Wednesday, 29 August 2007

humour bypass

So. Where were we? Ranting about the NHS I think.

After speaking to Ma last night, it transpires that Pa has TWO largely-antibiotic-resistant infections. A UTI and a chest infection. He is having intravenous antibiotics of Agent Orange status, that have to be especially sanctioned by someone important in the pharmacy at the hospital. He is quite weak physically and has been suffering from dehydration, because between Ma and Sister-Natalie going in at lunch-time and tea-time to feed him, respectively, no-one seems to be giving him anything to drink.

He can't use his hands very well, even to hold a cup or a fork and no-one will sit him up or help him out of bed, because the electric hoist on the ward is broken and the nurses are not allowed to lift people.

Yesterday the physio came (with a hoist-thingy) and got him out of bed to sit in the chair. She put his knee-brace (his knee has basically disintegrated because of arthritis) on the wrong leg, back to front.

He has been taken off most of his medication because the fourteen different things he was on, including warfrin, were probably contributing to the stomach bleeding - so his circulation is fucked and his feet were really painful all the time he was sitting out - no-one's fault, that, just the situation. Presumably at some point, if he survives the lack of personal care, they will start re-introducing things one at a time and see what happens.

He wears two hearing aids and the hospital managed to lose the mould on the right-hand one the second day that he was in there, just over three weeks ago. No-one has been able to find it and despite the audiology department being five minutes walk down the corridor, a replacement has not yet been found. Because it is his 'good' ear that is missing the aid, he is having quite a lot of trouble hearing what people are saying to him, which is giving the staff the impression that he is wandering in his mind rather than merely deaf.

No-one seems to read the notes that previous staff have written up, although everyone seems to write reams and reams of stuff themselves. Some of it patently big fat lies - like, apparently, last Thursday, he sat out during the afternoon. Sister-Natalie was there at lunchtime to feed him and Ma went in mid-afternoon and stayed until early evening. He wasn't sat out then. So when WAS he sat out? And Ma was verbally told that he had fallen out of bed on Monday night - but in the notes, it said that he had a very quiet and peaceful night.

I am SO FUCKING ANGRY. And I am so sorry to be stirring up all these horrors for some of the people who have left me comments.

What kind of Health Service do we actually have? A SHIT one, if you don't mind me saying so. Surely feeding people, toileting them, helping them sit up, making sure that they can drink, even communicating with them are all an integral part of nursing? Giving them tablets, sticking needles in them, prescribing, cutting them open - all vital, necessary parts of medical care. But the rest of it - if you like, the soothing the troubled brow part of it - why are nurses too busy and/or important to do that? And don't get me started on the lack of hand-washing as the staff move from patient to patient, particularly given that Pa has a huge notice in red letters saying INFECTION CONTROL stuck up above his bed.

Why aren't there more nurses? I concur with Z's comment on my last post - some of it is lack of inclination on the staff's part - some of them DO see elderly people as bed-blockers. And I think, generally the NHS as a whole sees elderly people as a nuisance. But some of it is that although the staff are kind, caring people, they simply don't have the time. And the simple remedy for that is more staff, paid a decent wage to do an essential job.

I rarely wish people ill. But do you know, I really hope that the Department of Health Ministers end up in a recovery ward for elderly people with no family to visit them, lying in their own urine, unable to sit up, with their food and drink placed on a wheeled table six inches away from their hands. Of course, their opinion about the state of the NHS and the levels of care won't matter then, because they'll be old. And good luck to them.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

quick update

We're back - Edinburgh very good, although didn't stay over the weekend as Dad was taken very poorly again and we drove to Somerset on Friday to see him instead. He's slightly better now - we came home on Sunday to hook up with The Kitchen Witches, who had very kindly come to look after the chickens for us.

I've been having 'Braxton Hicks' (practice) contractions, which has been exciting. I'm READY now. I keep telling the baby, but it's not listening :).

More a bit later, when I've recovered, some of which will be ranting about hospitals that are so understaffed that they don't sit elderly patients up, or help them to eat or drink, even though the patients can't hold a cup, or, indeed, a fork.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

brief break

Off to Edinburgh for the week, with variable interweb connection. Back after the Bank Holiday. I have a post bragging about tomatoes and passata just waiting to be written ... and the birth plan, of course!

Friday, 17 August 2007


Okay, I have written a birth plan. It's a VERY odd thing to do. I may post it later, unusually I am having 'is that appropriate?' scruples :).

On Sunday we are off to Edinburgh for the week - B is working at the festival until Thursday and we are going to stay up there for a pootle round for a few days afterwards. If anyone can think of a particularly nice place to give birth in the city, please can you let me know? Just in case ...

Tuesday, 14 August 2007


Pa's a bit better - the stomach bleeding has stopped. However, they have taken him off pretty much all of his medication, because they are worried that it will reoccur and all the things like warfrin etc. make him more susceptible to bleeding. They've also taken him off his arthritis medication, with the result that his hands are swollen up like balloons and he can't do anything for himself, even hold a cup.

Perhaps part of growing up is feeding your father with a spoon, shaving him and cleaning his teeth.

However, by the time we left for home he was much more himself - slightly grumpy, a bit frustrated and able to tell me off for 'being vulgar' when I told him that these days they send you home from hospital as soon as you've 'slid the baby out'. The aim is to move him to the local cottage hospital as soon as possible - it's closer to home, it's a less intensive medical facility and, of course, they don't have MRSA. Also, it might be possible to arrange for Moss-the-dog to visit him in some way - she is pining for him. And so is he for her.

We are home now - I am shattered and B isn't much better. I am having a day of rest and B is doing some design and planning work.

One of the other things we managed to do whilst down at Ma's, was Go In To The Top Shed.

If The Top Shed was in a role-playing game, it would automatically knock about three points off the morale, cleanliness, dedication, ability and strength scores of any character who went inside. In Real Life (tm), it has much the same effect.

jarsWe were on a Quest, for Kilner Jars.

For some time, our group of travellers had been hearing rumours from local residents that there were Kilner Jars stored at the back of the shed. Our mission was to locate the jars, extract them intact and not cause the enormous pile of, well, STUFF, to topple off the top of the Vauxhall Cresta in the meantime. Or the pile of broken white goods and televisions to overbalance. Or the three-door 1930's walnut wardrobe full of binder twine to topple over on to us. Or to do ourselves serious ankle damage on the rotovator. Or to cause the decaying pigeon loft to shake loose from the wall and crush us and all of the above.

After some serious rummaging about and the use of one or two 'reveal' spells, B was able to report that the rumours were correct. There WAS a box of preserving jars at the back of the shed, behind the chinese screen, next to the chutney boiler (disused) and the stack of old freezer baskets. By judicious wriggling, he was able to pass the jars out to me one at a time.

I put them in a handy cardboard box, and after about half an hour, we stood back and assessed what we had uncovered.

It was scary. See the scaryness.

At this point, Ma arrived to help. She was able to throw some light on the matter. They are the preserving jars that her mother used during the Second World War, for fruit.

Some of those things have been in there since 1942.


That's sixty five years.

B and I found some surgical gloves in the cupboard under the stairs and I levered the tops off of the jars with his Man Tool, whilst B emptied the contents in to the back of the flower border beside the front lawn. We felt rather like Howard Carter dealing with Tutankhamen's organs. Some of the tops were perforated and the contents had dried out to a dessicated substance not unlike coprolites. Others were in better nick - the rhubarb for example. And some blackcurrants. And some pears that Ma reckoned were only forty years old. It was a really odd feeling, chucking away stuff that my grandmother must have picked all that time ago.

Anyway ... we now have twenty 2lb jars and fifteen 1lb jars for jam and chutney experiments. I am going to have a look for some lids for them - but they aren't real Kilner Jars, so I think we may have a problem finding caps for them and won't therefore, be able to use them for pickling and preserving.

We also scored a seventy year old pressure cooker affectionately known by the family as 'the bomb', of which, more later.

Now, I am off to write a birth plan. Excuse me.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

saga ...

So, all went well with the growth scan. The baby is exactly average on the measurement scale and there is a reasonable-but-not-too-much amount of fluid in there with it. The scan technician pointed out that I was very short waisted and therefore, the baby has no place to go but forwards. I had a large 'Doh!' moment - it makes so much sense.

Otherwise though, I have to say that our experience at the hospital at Shrewsbury was rather, well, shit.

I know it's a much larger, much more medical-type unit than Welshpool and therefore it's bound to have more of the 'sausage factory' feel about it. But I don't think that's an excuse for midwife that saw us to so pompous and patronising. Or for no-one to really tell us what was going on or ask us if we were already having ante-natal care. Or for Pompous Midwife to rant on at me about taking a non-standard iron tonic. Or for her to leave us in our cubicle for twenty minutes whilst we could hear her through the curtain in the corridor outside, chatting with someone else about something pretty banal. Or for us to overhear her instructing the doctor who was coming in to see us that he could 'discharge us' - I wasn't aware that there was anything for us to be discharged FROM. Or for them to tell us that the amount of fluid in the womb was normal and that everything was fine. But then to allow us to overhear her saying to the doctor that the fluid levels in the womb were on the low side and to ask that we came back for another scan in a fortnight.

All in all, I felt completely lacking in control of what was going on and had to fight a reflex to scarper from the cubicle before anyone came back in. On the way home I made B promise not to let me go to Shrewsbury under any circumstances.

This was back up by the story we were told by a freecycler who we went to pick some cot blankets up from. She went to Shrewsbury to be induced three or four years ago. They sent her husband home, allowed her to labour all night without any pain relief or assistance whilst she was crying and calling out for him, told him when he rang in in the morning that she had spent a very comfortable night and then refused to telephone him at her request to ask him to come in.

I am NOT going to Shrewsbury if there are any complications. We are looking at alternatives.

And this morning I was sick again. Twice.

Dad is slightly worse today. He's more confused and dozy in himself and they are going to be keeping him in for at least two or three weeks, because they need to endoscope him again after that time to see whether his stomach lining has healed. He is off most of his drugs, warfrin and his arthritis medication included, so his ulcerated leg is very painful and his hands are sore. Whether he stays in Musgrove Park or is sent to the local cottage hospital closer to home in the interim is being discussed. It would probably be better for him if he goes to the smaller hospital - firstly because it's close for Ma to visit, secondly because it's smaller and friendlier and thirdly, because unlike Musgrove, it doesn't have MRSA.

Back Monday, we're visiting them over the weekend. Thank you, everyone, for all your good wishes.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Rhubarb - betrayed or betrayer?

Okay, I admit it, B and I have become a little obsessed by the Zeddy and Rhubarb / Zeddy and Parsnip children's bedlinen characters from Mamas and Papas I wrote about last week.

I have done a (very) minimal amount of research about Zeddy, Rhubarb AND Parsnip.

Currently, the in-store sales line appears to be Zeddy and Parsnip-oriented. However, there are also a lot of Zeddy and Rhubarb things around that are available remaindered or second hand.

B and I are worried. We have spent a considerable amount of time mulling over the question 'What happened to Rhubarb?'.

Did Zeddy dump him when a successful show-biz partnership with Parsnip loomed on the horizon? Or did Zeddy put up with years of Rhubarb doing bad cocaine in dressing rooms on the baby-shower circuit and one day had finally had enough? Is that a large Camberwell Carrot that Rhubarb is clutching on the front of some of those baby sleeping bags?

Is Rhubarb trying desperately to launch a solo career after being callously ditched by Zeddy after years of commitment, once they had got half way to success? Struggling rather like Ernie Wise without Eric Morecombe?

Alternatively, has he sunk to the depths of depravity in a sea-side boarding house in some squalid East Coast resort, eroding his nasal passages and trying to make ends meet by hanging out outside National Childbirth Trust Sales?

I fear for Rhubarb - whatever has happened to him cannot be good.

And Parsnip, where does Parsnip fit in? Is he genuinely making Zeddy happy in these, the Post-Rhubarb Years? Or is Parsnip being exploited by an avaricious Zeddy, who is only focused on getting to the top of the show-biz pile? Will he be cast aside like a used tissue if Zeddy ever sees a chance to make it on his own?

Personally, I have my doubts about Zeddy. But B comes down more firmly on the side of Rhubarb-as-bad-guy. This lack of trust makes it very difficult to invest emotionally in their range of nursery linen, which is probably a good thing, given it's cost.

Monday, 6 August 2007


After Thursday's midwife's appointment, I have been referred for a 'growth scan' - apparently the bump is bigger than would normally be expected at this stage. So there are two hypotheses - either, I am having an elephant; or, there's a bit too much fluid in there. Both of these things might be perfectly okay; or they might not be perfectly okay. The midwife told me not to look on the internet until after the scan and knew a bit more. How well she knows me.

Two sets of people came to view the house today ... both seemed nice, both seemed sensible, both seemed to like it. Fingers crossed.

The main thing that is pre-occupying me at the moment is that Pa was taken in to hospital at 2am on Sunday morning, with internal bleeding. The bleeding has now stopped, but he is still on a drip, still nil-by-mouth and still being given blood. He's been on Warfrin for years and is 89. He's tough as old boots and will probably be fine. Luckily we were already going down on Friday and can move that forwards to tomorrow afternoon if we need to.

The person that's really worrying me is Ma. She is being relentlessly cheerful. I know it's her way of coping with things - and that she probably has a very natural desire not to worry or shock me at this particular time ... but I'm worrying about her being un-worried.

In other news, I have joined Facebook. Odd, isn't it?

Saturday, 4 August 2007

seven things about me and gardening

Okay, I gritted my teeth and didn't do it (unlike Rhys' mum - and good on her). But I do have *loads* of vans in my eBay watch list and we DO need a second vehicle and there are about a million reasons why a camper would be a good thing. AND we've been discussing it for about a fortnight, too.

In the meantime, Tea and Cake has tagged me for a 'seven things about me and gardening' meme.

  1. I come from a gardening background. The job description of each of my parents is officially 'horticulturalist'. But as I grew up, I didn't really like gardening. Gardening meant that no-one had any time to spend with us as kids. Tomatoes were particularly loathsome. We always had two or three 60 foot or 120 foot greenhouses *full* of tomatoes. In the summer, the family revolved around tomatoes. Every day someone was watering tomatoes, picking tomatoes, grading tomatoes, pulling old tomato plants out of the greenhouses, planting tomatoes, choosing which tomatoes would go in next year.

    Two or three times a week during the summer would be tomato picking and grading days. Everyone would pick fruit in to yellow two gallon buckets, which would be loaded in to the Morris Minor van in two or three layers and driven up to the top shed to the grader. And Great Uncle Ignatius would have spent either the day before or the morning before making up 12lb cardboard tomato boxes from the flat-pack way they arrived. The grading process took hours. Three or four people, three or four hours. A couple of people to keep the shute full of fruit, pick out the splits and mis-shapes and wipe the dirty ones. A couple of people to swap the boxes from under the drop-mechanism when they were full, weigh them, mark them with the size of fruit, stamp them and stack them.

    When I was little, I used to help make the boxes and I used to ride my bike up and down the drive while they worked, trying to stay on without stabilisers. As I got older I used to help weigh and stamp. I can remember being very proud at the age of eleven or twelve when I could lift four of the twelve pound boxes at once.

    And as I got even older, I can remember resenting the whole thing. The fact that everyone would put so much work in and the price we got for them was so low. The fact that it made everyone so tired. And that at the end of the day, everyone would end up reeking of tomatoes, washing their hands and hair until the water ran yellow with the residue of the leaves.

    As a young child I used to like tomatoes - and in my teens I loathed them. Now, I've come to a reconciliation with myself. I have grown eighteen tomato plants this year and they are taller than I am, and weighed down with enormous fruit. And I got a HUGE kick when Ma visited a few weeks ago and was impressed by them.

  2. I like growing scented things, old fashioned things. Different kinds of lavender, old roses. I like plants that climb - clematis, wisteria. I already have a Garden Plan for the new house, involving lots of scented, rambling things that will grow up the wall of the house and tap on the windows in the wind.
  3. Wherever I have lived for the last ten years I have had some kind of herb garden. Not just culinary herbs like parsley and oregano - medicinal and household ones, too; feverfew for headaches, rue to keep out insects, lavenders to dry and bring in to the house and put in between the sheets in the chest of drawers. My latest addition is woad - I might have a go at dyeing with it next year. I am also toying with the idea of making some kind of old-fashioned herb-garden with little hedges of box, or of lavender or of chives.
  4. I am already browsing the Thomas Etty Esq catalogue to decide what vegetables to put in in the spring - I think that getting a veg plot up and running at the new house is going to be our priority garden-wise over the winter. I want to have a go with more old fashioned varieties this year, and I like buying from a small supplier. Also, I like the quirky language on the website :).
  5. This year I have met some lovely people when freecycling excess seedlings - I think that generally, people who garden are pretty grounded. Certainly if I'm depressed or upset, spending some time pottering in the garden or the greenhouse calms me down and balances me out.
  6. I am also busy browsing Adam's Apples and researching which fruit trees will grow 1000ft about sea-level. I want a quince. And a damson. And a bullace. And an apple. And a pear. I'm not sure which varieties to get, yet - I need to do more reading.
  7. Gardening to me is a long-term thing. I despise garden-make-over programmes that come in and 'transform your garden' in a weekend. A garden should be collection of memories - plants that remind you of the people who gave them to you, or a holiday where you bought them (or in Ma's case, nicked a cutting from a stately home). A garden should be full of small delights and small surprises; corners where you find something you popped in to a spare space last year and have forgotten about; a scent that you catch as you open the window that makes you smile.
I should nominate seven people now, to take up the baton and run with it. Instead though, nominate yourselves - leave a link under this post so that we can come and visit you.

Friday, 3 August 2007


How bad would it be if I bought a camper van on eBay whilst B was away working overnight?

Wednesday, 1 August 2007


We have had a very nice couple of days - we were fed high-in-iron lasagne and VERY nice red wine by Kate and Vic on Monday night. Then yesterday we saw a few friends, collected some rhubarb and onions, distributed some jam and then visited Turquoise Lisa to collect the birthing pool and birthing ball.

We both agreed that it was 'a bit weird' the first time one meets people one has met via the internet. However, we had a very nice couple of hours drinking tea in the Turquoise Garden, playing with the children and putting the world to rights. I don't think B and I frightened Lisa too much and she showed no signs of being manic at all :). We really don't live very far apart at all and I am hoping she will return the visit soon!

Then we dropped in at Cheshire Oaks and went in to 'Mamas and Papas' in a deliberate attempt price up things like cots. Without wishing to sound like a stingy arse that isn't prepared to do the best for my baby ... OH MY GOD! THE PRICES! We were so traumatised that the only solution seemed to be to go and have a pizza and a huge dessert each.

That calmed us down sufficiently so that we were able to decide that we'd try to freecycle as much stuff as possible. And when we visit Ma and Pa in Somerset again, B is going to Ascend To The Attic Of Despair and see if the cot that was both ours and Ma's when we were babies is in recoverable condition.

I hold out some hope. But I am slightly frightened by the offer of the Harrington nappies - "Well dear, they're up there. If the mice haven't eaten them".

Kate and Vic have offered to buy us a new cot mattress and Ma is going to make some of those drapey things that go round the Moses Basket we have been given - the ones with it are Winnie The Pooh; the NICE, old fashioned, ORIGINAL, PROPER Winnie The Pooh, not the Disney version, but I have taken a stand and I cannot put my first foot on the slippery slope (*waves to Sara and Sean in slightly bashful fashion*). B did become temporarily entranced with a set of cot bedding in Mamas and Papas featuring two cartoon characters called 'Zeddie and Parsnip', who appear to be a Zebra and a Rabbit, respectively, and who have formed some kind of unholy alliance centred around bedroom linen.

However, we quickly changed our minds when we realised that one of those grobag thingies you pop the baby in to sleep was twenty eight quid. We soon moved on to an un-named alliance of a Hedgehog and a Snail, that we christened 'Spikey and Slimey' and which were half the price. However; I think I might have a crack at making one, instead. I also think I might have a crack at knitting this. In fact, I don't see why the child shouldn't have a whole collection of knitted Cthulhu-mythos characters - except, how would one do the Hounds Of Tindalos?

Today's tasks:

  • Checking the bees have enough stores to eat
  • Picking up a bale of straw
  • Cleaning out the chickens and putting down said new bale of straw in their pen
  • Making rhubarb jam
  • Pay some cheques out and send some statements out, just to keep in touch with The Real World (tm)
And did I mention that I have started taking Floradix iron tonic? I am starting to feel a hell of a lot better - so Z, I think you may have been right.