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...

Saturday, May 19, 2018

12th Anniversary of Heart Attack and Consultant's Appointment

I forgot that yesterday (Thursday) was the 12th Anniversary of my heart attack. I can't believe it was 12 years ago. I have to say I feel fine. It's unfortunate that we're visiting hospital more than ever, dealing with Carol's chemotherapy. I haven't had any dealings with the cardiology department for a couple of years now, although we enter the hospital through that department to get to oncology.

It's yet another mild and sunny day. We're currently putting wood bark chips down in the garden, near the house. We've put down weed control fabric first and then the bark chips on top. We bought four bags of this in Bunnings yesterday. There's a possibility that we're going to need a couple more bags to complete the job. This has been planned for quite a while, so it will be good to complete it whilst the weather if fine. After all that work the grass needs cutting again. 

Carol had a consultant's appointment arranged for this morning at 11 o'clock. Being fine, it seemed a good idea to walk. Only about a ten-minute walk to the Macmillan's unit at the hospital. There were few other people waiting, but we got there in plenty of time but were eventually called into the consultant's office at around 11.20. There wasn't actually a lot to add to what was said when we visited Churchill Hospital in Oxford two weeks ago. He told us that it was quite usual for a patient's blood test to show a low count of the antibodies that fight infection, which was why the last two chemotherapy cycles were postponed. He says that the prognosis for a cure are excellent. The chemo sessions should continue until all 12 are completed.

Alfie has been keeping an eye on our neighbour's cat. It has been coming into the garden more than ever, no doubt because of the warmer weather. It has the habit of sitting on the roof of the shed and then staring imperiously into the house, just to see whether Alfie is watching. He has had the habit of sleeping on the sofa or at least sitting and not taking any notice or just looking in the wrong direction. It amuses me when he does see the cat and then starts up barking and then rushing out into the garden but the cat sits in such a position so he can't possibly see it when he gets closer.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Propping For Plays

Continuing my blog posts on my time working in stage management. One of the jobs we were often assigned to would be propping (or, in other words, responsible for props, any item used within a play  by the actors, from a pair of glasses, a tea set or an umbrella.) If you were assigned to this particular job you would be first and foremost sitting in all the early stages of rehearsals, from the initial read -through and then the blocking, that is, when the director is giving the actors their moves in the rehearsal room, on a chalked out or duct taped floor, an actual scaled version of the set. You would have to take notes of any props that come up during the course of the rehearsal, although you would have a fairly good idea of what props would be required as you would have had a copy of the script before rehearsals started and you would make a list of props mentioned in the script as they appear as you read. But directors and sometimes actors can come up with a additional props as rehearsals progress, or at least have their own unique idea what sort of item them want as a prop. For example, if they have to have a wallet, the sort of wallet they would want, it's colour, whether it had a zip in it, the sort of material it was made of, cloth instead of leather and so on. You would need to make a note of exactly where the props were to be set, either on stage or off. An absolutely vital part of the job, knowing where the props are set, as this will be how you set them during the eventual performance of the play. As the rehearsals continue, you have to keep a list of all the positions of these props and amend this list as things develop, as they always have a habit of doing.

During rehearsals the actors would expect to have props to use. But we sometimes had to provide them with stand-ins before we could find the actual props. We would then go out and look for appropriate items, sometimes begging and borrowing from local shops and other businesses. Most shows were produced on extremely limited budgets, so this was probably the only way we could possibly provide appropriate items for props. If the play was set in a particular period, it would be necessary to find items which were from that period, so antique shops would be asked if they would mind lending items, usually furniture and in most cases we were pleased that they did. For more expensive items we would have to go to specialist prop hire companies. Usually things like firearms, swords and other military items would come from these prop hire companies.

Some shows required food which could present us with one or two problems, particularly if a meal was required to be eaten by the actors involved. Most theatres I worked in had not particularly good facilities off-stage for the provision of cooking, as you would imagine. We had to improvise in order to make a meal look convincing, without using 'real' food. For example, there is no way you could provide a complete roast dinner. We'd have to find a way to make a synthetic and thoroughly convincing roast beef joint, complete with gravy, roast potatoes and vegetables, but without in any way making it look fake. Because in most cases the audience wasn't close enough to the stage to get a good enough view you could get away with using artificial meat joints we constructed out of paper mâché or other material.

For a production of 'The Three Sisters' I once was involved in we had to mock up caviar, as we obviously couldn't use real caviar. We used blackcurrant jam, and then the actors had French toast to eat it off. Fortunately the meal this was part of was far enough up-stage on the set so that the audience couldn't see closely enough to see the caviar wasn't real. Well, to be honest, they should really be concentrating on the acting and not on the props!

On a production of Alan Ayckbourn's 'How The Other Half Loves' at Century Theatre in Keswick, we had to provide avocados for the central meal. We bought real avocados and then moulded them in paper mâché , or at least, pasted newspaper and brown paper. When dried, the outside was painted the colour to represent avocado and then lined with foil, and then filled with mashed banana to represent the edible part of the fruit. Certainly cheaper than using real avocado, which our budget would never run to, particularly if you consider you'd need several fruit for each performance of the play.

Drinks on stage were a similar problem. Mixing water and food colouring, usually gravy browning and water to represent whiskey or in some cases, apple juice. I don't envy the actors having to drink some of these concoctions as it must have tasted really horrible. Attempting to carry on a conversation and drinking these mocked-up drinks must have been quite difficult. If a play required bottles of a particular brand of drink, such as Martini, we'd have to find empty bottle and then make up water with food colourings to match the real drink. Sometimes, if we did a period play, it could be difficult to find bottles of a particular brand to fit that period. All this meant we would have to go round bars and pubs and ask the barmen or landlords to keep empty bottles if they had them in stock for our use. Usually people could be helpful in this regard. But American brands, not available in the United Kingdom could sometimes cause problems, but then we could source them via American airbases or other places.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Blinking Brexit

You just can't get away from it. Britain leaving the EU. Or Brexit for short. I hate the term. I actually voted to 'Remain,' but I can't think why. I spent ages on deciding the pros and cons of voting to either Remain or Leave, but I can honestly say that, if we were to have another referendum, I think I'd vote leave. I just hate all the unnecessary bureaucracy created by a virtually faceless load of pen-pushers in Strasberg or wherever the organisation is based. Did we really know what we were voting for during that referendum in 2016? I doubt it very much. The politicians didn't know how difficult it was going to be to disassociate ourselves from this 'thing.'

We should never have had this crazy referendum in the first place. It was only because of the rise of UKIP, the party who wanted us to leave the E.U. that David Cameron ran scared and had the thing in the first place. Surely, being a member of something, such as a club or trade union, you don't always agree with everything the organisation you're a member of does. But you have the power to influence things, as Britain did as an E.U. member. You can work to change it, for good or bad. Just leaving because you don't like it isn't really the answer. The joke is, that now UKIP has virtually disappeared from the political scene. 

I really object to having laws and regulations foisted on us by an unelected body such as the EU parliament and those laws being above our parliament. We've currently got to give our consent if we want to have emails sent under something called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) as from 25th May 2018. I'm getting endless emails to make sure I tick the relevant box to make sure companies which I've already signed up to, have my permission to continue to email me. It doesn't make sense when I've already made it clear I've given my sense when I signed up to these emails however long ago it was. Just another layer of bureaucracy. But what really gets me is that I bet this doesn't stop all the junk mail I get or the endless telephone calls trying to get me to claim PPI (which I've never had.) Even though I've signed up to the preference service which is supposed to prevent these calls, so I bet this new EU regulation will have about as much clout as a chocolate hammer.

So, we have to go through all this rigmarole about a Hard and a Soft Brexit (whatever they mean. Can someone explain, please? I'm totally confused.) It has never ever been explained to me how the E.U. works or what we got from being members. Where does the money we pay in go? What do we get? Do we get Nectar points?

I can see why people voted to leave. The British are a proud nation. We fought two World Wars. We got through The Blitz, Dunkirk and countless battles. We're an island. We like to make our own rules and regulations. We don't like being dominated by faceless bureaucrats.

Do we really, honestly spend £350 million a day on funding this organisation? Or was it weeks? I don't know, but the leave campaign had it emblazoned on the side of their bus, and it was going to fund the N.H.S. Was this just a reason to get people to vote leave? I think it was a week. Surely it was a week. I can't believe we'd pay that much a day. But Boris Johnson said it was an 'underestimate.'

Politicians on both sides of the referendum argument, remain and leave, made absolutely no attempt to explain what the E.U. was about. I can see that, when it was originally set up back in the 1950's, as the Common Market, and when it was just 6 nations, it was an attempt to get countries to cooperate and hopefully prevent another war in Europe. Cooperation being the operative word here. We had joined under the Harold Wilson government in the 1970s and then, for some strange reason we had a referendum, in 1975 I think it was, to ask 'The People' if they wanted us to be members. A rather back-to-front idea, putting the cart before the horse, to have a vote AFTER we joined. But the E.U., as it's now called, isn't the same organisation it was at that time. We now have a single currency, The Euro (which Britain didn't sign up to) and far more regulations and laws.

Why is there such a problem with refugees and immigrants in this country? We've always had immigrants and been tolerant of refugees. Just look at our history, going back centuries. We've welcomed people from different ethnic groups, such as the Huguenots  who fled persecution and then set up the silk weaving industry in London. The idea of having 'open borders,' meaning you can cross into the other E.U. countries without having to bother with endless paperwork, passports, making trading easier because you all have the same structures for such things as health and safety or weights and measures and even (heaven forbid) currency makes a lot of sense. If we could all agree on how to deal with refugees, then that problem might have been resolved, and not put pressure on one or two nations within the E.U. (ie: France and Britain, with all the problems caused by refugees at the Channel ports between France and Britain.) then the E.U. might have been a worthwhile organisation to be a member of. But it seems the different countries with the E.U. can't even agree on that. A shame. It would really make being a member worthwhile.

Why on earth, when they were setting up the 2016 EU Referendum, didn't they set a target, a sort of percentage of one way or other, to remain or leave, of, say 10% or even 20%, to which would be agreed as the winning amount of votes and then decide whether Britain remained or left the E.U. As it trend out, the result was 51.89% to leave and 48.11% to remain, a really tiny percentage to leave. Hardly enough to decide to leave. Surely it should have been a higher percentage to leave. A crazy mistake on the part of our politicians who put the country through this incredibly messy situation as regards the negotiations to extricate ourselves from the E.U. Then you learn that there were25,359 blank or invalid votes. What were those people who wasted their votes thinking? Just wasted. Either way, if they had used their votes sensibly then the results might have been completely different. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Potting, Wool, Coffee and Hospital

A really weird collection of different elements to today's activities. We've now managed to re-pot the Christmas tree and the fuchsia plant, a job we've been meaning to do for some time. The fuchsia was relatively easy, but the Christmas tree posed something of a problem. It wasn't until I removed it from the pot it came in that I discovered that it was actually in another one inside, which had to be cut, being made of tough plastic, with the loppers. The Christmas tree and the fuchsia were given good waterings and both seemed really relieved to get a good drink. Not surprising, considering how hot it's been over the past couple of days.

Carol has been busy with crochet so we went to Hobbycraft at Rooksley to buy some woo. We went into Costa, just a few doors along within Next and I had a tasty mango and passion fruit cooler whilst Carol had latte. I also had a cheese and chicken toast. When we sat down to have our drinks Carol was chatting to a lady at the next table who was knitting and made a comment regarding the balls of wool Carol had with her. Her friend turned up and it came out that she was a hairdresser. Carol mentioned that she was in need of having her hair cut and styled and the lady was a travelling hairdresser so Carol booked an appointment.

We were in actual fact wasting time; there was no point in going home because by the time we'd crossed Milton Keynes to get home, we'd only have to go out again to visit the hospital for Carol's blood test in the oncology department. We had a quick browse in Pets At Home, glancing at the rabbits, guinea pigs and other small animals they have in there in cages. It was after this that we drove towards the hospital. There was always the hope that, if we got there in good time, Carol would be seen earlier. But this didn't happen.

Fortunately we were able to park in the carpark near the cardiology department. There were actually few spaces but a car was coming out so we grabbed the opportunity and took their vacated space.

The oncology unit seemed busier than usual. The nurses seemed to be working harder than ever, probably due to staff shortages. We waited for a good twenty minutes past the time Carol had been booked for her blood test.

Later. At around 7 o'clock this evening we got a telephone call from one of the nurses in the oncology department to say that Carol's next chemotherapy cycle would have to be postponed yet again because she wasn't producing sufficient blood cells to fight of infection. So hopefully the next session will be next Monday (blood test) and Tuesday (Chemotherapy.) Getting somewhat frustrating, particularly as we're getting to the end of the 12 cycles of chemotherapy.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Life's Little Irritations

What sort of irritations am I referring to? One I can mention is, during the summer, such as now, when we have warm weather, when we have the windows open to cool the house, you get bees and other flying insects coming in. Then they get stuck, trying to get out again, attempting to get through the glass of the window, not realising that you can't get through glass, and then, when you open the window wider to let the thing out, it refuses point blank to go out through the open window! Then the flitting and buzzing they make continues unabated and there seems to be nothing you can do to relieve it.

You put dirty laundry on in the washing machine. The machine finishes it's cycle, you hang the washing out to dry, and almost every time, no matter what you do, you find you have one lone sock that hasn't gone in the machine with it's partner. Invariably you get that one lone sock at the end of the wash-cycle, even when you go to put them in your sock drawer. WHY does this happen? How many odd, lone socks do I now possess? Or you go to put on clean socks in the morning, take out what you imagine to be a matching pair and then you find they don't actually match? Does it matter? Who's going to see they don't match? Nobody. It really doesn't matter. You probably don't realise until the night, when you change to go to bed. You then discover they don't match. Oh well, just another of life's little mysteries.

You go to the supermarket and spend a lot of time going round the store, putting items into your trolley. Once completed, you go to the checkout and load your items onto the conveyor belt. This takes some considerable time, but then the checkout malfunctions so you have to spend even more time taking each item off the conveyor belt and moving to another working check-out. Time and energy wasted. This invariably happens at one of those self-serve check-outs. As I've probably mentioned in an earlier blog post, it's bound to be the only one of these check-outs that is available as all the others are occupied and you've probably had to queue to get on one of them. The other similar event is when you need to use a lift, usually to get down to the carpark after you've done your shopping and then have an extremely full trolley. You go to use the lift, no doubt the other lift (there's usually two lifts, the other being in use, or out of service. Then you get in the lift, it's extremely full with other shoppers and their trolleys. Then, on attempting to press the button for your floor, the lift won't move, it's also out of order and it takes some time to extricate yourself from the lift and the have to push your trolley down to the carpark, going down various ramps and walk-ways.

Okay, I know what you're thinking. 'He's written about 'Life's Little Irritations' in earlier posts, under 'niggles.' Well, yes, perhaps I have. I have to admit that I find some 'niggles' in everyday life. I'm sure we all have in some way shape or form. I could go on. So I will.

Bottles and tubes that are difficult to open. Think those bottles that liquid hand-soap comes in. Those annoying pumps that come locked when you buy them. You're supposed to twist the pump to release the thing and they invariably refuse to unlock. Those plastic packets of various products, such as sweets, that you're supposed to get into by tearing across the top, but never do. You end up having to use scissors to cut the packet open.

How about traffic lights? How long should they remain on red? In Milton Keynes we have very few. The ones near Sainsbury's do seem to take an age to change to green. There isn't that much traffic to let through, so why does it take so long? Are they set at a certain length of time? Do they alter the length on how much traffic moves past? Some sort of computer system that measures the amount of traffic and alters the timing accordingly?

Ticket machines, in carparks particularly. You have to put coins in said machine, you hunt through your pockets for the correct amount and then put these in the slot in the machine. The whole lot fall through and come out of the slot at the bottom of the machine. You have a £1 coin, the new style coin. The machine refuses to accept it. It also falls through. You would assume that all the parking  ticket machines would have been adapted to take the new-style coins. But no . . .

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Tenth Chemotherapy Cycle Postponed

It's another really beautiful warm spring day. We've been to the oncology suite so that Carol could have the usual blood test so that she can have the tenth chemotherapy cycle beginning tomorrow morning (Wednesday), depending on whether the test is as it should be.

As it happened, at around 6 o'clock on Wednesday evening we had a telephone call from oncology to say that there were not enough neutrophils in Carol's blood, which are the blood cells that fight infection. Which now means the tenth chemotherapy cycle has to be postponed until next week. This happened a couple of weeks ago and the next chemotherapy cycle was postponed for two weeks because Carols parents came to visit for a couple of days (see earlier blog post.)

So, I'm a bit lost as to what to write to make this blog post worthwhile. Well, we've been watching more episodes of 'The Woman In White', the current BBC1 classic adaptation. It seems to have really taken off after the third episode (of 5) but there's so many plots overlapping and so much going on it can be somewhat confusing. I don't think it will be particularly clear what's going on until we've seen the final episode (which was shown on May Bank Holiday Monday.)

I'm currently reading 'White Heat' by Dominic Sandbrook, part of his mammoth cycle of books tracing British history from Suez in 1956 up until the election of Margaret Thatcher. It's an extremely detailed account of the period, this particular volume covering the '60's, Harold Wilson, The Beatles, Mary Quant and other personalities.

It's been a really warm night. As a result, it's difficult to sleep, particularly when you have to keep the bedroom cool with the windows open.  You get the sound of cars along the A5 making a lot of sounds, racing, revving their engines. A lot of loud noises. During the day, then having bees and other flying insects buzzing in and out of the house.

Later. The Christmas tree, which is currently in the garden, in it's original pot from when it was bought in Dobbie's garden centre two Christmasses ago, is growing rapidly. It desperately needs re-potting before it dies off, which usually happens when we buy a 'live' Christmas tree. We have been meaning to find a suitable size pot so it can be transferred so that it can happily grow. In the current plastic pot it's likely to get pot-bound and then the roots will start to rot which will end with it dying which would be a shame since it's growing so successfully. We've seen suitable pots but hadn't got round to actually buying one, so this morning we went to Bunnings (which has taken over the Homebase branch in Winter Hill.) They had a quite spectacular selection of very suitable pots, one of which we purchased, along with a fuchsia  plant which Carol bought, along with potting compost and gravel to put in the pots. We had to use a trolley to convey our purchases to the till to pay and then out to the carpark, but the thing proved quite difficult to manoeuvre through the store and, once at the car, it took some effort to fit the various items in the interior of the vehicle.

We drove home to unload the posts, plants and bags of gravel and potting compost and then went out, first to drive through Woburn park, which is one of our favourite 'go-to' places when the weather is fine, searching out first rhododendrons which have begun flowering along the side of the road leading up to the cattle grids you have to go over on entering the open spaces of the deer park. We could see a few deer straggling across the road ahead of us, with one car stopped, no doubt to get a close-up view of these animals. Unfortunately we hadn't remembered to bring either of our cameras with us, because we might have got some really good shots had we got them with us.

We had to decide on somewhere suitable to have lunch so decided on Dobbie's at Bletchley, which has a good restaurant and we  had lattes, baguettes, panninis and cake. Carol had a rather nice slice of chocolate cake and I had a really tasty lemon frangipani tartlet, absolutely delicious. One of the best cakes I've had in a while. We must return at some time in the not-too distant future to partake of such delights again. We bought some plants which Carol wants to use in a bottle garden which she intends to construct in the former fish tank we have sitting in the garden.

Having finished in Dobbie's we drove back into Milton Keynes, to go to Marks and Spencer's at the football stadium where we bought milk and garlic bread which we needed.

My least-favourite job has to be done, mowing the grass. The grass seems to grow at unprecedented speed once we get any sun. It was cut a few weeks ago, and was somewhat difficult as I'd let it get too long and the mower, not really designed to cut such tough grass, really struggled. I think it's intended for those gardens which possess nice, neat turf and not the type of grass we have to contend with, more suitable to be eaten by horses, sheep and cattle and perhaps not mown at all.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

A Sunny Bank Holiday!

At last, a Bank Holiday weekend with some sunshine! Usually we get rain and misery.

To get to Shenley Christian Fellowship on Sunday morning I had to negotiate a somewhat out-of-the-way route in order to avoid any of the road closures, due to yet another marathon. The exit out of Eaglestone, onto Saxon Street, which would have been my most obvious route out, was coned off. I had to drive around to come out near the Eaglestone shop and onto Chaffron Way, turning right and then down to the roundabout on Marlborough Street and then  round and onto Portway and eventually getting to Childs Way near Morrisons and then round onto Fulmer Street and back onto Chsffron Way. I don't think those who organise the Milton Keynes marathons we have to endure how much inconvenice is caused when so many of the central roads are closed off.  all very well, but those who do these things are somewhat narrow-mined and only focussed on what they want and not what perhaps the majority want.

Today we'll have to endure yet another load of roads being closed off if we want to go out, as we will, because it's forecast to be a bright and sunny day.

Later. We did go out- to Whipsnade Zoo. Carol made up a picnic and we drove off, with the intention of getting on to the A5 near the stadium, but as we approached along Grafton Street, we encountered a queue of cars, backing up past Beanhill. No doubt something to do with the marathon, or, because it was such a hot day as well as being a Bank Holiday, people were just determined to get out of Milton Keynes.

We drove along the top of Dunstable Downs and then further on into Whipsnade village, crossing the green and then we came upon another queue of cars. By now it was about 9.50, so we knew we would't have to wait long as the zoo opens at 10 o'clock. Because Carol has Z.S.L. Fellowship we wouldn't need to wait long at the entrance. The queue moved forward fairly quickly, which was just as well, as it was beginning to get really hot. The queue at the entrance didn't take long and we passed through into the zoo.

Even at 10 o'clock it was busy. Perhaps the busiest we've seen it in all the years we've been visiting. We drove around the zoo, as we always do.  Usually we would park near the bear enclosure, but there were cars parked all along the side of the road. Right round near the rhinos it was solid parking. We parked near the hippos and walked to several of the exhibits, the cheetahs, lions and hippos. We got some really good views of the cheetahs, which were right up near the fence. Usually they are hidden away in the far distance, but, no doubt because of the heat, one was against the fence and another was in a more open area. Even the lions were up near the glass viewing area, enabling me to take some stunning photographs through the glass.

We're just dismayed by the attitude of some of the visitors to Whipsnade Zoo. Driving around, it's quite difficult to avoid other people, but some people seem to think it's fine to walk in the middle of the road. We had to slow down to walking pace to make sure we don't run into anyone, but why would you choose to walk in the centre of the road when there's a good path? People just being dumb and almost defiantly refusing to get out of the way. No common sense when there's a car approaching.
We eventually decided to park near to the elephants and have our picnic sitting on a bench. It was as we sat and ate our food that we heard one of the baby elephants making a noise, something we've never heard before. It was trying to get through a gate which was closed and the mother was attempting to move it away, but the mother eventually got it to move into the centre of the enclosure, but it kept returning to the gate. Then some of the elephants began playing around with the water in the pool where there was a sprinkler on. It was interesting to see how one of the elephants drank using it's trunk.

Overhearing conversations and watching people walking past: one child said 'look at the rhinos!' How could you confuse an elephant for a rhino? Would a child not know the difference? A woman then looked over at some other animals, antelopes with great big horns and referred to them as horses. But horses do not have horns! Crazy.

We drove out of the zoo. By now it was getting too crowded and hot. Carol said she wanted ice-cream, so we drove back across Dunstable Downs and stopped at the National Trust carpark. We walked to the visitor centre, heaving with humanity. We managed to buy ice creams in the shop and walked back outside to sit on a mound of earth and looked at the view. Lots of people flying kites, walking their dogs and cycling along the paths. Ice-cream eaten, we returned to our car and drove home.

We had the television news on later when we got home, and learnt that today had been the hottest May Bank Holiday in some 40 years.

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Appointment At Churchill Hospital

We had to drive to Oxford today because Carol had an appointment at the Churchill Hospital this morning (Friday.) We'd done our research because we've used the park and ride system when we've been there and we decided it was going to be far easier to park in one and then take the bus to the hospital, because there was the real possibility of not being able to park in  any of the hospital's own carparks.

When we eventually arrived at the Thornhill park-and-ride carpark we walked towards the building where the buses dropped off and picked up passengers. We had to pay using a machine and a very helpful staff member came to show us how to use the machine. It cost £2 to park the car and then Carol had to pay on the bus, but because I have a local authority free bus pass (one advantage of being 'of a certain age.') I didn't have to pay. We boarded the bus and the lady driver was so helpful and told us exactly what we needed as regards where the bus would stop at the hospital. Other passengers on the bus were really chatty and friendly. Nobody using a smartphone, which might explain the friendliness of everyone.

We got to the hospital far too early. That's us. We're almost always too early for appointments. But that's far better than being late. As a result we invariably get seen before the time we're given. Which, of course, has it's advantages. We went in the main entrance and then had to ask as reception where the appointment was to be. As we had more than enough time to spare we browsed in several of the shops, a W.H. Smith, for example, where Carol bought a magazine.

We eventually found the department where the appointment was to be. A large area with seats in with many people waiting and a reception desk where Carol registered her arrival. I went off to the toilet and when I came out Carol was being escorted to a room by a nurse. Carol said it might have been to move her away from other people who might have been infectious, which was not a good idea, as she is undergoing chemotherapy. We were left in the empty room and waited.

A nurse came in. She said something about Carol having an operation. We were somewhat stunned. In all honesty we really had no idea what the appointment was going to be about. We were led to believe that we were there to discuss Carol having radiotherapy on her liver. Apparently not. The nurse went away and after about five minutes a whole gang of nurses and a consultant came in. It was quite overwhelming, being in a fairly small room with so many people. Almost intimidating. The lead consultant discussed the operation that Carol was to have, not just on her bowel, but on her liver. These people were specialists on liver cancer and Churchill Hospital specialised not only in cancer but liver cancer and operating to have it removed.The consultant said that it would require two operations, done separately, to remove any cancer, not done at the same time as the liver operation would take around five hours. No doubt the second operation would be done in Milton Keynes, as we had been told a week or so ago. It would mean that I would need to stay in a bed and breakfast nearby so as to be with Carol when she was convalescing after the operation.

What is somewhat disturbing is that we had been told one thing, when we'd met with the Milton Keynes consultant, but now we were being given a completely different story as to how treatment was to continue. Carol would have to stop the chemotherapy a good three weeks before any operation could be done. The whole thing has left us somewhat stunned and feeling negative. Mostly, because Carol was led to believe that she would be able to return to work in September. She has a telephone appointment arranged for Tuesday morning with an occupational health adviser, to discuss her eventual return to work. The consultant's appointment on Friday and it's outcome will definitely change things.

We left the hospital, feeling somewhat negative, as you might imagine. We went to the bus stop and when one came we were taken into the centre of Oxford. We had intended making a day of it, possibly visiting the Ashmolean Museum. We went into Marks and Spencer and Carol had something to eat, but the aftermath of the earlier hospital appointment put me off eating anything. I just had a cold drink. As we'd walked quite a way, and it was a hot day, by then I was quite thirsty. On leaving Marks and Spencer, we began to walk toward the Ashmolean, but Carol wasn't in the mood and we were both tired, so we decided we just wanted to return home, so went to the park and ride bus stop near Sainsbury's and boarded the next bus back to the Thornhill carpark to return home.  Not a particularly pleasant journey, well, at least the first couple of miles, due to very heavy traffic, but once we got well clear of Oxford the traffic eased up and we got home at about 3.25.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Sunny, Vet's Visit and a Picnic!

Alfie had one more appointment at the vet's in Oakgrove this morning (Thursday). We took him for a walk across Eaglestone Park earlier and went to vote in the local elections at the community centre near the shop, just opposite from Brother's Fish Bar, which we used last night as we didn't fancy cooking. Alfie doing his usual 'thing' of letting the whole neighbourhood know he's about with his excited barking and yapping as well as running ahead of us like a little hare. We thought if we took him for a walk it would mean he would have used up some energy before we took him in the car to the vet's.

We got to Pet's Practice and were seen well before the appointment time. No further treatment is necessary. The scabby mess under each of Alfie's eyes has cleared sufficiently. I have one more half tablet of antibiotics to give him with his food this evening and we have to keep cleaning the wounds. The open wounds have healed quite nicely although the skin there is still quite pink, but the vet said that the colour in probably unlikely to return. I'm certainly happy about the outcome. We just have to keep an eye on things and to not let a build up of the matter to return and keep it clean.

Chaffron Way is still inaccessible, due to continuing road works. They seem to be putting some form of traffic calming measures in, no doubt to stop people speeding. It's probably a good thing, but all this means we have to drive round via Standing Way to avoid this work rather than going more directly along Chaffron Way. We took Alfie home before we went to the Shell filling station in Grafton Street and put some air in the tyres before we drive to Oxford tomorrow for Carol's appointment at Churchill Hospital. I have my father's voice still  ringing in my ears, even around 20 years after he died, regarding always doing the various checks you need to do to your car before going on any journey, such as the old, water, tyres, etc etc. A good thing to have to do, but as I say, he always said all this 'have you checked the water . . . tyres . . .oil?'  . . . etc etc

We then drove over to Roosksley as Carol wanted to look in one of the stores there, Decathlon, which  stocks sports clothing and equipment. She rather likes the Regatta jacket I bought the other week and would like something similar. I don't think she'd get one for the same price as I paid as it was on line. They have a good range of styles, colours and brands in Decathlon, but not the same sort of price. We then went into Halford's a few stores along as I wanted to get valve caps to put on the car tyres. One is missing and I really want to keep the tyres in good order, so caps seem a good idea to replace.

Coming out of the carpark at the retail centre at Rooksley you can only turn left instead of right and onto the grid road. To prevent this, the council has put a sort of island in the centre of the road and it's quite clear, with adequate signage, that you must turn left, go round the roundabout near B and Q and then come back towards the main road. But, no, certain people just refuse to do as they're told. So the barrier to prevent a right turn has been made even larger so in effect it would be quite impossible to get round it. Why do some people insist on disregarding such safety measures???

As we were driving out of the estate, Carol suggested we have some sort of picnic as it was really pleasantly sunny and warm. It would have been a great pity to not take advantage of it, so we drove to the shop in Two Mile Ash to buy sandwiches, crisps and drinks and then went to sit at a picnic table at Loughton Lodge. It would appear to be quite a busy dog-walking area, as we saw quite a few people doing just that.

A couple of youths turned up with a bulldog as we sat eating our picnic. Well, I say youths, but they were probably around 20. One had driven in a rather ancient V.W. They stood and admired the car, regardless of it's age. How could they manage to spend a mid-morning standing around chatting in a carpark? Didn't they have to be at work, or collage? They were something of a cliche, how you'd expect a group of youths to behave, along with the huge, fat dog they had with them. No doubt the idea of having such a dog made them look 'ard. No, on second thoughts, it really didn't. Just fat and lazy. Carol said it looked pregnant. I don't think it could move very fast, certainly not very aggressive. It had a thick metal-studded collar on, a bit like the dog in Tom and Jerry cartoons, which is always chasing around after the cat or mouse. Anyway, these youths spoke in a series of grunts and one of them when to deal with the poor dog which cowered, which made us think it was not treated well to behave in such a way.

So we finished our picnic and returned home. At least we hadn't spent the morning staring at daytime television. With the weather improving and the daylight hours longer as the days move on we can at least get out and about.

A Miserable Wet Day

We went into the Central MK shopping Centre this morning (Wednesday). It's been a miserable wet day so there wasn't nothing much else to do. At least it's undercover, which is one good reason to go there, rather than sitting indoors watching depressing daytime television. Well, it seems Carol has come a long way since her cancer diagnosis, when we couldn't go anywhere last summer, and she's walking a long way as well as driving the car.

Arriving at the multi-storey carpark next to Debenhams far too early, because Debenham's wasn't yet open (at 9.30, we discovered) we found that they're currently refurbishing the carpark, areas under cover and weird noised emanating from this area. Scaffolding is up as you'd drive up the ramp and into the carpark. There were plenty of spaces and once we'd parked we came down into the shopping centre on the escalator. We walked through the mall and went into Waterstone's and browsed as we were looking g for a book of study notes and guide to 'The Woman In White.' We've been watching the BBC1 adaptation and wanted to learn more about the novel. You can find plenty of study notes on Amazon, but for once we wanted to buy from a bricks-and-mortar shop. A staff member went out of his way to help and even went on Amazon to find something suitable, but unfortunately we didn't find exactly what we wanted. We bought a set of CDs of Alan Bennet reading some of his stories. We can listen to them in bed as we have a digital radio with a CD player in it which is ideal for listening to not only digital radio, usually BBC Radio 4Extra, but also this type of thing.

We walked through Midsummer place and into the main shopping centre. Several of the shops have moved into different units. W.H.Smith moved from where they've been for years, no doubt from when the centre originally opened, into a new, smaller unit. On one floor. They gave up selling CDs and DVDs so didn't need the upper floor. We went in to see whether they had the study notes we wanted. This area is at the back of the store, hidden away in a corner. Probably if 'The Woman In White' was a set text for A Level they'd have it, but no sign of anything related to it. Probably go on the W.H. Smith website and have a look.

Patisserie Valerie has moved. They were up the end nearer Marks and Spencer and House of Fraser. When we saw the old unit boarded up the other week, we assumed that they had closed down completely, but this morning we saw the new unit they've moved into, further along from the old W.H. Smith's unit. Also, River Island, gone to where H.M.V. used to be. Infact, H.M.V. gone into a much smaller unit. Also, Holland and Barrett, which used to be in one of the malls that run between the main malls, a newer and bigger unit along from Boot's.

We walked as far as Middleton Hall and had lattes and croissants in Pret-A-Manger. Not busy, but as it was a Wednesday morning, not really surprising. Plenty of places to sit and eat. We eventually reached John Lewis and walked through the store until we got to the escalators and went up to the top floor, near the restaurant, as Carol wanted to look in the haberdashery department for something for one of the felt fairies she's making, some sort of crimped wool. I'm not exactly sure what it is but they didn't have any of what she was looking for. The staff in these shops must be bored stiff as there were so few customers to keep them occupied.

From John Lewis we wandered out into Middleton Hall and then on to The Works where you can always discover a bargain in books and other items. Carol had a browse in the craft section and I went to look at the history section. Quite a few I'd like, but at the moment I have plenty of books which I have to read when I've done with my current reading material. Carol came to join me and had a large item which turned out to be a jigsaw puzzle mat. A Porta-Puzzle mat. She's bought a jigsaw on Amazon and it means she can keep all the pieces together and as I write this, it's slid under the television unit and can be bought out and continued without any trouble. At £20 a good deal cheaper than elsewhere, including Amazon.

We began to walk back through the shopping centre and arrived back in Midsummer Place and got back to Debenhams and went downstairs as Carol wanted to look in the Manraray clothing range. There's currently a sale on but if we buy anything we'll come back to purchase something. Then we went back to the car and went home. By this time it was really raining hard.

As I write this at 5.30 in the evening, the weather has improved. It's sunny and bright, but I somehow doubt it will remain dry and we get rain over-night.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Annoying Cold Calls

It's a sunny and bright day. Mid-morning my mobile rang. It's not usual to get a phone call on it, unless it one of those calls to tell me I can claim P.P.I. They can be very insistent and don't intend letting you go, even if you tell them you've never had a loan or whatever to have paid anything of this nature. They hang on like a proverbial terrier with a rat. I have to slam down the receiver to get rid of the caller. Anyway, on this particular occasion it's not one of those sorts of call, but it's a lady wanting to speak to Carol. It's actually Churchill Hospital in Oxford, to say they've been discussing her notes and to make an appointment with a consultant regarding her treatment and radiotherapy. It's made for Friday morning, so we've been looking at car parking and using the 'park and ride' bus service which should make getting to the hospital far easier than going directly to the hospital as the parking there is going to be difficult otherwise.

Thinking of those people who ring me expecting me to say 'yes I had P.P.I.' First of all, I'm keen to know where they got my mobile phone number. And not only that number, but also our landline number. I have registered with the Telephone Preference Service (T.P.S)  which means that we shouldn't get any of these unsolicited telephone calls. So, whey bother to register with the service if our numbers are still being rung for this sort of thing? Just a waste of time bothering with it. I don't give my mobile number out very often. Infact, very few people have it. Which makes this whole 'cold calling' thing so aggravating.

What annoys me most is that these calls come when you're settled down to do something, like watch a television programme you want to see, or you're about to start a meal or anything. The worst are those 'silent' calls, which means you pick up the phone and nobody answers and you just get . . . silence! What on earth is the point of them? Just a waste of time and effort and really crazy. What one EARTH is the point of them anyway? Has anyone got an idea??

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Rainy Saturday

It's difficult to believe that last week we were basking in glorious sunshine, when we went for our day out to Bekonscot model village and today it's miserable, wet and cold. The car's windscreen wipers were worn out. The driver's side one in particular was not doing it's job efficiently and to me there's nothing worse than driving when you can't see out through the windscreen properly. We'd put off having the things replaced for the past week, but I was determined to get this matter sorted before we needed to drive on a long journey and there was the possibility of there being rain and spray from other vehicles. We've gone to Halford's at Rooksley on several occasions to have lightbulbs fitted to various cars we've had, so it seemed the obvious place to go to have new windscreen wipers bought and fitted. I suppose I could do it myself, but it's always easier to let someone else do the job for you, even though it costs a few pounds. But never mind. I wanted to get there extra early to avoid the crowds. Fortunately it was easy enough to park near Halford's store. None of those idiots around who get in the way. Probably because they don't get out of bed too early on a Saturday morning. As it was drizzling the idea of having the new windscreen wipers fitted was even more of a good idea. I was parked and then inside the store fairly promptly and then had to go back to the car to get the registration number so the assistant to find the correct part for the car. I can never remember the reg number of any car I've owned, but it was soon done and sorted. I had intended going next to Aldi's which was over the other side of the road, but when I got there I soon realised I didn't have a £1 coin for the trolley so drove out and on to Sainsbury's. It wasn't busy there so easy enough to park the car and then walk into the store with my shopping list and a handful of bags and did the shopping and was soon out, packing the shopping in the back of the car and on the way home.

I got back in the house and unloaded the shopping. Carol has finished the piece of crochet she's been working on for quite a while. A really nice blue top. She's sown the two pieces, front and back, together and put it on to show me. A great deal of work has gone into it. She's done quite a few bits of crochet work. She made a blanket, made of various shades of wood as making Alfie his own blanket, as well as a case to put this MacBook in to keep it safe when we are out and about.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Frustrating Wait

Last Friday we had an appointment with one of the oncology consultants in the Macmillan Unit at Milton Keynes Hospital. We were given really positive news that the cancer has been shrunk considerably, due to the chemotherapy treatment that Carol has been receiving for the past few months. In fact we've reached the ninth cycle of twelve. We were told that an operation would be performed to remove a considerable amount of the cancer at Milton Keynes Hospital and that Carol would then have radiotherapy on her liver to remove the remaining bits left and that would be carried out in Oxford. We would get a telephone call on Thursday of this week to give us details after the surgeons had met to discuss the case. But we waited all yesterday (Thursday) for the expected call, but nothing came. As you can imagine, this has caused a certain amount of frustration, as Carol is keen to get things moving, so that, hopefully, by September at least, she can think about returning to work, even if it's for a few hours a week to begin with. We had to return to the oncology suite at 4.30 this afternoon (Friday) so that Carol could have the pump removed. She mentioned this to the nurse who removed the pump, and as a result she rang the colorectal department to find out what was going on, and why she hadn't had the promised telephone call. It turns out that the hospital has had nothing from the Oxford hospital and are consequently waiting to get some sort of go-ahead as regards the continuing treatment. So, we will have to telephone on Monday to get some sort of answer. Also, we heard that Carol will need a further P.E.T. scan at Churchill Hospital in Oxford in the next week or two, which she's had before.

A rather wet and depressing sort of day today (Friday). Having had really warm weather last week, it's a sort of backwards step, weather-wise.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Costume Drama Cliches

I've just been discussing the latest BBC1 adaptation of Wilkie Collins's novel 'The Woman In White.' Unfortunately such adaptations are open to much cliche. It's a pity that such television drama should have so many over-worked elements. It's almost as if the commissioning people decide that, should such an adaptation be produced, they have to have certain 'stock' elements. 'Big' costumes, wigs, hair, sets and locations. Which equates to 'expensive' and therefore 'big budget' which a money-strapped BBC doesn't have, so they have to get co-production finance and therefore go cap-in-hand to an American television company to get money to make these 'lavish' productions. Americans (apparently) love anything 'English' or 'British,' (obsessed by such shows as 'Downton Abbey,' or about our Royal Family, aristocracy or our history (or so the story goes. Is this true? How accurate that is, I'm not sure.) So, an adaptation which uses our landscape is going to get huge audiences and then those Americans are going to want to visit our shores to see the real locations for themselves.

There are cliche elements you almost expect to see in a costume drama on television (or film, if it comes to that.) A long carriage drive through the countryside, a carriage drawn by horses. Usually it's the poor, central character, going to start work at a large country estate. Possibly going to work as an artist, a writer, painter etc etc. (usually lower-class, hard-up.) As they are seen being taken to their destination, we get glimpses of this large, usually classically-designed mansion in the distance. Sometimes with mist rising, or fog. Weather used to denote state of the central character's mind, fog or rain to suggest depression, sun to denote happiness etc etc. Gathering clouds to denote something awful is about to happen, scudding clouds, thunder and lightening, war is about to be declared, revolution or some such momentous historical incident is about to begin. The main character not of the same class as those who own or run the classically designed mansion. Looked down on by the servants at the mansion.

Any scene in a churchyard or cemetery has to be set at night. There's bound to be lots of fog or mist (if it's early morning). It will be conveniently moon-lit. It would be no use being a night without a moon, otherwise you wouldn't be able to see anything. Drifting clouds, usually, obscuring the moon at times.

In Victorian dramas, London is almost always depicted as shrouded in fog. You'll get a hansom cab or two drifting past somewhere or other, or the central character is seen riding in one. Gaslight, candles. And how is it that you can see people so clearly when there's so little light in a room at night?

Films made by the Ishmail Merchant and James Ivory, producers of films such as 'Remains of The Day' and 'A Room With A View' and 'Howard's End,' which have high production values and are period-set, are often disparagingly called 'Heritage' productions. They don't manage to have cliches in them, and are generally thought of as high quality, not falling into the category of 'blockbuster' as they appeal to a niche market. They generally have a polish and sheen that avoid all the usual cliches. Just well-made cinema classics, with an eye for detail not seen in many other period films. Their film version was far better than the recent BBC version of 'Howard's End.'

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Oncology Morning

We took Alfie for a walk early this (Wednesday) morning, before we drove to the oncology suite at Milton Keynes hospital. Well, I say 'walk.' As soon as we let him off his lead in Eaglestone Park he ran like a little hare and made friends with a couple of little dogs who were being walked. I think they must have wondered what had hit them, as Alfie sniffs them and runs around in circles getting excited. We didn't walk far, just a short circuit. At one point Alfie ran ahead of us as if he had an idea where we were going to walk, but we went in a slightly different direction. Then we came across another couple of dogs also being exercised. It seems a popular time for people to walk their dogs. It only seemed fair to Alfie to take him out like this, before we had to drive to the hospital, as he would be left home alone, in the kitchen.

I'm continuing with the antibiotics for Alfie, but this morning he sicked up his food, poor little dog. Maybe it was because we bought a different dog food. Or it may that the new antibiotics don't agree with him. He has a rather sensitive stomach which might account for him not feeling too well. I could tell he wasn't his usual self because he didn't give eye contact and generally looked a bit down. You can tell with Alfie, because he's such an 'in-your face' little dog, so if he's not feeling well, you can tell immediately. The first sign is that his ears go back, laid across the back of his head. If they stand up straight, he's feeling fine.

We got to the carpark at the rear of the hospital and couldn't find a space to park the car. Considering that it was fairly early, I would have expected there to be at least one space. I had to leave Carol to walk in through cardiology and then drive around to the street-level carpark at the front of the hospital. One would think that they could provide parking spaces for those who are regular visitors to the hospital. It wouldn't be difficult to have around 20 dedicated spaces for oncology patients. I suppose things will be easier when the new multi-storey carpark is opened. It can't be long before it it completed, although we hope that by then Carol's oncology treatment will have finished.

On leaving the oncology department we found that it had been raining quite hard as there was definite evidence, and the looming dark clouds looked as though there was the possibility of further rain, but hopefully not before we'd walked to the carpark. It just shows that Carol is on the mend if she can walk so far. Not a possibility when she was first diagnosed. She couldn't do much of anything due to the pain she was experiencing. The barrier was raised when we eventually left the carpark. These barriers seem to spend most of their time broken, for what reason I don't know, but they certainly cause a lot of trouble. Just remove the things and let people park free.

Poor Alfie looked as if he was in pain. He couldn't jump up onto the sofa or my armchair. I think he might have over-done things when we went out for our early-morning walk on Wednesday. He chases around madly, and might have pulled a muscle or a tendon or something. Just showing his age. I gave him some of the painkilling medication I was given the other week by Rebecca the vet when we visited regarding his eye problem. I also gave him half of the antibiotics in his dinner on Wednesday evening. No reaction like this morning when he was sick. As I write this on Thursday morning he seems fine. He's currently curled up asleep on the sofa.