Saturday, 30 January 2016

Teabags, Florabunda and Waterfalls

On Thursday evening I attended a craft group from church which was tremendous fun – it was billed as a “knit and natter” evening and we could take along anything to do, or nothing, if we wanted. I took some more of the prints of my Florabunda drawings to paint, and made a start on one of them – the top left one in the following photo.

01 Six Paintings - Perfect Pearls and Watercolour

All the top row are painted with Perfect Pearls, and the bottom row are watercolours with a touch of Perfect Pearls in gold and a couple of other colours to give a bit of sparkle. I haven’t had my watercolours out for ages and thought it would be fun to use yet another medium on these pictures, and I love the way you can shade with them – on the bottom left one, you can see this, and some colour blending, on the flowers, and on the bottom right one you can see this on the leaves, providing more dimension.

Including the four mandala ones I did recently with Perfect Pearls, I now have a total of 10 florabunda paintings to be made up into cards, so I shall soon get the 2016 Card Factory going!

Tea – The Cup that Cheers

Today I did a bit more work on my art journal page using teabags – not a lot of work, because I spent some time searching for inspiration and trying to decide what to do with the teabags.

A couple of days ago I made the saucer for the cup. This was formed from a teabag cut across the diagonal to get sufficient length. It was applied with regular matt gel medium, the same as the cup, and I added shading to both, using Inktense pencils and my grey watercolour pencil.

14 Saucer

I was thinking that the glitter steam coming from the cup wasn’t quite distinct enough so I added a bit of outlining with my Faber Castell sepia Pitt pen. In this photo the gitter looks silver, but it is in fact gold.

15 Steam Swirl Emphasised

Then I took my sanguine pen and added the “tea” to the cup. I may need to emphasise this a bit more.

16 Tea

Now it was tme to work on the teabags. I began by layering them diagonally and sticking them together with a small amount of matt gel medium, and cutting off the top point so that the cut edge will lie along the top edge of the page. The teabags looked too pale (like the teabag under the ink pad in the next photo) so I added some Tea Dye distress ink (appropriately). The ink pad was pretty dry so I re-inked it.

17 Teabags - Tea Dye DI

I like the way the gel medium soaked through the teabags and acted as a resist to the distress ink. I wanted a bit more colour so I “splatted” them with the Tea Dye distress stain – I also splatted the craft sheet and spritzed it with water and smooshed the teabags in it.

18 Teabags - Tea Dye Distress Stain

I spritzed the teabags with more water and blotted them off with kitchen paper to give a nice mottled effect.

19 Teabags - Tea Dye DS Spritzed and Blotted

I was thinking that if I was going to paint them, they were a bit dark in the middle now, so I repeated the process with Picket Fence distress stain.

20 Picket Fence DS Spritzed

I was really in playing mode by this time! I decided to add a bit of bling with two of the metallic distress stans – Antiqued Bronze and Tarnished Brass.

21 Teabags - Metallic DS

Here is a mock-up with the teabags placed in position on the page. I am still toying with the idea of doing some machine embroidery on them but not sure whether to do this in combination with some painting, or to choose either painting or machine embroidery alone. Decisions, decisions… I shan’t attach the teabags to the page until they are embellished anyway, and either way, if I don’t like what I have done, I can always ditch it and start again!

22 Mock-Up with Teabags

The final bit I did today on this project was to paint the piece of chicken packaging with gesso, and then a coat of white acrylic. My plan is to make a representation of a red and white checked tablecloth but if this doesn’t look right, I can always add another layer…

23 Chicken Packaging with Gesso and White Acrylic

Water Feature

My hubby has been working hard on the water feature in our garden. The first photo was taken on Wednesday 27th in the evening – it was rather dark so I edited it a little so you could see what was going on!

03 27-1-16 Evening - with Liner

You can see that he has added some rocks at the top, and the new black liner down the cascade. The circular black thing at the very bottom that you can see the edge of is the top of the reservoir.

The next photo was taken on the same occasion, after he’d turned the water on.

04 27-1-16 Evening - Water On

It is positively gushing out of the pipe and not at all the effect we want, and it needed some rocks on top to direct the flow downwards and to spread it horizontally too.

The next photo was taken on the following morning. The water is now being directed underneath some more rocks, and on top of the wall in front of the fig tree is some of the original liner which, although damaged, does have a nice natural brown gritty look.

05 28-1-16 Morning - Working on Liner

Here is my hubby placing some more rocks along the side of the cascade. This photo was taken this morning.

06 30-1-16 Placing the Rocks

My hubby left the water running and went out, asking me to keep an eye on it because he wasn’t convinced it wasn’t still leaking. The flow did start to diminish, and by the afternoon it had stopped altogether so I turned it off. Back to the drawing board!

I know he will fix it in the end. Great progress has been made so far, anyway. He has to grab every opportunity when it decides to stop raining!

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

WOYWW 347

I am very happy to report that the wayward Mr. Mojo and Mrs. Muse have at long last returned from their naughty holiday abroad and decided to grace me with their presence again, and yesterday afternoon I was actually back in the studio and this time not just to tidy up, but to MAKE ART!!!

It’s as if I have broken through a barrier that was holding me back, even though I’ve been doing the odd bit of drawing and painting, and some knitting. The room no longer holds any horrors for me and I am feeling how I always felt before – it’s my favourite room in the house and I can’t wait to get back in there to get creating again!

All that I went through last year has made me think that life is precious and short, and this year, maybe I need to concentrate on doing what I want to do and not just what I think I ought to be doing – I’ve got a nice lot of cards in my stash now that I’ve had a good blitz on the Card Factory last year, and I can continue with that with no pressure, but I’ve had so little time and opportunity simply to “play,” but have always been making things for other people as the need arose. I do have those commitments still, of course, but my main aim must be to let my creativity flow in the way of “pure research” rather than with a definite end in view. Each year that passes leaves me with the thought that yet again I have not done the things I really wanted to do – art journaling, exploring more mixed media, textile art, messing about with materials just to see what happens!

Here is my desk as I left it last night.

13 Mock-Up

This is a mock-up of a work in progress that I actually started a couple of years ago with the background being painted. It’s teabag art, and will also incorporate some real tea! The page is called “The Cup that Cheers” and you can read about it in my previous post. Watch this space for further progress!

At the bottom of the page you can see a piece of the chicken packaging I mentioned last time – it’s not stuck down yet and I have yet to decide whether to shape it further, and how I’m going to colour it, but it will end up with some gilding wax on it. Still a lot of work to do on this page but I am really enjoying it, and so enjoying having got over the hump and at last having a respectable desk to share with my fellow desk-hoppers!

A happy WOYWW and a happy and creative week to follow.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

The Cup that Cheers

Woooohoooo! Today I made some ART!!! I think Mr. Mojo and Mrs. Muse have really returned at last! I have felt some creative stirrings over the past few days but other activities and fatigue have prevented me getting into the studio.

I haven’t finished tidying in there – the textile area is still a dumping ground, but since the main work zone is clear, I can get started. I didn’t spend long up there because I had to make tea, but an hour was enough to get me going.

I decided to work on an art journal page I started ages ago, in my small leather art journal.

14 Gold Embossing Showing Through Front Cover

This is a little book with hand-made paper pages that my hubby bought for me, and I’ve done a few pages in it, over a long period of time. This year I am planning to do more in it. The pages are a bit small, but none the worse for that. I had painted a background with different shades of brown acrylics in preparation for some sort of teabag art but hadn’t really decided on what to do.

01 Background

Around about the same time, I made a sheet of acrylic film from liquid acrylic polymer with some tea from the teabags embedded in it, and I thought I’d use some of this for this project.

07 Acrylic Film with Tea

A page is now developing! It is entitled “The Cup that Cheers.” It will be embellished with teabags and real tea!

What a lot of teabags!

02 What a Lot of Teabags

These are only some of the huge stash of teabags that I now have. All through the year before last, I got them to save them for me at church, after each service when we would gather for refreshments, and I usually got a dozen each time! This was in addition to all the ones I saved at home. These teabags have yet to be emptied of tea.

This is the collection of elements I am proposing to use for this project.

03 Elements for Page

On the left of the journal is a small piece of paper with some ink and glimmer mist on it that I might use to stamp and cut out some text. On the left in front of the journal is the acrylic sheet with the tea embedded in it. To the right of that are some teabags – round and square, emptied of tea. On the right are some bags still with tea in them, which probably won’t be used.

The next photo shows a possible layout. The overlapping square bags on the left will be decorated in some way, and text added over and around them.

04 Preliminary Arrangement

The round teabag on the right will form a tea cup. In the following photo you can see that I have stuck it down using regular matt gel medium, and I have tucked the bottom underneath to make it flat. In front of that is a teabag that I have trimmed and opened up.

05 Making the Cup and Handle

I covered the surface of this cut teabag with gel medium and began to roll it up, to form the handle of the cup.

06 Rolling the Handle

Here is the cup with the handle attached.

07 The Handle Attached

To form some steam coming from the cup, I have chosen one of my swirl stamps (The Stamp Barn CFLR 021 I) and used Versamark and sticky embossing powder to stamp onto the page. The white sheet underneath the stamp in the photo has been cut along the top edge to form a mask to cover the round teabag.

08 Preparing to Stamp the Steam

Here is the swirl of steam with the sticky embossing powder on it, prior to heating with the heat gun.

09 Steam Stamped with Sticky Embossing Powder

After melting the embossing powder, I added gold glitter. I took the following photo using the flash, but even so, the glitteriness of the glitter really doesn’t show up very well.

10 Steam with Glitter

I added a couple of runs of water, using one of my new Ryn stamps, stamping with black archival ink. I outlined the top of the cup with a black Sharpie marker and added a little shading with a grey one, smudging it with my finger while it was still wet, but I’m not very happy with that so I shall most probably go over it with some acrylic paint.

11 Water Droplets and Sharpie Definition

I used another Ryn stamp – my original water droplets one, to add some water droplets to the bottom of the page, inking up only the bottom part of the stamp and letting the image fade at the top. I will add some definition to all these water runs and droplets with a white marker pen.

12 Water Droplets on LH Page

Here’s a mock-up of the page so far. At the bottom of the right hand page, under the tea cup, you can see a piece of my chicken packaging, which will be stuck down with gel medium. I may paint it first. Afterwards it will be highlighted with some gilding wax (seen top right in the photo).

13 Mock-Up

Watch this space for the continuation of this page.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Brainful Knitting

My creative mojo has still not returned but at least I am managing to do a bit of knitting, and some Zentangle drawing which is better than nothing! Recently I have been rather preoccupied waiting for my hubby’s colonoscopy and the result (which is good – just a little diverticular disease and nothing life-threatening thank goodness!) and as has been proved at various times during the past year, if I am feeling uncertain and preoccupied, the first thing to go is my creative mojo!

Having been working on my brainless knitting for a while now (a multi-coloured scarf that I can pick up and work on without really thinking about it), I elt I wanted a bit more of a challenge and decided to start a project that’s been waiting in the wings since before we moved house two years ago.

Many years ago I made this tunic top:

Yellow and Purple Tunic Top

but I was never very happy with it – the neck didn’t sit right and was too lumpy, for one thing, and also since I gained weight it became too tight. (The lighting in the above picture isn’t brilliant so the colours don’t look quite rigjt.)I decided to unravel it and knit it again in a different format but retaining the pattern:

Yellow and Purple Knitting 1

Yellow and Purple Knitting 2

which is based on a Kaffe Fassett design. You make up two large balls of yarn, made of many different shades, and knit a basic “two colour” pattern with this home-made variegated yarn, and a random effect is generated. I have done this on a number of occasions and it is fun and easy to do.

Over the period of our house move I unravelled and re-knitted a dress which had also become too small for me. This was the result.

21 Finished Jumper

My plan is to make a jumper in a similar shape and design. I haven’t yet decided on the pattern but may use the purple spots on the yellow background for the main body, and reverse it so that I get yellow spots on a purple background for the sleeves, or possibly work the spots with the yellow yarn against a darker purple background. I shall knit up a couple of tension swatches using both alternatives and see how they look together, and if I don’t like it, I will have to think again.

The reason why I am contemplating starting this project while the brainless knitting is still in progress is that I want to have something more challenging to work on. The brainless knitting is relatively small and simple to work on at times when I don’t have to concentrate on it, such as if we are visiting family or if I have an idle moment while out and about and I’m waiting for my hubby or something. The brainful knitting will be done when I can devote more of my attention to it. It will also eventually be too large to carry around with me conveniently.

I want to be doing something while on the recliner watching TV but at the moment don’t feel up to doing embroidery. The peripheral neuropathy in my fingers has not improved and I don’t relish pulling a needle through quite tough fabric which is what I am having to do while working on the embroidered pieces for the bed drapes I am working on. Knitting is a more gentle activity!

Today I started taking the tunic top apart and it is proving quite an ordeal! I have finished it off far too well (haha) and it is very hard to find the ends. I’ve got the pieces taken apart now and am struggling to begin unravelling the knitting itself. Once I get started properly, it should get easier.

The first step in remaking it will be to knit up a tension swatch to determine the number of stitches per inch, and then to design the graph pattern. The one from the knitted dress is a bit too big (I like it like that because it’s long and baggy) but I want this one to be a better fit. I need to decide on any borders etc. that I want to do, as well.

I just hope this one doesn’t take me two years to make!

Kitty Health Update

Phoebe, our younger cat (aged 12) has always enjoyed robust health to say the least. A few weeks ago she had a seizure which came as a huge shock. We took her to the vet who told us to monitor her for now, and if she had any further fits, to let her know. On Thursday night she did have another, and a more prolonged one this time. She took longer to recover, as well. We took her to the vet last evening and she is putting her on phenobarbital – we collect her first prescription tomorrow. We’ve got to take her back in 4 weeks and monitor her in the meantime. She will need further blood tests to ensure she is receiving a therapeutic dose but not too much, and to check that her liver isn’t being affected, and we have to look out for signs of ataxia, sedation (that’s funny – both kitties spend an inordinate time asleep anyway!) and impaired liver function (signs of jaundice – not easy to spot as her mouth is very dark inside, but the vet suggested looking inside her ears where the skin is paler). Poor little Phoebe.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Water Feature

My second post for today. WOYWW visitors, please scroll down for the desk-hopping post.

When we moved house just over two years ago, the agents’ particulars mentioned a water feature outside our kitchen window. We knew it was there somewhere but didn’t know exactly what it involved, or whether it still worked. There is a small quarter-circle shaped patio area in the angle of the utility room/back passage wall and the kitchen window, with a low wall, above which the earth is banked up the slope to the back of the garage. This area has always been very overgrown and not a bit attractive, and it has been on my hubby’s list of things to do for some time now. This is the view from the large kitchen window, and I spend quite a lot of time at the kitchen sink, and it would be so nice the view from the window actually looked attractive!

The other day he did a huge amount of clearing and I couldn’t believe the transformation. Unfortunately I didn’t take a “before” picture. When it had been cleared, another little wall was revealed which makes a feature across the banked up area, divided in the middle by the gulley of the water feature. My hubby added a few more rocks to the front part, and we are going to get some aubretia to cascade over the bottom wall, and some pretty rockery plants and make the whole area something worth looking at. As we did last summer, we will have tubs of flowers on the ground, up against the wall.

Today my hubby got the water feature going! He found the cable in the outhouse and plugged it in. He poured some water into the bottom part which has a perforated plastic strainer to keep stuff from falling in, and the pump pushed the water up to the top, from where it started to flow down the little gulley between the rocks. To start with it looked quite impressive! He had put too much water in and it overflowed down the wall at the front – you can see the muddy water stain there, in the second photo below. Gradually the flow diminished to nothing, and he thinks there’s a leak somewhere, which isn’t very surprising given how long it hasn’t been in use and all the accumulated earth and stones and dead leaves etc. which he had to clear out. He’s still out there now trying to find where the leak is. He may have to put in a new piece of plastic pond liner to solve the problem.

Anyway, this is what it looked like when he first got it going – unfortunately the photo really doesn’t look as good as it did in real life!! Although you can’t really see it, there is water flowing down from just in front of the wooden pallet at the top, beyond which you can see the end of the garage wall.

01 Water Feature First Day 20-1-16

Here’s my hubby in his gardening togs, showing off his handiwork! I think he might have looked a bit more cheerful – I am extremely impressed with what he has done! Actually he’s probably half-frozen – it’s really cold out there today. (So much for the nurse on the endoscopy unit yesterday telling him to put his feet up and relax today! Ha ha.)

02 Water Feature First Day with N 20-1-16

The whole area was completely overgrown, and there were several quite large, and very uninspiring and unattractive shrubs which he has removed. At my request he left the fig tree.

I’ll post more photos as the work progresses.

WOYWW 346

Another busy week and not much done on the creative front. Here’s what’s on my desk today.

I have been cutting up some chicken packaging:

Chicken Packaging 1 19-1-16

Chicken Packaging 2 19-1-16

This clear plastic has an interesting textured surface and is fun to add to mixed media projects. Here’s some I used in my recycled mini-album in 2014.

04 Chicken Packaging

06 Three Generations Detail

What I cut up this week will be put in my stash for future use. With a coat of gesso (in the above example, black) and mabe some dry brushing with colour, some Perfect Pearls, and/or some gilding wax, it ceases to look anything like chicken packaging! I look at all rubbish with a fresh eye these days and ask “Can I make art out of this?” My hubby usually mocks and says “NO!” which I regard as a direct challenge to prove him wrong!

This week I have resurrected my Brainless Knitting. I started this last year while I was having my chemo – it was something I could work on with little thought. I am using oddments of 4-ply on a small circular needle, working in random stripes of colour separated by two rows of black, to make a scarf. To date, it now measures 31 inches. Slow progress, but at least my hands need not be idle even if my brain is!

Brainless Knitting 31 in 19-1-16

Anyone who has been following my Cancer Diary (see page tab at the top of this blog) will know that yesterday my hubby had a colonoscopy because over recent months he has experienced an altered bowel habit. All is well – they discovered a small area of diverticular disease. There is nothing to be done except for him to eat a healthy diet with plenty of fibre, and to drink plenty of fluids, and to take Immodium when necessary. We are both greatly relieved.

It was a difficult day, and felt really weird for me because it was exactly a year on, to the very day, when I had my colonoscopy when my cancer was diagnosed. I know dates are just dates and a man-made artifice, but I couldn’t help loading yesterday’s appointment with extra significance because of this. In a funny sort of way, my hubby’s benign diagnosis was cathartic for me, and brought a form of closure. Weird, maybe, but true for me, at any rate.

Because of our natural worry and concern over this, and my helping my hubby do his colonoscopy prep, as well as more social engagements recently, which I always find very tiring even though thoroughly enjoyable, I have been pretty wiped out in between, and preoccupied, so I haven’t done any more tidying in my ARTHaven (the last remaining bit is the textile zone on the opposite side of the room). Mr. Mojo is still very much lurking in the wings. Let’s hope things now begin to settle down somewhat, and he can again resume his rightful position Centre Stage! Watch this space.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

WOYWW 345 - More ARTHaven Tidying

Edited Tues. evening – I’ve just realised it’s Wednesday tomorrow and another WOYWW day, and as this post is all about my creative space I thought I’d make it a WOYWW post – a day early, especially as tomorrow is a pretty busy day.

I had another session in the studio this morning, trying to tidy up. I’m doing pretty well. It’s too tiring to do more than a bit at a time but I reckon I’m over half way now, and the main work area is now looking so tidy that I can feel Mr. Dormant Mojo stirring his stumps at last!

First of all here’s my main work area. I even emptied the paint jar (I’m notorious for leaving dirty paint jars for weeks at a time…) – it was green! No, not with mould but because the last thing I used was green paint!

The little basket is new. We had it for Christmas with a “mini-hamper” of goodies from a friend and I thought it would be handy to put my scraps of card in for my Card Factory, which I shall be getting going on again soon, I hope.

Main Work Area Tidied 12-1-16

It will be so nice to have it messy again but this time with art, not junk dumped there!

Here’s the display area, tidied up and rearranged. I like to ring the changes every now and then, and put out different things. Some of it is my own work but the rest is lovely gifts I have received from others. My dad made the wooden book rest and I love it.

Display Area Tidied 12-1-16

Finally, here’s the other side of the room, opposite the window – this is officially my textile area, with a small drawing area on the right. At the moment it’s even worse because it’s the only dumping ground area left!

Textile Zone Still a Dumping Ground 12-1-16

That’s the last bit to tidy. Eventually I shall go through the big shelves on the right (not visible in the picture) against the wall that divides the studio from the office section – there’s a lot of stuff in there that needs sorting and weeding out.

My energy levels are still very low. I can do short bursts of activity and then need to get back on the recliner again. While resting, I’ve been catching up with my online contacts – emails, forums, blogs etc. and that takes time – but it’s most enjoyable (thank you everyone for being so lovely and making me want to chat with you!). I get easily fatigued with the M.E. but I think this is also due to the chemo which leaves one very tired for quite a long time. Just got to go with the flow and enjoy all my activities and then crash out in between.

Out for lunch again tomorrow, and a grocery delivery early evening, then the dentist on Thursday (ugh) and another lunch out on Sunday. I’m really busy at the moment!

Monday, 11 January 2016

Sorting my Stamps

On the long slow process of tidying my studio, I have at last sorted my rubber stamps! After this I was too tired to do any more, but at least some progress is being made, after doing nothing during my busy week last week.

Stamp Organisation Montage

I think I am happy with them arranged like this but I can change it again if I want. What I have done is to reduce the number of ziplock bags, by combining stamps of the same kind together. From left to right I now have:

Alphabets

Backgrounds

More Backgrounds

Flowers

Trees and Leaves

Sentiments

Swirls

Shapes

Objects

Sea Life

Water Droplets

Butterflies

Other Insects

Animals

I’ve now got plenty more rings and clips freed up for future use. The bags still occupy about the same length of rail as before, unfortunately, so I may not leave them like this, but I’ll give them a trial and see how it goes.

I have a new stamp which I got at the end of last year, for my card factory. I needed a “hand-made by…” stamp to give a more professional look to my cards, particularly as I am now making them for the chemo unit to sell. This is what I found on Ebay.

Hand-Made By Stamp

I am really pleased with this. It has a large enough space to write not just my name, but any other info too. I decided not to unmount this wood-block stamp because I shall be leaving it out on my work surface and this way it won’t get lost.

Friday, 8 January 2016

A Really Lovely Day

Today I had my fiftieth appointment at the hospital! I had to go in to the Ricky Grant (chemo) Unit to have my port flushed – if a port is not being used, it has to be flushed every six weeks. While I was there, I saw Dr. Lo, my oncologist, briefly as she rushed through, and I had a quick word about the port and she said she would chase up the radiologist, Dr. Isaacs, who had installed it for me, to see when it could be removed

When I arrived at the unit I was greeted with smiles, whoops of joy, hugs, lots of “How are you’s” and “You look so WELL!” from everybody, which was just great! They were all so pleased to see me, and I’d been looking forward very much to going back, as they are such a great crowd. This time I went armed with a big box of the buns I’d made, and also a dozen cards for them to sell. I said to Emma, the receptionist, that the buns were first and foremost for the chemo-ites but if there were a few left, she and the nurses could fight over them, and she said that she wouldn’t tell them but would scoff the lot, haha! The nurses within earshot responded as one would expect! As it happened, there were enough left for the afternoon intake of people having treatment, so Emma found a plate to put them on so I could take the box home. The staff were delighted with the buns and the cards.

12 Cards for RGDU 7--1-16

03 Lemon and Chocolate Buns Iced

I wasn’t kept waiting long, and had Trisha, a lovely nurse, to flush the port, and we had a good laugh. Liz, another nurse, was on duty, which was great, because I hadn’t seen her for ages, and she took my mind off the needle going into my port, by showing me some photos of her first grandchild, a little boy, now three weeks old – I said she should win the glamorous granny award because she looks about 30!! I simply couldn’t believe she was a granny!

After this, we made a quick dash up to Hutchings Ward, the colo-rectal and stoma outpatient department, and I dropped off the print-out of the Bristol Ileostomy Output chart that someone on the stoma forum had come up with – she said it was all very well having the Bristol Stool Chart but it didn’t quite cover what we ileostomates have to deal with! (I first heard of the Bristol Stool Chart while I was in hospital, from one of the nurses, and I thought it was a joke – but no, it’s real… Someone has actually poked around in people’s poo and graded it according to its appearance!) I had tweaked it a bit because the person who did it originally, just put new pictures over the old ones and it needed a bit of tidying up, and I added the famous quote that someone else on the forum came up with, which caused a huge amount of amusement! I also gave the stoma nurse a CD with the jpg of the chart on it, so they can print out further copies if they want. She said it was a very good idea. (Look away at this point if you are squeamish lol!!)

Bristol Ileostomy Output Chart

We then went down to the hospital restaurant for a light lunch. It is called the “Bay View” restaurant but I call it the “Bay Glimpse” because all you see of the Bay is a tiny little triangle, and I think “Bay View” is overplaying it somewhat! We sat with a friend from where we used to live, who had been in having a further scan for her cancer – she was amazingly cheerful and philosophical over a cancer which is probably going to kill her, although the chemo she has had, has stopped it growing any larger for now. It was so lovely to see her again, and she was another one who remarked on how well I was looking.

Actually, I am continually surprised by the cheerfulness of people with cancer, and the amazing strength of the human spirit. I feel very privileged to have entered their world and met so many amazing people.

After lunch we made a quick dash down to the Lodge (the cancer drop-in and info centre run by Macmillan’s) to arrive in time for the monthly relaxation session they run. It was a lovely session, and for the first time, two gentlemen joined us – they weren’t sure what to expect, but found us to be a friendly lot, and they were soon at ease, because once cancer people get together, they don’t feel so alone, but realise that we are all in the same boat, and they don’t have to feel that what they have to say might be silly or upsetting, because we all share the same feelings and fears, and we all understand. I suppose because I’d had such a busy week and was tired, I was so relaxed during the session that I did doze off a bit! The lady who leads it has such a soothing voice, and we have a relaxation music disc playing softly, and the lights are dimmed. It is a lovely experience.

For the first time for ages, all of the Allerton Three were there – myself and the two friends I made when we were on Allerton Ward after our bowel cancer surgery. Afterwards we sat in the lounge downstairs, with another lady who had been at the session, chatting over coffee, until my hubby came to collect me. It was sooo good to catch up again and have a good laugh! At one point I mentioned my recent procedure to clean out my rectal stump, and one of them said, “That sounds like something to do with car engines” and I said “rectal STUMP, not SUMP!” and we all fell about laughing! We always have such a good laugh together, and of course, the conversation was dominated by the subject of poo. What else.

We talked about how the cancer had impacted our lives, and we all agreed that it had changed us and how we look at life – a change for the better, I have to say. Being the only one who ended up with a stoma, I also said that from a physical point of view I was now much better than previously – without the cancer, I’d still have been struggling with life with ulcerative colitis, and now that my colon has been removed, I am in control of my body, and much prefer having Kermit and his bag than being a butt-crapper – they all laughed like anything when I called them that!!!

We have made a date for a girls’ lunch out, at the beginning of February. This is going to be such fun!

After this we went home, and I was so tired after our busy day, and what has turned out to be a very busy week, so I went to sleep for an hour of so before having to get up and get the evening meal.

It might seem strange to have had such an enjoyable time at the hospital, but it’s the people that count! One of the Allerton Three said to me that it sounds funny, but she actually enjoyed being in hospital with us two! I know exactly what she meant. Today I was back in the happy atmosphere of the Ricky Grant Unit, chatting with the nurses, and giving out buns to the people receiving their treatment, and I had lovely conversations with a couple of them, and one of them knew several people that I knew, in the world of embroidery. She was working on a small sampler piece while having her treatment and this was the way into the conversation. I am planning on going in on an irregular basis, when time and energy and lifts from my hubby permit, and when the spring weather comes, if I can manage to get there on my buggy, so much the better. Small gifts and treats are so appreciated and brighten people’s day – I was surprised how many people thought they had to pay for the buns but I said no, they were just a little treat to be enjoyed. It is so lovely to be able to bring a smile to someone’s face and it costs so little to do it, and make someone’s day – the whole experience of today has “made my day” in an amazing way. I never thought getting cancer could bring so much happiness!