Tuesday, 28 July 2015

I am on holiday again

Crenellated walls and clock tower
Rugby School Old Quad
I sometimes wonder whether I can keep up with this blog. And then I remember that I've kept it going for 8 years, and I don't think I'll ever stop. I seem to have an almost irresistible urge to write about any mundane or irrelevant aspect of my life, and about 40 people are still reading. Shame on you, 40 people. There are more constructive ways of spending your life than reading this inconsequential stuff. But I suppose it only takes a few minutes to read each entry, and unlike when I was a student five years ago, when I thought it was entirely reasonable to produce a post every other day, nowadays I only manage one post a week if you're lucky. I am devoted to a few other people's blogs that appear far less frequently, so maybe this vanity publishing project will stagger on way beyond its natural lifespan. 40 people, I salute you for your tenacity.

Last week was pretty full on at work - I was supervising a student who wanted to do a little bit more active interaction with patients. There was nothing for her on Monday, but I picked out two patients on Tuesday that I thought would be OK. Unfortunately they were both interesting, unpredictable and challenging, and although she gave it her best shot, they proved a bit much for her. One of them was a bit much for me too. On Wednesday I had to do the ante-natal clinic, which luckily was fairly quiet. When I was advising one of the patients that she shouldn't be drinking too much milk, she told me she'd had advice from one of the doctors that she should actually drink lots of milk. One of my colleagues thinks this might be due to general iodine deficiency in the population, rather than the need for calcium.

But now I am on holiday, again! It's partly so I don't have to go to work on my birthday, and partly because I miscalculated the amount of annual leave I am entitled to, so I was a little extravagant in booking another week off so soon after the last epic holiday. Now I think I only have a week left (not counting the week already booked for New Year), so I have to choose between a) going skiing in 2016 but no days off between now and Christmas or b) a week before Christmas but no days off between New Year and the end of March. A difficult choice.

Anyway, I am in Yorkshire - Harrogate to be precise, on another Solitary Holiday. After Tunbridge Wells for two years in a row I am continuing the theme of Spa towns, and have taken an absolutely lovely apartment where I will spend time reading, writing, watching films and, with luck, sewing myself a dress. I may even go for a stroll around the town, if it ever stops raining. The forecast says that Thursday will probably be the least rainy day, which will be nice because that is my birthday.

Monday, 20 July 2015

What I've been reading

Image of the book cover

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
by Sir Arther Conan Doyle

narrated by Simon Vance
"We are drawn into 19th-century London - hansom cabs, train rides, and foggy nights - where Sherlock Holmes astutely solves the most complex and perplexing cases of the day."
Nothing new to say about this - more stories, great narration, and it is at this point that Conan Doyle tires of his great creation and tries to kill him off at the hands of arch-villain Moriarty. It's surprising that an author would want to put an end to a money-spinner; these days if any sort of weak sequel to a blockbuster can be squeezed out it will not only end up as a trilogy of books, but the film version will split the last book into two separate movies to attract more cash into the coffers.

Image of the book cover

The Boys from Brazil
by Ira Levin
"Alive and hiding in South America, the fiendish Nazi Dr. Josef Mengele gathers a group of former colleagues for a horrifying project - the creation of the Fourth Reich."
I've seen the film so it's difficult to review the book dispassionately, but it's good. Ira Levin has written quite a few books that I've seen in their movie version, but based on this example I'd be happy to read the books. Usually it's the other way round - I've read a book, and if it's good then I'm extremely cagey about seeing the film. Even though I knew what was going on before it was revealed in the book, there was enough suspense (but not too much) and the characters are nicely defined.

Image of the book cover

Joy in the Morning
by P. G. Wodehouse

narrated by Jonathan Cecil
"Trapped in rural Steeple Bumpleigh, a man less stalwart than Bertie Wooster would probably give way at the knees. For in his efforts to oil the wheels of commerce, promote the course of true love and avoid the consequences of a vendetta, he becomes the prey of all and sundry. In fact, only Jeeves can save him."
The usual story full of misunderstandings, unwanted engagements, ludicrous plot twists but the requisite happy ending. Good old Wodehouse.

Image of the book cover

Elizabeth is Missing
by Emma Healey
"‘Elizabeth is missing.’ Maud keeps finding notes in her pockets with this message scrawled on it, but she can’t remember writing it. That said, she can’t remember much these days: the time of day, whether she’s eaten lunch, if her daughter’s come to visit, how much toast she’s eaten."
This was very disconcerting to read. It is written from the perspective of a woman with worsening dementia, and really gives a sense of memory loss and the difficulty that arises not just for the individual concerned but also the family, friends, acquaintances and almost everyone else that we come into contact with in daily life. Recommended.

Image of the book cover

H is for Hawk
by Helen Macdonald
"When the author's father died suddenly on a London street, she was devastated. An experienced falconer, Helen had never before been tempted to train one of the most vicious predators, the goshawk, but in her grief, she saw that the goshawk's fierce and feral temperament mirrored her own."
I was hoping for much with this award-winning bestseller: perhaps I hoped for too much. It was a lovely book, it's true, but somehow didn't live up to the hype. It did remind me about T. H. White's book The Goshawk, which I read when I was much younger and I have just found on my shelves, my copy dated 1990 - 25 years ago! I wanted to be a falconer then, and I still would like to, although I doubt that I will make that particular commitment any time soon. I haven't even joined the falconry centre this year, although I do hope to sign up again next year when perhaps I will have a bit more time. I'm always wishing for more time.

Image of the book cover

The Enchanted April
by Elizabeth von Arnim

narrated by B. J. Harrison
"A notice in The Times addressed to 'Those Who Appreciate Wistaria and Sunshine' advertises a 'small medieval Italian Castle to be let for the month of April'. Four very different women take up the offer: Mrs Wilkins and Mrs Arbuthnot, both fleeing unappreciative husbands; beautiful Lady Caroline, sick of being 'grabbed' by lovesick men; and the imperious, ageing Mrs Fisher."
I'm surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. It is so evocative of the best of Italy - the spring weather, the flowers, the scenery, and the type of solitary holiday that made me want to join them there and get away from the stresses and annoyances of ordinary life. I had no expectations of this book, having never heard of the title or the author, so maybe this is why it made such an impression. I loved it.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

I need to calm down

Tortoiseshell butterfly on pink flower
Peckover House, August 2014
Here is a list of things that I wanted to blog about but which happened too long ago for me to even remember what was involved or what I did:
  • Getting final accreditation as a DESMOND educator despite not meeting the assessment criteria for the session on physical activity
  • Having tennis elbow and trying to do things to fix it, including not playing badminton for a month and operating the computer mouse with the other hand
  • Going to a study day about 'Diabesity' (combination of Type 2 Diabetes and Obesity) and being impressed by just one of the speakers
  • Attending a two-day course all about insulin pumps, including the opportunity to wear one for about 18 hours (I even took pictures)
  • Camping for one night, then going to a lovely party, then staying for one night in a room in the college where I lived when I was doing university degree #1 in 1983-6
  • Writing a letter of complaint to the college about a) breakfast b) parking and c) payment methods listed on the invoice
  • Getting a plumber in who took all of 20 minutes to fix the problem at Lola Towers (so not that serious a problem really)
  • Meeting some of the Research, Development and Innovation Team at work and getting a bit enthusiastic about projects that I really haven't got time for any more (see below).
As you might have deduced from the last blog post, things have become a bit overwhelming at work and at home. The work situation is exacerbated because of three factors: 1) one of our Dietitians has moved away and it is proving difficult to recruit a replacement, 2) a new service that has been planned for what seems like an eternity has suddenly popped into existence and needs a Dietitian to cover a new clinic, and 3) we have an unusually high number of candidates for our Type 1 structured education so we've had to schedule extra courses. And it's the season for Dietetic students to spend a week in Diabetes, which just adds to the pressure and workload.

My workload fits into half-day chunks, and previously I had on average about three half days during the week for admin, thinking time, planning, projects and generally catching up with stuff. At the moment I'm lucky if I get one half day on Friday afternoon, which is not the best time for doing anything that requires concentration or stamina. Most of my bright ideas will require time and effort to make them happen, so they've all been shelved in favour of the stuff that has to be done to keep the service going, and I'm only just keeping up with that.

I have pretty terrible teeth (bear with me, this is relevant) but I have so far managed to stop any of them falling out through fairly frequent visits to the hygienist. I had one such trip yesterday, and the hygienist commented that she could tell I was under stress because of the state of my gums. She has supplied me with all sorts of desperate measures to try and prevent further deterioration, but the prospect seems bleak. I don't actually know what the next stage would be in terms of treatment, but I'm guessing that extra appointments, cost and discomfort is involved. 

Like I said last time, there are people whose problems make mine seem utterly trivial - on the whole my health is good, I have a good job and an income and a home and really have nothing to complain about. What I really need to do is relax, do what I can do, and stop worrying. And go to bed earlier.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Seize the moment to blog

Huge climbing white rose
Garden rose, June 2015
It's no use trying to compose careful prose and produce a well-crafted blog post about some aspect of my work or leisure that has made me think of something clever or interesting. There's no time. I have a mountain of paperwork, a backlog from my holiday - I knew there was a reason that I only go away for a week at a time. Then I was away for another two days on a course (that I want to write about) and then my week was stupidly busy and I was away for another weekend. So I'll just bang out some words about anything that occurs to me and have done with it.

We have a problem with our plumbing at Lola Towers. Mr A told me last week that the hot water had stopped running, but then it started again. We put it down to polystyrene balls - a very long time ago, one set of incompetent plumbers allowed polystyrene balls to get into the water system. On reflection, we haven't had any trouble for quite a while, so when the hot water failed again when I got back from my weekend away, I sought the advice of a friend who had that very weekend suffered something similar. Following his advice we ventured up into the loft, where the header tank for the hot water turned out to be empty. That was Sunday night, and I wasn't about to call for an emergency plumber seeing as the cold water was running fine and it was an intermittent fault - by Monday morning the tank had filled again.

I am an organised person, and I have many lists that remind me of things that need to be done. I find it impossible, however, to manage to simultaneously do the things on the list that I find difficult; I can just about manage them one at a time - partly because of the difficulty, but also because I have very little time to myself at work due to multiple patients and full clinics and delivering training off-site, and because there is no mobile phone signal in my office. To make a mobile phone call I have to leave the building and stand outside the door, and then it's difficult to write things down, and I can't refer to my online diary because the computer's inside, and if there's no answer I can't leave my number for them to call back because there's no signal when I go back into my office...

So I try to achieve one difficult task a day, and there are many tasks waiting. On Monday it was a call to a solicitor, and today I managed to call the plumber. (There is also the problem of when to arrange for him to visit, as Mr A and I are both working full time at the moment). Tomorrow I need to call the accommodation we have booked for New Year, on Thursday I need to send a letter of mild complaint to the accommodation I stayed in on Saturday night (Lola II is helping to draft it), and you would not believe how dirty the shower is. And there's that huge pile of paperwork that needs sorting out or else my car will not have a parking permit in August, among other slightly less urgent issues.

Then on Thursday there's the second week of our current carb counting course, so I have to cook some carbs for them to count. That means baking a potato and cooking measured amounts of pasta and rice on Wednesday evening to take to work on Thursday. This is a) to demonstrate the change in weight of raw vs cooked food (rice and pasta increase in weight, baked potato decreases in weight but carbs are unchanged for both) and b) to encourage the participants to weigh/measure these hard-to-estimate starchy carbohydrate foods, so that they will know for example how many carbs are in a standard tray of takeaway rice.

And of course I want to keep up the running, and my elbow is pretty much better so I'd like to go back to badminton, and there's the clarinet choir which is staging a concert in a couple of weeks. And I need to buy a new car, and new trainers, and waste paper baskets, and a bedside lamp, and put the charcoal picture that I drew at Mr M's birthday event into a frame, and re-pot and rejuvenate my house plants, and now the 15-foot rose bush and the enormous wisteria need pruning. I've used weedkiller on the patio weeds, but they need to be cleared, and all the rubbish littering the garden taken to the dump. My email inbox is bulging with messages that aren't important enough to be dealt with straight away but not unimportant enough to be deleted, and I am well behind on reading my blog subscriptions.

At work I have a similar number of issues. I was determined with this change of career that I would try and avoid the frustration of being unable to change the world by keeping my head down and letting the world sort itself out. It turns out that I can't seem to do that. Before I went away to America, I wrote a very apologetic note to my manager, detailing three pages of projects that I have taken on but are being thwarted by various barriers: procedural, technical and human.

I want to have a Internet-enabled data projector in our education room. I want to create a website to support our very low carb lifestyle group. I want to be able to show web content to our patients that is blocked by the Trust, including social media and videos. I want to support a new 'transition' clinic for young people moving from the paediatric to the adult diabetes service. I want to be able to offer patients the option of very low calorie 'diabetes reversal' diets that include meal replacement products. All of these need someone else to do something or agree to something, but instead of getting these things that I want, I have been asked to cover an extra clinic in the community on a Tuesday afternoon, and - the horror! - three half-days of ante-natal clinic over the summer (one of my colleagues has left and there is a gap before her replacement starts). And I have stupidly followed up a very good idea from one of my colleagues which needs me to do even more organising and coordinating.

I appreciate that these are problems that some people would be happy to have in place of the real and serious problems that they are having to deal with, but we all would like an easy life, wouldn't we?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...