Women’s Bits and New Books



images-1It’s been so long since I’ve posted on here. It’s been a manic few months with so much happening.

Life is certainly never static is it? After months and months of chronic knee I finally went private to find out what was going on. This only after being told that my appointment to see a consultant would take eighteen months. Eighteen months, I don’t know about you but that seemed a lifetime away to me. I love the NHS but it certainly doesn’t seem to like me. Or maybe my GP doesn’t like me. I discovered my flat feet were crippling me. Who’d have thought such a simple thing could cause so much pain? Insteps and a few months later and I feel like a new woman. Well, leg wise anyway. A woman I am beginning to detest being.

So, I thought I’d share the ongoing saga I am having with my GP. I’m attempting to see the funny side of things as I’m sure there must be one. I’m also hoping someone going through a similar thing may contact me to share. God knows I’m in need of sharing.

Before you read on, be aware this post does mention female bits. Okay, brace yourself for the ride. Ready? Here we go then.

About three months ago I began to feel just a touch uncomfortable ‘down there’ My mum always referred to it as ‘down there’ and oddly enough so did a very young gynaecologist I saw. There was me trying to be all technical and knowledgeable by saying, ‘The sore area is on the right labia, high up by the vagina.’ We finally just referred to it as ‘down below.’ I must admit it is far simpler. I also worry I’m saying the names wrong. I probably know the parts of a car better than I do ‘down there’

Anyway, I’m waffling as usual. So, the first thing I do is go to my GP. Sensible I thought. I phone for an appointment. I’m then triaged as I say I really can’t wait three weeks! I’m told my doctor will phone me. She does. She then tells me they are too overcome and I’d have to go to another surgery in the town closest to me. Off I trot. I see a nice doctor there who says she can’t see anything ‘down there.’ Asks me if sex is painful and then suggests something to numb the soreness. I’m not over the top happy but take her prescription. A week later I’m still the same. I phone my GP again and it’s arranged for me to see a female doctor at my own surgery. Off I pop. I explain the soreness and she has a look.

‘Ooh,’ she says surprised, ‘I can see a lesion.’

‘Oh really, I guess that must be the problem,’ I reply.

‘It looks like an ulcer.’

‘Right, what do you do for that?’

A sensible question I thought.

‘I think we should take swabs.’

Great, this was what I wanted to hear.

‘Shall I test for everything?’ she asks.

Now, not being a doctor, I have no idea what everything is. Clearly she doesn’t need to check me for Syphilis or any other STD. I’m happily married to my second husband. He is happily married to me. I was previously married for a long period to another man who wasn’t the type to put it about either. You know your men better than the doctors’ right?

‘Not the things I’m unlikely to have,’ I say.

‘I think we should test for Herpes,’ she says.

I’m a bit open-mouthed for a second and then stupidly find myself wondering if you can get Herpes any other way. I’ve not even worn a tampon in over a year, besides you can’t catch it from them can you? I try not to be insulted.

‘There’s no way I have Herpes,’ I say, trying not to sound affronted.

‘You could have had it from the age of nineteen,’ she says confidently.

‘Without symptoms? I ask.

I’m seriously distrustful of her judgements now.

‘It would be odd that you’ve had no symptoms,’ she says.

So here I am at the age when the only thing I should be worried about is the menopause and this twenty something woman is telling me I’ve been walking around with Herpes for over thirty years without any symptoms and now wham bam here they are. Yes, right, you don’t trust her judgement either do you?

She takes the swabs and I hit the ceiling. She tests for thrush and Herpes. I tell her I have neither. She doesn’t listen to me. I have no voice.

I trot back home and phone for the results a few days later. The receptionist isn’t allowed to give me the results so I wait for the doctor to phone. She doesn’t. It’s on her list but she doesn’t phone. I call the next day and ask could she phone as I’m still in discomfort and need something to ease the soreness. I’m now struggling to pee. And let me tell you, I pee a lot.

‘She’s the duty doctor today,’ I’m told. ‘So she’s very busy.’

Excuse me, but am I not a patient?

I patiently explain she was supposed to have phoned me yesterday and didn’t. It’s a Friday and I don’t know what to do now the tests have come back. It gets to five and still no phone call. The phones shut down at six at the surgery. I phone The Doc (Andrew my husband) in tears. He phones them and says how dissatisfied we are. They promise to phone. They still haven’t by six. He goes in on his way home and says he won’t leave until they call me. She finally does and tells me I will need to be referred and it will take six weeks but as they saw a lesion she thinks I should be referred to the cancer clinic using the two-week wait. I question whether it could be a hormonal thing as my breasts are also sore. She doesn’t know. I ask if she thinks it could be serious and she says ‘The other doctor saw a lesion so best to be sure.’ I agree and wait for the appointment. At least I know I don’t have thrush or Herpes. It’s a start.

A week or so later and off I pop again to see a lovely gynaecologist. We chat about ‘down there’ and finally he has a look ‘down there.’ He then asks if I’d like to know what is wrong with me? Dumb question, but still.

‘Nothing,’ he says.

‘Right,’ I say. ‘So is it Atrophy then?’ I ask pulling up my knickers. I’d worn my best frilly pair. Well, last time I got caught out with a hole at the back. Very embarrassing.

‘Ah, how do you know these things?’ he asks.

‘Ah, I like to know what’s going on with my body,’ I say.

‘Right,’ he says, ‘You need some local Oestrogen for ‘down there’

‘Oh, I say, ‘I take HRT, wouldn’t that have been enough?’

‘Some women need both.’

‘So it’s okay to use both?’

You can’t say I don’t ask questions.

Off I pop. A few days later I phone  my GP and ask them if I can have the medication. They say they will get the doctor to phone. She doesn’t phone. I’m tearful. I phone again the next day and she finally calls back and tells me I can’t have it if I’m on HRT and that she needs the letter to come back first and will also contact the menopausal clinic to speak to my consultant there. I tell her the gynaecologist said it was okay. No one believes me. I contact the menopausal clinic. They send an email saying I can have the medication. The gynaecologist writes and says I can have the medication. My doctor still doesn’t give it. I phone again to be told she is very busy and that she needs the letter first. I tell them it is on their system as I can see it. That day I get no medication. The next day I phone again. I wait until six, no phone call, no medication. Finally it gets to Thursday and I phone again. This time no reply. I jump in my car and go there. I’m seething, in pain and totally fed up. I demand the medication and tell the woman at the pharmacy at the surgery that I’m not going without it. She then tells me my doctor has gone home. She had messages to contact me. She ignored them.

I stand my ground and a doctor gives me the medication as soon as he hears what is happening.

Your opinion? I’d like to hear it.

Meanwhile happy news. While all that has been going on ‘down there’  ‘up here’ a new book has been released and I’m so excited. It’s already getting rave reviews and it’s only **99p** at least for a short time. Don’t miss out.


I’ve loved writing this book and I so hope you enjoy reading it. It’s a fab read for Christmas. Well, I would think so, wouldn’t I?

Lots of love



Funerals, Bamboo trains and flooded tuk tuks

I’m preparing for the drive back to Siem Reap today, which will take about three hours. I am very much hoping the heavy downpours will hold off until after I arrive back. Travelling anywhere in Cambodia is difficult enough but it becomes much worse when trying to drive through endless floods. It is incredibly hot with the humidity at 85% but this is not unusual in the rainy season I didn’t sleep well last night even though I am staying at the wonderful Battambang resort. I’ve not really slept well since arriving. I miss my husband and Bendy and there is so much to think about that it makes sleep difficult. As I type I can hear the sounds of funeral music. I know it is funeral music for my tuk tuk guide Dang, pointed this out to me during my trip to the bamboo train. He explained how the sound makes him feel a little frightened.
‘It can last from three days to sometimes longer and wakes you up in the mornings,’ he told me.
I found the sounds beautifully haunting and you can hear them for yourself here.
I don’t know how far away this particular funeral is that I can hear now. It sounds close but then the music always sounds near when it is in fact very far away.
I shall be sad to leave Battambang. I have had an interesting if not catastrophic visit but then it would not be typical of me if there wasn’t some catastrophes involved. My most reason catastrophe involved a bamboo train. My aim had been to visit the countryside while here. Battambang is the capital city of Battambang province in northwestern Cambodia.
Founded in the 11th century by the Khmer Empire, Battambang is well-known for being the leading rice-producing province of the country. The city is situated by the Sangkae River, a tranquil, small body of water that winds its way through Battambang Province providing its nice picturesque setting. I spent some time researching it online and read that a visit to the countryside was something not to be missed. I asked at reception and a tuk tuk driver was arranged. He arrived ten minutes early and introduced himself as Dang and spoke English with a Cambodian/North England accent. I asked him if he had been to England. He looked surprised.
‘No, but I learnt at school and from British people who come here.’
I guessed he must have spent a long time with a Northerner. I smiled and complimented him on his English.


‘I’d like to go into the country,’ I tell him.
He looks thoughtful.
‘Ah, country. You go on bamboo train?’
I had looked at the bamboo train online and thought it looked interesting if just a touch uncomfortable. I turn to the owner of the resort and ask if she can explain that I want to go into the countryside to take pictures. She understands and a long chat in Khmer ensues. Finally she says.
‘We think Bamboo train is good way to see country.’
I’ve been bamboozled. The bamboo train it is then.
‘Come on Lynda,’ smiles Dang.
So I head off for yet another experience. Although as yet I had no idea just how much of an experience it was going to be.
The Cambodian people are the friendliest I have ever met. The children call out to you as you pass by in your tuk tuk and the adults always smile at you. Most tuk tuk drivers are exceptionally helpful and friendly and many are great tour guides. Dang turned out to be one of those. He points out the river explaining that this time last year it was totally flooded.
‘Very bad,’ he smiles. ‘Now I take you to Bamboo train’

So, off I go to the train. Obviously I am expecting a train. Something similar to the train I may board back home in Oxford. How silly am I?
We arrive at the station after driving down very bumpy roads.
‘Very bumpy,’ I say. I am so innocent. I have no idea that the bumpy roads are nothing compared to the bumpy ride of the bamboo train.
Dang just smiles.
I look around for my train.
‘The train not here yet?’ I ask.
He points to what looks like a water raft.
‘Here bamboo train,’ he says gaily and another man throws a large cushion onto it for me. Oh, good heavens, they can’t possibly expect me to go on that. But, oh yes they do.
My bamboo train

Dang explains that the journey will last one hour. I try to visualise myself sitting on this train for one hour but it just doesn’t happen.
‘I come with you?’ Dang asks.
This seems a good idea. I climb onto the train, take a deep breath and off we go. I shall never complain a tuk tuk ride is bumpy again. At one point my handbag jumped up several inches and almost left the train but for Dangs quick reflexes. As I cling onto my bag and camera Dang gives me some background on the bamboo train.
The bamboo train is one of the world’s all-time classic rail journeys. The train clicks and clacks along warped, misaligned rails and bridges left by the French.
Each bamboo train – known in Khmer as a norry (nori) – consists of a 3m-long wood frame, covered lengthwise with slats made of ultra-light bamboo, that rests on two barbell-like bogies, the aft one connected by fan belts to a 6HP gasoline engine. Pile on 10 or 15 people or up to three tonnes of rice, crank it up and you can cruise along at about 15km/h to 20km. What to do when two trains going opposite directions meet. In the case of bamboo trains, the answer is simple: one car is quickly disassembled and set on the ground beside the tracks so the other can pass. The rule is that whichever car has fewer passengers has to cede priority.
I would dismally remember this on my return as a monsoon raged about us.
Once I became adjusted to the train I actually found my ride quite exhilarating. Thirty minutes later we stop at a village and climb off. It is here that I hear very loud, haunting music and ask Dang where it is coming from.
‘It is a funeral,’ he tells me and shakes his head. ‘I do not like it.’
I find the music deeply moving and he attempts to translate the words for me. We walk amongst the villagers who bombard me with gifts made from reeds. One ties a home made bracelet to my wrist.
The track

I look uncertainly up at the sky as dark clouds float dangerously towards us.
‘Do you think it will rain?’ I ask Dang.
He however does not profess to be the weather man.
‘I don’t think so but I don’t know.’ he answers.
At that moment the wind comes up so suddenly that we are almost thrown off out feet. The men in charge of my train indicate we should begin making our way back. I am relieved. I wait patiently but nervously as they prepare my train.

I am now keenly aware that I am a solo traveller and that any oncoming train will expect me to disembark, have my train removed from the rails and allow them to pass. This is fine and I am very happy to do this except as we begin our journey back the winds grow stronger and the rain begins to pelt down on me. This really could only happen to me. I quickly pull my cardigan off and try to decide which I should protect the most, myself or my camera. Dang looks at me apologetically and I smile although I feel far from happy. The wind is so fierce that I have to duck constantly to stop the overhanging branches whipping me in the face. And then horror of horrors, I see an oncoming train. I want to cry. Dang nudges me softly.
‘We need to get off train.’
The words I had dreading hearing. My slacks are now stuck to my legs and any hope I had of maintaining some kind of decorum is gone in a flash when I see my cotton top is stuck to me also. I look like an entrant for a wet t-shirt competition. Not quite how one should present oneself while in Cambodia. Within minutes my cardigan is drenched and so is my camera. I slide off the bamboo train feeling quite miserable but not as miserable as poor Dang who looks quite guilty.
‘I’m sorry Lynda,’ he says offering to hold the sopping wet camera.
We wave happily to the Chinese people who pass us on their train and climb back onto ours to continue the wet journey back.
A downpour in Cambodia

The arrival back at the station (which isn’t a station as such, more a muddy area full of motorbikes) produces such a sense of relief that I almost cry until I see how muddy it is. Visions of myself slipping and sliding to the tuk tuk torment me. I mean, why me?
Luckily Dang helps me and I make it to safety.
The station

At last, I think. We can go back to the hotel. I can dry off and have some dinner. Except… Dang’s tuk tuk is soaked and he can’t get it to start. Oh, no. I shall be stranded here forever. Okay, a bit extreme but I feel highly embarrassed dripping away in front of all these Cambodian men. They obviously take pity on me for several of them attempt to start the tuk tuk. Until finally amidst a cloud of grey smoke, it starts. I let out a long sigh and climb in.
I’m all for adventures but this is taking things too far.

It’s only wind!

My life surely has to be more entertaining than a soap opera. I really don’t intend for it to be that way. In fact I was not aware it was even similar to one until Andrew said as much and some good friends confirmed that he was indeed a saint to cope with it all. Poor Andrew. No wonder he swings from lamp posts.
Last week was a prime example I suppose, when I popped to the Doctors with what I was convinced was a serious problem with my stomach.
‘I imagine they will send me for tests,’ I told Andrew the night before.
‘Yes, of course,’ was his response. ‘Although the most likely scenario is that they will tell you it’s wind.’
So, the next morning off I trot to the Doctor, almost wanting to prove dear Andrew wrong.
After much poking around. Ah, talking of poking, that reminds me I must be due a smear test soon. Aren’t blogs wonderful things. They even jolt your memory.
‘Take a seat Mrs Renham-Cook. Now…’
Oh dear. Convinced she is about to tell me I can’t now travel to Cambodia, I begin forming the words to convince her of otherwise.
‘I can find nothing wrong.’
She can’t?
‘It could be irritable bowel.’
Seems Andrew was right as usual.
I go to stand up and the pain I had been having in my calf catches me and I gasp. She notices, has a feel and immediately phones the hospital. I nearly pass out in fear. This is the thing with being a hypochondriac. The illness you expect to be diagnosed with never materialises but when something does happen that you hadn’t even thought of it throws you into blind panic.
‘I’ll phone the nurse, see if she can take your blood now and we can send that off and get it checked for Deep vein thrombosis. We will have it back in the morning.’
Deep vein thrombosis. Oh my God. I immediately picture a clot on my lung. Convince myself I only have a short time to live and beginning planning how to break the news to Andrew. God, I know I sit down a lot but this is ridiculous.
The nurse rushes me into her room. She only has a few minutes before they come to collect the blood. I am jabbed unmercifully with her needle. I’m someone used to having blood tests. I have my thyroid checked monthly but nothing hurt like that one did.
‘Best to be safe than sorry,’ the nurse tells me.
Yes, quite. But does being safe mean it has to hurt so bloody much?
I drive home in a dream. Well, that’s normal actually. I do everything in a dream. But this time I think I was more in a dream than normal.
Andrew comes home and I break the news.
‘I may have DVT.’ I say. ‘Well it’s highly likely actually.’
My leg has been throbbing ever since I arrived home.
‘Yes, I’m sure,’ he responds looking through the post.
I’m sure he is worried, he just doesn’t want it to show.
I spend the evening with my leg up.
‘I read on Google that’s the best thing to do,’ I tell Andrew.
‘I’d chop it off if I were you. Save all the bother.’
Obviously he is trying to cheer me up with humour.
Now, of course my arm is so sore I can barely move it. By the morning I have a massive bruise. Although the morning seems a long time coming. Andrew seemingly unperturbed sleeps like the dead. I know this because at one point I try to wake him up. Before I tell you about the night’s adventure I should just set the scene a bit. Andrew sleeps very soundly. I don’t. I am up and down like a jack in a box. This used to cause all kinds of upset. I now use my Blackberry to see where I’m going. I’m night blind, did I ever mention this.
‘No, no, but please don’t fill us in,’ I hear you shout.
Okay, don’t worry. There isn’t time anyway. Suffice to say I use my Blackberry to find my way to the bathroom. So, here I am on my way back when from the light of my phone I spot something black and large on the bedroom floor. Oh God, a spider. How do I get past that? More importantly if I do, what is to stop it coming onto the bed. I am terrified of spiders. Yes, I have killed spiders. Or I should say asked someone else to kill them. I was told off for this on Facebook. Told I should think twice about taking a life. Does this apply to the mice that are overtaking my house and the ants that seem to be everywhere. I mean, where do I draw the line? Anyway, back to the story. I’m sure I will hear lots of opinions on killing spiders. Even I am rethinking it through. I call Andrew, well that is I whisper Andrew. After the eighth whisper I am screaming Andrew. The spider hasn’t moved but with all this racket going on he is bound to soon. Bendy the cat, sitting downstairs, hears the racket and joins in with his meows.
‘What’s going on,’ utters Andrew.
At last!
‘There’s a spider, do something. I can’t go back to bed.’
‘Is that why you woke me up?’
‘Isn’t it enough?’
He sleepily climbs from the bed, finds the spider, kills it with the metal detector that sits on the landing (lent to me by a friend to find my engagement ring, if you’re curious and that is a whole other post.) wraps it in my sock (I ask you) and asks if I am returning to bed.
The following morning Andrew informs me that the spider I was so terrified of, was in fact the fluffy cover off of my headphones. I mean, typical or what?
‘Let me know what the verdict is,’ he shouts as he leaves the house. I wait all morning by the phone chewing my nails and wondering if I should pack a small bag ready for my stay in hospital. I begin a list of things we will need from Waitrose. That way Andrew can go instead of me. Doctor finally phones.
‘All is well,’ she tells me.
Surely she has made a mistake? I feel so tired.
‘Let’s check your thyroid,’ she suggests.
Yes, let’s do that, I agree.
Oh, well this means I can go to Waitrose today after all.
Normal life resumes. I know, I know, it’s far from normal but it’s how I like it…

Making a difference

Some time ago I wrote a small piece on the Orphanage I visited in Cambodia. It was very short and I had not made contact with the founders. Two marvellous people named Doctor Andrew Clift and Dawn Cornish. I since have. This was their vision and my extraordinary luck to have found them and the Children’s Sanctuary. Below is the article I felt privileged to write. Currently live on NL Aid news agency and to be published elsewhere in the coming months.

Making a difference

A lovely lady who introduced herself as Sochenda Kann greeted me. I was hot and weary after having been unwell with food poisoning a few days before. I had been in Cambodia for four days. Only a week before I had been freezing in England without the vaguest idea what Cambodia would be like. I could never have imagined that this country would steal my heart completely and that the children of Cambodia would become extremely important to me. As I opened the gate to shake Sochenda’s hand I had no idea that this visit would change my life.

Cambodia has a way of reaching your heart in a way that no other country seems to. At least that has been my experience. I had no idea what to expect but what I hadn’t expected was the smiling people that I met there. I had been home no less than two weeks before I made arrangements to return. It is not often we get an opportunity to make a difference. This was mine and it can be yours too. I hope after reading this you will also decide to do something meaningful for the people of Cambodia from your own home.

I am fortunate enough to know people who are attempting to make a difference in Cambodia and it has given my husband and I the opportunity to see things we may not normally see. One of these people is my stepson, James, who works in the emergency department of the Provincial Hospital in Siem Reap as well as teaching and training there. On our arrival last December my daughter in law asked if I would like to visit an Orphanage where a friend was a member of staff. I immediately said yes. The following day we travelled in the tuk tuk for my first visit. I had stupidly visualised the Orphanage as being huge and rather monolithic, like something out of Jane Eyre. I couldn’t have been more wrong. After travelling along a very bumpy track and a bumpy track in a tuk tuk is no fun let me tell you. I certainly lost a fair amount of my diet coke on the way, we pulled up outside a traditional Cambodian house that was as far removed from Jane Eyre as one could get.

‘Hello,’ welcomed Sochenda in her broken English. ‘Thank you so much for visiting.’

The children

I removed my shoes before entering the house and had just got them off when the children ran to greet me. I followed them inside where they pulled me to their books and toys. Some were quite shy and just watched me, while others were keen to go outside and play ball. I sat for a short time with the youngest baby there and then saw a child who was clearly distressed and very unwell. If anything brought my life into perspective this child did. Her skin was blue and her eyes sunken. This distressed me so much that I felt an urgent need to run from this situation that I could do nothing about. I forced back my own tears and asked my daughter in law what was wrong with the baby. With Sochanda’s help, she told me that Leangim, normally called Gem, was abandoned by her mother. Her father is unknown.


A midwife who helped Gem’s mum to give birth took pity on her and decided to adopt her. Unfortunately, eight months later Gem became really sick and the midwife and her husband brought her to Kuntha Bopha Hospital to get medical treatment. The doctor’s found she had a serious heart defect and needed an operation which could not be done in Cambodia. With hope and love for Gem, the midwife sought help from any NGOs that could save her life. She found the Children’s Sanctuary.
For the first time in my life I felt so helpless. Here was a child so very sick and there was nothing I could do.
A week later I returned with my husband. No sooner had we stepped into the courtyard, then children began shouting hello to us from their classroom high up on the balcony of the house which is located alongside the Siem Reap River. I have never felt as welcome as I did that day and I only wish I could have been armed with more than just biscuits. The children had just started their lessons. They sat quietly listening to their teacher while occasionally posing for me when they realised the camera was on them. I had the pleasure of playing with the children on my first visit and reading to them from the collection of donated books on the shelves. This time I sat in on their class and again I could not resist photographing their happy faces while wondering how I could contribute to their lives. I asked how Gem was and she was brought out looking a lot better than on my previous visit, but still very sick.

Dawn and Andrew

Cambodia is a poverty-stricken country and everywhere you look there is malnutrition. Many of the children here originate from impoverished rural villages and most children coming to the Sanctuary are orphans or have been abandoned by their families. When visiting the sanctuary it is almost impossible not to fall in love with the children. I pointed my camera again and Srey Roat Heng smiled proudly at the lens.

Srey Roat
Srey Roat

‘We found in her mother’s lap whilst she was begging beneath the scorching summer sun. She was only three months old.’ Sochenda told me.

‘Her mother was hungry and her breast milk was diminishing fast. She could not afford infant formula, had no access to clean drinking water and no facilities to keep bottles clean. Srey Roat and her mother now live with us and for the first time in her life, mother Mao is receiving a regular income for her work as an assistant at The Children’s Sanctuary.

It is thanks to an Australian couple, Dawn Cornish and her husband Doctor Andrew Clift that the vision of a home for abandoned children was realised. I contacted Andrew on my return home and he quickly put me in touch with Dawn. Andrew Clift visited Cambodia in 2006. The couple had already worked with HIV infected orphans in Africa and Thailand. They decided that Cambodia was one of the neediest countries they had seen. Following their vision, Dawn set off establish The Children’s Sanctuary in Siem Reap the following year. Four years later I would visit and feel an overwhelming need to meet Dawn and Andrew who share their life with the first child who came to the orphanage and whom they adopted. Dawn has worked in nursing and medical recruitment and management and has studied international and community development. She has worked overseas particularly with AIDS orphans in Asia. Andrew Clift, meanwhile, has worked in ten countries for government, non-government and United Nations organisations. His work in remote Australian communities, five years’ work with orphaned and abandoned children, as well as hospital and project management, assists his CSI work in Cambodia.
Within a month of Dawn returning to Cambodia the venue for the orphanage had been found and renovations took place. Their first baby arrived weighing just 2.2kg. Shortly after, others followed. Abandoned babies were taken in, as well as others with cerebral palsy, HIV and epilepsy. Dr Andrew Clift described the following two years as a ‘Big adventure’

‘Many of the children in the orphanage originate from impoverished rural villages where their families live in conditions of extreme deprivation,’ Dawn explained.

‘Most of these children are malnourished, many severely, and significant proportions have other illnesses, most commonly infectious diseases.’

Despite significant improvements since the end of recent conflicts, Cambodia still remains one of the world’s most impoverished countries. Most families survive on less than one dollar a day and children are the ones most affected by the poverty. The under-five mortality rates remain very high. Half of all Cambodian children suffer from malnutrition. Less than half will complete primary school.


When a child is taken into care at the sanctuary, the main objective is to address any health issues. The children are cared for by the Sanctuary nannies and what wonderful people they are. All are trained in first aid and health care with emphasis upon hygiene. A doctor and nurse visit the children on a regular basis to check on the children’s health and progress if they are on treatment. Full dental care is also provided for all children. But, as always, money is a problem. The Orphanage depends solely on donations and sponsorship. I met the staff first hand and was so impressed. It was hard to control my emotions in the face of such caring dedication. Since its establishment Dawn Cornish has welcomed sixteen children into The Children’s Sanctuary in Siem Reap but she has also supported many children in a local village school and assisted people who have needed lifesaving operations. Her husband, Andrew Clift, has supported this venture by working in outback Australian and Pacific hospitals. One person helped by The Sanctuary is Srey Cheak, who has thalassemia, an inherited blood disorder requiring regular blood transfusions. She is being assisted by The Children’s Sanctuary for her medical treatment.

A few days before writing this article I emailed Sochenda for some background on the children. I was thrilled to read that thanks to the efforts of Dawn and Andrew, Gem underwent major cardio-vascular surgery at the Angkor Hospital for Children on Friday, 23rd March 2012 under the care of the visiting Singaporean cardio-thoracic team. The surgery was a success, which means Gem’s symptoms should dramatically improve and her life expectancy extended. Gem is due another operation in December this year and hopefully this will also be successful.

On my journey back I realised that I could help in more ways than I had at first imagined. I could write about the sanctuary and bring attention to its needs. For a small amount each month I could sponsor a child there.

The Children’s Sanctuary Incorporated (CSI) strongly believes the best place for a child is within his or her own community. It works together with families and single mothers who are wishing to relinquish their child due to their circumstances, and find solutions to avoid separation. The children, who are a part of the CSI family, are those who have nowhere else to go. They are either true orphans, have been abandoned, are seriously ill, or were living in a high-risk environment. The children under CSI’s care receive a secure and loving home, a balanced diet, high-standard health care, private education supplementary classes and weekly outings

I hope I have encouraged you to do something to help. I will be returning to Cambodia in July to work as a volunteer in the hospital where Gem had her operation. From my photos you can see how happy the children are. During our visit we saw the children receive gifts for their outstanding work in the classroom for the past year. Visitors are very welcome at the Sanctuary provided prior arrangement is made and you can help with the lessons if you wish.
My time spent with the children was very humbling and visiting the sanctuary certainly puts things into perspective. When it is time to climb back into the tuk tuk, both the staff and children come to wave goodbye. It is a visit I shall not forget.You can support the sanctuary on Facebook. For information on sponsoring please visit the sanctuary at www.thechildrenssanctuary.com

Please help and make a difference.

Lynda Renham-Cook is associate editor of the scavenger.

Living my life to the full!

I received an award from a blogger the other day and it came on a day that I was really thinking through my life. I had been pensive and a little melancholy for a few days. This was totally unlike me and not fitting with my fun personality. I began to wonder do I need anti-depressants or something. It didn’t take long for me to realise this had coincided with my birthday. I was a year older and just a bit older than I wanted to be. For the first time in my life I went into an age panic. I thought of all the things I wanted to do and felt an overwhelming fear that I wouldn’t get everything done. A few days later I gave myself a shake and made a firm decision that from this point onwards I would only do things I wanted to do. I would not let anything stop me and I would not say no to anything I wanted to do and I also would not let age be an obstacle to something that appealed to me. I was and am determined to get the most out of my life. I am not afraid of failure anymore. So with these thoughts in my mind I looked at what I wanted to do. The first thing was to get down to the allotment and plant as much as possible there. I have always wanted to be self-sufficient and grow my own food. So, if you live near, be prepared to be given lots of fresh fruit and veg. I have no ambitions to jump from a plane or go kayaking. I have flown many times in a microlight with Andrew and that was adventure in the air for me and I now want to go up in a helicopter and hot air balloon. If anyone can offer either do let me know  I want to travel more. Having already spent a lot of my life in the Middle East I very much want to return to both Egypt and Israel. Meanwhile my dream to visit Cambodia has materialised. I am returning soon for a long visit and hope while there to sponsor a child at the Orphanage I visited. Not having children of my own this seems an ideal way to give someone else the future I could not give to a child of my own. I am already fulfilling a dream to help this country and am grateful to have been given the chance. I will continue writing as this is my main love. I will visit China and Vietnam hopefully in the next five years. I want to finally finish a cross stitch pattern. I want to take better photographs and spend more time with friends. I am already making more time to go shopping with girlfriends. It is probably time to take art classes, something I have always wanted to do and maybe even horse riding lessons again. Whatever it is, if I fancy it, I shall do it. If I fail, so what? At least I tried.
So if I seem a little busy, it is because I truly am trying to live my life to the full and part of that is blogging where I have made some wonderful and very sincere friends. One of them is Jacqueline who gave me this lovely award for which I am thrilled, as always to receive. Jacqueline writes a very human and loving blog, do drop over and see her. The Sunshine award, really did come on a day when I needed some sunshine

The Sunshine Award asks me to answer some questions, so here we go….

Favourite Colour:
I don’t think I have a favourite colour. I’ll go for ‘sky blue pink’ and keep my options open.

Favourite Animal:
Cats, without doubt. I love them all. I would have a houseful if Andrew allowed me.

Favourite Number:
7 and I have no idea why.

Favourite Non-Alcoholic Drink:

Ginger Beer

Facebook or Twitter:
Facebook, I think although of late I have become a little addicted to Twitter. I will always prefer Facebook. So many great friends to see on there.

My Passion:
Writing, followed by music. They go together for me.

Favourite pattern:
Jacqueline gave me the idea for this. After seeing her answer I thought of Andrew’s ancestral tartan (from his mother’s side) Mackay tartan. Here it is.

Favourite day of the week:
Sunday. A time to be together.

Favourite Flower:

I will pass the Sunshine Award on to the following blogs and I am aware that some of you may have received this already, but I wanted to let you know that your blogs bring sunshine into my life:

Kew Smith for her great blog ‘Random reasoning’

Fellow author Jane Lovering, who never fails to make me laugh

A chance to make a difference

With the excitement of an extended trip to Cambodia I have had barely any time to write my blog. I am finding finishing my latest novel, before I leave, a task all of its own. But, as always I am led back to here and thought I would post some more photos on my photo page so do check those out.
Meanwhile, I will be back later this week with some new posts. You can’t control your excitement right? The big news though is that in July I will be going back to Cambodia. A long heart to heart chat with Andrew and an emotional application made to the Angkor Children’s Hospital in Siem Reap has brought about massive changes to my life. I was accepted to work for them as a voluntary writer in a bid to expose their needs and highlight their staff and patients to the world. After much negotiation I was able to talk them down from a six month stay to a five-six week one, which Andrew is reasonably happy about. It will be difficult for us both as we have not been apart for some time. At the beginning of our life together Andrew often travelled to Hong Kong for a month at a time but of late we have not been apart for long periods and neither of us is looking forward to it. But Cambodia is a country dear to both our hearts and something we cannot bring ourselves to refuse. Meanwhile, my stepson who currently nurses there, has set up a wonderful organisation called ‘Medical Cambodia’ check it out and I hopefully will be taking medical equipment with me on their behalf.
Every so often in life we get the chance to make a difference and this is mine. If anyone living or working in Cambodia reads this please do contact me. I would love to acquaint myself with you while I am in Siem Reap.
Now without further ado over to the photos, enjoy and all comments welcome.

A not for the faint hearted. A fun, Round Robin Christmas message.

( We hasten to add that the following bears no resemblance to anyone we know either alive or dead. If you recognise them, let us know and we can do our best to avoid them…)

Dear Friend
Well, it’s a while since we sent out the familiar Christmas update. In fact, it has been a whole year hasn’t it? And what a year it has been! So much to share about the Cook household. First, little Johnny passed with honours his grades, 1,2,3,4,5 and 6 in trumpet.

Johnny and his trumpet... Bless.
We are so proud. And on top of that, for his school project Johnny chose to travel to Libya (all on his own!) to train as a freedom fighter and single-handedly captured Colonel Gadhafi’s chief bodyguard. We are so proud. He came home safely, albeit having lost an eye, but hey, it was for a good cause and he has another and we give thanks for that.

Mike has also had an excellent year, after gaining an A, B, a pass in P.E. he was offered a place at Oxford. We are very proud and he very much enjoys being part of the team at the Oxford High Street branch of McDonalds. Not that it’s been all work and no play, Mike spent a fascinating four weeks working holiday in Pakistan, where he formed a tight network of friends and has since shared his experiences in the training camp there. Now Mike is taking a night class in chemistry and has grown a beard that looks quite fetching. He has matured so much this year he is like a different person. He has become a lot less materialistic and for Christmas only requested a large rucksack which we were

Mike, cycling back to Pakistan with his new rucksack. So proud.
happy to purchase for him. At last he seems to have found his way in life and we give thanks for that.

Sharon has very much matured this year. You would never think she has just turned sixteen. Sharon made some wonderful socially challenging friends in Tottenham this summer and we were so proud when she appeared on the Ten o’clock news! Imagine our delight when she came home the next morning with a wide screen TV under her arm, and a wonderful new boyfriend called Clyde. Clyde is very responsible and at age 35 a little older than Sharon but we think he will be a responsible influence as he often helps the police with their enquires and all the police in the area know him. We are thrilled that Sharon has this year landed

Our Sharon, looking good.
on her feet, she is really blooming these days and in the past three months has gained quite a bit of weight and has finally recovered from her sickness bug.

In April we did manage a wonderful week in Japan. It was so exciting and exhilarating. We had no idea it was such a busy place and was an experience of a lifetime. We both came back with such an amazing sun-tan, which we still have now. And for that we give thanks.

The view from our hotel in Japan.

We are very excited as In October Lynda was approached via email by a wealthy Colonel in Africa. It transpires that she is to inherit a large sum of money from a recently deceased dictator. It seems that her past good works have paid off. We took out a loan to pay the expenses that they required and are now waiting for the funds to be transferred to Lynda’s bank account which should happen any day now. And we give thanks for this extraordinary good fortune that has come our way. We will be donating a large sum to charity of course.

Sadly Uncle Jack passed away this year after a bout of MRSA following his overnight hospital stay with a severe migraine (hangover). At age 46 he had had a good innings and we give thanks for that.

Our last picture of Uncle Jack. He will be sadly missed.

Mother is doing very well after her fifth amputation, second triple bypass, liver transplant and Botox surgery. She is looking forward to her skiing holiday in January.

Mum, having fun as usual.

Andrew was promoted this year to work under the COE following his PhD after HR (AKA the CTO) realised his potential. However in March he contracted ADD when a close friend was given an ASBO, and was AWOL for some weeks. His BP went sky-high and he lost his GSOH eating nothing but BLT sandwiches. After a lot of TLC from Lynda he was back at work ASAP.
We hope you have all had a year like ours and wish you a very merry Christmas and best wishes for 2012
Love Lynda and Andrew