Tuesday, 16 June 2015

132. A different kind of bucket list

I only follow one other blog. It's by Kate Granger, a young doctor who is now in the late stages of terminal cancer.

Kate has only written two blog posts since I signed up, but they are poignant. In fact the one from two weeks ago has stayed with me every day since I read it, and it has lifted my spirits, so let me share it in full.

The things I love about life…
This is my list. What would you put on yours?
My family & friends
Being a doctor 
Lazy Sunday mornings with no alarm clocks
Cuddles with my nephews & niece
My flute
Cherry blossom
British asparagus
Podding peas in my parents’ garden
Strawberries and cream
Crunching autumn leaves
Band practice
Exploring new places
Going out for dinner
Sunday roasts
Willow trees
Clean bed linen
Spa days
My kitchen
Afternoon tea

It's the clean bed linen that has me gasping.
This is a different kind of bucket list. It's not Things I've never done and I want to do them before I die, but Things I love about my life, and I want to appreciate them again and again before I die.

Savouring the little things in life, the things that make life beautiful.

It's not the big aspirations, the bungee jumps, the travels around the world (unless you're into that kind of thing of course), but the things that we may take for granted. The things we would miss most and the things we might not even realise we enjoy.

That is exactly what I would want to focus on if I only had a little time left. It's what I wanted to focus on when I was ill. It's what I am hugely appreciative and grateful for now. The Moonwalk or the trip to Iceland may well be on my list (as "Exploring new places" is for Kate) but they are outnumbered by the ordinary day-to-day things.

Clean bed linen, definitely. Not forgetting the electric blanket. (I know, I know, it's June, but aahhhh, the bliss of sinking tired bones into the warmth of said blanket.)

The feeling of water on my skin.

Playing a board game with my daughter.

But why wait until there's only a little time left?

When you are ill and tired, your list shrinks, but there is always something on it. I couldn't play a board game when I was coping with chemotherapy, but I still loved the electric blanket. And the daughter herself, without the board game.

Reading Kate's list reminded me to enjoy and appreciate these little things. The wind on my face. My husband opening a bottle of wine when it isn't even a Friday night, and getting two glasses out of the cupboard. Singing in the choir. Tulips. A tidy kitchen.

(Children, if you happen to read this: A Tidy Kitchen is on my list, one with a sock free floor and the margarine in the fridge, not next to it. Believe me: happiness will follow.)

So... what's on your list?

Thursday, 4 June 2015

131. HAIR!!!

Spot the difference.

June 2012

May 2015
There were, of course, various in-between looks. Like these ones, for example.
July 2014 (too long,
but is it worth going to the hairdresser
if it's all going to fall out anyway?)

July 2014 (yes, it is worth going...
The pixie cut, just before it all fell out)
But you can see why my hair has become a talking point.

Or, rather, an exclaiming point. People don't talk in normal Times Roman font when they see my hair. They talk in CAPITAL LETTERS WITH EXCLAMATION MARKS AT THE END OF IT!!!

Because it looks nothing, nothing like it has ever looked before. I mean, seriously, quite apart from the rather startling greyness: THERE ARE CURLS!!!!!!

That needs at least - at least - six exclamation marks. I have never had a single curl in my life. This is how my career in coiffures started...
...and it was ever thus. If fashion dictated a more voluminous look (1980s, I'm looking at you), then a shelf full of hair raising products was needed to prevent the cat-that's-been-out-in-the-rain look, the one where your hair faithfully follows the contours of your head, clinging to it for dear life. (That June 2012 photo? Seems a natural look? Let me tell you, it kept the hair gel-and-blow-dryer businesses in comfortable profits.)

Nowadays, when you put me out in the rain, the curls just go curlier.

So here's the scenario.

You haven't seen me for a couple of weeks/months/years. This can go any of the following ways.

Option 1


Yes, that's right. LOVE, not just in capitals but in bold, and underlined.

ISN'T IT LOVELY! you say. You turn to others, all equally keen to comment.

Don't get me wrong, I'm joining in with gusto. I'm happy to have this conversation several times a week. (And I do.) Wouldn't you much rather discuss hairdos than chemotherapy regimes?

Plus, I genuinely want people's opinion. I'm all for Dutch honesty, which can, to the polite English person, seem to border on rudeness. But I now find that if you've had chemo-induced hair loss, even the English are finally unafraid of speaking their minds. Opinions abound, and I'll hear about them.

"Hm, I'm just wondering whether this is getting ridiculous," I'd say. "Perhaps I should ring my hairdresser?"

And they'd go, "NO!! LEAVE IT LIKE THIS! I LOVE IT!"

Or they go...

Option 2


I have some sympathy. I also rather liked it when it was short. More than liked: I loved the ultra-short look. (Hence my hairdresser suggestion. Wasn't the shorter-than-short look somewhat better than this poodle-like arrangement?)

The drawback: very short hair was (and still is) more high-maintenance than it seems. Not the hair itself, but the rest of me. Without the make-up and the earrings, the funky look (I'm using the most-heard vocabulary here) quickly turns into the old-man-look. And the trouble with make-up is that all too often I just can't be bothered.

More than once, supermarket checkout youngsters (it's usually youngsters) have squirmed with embarrassment at their mistake after I returned their greeting of "Good morning sir" in a voice that clearly didn't match my appearance.

One person went one step further, and said ACTUALLY, I LIKED IT WHEN YOU WERE BALD.

Too bad. I'm not going back there. Let me say that again: I! AM! NOT! GOING! BACK! THERE!!

Option 3


You may well ask. I am as startled by my new look as you are. This doesn't sound like a compliment (and it usually isn't - it's often followed by Option 2).

Option 4


This came from someone I hadn't seen since 2012, and who was unaware of last year's trials and tribulations. She clearly thought I'd been busy with the scissors and curlers.

The dilemma: What to do with it?

Keep it ultra-short? It's quite possible that I suddenly lose heart and call Andrew the lovely hairdresser in a moment of despair.

Let it grow? And grow, and grow, and see what happens? I'm intrigued. How will this end? When will gravity take hold of my curls?

"You looked more like yourself when you had no hair at all," a friend commented recently, and whilst this sounds bizarre, she has a point. I look in the mirror and I think, Hm, who does that remind me of? I definitely don't remind me of myself.

Shape it? Whilst it grows and grows? Because frankly, my current state of affairs feels like a carefully rounded hat.

Dye it? I'm not the dyeing kind, I tried it for a year or so but it was too much like painting the Forth Bridge. Having said that, my current shade of grey is rather startling and only this much removed from the Blue Rinse.

Whilst I am pondering these matters, it suddenly occurs to me who I am reminded of when I look in the mirror. No, it's not me.

Reader, I believe I have finally turned into Denise.

Me as Denise, August 2014

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

130. The Moonwalk... what next?!

The official photos have arrived in my inbox. Here they are.

The Night Owls Team

The finishing line

Well deserved medals!

Were we mad? I think so. Plus, I am concerned that taking part of this was the first symptom of a new affliction. The day after the walk, as I was resting in bed with pleasantly aching limbs and a large number of blisters, I found myself browsing the website for the Nijmeegse Vierdaagse, or the Nijmegen Marches.

This is worrying. The Nijmegen Marches (in the Netherlands) involves walking four marathons in four days. It's a huge event which has been in my consciousness since childhood, as there are always news reports about the weather and the number of walkers dropping out each day. (We're talking thousands here. Dropouts that is, not walkers. Over 40,000 people take part each year.)

The Moonwalk organisers also send teams to take part in this annual event. This does sound completely bonkers, but let me own up: I loved the walking. I miss the motivation to train for a ridiculous event like the Moonwalk. So, I've registered interest in the 2016 marches...

Anyone else...????

Let me make it clear that this is no longer part of a recovery plan. In the summer of 2016, I will have recovered. This is just, oh, a new hobby perhaps?

Let me hope that by 2016, I will have recovered from this new ailment. Because honestly, who would want to suffer four days of crowds, blisters and near-collapse in the Dutch summer heat?