"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)




Thursday, June 19, 2014

Memories

Next week is the final push in ‘Operation Moving House’ for Dad.
All that remains in the house is what he will be bringing with him and it is noticeable how big and airy the rooms look now!
I’ll be going down there again at the weekend and we’ll get as much packing done as possible before Tuesday, when Eli and his team will be coming in to help finish it off and the stairlift company will  remove the stairlift. Hopefully, that will all be done in the morning so that Dad and I can set off on the journey back here. He will stay with us overnight and we will be ready to greet Eli’s team when they arrive with the removal van on Wednesday. On Thursday, a new stairlift will be delivered and fitted and Dad will be able to begin settling into life in North Wales. (What’s not to like!!)
Of course, with the best intentions, the last few months have been a bit stressful and hard work and I am impressed with how well Dad had coped with it. It’s probably in the genes, though, as his great grandfather upped sticks and emigrated to America when he was nearly sixty. No green cards and age restrictions then!
Looking around the house, I can’t fail to be reminded of the years we spent there when I was growing up. I was ten when we moved there in 1959, over half a century ago, and my sister was five. The family who had lived there before us, we were told, had only been there for six weeks. Then one day, the husband came home from work to find that his wife had left. Whatever the details, I remember being aware of a depressing atmosphere in the house, although the abundance of green and black paint probably didn’t help. Someone’s decorating tastes differed wildly from ours!
On the plus side, though, there was a garage, which I quickly commandeered as a museum. I remember displaying pressed flowers, containers of snails and insects and, in pride of place, a stuffed red squirrel that one of the neighbours had given me. There was a patio too, although such things were not common then and it was always referred to as ‘the terrace’. Being about eighteen inches higher than the rest of the garden, my friends and I performed concerts and plays on it, sometimes to an audience, if we could pressgang anyone to watch.
The back bedroom (dark green paint and yellow wallpaper) was mine - scene of many hours of homework and revision for ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels, primping and preening and much sighing and agonising over the total lack of curl in my hair. (Yes, we all have our problems, you know!) My dressing table was a huge Victorian affair which had been painted white but whose drawers had no handles. It’s a matter of note that handles were finally fitted when I was married with children! By then, of course, it didn’t matter much to me anyway, but there are two things to learn from this:
1. All things come to those who wait - eventually.
2. Not finishing a DIY job is a man thing and far more common than you might think.
So, there we are. The end of a chapter and the beginning of a new one. Dad is looking forward to moving up here so I hope he won’t miss that house and its memories too much, but then as I have told him, the memories go with him wherever he is.

Monday, June 02, 2014

More clearing out


Last week was earmarked for more clearing out in Dad’s house, with the invaluable services of Eli and his team. They arrived on Thursday, ready to start work, but not before Dad had already done a week’s sorting out of his own. Phrases like ‘got the bit between his teeth’ sprang readily to mind!
In fact, Dad has really embraced the idea of clearing out what he doesn’t need and moving on with what he does, and this flexibilty of outlook has helped considerably to lighten a task which could have been overwhelming to say the least. A lot of the sorting out has been somewhat emotional and sparked all kinds of memories, of course, but I think we have done a good job of keeping what should be kept and removing what could be done without. It’s easy to get bogged down by the assumed importance of ‘things’ when in fact, it is the memories relating to them which are important, stored safely in our memories.
The smallest bedroom, long ago converted into a study, was earmarked by Eli as being probably the most difficult prospect, filled as it was with mountains of books, files, paperwork and various other forgotten odds and ends and, probably for that reason, it was left to the end, so this was the room that we mainly tackled on this, the last of our marathon clearing out sessions. In fact, it proved   not quite as daunting as we had feared. A lot of the paperwork and files related to Dad’s work before his retirement and was now mostly out of date and certainly no longer needed by him, so this was quickly disposed of. Of the books, about half were kept and the rest were taken away. Dad is a published author and much of the material he has kept is going to be relevant to his next book.
So, by the end of this third session, we were now in the happy situation of being left only with what will be moving up here with him. Downsizing from an inter-war three bedroomed semi to a small, modern, two-bedroomed semi seemed like an impossible task before we started but happlly, it’s not.
Onwards and upwards…!


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Caravan or shed?

We had talked about it last year, or at least I had. Keith had listened, or maybe not listened. (It’s sometimes difficult to tell with men!) We’ve had our little caravan for four years now, during which we have not used it nearly as much as I thought we would. Keith knew exactly what he wanted and we found it, only it was across on the other side of the country in Lincolnshire. On the day we drove over to collect it, we did so in torrential rain and it doesn’t seem to have stopped much since, although we have managed to find a few decent weekends. I had visions of us visiting places all over the UK with it, but truth to tell, that hasn’t really happened. We’ve tended to stick to north west Wales, which is largely unspoilt and ideal for getting away from it all but, for some reason, we haven’t ventured any further. So there it is, our caravan, sitting in the garden, taking up space and there Keith is, muttering quiet longings for a shed. You haven’t got a shed? I hear you ask in disbelief, to which the answer is, yes, we have. I bought it some years ago to replace the one we inherited, which had come to the end of its useful life and to house our garden utensils. Unfortunately, the invisible garden gnomes have quietly and gradually filled it with ‘man stuff’. Yes, it must have been the gnomes. After all, Keith would never have done such a thing, being such a tidy, orderly man - would he? Well now it appears that even more space is needed as this ‘man stuff’ is increasing and multiplying. I have to battle to get the lawnmower out of the shed as it is and fight even harder to get it back in so I am somewhat sympathetic to the suggestion of getting another shed. Let’s face it, if we leave a space, it will only get filled up with another car wreck.Memories of the Camaro are still vivid, as are those of the Jaguar. No, I definitely would prefer a shed, especially if it meant I would get my own shed back.
Which brings me back to the beginning of this post. We now have a caravan to sell, so if you are interested, you are welcome to follow the link and take a look here. Go on, you know you want to!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Moving north

For the past few years, Dad has been contemplating moving house. We have discussed it too many times to count. The house is too big for him now, could do with  some modernising and the contents of the garden have grown and grown like Topsy, thanks to the last two years of rain, rain and more rain. Finally, the decision was made and with it, a mixture of relief and trepidation as to what the future might hold, but fortunately, a buyer was found within the first week of the house being on the market and a very suitable, smaller house was also found and an offer made and accepted.
Next was the process of clearing out. Given that we moved into that house as a family in 1959, it was not surprising that an enormous amount of ‘stuff’ had accumulated over the years, much of which held memories, of course. However, fortune smiled on us again, as quite by chance, I discovered the answer to our prayers on the internet, in the form of Eli. Eli is in the business of clearing houses and doing removals and has often been called on to do a combination of both, but more importantly, he understands that this process is often a stressful and emotional one and brings patience and sensitivity into play accordingly. So it was that he came to Dad’s house to meet us a few weeks ago and spent over an hour with us, discussing the best ways of achieving the move with the least possible upheaval for Dad.
He has done two sessions with us now, with his two, equally pleasant employees and two large van loads have now been shipped out. Another good thing is that he will make sure that anything that can be, will be recycled or given to local charity shops and he seems to have lots of contacts in that area. One more session, the week after next and, hopefully, everything to go will be gone and what is left is what Dad will bring with him when he moves up here, just a few doors down from us.
I have considered telling Dad that, if he enrols in Welsh classes, he will get a cut in his council tax bill, but I don’t think he would be persuaded somehow!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Tales of the NHS


The NHS comes in for a lot of criticism these days and leaving aside the possibility, probability even, that there are forces at work determined to drive it to a slow and painful death, there are initiatives and moves afoot which aim to improve patients’ experience.
Both Keith and I have had mixed experiences of the NHS and I have not hesitated to take to the blog to complain loud and long when I felt it necessary, so it is only fair that I also mention it when things go right.
Regular readers may remember that I had a problem with my gall bladder a couple of years ago and was referred for an operation to have it removed. To cut a long and tedious story short, I spent several weeks commuting between the hospital and my GP because they and I couldn’t agree on the state of my blood pressure, culminating in my decision not to go ahead with the operation because by then, I was not suffering any ill effects and I was fed up with being shunted from pillar to post.
Fast forward to last December, when I again had some gall bladder problems and had to be referred again to the hospital, but what a change!
This time, I saw a registrar, who wanted to know why I had withdrawn from the waiting list, which I was happy to explain.
Then, I saw a nurse for my assessment (also a Welsh learner, which was nice), who, among other things, took my blood pressure and again, it was a bit on the high side. I know I suffer from ‘white coat syndrome’ and explained to the nurse that I had in fact asked my GP for a 24 hour ambulatory BP monitor, where I would be fitted with a monitor for 24 hours, which would record my blood pressure at half hourly intervals through the day and hourly at night. Unfortunately, I was told that it was ‘too expensive’ and I ‘didn’t need it.’ The nurse did one of those sharp intake of breath expressions.
“That was a bit naughty,” he said, “But it doesn’t matter because we can do that for you here.”
And so it happened that I spent 24 hours from Monday to Tuesday, trussed up to a computerised monitor, with the result that they could see that my BP is on the slightly high side but fine for anaesthetic. Obviously, if I were to need medication I would take it, but I see no reason for taking medication unnecessarily. The nurse practitioner who fitted the machine explained that the hospital volunteer group had fund raised to buy four of them, which in turn, tells its own story about NHS funding and where it ends up - or doesn’t, but that’s another debate.
So all in all, my experience this time was far more pleasant than two years ago. The staff I saw were pleasant, friendly and extremely helpful, a far cry from the rigid, ‘routine-response’ attitude the last time I was in that department.
Now, all I have to do is wait!

Thanks to the bi-lingual information sheet I was given, I have also learned that the Welsh for gall bladder is 'y goden fustl'. Don't say you never learn anything from this blog!


Monday, March 17, 2014

Toby checking in

Hello again, everyone.
Bet you wondered where I’d got to as you haven’t heard from me for so long, but actually, I have been working very hard learning to be a good dog, and believe me, it’s a lot harder than you’d think!
For one thing, I’ve had to improve on my toilet habits. Yep, and that means remembering to ask to go outside when I need to do something. I think Jenny said something about it being a good time to go to the toilet when we’re out walking, especially in the field, but I still haven’t quite cottoned on to that yet. On the whole, though, although I slip up occasionally, I am a lot better at remembering and when I don’t - then I just hide under the dining table for a while.
Next thing I had to work on was eating. Pretty easy, you’d think, right? Wrong! Apparently, I eat far too quickly. In fact, I’ve finished my food in the time it takes Jenny to put the measuring cup away. Now I thought that was a clever thing to do, but Jenny didn’t agree, especially when I was sick a couple of times, so she bought me a new feeding bowl. It’s a bit of a strange one, actually, because it has three raised bits in it and, guess what? It means I have to chase the food around the raised bits so it takes longer to eat it. What is it with these adults? They can never leave a dog in peace!
When we go out for a walk, that can be a bit tricky too. I get a bit nervous and sometimes I bark at people and other dogs. I don’t mean any harm but Jenny isn’t impressed. She thinks it’s bad manners. Anyway, these days, when we are getting near other people and their dogs, she takes a small treat out of her pocket and, before you know it, I’m concentrating on how soon I can get that and not bothering at all about who else is around. If I walk past without barking, I get the treat. Clever, eh? (Think I might try and carry on with that one!)
And then there’s Paddy, my bestest friend of all. I try and stay near him all the time. If we go out in the garden, I stick to him like glue, if he is lying around in his bed, I bring him toys so that he will play with me, but he seems to get more tired than I do and sometimes, he gets really fed up and gives a bit of a growl. Still, I think he likes having me around, really… usually…
So that’s me, folks, just over six months old and growing fast.
And if you asked Keith, Jenny or Paddy, they would tell you how wonderful I am - well, I think they would… maybe … possibly...

Sunday, January 26, 2014

How the internet started

 Something to make you smile on this rainy day, courtesy of Dale.


How the Internet Started (according to the Bible)...

In ancient Israel , it came to pass that a trader by the name of Abraham Com did take unto himself a healthy young wife by the name of Dorothy.

And Dot Com was a comely woman, Large of breast, broad of shoulder and long of leg. Indeed, she was often called Amazon Dot Com.

And she said unto Abraham, her husband, "Why dost thou travel so far from town to town with thy goods when thou canst trade without ever leaving thy tent?"

And Abraham did look at her as though she were several saddle bags short of a camel load, but simply said, "How, dear?"

And Dot replied, "I will place drums in all the towns and drums in between to send messages saying what you have for sale, and they will reply telling you who hath the best price. The sale can be made on the drums and delivery made by Uriah's Pony Stable (UPS)."

Abraham thought long and decided he would let Dot have her way with the drums.

And the drums rang out and were an immediate success. Abraham sold all  the goods he had at the top price, without ever having to move from his tent.

To prevent neighbouring countries from overhearing what the drums were saying, Dot devised a system that only she and the drummers knew. It was known as Must Send Drum Over Sound (MSDOS), and she also developed a language to transmit ideas and pictures - Hebrew To The People (HTTP).

And the young men did take to Dot Com's trading as doth the greedy horsefly take to camel dung. They were called Nomadic Ecclesiastical Rich Dominican Sybarites, or NERDS.

And lo, the land was so feverish with joy at the new riches and the deafening sound of drums that no one noticed that the real riches were going to that enterprising drum dealer, Brother William of Gates, who bought off every drum maker in the land. Indeed he did insist on drums to be made that would work only with Brother Gates' drumheads and drumsticks.

And Dot did say, "Oh, Abraham, what we have started is being taken over by others."

And Abraham looked out over the Bay of Ezekiel , or eBay as it came to be known.
He said, "We need a name that reflects what we are."

And Dot replied, "Young Ambitious Hebrew Owner Operators.  "YAHOO," said Abraham.
And because it was Dot's idea, they named it YAHOO Dot Com.

Abraham's cousin, Joshua, being the young Gregarious Energetic Educated Kid (GEEK) that he was, soon started using Dot's drums to locate things around the countryside.

It soon became known as God's Own Official Guide to Locating Everything (GOOGLE).
That is how it all began.

And that's the truth.






Friday, January 24, 2014

Bitstrips and Chromebooks


I have had a Facebook account for a couple of years now, initially to keep up with the news and activities of Elder and Younger Daughter and, as I've always been aware of Facebook's reputation on privacy issues, I make sure I choose the highest privacy settings  and don't bother with any of the 'extras', but I have to say, I am quite impressed by Bitstrips. 
With this little programme, you can use your own avatar and those of contacts who also use Bitstrips to make cartoons, such as the one above. I have a feeling that it's going to become a bit addictive and Facebook contacts are going to get fed up with seeing all my status updates in the form of cartoons!
Now to the Chromebooks. Odd that we should be using them in a Welsh lesson, but the idea is for our class to form a closed group within Google Hangouts in order to post useful websites, etc related to our course.
As I am a tech addict, I was glad of the chance to get my hands on one, just to compare the experience with that of using an ordinary laptop. They are fast, have eight or more hours of battery life with continuous usage and, because programmes are used 'in the cloud' they are not on the Chromebook itself and there is little risk of getting infected with viruses (although I did read recently that Chrome browser has had more than its fair share of malware recently.) You have access to Google Docs, which means that you can work on Office documents, albeit it without some of the extra trappings, and then save them in Office format and access them on other computers within your Office programmes. 
OK, I can hear the sounds of gentle snoring from here, so that's all I'm going to say on the subject, but if you want to know more,  have a look here.
And don't let me hear any rude comments about my avatar

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Healthy Eating

Keith is on a diet. Finally, after dire warnings about the excesses of Christmas and New Year, he decided to take matters into his own hands and bite the bullet.
During the autumn, he did make some attempt, which mainly concerned being honest with me when he had bought chicken fried rice at lunch-time in between jobs, but then he decided that some exercise might be beneficial, which is difficult for him because of his leg and ankle problems.
The solution was to buy an indoor bike trainer like this.
It fits onto the rear wheel of his bike and he can cycle off merrily into the virtual sunset. The fact that it now occupies central position in the conservatory, I am willing to overlook - for now, for the greater good.
We do start the day well. We have porridge, but in Keith's case, it falls down almost immediately, as he insists on adding things. So, by the time it has been liberally sprinkled with sugar and raisins and doused with honey, he might as well be eating sugar frosted, chocolate coated, honey pops.
Maybe, things can be saved at lunch-time if he manages to force the van to drive past the Chinese/fish and chip shops on his route - and wherever he has to go on any given day, it seems that there is always at least one of those within touching distance!
Of course, there is always the evening meal to redeem things. This is generally some sort of combination of meat or fish and vegetables. (You want exotic? Don't come to me!) Can't go wrong with that, you might think.
Wrong! It is apparently completely unpalatable without liberal sprinklings of salt and about two ounces of butter.
 Then there may be a sandwich or handful of biscuits later in the evening. ("Well, we have to have supper, don't we?" he protests.)
Oh well, at least the spirit is willing.
The flesh still has a little way to go!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Royal Mail - again



Since New Year, our post has been arriving ever more erratically, even arriving one day at 4.30pm and on another at 4.45pm. The parcel van, which used to follow minutes later than the letter delivery is now anything up to a couple of hours before or after, so deciding that enough was enough, I decided to take to Twitter to vent my frustrations. It may seem that I am making a mountain out of a molehill, but Keith frequently orders small amounts of new stock as and when it is needed, and relies on being able to take delivery the following day, as there is usually a customer waiting.  As the packages often need to be signed for, it means that I have to tailor my day, when possible, to be in when the post arrives.

Yes, I know, I’ve said all this here before and you are probably fed up to the back teeth with hearing about it, but wait! There are new developments!

I also sent my tweet to Twitter@Royal Mail and, at first got a blasé reply to the effect that they are doing it all in a new way which is safer and more secure. (What???) So I sent them another tweet – “Not much use for someone trying to run a business who relies on regular deliveries!” I said indignantly.

Then I got an invitation to email them with details of my complaint, so I did:
On two occasions recently, post has been delivered after 4pm, once at 4.20 and once at 4.45 and is generally after mid day.  The parcel van can be a couple of hours before or after letter delivery. Before Christmas, the post did at least come some time before lunch-time. Now, because my husband's deliveries often have to be signed for, I am having to stay in all day if he is expecting mail. 
In the event that I miss a delivery and receive a 'you were out' card, I now have to wait till the next day to collect it. I used to be able to ring up the local office and arrange re-delivery, now I can only speak to a computer, which wants to know everything bar what I had for breakfast!
Parking in the sorting office car park is no longer allowed, meaning that it is necessary to find a space in a local pay and display car park. Parking for blue badge holders (e.g. my husband) was permitted but no longer is, so he is unable to collect post and has to rely on me to do it.
All in all, I have no complaints about the postmen/women but the system seems to be fast becoming less and less user-friendly.
Also, although fliers were sent out last year informing us that parcels would now be left with neighbours when possible, I was finally told, after numerous enquiries, that this is not happening because the Union has not agreed to it.
I appreciate your taking the time to deal with my concerns.

Sincerely,
Etc.

This afternoon, I got a reply from Kieran:

Hi Jenny
Thanks for your message.
I’m sorry to hear your mail has been arriving after 3pm and for the inconvenience this would cause.
I’ve passed your details to my Customer Service colleagues and instructed them to report this as a complaint. They’ll liaise with the Delivery Office Manager over the next 72 hours to establish why your mail has been coming so late and that steps are taken to improve this. You won’t hear back from them on this occasion but if you experience any further problems please don’t hesitate to contact me, quoting the unique 1- reference number in the subject bar of this email.
Again I apologise for what’s happened Jenny; if I can help you any further then please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Kind regards
 Kieran
Of course, I’m not holding my breath. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if the local delivery office manager blacklists us and we have to go to Liverpool every day to collect our mail in person.
Still, we live in hope…


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