13 March 2023

Strike while the iron is hot

Kay is on strike today, tomorrow and Wednesday. For those who don't know, she is a junior NHS doctor employed at a busy London hospital. She will be striking  this week together with thousands of other doctors. From conversations I have had with people and from some coverage on the media, it is not altogether clear what the reasoning behind the strike is and why doctors should have an almost 100% walk-out for three solid days  and why they are asking for a 35% pay-rise. So I hope I can explain here. But before people worry about who will cover their work while they strike, it will done by consultants, who are fully behind their juniors striking.

First, who are the junior doctors?   A "junior doctor" is anyone from someone who has only just got their medical degree from university right up to just below Consultant level. It takes at least 11 years or more to get to consultant level so the junior doctors are typically aged from about 25 to 40 years old. Some are older if they have taken alternative routes or started later. By then most will have partners, children and mortgage commitments.  Despite being called "junior", from the moment they leave university they are thrown into the deep end and when they do on-call shifts -at weekends or at night - they can be the only doctor in the whole hospital dealing with hundreds of patients who might suddenly get worse. So although  termed "junior" they are expected to step up to the plate and work hard making stressful life-and-death decisions on their own.  

During those 11 years or so, they are told (not given a choice) where they will be posted and move around  each year from hospital to hospital and from rotation to rotation until they gain more experience in different specialities. This can mean they cannot put down roots anywhere nor take out mortgages if, say, they are expected to move every year to somewhere fifty miles or more away. Their children may have to be moved to another school, or couples live apart. It doesn't make for an easy home life.

Home life is not easy anyway. In their spare time they regularly have to study for even more exams that will qualify them to move up the career ladder. They don't get study leave - it is done in their spare time. They have to pay for these exams too, some of them averagely costing about £600 - £800 which they don't get reimbursed. If they fail the exam, they pay again. Studying on top of an often 60-hour week doesn't come easy and means less relaxation time after a stressful working week.  Not only exams, but also having to write and present papers, do the odd bit of teaching to those more junior than them - it all hacks away at less time to de-stress.

It is always expected by NHS management that the staff will shut up and put up with their conditions. A conscientious doctor cannot walk away from a patient just because their shift technically finishes at a certain time. If a patient is really sick and needs reviewing or, in the extreme, resuscitation, a doctor will stay sometimes one or two hours beyond their shift to deal with it.  If they have already done a 12-hour shift, that is a big ask.  Covid saw a demoralised workforce, mentally shattered and with no respect for what they had done. Agreed, the public clapped for them at the beginning, but now moan that there are long waiting lists. The general praise was short-lived and the government support pushed under the carpet. Many of the workforce have  left either to retrain away from medicine or emigrate to places like Australia or America, where doctors are held in higher regard and paid accordingly. This has left existing staff under even more pressure and feeling burnt out.  Not to mention undervalued. 

The money is just the last straw. The fact is that they have not had pay rises since 2008 and so with inflation have actually taken a 35% pay cut.  As one recent poster put it, they get paid less than someone who serves coffee in Pret a Manger. Why would you study at university for six years, be faced with endless stressful life-and-death decisions, have to give up free time to study even more and get paid the same as a coffee barista with shorter working hours and more free time? It's a no brainer. 

So please support the strike. The junior doctors are not being greedy, they just want to be valued for their hard work and the difficult conditions they have worked under, especially during and since Covid. 

06 March 2023


Today it is thirteen years since Greg died. I still remember those last 24 hours vividly as we sat around his Intensive Care bed and watched him fade away.  I have said before that I should stop counting the years, but it is hard to do. Like any anniversary or important date, it is hard to stop the mind from remembering and wanting to somehow mark it. If it were a wedding anniversary it would be called a Lace one. I feel as if I am looking through the gossamer fine threads to recall a time when all was well in our marriage and we were a normal couple, a normal family living in a normal household. Alcohol shot all that to pieces - to the fine gossamer thread I look through now. 

His death has in some ways left me strong enough to cope with living alone and dealing alone with everything that most couples share. Although friends sympathise, I am sure they don't realise that household chores, gardening, DIY - everything - are solely my domain now and not things that can be shared with a partner. If I don't do it, it doesn't get done. For the last week, I have been decorating one of the bedrooms, up to my eyes in paint and dustsheets, heaving furniture about, but still having to cook a dinner, wash-up, put the bins (trash) out and deal with all the minutiae of everyday life. Meanwhile the garden needs tidying and I need to get someone in to check an electrical problem. The list is never-ending, but I have no choice but to do it all alone. 

A few people have suggested I am young enough to look for another partner. For sure I spend far too many days alone and far too many a long evening watching far too much television to pass the dark evenings, but I am nervous to go down a route that might cause more problems than it solves. "Once bitten, twice shy" springs to mind.   Also, part of me now feels that after 13 years of making decisions for myself, I might find it hard to share decision making with someone else, over even the simplest of things. I'm reading a novel at the moment, where it mentions "women mourn, men replace". In other words men remarry faster than women. Whether I have mourned enough remains to be seen, but it is hard to shrug off a lifetime of memories and habits.  I also feel I would somehow be betraying Greg to move on.  

I admit freely that I miss the company and going for a spontaneous walk with someone, or sharing a thought, sharing a meal. It is not even as if I have any siblings or cousins I might spend some time with - I am the only child of an only child.  I have thrown myself into choir rehearsals and volunteering at the local foodbank to keep me busy and distracted, so as not to spend a day without talking to a soul.  Thank goodness, since November,  I have my daughter Kay, now living a fifteen-minute walk from me, although she is very busy with her career and has limited time to herself, let alone with me. I have spent the last couple of months helping her with her much-needed garden makeover, which has helped distract me and pass many an hour. I know it could be far worse, as you do hear of widowed people who are completely cut-off and don't see a soul from one end of the month to the next.

It is even harder in some ways for Kay at the moment. As part of her work, she is now working in the very Intensive Care ward where Greg died and sees his bed with someone else now lying in it. How hard must that be? She was just starting a Medicine course at university, when he died. She could have gone off the rails, turned to drugs or drink, and slipped through the net herself. To her credit, she fought hard against her emotions, studied hard, became the excellent doctor she now is and carved a bright future with a partner and home of her own. 

Meanwhile, today sees Kay and me visiting the crematorium to place flowers and look at the Book of Remembrance where Greg's death is listed. Proof it happened. Proof he existed. Something that, in reality, looking through the lace, seems to be slipping further and further into history.  

14 February 2023

On the tiles

I have been having some work done on my guest bedroom. Having had painters in to strip some woodchip off the walls, replaster and then paint, I still have one alcove unfinished. It is a small alcove with a wash basin in it. I want it tiled round the three surrounding walls and round the basin itself.  It is not a massive job and the tiling is only 2.65 square metres.

Finding a tiler to do that work has been like looking for the Loch Ness monster. They're either too busy, or don't bother to answer my approach to them or, in one case, quote an exorbitant price in the hope I'll go away. Bear in mind, I will provide and already have the tiles, one quote just for labour was £800.  Seriously? At this rate, I may end up attempting to tile it myself. 

04 February 2023

Taming the Wilderness

My daughter Kay and her fiance Darcy (not real names obviously) have been living in their first owned home for three months now. They both have extremely busy, tiring and arduous jobs which take up most of their time and energy, so have little time for anything else. 

The house is an Edwardian terrace in a quiet road just off the  High Street. The previous owner was an elderly lady who has gone into a care home.  The house is in a bit of state, which is why Kay and Darcy were able to afford it, as London property prices are easily three times and often seven times those in other English cities and towns. Despite the high price tag, it needs a hell of a lot of work on it. Not a lot has been done to it in the last 50 years I reckon. There is only one electrical socket in each room, so badly needs rewiring. The plumbing is in a state and the antiquated central heating needs replacing. There is a downstairs bathroom and a miniscule bathroom upstairs which is little more than a toilet cubicle with a shower squashed in, so there are plans to make the upstairs bathroom bigger and move the boiler on the landing downstairs to make room for it.

So far, Kay and Darcy have painted the kitchen cupboard doors to make the kitchen brighter. Originally it had very dark hand-made mahogany cupboards, but now is a peaceful light blue which has cheered the kitchen up no end. No other major work has started yet, because they are both so busy with their careers. 

The front garden, tiny as it is, was so overgrown, that the internet provider could not get in to put his ladder up to connect them to the internet and went away, cursing that they would need to address the garden before he would return. I managed to hire a gardener to prune a tree, dig a trench of earth away from the house that was blocking vital air vents  and remove a tiny pond (yes, there was one in the front garden and the garden is only about 10 feet by five feet!!). The internet man returned and wifi was finally installed in early January.

Over three separate days, Kay and I have tackled the back garden together.  It too was badly in need of some tender loving care and looked like a wilderness.  I could picture the prince hacking his way through the forest to get to the sleeping beauty. You get the idea. Virginia Creeper had grown up the back of the house as high as the roof and spread across the upstairs windows so you could not see out. It had even spread across to the neighbour's windows upstairs. Ivy bushes lined both borders to the left and right and had grown to a height of about 12 feet, so badly needed chopping back. There were all manner of dead bushes and two fruit trees ( a pear and an apple) that were so shallowly planted, they rocked from side to side. Brambles had soared 15 feet high and tangled into trees, ivy and bushes, so it needed a brain surgeon to painstakingly pick through what branch belonged to what. We filled bag upon bag of garden waste and made many trips to the local tip. There is still a lot to do. 

There is a pond that takes up most of the back garden. There is no lawn at all but a tiny path that meanders through the wilderness and around the pond.  I almost fell in it the first time I visited, as the brambles and ivy had completely covered the pond, so i did not know it was there! But it is stagnant and full of brown rotting apples that float across its surface. That's a job for another day. We keep discovering all sorts of metal objects - two rusting cockerels, a lobster, dragonfly and a flowerpot man to name a few. I'm  sure we'll find more.

There's still a quarter of the garden to tackle, but that involves more brambles, more ivy, a dilapidated shed and what looks like a fox or badger hole that burrows diagonally down into the centre of the earth. We have seen two foxes brazenly stroll across the back fence during daytime, so we assume that is their home, but hopefully for not much longer, as we have barricaded the hole up with bramble cuttings. They'll have to use an alternative exit in future.

a corner of the garden before

A few hours later

25 January 2023


I don't know why, but this last 12 months I have been accident-prone. I think it's because I am always in a rush to do things and overtake myself on the way back, if you see what I mean. In the last 12 months I have broken two toes (one on each foot) and badly sprained my ankle. The toes were injured in two separate incidents - one when a tin can fell off a high shelf while I was volunteering at our local foodbank, the other when I slipped on a wet floor. I posted about the recent ankle injury in November.

To add to this list of accidents, I now have a bruise and a bump on my forehead. I had gone at the weekend to collect a friend who was doing a shift with me at our park information centre. Her car had broken down en route to the shift and I agreed to fetch her but was unsure where exactly she was. I parked up, got out of the car to see if I could find her on foot, but then at the last minute decided to dive back into my car to look up my exact location on a street map. The sun was in my eyes and I ended up head-butting my car roof, as I missed the doorway! Boy, did that hurt!

Fortunately the ankle is healing nicely. As one thing heals, I seem to injure another. Meanwhile I am still waiting for my new bed to be delivered.  I ordered it two weeks ago and was told delivery would be in 2-4 weeks. I am now in my 11th week of sleeping on a narrow (2-foot-wide) camp bed. I shan't know myself when the new one finally arrives. I shall sleep for a week.

10 January 2023

Someone up there definitely does not like me

Well, the new year has not been good so far. First I had a flood. Because of a blocked drain somewhere, my washing machine could not empty out and water pumped up the outflow drain pipe all over my garage floor (where the washing machine is situated). Worse, many decades ago, Greg had laid lino down on the garage floor to make it look more like a utility area - where my tall freezer also stands - and also to deaden the sound of the concrete below and the flood had trickled under the lino too. This was all unbeknown to me for a few wash loads until the lino could hold the water beneath no longer and made itself more visible. 

I had to call a plumbing company out to unblock the drain, but then I began the mammoth task of pulling up the lino, now badly stained and smelling badly too! I have since ordered some rubber jigsaw-like tiles to lay down in the garage instead. This is a work in progress but I am already pleased with the new look.

The next thing to go wrong was that my laptop suddenly refused to turn on and the whole thing felt so hot as if it was going to burst into flames. I normally keep it permanently plugged in on my desk, so maybe the battery was overheating. On Kay's advice, I unplugged it and let it cool down after which it turned on, but not before I'd checked with the laptop manufacturer whether it was covered by the warranty (it is!) Panic over, but I wasted a whole day worrying I would have to get a new one when this one is only 18 months old.

I am also looking for a new new bed. When Kay and Darcy moved to their first house on 12 November, I offered them my bed as a guest bed. I had intended to buy a new bed anyway, as mine was over 30 years old and they advise you to change mattresses more often than that. If truth be told, I was of the "if it aint bust, don't fix it mentality" but my conscience told me it was maybe time, hence the offer to  give it to Kay as a spare bed. My bed disappeared in the moving van on 12 November and, as those of you who read my blog regularly know, I injured my ankle then and subsequently caught Covid, meaning I was marooned at home for 7 weeks and couldn't get out to choose a bed.  Instead I have been sleeping since 12 November on a 2-foot-wide camp bed which is the most uncomfortable thing on this planet. I have only just this week started to look around at what is available and I am wracked with indecision as there are so many variants on the market. Pocket springs, memory foam toppers, latex foam toppers, medium or firm tension, ottmans, drawers underneath, wooden frames or divans. One minute I have decided, the next I am undecided again, so I can't see me escaping the camp bed for another week or two and that's assuming I can get a quick delivery.  

First World problems, I know, but already I hate 2023.

29 December 2022

Happy New Year

It took two weeks. Fourteen days from the day symptoms started to appear and twelve days from the day I tested positive for Covid, I finally tested negative on the 27 December. I thought I would never leave the house again. What with being incarcerated with a badly sprained ankle for five weeks and then Covid for a further two weeks, I was beginning to feel like a pit pony. 

All my hopes to get one or two things sorted in the week before Christmas fell by the wayside and I had to resort to a lot of online shopping to get organised at all for Christmas. Having been in fear for the last two years of catching Covid and how I would survive with an underlying lung condition I have, it turned out to be little more than a very bad cold and I am pleased to say the worst symptom at the time (and still) was dizziness so negotiating moving across a room or up and down my many flights of stairs was challenging to say the least and made me feel I was on board the Titanic as it was going down!

Kay also caught Covid well after me, but, as it was the second time for her, she seemed to get over it quicker and tested negative well before me, so much so that she was able to go back to work on Boxing Day.  We were at least able to spend Christmas Day together.  As of yesterday, I got in my car for the first time in 6 weeks and found my ankle allowed me to drive perfectly well, so I felt FREEDOM. 

Hopefully now things can only go upwards and 2023 will prove to start better than 2022 ended. Happy New Year to you.

16 December 2022

Double jinxed

I thought things were going too well. My ankle has taken five weeks to feel anything resembling normal. First it took over two weeks for the bruising to go, then a further week for the worst of the swelling to subside - I say "worst" as there is still a residue of swelling compared with my good ankle. The pain has lingered the whole time but has been getting less so that my mobility was coming back slowly to the point that each week I noticed a subtle difference. I could go upstairs like a greyhound, but coming down was more like a snail, one stair at a time. My neighbour gave me a very good mantra to use to ensure I put the weight on the good foot whether going up or down..... "good foot to heaven, bad foot to hell." It worked!

Friends have collected me to ferry me to choir rehearsals, but otherwise I have been a hermit. Then of course came the bad weather and we have had snow and ice lingering for days. Five weeks on, I was just getting the courage to try driving again and get organised for Christmas.

There were two choir concerts I took part in - one last Saturday and one on Tuesday. It must have been at one of them when I was jinxed again. I HAVE COVID!! I have been lucky to avoid it all these years, but I have finally been struck down with it. At the moment it is little more than a bad cold and I hope it remains so. But i am stuck at home, on my own, with a temperature of 99.2F, icy conditions outside my windows and feeling annoyed that I still cannot get out. They say bad things come in threes. I sincerely hope there is no third thing lurking in the wings.

18 November 2022


My last post reported that my daughter Kay and her fiance Darcy have now finally acquired their first property near me  - a modest Edwardian terraced house needing a hell of a lot of modernisation and yet still costing an arm and a leg.  The joys of living in London with London prices! There is indeed a lot that needs doing to the house - nothing requiring urgent attention, but nevertheless needing doing over time. It was occupied for many decades by quite an eccentric old lady, who has now at the age of 96 gone into a care home. There are three ponds in the gardens - two at the rear and one in the front garden. Considering the front garden measures 10 feet by 4 feet, the pond takes up most of the garden!

rainwater harvesting

There is a rainwater harvesting system on the side of the house comprising three tiers of plastic water tanks. More on a roof terrace and more in the back garden. The rainwater harvesting tank is connected to a sump pump in the cellar which requires more tanks and pipes running through the house. There is a paucity of electric sockets - one in the dining room, two in the lounge (one of which is under a radiator which in turn is under the window!), two in the kitchen. Far too few for modern appliances these days.  There is no TV aerial socket or indeed no TV aerial on the roof- the old lady seems to have existed happily with radios - many of which were left behind for our "enjoyment".  Everything needs replacing from wiring to plumbing, floorboards to radiators. We knew this from the outset but now looking at the house in detail, it is hard to know where to start first, as many jobs are connected to another being done first. The house has been uninhabited for two years and is being sold by the old lady's equally elderly sister who was unable to answer many of the solicitor's questions about the property, as she lives in the North of England somewhere. 

The garden is an absolute wilderness - so much so, the larger pond in the back garden was only discovered when some creeper and brambles were cut back to get down the garden. We have also discovered a huge resident fox the size of a Labrador dog! He has obviously enjoyed uninterrupted peace for the last two years and now has to share his domain with Kay and Darcy. We don't know for how long! Virginia Creeper has taken a stronghold in the whole of the garden and is growing up the back walls of the house to roof height and is spreading across to the neighbour's house too. It has completely obliterated the view from the back bedroom and bathroom windows.

Kay and Darcy obtained the keys to the house last Wednesday. Kay had some leave for the move, but sadly Darcy could not get any, so on Thursday Kay and I set to, cleaning. We spent 10 hours that day, dusting, washing and vacuuming every surface on the ground floor. On Friday we continued with the upper storey spending another 8 hours of hard work. During that time a fridge/freezer was delivered, a locksmith came to change the locks and a central heating service was done.

The plan was to move the furniture and belongings in on the Saturday from their rental apartment. Darcy's parents and brother would help load up the rental van in the morning, reaching the house some time after midday. I would be at this end ready to receive them (Kay having given me a house key) and provide a picnic lunch for them all from Lidl, which is a mere 50 yards from their house. Everyone would then help unpack the van and arrange the contents in the house. That was the plan.

At midday, I left home in the car and parked several streets from their house. Their street has residential parking permits only, so I could not park in their road. I left my car, carrying a heavy bag full of bits and pieces that might be useful for the first day, plus I was hugging  some huge serving dishes for the picnic and a roll of wallpaper to line the kitchen drawers. I was walking along a road I had never walked along before  and failed to see a huge tree root which had pushed up the paving stones. Suddenly my right ankle rolled over and I went flying to the ground, hitting the paving with quite a force on my left knee, the contents of my arms and bag spewing all over the pavement. Feeling a right idiot, I quickly stood up and tried to continue, realising that my right ankle was killing me and my left knee was very sore. I hobbled some 200 yards or more along a couple of roads and let myself into the house, feeling very shaky. When I examined my ankle, I had a swelling the size of an egg coming up on it and could not weight-bear. My left knee was dripping with blood -despite wearing trousers, my knee was badly grazed. 

The clock was however ticking and I knew that five hungry people were about to arrive any minute wanting feeding. I had no choice but to limp along to Lidl and buy items for the picnic lunch. I added paracetamol and a bag of frozen peas to the list as necessary components to soothe my injuries. By the time everyone arrived with the van, I was sitting like a princess with the bag of frozen peas on my ankle, the swelling now growing in size to a grapefruit. I remained thus for the rest of the day, joking that I would do anything to get out of helping move the furniture!

I had made so many plans and promises to help with Kay's move and to help cut back the wilderness in the garden, but unfortunately my ankle has other plans. In the last week, it has got progressively worse and Kay has insisted on me visiting our local urgent care centre to get it xrayed to make sure it wasn't broken.  The good news is that it ISN'T broken, but is badly sprained. The swelling, bruising and pain is out of this world and the received wisdom is that it may take up to 6 weeks to mend. I have to rest it as best I can, ice it and elevate it. It has meant cancelling all my gym classes and foodbank shifts and I am relying on friends to ferry me to choir sessions and other engagements, as driving is out of the question too.  Resting it is a joke, as I live in a 6 half-storey modern townhouse with 5 staircases. I have three sets of stairs to get my meals each day and at least one to get to a toilet at any time of the day.

It also means any plans to help Kay in her house and garden will have to be shelved until further notice. To say I am cross is an understatement.  My dainty foot and leg looks like it's been transplanted from an elephant! We knew the house would cost an arm and a leg, but I didn't realise it would be mine!


12 November 2022

Calmer Days

The last few weeks (if not months) have been a bit chaotic here in Alcoholic Daze Towers. My organised routine has been somewhat overturned by events, resulting in disorganised chaos. I have tried to keep my head above water, but it has not been easy, but calmer waters are on the horizon.

My daughter Kay changed jobs in August. She is still a doctor, but has moved to the London region from Surrey. As a registrar doctor,  she has at least a four or five-year climb to get to consultant level. It involves working in a different hospital every year to gain experience of different regions and different types of hospital, such as a big teaching hospital or a small district general.  If she had stayed in Surrey, it is part of the Kent, Surrey, Sussex deanery and would have involved changing EACH YEAR to anywhere in that region - perhaps Brighton one year, Guildford the next, Dover another, Dartford another and so on. That makes commuting from home a challenge and impossible to buy property if you are not rooted in one place. So she decided to move to the London region instead, where commuting is much easier to and from most hospitals in that region, be they North, South , East or West London. 

Fortunately her first posting in London was to a district general not far from me, so she has been living with me during the week to help her commute and spending weekends at her rented flat in Surrey. Her boyfriend Darcy has also been living with us during the week over the last five weeks, as his work has brought him to London too. They are in the process of buying a house close to me but the purchase has dragged on longer than anticipated, as the solicitors (ours and the vendors) thrash it out between themselves. Kay and Darcy are first time buyers and the house they are buying belongs to an old lady now in a care home, so you would think the transaction would have been relatively easy, but, oh no.

As if that was not bad enough, some painter/decorators whom I had hired last November to  plaster Kay's bedroom ceiling and walls, paint them and also paint the top landing and sheer drop down the stairs, have been slow to get to me (it was originally planned for April) and could only start at the beginning of October.  The timing could not have been worse. It has meant Kay and Darcy have had to decamp from Kay's bedroom to a tiny box bedroom, hardly big enough for the bed, let alone anything else. Because my crazy 6-storey house has so many stairs, it has involved moving the rest of the bedroom furniture down a flight of stairs and storing in the study/bedroom. Nothing is where it should be and we have been very cramped. Add to that the fact that Kay was on nightshifts last week so the painters could not work while she was sleeping during the day and that has added to the timescale. Finally at the end of October we moved everything back into the newly decorated bedroom and Kay and Darcy had more room to spread out. Additionally I gained back my study! Just in time for them to move out altogether. Completion was on Tuesday and moving day is today!

Kay and I spent the last few days in her new house, trying to clean it. More of that later......

07 October 2022

Strangers in the Night

Yorkshire Pudding's recent post about a kindness done to him while on holiday in Greece reminded me of a similar story about a holiday we had in Greece back in the 1980s. We had many holidays during that decade visiting a number of Greek islands and one in particular has always stuck in my mind - that of Naxos. At that time Naxos did not have an airport and we had reached it by flying to nearby Mykonos and getting a ferry there. It was therefore at the time less touristy than most Greek islands, although many Germans had managed to get there somehow and put their towels on the deckchairs! English tourists were in the minority, which is why I suppose we liked it so much there.

One evening Greg and I were sitting at a harbour-front restaurant enjoying the sunset, when a group of Germans at a nearby table starting shouting and arguing very loudly.  Their inebriated conversations became more and more raucous and were clearly irritating a lot of the other diners. Suddenly a waiter appeared at our table with a bottle of wine which we had not ordered. When we said there must be some mistake, he said that it was courtesy of the man on the adjacent table - an elderly Greek man dining alone who looked remarkably like Anthony Quinn in the film Zorba the Greek. As we looked across he raised his glass at us.

We were thoroughly confused and the man asked in broken English if he could join us. We were intrigued and agreed. He told us that he had heard us speaking English and he was so sorry about the noisy Germans. His hatred of Germans became very apparent.  He said he had joined the Greek Resistance when Germany occupied the island in the Second World War and used to listen to the BBC World Service. When he discovered that Greg worked for the BBC World Service, he was beside himself and ordered a round of ouzo to thank us! He said that the British had helped liberate the island in 1945 and for that he would be eternally grateful. His English was not so great and our Greek only limited to a few pleasantries, but we spent a good hour chatting to him. We parted as if long lost friends, but of course we never saw him again. 

03 October 2022


Autumn has arrived. The mornings are much cooler and the evenings are getting dark earlier and earlier.  Occasionally I wake to mist floating around the garden and condensation on the top of the car. In four weeks the clocks will go back and we will be plunged into winter mode. I have always preferred the Spring and the Summer seasons. I think I must have been a dormouse in a former life, as I don't seem so galvanised into doing things at this time of year.

However, a project I have been planning since last year - to have one of the bedrooms decorated - is coming to fruition in the next few weeks. The painter I had hired last November has only just got round to doing the job I'd planned for last Spring, as he has been so busy. The room needs replastering and the plasterer he has sub-contracted is coming on Wednesday. This weekend Kay, Darcy and I have been clearing the room of furniture. That is no mean feat as my house is on six levels, which means furniture and possessions have to not only be removed from a room for it to be decorated but taken down a flight of stairs too  and found a temporary home.  I'm sure it'll be worth it in the long run to have a lovely guest room, but the house currently looks a tip and I can't find anything!

16 September 2022

What a privilege

I am so glad I made it to Central London on Wednesday and stood for over two hours in this spot at Horseguards Parade.  They were 3-deep in front of me but I manage to see through the gaps between their shoulders to get a reasonable view. It felt great to be part of the atmosphere and to partake in such an historic event. By the time the procession started they were 8-deep behind me.

Suddenly we could hear bells tolling and cannon gunfire, so we knew the procession had started and after about 20 minutes, the procession passed by.

Then Her Majesty's coffin came into view. You could hear a pin drop, the crowd was so respectful. The soldiers were playing the very mournful funeral march.

All too soon, the procession passed through Horseguards Parade on its way to Whitehall and Westminster Hall. I was so pleased to be part of that historical moment.  If you zoom in to the left of the photo below you can see the Queen's children walking behind the coffin.

09 September 2022

Elizabeth the Great

HM Queen Elizabeth II
I feel totally bereft with the news that our lovely Queen Elizabeth II has died. We all knew it was  coming but just hoped that she would be somehow immortal or at least give us a few more years of her radiance. Two days before her death yesterday she was pictured shaking hands with the new Prime Minister Liz Truss. She looked frail, thin and had quite heavy bruising on her hand, but her smile and cheekiness was still there. How is it possible that two days later she was snuffed out like a candle flame in a breeze?

The wall-to wall TV coverage on all main channels last night showed just how much she was revered. There were scenes of predominantly young people who flocked to Buckingham Palace in the pouring rain to soak up the atmosphere of grief, showing that it was like their favourite granny had died. 

For me, the most poignant footage was the rainbow over Windsor Castle. The sky wept for her and the heavens built a bridge for her. God bless you, Ma'am. You served us well.

picture courtesy of ftw.usatoday.com

30 August 2022

Money Money Money

My local High Street boasts four national banks and a handful of building societies. Until recently, that is. Two of the building societies (Santander and Halifax) have recently closed and the branch of the bank where I hold my main account (HSBC) is closing this week, meaning I shall have to go further afield to do any in-bank transactions or speak to a real person. 

Over the weekend, I had been going through my wardrobe and throwing out quite a lot of clothes I had not used in a decade or three - always hoping some items might come back into fashion, but now accepting that I would never wear them again.  In so doing, I came upon a single suit of Greg's that I had hung on to out of sentimental reasons and decided now was the time to give it away to charity. As I checked through the pockets I found an old £5 note. 

Today,  while I was in the High Street, I tried to exchange the  old £5 note for a valid one. I decided to pop into my bank for one last time, before it closes its doors. Sadly, my bank told me that whilst it would still be valid to exchange it, they no longer had the counter services to do so , just machines to pay in,  machines to pay out and machines to do minor transactions, so they could not help. I went to two other banks who said exactly the same. They no longer have counter services and only machines and therefore could not exchange the £5, although in theory they were still accepting them. They advised me to to go to a bigger bank in a busier part of London that still has counter services.

I read in the newspaper the other day that by 2027 cash will more than likely be phased out completely. Too many transactions are done now by debit card or credit card and since the  pandemic, cards have become more and more the way to pay.  Transactions are done online and there is no need for real money. It is fine for me as I am computer savvy, but for many elderly people it will cause immense problems. 

It got me musing that in future the grandchildren will not only ask, "Did you see any dinosaurs when you were little , Granny?" but also "Did you really pay for things with little metal coins and paper notes?" We have had cash for centuries and centuries, but it seems modern technology will eradicate that entirely.

16 August 2022

Fully fledged

I failed to post a couple of weeks ago that Kay became a fully fledged member of the Royal College of Physicians. To enter their hallowed portals, the doctors have to sit three very stringent and complicated exams. You cannot sit the second exam until you have passed the first and so on, and need to pass all three. Kay's friend has failed the first one six times and is stuck in limbo. I hasten to add that you have to pay an eye-watering fee to sit these exams. Kay managed to pass all three over a period of a few years, in between working hard as a junior doctor, and received the news  back in 2019 that she could now call herself a Member of the Royal College of Physicians and use the MRCP after her name. However, the official ceremony to welcome her into this honoured institution was due in  the summer of 2020 and was subsequently cancelled because of Covid restrictions. She has been waiting all this time for the ceremony to be scheduled and that was three weeks ago. Her fiance, Darcy, and I went along for moral support. The day was tinged slightly by the absence of her father, Greg, as I am sure he would have been chuffed to ribbons to be there. We just hope he was looking down on us and in fact there was an unusual line in the President's closing speech which Greg would often use, so we felt he was there.

The College is part modern (having been built by the same architect as the South Bank complex) and part old buildings in pristine condition rented out by the Royal Household. The Royal College was founded by Henry VIII in 1518 and has just celebrated its 504th anniversary. In the 1500s medical practice in England was poorly regulated. Many ‘physicians’ were working with no formal training or knowledge, and almost certainly killed as many patients as they cured. The leading physicians of the early 16th century wanted the Crown to grant licenses to those with actual qualifications and to standardise practice and so the Royal College was set up. God help anyone who crossed Henry VIII's path! Over the years, the College has been situated in different parts of London, including in the City of London, but now resides alongside Regent's Park.

Here are a few photos I took on the day.

The new

The old

A whole street, no less

Learn this information off by heart

The ceremony - spot Kay!

Old pharmacy jars

10 August 2022


WFH. Another modern abbreviation creeping into our language. It stands for 'Working From Home', a concept born of necessity during the many Covid lockdowns we have had over the last few years. It has changed people's (and employer's) views about whether it is necessary to work in the workplace any more.  People have found they can move out of the cities and live in the countryside or even abroad and still carry out their work  from the comfort of their home.  Spare bedrooms have been converted into offices or grand outbuildings built at the end of the garden to house an office. One suspects that they work in their pyjamas, start their day at 11am instead of 9am, finish at 3pm instead of 5pm and have two hours for lunch or have half an eye on daytime TV. 

Of course there are some professions where it is not possible. Like Kay's for example - she is a hospital doctor - there is no way she can work from home.  She has been working in the hospital every week since the first mention of Covid back in early 2020.  Shopkeepers can't work from home. Nor can firemen, aeroplane pilots, plumbers, or public transport workers. There are many more who cannot stay at home to carry out their work.

However, Working From Home seems to suit a lot of office workers who just need a phone and a computer to connect to their work base and to the wider public. Among this motley crew are the civil servants of this realm. Now, I was a civil servant in my working career, so I know how things work and run in the Westminster corridors. In my day, I was a floor or two beneath the Ministers and would often have to pop up to brief them before their visits round the UK or abroad, if they needed  further questions answered. I suppose nowadays, they can get round that with an email and with zoom meetings instead, but even so, the response should be immediate. Which brings me on to my big grouse.... everything these days seems to take an age for what was once a simple procedure. It has been much widely publicised that various businesses and government departments (especially the Passport Office and DVLA) seem to take an age to process paperwork with the excuse that staff are working from home. We are supposed to forgive them, be patient and understand this delay. But why? Lockdowns are long gone, things are back to normal, we are being told masks are not really mandatory any more in shops or on public transport and we should go back to normal and live alongside Covid. So, if staff working from home are causing delays to the running of the system, then why have them working at home? We should not accept that an easy peasy lifestyle for the office worker will inconvenience the public or slow down an otherwise slick process.

My grouse is personal. I have been on the receiving end of this WFH malarkey.  Living alone and in a house with five flights of stairs, I am conscious that one false move could have me bouncing down stairs and ending in an unconscious gibbering heap for days on end. To that aim, back in the New Year, I decided it would be prudent to apply for Power of Attorney, so that, should anything ghastly happen to me, my daughter could make decisions about my health and finances.  I sent off for the two forms for Health and Finance, filled them out, got signatures witnessed, paid £164 to cover the two forms, and posted them on 31 January to the Office of the Public Guardian(OPG), the civil service body that deals with this. Bear that date in mind, because, dear reader, it will become very crucial to my story. So how long, do you think it takes to process this sort of application. A week? A month? Two months? Take a wild guess.

So, here I am on 10 August and still waiting. That's six and a half months!

The first indication that the application had even been received was around late February when the £164 came out of my bank account, so from that I assumed that they must have received everything, not that they bothered to tell me. Another couple of months went by and in April I tried to ring OPG to find out what was happening to my case.  The answerphone said I was 69 in the queue and every so often interjected to say that staff were working home from home and begged my patience to hold on. After 20 minutes I had made it to 67 in the queue and guessed I'd be on the phone all day at that rate, so hung up and emailed them. I received a holding email to say, again, that I should be patient  as staff were working from home yada yada and their reply would take 25 working days. Some 25 working days or even later, their email said they were working on it.

In mid May, both Kay (the person who would act for me in the event of my demise) and I received letters to say that the application would be approved, if nobody objected within 3 weeks. However, they had spelled Kay's surname incorrectly, despite it being correct on the application form and the same surname as mine. We felt we needed to draw their attention to that, as almost certainly some jobsworth in the future would say the document was not legally binding. Kay rang them up to discover she was 71 in the queue. Working in a hospital these days means she doesn't even have time for a toilet break, let alone to hang on the phone indefinitely, so she emailed OPG to point out the error. She received a reply that she would hear back from them in - you've guessed it - 25 working days. 

Finally, the OPG-registered authorisation of my application duly arrived at the beginning of June - with the incorrect spelling of Kay's surname. At that point I just blew a gasket. I emailed their complaints department and received a holding reply that they would answer within 10 working days. I am STILL WAITING for this some 40 days later. 

Ten days ago, I had had enough, I wrote a letter to the Chief Executive firing all the bullets I could muster. I'm still waiting for his/her response. Maybe he/she is working from home too.

01 August 2022

One of those days

Do you ever have one of those days when by 9am, you wish you'd stayed in bed?

I needed to go to the post office first thing this morning to post two parcels of things I had sold on ebay. As I had been using a local post office a lot recently and was embarrassed to go in yet again with a load of parcels, I decided to drive further afield to another post office about 2 miles away (and thereby charge the car battery). There is paid parking around that post office so I decided to park in the forecourt of the adjacent small Tesco petrol station, except, when I got there, the forecourt was roped off as a huge petrol tanker was there filling up the pumps. Rather disgruntled, I had to pay for parking after all and entered the post office as they opened.  As I got to the counter, the post mistress told me the computer was down and she could not take the parcels. I'd paid for parking for nothing!

I set off for the post office I usually go to and posted them there. I could have saved myself  time and money, going there in the first place after all.

Meanwhile I am still elated from last night's football game. I am always a bit on the fence when there are games with England v Germany, as I am half and half myself, but I was heartily pleased we won. We did much better than the men's team. Who said women aren't as good as men? To think a century ago we weren't even allowed to play!

23 July 2022

Concert season

I have been busy the last four weeks with no time for blogging. The main reason is that the two choirs I attend had two choir concerts with only two weeks between them to practise and learn off by heart the repertoire for each.

The first was more of a classical one. We sang, amongst other pieces, Haydn's Organ Mass which is in Latin and Greek and without any exaggeration challenging. Our choir master is quite a stickler for detail and pushed us relentlessly expecting perfection. To say we were dreading the concert is also no exaggeration, as we did not want to disappoint him, but it went surprisingly well and, with the accompaniment of a string octet, it made us sound amazing. I wish I could include a video, but we had not invited relatives to come along to watch as we thought it would be ghastly so had nobody we knew in the audience to film us.

The second concert last weekend was even more challenging. A completely different genre from the first, we sang excerpts from Dear Evan Hansen and Hamilton, both very modern pieces, the latter having a lot of rapping too.  There were other songs too and a youth choir also joined us to fill out the time a bit more more. The day was boiling hot at around 32C, the hall we were singing in was baking and no windows had been opened (or could be). The choir mistress in her wisdom did not want us to take water bottles on stage as it looks tacky, so we ran through a rehearsal from 4pm to 6.30 pm, grabbed a quick sandwich and the concert started at 7.30, by which time we were flagging. Add a hot sweaty audience and spotlights shining straight at me into the mix and you could have fried an egg on my back! We soldiered on but by the interval, one of my friends was feeling so faint and shaky, she decided to leave for home. twenty minutes into the second half, I too began to feel shaky and my heart was racing. I was terrified I would pass out in front of 300 or more people, particularly as I stood in a very prominent position, but managed to find inner strength from somewhere and made it through to the end. Here's a picture of us trying our hardest not to faint. After all, the show must go on!

30 June 2022

I do like to be beside the seaside

I've just been away. On holiday. By the seaside. I managed to escape my cage for a short break with my best friend of 53 years. I even went abroad - if you can count The Isle of Wight as abroad!

Holidays these days seem to be a rare option for me. Being a widow, with no siblings and with friends who are either married and have their own plans or live a million miles away so not geographically or socially close to arrange such things with me, means that I either contemplate a holiday alone or just don't go anywhere at all. When my recently-widowed best friend of 53 years (we met as 18-year-olds on our first day at uni at the hall of residence when we came out of our rooms to use the bathroom) suggested we go away somewhere together, I leapt at the chance. She lives about 80 miles from me, so all arrangements were done by phone or text.

When Kay was little,  my husband and I used to take her camping in the New Forest. The campsite there was run by the Forestry Commission and we had wild ponies wandering around our tent which was a real joy for a five-year-old. We visited the New Forest many times after that and came to love Hampshire and particularly Lymington by the coast. For that reason I yearned to return one day and my friend agreed  that was a lovely spot to centre our holiday.

Lymington is a lovely town full of Georgian houses built around the late 1700s or early 1800s. You half expect a heroine from a Jane Austen novel to come out of one of its front doors. Its long High Street leads downhill to a cobbled harbourside, where yachts and swans jostle for space and the lamp posts are decorated with brown-headed gulls or egrets resting their legs. I have always loved being close to water - be it sea or river or lake - as I always find it very calming for the soul. Sitting on the harbourside eating an ice cream was my idea of heaven. Of course, girls need to shop and Lymington did not disappoint with a variety of unique shops (and not the usual chain stores that you find in every High Street  just about everywhere). We ventured into the New Forest and saw expanses of heathland and grazing wild ponies who wander onto the road at a split second as you pass. You have to have your eyes on stalks to be prepared for them!

Lymington harbour

Lymington Harbour

Yachts galore at Lymington

One day we caught the Isle of Wight ferry to do a day-trip as foot passengers and went over from Lymington to Yarmouth, a quaint little "town" comprising of about two short streets of shops/pubs and no more. The ferry ride was again very relaxing and I seriously felt I was going "abroad". The weather was very sunny and balmy.

For our last day/night, we moved on to Christchurch in Dorset and again enjoyed walks by the river, seeing many yachts and hundreds of swans. The Priory and Priory gardens were amazing - mentioned in the Domesday book, the Priory is an amazing piece of architecture and as we wandered around we were treated to an organ demonstration being put on for some A-level music students who were visiting.

Christchurch Priory

Norman Hall of the Priory

Ship-shape town houses on the Christchurch waterfront. Price £1.3m.

Old ducking stool in Christchurch

As I had gone down by train and the trains drivers were striking that week, I was anxious whether my return journey would be affected, but in the event, the journey was not as ghastly as I had feared and I was home in the usual time. All in all just the break I needed to dust away some long mental cobwebs. 

10 June 2022

Things are going at a snail's pace.

Kay and her fiance's hunt for an affordable house in London continues. First of all most of the prices are completely unaffordable.  But that is not the only problem.  There just aren't enough properties for sale in the region they are looking at to be commutable to both their workplaces. In fact last weekend when she and her fiance went along the high street to introduce themselves to estate agents and see what was available, the agents just laughed and said they were one of thousands doing the same. Too many looking at too few properties. Which can mean only one thing - it is a seller's market!  The recent stamp duty moratorium has caused a rush and thus exhausted the stock for sale. Plus the fear of rising prices generally has now made people cautious to move at all.  Kay and her fiance are having to move to London to start new jobs as part of their training, so need to find something and as yet have never been able to stay in one place long enough to even contemplate buying, so have only ever rented.  As they are in their 30s now, they see this as their next proper home to settle down and raise a family. 

One very run-down three-bed terraced house needing lots of modernisation and hardly any garden was on offer in excess of £800,000. It's in a labyrinth of workers' houses built around the turn of the century - rows and rows and rows of them,  back to back. There is no way a young couple on the bottom of the housing ladder can afford that. Even the 10% deposit is out of most people's reach. Their search continues in the hope that more properties will come on the market. Meanwhile it is looking like they might both move in with me in August, when they start their new jobs, and put their furniture in storage until a house in their price-range miraculously appears. That or the bank of Mum will have to help them get on the housing ladder at all. 

26 May 2022

North-South divide.

Much has been said over the decades about the great North-South divide in this country. Most of its proponents from the North argue that Southerners have it all too easy, have the best jobs, houses, standard of living etc and those in the North are hard done by. Some Northerners carry their bitterness to the extreme. My daughter was bullied terribly in her first year at a university in the North by a Liverpudlian flatmate who saw it as her life's aim to reduce my daughter to a terrified wreck and completely ruined her university experience, purely because my daughter came from down south and had a London accent.

I would go as far as to say us Southerners don't have it all and are in many cases worse off for living in the South. Yes, there are plenty of jobs and plenty of housing, but our standard of living is not great.  I don't dispute there there is higher unemployment in the North, but I am merely comparing like-professionals with like-housing and travel costs. 

Rental property in the south is astronomical compared to that in the north. On the left of the two photos below,  look at this TWO-bedroom flat on the ground floor of an old house in Newcastle for £700 per month . Compare that with a similar property in London  (photo on the right) where you can  only get a ONE-bedroom ground floor flat for a massive £1250 a month The further into the centre of London you look, they are even more expensive. The one shown is in the suburbs. A similar ONE-bedroom flat closer to the centre is £1550 per month.


Kay and her partner Darcy are having to move to London, as their jobs now dictate a career move about which they have no choice,  as it is part of their training programme.  Up to now they have been renting a one-bedroom flat in a crumbling Victorian house in Surrey for £1000 per month, but want to get onto the ownership ladder, as they are both now in their 30s. 

A lot of Kay's uni friends in the North have settled with their partners or husbands and bought their first properties. They can typically afford detached or semi-detached houses with a fair amount of garden in Yorkshire or Lancashire, such as this one below left at a bargain £240,000  Kay will be lucky to get a one-bedroom flat in a run-down area of London for that price. Compare that northern house price with the one in the photo on on the right to give you an idea what Kay would have to pay in London or anywhere in the Southern region for a whopping £650,000

Furthermore, If she wants to furnish it with nice things or decorate it, she will need to find the money over years and years, compared with her friends who have saved money on the house price and therefore can have it all at once and now.

The cost of travel and commuting around London and the South East doesn't come cheap either. With congestion charges of £15 to enter into the city centre or extortionate commuter train and bus fares  to get about the vast expanse of London and the SouthEast, it does not even get covered by the paltry London Weighting, which in no way makes up for the disparity of prices.

I have always argued that someone who is doing a similar job in the North to someone in the South is far better off. A teacher or civil servant or other professional will earn a similar salary, wherever they are,  but the one in the North will have their standard of living for a third of the price the southerner has to pay. They can therefore afford nicer cars, more exotic holidays, new furniture, kitchens and whatever they want to spend their spare cash on. The Southerner will have to make compromises or do without, as they have no spare cash.

The disparity does not stop there.  When buying a house, stamp duty rises according to house prices, so the southerner will always pay hefty stamp duty for a more modest house compared to their northern counterpart who, on the above examples, will pay very little stamp duty.  Even in death, if the house is passed to a southerner's children, they will be clobbered for 40% inheritance tax when they inherit a modest property, whereas the northern property (although far grander, but of far less value) will attract no inheritance tax at all.

It just aint fair. Incidentally, all of those photos shown above can be looked at in detail on Rightmove by clicking on the price tag links.