Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Sorrows of my Heart

I would not exchange the sorrows of my heart for the joys of the multitude. And I would not have the tears that sadness make to flow from my every part turn into laughter. I would that my life remain a tear and a smile..... A tear to unite me with those of broken heart: a smile to be a sign of my joy in existence.
- Kahlil Gibran, Tear and a Smile

I'm nearing the end of my treatment!! (Fingers crossed) I have two more Herceptin appointments over the next month and then I am done.

This week I had a final, very thorough H
eart investigation to make sure that the heart muscle has not been damaged by the treatment I have been having.

Mary sat with me at the Marsden whilst I was examined by Consultant Cardiologist George Amin from Queen's Hospital, Romford. George made us laugh because he said he was an "Essex Boy"!!!! I mean, Amin?!!!!! Actually I drove him mad with my chatter and jokes and he had to keep telling me to be still so he could get a complicated reading from his machine. I was able to watch the whole process. Fascinating to see my heart pumping away and the little valves going to and fro. Every so often he would click on a dark area and take a photo of it which made me slightly nervous and I would say silly things like "Is that a lump you see on my heart?" But he patiently explained that he was not looking for lumps but merely there to measure the function of the left ventricle to make sure all was well as Herceptin could cause problems.

I did feel a bit nervous because the ultrasound room was the very one I had lain in in all innocence, 18 months ago now, when the nice nurse took my hand and gave me "that look", and the rather fiece femail Cardiologist told me that my mammogram and ultrasound scans were "abnormal" and the first icy fingers of fear gripped that same heart, now pumping away so merrily on the screen, as I said "It's not cancer though is it?" and an hour later was advised that it indeed was cancer and that I would be having a masectomy in the next two weeks.

This time, thankfully, all was well. My poor old heart which doesn't look at all battered by the slings and arrows of life, on the sceen and shows none of it's scars, has been pronounced "normal" and functioning as it should.

Mary (who took these rather glam photos) and I celebrated with a Decaf Cappuccino at the Crown Pub opposite afterwards.

The banning of Robert's book The Battle for Bond which is about my late father's involvement in the film version of Ian Fleming's books has caused a few skipped beats this month. Bruce Sachs of Tommahawk, the publisher has opted to hand back the remaining 300 books that were in the warehouse rather than oppose the Ian Fleming Will Trust lawyers in a battle as to whether or not we had the right to publish a couple of letters from Fleming to my father that had been part of the 1963 law case and therefore in the public domain as far as we were concerned. It has caused no problems in USA where the books are now selling out fast.

This has resulted in some very welcome publicity and the rush to bring out the new edition of the book which will not include the letters as illustrations (though we are allowed to reveal the content) which were not necessary to the plot anyway - merely of interest, we thought, for the reader to see. the new edition which is now eagerly awaited by thousands of Bond fans will be a sligthly smaller and less expensive version of the original lovingly put together book which was a little expensive but will be treasured by the collectors.

Sean Stowell of BBC Yorkshire interviewed Robert, Bruce and myself for the clip below. It would have been an even longer clip if Barnsley had not just beaten Chelsea a couple of hours before the broadcast so that the rest of the news was filled with Barnsley football fans celebrating in various pubs and states of sobriety.

Highlights of a rather musical month have been Christopher's birthday celebrated as usual at the Blue Elephant Tai Restaurant, Fulham Broadway with a cake supplied by Aimi that original said 'Party' on it - redesigned by Mia and me!!

Maureen's Songs from the Shows concert at the Chelsea Arts Club

Dunya Lavrova represented the Royal College of Music where she is now studying for a PHD having gained honours in her final exams last year , and played some amazingly complicated pieces brilliantly and with charisma at the Wigmore Hall on Monday 24th March. She has grown both as an artist and in composure since I last saw her over a year ago.

And last but not least Mia's Schools choirs Proms Praise for Schools" Concert at the Albert Hall, which I dutifully went along with the family to see - not expecting a wild evening.
See "Mia at Albert Hall" on You Tube.

However a grand surprise awaited us as we took our seats in the ground floor box which due to the generosity of the evenings sponsors cost a meagre £5 per head, having collected drinks for the interval .

The production was spectacular with the orchestra and 12 school choirs on stage lit beautifully with multi-coloured lights. A huge ball was suspended from the domed ceiling on which was projected scenes such as eagles in flight to accompany "Up Where We Belong" and film footage depicting Fire and Flood to highlight the Elements - which was the theme for the night. Sprays of fireworks dashed round the Grand Circle and the evening ended with a gigantic glitter ball which obliterated everything from view in a shower of golden tinsel.

As I said to Russell later on, it warmed the cockles of my heart no end!!!!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Mothering Sunday and All that Jazz

Firstly I would like to reassure anyone who has been kind enough to worry about me, that being "back at the Marsden" means only for the preventative treatment with the wonder drug Herceptin that I have been so fortunate to be given at great expense from the National Health. Having had the all clear, months ago, with an 80% chance of non return of breast cancer in the next 10 years, my chances are improved by another 50% (taking it to 90%) by a one year treatment of Herceptin which I have been taking as a drip at 3 weekly intervals at the Day Patient Unit at the Marsden. I finish this treatment in about a month.

After that, I have the same chances as anyone else as to whether I get struck down again. I am fortunate in that I shall be watched like a hawk now, just in case.

It's almost as if it never happened.
How quickly one returns to normal life. Apart from being much more tired than I used to be and not able to push myself, everything is returning to as it was before diagnosis, except that I am mentally stronger, and have a different outlook on life and love and stuff, and an awareness of the preciousness of time and the present moment.

Mothering Sunday was one of these precious days. Having only just become a mother by the seat of my pants, as it were, I am always delighted when Aimi wants to mark it as a special occasion. She is very good about this. This year I joined the family at the service at St John's Hyde park. Aimi and Mia were both reading. It was a beautiful morning. The choir there is heavenly and they sung heartily in harmony with pianist and flute.

Before my love affair with the church waned I was a regular at St John's. This Sunday, as little children ran about with posies of daffodils for all the Mums and any other ladies too, I sat whilst so many memories came to mind from over the years. My tears falling in steady stream into the red carpet under the altar rail, when I was going through a particularly harsh time in 1984 and learning to live my life without alcohol. The joy of holding baby Mia in my arms and soothing her under my big black hat with shocking pink roses at her Christening in 2000. The still vibrant and wonderful memories of Aimi's wedding a year and a half ago when the church was filled with dearest friends & family, exquisite flowers and utter happiness as I stood reading the first reading on the same patch of carpet that once held my tears.

In the evening I went to the Ram Jam Jazz club in Kingston to celebrate dear friend, Alan Franks' presence on this planet for 60 years! Alan is a multi-talented writer, musician, poet and playwright and treated us to a fun evening of music and party pieces performed by himself and other talented friends including his two grown ups sons Simon and Jimmy, or the 'Audio Bullys' as they have become, and who are currently touring the country with their new album. I enclose a few photos. Alan also paid tribute to his father in law, Ruth's father Rev Peter Gledhill who sadly died last year. Peter was an intellectual and highly educated man and Alan sent us into hysterics with this quote from the Reverend who had once delivered this worldly wisdom to him in his wonderful slow, deep and brooding Welsh voice.

"You see Alan, the thing is,.......... as one progresses through life,........... one comes to realise that a thorough grounding in the classics; ..........a familiarity with the way in which the greatest observers of human nature set down their wisdom;............. an informed appreciation of their thought processes and linguistic expertise does, in point of fact, equip you for...........absolutely................ ......................................................nothing!"

Here is one of my favourite photographs of him holding grandson Arthur on his knee.

It was also a joy for me to hear Emily Maguire for the first time. She sings and plays with a pure quivering voice not dissimilar to the late and great Eva Cassidy. Unsurprisingly, she has just been picked to support Don McLean on his new tour. Watch this space!

It's a great day for the Whittingham's.
Some footballer called Whittingham
seems to have done a great job today. He scored in an important match and helped someone else to - can you tell? I'm not a football fan? It was on in the background and I just kept hearing the word Whittingham yelled out in that unmistakle 'man excited about sport strangulated voice' . Whittingham is my maiden name and also that of my father Jack, and we were delighted to find a large article about him and his contribution to the 007 genre in the Sunday Times today on page 10. I enclose a link in case anyone is interested and I haven't emailed you already!!

There was also a news item on BBC Yorkshire TV last night Monday 10th, at 6.30 Sky channel 976 in which Robert Sellers, Bruce Sachs and myself were interviewed on the banning of The Battle for Bond book which is all very good publicity for the next edition which we intend to publish in May! As the programe came from Yorkshire they featured my father Jack heavily and showed some wonderful old photographs of him as a young man and later on with Charles Crichton (A Fish Called Wanda) at Ealing studios. I felt proud as I watched with Aimi and Mia as Dad got some of the recognition he has always so richly deserved for producing the screenplay that helped to transform the sadistic, violent and alcoholic Bond into the suave romantic hero that he is today so that the audiences of 1960 and the likes of Messrs Saltzman and Brocolli lapped him up.

For those who have copies of The Battle for Bond, you may be interested to know that it has become a rare collectors item overnight and there are two used copies selling on for £125 and £168 each!. If you still want a copy you can order it from for a lot less but hurry as it is selling out fast!

Watch this space too!!!