Tag Archives: mark ridgwell

Chemo cancelled March 13th

Ten minutes before driving to the hospital yesterday for Mark’s second and bigger dose of chemotherapy he gets a phone call. The oncologist has forgotten to write the prescription and she is out of the country and can’t be contacted. Mark’s cancer nurse is not in today, and no, there is no-one else to speak to. Ring tomorrow and we may be able to update you. I wonder if these people have ever experienced the wait and hope for a chemo treatment, and the impact, when you prepare mentally for the challenge, to be told you are cancelled.

Torrential rain is falling which has washed off the seagull poo from our windows.

We have time for an outing but this part of Sussex is closed, unless you want to be blown off the cliff walks.

The one journey we do make is to St Wilfrid’s Hospice in Eastbourne – this may seem a strange choice, but I wanted Mark to visit and see its modern design with its corridors filled with impressive artwork. At such a time, I love the peace, calm and kindness of staff. Unlike the hospital, people have time to talk and offer positive help but we need a doctor’s letter to be able to use the support when needed.

To avoid the storms blowing in from the sea, I drive back on the sheltered, picturesque side of the South Downs, past the road that runs below Folkington church where the food writer Elizabeth David is buried. We were so excited to discover her beautiful headstone which is carved with sprays of olives, figs, lemons, artichokes and aubergines, with a large marmite pot in the centre – the origin of the Marmite name and glass shape. On one of my birthdays, Mark and I toasted her there with champagne and canapes – I’m sure she would have approved.

Inscribed at the headstone base, ‘Her books on cookery brought joy and enlightenment to food lovers all over the world.’

I turn off the A27 and drive past the famous chalk figure of The Long Man of Wilmington cut into the steep slope of Windover Hill. He holds a stick in each hand as he gazes out over the ancient fields and downland. One year he was given a 20 foot large chalk penis, which was swiftly cleared to save his dignity.

Then on through rain soaked lanes, overlooking the flooded water meadows of Alfriston and past the signs for Toads on the Road at night.

Toads on the road Litlington

‘What do I do if I suddenly run into them?’ ‘Squish’ says Mark.

On past  Litlington Tea Gardens opened in 1870, which serves delicious Victoria sponge cake when the tourist season begins, then a glance right to the Litlington White Horse high on the escarpment with views over the sodden Cuckmere Valley and up the hill and home to Seaford for tea. Only Mark can’t taste it any more, so he has cold goat’s milk.


Cooking is my creative respite but Mark’s new diet puts restrictions on our usual meals. No brassicas, onions, seeds, nuts, high fibre ingredients like celery, oats or skins of fruit. The doctor has said to cut down on the meat as the chewy bits are so indigestible, but Mark’s iron count is down, and meat is an easy source. Our local Seaford butcher, C. Walbrin displays a pile of pigs’ trotters in the window and the man in front of me has bagged five of them. Never to be outdone, I choose 2 small ones. ‘What do you do with them?’ ‘Boil them for soup.’ ‘How long? ‘ Long as you want’ – he heaves his butcher’s knife to cleft each one  in half.

I’ve just reread Animal Farm and as I gaze at the yellow-skinned trotters with their red horny toenails laid out on my chopping board I wonder if I could rewrite the ending. Imagine that now both of Napoleon’s front feet are boiling in my saucepan. It serves him right for walking on his hind legs and pretending to be human. I’ll doctor the famous phrase to  ‘All NHS patients are equal but some are more equal than others – but only if they have private medical insurance.’

The trotters make the strangest grey liquor which cools to make a delicious savoury jelly, The man with the five big trotters might make some brawn but my little trotters have no muscle meat on them at all – poor little piggies.

Next on the butcher’s slab is a pile of lamb’s breasts and he’s busy removing the bones, then stuffing and rolling the meat to make a roast breast of lamb joint. He cuts his rolled breasts into tiny portions to sell to single pensioners for their roast dinner.

‘I thought thought breasts of lamb were sold to the doner kebab factories’ I ask the butcher.

‘Maybe, but we buy in whole animals like lamb so we get all the cuts and offal. And local Seaford people love it.’

A pile of white tripe that looks like the remnants of my grandmother’s crochet bag might be on my cook list for the future. But the shredded dried bits of pigs’ ears hanging in bags are strictly for for dog owners.

A whole breast with bones costs £3 and weighs in at 1.5 kilos – that’s £2 a kilo and mighty cheap. I’ll slow roast it with lots of rosemary and sea salt so that the meat is tender and soft to eat.

At home I look up a recipe for breast of lamb and discover that Matthew Fort has recreated Elizabeth David’s Breast of Lamb St Menehoulde’

Just as well she didn’t have little lambs carved into her headstone overlooking all the pregnant sheep on the South Downs.

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March 6th Blue Badge Award

From Mark

Last night Charlie my grandson stayed over with his dad. This morning at 6.45 am when he saw the huge six wheel dumper trucks moving the beach, he told his father, Simon, that he wanted to stand watch with gran gran and miss school. Simon said that was not possible. Gran gran said she was a qualified teacher and could do home schooling, but Charlie went off to his wonderful Lewes school, as is proper.

So Seaford is definitely increasing its appeal to all comers – young and old alike.

Received lovely pictures last night of the 2 cocoa trees we planted in St Lucia in December 2016. They are a thriving 7 feet tall with wooden tags for Charlie and Daisy Ridgwell on each. Hopefully we will have some future Hotel Chocolat to share.

Sun has come out today and a good thing about the winter is the air is so clear, we can see the white cliffs of the Isle of Wight on the horizon. South of this island the winds often fly straight to Seaford from America with no landfall in between and that’s when Jenny would prefer to be inland.

From Jenny

So now we are Blue Badge holders with a techie parking badge to put in the front window of my car. Freedom of the road for us, or at least freedom to park on any double yellow line that we choose.

Here are some ideas –

We can

  • Drive to Brighton, visit our favourite restaurants and park outside. No number 12 bus or cancelled trains for us.
  • Park anywhere in Lewes – a triumph after all these years of worry
  • Park in Cliff High St, Lewes and sit and watch my car from Bills, with no stress

Perhaps one of you can tell me the most spectacular Blue Badge places so that we can plan our day trips around Britain.


March 6th is a follow-up visit to the oncologist to check on how the chemo is going. I hate the abbreviation to chemo more than I dislike university becoming uni, but for different reasons. The drive to Eastbourne Hospital over the South Downs is always refreshingly beautiful and the many sheep in the fields may be ready to lamb soon. I have no idea when lambing begins, but somehow they looked fatter and more maternal.

Our hospital check in has gone digital and the human welcome counter has the shutters down and is replaced with a Patient Check In Screen that you Touch to start.

The TV screen on the wall flashes cancer help websites and tells us that the doctor has at least a 30 minute delay.

Screens to make me scream!

Time for me to play Rag’n’Bone Man Human again very, very loud. 470 million views – 1 million from me. And he comes from Uckfield 10 miles away and was expelled from Ringmer school – so Charlie and I could have bunked off today.

We sit with silent patients on blue plastic seats the colour of forget-me-knots waiting our turn.

Want something to read? Choose from the CANCER wall of leaflets

  • Weight management when you have cancer
  • Want someone to talk to about cancer?
  • Travel and Cancer
  • Signs and symptoms of cancer

I pick up the leaflet Wind, gas and bloating and learn that brussels sprouts and broccoli are big culprits.

If you’ve reached the oncology department, surely the signs and symptoms have been recognised.


The oncologist is as always quiet and calm and checks her computer screen. I might like her if we met outside this hospital room without a view.

‘How has it been since the treatment?’
Today Mark is robust. ‘Well I’ve reached the weight my doctor told me that I had to lose.’ And I haven’t lost weight in the last six days. And I’m feeling OK.’

She looks at me ‘You are quiet – anything to add?’  Only to shout ‘Listen to Rag’n’bone Man.’

So one gold star for Mark for reaching his healthy eating target and one for me and Annabel for feeding him the highest calorie, nutritious food he chooses to eat. I’ve been told by the dietitian to increase his fibre. The oncologist disagrees and supports Mark in being cautious.

Now we reel into chemo discussions and the plan to increase the dose on Monday.

I’ve tweeted Rag’n’Bone Man to see if he is back in Brighton performing – if so we’ll park on the double yellow lines outside and wave our Blue Parking Badge.

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2nd March The battle of the banks

Today has been a battle of bureaucracy

But first the good news. Seaford, as you know, is in the micro-climate on the Sussex coast and we are unaffected by Storm Emma with virtually no snow or high winds.
One local wag said
I hear just one more reference to The Beast From the East I will personally give them A Sock From The South’.
The weather forecast has screeched alarms in the last few days but here at Splash Point we are made of stronger stuff. In past months the house has been blasted with unnamed storms, the windows rattle and the roof wobbles like Rolf Harris’s didgeridoo. But last night, all was calm.

And more good news – today I received 3 letters – one from HM Revenue with a cheque for overpaid tax – if they send me a bill, I pay it.

Another to tell me that I have normal results from my bowel cancer screening, ‘but no screening test is 100% effective.’ Mark’s test a few months ago was also clear.

And a third from the brilliant Lisa Joffe who paints Sussex landscapes with her improvisational movement of oils and charcoal over canvas. We have two huge dramatic paintings which occupy most of the lounge walls – they match the colour of Seaford’s spectacular sunsets with swirls of orange, grey, blue and black. The picture shows Mark’s choice which he says is like the Fighting Temeraire by Turner. I’m not going to show Turner’s painting here as I got fined £1200 by Stock Photo for showing a radish picture on this website 10 years ago.
Watch her fabulous video as she explores Hope Gap

Lisa Joffe’s painting – Mark’s choice that he says looks like The Fighting Temeraire by Turner

But today was the battle of the bank to get Mark’s HSBC account changed to both our names. I drove him in on Monday to be told that there were no appointments until Friday. We spent hours on the phone helpline with no effect.  My chat on their Customer Support was terminated with  

‘There is no point in further conversation, it would be better to contact the telephone banking team and get support from them.’

When I checked their adverts and discovered a perky HSBC Youtube video starring Richard Ayoade with the tag

‘HSBC UK, we believe that no man, or woman, is an island. Together we thrive,’

So thanks to Sarah for online advice, I wrote a comment on the website.  A swift reply came to my email asking for my address. My Youtube posting under the video seems to have been hidden.

The bank account has now been changed so I will have access. But the days of an available bank manager or human help have gone – we are digital beasts tapping in code numbers and getting voice recognition to help us in the future global community as we skip into the sunset.


From Mark

Today Gerry Wadman of Sussex Sports Cars came down – one of my first great friends that I made in Lewes. I drew attention to myself when I drove to the tip past his garage in my Mustang. Gerry has been my wonderful partner in buying and enjoying some fabulous cars and he’s offered to take me for a spin in an E Type on a drive to Brighton. For the first time in my life I have no cars, so thankyou Gerry – maybe we’ll be at Goodwood Classics later this year.

One of the cars was a Mercedes silver 260 SE Convertible 1967 with red leather interior that Gerry kindly introduced me to. It was owned by a Graff diamond dealer and this car gave great pleasure to the lovely Isobel, my sister in law, when I drove her to hospital  for her first chemo. I then took my wonderful friend Axel and his wife Sue from Wimbledon across the South Downs on a sparkling summer’s day. We drove round Beachy Head, down to Birling Gap and on to Lewes with the roof down through some of the most scenic routes in Sussex. So Gerry keep the E Type engine warm for our spin.

Supper is yellow fin tuna ceviche, followed by chicken, mushroom, spinach and cream pie with filo topping cooked by my daughter Annabel. Served with Taittinger and Rioja.

Reply from Bryan
Glad eventually you got some human somewhere who was able to help getting the bank account sorted. Prayer for you

Reply from Sue
Mark we loved your piece about the drive that afternoon in your special Mercedes car …..it was amazing …the scenery, weather and company provides us too with happy and special memories! Thank you for writing about them!

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