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 


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


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.

Image result for hospital  signpost

13 January 2016

Five minutes of fame

Image result for stethoscope
Kay had her five minutes of fame yesterday - her photo was on a lot of the media websites as she protested about junior doctors' working conditions. I do hope the paparazzi don't camp on my doorstep wanting an interview. Joking aside, it has been clear talking to a lot of people that they don't understand the real issue of the strike. They see junior doctors as money-grabbing, not devoted to their calling and not caring about their patients.The reality is so different.

First the term "junior doctor" suggests someone straight out of university like Kay, but "junior doctor" can mean anyone who is not yet a consultant or a GP. Therefore a lot of those on strike are thirty-somethings (even older) with spouses, families and a mortgage to support.

The strike has never been about pay, in fact at no point in this current debate have the doctors made any request for more pay. The strike has been all about the safety of patients, but seeing as I've mentioned pay, the starting salary for a junior doctor fresh out of university is £22,600. Bear in mind they have studied for 5 or 6 years to get to that point and have a lot of student loan to pay back, they are at least aged about 24 or25 when they start work. In some cases they can be considerably older as not all would-be medical students get into medicine first time round and have to do another degree first to demonstrate they can cope with medicine. To start in your mid-twenties at £22,000 when other graduates are being offered a considerable lot more is disappointing. Even shop assistants earn more than that without any training at all. But, as I say, the strike has never been about pay. Doctors know what the pay is going to be , when they start, and they accept that, because they are doing the job they want to do. If they work on-call and at weekends they get paid extra, but on-call varies according to where you are and what you do, so that is not a given salary booster for most of them. Kay for example regularly had to work weekends (as well as the weekdays either side) resulting in 12 days in one run without a break. For the Government to say they are offering an 11% pay rise is misleading. The 11% would be based on the £22,000 and abolish the extra for working weekends, so 11% to work 12 days without a break every so often would actually work out as a pay-cut.

So if not about pay, what is the strike about? Surely doctors are doing what they do as a calling and not to endanger patients? Exactly. Doctors love their job and want to do their best to help every patient. The reality is that they work such long hours that they are tired and make mistakes. They recognise that this is not safe for patients. In Kay's case, she has had  to work 13 or 14-hour days, starting at 7am and finishing around 9pm, sometimes longer. You get up, go to work and come home in time to grab a snack and fall into bed. Social life or even an evening slouched in front of the TV is non-existent. For those who are married or have children, it means they hardly see their loved ones. Kay is often so busy she doesn't have more than 5 minutes for lunch.  After 12 days of 14-hour shifts, she says it is like thinking through mud. Even a simple mathematical calculation, such as working out the correct dose of drug per kilogram body weight of patient, can cause her problems, because she is so tired. Fortunately so far she has not killed anyone or done anything dangerous but she has narrowly escaped overlooking something vital , because she was too numb from tiredness. This is the hub of the problem every junior doctor can see. There are not enough of them to bring the hours down to more manageable shift hours. If someone wants to take a day's leave, it falls on the few left to cover. 

The argument has been made that there are other jobs which involve unsociable hours. In the retail trade, for example, people are required to work late into the evening and at weekends. That is true. But they probably get a decent break for lunch and, if they make a mistake, the worst that can happen is that they undercharge someone or tell them it is not in stock, when it actually is. A doctor does not get a sufficient break during their hectic day and, if they make a mistake, the consequences can be dire. I don't need to spell it out.

Much keeps being said about a 24/7 service, but that already exists, so far as doctors are concerned. If you are ill out of hours or at weekend, there are on-call doctors to treat you. If you are already in hospital, there is  (pardon the pun) a skeleton staff of on-call doctors working over the weekend to treat you.  But it is no good treating patients, if there are no x-ray staff or physiotherapists or cleaners or whatever to support the doctors. This is where the 24/7 service needs bolstering, as well as extra doctors to cope with a fully operational 24/7 service rather than overloading existing staff with even more hours.

So next time you see the doctors striking, please do not think they are selfish, money-grabbing and uncaring. It is because they care for their patients' safety that they are striking at all.They do not want to strike, but nobody is listening to their cries for help and before long it could be too late to avoid a tragedy.

Image result for tired doctor

12 January 2016

Home Sweet Home

Today I got quite a big shock. The 12th January is the date Greg and I moved into our house.................in 1988. When I worked it out I've been here 28 years. Twenty-eight! That's more than a third of the average lifetime and more than a quarter of the longest lifetime. I'm a creature of habit, love the familiar and hate surprises, but even I was shocked at how part of me this house has become. If ever I should decide to move from here, (not that I have any plans to at present), it will be like tearing a limb off. I can still recall  in detail the very first day we moved in. This and so many happy memories of Greg and I as young-marrieds, of getting pregnant, planting the garden and gradually putting our stamp on the house. Some bad memories too of when Greg took to the amber liquid and  threw his life on the scrapheap. But thankfully the good more than outweigh the bad. There have been some fantastic neighbours over the years (and there are still). Twenty-eight years, eh? It just doesn't seem possible.

02 January 2016

A rather belated Happy New Year

Christmas always comes and goes in a flash in our house. I spend weeks, if not months preparing for it, making lists, ticking things off lists, buying, sorting, wrapping, organising and, come the day, it is over so fast before you can blink an eyelid. Presents unwrapped, food gobbled and too much to nibble or drink.

New Year is usually different.  Kay is usually off somewhere with her friends and I sit up until midnight, some years with my mother, at other times on my own. It tends to be a non-event. Sometimes I even go to bed rather than wait up for something to happen at midnight (turn into a frog maybe). 

This year was different. Kay was working both on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, so did not have time to come home to celebrate with her old schoolfriends, as she usually does. One of my close friends, who lives in Brighton, had invited me and another close friend of mine down for an overnight stay at New Year, so I jumped at the chance to catch up with them. I was also animal-free for the first New Year in decades ages, so was free to just up and off without having to make arrangements for cat- or dog-sitting.

It was a very magical different sort of New Year for me, celebrating with my two closest friends. We ate a lovely meal, sipped fine wine, chatted and played a hilarious card game into the wee small hours. The wind howled and the rain lashed outside, but we were all warm and cosy by a real fire. Happy New Year to you all.


19 December 2015


I mentioned in my last post that I had had a health scare a few weeks ago that required further investigation. Part 1 of the investigation (a gastroscopy) was a few days ago and has sent my world spinning. What was hitherto a seemingly minor one-off of no great consequence (even if I did pass a little bit of black blood) has now been revealed as quite a bit more than that. It would seem that unknowingly I have been growing a tumour in my stomach. Not just any old tumour but one that is apparently quite rare (trust me to be choosy)- only 900 cases in the whole of the UK and only handled by specialist hospitals. Great. The consultant "thinks" it is benign, but has done a biopsy just to be sure and wants a full body CT scan done as soon as possible to make sure I am not growing any more for next year's Chelsea Flower Show. An operation will follow at a Central London teaching hospital to remove it. I do have a tendency to grow these things - a fibroid 15 years ago was the biggest they had ever seen (seriously, it was of rugby-ball proportions) and I have lumpy bits of lypoma growing where they shouldn't. This is yet another to add to the list yet I am scaring myself half-stupid reading it up on Google where some articles even refer to the complete removal of the stomach. It even has a rather grand-sounding name.....Gastro-Intestinal Stromal Tumour (GIST). The worst of it is that, living alone as I do,  I sit with the thoughts churning and nobody to share it with. 

I am trying to keep my head (what is left of it) and make an attempt to be jolly over Christmas, so will lie low, lick my wounds and blog again in the New Year. Turning 65 obviously has its down-side - I knew I wouldn't like it.   In the meantime, hope y'all have a lovely Christmas.

30 November 2015


I had a milestone birthday this last weekend and am now officially an Old Age Pensioner at 65, although these days the retirement age is anything between 60 and 70. I wasn't particularly looking forward to this transition and hoped I'd just wake up after the day was over. For someone who didn't want to celebrate it at all I don't know how it happened but the celebrations are stretching over 10 days. First I met up last Wednesday evening with a gang of "girls" (the youngest one was 50), whom I have known for best part of 20 years, when all our children were at  Kindergarten together. They showered me with presents and cards and even tipped the waiting staff at the Italian restaurant to sing "happy birthday" to me with candles in my tiramisu. We were the last to leave the restaurant at 11pm. What a riot.

My actual birthday yesterday was spent in a slightly more sedate manner. Kay was on-call at the hospital and couldn't get the time off to come and celebrate with me (though she sent me a beautiful arrangement of flowers), so I booked lunch at a quaint Kentish pub and celebrated with my old mum, who, after all, was responsible for me being here at all. Sitting by a real log fire with views out on the wintry Kent countryside was a real treat.

In a few days, I am off to visit my closest friend in Hertfordshire, where we shall celebrate again and on Saturday I am off to meet my sister-in-law and her daughter halfway somewhere in Buckinghamshire for a further gathering and swapping of Christmas presents. Kay is hoping to join us for that too. Even the Queen only has two birthdays!

I had been dreading this transition into old age (even though everyone says I don't look as old as 50 let alone 65), but despite that, I have enjoyed the celebrations after all. Just a few hospital investigations to brave before Christmas to identify the cause of a health scare I had a few weeks ago and then I can hopefully get on with organising Christmas.

Old Age Pensioner