Heart attack

My Heart Attack

I'm new at this. Well, there's a first time for everything, I suppose. At one time the very thought of a computer would bring me o...

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Frosty and Sunny

I went outside early this morning to put the rubbish out. It was reasonably mild, but there was ice on the car's windscreen. As the day progressed we had a certain amount of sun, but not a great deal. 

I've mentioned the trouble I've had attempting to order a binder for my collection of BBC History Magazines. I went on-line to order the said binder, and I was expecting the thing to turn up within about 2-3 weeks. I rang their call centre and I was told that they couldn't see a payment having gone through on their system. I have seen that the payment must have gone through as it shows up on my bank statement. I went into the local branch of Nationwide on Monday and was given a phone number to ring for their Visa Disputes department. I spent at least an hour yesterday attempting to get through, but just got a recorded message telling me that 'all our agents are busy.' In the end I gave up, but this morning I gave it another go and after about ten minutes I got through and then passed on to someone who was going to deal with the problem. They gave me what was called an 'acquirer number' and was told that, if I rang the call centre I gave them this number and it should help rectify the situation. This I did, and the operator then said they would need proof of the payment. I photographed the on-line statement showing the payment and emailed it to the operator I spoke to. I'm hoping that this should resolve the problem and I await the delivery of the aforementioned binder. What a lot of effort and fuss caused by all this, but never mind. It just goes to show that not all I.T. is what it's cracked up to be.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Bright, Sunny but Chilly

We have snow on the ground, but the sun is out and it's quite a pleasant morning. Let's hope the snow thaws and things begin to warm up a bit.

I've been out to the Milton Keynes main shopping centre. I parked near The Point (although, in all honesty, it's in an appealing state. Can nobody do something to it, restore it, or just demolish it? It seems a waste of a building, which could surely be used for something. Considering it's a sort of iconic structure, which almost represents Milton Keynes, you'd think something could be done with it.) It may be bright and sunny, but there was a chill wind blowing as I walked from the car into Midsummer Place. I had a browse in Waterstone's. They always have tables with books on, almost directly inside the door as you enter. Almost always have offers, such as 'buy one, get one half price.' Very tempting, but in the end I didn't pick up anything and buy it. I think that's the idea; once you've touched a product, you sort of 'own it,' so you then buy it. I went upstairs to the history centre and there are quite a few books that I will buy in the future, whether from Waterstone's or Amazon, I don't know. As we have Amazon Prime, we get free postage and packing, so it's generally cheaper to buy from them. I know it seems unfair on some 'bricks-and-mortar' bookshops, but if they're going to survive they'll have to make it more attractive to shop there as well as lowering their prices. I must say the Waterstone's in Midsummer Place has been upgraded quite successfully. They have a new coffee shop on the ground floor, whereas they used to have a branch of Costa coffee on the upper floor. Now there seems more shelf space and they also did away with Paperchase (much to Carol's dismay as she's a fan of that companies stationary items.) The new owners of Waterstone's have obviously realised that the stores needed a well-needed facelift to meet 21st shopper's requirements.

I was in real need of refreshment. I had considered the coffee shop in Waterstone's but having looked at the food on offer I gave it a miss. I walked through the main shopping centre. I walked the full length of the mall and then down the opposite walk-way. I had a glimpse in The Works (always good for a bargain book or two.) but nothing appealed. I went into Nationwide Building Society, because I had attempted to order a binder for my set of BBC History Magazines, but for some odd reason the order has not gone through, although the £7 has registered on my statement. When I rang to query this they did not have it shown on their system. I will have to ring and order the binder again and in Nationwide I was given a number to ring to get a refund of the £7. I don't understand what has happened and why things haven't gone as they should have.

Having walked back towards Midsummer Place, I decided to go into Marks and Spencer to have a break in their café. Not too much of a queue, which was preventing me going to several other outlets, such as Cafe Nero, opposite John Lewis. I had a decent latte, ham and cheese sandwich and a piece of Bakewell tart, and then went to have a browse in the men's clothing department and then back down to the main shopping mall. Just as I was walking past the second Waterstone's store I was aware of a male security guard chasing someone along the mall. I couldn't see who he was following, but as I got to about Starbuck's I saw a group of other security personnel. They approached this woman who was carrying a back-pack. She seemed more than a little reluctant to comply with their demands. I wasn't sure where she had been apprehended (no doubt shop-lifting). I wasn't going to hang about to find out, and didn't know whether she was searched to find out what she had lifted. Surely it wouldn't be too difficult to ascertain whether she had paid for whatever it was, proof of purchase being required, such as a receipt, or C.C.T.V. footage of her lifting whatever it was. But she appeared to be in something of a bad temper with the security personnel, shouting and making a scene. I still don't know what the outcome of this incident was and wasn't over-keen to find out. I always think in such circumstances it's probably best to not get too involved as it can only lead to problems. But it was quite eventful when it lasted.

I returned to the car and drove first to Sainsbury's for some shopping and then home.

I have a fitness tracker. Not a Fitbit. It measures the number of footsteps taken as well as heart rate, as well as other measurements. Carol got one off Amazon and I decided to get one myself. Having walked the full length of the shopping centre, down one side and back along the other, I did over 3000 steps. My heart rate comes out at around 60-70 beats a minute. It links up to my iPhone with an app so you can see your progress or otherwise.

It looks as if the snow has gone completely, although, saying that, there were a few stray patches I saw along the side of the road driving back to Eaglestone.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Snow. . . More (or less)

Well, perhaps the weather forecasters got things right. It is snowing this morning, as I let Alfie out into the garden at 6.45 this morning. It's not exactly the thick, fluffy feather-like snow we had a couple of weeks ago, but nevertheless, it is snow. We'll just have to wait and see whether it settles.

At the moment (11.45 a.m) it is snowing. It's looking a bit like lots of flying insects. I know that might sound odd, but if you can imagine mosquitoes or those insects you get in the summer, when it's hot. But I doubt this will settle. There's a sort of powdering over things outside, a sort of icing sugar layer. A sprinkling all over the car.

It must say something about the state of television at the moment if the programmes which are old repeats of 40-year-old stuff like 'Fawlty Towers' and 'The Good Life' and 'The Two Ronnies' (which we watched early this morning on GOLD), and are far better than what's on the main channels (BBC1, ITV etc.) They still stand up remarkably well, considering their ages. Not particularly affected by the prevailing P.C. brigade, either. I don't imagine a lot of that old stuff would be produced today because of the somewhat racist material that they have in their scripts, none of it really offensive, but I imagine by today's standards not suitable to be used. 20-year-old 'Dinnerladies' which is being shown as well as a three-part  behind-the-scenes documentary is as funny as I ever remember it being when I first saw it. Written by the brilliant Victoria Wood, who was one of my favourite comedians and now sadly missed. She died far too young. I worked with one of the actresses in it, Thelma Barlow, when I worked as a very young A.S.M. at Liverpool Playhouse in the early 1970's. She's probably best known as playing Mavis Wilton in 'Coronation Street.' A very talented actress who was Shelia in a production of 'Relatively Speaking,'  which I did the book for, alongside Ian McDiarmid, who went on to play the emperor in Star Wars and to running the Alameida Theatre in London. Another play in that season was 'What Every Woman Knows,' in which Thelma Barlow played the central role of Maggie, in a really lovely play written by J.M. Barrie. His plays are rarely performed nowadays, probably because they're not fashionable, and probably because he's best known for 'Peter Pan,' which is a shame because his stuff is so well written. Much in the same way that all the plays of A.A.Milne are never produced today, because he's best known as the author of the 'Winnie-the-Pooh' books. Though, saying that, probably because the plays he wrote just don't appeal to a 21st-century audience.

3.30 p.m. It's become quite windy. The trees beyond our garden fence, which runs along the Redway, are really swaying in the wind.

A little later there was quite a heavy fall of snow. Much larger flakes, but it didn't seem to settle.

I've noticed some strange little things running along the Redway close to Saxon Street when I've driven into Milton Keynes centre on a few occasions. They look a bit like those small fridges you can get to store your cans of beer, but on wheels, with a sort of radio ariel on the back with a little triangular flag on it. I now learn that they are robotic and are intended to help deliver food or other items which you might order on line. I'm not certain how they cope with crossing the road, whether they use the Redways around the town. Do they use G.P.S. or other navigation software to find the delivery address? How reliable are they? I know we're supposed to be getting driverless cars around MK, but hadn't heard a thing about these little things. Not sure Carol would think I was slightly nuts if I told her about them, but she has now seen one so that's O.K. Not been drinking or dreaming. Though, one never knows . . . would be interested to try one out and see how efficient it is at delivering parcels or take-away food. We buy quite a lot from Amazon, so I wonder if they will use them.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Signs of Spring . . . and Snow?

I haven't written a blog post for the past couple of days. Not like me to miss a day or two, but in all honesty there's not a lot for me to talk about at the moment. So with this post I may just waffle on a bit. So here goes. Don't blame me that it's going to be boring. It's up to you to decide.

When I started writing this it was a bright and sunny morning. It's mild out as it is at the moment. I actually went out yesterday without my coat. I had a short-sleeved shirt on. It was so hot in the car. It's crazy. We're lead to believe that it's going to turn colder and we can expect more snow. I sincerely hope not. The expression 'nay cast a clout until May be out' does make a lot of sense. We're not into the month of May. This is early March and surely we can expect cold weather. It's the thing I mentioned a few blog post back, about British people putting up with most things. The stoical nature of this nation. Or so I thought. We've become pathetic and don't seem to be able to deal with bad weather, a bit of snow and cold. So, if we do get a couple of day's of frost and snow, we should just buckle down and get on with things instead of wingeing and whining. If a train is late, just grin and bare it. Why have we become a nation of complainers? Is it because, particularly with the internet, it's so easy to make a complaint when you're not in a sort of face-to-face situation. Would people be so ready to make a statement to someone's face if they had to? You can hide behind the facelessness of the internet where you wouldn't if you were in the same room as a person you're complaining to or making unpleasant comments about.

There are definite signs of spring. We have bulbs coming up and blooming in the garden. There are the first green shoots of daffodils on some of the roundabouts around Milton Keynes. We saw daffodils blooming in one of the courtyard gardens when we visited the hospital the other day. I'm not actually sure that they were daffodils. I think they were the miniature variety. Perhaps not actually a daffodil but a jonquil (which I learned having done a Google search.) The famous Wordsworth poem 'Daffodills' was inspired by William and Dorothy Wordsworth coming across some daffodils, but there's a real doubt that the flowers they saw were actually daffodils and probably some sort of narcissus similar to daffodils. How I manage to wander from the subject. But does it matter? I think not.

Alfie is in desperate need of a trim. He needs to go to a groomer's and have a really good haircut. His nails need a trim. He has go caught up in one of he crocheted blankets the other day and he has nasty matted mess under each eyes which he won't let us touch, which I presume means they irritate. It's managing to fit in his appointment when Carol isn't having chemotherapy which is difficult. I had hoped to take him to The Groom Room at Pets At Home at Bletchley, but they are always booked solid.  We then decided to try and find a mobile groomer. We used one a couple of years ago, but they were booked up and weren't taking on new clients. So I went on line and Googled 'mobile dog groomers' in Milton Keynes. I rang a couple, without any success. I wanted to get a booking in the next week or two. Not possible. Or, again, some were not taking on new clients. Then having left our number at another groomer, I got a call and I've managed to get Alfie booked in for a groom on 4th April in the afternoon.

It's almost 4 o'clock as I write this. It's still quite bright and there's almost certainly no sign of snow. It's just not cold enough for the white stuff. Will it or won't it? Do the weather forecasters ever make a mistake? We'll know by the morning if the forecasters got it right . . . or not. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Irate Car Driver

Carol had a rather nasty reaction to her chemotherapy this morning. She said it made her feel really peculiar. The nurse in charge of her said she had to keep warm, to put a scarf or something over her mouth. I had to make her a cup of tea and she was swathed in a blanket. The actual chemo session seemed to go fine up until the final hour or so. Fortunately she began to improve and the session was ended as usual and she was fitted up with the pump to take home. As we got outside she said she didn't feel well so waited near the cardiology department where we usually enter and leave the hospital, and I walked over to fetch the car from the carpark. As I drove round to collect her there was a taxi cab waiting and another car coming the other way round the central island. Carol got in the car but the woman driving the other car wouldn't move out of the way and got really irate, waving her arms about. No doubt frustrated by the fact she couldn't find a car parking space. If she's gone to the ground level carpark at the front of the hospital or to the multi-storey carpark no doubt she would have found plenty of spaces. Some people love to blame others when they can't get their own way. She was determined she wasn't going to move out of the way to let us out. This seems to be a trend at the moment. People with no patience, being just downright nasty on the roads. If you get in their way they don't like it. Coming up close behind you on the roads. I've mentioned this before in these blog posts. Being cut up on roundabouts. Generally just not nice to have to put up with it.

Been a mild day, but wet and miserable. Perhaps, on second thoughts, it might be the wet weather that got to that woman and got her so irate.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Sunday Early

There's already traffic cones out along Golden Drive. I was in the bathroom, about to have a shave. I thought I'd have a look out of the window. I just hope it doesn't stop me getting out to go to church. Some people just don't care, as long as they get what they want. If it annoys other people, well so what? I'm going out regardless. Even if it means shifting the cones to get through. Tough!

It's surprisingly warm today, compared with last week when we had snow. I managed to drive out of Eaglestone well before the runners started. One brightly coloured orange-clad gentleman looking a bit forlorn on duty at the entrance to Eaglestone as I drove out and onto Saxon Street on my way to S.C.F. I don't know what his purpose was. A steward of some sort, or marshall or whatever they call such personnel. Must have been a bit miserable for him, standing out there all on his own. There were cones all the way down the centre of the road and the occasional car passing.

Not one runner spotted, either on the way out or when I came back. I stayed on after the 9.15 service as I usually do, but I stayed longer as I wasn't sure whether I'd be able to drive back into Eaglestone, what with all the runners. I went to Sainsbury's, to buy one or two things and to really waste time before heading back home. Not one runner did I see, so what's all the fuss about? Where were they? I was expecting to see at least a straggler as you do with these events. The traffic cones were in evidence as I drove back into Eaglestone. But not one runner. Phantom runners perhaps? Did I imagine it, or were they invisible or something? It doesn't matter. It's over and done with. But we have another of these events again in another week or so.

It's been a generally very warm day today. I went out in my red fleece top, the one I bought in Dobbie's when Carol's mum and dad were with us a few months ago. In the Edinburgh Woollen Mill shop or whatever it's called in there. I was far too hot, as it's quite deceptive at the moment. You would think it was far colder, when you consider it was snowing last week. 

Saturday, March 10, 2018

More Marathon Misery

I know the moment I post this I'm going to upset someone out there. It's almost as if you're not allowed to have an opinion, particularly if it doesn't fit in with someone else's. But hard cheese. Hard luck or whatever. We're going to have to put up with a load of runners through our estate tomorrow. I have no problem with these marathons or whatever they are called. All good fun, good exercise, excellent for various charities.  Each to his own. It's just annoying that if we want to get out of Eaglestone we can't or will be inconvenienced, for example, having to park our car outside the closed-off area. I know it's for only a few hours on a Sunday, but it's still annoying. It's just that I think the organisers of these events could at least cooperate with the residents of the estates which the marathon goes through, or at least change the route once in a while. But they won't. So, if I want to get out of Eaglestone tomorrow morning, early, I'll have to park somewhere else and drive out somehow or other before things get going. Park outside the area not run through by the marathon runners. End of story. Thinking about it, I don't think it is actually a marathon, but who's splitting hairs? Not actually a marathon misery, but as I love alliteration in my subject-line for my blog posts.

We've been playing with Alfie. He knows where the treats are kept. In a tin near where Carol sits on the sofa. Under different circumstances he would tap it with his nose or his paw, but he's just being difficult. Just too clever by half.

We've had that confounded squirrel back in the garden and on the bird feeding station. It's been several times. Alfie doesn't seem to take any notice of it. I don't really want it eating the bird food. After all, a squirrel is really a big rat with a large fluffy tail. Next door's cats have been prowling around, wandering along the top of the fence and scaring off the birds, which is a shame. They know that Alfie can't touch them, and as soon as he seems them, he starts barking madly.

We went to Garroway's to use the One-Stop shop. Carol fancied bacon sandwiches for lunch. Also, bread and eggs. As a last resort, imperial mints. She didn't come into the shop, but stayed in the car. I could find white bread, but for some reason they've moved things around so I can't find eggs. I walk around the shelves several time. It's just annoying that they need to shift things around. Just to get customers annoyed. You know where everything is, then it's moved, for no good reason. I have to ask someone where the eggs are. Imperial mints? The sweet section has moved. Now that area has greetings cards. Crazy! It's a small shop. Why this ceaseless shifting stock around? I've mentioned this before, regarding supermarkets. Well, One-Stop is owned by Tesco. Need I say more? 

Friday, March 09, 2018

Seventh Chemotherapy Cycle

It's almost springlike this morning. The sun is out and it's a good deal warmer. The bulbs which Carol planted in the large round planter, and given her by her mum, seem to have survived the snow and are looking fresh and healthy. Even the Christmas tree, which was put out in the garden after the festive season, looks as if it's put on some growth. Whether it services until next Christmas is another matter. We can only hope. I think it might need repotting into a larger pot. We have an almost constant flow of birds to the bird-feeding station, so that seems a success. We must keep it topped up with food.

Carol had to be at the oncology department by 9.20 this morning. We were there well before that time and as a result we spent at least 40 minutes waiting. Carol had to have a bloodiest before the actual chemotherapy starts on Monday morning. She had another appointment at 4.30 in the Macmillan unit this afternoon but she decided to cancel as it would mean us coming out again, so I walked down the corridor and spoke to their receptionist but couldn't reschedule the appointment. We will have to ring the doctor's secretary to arrange a new appointment.

Very quiet in the oncology department. Few patients. But we weren't in there long.

We went to Waitrose for coffee and cake. You can generally rely on Waitrose for good quality coffee and cake. Well, one reason for going there is because we can have the coffee free as we each have My Waitrose cards. A good enough reason. Then we did some shopping, for Sunday lunch, as there's an offer on related to Mothering Sunday this weekend.

Alfie really is a fussy little dog. He has virtually the same food which we feed him every evening. Usually dry mixer with some meat in it. He eats the meat and the dry biscuit is left so he has something to eat if he's hungry during the day. He does pick at it on occasion. If we're having a meal, at lunchtime or whenever, he occasionally gets scraps. Not too much, as it's not good to over-indulge a dog with scraps. I broke up a biscuit which was left on the shelf in the lounge, which Carol left there. He poked it with his nose, but wouldn't eat it. If we give him some scraps he often asks for permission, leaving it and then looking at one or other of us for approval and may eat whatever it is.

There's a tin on the footstool in the lounge which has pens and pencils in it. It used to have Marks and Spencer shortbread in it for Christmas. Alfie has learned the trick that, if he stands with his back paws on the floor and his front paws on the stool and pokes the tin with his paw he will get our attention. He's got wise to the fact that, by sitting in our eye-line, in front of the television when we're watching something, we will get his attention.

I'm trying desperately to find stuff to write about in this post. I have to say that the last few posts I've written have been a bit repetitive. Going backwards and forwards to Milton Keynes hospital as we have over the past couple of months have become very similar so these blogs are similarly written. Just a thought before I hit the 'publish' button.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Out-Patient Appointment

Carol was scheduled to have an out-patients appointment with the stoma nurse at 11 o'clock this morning. Having arrived at the multi-storey carpark it took some time to find a space. A queue of cars winding through the different levels, some cars stationary on the ramp up to the first floor. It was as well we arrived when we did. We eventually found a space and then walked across to the entrance building. We spent some time in Costa coffee, having vanilla lattes and some rather good cakes. As I queued at the counter, I was really shocked to read a notice aimed at customers. It said that any behaviour towards staff would not be tolerated. It seems appalling that staff in any capacity should be treated badly by customers. Similar notices are up around the hospital which say that none of the staff will tolerate aggression of any sort and if patients or those related to them are aggressive or violent to staff then the police will be called and those who ill-treat staff or damage N.H.S. property will be prosecuted. Sad to think that things have got to that situation.  We then walked through to the out-patients' department.

A really helpful receptionist showed us where we had to wait and even bleeped the stoma nurse to say we had arrived. I call that above and beyond the call of duty, more than can be said of the receptionists at Ashfield Medical Centre. Other patients coming and going, as usual. People reluctant to make eye-contact with anyone. Fiddling with mobile phones. One woman looking as if she had a plumb in her mouth, trying to get her to crack her face a complete impossibility. A load of ancient magazines to read. None actually of any interest or of some sort of intellectual content. Is it asking much to have something decent to read? Please, not Hello or O.K. or other celebrity rubbish!

Having completed her appointment, Carol appeared and we left the out-patients department. On the way out, Carol said she fancied a sausage roll for lunch. We wandered into the Little Fresh shop in the entrance building. But the hot food unit was totally empty. We bought some milkshakes, the one's I used to buy Carol when she was in ward 20 before Christmas and called Moo Milk. We then went into the Friends shop, which is back in the out-patients department and somewhat invisible to most people. You would never know it was there unless you had been told. Having searched the shelves for sausage rolls and finding none, we asked at the counter and the lady on the till said they could provide warm sausage rolls. But when we came to pay with our debit card, we were told that the sale had to be £5 or more. So we made our sale up with biscuits, sweets and other bits and pieces. Then I saw a poster on the wall saying that this shop was closing at the end of March. Their profits had gone down, not making it worth continuing, mostly due to the Little Fresh shop which has taken the custom away. It seems such a shame because the Friends shops in Milton Keynes Hospital are run by volunteers and the profits go to the hospital. No doubt Little Fresh profits go to some private company, similar to the profits from hospital parking.

So, we had a bundle of items to carry with us, hot sausage rolls amongst our shopping. We had to pay for our parking. The ticket machine inside the hospital entrance wouldn't take debit cards, only change, so we went to the near-by A.T.M. to withdraw £20. Two £10 notes so we had to go back into the Little Fresh shop and buy something so as to have change for the carpark ticket machine. From there we walked over to the multi-storey car park. I put the parking ticket into the machine, having queued up as there were several other people before me. I paid £3.50 and then went up to the car on the first floor. On driving out we then discovered that the barrier was up and we didn't need to use the ticket, so, to make things even more annoying, we'd wasted £3.50 for nothing, so you have some idea how frustrating it had been to get to this point. So, can we expect a refund? I doubt it. I just want to know why, if these carpark barriers are raised, allowing you to leave without needing to put your ticket in the machine, they can't put notices on the payment machine to let innocent motorists know that they don't have to pay. Just making money for some individual somewhere. All of this just adding to unnecessary stress and annoyance for all concerned.

When we got back home and were parked on the front drive (if it's really a drive. I don't know how else to describe it. More likely it's a 'dedicated parking space'.) Carol said she could see a red kite flying over the house. It's somewhat remarkable to think these fantastic birds are living around Milton Keynes. Our only worry is that they might scare off the different species of birds which visit the bird feeding station in our garden. As we sat and ate lunch we could see quite a variety of little birds coming to the feeding station. I don't know what became of the red kite, which are seen on the road out towards Aylesbury and at West Wycombe.

The sun has been out most of the morning. As a result it's quite warm. We've actually managed to turn the central heating down. With the sun out, the lounge is now pleasantly cosy. Let's just hope things stay that way, although on the BBC Breakfast weather forecast this morning they were saying we could expect snow. I'm not sure if it's for this area. I hope not, as we don't want to have a repetition of last week's events.

Wednesday is supposed to be bin-day. So, why did I make a lot of effort yesterday morning, as I usually do, to sort out the recycling into a pink sack, and tie up the black rubbish bag in the bin in the kitchen and haul out the already full and tied-up black bag of rubbish and place it  all at the front of the house at around 6.30 a.m. yesterday, to have it all (hopefully) taken away by the Council binmen sometime during the day?  It's supposed to be out by 7 a.m., but it's very rarely taken much before midday. When we came back from the hospital appointment yesterday evening, around 6.45, and drove back into Eaglestone along Golden Drive, were there many black and pink rubbish bags all over the road, some in the road and difficult to avoid, and all along the side of the road? Why were they still there? It wasn't a bank holiday, which meant the rubbish collection being delayed by one day, usually a Thursday? What is the reason for this delay? Surely not the recent snow. If it was snowing, I can excuse the delay, but it has all gone now. Not a trace left. Then, mid-morning, the sound of a Council dustcart being driven along the road in front of our house. But it doesn't stop to collect the rubbish, as expected. By the time we get back from this morning's hospital appointment, all the rubbish bags had gone. No doubt the Council were obeying some Health and Safety regulation regarding workmen in the snow (or lack of it.) I can think of no other reason for the delay in collecting the rubbish. Does it matter? I think not.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Carol's Birthday and M.R.I. Scan

Today is Carol's birthday. Unfortunately she has her scan at 6.30 this evening. She can't eat anything after three hours before, so it will make things difficult as regards our evening meal. It won't matter one bit to me, of course. We're likely to get back around 7.30, depending, of course on if the scanning department is running to schedule. We were determined to go out somewhere at lunchtime, so we had to think of a place to eat, have coffee, had easy parking and didn't require too much walking. So we chose to go to Marks and Spencers at MK Stadium. It's not too far away and is relatively easy to get to. On arrival there was a fairly long queue and we couldn't avoid the fantastic selection of cakes on display. Who couldn't resist cake? We chose a piece of chocolate fudge cake and a piece of carrot cake. Also, sandwiches from a display unit.  A female member of staff came along the queue asking people what hot drinks they wanted. When I was about to say, she walked away! So what was the point of this exercise? As this was Marks and Spencer, I was surprised by the rather odd bit of customer care (or lack of.) Carol went to sit at a table whilst I got the order (eventually taken by the man on the till) and I had to gingerly walk over to the table with the tray of things, attempting to not spill the coffees (I ordered mediums, but the size of the cups were more like large. No complaints though.) The café was extremely busy. Mostly retired people (or I imagine so) and families with children. No doubt grandparents looking after grandchildren. One little girl sitting at the table next to us, probably no more than 3, very capable of opening one of those drinks that come with a straw. They can be difficult for me to open, to remove the straw from the side of the cardboard packaging and remove plastic wrapping and then straighten out the straw (why do they have to bend them in the first place?) but her grandad had to help her put the straw in the hole in the top of the packaging.

Our cake was pleasant. Along with the sandwiches, although somewhat over-priced. Never mind, it was a birthday outing, so the cost didn't matter.

I had intended buying some flowers for Carol. We went into the food section of Marks and Spencers on the way out of the store. She likes daffodils and tulips. They had some daffs near the tills, but they looked a bit bedraggled. No use buying flowers that are too well advanced, opened. They need to have closed buds, allowing for  few days for them to open. We selected a few items to eat later and then, when we got to the till there were several buckets of tulips, so I selected the least advanced bunch and paid.

We had to buy top-up for our electricity meter. So we drove to Garroways to go to the One Stop shop. I went to the till, and, having waited for a customer to be served ahead of me, was told that they would only take cash so I couldn't use my debit card to pay. So I had to go outside to use the A.T.M., and by the time I went back inside the shop there was a queue of several people. I must remember that they will only accept cash next time I have to top up our electricity meter.

We were due at the hospital for 6.30 this evening.  Fortunately we knew precisely where we had to go. One of the advantages of now knowing our way around the hospital site. The carpark had plenty of vacant spaces and the barrier was up so we drove in and out without the need for a ticket or to have to pay on exit. We got to the M.R.I. department  in plenty of time. I'm glad we did, as Carol was soon called in to be prepped for the scan. A good 15-20 minutes before the scheduled time. I had to sit in the waiting area. I suppose the scan took around 20 minutes. You can hear a computerised voice say 'you can breath properly now' or something, which indicated that it was over. Carol was bought out, not looking 100%. She had to be helped by a member of staff and the nurse went off to get a drink of water for her. Carol sat next to me for a while and then another member of staff came to clean up the cannula she has in her arm for the chemotherapy.  This was soon dealt with and we were soon walking back to the carpark and driving home. We should get the results of the scan on Monday when Carol goes to the oncology department for the beginning of the seventh chemotherapy cycle.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Snow . . . Gone!

The snow is gone. Well, it had no chance, seeing how it's a good deal warmer this afternoon. The sun is out and it's almost spring-like. Apparently we are now officially into spring. 

Carol gave Alfie a bath. He was getting a bit smelly. We're still not entirely certain what has caused it, no doubt he's been rolling in something disgusting in the garden. He still has those nasty bits under his eyes which he just will not let us pull off. His coat is still in need of a good grooming, but what with one thing and another, we haven't managed to fit an appointment in with his usual groomer's. The mess on his face seems to be irritating as he keeps on rubbing himself on the sofa cushions and other places. If you attempt to deal with this he just growls at you.

We went to Sainsbury's this morning. We got a call from Lloyd's pharmacy yesterday evening to inform us that the patches that Carol needs have arrived, having been held up because of the snow. We've used up our Nectar points and bought a new toaster. It should be better than the old one and is able to cook four slices of bread in one go. A good deal more rugged than the old one. 

We have been informed that there is to be a series of marathons running past our house on Sunday 11th March. I saw the yellow sign up near the entrance to Eaglstone the other day and the organisers have seen fit to put a letter through our letterbox which also gives details. I'm not that bothered by this event, but I still can't see why it can't be rerouted along the Redway, which is only yards from Golden Drive. I remember when I made a comment about this on Facebook last year I got some rather scathing reactions from one particular individual. I think I'm entitled to have an opinion, even if it wasn't in agreement to his. Never mind. Some people are just so easy to wind up. For whatever reason, it just annoys me that we have to be inconvenienced by this event, meaning we won't be able to get in or out with the car whilst this is on. Never mind, I'm sure we'll be able to manage somehow.

I ordered a binder for my collection of BBC History Magazine at the beginning of February. I have been a subscriber for about four or five years and have kept all the copies. Most are in magazine racks, but I want to get the official binders so that each volume, which is 13 copies, kept together so they are easier to store and read. I went on-line to the publisher's website, Immediate Media, and ordered one binder through the website. I imagined that the binder would arrive in the post a few days later. But it's at least two weeks since I ordered, paying with my Debit card. This morning it still hadn't arrived, so I rang the helpline. Not a great deal of help. I was told that the order hadn't gone through, but checking my bank statement the cash has gone of of the account. On enquiring further, they weren't entirely sure whether the binder I wanted was out of stock. I have to say I'm not very impressed. If this particular binder was out of stock, they should have let me know at the time I ordered and paid, show this information on their website or at least email or write to me to let me know. The woman I spoke to said the binder might be sent in a couple of week's time. Why be so vague? Either they have it or they don't. Surely they would know where the particular product was in their system. I'll just have to wait and see what happens in the next couple of weeks.

Monday, March 05, 2018

Snow (Almost) Gone . . . And A Drive Out

We woke this morning to find out that the snow had almost all gone, apart from a few stray bits. What do they say? If there's a bit of snow left, then there'll be more soon to join it, so there is the possibility that we will get more before the winter is over. It is a good deal milder, so I turned the central heating down. The lounge does get warm, particularly if the sun comes out, which makes a real saving on the gas bill. These houses were designed to be warmed by natural means, with larger windows facing the sun and the windows on the opposite side of the house much smaller.

At 8.30 a.m. there was a weak sun shining. Which meats the remaining snow would soon dissolve. Carol was still asleep and I heard Alfie coming downstairs and wanting no doubt to be let out into the garden.

I'm still reading 'Keeping On, Keeping On', Alan Bennett's latest book. It's mostly his diary entries, covering 2005-12. He mentions Miss Shepherd, the elderly lady who lived in a clapped-out van parked in his driveway for 15 years, and who provided the inspiration for his play 'The Lady In The Van' and the film version of the same. There's nothing particularly interesting about his ramblings, mostly about his visits to various churches, National Trust properties and so on, but I love his sense of humour, very dry, and his mentions of the people he's met in various roles, for example, writers and actors. You can't read these books of his as if they're a novel. You can read several pages, all bits and pieces covering several days, none really connected in any way. There's no narrative thread, so it's the type of thing you can pick up on occasion, although some bits are more interesting than others.

We've been trying out the new Tassimo machine. It's a good deal more sophisticated than the Dulce Gusto machine. There is a wider range of drinks. It will make teas, and branded drinks, Cadbury's chocolate, Twining's and Costa. It has taken a while to fathom out how to work the machine, which Carol has christened Hannibal because it sounds a bit like the sounds the character, Hannibal Lecter, played by Anthony Hopkins, makes in 'The Silence of The Lambs.'

We drove down the A5 towards Stockgrove Country Park. It's been such a sunny and warm morning, after about a week of snow and ice, it was great to be able to get out of the house. We saw some patches of snow, but not enough to make things difficult to drive. We parked in the carpark and saw that the main path down to the lake was still covered in ice and snow, so we gave it a miss. We walked around and saw people sitting outside the café with their dogs. We didn't have Alfie with us. If we had, he'd have got heavily covered in mud and most likely would have ingratiated himself with the dogs as he has a habit of doing. It was surprising to see so many people about on a Monday morning. We didn't remain at Stockgrove, and left, which was annoying as we had to pay £3 for the privilege, even though we were there for such a short time. Carol wanted to take photos with her iPhone of the drifting snow along the road going back to the roundabout on the A5. Some really weird and wonderful shapes carved out of the snow at the side of the road. Drove over the roundabout towards Woburn. The centre of Woburn was like a ghost town, compared with a weekend., when it's usually heaving with tourists. A pretty village, but it's been over-commercialised. Drove through the park, although we didn't see much of the deer. Drivers not over-appreciative of me driving slowly to take  in the scenery. Why should they? Why bother to keep your speed to a decent level, particularly if it means avoiding any deer who happen to be in the middle of the road, as they have a habit of doing? No point obeying the rules, as usual. I drove straight through and out the other side and theynround towards Steppingley and Ampthill and then round towards Ridgmont and they made a detour back towards Woburn Sands as we wanted somewhere to have a bight for lunch. We went into Frost's at first. Parked well away from any other vehicles, as I don't want a repetition of what happened the last time we were in Frost's carpark. We went into the main body of the garden centre, which, as usual is beautifully organised, new displays of items to buy for Mothering Sunday. (I hate that we have to Americanise it to 'Mother's Day.) Why do they seem to think mothers want everything to be a hideous pink in colour? Flowers as well as boxes of chocolates and other gifts?

The restaurant is heaving with those of a 'certain age.' You can hardly find room to sit, if you were proposing eating. We go into another area as Carol wants to sit down. I go and have a look for a simple sandwich or baguette, but I can find nothing that fits the bill. Plenty of other options, but it's been made so up-market with rockett rather than plain old lettuce, or posh food on a platter rather than a plate, over-priced and certainly putting off a certain section of the population. As we can find nothing suitable, we decide to leave and drive over the road to Wyevale Garden Centre. Frost's have lost our custom.

This amuses me; a garden centre, making every available type of plant for sale. We walk into Wyevale and one of the first stalls (if that's what they call them) we come across is made up to look like a vegetable patch, but with obvious artificial veg appearing to grow in some earth and then, further in, a huge display of artificial flowers of every shape and variety, looking amazingly realistic. It just seems crazy that a garden centre, of all places, should sell such things as plastic flowers. Though, thinking about it, some of these would have been useful to me when I was working in stage management and I needed to find such things as flowers to be used as props in some of the plays I worked on, particularly as real flowers were considered to be bad luck by some actors. Just that a lot of theatrical folks are superstitious. No mention of a play by Shakespeare, better known as 'The Scottish Play' (Macbeth.) as it's considered to be bad luck.

In Wyevale we go into the restaurant. We order tomato and cheese toasties and have to wait some considerable length of time for them to arrive at our table because we're told they only have one operative griddle. When they arrive, they are very tasty. Also, we share a portion of chips. The place is busy, mostly mothers and toddlers and babies, who seem very well behaved, apart from one child who seems to like to make a noise about everything. It's good that these places do cater for children and babies. Also, I notice that Wyevale as well as Dobbie's are now dog-friendly. I see no reason whey they shouldn't, provided all dogs are well behaved.

Left Wyevale and drove back towards Milton Keynes. We had intended driving back up towards Chaffron Way, but when we got to the traffic lights to turn left towards Kingston where Tesco is, the road was blocked off. So, where we to go? No advance warning of this,  or for what reason, so diverted inside the housing estate. It was like driving in some sort of maze of roads, not clear where I was to go exactly, but eventually got on to main road back towards Chaffron Way.  So we'd had quite a pleasant morning, quite a circuitous drive, but well worth it in the end.

Later. It's as well we went out when we did. It's late afternoon as I write this, 4.50 or thereabouts. The weather has changed. It's now raining and there's water running down the road outside. The snow is more or less gone, although there is a small amount left in the back garden.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

The Big Thaw

It looks very much as if the Big Thaw has begun. Now we can expect flooding as the snow melts. It's clear, from watching the television news this morning, that there are some areas of the country which have had far worse conditions than in the immediate Milton Keynes area. I went to Waitrose this morning and it was heaving. It seems people were shopping in there in sort of siege mentality. You could hardly move. The carpark was full and I found a space which was some distance from the store.
For some unfathomable reason I couldn't find jam, Carol wanted hot cross buns. For no particular reason. With butter. I would want them with jam on. Possibly raspberry. Whoever had the idea that they'd move the jam section? I hunted high and low. Had been on the further wall near the bakery department. I find it eventually. This seems the same in other supermarkets. You get used to the layout, where everything is, then they decide, just because Christmas or Easter is coming, they need more space for easter eggs or fluffy bunnies, so out goes the usual stuff, in comes the seasonal stuff, so whatever it was you were searching for is moved to a dark and secluded spot.

A near disaster with the electric cooker, just after I write a post headed 'When kitchen gadgets go bad.' We are having roast chicken for Sunday dinner. It went in the oven at around 2 o'clock, so by 3.50 approximately I decide to check it's cooked properly. As I open the door and use the oven gloves to take hold of the Pyrex casserole it's in, the shelf in the oven decides to come adrift from the wire arrangement in the inner wall of the oven and the whole lot slides sideways, almost tipping the whole lot onto the kitchen floor. I managed to lift the chicken and casserole out of the hot oven and deposit the whole lot on the hob. It would appear the wire assembly which has slots in to take the shelf has come away from the inside of the oven. It will need to be re-slotted into the oven wall once the oven is cool enough. We haven't encountered this problem before, but it will need to be reassembled before we can again use the oven.

Later. Looking out into the garden, half the grass is now exposed. The thaw is happening at quite a fast rate. Alfie goes out and seems surprised by the fact that he can walk on grass. He went out when there was snow and he almost disappeared into it. I'm so glad we have a bird feeder because we seem to be getting a lot of different birds visiting it.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Arctic Conditions

The wintry weather continues. It didn't snow over-night, but looking out of the window at the road in front of the house, it has the appearance of a Siberian wasteland. Not that I've been to Siberia, you understand. The car has a pall of snow across it. Alfie rushes out into the garden, but doesn't hang around for long, as you can imagine. Being a little dog, he doesn't take to the cold very well.

If I did want to go out in the car, I'd have to negotiate around a very annoying van which is parked in the immediate space behind the car. It's going to be quite difficult to get out and so avoid this van, made even more troublesome with the road conditions being so slippery. I don't think the grid roads in Milton Keynes are going to be too bad, but the roads in Eaglestone, the inner ring road in particular, are likely to be hazardous, with hard-packed ice. I just hope we get a decent thaw and the snow goes completely. There will be trouble if we get a hard frost and the surface of the roads around here become like an ice skating rink.

Saturday morning. There's been quite a considerable fall of snow over-night. The road at the front of the house has quite a layer of snow on it. The large van is still parked immediately behind the car as I mentioned in the post yesterday. I went out earlier to clear the snow off the car with a broom and cleared a path from the door down to the car. Quite a thick carpet of snow around the car, but it's not really a problem, you just have to be careful how you move about so to avoid slipping over.

I eventually managed to manoeuvre the car out of the drive and onto the walkway to the side of our house. I did this just to make sure I could actually get out of the house, because there was quite a deep layer of snow immediately behind the car and I wasn't sure I'd be able to get out. I had to get out to go to Sainsbury's as we were slowly running out of food, although we had some bits and pieces in the freezer just in case. The snow is making all sound very muffled, a bit like having something, such as material that absorbs sound in a recording studio or concert hall. There is a man further along our road clearing snow with a shovel.

 I drove out of the estate, leaving via the exit near the shop. The road surface along the inner ring road was covered in snow, so I had to drive very slowly as I didn't want the car to slide as it might have done if I'd braked suddenly. The grid roads going towards the centre of Milton Keynes was relatively snow-free, but you can't trust other drivers to drive at a reasonably slow speed so it was necessary to drive at less than the normal speed. The underground carpark at Sainsbury's looks like a lake. No doubt this is caused by snow that has come in via car's tyres. Just one huge mass of water. The actual store was very quiet and the carpark was virtually empty, do doubt because most people didn't want to venture out in such bad conditions. Who can blame them? Fortunately I was in and out of Sainsbury's fairly quickly.

Unless we get a further fall of snow, conditions should remain fairly reasonable to drive in. That being said, people need to reduce their speed when driving and just take a bit more care as well as respect other people. It's those who drive too fast who are responsible for accidents, running into other vehicles, sliding all over the place and possibly ending up in ditches and hitting innocent people. I just hope that we don't get a hard frost over the next few days and then we will have to contend with flooding when the thaw happens. Gary next door has been clearing snow at the front of his house. At least people are making an effort to keep going, regardless of the snow. On the television news this morning, people are complaining that there is too much coverage of the snow. Why does it have to be described as 'The Beast From The East'? Just a sort of tabloid journalism term. People being stranded in the snow, in cars on a motorway somewhere, I'm not entirely sure where, and some passengers on a train near Christchurch, Dorset. Did they not listen to the news? We had been warned about the current weather conditions, so why so surprised when things grind to a halt? Just don't go out and then expect others to risk their necks to be rescued. Although there was a more positive piece on BBC Breakfast about people who have four-wheel drive vehicles helping to ferry N.H.S. staff to various hospitals, somewhere in the West of England. It's good to see that some form of community is thriving, however small it might be.

We had a delivery from Very. We weren't expecting it until Monday at the latest. A Tassimo coffee machine and some clothes for Carol. The instructions for the coffee machine are quite complicated. It didn't come with coffee pods so we couldn't try it out, but we had to fill the water tank and flush it through so it is now ready to use. We have ordered some of the pods through Amazon which should arrive sometime before 8 this evening.

Later. It seems that the thaw has begun. By the look of things, a lot of the snow seems to be disappearing. The road at the front of the house is beginning to clear and you can see the tarmac surface. I'm just wondering whether all the snow, or some of it, will be gone by the morning, although if we get a sharp frost over-night I doubt if will mean the end of the snow.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

When Kitchen Gadgets Go Bad

Our toaster is playing up. It's been awkward for some time. You put a piece of bread in it and it takes ages to actually brown the bread sufficiently. You turn up the thing up so it makes a darker colour of the bread, but then it burns. You await the popping of the toast, and it takes what seems an eternity. Sometimes the slices of bread you put in get stuck, which also leads to more incineration. You have to make sure the kitchen door is closed into the hallway, where the smoke detector is (is it a smoke detector? I'm not sure.) If you forget to close the door and you accidentally allow the toaster to burn the bread within it, the alarm goes off with an ear-piercing shriek. I know it's not much use if it's not loud, for example, in the middle of the night, when you are deep in the land of nod, it has to be loud to waken you. But during the day? Alfie will bark. Is it to tell you to sort the gadget out, to stop it shrieking? To stop it, you wake a teatowel or a newspaper under it, to cause a draught which will stop the thing making a noise. Or press the button in the centre of the thing, which is impossible to reach unless you stand on a stool or a chair to reach it. More inconvenience. The toaster will only really work properly if you use slices from a nicely pre-sliced loaf, such as Sunblest. Or Hovis. I prefer the multi-seeded variety. Sliced white is just too processed and mush. If you buy a proper loaf, from a bakers, and then slice it yourself, you have to ensure that the slices are not to thick otherwise they stick in the toaster, leading to more smoke and chaos from the smoke detector thingy in the hall.

We had a microwave oven, which sat on the kitchen work-surface, but it took up a lot of space. It didn't wear very well. It wasn't that old, but it got very rusty inside. I took it to the tidy-tip to be (hopefully) recycled. We didn't use it so much, and to be honest, we don't miss it. The space is more important. If you have a microwave you have to keep it clean. When you get spills it's important to deal with them otherwise it just adds to the decaying process. Also, if you use them to cook meals which have a strong smell, such as curry, this smell tends to linger. You just can't get rid of it. Not pleasant. I think the problem with this particular model was, because it was quite cheap, it wasn't made of very durable materials, hence the fact it rusted quickly, leading to it's demise.

We live in a rented property. There were various electrical items in situ when we moved in, a washing machine, a fridge/freezer and an electric cooker. When it came to replacing the cooker the landlord was reluctant to replace it, but it eventually buy a new one. Unfortunately it didn't last long. The new one wasn't much better. I came down to make tea early one morning and was almost electrocuted by the thing. There were sparks coming out of the electric point where it was wired in. We bought the next one ourselves, when the landlord refused. It didn't wear very well. It rusted badly and the oven gave up so we couldn't cook anything in it. So we bought the latest one through our Very account. It is reasonably good, has a ceramic hob, which the old one had. They are a good deal easier to keep clean than a conventional one as it's a totally flat surface to keep wiped. It does it's job well enough.

The fridge/freezer gave up when it just didn't freeze anymore. We'd been out for the day and came home to find it had defrosted and we lost a lot of food which was in the freezer compartment. We replaced this with one from Very. It has more freezer capacity, an extra drawer than the previous model.

Then we had to replace the washing machine. The old model was a cheap Bush, from Argos. I think I've described in a lot of detail how the landlord got someone he knew, who had absolutely no knowledge about installing washing machines, to fit it in for us. They didn't remove the restraining bolts which held the drum in transit, so when I put it on, when the machine got to 'spin' the machine nearly took off across the kitchen floor. Well, it would, wouldn't it? The drum would have been fixed with those bolts, so no wonder it caused so much damage, not just to the floor, but pulled the pipes out of the wall where it was plumbed in. This caused a lot of water damage, which we had to get repaired. We bought the current washing machine, a Kenwood, which we got from Curry's. A much better machine, which has an economy setting which means you can have a load of laundry done in around 45 minutes. The old machine seemed to take forever to wash a load.

We had an electric kettle which we'd bought in Argos. It went wrong. The lid was opened by pressing a sort of lever, but it stopped functioning, so it made the kettle virtually impossible to use properly. So it became somewhat impossible to use. We took it back and got a replacement, a Russell Hobbs model which has a Brita water filter inside it. You top the kettle up as you would normally, but, because it has a filter in it, the water is purified as it would be in a standard Brita water filter. The kettle has a device on the top which shows how long the filter has been in the kettle (four weeks.). It has a series of four 'bars' which represent the weeks, and when you insert a new filter, you press this device and as the weeks go by, each of the four 'bars' disappears until the last one disappears and you then replace the filer with a new one. The kettle is fine, except it's wearing badly, particularly around the lid. The body of the kettle is made of a plastic substance and it has a blue light within the kettle which shows when the kettle is boiling. This is very useful but really serves no real purpose. It doesn't make the kettle any more efficient. Also, the Maxtra filters are quite expensive and if you forget to replace them, then the filter capability is of no use. I suppose if it does have a purpose it is that it prevents the kettle from furring up with limescale because the water in this area is quite hard and without some sort of treatment things like kettles are soon full of limescale.

We have a coffee machine. One that takes pods. It's a Dolce Gusto. It has worked very well and you can make a range of drinks, mostly coffee. You put a milk pod in first, let the hot water filter through, then a coffee pod, to make latte or cappuccino. The only problem is, the water container is very difficult to clean. It has developed some green algae in it and there's no way you can get a brush in it to clean this gunk off. The plastic tank is just an awkward shape and there seems no way you can clean this out. A poor design fault. A lot of kitchen gadgets seem extremely difficult to clean. I had a food processor. It did it's job well enough, but it was a real fiddle to clean properly. Also, you have the problem with storage. With more and more kitchen appliances, mixers, blenders, processors, coffee makers, where do you store them when they're not in use? Most can obviously be left on the work-surface of your kitchen, but the rest? We have limited space.

My conclusion of all this discussion is that, generally, household appliances are not made to be very robust, and to not have a very long life and need replacing very frequently. Probably we use our kitchen gadgets a fair amount. The microwave wasn't used a great deal, but it soon got extremely rusty which is why it had to be recycled.