Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Exchange of courtesies

Once again I'm ensconced on the stealth sofa in St Pancras, awaiting my allotted departure. There is a faint huff of chilled air occasionally which I hoover up.

On the bus trip here I took a pew next to a chap with crutches in the 'give up your seat for people with disabilities' row. Two stops later a man with a walking stick boards and I stand and offer my seat which he gratefully accepts. I grab a spot standing next to the luggage rack where I put my rucksack. A little later the man with the walking stick lets me know he's getting off at the next stop, which is really good of him, although I decline the offer of my seat back as I tell him I'm ok standing as long as I don't have to hold the bag.

A simple exchange of courtesies between folks who need a bit of extra consideration, which we rarely get from the masses. It put me in a happy mood, whereas I normally feel sorely tried by public transport - simultaneously vulnerable, angry, and defensive.

Yesterday there was a drunk at the bus stop in a wheelchair. His appearance screamed homeless, whether the need for a wheelchair was genuine I couldn't say (I don't think being inebriated counts.)

When the bus arrived it lowered and extended the ramp for him to board. I was totally unsurprised to see him lose his balance on the ramp, ending up with the front wheels in the air and the back of the wheelchair on the floor.

The driver was muttering about having seen him drunk earlier in the day across town, and was clearly having nothing to do with helping the guy out.

I boarded the bus, unwilling to go to the assistance of an alcoholic (that would be baggage as a result of the ex), and besides I'm under medical instructions not to do any heavy lifting with my bad arm.

Some good Samaritans did go to his aid and got his chair back on all four wheels and up the ramp.

Did he turn to booze because of a disability? Was he able bodied and the chair just a prop? Was he a disabled war veteran with post-traumatic stress syndrome? Was he homeless? Was he an alcoholic? Was he suffering a mental illness?

If a respectably presented wheelchair user had lost their balance and ended up with their legs in the air and the chair on its back I would have rushed in to help, never mind the ban on heavy lifting. We all make decisions about who deserves our assistance: giving up a seat, putting money in a charity box, or getting someone back upright. Is anyone truly undeserving of our help? Can we help everyone?

'I ask you, what am I? I'm one of the undeserving poor, that's what I am. Now think what that means to a man. It means that he's up against middle-class morality for all of time. If there's anything going, and I puts in for a bit of it, it's always the same story: "you're undeserving, so you can't have it." But my needs is as great as the most deserving widows that ever got money out of six different charities in one week for the death of the same 'usband. I don't need less than a deserving man, I need more! I don't eat less 'earty than 'e does, and I drink, oh, a lot more. I'm playin' straight with you. I ain't pretendin' to be deserving. No, I'm undeserving. And I mean to go on being undeserving. I like it and that's the truth.'

Boiling

I've had to step away from my desk. It is stiflingly warm. I can't get a breath of fresh air. Ludicrously it is only a matter of walking 5 meters to an office which is several delicious degrees cooler. It is a pity I don't have a good reason for lingering in here.

I feel like a kettle simmering just below boiling, agitated and dangerous - likely to let out a prolonged screech if I reach boiling point, a transition I fear could occur anytime without warning. I hate this pent up tension. The effort it takes to remain in control. Fighting the urge to explode and unleash my frustrations.

I need a safety valve. An outlet which could drain away my anger and anxieties. Answers on a postcard to...

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Shambolic state

So hopefully I've managed to get the right fluorescent bulb at Maplin's today. Proof will be when I'm teetering on the stool trying to reach high enough to plug it in.

I didn't sleep so well last night. Confused dreams of hospitals and doctors who were unwilling to communicate have left me jittery today. I've felt better as the day has gone on, but this morning I was getting random shooting pains, aches and discomfort. My left eye has developed a nervous tick, which periodically starts fluttering. It scares me that I'm in such a shambolic state after just two days with a sleep deficit.

I have been trying to stay focussed on the two week break I have coming up, the light at the end of the tunnel. If the 'one day at a time' mantra is best then I should focus on getting the light at the top of the stairs working tonight, and let tomorrow take care of itself.

Gotcha

I was so chuffed with myself yesterday evening. I got back to the flat, got the light fitting dismantled, got the bulb out, and got down to B&Q in time. When I got back to the flat and realised the bulb had got the wrong number of pins I got pretty cheesed off.

It is a folded fluorescent that makes sort of a U shape. They have the same clip connector, and look identical from the front, but on the back there seems to be a number of possible pin variations. The one I need to find has 2 pins closest to the clip. The one I bought has 4 pins set a bit further away from the clip.

Fancy making several incompatible light fittings and giving them the same name. Why do they have to make consumer light bulbs such a minefield? I imagine the head of the sales department shouting 'Gotcha!' everytime some poor dumb shopper is tricked into buying the wrong thing.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Mad dash

My plans to scoot straight from work to get back to my digs nice and early have been scuppered by signalling problems and security alerts. I'm just leaving London Bridge 45 minutes after leaving the office on a train that is running 40 minutes late. Amazingly the train is virtually empty when every other train departed with a full complement of sardines.

My plan tonight was to replace a light on the common area landing which has been defunct for the 3 months I've been staying there. I need to take a screwdriver to the light fitting to get the bulb out so I can see what I need to buy from the B&Q down the road. Given the delays I'm not sure that I'll have time to get to the store before it closes tonight, so I might end up trying the mad dash again tomorrow.

Swell and fade

The combination of an excess of heat in the office and a shortfall of sleep has left me struggling to stay alert this morning.

I'm starting to get pains in my right wrist which are very reminiscent of the RSI symptoms I've suffered in the past. It hurts when I try to manipulate the mouse, and it hurts now typing this on my PDA. Lymphedema and RSI in the same arm would be a serious issue. I'll have to mention it at my next clinic appointment.

I dashed away from my desk the moment the clock ticked to 12pm, desperate to inject some movement and sunshine into my day in a bid to re-energise. I'm sitting in the shade in Paternoster Square letting my eyes soak up the rays without broiling in direct sunlight. It is a gorgeous day.

On a day like today with its basking heat and bleaching sun, Paternoster Square reminds me of Piazza del Campidoglio in Rome. Of course we Brits are distinctly less well dressed than the Italians, and Michelangelo had nothing to do with the design of our square. I feel like I've taken a mini-break, a 30 minute holiday.

A melodramatic tune is being bashed out on a piano somewhere. The notes swell and fade with the vagaries of the breeze, sometimes taking centre stage, then dropping into the background to be swamped by chatter, the chuckling of the fountain and the clopping footfalls of ladies in high heels.

The sun is swinging round, and my shady spot is shrinking, so it is time to head back to work.

As I cross the square I find the source of the music: a 'Play me, I'm Yours' City of London Festival piano. The music rises to a crescendo finish, and a smattering of applause showers the lady who rises from the piano seat. From her business attire I guess that she, like myself, was taking a mini-holiday from her working day.

For both of us our mini vacation is over, and we each head back to our offices.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Retreat

I walk along the cliff top path, a fresh breeze on my face, and the sun on my back. Gulls swoop overhead. The blue sea stretches to the horizon broken by shards of light, glittering reflections fragmented by waves shimmering with movement.

Life feels good, and I contemplate what lies beyond the horizon. What it might be like to cross the sea? What that possible futures might unfold?

Then a rock moves beneath my foot, and turning an ankle I stumble, falling to my knees at the cliff edge. Putting my hands down to steady myself, I look in horror down the cliff face to the waves crashing over the ferocious rocks below.

The cliff top which had felt so solid as I ambled along crumbles beneath my fingertips, little clods of soil tumbling down to the foaming water below. I freeze in place, too terrified to move, lest I further disturb the ground and cause a catastrophic landslip.

My eyes are riveted to the cliff face noting every bone breaking protrusion. The sea alternately pummels then sucks hungrily at the rocks below.

No thought now of sailing serenely across the ocean, the only futures I see are those where I traverse the cliff face accelerated by gravity to my doom.

My stomach feels as though it has fallen already, leaving me hollow. My breath comes in shallow gulps, my heart is fluttery, and a low pitched groan reverberates in my chest before escaping.

Millimetre by millimetre I shuffle backwards, planning each miniscule movement carefully, lifting each limb with painstakingly gentle slowness, ready to stop at the slightest tremble of the earth beneath me.

My mind is frozen now, fixated on the process of retreat and nothing else.

A geological age passes and I return to awareness finding myself twenty feet back from the edge. Taking a long shuddering breath I start to shiver uncontrollably. Getting shakily to my feet I turn my back to the path and the sea. Keeping my head down and my eyes fixed on the ground I retreat inland, leaving hopes and dreams of the future for others to explore.

Perception filter

I've found a sneaky 'free' comfy seat in St Pancras. I'd tell you where it is but then I'd have to kill you.

This station has the scandalously low total of 28 'free' seats that aren't attached to a retail outlet. What an enormous delight then to have discovered two fake leather sofas which don't come with the obligation to buy anything. They seem to be covered by a perception filter which renders them all but invisible to the foot sore and weary travellers pacing the station.

Approaching days

I think I'm adapting to the full days back at work and the commute. This week I've felt considerably less tired, and much more emotionally robust. The sensation of gulping for air, choking and drowning has retreated. Fingers crossed because I know that even a modest setback can put me right back into turmoil.

I'm looking forward now to my approaching days in Leeds. Clean air, time in the garden, seeing my family, progressing some projects.

I feel more inspired towards eating healthily and getting some exercise. I'm much more positive and optimistic than I've felt in a long time. Serene also.

I think I remember this - it is called happiness?

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Knowing smile

The Diclofenac seems to have done the trick yesterday, as I have no pain in my arm, although I did wake during the night with pins and needles in the other hand, and later in the night I got an extreme muscle cramp in my calf. This poor old abused body.

I spotted a 'Pick Your Own' in Leeds last weekend which I quite fancy. When I was little the farmer used to suggest to my mother that they weigh me in and weigh me out and charge for the difference, which unfailingly gave me the giggles.

When I was a kid my mum was a dab hand at uncovering my fibs. She used to pierce me with an unblinking gaze and ask 'Did you do that?' If I denied it she would simply continue looking at me with a knowing smile. If I was fibbing it didn't take long before I could no longer keep a straight face, a grin would erupt and I'd get the giggles. It got so that I would get the giggles even when I was telling the truth if she gave me that look.

After a visit to a PYO with mum all those years ago we would come away with at least 4 big baskets of strawberries, the bulk of which usually ended up in my mum's biggest pan being turned to jam.

When mum did something major in the kitchen department it was always seemed to be a massive undertaking. The kitchen had to be totally scrubbed and cleaned beforehand, everything had to be gotten out in readiness, much studying of the recipe was done, with each used item being washed up as soon as it was finished with.

With jamming I remember the lengthy process of sterilizing the jars, the endless stirring of the jam, and a dozens of tests to see if it was going to set. I don't particularly remember the resulting jam itself.

I've never tried to make jam, but I have recreated some of mum's specialities. I'm usually disconcerted to find it doesn't take long at all. With her cooked cheesecake recipe I was sure I must have gone terribly wrong - I recall it taking hours of painstaking preparation when mum made it, yet I had it ready to go in the oven within half an hour.

I have to admit mine wasn't a patch on my mum's, but I think I would have felt sad if it was. I've never had cheesecake as good as hers.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Twitching periodically

In the last few hours a dragging pain has been growing in my elbow, and more recently my shoulder and neck. A muscle is twitching periodically just below my collar bone, and my middle fingers are tingling. I've a bad suspicion that a nerve has become irritated, and I wonder whether the recent change in lymphedema sleeves has something to do with it.

I have some Diclofenac at my digs which might help, but past experience of nerve pain doesn't leave me optimistic.

I have to complete 24 weeks of service before I become entitled to paid sick leave, and I have 10 weeks still to go, so I'm hoping I can nip whatever this is in the bud.

Passing of time

I suffered several headaches over the last 4 days in Leeds, most likely stress related. My complexion is poor, and the skin sore and red where the lymphedema tape takes it's abrasive toll on my hand. Clearly I'm run down.

I'm usually so restless after 3 days pinned to a desk in London that I can't wait to throw myself into activity and projects when I get back home to Leeds. This doesn't really give me any down time, as even when I'm physically resting in Leeds I'm working out what is next on my 'to do' list and planning my approach.

My Leeds activities over the past 4 days included: teleworking on Friday, two trips to the DIY store, a supermarket shop, buying a father's day gift, an afternoon and two evenings at my dad's, a morning trying to sleep off a headache, putting up hooks, painting a door, painting skirting boards, removing paint from a light switch and two sockets, putting up a new light fitting, cutting a new window board, removing two dead rosemary bushes from the garden, pruning shrubs, weeding, cutting the grass, strimming, three laundry loads, a trip to the lymphedema clinic, cleaning two windows, and a trip to the tip.

Quite a list. I'm already weighing up what my next priorities are for when I return to Leeds. I'd like to paint a ceiling, gloss another door and skirting board, and put up another light fitting. I want to install a conduit to encase some central heating pipes and then plaster over them. I have some shrubs that need planting in the garden, and I'd like to transplant some bulbs from tubs into the borders.

But first I must complete three days of work in the office, twiddling my thumbs during the evenings at my London digs. I know the job serves its purpose - providing me with an income, healthcare, and an opportunity to socialise. I can't help but feel frustrated by the passing of time with little opportunity to do anything personally important.

I recall a very similar feeling from 9 years ago when I was last recovering from cancer. My goal back then was to progress my career, and I worked long intense hours trying to improve processes, and gain recognition and promotion. Ultimately, while I did my best, the achievement I craved was reliant on factors I had no control over and my efforts came to naught. I had a sense of time hurrying by, and a fear that my own time was limited.

This time, recovering from cancer, my goals are entirely within my own sphere of influence, though constrained by the availability of cash. I bought an old, somewhat dilapidated house, and I'm doing it up. There are endless mini-projects to this, which fall into three main categories:

Get a move on
Get a man in
Get the money together

Small stuff that I can do myself reasonably cheaply fall in the first category: decorating; gardening; minor DIY.

The second category consists of still quite small jobs but which require strength or a skill set I don't possess: plumbing, plastering, tiling.

The third category is longer term, requiring more major expenditure: replacing the roof, reworking the kitchen, converting the loft.

It is all progressing at an excruciating snail's pace, but each completed job comes with its own reward of satisfaction, and gives me something to dwell on that isn't health related.

I know it wouldn't be something most people would put on their '100 things to do before I die' list, but it is the only thing on mine.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Deaf ears

Yesterday I was asked what I did for myself, fun things. When I spoke of gardening, writing, home improvements and the odd creative things I try my hand at, I was interrupted and the question was clarified. What did I do for myself that involved other people.

I answered politely enough, but I'm deeply unhappy with the implication that I should be participating in organised group events in order to be fulfilled.

I get plenty of good social contact through work. We have a laugh, banter flows, I take an interest in other people and vice versa. That accounts for 24 hours a week when you throw in the hard graft we do as well.

Adding an art class is hardly going to transform me into someone who is at peace with her physical restrictions, medical prognosis, and traumatic life experiences.

Still, I can always find a bit more time in my life to be patronised, it is always appreciated, never unwelcome. No comment however inane, no platitude whether trite or meaningless will ever fall on deaf ears.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Quintessentially London

I'm sitting outside Pauls, enjoying a coffee and an Escargot aux Raisins, taking in the street scene.

The dome of St Pauls, the arch of Temple Bar, the curving colonnade of the shops that replaced one of Prince Charles' loathed carbuncles. Sunlight dapples the plane trees which produce oases of shade for the steady stream of ravens and peacocks parading past. Red telephone boxes, the stripes of a zebra crossing pole topped by its amber dome, traditional red London Routemaster busses passing by. So quintessentially London.

Then the sun goes in, temperature rapidly dropping as the breeze makes its chill felt, and the Englishness of the scene strikes home with a shiver, and I don my coat.

Sufficiently squishy

Dreams of chasing a miscreant up a long precipitous rope bridge to a cave set high in cliffs, Indiana Jones style, although the protagonists were all quite contemporary characters. Once again my body clock woke me 10mins before my alarm.

This week I'm trying a lymphedema sleeve that has lain abandoned for some months because it caused an agonising pressure on the base joint on my thumb.

I spent a few hours on Thursday evening working out a method of modifying it to overcome this. I unpicked the stitches around the thumb opening, widening it and stitching in a truncated cone piece to sleeve my thumb. Now my digit doesn't get squeezed out of the opening, and gets a little compression to boot. I've dubbed this modded NeoPress sleeve "NeoMod" and promoted it to active service. So far so good.

The lymphedema specialist was pretty unhappy with the hard swollen hand I presented her last time, and was considering more extreme measures including daytime bandaging which would immobilise the entire arm & hand. I'm hoping if I'm diligent in wearing the NeoMod that my arm and hand will be sufficiently squishy and reduced to satisfy the specialist.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Flowers blur

Awake once more at 3.30am, my morning preparations for London a whirl of choreographed activity, until I ground to a halt looking at the unravelled hem of my work trousers as I prepared to iron them. Needle and thread wove themselves into my morning dance and I was ready on time when the music of my phone announced the taxi's arrival.

Wild roses with modest pink blooms, feral lupins thrusting purple spears skywards. As the train picks up speed the flowers blur to a streak of colour. London bound again.

Lines of emerging green form patterns in fields of rich brown soil as we wend south. Rolling hills are fuzzed with a spring o'clock shadow of growing wheat, a beard that will grow until the harvest shave. The bright shades of spring youth have darkened to the solid dependable greens of approaching summer maturity. Growth spurts lengthen boughs as roots expand through the earth, tapping nutrients, creating strong anchors for the anticipated storms of autumn.

Bees tend their blossoming patients, an army of fertility doctors, accepting nectar in payment for their delivery of pollen from stamen to carpel. Animals and birds deliver the baby seeds from their amniotic fruit casings to pastures new, while the wind disperses feathered progeny far and wide.

The land basks under the sun, bathed periodically by rain. Life teems.

Dazzled

We're the marks at the carnival, dazzled by the bright lights, handing over our pocket money for the rigged game of hoopla in a futile hope of winning the giant teddy.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

The mind is its own place

So the thought that is bugging me now is whether this detergent smell is real and is making me feel sick or I genuinely feel sick and the smell is psychosomatic?

The latter I think, because I'm catching this odour everywhere: at my desk before I left work; in M&S buying my dinner; sat on a bench near St Pauls typing my previous missive; here on the train now. The alternative is that somehow I've picked this scent up on my clothing or skin.

Neither is a particularly attractive thought. Over the years I've really come to loathe this smell, though curiously I was never too aware of it while I was at the out patients clinic receiving chemo all those years ago.

'The mind is its own place, and in it self
Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n.'

Pavlov

I'm feeling a bit dizzy (well, actually it feels like the world is a bit wobbly) and sick. I keep smelling the odour of a detergent they used in the clinic where I had chemo 9 years ago, and that is a smell which always makes me feel quite nauseous. I was always very violently sick after chemo. As Pavlov proved with his dogs, physical responses can be programed with external stimuli, a conclusion I can confirm through personal experience with this very particular smell.

I wonder whether all these symptoms are side effects of the antibiotics I'm on?

Blessed with rain

This morning we are blessed with rain, the 'doesn't look like much, but soaks you to the bone' type.

I really fancied a full cooked breakfast this morning, so I attempted to find a restaurant called 'Roast' in Borough Market which a colleague had recommended. Eventually, quite soaked, I tracked it down. I checked out the menu by the door - £15 for the full breakky. Hmmm. Ok. But when I tried the door - locked. So what is that about?

I'm now in Eat, having a latte and an eggs benedict muffin. It isn't quiet hitting the spot, and I made a tactical error by saying yes when asked if I wanted sauce. I'm eating a muffin which tastes of HP with hints of egg and bacon. That's just so wrong.

A chap has just parked his bike up and come in. If you were short sighted you might think '20 something courier', but taking a close look you see something pretty incongruous.

He's dressed the part, right down to his socks, but the face has seen 40+ years of rugged life, the hair looks like a shaggy straw yellow wig, and there is a distinct middle aged spread about the waistline.

There is something a bit sad about someone obviously in the second age of life trying to pull off the hip & trendy surfer dude peter pan look and failing. Just look at the aging pop stars sporting hairstyles fashionable amongst teenagers. Not convincing is it?

Perhaps I'm too mired in convention, age hardening my attitudes into well worn, comfortable, but inflexible paths. Next stage: grumpy intolerant old woman.

A jazz number is playing now, and my feet are tapping away irrepressibly.

♪♫♪ "My baby don't care for high time places." ♫♪♫

If I were at home I could concoct one of my bacon and egg butties:
▪ Fry two rashers of bacon and one egg
▪ Half way through cooking break the yolk and turn the egg over
▪ Put one slice of bread in the pan, frying one side
▪ Place the half fried slice on the plate fried side up
▪ Layer on the bacon then the egg
▪ Season with a dash of Worcestershire sauce
▪ Close with a second slice of bread
▪ Serve

Delicious.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Duly shattered

I didn't have such a good night's sleep last night. I was in bed by 8:45pm, with my alarm set for 4am, but i awoke at 2:30am from bizarre dreams, and got up at 3am deciding that sleep would not return.

On the plus side this did mean I had plenty of time to do my ironing and packing for London, I even had time to dig out my old travelling thermos mug and make a coffee for my journey.

I've been struggling to stay awake on the train despite the caffeine. Remembering a little forehead massage we used to do as kids, I just did a brief fingertip massage of the eyebrow area and now I feel ridiculously refreshed and rather chirpy. It is quite a contrast from the dour emotions I've been experiencing about my return to work after my week off.

I must add that to my list of coping strategies.

On Saturday morning I had to visit the Minor Injuries Unit in Otley. A couple of weeks ago I was chatting to my neighbour and dropped a glass I was holding which duly shattered. I managed to get a cut on my heel while I was collecting up the fragments. I had checked the wound for glass but didn't find any.

Anyway, time passed and it started to heal. Over the last week it started feeling swollen and began weeping. When I woke up on Saturday I was concerned enough to visit the hospital, fearing a splinter of glass stuck in my heel or it going septic.

There was no sign of a foreign body on the x-ray, so they gave me some antibiotics and a dressing. I was quite relieved to avoid any digging to fish out a splinter, although they did warn me there might be a tiny fragment working its way out, too small to show on the x-ray.

The antibiotics are giving me a bit of an upset stomach and I feel yucky. That's preferable to blood poisoning I know.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Think Xyrillian without the scales

I’ve taken this week off work as vacation time, hoping to catch up on rest, and get some home improvements done. I’m having limited success on both fronts.

I’ve reluctantly scaled back my ambitions on the DIY front, so now instead of decorating 3 basement rooms, I’ve acknowledged that it will be just the one room. I’ve taken down some shoddy shelves; removed uPVC window boards; cut and glossed the replacement window boards; patched and painted the walls and ceiling (two coats); caulked, sanded and glossed the skirting board; wired in a new light fitting. Finally I’ve purchased some Ikea Ivar shelving units, which I’ve sanded down and started to wax. I suppose that isn’t so bad an achievement in a week.

The lymphedema clinician wasn’t very happy at the state of my hand when I saw her today, and the new compression glove she’d got for me wouldn’t fit over my fingers. By the time she’d completed the MLD, we were both happier about my hand, and as I was able to get the glove on, I decided to give it a go. She suggested I start wearing it for short periods, two hours, as it would take some getting used to and I might get pins and needles. Well, by the time I’d done a little trip round Homebase and driven to my dad’s my fingertips were blue, and painfully numb. So the moment I got out of the car I took the glove off. I’ve just given it another go now, but managed only half an hour before my fingertips were so jangling and numb that the glove had to come off again.

I touch type, well that is to say that I look at the screen while using both thumbs, three fingers on my left hand and two fingers on my right hand to type (yeah, an odd combo – faster than a two fingered hunt and peck, but not as adept as a true typist’s ten digit approach). What I’ve just realised is that I use touch feedback from my fingertips to move them to the right spot for the next key stroke. When the fingers on my right hand were jangling from the glove my typing went to pot. I was having to hit delete every other key stroke (and frequently missing delete too) – pretty frustrating when each contact with the keys was painfully unpleasant. I guess I’m going to have to keep at it with the glove in short bursts. As it wears in it will stretch a little, and if it is doing its job then my hand will shrink a little. Hopefully that will be sufficient for the glove to become comfortable.

I went to the hairdressers today for a cut and blow dry. It is so nice having a mop of hair. I went completely bald with the chemo last year. From quite a young age I’d wanted to see what I would look like bald. I’d seen “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” in a rare cinema trip when I was 7 years old, which featured Ilia, a very pretty female bald navigator. When I was 18 SinĂ©ad O’Connor shot to fame with “Nothing Compares 2 U”, again a very pretty bald woman. However I discovered when I lost my hair that it wasn’t a good look for me, not least because of the prominent ridges running front to back either side of my forehead. Think Xyrillian without the scales.



While I was at the hairdressers a little old lady arrived for a wash and set. Notice how the words “little old lady” seem to naturally go together – how many tall old ladies do you know – over 5’6”? That’s the menopause for you. After the oestrogen leaves us, bone loss follows and we shrink. Certainly that’s something to think about with this old free-martin thing, it isn’t as though I’m tall to start with.

This little old lady was very very little and very old. I’m 5’2”, so when I say little I mean 4’6”, quite possibly less. The lad who washed her hair created a stack of 6 folded towels on the chair for her to sit on top of, just so her head would reach the wash bowl. She moved ever so slowly with the aid of a walking stick, taking tiny steps. As she inched across the room, looking like an octogenarian doll there was something so puppet like about her movements, the invisible strings of her will power keeping her moving.

On my drive home, naturally keeping an eye out for potential hazards, I spotted a very young toddler ambling along the path by the road totally alone. I’m not sure how old the baby was as I don’t have kids of my own, but he was just at that very early walking stage – wobbly and slow. This wasn’t a domestic side road - it was a busy main road. I parked on the next side street, and ran back to the child.

By this time a car had stopped on the other side of the road, and a runner had turned back. I waved the male runner off, and asked the lady from the car to stay with me. Silly isn’t it? My three main concerns were to hold the child to prevent him stumbling into traffic, return him home, and ensure there was another female adult present so that no impropriety could be construed. The poor lady driver who’d stopped also had to worry about her own two children in the back of her car. As I started looking around to work out where the baby had come from the lady used her keyfob to lock the car and called across the road to instruct her eldest to wind the window down for ventilation and not to open the door for anyone. What kind of a world do we live in?

Feeling quite the amateur sleuth, given the child had been walking up the hill barefoot in an all-in-one, I deduced that he’d escaped from one of the houses down the hill, so we set off in that direction. Spotting a house with a side gate gaping open, and a child seat in the car on the drive, I felt sure we’d find mum within. Failing that I was hopeful that they would recognise the child as one of their neighbours kids. In this case it really was elementary. We went through the open gate, and found mum cutting hair in a home salon at the rear of the house. A few moments later mum, baby, lady driver and myself were back on the street looking at the distance the nipper had covered. Lady driver and I were relieved to have reunited mum and baby so swiftly, and took our leave. All’s well that ends well.