Monday, 30 April 2012

Seven Hours In A&E

This is in no way meant as a critique of the NHS which, as everyone knows, is a National Treasure - rather a description of what I saw during my Saturday at A&E.

Yesterday morning when I got to work at 10:00 there was an ambulance parked outside. One of our residents, Barry, who has had a stroke was in some difficulty and was being taken to hospital. My colleague Jackie told me that she thought a second resident, Chester, may also have to go to the General. To cut a long story short, I accompanied Chester to the hospital in the ambulance and it just so happened that he (and I) ended up in a bay next door to Barry. But only after 20 minutes in the gangway getting in everybody's way.

I had no money with me for a start, meaning I had to rely on the free water and juice provided, plus one cup of tea I managed to beg from an orderly. That was fine because I didn't expect to be fed and watered and it kept me sharper for my earwigging and general nosiness. Chester is 86 and Barry is 82 and during the whole time we were there Chester wasn't offered a drink - when I asked the orderly for one for him she told me that 'the nurse' said he wasn't allowed one. Barry was given a cup of tea though - sadly, due to his stroke he only has use of one arm and hand and couldn't get the cup from where it'd been left 3 feet away. From about 12:45 meals started to be brought to the department. I think the distribution must've been quite arbitrary because Chester was allocated food by the senior nurse (despite him being in obvious stomach pain from a twisted bowel) whilst Barry was given nothing. I was able to get permission to give Chester's meal to Barry - roast chicken with stuffing; roast spuds and some carrots that could have done double duty as small orange discuses - but I had to feed him since there was no way he could've balanced it on his stomach and eaten it with one hand, and there was no table available either. All I kept thinking was 'what would either of these guys have done if I hadn't been there?' Additionally, neither Chester nor Barry can speak coherently - Chester has dementia and Barry has had the stroke - so it would have been impossible to get any details from them had I not stuck around. There were plenty of staff members around; nurses, senior nurses, auxiliary types, even one or two doctors but nobody to just check folks were drinking or were able to eat the food that was being given out. Having said that, the nursing staff was constantly on the go - there was none of this standing around gassing about their personal life like you see in 'Casualty'. But then there was none of the chatting to patients and solving their problems like you see either...

Throughout the hours I spent darting between Barry and Chester there was a constant stream of people being brought in on stretchers, most of them elderly though some were middle-aged. The majority walked out again under their own steam, within a couple of hours - one even had the strength/energy/whatever to argue over whether his friend, who had followed him in in her car, should have to pay for the 3 hours of parking she'd bought. From what I could glean most people were, or had been, suffering from 'chest pains'...I'm guessing Saturday morning is a prime time for this. Or they had fainted. Nobody came in and had a crash team working on them or had masses of blood on them. There was no sense that anything emergency-like had happened. And everyone had friends, or family including small children, with them. I couldn't get over it because there is a perfectly good and really very efficient 'Walk-In Center' in the city. It's a sort of buffer between a doctor's surgery and the A&E Department - I've been twice recently with Red and would recommend it 100%.

So what are these people doing, clogging up the Health Service, and how much could be saved if they made their own way to the Walk-In Centre? They clearly have people who can drive them around, and they clearly are not really ill (as in not suffering from something critical necessitating emergency treatment) that called 'the worried well'? It got me wondering how different it would be if the people at A&E yesterday had been required to pay at source for their treatment, rather than pay through their National Insurance. I'm not advocating the kind of situation we read about in the US where uninsured patients are dumped on the street after receiving emergency treatment but there has to be some kind of check put on the use of our scarce resources. I really don't see that we can continue to spend the kind of money we are spending on health but the problem is that our NHS is such a sacred cow that to try to change it in any way is seen as completely awful and beyond the pale. I don't know what the solution is but before too many years go by I see the inhabitants of the UK having to be insured. Our NHS is good but it's not great, and I don't think we should expect it to be...we just don't pay enough for it. What do you all think?

Barry was admitted with a very nasty chest infection after four hours in A&E; Chester was admitted after six and a half hours in Bay 5, with the possibility of an operation on his bowel; and outside, on my way to get my lift home I passed a chunky girl and her boyfriend, both smoking furiously and arguing about walking home (her choice) versus getting a cab (his choice). She had been brought into A&E on a stretcher two hours earlier......

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Tit-Fer-Loll Speaks

I read Lucy's post on body image with interest and also Krista's response to it. I don't normally write 'comment' posts because I think there's enough drama in my life without pulling more in from outside sources but this time I thought people might be interested in my take on things.

Keshling on the left. More chins than a Chinese phone book, as they say.....

I've always been a biggish girl, from about age 7. I like food. I love to bake then eat it (as I write there's a Red Velvet Beetroot Cake chugging away in the oven. Nom nom nom!). Growing up in my malignant Northern town Babcia didn't believe in unlimited sweets and cake for us kids so I loved going to Auntie Eva's house next door but one (she's not a real auntie but it's a Northern thing to call any female friend of your mum 'Auntie') where I could help myself to handfuls of chocolate digestives from her Tupperware barrel. It mortifies me now when I recall her saying, eventually, 'only take two of those, Keshling' though at the time I just remember feeling aggrieved and hard done by. Auntie Eva has two daughters and the youngest, Shirley Anne, is a couple years older than me. She was absolutely spoiled rotten and had all the latest clothes  - think cheesecloth shirts, loon pants, as much tartan stuff as you can imagine (Auntie Eva is Scottish for one thing, and it was BCR mania at the time); and matching corduroy jacket and jeans combos (they didn't make them in my size, 9 Portly). I particularly recall the time that Shirley Anne appeared wearing her first bra. We were in my neighbour-girl Christine's tent on her back garden and Shirley Anne, who was totally flat-chested, was letting us unfashionable dopes try it on. I don't really remember how it fitted the other girls but I know my puppy fat/budding boobs filled the cups completely which made Shirley Anne very annoyed. I was chuffed and said 'look, it fits me!' to which she snapped 'no it doesn't, you have to be able to get your hand into the pocket in the front and you can't when you're wearing it!'. She made me take it off there and then and fell 'out of friends' with me later that day. It was my first hint that big tits are not neccesarily a good thing.
From about 14 I slimmed down a lot and stayed that way, mostly as a result of my 20 cigs a day habit. Looking back at photographs of the time I always believed I was like the side of a house though in reality I was about 10 stone, which for 5'7" isn't bad.....I was really pretty hot! I probably had about a 36C chest - a bit bigger than average but not Chesty Morgan-sized - and I didn't look out of proportion.

Chesty with her 'twin torpedoes'

I snapped back slimmer than before after Red was born but once I had Mr Charming my body started bulging perculiarly. Maybe it was due to giving up smoking, or going from walking everywhere to driving around, or most likely I'm just genetically predisposed to be a titty woman. Whatever, I put on weight and my chest got bigger and bigger, whilst my bottom half stayed normal, for want of a better word. Nowadays I'm a 16 bottom half and a 22 top half and let me tell everyone who's ever wished for a bigger bust that it's no laughing matter. I can't say that I get back ache from the weight but nothing looks nice on me - it's hard to find dresses that simultaneously fit a 16 AND a 22; big breasts are incredibly ageing (matronly,'s difficult to pull off a denim mini skirt, opaque tights and boots look when it's teamed with a Hattie Jacques-type bust); it's murder getting nice bras - they're all 'serviceable' rather than sexy; some men talk to my boobs rather than to me; and they look just horrendous when they're finally released from their over the shoulder boulder holder at night. It's safe to say that after breastfeeding three kids mine are hanging down almost to my belly button. It's even worse when I lose weight....they look like two empty pockets made of skin, a bit like Iggy Pop's in fact, only way bigger.

Red has inherited my big chest (though hers at least are perky!) but she quite likes it, however I can't help but notice that in many of her pictures on Facebook the guys she's out with seem mesmerised by her boobage. She has also had complaints made about the amount of cleavage she shows at work ('yeah, by jealous, flat-chested nurses!') but doesn't seem to care. She says her boss George hasn't complained but then in Red George has the Jessica Rabbit of the Portering Department working for him, so why would he?!

It's no exaggeration to say that I totally hate my breasts and would love nothing more than to be able to have them reduced and lifted. Some might say that I've lived this long with them but that's missing the point. Nobody has ever made me feel bad about them but I'm not happy with them and in the future, when everything is paid off, I WILL do something about my boobs. I think any girl or lady who wishes for bigger breasts should be very careful - they are more trouble than they're worth. Take it from Tit-fer-Loll.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Louis Theroux's 'Extreme Love - Autism'

I just had to write a post about this programme, shown last night on BBC2.
You'll know, if you read this blog regularly, that my youngest son, 18 year old Carb Addict is severely autistic. He can't really speak and has learning difficulties. He totally fits the classic 'triad of impairments'.

We've seen lots of programmes about autism and invariably they concentrate on higher functioning autists, or higher functioning Aspergers - Rainman and Stephen Wiltshire documentaries have a lot to answer for. I've lost count of the number of people who ask me, of Carb Addict, 'has he got a special talent?' Well not really, unless you count identifying label-less cassette tapes by looking at the amount of tape run through on each spindle as a talent. Or rewinding a Disney video to the exact same spot, to watch the exact same 4 seconds, over and over again. That's over and over again for 15 minutes at a stretch. In fact I'm the one with the talent - the most tolerant parent in my street. So let me say this - 0.00000000001% OF AUTISTIC PEOPLE HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT!!!!!!

If you didn't see this programme last night please iPlayer it. Theroux visited a school in New Jersey for 250 autistic students from 3 to 21 years old - it brought home to Big Man and I (and thousands of other parents, judging by Theroux's Facebook page today) just how far we have to go, provision-wise, in the UK. Carb Addict is lucky to go to a placement with the Hampshire Autistic Society, which is the best we can get here (we're lucky) but it looked pitiful compared to DLC Warren. One of the fantastic things they have there is a corridor that is made up as a whole street of full-size shops, just for the students to learn about money, social interaction and for them to 'work'. Brilliant.

For once higher functioning students weren't concentrated on - only one chap could pass for 'normal', albeit an oddball kind of normal, and that was Nicky. Also focussed on was Brian who, at 20 is non-verbal and lives in a shared home with others like him. He tried to burn down his house aged 8 and has attacked his mother so badly that she could no longer cope with him. Brian is very like Carb Addict, temperament- and ability-wise. I can't work out how to get the clip from the BBC website but please check this out - - it's very illuminating.

It's a reflection of how true to life this film was, and how well parents of autistic children received this that Theroux's Facebook page is inundated with messages of praise. There are a few asking why it wasn't filmed in the UK (erm....because we know how depressing and tenth rate the provision here is, maybe?) and one person who said how very disappointed she was that it only paid attention to severely autistic kids. She was very irate, actually. However, I can't remember a single programme about autism prior to 'Extreme Love' that didn't focus on high functioning Aspergers, or autistic savants - the very ones who are in the minority. I guess you can't please everyone.

Will you watch it and tell me what you think?

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Titter Ye Not!! Oh, Go On Then.....

I know not everyone is such a fiend for spelling and grammar as I am - Mr Charming, the English undergrad always tells me 'spelling doesn't matter Mum, people know what I mean' when I automatically edit anything from the most casual of notes to his coursework essays. I can't help myself - when I was at school in 70s and 80s Dublin, spelling really mattered. For me, kids nowadays rely on spellcheck too much which is not good, plus it can miss the context of things. I think if you read a lot, and I do, you automatically pick up good spelling and grammar. Having said that, Red never reads anything more taxing than 'LOOKS' magazine but is very literate whilst Mr Charming reads a lot yet isn't brilliant with his punctuation...he's more your 'stream of consciousness' kind of writer. Yeah, right. Big Man reads very rarely and correspondingly is not good at all at spelling - I've never let him live down the bluey he sent me from the Falklands that ended 'Sweat dreams, darling xxxx'. Oh dear. Still, he was in charge of a £300million nuclear submarine's reactor room so his inability to spell didn't do him too much harm.

Anyhow, the thing that I've seen a few times recently on other blogs, and it makes me titter each time I see it is bloggers spelling 'definitely' as 'defiantly'. Not gonna say who (and can't remember anyway!) but when it says something like...'we really enjoyed our kale last year and we'll defiantly plant it again this time' I imagine a blogger purposefully approaching her allotment, brandishing seeds in one hand, a trowel in the other and with a determined look on her face, telling the startled, codgery old bystanders 'I'm gonna plant this kale, so don't try to stop me!'

I'm easily amused.

PS. Just in case you're starting to hate me for being a total and utter spelling snob you'll be happy to know that I still cringe with mortification when I remember the time I was trying to impress a guy I fancied and was airily dismissing something or other as 'banal'. To rhyme with anal.........

Monday, 16 April 2012

Uses For A Tesco Uniform?

Whilst 'tidying' Red's bedroom I discovered several items of uniform from her days as a (very unwilling) Tesco employee. Skirts, shirts, trousers and a fleece to be precise. Given that she left there three years ago, to sighs of relief all round, I think we can safely say that she won't be needing it again. But what to do with it? Red and Big Man tell me to ditch it - as Red says, they wouldn't give it to anybody else if I returned it to the store, which was my original idea. Better them dispose of it than me. However, I don't want to just bin it because I HATE wasting anything.
Any ideas anybody?

PS ...I don't quilt. Or patchwork.

Thursday, 12 April 2012


At Fowey, where the prices will make your eyes water and the shops only sell Etsy pretties. It even costs a pound for a parcel on the ferry. It's no place for frugalistas.....:S

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Everybody Needs Good Neighbours

You might remember my mini-rant about my neighbour Mr Singh, the absentee landlord. In the interim Mr Singh has had a very heated debate with an irate builder/skip company owner about filling his skip too high (I'll freely admit, I was hiding behind my front door listening. And sniggering....I'm such a child) and I mean high. He had put four old house doors, one on each side of the skip, and tried to pile it to twice the original height with rubble. This was despite it being very overloaded at the time of our altercation. As the argument proceeded Mr Singh grabbed hold of a pick axe and started madly pick-axing rubble off the top of the load in a bid to reduce the level but the plucky little skip owner, all black leather bomber jacket and shirt-and-tie combo, stood his ground....there was no way that they were going to take the skip piled high as it was.

'Tee-hee Mr Singh' I thought. 'Put that in your pipe and smoke it!'

So, as you can guess I was most surprised when I came home from work the next day and the skip was gone. All that remained was a very large amount of rubble, the construction equivalent of a CSI body outline. Plus several old doors, bits of wood and so on, and after a couple of days even that had been swept into a roughly tidy pile. I thought that was a bit dodgy and imagined drunken revellers, passing by in the early hours of the morning, hurling a brick through our window 'for a laugh'. Days went by and even though I saw Mr Singh coming and going a couple of times (and gave him my best Paddington hard stare when he looked my way), the rubble didn't move. I was debating whether to ring the Council but my usual dilatoriness prevailed and I did nothing.

Don't I feel bad about that now?

On Sunday morning Big Man answered the door to a policewoman who asked whether he had heard anything (like what? A rumbling, tikka-flavoured fart from me? Mr Charming drunkenly falling upstairs? Red going backwards and forwards to the loo after too many Jaegerbombs?) at about 3am that morning, because someone had broken into my neighbour's house - Pam and Terry on the other side of Mr Singh - and managed to nab some silver before Terry went hurtling downstairs. And what do you think the b******s hurled through my neighbours' window to gain access? Ten points to whoever says 'one of Mr Singh's brick bits'.

With good neighbours like Mr Singh, who needs enemies?