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Celebrations and other news

Hi, folks! This is the first LJ entry I've sent by email in absolutely ages,
so here's hoping it gets through, as I've had problems with the LJ website
which I normally use to post: more about that later!



In the meantime, I want to wish anyone reading this a happy New Year, May
2015 be a good year for everyone! It was certainly an up-and-down year for
me, starting with a broken wrist, continuing with brain surgery, but ending
well in many ways, and pretty good on the whole in spite of the health
problems I had following the surgery.



Obviously, the end of the year 2014 and the beginning of 2015 were marked by
celebrations for me, as for many others. Christmas was pretty quiet on the
whole for my parents and me, because there were only three of us, but it
went well. As is our tradition, we opened our presents after breakfast: mine
included a Bose Soundlink Mini Bluetooth speaker (which I can use with my
iPhone), a new pair of slippers, a new purse, toiletries, and chocolates.
The arrival of my Bluetooth speaker inspired me to finally set up Touch ID
on my iPhone, where I gently touch the home button to unlock the phone or to
log in for iTunes or App Store purchases, the reason being that, nice as it
is to play music or other audio through a powerful speaker, other people
definitely don't need to accidentally hear the passcode I used to use for
unlocking the phone, even if they hear it by chance. I admit I treated
myself to an early Christmas present, an IOS app called KNFBReader which
scans printed documents with the help of the camera on my iPhone then reads
out the text it finds after doing OCR on the scanned image: I was undecided
whether to get this app due to its high price tag and the fact that till now
I have mostly scanned printed documents on my PC, but, as there was a big
discount on KNFBReader for a few days leading up to Christmas, and I could
afford the discount price, I bit the bullet, and I'm glad I did, as the
results of KNFBReader's scanning are impressive, even though it took a while
during my first attempt to position my iPhone correctly. To get back to 25
December itself, Christmas dinner wasn't quite traditional for us, as we had
lamb and mint sauce instead of turkey and stuffing, but we still had
Christmas pudding for dessert after our roast, and later on we had the usual
sausage rolls, mince pies and Christmas cake. At New Year, instead of having
lots of booze as I know many people do, we stuffed ourselves with cakes
instead, Christmas cake and my Mum's chocolate fridge cake at teatime, then
little individual cakes from a bag which we dipped into regularly throughout
the evening, where we stayed up till just after midnight French time, after
which I went to bed and listened to some New Year celebrations on the radio
for a while. Between Christmas and New Year I continued quite a few of my
usual activities, especially keeping in touch with friends, playing games on
the PC and the iPhone and listening to Internet radio, the latter quite
often done with my new speaker instead of through headphones as I have often
done before. Besides all the usual games, I have started playing some new
ones lately: after reading a forum thread I saw a link to on Twitter about a
new free game for Windows called Angel Gift, I got that game, where you play
the part of an angel who pours different sorts of blessings on people's
houses but also has to fight demons, the latter not being easy at all, plus,
since New Year, I've discovered the delights of Trivia Crack, a trivia quiz
game for the iPhone, which I've had for a while but am starting to play more
now that I know more people who also play it. Tomorrow I'll be a year older,
as it's my 48th birthday on 4 January, but so far the only thing I know I'm
doing to celebrate is going out for lunch with my parents at a restaurant
which I know we all like. After that, life will probably get back into its
everyday routine, with church, choir, job-hunting, and my home activities
as well.



There ya go, I think that's all my news for now: hopefully I didn't forget
anything important. I wish everybody all the best for the coming year, and,
for those whose lives aren't so great for whatever reason, I hope 2015 will
bring improvements to their situation.



I can't predict when I will post to this LJ again, in fact my days of using
LJ might be numbered, judging from my experience with the site this morning.
Every time I opened my friends page on LJ, NVDA went quiet on me, the
computer restarted itself, and I found out later that the reason for the
sudden restart was a blue screen: this hasn't happen with any other websites
I have visited this morning. I was able to access my own blog without the
blue screen kicking in, but, when I tried to post an entry, my NVDA
screenreader didn't read edit fields properly when navigating through them
letter by letter, making it likely that proof-reading my entry could be
difficult. I've been with LJ for six years now, having opened my account
here on 1 January 2009, but whether I try the mobile LJ site, sign up for
another blogging platform, or give up blogging altogether, is a decision I
won't make in a rush. Many of you keep up with my news by other means
anyway, so maybe it won't be a huge loss if I leave LJ Land, much as I have
enjoyed writing here over the years.



With this in mind, I'll say bye for now, not yet knowing whether it's "bye
forever" to this mixed bouquet!

News at last before Christmas

Hi, folks! It's ages since I posted to this here LJ, sometimes due to sheer laziness, sometimes due to quite a few things going on, but here I am now at last, with a news update just before Christmas! If you're interested in the things-going-on side of my life, read on to find out more about that!

I'm pleased to be able to tell you that I'm in very good health as I write this. My head seems to be pretty much healed now, with the sensitivity I had to heat and tiredness and prolonged standing up being very rare these days. I have had occasional coughs and sore throats over the past couple of months, but thankfully they never really developed. My Dad hasn't been so lucky: the nerve pain after his attack of shingles in the summer still hasn't gone away, and he got bad side-effects from every medication our GP prescribed for him, so by November he was pretty run down, with no appetite and energy and also still with nerve pain, and that lasted a few weeks, but thankfully he's recovering now in spite of the pain still not quite being gone. Now my parents and I can enjoy Christmas food, although Christmas 2014 will be alcohol-free for us, as I'm not allowed alcohol with my anti-epilepsy medication, my Dad should probably avoid it after recent stomach problems caused by anti-pain medication, and my Mum doesn't drink much alcohol anyway so going without it is no problem for her.

In other news, due to my health mostly being good, life has mostly continued in its normal way for me, includintg Christmas preparations of course. Admittedly, my Dad and I pulled out of the Calais choir's three concerts in early November, where the choir sang just three songs at the end of a longer orchestral performance in three local towns, because neither of us felt well enough, with my throat playing up and my Dad starting to get run down: my Dad only felt up to doing the last of that choir's Christmas concerts, but I sang in all three of them, which went well, although one which we did with a brass band was a bit too long. Neither of us will sing with the choir at the Midnight Mass it has been invited to in Calais tomorrow evening: as the choir did only two rehearsals for this service, with no prior knowledge of what they'll sing, and we weren't available for the first Midnight Mass music practice last Friday, we decided not to be part of the choir for that service, as, speaking for myself, just one rehearsal is not enough to learn something new or unfamiliar and it's possible the choir might sing at least one or two things I don't know tomorrow night. I did sing, as well as being one of the keyboard-players accompanying the congregation's singing, at the Calais Anglican church's annual bilingual carol service last Friday: we decided to have soloists for three verses of the well-known carol "We three kings", but we could only find two male soloists, one being my Dad, so I and the other keyboard-player sung as a duet for the third solo, as the only other soloist we might have recruited already had something to sing in that service, namely the first verse of "Once in royal David's city" at the beginning. As the big chapel in Calais where we had the carol service in 2013 and 2014 is very echoey so it's hard to hear anyone at a distance without some kind of amplification, I got an early Christmas present before the service: since I got a stereo amplifier for my musical keyboard some years ago, we've often talked about getting a microphone to go with it, as one of the amp's speakers has all the necessary sockets for instruments, mikes and so on, and the difficult acoustics in the chapel gave my Dad an excellent excuse to buy me a microphone, which is bound to come in useful for different things in the future, not just carol services, but it was used for the first time by all the readers in the carol service last Friday, plus most of the soloists, and it worked very well. I still have other Christmas presents I know about to look forward to unwrapping on 25 December, but I'll tell you more when I've actually opened them. I've been buying presents for others and sending both Internet and "snail mail" Christmas cards as part of my pre-Christmas preparations, but I've also continued my usual activities to a certain extent. It's been quite a while since I last sent a job application, but I have continued to read job offers, although I am taking a break from that over Christmas and New Year: I've still continued reading, listening to the radio and to music, keeping contact with friends in different ways, and playing games on my computer and my iPhone, though, as usual. Given the time of year it is, I've played more Christmas-themed games on my PC than I do the rest of the year: on my iPhone, I have continued with online games such as DiceWorld and Hanging With Friends and Solara (which I have described in previous entries), as well as making progress with Audio Defence which was released in October (although that game can be frustrating sometimes as it has bugs and these finally led me to reinstall it and I had to start all the challenges again when I did that), plus I now have a working copy of Nebula game on my iPhone 6 (which is a shooting game set in space), and I also bought a game called AudioSpeed a few days ago (where you race spaceships instead of cars but I'm not very good at that as I keep crashing my ship so it explodes before the end of the race). Now that I have personally pretty much finished my own Christmas preparations, I can relax, and perhaps play a few more games and listen to a few special radio shows, before Christmas Day: this year my parents and I are celebrating Christmas quietly alone, without alcohol as I mentioned above, and with lamb instead of turkey this year, but otherwise it'll pretty much be a fairly typical English Christmas, with presents on Christmas morning and festive food later including Christmas pudding and mince pies and Christmas cake. We have not yet decided what we will do for New Year's Eve and my birthday in January yet, but they may well be quiet too.

There ya go, I think I've told you my most important news from the last two months or so now, so I'll finish this entry and let you return to either normal or festive activities. I wish all those reading this a happy Christmas if you celebrate that, or a good week for those who don't: my thoughts and prayers are also with anyone for whom Christmas might not be a very happy time this year.

I can't predict exactly when my next entry will be posted, apart from that it'll be after Christmas, but watch this space to see what blooms in it, as I so often say!

Bye for now, then, and all the best to everyone at the end of this year, whether you celebrate Christmas or not!

Lots going on

Hello again, folks, at long last! If you're wondering why I haven't posted here for more than a month, the simple reason is that my life has been pretty busy most of the time since the end of September. So, if you're interested in what's been happening, read on!

You'll be pleased to know that my health is pretty good these days. Admittedly my head is still sensitive to heat and tiredness and prolonged idle standing around, and I will have to take anti-epilepsy medication till August 2015 as a preventative measure even though I'm highly unlikely to have another seizure, but on the whole my head is behaving well and it aches far less than it used to. As for my injured big toe, the nail is still a bit loose, and not growing properly, but it's rarely painful now, and I can wear any of my closed-in shoes these days, a good thing as winter should soon be on its way.

In other news, as I mentioned earlier, life has been pretty action-packed since I posted my previous LJ entry on 24 September. On 26 September, we got some good news which means that our Anglican congregation in Calais can stay at the chapel we've tested out since last spring, namely that a local cafe will let church members use its toilet for free as they do for members of the big church behind the chapel: we had trouble getting the chapel's heating to work, but once a few adjustments have been done it should work fine, so we won't freeze during church services this winter, something our older members would definitely be unhappy about. My parents also celebrated an important wedding anniversary together on 26 September, which we church members continued to celebrate over lunch after our Harvest service two days later. Then my parents and I ended up not going to church in October at all: we cancelled the service on 12 October due to only four members being available, then on 26 October we were tired after a long journey the previous day so we stayed at home. I was much busier with the Calais choir in October than with the Calais Anglican church: I missed my regional choir's rehearsal on 11 October due to the final rehearsal for a concert with my Calais choir which would take place on the 12th, a concert which went very well, and the Calais choir has also been preparing other music for three concerts in and around Calais on 7, 8 and 9 November. For once I was in the audience without singing a note on 5 October, when there was a concert at the French Protestant church in Calais to celebrate more work being done on the old pipe organ there: there was plenty of organ music, as you can imagine, but there were also pieces sung by a small choir and a soprano soloist, the latter also happening to be the lady who sometimes gives us short vocal exercise sessions at the beginning of choir practices at the Calais music school, and there were also pieces played on various instruments such as the violin and different types of recorder. During the first weekend of October, the local arts-and-crafts exhibition which my Mum used to help out at as a member of the local tourist office took place: as my Mum is no longer an active worker for the tourist office, she could join my Dad and I as ordinary visitors for the official opening, and the exhibition was very good once more, although the opening was over-simplified with too many long speeches and nowhere for us to sit down during those speeches which was a bit of a strain for me. On the evening of 11 October, my parents and I went to a historical evening in Guines, a town about 15 minutes' drive from here, inspired by a big event in 1520 when England's King Henry VIII and the French king Francois I met with their courtiers just outside Guines to show off to each other: the modern evening inspired by this event included a meal, re-enactment of the arrival of the two kings and their courtiers, music, singing, dancing, and various events such as competitions between men on fake horses and mock jousting tournaments, with the audience split into two sides, English and French, my parents and me being put on the French side even though we're English so we joked that we were spies, but the evening was very good and the meal was delicious too. From 18 till 25 October my parents and I were in the UK, staying in a caravan near the west coast of England, combining visiting members of my late sister's family in the west of England with attending the wedding of a longtime friend in Wales which isn't far from there geographically: it was great to see four of my sister's children again, to see my great-nephew whom we hadn't seen for over a year, to celebrate the engagement of my second-eldest nephew, and to be able to attend the wedding of my friend Lulu and her new husband Brian, whom I not only want to congratulate for their marriage but also for organising an uncomplicated but very pleasant wedding and reception where I lmet quite a few people I'd either never met before or had only had contact with online. Besides all this going out and travelling, I have had plenty of things to keep me occupied as usual, including my new silver 64 GB iPhone 6, which I bought on 7 October, with which I am now getting used to IOS 8: most of the apps and games I regularly use either still work or have been updated to work with the new system, and I also just bought a new audio game which was released for i-devices two days ago, called Audio Defence, where you kill different kinds of zombies with different weapons, which isn't always easy but is still good fun. I don't spend all my time messing with my shiny new iPhone, though, I still read job offers, read books and magazines, listen to the radio and music, play games on the PC, and keep in touch with friends in different ways.

There ya go, I think I've told you my most important news now, so you can resume normal activities after finishing reading this! I wish you all a good week, with my thoughts and prayers still going out to those for whom life isn't as good as they would like it to be.

Now that's definitely all for today, so bye for now, and keep an eye on this mixed bouquet to see what blooms there in future!
Hi, folks! I chose a quote from "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy", which at least some of you will hopefully be familiar with, as the subject line of this entry, as life is now getting back to normal for me. I won't go into philosophical discussions about how we should define normality, that would be boring for me and for you, so read on to find out what's been going on here in the last month or so, which I hope will be far more interesting.

After I stopped the temporary medication I was given for two weeks in August which had the side-effect of making me feel sleepy, my energy levels have gradually risen back to pretty much what they were before my operation. Admittedly I am still sensitive to heat, which can make my head fuzzy, as can standing around with nothing to do and prolonged very loud noise such as work on the sewer next door last Monday, but on the whole I feel fine most of the time: funnily enough, standing up in choir practices doesn't make my head feel fuzzy, probably because I'm concentrating on singing rather than thinking about what my head might do, the latter probably not surprising after what it's been through. I know longer have any sort of dressings on my head, and the scars from the operation are hidden by my hair and rarely even itch now, let alone hurt. Given the one-off epileptic fit I had in early August, I have an earlier appointment with my surgeon booked now, on 2 October at the Calais hospital where he comes once a month anyway: we have not cancelled my original appointment with him in Lille in November, so that the hospital there will still keep records of my progress, unless, of course, the surgeon makes the decision to cancel that second appointment. In October I may end up visiting a chiropodist about a dodgy toenail: in September my Dad accidentally kicked my right big toe with his heavy shoe, and the nail still remains badly bruised with dried blood behind it, even though it isn't painful unless I wear closed-in shoes (not counting my slippers which are flexible of course).

Given that my head has mostly felt good over the last month, I can do much more now. My first outing after my unexpected stay at Calais hospital was a food shopping expedition sometime in August, where I was surprised how well I felt walking around the supermarket: I have been on much more interesting outings since then, such as an exhibition in the biggest church in Calais in early September and a historical tour last Sunday afternoon. In the church exhibition we saw articles that could be put into French Catholic churches, such as pictures and statues and illuminated manuscripts and candlesticks, but also material which could be used to make articles to decorate churches, such as lace or stained glass or wood or stone. On last Sunday's historical tour, we travelled in a coach along roads dating from different times, from old narrow country lanes to the main road to Calais which happens to follow the same route as a road built before the French Revolution: we also visited two small churches and a chateau which isn't normally open to the public but was built to look a bit like an English castle, with a moat and battlements among other things, and at this chateau the owners served us drinks and nibbles which was a nice end to the tour, especially as the weather was pleasant that afternoon. Talking of churches, after I reported in my previous LJ entry that the members of the Calais Anglican church had voted to stay in the small chapel we started worshipping at earlier this year, our choice to use it permanently has been put into doubt again: nice as the chapel is, and great as it is that we can leave things there and practically make it our own, its one big drawback is that it doesn't have a toilet, but access to the toilet in the big church near the chapel is very limited due to very few people having keys to the back door near it, so that solution to the one drawback of the small chapel we use may not be possible, therefore we might have to go back to the Calais hospital chapel, which I personally think would be a pity, as the small chapel in the middle of Calais which we currently use is much more comfortable and has a room where we can keep church belongings we don't necessarily have to take home such as service and hymn books. Our church service at the end of August, to which we invited people from other churches, and which was followed by a cold buffet meal, went very well: I played the hymns at the service, which was held indoors at a church member's house, then, as the weather was so lovely on 31 August, we had the meal in her garden. That day was the start of many where I have felt very well, so in early September I signed up for the Calais choir and the regional choir again: the Calais choir has already had a couple of practices, and the first rehearsal with the regional choir will take place next Saturday, with both choirs doing a real mixture of music this season. At home I have continued with my usual activities, some more frequently now I feel stronger, from job-hunting (without much enthusiasm but I haven't yet totally given up hope of getting a paid job although the temptation is looming sometimes), to keeping in touch with friends (by Twitter and Skype and email and snail mail), to reading, to listening to music and radio, to playing games on my computer and my iPhone. On the PC I have installed three new games I didn't have before, namely Paladin of the Sky (a role-playing game involving exploring a spaceship and fulfilling various missions including fighting enemies), Grail to the Thief (a story game where you make choices of which way a story goes about a man going back in time to steal the holy grail but it's audio-based rather than text-based with dialogue and sound-evvects and so on), and the full version of Super Liam (an audio game where a youngster who has become a kind of superhero without knowing it is sent on a mission to get rid of various enemies). On the iPhone I have tried several games this summer which I hadn't tried before then, some of which I liked, some of which I didn't: The Inquisitor (an audio game where a man is appointed inquisitor and is sent on a mission to get rid of heretics in a medieval scenario where choices are made to determine how the story continues), Inquisitor's Heartbeat (a follow-up to the Inquisitor audio game where the same man has to escape from the dungeons of a castle where he meets different characters as he goes along), Pyramid 13 (a card game where the cards are set out in a pyramid shape and the player must get rid of combinations of cards which add up to thirteen), Crossly (a crossword game which I didn't keep because I had trouble finding the way round the crossword grid on my iPhone and couldn't find a way to delete incorrect letters anyway), and Nebula Game (a shooting game set in space which I liked but which crashed badly on my iPhone 4S so I probably won't reinstall that game till I get a newer iPhone). Talking of newere iPhones, given that my 4S will be three years old in late October, and its original charger cable already died of old age so I got a replacement cable yesterday, I have decided to buy myself an iPhone 6 before the end of 2014, that being a bigger and more powerful phone than the 4S, but not as big as the 6 Plus which is a cross between a phone and a tablet. Many people with iPhones older than the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus have installed IOS 8, the latest version of Apple's mobile operating system, but I've heard so many bad reports of how IOS 8 works on the 4S that I am sticking with the previous one till I get a newer phone: at that point I plan to trade in my 4S, and, if it can be sold to a new owner, they can make their own decision whether to put IOS 8 on it or not, and I'll discover the delights of IOS 8, many of which I have read and heard about, when I get my iPhone 6. But I'd better not bore you too much with iPhone talk, plenty of other interesting things have been going on, as you can see from this paragraph of news.

There ya go, I think that's all my news for today, so I'll finish this entry now. As usual, I wish everyone a good week, and my thoughts and prayers go out to anyone whose life isn't so good as they read this.

Bye for now, then, and watch this space to see what petals fall into it in future!

Hospital and recovery

Hi, folks! Sorry it has taken me so long to write here in this LJ again, but, after a week in hospital, and taking things easy during my recovery afterwards, I'm not getting round to doing much very fast yet. But here I am at last, with all my news about my stay in the hospital in Lille and what happened afterwards: I expect I'll put other news in another entry if I can think of any later.

After the cardiologist said on 24 July that I was fit for my operation, I headed for the hospital in Lille on 30 July as planned, and there were no cancellations this time. As there were no single rooms in the department where I was at that time, I shared one with another lady who had actually had a burst aneurysm but she was rushed to hospital quickly and operated on so she survived: she was in quite a lot of pain, but after a few days she was allowed to get up as long as she was reasonably careful, although that usually led to her calling in a nurse several times each night because of her pain, which interrupted my sleep. On the evening of 30 July and very early on the morning of 31 July I had showers with special disinfectant shower gel, but after that I remember very little of 31 July and 1 August: I was intensive care from my operation till the afternoon of 1 August, but I remember very little of that, apart from not being interested in eating spaghetti and not remembering much the surgeon told me, which thankfully my parents did remember. Officially I don't have to see the surgeon again till November, but, given an unexpected complication I'll mention later, I may see him earlier: we've written to him about that, so hopefully he'll see that letter when he gets back to work after his holiday, then he can decide if he wants to see me sooner or not, or whether he'll just ask one of his colleagues to see me. After a couple of days in my room in Lille I was allowed to get up, and I was allowed home on 6 August as I expected. Hospital food was mostly not much good, but reasonably edible, and I got on fairly well with the lady I shared a room with: my parents, either one or both, visited me every day too, which was good in spite of the distance they had to come. I didn't activate the television by my bed because it had a touch screen which was impractical for blind users, but sometimes the other lady in my room watched TV, and I alternated between reading braille magazines and listening to music and books on my iPhone, the latter with my earbuds as I didn't know if my head could put up with my usual bluetooth headset which needs charging regularly anyway. I used my computer on speakers for several days after I got home, but I can use the headset normally now, so I don't have to inflict everything I want to listen to on the whole household here. On 7 August I was quite busy, catching up with emails, taking email lists off vacation, and going to our GP and to the pharmacy as well. I don't know whether it was because it was a hot day or because I overdid things, but just as I was starting our evening meal I had a one-off epileptic fit: I don't remember anything about it, but my Mum told me I was twitching and I was a bit sick, and next thing I knew I was in Calais hospital, where I staid till the afternoon of 8 August, and where the food was just as bad as in Lille, apart from the melon I had for dessert at lunchtime. I have had no more fits, but the hospital prescribed me two tablets, one of which I must take regularly, the other I'm gradually cutting down, the latter making me sleepy. Since I got home, a nurse has come every day, changing the dressings on my head, not making me have to wear the awful hats I wore in hospital, and making sure my head was healing nicely. At first I had to ask my Mum to wash my hair with special shampoo I've been given, but from now on I can use ordinary shampoo and brush and comb my hair as normal, although I must be careful as there are still a few scabs on my head. The nurse came here for the last time today, and she's very happy with my progress. I haven't left the house since I came back from Calais hospital on 8 August, so I missed a church service and meeting on 10 August, but I was pleased to hear afterwards that the Calais Anglican congregation plans to stay in the little chapel it's been trying out for the last few months. I should be ready to play at our next service on 31 August, which is at a church member's house and followed by a meal. Besides all that, life is getting back to normal, although I'm still taking things relatively easy, I don't want to overdo too much as you can imagine, so there are emails I haven't answered yet, other things I haven't done, but none of that has been forgotten, I just need to be sure I have the energy for all that.

There ya go, that's all my health news, but as this is getting a bit long I'll save other news for a future entry. In the meantime, I wish you all a good week and send my thoughts and prayers to anyone whose week isn't so good.

Bye for now, then, till next time, whenever that is!

Not in hospital yet

Hello, folks! This time last week, I never expected to be able to be writing an LJ entry from home today, I expected to still be in hospital today, recovering from my surgery, but things have turned out otherwise, so here I am! To find out more about my operation being postponed, and other news from the last two weeks or so, read on!

The appointment with the anaesthetist at the hospital in Lille on 9 July was very productive: he fired a lot of questions at me, measured my blood pressure and listened to my heart, but also told me a few details about my operation, for example that it wil last about three hours and afterwards I wil have pain but that pain shouldn't be severe, plus he gave me a print-out of generl information about anaesthetics which I scanned and read when I got home. A week later, my Mum and I headed to Lille as planned, dealt with all the necessary admissions paperwork at the downstairs reception without any problems, then headed upstairs to complete my admission the neurosurgery department, only to hear from the receptionist there that my operation had been cancelled: the hospital had phoned us at home at 1 PM, telling us not to come, but by 1 PM we were already in Lille. By the time we eventually got home, after a detour to Calais hospital to surprise my Dad by me visiting when he only expected my Mum to do so that day, we found a message on our answering machine, explaining that an emergency had come up which prevented the surgeon from operating on me on 17 July, and asking us to phone the hospital as soon as we could: by the time we tried late last Wednesday afternoon, office hours were over and nobody answered the phone, but, just as we were about to phone the hospital the following morning, they phoned us to say that my surgery has been rescheduled for 31 July and I must go into hospital on 30 July for that, so here's hoping there won't be another cancellation!

As for my Dad, having shingles didn't stop him from going into hospital on 14 July, but so far we are unsure as to how successful his surgery was, as it can take some time to recover from the operation he had and his post-operative appointment with the specialist won't take place till August. My Dad came home from hospital last Friday, and is still feeling a bit delicate: it doesn't help that the shoulder nerve which was affected by his recent bout of shingles is still painful and that's really getting him down, quite understandably, so maybe our GP can prescribe something for that pain. I certainly hope he'll feel stronger and have less pain in his shoulder soon!

In other news, quite a few things have happened besides medical and surgical stuff. On 13 July I played hymns in church yet again: now that the visiting priest who led services for us once a month has moved to the UK, our former full-time priest, who currently works in Zurich but visits her family in Paris regularly, has offered to come up to Calais once a month to lead services, and her first one back with us was on 13 July, with most of the congregation having lunch at a church member's house afterwards. That lunch was the nearest my Mum got to a birthday celebration, as she was helping my Dad prepare for hospital on her real birthday and took him there late that afternoon. Before and after my own trip to Lille last week, which proved unnecessary as I explained above, I spent quite a bit of time putting as many email lists I belong to on vacation as I could, then re-enabling them, plus spreading the word to my contacts on email and Twitter and Audioboo about what was going on. Since my return I've got back to gaming on the iPhone and the PC again, as well as general contact with friends all over the world which doesn't count telling them about my hospital situation.

I won't spend all my time idling at home before my upcoming operation, though. After a mix-up about the date of an appointment with a local cardiologist about my high blood pressure, where we thought this appointment would be on 24 June and it's actually on 24 July, I'm glad that we didn't reschedule the appointment now that I'm available for it this coming Thursday: it'll be interesting to see what the cardiologist comes up with, because, having had a few sessions of monitoring my blood pressure with the talking machine I bought a while back, my blood pressure seems to be up and down, sometimes normal, sometimes slightly high, sometimes a bit higher. Next Sunday, I'll be playing hymns in church in Calais: one of our members, our former organist in fact, is also a licensed lay minister, so she's leading the service next Sunday, and she is lending me her keyboard for the service, as mine is so heavy that my Dad is the only person who can usually carry it easily but it's not advisable for him to do so right now since he has a painful shoulder and is still recovering from recent surgery anyway. Provided that the typhoon currently heading for Taiwan arrives and leaves the island early this week rather than this coming Friday, my oldest nephew and his girlfriend should arrive in France on Saturday morning, then they'll stay with my parents and me again till early Monday morning whe they'll catch the Eurostar train from Lille back to London where they live. Then it'll be hospital preparation time for me again, but I've left my suitcase partly packed so there will only be a few things to put in it before 30 July: braille magazines are probably taking up the most space in that suitcase right now, as I've packed a stock of them, since I may not feel like listening to music, or reading books with VoiceOver on my iPhone, or listening to the radio or the TV after my operation if my head is painful, so braille reading is a good alternative. I'm still hoping I won't have too much pain after my surgery and that I'll be able to come home after a week. I certainly plan to post to this here LJ after I come home from hospital, to let you all know how things go there.

In the meantime, I wish you all a good week, and my thoughts and prayers go out to anyone reading this whose week might not be so good for any reason.

OK, I'm outa here for today, so bye for now, and watch this space, because sometime in the future, either before or after my operation, I will post something here!

Probably my last entry before my operation

Hi, folks! It's a few weeks since I last posted here, and life is about to get a bit more hectic for me and my family over the next couple of weeks, so I've decided to post an LJ entry today, while things are still reasonably quiet.

You probably noticed the word "operation" in the subject line of this entry, so I'll start by telling you that the date for my surgery to secure the two small aneurysms in my head has been fixed: I'll go into hospital in Lille on 16 July and be operated on the next day, after which I'm likely to stay in hospital for about a week, depending, of course, on whether there are any complications with the surgery, which I hope there won't be. I told the surgeon on 30 June that I definitely wanted the surgery, a decision I made quite quickly after leaving his office on 2 June. Tomorrow I must go to Lille again, for an appointment with the anaesthetist, normal procedure before any operation of course. At least they haven't asked me to make sure my blood pressure goes down before this operation, as it's still slightly high, but I'm sure they'll take that into account when setting up the anaesthetic, plus high blood pressure is a risk factor for aneurysms anyway, one of the reasons I'm having the operation to secure my aneurysms, small as they are.

Talking of health, my Dad is currently getting over an attack of shingles, which, thankfully, isn't infectious: his has affected a nerve in his left shoulder, so it started with shoulder pain before the rash set in, but our GP gave him treatment and the rash is gradually clearing up, plus my Dad is taking painkillers which deaden the pain in the affected nerve, so he's feeling better, and with any luck he'll feel well enough to drive me and Mum to Lille tomorrow, something he was unable to do on 30 June so my Mum and I went to Lille without him. With any luck, he'll be completely over his shingles by next week, when he too must go into hospital, in Calais, probably for three days, for an operation to help with men's problems: I won't go into more detail here, as this is a public LJ entry so I don't feel ready to tell people more about my Dad's more intimate problems here. My Mum's birthday will be cut short on 14 July when my Dad is admitted to hospital in Calais, then he'll have surgery on the 15th, but he should hopefully be out of hospital by the end of next week, unlike me who must stay in hospital till 23 July at least. So my Mum will be dashing around a bit between Calais and Lille, but it'll be a relief to all three of us when the operations are over and my Dad and I are hopefully fit as fleas again.

There's plenty of other news besides the health stuff. On 20 June we had the AGM of the ecumenical association my parents and I belong to in Calais, including the usual AGM stuff plus some hymns and prayers and refreshments, and at the end of the actual meeting a small choir of members, including me, sang a blessing, normally in four parts but we sang it in three, and it went pretty well. The summer fete in Arras went very well too: we were lucky to have warm sunny weather, so my parents and I spent all afternoon there, taking part in the raffle (where we won a basket of seeds and little pieces of gardening equipment), doing the rounds of different stalls (where my Mum bought a candlestick to add to her collection and she bought two print books and I bought an audio book on tape), playing a game where we had to guess where in France a teddy-bear might be (but we didn't win the bear), eating scones and drinking tea and cold drinks, and talking to lots of people (some of whom we know and some we don't). On 22 June we had our last service with a visiting priest who has helped us out in Calais by coming once a month since 2011: after the service, we all had lunch at a church member's house, and gave the priest a card and a hamper of local produce as our parting gifts, and obviously we wish him all the best for his new job running two parishes in the UK. That Sunday was also the birthday of my eldest nephew, which we didn't celebrate, but he and his girlfriend arrived from London the next day to spend a few days with my parents and me before they accompanied my French nieces to Taiwan: I haven't spoken to anyone in Taiwan since they got there, but my parents have, and I gather they're having a great time out there. Last Friday evening, my parents and I went to a choir concert at the church in Ardres, the nearest town to where we live, as one of our friends from the local ecumenical association is in the choir: the concert was a real mixture of music, from negro spirituals to songs from films and musicals plus a couple of ordinary pop songs, and the choir was very good, with several talented soloists, the only things wrong with the concert being balance problems as the choir were amplified and the fact that the recorded accompaniments to some of the songs didn't sound good with echoey church acoustics. This concert was the start of a special weekend they have in Ardres in early July every two years, to commemorate a local heroine called Belle Roze who helped to foil a plot about 500 years ago to stop Ardres being invaded by the Spanish and to keep it French: this year's festivities, being the 60th anniversary of when this celebratory weekend was started, were something of a wash-out due to the weather being rainy most of the weekend, but my parents and I were lucky that, when we went to the finale of the festival on Sunday afternoon, the rain had stopped and didn't start again till the festival was over. The highlight of Sunday's celebrations was a gathering of giants, not real ones but giant models of people and animals which are carried around by strong men and are a speciality of northern France: Ardres has two giants of its own, Belle Roze, as you may guess, but also François Premier, king of France in the 1500s, but other giants were brought in from all over northern France, mostly people but there were some animals too, such as a dragon which squirted water rather than breathing fire. Yesterday should have been a quiet day for me, as today seems to be so far, but that quietness gave way to a couple of incidents: we were all woken up very early in the morning by various noisy lorries which had come to mend a water leak two doors down from us (but thankfully that didn't affect our water which didn't have to be turned off), then yesterday afternoon I was quietly sitting at my computer when a baby blackbird decided to fly in through my open window so I got my Dad to chase it out and thankfully the baby blackbird soon met up with his own Dad who fed him and probably reassured him a lot after his little tour of my room which was probably as scary for him as it was startling for me. Otherwise, I have continued all my usual activities at home, such as keeping in touch with friends and playing various games on my computer and my iPhone, making the most of several of those while I still have Internet which I won't while in hospital.

There ya go, I think that's all my most important news for now, so I'm outa here. I don't suppose I'll post to this here LJ again till the end of July at the earliest, so I wish you all a good rest of the month, and my thoughts and prayers go out, as usual, to anyone who is sad or ill or worried or experiencing anything else right now which makes their life not so good.

Bye for now, then, till I post here again!

Update while things are quiet here for once

Hello, folks! As today is the only day this week where I have next to nothing planned, I decided this would be a good time to post another LJ entry, so read on if you want to find out what's been going on in my little world!

To start with, do you want the good news or the bad news? Actually, I probably shouldn't have bothered asking that question, as you'll get both anyway! (Smile). I'll start by getting the bad news over with, namely that I am no longer secretary of the committee in charge of the three Anglican churches in this part of northern France: the new committee member who wanted the job stated his case very clearly in the meeting last Thursday, quoting church rules which state that the secretary should be a voting committee member unless no-one on the committee wants the job, so he was elected without a vote and my last job as secretary was drafting the minutes of that meeting. I will definitely not dwell on the hypocrisy of this new committee member, who accused other members of the church committee of being malicious when they quoted church protocol to decline his offer to be treasurer when we weren't sure whether the previous one had actually resigned, but quoted church rules to get the secretarial job: if he's going to be difficult, I'm glad to be well out of it as regards the committee, but I hope he won't rub too many other committee members up the wrong way, especially my Mum who is the president or chairperson of the committee, or whatever you'd like to call her, as we don't have a priest for all three churches, as the priest would head the committee if we employed one. And now for the good news, much more positive, namely that my cold is now a thing of the past: I may sometimes cough occasionally, but that is very rare these days, so talking and singing are definitely no longer a problem. Talking of health, I'm not sure whether I've mentioned in past entries that I've had high blood pressure for quite a long time, so I recently bought a talking blood pressure monitor from the AVH, the French equivalent of the RNIB and other big national asociations for the blind: we had warned our GP that I would get this useful gadget, so she proposed that I should measure my blood pressure for three days, three times in the morning and three times in the evening, and, apart from some high readings when we were making sure we knew how to use the monitor and that it was working right, my blood pressure has got lower in the calm atmosphere at home, so I think it definitely pays to be calm and quiet when my blood pressure is being measured. The three days end today, and my Mum has written down the readings as we went along, so I'll deliver those to the doctor tomorrow: given that I can't be expected to be in a calm atmosphere all the time, she may decide to keep me on blood pressure medication, but that's up to her, of course. I certainly feel more relaxed since the uncertainty about my secretarial position was cleared up, even though I no longer have the job. I still have plenty to keep me occupied locally: more about that a little later! In the meantime, apart from what I've mentioned above, life has been pretty normal here, with me continuing all my usual activities, including gaming on both my iPhone and my computer: in spite of having to reinstall my all-time favourite audio game for the PC, Super Egg Hunt, after my computer was repaired, I have already unlocked all but one of the game modes and re-won 47 out of 92 trophies in the last couple of weeks, as well as playing other games on the PC, including some on both RS Games and Quentin C's Playroom, and keeping up with online games on the iPhone, such as DiceWorld, although I'll have to resign from those temporarily when I go into hospital in July, as I won't have wi-fi there and my mobile data limit isn't very high. I will temporarily stop reading job offers in July too, and probably not send any applications before that as I obviously won't be available for paid work when I have surgery done on my head, as described in my previous entry. Maybe it's a good thing I'm not working, as this week will be a busy one. Tomorrow I will go to our GP with my blood pressure results, and she'll decide what to do about them. On Wednesday morning I'll have my hair cut, probably nice and short in the hope of a hot summer. On Thursday I have a rehearsal with a mini-choir of members of the ecumenical association I belong to, which encourages members of different churches in the Calais area to work together, as this asssociation has its AGM on Friday and it was suggested that we should sing a little blessing at the end of that: the AGM will take place on Friday evening, so whether they get that blessing depends on how well the practice goes on Thursday morning. Next Saturday afternoon, as long as the weather isn't ghastly, my parents and I will go to a summer fete in Arras, a town some distance inland from here: we used to help out at Arras's fete years ago when the Arras Anglican church was part of our little group of churches instead of being independent as it is now, but, after my parents went to a service in Arras in May and were warmly welcomed by the members they knew there, they said they would go to the fete, and I'll be happy to join them, with all three of us being there simply as guests, not doing anything special. In between everything else, I will have hymns to practise for our Holy Communion service in Calais next Sunday: this will be the last service with our current visiting priest before he moves to England to work in two parishes there, so after the service we will give him a leaving present, probably a hamper of local produce, and one of our church members is hosting a meal to which most of the others will bring something to eat. Once he's gone, a former priest for this region, who will soon be retiring to Paris after leaving Zurich where she worked after she left us in 2011, is willing to come up to Calais to lead a Holy Communion service for us once a month, and her first time back with us will be on 13 July, so it'll be good to see her again after more than two years.

I think I've told you my most important news now, so I'll soon be outa here, As usual, my thoughts and prayers are with anyone whose life is not as good as mine usually is.

Now I'm really going away, for the time being anyway, so bye for now, and watch this space, because you never know what I might put in it!

An update from me at last!

Hi, folks! It's over a month since I last posted to this here LJ, but quite a lot has happened since 29 April when I last posted here, so read on if you want to find out more!

Let's start with health news, shall we? Right now, I have almost recovered from a cold, which I have had for about a week after catching it from my Dad: my nose is no longer running as I write this, but I still cough fairly frequently, which is rather annoying, so I hope that will stop very soon. As for my aneurysms, I received a letter on 2 May asking me to come to a consultation appointment with the neurosurgeon in Lille on 28 April: obviously, because that letter arrived to late, I missed that particular appointment, but I phoned the hospital as soon as I read the letter, and they rescheduled my appointment for 2 June. I had already received a letter recommending I should have surgery to secure my two small aneurysms, and this was explained in more detail last Monday: due to the position my aneurysms are in, they will have to do keyhole surgery through the side of my head rather than going up through the femoral artery as they did for my Mum, so I will be in hospital longer than she was when she had her aneurysm secured, a week rather than three days. I had pretty much made up my mind that I will have the surgery before I left the surgeon's office, but I didn't tell him that then, althoughI was soon 100% sure, as the risks of leaving my aneurysms unsecured definitely outweigh the possible risk of complications from the surgery: I have another consultation with the same neurosurgeon on 30 June to make the final arrangements, then I will have the operation sometime in July, therefore it'll be over with reasonably quickly, so I don't have two months of possible worrying by waiting til September. This whole thing may sound thoroughly scary to you, and you're welcome to keep me in your thoughts and prayers when I have the surgery, but I trust the doctors and I'm pretty sure I'll be perfectly fine, although I'm well aware that there may be problems, which I obviously hope won't occur.

In the meantime, I am still unemployed as regards a paid job, but I still don't dare give up reading job offers, even though my motivation is still pretty low and I know there will be some time in July when I won't be available for work anyway. I am definitely still secretary of the committee in charge of the three Anglican churches in this part of northern France until 12 June, when it will be decided whether the new member who ought to be treasurer but was offered the post of secretary will take my place or not: I hope he'll change his mind and become treasurer, but I'm not holding my breath, and neither he nor I would want the compromise one committee member suggested, that I still write minutes of meetings while the new secretary writes official correspondence, I'd rather do the whole job or nothing at all, and I imagine the possible new secretary would feel the same. He was thankfully polite to me when members of the three congregations got together in Boulogne on 20 May for an informal meeting to discuss the future of our group of churches. I still play hymns in my own church, and we're still trying out the chapel in Calais which I told you about before: a couple of weeks ago I also played the hymns for a short multi-church prayer and praise service where the theme was peace. The committee of the ecumenical association which organised this service had a meeting last Tuesday to organise its AGM, where there will also be hymns, but we'll sing them without accompaniment, so I won't have to take my keyboard to that AGM on 20 June. On 16 May I sang with my regional choir for their last concert in a long series where we did extracts from various operettas, and this concert was part of the final day of a week-long choral festival organised by the association which runs the regional choir every three years. My Calais choir had me singing a lot too lately, with extra rehearsals before a concert of extracts from musicals and operettas and operas on 1 June: sadly, though, my Dad and I both had colds at the end of May and neither of us could sing, so we both pulled out of the final rehearsal and the concert itself. We missed a chunk of the penultimate rehearsal anyway, as we had to get to the computer repair shop before 6 PM on the afternoon of 24 May to collect my computer, which had just had its internal hard drive replaced: on the afternoon of 20 May I couldn't get my PC to start, and it turned out the hard drive was dying after three years of use by me, but it only took three days to get it replaced, and most of the data on the old drive could be recovered, apart from emails and my contacts, but I got the latter back thanks to iCloud which allows the contact list to be synced between my iPhone and Outlook. I was very grateful to have my iPhone when I had no computer, as I could keep up with emails, go on Twitter from time to time, listen to Internet radio, and continue all the usual IOS games. I've reinstalled quite a few games on my PC over the last couple of weeks, but my life hasn't been all play and no work. Last Saturday, 31 May, there was a ceremony in Ardres, our local town, to unveil a memorial to 15 British soldiers who were killed near there and buried in Ardres cemetery during World War II: at least one relative of one of the dead soldiers was there, plus a lot of dignitaries from the British Legion and the War Graves Commission and their French equivalents, dedicated to helping surviving soldiers and tending the graves of dead soldiers respectively, but my parents and I and some friends from our church were among the guests at the ceremony, which included the story of the battle of Ardres where the 15 soldiers were killed. Talking of war commemorations, today is the anniversary of D-Day, when the British and Americans and other allies invaded France at the start of the last part of World War II when Europe was finally freed from Nazi control: the Normandy landings, 70 years ago today, took place a long way down the coast from here, but understandably there are a lot of commemorations, being covered by the British and French media, and even now we can still thank all those who fought against Nazism back then, because if the Nazis had won the war this world, or Europe at least, would have been far different. On a much lighter note, even though I'm still waiting to find out whether I will continue my church secretarial work and exactly when I will have the operation to secure my two small aneurysms, life is good on the whole, and definitely not boring, with all my usual activities plus the extra ones I have mentioned here: long may that continue!

There ya go, I think I've told you my most important news now, so I'll soon be outa here! But my thoughts and prayers still go out to anyone whose life isn't as good as they'd like it to be.

On that note, I'll say bye for now, but, as usual, watch this space to see what lands in it!

UP in the air after Easter

Hi, folks! It's a few weeks since I last posted to this here LJ, so I decided to do so today. If you're wondering why I gave it the above subject line, it doesn't mean I'm writing this from a plane or hot air balloon or whatever, it refers to a few uncertainties in my life right now: things will become clearer as this entry progresses, so read on!

As you may guess, quite a lot of things have happened since I last posted here. On 13 April I and other members of the Calais Anglican church had a Palm Sunday service in our possible new place of worship for the first time, an almost unused small chapel behind one of the big Catholic churches in Calais: it has its drawbacks, such as no toilet and an apparently slightly complex heating system, but it's just the right size for our small congregation, so we have a trial period of using that chapel till September, then, if we want to stick with it, the local Catholic priest will give us official written permission to do so, although he has already told us that if we stay at that chapel we can pretty much make it our own as hardly anyone else uses it anyway. Four days later, we had the last meeting of the 2013 members of the committee in charge of the three Anglican churches in northern France, a committee in which some of the members have changed as from 27 April: I'll say more about that a bit later. That meeting made Good Friday an even busier day than it might of been: my parents and I had already planned to go to a French multi-church service in Calais at lunchtime that day, where I played two hymns, on a real piano which the church had which meant that for once I didn't have to take my keyboard with me, then we had a KFC lunch and went food shopping as well as visiting a friend in hospital just before she went home, but I also put together the first draft of the minutes of the 17 April committee meeting, as I like to get at least a rough draft done the day after any meeting so it's still fresh in my mind. My parents and I had planned to watch the DVD's of the first two films in the currently incomplete Hobbit trilogy on the Saturday of the Easter weekend, but by the time we'd finished the first one it was too late to start the other, so I have no idea when we'll watch that. On Easter Sunday morning all three of us were up very early for a sunrise service on the beach at Wissant, between Calais and Boulogne on the north coast of France: actually, with sunrise not being at a prdictable time on Easter Sunday every year, that service has started at 7 AM for years now, and we gather round a fire to sing, listen to Bible readings, hear prayers, and even to have a light breakfast of coffee and bread afterwards. When we got home, my parents presented me with my enormous Easter egg for this year: actually, "egg" is a slight misnomer, because the chocolate monstrosity in question was actually a chicken sitting on six eggs on a nest, all pretty big, so it's probably not surprising that I haven't quite finished all that chocolate yet. The next big event after Easter was the rescheduled AGM of the three Anglican churches, held on 27 April: this went more peacefully last Sunday, with no important business missed out, It was after this meeting, when we had a short committee meeting to elect the officers of the committee for 2014,, those being the chairman, secretary and treasurer, that one of the currently up-in-the-air matters in my life came to light: you may remember a mention in my previous entry of a man who was rude to me and upset that he couldn't take over as treasurer for the three churches immediately after the adjourned AGM, and this man has been nominated as secretary if he stil refuses to be the new treasurer, and I'l lose my secretarial post if he does, but we're all hoping he'll change his mind and agree to be treasurer because last year's treasurer resigned so we need one of those and don't necessarily need new secretary, however all this won't be finalised till this man comes home after a trip away and answers the letter sent to him requesting that he should become treasurer if he's willing to do so, therefore I don't know for sure whether my days as secretary are numbered till this answer comes through. Irregular as my church secretaria work has been over the past few years, I've been glad to have that unpaid work, especially as I am still unemployed when it comes to getting a paid job, and my motivation to hunt for one is pretty low now after years of failure. Maybe it's a good thing I'm unemployed right now, as I won't have to take time off work for the hospital appointments for my aneurysms, one to discuss my treatment and another to actually operate: I have still had no letter with dates for either of these appointments, although I am optimistic that they will both take place before the long summer holidays in France which tend to start in late June or early July. In the meantime, besides everything I've mentioned above, I've still continued other activities: my Calais choir has continued to practise in spite of the Easter holidays being in full swing in France, preparing for a concert on 1 June, and I'll be singing in the last concert of the current long series with my regional choir on 18 May. At home life is far from boring too, with all the activities I have to keep me occupied, including reading, listening to music and Internet radio, playing games on the iPhone and the PC, and keeping in touch with friends in different ways.

Now I think I've told you my most important news since mid-March, so I'll soon finish this entry. I wish you all a good week, remembering all those reading this in my thoughts and prayers whose lives are not as good as they'd like them to be right now.

There ya go, that's really all for today, so bye for now, and watch this space as usual to see what I throw in it!