Breath Of Life

The life and times of Mr Mark Allen....

Monday, January 30, 2006

Clare's Climb's Climax, Potato Couch and The Dogs

Hello Bloggettes,

Well done to Clare Caley who reached the top of Kilimanjaro. I got a text from her from the mountain If you see her give her a hug! If you want to donate here's that link to her site again... CLICK. Dontchajustluvher?!

Happy New Lunar (Chinese) Year! It's the year of the dog. How bizarre with me going Greyhound Racing this week!

This time four years ago I celebrated Chinese New Year in China. And smuggled a lot of very strong Chinese vodka into South Korea.

It was just weeks later I ended up delierious and close to death in a Korean hospital run by nuns, with my parents flying out just hoping to see me before I died.

I blame the icy conditions on the Great Wall, the local tipple and endless rice!

I also blame Pauline, because if she had let me swap her for a two camels and a bottle of Coke - like the Mongolian guy wanted - I could have rode back warm! Lol

I think the man was also trying to give me his daughter in ‘part-exchange’. But by the look of her she wouldn’t have tasted very nice. Perhaps I could have swapped her for a warm coat and a pair of rabbit mittens (only joking, rabbit lovers!)

Anyway. Its been busy (don’t yawn!) I had a look around the gym I won a week’s pass to. It’s Cannon’s on the way to Cannock, (Rawnsley side) near the bridge.

It is very luxurious. There are so many classes like yoga and pilates as well as regular activities and a large gym. I will give it a go. It starts next Tuesday.

I have an induction session with ‘Jodie’. 'Kelly' didn't look anything like I expected by the way!

Until then I am continuing with my fitness drive, its the only way my lungs are going to last the distance. I have started each morning with a cycle (brrrrr COLD!).

I am up and about for my 8am medication and nebulisers so I might as well utilise the time.

When I get back (I do the same block each day) I do stretching and some dumb bell exercises that the hospital told me to do, before a shower.

That’s why I feel wrecked by lunchtime and am a zombie by the afternoon.

On Saturday I went to Lichfield. I took an invoice in and had some bits and bobs to get. (I love that phrase ‘bits and bobs’. What is a bob? Can one buy a bit of bob? )

Saturday lunchtime I bumped in to Erik and Diana (and D’s bump!) So we went to Couch Potato for latte. I was meeting the lovely LC there later anyway so it was perfect.

LC is so funny. It is weird. I feel really comfortable with her, really at ease. It is like I have known her a lot longer than I have, although thinking about it I have known her a long time, but not well, gosh I am rambling now aren’t I? Anyway, you rock friend, ok! Luv ya!

When we meet it's always a day I have to disappear somewhere later on. This isn’t deliberate, ok. Please don’t think I am trying to escape from you or something! Its just my disorganised social life. Am I forgiven?

Anyway big snuggles to LC and the radiant CC. The bestest Bloggettes one could hope for!

I was meeting my mum at Chico’s Café and I met a Lithuanian girl selling cards she had made. It wasn’t till after she had gone I thought. ‘What a story’.

What is someone from Lithuania (which I can’t even picture on a map) doing in sleeping Lichfield.

Why would she choose here? What is her tale? Perhaps she is escaping the Russian mafia. Perhaps she is escaping to avoid an arranged marriage to a Muslim overlord? (Are there Muslim Underlords, or Moslim ones even?)

Perhaps she is just a student!

When I was at Uni in Manchester and working for the uni magazine the editor told us all to go out and find a homeless person and get their story. There were some fascinating ones. Apart from mine who claimed to be on a mission from God to drink cider!

One had got all A-graded at A-level but got rejected from Cambridge for some reason so took a year off and got into drugs and just went downhill. I hear he is still there outside the Cornerstone (?)Cinema in Oxford Road, Manchester.

Anyway….Saturday…I then met up with other CWCCers and got a coach to Perry Barr to the Greyhound Stadium.

It was a good night. The meal was pretty ordinary for ₤18! But the racing was fun. How they get those tiny jockeys onto those little dogs is beyond me

What happens is you all stay in the warm and a lady comes round to each table with a kind of bus-ticket machine.

You tell her the kind of bet and the lane you want and the amount and she gives you a ticket. After each race she comes round and pays the winnings and takes bets for the next race. Its cool as you only have to bet ₤2.

And the programme contains loads of statistics about each dog and its form. (Although we couldn’t be bothered to read it !)

I had a system of sorts and ended up about ₤7 up on the night. But drinks were about ₤2.50 each and by the time I had bought my friend one too and bought a ₤2 programme I was about even!

For one race a group of us went to the actual trackside. Those greyhounds just fly along.

They are so beautiful, sleek and well-disciplined. (and that’s just the waitresses – he he) I suppose that’s why they make such good pets. Apparently they don’t need much exercise either. (I am still talking about the DOGS…!) Our waitress was Tara and she was ok.

We are making progress with the bench for dad in the village park. We have had various moneys come in and with the cricket club donation I think we will have enough.

Sunday I thought about taking a day off from the cycling. But my conscience got the better of me and I went. It was a good job I did because I went to the Park Gate for a couple of drinks at lunchtimes with the usual Sunday suspects and felt really bloated afterwards.

In the afternoon I did a village news piece I do every week for the Mercury newspaper. There was so much to put in this week. I also try to do a little Blast From The Past every week, with a bit of potted history or old newspaper stories from Cannock Wood.

This week I did a little piece about an original version of the National Lottery, which rain the Cannock Wood and Gentleshaw in the1960s. It even had rollover weeks and cost 6d per two numbers.

This week is filling up fast. I am having blood test (more fasting aaaaaagh!) going to an old folks’ home which has set up its own cinema and ‘Wurlitzer’organ – thanks largely to my friend Ian’s late father. This sounds fascinating actually.

I have a couple of half finished features to finish for the local press too as well as starting my Advanced ECDL course evening class at Lichfield and Tamworth College
….Aaaaaaagh (Mark shakes at the thought of his brain having to work again!)

I hear it is a lot harder than the ECDL and Clait Plus evening classes I have done there over the last two years. But at least I won’t have to worry about my oxygen running out during an exam!

There are still tickets to Cannock Wood’s Valentine’s Dance left by the way from Jan or Gary. There are some.ermsurprises guaranteed. I haven’t decided whether I will go yet.

I only know about two people under 50 who will be there, but part of the profits will go to Cystic Fibrosis Trust so I feel I should support it….and…well….we will see.

I am still waiting for the link to be e-mailed to me for my latest music reviews on It normally takes a couple of weeks. I have written about some new bands coming out of Australia and of course (yawn!) of the Arctic Monkeys album. I say 'Yawn' because everyone must be bored of me saying how much I like it by now!

I am having to get up very early and do all my exercises (I really am determined to get my lung function to what a normal person’s should be and beyond but it’s a slow, hard business….. )

You should see the state of me when I come back from the cycle. (Not a pretty sight) and make sure my drugs are laid out for the day. From today I am stopping one painkiller. Wish me luck. If I write anything it will be all shaky!

Friday I am going to BB and BJ’s place in Brum and of course its Colin’s birthday at the weekend. Of course I won’t reveal his real age. But he’s at least four years older than me! It will be my first 'sleepover' since my transplant. Its a real psychological step towards normality.

Well I will love you and leave you I hope you like the pictures. They were all taken on my phone so forgive the quality! They are just of my weekend basically.

Oooooooh KITTEN COULD BE IMMINANT! Ms McKeon has a lovely kitten. A kind of grey, silver tabby with a lovely nature and the cat’s mother it apparently always have these kittens and they are all sweet natured and cute (just like me, eh? L)

She will ring us when the next batch are born! If they are as cute as the little Amerton hedgehog I won’t be able to refuse. It will be difficult just to have one but I must be strong!

“Don’t get taken in by a suntan and a grin,” DM.
“Love is the drug that will get you through,” RM

Villains of the week 1) Express and Star 2) George Galloway 3) The person who ran over that animal between Burntwood and Lichfield (It is now just flat so I don’t know what it was.) grrrrrrrr.

PSL I am now allowed blue cheese again! :)

MUSIC: Travis - Singles, Depeche Mode - Playing The Angel

BOOK: Left-handed-ness Through The Ages

To contact me CLICK

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Doris Karloff, My MOT and the Bare Naked Ladies


NOTE TO SELF: After three years of hell I need a break.
Exactly four years ago today I was in China, on the Great Wall, getting ready for Chinese New Year...gosh.

I arrived early at Burton on Sunday to get train up to Newcastle for my three month 'MOT' on my new lungs. ('Mark's Breathe Bags')

I got on and, although my ticket had her seat number on it a woman refused to move saying. ‘I have two kids…I paid 80 quid for my ticket….We are not going to stand….blah blah blah’. She was common as muck and twice as ugly!

So having two brats on the train entitles you to sit on seats other people have paid for does it? I have no patience with people like her.

I couldn’t be arsed to go into the reasons why I deserve the seat more than her. She is obviously of such a low social class….she wouldn’t understand if I used whole words.

People on the train glared at her, looked at me with sympathy and turned back to their papers. There were ‘knowing’ glances.

They were all glad it wasn’t them facing Doris Karloff and her little Frankensteins!

I looked for an official. A helpful woman reading a Bible, pointed out where the guard was, who told me I could sit in First Class Accommodation instead. Result! Upgrade!

If trailer-trash Trishia hadn’t lost her temper she could have been there! Karma works!

I got to the hospital about four hours later to be told that I had to stay in a flat, a good walk from the hospital, because I could only stay in the ward following the biopsy.

Of course not knowing this I hadn’t brought my nebulising machine, because on the ward, we can put the drugs through the oxygen on the walls.

I spent the evening in a lounge where the coffee machine didn’t work, drinking Diet Coke and writing. It’s a great feeling to get one’s thoughts out onto a page.

I set my alarm for 5.30am on Monday morning as my appointment was at 7.30am and I wanted a shower (at the end of the corridor, just like being back at university!)

There was a cold walk to the hospital (shiver me timbers it did!) and I was on ‘nil by mouth’ so not even the comfort of a coffee (violins please!)

I was first in the queue so when I took the ticket I was one of the first to be seen. I would much rather get it all over with.

I was weighed, prodded, blood taken (loads of it!) I waited until x-ray opened and had an x-ray. I did the various lung function tests.

My FEV1 level is now up to 2.71 – Things are definitely going in the right direction. It is up several percent since last time.

Then I undressed and got into a gown, they put a venflon into my hand and I lay back on the table in the theatre. A few seconds after the ‘sleepy juice’ was injected, I was drowsy. zzzzzzzzzzzzzz

I vaguely remember little bits of the biopsy. The numbing spray down my mouth and nose I can still taste - ‘bananas’ if anyone’s interested!

I woke up in ward 27 attached to oxygen. But thankfully this was removed as soon as I was sitting up in bed. My SATS were back up to 98% and I was ready to rumble.

The rest of the afternoon, evening and night was spent writing my journal, poems and the basis of FIVE songs (I hope nobody ever sees them as two are about a real friend, who doesn’t know I write songs about them!) and a long letter to someone who will get it soon, probably.

The night was a nightmare. Everyone in the ward seemed to have a farting and burping problem – or do all men of a certain age do this at night? Will I one day end up like this? If I do and I am in bed with you....kick me out!

I couldn’t sleep. Hence why I was writing so much! I gave up trying to sleep.

I only had Depeche Mode, The Arctic Monkeys, Gang Away and Dion Jones albums with me so they were all on rotation.

The next morning I had a walking test. I have six minutes to walk up and down a corridor while my readings are being taken. I did 530metres - in November it was 280.

The waiting room is good as I do get to chat with people in a similar position

One guy with CF had a double lung transplant 14 years ago. Wow….I didn’t know they DID double lung transplants that long ago. Apparently he was the sixth! He looked great.

Another man and I chatted and he was saying, just what I do, that the worst thing about being ill was the lack of dignity, not being able to work, have the energy for social functions, romance and is his case his children. I just totally agreed.

We also felt guilty about people looking after us when we should be looking after other people. He said not being able to play with his young son made him feel less of a man.

I said coming through what he has been through and appreciating each moment with his offspring probably made him more of one.

He is doing what I plan to do in the next few weeks, while we are continuing our recovery but before we are given the go-ahead to go back to work – Go visiting!

He had his transplant only weeks before me and he is already criss-crossing the country and has a check list of things to do and places to go. l I think this is a great idea. Any suggestions for mine?

What should I do and where should I go as soon as I feel up to it? - answers on the back of a soggy beer mat to....

The consultant was nice. He told me everything was ok and reduced some drugs. He said when I could get off painkillers I could consider driving again. That’s an incentive!

I have to try and take out one drug every few days. It will be hard as I am still in pain, especially first thing in the morning. (Well they did break all my ribs!)

I got off the bus early and went to Primark in Newcastle but underestimated the distance between the shop and the station. I was exhausted by the time I got there.

On the train back I found my ticket entitled me to First Class. I didn’t remember booking 1st class, just the cheapest. Well it was great. I got served free snacks and drinks.

Although I did feel a little scruffy and young between the business types talking into their laptops and typing into their phones – and visa versa.

By the time I got home - I am glad mum drove me back from Burton - I was falling asleep – I was knackered.

But there was good news when I got home. I had won a weekend pass for a health centre!

I also got a very cute postcard of a cat from two very cute friends. Bless. Love you people!

It has been a long couple of days. I didn’t feel particularly happy or blessed that all my tests seem to have gone well, just the numbness of feeling I have to do it all again soon. I bet I sound really ungrateful don’t I? Sorry!

I am now continuing my morning cycle rides and should really concentrate 100 per cent on getting fit, rather than worry about my journalism work. I am doing bits and bobs but I should get my priorities right.

After all, what I do now will effect how well my lungs function for years to come. I can go back to work anytime.

But I can't help it. I have to keep busy. If I didn't keep writing and doing stuff I would feel guilty. Perhaps there is some Roman Catholic somewhere in the family eh?

I am starting to socialise and get out again more (although looking back over the blog it doesn't look as if I have ever stopped).

A photographer from The Post newspaper is coming along tomorrow (Friday) to take my picture for an article on my progress. If it goes on the web I'll send you a link.

I am also going to Cannock to this health centre to have a look around. Somebody called ‘Kelly’ will show me round. I already have a mental image of this person. lol

Saturday night I am going Greyhound Racing with some friends from the cricket club. I have never been before.

By a strange coincidence I got a call from Phil Stimpson to say Jim’s stag night in April will involve go-kart racing, greyhound racing followed by a night on Broad Street in Birmingham. (And a night in a hotel ) What is it with me and dogs at the moment? Note to female friends: I didn't mean anything by that!

Oh yes Miss CC I will try and win you a house……can you win houses at ‘the dogs’? lol If not I’ll bring you something back!

Anyone remember that 'Bare Naked Ladies' song 'If I Had $1,000,000' with the lines, 'If I Had $1,000,000 I would buy you a house'? Ok...never mind.

If I win the Lottery I will buy us both a house. We can even have a hot tub with loads of bubbles. Bubbles rock (almost as much as glitter!

I am still hoping for a little kitten asap. Cannock and Burntwood Cats Protection League will call us when one comes to them. When we do get one she will have an ‘At Home’ so everyone can meet her!

I want to get to know the new cat before I move away again - which normally happens when we get new pets!

Oh yes. I popped into Tamworth College, the Burntwood bit, and had a chat to the IT staff. I did my ECDL and Clait Plus computer qualifications there at evening classes.

I have decided to do the ECDL Advanced. Big scary difficult stuff….I start on Tuesday night. (If I remember to bring my course fees with me!)

Just come back from Lichfield. Went to TT and bought Moby single. I love Moby. But not in the Liberal Democrat sense!

Anyway chums. I will love you and leave you as I have invoices to fill out....oh the joy... and rice to eat! Anyone up to anything for Chinese New Year? Ciao!

MUSIC Depeche Mode, The Arctic Monkeys, Gang Away and Dion Jones

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Oh Penguin Where Art Thou?

Blogtanian and the (free) Bloggeteers!

How are thou? I am back from Newcastle in one piece - via an on-train incident and lots of freezing northern-ness. Wrote so much in my journal to concise it into a single blog will take a whole evening methinks.

I will write an update asap (probably tomorrow) as seem to be snowed under with form-filling, CD-reviewing and general 'stuff'.

I also registered for the ECDL Advanced (BCS-3) I.T. evening course....(just so I can be even more of a computer geek!) - ALTHOUGH I am STILL awaiting my certificate for the Clait Plus (bah!)...until's some penguins....(They don't like rat food...but have a taste for couch potatoes.)

PS: I had a Japanese friend 'Kaz' who couldn't say 'Penguin' - he always used to say 'Pengin' and it made me laugh so much when I was tipsy...He got his revenge by getting me to repeat Japanses swearwords!

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Me Plc and Nachos For Tea


Just a quickie ({ooer)) as am off to Newcastle tomorrow for my three month biopsy and further prodding and poking....

If everything is clear BE WARNED....I may be allowed to go round visiting some of you and may soon be allowed back on the road.

I did go for my first outdoor cycle today - just around the block - and I will definitely suffer for it tomorrow!

I am now a company. (Don't laugh!) Don't worry Richard Branson, its only really for tax purposes. But it does feel kind of grand. Can I call myself my own CEO now?

Good luck to BB and JB who are dog-sitting (not literally I hope) in rural Somerset. The exercise will make you fitter and happier people I'm sure! lol

Oh yes and thanks for the meal on Friday night my Stafford buddies. Izzy and Charlotte were as lovely as ever (these are V and C's gorgeous cats.)

One potato, two potatoes, three potatoes, four....
You have no double chin, you're both lovely that's for sure.
I almost took the 'muesli' and denied the mice a treat,
But am looking forward to more nachos, the next time we all meet!

It means something to those who were there on Saturday! lol....Hey next time the first rounds on me!

MUSIC: Arctic Monkeys - Yes I have the new album
Moby: Hotel (Chinese Version)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Pheasant Days

Picture: 1) Rat and girl in perfect harmony...Only its too dark to see the rat!
Picture: 2) A golden pheasant from the Wildlife Rescue Centre at Amerton.


Firstly: Thanks IAN (Cannock Wood's answer to Shane Warne) for this link CLICK

Its a 360 degree panoramic view of Gentleshaw Common - about fifteen minutes walks from cher Mark.

So what's been happening? Well quite a lot as par usual actually. Firstly thanks for your e-mails as usual. You are the best.

Big hugs to those waiting for transplants, or those under the weather at the moment. I am thinking of you.

Aussie Nomes came back from Ireland (she wouldn't live there apparently, too wet - the weather's not too good either!) and we went to meet her at Wolverhampton Bus Station. (I am getting to know that platform quite well)

When she got off the only bag left wasn’t hers. Nightmare! Aaaaagh. A very similar thing happened to Gerbri when she came a while back. It contained all of her memorabilia and presents.

The driver told us to take it and try and find a contact number in there, because the chances are he/she had our bag.

It turned out it belonged to a guy who had just been to see his Ethiopian girlfriend. It was full of souvenirs. We got home and took everything out of the bag and rang every number we could find there.

We rang National Express at about 8.30am on 13th January (I hope you are reading this N.I!) and the girl (Sarah?) who was on duty was rude and abusive to Naomi. I hope this woman gets the sack. Or she tries to open a yoghurt on a first date and it goes all over her and she is so embarassed she has a breakdown.

Where was I? The guy whose bag it was had BA tickets and the helpline woman there couldn't have been nicer.

The next day we actually spoke to the Rasta man and met up at New Street at 11am. It was cool because we met my cousins Jane and Oliver there. (Always a pleasure, never a chore!)

He was a real character and despite it being Friday the 13th, we all left happy and smiley as only happy and smiley people can be.

We went to The Bull Ring (I hadn't been since the revamp) and met Hippy Chick and Ak. As if we need an excuse for more coffee breaks.

We went to the Bear Factory, which is an amazing place. People actually buy spare clothes for teddies. We watched one get stuffed with stuffing through a pipe.

The process looked like Elton John's wedding night. (?!) - hold that image!

Hippy Chick gave me Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach. It's a great book. And not too long - always a bonus for those like me with attention spans shorter than a pigmy's elbow.

We walked through Victoria Square, Centenary Square to Brindley Place. The ice rink and big wheel looked amazing. It was too cold and cloudy to have a go on either.

The Mail Box was full of shops with nobody in them (a shoe costs a week's wages for most of us .and the other one another week's!)

We were going to take a canal taxi from B.P to the M.B but they don't operate in the winter...doh.

We did our usual train-journey game of counting teenagers with babies. There were more than we used to count when we played it in Sydney. Some DID seem to have a BOGOF deal.

On Saturday we went to Lichfield and spent two hours around Lichfield Cathedral.

That place is beautiful. You can't fail to be moved by it all. I was happy Nomes was (I think) too. Its one of those places.

How come people don't get more beautiful with age like cathedrals? Okay I admit some do (Yes, yes I am talking about you....yes YOU) . It works for wine. Perhaps we should drink more wine as we get older?

It was one of those Lichfield days when we saw a few people I knew.

We had a good chat to Jen in H&B and we saw smiley Bev. Oh yes Gilesport was funny (there were about seven bored looking staff and only three customers in there!) and we went to TT and met Clare for the first time.

Lichfield was more crowded than Birmingham - but because it is mostly outside, there is space to breath and I feel ok about it.

In the evening we met Erik, Diana and Kirsty at the West's place in Wilenhall. We had a balti - Naomi's first one.

I was just so happy I was able to go to someone's house and not worry about when we were getting back. No oxygen tubing. Sorry to go on about it but I still can't really believe it folks.

By the end of the night I really was shattered though. I think I did a little too much. I can't help it. It's that 'lust for life' thing.

Sunday was went for a short walk over Castle Ring (v.cold) and then to the Park Gate to meet the usual suspects for a drink. The small bar there is no smoking and we were virtually the only ones in n that bit, perfect for me.

Sunday afternoon was lovely. We went to Amerton Working Farm and the Wildlife Rescue Centre there.

We saw so many cute and furry things (I think there's a joke in there somewhere!) and got to touch and stroke even more.

The Wildlife Rescue Centre was interesting. We saw so many animals. We even saw foxes really close up and baby rats (all pink and tiny!)

Louise, who works there on Sundays - is there any end to her talents? - told us about each species and how they came in etc. As I said in the last blog, its an advantage having a personal wildlife guide - I am kind of liking the idea.

I wonder if they can be hired out for weekends? lol

We went to Walsall on Monday and had a drink at The Wharf. It is a long time since I went there. We were going to go to the new Art Gallery but it is closed on Mondays. Doh! So we hit a lot of clothes shops, including New Life in Cannock.

Naomi's coach left at 3.10am on Tuesday. So we stayed up all night with popcorn, coconut and King Kong...Tally Ho!
Oh yes Tiny Poppet, who frequently comments on my posts, is launching a fundraising t-shirt range. Watch this space (or log onto her blog) for details.

I am probably doing too much at the moment actually so don't tell the doctors. There are some exciting things on the horizon. The problem is there is never time to relax sometimes.

Happy Birthday to Karen and Victoria and get well soon to Eddie.

There is little else to tell so I will love you and leave you.I hope you enjoyed a few more pics from the last few days.

More pictures can be found on CLICK
To e-mail me CLICK

Hello to my friends in the haunted house nearby who no doubt will be reading this. *I am hugging you (or is that a poltergeist?)

Book: Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach, Whatever You Say I Am (Eminem Biog)
Music: Erasure (Live At Wolverhampton Civic),
Mylo - Destroy Rock'n'Roll

Monday, January 16, 2006

Nomes De Pom and Eau De Amerton

Hiya Bloggettes

...Sorry the blogging has been a little slow this week.

Aussie Naomi has been staying and we have been doing all sorts of lovely things (Amerton Farm - with sexy personal tour guide!), Lichfield, Balti, Birmingham,. many many clothes shops etc)

I will hopefully blog it all up in the next couple of days, when I get my breath back and before I go to Newcastle at the weekend (biopsy)...until then...some photos! L8r shakers!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


STOP PRESS: (I've always wanted to say that!) On the 18th January 2006 Staffordshire's own CLARE CALEY (see pic...isn't she lovely?) departs for Africa where she will embark on a 12 day journey to reach the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's greatest mountain and the world's highest freestanding mountain at 19000ft. She is doing this for the CF Trust - To help fund research into this life-threatening condition, which will probably one day take my life.

Please click on this link and sponsor her. (Pretty please!) :+) She really is a star!

Monday, January 09, 2006

Walking In A Walsall Wonderland!



Hello there my weatherbeaten cyber-wanderers!

I thought I would treat you to some pics I took from our house looking over the road to the woods! It was only about a week ago - ignore the dates written on the pics. Camera malfunction!

I'm sure Its not as pretty as Hill Ridware....But nicer than Hull and Edgeware! :)

Firstly MASSIVE THANKS to everyone who has stopped me in the street in Lichfield or chatted to me in shops after seeing the article in the Mercury.

(I was given a double page commission to write a feature and I wrote about how people should replace their already-broken New Year resolutions with becoming an organ donor. It takes 10 minutes and lasts forever!) - I reveal some of my failed resolutions in the past! Ssssh

It gives me such a great feeling about human nature to find out so many people I hardly or don't know care enough to ask how I was doing and how the recovery's going. The world is still good! :+)

I hope as many people as possible read the latest article and take my views to heart about the resolutions and transplantation in general.

I meant what I said about my ambitions. One step at a time. First I am trying to slowly do 'normal' things like meeting friends for coffee, going out for meals and walking about town without gasping for air.

I am gradually getting my independence back. When I am totally pain free I will be able to drive again. After my next biopsy I should be okay to start visiting those of you who live further away. ('Oh no' - sayeth they).

To be honest its a great feeling not feeling ill. For the first time in years I love life (sometimes, anyway...Lets not go overboard now) and I actually have some of the old Mark confidence back.

My voice is still a bit croaky though. There are advantages. I can do Louis Armstrong or Ozzy Osbourne down to a 'T' lol...Hey perhaps I could work for a dodgy phone line firm - the human Crazy Frog!

When I was on O2 I lost my will to meet new people and socialise much, due to the pain and the embarrassment of being hitched up to a machine 24./7 I can form relationships, take an amble on Cannock Chase and be me..

My next step is planning for Naomi's next visit on Thursday (till Tuesday) and I am frantically exercising on the bike (indoors of course) so I can actually take her to the places I want to! MWAH

Cadbury's World is closed for a revamp unfortunately. But Birmingham is open! (I want to go on the river bus between Brindley Place and The Mailbox) I hope to meet the Inside Out producers, my cousin Jane and perhaps Akbar too!

Erik and Diana have persuaded the lovely Kirsty to model some racing gear for them at the NEC show on Saturday So we are going to have a kind of after-show party. Provably a take-away and German beer - but that suits me!

On Tuesday after an early visit to Brownhills Market (wind and rain - bbbrrrrr). Why is it so naff on a Tuesday? And spent a great afternoon putting the world to right With Mr Edmund Sharp!

It is fantastic to have an afternoon, relaxing in the pubs around Cannock Wood (don't worry docs I didn't drink much!) chatting about every subject under the sun (and around it too!)

Wednesday I took my first 'solo' trip since the transplant...oooooh gasp....But I was only on the train on my own for about 4 minutes before Sarah B got on at Landywood and we 'hit' Walsall. Her to see her man. Me to shop!

It was good to catch up with her after all this time! And re-find the best little back street shops and little cafes. I also found a new supplier of Hello Kitty stuff (always a bonus!)

I went shopping with Victoria in Stafford - my old living and haunting ground (if those two things don't contradict each other).

We concluded Lichfield and Stafford have a better 'set' of people than Brownhills, more polite and more beautiful.(This was over coffee at Starbucks..Iits the first time I have entered a Starbucks in the UK...Could get used to it!)

I've FINALLY worked out how to send pictures from my phone to my PC.....So I am going to put a selection on this blog - not all taken this month!

Its been a real week of bumping into old friends and acquaintances. I saw Sarah Bird on Sunday, someone I knew about 10 years ago.

Mike, who I was out with, also knew her about that time. Which means Mike and I probably used to hang out sometimes back then without knowing it. Strange world. Stranger people! (not Sarah and Mike of course!)

Biopsy looming ever nearer on 23rd Jan. I have to go up on Sunday 22nd. Biopsy on the morning of 23rd. Then all the usual prodding and poking on morning of 24th and see docs with all results on lunchtime 24th.

I am really praying there is no rejection or infection. The last thing I need is a stay in hospital or being put on high levels of steroids (the side FX are already bad enough..moan..moan...)so I don't know where or who I am (Sounds familiar eh?)

Today mum and I hit Lichfield.

I deliberately wore my pedometer (no NOT a device for catching paedophiles, but counting steps and distance walked.) I haven't done it since my transplant and want to increase the number each day.

But it reset itself when I dropped it after leaving Holland and Barrett! (Hi H&B staff by the way. Nice people!) I had no idea Jenny's mum was an artist. Every day an education in Lichfield.

The schools were out and there were lots of munchkins about - but I didn't exterminate any of them. Brownie point for me! I did spent too much money in Tudor Tunes though....talking of which

I had a couple of lovely letters this week. LOUISE. You know just how to cheer me up.
That girl is amazing. She does so much. Your sis sounds lovely too - Well if she's related to you she must be!

*See you soon (big warm huggle) xxxx I posted you a parcel/letter/thingy today.

Oh yes people. I got lots of copies of New Year and Xmas pics done and they have come. So remind me anyone who wants one! AND I have done a round up of some new Australian bands, which I should get round to putting on in the next few days.

Music: Johnny Cash - American IV (The Man Comes Around) - a fantastic album of covers recorded in his final days, including versions of Nine Inch Nails and Depeche Mode songs. It was all produced by living legend (and ZZTop beard-a-like Rick Rubin) JC knew he was dying and that gives it all extra emotional weight
The Editors - Munich (Yep I bought both of these today!)

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Thursday, January 05, 2006

Mercury Musings

Just a quickie....I have a special feature in the Lichfield/Cannock/Burntwood Mercury today - on our edition there's a pic on the front cover too! - as well as my usual village news round-up. MANY THANKS to the editor Tim for asking me to write it. Catch you later. Luv you all loads (well some of you more than others!!)

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

My Blues Party and Pig 'n' Truffle memories...

Here it is (it is now tomorrow)- the rest of the last blog entry freshly cut and pasted from my lap-top for your amusement!

Well so much to tell you. But will leave most of it out because it is the same old same old meeting friends and relatives, late nights catching up with gossip, cooking, eating stuff everyone does every.. day. I could tell you but then I'd have to kill you!

It was nice to go to Derbyshire for the day (in the snow!) It was the furthest we'd been (not including hospital trips by train(s) to Newcastle of course) post-transplant. I was glad we had the SatNav to get us there and back.

We went to see the Dakin family whose offspring Emma and Mark and I have known each other since we have been born (if you need to know how long that is, cut one of us open and count the rings.)

I hadn't seem Emma since her wedding about nine years ago and Mark since my dad's funeral in 2004. I cant believe Emma is married with kids, so grown up!

VILLIANS OF THE WEEK : The Express & Star

Life as a 'freelance' can be tough folks. This is why as soon as the docs give me the all-clean I am finding a staff job!

The E&S asked me to do some columns for them from September when they relaunched the Cannock Chase edition of the paper. NB They asked ME

It got to December and I STILL hadn't been paid for any one of them, despite me giving them lof of stuff for free including exclusives on Robbie Willams, my double-lung transplant, the death of my dad and village events.

I got an e-mail on NEW YEAR'S EVE saying 'Jim Wildman,(?) the Stafforshire news editor has decided we didn't agree to take you on so there will be no payment.'

I am an ex full-time employee who left the company on a good note to go travelling (I even sent them stories back from Australia).

THEY asked ME to write some features for them. They decided the would 'take me on' as a freelance when they USED MY ARTICLES and described me as an 'Express & Star columnist' in stories they wrote about my transplant.

They have had the sales and the interest they generated. They have had the benefit. Now they have decided NOT to pay me.

If a council had not paid a disabled person for services they provided if would be front page stuff for the Express & Star. Grrrrr. These people need to learn respect.

It's a fine way to show loyalty eh? One more thing- On the e-mail it had the gall to wish me Happy New Year!!!!

I am not letting this lie and have a meeting with some people in Cannock next week who I will be taking advice from. It seems I am not the only one being conned.

I am recovering from a life-threatening operation. I DON'T NEED THIS It was less than two months ago I had the set-back an almost died (again!) - Angst over!

New Year's Eve. I hosted a (oh how appropriate) 'Beat The Blues' party and I wasn't up to doing all of it myself so had to enlist mum to be my kitchen skivvy. I felt like Gordon Ramsay!

People had to dress in blue. I burned everyone a CD with every track having 'blue' in the title. We had indoor sparklers and blue glow sticks

Starters were hot Indian snacks courtesy of Asda which just needed heating. But I did make some vegetable crispy things; sliced carrots/beetroot/courgette etc roasted in oil.

With the help of Delia's cookbook I managed a chicken in creamy sauce topped with melted cheese on a bed of avocado and roast vegetables.

The pudding was creme fraise and yoghurt whipped together over a base of fresh fruit, topped with brown sugar and left in the cool overnight.

There were the 3Cs;chocolate, cheese and coffee to finish.

It wasn't rocket science (which doesn't exist as a science anyway and have any of you tried eating it?) but people seemed to like it.

I did a quiz of the year with stupid prizes and we played carpet bowls and croquet.

I was SO glad the nine of us got on and there weren't TOO many silences. It's hard to get the mix and numbers right on occasions such as this.

It was a chance for people who didn't know each other to get to know each other a little bit better and people I didn't know well, like Jimbo's fiance Judy to get to know me.

Respect to Caroline who didn't mind sleeping with my guitar, amp and clothes.

OH...I will say a big thank you on-line for everyone who sent me such nice Xmas pressies and wished me good luck for the coming year.

Healthwise. Things seem to be on an even keel at the moment. I have ups and downs, mood swings and side effects, but these I know are due to the high doses of drugs I’m on.

I try and walk around Castle Ring Ancient Monument most days. Most of the time I am going out to the shops or walking round a town anyway.

Among the hellos this time are Louise from Tudor Tunes.

(I used to know this girl from about six years ago when my friends and I iused to have night outs in Lichfield. We always had to start at the Pig and Truffle because I had a crush on her!

I saw her just before Christmas. She was helping out over the Xmas period in Lichfield She hasn't changed a bit. How does she do that? I hope she has a beautiful life going on. Pleasant people deserve that.

Also Hannah (My Sheffield friend who is very sweet and whose pics I will add to my photo site asap) Akbar (Happy New Year. We must have a lads night in sometime!!!) and the ever-lovely Uttoxeter Laura who I PROMISE to meet up with as soon as I am a little better and can venture to Brum.

Mr H, (sorry to hear your news) And last but not least Jo, who reads the blog from the USA and had a double lung transplant 8 years ago..WOW!

Please enjoy some New Year piccie! …Oh yes. To answer your questions NO I still don't know if pixie Park Gate Kate is a Blogette so stop asking me! I will post the answer when I know. Lol

Follow on from last week's incident: Remember Miss C that ANYONE can send a romantic text message - he has to back it up with actions and emotions! That's two of my female friends heading for a fall now. And I cannot do anything about it without interfering. :(

Celebrity Big Brother – do you think they can find some 'celebrities' we have heard of this time please! How about Bart Simpson, Victoria Beckham, Lassie, Camilla Parker Bowles, Scooby Doo and Joe Mangle! I'd watch it! 'To evict Posh text...'

MUSIC: Rufus Wainwright, Daft Punk, The Editors, White Stripes, Depche Mode, Mylo
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Monday, January 02, 2006

My 'Banish The Winter Blues' NYE Party

A lovely, sparkly new year to all Bloggers.

In a few minutes on October, when I was told my double-lung tranplant would be a reality my 2005 turned from an awful to an amazing year.

May 2006 be full of those kind of minutes for you all!

I have written a new entry to this blog. But it is on my laptop. So you will have to wait until tomorrow. Until then hello to all thge usual suspect including the girl from 'The Slade PO and snuggles to Louise from T.T!

1) Caroline and I
2) The feast
3) Ian and Judy