19 January 2015

A load of bullshihtzu

Twice a week I make a point of getting up really early to be in the local park by 8am. Over the years when I used to walk Snoopy, I made a lot of dogwalker friends and nowadays, even though Snoopy has gone to that big park in the sky, I still like to catch up with my park friends, chew the cud, put the world to rights and connect with their dogs.  As people go, they really are lovely people - after all if they love their dogs to bits, as they seem to, they are my kind of people. The bracing morning walks in all weathers also helps me get a bit of fresh air and some decent exercise beyond riding the vacuum cleaner and raiding of the fridge.

In the past year there have been some new dog additions on the block:
  •  two Labradoodles (half Labrador, half Poodle)
  •  two Cockapoos (half Cocker Spaniel, half Poodle)
  •  a Pekeapoo (half Poodle, half Pekingese)
  •  a jackhuahua (half Jack Russell, half Chihuahau)
  •  a bullshihztu ( half bull terrier, half Shihtzu) 

courtesy of cartoonstock.com
Last week I met the cutest furriest 12-week old fluffball of a puppy I have ever seen and was told he was a Schnoodle (half Schnauzer and half Poodle). His owner was training him well and he can already sit, lie down and all but do a backward somersault on command.

On that basis, my beloved Snoopy ought to have been called a Mansation or an Alsachester Terrier, because he was half Alsation(German Shepherd) and half Manchester Terrier.


Forgive me if I am wrong, but didn't we just used to call them mongrels or crossbreeds?  To be honest what a lot of bull terrier/shihtzu crosses. 
 
My Mansatian - one in a trillion

07 January 2015

Shock

Something happened over the Christmas period that upset me greatly. I don't want to go into detail here but suffice to say it was a shock and it took me best part of ten days to get over the sickening feeling I felt to my very core. It's taken me a good few years to get over Greg's death and feel relaxed about the past events, not so angry, more understanding about the depression he was probably going through and why he had turned to alcohol. But in an instant I was transported back to the old feelings of insecurity, madness and rollercoasters. I had all but forgiven him, missed him even, but suddenly I was so angry again at how he had ruined everything in his wake. It would seem you are never free from the insane hold that the alcoholic has over you, even when they are long departed. I appreciate I am not giving much away for you to understand, but right now, I just want to crawl into my shell and pull the proverbial covers over my head.

01 January 2015

HAPPY NEW YEAR

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

19 December 2014

Christmas is coming.....

I'm usually very organised as a rule and can be irritatingly prepared for all sorts. Christmas is usually approached with the same precision as fighting a military campaign which is why this year has been quite a shock. I found myself at the beginning of December with no cards even bought, let alone written. No presents bought either. No decorations. No advanced food preparations. Sans anything! Not like me at all. In my defence, I plead total lack of time. What with the rain damage to my house  back in the autumn and the upheaval that caused, together with my mother fracturing her knee and needing 18-hours-a day care from me, it left me very little time for anything else.

I am pleased to say that has now been remedied. Cards have been sent; presents have not only been bought (thank God for Amazon) but also wrapped (sorry, am I irritating anyone yet?); food lists have been checked and food bought. Turkey's in the freezer; I've made three batches of  red cabbage to my German grandmother's recipe and frozen them; I've made and frozen a big batch of cranberry sauce. Yesterday they came to collect the chair I was on about in my last post.  Having received my "yours disgusted letter", it gavanised them into action. While I waited in for them, I spent 6 hours decorating the tree and the rooms. I'm definitely getting there.

Kay comes home on Saturday, so I am looking forward to spending a week together with her. My mum is coming to stay for a few days too and her cousin is also invited for the two main days, staying overnight on the 25th. One guest bed is already made up, the other two will get done early next week. Where I'll sleep goodness knows, but I'll need to get up early to put the albatross turkey in the oven, so may sleep Cinderella-style in the kitchen (only joking)!


The stairs are  looking festive


A warm welcome for my guests

Happy Christmas!


All that remains is for me to wish you all a lovely Christmas and a happy, healthy 2015. Thank you so much for all your comments over the year. I may not respond to each one individually, but I do appreciate them neverthless. May your Christmas be merry (but not too much in terms of alcohol!)



 Love  Addy

09 December 2014

Jobsworths

I seem to be surrounded by jobsworths and incompetence at the moment. My already-complicated life is made even worse by people who stick to the rules and can't think out of the box.   

The first instance is the ambulance collection service that our local hospital operates to take patients between the hospital and their homes. I make it clear that this service is not the same as the ambulances you get when you dial 999. The ambulance collection service uses minibus-type ambulances with ramps for wheelchairs or stretchers and only have about 5 seats maximum. They are used purely to take incapacitated patients home after their hospital stay (hence some are on stretchers) or to appointments if walking is difficult.  I encountered this service for the first time when  my mother was discharged from hospital after she broke her knee and was barely able to walk. Unable to cope on her own at home, she opted to come and stay with me for what turned out to be six weeks. During that time we had several appointments at the hospital either at the fracture clinic or for heart scans or to see consultants.  As her leg had to be kept straight, it was in a foam brace with velcro straps but did the same job as a plaster cast. It therefore required the ambulance service to turn up at my house, carry her down two flights of stairs in a carry-chair, put her in the ambulance with her leg stretched out and drive her to her appointment, then do the whole thing in reverse once the appointment was finished. I was given a phone number and I had to book this service every time, days in advance. Each time I was told we had to be ready for collection 2.5 hours ahead of the appointment. It meant that for an appointment at 2pm, say, we had to be ready and waiting at 11.30am. It could mean having a really early lunch or snacking instead in case there was a sudden ring at the doorbell. There was always a lot of waiting, just in case they were early.

In reality, the ambulance usually turned up about an hour before, so there had been a lot of useless hanging around, but we understood the problems, as we were never the only patients on board and they often had to pick patients up after us before they set off to the hospital. At the end of the appointment, you could wait around in the hospital foyer for anything up to five hours to be  taken home again. On average it was two hours, but the five-hour one put us off ever using it again, as we didn't get home until 9pm! Again we were not the only ones going home, so we had to hang around for others to be collected from wards or clinics.

The crews were by and large very lovely people who were caring beyond the call of duty. We saw some of them several times and got to know them very well. On the last occasion, however, the crew that collected us from home had a jobsworth who wouldn't lift my mother down the stairs with her leg outstretched because he might hurt his back and he moaned and groaned more than my mother whose knee he tried to yank into a bent position without any prior warning to make her easier to carry. Once in the ambulance, he lay down on the empty stretcher and closed his eyes for the entire journey, while his colleague drove us to the hospital. If her knee ever heals, it will be no thanks to him.

Still on the hospital theme, my mother was discharged from hospital in early October with two items issued by Occupational Therapy: a zimmer frame and an upright leather armchair at the right height to help her stand up and sit down with a gammy knee. In truth, she did not really like the chair. It was too uncomfortable for her arthritic back, but she put up with it, hoping the hospital knew best. When my mother went back to her flat two weeks ago, there was certainly no room for the chair, so I rang the telephone number on the back of the chair for the equipment agency to collect it. Herein started my nightmare.


We can't collect it as it is not registered to your address.
        Where is it registered, then?
 At the hospital address.
 So how do I get rid of it?

You either need to take it back to the hospital or get the hospital to register it to your address and then we can collect it from you.

But I am telling you now what my address is.

Sorry. You either need to take it back to the hospital or get the hospital to register it to your address and then we can collect it from you.
Last week, I rang the hospital and spoke to the Occupational Therapist who sounded a bit vague when I explained the problem, but she cheerily told me to leave it with her and try ringing the equipment agency again on Monday, which I did yesterday.


We can't collect it as it is not registered to your address.

Well look, this is silly, isnt it? I can't keep ringing you and the hospital and getting nowhere. Why don't you just collect it from me. My addresss is...

Sorry. You either need to take it back to the hospital or get the hospital to register it to your address and then we can collect it from you. Maybe you could take it to the hospital?

The chair is up two flights of stairs. I am 64 years old and a widow.  Even if I could single-handedly carry a huge leather armchair down to the ground floor, how am I going to get it in my car?

Well, in that case,  get the hospital to register it to your address and then we can collect it from you.

Look,  I am sick of being piggy in the middle.  I'm telling you now, if you do not collect the chair by the end of the week, it will end up on the tip.

Fine. 

It would break my heart to see it on the tip so I rang the Occuptional Therapist again yesterday  .......12 times. Each time I was told she was at a meeting/on a ward round/at lunch/assessing a patient/not there/in Timbuktu/ gone homeEach time I left a message for her to ring me to see how the chair could be re-registered under my address. I finally got hold of her this morning! She's promised to get back to me. Hmm. Watch this space. I'm not over-confident.

Meanwhile I was due to have a new radiator put in my bedroom last Thursday. The two men who turned up told me they had only been allocated two hours for a five-hour job, so it was rearranged for today. I got a call this morning from the gas company to say, one of them is off sick, so the job has been rescheduled for next week. Hopefully, third time lucky.

Yep, I'm not dreaming. It's not the first day of April either. Life can be a bitch.

03 December 2014

Good times and bad times

It was my birthday at the weekend and I spent it up north with Kay who spoiled me rotten. She treated me to a night at the ballet, made me a birthday cake, took me shopping and we went for a bracing walk across the Moors. It was a lovely weekend to recharge my batteries after the last tiring six weeks looking after my mother with the wonky broken knee.

Back home on Monday, I discovered some scum had tried to forge another of my cheques for nearly £3000, (see the end of this when it happened earlier in the year) but the bank fortunately managed to stop it going through, alerted by the fact that the cheque's serial number was some 400 cheques into the future from the last cheque I signed last week! I spent all day sorting it out and was all stressed out again.

Today my mother is going for an 8-week check on her knee. At the six week check they said it had still not healed, so wanted to give it another 2 weeks before deciding whether they need to operate and wire it together. A bit of a worry considering she is 91 years old. Fingers crossed it won't come to that.  I'm taking her to the hospital by car as the minibus ambulance transport to every appointment has not been without its problems. We used it because mum needed to be carried down my stairs while she was staying with me and couldn't bend her leg to get into a car. However for the last hospital appointment the minibus ambulance driver who collected her bent her knee without warning to make it easier for him to carry her, despite knowing she shouldn't bend it, and at the end of our appointment we had to wait FIVE HOURS in the hospital lobby for an ambulance to take us back home again, as they were all out on journeys. Never again, declared my mother, so we are attempting the journey in my car today. Wish me luck!
Broken Leg coloring page | Super Coloring

24 November 2014

O what a lovely War

There's been a lot of fuss about the Sainsbury's Christmas advert depicting the Christmas 1914 truce between the British and Germans in The Great War. A lot of it negative, accusing Sainbury's of capitalising on the horrors of war for financial gain. Critics also say the uniforms are too squeaky-clean and nothing like the blood- and guts-covered mess the real soldiers faced. Come on, this an advert not an accurate blockbuster trying to scoop up an Oscar. The point of the advert was surely not its accuracy to detail but the overall mesage that in the middle of horror, humans can rise above that to be nice to one another. Surely the true spirit of Christmas. Also, unless I am very naive, when all's said and done, aren't all adverts for financial gain? 

As one who had grandfathers on both sides of that war, I do not find the advert in the least offensive and it comes a week after I saw the BBC series The Passing Bells, which I thoroughly enjoyed (if that is the right word) for its portrayal of two young boys on opposite sides, from ordinary families, dragged into a war they didn't understand and quickly wanting out of it. The Germans as a race weren't evil, any more than the British were. The soldiers on both sides were just puppets dancing to the tune of their masters. If you haven't seen it, it The Passing Bells is still available on bbc-iplayer or on DVD. 

18 November 2014

Family matters

I was chuffed to get all your supportive comments about tattoos. I thought we must be the last family in the universe not to have them and was steeling myself for a load of hateful venom in return, but I was wrong. Many of you feel the same way as me and it was reassuring that there is some common sense left in the world.

Here are some lilies presented to my mother the other day - they are such an unusual colour. I cannot say I have ever seen lilies that colour before. In fact in reality they are a much darker electrifying purple.



Other news... I had to go to a family funeral last week down at Hastings. I had to get two trains with six minutes between them. I should have known better. Man can engineer a spacecraft which takes ten years to reach and land punctually on a speeding comet (see here the amazing achievement of Philae) but Southeastern could not get my first train to do a fifteen-minute journey on time and and I arrived at the connecting station 12 minutes late thus missing my second train. Thank heavens I had originally arranged to get to Hastings with an hour to spare, so I could first meet up with a relative and have a coffee before the funeral. Being late meant I missed the coffee/catch-up but got a taxi straight from the station to the crematorium with ten minutes to spare.

As an only child, I have always felt I missed out on the joys of having brothers or sisters, but it seems it's not all it's cracked up to be. The two sons of the deceased were always close as children and young men. Then they went to different universities, got wives and children, in one case got divorced and remarried and have ended up arch-enemies. Nobody quite knows what has caused the vitriolic rift but apparently there is much harking back by one of them to childhood resentments. The younger one lives in Australia now and came over for his father's last few days but the older one, who lives in Scotland and was staying in his father's house for the last few weeks, would not even meet up with his younger brother, let alone talk to him. They made sure they did not bump into one another during visits to the deathbed at the hospital and the older one refused to have the younger one at the wake afterwards. I felt so sorry for the younger one, as he genuinely has no idea what he has done wrong. He originally said he would avoid the funeral altogether, but turned up at the eleventh hour, sobbed his heart out during the service, and then magically disappeared with his car into the sunset, before we had all had a chance even to leave the chapel, so we never got to say goodbye before his return to Australia. Apparently the younger one has waived his rights to the whole inheritance as he does not want to put up a fight. So sad to see two men, both lovely as individuals, being so divided. Their parents would turn in their graves. Maybe being an only child has its compensations  after all!


11 November 2014

Giving me the needle

I realise what I am about to say may upset, offend or stir up a hornets' nest. But I am going to say it anyway and wait for a hundredweight of hate-mail to drop in my in-box. I expect I am in an infinitesimally small minority here, but I think anyone who consciously gets a tattoo is mad, sixpence short of a shilling, a pepperoni short of a pizza, or more appropriately a picture short of a gallery. I say "consciously", as I know there are those out there who after a night of drunken debauchery wake up next morning not only clutching their overhung heads but a sore spot somewhere on their body, declaring their undying love for Sharon, whoever she might be. 



In my day, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and it took only 6 months to get to Australia and back on a slow boat to, well, Australia, only sailors got tattoos. Big burly blokes would come home from their travels with M.U.M across their knuckles or exotic birds carved onto their forearms. Skull and crossbones were quite popular too, presumably added on afterwards when M.U.M looked a bit naff. Come to think of it, a lot of those tattoos would have probably been done "unconsciously" when the ship pulled into port and the lads went wild in the nearest town. 

But now? Unless the whole world has joined the Navy, someone please tell me what the point of a tattoo is? Call me old-fashioned, but why does every woman (or man) with less than a full set of brain cells feel the need to go through the pain to end up with a star behind their ear or a swallow on their shoulder?  Don't get me started on the ones that have an entire tabloid-size picture on their............


back or chest. Why and why again? I know it's a generational thing. It masquerades as a fashion statement, just like mini skirts, punk hair, platform heels and hot pants were. But at least hair could be grown out or clothes  relegated to the back of the wardrobe or the charity shop. Even piercings can be corrected when the mood wears off by just letting the holes close up. But with tattoos, what if, in years to come, you hate the tattoo or the reason you had it done?

Can you imagine what people with tattoos are going to look like when they are old and wrinkly? The star will look like a squished spider, the swallow will look like a tit (well, I suppose it was ever thus), and the rose garden will look unkempt and needing a definite dead-heading. If they require surgery, as inevitably people do as they age, will the "You'll never walk alone" scrolled across their abdomen be changed to "You'll never walk" plus a ropey scar across the rest?

  


Can you imagine living with the same wallpaper for the rest of your life? You'd fancy a bit of a change wouldn't you, but you can't do that with tattoos. Unless you have more painful sessions to cover it with something else or leave a horrendous scar. What if Sharon runs off with the man next door? You're either going to have to look in earnest for another Sharon to date or incur the eternal wrath of a Tracy or Emily who has to look at it for the duration of your time with her.

I've heard the excuse, well, mine is in a discreet place, so nobody can see it. So again, what is the bloody point? You might just as well look for a few moles instead and join the dots up. At least the design would be unique. And if nobody can see it, you included, you might just as well stick a plaster on your back or show off your haemorrhoid scar to full effect. Why bother with a tattoo?



Another reason I've heard is that it has a special meaning, such as it represents the birth of a child or a special place visited. Why not be satisfied with a photo or memento instead? Does a tattoo really make it any more special? At least you can get a photo out and share it at a dinner party. Then again, maybe you can with a tattoo. Depends on the party, I suppose.


I often look at press photos of gorgeous celebs in expensive evening dresses with that tasteless tattoo peering out like a sore thumb. It so spoils the look.  All hopes of elegance sails out the window to me. Tramp stamps.  They look like tramps not ladies. And why do women over fifty who ought to have more common sense feel the need to have them? I saw a particularly wrinkly specimen at the supermarket checkout the other day. Wrinkles everywhere and a bouquet of something etched across her entire upper chest and snakes all down her arms.  It was definitely not an attractive sight. She looked like Nora Batty gone mental.

Tattoos used to be a sign of being a bit of a rebel. In fact, you're more of a rebel if you DON'T have a tattoo these days, as at least it shows you have a mind of your own rather than following the herd. If Kay ever succumbs to the idiocy, I'll know the world has gone mad, but thank God for the moment she has not got one. If she ever did, I'd run away.......and join the Navy, but I certainly wouldn't be getting a tattoo!


03 November 2014

The Tower Revisited

Kay was home for the weekend. I say "home". In fact she was out for some of the time - flitting in and out, as young people do, catching up with old friends, burning the candle at both ends, recharging the batteries on home cooking and much needed TLC. We had some quality time together on Saturday afternoon, travelling to the Tower (once again for me) to see the poppy display and wandering along the riverbank as the sun set. 

What bright spark decided to close the nearest Underground station to the Tower (Tower Hill) for enginering works on one of the busiest weekends for the Tower  (namely school half-term holiday and the weekend before Remembrance Sunday when the poppy display is almost at its crescendo)? The crowds for miles were amazing as they thought of inventive ways to get there and then stand at least ten-deep to study the sea of red all around the moat. Here are some  pictures of our our afternoon in London.

View of the City from the South Bank

It took us over 20 minutes to queue to get onto the Bridge

I wonder whether Boris Johnson ever gets a bit dizzy

We could see the enormous line of crowds from across the river



The sea of blood

Trying to get a photo!

The marshalls (in yellow jackets) getting the crowd to go in a one-way direction


An orderly queue

Time to head home

The Shard on the South Bank

29 October 2014

One year on

How time marches on. It's a year since Snoopy died. I cannot believe a whole year has passed.  I still miss him like mad. If truth be told, I was more upset at his passing than that of Greg's. I guess because Greg in his last year or two was so difficult to deal with, whereas Snoopy was a loyal, loving being right up to his last breath. People keep asking when I am going to get another dog, but for now I don't feel I could, as it would seem disloyal to him. He was such a wonderful dog. He is irreplaceable.







23 October 2014

Day at The Tower

A very good friend/relation on Greg's side of the family contacted me a few weeks ago to say she was coming down to London from Scotland and could we meet up. We agreed to meet yesterday, long before my mother had her fall and broke her knee, so I was not sure whether I would be able to keep to the agreement. However, my mother is managing OK to get from her bed to to the ensuite with the help of a zimmer and urged me to have a day off for a change.  I made sure she was stocked up with a year's day's supply of sandwiches, yoghurt and drink in a coolbag and set off on my journey to The Tower! Both my friend and I wanted to see the poppy display there.

I knew it was going to be crowded before I left the tube station, as hoards of pensioners were disembarking from the train with me and surging up the stairs to the exit. Having met my friend, this was the sight that greeted us as we emerged at the Tower.

so many people


I managed to push my way to the barrier to get one half-decent photo, but had to take it quickly as thousands were waiting to swap places with me.

I managed to get a few more shots....


It takes quite a while to assemble just one poppy let alone thousands


As always when I am at The Tower, I always love to go along the river a a few steps further and wander around St Catherine's Dock.

This time, we stumbled upon Gloriana, the royal barge commissioned as a tribute to the Queen for her Diamond Jubilee Pageant.



We had a late lunch at the Dicken's Inn (in the background of the last picture), an atmospheric old place that always summons up visions of Bill Sykes kicking Nancy out of the way as he enjoys a pint. It was beautiful weather too so a much needed recharge to my batteries.

 

16 October 2014

Rapunzel's Tower

Why did I never notice I had so many stairs in my house before?  Forty to be precise. Five flights of 8 stairs between my six levels. To remind those of you who can be bothered, my house looks like this in cross-section with the staircase going through the middle vertical connecting the six levels:
I try to describe my house to strangers over the phone. It has six levels - well not from the outside of course, but from the inside. I tried explaining it to the house insurance company when I had the roof leak. I've tried explaining it to the social workers who are responsible for my mother while she stays with me following her recent hospital stay. They think I live in some quirky lighthouse in the middle of the sea of London. A room on every level with a staircase up or down to somewhere else. Sometimes, I feel like Rapunzel looking down from the window at the top.


Because my elderly mum has broken her knee, because she cannot stand or walk very well, because she has a brace strapped over her leg to keep it straight, because she cannot cope yet living on her own, despite the hospital in their wisdom abruptly chucking her out after only a week in their care, she has moved in with me - on level 4.  She has sole occupation of my bedroom and my ensuite. I have been banished to the bedroom on level 5. The kitchen is on level 1. The front door on level 2. So many stairs inbetween. So many cups of tea, coffee and meals for the patient.  Delivering post, newspapers and medicine to the sickbed. Entertaining social workers and agency carers about needs and finances and long-term plans. Up, down, up, down... I'm cream-crackered and then still have to climb from the kitchen to my bedroom (32 stairs) to fall into bed at night.

Yesterday there was an appointment (the first time her knee has been addressed since the fall) at the fracture clinic. The hospital had laid on ambulance transport to take her there and back. I was not allowed on board so had to drive separately to attend the appointment with her. Afterwards, when I got home, I waited for the ambulance to return with her. Some two hours later Mum returned in an ambulance with a young girl pushing her in a wheelchair to the front door. On opening the front door (level 2), I pointed out that there were two flights of stairs to the patient's bedroom on level 4. The girl's face dropped. She was all on her own. My mum bravely suggested she try to climb the 16 stairs and so she did, albeit every step taking about 30 seconds to climb. So much for resting the knee straight, as the doctor ordered! Who sends a patient with a broken leg home from the fracture clinic in an ambulance with only one paramedic to drive and get them back into their home?

Anyone know of any bungalows for sale?

06 October 2014

A nice break in more than one sense

I spent a few days last week in Eastbourne. It was meant to be a treat for my dear 91-year-old Mum who used to live there until I wrenched her out of her lovely big house and moved her to a small retirement flat near me in London last October. We wanted to see old friends, visit old haunts and take in some sea air to see us through the winter. Mum hasn't had a holiday in ten years, so was really looking forward to it.

The first few days were lovely and on the very first morning I even managed a brisk walk along the promenade at 7am before the dogwalkers and joggers got out..............



We had a nice view from our hotel room




watched lovely sunrises



It was sad to see the poor old pier after the recent fire
 
but they are working on it to get it ready for next season.



At the moment it looks like the Titanic on stilts





We had a few laughs


Sat and watched the sea with loads of others
All was going so well.........

until my mother fell up some stairs at the hotel (she was sober, honestly!) and fractured her kneecap. We spent the last day of our four-day holiday here..........


Mum was transferred by ambulance up to a London hospital on Thursday evening (where she still remains) and I followed on the next day by car with all our belongings. Not quite the visit to old haunts nor the kind of break we were expecting!

25 September 2014

Yours disgusted

Every now and again, there is a situation where you feel you would like to send one of those "yours disgusted" letters to someone. I stumbled  across this one today which is classic. Thought I'd just share it with you.

http://www.dearcustomerrelations.com/2014/05/ryanair/

There are some other gems on that website too.

14 September 2014

Bombshell

Well, Kay's come and gone. Thankfully on Friday she arrived in one piece from her 10-week adventure in Tanzania, but I only found out two days ago how close she came to not being here at all.

I was so relieved to see her walk through the arrival gate at the airport on Friday. Slim, tanned and looking good.  Hours later we were home chatting non-stop into the early morning next day about all her adventures in Tanzania. It was then that she dropped the bombshell.  She hadn't been entirely honest about the mugging five weeks ago. Yes, she had been mugged. Yes, she had had all the contents of her bag stolen.  Yes, it was two men on a motorbike who had driven up alongside her and then driven off again with her bag. But there was one small detail she had decided to keep from me until we met up again. One man had got off the motorbike and walked purposefully towards her. As he approached her, she could see he was holding something behind him. When he was inches from her, he produced a machete and motioned to her to hand over her bag. She said it was amazing how everything around her froze and various scenarios flashed through her brain at one and the same time until reason quickly dictated it was safer to hand over the bag and run. When she got back to her hostel, the enormity of the situation overpowered her and she burst into tears. It was because of that the hostel manager took her to the police to report the crime, although the police were pretty unconcerned about it.

The fact that my daughter was faced with such a traumatic experience and her first thought was to spare me the worry and swear her friends to secrecy too on any facebook comments, in case I read them, has made me realise what an amazing girl she is. I always knew that, of course, but that just confirms it.

The washing machine worked flat-out this weekend removing the African dust, sweat and tears from her things, though not from her mind - it has clearly shaken her.  Four washloads in all which I was able to dry in the autumn sun and fold up fresh for her to pack this morning. She left in her overloaded car at 3.30pm this afternoon with no more room for a pin for the 6-hour drive north. She'll be there by 10pm, just in time to unpack umpteen suitcases and fall into bed. Her last (sixth) year of uni starts tomorrow with a whole day of lectures at 9am. Like I said, she's bloody amazing, but I may be a little biased.

11 September 2014

Almost there

I've been counting the days - one more to go to be precise. One more day until my gorgeous 23-year-old daughter and all her luggage walks through that Arrivals Gate at the airport and I can give her the biggest hug on record. To make up for no hugs since the first week of July. To be the real thing as opposed to snatched facebook messages, poor internet or frustratingly disjointed skype conversations over the last ten weeks. 

Testing her independence, Kay has travelled alone to another country in another continent. She has climbed Africa's biggest mountain; worked 5 weeks in an ill-equipped hospital; collected £500 in donations to  provide much-needed supplies for the hospital; seen conditions the like of which we just don't see in the western world; been mugged; lived with Masai warriors for a week; shared a public bus for an hour's journey with goats and chickens; sat next to the pilot in the cockpit of a small plane over Tanzania; and dived/swam with turtles in Zanzibar.  She left London on her own and will return on her own, but has met zillions of people on her travels with enough "facebook friends" to crash the system. She's my one and only, my baby, but she's seen more in the last ten weeks than I'll probably ever see. The stories she'll be able to tell her grandchildren (and me)! I can see our throats will ache with all the catching up conversations.

Our reunion will be shortlived - she has to leave London on Sunday to drive the six hours North to unpack and unwind in time for the start of her final (sixth) year of university on Monday. But inbetween, I'm going to proverbially kill the fatted calf. My baby's coming home.
 
The first of three aeroplanes that will bring her home

26 August 2014

The Health of a Nation

We really are so lucky in this country to have the National Health Service. We complain about it, but seriously have nothing to moan about if you consider what other parts of the world have to put up with. In an article in the press this weekend some one had got into a lather about the meal presented to them in hospital. I admit is was not the most appetising of meals, but food should not be the criteria for judging the NHS. It should be about the level of medical care. You could, I suppose, argue that medical care includes nutrition when we are in-patients, but honestly I'd sooner have a bad meal and the right medicine, than the other way round. In fact, I think we should pay for our food whilst in hospital and then we would have the right to complain and maybe expect something more palatable.

The stories Kay has been feeding me from Tanzania have made my toes curl and changed my view on what we should expect (or not) from our poor old NHS.  The hospital she worked at is in a major town, providing care for 1.3 million people. Although partially government-subsidised, apparently under-5s go free in Tanzania, but everyone else has to pay - for everything - consultations/medicines/anaesthesia. Consequently people are loathe to seek help or cannot afford what is prescribed if they do. Women in labour will forgo the luxury of a local anaesthetic for an episiotomy (ouch), as they can't afford it. A young girl having a miscarriage in A&E (with the cord hanging out) had to wait over two hours for the clerk to come back from her lunch, so she could pay for her treatment, before they could start to treat her. Kay said there wasn't even a speculum in the entire hospital to examine her. 

Another story which made me sit up was one of an elderly man brought in with the advanced stages of TB. He was put on an oxygen mask and urinated over the bed while he was there. The nurses apparently wiped the bed down with existing water in a bucket that had been used for something else and then washed out the oxygen mask with a bar of soap before handing it to the next patient to get on the bed - a 16-year-old girl with asthma.

There were many more stories, some of them very upsetting, concerning small neo-natal babies and the lack of facilities for them. It does put our gripes about the NHS into context and make them seem petty. It is not just the under-developed world who have bad basic healthcare systems. Look at medical care in the US.  You have to have lots of money or take out vast loans to pay for what we consider as granted here.  I understand you have to pay in Australia too, including for the call-out of an ambulance, regardless of whether they take you to hospital or not.  

Kay and her fellow British students working out there decided to put a fundraising appeal on the internet a few weeks ago and managed to collect just over £500. On Thursday she was taken  to a medical wholesale supplier and bought amongst many other things the following items, some of which can be seen in this photo.....


1 blood glucose machine
200 blood glucose test strips
2 adult Blood Pressure machines
1 paediatric Blood Pressure machine

4 bottles of disinfectant hand gel
3 bottles of disinfectant spray
10L of disinfectant fluid for the sterilisation of equipment
4 digital thermometers
24 suture packs
6 pairs of scissors
500 latex gloves
50 pairs of sterile gloves
10 boxes of small dressings
5 boxes of large dressings
100 malaria testing kits
2 enormous bags of needles
1 pen torch
10 paediatric nasal oxygen masks
2 standard paediatric oxygen masks
1 set of weighing scales
500 urine dipsticks
120 umbilical cord clamps
4 bottles of ultrasound jelly
5 tubes of KY jelly
1 large roll of guaze swabs
5 pairs of episiotomy scissors
100 hydralazine (BP) tabets
12 bottles of hand wash
20m of wipe-clean polyethene material to cover surfaces



She presented it to the hospital on Friday - her last working day - and they were very pleased to say the least. It may not be much to us, but to them it can make such a difference. It really does make a moan about a gristly bit of meat on our plate or a curled up sandwich in hospital seem trivial. The NHS has only got a certain amount of money. Food or medicine? I know what I'd choose.