Friday, 30 April 2010

Guest post: Smoking and Cancer

fags image from:

This post is by a friend. I probably agree with everything she says here. But I am having a cigarette as I read this through. Why? Because I think it makes me feel better. Does it really?? Some days, yes. Absolutely. But some days? Not really. This post is certainly food for thought. I give you over to Bj Gallagher. Whatever you do - smoke or not, this post is worth reading.

One thing I will say - BJ; there is no risk of you being 'cut off' by any sensible woman, either side of the Pond. We all need a wake up call occasionally, whether or not we choose to listen is entirely up to us. Thanks for the post! And! Where is all this chatter on Facebook regarding smoking?

And how odd…my lighter refuses to work!!


With the following diatribe I am running the risk of being cut off by a circle of ovarian cancer women on both sides of the Pond. I cannot sit idly by and pretend that I am not reading what in fact I am. Lately, there has been a lot of chatter on Facebook regarding smoking amongst the circle of women discussing their ovarian cancer situations. It has become so prevalent that I am appalled to find that so many of the women are still smoking despite their diagnosis of cancer. On the one hand the ladies discuss their CA125 numbers while in the next breath they are discussing their cigarettes, whether to roll them, what brand of tobacco is better, how many a day, etc. Am I losing my mind?

What is going on here? What are you smoking women thinking?

Lest you think I am being self-righteous, let me say I, too, used to smoke – at least one pack a day for well over 30 years. In fact, I had become a closet smoker. My husband absolutely forbade it and, knowing my complaints would fall on deaf ears, I took to smoking in obscure, out of the way places where his presence would not be an issue. Hence, becoming a closet smoker – for what I deemed was my own sanity. Nothing could have been farther from the truth. Sanity has absolutely nothing to do with smoking. Smoking for me was a pleasure. After all, what’s a good cup of coffee without a cigarette. Or what is a good meal without a follow-up cigarette? To be honest, a good cup of coffee is just that, as is a good meal! They are good. They need no further follow up to make them memorable.

But then came the day in January 2001 when I was pronounced a victim of cancer. I, too, jumped on the bandwagon of CA 125 numbers, doing advocacy work for the cause, involving myself in clinical trials, speaking to groups, – mind you, all for the cause to stamp out ovarian cancer!! Yep, I was doing it all to further ovarian cancer education among the less informed women of society but I continued to smoke. Yes, the first couple of years were halcyon times – my numbers dropped dramatically with each chemo treatment; my hair fell out (so what?!), the steroids packed on the weight (ah, the cigarettes can control that to some extent), but I was doing my part and still enjoying the ciggies every opportunity I could. The struggle was mind blistering! I deemed myself unable to cope with the drama of my life without the smokes to carry me through.

Rubbish. Oh yes, the drama was taking over; the doctor’s appointments, the scans, the blood work; the constant day to day struggle to get through the day’s events without losing my sanity. Thank God, there were the cigarettes. My touchstone to sanity and
reality. If I could only have another cigarette, my world would be back on an even keel. The nicotine would temper the harsh reality of my life and the smoking would lull me into believing that at least one area of life BC (before cancer) would remain unchanged.

Furthermore, the relaxation of smoking would de-stress me if only for a few minutes. The fact was, I was focusing on when and how to get a cigarette to calm myself down than trying to get well. Getting well meant quitting smoking – not because I would suddenly be transformed to a woman without cancer but it meant one less stressor on my body. I was rattling off facts and figures with my cigarette pack in my handbag awaiting my quiet return for a few minutes of inhalation pleasure. Do you see where this is going?

Smoking had me believing all was going to be well in my upside down world. It was the last remnant of a connection to a previous life that was never to be again. I foolishly believed that nicotine held no power over me. That I had only to say the word and I was through with the vile act. Fact is, smoking controlled my world at that time. The person I saw each morning in the mirror had nothing to do with the person I once was. I wanted that person back – or at least a small vestige of her – and smoking would help me get back to her. Nothing could have been farther from the truth. BJ BC was gone forever. That life was only a distant memory – pleasant though it was. Not until I realized that I was being such a hypocrite – what, spouting all the facts and figures of cancer survival, causes, etc.- did I face the reality of my situation. How could I reconcile all the advocacy and continue to smoke when statistics clearly indicate that nicotine/smoking contribute to cancer.

There are four main contributors to cancer – you pick whichever cancer you want: Obesity, smoking, diet; and lifestyle. The following was taken directly from an article from the National Cancer Institute. The remainder of the article can be seen at the link at the top of this article. Please read it.

1. Quitting smoking substantially reduces the risk of developing and dying from cancer, and this benefit increases the longer a person remains smoke free. However, even after many years of not smoking, the risk of lung cancer in former smokers remains higher than in people who have never smoked (1).
The risk of premature death and the chance of developing cancer due to cigarettes depend on the number of years of smoking, the number of cigarettes smoked per day, the age at which smoking began, and the presence or absence of illness at the time of quitting. For people who have already developed cancer, quitting smoking reduces the risk of developing a second cancer (9, 10).

Now, ladies, I am not stupid nor do I wish to appear to be stupid. The facts clearly state one’s health improves when one quits smoking – even if you already have cancer! So, all the anxiety about CA125 numbers bouncing up and down, the adhesions and scans, the
constant threat of relapse, these issues are moot when we are NOT doing everything we as cancer patients can to turn that tide. If you still smoke, think about the message you send to your family, friends, colleagues and lesser known's: Your message to them is
this: The statistics don’t apply to me. I will get through this ordeal without having to give up a known body stressor that contributes to cancer because I am untouchable. I will focus my energy on the things I really can’t do anything about (example: CA125) and continue to ease my tensions with cigarettes.

Ladies, all the worry about your survival will do no good if you continue to add to the problem with smoking. I encourage you to take a major step on your own behalf and do all you can to stop smoking. You will feel so much better physically and mentally. Your focus will shift to healing your body instead of thwarting the healing process every time you light up.

Good luck to all of you. It won’t be easy but YOU CAN DO IT! You are Survivors!

Bj Gallagher.

lovely day at The Grand Hotel Torquay

first - hello to whoever it is in Portugal that is reading my whole blog. Feel free to comment - in Portuguese if you like! Or not if you don't want to.

Next - we had a super day today at The Grand Hotel in Torquay.

the GrandThey put on a lovely lunch for us, the staff were really helpful at any query and the view is amazing from their veranda. Target Ovarian Cancer did a great job at organising us all and the workshops were interesting and valid. Kate was a delight, and YES Tracey, I did send your love! :o)

The afternoon workshop was particularly interesting, as it allowed us to comment about our various experiences of the NHS treatment we have received. These comments will be passed back to the staff of our hospitals. Which, happily, were majoritarily good ones. Of course no system is perfect, and with so many people involved in each persons care, there are bound to be foul ups and glitches. Communication being the most vital problem, as wires get crossed, people don't respond as you'd wish and information isn't passed to patients as it should be on occasion. Email seems to be a problem, as the NHS worries about security, but hey, surely it's up to us to decide if we want that or not? Personally, I would love to get my results etc by email - so quick! And accessible anywhere via the mobile phone.

Happily, I have had nothing but brilliant service from my Cancer Team, so I have had no complaints. In particular, my Gynaecology/Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialists, Gail and Jackie, have been amazing. They absolutely ALWAYS get back to me the same day. No matter how small or silly my query is. Can't ask more than that.

This is them! Jackie on the left, Gail on the right. Wonderful women who make a HUGE difference in our lives.

Gail and Jackie

And -  lunch was scrumptious. Salmon and salad for me [still trying to lose that weight!] but we could have had lasagne, steak and kidney with dumplings or sweet an sour chicken. Cute desserts and lots of coffee.

See Target Ovarian Cancer website for information on when they will be doing something like this near you. Well worth going,the networking opportunities are great. Today I met Simon's auntie Jean again! That was nice! We will meet up again I hope when Simon gets back from his mammoth cycle.

And now I am retiring, as that massive scone with clotted cream was a bit much - eyes bigger than my tummy ;o)

chaos mode

Blimey, what a week! I seem to have a lot of these 'what a week' things. This week my friend has been rushed back into hospital for complications after his surgery. The furniture business has ground to a shrieking halt, as he makes the stuff. Hmm. Oh well, we will have a holiday until he's well again.

My  other friend is STILL waiting for results on her scan - this is now getting ridiculous…three weeks? For a cancery type? Er…NOT good. Anyway, we will hear on Tuesday. In the meantime, we are all off to a Cancer Wellbeing Roadshow in Torquay tomorrow, at the Grand Hotel. Nice! We have a lecture in the morning and the afternoon, a 1 and a half hour lunch [yay!] and tea at 3.45.  Should be nice and relaxing. Julie is driving us, as I have the FH's lorry this weekend. Hmm - not the best mode of transport! The FH has trundled off to see the kids in Stoke.

We've been having a lovely week off [unfortunately, due to the ash problem, we didn't go to Spain as planned] -  FH has been sorting out the 300 year old window sills - they are rotten. Lots of filler there! I have been doing the garden - it's really starting to look good. The first time in 10 years I have actually been home long enough to enjoy it.

I am considering having a 'Tea and Fairy Cake' day to raise funds for the Women V Cancer thing. I have a friend who BAKES!! So I will likely charge a fiver entry to see the garden - then maybe 50p for a cuppa and another 50p for a fairy cake. Everyone seems to think that's reasonable, so hey ho here we go - will do it once the flowers are up and out. Probably get Judi Spiers to make an appearance, as people love her. And they should she is fab!

We have been trundling to pubs too. This is at the  Waterman's Arms. A lovely sunny day, we really thought about booking in for the night! This is the FH doing his thing with a half pint…he was driving. Yay!


DSC_0013 And we went to my favourite nursery for some plants to build the hanging baskets - Hill House Nursery. It is still a 'proper' nursery - no blasted fleecies and 3000 different types of potpourri!! They sell PLANTS. Oh, and they have a superb tea room, where I had home made broccoli and stilton soup, and the FH had a home made scone with jam - apparently the best one he's ever had since his Mum made them.

This is under a tree in the tea house garden. Bluebells out!


I have also been going for interviews at graphic design houses, and doing [hilarious!!] waitressing at the Valance Hotel…this is more fun than the chalet cleaning, as one literally boils half to death. Plus, I am used to it, as I did it years ago. The first day I had a table of 85, one of 25 and sundry other normal tables…I had to have a cheat sheet for the dessert menu, and the Chef had to tell me what everything was! But I really enjoyed it - nothing like a good frenzy to get the blood flowing! And nothing like a rude Chef…they are ALL the same ;)

In the interim I have been FUND RAISING! Thank you so much everyone who has already given - it's amazing how kind people are. We're all broke - I know that, and yet people still GIVE! Wonderful….


Thursday, 22 April 2010

ash and things


A while ago I was pondering if it was a good idea to keep in touch with so many people who have had, or still have cancer.

This week has been a perfect example of why it IS a good idea to keep in touch with all those cancery types of mine. One of my friends has an odd lump on her neck - she's had an MRI scan, and attempted [but unsuccessful] biopsy, and finally today, a CT scan. No-one knows what it is. The results will be in next week. All the while, she is wondering if it's cancer - even though it's in her neck!

Sort of like when you get a bad headache you immediately wonder how big the brain tumour actually is that you have…or the lung cancer if you get a cough..the leg cancer if you find an unexplained bruise on your shin. Fear. It's an ugly thing. It could eat you alive if you let it.

Another friend has had a recurrence. After 10 years of remission. Ten YEARS. This evening we had a chat, so I could catch up with her results which she got today. She is amazing - very calm. Very pragmatic. After I put the phone down I wasn't upset - I was sad. But I was glad that I could be here for her. And that has a little bit of a selfish side, as I am glad that if the situation was reversed, she would be there for me. Both of them would. ALL of them would.

Yet another friend has had a recurrence too. She's just started chemo. It's horrible. But it's almost like we deal with this crap as a team. Yes, that sounds odd. But it's true.

I know my normal friends and family are always there, but this is something different and hard to explain - these women just KNOW how you feel. Because they feel the same things.  So that's put that question on the fire forever now. I need them. They need me. Full stop.

Apart from that, the week has been a bit mad - I have been doing my Executive Maintenance Person thing. I'm getting used to it now, and have a method that stops me from getting Duvet Cover Rage. And I do rather like racing about in the golf  cart ;o) I've done nearly all the garden. Looking nice! Tomorrow I have an interview with a graphic design shop that sometimes uses freelancers; I've been editing images for the furniture and talking to a fab new website person. I'm having a lot of fun. Not much money involved, but hey, it'll happen.

I am FUNDRAISING!! Like mad! Thanks to everyone who already donated - I know a thank you email goes out, but really, I'm touched.

This Saturday the FH and I were supposed to go to Spain, to a beautiful village called Altea, where our friend Rick lives. We were looking forward to it so much, but due to the ASH scenario, we aren't going. Bugger. Rick bought half a lamb! We watched all the news about the blasted volcano keeping on erupting and decided it wasn't worth the risk of the FH being stuck in Spain while the shop is open. Grr. But we will reschedule for later in the year. In the meantime, we will be painting the house front! Ooo - be still my beating heart! But a week off is a week off! Lets hope the weather holds. Lets hope the volcano goes back to sleep too! And lets hope all my friends are going to be ok.


active fat?! eww

Aaargh! CRUK posted this yesterday - see here for more details. Pretty gross stuff…I was about to post about something else completely different, but thought it could be useful to share this. Must get cycling and lose those extra pounds. This little Fat Monster is enough to give you nightmares!



Sunday, 18 April 2010

what a day

last night I went to the Exeter Night Walk with Judy Spiers - quite fun, but as I hadn't asked for sponsorship, I didn't do the walk - I just took photos of all the crazy women who did do it. It was in aid of MacMillan and ELF. It was bloody FREEZING cold - they did well to walk 10 miles in that! Here's the Nail Fairy with Judy. Love that dress.


and here are Judy and Julie doing the first warm up - they did one at 8.00 and another at 9.00


Anyway - we had a fabulous day today - the sun was out, it was HOT, I got into the garden with the fork and spade and the FH fixed the patio heater. Which had refused to light. Ever. Well, now he's taken it apart [and I am sure there were at least 30 screws involved], and put it back together, it works! yay! And my garden is starting to look lovely. I have been digging things up and moving them around. I always love the way the garden looks in the Spring - space between each plant, and it always 'seems' so organised. Chaos comes later when all the herbaceous plants have gone crazy in their individual efforts to take over the world. The best thing being that THIS year, I can actually DO the garden! I feel so much better now; it's amazing what a difference a year makes.

Once we'd finished our various bits and pieces, we took to the steamer chairs and lay in the sun…with a few glasses of Pinot and some good reading material. And pizza! I ventured my Brazilian bikini - why not? No-one can see me and I need to get the new scars sunburnt. The FH had the Times and I have the amazingly good book by David Pritchard, 'Shooting the Cook' handily donated by The Judster. It's really very amusing. I recommend it. And I also recommend sunscreen, as I have sunburnt bits that are making it hard to type!

One other thing happened today that made me feel really good. Happy. I had an email from someone who has apparently been following the blog for ages, as she battled her own ovarian cancer.  She's a cyclist too - woop! I can drain her brain for the Cycle Kenya. But it so touched my heart that my blog helped her through her own cancery crap. I don't write this for anyone other than me - it's an outlet for frustrations, anger, happiness etc. Sometimes I am sure my darling readers want to batter me, as I am not politic, and I don't 'think before i write'. I simply write. It's like free therapy for me. So to know that this blog, silly as it is sometimes, has really helped someone else? well. That's priceless.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

amazing women

I was lucky enough to meet Heidi Yssennagger on the set of the SKY Real Lives program. She has suffered horribly with Crohn's Disease, yet when I met her she was as chirpy as you like and her life is filled with 'doing' things.

Heidi talks candidly about her experience of Crohn's Disease on The Secret Guide to Women's Health. Watch it on the 20th April at 10pm.

Heidi has suffered from Crohn's Disease since she was fifteen years old. She has had surgery resulting in her having an ileostomy. During one of these procedures Heidi contracted septicaemia and then MRSA which almost killed her.

Heidi joined the local art college and it wasn't long before her experiences started to appear on her canvas and in her sculptures. She has continued to use art as her therapy and has an MA in Fine Art.

"Heidi Yssennagger’s art concerns itself directly with issues relating to body image, identity, and health."

If you'd like to view her work, her dates in June for exhibiting are now confirmed;

All part of a travelling Stoma convention for Dansac, she's going to be a busy girl in June! See a snippet of her TV interview below.


Wednesday, 14 April 2010

for tracey

viola! le signature…saved as an image ;o)



'that' video snippet

well I never did! The code finally works for pasting this into one's site. I know a lot of you wanted to see this and couldn't, so here it is. I am now wondering if it will help me with fundraising for the WOMEN V CANCER cycle? At least it may give me a little credibility!

If you feel like it, please donate here. Thank you!

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

HERA Women's Cancer Foundation Fundraiser!

Raffle Tickets are on sale now!

The Big Bike Gear Raffle is sponsored by Independent Fabrication, JBV Coaching, White Industries, Snappy Cap, Smart Wool, TomiCOGs and many more! 100% of the proceeds from the Big Gear Bike Raffle will be donated to HERA Foundation. You do not need to be present to win! Raffle tickets can be purchased HERE.


Cancer Hate bumper stickers can also be purchased here! Scroll down to the bottom of the page.

Mountain Bike Adventure weekend benefiting the HERA Foundation

When: May 1 & 2, 2010

Where: Granogue Estates, Montchanin, Delaware

A Mid-Atlantic off-road cycling classic, Andrew Mein's Excellent Adventure at Granogue, course features many technical sections on the private Granogue estate. The adventure weekend will include a Mountain Bike Tour for Joyce, Time trials for Joyce, a Trail Run, and a full day of cross country mountain bike racing! The weekend adventure also features the 4th Annual Big Bike Gear Raffle.

Saturday May 1st

9am - Trail Run - Start the adventure with a Trail Run benefiting Velo Amis (a non-profit cycling race promoter) at 9am. Registration is here.

11:30am - Tour for Joyce. Take a guided tour of the Granogue Estate mountain bike trails (or preview them for Sunday's race). Pre-registration is not required. 100% of entry fee will be donated to HERA. You can pre-register here.

1:00pm - Time Trail for Joyce. Put your racing gloves on. Pre-registration is required. 100% of entry fee will be donated to HERA.

You can register here.

About Joyce:  Saturday's events are dedicated to Joyce Perry.  Joyce is an ambassador for HERA Foundation.  Over the years, Joyce has played an integral part in making this event possible.  Joyce was great at helping us raise awareness for ovarian cancer by sharing her story.  Right now Joyce is struggling with recurrence and she won't be able to speak at the race this year.  She'll be here in spirit though as she continues to inspire us!

Sunday May 2nd

Andrew Mein's Excellent Adventure at Granogue Mountain Bike Race. Categories include junior, beginner, sport, expert/elite, and marathon categories. Prizes for all categories range from medals and plaques to cold hard cash. A portion of the proceeds of the bike race will benefit HERA Foundation.

Online registration for the bike race is here.

If you are interested in volunteering at the Adventure weekend, please contact Sam.  Samantha.BurytheDragon  at  gmail.

About HERA Foundation

    HERA is committed to stopping the loss of women from ovarian cancer.One in 57 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in her lifetime. With early detection 90% will survive. Currently, only 24% of ovarian cancer is caught early. HERA is an acronym for Health, Empowerment, Research and Awareness.

    The HERA Women's Cancer Foundation's mission is to stop the loss of mothers, daughters, sisters, grandmothers, aunts, wives, partners and girlfriends from ovarian cancer through empowering:

  • Women to take control of their health,

  • Research Scientists to find new directions in early detection, treatment, and prevention, and

  • Communities to provide support

      HERA is a nationally recognized ovarian cancer non-profit organization funding cutting edge research grants to leading young scientists at respected medical institutions. In so doing we expand the scientific understanding of ovarian cancer while improving the lives of those battling this disease.

    Tell your friends!!!

    Saturday, 10 April 2010

    cycle donations

    woo hoo – my first donation from Jamie Walker. Thank you SO much Jamie! :o)


    wow – I am really worried about raising the K4 for the WOMEN V CANCER cycle ride…I was dreaming about it last night! I only need to raise K2800 to be allowed to go – but half of that is spent on my flight, accommodation etc. So I really want to raise K6 if I can…K4 minimum…aaargh!

    BUT, I have a marketing manager! Yay me. Julie is on the case! What a relief – she understands very well about fund raising, having done many Cancer Research Relay for Life thingies. She is going to do a 'Golf Day' for me, and we are apparently going to attack Exeter City Football Club, Torquay Football Club and the Sandy Park Rugby Stadium??  Ok…bring it on…I need money or I get disqualified.


    Also, Julie is going to be my trainer – she takes the circuit training class I usually go to twice a week. Now she is going to cycle with me [even though she hates bikes!] and we are going to see if the local gym will allow me to do swimming for free – the best training in my mind – swimming is such a whole body work out. So we'll do that together – although Julie swims about 300 lengths in one hour, where I shall likely simply sink… But I can't afford it right now, so we will see what they say.

    Already approached the local football team Chairman, Dave Hitt, today and he thinks that the Committee will do something. yay! Thanks Ju!

    My friend Mark goes trail cycling at Haldon Hill, so I am going to see if I can accompany him. I really need to find my limit NOW and improve on it.

    Oh, and I need a bloody cycle helmet that fits 'hair'! And I need to learn to use my GEARS! I never use the gears and the FH goes mad…well, I shall have to learn, as the third day is 98km. A steady climb into the Nyeri hills. Reach the equator at 83km [and probably drop down dead immediately]. Uff. NERVOUS!!!

    Friday, 9 April 2010

    my interesting day

    Ok – this is what I'm doing while I look for a design job. And don't get me wrong, cleaning is great [actually I love it!! no stupid persons telling one what to do and how to do  it – result!] – it's just making the beds that transforms me from a sweet little babe to a Demon-Like Raving Lunatic!!

    Duvet Covers and Valances are the work of the Devil. That's that. I can't remember when I last SAW a bloody valance, and now I am swamped with the bloody things…look nice, but [really!!] they are a pain in the ass when making beds!! Once one has tucked the sheet away army style, one notices that [oh yes] the bloody valance is stuffed under the mattress too. Hmm. What? Hmm you say? I say F**K!! LOUDLY. In every cabin!

    Monday I raced into work and the rest of the day was a total chaos – today I went in and it wasn't so frenzied, and that was rather nice. I had lists. And forms to complete. Ok. It still took me 6 hours to clean 4 chalets – WHY do people have FLAT sheets and VALANCES?? The last time I saw a FLAT sheet was in 1975 before my Mum discovered fitted sheets. After that – well, fitted sheets are the bomb! Duh!!!

    This is my new company car; actually I love this thing – it's Hell on Wheels! I can run over golfers with it…cool!

    fingle 003This is the chalet that I am now the Executive Maintenance Manager of:

    fingle 001

    God my life is funny! And I love it – except for the valances… ;o)

    the first WOMEN V CANCER cycle ride

    OMG!! I don't believe it – I am actually going to do this. So, first see the web site here. Then read the rest of this. Which is not as interesting! Well. It is – for me anyway!


    I really wanted to do this ride – the FH sent me the link while I was in Portugal, I looked at it, and it just seemed a dream come true. Firstly, raising funds for ovarian cancer research. Research is what saved my life. Bring it on!!

    Since I have been watching Simon and Ben, I have been thinking how amazing it is that these men are out there on our behalves – generating funds that could literally save our lives. And as much as we support them [they are amazing! follow them on Twitter Simon - Ben ] it would be good if we could do 'something' for ourselves too. Just to follow their example. Oh, and to pull our fingers out too!

    Secondly, it's in AFRICA!! I LOVE Africa, and I miss it so much. Kenya is beautiful – I was there. And I loved it.

    So. Funds for research. Africa. Made For Me!! BUT the registration fee was £250.00. I can't afford that right now as I am with no work. After I tried to register, I had to cancel. But they have your details anyway and they emailed me.  Amazingly [really amazingly!] they gave me a special dispensation. I paid it  – so I am IN!! Woop! Next October, I shall be cycling 400km [248 miles] in Kenya…

    So – how lucky am I???

    the Machine that is the airport

    My God – I arrived back in the UK to complete chaos [there's a surprise eh?]. Four planes landed at once at Bristol Airport, and the usual irritating B.S ensued. First, no buses. Then, no stairs [I would quite happily have jumped to the tarmac at this point].

    Then, herded like cattle through the passport control, where there were only FOUR controllers. What?! Do they not know all these planes are arriving at once? Uh, patently not.  None of the automatic passport machines were turned on [grr] so there were lots of delays. Some jumped-up lard ass was shouting at people in the queue to not use their mobiles – what? They delay us through their incompetence and we can't call people to tell them? Pah. Get a life Mr I Am So Important…not. I have seen this same man a few times passing though this airport – would rather like to beat him about the head with my [not allowed] handbag…

    Eventually emerged from The Machine that is the airport to be greeted by the much missed FH. We got home at 2.00 in the morning…ugh. I started work [more about that later] at 9.30 on Easter Monday. So, no unpacking, simply go to bed. Jump up the next day and into mayhem.

    Get home, unpack and complain a lot about valances…ah, such is life.

    La Vie en rose!

    Well, the rest of my stay in Portugal was fantastic. Wednesday I had my hair done [yay – thank you Clarinha!!], so look rather more civilised again. Thursday we had the very last dinner we shall have as a group at the Barco Boador. Our beloved Bella is moving on to a new restaurant, and although I am sure we will go there and have entertaining evenings in the future, that was the last 'Barco'  gathering. Good luck Bella! We will miss the sea view, but we all have to move on eventually.

    Here she is with Clarita and I, the first time I had to go over to Portugal for work in September 08. No hair at all – but we still partied like crazy people! Amazing woman.


    All week I stayed with Clara and Alvaro [and Luna] in Espinho. I walked into the town every day [dodging rain storms] to spend time at the beach and with Bella. We all landed back at theirs after our dinner and Alvarito and I ended up shopping for novels in English and Portuguese on the internet until 3.00 in the morning! The sage and sensible behaviour of people who have had rather a lot of wine heh heh. Good fun. It was like being at home I felt so welcome.Then I went to Vila Nova de Gaia. To stay with Marina – we had a pyjama party in front of her fire [no – no photos!!] – delicious! Wine and cheese and bread and us. On the weekend we went to the beach cafe for brunch – chilled rosé wine and more cheese and meat and bread [aaargh – hello 1 more kilo!] and SUNSHINE! I got a sunburn on my forehead.

    Saturday night we went with Paulito to a fabulous traditional Portuguese restaurant – amazing food, perfect service – it was great. Sunday, well…Sunday was something else. I was welcomed into Marina's sister's home for Easter lunch. Clara invited me to hers too, but as Mari was taking me back to the airport it seemed more sensible. If only I could have been at both!

    In the UK we don't really make much fuss over Easter, other than to eat quite a lot of chocolate. In Portugal it's totally different [not much chocolate - phew], and I felt quite honoured to be there. The sisters cooked a HUGE [and I mean seriously huge] lunch, of leitão assado, pork on the bone, salad and bread and wine…you must know the score by now. There were about 20 of us! And in the sitting room, the furniture was covered in cakes and desserts – and more cheese…oh my word! It was amazing. All the kids were there, delightful, and we ended up sprawled on the front lawn, having a few beers and enjoying the sunshine.


    But that was after we were visited by the Priests. It's hard for me to explain this, as it was quite moving, and although I am not a particularly religious person, it made Easter seem like 'Easter'. If you know what I mean. I don't quite! Anyway – the Priests in Portugal all walk from house to house [all day!], giving blessing to the people and their homes. We were lucky, as Mari's Mum lives down the road from her sister, so we had the first blessing at Toninha's home, then we all zoomed down the street to her Mum's and did it all again. Double blessings – good! They carry an ornate Cross, which each person kisses, a prayer is intoned, and everyone shakes hands with the Priests. Then off they go. It was an experience I shan't forget.


    We spent the rest of the day just pretending we lived in a commune – so many people came by to visit, it was so relaxed – there was enough food for an army…so sad to leave. Apparently the doors [and there are a lot of them!] to Toninha's home are always open to me. That's so nice. Leaving Marina at the airport was horrible – I felt like jumping back into her car – if the FH had been there, I might have!

    What a delightful week. And this was just a part of my and the FH's Christmas present from Mum and Dad. We still haven't spent all the money they gave us for holiday yet - and we are going to Spain at the end of the moth! What a great life eh?? Thanks everyone – it was GREAT!!