Saturday, 28 October 2017

To Nottingjam


I’m woken at 3.30am by a painful muscle spasm. That’s the trouble with getting older, nothing works as well as it used to. I wonder if any of the other people attending tonight’s concert are awake. Later we will be headed for the Rescue Rooms to see Justin Currie. In this way we are all connected, the threads of our lives will, by tonight, be collectively interwoven into a blanket of heads and cameras for our lord and master to strut and fret over.

The torment in my leg subsides as quickly as its arrival but the muscle nervously remembers. Other parts of my body are tensed, poised for a repetition. It seems hours before slumber returns.

The day passes. I check Facebreak every so often for Justin’s latest blog entry, he’s put one up nearly every day of this tour. “To Preston” hasn’t put in an appearance yet. 

I do some exercises the physio gave me to try to stop the muscle spasms. From the bedroom floor, I notice a ceiling beam looks like a guillotine threateningly pointed straight at my neck. I shift out of its way to get on with some ironing. As the creases are exterminated, I listen forlornly to Lower Reaches. When we saw JC and the Pallbearers in May, they only did one song from it. A recent interview reveals his friends didn’t like it. Fools. It is dark and deep, savage and furious. Recorded out of his usual comfort zone, the percussion sounds crisper; perhaps his friends are all drummers. I edit each song against my own life story, metaphors dodge out of reach, signifying everything and nothing. 

Last time MTM and I travelled the hour’s drive to Nottingjam, we had tickets to see a band at the Bodega. The city’s roads have been abused and bullied into one way systems to make way for trams. Everything we thought we knew about the place was gone, routes blocked by No Entry signs. Our usual car park was full. Unable to find our way to a car park near the venue and running out of time and patience, a fourth ride around the merry go round we were squeezed into broke our resolve; with a howl of frustration we retreated with our tickets unused. 

It will be worse this time, yet more redevelopment has permanently closed the Broadmarsh car park. Failure to make the venue this time Is . Not . An . Option.  This is Justin Currie and I must see him.

This time we have a strategy, car parking has been identified close to the venue and advance parking buys our peace of mind. Middle aged couple with a plan, make way you there, we have a VIP reservation. 

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Last of the tomatoes as Autumn closes in


Tomorrow I'm thinking I will mainly be making pasta arrabiata sauce for freezing and green tomato chutney.

We had loads of cherry tomatoes out of the greenhouse from July onwards, a fair few of the middling sized ones, not so many of the beefsteak ones but I will sow them (even) earlier next year so they ripen before summer's end. Today, I've taken the day off to clear the plants away ready for winter and these are all the leftovers.

Cucumbers were a bust, I only got three or four thanks to red spider mite decimating the plants. I have a new strategy planned against them for next year.

Autumn makes me restless, if you look at my CV over my adult lifetime and I always change jobs between now and Christmas. Must be all the windy weather blowing the old summer away.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Crocheted shadow blanket

Hand crochet shadow blanket

This year's big blanket project has been to devise a shadow blanket. I saw some really lovely sewn quilts made out of coloured squares that had the illusion of floating above a neutral background. This inspired me to to see if I could make a crocheted version. This is what I ended up with. I made loads of granny square style squares with a dark grey shadow line along two of the sides. On the flat bits of the bed, the squares do appear to be floating above the silver base colour. I love it when a plan comes together!


Here's a close up of the border.


And another showing the join. The way I joined meant it was a trifle off centre in the middle of each intersection. This slightly irks the obsessive perfectionist bit of my brain. On the other hand, overall the effect works and I have a splendid blanket. B-u-u-u-ut ... I think it could be even better without the ridge of the joining stitch.

The above used Stylecraft Special DK in a variety of colours, just leave a message if you'd like to know which colours; I wrote them down somewhere so I will dig it out. I also know how much yarn each stage took so I can give the amount of yarn needed, I just have to get round to doing the maths. Overall it weighs 2,200g. 

I have decided to make another one with a different join and with a restricted colour pallet. I will be sharing how to make all the various bits here on my blog as I go so if anyone else would like the pattern, just follow along!

Monday, 28 August 2017

Missing Missy


I started writing about losing Missy so many times since she died. I wrote a detailed account of how we took her to the emergency vet on Easter Monday, our hope that maybe just maybe it wouldn't be the last vet visit, what her last moments were like and how it felt for her to go limp on my lap and leave her spent little body there to be cremated.

I compiled a collection of the dozens of things every day that would jar my heart with longing for her.

There were lists of all the "remember when" things we comforted ourselves with by talking about in the days and weeks after and how it made us laugh and cry. I considered how in some ways it was worse than losing my dad last year almost to the day. I'm sure some people will be shocked when I compare losing a father with losing "just a dog". I know I can justify it, I rationalised it all out in detail but I won't foist my rambling verbiage on you. It all got rather personal and I'd rather keep it to myself.

But none of the handful of blog entries I started got finished, I couldn't actually see the screen for crying and none were really right, they became too mawkish or I knew nothing I could write would be good enough and so the effort was abandoned ... time and time again.

Today I almost abandoned it again but I have got to a position where I feel I cannot continue with my blog unless I address her loss. It was such a big thing to me that I can't tell my blog all the other things that are happening until her absence is addressed. So deep breath and here's the latest effort.

Today I almost wrote that you can replace a dog. As I continued, I came to realise that is incorrect - replacement is impossible but you can welcome another dog into your home and it will help - that's what we've done but it still reams out the jaggy edged hole in my heart whenever something reminds me of her. A few weeks after Missy left us, we couldn't bear not having a dog any more and we now have another Manchester Terrier called Bongo. Bongo has a different personality and some of his little ways are very different to Missy. He has done a lot to heal us but I will write more about Bongo soon. Today is about Missy and my dad.

I can't welcome another dad into my life to help ease that pain, I still miss him so much and that's the big difference between the two and why it's worse when you lose a parent than a pet. When a parent is gone, all the things you relied on them for, shared and enjoyed with them, there's just no-one else that will do.

My dad was very ill with stomach cancer at the end of his life. In his final days he asked me if there was a way of speeding it up "I wish there was a way we could hurry it along". He also asked his GP and the McMillan nurse if there was an off switch. But there wasn't. He had had enough when he was too weak to get out of bed and there was nothing I could do except be there.

Missy was also very poorly with kidney failure and a heart murmur. When she'd had enough, almost to the same day a year later, she couldn't ask me in words but I knew she too had had enough. At the emergency vets, we all knew. There was a way I could help her that I couldn't help my dad. When I was murmuring in her ear what a good dog she was and how glad we were to have her in our lives as the injection took effect, many of my tears were for my dad too. I was able to help my dog in a way I couldn't help my dad and I felt guilty I didn't do more for him. I am so sorry for that dad.

I miss you both.


Monday, 12 June 2017

Why is it so difficult to get a GP appointment these days?


I did some kind of muscular damage to my lower back on the right hand side last Sunday. I have no idea how I did it or when. I planted some shrubs in the morning and in the afternoon MTM and I drove out to Aubourne Hall's garden near to Lincoln that was open to the public in aid of the Red Cross. We spent a very pleasant afternoon admiring the roses and having a cream tea. If some incident caused me to injure myself, I cannot recall it.

A vague ache in bed that night made it difficult to get comfy. I took some Anadin Extra and got off to sleep. In the afternoon on Monday, the ache came back and a little worse so I took some more painkillers and forgot about it. On Tuesday three doses were required to keep the pain away, one in the night when it was rude enough to wake me up.

By Wednesday, the painkillers were only lasting two hours before they wore off. I tried to get a GP appointment ... three weeks away on 27th June was what I was offered. Nothing sooner? I need some stronger painkillers sooner than that. The receptionist invited me to ring at 8am on Thursday for an emergency appointment.

I didn't get much sleep because I'd taken the maximum dose of painkillers during the day. Hot water bottles placed on it provided some comfort but sleep was very difficult.

I was on the phone at 8am on Thursday but the line was permanently engaged. When I finally got through, the five emergency appointments for the surgery in the village had all gone, I was offered one in a village a few miles away but MTM had gone to work so I had no way to get there. She invited me to try again at 2pm when more appointments would be released. No way to book one now or even to book me in for tomorrow. If you're "unlucky" (as she described it) with the emergency appointments, it's three weeks to see the GP.

Ok, so try again at 2pm ... I took a dose of Anadin Extra just past noon, it kicked in about an hour later and unfortunately I was fast asleep with a cold cup of tea at the time I should've rung!

I resorted to Doctor Googling to see if I could self-diagnose, I was alarmed to find the first thing that came up for lower back pain on right hand side was appendicitus! Beeping heck! When I read on, after pain starts there would be vomiting within 24 hours and the area would hurt more when pressure applied. Big X in both those boxes, plus uncommon in people my age, so ... not appendicitis ... phew!

Next thing was ligament sprain. Surely I would've noticed when I did it if it was that, sprains are usually the result of over stretching in a dramatic manner, like turning your ankle. Everyone has heard the adage a sprain can be worse than a break but I would remember and it would hurt straight away wouldn't it? I'm not sure where ligaments are round the area that's hurting, the pain seems to be just above my hip at the back. Hmmm ... not sure it's that.

Arthritis ... I'm far too young for that! How very dare you suggest it!, It would hurt more when I use it wouldn't it? I find walking around when pain is at it's worse actually makes it feel slightly better.

Kidney stones ... oooooh, that's an interesting one, that might explain why it's come on gradually. I had a work colleague tell me it's very painful but I have no problems with urinating so I counted that out.

Muscle strain? Well again I can't remember doing it but maybe i overdid it when digging one of the holes, it's on a slope so I recall struggling a bit with balance. There's no swelling that I can tell .... but due to middle aged spread and a bit of a tyre, how could I really tell ... hmm, muscle strain seems most likely.

I rationed out the rest of the day's painkillers to try and time it so I got a good night's sleep but I was still up for around 3 hours in order to not disturb MTM who is about as fed up as I am at this point. He's working from home on Friday so we go to Boots in Oakham at lunchtime after he's met a tender deadline. I explain my problem to a lovely trainee pharmacist. She sells me a pack of the strongest painkillers that are available over the counter, a mixture of codeine and paracetamol. I also buy some Voltarol to rub into the area.

I take one dose of the painkillers but they don't even last as long as the Anadin Extra so I rub in some Voltarol, all that does is smell a little and kills zero pain. I go back to the Anadin Extra. The leaflet say you shouldn't use Voltarol if taking other aspirin based medicine so that was a waste of money.

After having to get up twice on Friday night for two hours waiting for painkillers to take effect or waiting for next safe time to take a dose, I am pathologically irritable and very tired. This cannot be a pulled muscle, I've pulled muscles before, they don't hurt this much!

At 5am on Saturday morning, I google walk-in centres close to where we live. There are three close to us, one in Peterborough, one in Rutland - both are closed on Saturdays - but the one attached to Grantham hospital opens at 6.30am. I wake MTM at 6am and ask him to drive me to the walk-in centre at Grantham Hospital. It's a 20 minute drive with no traffic.

At 6.30am I try to walk into the walk-in centre. There isn't one at the hospital which is the same address for the walk-in centre I found on-line. There is an Out of Hours GP department, that must be it. I press a buzzer and make enquiries. It isn't a walk-in centre, I can only be seen if I've been referred by the non-emergency 111 NHS Direct number or A&E (which doesn't open til 8.00am). Their earliest appointment is 8.30am, the info on-line is incorrect. We may as well go home, I apologise to a yawning MTM.

111 is "experiencing unusually high demand" but I get through after a couple of attempts. I answer all the questions and get an appointment at 8.45am. Hey, a result! She advises me they might want a urine sample, if I have a clean container, it would save time if I take one with me. I have one for Missy so I use that and off we go back to the man with the buzzer who this time lets us in.

There is some mix up with the computer, the details I gave on the phone haven't come through but I'm definitely booked in. I am seen by a lovely doctor we have a chat about everything, what medications I am taking and then he examines me. Nothing to be worried about, muscular damage it will get better. Ice packs, not heat for first two weeks, avoid bending. Why does it hurt so much? He doesn't really answer that but says he will give me stronger painkillers and tells me to see my own GP if it still hurts when they're all gone. If I need to, I can also take paracetamol (up to 8 a day) or the paracetamol/codeine tablets but my beloved Anadin Extra (which has been my best friend all week) cannot be taken with this new painkiller. He doesn't want my wee sample, ungrateful or what?!

We go to a pharmacy and get the prescription filled. It's one tablet twice a day with food. Back at home (again) we have bacon butties for breakfast as a treat and I take my first dose of Naproxen at around 10am. My back has been hurting for several hours now but I wait for it to take effect. By 12.30 I'm climbing the walls. I take some paracetamol and soon after that, the pain subsides.

I'm pretty much pain free for the rest of the day, I take the second dose with my dinner in the evening and keep up with paracetamol every six hours. I have to get up once on Saturday night, fortunately I wake up at a time when it's ok for me to have more paracetamol. I order some ice packs you put in the fridge from the Internet, they will arrive on Monday. After an hour, I go back to bed, that's the best night's rest I've had for days!

On Sunday morning, the pain is back seemingly worse than ever. Geoff tells me maybe I should rest it more rather than rushing round doing jobs when the painkillers are working. The doctor didn't say anything about resting it up, just to avoid bending. I get up, have some cereal, a dose of Naproxen and some paracetamol and codeine. It takes a couple of hours to ease but I'm pain-free til dinner time. I go easier on my jobs and watch the tennis in the afternoon, congratulations to Nadal on his tenth Roland Garros win!

Just before dinner, it starts to hurt again. Big big sigh, this new stronger painkiller is no more effective than Anadin Extra. I take another dose with dinner and some paracetamol/codeine. There's a new series of Poldark starting tonight, looking forward to that. Our Sainsbury delivery has been so I get out the frozen peas, wrap it in a towel, apply to my back and wait for the pain to go. Except it doesn't this time. The pain is dulled a bit, but never goes away completely.

I fall asleep on the sofa for half an hour after the news and wake up around 11pm, the peas are warm. I put them back in the freezer in case I need to use them again. MUST remember to throw them away when the ice packs are delivered. Don't want to be eating them now they've been used medicinally!

I went to bed but couldn't sleep, the pain is back up to full strength now so I'm up and am typing this up to try to distract myself until I can take another dose of painkiller at 2am. This has taken me an hour to write so far, sorry there's so much poor-me-poor-me in it. I've tried to add a bit of humour to make it more interesting. You're a really good listener, did you know that? Only half an hour to go now so you've been a big help, thank you for trying to take my mind off it. I know I'm being such a big baby over a pulled muscle, I clearly have a very low tolerance to pain.

I could really do with some painkillers that are going to work but not a clue how to go about that as it's so impossible to get to see my GP. I suppose I just have to suffer until it gets better or the 27th June, whichever is the sooner.

Now, I wonder if my peas have refrozen?