Monday, 29 July 2019


Fern growing in a tree. Halifax, West Yorkshire.
Hello. This is an 'I'm still here, really!' sort of post. I have had the bone marrow stem cell transplant and am waiting to see if it's 'worked'. So far, so good - but nothing is definite yet. What a lot of anxious waiting!

But I'll put some pictures here of one of my favourite local trees. Not only is it huge and rugged but it supports an extra burden of plants and even trees growing along one of its lower branches.

There's a magnificent fern.

Dandelion on a branch of a tree.

And a dandelion.

Sycamore growing on another tree.

A sycamore.

(Which is not as sickly as it looks. I adjusted the image to make it easier to see against a background of other leaves and managed to sap it of all its nutrients in the process.)

Tree (beech or alder?) growing on branch of older tree.

And a . . . beech? alder? Anyone?

I think the host tree is a lime . . . . but I'll be in hospital for several more weeks so we'll need to leave that hanging.

Hope you are all well.

Monday, 3 June 2019


Halifax town centre, Calderdale, West Yorkshire. Wild flower embankment. View towards New Ebenezer Church and Job Centre.When I first visited Halifax - looking to see if it would be a good place to live - I was struck by the amount of ragwort. It sprouted out of pavements and walls and old chimneys and public planters. In particular there was a long embankment of it between a car park and part of the busy road system that skirts the quieter and partly pedestrianised town centre. I can't remember what was on this embankment last year but it wasn't ragwort. Earlier this year it was a yellow sea of oil-seed rape flowers. I assumed this was random. Who plants ragwort? Who sows oil-seed rape apart from farmers?

Borage, poppies and possibly chamomile on wild flower embankment, Halifax, Calderdale, West Yorkshire.

There's loads of ragwort around town this year too. . . but the bank is currently like this. Someone, surely, has turned it into a wildflower oasis - and bees are loving it. So am I. So, I guess, are the hundreds of people who walk past and maybe the thousands of people who drive by in cars and lorries or who look out from buses.

California poppy, forget-me-nots and white daisy-style flowers in Halifax town centre, Calderdale, West Yorkshire.
A health update:
Two possible bone marrow / stem cell donors have been identified so I am hoping to return to hospital for a transplant some time in the first part of July. Chemo has knocked back the leukaemia so I am feeling remarkably well but an underlying mutant something or other called FLT3 (I really don't understand what this is) is getting worse - so there's a bit of a race on. A drugs company is allowing me to take a medicine that is not yet on general release to help keep it at bay while I wait to return to hospital. What a weird and surreal life. It's very hard to realise all this frightening stuff really is happening.

Who can identify these flowers? Wild flower embankment. Halifax town centre, Calderdale, West Yorkshire.
In the meantime . . . I try to take up the reins of ordinary life. I wish I enjoyed housework! And I wish the beautiful grasses which have invaded my allotment weren't so tough, luxuriant and profuse. I have some very little tomato seedlings, runner bean plants and patti-pan squashes in pots. Radishes have germinated on the plot but not yet carrots. I mean, they should have but I've sown everything late. It will be nice when the weather becomes appropriate to June. Then though I will probably complain it's too hot!

Wild flower embankment between Cow Green and Bull Circus, Halifax town centre, Calderdale, West Yorkshire.

Thank you whoever is in charge of this bank. Halifax, it turns out, really is a very good place to live.

(Can someone say what the white daisy flowers are? I wondered chamomile but that doesn't seem quite right. And what is the purple flower in the second to last photo?)

Thursday, 9 May 2019


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


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!