Tuesday, June 27, 2006


I'm thinking about joining AA

Oh dear. My woeful knowledge of the bible has been exposed by the comment on my last post. Although I guessed the message, I had to google Matthew 14.31 to find not only that the quote wasn’t, as I’d always thought, o ye but o thou of little faith, but also the beginning and end to those five well-used words. This set me thinking that maybe it’s time I enrolled at Atheists Anonymous and took the floor to admit that yes, I’m an atheist, but no, I’m not unwilling to accept the importance of such an influential book. And while I’m at it, I might even get round to putting aside my grievances against the church for the role it’s played in the miseries of the world and accept the enormous contribution it’s made to the world’s great works of art. Without it, we may have spent our holiday craning our necks at something much more prosaic than the magnificent Sistine Chapel. And do we know or care whether Michelangelo was inspired by God or the size of his commission to paint it? So, whilst I may never ‘drink from the bottle’ I should at least endeavour to examine the contents, learn its origins and marvel at its complexity. You never know, I might be able to persuade the local book club to adopt the bible as its book of the week.

I love the Italians. Whenever you go to Italy you just can’t help smiling – They’ve got such flair, gaiety, drama, style. To watch them on their evening stroll is a feast of sights and sounds: the clothes - who but an Italian guy could wear a brown corduroy suit and look great? Even the elderly are impeccably dressed in fabulous shirts and skirts with not a crimpline dress in sight; the young - all with the obligatory motor scooter and mobile phone, gesturing theatrically whilst chattering at lightening speed in that wonderfully musical language; and the restaurants - delicious food and wine served on red checked tablecloths. BUT, last night, Italy’s world cup match against Australia wiped the smile off my face. Totti’s blatant dive to win a penalty made even me wish a defeat on them in the next round.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


The joys of our dear old NHS

It’s been a while since I was a regular at the A & E department of our local hospital explaining the causes of the kids’ broken or bleeding bodies as well as the inexplicable - the swallowing of a co2 bottle from a soda siphon, but last weekend I’m reminded of what bizarre places they are. My step-daughter has an emergency gynaecological problem, so off we drive to our nearest A & E. We know immediately that this won’t be a short visit when we see an ominous flashing notice saying that patients will be seen in order of priority, not arrival. Okay, heart attacks or severed arteries aside, that’s a pretty subjective judgement to make – A kid’s incessant screaming might get most people’s vote but it’s not necessarily the right one. So we know there’ll be none of the usual satisfaction of seeing the queue being whittled down. In the post office I cope by counting the number of customers and giving them each a minute and amuse myself watching the clock and the queue to see how accurate I am, but with a system like this, we’ve no idea how long we’ll be there. It turns out to be over 3 hours. The only certainty seems that anyone approaching the receptionist will receive the same resentful vibes – no bump is big enough, no blood loss extreme enough or limb at acute enough angle to soften that baleful mask. I try for a drink from the machine next to her desk but my bottle wobbles teasingly on the edge of the ledge for a few seconds and there it stays. I make eye contact with her and ask if she’s in charge of the machine, she snaps ‘no’ and when I ask who is, tells me she’s ‘dealing with a patient’, then as punishment for interrupting her sends me on a wild goose chase to track down who is in charge. The answer of course is no one. Then there’s the rebuke for disobeying the notice three feet in front of the desk. It reminds me of a poll the BBC are doing to find the worst building in Britain – not the ugliest but the one that just doesn’t work. Among the nominations is a bus station which has been cleverly and thoughtfully designed with walk ways all around it, but ignores the basic principle that people always choose the shortest route to where they’re going, so little old ladies risk their lives darting between buses, but on paper that probably looked a fabulous bus station. And so it is with this notice, which is actually two notices, but all you register is the one in red saying that if you’re having breathing difficulties let the staff know immediately. The one neither we, nor anyone else seems to see, says ‘queue here’ so each of us go up to the desk and are asked to get back behind the notice. Now it’s possible that someone may have brought up the fact at the team meeting that either everyone who comes in is illiterate, they’re anarchists or they’re not registering the notice, but then again, if the receptionist is in charge, perhaps no one dares mention it.

This story has a frustrating postscript to it which might make this sound like an NHS bashing blog but honestly, it isn’t. I’ve the greatest respect for the skill of the surgeons, doctors and nurses who actually treat the patients. It’s just the administration that sucks. My stepdaughter is finally admitted at 4 o’clock and after an hour, with nothing happening and not having had lunch, eats a sandwich. At 6 o’clock the doctor arrives and says if she hadn’t eaten it she could have had the op tonight! So, on Monday she’s prepared for her op , allowed nothing to eat or drink all day and at 9 o’clock that evening, is told that they can’t fit her in for that day either. So now we must pass today trying to judge the urgency level of incoming patients but fearing that the patient arriving by ambulance pushes her further down the queue.

Friday, June 09, 2006


Fever Pitch

I don’t know whether ‘football’s coming home’, but I do know that a football revolution is under way. Normally during world cups, women bemoaned the loss of their blokes to beer and tele for the next month, phoned friends, relatives and long lost acquaintances in an effort to avoid the noise levels in the next room going off the scale with screams of ecstasy or abuse whenever a goal was scored. Everyone knew that women couldn’t enjoy football since they didn’t even know the offside rule. Now, everywhere you go you can hear them discussing the merits of all the players, whether the famous metatarsal of Rooney will be healed, whether Eriksson will play the 4.4.2 formation. But we still can’t win. Now we’re being accused of bluffing our way into the boys’ territory and the real football fans demand more proof that we’re really there for the game and not to ogle the gorgeous body of David Beckham. A discussion on the radio had some pundit giving advice on the dos and don’ts of being a proper fan. Do: support a little team, like Grimsby, don’t: ask why Freddie Flintoff isn’t in the squad.

But a Scottish MP has come out to say that he won’t be supporting England in the world cup. Why do the Scots have such a chip on their shoulder about the English? I know we chopped off Mary Queen of Scots’s head, but for God’s sake that was over 400 years ago and we’ve been trying to make it up to them ever since by giving them all the plum jobs at the BBC and Tony has even promised to give his own job to a Scot. We support them when they play against the rest of the world, we buy their shortbread biscuits, drink their whisky, applaud politely when they blow their bagpipes in our faces and marvel at their record at engineering. Come on you jocks, fair's fair – let’s have a bit of support.

One of the most excruciating aspects of the build up to the world cup is the constant re-playing of England’s victory in 1966. 1966, that’s 40 years ago and if I see Geoff Hurst’s final goal one more time … it’s embarrassing watching these ‘old’ men being wheeled out every other day to recall what it felt like to be there. Obviously I’d love England to win, if for no other reason than to have a change of faces for the re-run in four year's time.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


Making Hay while the sun doesn't shine

It’s nice to be blogging again after the weeks just spent looking for alternative cancer treatments for Rob. His tumour continues its relentless invasion of his neck, its sinister tentacles now wrapping themselves round his muscles and voice box. He hasn’t responded to the first two sessions of his new chemotherapy course, and I’m disappointed and puzzled that conventional treatment sits so uncomfortably alongside any alternatives. His last blood count was 11 (normal is 16 or 17) but there’s been no attempt to try anything new, not even a mention of nutritional supplements. He decided to take a simple iron supplement, plus a hefty daily dose of Himalayan Goji juice, and whilst I’m not talking about a cure, in two weeks he’s put on half a stone, his blood count has gone up to 11.8 and his normally chalk-white complexion has some colour in it. With that encouragement, I’ve now ordered him some more ‘magic potions’, which of course brings up the moral dilemma, which is that if the people selling this stuff are charlatans, buying one of their products encourages the exploitation of vulnerable people. But can I afford not to take a chance?

I know my loved one has written about the rain during Festival week at Hay-on-Wye so I’ll only add that I was born in Wales and every time I go there I remember that my Dad took us back to England because it never stopped bloody raining. You’ll always hear the local joke that if you can see a particular distant hill, it’s going to rain, if you can’t, it is raining. But it is still a small price to pay for the special buzz you get at the Festival. One of the most endearing things about it is also the most infuriating, namely the peculiarly English amateurishness of it. It’s held in a large field and the marquees, loos, eating places etc. are nicely laid out, but for those without 20/20 vision the signposting can be somewhat taxing, and only the English could come up with a system of getting the thousands of people in and out of the site via a box office designed to hold no more than the local Women’s Institute’s weekly meeting and the cunning plan for controlling the traffic flow is to put arrows on the floor indicating the way in and out, which can only be seen when the box office is virtually empty. BUT, when we arrived for our first session my loved one and I looked at each other and said 'who's got the tickets' and chorused 'you have'. Yes, all £290 worth of them sitting back home. A charming volunteer at the ticket office sympathised, telling her own disaster story of planning a 17 week tour of Africa. She’d been in charge of organising the itinerary, which she’d produced and copied in duplicate and her husband was in charge of the paperwork, but somehow the packing of the itinerary had fallen between the two job descriptions and they arrived with no idea of where they were going. We all had a laugh and she gave us duplicate tickets. Now that’s the good side of amateurishness.

Although this was our eighth year and we should have known better, we went to 7 sessions one day, the first at 9 am, the last at 9 pm, ignoring the obvious fact that you’ll end up completely knackered if you go to more than 5 in a day, and if you have an early morning session, for God’s sake don’t book a late night one as well. Nul points for that then.

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