vickygoestravelling

my journey to health and well being via exotic destinations


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in which I get the low-down on my biopsy

I hope it doesn't get to this....thanks Annie for sending me your cartoon!

I hope it doesn’t get to this….thanks Annie for sending me your cartoon!

It’s been a tough couple of days since I received the biopsy report. The phrase that keeps on leaping out at me is ‘high grade’, scattered liberally amongst all sort of nasty-sounding long words  – hypochromatic, eosinophilic cytoplasm, karyorrhectic, even the cancer type, myxofibrosarcoma – which all mean absolutely nothing to me. As I am avoiding the internet, I will have to wait until I see Prof Khong again for enlightenment. But there’s a couple of days to kill…

My conversation with Prof Meirion Thomas (my surgeon from the Marsden) has left me feeling extremely anxious, not least the demand I hot-foot it back to London. Not to mention his cross examination of the Singaporean methodology…I tell myself that surgeons are well-known to be a bit gruff; later Prof Khong laughs when I tell him this.

Now come the questions: should I have gone back to London straight away? Would it have saved time? would it have stopped the cancer spreading to teh lungs and other soft issues (the biggest worry)? Deep breaths, Vic, calm down. I have to remind myself that it was not clear until AFTER the biopsy and PET scan that the tumour was malignant, so these thoughts are counter-productive. All the same, once JP has left and I am on my own, these anxieties niggle away and I envisage the little spindle cells  wriggling their way through my blood stream like a sperm seeking an egg.

 A couple of stiff drinks and some Nordic Noir are pretty successful distractions. However sleeping is becoming increasingly difficult and the pain-killers seem to do no good at all. The stocking seems to be growing increasingly tight as I  imagine the tumour growing within its confines.

In the meantime my phone rings constantly and emails ping around, lots of good advice and loving thoughts alleviate the underlying fears which, along with the pain, interrupt my sleep. No Ross to reach out for…he is in Korea.

So time for a bit of pampering: spend an hour topping up the tan by the pool, but as I can’t get my leg wet it’s too hot to stay for long! Then off to see a friend, who I have been helping with various articles on fans, so we escape into a world of Chinoiserie and the French court while we sip home-made barley water. Can’t do a pedicure as one foot is bandaged and they will only remove all varnish as soon as I step into hospital; anyway its too far to walk and too near for a cab. So as I settle for a cut and colour, I can’t help wondering if this is the last time I will have hair to indulge in such a way. I’m thinking of asking Louise’s friend Robyn Coles to design a special post-chemo hat for me; if she can make the princesses Beatrice and Eugenie look nice I’m sure she can sort me out.

‘Oh, what you done to your leg?’ asks Alvin the androgynous hairdresser. ‘Don’t ask,’ say I, ‘cancer but I don’t want to talk about it’.

‘OK, la, we talk about nice things…’. And utters not another word the whole two and a half hours. The word cancer has that effect on people.

Conversely taxi drivers here are delightful, full of concern and ‘God Bless’.

Which brings me on to the God question. I am delighted that so many people believe and are praying for me; even if I don’t share that belief I am sure that every positive thought helps me. Please keep all your prayers, positive vibes, messages, comments  and love flowing my way…

Finally we get to the debrief appointment. For the first time in my week of private medicine in Singapore we are running on time. As ever, Prof Khong is straightforward and honest, and explains everything to me in great depth.

To summarise: it is a high grade tumour and very fast growing. I don’t ask the stage number as I don’t want to scare myself and know that everyone is different so it is meaningless. More significant is the replication rate of the mitosis, which is ‘bad’ at 26. Anything over 10 is a cause for concern. He thinks it has not been there for very long, less than the 6 months he originally guessed.

I ask him what he would do if I was his patient. Operate immediately he says, and then do radiotherapy. These tumours – there are several ‘extremely rare’ present, one of which he has not seen before – do not normally respond to chemo, so he would not automatically do it since the tumour is contained. But other doctors may decide to zap any rogue cells on a ‘just in case ‘basis. He reassures me that it is possible that some cells might have already ‘spawned’ but they are so tiny that they wouldn’t show up for at least 3 months, the time it takes for them to reach 1mm when they can be picked up on a scan. ‘And in those early stages, its very treatable.’ The delays I have been angsting about are put into perspective.

He further explains that the big challenge facing the surgeons is the proximity of the tumour to the main vein, and how they remove it without damaging the main flow and losing it: there are three veins forming the vascular tree in the lower leg, can they damage one and survive on the other two is the question? He draws me a lovely diagram. Skilled stuff. In order to do this effectively he thinks that the English surgeons may want to do a CT Angiogram as it would help them be precise. They cannot rely on an MRI taken two weeks ago as the tumour is growing so fast.

I had taken the precaution of checking out my anticoagulation injection kit: imagine my horror when I remove the protective sheath to discover a needle one and a half inches long! The last ones I had were like an insulin pen. This is in fact my major concern today: it’s funny how anxiety can channel itself into something so seemingly irrelevant in the scheme of things. Hmm, they don’t do those in Singapore…so I am trying to work out if I have enough courage to jab myself inflight, as well as before and after… WAH! Am making contingency plans never fear…my bravery has its limits!

Now I have visions of being arrested and executed as a drug trafficker before I even get off the ground. I will be boarding the flight with a fully primed sharp and a load of the painkiller oxycontin, a highly addictive prescription drug which kills thousands of people each year in the US. Phof Khong is highly amused when I verbalise this fear. ‘You’ll be OK – no white powder,’ he reassures me.

After much hanging around (Singapore loses out to Switzerland on efficiency I’m afraid), I now have my MRI scan on disc and the biopsy slides, so I am all set for the next stage of my journey. There’s thunder and lightening outside,the oxy is kicking in and I feel mellow and relaxed as I write this…bring it on!

This darling sunbird, sometimes joined by its mate, comes to sing to me every morning on the balcony. Its yellowness reminds me of Louise...

This darling sunbird, sometimes joined by its mate, comes to sing to me every morning on the balcony. Its yellowness reminds me of Louise…


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in which I receive more bad news…

Sadly my optimism has taken a slight nose-dive with the news that I have myxofibrosarcoma, which is, to quote Prof Khong,

‘one of the nastier ones where you may have to throw everything at it. It has a high mitotic index of 26 per high power field (HPF), meaning that the cell multiplication cycle is pretty fast’.

I am seeing the Prof on Friday and will post an update if there’s any different news from this.

I am hoping that it will not come to this – the amputation of my leg, and it being replaced with one from an Ethiopian as here! Thanks Clare C for this image!

Saints Cosmas  and  Damian (3 Century AD) were  the  patron  saints  of  doctors, surgeons, pharmacists, and barbers. Fra Angelico

Saints Cosmas and Damian (3 Century AD) were the patron saints of doctors, surgeons, pharmacists, and barbers. Fra Angelico

By the way I am not reading anything on the internet so as not to scare myself as you all seem to read is other people’s disasters, never the success stories.  I will be guided by sensible medical friends and professionals about what to expect and then I will share with you all.

the second G & T is slipping down nicely, and now for an evening of Nordic Noir as pure escapism…

Skol!


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in which I ponder living with cancer

I had thought about changing the title of this blog since I have decided to hijack it to share my latest excitements. But then I thought, this is a journey, not in the traditional sense, but one that will chart my travelling from illness to health, from fear to confidence, and from anxiety to a state of mental well-being.

This inspiration came thanks to Mark G, who alerted me to a BBC World Service programme on the Rhetoric of Cancer, presented by a prostate survivor (like Ross) Andrew Graystone. In it he questions the use of all this aggressive and belligerent military terminology: after all, our tumours are a part of us – better to embrace them, stop being a victim and learn how to live with it.

So this blog is going to be more about how I come to terms with my cancer, as I did with Louise’s death, the ups and downs, uncertainties and anxieties but, above all, how I will live with it until the journey ends with my physical and mental wholeness.

About to tuck into Black Pepper Crab on Saturday night

About to tuck into Black Pepper Crab on Saturday night

One of the great lessons I learned from Louise’s death is the benefit of sharing grief and troubles. My immediate Facebook entry the day she died produced such a fountain of love and support that it really helped pull us through the most terrible time of our lives.That’s why as soon as I heard the ominous word ‘tumour’ I decided, stranded as I am in Singapore, to share again and with as much honesty as I can bear. It has paid dividends…so many wonderful warm and loving messages (less of the beating and fighting now please!), and offers of help of all kinds. I feel embraced and enfolded in an aura of love and unconditional support. Thank you dear friends.

The other main reason for this blog is to keep all you lovely people updated so I don’t have to endlessly repeat myself.

So here goes:

I have had my dark night of the soul – described in the last blog – where I allocated my prized possessions to my dearest friends; where I made a bucket list of  ‘Things to do and see before I die’. But now I find I have taken back my belongings and converted that list into another trip to Mana Pools next August, a diving holiday on a fabulous boat in Raja Ampat and a three week trip to Burma. Not bad for someone staring death in the face a few days ago! Reflecting my Carpe Diem mentality, I have always believed in having things to look forward to.

We have now decided that I will be treated at the Marsden. By amazing coincidence Dr Fi was at a conference of early diagnosis cancer specialists on the day she got my text, and a quick survey of the assembled docs pointed to the Marsden, the main reason being the Marsden’s multidisciplinary team approach, so it’s a one-stop shop of excellence. Thanks to another extraordinary coincidence, one of the Marsden surgeons Prof Khong has recommended, Meirion Thomas, is not only a soft tissue sarcoma expert but he also specialises in saving legs…and just happens to be a very good friend of chum Pen. So that’s easy then.

The next dilemma has been whether to go NHS or private: you see the same people whichever route you choose. However, new NHS regs mean that every step of the way is dictated by a referral process, which can take up to 2 weeks…even my GP (who nearly fell off her chair when I rang her, the sarcoma is so rare) agreed that to go private has to be the best option. Someone who does not have insurance can benefit from my place in the queue.

Prof Khong has wanted me to stay here for a couple of weeks to decrease the possibility of a DVT on the flight back, and to give the wound a chance to heal. So our flights are all booked back on 10 December, with my Marsden appointment on 11th. The leg is still painful, wrapped in a huge bandage, which I haven’t dared to take off yet. I think the wound isn’t so bad, it’s just the tumour pressing on the nerves again.

My lovely leg, a single stitch and very little bruising, about 4 inches long...

My lovely leg, a single stitch and very little bruising, about 4 inches long…

But in one of those heart-in-your-mouth moments that I suspect is only the first of many, this morning I hear that Prof Thomas would like me to come back asap. Of course, this immediately makes me feel very anxious…I had been reassured that the cancer would not spread in two weeks, so I am left wondering what is so urgent. I know that my sarcoma is very rare but we won’t know exactly what sort it is, and therefore how best to treat it, until Wednesday, when the histology comes in. As someone said, ‘Trust you Vix to have the rarest form of cancer. You always do things in style’.  And another complimented me on being a ‘rare bird’. Indeed.

So trot back to see Prof Khong, who unbandages me and all looks good, albeit the cut rather longer than I had imagined. He agrees that so long as I take the anti-clotting jabs in my tum (self inflicted!) and wear these lovely stockings – see photo – I can go as soon as the results are in and the slides ready. So now booked to leave on Saturday 30, arriving Sunday 1 December. Are you ready London?

My sexy stockings, that I have to wear until I start my treatments...

My sexy stockings that I have to wear until I start my treatments…

He says that many of these sarcomas don’t respond to radiotherapy and there’s a 50% chance that they may operate immediately. Forewarned is forearmed. I’m ready for anything….

Meanwhile, we have a dear friend, JP, from Barbados staying. We have been out to some delicious meals, albeit me on a stick and not able to walk more than a few yards. And tonight I’m cooking one of my famous Thai Green Curries. But what the hell – a girl’s gotta have fun!

Ross and JP at Indochine last night

Ross and JP at Indochine last night


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in which I have some better news

Many thanks lovely friends for all your messages. Now home and can stagger around with help of a stick. Leg is very sore to tell the truth. Proper results Monday, but the lovely Mr Khong has confirmed the tumour is figure of 8 shaped and each one is 5 cms ie quite big. Also that there is a haemotoma so the whole muscle will probably have to come out.

postbiopsy

I bought these shorts and top for Sulawesi, so had to put them on!

The good news is that there is a margin of 5mm between the tumour and the nerve and blood vessels, so that a good surgeon/treatment can save the leg…also that while I wait for the wound to heal and get clearance for flying (DVT risk until leg settles down) there is little or no risk of the cancer spreading into lungs, liver etc.

Other good news is that sarcomas are usually painless so only discovered when too late. Ross’s father said I was lucky to have been alerted by the pain, due to its pressing on the nerve. Mr Khong thinks its probably been there 6 months.  It’s grown pretty fast!

So I am going to sit back, relax, have a G & T and finalise my xmas shopping lists, though Ross may have to do the buying!

For now I am being waited on hand and foot by my lovely husband, and on Sunday we have a dear friend, JP Jones, coming form Barbados for a few days.

The  plan is that Ross and I fly back together, arriving on 10 December.

Chin Chin!


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in which I get some bad news

When our lovely daughter Louise died, aged 21, I really felt I didn’t want to go on living. But, gradually, through the love and support of my husband Ross, son Tommy and my fabulous friends, I came to an understanding with life, and realised that I could re-discover my old zest for it.

Since Louise died we have travelled the world – from Bhutan, where we erected prayer flags in her memory, to Kerala, Zimbabwe, Kenya (where we interred her ashes with those of her grandparents), Switzerland to ski and walk in the mountains, and then a move to Singapore with Ross, where we have been capitalising on the delights of the Far East: India, Malaysia, the Philippines, China and Indonesia. All in 9 months!

Suddenly all this recovery is catapulted into outer space. Yesterday I was diagnosed with a soft tissue sarcoma of the calf, and here I am today in hospital having had a biopsy and a PET scan, waiting to hear the prognosis. Our 30th anniversary dream diving holiday to Wakatobi in Sulawesi cancelled – we should be there right now!

*          *          *

The tumor began as a suspected hematoma in the calf, which would not go away: I had a couple of weeks of ultrasound and massage, with lots of stretching but it seemed to get increasingly painful. By Monday this week, I was beginning to have difficulty walking without limping, so decided to go back to the GP. Suddenly I was being rushed to a vascular surgeon, having an MRI, followed by a consultation with an orthopedic surgeon and, finally, today into hospital to have a PET scan and biopsy.

Post biopsy feeling sore!

Post biopsy feeling sore!

The last 36 hours have been very dark indeed. Reading up on Soft Tissue Sarcomas (STS) of the calf was hardly comforting: not only is it extremely rare, but also the treatments include chemo, radiotherapy and excisions, sometimes all three, and often two of the above. Then there’s no guarantee that the excision will not affect your nerve, and you might be unlucky enough to lose your leg; at best your calf muscle will probably be damaged.

But the worst scenario is that it could have spread to the soft issues of the lung, liver and pancreas. In that case it is usually terminal.

Last night I could not sleep, hardly surprising really. ‘Why me?’  As Louise would have said, ‘Its not my fault’. What have we done to deserve all this bad luck:  the deaths in close succession of my mother, Louise, and then father, with Ross’s prostate cancer in-between? He at least is now clear. I have never believed in God and I certainly would not be tempted to do so now!

At 3 am I am sitting on my lounger overlooking our softly-lit pool, all calming turquoise and gently fading pinky/mauve lights, the palms gently rustling in the breeze, and breathing in the scented tropical air. Out of nowhere a big storm rolls in, forked lightening and soft rain. I begin to think how much I love my life, my husband, son and friends, and I am not ready to go just yet. So much travelling to do, so much laughter and joy to be had…but later in the darkness of the bedroom as I toss and turn and remember my maxim, Carpe Diem, I can see that elusive day flitting away from me like a will o the wisp,  tantalisingly out of reach.

*              *              *

The worst moment today was when I was recalled to the PET scan: ‘We think we have seen something on your pancreas and liver and need to re-check it’.

As I lie in the tomb-like scan, tears roll down my cheeks, my whole body trying not to convulse – you have to keep very still – silently shouting out, I don’t want to die!

And maybe my time has not yet come: the radiologist confirms that while there was indeed ‘hot spot’ ie tumor in the calf, what they had thought were shadows on the other internal organs turn out to be my gut. Phew!

But we are not out of the woods yet; the precise nature of my tumor has to be diagnosed and treatments agreed. I will come back to England for those, at least 6-7 weeks of horridness. I will probably lose my calf muscle – no more mountain walks – but should be able to ski again in due course. These are small but meaningful mercies if one can at least continue to live.


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in which I rub shoulders with Prince Charles and go back to school in Mumbai’s red light district

The birthday boy at Mumbai Gateway

The birthday boy at Mumbai Gateway

Arriving back in Mumbai this time feels like the welcome embrace of a dear friend. To start with, there’s Mehtab to meet us at the airport, despite the late hour, and we’re staying with Cindy and Guy, whose flat in Bandra is now more like a museum filled with objets from the Chor Bazaar.

Diwali flowers at Cindy and Guy's flat

Diwali flowers at Cindy and Guy’s flat

First things first, though: its Ross’s birthday on Saturday, so we take him on a whirlwind tour of Mumbai. First stop the Gateway to India, where we are mobbed by kids all dying to be photographed. We take Guy and Cindy’s Christmas card shot for them (here’s a sneak preview).

Christmas card for Mr and Mrs THomas

Christmas card for Mr and Mrs Thomas

Posing rather against her will...

Posing rather against her will…

While brandishing my iPhone, an annoying German man quips, ‘Ach, I see you don’t like your phone’. Seeing me looking very puzzled, he continues, ‘It will be stolen if you don’t put it away’.  Stunned by Mr Busybody all I can muster is Smartass, as loudly as I can. For the record, I have had absolutely no trouble on the streets of Mumbai, despite wandering around the Chor (Thieves) Bazaar with £250 of Rupees in my handbag!

Fresh fruit stall at the Bombay Gateway

Fresh fruit stall at the Bombay Gateway

Bustling crowds at the Gateway

Bustling crowds at the Gateway

It’s a holiday atmosphere, the weekend sandwiched between Diwali and Muhurram (Hindu and Muslim New Year respectively). The crowds are vibrant and surging, massive balloons pepper the maidan, all manner of children’s toys and trinkets are laid out on the ground, and food stalls are doing a roaring trade. Overcome with all this busy-ness, we repair to the cool bar of the Taj, showing Ross the memorial to the terrorist attack on the way.

Cindy with her British High Commission deep throat in the Taj foyer

Cindy with her British High Commission deep throat in the Taj foyer

But what is this? Big excitement, Prince Charles is also in town and staying right here! Cindy bumps into a mate who’s on the consular staff and he tips us off to a photo opportunity in 20 minutes when HRH leaves the hotel…we are the only people here apart from security, but my photos unfortunately are not that good (the downside of only using an iPhone for this blog!).

Aha - here is HRH at last

Aha – here is HRH at last

This is as close as we get - but its pretty close although he dashes past us on the wrong side of the flower arrangement!

This is as close as we get – but its pretty close although he dashes past us on the wrong side of the flower arrangement!

No visit is complete without scouring the Chor Bazaar. Our haul includes two heads: a 3-headed Vishnu from Karnataka, ‘600 years old’ – yeah right, Ifram; a serene Buddha from Uttar Pradesh and a lovely bronze bull, cast using the lost-wax technique.

Our new three-headed Vishnu

Our new three-headed Vishnu

Cindy and her new billy goat freind

Cindy and her new billy goat friend

Stripping a car down to its component parts in Chor Bazaar

Stripping a car down to its component parts in Chor Bazaar

Sunday we become wannabee watchers at the Four Seasons brunch – the Veuve flows freely and we certainly get our money’s worth. Delicious assorted Asian cuisine too.

Cindy before we had several bottles of Veuve Cliquot...

Cindy before we had several bottles of Veuve Cliquot…

The highlight of the trip is, undoubtedly, becoming Cindy’s teaching assistant for her weekly session at a charity in the red light district, providing a safe haven and educational stimulus to the daughters of prostitutes. We spend all morning preparing our two sets of activities, one for little ones 6-12; and the other, the over 13s. Cindy has come up with a basic mobile for the younger group, so we cut, colour, stick and decorate our prototypes; and a much more elaborate photo frame, made out of ice lolly sticks, for the older girls.

Doing our prep...

Doing our prep…

We arrive in the heart of the brothel area, passing several ladies getting ready for their evening. A woman will be kidnapped or trafficked, held in a half-way house,  gang-raped and taught in her job until subservient, and then sold to a brothel in Mumbai, owned by a man but run by a former prostitute. For two years she will not be allowed out, but kept in a cage; later she gets some freedom, by which time she has nowhere to go.

Cindy getting down to work, kids looking on with rapt attention

Cindy getting down to work, kids looking on with rapt attention

The average age of a working girl in Mumbai is 14; she earns R20 (20p) per John and probably sees 20 a day. She has to pay for everything – bed, food, laundry, water, using the loo…not to mention her purchase fee, so she can never repay and be free. HIV is rife, as is glue sniffing and drug taking. Many have children: birth control would seem an obvious ‘investment’ for the owners of the girls, but it seems that unprotected sex, despite the unwanted results, adds a premium…Interesting that Ifram, the Chor Bazaar shop owner said, ‘You should tell those girls to have safe sex…all this disease is no good’. To which we replied: ‘But it’s the guys who want the unsafe sex….’. He just waggled his head in that very Indian way.

Concentration....

Concentration….

The charity is a tiny two-story room, filled with the sound of piping voices and girlish laughter. Namaste Teeecher! greets us as we arrive. Upstairs we squat on the floor in a room where you can’t even stand up, and the girls crowd around, eagerly grabbing the ‘ones we made earlier,’ while we try and explain what to do. English is rudimentary, but the gist is communicated through other helpers.

I never knew I could still cut and colour...

I never knew I could still cut and colour…

Cindy has warned me that all the glitter and sparkles will be in hot demand, and indeed it’s fascinating to see little strips of diamanté bobbles being secreted under toes! Nothing has prepared me for these delightful girls, all clean and brightly dressed, polite until their enthusiasm erupts into avaricious hoarding of crayons and sparkles – a little fight breaks out in one corner, scissors are banned so we have a lot of work to do!

Photo frames made by the older girls

Photo frames made by the older girls

But the overriding take-away is of enthusiasm and attention to detail: the concentration of the colouring in, the precision of choosing the sticker that’s just right, applying the flowers and glitter to the frames, all punctuated by the high-pitched screeching of Teeecher! Teeecher! to get our attention. Every finished item has to be admired and photographed, until honour and pride are satisfied.

Very proud little girl

Very proud little girl

As we leave we are accosted by a Nepalese prostitute, with a small Buddha-like baby, shaven-head with a big red bhindi. The Nepalese are at the bottom of the pecking order, and she is off her head: staggering about, exhorting us to take her baby, while smiling beatifically. It’s a sad reminder of the reality of the streets.

The red light area as we leave our teaching session

The red light area as we leave our teaching session

Taking photos is frowned on and mine are checked…this is in case the girls can be identified in the schools they attend. The stigma of their origins would put an end to any hopes of betterment. So the majority of the shots make it impossible to identify individual girls and I have kept the charity’s name secret. If anyone wants to donate or volunteer, contact me privately and I will put you in touch.

Chorty Billie almost too grown up to play with mice..

Chorty Billie almost too grown up to play with mice..

 

Master Dizzy Rascal Thomas, check those eyes....

Master Dizzy Rascal Thomas, check those eyes….

So the four days pass quickly; Cindy’s street cat – you might remember her from the last blog – Chorty Billie (meaning little cat) has now become a sleek madam; she has been joined by another little chap, Dizzy ‘Rascal’ Thomas, who is equally naughty and has one blue and one green eye!

Mumbai remains an enigma of a city: so much poverty, but so much energy, activity and striving for betterment, even if only to survive the life on the streets. And humour. Where else can you drive past a street vendor twice in 15 minutes and have a conversation in sign language, explaining why you’re going round in circles? It’s a complete juxtaposition to Singapore and a reminder, as we watch the devastation of the Philippines (the island we dived on in August, Malapasqua has been devastated), that SE Asia is a continent of many cultures, faces and diversity.tempmumbai43

Off to the mosque in Chor Bazaar

Off to the mosque in Chor Bazaar


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in which I morph from domestic goddess into hostess with the mostest

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Delicious cake – fir for a goddess

In this post we welcome old friends to stay in our new apartment and celebrate my birthday…

TempJBCLARE10After almost 9 months here on and off, we feel we can show people round, and at least know where to go to eat! Ross was away in Basel for the first few days, so we enjoyed the vibrancy of the Naitonal Orchid Garden in sunshine; followed by a delicious lunch in the nearby restaurant, only to be interrupted by massive thunderstorm. Poor old Mr and Mrs B had forgotten their umbrellas so got very wet indeed!

Mr and Mrs B enjoying the Orchid Garden

Mr and Mrs B enjoying the Orchid Garden

TempJBCLARE08

Mrs B and Mrs C trying to merge with the flora…

 TempJBCLARE07 TempJBCLARE05 TempJBCLARE04 Dodging showers and trying to find taxis seemed to be the biggest challenges of this visit; nevertheless we areyet again stunned by the Gardens on the Bay; lunch in one of the Supertrees affords a sumptuous view. Not as good as the viewing platform at Marina Bay Sands which had to be done despite black clouds all around.

on the walkway between the Supertrees

on the walkway between the Supertrees

Economics grads posing for a team photo

Economics grads posing for a team photo

Chinatown is also a must-see in SIngapore, poking round the tat stalls nevertheless affords good bargains while, at the higher end, the intricacies of a specialist tea shop delight.  Here Clare bought a dead ringer for the Hare with the Amber Eyes teapot…My more prosaic larger elephant teapot is perfect for more than two people! Thanks Clare!

These are Chinese zodiac teapots

These are Chinese zodiac teapots

My birthday teapot!

My birthday teapot!

It has to be done, that famous Singapore Sling. So off to Raffles with some of Mr B’s visiting friends – far too sweet for me and, I gather, all pre-made so a bit of a production line. But the Long Bar is a fun place, even if rather full or tourists, like us! Afterwards to a real find, specialist Peranakan/Straits Malay restaurant, Blue Ginger, where we let the waiter do the ordering and we eat greedily and with gusto.

The girls enjoying the Slings

The girls enjoying the Slings

Clare and me in the ancient hallway of Raffles

Clare and me in the ancient hallway of Raffles

Yummy crab

Yummy crab

Mr and Mrs B tucking in...

Mr and Mrs B tucking in…

And so the the birthday: preceding night dinner we feast on chilli crab at Jumbo Seafoods in Boat Quay;  then Sunday lunch at one of our favourites, Din Tai Fung, the Taiwanese dumpling house (not as good as the original one in Taipei, but still yummy); and then 20 or so new-found friends, plus one or two older ones from university days, for drinks. As it was Diwali, I ordered samosas, bhajis and pakoras, promptly delivered by Omar Shariff (I wish it was really he, that would have been the best birthday present ever!), and Mr and Mrs B made a few blinis, while Lucie G brought a delicious cake! (see picture up top)

But not all play, dear readers: Mr B had lots of meetings and went out clad in a suit, much to our amusement; while Mrs B, aka Clare Cooper of Art First, and I had a Board meeting and strategy summit on my sofa while I rested my leg on a hot water bottle.

Mr and MRs B posing in front of the canapes they expertly assembled!

Mr and Mrs B posing in front of the canapes they expertly assembled!

Don’t laugh, you hear me right – I have a large haemotoma on my calf which means I can’t walk or stand for long. A challenge for Monday’s induction meeting at the Tanglin Club which involved a lot of standing about…and even more of a challenge for next weekend’s visit to Mumbai, for our diving in Sulawesi the following week…and the ski season. Painful physio and ultrasound on the menu to try and get my leg back…

I will keep you updated!