Thursday, 14 November 2019

Hospital chit chat

Attending West Suffolk Hospital for yet another appointment (this time for respiratory medicine), I went into the consultant's room and took a seat. Ann followed, shut the door, and sat demurely in the corner. "Who's that come in with you?" asked the consultant. "She's my wife," I explained, "did you think she was another patient who'd followed me in?" The consultant smiled, "no," she said, "I know we have a waiting list, but we haven't started holding group consultations yet!"

Later, going in for the blood test she'd ordered, I noticed a bottle of water hanging from a high window by a long string round its neck. Naturally curious, I asked why she hung the water up like that. "The window catch is broken," she explained, "so it's to keep the window closed". "That's a clever idea," I complemented. "Yes," she added, "naturally a woman thought of it." From me, that would have been a sexist comment, but she said it sweetly with a smile. I just said, "Yes. I thought it must be something to keep the water cool, I'd never have thought it was for the window."  I added that I thought the sexual equality war had been won, but why didn't there seem to be any male phlebotomists? She agreed it was a shame, but she didn't know why. "We did have a man once for a few weeks, but he was a doctor in training." We then got onto a discussion about the difficulty of drawing blood from a vein one could not see, but the satisfaction when you succeeded by feel alone, so it was a long and interesting chat while she kept poking me for my own hidden veins.

I believe God has a sense of humour, but sometimes it seems directed squarely between my eyes. Yesterday, I was marveling how long it has been since I got a speeding ticket or a parking fine. Today, an evelope came marked "Important. Not a circular" with a notice inside saying I must pay £100 parking fine, or £60 if I payed within 10 days. It seems that I had triggered a hidden parking camera when I picked Ann up on the train from London. She came into a tiny village station with a pub next to it, and my mistake was to use their carpark which I've used many times before, but not to see the notices now saying there was zero waiting time, and pub users should pay at the bar with their car registration. I was there for barely 10 minutes to attract such a fine, but there is no appeal and no escape. Well thank you, God. I guess you haven't got much else to laugh at in the world at the moment.

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Who benefits from Farage's challenge to the Tories?

The intervention of Donald Trump on Nigel Farage's radio show was intriguing. He suddenly popped up to support Farage, stating that the Brexit deal renegotiated by Boris Johnson was "a bad deal", and pleaded for Boris to work with Farage to renegotiate the deal. This has led Farage to take an even harder line on Brexit, and to threaten sabotaging a Conservative victory by placing Brexit candidates in every seat in the country. To everyone except him and his devotees, this risks a Labour victory and the loss of Brexit altogether, with years more wrangling and division in both Britain and the EU. The question therefore is, cui bono? Who benefits? To me, there seems to be a clear answer.

It is in Russia's interest to destabilise Europe, to which end they were already accused of rigging the referendum by subtle media influences, and they are almost certainly supporting the extreme left wing in continuing to protest and plot against Brexit and the government. Now, just when Boris has secured a deal and got it over the first hurdle in parliament, Russia is keen to keep the pot of strife boiling. If Boris wins the election, there will be a relatively clean and rapid Brexit, Europe will sail on untroubled, and Britain will continue to be a thorn in the side of Russia rather than in the EU, with the potential to increase its power, wealth, and prestige in the world. Their only recourse now is to work all out to prevent the Tories from winning, preferably with a Labour win, or failing that with another hung parliament. Donald Trump suddenly intervening to prop up Farage against Johnson and split the Brexit (and hence Tory) vote is having just such an effect. Peter Fleming, in The Sixth Column, portrayed the new warfare by Russia as a continuous undermining of the British character by provoking a constant stream of hidden interference with trust and integrity. This has now been happening for over three years, and it all smacks of another conspiracy – this one based on the original premise that Russia has influence over Trump following their help in rigging his election  and they are now calling in the favour.

It is perfectly plausible that the call from Trump and the things he said live on air to Farage were orchestrated by someone other than Trump; why else would he place a spontaneous call to a British chat show, even one run by his friend Nigel? Why else would he suddenly change his statement that there will be a quick and open trade deal between Britain and the USA into a claim that no trade deal will be possible under the present terms? It is all hugely influential in disrupting both the general election and the ultimate outcome of Brexit, to the detriment of both Britain and Europe. None of this is of any real interest or benefit to the USA, but it is clearly of great benefit to the Russian bear, and I fear they are the culprits behind the present disturbances to what should have been a clear victory run for the Conservatives, but may yet be a road to disaster. I will not accuse Farage of seeking to delay or avert Brexit for the selfish personal gain of continuing on the EU gravy train as an MEP, nor of wrecking the deal to maintain his public position as the popular voice of anti-EU sentiment and the face of Brexit, but I fear that he is so smitten with the glow of being a favourite of President Trump that he cannot sense malign influences. He cannot suspect that Trump's imagination may be a little limited, or that his ideas might be manipulated by an external agent. We can only hope that common sense might prevail, but common sense is always in short supply in politics and entirely absent in an election.

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Misfortunes deserved and undeserved

Yesterday, at our friends' for coffee and discussing where we might move to if we downsize, they asked if we would want to stay near Edwin. Ann was just saying, "no, we can go anywhere now because he is so independent", when the phone rang with him saying his car had broken down, and he might need to borrow Ann's!

Edwin has always been lucky in life, but now seems to be plagued by misfortune. He managed to get the car to the garage in Cambridge with its red light glowing menacingly and - to him -meaninglessly. They won't even be able to look at it until next week. Now his bike has been stolen, a beautiful lime green contraption that he used to go all over Cambridge. He had a lock for it - a great beast of a thing that would have taken a determined thief an arc-welding set to dislodge - but it was in the 'secure' bike shed at his friend's flat, so he thought he would not need a lock there. Sometimes we invite misfortune in; he is reluctant to learn from the advice or experience of others, but is certainly getting his own experiences now. We hope he will learn from them.

Ann had a routine appointment at the dentist, and I met her in a pub in Hadleigh, meanwhile enjoying looking at the menu while I waited. She came in at 2:30, so I went to the bar to order. "Sorry, the kitchen's closed now. You're two minutes too late!" the woman said, adding that the chef would not be flexible. Talk about crap service - it's no wonder pubs are shutting at the rate of 18 per week.
Blanche de Bois

Blanche was right
the kindness of strangers
is more dependable
than the kindness of family
or even of friends.
I have found in my life
that those related by blood
are the furthest away
while a hand on my hand
and a kiss on my cheek
from a kindly newcomer
is all that I need
and all that I seek.

There have been a few people in our lives where each word must be carefully measured, but it makes for a complete lack of honesty or transparency and gradually they have fallen away, perhaps from a moment's unguarded tongue, or the failure to restrain some spontaneous comment. Generally we are better without them, and are glad when they go. Getting home, we found a letter waiting from Ann's sister, Jane, from whom we haven't heard for 18 months since the great falling out (see A-health-bulletin).  We have fallen out and made up on many occasions, usually when she slammed the phone down or sent a note saying she doesn't want any more contact. It was her 65th birthday this week, and she must be getting mawkish; it was filled with self-pity and hidden envy, with no hint of contrition or wish for reconciliation. She and her husband never seemed to make much of their chances, then always blamed it on bad luck. We always had to fill our mouths with cotton wool when speaking to her for fear of upsetting her, for too often we could see where the root of her misfortune lay. She does have a painful and difficult life after losing her daughter and husband in quick succession, and with little money coming in to tackle life's fences, so our feelings towards her are inevitably tinged with sympathy.

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Dignitas and caring for people

In the Swan after walking the dogs and waiting for Ann to have her hair cut, the publican from the  Globe, another Clare pub, sat with his Staffy dog. He was talking sadly about a close relative who needed care and was in a home, but still had her mental facilities, saying she just wished to die, because she had lost her independence and didn't want to be a burden. Someone said, "you could take her to Dignitas." The man said, yes, but then you would end up all over the papers, and get prosecuted. "If she were a dog," he concluded, "you'd be prosecuted for cruelty to animals, but because she's a person, you'd be prosecuted for cruelty to people!"

Back home, Edwin phoned to say has car had started loosing power, and a red light had come on.
Ann advised that with a red light, he'd better stop immediately and get the breakdown services out, but he decided to risk it and limp on to the garage in Cambridge. "Is it overheating?" Ann asked. "Oh no," said Edwin putting on his mechanic's hat, "it can't overheat - it's a cold day." We both think he ought to go to motor maintenance classes as a priority.

One of my jobs is to cover for someone who has been absent for three or four months following a mental breakdown. She was managing the safety monitoring for three developmental drugs, which were handed to me in her absence. Now she is back on a part time basis, and being eased slowly back into work, so today they asked me to hand one of the products back to her, with me in a supportive role.  I fully understand how a large company has to support people with mental illness, and cannot be seen to be harassing them in any way. I work 20 hours per week to cover these three products, while she will be working 24 hours per week and will only have one product, with lots of support. But they are hard work, and I'm not surprise she had a breakdown. However, to compensate, they are going to give me three more products to fill up the time gap! They must want me to experience her stress to build up empathy. I have one big advantage, though - I am in the happy position that I don't have to stay if it gets too heavy.

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

The bells are ringing

Yesterday, I fixed the bell with the broken tab (see I-hear-no-bell) by the simple method of strong glue. I held it for some minutes while it hardened to prevent the top popping off again, as Ann looked out of the window. "What's the matter?" she asked in her accusing voice, doesn't it work if you let go?" That night, getting ready for bed with rain lashing down outside, the bell suddenly started ringing without stopping. I rushed down in my pyjamas, and there at the door was Ann, laughing like a maniacal hyena. "You horror," I said. "I thought the rain must have got in and short-circuited the thing!"

Today I went into London for a 07:30 meeting (they start early with Japan, to match their afternoons". Driving down at 5am, the roads are thankfully quiet and I could park easily at Redbridge. However, the tube was as busy as I've seen it, even at that ungodly hour, with the platform crowded and standing room only in the train. One of the adverts above my head proclaimed, "IT'S TIME TO LEAVE THE SINGLE MARKET". We just can't escape the Brexit propaganda, I thought, then read it more carefully as my nose rocked before it. It was an advert for a dating agency. They could have said, "THE BELLS ARE RINGING".

It had been a frosty night, and towards the centre of the carriage, an early morning couple who had got on much earlier were sitting huddled in anoraks, the fur-lined hoods turned up to keep out the cold. At each stop, more people pushed in forcing me closer till I was standing before them, then at Loverpool Street (they were very affectionate), he left. Another young man, closer than I, swung his rucksack off and moved to sit down, then noticed me, and immediately stood aside to offer me the seat. Ahh - the privilege of age. Who said kindness is dead? He then had to swing his rucksack back up, knocking three people on the shoulders. In the absence of her mate, the girl started playing Candy-Crush, and looked equally contented.

In the meeting, my immediate boss, who is a super-efficient woman while still being ultra pleasant, was complaining about not being able to have her breakfast. "It was lovely last week," she said. "I sat in the park in the sun, and a squirrel came up and shared my sandwich. I always have the healthy option: a bacon sandwich in whole meal granary bread and no butter." She said it with such a straight face, I didn't have the heart to laugh.

Sunday, 3 November 2019

I hear no bell

Ask not for whom the bell tolls - it tolls not for thee. About two years ago, I fitted new wireless doorbells to the front and back doors, each with a different tone, and with a shiney white plastic box that plugged into the mains. About two months ago, they both stopped working, so this weekend I decided to treat them to new batteries. There was one problem though. When I searched for the bells, they had disappeared. Someone had taken them out and hidden them - there is no other explanation. Ann and I searched every shelf and cupboard, and behind the books in the hall where the bells had been, but discovered nothing. Neither of us have taken them out, and we can't think of anyone else who might, or any reason for their going, but it did explain the lack of functioning bells in the house.

With the intention of cutting our losses and starting afresh I bought two more bells from B&Q, and fixed the first one to the front door. It didn't work. It works perfectly in my room, but never when it's screwed to the wall, so I gave up and tried the second bell. Again it worked perfectly from anywhere in the house when I carried the bell push about, so I screwed the backplate in place, pressed the bell push home, let go, and it fell off! The little plastic tag that clips it in place was broken off, so there's no way to fix it. So this afternoon, I went back to B&Q to buy some glue and a simpler bell. Now I just have to wait for the rain to stop, and in the meantime hope visitors will use the knocker.

Saturday, 2 November 2019

Winning and losing

Ann had a day in London yesterday to meet her friend Sylvia. They meet in the M&S bridge cafe of the Westfield Centre where they can chat for three hours over a cup of coffee. Ann thought they ought perhaps buy a second cup, but Sylvia never wants two, so they make it last. They are not the worse offenders though: some people were on their laptops over a cup of coffee when they arrived, and were still there when they left. It is rather hard on the cafe when it's lunch time, and some people come to eat but can't get a seat. But not so bad as one pair Ann noticed, who bought a cup of coffee then proceeded to eat their own sandwiches from a Gregg's carrier bag.

Sylvia is a tiny woman from the far north of England. She always dresses elegantly and – though in her seventies – is as energetic as a woman of half her age, and always able to cap a story with another. When finally they went shopping (or more accurately, looking at all the clothes that wouldn't suit them), Ann mentioned she has to be careful because of her 'fat legs'. Ann's legs are not fat, but it is something she has always been self-conscious about. Sylvia immediately replied that she's always been self-conscious of her skinny legs ever since a teenager, when a boy told her: "the last time I saw legs that thin was when I was putting rings on my pigeons!" Sylvia has lived in London for most of her life, but quite apart from any debate about leg size, this sets her firmly in the North. What teenager in the South East would keep pigeons?

We rose early to watch England lose the world cup. After their brilliant win against the All Blacks last week, we looked for miracles, but you can only play the best game ever once, and it looked as though everything had been used up with that magnificent win. The Springboks ran rings round them, and certainly deserved their win. What sort of sportsmanship do England show though, when they refuse to wear their silver medals? For most of those players, being second best in the world is likely to be their best ever life experience, and they spurn it! Wales or Scotland would have loved to be second.

 "For when the One Great Scorer comes
To mark against your name,
He writes - not that you won or lost -
But how you played the Game."

Their attitude is diabolical, and a miserable example to the rest of the country, but fully in line with the modern attitude which seems to not accept that life has runners-up, and we can't all win everytime. It used to be enough to take part - play up, play up, and play the game! Now, it is accepted that to lose is to become yet another remoaner.
To add to today's loss, Middlesbrough lost against Derby, their eigth loss in a row! Now there's a loss we can moan about — wouldn't the Boro love to be second in the league right now.