Monday, 28 June 2010

Moving on

Ian is now back from France and taking stock before he finally finishes off his flat and rents it out. Of course he spent Thursday and Friday of last week looking at more pictures of heavy machinery. This time it was a dumper truck which he assures me he will need and an old ride on lawn mower (although we have no lawn yet!) Fortunately he missed out on the bidding which was a relief as I am not sure what we would have done with them between now and our next trip.

I got some ideas for out logo last week from my graphic artist neighbour, so we played around with them a bit and made a decision. All will be revealed when we have the final drawing! We are edging forwards slowly! Tomorrow I have my last French class.

C'est l'heure de dire adieu

Last week I was thinking about all the nice things about my job that I will miss. I have not had to wait long for a few things to happen to p*ss me off and make me long for the French fields!

A new government tends to galvanise  inactive civil servants into a spurt of action (in fear of their jobs and pensions no doubt!) I remember it when New Labour came into to power and it is no different with the ConDems. A young girl came from the Department of Health to tell us about how things will change. (I know I am too old when I refer to them all as 'young'). Apparently we are going to see fewer acute hospital beds (no change there, every government has tried to do this but no one has worked out yet that the only people misfortunate enough to stay in hospital are those who can't be anywhere else as they are too ill). We are also going to see more services provided closer to home. (Been tried before and in principal everyone agrees with this except services closer to home are more expensive than centralised services). Students are to be told (by whom? the government? ) that they must challenge practises they see that they think are wrong. "Well look what happened to me when I did that" piped up one student. Of course they should challenge but my experience of that is that it makes them unpopular and then they fail their placements. OK they should do it tactfully but they are STUDENTS and, as the word implies, they are still learning. The final one is this new thing that they are going to focus on called re-enablement; except that it is not new but another word for rehabilitation, which we have been doing since the end of the first world war!

Sunday, 20 June 2010

You can't tax some perks

I was most disappointed to discover that one of the blogs I read regularly has been mothballed. The Jobbing Doctor wrote about life as a General Practitioner, with its ups and downs, frustrations and bonuses. I enjoyed his musings but know that for many Bloggers who write about work related matters,  no matter how hard you try to keep your identity a secret you are eventually 'outed'. It is usually not a problem if you don't have too many readers but as the Jobbing Doctor's posts got more and more widely read I would guess it got more and more difficult for him to stay unknown. Or..maybe he just got fed up with it and needed a rest. Either way I will miss his thoughts.

The lack of JD prompted me to search the blog sphere for other interesting blogs to read and one of them that I found was "Hold my hand": a social worker's blog by Doris Plaster. Her post about a dying resident in a nursing home was really very moving (The Language of Love) and caused me to reflect on my post yesterday, where I was bemoaning the lack of perks in the public sector. It made me realise that my professional life has been full of all sorts of wonderful bonuses.  I often tell students, when they are struggling to come to terms with the difficulty of the cases that they have to deal with, that as therapists we often get to work with people at the lowest point of their lives. We see people do amazing things, fight against all the odds, we see the best of people, the worst of people and in some cases we can make a very small difference to their situation. That is truly a privilege and, if you like, a perk. And the best thing about it is that David Cameron and readers of the Daily Mail can't do anything about it! So thank you Doris for helping me see my work in perspective! I am very pleased to be leaving this bit of it now but it is nice to be able to go thinking of the good things about it!

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Health and safety man is alive and living in France

Ian is still in France. He has been hampered by rain and a rather officious inspector from the SPANC who took one look at Warren's carefully placed plastic pipe leading from the end of the filter bed to the middle of the field, shook his head, wagged his finger and said 'interdit'! Negotiation and discussion was therefore out of the question and so Ian and Warren spent last week digging a trench for the run off, consisting of two further 30 metre drains running across the slope, sand, gravel, yet more pipe and two further inspection holes so that the man from the SPANC could look into them on Thursday and check that they were draining properly! This is in spite of the fact that our neighbours' fosse empties directly into the ground and runs off into the corner of our field filtered only by the grass and the soil. The slightly smelly puddle that collects a the top of the field has been ideal for growing the twisted willow tree we bought from England 18 months ago and is also popular with Sid the snake so we are not too bothered by it but annoyed by the 'health and safety man' mentality that has found its way into the French countryside! If the drains prove to be ineffective then we have to get the run-off from our filter bed pumped up to the ditch that runs off by the side of the road!

You can just see both features in this picture. Over to the right, just in front of the hedge is a lush green patch, which is our neighbour's run-off and at the end of the muddy trench leading away from the filter bed is the forbidden pipe exit!

David Cameron and his ConDemmed party have appointed Lord Young to investigate whether health and safety has 'gone mad'. I think it is probably the people implementing all these policies that have gone mad. Interestingly when Cameron first mentioned these ideas before the election the LibDems emphatically disagreed with him. Funny how madness spreads.

I expect my wages to be frozen after the budget on Tuesday. Apparently my 'perks' are also threatened but as I can't think of any perks that I have had then I can't see what they can do. Public sector pensions are waved around like a red flag by the likes of the Daily Mail as being a perk. Yes, I have a pension and I have paid 7% of my salary every month towards it for  20+ years. Even if I work until I am 70 I will never be able to accrue the 40 years necessary for a full pension. A full pension would give me half my salary on retirement. I will get about a quarter which, without going into too much detail with regards to my salary would give me a pension of about £10,000 per year. Not what I consider a perk after 30 years of public service! Anyway, it will shortly not be my concern as I formally handed in my notice on Monday!

Sunday, 13 June 2010


The day after I found out about Norma I was quite sad and Ian suggested that we stopped working and went for a walk around the land. I was particularly keen to see what had happened to the orchid field. We were quite a bit later than last year, when they were spectacular, but then it has been a long winter and a late spring so everything is a little later this year. This year the rain has meant that the grass has grown up a lot more but although past their prime, we still had an impressive array of pyramid orchids in bloom, along with a host of other wild flowers.

This was taken from the bottom of the field looking up towards the house. There were one or two bee orchids but these were really finished. Our plans at the moment are to leave the field as it is but maybe just to top the grass after the orchids have died back. We also saw lots of butterflies. My favourites were four really pretty black, white and grey ones, which reminded me of Norma. I have always liked the idea that the butterfly is associated with the soul and to me this is more meaningful than symbolic burials or cremations. So when I saw these butterflies floating around over the fields and flowers I though of Norma, free at last from the things that tied her down. Unfortunately they were flitting around too quickly for me to take a photo!
Grieving for a pet is different to grieving about a person. I was sad for a day, less sad the day after and now, apart from getting used to needing one less cat bowl my life goes on as before. With a person the pain lasts longer and is stronger.

When I showed people some pictures of the house after the last visit they asked me if the sky was always blue. Well, it isn't I'm afraid. The weather was quite changeable and we had some spectacular grey skies!

Digger man

Ian spent most of the week with the digger. He is still in France with her but today he has taken a 'day off' and gone to see a Tractor Pulling Contest! I am posting this picture because maybe some of you can identify with the look of sheer concentration and pleasure on Ian's face!


I was really looking forward to a long lie in bed this morning! I always sleep quite badly this time of year with the long hours of daylight and after a week in France with lots of work and a journey home yesterday I needed to catch up with a few hours sleep. However, this was not to be as in the very early hours the jackdaw nest fell down the chimney complete with jackdaw. This is pretty much an annual occurrence and I have discovered that the best way to deal with it is to open the window and the chimney and let the bird work it out for itself. Last time the bird flew out in about 2 hours but this bird is a bit more stupid and is still trying the loud squawks from inside the chimney in the hope that his mates will come and rescue him. Oh well, I hope he will work it out before bedtime!

France were playing in the World Cup on Friday and we went out for a meal in the town square. It was an ordinary Friday night except the local bar had a few more people than normal. Last night I arrived back at the railway station just a the England vs USA match was entering half time. The pubs were spilling over onto the pavement with drunken men wearing red and white and girls wearing very little. Police sirens were blaring as they tried to control the drunken crowds. I had 40 minutes to wait for a bus home so I got a taxi! It was not a great homecoming!

Mandi was pleased to see me but didn't seem to be missing Norma at all. In fact, he is relishing in being the centre of attention for the first time in his life!

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Farewell Norma

I was worried about Norma before I left. I know that she had limited time left but seeing her condition as I left for Ireland I did wonder whether now was a good time to go away. I told my neighbour to phone me if she was worried. Last night, while we were enjoying a meal with neighbours in our dining room (complete with dust sheets as tablecloths, tools all around us and no ceilings) I got a call. Norma had been missing for two days and despite searches and contacting the vet she had not reappeared. The feeling was that she had taken herself off to die.

I spent the night trying to think about places that she might be. I went through all her secret hiding places in my mind and sent a text the following morning. As we were wandering round yet another hardware store I got a call to say that she had been found in a nearby garden and taken to the vets. She was almost dead so the vets had to put her to sleep.

I called the vets, tried to reassure everyone that they had done the right thing, and agreed Norma's funeral arrangements. (A few days in the freezer and the off to the pet crematorium..I am not sentimental about these things and don't feel the need to have some sort of memorial ).

So, Norma chose her time and is now at peace but when I return on Saturday the house will feel less like home without her.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Another day, another breakfast

Hotel breakfast buffets are all the same really. Turins full of curdled scrambled egg, drying bacon etc, plates of cheese and ham, yoghurt, fruit....I find it all a bit overwhelming and I can never decide what I want. Whatever I choose never lives up to my expectations. At breakfast today was a man who looked like the incredible hulk and wore a T shirt with 'World's Strongest Man' on it. I don't know whether he was a true contender or a hopeful but he was still tucking into the third course of his breakfast as I left.

We are off to France tomorrow. I am just there for a week and then come back but Ian has tasked himself with finishing the concrete slab for the garage before he returns. The miracle is that Warren claims he has finished the fosse. He asked us to pay him by return but as he has spent 6 months ignoring our phone calls and emails he may well have to wait a little for his money!

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Small world

l am currently in a hotel room in Limerick on my final duties as an external examiner. For the first time I managed to arrive with a laptop that I can connect to the hotel's wireless network and so it is almost like being at home. Ryan Scare have withdrawn the late evening flight that I used to get and so I arrived a day later than usual without much time to do the required work. Consequently I have been sitting here reading scripts and trying to recover from the enormous meal I had earlier at The Cornstore. Should you ever find yourself in Limerick I can recommend it but working in the evening on a full stomach is not that easy!

On the flight over I found myself sitting next to a woman who turned out to be a good friend of my doctor! It's a small world!