Sunday, 28 December 2014

Media binge

Three frilly pink roses
Peckover House, August 2014
It's been full steam ahead self-indulgent media binge for days, ever since we were 'sent home' early on Christmas Eve. That's the difference between working in the diabetes service and the dietetic department - in dietetics we had to stay as long as it took in case a tube feeding patient arrived at 4pm on Christmas Eve. Things are more relaxed in diabetes, although there's no reason why they should be, as people are newly diagnosed with diabetes right through Christmas, and need more support than a feeding tube ever did. It's just a different approach.

Anyway, I've done a bit of cooking, a bit of cleaning, a bit of tidying up and admin, and the rest of the time I have been immersed in a sea of entertainment - radio, TV, iPlayer, audio books, real books, podcasts, blogs, DVDs and CDs. Starting with 8 out of 10 Cats (TV), Carols from Kings (CD) followed by Guys and Dolls (CD), then there was a bit of Cabin Pressure (iPlayer radio) - the final two episodes sustain the high quality of the whole series, and I can thoroughly recommend it. Especially the one when they go on their safety training.

What next? I've been reading J. G. Farrell's 'The Siege of Krishnapur' which is a bit heavy going, and listening to all my usual podcasts, including Oscar Wilde's 'The Picture of Dorian Gray'. I caught up on iPlayer (radio) with David Sedaris 'Santaland' in which he relates his time as an elf at Christmas in Macy's department store in New York, and an episode of 'The Museum of Curiosity' from a few years ago on Radio 4. There was a blast of St Matthew Passion as an interlude, and then I got stuck into TV films: 'Nanny McPhee', 'The Snowman', and then 'White Christmas', which I find I have never seen - I assumed that I had.

In between all of this I managed to nip to the Pub Next Door for a cheeky gin and tonic. And, of all things, I went out for a run. I haven't been running since the clocks changed and it got dark and cold and wet and I started working full time, but a couple of friends somehow managed to get me fired up again, even though they don't run with me and one doesn't even live within 200 miles. The power of the Interwebs, who'd have thought?  I wasn't that much slower than before despite my two months off, but I felt decidedly shaky after the event. Muscles not used for a while, that sort of thing.

The media binge continued on Boxing Day with 'Cool Runnings' and 'Back to the Future 2', followed by media bingeing of a different kind - updating the badminton club website with new pictures from our Christmas do this year. 'Big Fat Quiz of the Year' (TV), a couple of episodes of iPlayer radio 'Concrete Cow', and onwards to Saturday with 'Sunshine on Leith' (DVD), more podcasts, more St Matthew Passion (it's very long). By the end of Saturday my legs were feeling as if they had both been smashed with sledgehammers. Dad always told me exercise is a bad idea. I've also got a feeling that I am coming down with something chesty and headachey, but we'll see what develops.

Saturday finished with an episode of the Italian crime TV series 'Inspector Montalbano' which Mr A has been addicted to for some time. I had nearly had enough of media by Sunday, but I still managed to finish the audio and the real books and squeeze in the movie 'August: Osage Country' (warning to Lola II and Mr M: not only is there Julia Roberts but there's a whole ton of conflict), listen to the rest of the St Matthew Passion (it's really very long indeed), more podcasts (including the Mayo and Kermode film review show on 5 Live), and more 'Concrete Cow' on iPlayer radio. At the time of writing I was thinking of actually leaving the house to go and see 'Paddington' at the real live cinema, but if it is swarming with kids like it was earlier in the day I'll be giving that a miss and perhaps shorten my jeans, which is a non-media job that has been displaced for the whole four day holiday shindig.

And then it will be back to the real world again.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Christmas parties

Table strewn with crackers, streamers, bottles, glasses and other party debris

If you're waiting for the post about SGLT2 inhibition (and I'm not sure why you would be), it's on its way, but things more exciting and noteworthy have been cropping up to postpone the pleasure. The last few days have produced anecdotes that made me think "That would be great for the blog", and I'm writing this when I should really be working on the family calendar, and I've got to go to town in a bit, so time is short.

Short anecdote about a patient first: it was the first appointment of the day, the patient was slightly early, and as we walk from the waiting area to my room I generally ask how things are going in a general, casual everyday manner. The patient said "Pretty good, I've lost a stone [14 lb, about 6.4 kg]."

That's a good start to a consultation. When we're sitting down, I follow up with "So tell me, how did you manage to lose all that weight?" The patient looked at me in an odd way, as if I were a little bit dim, and said "I just did what you told me to do!"

So that was a good start to the day.

Further anecdotes result from the slew of Christmas parties that I've been at - the second and third were on Friday and Saturday nights. The second party was at a large hotel and conference centre, where at least three different events were being held concurrently, parking was being marshalled, and we were met at the entrance by a couple of burly security men asking to look in our handbags.

"What can they be looking for?" I wonder. "Has there been violence with weapons in the past? Do I look like someone who is hiding a knife in her bag? Are they expecting jihadists?" My naive questions are answered as I join our party in the main hall. One of my colleagues greets me with "Did they search your bag? I can't take my coat off yet, I've got a bottle of vodka in my pants" and she showed me the bulge in the front of her dress. Not only was she aware of the measures being taken to safeguard the takings of the hotel bar, but she had gone to great lengths to bypass them. I last saw her as she was being helped from the dance floor.

I am regarded as a mixture between an alien and a prude because I always drive to and from these parties, along with my other non-drinking (usually pregnant) colleagues. A different approach to alcohol applied to the third Christmas party with a different team, who had decided to use the teenage principle of 'pre-loading'. We were invited to pre-party cocktails, where I found a couple of colleagues who had rather overdone it. We all made it to the venue (a Masonic Hall) but they didn't last long enough to have their starters before having to be collected and taken home by a husband - I found out later that they had been pre-pre-loading with wine at another colleague's house even before the cocktails.

With two out of nine of our party already down and out, we enjoyed the meal and waited to see what would happen next. It was entirely organised by and for the hospital staff and was fundraising for dementia care, so I was expecting a live band and a raffle alternating with the disco, as is usual at this type of event. Instead, a tall, flamboyantly dressed woman introduced as 'Sabrina' entered the room and started to dance and mime along to the music. A surprisingly muscular, thick-waisted, slim-hipped woman...

As drag acts go, this was a corker. Not too naughty, very funny, it had me grinning and clapping and laughing until my face hurt. After the first number, one of my colleagues, a lovely chatty lady now wearing party antlers, stage-whispered to her neighbour "I think it's a man dressed as a woman!"

She and I were first on the dance floor when the disco started, and for a change the DJ had adopted the approach of playing music that made people want to dance - surprisingly rare in my experience. I've only got one more Christmas party coming up, and I doubt that it will be better than this last one.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014


Greenery around a pond
Groombridge Place, June 2013
The week following Lola II's visit is a busy one. Work then badminton club #1 on Monday, work then a badminton match with club #2 on Tuesday, work then choir practice on Wednesday, work on Thursday then...

It’s a nightmare. Thursday night: no Internet at home. I’m off to badminton club #2 so I don’t mind so much, but when the Internet hasn’t returned on Friday night, it becomes serious. Mr A was at his work’s Christmas do on Friday night, which involved bowling, dinner and an overnight stay, all paid for (that’s the private sector for you) and I was looking forward to an evening to myself. I had various online jobs lined up, among them blogging and creating the family calendar, which is a fairly long and tedious process (although well worth it for the results in the end). So I had to phone the ISP.

Part of the pain of investigating the issue is that the Internet wifi router is in Mr A’s office, which is full to the brim with ‘belongings’. I imagine Mr A and I use different words to describe the contents of his office, but even aside from that, the overhead lights do not work and it is dusty; very, very dusty.

First of all, the operator in the ISP's call centre did not recognise our phone number. The address and post code did not help either. I started to imagine that our account did not exist, which would explain the lack of service, but when I fished out a bill (thank goodness I had printed the bill, otherwise things would have been even more difficult) and quoted the account number, my existence was confirmed.

So then: the usual tests on the router, for which I had to wear a head torch (no overhead light) and take time out to sneeze repeatedly (the dust) combined with picking my way through the ‘belongings’. And then find the phone (sneeze), to discover there was no dial tone. Although Mr A had recently managed to replace the batteries, I could not trust just the one handset, so had to unearth another (sneeze), but still no dial tone. So it’s the phone line that’s faulty, and I was given a timescale of two to four days for repair.

What can you do with no Internet? I could use my data plan via mobile phone, but the screen is so small and I can’t bear to type on it, plus the blogging account is different from my email account so there’s lots of logging in and out and trying to remember passwords. “I know,” I thought, “the pub next door advertises free wifi! I can go there!”

Of course it is Friday night, one of the busiest times for the best pub in Leamington, but I managed to find a spot to set up the laptop – unfortunately not near an electrical socket, so I had just an hour or two while the battery lasted. It would be rude to take advantage of the free wifi without buying a drink, so I treated myself to a pint rather than my usual half pint, on the basis that it would have to last a couple of hours. And then the computer wouldn’t connect to the Internet. Rebooting, ‘repairing’ the connection, ‘resetting the IP adapter’ – nothing. The battery was pretty much exhausted by the time I had finished trying, so I had no choice but to finish my pint and go home, still Internet-free.

So I resorted to sitting on the sofa and watching a film instead, which was fine but didn’t get the calendar done. On Saturday, it meant I had lots of time to clean the house, and I’d rented another carpet cleaning machine, this time checking that the plug was as it should be. Mr A collected the cleaned and shortened curtains, so they had to be adjusted and re-hung, and the carpet cleaning machine taken back to the rental shop, and then I couldn’t stand it any longer and went to the library for two hours to use their wifi for the bare minimum of tasks - uploading the last blog post, Facebook, downloading podcasts, and some cash needed transferring between accounts.

No Internet service on Sunday either, but not too bad because I was off to a lunch in the occasional series hosted by H&B oop north. Travelling by motorway on Sunday morning wasn’t bad at all, and I arrived early in order to impart some of my diabetes dietary wisdom. Unfortunately for the other guests, this meant that their attention was repeatedly drawn to the carbohydrate content of various snacks. It was a pleasure to mingle with such a pleasant group of people, though.

On my return – still no Internet. Things were getting desperate – I’d cleaned a lot of things in the house already, and eventually I was forced into writing Christmas cards. I don’t think I’ve initiated the Christmas card writing session in living memory; it’s one of the things that Mr A does. It made me think how useful it would be if the Internet were to disappear at the time of the Tax Return. Then we watched another film. Still no family calendar.

Monday – no Internet. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting any progress over the weekend, and the four days I’d been quoted wouldn’t end until Tuesday evening. There was badminton anyway, so I had no problem occupying myself. And by Tuesday, when I was bracing myself for a difficult conversation with the ISP call centre about why it hadn’t been fixed, it was fixed.

But there is no time for family calendars on weekdays; there’s barely time for blogging, and catching up with the four days missing from my online life. It will have to wait until next weekend.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Two Lolas and a weekend

Lola II, waving
September 2014
Hello, Lola II here.

Every so often, Lola I comes over to help me do some of the jobbies that accumulate around the house. Last weekend I visited Lola Towers to return the favour.


I’m having a lovely time at Lola Towers and I’ve only been here for 24 hours, there’s still another 15 to go!

I’ve been struggling a little to maintain the weight loss I achieved and so I gave Lola advance notice that I would need her help over the weekend. In return I received this proposed menu:
Friday night
Frittata + salad

Breakfast = cereal or toast or poached egg
Lunch = game soup with matzah balls
Supper = stir fry (fish or chicken or turkey)

Breakfast = egg + smoked salmon, or tomatoes if you'd rather, or cereal

How does that sound?
I responded that I was very happy with her suggestions and that I’d recommend her to my friends. I did note, however, that the absence of cake seemed odd. Visiting Lola, after all, is like a holiday and what kind of a holiday is it if you don’t have cake?

The courgette and bean frittata and salad were delicious, only slightly marred by the rancid salad dressing served with it (unfortunately just a touch older than Mother Nature intended when she invented oil...) This morning’s breakfast ended up being leftover frittata and salad and fresh dressing. Lunch? Add matzah balls to anything and I’ll wolf food down. Supper? Supper was absolutely was delicious and nice and filling, which is a crucial requirement to stop seconds and fridge picking later. The only addition was that we each bought a cake and shared them for dessert. Phew, it is a holiday after all.

Four out of five meals later, I must say it has felt very much like a detox retreat. Very healthy food, healthy portions, lots of filling vegetables and all cooked for me by Lovely Lola. It’s been lovely and I’m ready now for the treat of a delicious roast chicken lunch I’m expecting tomorrow, cooked by Mr M’s mummy at her place.

The primary goal for Saturday morning was to make a List. Not just any list, a Lola List. Lola’s lists are always clearly written, quite extensive and with items put in order of priority or timing. I think meals are added so that we can cross them off; I imagine she’s not really fearful of forgetting. My role when it comes to lists is to write things on them when Lola’s not looking - this time she got a star and a ‘very good’.

I’d say we got 90% of the planned jobbies done and even had time for a little sit down after lunch and a sing-song to help Lola practise for her Christmas Carol concert. Lola is singing alto so I had to sing soprano. Considering at one time I was thinking of singing tenor in a choir, singing at heights to shatter wine glasses had the unexpected result of me getting tooth ache! What’s that all about?? All I can think is that a nerve near my vocal chords area was affected by my unnatural exertions and transmitted its moaning message into my teeth, probably hoping for sympathy. Luckily all’s fine now and my career as an opera singer can continue on the same lines as it was before this traumatic experience.

The evening programme has so far been dictated by me. There’s a very good Doctor Who episode called Blink that I felt Lola I needed to see. I take my responsibility of ensuring she is kept up to date with popular culture very seriously. I mean if I don’t, who will? Who else will happily give an extensive blow-by-blow account of the latest doings and, to be frank, who else will Lola have the patience to listen to...  She might find herself in a pub quiz with success hinged upon getting one question right - “which Doctor Who character moves when you’re not looking at it?” My teachings could make the difference between team disaster and Lola being carried around on shoulders. She anticipated being scared by the episode and she was a bit. I think I helped by calling out that the people currently threatened with danger were going to be okay, although I was careful to clarify my point by adding that, well, they’re not going to be okay but they’ll be alright. Of course this didn’t really help Lola, other than distracting her for a moment from the TV tension.

We’re now sitting feet to feet on the sofa under a duvet, which always reminds me of the Grandpas and Grandmas in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Tomorrow’s excitement is Carpet Cleaning. We have the machine, we have the cleaning fluid, who knows what excitement is lurking!


Breakfast of a mushroom omelette for me, smoked salmon omelette for Lola, and then we were down to Operation Carpet Clean. Shifting furniture was the priority to allow for hoovering. Meanwhile I was desperately trying to finish a scarf I’ve been knitting for Lola for probably well over a year. I had knitted myself one that stretched and ended up long and narrow and so, very cleverly, I made this one wide and short. Not so clever, it seems, since upon completion it clearly wasn’t going to stretch. We had a jolly good giggle when I showed her the finished product. The good news is that my attractive pattern looked very nice. The less good news is that I had added stitches onto rows that resulted in an interesting variety of widths throughout. I enthusiastically announced that no-one else would have a scarf like it, and Lola confidently agreed.

Plug with 2 very bent prongs
Back to Operation Carpet Clean: the machine was ready, the cleaning fluid poured in, the ‘before’ photos taken, the tension was mounting, all that was needed was for the wondrous machine to be plugged in and... the plug was broken! Disaster. All of Lola’s hopes and dreams, shattered by someone who had previously either driven over it or discovered, after bending two of the prongs with their bare hands, that they were better suited to be a strong man in a circus and kindly returned the machine to the shop before doing so. She told me afterwards that there was a lot of apologising and a refund, followed by a hastily scribbled note insisting that Lola should be given a discount when she does finally hire one that works. Other than Operation Carpet Clean having to be postponed, it’s been a really lovely weekend with the two Lolas together, as it always is.

And the roast dinner? As delicious as expected.

Lola I wearing a scarf and a smile

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