Thursday, 21 June 2007

Pond life

On a more positive note I seem to have three surviving newts in the pond. They were sunbathing under the lily leaf today! I also have a pond full of dragon fly larvae, which is not so good!

One final National Health Service moan

There was just one more thing that irritated me when I was trying to sort out my mum. The hospital wanted the full name of her GP as the person who referred her was a trainee and their computer didn't recognise him. Well, she has seen several different GPs so she didn't know which one was hers. When I called in to the practice earlier I was given a card with the contact details of her GP on it so I naturally got that out. True, it did have the name and address of the practice and a phone number, but there were no names for the doctors on it. One side was full of advertisements for a Massage therapist (no details of qualifications given, just a name and phone number- could have been any kind of massage) Asian Funeral Care Ltd (not very reassuring), a Shiatsu and Counselling Service (although it didn't say what sort of counselling) and an advert for the people who published the card. Now, I do understand that in parts of the National Health Service it is necessary to generate income, but for me this kind of advertising is a bridge too far. It does state that the practice in no way endorses the things it advertises but I don't think that would stop people thinking that if it is on a card that they got from the doctors then it must be okay. Additionally, the very information that is important is missing. I wonder who advises them on the ethical implications of their actions.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Hospital parking moans 2

I took my mum to her clinic appointment yesterday (she can only walk a few steps so public transport is out of the question). It cost £2.00 for two hours and as her appointment went on longer than I thought I had to put another £2.00 in, costing £4.00 in total. Mind you, I was really lucky to get a parking spot at all as it was very busy. She was later admitted to another hospital 8 miles away. I drove her there thus saving the NHS the cost of an ambulance. I was happy to do that for her but what I was not so happy about was being charged another £4.00 to park in the same NHS Trust. I read with irritation all the notices about using public transport to access the hospital. I am the first to agree with the principal but many people visiting hospitals are sick, or are taking someone who is sick, or trying to visit a relative or friend who is sick and they are stressed, in a hurry, trying to do it and still carry on with their daily lives and do not have time to visit the Transport for London website to work out the best route!

My mother's feet

The problem with my mother's knees spread to her feet. They became so swollen that she could barely place them on the ground and walking a few steps was a problem. She was seen yesterday by a rheumatologist and suddenly the picture is beginning to fall into place. I was diagnosed with mixed connective tissue disease two years ago. It is an condition where your immune system malfunctions and rather than dealing with all the normal everyday germs and cells it destroys the healthy ones instead. These illnesses can present in a variety of ways, but in my case I had many minor symptoms such as joint aches and pains and major problems with my lungs, kidneys and blood clotting. There is some sort of genetic predisposition to these illness but I never expected my mother to develop something similar as the diseases are relatively rare and usually present in younger people (my mother is 76). Anyway, it seems that is exactly what she has got and her swollen feet are most likely caused by the fact that her kidneys are leaking protein. She was admitted to hospital yesterday and will likely be in the hospital while we move her stuff and empty her house at the weekend. It is going to be quite a time!

Monday, 18 June 2007

Terry Wogan

Last week I went for a brief visit to Limerick. I am going to be an examiner for the course there and I just went over to meet everyone. The flight to Limerick is one hour but the journey to Heathrow airport from my house takes 3 hours and you have to be there at least an hour and a half before the plane takes off so it takes pretty much the whole day! On top of that, my flight was an hour late leaving so I spent a lot of time sitting in the airport! Coming back was no better. I was dropped off at Shannon airport in good time and then waited for three hours as my flight was delayed due to an earlier incident at Heathrow, weather and probably also the arrival of an important visitor. Two police motor cyclists and a limousine were waiting for the flight. I saw a friendly looking chap also waiting and I said to him 'you probably can't tell me who it is that's arriving can you?' He smiled and said 'well you will hear him every morning on your English radio'. I guessed correctly that it was Terry Wogan and had plenty of time to organise this photo of him! He is apparently from the Limerick area and was on his way to be made a freeman of the city! I found some interesting opinions from local people on this decision on the Limerick blog page

The discussion below sums up the divided opinion!

"Fuck Terry Wogan, he turned his back on Limerick years ago. Give the honour to someone that deserves it"

"Lots of people left Limerick (including myself) to find work, we were hardly turning our back on the city, just looking for work. He could hardly have made it to the top of broadcasting if he stayed in Limerick. Did you expect him to stay here and co host a show with Tom Ryan? Bill Whelan, Delores O Riordan, the Mc Courts, Ciarain Mc Mathuna, Kate O Brien, Dickie Harris, Catherine Hayes, could they have made it in the city of knockers?"

"... I agree that lots of people left Limerick to better their lives and careers.
You seem to have missed my point completely. The point I'm making is that unlike most of the other people you mentioned he rarely acknowledged his roots in Limerick and rarely if ever promoted the city.
Yet the powers that be want to honour him when it seems all he if did for Limerick was to turn his back on the place. Lots more deserving people than him for the award.
He probably wouldn't know where Limerick is now anyway"

Sunday, 10 June 2007

A surprise in the driveway

Writing the last post reminded me of another time when the past caused quite a surprise to some poor builder. The people that owned the house that backs on to my mother's decided to lay a new driveway and engaged a firm of builders to do the work. They set to with their digger to remove the old concrete drive but had to stop rather suddenly when they unearthed a hand grenade! The area was sealed off, the bomb disposal squad called and the offending item was eventually removed and disposed of. No one could explain how it got there except my mother who remembered that during the war the man who was living there at the time had brought the grenade home with him on leave from the army and had given it to his wife in case there was an invasion and she needed it to defend herself. (Quite what she would do with it I don't know, but I guess people were very scared) Fortunately, it was never needed but as it was obtained illegally the man didn't know quite what to do with it after the war ended. He told my grandfather that he eventually decided to bury it in his new drive. (My mother remembered this because she remembered my grandfather saying that it was a bl**dy stupid thing to do!)

My mother's house

My grandparents bought the house where my mother now lives in about 1930, when it was just built. It was part of the development of the London suburbs and people like my grandfather, from poorer parts of London, saw it as a way to move out to a more peaceful environment and at last own their own home. (Prior to that my grandparents lived in rented accommodation in Camden Town, which is now trendy and desirable but then was rough and definitely a down-market move for my grandmother!) They moved when my mother was a toddler and lived there all through my mother's childhood. The houses had big gardens and all the neighbours grew their own vegetables, the children played together outside and all walked to the local school together. My mother was 11 when the war started and for a while they stayed in the house and continued as normal. There was an Anderson shelter built in the back garden and when the air raid sirens sounded the whole family trouped into the garden and slept semi-underground. Sometimes neighbours shared shelters to make it more bearable. (In a hot, dry summer a strange bare patch appears on the lawn outlining the foundations of the shelter as most people just covered them over with soil after the war ended.) My mother talks about how scared she was when she heard the sirens, and at one point things must have been quite bad as embedded in the floorboards in the front bedroom is a piece of shrapnel that flew through the roof during an air raid. For some time my mother and grandmother were evacuated and lived in Shropshire while my grandfather stayed at home, but this did not seem to last long and they all returned before the end of the war. The house and family survived and my mother lived there until she got married at the age of twenty eight. For a couple of years she lived with my father in a rented flat above the shop where he worked but then I came along and it got a bit cramped. At this point my grandparents decided to retire to live by the sea and sold the house back to my mother and father at a 'family rate', which is the only way they were able to afford their own home. I moved there when I was about 2 years old and shortly after my sister and then my brother arrived to make it a busy and noisy family home. (It only had three small bedrooms so I shared with my sister while my brother had a 'box' room to himself). We played in the garden, met friends in the street, charged round on our bikes and went to the same school that my mother went to as a child. One by one we grew up, left home and then returned to live there for brief periods after travelling, when relationships broke up, in between house moves etc! My mother and father continued to live there happily until he died 22 years ago and since then my mother has lived there alone. Over time the house has got sadder; the decoration is faded and grubby, the electrics are dangerous, the plumbing no longer works, the roof needs replacing and the garden has got overgrown. This combined with my mother's knees has led her to finally decide to move and she has a buyer for the house and a new home in a retirement apartment close to my sister. All being well she will leave the house for good in 2 weeks and the house will leave our family the week after. I hope it will be in good hands.

Sunday, 3 June 2007

My shopping list

I was watching TV Saturday and there was a conversation about what people in the future may want to know about us. The debate went something like they would bombarded with information about our technology, poems, achievements etc through the Internet but the details of our everyday lives, such as what we ate and what we bought would be lost. In order to make sure that there is a record of the mundane bits of my life I am adding the details of a shopping list I found in my bag! Feel free to read no further as this is really for the benefit future generations!

organic juice
fresh milk (6litres)
Vanilla Ice cream
Britvic J2O (2 packs of 4- a fruit juice drink)
8 salmon fillets
Lurpak spread (Like butter)
Anchor Spread (also like butter)
Olive oil
Romaine lettuce
Raspberry Vinegar
Organic bread
A bunch of tulips
1 lime
1 red pepper
2 lemons
1 cantaloupe melon
Penne Pasta (packet)
Organic spring onions
Baby new potatoes
Tomatoes on the vine
Organic cherry tomatoes (reduced price)
1 litre coca cola
bananas (2.95kg)
1 avocado
1 bottle thick bleach

The total bill was £48.87 and the shopping was for a meal for 6!

Part 2 of strange dream

I found out from my neighbours that on the day that the lady next door set fire to her house she went down to the hospital to ask for help and to be admitted. (She is well known as she has a long history of self harm). She told them that if she wasn't allowed to stay in she was afraid that when her husband went to work that night she would set fire to the house. She was sent home and after dropping off her baby at her mothers she went back to her house and did exactly what she had threatened earlier. She is now locked up somewhere on remand, miles away from her family. I don't know whether she does have a treatable mental illness and whether she should have been admitted but from my point of view she obviously was a serious risk to herself and others and my understanding of the mental health act is that that is the criteria for admission. Perhaps someone made a wrong judgement or perhaps I don't know the full story but whatever the truth the consequence is that she is probably now in about the worst place she could be for her and her family.