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.

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.

In The Yellow Zone

The group chat on chemotherapy for beginners I saw as a last chance to be out and about. I had been to a similar thing with Cyberspouse in autumn 2018. In those pre Covid times we all sat round a big table in a small classroom and it was a very jolly affair, with our English compulsion to make jokes in medical situations. Most people brought their spouses and there was tea and cake in the middle. This time we were in a church centre opposite the hospital in a large hall with spaced out chairs in rows. Everyone was heading for the back rows so I thought I would be helpful and choose the second row. A mistake as I couldn’t see everybody else properly. We were all given a home work pack and a cup of tea.

All you need to know from this chat is that chemotherapy kills fast growing cells, if it killed all cells we would be dead presumably. Fast growing cells include not only malignant ones, but those we need, such as white and red blood cells, also those we like such as our hair. All chemotherapy is different, a variety of chemicals depending on which part of you they are targeting and every patient can react differently.  What is for certain is we all lose our immunity and get fatigue, a variety of available drugs and vast medical experience should prevent nausea and vomiting these days. The Big message was Ring the Hot Line, the number on the Red Card, the number written on every piece of paper and leaflet issued. Any symptom that you normally ignore Ring the hotline from toothache to temperature.

That done I walked down to the shopping centre in the sunshine and headed for Beales’ department store, ironically still open, though its flagship store in Bournemouth closed down even before Covid. The new very bright café upstairs is quite spaced out and quiet, people are still asked to wear masks in shops, even though Boris says we don’t have to and I did not want to catch anything before my Covid test in a few days.  The top floor had turned into a clearance section and I bought a few little things plus my fabulous bargain of lined curtains, intended for interior decors, but ideal for my beach hut… once I have made a very big hem. Curtains are actually very heavy and I had to ask for a carrier bag which fortunately was environmentally friendly and edible.  The bus driver said how nice it was to see a Beales’ bag again. I felt like I had had quite an exciting day!

Isolating or not isolating for chemo in covid times is still rather vague, urged to be very careful, but told to carry on with normal life as much as possible. Friday saw me back at the hospital for a Covid test; this time I went straight home. Saturday night I cooked a roast chicken for the four of us, my daughter had a long weekend pass and Sunday we walked to the beach hut and went swimming. At this point I was feeling very fit, I have been walking more than five kilometres and doing loads of gardening…

Monday was chemo day at the cancer centre in the Yellow Zone of the hospital. My daughter took me. In pre covid days you could bring a friend for company. Now no extras set foot past the front desk. Having been told I would be there for four or five hours on the first visit and to bring things to do and lots of layers to keep warm with the cold cap, I was the only patient there with a large overnight bag. Our little ward had four reclining chairs and one young woman had a cold cap on, looking like something out of a brain transfer in a science fiction film. I asked if it was her first time and she said no and you get used to it.

As I had to have an anti nausea tablet which takes one hour to work, but lasts for five days, it seemed worth filling in the waiting time by at least trying the cold cap, which has to start forty five minutes before chemo. First your hair is sprayed with water, then a rubber cap on, then the metal helmet which must be tight fitting. Cotton pads are put on your forehead to stop it rubbing, but the water and pads made me think of the electric chair… The weight was probably worse than the cold in giving a bit of a headache, it turned out I could have brought my own paracetamol. You are allowed to stop if you don’t like it…

I was the only new person, one old / older lady said she enjoyed the day out and we had all chosen a hot lunch from the menu. My chemo actually only took seven minutes for red stuff in a syringe into the canula and then a drip for twenty minutes, but followed by another ninety minutes of cold cap. I was allowed to go straight away; three hours and ten minutes and I had only looked at my newspaper and phone, puzzle books and kindle untouched.

Back home I thought I would recline on the sofa with a cup of coffee and heard my daughter on the phone telling her brother and husband I was asleep on the sofa, no I wasn’t… later on I thought I would get up and get the washing off the line and water the garden, but I only took one thing off the line and felt wobbly…

In the days that followed I had seven daily injections given by the district nurse, these boost your white blood cell production. On the first visit she took my temperature and it was too high, so I did have to phone the hot line; fortunately it was borderline and I had no symptoms, so I was told to keep checking my temperature. In the following days I did virtually nothing and my mouth got more sore, another side effect, but I was still eating. So this was the famous fatigue; just like when you feel wobbly recovering after an illness only more so, wondering if you will ever leave the house again or how you could possibly have thought it would be easy to post blogs while you were stuck at home. This is just a tiny insight into what it must be like for people with long term chronic conditions and those who now have Long Covid. Apart from that there was nothing else to complain about and low and behold I was back pottering in the garden on Friday and walked round the block this morning. Tomorrow, two weeks after chemo,  is a visit to oncology outpatients to see the nurse, then Friday will be another Covid test and blood test to see if I’m ready for the next round…

Silly Saturday- About and Out

So you are allowed to venture to more places now, as long as you have booked in advance, taken six negative Covid tests, have a vaccination certificate and don’t mind queuing. To save stress why not visit places and attractions nobody else will want to visit?

Your friendly local.
Boat trips
Buckingham Palace – the cheap replica.
Orient Express – economy size.
Forgotten art gallery.
One star hotel
Two star hotel
Family hotel
Economy sized great cathedral.
Plastichenge
Marina
A rural hideaway full of charm.

Enjoy your weekend.

Unfolding the Roadmap

Monday marked the penultimate stage on the English roadmap out of Covid and like the real paper road maps of old, there are lots of creases and you can’t read the parts where the folds are. Most of us are convinced the roadmap will be folded up again, but in the meantime…

I didn’t go anywhere exciting on Monday as I had a hospital appointment, but there was the hope of rounding it off with a treat. The hospital destination was the furthest away in our conurbation, but the easiest to get to. The journey encompasses almost the whole of the bus route and takes an hour, but stops right outside the hospital. Every seat has a phone charger so I could catch up with blogs and emails – if anyone reads any strange comments from me that is because it’s not easy tapping on a phone jolting along. I had a pocket full of coins as it was too early to use my bus pass – easily accessible coat pocket as I didn’t want to be fumbling around in my purse and exasperating the driver. I still exasperated him as he could not hear what I was saying with my mask on and behind his plexiglass screen. When he did grasp my destination I could not hear how much he said with his mask on.

The hospital is built halfway up a hill, a delight for hospital architects whose main aim is to make it impossible for anyone to find their way around. They now have different colour routes, plus instructions on your hospital letters. I had been this way before so no problem, upstairs, follow purple route, out the back door and down a long ramp then off to a totally separate building. When I was in the waiting room a lady came to the reception desk and said ‘I am completely lost, I can’t find the car park. ‘ She was advised to ‘go back upstairs to the Ladybird Suite and start all over again.’ After my appointment was finished the receptionist asked if I could find my way back. I smugly assured her I could as I had done it before, forgetting that last time I mysteriously ended up at the north entrance, which fortunately came back out onto the main road. This time I was aiming for Costa Coffee near the main entrance, but I did not pass any familiar landmarks such as shops, glass dome, information desk. Luckily a person pushing a trolley asked if I was lost and directed me to the nearest stairs. Of course, if you go upstairs on the outward route it helps to go down on the return route. At last I reached my destination.

Not an accurate representation of Costa.

I am not a Costa addict, preferring to visit independent places and I don’t like takeaway cups, but even though the coffee was lukewarm by the time I had checked in with my NHS app and realised you had to ask for sugar, it tasted wonderful. At last I was actually sitting inside on the first day coffee shops and cafes were open properly again. I nearly forgot to take my mask off, that felt strange and I exchanged remarks with the lady at the next table at how excited we were to be in a coffee shop.

Silly Saturday- Out and About

Monday is England’s next step on the ‘roadmap’ to normality. Wherever you are you may be closing down or opening up or more likely your leaders are doing another u-turn. Normality is a long way off and though you might read messages on line from your favourite places – ‘Welcome Back’ – do they really mean it? Here are some nice places you probably won’t be able to go to…

London

Bridges open, but one way only, bad luck if you’re on the wrong side of the river.

Dreamland.

Dreaming about eating out? Stick to dreamland, everywhere else is fully booked.

Bournemouth

Must have beach app on phone to check if you are allowed to visit.

Portland Bill

Lighthouses – good for social distancing, but only one visitor at a time.

The Moon

Someone else got their first, closed until further notice.

Cruise Ships

Cruises currently limited to passengers who have been vaccinated and are good at rowing.

Portmeirion

Wales, different rules to England, you may not be allowed to cross the border.

Salisbury Cathedral

Cathedrals are always interesting to visit, but this may be as near as you can get. Enter only if you are fully masked and have had a negative Covid test.

Air museums

Museums are popular outings, especially if it’s raining, but book in advance for your thirty minute slot, book separately in advance for a cafe fifteen minute slot.

Iona

Scottish holy island – ferry only goes once a day. Scotland has different rules to England and Wales so you may not be allowed across the border… what a shame, you would really have loved Iona…

Kingston Lacey

National Trust houses always popular for an outing; they are opening up again – of course you have to book in advance and once inside will have to walk round in single file, one way only, no stopping or turning back…

A Big Country House

Chances of getting inside here for a look round? Very unlikely…. unless you live there.


Where will you go for your next outing?

Silly Saturday – May Mayhem

Happy May Day
The day when anything can happen.

Or maybe you will just go shopping.

Or eat out…. which for most of us means eat outside…

Cross a few bridges and see where you end up…
At the end of the line?
Or down a deep hole?
May Day bank holiday is sure to bring sunny weather.
holiday resorts will be expecting large numbers of day trippers or maybe Large Daytrippers.
So however you get there take care on your journey.
This is Frightened Freddy – don’t be like Frightened Freddy – take care on the road.

Sunday Short Story – Quarantine

When Lynne arrived at her bubble friend’s house for their morning coffee she was surprised to find Eleanor in a state of agitation.

Are you okay, the effects of the second jab?’

‘Yes, no… let me get the coffee and I’ll tell you my news.’

Lynne could not imagine what the news could be, not much happened in Covid times and certainly nothing to put her friend in such a state, but there was something different about the house. The usual vase of cut flowers on the hall stand had disappeared and so had the orchid on the window sill. As she followed Eleanor into the kitchen she was puzzled to see the cupboard door handles tied together with stout string.

‘Go and sit down Lynne, I’m just trying to remember where I put the coffee.’

Okay, I brought that jigsaw, I’ll put it on the dining room table.’

There was a strange crackling underfoot as Lynne walked into the dining room and she realised she was walking on plastic sheeting that covered the carpet. Eleanor hadn’t mentioned that she was going to have decorators in. The exquisite mahogany dining table, recently inherited from an aunt, was covered in a heavy duty plastic tablecloth, perhaps her friend was planning to do some messy crafts.

When Lynne moved into the usually elegant front room her confusion increased; it now seemed most likely her friend had been burgled. The fireplace looked bare, gone was the antique urn with its arrangement of dried flowers and the crystal vase Lynne had given her for Christmas was no longer on the windowsill. She glanced around the room and took in a bizarre scene. The glass cabinet had a heavy quilt secured round it and the occasional tables all had wodges of foam taped to their corners. The three piece suite was covered in throws that looked like they had come from Wilkos rather than John Lewis and there was no sign of the embroidered cushions.

Eleanor walked in with two scruffy looking mugs.

‘Sorry about the mugs, they’re the ones Anthony used to keep down at the allotment. I’ve packed all the bone china away. I’m afraid I didn’t have time to make a cake… well I have been baking, but not for us…’

Before any explanation was forthcoming there was the sound of frantic yapping and Eleanor went to open the back door for Covina, the little dog she had acquired from the dachshund rescue centre. The dog rushed into the room to greet Lynne.

‘You’re surely not moving house, Michael hasn’t persuaded you to go over there?’

‘Goodness no, I wouldn’t even go to that dreadful country on holiday; they’re coming back to England, out of the blue, arriving at Heathrow early afternoon. It seems they are allowed to quarantine with relatives, me.’

‘Oh that’s wonderful news, at last you’ll get to see the babies.’

‘Hardly babies, three and four now and if they are like Michael was at that age… my head spins just seeing them on Facetime. So I have taken a few precautions, I don’t want to be responsible for them ending up in A&E. Forty four years old and Michael still has that scar on his forehead from the fireplace at our first house.  I was going to ask, you know you said you would love to have Covina to stay if I ever managed to go on holiday, do you think you could possibly have her now?’

‘Yes of course, though I’m sure the children would be gentle with her.’

‘I’m worried she might bite them; the charity did say she was best suited to a quiet home with an older person. I remember that time with my brother’s dog when Michael was three; it was his fault of course, shoving his hand in the dog’s mouth.’

‘Covina’s hardly a pit bull, but I suppose tiny fingers could be a worry. I shall enjoy having her.’

Eleanor kept looking nervously at the clock, she had the hands free house phone and her mobile by her side.

 ‘Relax you’re all organised, except… perhaps now the charity shops are open again you could get a few toys for them…’ she looked at the expression on Eleanor’s face ‘or maybe order on line.’

As if in answer to that suggestion they heard the door bell being rung frantically.

‘Ah that will be the Amazon parcels; Michael asked me to get some Lego sets for them.’

‘Aren’t they a bit young for Lego, choking hazards?’

‘Oh dear, I hadn’t thought of that.’

Ten minutes later Eleanor had located the scissors she had hidden away and they manged to get the boxes open to reveal several brightly coloured Lego sets.

Eleanor examined the writing and pictures on the boxes.

‘Strange people and vehicles, but it seems only under threes choke, so that’s a relief. But really Lynne I’m getting too old for all this; you wait years to get some grandchildren, then they go abroad and then there’s a world wide pandemic and nobody gets to see their grandchildren…’

Two days later Lynne turned into Eleanor’s road on her way to the post office and was alarmed to see an ambulance outside Eleanor’s house. After all the precautions she wondered what mishap had befallen the precious grandchildren. She wasn’t being nosy, she had to walk that way anyway. As she got closer there was a further shock when she saw Eleanor on a stretcher being wheeled down the front path.

‘Oh Lynne, isn’t this embarrassing, Michael will tell you what happened.’

As her friend was loaded into the ambulance a frazzled looking man emerged from the front door with a wriggling, screeching child in his arms.

‘Nee Nah, Nee Nah, I want to go in the hambliance.’

The man’s voice was muffled through the child’s hair.  ‘Nice to meet you Lynne, I hear you have been a great support, but we’re here now; just as well now this has happened.’

What did happen?’

‘I’m not exactly sure; Mother was tidying up all the mess in the dining room after breakfast and she stood on some Lego and slipped on the plastic sheeting.’

Friday Flash Fiction – Back Home

I got back from the greengrocers’, dumped the shopping in the kitchen, put the kettle on and went in the front room to fetch the vase for the bunch of daffodils. Geoff was lounging on the sofa watching the news channel.

‘I’ll have a cup of tea if you’ve got the kettle on.’

‘Okay, I’ll just put the daffs in water.’

Back in the kitchen I put the vase under the tap and turned it on too fast, splashing my face and soaking my sleeves, but the cold water shock was nothing to the cold realisation that paralysed me and left me incapable of turning off the tap. Geoff couldn’t be sitting on the sofa, he had been dead for five months.

Shakily turning off the tap and clutching a towel to my face I turned to the kitchen door. It must have been an hallucination. Since Geoff died I had not had any funny feelings, no sense of his presence. Not like my friend, whose late husband seemed to have turned into some sort of household god, steering her to the right drawers and cupboards to find things, being ‘present’ when she watched their favourite programmes. If Geoff was a manifestation it served me right for thinking she was going out of her mind…

I forced myself to go back to the front room, but even before I lowered the towel and opened my eyes I could hear that familiar heavy breathing and humming as he did the crossword and followed the news updates.

Cathy, what’s the matter, you look like you’ve seen a ghost.’

‘I have, I mean I know you’re not real, perhaps I should have gone for counselling. I told everyone I was fine, after all there are families in this pandemic who have suffered far worse and lots of wives have lost husbands.’

Cathy, what are you talking about, you’re not going down with dementia are you?’

‘Geoff, there’s no easy way to say this, you died five months ago.’

‘Ha ha, very funny, I know it was scary, me being carted off in the ambulance yesterday. Hey lucky me, it was only one of my asthma attacks, negative for covid.’

Six months ago he had been carted off in an ambulance. It was covid, but he was lucky, no intensive care though I couldn’t go and see him. They let him come home, needed the bed no doubt, to isolate and continue recuperating; me to dial 999 if there were any problems.

That’s how I knew for sure he had died, not unrecognisable in hospital covered in tubes, me trying to talk to him via Facetime on my ipad… he was at home when it happened.

We had just had dinner. Geoff was catching up with the news and telling the politicians what they should be doing. I went in the kitchen to tidy up and make coffee, when I came back in I sensed the silence straight away. There he was, crossword still in hand, head back, silent, switched off.

Instinctively I turned off the television, thinking he would not want to be watching it now. Geoff had said when he came out of hospital, so relieved just to be home ‘Now don’t you worry if I die in my sleep, you know what they said about my heart, it’s a good way to go, better than those poor buggers on machines in intensive care. And I don’t want you trying CPR on me, you couldn’t do it right on that dummy when we did our first aid course.’

So I didn’t do anything.

‘Geoff, you did die, right there, five months ago, do you remember?’

Silly question, how could he remember if he was dead and why was I talking to a figment of my imagination… why was he talking back?

‘Cathy, if you think I am a ghost, come and feel me, solid as ever, too solid you were always telling me.’

He held out his hand and for the first time I moved close to him. His hand was warm and firm. Tentatively I put my hand on his chest, he felt real and his chest was moving, he was breathing. Five months ago I would have given anything to have him back irritating me with his breathing and humming as I tried to read my book. If he had walked back in the door then I would have hugged him… But now I needed to get away, this was the laws of nature turned upside down or I was going insane. I pulled my hands away and retreated to the doorway.

‘Geoff, I know you are dead, I was here when you died, Andrew has the DVD of the live streaming of your funeral at the crematorium, though I suppose that isn’t proof. Your ashes are in the cupboard in your office; I’m sorry, we haven’t been able to get together to scatter them, still in lockdown. I have your death certificate… and those clothes you’re wearing went to the charity shop months ago.’

He just laughed. ‘Well it seems I am alive and well, you obviously need a breath of fresh air to clear your head, where shall we go for our walk this afternoon?’

A walk outside, that would prove he was real, perhaps the past five months had been a nightmare; that would be easy to prove. I dashed out of the room. Geoff’s coat was not hanging on its usual peg. I stumbled upstairs and into our bedroom, his side of the wardrobe was empty. I dashed into what he used to call his office; the desk was empty. I opened the corner cabinet and the large grey cardboard tube with his ashes was still there. In the bureau was the box of sympathy cards and the neat file of paperwork Andrew had helped me sort out; inside the first plastic slip was the death certificate.  

My knees nearly gave way as I started down the stairs and Geoff sauntered out of the front room.

‘I’m just going to check my emails before lunch.’

I couldn’t let him go upstairs. Andrew had taken Geoff’s computer, I had my ipad, I didn’t want it. But the fact that Geoff couldn’t check his emails was the least of my problems. The Geoff who couldn’t be real was solid and could walk and talk. If we went strolling down the road, what on earth would the neighbours say?

Sailing

My experience of cruises is limited to sailing from Poole to Cherbourg, a five hour trip on the Bar Fleur, for days out or holidays in France, and our one trip to Bilbao, northern Spain.

Poole Harbour – not the Bar Fleur

Our voyage on the Pride of Bilbao was one of their three-night weekend mini cabaret cruises, off peak season in October, with vouchers Cyberspouse got people at work to cut out of The Sun newspaper, a paper I never let him buy! When we boarded at Portsmouth all the other passengers looked like Sun readers. On the Friday night we went to watch the cabaret and were not surprised that when it was finished the entertainers reappeared in their crew members’ uniforms.

Our inner cabin was like a prison cell; I took the top bunk, not wishing Cyberspouse to crash down on top of me.

But the next day was sunny with plenty to do on board; relaxing in the lounges, taking part in Whale and Dolphin watches on deck or from the observation lounge, going to wildlife presentations in the ship’s cinema with the resident wildlife officer from the Biscay Dolphin Research Programme.

After our second sleep came our early arrival in the port for our six hour turn around. On board we could book one of three coach trips; there was a lot of port and industry between us and Bilbao town, so you couldn’t just get off and ‘have a look around’. The fishing village outing was off, not enough takers. We had plumped for the Guggenheim Museum, but regular passengers told us it wouldn’t be opening for another hour, so we changed to the trip into town with hot chocolate and a snack at a quaint tiled coffee house. We spent the remainder of the time wandering around a nice department store near the coach pick up point, because it was cold and also I was worried we would not find our way back or be late for the coach!

That day’s sailing was very pleasant, sitting in the sun lounges, reading or writing and listening out for summons to see whales – we only ever saw distant sprays of water. I decided I enjoyed cruising. On our last night we slept well and were surprised when the next morning the Captain said we had been through a Force Eight ( or was it Sixteen? ) Gale; the Bay of Biscay is known for rough seas. I might have thought twice about going if I had known that, but it seems our inner cabin was far more stable than the better cabins.

The elegant Queen Mary 2 – the world’s only ocean liner, not a cruise ship

We have been on trips to Southampton and crossed Southampton Water on the ferry, so we have seen plenty of cruise ships and most of them look like huge floating blocks of flats, how do passengers find their way around? We never could afford seriously considered going on a proper cruise.

One of the strangest remarks after Cyberspouse died was from the reclusive retired couple in our little road. It’s not that they don’t talk to us, just that they don’t engage much with the rest of the neighbours. Pre Covid He spent all his time in the driveway and garage making things, while She was always out playing golf. He had been over once to say how sorry he was to hear Cyberspouse was ill. I was in the front garden one day and surprised to see them out together and coming over to chat. When he asked how I was getting on I thought he meant as a widow of over a month, but it turned out he had missed the dying part and thought Cyberspouse was still isolating indoors. He then compounded the awkwardness by asking if I was going to do anything exciting… adding like going on a cruise! I can imagine what his wife said to him when they got indoors!

The other day I was watching an item on the news about P&O Cruises offering round Britain cruises for UK residents who have been vaccinated…

Sailing at reduced capacity and with new health protocols, the line will offer round-trip short breaks on Britannia and week-long cruises on its new ship Iona from Southampton from June 27 until September 19, 2021.

For a moment I was tempted, they won’t actually be stopping anywhere. After so long with Covid constraints, many of us will need the security of not being able to do what we like. If the ship never docked anywhere I would also be saved the tedium of queueing up to disembark with lots of old people and their walking frames ( so I have heard ) and of course my fear of getting lost and not getting back to the ship in time. I could stay in my cosy cabin writing or stroll the decks looking out for familiar parts of the coast we have visited. Perhaps I would pretend I was a famous writer going on a great voyage…

Not a P&O cruise ship

Then the presenter asked if the crew would also all be vaccinated and the answer was No, they had crew from ninety ( or was it sixty ) different countries. Then I remembered how in pre Covid days cruise ships were always having outbreaks of Norovirus – yes the vomiting etc one – and I would probably get lost on board; even in Premiere Inns, where the corridors are like being on board ship, I always turn the wrong way out of the room. So perhaps I won’t go, perhaps they are already booked up …a blogging opportunity lost.