Another busy weekend goes by in a blur; where did the time go? On Saturday morning we went to Stapely water gardens, a hothouse with a bunch of tropical plants and animals including cheeky tamarind monkeys and the ever inquisitive meerkats. Abby seemed to enjoy it and Oscar enjoyed Abby enjoying it, Abby has grown into her role as big sister entertainer and loves pulling faces and making gurning noises at Oscar to make him laugh...who needs monkeys when you've got a big sister? ;-) After some shopping and visiting R's parents and my dad we were all pretty knackered so in the evening after putting the kids to bed we got a Chinese takeaway and finally got round to seeing The Bourne Ultimatum (we got the box set at Christmas.) Directed by Paul Greengrass, it was a good, frenetic paced spy thriller but I had heard so much hype about it being the greatest thing since sliced bread that I couldn't help feeling a little bit disappointed afterwards, it's nowhere near as good as Casino Royale, I just didn't think Matt Damon was that convincing. Maybe I should watch it again when I'm less tired.
On the Sunday the weather was glorious so after taking Abby for an early-ish morning swim we spent most of the day in the back garden; we got the trampoline the swing and the picnic blanket out and put Oscar on it while Abby did her "entertainer" act with the Osc. R took it upon herself to paint the fence (surely a bloke's job?) while I supervised the children and took them both to the shops all the while worrying about not fulfilling my stereotypical gender role ;-). In the afternoon me and R took it in turns to do our first practise run for the Manchester 10K (it's now just two months away!) R did well and ran quite far, but when it came to my turn, I've got to say I struggled. Before Abby arrived (2004) I used to go to the gym twice a week and that would include 15-20 minutes on the treadmill. Since then I've not really done much exercise apart from the occasional press-up and splashing around in the swimming pool with Abby. For starters I couldn't even find my old trainers; they seem to have been lost in the move 3 years ago! I had to use my heavier walking trainers, and after about 3 jogging steps I felt the left arch of my foot go, and altogether I could only manage to about 200 meters at a time before stopping to walk. Running wise my chest actually felt alright, it was just the rest of my body that was protesting at the grueling regime I was attempting to put it through, bad stomach (painful gas meant I had to stop and burp every so often, not attractive ;-)), bad back, aching legs; in fact, at the end of the 20 minute run everything ached...I now have to buy some new trainers and a new pair of legs while I'm at it...
Anyway, we finished off the day by walking (hobbling in my case ;-)) to the park, we stayed until the sun had almost set, and by the time we got back home Abby was really tired so threw a few strops, e.g. "You're being very rude, you're not my best friend any more daddy!" "I'm not going to bed I'm going to stay up and watch TV by myself, daddy!" "I'm not wearing my pyjamas I'm wearing my princess dress! You're making me very sad!" before falling fast asleep (before I'd finished the first story) Just as well, I could have easily put myself to bed at the same time...
"It's no good dad, I don't like Ready Brek and I never will!"
Oscar is getting very close to learning to crawl now. This is both brilliant and scary in equal measures. When we put him down he keeps rolling over and getting up on all fours like he's doing press-ups. It won't be long now...
I've been on oral antibiotics Ciproflaxacin and Rifampicin for almost a week now, riding shotgun over the cold. They seem to be doing the trick, as the cold hasn't settled on my chest as bad as it usually does. For the first 3 days I was running to the toilet a *lot* though, not fun!
I loved The Bends, it was easily my favourite mid-90s album, and seeing these guys at the Manchester Academy in 96 just blew me away. In terms of singer-songwriter driven indie bands in the 90s, you can trace a line from Jeff Buckley through to Radiohead and then Coldplay, Muse, Travis, Elbow and a whole bunch of other bands which probably aren't as good. As usual, the originals are the best. The story goes that Thom Yorke went to see Jeff Buckley in concert and was so blown away and inspired that he went away and wrote this song.
I went to the hospital for a check up yesterday (with a cold), following up from my annual the other month. After putting far too much into the blow (I gave myself a headache and could actually see stars for a couple of seconds, not good ;-)) I had to sit down. The scores on the doors were: FEV1 just under 3.0 ish, FVC was 3.8, so blows were good (but not great), although they have been a lot worse. Weight is now up to 10 Stone 10, 11 stone here I come ;-) My blood sugar levels from the glucose tolerance test came back as 2.5. This is up from the last time (I last did the test 2-3 years ago) when my blood sugar fell to 1.5 ish. Is it possible for insulin performance to improve when you put on weight? I was closer to 10 stone when the last test was done. Anyway, all other annual tests have come back fine, including the one I was most interested in which was my IGe blood level for Aspergillus; it is down to 10 (its lowest for a long time) compared to 90 a few years ago so it looks like I was wrong in self-prescribing myself itraconozole, oops. I swear my lungs have improved though, is this the placebo effect in practice? I had half made up my mind to go on a course of IVs whatever the spirometry results, but to be honest my chest still feels OK, so I decided to give it another month or two. I told them I was worried about my cold going on my chest so they put me on two weeks of Ciprofloxacin, so there you go.
I did remember to bring in my INeb to be re-tuned by the physio (from tidal breathing to the new target inhalation breathing, which apparently means it takes about 5 breaths to dispense) only to find that the laptop which does the reprogramming is buggered, so I'll have to wait another month of two...last time I was in me and the physio had a disagreement about colymycin; she and Mary wanted me to prepare the bottles from scratch every time, whilst I was adamant I could prepare two bottles at a time (one used, one in the fridge.) When she asked me where I had heard this I said I had read it on the CF Trust website. Round one to me ;-) Anyway, today she told me she had consulted with consultant physio Mary Dodd and they said that I had to prepare each bottle from scratch because I was mixing with salbutamol, which meant the mixture is more volatile compared to water/saline. So it looks like even though one of the protagonists is retiring I've still lost the argument by TKO ;-). Joking aside there is a bit of worry in the community about prepared colymyicin because of someone dying of respiratory failure in the USA, so it's understandable everyone is a bit twitchy. Whilst Googling this I also found some cheesy 60s advertisements for pharmaceuticals:
In particular, Colymycin on page 3: "Against the *demoniacal power* of many of the most pathogenic gram negative-bacilli..." You just don't get advertising like that anymore ;-). I also told the doc about my father-in-law having pneumonia, (he's now much better after a couple of days of IV antibiotics) so they took another sputum sample off me for a pneumonia type analysis (micro bacteria?)
Whilst I was there I signed Mary Dodds leaving card. I will be very sorry to see her go; it feels like the end of an era! She has been a great help to me over the years, from when I first started going to the fledgling adult CF Unit at Monsall in 1990, she taught me the active breathing cycle physio and always encouraged me to keep up and do more exercise. More than that she always seemed to care and listen. As the Proff says: "Mary was one of the founders of the original Manchester Unit, and her achievements have been many. It all started when she asked us when we were going to take over the care for adults with Cystic Fibrosis from the paediatricians. In 1982, we started a small CF outpatients in the physiotherapy department of Monsall Hospital, which over the years grew bigger until in 1993 we moved to the first purpose-built adult CF unit at Wythenshawe Hospital. Mary was instrumental in raising the £1.4million for our first CF-dedicated building built at Wythenshawe Hospital, and in acquiring £8million for our second CF building (being constructed this year), which by 2014 will provide care for over 500 patients." Have a great retirement, Mary!
The Manchester CF unit is now being rebuilt, it's being transformed into a mammoth building with a massive outpatients department (with its own pharmacy) and for inpatients 22 dedicated patient rooms, each with their own kitchen and en-suite. One of my friends friends is a psychologist at the Papworth CF unit in Cambrideshire. She was heading over to Manchester this week to see how things were done, so it's good to see us northerners leading the way ;-).
On Friday me and a few friends hit the bright lights of Hazel Grove for a joint birthday celebration. In the last few years it's become one of the better places to go out in Stockport and there's loads of new bars that have sprung up everywhere. The shots were flowing and by the end of the night I had "treated" everyone to a karaoke version of "The Wichita Lineman" at the pub we ended up in, I have no idea if I was in tune. Yikes, that's what happens when you only drink once in three months. Whilst I was in a bar a girl grabbed my arm and yanked me towards her. "Are you single ?" she bluntly asked. "No, I'm married!" I said. She then pushed me away impatiently. Obviously in these recession hit times speed dating is getting quicker and quicker ;-)
Yikes! My father in law (who accompanied us to Shanghai) has come down with pneumonia. Apparently they think it's from a chest infection he caught either in Shanghai or on the flight on the way back home (he was as fit as a fiddle on the holiday, it's developed in the week that we've been back) He's in hospital at the moment in the GPAU being treated with antibiotics. I hope he has a speedy recovery; it's really unlike him to get unwell. I'm a bit paranoid because I feel like I'm coming down with something like a cold, but we'll see.
Thursday: Decided to walk to the Yu Garden & Bazaar (Tea) area with everyone together this time, it seemed the safer option ;-) After a bit of haggling with the shop owners (tip: They always start at a price at least double of what it's actually worth, so play them at there own game and start by offering them 1/4 of what it's worth or less and meet them in the middle. That was the plan anyway, but me and R kept fluffing our lines and confusing ourselves instead of the sellers ;-) Friday: Last day, so we took Abby to the massive Aquarium in Pudong, which was great, although Abby spent almost as long in the gift shop choosing a toy than in the aquarium(s) checking out the fish! After that it was another swim in the hotel pool with the family at Abby's request ;-) It was then time for a farewell Japanese meal (with more sushi and sashimi and extra wasabi, bliss ;-)). After that R's brother and the in-laws kindly babysat so me and R could go to the highest bar in the world at the top of the Jin Mao tower for some romantic cocktails; they were very expensive but very worth it just for the fantastic view over the city at night. We both had champagne cocktails so we could pretend to be rich and famous for half an hour ;-)
Tuesday: I should mention that the weather was not so good; it was a bit grey and murky, the temperature was round about 14 Degrees C, not as cold and wet as back in Britain; but still, it could have been better! Talking to R's brother, in the summer it far gets too hot and humid in the city, so if you're thinking of a trip the ideal time would probably be in the spring/autumn. Who knows you may even get some sun ;-) Anyway, today we took the kids into Pudong, up the second highest tower in the world, the Financial Center or the "Bottle Opener" as it is affectionately known. Going up the lifts your ears pop about 10 times due to the change in altitude. At the top of the tower there is a glass bridge which forms the top of the tower, quite scary, but Abby seemed to take it all in her fearless stride. Oscar was less impressed ;-) he fell asleep while I was taking photos from the top of the tower, bless! Then back to the hotel for another swim ;-)
Wednesday: Went (back) to Pudong, as that is where all the major touristy things are. went to the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum , which was massive and full of lots of kid experiments and learn/play areas for Abby to enjoy, like a robot arm that drew a picture of Abs. We then had a walk around the nearby Century Park (Shiji Gongyuan), Shanghai's biggest park. Unfortunately/fortunately Abby fell asleep before we found the arcade rides ;-) We then got some vegetable and *ground bone* baby food from the nearby supermarket for Oscar as he was running out. We then had a bit of a nightmare as the taxis don't seem to like going out of their district in the rush hour, so we had to take a two stage taxi ride.
R's brother took me for an expedition to get some cut price DVDs (DVDs are 50p a shot over there, I picked up about 10 of the latest films for about £4!!!! Highly recommended, not sure about the legality of it all...;-) had a quick meal in a pizza place (R's brother was totally bored of Chinese food after 6 months there so kept trying to find us western food restaurants, grrrr! It's actually a good idea for Abby because she prefers plain food, but I just don't think the Chinese do good western /Italian food; I think they should stick to what they're good at, and we should stick to eating it ;-) We then went to the Yu Garden & Bazaar (Chinese Tea area), but lost the in laws and R's brother. Even though we asked to go to the same place the taxis dropped us off in different areas and we had no way of knowing where each other were...what did we do before mobile phones?
We then found an *interesting* eatery (see left photo), I was all up for trying it but no one else seemed interested, for shame ;-) anyway we decided to try KFC so Abby could have some chips, but she fell asleep before we could order, KFC did do delicious crab claws in breadcrumbs as a side order, so not all bad. After that it was back to the hotel to meet up with the in-laws, who were a bit worried. A bit of a drama but no harm done; we were all safe and sound. R's brother had scared us all a bit with tales of unlicensed taxis taking people down back streets to do impromptu kidney removals for lucrative transplants, but I'm not sure how much truth there is in this, probably just an urban legend?! In the evening we decided to try the the Japanese restaurant that was attached to the hotel via a secret passage, and ordered Sushi (gorgeous, but why is there never enough of it? I swear I could eat 100 sushi pieces and still not have enough ;-)) and lovely big Ramen noodles with roasted eel. Funnily enough this turned out to be the best restaurant we found on the trip, and it was right next to us.
Saturday-Sunday: Finally, after all the immunisations and injections it was time to go! The alarm went off at 5.30, everyone except Oscar got dressed and we got picked up by taxi to go the airport, met up with R's parents at the check in and headed off for an incredibly overpriced airport breakfast. The flight (Finnair) to Shanghai changed at Helsinki which was covered in snow, part of me wanted to stay there for a day or two and build a snowman or two with Abby and maybe try and see the northern lights, but no such luck! The rest of the (night) flight went OK although it was a bit long -Oscar managed to sleep fairly OK with the baby cradles they have at the front of the rows of seats, but Abby was just too exited to settle for any amount of time. I did manage to sneak a look at one of the many films on offer - The Dark Knight, which I thought was good but a bit too long, the late Heath Ledger was brilliant as the nihilistic, unhinged Joker and he pretty much blew everyone else away whenever he was on screen, including Christian Bale, who I thought was a bit lame as Batman. Arrived at Shanghai ready to go to bed but couldn't because it was early morning over there...jet lag here we come ;-) When we arrived R's brother was there to meet us, he is teaching over there and he took us to the hotel via the Maglev, the futuristic train that floats on a magnetic field and travels at up to 450 KM PH, it doesn't always get up to full speed, but it did for us! After a scary taxi ride we arrived at the hotel and got unpacked. I'd forgotten my DNase. Bugger. Big phlehm for me this week then ;-). We then mis-ordered some food. I was fading fast so we headed out to the Bund to get some fresh air by the Huangpu River, which overlooks the Pudong Skyscrapers on the other side of the river, like the Oriental Pearl TV Tower and the Jin Mao Tower. We got some tea at a restaurant, then we meandered back nearly getting run over by the many Shanghai cyclists and had a swim in the hotel pool which Abby loved, although Oscar got tired pretty quickly as the pool was a bit too cold for a wee baby. We then ordered a meal; had a brief scare about R's peanut allergy as her dish had whole peanuts in it even after we had expressly told the waitress about peanuts being life threatening. Anyway the food was nice, but then it was time for a very early bed, as by then I was so tired I felt like a corpse. ;-)
Monday: Had breakfast with dim sum and boiled eggs soaked in tea (actually very nice.) Went to Peoples Square, got a ropey meal (Italian/Chinese fusion which didn't really work) and went to see the museum, which was a bit of a showpiece for all the new architectural development, probably where they bring all the business suits to wow them. Anyway, Abby was very excited by it all and went charging around checking everything out, which was very cute. We then had a wander around some shops, then me and R's brother took the underground Metro to a superstore while R, Oscar, Abby and the in laws went back to the hotel for another swim at Abby's request. The Metro store was near the Maglev, it is the only place in Shanghai were you can get imported european foods like Cadbury's chocolate animals, chocolate fingers, and Old Speckled Hen ;-) we actually went to get some spoons, plates and emergency baby/kid supplies for Oscar and Abby, some baby food and some pasta, tomatoes and beans, which is Abbys fall-back food in case she doesn't take to any of the stuff in the cafes and restaurants. Me and R then went out for a meal while the in-laws babysat in the beautiful lantern road area; which was slightly traumatic ;-). First of all some of the restaurants wouldn't accept us because of R's nut allergy, and when we finally got into a restaurant the menu was a bit, well...challenging ;-) I like to think I'm quite open minded, you know, when in Rome and all that, but some of the dishes on the menu together with the in your face photos and descriptions completely threw me; Fish Head Curry, Pigs Feet Curry, Sheep Stomach Lining curry, steamed Perch with Pigs brain. It's probably the first time I've struggled with what to order on a menu. Anyway, I eventually ordered some langestines and R ordered some Dim Sum, and both were actually very nice, although they wouldn't serve us any rice, not quite sure why as the explanation was lost in translation; we reckoned either the rice had nuts in or they had run out of rice...
I'm still well jetlagged after the return from Shanghai (photos to follow...) So I need a song to wake me up. Starting with this one; the high water mark of Elbow's last LP. My claim to fame is that I am friends with the bass player's sister; I saw these guys when they made their debut at the Roadhouse (back in 1997/98??? Oooh, I feel old ;-)) They didn't have the best of starts (signed, dropped, signed again, of course, some of us never got signed at all ;-)) but it's great to see them finally come good and get some recognition, and this album (The Seldom Seen Kid) convincingly sees them cast off any notions of being Radiohead copycats and truly finding their own sound. Only trouble is you can't get away from the album now, it's everywhere ;-)