Saturday, December 31, 2016

Meet the newest member of our family

Remember Shirley Valentine talking to the walls? Well, now I have my own kitchen companion to talk to and it even answers me!

Meet Alexa.
She might not look like much but wait.

Try as I might I can't ask her something without saying please. It's just not polite when she's being so helpful. She'll even tell me jokes. Or interesting facts. And play a radio station for me. And turn the volume up or down.

But she couldn't tell me what time kick off was in the Ospreys rugby game.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Joyeux Noel

A slightly unusual Christmas film, Joyeux Noel tells the story of the famous Christmas truce unofficially declared by soldiers in the trenches in 1914. Focusing on a few main characters it covers the lead-up, the truce and the bit no-one talks about: the aftermath. Commanders hauled up to answer for their behaviour and disgraced and disbanded units.

With German, French and British troops there are some subtitles but you soon get the hang of it - and realise you don't need subtitles when they're speaking English ...

Highly recommended.

Monday, December 26, 2016

So that was Christmas 2016

With the Italian in-laws visiting for Christmas we had antipasti for starters. Or does antipasti mean starters?

And a bottle of appropriately-named wine.

Which reminds me that four days before Christmas GrandSon4 celebrated his 4-month birthday.
His daddy is getting very good at making cakes!

Just one of our many and wonderful presents: a basket of totally home-made goodies from Daughter and son-in-law.
Including maple and pecan granola, sea salt fudge, apple and blackberry vodka, rhubarb schnapps, rosemary and chilli nuts, gingerbread body scrub, rosemary and tree tea bath salt, mango and apple chutney, Gower apple chutney and wild plum jam. Pleased to say that everything tasted so far is excellent.

And today, Boxing Day, Husband, George and I enjoyed a lovely walk along the beach and back through Singleton Park.

An unusually quiet park.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Where exactly is Brynhyfryd?

So I had to collect a turkey for Zac's from Brynhyfryd. 'Brynhyfryd's not a big place,' I thought. 'I'll find the butcher easily.'
It wasn't until I'd done some shopping and was on my way to the butcher's that I realised I didn't actually know where Brynhyfryd was.

Thank goodness for google and the amazing fact that I had a wifi signal (wherever I was).

The turkey had been won by vegetarian friends of friends who'd kindly donated it to Zac's for Christmas dinner, which should be even more special than usual this year as it's being cooked by a masterchef quarter-finalist. Tempting.

In Zac's on Tuesday for the first time since I've been ill and I was touched by the expressions of care shown by the regulars. Gordon, who can be drunkenly rude and obnoxious, beamed when I walked in and came over to me and stroked my hand as he welcomed me back and said he'd missed me. And it wasn't even for my cake as he doesn't eat cake.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Mouldy oranges and other seasonal topics

It's not Kirstie Allsop but it's better than I expected. Although since taking the photo the orange has gone mouldy. 

I finished my Christmas shopping today!!! And this afternoon Husband and I wrapped everything. Now to concentrate on food. Oh and cleaning. Lounge is done and decorated though so that means no cleaning in there until twelfth night. Excellent.

In prison for the carol service on Sunday. Talked with Keith who is being released on Friday and has nowhere to go. He has to see probation and then hurry along to the accommodation place but the chance of there being a bed for the weekend being found for him on the Friday afternoon before Christmas must be remote. I'd have been tempted to gently punch a prison officer to ensure I stayed in until the weather improved I think.

Speaking of security type guards if I were one in a shopping arcade I'd occasionally run through it talking into my walkie talkie and looking worried. Just for fun. And I probably wouldn't have a job for long.

And how can you not love a man who addresses your Christmas card with the words 'That Glorious Lizzie Hinds'?!

When the men cook

Husband had a craving for pie and then he decided, no, he wouldn't make pie but he'd make boeuf en croute instead. Posh pie. After much recipe consulting and contemplation he opted for a mix of recipes from Gordon Ramsey and Delia Smith. And not only did he cook dinner but he shopped for it as well!
And very delicious it was too.

Younger Son does much of the cooking in our house and usually he tends to make it up as he goes along but after reading a low carb gluten free cookbook he decided to make one of its recipes: ricotta and rocket cheesecake.
Very pretty and tasted nice when it first reached your mouth but left a very bitter after-taste. I think he'll be trying his own variations in future with less - if any - rocket. (Normally what he makes is yummy.)

Monday, December 19, 2016

Order turkey: tick

I shouldn't be allowed near the shops at this time of year. I go out intending to buy a and b and come back with c,d, e and f at least. Especially cute clothes for children. Doubly especially Christmassy clothes for babies.

But I've ordered the turkey. I don't want a repeat of the year we spent the early hours of Christmas eve trawling supermarkets - unsuccessfully - for one. The rest of the night was sleepless before the local butcher opened and reassured us that he had one spare.

Then there was the year George ate the turkey. But we won't talk about that.

So I guess we're getting there. Still not panicking, which is a sure sign I'm forgetting something vital, but until I remember what that is I won't worry.

Friday, December 16, 2016

About that urgent appointment

So, somewhere between two hospitals, I got lost in the system.

Morriston say they referred me; Singleton deny knowledge. I've spoken to a secretary who has assured me she will send my details through again and hurry them up.

It's a good job I feel all right. It must be horrible if you get lost and have to wait when you're in pain.

Meanwhile, on other matters, I feel I should be worrying about all that I have to do before Christmas but ... I'm not. Which is all to the good as if I thought about it seriously I might throw a wobbly.

Instead I'm enjoying a raft of Christmas films: White Christmas, Wonderful Life, The Santa Clause, Jingle All the Way to name just a few of the better ones. As well as Christmas lunch with Zac's women's group at Nicholaston House.
My angel, a gift from Dawn

Monday, December 12, 2016

Some days, although we cannot pray, a prayer utters itself.

I'm never ill. Not properly. Of course I get sore throats and colds - and make a great big fuss about them - but painful unexplained illness isn't for me. Or hasn't been until now.

And somehow amidst all the pain and fear of the what-ifs I lost sight of God. I struggled to pray - didn't even think to pray apart from the odd quickly uttered 'Help me!'

So I'm really pleased that lots of other people did manage to pray for me. And I'm very grateful to you one and all. 

Please keep praying that my outpatient appointment comes through soon and that whatever the problem is can be resolved easily. Also that I stop fretting and worrying that the pain will come back in the meantime. And that the what-ifs are kept at bay.

The title of this post is from a poem called Prayer by Carol Ann Duffy:
Some days, although we cannot pray, a prayer
utters itself. So, a woman will lift
her head from the sieve of her hands and stare
at the minims sung by a tree, a sudden gift.

Some nights, although we are faithless, the truth
enters our hearts, that small familiar pain;
then a man will stand stock-still, hearing his youth
in the distant Latin chanting of a train.

Pray for us now. Grade 1 piano scales
console the lodger looking out across
a Midlands town. Then dusk, and someone calls
a child’s name as though they named their loss.

Darkness outside. Inside, the radio’s prayer –
Rockall. Malin. Dogger. Finisterre.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Keep taking the pills

When asked for his next of kin Owain Glyndwr said, 'I don't have any.'

A few hours later and someone would only have had to say, 'the bus was late,' and I would have burst into tears so it was fortunate I hadn't yet reached that point when I overheard Owain's comment or the ward would have been flooded. So many sad stories. 

Note to self: don't stop taking happy pills even if you feel sick. Emotion is not something I want to deal with.

Two times I didn't do something stupid

These moments don't come often so need recording for posterity.

A registrar visited me in the middle of the night. I'd only just managed to fall asleep so what he said was a bit of a blur but he did tell me that about one of my blood tests, which I think may have been a marker for inflammation or something else entirely. 
'It should be 10,' he said, 'but yours is 145.'
What I thought was, 'Holy smoke, Batman, that's impressive'; what I said was, 'Wow.'
Pretty restrained, yes?

Then you know those little tube things that patients have in them so stuff can be piped straight in? I had to have one for dye before my scan. It took the doctor four - yes 4 - attempts to get it in.
'You must have very windy veins,' she said. (That's windy not windy.)
And the amazing thing? I didn't faint. As someone who's fainted when just visiting a patient and has been banned from blood giving I thought it was quite something.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Things to do for the first time when you're 64

Using my vast experience of being 64 - all of three weeks - I am able to compile the following list. I should add that while all are possibilities not all are recommended.

1. Visit A&E - for me rather than husband, children or uncle.
2. Spend time - that isn't baby-related - in hospital .
3. Have an ECG. My heart races when I get within a 100m radius of hospital; add pain and fear to that and little wonder the triage nurse thinks my heart is dodgy. 
4. Have a CT scan. Or as I was calling it a Cat scan. I also had a lot of Lab tests.

You may have guessed from this list, if you didn't already know, that I've been poorly. Ooh, proper poorly I was. Bad in bed under the doctor. It all began ten days ago and since then I've seen four GPs, been prescribed a variety of treatments - antacid, painkillers and antibiotics - been admitted to and spent three nights in hospital, been poked, prodded and had any number of scans and blood tests. Home now feeling much better but still without knowing the cause of the problem. Now it's suspected to be a lady bits' fault and I've been referred to that department for further tests but I don't want to bore you more than necessary so I've just picked a few highlights.

When asked by the NHS Direct nurse if I've been experiencing any confusion I possibly shouldn't have said, 'No more than usual.' (Only days before I'd arrived at the shops without my purse. Which wouldn't have been so bad if it hadn't been the second time in as many weeks.)

Now I'm not being (loosely translated meaning, I am being) snobbish but why is the A&E waiting room filled with women who like their perfume like their men: strong and stinky. At one point I thought I'd come upon a scene from Gavin and Stacey. The patient, the father, was accompanied by his wife, two daughters and sons-in-law. Their clothes (and perfume) suggested they'd come straight from Sunday lunch out and having had it interrupted proceeded to party on with snacks and coffee from Costa and loud conversation. I was expecting Doris to turn up at any moment and start flirting with the young doctors so I was glad when the triage nurse called me in and I was able to change seats. Of course, if I'd been feeling better and not nauseated by the perfume I could have enjoyed it and eavesdropped. Or is it called people-watching these days?

The doctor prescribed me a suppository for pain relief while I was waiting. 
'Can you put it in yourself?' the nurse asked.
'Yes, of course I can.'
If I can get it out of the packet. 
I had to leave the sanctuary of the lavatory, go and find someone who looked as though they had medical training and ask her to open it for me. (It was a trick: pull-down-from-the-top not tear open packaging. Honestly, sick people don't need these added complications.)

Sexy legs!
In the surgical assessment ward a young female doctor quizzed me then went to look at the x-rays that had been done. She came back a while later and said, 'You have something in your uterus?'
I stared at her then remembered, 'Oh, yes, a coil.'
'A coil?' She looked puzzled. 'What's that for?'
'Um, birth control.'
Okay, looking back I can see why she might have needed to ask why a 64-year-old woman needed birth control ...

During the (first) ultrasound scan the radiographer said something and I asked her to clarify. 'Did you say you can see a gerbil?' A simple, 'Could you say that again' would probably have been a better option.

Owain Glyndwr (not his real name) was moved into the bed next to me. Now we all know hospitals are built for neither privacy nor modesty so I found out quite a lot about him. In fact I found out rather too much about the state of his bowels. But it was the urologist registrar (or some sort of senior - but way too young - doctor) who was most entertaining.
'Can you still write your name in gravel?' (Owain couldn't.)
'I know you've been examined already but I'd like to do it with a more educated finger.'

The first night I was in the surgical assessment ward two beds down from me was the obligatory screaming old person. (I've spent enough time in hospitals to know they are a compulsory part.)  In case the bright lights, night-long comings and goings, beeping machines, a trolley for a bed, and pain and fear aren't enough to keep you awake. (Bear with me. This may not sound like a very happy highlight but it is positive.) One of the nurses spent most of her shift reassuring Alice and she didn't lose her patient once. Her tone of voice was unfailingly gentle and polite. Just reassurance over and over again. 'Your husband is at home because he needed to get some sleep but he asked me to look after you tonight and he'll come and see you tomorrow.'

Indeed all the staff (with the minor exception of the 'coil' doctor) were excellent. Kind, available, gentle. In spite of the lack of beds and at one point clean sheets. Doing a job I could never do at all let alone with patience and dedication. More power - and money - to our NHS!
Room with a view

P.S. For those interested, the current whereabouts of the gerbil has not yet been established.