Hello there whoever you are.

The Feedjit traffic info do-dah intrigues me. It flags up that you've been here... but who are you? You live in Texas or Winnipeg or Newtownards, Aberdeen, London, Belfast or one of a host of other places not in my address book and I'm curious.

If you've hovered here for even a few minutes, you know something about me, but all I have on you is that you came via a server in a place I've probably never been to! Care to say hello so I even have a name for you? It'd be nice to know you dropped by. More neighbourly or something even though by the time I smile over the screen at you, you'll have headed on elsewhere.

Taking me seriously?

... so minutes later, I get a text from a friend in Kenya. ".... will be home Thursday lunctime for a long weekend..... have had a real longing just to see spring even for a couple of days..."

From Nairobi to Northern Ireland just for a few days. Now that's called getting your priorities right. Way to go Indi! Would like to say it's in response to my last blog, but so what. Just means I was right - spring this year is lovely.

Time to visit?

I feel the need today to say if you've never been to Northern Ireland before, then it's time you came to visit. This last weekend would have been a good time to come... the sun was sparkling on the waves and it smelled like spring, with a salty sea breeze. The hawthorn hedges are full of white blossom, the gorse is golden and smells of vanilla and the purple flowers (campanula?) in the stone planter beside the front door are chasing up the white walls. Just heavenly.

chemo and curtsies.

So it's chemo-eve again and mentally, I'm at the "after tomorrow there's just one more to endure" stage. Pychologically it helps - I think. Though I try not to. Think that is. About the chemo. I'm told I have "anticipatory nausea". It means my mind now expects to be sick (there's a surprise - my memory works!) therefore I am sick.

Now, why does this not bother me? Part of me is secretly dismayed that I haven't cracked the "mind over matter" thing, but part of me is secretly pleased that my brain is doing what it's meant to do. A bit of me clearly isn't fooled by the presence of anti-emetics etc and knows what's going on - ok, may be an over-active immagination, but hey, it's nice to have some part of me active for a change!

I had nice diversion tonight anyway - the Good Book Club met as we've been doing, every Monday at M's. No study, but loads of chat. A friend has moved house as her minister husband has started in a new church and we just wanted to catch up and remind her that when the traybakes and endless phone calls get more than she can bear on top of a day's workload at the hospital, we're here to mop up the tears, paint her toenails, laugh and do whatever girly stuff is necessary to help her keep going. Oh yes, and we'll pray. Big time. It's such a diverse wee group... and I love them to bits - though they keep me in tears of laughter sometimes.

Take S for example. (SJ to her aunt and R to most of us - don't ask.) She needs to practice her curtsy as she sort of bumps into royalty now and again... almost literally in this particular case. Good story - she was introducing the heir apparent and his surprising deep-voiced wifey (the future queen? there's a debate!) Anyway, the wifey spoke, the depth of her voice surprised S who then got her foot stuck in the carpet whilst mid curtsy. Unable to free the toe from the carpet pile, she hobbled along the line with one knee permanently bent, like some half human-half hobbit thing, trying to introduce her team. It's all on camera. Like the time in France, in the swimming pool... with the bra.. but that's for another time. Name your price for my silence S!

Prompted by Ali's 56.

Ali's reminder of the September 1992 bomb at the Forensic buildings in Belfast takes me back. (Diary of a reformed workaholic.) We'd moved into a brand new house that very day - like her, a mere 150 yards from the vehicle that exploded with the biggest bomb in Northern Ireland's history - an estimated 2000 lbs.

Picture the scene: There were three of us in the house; dad, standing on a step ladder, facing a window the size of the wall as he fitted a curtain pole above it; mum, standing in front of the stove joking about trying not to blow us all up - I'd persuaded her (against her better judgement) to have a half gas stove - and me, standing with my back to dad, getting the curtains ready to hang.

No one else seemed to know we'd moved in, so we weren't evacuated. We didn't know there was a security alert. All the windows were open and the heating on to "warm the house up" and help the plaster dry out.

We'd made great progress with box emptying and my brother had taken the dog back to our temporary home as her kennel hadn't been moved to the new home. It was time for a cuppa. Cue mum - "I hope this stove doesn't blow up on me".

She turned the gas on, hit the "ignite" button, the room went dark, the rumble started, the windows shattered, and by the end of the roar I thought the gas stove had lived up to her expectations and I'd be repacking my stuff to move back overseas at dawn.

It took a while to work out that everyone was still alive and intact. Dad had been blown across the room and winded as he slammed into the wall. Despite facing all that glass during the blast, he didn't have a scratch on him. A miracle? Absolutely, especially when we realised next morning that half the engine casing of the bomb carrying vehicle had landed just six feet from where he'd had been standing.

Windows (including newly made curtains - grrr) were sucked out (why was dad blown away from the windows?), frames buckled, the roof lifted and mercifully resettled in the same place, glass splintered all over the garden - not, thankfully, on the brand new carpets. Nerves were shattered, many homes destroyed - but not one person lost their life. A neighbour, attending his first choir practice in our church, (100 yards away and directly in the line of fire,) still claims it took just one line of him singing to bring the house down - literally. I love Belfast humour.

In the darkness, we debated where the back door was. We couldn't quite remember so I headed to the front door and tripped on the (forgotten) steps in the hall - much needed laughter all round. We hadn't been in the house in the dark before.

Friends rallied - including Ali's now husband - helping to make temporary repairs and trying to keep the rain out until morning.

Looking back, it was a grim final act to our experiences of Northern Ireland's "Troubles". On the way, we'd had a close relation murdered by a coward hiding in a hedge; we'd had to move rather quickly - with local "encouragement" - from a previous home (we were the wrong religion apparently), we'd had a car blown up - it was parked beside a car bomb, and as a child, nights too numerous to count were spent trying to sleep on other people's sofas while the army dismantled some nutter's lunchbox full of explosives yards from our front door.

For all those years, the other cheek got turned so often, we were practically rotating. Sometimes, I'd like to shout that in reality, when I look back, it's been a struggle to forgive, particularly when the "coward in the hedge" is still happily wandering about enjoying the sunshine.

I was chatting with a friend recently about the benefits or otherwise of a South African style truth commission in Northern Ireland. To be really honest, I'm not sure I want to hear the gunman's version of the truth - I'd rather he had a first hand practical lesson in justice, then I might listen.

Reasons to be thankful...today

So it took a while to get to this... but in no particular order and off the cuff;

  1. for the computer working again!
  2. for my brother and sis-in-law moving in for a weekend's chillin out
  3. for being reminded that God is faithful and never lets go or gives up on me
  4. for all the flowers and cards that arrived this week to encourage me
  5. for another chemo week being over and the climb up the hill starting again
  6. kind nurses who persevere in the unending hunt for veins
  7. for my family, who are the best example of servanthood I'm ever likely to see this side of heaven
  8. for a little tiny boy who smiles and laughs with/at his mad aunt almost always on cue
  9. for my parents getting a rest in Tennerife
  10. for the painter/plasterer/glass fitter/floor fitter all adjusting schedules
  11. for M&S offering more than cheese wires to wear when a girl craves big knickers on "there, there, there" days
  12. for pear pickin' porky lollies
  13. for Ali's great pudding at the book club
  14. for Robo's chauffeuring and cleaning skills and general good humour when I'm grumpy
  15. for Roger's magical mystery tours cheering me up on the way to the hospital
  16. for the girls in the "Good Book" club and their big fat appetite for more of the Word
  17. for whoever invented hot fruit parcels with rosewater and honey yoghurt - this year's winner in the "best-desert-I've-ever-eaten" award!