09 August 2016

Living the dream

Twenty-two years ago, as a three-year-old, my daughter Kay used to dress up in a nurse's uniform. She'd order her grandfather to lie down on the sofa and pretend he had been in a monumental traffic accident. He had a broken leg and, worse than that, shards of glass sticking out of it too. She would grab her doctor's bag marked with a red cross, get out her plastic stethoscope, tweezers and syringe and get to work on him. He would be bandaged from head to foot and then sent home. She would then call for her next patient - her long-suffering grandfather once more - to re-enact another scenario. She never tired of it and surprisingly nor did her poor obliging grandfather.

Twenty-two years on, Kay is now into her second year as a junior doctor. She has just started her first 4-month placement in a large London teaching hospital......... in A&E.  Twenty-two years later she's doing it for real. Living the dream.

28 July 2016

Till hell freezes over

When we moved into our house nearly 29 years ago, one of our neighbours told us they were on the verge of moving, as they wanted to get their son into the right catchment area for one of the best schools this side of London. Come moving day, they rang our doorbell and asked if we would like their old upright freezer. It was ancient, they explained. It was still working, but they doubted it would make the haul into the removal van and the long move across London without expiring. We already had a fridge/freezer in our kitchen which was more than enough at the time for Greg and me living on our own, but we graciously accepted the ancient freezer, standing over 6 feet tall, and plonked it in our integral garage, where it has remained ever since.


Plonked in the garage
Defrosting is a pain
Over the years, it has become very useful, particularly at Christmas. One drawer stores about 6 loaves of bread and another the frozen turkey (I have always much preferred frozen to fresh turkey as it is much juicier) with another 5 drawers left for anything else. I have always cooked and frozen my own meals so that there is always something for an unexpected guest. When people have given me apples from their tree or vegetables from their allotment, I have always prepared them, then frozen them to use when I need them.


The freezer has done me sterling service.  I have now had it nearly 29 years and, as I say, it was ancient before that, so I reckon it is at least 40 years old. Every time I defrost it, I clean it out and watch with bated breath as I switch it on again. It always clicks on with a hum and it's away again for another 6 months. I kept wondering whether to replace it, just because, but was loathe to part with this friend that we adopted. Did I mention it was German - an AEG?  They clearly don't make them like that any more. Even the modern AEGs don't hold a candle to this one.


Large wire baskets
It has wire baskets and not the awful modern plastic ones which tend to hold less , as well as break if you overfill them and then try to force them back into their place.



I was about to publish this post last week, when something awful happened. On the hottest day of the year so far, it finally gave up the ghost. I had to find room for 7 drawers' worth of frozen goods.  I managed to get a smidgeon into my fridge/freezer in the kitchen, take a smidgen over to my mum's and the rest was either eaten up by me over a few days or a lot thrown away ( the latter for me being something akin to having both arms chopped off, as I abhor any waste). I ordered another AEG which arrived this morning. If it's anything like the last one, this should see me out to the end of my days!

Expires 2056?


 

11 July 2016

Ruby Wedding and The Tree

Yesterday would have been my Ruby (40th) wedding anniversary. Greg and I were married for 34 years when he died (and in addition we had known one another for 5 years before we married). We were married on 10th July 1976 in that exceptional heatwave that people still go on about even these days. It was so hot and arid that the walls of my parents house started to crack with the subsidence. The insurance company paid out a lot of money to them that year. Anyway, I digress.

I must confess I did not fancy spending the day on my own, wallowing in thoughts of why Greg was no longer here with me and why we couldn't have celebrated the day with a party or a nice holiday or whatever.  Then about a month ago, Kay suggested we take a weekend break to visit Greg's home town and visit his resting place and so that it what we did this weekend. 

Greg grew up in a  beautiful market town in the Midlands steeped in history and still frequented by many tourists. When he was a teenager, he yearned so much to get away from this quiet country town where not much happened and so was never more delighted when he got a job first in Germany and then back here at the BBC newsroom in London. But in later  life, he began to appreciate the quiet, lazy, beautiful elegance of his  home town and even considered moving back there. It therefore seemed fitting when he died to scatter his ashes there, so he could return to his roots. 

It struck me this weekend, as Kay and I stayed in a beautiful Georgian hotel and wandered around the town with the many other tourists, how little I had appreciated the town myself. I kept seeing  historic buildings and other things that I had barely noticed before. We had visited it so often to see his mother, sister and friends, but hardly spent any time wandering around the town, as the main purpose of the visit was to see people. This time it was to see places.... the houses Greg grew up in, his school, his younger life. It was partly to show Kay, as she was too young to remember some of it. I wanted to her to see it and remember it, but also partly to immerse myself and be close to Greg.

His ashes were scattered in the Meadows- a huge open space comprising many fields right in the heart of the town. People walk their dogs there or picnic there and it is literally over a footbridge by the town centre.  

From where his ashes are scattered you can still see the town's famous towers and steeples, yet be at peace near a river and in the open countryside which extends beyond. We visited the tree beneath where he lies and spent a good twenty minutes telling him all our news - about Kay's graduation, her medical career, her boyfriend, my operation, even about the referendum result (as a journalist this would have been the first thing he wanted to know about!).  I also wished him a happy ruby wedding anniversary.



Of course the occasion reduced us 
both to tears and Kay and I spent a 
good while clinging on to each other, much to the concern of passing dog-walkers some twenty yards away or more, but somehow it was cathartic, as I have found it hard to cry all those years following his death. The weather held out until we had moved on back to the town centre and then it bucketed down with rain. I am not sure whether they were climatic tears of joy or sorrow. But whatever they were, it was after all a very pleasant weekend and just what we needed.

04 July 2016

Interesting times

Well, was the referendum result what you wanted or completely the opposite?  No matter what side you were on, there's no doubt last week was a rocky week. It'll probably get a whole lot worse before it gets better, but then that's the world of politics and finance for you. It does that. It'd be a boring old life if everything stayed the same. Of course, it goes without saying that the financial markets were going to go into meltdown - they are sensitive souls who would panic if Waitrose sold out of taramasalata - so no surprises there and thankfully the pound seems to have picked up again.  There will doubtless be dozens of times when it will fall and rise, as it is wont to do, even when things are running smoothly.

What was more surprising was Cameron's resignation. At first glance it seemed a noble thing to do, falling on his sword.  After all, how could he be expected to negotiate Brexit, when he had been an ardent promoter of REMAIN? But the more I think about it, he has well and truly abandoned ship at a  time when we needed a captain to steer us through choppy waters, considering they are going to get a whole lot choppier after September when he jumps. It's almost as if he did it out of spite with two fingers at the other side. It makes Theresa May's application even more dubious, as she too was on the REMAIN side, so why would she honourably be able to justify becoming PM, if Cameron couldn't justify it?  You can't help feeling sorry for Boris.  Whilst I did not see him filling the role of PM  - the image of him zip-wiring across the Thames, hanging by his scrotum and waving a  Union Jack, is an image too many in my mind - nevertheless, I do not sleep easy at his political assassination by Gove (call me Brutus).  Scotland's Nicola The Fish (aka Jimmy Krankie) has about as much hope of securing an EU deal on her own as I have of running a marathon. What on earth does she think 5.3 million Scots have to offer the EU (apart from diminishing oil reserves, bagpipes and shortbread)? It's not as if they have the monopoly on whisky either. Moreover, how would the Scots (once out of the UK) be able to afford the EU membership? Even more ludicrous is the Labour fiasco. If Labour MPs did not find Corbyn The Clown at all funny, why pick the worst timing possible to air their views? Could they not blatantly see this when he was first appointed? I could.  And now,  what is Corbyn thinking, hanging on by his fingernails to his tenuous chair, when it is clear he's as welcome as a hedgehog in a balloon factory?

May you live in interesting times, as the Chinese say.  (Or did they say that in Brussels last week?)

20 June 2016

It's High Time

Having had my much-wanted only child at the age of forty, I have never  been able to completely sever the umbilical cord between me and my daughter.   Because of that and thanks to the wonders of the internet, I always try to watch, whenever possible, her flights to and from this country, when she goes off on a jaunt. It gives me peace of mind to know her flight hasn't dive-bombed into the ocean or blown up on take-off. (I know, I know, I have a vivid imagination!) 

On Saturday Kay took off from Gatwick for a long-deserved holiday in the Mediterranean with her boyfriend.  I was up at the crack of dawn to monitor her flight from the Gatwick departures website. (After all, the plane would not be able to take off without my supervision.)

Forty minutes before departure... Boarding at Gate X.  

Then twenty minutes before departure.... Gate Closed

Then nothing.The time of departure came and went. Still nothing. I was mildly worried. Had they forgotten to pack the food? Could they not lock the doors?  

Half an hour later...Taxiing to runway. Ah good, she's ready to go.  

Then again nothing.  By now I was seriously concerned. Was the steering wheel short of a screw?   Was the wing falling off? A further half an hour later her flight finally left... a whole hour later than scheduled. Thankfully I was able to check she arrived at her destination airport safely only half an hour later than the scheduled time.

Meanwhile, around the same time Tim Peake arrived on earth bang on time to the very minute from the International Space station about 400 km away in space. There's got to be a lesson learned there somewhere.

15 June 2016

Nobody else really knows

I don't know about anyone else, but I am sick to the back teeth with the arguments for and against leaving the EU. I've tried my best to tune in to every TV debate, read newspaper articles and listen to friends, family and complete strangers arguing their case. The more I hear, the more I realise that NOBODY has the absolute answer. NOBODY has the foggiest what will happen either way and both sides are using scare tactics and differing statistics to force their arguments. If you believe the REMAIN camp, the sky will fall in and we will have a plague of locusts descend on us, if we leave. We will cease to trade, live on the streets in the wake of a holocaust and be Billy-no-mates. We'll be too stupid and incompetent to rise from the ashes. If you believe the LEAVE camp, we will, if we leave, apparently gain back control of our own country, as is the case in the rest of the non-EU world. If we stay we will become a federal state of Europe and pay vast sums of money to the EU, overrun with migrants draining our services . (Funny how things in that last sentence are actually already happening.)   

You pays your money and you takes your choice. In reality we actually don't know precisely what will happen either way. I do know the EU is holding back some drastic changes until our referendum is over for fear it'll make us all vote LEAVE, so what does that tell us? I also hear some other EU countries are watching what we decide before they launch their own get-out referenda. 

I know what I'm voting and that is what common sense tells me. Let's face it, nobody else really knows for certain. Roll the dice and roll on 24 June when it'll all be over bar the shouting and the swingometers.

31 May 2016

Getting there

Well, I'm at the six-week stage of my post-op recovery, when they predicted I'd be back to normal, but I'm not.  Externally things are not too bad. The incision scar on my abdomen is healing nicely, the swelling is going down and the two keyhole scars are almost non-existent, although there is still severe internal bruising at one of the keyhole sites which make it impossible to lie on my left side.


The main problems are internal. In removing the stomach tumour, they had to remove roughly an eighth of my stomach and fix the hole with titanium staples. It'll take time for the stomach membrane to grow round them and for the whole digestive tract to recover. My appetite has dwindled to that of a small kitten and I have a great deal of acid reflux. A yoghurt can fill me up, let alone anything more substantial. I bought in lots of ready meals before the operation so that afterwards I would not have to worry about shopping or spending hours cooking, but I am finding I cannot manage even half of a ready meal and Lord knows they are not massive. I have lost a stone in weight SINCE I came home, not to mention the half stone I lost in hospital. I'm not complaining as I needed to shift a bit of weight but I cannot afford to lose much more or I'll slip through a pavement grating. The experts tell me it'll all resolve soon, but it's going far slower than the six weeks they originally predicted.  A lot of my indigestion comes from the fact that the shape of my stomach has been changed because of the bit they lopped off. I have discovered purely by accident that if I lean to the left with my head on my pillow, I am able to relieve some of the gas that builds up in my stomach and makes me queasy. This is all very well when I am in the comfort of my own home, but what do I do if I eat out. I can hardly lean towards the person on my left and put my head in their lap. That would look decidedly dodgy. I leave you to mull on that rather unfortunate image!


The good news, however, is that I'm getting around OK, walking long distances, opting to walk to the shops rather than drive to build up my stamina again, and have recently started driving again. Getting into the car for the first time after 6 weeks was a bit scary and I drove like a granny for the first day, but, having established I could do the regulatory emergency stop and twist my torso to look over my shoulder for sideways traffic, I have been racing around ever since at normal speed. Which is just as well as it was my mother's turn last week to have her operation - a full knee replacement. I was able to drive her to the local hospital and subsequently visit her. Despite assuring us she would have a spinal anaesthetic,the hospital decided to give her a general anaesthetic, which for a 92-year-old is no minor procedure. I am pleased to say she has bounced back from the operation and has currently been moved to a care home to start the long haul of physiotherapy. She is in a lot of pain but determined to get walking again. She is one brave lady.

23 May 2016

Happy Birthday


My blog was eight years old yesterday. Where has the time gone? It certainly doesn't seem like eight years, since I first felt compelled to get all my anger and frustration out onto internet paper, either boring or entertaining you with the minutiae of my life.

In the early days of the blog, Greg, my alcoholic husband, was still alive of course, knew I was writing it but showed absolutely no interest in reading it. His only interest back then was where the next bottle of whisky was coming from. Two years later he was dead and my blog turned from oozing frustration about his alcoholism to dealing with grief and the aftermath of a relationship with an alcoholic. Things are a lot calmer now and I have come to accept, albeit reluctantly, what happened. He's dead. I've known that for the last six years. I've accepted it. Moved on.  I lead a different life now. Which made it all the more surprising, when four weeks ago, following  hospital surgery and feeling very vulnerable, I came home to an empty house.   It was then that it finally sunk in that he was never going to be here again and it hit me in the face like a sledgehammer.


25 April 2016

I'm back and Geoffrey is no more!

You probably haven't even noticed, as I am not a regular blogger, that I have not blogged for a while now or commented on yours. It's because I have been in hospital for the last two weeks and am not blessed with a smart phone to access the internet, so was out of the loop.

If you had to be in hospital and feeling poorly, this was surely the best bedside view to have. 

view from my bedside

My bed was literally two feet from the window and my chair even closer, tucked against the windowsill. I took two magazines and a chunky novel with me and touched none of them during my 11-day stay. Aside from my concentration being all over the place, the view was far too compelling. I watched lone joggers as early as 6am ploughing along Westminster Bridge, followed much later by droves of commuters on their way to Westminster, followed even later still by hordes of tourists taking photos of every angle of London. River traffic was busy - there were huge crammed tourist boats turning on a penny to moor at Westminster Pier to pick up even more people; there were cargo boats pulling their heavy load of small containers. I even saw the royal barge Gloriana pass by 

Gloriana


on a Sunday afternoon with golden oars working fit to bust. The London Eye turned and turned from early morning to very late at night. I wondered how many people in their little pods could see me at my window. Why on earth would I want to ignore this flurry of activity against an iconic backdrop only to read a stupid magazine instead?  Of course there were disadvantages to being right by the window. The curtain designed to go round my bed for privacy stopped before it even reached the window. The window side was not covered at all, so when I needed a commode or had to have a bedside wash-down, I bared all (literally from head to foot) to the passers by on foot, bus, boat or at the Marriott Hotel opposite. I reasoned I would probably never see them again, but if you were one of those passers by and saw my butt, please keep schtumm. I'd hate to see my personal bits all over youtube.

Views from the day room were good too 


View from the Day Room


and at night I would go to sleep gazing at this....


View from my bed at night


The operation nearly didn't go ahead. I developed a tickly cough a few days before admission date and dutifully informed the hospital, as they had requested, half-hoping for another few weeks' leeway. But they decided to go ahead anyway. The GIST tumour growing on the wall of my stomach was very close to the oesophagus and removing it was going to be tricky. The very gentle female consultant came to see me the night before and half-terrified me. They have to tell you the worst case scenario, just in case you wake up with something they had not warned you about, but she said she might have to remove a small piece of my upper bowel to reconstruct the oesophagus if they damaged it.  Kay and I (in an attempt to lighten the situation) decided to name the GIST Geoffrey, as in the past I had called a fibroid Phyllis and we still refer to her now, fifteen years on. That night,  Geoffrey the GIST slept peacefully for the last time. I can honestly say I hardly slept a wink.

The next morning,I was surprised how calm and cheery I was, as they wheeled me off to theatre. To blot out reality, I found myself interviewing everyone from porter to nurse to theatre sister about all manner of things including where they trained, where they lived, what they did. I was gibbering non-stop - I half suspect they gave me the anaesthetic to shut me up!  I was first given an epidural as pain-relief for when I eventually woke up again, then given the general anaesthetic. I remember looking at the clock at that point - it was 11am. The next thing I knew, it was 3.30pm and I was coming round in recovery, The operation had lasted three and a half hours. Geoffrey had been safely removed and sent off to the big laboratory in the sky, my oesophagus was intact and there had been no need to dissect any bowel to reconstruct it (phew!) Again, even in my semi-drowsy state, my loquaciousness bubbled to the surface and I recall having a very intense discussion with the recovery sister about all kinds of things. I recall no pain at all,  because the epidural was already doing its stuff.

The next day, I was more compus mentis and able to take in the facts. They had only removed a small part of my stomach and stapled the hole with titanium staples which are there for life (God help me if I go through an airport scanner). They had tried to do the operation first with two laparoscopes, but had not managed to continue in that way and had had to open me up after all. On looking at my abdomen, I have a sort of smiley face - two round hole eyes where the laparoscopes had gone in and a six-inch vertical scar for the nose. The crease of my tummy is the mouth.

It took a further nine days to get to a point where they could discharge me. I was on epidural pain-relief for 6 days, but when they took that out of my back, boy, did I notice the difference. I was downgraded to morphine which disagreed with me and in the end I am pleased to say I coped OK with just paracetamol. I was on a three-day water-only diet to start with. Then, after a barium swallow x ray revealed the stomach was watertight and the staples were holding they introduced me to soup and porridge, but by then my stomach had shrunk and my appetite was poor. The doctors urged me to try to cram some calories in as I was getting weaker and weaker, so even prescribed a bar of Green and Black's chocolate. I was to suck on a cube to give me some energy and perhaps encourage me to eat something else.  I must have been poorly, because for a few days even my chocoholic side would not kick in and it must have been about six days in total when absolutely nothing passed my lips. Gradually, I started to eat morsels and to date I am able to eat light sloppy meals like soup, custard and ice cream. Eventually I am supposed to build up and add mushy solids and then real solids. I crept around the corridors like a hundred-year-old trying to make it to the toilet or the shower.

Kay had started a new rotation recently and is working till late evening, but did manage to visit me at the weekend in the middle of my stay. She was not able to get time off at short notice on the day I was discharged so I came home by hospital transport to an empty house. I was a little tearful, as it made it all the more poignant that Greg is no longer here to help me in adverse times (or any times for that matter). I was able to manage all the stairs I have (see here) and cooked a poached egg for my supper before collapsing into bed.  It's onwards and upwards from now on, though I am told full recovery will take 4-6 weeks. 

The absolute good news is that I have lost over half a stone in weight and Geoffrey is thankfully no more.

08 April 2016

Spring has sprung (I think)



The daffodils on my coffee table  look bright and cheery.  They not only brighten my room but my soul. They herald that winter is over (I hope) and that spring is here (I think). It's been a busy few weeks. I've been frantically cleaning the house to within an inch of its life before I am incapacitated by surgery, as well as sorting out appointments for me and my mother which will not be possible for a while after my surgery. 

Kay had a cold - the monumental version of all colds - which saw her climb a mountain in the Lake District on a reunion with her old university medic friends. She puffed and wheezed up the slopes, barely able to catch her breath until one of her medic friends loaned her their asthma inhaler. Three days later, back home again, she saw her GP who diagnosed pneumonia! She's been on antibiotics, steroids and an inhaler ever since, but the good news is that she is recovering. She only took one day off work too. Of course she was striking this week. As I have said before, the junior doctors' strike has never been about money, but about the appallingly long hours the junior doctors work. Even being off sick was not an option to her when she was so ill. It was therefore very upsetting when an ignorant pig   a passer-by in a tweed jacket shouted at her that she was a lazy bastard while she was on the picket line.

The weather cannot make up its mind. The other day, I went off to a hairdresser's appointment in blazing sunshine. At the very same time, it started to rain heavily. Crazy. Of course I was not dressed appropriately for rain. I came out of the salon looking like a model (I can hear you laughing, you know) and ended up back at my car in the car park like a drowned rat. That's par for the course when you've been to the hairdresser. Yep, Spring has definitely sprung.


07 April 2016

Apologies

Sorry, guys. I have had to introduce comment moderation as some twat thinks it is OK in his sad sorry little head to bombard all my posts with his inane meaningless rubbish. It just means all comments from anyone else may not appear immediately, until I get to publish them for you.

30 March 2016

As you (don't) like it.

I've never particularly liked the character of Phil Mitchell in the soap Eastenders nor been remotely attracted to his looks, but  I have to say I am impressed hook, line and sinker with his portrayal of a man in the grip of alcohol. A lot of actors find it difficult playing a drunk and usually manage to overdo it. Steve McFadden who plays the part of Phil Mitchell doesn't even have to say or do anything.  He has captured the sheer look of an alcoholic - the little scrunched-up piggy eyes and the inane, vacant expression. Of course the frustration he causes all around him when he fails to deliver on his promise to quit alcohol is also spot-on. Ten out of ten for a sterling performance. He plays it like it is.

22 March 2016

Too young to be old

After recent visits to two consultants, they have written a summary of their findings to my GP, copied to me,  describing me as a fit 65-year-old.    "Fit" as in "healthy", I suspect, and not as in the modern meaning of "Phwoar".  [Although, far be it for me to boast, some might say I was "phwoar" too.]  OK, I'll admit to being a stone  little heavier than I should be for my height, but I keep active, do aerobics, watch my diet and, apart from this blimmin tumour growing in my stomach, I am otherwise healthy. If you squint, I look like a cross between Twiggy and Lulu and am young at heart. Everyone says I don't look as old as I am. 

The date for my operation has now been decided (to happen before my mother's unfortunately), so just imagine, I get a letter from the hospital inviting me to their "Older Person's Pre-Operation Assessment Unit designed specifically with the older person in mind.  Zimmer frames optional. I aged rapidly overnight, just with the insult of that terminology alone. I'm thinking of turning up to the appointment with low cleavage, mini-skirt and 6-inch heels to see their reaction.

Tsch. Older person indeed.


Image result for cartoon of old lady in hospital

14 March 2016

The gist of the GIST

The GIST tumour growing in my stomach is rare. Benign, thankfully, but rare. There are only three hospitals in the country that can remove it, apparently. Not only that but it is in a tricky place. In my stomach but one centimetre from the junction where the oesophagus comes in to the stomach, so they have got to be very careful removing it, in case they damage the oesophagus. Trust me to be awkward. They want to remove it sooner rather than later as it could turn malignant and has already obviously bled. However, life is not that simple.

My 92-year-old mother suffers from chronic arthritis and is in severe (and I mean severe) pain, particularly in her knees and back. She creeps around her warden-assisted flat holding on to the furniture to cross a room and yells out in pain when she tries to stand up or sit down. I am her sole child and sole carer. I help her all I can, taking her to appointments, shopping, visiting.  She saw an orthopaedic consultant in January who promised her she was not too old for a knee replacement operation and she was booked in for 1 March to have it done under a spinal anaesthetic. However, at the pre-operation assessment she was told she had a bladder infection and they wouldn't go ahead with the operation unless she was infection-free. So the date of 1 March was cancelled and no other date given. That much I understand, but after a course of antibiotics, a 2-week wait to ensure the bacteria had not recolonised and a second test, she still has an infection. The daft thing is, she has no symptoms at all, never has, but the tests keep coming back positive. This now means more (stronger) antibiotics, another two-week wait, another sample - you get the picture. Next test for her will be at the end of March. We could be repeating this little game up until Christmas. Meanwhile my poor old mum is in agony.

Now here's the complication. When we finally do get the go-ahead to book her a date for her operation (and assuming the bacteria have not returned in the meantime), I shall be the only one to take her to the hospital , visit from time to time, do the washing of her personal things for her, see her home again and get her over the worst. It therefore makes sense to do that before I have my operation. If I have mine first, I shall be out of action for at least four weeks afterwards - that means virtually housebound on my own, not able to lift anything heavy or do any driving, so my mother would have to wait at least a month before I can begin to help her over her operation. But with her date going ever further into the future, how long can mine go on hold?

Chicken or egg? Egg or chicken? Why is life never straightforward?

07 March 2016

A Day of Mixed Emotions

T'was a day of mixed emotions yesterday. Sunday was the sixth anniversary of Greg's death. Six years! Felt a little maudlin and had the need to go to the crematorium to lay flowers in the chapel. Funny how this grief malarky works. When he died, I was so relieved I did not have to go through one more chaotic day of the alcoholic merry-go-round, but with passing time, my thoughts have mellowed and I miss him. I miss the newly-married version of him and the middle-age version, but not the last five years of his life alcoholic one obviously. It was not helped by de-cluttering the "study" last week and finding all sorts of things with his handwriting - cards and messages to me, stories he'd written.

After my solitary visit to the crematorium chapel, I went on to collect my mother to celebrate Mothers' Day. We spent a lovely day together. Kay was working on-call this weekend, so couldn't come to see me, but we had had a lovely week together the week before, so I couldn't be greedy.

Spent the evening watching The Night Manager and feasting my eyes on the lovely Tom Hiddleston. I had not managed to see the Night Manager before now, so spent three hours watching back-to-back episodes on i-player and was definitely hooked.  Not sure whether it was the plot that grabbed me or the eye candy! Have to wait a whole week now for the next episode.


23 February 2016

Brave New World (or The rise of the Zombies)

In my working life as a civil servant, I used to do the daily commute from the suburbs to the London city centre. It involved standing on crowded platforms at something like 8 am often in freezing or wet conditions waiting for a crowded commuter train to come in that hadn't been cancelled by snow on the line, leaves on the line, extreme heat on the line or even a body on the line. When the train came in, there'd be a mad scramble for the doors which (no matter how hard you tried to calculate it scientifically) never stopped in front of the spot you were standing. Once on the train, there was a choice - to find an unoccupied seat (which at that time of the morning was a miracle) or to stand up in the small lobbies pressed against other commuters, usually with my nose under someone's armpit. People read newspapers - usually large ones which they had difficulty opening when squashed against someone else and often you would get someone's elbow in your face, as they tried to attempt it. Some read books which were less of a hazard of invading someone's space. Some even looked out of windows or slept. You generally knew who your fellow commuters were as you saw them every day and began to notice if they were not there. 

Those were the days when computer technology was still in its infancy and probably to a large extent still in the womb. Mobile phones were the size of bricks and  were used purely to phone somebody. Computers were things that were the size and weight of a small fridge and were shared by a whole corridor of offices. When we finally progressed to one computer per room it was like a brave new world. We didn't even dream of one computer per desk in those days. Even so there was no internet, so the computers were there to crunch out numbers or data or to use as word-processors. A printer was not even in the same room, so often you would send a message to print something and hope, fingers crossed, that when you had hiked halfway across the building and down into the basement, you had something to collect at the end of it.

Having now spent a good few years out of the commuter environment, I have had reason recently (because of hospital appointments) to catch the train a few times into the heart of London in the rush-hour. Oh my word, what a difference. Of course the delays and cancellations don't change; nor the excuses of this or that on the line; nor the mad scramble for the door when the train pulls in. But what has changed are the commuters. It is like entering a strange planet where people stare zombie-like into screens. On a recent trip I observed that EVERYONE in the carriage had an oblong device in their hand -  some about 5  x 3 inches  or some about 8 x 6 inches into which they stared. They used their fingers to brush off invisible crumbs on it in a sort of swiping action or to press buttons which would show up dancing candy or photographs. Some even watched moving pictures which looked suspiciously like Eastenders or Game of Thrones. Some appeared to have bits of string coming out of their ears and these were connected to the screens. As we pulled into stations, there were more people standing around on the platforms doing the same, staring into their hand-held screens. All had heads bent down, staring towards their laps. Nobody, but nobody (except me, of course) stared out of the window and watched real life pass by. I wondered if I were to ask any one of them to tell me what colour the sky was that day or describe the houses they had just passed, whether any one of them could answer correctly. Do they spend their whole life staring at screens? Will they die being totally unaware of real life around them? Do they  not notice the seasons changing or streets being demolished and rebuilt? I honestly felt I was surrounded by zombies.

courtesy of Getty Images

Out on the street, as I pondered this modern phenomenon, a woman walked towards me, head buried in her screen, string coming out of her ears, and, if I had not been the one to move, we would have collided. Brave new world indeed.

16 February 2016

400 and counting..........

Oh my word, this is my 400th post. I was about to write about something else then saw that this was post number 400. To some bloggers that is not a lot - they probably churn that amount out in a year or two. I tend to be a once-a-fortnight kind of girl, so it has taken a while for me to reach the dizzy heights of 400. I've been blogging my personal diary since May 2008- that's nearly eight years. Back then, I never dreamed in a month of Sundays that I'd still be doing this all these years later.  It's been quite a roller-coaster. Thanks to all of you have commented and supported me. I feel quite emotional.........

12 February 2016

NHS = Not His to Sell

Just wanted to share the following comment written by a young doctor on facebook.

You've got a job that cost you £60,000 and 6 years of your life to train for. You're on a wage which, including all the extra hours you work for free, is barely minimum wage. Your daily work consists of trying to keep people alive and caring for people and their families that you can't do that for.
Your boss comes in and says he wants you to work longer hours, more on evenings and weekends. And he wants to cut your pay by 30% and nobody else will employ you to do your job because nobody else can. He tells you that you don't work hard enough. He shows you a graph he says shows evidence that people are dying more at the weekend but he's holding it upside down and clearly has no idea how to interpret it. He tells you to sign the new contract or leave. He tells all your friends that your lying about how hard you work, how much money you will earn and how much "better" your contract will be.
You don't want to leave and he knows you don't want to leave so he thinks he can do what he wants.
But ultimately you will leave and so will everyone else who works at the job because it's not a safe or humane job any more, allowing him to dissolve the company and sell it off to the highest bidder.
He's even written a book detailing his entire master plan. 

Don't let him kill the NHS.

08 February 2016

The saga goes on

Following on from my last post, I saw the lung consultant last week. He decided I needed a further three tests before everything can be wrapped up. So last Thursday I had a PET scan where they inject a radioactive tracer into you and scan you. The worst bits were the (by now usual)  nil by mouth for 6 hours, having to lie completely still without moving a hair and keeping my arms above my head for 20 minutes while they scanned me. I never realised how long 20 minutes can be. Thank goodness I didn't get an itch or want to sneeze.

On Thursday this week  I am having a bronchoscopy with ultrasound. The medical term is EBUS. Sounds like you are going on an electronic magical mystery tour, doesn't it? In reality it means EndoBronchial UltraSound - in other words they shove a camera and an ultrasound probe down into your lungs. O joy! After two gastroscopies and a colonoscopy since December, I'm getting a dab hand at this.

The following week I'm having lung function tests. Yay.......

Hopefully once that is all wrapped up, I shall know a bit more what has also shown up on my lungs and when I am having the stomach operation to remove the tumour. Unless, of course, in the meantime another bit of me shows up in these tests needing urgent attention.

The good news is that there is very little of my inner anatomy that has not been explored these last few weeks (apart from limbs and brain), so I'm getting the best of medicals imaginable.

26 January 2016

For the want of a nail

Do you remember that old poem "For the want of a nail, the shoe was lost"? For those, who don't know it, you can look it up here. Basically it reminds us that sometimes seemingly insignificant things can have enormous consequences and how one thing can lead to another.  My life seem a bit like that at the moment. A seemingly small thing has has become enormous and taken over my life.

About eight months ago I started to have slight indigestion. Nothing that I couldn't cope with, but I noticed I'd get the occasional excruciating pain in my lower abdomen. I didn't go to the doctor  it hardly seemed worth the bother and in any case they'd probably prescribe indigestion tablets which I could get myself. A few months on, I noticed it was getting more frequent, so I decided to keep a food diary to see what exacerbated it. Things like beans and peas seemed the main culprits, but also onions, cheese and fizzy drinks (not that I drink these hardly at all, I swear, but I had had a few on ice while we were in baking-hot Rome). The list started to get longer. I started to think maybe I should go to the doctor, but always made excuses not to go - too much to do and it wasn't after all that serious. However, in late October I managed to pass some black blood over the space of three days and that made me sit up and  take notice. So I finally went off to the doctor imagining they'd say it was something simple like an irritated bowel or something minor.

Instead, the doctor said black blood indicated I had been bleeding from my stomach (only red blood comes from the bowels, apparently) and instantly referred me to a private hospital to see a consultant  gastro-enterologist. Now, I do not have private insurance, but I am told that these days in order to help the National Health Service get their waiting lists down, private hospitals have been helping the NHS by taking on NHS patients. Along I trotted in mid November and got seen in luxurious 5-star circumstances by the private consultant. His view was that, as I had obviously had  a gastric bleed, he needed to send a camera down into my stomach (gastroscopy) to see what was going on in there.

The gastroscopy  was on 16 December and revealed I had a tumour, a grand-sounding Gastro-Intestinal Stromal Tumour or GIST, in my stomach. Biopsies revealed it was benign but it would still need to be removed as they can turn malignant and it had already obviously bled. However, the case was becoming more complicated than the private hospital could deal with, so I was referred back to the NHS for further treatment.  Because of the nature of the beast, I was to be fast-tracked, so I saw an NHS gastro-enterologist a few days later on Christmas Eve. He decided I needed to have a full-body CT scan and a colonoscopy to make sure there was nothing else lurking within. Those tests were done in early January. 

The colonoscopy revealed nothing at all, despite that being the area where the original pain was, but the CT scan revealed some questionable deposits in my lung, so now I have to see a respiratory consultant next week. Meanwhile, because the stomach tumour is rare and not all hospitals can deal with it, the operation has to be done at a Central London teaching hospital and they have first asked for another gastroscopy with ultrasound, in which an ultrasound probe is put down into the stomach together with a camera, so that the ultrasound can be done from within and get a clearer picture than it would on the skin surface. That will happen this week. I am so not looking forward to that.

See what I mean....... what turned out to be something simple is now becoming a hospital fest. My 2016 diary is full of hospital appointments and we're only in January. Add into the mix the fact that my 92-year-old mum, for whom I am sole carer, is having a knee replacement operation in 5 weeks' time and you can see life is getting a tad complicated.

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