Friday Flash Fiction 360 – Ether Mail

I can’t believe I’ve been dead this long, not that I know how long it’s been, that’s the trouble with eternity; it just seems a long time as I’m still waiting to register. Not sure if you will get this ether mail, I haven’t grasped the technology yet. I would not have promised to keep in touch if I knew how difficult it was going to be.

 I can understand why they are so busy, more people than ever to process, what with the population on the earth plane increasing exponentially. Haven’t seen anyone I know yet, I was a bit miffed there was nobody to meet me, perhaps that’s why it took me a while to realise I was dead, which also explains why I am only just getting in touch.

Nobody else knows what’s going on either, lot of milling around, I gather the trauma cases get dealt with first which is fair enough. Can’t actually remember what I did die of, so can’t have been anything violent. When I say I haven’t seen anyone I know, I am not sure what they will look like. I can’t see what I look like, no mirrors. Hard to describe what people look like this side. Those we see in pairs or groups must have come over together, we’re all newbies, so not likely to meet friends and family till after we’ve registered. Right old mix we are too, from all over the earth plane; obviously only one portal. That makes us all equal, thought that would please you and language is no barrier as there is no language, just thought reading, a real babble, lucky we don’t feel pain as it would give me a right headache, interesting though.

Have to finish off now, looks like something is happening. Not sure what else to say… how are you, what you been doing, I can’t seem to remember what you did like doing. In fact I’m finding it hard to remember what you looked like let alone what our hou… ho.. what was the word? Where did we li.. where did I l…

The Only Blog you will ever need to read about the Brain

I recently had a revelation which will simplify our understanding of the human brain. Reading about yet another celebrity relieved to get a diagnosis of autism in their fifties, or to discover they are on a spectrum of some sort, they report that this explained why they always felt different. But aren’t we all different? Whether you are a psychiatrist or a brain surgeon, nobody understands how the brain works, how that grey jelly holds a universe of knowledge and creativity…

‘A synapse is a structure that permits a neuron (or nerve cell) to pass an electrical or chemical signal to another neuron or to the target effector cell. Synapses are essential to the transmission of nervous impulses from one neuron to another.’ 

So where does that electricity come from, how did it get into your brain, charged up by your mother’s solar powered battery when you were in the womb?

Enough of scientific talk. The only term you need to know is neuro diverse, it covers everything. The human brain is so amazing it would be strange if it didn’t work in many diverse ways, no one is wrong, just different.

Most of us are not as clever as we think we are. We know that humans are super intelligent because we build cities and space stations and create sublime art and music. Alas, most of us could not even build a garden shed or write a knitting pattern ( the original binary system ) let alone create a computer. But we still have the capacity to find our way round a big city or experience the joys of culture.

When experts are inventing new syndromes they are more interested in our interactions with each other and our talents only come into the equation when everyone assumes autistic people must be brilliant at ‘Something’.

A person who identifies as autistic may feel unable to cope with parties or too much stimulus of noise or lights, but have a wonderfully heightened awareness of music or nature that passes others by. Of course we will never know because we don’t know what others see, hear or feel and if we are experiencing the same sensations. We don’t even know what is mind and what is brain and what is ‘mental health’. I cringe when I hear people say ‘Then I had to leave work because I had mental health.’   Noo , if you had mental health you would be fine…

 If you are in the fortunate position of understanding your own mind and everyone else’s, let us know. In the meantime the rest of us have a good standby to cover work and social life.

‘I’m Neuro Diverse.’

‘Oh, so sorry, we’ll move your office desk to a different position and give you a bigger computer screen.’

 ‘You must come to our special quiet screening of the film.’

‘Would you like someone to accompany you to your hospital appointment?’

For plenty of neuro diversity, why not read one of my books?

Tuesday Tale – Questioning

Emelda Forsyte had little experience of hospitals until her diagnosis, so she looked upon her first chemotherapy session as an ideal opportunity for research for her next novel. Her diagnosis was treatable and curable, positive and hopeful, but she would give her heroine, Jolie Jansen, a very likely terminal prognosis. It would add a cutting edge to the fifteenth book in the series.

Jolie had not been nervous about her first chemotherapy session until the lady in the reclining chair opposite died.

‘Good morning.’ A nurse’s voice startled her out of the opening chapter forming in her head. What did that nurse say her name was? They all looked the same in their uniforms and masks.

‘Name and date of birth please.’

‘Emelda Forsyte, 5th July 1964.’

Even with a mask on the nurse looked very puzzled.

‘Oh sorry , I must have the wrong patient. I have you down as Jane Brown.’

‘No, I apologise, Emelda Forsyte is my nom de plume.

The nurse looked even more confused.

‘I’m a writer, you know, my private detective novels, Jolie Janson, third series on ITV Sunday Drama set in the wilds of Bedfordshire.’

The top half of the nurse’s face still looked blank.

‘Ah, I’m not into all that crime stuff… so you are Jane Brown and your date of birth is?’

Emelda looked at the patients in the other three bays to check if they might be listening in, no doubt they were if they had heard there was a famous author on the ward. She removed her mask and mouthed something.

‘Sorry, I didn’t hear.’

‘10th May 1949’ Emelda whispered.

Emelda watched carefully as a needle was inserted into her hand, more than the slight prick she was told to expect, but hey, Jolie would not flinch, that was nothing compared to the injuries she had experienced. At least the blood being drawn out looked a good colour.

‘I suppose even those tiny phials of blood would be enough to clone me’ Emelda joked.

‘Oh no, they just go to the lab for testing, make sure you are well.’

‘Hmm, but if someone stole them from the lab I could be cloned.’

The nurse chose not to hear and slipped away.

In a short while she reappeared with a bag for the drip and another nurse who asked her name and date of birth.

‘I already answered that.’

‘We double check each time, just making sure the right patient is getting the right drug. This has just come up from the pharmacy with your name and details on it.’

‘That is reassuring, but have you ever had a rogue pharmacist, I mean there could be a fatal dose or a deadly poison in that bag.’

The two nurses exchanged glances.

‘Now dear, it’s quite natural to be nervous your first time, but you are in very safe hands, no need to worry.’

I am not nervous, just thinking about research for my next novel.

‘Okay so let’s go through the prescriptions you have to take home. Now these injections must go in the fridge and on Friday the district nurse will start coming round to give you one injection each day.’

‘District nurses, do they still have them, she won’t be in uniform will she?’

‘Could be a he and they will be in uniform and PPE, you will be perfectly safe.’

All Emelda was worried about was the neighbours seeing, district nurses were what old people had visiting them. Hopefully they would have to park round the corner and not draw any attention. Then she had an idea.

‘How would I know they were real, could be an assassin in disguise with a lethal injection, like that chap who pretended to be doing Covid vaccinations.’

‘Just ring your surgery if you have any worries…’

Emelda examined the contents of the paper bag from the pharmacy and withdrew a box of tablets to read the instructions.

‘Read the leaflet inside carefully when you get home, you must take those tablets as instructed.’

‘So what would happen if you made a mistake, or your husband or daughter were in charge and intentionally gave you too many… or perhaps a wife might look at her husband lying in a drunken stupor and stick all those needles in him at once.’

‘Any mistakes and you must ring the hot line straight away or even dial 999. Who is at home with you?’

‘Oh I live alone, ditched Mr. Brown years ago and became Emelda Forsyte.

‘I am sure you will manage your tablets fine, just remember to lock all your medication out of reach of you have grandchildren visiting.’

‘None of those thank God, humans under the age of twelve are to be avoided at all costs.’

Emelda was glad to be up and feeling fine, calling for a taxi and bidding farewell to the nurses who looked relieved to see her leaving.

‘Now take it easy and be prepared for the effects to kick in tomorrow.’

‘Oh I shall be fine, see you all in three weeks’ time.’

Before Emelda arrived back at the main entrance she was surprised to be stopped by a man in a suit who quickly produced a warrant card.

‘Mrs. Jane Brown?’

‘You would probably know me better as Emelda Forsyte, crime writer, is that why you stopped me?’

‘Never heard of her, I am only interested in Jane Brown; security gave us a call, your nurse rang the patient alert hot line about some inappropriate conversations and questions. Can you confirm you have just had a session of chemotherapy?’

‘Yes, it went very well, lovely staff, I don’t understand what you are saying.’

‘Hospitals have to be very careful that medication is not taken away to be misused, if we could go somewhere private to have a little discussion?’

‘No, you misunderstand, I was merely doing research, anyway I must go, taxi arriving any minute.’

‘I could invite you to come to the police station to help with our enquiries.’

For a moment Emelda was most offended, more because he had not recognised her as a famous crime writer than that he might think her a criminal. But this could be a research opportunity. Jolie Janson had more than her fair share of run ins with Bedfordshire Police, but Emelda had never actually been inside a police station…

Gaia Has Chemotherapy

As COP 26 draws to a close, or not ( at the time of typing it officially closed yesterday, but they are still talking ) we wonder what treatment Gaia will undergo next, another round of chemotherapy?

With my fourth round of chemo, a different drug with different side effects, it dawned on me how much chemotherapy patients have in common with Gaia. Like us she is infused with poisons and chemicals that go against her normal healthy, natural lifestyle. One bizarre effect was my face and backs of my hands looking and feeling sunburnt, symbolic of the raging wildfires that Gaia suffers.

Chemotherapy kills fast growing cells, healthy ones as well as cancerous. A sore mouth is proof how efficient your body normally is at keeping the delicate lining of your mouth healthy. We regularly assault our mouth with crunchy toast, sharp potato chips, barbequed ribs, hot spices and throat searing whisky. It is amazing how quickly your mouth returns to normal in the week before the next round of chemotherapy. If we stopped Gaia’s chemo, how quickly would her healthy cells return to normal?

When I had my phone consultation with the oncologist he said ‘How are you?’ and I replied that I had a list… He decided I should have a 25% reduction for my final two rounds, not because all food tastes disgusting and my hands look like a zombie movie, but because of peripheral neuropathy in my hands. Lots of conditions can cause this tingling, pain and numbness, but so can chemotherapy drugs, sometimes permanently. I wonder if COP26 will result in an agreement to a 25% reduction in Gaia’s chemotherapy dose?

 What I have learnt so far.

 Losing your hair is nothing, losing your normal taste is far worse. If we are lucky enough to have food to eat it is a civilised pleasure and one of the Covid Comforts.

No one would know I have lost my sense of taste…

For the normally healthy person Chemo is a little insight into the world of chronic health conditions. Fatigue in long Covid, loss of taste in lots of Covid cases, the wrecking of the immune system that the early AIDs patients suffered and the nerve damage suffered by conditions such as multiple sclerosis.

You can have Ibuprofen and paracetamol at the same time! But not if your doctor has told you Not to have Ibuprofen.

Baby toothpaste is excellent if you have a sore mouth.

Pamper parties on Zoom are a real thing. The hostess sends a box of tiny sample tubs and you only have to provide a bowl of warm water. We all tried each sample out together and with the hostess not actually being present there is no pressure to buy. Having wondered what I should wear and which Hannah Bandanna scarf to choose, it turned out we didn’t need to dress up for this party; a couple of sisters were lounging, tucked up under their throws as many of us do for a cosy night in with the television. It occurred to me that some people in Covid isolation might join in the party just for the company with no intention of buying. The lotions and potions were lovely.. and expensive, but I had already had some as a birthday present so I knew they were good. As soon as my face started cracking up I was on line ordering my organic repair kit.

May not be accurate representation of a Covid vaccination…

I am lucky my doctors’ surgery is one of the local centres for vaccination. I queued up with lots of others one Saturday for our flu vaccine, everyone semi dressed with arm ready, in the front door and out the back door in seconds. In the meantime The Bournemouth East collective Collaborative Primary Care Network ( who makes these names up? ), which I didn’t know existed, took all calls about Covid jabs and were very helpful as I had to have the jab in Week 3 when my immunity was back on track. On Wednesday evening there was no queue and we all went in the back door of the surgery and came out the front door. It was very quick, until we realised we had to spend fifteen minutes sitting in the waiting room afterwards, hence the reversal of doors. Our exit time was written at the top of our leaflet on possible side effects and a volunteer stated the time every five minutes, no chance of an early escape! Everybody is having Pfizer and the jab is the same whether it’s a booster or primary 3 for anyone on chemo or immunocompromised – another new term most of us have learnt during Covid –  we get a booster in six months. The volunteer asked us if we would like a sticker, I was the only one to accept. One lady was adamant that the minute sticker could provoke Antivaxers, as if there were hordes of Antivaxers protesting outside…  

Funnily enough I had no side effects at all from the vaccine. I know plenty of people do, but they are happy to put up with it because Covid is not going away. DO get your vaccine or booster, or whatever you are due for.

If you enjoy medical mysteries you will find plenty in this novel. Enjoy some winter escapism… have a peep inside.

Hot Line

When we had our beginners’ chemotherapy group chat I was sure I would not be calling the Hot Line, despite the long list of reasons we were given for calling it. I don’t like making phone calls or bothering people. First reason is if your temperature is above 37.5 degrees Celsius ( 99.5 Fahrenheit ) or below 36. A high temperature may be sign of an infection and if you have just had your immunity zapped this can lead to the frightening sounding Neutropenic Sepsis. My expensive Boots thermometer handily beeps once for normal range, three times for 37.5 or over and goes berserk if you hit 38 degrees.

The first time I rang the hot line, early on a Sunday evening, the nurse asked me lots of questions and I answered No to all of them. I thought I had got away with it, then she said I’ll just chat to the doctor and call you back.’

She rang back and said ‘Come straight to Accident and Emergency and bring an overnight bag. Our team are on till eight o’clock and we’ll meet you there to do emergency blood tests.’

WHAT, I was getting a whole team to myself?

She soon rang back to tell me to come straight to the oncology ward. My son had been about to serve up dinner…

Blood tests are to check for infection and you have to wait for results. An injection of antibiotics straight away, just in case and a thorough check up with the doctor who said I looked well. Because it was only seven days since my chemotherapy and week two is when your immunity is at its worst, they had decided to call me in. If there is an infection it means an overnight stay on an antibiotics drip. Yes you guessed, my blood tests were all fine. I asked how often I should take my temperature, they said once a day was fine.

I kept an overnight bag ready after that and it wasn’t long before I had to call again when my temperature was 38degrees. ‘Can someone bring you in?’

I looked out of the window and the road was completely deserted. Neighbours and friends are always saying  ‘Don’t forget if you need any help, lifts etc’ but of course you don’t actually know what everyone is doing on the spur of the moment… working from home, but probably doing a conference call to New York… It occurred to me that I could just call a taxi (memories of elderly relatives saying ‘oh yes, our taxis are very good’ ).

They are very good, even though a robot answered. It knew my address, creepy, I have only used them a few times ever. We soon established where I was going, the fare and then the robot said it would be there in four minutes – the taxi not the robot. Frantic dash to lock up the house and get ready.  Perhaps the fact that there are always several of the company taxis parked up in a quiet road round the corner helped.

This time I had missed my lunch, but I did get a sandwich, luckily as I was there all afternoon. Fortunately the bloods were fine again and all that was left to do was a urine sample, with complicated instructions involving a bowl and a cardboard bed pan in the spacious disabled toilet I was sharing with two men in our bay. But I was getting off lightly as I heard a nurse saying to a chap in the corridor ‘Wee in the bowl and the poo goes in the paper bag.’

I was relieved to be going home, especially as I had forgotten to put my Kindle or any book in my overnight bag, that would have been a nightmare. It was now 5.30pm, a call for a taxi produced a message saying there was a forty five minute delay, so as I was feeling fine and they said I was fine I just crossed the road to the bus stop.

My third call to the hot line was for a tender spot on my upper chemotherapy arm and I asked if it could be blood clot, the nurse said it was just a bit of inflammation. I should have rung back again sooner, but several days later I spent the afternoon at the hospital. I was in a bay with three other ladies, the eldest of whom looked very grumpy. Blood was taken, but when the doctor came she was sure it was a blood clot, not an infection and I needed an ultrasound, but she couldn’t book me in till 8am tomorrow.

Luckily, after a while there was a flurry of activity and a nurse came to gather several of us to go down to ultrasound. Grumpy Lady suddenly piped up and said ‘I’ve been waiting seven hours for my kidney scan.’ No wonder she had looked so miserable.

It was a peripheral blood clot, not serious like deep vein thrombosis. Back on the ward I had the first of two months of blood thinning injections. I administered it myself to prove I would be able to do them at home. As I was getting ready to go a nurse came to Grumpy Lady and told her she was ready to take her down to the ward. She looked surprised as no one had told her she was staying in overnight.

Friday Flash Fiction – Glue

She had done it, she really had done it, no one believed she would, but here she was on her first climate protest and she was the first of the group to turn up. It had been easier than expected, hardly any traffic and the few vehicles that passed had taken no notice of her. Come to think of it, it had ben a while since any vehicles passed, it should be getting busy by now and none of the others had turned up. She shifted awkwardly, having both hands glued to the motorway was not conducive to comfort. As she eased her hips a few degrees her phone slipped out of her pocket. On the screen the opening words of a message lit up…

Just to confirm you have all heard about massive pile up on M25, Junctions 24-26 closed to all traffic, protest to take place at J29, don’t forg…

Monday Funday

Just because your relatives are cabbages does not mean you can’t be beautiful.

For the second summer in a row I haven’t been far afield so I have taken endless pictures of flowers and tried a few new things like the mini wildflower meadow thanks to free packets of seeds from 38degrees and buzzy bee charities… and not mowing part of the ‘lawn’.

But every time we had a rainy spell it was mushrooms that grew or were they toadstools or fungii…

But flowers are still popping up in the meadow.

The tomatoes were a great success, both of them.

Mr. Nosey Potato got left behind at my house then there was another lockdown so I planted him in a pot…

But someone didn’t want to eat Mr. Nosey’s children.

This was my best shot of the Bournemouth Air Festival – I missed the wing walkers flying over the back garden and a Red Arrow flying over the roof…

When Christmas was cancelled I left the Chreasterbirthdaymas tree in the front garden and tied a ribbon on for each day of lockdown. This month it is a Breastmas tree as October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.

This is the newest garden development Chez Tidalscribe, a wheelie bin store with deluxe plant shelf and self filling watering can. Thanks to Strobe Interiors. And it’s that time of year when gardeners can cheat and buy lots of cyclamen at the greengrocers ( and just about everywhere ) for instant colour.

(11) Strobe Interiors | Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/Strobeinteriors/

For genuine gardeners here are some more floralia.

Friday Flash Fiction 650 – Life Sentence

Hanging’s too good for him, that’s what my grandfather would have said.

‘Have you had enough time to think?’

I blinked and tried to focus on my latest family liaison officer, ‘call me Nessa’. I had already lost two, one to Covid and one to stress, not surprising, talk about a poisoned chalice. Time to think, I had done nothing but think. But decisions? All decisions had been taken from me that night, our lives reduced to forensically sealed bags.

‘I have to ask you this again, I must be sure you understand, you cannot tell anyone where you are going, you cannot contact anyone at all. One slip and someone will find you, not her family, but some low life… We can inform your family that you are fi… okay.’

As if I would want to contact anybody, even if I did have the means. I don’t know where I am, let alone where I am going, though the ends of the earth would not be far enough.

‘Just please tell me Nessa, did he have any message for me? Are you keeping it from me, did anyone hear him say anything?’

‘I’m sorry, he would not open your letter and he had no message for you or the children or any family…’

There wasn’t anything in that letter, no hate or anger, just one word, I almost felt like writing it in blood, WHY? I know what you are thinking, I must have known. I used to think that about the wives of murderers. We were a normal family, not perfect, he wasn’t around much, but we did things together when he was here; the kids miss him and their toys and our home, keep asking. There was his shift work, overtime and going out with his mates, I knew when I married him he needed his own space, to chill out. On the computer at night if he was home, everyone’s husband does that, don’t want to watch soaps on television with their wives, do their hobbies, photography, plan the next holiday, order DIY stuff from Amazon, do the Tesco order.  Okay so occasionally I felt, wondered… but liven up your marriage, nothing wrong with fantasies those on line articles say. I dismissed those thoughts, must be me, just imagining those occasional looks from his colleagues on the rare occasions he took me to a Work Do. And I thought if there was anything they would know, his work colleagues, his superiors. A couple of times there was some sort of trouble at work but nothing came of it.

‘Why didn’t you lot confront him, you had the most evil man in the country serving as a police officer and you did not confront him. Don’t worry, you can’t feel as guilty as me, but I will not bear it alone.’

At least Nessa did me the service of not trying to answer. What I do have to bear alone is giving birth to Satan’s spawn. I have even been tempted to smother them in their sleep.

 An adventure, we’re going to pretend to be a different family and I have reached a decision; I will choose a country that does not have English as its first language, rural life out in the provinces, hopefully few will speak English.  If the children forget and start chatting about the past no one will understand them. They are young and they will forget, we will learn a new language together, refugees do that all the time. Other families must have done this before me, I’m not the only murderer’s wife. But no amount of pretence can change their evil DNA.

Nessa’s speaking ‘What have you told the children?’

We’re going on a big adventure to a new country safe from Covid. Yes I know, pathetic, but what would you have told them if you were in my place?