"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, May 03, 2018

Happy Birthday

Yesterday was an important day, one of those days for looking back and recalling old memories and for wondering yet again at the swift passage of time. It was Elder Daughter’s birthday, but not just any old birthday, this was one of those ‘stand out’ numbers - forty, to be precise.
However much you like to think you are prepared for these red letter days, they always have a tendency to creep up on you and catch you unawares. They provide an unwelcome reminder of how swiftly life is racing by and there is nothing we can do to stop it. When I was forty, I was horrified, to say the least and by the time fifty came calling, I had decided that I was not prepared to acknowledge any more birthdays. It has taken a very long time to convince everyone that I was, and am, completely serious about this, even if it does mean missing out on presents, so I have resolutely remained fifty-ish ever since and people remind me of my birthdays at their peril. After all, it’s only a number and no-one is a different person the day after their birthday to the one they were the day before.

Still, we are all different and Kathy duly celebrated her imminent big day at the week end and then came to stay with us on Tuesday night, so she had her birthday morning with us, which was lovely and much appreciated. And of course, it led me to thoughts of that day, forty years ago, when I went off to the local hospital to be induced, as she was a bit late putting in an appearance. (This regrettably poor standard of time-keeping has never left her, by the way!) I have vivid memories of the euphoria of seeing her for the first time, holding her in my arms, coming to terms with the fact that now I was a mother and totally responsible for this new little being.
“Once you have a child, things are never the same again,” said one of my sisters in law, mother of three, and indeed she was right.

So, memories of the last forty years:
A tomboy who loved climbing (mainly up the built in shelves in the living room!) and playing with cars, who hated dresses and found playing with dolls supremely boring.
A clever, determined, motivated, hard worker who has a successful career in medicine and also loves gardening and collecting guitars.
Yep, she's turned out all right. It's all in the genes, of course ...

Sunday, April 22, 2018

A trip to Liverpool

Yes, we country bumpkins, Keith and I, ventured up to 'that there Liverpool' last Friday to visit the Terracotta Warriors exhibition in the museum. (In my absence, Liverpool museum seems to have upgraded itself to World Museum, but it's still there in William Brown Street.) Not only that, but we went by train, which neither of us has done for some considerable time. Keith wasn't too enthusiastic about fighting his way through central Liverpool and we would also have needed to be sure of parking nearby, as his walking is somewhat limited these days.
So the train  was our choice of transport, starting off at the little station in Gwersyllt (facilities none, not even anywhere to sit on one of the two  platforms) and bowling along to Bidston, where we changed for the train to Liverpool. It was interesting to note how, the further north we went, the better equipped the stations were. Obviously, Lime Street and its neighbouring stations are important interchanges and far bigger and more important than our little local ones, but to anyone who doubts the lack of investment in the infrastructure of North Wales - Are you listening, politicians? - I strongly recommend an attempt to travel around the area using public transport. If this were a blog about such political themes, I would also suggest a glance at this article, but  perish the thought - it isn't, it's about our trip to Liverpool.

The weather was beautiful and we really enjoyed our journey. It's a long time since I have visited the museum and this trip made me remember what an amazing place it is. You could spend a week in there and still not have seen everything but we were there specifically for the Terracotta Warriors exhibition which was one of the best special exhibitions I have seen. From a total of 6000 life sized warriors guarding China's first emperor and only discovered in 1974, ten figures, including a cavalry horse, and other artefacts, some of which have never been displayed in Britain before are the focus of this exhibition and, while I couldn't hope to do it justice in this post, if you click on the link above, it will give you more information and some explanatory video.
In the meantime, I will punish you with a few of my own photos, which don't in any way do justice to what we saw on Friday, and if you are anywhere within reasonable travelling distance, do try and visit yourself. I believe tickets are selling out fast, although the exhibition is there until October, so hurry!

Friday, April 13, 2018

New look chairs

There are times when I succumb too easily to the 'attractions' of daytime viewing on BBC1. I make no excuses for the fact that sometimes, especially if the weather is bad, and let's face it, we'd have difficulty remembering when it was good over the past several months, I waste the time I should be spending on dog walking, Welsh learning etc and instead, take the easy road, the path of 'Homes under the Hammer', 'Doctors' or, my latest addiction, 'Money for Nothing.' (In my defence, I do also watch BBC2's 'The Daily Politics Show', with the delightfully acerbic Andrew Neil and Jo Coburn.)
'Money for Nothing' is about three presenters who descend on recycling centres, persuade people to surrender their rubbish and then take it to various colleagues who are in the business of transforming these offerings into wildly different objects, which are then sold to unsuspecting customers for exorbitant amounts of money. (I often wonder if some people should actually be trusted with money, when they can be parted from it so easily!)
Don't get me wrong, sometimes the transformations are skilled and imaginative, usually when the object is not to make a coat rack out of an armchair, for example.  One of the programmes recently, showed a pair of seventies dining chairs (think Ercol or Schreiber) which were sanded down and given new seat pads. I thought they looked marvellous and immediately decided that was what our equally seventies dining table and chairs also needed. Sand them down, get rid of that seventies orange hue and, hey presto, a new dining set!
This is where I ran into my first obstacle - Keith. Not literally, you understand, but verbally. Not a good idea, he said, as the top of the table is veneer and sanding that down would be very tricky as it would be all too easy to inadvertently sand a hole in it and ruin the effect totally. I could do the chairs, but then they would look too different from the table. Further investigation into going down the white chalk paint route, which I think would have looked great, met with an equally unenthusiastic response.
So, in the interests of domestic harmony, I limited myself to re-upholstering the chairs and now, they look like this:  

Monday, January 08, 2018

The Piper

T.K. steps up again ...

Very moving.....

I love this story.  Lay down whatever is bothering you, breathe in the fresh air and LISTEN to this story.

Time is like a river. You cannot touch the water twice, because the flow that has passed will never pass again. Enjoy every moment of life.
 As a bagpiper, I play many gigs. Recently I was asked by a funeral director to play at a graveside service for a homeless man. He had no family or friends, so the service was to be at a pauper's cemetery in the Nova Scotia back country.  As I was not familiar with the backwoods, I got lost and, being a typical man, I didn't stop for directions. I finally arrived an hour late and saw the funeral guy had evidently gone and the hearse was nowhere in sight. There were only the diggers and crew left and they were eating lunch. I felt badly and apologised to the men for being late.

I went to the side of the grave and looked down and the vault lid was already in place. I didn't know what else to do, so I started to play. The workers put down their lunches and began to gather around.  I played out my heart and soul for this man with no family and friends. I played like I've never played before, for this homeless man.

And as I played "Amazing Grace", the workers began to weep. They wept, I wept, we all wept together. When I finished, I packed up my bagpipes and started for my car. Though my head was hung low, my heart was full. As I opened the door to my car, I heard one of the workers say, "I never seen anything like that before, and I've been putting in septic tanks for twenty years."

Apparently, I'm still lost … it's a man thing.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Nadolig Llawen

This year, I will let Keith wish you a happy Christmas on behalf of both of us, and look, you get to watch how he made his Christmas tree too!

Thursday, December 21, 2017


 It's a long time since I got any jokes forwarded to me from my friend T.K. but, just in time for Christmas, here's his latest ...
I just discovered my age group!  I am a Seenager. (Senior teenager)
I have everything that I wanted as a teenager, only 50-60 years later.
I don't have to go to school or work.
I get an allowance every month.
I don't have a curfew.
I have a driver's licence and my own car.
I have ID that gets me into bars and the wine store.  I like the wine store best.
The people I hang around with are not scared of getting pregnant, they aren’t scared of anything, they have been blessed to live this long, why be scared?
And I don't have acne.
Life is Good!  Also, you will feel much more intelligent after reading this, if you are a Seenager.
Brains of older people are slow because they know so much.
People do not decline mentally with age, it just takes them longer to recall facts because they have more information in their brains.
 Scientists believe this also makes you hard of hearing as it puts pressure on your inner ear.
 Also, older people often go to another room to get something and when they get there, they stand there wondering what they came for.
It is NOT a memory problem, it is nature's way of making older people do more exercise.
I have more friends I should send this to, but right now I can't remember their names.
So, please forward this to your friends; they may be my friends, too.

Thursday, November 16, 2017


For the past few weeks, I have been plagued by arthritis in my left knee. A couple of years ago, I had it in my right knee, although it did subside partly, I think, because I started taking Turmeric capsules. People may wonder about that, but all I can say is that it made an almost instantaneous difference, although when Keith tried it for his ankle, it didn't help at all.
So, fast forward to now and here I am hobbling around with a growing collection of knee supports and trying to keep it exercised as much as possible, because Elder Daughter tells me that 'knees love exercise.' I'm sure she's right, but my knee doesn't seem too grateful for it these days!

"I have a couple of bolts in the shed that you could use," said Keith helpfully, watching me strap said joint up in a knee brace.

"It's OK," I replied, "you keep those for your neck."

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Passing the buck

Dear Ms Aspin, 
Thank you for your further email of 26 September addressed to Vaughan Gething AM, Cabinet Secretary for Health, Well-being and Sport regarding your concerns about the services provided at Pen y Maes health centre in Wrexham.  I have been asked to reply.  
I am sorry that you were disappointed to receive a response from an official rather than direct from the Cabinet Secretary.  Welsh Government Ministers receive a large volume of correspondence and cannot always respond personally.  For this reason correspondents may from time to time receive a reply on the Cabinet Secretary’s behalf from his officials.  However, the Cabinet Secretary takes a close interest in all his correspondence. 
I note your further concerns.  It was explained in our previous response that the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board took over management of the practice in October 2016 and is continuing to explore potential options for the future provision of services.   
In Wales, the Cabinet Secretary has a role to set the strategic direction for health services and hold the NHS to account.  Health boards plan how services are delivered ‘on the ground’ and regularly review these services to ensure they meet the needs of their resident population.  Therefore, the health board will be the most appropriate organisation to contact to provide the specific answers to your enquiry. 
Yours sincerely 
Paul Haynes Government Business Team Health and Social Services Group  

In reply to the second and third emails I sent to Vaughan Gething, this dropped into my inbox yesterday. No more informative and equally 'helpful' as the last reply from him. Obviously, Mr Gething, who is, remember, the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Well-being and Sport in the Welsh Assembly, is an extremely busy fellow and hasn't got time to reply in person to the likes of me. The fact that, being Secretary for Health, means that it is his job to be interested in what's going on in the Health scene throughout Wales, seems to have passed him by, and of course, as his constituency is in south Wales, he doesn't rely on us to vote him back in when the next election rolls around.
So, once again, in spite of the fact that I did inform him previously that I have already contacted BCUHB and a great many more bodies and people besides, the official line continues to be, 'Not interested, go and ask them.'
We have now gathered a fair amount of coverage of what is happening in our Health Board and it's all grist to our mill. For example:
  • In BUCHB and doubtless in other Welsh health boards too, directly managed GP practices  get £29 per patient more than GP managed practices.
  • Although the East Area team have assured us several times that they are 'committed to GP managed practices', they also told the recent Scrutiny meeting with the Council that they 'have no intention of putting Pen y Maes out to tender again in the near future'. 
  • They are NOT 'meeting the needs of the resident population', unless you count days with no GPs and a shortage of nurses as meeting our needs.
So the bottom line is that although one of our MPs has become involved and is asking questions, even though Welsh NHS is devolved so he does not have any obligation to do so, Mr Gething, who does have a responsibility (the clue is in your title, you know!), has decided not to bother.

But we're not going away. We're going to keep on keeping on!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Still doing battle

After two missives to Vaughn Gething, our Health Secretary, I received an off the peg reply from one of his minions who, like all the others, had perfected the art of saying nothing very comprehensively, so this afternoon, I sat down with Classic FM for inspiration and composed this:

Dear Mr Gething,
Thank you for the response to my letter, sent by a member of your team. It seems as if the organisation of your response network is geared to siphoning people off to other organisations who may or may not be able to help them. I'm afraid that in this case, this response is not helpful.

We have already contacted the CHC, BCUHB itself and the CEO, Mr Gary Doherty, to no avail. We are not being given anything helpful in regard to how the parlous situation at Pen y Maes health centre can be resolved and seem to be continually shooed away and told that 'it's OK folks, your concerns are unfounded/ we have it all in hand / we know what we are doing (delete as required).

Unfortunately, no-one seems able to tell us 
a) why salaried GPs do not seem to want to work for the East Area team of BCUHB
b) why this is not being invstigated
c) why Dr Sankey, erstwhile clinical lead, who was willing and eager to take on the practice as a GMS        with a full team of medical staff, was turned down
d) why BCUHB seem hell bent on directly managing our and other similarly placed practices           themselves, irrespective of whether it's the right solution or not
e) why the Board thinks it acceptable to pay considerable sums of money employing locums when item c) was available.

I’m sure you are aware that directly managed practices cost around a third more to run than GMS practices. Between April and August BCUHB overspent by three million pounds on just six directly managed practices, five of which are under the East Area team and of those, four  in Wrexham, Pen y Maes, Beechley and Hillcrest, as well as Ruabon. The first three have all lost their clinical leads due to resignation.

I was hoping that you, as Secretary for Health in Wales would also have an interest in this problem and given your position, could endeavour to obtain the answers to the above. I remain ever hopeful and would greatly appreciate an answer that deals specifically with the points I have raised here.

Sincerely, etc

Dreaming - and shouting

Often at night, I dream and the dreaming is, on occasion, accompanied by some shouting. Sometimes the sound of my shouting wakes me up but generally, it falls to Keith to wake me up and inform me that I was shouting. After that, I usually manage to get out of the dream cycle and go back to normal sleep, or what passes for normal for me anyway.

In the morning, I have a vague recollection of having been talking or shouting and if I don’t, Keith is more than happy to remind me, but he never remembers what I have said and in the bright light of morning, I have forgotten what was bothering me so much, but I do seem to spend a lot of my dream time arguing and fighting with people.

Last night, it appears that I shouted again, just one word, ‘Bastard!’ I’m quite sure this was not directed at Keith and actually, you’ll be relieved to hear, it’s not part of my regular vocabulary, but this morning I did have a vague recollection of being extremely angry and frustrated with someone.

Of course, it could be the effect of all this protesting.

Which is a shame as there is still plenty of that to do yet!


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