"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, 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This time, I saw a registrar, who wanted to know why I had withdrawn from the waiting list, which I was happy to explain.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.


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
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…

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Toby's Diary

Just thought I'd drop you all a line to let you know how I'm getting on. After all, Jenny and Keith both seem to think I'm clever, so that must mean that I can write blog posts ... I think!
I've been here for a few weeks now and I think I'm settling in pretty well. I probably wouldn't have settled in so quickly if Paddy hadn't been here to show me the ropes, but I think the old guy gets a bit fed up with my energy sometimes. He's very patient, but he does tell me where to get off now and again. Mind you, I can run rings round him most of the time - part of being clever, I suppose.
We've had a few ups and downs, mind you, like the time before Christmas when I accidentally bit a lump of fur out of Paddy's cheek. Jenny had to take him to the vet's for some special cream. I did try licking it better, but that didn't work, and then he made it worse by scratching it! Jenny said the visit to the vet cost her £40 and she wasn't impressed with either of us. 
She spends quite a bit of time not being impressed me, truth to tell, particularly when I leave puddles and messes around the house! I'm sure I'll get round to remembering to ask to go outside eventually, but, let's face it, would you want to go out into the garden to go to the toilet? 
So, what have I learnt so far?
  • When Jenny puts my lead on me for a walk, it's not good to start chewing it.
  • When Jenny puts Paddy's lead on, it's not good for me to start chewing it.
  • Jenny and Keith are not happy when I have an accident in the house.
  • They are doubly not happy when I have an accident in the house 2 minutes after coming in from the garden!
  • While I am out for a walk is a good time for me to go to the toilet. (It's what dogs are supposed to do, but I just can't get my head around this one.)
  • When Jenny is putting my food into my bowl, it is not a good idea to bark frantically. If I do, she stops, turns her back on me, and I have to wait even longer for it. But I still forget sometimes.
  • Paddy does NOT like it if I try to steal some of his food. 
  • Paddy doesn't like it when I squeeze into his bed with him. However, he does put up with it - usually.
  • Keith's not keen on my chewing his shoes and slippers. I think that if he leaves them lying around, they're just asking to be chewed!
So, that's how things are at present. I'm off to the doggy hairdresser next Thursday. Let's hope I don't disgrace myself there!
Bye for now, everyone and be good! (Oh no, that's me!)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Royal Mail 'service'

I have blogged before about Royal Mail and now that the service has been privatised, I am pretty sure things can only get worse. After all, the priority in future will no longer be the customer (You mean it ever was?) but the shareholders, who have, by the way, done very well for themselves already, seeing that Royal Mail was sold off at a knock-down price, no matter what our esteemed politicians say.
Yesterday, Keith was waiting for an order so that he could go and do a job. This order should have arrived on Tuesday but didn't and, after waiting in vain until ten o'clock for the postman, he set off to do another job. I stayed in to wait for the post and by half past eleven, he had walked purposefully down the road, past our house and back up the other side of the road. No delivery for us.
In the afternoon, we popped out for half an hour and luckily, were back just in time to catch the parcel postman putting one of their nice 'You were out' cards through our letterbox. (By the way, these nice red cards are now nice blue cards with snowflakes on them - just for Christmas!)
For some time now, as UK readers will know, delivery times have been erratic. No longer can you plan your day, safe in the knowledge that the post will arrive at the same time every day - important for people like Keith who rely on being able to order keys and transponders and being confident that they will arrive when they should. Now, the post can arrive any time during the working day and varies greatly from one day to the next.  According to yesterday's postman, our area now has a new manager who is bringing in more changes. Deliveries will be even more erratic, things that you think should come with the letter delivery, may be put in with the parcel delivery, which may, in turn, no longer be within half an hour of the letter delivery but could be hours later.
So, it seems that my new career will be waiting in for the post for anything from a couple of hours to all day - just in case. Sorry, dogs, your walks are on on hold!
"Ah," I hear you say, "but you can go to the sorting office for your package if you miss it."
Well, it's not too far away from us luckily, but if you go by car, you are now not allowed to park in their car park, which means finding a pay and display space somewhere in the car parks nearby and you can now no longer go on the same day, as it will not have been processed. So you lose a day.
'Ring up and ask for a re-delivery then!" you exclaim.
Previously, I could ring up and speak to someone at the local sorting office. Now, I can only ring up and speak to a computer, which requires me to give it an endless stream of irrelevant information, like what colour underwear I have on. (No, OK, that's not one of the questions, but I bet it will be soon!)
Last time I tried it, I gave up in despair.
However, if you thought it could get no worse, cast your eyes over  what's happening to Canada's mail service. Over there, they are talking about giving up door to door deliveries altogether.
Just wait till our new, sleek privatised service gets a load of that!
I'm taking bets on how long it takes Royal Mail to follow suit.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

FASCINATING AIDA : very funny OFSTED song for teachers

Just received this link from a teacher friend, one of the 'Ladies who lunch' group, in fact. Worth watching...

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Toby here!

Hello everyone, 
Just thought I'd introduce myself. I know Paddy has already told you about me but he can be a bit grumpy sometimes and I was afraid that he might not have given you a balanced picture. I mean, did he tell you how handsome, talented and clever I am? No? Thought not...
Actually, he's not bad for an old chap. He lets me climb all over him, bite his legs and his tail and pull his bed to bits. In return, I soften up the rawhide chews that Jenny sometimes gives us, ready for him to take over. He has had two teeth taken out, you see, so his bite is not what it used to be. (Just as well for me, really, I suppose!)
As far as Keith and Jenny are concerned, they seem reasonably pleased  with me - when I'm not causing mayhem.
Keith is not very happy when I chew his shoes and slippers, which is a shame really, as the shoelaces are particularly tasty, and I think they are getting a bit tired of my bringing dead leaves into the house, but I think it's a great game and at least I don't chew the post when it arrives or bark at the vacuum cleaner AND, most important of all, as far as Jenny is concerned, I don't go berserk when I see a cat, rabbit or squirrel! (You reading this, Paddy?)

This cap is quite tasty too !


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