Tuesday, 31 August 2010

The pilot finally winched down from the helicopter to the ship, to cheers from grateful passengers. He guided us into the port, where two tugs took over to slowly place us gently into our docking bay. 22km on the coach put us in the centre of Amsterdam and all that remained was the half-mile walk to the Hotel, but then, the wheels on my suitcase dropped off! There was a 3 year guarantee on it when I bought it last year! Guarantees are just about useless, don’t you think? For a start, you never keep the guarantee document and receipt because you think that if they are willing to offer ‘three years’, it must be bloody good. I am certain that manufacturers design products now to last just beyond their guarantee. When you bought anything in the 60’s it lasted for 20 years, but now, most things conk out after two.

Had a little one hour tour of the canal system followed by a sprint through the red light district . Well I was trying to take my time, there was a lot to see, but I felt like Ben Hur’s chariot as Beverley took up the slack and pulled me on! Ladies from around 16 to 50, sat in windows looking out at mainly tourists who were just stunned at what they were seeing. Must admit, they all scared the hell out of me!

Let me tell you about my Mother. She is from a lovely little town in the Republic of Ireland called Stradbally. I don’t know any details of her childhood, because like her brothers and sisters, they don’t talk much to their kids about that. Maybe on day she will write it all down for us, or even start a blog. I know that she came from a very poor farming family and had a very strict father and a very loving mother. She has two brothers and five sisters, two who are sadly not with us now. She also had a less than pleasant time in the convent school that she attended, perhaps no wonder then, she headed for London as soon as she was able. She met my Dad and had she not, I would not have been writing this now, but they were not really meant for each other. She was young, a bit naive but beautiful. He was charming, very sharp but protective, and that’s what she needed being a new girl in town.
It was not easy in the 50’s for a young Irish girl in London. The signs on most pub doors and many other buildings read, ‘No blacks, No Irish, No dogs’. In reality, the dogs could get away with it. She struggled all her life to fit in, thinking that she was some way inferior, where in reality she was as good as anyone. As a child I remember how resourceful she was in making money stretch. She could unravel an old jumper and knit a larger size by the next day. She found it hard to show physical affection to her children but then so did all her siblings. I guess it was a generational thing. She worked very hard all the time when we were kids and we never really wanted for anything. She had to always tip toe around my Dad, as we all did, and that made life difficult for her. Even now she lives with so many regrets and she shouldn’t, because she always did what she thought was best for us all at the time. That’s all any of us can ever really do, don’t you agree?

Today we made a visit to the Van Gogh Museum, well worth the effort. A year ago I would not have gained the same enjoyment from such a visit, but thanks to people like Frances, Katie & Alan at the University, it was a dream. I think that you have to have at least some knowledge of drawing, etching or painting before you can really appreciate what you are looking at. The thing I admire most about Van Gogh is that he was very much self taught and very poor, but still became a world renowned artist. He gained nothing financially from his art during his life time, doing everything for the pleasure it gave him. He killed himself after suffering increasing mental problems over many years, despite the support of a brother who was always there for him. A truly remarkable man, if only he could see the status that he attained after his death.

Anne Frank’s house was very disappointing. She was deservedly a true legend of her time and I pay full tribute to her as an amazing individual, who’s life was cut short under such tragic circumstances. I felt herded into the house, it was a passage that you could not deviate from and people were bundled through. The route took us through 3 floors where we were stopped for brief videos, always seeming to arrive half way through a video then having to watch the beginning again. Quotes from her diary were engraved at appropriate intervals on the stairs and in the rooms. The route predictably ended with a track straight through the gift shop and out! I didn’t feel as if I had been in a house, more of a 300 yard long corridor. The message that Anne sent us through her diaries was one of hope for mankind, but had she seen this so called tribute to her she would have put both fingers down her throat. It was a true symbol of capitalism at it’s worse. How to make a fortune out of a young girl, who died in the very worse of circumstances? A little bit sick, but that's what the world spins on now!    

Monday, 30 August 2010

It is rarely that I post a blog late at night and then first thing in the morning, but with our docking delayed we are sitting outside the Port of Amsterdam with little to do. Because we are a large ship and it is very windy, we need tugs to escort us into the port. Because we need tugs we need a pilot, but because all pilots come from one private company in Rotterdam, we have to wait for one being flown in by helicopter. But because there is only one helicopter; well you see the problem? So we are on a priority list but not very high up it I think, and the pilot may have to swim to the ship!

Well last night, I did some 'firsts' in a ship's cabin and one was trying to sleep! You know when you stop to talk to someone in the street, and then one of those huge continental trucks pulls up with the engine right beside you, drowning out your words? Then 30 seconds later it pulls away and you are almost screaming at the person beside you as the engine noise fades into the distance. Well imagine that noise in your bedroom all night! If you ever go on a cruise, always check out where your cabin is in relation to the ships engines, because they are massive, and they were under our cabin.

I don't know about you but when I dream, if there are any sounds going on, I tend to sub-conciously pull them into my dreams. So if I hear drunken people walking past the house at night, I might start to dream I am on a night out in town. Well last night I drifted between being trapped inside a washing machine to sleeping on the external fuel tank of a lorry as I was being smuggled into a foreign country.

Beverley has now read up so much on Amsterdam that she will be able to direct the locals when we get there. She reads, absorbs and seems to never forget; unlike myself, who reads then falls asleep. Her memory is frightening and she has the ability to store things, almost like in a machine gun belt, for future use. So I might do something thinking, well she hasn't mentioned it so she probably didn't notice, but how wrong would I be. 'Click', another one has been loaded into the belt, to fire along with the rest of the burst at an appropriate time in the future, when she decides to let me have it all at once.

Just passing a vast wind farm off the Dutch coast, I think they are beautiful. I can never understand the objection to them, can you? I went up close to one in the USA a few years back and stood right underneath the giant propellors as they whistled around in the wind. They made a humming noise that you could hear from a distance, and I guess if one of those blades came off it would more than trim your hedge. I understand that we would need about 10 million of them to replace a nuclear power station, but I still go for the wind power every time.

I tried to buy a packet of Ibuprophen in Penrith last week, but I wanted the 400mg size. The counter assistant explained that I could only have the 200mg size because there was no pharmacist on duty. We are the country of crazy rules and I experience them every day. I could, without any supervision, buy a dozen crates of whisky, enough rat poison to kill the town and a chainsaw to reek havoc in the local supermarket. But no, not under any circumstances, purchase 400mg Ibuprophen tablets without the Pharmacist being present.

Those of you who have followed the blog for a while might remember that I had a strange rash appear in my groin area on both sides, shortly after the biopsy. At first I thought it just had to be related in some way to diagnosis and I was fairly scared of it. Well now I know it to be a fungal infection known as 'Jock Itch'! I kid you not, just Google it! It has a raised red outer edge where it is advancing and a darker area at the centre where the infection has run it's course. It thrives in warm moist conditions but does not attack the scrotum. I am intrigued as to why it is called 'Jock Itch', I would have thought that wearing a kilt would have kept that area well ventilated.


Sunday, 29 August 2010

It's been a great day so far. We set off from Penrith about 10 a.m. and headed over to Newcastle. Had to call in at IKEA on the way to pick up all those bits that you never go there for, but always come out with. Finally boarded the ship, and set sail at 5 p.m. The cabin is tiny but nice at the same time. We had an enormous dinner which included starters, then through all the courses to the cheese board; and we are stuffed. I am up on deck 7 where the only Internet Wi-Fi connection is, and Beverley is below decks buried in a book. We are heading into a gale force 8 which should make the night very exciting!

When I was in the Army we were stuck on Alderney, no Navy boats to take us back to Portsmouth. A local trawler was hired to take us back to the mainland and I will never forget the experience. A gale force 10 was expected which became an 11! The tiny trawler seemed to climb every mountain of a wave before plunging down into the valley of the next. The 4 crew were really taking the rip out of us poor squaddies as most of us spewed continuously in every direction. We got there in the morning but I'm not sure how, I think it was more luck than anything.

We enter the port of Amsterdam at 10 a.m. in the morning for what will be the start of a few amazing days. There will be many days ahead when I depend on those memories to get me through.

I would like to say a BIG thank you to everyone who has followed my blog over the past few months. We are going to make this into something massive, where people who have no idea about Prostate Cancer will soon be able to get links to many other help sites. If you are 50 or over, or even if you have a dad or brother in that age group; ask them this question. What is your PSA? If they don't know what you are talking about, they could have a silent time bomb ticking away inside them, called 'Death!' Tell them to phone their doctor tomorrow and make an appointment to have a blood test. YOU could save their life! Doing nothing now might leave you full of regrets, so you really must speak out!

Saturday, 28 August 2010

There will only be a limited blog for the next 6 days because...we are off to Amsterdam. I say limited because I think that I will struggle typing it out on my iphone with one finger, but I will try. You'll get to hear the radio recordings before me so please warn me if you think I shouldn't re-enter the country.

Great party last night at Ann & Alan's, what lovely hosts and was good to catch up with Sylvia & Tom too. I have to confess that it was me who made the nappy out of toilet paper and fitted it to the statue of the Greek God in the toilet!

Thought I would share this photo of Beverley with you. What a cool hippy, and she still is.

Talking of Hippies, no I'm not going to Amsterdam because I want a spliff, I just wanted to go somewhere nice without having to board a plane. I hate flying! I've been to the city once before with my daughter Maria. We went to meet Bridget, Sasha and Sofia coming back from Guatemala, but Maria was only about 3 then, so my site seeing was limited. I'll never forget going through customs. The guy on duty just wanted to check that there was nothing hidden inside Maria's teddy, but she would just not hand it over to him, or anyone. They tried to coax her at first but in the end, I had to say to the customs officer, "you'll have to take it off her by force, she'll hate you forever but that's better than her hating me forever". So he wrestled with 3 year old Maria as she screamed back, even spitting at him. He finally got the teddy, searched it quickly and offered it back with a smile and an apology. She snatched it from him and threw it back in his face whilst screaming,"I haaaate yooooouuuuu!" The poor guy looked ashamed of himself but, he had a job to do.

I joined the Army on 9th May 1967 along with about 100 other unsuspecting 15 year olds. Why?

Well it started 6 months before when my Dad saw me throwing a piece of scrap brass around the garden. I was pretending to be an Olympic shot put thrower and hey, they didn't have video games then. He told me that I had 6 months to leave the house, he suggested I start looking around and made it clear that staying was not an option. I applied to the Police, the RAF and the Army. The Police wrote back straight away telling me that I had to be 19. Then the RAF invited me in to see them; raising my hopes that I might be lucky with this one. In reality they couldn't write what they were about to tell me and nobody had a phone in 1967. They said that to join the RAF, at least one of your parents had to be a member of a Commonwealth Country. My Dad being Belgian and my Mum coming from the Irish Republic was a problem. He said, "funny thing is, if your Dad had been Pakistani and your Mum Indian, there would have been no problem as they are both Commonwealth countries". It was a lucky escape for the RAF really, because I didn't know then that I was dyspraxic, so the low level bombing raids over The Falklands might have stretched me. Well that left the Army and they had to take me, because otherwise I was going to be homeless. Joining the Army would also help me to keep my Belgian Nationality, as I was obliged to do National Service in that country. They eventually agreed to accept my service in the British Army as having fulfilled service in Belgium. I applied at the same time as the school bully, a complete dribbling psychotic who just wanted to punch everyone. I was sure that he would be just right for the Army as killing people would not only come easy to him, he would enjoy it. I was accepted and he was declined; I still think they got the papers mixed up. Not just accepted but told that I could train as a Radio Technician; only the brightest could do this! Before I left the house my Dad gave me a few words of encouragement. He said, "listen bastard, you are leaving now and you owe me nothing. Don't ever come back and ask me for anything and I will never trouble you again". My Mum took me to the station, I don't remember seeing my brothers or sister before I left. I was heading for some life changing experiences; some of the best and worse times that I would ever have!

I went on the train, it was one of the new diesel engines and seamed so fast compared to steam. I got to York Station where I was greeted by dozens of young boys, suitcase in hand, looking as lost as me. The train from platform one was full of us on the way to Harrogate. We were herded into 3 ton lorries at Harrogate station, nothing new to me, I had spent years being transported this way to the fruit picking fields in Essex. We had all our hair cut off, and because it was the 60's, we all had plenty to shed. We were then processed through the medical centre, sitting on a chair whilst a nurse inoculated us in both arms at the same time against everything from Anthrax to Zebra Flu. Our civilian clothes were taken from us immediately and put in store; taking our identities took about a week longer. At least we would get our clothes back 6 months later.

Thanks to the Internet I am in touch with about a dozen guys who joined on the same day as me. Well we just take each others word that we are who we say we are, because we sure as hell look nothing like we looked like back then. It's interesting to hear everyone's story, all so different. I think of that song by Mary Hopkins....'Those were the days my friend we thought they'd never end'......

Friday, 27 August 2010

SASHA PAST HER DRIVING TEST YESTERDAY YEEEHAAA!!!!!!!!!! I've heard some happy chuckles out of that girl in the past 28 years but she was walking on the ceiling last night.
She is going to drive herself and Chantal to visit me at Addenbrookes Hospital. With Radio Cumbria now following the story, I have visions of waking up in the intensive care unit with a big fluffy microphone waiting to catch my first words after the operation; whilst Sasha and Chantal argue in the corner over whose fault it was that she crashed into the ambulance on the way in! 

What a great day today up at Radio Cumbria with Steve. Beverley and I went up together and got there at noon. Steve is a really nice guy and made us feel very relaxed and welcome. First we got shown around the station and then we went into one of recording studios. When I sat down in front of all those switches, buttons and lights, I was on the bridge of the Star Ship Enterprise. Warp factor 7, hit the gas Scotty! Once Steve had set up the volumes I had ten selected sections of my blog to read out. I felt a bit nervous at first but soon relaxed into it. They will go out on air over the next two weeks on the evening show. The idea then will be to follow it through and in about 2 weeks time, I will get to go live on the morning show! The blog will get mentioned every time it is aired so we can get plenty of publicity. Hopefully by then I will have made some good contacts who can help me to put some 'help' links on the blog. There will be two going out on Tuesday at 1745 & 1845 then Wed Thu & Fri at 1745. Then the following week, as there is no Bank Holiday you can catch it Monday to Friday at 1745. If you miss it you can catch it again on the iplayer...BBC.CO.UK/CUMBRIA then click on 'listen again', selecting the Ian Timm's show.

It was during all this process that Steve said to Beverley, "how do you fancy being on the radio yourself?" She stared in horror, thinking he must be joking! He wasn't!
He went on to explain that there is an afternoon show where they get 'Cumbrian Folk' on air, and ask them about themselves and what they do, in a sort of comical light hearted programme. Then Beverley will get her favourite piece of music played. Oh she hated the thought at first but warmed to it within about 15 seconds; she wasn't going to let me be the only 'Radio Star' in the house! She will be on in about two weeks but watch this space for time and date.

Lucienne and I wanted to see how near I could put my finger to a fly before it took off. We often play this game when we are bored in a field. Nice photo Luci and thanks for doing my finger up a bit on Photoshop before sending it. I actually touched the fly which I am claiming as a world record!

Tonight we head up to Ann and Alan's for a BBQ and a little drink...or two...or ???

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Had a great E Mail today from Steve at Radio Cumbria. He thinks the blog is, "fantastic" and wants to do a small serialisation on the  'Teatime Show'. Isn't that just great? We could now reach out beyond family and friends and try and support so many other people.

My IT trainer, Jason was here this morning and he suggested putting this little link on every blog entry. It's a quick and private way to E Mail me, so I thought I would give it a try.
Click on here to E Mail Daniel 
I'll know if it works if someone e mails (hint!)

So many of you have asked so here is a small photo of 'The Tree'. I know, you expected something more beautiful, but it is a nice tree and it's not ready to die anytime yet!

'The Tree'

Beverley is down in Carnforth again today taking the second part of her 'Advanced Diver' qualification. Before she left she put tonight's dinner in the 'slow cooker', she said it was faster than me. What did she mean? I had a fish finger sandwich with tomato sauce for lunch, I was comfortable with that.

I will get a phone call from my daughter Sasha in about 2 hours, either saying she has passed or failed her driving test. I passed mine fourth time! The first time I just wasn't ready and I was too nervous. The second time I was trembling as I drove the car out of the test centre, so much that I couldn't keep the accelerator still and the car was juddering. The third time the doctor gave me some Valium, I told him I was scared of flying! As I staggered to the car, the examiner asked me if I had taken any drugs. I told him I needed to take Valium because I couldn't stop shaking. He failed me without even letting me into the car; what a cheek! The fourth time, I took just half a Valium and passed, but I have no memory of the drive and fell asleep on a nearby park bench just after the test. Fingers crossed for you today Sasha xxx

I am sending Dr Lukose a 'thank you' card today, he is the doctor who decided to examine me back in May, even though he didn't have to. You need a PSA of 4.9 to get a referral and mine was only 4.2. Thanks to him I now have a future. But when you go to card shops, they don't have a, 'Thank you for saving my life' card do they? You can get a, 'Welcome to your new home' or 'congratulations on passing your exams' card, and I even saw a 'sorry your pet has died'.

I am going to try doing a video blog in the next week or so, just to see how frightening it is eeeek! I've done a few practise sessions and wow it's not easy. The hardest bit is looking at that small glass dot on my lap top and realising that I will be talking to potentially over a hundred people. Then you get half way through and you just run out of stuff to say. It's easy when you write it, you can just take a break, but this is making me more nervous than a wedding speech, and I've had some practise at those! Any advice, apart from don't do it?

Just had a call back from Steve at Radio Cumbria, nice guy. I am going into the radio station in Carlisle tomorrow to record some of the blog. Now I need a drink!

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

I had a lovely day with my daughter Lucienne who came down from Glasgow today. We went out and took some photos with her camera which cost 3 x as much as my car! We took hundreds of macro images of flies laying eggs, vomiting and humping in a blackberry bush (Yes, of course the flies stupid!) I brought my camera along and checked to make sure the battery was in it, however I didn't check if the battery was charged! She was visibly relieved when I told her about my news from the previous night and we had a great day and laughed a lot. It was lovely to see you Lucienne xxx

My daughter Chantal passed me some lovely news tonight, apart from the fact that she is above me in our Fantasy Football League. Two of her work colleagues are leaving so a collection was made for them. They gave all the money to Chantal and told her to donate it to the 'Prostate Cancer Charity' for her Dad. Wasn't that lovely? Thank you so much Christina and Jacqueline xx.

Good luck with your driving test tomorrow Sasha, you can do it, stay cool! Don't give the examiner a hard time, he's just doing his job :-) xxx

Well I've had some very bad days and some not so bad says since the 18th June when I was first diagnosed, but TODAY HAS BEEN A VERY, VERY GOOD DAY and it all started last night with a call from Mel, the Macmillan Nurse at Carlisle Hospital. For the first time since my MRI scan and MDT meeting, someone was able to sit down, look at it all and talk me through it.

On one side of my prostate the tumour was very small and fairly central. On the other side the tumour was larger but not really well defined yet, and again fairly central. 'Central' is important, because that means the tumours are not near the outer covering of the prostate capsule, so they are not going to cause a 'break out' any time soon. This gives me time to decide on the two options that I have short listed now. It also means they are not near the nerve bundles which could be damaged if I have surgery, causing some problems with continence or potency. This was just fantastic but it was also information that was available 7 weeks ago that nobody relayed to me. I feel a little bitter about that but it is just insignificant as to how relieved I feel right now.

I went to see my doctor this afternoon after writing the following letter to her..........

24th August 2010
Dear Dr *****,
                                I am writing this letter so that I can lay out, in detailed order, my worries and wishes after being diagnosed with Prostate Cancer on 18th June 2010.

Story so far

May 18th  After rectal examination by Dr Lukose and PSA 4.2 referred to Consultant, Mr Bashir.
May 28th  Saw Mr Bashir, had biopsy same day.
June 18th  Saw Mr Bashir confirmed Prostate Cancer
                 Gleason 7 (4+3) with one sample at grade 5.
July 5th    Had MRI …told result available in 10 days!!
                Hospital ‘forgot’ to give me the result.
                Repeated phone calls to all contact numbers ignored.
                E Mails also ignored. Complaint to PALS, no reply
Aug 6th   Frantic with worry, obtained result over the phone
via McMillan Nurse, from Urology Nurse. Both of who were very helpful.
                Tumors confined to prostate capsule, no other detail.

Aug 12th Had bone scan. Very worried by comments made during this by Radiologist.
Aug 20th Consultants appointment after MDT meeting.
My notes were missing. No details from MRI as to position or size of tumors. Consultant unavailable. Brief details on A4 sheet given by Doctor. Bone scan clear. Nobody available who was on the MDT.
                      Letter being sent to Newcastle Freemans to request
                      seeing Surgeon and Oncologist to discuss options.
                     Also told that the main guy at Newcastle who did this surgery had moved to Dublin!
Aug 24th     Mel, the Macmillan Nurse called and gave me my first detailed report on my MDT meeting and MRI scan done on 5th July. Very helpful guy.

It was not until yesterday that I fully understood what my options for the future are, and now I need to discuss these with you.

My hopes now
I will see the Specialists at Newcastle in the coming weeks and decide whether surgery or radiotherapy is the best option. I am leaning towards surgery right now.
If surgery seems the best option, I would hope to have this done at Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge. Please see reasons below.

·    They have the Da Vinci robotic surgery availability there. I have attached some information.        There are only 6 in this country; there are none in the North of England.
·    My Cancer is Gleason seven, mainly grade 4 & 3 but one biopsy showed to be the most    aggressive, grade 5.
·    My close family all live within 30 miles of Cambridge, I have no relatives in the North of England for after care and support.
·    The most experienced surgeon at Newcastle has just moved to Dublin.
·    I am 58 and the Da Vinci technique has a much higher success rate with preservation of the nerve bundle linked to possible impotence and incontinence.
·    This procedure also has a far superior recovery time and I am just starting a degree at Cumbria University.
I understand that you can refer me to Addenbrookes Hospital.
Please can you help me?
Yours Sincerely

Daniel Sencier

There are about ten doctors in my practice and you rarely get to see the same one. I saw one of the partners who was so nice and unbelievably helpful. After a lengthy discussion she advised me to go ahead with my appointment to see the specialists in Newcastle and then to make a decision on either surgery or radio therapy. (I'll tell you about both another day!) If I chose surgery, she would refer me to Addenbrooks in Cambridge.
Phew I can go to bed happy tonight! 

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Just heard the news that Sue is out of surgery and the operation went well, so that is just fantastic! I am seeing my doctor tomorrow to hopefully speed up my own visit to hospital. From current experience I would say, if you are going to get cancer, get it in the South of England, not the North!

So back to 'The Tree'. I have copied below an E Mail that I have sent to all Councillors who sit on our local planning committee and it gives you all the up to date news on the ongoing battle.

Dear Councillors,
                                    I have some information that I think you should all know before the next Planning Committee Meeting, with regard to the proposed felling of the tree outside Voreda House, on Meeting House Lane.

As you may remember, at the last meeting, the gentleman from planning, told the committee that the tree planter was attached to the building and he showed a drawing to verify this.
I know that I was not allowed to say any more once I had made my appeal, but I had to shout out because this was not true. The Chairman sent a chap up the road to have a look and when he came back, he said that there was no gap!
I was stunned at that stage because I had walked down this clear pathway between the building and the tree planter just a few days before. Now I can tell you, with some information gained from the builders, what really happened, and how the builders (with or without the knowledge of the NHS) tried to fool the Planning Committee, using advice from our own Planning Department!

Originally, a request was made to fell the tree on the grounds that it had ‘outgrown its location’. The Council Tree Officer supported this, but in reality, there was and is no sign whatsoever of any damage anywhere near the tree to support this. The tree is also in perfect health.
Knowing that this might not be enough to have the tree removed, they noticed that there was damp to the building, and if they could prove that the tree caused this damp, then it would have to come down.
However, because there was a clear walkway between the tree planter and the building, the damp could not be being caused by the tree.
That was until they came up with their, “brilliant idea!”
What if they could show, at the planning committee meeting that the tree planter was actually attached to the building, and show this on the plans?
Was this possible?
This is how they went about deceiving the Planning Committee.

They filled in the walkway between the tree planter and the building, just days before the meeting, with an estimated 20 tons of rubble, to a height of about 4 feet. They then altered the original drawings submitted at the time of the planning application to show a solid line, which now said, with a stroke of a pencil, that the tree planter was part of the building. A complete fabrication, which nearly worked, had I not broken the rules at the meeting and made my voice heard.

I was so grateful for all your support at the last meeting and for casting your vote in favour of keeping our tree safe. We love that tree and would really like it to stay.  If I do not get a chance to speak at the next meeting, please do not be hoodwinked by any more tricks from these people.
The damp around that building and around the whole area, including local houses, was caused by a water burst in an underground pipe. The leak was there for possibly over a year and was only discovered when local cellars started to flood. It was fixed just days before the builders moved into Voreda House, and will take months to dry out. Our tree is not the cause of the damp.  As one councillor aptly put it, “it helps to hide the most unsightly building in Penrith!”

Caught in their act of deceit, the builders are now removing the 20 tons of rubble by hand, and hopefully will not damage the tree planter whilst doing so. They have also stopped using the tree as a support post for their security fencing.

As for the Planning Department, they did not reply to my last E Mail! 

Thank you for your continued support

Daniel Sencier and the residents of Wordsworth Terrace.

Monday, 23 August 2010

'Sagittarians have a positive outlook on life, are full of enterprise, energy, versatility, adventurousness and eagerness to extend experience beyond the physically familiar. They enjoy travelling and exploration, the more so because their minds are constantly open to new dimensions of thought. They are basically ambitious and optimistic, and continue to be so even when their hopes are dashed. Their strongly idealistic natures can also suffer many disappointments without being affected. They are honorable, honest, trustworthy, truthful, generous and sincere, with a passion for justice. They are usually on the side of the underdog in society they will fight for any cause they believe to be just, and are prepared to be rebellious. They balance loyalty with independence.'

My star sign is 'Sagittarius'. "The body of a bowman and the back end of a horse", I used to tell girls. I thought it sounded a good chat up line at the time, but I didn't quite have the physique to pull it off. The first time I asked a girl out was when I was 16. She worked in M & S in Harrogate and I thought she was lovely. She would always smile at me when I walked past, maybe because I used to walk past 20 times every morning! I approached the counter where she was working, beaming red, I could feel my face on fire and my heart racing. "Do you fancy going to the pictures tonight?" I nearly fell over when she said yes and agreed to meet me outside the cinema at 7p.m. I had pulled it off, my first conquest.

I was there at 6p.m. just to be safe. 7p.m. came and went, and at 9p.m. I went back to my base up at the Army camp. Then I thought, what if I had got the day wrong? She wasn't at work the next day, so I went and stood outside the cinema at 7p.m. for the next two nights, but no luck. In a way it did me a favour because I didn't ask a girl out for a year after that, which probably saved me a fortune! I once asked a girl if she would like a drink, and she said, "yes please, I'll have a brandy and babycham". I couldn't believe it when the barman asked for the money, it was almost a days pay! Still, it would be worth it, at least she had said yes. I carried the drink over to her, she smiled, then said,"thank you, that's so sweet", and walked away! After that, I soon learnt that asking if they wanted to dance would be quicker and cheaper, and I could do it at 'zero cost' all night.

I went to a brothel once when I was stationed in Germany. Well, I just thought it was a posh pub. I was with a friend and we hadn't been out in a German town before. The only German we knew could get us a pint of beer with sausage and chips. As we went in, someone took our coats and showed us to a table. They asked us if we would like a drink and of course we said yes. We were the only two guys in, aged about 17 at the time and looking back, had we spent a little more time at the 'University of Life', we would have spotted that something didn't quite add up. When I went to the toilet, there were fish tanks built into the wall and a guy there with fresh towels and free aftershave. The carpets were so plush that you felt as if you were bouncing across them. They brought free sandwiches too our table and when we asked for another drink, they didn't want any money still. There were about 8 of the most gorgeous girls we had ever seen with hardly any clothes on, all sitting at the bar and smiling at us in turn, pouting their lips and winking. We were just thinking, wow, these German girls must really have the hots for us British Army boys, either that or the German guys didn't wash. One of the girls walked over to us in a very sexy way with a silver dish, which turned out to have the bill on it. Well we weren't really into currency conversion and we just got the notes out of our pockets and paid, thinking, blimey that seems like a lot of money? I later calculated it to be nearly a weeks pay each!

It was at that point that it suddenly all clicked, almost by magic, as we stared at each other. The massive bouncer guy who looked as broad as he was tall and had as many scars as an old bull elephant, walked over to us. "Now you choose", he said in a broken German / English, pointing to the girls, who all seemed to want to be 'the chosen one'. I'm not proud of what happened next and in my next life I may do it completely differently.
We had both won medals for running and I had won several for throwing the discus and many more for shooting. Only the running medals would matter in the next 30 seconds! Without even consulting each other, we jumped from our seats as if the place was on fire, ran through the half open doors, not stopping until we couldn't run anymore. Even though we swore never to tell anyone back at the barracks, we were soon boasting that we had gone to this place and had every girl in turn for a very small price. In reality, the girls must have either thought we had run out because they were all so ugly, or very more likely, they are still laughing now as they tell their grandchildren all about those two young virgin British Soldiers.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

What a lovely sunny day!
WARNING...I've just been given an 'iPhone' by my daughter, Sasha. She posted it to me from London and I took it into the O2 shop yesterday to get it set up on contract. I asked the girl in the shop if she had an instruction manual for it. She said, "It's so simple, you won't need one, just play with it". Well 24 hours later and a telephone tutorial from Sasha and I can now make and receive a phone call but still having difficulties with texts. So if you get blank texts from me, just ignore, and if the spelling is not perfect, just guess what I mean. The touch screen is so small for my fingers, it's like eating olives with a gate post!

Well 2 games into the season and I am sitting 3rd from bottom in Chantal's work's fantasy football team. The only consolation being that she is 2nd from bottom. Stick in there girl, there's still time!

Watched the South Africa v New Zealand Rugby Union game yesterday with Alan. Those guys are massive, and they wear shorts, socks, boots and a shirt! I went to an American football game once in San Francisco. There were about 90 players in the team. As soon as the match started, within one minute, they took the defensive team off and put the attacking team on; yes the whole team! They stopped the game for a commercial break, not when there was a natural break in play, but when the commercial was due to come on; which was every 10 minutes. The game lasted nearly four hours, and when I tried to leave after 2 hours because I had started to feel faint with boredom, they said that there were no buses leaving the stadium until full time. I might watch a video replay of that game instead of having a general anaesthetic next month. The guys in the team were so heavily padded that they looked like they got up still wearing their bed. Oh, except they had put the budgie cage on their head. You could jump from an aircraft at 30,000 feet and probably survive in what they were geared up in. In contrast to this, the teams playing rugby yesterday had to play 40 minutes, non stop, each way with a fifteen minute break at half time. They were covered in cuts and bruises at the end and completely exhausted. It was like watching gladiators! Well done to New Zealand who scraped a win at the end but showed the world what a physical game really is.

After recovering from a great night out with Ann & Alan, we went down to Beverley's school today to help set up the classroom for the start of the new academic year. When you walk around Penrith with Beverley you are in the company of a 'local hero'. If you're in a hurry then go alone, because every 5 minutes, a young voice will shout out, "Mrs P......", followed by mass hugs in the street. Yesterday the 'young voices' were actually taller than Beverley! All those miniature chairs and tables for all those tiny new people. 10 in her class for next term, there were 40 in mine when I was 5 years old. We had to shout out our numbers in order, for register check every morning. I was number 39, right at the back, couldn't even see what was written on the board. It was a good place to be though because when the teacher threw the blackboard rubber at you, his accuracy faded at that distance. I caught the rubber once, well it wasn't really a rubber, more like a block of wood with a wedge of rubber grooved into it. I got the cane for catching the rubber before it hit me, even though he was aiming at the person beside me. Can you work out the justice in that?

I now need to start researching, 'Da Vinci Robotic Surgery'. It is a machine that uses high magnification for pin point accuracy during surgery. The nearest one is in Cambridge, at Addenbrooks Hospital, though many London Hospitals have them. It's nicer now, researching the cure rather than the disease!

Saturday, 21 August 2010

It's 3a.m. and I am just starting today's blog. Why? I had such good news yesterday that adrenalin is still swirling around inside me and I just have to get this all out of my head.

Well I had to lie about when I was getting the results. I said it was this coming Tuesday, when really it was yesterday. Had to lie? Yes, because had they been bad, which I honestly thought they might be, I needed a few days to compose myself before telling everyone. During the bone scan, the radiologist asked me if I had ever had any rib injuries, and out of the corner of my eye I could see a 'hot spot' on the screen. Since then my mind started working overtime and I was convinced that this was going to turn out bad. All week I had researched all the various treatments for cancer spread to the bone, to the point where I was almost comfortable with it. The stress was unbearable though and started to show in physical symptoms; all of course which I immediately converted into 'cancer'! They think the rib thing is as a result of an old injury. Now my bad back, gnat bites, stiff neck, bruised knee are all just what they are, and nothing more.

I put up, 'Desiderata' yesterday because I felt incapable of writing a blog. It was without doubt the most stressful day of my life, worse than the day I was diagnosed. I didn't hold it together very well.

My appointment was at 4.35p.m. and Beverley drove me to the hospital, arriving well on time. I walked up and down the long corridor outside the unit, just delaying things really, sure that I was not going to come out of there the same person that went in. Eventually, we went in and sat with two other older couples who seemed to know the nurse as regulars. I say 'older' because at 58, you are considered to be a very young guy as far as the Urology Unit is concerned. My consultant was on holiday so I was to be seen by the young doctor who had performed my biopsy some 10 weeks ago. She was about 8 stone and heavily pregnant, the first time I had seen an unborn baby that could possibly weigh as much as its mother! A lovely person though who gave us all the time that we needed, even laughing about the biopsy because she had told me that at first, there may be traces of blood in my semen. As it turned out, my first ejaculation could have painted the bathroom red!

We sat down and she politely asked me how I was. Looking back I thought it was a trick question. I was too busy scanning the room for a large container, which I thought I would fill the minute she broke the news. She said, almost casually, "Well your bone scan was clear, so that's good isn't it?" I said, "What!" She repeated what she had said. I burst out crying and quickly managed to control it, as I had been trained to from birth, but inside I was in pieces. Overjoyed, overwhelmed, feelings and emotions pouring out of control and smashing into each other. I didn't throw up though!

She then went on to tell me that there was a small tumour on one side of my Prostate and a larger one on the other. If you remember from previous blogs, Cancer is measured in aggressiveness on a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being the most aggressive. Well one of my biopsy samples had showed to be 5, the rest either 3 or 4. But the MRI, CT and Bone Scans have all shown that everything is still contained within the prostate capsule...WOW HOW GOOD IS THAT!

My journey will now take me to the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle to see the surgeon in about 2 weeks, followed by a return there for surgery 2-3 weeks after that. My chances of success had suddenly soared in my mind, but in reality, I was guilty of building a situation in my imagination that was just not there! I think some people would have handled it better but I have always had an over active mind. I listen to every word, look at every facial expression, read every word and then just make up what is going to happen next. I am often right, but thank God I am often wrong and should take a reality check sometimes. **** (That was me giving myself a slap!)

Well on the way home and out at the Indian Restaurant last night you would have thought we had won the lottery, but it felt far better than that. I had an overwhelming desire to thank someone for this gift I had just been handed, but who? Was it the white crystals that I kept in my pocket the last few months? Maybe the prayer that I had offered up to Allah at the Mosque in Cyprus, or the one I had said whilst looking out at the Universe from the moonlit Turtle beach? Was it pure luck or just the way things were meant to be for now? I don't know!

I had so many texts and calls yesterday that my phone seemed to be break dancing all evening. Thank you so much everyone. Holding it together (well almost!) was only possible with that kind of support. If I named anyone I would miss someone, so I am just going to try and get back to sleep, knowing that things are pretty good right now :-)

Friday, 20 August 2010

A little break from the blog just for today, but I would like to copy you in on 'Desiderata'. I have come across it many times in my life, most recently when it was given to me by a good friend Diane, about four years ago. I will catch you up on the news tomorrow.

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself to others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the the world is full of trickery. But let not this blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all it's sham drudgery and broken dreams; it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

A BIG welcome, as a follower, to Kim over in France, and thank you for the lovely comments. It's so good to have you on board. You mentioned, 'the tree'? Well this morning I went to the Town Hall, expecting to be there for half an hour; no chance! I must have been the last case on the list from about a dozen others. I had to sit through the, 'Penrith Pong' debate, an objection to a footpath going past an old folks home, a guy from the Castle Town area who had seen enough houses converted into bedsits,  and then, it came to, 'the tree'. I knew I was off to a good start when I stood up front and was handed the microphone. I said, "last time I held one of these I came fourth in a Karaoke contest". Everyone laughed, it was the first time they had that morning. Most people leave that room either disengaged or disappointed, but never happy.

I was brief and to the point, and when I had finished, nobody had any questions. I stood down after thanking them for listening and then the debate started. At that point I am not allowed to speak anymore. To my amazement, one after another, the councillors came out in support of the tree! At one point the chairman asked if there was a gap between the building and the tree. Planning said, "no". Knowing I wasn't supposed to speak, I had to, the guy had just told a big fib! I stood up and said, "there is a walkway, not just a gap"! He explained, "there is no gap on my plans", but the Chairman obviously preferred to rely on reality and sent someone up to the site, just around the corner, to have a look. He came back and described a scene very unfamiliar to me and that I would only fully understand when I looked myself later. The builders had filled the 'gap' with tons of hardcore! Well an e mail is on its way to planning, copying in the Council Chairman as I write.

So the council committee then voted....6 in favour of saving the tree, 2 against and an abstention. Yippee..I thought I had won, until the Usher explained what had just happened. He said, "because the council have voted against the advice of its own planning department, the planning department had to raise the issue again at the next meeting in a months time". Why? Because if the council committee over ruled planning and something went badly wrong, like the tree fell on the postman, the council would be liable. To be honest, I didn't fully understand, but it meant that the tree was now under protection still until the next meeting, when planing would have to come up with a better excuse to get rid of it. Like, 'it keeps sneaking into town for a drink every night', or 'it's too close to a school and hasn't had a CRB check'! I asked if I would be able to speak at the next meeting but nobody seemed sure. This was either because there was no rule on speaking if you attended a second meeting or, because nobody had ever asked to willingly put themselves through a procedure like that twice!

My sister Cynthia has been a great support again today, giving me a few bollockings on my thought directions and warning me to stop Internet researching. Thanks Sis, I know you're right and Beverley tells me as much every day. Sasha phones me up about every day too, which is really nice and thank you. You will pass your driving test :-) I did, fourth time!

Top tip for today, never buy 'square pillow cases'. The reason that they are in the sale is because nobody sells 'square pillows'. Unless you know different?

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

‘ Why are men so emotionally restricted?’ Well not all but yes, far more men than women wouldn't you say? I suppose it goes way back to times when men really had to be men, and even as a boy, bravery was so important. Crying would be seen as a lack of courage at the very earliest ages, and without courage you were a danger to the rest of the tribe. Women crying has always been acceptable, and if you look at their lot throughout history then they had plenty to cry about.

I never witnessed my Mother or Father crying, though they probably did. If my brother's Paul, Andre or I even showed a sign of watery eyes, my Father would give us a look that instantly dried the tears. When my sister Jacqueline came along, yes it was fine for her to cry at any age, so she did. At school, any boy crying or even showing signs of it was immediately ridiculed by other pupils. I cried once at school, when Stephen and Debbie, two foster children who I had befriended, were moved out of the area. I pretended that I had something in my eyes all day but I remember how sad I felt. It's all wrapped up in 'affection' I think. I never saw my Mother and Father touch each other much, though they must have :-) I don't remember them touching any of us, their children, well not the boys anyway. Not their fault, it was a generation thing, nobody seemed to touch their male kids back then, so I suppose we became 'emotionally restricted'. I find it very easy to form a friendship with a female and tend to trust them far more than men. It doesn't apply every time, but in general I find it very much the opposite with males. I find it easy to hug my daughters and say 'I love you', where as my son just gets a hand shake and a hello. It's an inbuilt thing that I can't change, it was how my father was with his children. I think it's also one reason that I have trouble accepting gay men, or even the word 'gay', which used to be 'queer' when I was a kid. I respect the right of consenting adults to do whatever they like within certain boundaries, but I just can't feel right about two men kissing, it just doesn't work for me!

My IT tutor Jason dropped in for 3 hours yesterday and we spent that time getting me up to speed using 'Word'. Before we started, I thought I was about 70% familiar with the package, but soon realised that I was nearer 10%. Using my new software, I can now speak, and it writes my essays, or I can write an essay and it will read it back to me; even in a choice of voices and accents! 

Beverley came back from her first 'Advanced Diver' day, absolutely knackered and smelling like the stone quarry she had been diving in. It didn't dampen her enthusiasm though and she has already booked in for next week. She will eventually dive in Wastwater, the deepest of the Lakes.

My Head Tutor for next year, Fiona called me yesterday to assure me that the University will support me in any way possible during my degree course. How nice is that? Can't wait to start on 20th September. 

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Beverley has gone to take the first part of her 'Advanced Diving' qualification this morning, diving in an old flooded quarry near Carnforth. She had a strange experience yesterday. She found a self hypnosis tape in the library on 'Dieting'. She lay on the bed, plugged in the headphones and started to listen. The next thing she can remember was the voice on the tape saying 'wake up!'. She looked at the clock and 45 minutes had passed. Had she really been hypnotised and had it worked? She was telling me all this as she tucked into a selection of 6 cheeses last night, so maybe not. I am trying a similar tape today on, 'How to cope before treatment or surgery', hoping that I don't respond in the operating room when someone says, 'wake up!' 

Why is life so hard? What is the meaning of life? I was asked those two questions yesterday. Well the meaning of life, I haven’t got a clue! Maybe humans are the vehicle used to transform material on the planet into machines, which eventually populate the Universe. I’m sure I saw a film like that once! Or are humans just a freak species who mutated enough to have the intelligence to suffer the stress posed by questions like this? I doubt that many sheep woke up this morning and said "Baaaa!", followed by the fleeting thought, ‘Should I eat more grass or consider the meaning of life?’

As for, ‘Why is life so hard?’, of course it’s not; not if you live in most European countries. Through war, my Father experienced the very worse that humans could inflict upon each other. When he was in a Hospice just before he died and a patient in the bed opposite was groaning that he didn’t want to die. My Father shouted at him, “Be quiet will you, you are all born and die in luxury in this country”. He was right. From the start, we have access to excellent medical treatment, health facilities, food and clean water. We are then educated, made to feel mainly safe in a comfortable society and pampered throughout life, eventually, ‘dying in luxury’.

Because we expect that as a normal level of service, many of us spend most of our lives not happy because we are constantly craving more; never realising that the fulfilment, which always appears to be just out of reach, is there within our minds!
In many distant countries, you would be lucky to make it until 5 years old and if you did, you might be disabled or your mother may have died giving birth to you. Regular food or clean water would be unlikely and when you became sick you just had to be lucky to get better. You would get no education and probably die before you were 30 years old, either from starvation, disease or in conflict, through torture or execution. Either way, you would not get any pain relief and be unlikely to die in a clean bed with your family and friends around you. The answer is to make sure that all our young people experience a third world country at sometime in their early lives. Not just by going on holiday there, but perhaps to live there in basic accommodation and help to build a hospital or even work in one. Then you might think back to that Monty Python sketch, The Four Yorkshiremen....”you were lucky, I used to live in, Ohhhh we used to DREAM of livin’ in a corridor! Woulda’ been a palace to us. We used to live in an old water tank on a rubbish tip. We got woken up every morning by having a load of rotting fish dumped all over us!