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Journal

Kindness and Christmas

Added: 21-12-2006

Just thought I'd post an update on the kindess of strangers...after my encounter with the bloke in the pub in the UK from whom I solicited an unexpected lift the other sunday (See previous entry), now I am happy to report on the kindness of Swedish people. I was up in Sweden last week giving a lecture and on the way home to Copenhagen all hell broke loose on the trains and the normally efficient (and spotlessly clean) rail service went off the rails (haha). all sorts of buses were brought into play (heavy rains you see, a fair excuse seeing as I everywhere I looked there were serious puddles, a much more believable excuse than the ones we get here in the UK, such as 'there's leaves on the line' or 'we are experiencing the wrong kind of snow') and we were shunted from one station to the next in search of a functioning route south to Copenhagen. During a particularly long wait at some station somewhere I struck up a conversation with a doctor from Lund named Peter who very kindly bought me a sandwich as part of an effort, as he put it, to improve Anglo-Swedish relations. A very nice sandwich it was too, and I very much appreciated the generosity.

I mention this because I am still amazed at all the hospitality we received during our first leg in the US. So many nice gestures, really quite unbelievable. Kinda got me thinking about whether or not the same kindnesses would be shown to walkers going across the UK, for example, or any other European country for that matter. I've done some solo walks in France, Switzerland and Italy and have always been happy to discover that human kindess is alive and well there (nb. as long as you speak French in France!), but I've often wondered about England. In this spirit I intend to find out - not by walking (not in this weather) but by talking to an old friend from school who recently walked from Land's End to John O'Groats to raise money for ambulances. Should be a nice compare and contrast session but there's one problem - Justin I don't have your number! Get in touch mate...

Apart from those two paragraphs I guess all else I have to say is a big Happy Christmas to one and all! May your days be merry and bright, and your dings dong merrily on high. Many thanks to everyone who helped us this year, hope you have a good yule and receive all the company, food and presents that you wish for. Me, I'm off for a sherry...

StuartHave a comment? Please sign the guestbook

From Sweden...

Added: 15-12-2006

This one's from a hotel in Gothenburg, Sweden. I have resumed the life of a travelling librarian and yesterday was lecturing to students in the town of Boras, about an hour's drive away. today it's Christmas shopping amongst Swedes, so everything should be civilised and queuing orderly. Hopefully.

not so much walk-related to report on, hence the lack of journal entries. being back in the UK (for two weeks now) is still a bit of a novelty, and I've spent most of my time sitting down and catching up, sometimes even at the same moment. all surgery is healing nicely, walking is no longer a pain and in fact I'm feeling completely normal.

I did try one small walk-related experiment however. after walking down a local pub in my village to catch the Chelsea-Arsenal game last week I discovered the pub wasn't showing it and therefore settled down for a pint of Guiness before beginning the 25 minute walk to another pub up the road. After two sips of my pint another bloke came in enquiring about the football and was directed to the pub where they were showing it. without thinking, and still in US-everyone-is-friendly-and-I-am-exotic-and-you-will-let-me-sleep-in-your-garden mode I asked the fella if he could give me a lift...interesting reaction followed, it's obvious that this sort of thing doesn't happen too often round my way...the guy was like "Yes, but you'll have to hurry" and then literally bolted out the pub door as if to escape me, leaving me to shuffle after him in a post-surgical way. I caught up and managed to jump in the back of this guy's sister's car just as it was pulling off...quite amusing to see the look on her face when I was saying "Hello, I'm Stuart. You don't know me but you will be giving me a lift to the pub where I will watch the football." Still, it all worked out well in the end, the fella turned out to be a nice bloke who had lived in Saudi Arabia and had some blood-curdling stories about the popularity of local hangings - and he bought me a couple of pints. Bravo.

so there you go. the excitement of it all. I'm going to try to keep the journal focused on walk things, despite Phil's Guestbook plea to turn this into a cancer diary (there's not so much to write about - I feel fine, haven't even felt ill during any of this, it's a bit of a pain in the ass but there you go, got a telephone consultation coming up with a US expert next week and then an appointment with a local oncologist, have many questions, perhaps will get some answers etc. etc.) or Jon Rudolf's suggestion that I get into adult entertainment and become the next Jon Wayne Bobbit (Jon, this is a family journal, any discussion of freak anatomy should be conducted elsewhere!). regarding the walk, Dave and I are on a mission to a) write something down before Christmas, and b) find the video camera charger (Dave, if you're reading this, I suspect that I have it somewhere - it wouldn't fit in your supersized bag, remember?). it's all go.

therefore, in the interests of furthering everyone's education about the world, I leave you with this link, about the world's tallest man saving a dolphin. you really wouldn't credit it...(more pics here)

StuartHave a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Blighty

Added: 6-12-2006

Back in the UK. Dave and I departed the land of Uncle Sam late last Thursday night after a desperate afternoon rush to secure permission to travel from my doctor. The good people at the insurance company quite rightly wanted a note saying I was fit to get on a plane and when, for some reason, they refused to accept a scanned handwritten note from the emminent Dr. David Toolan, it was a mad effort to get in touch with my surgery in DC to get authorisation to fly.

Anyway, once that was done (with five minutes to spare before the arrival of the airport taxi) the journey home was pretty smooth - the tickets were fine, backage (very heavy, lots of new books and vinyl being transported home) was carried manfully by Sherpa David Toolan and I was wheeled around the airport in a wheelchair by an uncommunicative porter. We enjoyed the hospitality of the British Airways lounge, where we could eat sandwiches with the crusts cut off and drink Pinot Grigio with our pre-prepared meal, and we were able to get on the 747 via a special queue. Many conversations were had about the quality of Club Class, and whether or not the giving up of a body part was an appropriate action in order to secure a seat that turns into a bed. No firm conclusions were drawn on that matter, but it sure was a comfortable ride home.

So back I am. England. Herne Bay mostly, but now I am in London. The weather is as I remember it (grey, windy) and the people seem pretty similar too. In the spirit of all things rest I immediately embarked on a weekend long catchup session with friends and family, all of whom I was almost ecstatic to see - like a dog pleased to see his master return or something. There were many hugs. I'm still sore from the surgery I had almost two weeks ago, but there is something about being back which is bringing out all the right healing moves - I feel better.

Without wanting to turn this journal into a cancer diary I figure I should follow up on my previous post. First, huge thank yous to everyone who got in touch. Can't express my gratitude enough, great to have everyone on my side. Second, yes, I am now a more lightweight hiker. Third, my pathology results came through yesterday and I am now officially stage 1b, which means that if I was in the US I'd be up for that rather large operation mentioned in my previous post (the RPLND). However, as I am in the UK and we're not so into big surgery over here (er, we only have a few people sufficiently skilled to do it, so I understand) it looks like a surveillance program for me, one that involves regular checkups and scans and blood tests. This will be for the foreseeable future and is emminently liveable with (apart from existential worries and all that). However: I haven't consulted the local consultant oncologist yet, so he might have other ideas and I might be one of the lucky few Englishmen who get to have the RPLND. We'll see. Either way it looks like chemo is out for now, so my short hair gets no shorter.

But until I know more I simply have to get better. And it's working - I'm in London at a friend's place and today have had something denied to me for months and months now: solitude. Ah, the sweet feeling of no one around, of being totally responsible for oneself (for the daytime anyway) and just being able to totally relax. It's been heaven. Of course, it's kinda weird not to have Dave around to question on such pressing topics as what we have done with the washing, what we are having for dinner or who is the President of China, but then I figure the break will make us all the more stronger as a team. Besides, he's emailed me four times already today so I think I have a pretty good idea of what he's up to...


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