Saturday, 19 May 2018

& then it was over, we said our farewells

Our week on Fuerteventura is now becoming a distant memory and the tan is fading quickly. It was another good break, albeit this time the weather was a bit changeable and genuinely cold at night, especially in the wind. It was a bit of a shock to open the curtains in the morning to be welcomed by a bank of clouds.

Out of our seven days six were bright and warm by 11am. I doubt if the temperature got above 25 degrees at any time, but that was fine for us. I know I call our airline of choice “SleazyJet” but I shouldn’t really complain. They took off on time and landed on time for both legs of the trip. On board was fine, both times having a spare seat so we could spread out a bit, more on the return flight later on in the blog. When we arrived at Fuerteventura airport we were due to be met by transport from the hotel which I’d pre-booked, however there was no sign of anyone holding up a “Welcome Mr Clark” board. After hanging around for 10 minutes of so I emailed the hotel to get an immediate reply saying transport would be with is within 10 minutes. 20 minutes later and I was becoming more and more angry. We were just on the verge of jumping into a taxi and giving the bill to the hotel when are driver eventually turned up, full of apologies as apparently there had been a mix up with the bookings. We mentioned this episode when we checked in with the hotel manager, three hours later a knock on the door brought a bottle of Cava and a plate of fruit with the compliments of the hotel.

By this point Carol had knocked by two Hendricks on the plane, a large glass of white wine whilst waiting for our room to be ready and was now faced with a bottle of fizz to demolish. She stood up well to the task…. A game old bird.

Our days were spent cycling to the dunes, soaking up some rays, cycle back for lunch. Carol would then go off and use the hotel Spa facilities whilst I explored a bit more of the immediate vicinity of the island on my bike. There was a convenient bar at roughly half way house where I stopped most days. Well, when I say bar, it was more like a hut next to the harbour, but it sold nice cold beer. The woman that ran it reminded me a bit of the old wench from the Blackadder series, she certainly looked well worn, however despite the fact that she spoke no English and my Spanish is pretty poor we managed to communicate. She’s got an old plastic shopping basket next to the hut, in which sat a pigeon. By the power of sign language and nods I worked out that she was nursing it back to health, no idea why as there were hundreds of perfectly healthy ones around she could have chosen from J I stopped at her hut I think five times in total and each time there was a welcoming smile. That’s possibly another advantage of having a Lary, it makes you recognisable. I’d hazard a guess that on the island that week I was probably the only Lary wearer. It was the same in the bars and restaurants we frequented, once we’d been in the once we were remembered. Not sure that’s a good thing or not J I enjoyed my cycling exploits however I had to stop fairly often as the filter wasn’t letting enough air through to my lungs when I was trying to breath hard. When I got back home I mentioned this to SALT Caroline who’s given my some special filters to try out that are designed to let more air through if you’re exercising. Regular readers of this blog may remember that when we went to Gran Canaria last year I suffered from the fine sand getting into the filters and finding its way into my stoma, I’m pleased to say, that with one exception, that didn’t happen this year, maybe the sand on Fuerteventura isn’t quite as fine as that on Gran Canaria?

Corralejo has the usual tourist type bars and restaurants as well as the more traditional Spanish ones. The area around the harbour, with the wonderful views across to Lobos and Lanzarote are the most popular with tourists, but also the most pricey. We had one meal in an Italian restaurant of the harbour which was probably the worst service I’ve had in a number of years. Rude, disinterested, and generally crap. I can’t remember the last time a waiter didn’t ask if we’d like to taste the wine before pouring the glasses. This one didn’t even bother pouring, she just opened the bottle, plonked it down on the table and disappeared. In and out in 35 minutes, zero tip left and a 1* Trip Advisor review written when I got home. I reviewed all the places we ate in and this was the only 1*. In contrast at the back of the town there was a tapas bar called Oscars that we’d used in previous visits. This became our restaurant of choice for evening meals. It was always busy, generally with Spanish voices which seemed to suggest it was authentic. The food was based largely on fish which was fine by us, but with the added bonus of some goat dishes. Now I’d never eaten goat before, but the slow roasted goat I had was sublime and served with a degree of theatre too. Oscars didn’t have a wine list, they just recommended which ever local wine they felt went with your order. We were never ripped off on the bill from what I could see, with bottles ranging from €10 to €17. I think I could probably eat tapas as my food of choice for the rest of my life, being able to order small and varied dishes works perfectly with my current eating abilities. I just need to make sure I check what’s actually coming out as a couple of times we ordered dishes which arrived with Canarian potatoes when we’d also ordered them as a side dish, carb overloads! We’d planned on eating at Oscars on our last night and had even delayed having seafood paella, however we should have checked. Along with a lot of the more traditional places Oscars was closed when we arrived on Sunday evening. Luckily we found another decent place to finish off our food journey with a decent paella. 

We tended to finish our evenings at the Rock Island Bar, a very small venue which hosted various acoustic artists. It’s got a very laid back vibe and is the perfect way to wind down from a hectic day of sunbathing, eating and drinking. We saw the same artist on two nights, Daryl Kirkland, who was pretty entertaining. His party piece was to play the two best songs about London (In his opinion) the first was Waterloo sunset by the Kinks, and the second………………………….. Feed the birds, from Mary Poppins, an inspired choice, but I guess you had to be there to really appreciate it.

The main act we’d hoped to see whilst we were on the island were Gary and Dave. Gary is co-owner of the bar and Dave is Dave. They were supposed to be playing on Friday night, but when we arrived we were met with the sad news that Dave had the squits and couldn’t perform. This is the sort of music Dave and Gary usually played - Dave 'n Gary   The replacement act was a chap called Andy, who was frankly a disgrace. His “Jokes” bordered on the offensive, he couldn’t sing and seemed pissed. We left after 10 minutes. The next time we met Andy was on the 10.50am flight from Fuerteventura to Gatwick. He arrived on board pretty late, staggering to his seat in 3F, ie the window seat in the row we were sat in. He announced in a loud and slurred voice that he was desperate for a wee! The flight crew let him use the facilities whilst others were still boarding as it was obvious he was going to be a pain in the bum. His wife, who was a caricature of a fading rock stars long suffering wife……… cheap gold bangles, badly dyed blonde hair, tight jeans, plastered makeup, you get the picture, commented that whoever he was sitting next to would have a fun flight as he was already pissed. He emerged from the toilet, swayed down the aisle and asked me if he could sit in my aisle seat as he might need to use to toilet quite often, I declined and told him to sit down, in his seat, shut up and not to annoy me. Luckily the aircrew ID’d him as a total twat quite quickly and moved him and mutton further back in the plane to an empty row of seats, much to my appreciation and those sat around us. I had the last laugh as he’s put luggage up in the overhead lockers before being moved. On landing I refused to move to let him have access to his baggage before we disembarked, he was huffing and puffing to his full height of five foot fuck all and trying to push pass those in front of him so he could get to "His Seat"! A nasty piece of work all round.

One of the challenges for the holiday was to give Mr Fox No. 19 a new name that suited his character. Carol had booked herself in for a full body massage and facial at the hotel spa, so I took foxy off for a cycle around the town and down towards the windmills.  We stopped off for the necessary beers and discussed the matter in great depth, before we came up with the new name of Hendricks Pinkman, or HP for short.

We felt that as Carol had been doing her best to put Hendricks Gin into the FTSE 100 by her consumption and that I’d just finished watching Breaking Bad (Again!) that the name fitted perfectly, ie the fox was a gin soaked meth’s cook! 

All too quickly the week was over and it was time to head back home to Max and Neville. The welcome from Neville when we got back home had to be seen to be believed, - ..... and it's hello from Neville Penny of course was nowhere to be seen and unlike her she was still not back inside by 10pm, we were starting to get a bit concerned. Carol opened the front door about 10.30pm and in stoated Penny, head held high in that “Oh, you’re back are you?” pose. Nev was licking and jumping and almost wee’ing himself.

The week back was a mixture of work and hospital appointments. I went to see Sian at the Physio Dept. Again my movement had improved, despite not doing the prescribed exercises on holiday. Sian reckoned that the cycling may have helped as its putting pressure through the shoulder via the arms. Another new set of exercises prescribed to work on the scatula muscle in my right shoulder, hopefully a few more degrees of movement will be seen prior to my next appointment.

Thursday saw me rocking up at ENT Dept for my regular appointment. It was 12 months to the day that Cool Dude had told me that “It” was back and I’d need to have surgery to remove the bastard once and for all. Nowadays I turn up with no real qualms. I know the appointment will probably run late, I know I’ll be in and out in five minutes flat, I know that so long as there is no CNS Nurse sitting with the Consultant that I’m still ok, I know that the NHS won’t let me down. As per usual I arrived about 10 minutes before my appointment, the receptionist knows me well by now and never asks me to check in, it’s just a case of “Hello Paul, take a seat” – Another example of the Lary being recognised perhaps? I was called in to be weighed after five minutes, 86.7kg, my heaviest ever, perhaps time to start curtailing the carbs? About 20 minutes after my appointment was due I was shown in to see Mr More Scary the Scary, he commented on how well I was looking and how strong my voice was sounding. He reckoned on a scale of 1 to 10 my voice was an 11 (I think he’s a secret Spinal Tap fan!) No “Up to nose and down the throat” this time, just a quick look at my stoma, which apparently is looking good. He’s asked me to get a blood test to see what my thyroid is up to (Having a party I’d imagine) as it can be damaged by the surgery and RT, this could be a reason behind my lethargy, other than that he’s now happy to see me every three months unless I feel the need to be seen beforehand. This is the first time since December 2015 that I’ve gone onto Quarterly Reviews and is a major step forwards for me. I left feeling pleased.

Friday night was the annual Rams End of Season Ball, held at a hotel in Reading instead of the Old Bath Road ground as it’s become so popular. There was a lot to celebrate this season, and celebrate we did! It’s a Black Tie and Ball Gown affair, in the past I’ve always struggled to get my bow tie done up properly, for obvious reason I didn’t have to fret about that this year. As always, it was a cracking evening, however I struggled with my voice. My friends know that I haven’t really got a volume control anymore and in a noisy atmosphere it’s difficult to make myself heard. The evening’s presentations and prize giving ended about 10pm, not long after that Carol and I made our excuses and left the debauchery to start in our absence. I was a bit upset to be leaving so early, but I knew I just wouldn’t have coped for much longer. Congratulations to all the winners of awards, all massively deserved, especially Andy and Janette for being awarded their Honours Caps. I was awarded mine back in 2013, one of my proudest days, I even went to bed wearing it, much to Carol’s disgust.  

& it's Goodbye Redingensians, hello Rams J

Another blog comes to the end, the 101st since I started publishing in January 2016, and as far as the current format is concerned this is the final one I’ll be writing for a while. However, Penny, Neville and Hendricks Pinkman will be adding their thoughts on everything from which tastes better, fox poo or manure? To how many times Nev can poke Penny in the bottom before his nose is scared for life!

It’s been a blast and I’d like to thank everyone who’s supported the Clark family through the last couple of years.

As always, thanks for reading.


Friday, 4 May 2018

You Spin Me Round.

The work laptop is switched off, out of office is switched on. The work phone is also switched off for the next ten days. I’m publishing this blog a couple of nights before Carol and I get up way before the Sparrow cracks his first fart, to make our way to Gatwick Airport and our early morning flight to Fuerteventura. Hopefully a week of sun, sand, cycling, vat loads of gin, the odd rioja and a pile of tapas awaits. We both need this holiday. In the last two plus years Carol has put up with a whole shed load of crap, I’ve rarely seen her cry, she’s been stoic to the extreme. This holiday will be about pampering her, supplying her with drinks on demand and sending her to the spa each afternoon. It’s roughly 1 year ago that I was told that cancer was back and that the only option was to cut out my throat. I can still speak and I’m still learning that every day will bring a challenge. It hasn’t been easy for any of us. There are times when trying to speak is just too much effort, so I stay quiet. There has been the challenges of valves leaking like sieves which have made me feel very depressed. I’ve learnt that taking my HME out, and blowing a large amount of gunk into a tissue may not be pleasant, but it is necessary. I’ve learnt to ignore the stares on the train, in the café, walking around town.

I’m still alive.

Not a huge amount has happened since my last update which I guess is good. Rams finished their season in third place, their highest ever league position. Their final match was against local rivals Henley RFC, a side that have featured in this blog in the past. Henley titled the game as the Battle of the Thames. No idea why as they were languishing down in ninth place in the league. A comprehensive 51-0 victory to the Rams followed, and frankly Henley were lucky to get 0. Rams scored two of the best tries I’ve witnessed in the 15 years or so of watching the 1st XV, Conor and Scuba proving that we’re not just a lumpy forwards pack. This try was voted as National League Rugby try of the week  Try of the season!   

The Mighty Cents finished on a high with four wins out of their last four matches, the first time they’ve done that. Bernie and Rob will be missed next season, but as you’d expect with a club like Rams, their replacements are in place and raring to go. Max was welcomed into the Cents family two seasons ago, and has developed well as a player and young man under the team’s tutorage. Next season he’ll be off at Uni in Portsmouth, however I reckon he’ll be looking up the train timetables to see if he can get back for a few of the Cents matches if needed. 

The wonderful, mad, talented and un-shockable Sirens managed to complete their Half Marathon challenge on the final day of the season. Snow had forced the cancellation of the Reading Half Marathon when the ladies were going to be running to raise funds for the RFU Injured Player Foundation in support of their team mate Dani #DoingitforDani – They decided to run their own half marathon, leaving Old Bath Road at 11am, running the 21km distance, and finishing up back at OBR in time for the 1st XV kick off. (Any rumours that they actually ran to the local pub, drank cocktails for two hours and then staggered back to the club are apparently false). (Any rumours that Amy Parsons broke her self inflicted booze ban after the run was finished and got wasted are apparently true) What they didn’t know was that Dani would be at OBR, STANDING to cheer them in as they finished. There was not a dry eye in the house, the following photo was taken with tears rolling down my cheeks whilst I tried to focus and hit the shutter release.

I was lucky enough to be asked to photograph the Rams Mini’s End of Season Presentations. The age groups were joined by England player, Natasha “Mo” Hunt who handed out the trophies to the Player of the Year and the Club Person of the Year. It’s always a great day to see all the smiling faces of the players and parents, and the smiling faces of the coaches and managers who know they’ve got a few months off before the mayhem starts again. Probably the biggest smiles are reserved for the wives and husbands of the managers and coaches who believe they may know get their partners back on a Sunday, and that perhaps that shelf may be put up……………. They’ll learn J 

Mark Pett-Ridge has done an amazing job running the Mini section at the club for the past few years, it was entirely fitting that his son Theo won the Hayden Jones Shield. I also think this was the first season that the girls rugby at Rams had been celebrated at the end of season bash, how appropriate that the players had someone they could really look up to presenting their trophies. 

Health wise things are still on an upward curve. I have bad days, but they’re outweighed by the good ones. The massages on my neck have helped immensely with the lumps, the downside is that the lumps were hiding the scars which are now more visible and far more tender. We’re working on that. The Physio has seen amazing results. In the four weeks since I’d last seen Sian I’d been working hard on the exercises she’d given me. Lateral movement increased from 80 degrees to 130 degrees. Frontal movement from 90 degrees to 130 degrees. There’s still a long way to go, but Sian is happy with my progress and a new set of exercises has been diagnosed for my pain and pleasure. The latest ones involve large rubber bands…….. what could possibly go wrong? I enjoy my meeting with Sian, it doesn’t feel like I’m seeing a health care professional, it’s more like having a chat with a friend. It takes me back to the original days when we were meeting CNS Jo on a weekly basis. We were discussing my voice at the last meeting and I commented that whilst I’m eternally grateful to still have a voice I’m very aware that I now sound like a cross between Daffy Duck and Darth Vader. I’d been on a call to a solicitor for my day job the morning I saw Sian and he kept commenting on how strange my voice sounded. It knocked my confidence quite badly for the rest of the week when I had to speak to people on a professional level, Sian understood entirely and instead of trying to placate me she stated the bleeding obvious, which was exactly what I needed. Would I rather have no voice at all?

Just over a week ago I had my valve changed again. It was only leaking slightly, but as it was 2mm bigger than the normal one it was spinning around like Linda Blair’s head when I was cleaning it. This also meant that I was producing more mucus than normal (sorry if you’re eating) and thus having to clean the valve more often, a vicious circle. The last thing I wanted whilst being abroad was to have to visit a hospital and try to explain what was going on. (Despite downloading an idiots guide to being a Lary translated into Spanish). It was quite an interesting session with the SALT Team. I’d been asked beforehand if I’d agree to having the process photographed for use in the training of A&E staff who very rarely see a Lary. Normally I hate being on the other side of the lens, but as this wouldn’t involve my face and was for a good cause I agreed, I even waived my usual modelling fee as a gesture of goodwill. The room the procedure was carried out in was quite crowded, as well as Caroline (SALT) there was a new SALT who’s name I didn’t catch and who’d never seen a valve change before. Then there was the medical photographer who looked quite shocked when I removed the base place and HME to reveal a raw hole in my neck. The procedure took quite a bit longer than normal due to me having to pose for various shots. Valve in, valve out, dilator in, new valve in, base plate on, base plate on with HME in. Now I know how those Vogue models feel after a shoot. I was due to attend the monthly Lary Club meeting after the valve change, but it was running late and I really needed to get home to do some work.

Whilst we’re away we’re leaving Neville in the capable hands of Max. It will be interesting to see who is the most pleased to see us return, my money is on Neville. As well as the usual #Stalker posts from our trip I’ll be posting updates from Mr Fox No.19 who’ll be joining us. It’s about time he was formally named so we thought that by taking him away for a week, without the distraction of Neville, we’d get a good chance to get to know him and come up with a suitable name. The shortlist at the moment consists of Jimi Hendricks, Gordon Moron, or Pinkman (I’ve been re-watching Breaking Bad), all three have a certain Gin connection and as I’d imagine #Stalker will be trying to drink her own body weight of the stuff before we land back at Gatwick, it might be an appropriate connection. 

Whilst I’m talking about body weight I think I’m going to have to think about looking closely at mine when we get back from holiday. I’m now tipping the scales at 87kg (13.7 stone in old money). This is probably the heaviest I’ve been since my original diagnosis in December 2015. After I’d got the “All clear” in May 2016 I bought a new suit, I had to travel up to London this week on business and putting the suit on this morning involved a bit of breathing in. I’m now up to 34” waist again, and back in my old Levi’s 501s, but perhaps breakfast of porridge, mid-morning snack, lunch of a pie, afternoon snack and then dinner may need to be curtailed unless I’m planning of hitting a 36” waist by July! The trip up to London that coincided with my realisation that I’m getting porkier went ok. I’ve found that in the morning my stoma is a bit on the “fluid” side, so a packed train and tube aren’t that much fun, especially for the poor folk sat next to me. But by mid-morning it’s usually settled down and I managed to go through a four hour meeting without having to clear out, or disappear to the loo for a blow. I was with two colleagues running through a new IT system at our Head Office in Triton Square, near Euston station. Meeting rooms are at a real premium, so we congregated around a table in an area known at The Street, not open to the public, but very busy with fellow employees walking around getting lunch or a coffee. I was doing the majority of the talking as it was my Laptop we were using for the testing. My two colleagues are used to my voice, or lack of it by now, but I was conscious of getting a few strange looks from people sat around us or walking past when I was ranting that the sodding thing was working as it should!! (The IT Test, not my valve for a change!). I was quite surprised that I didn’t get upset about being stared at, but I think that as I was in a professional situation, where I was confident, it didn’t bother me.

The train journey home was fairly painless for a change. Max met me at the station and Nev bounced around the house like a mini Tigger when I got home, apparently he’d been going into my office all day trying to work out where I was.

Neville’s getting on quite well with being a puppy, he’s learning every day and becoming much more of a personality. He’s even stopped chasing Penny the cat around, however she still wants to give him a smack on the nose every time he gets anywhere near her. His lead walking now is pretty good, not pulling too much. It’s just when he’s walking slightly behind me and stops without warning to sniff something. At that point my shoulder exercises are tested to the full. We’re slowly but surely increasing the lengths of his walks, and the variety of places he goes to. I suspect now that the rugby season is over that weekend walks could well be planned around a pub to stop at as a halfway house.

I’ll probably do some sort of blog update once we’re back from holiday, if nothing else there will be #Stalker pics to post. Then I think that the writing may go on the back burner for a while. I was checking out some facts on the blog a couple of days ago. To date it’s had somewhere just shy of 94,000 hits, been read in 32 different countries, and has just under 160,000 words. Not bad for something I thought might last four or five months at the most.

As always, thanks for reading.

To be continued……………?


This is what I’m hoping to be doing for the next few mornings whilst Snorey McSnoreface has her beauty sleep

Friday, 13 April 2018

A Feast of Consequences

Weren't the old adds for cigarettes brilliantly incorrect, read on............. 

It’s been a fairly quiet time since the last real update, I’m not including the interlopers Neville and Penny, who by the way seem to think they should have a regular guest spot, or indeed their own blogs. Hmmm……. We’ll see.

I’ve been ably cared for by the lymphoedema team at the Duchess of Kent Hospice. I’m getting regular work outs with the physio on my shoulder, she’s really happy with the progress I’m making and was very complimentary of the work that Vicky had done on it back in August of last year. Slowly but surely the movement is getting better in the shoulder, but I’ve been advised it’ll be a long journey. Luckily most of the exercises I’ve been given I can do happily at my desk whilst working. The second specialist I’m seeing is for MLD Massage (Manual lymphatic drainage). I get to spend an hour lying down on a couch whilst the lumpy bits in my neck are expertly massaged to attempt to move the build-up of fluid so it can drain properly. Following the removal of around 35 lymph nodes under the knife last year I’ve had solid lumps below my chin, which aren’t painful, but over time they could cause problems. The scars are also being massaged as they are fairly sensitive. I’ve got to say that out of all the treatments I’ve had over the last couple of years, the MLD Massage is one of the best at producing immediate results. Over a fairly short period of time the difference has been amazing, the lumps are shifting, the scars are feeling better and I get to have an hour’s kip whilst it’s being done. The only procedure that I’ve dropped is reflexology. I was recommended to try it as my sleep pattern is still so poor. After three sessions I’d noticed no improvement, in fact I had once of the worst nights sleep in living memory immediately after one of the sessions. Whilst it was quite pleasant having my feet massaged for an hour I can’t really afford the time out for work along with the other treatments where I am seeing a benefit. I had a meeting this week with the person who’s been coordinating my treatments at the hospice, she’s happy that I’m responding positively and the treatments will continue when Carol and I get back from holiday in mid May. All of this is above and beyond the normal NHS treatment and is partly funded by the Sue Ryder charity.

I first came across the Sue Ryder charity when I was working for Lloyds Bank in Bracknell, many, many years ago. They are linked via marriage to the Leonard Cheshire homes. Now to digress for a few lines. Leonard Cheshire VC was a hero of mine. I’ve had a fascination with 617 Squadron since I was about 10 and first read the Paul Brickhill book “The Dambusters” which told the story of the RAF raid on the great Rhur damns during the World War II. That raid was led by Guy Gibson VC and it’s debatable as to the actual success of the raid when you also balance out the aircrew who were lost completing their mission. Gibson didn’t fly with 617 squadron again. Cheshire was instrumental in pioneering the “Master Bomber” role for the squadron when he flew a Mosquito at stupidly low heights to “Mark” the target, relying on the speed of the plane to out run the gunners. He was very much a thinking man and soon after the end of the war he set up the first of his hospices. He had no money, but he had a very strong faith. There’s a story that one day he had a deadline to pay a bill, with no funds in the bank, that morning a cheque arrived from an anonymous donor with enough money to cover the bill and a little bit to tide them over for a few more days. He and his second wife, Sue Ryder, went on to dedicate their lives to charitable work in the care of the terminally ill. He was a man who had his critics and wasn’t what you’d call conservative in his beliefs, but he worked for the betterment of others.

I briefly mentioned that Carol and I are off on holiday again soon. It’s been a whole 5 months since our last sunshine break so we’ve booked a 7 night stay at the Barcelo Hotel in Corralejo. We’ve stayed there a couple of times before and loved it. Our plan is to cycle out to the dunes in the morning, back for a late lunch then Carol can spend time in the hotel spa whilst I do a bit more cycling. As I’m now up to 87kg I reckon I’ll need to do some exercise to counter the meals and drinking my own body weight in gin on a daily basis.

And now for another step back in time……

Let’s look back at 30th December 1978, I was 16. Some of the readers of this blog probably weren’t born, or even thought about. That night I was with my best mate, Rob Day, at a party in Wokingham. Dressed in my best Levi’s, cowboy boots and UFO T-Shirt, I was ready to party like it was 1999, albeit 21 years early. The party was held by Claire Porter who’d persuaded her parents that having a bunch of mates round between Christmas and New Year could only be a good idea. The evening was memorable for three reasons.

1/. As per usual I didn’t pull.

2/. Rob managed to back his mums Austin 1100 into a stationary gate post, giving it a large dent. (the car, not the gate post!).

3/. I smoked my first ever cigarette.

At this point in my life I was a bit of a “Jock”, not the Scottish type, more the sporty type (those at the back who are giggling please stop it, and that means you Parsons!) I played for all the teams at school, was still playing for Berkshire at badminton and considered myself to be a pretty fit young man.  (Parsons, this is your final warning!). Both of my parents had smoked for as long as I could remember, but I’d always said I’d never do it as I knew the nasty consequences of being a long term smoker. I vividly remember the disappointment on the face of the Head of PE at Forest School when he saw me smoking a fag at one of the school discos in the 6th Form. He was a massive anti-smoking person who lectured us on a daily basis as to the long term effects of smoking the evil weed, but we knew better, we were invincible, we’d live forever.

Over the next 35 years I’d have numerous attempts at quitting. When Carol agreed to become the current Mrs C. I said I’d give up, I failed. When the current Mrs C. fell pregnant with Anna and then Max I said I’ve quit, I failed. God knows how much money went up in smoke over those years. I did eventually go to a “Quit Smoking” clinic which seemed to work for around 8 months until a fairly major event caused me to revert back to the drug. The next five years or so were spent saying “Next week I’ll quit”, but “Next week” never seemed to arrive, until that fateful day in December 2015 when the doctor gave me the news that I’d probably be expecting for a number of years.

Since that Thursday afternoon in the ENT Dept. at the Royal Berkshire Hospital I’ve seen consultants, surgeons, CNS specialists, SALT team, radiographers, chemotherapist nurses, anaesthetists, head and neck specialists, nurses who earn sod all but give everything, specialist treatment nurses, GP’s, practise nurses. Not one of them have said, and they could have done, “Mr Clark, you’ve brought this on yourself by being a smoker”, they’ve treated me with the upmost respect and dignity, they haven’t judged me, they haven’t lectured me, they’ve kept me alive.
When I took that first puff of a Silk Cut I wasn’t thinking that 40 years down the line I’d have my voice box cut out because I was being a prat, I knew it wasn’t going to do me any good, but I still had a suck. There is no one else to blame for me getting cancer, I’m the first in my family to be hit be the bastard, so it isn’t hereditary, it isn’t in my genes. I got cancer because I was a smoker, I’m facing the consequences of my actions without blaming others. I’m thankful that the people keeping me alive aren’t judging me, they’re treating me. I’m thankful that we’ve got a “Free at the point of treatment NHS” regardless of its short falls.

In other news, the rugby season is coming to a close in the next few weeks. Rams will finish either 3rd or 4th in their league, their highest ever position. The Mighty Cents, the team that Max is playing for, will also probably finish in 4th place to match this league position of last season. One of the highlights of the season took place last weekend with the Rams Mini Festival. Last year it was played in temperatures in the high 20’s, this year it was a mud bath, but as always there were happy and smiling faces at the end.

Neville is still being a puppy, even though he’s now a couple of nuts short of a Waldorf. He’s signed up for another set of lessons with Tails of Tilehurst to improve on his recall. He’s pretty good now at loose lead walking and is learning to sit and wait pretty well at the curb, but he can be a real pain when it comes to being recalled in the park. He never strays far away, but likes to come back in his own good time when he’s finished sniffing whatever it is that he likes to sniff. I’ve heard it said by various people that “Dogs know things.” Neville seems to sense if I’m not feeling great and will often come and sit next to me quietly for a while, it’s his therapy dog trick. Ok, 20 minutes later he’ll be barking at the cat flap for no apparent reason, but he’s still a puppy and that’s what I need to remember. 
Max is going to look after Neville whilst we’re away, what could possibly go wrong? J
That’s about it for this post, I’m not sure when the next blog will be, probably just before I take the #Stalker away to the sunshine.

As always, thanks for reading.

To be continued………………


Friday, 16 March 2018

The Right To Reply
The Cats Eye View


After passing over my blog to Neville the dog last week I was told in no uncertain terms by a couple of people that Nev had made a scurrilous slur on the Senior Pet in the house, Penny the cat. So it only seemed fair to allow Penny to give her side of the story.

I read Nevilles blog update last week with a combination of anger and disgust, so I’m grateful to my Servants for allowing me the right to reply to the mutt. Let me take you back a while, it was roughly four years ago that the Servants decided to wait on my every whim and to save me from going through life called Tallulah. My new name came after the Servants decided to name me after the first try scorer in a rugby match, it was a Penalty Try, hence the name Penny. It could have be a lot worse Joe Duffellen could have scored, who’d want to go through life being called Duffers?

The first four years or so were pretty good. The Servants didn’t take long to become accustomed to my needs. They learnt that I like my food by 8am in the morning, and 4pm in the afternoon. I also need my “hit” of Cat Treats by 1pm at the latest, otherwise I’ll bring a mouse in and drop it down the male Servants throat hole 😊

The most exciting thing to happen to me was when the sodding Badger attacked me and bit my leg so badly I had to go to the vets, I don’t really like the vets as the tables there are steel and cold on my bottom. As a cat I like to be warm, all the time. Then our next door neighbours took on a Bengal cat called Benji, why anyone would want to take on a mini tiger is beyond me, he’s a vicious sod, we’re not friends.

My life revolved around sleeping, eating, going outside and choosing which Servant I’d sit on in the evening. Then, without warning, or without consulting me, my house began to change. First, the room the Servant 1 used to work in changed, with the introduction of a large torture chamber, and he moved his seating area around, much closer to my door. Then, one Sunday afternoon, just before they were due to put my indoor toilet up for the year (That’s not an indoor toilet, it’s a Christmas tree you chump – Servant 1) they arrived home with a bundle of fur carried in by Servant 2. Ah, I thought, they’ve brought me a present. The “Present” took one look in my direction, barked loudly and made a B Line in my direction, teeth bared. I did think about whacking him around the head with my claws out to show him who’s the boss of the house, but decided I’d let him settle in a bit first, then smack him when he least expected it. I now wish I’d taught him the lesson the first chance I’d got.

I decided that I’d retreat to the warmth of the Servants boudoir for a couple of days and only venture downstairs when I knew the mutt was either in his chamber or being dragged out of the house tied to a rope (Stupid thing probably didn’t know how to get back home by himself, unlike us clever cats).

Things haven’t really settled down that well, however I think I’ve got the best of the deal in that I get to spend all day upstairs on the Seniors Servants bed, then my food is served to me in the Absent Servants room. If I want to go outside I just give a quick knock at the lounge door and a Servant comes to open the front door for me. Once the mutt has been put into his cage for the night I’ve got the run of the house as usual. In fact one of my favourite games to play is to run my paws along the bars of his cage whilst he’s asleep and I’m off out for my nightly patrols. It really winds the mutt up, I can still hear him barking when I’m three gardens away, such fun J

It would seem that the Servants are quite keen on the mutt, they’ve taken it for special lessons on how to behave, which he appears to be ignoring from what I can see, he’s even got his own coats to wear when he’s taken out on his rope, what a WUSS! I’d just tell it to “Man the F**k Up” if I could get close enough. I did wonder if I’d done something to upset the Servants, so being the good cat that I am I’ve decided to start bringing presents in for them the past few nights, they don’t seem too keen on the mice, so perhaps I’ll change to birds once it gets a bit warmer, I’ve seen Snr Servants cooking birds so perhaps they’ll appreciate them more.

I’ve heard that the mutt is off to the “Doggy Dentist” in a couple of weeks for a scrape and polish to his manly bits, and that after this has been done he should perhaps become a bit calmer and not try to shag everything that moves, maybe that’s why he’s chasing me? Anyway, once he’s back and the Cone of Shame is removed we’ll settle down and have a chat one evening whilst he’s in his cage and I’m safely on the other side of the bars. I’ll persuade him that by working together on the Servants / Assistants we can both benefit. I mean what would be more fun than one of us sitting on each of them and refusing to move? I can use my claws as crampons, the mutt can use his bulk J

Until that day arrives, in words from my favourite film ……. “There can be only one” and it won’t be you mutt!!

PS – Thanks to Mike B. for suggesting to the Servants that I should have the right to reply.

Penny – 

Regular readers will be pleased to know that we have no more pets in Clark Acres to hand the blog over to. So normal services should resume in the next few weeks.

It’s been quite a busy week in relation to ongoing treatments. On Monday I spent the morning at Royal Berkshire Hospital being fed barium laced produce whilst standing on an x-ray machine. The purpose of this was to see how my throat reacts when I swallow and to see if there is any reason I’ve been going through valves so quickly. The long and the short is that there’s no real reason that was evident from all the x-rays other than there is a pronounced “Dip” in the area where the valve sits which could be collecting food and drink debris and thus effecting the way the valves operates, other than that everything seemed hunky dory. It was quite fascinating to watch the x-ray film afterwards and to see the way my new throat reacts to the swallow process. Wednesday was my first appointment with the Reflexologist, I’d actually forgotten what I was seeing her for, luckily she reminded me that it was to assist with sleeping, before I had a chance to put my foot in it. I’m quite sceptical about any sort of complimentary medicine but thought I’ve nothing to lose. She explained that after the first session I should sleep well for one night, two nights after the second session etc. It was a very relaxing experience after I’d got over the initial “It tickles” stage and I think I drifted off to sleep at one point. Going to bed that night I was really looking forward to my first full night’s sleep for some considerable time…………..

…………… I woke up at 1am in a considerable amount of discomfort, coughing and struggling to breath. The rest of the night was spent either propped up on pillows or coughing into tissues. It would seem that yet another chest infection has decided to come and visit me. The valve has been leaking slightly over the past week, but not enough to justify having it changed. The onset of the chest infection means I’ll have to have it changed as soon as the SALT Team can see me. The plans for the weekend are now on hold as the forecast is for the Artic blast to come back and visit us. I’m due to take photos of the Reading Half Marathon on Sunday, as a number of the Redingensians Sirens are running on behalf of the RFU Injured Players Foundation, if you’ve the odd £ you’d like to donate then here’s the link - If the weather is as cold as forecast then I don’t think I’ll be out, minus degrees + a chest infection = a good chance of a night in the RBH.

Next week it's back for another session of reflexology, my first visit to the physio and the follow up appointment with the Lymphoedema clinic, as well, hopefully, the replacement of Leaky McLeakface. Looks like I'll be getting my moneys worth from the NHS. 

That’s it for this week, the blog may take a couple of weeks off unless anything exciting happens.

As always, thanks for reading.

To be continued………..


Friday, 9 March 2018

What I did on my holiday – by Neville, aged 5 ¾ month.

Fish, Fur and Feather.

After posting the very sad update regarding Nino earlier in the week I thought I’d pass over the blogging duties to Neville for a change to update you on what he learnt as a puppy during his four days away in Cornwall. So, over to you Nev……

Sunday morning started off as it normally does for me. One of the Assistants gets up after I’ve barked, woofed and generally made noise for 20 minutes or so and lets me out of my bijou sleeping accommodation, also known as my crate. Breakfast followed as normal and then I noticed large bags in the lounge and the cage that is normally in the boot of Octi the Octavia was in the conservatory. Hmmm….. something was afoot, or should that be apaw? Snr Assistant P. was busy loading up Octi’s boot with enough supplies to sink the Bismark (I watch lots of daytime TV) and my nice sheepskin basket was placed on the back seats of Octi, looks like I’m being upgraded from the boot, about bleedy time too! Normally when I’m stuck into the car It’ll be for a short journey to Sulham Woods for a muddy run around, so when I was still in the back of the car after 20 minutes, with no sign of a muddy walk I decided to go to sleep for a while. 90 minutes later the Octi was still powering down a wide road and my puppy bladder was beginning to sing. So I sang too and Snr Assistant P. pulled into some sort of doggy toilet so I could relieve my stretched bladder (Snr Assistant P. would like to point out that he pulled into the Motorway services as he also needed to relieve his bladder and needed to top up his caffeine levels).

Back to the car for me and another 90 minutes or so before the bladder communicated to my throat and Asst. P pulled into another doggy toilet. This one was a step up from the previous place, this time I got to walk around on some grass before being taken into a rather pleasant café type place where the Assistants had yet more caffeine (how do their bladders cope?) and cake, which they refused to share with me. I sniffed the floor and laughed like a drain when a frankly inferior dog tried to bark at me…… I laughed in his face, and then farted in his general direction. I was put back in the car for being a tad rude to my fellow canine and promptly fell asleep again.

The next thing I knew I was being tossed from left to right and to left again as Asst P. seemed to be on some sort of Rally Cross course, little did I know that this was just the average North Cornwall road. We parked up at another doggy toilet, so kind of the Assistants, but instead of going into a nice warm café, they dragged me over a road, onto some soft stuff which they eventually explained was sand, over a hill and I saw for the very first time a beach………………. I’ve decided, at a very early age, that a beach is the BEST THING IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD!!!!! I was allowed to run up and down the beach, chase a ball, ignore a ball, dig holes, drink from salty puddles (Not to be recommended) and run to the watery stuff at the bottom of the beach. What nobody told me was that the watery stuff at the bottom of the beach didn’t stand still and ran back at me, it was cold. The Assistants told me that we were at a place called Porthcothan Bay and that they knew it really well. Snr Asst. P had been visiting the place since he was a ten year old, that’s MANY, MANY, MANY years in doggy years. He brought Jnr Asst. C to the place for Jiggy Jiggy fun before some bloke with a Doggy Collar (?) said they should really do Jiggy Jiggy stuff, and have been coming back with the Very Jnr Asst. M and Absent Jnr Asst. A for lots of years.

Once the Assistants had finally persuaded me to put my lead back on (it’s a great game to run close to them and then dodge away at the last minute) they took me to another “First”. They took me to a “pub” which apparently is quite an important place for the Assistants. I’ve decided that Pubs aren’t as much fun as the beach, NOTHING is as much fun as the beach, but it’s quite a nice place to be. It’s warm it’s dry, it’s full of people who like dogs, and it’s full of people who drink beer, too much beer and then drop food on the floor, which I can then eat. I’d rather they dropped bits of their fillet steak rather than their chilli though, just saying.

It seemed that the Assistants were waiting for someone as they kept looking up when the door to the pub opened. After about 10 minutes the door moved and a dog which looked very similar to me walked in, looking proud and noble. I barked. It turns out that my Assistants had arranged with the other mutts Assistants to meet up over a cooling beverage and that the other mutt was in fact my big half brother, Sidney! We had a rather pleasant ½ hour or so getting to know each other before the Assistants decided it was time to go and explore our home for the holiday. By now I was getting quite used to jumping in and out of the car, but this trip only lasted about 2 minutes before we drew up outside The Linney, home until Wednesday. I was very excited to explore the house, especially when I discovered that there was no door on the stairs, so nothing to stop me haring up and banging my nose against any of the doors that the Assistants were stupid enough to try any hide behind. I especially enjoyed joining Assistant C. when she was trying to have a wee in peace (No idea why she doesn’t just go outside like I do!), the other really good game was to hide underneath the bed, exactly in the middle so that neither Assistant could actually reach me, oh what fun they seemed to have, although some of the language used wasn’t suitable for puppies ears. It really was a nice cottage and I got to sleep in the lounge whilst the Assistants watched the TV instead of being stuck in the office like I am at home.

As it was a strange house I thought it was only fair that I explored the grounds at night, so at 2am I decided it was time the Assistants were up and walking me in the cold rather than wrapped up warm in bed. The sky was full of stars and a very bright moon, but it was flipping cold on the paws, so after a quick wee it was back to my nice warm bed for the rest of the night.

Monday brought yet another new experience for me. Along with the pitter patter of rain against the window I could hear a strange clucking noise……….. Yay!!!! There were chickens running around the garden, I like chickens, especially after they’ve been cooked to perfection my Snr. Assistant P. I was told in no uncertain terms that these chickens wouldn’t enjoy being played with and I was to leave them alone or they wouldn’t produce the lovely eggs the Assistants had enjoyed for breakfast. To compensate for the lack of chicken fun I decided I’d eat sheep poo instead, very tasty and it produces a rather pleasant green poo for my Assistants to pick up! In fact Snr. Assistant P. was heard to comment that he’d have been proud of one of the deposits I produced! The Assistants decided as it was a bit rainy that we’d go into a place called Padstow, that they’d loved for years, for a walk. Another first for me as I’ve never been into a town before. It wasn’t that busy, but there were lots of other dogs around. I’ve decided that I’m not really scared of other dogs now, so long as they’re friendly to me. It seemed that Assistant C. hadn’t really packed her case for wet weather (It’s March, it’s Cornwall, it’s going to rain, even a 5 ¾ month old pup knows that!) So we spent 20 minutes in a shop so she could buy some trousers, socks, thermal top and me a nice new doggy towel! The lady in the shop thought I was lovely, so I gave her an extra special and extra wet lick on her ear so she would remember me. The Assistants needed more coffee and cake, it was a rather wet and probably smelly me who sat at their feet looking adoringly into their eyes whilst they drank. (That last bit is entirely made up, I spent the time sniffing the floor and picking at crumbs).

Luckily the rain stopped in the afternoon so the Assistants agreed to take me back to the beach. It was empty, just me, the two Assistants and loads of sheep trying to throw themselves off the cliffs! We had a wonderful time with the chuckit ball, I even brought it back to Snr. Assistant P. a couple of times, well he is getting on a bit these days. All too soon it was time to go back to the house for my afternoon nap as I had an appointment in the evening that I’d been looking forward to for ages, well for two days, but that is ages in doggy times. After dinner it was back into the car for the 20 minutes or so it took to get to Sidney HQ to finally meet Ed and Vicky properly, and of course to learn the tricks of the trade from my big brother. It was an exciting evening full of chasing, barking, play fighting (well I think Sidney was playing) and a couple of accidents! My excuse is that it was a new house to me, I didn’t know where the back door was and I was very excited! By 9.30 I was dog tired so it was au revoir to Ed, Vicky and Sidney, but we’ll be back. As soon as my paws got into the car I was fast asleep, dreaming of chickens and sheep poo. Snr. Asst P. wasn’t overly impressed when I needed a wee at 2am again, don’t know why, he got to see another wonderful sky.

Tuesday morning was a really beautiful day, so once the Assistants had eaten the chicken eggs again it was back into the car and the short hop back into Padstow where I had yet another first for me, a trip on a boat! I liked the wind in my ears, but I didn’t like the noise the ramp made when it opened and closed. The landing craft dropped us off at Rock, which the Assistants told me is very posh, but to me it just looked like any other beach! I had a great time digging holes, filling them in again, and then digging them again. I really enjoyed it when Snr. Asst. P. was behind me when I started digging, he didn’t seem to mind too much that his shoes and jeans were covered in sand! Another visit to a coffee shop where this time I did actually sit quietly as the Assistants topped up their caffeine levels. It was then back over the river and a final stroll around Padstow. The town was now quite busy as it was a lovely day, and it seemed to me that every Assistant in view had a dog with them, I think there must be a man at the car park who hands out dogs to people who arrive without them, a splendid idea.

I thought we’d be going straight back to the house for a nap, but the Assistants has other ideas. Their stomachs were rumbling (I could hear them from the back seats) so they stopped at yet another pub for lunch. This was a rather posh place, called The Cornish Arms, but I was happy to sit close to the fire by Snr. Asst. P’s feet whilst he fed me disappointingly small pieces of his fried kidneys. Mind you Asst. C. didn’t even give me a crumb from her plate of curried crab L The afternoon was spent dozing on the sofa (for the Assistants) and me dozing in my basket. The Assistants took some time getting changed that evening, so I was really looking forward to a visit to another posh pub, but………………………..

………………….. they locked me in my crate and went out without me………………………. They will pay!

When they got back (much, much, much later!) they explained that some bloke called Rick didn’t want dogs in his restaurant, despite being more famous as Snr. Asst. to the late Chalkie the Jack Russel than as a Chef. So I had to stay at home whilst they enjoyed John Dory (Not sure who he is) and Turbot, apparently I wouldn’t have liked it. I believe I should have been given the chance to make up my own mind. The list of misdemeanours by the Assistants is becoming quite long and will be paid back with interest, dogs have great memories. Now, where was I?

The next morning I was looking forward to more fun and games on the beach, a nice leisurely lunch, followed by a snooze in the basket. Instead my crate was packed up, suitcases appeared and Octi the Octavia was again packed up. We did stop for one final run on the beach and a couple of more stops on the way home so I could use the doggy toilets.

The bloody cat is still living in MY house, thought they’d have got rid of her by now.

So, what have I learnt from my holiday?

Beaches are brilliant!
If I’m good in pubs I may get fed.
Chickens gang up on me.
Sheep poo is probably more tasty than that John Dory chap.
Car trips can be fun.
Boat trips are great.
If Snr. Asst. P. leaves his big camera at home then the photo’s he takes on his phone will be rubbish.
Sidney is the best big brother EVER…………..

Lots of love, Nev. 

Thanks to Neville for writing this week’s update, probably fewer spelling mistakes than normal. It was a cracking few days down in Cornwall to recharge the batteries and to really appreciate the fun and love that owning a dog can bring (Eh, you don’t own me, you’re my Assistants – Nev)  Cornwall, or at least the Padstow / Porthcothan area have got it right as far as dog welcomes goes. We were a bit worried that we’d end up eating fish and chips on the quay, but 90% of the places we went to encouraged dogs, you could always tell where they were welcome, a bowl of water would be outside. You wouldn’t expect high end art galleries of top of the range restaurants to allow dogs in, and indeed I wouldn’t want to risk Nev having a teenage tantrum (I’m not a teenager yet, you wait if you think my current tantrums are bad – Nev) and having to leave an expensive meal uneaten. We needn’t have worried as he was really well behaved everywhere we went (We’ll gloss over the pee and poo incident at Sid’s gaff!). The meal we had at Rick Steins was the second best we’d ever eaten. Carol started with mussels in a black bean sauce and followed up with a wonderful John Dory dish. I has sashimi of fish with the hottest wasabi I’ve ever eaten, followed by turbot, which was sublime. It’s not cheap, but you know that when you book. It was a cold night in March, the place was probably 90% full. (If you’d taken me with you it would have been 92% full, just saying…………….. Nev) Our waiter knew his stuff, when I asked specifically for an Italian Red to go with our dishes and to drink a toast to Nino,  he came up with a blinding choice that didn’t break the bank.

It wouldn’t be a #S2S update unless I briefly mentioned the Big C. On Thursday I had my monthly check up at the hospital. I got to see Susan the SALT first as the valve had leaked a bit whilst we were away in Cornwall. She and I both agreed that as it now seemed to be behaving itself we’d let sleeping dogs lie (Oi, when I’m asleep I still have one eye open in case you open the cheese box! – Nev). We ended up just having a bit of a chat about how I was coping and what I’d been up to. I mentioned we’d been down to Padstow and it transpired that Susan spent her honeymoon there and ate at Rick’s too. She now takes her two Weimaraner’s down to Cornwall whenever she can. Surprisingly enough she’d never heard of a Kromi but once she was shown a photo of Nev being a poser the obligatory “Oh he’s sooooo cute” comment followed. (Will you please tell people that I’m not cute, I’m handsome, there’s a big difference – Nev)  I’ll be seeing Susan again on Monday as I’m having a swallow test done to see if there’s any reason why the valves don’t last as long as they should.

After a brief wait I was called in to see, the one, the only, the original, the brilliant SCARY. I hadn’t seen Scary since being diagnosed again with cancer, she was so apologetic that the RT and Chemo hadn’t worked as she’d originally hoped it would, as it was her fault. It was really good to see her again, as I felt happy to discuss my fears for the future with her in an open manner, much more so that with the other Oncologists I’ve seen of late. She was really pleased with my progress, my weight is continuing to go up and apparently I’m looking really healthy J She was happy to put me onto two monthly referrals from now on, another step on the 5 Year Pathway. We discussed the various treatments I’m having or will be having in the next couple of weeks. Next week I’ve got my first appointment with the physio to try and sort my shoulder out, she felt that was a really positive move. The week after I’m seeing the Reflexologist, and I can’t actually remember why. Scary said to treat it as a nice foot massage, nothing more, nothing less. I’m guessing that a highly qualified Oncologist hasn’t much time for what used to be call Alternative Medicine. I’ll go in with an open mind and clean feet.

I left feeling as positive as I have for some time.

As always, thanks for reading.

To be continued…………….


& then it was over, we said our farewells Our week on Fuerteventura is now becoming a distant memory and the tan is fading ...