The one where I got a bit of a fright

Alt title: why GPs are amazing and you should probably find one and hug them right now.

Advertisements
Balcombe-Viaduct-1282-Edit(This photo’s only relevance to this piece is that it’s pretty and it’s where I live)

Two months ago I went to the doctor with a stabbing tummy ache that wouldn’t budge. Like any sensible person I went online and self-diagnosed – in this instance I had decided I had an ovarian cyst. Don’t worry this isn’t going to get gross, graphic or talk about girly parts, at ALL. (NB. Never Google your symptoms, it nearly always says you are dying).

I had my abdomen scanned and it turned out I was right (I should clearly be in the medical profession) – but the doctor told me not to worry, to take pain killers and bugger off, because it would be gone in a few days (she was very nice and did not use those words). But I was booked in for a follow-up scan two months later, just in case,

The afore-mentioned follow-up scan was the week before last. And the doctor that did it was not nice to me at all – cold and unfriendly, she wouldn’t answer any of my questions and just told me to go back to my GP. I considered putting in a complaint – rude and unnecessary, I thought. But it turned out there was method to her (mean) madness.

I got a call the next evening from my GP, which I picked up on the hands-free in the car. She told me to pull over before she spoke to me. A bit OTT I thought, but health is her game, so my safety is of interest, I suppose – I pulled over.

She told me the scan had come back looking ‘sinister’. I can’t actually remember a lot of what she said, but she kept using the word ‘sinister’ and wanted me to go to hospital ASAP. She repeated the words ‘try not to worry’ a lot, but was talking in very urgent tones, and saying that I was on a fast-track and would be seen as soon as they could possibly see me.

I interrupted her near the end to ask what on earth she meant by ‘sinister’? – Cancer. She meant Ovarian Cancer.

So I phoned my nearest and dearest and told them the score, while still pulled over by the side of the road. They all tried not to sound terrified, as did I.

And all credit to the brilliant NHS, everything did move very fast. I had a CA125 blood test the next morning, and was told that if my levels came back high it didn’t mean I had Cancer, and if they came back low it didn’t mean I didn’t – but that if they were high it was more likely I did (I think – I still don’t really understand this bit in truth).

They came back high.

Then I got a call to say I had a scan booked in at the hospital a few days later and a consultant’s appointment there two days after that.

So my mother made immediate plans to drive down from Herefordshire, and Eoin (my boyfriend) and I booked the days off. And in the meantime I kept busy, and filled all my time with work, or horses, or something – because every time there wasn’t something there was Cancer.

Royal Sussex County Hospital

The scan came around and the lovely, chatty woman at the hospital in Brighton was talking me through everything that she was doing, before she suddenly fell quiet. It felt like ten minutes of silence but it was probably more like two. Mummy was holding my hand and rubbing my arm and I think we were both trying very hard not to cry.

But then she did break her silence to say she couldn’t see the cyst, which was confusing, and that we should wait to see what the consultant said. With this in mind we all felt optimistic, but still pretty terrified, about the possible outcome.

In the waiting room for the consultant, who was running late (not his fault – he had masses of people to see before us), we ran out of polite things to talk/joke about. We are British after all, and it is always best to laugh when you think you might cry, as it’s so much less awkward for all involved.

So we fell silent for a good 15 minutes. In this time I went over in my mind how I would react when they told me I had Cancer – that I wouldn’t cry or make a scene, because that would just upset everyone and not be helpful.

We went in to the consultant’s room and straight away he apologised. He said not only did I not have Cancer, but the irregular scan that my GPs had picked up on never looked like Cancer, so the whole hospital visit – and week and a half of worry, and parental phone calls, and days off, and journey to and from Herefordshire – should never have happened.

Having made sure he was absolutely sure, which he was, he called my GP while we were still in the room. Well not her herself, the practice. He told them what he had told us – and asked them what they thought they had seen.

They had seen an irregular looking cyst, with an odd-looking membrane around it that they thought looked dangerous, sorry, sinister.

Am I cross with them for putting me through it unnecessarily? GOD NO.

My GP was absolutely professional, supportive and kind throughout. And if it had been the other way round, and they had seen something they didn’t feel happy with, DIDN’T refer me to the hospital, and then missed something – that would have been far, far, far worse.

I do not mind one iota that they were careful, precautious, thorough – because GPs have to be experts in a million and one things in the human body. So no, they didn’t see what they thought they saw, but if there was even a teeny weeny weeny chance that it was something bad, then they did exactly the right thing, and I am very, very grateful.

So here’s to them, and to GPs the country over, for being simply brilliant.

And I would also like to say a very heartfelt thanks to all the people I know who it turns out have had Cancer, (some of which I never even knew about), and have fought it like absolute champions, and won. And also those who have lived through the less positive end results …because they are all amazing and unspeakably brave – and without exception were very happy to support me 100% if this story had turned out a little differently.

So this week – Macmillan Coffee Morning week – eat cake, raise money, and as cheesy as it might sound, enjoy every single day. I will be doing all of the above.

….I hope this blog in no way trivialises what is a truly horrendous ordeal that I cannot even begin to understand. This was the tiniest drop in the ocean, and I still wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

Macmillan-Coffee-Morning-15-930x360

United we drink, together we fall over (I know that’s not how the saying goes)

The story of how my village saved our pub.

Half Moon main image

 

“Yay Balcombe!! We did it!!!” shouts a sign about three-times as tall as me, which emblazons the side of the Half Moon Inn in Balcombe (in a questionable font, but that’s by-the-by, and is not something that really matters to 99.9% of the population, who don’t work in publishing. Also …use of exclamation marks. Camaaaan. Whoever printed it was clearly very excited, so I’ll let it slide.)

So what we did, was to save our local pub from being sold. ‘We’ being over 250 investors (of which I am not actually one – soz. I am impoverished on account of owning a horse), who raised over £270,000 to purchase, do up and re-open the village pub.

That in itself is pretty cool. £270,000! (Appropriate use of exclamation mark alert). And after much head-scratching and searching for the right tenant, they (the committee in charge of the afore-mentioned campaign), re-opened it last week. (For the unabridged version, click here.)

Balcombe Community Pub logo

It looks bright, it looks modern, it looks clean, and – most importantly – it was full of people over the opening weekend. And I loved it.

I have really missed the pub. You can’t beat a pub. I’m genuinely delighted to have it back.

But how long will the village – and those beyond – support it for?

The campaign was amazing, hard-fought, truly impressive. But it was not without its nay-sayers. (This is Britain, after all, and we love to nay-say …is that a thing? To nay-say?)

There were impassioned speeches, there were calls to arms, meetings, posters, newspaper articles, and yes, even tears (not mine, for once).

But there were also mutterings about locals only supporting it because it would affect their house prices if it wasn’t there.

Some asked the question, ‘who were these generous benefactors, who never used the pub as a resource before and probably wouldn’t again?’

There were even some who just chipped in with the curmudgeonly, “it’ll never work” – very constructive. (Also quite Victor Meldrew – Eighties reference anyone?)

To them I say, does it really matter if those hundreds of people don’t use the pub? Of couuuurse the more that do the better, (and it must definitely hold its own as a viable, and hopefully successful, business), but would it not just be nice to be extremely grateful for their very generous contributions to the cause?

And to the Victor Meldrews I say, guess what? It did work. And will continue to work for as long as the village continues to do what it does best – stick together.

Yes, please do come and support the pub, come for a drink, for a snack, for lunch, supper. Or, if that’s not your bag, don’t – but don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it, and don’t begrudge what even the most-hardened critics must confess to be a huge, phenomenal, fantastic achievement, that will only serve to benefit the village.

Now let’s all get drunk and fall over.
(Do I have to say ‘please drink responsibly’ after that? Surely not.)

Area-around-Half-Moon-Inn-sm

That’s a bitta history, right there, and we saved it. 

Being British, the naked truth

Polo, rain and a streaker: why bare bottoms never lose their appeal.

Streaker best oneThe streaker at the Jaeger-LeCoultre Gold Cup Final. Brilliant.

There are a few times recently when I have found myself thinking, ‘God isn’t it brilliant to be British?’

Manchester and Borough Market – no explanations needed as to the events, but I felt genuinely proud of the nation’s reaction – our refusal to be cowed or scared, our resilience. I loved the way that we stood together, and I was heartened to hear that people offered food, accommodation and support to absolute strangers in the immediate aftermath. It was Dunkirk spirit at its best. You go Britain.

But I also love the hilarious idiosyncrasies and bizarre national traits that give us an international reputation for being slightly eccentric, off the wall, bonkers.

And I especially love Britain’s collective sense of humour – our dry wit, love of caustic satire and also toilet humour. (I hate the word toilet. It is absolutely abhorrent. I would honestly rather someone said they were going to the sh*tter than the toilet. Seriously.
I am very sorry for saying it, three times. But that is the given name of the genre of humour to which I refer, so it was unavoidable really. Sorry. Bleugh.)

Moving on …last week I was lucky enough to attend the Jaeger-LeCoultre Gold Cup Final at Cowdray Park. It was amazing, but not for the reasons I expected.

KellyMy friend (on the left) – not haggard.

I was there with a very old friend. (To clarify, she is not withered or haggard, I have just known her for a long time). But upon arrival the heavens opened. It rained cats, dogs, mice, rhinos, elephants – you get the picture, it rained.

Luckily, we are British, and as such the afore-mentioned Dunkirk spirit is part of our genetic make-up. We will not be put off by the weather, we will carry on as planned, and we will stoically smile through the entire thing, even if we’re in the process of developing pneumonia.

On this occasion it was far from that dramatic luckily – we stayed in the VW Polo while it bucketed down outside and had a car picnic that consisted of sandwiches and slightly tepid prosecco (we know how to live). We concluded that our feet were dampened but our spirits were not – I swapped dainty pumps for trusty Chameaus and we were off.

For the uninitiated, polo is just as civilised as you might expect – there were ice buckets, elaborate picnics and tweed capes at every turn. There was even a spitfire display before the game. Oh and seriously good dogs …the calibre of dog on display was exceptionally high – from small sausages and tyrannical terriers to elegant lurchers and an excellent stamp of Labrador.

Excellent dogAn excellent dog at the polo in what I believe to be a cashmere jumper – well, why not?

The standard of polo itself was breathtaking. I do not purport to know much about the sport but the horsemanship, speed and agility of both teams and their ponies was truly amazing.

One team (El Remanso) was made up of Brits, including the England Captain, James Beim, and the other (King Power Foxes) was Argentine-dominated. The Argies took the title in the end but it was brilliantly close-fought.

Particular mention should go to young gun Jimbo Fewster – the one goal English player was on the winning team, scored three goals and picked up the most valuable player (MVP) award. He was amazing. I bet he’s still smiling now.

Polo 2The Jaeger Le-Coultre Gold Cup Final in action.

But my personal MVP award goes to the skinny-legged streaker (SLS – pictured above). SLS made his appearance in-between chukkas from the Midhurst end, running down the pitch stark bollock naked, hotly pursued by security. He even managed to give a cheeky lean-over-and-pat-of-bottom-cheeks to the 12,500 people in the stands en route. What a bloody legend.

I dealt with it in my usual calm and measured manner. I spotted him emerging from the crowds early on and cut across the muted polite chatter of the members enclosure by bellowing: “THERE’S A STREEEEEEEAKKKKKKERRRRR. YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYY!”

The commentator got in the spirit too and declared over the tannoy: “I’d say by the looks of it, it’s a little chilly out there.” Lol. As he also rightly said, SLS hadn’t really thought it through and got to the other end only to look a little sheepish and slope off bare-bottomed. Hilarious.

We hope it was a dare and he got bought LOTS of drinks for doing it. Naked bottoms are funny. Streakers are funny. That was absolutely brilliant. Good work Britain.

His crown jewels were the crowning glory of a simply sparkling day.

My fête is sealed (not a spelling mistake)

The brilliant but slightly bonkers village fête, and how a local celebrity got it very wrong.

Balcombe Village Fete 2017

I was told by a celebrity-who-shall-remain-nameless-but-lives-nearby that they visited our village fête two years ago and that it was “sad and shabby …not fulfilling its potential”. (She actually said more unkind things than that, but I don’t feel there is anything to be gained in repeating them.)

Having lent a peripheral hand at this same “disastrous” event for two years now,  I can safely concur that the nameless celebrity may well be famous, stylish, lauded even, but she is also so very far from correct on this matter.

Sure, it isn’t all Cath Kidston gingham and Liberty of London prints (which are both things I love, by the way) – it isn’t smart, it isn’t chi-chi, and – truthfully – in parts it is a bit rough around the edges. But that is what makes it so wonderfully brilliant, so rural, so rustic, so bonkers, so British.

The fête as a notion is hilarious  – the tombola, the hounds, the ponies, the tug-of-war, the terrier racing, the dog show, the fiercely-fought floral competitions and cake contests. And if you’re at our fête, there’s a brilliant bar and a live band, run by another charitable group, the Christmas Tree Society, which raises funds for local people through a medium most enjoy – alcohol!

It is more Vicar of Dibley than All Saints, far more Farmer Wants a Wife than Footballers’ Wives – and I personally much prefer it that way – and so, I would proffer, does the village.

But more importantly, it is also the result of a lot of hard work from a lot of very well-meaning and kind people, who care very much about raising money for the village, and for the people who live in it. And what, I want to know, is so very wrong with that?

They may be stuck in their ways, and those ways might in some cases be fairly eccentric, but that is the most unkind thing I can bring myself to say, because as anyone who is involved in a local event such as this knows, it is an awful lot of hard work.

It takes a lot of planning, a lot of equipment, a lot of funds, a lot of goodwill, and a lot of people’s time, which they willingly give for free. To them I say thank you, on behalf of the whole village, because these events simply couldn’t run without these people, and for that I happen to think they are brilliant.

Balcombe Fete 2016

As an aside…
What is it that makes people be mean? BTW this is not me crying into my pillow and cursing the world in the manner of a surly teen who has just realised that life isn’t always that fair …but it is me having encountered a few mean people in a short space of time, and you really have got to wonder what motivates them.

Obviously it goes without saying that I am also mean sometimes, although in my case it’s more thoughtless actually. I can be very thoughtless, and plough into a conversation/situation without thinking and then regret what I have said or done.
That happens.

But we all are a little mean sometimes …all except my very good friend Melanie, in fact. I have known her nearly all my life and I have never once known her to be mean …not once. She’s like an angel walking among us. Always smiling, always kind. I often think I should take a leaf out of her book and be nicer to everyone, but alas I am not an angel and I get cross and grumpy and irrational, just like everyone else that isn’t Melanie. At least I have her in close proximity to me so that I have something to aspire to. I won’t ever be like her, but I am happy to continue to try …up to a point.

(That’s her right there, pictured below. She doesn’t go around dressed as an angel btw, that was her wedding day …it’s a happy coincidence that her outfit matches my blog. Although if I asked her to dress as an angel for my blog she probably would …because that’s just how nice she is.)

Melanie 2

 

 

Even superstars get nervous

A brush with equestrian royalty …and how not to watch a showjumping class.

Hickstead Derby bank

Sunday brought about an unintentional brush with equestrian royalty, when I was sitting in the stands watching the 2017 Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby. (That’s showjumping to the uninitiated, and involves a descent down a gargantuan grass bank…see above.)

Oh my god I’ve just looked up the height of the bank – Wikipedia (that ever-reliable source…) says the drop is 10ft 6in – that’s 3.20m! They must be mad.

So in conclusion it’s not for the faint hearted. And in a stroke of luck this internationally-renowned spectacle is local to me.

But aside from extolling the event’s virtues, this year’s Derby class was a fantastic one to watch, with thrills and spills a-plenty in the first half, and a gripping competition in the second, which saw Nigel Coupe and Golvers Hill (pleasingly known as Ricky at home, and pictured above), narrowly claim the title from fellow GB rider Harriet Nuttall.

The really exciting part though was not watching the crazy showjumpers (and one eventer – go Elizabeth Power!) tackle the legendary Derby course, but my brush with actual equestrian legend Michael Whitaker.

I was sitting with friends, gripped by the action, when a lady asked if she could sit in the spare seat next to me. Obvs I said yes. And I sort of noticed her Yorkshire accent in between gasping, clapping and occasionally weeping (for that is what I do when I watch equestrian sports, strange but true. Totes over-emosh.)

Now everyone’s an expert from the comfort of their sofa/seat, including me. Except it should be said that my exclamations-to-self are probs a bit louder than everyone else’s, as is my inimitable style. (Irritating but also inevitable).

Armchair expert

So I was giving my (ignorant) opinion on what was happening in the ring, and exclaiming that a rider had lost a stirrup, loudly informing all those around me of this, (in spite of the fact that we all had the same view and they could see just as well as me).

Then the Yorkshire lady (who I now know is called Melissa) quietly told me that his martingale had in fact come undone, which it had.

My friends and I were then discussing (too loudly in my case) why so many horses were balking at the white wall of the road jump, just before the afore-mentioned bank of doom. We concluded perhaps the light was glaring off it, there was something distracting in the crowd, or they were napping past the entrance.

Melissa quietly came to the fore again and said that a lot of this year’s entrants hadn’t jumped a derby course before, and that the fence had appeared in the Derby Trial class (which Michael won), but not the Speed Derby – so some horses had jumped it before but most hadn’t. (The facts might be the other way around there…as I mentioned I never let a lack of solid facts get in the way of a good yarn).

I thanked her and asked if she was involved in the sport, as she seemed to know what she was talking about. She told me she was Michael Whitaker’s wife, (cringe) and I then realised he was sitting in the seat behind her, (cringe again) probably cursing inwardly at my ignorance. C’est la vie!

Michael Whitaker

In truth I think thankfully he was too focussed on the action to listen to my drivel. So when he went to the loo (which I noted he did a few times), I asked her if he or she ever got nervous. She said they both did, but she tried not to show it. She seemed lovely.

When he returned I could see that his hand wasn’t as steady as it might be, holding the programme, and I found this strangely reassuring. I compete my horse at a far inferior level, but there’s something comforting about knowing that even superstars like Michael Whitaker get nervous.

I also enjoyed his brusque Yorkshire commentary on proceedings…having actually realised he was there. He is a man of few words, and the ones he does utter are fairly difficult to understand for a softie southerner like myself. I wouldn’t like to betray his views on the other riders, but let it be known that he has an excellent sense of humour.

Michael unfortunately retired his horse Gentlemen VH Veldhof (pictured above) half way around the course, but even I could see this had nothing to do with nerves.

I later saw him interviewed on Hickstead TV by Daisy Bunn off-of the Bunn family, what-own Hickstead – he was there with about six members of his family, who together form something of a showjumping dynasty.

So it turns out the whole family do the gruff Yorkshire grunting thing. It’s hereditary. They seemed like a cheerful bunch though, which I was able to ascertain only from their expressions, as god only knows what they were saying.

As an aside, Harriet Nuttall, who jumped off against Nigel in a nail-biting finish, gave her horse a fantastic ride, and I wasn’t alone in the stands in feeling slightly miffed that she didn’t win, despite having the fastest clear in the first round. But them’s the rules and Nigel was certainly a worthy winner – and a GB one at that.

I’d like to pretend that this experience has taught me a valuable life lesson and I will keep my views to myself in future. But tbh that’s not happening any time soon. Soz.

Wildlife, but not as we know it

The day I saw a hedgehog and also tried to be cool and listen to grime music at a festival – it did NOT work

Wildlife blog

 

I saw a hedgehog last week – the first I have seen in ages, I think years in fact. They’ve been suffering from a case of too many badgers or roads, depending on who you speak to. Anyway this one seemed in rude health, and did an excellent job of demonstrating her roll-in-a-ball capabilities when sniffed enthusiastically by my ever-inquisitive horse. (No horses or hedgehogs were harmed in the making of this blog.)

In my head she was a female, named something suitably Tiggywinkle-esque and adorable like Esme or Mildred. But I have less than no hedgehog knowledge, so she was probably a he and called something oikish like Ricky or Wayne.

(Apologies to anyone named Ricky or Wayne – please blame Eastenders for my outlandish stereotyping. I’ve just guiltily looked up their origins, and as Ricky is short for Richard it actually means ‘powerful, strong ruler’. Wayne, somewhat more amusingly, comes from an occupational surname meaning ‘wagon maker’. Lol.)

That same evening I encountered a rather different sort of beast, when I went to Wildlife festival at Brighton Airport. At least that’s what it says on the tickets…it isn’t in Brighton, it’s in Shoreham – I think it says Brighton so that it sounds cooler. (Soz Shoreham, but Brighton does sound a bit cooler. Just saying.)

My compadre (she who is blonde of hair and mischievous of eye, pictured above), is a big fan of George Ezra – mildly loopy on the subject in truth. We managed to get ourselves right to the front and sing/shout/dance our hearts out while he sang. This was excellent.

But Wildlife plays all manner of music, and we quite fancied watching an act called Giggs. We had heard him on Radio 1 and thought he was quite cool. That’s actually a total lie – I’d never even heard of him but the afore-mentioned blonde pixie had. Anyway his genre is grime. Which I quite like. Sort of. A bit. Not loads though – it’s a bit shouty.

The crowd that had assembled to watch this fellow were defo wagon makers, if you know whadda mean. They were forming mosh pits and having actual fights. We were mildly terrified and had to make a run for it pretty sharpish. And THEN while we were in the process of beating a hasty retreat, one of the b*stard makers of wagons shouted at me to ask why I had brought my mum! By which he meant my blonde of hair, mischevious of eye, George Ezra-loving friend. Outrageous! And SO rude!

Shortly afterwards I thought of loads of hilarious and witty things to say back to him, but by that time we were sipping decidedly tepid prosecco from a jug in the VIP area. (Yes prosecco, yes a bit warm, yes in a jug, because we weren’t allowed to have glass for security reasons. Zut alors.)

I hope he fell over and grazed his knee. Because that really hurts.

Luckily the evening took a MUCH better turn when both the future Mrs Ezra and I managed to get ourselves right to the front and on two willing donor’s shoulders for the closing act, local hero Fat Boy Slim. (By local I mean Brighton, not Shoreham!)

He was INCREDIBLE. Day made. Actually it was already made by Esme/Mildred and then George…but then Norman (for that is Fat Boy Slim’s real name). While I’m still on the website I can tell you that Norman means ‘northman’, referring to a Viking. I’d go on a longboat with him any day.

On the bounce

When you reach your thirties, it is probably time to admit that you shouldn’t bounce on trampolines anymore. I say this because I nearly ended up in a bucket of dog poo yesterday, I kid you not.

Trampoline blog

 

Tigger I am not. The wonderful thing about Tiggers, is he’s the only one. A.A. Milne’s subtext was clearly don’t try and be Tigger – don’t try and bounce when it is not in your nature to do so.

I wasn’t even forced, I did it by choice – even though I have seen the ten million videos on You’ve Been Framed that demonstrate with undeniable clarity that trampolines are in fact death traps.

I was lured in by two small people, who are both nimble, vivacious and streamlined. …although when I say lured, I very much doubt they foresaw the near-disastrous consequences of their actions. I should have stuck to hide and seek (which we did also play later and I much preferred it).

(NB. That’s not me being PC about two people with dwarfism when I say small people, for they are of an age where they can accurately be described as children as opposed to teenagers, and ergo are genuinely small.)

As a precursor I should also say that I had consumed two glasses of prosecco before making the wise decision to jump up and down like the youthful sprite that I am not. The moral of the story is don’t drink and bounce. In fact don’t bounce at all.

Anyway the inevitable happened… I jumped, they jumped. We were trying to time our bouncing to co-ordinate with each other, as you do, but didn’t quite manage it – they bounced in tandem, I bounced rather higher in the air than I intended, it happened again… and again… and then I bounced straight over backwards off the tramp-of-death and into a heap on the grass below, with an inexplicable high pitched shriek of “oh cripes!”

Who says cripes these days? It’s a bit Enid Blyton… In my defence I think I was trying not to swear.

I emerged relatively unscathed, but it was only when finding my feet and scrambling straight back up on to the tramp-of-death (to save face and avoid looking like a wuss in front of the children, heaven forbid), that one of the aforementioned lithe sprites pointed out that I had almost landed in the bucket of dog poo, where all the dog poo in the garden is gathered, presumably before being disposed of elsewhere.

So, just for clarity, I would like to reiterate that I very nearly landed upside down in a bucket of dog poo yesterday.

Oh and also no-one managed to film it so we won’t even get £250 from You’ve Been Framed. But on the upside my ‘friend’ and mother to the sprites did manage to take a photo (whilst chuckling with unadulterated glee) mere moments before my (quite literal) fall from grace …the shame.