Saturday 30 August 2008

Holiday trip 5 - Uffington

One place that was really frustrating to visit, on our holidays in June, was the Uffington white horse. You see pictures of it in books and have no idea how complicated the reality is. First of all it is badly signposted. We drove around in circles, squinting at maps and road signs, before we finally found our way there. Then you discover that the car park is at the base of the hill and you have to hike up the hill along winding grassy paths to get to the horse.

And when I did finally get there (pant pant *gasp*) you discover that the horse is carved out of the hillside across several lumps and hollows - so you cannot see the entire horse from any spot on the ground. This creature was definitely meant as a message for the gods, not humans!

The white horse of Uffington is the oldest white horse carved out of the chalky hills. It's dated at roughly 3,000 years old. Hubby and I both have doubts about the "horse" theory. He thinks it looks like a cat, my mom thinks it looks like a cat. Dad and I thought it looked like a dragon. I'll add an aerial photo so you can decide for yourself.

But first our photos. This was taken walking towards the horse. The gorgeous view of the surrounding countryside from horse level up the hill. :-) Another view of the horse... kind of! The head is to the right.
Dragon hill - below the horse (its tail points directly at the hill). You can see the road we took up to the parking area running sort of central, between dragon hill and the horse. You see the white spot on the hill? Nothing will, or ever has, grown on that spot. Legend is that this is where St George killed the dragon and its blood poisoned that spot forever. Cool legend! :-)
And finally, an aerial photo of the white horse, road curving below it. To give you an idea of size two people could stand in its eye - the tiny white dot in the head portion. This thing is BIG - 374 feet (110 m) long.

So, what do you think - cat, horse or dragon?

Saturday 23 August 2008

Barbecue Bun


Time for another update on our resident rabbit. He's now fairly big and has swapped sleeping on my chives to sleeping either in a larger empty clay pot (behind the barbecue on the left) or in his absolutely favourite place... under the barbecue!

He can lie there, on his side, snoozing all day. He still hates mud and shudders when he has to lick mud off his paws and he still loves to eat my chives, but I'm afraid to say he started adding my miniature rose buds to his diet so the rose is now stacked up on bricks - too high for bunnies to reach!

He mostly loves dandelion buds and clover, but lately he's also taken to eating the dry poppy seed heads. I must admit they do look very crunchy. I've heard of poppy seeds on buns, but poppy seeds in a bun... ? ;-)

Thursday 21 August 2008

Decisions and Choices

Yes, it's really me! I'm back from hospital early, because there was no surgery after all.

I went in on Monday morning and left on Tuesday midday. It felt very weird yesterday - being home when I should have been in a hospital ward for at least four more days! The reasons behind it are complicated. I've needed a day or so to get my brain together enough to come here and explain what happened,so my apologies to everyone who has had to wait till now to hear how I'm doing.

Life sometimes sends you challenging decisions and choices. This week I had to deal with a big one. I knew already that my gynaecologist (from here on the "gynae" as it is easier to type!) had reservations about this surgery, but it wasn't until Monday that we had a chance to sit down together and discuss all the pros and cons fully. On Monday I spent a full hour talking to the gynae and then another long talk later in the afternoon with the surgeon. They both were of a similar opinion about my surgery.

To put it simply the hernia is easy to do and will be rescheduled for some time in the future. The hysterectomy and organ clearance are not at all easy or simple. To ease any female reading this and feeling anxious - I am not the average case. My gynae once described me as the worst case of endometriosis he'd ever experienced. Lots of women have hysterectomies and feel loads better for having the surgery. Women with endometriosis are more at risk having surgery, but still can find surgery very helpful, I'm just not going to be one of them. Of course surgery always carries risks, but in my case the risks are most likely higher than the possible positive outcomes.

If I were to try to put it into percentages I'd say it would look like this:
20% chance this surgery would be successful in easing my pain,
40% chance this surgery would accomplish nothing,
40% chance this surgery could be dangerous and/or damaging to other internal organs.

Added to that I would have had to have an extra epidural for pain control on top of the normal anaesthetic. Put that way the whole idea of surgery started to look a lot more scary! My gynae admitted that he was unsure whether he would be helping me or making things worse. He was clearly very worried, although he tried very hard to be soothing and optimistic. The surgeon was even more honest and direct. He said (more or less) that my worries were both sensible and justified. This surgery, given my own personal state of health, is serious and very difficult. He suggested I talk to my family and then make my decision. He said something that helped enormously. He said I had no reason to feel embarrassed or stressed if I wanted to say "No, I don't want this surgery." He said I could even wait till I was being wheeled into the operating room and say "no!" and he'd be perfectly happy to stop right there.

He said that it makes no sense to him that in life we always have choice and yet when it comes to something as vital as our own bodies we tend to feel we are helpless.

Choices and decisions... not easy things ever, but even harder when they relate to something as complicated at this! I did a LOT of thinking. If I said no to surgery it meant accepting the fact that my health issues are here to stay - I can manage them and ease them, but I cannot cure them. I spoke to my family, explained what could go wrong as well as what could go right, and they all agreed with the decision I'd made - to not have the hysterectomy and organ clearance.

On Tuesday the surgeon took time out of his very busy schedule to come see how I was. I told him my decision... and he smiled. He told me he would come back once I'd spoken to the gynae. I had a wait of an hour or so before then. A very loooong wait it felt too! When my gynae arrived and I told him he just burst into this BIG smile. It was very obvious he was very worried about this operation and that he felt I had made the right choice. I suspect that he always hoped I'd opt for no surgery, but had not wanted to sway me either way. He had simply given me all the facts and then waited for me to decide. His last comment was to the effect that the medical profession is starting to realise that endometriosis is a chronic illness that needs to be managed rather than something that can be cured or fixed with surgery.

I am very lucky - I had two extremely conscientious medical professionals who truly wanted what was best for me, but also wanted me to be the one who had power over my own body. They told me all I needed to know, they gave their opinions, but ultimately they let me decide what was right for me. I was told everything I needed to know and always treated as if my opinion was as important as theirs - as it should be considering it is my life and my body.

Not everyone is so fortunate. The last time I was in hospital I met a woman whose doctor never told her the negative side-effects her surgery would have. She is happy with her choice to have surgery, but still angry that she was never prepared for the major life changes she had to face after her surgery.

Coming home still felt very strange. I have been bracing myself for this for months, also giving myself "pep talks" on the benefits this surgery could have for me. Now everything is changed and nothing is changed. I have made one of the biggest decisions of my life and the result of that is I am home exactly as I was before. Everything altered by not being altered. It feels rather surreal, but good. I have absolutely no doubt I made the right choice.

Sunday 17 August 2008

Off for a week

Tomorrow I go into hospital in the morning, for surgery the next day. I probably won't be back here for at least five days.
Till then....

Saturday 16 August 2008

Holiday trip 5 - Stonehenge and Avebury

Our next stop during our June holiday break was Stonehenge, which was actually a bit disappointing. Yes, it's amazing and yes, it's incredible, but if you've grown up watching all the documentaries and seeing loads of photo of the place it feels strangely unexciting being there. Maybe the lack of atmosphere is partly to be blamed by the fact that you cannot go close (security to prevent vandalism) and you walk around it with dozens and dozens of jostling talking photo-taking tourists. Plus Stonehenge has one of the tackiest souvenir shops I've ever been in. Shelf after shelf of nasty lurid plastic Stonehenge copies on everything from erasers and pencils to snow globes. Yucky! :-P

Here's some of the best photos we took of Stonehenge. I must say that the tourists were mostly a polite bunch and were willing to step out of the way to let others take clear photos.

It suddenly occur ed to me that we were standing in this amazing countryside photographing the stones and not the scenery. So I turned my back on Stonehenge and took this picture of what the stones "see". ;-) Isn't that an amazing view?

Pictures of me and Hubby. :-)

Avebury, on the other hand, has virtually no advertising, is still free to enter and being quieter you have time to absorb the atmosphere and enjoy the moment. We parked outside the Red lion pub (below) and walked around some of the stones that actually encircle the village. This pub is said to be the most haunted pub in England. This big stone below is called the "Devil's Seat" Young maidens would sit here on May Day Eve (Beltane) and make a wish.
Sheep also seem to enjoy being around the stones.

Looking back towards the Red Lion...
Hubby, mom and I walking back through the stones, so you can see how big they are.
The road leaving Avebury has a long "avenue of stones that stretches across farm fields. Just a few weeks after we were here an enormous crop circle appeared in the fields behind Avebury. I feel so miffed that we missed that! :-(

Wednesday 13 August 2008

Angels amongst Us...

Genie asked some really great questions about my experiences of seeing angels. Rather than bury this in the replies I thought I'd start a new blog post.

Okay, what do you think angels are because, frankly, the whole angels with wings thing just does NOT sit with me. ... I wonder, do you think wings are what you see or do you think wings are what you interpret? For that matter, do you think bodies are what you see or what you interpret? I'm extremely curious about this whole subject.

What do I think about Angels? I think they are not human, nor ever were human. These are not ghosts or spirits. They are a higher energy/life force than us, but "higher" doesn't automatically mean more advanced or superior. They're just different and they do seem to watch over us, and even communicate with and protect us at times.

They have been called many things by many different cultures, but the basic concept is always the same - they are messengers and protectors who work for God. Depending on your spiritual/religious faith you could call them Higher Beings or Light Beings and change the word "God" to Creator, Source or Great Spirit or... it's all the same really.

I think the wings and body shapes are purely symbolic. It's no more than a way to convey an idea or a message. It is interesting to me how angels are shown as winged and pretty in religious Christian art. Fact is the Bible makes no reference to angels having wings... or being pretty! In fact some angels are downright scary. Angels as messengers seem to mostly look human - no wings. I'm not even sure Archangels are ever described as winged. Cherubim were described as having wings, but in their case this is multiple wings and even multiple heads! Our modern image of a cherub as a fat baby is actually based on the ancient god of love - Cupid. So Biblical angels looked either completely human or extremely inhuman. I believe the inhuman versions, such as cherubim, is simply symbolism.

The best way I can explain that is to tell another story. I mentioned in Reflections that I saw my family's angels clearer the second time around. At the time I wasn't sure if it was right to give the details of what I saw in public, but I think it might help to do so.

What I saw was very symbolic and fitted each person in my family. My dad's angel looks exactly like the angels you get on Christmas trees. Pretty, blonde, white wings. Traditional and sort of heart-warming, which fits my dad perfectly! My mom's angel I only got wings at first. Very beautiful wings marbled in black, cream and deep rose pink. Then later it opened the wings to show... a Griffin's head! My mom's guardian is a Griffin. This fits her family ancestry/history.

I first saw my guardian angel as a wolf or a dog. No wings, not even human, but always there protecting me and watching over me... and in forms I like and feel happy with - I love dogs and wolves. :-) Once in a dream I saw "him" as a man with black wings, but only very recently have the two images blurred into each other and now sometimes I see the wolf and sometimes the human figure with black wings. The black wings are for crow - a bird that has special meaning for me.

So each angel/guardian appeared in a form that each person could relate to and feel good about. But the most vivid example of how this is purely symbolic was my husband's guardian.

I saw a female wearing a golden mask. The mask changed twice and both times the symbols were things that relate very personally to my husband. I asked this angel to show me her face... and she took off the mask.

For a few seconds I saw a woman's face, but then it began to change. The face became another woman, then another - Black, White, Asian, old young, pretty, plain, even famous - I saw Cher's face in there! The faces were changing every second and grew faster until they were just a blur and that was when the angel put the mask back on.

... because they are all just masks. The faces, the wings, the body shapes are just make-believe masks. Human minds can't cope with a creature that has such a vastly different make-up to us so they create these "masks" of symbols and shapes we find easy to accept.

I also think/believe we come into contact with the human shape angels in our lives without realising it, or only realising it later. I have had an experience like that. In hospital about 15 years back a nurse came to me after my operation and told me "Don't be afraid. God is taking care of you." This male nurse was very distinctive and easy to remember. Firstly, male nurses are fairly rare and this guy was tall, well-built and very black. He looked like a Zulu. I waited to see him again, to thank him, but he never returned to my ward. Eventually I asked about him, but the doctors and nurses said no-one like that worked at the hospital. He simply did not exist.
I was completely awake when he spoke to me, admittedly I was in a lot of pain, but not to the point of hallucinating and creating big Zulu guys in Nurse uniforms! Was he an angel messenger? I like to think so.

He's not a unique story either. I've heard so many stories of people who have been helped or warned by strangers who just seem to appear and then... gone. I have no firm explanation on what they are, or why they sometimes step in to help us, but I'm glad to know they do seem to watch over us.

Small update

I have added labels to my posts to make finding old stuff easier...hopefully! Let me know if it worked, or didn't for you.

The label links are below my profile here on the left. Most are obvious, but "FAMILY" is mostly posts originally on Kombai that I have reposted here.

Wednesday 6 August 2008

NEWSFLASH for summer

With credit to Jeff for inventing NEWS FLASH:

NEWS FLASH is basically news or thoughts that may be changing over time - an update or an evolution of thought that covers a multiple of topics. It is what makes a blogger tick and it is the reason why we read. So, with that in mind, I came up with NEWS FLASH as an acronym that stands for what is going on in life.
Life has been pretty quiet here as hubby is working weekends building a garage for an old friend and dad is working weekends as the Mill is installing loads of new machinery. One week just blurs into another when weekends are spent the same as week days. I'll be glad when we can have our weekends free to have fun again!

Other than our holiday break in England things have been really quiet. I had booked tickets for a show later this month (special birthday treat), but this Saturday I received notification from my Dr that I'm booked in for surgery three days before. Talk about BAD timing! I was refunded for the tickets, but I still wish I could swap the operating theatre for the other kind! ;-)
Best entertainment this month will be tomorrow, my birthday. :-) My mom's cooking a full roast beef with all the trimmings dinner. *drool*

This one was "WORK", but I have changed it into my favourite quote for the month instead, with one important twist - they have to be words from a fellow blogger! My Wise Words choice for June/July:

"If a little bitterness has come into your life today, dilute it, sweeten it, and enjoy."
From Grace at Realizing Ordinary.

I've been wondering recently if I shouldn't do as Jeff has and make two blogs - one for the everyday and one for the spiritual, but then the whole reason I started blogging was to create a place where I had myself complete... so would separating those parts of me be going against my original plan? What do you all think? Should I keep this blog for everyday life and start another for the spiritual stuff, like my post on reflections?

There was a family get-together this past weekend with the in-laws. Hubby's one sister and husband are over here from Australia and a large chunk of family got together on Sunday evening at his other sister's house to talk, eat, and talk some more. I felt strangely a part and yet apart from all the stories and memories, wanting to add my own stories... only to realise I was talking of people no-one in the room knew. My relatives are either dead or scattered over at least three continents. Mostly I don't think about that fact much, but being within another family brought it strongly into focus. Otherwise it was a very enjoyable evening and I am very lucky to have in-laws who do consider me to be completely part of their family.

Why is the modern world so obsessed with one kind of love? I mean, from TV to magazines and books the world sends out this message that only romantic love brings happiness. How ridiculous is that!? I can think of loads of other kinds of love that bring wonderful happiness - the love of friends, the love of parents and children, the love of pets... and even the love of strangers in those rare, but wonderful moments when humans reach out to each other.

By love of strangers I mean everything from the man in the supermarket helping an old lady reach the bread on the high shelf to real big acts like complete strangers risking their lives to save others in floods and other disasters or accidents. Romance is wonderful, but there are so many equally wonderful forms of love. I'd vote the thrill of having a baby smile at you way higher than receiving a Valentine's day card.

Love isn't just finding a life partner. It's the adoration in a dog's eyes as it watches you doing perfectly ordinary things. It's remembering the safety of being held in the arms of a parent as a little child. It's the hug from an old friend and the handshake from a new one. It's the nurse or ambulance person holding your hand when you're in pain and afraid.

What types of love make your day brighter?

Ah... easy one - surgery! I've known this was coming since January, but it's still not something anyone looks forward to. I'm having a hysterectomy as well as getting other internal damage fixed and the hernia repaired. So it'll be BIG surgery which means BIG pain. I'm not that anxious about that though - pain doesn't last forever. I'm more feeling weird about the hysterectomy. Since my miscarriage three years ago I've slowly come to terms with not having kids, but this still makes it final and irreversible. Some days I feel okay about that, other days I don't. I'm like an emotional yo-yo at the moment. Hopefully I'll feel better once it's over and done.

Smile of the month goes to my husband, who is weathering my yo yo emotional swings with patience, kindness and loads of hugs, kisses and cuddles. Not easy when I can go from weepy - to roaring irritable - to needy and clingy - to "leave me alone" cool - to... you get the idea! ;-) The man deserves a medal. Smiles (and hugs!) also to my mom and dad for being equally considerate and caring. I'm very lucky.


Home is an idea and a feeling as well as a literal place. Still working on finding my home, but until I do I have enough to keep me happy - I have better health then many, more money and security than most of this planet, enough talents to keep myself busy and good friends and family who love me for myself. What more do I need?

Friday 1 August 2008

Holiday trip 4 - Wells and Glastonbury

Our next holiday photo spot stops were Wells and Glastonbury. I liked Wells. Very pretty and the people were very friendly. We stopped at the supermarket there to buy some bits - mostly snacks. I must add here that yes, we did pass through the edges of major cities like Manchester, Bristol, Birmingham on our way down, but none of us are city folk and we mostly avoided going anywhere near them. All cities, in my opinion, look alike. A shopping mall is pretty much the same in Africa or the UK. Same goes for tall buildings, motorways, industrial areas, supermarkets and large ports.

We took two photos of Wells Cathedral before heading off towards Glastonbury.

At Glastonbury we spent most of our time pottering around the ruined Abbey. Glastonbury Festival was on that day, with a special birthday tribute to Nelson Mandela, and the countryside was PACKED with people, tents, and fields of parked cars. it was HUGE. Just so many fields of people and tents it seemed to go on forever. At least this year they had good weather!

At the Abbey we had lunch at their outdoor tearoom. I had a Brie cheese and cranberry sandwich... because it sounded so interesting. It was very nice. My mom had ham and it was real ham - big chunks of roast meat with salad. This first photo shows the view from our table under the trees.

Close up of the doorway you can see in the above photo.

After lunch we headed for the Abbot's Kitchen. A separate structure with the most amazing roof! Here's the outside view...

A bit of the inside, which has everything exactly as it would have been with tables of bread and food, herbs hanging drying and an area for smoking fish and bacon etc. The pigs are fake, but the breads and herbs were real... as was some of the fish by the smell of things!

Outside in the gardens there was this gorgeous Copper Beech. For foreigners as confused as I was at that name - these trees start off with copper coloured leaves in Spring that slowly darken to this rich liquorice colour. To get an idea of size look at the park bench on the lower left. These trees are enormous!

The copper beech and park from a distance...

Another side view from the Abbot's Kitchen door. :-)

And from the opposite side...

Sunken ruins of the dining area where the monks would have eaten their meals.

:-) Hubby and myself posed in front of the original doors, now in the museum display area. The dark dots on the doors are big iron nails that once held fancy wooden carvings on top of the door. Only a few bits of that survive. You can see a tiny bit on the tops of the doors.
As we were leaving we were very lucky to bump into the Glastonbury Town Crier. We had a long chat to this delightful and very informative man. He was one of the highlights of our day. :-)