an irritating day

Well, we can’t expect every day to be good and this one was rather fragmented. I took Françoise to catch the direct bus to Bristol for a specialist appointment at Southmead hospital because the indirect one takes an extra half hour which is tedious. I then went to complete the garden job we started yesterday and had the pleasure of tidying up a front garden and having the customer praise me for my work.

I then had a fairly difficult call with a lady for whom I’d been working. Her son keeps on interfering and he asked his mother to ask me how much I worked for per hour. I already told her I don’t work by the hour but by the job. it really annoys me that people who are not gardeners, and have never hired a gardener in their life, think they know what the hourly cost is or should be. if I worked for £10 an hour I would be working for less than the minimum wage taking into account costs of running the company, petrol etc.  What I cannot explain to people is that we work hard and we work fast so we do jobs in half the time.  I have already decided not to take part in jobs where the person that I’m talking to is not the person who pays, and when they cannot review the job and sign it off when it is finished.

I rescued Françoise who was upset because the specialist did not show any particular interest or knowledge of her allergy conditions. He did a couple of tests with her that he felt at the time would not lead to anything and sure enough the result was negative. Because she has no obvious symptoms, dizziness etc he was not interested in pursuing the matter further and I suppose there is a limit to what you can do in 20 min. He recommended a dietician which might not be a bad idea.

I am making arrangements for my meeting next Wednesday. I am chairing it as well as leading it and wonder what proportion of the ideas I have will be taken. There are basically two parties; the ex-patients of a trauma situation in a hospital, and the team that are responsible for discharging them and offering continual support. I decided to give quite deep into the theory of trauma and discuss its implications for overview and support by the medical profession. I am volunteering to represent the patients. It is great fun to put a website together. I am at my best when I’m doing something completely new that no one else has done.

Today I found a designer via People Per Hour. The architecture of the site is getting worse and worse but it’s still just about delivers people and they normally do the job quite well in fact very well for a good price. She’s going to get on with it tomorrow morning and by coincidence she lives in Bristol, which is in the area served by the hospitals concerned.

water, ponds and canals

We went for talk this evening by someone who runs a firm that builds ponds.  We discussed how to get rid of pond weed, how to prune water lilies which you do by cutting them out at the root, throwing most away and planting one or two good specimens. The best thing for reviving goldfish is to put them in an aquarium with copious quantities of salt. All the usual things that you want to know.

How many slides make a good evening? What makes a good slide presentation? I think one to one and a half trays of slides, I mean the circular trays, is about right. It is possible to see too many images and the whole thing turns into a blur after a time. The speaker got a few brownie points from me by saying that if you want to jump in and ask a question at any time please do so and do not wait for the end. I think it’s a good thing to show slides at a fair rate and just make two or three points per slide. It annoys me when slides are allowed to linger on the screen for more than 3 or 4 minutes. it is also rather bad manners to show a slight and say something like “we don’t have time for that one”. I noticed this more in the United States where lecturers seem compelled to disgorge every last bit of knowledge in 45 min.

The  speaker talked about using clay which is one of the most difficult substances to work on and said that if you’re going to waterproof a canal or large pond you need it least 12 inches of thickness to be effective. That is quite a few tons of clay per mile. I discussed with someone the inactivity in the local Canal Society. The desire is to reclaim and restore coal canals but there are a number of problems. First of all if you want to dig the canal you have to pay someone to do with quite a large digger to do it. Secondly you have to get permission from people who own canalside properties. Some are enthusiastic but some say “over my dead body”.  The third point is politics, regulations, and squabbles between people.

I pointed out that I am a member of the local society and had given my membership fee and e-mail address in the expectation that I would be kept up-to-date with what was going on. Although we had been members for nearly a year and nothing had been forthcoming. This is crying out for a monthly newsletter with a mail client such as Mailchimp, which is free and so easy to use that anyone with the ability to type can manage. I don’t understand someone who is secretary of the society not wishing to involve people in this way. I think we get a couple of newsletters per year in printed form but the news is more historical than current.

The evening ended with some lovely coffee and biscuits, very good coffee and very real and crunchy biscuits with oatmeal in them, none of your cheap supermarket rubbish. It was pleasant to stand outside in the dark and just enjoy the arrival of more clement weather. It was actually 9°C but with no wind it seemed a little bit warmer. before we arrived, by the way, we saw two hot air balloons silhouetted against the setting sun. It rather stopped us in our tracks and caused my wife to warn me against erratic driving.

And so to bed.

how the mighty have fallen

So, Theresa May, our Prime Minister, wants to have a snap election. Quite how this will unite the party or catalyse the Brexit plans I do not know. I think the papers will have quite a field day.

I went to see Reg, the chap with one leg, for whom we do gardening. When we arrived he showed signs of bruising and he had evidently fallen out of bed the night before and was unable to get up. He tried to crawl to the phone but failed and as a result lay on the floor, having ‘given up’ For the period between the hours of 11 PM and 2 AM. Only when he eventually managed to reach the phone, did help come.  Falling is a very common phenomenon among older people. They can have their faculties about them but they’re just not as steady as they were. By coincidence, he has ordered or someone had ordered an alarm system which he can either wear round his neck or on his wrist.

He was very keen to talk to us and invited us for tea afterwards. He says he had a good number of visitors but he does get lonely from time to time. He was married to his wife Lynne for 55 years and she died two years ago. He is not interested in hobbies because he has done so many and the only reason he would go out is to visit the graveyard where his wife is buried. He in his own words, “has a fag with Lynne”  During our visit, the postman arrived with the kit alarm system and he has decided to leave it and wait for his son to come and fix it up.

He says that two years after his wife left he is now coming to terms with being on his own and he says that it is very nice to see Francoise and myself but then we will be gone and he will be lonely again.  However, he does have two family members, is two sons, who live within about 3 miles so he’s in a much better position than many people who just have nobody. if this was Japan, the older people would be looked after but here the older people tend to be abandoned for various reasons. Anyway we took a cup of tea with him and time was going on and on. He talked about his time with a Metal Detector Club in Weston-super-Mare. He very much enjoyed this and still has two metal detectors which he will never use.

Anyway we had to leave him and he told us that making the garden nice had really cheered him up. That is the sort of response that makes our job worthwhile and makes us want to go the extra mile with the customer. I charged in less than I should have done but then hey we would like to give the service.

About the problem previously mentioned with the grumpy customer I am going to make it a rule that we sign off the job only in the presence of the customer so they can have a grumble at the time. It was difficult in this case because the person lived in Box, about 20 miles away, and they visit their parents only twice a week.

The Post Office delivered my new SIM card. I put it in and it seems to work. Not bad service from O2. They are efficient because every day a person is without the service they’re more likely to defect so it’s not entirely a matter of altruism.

We did a couple of hours gardening this morning. I had to move some paving stones to dig out some particularly enthusiastic weeds. There were eight paving stones and each had a living colony of ants underneath. It took them about a minute to disappear underground so I did my business, but the stones back as quickly as possible, and apologised to them for disturbing their home.

I called the Bristol Hospital Trust Trauma Team to ask a question about their format in preparation for the meeting next Wednesday during which I will discuss my new trauma website. It is not designed to traumatise people but to free them from trauma. (since taken down).

That horrible sinking feeling

This morning I went to help at the Methodist church by assisting in the kitchen with preparing lunch. There are about six of us and we managed to serve three main courses and about six sweet courses to about 60 people. This is very good for people who live on their own or for various reasons cannot cook their own lunch.

I arrived at about 11 o’clock and hung my coat up as I normally do and went into the kitchen and spent most of my time washing out large aluminium pots. It took me a long time to learn that when a heavy aluminium pot has been taken off the oven or cook it retains its heat for a long time so when I casually took hold of the handles to lift it, it was about the temperature of boiling water.

Anyway the session went well enough and then the time came for me to go. I reached into my jacket pocket and found that where my mobile phone should be there was a space. Thank goodness my wallet was still there in my other pocket.  So what had happened was someone come along and saw the jacket there and just took it on a whim. They were properly happy with what they got. It’s not the phone itself, it’s all the contact numbers that I’ve gained over the last couple of years and I will have to rebuild them from nothing. I thought I might have left the phone at home. When I arrived it was not there. I rang it and it was busy. In other words the person was making the best use of the phone. I contacted O2 straightaway and within 5 min the phone had been cancelled. When I rang it the unobtainable signal was there and no bizarre calls have been made to the other side of the world.

What was more serious was that there may have been some material on the phone that would allow access to my bank accounts. So I had to get on the phone and on the Internet to change all my passwords and fiddle around. As I caught the problem very quickly no deprivations had been made to my accounts but it could have been so different if I had not been at home, in a foreign country, and in a position to act immediately.

I just didn’t think that sort of thing would happen. It is a Methodist church hall where old people go but evidently today earlier a homeless person was seen wandering about so I suppose my “pocket was too much to resist. Unbeknown to him, my Nokia was only half working so in the cold light of day I was good to get another phone anyway and I have to rebuild my list of contacts. It could’ve been worse but I do find this sort of thing very unsettling and found I was shaking for some hours afterwards but when I write this five hours later I am 75% back to normal. The process of self-healing was considerably assisted by going to the allotment with Françoise and digging weeds and planting potatoes.

I had a rather disturbing phone message from someone that I worked for last week, the man with the old parents who grumpily told me not come back. He did not leave his name and used a withheld number. I get the funny feeling it was nothing to do with me but if it was, we as gardeners do like to know if our work is not appreciated or has fallen short in some way. All the customer has to do is to call and say “look would you mind coming back and doing XYZ.” Any gardener worth his salt will surely do that. With the best will in the world it is easy to misunderstand what is required and a good-humoured and positive phone call from the customer will in 99% of cases sort out the problem.

So it’s a lovely sunny evening if a little bit cool much look forward to a glass of red wine. In a way I feel sorry for the person who stole my phone, it is really an act of desperation to steal something, is this call for help? There is no harm in sending a person love and caring, it does sweeten the pill somewhat anyway.

A very jolly Easter holiday and a surprise meeting

Mells in Somerset has an annual Easter bank holiday Daffodil Festival. In fact there are very few daffodils to be seen; it’s more like a spring festival. The festivities have all the charm of a village event. There was a competition where teddy bears were parachuted from the church tower supported by plastic supermarket bags. The aim was to throw them in such a way that they landed on a square. The wind took the bags carrying the little bears this way and that to the accompaniment of many cheers from the spectators.

There were many stands selling a variety of arts and crafts, pork pies, delicious cakes, plants of very healthy stock but alas there were too many people. The Main Street is about one and a half cars wide and anyone who thinks they can push prams along there anything more than half a mile an hour should think again. Never mind, the crowd was friendly enough so we walked up and down a few times and enjoyed ourselves.

There were the inevitable Morris dancers, and I was amused and impressed to see young children learning to dance along.

There was a wonderful band called the Johnstons, playing music of the Country and Western variety which I recorded and will put on Youtube and if I remember I’ll put the link on here.

On impulse I decided to go to the small post office cum village shop cum cafe. The post office counter had elected to stay open for the whole day even though it was a bank holiday Monday. Because there was nowhere to sit down and have coffee we decided to go to the cafe for a drink and sat in a corner after clearing away the large number of dirty plates and cups. Shortly after we sat down, a young lady, well younger than us, asked if she might sit at our bigger table. I have a policy of chatting to anyone with a pulse so we talked with her. We ascertained that she was an international corporate lawyer in London but got sick of it and resigned last Christmas when she realised she was just plain unhappy. She decamped from London and moved down to stay with her mother in Westbury, Wiltshire.

It was quite clear that we were all on the same wavelength and I mentioned a few intuitive things about her, how she would in fact attract good luck to her in the form of a job and needn’t go worrying and fussing. The most interesting thing was the attitude of her mother who I think was also blessed with a certain sensitivity. The mother, Lesley, said that she’d been telling Sarah her daughter exactly the same thing for some time. I told her, and even I don’t often do this sort of thing in public, that she had not met the man of her dreams because she had been in an unsuitable environment and the sort of man in that environment she would have grown out of in the realisation that finance was wrong for her.

I said that it is much better that she meets the man now as she has cast off the dark cloak. Her mother agreed with me and nodded her head vigourously and said” I’ve been telling that to you for ages now”. We joked about how you take notice of strangers when you don’t take notice of your mother and they both laughed. Anyway I didn’t have the slightest hesitation inviting them to dinner. It is very rare to click with someone so easily and so quickly and they were very cool people with a good sense of humour and slightly quirky so I knew we would get on well. interestingly, when I told Sarah certain things about she said she got shivers all over arms and I normally find that when Françoise gets a similar feeling when something said is true.

I just love “going with the flow” as we used to say in the 1960s. You just never know what’s going to happen. Preplanning is futile. If someone is meant to pop into your life they will do so. Like attracts like. I know life is worth living anyway but when this sort of thing happens it makes it especially worth living. I always follow my hunches and if I want to do something for which I cannot think of any reason there is normally a higher purpose behind it and in this case it didn’t take long to find out what it was.

By 3 PM the crowds had died down a bit and we just wandered about, visited a stand representing an organisation for rescuing birds of prey, had half a glass of local cider each, Françoise picked up the plants she had ordered and home we went.

Returning home, I get a letter to say that one of my counselling clients feels it necessary to separate from her partner and although it is a holiday day I still feel bound to give a quick answer. I generally respond to things on receipt otherwise I tend to forget them so it’s not because I am especially conscientious it is because so much arrives in my mailbox every day I need to deal with things promptly.

Happy Easter everyone

It’s that time of year again – celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus. I tend not to go to church any more but this morning I did wake up with a particularly spiritual feeling, a feeling of peace, so I turned on BBC Radio Four and listened to the celebratory communion which was broadcast from Norwich Cathedral. I went to school for two years at Norwich School so I am familiar with the Cathedral.

There is a medieval celebration going on in Glastonbury today but I decided that anything involving queues of cars, trying to park, mixing with crowds, was the last thing I wanted to do.

Françoise and I agreed that we spend the day in quietness, reading, watching good videos, pottering around, making a decent meal to have at lunch time and that will do me just fine. Since we are in the self-employed category we don’t have to observe holidays since every day is a holiday or can be if you choose it.

I’m watching a quite horrifying series on vaccinations. 46 vaccinations of 16 different types of vaccines are given by the time a child resident in the USA is 5 years of age.  Funny, I thought we had an immune system which given half a chance would develop and help protect the body against depredations of viruses. There is talk in the USA of finding people $250,000 if they refuse for their children to take vaccines.

There is a world of difference between taking something by mouth and taking something by injections. Materials such as mercury and aluminium can lodge in your brain and cause all sorts of long-term damage including learning disorders, autism, attention deficit syndrome. I do not understand how human beings can knowingly do things to each other like this. There is a rather good quote saying that “statistics do not lie, but statisticians do”. You can prove anything you want by eliminating certain streams of data. if I was taking evidence on say the relationship between NMR vaccine and autism, I would remove from the evidence any studies funded by the pharmaceutical industry.

There are a ton of good programmes on the TV this evening but we shall sit and read and just be quiet in front of the fire.  Nice.

 

a good sales tip – you never know who you are talking to

An old garden customer rang me this morning asking if I could do some work for her. It was just a bit of grass cutting and tidying, not something I could charge a lot for. in the gardening business, there is no such thing as a fixed price. We charge according to the difficulty of the job, how much we like the customer, their circumstances as we sum them up to be, the distance from home, the number of trips to the recycle. A sole trader has no one to rely on but himself or herself so bad decisions rebound on you much more severely than if you worked for a large corporation.

Because I like this lady I decided to do the job and then she rang me back and said, “oh by the way, do you travel as far as Keynsham”. Normally I wouldn’t but I will to someone I know. Her parents live there and evidently their garden is a mess which will require considerable work and for which I can charge the market rate. The point is that you never know what contacts a customer has. She may be an archetypal little old lady, but she may have a list of contacts as long as your arm and if you do well for her, she will recommend you to others or point you in their direction. It is always good to have a stock of cards and leaflets with you if you possibly can. It is very unprofessional to tell someone that you have “just given the last card out”.

So, after I’ve done the little job for her on Wednesday we shall all drive to her contact in Keynsham and see what we can do. Appearances are sometimes deceptive and the rule of thumb is that poorer people know other poorer people but sometimes that rule is gloriously broken.

This evening, we went to my favourite local pub, the Old Down Inn. this was originally a stop on the mail route from London to Exeter. Maxine, the owner, lends light and colour to this characterful establishment and when you go, you never know who you’re going to meet. This evening we met the co-editor of the Mendip Times and discussed many things such as photography, St Ives, the Mells Daffodil Festival happening next Monday and goodness knows what else besides.

Cheddar cider is a bit like Scrumpy. It is deceptively and fizzy and un alcoholic but it is somewhat less than drinking wine at 10%. Thank goodness my wife drives me home because although there are no police to be seen, the very time you’re over the limit will be the time when a police car appears from nowhere and bingo, your business collapses because you’re not allowed to drive your car for a year.

Good Friday Videos

As it is Good Friday I have been watching a number of films on people’s religious experiences when they have an accident and temporary passed over to another place. It might be easy for some people to dismiss this reports but when you see the people breaking down in tears while they are talking, scarcely able to speak, they are most definitely not acting and why should they make something like this up when there is a risk of being laughed at.

Whatever you say about the triviality of the media, there is a lot of good stuff around and I enjoy watching videos on Youtube about every conceivable subject, not to mention Vimeo.  Depending on my mood, I watch videos of car crashes in Russia, or inspirational religious videos.

I have such a list of things to do today. There is a new series of programs on vaccination, where people reveal how they have left the industry because of discussed about the way that statistics have been manipulated. I want to watch is that and also I have half a dozen books recently ordered that I really need to read. Five or six TV programmes, all of good quality, that I wish to watch but the trouble is that with only 24 hours in a day I can’t do everything so I decided to do nothing for the moment apart from write this diary.

Quite frankly I never do nothing. I would find that impossible. Today I painted a garden bench and Françoise fiddled around in the garden iproving it. It’s a little bit of therapy. I wonder what Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden. I suppose I don’t have to do anything to justify myself. I think it is mainly a state of mind.

The day before the Easter weekend

Traditionally, holiday weekends are always either cold or rainy or both and I can’t remember the last time we had actual sun. Since no one expects anything of me over the holiday period I shall go into a vegetable state, AKA non-manic state and just chill, read the numerous books that I’ve been meaning to read for some time and not make a great effort over anything. I attended to such great tasks as maintaining the level of water in the fishpond, helping to rearrange the deck chairs in the garden to make a more pleasant sitting area (actually my wife did it come to think of it) and staring at the TV.

We enjoy Japanese TV very much, it’s almost like Slow TV in Norway, the country is full of traditions, beauty, art, respect, politeness, all the things that we seem to have lost in UK.

The centre of our town, Midsomer Norton, is virtually dead at 5 PM. Everyone is taking a well earned rest or perhaps driving somewhere. There was a good article in the Independent saying how the sight and sound of the sea could hasten the healing of traumatised patients, or anyone suffering from a condition that needs the right environment. Even whilst in hospital, people could wear headphones and 3-D goggles and benefit from being at the seaside. Virtually of course.

A lady just rang me, a previous customer, wanting some gardening work done. She has broken her foot and cannot function in the garden so because I like her I might just work over this holiday weekend, more specifically on Saturday morning. I’m a bit like the squirrel with nuts, except that it is spring and not autumn. We like to pay our bills from gardening money and not dig into any of our capital funds so I’m quite keen to jump on anything that will assist. We tend to avoid going anywhere over the Easter holidays because there are far too many people around and I do like my space I must admit. so does Francoise.

not just another gardening job – last will and testament

Today is a day’s work for tidying up the garden that its owner, now 96, has not been able to maintain for the past 10 years. His son and my contact Keith tried to do little bits and pieces but just didn’t have the time or the drive so he’s calling us in.

The parents are resident in the bungalow concerned, spending most of their time sitting in the window gazing at nothing much. There are full-time live-in carers; we met a very nice chap from Barbados who had actually been born in Yorkshire but retained the Caribbean ever-smiling attitude to life. I love meeting happy people, it doesn’t matter how much we have in common or otherwise. I do pick up atmospheres very quickly good or bad. Sometimes, I think I’m a little too much like a sponge for my own good.

It is interesting to notice the psychology of starting a job. You just start somewhere and gradually the priorities of the job established themselves, you develop a timetable and schedule during the first half hour or so and the job creates a rhythm of its own.

I was saying to the carer that I have never had two jobs that were remotely the same. If you consider the permutations and combinations of circumstances, soil type, size, preferences of the customer, country, you could go through one life indeed several lifetimes never having the same set of circumstances. That’s what makes the job of gardening so interesting.

The potential customer who had breathing difficulties called me today and said that he had found somebody else. I was delighted for him partly because I didn’t want the job and I didn’t want to finish the thing with the no so he saved me having to do this. This chap needs care just as much as he needs a gardener. He wants help with planting seeds but he cannot even bend down without having to pause for several minutes so I can hardly come and go and anyway let him down. I may be overdoing the conscientiousness here but I’ve decided to make sure that this year I have no trouble with my gardening jobs. I want to get 100% satisfied clients.

Today a solicitor came after having taken my instructions for my affairs should I unfortunately pass away. He got me to sign the Will which revokes all other Wills. My matters are fairly simple but it is quite difficult to decide how much to give to who. Do I give equal amounts to the members of my family when I know that some of them have far more money than I do.  If I do not give equal amounts and take the role of accountant, this may cause controversy. I know that you can say from beyond the grave will it really matter but I’m I believer in the continuity of consciousness. Life goes on, and we take on and off various ‘suits of clothing’, or bodies, and continue our existence in various forms. Be it true or not, it does make me take a very long term view on the consequences of my actions.

a day of recovery

My wife and I realise that we do both need a day to recover from the holiday, delightful though it was. It is a shock to go from St Ives, Cornwall, to Somerset. As I said previously the drive was easy without traffic jams but to change environment does require some peace of mind for some time. I suppose it’s a bit like leaving a movie after a Shakespearean tragedy and then going to a violent movie with guns and killing people. I don’t think the brain is fully geared for this sort of sudden change.

I saw two gardening customers that I promised to visit but neither of them had a garden which is our sort of job. One of them was suffering from COPD which is a degenerative lung disease caused by smoking for which there is no cure. After walking three or four steps, he had to pause and take several breaths. The local hospital told them there was nothing more that could be done for him. He wanted regular mowing of the grass but we cannot commit ourselves to coming and it is unfair to promise to help someone and then let them down.

The other one wanted me to mow her lawn and clear a side area. There was no chemistry with her and I found that if there is no chemistry, the job will not go well and we will certainly not get the money that we require. People do not realise how much work is involved in doing their job properly for example to put gravel down on a bed you have to clear the bed to a depth of at least 3 inches otherwise the gravel will stick up above the level of the ground and look odd. I decided to put a quote in that is high so hopefully she will be put off.

We realised after these two visits that we were in no state to do anything so decided to switch our brains off and just go through the motions of doing household chores etc, and not making any demands upon ourselves. We might go and plant some potatoes this afternoon but that’s about it and of course the obligatory visit to Lidl which we normally do on Mondays and Thursdays where they change stock in their “Temptation Ally” section where new goods are to be seen, normally very good value for money. I have been seduced to make a purchase numerous times over the years.

Later…. two hours planting potatoes. The sun shining in all its glory. Forget everything else on the planet including False Flag operations, wars, squabbles, USA versus Russia, planet X, the end of the world, Monsanto, the New World Order, Tony Blair, paedophilia… all these take second place when it comes to planting potatoes, being in contact with nature, just been a simple human being like a bear with very little brain. Yes I am a Pooh Bear enthusiast still after all these years.

As I was going to St Ives

As I was going to St. Ives,: I met a man with seven wives,: Each wife had seven sacks,: Each sack had seven cats,: Each cat had seven kits: Kits, cats, sacks, and wives,: How many were there going to St. Ives?

So we couldn’t really resist this offer from Shearings Coaches of £99 per person for three nights bed and breakfast and evening meal. Last Friday morning we jumped in the car and off we went. It’s about 186 miles and since it is in the extreme south west of England where the roads are smaller and the mileage you make per hour is going to be less, I was dreading the worst.

It just shows how out of date I am because the famous A30 took us nearly all the way from the end of the M5, down to a few miles from St Ives which is on the north-west coast of Cornwall. My lovely Volvo is very economical on motorways and we probably used about £50 worth of petrol for the return journey.

St Ives is a very small town built on the side of a hill, indeed on the face of a cliff in some parts and it is very very crowded. We were there in the week before Easter, before the summer season has kicked in,  and it was already difficult at certain times of day to walk along the tiny lanes and passages which formed this fishing village of years of yore.  The beaches are perfect however and the harbour provides a natural protection from the waves. We were blessed with sunny weather and although the temperature was a little above 12°C people were out on the beach wearing their shorts and the children were digging in the sand and doing the normal King Canute activities such as keeping the tide back from their battlements.

It was very nice to get away from it all. Our companion guests at The Bay Hotel are all pleasant enough people from Yorkshire and all parts so we chatted away as if we’d known them all our lives. That’s the way it is on such occasions.

On the Saturday we sat around doing nothing, wandering around the art galleries, making inane conversation with one or two people, basically switching our brain off. On Sunday we took a commuter bus to Penzance. This town is closed on Sunday, even the art gallery and museum is closed. Apart from looking round the harbour, and the BR station which is the railhead to the train that goes all the way up to Paddington in London, there is absolutely nothing to do. The beach consists of mud and rocks and is totally unsuitable for children. There are one or two parks for people to walk their dogs but apart from that there is the usual collection of supermarkets and it is the last place I would recommend anyone to go to for a holiday. 2 to 3 hours is about the limit for any person and that would be visiting the art gallery which is quite well spoken about.

It is possible to walk along the coast and view the delightful flora and fauna apart from seeing the very rich selection of birds. The seagulls are something else, because they are very good at snatching chips from unsuspecting tourists. They are even good at pinching whole cones of ice cream. They do one flyby to case the joint and then another one at high speed and before you know where you while you are deprived of your chips or ice cream. It’s just a job for them and they’re very good at it.

a sunny morning and a lovely breakfast

Françoise is on the TGV now (11.30 am) going to Lille as part of her return journey.

I don’t have much to do this morning or should I say what I have to do can wait and meanwhile I decided to enjoy a very sunny though not warm morning walk and go into the town.

When my head starts irritating me it’s always a sign that a haircut is due. My lady barber always wants to talk to me more than I want to talk to her. She always asks me, “do you have any plans for today?” and I always say “to do as little as possible”.  I emerge from the barbers shorn of what little hair I have.

On the way I passed an historical site with exceptionally clear and interesting signage about it’s history. It made me realise how rich the heritage of many places is and how in our instant computer Internet world we can forget about the many men and women who have struggled to make our civilization the way it is.

A “half breakfast” exquisitely composed – actually better without any toast – £5.50 incl coffee

I am a frequent reviewer of Trip Advisor or to be more specific and less modest I’m almost up to my 650th review. I am very proactive with my reviews and always talk to the proprietor before writing one just in case I got something wrong. This morning I had breakfast at a newly opened place called “Ola Barbecue”.  I have written what to me is a very short but concise review for TA.  You can find it  by typing in the name of the restaurant followed by Radstock.  There you will see my review and also a list of all my other reviews.

I told the proprietor why he would succeed. First of all it is the quality of the food but also the quality of the decor. I love seeing a smile on someone’s face when they’re actually been praised and he did a very Greek thing and put his hand on his heart.  Such moments are priceless and all it cost is a bit of care and attention.  The previous person had dark wood which made the place feel small. This chap has put in light pine wood which brightens the whole place and makes it a pleasure to sit in. Although pine wood is cheap compared with say oak it has not made the place appear cheap because it has been very well done.

 

customers who let themselves down

I went along to see the big garden that I mentioned before. It is clear that the diminutive German lady and the rather large husband, an English engineer, do not communicate. I came back prepared to cut up and take away a tree and I was instead given a big lecture about how much money they are spending on a house for the daughter and thus how little there is to spend in the garden. My immediate mental reaction was to say, well why did you invite me in the first place.

I said I would put the quote for the garden in writing but said I would deal with the tree, but the lady said she thought I should ‘leave it for now’. So I wasted an hour going to and fro. I arrived back to get her telephone message saying that I have now spoken to my husband and he wants you to get rid of the tree, would you come back. This assumes that I have nothing else to do than run after the customer. My reaction was that if she did not have the wit to ask her husband at the time, or was afraid to do so, that does not augur well for such a job especially a big one. If they haven’t learnt to communicate after 40 years marriage they certainly will not learn now.

Customers please note – traders have to make a very quick evaluation of whether you’re a time waster or not or whether you can pay. We listen to absolutely everything. One of the things I listened to was her saying that the previous gardener did not come back to finish work ‘although it has been four weeks now’. I later discovered that he was a tree surgeon who had had a bad accident and was therefore resting and recuperating. The lack of her ability to put two and two together was a very bad sign, terminally so. She has left messages for me to call her back but I’m afraid that once the trust is gone it’s gone. If a job starts badly it’s going to go on being bad and will not magically restore itself to some earlier stage. First impressions count.

A virtual funeral and an original idea

Today the funeral took place in Lyon, France of my wife’s cousin, Chantal, who as you can see from above is an artist. This is one of her works.  I had decided to go to chalice well in Glastonbury to pay my respects using the network of ley lines that criss-cross Europe and link into UK.

Chantal in her studio

I’m not bad at using my intuition and I went along to chalice well and sat on my own by the actual well which issues forth very pure water with what some people regard as healing properties. I got a clear indication from Chantal that she felt happily released and was looking down on the planet that was little better than a rock. People who have had NDE’s or near death experiences say that when they pass over temporarily everything seems different. I think the rate of growth of corruption and entropy on this planet is going at a record pace and I’m not surprised that Chantal saw very little glow or perhaps she did in tiny places but she did not mention this when I attempted to communicate with her.

Chalice Well is a beautiful place anyway in its own right; the spring flowers are coming out. Normally I go on high days and holidays where the area around the well is packed with people but today there were about four people on the whole site, mostly tourists buying books and cards and trinkets from the shop.

I wandered along the high Street in the centre of Glastonbury and saw a chap in an electric wheelchair who had a 6′ x 1′ length of trellis strapped to his seat in a vertical position. the nice thing about being in Glastonbury is that you can talk to absolutely anyone and everyone; you can engage with tourists on one level and locals on another and I’ve always been good at doing this. I suggested to this chap that he could start a new trend in organically decorated wheelchairs. He could grow ivy on the trellis which he could keep in place and then have other plants distributed about the vehicle.

It would be such a talking point, I said, that he would not manage to get down the high Street because everyone would want to talk to him and congratulate him on an original idea. I have never seen a small garden on an electric wheelchair before in all my travels in goodness knows how many countries. He smiled broadly, thanked me for my idea, and went on his way. They say that if you want to change the world, start with yourself. I believe that all of society should be as friendly as I try to be and I try to give an example to as many people as possible. It must be in the thousands of souls who have suffered my rather warped sense of humour and my delight in shocking complete strangers with an observation on something. C’est la vie!

There are in Glastonbury many what we would call homeless people, disengaged individuals, but we should not underestimate them because their spirit of community is very strong indeed. They have few material goods to keep them on the planet and really all they have is each other so the bonds of friendship are firm and it is quite moving to see it although I must say I would not personally enjoy their lifestyle.

My Favourite little village, Mells, is having a daffodil Festival on Easter Monday but since the actual daffodils have come and gone, I wonder what they’re going to do. Maybe someone has a secret stash of late flowering ones but the weather has been so unpredictable it is very difficult to plan everything in advance

Back home now and have supported two newly brought apple trees with strong stakes otherwise the trunk blows around in the wind and the roots tend not to like it. One bucket of water per week per tree was what I was advised by the garden centre. This I follow.

all on my ownsome

Françoise is sitting talking to her sister-in-law in a rainy Lyon as I write.
I’m getting used now to just speaking into a microphone and getting any information I require instantly. It is 12° in Lyon, light rain, humidity 83%, wind speed 12 km an hour from the West.   I like facts and figures but does it really matter that much? The main thing is that Françoise is having a good time with her family and in her country of birth, France.

I am in full flood writing a new website for the trauma group I have become a part of. I hope the sudden display of creativity will not be traumatic to the team. I find that when I get an idea I can only function at 100 miles an hour – and I would have it no other way. I wonder what purgatory artists go through when they can see the whole picture in their head. They have to find time to eat and sleep which at these junctures can become a nuisance.

I did not sleep last night and got up at 03.30 in the morning, made a late or early coffee depending on your viewpoint, switched on the radio and listened to BBC “from our own correspondent”. I chose this as an alternative to radio five live which was talking about football yet again. I find radio five live one of the best channels because they are so quick on the ball (no pun intended) when news happens. I did send a text message to them about the incredibly profound subject of what to do with food that you drop on the floor, do you pick it up quickly and eat it or declare it and clean and throw it away. I was briefly on the programme for a little bit just before the age clock news one morning having been rang at 625 by a very awake and alive lady from said radio station asking if I wouldn’t mind being on the programme.   I said yes on the grounds that I do anything once.

Anyway, I go for the criteria of being sticky. If a toast with marmalade on falls the wrong way up then that goes into the bin straightaway. If dry toast falls on the floor then it is redeemable because in my mind I think it’s not so susceptible to germs.

Anyway I woke up first of all because I didn’t sleep at all and secondly because I had some ideas for the website which I had to complete. I find that if I leave a new idea for a few hours it loses the momentum and excitement and when I respond immediately to an idea it’s a bit like flying, it is not work, it does not drag me down. I  sit in front of the computer for too long anyway but a couple of hours can pass in the blink of an eyelid as they say and it’s all been great fun. I also baked a loaf of bread but there is something wrong with the least because it does not rise the way it should do but never mind flour is flour and crunchy solid is better than aerated. If in doubt, toast it.

As with art, I think you just have to do stuff because you think it’s right irrespective of how you think other people might accept it otherwise you become normal because you predicate yourself on the opinions of others and in my view, normality is a disease. Give me an eccentric person any time and they will be far more entertaining because they’re not bothered. Politically Correct people eat your heart out, your are on a loser to nothing. As with arts, as with musical composition, so with writing just write the blessed stuff and get it out of the way.

As for being on my own so to speak that is a technicality. When you have a good relationship with someone and when they are away its like they’re in the next room except of course they don’t make any noise. I think free time is a real gift and I intend to make the most of it until Wednesday evening when Françoise returns. I did not get the urge to go with her, as my readers will know my “travel department” is very reliable but I felt she needed time and space to be with her French speaking French friends and relatives and in a way having me there does alter the vectors somewhat.

Grand day of departure for Lyon, France

I love the National Express tracking service. All buses are connected via GPS and their position is updated every minute. you can load your PC via the coach tracker aspect of their website and report to any passenger who might be sitting in the coach exactly when they will arriveor exactly where they are. This is a great help to Françoise who is prone to becoming anxious when travelling. I text the information to her.

We had an interesting morning deciding whether Francoise should go by bus or by train because with the M4 closed it was a question of whether the coaches could negotiate the undoubtedly increased traffic on the alternative routings.

We already re-booked the coach on the same route leaving one hour earlier. I told Françoise not to make any decision until we got to the bus station whether she went by bus or did not want to risk being late by taking the train. The train was £33 single which is neither here nor there compared with the cost of the Eurostar ticket and she had bought the cheapest bus ticket which means there is no change possible.

Timing is everything and we made as it turns out the right decision at the right time. We arrived at the coach gate. Françoise saw that the driver was the same as she had had when she went to London a couple of weeks ago and that inspired her with some confidence. The driver was not able to give assurance to Françoise that the bus would arrive on time but gave the latest estimate as 1:30 PM this being from a 9:30 AM start.

She was torn between the train and coach but decided to take the driver’s word for the time of arrival so I agreed with him and encouraged her to get on the coach. The coach went via the A3 not the M4 and arrived 27 min late at 12.57. She told me that as soon as she sat down in the coach seat she relaxed because there was nothing she could do but see what comes. I think that’s very much like the situation in life, you have to make a decision and I encouraged her to make a decision not to soon but at the key moment when she had the most information.

In our seven or eight years of travelling together we have never made a bad decision with regard to travel. It’s something I have a very good instinct about and it has not let me down on this occasion.

I took my new mower back to Kilmersdon complaining that it was under performing in the mechanic found that the blade was blunt. This I could scarcely believe since I used it only three times since it was new but he took my word for it and sharpened the whole thing. This business of taking people’s word for something happens far more frequently in the country and far more with local firms than with large corporates. I know it’s a bit obvious to say this but it does make living in the country a more pleasant experience. I suppose a part of this is that you suffer if you get a bad reputation.

I also went to see a rather large new interesting gardening job. The lawn is absolutely huge and very overgrown so needs mowing,and she wants to create an orchard and a place for wildflowers. She also wants a couple of beds cleared and a tree cut up and removed. This is the sort of job I really love doing. We have the policy, Francoise and I, of maintaining our savings. We work just enough to cover our bills so that our situation at the end of a given year is about the same as it was at the beginning.

To celebrate everything in general and nothing in particular, I went to the wonderful Mells shop and cafe and had a main salad plus Almond tart, lovely coffee, and some local vanilla ice cream.

The sky was blue and the sun was shining brightly. Spring is here.

business visit to Bristol

Sometimes, the only way to get to a location outside a city centre is by car and this includes Bristol which although it has a good transport system is quite large in extent and it can take you forever to get from A to B.

Mindful of the huge amount of time it took my wife to get to the city centre by bus during the rush hour I decided to set off early for the venue in North East Bristol but I did 18 miles in 45 min and thus arrived well before time. The roads were completely clear all the way.

The business meeting was in connection with the trauma project with which I am engaged in the North Bristol group of hospitals. My business contact was helpful, charming, gentle and most of all encouraging for the scheme that I had proposed. It is sad that in this day and age we sometimes have to steel ourselves for a negative attitude towards any idea we may have but in this case we were kindred spirits on the same wavelength. I told my lady contact that I only decided to go ahead with the project because I felt I could intuitively trust the first point of contact who was the leader of the particular trauma group. I realised how important trust is and how much I value it. I give a person many chances if they make mistakes but once the trust is gone it is gone and a person is place for ever in another category.

I know Jesus said “forgive them for they know not what they do” but I must admit in the day-to-day activity of life I’m not in that category. I have enough to deal with out without being hurt or taken advantage of. It is very comforting to know that there are some nice people left in the world and what a pleasure it is to do business with them or at least talk about doing business even if nothing comes to fruition.

Incidentally, on my way there I saw the most extraordinary street sign which I enclose for your entertainment. You can’t beat that for lack of romance with a road name.

I whizzed back home by lunchtime to find a message from National Express to my wife informing her of severe delays to the coach that I had booked to get to the Eurostar tomorrow. The letter did say we could rebook without penalty so I booked a bus that left an hour earlier so hopefully she will make it to the Eurostar in time. If the coach is delayed an hour, she will still make the train so it should not be too bad. The problem is that repair works are going to close parts of the M4 including J12-J13, Reading. I suppose it has to happen sometime. With the amount of potholes in the UK at the moment they should perhaps close the whole road system and give everyone a holiday while they do the repairs. Chance would be a fine thing.

visit to the dentist

Only six more visits and then I will have a perfect set of dentures. David, my dentist, always has a happy disposition. He is married to an acupuncturist I recall, and has an extra awareness of what he was doing. I have suffered from the attentions of many dentists over my (cough) however many years it is now and as a result most of my teeth have had to be removed.

The NHS were not able to perform to the necessary standard so I decided to go privately. I think it’s going to be about £12,500 which is good value considering that a new set of implants would cost about £45,000. David says he will not give implants if the available bone depth is less than 8 mm. When he trained the minimum they were allowed to do was 11 mm. Some dentists do shorter ones for example 5 mm but they tend to fall out after a few years and as David says – people would be paying many thousands of pounds and would not take kindly to this. I joked with him that I would definitely stay around alive to get value for money for my investment for that is what it is.

At the end of my dental session I also joked about something else. As my readers will know, I had a fairly serious fall last October whilst gardening during which I broke seven posterior ribs and ended up in hospital. This has led to rather interesting chain of events where I ended up being patient representative for a group of hospitals in North Somerset. It does appear that this is not a very popular job or at least regarded as the short straw but to me it is a very interesting way of reducing the pressure on the hard-working personnel of the NHS. As David joked, “the things you have to do to get an interview”. Our sessions always ended in a jovial and conversational way. If as with the NHS you only have 15 or 20 min per patient there is not an awful lot of opportunity for bedside chat so yes I am buying time but talking is all about the oil that keeps things running smoothly.

The ticket to Lyon that I bought with Francoise in such a hurry last night for £91 has just gone up to £146 so that’s a saving of £55 straight off. Outwitting the algorithms involves getting under the skin of the creator – not easy at the best of times.  Françoise got E114 for £100 in Bristol today which in these Brexit times is not bad. Off she goes this Saturday morning

17° today in Bath and the sun was shining. I had my usual number of zany miscellaneous conversations with complete strangers in my efforts to spread a bit of joy and positivity in the world. People are also often very grateful if you take the trouble to talk to them and I do recommend it is a lovely way of passing the time. When I’m on my own in public, I never lonely for this reason

doing nothing is never doing nothing

So I go along to get my MOT this morning. Unbeknownst to me, the garage had left a message to say that the three-phase electricity has failed and they could not use the ramp that they intended to use. Sometimes things just happen outside peoples control and I do not see why stress should be passed on so I just accepted it and said I will return later on today.

I’m getting a lot of inspiration recently about the interface between doctors, the national health service and patients and I’m writing a number of skits ( English word for comedy pieces ) which concentrate on the dark side of human nature. I believe that when I deliver this it will release people and allow them to think in a slightly different way.

So, Brexit has just been announced officially and I worry a little bit that my French wife will not be allowed to live here but then she has been here since the mid-1970s so if they kick her out they are going to have to kick a lot of other people about as well.  This is a huge game of cat and mouse that is going to go on in London and Brussels.

My wife is in court acting as a juror and I shall report on this in due course. Anyone can be called up. you need to be between 18 and 75. Currently , she currently is debating whether someone is guilty of sexual molestation and they are not allowed to make any external phone calls while they are in committee so to speak. The foreman of the jury is chosen by the jury themselves.

A cousin of my wife died a couple of days ago and the discussion is whether she goes to Lyon for the funeral which is next Monday. The closer the event is the more expensive. Eurostar return is the best part of £400 so these offers you see at £59 or £60 are contingent on a number of factors including booking a long time ahead.  I thought of getting her to fly out from Bristol with easyJet and return by Eurostar but if you just buy a return ticket it is more expensive than buying the same ticket on the same train as part of a return. They have got you every way.

so, today is an example of how not much happens on the outer level but a lot happens on the inner level. Since I mostly live on the inner level anyway, lack of so-called external events do not bother me at all. I think I would be quite happy on a desert island most of the time though I should hasten to add not all of the time.

After much hassle we obtained a return ticket to Lyon in France for £180. You really have to be on the ball because the outward journey had 9 seats left at £91.  One hour later there were six seats; a half an hour later there were three seats left. The next price points are £124 and £164. if you want a return London to Lyon by Business Premier it is £530. That does my head in a bit. I could fly to New York and back for that.

A grand car boot sale and the perfect salesman

Cheddar in Somerset is home to one of the largest car boot sales which comprises a field where people bring their unwanted objects for sale, hard stands where people sell vegetables, machines and other less ephemeral objects and finally a large indoor shed which consists of a number of antique shops and miscellaneous stands.

I go not intending to buy anything but always see something useful and when it costs a pound or two you don’t even think of it. I bought a book about the rise of Nazism as seen through one particular village in Germany and also a lighter because mine has emptied and my efforts to replenish it with fuel have resulted in very cold fingers but nothing else.

I always look forward to a company that is there every Sunday and that is a meat sales company. He and a couple of acolytes work from a large trailer and sell more meat in a shorter time than I have ever seen. he sells a whole side of lamb from £20, two chickens, six lamb chops, and a few other items thrown in for £10.  How they make profit I don’t know. They have a very good reputation and I know that they are very popular among the Chinese takeaways that pretty much get their whole supply of meat from him.   He is almost telepathic. In a crowd of about 50 if you just blink your eye or raise your hand somewhat he knows that you want to buy.

This was where I took my friend Andrew on the last part of his weekend with us. I checked his route back to Manchester via the AA website as he had had a big delay on the way down due to an accident.  Fortunately I did because the M5 was closed and so he planned an alternate route through Wales. it just shows you can’t take anything for granted because circumstances change so quickly. Overall we had a brilliant weekend. The weather was cloudless if a little cold but so long as the sun is shining I don’t really care. I feel all we can do with visitors is to offer them something interesting and if they don’t find it interesting then just do something else. There is no lack of things to do around here. The country is far more filled with events and features than you would ever imagine.

Avon and Kennet Canal

What a perfect day to take our friend for a walk. We entered the tow path about 3 miles west of Bradford-on-Avon, Somerset. The weather was so good that it brought out far more cyclists than was compatible with walking in a safe and carefree manner. As usual we had a lot of interesting conversations including with a man who had just bought an electric bike which he explained in great technical detail. It has 10 gears and four power settings, the least of which, the so-called eco, is for use on flat ground and increases the speed by about 60 percent.

He was shy about the price but I guessed it was about £2000. I know that the battery itself is probably about £300. He used it when he went for excursions with his wife. They go along the tow path, he cycles, and when they have reached their destination he goes back to get the car. The reason is that his wife is less able to walk than himself.

We also chatted with two South African ladies and wondered when Zuma the president would finally step down. the Rand is now 16 to the pound, it was 20 when I was there. The electricity supply continues to be a problem due to lack of investment in the past and one of the ladies said they had recently been without power for three days. She said that Durban had become a more violent and dangerous city. I like the way the people you have never met before are so candid mainly they know that they can say what they like without any fear of feedback because of the anonymity.

The whole walk took about 3 1/2 hours at a very leisurely pace and for one of the first times in the year the sun had some power to it.

 

A real LIVE jazz evening

in the company of my friend Andrew who has come down from Manchester we went to a so-called Tutors Jazz Night composed of the tutors and some of the pupils from the music school of Bath spa University. it’s not a brilliant picture below but it gives some idea of the atmosphere. The chap on the left, the pianist, was one of the senior lecturers and seemed to be in control of the proceedings.

We arrived about eight o’clock and found we were the last people and managed to secure three seats. It was not in a charismatic place, more like a glorified Anderson shelter on a big scale but the atmosphere and the music was just wonderful particularly when people are tempted in front of us something they had never tried before. The atmosphere, the sharing, the rapport between the players was something I had not experienced for years, entirely my lazyness, and Françoise and myself decided to attend musical events more regularly.

 

 

80 year old expert on Formula 1

I went to Bath today for a monthly checkup for my wet macular problem in my left eye. It was just over a year since I had my first eye injection.  I remember going into an optician for a standard eye test and she offered an extra private procedure which would examine the eye in greater detail. I thought, why not? We might as well be thorough. The optician looked at me with a worried face and the next thing I knew, the she was on the phone to Bath Hospital (RUH) and the next day I was having my eyes examined.

Wet macular eye disease makes the centre of the eye a little bit like corrugated iron and you cannot see detail to the front of you that the peripheral vision is not affected. There is treatment available on the NHS free of charge whereas 10 years ago, the cost of having a shot was about £800.

I gently reminded a rather impatient and grumbling man waiting in the queue for another appointment that this service was free so if he did not wish to wait 10 min, he could go privately which would probably cost him for the whole session about £1,250. He was strangely silent at this point but continued to mutter.

Whilst I was waiting for my initial examination and old lady down sat down next to me and started reading a book. I passed the time of day with her and we chatted on various things including the outrage in London, some so-called terrorist thing, and we agreed you need a sense of humour to survive these days. She had apparently travelled from Trowbridge.

The topic turned to TV and she revealed that she was a Formula One addict. I said I thought that Lewis Hamilton will probably win the championship again. She actually sniffed and said that he is too much up himself and does not have a sense of humour and tries to explain away his failures blaming others rather than himself. She thought that Max Verstappen, 18 or 19 years old as she said, had ‘no fear and just overtook people’. Nico Rosenberg retired just at the right time after he had won the championships to spend more time with his family.

She went on in great detail and knew more than I did. I asked her if she got up early to watch when the time difference was appropriate in she said she tried to but if she did not manage it she watched the programme at her daughters and the children were under threat not to reveal the winners were. While she spoke, she was very animated, as much as I’ve ever seen with motor racing fans. Her liveliness made my day, and that liveliness was compounded by the fact that I did not need another injection because my eye had stabilised. I was instructed to drink volumes of water at least 2 L a day. I don’t enjoy drinking water very much so she said I could flavour it with lemon or orange which I immediately agreed to.

I went off to celebrate and had a completely unhealthy black forest gateaux and coffee in Cafe Valerie in Bath.

Whilst on hospital matters, I have been given the title of ‘Patient Representative for Southmead Major Trauma Centre’. I showed an interest in patient liaison when I was in the hospital back in October. I offered my services to one of the trauma team and it was accepted with alacrity. I thought lots of people would offer but apparently not. It is perhaps seen as the short straw but I think such interfaces are very interesting. I had attended a convention in January where people involved in trauma were invited and gave a short talk and that seemed to go down fairly well.

Over-blown drama – the world is not ending

Oh dear here we go again. someone stabbed a policeman near the Houses of Parliament and they died. The same person also ran over some people and killed five of them. All over the papers, Terror in Westminster. far worse  things are happening every day in Aleppo and not a word from the media. In London the area around the scene has been closed off. Why? You have a deranged individual, a knife, a shot corpse, a number of bodies arranged in various positions that have to be taken away. And yet the centre of London is virtually closed. This is part of the agenda to frighten people into submission.

The reputation of London as a safe place will be questioned as the news goes around the world. this will affect tourist numbers in the immediate future especially from the hysterical mindsets of Americans who will assume the whole of the United Kingdom is being bombed or threatened.  in events of this type you will notice that the perpetrators are shot thus giving them no opportunity to be tried. Since when was an unarmed man carrying only a knife qualified to being shot?  I have turned off my radio today because I don’t want any more hysteria. I tuned in to radio three and listened to some nice classical music. It does me more good.

Gardening for old people

I have noticed that with some people, brainpower fades away slowly. It was the case with the 85-year-old woman that we went to do some gardening for, in this case to trim a tree. It was complicated by the fact that her daughter was a little bit possessive and insisted on being part of  the decision-making. It makes a difficult threesome and I have never found that it works because there’s always slight misunderstandings as there was in today’s case.

The daughter thought the customer wanted her tree taken down, I had explained to the customer that I thought trimming was an option, the customer kept coming out into the garden to see her progress and when we had done a good trimming job she changed her mind and said that she wanted the tree down so out came the chainsaw job done.

Older people tend to panic a little bit and this happened during the time we were there so I learnt to back off, calm her down, repeat the same suggestion for the sixth time, told her that there was no hurry and she could change her mind if she wanted. A lot of people find that the ordinary world is an increasingly difficult and indeed threatening place to live and they just cannot cope. When conditions are good they can chat as intelligently as the next person but when they have to make a decision this is when the fuse seems to blow. Fortunately I had my other half with me and she calmed the client down. She asked us three times if we were going to take away the debris of the tree and three times we assured her that we were going to do so. Sometimes you have to accept the fact that the person doesn’t take it in the first time and you simply have to repeat it and that’s the end of the story.

Anyway I wrote to the daughter to advise exactly what happened and mentioned the fact that we were a little bit confused about the lady changing her mind but I got a pleasant enough reply and I think the daughter understood the situation that I was in. I don’t know how such old people manage on their own, they must get terribly lonely and eventually the world of people becomes a distant place. I know that my wife meets her old peoples group when she works as a volunteer for AgeUK and very often the trip to the day centre is the only social experience they have in the course of the week. How they manage shopping I do not know so these intelligent and interesting people with fascinating life histories are more or less prisoners in their own house. It is not good.

This evening we went to a Soup Evening in the Town Hall. The idea, evidently imported from America, was that everyone contributes five pounds and gets a bowl of soup and a chance to hear a pitch from five charities who need money for various good reasons. A vote is taken at the end and money is given to the winning charity. About 30 of us attended and we had a jolly enough time. I met someone called John and his partner Libby who had just come to Midsomer Norton from Scotland and were having a whale of a time socially. Where they lived in Scotland there was no part and no social life so they were like kids in a sweet shop. John is a cellist and he had joined the local orchestra. I suggested that Libby joined the local U3A group.

I think it is a great advantage if you are new to an area if you are part of a couple. Single people don’t quite seem to have the social skills or the confidence to join a group that consists mainly of couples. I find that these days, couples are quite happy to talk to a single person. They come along to social events to get out of the house and enjoy a different environment so there isn’t the cliquiness that I once saw. My advice to single people is that others are not bothered whether you are single or not. Just pitch up and talk to the nearest person and you have a good time.

We had an amazing day of hail, rain and then bright sunshine. Françoise enjoyed fiddling around in the garden and tidying her shed.

The dreaded endoscopy examination

…on the bus with my other half to Bath hospital. Today was a day that I had not been looking forward to for some time. Endoscopy is when you put a camera down your throat and have a look at the stomach and see if there are any holes or anomalies. Last time I did it was in October and it was a failure. I was given three times the dose of Midazolam which was supposed to calm me down but I pulled the camera out three times and the experiment was abandoned. I felt bad about it but again my gag reaction is strong and I can’t do anything about it.

Anyway, this time they tried another method which was a strong throat spray which pretty much anaesthetises the throat but you can still feel the tube going down. Mr Krysztopik the consultant  moved the camera on its lead very slowly down the throat but when it hits the back of the throat you do gag and this is a natural reaction. What really helps is that a nurse holds your head and gives great comfort and I felt like being a baby again.

The procedure took about 4 min and they took biopsies, little pieces of tissue, to see if there was anything abnormal. The way they do this is to feed a wire which looks like a corkscrew down the camera lead and twiddle it around.  I must give a consultant great credit for spending longer talking to me about what was going to happen than actually doing the intervention. He said exactly when the discomfort would happen and that the camera lead would feel like a lead pipe which it did and that I must not worry about gagging which is a natural reaction for the body to get rid of things. The nurse told me to breathe and she was actually right. it is comforting to realise that these people have done this intervention thousands of times and they know exactly what to do, including when things go wrong.

it was found that the gastro-oesphageal flap valve showed a Hill classification value three of which is moderate. That means that stomach acid keeps on coming up. it also means that I have to stay on my omrazeprole pills, so far as I can gather indefinitely. I just have a flappy valve and that’s all there is to it so if that’s the greatest defect in my body then that is something to be thankful for.

I found I was shaking at the end of the intervention but the shaking soon passed and I walked out about 5 min later back to my wife who had patiently waited the best part of an hour. I was told to drink some water in half an hour and if it repeated on me to wait some time and try again. What I actually did was to go along to a cafe and have a  latte, chocolate cake and some ice cream. I had a slight soreness in my throat but this did not detract from the pleasure of giving myself a reward.

I realise that I had more anxiety prior to the intervention than I would have cared to admit. It is like a dark cloud on the horizon because you never know what’s going to happen. it is not a very small version of being found guilty of a crime in having to appear in court in six months time. It never leaves you and you imagine what could happen for the good or for the bad.  I’m not so sure what can be done about this, perhaps I have a weak character or perhaps it’s just human nature to worry about things that are potentially life-threatening. I wonder what it’s like to work for medicine sans Frontiers. Now that’s traumatic if ever there was one.

 

 

Rare Plant exhibition in Wells

Today Sunday, the day dawned, cloudy and damp. We were in half a mind to stay in and read and so on, but decided that we would go to the Rare Plant exhibition in Wells Cathedral Gardens. Sometimes, things go smoothly and this was no exception.

As it happened, the plants were not all that rare but the people who sold them also grew them and it gave great confidence. My wife said she was going to buy nothing but of course she gave way and bought a very good specimen for the garden. However often I visit the Gardens, they are never the same. in spite of the cloudy day, spring was in full bloom. We tried to find the handkerchief tree that our good friend the head gardener had mentioned to us but it had yet to bloom. We will return in a couple of weeks.

A quick visit to London

My partner Francoise heard that her best friend was near to death, so I have taken her to the bus station in Bath to go on a quick day return to London. he is already unconscious and has not taken food or drink, which is one of the signs of impeding demise but we decided that although he may not recognise her consciously the power of her thought and her caring would in some way communicate with her.

I visited a new garden customer today, Reg, who told me that he was an amputee and could therefore not carry on with his gardening. He had thrombosis in his left leg accompanied by much pain and when the doctors advised him that they will have to have to remove the leg he was delighted.   He told me that his wife had died two years ago and she did all the gardening. He has had the sense to ask a firm for a plastic lawn which actually looks quite lovely and all it needs is an occasional brush. He was quite happy for me to sit down and talk about the old days as many old people do because they have nothing to do apart from watch the TV.

It is very easy to be critical but he says that even with his artificial legs he can barely get around the bungalow never mind get out and about. He is part of an invisible army of people who need more contact. Because they don’t go around demonstrating people forget about these previously hard-working souls who have just been left and abandoned. However, Reg gets good support from his family, including his grand-daughter, who comes and cleans and his daughter, who arranges for shopping deliveries from Tesco. Many people do not even have this.

Exciting days – I do love technology, though it has a downside. I have been tracking my Other Half on the National Express coach tracker coming back from London. All coaches are attached to the GPS system so you get a minute by minute update and I was able to see whether she had a chance of getting a local bus which was due to leave 5 min after the national coach arrived. I was able to give a commentary by text.  eventually it arrived 22.52 and the bus was due to depart 22.55. She caught it. This meant I did not have to go and pick her up, which I wouldn’t have minded doing. I wonder what they did in the days before any sort of technology, even the telephone. Perhaps they used their inherent psychic powers like we could all do we wanted to.