Come Valentine’s Day, romantically-minded Liam likes to put on a show and the show in question was the Calendar Girls musical at the Theatre Royal, Norwich. And what a show it was too. Adapted from the 2003 film, it’s based on the real-life story of a group of middle-aged Yorkshire lasses from the local Women’s Institute who bare all in a naughty calendar. The husband of one of the racy ladies had died from cancer and the modest aim was to raise enough cash to buy a new sofa for the relatives’ room at their local hospital. The plucky troop battled against their own considerable anxieties and stiff resistance from their local chairlady, horrified as she was that the squeaky-clean, jam and Jerusalem reputation of the WI would be badly sullied. Eventually though, the ladies triumphed. The calendar was a runaway international success and it, and the sequels, have so far raised over £2 million for Leukaemia research. And the ladies bought the sofa. I call that a result.
The musical version, with a score by Gary Barlow from Take That, is emotional without being soppy, tuneful, uplifting, joyous and very, very funny. The touring cast of well-knowns and less well-knowns really know how to belt out a song or two. Like us, the audience lapped it up and gave a standing ovation at the end. For some, though, it was all too much. The lady next to Liam sobbed the whole way through. Cancer, as we all know, is a serious business.
For a taste, here’s the trailer (from the West End production)
While we’re away lotus-eating on Crete, supping and splashing about, here are a few random snaps of Norwich, ‘a fine city’ according to the civic slogan – to remind us that, as Dorothy said in Oz, there’s no place like home. As dedicated friends of Dorothy, we are in full agreement.
Once more round the sun and it’s that time again to look back at the top of the pansy crop. For some reason, matters medical and mortality caught the imagination this year. On a happier note, stepping back in time to renew old acquaintances and bear witness to vows ’til death they do part also proved popular. So ladies and gents, I give you…
A Manifesto for Life | Back to Bodrum | Perking the Pansies | It’s All Double Dutch to Me | Victoria Wood, RIP | Scarred for Life | Postcards from Gran Canaria | See the Tree, How Big It’s Grown | A Pain in the Arse | David Bowie, Starman
The Happy Couple
Purples Pansies in Bodrum
Scarred for Life
Liam in Gran Canaria
See the Tree How Big It’s Grown
Norfolk and Norwich Hospital
A Manifesto for Life
And then there were the year’s three most popular images. Really, have you no shame?
Tom’s Posing Pouch
Biker Boys in Cromer
I recently had a lumpy growth on my ankle. It looked exactly like the ‘wisdom’ wart I’d had on my head a few years ago. Clearly I’m getting wiser as I get wider. I had the wisdom to have that ugly bugger sliced off.
So off I went again to the doc. She said,
Looks like a wart to me but best get it checked out.
I got a call from the local hospital the next day and a few days on, I was flashing my warty ankle at the dermatology top dog. He said,
Looks like a wart to me but best get it sliced off.
A week later I was flashing my warty ankle at the dermatology underling for the slicing. She said,
‘Looks like a wart to me but best get it to the lab.’
I felt rather guilty as I hobbled aboard the bus taking me home. Not to put too finer point on it, the National Health Service is facing a number of difficult challenges right now. The care I received was fast and faultless but just a bit over the top for a simple wart. But what did I know?
Two weeks later, I received a letter.
The shave excision from your right foot showed a slow growing type of skin cancer known as basal cell carcinoma*.
So. I’m not so wise after all. And it turns out I need a bit more dug out. At this rate I’ll be hobbling all the way back to Bodrum.
*Basal cell carcinoma is a non-melanoma type of skin cancer that rarely spreads and is easily treatable. It’s probably the result of me prancing about barefoot and barely clothed in the Far East during the sixties. Serves me right, I suppose. Had a fabulous tan though.
I rarely mix business with blogging. I prefer to keep my irreverent witterings personal. But sometimes something comes my way I just can’t let pass. Just recently, Springtime Books published a breast cancer diary called Do you still have cleavage with just one breast? by Sue Lawrence, a Canadian now living in the Netherlands. It’s gritty, brave, straight-talking and inspirational. Many of us have been or will be affected by the evil that is the big C. Sue met it head on. The title says it all.
Here’s the blurb:
On honeymoon and two months pregnant, Sue discovers a lump in her breast. This is her raw, unpolished diary as she navigates the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Brutally honest, she faces the overwhelming terror of the road ahead – for herself and her unborn daughter.
Her candid diary entries reflect the impact the disease has on her marriage and impending motherhood. It ends with Tips for Cancer Warriors – signposts and guidelines for those following in her footsteps.
This remarkable and compelling memoir will empower others to feel whatever they need to feel as they battle this disease – it’s their cancer.
The book contains so many memorable quotes. Here’s just a few:
Mastectomy bras resemble slingshots in white or beige polyester… they bring out the grandmother in you.
I find the cancer story slips out – like I’m an oozing, emotional slut wanting to share my pain with everyone.
Chemotherapy smells of rubber bands and it still sticks at the back of my nose. I want to retch. My hair fell out this morning… my bowels feel like they’re falling out of my ass.
Mark moments that are important to you. Go on a trip. Light candles. Write a diary. Stay in bed and cry. Ever the drama queen, I sent a photo of my cancerous breast down the Athabasca Falls in Canada and then had a Nipple Party complete with a documentary and book… Find your joy. And do it every day.
Sue’s incredible story is available in print and e-book at the usual places. Here’s the link to Amazon.
You know you’re getting long in the tooth when you’re regularly called in by the quack to check for a pulse. The latest invitation dropping onto the mat was for bowel cancer screening. Apparently, there’s a national programme to screen everyone over the age of 55. My invitation came with an evening appointment and a handy little leaflet written in plain English even I can understand.
Of course, I’m ever grateful my inescapable slide towards the slab is being carefully monitored by the white coat crew. I strongly suspect, however, they’d be less conscientious if I fessed up to my persistent alcohol dependency.
I won’t go into the precise nature of the procedure I’m about to endure. Suffice it to say, it’ll be a pain in the arse.
It’s six months since Liam went under the knife to have Terry the Tumour extracted. Troublesome Terry was a lump beneath Liam’s ear and it just kept getting bigger. The doc reckoned it was benign but might turn nasty if left undisturbed. I was getting quite attached to Terry but, just like Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby, Liam screamed, “get it out of me!” So out it had to come. I was hoping Terry would come home in a jam jar for a decent burial but off he went for an autopsy, never to be seen again. Still, the nice Italian neck surgeon was ‘very reassured’ by the result (that’s quack-speak for ‘we got it all out, Grazie a Dio!’).
It’s eighteen months since the arterial bypass to re-acquaint my left leg with a pulse. That worked a treat too though I won’t be tripping the light fantastic on ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ any time soon. For a cheeky parlour game on a damp night, we compare gashes. Remarkably, what once looked like Liam had been garrotted is now just a neat mark along his jaw line. And he’s rather pleased with the unexpected partial facelift. As for me, I was slashed open from moobs to pubes like John Hurt in ‘Alien’ so I naturally assumed my beach bum days were behind me. But no. These days, all the boys would see is a thin, slightly discoloured line mostly hidden by tummy fuzz. Now, where did I put those Speedos?