Monday, 30 June 2008

1000 and counting

I have now had 1000 visitors to the blot since I put the counter thing on it!

Remembering the weekend!

Today I am sitting at home marking. This is not the most exiting way to spend the day and I have to battle with myself constantly to stop myself from watching the tennis or from blogging as both activities are considerably better than marking! I spend quite a bit of time reading emails as well and one of those emails was from Ian, who sent me some photos from our ride in Kent the other week. I have added a couple of photos. One is of Ian and the other is of the Lovely family!

Sunday, 29 June 2008

A plentiful harvest

As usual my fruit bushes have gone mad and I have more blackcurrants and redcurrants than I know what to do with! I still have a freezer full of last years supplies and jars of redcurrant jelly and blackcurrant jam waiting to be eaten! I made some blackcurrant cordial this weekend. (My neighbours kids liked it..they said it tasted like watered down jam!) If anyone has any recipes for different things to do with blackcurrants and redcurrants I would be more than grateful!

Wearing a hard-hat is better than having a hole in the head!

This is what Ian said today. We were cutting a very tall hedge. Ian was at the top of the ladder and I was at the bottom putting things in the shredder. Ian insisted that I wore the nice hard hat he bought me, I objected to the hat on aesthetic grounds but was over-ruled. (Ian wore a hat, visor and ear-protectors). I wonder if I am really going out with Health and Safety man!

Friday, 27 June 2008

Searching for ladies

I do find it quite interesting to see how people get to my blog and the key words they have used to get here. Llama cake and fanny farm are still favourites but a new one has appeared lately. Searches for "wet ladies swimming" take them to The ladies that don't get their hair wet. Again, not want the searchee was looking for I am sure!

Thursday, 26 June 2008

The decision tree

I have been driven to distraction by the way decisions seem to be made at work! This seems to be the format.

The vice -commander gets told what the budget is for next year. Somehow it is always less than it should be but the commander-in-chief always manages to convince the vice-commander that it is the same as last year even though it is less.

Vice-commander writes down lots of figures and numbers on a scrap of paper and then looses it. Vice commander then calls a 10 minute meeting with her wing commanders and asks them what they think. Wing commanders ask for the budget to be explained and for some detail about what the options are but by this time the 10 minutes is up and everyone is on holiday the following week.

Vice-commander decides to meet with each one of the troops individually to ask them what they would like to do next year. She is often surprised and taken a back when what they want to do is not what she wants them to do.

Vice-commander ignores the problem for 2 weeks and in the meantime the troops get restless and unsettled and mutter amongst themselves. Requests are made for clarity.

Vice-commander calls another urgent meeting with the wing commanders but they are all away.

Vice-commander meets again with a few individual troop members that happen to be in the corridor.

Troops get even more unsettled. Vice-commander is away on a course so the troops decide to sort it out without her and make a decision.

This means that the troops can then get on with the strategic planning for next year.

Order is restored.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Sisters tales

My sister told me more about her performance at the triathlon world championships in Canada.

"The water was really cold..but when you look at the sea temperatures in Vancouver for the last 15 years they are often cold this time of year so the organisers must have known that was a possibility"

"There were 4 rescue canoes for 100 swimmers. I got in the water and by the time I reached the first buoy I couldn't feel my arms and legs as I was so cold and numb. I wanted to get out but the rescue boats couldn't see me. In fact it was so rough two out of the four rescue boats capsized. I couldn't get my breath and thought I was going to drown"

"After this the organisers decided that they couldn't guarantee the safety of the competitors abandoned the swim"

"It wasn't a good race for me but in the end I was glad I managed to finish. I was so cold in transition the marshalls had to help me do up my cycle helmet and jacket. They are not supposed to help you but I was too cold to do it."

"Will you look after my cat temporarily for 6 months so that I can move in with my boyfriend?"

Communication difficulties

I have been dipping into 'lady behave' again and found this wonderful quote about modern slang circa 1956.

Slang is no longer 'distinctly common' but it is distinctly dating. Today's young men around town currently use Pa, Ma, the Chums, madly, the hols, blissful, the chaps and Charley...their parents used to say, 'Let's make whoopee tonight, ducky', don't be a twirp, you talk absolute bilge', or 'we'll beetle along to the flicks'.. none of it is a question of 'the best taste' any more. It is just a question of age group. (I am not sure what 'Charley' is referring to in this quote but 'Charlie' in current speak is slang for Cocaine).

I got into this topic after a conversation at work where we were talking about the modern dialect that children seem to use now. It is a kind of mix of West Indian and Cypriot accent with a ghetto slang mixed in. As far as I can tell there are very few consonants. (Last weekend I was at Ian's and two young lads were walking up the road behind me. I really couldn't follow any of the conversation although I guess that was the idea! Perhaps they use a lot of high tones that us oldies can't hear!)

On searching for modern equivalents I came across the following phrases that I had never heard of! : (They apply to Generation Z - People born between 1990 and 1999)
Backup - A close friend who you would be willing to marry, at a certain date or age, if things don't work out with someone else.
Fives ("I call 5's") - declaration that an occupied chair or sitting space is reserved for a short time, at least 5 minutes
Four Twenty (4:20) (420) (4-20) - Twenty minutes after four is known as the time to smoke pot, generally parents aren't home yet.
ifter - whereas "after" assumes that a certain event will take place, "ifter" grants some leeway about the events leading to a possible outcome. ("We'll talk about the trip later, ifter you get your parent's permission.")
MILF- a mother i'd (typically a teenage boy) like to fraternize with
Poppins - perfect, like Mary Poppins, in every way
Umfriend - One with whom one has a sexual relationship, introduced as “This is Chris, my... um, friend.”
I suppose the principal of slang has not changed!

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Romney marshes

After taking my drugs I enjoyed our cycle ride on Sunday. Although it was really windy the sun stayed out all day. The ride took us through parts of Kent that are not the most well known, through lovely villages and through part of the Romney marshes. It was really beautiful but as I am one of the slowest riders I didn't get time to stop and take many photos so will have to wait for my fellow cyclists to send me theirs. One of the most spectacular sights was this.

I didn't take the photo but it is of St Thomas a Becket church, Fairfield. You can see a great oil painting of it here.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Sea view

After the meeting I sat down on the beach for a few minutes looking out to sea.

Seaside life

Today I went to meet with a couple of people in a seaside town about 40 miles down the coast. It was a lovely day and as I had chosen to use public transport I was 45 minutes early and so went for a nice walk along the seafront. It is amazing what you can see when you have the time to look!

The first thing I came across was this little boat with a notice advertising the sale of fish at 1pm! (I found out later that this is not a daily occurrence). All was suspiciously quiet except for the fluttering of the flags on some other boats. On closer inspection these bright 'flags' were made from bits of high visibility jackets and other work clothes!

I walked along the beach a bit more and as mid-day approached a few people began to gather by the blue boat. There were a couple of men, a few Koreans and eventually two elderly ladies in their matching motorised wheelchairs. About 20 minutes later I heard a creaking sound and saw an older fisherman hauling his small fishing boat up the shingles, using a motorised winch. The crowd began to clamour around the boat. "What has he got today? Any hake?" said one of the ladies. "No, just a few mackerel I think" came the reply. The fisherman went to his hut and set up his filleting knife and bucket and I looked into the boat. In the bottom was a pile of nets, with mackerel, still flapping around! A proper queue had formed by this time but the elderly ladies thought they were being left out so levered themselves out of their chairs and took their place! I mentioned it to he person I was meeting who said that the man and his fish were in deed very popular! Well, you can't get much fresher! Unfortunately I had several hours before I could get home and to the fridge and so had to forgo the pleasure of probably the freshest mackerel I am ever likely to get!

The Lovelys' adventure

My brother and sister-in-law are embarking on a major renovation and building project. They bought the lower flat in a large Gothic looking building in West London. The building had been a recording studio for years but was originally artists' studios in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It was, by all accounts, a rather spectacular place; with sunken baths and its own squash court. It is now a shadow of its former glory. For the last year my two teenage nephews have been partying in the basement and my brother and sister-in-law have been camping out in the former reception while they completed the design and attempted to get planning permission to turn it back into the place it was meant to be. This was finally granted at Easter and we went over at the weekend to remove a few fittings and fixtures that my be of use to us in France (a temporary shower, freezer, dishwasher etc!). There really is quite a mystery to uncover at each stage! Behind the walls of the old sound booth are the original porcelain slip tiles; the original drainage system is still there, the markings on the wall from the squash court.. It will be an adventure!

More details of the works and the progress can be found on their website.

Sunday, 22 June 2008


When I saw the rheumatologist last week I asked him if I should take some steroids to relieve the symptoms in my hands (just as a short-term measure). He said that I could if it 'becomes intolerable.' I contemplated what that might mean. I decided that it was intolerable if I couldn't ride my bike this weekend, (a group of us did a really nice ride in Kent) and so took a small dose of prednisolone (more than he suggested but not enormous!). My hands stopped hurting enough for me to spend 3 hours riding my bike so I figured that any potential damage from the steroids was more than mitigated by the benefits of the exercise. The challenge is going to be not to take them again tomorrow!

(The increased dose of immunosuppresants will take about 2 months to really work properly which is a long time to sit still!)

Thursday, 19 June 2008

I am not an exception!

Today I was a mixture of relieved and disappointed. I had an appointment with my rheumatologist and this time I was quite pleased to see him. For the past 2 weeks my hands have been getting more and more painful and swollen and the muscles in my arms have started to hurt. In the mornings I struggle to pick up the kettle and open the door although after an hour or so they are a little better. On top of that I have tennis elbow and an aching knee so as much as I might like to deny it I am entering a bit of a flare again. This coincides with my attempts to reduce my medication. The medication takes about 2 months to get the full effect and 2 months ago I cut it back to a minimal dose! You don't need to be a brain surgeon to work out what I have to do! Tonight I am increasing it back to the dose I was on before. I was relieved that my hands were swollen when I went to see the rheumatologist but a little disappointed that I have not been able to do without the medication. Strange because I know that there is no cure for my condition and I know that the chances are I will be on medication for many years to come; but we all hope we can be the exception to the rule. I guess in the context of life in general and all the sh*t things that can happen it isn't a big setback!

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Making dreams a reality!

This morning did not start well. I was cycling to work; a little later than I had hoped and a little flustered as I had to do a lecture at 9.30. As I got to the steep hill through the golf course I was overtaken by a large black gas-guzzling 4 wheel drive with blacked out windows. On the side of the van was a logo for the company called dreamcatcher and over the doors was a list of all the services they provided. I was taken by surprise when I saw that they offered life-coaching, occupational therapy and to 'make your dreams come true'. Now I have great belief in my profession and the positive contribution it can make to people's health but I am old enough and grown up enough to realise that nothing is as simple as 'making your dreams come true' and even if they do come true they turn out not to be the dreams you though they were (so I would never pay anyone any money who claimed to do this!) Anyway, maybe I was a bit grumpy but the van really annoyed me and I cycled up the hill muttering to myself about 'life-coaching..they just want to get over it and get on with it!' My annoyance was made worse by the fact that when I got to work the dreamcatcher van was in the car park and I realised that they were lecturing to another group of students. Imagine my fury then when I discovered that there had been a mix up with the room bookings and they were in the room I was meant to be in. This news was tactfully broken to me by the person who had organised the talk who came to tell me while I was half dressed, trying to pull my tight trousers over my sweaty ar*e as quickly as possible in order to get upstairs and start my lecture! I ended up finding another room and it all worked out okay but the dreamcatchers certainly did not make my dreams of a nice stress-free lecture come true!

I came into my profession to help those in genuine need of my skills; those at the lowest point in their lives, those who can't imagine any sort of future or those whose futures will be very limited. Inevitably people in that position have no money and rely on what the state can provide and for years I was privileged to be able to provide part that service to the best of my ability. Now it seems that this type of care is being increasingly marginalised, limited, difficult to access or just not there and is being replaced by occupational therapists working as 'dreamcatchers', from the back of van, offering an expensive service to people who don't really need it but have the money to pay. It sums up, in a nutshell, the reason why I am going to become a llama farmer!

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

The life of a child

Some people seem to get a really bad deal in life! One of my neighbours is a young woman; a single parent of two children. She moved in about two years ago when her daughter Agnes was seriously ill with leukaemia. Agnes was diagnosed at 6 months of age and underwent treatment and then was in remission for 9 months until Christmas day when they noticed she was unwell again. She was taken to Great Ormond Street where they found that her leukaemia had come back and she had a gruelling second dose of chemotherapy. That was when I first met her. She was two and a half years old and awaiting a bone marrow transplant. The future was uncertain and in fact she nearly died during treatment when her heart stopped beating and her grandmother had to resuscitate her. A donor was found; a young French man who was on the register and the bone marrow transplant went ahead. She was in intensive care and then isolation for several months and then slowly made some progress and began to look like she might have be able to start a more normal life.

Despite all these difficulties Agnes and the family are very stoical and keep going with a positive attitude supported by grand-parents and friends. I saw them today returning from a trip to Great Ormond Street. They were tired as it had been a long day. The latest news is that Agnes now has to have a heart transplant as all the chemotherapy has damaged her heart irreparably. She is on the transplant list. When they get the call they must drop what they are doing, pack their bags and head on up to London. If all goes well Agnes will need to go back into intensive care again and face another long period of recovery and a life of medication and further treatment. Maybe she will recover enough to get go to school and then who knows what will happen. She has fought so hard to get this far it would be impossible not to let her have another go. I told her mother that when I saw the ambulance arrive I would be thinking of them all but in truth I don't know what I would wish for.

Monday, 16 June 2008

A new toy!

I have just wasted an entire evening (when I could have been ironing) playing with office publisher. I must say I was pretty impressed! I managed to create a couple of rather tacky greetings cards (guess what I will be sending this year at Christmas!) and I made an attempt at a brochure for the llama farm! Think I need some practice at it but I enjoyed it almost as much as blogging! Life is a bit dull at the moment!

Sunday, 15 June 2008

The house emerges from the ground!

Ian has just forwarded me the latest pictures from the builder of the house. Progress has slowed now until the floor dries!

Thursday, 12 June 2008

What's in a name

I saw the specialist at the hospital last week. It was a very successful visit in that I didn't have to wait long, my notes were there, the staff were efficient and the consultant was very good. He explained things, discussed them with me, gave his opinion and in the end we decided that no treatment was necessary. Perhaps a wasted journey but I felt reassured and hopefully will not need to bother anyone about this particular problem again!

The specialist was probably a little older than me. His first name was Mohammed and his last name was a typical Scottish name. Now, he could have been from mixed-raced parents but he had a slight accent that was definitely not Scottish and I would have said that he was probably from Iran or one of the Middle-Eastern countries. I know in the past a lot of professional people with Arabic sounding names changed them to more English sounding names and in my mother's day people with Jewish names did the same. I just thought it was rather sad that this doctor felt the need to do this in this day and age (if indeed he had, although the idea that someone would be called Mohammed McPherson at birth is a little unlikely. The most likely explanation was that he went to medical school in Scotland and adopted what sounded like a common name.) My mother told me that she once worked with an Indian accountant who had changed his name to 'John Thomas'; obviously on the advice of some 'well-meaning' colleagues.

When I was 14 I had a Saturday job in a hairdressers and as there was already another girl working there with my name they decided to call me 'Sue'; a name they made up because they said I looked like a 'Sue'. The whole thing infuriated me and I would never answer to my 'made-up' name. I did not stay there long as I felt like an non-person for most of the time. I know it is only a name but it is my name..and I would hate people to make up their mind about me solely based on that (even though being considered 'lovely' is not a bad thing!)

Slow progress (but at least there is progress!)

Ian spoke with the builder yesterday and we now have a floor on top of the foundation. It will need to dry properly before the walls can be started and it is now raining again so looking unlikely that we will have a roof by August; although I always did think that was being very optimistic! We are currently negotiating our holiday arrangements! Ian dreams of camping on the land but I fear the reality of no toilet or shower and builders starting work at 8.00a.m! We will also have no electric or fridge and the nearest shop is 2-3 miles away! There are some long negotiations ahead!

Tuesday, 10 June 2008


My garden has turned into a jungle (with the exception of the area that the slugs demolished!). I have some cherries (but the birds will probably get them), blackcurrants, redcurrants, rhubarb and mutant rosemary that has taken over the whole bed! A few years ago I planted a vine. I then ignored it for a couple of years and it didn't do much but this year I provided a trellis, staked it and fed it with chicken poo and it looks like I may have my first grapes!

Services rendered

In 'Lady Behave: A guide to modern manners' (written in 1956) they have a lovely piece of advice on how to word a personal advertisement in the paper. This one is for 'a flat and a job' and goes like this:

'Young couple require flat or similar accommodation in London end of October, while finishing his medical training. Wife will give services during the day. ...'

I would imagine that despite the current cost of accommodation in London they would get plenty of offers for this today..although I don't think that 'Caretaker, receptionist, housework or cooking' would be what they would be expecting in the way of services!

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Definately not the best of times!

My sister has been competing in the world triathlon championships in Canada this weekend. It was in Vancouver but unfortunately we were not able to go and see it this time due to time and cost. We did, however, watch the live streaming of the start and finish of the event. She was in the 45-49 age group category and they set off at around 8.30 a.m. It was 9 degrees Celsius and the sea temperature was 12.5. They cut the length of the swim down for safety reasons but by the time she got in the water the wind had picked up and after her race they cancelled this swim part for the other competitors. We waited anxiously to see her time as she left the water. She was one of the last out; 15 minutes behind the others and we though things must have been tough. We caught glimpses of her times through the various transitions and she seemed to make up a bit of time. We saw her cross the finish line in 56th place and she was smiling and in one piece. We sent her a text message and here is the conversation we had!

Just saw u x finish line. Well done. Nice smile at end! L&Ixxx

yes but that was cos it was over. Swim a nightmare. We were last group to do it then they change to run bike run. Funny sent all disabled and women on swim and then decided not safe for men!

PS do you know my time and place?

Not sure of time but place was about 56 and Ian thinks time was about 2.42.

Would be happy with that considering nearly drowned on swim.

We realised swim did not go well as u were 65 out of water and 15 minutes behind leader so did well 2 finish where u did.

Yeah didn't go well is an understatement. Seriously choppy and never been in water that cold.

How many finished in my group. 56 out of ?

72. 4 did not finish including one gb girl and many treated 4 hypothermia.

Well i would have got out but the boat couldn't see me in the waves. Enjoying the cold and rain here now from the inside of a bar.X

Good to see she is okay and can joke about it but I guess she will not be classing this as one of the best days of her life!

Chaverley and skunk

We have rather uncharitably nicknamed the friend of Ian's neighbour skunk, due the fact that she has very dark hair with a wide blond streak running down the centre. When I arrived on Friday night she was standing in the window wearing a bra and pants with a bottle of beer in her hand. They proceeded to shout at their children, swear, drink and talk all night (including a shouting match at 4.a.m.)

With regard to their dress sense, they should perhaps heed the advice in 'modern manners'.

"Women go to the office, shop, travel and go around town in the kind of bare-shouldered, bare-necked sun-dressed that used to only be worn for the one can deny that they are deliciously comfortable to wear on a hot day. But Captain Fogey's views should be taken into account. ....he can be heard to remark that girls are turning the place into a beach cafe. So our advice must be: When in doubt-put on a bolero."

Actually bare shoulders are the least of my concerns now. It is the low cut jeans that are so low you can see a line of pubic hair hanging over the top and a 'Muffin top' in the middle!

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Gold star

It was my final French class last night. We had wine, cheese,cakes and tried to talk in French for the most-part! I was pleased to discover that I got a merit for my exam.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

House building

These are the latest pictures of our build. This is 'le cave' or cellar and as you can see it is still like a swimming pool! This is the site so far! The foundations have been built but so far it has been too wet for them to pour the concrete and to start the walls. Still..there is more that when we went last time! The grass has also grown and the final picture is of Ian inspecting the hay!

More french wildlife

As on our previous visit, we saw our fair share of wildlife. Our first encounter was a bit tragic as we drove around a corner and I shouted out to Ian "Look out! There's a stick/snake in the road!" My warnings however were a bit late and unfortunately we drove over a large snake about a metre long. We saw it out the window writhing around but we were too scared to know what to do other than leave it and hope that it at least got a quick end as dinner for a hungry bird of prey. It later transpired that it was most likely a Couleuvre (grass snake) and completely harmless (as are the majority of French snakes). We did in deed see many birds of prey out looking for supper and another red squirrel but the most exiting thing was a young deer about 150 metres away (hence the poor photo). He caught wind of us and stood rooted to the spot in the hope that we would not notice him!

I also got a rare treat while I was sitting in the car waiting for Ian to do a deal with the local farmer who wanted to buy our hay. A woodpecker suddenly appeared on an old bath in front of the house as proceeded to feed what looked like baby chicks (or Mrs woodpecker) who seemed to have a nest in the hole where the water pipe came out! Oh well, easier than a tree!

04.06.08: Just found out the bird we saw was actually an

Eurasian Hoopoe, full name Upupa epops. What a great name for a great bird!

Monday, 2 June 2008

Flaming June

This year and last year were the wettest years anyone can remember in the Dordogne; or so everyone told us this weekend. As we stepped off the plane it started to thunder and we were soaked getting from the aircraft to the arrivals hall (Ryan Air does not generally use the covered walkways but there aren't any at Bergerac anyway- neither is there a radar; making landing a little tricky in bad weather!). Although we had some sunny moments it mostly rained on and off all weekend. The cellar and foundations have 53cm of water in them so Ian has asked the builder to put in a drain around the cellar to avoid having to use an electric pump all winter! The farmer was cross because it is too wet to plough and sow, and too wet for the grapes. 2008 will not be a vintage year for French wine! The builder was stressed because he hadn't managed to make the progress he had hoped on the house and everyone was becoming more grumpy by the minute!

We returned to Stansted to a dark, damp, drizzly evening more reminiscent of April than June!