Heart attack

My Heart Attack

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Monday, November 20, 2017

'Mission Impossible' Squirrel and Blood Tests

A far more relaxed Monday morning. Carol is now at home, so none of that walking along that interminable hospital corridor on my way to Ward 20.

I was sitting on my own with Alfie on my lap, giving him some attention early this morning. He's been quite confused over the nearly three weeks with Carol in hospital. He usually sleeps on our bed, but with Carol sometimes finding it far more comfortable on the sofa downstairs, the poor little dog has had divided loyalties, spending half the night upstairs but then trotting off downstairs sometime in the wee small hours. But even more confused with her not being here at all. He's been following me around the house when I've been here on my own, almost being like a shadow, even when I got to the toilet or have a bath. The other day he was looking really depressed, laying on our bed, in the place where Carol would have been, and downstairs on the sofa, laying in the corner of the sofa where she would have been. It's been quite sad really.

Anyway, returning to what I had intended to write on here. As I looked out of the window towards the garden (which isn't a fair description if it as it's just grass and more grass with a few trees over-hanging the fence and a tatty shed covered in bamboo screening because it looked so awful. You can get into it as the door is hanging off and it's full of some previous tenant's ancient and mouldy mattress which you could see through the cobwebby windows, enough to put anyone off, so totally useless for us as a place to store anything, such as a bicycle.) As I sat in the lounge I saw a squirrel on the top of the shed. It was twitching it's tale, which I believe means a threat. I think it was aware that Alfie was nearby. Perhaps it could see us through the window. Alfie wasn't aware of it and was looking the wrong way. Then the squirrel ran along the left-hand fence, down the fence and onto the grass and then up the central pole of the bird feeding station. Quite amazing that it could climb this metal pole. It than began to climb onto the cross-pieces and eat from the nut-feeder. At one point it hung upside down from the top-most branches, a bit like someone out of a movie like 'Mission Impossible.' Even then Alfie didn't notice what was going on. It was certainly quite entertaining. Then it climbed back down the central pole and shot across the grass, up onto the fence and away into the trees behind the fence. I could see it leaping about in the branches of the tree. It came back a couple of times and then flew across the back fence and off.

When Carol was discharge from Ward 20 last Friday she was told that she would need to have a blood test and that she would need to go to the Maple Centre at the hospital to have one done. I still can't see why they couldn't do it on the ward, as the phlebotomist was always coming to her room to take blood. Not exactly a job for me because needles and blood for me don't go together. Well, of course, they do in order to take blood from a patient, by my propensity to pass out when I give blood.

We drove back to the hospital, fortunately living only a short distance, it's not far. We parked in the ground-level carpark and I managed to park virtually opposite The Maple Centre, so it wasn't far to walk. On arriving at the reception desk, we asked the receptionist about having to come in for a blood test to be told that the blood centre wasn't open on a Monday. So you can imagine our annoyance at being told to come in when we left Ward 20, but were soon told we had to go to another part of the centre, the Emergency something-or-other department. We waited in the obligatory waiting room, with other people. I have to talk everyone I meet, wherever possible, and I spoke to this lady who was there with her daughter. Pity I had to open my mouth, as she had to tell me absolutely every detail of her daughter's illness. Some rare disorder, part of which was being managed by the hospital we'd been to on Friday, The John Radcliffe. Some people seem to make a full-time career of their illnesses and relish telling anyone who will listen the ins and outs of their illness, the therapies they have to use, even their medications, operations, all the details that, frankly, you don't want to hear. I couldn't get a word in sideways, and it was just as well they left for their appointment, otherwise I think I would have gone slightly doo-lalley.

Then Carol was called in to have her blood test. She was gone about ten minutes and when she came back she said that the results would be known in about an hour. We could stay in he unit to then get the results but we decided to go home, as it's only a short car journey away. So we decided to go home and await a telephone call with the results. We had to go through the ticket-machine routine once more. One machine wasn't working, and the other one had a queue of people using it. Fortunately we didn't have to wait long and managed to get home quickly.

We did some house work, changing the bedding (duvet-changing is my least enjoyable task. Putting a duvet cover on is difficult enough, but a king size one is perhaps even more difficult, and we couldn't find all the matching sheets and pillow cases, but we eventually found them and the job was done.

Almost on cue the phone rang. My mobile. But, on running downstairs and almost breaking my neck in the process and finding my mobile in the lonuge I wasn't too pleased to find out it wasn't the hospital, but someone attempting to sell electricity and gas or something. I have to say I gave the man on the other end of the line a piece of my mind, wasting our time and effort.

But then the call did come from the hospital. They wanted us to go back as the doctors wanted to see Carol and have a word with her.

We drove back, I dropped Carol outside the Maple Centre and a parked the car and then I walked back into the unit. There were several more people in the waiting room, but one man, who was there earlier, was still waiting. I have to say I was somewhat sad for him, having to wait patiently to be seen.

It was excessively hot. It's the old thing again, which I couldn't but help but notice on Ward 20. The heating was turned up far too high. It might be November, by why run the heating at full blast? In the ward we had to have a fan on full-time and the window open, to reduce the heat. But in the Maple Unit I was beginning to get really hot and beginning to wilt like a lettuce. More like the temperature you've expect in a hot-house, ideal for growing tomatoes or the more exotic fruit such as pineapples or oranges. Surely the N.H.S. can ill afford such profligacy and it might solve a lot of their financial problems if they cut the temperature in such places.

After some considerable length of time Carol was called in to see the doctors. Not just one, but several, together with a nurse. One was sitting working on a computer and I wasn't entirely sure whether she was part of the consultation. One was doing all the talking (a doctor) whilst another was standing at a sort of metal stand writing notes on yellow paper. It would appear, from the blood test, that Carol's kidneys weren't functioning properly. No surprise considering all the medication she has to take. They wanted her to come back into the hospital, but we weren't happy about this, considering she'd only been discharged on Friday. For me, the thought of having to keep coming in, walking all that way to the ward, would have been too much, but they said it would be O.K. for her to go home so long as she drank plenty and she came back tomorrow (Tuesday) for another blood test so they could keep an eye on her kidney function. So that is what we agreed.

Thankfully we could go home and on the way we went to the Coop in Netherfield, just over the road from the hospital, to buy some few items for lunch and our evening meal.

So, Carol has to drink plenty of fluids for the next 24 hours. Then we have to return to the Maple Centre tomorrow morning and they're going to do yet another blood test to find out if her kidney function has improved. I just hope so as I don't want her back in hospital. I know they have to get on top of all these things before the chemotherapy begins, but that place is a nightmare.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Forgotten Medication

When Carol was discharged from Ward 20 on Friday, she was given a carrier bag full of all the medication she needed to manage her condition. A nurse had sat on her bed and went through a list she had of everything. But Carol has been in more pain since being at home. We were hoping that, having had the operation to unblock her bowel and having been in hospital for very nearly three weeks (together with several days when she went in and was on Ward 19.) the pain would be more under control. But it seems that two lots of medication, antibiotics, were left off this list. Most likely because of this being left out, the pain has not been reduced. Just annoyed that someone didn't deal with this to then avoid more pain, distress and for me, a lot off annoyance, and as it turned out, inconvenience. I realise that the nurses (and other healthcare professionals) were over-worked and put under a great deal of pressure on Ward 20, but to forget or 'mislay' some of Carol's medication does show a certain lapse of, I don't know, concentration on someone's behalf, or at least, not being up to scratch in some respects, which has left myself and Carol feeling a bit let down.

 I went to church on Sunday, but when I got home, I hadn't changed my clothes or taken my shoes off before Carol told me that I'd have to go out again. Someone had telephoned from Ward 20 to say that Carol needed these two extra medications and that they had a prescription made out for these two medications. I had to go in and pick them up immediately and have them made up. You can imagine that I wasn't exactly over-pleased as I was about to sit down and spend the rest of Sunday afternoon relaxing. So I had to get back in the car and drive to the hospital, park in the multi-storey carpark and then walk all the way to Ward 20 (something that is incredibly exhausting as it quite a way.) I soon got to the ward and the nurses knew exactly what I was there for and then I had to decide which pharmacy would be open in order to make up the prescription. I decided to drive to the shopping centre at Kingston as there is a Boot's chemist as well as a pharmacy with the Tesco Extra which is also there. If one wasn't open, or couldn't provide the medications on the prescription, surely the other would have them. Fortunately I didn't have to pay anything to park. I had taken a ticket from the machine when I drove into the multi-storey carpark, and when before I drove out I put the ticket in one of the ticket machines and it showed 'no payment' which was at least a relief as I was expecting to pay something, but I imagine because I hadn't been there for much more than 20 minutes, it hadn't registered a payment. I then drove out of the hospital campus and decided to drive towards Kingston. I have to say I went considerably faster than was probably wise, but, as I was keen to get the prescription made up for Carol, I wasn't that bothered. Just a good thing there are no speed cameras or no police around at the time. 

I got to the Kingston Centre and found it was very busy. No doubt people doing their Christmas shopping. Hardly able to move. I went into Boots (fortunately open, together with the pharmacy) and handed over the prescription. I was told that they had both medications and that it would take 10 minutes to complete. So I went away to kill the time, having a browse in Next, and then into another shop further along the parade of shops. Home Sense, which is full of an incredible range of furnishing items.

I returned to Boots to find they'd completed the prescription. I had to walk across the carpark to return to the car. It always seems to me, whenever I've been to the Kingston Centre, that it's not designed to make your life easy as there's no path across this carpark. For some ridiculous reason they had to put barriers in your way, fences and hedges which mean you can't get a clear path to get from one side to the other. They obviously intend for you to walk right round and this takes far too long. Well, I eventually got back to the car and then, having driven out, I then had to spend around 15 minutes standing still in the car because of a very long queue of vehicles also leaving and back to Chaffron Way. Other drivers getting very annoyed, but, lets be perfectly honest, they only had themselves to blame. What were they expecting, in the build-up to the festive holiday, with other people doing Christmas shopping. Sunday has become very much like any other day of the week, since they relaxed the opening hours of shops and other businesses. I eventually got over the roundabout at Tongwell Street (one of the busiest roads in Milton Keynes) put my foot down and shot across as I made my way home. Thank goodness I'd completed my mission and was able to get back with the medications which I'd gone to get for Carol.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Carol Discharged From Hospital

Yesterday (Friday), Carol was finally discharged from Milton Keynes Hospital. We had known that there was not much point in her remaining on Ward 20 any longer, because they had managed to control the pain she has been experiencing; she had recovered sufficiently from the operation to remove the blockage in her bowel; she had managed to master the stoma which she now has since the operation and she was generally feeling stronger to make the transition from hospital to home. She had  a doctors' visit during the morning (as part of the usual round the doctors make of all the patients in their care.) but, unfortunately, they arrive earlier than normal so I was unable to be there with Carol. (This is usually around 8.30 a.m.) Unfortunately Thursday's journey to and from Oxford didn't exactly help Carol's health problems. As I've described in fairly fine detail of that day, with the uncomfortable conditions experienced by both of us on that minibus (and, no doubt, the other patients who were transported.) Carol seems to have suffered considerably.

A range of different health-professionals visited Carol in the side-room, such as the stoma nurse, various doctors as well as the lady in charge of the ward (not sure what her title is, but probably equivalent to a matron in days gone by.) and checking throughout the day to make sure that her discharge was going to go ahead without excessive pain and discomfort. I recall when I was last in hospital, having had an angina attack which wouldn't stop, how long it took before I was discharged. Something like five hours, because it needed a doctor to sign off the paperwork required. In Carol's case they not only had to get a doctor to sign the paperwork, but she had a very extensive collection of medication to be prescribed and then bought from the hospital pharmacy. it was very difficult to just wait in the room, Carol trying to find a position on the bed to be comfortable or moving to sitting on the edge of the bed or on the armchair in the room. Also, whenever she got comfortable, virtually asleep, there would be a great deal of noise elsewhere on the ward, patients being moved around in beds, and the constant sound of alarms going off and people talking loudly. The worst of all, the constant sound of mobile phone ring-tones.

We knew it was likely to be around 4 p.m. before Carol and I could actually leave the ward. I took a couple of carrier bags full of belongings to the car in the multi-storey carpark, in an attempt to make life easier when the actual time came. A long walk through the corridors back to the front entrance and out to the carpark. Then, when all was done, a nurse came to go through the final bit of paperwork as well as going through the bag full of medication (all I can say it's just as well we don't have to pay for any of these medications. The bill would be quite large, a real strain on our finances.) Just when it was time to leave, the nurse in charge had rung for a porter to come with a wheelchair for Carol, but after several attempts to get through on the telephone, the porters department didn't respond. After several more attempts a porter arrived on the ward and Carol was ensconced in the wheelchair and some of the many bags of belongings were hung on very convenient hooks on the wheelchair and I carried a couple more and we began to leave the ward finally.

We think now that the porters might have been busy elsewhere because we had heard through various media that there had been an air crash near Waddesdon Manor (one of the many National Trust properties we visit, and is a few miles from Aylesbury.) and they might have been involved with those that were injured. As it now appears, two people died unfortunately, but no more people were injured and required hospitalisation. No doubt if they did, they'd have gone to Stoke Mandeville Hospital near Aylesbury. But anyway, we arrived at the hospital entrance and the porter left us, because, basically the final few yards to the carpark wouldn't be suitable for a wheelchair, and if Carol was pushed the surface of the path was too rough and would have made the pain she was in worse. So I helped her that short distance to the car as well as caring the bags of belongings.

We arrived back home at around 5.15. Carol went into the house first, to surprise Alfie, whom I had left in the kitchen when I'd left the house earlier in the day. To say he was excited to see Carol again, for the first time in nearly three weeks. Barking, running around the house, jumping up and wanting to lick her face and generally showing a lot of affection. What a lovely return home for Carol!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Road-Trip To Oxford Possibly The Worst-Ever

Carol had to go to the Churchill Hospital in Oxford this morning for what's called a P.E.T. scan. I had to be at Milton Keynes Hospital really early. Infact I was there at 7.45. We were to be taken by transport, not an ambulance but a minibus. The driver arrived in Carol's room with a wheelchair at about 7.50, a good deal earlier than expected. I had imagined we would have the minibus all to ourselves, but I must have been deluded, considering this was N.H.S. transport. Carol was taken in the wheelchair down to the exit on the floor below and we were loaded into the vehicle (loaded is perhaps the best way to describe it. It was somewhat like being treated like a load of baggage and not a human.) Carol had a special air cushion to sit on and was strapped in with a seatbelt and I sat facing backwards, not a position I am keen on as it's an odd experience, travelling along and getting a view of the road behind, not facing forward. I'm not all that good at being driven and can get travel sick, but it wasn't too bad this time. We left Milton Keynes via Standing Way and had to pick up a lady from her home somewhere in Emerson Valley, and fairly near Morrison's at Westcroft. From there we drove out towards Buckingham to pick up an elderly lady. But the driver didn't hang about, driving at a great speed. Unfortunately the vehicle had virtually no suspension, and we bounced about all over the place, flung about inside that vehicle and Carol didn't feel in the least bit comfortable as a result. I was just as uncomfortable, being flung about in such a wild fashion. I realise we had to get to Oxford on time for the various people on board to attend their appointments, but there was certainly no need to be treated in such a callous manner.

We arrived at the first hospital, John Radcliffee, to find that the place where ambulances and other hospital transport arrived was taken over by vehicles which had no right to be there, such as taxi cabs. The area just blocked up with traffic. It seems that cab drivers imagine they can do as they please and ignore notices which clearly state that the area is for dropping off and collecting only and not a sort of private taxi rank. Anyway, it took some while before the driver could find out where the elderly lady had to be delivered. He'd unloaded her from the vehicle in her wheelchair, using the lift on the tail of the vehicle, pushed her into the entrance of the hospital to discover he was in the wrong place, so had to wheel her back out and reload her into the vehicle. Yes, it does sound as if she was a bag of potatoes, the way she was bundled about. Poor woman, it must have been very uncomfortable for her, but she didn't complain. Probably because she had no choice. So we were rushed around the hospital site (at such speed it felt the vehicle was likely to loose bits on the way) and ended up at a different part of the hospital complex and the poor lady was again unloaded and wheeled into yet another department.

The other lady, whom we had collected first on our journey out of Milton Keynes, was then taken to the John Radcliffe hospital which was a short drive from the first hospital. I don't know which department it was, but she was an MS patient. Carol was then taken to the Churchill Hospital (I think I'm beginning to get somewhat confused by all this and can't remember clearly what happened, even though it was barely 24 hours ago, but all this was done so fast, it's become something of a blur, as you can imagine.) At the Churchill it took the driver quite a long time to find the right entrance and the right department. To be honest with you, I don't think he had the faintest idea where anything was or where he was going. But Carol was taken out of the vehicle in a wheelchair and pushed into the hospital, a fairly long walk, with me attempting to keep up. The driver went at such a speed it took me quite an effort to keep them in sight as they eventually disappeared into the main hospital entrance and along a lot of corridors (hospitals have far too many for my liking) and we ended up in the scanning department.

Carol was registered. A lengthy questionnaire and then we had to sit and wait in a rater soulless waiting room. I'm sorry, but a little more effort could me made to make these places a bit more interesting. A pile of ancient and tattered magazines and a television on showing daytime programmes. (Incidentally, returning to this from an earlier post. How come they have televisions on in these areas of hospitals which are free to view, whilst the one's over the beds you have to pay for? Doesn't make sense to me.)

The scan was going to take two hours, so I had a choice; to wait where I was and read a magazine and watch television, or to wander off and find something to eat and drink. There is a range of options in the entrance, similar to what there is at Milton Keynes hospital, except I saw a W.H. Smith and even an M & S at one of the other entrances (I'm lost now. I'm not sure which hospital is which, we were flung about so rapidly.) But in the end I decided to remain in the waiting room as I have a propensity for getting lost and if I'd gone off in search of food and drink I'd most likely not have found my way back. I read a few of the magazines (I should have taken a book to read with me, but that's my fault.) and 'Bargain Hunt' came on at it's usual time-stop of 12.15, which is what we'd watch if we were at home. I also chatted to some of the other people waiting with me, which also helped to pass the time. Carol went off with a nurse (I presume she was a nurse.) as they had to prepare her for the P.E.T. scan (I'll have to do a Google to find out more, particularly what the initials stand for.) It stands for Positron Emmission Tomography, although knowing that isn't much help to me.

They injected her with what, apparently, was a radioactive dye, which goes into the bloodstream and is what shows up on the scan. As I don't understand the technology, I can't describe any of it on here, and I wasn't allowed anywhere near the machine that was used. A nurse came back after a while to say that Carol would be back out after two hours, so the wait began. By about 1.40 she came back, sitting in a wheelchair. Apparently she had to wait for an hour-and-a-half before the scan could begin, because the dye needed time to circulate in her blood stream.  She wasn't supposed to sit in the main waiting area or use the toilet. Presumably because of the radioactive dye in her bloodstream. Why? Was she going to contaminate any other people sitting in the waiting area? What about me? Didn't it matter that I was going to be in close contact with her? The radioactivity was supposed to wear off after a couple of hours (not exactly sure how long and I was never told.) So, she was going to be sitting in the minibus with other people returning to Milton Keynes, so didn't they matter? Also, what about the driver? None of this makes sense. Anyway, we were taken (by another driver. I don't know what happened to the first one.) back to the minibus and reloaded. We picked up two more people (one of whom, a lady, was already installed in one of the seats on the minibus, looking totally perturbed and not exactly happy.) Then we were whisked off to collect another person, a man, and were on our way. We stopped at one point as the driver thought he had somewhere else to go to collect someone else, but then we just left Oxford (at around 2 o'clock.) and headed back to Milton Keynes, but not using the exact same route we had used on the wait out earlier in the morning. We got back to Milton Keynes at around 3.15. The driver wanted to follow the computerised list he had been given, and the lady who was on the bus, who lived in Tinker's Bridge (and area virtually next door to the hospital.) thought she was going to be dropped off first, but because Carol was in a great deal of pain by  now, due mostly to the rough ride in the vehicle, the driver decided to divert and drop her off before the other lady, who was complaining of being cold and making other noises. She hadn't bought a coat with her, which was a bit stupid in my opinion, due to the fact that it's mid-November and the weather is very likely to be cold at this time of year. Anyway, Carol was unloaded (yes, again, made to feel like a parcel or bag of King Edward's.) and we went into the hospital and back up to the ward. Poor Carol was hungry, she hadn't had a bite to eat, wasn't so much as offered a cup of tea in Oxford after the scan, and there was nothing so much as a coffee machine in the department we were in. She asked a nurse if she could have toast and marmalade to eat, which didn't appear. Then, to add insult to injury, she had to remain in the side-room, and had to use a commode when she needed the toilet. All down to the fact that she was radioactive and wasn't allowed to use the communal toilets in the ward. Still, didn't it matter that I was with her? Or the driver? Or the other passengers on the minibus? Will someone explain all this to me, as it is such a mystery.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

N.H.S. Hospital Ward Experiences

Being in a hospital ward is something of an eye-opener. I realise it's not supposed to be like a hotel, but it could be a little more comfortable. For visitors and not just the patients. The chair in the side room where Carol is at present is made of plastic, no doubt because the surface of it is easier to clean and so help prevent infection. But sit on one of these for any length of time and you'll discover how uncomfortable they can be, besides the fact you keep sliding off the seat because it's so slippery. A table which is on castors for ease of movement around the room and designed to be raised or lowered as desired, and intended to be used across the bed so the patient can eat from it, write and keep things  is another piece of furniture in the room. This over-bed table is annoying because the moment you need to move it, it won't move particularly easily, and because the room is so small it seems to take up a great deal of space.  This table can be raised or lowered. Another standard item in the room is a water jug, complete with lid (which is so annoying because it only rests on the top of the jug and isn't hinged, which sense would say was a better design feature.   Whenever you need to pour water from this jug, the lid won't lift off properly. A good example of a bad product design. No doubt they have separate lids for ease of washing, but not much else.) The whole room isn't furnished to allow much of a patients' personal belongings to be stored. There's a weird bedside cabinet which has some odd doors in it, and just about enough space inside to store a pair of shoes and some of the clothes a patient might have arrived on the ward in. It has a sort of lockable metal safe which I presume is for valuable items, but it's placed in such a way as to take up space which could be used better and doesn't allow for much to be placed on the unit, which would have been an ideal bedside unit. Another complete  design fail. Carol has to have a drip and theres a stand which is on a sort of five-castor base. It's a metal-constructed stand with a telescope central section with a sort of 'T'-shaped cross-piece with hooks on and the clear plastic bags of saline solution or medication are hung. There are clear plastic tubes running off this stand and into an electronic device with a digital read-out which is a pump which feeds the liquid into Carol's body via a series of cannulas in her arms. This pump is easily disturbed and when it is, it sets off a high-pitched alarm which can be more than a little bit annoying. Whenever Carol needs to use the toilet or have a wash in the nearby wet room (conveniently only a short distance from her room) she has to take the stand with her with all the tubes attached, which can take a bit of manoeuvring out of the room. It's quite a difficult job to avoid the bits of furniture, the end of the bed and the bedside table. More like a game of Tetris or one of those old fashioned games which had plastic shapes which had to be moved around a small frame to create an image of some sort, for example, a flag or famous scene of some sort.

In another corner of the room there is another standard N.H.S. item. It's a bin which has what is called 'silent closing.' You use your foot to open the lid, but you mustn't use your hand to close it (there's a notice stuck to the lid telling you his, in no uncertain terms, to use your hands. What happens if you do, if your caught doing such a terrible thing? Do you get your wrists slapped or something?) It's obviously to prevent you having to touch it, to reduce the spread of germs, but it's just so unnecessary to have this sort of notice plastered all over things like bins. The bed Carol has is another, presumably, standard item. It's on wheels, so it can be pushed around the ward as well as off to different departments around the hospital, such as taking patients to the operating theatres. It has sections which can be moved up and down by means of motors within the construction of the bed, the head, central section and foot-end, and the entire bed can be raised and lowered, which makes it easier for the patient to get in and out of bed and to make the staff's life easier.

Then, why does the place have to be so warm? I realise that there are those who might need to be kept warm, particularly if they're unwell or elderly. But in the small side-ward that Carol is on it's just like a furnace, so Carol has the window open. Then, the windows can only be opened no more than a couple of inches. No doubt to prevent anyone attempting suicide by jumping out or there being an accident and someone falling out. Taking health and safety to crazy levels. I've mentioned the food that patients have to eat. Of a very low quality. Soup that is in no way like any soup I've ever had anywhere and just generally inedible. It's not the staffs fault, it's because they're on such a tight budget.

There are miles of corridors at Milton Keynes Hospital. I realise that you have to have corridors, to link the various departments together, but the whole layout of the place is a real mess. It's only on two floors (although I think there are a few buildings on more than two floors.) If someone had designed the place in just a couple of multi-storey blocks, there would have been no need for so many corridors. Not only that, but surely it would have been a far better use of the land it's built on. No end of little courtyards in between the various buildings, some of which have been made into really pleasant gardens, but to be honest, this is just a waste of space.

Another thing you have to contend with in a hospital ward, and not only can I attest to this with the current situation but whenever I've had to spend time in one. is the amount of noise. Now, would you not expect a hospital ward to be quiet? Probably like a library, where you are expected to be quiet, so people aren't disturbed, to aid concentration? So, in a ward, the patients can get over whatever they are there for, to recuperate from an operation or whatever? But, no, the ward I was in, and the one Carol has been in, was extremely noisy. There are people talking at full volume, usually visitors, nurses and other professionals, being noisy, pushing beds around, maintenance men hammering, sawing or whatever, and then all those alarms going off constantly. Carol had a machine next to her bed, a pump-thing, which was constantly making noises, a high-pitched alarm. What on earth is the point of an alarm, if no one takes any notice of it? A bit like car alarms which have a habit of going off in the street, sometimes outside our house. But no one seems to care, nobody responds to them. So what on earth is the point of them if nobody responds in any way?

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A Few More of Life's Irritations

Come on, you say, how on earth can there be any MORE irritations? What's wrong with you man? Get a grip. But it's true, I can find a few more annoyances and irritations, and more that drive me stark-staring nuts.

What is it with the layout of carparks? Why do the idiots who decide how you drive around them have to make it so illogical. I'll give you an instance. I am driving to Milton Keynes Hospital every day to visit Carol on Ward 20. I park in the multi-storey carpark I could use the ground level one, but it's a long walk around the hospital site to the new entrance. (I'll come back to the irritation of having to walk around to where the new entrance is when it used to be dead opposite the carpark, but I'll skip it for now.) Driving in to the carpark they have got two barriers, where you have to stop to take a ticket out of the machine. So, if there are two cars side by side at the barrier and one driver gets their ticket from their machine first, it's like the start of a Grand Prix as you put your foot down on the accelerator so you can get a parking place before the other cars gets there first. But it's really the layout of the carpark which causes the annoyances with me. You have to drive round and then find some areas, for no good reason known to man, that are out of bounds. You have to make a complete circuit of the carpark in order to drive out when you leave, and at the exit have to be extremely dextrous with your driving in order to avoid hitting any of the barriers and low bits of concrete edging, a really crazy way to design an exit. No doubt some bureaucrat in an office in Whitehall, doodling on the back of an envelope, with absolutely no idea of the frustration and havoc caused by his ignorant carpark design. 

I had to park in the carpark again at the weekend. I can get free parking as Carol is a cancer patient, by going into Macmillan's unit, which is on the floor below Ward 20, and get my parking ticket stamped which allows me to exit the carpark without further payment. But on Sunday, when I left (unfortunately you have to pay, even as the relation of a cancer patient, because Macmillan isn't open over the weekend.) But on leaving, even though I'd payed at the machine, where you have to put your ticket in the machine and it shows on the digital screen how much you have to pay, which was £4.50, by the time I got in the car and drove out of the multi-storey carpark, for whatever reason, the barrier was raised, which meant I could leave without putting the ticket into the slot in the machine which raises the barrier (if after all this you are still with me, as it's far to complicated to describe. Sorry if I lost you throughout all that.) So, you can imagine how annoyed I was about the fact that I had spent £4.50 on parking and then being able to be released from the carpark with the barrier raised (I'm not sure why this is. Perhaps the system was out of order. Which was all very well and good, but if that was the case, why was there no notice on the ticket machine to say you didn't have to pay? I bet there were a lot of other people using the carpark who were as annoyed as I was regarding this matter. 

Anyway, the following day I decided, once I'd parked in the multi storey carpark, to take my ticket to the little office which is within the carpark and demand a refund of my £4.50. When I asked the man who was in the office, he politely refused to refund me. WHY I wanted to know, curtly, but I must add, politely (as I try to be polite, even when I'm annoyed, which can be very difficult at times, particularly when faced with such bare-faced jobsworthishness (now THERE'S a new word!) But he was. He could easily have said 'I'm so sorry, sir. Here's your refund. I'm sorry you've been inconvenienced!' But no! Perhaps he'd got out of the wrong side of his bed, or some such disagreeable matter to make him so uncharitable to me. But in all this, you will agree that it was yet another of life's irritations. I think, if Victor Meldrew had been involved in this incident, that grumpy git character played by Richard Wilson in the BBC sitcom 'One Foot In The Grave,' he would be bound to utter his famous catchphrase 'I don't believe it!!!'


Continuing on from what I've written regarding the parking at Milton Keynes hospital, and my experiences with the ticket I paid for on Sunday and the fact that once I'd payed the £4.50 to be able to get the barrier to raise to let me out and then finding it raised, the same thing happened today. I walked past a queue of people as I went into the carpark, as they were paying their money to also become released. As I walked into the carpark I saw that the barriers were raised. I did attempt to tell people they were wasting there hard-earned cash by putting it into the wretched machine, regardless of the fact that the barriers were raised. Will someone tell me why nobody had the sense to put a notice on this machine to the effect that this was unnecessary? This whole thing is a scandal and a good way to make money.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

HD Television Breakdown

Why don't electronics manufacturers make the things they make and sell more robust and reliable? We've had several electronic items breakdown, the most recent our Toshiba HD television. We bought it no more than four years ago, but it began to show signs of not working properly, first with the picture disappearing, but the sound remaining, this happening a couple of times, but eventually the picture would not come back on. It now stands on the desk on our bedroom, and downstairs we have replaced it with the small television we had upstairs and connected to a Sky Mini box, which meant we could watch all that Sky had to offer when we were in bed. This little set is fine for things like t news or the occasional programme we want to see in bed, but the quality isn't up to much, the picture isn't brilliant and the sound is awful. But I suppose that's what you get for your money. I think it was under £100 from Sainsbury's.  The Toshiba was around 35 inches, not the largest model, but it was a reasonable television set, meaning not only that we could connect it to our Sky Q box, but it had enough connectivity to allow us to also have an Amazon Fire stick connected, meaning a lot more variety of what we could watch, a great deal of it free (we have Amazon Prime, meaning we pay £79 a year and get free postage and packing when we buy from Amazon as well as a subscription to Amazon television programmes and films.)All these electronic items are connected via wifi through our Sky router. This unfortunately failed last week but it wasn't actually the router that went wrong, but the socket in the wall which has now been repaired by Openreach who actually own and run the internet network. The set had a built-in DVD player which was great because it meant we didn't have to have a separate player taking up further space as well as all the cables that would have entailed. This set are from Argos, who have a good selection of televisions to choose from

We had a microwave, a Cookworks model. Probably not the top-of-the-range model. It was also a grill, although we never used this facility. It hadn't lasted very well, rusting extremely quickly, the inside particularly. It has hardly been used, as we don't rely on microwaved food, usually cooking with our conventional oven. So recently I had to dispose of the microwave and took it to the tidy-tip in Bleak Hall. I believe in having stuff recycled where possible, so I expect it to be broken up and some if not all of it will be reused in some way or other. This also came from Argos.

The same thing happened to an electronic oven a couple of months ago. It was a Beko and we bought it via Amazon. But it failed because the oven gave up. It wouldn't heat up enough to cook a meal. The hob began to rust badly, so it was necessary for it to be replaced. We bought it via Very, which means we will pay it using our credit account. It was delivered and installed at a cost of I think about £35. They also took the old oven away after it was installed. The new one is a Hotpoint. It also has a ceramic hob. These seem far easier to keep clean and are reasonably reliable. But you still have to keep them wiped as soon as there is a spill or at least use the correct cleaner to keep them working properly.

Do manufacturers make the products they sell deliberately to break down? Do they have to be made of materials that wear out faster than in the past? If they don't (and I can't imagine they'd admit such a thing) it certainly seems that they do. It seems that things have a sort of built-in obsolescence which means that they don't last so that you are more or less impelled to go out and replace them. And as a result, have to spend out more money.  Some things, such as VHS cassette recorders, are now redundant and replaced by things like Sky's digital recorders which don't need tape or discs to record (or Freeview's various set-top boxes which have the facility to record programmes or Virgin's equivalent recorder.) In some ways these machines do mean you don't have all those clunky cassettes lying about the place and all the subsequent bother of having to fast-forward to find any particular scene on a tape as well as the wear-and-tear of these tapes, stretching and generally the annoyance of having tape in a plastic box. The same could be said of audio cassettes, which, in my opinion, were more trouble than they were worth. And don't forget 8-Track cassettes which were also dreadful and it's just as well they got junked.

One redundant system which hasn't survived and that's MiniDisc. I bought myself a micro sound system in around 2000 and it had a MiniDisc player in it. Very good quality machine made by Denon. It is a good system and takes up very little space near the television. But the MiniDisc system never seemed to catch on, presumably a replacement for cassettes. You can record on them, they're compact, (one will sit in the palm of your hand easily) is robust and the sound quality is about the same as a CD. But for some reason they never caught on, no doubt because they couldn't compete with MP3, downloadable from iTunes (and many other sites.) and uploaded onto iPods and other similar players, probably onto mobile phones. No moving parts and a machine will store thousands of tracks. A player is light and small, fits in your pocket and plays through neat little earphones. It's unfortunate that such a brilliant piece of kit as MiniDisc should become redundant, but that is the situation. I don't think the discs are sold anywhere, unless there are large stocks of them in a warehouse somewhere, but I don't suppose they are still manufactured.

These products come with guarantees and warranties (what is the difference between them?) When you buy these relatively expensive items you get the option to buy extended guarantees. I don't know whether they are worth having, because you can pay out a considerable amount of money each month for breakdown cover and it's probably more expensive in the long term (probably several years) and would be cheaper to just buy a new item, such as a television.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

More About Working as a Television Walk-On- Part 2

It looks as if I can get quite a lot more to say about my experiences of working as a television walk-on. I'm trying not to make each post too long, as I realise it can be quite difficult reading large blocks of text on a computer screen, which is why I'm breaking it up in to more manageable chunks over several posts.

I did quite a few more bits and pieces on 'Campion.' I think the BBC were attempting to find a replacement for 'Miss Marple,' which probably had run it's course, although it seemed very popular with the television-viewing public. Marjorie Allingham, the author of the 'Campion' novels, would rank alongside Agatha Christie as one of the writers who produced work during what is known as the 'Golden' period of crime fiction during the inter-war years.  I think this ran for two or three series. Each adaptation was done as two one-hour episodes and it was a co-production with the American network, P.B.S., which is their vaguely equivalent of the BBC. I'm not exactly sure how it's funded, but certainly not like the BBC, with a television licence. 

One morning I got a call from Jaclyn, the agency I did most of my walk-on work with. They needed someone to take over from someone who had been booked for a day's work and couldn't now do it, on "Campion' and would I like to do the job? I immediately said 'yes' and I had to be at the location as soon as I could get there. It was in a village with a name I cannot forget, as it's so unusual. It was called Foxearth, which is between Bury St Edmonds and Ipswich and I had to drive away from Bedford towards Cambridge and drive along the A14 and then off near Bury. Another instance when it would have been handy to have a satnav, but, again, long before they were on the market.

I arrived at the location and was put into a policeman's costume. The scene involved Campion and Lugg (Peter Davidson and Brian Glover) in Campion's car, a fantastically restored period car, an open-top, a beautiful red colour. The scene involved a flock of sheep, who were being herded along a narrow road and they were holding up Campion's car, and I'm the local policeman, riding my bicycle. Well, you can imagine how difficult it was to get the sheep to do as they're told. The term 'never work with children and animals' comes to mind. Those sheep, although being herded by, presumably, a professional shepherd, would NOT obey what commands they were given. It meant the scene had to be re-shot several times. It was then that another problem arose. The vintage car which was used as Campion's vehicle didn't appreciate having to be left for long just idling with the motor running. It stalled, and refused to restart. It took several attempts to start it, which held up shooting even further. Just another example how filming television programmes can take so long and also, add to the expense to the whole thing.

They did some photography whilst I was on that location. I learned that some of these photographs would later be used for the covers of the tie-in Penguin books which went with the 'Campion' series. So when I eventually saw them on sale in our local W.H. Smith I could say that 'I was there' when the photographs were shot. Just something else to get a bit excited about because you don't often get the chance to be in at the actual shoot of these things.

There were a couple of night shoots I recollect for 'Campion.' In other episodes I was the henchman of one of the villains (I believe played by Ian Cuthbertson, a big Scottish actor renowned for playing 'heavies.') It seems amazing that I could be a policeman in one episode and a waiter in another and then be a henchman in yet another. I just hope viewers didn't look too closely otherwise it would have seemed odd to have a policeman tied up with such villainy!

One scene required me, as a henchman, to wear an eye-patch and sport a rather nasty scar across one of my cheeks. This was achieved by the make-up department applying some sort of rubber solution to my skin from a bottle rather like a nail-varnish bottle with a small brush. They put on one layer, in a line across my skin, and let it dry, each layer that was later applied over the first and subsequent layers dried out and made the skin stretch (or shrink, don't remember which) so that by the time they'd finished, I had a quite convincing scar. On location which was in a wood somewhere in darkest Suffolk, myself and one other walk-on, were supposed to be tracking Campion through the trees. Not very convincing, when I watch the scene on the DVD of this particular episode, but never mind. We are standing next to a fence, or was it a shed or something, in the depths of this wood, and we're keeping an eye on Campion in the distance through the trees. I have been given a match to pick my teeth with. Although they'd wanted me to smoke a cigarette and as the scene develops, throw the stub of the cigarette onto the ground. They'd also set up a track across the ground, for the camera to travel along, as the scene unfolded. At a certain point in the action, we were supposed to walk away from the fence, shed or whatever, and then stop, at a point which had been drawn on the ground for us, as a sort of cue. But, when we started the scene and it continued, when I was supposed to stop at the mark, I couldn't see this confounded mark, because of the eye-patch I was wearing! So much for eye-patch and match acting! Oh, the life of an actor-come television walk-on can be so difficult, but oh so much fun, and you get paid for it!

Having looked back at an earlier post on here, it seems I have mentioned a good deal of the stuff that is on this post on there. I do apologise to those who might have read that and then this and thought to themselves 'he's repeating a lot of material.' I've written it and posted it on here and I'm not going to delete these two posts as they've taken a long time to compose and I don't want them altered in any way.

More About Working as a Television Walk-On- Part 1

I seem to have missed out some more about working as a 'Suporting Artiste.' 'Extra' is something of a derogatory expression. I don't think I've ever been an 'extra' but if the term is used it's usually in the film industry. Usually if you're an extra, it's in really large crowd scenes and you're just one of a mass of people, not given specific direction. As a 'Walk-On' or 'Supporting Artiste' you can be given more general direction, not by the actual director, but usually by an A.D. (Assistant Director) or one of the other minor floor crew. Although, saying that, you can sometimes be given direction by the actual director if you have the chance to work with any of the principal actors, although this is very rare. Saying all this, though, I'm talking about 20-30 years ago. Having not done any of this sort of work for a good 20 or so years, things are likely to have changed considerably, but how much and what exactly I can't say.

I did quite a few days on the BBC drama series called "Campion," based on the books by Marjorie Allingham and starring Peter Davidson as Albert Campion and Brian Glover as his man-servant, Lugg (not sure whether he was his valet, but that's a technicality.) Anyway, I was first on this show when they did a scene which was supposed to be in a restaurant or road-house, call it what you will in a 1930's sort of setting. I arrived on location, where I can't now remember as it was in the early 1990's. I was supposed to be a waiter and, as I'd arrived early (another thing was often finding the location you would be sent to. Long before such things as satnavs which would be so useful as most locations are usually hidden away in some quite inaccessible places, usually in the middle of the countryside, as I think this one was.) I went to wardrobe to get fitted out, in the more or less traditional waiter's black suit, white shirt and a long white apron. I do wish I'd had photographs taken of all the things I've worked on, but you would never be allowed to take a camera onto a set and this was well before the introduction of smartphone technology. Then more people arrived who were to also be walk-on's. No doubt guests in the restaurant. We were sitting in the sort of holding area, where you have to sit and wait to be called onto the set. It amused me when several other people, seeing me dressed as I was, thought I was a genuine waiter! Did it never occur to them that I was just another body, dressed in costume? Just really crazy. The episode which we were working on was called "Mystery Mile." To return to what I was saying. The scene was set up, with Peter Davidson and Brian Glover sitting at one table, eating I imagine, and I'm supposed to be the waiter and I'm standing at the door, taking the coats of the guests who are arriving. This lady turns up, played by Barbara Jefford  and I'm supposed to take her coat and she offers me her gloved hand. Stupidly I attempt to take her gloves off for her (why I wasn't given more direction I can't think) but it was, to me anyway, an obvious thing to do. But, apparently, it wasn't and they had to 'cut' and start the sequence again. Embarrassing for me, as to be responsible for having to stop a scene isn't what walk-on's are supposed to do, the principals can, but never anyone else. So, the scene was recommenced and this time she just took the wretched gloves off and handed them to me. There was a later scene where I had to clear the table after some guests left, perhaps as Campion and Lugg went out, but I can't remember, but, as I've got the DVD of this series, I have seen myself and, it's odd, being able to see yourself, if only briefly, and a good deal younger, which is also odd.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Current Television Comedy

What, in the way of television comedy, do the networks have to offer us at the moment? BBC1 can give you a rehash of the classic 1970's show 'Porridge.' It was revived as part of the BBC's 'Sitcom' season, something to do with it being 60 years since the first 'Hancock' television series. They gave us  rehashes of 'Are You Being Served?' (really awful. The original was never brilliant, a lot of cliches and rather annoying catch-phrases, Mr Humphry's limp wrist and Mrs Slocombe's cat and her over-the top hairstyles, but definitely stuck in a 1970's end-of-the-pier type comedy limbo.) Also, a prequel to 'Keeping Up Appearances' (I never saw it). The one-off episode of 'Porridge' was alright, up to a point, but it wasn't exactly what you'd call 'comedy gold.' It's the one episode which has been developed as a full series of six episodes. But let's be honest, 'Porridge,' in it's original incarnation, was brilliant for being great basically because it was a well-written and acted gem because of it's leading actor, Ronnie Barker. How on earth can an actor emulate his timing, his skill as a comic actor and general all-round likability? The BBC had revived another of his comic hits, 'Open All Hours,' and given David Jason's character, the downtrodden nephew, Granville, the central role. From being the put-upon delivery-boy to becoming the owner of the corner shop, might sound a good idea, basically because Jason is such a popular actor, and they know, with him in it, audiences will watch regardless. It's just that there remake, which is called, unimaginatively, 'Still Open All Hours' is just a clone of the original and is stuck determinedly in the mid 1970's. By now real corner shops have moved on, to being Tesco Extras and Little Waitroses. I think Arkwright's shop would have been taken over by Tesco's by now. It's just a rather creaky excuse for some corny jokes.

Let's leave off about the reboots. Please, BBC, don't do any more. Just because they get large ratings doesn't mean it's a good idea to do more. ITV revived 'Birds of A Feather' which was originally made for the BBC, and gets good ratings, but why do they have to keep on copying what the other channel does?

To original sitcoms. There's 'W1A', which isn't what I'd call a traditional sitcom in the sense that a sitcom is made in a television studio, with around 3 electronic camera, and is performed and recorded before a live audience. 'W1A' isn't made in that format. It doesn't have a live audience, to begin with, is shot (presumably) using a single camera, on location, in the style of a 'mockumentary.' It was a 'sort of' spin-off from the earlier series '2012' (to tie in with the London Olympics.) It has many of the same actors from that, Hugh Bonneville being one of those actors. There is a commentary, delivered by David Tennant (which is something traditional sitcom never has.) It is something of a one-joke comedy.

I've just discovered something on Gold, one of the UKTV digital channels. It's called 'The Rebel' and stars Simon Callow who plays Henry Palmer, a pensioner who absolutely detests the way old people are treated in society. It's based on a comic strip in 'The Oldie' magazine. In this way it is similar to a Radio Four sitcom called 'Clare In The Community' which is based on Harry Venning's 'Guardian' cartoon strip of the same name. 'The Rebel' is currently in it's second series, but, as I've only just discovered it, I've started watching it from the beginning of the first series which is available on catch-up. One of the advantages of having this technology is that you can watch series which you might not have otherwise managed to see. I know you can do this if you have DVDs of series, but in some way catch-up is better because you don't have to have piles of DVDs you watch once and probably never watch again. Anyway, I don't think Simon Callow has ever done sitcom before. He's generally known for fairly light comedy, or at least learning towards that sort of area, but I've never seen him in this sort of vehicle before. It's great to see actors in something that is slightly different from their usual roles. I can't see this being shown on the main channels, BBC1 or BBC2, although it might be shown after the watershed, because the language and some of the subject matter is quite, what I'd call contentious. By the way, don't confuse 'The Rebel' with the Tony Hancock film of he same name. There is no connection in any way with that film. Just a note.

Another more recent sitcom, although not in the stereotypical mould is 'Boomers'which is about three couples who are in the category of being retired. They live in 'Norfolk's only west facing resort, Thurnmouth. It ran for two series as well as a couple of Christmas specials on BBC1 and was written by Richard Pinto. It starred Philip Jackson, Alison Steadman, Russ Abbott, June Whitfield, Stephanie Beacham and Paula Wilcox. It was written by Richard Pinto. It's shot on film and has a similar feel to a much earlier series which also starred Russ Abbott with the sorely missed actor, Michael Williams, married to the fantastic Judi Dench and called 'September Song.' I think you would describe it as being 'bitter/sweet' as it could be extremely funny one minute and the next quite sad and extremely poignant. I think the best comedy should be able to shift between sad and the next be amusing. In a sense Anton Chekov's plays have a similar feeling to them, not entirely achingly funny, but having a depth to them beyond being merely amusing. It could definitely leaving you with a lump in your throat and give you pause for thought. Not a lot of modern comedy can do that. It moves from being funny one minute and the with a shift of emphasis be quite profound.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Getting Much Colder

It's certainly beginning to feel a good deal colder. There's a keen wind which is quite chilly on the skin. I'm putting the central heating on, but it's not exactly the most efficient system. Our beloved landlord put in a new boiler last year, which is good at heating the water for what ever purpose, such as washing-up, having a bath or even to have a shave, but as regards heating the house, it seems to not be up to much. I think perhaps the radiators need bleeding or something as there might be an air pocket somewhere in the system. It just doesn't seem  very warm. Outside there's a definite nip in the air. Oh well, we are into November now and the nights close in around 4-4.30p.m. so it's not surprising. 

The shops are beginning to stock up with Christmas stuff. I expect we'll have the John Lewis Christmas television commercial out any day now. It will be given stiff competition from the likes of Debenhams, Next, Sainsbury's, and all the rest, but theirs will no doubt top them all. It apparently has a budget of £7 million, amazing when you think about it. Although that isn't just for the commercial. It will be all the associated material that they put with it, such as window dressing and general store design and merchandising and no doubt there will be toys as there was last year with the 'Buster' commercial. We got Alfie one of the noisy ball toys, which he loves. It has a 'Buster' face and when you either bounce it or hit it, the thing makes a doggy sort of noise. Carol did some desperate surgery on one of the 'Comic Relief' laughing toys which he loves. She undid one of them and did a sort of heart transplant on another one so it still works, but as you can't replace them, as they're no longer sold, it was the only alternative. The original one must be 4-5 years old now, and they haven't bought out new ones, apart from the 'Dinosaur' toy which growls or roars, supposedly like a dinosaur, but that was several years ago. We bought two of the 'Buster' toys and keep one in reserve so Alfie has always got one to play with, but when we let him have any of these toys he isn't allowed to have it to play with for too long, basically because of the howling noise he makes, and also, because it's got small parts inside, we don't want him chewing it to the point where it comes apart and the electrical components become exposed and are a risk to him swallowing them.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Even More Irritations of Life

Why do supermarkets have to keep moving their stock around their stores? I don't mean by putting it in trolleys and shifting it manually. I mean, when you, as a customer, get used to finding a particular product in the same place week after week, and then, for no accountable reason, they move it to entirely different aisle and shelf. This usually happens before Christmas, Easter, Valentine's Day, Mothering Sunday or any of the other 'festivals' or 'holidays' throughout the year. They seem to think it's fine to fill the shelves with stuff you can perfectly well do without, such as mince pies, Christmas puddings, crackers and so on, and whatever product you wanted is suddenly shifted to a remote corner without any warning.

Poor customer service is another irritation I can't stand. When I was at Milton Keynes hospital on Sunday I went to the branch of Costa they have in the newly refurbished entrance foyer (if that's the right term. I know hotels and theatres have foyers, so what is the entrance of a hospital called? Is there a correct word? Probably is, but I'm not sure what it is.) The queue was coming out of the door and into the corridor. I had to wait about 20 minutes before I could get served. A woman in front was fiddling with her mobile phone. What is it with people? Why is everyone so hooked on their mobile phones? Constantly peering at the little screens, looking at Facebook or Twitter, checking to see if someone has contacted them. Anyway, by the time I got to the till I had almost lost the will to live. I had taken a panini out of the display cabinet at the beginning of the queue and handed it to the girl at the till and paid for that as well as two drinks, I think they were lattes, but I forget now. Anyway, the girl I handed the panini to was going to heat it for me. Is that a microwave that heats the food or is it some other sort of oven? Whatever it was it did it's job efficiently and quickly. I had said I wanted to take the food away with me, but the girl put it on a plate. She had such a look on her face, it was as if I'd made some rude suggestion to her. More likely she didn't want to be working there, and particularly not on a Sunday. It wasn't so much the scowl on her face, but the fact that she hadn't listened to me when I'd said I wanted to take away the food I had ordered. THAT was the irritating part of this whole incident. She had such a look on her face, as I say, no doubt because she had drawn the short straw of having to work her shift on a Sunday. And who can blame her? Just didn't make for a very pleasant customer experience as far as I was concerned. Anyway, she made some sort of effort to place the two pieces of panini she had cut so nicely on a chopping board into a cleverly-designed cardboard container and handed it to me and I was able to walk back to the ward and devour the food and share the lattes with Carol. Just another of life's little irritations, when things should be better but aren't. Staff in such places can make all the difference to your experience, particularly at the checkout in the supermarket. If they scowl at you, as that young lady did in Costa, it can be a rather negative experience and put you off shopping there at a later date.

N.H.S. Soup and other Culinary Delights

After N.H.S. custard, how about N.H.S. soup? Well, no thanks, not surprisingly. When you're suck in a hospital bed and rely on being fed the food they dish up, your appetite isn't up to much, you've just had an operation and you feel like throwing up every half hour or so, what can be worse when you've ordered food form the list they send round each day, you order soup and when it eventually arrives (by which time you may well have completely forgotten what it was you ticked on the menu-form) and soup turns up, and you look at it in it's bowl, it's a thick gloop, thicker than the average sauce you cook your chicken in, one of those ready-made sauces such as Chicken Tonight, this soup doesn't exactly help your appetite. Like the custard I've already mentioned in a previous post, it just doesn't move or if you turn the bowl upside down, it doesn't fall out of the bowl. You could use it to fill in the gaps in your bathroom grouting or down the edge of the bath. Just plain disgusting.

Hey, another thing. If you order omelette, it can come with gravy! If you so wish. But, please, who on earth eats GRAVY with omelette? What sort of culinary genius came up with THAT! I know if I mention such delights as mushy peas I'll no doubt be shot down in flames, but they are so disgusting and unpleasant to the taste, and usually a totally unnatural green-colour (not sure that peas are bright green like that, they must put artificial colour in to give it that awful colour.) Well, what else is on the menu for the next day? I'll have a look this morning when I'm with Carol on the ward and give you an idea. I might even take a photo with my iPhone and post it on here.

Does all this hark back to the dark days of World War 2, when people were on rationing, and food was difficult to come by, what with dried egg, Wilton Pie, shortages of virtually every food staple you could think off, and perhaps all this carried on afterwards and the N.H.S. was set up so the food had to be the same as army or any other service, regulation menus, all manner of nasty things such as lumpy custard and tepid soup, thin watery dinners (such as I had when I was at Rushmoor School) and you weren't allowed to complain. Over-cooked cabbage. Liver that tasted bitter and had the consistency of rubber (not that I've eaten rubber.) Watered-down custard, as well as treacle and jam.  Well, that's a failing of the British, 'make do and mend,' 'put up or shut up' and of course, queuing like it was going out of fashion and DEFINITELY never complaining (but moaning continuously about all these things but not doing anything about it.) Rather in the fashion of characters in an Alan Bennet television play. Why do we put up with poor service and food in motorway service areas, school dinners, tea made with teabags on bits of string that you have to dunk in hot (not boiled) water (a rather cheap importation from America, I fear.) An insult when most British people know how to make a proper brew, always boil fresh water, never reuse water that's already in the kettle and then let the pot stand for a while to 'mash.' And generally very sloppy service.

An update

This lunch time I had to walk all the way to the main entrance to get something for my lunch. I got a baguette from the small shop, which turned out to be only reasonable for taste. The bread was like eating cotton wool, a mouthful of mush which I didn't exactly enjoy, but, hey, why complain? I had to get the wretched Hospicom card topped up and got a £10 note out of the A.T.M. and then went to the shops to try and get it changed into 10 £1 coins (a repetition of a few day's previously, as recorded on here a couple of posts ago.) The Hospital Friends shop in the Out-Patients department couldn't change the note and by now I was getting a bit annoyed. If they insist on having this television service, they could at least make sure the vending machines that you use to top up the cards work properly and most of all take the new notes which have come out recently. In the end I managed to discover that there was another Friends shop near Ward 20, but on the lower level, right next to the hospital restaurant. The lady on the till was reluctant to give me the change, saying that she wasn't supposed to change people's notes as she had done for me, but nevertheless less she did and I was glad she was able to and eventually get the card topped up. All I can say is- what a performance and how many miles did I have to walk to get the confounded card topped up?

By the time I got back to Carol on the ward she had been served her lunch. It had been eaten, but there was a lot of it left. It was supposed to be either chicken or beef pie, but it didn't look in the least like any pie I've ever seen. Just a load of brown mush and the pastry looked almost raw. What ever is it about hospital food? Why does it have to be so awful?

Back On-Line

Our broadband and telephone has been down since Sunday. We have Sky, with the satellite television service as well as broadband and landline telephone. The television signal was fine, but for some unaccountable reason the telephone socket disintegrated and as a result I couldn't get the wifi or telephone to connect. I had to use my mobile to ring Sky's helpline and they did a diagnostic test and they decided that it wasn't going to solve anything and that an engineer would have to come out to have a look and hopefully fix the connection. Sky don't actually do the work as the network is provided by Openreach. Without the broadband and wifi operating it meant that the 'catch-up' and other services on the SkyQ box wouldn't work as it works through the internet. I was told an engineer would come out on Wednesday (today) between 1-6 p.m. As it turned out the engineer came at around 8 this morning, much to my surprise, and if he'd come about 15 minutes later I would have been walking to the hospital. But it meant the work was completed within 30 minutes and the internet and telephone were back working perfectly.

It's surprising how much you miss having broadband when it's not there. Not just email, Facebook and Twitter. Incidentally, what is the point of Twitter? I do have an account, and I look it occasionally, but what is the point of it? It's just something that wastes your time. I do sometimes write things on it (is it 'to Twitter? Is it 'to post' on Twitter? I never know.) Are people actually reading what I put on there? There's heaps of advertising, and stuff I never sign up to, or 'Like' on Facebook, but it seems a bit like taking to yourself. Are people that interested in what I post (for want of a better term). I have quite a lot of interests, as you will have discovered if you read this blog on a regular basis. Theatre, literature and history, amongst a few. But do people 'follow' me for any other reason than trying to sell me something, usually stuff I don't care for or show the slightest interest in. It's a form of communication, so-called 'social media.' Passing on information, some of it interesting but, on the whole, most of it just plain pointless and boring. In other words, could be actually live without Twitter? On the whole, probably yes.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Hospicom: Poor Quality Hospital TV

Here we go again. After all the problems of attempting to get credit so that Carol could have the hospital television service in her ward, I have had a very frustrating time this afternoon trying to get her card topped up so she can watch television. I had taken a £10 note out of the A.T.M. in the foyer area as you walk in through the main hospital entrance. As Carol was asleep when I arrived on the ward, I thought it worth my while topping up the card for her as it was down to about £2 (it costs £5 per day)and it was likely to expire around 9 p.m. Would I find a vending machine that A) was actually operational B) took my £10 note and C) actually credited the money to the card. The first machine, just along the corridor from Ward 20, would not take the £10 note. It merely spat it out in what I can only describe as a fit of temper. I tried it the other way round, in fact, I tried it in as many permutations as I could think, but still it would not take it. I did wonder whether it might be because I was using the new version of £10. I wasn't going to be defeated by a machine and was determined to get this card topped up and then went to the next machine which I knew was in the corridor  on the floor below. But this machine was working but it wouldn't accept the £10 note. I was beginning by now to feel somewhat annoyed, as you can imagine and had to walk back towards the main entrance, a good long way along more corridors (why is it that there are so many corridors at Milton Keynes Hospital? It has to be one of the most appallingly poorly designed place, no sensible person would have it spread out over such a large area. Why on earth didn't they merely build a couple of multi-storey blocks and use the space better with fewer corridors and make those visiting a good deal easier and simplify the place) The next vending machine I came to was exactly the same as the other two but this time I came across a man who was attempting to do exactly as I was. His mother was in the hospital having had a stroke, He had put his card into the machine but it hadn't returned it to him complete with £10 of credit on it. It was by now that I decided that I would have to find somewhere to give me change for the note and give me ten one-pound pieces and so feed these individually into one of the working machines. Having walked all the way back to the main entrance I first tried the Costa branch which is one of three units selling food, drink, newspapers and other items. But, no, Costa couldn't change the note for me. Next I went into Subway, again, no joy and finally, the grocery/newsagents, called Little Fresh. But no change there either. I was beginning to get a bit annoyed, as you can imagine. I then went to the reception desk. Then the man who had lost his card in one of the vending machines turned up and we both either wanted cash or at least a telephone number to ring which would get us through to someone who had responsibility for these machines. The helpline which Hospicom had wasn't in the least bit helpful. We discovered it was just an answering service and it looked as if they wouldn't respond as it was the weekend. Nobody on the hospital site was able to help us with our problem. The receptionist on the front desk contacted the security manager as apparently he had the keys to the vending machines (although why on earth he would be responsible for these wretched machines.) It was actually the Site Manager who should have been able to deal with this matter, but being a weekend there was no one available to solve the problem. After some considerable time the security manager arrived and it turned out he was standing in for the actual person and didn't seem able to deal with the situation until pushed by the gentleman who had his card swallowed by the vending machine. The security man was able to put an 'out of order' sign on the offending machine and I think he gave the man a fully charged card to replace the lost card, which solved that problem.

One of the reception staff went to the Little Fresh shop to attempt to get me £10 of change from the note, with little success. I eventually went and the man on the counter took coins out of the float tin they had which solved the problem for me and I was able to top up the card at the vending machine on the lower floor I'd attempted to use earlier. The whole situation had taken well over an hour and had been very frustrating and annoying but it did at least have a resolution, thankfully.