Another whirlwind week has wound by.
It started with an overnight stay by Anthony John and Julia fresh from their time at Cropredy – a lovely evening watching the final version of the new folkumentary DVD that we’ve made. Even though we’ve seen this many times from the original shootings, through numerous edits, and many drafts, and many tweaks, we still love it. We watched right through before dinner, then again afterwards again with popcorn and chocolate and wine. After celebrating that we now have the definitive version we headed upstairs to the study/office to finalise the artwork – after the occasional tweak and talking to the wee small hours we retired for the night, tired but happy.
Having installed a TV and soundbar and TV in the bedroom we decided to upgrade the sound to proper, full hi-fi and so the research began into which amplifier/AV receiver to buy which would have great sound, techno features such as bluetooth and wi-fi networking and wouldn’t break the bank. We settled on the Onkyo TX-NR535. Somehow this morphed into “if we can have super great sound and bluetooth and wi-fi in the bedroom setup, why not the main lounge setup too?”… so we decided to buy two (yes 2) of them… then this morphed further into “if the bedroom and lounge hi-fi will be the same, why not the TV as well? That way we only need to learn one set of controllers and buttons to press wherever we happen to be.”… yes, you guessed it… we decided to upgrade the TV as well. No research needed, we’ll buy the same one we recently bought for the bedroom and everything will match.
Naively, we drove into Newcastle (again feeling slightly awkward about using the blue badge for parking) and popped into our favourite hi-fi/TV/AV shop and outlined our plans. Sorry, that TV has been superseded by a supa dupa new model which naturally costs more… hmmm, we’ll need to ponder that. And the amp/receiver? Last year’s model, now superseded – the only one we have is a shop ex-display open box model (10% off the normal heavily discounted price). So we looked it over: a few scuff marks (no big deal), some stickers missing (no big deal), unfortunately no remote (huh? Surely not. Not to worry, we can probably get one for you it’ll probably cost you a tenner or so (excuse me? I’m not paying for that.). There was a bit of an impasse – on one side the store manager grumbling about stock, and we were already getting a great price anyway. Val resolutely stood her ground almost insisting that they scour their other branches for what we wanted, preferably brand new and un-opened… no madam, you don’t understand, nobody will have that in stock. But surely it’s worth trying? We are good and valued customers. Over the years we’ve spent thousands here as we always buy our gear from you.
In the end they tried ringing their biggest store (in London) – after 15 minutes of waiting there was still no answer and it was close to closing time. They promised to try the following morning and let us know the outcome. So we trudged out of the store having spent nothing and our plans dashed. Back to research and Googling all sorts of suppliers etc. Eventually we found someone advertising the Onkyo (OK more expensive), so we ordered two online and somehow their system decided we had to go to Carlisle to collect them! And, sure enough, no one had the TV we were seeking.
Next morning, still dazed and only half awake, Jimmy phoned to query why Carlisle and not Newcastle. After much hmm-ing and hah-ing they found the order… but guess what? They don’t have any in stock, but they do have this year’s replacement model at twice the price… err, no thanks, just cancel the order. So that set us back a little further, and with heavy-ish heart we headed off to St Oswald’s Hospice in Newcastle for the introductory session of their “Positive Steps” course. We hadn’t expected much from this as were not greatly into group sharing and therapy and that kind of thing. But the two hours flew by and we were comfortable with the presenters and the group members and we learned a lot about what the hospice offers and the multitude of staff and volunteers who work there. And, strangely enough, we’re actually looking forward to going back next week.
The following day we were visited by Lee from Homebase who had an appointment to do some measuring so that he could draw up plans for what we might want and prepare a quote for the items. Val spotted an advert in the local freebie paper that looked quite promising so we drove up to Ashington to visit the shop/showroom for yet another firm who did design, supply and fit. Although small, the showroom had some nice, good quality stuff and we talked to the chap there. As luck would have it he would be in Blyth that evening, would it be convenient for him to call? Yup, certainly… and he did. He measured and looked and checked what we wanted, made a couple of alternative suggestions, gave us a ball-park figure and we arranged to go back to the showroom so we could see and touch what we would be getting. So that’s another trip to Ashington on Monday.
Come Friday we headed back to Homebase for the materials quote (which was quite reasonable, the 3D printout of how it might look (not bad at all) and to talk about what would happen next. AS it’s not a full bathroom installation (only a bath out and shower in) they couldn’t do it all in house and we would have to make a single call to their recommended installers to get them to come out and quote for installation. Hmmm… not ideal, but the least we could was ring them and find out what’s what. Oh no madam, you must have it wrong. We only do like for like work – bath out, bath in or shower out, shower in… otherwise it’s extra work and that might be difficult. So we called Lee and told him the sorry tale. He said to leave it to him and he sort it out as there must be some mistake.
While waiting for a call back Val rang the hi-fi shop – yes madam, we have two unopened boxes with Reserved stickers on them. Great!!! We’ll pop in later today and collect them. But first, off to Mike and Hazel’s for a bite to eat and a chance to chill out together. While we were driving to Mike and Hazel’s we got a call from Lee at Homebase… not good news, the partial fitting team were correct and would not be persuaded, and the in-house team manager would not be moved either, so our only option would be to purchase the items and arrange the whole installation ourselves… oh bummer, what a let down. We went to them because they advertised what we thought was a design, supply and fit all under the same umbrella so to speak. Ah well, they may just lose our business, and we can’t be the only people who feel that way.
It was a lovely afternoon, the sun was shining, and we decided to sit out in the garden. And a lovely time we had too – delicious nibbles and our favourite cheese too – unfortunately Jimmy can’t take the lovely strong ginger wine that is Hazel’s speciality so he had to decline and have orange juice instead. But that was perfect in shade of the trees and an ever so light breeze blowing. Hazel had baked a cake especially and it was a delicious way to wind up the al fresco session where we chatted and laughed and didn’t put the world to rights. We talked a bit about Jimmy’s cancer, not in a negative way but more about the way it has changed our philosophy somewhat and how we’re able to appreciate the good things that perhaps many of us take for granted in our everyday lives. Thanks guys, it was a joy to spend that time together – the next one is definitely on us.
There was still time to pop into Newcastle before shop closing times. First stop was Guitar Guitar – no we weren’t looking for yet another guitar, we just wanted to pop in and say thank you for exceptional service and the stunning Taylor PS14CE that we’d recently bought from them as a birthday present for Val. We asked how we could officially leave feedback so that not only the public but also the powers that be could hear about our great experience with the store and all the staff. Jon, the manager, was probably quite embarrassed by our forthright enthusiasm but was obviously pleased to hear it. And isn’t it nice for us to be able to spread a bit of good cheer where we can? Then we popped into the hi-fi shop to pick up our matching Onkyos and also purchased the supa dupa telly too – what the hell, it’s only money, and you can’t take it with you. Spend it on what you enjoy and be happy, and that’s exactly what we’re doing, and it feels great and liberating.
So Friday evening was spent removing the TV and hi-fi amp/receiver and installing the new gear and setting up most of the bells and whistles. Between us we managed to get everything in the lounge working to our satisfaction and wow! We love it – we thought what we had before was really good, but the new setup surpasses even that. It looks great and sounds great too. The only thing we haven’t looked into yet is the voice control feature – my, that will be fun. Wonder if it will understand our accents? But perhaps more amazing than the actual gear and sound is the fact that a fortnight ago Jimmy would have been unable to even contemplate lifting the boxes into or out of the car, but we managed everything ourselves without struggling and straining. OK, twisting and turning and that kind of thing left us both a little tired and some minor nagging muscle pain, but you’d expect that anyway so we’re thrilled.
The bedroom hi-fi install will be a little more awkward as we have to drill holes in the wall for shelf supports and do some heavy work getting everything in place. Jimmy will have a go over the next few days, and if we can’t manage we’re sure we can count on our friends to rally round and assist. We won’t go into the search for shelves as it’s a long story about who stocks what, who does cutting, who has or more likely hasn’t stock of the exact fittings we want, etc… no, no, no… that’s almost sorted, probably just another trip to our friendly local B&Q is all that’s required.
We rounded off the week by driving to Jedburgh to see and Anthony John and Julia and present them with the 46 inch TV that had previously graced our lounge and that we had all been enjoying just a few days previously. We had a smashing picnic in the castle grounds, setting up the table with loads of goodies and beautiful views all round. Julia even played accordion for us too. Another wonderful afternoon, and one that we will remember fondly with big grins on our faces. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
On the way home we got a lovely phone call from a friend who we see very occasionally nowadays and, although driving in the borders meant we kept losing the signal, it brought it home to us very strongly how much people do care and how we are not alone and how people will be there for us in the dark times that will inevitably come at some stage. Through tear-filled eyes Jimmy declared to Val “I’m not ready to die yet, there’s a lot more to enjoy together and I plan on sticking around for all of it”.
Today, just before finishing this week’s blog we were visited by Allan Taylor, stopping off on his way back home after Edinburgh gigs. He brought us a very special present, recorded especially for us at Stockfisch studios – a bare, stripped back version of “Dancing On A Saturday Night”, the song he wrote as a wedding present for us back in 2009. Try, as hard as he might, Jimmy couldn’t help but cry. But that was to be expected, his emotions are everywhere right now. It was great to see Allan and catch up with his and our news and to have him play our many Taylor guitars – we really are fortunate to be able to hear wonderful players who are friends playing our instruments so we get to hear close and up front the different nuances of each instrument brought alive – still very much Taylor guitars, but also very much stamped with the individuality of the players, a musical feast indeed.
And that pretty much rounds it off, a week filled with many delights, and some setbacks… life is good, and very changeable.
No real change to report, just a continuation of Jimmy being in a good place following a change to pain management and also a short term course of steroids. Eating well, feeling good and much stronger. It’s like a second wind. Let’s hope this improvement remains for some considerable time – lots of living still to do.
Jimmy & Val (jiva)
When we got married on 12th August 2009 at Taylor Guitars in California we knew that we would probably never make it to diamond or gold or silver anniversaries, we were thrilled to be together again and ready to savour how ever many years that would be allowed to us… we hadn’t bargained on just how few they would be. So this year we celebrated our sixth knowing that it will probably be our last – we’re not moaning, or being melodramatic, we’re just facing the facts. Back in April, when the news of the extent of Jimmy’s cancer was revealed to us we weren’t sure whether we’d still be here together to celebrate the special day this year.
But here we were, and here we still are, being positive and going strong.
We decided it would be nice to visit some local places that are special to us, places that hold particular memories. Of course this was all dependant on whether Jimmy was having a good day, a not so good, or a downright bad day. In the event it was a good day, a very good day, the best we can remember for quite some time.
The day started with a drive to Smiddy Shaw Reservoir where way back in 2002 we walked and watched and wondered what our new future together would bring. Next on the list was a slight detour to HownesGill Viaduct which we cycled and walked over a few times in our years together. We stopped off for a bite to eat at the Derwent Walk Inn, a place we’ve been to numerous times since 2002.
It was definitely a good day out, reminiscing and smiling (OK, there was the occasional tear… but not many). We walked much further than Jimmy has been able to manage of late, and the fresh air must have given him an appetite (or might it be the steroids he’s now taking?) because we ordered hot roast Ciabattas expecting something snack-sized but what we got was a full-sized main meal in itself with a side salad too. Somehow he managed to scoff the lot, washing it all down with a pint of diet coke. Big smiles all round!
Jimmy took over driving for the journey home and we detoured via Homebase (not that it holds any special fond memories for us) to check out their shower enclosures as we’re planning on replacing the bath with a full walk in shower – the bath is rather a tall step up to get in and it’s becoming increasing difficult. So, we’ve had one company around to check it out and quote, and now Homebase will be the second.
Having had such a brilliant day for our anniversary it was only to be expected that there may be some lesser days to follow – we won’t go into the murky details, but suffice to say that Jimmy needed a little more rest and Val provided lots of TLC, so life is still good, very much so.
Following an increase in what the professionals call ‘referred pain’ our Macmillan nurse, Angela, suggested we double the dosage of his tablets which mask that sort of pain, and it seems to be working quite well – no more waking up with painful legs and feet when turning over in bed, so that’s a plus.
Also, following a period of almost total loss of appetite and consequent weight loss she also prescribed a short course of steroids which seem to be doing the trick – not only is he managing to pack away meal-sized ciabattas, but we’re both thrilled that at long last he’s able to enjoy Val’s wonderful cooking again (albeit in modest portions). So that’s another plus.
Let’s hope this improvement remains for some considerable time – neither of us are ready to give up… there’s still a lot of living that we want to share while we are able.
Jimmy & Val (jiva)
We’re still working hard on a DVD project for Anthony John Clarke, and it was a great pleasure to have Anthony John and Julia stay over on Tuesday night so we could watch the latest draft and inch ever closer to the finished product as new revisions were mulled over and tested out. Jimmy is beavering away at editing the hundreds of clips and transforming it into an hour-long piece. Val is concentrating on the artwork side, designing the double-sided sleeve insert and the disc on-body print. Anthony John and Julia are a pleasure to work with… full of ideas, and very patient while we turn those ideas into reality. Together we make a great team.
We had a home visit from a GP doctor this week – while our normal GP is on holiday he is filling in, and so he came around to say “Hi” and to check that we’re both OK. We also attended St Oswald’s Hospice for the sixth consecutive week for complementary therapy, Jimmy receiving Reiki with Kirsteen and Val Reflexology with Denise. We both feel that we get something out of these sessions and we come away feeling physically and mentally refreshed and relaxed – problem is we can’t just sign up to carry on next week… there’s already a waiting list and they probably won’t be able to schedule us in again until late September.
Carol and Steve (Fool’s Gold) popped in on Wednesday afternoon and we had a good natter, a cuppa and some birthday cake. It’s a few weeks since we’ve seen them, so we caught up on the world of acoustic music and gigs and venues and all that kind of stuff… and we still didn’t manage to put the folk world to rights. Guess some things will never change – or, if they do, it will be very slowly.
On Friday Val drove us up to Hebron (Jimmy doesn’t do much driving nowadays) to spend a few hours with Jim and Allyson. We took the remainder of the birthday cake with us and we celebrated with non-alcoholic sparkling apple juice and numerous nibbles and salad and cheese etc – it’s such a shame when friends go to this much trouble that all Jimmy could manage was a piece of cake and a couple of crisps and crackers washed down with a few sips (not even half a glass). But everyone understands that it’s the best he can do.
It’s been an interesting week on the postal front – on Wednesday we took delivery of a parcel from France which was about the size of a hatbox. On opening it, inside there was a plastic watertight bag which filled the box. On opening the bag there was a frozen bag (the kind of thing you put in a cooler box) and a smaller box, slightly larger than A5 size and about an inch or so deep. This smaller box had a card band around it emblazoned with the M&Ms logo. On opening this box we discovered a neatly presented see-through bag filled with purple and pink M&Ms – and, on closer examination the sweets had “jiva” on them or our wedding photo in monochrome. How delicious! No card in the box, and no sender name on the outer labelling. Jimmy found a contact mobile telephone number, and Val tracked it down as belonging to her son Richard. When he next phoned we thanked him for such an ingenious present.
On Saturday the postman delivered a beautiful card from a very good friend, our heartfelt thanks to you… you know who you are… and then a few seconds later there was a thud as a parcel squeezed through the letterbox and hit the floor. This one was from Ireland and the outer label gave the description simply as “Goodies” – tearing it open we found three rather large assorted chocolate bars, our favourite flavours too. Many thanks, Marian… hugs to you. We are looking forward to enjoying those… one, they taste wonderful and two, Jimmy’s excuse is that he needs the calories.
Life is good and definitely sweet.
Jimmy is mostly stable, although he has had a couple of bad days this week when his appetite has almost completely deserted him (and so he’s lost three pounds in weight this week), and on those days he spent most of the time in bed resting.
Jimmy & Val (jiva)
Yup, Jimmy has reached the ripe old age of 64.
Are we going out for a meal? No, Jimmy can’t eat more than 3 or 4 bites.
Maybe a glass/bottle of wine or a dram of something stronger? No, Jimmy’s not allowed alcohol.
So how do we celebrate?
Well… birthday cake from Jim & Allyson (Wigfield) and ginger wine from Mike & Hazel (Jessop). That’s the thing about good friends, they are always there to help find a way through when things seem difficult. We are grateful to many wonderful people who have been so supportive and understanding and kind… some local, and some further afield (you know who you are).
And we have each other, without which we could not be so upbeat.
While positive thinking may not be able to cure the cancer, we believe our positive frame of mind has helped us reach this far and is a contributory factor in Jimmy actually making it to his birthday (yes, initially there were dark times when we wondered would we be here together to celebrate).
So, bring on the dancing girls… on second thoughts, maybe not…
Suffice to say “Happy Birthday, Jimmy” – and hopefully you will raise a glass, then down your favourite tipple in celebration.
Life is good, so celebrate while you can.
There is no medical update this week – no change, things are relatively stable.
Jimmy & Val (jiva)