Friday, 26 June 2015

Some chalk stream magic then back on the Chemo Wagon!

Well I am sitting here waiting for my 3rd bash of chemo with the wonderful doctors and nurses trying to kill the cancer without actually killing me. The good news is that in the latter part of the 3 week cycle between treatments I do feel a bit more normal so this time I achieved another goal, yes thanks to Rosalind's driving I got back on the chalk streams. She drove me to Durrington and I spent an hour or so walking the Stonehenge Fishery beat. I had rod in hand and I did manage to cover a few fish but they were busy nymphing and I was on the top fishing a dry (not having read the year book and realised that nymphing was allowed on that beat). Eventually after an hour or so, the pain and discomfort drove me back to the car for a rest. Then we went to the West Amesbury Fishery and I had another bash just fishing the short stretch up to the log book container. It was the middle of the afternoon so there weren't many rises but it was so nice to be there that I shed a tear! Eventually we retreated to my daughters home at Andover, saw the grandchildren, had a lovely meal and Rosalind and I got to sleep on the IKEA bed we had erected earlier in the year. (See my earlier post on 26th February 2015 for a hopefully humorous account of putting it together). I had hoped to fish the next morning but in spite of a good night decided I was not really up to it so we headed for home.
Me on the Stonehenge Fishery
Yesterday I had my pre-chemo check up with the doctor (a pretty one) basically I think this is to confirm I am still alive and able to cope with another round of poison! I also get to report what I notice is happening to me and can ask questions.  So I mentioned, dry sticky eyes (Doc: to be expected will prescribe drops), dry skin which the district nurse had already prescribed a huge bottle of cream for. Then I discussed my pain control which following advice from my daughter-in-laws I am getting better at. Basically I start with Paracetamol, then if needed step up to Tramadol, which I usually take prior to going to sleep. If pain is still keeping me awake I have 5ml of morphine which usually knocks me out. I avoid using morphine if I can as it seriously causes constipation, especially the 12 hour pills! Morphine also gives me an out of this world feeling which I am not keen on (is that what is popular with junkies?).
Then I asked why removing all or part of my right lung wasn't an option? She said it was an option in some cases but that it was a very major life changing operation that had to be assessed very carefully in determining whether it was appropriate. I also asked if the date of my 5th chemo session could be put back a couple of days so I could attend the family reunion at Center Parcs the first week in August, she said that was not a problem.
Anyway back to the chemo session. A lovely male nurse had 3 attempts at fitting a cannular in my arm, joy of joys, each time the vein collapsed! That has only happened once before (in A & E), so he sent for reinforcements in the form of Ming a lady nurse from China, fortunately she hit the spot in my other arm (now I know why I have two) first attempt, hurray! So now I have the machine clicking away next to me as it meters the various liquids into my arm. I have been given a sickness suppression pill and right on time a nice lady came round with sandwiches and drinks. Finding myself sitting a cold draught from the ceiling AC unit I asked if it could be switched off, which it was. One of the nurses, Jo said she put it on because she gets hot. I then told her how to adjust the angle of the slats on the blinds so they reflect the suns radiation out of, rather than into the room (our English summer was occurring that afternoon). She was impressed! As a building services and air conditioning engineer I loss count of the number of times I had to show people how to do that, so much so that I even produced a wall poster explaining what to do that went up in DWP buildings all around the UK.
Eventually after two lots of chemo and three flushes I was ready to collect some eye drops from the pharmacy and head for home after four and a half hours of being looked after. For my American and other overseas friends let me explain that so far none of my hospital stays, treatment or medicines have cost me anything. This is because all of my working life I have paid a thing called National Insurance to the government. So I don't have to personally worry about funding my care. It might have its faults and it certainly has its critics but from where I am it certainly has its benefits!  It is interesting that the same consultants treating me also treat the "private" patients!
Well the chemo is keeping me awake so I am trying to wear myself out finishing this post I hope you find it interesting and I do enjoy your comments. Bless you!
PS This has not been proof read by Rosalind, she's asleep so please forgive any typos!

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Every cloud has to have a silver lining!

Wonderful news
Our youngest son proposed to Helianna, his beautiful Finnish girl friend last Friday night following dinner at the Oxo Tower Restaurant over looking the river Thames and St Paul's Cathedral. Fortunately Helianna accepted and just loved the beautiful ring he had bought her (we all love it too)! Helianna is a celebrity in Finland as a couple of years ago she was the runner-up in the Miss Finland competition. She currently works as an airline stewardess and models clothes for photo-shoots. Her engagement has caused a stir on Finnish social media!
Helianna and Stuart
Then on the Saturday Stuart drove Helianna, Rosalind and yours truly up to Rushden for a family party celebrating the fortieth birthdays of our son Gareth and our son-in-law Eliot Reeves. The party was organised brilliantly by Gareth's wife Holly in the community centre and the theme was the seventies (when they were both born)! There were around a 100 there and many were in seventies costumes. The venue, food and DJ were marvellous, and although not my usual exuberant self I did have a wonderful time and even managed to shuffle round the dance floor with Rosalind. 
 Helianna with Naomi and Rachel, future sisters-in-law.
 Helianna with Gareth and Jason, future brothers-in-law!
 Serious seventies kit!
 Beautiful Lottie, an amazing granddaughter who dances beautifully and plans to be a doctor!
 Grandson Seth peering at his old granddad.
Rosalind wearing Jason's afro.
I even survived the two hour drive home but paid for all the excitement by having a restless night. This sadly meant I did not get to the Church Conference on Sunday morning.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Some thoughts on being poorly, wonderful friends and an angelic visitor.

During my life I have never been very good at responding to the news that a family member or friend is seriously ill. Part of that is because I grew up in a culture where a persons serious illness was almost put under wraps or discussed in an oblique way. I remember my father being ill most of his life and not really being aware of what was wrong with him. People would even talk about "the big C" rather than mentioning cancer!
Since contracting the "the big C" myself my attitude has changed completely. I really appreciate family, friends and neighbours who engage with me, send cards, phone, e mail or visit. I have had wonderfully uplifting contacts and often forget my pain and problems when someone contacts or visits me. Some times I am so touched by what people say that I have a little cry. Please accept a "big thank you" to all of you, you mean so much to me.
My good "Fishy Mormon" friend Ian Govier sent me this tee shirt, what a treat!
I also appreciate the care I receive from the nurses and doctors. Their support is tremendous and the NHS system seems to function well. Worth special mention is my district nurse Helen who visits me at home to check on my external plumbing (catheter). She is like an angel! 

So my attitude has changed and I regret the times when I did not engage more effectively with family and friends who are poorly or who have suffered a loss.
I am writing most of this in the Marsden having my second bout of chemo. I have been transferred to the private out patients ward because the NHS outpatients ward is short of staff! There is not much difference, it's just a bit plusher and the staff just as nice. Apparently I have to have 9 chemo sessions 3 weeks apart so I am going to get plenty of time to post on the blog.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Back at Bewl Fishing!

Whenever I have felt a bit off colour in the past my barometer to test how well I am has been to ask myself "am I well enough to go fishing"! If the answer is yes then I was well enough to go to work, cut the grass, do the washing up etc. So when I was feeling rough after chemo my goal was to try and get well enough to consider going fishing. Most of the time I was feeling grim, the windy and wet weather meant that fishing was ruled out. However the weather improved dramatically two days before my next chemo session and Rosalind volunteered to drive me to Bewl and come out in the wheelie boat with me. The wheelie boat is more stable than the regular boats, has proper seats and it has an electric starter motor (I could not manage a pull cord start).
 Rosalind made it possible
We were out on the water around 11.00am and it felt wonderful to be there. There was a bit of breeze so we headed up to the top of Hook Straight and into the calm waters, with me drinking in the landscape. I anchored up as I didn't want to be hauling the drogue in and out. Rosalind had her head deep into a book so I set about fishing a couple of buzzers under a floating line. I had a couple of fish on but both managed to throw the hook.
Things went a bit quiet so I tried Chingley Wood, then Canoe Club corner. I left a message on Rob Barden's mobile asking advice and very kindly he called me back. He confirmed I was in the right place and suggested a small booby on the point and a Diawl Bach on a dropper. He said the fish had been holding close to the dam wall so to drift right in close. He also mentioned that there had been fish between the towers and the dam. I tried all his suggested spots, as did a couple of other boats but to no avail. On the way back to the jetty I could see that the bubbles were on but by then I was feeling pretty sore so I decided to quit. Fishing the bubbles, whilst productive, is a bit of an art anyway!
Rob was waiting at the jetty and helped me lug my kit to the car. We had a lovely chat, he is a real gent as well as being a brilliant fisher. So I got home tired and sore but what a wonderful day I had enjoyed. Rosalind also enjoyed the experience (and her book)!

Monday, 1 June 2015

Golf versus Fly Fishing! Which is Best?


I have to admit that I am biased! It all started when I was employed as a seventeen-year-old student apprentice draughtsman and my boss was an elderly gent called Ian Flower who was captain of the Ministry of Public Building and Works golf team. I asked him if I should take up golf? His response was "Alan it's a good walk spoilt!" So based on that piece of professional advice I crossed golf off of my things to do list!
So how did I get interested in fly fishing? I got hooked on fishing when my elderly grandfather took me to fish on the River Thames at the age of around ten. I was a bit frightened of him but he set me up with a rod and reel instructing me to watch the float and if it went under to lift the rod to hook the fish. I watched the float like a hawk and when the float popped under I whipped the rod up vertically! The float and a little fish went sky high and the fish landed in my lap having come off the hook whilst airborne!   Grandfather was not impressed but I was as the exercise revealed that there were things swimming around in the depths of the river and you could catch them!  
So from then on I could never look at a river, lake, pond or puddle without wondering what denizens might be lurking there, and the only way to find out was to try and catch them. So my life-long love affair with water and fish began quite humbly, netting baby trout in among reeds with cousins, catching a jack pike and bringing it home in a Wellington boot filled with water, fishing the Thames at Hampton Court etc, etc. As I grew older I got interested in sea fishing but not living near the sea meant that I never got any good at it. All that changed when in my mid twenties I was posted to work in Gibraltar!  Gib is three miles long three quarters of a mile wide and is practically surrounded by sea, heaven on earth for me! But that is another story. 
Three years later when I came back from Gib I started sea fishing again in the UK and found it a waste of time because of inshore netting by trawlers, difficulties of getting bait and my distance from the sea.  Discussing this with Harry Shannon at college (I was doing a part time degree in HVAC engineering) we decided to have a go at trout fishing in a water that was stocked. We started at Weir Wood Reservoir and tried to teach ourselves to cast. I will always remember when Harry hooked his first fish as he had no idea what to do. He was fishing at the bottom of the boat ramp and landed the fish by backing up the ramp until he had pulled it out of the water!

Well that was how I started fly fishing, my big mistake was thinking I could teach myself to cast properly by just reading books. I could cast and catch but later when I wanted to qualify as a Salmon and Trout Association National Instructor I had to have lessons to unlearn all my bad casting habits. That was a humbling experience but mentors like Michael Evans helped. 

So back to the golf versus fly fishing question!  Let's deal with the similarities first. Both activities get you out in the fresh air. Either location can be beautiful but I would beg to suggest that fishing tends to find you in a naturally beautiful place whereas golf finds you in a man manicured environment!  Both sports require some skill and that comes from knowledge and practice. Both sports require equipment and the advertisers suggest the more you spend the more skilful you will be. This of course is nonsense!
Now golf is a competitive sport, you play against someone, so, too, is fly fishing if you go with friends. You may not feel it is competitive, until they are catching and you are not, then it becomes competitive!

Another similarity relates to the jargon in each sport. Banging balls into small holes in the ground is so unimaginative an activity that terms like "a birdie" or "an eagle" have been invented to make it sound interesting. With fly fishing we have terms like "tippet" and abbreviations like "ptn" (pheasant tailed nymph) and the whole nonsense of the number of different fly patterns.

So what are the differences between the sports. The main one I would suggest is that in golf the holes don't move (even if they see the golfer)! Whereas in fly fishing the target (the fish) do move (especially if they see the angler).  Another important difference is what happens when the golfer or fly fisher hits the target. In golf the ball lies quietly in the hole and the golfer pats himself on the back and the crowds cheer. In fly fishing the fish takes the fly, feels it's point and immediately all hell breaks out and the real excitement begins as the fish tests the fishers skill.  I have seen so many fish lost (by me and others) whilst being "played" usually because fishers are too impatient. 

After the golfing or fishing session both parties have a story to tell but I would imagine the golfer has to be more skilled at the telling in order to make it interesting than the fisher after all usually the fish has quite a lot to say.

Golf matches on TV are only watchable because there are so many cameras simultaneously filming a number of players that there is always some sort of action televised.  If a similar number of cameras were used to televise a fly fishing event I think it could be equally exciting if not more so!

I hope this stirs some of you into a response!

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Earliest Memories of an Old Fly Fisher


Me age five!

The reason for writing this at the age of 69 is to put down as much as I can still remember that might be of interest for my children and grandchildren (and others) before I lose the ability to recall.  When my mother got Alzheimer's I realised that there were lots of things I should have asked her before she entered the land of the bewildered!  I will try to keep it in rough chronological order although memories recalled spark other memories in all sorts of order.
When I was born on 10th March 1946 in hospital in Hammersmith my parents were living in Cambalt Rd, Putney, where they had lived during the 2nd World War. There they were bombed and houses right next to the one they rented a flat in were destroyed. I don’t have any recollection of that because I wasn’t born yet.  However, I do remember a dressing table they had that had fragments of glass buried in its back where a window had blown in.

Shortly after the War my father made £600 from gambling at the Epsom races and was able to buy 59 Braemar Avenue, Wimbledon Park, a house that was brand new as the previous house had been hit by a German bomb.  The total cost of the house was £2000. My Dad (Ted Carter) told me that the house had been bombed because it was near the railway bridge in Wimbledon Park. He said that if you looked at the new houses in the roads nearby you could see the path the stick of bombs had made in the direction of the bridge. The Germans missed the bridge!
My first clear memory is of being upset because I was being told I have to sleep in the little bedroom because my mummy was going to be in my bedroom to have a baby! I can remember being out in the garden because something was going on in the house and then being told I could come in and see my mother with my new baby brother. I was relieved to see my mother, the jury was still out on the new brother.

Something that had a strong influence on me was being invited next door by Uncle Geoff (Geoff Kiralfy) to see his model railway. I remember it as being at eye level (my eye level) such that I felt I could walk under it, with lots of tracks at different levels and trains disappearing into and emerging from tunnels. It left a profound impression on me that I wanted to create something like that (and I have done that twice, once for my children and once for my grandchildren).
Sadly Uncle Geoff and his wife broke up and Uncle Geoff moved away and the house was sold.

My first day at Wimbledon Park Primary School at the age of 5 had me crying because I wanted my Mum, but I soon settled in and enjoyed primary school. One morning I was late for school and Mum decided to take me down on the crossbar of her bike.  The school crossing lady had not turned up and there was a motorcycle policeman manning the crossing. He told my mother off for carrying me on the bike which upset us both. I was always a bit afraid of motor cycle policemen after that.

Things I remember about Primary school are: getting into trouble for putting plasticine on a radiator to get it soft and sticky and then pressing it on a girls head, it had to be cut out; slipping over on an ice slide we had made in the playground and knocking the wind out of myself, I could not catch my breath and thought I would die; having my eyebrow knocked off by standing too near a young batsman swinging a cricket bat; getting told off by the deputy head for chasing girls with my friends; taking the milk round the classrooms as a milk monitor.  Then with what milk was left over trying to see how many one third of a pints we could drink, and one boy passing out and banging his head on the wall!

Positive things I remember about my Dad were when I was ill and he bought me a present home, I think it was a model. As far as I can remember that was the only time he did something like that, but I am probably doing him an injustice. However, usually it was my mother who provided presents and treats.  On Christmas Eve Chris and I both hung up pillow cases at the ends of our beds ready for Santa. We then tried to stay awake to see him come but we always failed. However, we would wake up as early as 4.00 am to start opening our presents. Mum always made sure our pillow cases were full with a variety of things all wrapped up so we had the pleasure of unwrapping them.  By the time we had opened them all, our bedrooms looked like a battlefield.  

To be continued!

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

More moans from the old fly fisher!

I can just hear you all saying "I thought this blog was meant to be about fly fishing and all we are getting is some old codger moaning about his hospital experiences!" Well this old codger is conscious that he is missing one of the best times to fish, with the water cool and the rainbow trout feisty at Bewl and the Wiltshire brown trout remembering their attraction to lunching on mayflies.  Oh to boat fish the drift at Bewl or to stalk brownies in the crystal clear waters of the Avon! Just being there will be a tonic. So what is stopping me, because lots of people have offered to take me and I know they all mean it. Currently the situation is that I am in a lot of pain from my right lung, the chemotherapy makes me feel a bit bilious and I get out of breath.  If I take the prescribed morphine for the pain then I am very light headed and could probably walk on the water!  Casting right handed would be painful but I can cast left handed, not as well but good enough to tempt a trout.  So my short term goal is to master the chemo and the pain and to get on or near the water with a helpful pal as soon as it is possible.  

Meanwhile, my lovely wife puts up with me being irritable and she drove me to St Christopher's Hospice yesterday, a friendly cheery place, where a lovely lady called Ann spent an hour reviewing my situation with me and introducing me to the services they can offer.

I am amazed at the support I get from the health and other services, key nurse workers call to see if I am OK, a dietitian wants to see me, the district nurse comes to check on me and the urology dept at the hospital want to see me (I am not sure I want to see them).

Apart from calls and e mails from friends and family my biggest comfort is my ipad tablet because it lets me watch catch up TV on BBC iplayer anytime night and day.  The BBC have such good programmes hidden among some popular rubbish.  The really good ones distract me completely from the discomfort and pain, so well done BBC!  

Anyway if you are fit and healthy please make the most of it and get out and do something exciting, I really believe that as well as helping others, we are meant to enjoy the journey!