We eventually got away from Southmead Hospital this afternoon at about 1500. It’s a huge place of 800beds and was built at the beginning of WW! for war casualties. Of course hugely upgraded and modernised now – the care and attention I received there over the past few days has been amazing. When over the years I have visited in patients, most will say how wonderful the staff is; how kind the nurses; how time-giving the doctors. “Oh yeah yeah,” I thought, “no more, no less than anyone else. How wrong can you get? These past five days were my first experience of being an “inmate” and I can only echo what has been told me innumerable times by others: the staff really were fantastic and I am most grateful to them all.

As we travelled along the M5 from Bristol heading for our turn off at Bridgewater I had time to reflect on what has happened to me. We crossed over King’s Sedgemoor Drain and the evening skies above us were a fantastic mixture of colours – shades of pink and blue and yellows and grey with wisps of cloud back-lit by the setting sun disappearing behind the Bredon Hills and Exmoor to the west of us. In the darkening east we looked to the Levels over the Huntspill River towards Puriton and Woolavington and the distant sight of a murmur of starlings going to their roost. It is great to be alive. And without wishing to appear over dramatic, if we hadn’t spotted the gathering cancerous threat and had it dealt with so promptly by all the health care workers who have been looking after me – then an early death would certainly have been on the cards. As it is, although my condition is almost certainly life shortening, it is not immediately life threatening. This week’s surgery is however, only the first step on the way back to full fitness.

Let me first tell you though, that I feel as fit and fine as ever I did. I don’t feel ill – but I am living still with the carcinomas on my scapula and ribs and the dodgy cells in my lungs. As the senior registrar on my case said to me, “We’re (sic) not out of the woods yet.” There is the possibility of further surgery to remove the remainder of my thyroid – this all depends on the path reports – and definitely a course of radiotherapy commencing in the New Year. But for now I feel normal, and I had no pain from the operation whatsoever. The 8” wound and 20-odd staples are a touché tender – but not so one would really notice. I’m taking no pain killers or any other drug at all – so I count myself fortunate and thank God for the power of prayer and the love and concern of so many people. The only significant problem I having to deal with is the loss of my voice. Half of my voice making equipment went in the operation, so I currently have a very husky voice – and not very loud! But, please God, what remains will eventually compensate for the loss, though I think further solo performances of Puccini arias are now beyond me.

I’m now home. I’m planning to return to work on 5th January – please God - and looking forward to celebrating Christmas with renewed hope and confidence. If you’re in the area – then please do stop by. Keep your eye on the blog, I will update regularly with niff-naff and trivia from sunny Somerset – but I will e-mail my address book when there is something extra special to report.

Once again thanks to many for prayers and best wishes, thoughts and messages – everyone single one has been so much valued and appreciated, and I hope you will excuse me if I don’t reply individually.

I’m staying off the gin until the weekend (I think I can last that long) but I’m going to chance cheeky claret with my tagliatelle and meatballs this evening!