Enjoyed staying with singer Judy Eames and trumpet-player Tony Davis at their gorgeous country cottage in Aston Friday night. Martin was playing with Alyn Shipton’s Buck Clayton Legacy Band at St John’s Evangelist Church in Oxford. Great gig.
The next morning both Jude and Martin were delighted to have a bird tapping at their window. Actually Jude was less delighted as she was asleep at the time (beneath a different window: just to be clear). Martin told me he thought he’d seen a Coal Tit. Jude said she’d seen a Great Tit. Was she naming or rating the tit? I was jealous. I love birds.
I decided to get to the bottom of it. Was it the same bird? I investigated but the pictures online are confusing. Most Great Tits seem to have a yellow breast. Like this:
Martin says the bird he saw didn’t have a yellow breast. So I’m guessing it was like this:
I need to let go of it. This is dangerous stuff, possibly leading to a reputation for being obsessed with tits.
Mum was on top form. I’d bought her Singalonga War Years with Max Bygraves for Christmas and she was listening to it.
“You’ll never know just how much I love you…” warbled Max, and Mum suddenly shouted:
“Because you never bloody told me, did you!”
“Who are you talking about, Mum?” I asked, when I’d stopped laughing.
“Max Bygraves,” she said. “When we worked together.” Hmmmm. Okay…
I offered to sing for her. She found the idea bizarre, then said “Well, alright, if you need to practise, you can.”
So I put on my backing tracks and sang while I did the ironing. “‘It had to be you…'”.
Then Avril arrived.
“She’s here,” Mum said, jerking her head in my direction. “I don’t know what she’s doing. We don’t get on. Never have.”
I protested. “We’ve just been getting on very well. I’ve been singing for you.”
Avril, impressed, asked me to continue. So I did. “‘Some day he’ll come along, the man I love…'”
Mum lasted about a minute, then started up. “She’s always singing,” she said, talking over the top of me. “Been on the stage and everything. How are you getting on, Avril?”
And that was that. I continued bravely for a while, singing quietly so as not to disturb their conversation, until Avril addressed me directly. Something about ironing…
Ah well, y’can’t win ’em all…
I have apparently just enjoyed a virtual holiday in Spain being held at gunpoint by internet hackers. It was fine. I didn’t feel a thing. How could I? I wasn’t actually there.
Hackers somehow gained access to my email account and sent a mail to everyone in my address book asking for money to tide me over until the bank sent me some of my own.
The first I heard of it was an early morning phone call from my insurance broker, telling me that I had been hacked. He wasn’t the only one. Four hours later the phone finally stopped ringing. By the end of it I had lost all my social skills and wasn’t even bothering to say hello.
“Yes I know!” I shouted into the mobile, while the landline went off again. .
“No, I’m not in Spain!” I shouted into the landline.
When I did get any space between well-wishers offering me money or telling me that my email account had been hacked, I rang my bank and shouted hysterically at them too.
It actually had nothing to do with them. It was just my emails that had been infiltrated, not my bank account. But how was I to know that? How am I to know anything? I’m a sad middle-aged lady and I really don’t “get” the internet.
All right, I know there are millions of computer-literate people of my age and older but I’m not one of them.
I’m the kind who remembers a time when young men had good manners and shop assistants understood the concept of service. The computer sometimes still baffles me.
So I got my knickers in a twist and decided that the hackers were inside my computer staring out at me.
Yes, that was very silly.
I must say, I was overwhelmed by the kindness of people who don’t know me well enough to know that if I was robbed at gunpoint by Spanish ruffians I would not respond by sending a global email asking for a sub.
Three times I have found myself without money in a strange place and I have simply thrown down a hat or some such receptacle and burst into glorious song whilst passers-by threw money at me.
It wasn’t always successful. A little old man in Newcastle was so outraged by my behaviour that he went and found me a job in British Home Stores.
So, no, I wasn’t robbed in Spain and I didn’t need any money to get home, thanks for asking. It wasn’t until the dust had settled on the last call that I realised I should have given out my own bank details and watched the money pour in.
It could have worked. But where would I have sent the hackers’ cut?
The play went extremely well and has received good reviews. Now I know why actors call periods between plays “Resting”. They’re not joking.
Best of all is that the director, Matthew Gould, and I will soon begin work on a stage adaptation of my comedy cancer memoir, GETTING IT OFF MY CHEST, which will have its debut performance at The Myers Studio, Epsom Playhouse in early February 2012.
Take two very different approaches….
If you prefer the soft, lighthearted and slightly freaky approach, you can’t do much better than to follow the irrepressibly jolly Arina Nikitina.
If you want to be more fanatical, try one of the many health practitioners, such as Dr Nalini Chilkov. I just read her 25 reasons not to have breast implants, and became even more depressed than I was already.
To cheer myself up I looked up the symptoms of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy’ (BSE). I’ve always thought it would be sweet and fitting for someone who could write a book like mine to die of Mad Cow Disease. (Alas, the reprieve from hypochondria that came with Breast Cancer has worn off. Last week I had Parkinson’s.)
To be serious…
After a mastectomy and several reconstructions, I have so far survived moderately-aggressive breast cancer for 14 years, despite having some local “spread” and refusing the recommended chemotherapy and hormone treatments.
When people who fear cancer come to me for advice on how to survive, I demur. I explain that I’m not an expert and point them to CANCERactive.com, where they will find all the information they need.
I can only share my own experience, which was this:
I was ignorant, so I researched.
I was afraid, so I joked.
I lived badly, so I cleaned up my lifestyle. Especially my diet.
In particular, I lost seven stone, got rid of my husband and became a writer. Now I’m slim, lonely and broke. But I still recommend it.
I’ve just watched Laura Linney in Channel 4’s new sitcom, The Big C. It was great. It made me laugh and I’ll watch it again, but two things irritated me. Firstly, the character is wealthy enough to follow her dreams, which most of us aren’t. Secondly, she’s given up on life. She’s been told she’s dying and she’s waiting for the hearse.
I wasn’t as seriously ill as this character, but even so, I’m pretty certain I would have put more effort into surviving. Perhaps it was because I found Dr Patrick Quillin’s excellent book, Beat Cancer with Nutrition:
‘Fungus grows on a tree because of warmth, moisture and darkness. You can cut, burn and poison fungus off the tree, but the fungus will return as long as the conditions are favourable. Similarly, there are conditions that favour the growth of cancer. My extensive work with cancer patients shows that the cancer patient will thrive or wither, live or die based upon being able to change the conditions which favour cancer growth.’
So I set about changing the conditions in which the cancer would survive. And that included massively changing my diet. Here’s what I did, allegorically speaking…
The princess picked up her shiny pink notebook, labelled ‘Getting Abreast of Things’. At the top of a new page she wrote ‘Local Wisdom’ in large letters.
“I’m listening,” she said, pen poised, “what shall I do?”
“You must change. Most importantly, change your habits.”
“Fresh air, exercise, fruit, fibre and vegetables. Change your household products for safe ones. Cut out sugar, caffeine, and alcohol. No stimulants of any kind must pass your lips. Of course you don’t smoke?”
The princess shook her head and wrote ‘Help me’, thinking that she might wrap the page around a rock and throw it out of the window. The wise woman poured her a glass of water.
“Drink plenty of this,” she said, handing over the glass. “If you can drink a couple of glasses of water first thing in the morning, and then jump up and down on a mini-trampoline, you will find that you want to go.”
“You will find out.”
She gently nudged a piece of paper across the table.
“Get these,” she said. It was a list of books. The princess picked it up and looked at the first three names on the list. Chicken Soup for the Soul; Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway; You Can Heal Your Life.
“What’s all this?” she said. The wise woman went on.
“You must visit healers, natural healers and spiritual healers; also herbalists, aromatherapists, psychotherapists and hypnotherapists. Then there are naturopaths and, naturally, homeopaths.”
“Psychopaths…” wrote the princess and looked around the room for a clock. There were none.
“To sum up,” continued the wise woman, “You must learn about nutrition and care for your body. Take vitamins and supplements. Eat tons of vegetables. More vegetables than you can possibly imagine. Eat them. And you must begin to love yourself and let go of all your resentment. Cancer thrives on resentment”.
“What do you mean?” asked the princess. “I have no resentment.” She bit her thumbnail and looked shifty.
Why did I do these things? Some people pale at the sound of this regime and say they’d prefer the chemotherapy.
I suppose it was because I didn’t want to die and I thought it would help. Now that I’m older, wiser and – since the last Election – suffering from depression, I’ve changed my mind. I do want to die.
But like the song, I’m scared of dying, because I suspect that God will be waiting for me at the Pearly Gates with a rolling pin and shouting: ‘What time do you call this?’
When I was at school (some time around the turn of the century) I had a Home Economics teacher with BO. We vicious teenage girls would whisper amongst ourselves, daring each other to tell her – for her own good – and saying, over and over, ‘You’d think her family would, wouldn’t you?’
Would they though? I have a friend with a son who desperately wants to be a professional singer, but his singing is so bad that when he practises in his bedroom it sounds like the wind howling in the pipes. Will she tell him? Of course not. She’ll bottle it, and let him grow up and one day win a place on X Factor, where he will be humiliated in front of millions of people.
So here I am, 100 years later, with a milder dilemma. Should I allow an IT teacher acquaintance of mine – only an acquaintance and therefore arguably not my responsibility – continue to believe that the shape she likes best for an example logo is called a Trape-Zoid?
Or should I tell her that she’s making an idiot of herself in front of a class of probably vicious teenagers?
I think I will. I should. I must.
I will take her aside, and say:
‘When I was young I thought that “Kernel” and “Col-o-nel” were two different ranks in the army; similarly “Left-tenant” and “Lee-u-tenant.” It didn’t occur to me that the first version was one I only ever heard people speak of, and the second version was one I only ever saw written down.
‘I also thought that “determination” was pronounced “deeta-mine-ation.”
‘I thought the film “Under Siege” was “Under Siggie.”
‘I still, to this day, have trouble distinguishing a “soldier” from a “shoulder”. I interchange the two words at random. “My soldier is aching”, I will say. Or “Why do the shoulders march like that?”
‘The mind plays tricks on one,’ I will tell her, gently.
And when she looks at me with puzzled brow and wonders why I’m sharing these embarrassing revelations with her, I will hold up a picture of the shape she calls a TRAPE-ZOID and I will say…
‘It’s a TRAPEZE-OYD. I thought you’d like to know.’
And then I’ll run for my life.