Friday, 8 September 2017

Festival

Three musicians: fiddle, banjo and guitar
The East Pointers, August 2017
I had plenty to do during the Bank Holiday weekend what with the Shrewsbury Folk Festival, another dental appointment, a trip north and trying to grapple further with the LTRP. I disposed of the debris from the garden before getting packed and ready to go to Shrewsbury. I arrived there around noon, thinking I would be among the early birds, but the steward at the festival campsite said "We've already been open for five hours - you'll probably have to camp over there."

'Over there' was a little bit further from the action, but still very close by. In the past my preferred festival has been in Cambridge, which I first attended more than 30 years ago. Cambridge Folk Festival has grown and grown, from a couple of stages and a bit of camping to a huge event sponsored by Radio 2 where tickets are sold out within days (or sometimes hours). The last time I was there was for my 50th birthday, and it was crowded and difficult to navigate about the site, and overflow camping (which is where I would normally go) is a bus ride or a very long walk away.

Compared with that experience, Shrewsbury was amazing. The overflow camping being very close was a bonus, so I pitched the tent and wandered over to the main site to get my wristband and a programme and check out the layout. The stages are inside marquees which weren't yet open, but I caught a glimpse and was surprised and slightly disappointed to see it laid out with seating! Although I don't like sitting on the ground, I do like dancing. How would this work?

Anyway, there was enough time to wander into Shrewsbury town centre (again, much closer than Cambridge) before coming back to the start of the music at about 5pm. Despite my scepticism, the seating was the perfect arrangement - I didn't have to sit on the ground, but there was a section at the front in the main tent specifically for those who wanted to get closer to the bands and dance. So there I was, for my favourite Oysterband, right at the front in the middle when the lead singer came out into the crowd. I happened to meet him later in the weekend, carrying a pint. I didn't realise it until the close of the festival, but he is a local resident and a patron and supporter of the event.

So it was altogether a great improvement on the Cambridge experience, the weather was fine, and the bands were (mostly) wonderful too. I saw a few Canadian and French bands as well as home-grown talent, nearly all unfamiliar but I'd go and see them again if they happened to be touring. Particular highlights were La Machine, The East Pointers, Le Vent du Nord and Daphne's Flight. And, of course, Oysterband. I'll definitely be going back next year.

The following weekend I went to High Wycombe to see the English National Badminton competition. Unfortunately none of the big name players was there, perhaps because the World Championships had taken place just the previous week, but there was enough to see to keep me occupied for the day. I saw the quarter- and semi-finals on Saturday, but didn't go back for the finals on Sunday.

At work I covered the ante-natal clinic for a colleague who was on holiday. I think there were twelve appointments altogether (one DNA), up to 30 minutes each, for women who have been diagnosed in the past week. This was their first appointment about the diagnosis of gestational diabetes, so they each saw the nurse first. She explained the diagnosis and its consequences and gave them a blood glucose meter and lots of paperwork, then passed them on to me where I said pretty much the same thing eleven times. By the end I had completely lost track of what I had said to whom, but I think it went OK. I don't quite know how my colleague copes with this every week - once was enough for me.

The only other item of note is that my iron count was too low to donate blood this week - oh dear, but also, hooray! All the virtuous smugness of doing a good deed without actually having to go through with it, and my haemoglobin level was low but still within the normal range so I'm not anaemic. I was also given a leaflet giving me all the advice that I am used to giving out to patients...

Thursday, 31 August 2017

What I've been reading

Image of the book cover

Life After Life
by Kate Atkinson
"What if there were second chances? And third chances? In fact an infinite number of chances to live your life? Would you eventually be able to save the world from its own inevitable destiny? And would you even want to?"
I found this book fascinating once I'd worked out what was going on. It is about a particular individual who is reborn at the same instant, in a snowstorm, every time she dies. So the same period of time is revisited a number of times with different outcomes, and it seems that in later iterations she has flashes of remembrance of a previous life which often propel her to make different choices. As time went on I became more interested in how the book would end, what point might be made, what conclusions drawn, and to be honest I was a bit disappointed when it fizzled out. I'd love to create my own version and see what I could do. I'll have to add it to the 'Things To Do When I Retire' list.


Image of the book cover

Peter Pan
by J. M. Barrie

narrated by B. J. Harrison
"One starry night, Peter Pan and Tinker Bell lead the three Darling children over the rooftops of London and away to Neverland - the island where lost boys play, mermaids splash and fairies make mischief. But a villainous-looking gang of pirates lurk in the docks, led by the terrifying Captain James Hook."
Always interesting to revisit classic stories that you believe you know, because there's usually something you've forgotten, like Dorothy having white shoes in the book of the Wizard of Oz. In this book it was the degree of brutality including the children actually killing the pirates, Mr Darling living in the dog's kennel until the children come home, and then the finale when Wendy is grown up with her own daughter.


Image of the book cover

Barchester Towers
by Anthony Trollope

narrated by Timothy West
"The rather incompetent new Bishop, Dr. Proudie, led by his formidable wife, and ambitious chaplain, Mr. Slope, begin to create turmoil with their desire to shake up the church establishment in Barchester with new policies and practices. However, the established clergy of Barchester led by Archdeacon Grantly are equally determined to keep things just as they've always been."
This was a good book and an excellent reading by Timothy West, although I would say that Trollope doesn't write love affairs very well. I was glad that the right people got married in the end but I never felt the attraction, and it made an interesting contrast with Galsworthy who makes me root for his lovers from the first. Then I wanted to know whether the authors were contemporaries, and they aren't because Galsworthy started his Forsyte saga 50 years after Trollope wrote this, but then I discovered that Daniel Deronda and Uncle Tom's Cabin were written in the same era as Barchester. Such utterly different books - Eliot's set in the towns and cities featuring squires and Jews, Trollope focusing on provincial clergy, and of course they have nothing in common with the situation of slaves in North America. It almost makes me want to study a bit of history, and that has never happened before.


Image of the book cover

Under the Net
by Iris Murdoch
"Jake, hack writer and sponger, now penniless flat-hunter, seeks out an old girlfriend, Anna Quentin, and her glamorous actress sister, Sadie. He resumes acquaintance with the formidable Hugo, whose ‘philosophy’ he once presumptuously dared to interpret."
What a peculiar reading experience this was. No doubt that it was well written - I didn't experience any heartsink moments and let's face it, it's Iris Murdoch and she's supposed to be good. But I couldn't follow what was going on - or rather, I understood what was happening, but not why. And the number of times people happened to bump into one another made it feel as if it were set in a village rather than London (or at one point, Paris). You don't go to a Bastille Day firework display and happen to catch sight of the person you're looking for, follow her into a wood, pick up the shoes she leaves at the base of a tree - and then lose her, never to meet her again? Well written yes, but it makes no sense. I enjoyed reading the scene about the four drunk friends swimming in the Thames at midnight, or releasing a large dog from a cage, or escaping from a police raid on a Socialist rally in a film studio (really?) but none of these fitted together or helped the plot to progress. It was my first Iris Murdoch, and her first novel too. I'll read some more on the assumption that she gets better.


Image of the book cover

The Soldier's Wife
by Joanna Trollope
"When Dan Riley returns to his adored wife, Alexa, and their children, his army life still comes first. Alexa thought she was prepared to help him, and the whole family, to make the transition to normal life again - but no one had told her how lonely and near impossible the task would be."
Easy reading in a tent in a field. I liked it even though it was fairly shallow. Probably because it was fairly shallow.


Image of the book cover

The Metamorphosis
by Franz Kafka

narrated by B. J. Harrison
"The story begins with a traveling salesman, Gregor Samsa, waking to find himself transformed into a large, monstrous insect-like creature. Gregor attempts to adjust to his new condition as he deals with being burdensome to his parents and sister, who are repelled by the horrible, verminous creature Gregor has become."
An interesting short story - very famous of course, and as peculiar as can be. There is no explanation of why the metamorphosis had happened, and nobody in the story questions the transformation, they just react and respond to it. If I could be bothered I would research what the author might have intended to convey, or the meaning that scholars have suggested subsequently. But I probably won't.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

I work a bit harder for a change

Computer generated view of the proposed kitchen

My life recently is contained neatly in just five categories: LTRP, Badminton, Garden, Buddhism, and Work. I don't think there's much else gone on in the past week except eating and sleeping. Note that Music and Running do not feature - Music starts again in September, but Running may never make a further appearance. Holidays, Camping and Travel are imminent though - I'm looking forward to several trips coming up soon.

LTRP


I met the kitchen man Ylf again, hopefully for the last time. I have selected and specified everything I can think of - plinths (I do love that word), units, doors, handles, worktops, 'upstand' (where the worktop extends a little way up the wall), 1 hob, 2 ovens, 2 sinks, 2 taps, 2 draining board arrangements, 1 dishwasher. I'm keeping my current fridge/freezer and washing machine. Ylf has provided a floor plan, a final quotation, and some computer-generated pictures of how it might look.

Meanwhile I have approved Ulf's chosen LVT (Luxury Vinyl Tile) supplier and he has partly broken down his quotation for me. We will have to talk more because (a) his quote for the flooring was supposed to be cheaper than the alternative Karndean but it isn't, (b) Ylf not Ulf needs to be responsible for the whole kitchen installation because Ulf doesn't have a fitter for my preferred worktop, and (c) I still don't have an overall comprehensive picture of what Ulf will be doing and how much it will cost. However, at this stage I can probably construct this for him, which is what I may do to save time.

As you can imagine, every other aspect of the LTRP is on hold until the kitchen project is done, except for trying to sell various unwanted white goods and the terracotta wine rack with capacity for thirty bottles that has never held more than about five. I'm not even thinking about what could be done next, although when the stairs are replaced (part of Ulf's quote) perhaps it will be time to consider the upstairs hall... so maybe I am thinking about what could be done next.

Badminton


Always evolving, my Monday club now only has three female members. I'm there for the full two hours every week without fail, and another lady regularly comes but for only one hour because she has childcare issues. The third lady turns up once in a while and swears that this time she will keep coming every week, then we don't see her again for months. So I spend a lot of time playing with the boys, which is fine, but it would be nice to have more women.

I tried to arrange a summer barbeque for the club. When will I learn? They all encourage me by saying what a good idea it is and won't it be fun, so I set a date and time and place and construct a welcoming and enthusiastic email, and just three people respond to say they can come, one of whom is bringing a child. So we abandon the BBQ and I book an Indian restaurant which turns out to be unsuitable for the mother/child combo and has to be un-booked, and we go to Pizza Express. At the last minute we did get three more, so there were eight of us in the end. It lashed down with rain throughout, so a good thing we didn't stick with the BBQ idea. And I so rarely get to eat pizza.

Garden


Nasty, thorny, back-breaking, stupid garden. I don't even spend much time sitting in it, not even back when the weather was good. Day 1: I hacked it back by at least a third and left all the debris on the lawn and paving. Day 2: I filled ten bags with non-thorny stuff (wisteria, forsythia, sage, spotted leaf plant whose name escapes me, other one with the scented white flowers), left the rest where it was. Day 3: took ten bags to the tip, returned and filled them again with the remaining thorny stuff (rose, berberis, pyracantha, holly, hawthorn) and more non-thorny stuff, took another ten bags to the tip. Another couple of bags still waiting, and the lawn needs mowing.

When the indoor LTRP is done I'm coming for you, garden. You'd better watch out.

During Day 3 a head popped up over the wall from my neighbour's garden. It is a gardener, who reports that he visits twice a year to hack back my neighbour's plants in much the same way as I hack back my own, except she has a much smaller space with much less in the way of thorns. I invited him to come and attack her overhanging shrubs from my side of the wall, which he did, and I now have his contact details. If this flirtation proceeds to full engagement then he may join the ranks of my named tradesmen, and I may never again have forearms that look as though I have been fighting with cats.

Computer generated view of the proposed kitchen


Buddhism


My Thursday badminton club doesn't play over the summer, and the Buddhist Centre in Birmingham has a Thursday night event. So at the beginning of the summer I thought I'd go there on Thursdays, except that I kept finding lots of good reasons not to. My local Tuesday Buddhist group doesn't happen in August either, but eventually I made it to Birmingham last Thursday. Conveniently, they were holding a Bake Off activity so there was a lot of cake, followed by a talk about how baking might complement Buddhist practice which didn't do much for me. But I enjoyed the cake a lot, and met some more new people who were also very pleasant and welcoming. I might even go again on another Thursday.

Work


There is a Health and Well-Being event scheduled for mid-September and aimed at staff at my hospital site, and the Dietitian who used to work in Public Health and 'cardiac prevention' has moved on to Weight Management. So I've been called upon to create the Healthy Eating stand, together with the two part-time ward Dietitians. (Almost immediately, and for reasons that are not connected with the Health and Well-Being event, one of them resigned.) I have made a few phone calls to a couple of organisations and with luck I'll receive a poster or two and some leaflets about fat, fibre, salt etc. in time for the event. It will not be an impressive display, and hopefully someone more competent will be appointed soon so I won't have to do it again.

I've also agreed to do an ante-natal clinic which is my least favourite clinic in the world, and I'm covering another clinic to help out the team because our Team Leader has gone, and I nearly covered another two clinics because of staff unavailability but I wasn't needed in the end. Look at me, volunteering for extra stuff. Maybe I am starting to work a bit harder than before. And my very least favourite patient of all time has decided that I can help him if he sees me on a regular basis, which is sufficient punishment for all my previous sins.

Computer generated view of the proposed kitchen

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Names

Pitcher plant
Krakow Botanical Gardens, July 2016
There are going to have to be some naming conventions for all the LTRP tradesmen yet to come, and this is one aspect (the only one?) of the building project that I'm quite looking forward to. Of course, my first builder is called Alf (which is his true name), then there was Elf who fixed the leaking roof of the hallway, and Ilf the handyman who continues to be a delight to work with, and finally Olf who sorted out the garage. The architect is escaping without official nomenclature, but the latest builder is going to be Ulf and the kitchen guy Ylf. If I have any more work done we're going to have to start on consonants, which will be only marginally less satisfying. I'm slightly sorry that Electrician Bill somehow ended up outside this scheme.

I think I'll give subcontractors numbers or prefixes according to their branch of the tree. There will be a worktop man, maybe he will be Worktop sub-Ylf or Ylf 2, and there may be Plumber sub-Ulf, or Ulf the Wrench. Or Firstborn Son of Ulf the King. If the plumber has a mate, he might be Plumber sub-Ulf (a). I will probably need to keep a reference table somewhere. We'll see who turns up and how I feel.

I've managed to get hold of Ulf since he came back from holiday, and the start of the job has been put back by a month. Rather than being annoyed I am slightly relieved, because there have been several issues that rely on having enough notice to arrange, and it was starting to look as though things were moving too fast. If a swift decision were ever needed from me in order to avoid certain death, I think I would have to ring a few people to say goodbye. Anyway, I have some more answers from Ulf and I have spoken to Ylf and I am almost back on track. Maybe I'll be able to get a proper night's sleep soon, if it weren't for the pesky patients.

In between worrying about patients and building works and gradually moving out more of the kitchen contents, I have ferried dad and mum to one of dad's hospital appointments where he seemed to enjoy meeting a Clinical Psychologist while mum and I ate egg sandwiches and chatted in the waiting room. There has been a family gathering for Sister D's birthday, and I have watched the Oscar-winning film 'Moonlight', which was very moving. Other than that, nothing to report.

Close up of the striated rim of the pitcher plant

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Birthday treats

In the last blog post I left you with my soggy tent at the end of Famfest. There was more to come in my birthday week because on Friday I headed down to London for further events, staying with Lola II and Mr M as usual. There was a concert in Islington and a picnic in Regents Park. Or, as I discovered, The Regent's Park.

On Saturday I slept very late while Lola II did exercise at the swimming pool, then we had brunch at a fancy brunch spot, did the shopping for the picnic, ate some more and went to the concert. The Indigo Girls are from the South of the USA, and are a duo singing what I suppose I'd call Folk Rock. Here's the one that always makes me cry. I was a little overwrought. Got something in my eye.



They are MUCH older now than when these videos were produced. But so am I. Here's the one they do before the encore (I have no idea what the visuals in the video are all about. Ignore them and just listen):



And the closing number, which had the whole venue singing at full pelt:



I could listen to them forever. And sometimes I have to, given Lola II's propensity to sing whatever's in her mind at all times. On our camping holiday during the walk around the reservoir she started to sing the sound of the squeaky gate. She does cashpoints and pelican crossings too. Unbelievable.

It was my birthday on Sunday, but I knew that work loomed on Monday and I'd need to wake up a lot earlier so my plan was to set my alarm for 8 a.m. Lola II and Mr M seemed a little put out by this, but I thought nothing of it until about five to eight when they arrived in my bedroom to sing Happy Birthday, a ritual not performed for me for at least 20 years. No wonder they were a little disappointed out at my choice of an early start.

I was presented with splendid and practical gifts - a road map, because we had experienced together the uselessness of satnav in the lanes of Devon. A mug painted by Lola II to represent the 'jazzy drop' fake chocolate sprinkled with hundreds and thousands that we enjoyed 30 years ago. A plastic toothbrush cover for travel protection in the washbag, from Mr M I think. Half a bar of chocolate left over from the hazelnut, plum and chocolate birthday cake that Lola II baked the day before. And jars of homemade (by Mr M) plum jam and grape jam. I couldn't have asked for better presents.

On Sunday I'd arranged for a group of friends to meet in The Regent's Park, near the bandstand in case it rained, but it didn't and everyone came and we had a lovely picnic. I found out some fascinating insider political facts by grilling my friend who works at the Home Office unmercifully about Teresa May, Amber Rudd, Boris, Brexit, the last general election, the next general election and anything else I could think of. I don't see him very often and I have to say he delivered quality information. There was also a brief conversation about another skiing holiday. Yay!!

My birthday was also celebrated at work on Monday where we routinely give each other a card and a cake and some flowers. On returning home my sleep patterns have reverted to regular insomnia again, so on my usual day off on Tuesday I was determined to sort out some of the LTRP issues that have been on my mind. It took three hours to get to the bottom of my options for hob, dishwasher, ovens and taps, and another hour to consider floors and other matters relating to the overall project.

I went out for a walk in Kenilworth with my ex-team leader, on the same day as the interviews for her replacement. Her job was in the midst of a team which is entirely dysfunctional and everyone in it is trying to find work elsewhere. None of the applicants was appointed, not that it makes much difference to me as I wasn't really being managed before either. The reason given to one internal candidate was that she lacked management experience, which makes me believe I may well have been successful if I'd applied for the job. But although I have management experience I know that I am not a good manager, and I am trying to make my life less complicated and coast down the slope towards retirement. I get entirely enough responsibility and leeway for service improvement in my current job, and the extra money would not make up for the stress and unpleasantness of the team leader post.

Castle ruins in the distance
Kenilworth Castle, August 2017

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Famfest

Sagging tent and super tent
Lola II and Mr M occupying my tent as theirs is Not Very Well
Camping with Lola II and Mr M for five nights certainly sorted out the sleep problem. In fact, one evening I was so tired that I went to lie down at about 8.30 p.m., and despite thinking about getting up again for a brief period I actually woke up at 8.15 next morning.

Our first encampment was near Dartmoor on a very remote campsite run by an elderly couple. The journey was extended by 'holiday traffic' and an accident that totally blocked the M5 motorway. Lola II and Mr M were making their way down separately, and phoned me near Bristol to find out how I was getting along. Using roadside landmarks we determined that we were less than a mile apart. Uncanny.

We arrived in the rain, and while it wasn't pouring when we put up the tents it was generally damp. My tent performed brilliantly at its first outing, unlike Lola II and Mr M's tent which had developed a serious sagging problem. The cause was definitely one of the bendy poles but we could find no solution at this time. It was still usable, but not the tent it should have been.

Camp food varied in quality. The lateness of our arrival and the difficulty with the tent meant that the emergency Pot Noodles were deployed on the first night. Despite the rain when we arrived and on and off throughout the first day, Mr M was very keen to have a fire because he and Lola II had brought supplies for a meal that required a fire: baked Camembert, sweet potatoes, and melted chocolate in baked bananas. I was sceptical about the practicality of drying wet logs using the very limited supply of dry logs, but Mr M was not deterred and successfully overcame the problem by throwing firelighters at it. Literally.

View down to remains of Bronze Age settlement
Grimspound, July 2017
Food off-site was generally very good, including one of the best soups I've ever tasted at a little tearoom in Moretonhampstead on Dartmoor. We also visited the Warren House Inn for Sunday lunch, after which we climbed up to Grimspound - a well-preserved late Bronze Age settlement - and the Tor overlooking it. Other non-food activities included 'House of Marbles' which is a tourist attraction containing glass blowing, a pottery museum, many retail opportunities, and displays about games and the manufacture of marbles including a number of marble runs. We watched these strangely addictive 'machines' for quite some time as the marbles (or in one case, snooker balls) follow their different tracks. We also stopped off at an interesting bridge constructed from large slabs of granite balanced on piers across the river.

Loal II and Mr M posing on bridge
Clapper Bridge, Postbridge, Devon, July 2017
Monday was a rain-free sunny day, and after packing up the tents we headed off to walk around a reservoir near Okehampton, followed by a brief visit to Okehampton itself - nice town but disappointing cakes from a bakery that looked promising but failed to deliver. Then we joined the Famfest, which was the main reason for the trip to this part of the world.

A branch of the family originating with one of our grandmother's sisters has been convening an annual family gathering for several years now, and last year was the first that we attended. That one was in Hertfordshire and included more than 40 people; this one was a little further afield but there were more than 50 people in attendance. Despite being over 90, our grandmother's niece and her husband had made the trip from Cincinnatti, and they were among the most enthusiastic about attending the various scheduled activities.

We camped here too, although most of those in attendance occupied normal accommodation in the main house. With the assistance of one of the guests, Mr M managed to fix the sagging tent, which pleased Lola II a great deal.

Gin school - one litre copper stills on a shelf above the workbench
Gin School
On Tuesday we all headed off to the seaside town of Salcombe, where one of the cousins (I use this term very generally to mean absolutely any of those in attendance) has recently established a very successful gin distilling business, including a Gin School where you can distill a bottle to your own recipe. We were treated to gin cocktails in the bar before a short tour of the distillery and school. It is a really classy operation and looks as though it will continue to be as successful as it deserves to be.

We met many, many cousins and I'm pretty sure by the end I knew about 80% of the names, even of the children. There were also some I never spoke to! The majority were there for five days, but Lola II and Mr M and I left after two nights, packing up the tents in between the drizzle and showers. Back home I checked the weather forecast and dragged the tent outside to dry off, thinking I might also prune the forsythia, and deciding to do it after finishing the cup of tea I'd just made. Before the tea was finished the heavens opened and soaked the tent. I hadn't put it up with the poles, just laid it flat on the lawn, so it became much wetter than it was before and I had to put in the poles and erect it properly to dry out.

View of sheep, hills and sky from my tent
Famfest campsite, July 2017

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

What I've been reading

Image of the book cover

The Seasick Whale
by Ephraim Kishon

translated by Yohanan Goldman
"The rollicking account of an Israeli traveller abroad. In London, Hollywood, Venice, Paris, wherever Mr Kishon goes troubles follow."
Despite being written sometime in the 1960's (the book I have has no publication date) the satirical take on different European and US nationals is still sharp. Brits are impossible to rouse to anger and polite to the point of annoyance; in Hollywood there is nowhere to park and you can achieve nothing without an agent. Very entertaining.


Image of the book cover

Daniel Deronda
by George Eliot

narrated by Juliet Stevenson
"Crushed by a loveless marriage to the cruel and arrogant Grandcourt, Gwendolen Harleth seeks salvation in the deeply spiritual and altruistic Daniel Deronda. But Deronda, profoundly affected by the discovery of his Jewish ancestry, is ultimately too committed to his own cultural awakening to save Gwendolen from despair."
George Eliot's last and very long book, 36 hours of audio narrated beautifully and nicely edited - the long passages in various languages at the head of chapters were faded out in favour of the English translation. Lots of Jewish colour from the period - Jews in high positions as well as lowly pawnbrokers and thieves - alongside tales of the Christian aristocracy and how marriage was used to create and measure social status. I'm glad I read it, but I won't be reading it again!


Image of the book cover

Last Seen Wearing
by Colin Dexter
"Valerie Taylor has been missing since she was seventeen, more than two years ago. Inspector Morse is sure she's dead. But if she is, who forged the letter to her parents saying 'I am alright so don't worry'?"
I haven't read a 'Morse' book before, and I was surprised that the quality of writing wasn't as good as I had expected. I thought that the books were the source of the TV series, but now it wouldn't surprise me if the TV came first. It was no better than OK.


Image of the book cover

Cranford
by Elizabeth Gaskell

narrated by Prunella Scales
"Through a series of vignettes, Elizabeth Gaskell portrays a community governed by old-fashioned habits and dominated by friendships between women."
Listening to this was a very pleasant experience. All the characters had distinct personalities and went through the ups and downs of nineteenth century village life with attitudes of optimism and contentment as well as a little envy and resentment. Just like most of us, but without the conspicuous consumption.


Image of the book cover

Death to the French
by C. S. Forester
"In 1810, with Wellington's army penned behind the Tigus, Rifleman Dodd becomes separated from his regiment. When he stumbles upon a band of Portuguese guerrillas, he transforms this ramshackle group into an organized fighting force that continually harries the infuriated enemy."
Not a Hornblower novel, this covers the brutal exploits of an English soldier and his single-minded, if not simple-minded approach to the life of a fighting man who has known nothing else. The book title has since been changed to 'Rifleman Dodd' but the original is more in line with the contents of the book. It portrays the English forces as the best, most efficient and well-led force of the time in a fairly jingoistic style, and the Portuguese and French as both sadistic and incompetent.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Out of sorts

Small pink and purple flower spikes
Krakow Botanical Gardens, July 2016
I can't sleep - or at least, I'm waking up at all hours thrashing about in bed unable to get comfortable. 2am, 4am, 6am and all hours in between, no pattern to it. In the morning if I realise that I haven't been awake for a couple of hours since going to bed it's a rare treat.

Sometimes I know why - The LTRP is making me a bit tense, and I've had a few difficult patients at work and that always makes me mull over what I could have done differently or how I might approach the situation when I see them next. To try and improve matters I've stopped using phone or tablet screens close to bedtime, I've been going to bed at reasonable times, I've opened the window, but nothing seems to be working. So I'm tired - one morning I thought I might as well go to work early, but when I got there I had to have a nap in the car before going in.

Then last Tuesday on my day off I had toothache and didn't really want to do anything at all except sit on the sofa or go back to bed. The weekend before that was super busy - Lola II and Mr M visited and came to our concert, which is very brave and noble of them. I was much more nervous than usual because of all the exposed baritone saxophone solos, and the other regular bari player wasn't able to play at the concert, but our glorious leader found a stand-in so I wasn't entirely on my own. It went very well in the end.

So today mum commented that there hadn't been anything new on the blog for ages and I realised how long it is since anything of note actually happened, and how much else is occupying me. Before the concert I was doing quite a lot of saxophone practice and a bit of clarinet practice. That DVD series I mentioned before (The Newsroom) really is very good and as well as watching episodes in free evenings I watched two episodes back to back when I was feeling poorly on Tuesday.

The LTRP has now reached a stage where it really isn't fun at all any longer. The decisions to be made are no more difficult than before, but as much as I try to understand and stay on top of everything, the issues pile up and I feel out of control most of the time.

The meeting with the kitchen company highlighted the fact that I still don't quite know which appliances to choose and the tap catalogue they gave me has a terrifying 150 pages of options. Before ordering the kitchen items he wants to measure the space (which isn't built yet) and delivery may not be for three weeks after that. And my preferred acrylic worktop needs to be installed by a specialist who may need three months notice but the work is due to start in just a month, and the builder's on holiday now for two weeks.

The architect has emailed to tell me that my plans have been passed by building control except for a requirement for a smoke detector which I thought I'd already agreed to, and I still haven't gone for alternative quotes for the paving and veranda and stairs. None of this is critical but it is making me rather uncomfortable. No wonder my sleep is a bit disturbed.

On the positive side, I have sold some of my surplus kitchen appliances and I hope to sell a bit more in the next month, and I have emptied about half of the contents of the kitchen which is a very good start. A colleague has offered an electric steamer for when I am without a working kitchen, and I'll have the microwave - the main problems will be laundry and washing up, although I'll probably use mostly plastic cutlery and paper plates. Or eat out, or have ready meals, or sandwiches. Or have big lunches at work and no evening meal. Whatever. It will be worth it. I will choose oven options, and taps. It will be fine.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Bad luck, carelessness and stupidity

Bicycle behind railings of elegant Regency buidling
Lansdowne Crescent, June 2017
I have grown some lovely new skin over the back of my hand, which is now almost as good as new, just a bit pink to show where the damage was done. Then, like a child who doesn't know any better, I went for a long walk in some boots that didn't fit very well and managed to create more blister than toe on one foot. This is also much better now, but I need to pay more attention to looking after my extremities. And get rid of the boots. And try not to pour hot water over myself.

In other health news I have been a regular visitor to the dentist, because the appliance that used to stop me from grinding my teeth at night no longer works, seemingly because either my teeth or my jaw has exerted its independent right to travel. A new appliance is in order, but the first impression wasn't good enough and then there was some mixup at the lab so I've made three visits to the dentist so far. He's a pleasant man who knows the couple who used to live at Lola Towers before me, and we had a nostalgic conversation about the 70's children's TV programme 'Fingerbobs' while the dental assistant rolled her eyes at us.

The LTRP never quite goes away, and I had a long meeting with the builder to talk about exactly how the kitchen work will be done in what order by whom. It raised a few more questions, but I am fairly confident. No alternative builder has come back to me and the airing cupboard carpenter is not responding to my messages inviting him to quote for the stairs. I asked the builder to extend the work to deal with some damp in a wall, re-lay the paving in the garden and replace the veranda structure, and he has quoted quite reasonably for the damp and given me two incredibly high figures for the other two jobs. So more work for me to do in that direction.

Now I need to turn my attention back to the detail of kitchen fittings and will be seeing my chosen kitchen supplier next week. I did follow through and get an alternative quote, but it was much higher with poor attention to detail, she tended to blame me for not telling her things that were on the plans, and she talked too loudly. This last factor wouldn't have been the deciding one but it was definitely in the mix.

My appliance research has also presented me with interesting decisions to be made - double oven, two single ovens, integrated or separate microwave? It has also spurred me on to divest myself of superfluous white goods - anyone want an under-counter freezer, a dishwasher (which is now working, hooray!) and an integrated fridge? Nobody seems to be interested in the 30-bottle terracotta wine rack, so next I will split it into six 5-bottle units and see if they will attract more interest. There's also a pendant light and a wall light, a roll of wallpaper, all the kitchen cupboard doors and eventually the gas hob, which may need to be given away or donated to a good cause if I can find one that will take them.

Enough of the LTRP. There's also work news. Our newest nurse is in a fairly senior role, and is bringing her influence to bear by trying to introduce new ways of working and ideas that she's used before. I am really trying hard to be open-minded, but most of what she has suggested so far seems to bring little benefit to staff or patients. The latest thing is that she has covered the walls of the building with home-made motivational posters, which I always find irritating. I have had to secretly remove the one that offered the message "Every human being is the author of his own health or disease," supposedly quoted by the Buddha. At least the one about having a mind like a parachute that only works when it's open isn't actually offensive to people who have been diagnosed with a lifelong condition whose cause is unknown.

Large poster about reducing risk of diabetes complications

She has also arranged to have an enormous poster about risk factors in diabetes printed, with a grid containing pictures at the heading of columns and rows, and 'thumbs up' symbols within the squares of the grid. It really is enormous - about four feet high. The lack of actual words is to cater for non-English readers, but I looked at the poster for some time trying to decipher its meaning. Eventually I had to ask her what a couple of the pictures meant - the brain at the top is to represent a stroke, and the sad face on the left is depression - at which point I asked why depression is good for the heart? I don't think she's going to fix it, but then I don't think any patients are really going to look at the poster, and if they did I doubt that it would give them any information that they might go on to use.

We have been told that a rheumatology service is going to move into our building, displacing our gastroenterology doctor and his secretary. I have no idea why either gastroenterology or rheumatology should be located in a Diabetes centre, but there is no arguing with the Management. It's bad enough having a renal clinic on a Wednesday morning - renal patients seem to be much more tetchy than people with diabetes, perhaps because kidney disease makes you feel more ill.

Latest news - someone tried to further knock down the already knockdown price of the freezer, but I stood my ground and he paid up and took it away yesterday. Progress!

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Burned

Blue sky, girl on hot dusty road with white house in the distance
Villanueva, Spain, October 2016
It has been a hot, hot time and I have been suffering. Not just because I don't function very well in the heat, but because I was stupid enough to scald the back of my hand by pouring hot water onto it. I then compounded this stupidity with more stupidity by persuading the very helpful and obliging nurse in the Minor Injuries unit at work, who cleaned and dressed it on Friday morning, that it was OK for me not to come back until Monday, which turned out to be a Bad Idea. After that, I have followed their nursing advice to the letter. Except that I actually haven't because I'm not wearing the sling to keep my hand raised - how could I type? or drive?

In between typing and driving I am most definitely keeping the hand raised, because it jolly well hurts if I don't. And taking the antibiotics that have lessened the pain and angry redness and swelling that built up over the weekend of spending two days at the Leamington Peace Festival, in the searing heat. I also lost my best hat on Saturday, and wearing my second best hat on Sunday compelled me to buy a new best hat, which is not as good as my previous one, but will do for now.

The Peace Festival was good, and displayed Leamington at its finest in the scorching weather. I invited TaiChiY (my second cousin from London) to come and see the town and its festival - she could only come on Saturday, so I invited the Buddhists to join me on Sunday. I assembled just five Buddhists altogether, but two of them were kind enough to help move my household furniture as well as sitting around in the sun listening to some of the bands. On Saturday, given that TaiChiY is probably keener on Tai Chi than I am on badminton (imagine that!), I joined a Tai Chi workshop with a flustered little man who taught a small group of festival-goers a series of moves. It was surprisingly pleasant.

There is little else going on at the moment. The large shrubs in the garden have finished flowering and it's time to cut them down again, and the lawn needs mowing as always, and the upstairs sink needs unblocking, and there are more of my belongings to shift from one room to another. I'm getting rid of quite a lot of stuff in the process, but also finding interesting artifacts that I had forgotten about - a pack of letters saved from the early 1990's, for example. If there's anything interesting in there, it might find its way into a future post.

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