Tuesday, 28 April 2009


Birmingham is the home of the 'Balti' which is a curry named after the little round bowl it is cooked in. And Akrams, as far as we are concerned, is the best Balti restaurant in Birmingham. We have been going there as a family for years, since Edward was a toddler, and the food is always great. So it was natural we should take our 'London visitors' there for a meal on the last evening of the shoot. And they should film it.

The management and staff were really helpful despite us filling their restaurant with filming equipment, much to the curiosity of the other diners. We had a great evening, the food was lovely - despite my being only to eat half of it. Ive just entered week 3 of Sutent (cycle 12) and its not the best time to eat a curry !

Monday, 27 April 2009

Photos from Silverstone

Leon Camier

Thats me !!

Daniel and the crew preparing the car

Rob my brave instructor !

Saturday, 25 April 2009

I feel the need......

.......The need for SPEED !!!

One by one the wishes on my 'Bucket List' (things I want to do before I kick the bucket) are being ticked off. Some of them are small personal goals and some of them are BIG - and you cant get much bigger than driving an F1 car around Silverstone. And on Friday, although it wasn't exactly an F1 car, I was going to drive a Lotus Exige supercar around the south track at Silverstone. Naturally we took the film crew with us so they could record this momentous ocassion....and capture the look of sheer terror on my face I suspect !

Silverstone is huge, massive actually and much bigger than I expected. When we arrived there was also a 'Superbike' meet going on, fortunately on a different track, so there were lots of bikes whizzing around and leather clad men walking about. Everyone seemed to know exactly what they were doing and I felt completely lost and out of place at first. But then I met my instructor, Rob, who was so friendly and soon put me at my ease - well a bit anyway! Whilst the crew fitted a camera into the car - aimed directly at my face whilst I was driving - I went for a briefing with Rob. This consisted of a lot of "1.8 litre supercharged thingies which make loads of brake horse power whatsits" - basically he was telling me this little car went VERY fast ! I just sat there grinning like an idiot and nodding, trying to look as if I understood.

Disappointingly I didn't get to wear a racing suit - but I did get a helmet which, after I had taken my earrings off, was surprisingly comfortable. And I was ready. Just time for a few MORE words of advice from Martin 'Lewis Hamilton' which consisted of "Put your foot down and go for it!"

Ofcourse I was going to 'go for it' - did they think I was going to waste this opportunity and tootle around at 70mph? Yes actually, as it turned out thats exactly what Rob was expecting ! Was HE in for a surprise !

I was strapped in - asked by the film crew if I had any last words ! - and we were off onto the track. I did 7 laps - with Rob at my side reminding me to brake harder for the slow corners - culminating in my blasting past a Porsche at 140mph on Hangar straight !! I dont know who was more surprised - the Porsche driver or Rob !

I can hardly find the words to describe how fantastic it was. It was one of the most exciting experiences of my life and SO addictive. The moment I stepped out of the car I wanted to get back in and do it all again. But now it was Robs turn and he announced he was going to take me round and 'scare the crap out of me!!' (Which seemed fair enough really - I think I had given him a few hairy moments)

The car took off in a cloud of smoke with its tyres squealing and we were soon flying round corners sideways and bouncing off the chicane and all the time I was whooping and laughing and loving every second. It was so exhilerating and not once was I scared, All too soon it was over and we were back in the pits (hark at me with all my technical terms now, Im becoming a right petrol head!).

Rob gave me a written appraisal of my driving - which to my delight consisted of an overall mark of 94% and the comment 'Very good job Jane - well driven' Needless to say I have been waving this in Martins face very regularly !

We returned to the supercar centre and met up with the crew who were really pleased with their afternoons filming - although I have a sneaky feeling they were disappointed not to have caught me screaming with fear ! We were then given a tour of the workshops - I had my picture taken with a superbike star, a lovely young man called Leon Camier - and then it was time to go home.

I had a brilliant day. All the staff at Silverstone were so friendly and patient - nothing was too much trouble for them. And I left with a huge sense of achievement and a wide smile on my face. In fact I had been smiling and laughing so much all day my face was aching - and I felt so well. For there is nothing like zooming round a race track at 140mph to make you feel truly alive !!

Friday, 24 April 2009

Janie Oliver !

Ofcourse it was pretty inevitable that on Thursday when Grace came she would steal the spotlight - completely and utterly. How on earth could I compete with a cute, clever and charismatic three and a half year old?

We were filming a normal day when Grace visits. And this always starts with us making a cake. Or rather I make a cake and Grace licks the mixing bowl ! So today my kitchen was full of lights and cameras and sound equipment and crew filming me making a Victoria sponge - so no pressure then ! Fortunately it turned out perfectly and in the true nature of all cooking programmes the crew demolished it later.

I had an appointment to have my BP checked in the afternoon and it was a very surprised Jean (my Practice Nurse) who welcomed us all into her room. My blood pressure was quite high but Jean said we would ignore that reading and I could return when things were less stressful !

I then popped in for a quick chat with Dr Arora, who it turns out is a complete professional on camera, and provided some really useful footage.

The weather was gorgeous, unusually sunny and warm for April, so we spent the rest of the afternoon in the garden filming the kids playing with Grace - the point of this is to emphasise how important and special this 'extra' time I have been given is. Not just for big events in my life - but for our ordinary everyday family life. Every day we spend together is precious now, and although it isnt a concious thought, we just thoroughly relish them.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Lights, Camera, Action !!

Normally I can hold an articulate, sensible conversation with most people. Yesterday, however I discovered if you shine bright lights on me and place a camera a few feet from my face I turn into a gibbering idiot. Daniel, the lovely director, assured me I was making complete sense but it certainly didn't feel like that from where I was sitting !

The crew arrived and within minutes the ground floor of my house was turned into a spaghetti junction of cables and wires leading to lights and cameras and monitors and boxes and sound equipment - it was amazing how much stuff was needed just to do an interview. It spilled out of the front door and onto our drive causing many curious glances from passers by. I had a radio mike (more of that later) attached and was soon sitting in our front room making the 'master interview'.
During this time Martin and the kids arrived back home and very sensibly sat in the garden out of the way and keeping very quiet as the sensitive sound equipment picked up everything. As did the radio mike when it wasn't switched off as I found out. During a short break I went into the garden to chat to them and, how can I put this delicately, thought it would be a good chance to eject some 'wind' discreetly. Except it wasn't discreet - it was amplified much to the amusement of the crew !!
We did a bit more filming of me sitting at the computer pretending to blog and then finally, after 6 hours, it was a 'wrap' !
We were all tired and very hungry so the crew piled all their equipment back into the van and we all went out and had dinner together which was lovely - I finally got to chat to the sound man who had his hand down the front of my cleavage adjusting my mike all afternoon !

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Kidney Cancer - The Documentary.

When I was diagnosed a couple of years ago I knew very little about kidney cancer and I guess until our campaign in the press last year that was true of most people. In fact I bet the majority of people are still ignorant of the signs and symptoms of the disease so anything that serves to increase awareness both with the public and the medical profession is a good thing. A really good thing.

So last week when I received a phone call asking if I would be prepared to take part in a documentary about kidney cancer I only had to think for a couple of seconds before saying 'Yes!'

On Wednesday, the director, producer and PR representative of the company commissioning the documentary came to see me for a chat. I thought originally my part would consist of being interviewed somewhere in a studio - but no - I am to have a film crew here, at my house and following me around as I do my usual everyday stuff, for 4 days next week !

This has caused much excitement amongst the family and friends who will also be involved - a sudden surge in hairdresser appointments, and sorting through wardrobes accompanied by squeals of "Ive got nothing to wear"!!

On a more serious note though I'm really excited to be involved in such a project and feel a great responsibility to be representing kidney cancer patients. I really hope I can do us justice because we really deserve it. We have been a small voice in the cancer world until now and its time we were heard.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Spiritual Healing.

My brother, Matt, has lived in Rio for 8 years now. As I have described earlier in this blog life is very different over there. A short while ago I received an email from him telling me about a friend of his who was quite seriously ill and required an operation. Whilst waiting for this he visited a church in Rio and received spiritual healing - and to the amazement of his doctor was completely cured.

After this Matt visited the same church for a problem he had been suffering from for the past few years and his experience there led him to urge me to fly over and try it out for myself !
Spiritual healing is very much a part of the mainstream church over there and is accepted as much by both priests and parishioners.

Im very open minded about such things - so Im going. On May 19th. I shall be visiting the church Matt went to and also going to Brasillia to see Joao de Deus (John of God) who is a very famous healer there.

It can do no harm - Matt has described what happened to him - and I have nothing to lose.

Im not grasping at straws - I know the score. But the best western medicine can offer me is an extention to my life, and although its working brilliantly right now I feel its worth exploring other possibilities. At the very least I shall see my brother and his family again and have a lovely holiday in Brasil....and have something fascinating to write about in this blog !

Friday, 3 April 2009

The Temples of the gods

All along the Nile the Egyptians built Temples dedicated to their gods. They were all built in the same style, with an 'H' shaped pylon as the entrance, a large open hippo style hall with many columns and several smaller covered chambers all leading to the 'holy of holies' - the alter - which was a small room in almost complete darkness.

The ordinary people who brought their offerings every day wouldn't be allowed in, they simply left them at the entrance. Some of the nobles would be invited into the hall but only the priests and the Pharaoh had access to the inner sanctums.

Each Temple was dedicated to a specific god, or in some cases 2 gods. The photo above is of the Temple of Horus, the falcon, the avenger. The figures carved relate to Horus and the Pharaoh of the day who had the temple built. The photo below is from the Temple of Karnak in Luxor which was built much later, after 300BC. Although it may not be obvious from the photos there is one striking difference in the carvings which makes them easy to date. The later ones are more 'voluptuous' and date from the time when the Greeks ruled Egypt - the Ptolomy's. Which included Cleopatra.
As we sailed down the Nile to Aswan we visited several of these Temples, all of them built in a position so that twice a year, when the Nile flooded, they would be blessed by the god of the Nile, Isis. These Egytpians were clever fellows !
They still are as a matter of fact, they never miss an opportunity to try and sell you something. One of the funniest things Ive ever seen was when we were waiting, along with several other cruise boats, to go through the lock at Esna, dozens of small rowing boats would pull along side with their wares on display - scarves, galabaias (Egyptian long 'dresses' for men) necklaces etc... These little boats would row furiously trying to catch up with the larger ones, the men on them shouting at us passengers, coming perilously close to being hit at times. We found that at all of the sites we visited we would have to run the gauntlet of street traders - and they could be very pushy and intimidating at times. Nothing is for free there - nothing. Even in public lavatories there will be someone outside selling loo roll - at 2 sheets per person. And everyone expects a tip - even for something as simple as pointing out a nice view to photograph. We soon learned to say 'La'a Shokrun' (which means No Thankyou!) very firmly.
The weather was hot, and got hotter as the week went on resulting in a sandstorm on the last night which was amazing. It was twilight and we could see a huge black cloud bearing down on us. It looked just like a storm cloud but when it hit it was just very high winds, and lots and lots of fine dusty sand. Next morning everthing was covered in this sand. It hardly ever rains in this area of Egypt - they get just 3 inches a year - but these sandstorms which originate in the Sahara are quite common.
As I said the weather was very hot whilst we were there averaging about 35 degrees and the sun is very powerful. Even with sunscreen I burnt quite badly on my feet and arms and discovered a new side effect of Sutent - you dont tan. You burn and then go back to white again. Martin, ofcourse, has come home a lovely shade of dark golden. Im still pale blue ! I mentioned this to Dr P when I had my 6 weekly MOT last week and he said its because Sutent affects the melonin in your skin - in the same way as it changes your hair colour. So from now on its sun block or covering up for me - and maybe some fake tan!
I found the week very strenuous what with the very early starts and the amount of walking we had to do, and I wasnt the only one - even Martin said how tired he was at the end. But I wouldnt have missed it for the world and would recommend it to anyone. Just dont go in the summer, the heat will be unbearable then. I will never forget standing where Pharaohs had been buried, touching the walls of temples where they worshiped, and learning a tiny bit about what life was like for them.