Monday, January 31, 2011

Refuses Drops

"I'll tick the box that says Refuses Drops", said the nurse.

I wasn't refusing the drops at all. If I had been, I'd have said something like this:

"Take away your evil pupil-dilating eye drops! No way are you putting those vile things anywhere near my eyes, thank you very much! NO NO NO! NO WAY AM I HAVING THE EYE DROPS! I REFUSE THEM!"

Instead of this, what I had said was,

"Last year when I had the eye drops, I fainted, so I'm not sure I should have them again, as I've been told it's a rare, but known reaction."

"I can't put all that on the form," said the nurse. "I've just got to tick this box. Refuses Drops."

They did the test without the drops that year. Then the following year they said they couldn't do it without the drops, in case I sued them for giving me a wrong result, so they sent me to the Eye Department of the big hospital instead, where I had the whole Refuses Drops palaver all over again.

Finally I didn't have the drops saw a consultant who said that my eyes were fine and didn't have diabetic retinopathy at all: but that as I got older it would be harder to see without putting the drops in. He seemed to think that I was planning this fainting lark with the sole intention of ruining his day.

This year when I rang to book the appointment I said that the eye drops make me faint, and that it's a rare but known reaction.

She sounded astonished. Flabbergasted. Completely confused as to what to do.

"So - - er - - are you happy to have the drops, then?"

"No, I'm not happy, because last time I had them I fainted and then I felt ill for hours. But they seem to think I need them, so that they can get a clear picture of my retina. What do you think I should do?"

I could hear her brain overloading.

"Errrr - - I don't know. Should I tick Refuses Drops on the form?"

"NO. Because I'm not refusing them. I simply want to discuss it with someone who knows about such things."

My appointment's on Wednesday. Already I know three important things:

1) Healthcare professionals are often very good at dealing with anything that they're used to, no matter how dramatic or how gory.

2) But they're often very bad indeed at dealing with anything that's out of the ordinary.

3) Any form that works only by tick-boxes has been designed by a thoughtless fool.

At the moment I'm inclined just to have the Evil Pupil-Dilating Drops, and to see what happens. At least then the doctors and nurses might understand what I've been going on about.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Great Porch Project

The 1960s, eh? Great music. Terrible buildings.

Amongst the least pleasant of the constructions of the decade was the porch on our house. Thinking was different in those days. Out with the old! In with the new!

So my parents bought this late-Victorian house, built in 1896, and proceeded to rip out every shred of its original character.

Actually, the process was begun by Winston Churchill in the 1940s when he took away our iron railings to be used in the fight against Hitler. I'm not sure that our win was entirely thanks to this, but I do hope it helped because the little marks where the railings used to be do not enhance the look of our wall.

When we moved in, in 1959, there was a kind of open porch at the front with two pillars and little seats at the side. Even at the age of three, I thought it was a Good Thing. But oh no. The Communist thought it was far too - well - Victorian - so it had to go.

Now, of course, we think of Victorian design as historic and characterful. The Communist, born in 1923, regarded everything from the nineteenth century as just hideously old-fashioned. Off with its head!

So the pillars and little seats had to go. I have to tell you that I protested. But did anyone listen? No they did not. I was only three and what did I know about the new Spirit of Freedom of the age?

The house is all curves - big, curved bay windows - and so were the pillars. What a bad idea it was to replace them with an oblong box of a porch, mostly comprised of windows and a with a door too narrow to get any useful furniture through, even after you've carried it up the flight of steps.

All furniture, therefore, has to come in through the back door. That's a slightly wider door, though also up a flight of fairly narrow steps with a bend in them. Once stuff comes in, you can never get it out again, which is why our furniture range looks like the entire stock of one of the poorer second-hand-furniture shops.

My mother kept the porch full of plants and at one time I suppose they looked fine, or as fine as plants can ever look when they're in a hideous Sixties porch stuck on the front of a Victorian house.

Then when my parents moved out in 1999, they left the blasted plants. They're still there, all leggy and scraggy. I'd have chucked them all ages ago except my mother comes and tidies them from time to time, and I would feel cruel.

Over the years, the wood of the window-frames has rotted. The paint on them has peeled. The shelves on which the plants stand have gradually started to slope at a jaunty angle so from time to time a plant or two will crash to the floor throwing soil all over.

There's a slot on the wall next to the door for letters. You can look in from the lounge bay window to see if there are any letters in the porch: I remember doing this sneakily one Valentine's Day when I was seventeen to see if by any chance there were any Valentine cards for me. (There was one. I never found out who it was from in spite of extensive enquiries involving handwriting experts and MI5).

Over the porch is the original Victorian tiled roof that used to be atop the pillars. Yes, it does look ridiculous, since you ask.

Meanwhile, the white coating on the house, last redone ten years ago, is coming off and letting damp in and so needs to be redone again. Sighhhhhh.

But there's no point in redoing the white coating without first doing something about the blasted porch.

So that's what we're going to do. It's got to go. Something has to replace it, and I have a feeling it has to be another porch, just to keep the weather off the front door and the house a bit warmer.

On with the Great Porch Project. Sorry, Dad.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Gough Map

I made a big discovery when I was six and it was this: How To Draw Maps.

I was in a plane travelling back from Italy and there was no cloud. I looked out of the window, and suddenly what seemed to be the entire South Coast of England was spread out below us. It was fascinating.

So I realised that what they must do, in order to make maps, was to fly in a plane, turn it sideways, put a piece of tracing paper on the window and draw round it.

I was glad I'd got that one sorted. One more thing in the world that I now understood.

And so began my love affair with maps. When I was at school we did a lot of poring over Ordnance Survey maps in geography and I liked learning all the little symbols and imagining that I was there. I particularly liked it when we measured the contours to draw a sideways view of the shape of a hill - it was great! I wonder if anyone still does that?

In the later years of secondary school I used to try to learn maps in as much detail as I could. At one point I could sing all the countries of South America - I still can, just about, though some of the names have changed! I learned how to draw a sketch map of the Great Lakes and reproduced this faithfully in my 1972 O-level exam, with lots of colouring in using Lakeland pencil crayons. Anyone lost Chicago and want to know where to find it? Well I can tell you.

A couple of months ago on television there was a series of programmes about mediaeval Britain, where the presenter travelled around Britain using the Gough Map from 1360 as a guide.

I'd never heard of the Gough Map but if you click on this link you will find it. It's Great Britain, certainly, but not as we know it.

It's lying on its back for one thing. Scotland to the left, Cornwall to the right and a lot of little islands scattered all around with more abandon than accuracy.

Of course, since the world was flat in those days, it was fine for Britain to lie down. The South gets more detailed attention, in general, than the North - yes, some things just haven't changed, have they?

The Isle of Wight and the Channel Islands are easy to identify but it all goes a bit random round the sausage-shaped Scotland.

It's clear what's important though. The rivers, which are green and flow in pretty curling patterns, with the Thames and the Severn being very prominent. The settlements are all marked with red church spires, and the roads are marked in red. It's all coloured in nicely: a quality which, I must point out, it has in common with my 1972 Sketch Map of the Great Lakes.

Actually, what's surprising to me is not the inaccuracy, but the accuracy. How did they know even as much as they did, without any modern aids such as tracing paper and aeroplane windows?

I loved the Gough Map. Every time it made an appearance in the programme I would try to look at it more closely in an "Oh look! There's Edinburgh!" kind of way. From time to time I would utter feeble cries of "I want it! I want it!"

Sadly, I knew that the Bodleian Library in Oxford was never going to give up its prize. However, luckily for me, a hundred years or so after the Gough Map was drawn, William Caxton very kindly developed the printing press, so that Olli and Gareth could buy me a copy of the Gough Map for Christmas, which they did. Hurrah!

So there it is, framed, on the wall of our house in Leeds. Wonderful.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Dancing, Jim, But Not As We Know It

Irish dance, eh? Where you keep your body very straight and do a lot of fancy footwork very fast. (Yes, I know that's a rather superficial description, sorry!) My feet look at Irish dance and say - - "Sorry, no information. We'll stick to swimming, thank you very much."

Here are two Irish dancers who aren't using their feet at all. Oh, and the music's not Irish, either. But I think they have discovered that they have what might be described as a transferable skill.
I found it very enjoyable and strangely addictive.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Teatime Sickness

I feel horribly ill. But I expect it's because it's teatime.

Every day I forget this. Every day I'm surprised by it, and yet I've been like this for the past few years.

At about five o'clock, I start feeling ill. I feel nauseous. Sick, sick, O sick, as Hamlet's mum Gertrude once remarked.

Food? Ohhhh no, thank you, I feel far too sick.

But eventually I remember that this happens just about every day, and I have something to eat, even though the smell of food is just - - ewwwwwwwww.

After I've eaten then gradually, I feel a bit better. By seven o'clock I'm a lot better. By eight o'clock I'm fine. By nine o'clock I've forgotten all about it.

The strange thing is I stay in the forgotten-all-about-it mode until about five o'clock the next day, when I remark that I feel sick to anyone who will listen. Actually everyone's probably a bit bored with it, since I say it every day in tones of fresh surprise.

Occasionally, when I remember, I mention it to my GP, who looks puzzled.

"I think it's the metformin," I say. "It does say it can cause digestive disturbances".

"Oh yes, that'll be it," says the doctor, with relief, before failing to come up with anything that might help.

Metformin is my diabetes medication. I think "Digestive disturbances" is tablet-leaflet-speak for "feeling sick every teatime". In fact I'm probably let off lightly as "vomiting" is also mentioned. Great.

If I take the alternative drug, gliclazide, it doesn't make me feel sick. In fact it makes me feel great. However, it also makes me RAVENOUSLY HUNGRY because it boosts my insulin, which lowers my blood sugar, and makes me want to eat everything in sight, and last time I was on it I put on about half a stone in a week before deciding that feeling sick every teatime was preferable to becoming the World's Fattest Woman.

I vary in my opinions. When I feel sick at teatime, as now, I think - - ohhh, surely gliclazide can't be THAT bad?

"Ahh", say those with more knowledge of diabetes, "you need more exercise and then you can have less medication."

Yes, yes, I know, the swimming does bring my blood sugar down quite a bit - - - but not enough. This is the "less medication".

"Try cinnamon, then. That helps."

Yes, it probably does. And I love cinnamon. But I can't eat it at every single meal.

"Well lose some weight then. You type 2 diabetics are all a bit on the podgy side."

Yes, well, I'm constantly trying to do just that. I am the typical type 2 diabetic build - - excess weight is all plonked round my middle. Really, my diet's pretty good. Lots of fruit and veg, certainly.

Right, tea's ready. I'd better eat it. Don't fancy it though. Feel sick.

But of course - - if you know about the possible complications of diabetes - - well, I should just shut up and be grateful that there IS medication to stave them off.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sunrise on the Shore

"Look out for the windmills," said my actor friend David Ansdell, when he found out I was working in Lytham St Anne's, near Blackpool.

Sadly I thought I wouldn't have time to explore at all. I couldn't leave Leeds until about 5pm yesterday, so of course I had to drive to Blackpool in the dark.

Because I knew about this work a couple of months ago, I was able to book a very cheap room at a Travelodge. Special Offer - South Promenade Travelodge - dinner, bed and breakfast for a total of £27! Bargain! It's easy to knock these corporate-type hotels but this was fine - clean, warm, the food was much better than I had any right to expect for what I paid, and the staff were particularly friendly and helpful.

It's right next to the Pleasure Beach so I'd guess it's a bit on the noisy side in summer - but in January, all was quiet and still and I must say I liked it that way.

It was still dark as I set off to nearby Lytham St Anne's for my work with some young doctors.

The best way was along the seafront - hurrah! - and although there are dunes for some of the way I caught occasional glimpses of the beach.

As the sun rose there were lovely silhouettes of churches and other buildings against the sky and I wished I could stop to take photos, but there was nowhere I could stop.

I'd half-forgotten about the windmills - - and then I rounded a bend and there it was, the Lytham Windmill. There was no way I was passing it by! Luckily there were plenty of parking spaces just there.

It had lost a couple of its arms and wasn't quite as grand as the one we went inside in Bruges last summer - - but hey, it was a windmill and I loved it anyway.

The sun was rising over the sea:

Oh well, over the grassy foreshore anyway: there's definitely more beach than sea! It has a strange, bleak beauty and a slightly end-of-the-world feel which I love about all such places.

There was mist and there was nobody about.

It was time for me to go: I'd spent just ten minutes there, and it was heaven. The sun was rising more every moment.

The Health Centre where I was working was less than half a mile from this place and fifteen minutes later I was in the world of doctors, Simulated Patients and Communication Skills.

Then, in the afternoon, into Blackpool for some more of the same kind of work - I think it went well - interesting work, lovely people.

Back home in the dark again but with a huge full moon in a clear sky in front of me, with little wisps of cloud across it: the moonlight was slightly spooky in the darker parts of my route, but spooky in a good way.

It's been a long day, and I'm tired - but I have loved every moment. And I want to return to Leafy Lytham - as one doctor told me they call it locally, in contrast to Brash Blackpool, I suspect! - and explore some more.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Off to the Wild West

Yes, I'm off to the Wild West tomorrow. Blackpool. And Lytham St Anne's.

I've been to St Anne's-on-Sea only once, years ago. There was no sea. The tide there goes so far out that it's hard to believe there's any sea at all.

Because it was SEA that we were after, rather than just mile after mile of sand, we upped sticks (and deckchairs and windbreaks and thermos flasks and sandy ham sandwiches and such) and headed for Blackpool.

I don't remember much else - I was VERY small - except we were with my friend Jo and her parents and they bought her a teddy bear and I was envious. I have no memory of her sister Deb being there - or even existing - and since Deb was born when I was four, this could well be the case.

I've been back to Blackpool a few times since. I've been up the Tower several times, and enjoyed the view from the top, right along the beach, and also trying to walk across the square of transparent floor with a view right down to the ground below.

Blackpool's full of hen nights and stag nights and cheap toys and cheap hotels and amusement arcades. It's trashy but quite interesting to marvel at. Last time I was there it was a November night and Olli and Gareth had taken me to see Amy Winehouse. She was so late coming on stage that I fled the place for an hour until she finally turned up. In the meantime I walked along the front, in the dark, on my own, just listening to the sea swishing on the beach. I loved it.

But there's something about Blackpool that fills me with a deep, deep sadness and I'm not sure what it is. Loss of childhood, perhaps: loss of innocence. And I prefer my seasides much wilder - - in a different and far more natural way. Not the stag-night kind of wildness.

Sadly, I won't have much time in either Lytham St Anne's or in Blackpool. I'm working in Leeds tomorrow afternoon and then will set off to Blackpool, where I'm staying, just as it's getting dark.

On Wednesday morning I have to be in Lytham St Anne's by half-past eight to work with some young doctors, and then straight afterwards I'll have to set off to start in Blackpool at two, to work with some medical students. By the time I set off back to Leeds on Wednesday, it will be nearly dark again.

Even though I'm sure I'll enjoy the work, it's a shame, because I've heard that the old part of Lytham is interesting and I must say it looks it - rather quaint and old-fashioned.

This visit I think I'll have to make do with the smell of sea air and perhaps a quick glimpse of the sea. I'm not sure I can bear it. I feel a return trip coming on.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Getting the Behaviour You Expect

In the Olden Days, when I started my teaching practice in a really soulless and unpleasant secondary school near Cardiff, there was a teacher whose classes were always silent.

"We don't know why, Miss," said one of the students to me. "We think she's a witch. She puts spells on us, Miss."

Actually I thought a class that was completely silent all the time was not really conducive to a friendly learning environment: however, in those days I would have welcomed the formula for some of the witch's spells. My classes were noisy and badly behaved. The worst thing they did was take the middles out of their pens and use the pens as little tubes to blow nasty soggy bits of chewed paper at each other.

After a while I gradually noticed that I had somehow acquired at least some of the magic formula. "You get the behaviour that you expect," I read in a book about teaching. This made sense to me. If you expect them to run riot, they most certainly will. If you believe that the power of your personality alone is enough to quell them, then they generally believe it too.

So one day, a couple of years later, in the next classroom, I heard a class running riot with a student teacher.

I stood at the door and did nothing at all but stare at them and wait for them to shut up.

Gradually, they all became silent and looked at me.

"And that's the way I want it to stay for the rest of this lesson," I said, in a distinctly Schoolmarmy way. "SILENT. And if I hear one more peep from you lot, there will be trouble." I turned to go and heard a small peep. It may well have come from the quivering student standing at the front.

"That," I said to the class, "is your last chance. One more sound and that's it."

Of course, I didn't have the foggiest clue what the Trouble I would bring upon them was going to be. The key to stopping bad behaviour is to stop it before even the teenagers know it's going to start.

There was SILENCE from next door for the rest of the lesson. Whatever it is, I had learned to do it.

Now I work with student doctors. Yesterday I had a wonderful day with some very hard-working and good-humoured third years. I think I appreciate it more because of the tough times I had when I started.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Busy Week - - and a Reprieve

I'm amazed to find that I haven't posted on this blog since Saturday.

I've been busy. I'm always busy, of course - I suppose I must like it that way! - but this week has been particularly hectic. The agency's monthly meeting was on Sunday and after that my week has been a mixture of working in the agency's office, University teaching and Simulated Patient work.

And you may remember that Stephen was being made redundant. He was supposed to be made redundant from this coming Friday but - for the second time in a year - he isn't being made redundant. They did get as far as signing the redundancy agreement before deciding, belatedly, that he was too valuable to lose, and that the work he's doing is vital.

I can't really give you the details, but we are very pleased with the result, of course. Except we could have done without the stress, which started back in September with the idea of a reorganisation and finished earlier this week with the news that he's carrying on as normal, but with a different manager.

I do want to find someone important in the company and shout at them on the topic of how VERY stressful this kind of thing is. I feel so very sorry for all the thousands of other people who are going through what we've been going through - and many in far worse circumstances with little hope of re-employment.

Yes, I know I'm a worrier. But this time, they did seem determined to go through with it, and it lost me many a night's sleep.

Onwards and upwards, and many thanks to everyone who's given us support through this really tricky time.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

The Joy of Taxis

I don't like travelling by taxi. Sometimes it's inevitable, because I can't take the car for some reason.

"Oh, why don't you use public transport, then?" I am sometimes asked. Well, because I am always going from job to job and don't have enough time to wait a couple of decades for a bus in between.

Anyway, taxis. Firstly, it's like entering the driver's own little home. Now I don't blame the drivers for that - after all they spend a lot of time in the taxi - but that generally means that I have to listen to their music, which is always and without exception awful.

Secondly, I climb into the taxi and as I am fumbling to do up the seat belt, which is always different from any seat belt I have ever encountered before, the driver sets off as if from a pitstop in Formula One. This is, however, a money-saving exercise for me, as I have a firm personal rule never to tip a driver who sets off like a bat out of hell before I have fastened my seat belt.

Thirdly, there was once - luckily only once - Smelly Taxi Driver, who had apparently stepped into his taxi some days before we encountered him, and had never left it since.

Fourthly, there are taxi drivers who want to talk, even though I generally don't, and they ask where I'm going and what I'm going for. And usually I am travelling to the station to go and do a roleplay to help to train some doctors or other medics, and if I even try to explain any of this they then say - - fanfare - -

"Doctors talking to patients? But surely that's just common sense, isn't it? Surely they'd know how to do that without needing to be taught?"

Then they tell you about the terrible things that some doctor once said to their Great-Aunt Mary, and they never make the connection between this and what they've just said.

So it's easier to just say that I'm off to work in a hospital, and then they assume I'm a doctor, because I talk a bit posh, and then I feel obliged to deny it - - and I didn't want to be in this conversation anyway, or to hear the taxi driver's political opinions, and then to be expected to share them.

So on Friday Stephen had the car and I wanted to get a taxi back from the building where I was working in Leeds. Let us call it the Ugly Building, because that is an apt description.

The Ugly Building has two entrances, a long way from each other, and whichever door you ask the taxi driver to go to he always seems to be waiting at the other one.

So, determined to get it right, I went up to the man on reception and asked him if there was a particular name for this entrance, because I wanted to call a taxi. I hoped it would come quickly, because it was now snowing heavily.

Without a word to me, he picked up the phone and rang for a taxi. "Ugly Building, please".

"So will the taxi come to this entrance?"

"Oh yes. Ten minutes."

"But how will he know it's this entrance?"

"They know me. They'll know to come here." said Reception Man, as though to an idiot.

Twenty minutes went by. The snow was now up to the knees of passers-by so I returned to reception and asked after my taxi.

He rang Scummy Cars or whatever they were called.

"Two minutes," he said, and went off to lunch.

Another twenty minutes passed by, though it seemed longer. Passers-by were now travelling by dog sled.

I rang Directory Enquiries and asked for Scummy Cars. No such company, they said.

Using the tail lights of a sled for guidance, and dodging two or three polar bears, I blundered through the blizzard to the other entrance to see if Scummy Cars were waiting there.

"Ah yes," said the man on reception, "he was here five minutes ago, but he's gone now."

I rang my usual taxi company.

"Well if you'd rung half an hour ago, it would have been fine," they said, "but a lot of the drivers have gone home because of the snow so it will be at least an hour's wait."

Sobbing gently, I wandered out into the blizzard, explaining to the man on reception that I was just going out and might be some time. He didn't seem too bothered.

Through the whiteout, I spotted the words "Scummy Cars" moving slowly past me, on the side of what turned out to be a taxi.

I rushed at it, waving like a loon, and hurled myself across the windscreen to make quite sure he stopped.

By a miracle, he just happened to be my taxi, but quite where he was going when I flagged him down I wasn't sure.

"You'll have to direct me," he said, "I don't know Leeds very well."

I directed him. He took me home. I still hate taxis.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Sort of Half a Pocalypse

Gareth pointed out that there's been a kind of half-hearted apocalypse going on recently, here in God's Own County of Yorkshire. Whoever's organising it is clearly not totally in favour and is perhaps doing a bit of prototype testing for the proper thing later on. Which will, I'd guess, take place elsewhere, what with Yorkshire being God's Own County, as I may already have mentioned.

Firstly, there was a bit of an earthquake, centred on Ripon, North Yorkshire. It's all very genteel round there - you couldn't have buildings falling over and violent stuff like that. Not in Ripon. Probably a few drystone walls shook a bit and a few hand-carved walking sticks wobbled in their stands. And if you click the link I've given, above, you will also learn that it extended as far as West Yorkshire, in Huddersfield. The link is from the Huddersfield Examiner and tells us, excitedly and several times over, that it was "felt in Huddersfield".

"I thought one of my family members had slammed the outside door very forcefully" said one traumatised victim.

I'll give you my eyewitness account now. I was watching telly when suddenly nothing happened and the room didn't shake.

Then we had a partial eclipse of the Sun. Other places had blue skies and lots of photographers took stunning photographs of the Moon's shadow across the Earth. In Leeds, I was coming back from swimming and it was completely overcast. It may have gone a bit darker than usual but I couldn't really tell.

Finally, it snowed a bit in York. Just a sprinkling, you understand, to let us know that it could do a helluva lot more if it wanted to.

We are Yorkshiremen and women. And we are not afraid.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

He's Good, Int He?

I found this today and really enjoyed it - I hope you do too.

For me what makes it such fun is the incongruity - - it's like two mates messing around in the kitchen - - except the one doing a bit of karaoke can really REALLY sing!

Monday, January 03, 2011

How I Wasn't Traumatised for Ever

I greatly enjoyed Silverback's post tonight about a woman who is trying to sue Disney because she claims she had her breast groped by Donald Duck. By which I mean an actor in a costume, not a character drawn on screen.

The woman is claiming that she's suffered lasting trauma from this - do read the blog post to find out more.

It made me realise that I have missed several such opportunities to sue.

One Christmas Eve when I was about sixteen, I was walking home from the bus stop late at night when three high-spirited lads of about my own age started talking to me rather drunkenly. One of them made a feeble attempt to grope my breast and then they all ran off.

I just thought "Drunken, high-spirited teenage idiots" and that's all I thought. I was annoyed, but I can't say that I was traumatised in any way. I've always remembered the incident, but that's it - I don't remember it with any feeling of fear or horror - I knew they didn't mean any harm, they had just thought, in their drunken haze "That is a GIRL with GIRL PARTS. Let us demonstrate that we are red-blooded males who know this, thus demonstrating how grown-up and manly we are."

I'm not condoning their behaviour, of course, just saying that I don't think it had any great effect on me.

The following summer, I was walking across Soldier's Field in Leeds in the middle of the afternoon, when a young man lying on the grass decided to show me his Reproductive Equipment. That's all he did - - just unzipped his trousers and waved it around a bit, in the hope that I'd be thrilled, or shocked, or something.

I pretended I hadn't noticed, and walked on. Did it give me nightmares for years? Nope. I did tell all my friends about it though, and we all giggled in a schoolgirly manner.

When I was a student, I was walking along by the Parkinson Building at the University of Leeds, again in broad daylight, when a young man approaching me decided to give me a similar opportunity to admire his equipment.

There were lots of people about and I wasn't scared - I just kept right on walking and wished I'd been quick-witted enough to say something derogatory about its size.

Of course, none of these incidents involved a huge corporation worth squillions of pounds, or I might have suffered lasting CRS from any one of them (and if you want to know what that is, do read Silverback's blog post).

Not that I'm condoning any of this behaviour, I stress. But there are many truly, truly terrible instances of rape and humiliation that happen to women all over the world.

Now, okay, Donald Duck Woman may well have suffered all the things she claims to have suffered and I'm sure her motives are entirely pure and nothing to do with the prospect of a huge cash settlement at all. (Phew, I hope that's covered me).

I think that any women who claim to have been traumatised when they haven't been, simply because there is a large amount of money at stake, are crying wolf so that genuine incidents aren't taken seriously, and they should be very, very ashamed of themselves.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Uphill and Breathless

It's all very grey and has gone cold again but nevertheless we bravely set off to the newsagents to get a paper and some more milk (Olli and Gareth are both milkaholics, but they could have worse addictions so I'm not complaining.)

I had the bright idea of going in a circle - straight across the road towards the woods and through the 1960s estate, and thus to the newsagent and back down our street. Exercise! I thought. The swimming pool is closed! I put on three pounds in Tenby! I need exercise!

We often do that walk in the other direction, coming back from the newsagents, which involves a short walk slightly uphill along our street, a tiny bit of downhill to the estate, and a short bit of fairly steep uphill coming back.

I'd hardly ever done it the other way. It was a big shock. Going down towards the estate from our house, there's a bit of downhill that I barely noticed - - and then something akin to the ascent of Everest - only colder - round the estate.

Stephen of course was striding along happily. He has been cycling twelve miles in total each day going to work for the past few years, so this was just a little stroll to him.

Me? I slowed right down, and had to stop whilst I got my breath back.

I've never been very good at hills. Even as a child I found them difficult. It could be something to do with being somewhat overweight - though I wasn't, as a child. I've always blamed my bad leg, which does tend to get cramp - - though it didn't today. It could be something to do with my fairly recent discovery that I've got one leg longer than the other, and I don't suppose that helps.

But this morning I had to admit I was just plain out of breath! Hardly able to speak (yes, a horrifying thought, I know).

So why is this? Unfit! I thought. Must do more exercise!

And yet, of course, I swim a mile several times a week. I know that Stephen couldn't do that, and yet I do it easily, and have got much faster, and always feel I could keep right on going when I finish.

I know that many people who could run up the slope that I just struggled with, couldn't swim the distances that I do. I'm not sure quite why this should be. I know I've got a decent swimming stroke, and that helps. If you have any explanation, please tell me!

I'm carrying on with the swimming, of course. But I think my next step has to be to get on the cross-trainer and try to improve my stamina on land! If Everest is waiting for me to climb it, it's going to have a long wait.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

In the Bleak Midwinter

Okay, I'll admit it, I hate this time of year. At least it's not New Year's Eve any more - - but New Year's Day is nearly as bad.

I think one reason is because I don't know how to behave at this time. Usually, I work, and I define myself through that - - - I'm Daphne the actors' agent, or Daphne the simulated patient, or Daphne the teacher.

I actually think that's wrong, and not a good thing to do - - but I've always done it, really, ever since I was Daphne the Swotty Schoolgirl, and I'm not sure how else to be.

I think I was fine in Tenby at Christmas, because I know who I am there, and it's Daphne Who Swims.

At the moment I'm trying to do my tax - I know that New Year's Day is perhaps not the best time, but there isn't really going to be any other time, because next week work starts again. My accountant has been pestering me to do it since last May but I really haven't had a chunk of several free days together to turn my attention to it - - well, unless I'd done it whilst away on holiday! (and the holidays were, of course, one of the best things this year!)

Because I'm self-employed and work for about eight different employers, it's all very fiddly. And then I have to find stuff to set against it and I hate doing that so much that I'm sure I never claim enough and end up paying too much tax, just because eventually I can't be bothered.

I never did like New Year but of recent years I have hated it more with every passing year. Many thanks to David who came round last night so at least my party-loving mother could feel there'd been a BIT of a party!

I don't seem able to focus on the good things that have happened in the past year - and yes, there have been plenty, yes I know, PLENTY! - but just on the bad ones, which seem to have tumbled on our heads like rocks ever since the Communist got ill in the summer of 2007.

I know I should stop feeling sorry for myself and move on, and count my blessings, and I know that there are people who are a lot worse off than I am: I do know that.

Olli compared me jokingly - but with a large hint of truth - to the mother of a friend of his: "Her favourite carol is In the Bleak Midwinter because it contains the words Bleak and Midwinter". (I didn't like to mention that it's my favourite, too.)

A while ago, my GP told me to treat myself gently because such a lot of things have happened that are very hard to deal with. I'm not sure how to do that - - usually I'm just "Go on, throw it at me, I can deal with it". But today I've had enough, and I'm having a little wallow in self-pity, and I don't like that, either.

Please bear with me. Tomorrow I'll feel a bit better. Next week I'll be back at work. And now I'm going back to the flaming tax.

Thank you for reading my blog: I wish you all a very Happy New Year.