in order to avoid becoming submerged or immobilised by the cruelties and unhappinesses we hear about.

Unfortunately I was born/developed without firm boundaries and seem to be on one end of the empathy spectrum which has become unhealthy for me.  I have always felt a deep connection to, and embedded in, the world around me and find that distancing myself is not an option.

I have heard of instances of friends deliberately ‘passing the baton’ to the younger generation and allowing themselves to take a back seat after a lifetime of work and struggle to improve situations.

But I was born a fighter: I have always had to fight, I know no other way.  It has got me through some terrible times but it leaves an impossible feeling of impotence when one comes up against a fight that one cannot win.  This is a large part of what is upsetting me at the moment.  I don’t understand the point of my existence if I cannot make a difference.

Others blame social media, in fact media in general, for spreading so much hyped news and melodrama.  There is a huge amount of truth in this.  Reading all the petitions that come my way has exposed me to knowledge of injustice and cruelty that I would never have known about without these organisations.  In fact one friend just signs and never reads because she says she cannot survive the huge amount of unhappiness they represent.  Others never sign because they cannot take any more exposure of the harsh side of life.

Based on your and others’ comments I have been doing some research.

Professor Nicholas Christakis from Yale (Director of the Human Nature Lab at Yale) makes the point that Networks will magnify whatever they are seeded with.  His research has demonstrated that meanness will ripple through Social Networks, as will altruistic behaviour.  Networks will magnify Ebola and fascism and violence and unhappiness but also they will magnify love and altruism and happiness and information.

He is the author (with James Fowler) of Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives.

Here’s his TED talk:

He makes the point that much research (as well as common sense) shows that the people around you influence your behaviour. In fact, they influence it a lot more than you might think and probably more than you’re comfortable with admitting.

But here’s the really unexpected part: not only do your friends affect your behavior, so do their friends. And their friends’ friends. Here’s Nicholas:

“Across many different kinds of behavior: voting, cooperation, smoking, weight loss and weight gain, happiness, cooperative behavior, public health behaviors, we and others have been able to show that people are very meaningfully affected by the behaviors of other people to whom they’re connected. And here’s the kicker: they are also affected by the behaviors of people to whom they’re not directly connected.

When your friend’s friends quit smoking or your friend’s friend’s friend become nicer and more cooperative, this ripples through the network and affects you. Similarly, when you make a positive change in your life, when you start running for example, or you participate in our democracy and you vote, it ripples outward from you and can affect dozens, hundreds, perhaps even thousands of other people.”

So, these are my thoughts going forward.

Instead of being influenced and manipulated by Media Networks I am going to try to do good and improve what I can through them.  I don’t mean that I am going to try to somehow change all you readers of my blog: you regulars are already way ahead of me in trying to do your bit in the world.  But I do want to try to shed the occasional ray of light into dark places and catch some of the occasional visitors here who may not know some of the worst practices.

Instead of being beaten down by all the petitions illustrating tragedy, I am trying to change how I view them: thank goodness for people who are turning a spotlight on these dark parts of life.  They have found out, and are trying to publicize and change, the horrific practices going on.  Without these petitions the cruelties would still continue but unabated and without possibility of change.  I will contribute a small amount where I can and circulate the news and offer emotional support.  Not much, but better than nothing.

I have discovered so many kind, compassionate people in other countries who devote their lives selflessly to helping people and animals.  They have been there working tirelessly, I just did not know about them.  Now I shall search them out on the Internet and through word of mouth, and not be a passive recipient of the News that someone else decrees I should know about.

I have taken out an annual subscription to a newspaper (now in magazine form) called Positive News. 

Image from Google

When I first picked it up in a local hospital I was suspicious of the title: is this another bland “Everything is fine, everything will be alright” kind of journal.  But it is not: it was begun by one of our most respected BBC Foreign Correspondents, who went on to become an Independent Member of Parliament, and is now the Patron of the paper.  It just tries to give a more balanced, less dramatic and more informed view of news, instead of regarding good news as no news.  I find it a wonderful counterbalance to the usual stuff pedalled by our 24 hour news culture.

Although I find it a hard fact, everything in this world is recycled eventually, one way or another.  And this includes both human institutions and human behaviour.  Everything tends to decay and corruption and needs to be remade or renewed.  This seems a waste of experience and effort as well as being painful: but it is what happens and I must come to terms with this.  This is why accurate history teaching is essential in education.  So whereas I will do my best to help maintain the good that has been achieved I must accept that the process will necessarily involve some letting-go along the way.

I have been reading about life in the UK in the C10 and C11.  When you could literally not call your soul your own: when you could not decide which crops to grow: where to live: whom to serve: whom to marry: where there were no options for most people: when cruelties and tortures were rife.  We have made progress for the majority of the population in this country although in recent years some of these safeguards have appeared threatened.  The wheels of history grind so slowly.

Despite the bad weather I have made contact with more people than usual, as a result of the adoption of our two Romanian stray dogs:-

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1 In my last post I mentioned the kind, unexpected gift from the woman at the call centre for an international hotel chain.

2 When investigating dog harnesses for the car I spoke to the Managing Director of a company.  It turns out that she has adopted strays from Greece and the Gambia and supports a Rescue in Spain.

3 When staying in a hotel with the first of our strays all the staff came over to fuss here and fell in love with her.  A guest passing through saw her harness which mentions the Dogs Trust and complimented us and said she contributes every month.

4  The Dustmen stopped their cart for a chat and wanted to know all about the dogs and what was happening in Europe to unwanted animals and children.

5 At the vets the nurses came and crouched down and were so kind to these poor, mistreated pooches.

6  When out walking people stop and talk and are so interested and kind.

7 I have met the wonderful people who foster these animals as part of their resettlement programme.  These people are not rich but devote their lives to helping others.

8 Friends have come over to help look after our other animals and help me socialise these dogs.

9 The landlady of a pub came over to meet the dogs and to make a fuss of them.  They were welcomed warmly, not turned away as ‘unclean’.

10  On several occasions parents of children in a local park have brought them over to make friends saying, “That dog looks like a friendly one”.  The care and gentleness of the small children who asked which part the dog would like stroked and could they give them a treat.

I have met all sorts and all kinds of people in the last few weeks: all working people, mostly not well-off, but full of the milk of human kindness.  I have found it to be true, that those who have compassion – have it for all: it is such a fallacy to say that people either like animals or humans.

And religion and culture are not the definition of compassion either: some people from cultures who do not value dogs have been interested and surprised and happy to make friends with our dogs too – despite an initial hesitation.  I have learned about the people working hard in Romania, Greece, Spain and the Far East, to mention just a few, rescuing, treating, combatting cruelty, often at considerable danger to themselves.

Through research I have discovered so much good being done by so many:-

For example, the ex-soldier from the UK who has raised the plight of the lone children refugees in Europe, despite being taken to court for his compassion.

The unfailing efforts of Greek Islanders who leave their own work to pull drowning refugees from the Meditarranean.  Over and over and over again.

The Palestinian men who are striving to rescue their Zoo animals from slow starvation and illness despite the troubles in their own country.

The brave whistle-blowers in Thailand who are slowly winning round their Government to halt the deliberate torture of animals for food.

The people offering free health care, legal advice, physical care and food here in the UK.

It is a disgrace that so much evil is allowed to flourish in the world: but the bad news is totally unrepresentative.  There are legions, literally, of good, kind people, quietly and determindly helping.

They are not sitting back comfortably in the UK as I have been doing, feeling depressed and hopeless.  They are out there working hard.  I am so grateful to have discovered a little about some of them.  They, and you, have saved my emotional sanity.

This blog will go forward, but will try to highlight some of these wonderful people, alongside my own little sorrows and joys.

Thank you, thank you, to all of you, and to all of them.  I’m OK now:)

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Charlie Ebdo


I’ve recently been reading two long posts from Recollections of a Vagabonde at:   http://avagabonde.blogspot.co.uk    in the aftermath of the Charlie Ebdo tragedy.  I felt I really must point you over in her direction because her thoughtful and learned posts are really worthy of wide distribution, in my opinion: I suspect some of you read her blog anyway, but for those of you who do not, please go over and read:)  They are most enlightening.


P.S. Clip art in this post is from a site which WordPress assures me is copyright free, at : https://openclipart.org



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I could weep for the journalists killed yesterday: and also for the good people who are trying to stand together and fight for our views on free speech whilst also confounding a back-lash on innocent and moderate Moslems.

I know that many species, including humans, are suspicious of ‘the other’ and also that we sometimes feel that we suffer from well-meaning authorities who force integration on people faster than is natural.

But do not let us forget the lessons of the past and Niemoller’s warning after the atrocities of Hitler and the Nazis:


One version of Martin Niemoller’s famous quotation:

First they came for the Jews

and I did not speak out

because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the Communists

and I did not speak out

because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists

and I did not speak out

because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Catholics

and I did not speak out

because I was not a Catholic.

Then they came for me

and there was no-one left

to speak out for me.

Please do not let another line be added after yesterday’s bombing in Paris:

Then they came for the Moslems

and I did not speak out

because I was not a Moslem.

That is just what the extremists want.



First they came …” is a famous statement and provocative poem attributed to pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) about the cowardice of German intellectuals following the Nazis’ rise to power and the subsequent purging of their chosen targets, group after group. There is some disagreement over the exact wording of the quotation and when it was uttered as Niemoller changed the wording slightly depending on when he was speaking, and to whom.

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Recently I had a short visit to the USA during which I had the privilege of meeting with three blogging friends.

Home again, unpacked, washing done, jobs caught up with, almost.

Time for reflection.  And a feeling of incompleteness.

We talked from the beginning to the end of our meetings but there was so much that didn’t get said.  Any life, shortened to a brief autobiography naturally concentrates on the things that give life shape.  But there has been so much more in my life, of  pleasure, excitement and wonder that I did not mention.

So for them, and you, here are some of the bylines, mostly in chronological order .

1) The day that the handsomest boy from the local College saluted me in public by doffing his boater and bowing to me in front of a whole coach load of my peers – teenagers en route to school.

2) Meeting a student from Prague University when on holiday on a small island in Yugoslavia with my mother and sister: my mother then arranging for me to go off to stay with him and his mother on a one way ticket, with instructions to buy a return ticket when there, on the black market.  The grilling by the Communist police, having guards lift up floors and take down ceilings on the train going through the border from West Germany, camping illegally in hayhouses in fields, sleeping in a vagrants’ hostel when we had no money, getting felt-up in a German cinema when sheltering from the cold, walking through snow fields in the High Tatras to the edge of Poland whilst hanging onto chains with shoes falling to pieces, etc etc.

3) Flying a kite on the North Cape.

4)  Having a Japanese hitch hiker make Origami  butterflies to distract me from a reindeer cull in Lapland as we drove past.

5)  Marvelling at hot springs in a white-out in Yellowstone National Park.

6)  Staying in a palm- leaved roofed hut on a beach in Turkey when C. S. Lewis’s great friend, Roger Lancelyn Green, came by, complete with silver-gilt traveling drink set, and we sat on the sand under the stars drinking brandy while the sea murmured and sighed softly.

7)  Sitting on cushions on a platform in a tree, the outside dining room of a family in Turkey, eating fresh honeycomb, butter and warm rolls straight from the oven

8)  Taking a trip to Petra with my mother where a camel driver offered my mother several camels to buy me as an extra wife:  racing a camel round the pyramids going off into the sunset with a stranger as I bounced around unsteadily on the back of said camel, going I knew not where, with I knew not whom, but determined to make the most of the moment.

9)  Being shown round the bowels of a cruise ship by a Jordanian security officer who was guarding the ship, complete with sub-machine gun, who cornered me in a cabin and offered to give me a Jordanian baby.

10)  The Greek No. 2 Officer of said cruise ship who offered to show me the murkier night spots of Athens, much to my horror.

11)  Doing the night time feeds for my nephews whilst my sister slept.  Sitting in the stillness and quiet with a tiny baby who drank contentedly, looking up at me the whole time.

12)  Being taken on a private tour of a tomb in the Valley of the Kings by an Archaeologist when I mentioned that my father had been there in the 1930s digging with Sir Flanders Petrie.  She had special permission to visit a tomb closed to visitors because of the wonderful, fresh wall paintings, and she took me early one morning before the rest of the group were up.

13)  Standing, at 2.0 a.m. one cold morning  on a silent deck in the Dardanelles on the 60th anniversary of the Battle watching very old service men drop wreathes to their remembered comrades. Each alone, ranged round the deck, lost in his own thoughts.  I kept very quiet.

14)  Walking slowly alone through the room where Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill signed the Yalta accord in a handsome villa on a mountain side by the Black Sea.  Thinking – wondering – asking the floors and walls what was really said.

15)  Standing in a queue in Paris not knowing what language I had been talking to strangers, but all understanding each other.

16)  Sitting one New Year’s Eve in the Chapel in the Louvre as a Russian Choir sang soul-defyingly- beautiful folk songs and hymns, as outside the temperature dropped and the Seine rolled solemnly by to a New Year.

17)  Cold praline ice cream in a soft,  hot, sweet roll, sprinkled with icing sugar, walking through the Marais at night with the lights twinkling around me.

18)  Sheltering from the heat in St. Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai desert beside the Burning Bush.  Utter silence, stillness, and distance from civilization.

19)  Astounded by the beauty, colour and shapes of rocks in Arizona and the waterfalls in Yosemite: where a friend and I raced to complete three water-colour paintings each in a day.

20)  Lying, frozen with cold in a tent, under so many blankets that we could not move, listening to bears move in the forest.

21) Sitting in a box at the Bolshoi having walked earlier through a dimming Red Square with St.  Basil’s dome burnished by a late sun.

22) Visiting the Russian White House when our Foreign Office said not to travel, seeing the tanks, barracades and flowers all over the roads, and being offered Vodka by drunken Museum Officials who wept at the fate of Mother Russia and had learned their English from listening to the BBC and refused to charge us an entry fee because we were English.  Meeting in a dodgy back alley to exchange dollars for roubles at a better rate, whilst avoiding all the prostitutes who were soliciting my husband.

23) Standing pensively in Pasternak’s study in Peredelkino, looking through his window, by his desk where he wrote Dr. Zhiavago.

24) Visiting an artist I met in the street in Moscow, which entailed a long metro journey through brutalist tower blocks followed by an equally scary Trabant ride to an anonymous flat.  Going back next year with a suitcase full of clothes and necessities for his and his shy wife’s baby.

25) Going to the Kirov in St. Petersburg with a Texan Air Force fella we had met on the plane, who had never been outside the USA before and marvelled at what he was doing and where he was.

26) Exchanging scarves with a Russian lady on the Metro who fancied mine: getting lost and hitching a ride in a car to catch a plane.

27)  A terrifying helicopter trip over the Caucasus mountains in a machine whose seat belts not longer worked and where rain poured through the air vents in the ceiling: departing from an airport on which resided various crashed aircraft.  But a trip with views which were out of this world.

28)  Visiting a Caucasian public lavatory, where cubicle doors were unknown, and on entry one faced a line of anonymous bottoms hanging over holes in the floor.

29) Lying in a reindeer-drawn sleigh at night in northern Finland with my three year old grandson, who, as  we looked up at the stars, said, “This is something I will never forget”.

Somehow, amongst all the basic autobiography, none of this got mentioned.  Sorry ladies, that I never gave you the really interesting stuff;)

And now to this incomplete but illustrative list can be added, the magic of meeting friends made in the blogworld and a visit to the Met in New York to see Aida complete with live horses on the stage.

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