Monday Madness

When one gate stays open..

Another gate stays closed

When your neighbours get a new front door.

When your neighbours build an extension with a penthouse aviary.

Look up…

Look down.

Heatwave brings return of The Triffids.

Macro Madness – guess what? Answers below, but not necessarily in the right order.

THE END

Don’t Mention The Weather

We were on a college summer camp on Rottnest Island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, well only 18 kilometres from Fremantle, Western Australia, but one of the girls had to be airlifted off by helicopter as she had heatstroke. Happy days – when we emigrated to Australia in 1964 nobody worried about skin cancer or staying hydrated. Fortunately my parents were aware the sun was hot. Dad was out in Egypt after WW2 before he was demobbed and told of ’idiots’ being stretchered out with third degree burns after sun bathing. Fortunately my parents avoided the beach after being taken to Scarborough Beach by our sponsors on our first day in Australia. Huge waves and hot sand did not appeal and we went to pleasant shady spots by the River Swan.

My novel Quarter Acre Block was inspired by our first year in Australia.

Unfortunately school outings were gloriously free of sun hats and sun lotion and I recall an early outing when we spent the whole day on the beach and next day my nose peeled and bled! Outings with youth groups on hot days were often followed by me feeling sick the next day; setting off without any money and probably a picnic with a plastic bottle of cordial, I obviously didn’t drink enough. At school we did have plenty of water fountains, I didn’t spend my whole time dehydrated, but my sister recalls that if you were thirsty when you were out you stayed thirsty. I’m sure other people were buying bottles of coke and cool drinks of lurid colour, but we were not.

Sun and shade in Western Australia.

Our current heatwave has brought endless dire warnings of the dangers of going out – or staying inside homes not designed to cope with hot weather. Modern parents never let their children out without a bottle of water, but they should not panic – if Prince George could sit in the heat of Wimbledon dressed in a jacket and tie there is no need to pamper children.


How is the weather where you are?

Beach Hut Drama

On Valentine’s night February 2014 Britain had a huge storm, not dramatic compared with world disasters, but several people were killed and the walls of our brick house shook. In the morning the storm was still raging and tales emerged of dramas; the public were warned to stay away from coastal areas, so I looked up the time of high tide, 9am and told Cyberspouse we must walk to the cliff top. We could lean straight into the howling wind coming off the sea, safe from being blown off the cliff, but as we peered over the edge we had a shock.


Beach huts were reduced to matchsticks and heavy gas bottles blown along the promenade. Naturally I insisted to Cyberspouse that we go down, along with other sightseers. Beach hut owners were shocked to see their huts no longer existed and searched the wreckage for any belongings they could salvage. Of course losing your home is far worse than a little wooden box and easy to say as our hut, further along and on an upper level was fine! The owners who had lost beach huts certainly did not look happy. But I had an idea for a story, what would happen to anyone down on the promenade that night? my idea even became the start of my novel ’At The Seaside Nobody Hears You Scream.’ Read more about the novel on my About page.

Woodland Walk

Rounding off this week’s May walks, saunter across Tuckton Bridge to the Christchuch side of the River Stour.

Where are you now and who is watching you?

Perhaps you won’t get lost if you follow the path…

…and don’t annoy The Green Man

You have reached your destination.

Gather here for the monthly Win on Waste; to the delight of green thinkers or anyone on the obsessive spectrum you can save all sorts of household items unwanted in your council recycling bins. From stamps to old toothbrushes. At a glance the most popular donations seem to be medicine blister packs and bras. The various items are donated to charities, community groups and artists. Exactly how they use them I am not sure, but ‘follow the milk bottle top’ could be a topic for a blog…

Do you have local community collections?

Round and Round and Upside Down

Which door will you go through to find what is real?

Take a walk…

…round and round

and upside down.

Where will you end up?

All pictures in this week’s blogs guaranteed taken this week and within walking distance of my house. For stories set in or inspired by my local area try one of my short story collections.

Normal Reality and Real Normality

Is getting back to normal life post Covid realistic? Are we Post, what is reality and what is normal life? No, don’t know and goodness knows…

Pandemics, epidemics and natural disasters have been normal for humans since we started wandering around, or at least wandering around in large numbers. Natural disasters were not disastrous before there were human settlements to destroy. Unless you were a dinosaur; even for them, getting back to normal life after a meteorite collision was never going to happen. Even Gaia was probably upset with giant meteors, just when she thought she controlled everything.

But for those of us who thought we were leading a privileged, or at least comfortable safe life before Covid, getting back to normal is what we both crave and fear. Some of us cannot have our old life back, while others are glad of the opportunity to start a new normal. Few of us believe our leaders have handled the crisis well all the way along. Every nation and state seems to have had different rules and while England is rapidly dispensing with restrictions ( I think, unless it’s all changed again ), on the other side of the world ‘Saint Mark’, Premier of Western Australia Mark McGowan, continues to try to protect the citizens of the Hermit Kingdom from Covid and the outside world.

‘In Western Australia, where there has never been a major Covid outbreak, Mr McGowan warned WA residents more restrictions could be implemented as new infections rise. With the state’s grand February 5 reopening now shelved indefinitely, tourism companies on the west coast will be unable to benefit when the rest of Australia flings open their doors to foreign tourists on February 21.’

https://www.wa.gov.au/government/covid-19-coronavirus

Of course it helps when your state is bordered by ocean and desert with only two roads in. Life has carried on more or less as normal. I don’t think people have been prevented from leaving, but they might not be able to get back in.

So where is normal life happening? The fewer restrictions the more worried are the hierarchy of the vulnerable. Clinically Extremely Vulnerable at the top perhaps, CEV a term to distinguish from those merely immunocompromised? However people are classified and however many jabs they have had – we’re up to four now – those worried about their health or their loved one’s health are still sticking to Zoom meetings, shopping on line and isolating.

But going back to normal is not good for the planet. However heart breaking this pandemic has been, Covid will not reduce the population enough to save Gaia, or rather keep her safe for us to live on. Have most of us forgotten we are meant to be saving the planet, have we forgotten how sweet the air was during that first world lock down, when streets were empty of polluting vehicles and people saw mountains from their city windows for the first time?

The new normal is unlikely to be a return to the simple life, or a rapid scientific breakthrough to heal Gaia while keeping our lifestyles. So it’s back to reality, unless you want to hide from reality with all the new skills you learnt during lockdowns. Have a pyjama day and hide under your duvet watching Netflix and ordering delicious meals from Deliveroo.

Return to the Pink Zone

I was back in the Pink Zone for my Radiotherapy planning. Despite the long instructions in the letter for finding radiotherapy I was flummoxed when I found myself back in the familiar Oncology Outpatients. As it is on floor minus 2 and has a low ceiling I assumed this area was a dead end; unfortunate choice of words perhaps…

Luckily a lady in grey ( one of the health care assistants who pop up helpfully everywhere ) asked if I was lost and took me through a door that hadn’t been there before. Then she asked if I wanted Chesil, Furzey or Varian. I had no idea what she was talking about so produced my appointment letter ( always take your hospital letter with you ) and she took me to reception. I was soon given a gown and taken to get changed in a cubicle with the fatal words ‘Just come back to reception when you are ready’ assuming you are going to remember the way back…

I did find my way back and was soon in a room having a CT scan and lots of measurements taken. They give you four tiny tattoos as guide lines, apologising that they will be permanent. I am hardly likely to worry about that when I have a long scar and no breast, but at least they are acknowledging you still own your body. I asked for a butterfly tattoo, but they said they don’t have the artistic skills.

When I arrived for the start of my fifteen daily treatments ( weekends not included ) a couple of weeks later, I smugly assumed I knew where I was going, but at reception she asked if I was Chesil, Furzey or Varian.  No idea, but she soon returned with the answer. I had to find Varian 2 and was directed to turn and follow and turn down several corridors. Every time you go through a double door a whole new hospital seems to unfold before your eyes…

Chesil and Furzey are local place names, but who, what or where was Varian? Lord Varian, the famous Dorset benefactor or Planet Varian from Star Trek… ‘Captain, the Varians are attacking.’

Varian is the manufacturer of the machines under which we patients lie in treatment rooms Varian 1 and 2. We arrive at the pleasant Varian waiting room from where we are called to the sub waiting room on the intercom. There we change into the gowns with three armholes which we are allowed to keep for all our sessions. From here you can see the lighted red warning signs when the radioactivity is active and staff must leave. The radiologist soon comes to fetch you and take you round the curving corridor. The actual zapping with rays is brief, most of the time is spent adjusting you to exactly the right position with the two radiologists talking numbers and degrees. They take a three year degree to learn all this. The weird grey machine makes various beeps and noises, but all we have to do is keep our arms raised holding on to the bars and stay completely still. When out of the room the staff are watching you on closed circuit TV and you can wave to them if there is a problem… All the staff are very friendly and reassuring.

 After a few sessions I thought I was getting the hang of the routine; three buzzes and staff must leave the room. I have three zaps from three different directions and in between, the Great Varian grinds and moves. A long buzzy beep is the actual dose of rays. One time it had just started when the room lights suddenly came on. Over the intercom a voice said ‘Don’t worry, we have an interlock, we just have to wait five minutes before we can restart.’

This was definitely out of Star Trek… ‘Captain we have an interlock with the Varian ship.’  I was about to go through a time shift or into another dimension. After what seemed like twenty minutes the voice said ‘Only two more minutes to go.’ The staff returned and so did normality.

All my appointments have been quite early and very specific times. 9.06am, 9.18am 9.03. I have usually been called in on time or early, but one morning I was sitting by myself, no one on the reception desk and the screen said Varian Two On Time.  Time passed, other patients came in and we compared appointment times. I was first, what was going on? After the interlock incident of the day before I wondered if the machine had broken down, but why had no one come to tell us? Had Varian Two taken all the staff through a time shift or zapped them all with a mega dose of radiation… more time passed and at last I was called. The explanation was more prosaic than my imaginings. They were busy, short staffed and had no time to update the screen in the waiting room.

Strangely, my trips down the corridors have got shorter with familiarity.  The route is lined with paintings and the area is bright and pleasant. The shiny wooden floor squeaks when anyone walks, it is not just my new shoes.  A look at the health ap on my phone shows I have walked less than a kilometre from the hospital main entrance and back again, not the miles it seemed.

Some of the questions I have been tempted to ask as a writer, but haven’t yet…

Do you get many patients who panic?’

‘Has anyone accidentally been given a mega dose or forgotten about?’

‘Have you ever had a rogue/insane radiologist who tampered with the machine?’

As a patient I don’t think I will ask as they are all very professional and sane and nice…