Wednesday 2 June 2021

The beginning of the end

Two bunches of flowers, an orchid and a box of posh chocolates
June 2021
Student Lola Life ended in 2012 with the End of the Beginning, as I transitioned from a student to a qualified Dietitian with a real job. Dietitian Lola Life started on the same day, and is now ending with the last day of my job as a Dietitian. 

In my diabetes workplace we had a celebratory lunch last week, and this evening I met my Dietitian colleagues for a pint and a pizza. We ordered our pizzas in the pub, only to be told that due to unforeseen circumstances there weren't any pizzas, but we could order our own for delivery. Having tried unsuccessfully to do that (no deliveries at the moment) we decamped to order in person and sit in an actual working restaurant - third time lucky. It was a lovely evening.

I'm not retiring as there is plenty for me still to do, paid and unpaid, but a new look for the blog is called for to mark this momentous event, not least in order to introduce a slightly larger font size. I hope you'll stick around - my new home is Lolatastic!

Wednesday 26 May 2021

Loose ends

Pink flowers with purple centres
Witley Court Gardens, May 2021

My last vaccination shift wasn't cancelled, and I discovered a little about what's going on. Because we're not a public vaccination hub our customers are all front-line healthcare workers. Nearly all have had both vaccines by now, so it was decided to close most weekday operations and open only on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. So all my weekday shifts have been cancelled - the one that I managed to book was a 'late' on Saturday running from 2 to 8 p.m. so I'm guessing not a popular time for many.

The nurse in charge told me that there was an idea that we would try to become a public-facing local vaccination hub which would potentially allow GPs to return to normal business (it's shocking how many GPs have not yet restored their services). But until this happens, each time I look at the online roster system there are no available shifts. It may be that my short-lived vaccination career is about to come to a premature end. Before I even get paid. I was contacted this week to ask for a form that I'd already submitted three weeks ago.


In LTRP news, Olf's mate the plumber came on round with his mate to have a look at the stain on the upstairs hall ceiling which is not growing particularly fast but is located underneath the water tank in the loft. They poked about for quite a long time before finding anything that could be the root cause, but eventually found that the overflow for both that tank and the central heating header tank runs uphill. This makes sense, as the stain would only grow in the event of overflow. They cleaned the ball valve nicely and Olf's mate said he would call to talk about a date for the rest of the work, which I chased last week. I haven't heard from him yet.

The builder (Glf) I've engaged to work on the pub wall isn't due to start until the end of June, but in the recent downpour one of the Velux windows over the (tiled) hall started to let it a few drips, and I noticed that the wall which I had thought was no longer damp was actually soaking. So I'm hanging on to see what he can come up with, but it looks like I'll be waiting a while to finish the downstairs decoration.


I took a trip to the Woodland Cemetery with mum and her friend. The cemetery is fairly new so trees and shrubs are not yet tall enough to shield it much from the noise of the M25 motorway, but I'm sure it will develop into a lovely site. We happened to meet one of the gardeners there. He was a youngish man, maybe in his 30's, and after a quick hello he looked at mum more carefully and asked, "Do I know you?" She was a little taken aback, but then he introduced himself and revealed that she had taught him to read from the Torah scroll for his Bar Mitzvah, presumably more than 20 years ago. 


The pub has now been allowed to open for customers to sit indoors. When they opened the outdoor area back in April they installed a speaker to pipe music out there, and although this is something that I have always managed to negotiate away with previous pub managers, I felt it was only reasonable to let it go while outdoors was the only place customers could go. When customers could go indoors, the music was still going outside with no customers there. 

I really don't mind voices, not even the worst kind (which for me is the screeching of drunk young women), but I find the 'doof doof doof' of amplified pop music that can be heard most clearly in my kitchen and living room most annoying. So eventually I decided to go round and have a chat, and the manager on duty was really nice about it and said that he was sorry and he had been told to keep the outside music turned down and he turned it off straight away.

Commonwealth Games

While I was in the pub I noticed that one of the most regular customers was in - a local man who is also one of the contacts between residents and the Council over the Commonwealth Games. In 2022 this event is being hosted by the City of Birmingham. Royal Leamington Spa, however, is the chosen spot for the lawn bowling events, which will be happening on my doorstep. Literally, from the sound of it. There is a bit of a fuss because the District Council (which owns and manages the greens) has been working with the relevant Commonwealth Games committee without consulting residents.

So I had a really interesting chat with him - despite there being just three streets and a park involved, there are three different residents organisations, and he's already had to withdraw from one of them due to a difference of opinion - how very British. I found out that the plans involve erecting large spectator stands which will displace at least half the residents' and park visitors' parking spaces, and also presumably block the view so tickets can be sold. There are a few other issues, and I do intend to read all the material online and comment if appropriate, but I haven't done it yet. There is a residents' meeting tonight, which I plan to attend.

Thursday 20 May 2021

What I've been reading

Image of the book cover

The Talented Mr Ripley
by Patricia Highsmith

narrated by David Menkin
"Tom Ripley is struggling to stay one step ahead of his creditors and the law when an unexpected acquaintance offers him the chance to start over. When his newfound happiness is threatened, his response is as swift as it is shocking."
Another book from the 'Classic' list, which was made into a successful film that I seem to remember I enjoyed. The book doesn't follow the same storyline, and was filled with unpleasant characters and a plot that made me constantly feel uneasy. So not a comfortable experience, although I won't deny that it is a 'good' book.

Image of the book cover

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
by J. K. Rowling
"Back at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for his second year, Harry hears strange whispers echo through empty corridors - and then the attacks start."
Not as good as the first book of the series, and strangely unbalanced - the whole story seems to take place in the last chapter. It does have the bonus of introducing Dobby, who I've decided is my favourite character at the moment.

Image of the book cover

Solomon Gursky Was Here
by Mordecai Richler
"Since the age of eleven Moses Berger has been obsessed with the Gursky clan, an insanely wealthy, profoundly seductive family of Jewish-Canadian descent. Now a 52-year-old alcoholic biographer, Berger is desperately trying to chronicle the stories of their lives, especially that of the mysterious Solomon Gursky, who may or may not have died in a plane crash."
A strange mess of a book, in which the author seems to have written a quite entertaining family saga then chopped it up into bits, thrown all the bits in the air and reassembled it in a random order. The writing was fine so I didn't mind continuing reading, but even having finished it I have no idea what happened to whom and when, and I don't have the inclination to work it out either.

Image of the book cover

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
by J. K. Rowling
"Harry can't wait to get back to school after the summer holidays. But when Harry gets to Hogwarts, the atmosphere is tense. There's an escaped mass murderer on the loose, and the sinister prison guards of Azkaban have been called in to guard the school."
Definitely the best so far, and many would say the best of the series, but she still spends most of the book setting up the final section when everything happens. And no Dobby.

Friday 14 May 2021

Getting paid and getting fit

Sunny path between trees
Newbold Comyn, February 2021
Two more of my vaccination shifts were cancelled, and I wondered whether all our customers have had their second jab so the clinic isn't needed any more. But I looked at the online calendar of available shifts and signed up to one that hadn't been cancelled, so we'll see whether that goes ahead. If it does, maybe I'll get a feel for whether I'll be needed in future.

One of the reasons for finding out is because... Big Announcement... I'm leaving the diabetes job. In just two more weeks, I'll be fully unemployed, apart from vaccinating and Mr MXF and helping mum and dad and the LTRP and everything I'm doing for the Buddhists. Leaving the substantive post but carrying on vaccinating has highlighted some 'interesting' aspects of NHS bureaucracy. 

The main thing is that I haven't yet been paid for vaccinating. Because my first shift was right at the end of February I expected the time to be added on to March, so I wasn't altogether surprised when it didn't appear in my payslip at the end of March. But when there was nothing in my April payslip either, I telephoned a nice lady in the payroll department. She checked it out, and agreed that yes, I hadn't been paid, and one reason was that a significant form had not been completed. She sent it to me, I completed it, and sent it back. But then there was another problem - a 'job' had not been created against which I could be paid, and I was directed to the 'Temporary Staff Services' department which is responsible for this.

Another nice lady in the TSS dept took my details and told me that her systems showed that I had been paid and I should check with payroll. When I recited the form of words that I had been given by the payroll lady she checked again, and this time agreed that I needed a job to be created, and sent me another form, which I duly signed and sent back. Then she sent me a different copy of the same form, and then a third version, and encouraged me to give her a call, which I did. No answer. I emailed back and was asked for my mobile number, which I gave with the proviso that I couldn't answer until a later time because of having to talk to patients. At the end of the clinic I saw that I'd had two missed calls during the time I'd given as being unavailable.

Anyway, I finally got hold of someone who explained what all the versions of the form meant, and I signed the one that I think I was supposed to sign and sent that one back. I was told that it might be too late to catch payroll for the end of May, so I might be looking forward to a bumper month in June. And if vaccination is ending, that might be the last of it.

My physical fitness is probably the worst it's been in my adult life. The knee is feeling much better but the hip is still playing up, and I'm certain it's because I'm not moving about enough. I haven't done any badminton for over a year, and I had to stop running in the autumn because of the knee problem, so apart from a bit of walking about once a week I've been doing nothing. So when my friend suggested we go and bat a shuttlecock about in the park I jumped at the chance, and while it couldn't be described as badminton because it was so windy (we were lucky if we could manage a rally lasting three shots) it was nice to feel I'd moved about a bit. We only played for an hour or so but I definitely felt it the next day, which is a good sign, especially as the hip felt so much better.

The same friend also recommended an online yoga class, which I finally tried this week. I could manage about half of the moves, and after an hour I was exhausted. I've never done yoga before but I quite liked it, and there's certainly a lot of scope for improvement.

In other badminton news, we had a message from the school where my Monday club used to play, saying that they were increasing their health and safety measures and before we would be allowed back we would have to show them our risk assessment, our health and safety policy, and evidence of our first aider's training. We wrote back saying that we are a bunch of friends playing badminton and we don't have any of these. I'm still doing the Buddhist class on Mondays so it doesn't affect me at the moment, but if the school where I used to play on Thursday is the same then it's not looking good for badminton.

Monday 3 May 2021

More tech support

Park bench decorated with pom poms
Victoria Park, February 2021

Back in October last year I volunteered to support Lola II with her training course for community mediators, which involved finding out a lot about mediation, a deep dive into Zoom and much stress about Internet access. Well, for the last two weeks I've been doing the same for another course, with very much the same issues arising. Especially the Internet access.

Last time we were in a room in the ancient Town Hall, the sort of old echoey building where pigeons provided noisy interruptions at the windows and despite all the movable partitions it was almost impossible to avoid background noise. That room is now being used for vaccination and a new venue was needed, so we were installed in a less cavernous modern-ish room in a building associated with a church. Lola II and the other two trainers and I all did Lateral Flow Testing for Covid now that flow testing is available to all, so we all felt able to work without masks.

Our host was very welcoming and accommodated all of our requirements - tables, large TV screen, partitions for noise reduction, access to kettle and water, flexible about keys and getting inside in the morning. There have been a few minor issues - the venue also has lots of other activities going on, some of which involve children. The more major issue was with the Internet access.

The Facilities Manager (who by the way does not believe in vaccination or wearing a mask) told us on Day 1 that there had been an intermittent fault with their broadband, it seemed to be working OK at the moment, but they had logged it with the ISP. On Day 2, with no notice at all to us or to him, an engineer came to try and fix it, but obviously this would cause an interruption to the broadband access. Not a chance, we said, this course is run via Zoom and we can't do without continuous Internet. Although we would be having a 40-minute lunch break...

The engineer was actually prepared to come back at lunchtime and try to fix things within those limitations. Which he did, except that we lost our Internet on one PC a few times over those first two days, and you can imagine the disruption this caused. Lola II and her co-trainer were amazing, as I moved them to a different and unfamiliar computer with no notice and they continued to deliver the course without little hint that mayhem had erupted out of sight of the camera.

We also discovered on Day 3 that we should have cleared the room at the end of Day 2 instead of leaving our gear all plugged in and screens etc filling the room, because of the dance class that was supposed to be taking place that evening. We apologised and promised to do better next time. Day 4 started with the information that the Internet had broken the previous day (while we weren't there) causing the Pastor to be rather cross, so we thought about more backup plans, which included running four PCs through a mobile phone data hotspot, or decamping to Lola II's house.

Despite these dire portents of doom, the critical Days 5 and 6 (when the delegates practise the skills they have learned, followed by their assessments) passed with rock solid broadband. Phew. The only slight problem was when a guy turned up with a music centre ready to blast out Music and Movement for fifty children in the room across the hall. I ran over to ask him to turn it down a bit, and luckily he did.

The main lesson I have learned is not to be so ambitiously busy. I had booked a Sunday vaccination shift, followed by two days at the Diabetes Centre, then three days of tech support for mediation training, then home on Saturday via mum and dad. I had two Zoom meetings that weekend, and Sunday afternoon road-testing the pub garden with two friends (a tough job, but somebody has to step up). Then back to the Diabetes Centre for two days before three more days of tech support, another trip to mum and dad (this one being my fault as I had fixed the problem with dad's incoming email but created a new problem with his outgoing email). Then home, at last, with only one online social event on Sunday and a blissfully empty Bank Holiday Monday.

I was similarly overcommitted in the coming week, when I had rashly signed up for a double shift of vaccinating running from 7.30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday. But it has been cancelled, and I can't say I'm sorry.

Sunday 25 April 2021

Spring revival

Yellow-tiled windowsill with 6 small plants
November 2020
And with the spring comes snow, and tradesmen!

Somehow I regained the motivation to start on the LTRP again - perhaps it was because I had to do something about the ceiling stain. Olf's mate the plumber replied to my message saying he's a bit busy and I might need to look for someone sooner, but I pointed out that because he's a plumber he probably doesn't realise how hard it is to find a plumber, and the stain is growing very slowly so I'm prepared to wait until he's available. Of course if the water starts gushing through the ceiling I'll have to move a bit more quickly. 

New builder Glf has visited to survey the wall on the pub side, and seems like a friendly reliable type of chap (but I've been mistaken before). He even phoned back after the visit to check a few details. I've sent a list of jobs to Ilf as well, including general maintenance and decoration, asking for a date in late spring/early summer when I'm hoping the wall will be done. Setting myself up for disappointment as usual, but my next door neighbour wants some work done as well so if I'm not ready for Ilf then at least he can do stuff for her. And last but not least, the saga with the broken glass on the hob has moved on through contacting the original supplier (Ylf), establishing that the warranty period covered the work, a scheduled visit cancelled due to the part not having arrived, and finally the visit taking place and the glass replaced.

And the pub has opened again! They've put up a marquee in the garden with nine tables of six and an area for standing up that isn't under cover. The kitchen isn't open but they've got an arrangement with a local pizza place for delivery. I went over to say hello and ask them to turn the music down a bit if there's nobody there. I'll try and find some friends to go and actually buy a drink, so I'm not just the neighbour that complains about the music. It's been odd being reminded how quiet things have been for a year, or conversely, how much noise I had become accustomed to before the pub closed.

I also wrote a long time ago about how overdue the dress that I promised Lola is, and how I ironed a hole in it. Well, it hasn't progressed at all because my sewing machine kept breaking needles, and I eventually got round to finding out that a local shop was able to carry out a service despite pandemic restrictions. So it's had a service. Now I've got to find time between the diabetes, vaccination, Mr MXF, visiting mum and dad, providing tech support to Lola II (of which more later perhaps), the Buddhists and the LTRP to get down to some sewing.

Friday 16 April 2021

What I've been reading

Image of the book cover

by Jan Morris
"As one of Britain's best and most loved travel writers, Jan Morris has led an extraordinary life. Perhaps her most remarkable work is this grippingly honest account of her ten-year transition from man to woman - its pains and joys, its frustrations and discoveries."
This is a fascinating account from the early 1970s of a gender transition from James to Jan Morris. It was mostly a memoir of the journey, and coincidentally a reminder that such things are not new in the 21st century although they are now more commonly known, and hopefully accepted. The story was going well until the chapter after the surgery, when the author was comparing her feelings as man and now as woman, and describing the difference in how she was treated. My hackles rose at the stereotypical attitudes of the times - it was the 1970s after all - and how welcome they were to a woman who had been born as a man in the 1920s. How unwelcome they are to me, reading as a woman now living in the 2020s! The first man who kissed this woman newly born from surgery was a taxi driver, uninvited. " 'There's a good girl,' he said, patting my bottom and returning to his cab: and all I did was blush." Later in the chapter she compares men with women on the basis of her n=1 experiment, and it made me furious. "Men are [like this] and women are [like that]," she decides, without knowing what the hell either men or women are like. She now takes more interest in clothes, she describes how good a mother she would have been, how she can imagine more vividly how others feel, now that manliness is replaced with femininity. My goodness, how irate I became. Anyway, I am glad that she found happiness and even more glad that some things are different now, although there's still a long way to go.

Image of the book cover

The Old Wives' Tale
by Arnold Bennett

narrated by David Haig
"From working as children in their family's drapery shop to their later years, Constance and Sophia's journey through life could not be more different. While one travels the world and defies male expectations, the other becomes a dutiful wife and mother."
I really enjoyed this. It's been a long time since I've read Arnold Bennett, but I remember that I used to like his writing. And what's more, he writes wonderfully about women with agency, who are most definitely constrained by the restrictions of the era but don't sit back and let it define them. I think after all my forays into the Classics I have to conclude that I enjoy writing from the 18th and 19th century much more than anything more recent. 

Image of the book cover

The Great Gatsby
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

narrated by B. J. Harrison
"Nick Carraway is an aspiring writer; his cousin, Daisy, is married to the fabulously wealthy Tom Buchanan. Their neighbour, Jay Gatsby, throws extravagant and extraordinary parties in the exclusive and hallowed neighbourhood of West Egg."
I do think this is a fine piece of writing, although I can't say that I enjoyed it all that much. I found it hard to like any of the main characters, even the neutral narrator, and when you don't like any of the people it's difficult to like the book.

Image of the book cover

Breakfast of Champions
by Kurt Vonnegut

narrated by John Malkovich
"Set predominantly in the fictional town of Midland City, Ohio, the book focuses mainly on two characters: Dwayne Hoover, a Midland resident, Pontiac dealer and affluent figure in the city and Kilgore Trout, a widely published but mostly unknown science fiction author."
He's certainly a strange fish, this Vonnegut fellow. He writes in an odd manner, and it's lucky that I found it attractively odd this time or else the book would be unbearable. The author himself features as a character towards the end, revealing himself to his fictional counterparts as their Creator, and throughout the book there are drawings that have to be described in this audio version. I probably wouldn't recommend it, but I didn't find it too bad to listen to - John Malkovich is a great narrator. And it's admirably short.

Image of the book cover

Sailing the Worldly Winds
by Vajragupta
"Tossed around by gain, buffeted by loss, borne aloft by praise, cast down by blame, how can we not be ground under, lose all direction, confidence, and sense of purpose? This book focuses on the Buddha’s teaching of the worldly winds, how we can learn to navigate them more effectively, so that we can sail safely through life rather than being blown off course, however stormy the weather."
The second time I've read this, and this time I was doing it for my book group. Still my favourite Buddhist author, and most accessible (in my opinion), with some useful things to say about dealing with what life throws at me.

Saturday 10 April 2021

Lockdown lifting

Pink cyclamen
Riverhill Himalayan Gardens, September 2020
There has been lots of vaccinating, lots and lots. For one whole shift, six hours, I did nothing else. Usually we each swap around to do at least two roles, but that's not how it worked out on that occasion. There have been no particular highlights - I meet a variety of people who work in all sorts of different places, but now that second vaccines have started there really isn't time to chat - we're working flat out. One tip if you're planning to get vaccinated any time soon - don't wear a tight-fitting long-sleeved shirt. It's surprising how many people end up having to get half-undressed, and it's not just the men.

Nothing notable to report at the moment. A bit of brain stretch with Mr MXF, a bit of meditation and study with the Buddhists, and we've managed to start walking together now that restrictions allow up to six of us to gather outside. The variable weather makes scheduling a walk a bit of a gamble, though, especially the day after it snowed. I met Lola II and Mr M at mum and dad's and made a splendid trifle for the occasion, and Mr M brought a garden plant for mum, and Lola II cut my hair at least as well as the salon without any of the fuss. 

I have been watching many films, doing some cooking, cleaning, sorting out the house, but no specific LTRP projects completed although I noticed a growing stain on the ceiling in the hall upstairs. I finally got round to going up into the loft to see what was there, and unfortunately the stain is growing under a water tank, so it's back to Olf's mate - the plumber who helped out after Flf left me in the lurch. And I've been in touch with a new builder to help repair the render on the wall next to the pub, and he's coming round to have a look at it next week.

Wednesday 31 March 2021

Luckier than some

Heart of a cactus with spreading 'arms'
Munich Botanical Garden, December 2019
It's been more than a week and I feel the pressure to report in, but also resistance to writing a whole post about what I've been doing. It hasn't included anything that I imagine would interest anyone but me. Really, look away, there's nothing here, move on. But for the sake of my dedicated readers, who remind me how much they look forward to what I write, I feel bound to put something down.

I was on leave from the diabetes job for two weeks, and so had a bit of time for Mr MXF. In my first week I did some work that would actually affect one of his customers - not a real paying customer, but an organisation that Mr MXF supports on the side with website and email management. And it was successful! It still feels as though any success is more by luck and educated guesswork than knowledge and judgement, but still, it worked. Mr MXF reported back that I had received a vote of thanks at the Trustees meeting, which makes me feel even more of an imposter. In the second week I carried on my efforts to understand email hosting and servers, without noticeable success, which makes my triumph with the real customer even more surprising. 

I did another vaccination shift, where we had to use up 90 doses before 11 a.m. to avoid having to throw them away. So I contacted my diabetes team, and they all trooped over to help out. Which means that everyone except me has had their second dose - mine is due after Easter, but I might ask nicely at the end of my next shift and I should be able to have it then.

I had a big day of Sorting Out Stuff like renewing home insurance, reviewing my broadband contract (which ends in June), having an argument with my mobile provider about itemised billing, then investigating alternatives to find I could halve the monthly cost with a different mobile supplier on a month's rolling contract. Halving the cost only means saving £3 a month, but I'm giving it a try anyway - if it doesn't suit I don't have to wait more than a month to move to a different contract. The supplier I'm leaving got in touch, as they do when you threaten to move on, and told me that I'd been with them for 21 years. I was amazed. Can you believe mobile phones have existed for 21 years?

There's lots going on with the Buddhists, as always. I now have a meditation mentor who I chat to about twice a month, and so far has given me some good advice that I'm finding very difficult to follow. (Sounds familiar? I have managed to do the physiotherapy exercises more regularly, but it's still a struggle for motivation.) My regular Monday study group has finished the first whole year of the course in just a little more than a year, and we have settled down to a regular group of nine women via Zoom. The Tuesday group is still going and has maintained its Thursday study by choosing another book to work through together.

And as well as all that, I'm still pushing for expansion to our local group. We've managed to maintain our attendance for the last year despite not meeting in person, but without continually attracting more people the group is always at risk as people drift away over time. The difficulty is that we don't have an experienced practitioner to lead us on a regular basis, and for a number of reasons it's difficult to find one. I have some ideas, but I need to take the other members of the team along with me. So that's what I'm trying to do at the moment, which is occupying much time and thinking space.

I was very hopeful of finding a better venue to meet when we are ready to do so, and one of the group did make contact with somewhere that looked perfect. Unfortunately, when we were ready to get back to them we had lost the Tuesday evening slot. So unless something unexpected happens we'll probably have to go back to where we were meeting before, where there isn't WiFi. It's not an insurmountable problem, just a bit of a challenge.

And that's it for now. There's the exciting prospect of being able to do more and go places and meet people soon, but I'm trying not to raise my hopes because all this can be snatched away at a moment's notice if infection rates rise. But going out to work in two places, and having access to Lateral Flow testing, and seeing mum and dad a couple of times a month means I'm much luckier than some.

Sunday 21 March 2021

Vaccinating is exhausting

Three of the four vaccination stations in the Portakabin clinic
Coronavirus Vaccination Clinic 2 (the Portakabin), March 2021
You've had to wait for it, but the answer to the puzzle of what's in the bag hanging from my clothes airer relates to the fact that due to overconsumption and lack of willpower I had to go cold turkey on chocolate and snacks. I still had quite a large supply in the house and didn't want to throw them out, which meant that they had to be more inaccessible. Hence, hanging them up out of reach and out of sight. It worked quite well.

I've done a lot of reading in the last month as evidenced by the huge blog post last week, but there's also been a lot of other activity. The physiotherapist is suggesting that the longstanding issue with my hip is probably the source of the problem with my knee, and has changed my exercises. I am finding it increasingly difficult to motivate myself to actually do the exercises. And I have attended a very interesting Zoom webinar about the Libre 'Flash Glucose Monitoring' technology in diabetes, and I wonder if my colleagues already know about the things I learned.

I have been on annual leave from that job and signed up to many vaccination shifts, some of which were cancelled. We are doing far more work compared with that first session when I was shown the ropes - enthusiastic people are coming for their second dose as well as a few unenthusiastically turning up for their first.

We are now using iPads instead of paper forms to track our vaccinations, which I'm sure saves an enormous amount of data input, but relies heavily on our systems finding the individual. This means that the NHS number is quite important, name and date of birth being surprisingly unreliable. Obviously nobody knows their NHS number, but there is a website where it can be found, and so notices were put up asking people to type the long URL on their phones. This is quite difficult, so I suggested to the people doing the clerking that they could generate a QR code, at which they looked very blank.

I've only just started to appreciate the power of the QR code, which is the two-dimensional bar code that can be scanned by a phone camera and take you to a website. It was suggested to me for a diet sheet I was writing where I wanted people to have a look at a set of YouTube videos. The diet sheet would almost always be printed and provided to patients on paper so a clickable link would be useless, and even a shortened version of the URL would still be difficult to type, so I was just going to suggest that people searched on YouTube for keywords that would take them to the videos. A Young Person (now defined by me as someone under the age of 30) who has joined our diabetes dietetic team had the great idea of using a QR code, and it worked beautifully.

Reception in the Portakabin clinic
So I went off and produced some notices with QR codes for the clerks, and even laminated them (because: infection control), and handed them over on my next shift which was more than a week later (because: cancelled shifts). I think they made life a little easier - I wasn't in the same room as the clerks for most of the time so I really don't know how they were being used. But this picture of the reception area shows one of them on display.

Proximity alarms being charged
The other innovation is a proximity alarm worn around the neck, which vibrates and/or beeps when it is within 2 meters of another proximity alarm. These are given to patients when they check in and are supposed to make sure they stay 2 meters apart from each other. Obviously staff aren't wearing them because we can't vaccinate from 2 meters away, but we have extra face shields or goggles as well as masks and we test ourselves regularly using lateral flow kits.

The hardest thing about the shifts is the need to be standing up for six hours (with half an hour allowed for a break). The shift starts early and finishes at 2pm, then this week I had my weekly shop to do afterward, and needed to make some soup while I had time and before all the veg went mouldy. By the time I'd finished all that it was 5 p.m. and I was shattered, so I thought I'd have a nap. I became conscious again two and a half hours later, had some supper and went back to bed.

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