Thursday, 31 December 2009

Happy New Year

2009 / 2010 midnight
St Andrews Market Square, in Scotland - the view from the window where I lived until 1990. My thoughts go back there at New Year because the Scots know how to do it - and then need several days to recover. I will not forget - - .

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And auld lang syne?


For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup of kindness yet,
For auld lang syne!

auld lang syne - times gone by - Old Long Ago

Happy New Year to all my friends and family, wherever you are.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Health score definitions for reference

21-40: Score definitions: This is obviously subjective and is about general feeling of illness: it thus combines physical and emotional. I am going to refine the methodology to see if the ups and downs are related to anything.

over 12 - not much breathlessness. Not much aware of illness
11 - Little breathlessness.
very well - I live a more-or-less normal life.
10 - very well - I live a more-or-less normal life - if at a slower pace. Breathlessness allows some change in heart rate.
- well - Improvements in breathlessness and heart rate. No indigestion etc. More active and feel better than 9.
- well - Improvements in breathlessness and heart rate. No indigestion etc.
8.5 - well - breathlessness prevents heart rate. Can travel OK. Can handle hassles. Indigestion little.
8 - quite well - some breathlessness - can avoid sleep in afternoon. Some struggle to do things. Can travel.
Indigestion - mild.
7.5 - quite well - fatigue + breathless - can avoid sleep in afternoon. Can travel. Indigestion - mild.
7 - quite well - fatigue + breathless - can avoid sleep in afternoon; may feel gloom. Can travel with care. Indigestion - but less bad.
6 - aware of being less well - fatigue + breathless - I have to sleep in afternoon. Need to manage energy levels. Indigestion.
5 - feeling off colour - fatigue breathless - I have to sleep in afternoon - gloom. Indigestion.
4 - more off colour - more sleep - gloom or depressed.
3 - not worked out yet
- not worked out yet
- not worked out yet
-1 and below - values are various levels of being ill

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

I am back - and another beach

18-00: I was in South Devon for Xmas - this is Slapton Lea (I first went there nearly 50 years ago) - the best beach I walked along with my brother, even tho' there is no sand. Nothing in the direction of the picture but a good pub behind me, where we had excellent coffee to give us the strength to walk back.

Thanks to Roger for many kindnesses and a lot of cooking so that we could gross out in the proper seasonal way.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Christmas 2009

19-30: There is still snow on the ground here - in some places white and smooth and good for playing. It did thaw into a slushy mess in places today. I don't think they are used to snow here as there are no tobogans and no snow-men.

I will probably be off-line until next week - after the three boxing days following Xmas day. I am off to see my brother in Devon (by train) and I am not going to take my laptop. I am hoping to hole up infront of his wood-burning stove, avoid eating too much and maybe go for a few walks. I am feeling a bit tired just now - partly due to excessive shopping at the weekend! - but I really blame the usual side-effects of chemo.

Thank you for your various letters, emails and cards - it is lovely to hear from you and it is also wonderfully life-affirming.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Snow in Woodbridge

9-25: View from window at 8-45. So it does snow in Woodbridge! Snow in extra time - to be enjoyed when I get my thermals on - and until I need to get the car out this afternoon.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Update on progress

13-20: The picture is of (large) dolphins jumping - taken from my 23' Hunter Liberty yacht 'Matilda' off the river Tyne in August 2003: I do not know if they were jumping for joy - but it is nice to think so - and it was very joyous to see them then. I get to the point eventually - - - .

I feel a bit like this just now. I spent the morning at Ipswich hospital - Xray - blood test and a review by the consultant of how I am progressing. The news is that it going well - and the Xrays are showing great improvement. It is even a good sign that I have put on crazy amounts of weight. So 2010 is going to be better than 2009 - . I am to continue taking vinorelbine in the Day Unit in the hospital every couple of weeks.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Health score - any economic historian can explain any chart - -

16-40: It is an image of a chart in Excel where I am trying to score how I feel each day - the point being to see whether there are any obvious relationships - and as a structure for understanding. I think it has potential. See entry for December 30th for definitions.

A friend - you know who you are and what I owe you - once said that any decent historian can explain any chart - which makes me reluctant to explain this - - - yet!

This covers 12th November through to 16th December - the time since the chemo regimen changed. The scores are subjective and sum up how I feel (physically and emotionally) each day. The highest score is 12 (which Excel clearly did not know about) and represents total health and happiness: I guess that the scores will go negative for big nasties.

A weird whatever-it-is comes out in winter

16-20: In keeping with the 'get less unfit' campaign - I walked around the marina and then upriver (and home via the coffee shop!) in - - yes - - snow. Not proper snow - but the heavy stuff that is almost rain - but it still counts as snow. So now we know that it does snow in Woodbridge.

The menacing-looking weird whatever-it-is has come out of its summer home and is parked at the entrance to the marina. It does look horribly like some sort of insect-robot thingy and it often has humans nurturing it. Sadly - it is only a dredger but a very cool dredger - more pictures when I catch it actually sucking mud through its probescus.

Sunday, 13 December 2009


21-20: I walked along the river today as part of my 'get less unfit' campaign. It rained heavily in the morning but stopped - so the atmosphere was clear and bright. Most of the moored yachts have been fished out of the river and laid up for the winter in various boat yards and in the marina. This leaves the river views wondrously open - as it might have looked before all the moorings were laid. Some writers lament the numbers of moorings but I think they are a good thing because they enable a lot of people to have a boat and go sailing.

I am feeling better than last week. I am now going to try to walk faster and discipline myself to eat less and do some muscle toneing excersises in the morning - I hate to think what other healthy stuff I will read about - - . I thought weight-loss was a danger with cancer - obviously not with me as I have put on several kilos since August. Sigh - but I am not giving up on eating chips from time to time - maybe less often.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Trivia - this week

9-30: Written on Friday - although I started it Tuesday - how misleading. A view if I look out of the wndow - car park - station platform - boat park - River Deben beyond.

A down feeling for some of this week, although hard to describe what exactly I mean by this.
Monday - I woke late and felt very breathless with the ache in my left lung more noticable than before. But - by mid-afternoon - no ache. Maybe excersise did the trick (1 hour cycling and some weights in the morning) or maybe it is random. I continue to feel breathless on occasions - I worry about these relatively small changes - enough to make me wonder (in down moods) about how long 'extra time' is going to be.

And then the rest of the week up and down - culminating in a shopping expedition to Ipswich by train on Friday and hog roast for lunch there in bright sunshine. I have posted most of my cards - and I have visited my boat and hope a new owner turns up soon. Otherwise - all the usual trivia of everyday life.

Living in 'extra-time'

17-50: I am touched yet again that my friends read my blog - it encourages me to keep going and also to find words for how I feel.

This week is the 15th since I was diagnosed - with 'months' to live. I thought then that 'months' meant that I would not make it to Xmas - so after 15 weeks I now live in 'extra time'. I am not trying to live a better life or be a nicer person - I don't have the energy! - but I am very glad still to be here and to want to go sailing again.

I am now trying to write cards - which show the Tide Mill in Woodbridge - under a layer of snow; there has been a cold wind here but I don't believe it ever snows up the Deben!

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Fatigue - and boat now ready for sale

17-30: No suitable pictures for this post - me riding a bike etc: is not very photogenic.

I have not written this week because I was too fatigued to formulate something interesting. I did some prodding around the internet about lung cancer and fatigue and discovered some interesting abstracts of articles (mostly European) about treatments for fatigue. These all say that not much is known about the causes of fatigue - which figures with discussions I have had on the subject; it also seems unclear whether it is a side-effect of the cancer or a side-effect of the treatment. The one thing I have found (but not the detail) is that the best treatment for fatigue is - you've guessed it - excersise. So I have parked the car today - and cycled to the shops and boat. But this is all rather circular because I feel a lot better today and therefore happy to cycle around. I also have some very good daily routines - which are supposed to strengthen different bits each day - so back to that routine as well.

I finished clearing the boat on Monday - and brought all my tools home. I still visit her and today I put some gunge on the hull to clean off the brown stains aquired along the East Anglian coast and rivers. It was sunny and nice - so I only did one side and went off to gossip with other denizens of the marina. For the rest of the week - I pottered around - library - a bit of knitting - a bit of needlework - joined the University of the Third Age - and so on. Ipswich Hospital for chemo-therapy on Friday - uneventful.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

A Hunter Horizon 23 - not mine yet

20-30: A picture of a small yacht - the Hunter Horizon 23. It has twin keels and is said to be easy to sail - with a self-tacking jib. The interior looks good too. I have in mind to get one instead of LA Girl. I have promised myself (and anyone else who listens) that I am not going to look for one until I have the money for my Southerly 95 in the bank! But focus on a different boat is a stimulus to get the Southerly ready for the market. The concept is to be able to continue to sail in the rivers of East Anglia -and also to go out to sea on occasions. Nice.

I am still feeling gloomy - and tired - but am going to focus on finishing preparations to sell the boat and then find something very pleasurable to do; shopping in Ipswich - or walking the beach in wind and rain?

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

- a price worth paying - -

20-15: Today - we have side effects - a price worth paying.
The feeling is less obviously physical - more apparently emotional than previously but based in the physical because I don't have the energy to deal with the normal things of life that (normally) keep me on the normal side of sanity.

I find it hard to write about it - it feels as if I want to run down the road - shouting and screaming and weeping and ranting. I do not have the energy actually to do this - so I remember lots of bad things instead and listen to music, thinking about relatives who are now dead - my father, Betty, Pauline, Michael (to whom I was married), my mother - it pains me even to write their names.

Yet - yet - I cannot deny
the black shadow by not writing about it - it is part of the experience of my life. It lurks and comes into the open from time to time, usually as part of the side effect of chemo-therapy. So blame the chemicals - and accept it as a price worth paying for being alive and for the good times.

And today we also had the sanding off of mud from the waterline of the boat (satisfying but exhausting). The wind blew, the sun shone, the tide came in over the river mud, I had chips for lunch and a friend got in touch.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Beware low flying Southerly 95 - -

15-55: Being craned out earlier today - at the excellent Tidemill Yacht Harbour, Woodbridge -

LA Girl gets lifted out onto the grass

15-45: This was very exhausting for me and all I did was wander around and take pictures.

The hard work is done by the crane and the marina staff. There were growths underneath (which have been washed off) and the propeller had so much weed that I am surprised that it worked at all. It has been photographed as an example of excessive weed growth! I think it was bad because I have only run the engine a few times since August. She is now chocked up on a grassy bank overlooking the river and will soon have a 'For Sale' notice on her. See Howard Ford's web page -

And yes - I am upset about selling her but it must be done and I will get another boat, which is some consolation. I came home because I could not face cleaning the deck and all the other clearing up that needs to be done. Also - it was raining.

Saturday, 21 November 2009


18-00: I am feeling pretty well just now - although I get out of breath. But the more I do - the better I feel - which is encouraging.

I started the new regimen for chemotherapy yesterday. The idea is that this keeps the cancer 'at bay' (in inverted commas as this is hardly a medical term). It is also intended to produce fewer side effects - we will see. Spent today sorting out boat stuff and taking the main sail off the boom - so I hope it is true that doing stuff makes one better.

Some individual pots

17-55: One of the things I liked in the ceramics galleries is that there is a mixture of fine art and ordinary wares. These are mass produced Chinese porcelain bowls and saucers made for middling households in Europe throughout the 18th century. Likewise the galleries juxtapose ceramics from the Far East, the middle East and Europe, which illustrates how advanced the Chinese and Japanese potters were in the medieval and post-medieval periods.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Ceramics galleries at the V & A

12-15: An overview of the part that has detail about techniques, illustrated with pottery from the collections. The picture does not do justice to the amount of information here.

I went up to London on Wednesday afternoon, stayed in Fulham with my son and went to the V&A at opening time on Thursday. I intended to stay for a couple of hours but finished up leaving just in time to get the train back at 15-30.

I first went to the V&A about 60 years ago with my grandfather - and recall the ceramics galleries from when I was slightly older. I then thought they were wonderful and I really feared the change would not do justice to the old galleries. I was completely wrong - the new galleries are spectacular and take account of research (historical and archaeological) done in the last 40 years.

One thing bothered me which I will write about in a later blog, as I do not want to detract from the point that these galleries are - - mind-blowing. Mind-you, you do need to like ceramics - - .

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Southerly 95 - LA Girl - For Sale

12-00: LA Girl - Southerly 95 - is for sale. See Howard Ford's web page -

Here she is at anchor in Wells-Next-the-Sea in July 2009. When sailing, she has a drop keel. Very comfortable and fun boat, which can get to places other boats cannot reach - - .

I give her up with great sorrow - I was expecting to own her for years and years (Shetlands here we come again). But I console myself with the thought of getting afloat again in a smaller - less breathtaking - yacht.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

my third cruiser - Iris May

19-50: Iris May in the wonderful Shetland Isles.
She is a MacWester Wight, a ketch with shallow keels and an enormous engine.

I have spent Monday and Tuesday (in reasonable weather) getting my fourth cruiser ready to be sold. I did feel gloomy this afternoon about the need to sell her; I think this is because I do not choose to have to sell her and had hoped for maybe ten years with the same boat. Also she looks rather bare without all my personal gear (all two car loads of it!) and it was very hard work. Focus on the likely fun in another boat - I do seem to get through boats rather faster than most people. And, dear reader, do not think this is remarkably energetic - I did it all at snails' pace and have done nothing else in three days.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

my second cruiser - Matilda

18-20: Matilda in a mud berth in St Andrews in 2004. She is a Hunter Liberty 22 - a tough and fun boat and I went from the Tyne to the Firth of Forth and on to St Andrews in her.

Today - I worked on getting LA Girl ready to be advertised for sail. This is not quite as gloom-laden as it might be - I am aware that I have had fun-fun in smaller boats. The weather is terrible - rain squalls and wind gusting more than I have seen for a long time - doubled up all the mooring warps and packed several car loads of gear ready to remove from the boat when the wind drops.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Update on cancer

10-00: After the misery of last week - a change to feeling rather better than I have for some time. It looks as if the combination of vinorelbine and carboplatin - the 'killer-chemicals' (so called by me because they are supposed to kill the cancer cells before they kill other useful cells) has had a beneficial effect. There are still cancerous cells around - but there are fewer of them - blurry and imprecise on the xray. The next stage is to have just vinorelbine every other week to see if that alone stops the cancer from growing - with fewer side effects.

I do not know what this means in terms of what I can do and how long I have to do it. The survival figures I have found on-line are bleak. (25% survival at the end of a year after diagnosis and 7% at five years - but these were for people diagnosed in 2001. I think care and understanding has improved slightly since then - but the NICE guidelines seem to imply that an awful lot more reseach is needed before there are major changes.)

Anyway - I am off the chemical-hook for a week and determined to go out into the fresh air although it is raining hard. Scrubbing the deck of a boat in pouring rain - probably not!

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Boat I did not own - but loved -

18-15: A catamaran at Wildwind in Greece some years back - the best place to sail cats - see their web site at:- I went there for many years - until I went over to the slow-side and sailed cruisers in the summer. This is here to remind me that great fun can be had in smaller boats - so that it is not too painful to sell LA Girl.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Replacing LA Girl (my Southerly 95) with a smaller boat

18-00: But not this small!
Here I am really enjoying my old Laser (sold last year) between the piers at Tynemouth - yippee - one of the best evening's sailing I have had.

The collection of 'boats I have owned' is due to increase - I am intending to replace LA Girl (my Southerly 95) with a smaller boat, a process that will start with the sale of LA Girl. I had planned to keep her for years and sail around the coasts; she was selected for that purpose. I now think it would be good to have a smaller boat to sail around the rivers of East Anglia - but it needs to be big enough to stay on in comfort.

I have a feeling that I should not do 'planning ahead' but at present I feel well again, after the lows of last week.

Monday, 9 November 2009

My first cruising boat: Hurley 18

21-07: This is a Hurley 18 - being launched into St Andrews harbour; the dinghy is almost the same size as the boat. However, inspite of its wee stubby keels, we had a lot of fun in it and it is presented here to remind me that fun can be had in all kinds of boat. We sailed it to the Isle of May in the Firth of Forth many times and one year I even crossed the Firth to North Berwick - where I was stuck for several days in bad weather.

Friday - gloom and despair -

21-00: I write now - looking back to Friday. For some reason - this was a bad day emotionally. Yet it was also the end of the worst of the side effects from the last lot of chemo-therapy. I basically felt miserable - and afterwards - one forgets the detail - so you are spared. It may also have been emphasised by two days working through a lot of old family photographs - of people long dead. It felt as if the Valley is there waiting for me to join them.

Also - car for MOT - and needing to be welded together - and lots of other trivial things that worried me then but are not now in my mind.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

this week

9-25: This week - no posts - the side effects of the chemotherapy.

I have not written this week because I have felt too cross but also I think this because it takes more energy to write on the darker side than about the the trivia. The side effects are wearing off today - and I am hoping they will be less up-front by the weekend.

The side effects are hard to describe; they are a mixture of feelings (largely bad temper, but also boredom, mild depression of the spirits, lack of good concentration) and physical states that I describe as 'fatigue' or 'lethargy'. I am not sure that these words do justice to what it feels like because there are also other things. One is that I either have no interest in food or I am very hungry. When I get hungry - I feel much worse - so have concentrated on frequent and yummie meals - and making cakes - I think an attempt to take some control over things. But otherwise I find there is no escape; if
I stay in, I feel restless, bad tempered and fatigued: if I go out I feel fatigued and ache and get cross.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

domestic trivia

19-00: And you know that I think domestic trivia can define the every day of life - so this post is not trivial.

I I have spent the weekend trying to sort out my flat. On Saturday - a short expedition to Homebase off the bypass at Ipswich to get three cheap shelves for storage. The rest of the day building two of the shelves and taking things out of boxes - and moving books and so on. I also cooked two proper meals and two batches of meals for the freezer and did the washing.

Today - lurked out of the heavy rain and wind until driven by desire to feel the wind and rain - and for a cappuchino - to walk along the river side. Built the other shelf and moved yet more things, froze the meals and perfected my list of things to do - including going to the chandlers and getting an MoT for the car. But I also sat around and read a boook and a Sunday paper - that is what bad weather does for one!

Friday, 30 October 2009

Visiting - -

17-30: I used to live here - it seems a long time ago and a long way away - - as does the rough North Sea. It has no relevance to this post - - .

There have been some improvements to my quality of life lately, indeed I sound quite cheerful in many of my posts - partly because I am quite cheerful to be still around. However - I am not 'cured' and no-one can really know how long I have and what my quality of life will be. I am now going walks (albeit quite short and gentle ones), playing with boats and using my bike to get around. I am not as energetic as the blog suggests - and the valley of the shadow of death has not gone - it is rather that I am able to get to the sunny uplands. So it is a bit of a mixture - especially after chemo-therapy - the killer chemicals knock out general well-being as well as the cancer cells - (a price worth paying by the way).

My usual survival strategies still apply - I need a lot of solitary time - time alone. I do not want the responsibility of visitors - I do not have the emotional or physical energy. I have agonised about writing this - I felt that I 'ought' to have visitors because they want to come - but I am going to follow my instincts and do solitude. I don't know how long this will last - we will see.

But - keep in touch by writing emails and letters - full of what someone called 'drivel' and what I call 'the trivia of every day life' (which I believe has great importance to the texture of life) - that way I keep in touch with you. I cannot say how much I appreciate emails and letters - they have kept me going and contributed hugely to my well-being - more than I can find words to say - except they keep me on the sunny uplands.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

bonfire of the vanities

18-10: Three of my books - and some basic notes that were used to write them.
A card index of potteries in England, 1660 to 1815 for my PhD. Sheets of notes extracted from probate inventories used in my research (and book) on consumer behaviour from 1660 to 1760.

I worked with paper - but have 'put them on a database' since - quite small databases actually.

I am going to make a metaphorical (ie not a real bonfire) bonfire of the papers - as I do not expect to look at them again (I have not done so in the last 15 years!). Part of clearing out my possessions.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Up to Town - and internet connections

12-20: Yesterday - I got on a through train to Liverpool Street to have lunch with my daughter - and to pick up some gear for the boats. I walk slightly faster than the other people in Woodbridge - in London - I crawl. It was all rather mind-blowing and wonderful - the bustle an exciting contrast to my normal life.

Today - a further battle with T-Mobile to get a sensible connection - unsuccessful - makes me very bad tempered. So I maybe off line for a while - or until I come into the library (where I am now) to connect and blog.

It has at least identified the one thing that will throw me over the edge - lack of internet connectivity. And it is my own fault for not getting on with a broadband line - much gnashing of teeth and groaning.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Messing about with boats

21-00 GMT: A whole extra hour to mess in boats.

I have had a happy weekend playing with boats. The picture shows that I now have the use of a Laser here (the one with the grey cover). There is also a red Laser. I have washed the sails in the bath and the foils in the kitchen sink - what pleasure!
The pic also shows my bike and all the stuff I carried back on it (I did have to walk) by way of lunch of sausage and chips in bright sunshine.
I am surprised, but also pleased, to find happiness here - under the circumstances.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

wind over tide - giving waves

20-00: The picture is the channel out of the Deben - with the wind blowing over the fallinig tide. I would like to think that this is a metaphor for parts of life - maybe the rough patches - - which you sail through to calmer water - -.

There are two sides to life here which are closely interwoven. On the one side, I have cancer - I am concerned about living with it and the treatments as best I can. On the other side - I am enjoying myself with simple pleasures; sitting on a boat, walking along beaches, eating chips, watching boats.

Usually I do one at the time - - today I did both.

I went into Ipswich hospital to see whether I should continue with chemotherapy tomorrow. I discuss treatment options with the consultant and try to visualise (with his help) what is going on the the lungs. Necessary - I previously thought that a shadow to the left of the lung was a tumor - yo folks - it is the heart! But it does seem as if the spots representing the nodes of cancer have become smaller and fewer. The conclusion is to carry on with the same chemotherapy for the time being to zap em even more.

I felt - after this - I needed to walk along the beach - so came back by way of Felixstow Ferry - and watched the waves and surf caused by wind over tide and the offshore gravel banks. As well as the kite surfers exploiting the waves and one (in my view) foolish yacht who went out through the surf.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Head of navigation - the Deben

11-30: On Tuesday I got the train to Melton and walked back along the river Deben from the head of navigation. Not a very long walk but longer than I am used to recently - and I walked slightly faster without getting too out of breath. The tide was high - the mud was completely out of sight so the picture looks especially idyllic. Normally there is but a trickle of water under the bridge.

Today - heavy rain so am lurking indoors worrying about a lot of domestic trivia.

Monday, 19 October 2009

another beach - and (sea) cabbages

18-10: Felixstowe Ferry - looking northwards - with Walton in the distance. The plants are cabbages amongst the gravel - very strange and interesting.

Went to see Felixstowe (not so nice) and Felixstowe Ferry (very nice) today as part of the plan to make a few expeditions here and there. FF is at the mouth of the Deben - so I looked at the fearsome entrance to the river - with tide over wind and surf over gravel banks. I walked along the sea walls in spitting rain and chilly SE wind - which gave me an excuse to eat chips etc in a cafe. I have got very used to walking slowly - so I am trying to speed up a bit - not too much! Lovely to see the sea again - and walk in rain. Very good for morale and I felt a long way from annoying practical worries, as well as from the Valley.

Dear friends - thank you for reading my blog - it really helps me to know you are out there.

Sunday, 18 October 2009


19-50: On Friday I went to Ipswich Hospital both to see the consultant and to start the third lot of chemotherapy. It did not turn out quite as expected - and paradoxically I am finding this quite hard to write about.

The latest Xray - when compared to the previous one - shows a smaller patch of cancer. Good stuff and (I think) rather unexpected. Is this the good and healthy life I am leading - or is it the chemicals - I suspect both but I am quite happy to give the chemicals due credit.

The latest blood test suggested that my immune system might be a bit dodgy - so the conclusion was to have another week without treatment and then go back at the end of the week to review the situation.

So this weekend - the side effects are wearing off and I have felt less unwell (double negatives have meaning people) than I have for much of the summer. So have done self indulgent things like eating too much - going to the pub - going to Aldeburgh, going to bed late and walking around more than usual. I have even thought ahead a few weeks for further pleasurable things to do. All this sounds good and cheerful - and in some senses it is - but - but - but - it is difficult to write about and also to interpret - the outcome is so unclear - nobody knows - the channel has no markers and one could run aground all too easily (see foam etc in the previous blog for the analogy).

Keep Calm and Carry on -

Another beach - Aldeburgh looking south

19-35: On Saturday we went to Aldeburgh to see the sea and I found a stone with a hole in it. Here is the beach with fishermen and the gravel bank along the narrowest bit between the sea and the river Alde - it looks as if one decent storm would cut through it. There are sea defences! The foam and waves over the off shore sandbanks may not show up on the picture here.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

I come out of my shell - a little

20-40: I tried to blog yesterday about having an incurable condition in contrast to people who have been cured. But I could not find the right words. Try again today - -

I have not done a lot of prodding the web for 'ways of defeating cancer'. I accept that advanced lung cancer (not spotted until at a late stage) is not susceptible to a cure. I guess this means that I do not set out to 'defeat' cancer - in the sense of it never coming back. There seems to be a strand in some peoples' thinking that implies that it is a moral failing if the cancer is not defeated by one's own efforts. One workshop participant seemed to have this view which set me thinking (rather than ranting as I might once have done!).

It maybe that the train and library was good for me - I had two nice and sensible conversations today with people I met around the marina and boat yards - partly about boats - partly about cancer. I have been aware of a protective shell around me. So abandoning the tidying of the flat to visit the boat and wander around in the sun was good - and not self indulgent.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

I go to Ipswich by train

20-30: I realise that I have not been out of Woodbridge often enough - it comes to something when a short train journey and a walk through a town centre is an experience. I went to the Library - to a writing workshop for people affected by cancer. I am impressed that local libraries are centres of activity well beyond book loans. This site, for example, has the best collection of links to cancer sites that I have found:-

Rather a good workshop because it worked for everyone there - from experienced writers to those who were afraid to put pen to paper. I was the only one there who had not been 'cured' in some sense.

Monday, 12 October 2009

I am aware of the Valley

19-45: I have been more aware of the valley of the shadow of death in the last few days. For one thing I have been reading and thinking about death and also collecting together poetry about death.

It is interesting that one seeks explanations for changes like this. Perhaps the surprise should be that I stopped thinking about death for a while, rather than that it has come back. However, I do think that getting my possessions out of their boxes makes me aware of mortality - and churns up the feelings. Yep - bits of pot, some books and old research papers have the power to do that.

But I spent today sitting around in the sun on the boat - which - as always - gave me courage to walk in the valley of the shadow of death and fear no evil - - .

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

I move ashore

20-30: I have been living on my boat (with a break of a couple of weeks in Ipswich hospital) since early May - nearly five months. On Monday - I felt it was time to move ashore to the flat in Woodbridge - I think because the sky has clouded over and rain threatens, at the same time as the temperature dropped. So I packed essential gear (a surprising amount), loaded it to my car and left my trusty boat. It started to rain as I left and has hardly stopped since.

Today - the furniture and numerous boxes of gear and books were delivered and I am now trying to make a home out of piles of boxes.

The effects of the chemo-therapy has slightly reduced today. On Monday - I used the couple of good hours in the morning to move in - and spent the rest of the day lying around in a hammock. On Tuesday - I was able to do things for longer - I joined the library - and I overdid the action and had to retreat to the hammock for the rest of the day. Today - I unpacked boxes until lunchtime - then made sure the boat is OK and then rested for a short time (in a chair because the hammock was surrounded by boxes.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

chemotherapy -

17-30: this is about Friday, 2nd October.

I feel nervous each time I go to the Day Unit for treatment - and even more so today because I would like a brief chat with someone about how to handle a couple of problems that I am finding upsetting. But I get there fine - park - walk along the long corridors which are beginning to be familiar - I even know where the loos are. I carry a small rucksack of 'survival' gear - magazines, food and a CD player. I am stressed. I am early.

I wander around near the Cancer Information Centre - and a volunteer strikes up a conversation - and I tell him about some dilemmas I have with getting exhausted when people are kind enough to visit - after ten minutes and a few tears (hidden by my glasses) I go on my way - encouraged.

The process of the treatment is straightforward - I report in - I just have time to get a coffee before I am called in - I sit around warming a hand to get a good vein for the drip needle (which I don't even feel when inserted - but I did look away). I sit around waiting for the chemicals to be delivered and checked - looking at pictures of boats in a magazine and barely turn the pages before the small bag is delivered and dripped in. This particular one (vinorelbine) can have nasty effects if it gets out of the vein, so a nurse has to watch it in - but this is only for five minutes. A bit more messing with the tubes - and job done and I am out and back home (where I sleep it off for the rest of the day) a couple of hours after leaving.

This is the end of the second cycle of treatment - and I send good messages to the chemicals to get on and destroy cancer cells and leave the other cells alone. However - a couple of days after the first treatment I start to feel - - side effects. I find these difficult to describe because they are like nothing else I have ever experienced. I use the words 'fatigue' and 'zapped' - . The last couple of days I have felt OK for some of the morning - then I have more or less lay around for the rest of the day - apart from eating and blogging. Very boring - - but if it zaps the nasties - it is worth it. Last time, the side-effects wore off after the second week.

The regimen is combined vinorelbine and carboplatin. The first treatment of the cycle has both - so takes longer than Friday. The second treatment is just vinorelbine.

another sailing club -

17-20: The Deben Sailing Club house: It is entirely built over the river - seen here at high tide. The new piling is to improve the club house.

I do not know whether I will be able to contribute here - and sail a Laser again. But I have signed up for it in the hope of doing so. I have also seen another class of dinghy which might be fun - a streaker.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

another beach - another world -

8-45: This is the beach at Tynemouth - in a rough mood in May this year. It was my old stamping ground and I often walked back from work along the beach via the coffee bar at the far end in rough and calm weather.

This is a complete contrast to the calm of the river Deben - and the warmth of this area.

It slightly bothers me that I do not miss Tynemouth beach - or the rough coastline of Northumbria. (It would probably bother me more if I did miss it!) But I wonder what is behind this - can I really abandon my 'old' life in the north and set up a new home here - and not look back with sorrow / regret and whatever. Is it a lost capacity to feel? Looked at in a positive way - it maybe because I am (surprisingly under the circumstances) happy here - and was not always happy in Tynemouth.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

the cockpit

9-20: The cockpit.
Here I sit in the morning - often in the sun. Today - quite warm but there is thin cloud. Then I can rest in the sun in the afternoon - and the weather forecast is for good weather to continue for a while. I also ride my bike to the shops and flat and am living a peaceful life.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Kingfishers and the valley

19-00: Sunday: Since Wednesday I have been to see the consultant He seems to think the chemotherapy is working - the cancer is less than three weeks ago and I do feel a lot less ill. It seems that I might be around for longer than his initial thoughts - (the ones that told me to write a will and make my peace with the people I have offended.). All a bit of a roller-coaster - - keep calm and carry on - - the valley continues to feel distanced which might be the sunshine as much as the reality of the situation - but never mind.

I have also had a second lot of chemotherapy - the side effects are just beginning - but I hope I am learning to manage fatigue and a few other minor things better than last time.

The weather here is like a foreign country - warm sunshine from a clear sky. Breakfast in the cockpit in sunshine and then went to Sutton Hoo with my family and wandered around in the woods - only a few miles but feasible now I have my car. I can see the buildings of Sutton Hoo from the marina.

AND - I have seen kingfishers from my boat - scooping food off the surface of the water - cool stuff.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Signs of autumn

The weather has been warm and I have sat in the cockpit for breakfast - and had lunch outside as well. But you can tell autumn is coming because the cranes are out - ready to lift boats out of the water along the riverside - this one viewed from my cockpit, takes them from the marina and dispatches them to hard-standing somewhere.

Used my bike today for the first time for ages - fun and I even managed to avoid the dogs. But real stuff starts again tomorrow as I have an appointment with the oncology consultant in Ipswich.

Monday, 21 September 2009

I go to Cullercoats but am now back in Woodbridge

19-30: I illustrate this with a picture taken last year across the beach at Tynemouth sailing club. I spent a lot of time here for a lot of years - before I ran away to sea this summer; my Laser 1 (now sold to pay for gear for the big boat) is the first in the line.

I spent the weekend clearing out the junk in my flat - well I say 'I' cleared it out. This is not really true - I did about 2% of it and would only have scratched the surface if I had not been helped. They took many - many car-loads to the dump/recycle centre, and even so the piles of possessions around the flat still seem mountainous. I thought I had had a pretty good clear-out before I left. Anyway - the remaining things will be delivered to Woodbridge in due course by Pickford's. We bought my car back today - so I can now explore beyond walking distance, although I like walking around.

I feel pretty tired after all the driving around but otherwise better even than last week. I now have three days to rush around (no-no I mean enjoy) before the next lot of chemotherapy.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

News of the valley

20-50: Recently my posts have reflected my feelings - the valley of the shadow of death seemed a long way away and I have been on the sunny uplands, at least inside: but the body has felt fatigued and a bit zapped.

I have felt less fatigued today - walked up to the shop with unusual speed - ate a lot of liver and bacon and chips for lunch - walked along the river front. So you might expect the valley to be even further away - but - -

When I sat down for rest and relaxation in the cabin of the boat, the shadow passed across me. I would have expected this when I was physically at a low ebb. But I suppose it makes sense to be more aware of the valley in contrast with feeling normalish. Especially as I am trying to find review articles on the web which will say more about my expectation of life than the median number of months after diagnosis - all I know is that the distribution is skew.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

July 2007 - Sunborough Head: Shetland

9-30: The pier is the site of a near-death experience in 2007. I fell in between the boat and the pier. My life jacket did not inflate - but I did not hit my head - I just got very cold - and shocked - and was eventually able to climb out. Sympathy to my son who was on the pier.

This bay is also the location of my worst-ever day sailing, where the anchor dragged and I ran into various rocks. Sympathy to my son who warned me of the dangers.

And I learnt - not to sail long passages and get exhausted.

Monday, 14 September 2009

On the Deben and back again

9-00: Downstream at Woodbridge.

On Saturday - we (my family and I) took the boat out for a short expedition as the tide came in.
Sun and a good breeze - and all I had to do was steer - and avoid the moorings and dinghies. Knowledge of the collision regulations was partly helpful - but not everyone else on the river knows them. We managed to avoid the moored boats and the mud banks and admire the various traditional boats moored in upper reaches of the Deben. Cool. More pics at:-

Sunday, 13 September 2009

I have a view of the station

10-20: the view of the station and so on from the living room - a nice window as well.
I have been fortunate to have had good views in places where I have lived. Gradually moving stuff in here but - obviously - the boat is the place.

Yesterday - sunshine and the clear skies and wonderful views of stars. Today - cloud and wind.

Friday, 11 September 2009

the Valley

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,
for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff comfort me.

Who is 'thou' for an athiest.
Thou is you - my friends and family who have communicated such great support and love in the last few weeks - in your own ways.

I have found this metaphor a way of trying to deal with the inner life of this time. The valley of the shadow of death is where I now dwell and I intend to blog back from this place - news from the Valley.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

the long words for what I have

17-40: non-small cell adenocarcenoma of the lung.

It is apparently (and I say apparently as I cannot see or feel this - which is really weird) in both lungs and in an advanced state. This site has information - I have not found much else on-line.

I had the second lot of chemotherapy this afternoon - apparently this is not to 'cure' it but to reduce its impact. Side effects so far - just (if 'just' is the right word) fatigue - which means I don't feel like doing an awful lot of rushing around.

The wind here has changed to the north - it is still warm but it has a North-east feel about it sometimes.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

and here it is at low tide

18-30: there is mud for about half the time - one comes to like mud. The marina has a cill and retains enough water for boats to float.

Today's trip to Ipswich for more chemotherapy was put off until tomorrow - which was good because it was warm, the sun was out all day and the wind blew.

Monday, 7 September 2009

My view in Woodbridge

9-20: I have had a bit of problem with the internet connection - but am going to blog again when I can.

This is my view from the cockpit at high tide - I am moved by the beauty of this place. And also by the many messages I have had from you all - it really helps and I feel protected by your concern. Do not worry that there are no words - of course there are not. I listened to the Messiah on the radio last night - maybe music says it.

Rhoda and Aidan identified a flat (near the station and slightly eccentric - you would expect no less) which I am going to sign up for on Wednesday - all being well.

I have a kind-of routine - which involves sitting around in the cockpit, walking up to the town and doing stuff around the boat - like eating. Today - a blood test - tomorrow - back to Ipswich hospital for second lot of chemotherapy.
I guess you could say I am walking wounded just now.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

I am in Woodbridge again

19-00: Woodbridge: I started chemo-therapy on Tuesday and have left Ipswich hospital until the next dose next week - which I do as an outpatient there. I was released to live on my boat again on Wednesday and feel a lot better for fresh air and a bit of walking around. The plan is to rent somewhere before the days get too cold and short.

I may blog more often now - but on subjects other than navigating around the coast.

Thank you to my friends who have been in touch - I feel very loved and protected by them and am beyond grateful.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Last year the Lifeboat - this year the ambulance

Ipswich hospital: 10-50:
The Lifeboat was better.
I came here last week - with fluid in the lining of left lung - no wonder I could not breath. Have had various tests and the diagnosis is not very nice (lung cancer) and the expectation of life not very long. I am getting treatment here after the weekend. Meantime - I have had the fluid drained and am walking around - out to Woodbridge later today. The boat secure in Woodbridge and practical things taken care of for the moment.

I am hoping to have the battery power and energy to send my followers and friends and family better emails about all this. A bit blunt - but there you are - there is no easy way to say it.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Woodbridge waterfront

20-10: The picture is taken along the waterfront towards the Yacht Haven at low tide - usual large areas of mud. There are NO nasty new buildings here - the white one with a red roof is a restored tide mill and the other is a restored warehouse converted into flats. Contrast with previous rants!

I did virtually nothing today apart from walk (very slowly) along the waterfront to a very good tea room - large pots of tea and plenty of space under trees - it being hot and sunny. I even read the tea-room's Sunday Times. But I continue to feel ill and get very out of breath when I try to do anything.

Friday, 14 August 2009

I stay in Woodbridge Yacht Haven for at least a week

18-40: I have been feeling under par for three weeks or so - including some flu-like symptoms in Haybridge - culminating in shortage of breath and lack of appetite. I went to the doctor this morning (proof of how ill I felt!) and came away (after being variously measured and listened to) with a prescription for anti-biotics for a chest infection. I also promised to stay put for a week to aid recovery. So here I am and here I stay for a while.

Fortunately - Woodbridge has SHOPS and coffee bars - and bookshops - and stuff to look at. It also has decent buildings, of which more in a later blog.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

the Deben: Woodbridge Tide Mill Yacht Harbour

20-35: I got here by motoring up-river with the tide. Fun. Sort-of.

It needed a great deal of concentration because the channel is narrow and there are a lot of moorings - not to mention young people racing dinghies (who have right of way as I guess I am not limited in my ability to manoeuvre). Managed to tie up in the right place without crunching anything.

I did not take any pics - I was too taken up trying to go in the right direction and avoid said dingies and moored boats.

Intend to stay here for a while - partly to recover - partly to look round - partly to fill up with food and water and charge batteries. I had a shower for the first time a week - very pleasant.

I get to the Deben at last

20-20: Yesterday - I left the Backwaters rather later than I would have liked because it rained. I have become very soft living in a warm place where it rarely rains. If I were put off by rain normally - I would never have gone sailing in Scotland or the North east!

The entrance of the Deben has a bad reputation but is easier these days because an annual sheet is produced showing where the sand banks are - so - I did not go aground - and it was a pussy-cat - I went in at high tide and there was not a lot of wind. I picked up a mooring at the third go - the picture is the view upstream. This is a more wooded river than the others - with fewer salt marshes than in Essex.

I anchor in the Walton Backwaters

I stayed two nights - I find it hard to leave the Backwaters.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

The journey home - -

10-40: Picture of Walton Pier taken on the way south in calm seas. Yesterday it was so rough that I did not get my camera out - it was even hard to get a drink and to eat; I also stood further out to sea due to onshore wind. There was a lot more wind than forecast, so the boat leapt forward downwind nicely, but it was hard work because the sea was so lumpy (some tide against wind but mostly just characteristic of the seas here) that it was hard to keep the (reefed) sails filled.

So I have I managed to prise myself away from Brightlingsea and am now anchored in the Walton Backwaters (again) - I like it here.

Plan is to go up the Deben this week and then try to catch suitable tides for the two long passages to Lowestoft and then Wells. The tides are right at the wrong times - either getting me back a bit early or a bit late - - - .

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Brightlingsea - and hideous developments

9-30: Brightlingsea - the view from my berth: new flats, a barge and the waterfront.

These flats would be fine along the Thames - in a larger context. But here they are out of context against rows of cottages behind and the mixed waterfront. Not that all the older stuff is very beautiful - but that is not the point. I don't understand (and neither does anyone else) why such things are allowed. (Well - someone must understand - - ).

I had a good sail here from Burnham yesterday - and plenty of water under the keel over the short cut through the sand banks. The wind has come round to the north (just as I am proposing to go north!) - I shall stay until it goes back to the south or west.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Burnham yacht harbour

8-40: Burnham yacht harbour - large and comfortable - I am about two thirds of the way down the row.

I leave here later this morning for Brightlingsea - sun and cloud as usual.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009


17-30: I grow lettuce in the cockpit to avoid scurvy.

Today - walked into Burnham, which is very quiet. This is probably because it is one of those places that come alive for one week a year (Burnham Week) and at some weekends. The wind was strong enough to deter some sailors, but I was surprised that there were no dinghies and only a handful of yachts/motor boats. I am also surprised that there are not more 'posh' boats around. Those on the moorings and in the marina are nice and normal. Perhaps I expected Burnham to be like Cowes and such-like places in the Solent - and am glad it is not for lots of reasons.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Something different

11-00: I visit the Victoria and Albert museum and Camden market at the weekend. Both old stamping grounds of mine. I first went to the V&A with my grandfather 60 years ago. I think visiting the V&A with my grandfather started my interest in ceramics and in the objects of everyday life (as well as in feminism but that is another story). It has changed and the ceramics gallery is still closed; but the feeling of the place remains and the courtyard is open and shows the building to good effect. Exhausted myself looking at fabrics.

Camden has vast numbers of stalls and too many tourists - we explored the new 'stables' part and admired the wonderful sculptures of working horses and of the men who worked with them - worth a visit for the sculptures alone. But I exhausted myself here as well.

Back in Burnham last night - almost too tired to walk from the station - which is at least downhill.

Friday, 31 July 2009

I leave Heybridge and am now in Burnham

16-10: One final picture of Heybridge basin as I lock out this morning - I enjoyed being there even tho' I was ill for some of the time (BTW - I feel better if not totally recovered - but I have just done a 35 mile passage requiring some navigation (I mean sandbank-avoidance!)).

I am now in Burnham-on-Crouch Yacht Harbour - another nice place.

There was no wind this morning, but I left the Blackwater on the ebbing tide. I then took a short cut over some sand banks and JUST managed it - with the keel fully up and all the alarms telling me the water was too shallow. The wind got up enough to sail a reach into the Crouch.

Burnham seems a strange mixture of some very decrepid-looking boats and some ordinary boats and some very new - racey boats: strange because I had expected a few old designs and a lot of new stuff as this is (or maybe was) one of the great centres for sailing. I am here for a few days so will probably find out more - -.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

I stay in Heybridge basin

9-24: This is the view out of the lock for most of the tide.

But I am really staying put because I have not felt well for the last few days - and have gone off my food - and ache a good deal. I am hoping to get out on the tide on Friday morning, when I will sail down the Blackwater and then up the Crouch, avoiding some impressive-looking sand banks on the way. Meantime I can lay about feeling sorry for myself and wander along the tow path.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Hideous developments

14-50: the notice says it about a proposal for lock-side development at Heybridge basin.

To which I add that it is unspeakably awful how insensitive developments have been allowed in some traditional places along this coast. Perhaps large and hideous flats (often bought as second homes or as 'buy-to-let' at unaffordable rents) are alright in large towns - Lowestoft / Walton for example. But not in villages like Heybridge (and also Brightlingsea).

Here every house in the village has this notice - I hope the planning authority gives a NO - and the developer goes elsewhere. I might add that a few small cottages on the site - to match the original 18th century ones - would be better than derelict sheds. I suppose someone makes loadsa-money from it - there can be no other reason.

Chalmer and Blackwater Navigation Canal - opened 1797

12-26: here I am in a rural setting alongside the canal bank.

It seems miles from anywhere - but is a couple of miles from a shopping centre and - maybe - an hour's drive from central London. Plenty of mud outside the lock at low water and a variety of boats here - from wonderful renovated smacks to dreadful wrecks. Nice tea room on the sea wall.

The wrong sort of weather - heavy rain and the promise of strong gusts of wind. Needless to say I am going to stay put - but plan to up and off to Burnham on Crouch sometime before the weekend - probably tomorrow at high water - the lock is only opened just before high water.

Even the Vikings were held up by the tide before the battle of Maldon
(thanks to a follower for this information)- the site of which I can see if I stand on the deck.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

I make it to Heybridge Basin

21.20: Heybridge regatta - smacks and traditional yachts racing - fantastic.

I sailed with the tide from Bradwell amongst a lot of others heading for Heybridge - hard work as I needed to tack - but the last couple of miles was a nice reach. I anchored to watch the start of the races. Then, at high tide, through the lock into the basin of the canal, where I am now moored. Hot sun and harder work than the words make it sound.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Bradwell marina

10-30: Getting the anchor up yesterday took a lot of patience. There was a strong tide and wind from the same direction, so I had to ease forward on the motor - rush to the front - pull in a bit of rope - rush back and repeat. Once I had the chain in hand - I drove off into the deeper water of the channel which pulled the anchor out and worked well. This kind of effort is the downside of anchoring.

Sailed in strong (Easterly) wind to Bradwell marina (but with the tide running at 2 knots up the Blackwater) - the sea was quite choppy with short steep waves especially over the shallow parts. I found the entrance to the marina obscure but it was high tide so I got away with going the wrong side of a red post. I also missed the pontoon and had to go round again - perhaps not surprising that I felt a bit tired and cross by the end of it.

Today - very windy again but a little bit of sun. I shall gross out here until the weekend. Probably.

Monday, 20 July 2009

At anchor off Mersea Stone

Updated: July 21st: 8-35am: Mersea Stone is a shingle beach opposite Brightlingsea - lots of tide and the wind has been uncomfortable and it is raining on Tuesday morning.

I left Tollesbury (late due to a minor problem with the electronics - a worrying loose wire somewhere, cured by banging the instrument pod!) at high tide this morning and could not decide where to go. So I went down wind / down tide for a couple of hours and finished up here. Hard place to anchor as it is very steep to and it is desirable to get a close in as possible.

I am disconcerted by the wrong sort of wind for the Thames - but I have promised myself I will not just go - whatever. Every day has some high wind forcast for the rest of the week - or from due south. I have spent too much time worrying about it and need to think out an alternative plan.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Tollesbury - mud, saltings and worry about the weather

11-30: There are a large number of mud berths here - with old and new boats in holes in the mud and walkways between them. Interesting - as are the large numbers of boats out of the water showing the shape of their keels. And a lot of wooden boats - some falling apart - some wonderfully kept.

Yesterday - shopping on my bike in Tollesbury village - and a gentle walk along the sea walls amongst masses of butterflies, taking pictures of mud. And all the time worrying about when to leave and whether to cross the Thames. Today - windy again but it looks as if it will moderate next week. No real inclination to move due, I fear, to harbour rot - - - .