"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)

Friday, November 13, 2015

Life for Dad

Since Dad moved up here, nearly eighteen months ago, he has settled in really well and adjusted to new surroundings and people. Last November, he had his first cataract done, but two days later, he was in hospital with pneumonia. After three weeks, he was better and able to go home and resume his daily life. Unfortunately, the prostate cancer, diagnosed several years ago, has continued its relentless course and he has had further stays in hospital, in July and again in September, each time going home afterwards slightly weaker and more in need of support.
Now he has four visits a day from carers, who help him with preparing meals, as well as getting up and going to bed, and his short term memory is poorer. Once a keen user of computers and the internet, he has gradually forgotten how to use them and only uses an iPad for listening to audiobooks downloaded from the library or for watching railway-related videos.  Even so, I frequently get a phone call from him in the evening, asking how to turn off the iPad when he has finished listening. Part of his problem is the deterioration in his sight. He has had both cataracts operated on now, has drops to treat his glaucoma and has had the dreaded injections in one eye to arrest the ‘wet’ Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), which have worked very well, but nothing can be done about the ‘dry’ AMD which he has in both eyes and so he struggles increasingly to read for any length of time. He has various magnifiers and three pairs of glasses, but then comes the problem of remembering where they are and which he needs to be wearing for a particular task.
However, ask him anything at all about the days of steam railways, and he can recall every little detail and recount it all at length - a wealth of living and experiences.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Life in Crewe Works

Dad says he still wants to write his second book, but I sometimes get the impression that it's become a bit of a millstone round his neck as his energy levels are not what they were. However, making short videos on You Tube is easier, quicker and probably more fun as well.

 Two things are in his favour:

He has a lot of interesting experiences from his ninety two years to talk about.

He can talk for England (or Wales!)

Friday, May 15, 2015

In memory of Mum

Today would have been Mum's birthday and an extra special one,  as she would now have been one hundred years old. As it was, she died at the  age of 86, in 1991. I don't remember what was on the death certificate but with the help of Dad looking after her, plus some excellent carers and the rest of us doing what we could, we nursed her at home and when the time came, she was able to die there peacefully, rather than in some anonymous hospital bed.
Mum was the next to youngest of five, three girls and two boys, and grew up on a smallholding in Staffordshire. I have a photo of her at about five years of age, face framed in dark ringlets and dressed in a pinafore, with her eldest sister and their mother. Sadly her parents died within a few months of each other when she was about fifteen and she spent the next few years living with her sister.

Her family was not well off so, in spite of being an able student who loved school, she had to leave at the age of fourteen to start work in one of the pot banks in the Potteries but, determined not to be held back by a lack of education, she went to night school and  eventually she was accepted to train as a nurse.

Whenever I complained about school or homework, she would remind me of her experiences and tell me never to forget how lucky I was. As a moody teenager, this usually fell on deaf ears. These days, I am much more aware  and appreciative of her efforts. 

Today she has been very much in our thoughts, never forgotten, always missed.

Thursday, June 19, 2014


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.


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