Blogging about books – Evil Games by Angela Marsons

Evil Games was a book given to Iain by our cleaner and not really the kind of thing I choose to read.  However, I picked it up one day, read the first few pages and found myself hooked.

The second in the author’s series of D.I. Kim Stone novels, it begins with a raid on the home of a suspected child abuser.  While the investigation into this case continues, a sociopathic psychiatrist uses her knowledge of the human mind to manipulate her patients into committing murders.  This is not a spoiler – it’s made quite clear that this is happening very early in the book.

Kim Stone seems at first to be something of a stereotype.  A strong woman in what is still, to some extent, seen as a man’s world, she is tough, dedicated and as hard as the hammers of hell.  But as the book progresses, it becomes clear that this is not just lazy writing and poor characterisation as we learn about her background and the reasons she behaves the way she does.  And we do see small signs of softening – at one stage she adopts a murder victim’s dog.

The two cases – child abuse and murder – are unconnected and this adds a sense of realism to the book.  Contrary to the impression given by TV, the victim in one case does not generally turn out to be the perpetrator in the next.  However, there is a neat little link when something that happens during one investigation provides a serendipitous clue to another.

While I’m sure no-one would claim Evil Games could be described as great literature, it was an entertaining and satisfying read and I would certainly read further books about Kim Stone.


Blogging about books – Happy Money : The New Science of Smarter Spending by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton

I’m not sure anyone ever reads this bit of the blog but I said I was going to do book reviews so it’s up to you.

I don’t really know why I bought Happy Money – obviously something about it appealed to me but I can’t remember what.  It’s quite a short book that basically tries to persuade us to change the way we spend our money in order to increase our happiness.

It’s a fairly well-established fact that once we have enough money to comfortably meet our needs, the impact of more disposable impact on our happiness is much lower than we would expect.  We might think a top of the range Mercedes would make us happier, but if we can get from A to B in an old Fiat Panda that added expenditure probably isn’t going to make a huge difference.  And if we’ve got one top of the range Mercedes is another one really going to make us happier?

This book suggests that money can buy increased happiness if we follow these five principles :-

  1. Buy experiences – good seats at a concert by your favourite band won’t last as long as a designer shirt but may well give you more pleasure.  Sometimes the reasoning behind a purchase determines whether it is a possession of an experience – for example, a book is an experience if bought to enjoy reading it, but a possession if it looks good on your shelves.
  2. Make it a treat – if you drink the finest champagne every day it just becomes routine.  Drink it on special occasions only and you’ll enjoy it more.
  3. Buy time – spend your money on paying someone else to do the cleaning, the ironing or any other job you hate.  That way you get time to do the things you enjoy.
  4. Pay now, consume later – the reverse of our “buy now, pay later” culture.   When you pay for something in advance, like you usually do for a holiday, it almost seems like it’s free when you actually come to enjoy it.
  5. Invest in others – it really is better to give than to receive.

These principles all make sense to me, and for anyone with more money than they need to be comfortable they seem like a good basis on which to make spending decisions.  The book is less convincing, however, when it attempts to apply the same principles to expenditure by governments.

Overall, the premise behind Happy Money is an interesting one, but the material is stretched too thinly.  There is a good magazine article here but it doesn’t quite work as a book.

Hypnotherapy Diploma Module 2

I was really looking forward to Module 2 of my hypnotherapy training course.  I’d had a great time on the first Module, met some great people, and learned a lot.  I’d been practising my skills with reasonable success and was starting to learn what did and didn’t work and to develop my own style.  I wanted to know more.

So it was with great anticipation and excitement that I set off on the first Friday morning in March, full of Monster Energy Drink, satnav set for Motivation Training near Aviemore.  Iain had decided to stay at home this time, so I was making the journey on my own, accompanied only by Ken Bruce on Radio 2 and a selection of CDs for when the Jeremy Vine show got too much for me (some of his phone callers give me exploding head syndrome).

The Monster Energy Drink turned out to be something of an error of judgement.  An hour into my journey I was desperate for the loo, and with no idea of how far it was to the next one was forced to pull off the Edinburgh City by-pass and relieve myself against the car (something I never, ever do) in what I suspect was a dogging car park.  Fortunately, 10.30 in the morning is apparently not peak time for dogging.

Bladder successfully emptied, I carried on to Aviemore, with a short coffee stop at Kinross services, arriving at about 2.00pm.  Having advised Jan at Motivation Training that I’d be there around 4.00pm, I had a couple of hours to kill in Aviemore.  I wandered up and down the main street, mooched around the small branch of Waterstone’s, then realised I’d forgotten about lunch so went into the famous Mountain Café.  This is an institution in Aviemore and it’s rare to get in without queuing but I was lucky.  Not being particularly hungry, I ordered a cheese sandwich (or “piece” as they describe it on the menu – somehow I find the self-conscious Scottishness of this a bit off-putting but that’s probably just me).

This was something of a mistake.  Stupidly, I expected neat little triangles made from thinly-sliced bread, maybe even with the crusts cut off.  A few crisps on the side.  A little salad garnish – you know the sort of thing I mean.  What I got was something the size of a small house – two thick slices of bread (about half a loaf in total) enclosing a filling of cheese, salad, mayonnaise, chilli sauce and probably the odd missing child.  All this with no cutlery and the tiniest of napkins.  I would have liked to ask for a knife so I could cut it into smaller pieces (no pun intended) but not wanting to seem like a soft Southern Jessie I struggled manfully and left needing a shower.

Soon afterwards I arrived at Motivation Training, to find that I was the first student to arrive.  This allowed me an hour on my own to unpack and enjoy one of life’s greatest pleasures – a little lie down.  Unfortunately, at this precise moment an old adversary returned to my life, one I thought I’d just about escaped from forever.  Hello Depression – will you be staying long?

The full story of my battle with depression will have to wait for another blog post but it’s enough for me to say here that I’ve had depressive tendencies for most of my life and was floored by an incapacitating attack about 20 years ago.  Since then, with the aid of medication and support from various sources, other than a couple of relapses I’ve been able to keep my mood in a range somewhere between fine and a-bit-miserable-for-no-apparent-reason-but-still-able-to-function.  I fell through the bottom of that range shortly before John and Lisamarie arrived.*

I employed my cloaking technique – fixed smile, slightly brittle good humour, exaggerated gestures to compensate for the fact that my body feels like it’s closing in on itself.  This can fool most people for a while, but it’s exhausting for me.  However, it got me through dinner the first evening, during which Marta and Andy arrived, and with the help of a little rosé wine and the pleasure of being back in such lovely company I managed to push the depression away for a few hours.

The following morning, Marina and Gillian, the two non-resident students, arrived and Matthew welcomed us back.  Most of the first day was spent discussing the volunteer clients we had seen since Module One.  Matthew was quick to stress that there was no element of competition here – a simple relaxation session was just as valid as curing a long-term problem.  I tried to convince myself of this as Andy described the amazing work he had been doing with terminal cancer patients, John told us how he’d relieved a friend’s fear of being a passenger in a car, Gillian of how she’d cured a chocoholic.  Everyone seemed to have achieved miraculous results.

And what had I done?  Reminded someone of her ability to cope with life’s problems, encouraged my sister to stop and think before automatically accepting the offer of a glass of wine, totally failed to hypnotise my brother.  But not to worry – it’s not a competition.

Of course most of the others also shared stories of things that hadn’t gone so well.  John had phoned Matthew for advice after his first attempt at curing his friend’s fear had only limited success.  Gillian’s chocoholic needed a second session and a change of approach to bring about lasting change.  Andy had an unsuccessful session quite early on.  But my mind wasn’t having any of that – they were all wonderful and I should have been sitting in the corner wearing a dunce’s cap.  I can look back now and recognise that my own results were actually pretty impressive (apart from the failure with my brother) but I wasn’t thinking that way at the time.

The day ended with us practising hypnotic inductions on each other.  I worked with Andy again with Marta making up a group of three.

In the evening, the five of us staying in the house sat up and talked, the conversation oiled with more rosé wine.  Jan had clearly decided we were determined to behave like toddlers on a Haribo high and didn’t bother trying to send us to bed.

Most of the tuition in this Module was related to NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming).   I’ve blogged previously about the difficulties I had reading NLP for Dummies.  Matthew’s approach was to demystify the subject by explaining the jargon but using it as little as possible, and this certainly helped me to make sense of it.  Unfortunately, I was struggling to concentrate so I’m not sure that all of it went in, but combined with further reading I managed to make sense of it all.

For the uninitiated, I will try here to give a brief idea of what NLP is.  This is easier said than done, and I find myself having to use jargon and then explain it.  In a nutshell, NLP involves changing the submodalities of a remembered experience in order to change the clients feelings about that experience and thus bring about beneficial change for the future.  Crystal clear eh?  I’ll try to make it easier to understand.

Imagine a time when you were really happy, relaxed and confident.  Picture the scene.  In creating a visual image, you are employing the visual modality.  The qualities of that image – whether it’s in black and white or colour, large or small, flat or 3D, still or moving – are its submodalities.  Still with me?  Good.  Now if you magnify that image, brighten the colours, bring it closer, make it more lifelike etc your emotional response will be different from if you make it tiny, washed out, far away and flat.  By manipulating the submodalities of an unpleasant memory, for example, it’s possible to reduce or eliminate its negative impact on the present and future.  It may sound a bit bonkers and far too simple but it works.

Unfortunately, I have great difficulties with visualisation.  I think that internally I may in fact be severely sight-impaired.  If I try to picture myself, for example, in a situation that has caused me distress in the past, I might manage to create a vague image of one element of the scene but not to clearly see the entire scene in full colour.  And if I try to manipulate that image, the likelihood is it will just disappear altogether.  NLP does, in fact, recognise that not all of us process information visually; some of us display a preference for auditory processing, while others have a kinaesthetic leaning, processing their memories through the feelings they create.  However, all NLP techniques seem to start from the premise that we can all create beautiful vibrant pictures in our heads.

So my difficulty is that although I have no doubt that these techniques work, I struggle to experience them myself.  This obviously reduces my confidence in my ability to use them with clients.   Of course I must actually be able to visualise, otherwise I would be unable to make any sense of the world.  When we see an apple, for example, we compare what we have in front of us with the catalogue of images we have in our brain, taking a fraction of a millisecond to identify this object as an apple.  We’re visualising all the time without being aware of it; if I can identify an apple I have the ability to visualise a memory, I just have to develop it.  So eventually, if I work at it, I should be able to resolve this problem.

Over the course of the next few days we learned to apply these techniques in order to achieve a wide variety of results – to develop new behaviours, to remove the negative impact of unpleasant memories, to cure phobias and to minimise the effects of traumatic experiences.  We were able to practise some of these – while most of us could think of different ways we would like to behave or unpleasant memories we would prefer to exorcise, phobias and traumas were less common (and perhaps too personal to use in the context of a training exercise).

Light relief was created by Andy, who produced Donald Trump masks for us all.  Having created a distraction, we held them to our faces while Matthew’s back was turned and waited for the tirade of expletives when he found himself face-to-face with seven Donalds.  We were not disappointed.

One evening John took those of us staying at the house on a scenic drive around the area.  The highlight of this was spotting the Indian restaurant in Aviemore which we decided we would go to the following night.

During our evening meal the wine made another welcome appearance.  Lisamarie and I tried to give a heartrending performance of the song “I Know Him So Well”, only slightly hampered by the fact she didn’t know the words.  I, of course, know this song backwards but elected to sing it in the more traditional forward version.  I then gave a solo rendition of a song recorded years ago by the Irish singer Mary Coughlan, entitled “The Country Fair Dance”.

John and Andy gamely took on the roles of Porcupine Paul and Fearsome Fred Ford, while Lisamarie made a delightfully coquettish Pamela Pearl.  So what if we all seemed a bit bonkers – we were having fun and I was putting nasty depression back in its box for a while.  We were late to bed that night!

All too soon Tuesday evening came around – time for our second visit to the Cairn at Carr Bridge.  This was another evening of fun, laughter and too much wine.  Having managed to find “I Know Him So Well” on the jukebox, Gillian and I performed a word-perfect rendition, with Lisamarie helpfully contributing backing oooohs.  Marina filmed this and posted it on Facebook.  I used to like Marina.

The following morning, with thick heads, we tried to make sense of Matthew’s end of module test (sorry, quiz).  We sat around a table and tried to answer questions we could barely read, let alone understand.  I employed my crafty technique of writing completely illegibly so Matthew would just assume I was right.  It worked for Module 1 so it was definitely worth another try.

With much hugging and promising to keep in touch (aided by our new WhatsApp group) we set off for home, ready to put our new skills into practice.


*I’ve tried to find somewhere in the main body of this post to include this bit, but it just seemed to interrupt the flow, so I’ve added it as a footnote.

It’s very often said that depression makes people selfish and there is some truth in this.  In the depths of despair anything that makes you feel better seems like fair game – other people’s feelings can cease to matter as you desperately try to lift your own.  I know that in the past I have, at times, been viciously angry with people, not necessarily because they deserved it but because expressing anger felt so much better than staying locked inside myself.  I don’t do that any more.

Instead, I do guilt.  Guilt that I’m being such a wet blanket and threatening to infect other people with my misery.  Guilt that I don’t have the wherewithal to just shake myself out of it.  Guilt that I can sometimes have a good time while still claiming to be depressed.  And most of all, guilt that I’m depressed when other people have things so much worse.

Knowing what I do about some of my friends on the course, depression seems to me like the ultimate in self-indulgence.  I have no business being depressed.  And being far too self-analytical, living too much in my head, I then ask myself, is it self-indulgent to accuse myself of self-indulgence?

So I remind myself that it’s down to my faulty brain chemistry.  That I don’t choose to feel like this.  That many years ago, during one of my worst attacks, I told myself that amputation of a limb would be an acceptable price to pay for the depression to go away.

It’s not self-indulgence.  It’s just the way I am.  I’ve been kind to myself and it has passed – I feel much better now.

And one day I will beat it.

Blogging about books – Neuro-linguistic Programming for Dummies by Romilla Ready and Kate Burton

Warning – if you’re not interested in NLP you might want to skip this post.

Neuro-linguistic Programming for Dummies appeared on the reading list for my Hypnotherapy Diploma Course, which was handy as i’d been given a copy for Christmas and was halfway through it when I started the course.

I’ve been interested in NLP for several years without any clear understanding of what it is.  Unfortunately, this book really hasn’t helped in that respect.  The formal definition of NLP, given at the beginning of the book  is “the study of the structure of your subjective experience”.  While the authors can’t really be blamed for this, I really didn’t feel that definition helped me at all.  And by the end of the book I was none the wiser.

One of the problems with NLP is the huge amount of jargon involved – modalities, submodalities, meta models, logical levels, anchors.  All of these terms need to be clearly understood in order to make any sense of the subject, but this book seems very vague on what some of these mean and of what relevance they have.  An attempt is made to demonstrate the practical use of some of these concepts by way of anecdotes, but far too many of these relate to corporate business situations which are of limited interest to the general reader and turned me (as anti-corporate as it’s possible to be) right off.

The elements of NLP that have been introduced in my course so far have tended to be organically drawn out of examples of their use – the anecdote comes first, followed by an explanation of the point it demonstrates.  This makes them far more palatable and understandable.

It may well be that NLP is not a subject that can easily be learnt from a book and the authors have actually made a valiant but failed attempt at sharing their knowledge of the subject.  I’ll probably come back to this book when I know more about it – maybe my opinion will change.

But probably not – I forgot to mention that it’s really boringly written!

Hypnotherapy Diploma Module One – The training

On a Saturday morning in January, I gathered with the four of my classmates I’d met the previous day for breakfast.  As we looked out at the snow-covered Highland scenery I think we were all feeling a degree of apprehension.  As we drank our tea and ate our cereal, we were joined by the two non-resident students, Gillian, a Human Resources Manager from Inverness, and Marina, a colonic hydrotherapist (gulp!) from just around the corner but working in Inverness.  Our group was complete.

At 9.00am we drifted through to the training room and Matthew began his introduction to the course by explaining his own background, telling us how he met Jan and how the two of them came to be running a Hypnotherapy training school in the wilds of Scotland.  He also warned us about his two major idiosyncrasies – his tendency to rant about his pet subjects and his liberal use of expletives.  Matthew turned out to be one of those people who is practically unable to exhale without swearing but manages to do it with such charm and humour as to be completely inoffensive.

The day then got properly underway, setting a pattern for the rest of our stay – the morning devoted to theory, practical demonstrations and videos of Matthew at work, then lunch followed by the opportunity for us to practise the techniques we’d been shown.  We worked in pairs for this; as I was sitting next to Andy we agreed to work together and quickly developed a good rapport, finding ourselves comfortable in being honest about what worked well and what less well, and able to bounce ideas off each other.  At various points during the course Matthew suggested that we should change partners.  None of us did!

In the evenings, the five of us staying in the house sat up drinking wine, chatting and laughing until Jan came through to send us to bed.

As time went on we found ourselves becoming increasingly confident in our ability to induce hypnotic trance and to use this in order to bring about change in people’s lives.  it almost felt as if Matthew had been covertly hypnotising us and implanting confidence in our unconscious minds.  While we have a lot more to learn, this first module certainly gave us a good grounding in the basics of hypnotherapy.

On the last night of the course, the seven of us went for a meal at the Cairn Hotel in Carrbridge.  Along with the excellent food we allowed ourselves a small sweet sherry each.  A couple of the regulars thanked us on their way out for providing such great entertainment.  I don’t know what they were talking about!

The following morning, feeling much better than we deserved to (apart from Marta, who wanted to die), we were delighted to be presented with what Matthew referred to as “a quiz” and was quick to reassure us was not a test.  I think he was lying.  There was much scratching of heads and frantic reference to our course manuals as we tried to answer the taxing questions.  We all hurriedly scribbled down what we hoped bore some resemblance to the correct responses and handed our efforts in for marking.  The results will be waiting for us when we get back.

All that remained was for us to be given our assignment to complete, and for Matthew to talk us through the reading list.  The assignment was to conduct three hypnotherapy sessions with family members or friends and to write these up for discussion at the start of the next module.  We were also required to read one book from the reading list.

Excited at the prospect of trying out our new skills, we took our leave of Motivation Training in a frenzy of hugs and handshakes before starting our journeys back to reality.

Hypnotherapy Diploma Module One – Arrival

So it’s actually called Accredited Diploma in Hypnotherapy, Practitioner and Master Practitioner of NLP and NLP Life Coaching.  If you want me to blog about it don’t expect me to call it that.  Life’s too short.

Iain and the dogs were staying in Aviemore, a couple of miles from the course venue, for the duration so we’d driven up the previous day and I’d stayed overnight in the cottage that was to be their temporary home.  On the way up, the snow the weatherman had promised put in an appearance, and by the time we reached our lunch stop at House of Bruar, the overpriced shopping outlet luxury designer shopping experience in Perthshire, it had formed a thick white covering.  The dogs loved this, running, jumping and rolling like puppies

The following day, we had a walk around Aviemore while the snow continued to fall, after which I said my fond farewells to Iain and the dogs and set off, with some degree of anxiety,  for Avingormack, home of Motivation Training.

Motivation Training is run by Canadian-born Matthew Ferguson – public school educated, former follower of the hippy trail, reformed City Trader – who provides the Training, and his wife Jan who provides the Motivation in the form of food.  It was Jan who greeted me on arrival.  I have thought long and hard about how to describe her and the best I can come up with is like Mary Poppins but without the friendly chimney sweep with the bad Cockney accent.  Or the singing.  Or the animated dancing penguins.  (Younger readers may prefer to think of Nanny McPhee without the warty nose).

Seriously, Jan sometimes really did seem like a nanny trying to control a brood of unruly children.  Which sort of makes Matthew the equivalent of Mr Banks (or whatever Colin Firth’s character was called in Nanny McPhee) which only works if there’s a secret X-rated version in which Mr Banks swears a lot (and I mean a lot) and rants about Donald Trump at every possible opportunity.  I don’t think this version of Mary Poppins exists, but please feel free to correct me if you know otherwise.

Anyway, by the end of our stay I think we were all a little bit in love with Jan.  My fondest memory is of seeing her walk past the window with a snow shovel in one hand and a teapot in the other.  I have no idea what she intended to do with them but she clearly had a plan.

Of the eight people signed up for the course, five of us were staying in the house, two lived nearby and were therefore travelling from home each day, and one had been forced to cancel as a result of illness.  Over the next couple of hours, I met the other four residents – Marta, a Polish beautician from London, Lisamarie, a former psychiatric nurse from Glasgow, Andy, a business coach who spent a large part of his life in Australia and New Zealand but now lives in Kent, and John, also from Glasgow, also a trained psychiatric nurse, who had the misfortune of being my room-mate.  I don’t intend to say too much about the people I met on the course – we shared a lot of quite personal information which I don’t think it would be appropriate to publish in a blog.  If any of you are reading this and would like me to correct or remove anything, please let me know and I will be happy to oblige.  Apart from the bit about Matthew swearing a lot – I’m not removing that.

We had our evening meal together, chatted about what had brought us to the course, then drifted off to bed, either exhausted after our journeys or, as in my case, wanting to be fresh for the challenges of the next few days.

The cancer diaries – sort of the end

You’ve probably gathered that I got bored with this subject.

When I first started blogging about my experience of cancer it was because I needed to express some of the feelings I had about the whole thing.  At the time, that was true, but now I really just want to forget the whole thing and get on with my life.

But I can’t just leave you in suspense – the last time I wrote anything about my cancer I’d just woken up on the ward after surgery.  Obviously it’s not a massive spoiler if I tell you I recovered!

The immediate post-operative period was pretty grim.  I was disorientated, felt sick (really sick – the kind of sick you feel when you’re just about to projectile vomit only without the relief that brings), was hallucinating.   A couple of times I asked for medication to relieve the extreme nausea.  This had the effect of making me feel weird, as if the muscles in my legs had solidified into iron bars, but had no effect on my nausea.  So I now felt sick and weird – great.  I decided to settle for just feeling sick.

I went through a process of stoma education.  Learning to cope with a stoma goes through a number of stages :-


1)  It’s just there and every now and again a nurse checks your bag and empties it when it’s full.

2) You have to ask a nurse to empty it for you.

3) You can empty it yourself but you can’t get to a bathroom so you have to ask a nurse for a bowl to empty it into then hand said bowl with its malodorous contents back for disposal.

4) You can empty it yourself in the bathroom.

5) You learn to change your bag under supervision.

6) You can change your bag without assistance – you’re flying solo!


Stage 1 isn’t a problem – you’re not actually capable of caring at this stage.

Stages 4 and 6 aren’t a problem because no-one else has to be involved.

Stage 5 just has to be got through – it’s not too bad but you’d rather not do it.

Stage 3 is humiliating.

Stage 2 is beyond humiliating.


But all things must pass, and I worked my way through these stages.  Not without a hiccup – no-one thought to tell me that bags always leak when you first start changing them yourself.  For two agonising days I believed that, even standing in a hospital bathroom with all the time in the world, I lacked the manual dexterity to achieve something a Health Care Assistant could do in less than a minute in the middle of the night with me lying in bed.  Despite all my efforts, less than an hour after changing the bag I would feel the tell-tale moistness that indicated a leak.

This situation continued until the day of my discharge from hospital, when a Stoma Nurse (not the familiar Hazel) responded to my panicked cry for help by watching me change a bag and promptly telling me there was nothing wrong with my technique but the bags I’d been given clearly weren’t right for my body shape.  She provided me with various samples to try and after one false start I didn’t look back.  Within a week I could have changed my bag blindfold with one hand tied behind my back.  I never actually tried that.

I went home, still feeling extremely nauseous but convinced that I would feel better once I was behind my own front door.  Which, strangely enough, turned out to be true – the nausea vanished as soon as I crossed the threshold.  I was definitely on the road to recovery.

That particular road was exhausting.  I would go upstairs to have a “20 minute nap” each afternoon, generally waking up three hours later.  I had mood-swings, going from elated to morosely depressed in a matter of minutes.  The low point came when Iain’s cousin Lois stopped me mid-rant over some minor irritation and asked why this was bothering me so much.  I thought for a moment.

“Because it’s easier than talking about what’s really bothering me.”

“Which is?” accompanied by the telephone equivalent of an encouraging nod.

“That I’ve got cancer and I don’t want cancer and that’s the first time I’ve ever said that.”

I burst into tears, threw the phone down and sobbed inconsolably for the next hour.  But it probably did me good.

The  high point came a few days later when the hospital phoned to tell me the cancer hadn’t spread to my lymph nodes.  I didn’t need chemotherapy and my chances of permanent cure were about as high as they could get.  Champagne was consumed that day.

Three months later I went back to hospital for my greatly-anticipated reversal operation.  This went well.  Unfortunately, the recovery process didn’t.  My newly-reconnected bowel went into stasis so it wouldn’t empty, resulting in projectile vomiting and a repeat of the constant nausea I had after my initial operation.  This went on for several days, during which time I refused to get out of bed and the staff, recognising that I clearly felt too ill, didn’t try to persuade me otherwise.

Eventually things started to move.  I will spare you the description but I can say that I immediately began to feel better.  Nine days after my admission, I was allowed to go home and begin my new life.  The usual length of a hospital stay for ileostomy reversal is three days.  I think I broke some kind of record.

So here I am, nearly two years post-diagnosis, fit and well.  Regular checks have shown no sign of recurrence and the likelihood is that I’ll remain cancer-free.  I consider myself very lucky, almost a cancer-fraud – no radiotherapy, no chemotherapy, never even saw an oncologist.  But it’s worth remembering that bowel cancer is the second biggest cause of cancer death in the UK.  I’ve just looked this up and seen that someone dies of it every half hour.

So do me a favour – have a look at the excellent Beating Bowel Cancer website and inform yourself about the symptoms.  And if you have any worries, see your GP sooner rather than later.

That’s the end of the story of my cancer but I have a couple of other posts in the pipeline that are related to it.  Look out for those in the next few days.

I don’t suppose Amber Rudd is reading this but …

So Theresa May’s Government has scrapped the so-called Dubs Amendment which was designed to allow 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees to enter the UK.  That number will now be capped at a miserly 350.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Home Secretary Amber Rudd claimed that the scheme was “incentivising migration” and acting as a “magnet for people traffickers”.  This is nonsense and I suspect Ms Rudd knows it.

When you go to bed not knowing if your house is going to be bombed during the night, then make a perilous journey to Europe in the hope of a better, safer life, I really don’t think you give a whole lot of consideration to whether you’re going to be allowed into what you see as the Promised Land.  And if you’re a people trafficker, you just take the money – you don’t care that the hope you’re offering is false.

I wonder if this is the sort of Christian message Mrs May learnt from her vicar father?  She, along with Amber Rudd and all the MPs who voted to ditch the Dubs Amendment have shown a brazen disregard for the plight of child refugees which shames us all.

Blogging about books – The Various Haunts of Men by Susan Hill

I bought The Various Haunts of Men for Iain, probably more than ten years ago.  He never read it but I just have, hence this review.

Described as the first of the Simon Serrailler novels, it is the story of a missing persons enquiry which ultimately becomes the search for a serial killer.  In a similar way to the Adam Dalgleish novels of P D James and the TV series Unforgotten a range of disparate characters and apparently unconnected storylines come together over the course of 550 pages.  Living in and around the small fictional city of Lafferton, the characters have a reality which makes the reader believe in their existence before the start of the book and, at least for those who aren’t murdered, after it ends.

Interspersed with the story of the murders and there investigation are excerpts from tape recordings left by the killer.  These provide a chilling insight into his mind until they reveal his identity about three quarters of the way through the book and the focus of the story turns to whether he can be caught before he kills again.

One or two plot threads seem to just disappear without having served any purpose either in furthering the action or casting light on character but perhaps these are taken up in further novels.  Similarly, the enigmatic Detective Chief Inspector Simon Serrailler seems something of a bit-player in a novel which supposedly introduces him.  No doubt his character is fleshed out in the rest of the series (I think there are eight novels in total).  On the subject of DCI Serrailler, I did have problems with his name.  How should it be pronounced?  It It sounds silly if given a French pronunciation but the particular combination of vowels and consonants doesn’t look English.  Not something that spoiled my enjoyment of the book but it did cause me a bit of concern each time I came across it.

I’m not a great lover of crime fiction, other than a nice old-fashioned cosy Miss Marple, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book for its decent, likeable characters, believable setting and intriguing mystery.

When I’m allowed to buy books again I may well revisit the world of DCI Simon Serrailler.

Blogging about books – introduction

One of the things I plan to do with the blog this year is post reviews of every book I read.  I used to be a member of a book club here in Berwick.  We would meet every six weeks or so in one or other of our houses, ostensibly to talk about a book one of us had chosen, but really to have a bit of a gossip, eat crisps and drink wine.  After a time, members started to drift away and our attempts to recruit replacements weren’t terribly successful.  Eventually it just died – no-one made a conscious decision to call it a day, we just never got round to arranging the date of our next meeting.
From time to time next-door neighbour Shelagh and I talk about reviving it.  I hope that one day we will, but until there this can serve as my own one-man book club – a sort of Billy No Mates book club.  If, however, anyone out there wants to read the books I review (or has already done so), then please feel free to add your comments.
Given my current interest, quite a lot of the books I review will be about hypnotherapy and related subjects but I promise there’ll be lots of fiction too.  Oh, and there’s a sort of little rule I’ve set myself – my shelves are groaning with unread books so, with the exception of recommended texts for my hypnotherapy course, I won’t be buying any new ones until I’ve worked my way through all these or moved them on to new owners.  Obviously this doesn’t apply to huge reference tomes like the Royal Horticultural Society A-Z Encyclopaedia of Garden Plants (1078 pages) but you just have to trust me to play fair.
One more thing.  Our cleaner very kindly brings us her husband’s unwanted crime novels.  I am working on the basis that these are really for Iain as he is the one who expressed an interest in this genre of fiction.  So I don’t have to read them or give them away but I can if I want to.
And finally, I know I promised a post about the first module of my hypnotherapy course.  Trust me – it’s coming, and sooner than Christmas.

Musings on life, labradors and hypnotherapy training from the North Northumberland coast