30 November 2008


1. A tip I picked up from Cologneblog - if the print you are reading on this or any web page is too small and you would like to enlarge it, (i) press the control key with your left hand and, whilst holding it down (ii) either press the + key with your right hand or the turn the wheel of your mouse with your right hand. (The - key makes the print smaller, or so does the wheel of the mouse in the opposite direction!) Try it, it works!!!

2. If you have the time, do look in on the following blog by Mommy called Saving Baby Girl. Mommy visited my site a while ago and I naturally went over to her site to find out about her. It really is quite a harrowing read, but a true story which only started to evolve a few months ago. I am sure she could do with a lot of our support right now. As the lovely Hadriana passed on the Scribblers award to me recently. I thought I would hand it on to Mommy to buoy her up.

27 November 2008

Discharge day

It was early October. Greg had been in hospital almost four weeks, bar a day. His discharge notes listed the ailments for which he had been treated ......... aspiration pneumonia,early stage cirrhosis of the liver, the possibility of Korsakoff's syndrome (though the current medical view was that he had had delirium resulting from the pneumonia), as well as heart disease,diabetes and circulation problems in his legs. We were well aware of the latter three problems, but now he had a few more to tag on to them. He was becoming something of a walking miracle.

In all that time in hospital, he had not smoked a single cigarette or had an alcoholic drink. There had been one of two occasions early on, when he had asked me to bring in cigarettes, but in any case he had nowhere to smoke them and had for a large proportion of the time been bedridden with tubes and oxygen masks, so obviously could not smoke in the ward. I had of course refused to bring in cigarettes even when he was a bit more mobile and eventually he had given up asking, because he could see I meant what I said. The deal made at the case conference was that he would not smoke or drink ever again, if he were to come back home with me. As I drove to the hospital that next morning to collect him, I felt uneasy. Would he stay sober this time or were we in for another bumpy ride? Would he be able to keep from smoking and, more importantly, from drinking?

I arrived at the hospital mid-morning and helped him pack his things into plastic bags. He was impatient to be out of there. As I have mentioned before, he loathes hospitals with a passion to the point of phobia. He was fretting every time a nurse came past his bed, hoping they would give him the green light to leave, only to be told they were waiting for paperwork to be signed or for his home-going medication to be delivered to the ward. Then, when all that had been finalised, they said he would need to leave the ward in a wheelchair and be transported to the main exit by a porter. He argued that I could push him. Anything to get out of there quicker. But rules are rules and they would not humour his requests.
Finally, we were escorted down to the main entrance by two ward staff who pushed his wheelchair and helped me with the various bags. They waited with him while I fetched the car from the car park and they safely delivered him into my car once I drove up to them. I couldn't help feeling that they wanted to personally see him off the premises, as if they were glad to be rid of him. He had certainly not been a reasonable patient. We waved goodbye and I turned on the car ignition.

I kid you not.... we were only 10 yards/metres away from the building (and still well within the hospital grounds) when Greg asked if I could pull in at the nearest tobacconist on the way home to get a packet of cigarettes. Hang on, had I heard right? I could not believe that he had burst my dream bubble so soon. WE WERE STILL IN THE HOSPITAL GROUNDS!!!!
I cannot recall exactly what happened then, because I was so shocked and my mind was in overdrive, but I do know I yelled at him, threatened to drive him straight back to the hospital entrance and dump him right there and then, because he had already broken his side of the bargain. He reasoned that he had said that he would have no problem giving up the drink, but that the smoking would be a major problem, as he had been smoking for nearly 40 years. He argued that he had managed without cigarettes for nearly 4 weeks in hospital, but it had been hard. All he wanted was one cigarette and that would help. I shouted at him that he had just survived pneumonia, for heaven's sake. What would possess him to want to smother his lungs in smoke? He pleaded for the chance to have just one. Like a condemned man. As it happened there were still two full packets at home which I had been loathe to throw away, as I just KNEW
he would return to smoking. With the price of cigarettes what they are (and our finances in a pretty poor state), I saw little reason to throw away good stock. So I refused to stop at any shops on the way home and hoped he might acquiesce on the journey. However, when we got home, he kept begging for just one and I stupidly produced one single cigarette from a packet and took it to him. Keeping to his side of the bargain made at that conference, he went out into the garden in the chilly October afternoon and smoked half of it. Why was it I felt a harridan for making him smoke outside, when all I was trying to do was preserve the quality of the air Kay and I breathe?

As the days went on, he crept slowly around the house, finding the stairs quite a problem, as he was still terribly weak from the pneumonia, but not so weak that he would ask me for one more cigarette and then another. By the end of the first week, he was asking for two cigarettes a day. He would go all day without smoking at all, using a nicotine-replacement inhaler, but always asked for his two cigarettes at supper time. He would eke them out over the course of 24 hours until supper time came round again, smoking half an inch here or half an inch there. But considering he had been a 40-a-day smoker, the fact that he had gone down to two a day was in fact progress (although not if you consider he had not smoked at all for the four weeks in hospital!!)

His appetite was coming back in leaps and bounds, supplemented by prescribed Thiamine, Vitamin B and a hospital yoghurt drink supposedly for victims of malnutrition. Most importantly of all,
he genuinely did not seem to want an alcoholic drink and did not mention it once.

24 November 2008

Homeward bound.

Jill and I were crestfallen. We could not believe that the hospital had been taken in by Greg. The social worker asked to see me separately and promised she would keep an eye on both him AND me, but she advised me to be optimistic and give him the benefit of the doubt. Jill had to get back to the Midlands. She had her own family to see to. She had been a marvellous help and support for those last few days. So too had my best friend who, although ill herself, had managed the previous week to travel across from the other side of London for a day to visit Greg and prop me up.

The occupational health people arranged to visit me the next day to inspect the house. The upshot of it was that they ordered zimmer frames for him to get around, a crutch to help him up and down stairs, a perching stool for him to recline on while he washed in the bathroom and chair-raisers to alter the height of the armchairs. All this was done before he could be discharged from hospital. My home was quickly transformed into a convalescent home overnight. Once everything was in place, Greg was to be allowed home the following day. That evening, I visited him for one more time in hospital. He was so excited at the thought of coming home, although annoyed he could not come home that very evening. I hardly said a word. I was too choked. I tried to smile at his chirrups of excitement, but all the while I was dreading the thought. He was coming home. My four-week respite was about to finish.

20 November 2008

Award and Tag


Strawberry Jam Anne has been kind enough to give me the Kreativ Blogger Award, the rules of which are to reveal six things that make me happy and then nominate six fellow bloggers. She has also tagged me to reveal six "interesting" facts about myself and pass this tag on to others. Being short of time at the moment, I thought I would ask the same six award winners to accept the tag, if they so wish. There is no compulsion to do so. I shall not be offended. So here we go....

Things that make me happy

1. Seeing my beautiful daughter each day.

2. Watching the dog lie on his back with his legs in the air, when he wants a cuddle.

3. Walking along a seashore on a sunny day.

4. Gardening - I love to commune with nature, work up a sweat, see something grow and know that I have made it happen.

5. Christmas Day (I'm a kid at heart, shame about the body!!)

6. A nice Sunday roast.

Interesting facts about me....

1. I won a prize for a cookery competition, when I was twelve.

2. Alongside German, I studied Latin as a university subject. (I wanted to study German and French, but the French course was so full I had my arm twisted into reading Latin instead.) I had to read several books in Latin, all of which I have since forgotten, but I find Latin is very useful for unravelling the meaning of complicated English words. Such a shame schools tend not to teach Latin these days.

3. I am useless at sport and cannot swim a single stroke or ride a bike, as I missed out learning in childhood. I have tried to wobble on a bike as an adult, but gave up in disgust. I also used to take Kay swimming and go up to my armpits in water, but just couldn't bring myself to go under! Anything else which involves running about or being competitive is just not me.

4. I once walked 25 miles in one day for charity. This was before the invention of trainers and I wore really hard shoes which gave me zillions of blisters by about the third mile. At the end of the walk I crawled into a taxi for the journey home!

5. I love dressmaking and make my own curtains. I am going to tackle reupholstering the sofas - they could do with it and it'll be a challenge.

6. In my life so far I have had a few phobias which I have managed to overcome. The current one is a hatred of motorways. I would sooner drive a million miles around one than a mile along one. I will go on sufferance as a passenger, but even then I do not enjoy the journey.

I am nominating the following if they care to pick up the award and be tagged at the same time....

1. Dulwich Divorcee - for never failing to make me smile.
2. Millennium Housewife - who also has the ability to make me guffaw.
3. Reluctant Memsahib - for her beautifully descriptive account of being in an African outpost.
4. My Wife has Agoraphobia - for his devotion and support for his wife.
5. Don't Panic - for his tales as a single father of a teenager.
6. Crystal Jigsaw - for her description of the natural and supernatural events in a Northumberland farmhouse.

17 November 2008

The Greg Conference

I thought the decision to have Greg home (or not) was an option I was being given by the hospital. The way the question had been put to me sounded like the choice was mine. If I decided not to have him home, the hospital would instigate a series of occupational rehabilitation or convalescence to try to get him walking and mobile again. This might or might not result in him returning home eventually. If his mental state did not improve, I thought they might consider some sort of long-term residential care. I had been perfectly happy to accept him home if there were a degree of physical disability (although it would be difficult in a multi-level house full of stairs). But I had eventually declined to take him back, if, as it seemed, he had some form of dementia as well AND would return to smoking and drinking. Anyway, I assumed these decisions were a long way off - until time had shown us the full extent of his limitations. He was still far from well.

It was a week after that question was put to me and already
late September. when I was invited along to a case conference at the hospital to discuss Greg's future. By then he had been in hospital for over three weeks. Fortunately at this point Greg's sister, Jill, had come down for a few days to visit Greg, as well as to help me pin down the doctors, get some answers as to what was actually wrong with him and discuss what the prognosis was. She is an ex-nurse and was disgusted at the lack of answers we were getting from the staff. We tried several times to make an appointment with the doctors but each time were fobbed off with promises that they would see us when they did a ward round. The staff knew my sister-in-law was only down for a few days and had to return to the Midlands, but we waited six hours on the ward on the day they were due and they did not turn up. We were told they had been diverted to another ward. We were by now getting very angry. I asked Jill to come with me to the case conference, as I knew she would have questions to ask too and would give me moral support.

The day of the case conference arrived. I was amazed at the number of people who were in the conference room. Apart from myself, Jill and Greg (who had been brought along in a wheelchair), there was the ward clerk who had originally asked me for my decision, one of the doctors, a physiotherapist, an occupational therapist and a social worker. Eight of us in all. We all sat around a square conference table with Greg and me at opposing corners. A bit like the start of a boxing match, I thought.

The ward clerk started with the opening sentence that we were there to discuss Greg's future, that he was physically getting over the pneumonia and there was now nothing more the hospital could do for him, but that his wife did not want him home. Ouch! Greg shot a glance over at me. It was the first he had heard of it. I felt a pang of guilt. He looked so thin and gaunt after three weeks' battle with the pneumonia. How could I do this to him? The social worker immediately retaliated on his behalf by saying I could not ban my husband from his own home... something I had already conceded again and again in my own mind over the last few days.
(When I had Kay at the ripe old age of 40, we had BOTH agreed that it made sense for me to give up work to stay at home and look after her, as Greg worked highly irregular shifts in the media including weekends. At least I would be the lynch pin at home around which everyone else revolved and we would all see more of one another, than if I were at work too and having to employ a childminder. He had paid most of the bills for 17 years. How could I NOT have him home?) I certainly did not disagree with that, but I countered that I was unhappy for him to return to drinking and smoking, particularly if he had some form of dementia. The doctor said that a recent psychiatric test made them think he might not have Korsakoff syndrome after all. They were still doing a few more tests, but it now looked unlikely and that he had merely been confused because of the delirium from the pneumonia. When I pointed out that he had also been confused at home before the onset of pneumonia, they argued that the confusion then was probably caused by the alcohol.

The physiotherapist went on to say that physically he was improving and had managed to get around over the last day or so quite well with a zimmer frame and was even managing to go up and down a few stairs. They therefore considered he would be able to cope well at home. Greg emphasised that he was beginning to get his strength back and felt he would fare much better in his own home surroundings rather than prolonging his agony in hospital. The occupational therapist said she would need to assess the home environment to see if any special facilities needed to be installed. She could look at the stairs situation and see whether he needed aids in the bathroom, or chairs to be raised etc. Greg repeated that he wanted to get home as soon as possible. Tomorrow if possible. All eyes turned to me for a reply.

I repeated that I was unhappy about him returning to drinking and smoking. I would need reassurances that he would not do that again. I could not go through with the nightmare again. It was not fair to Kay or me. I explained the depths we had been in when I could not get any professional help in the midst of his drinking bouts. Greg promised he would never drink again. He said he had not missed the drink at all while in hospital. The social worker backed him up and said he had said that to her too. I argued that I had heard all that before..... in 2006 when he had been in hospital after his gastric bleed and again in February this year when he had come out of the detox clinic. On both occasions he had said "never again" but had returned to drinking again after a short while. In fact, it had only taken six weeks for him to return to drinking after his detox in February. Jill, bless her, supported me and said that Greg would say whatever people wanted to hear to get himself home again. But he would go back to drinking as soon as he was out. The social worker promised she would stay on the case and make sure he kept to his promises and set up some sort of rehabilitation. Greg said he needed time to think about rehab, but would promise me he would do something.
Different ones - they were becoming a blur through my tears - said I should not be so negative and give him the benefit of the doubt. I repeated that I had seen and heard it all before. They were not the ones who would have to live with the nightmare and be unable to get a professional to help when the going got tough again.

In the end, we were going round in circles and it was evident that I had no choice at all. All the professionals were pressing me to have him back home. It was a fact that I could not ban him from his own home without good cause. He had promised to stop drinking and smoking. Every professional in that room believed him. At the end of the day, they wanted his bed for someone else, so of course they were going to believe him. He promised in front of them to consider some form of rehabilitation, although h
e did make it clear he would not go into residential rehab, as he could not bear to be away from home. But he would consider something like drop-in counselling from home. All eyes turned on me again. I felt cornered. I was in an awkward situation. I heard myself saying that I would agree to take him back. The case conference was formally closed. It had lasted nearly two hours.

13 November 2008

Animals in War

Sorry to those of you waiting for the next instalment of my story, but I had to post this one now for it to be relevant to the time of year, but will resume my story in the next post.... Promise!

Much has been said in the last few weeks about the 90th anniversary of the end of the First World War. With Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day having just passed, it has been impossible not to notice the abundance of poppies commemorating the deaths of much loved young men who perished in wars over the last hundred years. My own two grandfathers, I might add on opposing sides in World War One , were lucky to survive yet bore their injuries for the rest of their life. My English grandfather, fighting at Ypres, the Somme and Paschendale, lost an eye and had severe shrapnel injuries to his leg, when a bomb exploded, killing his artillery horse. My German grandfather, also on the Western Front, was wounded in the leg and was awarded the German Iron Cross for his bravery. That was before Hitler kicked him out of Germany in 1939 (see my post of 16 October). When my mother met my father and they began to plan their wedding, my two grandfathers met for the first time and joked (in gallows-style humour), " I bet you're the one who shot me!!"

But it is not about the men and women who sacrificed their lives or endured pain during the world wars that I want to write about today. Last week when I was in Central London for my medical, I took a bus down Park Lane - a street I don't visit very often. I was surprised to see a memorial in the central reservation of the road that I had not seen before. It was already getting dark and I was on the wrong side of the bus, but the illuminated memorial caught my eye. Unfortunately, I could not see what it was all about.

I investigated it on the internet when I got home and discovered that it is a memorial dedicated to all the animals that served and died alongside British and allied forces in wars and campaigns throughout time. One of the inscriptions simply reads "They had no choice". When you think about it, war is terrifying enough for mankind, but to animals who understand nothing of the politics and simply have no choice but to participate in loud, frightening situations, it must be a thousand times worse. You have only to think of how animals respond to thunder or fireworks to appreciate their terror.

The Animals in War Memorial is located at Brook Gate, Park Lane, on the edge of London’s Hyde Park and was designed by leading English sculptor, David Backhouse. It was apparently unveiled on 24 November 2004 by the Princess Royal.

picture 1

Picture 1 (above) shows the north side of the monument with a horse and a dog.
Picture 2 (below) shows the south side of the monument with two heavily-laden mules.

picture 2

I could probably do no better than to refer you to Wikipedia and the memorial website. Both have much more information and lovely pictures of the monument.

10 November 2008

Not there

Having had a break from the story to write about current issues, I now resume where I left off about ten days ago.......

The pneumonia had left Greg extremely weak and he was still not able to get out of bed or walk for a couple of weeks afterwards. In any case, when he came off the oxygen and was back on a normal ward, he was still bound to his bed by lines (infusing insulin for his diabetes, saline and antibiotics) as well as a catheter. I visited daily staying at least an hour with him, sometimes longer. I would bring him newspapers to read, not that he seemed to want them, or a change of clothes, some chewing gum (as he obviously was not allowed to smoke) and a nicotine-replacement inhaler. We would have brief conversations, but he seemed to be in another world. Often he would just lie back, close his eyes and drift off to sleep. I would go away for a while, have a coffee in the hospital restaurant and then return for another half-hour or so with him, just watching him. After he had been in hospital for about two weeks, I got a phone call one day from one of the nurses to say Greg was asking why I had not been in for several weeks!! He was clearly not registering my visits at all. This was very distressing for me. I did not know whether he was losing his mind or whether it was the alcohol withdrawal causing him to be like this. I tried to speak to the doctors about it, but they were very difficult to pin down. Usually, when a doctor was sent for to talk to me, a young girl would arrive, fresh out of university and not much older than Kay. She was friendly enough, but just did not have the information to pass on to me. It was totally frustrating.

As the days went on Greg's mind seemed to be in utter turmoil. He was talking complete gobbledegook. He explained to me one day that he had been queueing at the check-in desk at Sydney airport, when he was suddenly struck down by meningitis and airlifted to the hospital in London. (Complete fabrication - he has never been to Australia in his life and he had pneumonia not meningitis.) He even got the name of our local hospital wrong. It is a hospital in a London suburb not four miles away from us, but he said he had never been to that part of London before, although he had heard of it. (The truth is he had been to that area countless times before). He even told the medical staff he had just come back from trekking in the Himalayas. (They were not sure whether to believe him, as that story might be feasible, but I was able to assure them he had not been to Asia - ever! And, as for mountain-climbing, his legs wouldn't even take him up and down our normal stairs at home!) There were countless more instances where he was making things up and I expressed my deep concerns to the staff. The doctors now began to consider that Greg might have something called Korsakoff's Syndrome - an irreversible alcohol-related dementia. One of the main symptoms is that the patient confabulates stories to make up for gaps in their memory.
This syndrome certainly seemed to account for the strange stories Greg was coming out with and indeed with the strange things he had been saying or doing in the weeks before he went into hospital.

Meanwhile, Kay and I were beginning to relax at home. It was so nice to have peace and quiet. It was true I was on a bit of a treadmill. Each day, I visited Greg for an hour or two, so that took a whole morning or afternoon out of each day , taking into account the driving there and back, getting parked in a nearby street etc. When I was not at hospital, I had to find time to walk Snoopy, get the house tidied up, as well as all the usual household chores and ferrying Kay to her social life in the evenings. So I was busy all the time, but the peace and quiet more than made up for it. I did not have to worry that Greg was loose in the house - drunk, smoking, maybe absent-mindedly putting down a cigarette. We have that many cigarette burn-holes in our carpets, sofas, tablecloths. I was always afraid he would burn the house down particularly if we were fast asleep. So I was free from that worry. Kay was able to get on with her homework peacefully. All in all we were having a good time. I even decided to press on and do a few of the jobs that had been waiting to be done. Ones that Greg had promised to do but never even started, because the alcohol preoccupied him. One was to call in an electrician and fix a few electrical problems in the house. I was beginning to feel a new self-confidence in existing (and more to the point
coping) without Greg. I was able to make decisions, without having to wait for Greg to agree to them, which in some cases could be never, as he is a great procrastinator.

About two weeks after Greg had first been admitted into hospital, I was asked by the ward clerk if
I would be prepared to accept him home, when it got to the stage when he might be discharged from hospital. I thought this meant I was being given a choice. Given at that point that Greg could not independently move an inch from his bed, was showing signs of dementia and was slightly incontinent, I said it was a difficult choice: I did not want to stop him coming back to what was his home. But I did not want him returning home, if he were to continue getting drunk, smoking, immobile AND suffering from dementia. That was a recipe for disaster and certainly for house-fires. I would worry for our safety. On the other hand, he had been my husband for 32 years and I could not just write him off. I could not bear the idea of him going into a nursing home or alcoholic hostel or wherever they might put him. I could not bear the thought of banning him from his own home. He is still only 59 and not old enough to be written off.

On the other hand, Kay and I were enjoying the peace and quiet at home, the relaxed atmosphere without the worry of being burnt alive or shouted at. We were enjoying girlie chats and watching TV together, even having the occasional glass of wine. Relaxing. No living nightmares.

On the other hand.....

On the other hand.....

Help! I was running out of hands!!

I really did not know what was best for all of us. Whatever decision I made was far from ideal for one reason or another. I felt unhappy every time I thought I had made up my mind, whichever option I chose, but on balance, when I had weighed everything up, chewed it over a zillion times, slept on it and reconsidered, I chose NOT to have him home.

08 November 2008



Cologne Blog has very kindly awarded me the Friendship Around the World award. I in turn should like to pass the gesture on to the following blogs:

Three Dog Blog - USA
Reluctant Memsahib - Tanzania
Big Blue Barn West - Canada
Unruly and Enchanting - Argentina

By promoting friendship around the world, we can strive to make this planet a better place for the next generation to live in.

06 November 2008

United Nations

I was horrified to read in today's press that already there are serious death-threats on Obama's life and on his family too. The FBI already have a headache working out how they are going to protect him over the term of his presidency. Not just from racist thugs such as Ku Klux Klan but anti-abortion lobbyists, religious fundamentalists and terrorists both foreign and domestic. Two assassination plots have been foiled already. There is suggestion that he might not even actually make it to the White House by January. One security source said: “It’s not the crazies who tell you what they’re gonna do that are dangerous, it’s the crazies that don’t. And we all know they’re out there. It only takes one lunatic racist with a gun, one deranged extremist with a single bullet, one determined white supremacist, to end it all. And you can bet there are plenty of angry, disturbed people lining up for the chance to be that one."

It got me wondering why people have to be so hostile to others. Why are there wars? Often it is over something like religion or ownership of land. Why can't we just accept one another's skin colour or religion? This world would be a boring old place if we all thought the same, dressed the same, lived the same. Supposing someone decreed that from now on, you could only wear green. Would those wearing red or blue be driven out of the land? Why can't we just accept that the world belongs to all of us? Why are we so greedy that we want land belonging to someone else and are not content with the bit of the planet we stand on? Why not accept that we are all brothers and sisters and probably originated from the same very small gene pool? Maybe I am being too simplistic and naive.

I have already written a little about the cul-de-sac where I live, when I wrote about Halloween. I mentioned that there are 32 houses and everyone knows everyone else by name and that the children all play with one another and wander in and out of each other's houses. What I did not mention is that roughly half of those inhabitants are a mixture of nationalities from all over the globe. Their reasons for being in London are as varied as their nationalities. When I think about it, they come from:


We are a right little United Nations and the lovely thing is that we all get along fine with no squabbles or problems. We have had parties on a communal bit of land to celebrate big events like VE Day or the Millennium, as well as smaller events like birthdays or at any excuse (such as the sky was blue!) Often the non-British neighbours will contribute a national dish of theirs to the celebrations. I remember on one occasion when Greg was carted off in ambulance a few years ago (and I was unaware that anyone even knew), our Pakistani neighbour came across the road to me on that very evening with a ready-cooked lamb and rice dish she had made to save me cooking. Maybe the World Leaders should come along and take a look. They might learn something to use as a template for world peace. It's just a thought.

04 November 2008


PS to the post below. (Added on Wednesday 5 November).......

OBAMA DID IT!!!!!!!!! YAY!!!!!


I have just had my MOT today. For those non-UK readers, MOT stands for Ministry of Transport and is a test that a car has to undergo once a year to make it roadworthy. But I am not talking about my car's MOT but one for me. Let me explain...

In the murky distant past I used to be a civil servant and when I reached the ripe old age of 35, I was invited to be a guinea pig in an experiment that the University College London was undertaking jointly with the Civil Service. They were doing research into amongst other things what causes strokes, heart attacks and diabetes, whether it can be predicted, whether there are genetic links, whether it is stress-related etc etc. They wanted to follow a group of 35-year-olds through their life and monitor them closely right into old age. I volunteered to become one of that group. It doesn't matter whether some of the people are no longer working in the Civil Service or are retired. The research follows them wherever they are. The study is now 20 years old and in that time I have had five top-to-toe medicals.

Today was the fifth one. I had to travel to the hinterland of Tottenham Court Road, the home of University College, and undergo a three and a half-hour medical. Apart from a 40-page questionnaire which I had to complete at home beforehand, I had to arrive today without eating or drinking anything since midnight last night. I can never start the day without breakfast, so by the time I got into Central London, I could have eaten a horse. The medical comprised:
  • my blood pressure being taken (was told it was incredibly good at 116 over 66)
  • seven blood samples (including tests for diabetes, cholesterol and any genetic factors) after which I was given 2 glasses of Lucozade to increase my glucose level
  • a 30-minute written IQ test (mathematical and English tests, memory lists etc)
  • electrocardiogram, heart rate and arterial elasticity tests
  • weight/height/body measurements
  • lung capacity test
  • dementia test
  • more blood tests (exactly two hours after the first set to see whether the Lucozade had been absorbed)
  • balance/coordination/grip tests
  • walking speed test
  • an interview to see how much stress there has been in my life (I was able to tell them about barrow-loads !!)
In the middle of all this (after the second set of blood tests) I was given lunch - a choice of sandwiches, beverages, cake and fresh fruit. Oh, and I had my travel costs reimbursed too.

Everyone gets something out of it. I get to have a total MOT, completely free of charge. I pay nothing at all and get a free lunch thrown in. A medical of this magnitude would cost a bomb if I had to go privately, so I am very appreciative that I was chosen to be included in the programme. I get the results in 10 weeks' time but already know from comments said today that I am now roadworthy again! They get something out of it because they are getting the answers for their research which will affect the way heart disease, strokes and diabetes are diagnosed and treated. I feel chuffed that I have done my bit for medical advancement.

When I emerged into the fresh air again, I marched off for an afternoon Christmas window-shopping in Oxford Street, content with the knowledge that, despite all the recent stress, my body is coping wonderfully well. At the very least I can be thankful for that.

01 November 2008

Trick or Treat

We live in a small cul-de-sac off a fairly busy road in London. There are 32 houses in the cul-de-sac and everyone knows everyone else by name. Quite rare by any standards, let alone in somewhere as large as London. The children all play with one another and are in and out of one another's' houses. It was great when Kay was growing up, because, as an only child, she always had someone to play with at the click of a finger at any time of day. There is a new generation of children now since Kay outgrew such things - out playing on their bikes, pushing toy prams, playing football. The cul-de-sac is a village all of its own and we are quite separate from the goings-on in the main road. Halloween is always a special time here, when all the cul-de-sac children go around in a large clump knocking at doors to trick or treat. The grown-ups go round with them, keeping a safe distance so as not to destroy their child's feeling of independence, yet watching over them in case they fall into the wrong hands. In the past, when Kay was little, I was known to host small dinner parties for the children before the tricking and treating commenced. On the menu would be bloody eyeballs (scoops of water melon), followed by dead man's fingers (sausages) with worms in blood sauce (spaghetti in tomato sauce). Kay and I found one of the home-made menu-cards yesterday while we were searching for the battery-lit pumpkin. Before it got dark, we prepared a basket full of chocolate mini bars to hand out to any callers that might come by and hung the plastic pumpkin on the front door.

At seven o'clock yesterday evening, then, Kay was getting ready to go out to a teenage party at a friend's house. All black dress, high heels and red lipstick. Not a pointed hat or white sheet with holes for her. Definitely not cool. Suddenly the doorbell rang. We opened the front door to find about twenty monsters, ghosts and ghouls standing on our doorstep. They ranged from those who could barely toddle and still in nappies to those who were at the age of eleven or thereabouts. All looking fabulously scary and holding out bags for their treats. Their parents stood much further back, shivering in the chilly night. Wanting them to work a bit for their treats, we playfully asked the group what they would do, if we did not give them anything. A little witch, not much older than four with blonde ringlets, acted as spokesperson at the front of the group.

"We would trick you", she shouted. The others all nodded and giggled in agreement.

"So what would that involve?", we asked.

The little blond witch thought long and hard, biting her bottom lip, and then blurted out with all the aplomb of the Godfather delivering his sentence.....

"I'd say BOO".

Her little face was a picture. In fact, I'd say a real treat. The chocolate bars were passed around.