Breath Of Life

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

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

I Have Kittens

I have TWO little girl kittens....born on SATURDAY! They will live with their mother and sibblings on a nearby farm for another month or so....then it will be tabby cat-ville for me!

I took some pictures when they were two days old....I will post more on my photo site asap

Advertise on this site! CLICK FOR DETAILS

So what else has been happening. Its been a functional week so far. I had my reassessment at Cannon's and Jodie added some more torture to my schedule!

She told me I had lost 2 % of my body fat over six weeks. That's one in the eye for the people at Newcastle eh? I had my blood pressure measured by a nurse in Burntwood and that is normal too.

I also did a yoga class for the first time. I feel obliged to go to Esporta every alternate session to use this free week pass I have....I think I would only join if I moved to Stafford - which I still hope to do.

I got a bit of a knock back from the Burton Mail. They wanted as article for their monthly OUR TIME magazine. But now, although they still want it - they don't want to pay me for it.

It astounds me how badly people treat journalists. You wouldn't consider not paying a plumber or electrician would you?

I think people who have images of reporters as being nasty are pretty dumb....

The most nasty people I have every met have almost without fail been 'businessmen'. Its always the reporters who get shit upon, especially on evening papers.

I was talking to a friend, a former journalist, last week and we were saying the way journalists get shouted at and bullied by men/women in suits in ivory towers would be unbelievable in any other profession.

AND the average reporter earns HALF what a NURSE does......and nurses ALWAYS complain about bad money and long hours.

Rant over......meeting Vickie P for lunch then badminton tonight at Oak Park.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Go-Karting and St George!

Hello Bloggettes,

Well the stag-do for Jimbo Stimpson was fun! We went go-karting first. (Shhhh don't tell the docs..they would NOT be impressed!)

That is an experience. You are put in pairs and kitted out in all the racing gear, fire-proof suits, balacalvas and helmets - the lot!

Then you do time trials to find your place on the grid and then you race!

You do about 15 minutes before your partner calls you into the pits and you swap....This happened again so you each do about 30 minutes....Believe me that is exhausting enough!

All the time a computer clocks your fastest lap, who is winning and where you are in the league so your team-mate can hold up intstuctions to you - like 'take no prisoners'.

I was paired with Chris - a film set designer from London - and although we didn't win we had a damn good time!

We all came back - for a quick shower - then went to Perry Barr, Greyhound Racing..It included a meal and stuff and was interesting as always. I came out with a £3 profit....Hardly enough for a drink!

Then we hit Broad Street in Brum and a pub and club ('Rocket' on the site of the old Ronnie Scotts).And came back in the early hours.

Today it was a St George's meal at the Park Gate...Lotss of dressing up, Chas 'n' Dave and silly hats.... I had the idea of going for a cycle before I went - but it stayed as an idea!

I ache from the go-karting so kid myself I didn't have a TOO unhealthy weekend......I have a gym reassessment tomorrow in Cannock so may have to starve myself tonight.

BOOK: To Cut A Long Story Short - Jeffrey Archer
MUSIC: We Are Scientists, Libertines

Links: To e-mail me CLICK.; to see my pictures CLICK; to hear my tunes CLICK

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Esporta, Cassie and Grumpy Old Man


Yes yes yes Happy Birthday to our Queen… NOT Elton John the other one! Gawd bless ‘er ‘an all who sail in her (or something like that)….

Sounds a bit freaky in Nepal at the moment though doesn’t it. Cripes (as Boris ‘would say! Boris Johnson is ace by the way….it is official!)

Hi there….Well the drama enfolded yesterday. Now they want me to go in the week after next for my CT scan (they say they don’t trust Heartlands in Brum to do it correctly)

But on the positive side. I can go up on the Tuesday morning and have it done at lunchtime.

I am going to chill out in Newcastle in the day, meet up with Sarah in the evening and have my other tests and get all the results the next day.

I don’t think the doctors realise how tiring and stressful it is to go up one day for an appointment the following day and then results the next one…..coming home shattered.

One also gets worked up before an appointment and then analyses everything that has been said. And the whole thing depends on two minutes in a blowing machine. Sad.

Anyway. I met up with Victoria Friday afternoon and went to Esporta in Stafford. Its a gym not unlike Cannons. I had saved up free tokens from The Times…

Would you believe it I knew the receptionist. It was the lovely Cassie, who did work experience when I worked on the Staffordshire Newsletter.

She is now dark, not blonde so I didn’t recognise her at first. But it was lovely to see her again.

I have a week of free visits. So I am going to alternate which gym I use. Although this wekend is out and Monday I have my reassessment in Cannoc with gym-o-Jodie.

It is novel for me to work out with someone else. But talking while on the bikes make 20 minutes pass a lot quicker.

V and I then chilled (or warmed up) in the spa pool. It was very civilised.

When we got back to her house, Colin already had the dinner on. He is well trained.

We all spent an evening watching the cats, saw a programme on the 70s on TV and a Johhny Cash concert and generally gossipped. ({including a discussion on Midge Ure and Ultravox)

We laughed about a bitchy text I had from a friend who we think may be upset because I had not said how wonderful Connexions was in my blog. It is amazing the power of the written word..

Then we considered this person was probably just being ironic and actually (like most people) enjoyed seeing a big organisation criticised. It is called DEMOCRACY. Who knows how the female mind works....

It is good when people like seeing their name in the blog. I never ‘slag off’ (oooo what an uber-chave expression) my friends – only people who deserve it!

I suppose that is why I became a journalist. The power one can have to change council decisions, stick up for people without a voice and say what needs to be said.

I must admitlatest medical hitch has made me so frustrated. I am turning into a 'Grumpy Old Man'...

I SO want to do 100 per cent normal things and not be ruled by the drag of hospital tests and getting caught up with the self-expanding industry that is ‘hospital’ culture.

Seriously though. Most of my friends are really supportive and I really appreciate it. Its only when you have been ill you realise who your real friends are.

You also find out a lot about ‘fair weather’ friends who didn’t want to know me when I was attached to an oxygen machine 24/7…but want to know me again now!

Well I am off on Jimbo’s stag do now…..Gokarting, dog racing and clubbing in and around Brum…..(Broad Street) Then finishing off with a St George’s Day meal tomorrow.

I bet you look good on the dance somebody once said. Ciao!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Medical Stress and More Tests

Hi there,

Well its been eventful....yet again. I went up to Newcastle on Tuesday evening...and AGAIN found it quite hard to find a pub which did food after 7pm......Do people not eat in the evening up North?!!

I finally had a mixed grill at a lovely place that I had actually been to before, with Dad, when I came up for my assessment in February 2004.

The flat I was put in was hot and dusty. Why make a big thing about having to wear masks around building work at the hospital if the cleaners don't do their job? Doh

I was up at 6am for a morning of tests, prodding and poking - then my biopsy. I FELT my biopsy happening which apparently I shouldn't as the nerves in transplanted lungs should be dead (or something like that!)

Dr Gerry seemed happy with all the results. But as I was to find out....he can soon change his mind.

That night I was in a ward with farting, burping old man and a bloke who said 'champion' all the time in his sleep.

The next day I was due to meet Sarah for lunch but they hadn't got the results of my biopsy (which was fine by the way - only very limited r ejection...not even enough to treat!)

By the time I saw Gerry he was in his pessimistic mood. He suggested I see a dietician! I don't think he believes that I am one of the healthiest eaters I know and diaticians just tell CF people to eat fatty food!

The day before he had said if I keep doing what I am doing everything will be fine. I am only about 1.5% overweight! This is despite being on steroids.....I think this is pretty good.

AND doe he not know or understand I go either cycling or 'gym'ing every day....

He gave me some calcium tablets (again NOT because there is any problem with my bone density but as a precaution..) I later found he gave the exact same presciption to another bloke...I reckon he has shares in the drug.

He seemed concerned about my blood pressure.....although AGAIN this is always fine when I take it at home....Bloody White Coat Syndrome. He wants it to be measured every week

One lung fundtion test was slightly down the other was up significantly.....He seemed happy about this.BUT TODAY he phoned to ask me to come back up to Newcastle for more prodding, poking and a CT scan.

WHY THE HELL CAN'T IT BE DONE SOMEWHERE CLOSER THAN FOUR HOURS AWAY...? Newcastle isn't the beginning and end of the world...

Just as I thought I was escaping I seem to be in hospital more than ever....and this is without anything being wrong. GOD KNOWS WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF I WAS ILL!!!

Why does everything have to be so stressful for the medical profession? I will now be stressing out for another month.

They even messed up pharmacy and it took a day after my drugs were prescibed before I got them and this meant I could only see my friend in Newcastle for an hour...

PS: The doc ALSO said - to add insult to injury - I can't play cricket for another three months!

Ignore me I am in a 'woe is me' mood lol.....the sun will shine tomorrow and the who;ole world will be rosy again!

MUSIC: RAMMSTEIN (Played loud and angry)


Thursday, April 20, 2006

Train Connections And A Ward Of Farting Old Men!

Hiya Bloggettes,

Just got back from the land of Newcastle Brown and Alan Shearer....Mixed time of it all really. But my lungs are still looking good..AND got to catch up on my texting and letter writing! I will fill you all in asap....

Oh those Virgin Trains eh? L8r shakers xxx

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Cannock Booty

Hello Bloggettes and Bloggerdoons,

Well another Bank Holiday over…only about two weeks till the next one. I could get used to this later Easter thing happening!

I hope you all had great Eastertides and enjoyed whatever you did!

I had a great one. I had the whole house to myself so chilled out. I went for a cycle in the morning (so I had no pangs of conscience later!)…

I spent a lot of the day being Mr Domestic. I cleaned the car, even looked in the manual to see where the oil/water etc goes….and checked it was all ok. Then I did some cooking.

A few weeks ago we ordered one of those ‘organic vegetable’ deliveries each week. We keep cancelling (we only wanted to try it) and they keep delivering.

Now we seem to have loads of vegetables for free.

So I steamed loads of them and cooked them in some cheese sauce and made way too much rice (why does that always happen) and some salmon (grilled in its own juices.)

It got me back in the mood for cooking. I found I had the energy to do it. It’s another thing that I missed when I lost my independence with the illness.

We have a happy-looking ‘duck’ now in the front garden by the way which quacks at all and sundry. He is noise-activated and scares any dogs walking past!

On Monday I went to the Longford Island car boot sale with mum. I bought some sun block, grapes and glow-in-the-dark hair gel….Oh and two watches for two squid each.

This even happens every Bank Holiday and is worth it for the people-watching opportunities.

Every half-bred, in-bred, dodgy dealer and Dagenham Dave is there. AND lots of people with dogs.

I don’t understand this. The dogs don’t enjoy car boot sales. They dogs bother the donkeys and don’t buy anything. The dogs get wet and miserable. The dogs poo.

It is also a haven for the uber-chav and lots of Yam Yams from Wolverhampton, who mix with the middle class people from villages and vales. It’s a social cocktail.

(I of course am the cherry on top, or the little umbrella..)

Then the rain came down and everyone decided the leave at the same time – Chaos. It took more than an hour to get out of the ground and into Cannock…

Then we hit the Hednesford Raceway traffic….So it was another 30 minutes to get home.

By this time I was in a bad mood and decided to go to the gym and take it out on the cycling machine, tread mill and then sweat it out in the sauna.

The sauna has been refitted and now looks like something from a 70s porno movie. There are lights which change the ambiance every few moments….No Swedes with sideburns.

In the evening I packed for Newcastle. We leave at 3pm today and get back on Thursday night hopefully.

At least with the biopsy I get there on Tuesday, get everything done on Wednesday and when I am less dopey I see the docs on Thursday (I wake up on some strange ward)

On Tuesday night I will stay in one of the flats, which is miles away from anything and close to a dusty building site. (Its not so bad as I will be ‘nil be mouth’)

After the results of everything on Thursday I will have a couple of hours to chill out. I will probably leave my bag in the station as I have a date with Sarah at the Piano and Pitcher.

With any luck I will be able to throw away my nebulisers. Lets hope so.

Oh yes. I am in a definite ‘going to a gig’ mood. So if anyone has any suggestions, let me know – except for next weekend of course because that is Jimbo’s stag do.

I hope all those with hangovers this weekend are now recovered, especially C.C who apparently had a good night in Cannock…wonder how much she can remember.

Oh one more thing (I am like this on the phone y’know…always forgetting to say stuff until just before I hang up..)…Hope the fantasy cricket selection is going ok. My squad 'Sparky's Army' is picked and ready to go.

One of the things I’m going to ask the docs is when I will be allowed to play cricket for CWCC again…..I am aiming to be back playing before the tour later this year..

I may have to invest in a lot of rib protection…

Anyway….I am off to fill up my Mp3 player with stuff for the train journey. Ta-ra-a-bit…

Music: Dirty Pretty Things, The Rakes, Hot Chip, Jose Gonzalez

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Countdown to Biopsy

Hello Folks,

And a 'Hoppy' Easter.....Hope it's 'egg'citing for you!

How is life at the sharp end/soft end/rubber eraser of life then? I hope the new sunny weather has meant your spring has sprung..

So.....I haven't actually seen many people this week as I've been a bit snowed under by work/applications/starting to fill out my tax form etc...

I am enjoying the badminton on Thursday nights..(Toupee Tez goes too y'know!)..oh and I did manage a college session and coffee with a friend in Couch Potato!

Those application forms for the council took hours. One is for a media officer to cover maternity leave...the other is for a press/marketing officer.

I took the advice of Caroline Connexions - she's the expert - and bullet-pointed every 'person quality' the forms listed and gave examples of why I meet the criteria.

I am trying to get as much done as possible before I head up to Newcastle next post-biopsy I am usually a little dopey (no change there then?!)

I am meeting up with former travel-mate Sarah again on the Thursday...After a couple of days or prodding and poking I will need some light relief!

Talking of which I damn well hope my lung capacity is up...I have been working very hard at the gym almost every morning...and cycling the other mornings.

Anyone see the Manchester Passion on BBC3? Did you recognise Judas? It was Tim Booth who used to be in 'James'...Keith Allen was cool too eh?

Ok.....without firther's some links.


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Pics: Nick 'n' Liz, Me with drink, Sign in Tintern Police Station window

Well...I thought I would indulge myself and finally put more pics on my site and on this site for those too lazy to press 'click' on a link!

I believe the cricket season round these parts started on Sunday - but was snowed off after 20 overs. On the Daily Telegraph Fantasy Cricket stakes.....I hope to do battle with many of you over the coming weeks.

Been a busy week so far as I have had two Staffs County Council applications to be in. I am taking them in tomorrow, then meeting Nicole for coffee then playing badminton.

I'm spending the weekend with Caroline in Smoke-on-Stench...hoping to forget the fact I have a nasty biopsy in Newcastle-upon-Tyne next week.

Well must dash.....luv ya 'n leave ya...

Monday, April 10, 2006

A 'Wales' Of A Time and Bad Connexions - Doh!

Hello there! (to translate to Welsh just at 'Ll' and random collection of letters!)

Pictures: Tintern Abbey X 2 and Nick 'n Liz's garden....loads more to put on my photo site this week......

I had a great weekend in Wales...Nick and Liz (luuuurvly people) live in a 1790 cottage in the middle of nowhere. It has a brook running through the garden and a gorgeous view....... even deer and newst!

The first night I arrived we just sat and drank wine...Good thing.

The next day we went to Tintern Abbey itself (a hauntingly spiritual place) and then to the pub (The Cherry Tree) for lunch. We went for a long walk in the afternoon around the River Wye and the old Tintern Railway.

In the evening Nick and I met up with Julian. It was a 3/4 reunion of our 1998 turkey holiday. Only Steve was missing (in action!). We went into Bristol and had too much cider and a stupidly hot curry!

On Sunday we walked though hail, snow and rain to a different pub (The Fountain) and had Sunday lunch before I went home. Fresh air and good food...perfect weekend really!

I shared a room with a charming cat called 'Cleo'. (Insert your own 'pussy' jokes here folks!)

On Monday I met up with a lady from Connexions(who was very nice and professional actually) to discuss why they didn't offer me an interview for the job I applied for when I obviously met all the essential criteria.

I had forgotten interviewers are so dense. (Which the lady told me I had forgotten!) - apparently instead of showing 'I am flexible' in my list of acheivements and roles I actually have to say 'this proves I am flexible...blah blah blah

I would have thought it was self-evident to anyone with half a brain that one can't have worked for newspapers and as a teacher without showing these qualities...DOH!

But I should have spelled it out! I should have remembered the interviewers ar e used to dealing with simple kids! Have you seen that Harry Enfield sketch 'Teach English To Aliens'? (that the Tellytubbies were based on?) I rest my case m'lud!

So although I DID meet all the criteria I didn't show it well enough on my form....So irrelevant whether I would be the best man for the job or not that can't under council guidelines give me an interview.

Even though under council guidelines, being still officially registerred disabled they HAVE to give me an that one out!

I thought it was pretty obvious for example that being a journalist I can meet deadlines, be a good copywriter and can be flexible. But instead of just giving examples I should have said: ~"I can write good copy.....this is shown by" etc.....Pathetic eh? It would be like writing a junior school essay! Applications for morons vol1!

This did piss me off as I know I am better qualified and more experienced than some who have had interviews.

I would not be pissed off if they had decided I wasn't the best person for the job after an interview and looking at my portfolio.....But saying I didn't meet the criteria was a joke.

Again I know I am getting bitter about this but the woman said, reading between the lines I did meet the criteria......THEN WHY NOT GIVE ME AN INTERVIEW THEN .DOH!

The lady I spoke to, who was very nice and sympathetic, could see how pathetic it is really.

She gave me some good advice on my cuttings. I should have send in some with the application (even though it didn't ask for them) rather than wait for the interview.

As its a press officer job I would thought they would have appreciated my being concise and to the point..DOH! Excuse me for using INITIATIVE (obviously not encouraged!) Not in the public sector....

This is probably not too far form the truth.....I know a lot of dopey public sector people!

I expect the person they get for these types of jobs in the person they deserve rather than the person they need.

At least I will know what to do for the next application. REMEMBER HOW DENSE THE PEOPLE WHO SORT OUT THE APPLICATIONS ARE......

Actually its been a good experience. Because now I know I am ready to go back to work full-time I have had to re-do my portfolio and CV etc. Its been interesting talking to people who have had experience with Connexions.

Most ot the experiences have been bad - Apparently some of the people who go from school to school talking to kids are so dizzy the press officer job would have been a real challenge - to make them look good! But its one I could do!

Rant over....but I am not leaving it there....I have an application for a similar job at the county council to fill in. I will write it as if they are thick too....if I don't get an interview I will be angry and am likely to get VERY drunk!

On the work front I interviewed a doctor who used to be a missionary doc in Africa who is retiring from the NHS to work with his wife and daughter....You will read it in the paper soon.

I do feel re-newed after my weekend in Wales....or did, anyway. But I will take it all out on a poor cycling machine tomorrow....

Oh congratulations to my mum - who has just been made chairman of Brownhills Tangent Club!

Well I'm off to my ECDL Advanced class now at Tamworth/Lichfield Who needs them! US!

MUSIC: Goldfrapp, Rammstein, Embrace (sorry...its good motorway music!)

Friday, April 07, 2006

Tintern Abbey

Hiya Blogettes,

Sorry this hasn't been updated for a few days but its been a bit manic in Mark-ville.

I am off to see Nick and Liz in Tintern Abbey for the weekend and hope to give you the full goss when I come back about what I have been up to.

Hi to Kate's mum by the way. Your daughter was the perfect waitress on Monday and hugs to Emily who is in hospital at the moment, but has her computer by the bedside and may be bored enough to read this!

Also hi to Clare who I expect will be training for her run as I write this. How fit? Very fit!

Time to make some cheesy mash for my lunch! Love you all (well not all) (well some more than others!) xx

MUSIC: Rammstein, Panic At The Disco, Libertines

PS: I have put a couple of new reviews on my ciao page in the last few days....

Monday, April 03, 2006

Old Acquaintances and The Cookie Club

Firstly. Thanks for the e-mails and texts from the people who saw my article in Take A Break. I have been dumbed down and commercialised - and it feels ok!

Thursday was a very physical day. I went for my morning cycle and to the gym and then played badminton at Oak Farm in the evening. SO how come I'm not losing weight? (Must be putting on muscle! hmmmmmmm LOL)

Because I got Cannon's mentioned on Radio WM they gave me a gym bag with various goodies including water container, headphones and personal training session enclosed.

The badminton was the first time I had physically actually RUN for four may not sound like much of a milestone, but it's another step to recovery. I had felt I was hitting a plateau so stepped up my exercise regime.

On Friday I met Rach and we hit Rugeley, having lunch at 'Infinity'. It is a 'as-much-as-you-can-eat' buffet deal for ₤5.95. If you order a coffee you get a free mug.

We met Mike and picked up Megan (their daughter) from school.

Then went to the gym again and did my best ever distance for my 10 minutes on the tradmill and the second best on the 20 minute cycle.

Saturday morning I went to the gym again(!) and then got caught in a hail storm. I went to the table-top sale at the village hall. They made ₤100 for village hall funds.

I caught the afternoon train from Tamworth to Nottingham and met up with Yana and Mandy (two girls I knew in Korea) and M's b/f Tim, (from Stafford) for Mandy's 30th

We started off at England's oldest bar before going greyhound racing with about a dozen of Tim's friends. It was an experience. The people at the dogs were very strange.

It wasn't nearly as civilised as Perry Bar and it was full of uber-chavs and sad working class smokers, who scowled a lot.

The coach was shot at when it was returning to base after taking us!

The deal was good though. Ten pound gave you two drinks, pie and peas (!) two bets and something else I forgot!

We then hit Nottingham city centre and the Dragon Bar (v.smoky). I get the feeling Notthingham people are not too intelligent. So many seem to smoke and scowl!

We went to a cool smaller bar (with a barman with very spiked hair) and then The Cookie Club, which was brilliant.

We bumped into Scottish Gordon, who I last saw in China....Wowness eh?!

The lower floor played indie non-stop. It was Arctic Monkeys, Blur, Oasis, Kaiser Chiefs, The Killers, Libertines, The Bravery, The Smiths - totally my cup of tea.

The upper floor was all Jackson Five, Marvin,Sly and The Family Stone - equally cool!

The four of us collapsed in the flat at about 4am (We can't be sure of this as the last time anyone looked at a watch was in an Indian takeaway at about 3am!)

I met some really interesting and beautiful people.

There was even a Dutch girl there so I was able to practice my Dutch. (I lived in Holland in 1992 remember!)

When we eventually got up on Sunday (I was up at 8am to take my cocktail of tablets and insulin etc but soon went back to sleep!) we hit The Canal House.

The Canal House is a pub which incorporates a real canal which runs through the building, boats and all! It is very interesting.

Be warned though. The men's toilets are up three flights of stairs. So its advisable to go BEFORE eating a huge Sunday lunch.

Mandy and I were very close in Korea and she was literally a life-saver. She talked to me for days while I was delierious and unconscious in hospital. It was nice to see her again.

I caught the little train back to Tamworth and spent the evening catching up with work Well one has to live!

MUSIC: The new Erasure Album 'Union Street'', Goldfrapp's 'Ride A White Horse' (Remixes), Jim Noir's 'Key Of C' and 'Handle With Care' - by Jenny Lewis

BOOK: The Little Book Of Chavs (The Branded Guide To Britain's New Elite) by Lee Bok!