Wednesday, 30 May 2018

WOYWW 469

My desk this week, taken on Tuesday evening because today is my birthday and my hubby is taking me out. (65 today… officially an OAP for heaven’s sakes!) I am writing this in the small hours of Wednesday morning.

We were out yesterday too, and I took the album I made about Mum (bottom right) because I wanted to show it to someone. This was a rush job, and the only thing I didn’t have time to complete was a box for each of the two copies – Mum’s friend says she is keeping hers in a biscuit tin for now! I thought I’d make a start on it so that at least I’d have something to protect the album when I was carrying it about yesterday. It is made of pieces of mounting board stuck together with masking tape. I will have to disassemble it again in order to cover it but for now it has served its purpose.

Between the box and the album you can see progress on another heart ornament like the one I made for my hubby’s anniversary card. A friend asked me to make it for her to give to a family member who is getting married – funnily enough the couple’s initials are the same as ours, so I didn’t even have to alter the design!

At the bottom left are some paper table napkins from where we went out today, with a beautiful peacock feather design on them. I just had to rescue them and do something with them – not sure what yet!

UFOs

Also on the creative front this week, I have decided to tackle some of my UnFinished Objects! Remember the socks I knitted for the homeless last autumn? I completed one pair, and only managed 1 1/2 socks of the second pair before my hubby broke his leg and my life went pear-shaped from then on. I have now turned the heel of the second sock, and once they are finished, I’ll ask the person at church who initiated the sock project if he could make sure they go to a good home – even if 6 months late! If I can get this finished, then I can put my boxes of knitting yarns away again. They are cluttering up the far side of my studio and starting to drive me nuts.

They look a bit knobbly but that will all come right once they are blocked.

Garden

A couple of days ago one of our neighbours gave me a present that he’d made to cheer me up after being ill. It was two things to put in the garden – a beautiful little plaque, and some scallop shells strung together which he said would go on the gable of our summer house. He fished these shells out of the Exe estuary where the fishermen had dumped them after scraping the flesh from them. He drilled holes in the tops and tied them together with string.

Here’s the summer house after my hubby put them up. They make nice bunting, don’t they.

The string was a little bit too long, so my hubby cut off the excess and hung it over a branch of the apple tree so that the shells were touching each other – they make a lovely sound when the breeze moves them.

The contraption around the tree is a piece of stiff wire netting edged with pipe insulation (to prevent injury to my hubby while he is gardening). This is part of the kitty defences that he’s devised, to stop them getting out of the garden. If they can climb the apple tree, they would be able to get onto the roof of the garage or the summer house, and thence over the fence and onto the road.

Here is a close-up of the slate plaque.

He told me he’d cut a roof slate into two halves, and chipped away at the edges to give that lovely effect. He painted the design through a stencil with acrylic paint, and sealed it with an acrylic seal to make it weather-proof. He is apparently now selling them on Ebay and they are going like hot cakes!

What a lovely gift!

By the way, you can see more about the narrow-boat painting I did on the flower boxes hanging on the summer house here, if you are interested.

Kitties

This week we started letting them out into the garden, as they are now officially grown up (a year old). At first they were very wary and tentative, but soon started to grow in confidence. The only problem is, we have an awful job persuading Lily to come in again – we’ve never had such a disobedient kitty – she will only do what you want if it happens also to be her own idea! I suppose all kitties are like this to a certain extent but she has it to an extreme degree! You can see videos of their coming out here and here.

Another rite of passage is the cessation of a midday meal now they are no longer growing so much. At lunch time they sit by their empty bowls and look up accusingly at me as if to say, “Where are our din-dins?” I tell them kitty din-dins are for babies and they are now all grown up and don’t need them! They’ll get used to it. I feel so sad, no longer buying kitten food and deleting it from my Tesco favourites!

Having a nice rest with my hubby. Sleepy Rubes.

Finally, two fun birthday cards! For those not in the know, the “Don’t tell him, Pike” is a quote from the vintage TV comedy “Dad’s Army.”

On the back it said “Am I my brother’s kipper?” Lol!

That’s all for now, folks. It’s been a busy week! Hope you’ve all enjoyed the WOYWW anniversary ATC swap, and I look forward to seeing everyone’s efforts.

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Lily and Ruby Out in the Garden Again

This afternoon we let the kitties out into the garden again. It was nice and sunny and warm. Again, we did it late afternoon so that they would be hungry and more likely to come in, but they enjoyed it so much that we had a really hard time getting them to come in, especially Lily, who is dreadful – she will ever only do what she wants, and not what anyone else wants (unless what you want happens to be what she wants). Not even Dreamies were enough to bribe them to come in! We got Ruby in eventually, and shut her the other side of the kitchen door and eventually my hubby managed to grab Lily. I always knew we’d have trouble with that one…

Anyway, here’s the video I made from the footage I shot of them today. You can see that they are already a lot more confident than they were yesterday. Today they went on the grass for the first time, and explored the top part of the garden.

They really started to enjoy the experience of being outside today.

Saturday, 26 May 2018

Lily and Ruby’s Coming Out Party

HAPPY BIRTHDAY LILY AND RUBY!

24th May was Lily and Ruby’s first birthday, as well as our 32nd wedding anniversary. So much to celebrate! I can’t imagine where the past year has gone. We got our two silver tabby cross kittens last summer, aged 9 weeks, and have watched them grow up through their adorable kitten stage (soooo much fun, and why does it have to be over so quickly?) to become big healthy kitties. They are both quite heavy and Ruby in particular is now quite solid!

One year old makes them officially no longer kittens, but grown up cats. This means no more kitten food. And no more lunch. For the past couple of days, come lunch time, they have both looked very pointedly at their empty bowls and haven’t been too impressed with the absence of Kitty Din-Dins!! Over the past couple of weeks they haven’t actually been as interested in lunch as previously, and haven’t always eaten it all immediately, which proves they don’t really need it, as their rapid growth period has now come to an end. I told them today that if we went on giving them lunch, they’d get too fat!

For their birthday we gave them a packet of Dreamies. These little treats are crack cocaine for kitties. I kid you not. One taste, and they are addicted! We gave them one each and they went absolutely wild for them! The advert says “Cats will do anything for Dreamies” and they are right!

Today to celebrate their coming of age, we let them out for the first time. As expected, they were both very wary and timid, but in no time at all, we are sure they will be scampering in and out at will, and enjoying being in the sunshine. They needed a lot of encouragement from us as they tentatively put first one paw, and then the rest, over the threshold.

The next thing we will need to do is teach them how to use the cat flap, and now they have come of age, they will need the key to the door, in the form of a magnet around their necks to operate the lock on the cat flap. We haven’t got as far as putting collars on them yet, and I anticipate that that will be an adventure in itself!

Here is the video I made of their Coming Out.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Wood Effect Anniversary Card

Today is our 32nd wedding anniversary. Where did the years go?

Having been so ill recently, I only managed to give my hubby a bought card for his birthday, and that was bought for me by a friend! I thought I’d better push the boat out a bit and make an effort and make a nice card for him for our anniversary.

At the County Show last Friday I was fascinated by a little wooden tag attached to the most expensive chopping board (if it hadn’t been for the price I’d have bought it because I fell in love with it!) – the little tag was made of laser cut veneer, and as soon as I saw it, I knew I could make something similar in card, and this would be the basis for my hubby’s card.

I began in Inkscape, working on my Apple Mac which is connected to the Cougar cutting machine (called Sheba). I found a free svg file online of nesting hearts, and I cut a dozen heart-shaped frames using two of the nesting sizes – unfortunately I forgot to photograph these till it was too late, but this is the paper left after they had been cut out. I ended up with a dozen smaller hearts (the bits that fell out of the frames) and most of these will go in my stash for other projects. In this photo you can also see the A4 piece with a window cut out for the front of the card.

I seem to end up using American Cardstock card for most of my cutting projects because it cuts like a dream. However, it’s not quite robust enough for a card base with lots of embellishments so this would have to be reinforced later on.

Again, I kept forgetting to photograph my progress. For the front and back of the tag I cut two hearts the same size as the outside of the frame, and these pieces also had our initials cut in them, as well as some little geometric flower petals like on the tag at the show. Propped up against the paint pot, you can see the completed frame, and the thickness I was able to achieve by laminating several layers of card together. When the edges were painted they looked like a bit of plywood! See below for the painting technique to replicate woodgrain.

The initials on the right were the pieces that fell out when I cut them from the hearts, and would be used to embellish the inside of the card.

I had intended to leave the initials in the hearts hollow as well as the petals, but you could see through and the one on the reverse was confusing, so to overcome this problem I stuck a small square of gold card on the back of each piece, so that the initials were gold, and opaque.

I glued the frame pieces stacked together to give a laminated and more rigid frame for the embellishment. In this picture you can see the linen carpet thread I used to suspend the embellishment, and the two heart pieces (front and back) ready to be attached to the frame.

Here is the first piece attached to the frame, with it’s little square of gold card glued on, to make the initial solid, and the hanging thread.

Here is the finished tag, with the side with my hubby’s initial on the left, and mine on the right.

I am so pleased with this little heart embellishment – it reminds me of some olive wood Christmas tree decorations I’ve got. I think one could take this idea further and make them in different shapes. They have a Scandinavian or Eastern European feel to them. I’ve wanted to make something like this for ages and thought of using mounting board but this is too thick to cut with Sheba, and you couldn’t cut them by hand. The laminated frame idea works well, or one could just laminate solid shapes. You could still have a design pierced through. They might make nice little Christmas gifts, or perhaps wedding favours.

Moving on to the card base, I painted the whole of the front with beige fluid acrylic, and then with Desert Sands Infusions, taking care to paint broad vertical strips to represent the wood grain, as I did on the heart pieces.

Turning to the inside, I created another type of woodgrain background, this time with Distress Stains, to make a lighter background as a contrast. Normally I don’t much like the unevenness you get with these (the dauber bottle isn’t my favourite form of delivery) but for woodgrain the effect is ideal. I used a combination of Antique Linen and Old Paper. This is the technique I used for one of the pages in my Floral Mini Album.

Here is the main card base, and the piece I cut and coloured with Distress Stains to be stuck on the back of the card front. The hanging string would be sandwiched between these two layers. You can also see the two thin circles I cut from gold card, to frame the hole, both front and back, to give a nice finish to the card.

Here are all the materials I used to create the embellishments inside the card. I used a couple of the hearts cut from the middles of the frame pieces, and coloured them to look like wood, as for the front of the card, but this time, to add a bit of bling, I also added a light touch of Treasure Gold (gilding wax). For the sentiments I simply used some peel-offs that I’ve had in my stash for years. They were very small, but I like the effect of the gold on the woodgrain, and I didn’t want anything competing with the rest of the design.

The edges of the hearts were distressed, and they were glued together and stuck down, and some shading added. The initials were what was cut out of the front and back of the embellishment. I daubed them with Antique Linen and Old Paper Distress stains, and they also had a light dusting of Treasure Gold.

I cut a piece of plain white card and stuck it to the back of the card base for extra rigidity. Even though it was just the back, I distressed the edges with Gathered Twigs Distress Ink to take away the starkness of the white card.

Here is the finished card lying flat.

Here it is standing, so that you can see how the embellishment turns and moves as it hangs freely in the aperture of the card.

The completed inside of the card. You can see the embellishment through the aperture of the card.

I think this faux wood effect has come out very well. When I  have used Infusions in this way before (see this post for an example), I used Desert Sands Infusions straight onto white card, and it came out very orange – not a problem if you want it that way, but I wanted a more subtle approach here, so I used the Infusions on a painted substrate. You could make faux woodgrain in this way with any colour you wanted really.

Another reason I like this effect is that it is very suitable for a card for a man. It is strong and more sombre but it also has a natural effect. I used a similar theme on my hubby’s anniversary card in 2016, but this time with a woodgrain effect created with an embossing folder.

I seem to be in a bit of a brown phase again at the moment, after the bright colours of the Floral Mini-Album! I can’t wait to try replicating the effect of the absolutely fabulous wooden moths I saw at the County Show…

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

WOYWW 468

Yaaayyy! I’m back!

Sorry to be absent for so long but those who follow my blog will know that I have recently been seriously ill. However, I am now well on the road to recovery, and celebrating lots of milestones along the way – finishing my antibiotics, getting my own breakfast, starting to prepare simple meals, and generally getting back into the swing of things again. Thank you to everyone who sent good wishes for my recovery.

A major milestone was yesterday – first session back in the studio! It was driven as much by necessity as desire, because tomorrow is our 32nd wedding anniversary, and having failed my hubby miserably by resorting to a bought birthday card for him recently (shock horror) and what’s more, one that was bought for me by a kind friend, I really felt I must make the effort to make him a decent card for this occasion.

Here is my desk today.

A little explanation is necessary. Last Friday (another milestone) I made it to the County Show, which you can read about here. This was something I’d really been aiming for and it helped my recovery to have a deadline to work towards – I was darned if I was going to miss the best day out of the year because I was poorly again. Anyway, amongst the exhibits was a stand with beautiful hardwood kitchen boards (I was sorely tempted to buy one but resisted because I didn’t really need one, and not at that price) and attached to the most expensive and beautiful one was a little die-cut wooden tag that really took my fancy.

I immediately thought that I could replicate something similar with card.

I cut the pieces with my Cougar electronic cutting machine and stuck a small square of gold card behind each initial. To make the thickness of the ornament, I cut about a dozen heart-shaped frame pieces and laminated them, and threaded a string through the top before sticking the front and back pieces on, completing the piece. I will be doing a blog post about this project once it’s complete.

On my main desk photo above, you can see various cut pieces of card, and the card base being made. To create the woodgrain effect, I painted the pieces with beige fluid acrylic, and once this was dry, painted the surface with Desert Sands Infusions, using a flat brush and broad vertical strokes.

The heart ornament will be suspended in the middle of the circular aperture, and will hang and turn freely when the card is standing up. I’ve got quite a bit more work to do today to complete it – it needs quite a bit of reinforcing, and I want to add a bit of gold embellishment to the front of the card as well. Watch this space.

I shall soon resume uploading the blog posts about the process of making the mini-album about my mum. Next projects in the pipeline are to make two identical boxes to keep the two copies of the album in – Mum’s friend eagerly awaits hers as her copy of the album currently resides in a biscuit tin! – and to complete the long-overdue Infusions Mini-Album which has had to take a back seat for far too long.

As well as it being our anniversary, tomorrow is also our kitties’ first birthday!

I cannot believe that they are now officially grown up, and I had a little pang when I bought their first pack of adult cat food this week, marking the end of their kittenhood. I feel like a mother sending her child off to school for the first time… A real sense of bereavement as they were such adorable babies and the kitten stage lasts for far too short a time. I am glad I’ve got all the videos of them, though. They are both so big now, and very heavy – I find it quite difficult to pick them up – that is, if naughty teenage Ruby will even let me near her which isn’t often these days – she’s turning into a real independent little Miss. We will soon be letting them outside for the first time, something which always makes me anxious with new kitties. Hopefully my hubby’s kitty defences around the garden will be 100% effective – 99% won’t do because kitties are designed to find that 1%, you can bet on that.

It is so good to be back, and just in time to celebrate WOYWW’s 9th anniversary. Sorry not to be taking part in the ATC swap, but I wish you all joy in your giving and receiving of each other’s miniature works of art.

Happy WOYWW!

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Devon County Show 2018

On Friday, I was delighted to feel well enough to go to the Devon County Show with my hubby and this year we took a neighbour as well. He had got tickets some time ago and when I was so ill, it was something to aim for and a real incentive to get better as quickly as possible! It was a long day but I held up remarkably well, sitting on my buggy all day. The weather was glorious and we had a really great time – for me it’s one of the best days out of the year, with so much to see and do, and being part of a large crowd of people all out to have a good time, producing a really happy atmosphere.

I took simply loads of photos as usual, and can’t show them all but here is quite a large selection.

A general view as we arrived.

01 General View

Judging the alpacas. They are pretty creatures with such sweet faces, and incredibly soft fleeces.

02 Judging the Alpacas

Inside the alpaca tent, showing some of the products on sale, made from their fleece.

06 Alpaca Products

Judging the cattle.

07 Judging the Cattle

We are always amused by the seriousness of it all, with the farmers in their white coats, and how clean, groomed and polished the beasts are for this annual special day out! Some of the comments made by the judges made us laugh too, all done with the rich Devon accent, “This is Daisy… had her second calf… a fine, firm little udder… there’s a good dairyness about her…” – not a word we’d come across before!

Moving on to the angora goats, inside the tent we found Jan Tillett with her stand. She usually makes an appearance, and at the craft shows too. She is a textile artist and I always enjoy her work.

09 Jan Tillett

Here are some of the angora goats, which produce mohair.

13 Angora Goats

One of the finest local herds is the Corrymoor herd, which usually carries off all the prizes, but I was told that this year they haven’t done so well. This is because their competitors have recently bought in new blood from South Africa and have been producing larger animals. The number of herds in the UK is small, and every now and then it is good to introduce new blood to prevent inbreeding, but Corrymoor have to take special precautions to avoid compromising their organic status. They said that not winning for two or three years was a small sacrifice to make in order to maintain their integrity. They always have a stand selling their socks, and I have frequently added to my collection over the years – they are simply the best socks I’ve ever worn and I never wear anything else now. They are soft but incredibly hardwearing (I bought my first pair years ago and have worn and washed them countless times and they have not worn out), warm in winter and cool in summer, and they come in such a huge variety of colours and I have pairs to match all my outfits!

As usual, we visited the blacksmiths’ tent where we again saw some amazing pieces of wrought ironwork that they had made, including this elegant chair.

16 Wrought Iron Chair

This beautiful mirror surround won first prize and reserve champion.

22 Wrought Iron Mirror

For the first time in my experience, there was an example of the blade maker’s art on display. I am very interested in this, and was particularly thrilled to see that it was a Damascus blade. On the photo on the right, you can see if you look carefully, the patterns made by the folding and refolding of the heated billet (a stack of different steels which are forge-welded together) – several hundred folds are made. Some blades end up with an intricate pattern which is quite beautiful, and the technique makes the blade extremely strong but flexible, and able to maintain a keen edge.

19a Damascus Blade Pics

Going into the large craft and flower tent, we saw a similar display to last year’s, with the knitted poppies everyone had made to commemorate the centenary of the Battle of the Somme. They were selling quite a few of these poppies this year, in aid of the Haig Fund, this year marking the centenary of the end of WWI.

28 Wartime Memorial

Incorporated in the display was a display celebrating the work of the Women’s Land Army during WWII. I was very interested in this because my mum was a Land Girl and she often spoke about it and how she loved her time in the Land Army, serving her country in time of war by doing farm work in the absence of the men who had gone off to fight.

29 Land Army Display

In the craft tent there was a new display for this year, of fabulous hardwood kitchen boards. I was sorely tempted to buy one… The loaf of bread at the front was made of plastic!!

33 Hardwood Kitchen Boards

This was our favourite board, made of English burr oak, and the texture of the edges, and the grain were stunning. The cracks had been filled with copper and resin, and the whole surface sanded smooth. If it had not cost £350 I would have bought it!

34 Burr Oak Cheese Board

I loved the little laser-cut wooden tag attached to it as well – here’s a detail shot.

35 Burr Oak Cheese Board Tag Detail

It was made of two identically-cut thin slices of wood with a thicker border piece sandwiched between, so that you could see through the laser-cut holes. I thought it might be possible to make something similar in card. It was so attractive, and would make a very pretty hanging decoration.

Having looked at the website before coming, I knew that my favourite watercolour artist would be there – Karen Thomas. I first met her at an art exhibition where a friend had some paintings, and we had a nice chat then, so I was keen to look her up again. I’d seen her at other events in between as well.

36 Karen Thomas Watercolours

I love her bright vibrant colours, and her skilful use of white space, and the spattering technique she so often employs. She has written a beautiful book, and I really wanted to buy this for my hubby as an extra birthday present to thank him for all he’s done for me in recent months, and for all the anxiety he suffered on my behalf recently. The trouble was, he wouldn’t go away! I desperately wanted to get rid of him so I could buy the book without him seeing, and afterwards he said he thought I was staying too long and wanted me to leave! Eventually he wandered off and I conducted a super-quick transaction which also included Karen signing the book for him, all in the nick of time before he reappeared! My heart was thumping! Karen and I exchanged amused glances as we left.

Another new addition this year was the Moth Man. His name is Andre Daniel, and his flier states, “Andre Daniel is the creator of the unique Devon Moths. Each moth is individually crafted from English hard woods and occasionally other native timbers, polished to enhance the beauty and variation of the grain.” Each moth is unique. The wings of each, being sliced from the same piece, are mirror images of one another.

38 Moths 1

42 Moth Collection

I thought these were absolutely exquisite. Again, I wondered whether it would be possible to create something similar with hand-embossed card… Ideas racing through my head!

The central display in the tent was again provided by Lifton Farm Shop. Again they carried off all the prizes, including Best Exhibit in Show. Last year’s was on the theme of Shaun the Sheep and was the best ever (see my blog post here for photos) and this year the theme was Peter Rabbit and several other Beatrix Potter characters.

44 Peter Rabbit Display

The dry-stone wall was made entirely from potatoes!

45 Potato Wall

Here is the angry gardener, Mr. McGregor, having caught poor Peter Rabbit (Peter gets away in the book). I remember my mum reading us the story (and many others) when we were little.

49 Mr McGregor with Peter Rabbit

Mrs. Tiggywinkle, another character – she was a hedgehog, and her spines were represented here by asparagus spears! Here she is, doing the weekly wash. I love the use of gypsophila (one of my favourite flowers) to represent the soapsuds.

51 Mrs Tiggywinkle

Mrs. Tiggywinkle’s house.

53 Mrs Tiggywinkle's House

Another character – the Foxy Gentleman. He was NOT what he seemed. He inveigled poor innocent Jemima Puddleduck to his lair, ostensibly to share afternoon tea with her, but in fact his aim was to eat her. Fortunately she escaped this awful fate.

56 The Foxy Gentleman

Here is my hubby laying a protective hand on the head of Jemima, safely out of harm’s reach!

57 Jemima Puddleduck

At the further end of the tent were the flower arrangements. This is always a stunning display. I can’t arrange flowers to save my life, and am in awe of those who can.

This was my favourite one in the class “Country Garden.”

63 Country Garden 1

In the miniature class entitled “Lullaby,” I simply loved this delicate little arrangement with the single frond of fern gently curving over the top of a tiny cradle. There are some tiny rolls of music underneath. It won 2nd prize.

65 Lullaby 2nd Prize

Another in the same class, this time winning 1st prize. There are tiny little music notes cut from music paper, hanging from the branches of the little tree, and the little cradle is made from music paper too.

67 Lullaby 1st Prize

I loved this one in the class “Strings and Things.” Unfortunately the judges didn’t agree with my choice and they did not award it a prize!”"

68 Strings and Things

The display of arrangements in the theme “Wind Chimes.” Some very clever ones.

72 Wind Chimes Class Display

There were lots of displays of beautiful flowers, including this one of sweet peas, one of my favourite flowers.

77 Sweet Peas

A bit of fun – “Plants with Modified Jeans” lol lol!

78 Plants with Modified Jeans

My hubby rushed me out of the tent just in time to see two people on stilts, dressed in costumes made entirely from silk flowers! They were stunning. They moved so elegantly and the effect was dramatic.

79 Stilt People

You never know what you are going to see at the County Show. I nearly had a heart attack as I narrowly escaped being exterminated by a dalek! You can see the man behind, speaking through a special device to alter his voice. He was able to operate the radio controls to make the dalek move.

81 Dalek

Outside the Young Farmers’ tent was the usual display of altered objects done by the different Young Farmers’ groups. This year the theme was altered benches. My favourite was this really fun cow – she has a fluffy tail on the left, and just look at those wonderful pink udders. That judge would surely say, “Great dairyness there”!

84 Young Farmers' Altered Bench - Cow

Around the walls of the tent were the usual displays done in boxes by the Young Farmers. This year the theme was Magic and Mystery. Here are a few of my favourites, the first being Alice.

87 YFC Alice in Wonderland

Narnia!

88 Bow YFC Narnia 6th Prize

They had to incorporate various elements such as cooking, fabric work, use of foliage, etc.

Judging the sheep.

89 Judging the Sheep

Finally, we met the Exeter Morris Men and walked with them on their way to the Beer Tent, outside which they were going to do their display. Such lovely chaps and we so enjoyed this traditional display of an ancient English custom.

92 Morris Men 1

94 Morris Dancing

I took some video footage of the Morris Dancing, too.

The day was too quickly over, so filled with lovely things to see and do. A perfect day, and I’m so thankful I did not have to miss it.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

A Major Health Setback

Warning – medical details, but some nice photos at the end!

After being discharged from hospital recently for the second time after the bleeding from my stoma, I was hoping to make a good recovery and start picking up the threads of my life again.

However, although the early days seemed to be going OK, I didn’t pick up as quickly as I’d hoped, and for several nights running, woke up soaked to the skin having had night sweats – something I’ve never suffered from before, even during the menopause. I mentioned it to the district nurse and she agreed that it could be a reaction to ongoing use of paracetamol and I tried cutting this down but it didn’t help. Later, several doctors and nurses said that paracetamol didn’t usually have this effect. (So much for Dr. Google…)

Towards the end of that week I was starting to feel worse and was off my food, until on the Sunday (15th April) I couldn’t bear the smell of it cooking. I kept feeling extremely cold and shivery and that night we took my temperature and it was around 38 degrees – I didn’t really trust our little thermometer and decided to ask the district nurse to take it again the next day when she came.

That night I started to feel quite poorly and my hubby phoned the out-of-hours doctor – why is it that I always get ill over weekends and bank holidays when nobody is around??!! – he was absolutely useless and was clearly going down through a printed checklist and wasn’t really listening to me. At the end I said, “What about my high temperature?” He said I’d probably got flu!!! I said I definitely hadn’t got flu because I’d had no throat or nose symptoms – he said you can get flu without those. I knew I hadn’t got flu! Anyway, if someone reports a temperature and has recently undergone surgery, you don’t think “flu.” He said to phone the GP surgery in the morning if I was still concerned.

In the morning I felt terrible and collapsed in the bathroom. My hubby happened to come in just at the right moment and helped me back to bed. We took my temperature again and it was still high.

Then the district nurse arrived and we asked her to check it and she was so concerned that she immediately phoned the GP surgery and a doctor came up within 20 minutes. He examined me and said he was calling an ambulance. I was apparently showing two markers for sepsis and this needed dealing with immediately. Apparently if we’d left this another 24 hours it could have been curtains for Shoshi…

Once we got to hospital we had a bit of a wait but at least I was able to be lying down. I was in a cubicle in A&E and various people came in and took details and examined me, and all the while I felt absolutely freezing cold and my hubby wrapped me up with extra blankets etc.

Eventually a bed was found for me and they said that my feeling cold was my body deceiving me – my temperature was in fact quite high – nearly 39 degrees – and if they didn’t bring it down I was likely to have a seizure. They therefore proceeded to take away all the blankets, saying that they were actually making things worse rather than better, and turned electric fans on me to cool me down! I spent the next two nights shivering uncontrollably and not sleeping at all, but my temperature did fall a bit, and over the next few days was up and down.

The first thing they did was to try and identify the source of the infection I evidently had – I had a chest X-ray and they tested my urine, both of which were OK. I had a CT scan that revealed some post-operative haematomas and this was believed to be the source.

I saw my surgeon and he said that haematomas can often cause night sweats, so that was the explanation for those. I continued to have them during those first few nights in hospital – one night having two – what a hassle having to change all the bedding etc.

I was put on my first cocktail of IV broad spectrum antibiotics and was given one unit of blood as my haemoglobin levels were falling alarmingly. They were supposed to give me two units but they said a side effect of blood transfusion can be to increase one’s temperature so they held off on the second one – this happened a few days later.

Once they had established the location of the haematomas, they inserted a drain on the left side of my abdomen, with ultrasound guidance under local anaesthetic. I was pretty nervous about this procedure but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. This drain was a fairly fine tube and didn’t penetrate very deep; it was attached to a bag from which they took samples for culture, and at the top end it had a two-way tap to enable them to flush the drain daily. This drain wasn’t uncomfortable at all but limited my movement somewhat. It also had the effect of lowering my temperature quite rapidly as the infected fluid was draining away, but it was apparently not having completely the desired effect, so a couple of days later I had another CT scan that revealed more problems.

It’s hard to remember the exact sequence of events because I was feeling pretty lousy most of the time.

12 Infection 28-4-18

I do remember that my surgeon wasn’t on call for ward rounds for a few days and I was looked after by one of his colleagues, and he hummed and haa’ed about the infection being under the mesh, and query remove mesh? He wrote this on my notes. This gave me great cause for concern because this is a very serious matter and extremely difficult to deal with. When my own surgeon came back, he read this and said, “What’s all this about removing the mesh? We don’t need to do that!” He wrote in large letters in the margin, “Leave mesh alone!!” and signed it, putting my mind at rest straight away.

He said I needed a second drain, and as this one would be bigger and deeper, it would have to be put in under general anaesthetic. This was done, and afterwards I remained in severe pain until a couple of days after it was removed – it was very difficult to get out of bed and I managed to get onto the commode and that was it. This drain was connected to a vacuum bottle to assist the drainage of fluid, and with drains on both sides of my body, with a bag on the left side of the bed and a bottle on the right, my movement was even more restricted.

During the rest of my time in hospital, they tried me on two more cocktails of IV broad spectrum antibiotics because we were clearly dealing with what my mum would have described as “a very virile germ” haha! The final lot did seem to start working, and all through this time my temperature remained within normal limits, and my blood pressure (always on the low side) began to climb a bit so that the systolic pressure was up to three figures again – when it was down in the 80s they were quite concerned.

After a few days my surgeon decided I should have another CT scan to see how things were going, and said that the large drain on the RH side needed to be withdrawn by 2 cm in order to continue to drain more effectively. When the nurse tried to do this the pain went through the roof, before it had even moved a millimetre, and she said she wasn’t going to touch it any further without consultation.

They tried again, this time administering gas and air, but this had absolutely no effect except to make me feel slightly woozy. The pain was absolutely excruciating and I dreaded the moment when the wretched thing would have to come out altogether.

This drain was the first of the two to be removed. I told my surgeon that the gas and air had been useless and he said that because of the risks, it was not usual to remove drains under general anaesthetic, but he would give me some sort of sedative. I was given a Valium tablet which I had very little faith in, and again, all it did was make me feel slightly woozy – and less so than the gas and air. When they pulled out that drain I thought my last hour had come! It was about the worst pain I’d ever experienced.

By this time I was at a pretty low ebb, having been through so much, and all my reserves seemed to have gone, and everyone who did anything to me seemed to hurt me in one way or another! My poor hubby was so worried because I was at such a low ebb physically and emotionally, and it didn’t take much to reduce me to tears. Everyone has told me in the past how strong I am but on this occasion I definitely wasn’t, and felt completely at the end of my tether.

My surgeon said that that drain was very large and deep, and had penetrated through the same complex muscle layers to the right of the stoma (which is why the hernia operation had caused so much pain as well), and when a drain has been in for a few days, one’s body tends to develop tissue which “glues” it in place, which is why it is painful to remove. He said that after a day or two the pain should reduce, and it did. He said that the other drain was of a different sort – a much finer tube, less deep, and into simpler muscle layers. It came out a day or two later, and although it was pretty uncomfortable, it was nothing to compare with the removal of the deep one.

From the beginning I had problems with cannulae failing again. I had requested a PICC line from the outset before my hernia repair surgery but they were reluctant to do this and for once, the cannula they put in did stay the course. However, with this recent admission I was having endless problems, and having them dig around for a new site, causing me yet more pain and then for the wretched thing not to work from the outset, was becoming very wearing. They left the first one in for a couple of days longer than regulations required because it was still working and I was anxious about how a new one in a different vein would perform, but eventually they said it had to come out because of the risk of infection. Over the weekend I again requested a PICC line and they muttered on about risk of infection, and it not being necessary for short-term treatments, etc. until I was getting desperate. On the Monday my surgeon turned up again and I told him the trouble I’d been having, and immediately he said, “Let’s get the vascular access team straight down here and get a PICC line in right away, shall we?” He cuts through all the flim-flam with such authority but with such charm, and I always feel so safe in his hands! While I was in, I told him I’d already trusted him with my life three times, and he knew more about my insides than anybody but God, and I didn’t want anyone else messing about with me! He laughed! My hero.

I must share this funny photo with you. My hubby was endlessly amused by this chair – there was a stack of these chairs in the corridor for visitors. He pointed it out to quite a few other visitors and everyone had a good laugh!

13 Please Ruturn Chair's 2-5-18

Note the redundant apostrophe before the final “s” – this is something that always bugs me lol lol! We both thought that the writer’s spelling and grammar left a lot to be desired!!

After being in for 2 1/2 weeks they said I could be discharged. The infection was 90 percent plus dealt with, the drains had done their job, and the current course of antibiotics (now being taken orally) would do the rest. Because I’d had almost total bed rest during that period I was almost unable to walk, but could only shuffle very slowly with a walking frame. Because my hubby was so tired and so worried, and to give him a break, and also to allow me a transition period during which I could regain enough strength to be able to wash and dress independently and also to be more mobile, he fixed for me to spend a few days convalescing, and found me a room in the home where Mum had been.

This was rather a bizarre experience! I had had pretty negative vibes about the place because she had been so difficult, although I knew it was the best place and the care second to none. I knew a few of the staff and knew them to be efficient and caring. So off I went, last Friday, 4th May.

I didn’t sleep well throughout my time. On arrival there was a regular mattress which proved to be too hard after resting on it for half an hour, so they gave me an air mattress – I spent several hours sitting out of bed getting very tired indeed as they tried first one, and then a second, mattress – both of whose pumps were not working properly – they had been put away without being checked. In the end, I had to sleep the first night on the regular mattress, and they found a third air mattress the next day which did work, but the pump made such a loud buzzing noise that I had to continue to wear my earplugs as I’d done in hospital! Also, the room was small and the window couldn’t be opened very wide and I got very hot. I had come out of hospital in winter woollies and suddenly we were in the middle of a heat wave!

They cared for me so well. After that first night, a carer showered me and washed my hair – I was still very weak – and this gave me a tremendous boost, not having been able to do this for nearly 3 weeks!

The next day my mobility improved greatly, and I was able to walk, not shuffle, with the walking frame, up and down the corridor several times. The weather was glorious, and my hubby came over and we spent quite a bit of time over the few days I was there, sitting on the wonderful roof terrace they have, high up, overlooking the beautiful bay, and it was so hot that I began to catch the sun, and we had to go back nearer the building to sit under the umbrellas there.

15 Lincombe - Bay from Roof Terrace 5-5-18

The care home is part of a retirement village, which consists of the original beautiful Victorian manor house where I believe there is some accommodation, and where you can have meals; they have various functions there, and people who are not resident can join the club. My hubby belonged for a while during the time Mum was in the care home – he would often sit in the lounge with a book and a cup of coffee if his visit had been a difficult one. He got to know the staff there quite well.

Another part of the complex is a small building above the care home which is for convalescence, but since there were no available beds, I had a room in the main care home.

Below, there are some luxury apartments for people who are able to live independently. You can see the edge of this building on the left in the next photo, opposite the manor house.

16 Lincombe - Manor House from Roof Terrace 5-5-18

Last year they had an open day and we were able to visit a couple of vacant apartments, and they were stunning – one or two-bedroom apartments with a small kitchen, bathroom and a lounge with a balcony looking straight over the sea.

Higher up, above the retirement village, is a block of luxury apartments, privately owned. In the foreground is the overflow convalescent home.

17 Lincombe - Flats from Roof Terrace

Looking back towards the care home from the roof terrace.

18 Lincombe - Back Towards Home from Roof Terrace 5-5-18

I think if the weather had been bad during my few days’ stay, I would have gone stir-crazy a lot sooner than I did – but sitting up in the sunshine and getting my first taste of fresh sea air and warm sun, and the sight of natural beauty after so long being confined in a place where everything you looked at was functional, was bliss. The views over the bay were stunning, and just what I needed!

On bank holiday Monday (2 days ago) my hubby took me out for a little drive and we went along the sea front, and enjoyed seeing all the holidaymakers in their summer clothes and the  kids fishing in the rock pools with their little nets – some things never change – I remember loving this when I was a child! – and being so grateful for the glorious weather which would attract the holiday-makers and give a boost to the flagging economy of the town.

It was so lovely to get out and about, to be in the car, to see how much more green the trees were – just to look at something different and alive!

During my stay at the home, I got to know quite a few of the other residents (I was the youngest by far lol!!), most of whom were absolutely delightful and charming. I sat with the same people in the dining room and they were good company. The home has a weekly schedule of entertainments and activities, and on my first full day, you could go down to the manor house for a meal, and my hubby joined me for that. Half way through the meal my energy suddenly drained away and my hubby knew immediately that I had to go and rest, and said afterwards that it must have been serious if it prevented me from staying and enjoying some pudding!! He knows me too well… Yesterday was the day when residents could go out for a meal – this happens about once a fortnight. They have a mini-bus which can accommodate quite a number, including several wheelchairs, but my hubby drove me, and joined us. We had an excellent meal in a place near Dawlish, and when I came home, arrangements had been made for the continuation of my injections by the district nurse at home, and I was allowed to go.

Staying there opened my eyes to a few things. I was aware that there were social activities laid on, and how kind and efficient the staff were, but when Mum was there, she did not avail herself of any of this and preferred to spend her whole time in her room. I know that her deafness really isolated her, but having met the other residents, it saddened me that she didn’t make the effort to make any friends because they were all so lovely, and it was not surprising that she got so depressed, not taking advantage of all the lovely facilities in the home – there were several beautiful sitting rooms, one with a TV (she preferred to watch the TV in her room) and the beautiful sun lounge on the top floor giving access to the roof terrace. There were always jigsaws out, and lots of books and magazines. One of the things they provide is for someone to sit with residents in their rooms to keep them company on certain days each week, to prevent loneliness for those who perhaps are not well enough to leave their own rooms. Mum never took advantage of this, and then complained that nobody ever talked to her!

I am very glad I went, but oh so glad to get home yesterday afternoon – a few days was enough for me. My hubby had anticipated me being in for a week, but as I was so much better and he was looking so much more relaxed and less tired and strained, we decided to call it a day and get me home. Never has “Home, Sweet Home” meant more to me!

As for the kittens, when I first got home, they ran away from me, and when I attempted to get close to Ruby she was having none of it – I tried to cuddle her a couple of times but she squeaked and pulled away. Very disappointing when she had missed me so much during my absence but I thought maybe I smelt different! However, later in the evening I had two lovely long cuddles with her and she purred her little head off and got quite drowsy in my arms – this morning she’s again been a bit wary of me but things are definitely improving! My hubby says she’s a lot more settled since I got home, and isn’t looking for me and crying any more. I’ve never been away from home for so long and it must have been very worrying for her, wondering where I’d suddenly disappeared to for so long. I have missed them so much and last night I told my hubby how glad I was to be home, back with my little family! Life will soon return to normal, I am sure.

Meanwhile, he is doing the meals, which he was doing anyway in my absence, and having had that few days of convalescence, he doesn’t need to help me with any personal care. He is coming and going, and not worrying about leaving me on my own – all visitors (including the district nurse) have been told to let themselves in round the back to save me from having to get up to answer the door! Oh, it’s so good to be home!!!

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