Wednesday, October 25, 2006

More FAT (Five Amazing Things)

Yes, I've put on weight since not exercising as much - surprise surprise -, but like I say I'm fattening up for chemo. The thought of losing so much weight that my muscle starts wasting away is the inspiration behind scoffing plenty of risotto and curry daily. My FAT technique (Five Amazing Things - geddit?) is to moan a bit, then counterbalance this with a list of Five Amazing Things (FAT). You see Mum's theory is that any sort of creative writing does you the world of good. IE have a good moan, do whatever you like. The professionals seem to think that you have to count your blessings or 'beautiful things' or 'amazing things' (Copyright Tattontastic 2006) or whatever you want to call it. Some like to call it 'MONEY', but I don't personally ascribe to that viewpoint. Well, I could be convinced...

Anyway, I am feeling a bit better than yesterday

1) Done four book reviews on Amazon - Sophie's World, How to be Happy, The Fragrant Pharmacy and Stress-Free Living.
2) The cats are lovely. V cuddly.
3) We've decided that today is a 'Holiday'. Phil has also given himself the day off so he's been playing 'Dawn of War' and I've been doing number 1) above
4) Doing 1) has made me realise what a brilliant book Sophie's World is.
5) Doing lots of meditation which is excellent and I love it.
6) Doing Book Reviews is great - it's better than reading the book as you sort off soak it up like a sophisticated computer. As we are of course.
7) Done an extra Two Amazing Things - and that spells TAT.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Don't bother to read this I'm just moaning (but I will include five amazing things - FAT)

Various people have complained to me about this blog that I complain too much on it. ANYWAY. The operation has been cancelled. Pissedoff I think is the word to describe me at the moment. With a capital P. You know when something goes wrong and then suddenly everything seems shit? The bin needs emptying, you're accidentally tripping over ten million kids who are on half term - OF COURSE - and they're all at the Tate Modern where you've decided to come with your Dad, who's taken the day off etc etc. Someone recommends an annoying website, written by someone who claims to be a 'Health Journalist'. And you think to yourself how come this person isn't reporting the huge cuts going on? How come their rubbish happy-clappy website is more popular than mine? How come I'm not a 'Health Journalist'?
How come they're not campaigning so that LIVING HEALTHY PEOPLE can freeze their own ovarian tissue for the future?

Anyway, I'm too busy trying to stay healthy etc etc ad infinitum to bother getting angry about anything. Instead of getting angry I'm being creative. Some might call it plagiarism. Annoyance/Anger/Jealousy one could say is misplaced PRIDE. I'm proud of this amazing woman and her blog. So she's number one in today's FAT list:

1) Three beautiful things
2) The Millennium Bridge not bouncing. In fact even when it was the Bouncing Bridge it was good.
3) The Tate Modern.
4) Joan Mitchell's piece next to the window showing the Millennium Bridge
5) Phone call from Mum & Not going to work - even when it is Half Term. Love it.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Five Amazing Things

Counting your blessings is one of those things that's supposed to help with improving one's mood and mentioned in one of my favourite books - Making Slough Happpy. It turns out that Slough has been voted or established as the least tranquil place in the UK, but Hackney is the worst place to live. What about in the world? I bet Hackney isn't the worst place in the world to live. Basra probably beats it. Anyway I didn't even realise this when I changed my mind about going into town this afternoon as I'd have to walk past the human excrement and mounds of illegal rubbish outside our front door, not to mention the stationery traffic on the road ourside our house because presumably Transport for London have decided to alter the road set up without consultation. Moan moan moan.

1) The wonderful mild weather meaning we haven't had the heating on yet
2) Celeriac cooked in butter with organic roasted ham and brocolli for lunch
3) £30 John Lewis vouchers arriving on a Monday morning
4) Being able to have pioneering fertility preserving treatment on the NHS - just like Kylie Minogue
5) Fully operational dishwashers, cups of tea, aromatherapy with geranium and Clary sage, and Sunday lunch times with friends, champagne and babies

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Five Amazing Things

1) My friend's wedding present arrived - a Lemon Tree and an Orange Tree
2) The books which I had ordered from the library arrived - 3 wedding books about dresses and flowers!
3) The wonderful colours in the garden of Virginia Creeper - looks beautiful from the bedroom window and the Solanum is at its peak of white flowers from the living room
4) A gorgeous gift from Phil of beautiful bright yellow chrysathymums. Fantastic.
5) Phil set up the dehumidifier which also arrived in time for winter yesterday

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

What do you have to do to get signed photos these days?

Dear Russell Brand

Re: Returning of Favour

You may remember living with me in Hampstead above a pub ten years ago. I was a happy go lucky, hard working, young and attractive 22 year old at the time. I was living in the ‘Queen’s Head’ or ‘Arms’ in the literal non-conjugal sense of the word with an old actor who was the landlord (Barry from Eastenders?). He had sympathies with young, male, drama students like yourself and was I believe that way inclined if you know what I mean. From what I remember there were the three of us living with ‘Barry from Eastenders’ who had a terrible temper – you, me and this other, shorter-than-you drama student who was your mate. Can’t remember his name I’m afraid but I think he had fair hair, quite short and he used to say things like ‘I’m going to dress up as a chicken every day for the rest of my life if that’s what being an actor means’. You used to wait on his every whim. I remember there was a lovely, voluptuous lady who took a shine to you (‘Oh, That Russell’s Lovely’) who used to do the Sunday roasts for £3 a time, she was into the New Age Traveller scene as it was then. She had an on-off relationship with this other guy who I also can’t remember his name, but I think he used to sell dope.

And we used to sit on each others beds and make each other laugh – do you remember? It was all very innocent and good fun. Those were the days.

And imagine my delight when a couple of months ago I realise that you have reached the Zenith of 21st century life. You are, in anyone’s books a ‘Celebrity’! I happened to tune in to ‘Big Brother’s Little Brother’ on Channel 4 (my fiancĂ© has banned me from watching Big Brother itself) and you were there performing some funny lamentations on life. Then you started talking in a very Shakespearean way. I thought – ‘Oh how unusual a TV presenter having what appears to be classical drama training’. Then I was immediately brought back to 1996 and the conversations I had with you and your mate about the value of classical drama training. And that thing happens when you suddenly realise that you’ve met someone before. You think ‘Oh yes - it is him, he hasn’t got his hair tied back, he’s put on a bit of weight, and he doesn’t seem as sweet and innocent. Yes, it appears that the person who I knew as Russell has aged.’

I also love the fact that your politics, football supporting, gender awareness and of course, sense of humour are all so advanced and well developed now.

(Second Page)
Unfortunately I was diagnosed with breast cancer a couple of months ago and I was wondering if you could possibly now earn forgiveness from me, for that shift you failed to swap, which meant I got the sack from my job in the pub thus becoming homeless. (I’m not homeless anymore so some things have got better).

Could you visit me in hospital when I’m having chemo – it starts in a few weeks. Or a couple of free tickets to one of your gigs. Or perhaps I could have a signed photo?

Thanks and I look forward to hearing from you,

Best wishes and love from

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

We've found the dress!

One of the joys of being a slightly older bride than everyone else is that you can ask everyone else how they might have improved their own wedding. Anyway, one of the things I didn't think I'd be over fussy about was the dress. However, after speaking to friends on the issue - even the ones who also thought they weren't that fussy - they actually are. Anyway - we've found the dress! I'm more excited than ever. Blaglady helped me pick it which is very exciting too, as she is the Madame of Cool. I obviously can't describe it as Phil may read this. The main thing is, it suits me - the style. I didn't think it would, but it did. It was the first one I tried on (in the v posh shop). The shop assistant was excellent as although I said I liked it from the website, she said try it on first. We caught her off guard at the end of the appointment (the shop assistant) when I asked if it was ethically sourced and produced. She basically owned up and said it was made in a Chinese sweat shop. Ho Hum.

Then we had a sumptuous lunch at Carluccios where I've never been and sauntered over to the Barbican and milked the Corporation of London for every penny we could - by going to the Library. It was wonderful and I took some photos of the plants people have on their balconies. One day, when I have learned how to compute I will put them on here. Trailing greenery in a beautiful water drenched concrete jungle. On this beautiful day of chat, good food, books, rain, warmth and dress finding.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

A list for World Mental Health Day

One of my favourite bits from the 'Expert Patient Programme' was a session where we all contributed and gave a list of all the things which we do to cheer us up a bit, which don't cost anything. All of them you should be able to do on your own.
Here is mine:
1) Yoga
2) Meditation
3) Alexander Technique
4) Write an entry on blog
5) Write a book review on Amazon
6) Tidy up kitchen
7) Tidy up bedroom
8) Cycle
9) Sort out books
10) Take photos
11) Stroke cats
12) cheery music
13) Classic FM
14) Relaxation
15) Comedy DVD
16) Cooking
17) Sewing
18) Birdwatching
19) Gardening
20) Write poems
21) Read
22) Go on internet
23) Phone friends and family
24) Write lists
25) Plan wedding, holiday or event

Monday, October 09, 2006

'I wanna help - for the sake of the kids'

Jeremy Kyle has just persuaded some youngster to carry on talking on his programme with this comment. The other lady on the platform accused her of being an 'unfit mother'. The ultimate insult.

Surely it's more like 'I wanna interfere - for the sake of the ratings.'

I'm doing anything to avoid ringing the mortgage solicitors who have written a complicated letter. We know about two thousand solicitors - friends and relatives - but too hungover yesterday to contact any of them.

So now, here I am watching Jeremy Kyle, thinking about the state of the nation's teeth (the family on the platform are quite handsome bar the teeth). Anyway at least some member of my family hasn't asked me to go on Jeremy Kyle. What would I say? I'd politely decline. I'd probably use cancer as an excuse 'Yes, I'd love to go on the Jeremy Kyle show, but my cancer treatment might make it a bit difficult'. I'd rather talk to solicitors than that. They're not as critical as Jeremy Kyle. Every programme he says 'That is wrong'. How does he know? Is he God?

Saturday, October 07, 2006

What a wonderful way to spend a Saturday afternoon

I've had a marvellous time dipping in and out of books, criticising them, Stroking the cats, thinking about art and history and operating the DVD player for the first time.

My latest trick to financial management is to have a hearty meal before shopping. And send a relative out to shop instead.

So, I'm well fed, enjoying my chemo-ready size twelve in comfortable trousers and watching a Tracey Emin film - Top Spot. She is the best British artist if you ask me. The music is amazing, the cinematography inspirational, and the sentiment is liberating, especially to a thirty something who doesn't live in Margate, comme moi. I still don't like violence in films. There is no need for the suicide in the film.

Anyway, It's so lovely to see a film where there isn't one man. Not one. So refreshing. And they notice it when you don't put them in films. I heard them comment about it on Radio Four about Volver. But they don't seem to notice when women aren't in films.

Top Form. My first film might be called that.

Then I look her up on Amazon and you can't even get her film! I don't know whether to laugh or cry. Should I be ecstatic that I've got a 'limited edition' film of hers that you can't seem to get even on Amazon?

I have done another book review - Love in the Western World - which I was particularly pleased with as I employed my amazing skim reading technique. Turn over every page and look at each page, not necessarily reading every word. In fact definitely not reading every word. I've also thoroughly researched exactly how to get to become to be a top 1000 reviewer. Which is more time consuming than it sounds. I had to trawl through a thousand pages of names looking at the ratio of items reviewed to positive reviews. Even gettinig to be in the Amazon top 1000 reviewers means that you have to have some element of 'vote'. So obviously reviewing out-of-publication books which nobody wants isn't going to get me anywhere.

Who wants to be popular anyway? Certainly not leaders (it says so in the Guardian today) but what about non-leaders who want an easy, pottering around life, blogging and doing Amazon book reviews? I'm aiming to get in their top 1000 reviewers. It's going to be difficult. Especially if they don't have the stuff I'm reviewing. It's a medium term aim.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

'Have you been watching Autumn Watch? Because we think you've been rutted'

We had a hilarious incident last night where some piece of geeky equipment Phil was getting from Ebay had not turned up. How it works is if someone's a bit rubbish you give them a bad review - a bit like me with Amazon book reviews. Except when you're an ebay buyer ebay then publish your reviews, whereas Amazon don't like most reviews of mine and publish about 2% of them.

Anyway, Phil had given this rubbish seller (he only buys) a bad review. So some other geek then emails him at about 4am saying how he'd given this bad seller some cash and hadn't received the goods. I suggested the above response. How we laughed.

Prenuptial Planning Pleasures

Now Work want me to jump through a few more hoops to get back, which I'm casually skipping round, I'm able to fully dedicate myself to the pleasures of wedding planning. I've booked myself an appointment at Jenny Packham, the celebrities' bridal shop. And I'm thoroughly excited.

The Tattonmeister is tarting up our tunes for the day.

The Royal Navy have helpfully changed their rules of engagement so He's not so tempted to abscond.

The mortgage is managed, and we're on the way to a happy, long and successful marriage and I can't wait! The children are on ice, the Fertility Goddess is pregnant herself, which must bode well, and Mum's ordered the bluebell bulbs and bunting bonanza.

The favours are fabulous, the engagement ring is sparkling, the food's fab, the marquee marvellous, the guests are great, and we're going to 'Rock and Roll' tomorrow night with Tom Stoppard.

Fattening up for Chemo

For some time now, my betrothed and I have been discussing 'fattening up for chemo'. I am officially at least a size 12 on my bottom half (size 16 in some quarters) and every time I see anyone I know 'Oh you look so well' code word 'You've put on weight'. A couple of weeks ago close friends directly asked if I was pregnant.

I've started taking one sugar in my tea (as opposed to half and trying to cut down). I've started drinking the government limit in alcohol - 14 units a week and I'm not taking much exercise. We're still eating like Kings - in fact better. I don't have any cold food whatsoever which is just how I like it. I know Gillian Mckeith would have something to say about that.

I tried on my mate's wedding dress a few days ago - whose brother used to nickname her 'Miss Piggy' and it was too small for me.

But I remember blaglady saying a few years ago that one puts on a dress size every decade so even without [non] intentional fattening up, I'm fine.

My paranoia about everything has completely dissipated too - I got a leaflet from Fulham about the risk factors for breast cancer. Basically nobody knows what causes it (just as I was told on day 1) and there's conflicting information about every risk - so you may as well relax and enjoy yourself. I'm not forcing myself to drink brocolli and sprout juice every 5 minutes, or cutting out dairy, or worrying about water or anything at all. I'm back on full strength deodorant, underwired bras, moderate drinking, wonderful food, you name it, I'm at it.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

How to Manage Cancer (and other long term conditions) - An introduction

There's a quick answer to this - go on the 'Expert Patient Programme website'. The website is understandably slightly rubbish as they don't want to give away the course/programme/skills on it. All is not lost, as I've now got eons of time to spare as it looks like I'm not going back to work for another 6 months, just carry on reading!

I've talked about the Expert Patient Programme before; I was lucky enough to encounter it as I work within the NHS and signed up to it after a brief period of anxiety/depression. It's the best tool or system that I've been taught that's enabled me to deal with not just cancer but life itself. It's different from a 'self help group' as it's much more directed - all people with long term conditions or illnesses are taught skills together, in a group of about ten, over six weeks. Little comparisons are made with other participants (a negative experience I've had elsewhere) - as there is only a two minute slot right at the start of the course where the participants disclose their 'condition' and the difficulties it brings. The self management course is taught by two tutors. One of which is 'regional' from the Department Of Health (until it was privatised recently) and another is 'local' - a volunteer from the local community (comme moi) who's been on the four day training. Both tutors have to have a 'condition' themselves.

Primarily what I don't like about it (the programme) is it's secrecy. It's been 'copyrighted' by Stanford University in the USA, so as 'tutors' we are not allowed to duplicate the material. This gives it the impression, of when you first come into contact with it, of it being like a cult, which I used to joke about when I first did it. You get a glimpse of that on the website - people saying how wonderful it is, but not specifically how or why. I hope to address that here.

When I have the comptuer skills necessary - if Mr P can do this computer lark then I'm sure I can - then I'm going to try and make an accessible version of the programme on the web.

The 'course' is really an 80 page script which the tutors read from, based on about 25 'charts' - which are flip-chart size with about five bullet points each normally.

Chart One - is a course overview - displays in chart form the different skills and areas we learn:
-Overview of self-management and chronic health conditions
- making an action plan [a key part of the course which is taught at every class)
- Relaxation/cognitive symptom management
- feedback/problem solving [covered in 5/6 classes]
- anger/fear/frustration
- fitness/exercise
- better breathing
- fatigue
- nutrition
- living wills [don't like this bit]
- communication
- medications
- making treatment decisions
- depression
- informing the health care team
- working with your health care professional
- future plans

Chart Two : Responsibilities

1. Come to every session
2. Ask anything you want
3. Maintain confidentiality
4. Do your homework
5. Give new activities at least a two-week trial
6. Make and complete a weekly action plan
7. Call your classmate weekly

Chart Three:

Self-Management Tasks

1. Take care of your chronic health problem
2. Carry out your normal activities
3. Manage your emotional changes

The script for each of the 2.5 hour sessions is about 15 pages long. But will Tattontastic have the stamina, courage and skills to publish? Watch this space...

Monday, October 02, 2006

Another perfect weekend

We've had a tough couple of weeks what with tooth problems and hormones, creating a nasty cocktail of overall bad mood. So my betrothed and I decided to treat ourselves to a lovely weekend in Sussex.

It was marvellous - the weather was perfect, albeit slightly windy causing us to deploy some serious science (he really is a genius that fiancee of mine) when pulling the tent down. We found this campsite as it was recommended in a book that we got recently which gives you lovely photos as well as description.

It was ideal in many ways as the campsite was only a couple of hours drive from London, and in beautiful rolling countryside, plus we could have gone to Brighton for the day if we'd have wanted. And we managed to pack in some cycling too! It was better than ever, as something that I hadn't realised which Phil has introduced me to is of course the concept of cycling on bridalways. Absolutely perfect as you're cruising along, with no prospect of being knocked off by cars and the only thing you have to worry about is your fitness level and how to negotiate the couple of pedestrians you might see. And the variety of landscapes in Sussex is incredible - brown rolling ploughed fields, then sweet smelling woodlands and dramatic steep slopes. The local area has had prosperity for centuries - there is every example of architecture you can think of, when you least expect it - like the Tudor townhouses in the little village of Ditchling.

On Saturday we cycled to the wonderful pub 'Jolly Sportsman' and had a great meal - we think it should have a michelin star. Then on Sunday we cycled from our campsite up to the two Windmills 'Jack and Jill' and had our picnic lunch from a wonderful viewpoint soaking up the delightful dark green and golden, windswept autumnal scene.