Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Obstructive Bureaucracy

Trying to get through to our doctors' surgery at Ashfield Medical Centre is at times more than frustrating and annoying, as I've mentioned on various posts on here. Carol needed a fresh prescription for Co-codimol as she's experiencing real pain at night and none of the pain relief she is on is helping. There's a triage system in place which means you have to ring up, generally around 8.30 a.m.- onwards, which means you don't always get through immediately and have to go through a menu, choose which selection you need and then wait for some considerable time before getting through, probably having to wait in a queue.

It didn't take too long to get through, even though I had to endure the endless rigmarole of the menu. Once I'd got through I had to hand the phone to Carol. She was greeted by a most officious receptionist who said she'd come through to the wrong line and that they would only let those who were house-bound or over a 'certain age' to be allowed to have a prescription done the same day. I can't see what the problem is about this. She doesn't have Co-codomol on repeat and she could have had a ring-back from one of the doctors in the surgery to find out why the prescription was so important. She was then told that she would need to visit the surgery and bring a letter explaining why she needed the prescription. She she wrote and signed a letter to that effect and I drove towards Beanhill, where the Ashfield Medical Centre is situated. On arriving at the Standing Way roundabout that you have to circle in order to get to Saxon Street and then into Wastel, where Ashfield Medical Centre is, I found it closed to all traffic. So I had to make a right turn on the roundabout and journey along Standing Way and then round past the stadium, only to find that Saxon Street was closed off the opposite end to Standing Way. Which meant I had to find an alternative place to park and then walk to Beanhill and the surgery. I eventually decided the only place I could think of was Netherfield and to park in a space near the shops and then walk along the Redway towards Beanhill. This I did, and it was a considerable distance, crossing under several roads on the way. I managed to hand over the letter that Carol had written, but was given no guarantee that the prescription would be ready later in the day. I walked back to the car and did a bit of shopping in the Co-op in Netherfield and then drove home, a little bit annoyed by the way the situation had been created by the over officious receptionist at the surgery. All adding to the stress of the situation, not helped by the fact we had to ring in the first place and secondly, by the road-closure into the road near Beanhill and lastly, by the obstructive nature of the receptionist at the surgery.

I'm still not sure why the road was closed in the first place. Was it to re-surface the road, or to have the road dug up for some reason such as putting in pipes for gas or something? No warning given as I drove towards the roundabout on Standing Way, or example. It just made life very annoying.

I think this bureaucracy is partly the reason why the N.H.S. is in crisis. It seems over-burdened by administration. I know they need a certain amount of paperwork to operate, but to put managers and administrators in the way is just a waste of resources and money. Endless targets and statistics doesn't lead to efficiency. Just find a better way to do something would surely make more sense. How much money do they waste on business consultants and similar people? I'd love to know. Putting someone such as a receptionist in the way so as to prevent a patient getting medication is a disgrace. It should be a doctor who decides what should happen as they have the training and experience. Give someone a position of so-called authority and it can sometimes go to their head. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Birdfeeder Returned To It's Rightful Place

We've had a birdfeeder in our garden for the past couple of years (if you can honestly describe the space to the rear of our house as a 'garden.' More like a mere oblong of grass, brambles and other indescribable vegetation.) I bought Carol what they term a 'bird-feeding station' a couple of Christmases ago in Lidl, which consisted of a central pole which you stuck in the ground and it had metal arms which fitted onto it and you hung fat balls and other feeding material onto hooks on these arms. It's didn't last too long, probably because of the weather conditions and it was difficult to keep upright and so it got removed. Earlier this year we bought a new one. I think it came from Amazon. A good deal more durable, and it had a set of feeders to put peanuts and other food into and place on the arms, similar to the old one. This was a success up to a point, until we had some strong winds and it began to lean at a somewhat precarious angle. I removed it completely a couple of weeks ago as I had to mow the lawn as it was quite difficult to do properly with this thing in the way. We decided we wanted to reinstate it at some point but the problem was keeping it from falling over and so finding some form of solution which would make this possible. We had visited a Wyevale garden centre in Bicester some while ago and saw a device which you screwed into the ground and then put the upright pole of your bird feeding station into this screw-device which was designed to keep the pole in an upright position and hopefully prevent the thing falling over or at least getting pushed over at an angle. Last week we went to the Wyevale branch in Woburn Sands with the intention of finding this item but without success. We eventually found something in Frost's, also in Woburn Sands, a four-pronged thing which you fixed to the upright pole and the four prongs acted as sort of legs for the pole and allowing the pole to be far more secure. We purchased this thing and it is now fixed to our bird feeding station, and with new feeders as well as footballs and other items which birds seem to love. We re-sited it a good deal further from the house and not too close to the neighbour's shed roof as we don't want a repeat of the squirrels jumping onto it as we have had in the past.

It's taken a while to get birds to come back to feeding from the feeding station. I think it may just be that they need to trust that they won't be eaten by either cats or our little Yorkshire terrier, Alfie. He does have a dislike of any cats who tend to congregate (if that's the best way to describe two cats.) on the roof of the shed and saunter along the fence. He can't reach them, which they are fully aware of, but it gives him something to amuse himself, chasing up the garden barking madly and they peer at him with a look of disdain down their noses. The last time we had a feeding station set up we also had a couple of squirrels who came and did their party pieces by leaping from next door's shed onto the thing, managing to avoid being impaled on the spike-thing on the top of the feeder.

I recently purchased a tripod for my Canon digital camera. Again, from Amazon. Quite good value I thought for £35. I have set this up in the kitchen and, along with the zoom lens, trained it on the bird feeder with the hope of catching some good shots of some birds on the bird feeder. It's taken a day or two before we got a regular visit from one or more blue tits to the feeder. With the camera set up and focussed on the feeder and me sitting in the lounge and watching for any birds that visit, I have to then get to the camera before the birds fly away and attempt to get some reasonable shots without frightening the birds away in my attempts to get to the camera. Not an easy task.

The Lonely Postie

You do see some strange things, just watching the world go by outside your window. Our kitchen sink faces a window which looks out onto the road outside. As I stand and do the washing-up, I notice many things, many of them slightly strange, or at least, mysterious, to say the least. A postman sitting on the kerb, legs crossed. He has a pile of coats or something beside him on the grass. It's a mild day, weather-wise, he has on a short-sleeved polo shirt, and looks relaxed. He sits near a large Royal Mail van which is parked nearby. He begins to roll a cigarette, taking a tin from his pocket and then removing an envelope of tobacco from this tin and begins to roll the aforementioned cigarette. I think he should have a plastic box with a few sandwiches in and had his lunch. But he didn't. In that case he was missing a trick. He should have made the most of being away from the main sorting office, or wherever he was based. Had a small primus stove and made himself a cup of tea. Or had a can of Coke or something else to drink. Not alchoholic, you understand, as he was driving. Why on earth is he there? At first it occurred to me that the van might have broken down and he was waiting for a breakdown truck or something. But then a rather amiable postie comes past, acknowledges the man sitting on the ground and walks on past. Why, since it was well past 2 o'clock on a Saturday afternoon, were these postmen about in the first place? Our post is usually delivered by 11 a.m. most days, but over the past couple of weeks they've been delivering later and later, even around 4-5 p.m. What one earth is going on? I know we used to get two deliveries in Bedford when I lived at Beauchamp Court, the first at around 7 a.m and the second at around 11 a.m. You could virtually tell the time by the postman's deliveries. But they've got somewhat slack, I know they've just cut the delivery to one a day, but is it such a good thing to have one delivery and that at any old time they feel like making the effort? I presume the lone postman was the driver and had the job of taking out postmen to deliver the mail around the various estates in Milton Keynes and then collect them when they had completed their rounds. I only assume, but I imagine that was what he was up to. He wasn't exactly working hard, sitting and rolling his fags at the side of the road. He didn't seem to be making a lot of effort even if he was the driver. I saw the postman open the back of the van and put something inside and I'm not sure the other postman didn't get inside.I finished the washing up and went off to do something else, but a few minutes later I looked again and the van and the man had gone. And why do vehicles insist on parking right opposite our house? Is it just me? I'm not becoming paranoid. Just whenever I decide to reverse out of our drive there's always a vehicle slap-bang in the way.

Thinking about it now, I don't suppose that postman was THAT lonely. Just needed a title for this blog post. Seemed perfectly happy but it did seem odd to have a postman sort of having a picnic right outside our house on a Saturday morning.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Signs of Autumn

The weather's getting colder. The trees are changing colour. The days are getting shorter. Definite signs that autumn is well and truly here. Infact it was so cold we put the central heating on and I started wearing my long pyjamas for the first time.  We didn't want to have it on, but Carol said she was feeling cold. We just didn't want to start having the heating on until at least the end of October. It hasn't exactly been a warm and sunny summer, and we've had more rain than usual. What with Carol's health issues we haven't had the outings we would have normally had. Last year was exceptionally warm and sunny and we spent a good deal of our time visiting various National Trust and other properties as well as regular visits to Z.S.L. Whipsnade Zoo. I have been picking blackberries which have been abundant all along the Redway behind the house, no doubt because we've had a good combination of the right conditions for a bumper harvest with plenty of sun as well as rain. I was out early Sunday morning picking them and I made blackberry and apple crumble which we had with our evening meal.

The shops are beginning to stock up with the usual Christmas tat. Christmas cards were seen in Frost's garden centre the other day but in The Range (all mentioned in my previous post.) had Hallowe'en stuff as we walked through the door the other day. It's confusing, having all this 'seasonal' stuff on display at the same time. Can't we get one load of stuff out of the way before the next batch of tat is put on display? I can't believe that anyone would want to buy a Christmas tree months in advance of the festive season. Or mince pies, wrapping paper or decorations. I suppose it would be fine if you lived in a house with enough space to store it. Mention of Christmas trees brings me to ours from last year. It's still in it's pot in the garden, happily continuing to grow. It was bought in Dobbie's last year and hopefully will be fine when this year's festive season comes round and we can just bring it in the house and decorate it. Great, because it means we don't have to buy a new one when the time comes.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Heavy Rain

It's been fairly sunny and warm for the past few days. As I write this the sun is out. We went to Bunnings, the new D.I.Y. store in Winter Hill, Milton Keynes. It was Homebase but they were taken over by this company.  Sainsbury's took over the company who owned Homebase and Argos and presumably sold on Homebase to Bunnings, which I had never heard of this company but it's no surprise really as it's an Australian company and have only recently opened stores in this country. We just had to go and have a look and I must say I'm quite impressed from what I've seen. They have a cafe which Homebase didn't have. When we were there we heard this most amazing sound and could't work out what it was. It turned out to be the heaviest rainstorm and the sound was the rain on the roof of the building. Absolutely pelting down when we walked into the garden area where they were handing out umbrellas to customers.

We drove the short distance to The Range which is just over the road from Bunnings. Carol needed the loo so we went upstairs. On the way in we had to pass a display of hallowe'en rubbish. The usual crass stuff, stupid grinning skulls with bright red lights for eyes and some of the most pathetic ghoulish stuff imaginable. I can't believe people want to buy such stuff, but I suppose companies know that people will buy anything such as this. It's amazing how they start putting this stuff out for sale earlier and earlier each year. The we saw Christmas decorations. We went to Frost's at Woburn Sands yesterday and they had a lot of Christmas stuff already on sale, most of it tat. Lots of space being made for all this stuff. We went upstairs on the escalator at The Range and for some reason we noticed that as you got on the thing it got faster. Did I imagine it? I don't think so. More Christmas stuff upstairs which we attempted to ignore. We had a good browse around the store and looked in particular at the range of Regatta clothing, for example, decent fleeces at good prices which interested me. We would have gone back to the car but at that moment the heavens opened and the rain fell again. We just risked getting a real soaking as we ran to the car in the carpark and drove out. Unfortunately there was an huge queue of cars coming in and out of the road back onto the grid road and it took a long time to get out of Winter Hill.

A Load More Corny Television Clichés (Usually In Soap Operas)

Why is it that scriptwriters, as well as directors, use lazy clichés in television drama, particularly soap? Things that annoy me such as when a scene is supposed to be night time and the action is outside and dark, it's always lit so that you can see the characters and the action perfectly clearly. Why is it so light? Where is the light coming from? The moon isn't always full at night, or if it is it's not always clear and cloudless. It's just rather corny. I bet if I go outside at night and there's no street lighting and there's the chance of it being a full moon, I don't somehow think I'm going to be able to see that well and certainly not other people, regardless of how close they are to me. And it's always a sort of false moonlight-blue sort of coloured light. Why? If it streetlights it more likely to be that orange sodium light that are more common these days.

Why is it when a character in a drama, particularly a soap, is searching for something on the internet, using a search engine such as Google (although for some reason, another cliche, they never actually use Google, which anyone else would use, they use a made-up search engine which nobody else in real life would bother to use, basically because they couldn't use a named 'brand' particularly the BBC, which tries it's hardest to disguise a known name, otherwise they'd get done for advertising. Probably ITV could pass it off as 'product placement' and then get paid by the company.) Anyway, returning to this character using a search engine. How is it that when they're searching for something or other, they always manage to find exactly the right website and THEN, once they're on it, they find the bit of information they're looking for, if it's a detective story, the detective finds the vital bit of information which will lead to the murderer or whoever. Too corny by half. Another one, when there's something someone wants to hear about, such a news item, how is it, when they turn on the television or perhaps a radio, it just so happens to be EXACTLY the right bit of news on when the set comes on, at just the right time, with exactly the right person or thing that they wanted to know. The headlines on the front of a newspaper just HAPPENS to be about a particular incident, a murder, a police investigation, which is the main subject of a particular television drama, how is it it is on the front of the paper at that particular moment in time, or if it's inside the paper, when a character is looking for it they find it so easily, without making any effort to search for it? If I was looking for a newspaper article I imagine it would take a good deal of time and effort before I discovered it, having waded through many pages before I found it. Totally unrealistic. I realize that television drama isn't always supposed to be REAL, but at least make it believable. I know it speeds up the action, but why does it have to be so UNREALISTIC?

In a soap, particularly EastEnders, so many of the characters find it difficult to communicate logically. Why are they endlessly searching for another character? Why not just use their mobile phone and RING UP the other character or text? Wouldn't you do that in real life? They do seem to spend an amazing amount of time on this search for so-and-so. Again, crazy and unrealistic. Just another cliche.

In soaps, why do so many of the characters put up with the generally awful surroundings they live in? In EastEnders or Coronation Street, why is it that someone like Ken Barlow, who had a degree, became a teacher, then ran a local newspaper (amazing and very unconvincingly, all on his own. How come? Was he editor as well as reporter etc etc.) He then became a local councillor or something, and ended up as a (wait for it) trolley collector in a supermarket! Crazy and unrealistic. How many wives has he had and why has he spent his life living in a somewhat rundown back-street in a Manchester suburb? Why on earth didn't he move away years ago? Totally ridiculous and crazy sort of thing for a man with his academic ability. In real life, how many people remain in exactly the same street they were born and raised in and then went to university and then come home and spend the rest of their life in? I know a soap isn't supposed to be like a documentary, but at least make it a bit more convincing. I know I wasted a lot of my time watching Corrie for years and years, but I haven't seen it for more than 10 years so I'm somewhat out of date with the characters and plots, but I don't imagine things have moved on much.

In other forms of drama there's got to be some sort of journey for the characters to go on as the story develops. The central character has to change as things develop, he/she should be different at the end of the story, at the climax of the plot, to have learnt a lesson to some or a greater extent. In soap opera the characters never seem to develop, to learn from their mistakes and try to change things. They're not supposed to, because the audience expects things to be safe and cosy. To retain the audience it's no good having the characters change too much. That is what makes soap so popular, the fact that you know exactly what you're going to get each time you tune in. It's a sort of familiar and safe place for your returning audience. Make too many changes, such as writing out characters to frequently or changing the location, you'd find you would loose your audience in droves and a soap is really there in the schedules as a ratings winner. The fact that a soap is set in one location, such as a Manchester suburb street, a square in the East End of London means that it's a good deal cheaper to produce with fewer sets which can be reused endlessly and cuts down the expense of producing the show. Also, with a large cast of characters they can have virtually endless plots created for them, even if they are actually recycling the same sort of plots week after week and year after year.

I can see why soap is so popular, but for me they're just full of stock characters and cliched plots that are, as I've already mentioned, recycled endlessly. I can't stand the fact that most storylines go one ad infinitum. I want plots that come to a definite conclusion some how or other and characters that change. We always get a 'big story' breaking over the Christmas period. Who'd ever get married in a soap? There's always a big bust up or some 'reveal' whenever there's a wedding, or someone who's been out of the show for years suddenly makes an appearance or a long-lost relative makes an appearance or the illegitimate child of someone appears who didn't realise they even existed. Or as I say, at the big Christmas dinner there's an almighty bust-up or another 'reveal.' Just think Angie Watts and Den, when Den gives Angie the divorce papers on Christmas Day, perhaps one of the first big 'events' in the early days of the soap. 

More N.H.S. Waiting Rooms-2

Carol had another appointment at Milton Keynes Hospital on Thursday at the endoscopy department. The time we had to be there was 8.30 a.m. We left in the car, preferring not to walk, and got there in good time. Difficult at times to judge how long it would take, especially if the traffic is going to be heavy as well as finding the department within the hospital. We parked in the multi-storey car park and then walked across to the main entrance. Carol saw a couple of her pupils from the Academy and she had to explain why she wasn't at work. We entered the hospital through the main entrance but then discovered that the endoscopy department was actually reached without that long haul along that (seemingly)endless corridor. You could get to it from the outside without going through the main entrance. We reported to the reception desk and Carol had to fill in a form to give details of any medications she was on and other health-related details. A fairly long wait in the waiting area then followed.

People were being called through to be ready for their treatments/therapies or whatever you want to call them. Carol was eventually called in and got ready by being processed (for want of a better word) by one of the nurses, going through a list to make sure she had no allergic reactions to mediations as well as having a blood-sugar test as she's diabetic.

I waited with her until she went through for the endoscopy. I then went back to sit in the waiting room. Oh dear. So depressing. Well, I suppose it would be. Lots of people making sure they didn't make eye-contact with anyone else. People coming and going. The place decorated to a sort of bland N.H.S. standard. Too many posters all over the place. Far too much information and most of it likely to be forgotten as soon as you walked out of the place. 'Information over-load' I think you could say. A baby making odd gurgling noises. The young woman sitting next to me seemed more interested in her mobile phone than making any sort of conversation or even living in the 'real world.' A woman came into the reception area in a wheelchair and she began a very loud conversation with the woman behind the counter. She said she was deaf so she couldn't hear everything and then proceeded to regail the entire waiting room about how she'd had such-and-such procedure and how was it that she'd put up with some pain for 20-odd years and the doctors could find nothing wrong, so why did they do the procedure three times and then she repeated it several more times, at the top of her voice. It was a bit like one of Alan Bennett's characters, or one of his monologues, the one's done on television, called 'Talking Heads.' She could be played by either Thora Hird or Maggie Smith.

Then Carol reappeared. There were two ladies she knew, from another church in Milton Keynes, Loughton Baptist Church or somewhere. I didn't know who they were. They chatted for a while and then we left. The procedure Carol had had only took a few minutes and we walked out of the unit and back towards the entrance of the hospital and bought some pastries in Costa and then went back to the car and home.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Further Television Niggles

Why on television, do they have to have shots of people walking along with the camera following? What's the point of this? Usually this technique (if you can so call it) is used with news reporters or presenters of some shows. Then there's the annoying thing of swinging the camera around rapidly. Moving quickly from one area to another, from one object in a room to another and then probably at a very odd angle. All these things do is make you feel sick. Sort of motion sick, even though you aren't actually moving at all. Just because the director or cameraman can do these things doesn't mean they actually have to. If you really want your viewers to be thoroughly sick, why not just spin the camera around? Makes no real sense, doesn't actually add much to the story or the item being discussed, but will definitely make the viewer feel queasy. There's one trick where they have a character stand still and the camera zooms out, with the character moving towards the camera. Difficult to explain but they've used it on several occasions on television. What on earth the point is I cannot think. It must be very difficult for the cameraman who photographs these scenes. I can't imagine how difficult it must be to walk along backwards, keeping the subject in focus, without tripping over things that might get in the way and all the time keeping the camera focussed and not wobbling. And for what? Surely it would be easier to just set things up so the subject is standing still and not walking. It's not just in news and current affairs programmes that they insist on these sorts of shots, but they appear regularly in dramas.

I'm not certain if I've mentioned this bit before in an earlier postt, but something that is a real annoyance or niggle is when television reporters are sent to do reports on particularly harrowing items of news, for example after a flood or a fire or something equally disastrous and they are seen standing in, say, deep water (if it's a flood) and it might be dangerous to not only themselves but the camera crew televising the situation, or it's during a storm and they are seen standing on the edge of a harbour or even a beach with waves crashing around them. How crazy is this? Are they not causing more of a problem themselves? Is this sort of reporting such a good idea? Are they making the situation worse? Why can't they just do their reports from the television studio? What difference does it make that they are standing on a beach or in a field with water lapping around their feet? It must cost a fair amount to send a crew to such places, a reporter, cameraman, sound operator and no doubt some sort of assistant to manage the operation and someone in a van to mix the pictures and sound.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Long Wait-rose at the check-out

I went to Waitrose at 12.30 today. I had to buy some ibuprofen for Carol, milk, bath foam and veg for tonight's meal. It took no more than 5 minutes to find what I needed and then attempt to pay for it all. The store was extremely crowded. It seems that Sunday is the new Saturday in retailing and people choose to shop on the so-called 'day of rest.' It would have been a quick and simple shopping trip but there weren't enough vacant tills to make the trip zing. One till was out of action and awaiting repair and two more weren't staffed, so I had no choice but to wait patiently. The self-service tills were busy, so no joy there. It was a good 15 minutes before I had my items scanned, paid for and packed in my bag. Why on earth couldn't Waitrose put on more staff at the check-outs? Surely it's not too much to ask when it's so busy? Couldn't staff be taken away from other areas to operate the tills? This would be the obvious solution. Not everyone wants to use self-service tills, either from necessity or choice. I prefer to use a human-operated checkout. I know it would have perhaps been a faster process to use the self-service tills, but they don't always work properly and are annoying, to say the least.

Another Hospital Appointment

Carol had a hospital appointment this morning. A bit of a surprise that it was a Sunday, but if it meant  not having to wait it was worthwhile. We could have walked as Milton Keynes Hospital is right behind our house, but I thought she wouldn't fancy walking home after the scan she we went in the car. It was for a scan to get to what is causing her problems. We got to the hospital well before the time stated in the letter she got. A good 45 minutes. We parked in the multi-storey carpark within the hospital campus and then walked in through the main entrance. Then the long walk to the C.T. department. That l-o--n-g corridor is becoming very familiar to me. We eventually found the C.T. scan department and she went through the reception desk to check in. She had to go without eating for several hours before hand and had to drink water because of the scan. Not many other people waiting and those that were in the waiting area soon got called and went in and came out fairly rapidly. Then she got called in. I didn't think I would be allowed near the scan room so I stayed in the main waiting area but I soon went through with Carol to the scan area. X rays as well as C.T. scans done in the same area. There were to be two scans. The second one would be done after Carol had some sort of die injected into her arm. She had to wait around 15 minutes for the dye to circulate in her blood supply and the second scan done. I think it was so they could compare the two scans. After the first scan was done she appeared with a canula in her arm which would be used to inject the dye. So, after the second scan was done she came out and the canula removed from her arm and we were able to leave. Back to the entrance and into the small shop to buy milk and something for lunch and the back to the car. There was a ticket machine in the entrance hall but we couldn't get it to work. You put your parking ticket in them machine and it should show how much you owe and you can either pay with cash or use your debit or credit card to pay. The machine would not work so we walked the short distance to the multi-storey carpark and fortunately got the ticket machine there to work allowing us to leave the carpark. Another peculiar arrangement in the carpark which confused us as to where you could leave. Driving round in circles before it became obvious where you exited.

Anyway, the appointment was over and we could go home. She has another appointment during the week ahead. The results from today's scan should be available in around two weeks time.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Sunshine, Sneezes and Grass Cutting

So, we're now into September. I suppose it's now downhill to Christmas. The shops will be brim-full of the usual tat that passes for 'Christmas' stock, all the junk you couldn't possibly want but seem impelled to purchase. It's such a pity that B.H.S. no longer exists as we always found it great fun to visit their Christmas shop because it used to be chock full of the exact tat I've just mentioned above, furry slippers with Father Christmas hats on, party packs of chewing gum and assorted mints in Guinness glasses. You name it, some idiot has thought of it and it's packaged and made available to the general public. So, which shop will take the mantle from those eager to buy this stuff?

Further thoughts on B.H.S. Why did it deteriorate so rapidly? When it was run by Conran's under the umbrella of Storehouse (or some other name) along with B and Q and Superdrug (which, incidentally, are still going strong as separate companies) but when Philip Green took it over did it become nothing but a disaster, the standard of the stuff they sold really poor quality? Further to that, what happened to the stock that was left when it went into administration? The same could be said of Woolworth's when they, too, went bust. What happened to the stock that they had left when it closed down? Is it in a  warehouse awaiting being sold on to some other business.

I've been sneezing for the past few days. Considering all our health issues over the past couple of months, the last thing I wanted to get would be a cold. I suppose it's no surprise, I probably picked it up from sitting in waiting rooms. I remember a couple of years ago when I went into hospital when I had a glitch with an angina attack which didn't stop, I came out of hospital and came down with a severe bout of noro virus. Just typical, you go into hospital with one thing and come out with another. Not nice and something we could well do without. Since then, I have noticed when we've been to hospital, how much effort is now made to keep the various places clean, there's always someone cleaning the floor or surfaces, how much effort they seem to make when they change the beds.

Well, anyway, as I say, I've been sneezing a lot the past couple of days. I haven't had a cold in a few years now. My general health has been good. I haven't had any severe angina attacks or anything heart-related for quite a while. If I do anything too strenuous I always manage to use a G.T.N. spray. For example, whenever we go swimming at Nuffield Health I have a few puffs before I get into the pool. Or, if we go out and go for a walk I often use the spray before we set of or at least take one with me. I have several spare in the box I have to keep my medication.

It's possible that the sneezing is because of the grass-cutting, but they can't be linked as it stopped before I cut the grass.

I've put it off for long enough. It's not a job I particularly relish, but there was no point in putting it off much longer. The weather was fine, so I just went and cut the grass. Anyway, it was long and if I ignored it for much longer the mower wouldn't make much of a job. Considering the machine has such a tiny plastic cutter, it's a wonder I managed to make much of an impression on the grass at all. It was slightly wet which didn't exactly help, but at least it's now done and should not need doing again for another couple of weeks. Mention as I have above about using a G.T.N. spray I usually use it before mowing the grass and stop several times as I'm mowing as I don't want to get an angina attack. Makes sense really. One reason to cut the grass is, that our beloved landlord will visit at some point within the next month, and probably the only comment he will make will be 'have you cut the grass?' Well, if he was to merely take a glance into the garden he would be able to see whether it was cut or not. He and his wife usually ring us during August to come and visit (having to give 24 hours notice) but, up until today, they haven't done so. Why, I begin to ask? Have they forgotten? Is it because they trust us to look after the house? Or is it they don't want to have to spend out on repairs to the place, one such repair desperate for something or other is the toilet cistern in the bathroom. It doesn't stop water flowing into the bowl after you flush the thing. And quite a few minor things that need doing.

Anyway, returning to my sneezing attacks. It seems to have passed. It didn't develop into a full-scale cold, thank goodness. Probably a sort of hay fever attack. Which, incidentally, isn't something I'm prone to.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

More N.H.S. Waiting Rooms-1

Carol still continues to have pain problems. No amount of medication seem to relive this awful situation. She's been on some really powerful medication. We had to ring Ashfield Medical Centre yesterday to get a repeat prescription of Tramadol. You have to go through a really tortuous process to get anywhere near a doctor for an appointment as I've explained in earlier blog posts. A triage system, meaning the receptionist who answers the phone asks you what your problem is and then assigns a doctor to ring you so that he/she can decide whether you need a face-to-face appointment. I think it's to weed out time-wasters (those who have minor ailments: a sore throat doesn't need an appointment: just go to the nearest pharmacist and get an over-the-counter medication, cough syrup or other product. It obviously doesn't need a doctor's appointment and certainly doesn't need a prescription for antibiotics, as an example.) Generally it takes a couple of hours before you get a ring-back and you see a doctor that day. We did eventually get through and she was able to get the doctor to agree on a prescription for Tramadol. We were told that the prescription would be ready for collection 'after 2 p.m.' All very well and I went off to pick this up, hoping that I could then go to the pharmacy which is near the surgery to get it made up and then return home. When I got to the surgery I asked the receptionist for it and she looked for it on the computer system and told me 'it's gone to Sainsbury's (sent electronically). I was somewhat annoyed, as it then meant that I would have to drive to the store in Witan Gate to collect it. (Actually the pharmacy is now run by Lloyd's and not Sainsbury's but is within their store. Don't ask me why it changed. It seemed fine as run by Sainsbury's.) On arrival I asked if the prescription had arrived and I was told it hadn't. It was then that I couldn't for the life of me remember what the drug it was that he prescriptions was for. I knew it was a fairly powerful drug for dealing with pain, but I simply could not remember the name of it. I suggested the pharmacy ring Ashfield M.C. and get them to tell them the name, but they wouldn't without the name of drug the prescription was for. My only choice was to return home and ask Carol what the drug was. When I got home she told me it was Tramadol and I rang Sainsbury's back and when I told them I was informed that, as it was a controlled drug, the surgery couldn't send the prescription electronically. This made sense, because, having been a carer and administration of medication to the client base I worked with was part of my job, I was totally aware that controlled drugs had to be stored carefully, in a locked cupboard, but also had to be carefully signed for, usually by two members of staff, so it was no surprise that they would not send the prescription electronically. By now it was clear that we weren't going to get to the bottom of this situation unless we went to Ashfield Medical Centre and find out what on earth was going on regarding the prescription. The girl of reception said that, having looked at their computer, they had sent the prescription to Sainsbury's. It turned out to be for two other medication that Carol has, but nothing of the Tramadol could be found. Then we said, no doubt it was because it was a controlled drug. After a great deal of scouring around the various files and other places, it turned out that the doctor who was supposed to deal with signing the printed prescriptions hadn't done so and after a further search, the tramadol prescription had somehow slipped through the net. The receptionist said she would go and speak to the doctor, but at the time of speaking she was with a patient. We had to sit and wait in the waiting room whilst all this was going on.

How is it all N.H.S. waiting rooms have such un comfortable seating in them? We've had to endure several of them over the past couple of months, in A and E, at the Urgent Care Centre as well as another out-patient department we went to last week that Carol had to attend following her time in hospital (to see a consultant). They seem to make these facilities as unappealing as possible, the seating in particular as uncomfortable as they can. If you're in A and E as long as we have and you feel like lying down, they've made the long stretch of seats which you'd feel like lying on, have metal bits that make it virtually impossible to lie on as they really cut into your back. I think they deliberately put uncomfortable seating into N.H.S. facilities in a vain attempt to put people off using them. At any rate, the seats I've had to sit on in the last few weeks at least are so designed to make you only want to experience them for at least 20 minutes and certainly no longer. How difficult can it be to have them with at least padded seats? Those plastic chairs in hospital wards don't allow for long sitting as they have a slippery surface that makes you slide off and are extremely uncomfortable. I realise that the N.H.S. is keen to have every surface cleaned in an attempt to combat cross-infection and reduce the risk of N.R.S.A. (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus)  spreading, so plastic surfaces would be easier to keep clean, but do these chairs have to be so uncomfortable

The receptionist eventually returned with the printed, and signed, prescription form, so we could then go to Cox and Robinson a few yards along from the surgery, to get the thing made up and could at last go home.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Watching Doc Martin

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you will have discovered that Carol and I enjoy television dramas of a wide variety. We like many of the 'whodunnits' that abound across all the channels, from Father Brown on BBC 1 to Grantchester on ITV to Broadchurch (although that was rather drawn out over three series. The first series was good and the second was just a rehash of the first and the third was reasonable, but all in all it was rather over-egged. Probably just to keep the rating high.) I have mentioned Downton Abbey in earlier posts so there's really no need to rehash what I've already said. The downstairs characters were so much more interesting than the upstairs lot. Nothing further to say on that score.

We're currently watching Doc Martin on catch-up. Fortunately all the past episodes are available through our Sky Q box as a box set. I'm not entirely sure how many series or even how many episodes there have been. We started watching through the Amazon Fire stick, when the first couple of series (seasons to American television audiences) were free. The newer episodes you suddenly had to pay for, which we somewhat objected to, so we stopped watching and then Carol found the later episodes on the ITV Hub through the Sky Q box. And, you don't have to pay for the privilege.

What I in particular enjoy about Doc Martin is that it's so quirky. The central character played by Martin Clunes has so many quirks, particularly his lack of empathy with his patients, his brusque manner with everyone he meets and indeed most of the people he comes into contact with. Then there are the locals, his patient-base, if you like. Most have some weird illness or at least have some odd quirk which makes them interesting. It certainly has a heart and soul which a good deal of modern television drama seems to lack. From the completely incompetent receptionist in Dr Ellingham's surgery to the agorophobic policeman Joe Penhale. You can identify with the characters and they are almost part of the family. Which is why you want to keep on watching. Then there's the location. Portwenn is actually Port Isaac in Cornwall. It looks such an inviting place to visit. I don't expect I'm the only viewer of this show to want to visit and I expect the show hasn't done the real place any harm by attracting visitors and greatly helped the local economy.
There are many television drama series which have managed to use the locations in which they're set to establish character and definite anchor for their storylines and character bases. Look at shows such as 'Inspector Morse,' set in and around Oxford, 'Lovejoy' in and around East Anglia or 'Bergerac' on the Channel Island of Jersey. There are, of course, many more.

Friday, August 25, 2017

More Niggles-Television- Part 3

Why do television schedulers think that, by putting the word 'celebrity' in the title of something, that viewers will flock to watch it? And anyway, what does the word 'celebrity' mean? What does it conjure up in someone's mind to make them think something is worth their time and effort to watch?
Today, the word has been spoilt because people become a so-called 'celebrity' by merely being on a particular show, for not actually doing a great deal, such as being a contestant on a something such as 'Big Brother.' Merely being ON TELEVISION seems to mean you've become a star! No real skill is necessary, you're not even an actor, presenter or anything particular. Look at someone like Jade Goody. She was a contestant on Big Brother (hardly a 'contestant' being in that show. Not even a 'show' either, in my opinion.) She didn't do anything in particular. Annoys me that that sort of programme makes people think they've got a right to become some sort of performer or 'celebrity.' Andy Warhol said that 'in the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.' My quote may or may not be his exact words, but he was right, nevertheless. Now it's possible to be 'famous' for merely being on television as a contestant in a 'reality' show such as 'Big Brother.' No skill or training required. Just be on television. In that respect this 'celebrity' thing is watering-down any skill that you might require to be entitled to be called a 'celebrity.' So we get shows which suddenly get the appellation 'celebrity' included in their titles, such as 'Celebrity Big Brother','Celebrity Masterchef','Celebrity Great British Bake Off.' And the list goes on and on. I know that a lot of these shows have an element of raising cash for charity, such as Children In Need and Comic Relief, but it does get really boring.

My next niggle: Saturday evening television. Why do schedulers think that, just because it's a Saturday evening, we have to endure dumbed-down rubbish? A new show has arrived on BBC1, hosted by the former lead judge from 'Strictly Come Dancing,' Len Goodman, being the host of something called 'Partners in Rhyme.' Having only seen a trailer for this, I have to say, from what I've seen, it looks just plain appalling and down-market.  Who on earth thought this was a good show to commission? As Goodman has left 'Strictly,' it seems the good old BBC thought they ought to use him in some way, so offered him the job of compere of their heap of old tat. Then there's that show where the contestants have to fling themselves onto huge rubber balls and obstacles with water pouring onto them. I forget the name of the show, but it's not exactly demanding viewing, although it must be very demanding for the contestants. The show as called 'Total Wipe-Out.' Having just done a Google search. Then there's the National Lottery gameshows which have such easy questions that they're just an insult. I know what you're going to say, with so many television channels, you don't have to watch any of this sort of television, to which I agree, but as a television license payer I get annoyed that they have to waste the money on such rubbish. As the Beeb is lumbered with providing a show which presents the Lottery (now re-branded at Lotto for some reason best known to the company who runs the National Lottery.)  numbers on a Saturday they have to dress it up someway by showing a rather lame gameshow. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Wonders of Tech (or perhaps not)

I had to go to Sainsbury's this morning. I didn't have to purchase too much so I wasn't in the store very long. When it came to pay and use a check-out I usually prefer to use a manned check out (sorry to sound sexist. They are usually operated by women, but a few male operators are employed in this store) One such human-operated check-out and there were long queues to use any of the checkouts. I had no choice but to use one of the self-service checkout. There are plenty of these, those which are more like a traditional check-out with a conveyor belt so if you have a lot of items to scan, then it's a relatively easy process to load the belt and then scan as the items move along towards the scanner and pack it all the other end. I walked towards the area where the other self-service checkout were. These are the more familiar form of self-service check-out, which are probably intended for those shoppers with only a few items to scan and pack. I had bought two 'bags for life' which you are now expected to use rather than rely on plastic bags which are used once and then disposed of and if you use them you are charged 5p for each one. I organised myself so as to scan each item from right-to-left so as to pack each item and place it in the bag in the bagging area. The first bag was a reusable one we'd bought in Waitrose and was presumably to heavy for the system as it told me 'unknown item in bagging area' and the digital screen asked me to get assistance. So a staff-member came and scanned his I.D. card to get the machine to clear and allow me to continue scanning my shopping. Several more items kept setting off an 'unrecognised item' message and stopping the scanning process once or twice more. I had to use the second bag and this didn't faze the machinery, thankfully, but it seemed to take a good deal longer to go through this process than was reasonable. It makes me wonder whether it's really saving time and effort to use one of these self-service check-outs when there are so many glitches and it requires a staff member to oversee their use. Just employ enough people to operate the traditional check-outs rather expecting shoppers to rely on these self-service check-outs.

From self-service check-outs on telephone sales and marketing. I have had a subscription to BBC History Magazine for a couple of years now. In February we had a slight financial hiccough when a lot of our subscriptions to the various magazines we subscribe to (and probably a few other direct debits which are related to such things as insurance, council tax, etc etc.) came out at around the same time and therefore depleted our bank account considerably. As a result I went into our bank and cancelled many of these subscriptions. You have to go to your bank to cancel a direct debit, no good going through the company to whom payment is made. Anyway, after some consideration, I have decided to reinstate the subscription to BBC History Magazine as it's so good and if you have a subscription you get your magazine delivered via the post and quite some time before it's on the news-stands. Also, you pay quite  bit less than the cover-price, so all in all it's well worth it.

I rang the customer line which is printed in the magazine. They currently have an offer of 5 copies for £5 and then so much a year for your subscription. I got through relatively quickly to speak to an agent and I was going to quote my subscription membership number as I wanted to know how many magazines were left on my current subscription. Logical really, as there was no point in setting up a fresh subscription if there was the possibility of them over-lapping and I might end up receiving two copies of the same magazine. But when I tried to do this I was told that the system was being up-graded and therefore I wouldn't be able to do this. A crazy situation for a business to get into, up-grading their computer system which meant they couldn't access your details. A good way to surely loose a customer. I shall attempt to ring at a later date when, hopefully, their computer system has completed being up-graded and I can complete my transaction. it just goes to show how we have become controlled by these bits of technology and when they don't work properly how much inconvenience they cause.