Thursday, 9 May 2019

FUNGI




The weather continues to be cold and mostly cheerless. There's little proper rain but a constant, damp, dripping.


I continue to walk for my health. Once again in the park, this time in drizzle instead of mist, and observing fungi on and around a stump. 

IDing the fungi would probably be easier if I knew what kind of tree this used to be (?).
P.s. I put a photograph of this on iSpot where John Bratton kindly id-ed it
as Cramp-Ball (Daldinia concentrica) - which is what I know as 'Alfred's Cakes' and
have previously found on beech.
My walking speed is picking up but am still finding it difficult to rise properly to my feet after crouching and I'm reluctant either to touch the ground or to get stuck scrabbling around trying and failing to re-stand. It's weird having to be careful of germs when for most of my life I've been a hands-in-the-dirt kind of person. I suppose I should do some crouching and rising exercises at home!

Meanwhile, until my leg muscles get strong, photographs are likely to be a bit snap-shotty.

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

A WALK AND AN UPDATE

I've never been inclined just to 'go for a walk'. I've walked because I need to get from a to b, I'm taking photographs for a blog, I'm exploring a neighbourhood, those kinds of things. Now I'm walking for my life.

As some of you already know (I left a note in the comments attached to the last post) I came out of hospital on 18th March. Unfortunately the chemo had only worked to a certain extent and the leukaemia has come home with me.

Last week I had a discussion with one of the doctors who arranges stem cell transplants. Right at the beginning she warned me that everyone who has this discussion with her leaves the room feeling grim. May as well share the grimness - and the hope.

The only way forward now is to have a bone marrow/stem cell transplant. If I don't I will die in about a year's time. They haven't got a named donor yet but they have samples in the lab and are working out if they can find a near enough match. If they can, and the donor checks out as healthy and still willing and available . . . I'll probably go back into hospital in about six weeks time. The chances of dying as a result of the transplant itself are about 5%. The chances of the transplant 'working' are 50 - 60%-ish. I'd be in hospital about five weeks. (Though after the previous chemos it took my immune system a lot longer than expected to recover so I'm bearing in mind that this 'five weeks' might stretch.) Even if it works, chances are that I'll be ill as I get over it - perhaps a couple of readmissions with infections. And I'll always be at an increased risk of other cancers, especially of the skin - will always need to wear suncream. An increased risk of cataracts too. Various other aches and pains. She didn't want to suggest this is going to be an easy ride!

'Transplant' makes one think of general anaesthetics but no. Chemo (and radiation?) will kill off my bones' ability to create 'my' blood cells. A transfusion will introduce 'someone else's' blood-creating cells. They will make themselves at home in my bones and from then on I will be producing 'their' blood. (I think this is it.) To go through this I have to be fit. My heart has been tested; and my lungs. And I'm walking. After more or less three and a half months in bed it was hard to get up the stairs when I got home. By 'going for walks' I'm getting stronger - ready to get knocked back again!

. . . And one of the places I walk is the People's Park. (I first told you about this park in December 2017 - A Parade of Bare Bottoms.)

In this urn dandelions and other non-planted plants have gone to seed.
I've never before met such a purposeful park. There are nearly always people striding out along the paths clearly for the sake of their health. Sometimes they are alone (maybe in tracksuits - tracksuits seem to be an early morning thing) often in groups. When I lived in Dorset I found myself getting irritated with joggers and runners. I'd be poking around in a bush to see what was living on the underside of a leaf and they'd pass at a steady trot, apparently oblivious to anything except their bodies. I'm trying to disentangle my prejudices. People who run - I admire. Just as I am stunned by the cross country cyclists in Yorkshire. So why I took against the keep fitters who lived near me, I don't know. It was something to do with changing the atmosphere of the place. Maybe it's because I guessed they were finding the track 'useful' rather than beautiful. But in this urban park, it feels very cheerful, people marching along and saying 'hello' to each other as they cross in opposite directions. Maybe it's because they seem very ordinary. They are ordinary people who want to be healthy and well. They are not a special race with water bottles. Meanwhile, there are others who come to sit and relax around the fountain which has water in the basin but none that squirts in the air. There's a little playground too - swings, a small slide, a climbing frame. There's something very purposeful about the way children play there. They don't hang around. They swing for a bit then leap off and run to the next thing to do.

Dead Nettles and Shepherds Purse in an untended urn.
Tell me, do you find yourselves reacting in a huffy or hostile way to people doing things in one place that you'd not object to elsewhere? Buskers might fit. There are good places to busk where the music adds to the atmosphere. And there are places where the same music would be downright irritating. Walking purposefully in a park is one thing. If I had to share the paths with joggers, that would be another. 

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

HAPPY 2019

Squashed berries on broken wet pavement.
11th January 2019
I'm posting a picture of squashed berries, not to be pessimistic but because I suspect you'll find fewer pictures of squashed berries on the internet than you will of whole ones. Being vaguely reflective, it's brilliant how cheerful red berries remain even when they are squashed on a rainy pavement.

I took this photograph on my way home from hospital. I spent ages photographing the tree they fell from and its surrounds but I'll just put this here as a way to say Happy New Year. We may already be a twelfth of the way through 2019 but it's never too late for good wishes!

This the kind of picture I usually reserve for my other blog (Message in a Milk Bottle). There's more in it than at first seems. I think the stalk of the berries may be lying on part of a sycamore wing and there's either a tiny bit of green lichen to the top left of the lower berry or it's the beginning of a new plant.  There's a matchstick and, of course, the shine of rain on the paving stone.

Here in hospital, I find it harder to rejoice in the random. Very little here is random. It's beautifully clean and stunningly well ordered and efficient beyond anything I could have expected or even imagined . . . Yes, in hospital, for although I took this photo on my way home, I was only there for a few days before chemo started again. This time stronger than before. The first lot had zapped most of the Leukaemia but some still lurked in a mutant form. I'm back in exactly the same room. It's very comfortable but the view is of part of the same building, hence finding squashed berries enormously beautiful and exciting. They are not grey!

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

IN HOSPITAL

A short entry to let you know I am in hospital with Acute Myloid Leukaemia. I was diagnosed on Thursday 29th November and admitted to hospital the next day.

I began the first cycle of treatment - ten days of chemo-therapy- on Friday 7th December. I'll be in hospital for four or five weeks depending how quickly my body recovers from the onslaught. Then after a time at home, back here for more treatment. It should take about four months altogether.

Thanks to the steep Halifax Hills, the allotment and three flights of steps in my house my starting point is healthy and my heart is physically strong.

During the onslaught of the treatment I have to be kept away from possible infection so I'm in a room of my own (with a shower and a loo to the side). A combination of the NHS and a local charity provide a fridge and a kettle, a TV and free internet in our rooms. Without these - and my laptop - life would be lonely and difficult so I am very grateful.

The doctors are blunt. The next four months are likely to be horrible and the outcome is not certain. Hopefully by the summer I'll be up and running but there are no guarantees.

Sorry there's no picture.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

THE BIGGER PICTURE (AND THE LITTLE)

Seven spotted ladybird (probably) on radish leaf. Coccinella septempunctata
Seven Spotted Ladybird
I began paying closer attention to the flowering radishes when
I noticed cabbage white butterflies were preferring them to
the adjacent purple sprouting broccoli plants. 
I've had a letter from the committee. A perfectly sensible one asking if I can cope with having so much allotment space when the larger section isn't tidy enough.

It's true. I'm struggling to get all the carpet etc. disposed of, and allowing more wild plants to grow around the place than is conventional (or acceptable) on a public allotment. In part this is because I've paid most attention recently to the half allotment I took over fresh from someone who had put a lot of care and attention into it. I wanted her to know I am looking after it. There's also the challenge of staying in all day for plumbers when they aren't able to give a precise time for their arrival. So watering had taken priority over weeding.

But it's more than that. Through the years I've been paying so much attention to the small things around us I've lost the ability to see 'the bigger picture'. By this I'm talking in purely visual terms. Instead of digging everything over, I've been fretting that I haven't yet taken photographs of the variety of grasses on the site and every day I've left them till 'tomorrow'. And even when 'weeding' on parts of the plot under cultivation, I've been reluctant to pull things out. After all, they got there first, the grasses and wild plants. It was their home before I supplanted them with runner beans.

So . . . admitting to my failure, I set to work to put things on a more conventional keel.

Willow Herb flower (with Marjoram flower on its right)
Willow Herb
In real life the willow herb flower is pinker than in the picture
but the light was dull and the photo came out like this.
(To the right is a marjoram flower. The colour is right for that.)
I stood at the top of the main plot and tried to see it as if through the eyes of others. The first thing I noted was willow herb; not enough for my taste but enough to draw attention to itself because it stands higher than other plants, the flowers are of a bright and startling pink and the white curls of their opening seed pods are truly attractive when activated on individual plants rather than in a clump (where they look messy). My willow herb plants were spread about the plot and looked magnificent: flowers and pods at all their stages. But being the first thing one might notice when taking in the broader scene they had to be the first to go. Straight away the plot looked different; more boring but more tidy too. Stage one!

Common Frog (Rana temporaria)
Removing the wilds plants reveals a Common Frog (Rana temproaria).
There's still shelter for it in between and under the plastic crates.
Next . . . the grasses. Their stems of flowers and seeds (depending on the variety) were the tallest unintentional plants once the willow herb had gone. (All but one willow herb plant down near the compost bin - I had to keep one, didn't I?) So I snapped off the stems, pulled out the plants where they'd ease easily from the powdery ground with one tug. And if neither worked I slid the seeds off onto my own soil and snipped the rest off later. I got a bit irritable about this. The wind might well take willow herb seeds to other plots but most of the grasses on mine produce heavy seeds which plop directly to the ground. But they've gone.

Redshank flower
Redshank
Next, the path between my plot and the untended one beside it. I'd forgotten completely about this path. It's rough and odd and I have two others to walk down so I'd let it be. Out came nearly all the extraneous plants. Another clear difference achieved. (I left a redshank plant. Couldn't take out everything!)

With five sacks of 'weeds' I appealed to a friend to take them to the council dump in his car. Once he'd agreed to that I set about packing carpet into bin liners as an extra. It will take many more car loads to get it all away (many, many, many) and in terms of how the allotment looks, its removal makes little or no difference - but it pleases me more than getting rid of willow herb and dead nettle and redshanks and beautiful grasses.

If I hadn't kept taking time off to look at the 'little' things as I went, I'd probably have achieved much more in the time. But I can't stop doing it. See a fly - grab my camera. Pull a weed out by its roots - photograph the roots.

Redshank plant with roots.
Uprooted Redshank
And in this I see something of an advantage in having an allotment instead of just looking at the vegetation around hedgerows. Hedgerows have to be left as they are. However interested one may be in knowing what's underground, one can't go around pulling up wild flowers to take a peep. (Different location, different terminology.) But if the wild plants on my allotment have to go anyway then wa-hey . . . I can examine their roots. I have a new angle. When I take in the larger scene I now realise there's another of the same size beneath it. It's not a mirror. It's completely different. And I'm allowed to go there!

P.S. I used to go to iSpot a lot to help identify plants and insects and to confirm (or otherwise) things I thought I already knew. Then it slowed down so much it became almost impossible to use. That was a while back so I thought I'd give it another go. It's faster now than it ever was and a pleasure to use. I'm back to recommending it.