Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com rockpool in the kitchen: 10/01/2005 - 11/01/2005

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Brides, Birds and Melatonin

Granny two days in is not the least jet-lagged. Hail to the wonders of the - in England - unobtainable hormone, Melatonin, in this case snaffled from Beloved Son. She is however a little overhung and weary from yesterday's wedding - which started at 2.30pm and ended at 11pm, boozy throughout. And on a beach - really. Poor bridegroom had stinking cold, which poor bride might come out with on honeymoon. Otherwise a good time was had by all. Though Granny is wondering whether an entire week closeted on the Barrier Reef with her family isn't going to have its trying moments.

Her family, she'd better explain, politically and socially covers pretty much the entire English class system. Her far left twin sister ended her life living in a farm-labourers cottage with a cowman husband. Her middling left little sister is - she proclaims - 'a suburban Sydney housewife and proud of it' (and so she should be; she is altogether lovely.) Granny herself is also somewhat leftish and belongs roughly she supposes to what are called 'the chattering classes' - ie the gabby people in the middle. Big brother on the other hand is life-long Tory, home-counties, and something of a blimp. Granny thinks she may have some trouble buttoning her lip for an entire week while he goes on about asylum seekers. Etc. He's too like her dad for one thing; she never entirely learned to button her lip with him. It's amazing how the rebellious adolescent continues to lurk in the 60 0dd year old. Her brother doesn't arouse quite the same amount of emotion - but it's there, it's there. As indeed her dead twin's rather sad daughter, also part of the family party is too like her mother for Granny's comfort. 'My mother and my aunt,' proclaimed sad niece in a bibulous moment. 'had a love-hate relationship.' Ouch. But only too true. They were twins and it happens.

Granny loves her family all of them; really. But oh the echoes, the echoes.

About Australia on the other hand she is quite unequivocal. She arrived here first 27 or so years ago, almost by accident and not enthusiastically. But fell in love with it straight away. A feeling renewing itself fast. The birds, the wonderful birds. The family spent two nights between creek and beach in a rented beach house. Next door a woman was feeding five kookaburras on her balcony at 7am. There were swamp hens on the lawn, flying overhead from one bit of bush to another went white cockatoos, rosellas, lorekeets, magpies, goodness knows what else. The noise was extraordinary. As it is extraordinary here, back in suburban Sydney. An English garden by comparison is like an Anglican parish church with a choir of piping trebles, all very decorous. Whereas an Aussie one - think a sonorous Russian cathedral taken over by a cacophony of charismatics all speaking in tongues, raucous, mellifluous, strident, everything you can think of but all loud and all out of time and tune. Decorous it isn't. But fabulous. FABULOUS. Happy Granny.

Beloved little - but not so little - sister says raucous Australian birds are just like Australians. She is one, by the way, so can afford that remark. Granny's not sure she can; she's just reporting it. Please note. And anyway she likes Australians. Almost as much as she likes their birds.


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

off downunder

No time. No post. Well, only a tiny one. Granny is about to abandon lovely English autumn and London for first Sydney, then the Barrier Reef. Maybe she'll find an internet cafe there. Maybe she won't. But, for sure, it will be better than the Royal Marsden Hospital, all ways round.

She will leave you with this piece of childcare advice, courtesy psychiatrist friend's son. She and Granny went round to see him over the weekend. He was in sole charge of his two small sons - 5 and 3 - over lunch. The youngest answered the door; stark naked. The elder was sitting at the table, over a plate of spaghetti, also stark naked.

'I always take their clothes off when I'm looking after them,' explained psychiatrist friend's son. 'Children are much less trouble to wash.

(Shame he didn't follow suit, thought Granny. He's a rather handsome young man. Think Hugh Grant; but better.)

Friday, October 14, 2005


So much for quiet week. Dear Psychiatrist Friend's son is demolishing cupboard in granny's temporary bedroom, in order to make defunct boiler accessible. Currently sawing - loudly. Previously using electric drill - even more loudly. This follows various attempts by Granny all week to get boiler functioning; she is usually quite good at things like this, but problem here is beyond her. Also beyond plumber who arrived finally at three o'clock and claimed problem could be any one of a hundred, but given the fact boiler sits against wall with less than two feet of space in front of it, no way could he identify it. Granny sympathises. She has spent week crouched to the floor, vainly trying to start boiler, switching it on and off, pressing restart buttons, all at cost to her two sore shoulders (remains of neck problem on right, destructive surgery on left.) Her one successful attempt, enabling a hot bath led to every red light in sight coming on. This was when she decided to suggest plumber. Text messages flying back and forth added to sound level. As did unexpected arrival of Dear Psychiatrist Friend's brother's friend, all the way down from Bradford on business, bearing set of keys and expecting to spend night in empty flat. He was as disconcerted to find her ensconsed as she was to hear unknown male voice in hall. So much for precious solitude. Fortunately he was out, mostly.

Tomorrow plumber will come again - at equally vast expense. Let's hope he can fix problem; Granny doesn't care for washing in cold water. In the evening Dear Psychiatrist Friend arrives home; so that's the end of that.

Meantime she has been seeing to her physical state as ever. Flu jab, anti-pneumonia jab, all on offer to the aged now - aren't they generous. Pneumonia jab left her with sore thigh, to go with sore shoulders from supposedly therapeutic head and shoulders massage, part of her free package from nice pastel-coloured centre. It was performed on her yesterday by nice but heavy-handed lady whose other job when she is not massaging necks and shoulders is looking after people's plants. She handed Granny a card boasting 'Pampered Pots.' No Granny is not a pampered pot, even though this had been her second massage of the day. The first was a much gentler kind, recommended by Australian sister for sore ex-tits - lymph massage - and given her by an equally nice but much - much - plumper lady who turned out to be the retired keeper of textiles from the Victoria and Albert Museum. This meant she and Granny could and did converse about Turkish carpets and the problems of displaying them - difficult - making for endless complaints, the ex-keeper said. This was much more interesting than the discussion of Granny's problems offered by other practitioners. 'Your shoulders are in a terrible state,' complained the Pampered Pot lady.

This Granny didn't need telling. Between trapped neck nerves, frozen shoulders, and the attentions of the Royal Marsden Hospital her shoulders have been in a bad state for months. A worse state than her really, inasmuch as she can separate herself from them; as she can some of the time.

She did, yesterday, at last, manage to sort out how to get Radio Three. Good. And the river still goes up and down, the gulls etc continue to disport themselves. Yesterday a heron - such a grandparently bird - stood looking at the water for hours. Now and then she still gets to enjoy all this. In silence. Praises for that. As for the fact she is not sitting under a landslide in Kashmir. She has nothing to complain about really. No she hasn't.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Great brown god

We're talking rivers here. The original brown god was actually the river in Boston USA. The one granny means, the one she's looking out on, is the River Thames. Which can be grey as much as brown. Today it's a mixture of the two.

Granny is staying in a flat belonging to her dear psychiatrist friend, currently in Italy. It is 6 floors up and overlooks Hammersmith Bridge and the river, upstream and downstream. For almost the whole of her adult life Granny has lived within short walking distance of the river, but this is the first time she has actually lived overlooking it; briefly alas. She loves the Thames, especially in this urban setting. She loves the way it is just is, doing its own thing, going its own way, no matter what, a piece of untameable wild life amid an otherwise human-made landscape. Here are the swans - there the geese, the ducks, the cormorants, the herons -also doing their own thing. There too are fish now but she's never seen them. Sometimes the river imposes itself. Rises up over its edges into the roads. Cars left by the unwary who do not know its treacherous ways float away - something Granny views with slightly wicked pleasure: it is her river, she knows it after all. She wouldn't be so stupid. Now, in this flat, she looks out, at the cars coming over the bridge, at the striving rowers on the water, at the birds, at the trees on the other bank. She can almost forget - as you can always forget walking here along the towpaths, over the bridges and back home again - that she's living in a city. The river is something else.

A something else that also reminds her - as the papers do - have done - all this year - that such things can be dangerous. Much much more than cars could float away. The river currently is contained by the Thames Barrier. If global warming continues - it will continue - this will not last. London is not New Orleans yet. But who knows. The river isn't telling.

Right now, alone for the first time since everything blew up, she has time to reflect on what has happened to her over the past two months. Mainly she is tired; very; inevitably she supposes. She's catching up with all kinds of tedious little jobs which didn't get done meanwhile. Right now, instead of doing this she should be sorting out her tax. Writing this is pure displacement activity.

Yesterday - sorry it's back to things mammary again - but only briefly - yesterday she learned that in due course, those like her divested of one such mammary appendage will be able to grow on themselves another one. Imagine it; a fifty, sixty, seventy year old, watching the little bud swell on their chest, just like a twelve year old. A rather charming thought. (For her anyway.) With which she will leave you...

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Granny Houdini

Granny sat on a train going into central London on Friday with two female Poles yattering away - zzh-zzh-zzh this - zzh- zzh-zzh that. Later she sat on a train coming out of central London with two male Poles yattering away; zzh-zzh-zzh this - zzh- zzh-zzh that. She loved them. Just now she loves all Poles. Because on Friday too it was a Pole - a woman doctor - who gave her the fabulous- FABULOUS- news. She can keep her hair. She can, after Australia, go home to her volcanic island - and her Beloved. She is not liable to such ills as heart trouble, osteoporosis, leukaemia, all of which can be side effects of the poisons used to cure cancer. She does not have to have chemotherapy.


The reasons are as follows; her tumour was not a common or garden tumour (of course not) but something called 'metaplastic.' Rarely seen in humans - at most 5% of all tumours, but there's argument about this - it is on the other hand common in dogs: Granny is clearly not only relatively unique - she likes this thought - but also a labrador at heart - or pug - more appropriately a pug given the way she is still snuffling from her cold. (She has always liked pugs; even if Stevie Smith did call one 'an obstinate old nervous breakdown.' She owed a black one once; the most eccentric and indeed neurotic animal on earth; but that's another story.) Whether canine or human the metaplastic demon has this in common; it is not susceptible to chemotherapy; or rarely. Also once removed its bearers tend to survive more or often than not. Given other factors - small size of offending article, her 'perfect health' (ha ha) Granny's chances of surviving 10 years with no further treatment are 75.5%. Her 24.5% chance of earlier demise (lets be accurate here) relates not just to cancer but to other causes such as walking under a bus, getting bird flu, Japanese encephalitis, old age, etc etc etc. Nothing new there.

'Chemo might up your chances by 1-2-3-4%' says nice Polish doctor. 'We can still offer it you if you like..' Granny didn't say 'up yours' to this. Doctor too nice, news too good, offer too obliging. But yes she declined it.


She feels like a character in one of those schlock serials - Tom Mix - Dick Barton - who ends every episode bound and gagged while strapped to a railway line with train approaching, being pushed off a cliff, approached by shark/cobra/man-eating lion, only to be rescued at the start of the next episode. Granny Houdini indeed. Too lucky to live might be the comment of some less lucky members of her family.

She has not escaped entirely unscathed. There's the little matter of her missing tit.... currently exacerbated by a painful swelling of the kind they don't warn you about before the operation - it will go away; but when? In the light of which her time is currently taken up trotting round London being given free - or far from free- advice by all kinds of alternative therapists. (Eat more protein; eat less protein; eat no carbohydrates at dinner; eat only ditto at dinner. Drink coffee; don't drink coffee. Drink 3 litres of water a day; drink 2 litres of water etc, etc.) But also being offered massage, aromatherapy, etc etc in a gently cheery centre designed for breast cancer sufferers, so painted in soft bright colours and staffed by similarly colour-coded women with equally soft voices. Good.

She has also, less willingly, entered the world of 'Mastectomy Fashion' - high cut swimsuits and sexy underwear with slots for plastic replacements modelled by young women clearly needing no such enhancements themeselves. In the light of her future reconstruction she is confronting a book called 'A woman's decision' which alternates more surgical detail than she wants to hear with the human stories of her fellow sufferers ('How cancer taught me to LOVE LIfE' etc); neither of these her reading matter of choice. Her desktop is covered with files containing endless pretty or not so pretty picture of reconstructed tits. Heigh ho. You may not know for instance that there is a man in Windsor who specialises in making bespoke rubber stick-on nipples - an alternative to having a nipple tattooed on. His house contains shelves and shelves of them. Granny remembers - most of you probably don't - that many years ago there was a television quiz called 'What's My Line' in which various grumpy or garrulous celebrities had to guess the often unlikely professions of assorted guests. She wishes they would revive it just the once and bring on this fellow. Or maybe not.

Anyway, enough. This is getting to be the medical version of page 3. She is as bored of the subject as you must be. Next time she writes, it will be, she promises, about something COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.

Over: and OUT.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


Granny is feeling very sorry for herself. She has a STINKING cold - caught from Eve, not the serpent; also her (ex) tit is sore. Also all her earrings - her main vanity along with coloured toenails - have gone out in sympathy strike with her missing part; she can now find only one of each pair. WHAT A LIFE.

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