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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!!


Anonymous said...

You two absolutely blow me away... with your tenacity, courage and humor. And your willingness to be open not only with each other but with us too. Loved the so appropriate music. And so glad to see you back on GoFundMe. Don't skimp on the feel good /better medications. You don't get points for enduring pain. And eat and drink any dam thing you like Les. Any dam thing! You are loved.
Not too hot here across the pond in Pullman - lovely.

Unknown said...

Been there, done that. Only difference for me; it was an open frame MRI. Given my shoulders are too wide to fit inside the circular slot on a traditiona; MRI machine an open frame device is used. Problem is said device is some distance from home. so a two hour drive (very few people here use public transport, it is all personal vehicles) is required, then
similar to what Jaq and Les later endured. The radioactive bit was not a bother; being released from hospital at 16:00 in the middle of so-called evening rush hour meant a nearly four hour in terms of time,drive home.
Next day like Les felt woozy and out of sorts. Suspect if I had been in a dark room I would have glowed.
You two have survived so much and are still able to enjoy each other; which is a joy to behold for the rest of us lessers.

Marilyn, nb Waka Huia said...

Well, laugh! I nearly cried!
A great post, Jaq.
Give that man a hug from us and take one for yourself as well, lovely!
I am so pleased you decided to use the radioactivity to cleanse a couple or more of the people around you - Les will have got rid of the effects of a whole heap of unhealthy crap they have been eating for their whole lives, sweetheart.
And I loved the music too.
Tell Les no karking it till after we have seen him, right? Right! Instructions have been given and better bloody well have been received and taken on board, get it? Got it? good.


PS Pleased to see summer has made it to the canal, even if its timing it shite for you two.

Tom and Jan said...

I guess you are no longer considering LED lighting for Valerie now Les glows at night? :-)

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

You are so matter of fact about everything you've endured, and it is still going on. How bloody fortuante Les and I feel that you reached out to us across the Atlantic and offered us such a rich and fascinating friendship. YOu connect us to Canada, Ontario, and life in the splendid loft apartment above the big, fat, noisy, dysfunctional party that is America. You share our love of trains, boats, canals, and motorcycles and you are an imporant part of the family on many levels. There is nothing lesser about you Cousin Kindheart.
With great love,
Jaq and Les xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Instructions have been noted! Les's glow will be down to a subdued afterglow by the time you catch up to us which is one more fabulous thing to which we look forward and certainly gives les one more thing to live for!
Love and Biggs big hugs,
Jaq and Les xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Tom and Jan,
Imagine if we were living on land--what a savings we could have accrued to our electric bill!
Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Thank you Karen. I have discovered as a foreignor that we Americans are considered a bit loud, quite straight forward, extremely friendly, and amazingly generous. I personally (I won't allow all Americans to be tarred and feathered with this brush) have also been called a crass Amrican for using swear words or blue language. I am okay with all of it. I am a writer and my material is my life because as taught me Uni, "write what you know."

If anyone is helped along on their own journey by what I write then that is excelllent. It also helps Les and I to stay connected with all of those whom we love (and you all know who you are!) from 7000 miles away, across the world, multiple time zones, and various countries not to mention across Britain.

Thanks for being such a wonderful, supportive and loving friend. I remember once you told me after our training as Hospice volunteers ended that you failed Death. Maybe, but Pal you've passed Life with an A+++!
We love you,
Jaq and Les xxx

Anonymous said...

Very good reading and brought a smile to us both, glad your both still dealing with the current situation and enjoying your life as normal as it's important and more so with someone you love

Take Care


Les Biggs said...

Life is short enough so every bit of "normal" is treasured.
Les x

Anonymous said...

Your a strong cookie Dad our thoughts are with you

A & S x

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs