Phil and I became friends at school. We’ve been in close touch for over fifty years. After my first wife died in an accident I stayed with him and his wife Jean for several months until I could bear to go back to the house that we had just bought. I became the first visitor to the maternity ward after the birth of their son. And I helped Phil and son Nathan carry her coffin after Jean died of cancer almost three years ago.
Phil came over from England to stay with me this past week. He is a ranger in a National Park so we did plenty of walking and wildlife spotting. We walked around Castlewellan Lake and saw plenty of Little Grebe diving for food. At Corbet Lough we saw over forty yellow-billed Whooper Swans that had migrated here from the Arctic. Beyond the old harbour at Newcastle we saw six Black-throated Divers that had also migrated here from the frozen North. And strangely enough Phil was delighted to see plenty of our local Hooded Crows, a bird that is scarce in his part of England.
Phil is also very handy at DIY and helped me to change the dripping mixer tap in the kitchen, a job I wouldn’t have felt capable of doing on my own. He hacksawed off the old pipework, removed the old tap, attached two flexible links with compression joints to the new one and the job was done inside an hour. My role was that of the apprentice: handing him tools, shining the torch, filing the ends of the pipes and making the tea.
I also did all of the driving: picking Phil up at the City Airport, taking him around Co Down and delivering him back. It was the first time I had driven as far as Belfast. I managed it fine. Although I must admit I felt pretty tired after he had gone and slept for ten hours for several nights. Being so active every day was probably overdoing it a bit.
T has now returned from her own house, having gone back there to do some sorting out (amongst other things, the Xmas decorations were still up). We are back to our normal routines of eating, walking, worrying and sleeping. The appointment for the first of my scans, the bone scan, is coming up and my apprehension is rising.
On the positive side, I have been out of hospital for five weeks now. I’m eating regular meals and plenty of snacks too. I’ve been gaining about a kilo a week and have just returned to the weight I was before surgery. However, if I carried on at this rate of increase for a couple of months I would have a problem. I can complete an hour’s good walk without getting tired and do this most days. I continue to have pain in my belly, although this is diminishing, but I still need to take regular paracetamol. Overall, I imagine this is reasonable progress given what I have been through.