“How to Teach Relativity to Your Dog”

I was talking to a vicar recently about the theory of relativity (as you do). I joked that my Dad says that I don’t “believe” in the theory but it’s not that so much as a struggle to understand it! I understand the theory in very simplistic terms. However, I don’t “get” space-time and time dilation in particular. A couple of years ago, my Dad borrowed a book from the library, the title of which I’ve “borrowed” for the title of this post. Putting aside the possible Freddie Shepherd-like slur, I didn’t have time (whether space-time or otherwise) to read it so I am none the wiser and (I expect) always will be!*

The discussion with the vicar was about time and light and all that “stuff”. It made me think about the layman’s relativity of time: a happy event seems to pass by too quickly while a boring lecture (on the Theory of Relativity?) seems to drag on. It’s been nearly nine months since I was diagnosed with a brain tumour and over six months since I came out of hospital post-Craniotomy. I haven’t exactly been bursting with energy during that time: the seizure count, recovery from surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy have each taken, and continue to take, their toll. The “bad” days and weeks drag on while the good days go by in a flash. I feel like I haven’t been able to spend time as I would like. It’s not all been Costa and Subway dates let me tell you!

A Time to Live

As I wrote in a very early post, my brain tumour diagnosis has changed our lives forever but it hasn’t changed the fundamentals of how we try to live. Since my brother died, I’ve always had it at least in the back of my mind that I should enjoy the moments as one never knows what’s about to happen. The fact that the Squatter cannot be evicted permanently has only heightened my awareness of the need to make the most of my time and focus on what and who are important.

I had already started writing this post a week or so ago before extreme tiredness hit me. I started it before the documentary “A Time to Live” was shown on BBC, which features 12 people who have each chosen to embrace life in the face of an incurable illness. Being one who never misses a chance to watch a depressing documentary, I watched it on iPlayer the other night and thought it fit in perfectly with where I was going with this post before the chemo-induced fatigue so rudely interrupted.

Each person’s experience of an incurable disease is different and it was interesting to hear others’ perspectives. I identified with some of what nearly all of the 12 people said but not with everything that any one of them said. As you might expect, given the subject matter, it was sad at times and brought tears to my eyes. Ultimately, though, I found the spirit of the programme to be uplifting and I recommend it. If you don’t make the most of life when you know you’ve got an incurable illness, you might as well give up now, right?

Now is the Time to Live

For the most part, when I’m feeling well enough, I like to think that I too embrace life with the mantra “Now is the Time”. Of course, there are times when I am unable (mostly physically but sometimes emotionally) to embrace it. Afterwards, it frustrates and upsets me that I’ve lost precious time, although when it’s a physical inability to enjoy life, I recognise that there’s not much I can do about it.

A week ago today, finished the five days of tablet-taking in this fourth cycle of chemo, which was a rougher ride than the previous three cycles. Although (thankfully) I wasn’t sick after the first night, I had very little appetite and felt absolutely wiped out, nauseous and “full” throughout. I spent most of last weekend, Monday and Tuesday in bed, sleeping much throughout the days and nights. The fatigue wasn’t helped by seizures on Friday and Sunday.

By Wednesday, I had recovered from the overpowering tiredness back to my usual level of tiredness! My appetite was also back to normal. I went outside to watch the kids bounce and splash around in the paddling pool. Thursday was more of the same, with a couple of friends visiting for lunch to add to the occasion. Friday was even more ambitious. We enjoyed a wonderful afternoon at Cragside, one of the many stunning places to visit in the North-East.**

I can’t remember the last time we went out for a full afternoon together (rather than an hour or two within a mile of the house!) as a family and it was a rip-roaring success. Most of our time was at the playground half-way around the estate drive. Leo and Jennifer had an absolute blast, as we all did. Jennifer particularly enjoyed the barefoot walk, which involves walking on different textures like stones, pebbles and logs with a finale of a splodge through cold mud. She was hacky after doing the walk at least five times! Leo didn’t think much of the mud but he loved exploring the vast spaces and activities around him. Sitting in the sunshine with my nearest and dearest, life felt good. As in really good, not just in a relativity kind of way given how bad some days can be!

Does having a determination to try to make the most of every day make time (seem) to go quicker or slower than carrying along with the minutiae of life? I don’t know but I know that it is good feeling alive rather than just being alive, however fleeting that feeling can be. Yesterday, I felt tired so I didn’t try to push my luck, especially after a small seizure reminded me of the perils of fatigue and over-tiredness!

Yesterday’s tiredness made the decision to go on Friday a good one. There’s no point in waiting for the “perfect” time to do something when a “good enough” time will do. I will continue to try to pace myself but I will undoubtedly get it wrong sometimes: I might feel well enough to go out and it will push me too much; at other times, I might regret not getting up and out. I will always try to remember to enjoy the good moments!

The Hobbit House

The Hobbit House is nearing completion from a building perspective, which will soon leave us with the decorating and “soft furnishings” part of the renovations. Oh, and the actual moving bit! In yet another example of what an amazing army of supporters we have, the Silver Bird Dog’s old colleagues from NE1 came along to put the undercoat on the wood that had been sanded down by his current colleagues a couple of weeks ago. Here is the crack team from NE1:


Once the building work has finished and the dust has (literally) settled, we will be having a staggered painting party. All are welcome – let me know if you’d like to book a slot!

I think that’s about it for now!

Holy Smokes!

Goodness gracious, Great Balls of Fire, how had I almost published this post without mentioning that we had a minor explosion in the living room a week gone Friday night?! It involved a Galileo thermometer, the wood-burning stove and a huge fireball that went up with a whoosh.*** Only the Rents were in the room at the time. Dad was closest but he thankfully escaped with just a cut on his arm. Tiny glass pieces exploded all over the room so it was a no-kids zone until the room had been emptied and hoovered the next day. All humans in the house are fine. The wall, however, didn’t come out of the incident quite so well. Cleaning the smoke damage resulted in the paint and some of the plaster coming away. It needed plastering and now needs painting:


*As an aside, the discussion made me think afterwards of Phoebe in Friends saying this about gravity: “[w]ell, it’s not so much that you know, like I don’t believe in it, you know, it’s just…I don’t know, lately I get the feeling that I’m not so much being pulled down as I am being pushed“. (I believe that almost everything can be related to a scene or quote from “Friends”!)

**For the uninitiated, Cragside is a country house in Northumberland. It was the first house in the world to be lit using hydroelectric power. As its name suggests, it was built into a rocky hillside above a forest garden of just under 1,000 acres. It was the country home of armaments manufacturer, Lord Armstrong, and is now owned by the National Trust. The estate drive at this time of year allows one to see an array of stunning rhododendrons.

***Proof that you don’t only get a whoosh with a wotsit!


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