Sunday, 28 September 2014

Recent events

Deckchairs lined up in the snow with blue skies
Les Deux Alpes, March 2014
Having caught up with events from a month or two ago, it's time to return to the more recent past. A quick summary:
  • I went to the Food and Drink Festival
  • Two tradesmen have provided quotes
  • Domestic appliances continue to cause trouble
  • The hall is showing signs of water leakage at gutter level
  • My mobile phone had a fit in the night
  • The Tuesday community diabetes clinics are interesting
  • I attended a presentation given by a colleague
  • I attended a public meeting and had to do some facilitation
  • The second patient education course that I'm delivering has started
  • I had to prepare for an upcoming course
  • I had a 'trial lesson' in a glider.
The Royal Leamington Spa Food and Drink Festival was lovely, the weather was fine and warm and reports in the paper suggest there were 25,000 visitors. I can believe it; there were certainly crowds. I bought some lime pickle and chose a South African lamb curry for lunch on Saturday, and Caribbean jerk chicken with rice and peas on Sunday.

Tradesman report: The fourth carpenter I contacted actually came to see the airing cupboard, and has even followed up with a quote. I would ideally like to get a second opinion, which means finding a fifth carpenter. I am not optimistic, but I have another two phone numbers. The electrician has provided a quote for replacing the fuse box; the oven is working well on its fan setting after its repair, but the grill has now stopped working - I will do some research before calling in a repairman this time. And there is staining on the newly painted hall walls that suggest the guttering or leading might be leaking - this is a job for Alf. Lots to do in the house, as always. I won't even mention the garden, it is too distressing.

We had a disturbed night when, for no apparent reason, my mobile phone started to reboot itself over and over again at about 3 a.m. The battery is built in and can't be removed, so I took the phone downstairs and attempted to put the SIM card into a different phone. What with being half asleep I managed to lose the SIM completely, leaving me phoneless. Then there was the faff of having to find an alternative method of setting the morning alarm, and finding a way to take the phone into a shop to sort it out. It turns out that EE had made a mess of an automatic software update, so I met several other people in the shop with the same problem. It's fine now, and only cost a few hours sleep and a trip into town.

The main work news concerns the reason that I have now been employed on Tuesdays - the Clinical Commissioning Group in the area, which is responsible for making sure that all health services are available as necessary, has stumped up some money in order to try and address the backlog of patients waiting for their structured education on Type 2 Diabetes (called DESMOND). I will be trained to deliver this training next week, and have received the pack which requires me to observe a course before I do the training myself. There are none in the area to observe in the time available, so they have sent me three DVDs to watch, and some academic papers to read as well as some written homework.

My Tuesdays are now planned out until December, with community clinics to cover for a colleague who is on holiday and then to allow her to do some home visits, and then four DESMOND courses have been scheduled. The community clinics are very similar to my hospital ones, but there are a few different options around the edges for referral to local activity programmes and weight management groups. The biggest challenges were getting me physical access to the building, and electronic access to the computer systems. I still don't have a code to allow me to print, but when I do I will have access to the biggest fanciest printer/copier in the world.

My colleague's presentation was about the lower carbohydrate diets that we are facilitating for people with diabetes who want to lose weight, and she was very good. The public meeting was the first of two where Diabetes UK and the Clinical Commissioning Group have invited people with diabetes to respond to proposals for change to their services. There are various eminent personages who introduce themselves, then facilitated groups to provide the attendees' views about what they like and don't like about diabetes services, and then a panel of experts to answer specific questions. This time I was asked to facilitate the discussion on one table; next time I am on the panel of experts. It will be daunting. The first question to the panel this time was about the quality of hospital food, and there are no easy answers to that one.

The second course for people with Type 1 Diabetes has gone quite well. The team is very relaxed about my contribution, but I feel that I need a bit more rigour in my approach. This may be achieved by going on the DESMOND course - I have watched the DVDs, all six hours of them, and done my homework too. I believe that I will need to do lesson plans, and peer review, and will have to prove that I am competent before being let loose on real people. I'm hoping to follow the same process to improve my delivery of the the Type 1 education, but we'll see.

You'll have to wait for the account of my flight in the glider, and it may be a while. Next week is packed with extra-curricular events including the trip to London for the DESMOND training.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Wedding Presence - Part 2

Lolas on Trinity Bridge, Crowland, August 2014

Day 2

The first thing to happen on Day 2 was the bleep of a text message to Lola II, telling her that the glider flight had to be cancelled because of high winds. The flight couldn't be rearranged within the time available, so we had to abandon that plan, and after a breakfast of porridge we went to Kings Lynn instead.
Learning Point 5: Lynn Regis is very attractive and houses are very cheap (if you come from London). e.g. a 2 bed house for £86,000 ... and yes, by Lynn Regis I mean Kings Lynn but the old name is in my opinion much better.
Lolas I and II viewed through an archway
Learning Point 6: Shops and streets in Lynn Regis seemed to "tell it like it is". No messing about with streets imaginatively called "Saturday Market Place" and "Tuesday Market Place" and shops called "The Flower Shop", "The Tile Shop" and "High Street Hairdressers".
I think we all liked Kings Lynn, even though it wasn't very busy because of the fairly cold and windy day. The town is beautiful and has a good number of old and historic buildings, some dating back to the time when it was an important Hanseatic port, trading with Germany and Baltic states. We followed a walking trail around town, but the highlight was definitely a detour into a Polish shop where we discovered curd cheese ice creams
Learning Point 7: Frozen Cream Cheese makes a wonderful snack and can be found in Eastern European supermarkets across Lynn Regis (though not in London it appears).
Lunch was in an establishment that was quite posh, but Mr M's starter of beignets was still frozen in the middle, and no response was forthcoming from the kitchen when we mentioned it. I can't complain about my roast dinner, and Lola II's meat platter looked lovely, but they didn't get a tip. We walked about some more, and discovered that Captain Vancouver came from Kings Lynn and went on to have a bit of Canada named after him. Tea was in a converted warehouse, but more disappointment - there was no chocolate cake left, nor chocolate biscuits. Kings Lynn - you let us down. Although you partly made up for it by supplying those fantastic Polish ice creams.

Real bandstand and three drawings
Bandstand in The Walks park, Kings Lynn, August 2014
We did find a lovely park to walk through in the afternoon, with a bandstand and a band playing. The weather was just warm enough for us to sit down to listen, and Mr M distributed cards and pens, requiring each of us to draw a picture of the bandstand. The results are here, and I have blurred the respective authors' signatures. What do you think? Can you guess the respective artists?

Last noteworthy event of the day was the toast. Mr M had discovered a contraption designed to allow toast to be made on a camp stove, and was determined to try it. On the first day we had no bread, but now it received its maiden flight, and was a dismal failure. The bread warmed, and the toasting contraption went a lovely colour as hot metal things do, but we couldn't call it toast. Ever resourceful, Mr M 'adapted' it to remove much of the heat protection, and it operated much more successfully. My personal view is that camping is a time when we are relieved of the duties of toasting and frying, in the same way as we are unable to watch TV or sit in an armchair. Raw food and boiling will do for me. But respect for the effort.

Mr M also has quite a passion for wild food. He returned from a short walk with plums and blackberries that he had foraged.

Day 3

After having spent a couple of days in towns, we thought to make a change we would either do a walk or visit a garden. Walking was problematic - we hadn't brought maps, and anyway you may remember that the terrain was incredibly flat. Not a hummock in sight, let alone a hill or a cliff or even a slope. Walking would be easy, but views would be mainly sky, and the coastline was not reported to be very interesting. We could see lots of sky from wherever we happened to go, so we settled on a garden, and chose Peckover House, which turned out to be in Wisbech.

The house and garden do not open in the morning, so we stopped off in the town to buy provisions for a picnic lunch, and happened to come across an old-fashioned butcher's shop, with classic tiling and glass-fronted cabinets, selling all manner of cooked meat products as well as the raw stuff. Haslet, faggots, pies and cooked joints were on display and the butchers were most helpful in cutting each choice into three so it could be shared later. It was all delicious. Definitely a highlight of the trip.
Learning Point 8: There is a wonderful butchers in Wisbech on the Market Square (G W Frank) and we thoroughly recommend their local dishes (which I have forgotten the name of already).
The garden was beautiful, and the house interesting - from the Regency period with lots of relevant information inside as well as artefacts. It had been used as a bank when the owner's business extended into banking before reverting back to a family home. There was a very chatty attendant in one of the main rooms who showed us how one of the four curved doors in each (rounded) corner of the room was purely for decorative purposes, as the house had squared-off corners and behind the door was a small space between the square, brick, exterior shell and the curved interior wall.

The house and garden had been donated to the National Trust when its last occupant died, but the entire house contents had been auctioned off at the time, so it has been re-furnished with some original period items and some replica pieces. They had done quite a good job, but seeing an item and knowing it wasn't the one that had originally stood there was a bit of a shame.

Close up of centre of pink flower

After the obligatory tea and cake, we stopped off in a local pub for a drink before letting Mr M out of the car - his eagle eyes had spotted some more roadside blackberries, so he was up for some more foraging. He returned to the campsite in time for a pasta dinner followed by jelly and custard.
Learning Point 9: While picking blackberries, a lot of people seem to pull off the A17 at the road to Gedney Broadgate and wait for other people to pull in and then hand things over to them before driving off.
Our breakfasts included porridge & prunes, baked beans & meatballs (different breakfasts) and a dodgy attempt to make toast that resulted in, as far as I’m concerned, dry bread and a wasted gas canister. Our other dinner was pasta, tomato and cheese with obligatory olives, since I forgot to put them in the Moroccan chicken. Dessert that night was sugar-free jelly and custard, Lola I’s contribution to the gourmet adventure. She is clearly a classy camper with creative choices.
The campsite was fairly empty, but there was still a small party of three women, who had noticed that my tent was festooned with labels indicating that it had been at Cambridge Folk Festival several times. They invited us over to their spot for social singing, and they had even requisitioned wood and a fire pit to sit around. There was very little singing, but they were congenial company - two Scots and one originally Dutch but resident in Scotland. I heard the full story about Lola II's music group and the original composition they commissioned from a real life composer. It's worth a blog post of its own, you'll have to ask her.

Day 4

Last day, and we treated ourselves to a cooked breakfast at a cafe, then set off for Spalding to see whether there are any bulk flower outlets - there weren't. We wandered about a bit, found some more Polish cheese ice creams, eventually reaching the river and walking through some local gardens that had an sign warning of restrictions on anti-social behaviour in three languages. We thought about taking a trip on the river boat or watching a film, but the timings didn't work out.

Then we thought it would be nice to find a country pub for lunch, but because of the big breakfasts and the morning snacks we weren't that hungry. While we were discussing the situation by the river, one of the river boats arrived to let off its passengers, and I thought I'd ask the captain for a recommendation, and he gave us some directions out of town. He also argued (incorrectly) that jam and marmalade do constitute one portion of our 5-a-day, so I have lost all faith in Captains' knowledge of healthy eating. As I write this, I wonder why I ever thought they had any?
Learning Point 10: The river trip boat captain in Spalding is very knowledgeable and confirmed to Lola I that marmalade does count as a portion of fruit and veg. On the basis of this sound advice, we took his recommendation on where to eat. And got lost.
Yellow roses in front of the Abbey tower
Crowland Abbey, August 2014
We headed off in the vague direction indicated by the idiot Captain, found no country pub but ended up in a village called Crowland, which happens to have the remains of a very large abbey. We were welcomed inside by Arthur, who introduced himself as a volunteer guide, and showed us around both inside and outside the abbey. 
Learning Point 11: It can be quite good getting lost as this meant we discovered the wonderful village of Crowland which has an Abbey (part in ruins), a lovely tea shop and, best of all, the remains of a bridge with three walkways which meet in the middle. This bridge was over the junction of two rivers which have now dried up or now run underground. Strangely, they have a small alley/street called "Thames Tunnel" and it is very cheap (2 bed flat £78,000).
Crowland (or Croyland) Abbey was founded in 701 in memory of St Guthlac, a monk who became a hermit - in those days the Fens were more watery, and Crowland was an island. Although much water was drained from the Fens, in the 14th century there were still rivers through the town where now there are none. For this reason, the marvellous three-way Trinity Bridge now stands on dry land near the main road junction in the middle of town. It was one of the best features of the town, on a par with the lovely tea shop where we eventually had lunch before heading off in different directions to go home.

The last word goes to Lola II:
I love camping.
Mr M and Lola II sitting with their stove outside their tent

Friday, 12 September 2014

Wedding Presence - Part 1

Field of cabbages in very flat landscape
South Lincolnshire, August 2014 (Photo credit: Mr M)
Two Lolas and a Mr M have each produced a contribution towards the record of the Wedding Presence Camping Event that took place a few weeks ago. The majority is my account (in black), Lola II (in red) has contributed mostly food-related items, and Mr M (in blue) has given me his insightful observations and learning points, and all the photos in this blog post.

Introduction (by Lola II)

I love camping. I asked Lola I why she loves camping and she says it's waking up in the morning and looking out of the tent at ground level, smelling the grass and the dew and the outdoors. I love all that and I also love cooking and eating outdoors. On this trip, I took it upon myself to be Head Chef. Rather than have a Sous Chef, I had Washeruper and RemindMeHowToUseTheGasStove glamorous assistants, both of whom did a very good job of eating everything I produced.

Mr M and I have been building up our camping equipment to the point where this was going to be our first opportunity to put it all into use. So we insisted that, apart from Lola's tent and bedding, we would bring everything with us. We were also trying out our NEW TENT, a wedding gift from a Seattle uncle and aunt. The advantages over our other ones are a) it's waterproof and our bedding doesn't touch the side and get wet, b) we have a vestibule that allows us to store all manner of things so we don’t have to get clothes out of the car in the morning and, c) our vestibule gives us comfortable shelter in times of rain when it's too early to go to bed, too late to go anywhere and too uncomfortable to sit in the car.

My, what a wonderful time we had. Mind you, I've never yet been disappointed on a trip with Lola I, so I had no fear that this would be anything but a four night trip of mucking about and excitement.

Observations and Learning Points from a weekend in Lincolnshire (with trips into Norfolk and Cambridgeshire) (by Mr M)

Firstly ... and this has to be said .. Lincolnshire is incredibly flat ... and by flat I mean so mind numbingly flat that you would be able to see the curvature of the earth if there was anywhere higher than a hedge to view it from.

Secondly, and sorry to repeat myself, but Norfolk and north Cambridgeshire are also spirit level and spirit crushingly flat.

Having said all that, I should now probably mention all the things we did to distract us from the lack of hills and vantage points. However, as this is an educational blog, I've decided to focus on things learnt from the weekend and one piece of commentary.

Introduction (Lola I)

I reached the campsite pretty early, because I finish work early on a Friday. It was among fields, in the pancake-flat landscape of south Lincolnshire where the fields stretch away to the horizon and it seems as though 90% of the world is sky. The site was surrounded on all sides by 50-foot Leylandii hedges, providing shelter from the strong winds that blew almost continuously. The hedges also provided housing for flocks of pigeons, whose cu-coo-cu calling seemed very loud, along with a lot of flapping. This aside, the only fault with the campsite was the lack of a pub within walking distance. The ground was flat and soft, the shower was hot, the owners friendly and helpful and there was a fridge/freezer. They even sell blackberry jam - I await Mr M's verdict.

Having erected my tent with its back to the hedge, I realised that it would make more sense if my tent and Lola II and Mr M's tent faced one another, side on to the hedge, so I took the tent down and put it up again. By this time there had been a squall of rain, and I was tired, so instead of foraging for supper I sat in the car reading. It was dark by the time Lola II and Mr M arrived with their brand new tent, and they coped pretty well putting it up for the first time, although it needed minor adjustments later.
Learning Point 1: Don't rely on satnav and mobile data or even phone service when visiting the Wash area as there are no hills to put antennas on.

Learning Point 2: it was probably naive to expect a tent called "2 second" to be put up in 2 seconds. Fortunately, the tent only took about 15 minutes albeit in the dark and for the first time.
Oh, and I mustn’t forget dinner on the night we arrived. Mr M and I got to the campsite quite late and so dinner was a pot noodle each and a couple of bags of crisps, purchased from the campsite shop. A real success, since two out of three were reduced to £1 because they were out of date.

Day 1

We started the day with eggs, mushrooms and tomatoes courtesy of Lola II, and then off to visit Boston, Lincs. We visited the tourist information office which was in the Guildhall and included a museum - I learned that Boston was the home of the religious dissidents who became the Pilgrim Fathers - but it was lunchtime, and Mr M wanted to sample typical Lincolnshire fare in the form of sausages and plum bread. We were welcomed at the restaurant although told very clearly what we were and weren't allowed to do in the way of ordering - no sharing, we had to have a meal each. That's just the way things are done in that establishment.
Learning Point 3: Lincolnshire plum bread and Lincolnshire sausages are excellent but you have to get your own sausages and can't try your wife's, as in Boston they "don't share dishes round here."
Inside Boston Minster, August 2014 (Photo credit: Mr M)
It is not a particularly affluent area of the country, and we found prices to be very reasonable, not just for food but also household items. We did a bit of standard tourism too, visiting the main church (known as The Stump) and Mr M even climbed the tower to see if he could see any hills - he was rather disturbed by the flat landscape throughout the holiday. There was a wedding about to get under way, and we also noted that the majority of the attending ladies had made pretty poor choices when it came to dressing up. Maybe this is not typical of the local ladies in general, but it was striking in that party. We finished our visit to Boston with a short walk along the river, where we were briefly accosted by a man asking us to attest to witnessing him being assaulted by some youths, despite the fact that we had witnessed nothing at all. It was a strange sort of a day.
Commentary: Boston is famous for two things; Several of the 'Founding Fathers' aboard the Mayflower were from Boston (hence it giving its name to the American city) and, more recently if you're a Daily Hate Mail reader, Boston has a Polish population of at least 99% (Daily Express figures). While we saw some gravestone like markers of emigrants to the new world, there wasn't much else marking their escape from religious freedom (and yes I mean 'from' as they were actually escaping a fairly liberal society religion wise, and wanted to set up a strict Puritan community with no freedoms).

On the immigrant front, there does appear to be a large Eastern European population by both Mr M measures - number of people you hear speaking Polish/Latvian and Lithuanian etc, and my probably more accurate measure, how many shops there are catering to Eastern European needs. Interestingly, the latter were concentrated in a different part of town from the local shops and seemed to indicate that what the community misses from home are grocery stores selling pickled herring etc and sunbed salons.
Learning Point 4: There are excellent views of fields and, well, more fields from "the Boston stump" aka the tower of Boston Minster. Despite the brilliant views of the area and confirmation that Lincolnshire is as flat as a can of lemonade which has been open a week, I felt a bit short changed as there we're only 198 steps whereas the warning at the foot of the stairs had claimed there were 'over 200 steps'.
Boston 'Stump', August 2014 (Photo credit: Mr M)
Even though the weekend was supposed to be my present to the happy couple, I had failed to bring enough cash to pay the campsite fees and even had to borrow tent pegs from Mr M and Lola II. I had brought minimal food and not enough teabags, and done no research into local activities beyond searching for sushi restaurants (there are none). However, Day 1 finished with a gala dinner catered by Lola II and the successful camping stove. She had brought all the ingredients for chicken stew (it's probably got a posher name) followed by spiced hot chocolate, and we dined in style. Not only this, but I was also presented with a birthday present of a flight in a glider on the following day, courtesy of a local flying club. I spent the rest of the evening and next morning humming "She flies like a bird in the sky-y-y..."
Even though this trip was our Presence from Lola I, I wanted to celebrate her birthday-with-an-0-on-the-end by producing a gourmet dinner. We had an aperitif of homemade blackberry gin a la Mr M. My two camping colleagues then had a little snooze whilst I cooked Moroccan lemon chicken with couscous. This was then followed by a luxurious hot chocolate dessert.

The good thing about camping is that bowls and plates tend to be smaller than everyday ones and so portion sizes aren't excessive. Cleverly, by having Mr M with us we were able to take advantage of the fact that he didn't want his full share of hot chocolate and so us two Lolas were forced to finish it off for him. I always knew he was a good find. Also it's good practice to minimise washing up.
To be continued...

Lola II cooking a la campsite
(Photo credit: Mr M)

Friday, 5 September 2014

Not at work

Side view of a peacock displaying its tail
Groombridge Place, June 2013

See what happens when I don't have to go to work and I'm not away from home? Blogs happen, that's what. And I am told that Lola II is working towards her contribution to the Wedding Presence camping trip blog post (I think Mr M has done his, although he hasn't sent it through yet). So we are backing up a little now to report news from a week ago...

At work, I agreed to cover the ante-natal clinic, which takes place in the other Trust hospital - we don't have any maternity services where I usually work. As regular readers may remember, I am not a fan of ante-natal clinics, and this was no exception. There are too many patients and not enough time, and I felt rather exploited although the consultant and the nurse took care to thank me very appreciatively. Next time I will be more 'assertive' about time-keeping.

Back at my usual hospital I observed a patient being started with an insulin pump, which took quite a long time but wasn't very complicated really. I think that the hard work starts afterwards, to try and fine tune the background delivery of insulin to match the patient's needs from hour to hour. Being away from work this week I'm missing that part of the job, but I'll try and catch up with a different patient some time, to see the follow up.

And then there were a few things not related to work. It was a red letter day on Thursday: the first time I managed to run 5 km in under 30 minutes (all on flat tarmac). My timed runs on Saturday mornings with Parkrun are getting faster too, but despite planning to go out this week, I haven't felt up to it yet, partly because of the trip at the weekend, to see Landrover Man (LRM) and Bee Lady (BL).

This was actually me gatecrashing one of Mr M and Lola II's wedding presence, and it was lovely as usual. BL provided an extensive food preference questionnaire which also included attitudinal questions to see if she should be sticking with conventional choices or going a bit experimental. After a tour of the LRM/BL mansion and grounds, then the enormous and delicious dinner followed by games on Saturday night, we were looking forward to the usual standard of walking on Sunday. We only got a bit lost once and had to do a bit of off-piste mountaineering (Lola II was very brave and I got stung by nettles) but it was excellent, if exhausting. I had to have a sleep on the motorway on the way home, and was very glad not to be going to work on Monday. I think I felt the effects of the indulgence followed by the exertion for a few more days, but it may be the unaccustomed freedom of not being at work.

[Bee Facts: there were many, mostly about how to manage your hives - BL doesn't like killing a perfectly good queen just in order to limit the number. So she has ended up with ten hives, which is A Lot. LRM was very patient and listened to many, many Bee Facts without much complaint. Unfortunately it isn't quite so interesting to hear about his energy management spreadsheets.]

So this week I have welcomed my tradesmen about whom I have already written, and the latest carpenter says the job isn't big enough and has suggested another carpenter. I have donated blood without incident, and even managed to visit the charity shops for long enough to acquire the clothes that I was after. Yesterday I made an enormous effort and cleared out about two thirds of the clutter that was getting in my way, and then it was time for badminton. Today I had lunch with an old friend, and I am looking forward to the weekend, which holds the annual Food & Drink Festival.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Progress at Lola Towers

View with garden chess set and urn
Groombridge Place, June 2013
At last, I have taken just a few small steps forward with the lifetime's work that is the making of Lola Towers into a habitable residence that does not cause me embarrassment with every visitor. There have only been a few very small steps, but it feels as though I have created just a little bit of momentum.

We have had two callers - Bill the electrician, and Mark, who deals with household electrical appliances. Mark's job was the easier one, diagnosing and replacing a burnt out element that was preventing the fan oven from heating up while allowing us to use the oven in conventional mode. It was not such a difficult task to complete, and I would certainly be able to do the whole job myself in future. And I now have a working fan oven, and we had a lovely chat about diabetes as Mark has been diagnosed with Type 2 for about 30 years, has recently seen a Dietitian (not in the hospital where I work) and made many positive changes as a result.

Bill the electrician had a more difficult job, but successfully reconnected the doorbell, rewired a couple of light switches, replaced a fuse plate and failed to repair the dimmer switch but diagnosed the problem. He also recoiled (figuratively) in horror at the sight of our ancient fuse box with its ancient fuses made of actual wire, asking if we ran a power shower and shuddering (figuratively again) when I said we did. It's a wonder we are still alive, really. As the replacement of the fuse box is something I wanted him to quote for, his interest in the job, and his opinion that we are not safe in our beds until it is done is half encouraging, half disturbing.

We then spent a happy half hour trying to discover the hidden secrets of this Victorian house. Is the water system earthed to the main fuse? What about the gas supply? If not, the situation must be remedied, but all evidence is buried in walls, trunking or behind kitchen cabinets. Bill and I climbed down into the cellar where there are cables and pipes a-plenty, but which is which? I'm not even convinced of where the mains water enters the property. I have a feeling that the resulting quotation may be fairly expensive, but the job will include another task that I wish to be carried out: a survey of the exterior lighting and wiring, which I have long suspected of being installed by very amateur hands.

There is a third job which I had hoped to address during my week off. The airing cupboard was extended and new doors constructed by the admirable Alf, who excels at building, roofing, plastering, constructing a sturdy garden gate and painting the exterior of the house. His attempt at the finer touches of this indoor job resulted in a robust door that would keep wildlife out of a shed, but does not have the refinement required in a piece of indoor furniture. My attempt to find a carpenter, joiner or cabinet maker willing to quote for the job has so far resulted in very little, despite three possible leads - although one has just come back to me this evening pleading illness as the reason for failing to respond to earlier messages.

I hesitate to list the further jobs that I hope to achieve this week, because I invariably fail to get half as much done as I would like. Let me choose one: I would very much like to visit the wonderful Leamington charity shops for some more work tops and trousers. Let's see how I get on.

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