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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

There and Back Again: Traveling Down to London Town

"Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing." ~Clive James, Australian author, critic, broadcaster, poet, translator and memoirist

WARNING! In terms of the dance of humor, this post probably rates as a light tango. If you do not appreciate sarcasm and dark humor spiced with a side of swearing please skip this post and move on to something else. Before reading please start the music video below as an accompaniment. This post is rated PG and has Les' blessing.

      On what was surely one of the hottest days this year to date (my Fahrenheit temperature gauge read 90 degrees yesterday evening at 6:30 p.m.) we rose at 5:30 am with Les' morning medicines, and were off up the road by 7:45 am to catch a small train to another station to catch a fast train down to London Euston. We walked hand-in-hand out of the station, around the corner and caught the 168 bus to the Royal Free Hospital for Les' first assignation with nuclear medicine, where they welcomed us with paperwork and took us off to a room where medical attendants in lab coats with plastic arm protectors and latex gloves gave Les a radioactive injection to be followed later with a full body bone scan.
     We were then told: "the person injected needs to sit out in the yellow room and use only that toilet. Anyone not injected with radioactive substances has to sit around the corner in the regular waiting room and use that toilet. Make sure you (Les) drink 2 liters of water and empty your bladder frequently. Your actual MRI will take place in three to four hours."
     Really? Why then did our appointment letter say, "After your injection it will take four hours for the radioactive materials to settle into the bone. You will need to drink 1-2 liters of water and return to the department four hours later for your MRI."
     Being a naturally curious person, I asked about the difference in instructions and was told that if the patient chooses to stay in the waiting room then anyone accompanying them must sit elsewhere so as not to be surrounded by radioactive people. We were welcome to meander around in public as long as Les agreed to stay away from children, pregnant women, flush the toilet twice, and not hug me!" Huh...
     I had to have the same procedure back in 2009 when ovarian cancer raised its ugly head for the second time in a year after being given an all clear by the oncologist. My injection took place in a double insulated room with a medical person dressed in thick plastic goggles, a lead apron from neck to ankles and heavy black lead lined gloves which went up to their armpits! I was not allowed to leave the area and I was told not to move while the injection settled into my tissues--not even my eyeball muscles! Afterward I was instructed to go home and spend the next 24 hours alone. The only person I was allowed to see and hug was myself. 
   All righty then, we decided to leave the hospital and expose the good citizens of Hampstead Heath with whatever radioactive miasma might ooze from Les' pores. On the many bus rides I have taken to and from the RFH over the past several years to visit Les during his incidents of unfortunate incarceration I thought I had remembered seeing a path from the street behind the hospital, down to a miniature park next to St. Stephen's Church, Rosslyn Hill. We took our time and walked pillar to post, stopping at these roadside attractions to rest along the way. We reached the top of the street and found I had imagined the park--it was simply a bench under a tree on the street corner near a path called Hampstead Green. 

The location of our bench is marked with a red star *

     I bought Les a HUGE bottle of water at a nearby shop and we settled down on the bench in the shade of a leafy tree. It was really quite pleasant temperature-wise and Les said he was surprised to feel pretty laid back. We read the local paper, and people watched. There is an on-going construction project at the backside of the RFH and a traffic warden employed by the company was perched just on the corner, watching for artic lorries (definition for Americans: semi-trucks AKA articulated or artic lorries over here) and cement trucks which are kitted out with speakers that piped up, "Caution this lorry is turning left;" a precaution for bicyclists who do not pay attention. Just to prove the point a cyclist shot around the back of the lorry like a bleeding rocket heading down hill into the face of traffic at the speed of sound. 
     I kept tabs on Les' pain level and meds, making sure he received Tramadol and Paracetamol on schedule. We brought the Oromorph as a backup just in case he had any bleed-through pain. When we determined lunch was in order we looked around at what was available and chose the romantic Chez Kentuck Frit Sheecken for a takeaway which we ate sitting on our shaded bench watching the world go by and exposing the unknowing populace to Les' radioactivity.
"Baby do you know I have had more alfresco dining experiences with you than with any other man?"
We giggled like teenagers as Les recalled our first outdoor dining foray at nine o'clock on a soggy May evening in Nantwich as we ordered pizza slices and sodas to take away and sat on a bench located smack in the middle of the actual high street lanes, where we watched the local night life moving about. 
Al Fresco dining in Natwich! The red star marks the island between Swine Market St. and Oat Market St. where Les and I sat scarfing pizza in the romantic glare of a street light at nine O'clock at night.
     At the appointed time we walked slowly back to the hospital where I chose to live dangerously and sit in the yellow room with Les. Soon they took him hostage and forty minutes later Les returned looking a bit dazed. The MRI didn't hurt, however in order to keep Les as still as possible each arm was imprisoned in its very own sling and his ankles were taped together. No internal probes were involved so that was good!
     It was three o'clock and the bus back to Euston was one of those plummy new jobs for which we can thank former London mayor Boris Johnson. These new buses are meant to be a retro version of the original Routemaster bus which had open back entrances so people could hop off and on with the help of a conductor--except there are no conductors on the buses these days so the back door remains closed when the bus is underway. This new configuration means the buses lose nine seats at the very back and have three doors--a back, middle, and front door, AND the bloody windows don't open, hence their nickname "roast masters."  Inside temperatures on these new buses have been recorded as high as 30C/86F--a temperature illegal to transport cattle! There was no air con on this bus. By the time we reached the railway station I was sick to my stomach and very near to fainting from the heat. I nearly face planted myself in the tarmac getting off.
     Inside Euston Station I purchased two very expensive ice-cold cans of elderflower drink and rolled them over my hot, sweating skin as I slowly trudged back to find Les in the central terminal. We sipped our beverage and waited for the next train back from whence we had come. It was announced, and as all London train commuters do, we moved in a fast swarm, en masse down the departure ramp to board the train waiting at gate ten but--oh wait!! "Ladies and gentlemen this is NOT the 15:45 to Northampton; I repeat this is NOT the 15:45 to Northampton. That train is now approaching the front of this one..."
     So off we all swarmed to run up to the doors of the four-coach train coming to a stop in front of us. Les can still move faster than me in a pinch even with a limp and he worked his way to the front of the queue and dived in the doorway to secure us two seats with plenty of leg room at the very back. Air con!! AHHhhhhhhh.
     After four stops we detrained into the hot breath of hell that was the afternoon breeze, took the lift to the bridge and another lift to our platform where our next train was waiting; a diesel rather than electric train which meant--no air con!!! 
    Finally we got off this train and trudged in exhaustion and too much bloody sunshine, off the platform, down the street, down a lane, over a pedestrian bridge, and down the towpath to our floating home. We had left all the windows open and the curtains pulled hoping valiantly NB Val would feel a tad cooler than the outdoors but actually....nope. After opening the front doors, and the back and side hatches, we stripped down and I took a COLD shower, soaked my T-shirt in water and rung it out, slipped on a pair of panties and called it good. Les wore his boxers and sat with the evening breeze ruffling its way up his inner leg. Neither of us gave a good damn about what anyone walking by might think. A narrow boat is eighteen tons or solid steel heated to temperatures hot enough to easily fry an egg and give you one hell of burn in the sun.
    This morning I rose at 5:30 am to give Les his meds and he went back to sleep, feeling pretty damn bad. Yesterday's adventures kicked the shit out of us both, proving beyond doubt that neither of us are teenagers anymore. Whereas I felt like I had been reincarnated as a limp dish cloth, Les was seriously hurting. He got up about 7:30 am feeling and looking like death warmed over. I gave him more meds, but he had not yet had any breakfast. Consequently he soon felt dizzy and nauseous. As he lay in bed I began doing laundry and cleaning the boat while there was still a bit of morning coolness left. Suddenly Les piped up in a panic, "Jaq the boat is turning on its side!!" Usually he doesn't notice the boat rocking gently when I move about but this morning he felt like he was on an un-fun ride. 
Cherry Bakewell Cake
     Jules and Richard of Jules Fuels stopped and filled us up with ninety three liters of diesel and left with two pieces of fresh baked Cherry Bakewell cake with fresh cherries picked from the trees on the towpath. Eventually Les snapped out of it and came around once his meds caught up with his pain and leveled everything out and holy moly what a diff!! As we sat and sipped iced coffees my baby was positively Chatty Kathy (A doll from my childhood with a pull cord at the back of the neck; pull the cord and she talked endlessly! The older models had a glitch in the voice recorder. As the cord spooled in again her voice speeded up like an auctioneer on speed. 

       "Fe****g hell Jaq that scared me this morning. I really thought I was dying. I counted on my fingers the months since this all started and thought 'it's only been three months! Surely I'm not dying yet. I can't go yet--I have to tell Jaq about how the boat works, and other things that need sorting out.' But Jaq I really did feel like I was on my way out. Now I'm feeling great and really pleased to know I am not ready for the undertaker just yet." 
Yeah??? Well me too baby, me too!!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

A Change in Plans: Slowing Down to Savour the Moments

"Hope has two beautiful daughters: their names are anger and courage. Anger that things are the way they are. Courage to make them the way they ought to be.” ~ St. Augustine of Hippo

We made it up the Braunston Flight and down the Buckby lock Flight with help from our friend and fellow boater Arthur Pritchett (NB Dabchick) and his daughter Helen.  Many thansk for blessing us with your company and help! We overnighted at Weedon and continued on to the Stoke Bruerne Flight Friday afternoon. We made it down the Stoke Bruerne lock flight with the help of a CRT Volunteer Lock Keeper named Jane. Thanks Jane! We were both knackered so we decided to moor up on the last of the rings before the place where the water is pumped up to the canal by the River Tove. It is lovely and quiet here.

We have decided to slow down a bit now that we are past the three lock flights. It is unlikely we will ever be up here again together so we are going to take time now to stop and moor up at several places we love. We can cruise down to Campbell Park and catch a train down to London for Les' MRI on the 18th and also into Tring station to liaise with his GP. We have enough pain meds now so Les' urgency to go south as quickly as possible has passed and he is doing quite well with very little deep pain at the mo. So for today, life is good.

Our deepest thanks and love to everyone who has responded with offers of assistance and words of love. Les says he will be along at sometime or another to do more blogs although we have no idea of the content. Time will tell...

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

My Heart Is Breaking

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs