Wednesday, 30 April 2008

a quickie... post office idiots and lovely horsies

Just a quickie today, as am a tad knaclered. See how tired I am - can't even write the word knackered out!

Been an interesting day. I went to the post office, with admittedly, a lot of parcels (well only 5), and the woman started getting right stroppy. I thought, this is the post office isn't it? It is the job of the post office to post things, is it not?!

So she hands me the Recorded Delivery label and demands I fill it out. Well, I am 2 years into my PhD, but without a bit of help, and without the distraction of pain shooting down my left arm, I was struggling to write the entire name and address out in the allotted time (of 2 nano seconds!). "Give it here,2" she complained, adding, "We'll be here all day if you write all that out!" I was shocked, and decided to pull the cancer card out.

"I'm sorry," I smiled, "but I have a tumour in my lung and it's making it hard for me to do this - I'm in a lot of pain (I wasn't lying either - I was in pain.). She said, "Oh, I'm sorry," and then looked at me through the glass...

"Smoker, are you?!"

I said, "You don't ask breast cancer victims that, do you? Actually, no I don't smoke!"

"Oh," she said, adding helpfully, "It's just my mother died of lung cancer and she smoked."

She reminded me of the unhelpful traffic warden who demanded to see my disabled badge for the car as I parked up (engine still running kind of thing), saying I was too slow. I told him I would display it as soon as I had parked the car, and he yelled through the window, "It's not too much to ask love is it, for free parking?!"


Later on was much happier. I had my 2nd lesson on Hugo, my 'advanced' horsie. My instructor was wonderful as ever, keeping a close eye on me as I struggled to keep my energy levels up. I could only manage flat work, and Hugo only bucked me once, so I wasn't too poor a rider. Eventually I said I had to stop, but had made 27 mins so was very pleased! I staggered back to the car with a massive grin on my face, as ever, and the words of my instructor ringing in my ears - "You did so well, Lisa. I'm so impressed with you!"


Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Phew! And breathe...

What a mad crazy busy week it's been - well not even a week - just since Thursday!

Firstly, I had my friend and her 11 year old daughter over, from Spain. It was a fab few days of running around like a lunatic, visiting places and shopping, chatting and catching up on old times, with a few medical appointments (of course!) thrown in for good measure! But I'm afraid the late nights caught up with me, and today I am alone for the first time since Wednesday, and I am exhausted!

But Saturday... Saturday was fantastic! I dragged the kids, and my visitors to Manchester on the train, and left them to wander around while I went to a very important meeting with...

The Novel Racers!

There were 15 of us in all (I think!). I arrived late (you just can't rush the Spanish!) and everyone was almost done eating by the time I'd even ordered, but it didn't matter. My eldest daughter had reprimanded me more than once about meeting people from the internet in RL, but even I was surprised at what a lovely bunch of people the novel racers are! I missed the introductions (were there introductions?!) so it was a struggle to work out who everyone was, but that hardly mattered!

It was lovely to see JJ again (she sends me presents all the way from Bangkok don't you know!), and Caroline, and to finally meet Zinnia who has been such a support these last few months with her wonderful comments and emails. And everyone else - I didn't get a chance to speak to everyone, but I did manage to hand out one of my sexy new business cards at one point! No idea what I got them for, but hey, they're stationery, and I love stationery!

A lovely bunch - here we all are!

It was so lovely to talk about writing, to discover I am not alone in feeling like a fraud, to hear all about A.Writer's 'wanker' story, to see JJ's new hair (I love it!)... oh just sooo much!

That meeting should keep me going for a loooong time!

But er... when's the next one?!!!


Sadly, Desi has now gone home. To 24 degree heat and a bluer than blue sky. Am I jealous? Well maybe a teensy bit! I'm already missing speaking Spanish! ¡Que lastima!

A fascination with phone-boxes! (There are 8 like this one!)


1. Looking for pics I found some videos that Desi took of me and the kids on the trampoline. I sound sooo weird talking in Spanish! No idea why I'm telling you this but I am!

2. Health wise, I'm doing okay. My left hand is hurting quite a bit though (making typing a bit of a bind), and I keep getting waves of nausea and sweating (loverly!) if I overdo it too much - which meant the train journey home from Manchester was hell on legs!

3. Feeling really sicky again so I'm off to watch Brothers & Sisters on hubby's laptop on the sofa with a nice brew!
Oh well - no one ever said this was gonna be easy!

Saturday, 26 April 2008

the novel racers' meet... today...

...and I'm soooo excited!

...and running late!


Wednesday, 23 April 2008

On Reflection...

Are you sitting comfortably? It's a bit of a long one? Ready? Then I'll begin...

I didn't know it at the time, but in November last year, I joined a club. I wouldn't mind but it's not even that exclusive given that 1 in 3 of us will end up being made members - like it or not.

Membership is free (if you ignore the cost of prescriptions), and non-negotiable. There are a few benefits (though not applicable to everyone), such as free parking, road tax exemption, and free holidays (courtesy of charitable organisations such as the Willow Foundation ). Oh yes! And you are a member for life, too. Even if you survive the thing that afforded you membership, you can never leave the club, but you do move on to new level after 5 years. This is much more exclusive, and gives you the title survivor.

There are other, hidden benefits to membership of this club however. You get a rare opportunity to find out who really loves you, who thinks you're all right, and who couldn't give a shit. I've been so fortunate in this respect, and have had so much support that I have been able to get through this awful time. So to all of you who have cooked me dinner (some have even brought a la carte 'meals on wheels', complete with wine and good company!), have driven me into town and pretended not to notice when I've farted loudly in shops, or nearly thrown up into my shopping trolley, to those of you who send me regular texts (whassup chemo kid?!), or emailed, or phoned, who have taken me to and from hospitals, doctors, pharmacies, to those of you who have commented on my blog even though I hardly ever seem to comment on theirs these days, to those who have listened to my fears, and dried my tears when I've been at my lowest ebb, I thank you. You are all truly wonderful! I shall have an astounding number of thank you cards to write when I attain the coveted survivor level of club membership.

Although, I am a survivor, and have been since day one of my diagnosis! I have been tested, no! Am being tested, to the limit. Sometimes I find myself being jealous of breast cancer people! How crazy is that?! But when you have one of the rarer cancers, like my little pancoast jobbie, with all the pain it's causing by nestling into the nerve bed of my brachial plexus, then you do think, "lucky bastards!" Just cut it out, or off, lose the hair, take the chemo and then the pills, and LIVE! But of course, it isn't that simple is it? And loads of woman die of breast cancer too, and the associated complications and spreads. Losing a breast is both painful, and emotionally scarring, to which both my birth mother and birth grandmother, and auntie P, will all testify to. It doesn't matter what cancer you get - they're all pretty shite. Physically, emotionally, mentally and even spiritually, every day is a test of some description.

But sometimes, this turns out to be a good thing. An inspiring thing. A positive thing.

No really!

We learn more about who we are, how much we can or cannot take. When my oncologist rang me yesterday to suggest I have a further two cycles of chemotherapy in conjunction with radiotherapy (starting May 6th), I cried. More accurately, I broke down and sobbed. But I came round. I said to myself, "Okay, Lisa. If this is what he thinks I should do, then I will do it. I will get through it somehow." I put the phone down, and I went to my appointment with the wonderful woman at the hospice, and cried some more while she examined me every which way. I went through half a box of hankies while she prodded at my horrendously swollen feet, legs, and belly, and tried not to swear at her as she took yet more bloods (brilliantly, and efficiently, and with her wonderful sense of humour). She changed my meds again (which seems to be working and the swelling has decreased markedly), and listened to me with a great empathy, I thought. She said, "Of course you feel crap. You are a young and otherwise healthy woman, with a life, and there are no guarantees in this game. It is crap. There's no other word for it."

So this morning I went for my riding lesson and my moral was boosted as I managed the 'next level' of horse, riding bit-less, and on a more finely tuned animal. I forgot about the chemo thing, until this afternoon when I had to see the oncologist again, and discuss treatment.

But I did not cry. You see, I am stronger than I thought I was.

"Some of my colleagues thought that it might be an option to try chemo with the radio," he said. (Words in bold are the ones I picked up on.) "We are suggesting 4 days of Cisplatin (I hear 5 day stay in hospital) at the beginning of radiotherapy, and again at the end." (I hear 10 days in hospital, and try to reason that the health insurance will pay £100 for each night in hospital, but conclude that £1,000 is not worth it.)

We discussed much more. My oncologist pointed out that chemo will make the effects of radio (breathlessness, scarring to the lung, pain on swallowing, tiredness etc.), even worse. He points out that sometimes the standard approach, i.e. chemo, then radio, is better for some patients. My lung function was above normal, better than. He said it's very rare to see my level of lung function in a lung cancer patient, and that all the riding and hard work is paying off.

And then I learned that I cannot go through another two cycles of chemotherapy, and that I don't want to take the risks involved. I'm not strong enough for that, and yet at the same time, on the positive side, I am still aware enough, still able to take the information I have and sift through it to make an informed, rational, considered decision. All is not lost.

And I'm not having any more bloody chemo!

And I must tell you - chemotherapy was awful for me. I have seen maybe one person sail through it, but most of us suffered terribly. I didn't lose my hair, or need blood transfusions, and my veins didn't collapse. I never had a fever, or infection either, so in many respects I sailed through compared to my new found 'club' friends! But I lost my dignity as they pricked me and poked me, invaded my body with needles and fluids, hands and eyes. As I farted helplessly and pee-ed in a measuring jug. As I vomited and retched for what felt like an eternity, but was only a matter of days at a time. I watched others lose their dignity as they writhed and/or screamed in pain, or lost control of their bowels and shat all over themselves and the ward - trying to keep composed through the stench, to offer support, to say, "It's okay," when really we all know it just so isn't.

I lost the capacity to wash my own hair, having my daughter bathe me. I learned patience - something I very much lacked. And yet through this long assault on my poor body it has done me proud. The piles have cleared up. My body has taken the pain killing drugs with minimal fuss (although it didn't like the higher doses of morphine and came out in an angry rash and swelling!). It allows me to ride horses and keep on typing. What can I say? I have learned to love it, and hope to god it keeps going for quite a bit longer - I mean, I'm still on my first bloody novel, eh!

I've also learned that you have to be strong for everyone else too. I see the pain in the eyes of those closest to me, their helplessness, and yet they don't seem to realise that they are doing more than enough just by being there.

And on this journey, through this club membership, I have met the most wonderful people, have been places and done things I wouldn't have done otherwise. I've learned things I would never have known before. I have gotten a grip of my anger (yes Rob, I was soooo angry, really I was! Angry at trying to be a mother, wife, lover, daughter, student, lecturer, friend, writer, etc. etc. and feeling as though I was failing miserably at all of them). I have learned to manage my mind and negative thought processes much more effectively and am still working on this in particular.

I have seen how fragile and precious this thing life is, and it pains me to see people in pain, stressed, struggling about things I now know to be wholly insignificant; how we give ourselves roles and labels: I was all those things I listed above and now I am what? Cancer Patient?! I throw away the labels - they do not define me. I refuse to let them.

I love and, am loved. I am alive. I am healthy. I try my best. These are the only things that should matter. I don't mean to lecture, but when you have the metaphorical carpet of life ripped out from under your feet, you tend to see the world with a new perspective.

One that shifts and changes, and scares the pants off you!

And yet, would I change a thing?

Probably not!

Monday, 21 April 2008

Home Again

Home from Home

Hello All,

I'm home again, after a wonderful week at center parcs (yup - that's how they spell it). Instead of relaxing, I ran around like a lunatic, cycling from one place to another to do horse-riding, archery, falconry, swimming, bowling... you name it really. And, er... sleeping too!

I would have written sooner too, only our BT Home Hub is being a complete git, and refusing to work properly! Hopefully, I'll have a connection long enough to complete this entry - as yesterday I just gave up!

The weather was superb. Out of our five days, we only had one dubious day, and as I was in the outdoor heated spa pool, and the skies remained blue, it didn't matter that hail stones were falling. In fact, it just made it all the more wonderful, especially as a little wild bunny chose just that moment to have a nibble on the lawn. Missed the bunny with the camera, but did snap a quick one of the pool.

I went to the spa twice - over indulgent perhaps, but I do have cancer, you know! And it did cost an absolute fortune but was worth it. Just. The first time I took A, the eldest, and we had some lovely mother and daughter time, giggling like little children in the Japanese Salt Steam Bath (smelled horrendous and was soooo hot!), and practically running each other over in a bid to get out of the Balinese Room (burning feet/face/lungs). Makes me wonder how people enjoy those things. For me, it was the hydrotherapy pool, with its under-water jets coming at you from all angles, the outdoor heated pool, and water-bed relaxation areas - not forgetting the shampoo and conditioner provided in the changing rooms.

She's sooo heavy, mum, but really soft!

With K, the youngest, we discovered the ancient sport of kings - falconry - and met some lovely people. The European Eagle Owl was a lovely lady of four years old, fantastic manners, and just look at her fluffy feet! We also saw/learned about Kestrels, Falcons, Buzzards, and Harrison Hawks - the aerial acrobats of the birdie world.

We all flew a Buzzard, too!

After that we went straight of to be Robin Hoods for the afternoon, although the bloke wasn't half as sweet as Bird Man, it has to be said! He handed out the kit for archery with a face that said he'd much rather be in the spa. Just to wind him up, we all made sure we had a cracking time!

Maid Marion and Mother!

K was a bit of a natural with a bow and arrow. We both got a bull's eye, but mine was more of a happy accident! She gave that one a four out of five, whereas the falconry scored a five out of five!

And yes of course, you guessed it, if there's horses, I'll find them! This is Warrior...


Warrior is a handsome cob who didn't flinch when a tornado jet buzzed us at what felt like a mere 100 foot above us. Nor was he bothered when roe deer flew out from the thicket and leapt across the road. Oh yes, it was idyllic, riding through Whinfell Forest, just outside the park. Fast gallops and gentle trots. Plenty of wildlife too.

View from a Warrior

But guess what? Warrior is scared stupid of bunny rabbits! He spooked each time a tiny white cotton tail appeared in the distance. And he didn't much like the air-brakes on the truck when we had to trot up the main road either!

There's so much to tell, and no room (or time) here. Suffice to say we had a much needed break. There were tears, when I cocked up the time-table and hubby, K and A, missed their activity climbing in the trees (oh dear - damn that chemo-brain!). They consoled me, and said it didn't matter, but I still felt like crap about it. Thank God I have such a forgiving family!

On the last day, K and I went walking with Llamas - and these guys are scared of nothing! Just nosey, curious, kissy creatures from start to finish. Now that's something I would recommend everyone have a go at given the opportunity!

Can I keep him, mummy? Please??!!

Kisses from William

Would I recommend Center Parcs? Well, a resounding YES! But only if you are very rich or don't mind just swimming (the only thing that is free is the pool complex). It was lovely to get out on bikes and feel safe in the knowledge that no cars are going to appear behind you, or your kids. And the wildlife was great too. Remember all the times I tried to snap a pheasant? Well, we saw pheasants every where - and they were as bold as brass too!

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Little Hesitant Scribe and KLAN Ratcliffe

I'm afraid I am a very sad person. (And I don't mean upset/miserable!)

No really.

A complete SADDO (in capital letters!).

*Hangs head in shame*

Look what I bought...

I tried to resist - I did - honest.

But I couldn't...

Little Hesitant Scribe

He was just soooo soft!

And he's a unicorn...

(...and I have a thing about unicorns! A since I was teeny tiny thing about unicorns.)

And he came with a name a star thing, so there is now a star in the sky that I named! How cool is that?!

Of course the scientific community will call it something else, like KG568273, but the International Star Registry will know it as;

KLAN Ratcliffe

Because I think my little clan have all been little stars throughout all of the trauma of the last 6 months. And then some.

And I got a certificate too!


If you look closely you can see the co-ordinates of our family star and even find it on Google! See how sad I am!

(But extremely excited too!)

Even more exciting is the fact that (as you already know!) we're off to Center Parcs (or however you spell it) so won't be here for a week - but rest assured will tell you all about it the minute I get back!

Have a lovely week yourselves!

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Blogger is confusing me!

I'm afraid I've been a bit slow on the old award front again.

Sorry folks. *hangs head in faux- shame*

It's just, in my joy of feeling rather well, I've been running around too much and spending any time on the computer, (or writing either if truth be told!). I mean, it's Saturday again! How on earth did that happen?

Thursday I did what? Why can#t I remember what I did on Thursday! Oh dear.

I have just checked my diary to see what I did Thursday, and I had a riding lesson. AND I posted about that, and the scan results (which most certainly didn't come back until Thursday), only Blogger says I posted all those things on Wednesday.

But I didn't do them until Thursday...

Either blogger is going mad, or I am psychic! Has anyone else had this happen?! (Or am I completely wrong on this one, and it actually says Thursday, but I've gone mad? eeek)



I have very kindly been given an award (which you can find at the bottom right of this page) from Clairesgarden.

And the rules state that I should pass this award on to 10 other Bloggs.

Now this is difficult because there are soooo many wonderful blogs out there.

So here's the 10 I read the most - and I won't include Clairesgarden simply because she passed it on to me!

In no particular order...

1. JJ at Tea-stains
2. Lane at Laneswrite
3. Rob at Topsyturvydom - from whence I stole the link for the 'Procrastination' video :)
4. Mother X at Living with Autism
5. Rising Rainbow at Mikael's Mania - Arabian Horses
6. Annie at The Write Eye
7. Carol at from the field book
8. Sarah G at Just get on with it p.s. see vid below - it's perfect for the title of your blog!
9. Dot at West Pier Words
10. Jon at Writing in a Vacuum

And now a little video called 'Procrastination' which I am sure everyone will love, and relate to! I know I certainly do!

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Another Perfect Day

A Perfect Sky for Another Perfect Day

I have spent hours (albeit enjoyable hours!) trying to figure out a) whether or not to put post-nominal letters on my business cards, and b) what order to put them in, only no-one had a clue, and google was not forthcoming. But it's okay now... Rob just saved the day.

(JJ has one and I liked it so much I decided I just had to have some too. I have no idea what I'll use them for but it seems just the sort of thing a young professional writer needs!).

What else?

Busy busy busy week!

I feel as though I've been everywhere, rushing around like a lunatic - much more like my old self!

Had another CT Scan on Tuesday - spying on the gremlin. This time the waiting room was like a re-union! Lots of 'hello's and 'how are you?'s from people I've met in various oncological settings.

The young man who put 3 holes in me last time, tissued my veins and then had to get his superior to do it anyway, was there again. "I'm very sorry," I said, "I don't want to be rude, but can you get your superior to this?" He looked shocked and informed me that he was perfectly capable. "I'm sure you're very capable," I said, "but you couldn't get it last time, and after another 2 lots of chemo, you've got no chance this time - so if you don't mind, I'd really like your superior to do it." He relented and went to get her. It took her about 10 minutes to find a vein and plump it up, but she was straight in with minimal pain (which is what we like!). I also informed them that last time no one measured it, so could they please a) measure it, and b) compare it with previous scans?!

Amazingly the results came back today! There's no change (as expected really). No bigger - YAY! No spread - YAY! Onward and Upward with radiotherapy as scheduled to start on 21st April.

Enough of that stuff anyway...

Don't tell hubby but I went riding yesterday AND today!!! How naughty am I?!

Yesterday I rode Pete. This is Pete.

We did lots of flat work, and I came away feeling I'd learned tons. Plus, I did 45 minutes which I haven't managed since before chemo! Today I had another 45 minute lesson - jumping this time, on Winnie. It was wonderful, and I jumped 2 ft 6 inches.

Other news includes things like:
- buying matching bra and knicker sets for the first time ever. Yes ever! 38, and I've never invested in decent lingerie - oh the shame!
- calling into work and having a brew and a catch up (after my CT Scan!)
- seeing the wonderful palliative doctor and having her tweak my meds (so today, for example, I've only taken 10 ml of oramorph as opposed to the 80ml+ I was taking before I saw her!)
- seeing lots of friends and generally catching up on my, erm, life!

Still going to write that post-chemo reflection, but technically still on chemo until Sunday night, so there's plenty of time!

Keep laughing - a giggle a day keeps the doctor away!

Monday, 7 April 2008

i bring it on myself...

You won't believe how busy I've been!

Gallivanting here, there, and everywhere...

I've been trying to sit down to post a long(ish) reflection on chemo, but have I had a chance?!

This morning the phone has started ringing again the minute I put it down... and now I have to go and get all pampered - oh, it is a hard life you know ;)

So the reflection will have to wait.

In the meantime, hubby has relented, and look who's coming to live with us!

Haiku for a Tabby Kitten

three days old, he mews
small in the palm of my hand
eyes closed to the world

I am soooo excited - only 8 weeks to wait!

Saturday, 5 April 2008

This week has flown by. Used to being prostrate on the sofa, slobbering into cushions for 6 hours at a stretch, time takes on a strange new dimension once you're on your feet again. And I've been a busy, busy little girl this week...

Thursday was actually Wednesday but felt like Friday in the grand chemo-fied scale of things, but I...

(just started writing about Wednesday and Tesco - which I already did, didn't I?! Oh dear!)

... went to meet my friend for a coffee in a lovely country pub, and tried not a) fart loudly, or b) throw up in me chips. Luckily, neither happened, and a good time was had by all. I also - deep breath - went to mother-in-law's for more coffee, took car to garage to get battery checked, spent an hour walking around the street market (good day to leave car in garage!), and treated self to sexy little 25 litre rucksack to take to Centre Parcs with me (black with orange trim, since you ask).

Got home absolutely knackered having completely overdone it, as per, and then sent little one up for a bath, and asked big one to check her hair...

The screams were unmerciful!

Of laughter from the little one, at the screams of terror from the big one.

Okay so they were BIG lice. Well no. HUGE lice! In fact, I didn't know they got that big this far north of the equator.

Not only that but there were sooo many of them. Big one made very intelligent observations for a 15 year old, such as;

"It's got 6 legs! You can count them!"

Well done. All insects have 6 legs. Also, GCSE maths will be a doddle now you can count to 6.

"It's alive." (Followed by, "Why isn't it dead?!")

Again. Good observation. I think the fact that it was walking along the edge of the bath might have been the give away here. It was alive, I suggested, because she hadn't yet killed it.

Are you scratching yet?

Hubby went to the barber's and got his head shaved! Any that may have landed on me will have been instantly poisoned or fallen out with the masses of hair I appear to be losing at the moment!

Friday was nit free. YAY!

I went to see a new doctor at the hospice. I didn't want to go to the hospice because my aunt went there, and she died of cancer. But I wanted Reiki, and they offer it there, so I went.

"And how do you feel about having to come here?" asked the nurse in a rather condescending manner upon my arrival, "to a hospice?" (In case I wasn't sure where it was I'd had to come to...)

How do you think I feel about coming here? I thought. It's f**king wonderful. Yes. Always wanted to have to come to a hospice!

I said, "I've only come for Reiki! I'm not dying!"

She looked confused. "Our computer said... Okay. Well, let's start with your medication then-"

Lots of awkward silence. Lots of questions about meds, pain, and more meds. I mean LOTS of questions. And the entire time, there's this stomach wrenching smell of hospital, and that oh-so clinical faux living room atmosphere - EXIT signs on the door and window, fire alarms, chintz fabric covered chairs by medi-mass-produce and co.

BUT - before I make everything out to be totally horrid, I was taken through to see the doc once nurse was done with me.

And doc was wonderful! *HUGE GRINS & THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!*

She is a palliative care doc. She knows about tumours and the pain they cause, and even more importantly, she knows her drugs. She said the current tabs didn't address the types of pain I'm getting (not kidding!), and that we can't do reiki until we get the musculo-skeletal pain sorted out.

So I have a new regime. Gone are the 50 billion tablets a day, and the liquid morphine, and the hours of break through pain. Now I have a couple of slow-release pills at 8pm, and a couple in the morning, and that's that. Last night I slept right through and woke up refreshed. No waking at 1am and 3am, and 5am, and 7am for morphine. And today, even though it'll take 3 days for the meds to all kick in properly, I've walked all around town shopping with my mother, and eldest, in relative comfort.

And I get reiki soon too, once the pain has been sorted out!

Things are most definitely looking up!

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

As the fug slowly clears... (plus a short story conference if you're interested?)

I stopped taking the sedatives last night. I figured that a week was long enough and that I should get on with sleeping all by myself again.

I woke up at 1 am, and 5 am, in agony both times, and with nausea... but by 8 am, nausea aside, I felt more awake than I have done since Day 1 of the cycle. So while I'm grateful to the sedatives for helping me sleep through the first week, I'm also quite pleased to be beginning the 'return to normal' phase of the chemo cycle!

Actually made it to Tesco today too (other supermarkets are available...). I had to rope in my friend's fella to take me, but he was marvellous and even carried my handbag round while I tried not to throw up in my trolley. I know hubby will come home and say, "Why did you do that?! I would have gone for you!" but it's baby steps, and I just wanted to go myself and look on shelves. You know? It's a small, but real achievement. (If I'm this pleased about Tesco, imagine how pleased I'll be when my novel gets published and I buy a horse!!!)

Yesterday's achievement was walking into the village and back to post a parcel. It was like being in someone else's body, and about ten minutes into the walk the pain in my shoulder started up big time. My legs felt like lead, and the ringing in my ears made the world so loud and tinny. I got overtaken by a woman who was definitely on the wrong side of 90. So I was walking along singing, "Heave ho! On we go! One foot in front of the other..." and I imagined I was on a pirate ship, hoisting a sail up. I got a few odd looks but I made it there and back. Even if it did take me the best part of 50 mins to do a 20 min trip.

You see sometimes, you just gotta lower your expectations!

There's a few exciting things in the pipeline though. There's Centre Parcs, and I'm determined to get a riding lesson in next week. I have a lunch meeting tomorrow too... lots of stuff. Plus the novel racers are meeting up, and that is by far the most exciting thing ever!!!

And for the writers... news of a short story conference follows...

(I use far too many ellipses, don't I?)

Oceans of Stories Conference
It's Conference time again, folks. I've been to the last two Short Story Conferences organised by Edge Hill, and even gave a paper at last year's (although not going to be doing that this year, ho hum). I think it's a fantastic way to keep abreast of academic debate in the area of the short story...

or equally... it's just great to meet other writers, eat, drink, and be merry! Don't be put off by it being 'academic'. It's never a dry affair - far from it. Al Kennedy had me (and everyone else!) in stitches when she opened the first one, two years ago.

You should be able to click on the poster for all the details, but if not, email me and I'll send you a copy of the poster in pdf.

When: Saturday 10th May 2008
Where: Dean Walters Building, John Moores University, Liverpool.

Hope to see you there.