07 December 2016

All organised


Well, I'm thoroughly organised for Christmas this year, but it is not without some panic effort by Mrs Alcoholic Daze. I've bought all the presents (bar one on which I'm still awaiting daughter's advice as to which curling tongs exactly she prefers. Hint - hurry up and let me know, as we only have another 18 days to go!!). I've posted all the Christmas cards (and boy did the postage come to a small fortune. I'm hoping I misheard and am actually buying shares in Royal Mail instead). I've cooked  and frozen the red cabbage (to my German grandmother's recipe which knocks spots off anything the English restaurants try to do with it). I'm now awaiting the arrival of my sister-in-law who is coming down to stay with me for a few days to swap presents from her family to mine and vice versa. The larder store is full. Just one last-minute shop of the fresh things and I'm done. Annoying, aren't I? 

Oh wait a minute, I've still got the Christmas tree and decorations to do. Not so perfect after all.
 😓

22 November 2016

There's none so blind......

Yesterday I went off to do some serious Christmas shopping. After a while I began to flag so called into a High Street chain coffee house to perk up a bit and stress over how much money I had spent rest my weary legs. I got a window seat and engaged in one of my favourite pastimes..... people-watching. I challenged the theory that one in four people are obese and found it to be quite true. No wonder we are facing a diabetes epidemic. Hips as wide as barn doors staggering along pushing prams or hobbling along on sticks. How do people get to that stage without realising they are extremely overweight? I confess that in the last few years I have become a stone overweight, but  do make serious attempts to bring it back to a normal healthy weight, as anything more than stone is more difficult to shift. But how do you pile on the multiple stones without noticing enough is enough?

While I was people-watching, a blind lady came past the window on her own. She had one of those sticks with a rubber ball on the end that she swept back and forth in front of her to detect obstacles. Suddenly she was confronted with an obstacle - an approaching pair of feet.  They were about to kick her stick up in the air, when they realised and averted an accident.  The approaching pair of feet belonged to someone with their nose stuck so much in their mobile phone that they were oblivious to any obstacles in front of them. Just who was the blind one in that situation? 

15 November 2016

A different battle


On Remembrance Sunday I watched a TV interview with a woman about her husband who had fought and died in Afghanistan three years ago. He had left behind a young widow and two very young sons. She was saying how she has good days and bad days; that she wishes he were still here to grow old with her and see the changes in her sons as they grow older. She was later shown walking proudly with all the veterans past the Cenotaph in Whitehall.

It got me thinking.

My husband died in a different battle. Not one against other human beings but against a much more subtle enemy.  Alcohol.  A different enemy but the same outcome. He's not here to see my daughter grow up and develop into a clever young doctor, to walk her down the aisle, see her married or have grandchildren. He's not here to experience a thousand news stories that his own thoughts had shaped in the past - not Brexit, the rise of the Trump, or the countless things that will happen to us all in the future. He's not here to grow old with me.

He's not here.

At least the fallen soldiers are remembered in a way their families can feel proud. For those families who have been devastated by an alcoholic enemy, there is no such redress. In fact most of us carry the burden, the shame and the guilt of having been somehow responsible, even if that is not true. For us, no medal to polish. Not even some foreign field that is forever England.

09 November 2016

Democracy and the Future




trump (noun)
trʌmp

(in bridge, whist, and similar card games) a playing card of the suit chosen to rank above the others, which can win a trick where a card of a different suit has been led.


Cripes, fissogs, bletherin' barndoors (or fill in your own expletive).

I expect you and a few billion people are recovering from the results of yesterday's US presidential elections. My daughter having just clocked off from a singularly quiet night shift in A&E rang me at 7.30am to tell me the shocking news. She'd been up all night watching the election results coverage on the A&E news feed, given that there were few patients to tend to.

First Brexit, now the US presidential elections. The whole world is in outrage, turmoil and, without being overly dramatic, a tad fearful of what the future brings.What with Russia recently posturing with a dilapidated aircraft carrier sailing close to the Straits of Dover, not to mention threatening to reclaim old USSR states and doing its worst in Syria, it could be World War One and Two all over again.

It occurs to me that the problem with Brexit and with the US elections is that democracy is failing to provide the ideal answer (and by that I don't mean the "right" answer). I've long thought that, whilst in theory democracy is by far the better pattern to follow, it still does not deliver the ideal solution. How many times have you and millions of others voted for a political party but failed to see it in government? Either that party has lost in your constituency or it has won in your constituency but  failed to win every other constituency. For example, 60% of the electorate as individuals might have voted Labour, but a Conservative government was elected  because the majority of constituency wins were Conservative.

Brexit is another good example. The referendum vote was 52:48 and many Remainers have been quick to point out that this was such a close call as to render the result meaningless. But if it had been done on a constituency basis, the outcome might have been different. By that I mean, supposing each constituency had a 52:48 outcome, then there would have been a 100% vote for Brexit. Who is to say that in a general election, if we had a referendum rather than a constituency vote, one party would have an overwhelming majority over the other, when it might have been the opposite with a constituency system.  So too in the US.... if all the individual votes were added up, would it amount to Clinton winning?

Of course, you need an opposition to make things balanced and fair, so the old idea of proportional representation seems to me to be a far fairer system and why it has never been accepted here in the UK  I don't know, although the Liberals did try. That way the votes of the entire country would be added up to find the overwhelming majority to take power and then the individual constituency results would be taken into account too to make sure that each constituency was also fairly represented locally and in Parliament.

Meanwhile, as the Chinese say, we live in interesting times. Just how interesting, only time will tell, but please let it be peaceful and not come to war.

27 October 2016

Off with their heads - Or Off Their Heads?

I often wonder what it was like to live in Britain four or five hundred years ago when it mattered greatly what your religion was. If you were on the opposing side of the ruling monarch in those days you were hunted down, imprisoned and killed. Catholics tortured Protestants. Protestants burned Catholics. If you were a Jew, you were always on the wrong side. It must have been a fearful time to live in, when you couldn't trust your neighbours or even close relatives to hand you over to the establishment because of your beliefs.

It seem to me that the last few months since Brexit have drawn parallels. Maybe with not such drastic outcomes, but nevertheless with some similarity. Instead of Catholics and Protestants, you have Remainers and Leavers. There was vitriol and mud-slinging on both sides a-plenty before the Referendum, but since then there has been daily outpourings of accusation, hatred and viciousness. Threats from the Remainers to scupper the vote, threats from the Leavers to bring it on. People afraid to say what side they voted for in case they were ridiculed, made to justify their beliefs, or even worse given the cold shoulder (I've heard of people refusing to have anything more to do with their parents or grandparents because they disagreed with their point of view. Really?)

I am very worried for my country and not because of the referendum result itself. I am worried that the people of this nation stand so divided (almost 50:50) on the way this country should go. Politicians have fallen by the wayside because of it and whole political parties seem to be buckling under the strain too. Apart from the Tories and the SNP, there is no viable party in opposition to help with the democratic process to take us forward in a balanced way. Whatever you voted for and aspired to, surely the way forward is to pick this country up and do our best together rather than divided. A democratic vote was taken and there was a majority result. It might not be the result a lot of people wanted, but it was democratic. To ignore it, to suggest the result was not the "right answer" and try to turn back the tables would be undemocratic. It would create the right to scupper any democratic result on whatever subject in the future, just because the result wasn't "the right one". That's not democracy.  We might as well all live in North Korea, if that's that case.

We are known all over the world for our bulldog spirit. In the last century alone we were able to withstand and rise from the ashes of two crippling world wars, not to mention a cold war. If our parents and grandparents had given up at the first hurdle,we would certainly not all be here today, able to make free and democratic decisions without fear of reprisals, imprisonment or death camps. Nor are we as a nation by any means stupid - we were the inventors of many great things such as the Industrial Revolution and the World Wide Web, to name but two things that have benefited the world immensely. We are quite capable of getting on with things and making a success of them, whether in the EU or not.

We should all pull together, not apart, and believe we can get through this rocky period together with hard work and confidence, not hatred or mud-slinging. The immediate future will be rocky and the financial markets will rise and fall as they have done since time immemorial, with or without Brexit. That's what they do, even when everything in the garden is lovely. We need to be confident we can work it out together and put aside thoughts that we can't achieve success. To do otherwise is to create a chasm so large, we could be on the brink of apathy, or worse still anarchy, and who wants to return to those awful medieval days?

17 October 2016

Poor me

It's been six months since my major operation to remove the GIST-tumour from my stomach. I had been doing very well and was more or less back to eating normally, back to driving, back to heavy lifting, back to gardening, back to normal in general. However about two or three weeks ago, I had a setback. I am not sure what caused it, although I have a number of theories - it coincided with getting a flu injection, it also coincided with me reheating some rice (which is a definite no-no), and it's possible I had eaten too many foods which are rather acidic or spicy. Whatever the cause, I now have chronic gastritis or  gastroenteritis which is not very pleasant and has set me back quite a bit. The doctor has ordered some tests but meanwhile my get-up-and go and has got-up-and gone. I'm feeling very lack-lustre and not up to much. Damn. 


Picture courtesy of pinterest.com


04 October 2016

Like Falling Off a Blog

I'm not sure why, but there is a distinct lack of blogging going on these days compared with past years. My favourite bloggers are producing less material and even I feel less inclined to blog these days. Is it the weather, other demands on our time, lack of enthusiasm, running out of steam, or what? Answers on a postcard, leave comments below, or tell me in a blog.

19 September 2016

Small world

You would think that with a UK population of around 64 million and a world population of over seven billion people, it would be hard to find many coincidences where people compartmentalised in one part of your life knew people in another. But this last week has shown me that anything is possible.

Between 1988 and 1991 I used to work with a lady called M. The last time I saw her was 25 years ago when I was pregnant and left work to have Kay. We found one another again recently on Facebook and since she only lives about a 20-minute drive from me, we have met up several times over the last few months for a coffee and a catch-up on the last 25 years. It transpired in conversation that her ex-husband's sister (C) had also been a work colleague of mine in a previous job back in 1973. C had married a Spaniard and moved to Madrid in 1977. After that, with the internet and mobile phones yet to be born, we lost touch.  

As C was over in London last week, M invited us all to her house for a lovely supper, where C and I were able to catch up on 40 years' news! Such an amazing coincidence. Over the course of the evening, I also discovered that M's husband went to the same school as me (albeit not at the same time) and also lived a few streets away, when we were younger.

As if that wasn't enough coincidence, it also transpired M's oldest son is a lawyer and works in a tiny Mediterranean community, where my best friend  at school (H) has lived for decades, having married a lawyer there. It turns out he knows my school friend and her husband. I haven't seen H since we left school in 1969 (again no internet or mobiles to stay in touch, only snail-mail which eventually fizzled out as we began our careers and moved abroad in different directions). Now M's son has provided me with H's email. There's 46 years' worth of news to catch up on there. All those coincidences from one meeting. It sure is a small world.

06 September 2016

Doctors' Strike: The Things You Don't Hear in the Media

I feel compelled to write another post about the junior doctors' strike, because it has been said that public support for the junior doctors is waning and I think this is largely attributable to the way the media has (or to be precise has not) been covering it. So much seems to be left out of the media reports, that no wonder the public are getting tired of the whole saga. I have been privileged to see it from the other side, as some of you may know, my daughter is one of those junior doctors.  So, here are a few facts you may not be aware of.......

What is a junior doctor?
Many people are under the impression  that a junior doctor is a leftist young thing straight out of university who can't be bothered to put in a day's work so soon after being a slob at uni. The media doesn't help by only interviewing doctors who look as if they should still be at school let alone having gone through uni. They are depicted at the picket lines chanting "Save our NHS" like zombies.... not a  good way to win over the public (BMA to note). 

The fact is a junior doctor is any doctor who has not yet reached consultant level. As it can take a minimum of 7 or 8 years to reach consultant, junior doctors are therefore anyone aged from 24  to in many cases someone in their 40s (Because medicine is such a difficult course to get into in the first place, many have had to take degrees in other subjects first and are in their 30s when they graduate in medicine, so can be in their 40s when they reach consultant level.) So junior doctors are often married, with children, with mortgages and with huge responsibilities.

Is the strike all about pay? 
No. Pay has never been the reason why the strike was started in  the first place. Junior doctors have never asked for a pay rise, even though the media keeps banging on about it. The pay issue has only arisen because in fact the new contract, which Jeremy Hunt seems blindly hell-bent on pushing through, actually means they will get a drop in pay. A junior doctor fresh out of university gets a basic pay of £23,000. A lot less than most graduates in other disciplines can expect as their starting salary, I might add - even shop assistants earn more than that. The young doctors can earn a bit more if they work on-call which means they work additional evening shifts and weekends floating around the hospital to deal with any emergencies on any of the wards they are not normally assigned to. This can sometimes nudge their pay up to somewhere near £30,000, but it depends how many on-call shifts they are asked to do, so it is not a salary they can rely on. Jeremy Hunt's contract will do away with the extra on-call payments and just give an 11% pay rise on the basic 23,000. You don't need to be a good mathematician to work out that this means a drop in pay in real terms.


The hours are long and morale is low.
There is no such thing as set hours in the medical profession. Doctors can hardly walk away from a sick patient when the clock shows it should be the end of their shift and their aching bones and frazzled minds are telling them it's time to go home. So they stay, because they care and want to see a job through to the end. Usually the shifts are a minimum of ten hours and in some cases longer. I have known my daughter to work 14 hours, most often without a lunch break, often without any more than a grabbed sandwich at a desk while typing up a patients notes. On some occasions she has had no time even for a toilet break! Keeping up a 10- or 14-hour shift is bad enough for a few days, but when you are on-call at weekends too, it can mean working 12 days in one run (Mon- Fri plus the weekend plus Mon-Fri the following week). If you worked that sort of shift length and run in any job, it would make you tired. You could make mistakes. Maybe overprice a customer, drop a box of expensive stock on the floor, use the wrong form to order some stationery. But in medicine? Make a mistake and you could be killing someone. My daughter has spoken of trying to calculate a prescription to give a patient based on so many mg per kg of bodyweight. She has said a simple calculation when you are tired is like thinking through mud.

So what is the strike about?
Jeremy Hunt wants a 24/7 NHS. They already have it. It's called A&E. If you are really sick or dying, weekday or weekend, day or night, A&E is open to receive you. Unfortunately it is much abused by people who cannot be bothered to go to their GP, do not have an arm hanging on by a mere thread and just need paracetamol. For all other (non- A&E) services, there is admittedly not a 24/7 service, but then you would need to recruit more doctors and the support staff of nurses, physiotherapists, radiographers etc etc) which the NHS cannot afford. Jeremy Hunt wants the existing doctors to cope with even more workload to cover this extra service. With the hours they already work, there is no capacity to add on more working hours, unless you expect your doctor to never get any sleep at all. Forget them having any hint of a  social life or seeing their families. If man and wife are both junior doctors they hardly see one another or their children at all.

Not professional?
People have been quick to accuse the doctors of abusing their position, saying they are privileged, they work in a profession and professions simply do not strike. It is a calling. But I would like to see any other profession that overworks anywhere near the same hours for such low pay.Most professions are appreciated and paid accordingly.  It is rather the doctors who are being abused because of their goodwill to carry on regardless.  The bosses know that the junior doctors will not walk away from a sick patient. Yes, they are striking and it may seem they don't care about the patients, but is because they care that they are striking. It is their only way of getting people to sit up and take notice of what they are going through.They cannot go on with the high demand in hours without the patients suffering. Even one fatal mistake made while the doctors are too tired, would be a mistake too many and the public would soon jump on the bandwagon to condemn a tired doctor's decision, if something went terribly wrong.

So next time you hear someone going on about the doctor's strike in a negative way, please remember this and put them right. Support the doctors rather than condemn them. If we are not careful, Jeremy Hunt will drive the NHS into the ground and where will we be then?

24 August 2016

Love Thy Neighbour

A lot has been reported lately about cases of xenophobia and racist attacks that have been occurring in various parts of the country since the referendum result to leave the EU. I cannot condone that in any shape of form, especially as my father was himself a victim of racism in 1930s Nazi Germany and had to flee for his life to Britain in 1939. He married an English Land Girl and later was naturalised months before I was born, so strictly speaking, although I was born and bred here and consider myself to be nothing other than white Caucasian British, you could also say I am a second-generation immigrant.

I have mentioned before that I live in a small private cul-de-sac of 32 town houses in a suburb of London.  All the houses are the same and are grouped round a large communal field which is shared by all the residents for relaxation, large marquee parties, children to play etc. We have a residents' association which manages all communal aspects like gardening of the field, external painting of the houses at set intervals, repaving and lighting of the street to name a few things. I would say I know more than half of my neighbours personally. I don't know how many of you can say you know 16 sets of neighbours well and particularly in a big city like London. About half are British, the rest are a right old mix of nationalities. Off the top of my head I can count families from Ghana, Nigeria, Malawi, Croatia, Norway, India, Austria, Australia to name those I personally know. We all co-exist without any problems and invite one another's children to knock on our doors at Halloween or invite the grown ups too to attend birthday parties or other functions held on the communal area. In recent years we communally celebrated in the new Millennium and VE day. One of my neighbours once held her wedding reception in a marquee on the lawn and we were all invited. There are frequent kiddies' parties with bouncy castles or entertainers. Last week one of our neighbours, who has a had a lot of modernisation done on her house over the last 4 months), invited us all to a house-warming party as a thanks for our understanding about the noise, endless  skips and upheaval caused during that time. Again nationalities of all kinds mixed in to enjoy a lovely summer day together.

It therefore pains me to see that such hatred for foreigners has sprung supposedly from the  Brexit vote. You cannot blame Brexit for the hatred.There is always going to be vile people somewhere who use any opportunity to vent their spleen when they feel the moment is ripe. Just like Hitler did.

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.