Chapter 34: Lindisfarne

“Let there be bass.”
Leo Fender

In-between slowly dying of cancer and kicking around the house I’ve visited some of my favourite parts of the UK this year, from my magnificent home county of Cornwall to the stunning vistas of the Outer Hebrides. I am however keen that my travels around the UK this year will also include some time in one of my favourite English counties - Northumberland. I was a little worried that we wouldn’t be ale to make this particular getaway as the pazopanib is no longer doing a great job at keeping the cancer at bay in my lungs. However, I’ve had a second lung drain to channel off the excess fluid and I think I might just be able to manage a week in the small cottage we have booked on Lindisfarne. We have an ulterior motive for visiting Lindisfarne this particular week. My daughter Indie, is presently an archaeology undergraduate at Durham University and she is currently working on an archaeological dig on Lindisfarne, just outside the Priory, and I’m keen to lend them my expert advice gained from years of watching Time Team.

Because of the problems I am having with fluid on my lungs I shall be having my full pleurodesis operation the week after I get back from Lindisfarne. Dr. Alzentani, my surgeon for this next operation, has instructed me to stop taking my pazopanib two weeks before the actual operation. I’m not so sure though. Last time I stopped taking my chemotherapy things went down hill pretty quickly, and even if the pazopanib is not as effective as it was, I suspect it’s still helping hold the cancer back a little. Not without its costs though. I have been getting a few side effects from the pazopanib again, the most frustrating of which is the diarrhoea, which seems to strike at the most inconvenient of times. I suspect that Dr. Alzentani is however unaware of what happened last time I stopped taking the chemotherapy, so I think I’ll quietly just continue to take my meds for now and put up with the runny bum.

Once installed in our small holiday cottage on Holy Island we realise that our next week will be governed entirely by the tides as we can only get on and off the island during low tide. The tide is out on Sunday morning and we have an opportunity to leave, but if we do, we wont be able to get back home until much later in the evening. I’ve not been feeling quite as well as I’d hoped after the last lung drain so I’m a little concerned about being away from the cottage for too long, but there’s not much happening here on the island at the moment, so bugger it, lets go to Berwick-upon-Tweed for the day.

I rather like Berwick, but the chemotherapy is up to its old tricks again and before we have a proper look around I need to urgently find a toilet. Really urgently. I spot a Café Nero in the high street and head straight for the toilets at the back of the shop while Tori gets the coffees in. My coffee is lukewarm by the time I’ve completed my exceptionally violent turnout but never mind I’m feeling much better now and ready to take on the city walls. We set off down to the harbour and then start to follow the city walls back up around the town. It however soon becomes clear that my bowels aren’t going to hold out until we get to the top of town. I pick the pace up in the vain hope that a public toilet might be just reveal itself around the next corner. There are no public toilets to be seen but I do spot a short cut back to the main street. I leave Tori and Peter behind me as I speed walk back into Café Nero and relocate my new favourite toilet. Polite society dictates that if you shit in a coffee shop, you should really also buy a coffee, however I don’t really want another coffee as I just have one earlier. After much deliberation however I decide that the number of coffees I have bought in Café Nero over the years far out ways the amount of times I’ve shat in there, in fact perhaps I should probably also get my loyalty card stamped while I’m in here. I come out of the toilets to find that Tori and Peter have tracked me down so we make our way back to where we were to continue our trip around the walls. The tide is still in so there’s no point in rushing back to island yet, so after we slowly amble our way around the wall stopping at the barracks gym to view an art exhibition. By the time we’ve completed the city walls its time for another coffee. I also decide to make use of the toilet facilities while I’m here. As I’m sat on the toilet once again I think I might actually follow Dr. Alzantini instructions after all and stop taking the pazopanib ready for my next operation.

I’m not feeling great the next day either, but we’re on holiday so we decide to go out anyway. The tide is out again in the morning so we’re free to get back on to the mainland and drive down to Bamburgh Castle. The car park is at the bottom of short steep hill up to the castle and the incline is pushing my knackered lungs to their limit. I eventually make it up to the castle and we pay to go in, but I’m still breathless and dizzy and am getting quite a bit of tumour pain today too. Thankfully there’s a seat in the first room so I take a breather while Tori and the kids have a look around. After a short break I’m still not feeling up to going any further. The tide is on its way back in again and I think I have just less than an hour left to get back to the car and drive back to our cottage before I’m stranded here for the day. My daughter has bought her own car, so we leave her, Peter and her new archaeological chums at the castle and scurry back down the hill to my car. Despite being stuck behind every caravan in Northumberland the tide is still just low enough to get back home. It’s a relief to be back at the cottage and I head back to bed for the rest of the day while Tori heads off in search of a local crab sandwich.

Amateur Archaeologist
I spend most of the next few days lying in bed while Tori and Peter explore the island by themselves. This is not quite the holiday I had in mind when I booked it. I am however eventually persuaded to make it down to the archaeological dig to watch Indie at work. I wander down to the old Priory and I’m allowed to cross the cordoned off area in to the dig site. I’m provided with a chair and an ice cream and a optimum position from which to view the excavation. I tried making a few suggestions on where to do some digging and geophys, but no one seems to be taking my advice seriously.

I make it to the end of the week and manage a few short walks around the island, I may not be feeling well, but I do love this little island. On the way back home we stop off in Durham and call in on our old friends Paul and Gillian. I bought my first bass guitar off Paul when I was about 16. I was never any good at playing the damn thing, but Paul was very patient with me and taught me all the mandatory riffs including of course Smoke on the Water, Black Knight, Iron Man and The Chain.

Sadly, Paul and I never really got our shit together, but I did manage to get together with another accomplished guitarist from work called Rolan and The Mysterious Exploding Frog were born. I was still no bloody good at playing, but Rolan, like Paul, would teach me the bass lines so I could play along. We did some great covers of Public Image Ltd by Pil, I mastered an extended version of Transmission by Joy Division and we pretty much nailed Teenage Kicks. I even managed to pen one fine example of a song myself called The Electric Chair Song that I can just about still remember.

The Electric Chair Song

The electric chair story has just begun,
Life may be short so let’s make it fun

Plug me in,
turn me on,
press the button,
and I’ll soon be gone.

Sitting at home, watching TV
Why don’t you come ‘round and frazzle with me


Hiding away wherever you can
Come and dance with the electric chair man


Amateur Bassist
Paul still plays guitar and there just happens to be a spare guitar and bass sat around in his conservatory. We strap them on for old times sake. I can’t believe how happy it makes me feel just to have a bass guitar in my hands again, but it seems to have cheered me up no end. I replay (badly) the old riffs, I haven’t forgotten them. Once I’ve had this next operation, sorted my lungs out and started my new treatment I shall buy a new bass guitar and start playing again.


  1. Truly, loperamide is your friend.

  2. I'm sat here laughing at some poor Cafe Nero customer who walked into the toilet after you vacated. A quick double take as he is confused by the slaughter house smell !!!