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Wednesday, October 29, 2014


So far no spam so that side of things is working.
What we would be interested in is number modification working and is it easier to use than the words.

Problems on leaving comments

The problem with leaving comments on a blog are the anti spam methods like the one we seem to have. Personally, on other blogs, I have pulled my hair out trying to enter the correct words that I see to prove I am not a robot trying to throw a lot of spam onto a blog post.

Our settings were it seems the word verification and a wait whilst Jaq or I approve and publish the comment.
Now I have managed to set it so a number verification is shown and the comment is automatically published if the correct figures are entered.
Sometimes even the numbers are hard to read but you can refresh(button to right of box) and get a clearer number.

 I have changed the wording in the comment box so please be warned do not use the comment box for anything you do not want published as some have in the past. Our E mail addresses are on the blog to the left side.

Now a little mystery is the fact that having changed this it works fine on my laptop but Jaq`s still brings up word verification....any thoughts readers.
Hope it works for you all.

I suppose I should mention that this post follows a comment made by Marilyn M.  No not the 1950/60`s film star but the equally delightful Kiwi boater Marilyn McDonald. If I don`t mention it she would for sure hunt me down next summer. Hi David.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Just passing some time away

Now just six days till we once again set off to London, fingers crossed it will not be cancelled.
Having loaded up with more rounds from the Ash tree in Tring cutting we moored just for one night as our friends Sue and Ken were taking us to lunch at the Grand Junction arms at Bulbourne. We pulled in on a long straight stretch just short of the winding(turning) hole. After lunch someone had moored very tightly, 3 feet, behind us, WHY?.  So much room and this time of year not many boats moving, nothing here even the pub is further on. Summer I can understand as it might get busy if moorings by the pub are busy.

 The new housing at Marsworth is taking shape. The house nearest has a large 1st. floor Side window overlooking what is at the moment an elsan and rubbish point.
New facilities are planned but I`m not sure if they will be here or as has been rumored at the next bridge(130) to the north where rubbish bins already exist.
 Thinking about it that land in front of each house will be private and I can`t see the owners allowing boats to moor in front of their windows.

Saturday morning and we carry on with our plan and cruise around to the Wendover Arm which has the benefit of being quiet and a nice 3 mile round trip walk into Tring for a few groceries.
Sunday morning and I have about thirty log rounds to split and store in the wood box on the roof where they will stay covered until the tail end of winter.

Today with the sun shining and a brisk breeze we set of on another 3-4 miles walk to see the progress of the Wendover Arm restoration.

They have reached the stage that they are about 1400 metres, just under a mile, from reaching Little Tring the present navigation limit.

At present it costs about £440 ($677) per metre and time estimate is 2022 to completion of this section.
So in about eight years or at least within ten, these are volunteers remember, boaters will be able to cruise about 3.5 miles from the Grand Union canal at Bulbourne to a winding hole just beyond the Aston Clinton bypass bridge. Map

Walking a bit further on the previous section is, albeit at a reduced depth, in water.

The picture shows one of the mooring bays that are about 50 metres long so perhaps space for three 57 foot long boats. A good example of when to moor close up to other boats any time of year.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Away from Berkhamsted

Not wanting to stay within a town centre we decided to leave Berko and head up to the summit level at Tring. There had been a stoppage along the cutting as an Ash tree had fallen across the canal and we had in mind there might just be some wood left for us.
Lack of boat movement and the fact water is pumped up from below ground has resulted in the usual crystal clear water.

 The recent high winds from the tail end of hurricane Gonzalo snapped this mature Ash tree. Amazing how quick it all disappears once a stoppage notice is published.
 We still had quite a lot but it is very wet and will need to be split and dried.
 Jaq helps make the pile bigger. This is about half of our total cut so worth the journey.

No sooner had we moored for the night when along came London`s most popular couple and two of our favourite people. Doug and James on Nb Chance.

We would also like to add our thanks to Robert on wb. Wind in the Willows who I missed off my last blog post(Jaq was not amused). Robert thanks for looking after the boat and topping up the batteries while we were at the Royal Free.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

My on/off relationship with NHS contiues

I`m not sure how far around the world Margaret Thatchers 1980 speech traveled,  from which came that slogan "the Lady`s not for turning" but here in the UK it is still in the minds of millions.
Relax everyone, the blog is not going political but love her or hate her I am in the same frame of mind. She had made her mind up as to her goal and would battle through the obstacles. Our goal is still the same; to get the surgery's finished, recover and go cruising over great distances. This crew is not for turning.

Ok all breathe out here`s what you were hoping to read from line one.
Yesterday I was phoned with a new date for surgery, Nov. 3rd, and was told I would be phoned this morning, they phoned mid morning, with the hotel reference number. I can`t knock the efficiency of the Royal Free as to making appointments and returning phone calls. Sadly the number of beds and the workings of the NHS are not under their control.

  • The UK had 2.8 physicians per 1,000 people in 2012, compared to 4.0 in Germany, 3.9 in Italy, 3.8 in Spain, 3.3 in France, 3.3 in Australia, 2.7 in New Zealand and 2.5 in Canada.
  • The UK had 2.8** hospital beds per 1,000 people in 2012, compared to 8.3 in Germany, 6.3 in France, 3.4 in Italy, 3.0 in Spain and 2.8 in New Zealand. 
  • **It was 4.2 in 2003. USA was 3.3. LINK to bed facts.
  • NHS net expenditure (resource plus capital, minus depreciation) has increased from £64.173 billion in 2003/04 to £109.721bn in 2013/14. Planned expenditure for 2013/14 is £113.035bn. 
  • The money spent per capita on NHS services in England has risen from £1,287 in 2003/04 to £1,979 in 2010/11.  
  • Link HERE to all above Red NHS facts.
 All of us can offer some theory about what happened to this country since the time it was Great Britain to the present UK. As with politics, religion and what toilet is best on a boat we must all agree to differ and not fall out.

What I can say as it concerns only me is that although I have two of Mr C`s squatters on my Liver their days are numbered. I am not in imminent danger of dying and another ten days will soon pass. Jaq will as always will nurse me back to health and we will get on with our plans. As for the Stoma reversal that can wait, having been using the side door instead of the back for a year now a bit longer is no problem.

We have been over the past 14 months had our set backs and cancelled surgery is not new to the crew of Nb Valerie. Jaq has taken this badly because as an American health is dealt with pretty swiftly. Me? I probably like most Brits are totally frustrated that having paid for something getting it delivered is a nightmare, customer service once again letting us down.

Overall our NHS is in a bad way but it has and will continue to perform some pretty remarkable things for a lot of people. Nothing is perfect in this world and it never will be so my advice is take it as it comes, don`t stress as that might kill you before your illness.
With people like you all out there and of course my Jaq I feel strong not only in body but mentally as well.
The advice I give to the grand kids is "if you don`t like something change it as you only get one life so don`t mess it up"

Ok see you all next time I`ll be here fighting my corner so a big thank you for all your support.
Hi to the guy that walked by and said hello Valerie, like your blog.
The couple who stopped by for a chat, names have gone, school run!!! met you before.
Lovely A who came aboard for lunch.
K and S who are taking us to lunch later in the week.

Thanks to EVERYONE worldwide.

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Hard Day's Night

"The sudden disappointment of a hope leaves a scar which the ultimate fulfillment of that hope never entirely removes." ~Thomas Hardy, British writer

   Here we go again, five steps forward and nine steps back. It was with guarded optimism in my bosom that I helped Les pack our bag and get ready for our overnight stay in London last night, prior to checking Les in at the Royal Free Hospital this morning for surgery to remove two cancerous lesions and thirty percent of his liver. 

   (Most folks who follow our blog are well aware of the terrible debacle we both faced this very week last year when Les was undergoing surgery and recovery for bowel cancer. It was my first experience with the NHS and it left me with a bitter taste that hasn't disappeared. Those who wish to do so may read or re-visit those hellish posts here and here.) 
    The Premier Inn is located behind and just across the street from the back of the Royal Free Hospital. I guess I should have recognized Sod's law in action at the check-in desk when we gave the girl the reservation number provided by staff at the RFH, and she brightly chirped, "Michael Biggs?" Correct reservation number--wrong first name. 
   We dropped our bags in the room and headed off for a walk around the neighborhood and up on Hampstead Heath, scoping out restaurants along the way which we might consider for dinner later. After a bracing walk through Autumn leafy lined lanes, and a good stroll across the Heath, we settled on dinner at the hotel restaurant.
   Although it was my birthday, I was too tired to give much thought to celebrations. Not only did I have Les' impending surgery on my mind, but a phone call from the States earlier in the day informed me that a best beloved very close to me has also been diagnosed with cancer. I am back to sleeping only four hours a night and the dark rings under my eyes are testament to that old survival mode which says life is once more a struggle to endure and sleep only comes with exhaustion. 
   After dinner we went back to our room and indulged in deep, hot, sensuous....baths (you thought I was going to say sex didn't you?!!).
   As anyone who lives aboard a narrow boat will tell you, for most of us baths are a pure luxury. Not only is there no room for a tub in a bathroom four foot square, but a tub takes too much water--hot or otherwise. On NB Valerie three minute showers are the norm. So we each had a turn soaking in a steaming hot tub full of water.
   Afterwards we were instructed by an NHS leaflet on preparing the patient for organ surgery, to use one packet of Clinell surgical wipes and wipe the patient's body ALL over, allowing five minutes for skin to air dry before dressing--once after a shower the night before surgery and again in the morning before coming to hospital. Wiping done, I watched as Les ran back and forth in front of the bed flapping his arms like a kid, until we both fell into fits of hysterical laughter. Les did warn me when he proposed in 2010, that he loved to laugh and we would be doing a lot of it; he has kept his sense of humor--or humour--whichever you prefer, as well as his word.
   Soon it was time to drink the Pro Nutria pre-surgery carbohydrate drinks which are a part of "accelerated recovery." We watched Downton Abbey, the BBC news, and then turned out the lights and lay too edgy to sleep, cuddled like spoons in the dark. 
   Our phone alarms went off at five a.m. and it was time for Les to drink his final two pre-surgery drinks before we dressed, gathered our belongings, and headed off in the early morning dark to walk across the street, down a back drive way and into the Royal Free Hospital. 
   Up on the third floor and through a door marked Day Surgery and SAA (Surgical Admissions Area) we were met with a wide hallway lined with chairs full of patients with clipboards in hand, filling our paperwork. We approached the check-in desk where a woman with a face like a slapped ass barked at Les as he gave his name, "wait your turn."
   She then called out "anyone who hasn't finished checking in please approach the desk." After six minutes of studiously ignoring us, she finally turned to Les and demanded to see his letter. Well we didn't have a letter as he was contacted by phone for everything. She sourly turned on her stool, sorted through sets of paperwork and finally found his, sighing, "Well no are inpatient aren't you?"
   While we sat down to double check and complete the admissions paperwork she handed us attached to a clipboard, the enclosed area suddenly heaved with a tangle of more than fifty patients and their loved ones, queuing awkwardly at the check-in desk. Les duly queued as well, handed his clipboard and papers back in, and we found a chair down the hall in a quieter section. Eventually his name was called and we entered a small room divided in two by a pleated paper curtain.
   It was here we met two very nice, bright nurses who came to double check Les' admission paperwork, take his blood pressure, swab him for MRSA, and explain the pre-and-post-surgery process, followed by a quick visit from Professor Davidson who looked bright eyed and bushy tailed, the anesthetist and other members of the surgical team.
   We were both highly challenged to hear what was being said to us over the chatter on the other side of the curtain which left us privy to all the personal details of some other patient--a woman whose surgery will include some plastic re-constructive surgery with skin flaps; might as well not bother with paper curtains and pretend privacy...
   A phlebotomist came 'round and Les had his five minutes of terror and severe discomfort (he has a deep phobia of needles) as vials were prepped with labels and the needle inserted, and then moved around a bit after which four vials of blood were drawn. So far, so good we thought despite the rude woman at the main SAA desk, everyone else was cheerful, polite, engaged, and ready to get the surgery started. 
   A lovely enhanced recovery nurse came and had a long chat with us about what to expect after surgery and she took my phone number, promising to call me as soon as she knew anything about Les' condition. We were ushered into a large lounge down the hall with big, overstuffed recliners and asked to wait while they double checked with the floor matron who booked ICU rooms. Sit we did and wait, for two and half hours after which we were called into the previous small room, met with a member of the surgical team and informed Les' surgery was canceled as there were no ICU rooms available! 
   The young surgical tech explained that over the weekend other hospitals who had no room for critically ill patients had delivered them to the RFH and as a consequence there was no room available for Les. The booking matron had to decide who needed the rooms most--someone who had just come through surgery at another hospital--or Les, who was considered "healthy and not in need of a bed." I pointed out that my husband--told he required immediate surgery on his liver to remove metastasized bowel cancer--was not well at all or he wouldn't be there waiting for surgery.
   The technician explained that we would be contacted with another possible surgery date hopefully within a week as Professor Davidson operates Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. I asked if his next surgery date could also be canceled at the last minute for lack of a room and he apologetically said yes. He also informed us that Professor Davidson had fought tooth and nail in an effort to procure ICU lodgings for my husband--to no avail.
   Basically we were told that a full team of surgeons, technicians, nurses and an operating theatre stood by for two and a half hours waiting--for nothing!! Add the cost of the hotel room (£112) and our out-of-pocket costs for train fare to and from the boat, bus fare, dinner, and breakfast for me and it quickly becomes a VERY expensive scenario underscoring once more the inability of the NHS to function efficiently while wasting tax payers' money.
   Meanwhile back in the States my loved one who received a cancer diagnosis last week was operated on Saturday and the tumors were removed. This despite the fact their health insurance isn't the best by a long shot. This person is a member of the working class poor in America and still gets better, more timely health care than Les can receive--and they haven't paid years in advance for it either, while the government gains the benefits on the interest of British citizens' hard earned wages over decades.
   I am tired and I feel fragile. I've spent a year fighting for Les' life against this ugly disease. I've fought my own battle against it twice in the last eight years. I've lost a brother-in-law two weeks previously to liver cancer and been told one of my very best beloveds in this world is facing their own battle with cancer; and I cannot count on the NHS to function efficiently in Les' case...I've been told to "be of good cheer, remain hopeful, don't let it get to me, be patient"...but I am all out of understanding, patience, hope, goodwill, and cheer. My teeth ache from gritty determination and I long for a system I can count on in a time of desperate need. I know this too will pass, but not without leaving me with more scars on my soul.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Happy Birthday

Happy boothday coopercake.(private joke)

Sorry Jaq but for the second year running my surgeries have dwarfed your birthday. I will as you know make it up to you. Thanks for my life Jaq. Love you.XXXXXXXX

Saturday, October 18, 2014

A little sleep and all`s well.

Nervous? who me, no no no, it`s just another surgery and I had one a year ago two days past.
Yes of course I`m nervous and very edgy as it seems going into major surgery for the first time last year is not quite the same as this one. Five to six hours on the table and minimum of 24 hours in intensive care is no walk on nearby Hampstead Heath.

The liver performs more than 500 different functions in the body. As part of the digestive system, the liver aids the body in fat digestion, manufactures and secretes bile, regulates the levels of chemicals in the blood, synthesizes proteins, filters waste products from the bloodstream, and receives nutrient-rich blood from the gastrointestinal tract and either stores or transforms these nutrients into chemicals that are used elsewhere in the body.

It weighs about 3 pounds and the 30% they will remove equates to about a pound. I must state now I do not recommend this as a diet, perhaps six hours jogging on the Heath would be an easier option to lose a pound.

The last few days have thankfully been hectic, less time to think about Monday, with many jobs to be completed, the wood stove being the last to receive some attention. It`s been swept had the new throat plate installed and the fire cement around the chimney collar replaced. The latter is something I do each year as vibration can cause cracks in the cement that are not visible. Just chipping out the top layer and inserting fresh give peace of mind even though we have smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.
Today I`ve been into town 3 times and to the rubbish bin across the canal twice. All totally unnecessary but just kept me occupied. Yep nerves. 

Jaq says her FaceBook page is alive with prayers, good wishes and positive thoughts from all over the world. Thank you all. Jaq will of course keep updating both blogger and FB.

Always worth a visit to nearby Hampstead Heath when attending the hospital. There must be ten or twelve ponds across the heath. No canal boats but there is one for model boats. Three swimming ponds, womens, mens and mixed.
I remember as a kid when living in Paddington my dad bringing me to the heath on holiday weekends where the fair would be spread half way across the heath.

Below some pics when I went for the recent pre-op check up.
Walking up to the heath from the hospital.

No.1 pond

Mixed swimming pond

No.2 pond

Zippos circus is visiting
 Ok this is a boating blog.
Nb Valhalla stopped opposite us for water today. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Life in the Fast Lane

"I wanted to be a veterinarian until I saw a video of a vet performing surgery on a dog. Then I decided I wanted to be a pianist." ~Amy Lee

   All righty then! The staff at The Royal Free Hospital are totally on top of things. When we met with Professor D and his assistant on October 7th, we were told that Les needed to come in the following week for a pre-op appointment after which surgery would be scheduled sometime between then and November 2nd.
    Les was called by phone last week and an appointment was booked for pre-op and fitness assessment on Tuesday the 14th of October--yesterday. Off he went on the train down to London. My phone rang an hour and half after Les' scheduled appointment time. It was Dear Sir whose quavery voice informed me that he passed his pre-op and fitness exam with flying colors and his surgery was scheduled for Monday October 20th. That is next Monday!!!
   Since we live on a boat and have to travel from so far away to get down to London, Les was told the RFH would book us a room at the nearby Premier Inn for Sunday the 19th, and someone would follow up with the details. Sure enough my phone rang this afternoon about 1 p.m. and the staff person on the line said the room had been booked and she gave us a reservation number. Job done!!
   The difference between this experience and our previous horror show mis-adventure last year at Watford General Hospital is like the difference between margarine and butter. This folks is the real deal--quick and efficient service such as one could get in the States which places the needs of the patient front and center, which begs the question: if the Royal Free Hospital--which is a part of the NHS--can operate with 21st century efficiency (not one single letter has been mailed; all appointments had been made over the phone or in person--imagine!!!) why can't the rest of the bloody surgeons, doctors, nurses, clinics, tests, hospitals, etc. etc. etc. which are also a part of the NHS bring their daily operations into the 21st century and begin functioning efficiently as well? It seems the true answer is "because we don't want to; we don't like change." 
   While Les was in London I was at home trying not to stew and keeping busy. I washed two loads of clothes, changed the bed linens, defrosted the freezer, cleaned out the cupboards, brought out winter clothes and put away summer duds, prepped an online Tesco order for delivery tomorrow, graded student coursework and answered emails. 
   I also took some time to enjoy nature. Slapton is a lovely quiet place at this time of year. Ours was the only boat moored below the lock. I saw a blond Mink swimming, and three Cormorants fishing together; two adults and a juvenile. 
   Les arrived back home last night in a total tizzy. He's nervous and edgy about this next operation and who could blame him given the debacle that occurred last time? My tizzy concerns being a mountain woman traveling alone in and out of London. We made a dry run of it last week to meet the surgeon. I will purchase a weekly rail pass and my Oyster bus pass is topped up. I'm sure I'll figure it all out and be just fine. It's just a huge jump for someone who was born in the Alaskan Territories and grew up pretty much in the sticks. I'm trying to view it as Jaq's big adventure.
   We have a list of things that need doing before Sunday so we are people on a mission--which is great because it leaves little time for ruminating on the future. 
   Each day has its specific goals which will see us preparing the boat and stove for winter, registering as a temporary patient at Rothschild Surgery in Tring, making a trip to Watford to pick up some packages and mail from our daughter-in-law, getting a Tesco delivery-check, filling up with diesel and coal-check, and moving the boat each day until we reach Berko where we will moor while Les is in hospital. From there the rail station is a five  minute walk with service pretty much all day and night.  It takes about 40 minutes from there to Euston Station and a quick 20 minute trip by bus to hospital.
   The day before Les is released from hospital I will move the boat up to to where we were last year this time, so he comes home to some place quiet, dark, and peaceful where he will begin recovery and we will have easy access to visiting nurses, Tesco deliveries, water and rubbish. 
   In our new food habits, we have made the acquaintance of Quorn vegetarian meat fee products made from mycoprotein. The chicken flavored products are delicious and we are working them into our menu which includes lots of veg, fresh homemade bread and yogurt and a raft of supplements.  I'm adjusting old favorite recipes to meet our new dietary habits which is challenging and fun. As they say over here, "A dog is not just for Christmas--it's for life." Just so with our new eating habits.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Things that need attention now!

 The Vetus water lubricated cutlass bearing is fantastic when it doesn`t leak. The bit that leaks is the brass coloured piece with the prop shaft exiting on it`s way to the gearbox coupling. Within the unit are two rubber seals and all that`s needed by way of lubrication is some silicone grease.
The cutlass bearing receives water to cool it and any excess will pass up the black tube next to that Red valve and exit via the weed hatch. Trouble has been the water has been getting past the rubber seals and dripping excessively.
 Many years back in 2007 I called out a Vetus engineer to fix the same problem. He had no explanation other than it had been fitted wrongly as to why it was leaking on an 18 month old boat. Anyway having watched him change the unit it was quite clear I could do it easily. So I made sure I kept the old unit and just purchased some new seals at just a few pounds per pair. The complete part from Vetus is £98 ($156).

The seals fit one in each side of the unit
Over the years I have changed the unit twice and done the job on a friends boat.
Previously removing the unit let water come in at a steady rate. Not a "we`re gonna sink" rate but about a half bucket full. This time I picked up a tip on the canal forum that said that tying of a piece of rag around the prop would slow the rate of water.
The trick worked and less than a cup of water came in at a fast drizzle.
So back in 2007 again in about 2011 and now today is not my idea of a decent system. The engine alignment can make the unit leak but mine is perfect with the prop shaft needing no guidance as I slide it back from within the weed hatch into the gearbox coupling.

Just something that needs attention before the surgery as I will be in no condition to do much for a few months.

Next job will be putting the glazing film over the insides of most of the windows to stop the condensation and help keep the warmth in over winter. Last year our friends Ken and Sue (Nb Cleddau) did the job while I was having the bowel cancer surgery.

Final job will be the wood stove that needs a new throat plate that should be on it`s way now.
We have fuel arriving in the form of diesel and coal via Juels fuel boat that is due on Tuesday. Hoping to find some more wood in the next few weeks but that is not a certainty so I can see our wood pile being depleted before winter ends as my wood cutting post op will be nil for quite a while.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

The Royal Free Hospital

"Happiness is a choice. Your circumstances can affect it but ultimately you are the one who decides your happiness." ~Unknown

  We rose early Tuesday and walked up the towpath from NB Val through Leighton Buzzard, across a green park, and strolled into the train station where Les bought our off-peak tickets (travel allowed only during non-high impact times--in other words after the poor rats have made the morning and evening race-commute.)
   I noted in my diary that it was exactly a year ago to the day that Les began Radiotherapy without which Mr. H refused to operate to remove the cancerous rectal mass as he said radiotherapy was required prior to surgery to shrink the tumor. Radiotherapy which--and I quote directly from notes taken at the meeting with Dr. J--the Oncologist at Mount Vernon, who said, "the short course Radiotherapy will not shrink anything but it will assure that the cancer does not return to the bowel or metastasize."
   The train traveled quickly past villages and towns we know well from our travels on our boat until it arrived at London's Euston station which was a first for me. 
   This trip to the Royal Free Hospital to meet the liver specialist was also a dry run for me to suss out the station and the bus for future daily expeditions.
Passengers wait for platform numbers to post on reader boards.
The key I think is not to allow one's self to become too overwhelmed by the size of the station and the sheer numbers of people pouring on and off trains and out into the London streets. (Later that evening waiting for the train on our return leg, it was barely controlled chaos as hordes of workers heading out of London packed the main floor of the terminal, scanning the fifteen or so reader boards looking for the train which would take them home; which train line was arriving--London Midland or Virgin--which ones ran straight through, which ones stopped at every town, what time each was due to arrive in Euston Station and which platform from which each would leave. Platforms usually are not announced until the last possible second.

   A canceled train meant the next one would be jammed to the rafters, as happened to us. As soon as a platform number was announced travelers shot off like fish traveling in shoals--first one way then another--as they raced to a platform to find a seat before there weren't any. As night falls every mother's brother's sister's cousin's son and daughter is seeking a way out of London.)
   Les showed me where the cash point (ATM)  and the toilets were and we left via a side exit to Eversholt street where we walked about 500 feet and stood waiting for the 168 bus--which was of course--diverted due to road works that began October 6th and will run until the 17th. This rather large diversion means the 168--which is scheduled to arrive every 6-10 minutes--is running on average thirty minutes late.
   This put paid to Les' brilliant idea of arriving early and walking up to Hampstead Heath to eat our homemade picnic lunch in the quiet of nature.  Instead we sat on the wall of the hospital facing Pond Street, people watching in the brilliant sunlight; specifically we enjoyed two groups of primary school children, walking two-by-two, holding hands as their minders led and followed.
The wall where in front of the RFH where we dined Al Fresco.
   The kids were full of joy about going on a field trip and so cute in their matching gray sweat pants and sweatshirts. They jiggle-jogged along the sidewalk like a large segmented caterpillar, only to pile into one another as the lead minder stopped suddenly every now and then to count heads. Their innocent joy was infectious.
   This was the third time now that we've eaten lunch wherever we could find a spot in a busy town for various reasons. I told Les he was going to have to stop spoiling me with all these romantic Al Fresco dining opportunities for fear they might go to my head!
RFH check-in kiosks.
   In the main lobby of the Royal Free Hospital the automatic check in machines are a world away from the ones at Watford General Hospital; like comparing an Ipad with a 1983 Apple Mac computer--remember the boxy gray units? Les' details came up in a trice and his appointment was confirmed with instructions for us to proceed to the first floor waiting room two.
   Professor D.--a liver specialist, instructor (this is a teaching hospital) and surgeon was right on time. We met with him and his nurse assistant. I took detailed notes as I always do for all Les' appointments. Professor D. took Les' general health history, examined Les (strong heart, good clear lungs, no liver enlargement or tenderness) and proceeded to tell us about Les' scan which showed 2 lesions on the right section of his liver. In his opinion they are doubtless rectal cancer cells which typically travel to the liver, since all the blood in our body sweeps through and is cleansed by our liver every 14 minutes and it travels from the bowels to the liver.  Professor D. said removing thirty percent of Les' liver on the right side (which automatically includes the gall bladder which is hooked into the liver there) offers Les "a very good chance of a cure, although there are no guarantees." Ah yes how well we know...
   "What about chemotherapy?" the Professor asked.
   "I'm not interested in chemo," replied Les. 
   "Have you spoken with an Oncologist?"
   "Yes, Dr. J. at Mount Vernon."
   We mentioned we live on a narrow boat and continuously cruised and the Professor's face cracked into a lovely smile. 
   "Well then," he said in his Scottish accent, "We'll do the surgery aboard your boat. You've got a dining table, yeah? And some rum?" We laughed and nodded in the affirmative. "All right then we'll call it a day trip."  With that Professor D. left us with his nurse assistant to fill us in on some of the details.
   Les goes in next week for a pre-op and fitness appointment. The surgery will be scheduled sometime between then and November 2nd. It will take place at the RFH in London. Les will be on the operating table for 5-6 hours so with pre-surgery and post-op recovery it means I'll be waiting there all day. After recovery he will spend the first 24 hours in Intensive care and then move to a specialist floor. Recovery in hospital takes 7-10 days if all goes well (no infections) and then he will come home to recover further for another three months.
   So far the services received to date from the RFH have been good. Quick appointments, kept on time, and quick follow-up directly by phone.

    We walked hand-in-hand from the bus stop on Euston and Tottenham Court Road reveling in the beauty of London on a fall afternoon, strolling into the
Les snaps a selfie of our reflection in a window on a busy London street.
British Library for a mooch around the Folio Society Gallery on the floor just up from the main desk at the entry. The exhibits there are always free. This time it is "Enduring War: Grief, Grit and Humour." I was shocked to discover that Britain had been directly bombed in WWI by German zeppelins. This country has been attacked and bombed in two world wars and still it endures.

I could live in the British Library! This view is from our table across the street.
The sunset skyline of St. Pancras station rising behind the British Library.
Dear Sir waits for our vegetarian pizza to arrive as we sit and enjoy the view.
   We stopped outside under one of the large, white umbrellas covering the lunch tables so Les could take the next round of 27 pills he swallows daily now as part of a regimen to keep his weight and health up for surgery and change his blood chemistry so his body is no longer a willing and welcome place for caner to reside, for we know that the word "cure" as used by medical professionals must be translated to say "you may live for five years," five being the magic number chosen by researchers who found they could not realistically follow up on cancer patients past the five year mark.
   Chemo, radiation, and surgery do not cure cancer. Cytotoxic cancer treatments destroy cells--good and bad--with the hope the patient will survive the treatment and the disease will hibernate in remission. Surgery removes the diseased portions of the body. None "cure" cancer.
   We hope this was caught in time for us to reverse Les' body chemistry so that cancer can no longer continue to grow and flourish inside him and his immune system will grow healthy enough to stand guard once more.
   We are so very thankful for everyone's hopeful, positive thoughts and prayers on his and our behalf and the unwavering support we've been offered by our families and our community on the cut.
   We are thankful for each other and this glorious life of freedom and peace lived as continuous cruisers. We really appreciate Canal & River Trust officers working with us during this difficult time. (And I personally am thankful this operation is not taking place at Watford General.)

Monday, October 06, 2014

A trip to London

Having been heading south within the plan of the stoma reversal on the 8th we have turned back to be near a station for tomorrows trip into London to see the Hepatobiliary and Pancreatic surgery team. The former (liver) is the one that my visit will hopefully benefit from.

Our late afternoon appointment means traveling back in the rush hour at double the price so we shall put the £29 ($45) saved towards dinner in London then travel back in comfort after the rush.

The towpath grass cutters came along today and knocked on the boat asking if we wanted to move as the very edge was to be strimmed  -U.S. readers think weed whacker-  for the last time this summer. Umm! No I do not want to move as I was sitting in my PJ`s eating breakfast at 9.45. Now the contractors start cutting back the towpath hedges, can`t possibly have a speeding cyclist catching themselves on a branch.

No not a lazy B for not being up earlier I have an excuse. Four a.m. we awoke to the boat tilting at an alarming angle, water had dropped eight inches, and I had to go out and loosen both bow and stern lines and push the boat off a ledge.
We have now moved up still can`t get the stern in to the bank.

We are still on the bottom even after pushing the boat off that ledge just showing itself. The piece of timber floating was a 4a.m. attempt to keep the boat away from the edge but it came out of the mud and surfaced.
It will all wash off when we get water and turn south again after tomorrow.

This boat came free this morning. It did the same thing yesterday and I double pinned the stern using the middle pin. As you can see it`s the bow that has broken free but as I did my bit yesterday plus it`s pouring with rain it was the next boater to pass dressed for the rain who had the pleasure today.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Synchronicity: Homemade Yogurt and No Fat Frying

"Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food." Hippocrates (460-370 BCE), Greek father of Western medicine.

   What is synchronicity?  Definitions run a gamut from that of Mirriam-Websters dictionary as "the experience of two or more events as meaningfully related, where they are unlikely to be causally related," moments of meaningful coincidence, to Meg Lundstrom's "a wink from the Cosmos."
   In my opinion synchronicity was happening on the cut when we finally met up with Kiwi's Marilyn and Dave (NB Waka Huia), who introduced us to the other scathingly brilliant New Zealand import: the Easiyo Yogurt Maker. They have one aboard their boat and brought some to share for dessert. It was delicious; thick, creamy, yummy! Once Marilyn showed me how simple it was to make I was hooked. The MacDonalds were kind enough to give us five packets of Greek yogurt style with real coconut bits.  
The EasiYo Yogurt Maker SystemOver here the health food chain Holland & Barrett stock Easiyo Yogurt makers and the packet mixes to make yogurt in dozens of styles and flavors (or flavours--take your pick!) The actual Yogurt incubator costs £17.00 and requires no electricity. It wipes clean with a damp sponge and reflects the low tech/high quality lifestyle many boaters tend to embrace. The mix packets cost anywhere from £3.03-£4.95 depending on which style and flavor you purchase. Each packet makes a Kilo (1 quart).
    I've made three batches so far and we love it, which is high praise from Les who believed yogurt was some spoiled, sour milk-gone-wrong science lab project he would never eat. And again you ask, what does this have to do with synchronicity?
    We had no idea the week after this yogurt introduction that Les and I would be facing "Beating Cancer Round Two." While I know for a fact that as many as 85% of all cancer can be prevented with a change in diet--and in fact I healed my immune system and beat ovarian cancer by following a two year alternative therapy in which I had to undergo a drastic change to my diet--after I met Les I slipped back into old eating and cooking habits because I love to cook and we both love to eat. I used him as an excuse to turn my back on what I knew was the healthiest road to travel, playing Russian Roulette with my own health and doing Les' health no favors.

   After Les' first round with cancer last October he had lost 30 pounds and was facing two surgeries (the relatively simple urethra stretch and the longer stoma reversal). I needed to put some weight back on him so he could survive those surgeries. He was also so euphoric at the results of his surgery that he refused to consider what he felt were draconian diet changes.
   Les did stop eating cookies (biscuits) and tea for breakfast and began eating granola with fresh fruit so that was a small victory. I certainly wasn't going to spend my days arguing endlessly with my Best Beloved about what he ate, so I let it slide... There it also a deep driving desire of most cancer patients in recovery who just want life to go back to normal. Sadly, there is too much in "normal" that is killing us.
   Les is now willing to make most of those changes and I am happy to join him. Red meat is gone from our diet, as is bacon, sausage, and prepared meats; most cheese is a thing of the past, milk is allowed in small quantities, and fats and oils are also removed from our food with the exception of a little cold pressed virgin olive oil and a bit of butter every now and then.
   Needless to say traditional baked goods are no longer allowed with the exception of fresh baked whole grain bread. Sugar is only stored on NB Val now for those who come to visit and want it in their tea. We use Agave Nectar, honey, or Maple syrup as sweeteners. Chicken and fish is allowed occasionally, but we will be eating mostly vegetables and fruit.
   So homemade yogurt is exactly the blessing we needed--and it arrived ahead of the diagnosis! And that was synchronicity!!
   I've gone through my cookbook and tagged the recipes which I can adapt to using plain yogurt in place of cream, sour Cream, Cream Cheese, mayonnaise, salad creme, and milk. I made Les a salad dressing with plain yogurt and he was amazed at how nice it tasted.
   I also introduced him to yogurt parfaits--the breakfast that tastes like a dessert! When my girls were little I used to make breakfast for them every morning before school; something different every day. One day a week I used nice dessert glasses and layered breakfast cereal, yogurt, and fresh fruit. My children thought they were getting away with something naughty--having dessert for breakfast. So I tried this out on Les, with his granola cereal, the homemade coconut yogurt, and fresh strawberries.
   Dear Sir was over the moon. He said it was "...gorgeous!! This tastes like something from Marks & Spencer!" The best thing is these yogurt parfaits are good for our digestion, they satisfy his HUGE sweet tooth and he doesn't feel like he had to give up things he loved and get nothing equal in return. There is also some evidence that natural yogurt (not the products from the store with gelatin, stabilizers, and high calorie sugars) provides some protection from bowel cancer.
   The other bit of joy I had last week was finally finding a ceramic coated saute pan (the link above is to Vita Verde-the manufacturers--which offer care and use guidelines). I had seen them advertised on the telly about three months ago and I've seen inserts in the Saturday newspaper selling them but I wanted to hold it in my hand and really look at the pan before I bought one. I found a 30 CM pan at Tesco for £25.00. Finally I could throw away Les' bachelor Teflon coated fry pan which was flaking and wearing away.
   I used it reluctantly as I read an article many years ago which warned those with birds as pets never to hang their cages in the kitchen if one cooked with Teflon coated cookware. Apparently Teflon out-gasses when heated and the chemicals will kill birds. I rationalized years ago that if Teflon was harmful to birds it wasn't very good for me and I've never allowed it in my kitchen until I moved on the boat.
   I fixed a chicken and vegetable stir fry using a tiny bit of water to flash steam the veg after the chicken browned and it was delicious. It was amazing to watch the chicken brown beautifully without the benefit of oil. The secret I think, to using ceramic pans is this: do not fry protein rich foods on high heat.  It isn't necessary as there is no oil, fat, or lard in the pan requiring high heat to make browning occur. Everything slipped easily out of the pan and it washed up without barely a wipe. One could use a drop of olive oil if one wanted--but it would only take about 1/4 tsp. to provide the same effect as 2-3 Tablespoons or more in a regular frying pan. It is so lovely to cook and not have grease spattering everywhere, or having the gunky mess to clean up in the pan afterward. 
   My next dessert attempt will be baked apples. Thank you to Robert (WB Wind in the Willows) who brought a bag of apples along on a visit earlier this week. I will peel and core a couple of apples, and make tin foil bundles for them to sit in. I will mix rolled oats, a dash of cinnamon, clove, a couple of passes on a micro grater for some lemon zest, a bit of honey, and some fresh blackberries; stuff the emptied core of each apple with the previous mixed ingredients and then drizzle some over the top. Pull the tin foil up around each apple like a closed bundle (sitting on a baking sheet), and bake the apples at 350F (gas mark 4) for thirty-forty minutes. Remove from the oven and open the tin foil and let sit for 5-8 minutes until cooled enough to eat. You could even top yours with a bit of custard or a scoop of creamy, cold ice cream. We will top our with fresh coconut yogurt! Bon app├ętit!!

P.S. I will blog again shortly with more info on Easiyo in the U.S. for our North American readers. 

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Blog Readers are everywhere.

The blog as other bloggers will know generates various statistics. Just recently we noticed a post of Jaq`s from a year ago was suddenly attracting a lot of page views.
 Under posts above Kings Cross--a hidden jewel has over the past week had 199 page views. Over to the right under Traffic sources one entry has been responsible for 147 page views. The link HERE is to a site in the Netherlands. 
It seems someone had posted a
video of the fountains and scrolling down the page someone had posted a link to our blog.

So mystery solved apart from what the whole thing was about but Dutch not being our language that will remain a mystery. On board Nb Valerie we speak only two languages, English and American. Aluminium-Aluminum, Colour-Color, I rest my case but love her anyway.

You never know who is reading your posts bloggers.

Just as an added interest the top all time page views goes to Dorney Lake with 1480 views followed by What every woman wants for her birthday with 1366 views. The latter was subject to a canal mag article, features on the UK distributors site and has come up often on the Canal Forum site when talk turns to composting toilets. Dorney Lake however is a mystery. The first ten pages of a Google search have no trace of the blog post so why has it had so many hits?
All just a lot of statistics, we just love the fact so many people read the blog.

Cross country on a public footpath going for a Saturday newspaper.
 Just had an appointment for the Royal Free hospital next Tuesday.

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs