Monday, November 30, 2009

Kate Moss's Diet Advice

"Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels," said the model Kate Moss recently, and got into quite a lot of trouble for inciting young girls to anorexia.

But is she right? Well, I don't know. I've only ever been skinny once, and that was because I'd been horribly ill for two months. So skinny didn't feel good to me, on that occasion. I felt incredibly weak and about to keel over. And that was because - - well, I was incredibly weak and about to keel over.

Yes, I'm sure skinny does feel good, for some people, if it's "elegant catwalk model skinny". But I'd never be like that and I'd like to argue that not many of us would.

But some people, I'm convinced, just aren't interested in food much. Now I don't particularly crave any kind of fancy food - - but I've always enjoyed food. And if I happened to be a catwalk model, all I'd be thinking about is "When I've finished parading around in these frocks, I'm off for steak and chips."

I don't think Kate Moss thinks like that. And, of course, she smokes, which may help to keep her thin but I'm not sure "reeks of smoke" is an attractive quality.

Another thing I read recently was "After a certain age, women often have to choose between their body and their face".

Charming. Since, whatever that certain age is, I'm sure I'm hurtling past it if indeed I haven't already hurtled. It meant that you either have a podgy body or a wrinkly face.

Actually, I don't have many wrinkles and this is useful to me as I often play women who are younger than me in my medical roleplay work. I play rather podgy women younger than me, granted. But younger, okay? Because I don't have many wrinkles!

So, to conclude. I am including a few extra calories in my generally healthy diet, in order selflessly to ensure that my body doesn't get too skinny, merely in order to keep my face in all its shining youthfulness (say nothing, now) purely for the benefit of my work.

Admirable, I think you'll agree. Are there any roast potatoes left, by any chance?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

News on the Rialto

I've been there, you know. I followed this sign.

Yes, the Rialto, famous bridge in Venice with lots of shops on it. It was very busy when we were there because there was a Regata Storica (or historic regatta!) going on.

It was jolly busy in Shakespeare's time, too, which is why the play The Merchant of Venice is full of people asking each other "What news on the Rialto?"

Leeds was busy turning into Venice as I drove to a rehearsed reading of the play this afternoon. The roads were resembling canals more every moment as gallons of water dropped out of the sky: though I have to admit that the sky was a rather different colour to the one in the photo above.

It's possible to know a play's good and still not like it and that's how I feel about The Merchant of Venice.

The merchant of the title is Antonio who rashly borrows a huge wad of cash from Jewish moneylender Shylock, because he knows that when all his ships come back to port he'll be able to pay him back.

Now, the key to it all is that almost every profession was barred to Jews in those days. Moneylending was all they were allowed to do. And yet everyone hates moneylenders.

So - especially with me being half-Yid an' all - I feel rather sorry for Shylock, initally. Everyone has contempt for him, including Antonio, but that doesn't stop them borrowing money when they need it. And Shylock points out that in many ways he's just like the Christians. Hath not a Jew hands? Doth he not like watching Coronation Street? That kind of thing.

It is, therefore, understandable - though not admirable - that Shylock says now look, Antonio, if you can't pay me back on time, I'll have a pound of your flesh, okay?

And Antonio, rather stupidly and not realising he's a character in a play and so no good will come of it, agrees to it. And then, of course, all his ships sink and he realises Shylock's looking forward to getting his revenge by way of the pound of flesh. Oops.

Now then, just because Shylock's in an impossible position, unable to make a living from any other profession, doesn't mean he's a nice chap. And Antonio, the Christian, makes it clear he's got nothing but contempt for Shylock and he's not a nice chap either.

Then there's Portia, who thinks it's a clever idea to get her three suitors to choose from three boxes with riddles on them, and the one who gets it right will win her hand in marriage. Don't you just hate women who play those kind of games?

And then she uses her clever tricksy legal mind a bit later to point out that okay, Shylock's entitled to his pound of flesh, but if he spills one drop of blood in getting it, it's curtains for him, because he forgot to include the bit about "and if Antonio bleeds that's part of the deal" in the small print of the contract.

So - and I'm sorry if this is a plot spoiler for you but you've had the past four hundred years or so to see this play if you were interested - Antonio doesn't get carved up, and Shylock is humiliated and - even worse, for an orthodox Jew - Shylock's daughter Jessica, who is actually one of the few decent people in the play, converts to Christianity and marries a Christian. Which is a kind of a happy ending. If I were her I'd be moving to rural Tuscany to get away from the lot of them.

So, does the actor playing Shylock play him as a sort of caricature, Fagin-like, long-bearded, strong-accented Jew, already? Which, in these post-Holocaust days, doesn't sit well with me.

Or then again, you could just do it in Standard English and more or less ignore the Jewish bit, which kind of sidesteps the point of it all, and is a bit of a cop-out.

No, beautifully-written though it may be, I still don't like it. It makes me uneasy. It's a play that's almost entirely stuffed with people I wouldn't want to spend any time with in real life.

Though the cast, after very minimal rehearsal, really brought it to life and there were two Jewish people I met there who said it was their favourite Shakespeare and they loved it. So perhaps it's just me.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Spaghetti alla Pudding

A few weeks ago, Sheffield blogger Yorkshire Pudding put up a recipe on his blog that sounded both simple and pleasant.

It involved a few traditional South Yorkshire ingredients that I don't like, such as Parmesan (ewwww no) and Black Pepper (ewwww NOOOOOOOO) so I didn't put those in.

But what my version ended up with was:

Fry onion, courgette and tomatoes in olive oil with some lardons (those French chopped-up bits of bacon) until they're cooked.

Cook some spaghetti

Put the rest of it on top of the spaghetti

Eat it.

It was delicious. Thank you, Mr Pudding. I had thought of replacing the Parmesan with Double Gloucester but actually it didn't need this, it was fine as it was.

I replaced the Black Pepper with Bananas in Custard with Dessicated Coconut and we had this for dessert and jolly good it was too. (No, I don't generally eat custard but it's Saturday, I've been working all day and whatthehell.)

I think that's going to be the key to the Daphne School of Cookery. No more than five ingredients in any dish. I haven't time to faff around and anyway, I like things simple.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Day After Thanksgiving

The day after Thanksgiving this year, which is today, I went to Manchester and worked on an exam for medical students. It was a long day and I got up at half-past five to do it, but the assessors were pleasant and the students were good and the hospital was new and shiny and it all went well and I enjoyed it.

That's an everyday sort of enjoyment to me. It's rewarding work, and although it required a lot of concentration I was very pleased to do it. I'm very, very lucky to be offered such work - I know it's useful for the training of future doctors, and I enjoy the challenge of getting it right. Today there were thirty-six candidates and I always try to give each one the same opportunity.

My colleague and friend Sally gave me a lift, too so I didn't have to drive, which was great. It's fifty-something miles each way but miles with a LOT of traffic.

The day after Thanksgiving last year was rather different.

Stephen and I were at the Kennedy Space Centre, in Florida, with Silverback, and I was having one of my best days ever.

I'd wanted to go there - - well, forever - - but never thought I would.

We had two days there and it was as wonderful as I had hoped.

On the first day there, I rang the Communist to tell him we were there. He'd always been fascinated by space travel in general and the Moon missions in particular.

I described it all to him and he was thrilled to bits. I had been ringing him every day from America, because, although he was well when we left, he was eighty-five, and you never know, do you?

"Your voice sounds a bit croaky, Dad," I said.

"Bit of a cold, I think," he said. "Tell me about the Saturn V".

That was the last proper conversation that I had with him. He had a virus that turned into pneumonia and he died just over a week later.

Here's the Rocket Garden in the sunset.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Next Door's Parcel

The front doorbell rang, just thirty seconds after Gail Tilsley's, and this confused me. Gail Tilsley, who is a fictional character in Coronation Street, has exactly the same doorbell as I have. So I was catching up on the programme whilst having my lunch and first of all Gail had a visitor, and then I did.

"Could you take in this parcel for next door please?"

It was jolly cold standing in the doorway and anyway I was more interested in what the murderous Tony was getting up to in Weatherfield, so I tried to take the parcel from Parcel Man, saying "Yes," in an absent-minded way.

But oh no. He had one of these little machines with buttons.

"So what's your name please?"

I gave it. He typed in every letter wrong. Some were just typos and some were spelling mistakes.

I went through it slowly as he tapped every letter with his Small Prodding Stick. Still wrong. It was very cold on the doorstep. I considered changing my name by deed poll to Fxoprq which was the name that he'd just typed on the pad.

"And this house is number 58, isn't it?"

"No, it isn't." I gave the correct number.

"Are you sure?"

I considered saying "OMG! My parents bought this house in 1959 and perhaps we've been calling it by the wrong number EVER SINCE." But it was really extremely cold on the doorstep so I just said meekly, "Yes."

"And this street's Roundhay Gardens?"

I was losing the will to live. Perhaps it was the beginnings of hypothermia.

Roundhay Gardens? No, our street's far harder to spell than that. Lots of tricky consonants in the middle. He started typing into his little machine. The Northern Lights flashed in the sky. I thought I glimpsed a polar bear coming up the path behind him.

"And your postcode please?"

I toyed with the idea of shouting "Get Stuffed!" and slamming the door but I'm far too polite. So I just stood there and told him. I could feel several toes fall off and rattle around in my slippers.

"I'll put a card through to next door to say it's here."

Yes, because they'll have to collect the parcel. Because I'm never, never going to take it round there, particularly since these are the lot who insist on singing My Way in the garden at two in the morning on summer weekends.

If he calls again with a parcel for any of our neighbours, I'm going to say, "I'm really sorry but I can't. I'm not qualified to handle parcels. Health and Safety, you know."

And then I'm going to close the door.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My Mother's Escape from Alcatraz

My mother came home yesterday. This was one day earlier than the hospital wanted her to come home.

She was wearing a rather strange outfit consisting entirely of a housecoat and trousers.

"Mum, what are you wearing?"

"Well, I had to get dressed by myself. I missed the bit where they get you dressed."

She can't easily get dressed by herself at the moment. She has one arm in a sling.

"Why did you miss the bit where they get you dressed?"

She looked faintly guilty. "I was probably being bolshie."

There were a lot of things she didn't like about that ward. Some of her criticisms were perfectly valid but hard to remedy: others were valid at least to her and impossible to remedy. But her criticisms were scattered in all directions, like seeds: she didn't seem able to judge which could be improved at that moment in time and which couldn't.

And each complaint was followed by a loud and stroppy cry of "It's disgusting!"

True, it was one of those old-fashioned looooooooong Nightingale wards, built in the nineteenth century, with high windows. They had done their best to improve it with new, clean paintwork but there was no disguising its Victorian heritage.

"Yes, I know it's less than ideal," said Sister wearily, "but it's the only ward we've got."

Here are a few of my mother's criticisms, which were repeated and embellished at regular intervals.

They make you turn your light out and go to sleep at ten o'clock. It's disgusting!

The food's terrible. I eat lots of fruit at home and there isn't any at all here. It's disgusting!

The ceiling's too high. It makes me feel uncomfortable. I don't know why the ward has to be this shape. It's disgusting!

You can't get out into the fresh air. I keep telling them I've got to be outside and they just keep saying I have to be on the ward. It's disgusting!

The windows are too high. You can't see out through them. And if you could see out, there's nothing to see. It's disgusting!

They never have BBC2 on the television! It's disgusting! And I can't hear it even when it's on!

It's like being in prison. It's disgusting!

Now I have to say that her complaints weren't generally levelled at the staff - in general she thought they were great. And, of course, some of her complaints, such as the ones about the hospital food, are often very valid. At home my mother eats masses of fruit and vegetables, much of it home-grown, and the food on offer was a big shock to her.

The problem was that her rage appeared to be somewhat indiscriminate and not always totally logical.

"I said I was never coming back to this hospital again! And I won't in future!"

"But, Mum, you've never been in this hospital before."

"Yes, I have! Visiting your father here!"

Yes, well that's not quite the same as actually being a patient, is it? But that's not how she sees it. She feels she's done her time in Leeds General Infirmary and they're not going to get any more of her time, no matter how much they beg.

Of course, the reason for all the Merry Hell was she's really quite old at eighty-five, she's had a stroke in the past and she felt totally lost outside her own environment, and this ought to engender sympathy for her. But the sad thing was that she showed it by yelling her head off and being really hard to deal with.

Yet if she was so very distressed at having to stay for five days, what on earth would happen if she had to be in hospital for a long time? I think of the Communist and how bravely he bore having his leg amputated and then living in a nursing home. How would my mother be under those circumstances?

It's very scary to think about her future, and those thoughts kept me awake for most of the night a couple of nights ago.

Meanwhile, she's left the ward. I think I can still hear the distant sound of party poppers coming from the direction of Leeds General Infirmary. The staff of Ward 36, I salute you.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Like a Sponge

I've been having one-to-one interviews with some medical students today, and what a grand bunch of thinking, caring, intelligent, insightful young adults they were.

I hope they keep all these qualities. At the most basic level of selfishness, let's face it, if I get to be old, they'll be the senior consultants who'll be looking after me.

They were all talking about their forthcoming exams, and very openly about lots of other things too, such as their hopes and fears for the future.

"I'm not sure I'm bright enough for this," said one girl. "Some of the others just seem to soak up knowledge like a sponge. I don't, I have to work like crazy to remember such things as all the anatomy. I'm not a sponge. I'm not even quality kitchen roll. I'm the cheapo stuff from Wilkinson's."

"I used to think I was clever," said one chap, "because in school, I was. But since I started here, with all these clever people, I'm perennially surprised by just how thick I am."

I loved the way they were happy to talk so openly, and didn't feel they had to try to impress me with their brilliance - though some of them clearly were brilliant!

I came out of the session with my heart thoroughly gladdened.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Serious and the Trivial

Have you ever met anyone who said they didn't have a sense of humour?

Actually, I have. She was an actress who'd just played a long-running, very serious, role in a soap. "It was the ideal role for me," she told me, "because I don't think I have a sense of humour. So I never do comedy. I don't understand that thing that makes people go HAHAHA and I hardly ever laugh myself."

Well, at least she knew. But most people think they have a good sense of humour. We all find different things funny, but most people like to laugh.

Me too! I like to think I have a good sense of humour and I love things that make me laugh, and people who make me laugh too.

But actually, I think I'm fundamentally quite serious. I'm serious about my family and friends and I'm serious about my work - I take all my work seriously. In the agency I'm trying to find work for actors and I see that as a big responsibility. I think that the roleplay and teaching that I do for medical students and such is really important and I take it very seriously - - though never, I hope, in a po-faced way and I try to do it all with good humour.

A lot of big things have happened recently in my personal life too, and they've all required a lot of thinking about and taking seriously.

Now then. The poet T. S. Eliot (yes, I think it was he, though I read this years ago) once said that it's fine to enjoy a good novel. And it's also fine to enjoy a bad novel. The key to it is knowing which is which.

I have to say that, these days, I would never read a bad novel. I did too much Eng Lit for that. I just can't help criticising every word of it. I hardly ever read good novels these days, either. They often take too much mental effort - - and all my mental effort goes into my work.

When I have finished work - - and I do LOTS of work, believe me! - I like to relax with something that requires little or no mental effort.

This brings us to The X-Factor and Yorkshire Pudding's wonderment that I should watch it.

I know what it's about, don't go thinking that I don't. It's about making dramatic television, and it's about money. Yes, it's possible to argue that the contestants - - particularly the more deluded ones at the beginning, who'll do anything to get on telly - are exploited, being made to look fools on national television. But nobody made them be there!

I know that the panel cannot possibly see everyone who's there to audition and that therefore the contestants must be very much pre-screened so that the ones we see on television are the good, the bad and the ugly.

In previous years a couple of our actors - never the ones with the best singing voices! - have decided to audition and I've always advised them against it. It's taught me something about those particular actors, and not in a good way. Both have since left the agency.

And you could say - - and I expect some of you will - that The X-Factor is bad television.

But it's not. Whether you like it or not, or whether you approve of it or not, it's good television. It's take-me-away-from-all-this relaxing television. Because while I'm watching it, that's the main focus of my attention and any troubles fade into insignificance. And I know that's good for me.

The X-Factor may not be good television in the same mentally-stimulating league as, say, the wonderful wildlife programme Life. I watch that when I have more mental energy to appreciate it.

Once, when I had fewer real things to worry about, I would have watched such television programmes as the very very serious - and excellent - drama Threads by Barry Hines, about a nuclear war.

That was in 1984. I wouldn't watch it now. There's too much serious drama in my life anyway. Bring on The X-Factor, and a side order of I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here. After that I'll have Coronation Street for dessert.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

So Farewell Then, John and Edward

They've become a bit of a phenomenon, John and Edward, over the past weeks.

For those of you who don't know, they are contestants on The X-Factor, and if you've been living in a cave in the desert and don't know what that is, it's a televised nationwide singing competition in Britain. Of the twelve finalists, one act gets voted off every week, until one remains and is pretty much guaranteed the Christmas Number 1 and some winners, such as Leona Lewis or last year's Alexandra Burke, do very well afterwards too.

Some people criticise the whole competition - which is fine - - and complain that the contestants have no talent - - which is not. I think that this year's bunch have been particularly talented, as a matter of fact.

Except for John and Edward.

These two are seventeen-year-old identical twins from Ireland with identical blond vertical hair. They have an identical lack of talent, too: they can't really sing and they can't really dance. But they have tremendous energy, masses of self-belief and self-confidence, and have also shown a quite amazing resilience as every week they've been greeted by loud boos from the - always slightly hysterical - X-Factor audience.

They've been in the bottom two before in a previous week and been saved from elimination by Simon Cowell letting the public vote decide - - and they'd had more votes from the public than the other contestant, so they stayed.

They've been promoted well beyond their talent and I think that they've only got this far because lots of young girls fancy them. Their Unique Selling Point - - well, actually, I could be cruel and say it's their Only Selling Point - - is that there are two of them. Ooh! Look! TWO of them! And they're JUST THE SAME!

The Boyzone song that they sang when they were in the bottom two tonight had a large assortment of notes in it, most of which remained undiscovered by Jedward (as the public has taken to calling them).

Every week their mentor Louis Walsh has cleverly concealed their lack of ability by adding lots of other people on the stage doing lots of jumping about in bright costumes. The song tonight, however, required excellent voices singing in harmony, and hence left the twins totally exposed as they clunked their way through it.

They were up against Olly Murs, who is an excellent singer and a superb performer too - - and Dannii Minogue had the vote which finally sent the twins out of the competition.

I don't expect it's the last we'll hear of them though. It's possible to get a long way on self-possession, and I'm sure they'll stay in the public eye for a while yet.

So there you go. Visit Daphne's blog for all the important world news, brought to you fast.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Smokers

To get into the hospital you have to pass three layers.

The first layer that you get to is of thick cigarette smoke.

The second layer is of the smokers. Some have oxygen, some are sitting in wheelchairs, some are on drips. Grey-faced and cheerless, they stand or sit in their dressing-gowns, in the drizzle, smoking.

The third layer is of the door, which is covered in notices that say "No Smoking in the Hospital or Grounds". Often it's hard to spot the notices because the smokers are leaning on them.

I'm filled with righteous indignation seeing them. I want to stop their treatment until they give it up.

But then I think - - well, we all do things that aren't so good for our health - - and they've probably smoked for years and when things are stressful it's hard to give up - - and you can see at a glance that they're not people who've had the easiest of lives - - so perhaps I should cut them a bit of slack, even though I hate to see them there. The worst for me is seeing pregnant women who smoke - when I was expecting Olli, a few pregnant smokers voiced the idea that since the smoking made the baby smaller, that meant an easier birth and hence was generally a Good Thing. Hah.

We took my mother out for a breath of fresh cigarette smoke this afternoon. It was supposed to be a breath of fresh air, but that's how it goes outside the hospital.

She had her operation on Thursday and it's gone fine - already the arm is looking a bit better. But although her blood pressure is generally excellent, they think a problem could be that it suddenly plunges for no apparent reason. The statins that she's on can cause this. She's on a tiny dose, mind - - I'm on 40mg, four times her dose and don't seem to have any ill effects.

But she is eighty-five, of course. Anyway, yesterday, just before visiting, she had been told that they want to keep her in for a while longer to try to even out this blood pressure. Perhaps, when she tripped and broke her shoulder, it was actually plunging blood pressure that caused her to trip over her shoelace. Certainly when she collapsed in the cafe her blood pressure was really low.

It's not good, very low blood pressure, and I speak as someone whose blood pressure was once thirty over fifteen. I was both pregnant and upside-down at the time - I was in a special bed and they kept tipping me more and more to keep the blood flowing to my brain.

Anyway, you could say that my mother did not take this news well. She hasn't been in hospital for years and years and it's all been a bit of a steep learning curve to her. The food isn't very good. They make you turn your light off at ten o'clock. It's horrific.

She was absolutely determined to discharge herself and it took my brother Michael and me about an hour to talk her round and persuade her that if she goes home now she might just fall over again, and it's better to invest a few days in getting it sorted.

After about three quarters of an hour of this I noticed that the entire long Nightingale ward had fallen silent and was listening with rapt attention and keen enjoyment to our verbal battle.

Finally she calmed down and said she'd stay put for the weekend.

Today, we took her to the cafe and outside for a few minutes and she was much more cheerful. But I'm rather dreading Monday, because I don't think it will have been sorted by then, and I may have to have the same conversation all over again.

Friday, November 20, 2009

As Cold as Charity

"If we had a proper society there'd be no need for charity." Discuss.

Yes, it sounds like an essay question, but it was the Communist's firm belief and hence he didn't believe in giving to charity. He said it only propped up the badly-funded system. If we as a society really cared about the poor then there'd be no need for charity.

I have to say he had a point. That old saying, "As cold as charity" - yes, institutional charity is often given out in a grudging, mean-spirited way - - or in a way that makes the person giving feel important.

Today is the annual Children in Need day in Britain which every year raises millions of pounds for - you guessed it - children in need.

Yesterday I was listening to an auction on the radio of various events, "things that money can't buy" - all in aid of Children in Need. People were bidding many thousands of pounds.

I know I should be glad that such children will be helped - - and I am! - but it seems to me slightly incongruous and ironic that someone bids £24,000 for a meal cooked by the chef Raymond Blanc so that some poor children can have something more than a bag of crisps for their dinner.

And even though it's for charity, there's something I don't like about people spending thousands and thousands on luxury events. I feel it's somehow wrong.

I feel, I suppose, that, at bottom, rather than being proud of raising so much money for Children in Need, we should be heartily ashamed that in this relatively rich country, in the year 2009, there are children in need at all.

And I think that what many of us do is cough up once a year and then forget about it for the rest of the time - - secure in the knowledge that, in giving a few bob, we've done our bit.

Papering over the cracks, of course. Have I any solutions? No, and I admire the huge fund-raising efforts that are going on today. But I think we're doing it wrong.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Operation

My mother had her operation today, to mend her broken shoulder.

I didn't go with her. It's hard to explain why not. Partly it was because I was booked to do a roleplay, and it's a demanding one, and only a few of us do it, and I was already replacing someone who couldn't do it, and I knew it would cause real problems if I said I couldn't do it.

But that was only part of the reason.

The Communist, who died last December, was an amazingly patient patient. Good-humoured, resilient, remarkably uncomplaining. "When I get old, put me in a home," he used to say. "I won't mind."

Of course, I had no intention of doing any such thing, but when it came to it, I had to. Once he'd had a leg amputated, there was no way I could cope with him at home.

He did mind, of course - - but sometimes a lot less than he should have done when he was badly treated. But, in general, like his mother before him - she was in a home for the blind for several years - he was appreciative and uncomplaining and the staff all liked him.

My mother's not like that, generally. She hates hospitals and thinks in the abstract that they are all out to do her down in some crucial but unspecified way. She's like that with anything remotely medical, such as her hearing aids. She talks as though she's convinced they were designed with the sole intention of annoying her.

When she broke the shoulder and was taken to hospital in Swansea, three weeks ago, her attitude to both the place and the staff made it one of the very worst days of my life. She was in deep shock of course - - but my cries of "Can someone help me please, my mother's in shock and I can't deal with it" went mostly entirely unheeded.

She screamed, shouted, swore and tried to flee. I had to keep chasing after her and bringing her back. Ironically, one of the things that was upsetting her was that she felt that her fall had ruined my weekend away, and she thought that things would be improved by her discharging herself and leaving - - which, eventually, she did. I couldn't stop her and neither could the staff.

I absolutely dreaded this happening again. I thought that, with me there, it was actually more likely to, whereas she might keep more self-control if I wasn't. Though part of my reasoning for this, I suppose, was that I just couldn't bear the idea of another few hours like the ones in Swansea. It's not my mother's fault, of course - she's eighty-five, she's had a stroke, she's hardly ever been in hospital and the fluorescent lights give her migraine. But to see my fiercely independent, fighting-fit mother in that state - I couldn't bear it. And I couldn't deal with it.

Apparently before the operation today she did try to escape - she had quite a long wait and at one point decided she could stand it no more and was going to leave. The staff in Leeds seemed much better than the ones in Swansea. They took her out in the fresh air until she felt better and then managed to persuade her to stay.

When Stephen and I arrived this evening she was still asleep but quickly woke up when I called to her.

She seems absolutely fine now. She looks incredibly well and was also incredibly cheerful. She was in some pain from the shoulder, but was beginning to be hungry - she hadn't had anything to eat today of course. She had a few sips of water and perked up even more.

A nurse came and took her blood pressure. A hundred and eighteen over sixty-five, like someone in their thirties.

She was delighted to see us, of course. My brother's coming tomorrow, from Amsterdam, and she'll be even more delighted to see him. I passed on love and best wishes to her from lots of people who'd asked me to send it, and she was very pleased.

So all was well. I do hope that she will make a complete recovery because if she doesn't she won't be able to bear it.

On the way home we stopped for a McDonalds, because I wanted comfort food with lots of fat in it.

And half-way through eating it I kind of forgot where I was for a moment, and just remembered that my mother had had an operation. And then, as a big shock, I remembered something. I hadn't rung the Communist to tell him it had gone well.

And then I remembered, and started to cry, in the middle of McDonalds, feeling like an idiot. Funny how your mind can play tricks on you.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Mr Pastry

The comedians I like in general are ones who are quick-witted and good with words.

So it may seem slightly strange, therefore, that the first comedian who made an impression on me was Richard Hearne, in his television character of Mr Pastry ,as his comedy was mostly visual.

That's what I remember, anyway. I enjoyed the comedy dancing and I remember the signature tune Pop Goes the Weasel always being played.

Thanks to the wonders of the interclacker, I have found this clip of him, pretending to be at a dance:

It doesn't seem THAT long ago to me - I suppose it must have been amongst the first television that I ever saw, in the late nineteen-fifties.

But it looks - well - ancient. From a time where there was smog in Leeds caused by all the coal fires: from when people wore elbow-length gloves to go to town: from a time when there was still a post-war feel and there were sometimes old blackout curtains to play with: from a time when British food seemed to consist mostly of cabbage and rice-pudding.

To some it was a time of Elvis and Buddy Holly: but not to us though. It was a time of Sing Something Simple on the radio and a crackly old gramophone playing classical music.

Where was I then, watching Mr Pastry? In this house, in the room next door to this one, where we still watch television, with my Grandma upstairs in her two rooms, my mother making the tea and the Communist coming home from his chemist shop.

A long time ago, perhaps, the late Fifties, but it doesn't take much for me to plunge right back into them.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


I think I sleep less than a lot of people. I generally go to sleep at twenty to one - it's not deliberate, that's just when I do - and I get up at eight at the latest, often earlier.

If I'm worried about something, however, I tend to wake up in the early hours and just can't get back to sleep and it's really annoying.

I worked through the weekend last weekend as I just had a lot to do - I did go for a walk in the park but that was about it really.

Today, I think, it caught up with me - I was tired working in the office this morning. Then I had to interview some students this afternoon - they were so good and interesting that I loved it and the buzz of it kept me awake. But as I walked back to the car - about fifteen minutes through the drizzle - I was aware of feeling tired.

So we had tea and then I thought - - well, I'm tired, I'll relax for an hour - - and we sat down to watch the latest episode of Life. All about insects, narrated by David Attenborough - - - I love wildlife programmes and I think he's fantastic - - so two of my favourite things.

The opening two minutes were really interesting and then for no apparent reason the next thing that happened was the closing credits. I think it's entirely possible that I may have fallen asleep.

Another busy day tomorrow - - I think I must try to master going to bed earlier. But I've never been good at it. I always feel I'm missing something.

Monday, November 16, 2009

My Bid for Television Stardom

At about this time last year I flew to a distant land full of swamps and alligators. So did a group of other non-famous people.

I was going to Florida on holiday, of course, whereas they were going to Australia to take part in I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here.

If you haven't seen it, the plot for this annual programme, which has just started again this year, is this: A group of people live for a couple of weeks in a bit of Australian jungle. The public votes for which of them every day does a "bushtucker trial" to gain food for the group - - things like crawling around underground, or being covered in insects, or looking for things in water, or eating various small live creatures.

They are voted off day by day until one of them wins.

They are supposed to be celebrities - - but, in general, they're not. "I used to be in Hollyoaks, a long time ago" said one of them. So they're people who wish they were celebrities, and people who used to be, and want to be again, and people such as Katie Price also known as massive-breasted model Jordan, who is wheeled in whenever any producer wants a bit of controversy in his/her telly programme, which is often.

But in general, as the list of names is read out when the series begins, a general cry goes up of "WHO? Never heard of them!"

I have to admit I'm a bit of a sneaky fan of I'm a Celebrity - - though. Mostly so I can shout at the screen. Things like "Get a grip, you idiot!"

Look, not only do they get an all-expenses-paid trip to Australia and boost to their careers included - - they get paid to take part, and very well-paid too.

They tend to go on and on about their great fear of spiders etc and half the time I think it's just so they can come over as incredibly brave when they have a bucket of them poured over their head.

Now me, I don't mind all these creepy crawlies - - I don't think I'd like to be covered in them much, but I could cope with it. I'm not scared of snakes in general and I'm not too bothered by any small rodents such as rats. I don't like fish brushing against me, granted. And I know I would really hate to have to eat creepy crawlies. I wouldn't mind sleeping outside as long as it was warm - - and it is warm where they are.

But if you offered me a trip to Australia in return for all this - - even if you didn't offer to pay me - - I'd be there like a shot. Granted, I'd probably have a problem with the lack of food and would be discovered in a diabetic coma after a couple of days. Anything for attention, that's me. But, that aside - - for goodness' sake, people! Where's your spirit of adventure?

I'd go tomorrow. Get rid of Jordan. She's had one go at it. Bring me in to replace her. Granted, I've got smaller breasts than she has, but then so has everybody, and I'd promise not to marry any of the other non-celebrities in there.

I'm a nonentity. Get me into there.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thoughts in an Autumn Park

I've been working almost all weekend. People tell me, quite rightly, that I'm doing too much - - working too hard - - but at times of stress that's what I do: it seems to be my way of getting through it all.

There's a lot to do in the actors' agency at the moment. I've recently taken over doing the financial stuff - - invoices, payments, receipts - - I used to do it all before, and actually I'm quite enjoying getting to grips with it again, and knowing exactly what's happening in the agency finances.

But because I'm just learning it all again, it's easier to work on it at the weekend when the phone's not ringing.

Also, they have decided to operate on my mother's shoulder on Thursday and this means I have to take her to hospital tomorrow morning for tests. Well, I don't have to - but I could tell that the nurse who rang me thought she should have someone with her, and my brother's in Amsterdam - though coming over for a visit later in the week - so it's down to me.

So that's more time away from the agency - and I could do with being in the agency on Monday morning as I'm working with my university groups of medical students on Monday afternoon and Tuesday afternoon. On Thursday morning I'm doing a roleplay about postnatal depression - I'm too old to do it of course but the students never seem to notice - I think they can't tell the difference between any ages over about thirty! It's a really well-designed teaching session and I know the students always get a lot out of it.

The rest of the week I'll be working in the agency's office in our house. I know it's a busy week ahead so that's why I have been working this weekend - to try to get ahead, or, at the very least, to not get behind.

But we did break out for a walk in Roundhay Park this morning and it was looking very pretty in the autumn sunshine.

I took some bread to feed the crows. Most people feed the ducks, of course - but I've always liked crows, ever since I looked after a crow for several months when I was a child.

A flock of seagulls came to join in: and there's a crow, top left, and a magpie on the ground, bottom right.

I did, of course, ask the magpie how his wife's getting on today - which is an old saying that must be said, because magpies must never be seen singly - - one for sorrow, two for joy - - and I don't want any more sorrow!

And since then it's been back to work. I enjoy all my work: and it feels useful, and feeling useful is really important to me.

But I can't see how the next few years will go. Of course, none of us can. I want to travel more, I know that. I don't want to watch my mother get gradually less able and more old - but the odds are that's what's going to happen. I've had jobs in the past that have been a lot more stressful than what I'm doing now - - but on the other hand, I don't think I've ever worked so many hours.

Sod it. Enough thinking. Back to the invoices.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Bitter without the Sweets

Ah yes, Christmas is coming with lots of goodies that I can't eat because I'm diabetic.

Can you hear the squelching sound of someone wallowing in self-pity?

Anyway, I'm mostly used to it. I don't drink alcohol - oh, all right then, there was that night in Italy when I had two beers and got really rather tipsy - but haven't drunk any at all in the two months since we got back.

I don't eat cakes or desserts much at all - - just the occasional small portion, perhaps once a week, of something fairly plain. Chocolate cake, for example, has not passed my lips for about five years. I expect I'll have Christmas pudding on Christmas day but at no other time.

Occasionally I eat a few squares of dark chocolate and even more occasionally I eat a whole bar of milk chocolate - - usually the kind made by the monks of Caldey Island near Tenby, as actually that isn't too sweet.

But, in the supermarket today - and this was Tescos - I looked at all the cakes on the cake aisle and the chocolates on the chocolate aisle and the sweets on the sweet aisle and I thought - - blimey, there are a lot of things that I don't eat these days.

But then I remembered that previously, in the sweets aisle, there was a little section of sugar-free sweets. When I was in Italy I found lots of really good sugar-free sweets and enjoyed sitting in the back of the car surrounded by sweet wrappers.

In Tescos there weren't any. I searched and searched but all I could find was a multi-pack of sugar-free Polos and I'd got some of those anyway.

So what had happened to the sugar-free-sweets section?

I found Well-Meaning Sales Assistant and asked him.

He was a bit embarrassed.

"Ah, well, in the run up to Christmas, we put lots of other things out, and the things that have the smallest sales - er - won't be on sale until after Christmas."

"So that includes sugar-free sweets, does it?"

"Er - - yes."

So not only can I not eat all the Christmas goodies, I can't even get the very few things that I can eat! Am I the only diabetic in Roundhay, I wonder? And in that store there are foods for every minority group in Leeds - - kosher, halal, Polish specialities, for example - - and quite right too! But what about diabetics?

I said to Well-Meaning Sales Assistant that I knew it wasn't his fault, but that I feel a letter to the manager coming on. I'll be interested to see if I get a reply.

Friday, November 13, 2009

That Christmassy Feeling

The time I used to enjoy the most was just before the Christmas holidays. Those few days when you knew that the end of term was fast approaching.

On Blue Peter, which I generally tended to watch after school, they'd always made an Advent Crown out of wire coathangers wrapped in tinsel and, as Christmas approached, Val, John and Peter would light the candles on it. When it was the last programme before Christmas they would light the fourth candle and THEN I knew it was nearly time.

And I would have that warm, Christmassy feeling. Since I grew up, I haven't had that quite so much and last year, since the Communist had died in early December, I didn't have it at all - - I was just going through the motions really.

When I was at Park Hotel in Tenby a couple of weeks ago, they were putting up the Christmas decorations. Usually I hate it when decorations go up too early but their Christmas does start early and nowhere is better suited to Christmas decorations than Park Hotel - - their decor is all warm and - well - what might be described as "camp as Christmas" anyway and the decorations just looked wonderfully welcoming.

Here's a little Christmassy corner (there are lots of these)

and here's the way down to the dining-room:

and here's the Christmas tree in Reception:

It did look lovely and I began to feel remarkably Christmassy.

Of course, then my mother fell and broke her shoulder and everything got rather difficult. Just a brief update on that - following another X-ray yesterday, they are going to operate on it on Thursday which they hope will speed up her recovery: so she'll have a couple of days in hospital and I hope it won't be too much of a shock to her.

I haven't had that Christmassy feeling since then - - until today, trailing through Leeds in the rain and the dark and the rush-hour traffic - - I just looked at the lights inside a bus and for some reason I thought - - well, it's nearly Christmas - - and for a few seconds I felt that warm glow.

It will be a strange Christmas this year too, but I'll see what I can do to get that feeling back.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Dracula's Daughter On the Telephone

Our office doesn't open until ten and therefore I didn't need to answer the phone when it rang at twenty past nine - - but I thought oh, well, it might be something important.

It wasn't. It was Romanian Woman.

Not that I've got anything against Romanian Women in general. Just against this one, really. She was one of those people who just does not pause long enough for you to get a word in - - and yet you know you'd feel bad if you slammed down the phone.

RW: "Hello, I got your number from the book because I really need someone to manage me. I am from Romania, you see, and I have written three books and I want them to be published in Britain and so I am looking for an agent - "

ME: "Can I just stop you - - "

RW: "So I come to Britain and I am working very very hard and I want my books to be published so I am ringing all the agents there are but nobody wants to do their job and read my three books. They all say they don't want unsolicited manuscripts but"

ME: "We only represent - - "

RW: "surely it's just doing their job to read manuscripts? That's what their job is. I send them my manuscript, I ring them up, I argue with them, I say I just come to Britain and I work very very hard and they should read my manuscript because it is their JOB, don't you agree?"

ME: "I'm afraid I can't - -"

RW: "And I have these three books and I know that they are excellent but nobody wants to publish them but they haven't even read them yet. Not even reading them! Telling me they don't want them without even reading them, that's terrible, isn't it?"

ME: "We only represent - - "

RW: "So I find your number in the book and I think they will be able to help me to publish my three books, they are really good and all I need is someone to help me and so that is why I am ringing you as I think you'll be able to help me"

ME: (rather loudly) "ACTORS!! We only represent ACTORS! You need a literary agent! You're a WRITER! Not an ACTOR!"

RW: "So you can't help me to publish my books? They are very good - -"


Romanian Woman paused for nearly a whole second. Then she continued.

RW: "Do you represent children, then? Let me tell you about my daughter. She's a very special kid, she is gymnastics champion and I think she'd make a very good actor."

ME: "Nosorrywedon'trepresentchildrenIwishyouallthebestandsorrywecan'thelpinanywaygoodbye".

Next time when the phone rings at twenty past nine I will put my fingers in my ears and continue eating my breakfast.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

My Very Brave Morning

First thing this morning - - well, at the crack of quarter past nine - - I was at the dentist's for a filling.

I haven't had a filling for years but when I went for a check-up a couple of weeks ago the dentist did an X-ray and found an area of decay in one of my top left teeth.

I arrived in good time for my appointment - - ie three minutes before it so I just had time to look at one of their magazines and see how thin Victoria Beckham has got when I was called through.

I was in the chair in a trice and she had some local anaesthetic squished against my gum for a few moments. Then, without giving me time to think, out came a HUGE needle and she poked it into my gum. I have to say that it didn't hurt at all - I just didn't like the look of it.

I've done quite a bit of work with dental students in the area of Communication Skills and I have to say that in general they don't seem to be very good at communicating with patients. Perhaps because all the patient can generally say in reply is "Ungh Wob" or similar.

My dentist was pretty good. She told me that if I needed a rest or wanted to swallow I should raise my hand and she would stop. A clever strategy if you ask me as everyone would then take raising their hand as a sign of un-British weakness, and endure everything with the utmost bravery, as indeed I did.

The dentist didn't talk me through what she was doing all the time, but actually I didn't mind. I just knew that there was going to be a chunk of time that I wasn't going to enjoy much and eventually at the end of it I would have a new filling.

There seem to be three main bits to a filling:

1) The drill that goes EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE. This one's not too bad. It seems to work quite fast and only the noise is horrible.

2) The drill that goes BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR. This one makes your whole head vibrate and is deeply unpleasant.

3) The squidgy stuff goes in.

The dentist seems to alternate both drills but without any explanation as to why.


I knew she was working on the left side of my mouth so was concerned for a while when I could feel all sorts of knockings and things going on in the right side. Then I realised that these were just minor offshoots of the greater drama on the right side, which I couldn't feel at all because the whole left side of my head appeared to be numb. Without giving me any notice at all it appeared to have swollen to the size of Jupiter.

When it was all over I went back to the office where the sympathy I received from my esteemed colleague Jill consisted of "Go on, smile! HAHAHAHAHAHA!"

So there we go. So now you know what to expect if you ever have to have a filling. It could have been worse.

Though you must remember that not everyone is as brave as me, because I am very, very brave.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Fun With Public Transport

So. Gareth took his car in for its MOT yesterday and it turned out to have quite a bit wrong with it and cost lots to put right. All this was bad enough but he finishes work at 5pm and the garage shuts at 5.30pm and half an hour wasn't enough time to get from work to the garage.

Can he be the only person in the world who finishes work at 5pm? I don't think so. You'd think the garage might stay open a tad longer, mightn't you?

So Gareth couldn't collect the car yesterday, so got the train back to York.

So he and I invented a Cunning Plan for this morning. I would collect Gareth from Leeds station at 8.15 and take him to the garage and he would collect the car just in time to get to work for 9am.

All went well until there was a signal problem with the train and it was delayed by three quarters of an hour.

Now, at Leeds station they rely on you having psychic abilities. You have to guess in advance, as you park, how late the train that you're meeting is going to be.

It costs 50p to park for 20 minutes. That's the kind of value for money that Dick Turpin would have been proud of, but actually that's cheap. After that the money goes up on a steeply sliding scale and I forget what it is exactly but if you want to stay for over an hour it will cost you something like the gross national wealth of the Arab Emirates.

So I had paid 50p. I had rung Gareth and found out that the train was going to be late, so I went back to sit in my car and wait to see what happened.

I was half hoping that the parking attendant would come up to me and demand to see my ticket so I could explore this exciting let's-guess-the-train-delay further. I was looking forward to a Bit of a Row, followed perhaps by the Station Manager, a high-profile case in the County Court and finally a triumphant victory in the European Court of Human Rights.

The Parking Attendant wandered through the car park after I'd been there for about thirty-five minutes. I looked up hopefully.

He avoided all eye contact and walked away.

You see, I just radiate respectability, and I'm not sure why. He just took one look at me and knew that I am the kind of person who'd turn up at the station car park, look at the car park charges, rush to the nearest cash machine to withdraw my life's savings and pour the lot into the machine, along with a note promising to spend the rest of my life in slavery to pay the difference between my life's savings and the gross national wealth of the Arab Emirates.

And he was so very wrong. If I can swindle the car park at Leeds City Station, I will. I swindled them today, I have always done my very best to swindle them in the past and if I get any kind of opportunity to swindle them in the future, I promise you I will, and I suggest you do the same.

Car Park Revolution, brothers and sisters! Bring it on!

Monday, November 09, 2009

My Astonishing Photograph

Yes, here it is, the astonishing photograph:

Just amazing. Never seen anything like it. My mind is fairly boggling. No Photoshop or anything. Just as I took it.

I'm sure you'll be as gobsmacked (as they say round here) as I am.

But in case you're not, perhaps I should explain.

The car in the front is my lovely little Renault Clio. The time was about nine o'clock in the morning. The old building in the background is part of Bradford Royal Infirmary.

And, for anyone who doesn't know, those bits of road with white lines around them are what we Simulated Patients call "Parking Spaces".

(This reminds me of something a doctor said to a colleague of mine in a roleplay recently. "I think," he said importantly, patting her hand, "that you've got what we doctors call diarrhoea".)

Anyway, yes! Parking Spaces! At a hospital! At nine o'clock in the morning! What's going on?

I work in lots of different hospitals throughout Yorkshire. One empty parking space is usually enough to make me cheer in gladness. Two is unheard of. I once, you may remember, turned up at 8.30am for a 9.30am job at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary and couldn't find a parking space within a mile radius of the hospital. Finally - for the only time in my life - I had to give up and go home.

I want to know the cause of this Bradford Parking-Space Phenomenon. Do they never get ill in Bradford? There's a large Asian population there so perhaps curry has more health-giving properties than we suspected.

I do have another theory. Bradford's in a kind of dip. Into this dip run about four million different roads. My theory is that all the cars accumulate in the middle and can never escape.
All the motorists get so lost in the tangle of roads in central Bradford that they never get to their hospital appointments on time.

Anyway, you'll never have seen a photograph like it and I'm sure you're well impressed. This has been Daphne, taking amazing photos of the wilder and more remote parts of West Yorkshire, so you don't have to.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

One Thing and Then Another

There have been a lot of changes in my life over the past couple of years. The last time I remember when things were "normal" - or normal for me, anyway! - was when Stephen and I went on holiday with my parents to the Lake District in June 2006.

I wrote a blog post - an early one - about it.

I posted a photo of my mother reading the paper in the cottage where we were staying, and the Communist asleep on the sofa next to her.

On that holiday I took lots of photos, including one of the Communist sitting in one of his favourite spots in the stunning Duddon valley:

Here's the view he was looking at:

I knew, even when I wrote the posts about that holiday, that one day I'd be looking back and thinking - as I'm thinking now - that it seemed so ordinary, and now it's gone forever.

The Communist is dead, of course. My mother now has a broken shoulder, which will probably heal, but may take a long time, and which may change her life for ever. Until last week, she could swim half a mile without any problem - she'll probably never be able to again.

I'm not a pessimist, I'm a cup half full kind of person. I know - of COURSE I know - that there are many, many people having a worse time than we've had over the past few years.

And some of the things that have happened have been wonderful, of course.

But sometimes I think - oh, I'm so fed up of the bad ones. I don't know how people bear them. I don't know how I do, and I don't know if I can. I always think of myself as very resilient - - well, I'm fed up of it. I'm fed up of having to be.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

The Strange Incident of the Long Ginger Plait

I've just been reading Silverback's most enjoyable blog where he has posted a rather scary video of a woman footballer, Liz Lambert, committing an interesting range of assaults on other players. At one point she grabs one girl's hair and uses it to hurl her to the floor.

It looks truly terrible. Send the woman off! Send her to jail! - - ah, yes, all very well, but I have to confess to you I once did a somewhat similar thing myself.

Mind you, I was only ten at the time. And games hadn't even started yet - we were all lined up outside in our PE kit on the playground waiting to start athletics on the field.

Though, in my case, the word "athletic" was not appropriate, for I wasn't very athletic. All I could do was swim and there wasn't any water on the playing field. I couldn't run very well and I certainly couldn't jump. I am sure that I was a big disappointment to my mother who excelled at all sports.

I was good at the classroom stuff though, in general. And because I wore glasses and was always reading and generally worked hard at it all, the word "Swot" was sometimes directed at me. Not often, because it was quite a swotty school and I had quite a few swotty friends. Usually it didn't bother me.

But that day, Karen Pegg, with her one long ginger plait and her skinny runner's legs was standing in front of me, and decided to talk to her Horrid Friend next to me about how Daphne in the row behind behind was such a swot, and was teacher's pet, and had glasses, and frizzy hair (also true by the way - hated it then and still hate it now) and couldn't run to save her life.

And that time it really got to me. I never tried to be teacher's pet - I just got on with my work because you got a lot less hassle at school that way.

So I did the only possible thing. Which was to grab Karen Pegg's long ginger plait, which reached down to her waist, and then pull it as hard as possible. Which was really very, very hard. Because I wasn't any good at running, but my ancestors were Eastern European peasants, and I was - and am! - quite strong.

Karen screamed like a girl. Which, let's face it, she was. Though a rather spiteful one. She screamed and screamed. I think it must have hurt a lot.

The teacher came. "She - - she - - she pulled my plait!" sobbed Karen.

"She did, Miss," said Karen's Horrid Friend whose name I forget (I can still picture her face though).

"Who did?" asked the teacher. "Who pulled your plait?"

"Daphne did, Miss," chorused Karen and Horrid Friend together.

The teacher, bewildered, looked at Swotty Teacher's Pet Daphne, who was standing in the row behind, engrossed in the book she carried everywhere, as usual, with her other-worldly expression as she remained in her imaginary world, away from the realities of Physical Education.

"Don't be ridiculous, girls," said Teacher. "Daphne would never do a horrible thing like that. She's always very well-behaved. How dare you make up such a terrible story?"

"But, Miss - - "

"That's enough! I don't want to hear another word. Now let's go down onto the playing field, shall we?"

Swotty Teacher's Pet Daphne quietly put her book in her pocket and followed the others onto the field.

But, of course, a lot of time has passed since then. Who knows where Karen Pegg is now? Ah, well, we were only children then. And, Karen, if by any chance you're reading this, I feel it's time to say something to you about this incident.

And it's this.

Daphne Ten Points, Karen No Points, HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Friday, November 06, 2009

It's Big And Purple

I was working in Rusholme, which I think is part of Greater Manchester, this morning. I didn't like it much. After a while even Normanton was beginning to seem rather attractive in comparison, and that's saying something, believe me.

Sorry, any Normanton or Rusholme readers. Sorry that you live in such horrible places.

Anyway, back I came, and then it was very busy in the office, and Mum came over to say hello, and I said I'd go over when things had quietened down a bit.

So I went over and looked at the arm with the broken shoulder - the right arm - and a very strange thing had happened to her hand. Whereas before it had looked much as usual, ie tiny, it now was hugely swollen and nearly the size of a usually-sized person's hand. My mother, of course, is tiny with size two and a half feet and tiny hands too.

Anyway, her hand was now huge. And purple. I didn't like the look of it.

I rang the Intermediate Care Team to see if the hand was expected to look like a purple ball. They said they'd send someone to look at it.

The Intermediate Care Team are great - they came to see The Communist for a while before he became too ill. They've been helping my mother get washed and dressed, and prepare meals, and get undressed again. They are all warm and friendly, with excellent communication skills, and they make you feel very cared-for.

So tonight they sent a nurse along with the usual helper, and the nurse explained that this swelling was because of having to keep the arm still, and she showed Mum how to move the arm to exercise it and to stop the elbow from stiffening, whilst not allowing the shoulder to move, as that needs to be kept still in order to heal.

They were patient and kind and Mum loves having them there.

The NHS gets a lot of stick and yes, there are lots of things that could be improved. But this service is excellent and not as well-known as it should be. Hurrah for the Intermediate Care Team.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Beside the Seaside

Wandering around Tenby last weekend, I came across a number of things that I liked for different reasons, and here are some of them:

The name on a boat: (for anyone abroad who doesn't know, the Severn is a river)

A lifebelt on an old wall:

A pub all ready for Hallowe'en:

Another cheery-looking pub:

A very old post-box:

and an exhibit currently in preparation at Silent World Aquarium:

Hurrah for the seaside!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

In a Cafe in Rhydypennau

I know most of the good cafes on the way from Tenby to Leeds. On the way back from Tenby we were sitting in the Pennau Crafts and Coffee Shop which has lots of interesting things to look at and delicious home-made food.

I bought some Bara Brith (a kind of delicious Welsh fruit loaf) which enabled me to greet our Welsh actor on Monday and offer him some of it with a short burst of Welsh: "Bore da! Bara Brith?"

(Bore da is Good Day. Very educational, this blog. Unless you're Gareth's mum, who is a fluent Welsh speaker and might well be reading this!)

In one of those strange mixtures of English and Welsh, the cafe's address is Rhydypennau, Bow Street, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, North Wales. The "Bow Street" bit always seems very incongruous to me.

I noticed a couple come in and sit at the table next to ours.

I instantly recognised the woman, even though I haven't seen her since about 1983. I went to her wedding, in Norwich. She was marrying Stephen's brother David.

She's very distinctive-looking anyway - very small with long, dark hair - and I'm totally certain it was her.

I wondered whether to speak to her. I started thinking of the ways the conversation might go, and I didn't think I liked them.

David is now married to someone else and has two children: they live near Norwich but we haven't seen them for probably seven years. No rift, no row - - we just haven't. Stephen and his brother have never been close and we're never exactly passing through Norwich - is anyone?

So I thought - well, she's with this man, who could be a friend, or a partner, or a husband - - but he might not know that she was ever married to David.

The marriage ended, of course - - perhaps she might not want to be reminded of it.

I decided not to speak to her, though part of me wanted to. At the checkout we stood next to each other and there wasn't a glimmer of recognition when I stood right in front of her.

People always recognise me, even when they haven't seen me for years. Decades, sometimes. Because I've lived round here for most of my life, I've met many of the people in this part of Leeds at various times. They come up to me in the street. "Ah, hello Daphne," they say, as if we've met very recently "how's your mum? Kenneth really enjoyed being in her class."

I generally haven't the heart to say "which Kenneth?" I just keep listening and after a while they work out that they last saw me on the day that Kenneth got his new bike when we got the results of the eleven-plus examination.

Slightly worrying really - is it that I look incredibly young for my age? Or is it that I looked about fifty when I was eleven? Either way, people do recognise me.

But this woman in the cafe didn't. Or, perhaps, like me, she had thought of the ways that the conversation might go and was just doing a good job of pretending.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Fade to Grey

To hospital in Leeds today with my mother, who has her arm in a sling and they can't do much else with it. The shoulder should heal itself in about six weeks. Thanks to all for your good wishes - they are much appreciated. The hospital has called in the Intermediate Care Team who will call in several times a day to help with everyday tasks - brilliant!

Before this all happened on Sunday, I had a wonderful wander round all Tenby's lovely beaches on Saturday, and then again yesterday morning before we set off back.

One of the things that I love about Tenby in the summer is all the rich colours and indeed there were still plenty of these about even in early November: here's the harbour on Saturday:

But I've always loved beaches in their winter melancholy - - all greys and browns and silvers - - and so it was this weekend.

Caldey Island from South Beach:

An old boat on South Beach:

North Beach at low tide:

The two lifeboat stations - the old, disused one and the bright new modern one:

The headland at the end of South Beach:

and the long sweep of South Beach, with that headland now in the distance:

But you'll notice I've sneaked a palm tree into my final Winter Melancholy picture. Palm trees are never melancholy - they are always cheery and I love them for that reason.

It's been a bit of a grey weekend, in all senses. But in amongst it all, there were hints of the return of summer.

Monday, November 02, 2009


The path that we use down to the beach from in Tenby zig-zags down the cliff and is very high and very steep. At this time of the year it's covered with leaves.

So perhaps it wasn't a good idea for an eighty-five year old to trot up and down it three times in one day.

Of course, my mother was fine with it. She was fine walking all over Tenby too, and paddling in the sea. I'd guess she walked five or six miles on Saturday and enjoyed every step.

Then, on Sunday morning, she tripped over a loose shoelace and fell over just outside the hotel, landing on the steps. We were waiting for the AA at the time as a strange warning light had come on on my car - - the AA man has done what he described as a "temporary repair" but I don't really know what he meant, because my mother had fallen over by then and I wasn't giving him my full attention, except he thought it would be fine to drive back to Leeds - and it was.

My mother's nose was bleeding from a cut and her arm was a bit sore, but she seemed fine. I tried to get her to go to hospital in Tenby - - but she has a phobia of hospitals and wouldn't, and she did seem fine, and wanted to come with me to Swansea, where we were going to see a play at lunchtime.

We set off and when we had done a substantial part of the journey, we came to a flood in the road which mean that there was a detour, which meant that I knew we'd never get there in time for the play as we'd been late setting off anyway, but we carried on to Swansea to see the cast who are friends of ours.

And then, in the cafe, waiting for them to come down after the play had finished, my mother suddenly just went very unresponsive - - couldn't hear me - - closed her eyes - - I called an ambulance.

Her blood pressure had dropped suddenly and, when laid on the floor, she came round in a few minutes. This time I gave her no option - she was going to hospital.

But there, out of her comfort zone, she became a bewildered, hysterical eighty-five-year old and it was terrible to see. The staff were doing their best but didn't really know what to do about it and they left it to me and to my friend Sonia who was in the play and came to the hospital (and she was a star!)

An X-ray showed that her shoulder is broken but in the end my mother just refused all treatment and left with her arm in a sling.

As soon as we left the hospital she was restored to her usual chirpy self and now we're back in Leeds. Her broken shoulder isn't hurting too much but she can't really use that arm and I'm taking her to hospital in the morning to get it sorted. I have pointed out to her that neither swimming nor gardening are options for the future unless she does, and she seems resigned to another trip to hospital. I'm not sure how she'll react when she gets there though.

It's been a huge shock to my mother and a shock to me too - - my mother has hardly ever been ill and it made me realise how very difficult it will be if she ever is ill in the future. And she's eighty-five, for goodness' sake - - people do get ill at eighty-five!

My mother is, I know, an exceptionally fit eighty-five year old and it was horrific to see how things could be in the future.

I'll let you know what happens tomorrow.