Friday, May 29, 2009

Sorry Folks ...

I haven't been posting recently. My home laptop computer is playing up - loose connection on the power input. Hope to get it fixed next week when I get paid!

And then back to blogging ...

The Purple Vampire

Hello all,

A quickie, once again!

I’m sending this partly to celebrate Geek Pride Day. No, really…

.. As I am proud to be a geeky alien butt kicking vampire queen bitch from hell. Amongst other things…

Also thought I’d send you a pic of me with my Ripley-style Number 2 buzz cut. Of COURSE it’s purple – whaddya mean I can’t dye my hair just because I’ve got cancer? Pffft. The very thought. Yes, I am very aware that I look like an 80s lesbian. Which is odd, because when I WAS an 80s lesbian I looked nothing like this…

I’m back in The Christie tomorrow, so am enjoying my last barf-free day for a while. Then I shall be baldly going where no-one (well, me at least) has gone before.

Enjoy the sunshine, folks, and talk again soon,

Rosie xxxx

Sick AND Twisted

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Rosie update

Hello campers,

Sending a quick message to you all… and with great relief I can report that I feel a whole lot perkier! (*burst of hallelujah chorus*)

This week I feel back to myself - which is more marvellous than I can say. A wonderful sense of being returned to the real world after the ghastly nightmare of having poison pumped into my system. And then spending a week waiting for it to go away. Luckily, the delightful side-effects of red bumpy skin, acid reflux, burned mouth, and my lips feeling like they’ve been repeatedly rubbed against a cheesegrater have worn off.

Yup, last week was an on-the-couch-watching-old-star-trek-videos kinda week.

But I forced myself to go out of the house every day – first day I made it 200 yards, then had to sit down. Next day 300 yards and DIDN’T have to sit down… the day after that made it to the post office. And so on.

And on Sunday I had a big adventure & went to the cinema! Finally saw the Star Trek movie, which was … ok. But no way would Spock snog Uhura in the transporter room. Or anywhere else. Sorry, Kirk & Spock are boyfriends, and always will be J

Thank you DARLINGS for your kind thoughts, and all the fabulous support you’ve shown – in all kinds of ways… Taking me places I can’t walk to, ringing me up, emailing, coming round to visit, buying me icecream & sushi & Jolly Green Giant creamed corn, sending me cards & flowers & pretty pictures via the interweb, sending books, dvds, or darnit, just giving LOVE.

I'm back in The Christie for my next round with Mike Tyson (ding ding) next Tuesday 26th, and I'll be stuck in Ward 4 for a week.

I shall be bald, so gear up to me looking like Lieutenant Ilia / Ripley in Alien 4 / The Borg Queen (but without the fetching bulldog clips around my forehead). Yup, my hair is finally relinquishing its hold and I am getting a buzz cut done tomorrow. I would much rather cut the whole damn lot off in one go rather than suffer the death of a thousand small handfuls every time I run my fingers through it.

If you are around at all next week, pop up & see me, make me smile! I promise not to barf all over you. Except on Thursday.

take care of yourselves out there

Rosie x

The Economic Crisis

I get more pounds for my dollars (good for Nanda), I get less Euros for my dollars (and thus bad for me as the local currency is tied to the dollar but when I take money out of our UK -based bank account it goes through the Eurozone).

Prices here go up and up.

I went back to Rochdale at Christmas. The general high-street store (toys to furniture to bedding ...), Woolworths, that has existed since before I was born, was closing down nationwide. So I assumed just the local store's staff were being layed off. It turns out that Woolworth's distribution centre for the entire north-west of England is in Rochdale. 500+ people unemployed.

Rochdale, Manchester, the north-west of England in general, were never rich. The towns around Manchester relied on textile mills that gradually closed down in the face of competition from overseas.

Rochdale's high street is populated with charity shops - shops staffed by volunteers with goods donated by the public. Nanda tells me they are closing down - the public cannot afford to donate goods anymore.

Diaries and Blogs

What is the same?

"What an odd thing a diary is: the things you omit are more important than those you put in." (Simone de Beauvoir)

What is the difference?

As I mentioned in a recent post I am reading Fridjoft Nansen's "Farthest North" - a day by day account of his 1890's expedition to the Arctic. It's 600 odd pages long in a very small font so I'm only halfway through but am enjoying it thoroughly.

Living a life of a bachelor, the house has become a bit of a mess, so in anticipation of the arrival of family, I've started clearing up a bit (although I know however much I do Nanda will not be satisfied!). Tackling the living room dining table (covered in computer magazines, books, technical papers ranging from Linux to marine crustaceans to orchids), tackling the mess of the kids' bedroom etc etc.

But I come across handwritten diaries in the '80s before I had a computer. And I start reading them. Memories ...

People I don't remember, people I remember but lost touch with years ago. Events I don't remember.

So what is the difference?

Well, unless google goes bust and its blogging service comes to an end, our blog will last forever. Even then, there's a good chance it will get stored on one of the Internet archive projects that have sprung up.

One day, my old paper diaries will be lost, eaten by bugs or destroyed in a fire (unless Iwas to transcribe them into a "blog" now - an awesome task! And would it really be of interest to anyone? As it is our blog only gets 30-50 hits a day and most of those are the posts on hacking BBC iPlayer from overseas!).

Nansen's Arctic journal reads like a blog, and given its unique theme, makes it read like a very good blog - much more interesting than my own random jottings about whatever comes into my head. Even Drs Crippen and Rant, Tom Reynolds (except when he starts writing about computer games!) stick to a theme. Although our blog initially had a predominant theme, Kezia's luekaemia, now she is off-treatment, it talks less and less about leukaemia - I have little to report, the results of periodic and increasingly less frequent medical examinations.

Rob, father of Fergus, optimistically started a new blog when his son came off-treatment.

But this blog will continue with the name "Life with Leukaemia" - as the doctors will not consider Kezia clear until 5 years have passed. I am not so optimistic/confident and this blog will continue with the same title for five years, when I might change it to Life after Leukaemia.

Another difference - back in Nansen's day few diaries were published and few bought. Literacy rates were much lower. Book-shops less ubiquitous. Money was perhaps tighter (... but given the current economic crisis!).

... which will lead on to the next post!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Dorothy Parker - Three Poems

Dorothy Parker was a great intellect, a great wit and socialite.


By the time you swear you're his,
Shivering and sighing,
And he vows his passion is
Infinite, undying -
Lady, make a note of this:
One of you is lying.


They hail you as their morning star
Because you are the way you are.
If you return the sentiment,
They'll try to make you different,
And once they have you, safe and sound,
They want to change you all around.
Your moods and ways they put a curse on;
They'd make of you another person.
They cannot let you go your gait;
They influence and educate.
They'd alter all that they admired.
They make me sick, they make me tired.


Woman wants monogamy;
Man delights in novelty.
Love is woman's moon and sun;
Man has other forms of fun.
Woman lives but in her lord;
Count to ten, and man is bored.
With this the gist and sum of it,
What earthly good can come of it?

A Tale of Kafka's two Post Offices

These days airlines don't like minors travelling on their parents' passports.

So, although Kezia entered the UK on her mother's passport and now has a UK passport, we thought it wise, particularly as her appearance has changed so much in three years, to obtain a Santomense passport for her to facilitate check-in and immigration at Heathrow when they return to São Tomé e Príncipe at the end of July rather than getting a visa put in her UK passport.

So we duly wrote a letter, sent off her "Cedula Pessoal" (a kind of identity document for kids which is also a record of vaccinations etc), passport photos and transferred 40 Euros to the bank account of the nearest Santomense embassy which is in Brussels. They issued and sent off a passport the day after everything had arrived (March 18).

We waited and waited ...

Eventually, I asked the embassy to make enquiries at the Belgian post office. They said it had arrived in the UK.

We waited a bit more.

Then my brother enquired at our local UK post office. Nope - no trace of it.

We waited a bit more.

Then I went to the UK post office "Track and Trace" service website and ... nope you cannot "track and trace" incoming international registered mail. But they helpfully provided an email address for their Customer Services which I duly wrote to - only to receive the response that the originating post office must conduct the search.

So I look up the Belgian post office website which helpfully also has a "Track and Trace" service (in English even!), type in the registered mail code only to find the message "Dispatched 18 March. Arrived in foreign country".

So I send a screenshot of this and message back to the UK Royal Mail Customer Services Representative (at a "call centre" who knows where).

And we wait a bit more ...

Friday, May 15, 2009

hello Wednesday x

Update from Rosie ...

Hello darlings all,

Long time no update!

At long last I'm back at home.

I had a pretty bad day on Saturday, and a worse one Sunday, hence no contact… I had a bit of a fainty collapse thing on Sunday and they confined me to bed. Yes, me, confined! I ask you. All together now: DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?

‘But I need a wee!’ I wailed.

Pah, was their sterny faced response. And off we went again with them collecting my pee in buckets. And wheeling it away for who knew what nefarious purposes. Honestly, if anyone thinks for one nanosecond that I entertain medical ‘fantasies’ then they do not know me at all. He he he.

I was also supposed to go home on Sunday night – needless to say that was a blowout. I got an allergic reaction to the drug (gosh, anyone would think that chemo is poison!) & didn’t leave till late Monday while they ran more blood tests - & I did my finest impersonation of someone who is really well & is raring to run a half-marathon.

It worked, I escaped, I got home, I lay down.

Here we are on Wednesday. Recovering slowly; taking it very easy, trying to be both patient and gentle with myself (2 things that don't always come easily to me…)

eating good food and as much of it as I can, taking tiny little walks and letting myself notice when I'm tired and then giving myself permission to sit the hell down!

So, I really do thank you for your warm and loving messages, they mean a lot and are sparkling up my days, my dears. Thanks for continuing to understand how tired I am, and how I’m needing to spend a lot of time curled up on an old towel in the airing cupboard, like that sick kitty you once had.

Take good care yourselves - here's healing all round!

Rosie xxx

Sexual Abuse

This post should begin with an image of an African child being raped.

I am a white male in his 40s living in a very small African island nation in the Gulf of Guinea, where I ended up having wandered the globe for several years.

Jo, the coordinator of Papillon, a support group in the UK for African and Afro-Caribbean people who have been on the receiving end of sexual abuse and which meets at the Terence Higgins Trust HQ, the Lighthouse, in London, has asked me to write about sexual abuse for the Papillon website ... and I don't really know where to start as there are at least three aspects the sexual abuse of children I want to cover ...

a) my own experience within my own family
b) sex tourism
c) African abuse of children - sexual or otherwise

Since Jo approached me I have talked with several people here and, even outside the war zones of Africa, the sexual abuse of children in Africa is more common than widely assumed.
I will start my list above in reverse order. But first let us do away with some common assumptions ...

The age of sexual consent, whether hetero- or homosexual, is not uniform across the world. In the UK 16 year olds can have sex, get married, cannot buy alcohol, drive a car or go to the cinema to see an over-18 rated film or vote. In other countries homosexuality is forbidden (sometimes a capital offense), the age of heterosexual consent lower, arranged marriages permitted etc etc. However, the age of heterosexual consent is generally considered to be no lower than the age at which puberty sets in. Post-pubescent homosexuality is linguistically defined as pederasty, and, although it can be equally as damaging emotionally and psychologically as the abuse of pre-pubescent children, paedophilia, should not be confused with the latter - let's say the age of heterosexual consent is 14 ... is that paedophilia. However, if it against a person's consent, then it is sexual abuse.

But the sexual abuse of pre-pubescent children happens.

The spread of the Internet has led to the widespread distribution of paedophilic material (mainly photographic), both hetero- and homosexual. And this has led to far more prosecutions of (non-IT savvy) paedophiles who leave a data trail behind them.

Not so in the developing world where the Internet structure is so much weaker, , where most people don't even have a telecom connection, where most people don't have access to a computer.

The use of child "soldiers" in Africa is widely reported. A typical case is the Lords Army insurrection in northern Uganda (spilling over into soutern Sudan and the D. R. of Congo - and just in case it has passed your attention the Lords Army is a barmy quasi-religious movement led by a barmy self-proclaimed "Messiah"). Less-reported is the sexual and other abuse (drugs, violence etc) that these children suffer.

But let me move closer to home where we don't have civil strife, wars, famine etc.
On Sunday, very kindly, a colleague who I will refer to as R. visited me at my invitation to talk about the sexual abuse of his six year-old daughter by a 17 year-old neighbour. I remember when it happened - he was, obviously, angry and upset. But there is effectively no criminal justice system for "minors" here and no penal institutions for minors. The guilty party walked away scot-free.

Making headline news in a local newspaper last week was the case of 70 year-old French citizen resident here accused of sexually abusing teenage girls. No real proof - latest heing he pissed off the local police who invented the case. Who knows?

Which leads me on to Subject b) above - Sex Tourism.

Several European countries have now passed legislation whereby an abuser can be prosecuted in their home countries for sexual abuse of children in overseas countries. Until now this has mainly involved abusers who have travelled to SE Asia to procure sex with minors.

It happens in Africa too. Less European tourists come to Africa than SE Asia. The police systems are weaker, the judicial systems are weaker, the penal systems are weaker than in SE Asia..

But it happens.

Which will now leads me onto a) my own experience within my own family.

"I almost didn't marry your father when I discovered he had two full plates of false teetth" (as well as a bald pate and a pot-belly - not a very physically-attractive character - but I think she was dazzled by his intellect).

But this was a euphemism - she knew he had served a prison sentence (of, I believe, one year) for sexually abusing two boys he had been tutoring. Not sure when this was. He was born in 1922 and so became a legal adult in April 1940, soon after the beginning of World War II. He studied for his B.Sc. in chemistry at the University of Aston, Birmingham at night school and mostly definetly served as a Gas Identification Officer going out after German air-raids to see if any of the bombs dropped contained gas and giving lectures to other home service workers about gas (I well remember all the paraphenalia stored in the attic - including a kit of samples containing mustard gas etc for his audience to smell!).

The story goes that he worked in a "protected industry" - a factory producing paint for the armed forces. However, my aged but youthful (in her 80s but still drives and recently got hooked up to the Internet - she is a story/post to herself) Aunt Gwen recently related to me how he mysteriously disappeared for a year during the war and then just reappeared one day - so even though I had assumed the sexual abuse offense occurred in the early'50s before my parents married in 1958, it was probably during the war ... and with a criminal record, was considered unfit for military service (though I doubt he would have passed a fitness test!). I later learned that, as family worked for the local newspaper, a report of the conviction was suppressed.

I learned of his paedophilic/pederastic/incestuous tendencies in the '70s. My father was into amateur photographic processing - we had an improvised dark-room with the right chemicals, an enlarger etc. Rolls of negatives lay in a bowl on a shelf in the dining room. I invited a friend home for tea after school and waas showing him these roles of negatives.

Suddenly, holding a strip of negatives up to the light, I see an image of a 15/16 year old boy, the son of family friends of my parents, naked in woods near our town. I quickly roll up the strip of negatives, hoping my school-friend hasn't seen it, and after he goes home and before my father arrives home from work, confront my Mum.

She "confessses".

And then slowly I begin to wonder ...

"Why did my father sit me on his lap when I was a young child?"

"Why did he come into the bathroom so much when I was taking a bath as a teenager?"

"Why did he touch my leg so much when he was giving me driving lessons?"

What else happened that I may have mentally blocked out?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Happy Birthday from the NHS

Update from Rosie ...

Hello darling friends,

I just wanted to say an amazingly big thank you for all your wonderful messages of support, love & general Birthday / Barfday celebration!

I've been quite blown away by the flowers, cards, pictures, chocolate, cake, apricots, booze, & pretty pictures of corsets you've sent me over t'interweb & in person.
Not to mention cheering up Ward 4 with glamour & gothicness in the shape of your dear selves. & thanks for understanding how fast I got tired.

I keep telling myself this can't possibly be the NHS: not least when all the staff on the ward yesterday brought a cake in to me & sang happy birthday. Here's the picture to prove it... me and my Borg Implant & my cake!

You are dear & lovely friends.

I should be ill more often, really, if it gets this sort of response...

As for today, my new and exciting symptom is feeling like I've been duffed up in a dark alley by a gang of skinheads. Aaargh..

Hurrah for painkillers!

At least I don't feel queasy... I can deal with anything but queasy...

And I had chips for my lunch & baked beans on toast for breakfast. Bring it on.

love & stuff

Rosie xxx

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Cash back for Christie

Representatives of the Christie Charity are presenting a petition to the Prime Minister today asking for compensation for the 13 million pounds it lost in the recent Icelandic banking collapse. Nine Members of Parliament (including my own) will be attending.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


I finish work at 16:00 and the bank closes at 15:00 and no such thing as an ATM here.

On a Wednesday in May 2006 we are told Kezia is really sick. São Tomé e Príncipe citizens have the right free medical treatment in Portugal for conditions untreatable here - but the bureaucracy of arranging the medevac can be a kafaesque nightmare however dire the emergency. So the reply is "No you need to go IMMEDIATELY!"

I rush down to our local travel agency- not a large concern, but with branches in three countries - to see if I can get us on the Saturday morning flight to Portugal and then onwards to London. I explain the situation - no problem - I book myself for a week and Kezia and Nanda for a month - payment? "Ach! - pay when you get back!" Taking Jaime over six months later - 50% upfront, 50% on my return (and even then in installments!). The same for every trip I have made to the UK since.

Our Honourary Consul liaised with my embassy x miles away in Angola to get Nanda and Kezia permisssion to enter the UK without a visa and at no charge. (unfortunately, he is no longer Honourary Consul - the Portuguese Embassy now deals with all EU nationals - I hate to think how that would have been!).

Our local shops (really the term should be kiosks but they sell all the essentials) extend tick - useful at the end of the month when money is tight!

The privately-run canteen at work extends me tick.

And if I ring the bank before it closes and tell them how much I need, they set aside enough cash for me to conduct my transaction at 16:30 - otherwise I would use all my annual leave going to the bank!

This would not happen in the UK, nor most countries.

Only in São Tomé e Príncipe!

Right you lot

Hello & good mornink to you all,

I'm feeling really good, having had 5 hours sleep (excellent result, considering that the woman next to me has a snore like builder's rubble being poured down a drainpipe).

In fact I'm feeling much better than I was expecting to (or warned about) - so there's a good chance the sickness/nausea I was told I might get ain't going to happen to me. Yes, early days, but make the most of 'em. I've just poked down a roast beef & Yorkshire pudding dinner following my vast bowl of porridge & banana for brekkie, so I may end up being the first woman to go into the Christie & come out fatter then I went in! Loss of appetite? What loss of appetite? *polite burp* Yeehaaar!

Sooooo.. with that in mind...

It's my birthday on Friday (I think all I need is a megaphone on top of the CIS building then the whole of Manchester will know)
and People have asked if I'm up to visitors - and I say YES.

visiting hours are 2pm-9pm,
I'm in Ward 4, The Christie Hospital, Wilmslow Road (just past the end of Withington Village, if you are driving south out of Manchester.

I've also asked, and been told that if there are more than 2 people, I can take you into the Day room, where there are chairs, tables etc and more room to quaff sparkling grape juice / appletiser and er...cake?

I've also asked to convert the corridor into a bowling alley, the large bathroom into a jacuzzi, and have tassel-twirling burlesque dancers on tap. Not sure how far I'll get, but one does have to ask...

If you'd like to come in and see me, I'd be delighted.
If you're not sure, do email me, this stuff is free & it's helping stave off the cabin fever.

Love to you all,

(the glow-in-the-dark vampire... I don't have to stay away from crowds - they have to stay away from me)

here I am in a Button Moon

Update from Rosie ...

"Hello all,

and thank you to the lovely poetry friend who describes hospital as a trip to Button Moon!

I'm finally here - arrived at 9am and they got me a bed at 4.30pm. 4.30!!! So, much sitting on my arse today. Thank the stars for the free wifi here - I think I'd have been throwing machines that go bing out of the window otherwise...

I'm hooked up to a drip and that is how I'm going to be till next Sunday night - can't leave the ward, and I have to pee into an eggbox - they want to collect my wee & look at it (perverts).

I have a nice window bed, but not the ensuite 4 star spa and sauna package I am sure I ordered...
But everyone seems nice & friendly and I am getting used to dragging a drip machine around with me wherever I go. Rock, and indeed, Roll.

Did my last gigs for a while on Saturday night in Leeds at the fabulous Slippery Belle (what an audience!!), and even last night (Monday) at the Grand in Blackpool. Well, what else was I going to do the night before going into hospital? Stay in and watch telly? It was a wonderful tonic to put on the slap & work an audience up into a frenzy. Wheeee!

Sadly, I've been told I must stay away from crowds, so not only am I spending my birthday in here (this Friday she hinted) BUT when I get out I can't go & see the new Star Trek movie! booooooo. For those of you who already think I'm weird enough, yes, I am a Trek fan. Geek & proud!

Enough, must go & hobble round the ward again like some goffik bag lady.

talk soon, and BIG love to you all,

Rosie xxxxxxxx"

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Tale of Two Schools

Capela Primary School

This post is not you may imagine about Jaime and Kezia's school in the UK, which sent a teddy bear to Jaime's old primary school and which I and my boss Ken presented to that school last week ... but between that school (officially the Escola Primaria Januario Graça) in our local village Capela and the nearest primary school to my workplace in the village if Almas down near the coast (Escola Primaria Manuel Vaz).

Two or three years ago the Republic of China (more usually known as Taiwan with which we have diplomatic relations) renovated the primary school in Capela adding three toilets to an existing two as well as sinking a well withe electric motor driven pump.

Almas primary school with which my workplace has a "community aid" relationship (I personally have been working with them giving IT support to a computer we gave them). The school has no toilet. And which my workplace (which I must stresss is not an aid agency), through our local embassy, is trying to resolve this. But Capela primary school has no computer. Moreover, none of the five toilets at Capela works. First it was found that the well water was so iron-laden, it stained all the ceramics rust-red. Ok still useable, but not particularly aesthetic. Then, given the vagaries of our electricity company, the well pump motor burned up. The pressure of the water supply provided by the local utility company to the three taps in the school courtyard is insufficient to reach the washbasins let alone the lavatory cisterns.

Back when I worked for the Ministry of Education, myself and a colleague setup an English Language Teaching Centre to provide resources for the local English teachers - we even got the Americans to finance a photocopier and a Gestetner machine - but a ream of paper, a toner cartridge etc - fuck off! If it is not a big capital project to be shown off to the taxpayer/voter back home, bilateral donors are not interested.

The Parachoke Stare

I walk, I talk
but nobody cares

I walk, I talk
but nobody hears

I walk, I talk
but nobody's there

And if they are
they give me
the parachoke stare

I walk
I don't know where

Everywhere I go I get
the parachoke stare

Don Van Vliet 1978I