A couple of people recently have told me they visit my blog most days, so I thought I'd have a look at the statistics my blog generates. As you can see there is an average of about 30 viewings a day, which is quite surprising, especially as I suspect the entries from the UK aren't quite as interesting as those from China!
Today was quite a big test as to how well I am after the glandular fever. I took the train and tube up to London to meet two old college friends for a nice, leisurely lunch. Ratch [left] and Cath [right] were both catering staff at my College (it seems I used to mix more with the ancilliary staff than fellow students in those days!) and we've kept in touch since. In fact, Ratch e-mails me every day without fail when I am in China.
Cathy headed back to work in the afternoon and Ratch and I visited the National Gallery. Thankfully it was free, as overall I didn't think much of the paintings - Smudged lilies? Scribbled sunflowers? Inaccurate Venice panaramas? Dodgy haywains? Rubbish!
In the evening we met up with another friend Miki who had arranged birthday present tickets for Abba's "Mamma Mia" musical. Before that, however, she gave us one of her legendary backstage tours - seeing props, actors, hydraulic lifts, platform shoes [see photo] etc.
One particularly interesting area was a sound booth with mike, headphones and a video link to the conductor, where any cast not on stage are required to gather to sing backing vocals for the performing cast members! I thought it was all backing tapes, but even the background chorus line are singing live.
We had fantastic seats - four rows from the stage - apart from the person next to us who kept trying to take photos and kept getting told off by the staff. I missed half the finale as a rather large usherette was leaning over in front of me trying to delete photos from the reluctant audience member's camera! It was a lively show though with, of course, great music. Having seen the scenery, musician's pit, props and some of the cast beforehand, I definitely
got to experience more than the average punter! Throughout the show I kept looking up to a monitor of the conductor that Miki had pointed out, to see when he was playing the piano and when he was waving his arms about.
A busy train back home and I was tucked up in bed by 11.30pm. Hopefully there won't be any health repercussions tomorrow!
My daily trip out today was to Bexleyheath for a spot of shopping. Its most famous landmark is the clock tower [see photo] which usually seems surrounded by hoodies, thugs and community police officers! My treat after the trauma of shopping was a Burger King lunch. Unfortunately, the second bite left me with a small, sharp bone stuck in my gum! I recovered it and, this afternoon, sent it off to Head Office along with a moany letter, in the hope of some compensation! That's how exciting life is these days - bus rides, shopping and writing letters of complaints. Two months 'til I return to China...!
I'm still trying to walk the fine line between resting a lot to get over the glandular fever as quickly as possible, and not simply getting bored or wasting each day here in the UK. So, I've been trying to get out of the house for an hour or two each day, and then having a good rest. This morning I took a walk to a nearby park and lake [see photo] to feed the ducks! Nice hour-long round trip with, as yet, no adverse affects.
One of my planned purchases whilst in the UK was a new laptop computer to replace my ageing 5-year old model in China. I've spent the last week or two loading on the software I need and trying to figure out the new Windows 7 operation system (what a mess!). My parents left for a 5 day holiday trip to Torquay this morning, however, which gives me the chance to hijack Dad's internet connection for a few days and get all the updates I need downloaded from the internet.
One fun site which I've discovered is http://tiltshiftmaker.com which can take normal photos and then, using various defocussing techniques,
make them look like model toys. Some photos I took in XiJiang, really look dinky! Bear in mind these are photos of real, full-sized houses and bridges.
I turned 45 today. Mum had been squirrelling away any early cards and presents, so I had a nice bunch to open over breakfast [see photo]. Later my parents took me for a nice carvery meal for lunch. The rest of the day is set aside for resting - although I've felt a bit better over the last 2-3 days, today was another weak and shaky one. Still, fortified by an enormous plateful of lunch food, it shouldn't be too hard to have a kip this afternoon! Happy Birthday me!
Today was a reunion for the Hiders - the rather large family on my Dad's side. He originally had 13 brothers and sisters, which resulted in a lot of uncles, aunts, cousins etc. These days there is just Dad and his remaining 5 sisters, plus their extended families. There was about 30 folk there, altogether. It took us over 2 hours to drive there, because of the tailback from an accident on the M25, and another 2 hours to get back, via the Christmas lights in Central London. The reunion itself was good fun, if quite exhausting for me. Nice food and chats with various relatives. I need a bit of a rest to recover now though!
I went to the doctor's this afternoon to find out what last week's blood tests had picked up. He confirmed that I have "glandular fever". I may be over the worst of the symptoms, but it is famous for being an infection that reoccurs for many months to come, leaving the patient very weak. There's no cure or medicine - just rest. I guess it's good to finally know what's wrong with me but it has, and will continue to, muck up my plans for some time to come. Frustrating.
At first, I was winding Mum and Dad up about having only been ill since returning to "infected Britain". But then after reseacrhing it a bit online I found that symptoms only show up 5-6 weeks after infection (which means I must have caught it during my holiday in the remote villages of Guizhou!). I cheered myself up with a Chinese takeaway [see photo] this evening. It may be an infected country, but the food's good!
I managed to get over to Purley today and attend a lovely tea [see photo] laid on to help me meet up with all my old friends and colleagues from Lodge School, where I taught before leaving for China 4 years ago). About ten folk came along and it was great to reminisce and catch up on all the recent news. My Dad was able to drive me there and back (it's not at all easy by public transport), but I was still tired by the time I got back home. I guess it was my first proper trip out of the house for a week or two. Worth the effort though!
One of the nice things about living in China is avoiding the stress and commercialism of Christmas, which is already an ever-present pressure here in the UK, in early November. But being in Britain at this time of year does mean I get to avoid the Halloween and Christmas extravaganzas in my Kunming school. Although I know the students thoroughly enjoy them, I'm a bit of a humbug and just see them as a interuption to the teaching! This year, the theme was "Harry Potter" and, as you can see in the photo, the staff went all out for wizardly effect.
After two days of seemingly improving health, today was a bit of a setback, with a return to swollen glands, feverish turns and weakness. I did manage to give blood though, and hope that the test results next week will shed some light on this illness, which seems to be dragging on forever.
High time I wrote something in the blog, although there's not much of interest to report on when you spend your days sleeping, resting and sweating! However, the sight of Dad doing some housework today was worth a photo. He does his fair share of washing up, to be fair, whilst Mum does the shopping, cooking, dusting, washing, ironing, Christmas wrapping [see photo], etc!
There's been some positive signs on the health front over the last day or so, with two nights of fairly good sleep, less swollen glands and less frequent headaches. I'm still popping 17 pills a day for now, and am having a feverish sweat as I type, but overall some progress. I have more blood tests on Friday and visit the doctor next week for the next steps.
The morning before Krista's 50th Birthday Party I decided enough was enough. Although I had planned to meet half a dozen other friends during the rest of "road trip", I was just feeling too lousy. So I caught a train back to London to be picked up by my parents and sent to bed with Ribena! The photo shows my swollen gland!
I went to see the dcotor here this morning and, although he still thinks it's a straightforward viral infection, he's not ruling out other more serious possibilities. So I have to have more blood tests later in the week. now I have to ring round all the people I was due to meet this week, and cancel them all. Very frustrating.
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