Email from my brother: Origins of the word bald and other important things

Hi Fay,

A teacher once told me that all it takes is a bit of reading to raise yourself up to a better class of person, so; did you know that the word “bald” comes from the Middle English “ballede” which meant “having a white spot” and that’s why the American Bald Eagle is so called without actually being a fully paid up member of the baldielocked slap head club?

No?  Well I’m glad I can finally prove to that teacher what a classier person I am being able to tell you this now that you’ve had to shave the rest of your thinning hair off because of the cancer drugs.

This week I had to take Eva and some of her five year old school friends on a field trip around Cambridge.  I’d been worried about it all week not because I was in charge of other people’s kids but because the three groups we were split into were called Tahi, Rua and Toru.  These may or may not be Maori words but seeing as I’m not Maori, no one on the school trip was Maori and, for me at least, Maori words seem to have far too many vowels in them to comfortably pronounce, I for one was a little bit concerned that someone was expecting me to be able to say the group I was supposed to be in.

What group are you in?  I’m in Roo-ah group.  Roo-ah group?  Oh you mean (rolled R’s) Row-ooh group.  Doofus!  Actually I just looked it up and Tahi, Rua, Toru is Maori for One, Two and Three.  So I’m in Group Two am I?  Brilliant.  Why not call them Group One, Two & Three and take some of the stress out of the situation? I suppose now though that if ever I come across Maori-Ted-Rogers I know that I’m in danger of winning a Dusty Bin.  Or as Maori-Ted-Rogers would call it, a Puehu Ipupara.  Come on, I’ll have a consonant now please Carol.   Or as Maori-Carol-Vordaman would say, an orokati.  Okay, stop that now.

When they did the register in the morning I noticed the kids said the Maori word for “hello” when the teacher called their names; “kiora” (remember to roll your Rs in Maori and not tag on the end the fact that “it’s too orangey for crows”).  All said kiora except a couple of kids, one of which was Eva, they instead said “good morning”

Damn right Eva!

We’re still pushing on with the calorie counting and the 5:2 diet despite it being the final week three of three.  Juliette’s decided to go for a six week trial period so we’re back to being half way through.  I’m a hundred percent sure that I’ve got a fifty fifty chance of deep sixing this diet before it knocks me for ten.   It’s probably just my imagination but it feels like numbers are everywhere at the moment.

Juliette’s friend Helen is on the same diet and says she eats a Weight Watchers meal in the evenings and this seemed the ideal solution as what to cook for only 300 calories.  I suppose the Weight Watcher meals are tasty enough, but when a grown man is left licking the plate clean I would say that the portion sizes are a little on the gerbil side.  Juliette also swears by the filling up power of the low carb protein bar.  I had one this week and while it was only 90 calories it had the consistency of hot tarmac.  I made the mistake of stuffing half the bar in my mouth because I was looking after Sam and had that horrible panicked sensation of literally knowing that I had bitten off more than I could chew.   I hadn’t had that sensation since the night before when I tried to eat six Pop Tarts in a Nutella sandwich.  Still not lost any bloody weight on this diet.

If you have to keep shaving your head until the drug trial ends can I recommend another medieval factoid; some monks used to use to keep their tonsures groomed by rubbing the area with a pumice stone.  I usually find the best way to remove hair is to gaffer tape the affected area and rip it off.  Let me know how you get on.

Love Mark xxx
An informative and entertaining email as usual. May give the gaffer tape a miss though

As always Mark, I ....

Email from my Brother: Think on

Hi Fay, So I read your blog about your hair dresser fixing up your hair.  It does look good.

I’m wondering though if all the hair loss is worth the drug trial though.  I mean if you’re all clear at the moment and the drugs aren’t “proven” yet, is it worth the agro? Because I’m finding it very hard to take the piss when you’re hurting emotionally.  So it’s time to stop thinking about yourself and start thinking about how your condition affects other people i.e. me.

What’s the difference between a monkey, an orphan, a prince, and a bald man?  A monkey has a hairy parent, an orphan has nary a parent, a prince is an heir apparent, and a bald man has no hair apparent.   I just got that joke off the internet.  You can’t use it again though.  Not because it’s copyrighted, you can’t use it again because it’s sh*t.

So the guy who died in the car crash had his funeral this week.  Horribly enough we had our own near death experience in family this week too.  Eva’s cousin Rachael (same age as Eva, 5) came around for a sleepover last Saturday and she nearly died.  The girls were helping Juliette make chocolate covered cornflake cakes and with a little bit (lots) of help from Sam managed to throw ingredients all over the place.  So I got our Dyson handheld vacuum cleaner and was hoovering the mess up.  The cornflakes kept blocking the nozzle so I had to stop and bang the tube every couple of minutes but eventually I finished clearing the whole thing up.  Then I gave the vacuum one last tap and the hinged door on the bottom of the Dyson sprang open and dropped everything all down my jeans, my feet and in all directions to a distance of about five feet.  That’s when Rachael said in a sing-song voice, “Oopsey!  Looks like someone’s made a mis-take!”.  And I very nearly throttled her to death.

So I had my birthday last week (like you!) and the best present I had was a chainmail coif I ordered for myself back in June.  I had a bunch of stuff from my family sure, including about eight hand made birthday cards from Eva (handmade, how cheap can you get!(joking)), but I can wear boxer shorts and T-shirts any day of the week.  How often do I get to wear a chainmail coif?  What’s a chainmail coif?  It’s a basically a chainmail hood.   Each 6mm ring has been hand riveted in a sweat shop in India by some child who was probably wondering why someone wants to buy a big, heavy, oily piece of obsolete armour.  Because it’s awesome, that’s why kid!  Shut up and keep working.

It’s got to be said when I put the thing on I look like a movie star.  The movie star in question is the old bloke that’s been guarding the Holy Grail at the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  It’s the silver in my beard I think.  I’ve got a medieval sallet helmet too which basically looks a bit like a dorky German WWII helmet.  When I put the sallet on over the chainmail coif I look like a metallic penis with a face.  Brilliant.  Can’t wait to wear it all at the Ohaupo School Fireworks Display in November, the guys there are going to love it.

The diet is going well.  Two days a week we eat only 600 calories.  So far we’ve lost zero weight but we do appreciate the food we do have on the five days we’re not pointlessly limiting ourselves.  Yesterday I was so looking forward to having toast with butter on in the morning I made my own butter from some cream we had left over from Saturday.  And we already had butter in the fridge.  Hot toast with butter, yum!   Last week I took a tip from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and put a bowl of porridge oats to soak in milk in the fridge overnight.  This made the porridge the next morning taste extra extra creamy.  Thanks Hugh.  I don’t normally bother faffing around with food but being mega hungry seems to focus your thoughts a bit.

Unfortunately none of the kids have turned into giant hams like a Tom and Jerry cartoon yet though, because I wouldn’t mind some ham.  I’ve just been watching Pinocchio with the kids and there’s a scene where two foaming mugs of beer are drawn from a beer barrel and I’m wondering if I should have another glass of tap water or save it for later, because you know, you’ve got to have something to look forward to.  We agreed to do this “diet” for three weeks before quitting and we’ve just completed Week 2 of 3.  On the off days it’s only the packets of chocolate digestives, slices of cheese cake and multiple pints of beer that are keeping me going.  What’s the point of diet where you don’t lose weight, eh?

Anyway, take care of yourself, don’t get too down about your hair loss because remember, when you come off the drugs it’ll all grow back.

And then you’ve got to contend with stubble rash around your nethers.  Think on.

Mark xxx

Goodbye hair, hello time!

My hairdresser did a wonderful job and created a style which covered all the baldy spots.

But it doesn't look like that now. I've continued to lose hair, baldy spots are bigger, some bits are growing, others aren't, hair sticks up where it shouldn't and just looks awful.

She gave me time to get used to having it short and wearing scarves. But I think the time has now come, to say goodbye. It looks untidy, unsightly and just reminds me of a mangy dog! I've fallen out of love with my hair. 

I'm having it cut to one (very short ie shaved!) length, clean, tidy and a fresh start. And I'm okay with that.

I'm also okay with all the time and money I'll save not having to look after or style it. Plus, less time cleaning the bath plug out! 

It's will be liberating and I have the perfect excuse to wear a hat indoors as we come into winter! 

Now to see what other benefits I can look forward to! Any suggestions?

Email from my brother: How many calories in a kiwi fruit?

Hi Fay

So the boy racer that crashed into Maurice and Valerie’s culvert died this week. Sad for his family, but thankfully he was the only one who paid the price for his stupidity. I mean anyone of us could have been using that driveway when he A-Teamed his car into it and where would we be then?

The headline in the newspaper was “Highway for Hoons” based on a quote from a more irate neighbour. Maurice and Valerie came round for dinner last Saturday & Valerie wasn’t aware that she was using the word “Coon” for “Hoon” until we pointed it out. She hadn’t heard of either word before and was very embarrassed when we told her what it meant. “Highway for Coons” as a headline would’ve swung the focus of the story in a totally different direction don’t you think? So on with the good news …

This week, for the first time ever, I’m trying a diet. It’s a sea food diet. Whenever I sea food … hang on that joke doesn’t work in print. When we first applied to come to New Zealand we had to go through a proper medical that included blood tests and X-rays and eye tests and everything. From these tests we both found out that we had non-alcoholic fatty livers but recent blood tests for life insurance have shown we’ve sorted that one out mainly with a firm application of ignoring it. Ignoring it worked! Result! That hardly ever works. (Our diets did change after our move here so there is that.)

However I do know I’m over weight. I know this because the specialist I saw about my liver three years ago got out a height to weight chart that was colour coded in bands of green, yellow and red. When I told him my weight and height he ran his fingers through the colours, tapped the red band and just turned to me with raised eyebrows. Cheeky b*stard.

So back in 2009 we had a fancy set of scales that you program your sex, height and age and it shoot electric currents through you and works out percentage body fat. First time I programed my stats in I found out I was 33% fat. That’s why I think yellow suits me best. I’m a walking tub of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter. Unsurprisingly 33% fat is outside the healthy range for me so I sat back and did nothing about it again. F*ck all. Skip forward to 2012 and we’ve still got the scales and I’m still the same body fat percentage.

So we decided to try this 5:2 diet where by two days a week we limit our food consumption to 600 calories and the other days we eat normally. The idea is that’s kind of how our ancestors ate, fasting when there wasn’t food and feasting when there was. We’ve never done any sort of diet before but the upshot was we’ve decided to try it for three weeks to see if it’s any good (i.e. if we lose weight at all). So far we’ve done a week and it’s a bloody horrible diet. I’ve never done so much maths. Well apart from when I did my A-level in maths. What grade did I get? Oh yes, a U. So again, I’ve never done so much maths.

How many calories in a kiwi fruit? How many in a cup of brown rice? What about a banana? Is it a big banana, a medium banana or a small banana? Look it up and then convert kilojoules to calories, convert them back again, dived the total by two, multiply by tablespoons and eat it at the rate of six dolphins per fortnight. Why is nothing ever simple?

The thing is I went and weighed myself again and this time I actually picked the scales up to look at the little icons. I had to scratch off a blob of cheese, flick away some rice-crispy cake and wipe away the remnants of some splashed full fat mochachino from the display but I did find that I’d had my profile set on female instead of male. This had been set like that for four years and only now I’d realised my mistake. So now I find out I’m 19% body fat which is in the healthy range. I had been wondering how doing three hours of pushing a lawn mover around per week, digging ditches, shifting logs for hours, splitting wood and shooting a 119lb longbow still meant I medically had the body of Humpty Dumpty. Mystery solved! I had the brains of Humpty Dumpty. I think there’s 83 calories in a Humpty Dumpty. Mmmmmm, Cadburys Cream Humpty Dumpty…. It’s going to be a long three weeks.

Take care,

Love Mark xxx


As always Mark

Bit more time.....

@BigFashionista recently published a post called 'Do you know you are beautiful?' asking which bit of your body you liked the most.

For me it's my hair. It's the one part of my body I've consistently loved about myself throughout my adult life. I've been lucky to have been blessed with beautifully coloured, thick hair. My practical bob, which fluctuated in length over the years has served me well. I didn't have to think about it. It was low maintenance and was just 'there'

I'm on a drugs trial and one possible side effect is thinning hair or loss, so I was prepared. It's a blind study, the more reported side effects, the more likelihood I'm not in the placebo group. Therefore side effects are good.

When I showed 'the signs' a few weeks ago, I went into my typical practical mode and kept an eye open for scarves at knockdown prices (shopping! Yes!) and You Tubed how to wear them.

I noticed my hairy legs weren't as hairy as before. In fact it had been six weeks between shaves. Result!! When I went for a hair cut, my hairdresser commented my fringe wasn't as long as usual, and the beautician tactfully mentioned I had missing eyelashes.(Yes! Think of the money I would save!)

So I was ready and it was ok. I would still be the same person, just smoother! 

The eyebrows 'went AWOL' next which prompted me to create the hashtag #thankgoodnessforafringe 

I lost hair in other 'places' too (blushes) But hey, got to be a bonus in here somewhere. I sure as hell wasn't getting the side effect I wanted, the losing weight due to lack of appetite (I know, I'm shallow)

So I was ready when my head hair started to thin. The plug hole was more disgusting than usual. People commented my hair was changing colour. Yes, it was changing to 'shade of scalp!!!!!' And then it accelerated to this

I was organised and 'sorted'. I had scarves, I knew how to tie them and been wearing them for a while. The next step was to take control and cut it short. It's taken a few days, but I've finally taken the plunge. To be honest, I was fed up with finding it everywhere it shouldn't be (plughole, pillow, settee, in my food, stitched up in my crochet projects, rolling like a tumbleweed along the hallway) 

Thank goodness MrC refused to cut it ( although deep down I think he was looking forward to giving me a mohican! ) and made me go to my hairdresser. Because she performed a miracle and has created this! 

The bald spot is still there, I'm just rocking the best comb over ever! 

I got into the car and cried. I may have thought I was organised and sorted. But it wasn't until the cut which left me feeling pretty again, did it dawn just how much my hair meant to me and how I wasn't ready for it.

I'd taken it for granted.

It had defined me.

My miracle worker has given me a bit more time to get used to things.

And I can also eat my dinner without the added fibre! 

Email from my brother: I’m thinking that perhaps I was adopted?


Hi Fay,

So I read that your hair is really thinning now so I’ll not be taking the piss again this week. To be honest I was worried that I was being a bit too cheeky last time. Thankfully you're family so you're stuck with me. Rock on!

Now I’ve got a far darker subject to cover. You see today I hired a trailer and went around to the in-laws house in Ohaupo to puck a load of logs from some trees they’d had cut down. I found Maurice in the road and the fencing around the driveway culvert in the right mess, like something had smashed through it at two hundred miles per hour. And someone had. Apparently at half eleven the night before two boy racers had been racing along their road and one of them had lost control for a moment, come off the road and hit their culvert. To give you an idea of what this culvert is it’s basically a ten foot wide driveway over a six foot deep ditch held in place with planking, tree trunk fence posts and substantial fencing along the sides. The black Mercedes owned by this twenty three year old in question hit it, spun into the ditch and burst into flame. Everyone living in along the road thought a plane must have crashed as there was a massive thump and when they got outside the flames were shooting up into the trees.

Some folks got down into the ditch and started chucking buckets of water over the car thinking the driver was still inside. Luckily for him he wasn’t as he hadn’t been wearing a seatbelt. He’d been thrown through the shattered windscreen on impact, travelled forty meters and ended up on the other side of the road in a bush. No one could find him in the dark for half an hour though so when he finally got taken into hospital he had hyperthermia to add to the broken spine, ribs, pelvis and head injuries. He’s still in critical condition. There’s a report about it here…

So when I got to the crash spot and heard a first hand account from Maurice we started looking over the crash scene with all these busted CDs and bits of his car all over the place (the car had been taken away only minutes before) and I thought “I’ll have to tell Fay about this … but how can this be a subject for humour? It’s such a tragedy.

And then I thought that if I’d crashed there’s be an S-Club 7 CD on the floor and if I’d died I’d have to come back from the afterlife as a ghost to explain why. We used to have a Nelly Furtado CD in the car (it magically travelled with us from the UK) and we used to play it because Eva liked to sing along to the songs. However the song called “Hey, Man” has the chorus “There's a shadow in the sky, and it looks like rain, oh oh, and shit is gonna fly, once again.” and Eva just loved to sing this. Now hearing a five year old sing “shit is gonna fly” is of course hilarious. But irresponsible. So we got a nice safe S-Club 7 CD for her to listen to. AND THAT’S WHY IT’S IN MY CAR, OKAY!?

But are S-Club any better than Nelly singing “shit is going to fly”? Take “S-Club Party”. In it there are the lyrics … “Tina's doing her dance, Jon's looking for romance, Paul's getting down on the floor, While Hannah's screaming out for more (ooh hoo!), Wanna see Bradley swing, Wanna see Rachel do her thing, Then we got Jo, she's got the flow, Get ready everybody 'cos here we go!”

Tina's doing her dance”, what sort of dance? Pole dance? “Jon's looking for romance”, what with Jon, roofies? “Paul's getting down on the floor”, getting down with what Paul, getting down with what? “While Hannah's screaming out for more (ooh hoo!)”, no comment. “Wanna see Bradley swing”, no. “Wanna see Rachel do her thing”, dear God, not with the ping pong balls again … “Then we got Jo, she's got the flow, Get ready everybody 'cos here we go!”, I don’t want to hear about anybody’s menstrual cycle thank you very much.

So then we went along the tree line on Maurice’s property and I spotted the drivers watch in the mulch. I big chunky arsed gold watch. Bling! This was on the other side of the road from where he ended up and was still giving good time. Totally macabre right? The thing is I’m thinking “Wow, I really need a watch. That’s a really nice watch….hmmmmm….” So I say to Maurice about the watch and should we pick it up and give it to the police. He says that the whole area is a crime scene so he starts kicking mulch over it. I’m thinking “Good plan, we’ll dig it up later. It’s gold, it won’t rust.” and then he says that he doesn’t anyone else finding it until the police can log it. So I’m thinking of getting a new Casio.

When something like this happens it does make you think about what risks you take. For example I drove away with a trailer full of logs and realised I was driving while eating a roll full of tuna mayonnaise. I mean really, I made that tuna mayonnaise three days before, who knew what sort of bacteria was in there. I threw it out of a window where it bounced off a cyclist, so you know, crisis averted.

I wish I could give your advice on hair loss but unfortunately despite being forty, the grandson of two bald guys and the son of a bald guy, I’ve weirdly still got a full head of hair.

I’m thinking that perhaps I was adopted?

Love Mark xxxx


I've checked. You're not


Email from my brother: 'I can’t tell if you’re angry now either…'

Hi Fay,

I read today that you are now sans eyebrows.  I looked up what you need eyebrows for and apparently they supposed to keep sweat, rain and debris out of your eyes and help convey emotions like anger and surprise.  So what’s going to happen when next time you go out and are surprised and angry that it’s raining?

This week we finally had the shutters fitted into our new bathroom.  After starting it four or five months ago it’s finally finished.  I only mention them because they old guy who turned up to fit them rang to say he was on his way and then next thing I know I hear a knock at the back door, get up to answer it and he’s already in the house saying “Hello Mark”.  That’s right he was in the house.  I’ve seen so many people coming for quotes or installing stuff that I’ve lost track of who’s who and I seemed to remember him from when he came to measure up for the shutters in the first place.  This lead me to wonder if he was on vampire rules where once you get invited into a home you can come and go and you please.   No really I did ponder if he was a vampire for a few minutes.  I soon realised that you can’t really be a vampire if you’re installing shutters for a living and driving around in a Hyundai iLoad during the day time.  Anything window related as a cover story for the daylight allergic is just sh*t planning.  “Let me just measure this window,” opens curtains, “aaaarrrrggggh!”.  If he was a vampire he needed to be in the night time security light business.  The shutters look really good now though.  Juliette said when she got home that it was the saleswoman who measured up for the shutters so it must have been the first time I’d met this guy.  Vampire rules my arse.

This week I bought a new phone because my old one liked to save up all the text messages and deliver them in one go.  It was the Postman Pat of mobile phones.  I’d suddenly get four e-mails from Juliette in the space of twenty seconds saying “Can you buy some bread?”, “Have you bought the bread?”, “Do you want me buy the bread?” , “What’s the deal with the non-bread buying?”.  First time it happened I wondered if she thought I was like Superman or something.  Come on, it’s been 45 seconds, where’s my Kingsmill Oatiliscious?   It also liked to take messages instead of actually ringing and letting me take the call.  I’d get a message saying I’d missed a call at so-and-so time that was always, and I mean always, one minute ago.  One minute ago was usually me sitting on the toilet with the phone in my hand wondering why someone hadn’t gotten back to me.  Mind you if I was on the toilet maybe the old phone was doing me a favour.

So I went into a random store looking to get a cheap as chips basic phone and came out with a phone worth three times what I was going to pay for it.  Luckily it was on offer for my price range and I had to ask a salesperson to verbally confirm the knock down price as knowing my luck I’d go up to the counter and find out I’d be buying a cover for an expense phone or a lanyard for hanging the phone around my neck or something rather than the phone itself.  Then I’d have to make up some story to cover my stupidity and the reason why I would actually rather not buy a twenty-kick-arse-ringtone package or what-not for a phone I didn’t own.  So I asked if the offer was true and it did actually cover the cost of the phone and the salesperson went through the whole thing in a slow voice, nodding after each feature and looking over my shoulder to see if my carer was around.

The new phone is brilliant.  It’s got a touch screen, takes photos, videos, plays back video, surfs the internet and does basically everything that phones have done for a few years now while I’ve been struggling with my old phone.  I mean my old phone when you typed a text message had the hash key open up a default option to change the language you were typing in.  So I’d be typing a text, hit the hash key by accident and end up writing gibberish in Mandarin.  Who thought that feature was needed?  I can’t even think who’d need that feature.  It’s a text message, people switch languages when they don’t want other people overhearing, no one overhears a text message.  Come on.  Chi-se wo le!

Anyway, your eyebrows, you’re better off without them.  Mine look like they’ve been drawn on with a Magic Marker and as I get older they get bushier.  So you’re best rid of yours.  My final words on this are if your eyebrows don’t grow back …. (pause to let reader know that eyebrows are needed to signal anger and surprise) …  don’t … (pause for joke)  … be surprised.

I can’t tell if you’re angry now either…

Lot’s of love,
Mark xxx

I'm holding my eyebrow less head in my hands, groaning just a little bit. But as always.....