"Well, there is only one piece of advice I can give you," said the wisest of wise men. "The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world and never to forget the drops of oil on the spoon."

('The Alchemist' Paulo Coelho)

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

This time last year ...

I have this photo of Dad as my screensaver. To me, it epitomises his second best way of spending a few hours in his latter years. His first, of course, would have been being up there on the footplate, rather than dispensing wisdom and advice from a safe distance.
Christmas last year was not great. Dad had started to go downhill with what was to be his last few weeks and Boxing Day saw him taken into hospital, where he stayed until things were in place for him to go home to receive palliative care until his death on February 4th. We have long been aware that, in Dad's family, there was a strong pattern of previous generations breathing their last in February or March and in this, Dad was true to form.
This Christmas, he has been very much in our thoughts and very much missed.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Dysgu Cymraeg

Last year, and probably a bit before that, Carwyn Jones, First Minister of Wales, and other Assembly Ministers were chatting over a cup of tea and wondering how they might fill their days during the coming months.
"I know," said one, "Why not reorganise Welsh for Adults."

"Syniad da!" (Good idea!) was the response, so they set to drawing up plans on the backs of any old envelopes they had to hand.

"Hang on," one of them said after a few minutes, "That's South Wales done, but what about North Wales?"

"Oh yeah! Forgot about that," was the reply. "Do they even speak Welsh up there? After all, they're nearly in Liverpool ... OK, well, we'll draw a line down the middle. Bangor university can provide for everything to the left and Coleg Cambria can have everything to the right. Of course they'll have to submit bids for the contracts but, well ..." (Taps side of nose and winks.)

When I started learning Welsh, five years ago, I had the choice of two providers, Coleg Cambria and Bangor university, each providing their own courses and until last year, I was able to follow both and go to three classes, which I found very useful as although each course covered much the same ground, it was presented in different ways so that each reinforced the other.

The rot set in when Coleg Cambria decided not to run the Canolradd course, which I was due to move on to, citing low numbers as the reason, which might have been acceptable had they had the grace to tell us without us having to contact them several times before they grudgingly admitted that the course wouldn't run.

Then came the reorganisation, with the result that we now have one course provider for our area, Coleg Cambria, so there will now only be one course and far fewer classes running. Instead of three,  I now only do one. Also, the classes run by Bangor were quite a bit cheaper than those provided by Coleg Cambria, which means that, even if they wanted to, some people who had previously done a couple of classes, can now no longer afford to do more than one.

How this contributes to the avowed aim of the Welsh Assembly to have one million speakers of Welsh by 2050, I am not quite sure. In the meantime, I am wondering about learning Swedish, so that I can follow all those brilliant Nordic Noir dramas on TV without the subtitles.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Out for the day

This is where we have been today.
And this was one of those North Wales traffic queues, sheep on the road.
I suppose you could call it a sheep jam.
We had lunch in Criccieth and then meandered on to the Lleyn Peninsula and down to the tip. If we'd popped across to Whistling Sands, we could have swum across to  Ireland.
Maybe next time!

Saturday, September 17, 2016


Today is a day of celebration! It is the end of a week of dental appointments, optician's appointments, Toby's doggie hairdresser appointment and the dreaded decorators. 
Not really, of course. In reality, they are a couple of very pleasant, hard-working men who turn up, do the job and leave everything nice and tidy and clean. The main problem is preparing for their visit. It all started when I got to the stage where, just looking at the carpet in the living room was resulting in raised blood pressure - it is well past its best - and the acceptance that, before getting that changed, we would need to have the room decorated and, while that was being done, it would be silly not to get the dining room done too. Then there was our bedroom - again, a cause of serious BP raising. These houses are nearly twenty years old, we have been in this one for thirteen and we have never yet decorated the bedroom. Keith's excuse is that it doesn't really matter anyway, because he goes to bed in the dark and gets up with his eyes only half open so doesn't actually see his surroundings anyway. Oh to have such a simple view of life!
The best thing though, or so I thought, was that preparing the living room for decorating would definitely necessitate Keith clearing his desk...
Or not! 
"You haven't tidied your desk," I pointed out on Sunday evening.
"Yes I have," he said, with pained expression. I looked. There in his hand was a six inch square cardboard box, containing three or four screwed up bits of paper. 
"Anyway," he continued, seeing my expression, "they can just cover it with a sheet, can't they?"

Still, when the carpet layers come, the room will have to be cleared, so he'll have to clear the desk before it can be moved - won't he?

Friday, September 16, 2016

And the opticians ... ?

This blog is beginning to seem like a series of complaints about the NHS, so apologies for that, but these are experiences I feel the need to share.
Today, I had an appointment with my optician. These days I see her every six months. I should really only see her every twelve months, but she sees me more frequently because the waiting times at the local hospital ophthalmology department are so long. At the beginning of the year, there was evidence of some optic disc haemorrhage, most likely related to my glaucoma and the fact that my current eye drops were not reducing the pressure very effectively.
"You need to be seen at the hospital within the next couple of weeks," she said, so I went home and rang the opthalomology out patients dept. In fact, I was well overdue for my next appointment anyway, but appointment were taking much longer to come through. In spite of pleading my case, the earliest appointment I could have would be in  five to six weeks, and as I wasn't prepared to take chances, I opted to see the consultant privately. This was the second time I had had to do that, the first time being just to get eye drops prescribed initially. I am lucky that I am able to pay to go privately if necessary, but it does not sit well with me that, whilst I am able to do that, other less fortunate people are not and have to take their chances.
Today's results were reassuring in that the second type of eye drops which I was given at the last hospital appointment were doing a reasonable job and my pressures were lower, although still not as low as they should be. 
So Mrs S will see me again in six months.
In the meantime, she was telling me of losing three of her opticians and having to fill in the gaps which they have left, whilst trying to find new staff and of the constant battle in trying to get her patients seen by ophalmologists within appropriate timescales. 
Mrs S is an independent optician and has three branches, two in England and one in Wales.
I am hoping that she will not at some stage decide to pull out of ours.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

No doctor in the house?

I have moved about a fair bit during my life and so I've been registered at several different surgeries. The first GP that I remember was Dr Mogg, fat, jolly and as an added bonus, he could do conjuring tricks, which was a welcome distraction when you were in his surgery to have a dreaded injection! Elder Daughter commented recently that she was amazed at the low standard of GPs I had been treated by over the years. This was when I was enthusing over our latest 'find', whom we registered with a couple of years ago when Dad moved up here.
The surgery was open all day, had four GPs, all equally good, and the care we have received there has certainly been better than anywhere else I have been. Where else would your GP ring you at home at 7.50am to tell you the result of a recent blood test or happily do a home visit of his own volition just to check up that Keith's recent excruciating back pain had begun to respond to the pain medication he had prescribed? 
It is inevitable, however, that all good things will eventually come to an end. Unfortunately, although Keith and I are still registered at this wonderful practice,  the doctors aren't.
Like several other practices in North Wales, the doctors, all partners, decided in March that they did not want to carry on and would hand the practice over to the health board at the end of September.  Work load, surfeit of paperwork, ever-decreasing support from the local health board? Who knows? Betsi Cadwalladr University Health Board (BCUHB) - yes, there really is a health board with that name - has been in special measures for the past couple of years and, like turning a super tanker around on the open seas, it takes time to improve a large organisation. 
Still, all was not entirely lost. I learned from a fellow patient that Dr B, our GP had assured him that he 'wouldn't go until he knew things were settled'.
The next letter we received was to tell us that there would be a meeting for anyone who wanted an update on developments. This was conducted by a rather unsatisfactory 'someone' from the health board (who is not local and lives in Warrington, but let's not hold that against him), who could not or would not raise his voice to an acceptable auditory level, in spite of numerous complaints that people couldn't hear him.
According to him, there will be lots of 'other' staff - nurse practitioner etc - and the receptionist will point us in the right direction when we wish to make an appointment (Think steering as many people as possible away from the doctor and towards other staff, whether that's what you want or not). And on the subject of replacement doctors, well he 'couldn't say' exactly but it looked as if there would be one GP who would also have experience in manning the outfit and there may be another one too. One of the original GPs may come back part time and doctors from other surgeries may be able to fill in the gaps. Oh, and there would probably be some locum doctors - just to begin with, you understand.
A lot of 'may be', which translates into a lot of uncertainty, which then seemed a lot more uncertain when we learned from someone working at the practice that the 'other GPs' have now backed out and Dr B has in fact already left, to be followed very soon by two of the others.
Given that we are all potentially only minutes away from needing medical assistance, it doesn't fill me with confidence to learn that I am now apparently without a GP.
Let's hope we don't get ill any time soon, and if anyone knows of any GPs looking for jobs, please direct them to North Wales!

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Turmeric and arthritis

A few weeks ago, I came upon this post from 'Julia's Place' about the possible benefits of turmeric on arthritis,so I decided to add turmeric capsules to my daily list of herbal odds and ends and see what might happen. As it was, I was being woken at night, not just by Keith's snoring, but by occasional knee and hip pains and getting out of bed in the morning was a creaky experience, to say the least. Managing the journey down the stairs, first thing, was taking ever longer too. The dogs sleep on the landing at night and, if I am first up, they precede me down the stairs, full of energy to start the day, but it had got to the point where Toby did about six laps up and down the stairs during the time it took me to go from top to bottom once, although after that, the lubricating oil starts flowing and movement  gets better through the day.

So, after only a couple of weeks taking turmeric capsules, I have to say, I have certainly noticed a difference. Obviously it hasn't been a miracle cure, but my knees and hip are certainly feeling better and more able to do the job they should be doing,  and  although  Keith's snoring still wakes me at times, my joints no longer do.

Now, although that is what I call a great result for me. unfortunately, it doesn't seem to have had the same result on Keith's ankle. Why this is, I don't know, but we'll keep trying.


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Toilet/cottage for sale

This morning, I came across this article during my web-trawling.

It is a current trend to close public conveniences across North Wales, and other areas of the country, no doubt, because councils view it as a convenient way to save money. (You see what I did there?) This goes hand in hand with an expressed desire to encourage people for the rest of the world to visit Wales. One of the stated aims on this website is

'to adopt a customer-focused approach which understands and responds to market needs'.

Well, I don't know about you, but one of the things I view as pretty essential on a day out is somewhere reasonable to answer the call of nature and no, this does not include a hedge or nettle patch, which will be the only alternative in many places, if this policy of closing toilets continues. I have blogged before about the short-sighted custom of having public toilets closed on bank holidays, and that was back in 2004. At the current rate of closure, there will soon not be any left, open or closed, and that must surely have an impact on tourism and, as usual, it will be the disabled, elderly and people with children who will be hardest hit.

So, local councils of North Wales, what do you think people are going to do instead?

I leave it to your imagination, but the end result may not be pleasant!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Friends across the Pond

No, I'm not talking about friends in the USA, but in Canada, near Toronto, to be precise. Dale started his blog (now defunct) at about the same time as I started mine, 2004. It was called 'Musings from Mimico' and was full of beautifully written, reflective, often humorous posts, which I enjoyed reading and commenting on. He joined the list of 'Blogs I like to visit' on my sidebar and I joined his.
Fast forward to this summer and Dale and I were finally able to meet face to face, as he, his wife Colleen and daughter Ivy, made a trip over here, to spend a week in Wales, a week in the Lake District and a week in Scotland, where Colleen's family originated.

It's quite intriguing, meeting someone with whom you have been on 'writing terms' for so long. You have read and commented on things they have written about their lives, interests, travels, work and sometimes, problems, and they have done the same, so you have built up a friendship already and you feel as if you know that person pretty well. 

So, the time we spent together was filled with talk, laughter, catching up, asking questions and even, Dale got to have a tour round Keith's famous shed workshop! 

Even so, there were still so many things we didn't get round to talking about. Twelve years to catch up on is a lot of catching up! Maybe next time ...
When Colleen takes photos, she means business - with a tripod and remote control. 
 And here we all are!
(How did it happen that the men are sitting and we are standing?)

Paddy and Toby loved their Canadian neckerchiefs.
However, Toby did hear Colleen say that he was welcome to visit 'any time'. He is still waiting on the doorstep with his red spotted handkerchief on a stick over his shoulder ...

Maybe I'd better tell him to come back inside.

The power of Twitter

Since early June, the playing field at the back of our house has been sadly neglected. Rumour has it that the Council suddenly discovered that there was no longer enough money to cut the grass - anywhere. Twitter was full of tweets from locals complaining that grass verges, playing fields and other public spaces were growing wild, which in some cases, was potentially dangerous, as there were places where pulling out from a side road onto a main road was akin to playing Russian roulette, because it was impossible to see oncoming traffic over the grass on the verges.
Having tweeted myself to the Council about the parlous state of the playing field near us, and received no response, I decided to phone them instead. 
"If you were to put a small child down in that field," I said in my best deputy head voice, "You would have difficulty finding it again!"
The man on the other end of the phone remained unmoved and unconcerned.
"Well, I expect it's because of the cut-backs," he said. "I'll pass on your concern, but I don't know if it will do any good."
He was right. It didn't. Since then, the grass has been cut  just once, by a machine so small that it had a similar effect to cutting a lawn with a pair of nail scissors.  Even Toby got tired of having to jump around the field instead of charging round in circles, as he normally does.
At the same time, someone had decided that the only remaining refuse bin on the field could no longer be used to deposit bags of dog poo. They had already removed another bin some time ago, and according to one of the council workmen, they wanted to 'encourage' people to take their little plastic bags home with them. I don't think so, mate!
Back to Twitter, where someone had tweeted that the special dog fouling bins in another part of the area had not been emptied for some time and were now overflowing. My question to the Council was, why did that area have special bins and we didn't? The reply was that they no longer supply dog fouling bins, so the general bins can be used instead.
As far as I was concerned, that was permission to do what I had continued to do anyway, and use the general bin for Toby and Paddy's little plastic bags.
And the grass has been cut again. Success!


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