A Pain in the Abdomen and a Pain in the Bum

This time 45 years ago, I was in the middle of my A-level exams. I took Pure Maths, Physics and Chemistry. In the middle of one of the papers, I had to be accompanied to the toilets as I felt sick. I was sick. I couldn’t continue and went home in agony. I’d been to the GP a couple of times already and he’d diagnosed my abdomenal pains as ‘exam nerves’.

Later on this Wednesday afternoon, I returned to the GP, saw a different one who, after a more thorough, intimate examination, diagnosed appendicitis and told me I had to get into hospital straightaway.

This was my first ride in an ambulance but I was in too much pain to really appreciate it. Mum was with me but I have no idea who was looking after my sister Pauline. Dad was at the Epsom Derby and didn’t get back until much later.

In hospital, I don’t remember the anaesthetic but I do remember the dreams of a golden staircase that went on and on. I woke up without an appendix, which someone described as a blackened gherkin, and I’m sure they asked if I wanted to keep it. Nope.

While in hospital, I missed one paper but took a Chemistry exam in the presence of one of my teachers, Jenny Nelson.

That was the end of school for me, and I missed out on all the end-of-term activities.

Even while I was at school and at university, I never had anxiety dreams about exams. So imagine my surprise when I woke up this morning from an exam-related dream. Weird.

I was due to take a Chemistry exam but I couldn’t be bothered. I’d had enough. So I went to a coffee bar instead and ordered my default, latte and carrot cake. After a few minutes, I had a pang of guilt. Mum and Dad and teachers and everyone had such high expectations of me. I knew that if I ran fast, I would make it in time to take the exam: I knew they let people in up to half an hour late and I also knew that until now, I’d finished all my exams well before time was up. This also wasn’t an anxiety dream, just an alternative train of events that never really happened. In 1973, I’d never even heard of latte or carrot cake.

Appendicitis was my medical complaint from a long time ago. Liesel is currently suffering from a painful piriformis muscle which is literally a pain in the arse that sometimes radiates down her leg. Yesterday, in the torrential rain, we visited a physiotherapist in Earlsfield who examined Liesel, poked and prodded a bit and suggested some exercises that will hopefully alleviate the problem.

Did I say it was torrential? We’ve had thunderstorms on and off for a few days now, and thank goodness, we’ve mostly been able to sleep through them. There have been some pretty spectacular photos of the storms on Twitter.

A Castle and a Common

Liesel asked if I’d like to go to heave a castle. This was a euphemism that I was not familiar with so naturally, I agreed, out of curiosity.

On Saturday we met up with our friend Rosie and we visited Hever Castle in Kent. Aha!

It was a beautifully warm, sunny day and we had a good wander waround the well-kept gardens. The castle itself has a long and interesting history and there are plenty of artefacts to look at. But not many that you’re allowed to touch.

Then we went to the Anchor by Pyrford Lock for a late afternoon meal. I opted for a so-called falafel vegan burger and chips. It was very nice, with a pint of IPA!

Sunday was a day to catch up on some gardening and in the process, I was reminded that the back of the garage needs a good sort-out before we move. Lots of stuff to get rid of, we even thought about having a Freecycle or Freegle day, leave it on the back lawn and hope people help themselves. The fewer trips we make to the tip, the better!

Bank Holiday Monday, we visited family for breakfast. Helen’s other half, Adam, had flown over from Sydney to watch his team, Fulham FC play at Wembley on Saturday. They won this play-offs final and next season will play in the Premier League. Which is good news for a lifelong Fulham supporter even if, as Adam thinks, the quality of the football is not as good in the Premier League compared with the Championship.

He invited us over to his Mum’s for breakfast this morning and it was good to see some of his family again. He’s had 10 hours sleep in the last three days, really needs a nap but he is flying home later today so I’m sure he’ll sleep well on the plane.

After that, Liesel and I went for a walk in the woods in Epsom, around Stew Ponds and Ashtead Common. We walked to The Star pub, on Leatherhead Road, but no, on this occasion, I did not have burger and chips. Two days in a row is OK, but three times in four days would be a bit OTT! Also, as it was so warm, I had no beer, just lemonade and lime. Liesel had soda water and lime. just so you know what to ask for when you see us in a pub, on a hot day…

On this day in 1983, Jenny was born, the most exciting day of my (Mick’s) life at the time. After leaving Sarah and the baby in hospital, I went around all the local shops and told everyone. Hppy birthday, Jenny!

This was 15 years to the day after Kylie Minogue was born. For a short while when she was small, Jenny was quite pleased to share her special day. Happy 50th birthday, Kylie!

On this day in 1988, Sarah, Jenny, helen and I attended the wedding betwieen Sandra and Nick. They’d known each other as long as Sarah and I knew each other but waited 9 years longer before tying the knot. We stopped in a country lane on the ay so that Jenny and Helen could put on the lovely dresses that their Mum had made.

On this day in 2009, Liesel and Mick attended a recording of Have I Got News for You at the London Studios on the South Bank. David Mitchell on the host. It was a full house of course, and a very funny show.

Ireland PS

Liesel’s Ireland post-script:

It has been two months now since I stopped working.  I am amazed at how different I feel. I am:  sleeping through the night, awake on the weekends, eating less (not anxiety eating), losing weight, more energy, concentrating and reading ‘new’ books, and, my hair is growing back.  Bottom line, work really was harming me mentally and physically.   I feel incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to figure out how to have a better work-life balance, spending time and seeing the world with my best friend, Mick.

So, if you’ve been reading our blog, you’ll know that Mick and I have completed our trip to Ireland.  What a spectacular country.  Highlights were: stunning scenery, walking empty beaches, great weather, and catching up with my friend Catherine and her family.

I’ve been rehashing our trip to Ireland for the last couple of days and thinking about what worked and what could have made our trip better.  Our intention had been to slow down really enjoy our surroundings, no to do list of places we had to see and things we had to do.  We did this but there were a couple of days when we didn’t get back until late and we’re really tired.  I think we can do better!

If I intend to keep up with Mick and my Alaska friends, I must remember to pack a tennis ball and stretch at the end of every day in order keep my piriformis muscle happy.  I had a really painful 8 mile hike up the Gap of Dunloe and paid for my pain the next day as well.

We now know that we can get by on a week’s worth of clothes (or less, in Mick’s case) and can successfully carry our packs for a comfortable 5 miles.

As you may have guessed, I cannot part with my hairdryer but wearing no makeup is working for me. Solid shampoo can work for us but we need to find a solution to getting it out of the tin.

We enjoyed a road trip holiday but need to scale back the miles of travel given the amount of time we have.  2000 km in 2 weeks was too much.

We must exercise every day we can.  We both feel better, sleep better and can eat without guilt.

We don’t have to do everything together, I need the occasional quiet day to read, cook and relax. Likewise, Mick enjoys a the occasional faster-paced, extra-long walk.

I now appreciate that big towns and cities are less interesting when you cannot shop due to space limitations in my luggage and our restrictive budget.   I have to prioritise what museum(s) I want to see the most and I won’t be able to afford all of them.

Can we stick to £100 a day including accommodation?  We can but there are compromises.  We ate big breakfasts (included with our accommodation price) and had a main meal at 4 or 5 p.m. and nothing else.  Now, I love my food, but not every meal has to be gourmet.  Mick needs at least one latte a day.   If we have to compromise on accommodation, we’d rather be in the countryside and have a bathroom to ourselves.

Ozymandias

We were both, like, entertained by the year 11 lads on the bus who, like, were talking about the morning’s GCSE exam. They discussed Ozymandias and, like, all I could think of was Ozzy Osbourne. Then they briefly, like, talked about rhyming patterns, ABAB and AB whatever, and all I could think of was ABBA and how, like, I was looking forward to hearing their new songs later in the year. I bit my cheek so I didn’t laugh at their over-use of the word ‘like’, like.

But most of all, how glad we are not to be revising for, nor taking, exams and then discussing them afterwards and realising we’d missed out something vital and knowing we’d definitely failed? Very glad indeed.

And we’ll probably never know whether it was Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Ozymandias or Horace Smith’s they’d studied.

We were on the bus going back home having walked 5 miles to Kingston Hospital for an early morning appointment. A very nice walk, perfect temperature!

Later in the day, we met up with Helen and Steve and visited Helen’s Dad, Nigel, in hospital.

Two hospitals in one day.

Then we went to the Beefeater on Epsom Downs for a late meal. I opted for a so-called vegan burger and chips. It was very nice, with a pint of Guinness!

Back Home

Returning home after a holiday is always an anticlimax. It’s nice to be home, but we’d still prefer to be doing something different, somewhere else. Best of all though, is not having to go back to work the next day! Neither of us! The journey home was uneventful, but bitty.

After breakfast and a chat with our host, Noreen, then

  • We walked to the tram stop and caught a tram into Dublin city centre, then
  • We walked around the corner and caught a bus to the airport, then
  • We walked to the gate, via the shops, then caught an airport bus, then
  • We walked to the aeroplane and up the stairs and flew to Gatwick, then
  • We walked off the plane and caught a bus to the terminal, then
  • We walked to the station and caught a train to Clapham Junction, then
  • We walked to a different platform and caught a train to Tolworth, then
  • We walked across the road and caught a bus to Gosbury Hill, then
  • We walked around the corner, home, sweet home.

Interestingly, we walked straight out of Gatwick airport, nobody and no machine checked our passports. It was a bit of a shock to be out on the concourse with hundreds of members of the actual public.

Liesel declined my invitation to come for a walk the following day, despite it being sunny rather than the predicted wet. And walking around the streets of Chessington, I was reminded why I usually take out my phone and play music or radio programmes. The sound of traffic is inescapable, even away from what might be described as main roads. The birds around here have to squawk really loudly to compete with the traffic. Walking in the forest last week was so peaceful, hearing the birds singing without having to shout. And the silence in between was only disturbed by the susurration of the wind in the leaves.

Today was the day we caught up on all of our admin, not very interesting really, having to pay bills and check bank accounts and process all the mail, throwing a good 75% of the paperwork straight into the recycling bin.

As far as the house-move is concerned, some progress has been made. We responded to our vendor’s enquiries and our seller’s solicitor has answered some of ours. One thing that is a little disconcerting, that we hadn’t previously even contemplated, is the question: Is our new flat likely to be affected by the impact of the High Speed Railway (HS2) from Birmingham to Manchester?

While away, we tried to follow the Giro d’Italia but now we’re home, we can watch it on TV, or at least, the highlights. Simon Yates has been leading for most of the race but today, he cracked on the final climb, so, excitingly, it’s all to play for! (As they say.)

Today is the final day of the service provided by Which.net, the site of my first websites and our first email addresses. Over the years, I’ve said farewell to a number of different email addresses but I still have a soft spot for some of them:

  • delphinus
  • more-chocolate
  • dark_horse
  • mickeydoodah
  • mick_the_wonder_horse
  • mickey_moose
  • mickeydoooodah
  • mickeydoodledoo
  • mick.freed (yes, one of those had to go because it clashed with an American who shares my name)
  • cc_s435 (my very first one, at Kingston University)

Dublin again

Two days in Dublin’s fair city and yes, the girls are pretty. The city itself though will look a lot prettier once the referendum is over and the big ‘No’ and ‘Yes’ posters are taken down. At Heuston Station, we apologised for not being able to vote as we were just visiting, but we assured the ‘Yes’ campaigners that we were on their side, for what it’s worth.

When we first went to buy tickets for Kilmainham Gaol Museum, the only timeslot available was for 5pm, so we decided to buy tickets for the next day instead. Managing the queues to get inside to join the queue to buy tickets was a tough job. Dave coped quite well, though, even turning a group of six away who would not get in this day.

It would be easier to get into this gaol by committing a criminal offence, I thought.

No? Dave the queue handler wasn’t too impressed by this throwaway line either.

Today we retuned and after a quick coffee (but no cake) in the café, we joined a group of about 40 in the holding cells. Pat was the guide’s name. He showed us around the old gaol, telling us about its history and indeed the struggle for Irish independence. There was a lot of history here that I certainly didn’t learn at school. Sometime it’s hard to be English when you learn how we treated peoples from pretty much everywhere else on the planet. Plenty of tragic stories to be told, here.

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The museum, as is often the case, had too much to digest in one visit. Lots of documents and photos.

Just down the road and through the park is the Irish Museum of Modern Art. Its design is based on Les Invalides in Paris. I noticed a sundial and the following dialogue took place:

Mick: Looking at the sundial, I reckon it’s about ten past twelve.

Liesel: But the Sun’s not even out.

Mick: So? Not bad, though, my Fitbit says is 12:02.

Sundial at IMMA

Temple Bar is a famous name and we spent some time in this pub two days running. On the first occasion, there was a small band playing Irish folk songs and other songs. Today, there was a solo performer, also singing Irish folk songs as well as songs by Cat Stevens, Johnny Cash and George Harrison. On both occasions, we heard about Molly Malone and about The Belle of Belfast City.

Cornucopia was a good find, a veggie restaurant on Wicklow Street. So good, we went there twice, too. The weather was OK both days, not a lot of sunshine, not much of the predicted rain either, but today was very close, very humid, and we were flagging by mid-afternoon.

Our main mode of transport has been the Luas Tram network. The signs and announcements are all in two languages, and after a while, you get a feel for the Irish words. Some are similar to English, some are similar to French and other langauges, but nearly always, by English standards, there are far too many letters in Irish Gaelic words! It’s easy to love the Luas Tram Rad Line with colourful station/stop names such as Blackhorse, Goldenbridge, Bluebell and Red Cow.

It’s usually taken us to and from our b&b in Tallaght, to the south of Dublin, but I don’t know if we would have chosen to stay here if we’d known its etymology: plague pit.

But today, after our meal at Cornucopia, we caught a 49 bus, knowing it would cross a tram line at some point, where we could change. But, fortuitously, it took us all the way to Tallaght, and a ten-minute walk later found us back in our room, preparing for our early departure tomorrow, listening to the radio and looking forward to a good night’s sleep.

Emerald from the bus
Emerald from the bus

Dublin

In Dublin’s fair city
Where the girls are so pretty
I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone
As she wheeled her wheelbarrow
Through the streets broad and narrow
Crying “cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh”
Molly Malone Statue
Molly Malone Statue – we did not stroke her boobs, although it seems many people have done so

Well, Molly Malone wasn’t the first person we saw in Dublin. Not the tenth, not the hundredth. There are thousands of people in Dublin, more than we’ve seen in the last 10 days or so. We’ll get used to the crowds soon enough, but it’s a bit of a shock to the system after having the Irish countryside and the roads pretty much to ourselves for so long.

Sadly we missed the great event of the day, but as we drove through Foxford on our way to Dublin, we noticed that they were setting up the world-famous Goat Fair. By the side of the road, we saw goats, chickens, rabbits and other food waiting to entertain the people.

The drive to Dublin was far easier than we’d expected: we dropped our bags off at the new b&b, returned the hire car, and spent the afternoon walking around the capital city. It was a beautiful day, we’ve been so lucky with the weather, on the whole.

We found St Stephen’s Green and had a lie down under an oak tree for a while, watching people, trying not to rest our eyes too much.

We read about the royal wedding, Harry and Megham, the American preacher, the dress, the choir, the crowds, but we were very happy where we were, thank you. Mrs Beckham (see previous post) was there, not really enjoying the ceremony, apparently.

Thanks again to Catherine and her beautiful family for putting up with us over there in Ballina for the last few days. That’s Bally-nah, not Balleener, like something you’d get out of whales. She and her husband, Fionn, whom we first met last night, ran a half-marathon this morning and it’s a shame we couldn’t stay to cheer them on. Or join in.

We’re now in Tallacht, south-west of the city, and it’s quiet here (apart from the motor bike) and the view to the south is pretty good considering we are so close to the city.

The good news is, we found the missing binoculars, in exactly the same place that we’d found a wallet that went missing for a couple of days. There is some kind of gravitational anomaly under that driver’s seat: someone else’s problem, now!