About Me

"Setting the world to rights"...one blog at a time! Plus anything else that comes to mind

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The Royal Wedding

Here we are, a couple of days away from The Wedding. We're all on overload from the media coverage, in depth speculation on all aspects of the wedding, endless forecasts on what the dress will look like, what colour the bridesmaids will be wearing and so on and so forth. It's irritating because instead of adding to the enjoyment it actually makes us weary of the whole business.

Sadly, that is normal these days, everything is analysed to death. What is actually distasteful is the number of people who seem to want to deliberately ruin the day in one way or another. Those who are planning to protest and cause trouble for something perhaps only they feel strongly about. Those who object to the cost to the public without considering the earnings from souvenir sales and tourism. They see nothing wrong in spoiling the day for everyone else and completely forget it's a wedding. A marriage between two people. How would they feel if their wedding was disrupted by strangers for their own purposes?

Then there are those who cynically dismiss the whole business as a way to placate the masses in difficult times. So what if it's being used to give us a 'feel-good' factor! These ARE tough and disturbing times, what does it matter if we use the occasion to have some fun?

Our family is hosting a 'Wedding Breakfast' buffet on Friday evening. Family, friends, all getting together to enjoy each other's company and have a good time. The house, the table, decorated up in red, white and blue. Bunting, balloons, the whole kit and kaboodle. We will carry the brunt of the catering but everyone is bringing something to the table, sharing the work. Shamelessly over the top celebrations and patriotism. We'll be a mixture of royalists and those who can take or leave the whole business but even the most indifferent is welcoming the excuse for a gathering and a chance to celebrate and to know that all round the country are others are doing the same, as a nation.

It would be nice if the cynics, just for once, could let it go and allow the rest of us to enjoy ourselves in peace. Wouldn't it be nice if the give and take, tolerance and co-operative attitude being brought to parties around the country could be extended beyond just the one day, could spread to everyone on this island?

Fairytale wedding or am I just away with the fairies? Don't know, don't care, I'm just holding out for a Happy Ever After for us all.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Strange times


It's one of those nights; it's 11:15, the rest of the family's in bed but I simply can't sleep. One morning I'll wake up, read the newpaper and I'll be off on my soapbox again but looking at my last few posts, I've been rather...self-centered?... for a while. It won't last! Something will rile me and I won't be satisfied until I've aired my views. In the meantime, tonight, I'm feeling mellow. "I'm chillin'!". I stepped out the back door and the night is warm, more so than would normally be expected for spring.

I wandered around the back of the bungalow in the dark, surrounded by the smell of the wisteria growing up the back wall; a plane droning overhead until it disappeared over the horizon and the quiet of the night took over. Not even a fox calling, no bats overhead, no sound of car engines in the distance. The night was perfect. I recognised the Plough constellation but couldn't identify the North star, perhaps hidden by a cloud. The rest of the stars are a mystery to me but there they were anyway, shining clear and bright. I stood there for a while just enjoying the moment, a moment in time that maybe I'll remember in years to come, like some nights from the past that come to me clear as a bell when I least expect it, to enjoy all over again.

Maybe tomorrow life will resume as normal, but tonight...


Wednesday, 20 April 2011

The sweet smell of spring

I was gardening this evening amidst the glorious smell of spring. The heady smell of lilac, delicate bluebells, sweet lily-of-the-valley and...phwoar...the pong of rape wafting off the fields!

Friday, 8 April 2011

Peace and quiet

So here I am, it's late. I should be getting ready for bed but words are going round and round inside my head. Life has been hectic and rather stressful recently but today there's been a lull and I've had time to actually think instead of just reacting.

Today has been a good day. As I walked out the front door I could smell spring...that particular, sweet smell of growing things I enjoy every year. Either it goes away as the year progresses or my nose just gets used to it, so I stood there breathing deeply and making the most of it. We live down a country lane with a stand of trees opposite the bungalow, fields one side of the road, some houses down the other side with fields behind. The birds were finishing off the dawn chorus and a woodpecker was tapping away in one of the taller trees.

As I drove the five miles to work there was a slight ground mist with blue skies overhead and a green haze on the trees as the leaves were making their appearance. From time to time throughout the year I stop in one of the laybys and admire the scenery; the freshness of spring, the mellowness of summer, the crispness of autumn and the snowy stretches of winter. Today was not one of those days, I would have been late for work so I drove on through the winding roads to Tetbury.

The first sign of Tetbury is the sight of the church spire over the trees and a drop down to the river before crossing the little bridge and moving up into the town. Usually I manage to park on The Green at the top of the hill but today I had to drive round looking for a parking space. I think of this as the 'Tetbury Two-step' as the early morning arrivals vie for spaces.

Work was pretty routine but lunchtime found me in one of the local cafes. The first time this year that the weather's been warm enough to sit out. There's just a door opening from the main street, no shop frontage, but you follow the corridor through to the back, past the small indoor seating area and out into a pretty walled garden. It's set on three levels with a small trickling waterfall and enough space for half a dozen tables. I sat under the magnolia tree that was in full bloom and enjoyed the occasional shower of petals as they were dislodged by a light breeze. The tourist season is just starting so there was a family from the Yorkshire Dales at one table and a Japanese lady writing in a notebook and sketching the garden at another, otherwise all was quiet and peaceful.

When I got home I managed to get a couple of hours in the vegetable garden and my new greenhouse. I planted some lavender alongside the fence to attract bees and other insects to my veggies and got in a few rows of carrot seeds, onion sets and some salad leaves.

I'm all for having a gay, abandoned time from time to time but sometimes it's nice to take life at a slower pace. I appreciate the fun all the more for the times in between.

...I started this last week and only just remembered it. I'd forgotten what a lovely day I'd had so it was nice to remind myself.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

National Health Service - the good and the bad

So...the NHS! We've just had some close encounters with the health service and while we've nothing but praise for the people we're less than impressed with the organisation.

My brother and father fell sick at the same time and initially it seemed to be the same cause but turned out to be completely different. Over the course of four days I consulted two pharmacists, the NHS Helpline, the Out-of-Hours GP service, our own GP, called an ambulance out to Dad four times and I drove my brother to hospital for a diagnosis. Every individual was brilliant.

The problems came not with the individuals but with the system. It all started on a Friday, early evening and this is not a good time to be ill. The surgeries are closed for the weekend so you can't access your own GP. The population are heading out on the town and hospitals become inundated with drunks and fight injuries. Add the fact that there are some nasty bugs doing the rounds causing hospitalisation for the elderly and the very young and you have a service that is pushed to breaking point.

In order to get to someone who can actually give you an informed opinion on both the NHS Helpline and the Out-of-Hours GP service you have to go through several layers of staff. An operator who logs the call with the level of urgency and arranges for a nurse to ring you back. The nurse rings back and 'triage's' the call and arranges for a doctor to call back.

There are so many ambulance call-outs that what would normally be considered an emergency is put on the back-burner in favour of life-threatening situations. I agree with the reasoning but reason sort of goes out of the window when you are watching someone in enormous pain and deep distress. The shortest response time was fifteen minutes and the longest was two and a half hours. Each wait felt like an eternity.

On the last call-out my father was taken into hospital, something the ambulancemen had been reluctant to do for several reasons. They were good reasons but eventually we all had to accept the inevitable as it was obviously safer for him to be in hospital than at home.

Once in hospital they moved relatively quickly with tests but once he was out of isolation and into a main ward the organisation broke down.

It was hard to get information. We were told only X, Y or Z person could discuss his case. X,Y or Z weren't around during visiting times so we were told to phone in. When we phoned in we were told they weren't allowed to discuss cases on the phone!

Notes got lost between the admissions ward and where he ended up so his homecoming was delayed, not only bad for him but they were desperate for beds. Some wards were closed due to illness, no-one allowed in or out, so patients were spread between other wards. Dad was the fifth bed in a four-bed ward, pushed up against the back wall. There is very little time for the staff to attend to a patient's personal needs.

The usual options of a convalescent place in a local care home or a team or carers on the NHS coming to the house instead simply wasn't possible. No beds available, not enough carers to go round. In order for him to come home we wanted to set up a 'lifeline' system whereby he could press a button on a wrist band if he couldn't get us to hear him for any reason. Also, we needed to arrange for personal care-workers to come in daily and we could have moved on all this a lot sooner had we been able to speak to someone properly.

We managed to get him home on Friday on the basis we were making arrangements for home care. We've arranged for a carer to come from a private firm each morning to help him get up - they are also pushed because the NHS is already using them for overflow work! A 'lifeline' is being installed tomorrow so in the meantime the family are working in shifts to ensure he is never alone and my brother is sleeping on a mattress in his room at night.

We're lucky, between us we're able to afford a private carer for an hour each day, at least in the short term. So many people can't and would have to wait until a place became available on the NHS. In fact, we received a letter today from a friend apologising for not sending a Christmas card. He'd had knee replacement surgery but had to wait in hospital for eight weeks because of a shortage of Support staff - he had no family to help. No wonder hospital beds are few and far between.

We'e a lot to be thankful for with the NHS, I'm not trying to say we don't, but it's a long way from perfect and going downhill all the time. The public don't help either, perhaps the drunks and fighters should have to pay for treatment - they might have to curtail their excesses to the benefit of all! We all pay into the NHS and few can afford private health insurance, those who get insurance as part of their job are very lucky.

I've posted some of my views on the NHS before in this blog and I shall no doubt do so again in the future, as well as posting my comments on the government website. I shall continue to do so but it's very frustrating. It seems that every time there's cause for hope, within a few months something happens to make it worse or show we've been taken for a ride again.

To finish on a positive note, Dad's GP called while I was typing this post. We hadn't asked for a visit, he just wanted to check on Dad himself having received the discharge notice from the hospital. As I said, the individuals in the health service are wonderful.