Emulating the Duke of Edinburgh
18 Jun 2012
I have been doing a Duke of Edinburgh. No, not a poor impression of his renowned ability to be blunt and upset people ... but rather copying his recent health problems. I blame the Jubilee. This is why it's been so long since my last blog update. Here's what happened.
We were in Devon for the Queen's Jubilee weekend. Like most of Britain, it was cold and wet much of the time. But we were lucky as the two big events we were involved in were on the Bank Holiday Monday when it did at least stay dry and even witnessed a rare bit of sunshine. However, it remained unseasonally chilly. In the afternoon, we had a wonderful 'street party' with our neighbours. More accurately, it was a 'farmyard party', as we all live in converted barns (and the old farmhouse) surrounding the farmyard. It was a terrific community occasion: china tea service, table decorations, bunting, home-made sausages, cucumber sandwiches, and an abundance of scones and cakes. With outlying neighbours and extended family there was around 30 of us, making a lovely community get-together.
Then, in the evening, it was the main village event: the lighting of the beacon, fireworks, a hog-roast, live music and plenty of local cider. The setting was, I would argue, the best in the entire country: high up on the Blackdown Hills with a stupendous view looking west along the Culm Valley, across sun-splashed green fields and ancient beech hedges. Unbeatable. The event was wonderfully organised and some 400 people turned up (which was probably more than the population of the entire parish).
So far, so good you're probably thinking, but what has this to do with the Duke of Edinburgh? Well, just as he probably overdid it and caught a chill standing so impressively alongside the Queen watching the Thames Regatta, I too (in far less impressive manner) did a bit too much and caught a chill. It had been a long day as I'd had great fun that morning helping the volunteers to set up the event, building the beacon, erecting tents and fences (incidentally I was also privileged to see a wonderful exhibition of farming skill as a local friend elegantly drove home huge fence-posts using the precision pressure of the front-loader of his tractor).
Anyway, despite a lovely day, the next day I went down with a chill, then a high temperature. After a day I thought I had shaken it off but the exhaustion continued and then other symptoms (I'll spare you the detail) began. Eventually the penny dropped and I realised I was suffering from the same thing as had put the Duke of Edinburgh into hospital: an infection of the bladder or urinary tract. So I've had a miserable week or two and am now on antibiotics. However, it was actually a great relief to realise that it was an infection, as until then I had been thinking that my lung cancer symptoms had been getting worse and that the severe exhaustion, and constant rushing to the loo, was a sign of deterioration of my long-term illness.
I'm not over it yet but am hoping I have got through the worst. I'm also taking some comfort from the fact that I have had a fever, as I have read that cancer patients are often unable to have fevers, which are of course - one of the body's ways of helping you to heal itself.
So I really sympathise with the Duke of Edinburgh, who was really impressive standing there in the cold and rain for 4 hours (as, of course, was the Queen). I hope I can bounce back as well as he has. Incidentally (at risk of name-dropping), I did meet him at Buckingham Palace reception once. I was chatting to him with a colleague from The Guardian and it took him a while to realise he was talking to a couple of journalists. Once he had made the connection, he couldn't get away from us fast enough. Understandable really, considering the problems he's had in the past.
Anyway, good things come out of most things and one positive has been that while being laid low I have been reading a wonderful book: Anticancer: A new way of life by David Servan-Schreiber. This is quite the most impressive book I have read about cancer (and I've been getting through quite a few now): it is so wise, informative, level-headed, and inspiring. I will shortly put up a detailed blog about the book, so will say no more about it just now as this blog post is already long enough.
So let me finish, by explaining the picture at the top (which is subtly different from the one on an earlier blog): this is the now-completed and varnished cherry-wood spice-rack I made during my thoroughly enjoyable furniture-making sessions with Tom Kealy. I'm disproportionately pleased with it as it was my own design - probably the first time I've ever designed anything. OK, I know I'm not going to win any awards ...but small things...
I'm now onto my next project: a big, solid oak garden bench.