❚ DROPPED IN FOR AFTERNOON TEA THIS WEEK with the lovely Judi Frankland, after a rattlingly fast ride to Newcastle on one of LNER’s new Azuma trains, seemingly built without any detectable suspension. You may recall Judi recently left hospital after a major cancer operation which proved very successful and had her walking 1km a day straight afterwards! She told me: “What an amazing team at the RVI hospital. I cannot thank them enough. They were a proud team and I had plenty of time to watch how brilliant they were with everyone. It makes me emotional to think about them.
“I’ve been told the road to recovery will not be short but with their continued support I will stay positive and, as you can see, I have finally put some lippy on! The question is, Who left the fabulous flowers on the doorstep? I love them and thank you.” Her neighbours in the seaside resort of Whitley Bay lavish attendance and affection on the eccentric woman with vibrant red hair who they know appeared in that David Bowie video for Ashes to Ashes. The rest of us remember her from the Blitz Club’s heyday and her all-black degree-show collection from 1980, the wedding dress from which was worn by clubland leader Steve Strange in that video.
By now I’m sitting on Judi’s sofa where she has thoughtfully supplied a bottle of Merlot to help down my cheese and biscuits, while she slurps some taramasalata aided by two smooth crackers. “You would think I’d eaten a three-course meal quickly, grrr!” No solids is the current rule while she adapts to life without much of a stomach. Ironically, her stomach remains “the size of a football” so, having been forewarned, I’d brought with me supplies of houmous and baba ganoush and tzatziki.
Judi is living now in her late mother’s home which is jam-packed with her own artsy objects and pictures occupying every inch of space, not to mention mum’s Welsh terrier Betty who has quite an appetite for attention and is today a rare breed possibly for that reason. (Runs in the family?) Ironically for a bungalow, a staircase leads to a loft. “That is the stairway to my heaven, my sewing area. When mum was doing her fairs selling antiques she wanted a place to keep her stock so she did a no-frills loft conversion which is now my sewing room, though I’ll not be going up there for a while sadly.”
Earlier this day a nurse had already visited to whip out a stitch. Judi said: “The nurse is taking the dressing off tomorrow, yikes, but don’t worry I won’t be showing anyone my scar – oh the thought! I can’t go far but I did go to Tesco earlier in my kaftan and compression stockings, very slowly. Hospital just rang to check on me and told me to take it one day at a time. “Dumplings? I pleaded. No not yet she said, ha!” We’re still awaiting results for my lymph nodes. They said it’s going to be a long recovery and as you can imagine I am antsy but doing as I’m told. I’ve been told to get my boxing gloves on and fight so I will do just that. Meanwhile. I’ve spoken with Macmillan, they are wonderful and are in the process of getting me a Macmillan buddy.
“I do believe I’m adopting a different attitude to life that’s more positive and healthy and I intend to make it a very creative one. Can’t wait to be well enough to start sewing.”
Before she went into hospital Judi put out a request for anyone to mix her a CD with their choice of music – “as long as it’s not jazz or Gary Barlow, I’m up for owt!” Lots of nice friends have responded so this week, she says: “I’ve been playing old punk music – that’s my mood right now and thinking of a new punk look for me when I’m finally unleashed on the world again.” Shake Some Action, Judi!