Rocks of Ages


Saturday was a beautiful, sunny day and we headed to Lake Lucerne, a huge winding lake in central Switzerland overlooked by ageless mountains: Mt Pilatus presides there at a height of 2132m, over Stanserhorn, Klewenalp, Scheidegg, Kolinburgen, Mt Rigi, to Mt Burgenstock at 1128m, then many more beyond of even headier heights. In fact, throughout Switzerland there are over 250 mountain summits over 3600m high (for context, Scaefell Pike is 978m, and that’s a challenge to hike up).

Anyway, we had our woolly hats and a flask of tea with us so when things got chilly we were ok.

We didn’t hike up rock faces or slither along glacial deposits, though both of those would 20161022_155306have been great. Instead, we hopped onto a slightly rickety ferry which took us across the lake to somewhere tranquil on the West side, where we picnicked, walked a few km along the lakeside track, and were speechless at the views of the distant white-topped peaks. It was an incredible sight and we had a really lovely day.

There’s a point in Northeast Switzerland where the Rhein plunges over huge ancient boulders from a great height, to form the Rheinfalls, the largest waterfall in Europe. The Lonely Planet says ‘Europe’s largest plain waterfalls’ – I’m not sure exactly what ‘plain’ means here.

It is spectacular to feel the spray from the crashing water on your face (– this was Monday’s trip, as my therapy was cancelled due to technical issues-Tuesday and Wednesday too). So, we spent Monday afternoon there, Mari on her trike, me trotting alongside and providing turbo pushes when needed. There were some mean slopes to get up, we can both vouch for that, using muscles we didn’t know we had left any longer (well, me, anyway! Mari is super strong on her bike).


Glass elevators fixed to the riverbank rocks took us slightly alarmingly rapidly down towards the foot of the falls, where we then went a bit further on foot. The viewing platforms and a small cave to peer from were reassuringly solid, yet Mari and I did find ourselves hanging onto each other’s arm when peering over the edge, just in case the six inch oak barrier and the prehistoric rocks decided to give way at that very moment.

So, it’s been a rocky few days with the uncertainty of cancelled treatments. Talking of rocks, my son is in his first public show in a few weeks, ‘Rock of Ages’ at Lowther Pavilion. It’s running Thursday 1st December until Saturday 3rd December. If you fancy it, keep a look out for my lovely boy and give him an extra loud clap and a cheer.

Love Hellie x

#spot the fake fell




Lesen sie immer das Kleingedruckte!*

*Appendix A

Friday night, cinema night. That’s what we decided yesterday. I’d had no therapy yesterday (Friday) due to maintenance works of the treatment gantry, and the evening was looking hopeful so we went into Baden to Trafo-Kino, one of several cinemas. We know some films are shown in their original version, and we fancied a laugh so ‘Bridget Jones’s Baby’ ticked the boxes. We’d both seen it before, Mari with our sister Franni, and me with Flo. We’d all found it funny. Anyway, Mari and I thought we’d go again. For much needed laughs.

When we picked the tickets up we had to show a bar code, scan it in a tekkie thing etc and it didn’t work, so we went to the kiosk. “Ich spraeche nuer ein bisschen Deutsch,” said Mari.** Mari speaks quite a lot of German actually – she just tends to look blankly back at the other person when she gets a rapid fire answer in Swiss-German at one million mph and then says coyly “er…Ich bin Englische”. We’ve all been there. We got sorted anyway.

Great seats. Popcorn. The film begins. Bridget Jones singing happy birthday to herself and the start of the soundtrack ‘All by myself..’ Great – I really need a good laugh.

Then it started. In rapid fire one million mph German with NO subtitles even! As I scraped my chin off the floor and my eyes returned to their sockets, an eyewatering burst of silent laughter (Mike does that… I love it) and loud snorts seemed to possess both my body and that of ‘meine shcwester.’ (is that right?)

The rest of the film was spent, certainly on my part, wrestling with an unnaturally hangdog expression whilst I tried to understand what was being said, and uncontrollable, squished silent laughter at Colin Firth in German. He carried it off quite well actually. And the odd moment of tongue hanging out at Patrick Dempsey (me, not Colin Firth).

Then there was an interval half way through! Everyone (except us) went to get Cornettos or second helpings of Nachos and cheese and jalapenos (I was OK – my popcorn had barely had a chance).  Mari had the good idea of getting out the German dictionary. Right…yeah…like we could in any dimension keep up…She even asked had we brought the head torch!



Blurred  photo is due to wobbly hand of meine shcwester trying to overcome handshake caused by extreme laughter.

Anyway, I had seen the film before, so I got most of the plot, and I understood some of the German. I thought I’d include a list of the bits I understood so you’d get an idea… some bad language eluded to…

Swiss-German English Translation
Bridget Jones Bridget Jones
Ich bin schwanger I am pregnant (I’m not)
Wow! Wow!
Ein weiss Wein, grosse A large white whine
Ein Whisky, dopple A double whisky
Oh f*** Self explanatory
Oh Scheisse ditto
Musik Festival ditto again
Kuscheliger Orang-Utan Cuddly orangutan
Andiamo! Off we go! (I so knew that one-Italia!)
Margerhita pizza Self explanatory
Ein bebe A baby
Jack yum
Meine Tochter My daughter
Mein Sohn My son
Meine Schnoopy My Snoopy
**‘Ich spraeche nuer ein bisschen Deutsch,’ sagt Mari. **‘I only speak a little German,’ said Mari.


(Appendix A)

*Trans…Always read the smallprint!

Love and laughs

Hellie x



Autumn Sister

for Mari


Her turmeric curls twist haphazardly skywards,

An Autumn foliage of fizz and spice.

Cinnamon freckles speckle

A kind, familiar face.

Bold limbs reach out

In search of new places to go.

Amongst these branches weave silken threads,

And twigs pluck at gossamer strings.

Her words and whispers are

Songs of a new language.

Those fair, far-reaching boughs shelter the folks

Who find themselves caught up in hailstorms.


Ochre leaves signal a change afoot,

Some falling now, their paprika shades caught

In beams of bright mountain sunlight.

They scatter generously, even far away,

A soft landing, and easing any falls.


One strong trunk

Roots itself firmly

In the good earth.

Constant. Steadfast.

And the scent of tulgey love swirls all around and fills the space.




Hellie x

Brief Encounter


Sometimes you meet someone, fleetingly, who makes a lasting impression on you and you find yourself often thinking about the brief encounter that you had with them, and you know you’ll probably never meet them again. It happened to me recently, back in about April 2016 (can’t now remember exactly the date)

I found myself sitting next to an elderly man of 93, in Preston Royal’s blood clinic. It was the first time I’d been there and I knew I’d be there for a couple of hours… I sat down next to, it turned out, Eric. ‘Eeh, I’m ready for my next pint,’ (he said that not me) then he turned and held out his hand, ‘I’m Eric.’

Over the next couple of hours I found out all about Eric. He’d been in the RAF as a young man and he showed me a photograph. He’d got a brown leather writing case, a bit like one my lovely Mum used to have, with a brass zip around three sides. Tucked in this writing case were quite a few black and white photos and some colour snaps, with those wonderful faded out shades (technicolour?). The RAF picture wasn’t what I was expecting to see…a young man in his RAF uniform… but was instead a row of beaming, muscly strongmen in vesty long-john outfits all flexing their muscles. ‘I was Mr RAF Universe that year,’ said Eric, beaming, ‘That’s me.’ The muscly man Eric pointed to in the middle of the picture was being applauded by all the other ripped men on either side of him.

The technicolour photo he then showed me was of him and a woman leaning out of the windows of a Morris Minor on what looked to be a hot, sunny day ‘My first car and my wife.’ Eric chattered on about his life, I listened, the nurses bustled by and brought him his next pint (of blood for his drip) and did my stuff, but mostly left us be on our blue padded chairs with our foot rests up!

He told me also about his since-he-retired-hobby of writing. He’d found an interest in poetry and old Lancashire dialect. He produced, from his writing case, a slim book of poems he’d had published ’It’s all about Folk’. A charity called Headway (who support people who have had head trauma) had sponsored him and there were 50 copies of it made. He’d sold them all to raise money, except one he had at home and this copy. I flicked through the book with him, listening to Eric talking about the Lancashire dialect, reading the poems and things. His favourite poem of his own was one about a kingfisher, called ‘Pit Stop’ I think, and he explained it to me. A friend of his was a fisherman in his spare time and fished in the rivers around the Wyre. This friend sometimes saw kingfishers and had noticed that they always flew exactly the same flightpath on each occasion he saw them. His wife always packed him up a lunch which he ate whilst waiting for a bite on his line. Anyway, one day his wife had included a foil wrapped portion of sardines in his lunch and, as he, unwrapped them, a blue flash momentarily sped down and plucked one away, and then was gone in the same instant. ‘It’s the only time it ever happened, just the once,’ Eric said.

hellie-by-riverA couple of hours had gone by and our tests were done and Eric had had his two pints. He pressed the poetry book into my hands and told me I could have it. ‘I’ve one left at home… you can only read one copy at a time can’t you, luvvie?’ It was a warm encounter, with an interesting man, and I have his lovely poetry book.
So I have thought about Eric over the last few days, because I’ve seen several beautiful kingfishers as I’ve been standing or walking on the river banks here (there are many rivers), having only ever seen a few in my lifetime. They are tiny, and such a bright flash of blue that it really is the briefest of encounters. Mari’s just told me they make sandy burrows in the riverbank as their nests… how clever as well as beautiful, my sister and the kingfishers.

Love Hellie x

The Tale of the Glowing Noses and the Kite.

Hi everyone. I have come to the end of week one of treatment and it is the weekend. Hip Hooray!

Tuesday was a bit like ‘Groundhog Day’ as regards therapy, mostly exactly the same process as Monday, but without Dr Fritz. Nor could I manipulate time or incidents like Bill Murray could in the film (a great film! and has recently been made into a brilliant stage musical too, by Tim Minchin who wrote Mathilda, in which I am proud to say my younger brother has recently played.) So, I couldn’t make anyone avoid a deep puddle that they may have stepped in the day before. Each following treatment has been the same too.

In the afternoon, we walked (Mari triked) around a nearby nature reserve armed with a picnic. We spotted what we thought was a rare bird. As I fumbled around with the camera on my phone, it (the bird) flew further and further away and my photo consisted of a vast expanse of sky and a tiny speck in the distance. It reminded me of something Franni had said in my lovely Dad’s eulogy. He was a keen birdwatcher and Franni remembered saying, as a child, to him ‘which tiny speck in the sky Dad?’ as he peered into the blue through his binoculars and told us there was a rare red kite wheeling above. Anyway, Mari (also a keen twitcher) said she thought our rare bird was a black kite. We looked it up on a sign at the bird hide and she was right…but I’ve no idea how she knew because all I could see was a tiny speck in the sky.

On Wednesday, thanks to Richard setting up his bike here for me, and having taken me on a trial run on Tuesday, I cycled to my appointment with Mari. It was a sunny day…but it was cold! I went more or less straight into my treatment, under a cosy blanket to warm up. When I came out, Mari looked at me and said promptly “your nose is glowing”. For a moment I failed to see the merriment in her eyes and clutched said nose. On nipping to the loo before the bike ride home, I saw my nose was indeed glowing, though nothing of course to do with the protons!

As I left the PSI a few minutes later, I presented my patient card to a machine I hadn’t used before (to the wrong bit of the machine it turned out), pedalled through the radiation arch (because I was a pedestrian AND had been irradiated) and promptly set off the ‘radiation escaping’ alarm. As the security guard came towards me, the ladies in the office looked round, and a group of lunchtime joggers turned in interest, more than my nose was now glowing and I wanted to ride away and be a tiny speck on the horizon.

Later on Wednesday, we drove over the border and smuggled goods back from Germany, in the form of several large Lidl bags, to stock up our cupboards for the next few weeks. No alarms were set off; no arrests made!

Mari had a treat up her sleeve on Thursday for us – an afternoon at an outdoor, naturally heated spa pool, the origin of which dates back to Roman times. We had a very relaxing 10_tbz_naturschwimmbecken_webtime indeed lying in warm foaming waters, being massaged to varying degrees by bubbles, the air round us fresh and our faces turned to the sun. They were indeed wonderful heated outdoor spa pools. And just around a corner and over a grassy embankment was the original Roman pool. Cold enough to freeze everything off! Brave sister, Mari, because you plunged in as I stood shouting encouragement from the side, whilst locating the steam sauna hut. Thank you for a lovely treat. Both our noses were glowing on Thursday evening, yes?

Friday was cheerio to Richard in the afternoon. He’s sorted out so much for us here – walks and bike rides that we can do, location of a swimming pool for exercise, bike spares, picnic spots, routes programmed into SATNAV for two hopeless tekkies, lots of helpful things. Thank you, Richard. After an airport farewell and a long traffic jam back, we turned in early.

So today, Saturday, has seen no visit to therapy. Mari and I had a chilled day and an hour long swim at the local pool. A parcel arrived, posted out by Franni. Thank you lovely sis… my warmer-than-I-packed winter coat and Flo’s apron for cooking in, which Mari looks very cool in!  I always pack too much of the wrong stuff.

So, whilst this treatment is difficult and strange, there have been lovely moments in the week when I have felt upheld in many ways. When you feel a bit rubbish, routine and normal things help. Like a blog (!) or a bit of washing up.

Love Hellie x

Riding on the Ghost Train…


Do you remember riding on the ghost train at the fair? The feeling of getting into the carriage and then the convincingly clanky mechanical processes taking over and you can’t get off, you don’t know what the mechanical noises are, but you know deep down that you’ll re-appear at the other end the same person that went in, perhaps having had a bit of a scare (or a lot of a scare, depending on the ride)…

Today, I had my first proton beam therapy session. I found myself lying there, my head in an immovable position, thinking about fairground rides, and how you have to relinquish yourself to such a ride, and trusting that all will be well by the time you emerge. I was overtaken by a mechanical process, but knew there were kind, caring people around me whose job it is, every day,  to make sure the ride is tip-top in it’s performance and outcome, worth all the decisions leading up to it. My eyeballs were working overtime, my ears were on high alert such as a sheepdog’s might be, and my trust in the medical team who have decided on the journey I am on, complete. I didn’t feel too nervous before I had the treatment. Trust took its rightful place. After it, I thought… Shit… that was weird… I should have felt more nervous…ghost

But there was no-one saying boo or whooo, no cold skeleton touch or drifting cobweb. There were soothing voices, lights, knowledge and experience, warm hands, and trust. Plus a pounding heart. And I looked like this before I went to the PSI today, not after…

I’m fine, enjoying an evening with my sister and brother-in-law after a walk by the river (thank you Richard), and a chat on Skype with Patrick and Franni – it was brilliant and thank you, Patrick, for guiding me through another tekkie learning curve.

Love Hellie x

Over the Hill?


I was 50 on Friday. I had a wonderful day with Mike and our children… a surprise day out with a bit of everything they know I love – some time together, chocolate cake, some mooching around, some good food, a glass or two of prosecco and some wonderful, well-chosen, and expertly made cards and pressies (my amazing home-made cards, my wonderful bag and Lonely Planet guide, my bicycle makeover) and another treat for good measure. Thank you Flo, Padsy and Gee. I love you. Xxx

I am also now the chuffed owner of a Kindle, thanks to my two inspired sisters, Franni and Mari. Herein lies another new phase of tekkie savvieness, which my loved ones are determined I reach! Thank you xx

Thank you too, to all of you who sent me loving wishes, messages, cards and gifts. I am so fortunate and blessed that I have so much love in my life.

My other treat for good measure on Friday was a trip up a mountain. It was a mini Eiger! Mike, the children and I spent a fantastic afternoon climbing up walls at a converted church in Liverpool, at Awesome Walls. There are lots of different walls there to climb, something we’ve done as a family many times, both inside and out. For the first time, I was scared (refer to the red bra story about worries…) But, with Patrick’s encouragement and confidence on the giant elastic band walls at the beginning, and Flo’s help just by watching her easily, confidently shinny up some very tall walls, and with Mike’s help as a watchful belay partner, I overcame another fear that has crept in, and I conquered the Eiger. And the view from the top of it was amazing – Mike, Flo and Patrick all looking up clapping and shouting Well done, Mum, Gee. Yes I am over the mountain, not just the hill, and the view from the top is fantastic.

Love Hellie x