"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, September 21, 2017

Protesting in the rain

Well, we gathered in the pouring rain and had a brief question and answer session before the BCUHB executive meeting, with the same answers to the same questions, but at least they have been made more aware of the depth of feeling and some of the media have covered our protest. 
What happens now? Who knows!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

More protesting?

This week seems to be one for protesting about what is or is not being done that should or should not be being done - if you follow my drift.
After a brief seguė into ringing the council to point out that, once again, the playing field has not been mown once since late spring and when are they going to do something about it, I went back to my Welsh class.

Remember this, about the reduction of choices available?
Well, now that the local FE college has responsibility for delivering Welsh courses locally, the cost has doubled and there are no concessions as there were with Prifysgol Bangor and there are fewer course venues available.

We have more or less finished our course started under Bangor but there was a problem on the horizon. It seemed that Coleg Cambria had won the contract knowing full well that they did not currently have a Uwch course, which should be where my group goes next. Fast forward to the present. As the courses are now developed nationally, it was decided that the new Uwch course would be trialled in south Wales this year, so yes, you've guessed it, no course for us!

Not that that deterred Coleg Cambria from taking our money under the guise of enrolling us on the Uwch course (Yes, that's right, the one that's not yet available).

Fortunately, our current tutor is a star and is 'getting round the problem', so he will be providing us with .... something, but I'm not allowed to say more!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017


This is part of our protest against the Health Board here in North Wales, who are failing us day after day. On Thursday, I and I hope, many other patients, will be at Glyndwr University to register our protest at the Board's Executive meeting. Wish us luck!

Sunday, September 03, 2017


You may remember a post I did a while ago about delays in allowing GPs to work in Wales, which was of particular interest to us as our surgery had come under the control of Betsi Cadwalader University Health Board, and things were not going well.
I did get an answer to my query, basically saying that they have speeded up the process and anyway, that lot in NHS England are even slower when the movement is from Wales to England.
However, things have now moved on. A wonderful doctor took the place under her wing and developed a plan for keeping the health centre in business and even offering extra services. Unfortunately, this weekend we learned that because she was tired of hitting 'brick wall after brick wall' in her dealings with BCUHB and her efforts to get them to back her, she has now resigned and we are back in limbo, with a scary lack of, well anything really. 
So, time to hit the keyboard again and I have fired off an email to our local Welsh Assembly Member, with an additional one to Vaughan Gething, who is our Secretary for Health.
'Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more ...' to quote Henry fifth!


Dear Mr Skates,
You may remember Mark Drakeford in 2016 maintaining that we in North Wales were 'crying wolf' over the recruitment crisis of GPs. Unfortunately, the chickens have now come home to roost and for over a year now, we 9000 patients at Pen y Maes health centre, Gwersyllt, Wrexham, have been suffering day to day with a crisis situation. The staff who are there have been doing an amazing job under extremely difficult conditions, but there have been times when no doctors have been available and people have ended up in A&E at Wrexham Maelor in a far worse state than they would have been had they had timely access to a doctor. It isn't difficult to see that this puts even more pressure on an already overstretched service at the hospital and one wonders how soon before the first preventable death occurs.
To add insult to injury, it seems that an amazingly driven and committed doctor who has been working there, produced a viable and much needed plan for the future of the practice, but has now resigned as she has, to quote 'hit brick wall after brick wall' when dealing with BCUHB. Given that BCUHB is still in special measures, I am at a complete loss to understand how the Board can be allowed to be obstructive in a situation like this. We don't even have the option of transferring to other practices, even if we wanted to, as there are already two in the area about to be taken under BCUHB control and others have closed their lists as they are unable to take on any more patients, much less 9000 of us. I am particularly concerned about hints that staff do not want to work for BCUHB east area, which would seem to suggest that, rather than an out and out shortage of GPs, there is a shortage of GPs willing to work here. To quote 'Hamlet' 'Something is rotten in the state of Denmark' (for Denmark, substitute BCUHB).
As AM for our area, I and the rest of Pen y Maes's patients, would urge you to look into this matter as soon as possible. The uncertainty and lack of regular medical provision is extremely concerning and is a worry that those who are already suffering from health problems can well do without.

I look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible and I shall also be contacting Vaughan Gething in his capacity of Cabinet Secretary for Health.
Jenny Aspin

 In the meantime, I think we might be going to have to chain ourselves to railings somewhere ...

Friday, September 01, 2017


This was Paddy ten years ago when we got him from a rescue centre. He was estimated by their vet to be between seven and nine years old, which means he has now reached the grand old age of between seventeen and nineteen. In equivalent human years that's a lot, well beyond what one would expect for a dog, especially one who hadn't been treated particularly well before we got him. We were told that he had suffered from colitis and left untreated and although he was now better, we should always be careful with his diet. 
For the first few years, Paddy was very wary of other dogs and went berserk if faced with a cat, so it took a long time before I could trust him off lead. He was also terrified of fireworks, so November 5th was always a barrel of laughs! Ironically, these problems have disappeared in recent years as his sight has deteriorated and he has become almost deaf.
He welcomed first Jake and then Toby into his life and seemed to enjoy their company, although now his energy levels are well below Toby's, so I generally walk them separately, though he's still not too old to enjoy the odd 'stand off' with Toby.
But over the last few months, he has been displaying signs of dementia and often seems to be confused. Rather like elderly people at the end of their lives, his world is contracting and he is frequently restless during the night, as if he has forgotten the routine of daytime and night time. He doesn't seem to be unhappy or distressed, but then animals are so much better than we are at accepting what life deals them and living in the moment.  However, we are wondering how much longer we will have him with us.
Whatever the answer to that question, we will make the most of the time we have left together and treasure the memories.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Dysgu Cymraeg - eto

I have now been learning Welsh for six years. No, I can't believe it either! Unfortunately, I still wouldn't consider myself capable of stringing a sentence together with any degree of ease, probably due to various reasons, some my fault, others beyond my control. So let's see:
Reasons that are my fault

  • I have been very lax in going to Sesiwnau Siarad Cymraeg (chat sessions) over the past two years. I neglected them when Dad was ill and never picked them up again since he died.
  • I have various apps for practice of vocabulary etc but somehow, the lure of Facebook, Twitter or Ancestry are often too strong to resist and I am one who can resist anything except temptation.
  • I am one of those anoraks who actually like learning a language the traditional way, so I am more interested in the grammar, usage and history of the language than actually speaking it.
Reasons beyond my control

  • Keith doesn't speak Welsh and even when I threaten to trade him in for a Welsh-speaking model, refuses  even to entertain the notion. (Of course, he knows I wouldn't really!)
  • I have no work colleagues, being retired, and no neighbours or friends who speak Welsh.
  • The dogs don't speak Welsh.
  • People in the area generally don't speak Welsh, so there's no opportunity to pass the time of day in shops etc.
AND - and this is the big one,

On the few occasions when I have made myself take advantage of an occasion when I could have a go, it has not gone well. There are Welsh speakers out there who don't want to speak Welsh to a learner or even a non-Welsh person. 
However, I do accept that I have had bad luck in these situations, as most of my fellow learners have had good experiences of very helpful and supportive Welsh speakers, but it has meant that I am wary of even trying now.

Still, not to be deterred, I am signing up for the coming academic year, or at least trying to. The local college, now the only provider of Welsh for Adults (and that's a whole other story!), has a website with a course finder - which doesn't seem to work. Having been round the houses twice, I have now given up for today. 
Anybody know of a good Swedish course?

Monday, August 07, 2017

Craft & Dough

A week or so ago saw us in Sheffield, meeting up with Kathy, who lives there, Claire and my grandson, Paul. Kathy, who is very au fait with the eateries and taverns around her area, decided that 'Craft and Dough' would be a great place to go for our lunch.

 This is one of those places which promotes craft beers (of which we didn't partake) and pizzas, which were very acceptable. Paul certainly enjoyed his.

 Craft & Dough is in the Kelham Island Quarter and yes, you've guessed it, on an 'Industrial Heritage' site.
Unfortunately, as we didn't have a lot of time, we didn't visit the museum. Maybe we'll do that another time, but if you want to know more about this little area, have a look here.

Or you could ask Yorkshire Pudding!

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Ancestry again

I am happy to report that, as of this morning, I can see all images, jpegs etc in Safari and Chrome for Mac.
Thanks, Ancestry! You see, it takes very little to make my day.
Now, if we can just have an improvement in the weather ... ?

Friday, July 21, 2017


I have been on Ancestry for several years now. Sometimes I have spent hours on it, poring over elusive hints and leads, sometimes frustratingly so, and at other times, I have barely visited the site for weeks, even months. Once I get into one of my more active phases, it does become quite addictive and hours go by in a flash. Choice between doing the hoovering and popping over to Ancestry? No contest, the housework wins every time - not!
Luckily, Dad had a good collection of family photos and the death certificates of his parents and I was also contacted by a lady called Lola in America, who is researching on behalf of her husband, so we have been able to exchange quite a bit of information and ponder together on various scenarios. Our common ancestors, my great, great grandparents on Dad's side, upped sticks and emigrated to America, settling in Kansas, where Lola and her husband live today, but the unusual thing is that they were in their mid fifties when they did it. These days, they probably wouldn't even be accepted at that age.
However, the problem that is causing me some grief at present is that, all of a sudden, I am unable to see any images, whether photos or documents on Ancestry when I use Chrome or Safari on my Macbook. As it happens, Keith has set up a Windows desktop upstairs for me to use and using Chrome on that causes no problems at all. Looking at various online forums, I see that Ancestry say they do not actively support Safari. In other words, 'if things go wrong, we don't want to know', which is not what you want to hear when you are bunging a hefty subscription their way.
They do have a 'support site', which is not as straightforward as you might expect, since you have to register on that separately, with a different password to that which you use on the main site. Undaunted, I tried to register. I typed in my email address, to be greeted by the command, 'Now go and check your emails for the password we have sent you.'
I did. Nothing.
"Oh, if you are having difficulty with that, please contact us on our support site.'
That would be the support site I have tried to register with but you haven't sent me the password, then?
I gave up then and had we had a cat, I might have been strongly tempted to kick it.
Ancestry seems to be by far the best resourced site but looking at online feedback, there are a lot of unhappy people out there wondering where their subscriptions are going.
You need to get your act together, Ancestry!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

GP or no GP?

 For over a year now, our local surgery has been limping sadly from one day to the next, and no, that is not an exaggeration. It is one of an increasing number of surgeries throughout north Wales (and elsewhere) where the GPs have decided, for whatever reason, to hand back the surgery to the local health board, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board which, just to add to the problem, is currently under special measures. Keith and I have only been patients at this surgery since 2014. I wanted a surgery for Dad which operated an appointment system and was physically easily accessible. Our current surgery at the time didn't fit either of these criteria, so we all three made the move and hit the jackpot.
Our new GP was fantastic, especially in comparison to our previous experiences. However, this was not to last and sadly, all four doctors in the practice decided not to carry on. That was over a year ago.
We had meetings with people from the health board who seemed determined to tell us as little as possible and lived over the border in England, so were probably not likely to suffer a similar situation anyway.
We were promised that this situation would be short term and soon there would be permanent doctors for us again.
We were told about the wonderful new system whereby anyone who rang up for an appointment would be 'asked questions' by the receptionist to determine whether they did indeed need to speak to a doctor or could be directed to a nurse practitioner. Did we really want to be disclosing our medical problems to a non-medic, especially to someone who could well be a neighbour?
Since then, there have been locums, never any more than two, as far as I can gather, and sometimes none. Appointment systems have varied, from having to ring on the day for an appointment to being able to make one a week in advance and then, without warning, back to 'on the day'. People needing ongoing monitoring, blood tests etc have been left high and dry as two nurses have gone on long term sick leave, one is on holiday and there are no replacements available.
The patient representatives organised a petition to send to the health board, asking for things to be sorted out and quickly. In the meantime, I discovered this article:
health-council-slams-system-delaying new GPs coming to North Wales
It appears that even if you have trained and qualified in Wales and/or previously worked here, if you have then left to go elsewhere and wish to come back to work, even though there are patients ready to fall on your necks in gratitude, it's a non-starter because Welsh NHS, having lost patience with NHS England and their promise to set up a system whereby doctors can move between the two countries, and set up their own for incoming doctors. The icing on the cake, of course, is that the said doctors have to sit on their hands for three months.
Hence my email last week to BCUHB, asking 'what the hell...?" although not in precisely those words.
I have been promised a written reply! Watch this space.


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