Humour, Medical

NHS’s famously flexible workforce

When I was a houseman my legs were blebbed and bubbled by the bites of the fleas from the feral cats that lived within the hospital grounds — but things have moved on.

Hospital cats are now more professional — they have come in from the cold, are properly trained and equipped, have regular health checks and probably mandatory immunisations (long before the other staff!)

The thing about cats is that you cannot exclude them if they don’t want to be excluded and some cats just have a vocation! So the NHS works with them, not against them.

Somewhere in Britain, probably everywhere in Britain, Buster here (or a cat like him) guards the confidential waste in the office of the emergency department. He keeps his wits about him as he dissipates the stress of staff, his mouth shut, the perfect confidential mentor and counsellor but as a member of the occupational health psychiatric team, as you can see, he does have his own panic button.

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Health and safety, Humour, lifestyle

One of those days!

Putting on my glasses while leaving the bedroom I noticed a spec on the lens, thus distracted, I walked into the low beam which floored me, moaning and clutching my forehead.

I struggled downstairs clutching my re-booted head which remembered that I had not checked the freezer since I had switched it on several days ago in such bright sunshine that I could not see the little indicator lights. Never mind, I had thought, loading it with frozen fish, scallops, squid and prawns — I’ll check it when it gets dark! It has been dark on and off several times since but today it is bright again so, ever adaptable, I open the door to feel how cold it is. I am knocked back a second time this morning , this time by the disgusting smell of corruption — of rotting flesh — wasted seafood — green slime drips out onto the floor. I pause and experience a wave of sympathy for the poor fishermen whose produce rotted in Calais because of the wrong paperwork, then start lobbing out my lovely fish as Bill retires gagging.

Back to basics, I pull out the freezer and trace the wire to a plug that I had forgotten in a cupboard I don’t use and switch it on — all the little lights sparkle into life — well at least the freezer works but there is another whiff. In that cupboard with the disused wedding presents from the one before last there are signs of mice — that distinctive musty smell (Mus musculus) and tell-tail chocolate sprinkles — really disappointing, as I had thought we were rid of them.

So I set to — washing out the freezer, the cupboard and the floor — I set the mouse traps by the likely looking hole, a job I hate, then I rise with a sense of completion and crack my head on the overhanging work-surface, sending me reeling a second time and wondering what new horrors will be jarred to the forefront of my mind.

Just another day at the end of the rainbow!

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Humour, Medical, Thoughtful

Padded knickers extending lifespan!

I read somewhere that time accelerates as you age. This is my impression and may be because as you get older you do fewer new, memorable things. Memorable things that you do for the first time populate the time-scape and as you look back, if there aren’t many it seems as if the time has flown by. I don’t suppose it matters much as it’s all just a trick of the memory but it’s good to have things to look back on and one of the reasons I blog.

There was a time I did something new almost every day but that’s not so easy now with all the restrictions. Last week I bought Saville oranges for the first time and yesterday I made marmalade for the first time and got my first sugar burn!

When we are next in Peterborough I am going to have a go on my daughter’s new adult scooter (she uses it to get to work at the hospital avoiding parking and public transport) — it’s manual like the ones we had as kids but bigger — I used to love my scooter! This will require the manufacture of padded knickers — the only proved way to avoid fractured femurs (I should have had them years ago) and I will certainly need them in Kettering when I try the new grown-up motorized scooters that whizz up and down the Headlands with some of the youngest 17 year olds (with driver’s licenses) that I’ve ever seen. Before I can do that I’ll have to get my first i-phone (that’s how you mobilize the scooter) and waylay a school-boy to help me (I’ve done that before).

A friend of mine (I won’t identify him any more specifically — you’ll see why) likes to go to work each day using a different mode of transport, it was easy to begin with, especially as they live on a waterway (that narrows identification down a bit). Car, bicycle, skate board, paddle board, kayak, walking, running along the beach… As time goes on finding new ways gets harder — swimming, sailing… Running over the dunes? (But that’s really just running). Running over the dunes naked! He could do them all again naked even if it does mean going early when it is quiet. So if you knew who it was and where to go you could see him at 5:30 am riding a child’s peddle-cycle, stark naked, along the sea-wall.

Electric Scooters for Rent by Wuestenigel (CC BY 2.0) Object of my desire!

When you see me streaking down the Headlands in nothing but my padded knickers you will know that I too am running out of new things to do.

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animal psychology, Humour

The Septic Geranium and Trans Lamb

A cade lamb, orphaned at birth and bought up by a silly woman and a clever dog will not be like other sheep. Aby has had her portrait painted, has been photographed for magazines (not Hello! but she was the centerfold for Border Life). Basically she is a celebrity — the ovine equivalent (in my mind anyway) of Joan Collins and also looking very good for her age.

Yesterday I found what I thought was a calf halter in the shed and I used it to tie a great sheath of brushwood to the wheelbarrow so that I could overload it like a Greek donkey and wobble to our “30 meter heavy duty compost heap” — our special habitat in the woodland. This is a safe haven for dozing hedgehogs, nesting wrens and the innumerable wood moulds and fungi that live in our little piece of temperate rain forest. Aby came with me for the walk.

On they way back I wondered if Aby was too old to be halter trained — she does after all identify as a cross between a dog and a human (a category that EIDCymru refuse to recognize on their annual sheep and goat inventory). As usual she was walking to heel. We stopped and I picked up the halter from the barrow and threaded it into a noose configuration — simple. Aby looked interested — lifting her head up to look at the circle of rope that I held in front of her. Without thinking I just slipped it over her head! She was pleased with this new award and set off to show it to Tex, her new companion with me still attached to the other end. As she ploughed on through the mud I was left behind — I tugged on the rope to demonstrate the principle of the process. The noose (for that is what it was — not a halter) tightened, she pulled harder. Not wanting to hang her, I let go! She headed up the hill. Her deadly pendant dragging in the mud and looking for something to grab hold of so that it could strangle poor Aby.

I gave chase — I grabbed — I missed — I grabbed again (this is fun) — I caught it as it circled her neck — she accelerated and swerved — I lost my footing and described a wide arc landing on my back in the mud (I thought “fractured femur — hospital — covid” but I didn’t let go) I was not in pain. Aby was no longer pulling. She was lying on her back with her feet in the air. What a piece of luck — she was caste — immobilized by that primitive quirk of sheep neurology whereby the do not work when they are upside down. I had time to pull myself together and remove her rope noose.

Our relationship may take longer to sort out — she stomped off feeling humiliated and totally let down and has been firing withering looks at me ever since. Like the car that rolls and has a dent on every panel, I was wet and mudded on every surface.

Thinks: must get a proper halter!

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Birds, Humour

The Curious Incident of the Bird in the Night-time

1 am awoken from deep sleep by Magpie calling from very nearby.

“That’s odd!”

Stupor ensues.

“Owls!” I hear from the edge of perception.

Then there is a clomping down the stair, crash, expletive, flash of light and the sound of a something heavy being moved.

Then I hear it: “Qweeik! Qweeik!” Very loud and very near. There is a chorus of twit-toowooing from all around the rim of the bowl of hills in which we are presently contained. Every urgent, insistent queeik answered by a reassuring, low pitched owly sound from a different direction and each queeik parried by the rattling panic of a magpie.

Now my eyes are open and there is wild illumination from outside the house. Trees flash on and off like Christmas lights; I wonder about hallucinations in confinement — hypnogogic perhaps. Better go with the flow — I rise and grab a dressing gown, descend the stairs in darkness (mustn’t alert whatever it is — that’s odd someones moved the toolbox — I’ve got good night vision). The front door is wide open — I follow the flashes.

The qweeiking and corvid football rattling are unabated and can now be localized to the tall leylandii on the bank just above the house below which a man in a dressing gown and carpet slippers is scanning the tops of the aforementioned trees with the beam of a powerful flashlight.

The sky is clear, crossed by a shooting star. The moon is bright but still quite new so the stars are not so dulled by the moonlight. “Watch out!” calls the man who is hearteningly familiar, “Watch where you step!”

Looking down, there is a middle sized black and white bird sitting at my feet, looking up at me but not moving.

“He’s petrified!”

Now there is a moral dilemma. Farmers hate magpies, I’m not keen on them — they raid nests, eat loads of fledglings, do unspeakable things to defenseless, sick and trapped creatures and desecrate the bodies of the dead (true, they don’t drive to County Durham).

In the interest of balance — magpie pauses after grooming sheep.

Now the tables are turned: Magpie has met its match. Its nest is under attack by Tawny Owl — female tawny owl egged on (sorry) by male members of her family from a distance (typical) and we feel a wave of sympathy for the magpie mum whose only just fledged baby has parachuted onto the patio and into our protection.

First thing next morning there are no feathers on the ground and later an adult magpie is seen feeding a fledgling in the big pine tree at the other end of the house near to where the baby bird had landed the night before while the other parent feeds its sibling in the leylandii.

Tawny Owl (Strix aluco) by Martin Mecnarowski (CC BY_SA 3.0)

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Humour, Thoughtful

First Ten Ages of Woman

from the Library of Congress photographed by Stuart Rankin(CC BY-NC 2.0) Flickr

Life has chapters but someone else is turning the pages — here’s a brief index!

1 – the bit you can’t remember but you’ve seen it in photographs.

2 – Idyllic childhood gradually eroded by the realization that all is not 100% even in your Garden of Eden. Adults not always all they are cracked up to be! Actually — the sooner you learn this the better.

3 – Teens — driven by so many peculiar drives and preoccupations: BOYS/ girls/ secretions and changes/ dandruff/ dancing/ BOYS/ men/ exams/ driving lessons/ BOYS/ getting drunk/ stoned(not me!)/ paranoid/ poetical/ no money/ weight gain/ weight loss. Generally not very mindful of the bigger picture but navigating that choppy sea with friends in the same boat.

Teenagers by Kamyar Adl (CC BY 2.0) Flickr

4 – (Optional) Suddenly serious about relationships, politics and career (not necessarily in that order). Get qualified/ get married/ read the papers/ vote etc.

5 – Motherhood and child rearing (Optional) — struggling to keep head above water, multitasking, juggling multiple balls in the air (marriage/ finances/ clean socks/ hair cuts/ children/ job/ MOT/ tax returns/ cleaning out the rabbit/ walking the dog/ visiting Granny) feeling guilty about whichever one is about to drop. “Mummy, the cat’s had kittens and they are in my bed! Why’s my bed wet?”

6 — Dropping a ball (inevitable) — Divorce/ Burn out/ Son sets fire to the house/ teenage daughter pregnant (not ours)/ serious illness in the family/ menopause (that was quite a relief actually). Pretty well anything that can go wrong will go wrong and not just for bad people!

7 – Decline — coasting towards retirement with 2nd husband (if you are lucky) — is the work more demanding or are you just getting older? Science, technology and systems generally are starting to evolve more quickly than you seem to adapt. Spend a lot of time shouting at computers, often scratch the car and find it’s always later than you think!

An angry woman: 16th C. misericord, the Collegiate Church of Notre-Dame (Collégiale Notre-Dame), Le Puy-Notre-Dame, Anjou, France

8 — Retirement — Yippee! However did you find time to go to work. Do new things and find you are not as stupid as you thought.

9 — Grandparent and Health Service User — endless peer group discussions about eyesight/ teeth/ bowel screening/ breast screening (Ouch!)/ stents/ knee replacements/ erectile dysfunction/ prostate surgery and how you can’t do anything with your hair since your last chemo! All this is rather unwelcome but is punctuated by delightful visits from little kids that remind you of yourself (and sometimes of your X-husband) and of what a wonderful life it really is.

10 — Widowhood — sudden, though always half-expected because no-one can expect to be happy forever and you did know he was ill although he pretended not to be. Now your children (who are suddenly definitely grown-up) worry (and probably moan) about you at least as much as you do about them. You keep wondering why people are being so nice to you, then you remember. Suddenly you can do whatever you want although you don’t really want but you do it anyway — yesterday I climbed a mountain with a group to look at historical sites, one of those Welsh mountains that are really a huge hill. I was interested in the archeology, the others seemed to be serious, serial walkers — there was talk of Kilimanjaro! It was very cold and steep and I got extremely short of breath (probably not the altitude) and hobbled a good deal on the way down but I walked 8 miles and didn’t die. I’ll tell you about it another day.

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Humour, Local History, Wales

Under Fire!

The first of February was the last day of the season for shooting pheasants in the United Kingdom and presumably the last day for taking pot-shots at innocent little ladies walking in the woods which is what my friend and I were doing that day.

Hoods up against the sharp wind, we leaned on our stout sticks and felt our way through the frozen puddles along the bridal track from Bwlch y Ffridd to Gregynog Hall — so muffled were we that we could have passed for the ghosts of Margaret and Gwendoline Davies, the great patrons of modern art, who will have passed this way a century ago.

“That’s where von Ribbentrop used to stay in the thirties,” said my friend pointing out a building on the far side of the wide valley. I pricked up my ears but before I could question her further we became aware of several large four-wheel-drive vehicles crunching through the snow in the valley below and stopping one after the other to disgorge men with guns who seemed to be scrambling to take up positions along the valley, parallel with our route along the track. “Are they hunting today? Is it a shoot?”

“Shootings over for this year… I think” said my friend.

Young men with dogs and sticks appeared above us in the wood lashing at the tree trunks and clapping.

“Beaters?”

“I think we had better turn back and quickly.”

Bang!

“They are bloody shooting!” In a state of extreme arousal we slid and stumbled our way past the gunmen, along a fusillade that rained lead shot down through the trees like unearthly hail. They weren’t firing at us and probably were 30 feet away but it really was quite exciting!

I bet von Ribbentrop came here for the shooting or perhaps to meet Mrs Simpson (lovers evidently) as they both wooed the future king — it’s a small world.

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Hill Farming, Humour

Chutney Days!

As I get older my back aches a bit and my trousers get tighter otherwise I feel much the same but I notice that the people around me seem to ail more and the things that fill my days are changing.  A lot of the things that we do hardly merit a blog — I can’t promise you a riveting account of my breast screening appointment next week.

This week I have scratched the new car and got stuck in the car-wash but I have mostly been making chutney — apple chutney.  Well, I’d cleaned the house after the cider episode (the floor no longer clings hysterically to my shoes as I walk, nor the door handles to my hands) so I thought, I’ll fill the kitchen with vinegar fumes, taint the washing on the dryer and torture myself with chilli fingers when I remove my contact lenses!

I can feel exceedingly green by recycling jam jars, soothing my hands in warm soapy water, marvel at the amazing adhesiveness of modern labels  and turn a blind eye (still red from the chilli) on the amount of sugar that goes in — much less than in  jam! 

All because I read somewhere that the reason the days seem to fly past as we get older is because we don’t do enough different things– distinguishing things — that-was-the-day-I-made-the-chutney things!  

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animal psychology, Babies, Humour, Lambing, Sheep, Welsh culture

When is a sheep not a sheep?

Years ago, long before we knew anything about sheep, fate presented us with an orphan lamb.

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Here she is, still nameless and rather thin, at the foot of her ailing mother.  Our subsequent experience “bringing up Aby” (that is her name) forms the basis for some of my recent book, Iolo’s Revenge.

I don’t want to spoil the book for you but can tell you that it was a very steep learning curve and taught us a great deal that we had not previously realized about bonding, despite having five children!

And it’s not just humans that are suckers for baby things!  Here is Pedro our tough and, then, sometimes wilful, dog (who would kill an adult rat or rabbit in a trice) cleaning up Aby with puppy love.

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Here she is a few weeks later and a lot more confident.

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Queen of her domain.

She has had ten lambs of her own now, always helped into the world by yours truly, (though they never really needed it).  She would always lie as close as she could to the kitchen door and call for her private midwife.  She would make a terrible fuss if I went in for a cup of coffee or a call of nature and when the lamb was almost out I would gently help and present it to Aby.  It reminded me of a cat we used to have who would not have her kittens unless my dad was standing by with sterilized nail scissors.

I’ll save you the slippery, slimy pictures.  All cleaned up next day –note the number one –that’s Mum’s number — she was, after all, our first.

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Last October we sold our breeding flock and Aby has retired.  She runs with the new flock that graze our land.

Last week they were to be moved to the farthest field, beyond the woodland.  Now when sheep are faced with a scary predator their instinct is to flock together.  Aby took one look at the enthusiastic sheep dog, a Huntaway bitch, that had come to do the job and she peeled off from the flock and hurtled (she doesn’t hurtle often) towards the sound of Alan’s voice.  She hid with him in the orchard until the job was done and when shepherd and dog came back to the house Aby was standing with Alan in the garden still absolutely confident that when people say “sheep”, they don’t mean her.

She stayed in the garden all night, eating forsythia to which she is rather partial and which had only just recovered from its last assault, and I walked her up to join the other sheep in the morning which she did quite happily but in her own time.

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Doggy, Hill Farming, Humour, Literature, Wales, Wendy Wigley

Iolo’s Revenge

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‘They’ll do!  They are the ones I want’, said the old farmhouse, probably in Welsh, and the couple (the ones the old place wanted) were drawn into the life of the place — inspired by its beauty, its creatures, its moods and its stories.

My book, Iolo’s Revenge, Sheep Farming by Happy Accident in Mid-Wales, is published later this week by Logaston Press.  It tells of the abduction of an orderly, retired couple from Northampton to the heart of Wales.

They accidentally buy a derelict farmhouse and almost immediately are adopted by Pedro, a wayward hound.  They had been winding down for a quiet life when suddenly they are climbing on the roof in the midst of a terrible storm, grappling with a homicidal, mechanical digger and wrestling with a huge pregnant ewe in a freezing stream in the middle of the night.

They had never had any inclination to move to Wales or practice extreme farming, nor try to learn Welsh –yet life just takes over and before they know it they have discovered a sense of belonging and community lost since childhood.

 

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Iolo’s Revenge is illustrated by Wendy Wigley, a local artist who shares our love of the Trannon Valley and it’s often incongruous images!

SONY DSC Iolo’s Revenge ISBN 978-1-910839-24-9 £7.99 Available from Fircone Books, The Holme, Church Rd, Eardisley,  HR3 6NJ, United Kingdom.   Tel:+44(0)1544 327182

Buy today on-line from:Logaston Press

 

 

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