30 June 2014

Under the Weather

I'm fed up of watching TV weather forecasts or looking them up online only to find the weather is in reality doing something completely different.

I'm told it's going to be wet, so I venture out with a raincoat or jacket and lug an umbrella in my already brimming handbag, only to find the sun comes out and I'm sweltering, carting around the extra layers and weight.

Hearing it's going to be sunny, I don lightweight skirts and flimsy tops which turn me into a quivering jelly as, an hour or so from home, the North wind blows from Iceland and the rain lashes down.
picture courtesy of http://www.black-forest-hill.com.au

On some days the weather man/lady must have revolving doors because one minute it's blazing hot and sunny, the next it's lashing down with rain and lightning is streaking across the sky.

I read it's going to be a scorcher of a summer this year with temperatures hotter than the Mediterranean, Brazil and probably even Hell. Sounds familiar... they said that at the beginning of last year when we had non-stop rain for months on end and they had to rescind the hosepipe bans on watering the garden. As if you'd want to water the garden when it already resembled an Amazon swamp.

With all the technology we have at our fingertips nowadays, you would think they would get the weather forecast halfway right. I reckon we were a lot better off in the Dark Ages consulting a sprig of seaweed hung on the wall. At least it was accurate. I know I could stick my nose out of the front door and sniff the air. The only thing is my nose (despite its size) doesn't reach 60 miles down the road, so it would be useful to have a bit more accuracy about what the weather is doing in another part of the country, if I need to go there. 

I'm just off to squeeze my seaweed......

picture courtesy of

23 June 2014

Spot of bother

I mentioned a while ago that I had a basal cell carcinoma on my forehead which needed removing. Having been pushed from pillar to post in the NHS system, it has taken over a year to get from my first visit to the GP to actual surgery. 

My GP spent months from May last year trying out different potions and lotions  (all to no effect) before referring me in November to another GP practice which specialises in skin disorders. They did a biopsy which came up with the basal cell diagnosis, but then I had to be referred to the dermatologist at the hospital for the official confirmation. I saw her in January.

picture courtesy of http://library.med.utah.edu

The dermatologist however declared that as the spot was on my face, she was going to pass me on to a maxillo-facial surgeon to do the operation. I would need to have a consultation with him first and indeed  saw him at the beginning of April. He told me I was already a week over their deadline for dealing with such things, though obviously it was not his fault. He promised he would get me an operation date as quickly as possible

I was duly sent the date of 2 June (not so quickly as possible as I had imagined) and having geared myself up for the operation, I was crestfallen to receive a phone call just a few days beforehand, saying the "clinician" had to attend another hospital on that day and the operation had been postponed......... until 11am on 23 June. I was annoyed, particularly as I had put off doing a lot of things until the op was out of the way, or had scheduled other things in preparation for it (such as getting my hair cut to avoid doing it once I had stitches in my head).

More weeks of waiting and anticipation/dread passed and today was the due date. Although I was having a local anaesthetic, I was advised not to drive myself to the hospital and back, in case the wound on my forehead swelled and affected my vision. Fortunately, just as I was working out bus timetables to get there, Kay announced she'd be home for a few days anyway, so she would drive me there.

When we arrived at the hospital this morning, the receptionist looked a little strange when I checked in. She got me to repeat my surname, then my first name, then my surname again. She wanted to know my date of birth, then my surname again. Her brow furrowed. She asked me to take a seat. A few minutes passed, then she came over and broke the news gently. I was not on their list for today and they were not expecting me. Who had rang me to cancel the op on the 2nd?  Male or female? I was told to wait and a nurse would speak to me. More questions followed until I was finally seen at midday by a very sexy French Registrar. To cut a long story short, he said there was nobody else there now to provide back-up, so the op could not be done today and would have to be resheduled for 14 July. 

"Ah, Bastille Day" he mused. 

"My birthday", said Kay (although she'll be away from home then anyway).

Fingers crossed, it'll go ahead this time, but I am not raising my hopes. Mind you, maybe today's cancellation was a blessing in disguise.  I have been having trouble with my neck for the last 5 weeks and can barely move my head. I am not sure whether it is a trapped nerve or muscle spasms.  I have recently been to the local hospital's walk-in clinic, been advised to see a physiotherapist (with whom I have now had three sessions), been prescribed extra-strong painkillers, as well as a muscle-relaxant, worn a foam collar 24/7 and NOTHING has worked. Let's just say the pain is still so bad, I'd sooner give birth to a baby (and that's saying something)! So maybe trying to lie still on slab while they removed a bit of my forehead was being a tad optimistic.

Watch this space. Knowing the NHS, I might still be waiting for surgery at Christmas.

16 June 2014

√x=6y+a² (or when soon enough is not long enough)

There's been much talk recently about the speed at which Mick Jagger seemingly got over his relationship with L'Wren Scott and starting dating again. The British press has had the knives out saying he has not given enough appropriate grieving time between her suicide and the next notch on  his bedpost. Ultimately it's his affair - quite literally - so who are any of us to criticise?  But how long is enough or how soon is enough? How long is a piece of string? There are so many things to take into account.

First we are all differerent. Some people  need other people around them all the time to function. They can't pay a bill or book a holiday or even  boil an egg without the other person doing it for them or helping them with it. They may need someone at their side for confidence or on their arm for image. Others can manage very well on their own, or were the one more in charge of the partnership anyway, so that when they are on their own again, there is little change in the way they go about things. 

Then there is the amount of time the couple spent together before one of them left. I imagine you would get over a relationship of four years quicker than you would one of forty years, as there are by ratio less/more shared experiences together. If your life together far exceeded the time you had before you met, that will also play a part in how easily you can accept the parting.

Yet another factor is is the nature of the relationship and the manner in which one left it. Were they happy together? Miserable?  Chugging along in a mediocre way for the sake of childen? Was it acrimonious? Was the death a release from a life of hell together? Was it a slow agonising death, where the actual passing was a relief for both parties?  Or was it sudden with no chance to say goodbye, leaving things unsaid, unfinished and a with shedload of guilt?

Age may play a part too. You may be more ready to move on and adapt to someone new if you are younger, less so when you are getting on a bit, although, having said that, there are still stories in the papers of 90-somethings finding true love in old folks' homes and staggering down the aisle on their zimmer frames!

Any combination of these things can produce a completely different result (where √x=6y+a²) and even in  similar situations, individual people (by sheer nature) will react differently. I personally marvel that Mick Jagger can move on so quickly after 13 years with someone he claims to have loved, but then again maybe he is trying to put on one face for the public whilst grieving inwardly.  

All I can say personally, looking at my √x=6y+a²,  is that it is over four years since Greg died and I simply cannot envisage ever being ready again in my lifetime to even date someone else, let alone marry them. Forty years together (married for 36 of them) means a lot of shared memories, although admittedly a mountain of grief towards the last 5 years before he died and a tsunami of emotions ever since. You certainly don't get over that in a hurry. Even if Richard Gere, George Clooney, David Beckham and Gary Barlow were all to turn up on my doorstep. 

11 June 2014

Feather from Heaven

I remain on the fence about paranormal activity, as I really do not know much about it, but I know a lot of people believe in feathers as being messages from angels, guardian angels and loved ones.  I have mentioned before (see here) the appearance of a feather on Greg's chair, not long after his death, as possibly being some sort of message from Greg. As I say, I really don't know whether I believe in it or not, but there was no other logical explanation for it and it can be comforting to think someone is trying to contact you from the other side. 

I think I am doing relatively OK, considering my husband chose to kill himself slowly with alcohol four years ago.  I manage fairly well, I reckon, between being a single-parent to my daughter and a carer for my 90-year-old Mum.  For the majority of time, I am fairly upbeat about life and on some days am known to sing as I do the chores around the house. A few days ago, however,  I was having a bit of a rare low, depressing, lonely "woe is me, I hate being on my own" sort of evening with only the TV for company, when I glanced out of the window. It had been a bit of a grey-sky sort of day with lots of rain showers, but by 8pm, the grey has turned into wall-to-wall blue sky just before it got dark. Not a cloud in the sky. As I looked out at that moment, feeling a little sorry for myself, a solitary lone cloud drifted by. But look at the shape of it - 

a feather.

Here it is in close-up...

I don't know whether it was Greg trying to cheer me up or whether, more likely, it was just a vapour trail left by an aeroplane on its ascent from Heathrow. But it did make me feel much better. Strangely.

02 June 2014


Cartoon from socialmediatoday.com
Cartoon from socialmediatoday.com

Blogland is a funny old place. The country doesn't really exist, of course, but its people certainly do. They are the people you meet through the comment they leave on your blog and the comments you leave on theirs.  I suppose they are the modern equivalent of penpals. 

I remember at the age of 12 getting a French penpal through my school.   Our French teacher had insisted on us all writing our first rather faltering letter in French which was to be forwarded on to a school on the outskirts of Paris. Our London borough was twinned with theirs.  A few weeks later I got a letter back from what was to be my penpal. Her name was Annick. At first, like with most friendships or penpals, the letters were simple, almost awkward. My name is....., my hobbies are....., I live in a...... , my mother is called...., my father works in..... etc. The letter would probably have half a dozen sentences and finish with "avec mes amities" or "best wishes". Gradually, Annick would send me a cutting from a French comic or a French coin or I would send her something with a little English on.  After a year or so of awkward letters to-ing and fro-ing between us, she sent me a music disc of her favourite singer, Johnny Hallyday. I was into the Beatles at that time and I knew then that out tastes were not remotely the same. The relationhip went downhill rapidly from there really.  I think she was angling to visit Britain, so invited me to come and  stay with her in Paris first. I'd already decided in advance it would be dire, so made my excuses and I never heard from her again. My love of German and Germany (and particularly Karl-Heinz, whom I met on a school trip to the Rhineland)  took over at the age of 14 and ever since I've never had a great desire to go anywhere near France. I do genuinely think about Annick once in a blue moon and wonder what she's doing with her life now, but that's as far as it goes.  However, I digress.

In a way, blogging can be compared to a much more civilised form of penpalship. You chose the people who interest you (rather than haphazardy having an address foisted on you by a teacher). You choose their blogs for their style of writing, their philosophies, their type of lifestyle, their topics. You tend to have something in common - they have kids your age or live in your part of the world or may be they live in a place which fascinates you or share your hobbies. What may start as a single comment on their blog, escalates over time into an acquaintance with them, until you feel you have got to know that person quite well. You almost feel like a fly on their wall or a far-flung relative. With the addition of photos you almost know what wallpaper they have in their bedroom and what they've had for supper.

When some bloggers suddenly stop blogging, you become anxious. Are they all right? Simply tired of blogging?  Fallen under a bus? Been kidnapped and held hostage? Sometimes you feel compelled to ask on their now abandoned blog, just in case they were just waiting for someone to appreciate their absence or dial 999. I know of several bloggers I used to read who have over the years disappeared into the night. It's a very strange and rather worrying feeling that they have not surfaced again since. One was a lady with a slimming blog. I wonder whether she overdid things and starved herself.  Or maybe fell down a drain? It can play on your mind.

Of the rest, I have occasionally been tempted to meet up with them, as some bloggers often do at conventions, but have often thought that the mystery was better than the reality. A bit like my husband's penpalship as a teenager. He wrote to a girl in the USA and she was absolutely stunning in the photo she sent him. He was quite besotted and they wrote back and forth avidly until he was able to meet her in person by arranging a holiday to the USA before he went to university. As he stepped off the plane and through the arrival channels, she was there waiting to meet him. It was then that he realised the one and only treasured photo of her was only from the neck up.  Head and shoulders. Passport-size. There she stood before him in reality. Five feet tall and five feet wide. The bubble was well and truly burst. I'm not saying Greg was shallow and that only beauty mattered to him (that was certainly not the case), but sometimes,with the best will in the world, reality does not match with what you imagined or what the penfriend would have you imagine. 

I am sure my elderly mother (who has absolutely no interest in learning how to use a computer) thinks I am completely bonkers spending a fair bit of time on the computer writing to what she imagines are complete strangers, but it is surely no worse than writing a letter and sending it through the post to a penfriend. After all, some people even knowingly write to axe-murderers on death row. Now I am quite sure you are all not THAT bad. But it got me thinking: "Why do we blog or comment on them?"

Twenty years ago, the Internet started to take off on a grand scale. Who could have envisaged then that the world would be as it is now, where you can sit in the comfort of your home and within seconds: 
  • click on a map of somewhere on the other side of the world and travel along its streets;
  •  get a recipe for Chocolate Cheesecake at the click of a mouse;  
  • translate a sentence into Polish; 
  • send a message to someone else in an instant rather than post it in an envelope;
  • look at images of One Direction until you find the right one to print for your bedroom wall; 
  • look up all the Presidents of the United States; 
  • watch a programme you've missed on TV;
  • talk on Skype to your uncle in Outer Mongolia; 
  • or read a blog written by a total stranger. 
All of these things are now possible and no longer weird.  They have become the window to a much wider world where facts, thoughts and ideas can be exchanged instantly and promote our own further education.  Contact with other people through their blogs is just as much part of that education.  I'm off to look up Annick on Facebook. I wonder if she's there and whether she still likes Johnny Hallyday?