17 December 2010
14 December 2010
28 November 2010
24 November 2010
Mom was a patient for eight weeks. For about half of this time she lay flat on her back unable to move and therefore subject to the whim of the staff when it came to bedpans and feeding. Most of the time her meals were removed uneaten and no remark made. Trying to feed yourself whilst lying flat on your back and being in incredible pain is difficult to say the least. Mom had called for a bedpan several times but had been unable to produce the goodies. This meant that when she called for one again the staff started to get a little slack. She was worried about this and mentioned it to a nurse. The nurse told her not to worry and if they didn't get there in time to "just shit yourself, everyone else does and we have to clean it up anyway". Not only was Mom helpless but she was now having what little dignity she had left brutally removed from her. Naturally the staff member who said this denied it when I made my written complaint but I have since encountered several people who have spent time on the same ward and have been told exactly the same thing. I suspect it is unwritten hospital policy.
A couple of days in I sat down at visiting time next to Mom's bed and remarked that the urine smell was even worse. Mom whispered that the night before her urine bag (she had a catheter fitted) had not been emptied and it had got so full it burst.
One night after a week inside I received a desperate telephone call from Mom at 10pm. They were moving her to another ward. No warning, nothing, just like that. They had waited until after I had left at 9pm and then moved her. Now I accept that people have to be moved in order to take account of operational needs but why is it done when relatives have returned home? Mom was very upset because of the stressful situation she was in as well as the unremitting pain.
The move turned out to be a good one once Mom had settled into the new ward. She wasn't moved again and over the next few weeks through better pain management and physiotherapy began to become more mobile again. However distressing experiences were plentiful. One elderly lady came in with two broken wrists. If my mother had not helped her to feed, that woman would have starved because nobody ever helped her with her food. Another woman discharged herself and went home to no support or help because she did not want to be sent to a care home miles away from her own home, meaning that her only visitor, her lodger who suffered from alzheimer's would not have been physically able to visit her. Pain management for some patients was a joke with them having to fight for something a little stronger than a paracetamol."
9 November 2010
The man above is my Great Grandfather Frank Keys. Frank was born on 13th November 1885 in a back to back house in West Bromwich. He was the third child of William and Martha. William had been born in Adstock in Buckinghamshire, a place where once the Keys had been a prolific family and had owned nearly all the horses in the village along with decent parcels of land. Over the 19th century the Keys family gradually left their Bucks roots and dispersed around the globe searching for work and a better life than the awful agricultural poverty that had become the norm in places such as Adstock during that century. William went with his parents to the Black Country and followed his father into the brewing world and worked as a malster, as Frank later did too.
8 November 2010
30 October 2010
Those who are with me on Facebook know that back in September I enjoyed four nights away on my own in Devon. This was the first time I had gone away solo since before my son was born more than 16 years ago. My Mother didn't believe that I was going alone and neither did quite a few other people so I waved my double room for single occupancy booking for all to see!
23 October 2010
18 October 2010
1 October 2010
27 September 2010
My daughter has now reached her last year of primary school and so a couple of weeks ago we attended an open evening at our local school. This is the school that my son has recently left, so you would think that I would know it reasonably well. I thought I did but it seems that certain changes have been made recently with no consultation with parents.
We were enjoying a wonderfully hilarious presentation by members of the History Department when a nugget was slipped in regarding the whole of the Key Stage 3 now having to be covered in just two years because ‘options’ were now being made to start at the beginning of Year 9 rather than Year 10 previously. I’ll explain, ‘options’ are the subject choices a child makes for their GCSEs, so as GCSEs are normally taken in Year 11 and are a two-year course, they have been since forever, made at the age of 14 or the end of Year 9; third year of secondary school in old money.
When I got the opportunity I asked the teacher who was accompanying my group around the school, who is also what is now called a Subject Leader rather than Head of Department, as to why options had been moved forward a year and did he not think as I did, that 12/13 was rather too young to be making choices that had massive repercussions for the long term future of the individual child. His response was that some students found the two years insufficient time to attain a decent grade in their chosen GCSE courses and this change would therefore allow those students to fulfil their potential with less stress. Additionally, more able pupils would be able to take all of their GCSEs in Year 10, which would then enable then to take further GCSEs in subjects that interested them in just one year in Year 11. Some students would also be able to take AS levels a year early.
Having had some experience of GCSEs in the past two years I responded to the teacher by pointing out that what I could see happening was that all students would take their examinations early and those who did not make their target grade would then be forced to take and retake the examinations again and again until targets had been reached, thus inducing paranoia and stress and boredom. I added that precious few students would actually be able to take advantage of taking subjects that interested them in just one year and all the school seemed to be doing was extending the GCSE curriculum to three years by the back door. I know that my son got incredibly bored going over the same material in lessons time and time again for the benefit of those who hadn’t understood the first three or four times around, much to his detriment. The teacher was a little taken aback, I could see the thought ‘she’s rumbled us’ written all over his face. He responded by saying that they were only doing what lots of other schools were doing.
It crossed my mind that this change was all about league tables but I had other things to think about until that is I read THIS in last weeks Guardian Education supplement. Seems I was right. Is this what league tables have forced us into? That we now speed through three years of curriculum studies in two years, force children to chose subjects that will have a direct bearing on what A levels they may wish to take and therefore in turn affects the choice of course for university at a ridiculously young age of 12 or 13 and then allow a leisurely 3 years for a GCSE course in order that a school can boast ‘best GCSE results ever!’ and offer increasingly amazing percentages of those students who obtain five or more grade Cs, including maths and English because that is what is recorded in the league tables?
Speeding through three years of curriculum in a mere two also means that the vast majority of students will only study a foreign language for two years at secondary school and other subjects such as History, Geography, Music and so on, will suffer the same fate.
This is narrowing our children’s education even further. All we are doing is churning out children that are eventually taught how to get a grade C in a public examination. We are not educating them in any broad sense of the word. We reap what we sow. It’s a pretty sad picture when I look ahead.
25 August 2010
Last week I took a return bus journey which transported me back to a time and a service that I had thought disappeared.
11 August 2010
This article and associated reports carried in various media yesterday started a few thought processes in my weary brain. Feel free to pick it all apart but these thoughts come from the heart because I've seen it all before.
7 August 2010
I write this as Frustrated of Aldridge!
4 July 2010
This one comes courtesy of my lovely friend Martin who posted a link to a Nat King Cole song on my Facebook page today and set into motion a train of thought. Listening to Nat croon away reminded me of Sunday mornings when I was a child listening to Family Favourites on the radio, or the wireless as we called it back then.
I don't remember the minutiae of Family Favourites but recall that people wrote in with requests for friends and families all over the world and the programme would link up to far flung places where their loved ones were working or had emigrated or were serving in the forces. This I suppose was all in the days before it was common to have a telephone let alone actually make international calls! It's so easy to keep in touch now that we become lazy in communication.
I digress. Back to the point. When I was a child the radio was always on. Before the birth of Radio 1, Mom listened to the Light Programme and my formative years were spent watching my Mother twist and shout and vacuum to the Beatles amongst others. Once Radio 1 had burst upon us, the radio was rarely tuned into anything else. On Sundays we listened to the end of the Chart Show and the announcement of this weeks new number one in the car on the way back from my Grandparents. Then Radio 1 finished and we 'joined' Radio 2 for Sing Something Simple. I was always glad we were close to home then!
The Top Twenty Chart was such an important part of my growing years, never missed it and often recorded it after my grandfather gave me one of those new fangled cassette recorders! It was of course linked in to Top of the Pops which is an entirely different blog.
I don't remember the name of the programme that was specifically for children that was on weekend mornings for a couple of hours but I do remember Ed Stewart and Tubby the Tuba and Milly, Molly, Mandy, The Laughing Policeman, Puff the Magic Dragon and all the other records that were played. Again this was a request show, so we the listeners chose the music that was played. Heady days.
When I got to being an unruly teenager in the 70s the old Radio 1 Road-show with Smiley Miley et al was de rigour and you were just not part of the scene unless you attended at least one road-show during the summer. One Saturday morning we waited for hours to catch a glimpse of Tony Blackburn who was opening the new shopping centre in Kingstanding.
At school we were forced to listen to a school morning assembly broadcast once a week and all I really remember about this was that it was incredibly boring. Mr Bennett, our Head Teacher had his faults but I think he gave us reasonable assemblies when he was running the show but I guess the man needed one morning off a week. We also used to have to do Music, Movement and Mime from the radio. That was all standing pretending to be trees blowing in the wind type of stuff.
I loved Noel Edmonds and DLT but loathed Jimmy Saville and that programme he did early on Sunday afternoons when he gave you points if you could remember the brackets in the title of some song he was playing from 20 years earlier! Like they were real points!
I still love the radio and have it on most of the time but rarely listen to music stations now. It's all Radio 4, Five Live, World Service....how boring and old I have become or maybe just too lazy.
2 July 2010
I miss your arms around me, holding me tight, keeping me close. In bed I drifted into sleep with those arms around me and when I woke in the morning they were still there wrapped around my form as though I were some parcel marked 'fragile'. Those evenings watching our favourite TV programmes or a DVD, snuggling on the sofa, arms and legs entwined, a glass of red wine and soft, sweet kisses. The meals alone, candle light flickering across and illuminating the face I grew to love so much. Our laughter peeling together, sharing an anecdote or a joke or just life. The late night phone calls when were not together, letting each other know that at the end of the day there was someone in the big wide world that cared. I miss the touch of our fingers seeking the other out. The smiles of shared moments. The spontaneity of hugs from nowhere. The smell when I buried my face in your neck.
26 June 2010
Summer days with you. Long walks holding hands. Through fields and woods, the shade from the trees flickering over your smiling face. Dipping my hot feet in the freezing waters of a stream and you laughing. Carefully making my way over stepping stones only to slip on the final one and you surreptitiously taking photos recording my progress. Finding a bench or patch of land to eat our picnic and then enjoying the peace and solitude of that special place. Talking, chatting, discussing, sharing and golden silences when nothing needed to be said. Cream teas overloaded with suggestion and the promise of a night to come. A pint at the end of the day. Always touching. Kisses stolen and kisses displayed and feeling like a teenager once again. Summer days with you.
31 May 2010
I enjoy canals. Walking the tow paths, watching the boat traffic, observing the life and people of that world fascinates me. I am drawn to the tranquillity that can be discovered even when one is in the middle of an urban sprawl. When it came to deciding where to walk this last weekend choosing a route along one of the many canals in this region appealed especially if it could be combined with another of my favourite past times; a pint or two of cider. And so it was at 9.20 yesterday morning I set off from Fazeley Junction to walk the 11 miles to Fradley Junction.
Fazeley is urban no doubt but walking just a couple of miles brings a more rural scene with woods and bird song and peace. The walk between Hopwas village and Huddlesford Junction is particularly delightful. I love nosing into the gardens in the villages where they meet the canal or the tow path or both and equally I enjoy the more serene times spent by Hopwas Hays Woods on one side and the river Tame the other. Walking gives me time to think and also to appreciate whatever season it happens to be. At this time of the year the canal is full of lots of mothers with their baby chicks, swifts swooping down to the water and just as quickly soaring the skies again, the bull rushes and lilies are just about to flower and the cow parsley, hawthorn and horse chestnut trees are in full flower.
At the beginning the air was thick with the smells of Sunday morning sausage, bacon and eggs emanating from the boats moored all along. Not much moved on the water itself at this time except the ducks and geese, people were busy enjoying a relaxing breakfast. Most called out a cheery 'morning' and one couple even offered a gratefully received mug of coffee. A fifteen minute encounter with strangers that was thoroughly enjoyable. Dog walkers, cyclists, joggers all exchanged a 'morning' but one thing that struck me, possibly because I have not been walking solo for a fair while is that although the male of a couple would greet me, the female did not.
One word of advice when walking along a canal. The boats don't tend to go much faster than walking pace so if you find yourself behind a novice boater let them move on or speed up yourself and loose them. A nose constantly full of diesel fumes due to their ineptitude at using the engine is not recommended!
After three hours there was no more welcome site than The Swan at Fradley, known to regulars and locals as The Mucky Duck. They now sell their own Mucky Duck ale brewed by a local micro brewery. I'm told it's good. The Swan is apparently one of the most photographed pubs in Britain. It's over 200 years old, it's picturesque, it sells great real ale, decent cider and wonderful home cooked food. Added to that is that it sits at the busy junction between the Coventry and Trent and Mersey canals, a fine spot for gongoozling and you can understand why it is so photographed. I sat for an hour and enjoyed a couple of pints of cider watching the novice boaters make a real pigs ear of the turn between the canals and having a chat with a couple of young canoeists.
I was feeling pretty good at that stage but then I needed to backtrack 5 miles to a village where I could get a bus to return home and it wasn't long before I realised I may have bitten off a little more than I could chew. Nothing new there! I will not bore you with my travails but I finished the walk with four blisters on the sole of my left foot, the knee on the same side feeling as though it might explode and decidedly painful hips. Reporting from 24 hours on though I am happy to advise that only the blisters are still giving me grief.
It was an enjoyable and mostly solitary day. Did I manage to think things through properly and to any particular conclusion? No, not absolutely. Guess I need another walk with a lovely pub at the end of it!
15 May 2010
Two years ago this weekend I went to London for a couple of days. My first weekend without responsibilities for many years and so I went to reclaim the past as mine, lay ghosts to rest and I ended up having a ball. Portsmouth won the FA Cup final and having gone down to Covent Garden that evening, I celebrated with them. It was one of those days after the break up with the Ex that life was good and I knew I was going to enjoy life and all its challenges.
22 March 2010
We are all guilty of making assumptions about people, me included. We shouldn’t but we’re given a set of circumstances, a personality, maybe things are said, perhaps taken out of context and assumptions are made. It’s easy!
One assumption that is frequently made about me by many people including family and close friends is that I support and vote for The Labour Party….that’s the so called pinko lefties to anyone outside the UK. Well I don’t and I don’t and if there is one thing the Labour Party is not, is pinko lefty!
True until 1996 I was a fully paid up card carrying member of said party but I had been unhappy with the direction that the party was travelling in for a couple of years, well since 1994 actually and the election of Tony Blair as Party Leader. A close friend of mine said that I wasn’t to worry because once they got into power all those socialist principles would be remembered and taken up again; the party was just trying to attract the middle class, middle Britain vote. I wasn’t so sure but what nailed it for me was the wording of plans for university education in the manifesto of 1997. There was no mention of abolishing the student maintenance grant or even of tuition fees but the manifesto did state that university expansion could not be funded from taxation and that student maintenance should be "repaid by graduates on an income-related basis".
Maybe I think too much but this sentence struck to the core of my own beliefs about how education should be open to all and not just be the privilege of those who could afford it. And before anyone says a word I was latecomer to further education, a mature student who paid her own fees and didn't get a maintenance grant, so I wasn’t be a protectionist for something I had personally enjoyed. I knew in my heart that if my reading of this one small sentence in the manifesto was right then there were some horrors I could just not defend that would come into being come the labour election victory.
So I didn’t vote labour in 1997 and I haven’t voted labour since, nor will I ever vote labour again until a return is made to many of the old labour principles and beliefs. Presumably that will be the day pigs fly over my house! I do vote in every election, local or national but I flit and float hoping to find something and someone who is worthy of my hard fought for vote. Alas, and maybe I am making some assumptions myself here, there doesn’t appear to be many politicians around these days that are worthy of the trust and the vote of ordinary people. Oh and I have never and will never vote Tory!
I read it right though, that small sentence, because just after the 1997 election, the new labour government not only abolished the maintenance grant but introduced tuition fees too. Ok so the grant is back but it doesn’t even cover the fees. What a waste of time, effort and resources, giving something in one hand to take back with extras in the other, just to keep civil servants and student loan companies in jobs.
I am so frustrated! But not so frustrated as to vote labour!
5 March 2010
Every other weekend my daughter goes to stay with her Dad for 2 nights. This has meant that now my son is a responsible (ha ha) mature (ha ha ha) nearly 16 year old that I take the opportunity to help him gain more independence, responsibility and maturity by leaving him home alone for a 24 hour period. He loves it. He eats curry all weekend, can play his music very loudly and can watch whatever he likes on the 42" TV in the living room.
He's pretty good. I have had no complaints of wild parties (we leave that to the mature (NOT), responsible (NOT NOT) 22 year old who lives next door who goes absolutely wild every time his parents are away) or queues of young women awaiting entrance. I can't smell anything remotely of the wackiest baccy on returning home, just curry. However my gripe relates to the fact that when I leave, the house is clean and tidy and yet 24 hours later it looks like a student flat that hasn't been tidied or cleaned for a term.
I have tried asking ever so politely and pleasantly that he tidy up before I return home; hasn't worked. I have threatened removal of laptop and/or switching off of router; hasn't worked. I've yelled and done the usual Mother Going Nuts impression; hasn't worked. I've tried calling saying I'll be home in half an hour and would he tidy up; hasn't worked.
So now I've come up with the ultimate. I've just informed him that if I get home this Sunday and the house is a tip then I shall be fitting padlocks to all relevant doors so that he cannot access certain rooms. Judging by his reaction it might just work!
4 March 2010
I don't mind admitting that I'm on a tight budget these days. The four holidays a year to foreign climes are long gone. This years holiday is courtesy of my tesco vouchers, hoarded over the last two years for the day I knew would come. I don't buy clothes for myself except with birthday and Christmas money or when something nice and decent catches my eye in one of the three local charity shops. Although the recession has something to do with this situation, in that valued clients of many years standing have gone out of business, the main reason is the departure of the Ex and his utter failure to appreciate just how much is spent on the children plus who would look after my Mom if I didn't? However I'm not complaining. I'm luckier than most. My house is owned outright so at least I don't have a mortgage and if push comes to shove it can always be sold in a downsizing exercise. I grow a lot of my own for consumption in summer and autumn months. I make my own greetings cards and have taken to making presents now too. If I can't afford to buy it cash I don't have it. I still have a good existence and can honestly say that I lack for nothing essential.
This evening a knock on the door revealed the caller to be from the local dairy touting for business for the local self employed milkman. I used this dairy for doorstep deliveries until a few years ago because Mick the Milkman had been a family friend forever but when he left, after being badly treated by said dairy, I waved them goodbye. Dairyman asked me where I purchased my milk. Simple says I, 4 pints for a £1 from Iceland. I felt the intake of breath rather than saw it and knew I was in for a grave look and a lecture on how dairy farmers were going out of business because of this sort of loss leading pricing and had I seen the channel 4 documentary? My expectation didn't go unrewarded and I let him speak without interruption. My response was that I would love to be able to afford the luxury of supporting dairy farmers and also other suppliers of say fair trade products but I can't. It's a struggle on a daily basis and a 70 pence saving multiplied by 4 and again by 52 buys the school uniforms and shoes for a year. He shook his head, thanked me for my time and walked away.
So why do I feel so damn guilty? I used have the luxury of being able to chose carefully what suppliers and products I purchased but now, value for money is the key factor and all these, what appear to be insignificant amounts do add up. Perhaps I should cut down on the few pounds a week I allow myself for my own gratification such as a couple of pints of cider or a bottle of wine? My pleasures are simple and not expensive but now I feel guilty for being part of the mass that are causing the downfall of dairy farming in the UK!
Sometimes a conscience is a burden.
14 February 2010
I spent a long day at the Children’s Hospital in Birmingham this week whilst my son had surgery. It’s not the first time I’ve done such a thing and so I know the drill, know when I’ll get a little time out, where to get my free coffee and that chatting with strangers in a similar position is part of the day. I am always humbled when at the hospital; humbled by various children and some of the awful diseases and accidents that have endured, humbled by their parents and carers and their incredible stoicism and humbled by the staff from porters to doctors, nurses to care assistants and the wonderful way they operate and make each and every child feel special and that as a parent I am not to made to feel stupid by the questions I ask and because I love my child and that child is special to me.
Following the booking in, the chat with the nurse, the chat with the very junior doctor, the chat with the anaesthetist and then finally the chat with the surgeon and registrar (oh that everyone cared so much for adults!) I knew I had half an hour to get breakfast and catch a crafty ciggie….yes I am still addicted to the dreaded weed. So son being settled with MP3 player and DS, off I went. It wasn’t the sort of day where you wanted to hang around outside the hospital having a ciggie it being snowy and having a bitingly cold northern wind whipping its way around the corner of Steelhouse Lane Police Station but I touched base with a woman I had noticed on the ward. The young girl with Downs that I had seen her with wasn’t her daughter as I first thought but her granddaughter. She was having grommets fitted in both ears in the hope that when she could hear properly, she might be able to start to talk. The child was 10 years old, the same age as my daughter. I thought to myself what sort of system is it that a child has to wait 10 years before this sort of surgery is done?
What is it with speaking with a stranger means you open up and talk about the most intimate details of parts of your life? Is it because you will probable never see or speak with them ever again? Is it because no judgements are made on such a brief encounter? Or are you perhaps chatting about things that are normally left unsaid, lying deep within only to be released when there is nobody else personally involved around? I have no idea, perhaps it is a mixture of all but what I do know is that I am never the one seeking the comfort, rather I seem to be able to elicit secrets that are held within without even knowing how I do it or even wanting to do so.
Soon I was hugging this woman and giving thanks for my blessings. She had mentioned that her daughter was in Germany, in the army, had done two tours of Afghanistan and I had assumed that this was why she was looking after her granddaughter. Unfortunately I was wrong. This career soldier had abandoned her daughter shortly after birth and took no interest in her daughter’s life or care. Grandmother had become mother. But Grandmother was also a daughter and her own mother was with her that day. I saw her up on the ward. She was wearing a headscarf and was thin and wan. She had recently had her breasts removed because of cancer and was in the middle of chemotherapy. No wonder my companion on the street needed a hug.
Following my son’s surgery whilst he was quiet and wanting to sleep I went to get a coffee from the parents room. I struck up a conversation with the mother of a beautiful little girl who was in the bed next to my son. The child was 4 years old and was only breathing with the aid of a portable respirator. Mom had been driving her car when that precious little girl was just 12 months old and was struck by a drunk driver. Mom walked away unscathed. Her daughter was less fortunate. She was there that day to have a full MRI scan under sedation. Four full time carers were needed night and day to help look after that child and what a beautiful girl she was with long, dark, curly locks and the face of an angel. Later I went and sat with them. That little girl could not speak but she watched everything, followed me with her eyes as I stood up and moved around and you just knew from looking at her that she was completely aware of her surroundings. Her Mom told me all about the never ending court cases and the never ending hospital stays and visits but she was happy and so, so strong.
As we left I counted my blessings once again and I reflected upon these strong women who for whatever reason had trusted a complete stranger with their stories and I felt blessed again.