Tuesday, November 30, 2010

On Not Being a Loveable Old Lady

I still carry on as though I'm twenty-five. And then something like this pulls me up short.

A casting breakdown came in our office today, and they were wanting to cast - - wait for it - -

a loveable old lady, 55-65

FIFTY-FIVE TO SIXTY-FIVE? I'm fifty-four. Nooooooooo! One more year and that'll be it. Zimmer frames! Those comfy slippers that zip up the front! Fawn cardigans! Hair permed in curls like a sheep (okay, my hair does that all by itself anyway, but I'll be mighty proud of it in a year or so and just waiting for it to go white).

Perhaps it's because I mostly work with people who are younger than I am, but I really don't think of myself as being "old" in any way.

I travel about to work all over the place. I work long hours and I think I have a young-at-heart, enthusiastic approach to it all. I know it's partly because I enjoy all my work - I think that really helps.

People often think I'm younger than I am - though I'm not arrogant enough to think it's because I look it! Granted, I don't have many wrinkles, but I don't think it's that. I think it's more that the young people I work with think simply can't imagine anyone being over fifty and still having nearly all of a brain and their own teeth.

And I think that's probably the key to this casting breakdown - it was, no doubt, written by someone in their early twenties. I remember being in a student play when I was nineteen, and was playing someone at the impossibly ancient age of forty.

"You're walking too fast," said the director. "Over-forties shuffle."

Do you know what? They jolly well don't. To be fair to my nineteen-year old self, I disagreed with him even then.

The only thing I would say about over-fifties (of which, remember, I am one) and it is that when we sit down we make a little "Ahhhhhh" of pleasure.

But that's it! That's my only concession! I'm just not having this "old" tag. Grrrrr!

Monday, November 29, 2010

From the Call Centre

Although we still have Snowy Wastes here, I've had a really lovely afternoon with some first-year groups of student doctors whose thoughtful presentations about their current work with patients would renew anyone's faith in doctorkind.

On a completely unrelated topic:

This morning I was in the agency's office and an actor friend of mine sent me this conversation, with a call centre somewhere in India:

Call Centre Man: "Can I speak to David Ansdell?"

David: "Who's calling, please?"

Call Centre Man: (quite irritated): "Can I speak to David Ansdell?"

David: "This is David speaking."

Call Centre Man: (very cross) "Unfortunately, you asked me who is calling. DON'T ASK ME WHO IS CALLING!"

The line went dead.

Thanks to David for this interesting anecdote. So now we know how to do it. How to make them go away. A few searching questions. What's your name? How much is your mobile bill? Where do you live? Or - - one tried with some success by my friend John - What can you see out of the window?

Actually I feel sorry for anyone who works in an Indian call centre as their whole lives must consist of being sworn at and hung up on by almost all the population of Britain. No wonder they get a bit grumpy.

It's not their fault. It's the fault of the people who think it's a good idea to save money by setting up call centres abroad, where people are paid less.

We all hate these call centres. Has anyone ever said "I was rung up by someone in a call centre in India, and it was really useful?" I very much doubt it.

So I suppose the answer is to keep right on saying "No thank you" and hanging up, until the employers get the message.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Jobsworth At the Pool

Last January I was very proud of myself, in a slightly "this is bonkers but I'm doing it anyway" kind of way, when, on several occasions, I went swimming when the temperature was minus 4 degrees Centigrade outside.

Of course, in the pool it was lovely and warm - about 30 degrees - and I really enjoyed it.

This morning it was minus 7. MINUS SEVEN! That's really very chilly indeed. Because it was so very cold, all the snow was very crisp and pretty, and Early Morning Sunshine Outside the Swimming Pool was beautiful. Ah! If only I'd had an easel and a set of oil paints and brushes with me. Oh yes, and some artistic ability. Oh well.

Again, in the pool it was lovely and warm. The swimming starts at half past eight on a Sunday. Because I'd driven really slowly, in case of black ice, I didn't get into the water until twenty-two minutes to nine.

There were very few people in the pool - you may be surprised to learn! - and I really enjoyed the swim.

A mile is sixty-four lengths. I was quite pleased with my speed - I'm really not a fast swimmer, and I swim breast stroke which is quite slow anyway - but by half-past nine I had done sixty-two lengths and therefore I knew I'd complete the mile in under an hour, which always pleases me. When I started swimming a mile, a year ago, it took me about an hour and twenty minutes.

Then, suddenly, exactly at half-past nine, one of the attendants spoke to me.

"You have to get out now. The adult swimming finishes at half-past nine. It's family swimming now."

Somehow she made the word "adult" have the same connotations as in "adult movies".

I looked round to see who else was in the pool.

There was:

a) A man with a little girl

b) Me

So, firstly, I thought, there is NO WAY that I am getting out of this pool until I have finished my mile.

And secondly, I thought, this is absolutely ridiculous.

I did the extra two lengths and then I got out and went to find the attendant who was chatting to the other attendant.

"So what is this new rule that I have to get out at half-past nine?" I asked sweetly but with just a touch of Inner Schoolmarm.

"They've just brought it in," she said. "Adult swimming finishes at half past nine."

Now then, anyone who had actually observed the swimming on a Sunday morning would have noticed that, once parents with children arrive, the adult swimmers have always tended to keep out of their way at the far side of the pool - and there were never more than a few of us anyway. It's really never crowded at that time - and I know, because I have been on nearly every Sunday morning for the past year.

I looked at the pool. One man, one child.

"I can see why you needed me to get out," I said, "That poor man wouldn't have had room to move, would he?"

"Ah, well, it's the - - "

"Yes, I know. It's the rule. And you didn't make the rule. I think I'd better get in touch with the person who did. Goodbye."

I know a Jobsworth when I see one and, okay, she was quite young and was just enforcing the letter of the law.

Sunday morning has always been the one time when I'm not heading off to work afterwards and so can swim as long as I like - I've been using that time to build up to swimming a mile and a half.

So I'll be writing to the Leisure Centre Manager. It's a long hard business, trying to get the world sorted.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

From a Dark Snovember

Oh come on now, this is ridiculous. Until last winter, November was to be found just after the end of summer. I remember writing on this very blog about how, when I was a child, we would always collect lots of autumn leaves for the Guy Fawkes' Night bonfire on November 5th.

But, of recent years, on November 5th most of the leaves were still ON the trees. My mother would still be sitting out having lunch on the patio at the beginning of December and, okay, I know she's a hardy soul and most eighty-six-year-olds don't do that kind of thing - - but look, it wasn't THAT cold, okay?

After the snow of last winter, however, the Great White Icing-Sugar Sprinkler in the Sky (nb this idea was nicked from a tweet from John Coombes, sorry for nicking it, John, but not VERY sorry) has really got it sussed. So now, November 27th, we have a coating of snow all over everything and the car temperature reader has been saying Minus Two Centigrade all day. I suppose it's even colder now but I'm not going out there to check in case my frozen body is found on the path later on and this causes me to miss The X-Factor. (Really, can Wagner last another week? Oh, vote him off, folks, please!)

Global Warming? Where the hell's it gone? Oh, all right then, go on, give me that standard lecture about the difference between short-term weather and long-term climate. I'm not listening, I'm too busy putting on an extra jumper.

But some people are loving it. "I love snow!" says Olli, and Gareth agrees. They belong to a society called Wholly Folk in York, the purpose of which is to gather round a bonfire and sing folk songs. I suspect there may be some Real Ale involved too, and the occasional Aran sweater. Splendid.

Last night they decided to do it without the bonfire. And here they are, singing their hearts out in a blizzard.

There's a reason for this behaviour, and I've worked out what it is. It's because the weather was all wrong when these twentysomethings were growing up. When I were a lass - as they say round here - the winters were cold, and there was lots of snow, and you wrapped up warm and did a lot of sledging and playing out in the snow.

Houses were colder then, and by the time the snow melted, everyone was heartily sick of it and was longing for sunshine and daffodils.

But when Olli and Gareth, and their whole generation, were children, there was hardly ever any snow. I think Olli went sledging twice in his whole childhood.

So they're enjoying it now, and good luck to them. Me, I'm staying in, turning the heating up, and looking forward to Spring.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Good Ship Father

I'm not sure if this will work as I've never embedded a video from Vimeo before - - but I'm giving it a try!

Good Ship Father from John Coombes on Vimeo.

I love the song - the tune has stuck in my head for days and days - in a good way! - and the wonderful video's by my friend, the artist and film-maker John Coombes.

I went to see Harvey Brough years ago when he was the Harvey part of Harvey and the Wallbangers, and very much enjoyed it. Clara Sanabras is new to me, but I love her voice.

I hope you enjoy it - - do watch right to the end of the credits at the end!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Film School Rant

"I'm looking for some actors for a short film" said Very Very Foreign Student Director from a Film School. "Can I tell you what I need?"

I knew that he would want to dictate the entire cast list to me, very slowly, in a very foreign accent. But what should usually happen with any television or film project is that whoever is casting the project would email a casting breakdown.

"Could you email me a list of the characters that you are casting?" I asked.

"Ohhh - - - well I could do," he said reluctantly. "Do you have an email address?"

I waited whilst he looked for something to write with, and then whilst he searched for a piece of paper. It took a long, long time. Then I dictated my email address, and then corrected it about seventeen times. The name Daphne was - and still is, I think - a total mystery to him.

Then I asked the question to which I already knew the answer.

"So what are you going to pay the actors?"


The very idea seemed to astonish him.

"Is there a fee involved? Or is there just expenses?" I asked politely.

"Oh, no, I'm not paying any of the actors," he said in tones of rather disgruntled amazement. I could tell that the thought had never entered his head.

"What about expenses, then?" I asked sweetly.

"Errr - - - "

"This is an agency for professional actors. I'm surprised that you don't seem to have thought that they might need any money for their work. Send me the breakdown anyway. Actors sometimes will work on student films if the script is good. But I'm just pointing out that when they do, they are doing you a big favour, and you should at least pay expenses, feed them, and treat them with respect."

He never did send me the breakdown. He's probably still bogged down somewhere in one of the fs in Daffannee. But I suspect that, when he graduates and becomes a real grown-up film director, he'll be expecting to get paid.

I feel a letter coming on to send to the Film School to point out that when their students ring up looking for actors, it would be a good idea if they have at least thought to have pen and paper handy, so as to sound at least a tiny bit professional.

More importantly, I think that the Film School should be emphasising to its students that any actors who are prepared to work on their films - which are occasionally good, but usually bad, with lousy scripts and terrible sound quality - should be treated very well.

I don't think that the Film School should be training its directors that you can get actors for free. If they can't afford to pay, fair enough - - but they should say so, up front, and be very, very polite when they ring up asking for what is, after all, a really big favour.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sorry - - what?

Today I was working at a hotel somewhere in England, helping to recruit and train some new Simulated Patients.

For those of you who don't know, a Simulated Patient is someone playing the role of a patient, for the training or assessment of healthcare professionals.

It's a term that is extremely familiar to many - though not, perhaps, to all - doctors, dentists, nurses, physiotherapists - - anyone involved in working with patients.

It is not, perhaps, so familiar to other members of the public.

I include in this category the people who type out notices to label the doors of hotel rooms.

And this, dear reader, is why when we arrived at the room in the hotel today, we were met by a large notice on the door which announced, perhaps, what we might be doing during the course of the meeting.

It said:


Monday, November 22, 2010

Sunset, Sunrise

I did a quick dash to Barrow-in-Furness to take Mum's friend Amy home. Well, I say she's Mum's friend - - she's a great friend to all of us, it's just that Mum saw her first, at school, in about 1935.

There wasn't a lot of time so we went over to Barrow yesterday and we drove along the Coast Road from Ulverston just as the sun was setting.

I love that drive. I love the phrase "Coast Road" - so evocative to me - and I love the names of the villages and hamlets on the way - - Roosebeck, Baycliff, Aldingham - - and I love the views. We kept on going past the Barrow turning to the old village of Rampside and Roa Island, which is now reached by a causeway. It feels like several miles way beyond the back of beyond.

We arrived just as the sun was setting over the beach: this photo's taken from the causeway and you can see a windfarm in the distance if you click to enlarge the photo.

If you look out to sea from Roa Island you can see Blackpool Tower in the far distance - too far and too misty for a photo though!

This morning I had to set off early back to Leeds as I was doing some work with Mental Health Nurses this afternoon. The sun had not long risen as we drove towards the Coast Road at about quarter to eight:

Then we reached the coast and saw the sun rising over the sea:

I know much of Britain's foggy, drizzly and grey in November - and I think November is my least favourite month.

But sometimes even November turns up trumps, as it did this morning. Beautiful.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Burglar Alarm

I was about to leave for my job in Harrogate when I became aware of a siren going off somewhere.


I was just in good time to set off before the rush hour so I didn't really want to investigate, but I had a suspicion about where it might be coming from so I looked out of the back door.


Yes, a flashing light on my Mum's house and a noise so loud that they could hear it in Birmingham.

Sighhhhh. I knew that it fell to me to investigate. One of three things might have happened, in ascending order of likelihood:

a) a burglar had got in and was even now attacking Mum (86) and her friend Amy (also 86) who's staying with her

b) a burglar had got in and was even now being thoroughly told off by Mum and Amy, and made to stand in the corner and say he was sorry (they both used to teach infants)

c) Mum or Amy had set the alarm off and not noticed, even though people in Gloucestershire were by now going "What's that distant noise that I can hear?"


So down the path I went, the fifty yards or so to Mum's house.


Yes, the noise was annoying, since you ask.

So I opened the door with my key and clamping both hands to my ears, looked at the control panel, which was flashing in all sorts of interesting places.


So mastering all my technical skill, I pushed a few buttons at random and the noise stopped.


Then I went upstairs to find Mum and Amy who were very puzzled to find me suddenly coming in. Amy had just got dressed and Mum was in her dressing-gown.

"What's the matter?" they chorused.

"The burglar alarm was going off," I replied.

"No, it wasn't," said Mum with conviction.

"Yes, it was, Mum," I replied. "You just can't hear it."

"Well it must be very quiet, then," she said.

I thought of all the people of our part of Leeds who still had ringing in their ears.

"No, Mum, you just didn't hear it."

"But it can't have gone off," said Amy. "Because I just switched it off."

"Well you can't have," said Mum, "because I didn't set it last night."

Ahhhhhhh - - an explanation.

"No, Amy," I said, "I think you tried to unset it, but instead you set it. Because Mum hadn't set it last night."

"I didn't set it, so Amy can't have switched it off," said Mum.

"It can't have gone off though," said Amy, "because I switched it off."

I could tell that this conversation could last until Christmas, or possibly until the daffodils are in flower. So I made my excuses and left, just in time to get nicely caught up in all the traffic. I arrived with a minute to spare. Hurrah.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Forty-Five Grand for a Round of Golf

It's the annual BBC Children in Need fund-raising evening on Friday.

I'm not sure what I think about it because my thoughts are rather confused. Firstly, I wish there weren't any children in need in 2010 Britain.

The Communist didn't believe in giving to charity - he said it only discouraged the authorities from funding things properly.

Now, I can see his point - - but some things never are going to be funded properly, I know. So I do give to some charities.

However, there's something about the fund-raising methods of Children in Need that makes me uneasy.

One of the things they do is have an auction on the radio of "things that money can't buy" - a round of golf with a famous golfer, a chance to drive a vintage Ferrari - - that kind of thing. People bid many thousands - - as much as a hundred thousand pounds.

The presenter always thanks them for their generosity and exhorts listeners to keep on bidding - - "bid big and bid early".

And that's what the whole programme's about, just for a day or two. It raises lots of money. The buyers get lots of thanks. It makes very dull radio if you're not able to bid.

For surely this "things that money can't buy" really means "things that money can buy if you're very very rich".

So although the amount of money that the buyers are donating may indeed be large, I'd be willing to bet it's not large as a proportion of their income. It's probably the equivalent of us Ordinary Folks donating a tenner.

I think it's that which makes me uneasy. Very Rich People Buy Things That They Want. That's all that's going on. Okay, the charity benefits - - but if the Very Rich People were really interested in helping the charity, then surely they'd do it anyway.

The actor Ricky Tomlinson recently donated a million pounds to a Liverpool children's hospital, and then refused to be interviewed about it. Now that's generosity.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ringing the Changes from Diana to Kate

Yes, dear reader, I missed the last big Royal Wedding, the Charles and Diana one. I was at Blarney Castle in Ireland, kissing the Blarney Stone, at more or less the very moment they were married.

As a brief digression, can I just mention that kissing the Blarney Stone works? A student doctor asked me today - with no sarcasm at all, I might add - "Daphne, how come you know so much about so many things?" I rest my case. Blarney Stone. Works every time.

Anyway, I am expecting to be invited to the next Royal Wedding, which will be when Prince William (son of Charles and Diana, for those who've been living on the Moon) marries Kate Middleton, Commoner, sometime next year.

There are a few things to enjoy about this, if you try not to think about how much it'll cost us all.

Firstly, her parents are called Mike and Carol. Fantastic! Mike and Carol are not swanky Royal-Family Rupert-and-Fiona type names, are they? They are family-holiday-in-a-caravan-near-Rhyll-type names. I love it!

Secondly, my husband Stephen's family's middle name is - tremendously appropriately - Middleton. So of course we're certain to be related and I expect our invitation will be in the post as soon as the date's been announced.

I am of course going to do the proper thing - - which is, of course, to cash in on it as much as possible. I have no scruples and am prepared to sell all my stories about the Royal Couple to the tabloids. The day I stopped Kate from absent-mindedly putting several dozen naked photos of herself on Facebook. That kind of thing. Just send me money. I'll tell you anything you want to hear.

Meanwhile, Prince William, in an effort to get the whole shebang off to a really doomy and dramatic start, has given young Kate his mother Diana's engagement ring.

There are two problems with this. Firstly, it contains a sapphire the size of Birmingham and will be a right old nuisance, catching on everything and making washing-up really tricky.

But secondly - - Princess Diana's engagement ring?

Princess Diana, who was forced to undergo a virginity test before marriage, and who married a man who was very clearly in love with someone else and didn't make much of a secret of it; and who hated just about every moment of her married life, and who died in mysterious circumstances in her mid-thirties. If anything ever symbolised lies and misery, it's that ring.

I expect when Prince William offered it to her, Kate opened her mouth to say, "Shit! Is that what I think it is? Well if that's your Mum's old ring you can get stuffed!"

And then she thought again and said, through gritted teeth, "Oh, how very lovely and touching."

Here in Britain, it's Austerity Corner at the moment. Cuts in everything all over the place. What, I wonder, could distract us from thinking about it all and then blaming the Government?

Oh yes, a Royal Wedding. That'll do it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Doctor Theatre

There's a phrase amongst actors: Doctor Theatre.

What it means is that if you're feeling really ill, and you have to be on stage that night, you will make a miraculous recovery just in time for the play, will play the role fine - - and then feel really ill again afterwards.

I have this with teaching. It's a strange phenomenon.

At the moment I have a cold. Hardly surprising as I have been associating with lots and lots of student doctors and colds whizz round student communities like a National Germ-Sharing Scheme.

I tend to get colds in two types: the Feeling-Ill type and the Sneezing-and-Runny-Nose type.

This is the Feeling-Ill type and I'm really not enjoying it. But I can override it where necessary. I just carried on working in our office this morning - - but was still aware of the cold, and generally sniffed pathetically from time to time and felt sorry for myself.

This afternoon, as I approached my group of student doctors, I felt terrible. Oh, woe is me, I thought, I am ILL in BLOCK CAPITALS.

Then the session started and every single symptom disappeared for the whole afternoon. The session went well, the students were great, I loved it all.

At the end all the students left the room and suddenly - - - the block capitals were back! OH I FEEL ILL! How can I drag myself back to the dreary multi-storey car park, in the dark and the cold, to my car? Sighhhhhh. O Cruel World (etc).

I'm feeling pretty ill this evening too. I'll work in our office again tomorrow morning, and I bet I'll feel ill during it - but I bet I'll be fine for my teaching group tomorrow afternoon.

It's a weird thing. It's something to do with "performance" in front of other people, I think, that concentrates the mind wonderfully and causes it to ignore the body's grumbles. Doctor Theatre and Doctor Teaching are forces to be reckoned with.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Along the Coast Road

We're just back from Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria. I took my mother over yesterday and we came back today, bringing my mother's great friend Amy.

Both times we travelled round the Coast Road and both times the light was beautiful. I just love those wide, flat beaches with all their different colours. Morecambe Bay has quite a scary reputation because of its shifting sands and incredibly dangerous currents: very many people have drowned there, most notoriously recently the Chinese cockle-pickers.

But it's a place of tremendous beauty, too. Here it is, seen from the road:

and a bit nearer to Barrow - I just love all those blues and greys and silvers:

Here's rain over the sea:

Finally, here's the beach at Bardsey, this afternoon: it's a bit hard to tell where land meet beach meets sea meets sky.

Perhaps, eventually, I might tire of looking at these views and listening to the sound of seagulls and oyster-catchers out on the mud flats. But I don't think that'll happen any time soon: this scenery brings me a feeling of joy and awe every time I see it. If you click on the photos to enlarge them then I hope you will understand what I mean.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Driving Between Two Seas

Yesterday I was working in Wigan: tomorrow I'm working in Hull. I remember a survey once showed that Hull was the city that the fewest people could place on a map, but actually it's really easy - head due East from Leeds (and surely everyone knows where Leeds is - - okay, in the North, in the middle, if you don't!) and Hull is just before you get to the mouth of the Humber river.

Then, back to Leeds tomorrow evening and then on Saturday I'm off West again, to Barrow-in-Furness on the west coast. My mother's coming with me and then we're bringing Amy (my mother's best friend from school, who thoughtfully married Mum's cousin Frank) back with us for a while.

I love visiting Barrow and the beautiful beaches all around. My mother was born there and grew up there, until she left to go to Leeds University during the Second World War. Some of my favourite relatives live there and apparently some of them are coming to see us on Saturday afternoon, which is great.

I don't want it to seem like a Special Event though, because I just can't do those. Any event that has "SPECIAL EVENT" all over it, I find upsetting: and I know that's daft but that's how it is.

I remember driving over to Barrow once, years ago, when Amy's husband Frank was still alive. My mother was staying there and I was going to collect her. Mum spent quite a while on the phone with me the night before - with the very best of intentions of course - wondering what to organise for me. My mother loves Special Events! I found myself pleading with her "No, no, please, nothing. Just a walk on the beach!"

It's difficult when you don't see relatives - ones you care about - very often. Every time you see them is therefore special. Who knows what may happen before you see them the next time?

I love that everyday kind of specialness and I hate that formal weddings-and-funerals kind of specialness.

I think I'll enjoy the trip to Hull tomorrow - the strange, flat scenery across the M62 heading East, the solid pride of Hull, the interesting work with student doctors. I'm looking forward to the trip to Barrow too. This week I've been West to Manchester Airport, East again to Leeds, West again to Wigan - - and now it's to the East Coast and then to the West Coast. I'm just hoping the current gale force winds and driving rain die down a bit first.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Road to Wigan, Here

Here's a Wigan joke:

"What time is it when there's a pie on Wigan Town Hall clock?"

"Summat to eight."

(Translation for Foreign People - by whom I mean anyone who doesn't live Up North and particularly in Wigan - "summat" is something. "Eat" can be pronounced "eight" in a Wigan accent.)

Okay, perhaps the joke lost something in translation.

Anyway, today I was working in Wigan, which I remember chiefly for two things: firstly, George Orwell's book The Road to Wigan Pier which is a fascinating account of working-class life in Northern England in the 1930s. Also, going through Wigan, the Leeds to Liverpool Canal has lots of locks: twenty-one in fact and you can see some photos here.

Stephen and I once spent a slightly damp day going through every single lock in a narrowboat and I have to say I loved every moment. My mother and Olli were with us but Olli probably doesn't remember it too well as he was only thirteen months old, though he did seem to love it at the time.

The obvious way to get to Wigan from Leeds is along the M62 motorway and then up the M6. The very thought filled me with horror, since on previous recent trips along the M62 it has had vast, long sections of nose-to-tail traffic.

So I decided to go a longer way, in a semi-circle nearer to the Arctic Circle (okay, not a lot nearer, since you ask, but a BIT nearer) - - the A65 through Otley and Ilkley, and then to Colne in Lancashire, and then the M65, and then South down the M6.

I got up at half past four. I rather enjoy the challenge of such mad things. It was pitch dark and just above freezing when I left the house an hour or so later. As I drove up into the Yorkshire Dales it remained dark but with a faint light in the sky - - and then, as I crossed the border into deepest Lancashire, the sun was coming up and there was a beautiful dawn over glorious reds and browns of remaining autumn leaves.

I don't think anyone knows about the M65. I've been on it twice and there is hardly any traffic on it. I am telling you about it in strict confidence. Don't tell anyone, please.

On to the M6, which was much busier but nevertheless kept moving. After a nifty little manouevre up one way, across at a junction and down the other way - the only way to leave the M6 for Wigan - there I was, at the doctors' surgery where I was working, before eight in the morning and the first to arrive.

It was a really interesting morning's work with great people.

Back along the M62 as I knew that would be faster at that time of day, and I wanted to get back to work in Leeds. It was fine - - but I actually really enjoyed the other route, and will use it again next time I am heading to the North-West, which is probably going to be in the middle of January when I'm working in Blackpool and Lytham St Anne's. I just hope there's no snow.

And on Friday afternoon this week I'm heading in entirely the opposite direction. Due East, to Hull.

Monday, November 08, 2010

The Guardian's Interview with Lily Allen

The singer Lily Allen suffered recently what all the newspapers have described as "a miscarriage" at six months of pregnancy. She had previously suffered another one, whilst four months pregnant.

Today The Guardian - - widely considered to be one of Britain's more reputable newspapers - published this interview with her, which took place ten days before she lost the baby.

I think that publishing this piece was a vile thing to do. It's all about her hopes and plans for the future, and the headline is "I go through a major life change once a year". So, presumably we are supposed to think - - "how ironic that she should say that - - and then lose the baby! Amazing!"

It's a horrible piece of journalism and should never have been published now.

Not one of the articles that I've seen about it has described this loss as anything other than "a miscarriage".

My first baby was born at six months of pregnancy, in 1984. He lived for three weeks.

A baby born at six months' gestation is not like a miscarriage in early pregnancy - and I've had one of those too, and they are traumatic enough.

A baby born at six months' gestation looks just like a full-term baby, but smaller. Ours had fingers, and toes, and blue eyes, and lots of blond curly hair. Many babies born at this age, with the help of modern medicine, have survived.

Perhaps the technical, medical term is "foetus" but the parents' term is "baby" and you'd have thought that at least some of those thick, insensitive journalists would have thought of that.

My heart goes out to Lily Allen, and to her partner. What they are facing is the loss of a baby. And at six months, they will already have imagined much of the baby's future, and their future, too. They will have thought of the baby learning to speak, and to walk, and going to nursery school, and big school, and all grown up with a partner - -

Shame on The Guardian for publishing the piece. They have issued a rather half-hearted statement on Twitter saying that Lily Allen's PR agreed to it.

So what. I don't care who agreed to it. The Guardian should have had more sense, and more sensitivity, and used their own judgement and pulled the entire interview.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Thoughts After a Sleepless Night

So - - - is it wrong to prioritise what YOU want, rather than trying to go for what everyone else wants?

My friend David suggested to me the other day that it might actually be right to do this.

He has a point. Another friend once said to me that when asked to choose a restaurant, I habitually say "whichever you prefer". And they might want to go to whichever I prefer, but I don't leave them that option.

The thing is, quite often I really, really don't mind. It's the people I'm with that I'm interested in, rather than the food, so as long as it's not one of those posy duck-in-chocolate-sauce-with-a-plum-jus type of places, then I'm happy.

However, I do find it hard to stick out for what I want. "What's the worst that can happen?"" asked David.

Well, everyone might be pushed into doing something they don't like, and they might be miserable, and I hate it - really REALLY hate it! - when people I care about are miserable.

So I spend half my life trying to please everybody and proably succeed in pleasing nobody. I'm sometimes described as "too unselfish" but I wonder if this approach is just a kind of inverted selfishness - - I don't want to choose, so I'll make you do it.

I always feel bad that I don't spend more time with the "oldies" in my life - - my mother, my friend Connie. I always feel bad that I don't get enough done. And yet I also feel bad that I'm working too hard - - and I feel selfish, too, because I love all my work, and yet I know it's too much sometimes and I should do less. And yet, at the moment, we need the money, whilst Olli and Gareth are both seeking permanent jobs - - - and then I think, what is "need"? To buy bread? To go on holiday? My definition of "need" is no doubt very different from some people's in the world.

Always I have a feeling that I don't deserve things. I feel I am SO not good enough. Always I'm working hard to try to earn the right to have anything. That sounds ridiculous, but it's true. And then I think - - well, Daphne, why are you so specially undeserving, when you don't think that other people are?

So, Daphne, what do you want to do? Spend time with my family and my friends. Stand and stare. Walk in the countryside, and on beaches. Swim. See more places, especially abroad. Listen to more music. Watch more television. See more films and plays. Read more.

And yet - - I love my work, too. I can't even work out what I want, let alone work out whether it's selfish or unselfish to decide what I want and then go all out to get it. Bah.

And now for something completely different. I've always liked this. I like the video too. Enough introspection!

Friday, November 05, 2010

My Butterfly Mask

I've been having a bit of a problem with my left eye recently. When I am tired, or have been looking at a computer screen for too long (which, let's face it, often happens) my left eye has a strange feeling that it wants to close.

Now my own theory is that my right eye doesn't see as well as my left eye, so the left eye's doing a lot of the work, and gets tired.

This may of course not be the case. I've looked at various Eye Problems sites on t'interclacker and does my problem feature there? No, it does not. I did mention it to the optician when I had my eyes tested recently and he gave me what may best be described as a Blank Stare. I suppose if it continues, I may have to go to the doctor and ask about it. I feel another Blank Stare coming on.

Anyway, when my eye did this recently, I peered at it in the mirror to see if it looked any different. It didn't.

However, I don't often peer at my eyes in the mirror. "Oh look!" I thought. "The butterfly's gone!"

Not surprising, really, since the butterfly dated from nearly twenty-two years ago, when I was pregnant.

Some women, during pregnancy, get a butterfly-shaped mask around their eyes, of darker pigment. I was one of them.

My butterfly was only half a proper butterfly - most of it was around my left eye, and it was much paler round my right eye.

As with most things, people felt they should make helpful comments about it.

"Oooh, did you know you've got brown splodges on your face?"

"Yes, thank you for helping me to feel really good about them." (Actually I never said that, I'm far too restrained. I'm more the run-away-and-weep type.)

The brown pigment's supposed to disappear after pregnancy, and most of mine did. But a little brown patch stuck around under my left eye, for years and years. And now it's gone. Actually it might have gone ten years ago, for all I've noticed.

I reminded Stephen about this butterfly mask this evening and he couldn't remember a thing about it so clearly it was more important to me than it was to him. But just in case you think I'm making it all up, here's a link to some information about it. Don't go telling me that this blog isn't educational.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Walking into the Museum

My friend David recently described a tendency to dwell on the past too much, with the phrase "walking into the museum".

Walking into it? I'm never out of the blasted place!

It's not entirely deliberate. I'm fortunate - - or perhaps that should be unfortunate - - to have a very good memory. It comes in handy for - well - remembering things that I need to remember. I've only had a diary for a few years, since I started doing quite so many different jobs in different places. Before then, I just remembered everything.

In fact, I used to find that if I wrote something down, it went out of my head, so I preferred to just learn it. I've never been a maker of written lists: just mental ones. As I get older, I realise that I'm probably going to have to make the lists on paper.

Recently, I've tried to learn to both write things down - things like jobs and appointments - and to remember them too. I usually have a pretty good mental grasp of what I'm going to be doing in the next few weeks.

I dread losing my memory, because I take it so much for granted and I have always used it such a lot. I'm not particularly proud of it: when I did well in exams, I used to feel I'd somehow cheated, because a lot of school exams were - in my day at least - simply memory tests. If you'd like me to recite the countries of South America - - as they were in about 1971, I haven't updated my memory - I can still do it, and if anyone requires a sketch map of the Great Lakes, well, I'm your woman.

The trouble is, there's a whopping big downside to all this. Every bad memory of every bad event of my life is always ready to spring back to me, in all its hideousness, when something triggers it. The worse the memory, it seems, the greater the detail.

Tomorrow's the twenty-sixth anniversary of the death of my first baby, who was born prematurely. I can remember every detail of that day - even down to the fact that I had to make a phone call from the hospital and that was the first day I'd heard the new, much lighter, dial tone.

I'm not going to tell you all the details. I'm going to walk out of the museum and watch telly instead. My constant wandering around in that far-off day doesn't help anyone.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Safe in Their Hands

In the last couple of days I've worked with Mental Health nurses, final-year students from several different healthcare professions, first-year student doctors and second-year student doctors - - it's been a busy couple of days!

I don't usually write in detail about the work I do with healthcare professionals but I do want to say a couple of things about it.

I explained to my new groups of first-years that I have a vested interest in them becoming good doctors: when I'm ancient they'll be the consultants!

When I came into the room they were very chatty and lively and I was slightly nervous in case they took a lot of quietening down.

But within a minute they were all focused and getting down to the work: they channelled their liveliness into enthusiasm for the task in hand and worked intelligently and very hard all afternoon. When asked to come up with some ground rules for the session they suggested, for one of them, "Enjoy it but take it seriously" and that was exactly what they did.

I've been very impressed by the students I've worked with over the past couple of days: their intelligence and their attitude and their high level of skill.

It's easy to complain about students - - well I'm jolly well not going to. They were great. Hurrah!