Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Soup for the soul

Soup is one of those foods that can be many things to many people. It can be zingy and thin from the orient or it can be thick and warming from oop north or it can be the cosseting blanket that is heinz cream of tomato.

I like soup for all the variety it brings but also it's a simple pleasure, nowt complicated just soup, kind of like me. It does what it says on the tin.

Soup for the soul (ingredients may vary)

1 x Amazing wife
2 x Incredible kids
Wonderful Family
2 x Christmas shows
2 x Christmas discos
1 x Visit to school (my work)
20 x teenage lads (yes really)
Numerous colleagues
Loads of friends
Hugs (as many as can be fitted into the day)
1 x blog with a daft title
1 x Christmas panto
1 x It's a wonderful life at the cinema
A good pinch of snow and cold weather

Mix well and season to taste!

As you may have read before the Christmas wishes my head wasn't a lovely place to be, it still has it's shadows and they are as dark as ever but they're fewer than before. They have diminished because of the experiences I had just before Christmas. As a working parent you don't often get chance to go to the kids Christmas fairs or their assemblies or even just pick them up on their last day of term. I got all of this this year and I can confirm that while it was loud and the carols weren't always in tune it was brilliant. Seeing their faces in their tea towels and tinsel as they went up and sang their bit was magical. The excitement of the Christmas disco and friends coming to meet up and have tea. (not the incredibly tired and grumpy children we had the next day though!)

I love our kids, they make me laugh, they've made me cry too (Carys just after my vasectomy!) but 95 percent of the time they're a joy. This year they've been so good, accepting my lack of hair, energy and health with grace and a lack of fuss. Their faces on the last day were pictures of relief, happiness, excitement and tiredness. They have both worked so hard and are doing so well at school, it's very easy to be proud of them.

I decided to make some brownies for work, partly because my head is busier than it has been and being creative is good for me. But also partly to say a little thank you to some amazing people who have been so supportive to me over the last seven months. I thought about going in on the last day but decided not to. The last day of school is for the people who have been there working through whatever management or the kids throw at them. I didn't want to be reminded that I hadn't been there for so long, plus I wasn't sure I had the emotional energy to cope with lots of people in one place.

As I walked in to work one of the groups I was teaching saw me and promptly left their lesson! As I came in through the door I was greeted by the majority of the group, all wishing me well and saying hello and just being really kind. Some of these kids are not the easiest in the world to get on with and I know that some had come to see me as a way to get out of their lesson but the majority were there wish me well. It took me aback, the warmth of the greeting, the hand shakes, the high five and the pats on the back. I didn't stay long as I knew the emotions wouldn't cope for long and crying is possibly not what they expect me to do!

The rest of the visit was similar, kids saying hello and being excited to see me. Staff giving me hugs and smiles and just being so welcoming. I don't know what I expected but the warmth shown to me was overwhelming and will keep me going for a long long time. Seeing Belinda was tops too, it was great to be able to say thank you for her little comments on this blog. Seeing friends and colleagues who's lives are changing and moving on. Pregnancy or marriage or promotion but looking happy and properly contented. Catching up with Mrs Knowles, Chris has one of those laughs that if you could bottle it would stop wars and bring world peace. She sent me a card very early on telling me to think of her laugh, it was one of the many support mechanisms that kept me going through chemo. It's always good to be able to give Judith a hug too, as my first point of contact if I ring into school she often gets bad news before anyone else, good news too but it's always easier giving good news!

Wendy and I had the fortune to have a kid free night, thank you ma n pa, so we trotted off to town to the Showroom which is a small independent cinema that shows off the beaten path films. Having been for a meal in town we went and watch It's a wonderful life, a lovely Frank Capra film about a business man who does the right thing and never seems to gain from it. It all goes wrong for him and he contemplates ending his life when an angel is sent to save him. In the end he is reminded how loved he is and how many friends he has and it is these friends that give him wealth, not financial but a wealth way more important and rare than money. It was wonderful, funnily enough, to sit there and immerse ourselves in something so sentimental but so close to our hearts. Yes we've had an interesting year and hopefully we'll never have another like it, but we have so many really good friends and such supportive family that it has to be a silver lining to a heck of a cloud!

Walking back through town with my beautiful wife I couldn't help feeling lucky. I have found such friendship from some amazing people and great support from family, this could be enough to make me feel lucky. But the slender little hand that was in mine that night as we walked through the glistening streets of Sheffield reminded me so much of how lucky I am. To meet your soul mate is one thing but to have the fortune to marry her and have a family with her is something I will cherish forever.

I've had one of the best Christmas' ever and to share it with the people I love was so much more than mere words can express.

Soup for the soul is a dish best served hot, in a big dish with crusty bread and a glass of water. It'll warm you from the bottom of your feet to the ends of your fingers and right through your very being. You'll know when it hits the spot..........

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

I hope everyone has a wonderful time with friends and family. Thank you for the support and the many many cards we've received.

I have all that I need and all that I want and I feel like the luckiest man alive.

Health (working on it), wealth (family and friends are my wealth) and happiness (if the girls make it to 7 am then I'll be happy, very surprised, but happy) to all.

Merry Christmas.

Love from Nick.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Yes it's panto time again, as traditions go it's it's only been going a few years but how long to make a tradition? We round up the family and some friends and head off to the Lyceum in Sheffield for the afternoon showing of whatever. Sometimes the actors and acting is good, sometimes they're not. To be honest it doesn't matter, what matters is mad Geoff turning up in his bright red stetson (with white feather trim), riding the Supertram getting all sorts of funny looks, Shelly turning up and bringing food and cheer, Mum and dad and their slippers and Viv and Dave and their kids.

The tram ride is a always interesting with Geoff, I remember him tap dancing upside down on the ceiling but that's another story. Geoff looks more like santa than many shops santa's and is friendlier than them too. He laughs the loudest and the longest at the panto and although you have to translate Sheffieldish into Wigan it's a joy to see a grown man shouting HE'S BEHIND YOU at the top of his voice.

It's usually mum's birthday panto weekend so everyone comes back to ours and has food and chat and fun (hopefully). This year was no different except for the addition of a nintendo wii game thing, seeing mother virtual hoola hooping after a couple of glasses of wine was priceless!

This year for me was hard though, the tiredness side effect was kicking in about half five and emotionally I felt like I had demons creeping up behind me and my heart was screaming THEY'RE BEHIND YOU.

Demons come in different shapes and sizes for different people. For me they come in the shape of is this the last panto I'll go to, will the radio therapy have worked, will I remember how to teach when I go back, will I go back, will my fitness come back, how would Wend cope if this journey isn't over, how much more can my girls take, what if, what if, what if............

Logically none of the above questions can be answered without more evidence and therefore they're not worth worrying about. But when I'm tired and fed up and haven't the emotional or physical energy to keep up appearances they weigh heavy on the heart and I wonder if or when it'll break.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The umbilical cord

Has been cut. No more treatment. Nothing more until the 7th of January, only possibly side effects from the radiotherapy. The treatment continues to work for a couple of weeks after the actual being zapped.

It feels really weird now, sat at home on my own (all say aaar!) the kids are at school and Wendy is at work. If I hadn't been asleep all morning I would feel like a real slacker. I didn't sleep well last night but even so I have a feeling the radiotherapy is starting to have an effect on my stamina. If that's the only thing it effects then I'll be happy.

We had a good weekend, Viv and Dave invited us to go the the Santa Special at the Peak railway at Darley Dale. Now anyone who knows me will probably recognise that I'm not really a big one for the commercial side of Christmas and going to somewhere like Meadowhell to see santa fills me with dread but this was great. The Peak rail only runs from Rowsley to Matlock and is run mainly by volunteers and enthusiasts. I have the utmost admiration for people who have found something to dedicate their lives to, it may not be my thing but they do a great job and I love the engineering of a hulking great steam engine.

The volunteers have put on a great service, you get a short train ride on which they have entertainers singing and playing or doing magic or bringing drinks and mince pies. It's not polished and it's not corporate and it's brilliant because of that.

The kids have a special ticket which entitles them to a gift from 'Santa' and he comes along and sits with them and has a chat. It wasn't forced or uncomfortable but it was fun and enjoyable and yes Carys has been a good girl!

We all went back to mum and dad's after for tea but Georgia had been suffering with a flu/cold/tonsils/sore throat so Wendy and I took her home and left Carys to be brought home later by dad. As it happened I'd run out of energy as well so I got sent to bed to recharge before going out for a curry with the biking crowd.

As we walked into the pub I recognised a group of people sat in the corner. It was another group of friends that I sometimes ride with and they were going to the same curry house! It was great to see them especially as one of them has recently been diagnosed as having cancer! Luckily it's one the consultants are confident they can remove using surgery, unfortunately this involves cutting his head open! Dave is a great bloke and is fit and strong from biking and this will stand him in good stead for the operation. It's going to be scary and different and stressful, especially this close to christmas but he has some great friends around him and wonderful missus so he will be well supported. Cheers Dave, hope all goes well this week and the surgeon has neat sewing!

The curry was fantastic, 21 and a bit people turned up. The bit was Lois who is a couple of months old and behaved better than the rest of us! These were people who had traveled from as far afield as Bristol and Scotland, Hillsborough and Totley! It was for me a perfect night, just enough beer, plenty of banter and fine fine curry.

Now it's about sorting me out, getting fit, getting my work stuff in order, getting my head round going back to work and shouting at some kids. Getting back to being as normal as I ever manage.......The hair is back, the beard is back I just need the all clear then I'll be back. It's going to be odd not having treatment and managing my time, I must set myself a routine and stick to it because otherwise I'll drive myself daft(er).