Tempting fate

It was three years ago, give or take a day or two, that I went down to St Abbs for the day to meet Jane and go diving.  It was a beautiful day but it didn’t quite go to plan as you’ll realise if you read this.  Little did I know that day that it was the start of a rather grim couple of years.   A broken ankle was followed rather too swiftly for my liking by that cancer diagnosis and all that that entailed.  It all seems slightly unreal now and it is with only a small amount of trepidation that I’m off to St Abbs again tomorrow to meet Jane, over for her annual visit.  I’ve dusted down the diving gear and found a tank with some air in it. I suspect that this time there’ll be plenty of helping hands to steady my return to the boat. I’m looking forward to a lovely sunny day with puffins and guillemots and wolf fish and sea anemones.

And let’s hope that this really does mark the end of all that nasty stuff.

All emotional

I went for my diving medical on Tuesday.  I passed, despite having to step up and down off a chair for five minutes, which may be fine if you’re a 6ft North Sea commercial type but not if you’re little me.  I left clutching my certificate and on the verge of tears.  I’d put it down to hormones if I had any left.  It was at last year’s medical, in August, that this same doctor spotted the offending lump and so set in train the medical saga of this past winter.   He retires in June and so it will be a different doctor next year.   GPD saw him earlier in the year for his medical and thanked him for, in effect,  saving my life.  Sounds corny, but it’s true.  I’d had no symptoms so the cyst could have gone unnoticed for many more months and I would then have found myself in a totally different place.

The next couple of weeks mark an anniversary of sorts Continue reading

A half way witter

writersblock.jpgIt’s been very quiet in this corner for some time now.  I have no real excuse, just a jumble of reasons.  It’s partly been a form of writer’s block – how pretentious!  But I’ve had several posts in draft for some time and don’t seem to have been able to find the words to finish, or in some cases even start them.  Perhaps it’s been more a dive in motivation.  I’ve been finding it hard to motivate myself to do anything much for the last few weeks.  And that has been partly due to hitting something of a low, a wall – or perhaps more correctly slumping against the wall.  I think a mid term low is probably quite normal – I do seem to remember it happening with my broken ankle.   I’m a real expert in these things, you see!

Some of it has been brought on by having to admit to myself that I really am a lot more tired these days.  It’s all very well trying to carry on as usual, but Continue reading

I’m celebrating

p1010034.JPGI’m not celebrating the fact that my hair is now coming out in handfuls and my debris is competing with the cat’s fluff for the attentions of the vacuum cleaner.  Mind you, the cat’s fur isn’t likely to block up the bath plug so I win on that score.

I am celebrating the completion of my Irish Sea contract.  I wrote, way back in the mists of May, that a large proportion of the Irish seabed had arrived in my back yard.  Well it’s now left.  Finally.  Only four and a half months overdue – it was supposed to be finished by the end of June.  You’d think they’d have induced it by this time.  The biggest inducement in the life of a self-employed anything is of course being paid and I had a quiet laugh as I wrote the invoice last week.  Continue reading

Tales of a cocktail cabinet

4am.  That’s an hour of the night that really doesn’t impinge upon my consciousness.  I like to be wrapped cosily inside a totally unmemorable dream at 4am.  I appreciate that there are folks who have to function at that time of the night or for whom 4am means breakfast but me?  Well, I generally only see that hour when there’s a low spring tide to catch in a Shetland mid-summer and, of course, being Shetland, the sun has barely dimmed.   But 4am in an Edinburgh November is a cold, dark moment and the only place to be is bed.  So you’ll understand that it was something of a shock to find myself setting the alarm for such a secret time last Friday, and sneaking along to the kitchen for toast and tablets.  Yes, this is when the chemo started.  Ten steroid tablets (that’s right – 10) to be swallowed with food at 4am.    Admittedly they were only very small tablets – perhaps they wouldn’t work if they were scrunched up into one big one, surface area:volume ratios and all that – but somehow it didn’t seem quite legal. It’s just a good job I’ve decided to give next year’s Olympics a miss. 

“You’ll never get back to sleep” was the advice from many quarters but it was too cold to read so I snuck off back to bed.   And suddenly – 7.30am.  I’d overslept.  Continue reading

In Memoriam

trophy.jpgI think my physiotherapist must have been a builder or a car mechanic in a past life.  Conversations go something like this:-
“Well, how’s it coming along?” spoken in a very jolly voice.

So I tell her (she doesn’t look).  “Well you know it’s never going to be the same again.  You’ll probably never get be able to stretch it fully again.”

“What about the swelling? How long will that take to go? Is there anything I can do about it?”

“Well you know it’s never going to be the same again.  It’ll take a long time.  It’ll probably never go down completely.  Nothing you can do about it, you have just to be patient.”

I adopt a suitably sombre expression and carry on doing my stuff on the wobble cushion and then think I’ll try this next one: Continue reading

An announcement or two

  • I passed my HSE diving medical today.  I thought I’d share that nugget with the world in general.  It occurred to me that perhaps I should adopt an annual injury ploy as the doctor didn’t make me do the dreaded step-up-on-the-chair-to-see-if-you’re-fit test, on account of my unfortunate ankle.  But on second thoughts… On a related theme, those wonderful people at Otter Watersports are putting a new drysuit in the post to me today, at a more than reasonable price.  I like their suits and the service they offer is always fantastic and very personal, despite the growth in the company. And they still make their suits in the UK. 
  • Mother at Large just gave me an award! How about that then.  [Thoughtful+Blogger+Award+Black_242x41.jpg]I’m very flattered, and constantly amazed that anyone actually reads my ramblings.   So thank you for the encouragement.  I will pass the award on in due course, after I’ve admired it on the mantlepiece for a day or so.
  • I have it on good authority that another parent is about to start blogging on the EduBuzz site.  Welcome!  I’ve also noticed an equally welcome flurry of blogging activity from Ross High this week.

In celebration of these events, and with an awards ceremony pending, a girl needs an outfit (well OK, we have a wedding to go to), so I called into M&S on my way back from a medical/physiotherapy type of morning.  I tried on this and that but then it struck me – “What on earth do I wear on my feet?”.  I have an ankle like a tree trunk and one foot still considerably larger than the other.  I did squeeze said foot into a drysuit last week, fins I can do and I’m hoping I can manage wellies for tramping round on Welsh mudflats next week, but smart shoes???  I have scuffed around in scruffy trainers for the last 6 weeks as even my comfortable sandals were uncomfortable; perhaps I could just put the trainers through the washing machine and make do.  Anyhow, I just looked.

A secret handshake?

Littlemummy, Mother at Large and Guineapigmum met up for coffee today at Victor Hugo’s.  Perhaps there should be a special handshake for the secret – or very public – world of bloggers.  It was fun to meet the faces behind some of the blogs I read and yes, we do have names as do our children.  We chatted about this and that and, well, why?  We may well meet up again – maybe we could become a complement to the Edinburgh Coffee Mornings (those photos do look very male dominated, by the way!), and advertise our next meeting in advance.  The Coffee Break, perhaps?   Today (or maybe yesterday, by now) was serendipity. 

We’re off to the Isle of Coll later today; GP1 thinks it will be the most boring holiday on the planet, but he’ll love it once we’re there. Says Mum.  As a consequence it will be very quiet in this corner for the next week.  At least this time silence will be due to physical absence rather than the gloom that descended over me during the latter stages of plaster incarceration, that precluded any sort of positive spin. 

And please, please, please let it be sunny!

Good mother, bad mother

I’m back!  Well, OK, I haven’t in fact been any further than the utility room at the other end of the house, which doubles as a lab and houses my microscopes in a truly microscopic corner.  As Andy from Wales remarked, when he called in to collect some of the buckets of pickled seabed I’ve been working on, “You really don’t have much room, do you?”  Anyhow, I’ve been shackled to the microscope and, as it’s holiday time, have relinquished the computer to the children.  On top of that, a neighbour’s tree took out our phone line and I had to have daily arguments with BT for a week before they would come and fix it.  “Our checks show it is not a fault with the line. Please turn off your modem and check your handsets”.  “We’ve done that.  Several times”.  “Our checks show it is not a fault with the line…” Deep breath and much gnashing of teeth. “It is a fault with the line. Please come and fix it!”  So I haven’t blogged for a while. Or read anyone else’s blog.

In the last few days I have resumed my duties as Chief Chauffeur, my plaster having been removed a week or so ago.  I can drive, but can’t walk.  In fact that’s not strictly true; Continue reading


My 11 year old neighbour (female) went to work on my leg at the weekend; cast.jpgresults appended.  Very fetching, I’m sure you’ll agree.  My 12 year old offspring (male) is now too embarrassed to be seen in public with me.  Maybe that should be more embarrassed than normal.  The tall, skinny one, on the other hand, doesn’t have a leg to stand on given the lurid pink flowery board shorts he was wearing on his return from France. It remains to be seen whether he will be as happy wearing them on Gullane and Belhaven beaches as in the south of France.  He has had a great time; I think it’s probably best not hearing all the stories.   Apparently Mr Smith does great backflips, though.  Meanwhile, the marginally taller but definitely not as skinny one has finally gone to Libya – at 24 hours notice for a meeting expected to last half an hour.  Video conferencing? Carbon footprint?  It seems they want a body. 

I logged on yesterday having not looked at the  computer for a few days and was shocked to find that I had had over 80 hits on the blog in one day. Now, this may not seem a lot to most of you pros out there, but I generally potter along in the low teens, as befits my stature.  I have recently been thinking that I really should get to grips with tagging posts but, basking in the afterglow of all those visitors, that can wait until tomorrow.  This sudden interest seems quite bizarre!  So, welcome, whoever you are, and do please come to visit again!

One week’s travels with my ankle

I have this feeling that I’ve run out of things to say, a very unlikely scenario.  Some of you, of course, may breathe a sigh of relief.  But, for myself, I have found that this blogging thing is a little like that old-fashioned and sadly declining habit of letter writing; the more you write, the more you have to say and the easier it becomes.  Unfortunately, the effort of hopping around on crutches, balanced by excessive time spent sitting on my backside, and more television than I’ve watched in my life, seems to have knocked my motivation for, well, anything, for six.  I started writing this post last week and never got round to finishing it. So get on with it, GPM.  It’s already out of date.  It’s too long.  It’s boring.  What follows is an etiolated diary entry.  You have been warned.

Saturday a week ago began at 0530 in the pouring rain.  It’s the sort of morning time that only exists in books or to catch a low tide.  Continue reading

One of those days

porania-on-adig.jpgAnd it’s not even midday yet.  GP2 was crowing at breakfast that he was going to have his last biology lesson ever today.  His Biology teacher this year (not you Fearghal!) seems to have single-handedly killed all interest in the subject in the entire class, as only one of their number has picked biology for next year.  It is a little sad, as we’re both working biologists.  In contrast, he has been enthused by Continue reading

Raison d’être

Now that the Standard Grades are over, and school is winding down for the year, I have this niggling feeling that my raison d’être has gone, vanished, disparu.  Perhaps I should write a final blog post, following the lead of AB and Blethers.  Trouble is, it’s too addictive and I’m not sure I could even bring myself to write a spoof.  So you’ll have to put up with me for a little longer.

There is a real end of term feel invading the cage.  GP2 arrived home yesterday with a pile of artwork; I always like seeing what they’ve been up to but I guess this is the last such pile we’ll see as he’s dropping art.  We look and admire and then wonder what to do with it all.  It will sit around for a while and then I will act as ruthless editor and decide which pieces should retain housespace and which will quietly leave the premises while his attention is elsewhere.  I have to say, biased as I am, that he has done some really nice work this year.  The genes are there, on both sides (although they skipped me!), with an uncle who has managed to make a living as a painter and a cousin who graduates any day now from Edinburgh Art School.  Her final year show opens next week so we will go and be impressed by the professionals-to-be.  In my guise as professional aunt, I have hardly seen said niece/cousin in her 3 years up north.  I haven’t provided regular meals, baled her out when she’s been stuck, or supplied income from baby-sitting duties. How can 3 years go by so fast?

I now have approximately 20 fewer pieces of metal embedded in my leg and a shiny new plaster to cover it all although the titanium plate, which I suspect will set off airport metal detectors for evermore, remains.  I have also been assured that I won’t be walking around boulder beaches 3 weeks after the plaster comes off so I’m going to have to phone my colleagues and pull out of the fortnight’s work in Shetland at the end of July.  So no watching otters on low tide at dawn this year.  Oh well.  The good thing is that I’ll have a summer at home, if only the weather would improve.  The downside – we’ll be broke.  But I will be here when the exam results come out.  Good thing or bad thing?  Who knows!

Progress report

I had a bath this morning!  More information than you need, perhaps, but it was thanks to the arrival in the post yesterday of a Limbo.  It works! It’s wonderful! So thank you to Fearghal and Liz O’Neill for recommending this.  I then managed to get myself downstairs (we live upstairs) and along to the store for milk and a paper, all by myself. And back again, of course.  It’s these little things that mark the daily improvement and reassure me that I will not be like this for ever!  I have also started working on the mountain of seabed samples that are currently cluttering up the back yard although I can only sit for a certain length of time at the microscope with my foot down before said limb demands to be raised above hip height for a while.  It is definitely not possible to work at the microscope with my foot in the air.  Progress on the sample front is slow, but at least it has begun.

Meanwhile, having cancelled all my fieldwork for June, Continue reading

Normal service

Well, Standard Grades finished last Friday and there has been a collective breathing out and relaxing of all muscles (at least, all that don’t involve crutches and ankles).  Biology last Monday received some intensive enforced revision over the final 24 hours although, once he’d trotted off to the exam, I looked over some past papers and thought perhaps we should have spent more of that time doing some graph interpretation than checking that he’d at least read everything once.  Right, as it turns out, as he got stuck on a pie chart.  Oh well.  We’ll just have to wait until August.  Planned parental support (= pressure?) for the German exam at the end of the week never materialised due to my enforced bedrest courtesy of the NHS.  In fact, not only could I not offer any help, wanted or otherwise, but the boys were getting phonecalls along the lines of “You’d better go to the chippy for some tea” as OH found balancing a hard week at work, visiting the hospital, finding the stuff I needed – toothbrush, clean underwear, that sort of thing – managing the house, and organising the boys something of a challenge.  Not the best support for Standard Grades, I’m afraid, but I’m sure other children have to endure worse.

Back at school now and after a few days of watching videos they seem to be doing work in class again, even in the subjects they’re giving up.  I suspect this is a small challenge for the school and possibly something that hadn’t been given too much thought beforehand; how to handle 2 year groups at once following the exams.  meanwhile GP2 is coming home saying things like “Only 2 more biology lessons to go” or “I’ve only got 3 more art lessons ever“.  He could go to lunchtime art club next year only it’s at the same time as band practice.  Come August, neither of the boys will be doing Biology but at least GP2 will be doing Geography which will provide some Environmental Science input.  

Life Jim, but not as we know it…

I think my brain is still in shock, never mind my body.  This is my first day on my own and I am motivated to do… nothing! Children at school, husband in Ireland for the day, sister back in Manchester, Grandma arriving tonight.  I have a work mountain, a laundry mountain (it has finally stopped raining) and probably several other mountains but somehow, with the difficulty of doing even those simple tasks like making a coffee, getting comfortable to read a book or reaching the remote control that the kids have put just out of reach of my crutches, the urgency seems to have gone from life.  So, in an effort not to feel sorry for myself, and to start to re-introduce some structure to my life, I thought I’d make some lists.

So here goes… Continue reading

CPD – with a bang

I went on a skive masquerading as my own CPD last Tuesday – diving at St Abbs, ostensibly to break my duck and get in the water for the first time this year.  In fact, to meet Jane who was over from Belfast for a few days.  It was a lovely day and we had two great dives.  Good visibility, several wolf fish and lobsters, the cave at West Hurkar, all the anemones and soft corals out to play.  Sunshine, puffins, guillemots and razor bills on the surface. Fantastic!  And I could remember how everything worked and it didn’t seem so hard after all.

But – why is there always a but? – getting back up the ladder and into the boat for the second time, I missed my footing and crashed to the floor.  I knew before I hit the deck that this was the bad one so when I was aked politely to move out of the way so that the others could get in, I replied, equally politely (if you believe that), “No!”

That was Tuesday pm.  The ambulance met us at the slipway and took me to the Royal.  Saturday pm I finally arrived home with some unsolicited metalwork in my leg and firm instructions that there is to be no weight bearing on that leg for 6 weeks.  Hence my long silence.

Oh damn!

ps.  There are now 3 of us in (or perhaps just out of) plaster in the family.  My brother in law broke his leg in Ireland at Easter and his wife, my sister, was knocked off her bike by a lorry in London about 3 weeks ago and broke her foot.  Apparently mine’s the best though.  Who’s next?