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, June 20, 2018

Final Chemotherapy Cycle Number Twelve

On the way out of the site at Peartree where K.F.C. was, we went into the Waitrose there as Carol wanted to get chocolates as a gift for the ontology nurses as the next chemotherapy cycle will be her last. They didn't have a particularly great selection. I know these stores in these places are small and just sort of convenience stores. Marks and Spencer have Simply Food stores at places like petrol stations, usually Shell. They're similar and sell basic items such as milk and the sort of stuff you need in an emergency, when you are on your way home and you realise you don't have milk or something for your evening meal. These service areas, on motorways and at roundabouts, as this one was at Peartree, (also right next to the park and ride carpark.) you can nip in for the odd item as you pass by on your way to the A34 or the M40.

Busy traffic on the way up the A34 and then onto the M40 until we came off on the road which goes into Buckingham. Outside Buckingham we ground to a halt. I'm not sure what caused it. I had an idea it was either a tractor or there had been an accident. Most people are decent and pleasant. They respect other road-users. As I've mentioned on several occasions I often encounter those who treat my badly, such as cut me up on roundabouts or drive too close behind. I generally drive at a safe speed. But as we were waiting in this queue of vehicles a white BMW came up close to us. He insisted in cutting in, to the right. Without so much as an 'excuse me.' Not polite. He wanted to get home presumably, to see the football match which was on that evening as part of the World Cup. He wasn't going to sit idly by and wait politely. He then over-took several cars and was then stuck behind a large H.G.V. lorry. Fortunately we lost him once we got through Buckingham and then on the open road into Milton Keynes. He kept sitting on several more vehicle's tails and as he was so close it would have been difficult to see to overtake, if he'd sat back at a distance he would have been able to see clearly what was coming in the opposite direction and so make it safe to overtake. Crazy and dangerous way to drive, not caring about other people's safety at all.

This morning (Tuesday) we had to get to the oncology department for around 9 o'clock. The carpark was virtually empty, saving some stress on the parking front. The crazy ticket machine at the barrier gave two tickets. Can't they sort these machines out? The first one was blank (don't ask me why. It defeats me, all this.) The barrier wouldn't rise, but then the machine decided to issue a second one which had print on and this time the barrier did rise.

The family of a former patient in the oncology department who died recently had requested that people at this person's funeral didn't buy wreaths or flowers but sent the money they would have spent to a fund to give to the oncology department at Milton Keynes hospital to buy a new observation machine. These machines are used by the nurses to take patients' temperatures, heart-rate, blood pressure etc etc. The person who died was shocked to find that the nurses were short of enough of these machine (not just used in the oncology department, but on all the wards. I was on a ward where the nurses used these machine to do the regular observations on not only myself but other patients during my time on this ward.) and insisted that any money after they died was spent accordingly. At lunchtime the manager of the department, nurses and doctors came into the department when a cheque for around £1600 has handed over. A fr better use for the money instead of spending it on flowers and wreaths and lining the pockets and so benefitting the staff in the oncology department and the patients.

Carol's chemotherapy was changed to a different dosage due to the fact that she is having uncomfortable feelings in her fingers. The doctor in the oncology department allowed this to be changed. At the end of her chemo on Tuesday when she has the pump set up to take home there was a delay with this pump. No doubt the pharmacy department made a mistake with it but I couldn't be sure but it delayed things by around 30 minutes at the end of the session.

Carol got to ring the hand-bell which is on the reception desk in the oncology department to denote the end of her 12 sessions of  chemotherapy. We're not certain how things will develop with her treatment but that is definitely the end that period.

Again the barrier was up when we came to leave the carpark at the end of the session in oncology. They must we loosing a lot of money with the parking ticket machines not working properly, but, let's be honest, who cares? It's still wrong to get patients and their friends and families to pay when they visit an N.H.S. hospital.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Pothole Repairs, Oncology and Oxford P.E.T. Scan

I just had to mention this. We were going out in the car the other morning, I forget where, but it doesn't matter. We were going out at the Saxon Street exit. We saw a man in one of those hi-vis jackets. He had some sort of paint spray device in his hands. I had to look twice. He'd been spraying paint around some of the potholes around the entrance. We've been mentioning the fact that the road on which we live is full of potholes and the fact that they need repairing. Most are along the centre, the point where the two sections of the tarmac meet. No doubt this was a cheap method of constructing road surfaces back when the estate was built, must've been in the 1970's. But the 'seams' (I can think of no better way to describe it.) are coming apart. It's like driving in some sort of Rift Valley. The surface is worse when you come round from the Marlborough Street entrance where we usually come back from Oncology or other hospital appointments. It's just really awful. So, at a later time when we came back home we saw the man (and no doubt a partner in crime) had been really busy as there was some considerable amount of spray paint along the road which would be to show the workmen where to fill in the holes. But the fact is, most of the road surface needs completely resurfacing and not merely patched. It needs doing properly and not just a 'quick fix.' Saying that, some sort of repair is better than none at all, and it's far better to do it in the summer because if it's left until the winter, when it's likely to freeze, the road surface will break up even more.

Another bright and sunny morning. We went to the oncology department for gone 10 o'clock. The place was virtually deserted and Carol was dealt with for her final blood test. They are reducing some of the chemotherapy to help prevent her numbing fingers which should help.

We went to the Shell filling station in Grafton Street on the way back from the hospital. It's surprising how far you can go without filling the Renault. It seems very economical, thankfully.

We were scheduled to go to  Churchill Hospital in Oxford for Carol's 3.30 p.m. P.E.T. scan and we were all set up to go. Then we got a telephone call to say that they had a cancellation and could we make 2 p.m.? We could, and were out of the house within 15 minutes. We took the SatNav (which has been christened Dora, after Dora The Explorer, but it was quite difficult to set it up as we were driving along, but we stopped in a lay-bay on Standing Way and managed to get the postcode of the Churchill and then set off in earnest to get to Oxford on time.

We got to the hospital with barely 10 minutes to spare. The problem was parking, as is generally the case. We drove around the site and found several carparks, but full. Not a single space. Then we drove around to what must have been the furthest point of the site and managed to find two spaces and then rushed round to the reception area. We walked through the hospital to where Carol had her first P.E.T. scan. You have to telephone a special number to register your arrival. Why no human on these reception desks? Is it a way of not employing a human to do this job? You don't always manage to get through. Making things quite frustrating and stressful. Why not have a computer touch screen as they have at our doctors' surgery or at the In-Patient clinics at Milton Keynes hospital. Not that they always work successfully. Just as we were waiting and I was about to settle down to sit and wait in the waiting room, a small nurse turned up to tell us we needed to be in another building, possibly because one of the scanners wasn't working. So she led us outside and we got to this other building and had to enter using a keypad on the door. Carol had to fill in a form before she was taken through to the scanner and I was left to my own devices for a good two and a half hours.

What amuses me is that, because they inject you with a radioactive substance so that the scanner can do it's job properly, patients who are injected with this substance are not supposed to mix with other people for a few hours afterwards. They use separate toilet facilities and so on, and must not sit in the waiting area after being scanned. Last time Carol had the journey back to Milton Keynes in that awful ambulance, driving at speed and being treated more like a sack of potatoes than as a patient with feeling and at the same time very uncomfortable. You aren't supposed to sit next to anyone more than six feet apart or something. But then she was right next to me all the way out of the hospital, walking along the corridors and out to the carpark and then sitting next to me in the car. A rather crazy ruling, did it not matter about me becoming contaminated by radioactive material? Taking Health and Safety rules too far and I bet the radioactivity had far less strength than is already in the environment, in, say, a luminous watch face or other electronic gadgetry. What about a computer screen, such as the MacBook Air I'm using to write this?

Having left the scanning department we walked towards the entrance along a long corridor. Hospitals always seem to have endless corridors. I know they have lots of departments and they need to be linked together, but endless corridors are just, well, endless. Then when we got outside, having been into the coffee shop to have lattes and a nice iced bun, we were confronted by the prospect of wrestling with a parking ticket machine. We extricated the ticket which was issued when we entered the car park when we arrived, but we didn't have sufficient change to put into the machine to pay. It was similar to the system in Milton Keynes hospital, whereby you put your parking ticket into the machine and it tells you how much to pay on a digital screen and then either pay with coins or use your debit or credit card. Simple. We went into the reception area to see if we could find an A.T.M. but the one in W.H.Smith was either out of order or had no cash in it. Nowhere else would come up with a solution to our problem. Smith's also didn't do 'cash-back' which some shops do. We went back to the ticket machine and spoke to the gentleman who was on the end of a switchboard somewhere in cyber-space and said he'd let us out with paying. Which was what happened when we eventually got back to the car and drove out, with the barrier lifting when we spoke into the machine.

By the time we got out onto the roads of Oxford and were driving back to Milton Keynes, things were getting very busy. The traffic was building up as people were leaving work to return home. We decided to stop to have something to eat at a K.F.C. on one of the main roundabouts on the outskirts of Oxford. The point where the A44 meets the A34. The build-up of traffic was quite intense and it took us some time to wend our way round the roundabout and get into the carpark near a Travel Lodge and next door to the Peartree park-and-ride carpark which we've used on a couple of occasions when we've visited Oxford in the past. It was a relief to be out of the traffic and to sit down and have something to eat. Carol hadn't been able to eat or drink since breakfast (she'd had something to eat at about 8 o'clock and then she had a KitKat chocolate bar which I'd bought at the Shell garage when we'd bought diesel there.

By the time we'd finished in K.F.C. the roads were calming down and we got on the A34 and then onto the M40 for a few miles until we reached the road back towards Buckingham and then home to Milton Keynes.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Outing To Wrest Park

Yet again we had decent weather. It was far too good to sit around indoors. The thought of daytime television was enough to make you want to get out and with endless stupid football on every channel, even remotely connected with the World Cup, we spent some time deciding where to go. As we have membership of three organisations which allow free entry to places such as houses, castles and gardens, we were somewhat spoilt for choice, for example, the National Trust, English Heritage and H.H.A. (Historic Houses Association). Neither did we want to have to drive too far. You are supposed to be no more than 20 minutes from a National Trust property. Probably right if you include Stowe Landscape Garden (probably pushing it a bit. Probably 35-40 minutes), Ascott (maybe just over 20 minutes.). In the end we chose Wrest Park, which is off the A6 between Bedford and Luton. We have visited a couple of times in the past. it's around a 45 minute drive from Milton Keynes. They've had a large Heritage Lottery grant to restore the garden and they have a fairly new visitor centre with shop, restaurant and toilets as well as an up-graded carpark made out of, presumably, one of the walled gardens.

When we drove in (having found it quite difficult to find the road in at the centre of Silsoe. I think they've changed the signage somewhat off the A6.) there were coaches arriving. A similar situation to when we drove in at Waterperry on Wednesday morning.

We went into the restaurant, which was filling up with those people who had just arrived by coach. There was quite a long queue at the counter but Carol was determined to get us something to eat and drink after our journey. We had scones and jam and lattes and she bought some sandwiches and crisps which we took so we had something to eat once we began our walk around the grounds. Then we went into the gift shop (what National Trust or English Heritage property doesn't have a shop? Your visit always begins or ends in a gift shop. Even at Whipsnade the shop seems to loom large. Supposedly a good sauce of income for these places which are charities.) As we got to the ticket desk we were told that, as we were within the first 300 visitors that day, we would each receive a pot-plant. Quite a surprise. So we decided to take these plants back to put in the car as we didn't fancy carrying them around with us all morning. Besides which, it's unlikely they would have survived being carted around in a bag of some sort.

We went into the house. We have been inside before. The rooms are amazing, but there's no furniture. It used to be offices. something to do with agriculture. The National Agricultural Research Institute or something. There used to be an agricultural college in Silsoe at one time, part of Bedford College, but it would appear that it has gone and is now a housing estate.

There's no furniture in any of the rooms, which is a pity. The rooms are vast. Lots of carving, gold leaf and some of the ceilings are painted. Quit spectacular, as they are in a lot of these large country houses. It would be great if they could return as much as possible to make sure the place at least looks lived-in. But no doubt it was all sold off at some point in the house's long history, due to such things as debt or having to pay Death Duties. If it comes to that, it makes you wonder how close these houses came to being demolished, due to the cost of maintenance or the land being sold off for housing or other uses.

Statue and planting in garden at 
Wrest Park

The house from the garden at Wrest Park

We went outside and down towards the lake or Long Water. There were several marquees and tented structures all along the side of the grassed area. One where you could join a guided tour around the gardens with a driver who talked about how the gardens were developed and built. We had to wait around half-an-hour before the next tour began, but we were glad that we did as it was a really interesting tour around, stopping at various points where he explained how certain things were as they were, their history and so on. Considering the size of the gardens at Wrest, this seems a good way to get around. Many of these properties have some sort of transport to get visitors around, but usually they're for people who have some sort of mobility problem. At Stowe they have a sort of train that goes from the visitor's centre, where you park your car and buy your tickets, and there's a restaurant and shop. It's quite a long walk to the entrance of the garden, so a ride on some sort of motorised train is ideal. At Waddesdon Manor you park your car some way from the Manor and then get on a bus up to the Manor. We managed to get round Wrest Park instead of walking. It's a long way from the house up as far as the Archer Pavilion which you can see from the terrace and at the end of the Long Water.

View from terrace towards the
Archer Pavilion at Wrest Park.

When we were delivered back to the point where we began the guided tour, we left to discover an area we'd never been in before when we've been to Wrest on previous visits. There's a vast expanse of more naturalised garden, with a lake, bridge and a sort of Chinese pagoda which we've never seen before.

We eventually found a bench where we could sit and eat our sandwiches. I think we were in need of refreshment by this point. From there we gradually walked back towards the house and had a browse in the shop and then walked back to the carpark to drive home.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Two Hospital Appointments

Carol was due to have an appointment with the stoma nurse on Thursday morning at around 10.15. We arrived in good time, deciding to walk as the weather was fine. We got to out-patients in plenty of time and Carol signed in at one of the self-service screens. Well, the one that was actually working as sometimes they don't function. We were sent through to the correct area. You get assigned a place nearest where your appointment is booked. There were two staff members on the reception area and there were very few patients waiting. One man near us, filling in a form. Another man in the next area doing the same. Presumably you have to fill in these forms if you are a new patient. Why don't they send them out in the post, or via email (for those who have access to a computer of some sort.) so that you have the form filled in when you arrived at your appointment? They probably had, but it does seem far more logical if you arrived with the form already completed. Carol attempted to join in the conversation the two staff were having, but one of them, a really cross-looking of woman in her late 40's or early 50's totally ignored her. A lady came in with a child and needed some assistance, but this staff member was somewhat abrasive with her. Well, I thought so. Not exactly the sort of manner you expect from N.H.S. staff. Most are extremely polite and pleasant, but this woman was really rude.

Carol was eventually called in by the nurse. She knows us well, so it was quite an easy appointment. Afterwards we went to have coffee in Costa, which is in the new entrance area of the hospital. Nice to be able to relax after the appointment.

Before we left, Carol walked back towards the main area of the hospital through the long corridor and we ended up at the hairdressers. I've walked past on several occasions and noticed this. She managed to book a hair appointment for 3 o'clock this afternoon. It has been quite difficult to make such an appointment, when she has so many various hospital appointments, along with chemotherapy sessions.

We went back to the hospital for Carol's hair appointment. The lady who did the hair-trim was very efficient and the job was done very quickly. Carol had looked on-line to find a hair style that suited her and eventually found exactly what she wanted and we printed it out to take to the appointment. Unfortunately we didn't have the correct money to pay for the haircut, and they didn't have a chip-and-pin machine to pay and didn't have the cash on us, so I had to go to an A.T.M. machine. The machine at the hospital entrance was 'out of order,' and I realised that there was a machine near the restaurant which was a long walk through those endless corridors, but I managed to get the cash out and walk back to the hairdresser's salon. Done and paid.

On Friday Carol had a further appointment with one of the oncology consultants at the Macmillan Unit at Milton Keynes Hospital. It was another bright and fairly sunny day so it seemed a sensible idea to again walk, avoiding having to park the car.  We got to the Macmillan unit far too early. We saw the colorectal nurse we've seen on many occasions. Infact she was there at the time of Carol's original diagnosis but we haven't seen her that many times over the past year or so. Then we were called in to see the consultant. We had been told that things were going well, that the chemotherapy was successful, that the tumors were shrinking considerably. We had been told that Carol was to have two operations, one in Milton Keynes to deal with the lower bowel tumors and then she would go to Oxford for the liver operation and that some radiotherapy would be used. That was what we were expecting when we went to the Churchill in Oxford a few weeks ago. But when Carol mentioned all this on Friday she was told that they had never promised an use of an operation. We are beginning to get very conflicting responses from both Oxford and Milton Keynes. Carol was told that she needed to have a P.E.T. can in Oxford, and that they had attempted to ring her during the week but couldn't get through, hence the cancer coordinator who rang the other day. She had been told that Oxford wanted the scan done before her next Chemotherapy cycle (which will be the final, twelfth, one, starting this Tuesday.) before they can go ahead with the liver operation. But then the consultant in Milton Keynes said he knew nothing about this. We are going to Oxford on Monday, having got the scan appointment there at about 3.30 in the afternoon. (On Monday morning Carol has to go to the Milton Keynes oncology department as usual to have another blood test to check that she can continue with chemotherapy on Tuesday.) So you can see why we are so confused as to what is actually going on and what the next stage of treatment will be. I would say that both sides need to sort out any communication issues which is what is causing all the confusion. We spoke to a nurse who has now gone out of her way to attempt to find out what is going on and we will have a meeting with the lead consultant who will be able to rectify any confusion which should put our minds at rest. Unfortunately after the consultant's meeting on Friday, we left feeling somewhat negative about things, which didn't exactly help matters.

Friday, June 15, 2018

A Day Out To Waterperry

Another warm, sunny and pleasant day yesterday (Wednesday). We thought it a good enough excuse to get out. We thought of places to go to, and decided we wanted somewhere green and pleasant, possibly a garden. We have a choice of several places, but not too far to drive. We hit on Waterperry Gardens, somewhere we've visited on a couple of occasions. We set up the satnav, but for some reason the thing insisted on taking us through Bletchley and not immediately along Standing Way and out towards Buckingham. It would have been more normal to take that route, but the thing insisted on the other route out of Milton Keynes.

We got to Waterperry at about 10.45. The place was busy, with the carpark nearer the entrance virtually full to overflowing and we had to park in a newer section near the farm shop, which I don't remember being there the last time we visited. I don't think they had a farm shop when we were last there, so I presume it had been built and opened since our last visit to Waterperry. We had to wait when a coach arrived. There were several more parked. It was from Milton Keynes. Ironic that we'd driven all that way when we could have gone on a coach and saved on all the stress of driving to get there. Perhaps the next time we could go on a coach, so it will be worth investigating for the future.

The was place absolutely heaving with people. Mostly 'of a certain age.' It was as well we arrived when we did. We paid to go in the garden. I don't remember us paying when we visited the first time, but I know we didn't the last time. It was worth it. People dawdling about the place. It was really nice to sit and just enjoy the quiet, just the sound of birds singing and the breeze in the tree-tops. Something soothing and relaxing about a garden, and in particular one that is so well cared for. It was certainly at it's best. Also, the smells and sights were really soothing. Necessary since we've spent so many hours in N.H.S. units over the last year or so.

We were in need of refreshment so we went into the café. The place was gradually filling up with those people who'd arrived earlier on the coaches, along with a gang of middle aged men dressed in garish biking gear. I had a tomato and cheese sandwich and Carol had a baked potato with baked beans. I bought a bottle of apple juice which we drank with our food and it has to be one of the best apple juice I've tasted. It was from Waterperry apples and very sharp and not tampered with in any way as some apple juice is when you buy it from a supermarket, pure juice, no additives or watered down or from concentrate. We took the bottle with the remainder of the juice home with us when we left.

From the café we went into the plant sales area as Carol was keen to purchase a plant for our garden, or what passes of a garden. She chose a dahlia in a pot.

So we wended our way back to our car and drove home. A pleasant morning spent.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Annoying Packaging

Some packaging that products come in is incredibly difficult to open. Carol has Lucozade Sport drinks which come in plastic bottles that have a cap that would break your finger nails if you try to open them. I found the only way to get into them is to use the space in the angle of a door and hold the bottle at an angle and slowly shut the door until it catches on the bottle cap and use the door as a sort of pincher. It works perfectly, but why make these bottles like this. Unfortunately these bottles are made of plastic. Can they be recycled? I doubt it. While I'm on the subject of plastic, what are manufacturers going to use to replace it? Will someone invent biodegradable plastic which can be composted or breaks down in the earth? Without any harmful residues?

I've mentioned the difficulty of opening those bottles that liquid soap comes in. You're supposed to twist the spout and press down or something, but I can never get it to open.

We have several magazine subscriptions. I have BBC History Magazine. They come through the post, wrapped in plastic (again, plastic.) They are notoriously difficult to open. There's no 'pull tab.' You can always tear the wrapping, but then there is the possibility of damaging the magazine within. The only way to open is to cut with a knife or use a pair of scissors. Of course your don't want the magazine to be either damaged or to come out of the packaging, but why not make it with a tab to pull?

Cheese comes in plastic. That is, the presliced variety. Some comes in a nifty packet which you can re-close with a sort of plastic zip, but to gain access you have to cut along the top edge, not always easy, especially with a knife. Scissors are best and then to re-seal you press together the two edges of the 'zip.' It does work and keeps the cheese within fresh.

Why do those plastic packs of butter and margarine have that horrible bit of paper directly inside the lid? What is it's purpose? I generally discard it as soon as I open a fresh pack. It really serves no real purpose.

I cannot think of any further instances of annoying packaging, but I'm almost certain that there are more, so no doubt I will mention them in future blog posts.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Current Reading and Viewing

I'm currently reading 'The Story of Lucy Gault' by William Trevor. I studied another of his books for G.C.E. 'O'Level English Literature over 30 years ago. In fact it was the last year of G.C.E. 'O' Levels before they became G.C.S.E. The book was 'The Children of Dynmouth.' It's a good novel, I think I'll have to reread it. I have a volume of his short stories. I occasionally dip into it if I have nothing else to read (which is rarer, as I always have a stack of books to read. Not just novels, but also history books. Both Carol and I read a great deal and if we're passing either branches of Waterstone's in Milton Keynes shopping centre, it takes all our effort to not enter and browse and then come out laden with a load of books. Those tables they have near the entrance with 'Buy one, get one half price' or even 'Buy two, get one free' are far too tempting. We probably have more books than most people, also, more than we really have space for. Why cares? Reading is good for you. Expands your vocabulary, you learn something (generally) and it's often better than cinema or television. Adaptations of books as films or television series don't always meet expectations. They often fiddle around with plots and characters. ITV's series 'The Durrell's is good up to a point, but the latest series, which ended a few weeks ago, has veered off the track, away from the original Gerald Durrell books to such an extent I don't really recognise it. They have expanded the whole thing, no doubt so that they can extract as much as they can from the original material so as to allow more storylines and so develop as many series as possible.

We've had a good batch of television dramas on all channels. I've mentioned 'The Woman In White' in an earlier post. Then there's been 'A Very English Scandal,' about the Jeremy Thorpe scandal of the 1970's. Extremely well done. Hugh Grant showing a very different side to his acting ability from his usual 'floppy-haired' persona. Make-up and costume very convincing and no doubt he'll be in the running for a Best Actor award when the BAFTA nominations are announced.

We're not 'Poldark' fans. We've never seen it, so it's no good writing about something we haven't seen. Probably very good, but I for one am not a great fan of historic fiction, so a series based on such a series of novels doesn't really appeal.

'Car Share,' the comedy series written, directed and performed by Peter Kay has been a great success on BBC1. I for one have really enjoyed it. It's such a simple idea for comedy. A manager of a supermarket drives to and from work and the company he works for sets up a car-sharing scheme and the manager (played by Kay) takes an employee called Kayleigh (Sian Gibson), to work and then takes her home each day. Nothing like it has been attempted before. They chat as they travel. Very little happens, but it's done so well you can't fail to find the characters likeable. They build up a very close relationship. We never see their work-place. We hear about others they work with, but never get to meet them. Technically it must have been extremely difficult to film inside a car. It seems so natural. This simple show has taken traditional sitcom to new heights. There's no audience on the soundtrack. It doesn't need one. It's not 'laugh out loud' comedy. It doesn't need to be. It's about a really mundane subject, a lot like so much comedy, for example, the stuff the late great Victoria Wood wrote and performed. It's the sort of subject-matter we can all identify with, the every-day things that we all go through, the basics of life, getting to and from work. Think of what Alan Bennett wrote about. I remember with great affection his wonderful television plays. One-offs which we don't get anymore, unless you think of the daytime drama series which has run for several seasons on BBC1 at 2.15 during the winter months called 'Moving On.' There have been very few episodes of 'Car Share.' Much the same amount as 'Fawlty Towers.' Only two series and 12 episodes. It seems like there must have been more. It didn't over-stay it's welcome and then just limp along. Episode well-written and acted. So with 'Car Share.' The BBC even had the first series on iPlayer so you could watch the series in it's entirety if you so desired. I personally can't see the attraction of 'binge viewing.' If you wait for each weekly episode, as we would have done in the early days of television, it would be like enjoying something, savouring each episode as it was aired. Before we had V.H.S. cassette recorders, and the only way you could see something was when it was broadcast.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

An Ordinary Couple of Days

 We've been attempting to clear some of the untidy weeds and long grass at the bottom of the garden. Yesterday fairly early on I continued with cutting back the brambles and weeds around the shed (such as it is. Totally derelict. You can't get into it as the door is completely off it's hinges.) The grass and other weeds can be trimmed back once the brambles and other tough growth is removed, otherwise when you use the trimmer it will break the blade.) Carol gave me a hand, but it was getting really quite hot so we gave it a rest and will continue. The job is best done in stages, perhaps 10-15 minutes at a time. I just hope the weather remains fine so we can get the job done. No good attempting to do this work when it's wet.

On Friday Carol got a telephone call from the nurse/coordinator at Milton Keynes Hospital, saying that Oxford Churchill Hospital had been trying to contact her. No doubt this would be when we were at Oncology, as we were there on Monday for her blood test, Tuesday for chemotherapy and then on Thursday to have the pump removed. We should have taken one or other of our mobiles with us, but we don't always carry them around with us. We neither of us are tied permanently to such technology as most people are. Just another item to carry around. When we go to oncology we take a bag of things to keep us occupied for the couple of hours we were there. On Tuesday we were at the hospital for at least five hours. Books, our Kindles, and other items such as sweets and my wallet to pay in the Friends' shop. The telephone call was to call to set up a P.E.T. scan at Churchill. The doctors want her to have this scan before the next chemotherapy cycle. It took several attempts to actually get through to the department to speak to the secretary who books such appointments. On first attempting to get through Carol just got a recorded voice, saying 'I'm on leave but will be back at my desk on Monday,' But she wasn't there, and the same recorded message could be heard. It took at least thee attempts to actually get through to speak to this person and an appointment was made for this Monday afternoon. So we will be going to oncology at Milton Keynes Hospital at around 9 o'clock first for her usual blood test and then we'll drive to Oxford, giving us enough time to get to the hospital and park the car and then get to the imaging department for the scan. But because it's relatively late, and it takes around two hours, we're not likely to get home until past 7 o'clock in the evening. 

So, once the scan is done and the final chemotherapy cycle is complete, another few boxes are ticked off and Carol will be ready and waiting to get conformation of dates for the two operations she will have to remove the remnants of the cancer so this horrible period of our lives can be completed and we can get our lives hack on track.

Friday, June 08, 2018

Oncology Error

For some reason or other, Carol didn't have an appointment arranged to have the pump removed, which she has as part of each chemotherapy cycle. Usually which ever nurse is in charge of her care when she's in the oncology unit arranges the appointments and writes them in the book she has which she takes to all her appointments. Probably it was forgotten because the staff are so busy. It would be easily done. I suggested we ring up and find out what time was on the system at the oncology department. Carol said we should just turn up, but it wasn't such a good idea because we could just find we sit and wait for a long time otherwise. The first number I rang was to get a bleep number, but when the operator answered I was told it was for emergencies only, so if so, why was it in the book I was given? Then I rang the direct line into the department and the lady who answered couldn't find Carol on the system, so it would appear we would have wasted our time without Carol being on the system. The receptionist said she'd speak to another nurse and then ring back. Which she did within the hour, by which time it was around midday. We could go immediately. Which we did. Of course, there were one or two things necessary before leaving in the car, such as Carol getting dressed.

Parking wasn't a problem, fortunately and the oncology department was almost deserted. The nurse who dealt with Carol said that when she'd come to work that morning it was difficult to park. Even the brand new multi-storey carpark which has just been opened especially for staff to park their cars was full to bursting. It's what you would expect, no sooner there's a new place to park then it's going to be full and then there's nowhere else to park. You would imagine the opposite, but that's not the case. Crazy. This same nurse was telling us how her husband had an accident and fell down stairs and broke his arm. He had to go to Accident and Emergency. It sounded like a really horrible accident. Seems amazing that you would break your arm.

I was speaking to another patient in the oncology department this morning and he was telling me that a Conservative MP, Robert Halfon, Member for Harlow, has introduced a Bill to scrap hospital parking charges. I am so glad that someone in Parliament has thought this important to have these wretched charges removed. Not for just patients, but it seems amazing that the staff who run N.H.S. hospitals have to pay to park their cars for work. We don't have to pay, and get our parking tickets clipped in the Macmillan unit at Milton Keynes Hospital which means wee don't have to pay. Although it does annoy me that usually the barrier at the exit of the carpark is usually raised which means you can leave without having to put a ticket in the machine which raises the barrier. I shall follow the progress of this piece of legislation with interest and will report on it here.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Eleventh Chemotherapy Cycle

When we go out we usually have to leave Alfie behind. Going to the oncology department at Milton Keynes Hospital, for example, we obviously can't take a small dog, for hygiene reasons, although we'd love to take him and I'm sure the other patients would love him and he'd be spoilt rotten. He usually stays in the kitchen, where he has his nice warm bed, some food and water and it's generally quite pleasant for him. Sometimes, if I say 'kitchen' to him he goes all pathetic, ears laid back with his tail between his legs. I think tone of voice could suggest that he's done something wrong, even when he hasn't. If I say this, he sometimes forgets where the kitchen is and runs upstairs to our bedroom. Well, you can't blame him for preferring to lay on our nice comfortable bed to being in the kitchen. But yesterday morning, when we were about to leave the house for the hospital, I attempted to get him into the kitchen. You have to have the door into the front hall shut, and get him into the kitchen from the lounge through the door from the lounge. But he wouldn't comply. He usually goes in there without any fuss and bother. But he'd picked up fairly early on that we were going out and leaving him. He goes into the trembling-dog mode, all pathetic and really crazy. I had to attempt to open the kitchen door and just put him through, but he just wouldn't stay, with as much effort as he could, he rushed back through into the lounge. For such a small dog he has quite a lot of strength, surprisingly, so we decided to leave him to it and have the door between the lounge and the kitchen left open so be could wander about safely when we were out, so at least he had food and water and a choice of either laying on the sofa or using his own bed in the kitchen.

So, yesterday Carol started her eleventh chemotherapy cycle. Just one more to go and all twelve will have been completed. We got to the oncology unit far too early. We were due there at about 11.30, but as there can be a real problem with parking we got there about an hour too early and, fortunately, we were able to park quite easily. There were several vacant spaces. We went to the Friend's shop which is near the restaurant, and bought sandwiches, drinks and crisps so we had something to eat at lunch-time.  It was really warm in the oncology department. I know cancer patients need to be warm because the chemotherapy they have to undergo can have the effect of making heat and cold quite unbearable. This was particularly evident over the winter months as Carol had to wear gloves and a scarf, usually over her mouth when we went outside. But it's quite warm at the moment and the doors and windows were open in the department when we arrived but had to be closed as one patient, a fairly elderly lady, insisted on having them closed. A bit unfair on the rest of those in the department.

Today (Wednesday) I've spent some time cutting the grass with the new cordless grass trimmer (as mentioned in an earlier post.) I'm having to deal with a lot of brambles growing up near the fence to the left, because the trimmer isn't powerful enough to cut these branches. It's good at cutting the grass, though, and from my experience of using a Strimmer or at least a cutter that uses fishing line, it's more efficient and I haven't had to stop to deal with the cutting blade (similar to that which is in the mower we have.) With trimmers with fishing line in them, this line tends to brake very frequently and you have to stop and deal with it, pulling out the line before continuing with the job in hand.

This week I'm doing an on-line course through something called 'Futurelearn.' It's called 'Shakespeare: Print and Performance.' It's a course run by King's College, London in association with the British Library and Shakespeare's Globe. I've done several of these courses before, an earlier one on Shakespeare called 'Shakespeare and His World' and another about Hadrian's Wall. Most of these courses are free, but they've started to keep them free for the duration of the course, but then you need to pay to continue to have access after this period. There are video 'lectures' on various topics as well as downloadable material which you can print out as well as points where you can join in discussions and make comments on various topics. A really interesting course as it covers two subjects which I have an interest in, Shakespeare and history. Learning a lot of new stuff about Shakespeare I didn't know about before as well as about the history of Tudor theatre. I never realised until doing this course that there were so many theatres in and around London at this time, because you only seem to know about The Globe Theatre when studying Shakespeare.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Alfie Hurt and More Oncology Problems

Alfie has hurt himself. He's currently limping around the house. We think he hurt himself when he jumped off the bed. On Sunday night he came downstairs and slept in his bed. It's in the corner of the kitchen by the patio doors into the garden. Perhaps he feels safe and secure in there, it's virtually draft-free. He's currently sleeping on the sofa in the lounge (Sunday, 6 20 a.m.) I'm not exactly sure what he's done to himself, but I think he's twisted his back or his hip. He keeps on limping and finds it difficult to jump on the sofa and has to be lifted on. Even coming up the step into the house through the patio doors from the garden seems a bit of a struggle. He's found it almost impossible to get on our bed and has to be lifted up. When we've taken him out for a walk he runs off like a little hare, so perhaps it's that which has sparked this off. I put some of the remaining liquid ibuprofen in his food last night, left over from when we went to the vet a few weeks ago. I think it might be easing the discomfort for him.

We've been to the oncology department this morning as Carol had to have blood taken to be tested before the next chemotherapy cycle could begin. As the weather was fine we walked. It saves on the stress of finding a parking space and it's no more than ten minutes stroll. On arrival in the department it was really warm. Infact it's been quite humid for the past couple of days. They had to open the windows and the door onto the garden area to cool the place down. There were further problems with the compute system the nurses use to check in patients and input data so we had to wait quite a while before Carol was seen. I feel sorry for the staff having to deal with this new computer system which seems to cause so many problems. They have enough stress in that department, what with staff shortages and it seems to hold up patients' treatments because they can't access the new system. If it's like this in oncology, no doubt it's the same throughout the whole hospital.

The chemotherapy cycle will presumably go ahead as planned as we didn't get a telephone call to say it couldn't go ahead which has happened on two occasions. They usually call between 5-6 p.m., once they get the blood test results back. We don't have to be at the oncology department until around 11.30 this morning (Tuesday.) Let's just hope we manage to find a parking space when we arrive at the hospital and it's close to the oncology department.

Sunday, June 03, 2018

Visitors and Sunshine

Yesterday morning (Friday) Carol's friend Pauline visited. She's another science teacher and works with Carol in the science department at Milton Keynes Academy. She left to work at another school but returned to work at the Academy. She visited Carol several times when she was in hospital. She bought Carol a lovely present of Clarins moisture-rich body lotion. She was telling us about how the fish that lived in her pond in her garden have been eaten by some strange night visitor, possibly a heron. They found evidence of something that must have been the culprit, because remains of some of the fish were left beside the pond and there was a splashing about in the water at around 2 a.m. one night. Neither Pauline or her husband or son have found out what animal it was took the fish. Possibly a fox or even a heron.

It's been sunny for the last couple of days. I did two loads of washing and couldn't decide whether to put it out on the line in the garden, but put one load on the airer in the kitchen. The second load went out in the garden, at the time that Pauline arrived and it was virtually dry within two hours.

We'd contemplated whether we should buy a new mower, or perhaps a Strimmer. The grass has got so long that the mower would struggle to cut it as it's got too long, basically because of the 'on/off' weather, one day it rains, then it's sunny. It's absolutely hopeless trying to cut it when it's wet. It's hard work as it is. We then thought a Strimmer or at least one of these hand-held gadgets that has a spinning fishing line in it might perhaps be easier, and after it's cut down to a reasonable length, use the mower to cut it even shorter.We went to Bunnings (which used to be Homebase) at Winter Hill (where we bought some plant pots a few weeks ago.) We looked at several machines, including cordless models. We ended up buying one which doesn't use fishing line, but has a cutting blade similar to the Qualcast mower we already have. It's cordless and requires charging for about an hour, and, having put it together successfully, and waited for the battery to charge fully, gave it a try-out. It takes some getting used to, but it turns out to be far easier than at first thought, although I didn't manage to complete the whole area of grass (I still refuse to term it a 'lawn.') The machine cost a good deal more than we'd anticipated, but if it does it's job successfully it's worth it. It's an Ozito, a brand I've never heard of before. Because it's cordless, it means you don't have to bother with the confounded power cable, plugging it into the reel of cable, you just pick it up and carry it out and get on with the job and don't have to think about the cable getting in the way all the time.

From Bunnings we went to Morrisons, which is just over the road near the railway station. Carol was determined to get a coffee to drink. As Morrison's has a café it seemed reasonable to go there to have the aforementioned coffee. I sat at a table and Carol went to queue for the coffee. She'd wanted a latte but she soon returned to me at the table empty-handed. It turned out that she couldn't have the latte after all as the machine that made the drinks was out of order. We've been to Morrison's café before and there is always a problem, a long queue which takes ages to move, or they've run out of something or other. What is it with these places? Don't they want customers? All they are managing to do is annoy their prospective customers who will merely go elsewhere for refreshment. 

Friday, June 01, 2018

Still More Wet Weather

It's been a really miserable week. Carol's between chemotherapy cycles (only two more to go!) and we had hoped to get out for at least one day, hopefully to Whipsnade. But we certainly don't want to go if it's wet and windy. Not the best place to go, up on Dunstable Downs, when it's raining.

I mentioned that Alfie wasn't well yesterday evening. He seemed better after I'd given him the ibuprofen. This morning I was downstairs on my own in the lounge when he came downstairs to find me. He seemed in real discomfort. He had a sort of pinched look, his ears laid back. He came to sit on my knee. He has a habit of doing this, a really affectionate little dog. Then he jumped down on the floor and was immediately sick on the rug. Not a problem, but it occurred to me that he might have got some sort of stomach ache or similar. He seems to have been fine for the rest of the day, eventually eating his dinner as usual and the playing with the Comic Relief ball.

We've had a further dose of thunder and a rain storm, but it didn't seem to develop into anything, unfortunately, but it now means that we can't get the grass cut. It will need doing sooner or later as it's getting too long for our poor little mower to get through and it's now seeding which isn't a good sign.

It's now Friday morning and it's again been a wet night. No sign yet of it drying out so we can get the grass cut. It'll soon be so long Alfie will get lost when he goes into the garden. 'Garden' is a somewhat misnomer if ever there was one. The grass can certainly not be termed a 'lawn.'

When we were out yesterday, when we went into the centre of Milton Keynes, we saw workmen filling in potholes. They were using a machine that appeared to put some sort of filling into these holes in the road, with a sort of hose-type thing on the back of a large lorry and then the workmen used a machine that flattened this material and so patched up the holes. I'm not so sure how effective this will be as a long lasting solution. I just hope they manage to fill plenty of these potholes before winter when ice, damp and the mere effect of traffic moving across them will prevent them coming apart and making even more work to repair them.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Even More Rain

This is beginning to get a bit repetitive, but looking out of the window into the space which purports to be a garden (!), it's raining. It's raining as I type this, at 6.40 a.m. And it doesn't look as if it's going to stop any day soon.

Shelley and Gary, our neighbours, have given us their old garden swing. They were clearing out, and it would have been taken to be dumped at the tidy-tip. No doubt it would have been re-cycled in some way or other, but we were offered it. It was passed over the fence and is now ensconced in the newly-barked (!) section of the garden near the lounge window. I had the foresight to bring the padded seat into the house as I didn't want it to get wet when it rained, which it has done for the past couple of days. Gary has offered to come round and cut the grass with his far more powerful mower, but, as yet, due to the rain, he hasn't been able to. The grass is getting far too long for our poor little mower to get through it. Unfortunately, some of the grass is seeding and if it doesn't get cut soon will be virtually impossible to mow.

I got my hair cut yesterday morning. I know, exciting, but it was in real need of a trim. The last time I had it cut was in February and I usually have it cut every four to six weeks. There was no point going to Monkston Park, because the barbers there has closed down, so, for a change, I decided to go to the barbers in the Food Centre near the Milton Keynes shopping centre. Fortunately I had the sense to get there just as they were opening up, so I didn't have to wait too long. It's no good letting my hair get too long before I get it cut and most certainly won't wait so long before I next have it done.

It's turned out really hot and clammy so I expect we'll have a further downpour before the night's out.

Alfie hasn't been feeling himself this afternoon. Just not behaving in his usual way, with his ears laid back, which usually indicates that he's not feeling well. Hw sat on my knee and then moved over to Carol. He hasn't been moving around very well, so we suspect it might be his joints, possibly his back hip joint. Well, he is 11 years old, or will be in August. I gave him some of the ibuprofen liquid we had left over when he went to the vet's. I mixed it in with his dinner and now he seems quite happy, moving about as normal and behaving as he normally does.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Another Stormy Night

Just when we thought we'd got over the previous night's thunder storm, we had an almost exact repeat of storms last night. The sky went a strange colour, with the sun sort of diffused a yellowish tint and then the rain began, with a couple of thunder claps which sounded like bombs being set off which almost made us jump out of our skins and Alfie started barking. We almost wandered whether anything had been hit, it was so loud, but nothing was, thankfully.  Then the rain fell in such intensity it was like someone turning on a power-shower, and it seemed to go on for an extremely long time. You could barely see across the garden when I peered out of the bedroom window. The thunder rolled around and we thought it had gone away, but about twenty minutes it all started up again, a sort of repeat of the earlier storm. In all the whole storm sequence seemed to go on for several hours, with the rain falling heavily. This morning I looked out of the kitchen window to see what sort of damage there was and the road outside was completely dry. I was expecting there to be large puddles, but nothing. Carol said that when she'd looked during the storm there was quite a torrent of water flowing past. At one point it rained so hard that we though the windows had blown open at the front of the house, especially in the bathroom, but it was just the rain rattling the glass. As I wrote this (at 1.35 p.m.) the sun is out, although it's not that warm, although it is quite clammy. We just hope we don't get a further bout of storms tonight.

Only a short blog post, but there's not much else to report, although we did drive to Frost's in Woburn Sands to have coffee. We got there really early and as a result the carpark was virtually empty.