2016 Year of Transition

Nellie R.I.P.

This year started on a low when Nellie died on 30th December. She had been living with us since the lady next door moved into a nursing home in 2009. They just left her three cats next door to fend for themselves with an occasional visit by the son to top up their dried food. Her ex-husband used to take care of them but he had a heart attack and was unwell himself, and the honour of feeding them and looking after them was clearly too much for the son to bare. Fortunately the matriarch of the group knew how to find humans who cared about them and decided to visit us. Adrian phoned Sue to tell her there was an emaciated cat around the pond as he was writing in the office, knowing pretty much what the outcome would be from the start. Sue found her and fed her and hence she was christened Macey. We didn’t know at the time, but once Macey decided we were alright she would leap on the door handle and let herself in. Then word got around, and she brought another two cats with her. Nellie, who we christened Nelson; we thought she was a boy at first and she only had one eye; and Blackie, because we thought Blackie was a boy and, of course, she was Black. It was not her real name we were to discover, but going out onto the lane and shouting the N’ word every night didn’t have much appeal to us as it’s considered racist for us white boys and girls to use it.  Nellie was such a small cat with brown fur when we found her and she had absolutely no weight to her at all. She must have been close to starving to death. We discovered she couldn’t eat dried food, and she probably didn’t have anything to eat between February and April during a really cold winter when they only had access to the outside porch next door. Nellie used to come round  for food after April but only ate it when we had gone. That was a little different to Macey who on her first visit ate Adrian’s Pork Pie, and then, amazingly, his apple pie! Nelson became Nellie when we took her to the vet and discovered he was a she. And after a good diet, and plenty of it she eventually decided to move in on Craig’s birthday in June 2009. She turned black again and her fur turned from wispy and matted to proper cat fur. It’s a pity she couldn’t grow another eye, though if love, care and attention could grow an eye she would have done so. We called her the psychological cat because she used to sit and watch us with amazement, while the other two just dived in for some fuss. Nellie was untouchable for years and Craig used to make sure she got some attention and she eventually responded and let us touch her. She had a rough life and that wasn’t the first time she had become homeless. As ever her experiences shaped her personality, as they do with all of us, and her trick was to ask for food and make sure all the food bowls and the water bowl were always full. And she was excellent at it. She would fix you with her one eye and walk to where she wanted you, whether that be to fill up her water or food, or to go outside. It’s like she was just checking she would always have food again. She eventually sought us out to be with us, and died, ironically, because she couldn’t eat due to a growth on her bowel. Call me crazy but she said her thank yous as Adrian went every day to fetch her ham or chicken from Chambers and a cream cake from Bird’s because that way at least she got some food down her. We tried every kind of cat food, cheap and expensive. Blackie was amazed by the standard of catering and didn’t enjoy going back to the usual standard of stuff; and the family of crows in the back garden benefitted enormously as we threw most of it away (not the ham and chicken, we ate that. Oh and the cream cakes too.)

Illness To Wellness

So why start off by telling you about Nellie, apart from the fact that we loved her of course. Well, all those ham sandwiches every day, and the cream cakes helped to identify what made Adrian so ill. He went to the doctor and said he was not going away until he had another avenue to pursue to find out why he was so ill so often. And a new young doctor, after being somewhat taken aback that a patient was taking control of the relationship, showed much sympathy and offered to help him access the help he needed, as far as she could. Adrian’s ex-MD at Boots told him the doctor was just a gateway to services.

“Just ask for what you want.” He said.  When she couldn’t access the services we needed on the NHS Adrian just told her to write a referral letter and he would go privately. After the full camera treatment, entrance and exit, a brain scan, blood tests for everything the doctor could check for, vitamin injections, hormone checks, celiac tests, cancer checks and heart checks Adrian was declared fit and healthy in every way. Except there are days when Adrian can’t get up or think or talk. This is the point at which most doctors dismiss you as they can’t help you, or refer you to a psychiatrist, or tell you that you are depressed, eliminating the psychiatrist.

“No I’m not depressed. There is something wrong. I think something I’m eating is making me ill. I need to see a gastroenterologist.”

”There is nothing I can refer you for.” was the reply. But after insisting on seeing a gastroenterologist Adrian got a follow up appointment to his birthday “Moviprep” experience from last year.

“What I can do for you” he said “is to cut your stomach into about 10 pieces and stitch them back together.”

“Are you a surgeon?”


“Well I don’t want to be here then. What are my options?”

“There is a 9/10 chance of success for the surgery but in 10% of cases the surgery doesn’t work and it will be life changing.”

“Well, can I manage it another way.”

“You can try seeing a dietician to see if you can manage it through diet.”  Well, we don’t know what you have to do to get a dietician on the NHS but surgery with such odds is not very appealing.

Going back to the doctor Adrian asked “What about this celiac lite I’ve been reading about?” The doctor hadn’t heard about that but for the next appointment had attended a lecture by a specialist and referred him to be part of a research trial.  We had already worked out that wheat made him ill (apart from Lidl’s Wheat Bread!) and he had eliminated it from his diet but they needed to make him eat wheat for 3 months. If ever there was any proof that wheat was the problem this was it. Adrian was ill again, right after starting to help Claire get her new house sorted. Then all the medical tests said he was part of the trial as a normal “control” group because he doesn’t have an issue with wheat! But the reality is that any grains make him ill, but wheat most of all. So having rejected the surgery, which would have probably been a high risk for no reason, we are currently becoming a gluten free household. And certainly things have improved, although if you ask the doctors they don’t know how to test for wheat intolerance and the solution is more pills. However, the test were done when Adrian was ill from eating the gluten they insisted on, and we suspect a private test whilst off wheat will reveal little internal damage and will result in dropping the latest pills. That is a good step because they cross the blood brain barrier and give you dementia. The new test and dropping the pills is something to try next year.  It is always amazing that doctors are more inclined to deal with the symptoms rather than what is causing them. And these are the people who are at the very top of our education system. (What hope is there for the politicians at the bottom whjo are making decisions for us?) So for now we are going through the process of identifying the cause of being ill for the last 10 years but feeling like we are making progress at last. We are looking forward to next year when wellness is our focus, for both of us.

Meanwhile Sue is still working in Germany and will be for another year. Last chance to claim a free bed in Essen! I suppose the Christmas market isn’t looking so appealing now though. Travelling nearly every week for 5 years is taking its toll on Sue and constant visits to the physiotherapist has been a feature of this year, for both of us. It’s got so desperate we have even joined the gym, but must admit that going to the sauna is our favourite exercise.

Craig’s Home Work

Craig has settled into his bungalow by the University which is almost in good condition now. This year we dug up the bedroom floor and re-laid the concrete with a damp proof course. Next year we have to do the same with the hallway. After a few smaller jobs like fitting new light fittings and a new bathroom the bungalow will be in excellent condition.

Claire’s House

Claire bought a house too in 2016 year and we have been project managing its renovation. New heating and water, redecoration throughout, new kitchen, re-plastered, new electrics, new shower. If you ever watched “Homes Under the Hammer” on TV you can see we managed it in a reasonable timescale; 6 months so far. Adrian has been doing some work in the kitchen putting in cabinets and will make some new doors in the next month if well enough. Sue and Claire have been working to pay the bills. And there have been plenty of them. Claire couldn’t resist getting a cat, Dora. We thought we would have a cat sitter for Blackie while Adrian went to visit Sue in Germany. That makes it a little more difficult and expensive for Adrian to get out to Germany or anywhere else but Dora is good company for Claire who has always had a cat around as she was growing up. Dora is not so interested in doing tricks for Claire, like Blackie does; she is more interested in us doing tricks for her.

Will Craig Be A Doctor in 2017?

Craig is finishing his PhD. on September 30th, 2017. So he has to look for a new source of income. He went to a former postgraduate’s wedding in November and December 2016 – in New Zealand; they made a fabulous 3 week holiday of it and Adrian will collect them from the Airport 32 hours after posting this on the website. (Ooops they were diverted and delayed in China and had to stay overnight in Hong Kong.)

Published Authors!

Adrian and his mother are now published authors! ISBN and everything! We attended the book launch in July. The book has episodes in 7 people’s life. Adrian’s story was about ideas and how you are treated if you don’t fit into society’s rules. His mother’s story was about caring for her parents. Perhaps this is the cause of the current bout of verbal diarrhoea. Well done if you got this far.

Family History

Adrian discovered that one of his ancestors delivered a bribe from Wellington to one of the French Generals so he turned up late at Waterloo, allowing Wellington to beat Napoleon. That will make a great story whether it’s true or not. It just shows that official history may not be quite as accurate as you might hope.  The same man, as a diplomat, had diplomatic immunity and used it to trick people into buying cheap British Lace which he exported to France in his diplomatic luggage and had re-imported as expensive French Lace. Hence the source of the Woods family fortune, the pub and the farm in Atherstone, Warwickshire, and the French oil paintings in Adrian’s Grandma’s loft which she used to give away to people. Adrian discovered this diplomat was from Glasgow. He lived not far from where Adrian moved to when he got his first job. The Diplomat married a French woman from Calais. So the Woods family is part Scottish and part French. That makes a mockery of independence from Scotland and the EU, as far as we are concerned.

And on the family front we discovered Adrian’s Aunt and Uncle had died in 2008. So Adrian set about contacting his cousin who he hadn’t seen since he was 12, only to discover that he died in 2014. There is another cousin. We think Adrian’s Aunt had a girl before she was married and we suspect she was transported to Australia in the 1950’s. Adrian’s Aunt refused to talk about her or about the past. It reminds you how much progress we have made since those times. Well, at least in Western culture. We really don’t know about other cultures. Is this another storyline for a budding author?

Holidays And All That Fun

Sue was ill for a month in March 2016 with a virus and has been at home half the time this year. All that travelling doesn’t help; it’s pretty tiring and leaves you open to catch viruses. We managed a trip to Gran Canaria, where she got the bug, another trip to Menorca (same time, same place – are we becoming set in our ways?) and Adrian got his dad his first passport and took him to Germany for a few days to stay in the flat while Sue was at work. He managed a meal out with the landlord at a Lebanese Restaurant in Dusseldorf with the owner of the Arab Institute in Essen; a trip to Gutersloh to visit his friend Bernhard’s daughter and to see where Bernhard and Erica lived and pay his respects at their grave; and a trip round the Baldeney See. Maybe we’ll manage a short trip with his passport next year although he’s becoming less able to get around now and refuses to watch Notts County play because it’s so difficult to park near the ground thanks to Nottingham City Council, and because of the crowds. Well, we’ll give him the parking; that is true, it’s a long walk these days from anywhere you can park; but the crowds? It’s a long time we’ve seen anything we could call a crowd down there. You can pick your seat and there was no-one within 10 seats of us last time we went down there. Is this what not doing stuff does to you? Does it make you scared to go out as you get older? We also managed a long awaited trip to Berlin when Sue was working there. Adrian had to cancel several times in the past because of illness or other things so we finally made it to Berlin on Germany Unification Day. We saw the celebrations at the Brandenburg Gate, and we visited many gory museums about the Nazi’s, Stazi, and a free trip the Deutsch museum where we spent the day learning about German history. Well, Adrian did, they were quite reluctant to let Sue in so she sulked and went to the cafe, until she took off her rucksack and carried it underneath her coat. Great security eh? They have a lot to learn from the UK on this front.  We were always nervous about a terrorist attack on Unification Day in Berlin, but it happened at the Christmas market yesterday instead, right next to where we were staying when we visited Berlin. The next street in fact.

The Elders Forum

Adrian’s mum and Dennis are still running the Nottingham Elders Forum and arranging trips out for the elderly of Nottingham although I should warn you that means anyone over 50. I never thought of myself as elderly until I was offered complimentary membership, so now we are officially old. Adrian fixes the computers there when they break down although it often proves to be quite a task as they are a hotchpotch of second hand machines. Mind you, that keeps the brain working.

Bad Luck

And finally, Sue’s mum visited her in Essen last week to visit the Christmas markets and came home with her to see the Andre Rieu concert at the Ice Stadium in Nottingham. Adrian was due to collect them from the airport but was stuck on the M1 for six hours as it was closed. It hit the national news; the M1 that is, not Adrian. Thank goodness for mobile phones so he could tell them. They were home an hour before he was. And then, Adrian took them both to the concert the next day only to receive a call when he got home to “come and fetch us” as the concert had been cancelled. We will take Sue’s mum home today. And now Craig is diverted from Beijing to Hangzhou, from where he has an overnight stop in Hong Kong before coming home 28 hours later than planned, and 60 hours after setting off from New Zealand. Don’t travel near Christmas!

And then, on Thursday Christmas can begin. Sue will be at home until 3rd January so anyone who wants to see us can pop in for a chat, a tea, coffee or beer; or wine or liqueur for those of you who think you are posh enough. We will be chillin’.

Have a great year 2017 yourselves.