Only if I have to . . .


I had to go to Leeds today. Mrs H was having some treatment for her bad foot. She would have normally gone on her own, but she wasn’t allowed to drive for four hours after the treatment, so I was the chauffeur. Since taking early retirement (or voluntary redundancy to give its proper title) in 2016, I have only been to the City centre once. We went to see a film and a meal and I hated it. There were people of all ages sitting in doorways of shops that had closed. Sat in sleeping bags with bottles of cheap wine at their side. All seemed to have some kind of dog with them, which I assume was for security, but it may have been to expose the compassionate nature of the gullible passer-by. I said then that I would only go back to Leeds if I had no choice.

When you work in a place, you do not tend to see the actual area. You move from place to place to fulfil your tasks, without stopping to ‘take in the view’ so to speak. On this occasion and the previous visit, I was able to take in what was happening in the City. It was not pleasant. Today we parked up near the Leeds General Infirmary. Mrs H was having some treatment at the Nu****ld hospital on Leighton Street.

Next to where I was parked, is a homeless shelter, which has been there for over 50 years. It has always been the same. Frequented by alcohol and drug dependents, it is not a particularly salubrious area, but it serves a purpose. When I worked at the hospital, the place catered for around 7 or 8 people. Now, as I understand it there are in excess of 30 people that use the shelter, and a lot of them spill out onto the streets outside. I saw at least 4 young people today, at 09:30 drinking beer. Not cheap supermarket beer, but quality stuff. Although I don’t know or appreciate their circumstances, it does make one feel more than a little uneasy.

Fifty years on . . .


After a recent online chat with an old school friend, we both realised that he had forgotten a few things from those last days, and so had I. So, I thought it would be a good idea if I made a written record of some of the things I can still remember.

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From early on in my final year, there were rumblings about students going to university. It is interesting to note, that in year five, we were now students as opposed to being school kids. The previous year saw 20% of the students go on to university and the teachers (yes, they were still teachers and not tutors) were hoping to improve on that percentage. The previous year had twenty students, but my year had only 16. That meant that if the same number of students went on to university, the percentage would rise to 25% which had the teaching staff chomping at the bit, so to speak.

We had some informal discussions with our form teacher regarding what we wanted to do, what we could do and what was expected of us at the end of year five. I had this idea that I would have liked to be a Technical Draughtsman. I was excellent at Technical Drawing and coupled with my math skills, meant I had a good chance of realising that ambition.

In January 1971, the formal career discussions began. I outlined my ‘ambitions’ to my form teacher who also happened to be the Careers Officer for the Education Authority. That discussion, which lasted a mere twenty minutes shattered any dreams I had of becoming a draughtsman. It was explained that I would first need to go to university for two years (pushing the university theme again) followed by a three year course at a technical college, with a two year apprenticeship after that. The very thought of another five years of full-time education, and then earning a pittance as an apprentice was not something I wanted even to consider. I was told to go home that night, have a talk with my parents and come up with some other options. He said I should have a think about the things I liked to do, hobbies and such like. I didn’t think I could become a professional Airfix model maker or eastern European stamp collector, which were my only hobbies at the time.

It was a neighbour that came up with the cooking idea. I did like cooking and was, even though I say it myself, quite good at it. But then again after discussing this with my form teacher it became obvious that it would be a two year full time course at catering college.

At the time my maternal grandmother, who had recently retired from a clerical job, was working for her next door neighbour. The family owned a local Italian restaurant, and my grandmother was washing up three nights a week. For some reason, she had been invited to have a meal with some of her close family as a celebration. I have an idea that the place had been open for five years. Whilst we were eating, the owner was told that I was interested in cooking for a living, but that I wasn’t happy doing a full-time catering course. He said that he could only take on trained Italian chefs but would keep his ears open.

It was then that something, which I still find a little bizarre happened. A fellow diner at the next table apologised that he had overheard the conversation but wanted to offer a suggestion. He explained that his younger brother had wanted to be a cook but had had no luck in finding anywhere suitable. He told us that his brother had then seen an article in the local newspaper advertising a training scheme for cooks at one of the local hospitals. He went on to explain that his brother would be in a working kitchen, earning money but at the same time going to college one day a week to learn how to cook professionally. It sounded like a great idea, and it could be just what I was looking for. Training and getting paid. Best of both worlds. We asked at the local career’s office and they investigated it for us.

Schofields of Leeds

At the beginning of September, I had left school and was working as a porter at a large department store in the centre of Leeds. I received a letter one morning asking me to come for an interview at the Leeds General Infirmary. My Dad went with me, but if I remember correctly all the questions were directed at me. It seemed to go well, and I was quite pleased with how I had handled the interview. A week later, I received another letter asking me to go back for another interview. I was convinced that I hadn’t got the job. But everyone told me that you don’t get a second interview if you haven’t got the job. They were correct. I was asked if I was still interested, to which I seem to remember blurting out “Yes please!”

I was asked to start at the beginning of August and had to explain to my manager at the department store that I was leaving. I was told that I should have given a months’ notice, but as I had only been there eight weeks, a months’ notice would not have been very practical.

And that’s how I started my working life in full.

From then to now … difficult days


I was now back as a full time help-desk operator and I’m struggling. I had been more or less thrown in at the deep end. I had explained before I went into hospital, some 4 months previous, that I was going to need to retraining. But when asked again I was told that there was no individual training. The Government cuts to the Councils budget was beginning to hit hard and the only training that was available was the old school “sitting with Nellie!’ Now this would have been fine if so called ‘Nellie’ had any sort of patience. This ‘Nellie’ was the colleague that wanted the job that I got, so you can imagine that there was a little bit of animosity going on.

I plodded on through the next couple of months and managed to let colleagues believe that I knew what I was doing. In reallity, I was bluffing it. There was a few things that I did know, but these were the easy things that I tended to miss. One of my colleagues realised what was happening and began to take me under their wing. She pulled out a lot of training manuals and told me to ask if there was anything I needed. I found out months later, that she had been asked to help me by the service manager. I was still struggling, but it was starting to get easier.

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Then came the Christmas shutdown. That’s when the Council made non-essential office staff take leave from Christmas Eve to January the 2nd. But, just before that holiday, I was told that I was to be working on another project. I was to be part of the Waste Collectors team (bin men). The Council were developing some software to monitor the amount of waste that householder put in their waste bins. I was transferring back to the office where I had been working for years in the Parking Service. I had come home.

The project should last a year and I was back amongst real (sic) friends.

From then to now … more of the same


The big day arrived and the so called ‘newsome twosome’ started. I have no idea who came up with the name ‘newsome twosome’ but it did seem to fit. The fears we had, with neither ever working in a hospital kitchen Teamwere soon discredited. It turned out that C***s had been the Head Cook at an army barracks and P*m had worked for 10 years as a cook in the Royal Air Force. Both seemed to have good skills and soon blended in with the rest of the kitchen. C***s was appointed as the Kitchen Superintendent and always seemed quite easy going. P*m got the Assistant Head job and so became my so called ‘running mate’. She was not as laid back as C***s and this caused a few tensions among some of the staff. You will know the type, criticising everything that she did, but they didn’t have the courage to apply for the job themselves. However, we were now a team again.

Everything plodded along quite uneventfully for a couple of years. A few initiatives came and went, but I began to notice Splitthat whenever opportunities arose, I appeared to be the preferred choice.  A prime example was when management decided to update and change the menus in the staff dining room. All the kitchen staff were asked to come up with ideas, even the Porters and Kitchen Assistants were included. But when the ideas were pooled, it was C***s and me that were invited to take the discussions further. P*m and the Head Cook were side-lined a little. C***s and I tried to include them but we both felt at least one had taken her ‘bat home’  and was a bit more negative than the other. The Head Cook seemed to just be along for the ride. Never offering advice or criticism and his ‘safety phrase’ was “That sounds nice!”

The new menus were decided on and things seemed to be getting back to normal. Then the next bombshell hit.

The Head Cook announced that he was going to retire. We knew it was coming, but he had never Fightdivulged his actual age or the date of his birthday so we didn’t really know when. He had not taken any of his leave so he used his three weeks holiday entitlement as the bulk of his notice. He had asked the Catering Manager not to tell anyone until he had started his leave, as he didn’t want any fuss. C***s knew, but both P*m and me found out on his last day. After the initial shock, both of us realised that the battle to succeed him was on. Although initially it was a good natured battle, the days leading up to the interview day got a little fraught and tempers spilled over sometimes.

From then to now …the training years


There were three trainees started in 1971. The previous year there was only one, so the money the department had saved could be used the following year. Those were the ‘good old days’ of the Health Service. For some reason, I started on the 23rd of August, with the other two (A****w and D***d)starting the following week. It caused a bit of friction with A****w when he realised what had happened. That year the August Bank Holiday was Monday the 30th and Tuesday the 31st. Me starting the previous week meant I was paid for the two days holiday. A****w and D***d started on the 1st September and as such were only paid from the 1st giving them only three days pay that first week. He never let me forget it either.

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One of the main selling points for the job at the hospital was that college Old Catering College would be ‘Day-Release’. this meant that one day a week I would go to the local catering college to learn my trade. The college was based just outside the city centre and was named after the first Lord Mayor of Leeds, Thomas Danby. There were other parts of the college dotted around Leeds but the first one I went to was on Whitehall Road. It is now a part of Leeds city Council, but that may and probably will change in the future as cuts may force the sale of the building.

College was a strange beast, throughout the four years. I would say 95% of the students in each tutor group of the college, were from either hotels or restaurants with majority being from some of the larger hotels in the region. This led to a great deal of snobbery from both the students and to some extent, Industrial Catering Boilermany of the tutors. Students from the ‘industrial’ side of catering were looked down upon as not proper chefs. We would all learn how to create a basic white sauce in a 1 pint pan and then I would go back to work and have to create 40 litres of the sauce using an industrial sized steam boiling pan.  This was something the other chefs could not even imagine, let alone know how to use. We were like the second class citizen of the catering world and this went on throughout the four years of training. But we just got on with it.

One lad, D***y had the problem really bad. He worked in Birkbecks, which was a café in the Leeds Market. The type of food they sold was typical of cafes Birkbecksof the time. Boiled ham sandwiches, bacon sandwiches full breakfasts, sausage and mash, pie and peas, although never fish and chips. It was the food that, at the time was what market traders and customers wanted.  It was good filling food and nothing fancy. He had a none too flattering name for the restaurant and hotel cooks … he called them “Lardys” because he thought them to be a bit “Lardy bloody da!” The name stuck with me for years.

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In the hotels, the trainees would move around the different cooking sections from time to time. One point they would be in the bakery or sweet section, then later they may moveLGI to the starter section and then maybe onto the fish section. The same happened in the hospital, but whilst I was training, we tended to move to different hospitals to learn the different skills. Leeds had two large main hospitals, St James and the Leeds General Infirmary (LGI). I worked at the LGI. But the wider Leeds had many other smaller hospitals, where we would learn the different aspects and diets associated hospital catering. All have gone now, but during my 4 years training, I spent time in most of them.

There was Cookridge Hospital which was a major centre for radiotherapy along side the IDA hospital. I spent 2 weeks at one of them learning about the diets for patients with cancer. There was the Leeds Womens Hospital which only admitted women patients.  The Leeds Maternity Hospital was the place I finished up in after my training. It had High Roydsgreat staff and a family atmosphere that the other places didn’t have. Another place I worked in, during those first four years was a hospital for people with mental health issues. High Royds or Menston Hospital, as it was sometimes known, was a secure hospital for the most severely affected patients. What could I learn here you may ask? Well this was the place I learned my butchery skills of all things. Most of the smaller hospitals did not have butchery section, so the meats were prepared at High Royds butchery for them. I was there for six weeks and had one of the best times.

At the end of the training, we were allocated to one of the the three kitchens in the hospital. Unfortunately (or fortunately) that year there was only two vacancies. I was shipped off to the Leeds Maternity Hospital to cover a staff member who was on long-term sick. I spent a very happy 12/13 months there before being forced back to the LGI where a vacancy had become available.

Next time: back to the LGI

From then to now … the journey begins


So, I’ve bitten the bullet and decided to become a chef. How was I going to achieve this this dream? It Despair-Manlooked like I may have to back the Careers Advice Centre (CAC) and see what they had to offer. My parents put it around their friends that I was wanting to cook for a living and asked them to have a look out for me. I booked an appointment at the CAC but wasn’t really looking forward to it and eventually didn’t go.

I decided to see if any of the teachers could offer some advice. I drew a blank with most of them, but then that certain geography teacher said he would try and find a few things out, if that’s what I wanted to do. After a few days, he came up with a list of options that ranged from a full-time college course to an apprenticeship and even joining one of the armed forces. None of these appealed at all.

It’s now the beginning of May 1971 and we are all 16 years old. The school is now wanting us to leave so they can free up teachers time. The six or seven of us that are still Newspaperleft are simply reading the local papers in search of a job. Then someone, I cannot remember who suggests I might want to have a look at hospital catering as an option. It was the one thing that I had not even thought of. My parents looked into it and somehow managed to get me an interview. I was a bit concerned about having an interview and my father went with me. I think him going with me may have been one of the reasons I got the job. A trainee cook, due to start in August. Their advice was that I should find a temporary job in a kitchen somewhere, doing anything that was needed. To ‘… gain experience of kitchen life …’ they said.

After the interview, we met up with my mum and she thought it would be a nice idea to go and have some tea or coffee to celebrate. Now I thought we would be going to oScholfieldsne of the cafés in Leeds Market, but no mum said we should ‘do it in style’ or words to that effect. The best place in those days was a department store called Schofields. They had an a ’la carte restaurant and a café and we went to the cafe. It was whilst we were there, that someone noticed a small sign advertising a kitchen porter job. We found out who to ask, and I was interviewed the same day. I’ll never know whether it was because I looked the part, or the fact that I was going into the catering industry, but I got that job too.

The actual job title was “Cake Boy” and for the morning entailed me pushing and pulling a huge wooden trolley full of wooden trays (no plastic in those days) of cakes fromCake tray the bakery on the top floor to both restaurant and café. In the afternoon, I worked washing up on a huge dishwasher. It had a conveyer system which was a continual loop. The trays of crockery were loaded as the conveyer belt Conveyormoved along. They went in the machine at one end and came out the other. The image is the closest I could get to the one I used, but you need to imagine the conveyor coming right across the front. The trick was to make sure that you unloaded the clean crockery before the tray got to the place where they would be loaded up again. It didn’t always go to plan and sometimes a double wash would happen.

I was there for ten weeks, before my ‘real’ job started, but I was on the first step of a long catering ladder, and on my way up.

To be continued …

Can only get better … can’t it?


Bit of a sh*t start to 2019. My wife’s mother died of pneumonia in hospital last night. She had been poorly for a while and went into hospital on Boxing Day. It had been fully expected to happen for a few days, but you are never prepared for the emotions that hit you when it finally does.

I just telephoned my mother to break the news and it was really hard, especially as she is not well either. In fact they were both in the same hospital at the same time, just on different floors of the same wing.

That’s all I can say really.

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On a better note, the eldest son and his partner are having a baby. It will be June sometime when it’s due, and its a weird thought. I’m going to be a grand-dad. We never thought it would happen as his previous, just wasn’t interested and it would never be possible with our youngest. With people with his level of Autism, it just isn’t a thing that happens. So I’m going to be “Grumpy Gramps”, which I kind of like.

An interesting weekend …


In fact, a very interesting weekend. So interesting for us, that I feel it is worth posting about. As I mentioned earlier, K*** has had a problem with her eyes and this has led to her spending much of the weekend trying to rest. She threw a sickie today as she didn’t think she would be able to cope at work, and it was probably a good idea. She is still in pain and and is still seeing the ‘floaters’ at the side of her head. She is going to ring the hospital tomorrow to find out if this is normal. She tells me that it seems to be improving, but only slightly and we don’t appear to have a time frame for improvement.

Now comes the interesting bit! R*** has been a real help. We rarely get a weekend where we do not have an issue with him. The usual issues range from a shouting episode to a full blooded melt-down and we always have a least one issue each day. But not this weekend. There has been nothing. He has been laughing, smiling, singing and generally having a good time. Of course there has been the odd time when he has been a little ‘grabby’ and squeezed my arm, but that has been when I’ve done, or attempted to do, something he did not want to do. And, the squeezing has been a kind of warning squeeze rather than the usual forceful type.

We have come to the conclusion, that he is somehow aware that his mum is not well and this has had some kind of ‘compliance’ effect on him. It maybe that he is just in a good mood, and that nothing has upset him this weekend, but it does seem very unusual, albeit in a good way.

He is on respite tomorrow and will be back on Friday and we will have to see how that goes. It is usually ‘okayish’ and there doesn’t seem to be too many issues, but it will be interesting to see if this current mood continues.

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That’s all for now. Just a little update that I had to share.

A little bit pear shaped …


Last week, K*** suddenly noticed that she could see ‘floaters’ out the side of one eye. She had just started a new prescription for her contact lenses and thought at first it was that. But it got worse and she was experiencing a bad headache. Called the optician on Friday, who told her to come straight away. They sent her to the eye-clinic at the hospital, and it seems that the gel that surrounds the eye had become damaged, causing a bleeds at the back of her eye. They told that it should just clear up in the next few days, but she has to go back in a fortnight for check. Now, it would have hard anyway, but we had invited K***’s parents for lunch that day and we couldn’t really put them off. So I was ‘entertainments officer’ for the day. K*** thought she would be home by half past one, but it was nearer five when she got back.

To top it all, whilst I was out on Monday, I think the wind got into my eye, as that has been sore since then. Feels swollen and is a little uncomfortable when I blink, but not to the same extent as K*** has suffered.

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My laptop has started to play-up a little. It’s seems to have been happening since the last major update to Windows, but I think it is just a coincidence. What is happening is that my Wi-Fi connection dropping out. Does not happen to any of the other devices we have connected though which kind of proves it is not the router. My other Windows 10 machine does not have the issue (although I don’t had it powered up as much) which may be another pointer away from the issue being down to Windows update. I did Google the issue, which led to a lot of possible reasons. The main reason seemed to point to an issue with the network card in the laptop. I’m awaiting a reply from the manufacturer as to what can be done, but I’m of the opinion, that I may have to live with it. I can connect directly with an ethernet cable and it’s not too inconvenient, but I will see what happens.

The issues with K***s emails reoccurred again yesterday, just over a month since the last time. The mail app on her iPad stopped  delivering any emails. They could be viewed on the website but were not being ‘pushed’ the the mail app. I could not get them on my laptop, which was the same as the last time. Turns out, that it was an issue with Yahoo (Sky email provider) which was exactly the same as last time. No-one at Sky or Yahoo seems to care about it. Both say they are sorry and are working on a fix. Maybe it’s time for Sky to have a rethink!

(Update: emails on her tablet are now coming through. some 24 hours after the issue started. Not good)

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Well both K*** and R*** are still in bed, and I think I’ll let them sleep longer. R*** has been a star over the past two days. I don’t know, but he seems to kind of know when K*** is not well and it tempers his behaviour for want of a better word. We have has no issues with him at all, not even when my laptop dropped the Wi-Fi.

I’m just going to start on the ironing , which shouldn’t take too long. I actually love ironing and have sort of ‘adopted’ the job as my own, which suits us both. Someone once told me that we all have some minor Autistic tendencies, and I think ironing must be one of mine.

 

Recycling and other things …


I’m not a fanatical recycler, but if it can be recycled, then I like to try. However, I’m in a bit of a quandary! My local authority actively encourages residents to recycle, but cannot handle shredded paper and they advise to put this in the non-recyclable waste bin. As I understand it, shredded paper clogs up the sorting machines. However, financial and security institutions advise that all documents that have personal information should be shredded. So here is my dilemma. Do I follow security advice and shred or follow the local authority advice and put it, un-shredded in the recycle and hope that nobody reads it? I have decided to follow the security advice!

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It’s been a long  week. K***s mother went into hospital for a hip replacement last week. It seems to have been successful, but it is going to be a long process to get her back to anything like what she was this time last year. She is quite confused and has been in a lot of distress over the past couple of months. Anyway, she is out now, at home and gradually improving. K*** and her sister are doing their best to help their father cope with his wife’s condition, but it is difficult for various reasons. So I’ve not seen much of her over the past seven days.

It is probably a blessing that R*** has been on respite since Monday, although he has had an infected finger which caused his respite team a few problems. We think that is sorted now, fingers crossed.

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S****, my eldest and A**** his partner are having a bit of a bad time. Whilst he was away from his computer at work, somebody (he knows who) posted, what some could call an offensive message on his Facebook time line as a joke. I believe this called ‘Fraping’. All in good fun and taken as such by nearly everyone who knows him. The exception being A****’s mother. She thinks that S**** posted the message and does not believe anything else. This has caused a massive argument and neither of them will have anything to do with the mother. Hopefully it will blow over, but the mother is one of those people that is never wrong. Of course this has caused a lot of stress for both A**** and S**** and it has also upset K*** at this difficult time.

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Me? Well I’ve just plodded on as best I can!

All going along nicely …


The hospital appointment went well. The doctor has always had a knack of being ‘a little behind’ as the nurse politely put it. So it was no surprise when the appointment was delayed by about 30 minutes. I had blood pressure taken and the (same) nurse observed that the ‘bottom half’ was a little high, but nothing to worry about. I put it down to driving through the centre of York. Why is it, that visitors to that grand city seem to like wandering into the road for no apparent reason?

Anyway, the ultra-sound scan I had the previous week was just what the doctor was expecting. He listened to my heart, and that was fine, and he never even mentioned my blood pressure. We had a chat about how I was feeling as opposed to before the operation, and what was going to happen in the future. That was it! In his words, it was ‘all going along nicely!’

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That is about it really. I’m on leave for a week and I don’t really know whether anyone will pick up the work I do. My line manager (gnash, growl, spit) should do it, but I can’t see it happening unless she is forced. I would say I don’t care, but I do! I know I will be checking my emails every day, and I’ll try not to answer any of them, but for the past ten years, I always have kept in touch while on leave. It’s just something I do.

An interesting weekend …


That is what I was going to talk about. The ‘interesting’ weekend! But, after writing the first couple of lines, I decided that the weekend was not about me, and that it was not fair to write about it. So you may not get to get to know … yet.

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Instead, it’s going to be an interesting week. Well that maybe pushing it a little. I have another INR test tomorrow, only a week after the last one. I cannot believe I had got up to six weeks between tests. I still think that stress plays a part, but maybe I’m just kidding myself and it is really too much alcohol. I was going to have an alcohol-free evening, but it has been a poor day at work and that and the small issue with R***’s computer, meant that a glass of wine was required.

It was the slightest thing with his computer. We had somehow switched off the power to the 4 way adapter and his laptop was running on battery power. Unfortunately, the battery had got to 2% power, before it became clear what was happening, so he got a little stressed when his machine told him about his battery needing charging. It took a good 30 minutes before the pop-ups stopped, but things like that seem to linger in his autistic mind and worries him. Still, he seems to be calmed now, so we may have got away with it this time.

Then, the ‘interest’ continues when I have my hospital appointment on Friday. I am supposed to be at a ‘team away day’ on the other side of Leeds and I was going to take the afternoon of as ‘flexi-time’. But I’m not happy with having to increase my journey time by an extra 30 minutes, just to satisfy someone’s managerial ego. My current line manager, totally agrees (but only because she doesn’t want to go) that I would be greatly inconvenienced by this. I may have to take the decision not to go and possibly invent some excuse why it would be not a good idea.

An odd couple of weeks


My sister has been in hospital for just over two with a very serious condition, which I won’t go into on here. Suffice to say, she was in a critical state and after the first night, we were told to ‘hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst’. Having special needs and learning difficulties has not helped the matter. However, she has fought and pulled through and has been waiting to go home since Thursday. The thing that has been really useful, has been Facebook. Or more accurately, Facebook Messenger. One of the family set up a group message, which we all subscribed to, and we have been using this as communication medium. It was far easier to message the whole group through this system, than to telephone or text each individual. It goes to show, that for all its faults, social media does have some powerful and useful tools.

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This blog has recently had a huge upturn. My efforts usually rewarded with the occasionally, random visitor who more often than not has a quick glance and moves on. However, I was reading a post from one of my followers and I read about a weekly photo challenge on The Daily Post blog. Basically, they provide a theme, and you post a photo on your own blog and ‘ping-back’ to the particular blog page on The Daily Post.

I thought that I had nothing to lose, so I gave it a try last week. I was amazed at how many visitors and like I received for a single picture and a few comments. So amazed in fact, that I posted again this week increasing my like and visitor count yet again. By the end of yesterday, I was getting quite giddy at the number of hits I had been getting. I may sound a little sad, but going from the occasional visitor to the numbers I have been getting makes this post a little pointless.

I wonder now, how many visitors this post will attract ……

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I am still toying with the idea of changing the theme of this blog, but am struggling to select a suitable (my opinion) theme, from the many free themes on offer.

Now I have mentioned this before, but am still interested in what application people use to write their blogs with. I use Word 2013, which comes with a ‘blog post’ template. I type up, proof read and format, including images, before publishing to WordPress as a draft post. I then go into the WordPress editor, add tags (does not seem to work properly if I embed them) and preview, before making any final adjustments and publishing. It works well for me, as I am a seasoned user of Microsoft Word.

Happy anniversary to me !!


The title of this post refers to the fact that it is a whole twelve months since my operation. The actual date was the 26th so any celebration should have been on Friday. Only one person mentioned anything, and that was only because they had seen it noted in my work calendar. In fact, the person I thought would have said something, actually tried to give a bit of a *ollockin* for something else.

So after a year how are things? Well I still have a beautiful 10 inch scar running half way down my chest and still quite proud of that. I was given all sorts of ‘hints and tips’ to help it ‘fade’ but, I went through quite a lot to get that scar so it’s going to stay as it is as long as it does (if that makes sense!)

Not much else has changed really. I suppose that having to take an ‘anti-coagulant’ for life is a major change, but I had been on a stomach acid suppressant (another leaking valve) for a few years, with no change in the foreseeable future, so the idea of permanent medication was not an issue.

I suppose the real change is my memory loss. Now that sounds a bit more dramatic than it really is. What apparently happens, is that I have forgotten things that I supposedly knew. It is well documented and even has the popular name “Pump Head“. It is usually attributed to the heart going on by-pass while the surgery takes place. It was assumed that I knew about it, but only found out when I was due to leave the hospital. I shook the hands of all the other patients, and I said the one I had most of my conversations with, that we would have to keep in touch and meet up when we were both fit again. He laughed and said would be a good idea, if we remember!

It is a strange feeling. There are times when I don’t know if I have forgotten how to do a particular thing or that I never knew how to do it in the first place. It’s more disturbing, when K*** mentions a place we have been to and I simply cannot remember it. Some of the memories that I thought had gone, are now slowly beginning to come back to me, but it usually needs a few prompts and there are some things like days we have out together or places we have been to, just don’t seem to be there in my head any more. It makes you feel quite alone, when people talk about things and you struggle to remember them.

Then there is also, given my age, the slight growing concern, that the memory loss might just have a different cause. It is only a very miniscule fear, but it is definitely on my mind.

Clueless !!


So, I was going to take up this challenge that a fellow blogger Mel Cusick-Jones had devised on her blog. It is called “The Sunday Write-up”. Mel provides five words, and you (ie me) have write a blog post and include those five words. It’s a monthly challenge and it seemed simple enough and it would encourage people (ie me) to write something regularly. Just the type of thing that I needed to give me that little push. Well guess what? I forgot! I did joke about forgetting in the vain hope that the joking would serve as a reminder. It didn’t!

But, in the end, it has given me a bit of a push to write. Hence this post.

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Last time, I was a little concerned about going back to work, and any little surprises that may be lying in wait after my “Big Day.” I had planned to go in, thank everyone for the birthday wishes, get embarrassed and then nip out at lunchtime and buy a supply of cakes! I didn’t want any fuss, as I mentioned before, and I did not get any. In fact nobody mentioned it at all! Now I know they knew, or at least my previous line-manager knew, but nobody said a thing. I thought at first, that they were waiting until most of the team were in, but no. Nothing!

“But it’s what you wanted!” I hear you say, and it was, but I have to admit to feeling a little disappointed. So the cakes went by the wayside.

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What else? Not a lot really. I went to the doctors today. K*** has been going on about me going to basically find out if my medication has caused me to put on over 2 ½ stone in weight over the past ten months. That and should I have had a follow-up from the hospital.

Well I knew the answer to the first issue, and the Dr just confirmed it. At the end of the day (and during the day also) I’m just eating too much of the wrong type of food. He did put a different slant on the reason though. He thought, that the increase could be partly due to the fact that my body was functioning better after my operation, and that I was processing and absorbing foods more. You know what? I almost believed that. It wasn’t until a lot later that I realised that he was trying to take the “blame” away. To try and stop me from feeling guilty. As I say, I’m just eating too much, and it has to stop. Instead of reaching for that Kit-Kat, have a banana! Instead of having a banana sandwich for supper, just have the banana. He also mentioned, that often people mistake thirst for hunger. Sometimes when you feel like you want to eat something, you really need to drink something. Well that one was new one on me, but it kind of makes sense.

With regard to the second query, it seems that I should have had a follow-up appointment in February! He was partly surprised that it had been missed, but I suppose these things just happen sometime. A bit philosophical I know, but the way the NHS is at the moment, nothing surprises me.

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What else? I was going to have a rant about “other drivers”, but I think I’ve exhausted that previously. Cyclists were going to come in for a bit of stick again, but they all seem to be behaving themselves at the moment.

So that’s it for this time. We are going away for a couple of nights when R*** goes on respite. Two nights in Cartmell, Cumbria. Should be nice. I think I may have mentioned some time ago, that R*** no longer wants to go away with us. In fact, apart from his fortnightly respite, he does not want to go away with anyone. So every so often, when he goes on respite, K*** and me have a couple of nights away. It’s not ideal as holidays go, but it’s what we have to do at the moment. Who knows what will happen in the future?

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One last thing. I do wish that those who visit this blog, would actually make some comments. I would be disappointed if the comments were all negative, but I get visitors, but no comments. Makes me think, at times, if it is worth the effort.

Twitter fun !!!!


Tonight I’ve been part of what I believe is called a “Twitter Storm”. The @NHAParty have been trying to draw peoples attention to the privatisation of the NHS. As part of this campaign the created a hashtag ‘#PublicDuty‘ and invited people to use this in Tweets in order to get the hashtag trending. Being a survivor of major heart surgery, I joined in, and at the last count, it was trending at No 3 in the UK.

I even posted my own tweet as part of the campaign. I do like to ‘retweet’ and quite often post my own comments, but this was a bit more serious than usual. What is happening here, is that the Conservatives, supported by the turncoat Liberal Democrats are trying to finish what Margaret Thatcher started. That is the total elimination of the NHS and in fact the elimination of all public services. It is their belief that these functions would be better served if they were run by the private sector for profit. It is my belief, along with many others that this it wrong and dangerous. It would also be prohibitively expensive. The average cost in the USA would be in the region of $49,000.00. As I understand it (but it is anecdotal) the full amount is not always covered by health insurance.

But it is all academic! The great British public will be fooled again into another 5 years of Tory misrule. Who will support them this time though? Methinks that the ‘turncoats’ Liberal Democrats will not enjoy another term in ‘power’, so it will be up to one of the other minor parties to take up the mantle. The question is which one? With arguments about the televised debates, I think the PM has been trying to cosy up to the Green Party. That would be interesting!

Struggling for a title …..


The title of this post actually says quite a bit. My postings are just about me and mine. There is nothing of any importance here … no themes … no political agenda … just general rants. So often when I come to add a post title, I do struggle.

Well it’s the Bank Holiday, and of course the weather is up to its usual tricks. One minute it’s dry and sunny, next minute it’s pouring with rain. We have the Leeds Festival here this weekend and if it is anything like the 2nd year I went, it will be a mud bath again! Still 99% of the fans that go have a great time. With living local to Bramham Park we are entitled to apply for a limited number what they call “Guest” tickets at a discounted rate. I’m thinking that me and K*** may apply for next year if we can get R*** on respite that weekend. Not too sure if K*** will enjoy it much, but who knows?

The Out-Patients appointment was less than interesting. I don’t really know what I expected …. maybe a chest X-ray, an EEG, an ECG, blood pressure check, weight check and maybe even a blood test! It was nothing like that at all! For a start, two of the registrars were on holiday so that left only one to take the clinic. That of course meant delays all round of about 1 ½ hours. Finally got in to see him and the conversation went along these lines:

Him: “Hello, how do you feel?”

Me: “Okay, really good. Better than before.”

Him: “Good.”

Me: “I am getting a bit of backache around my shoulders.”

Him: “That is normal. Anything you would like to ask me?”

Me: “Erm ….. can I drive now?”

Him: “Yes, but you need to tell your insurance company.”

Me: “The white stockings, can they come off now?”

Him: “Yes of course.”

He then listened to my heart and told me that the sound was good and asked if there was anything else we needed to know. Neither of us could think of anything and we came away feeling rather deflated and disappointed with the whole meeting. Apart from using the stethoscope, there was no other ‘medical’ things done. To both of us, it seemed a waste of both our time and the hospital time/resources. It could have easily been done at the GP’s surgery. I’m supposed to have a 2nd appointment in about 6 months time and then a further one a year later. Based on this last one, I don’t really see the point. I have to see my GP sometime this month as one of my medications needs a review, so I might mention this to him and see what he has to say about it.

I emailed to car insurance company yesterday morning. Nothing has come back yet, so I will telephone them on Monday morning and find out what is happening. K*** rang her insurers (I’m a named driver) and they did not seem to take any notice at all, so it may be the same with my insurers.

* * * Update * * * Received the following email from the insurance company:

Thank you for your email.

This is to confirm that there are no driving restrictions on your policy. Providing you have not been told not to drive by your Doctor or GP and you feel fit and well enough to drive.

It’s been a while


It’s been a month or so since my last post, and a few things have happened since then. The video change that I mentioned last time worked, thankfully. Which was more than we hoped for. Both K*** and I had this fear that it might cause a problem for the driver on his way in the morning. Fortunately that issue did not arise. We now think that so long as R*** knows what is happening and so long as it happens, he is more or less fine with it.

Two weeks ago, I had to go into work to have a chat with my line manager. Because I have had more than four week continuous sick leave, I have hit a ‘trigger’ in our attendance management policy that requires me to be interviewed about how they can support my return to work. My line manager was furious about this and I understand that she had a few choice words with our HR department. Now I understand the need for the policy, however there needs to be some form of flexibility built in that allows for the fact that some people are not at work for a damn good reason. In my case, recovering from heart surgery and being told by the surgeon that I would not be able to work for three months after to operation. It does not matter that some system in HR has hit a flag, it’s down to the medical staff when I’m fit to return, not some piece of computer software. Rant over!!!

The new work structure has been issued, and it does nothing to suppress any worries I have. We’ve been told that there are enough jobs to go around, with some spare, but are those positions at the same grade that staff are at now? Will there be enough grades at my level for all those at the same grade? Without knowing what grades we currently have, it’s impossible to know what the changes might be. The meeting was only held on Friday, so those questions may have been answered. I will wait until the minutes come out, before I start asking any questions.

Talking about work, K*** and I are in the process of changing S****s old room into more of an office, than a bedroom. We had decided that it would be a good idea, when I work from home, for me to utilise this now spare room, to work from. But we have taken it a step further, and although the bed is still in there, my work computer is all set up.

On Tuesday, I am going for my 1st Out Patients appointment since being discharged from the hospital. This is where I find out that I can drive again and can remove these ‘anti-embolism’ stockings for good. It is also the date when I should be told when I can go back to work. I’ve started making some plans, but cannot be more definite until after this appointment. I fear driving will be a bit of an issue. I have to inform the insurance company about my operation and I think it will mean a large hike in the premiums. I don’t see why it should be a problem, but we shall see. You know what insurance companies are like.

And now me! I feel a thousand time better than I did this time in June. It is hard to believe that such a small piece of hardware can make such a difference, but I can assure you it does! I still have a chest that aches like I have run into a brick wall, but there has never been the pain that others appear to have had. My problem seems to be one of backache. It comes on around half four in the morning and makes sleeping very uncomfortable. I’ve been told that backache is one of the side effects of the operation and that it does go away in time. Hopefully that is true. The valve seems to be working fine and as expected, it can be heard. It sounds different and different time, but mainly seems to be a clicking noise on the left hand side of the scar. Most people can hear it, and S**** seems to think it is quite cool!! I found a picture of the thing they used and I was very surprised how simple it looked. I don’t know what I was expecting though.

I think that is about all, except that K*** has decided that we need new PVC windows and doors. Groan!! That is happening in just under a fortnight, and we have been told that it will all be done in a day!! Will let you know on that one after the event!

Life changer – Discharge Day


So now we come to the day that nearly spoiled the entire experience.

I had been awake since 6am and my bags were packed and I had geared myself up for leaving the hospital. I felt that it could be a bit of an emotional day and was beginning to prepare for it. I had packed my bags the night before, and there was only my washing stuff still on my locker. Breakfast came at about 10 past 8, and I had decided to have cornflakes followed by a cup of coffee and 2 slices of toast. I had just finished the cereal, when I was told that I had to move to the other ward and make the bed free for someone coming up from ICU. Now, I remember the day I came up from ICU, so the idea that I should make way for someone else was not an issue. The issue was that I had to go there and then!! Halfway through my breakfast!! It could not wait for another ½ hour, I was to go then. I said a quick goodbye to the guy that I had spoken to the most and I was packed off to the other ward. I had an idea, that that ward got their breakfast first, so in a moment of defiance, I grabbed two slices of toast and took them with me, must to the amusement of the duty nurse.

I was dumped (not true strong a word) into a side ward, and had to wait until the cleaner had finished before I could have a wash and get dressed. The senior nurse came in and told me that I would be discharged at 10 am, and I had to explain to that K*** was coming to pick me up at 2pm. This, I was assured was not a problem and that I could stay there until then. Where else I was going to go, I do not know!! I was given a cup of coffee at around ½ past 10, and apart from the nurse going over the same details, the only other people to see me was another doctor. Lunchtime came and I was given, not what I had ordered but once again what had been left. I had just finished my dessert, when I was told, that I had to vacate the side room and was ‘allowed’ to sit on one the chairs in the reception area. I was not happy by this time, and I tried to explain to the nurse, that when my wife came at 2, we would need to be away by ½ past three at the latest in order to get home for R***. Once again, I was assured that this was not a problem. He also said he had the medication that I had arrived with.

From there on in, I felt like nobody cared anymore! There was another older man, who had been there since 10am and he was really angry, and his anger was beginning to get me angrier. Again I checked that they had the medication that I had come in with, and the assurances were there again. I was told they were just waiting for my prescription to get to pharmacy, they I could go. K*** arrived at 2pm and again explained to the nurse the issues that we had, and the reply came back that it would be all okay.

In the end, pharmacy came up with the medication at around 10 past 4. We went through the medication (which I already knew, because the nurse the evening before had gone over it all) and I asked for the medication I came in with. It was then that the nurse decided that he would go and look for them. K*** went off to get the car to the pick-up point whilst I waited. He eventually came back and sheepishly explained my stuff could not be found. Now I knew that it had been moved to the ward I had recovered from as the nurse the night before had shown me them. By this time, I had had enough and left. K*** was now as angry as I had been before. It was a good job that S**** had said he would be at home for when R*** came home or that would have been a serious problem. All in all, a pretty crap end to what had been a very successful week.

The feedback survey was interesting to complete!!!

Life changer – “Day 2 + “


After a surprisingly quiet and reasonably comfortable night (which I can only put down to the morphine) I woke about 6:30. This became the norm for me, to wake at around the time I would have done had I been at home. Breakfast arrived at just after 08:00 and was asked if I wanted cornflakes or toast. Now was a bit of a dilemma. When I was getting ready for the operation, I was told to remove my dentures and put them in the pot that I had brought. To my knowledge, those dentures were still in that pot, in my toilet bag, in the locker on the ward I had come from. That meant that toast was out and I settled for cornflakes. I have to say, that eating cornflakes without teeth is not to be recommended.

I was given a bed wash, which was an experience to cherish and then introduced to the physio-therapist. She went through some basic breathing exercises and explained that I needed to cough. She also explained the importance of the cough. Whilst following the logic, I had real difficulty in putting it into practice.

This day 2, was the day when everything changed. I was going back to the main ward! This entailed removing some the pipework that was still in me. A line was removed from my neck and then came the bit I had been warned about. The removal of the chest drains. I only reference I have for chest drains are the medical soaps on television. These programs never show drains being remove. You cannot begin to imagine the feeling when 18in of plastic tubing and another 8in of similar plastic tube is quite literally dragged out of your body. The nurse had told me that I would feel a lot better with them out. I didn’t!!

Within an hour, I was on the main ward and reunited with my teeth. K*** and her sister came to visit, which was nice, and both remarked on how well I looked. So I suppose the drain removal must have worked. Dinner was a bit hit and miss, but I did manage to eat a little bit more.

From then onwards, I began to get stronger and more confident as the days went by. Everyone was impressed with my progress and it soon became apparent that it would not be long before I could go home. That date came on the 2nd July, just seven days after being admitted!

I cannot express fully how remarkable the teams that were on the ward were. Not just the doctors and nurses, but the assistants, catering staff and cleaners. Everyone seemed to go out of their way to make all of us feel as comfortable and individual as possible. That old song that says “…..Heaven must be missing and angel…..” is not right. It should be “…..Heaven must be missing thousands of angels!!!” because a large number were on that ward.

Now, discharge day was something else, and I shall leave that tale for the next post

Life changer – “Job done!!!”


This will be one of the last few of my ‘Life changer’ posts. As you may gather from the title, it’s all over. I was admitted on the 25th of June and by 1pm on the 26th I was in the famed ICU (Intensive Care Unit). I shall not to into the gory detail of my return to consciousness, as it is not a pretty story. Suffice to say, I got over it. K*** rang to see how I was doing, and they told her I had just come round as was a bit sleepy. I’ll never grasp how 5 hours unconsciousness leads to someone being sleepy, but it does. We both thought it would be a waste of time to visit straight after the surgery as I needed time to come round, so she was coming the next day.

The nurse gave me some sips of water, and like a fool I managed to take too many large sips and suffer the consequences. I was amazed how little pain I was in, but soon realised that this was due to the copious amount of morphine that was being dripped into me. They sat me up a little and some food was plonked in front of me. Some kind of meat free cottage pie and some rice pudding. At another time, I think both looked quite appetising, but not then! Some nurse, and I don’t remember what they called her, asked me if I needed help to eat. I only managed the rice pudding before drifting off to sleep. I think I slept okay, but have no recollection of it at all, until 7:30 the next day when I drifted out of sleep. I have to say that without exception all the nurses, doctors, assistants were excellent. In fact all the people on ICU were exceptional people. I did not eat much that day and I did not expect to either, although everyone kept telling me I needed eat to get my strength back.

K*** came at around 1pm, just after attempting to eat some mince and mash. I know I looked terrible!!! I don’t know how terrible I actually looked, but had a good idea. She was shocked at the state of me, as I do not think she knew what to expect. I still had various tubes and wires and lines stuck in me, but I was not really aware of them. She helped me eat some of my lunch, but I still did not have any appetite and could only manage the trifle. She managed to stop until visiting time ended, and to be honest, I don’t remember her going, before going to sleep.

So that was what they call ‘Day 1 – post op’. Surprisingly everyone called it an ‘operation’ and not a ‘procedure’ like they do on the television. Day 2 to follow and don’t worry, this is not going to be like Big Brother with a post for everyday!!

Life changer – “T” minus 10 (again)


I have a new date for my operation. This time should be a definite. They cannot bump me again. Can they? Well apparently they can. The number of ICU beds remains the same so effectively the same could happen. However, saying that, I do think that it might happen this time. Just a feeling.

The changes to R***’s respite pattern were not too drastic. K*** decided to let go away this weekend, as planned as it was thought it would be a good idea to start to get him used to being away at weekends. He appeared to go off without any problems on Friday, so we wait and see.

Work has been understanding about the whole issue of the cancellation. I now also get the impression that the so called ‘other part’ of the team, know that I’m going into hospital. One or two of them seemed to be quite interested in what happened. We shall see how that progresses.

 

 

 

 

Life changer “T” – ‘Fu*k Knows!!!!!’


This is going to get a bit political and may be a little sweary, so be warned!!

Today was going to be the first day of a new life. Today I felt the true effect of this Governments National Health Service decimation! My mitral valve repair/replacement operation was ‘bumped’.

Everything was in place. Respite for R*** had been fixed and the process of getting him used to the idea that his Dad was going into hospital had begun. K***s work arrangements had been sorted. My work arrangements were in place and S**** was on call if needed. K*** had taken me to the hospital. We had had a ‘light lunch’ as advised. I was on the ward and had had my chest X-ray. I had unpacked my bags and even had my slippers on when the surgeon arrived on the ward to tell me the news. He seemed to be quite annoyed that they would normally do four heart operations a day and are now down to five or so a week. It seems, that because of the cut backs imposed by this bunch of c**ts, (sweary bit) who masquerade as a Government, there are insufficient ICU beds available! Just let that sink in …… not enough intensive care unit beds in an NHS hospital because of Government cuts!!!

K*** was quite distraught. It has not been easy for her during the build up to this, what with the planning for R*** and everything else, and for it all to come crashing down was very hard. At the back of my mind was the words that the nurse said last Tuesday, when she said that “…… it could be cancelled ….. even on the day….” How those words come back to mind now.

So where are we now? Well for a start, I have to go to work tomorrow!! K*** has to spend a lot of time trying to realign R***’s care/respite plan, whilst trying to keep her emotions in check. That is not easy, as she had only just got her head around the fact that I was having this done now.

So now I have to ask the question, who is to blame? Here come the political bit! At first I blamed Osborne, that weasely-eyed ‘Hoo Ray Henry’ of a Chancellor. But then I thought, no he’s only doing what his leader tells him. So it’s Cameron’s fault!! Or is it? More thoughts later, and I come to the conclusion that actual fault, for all the problems that people, like me are going through, lies at the feet of one person. CLEGG!! The turncoat. The guy that presented himself to the country as the only one that could keep the Torys in check. How easily we were fooled. However, in the words of The Who … “We Won’t Get Fooled Again!!!”

It looking like it may happen sometime, week beginning the 23rd June. I have no idea now whether I am counting down or up.

Life changer – “T” minus 11


Just to change the mood, only eleven more sleeps until I’m admitted. To be honest, at the moment, I have no worries about this. I say ‘at the moment’ because I’m not sure what the next ten days will bring. I have another appointment at the hospital on Tuesday (note to self – print the proper route!!) the eight days later, I’ll be in and waiting.

I finished the nasal cream last night. There is still nearly a quarter of a tube left, so why on earth I needed two tubes of the vile stuff, I’ll never know. It may sound okay to squirt two match-head size drops of cream up each nostril, four times a day, but take it from me, it’s not much fun. For example, the first thing that happens is you get a persistent urge to sneeze. Then as time passes, you begin to think that the cream is running down your nose ready to drop off your top lip on to your work. Of course, that is not the case, but the feeling is real.

The thing I’m trying to do now, is cut down on the amount of food I’m eating. The hospital information tells me that they will try and ensure I get plenty to eat after the operation. However, I worked in hospital catering for fifteen years and I know the portions are not the same size as home portion. So I need to try and cut down on the volume. I’m also trying to cut out extra sugar, salt and bad fats, but that is a lot easier that not eating when you feel a bit ‘peckish’.

The moving day has arrived ….


Looking back, I may not have mentioned this before. Our eldest son, S**** is moving out of the family home. He’s been living back with us since he finished University just over three years ago, and now he is moving out again. He is moving into a house with his girlfriend. They are renting the place, along with another person, from a good friend of his, who is going to work abroad for two years. It’s been in the planning stage for a couple of months now, and today is the day they go!

As you may imagine, K*** his mum is a little upset, to say the least. Everything that there could be to worry about, she is worrying about: can they afford it; will they all get on in the future; will he get taken advantage of (he is the only one with a car) etc etc etc. In fact, she is even worrying that she may have forgotten something to worry about!

One of her biggest worries, is that this has all come at completely the wrong time for us. If you’ve been following the “Life Changer” posts, you’ll know that in ten days time I go into hospital for my operation. That, of course has created all sorts of issues. There is a great fear that R***, our youngest son who is Autistic, will get upset by all this disruption. When he gets upset, he can get violent. J**, his community nurse has been putting all sorts of ‘coping strategies’ in place, but she does not know about S**** moving out. Both K*** and I felt that, it would cause even more issues. You see because of a couple of ‘incidents’ J** has no faith in K*** coping with R*** on her own. This of course has knocked K***’s confidence and we just don’t know how J** would react to the knowledge that S**** is no longer around. There has already been a mention of ‘sectioning’ if there is a serious problem, and I don’t believe she would hesitate to use that weapon, sorry ‘strategy’ at the first opportunity.

Watch this space, it is going to be an interesting few weeks.

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Now to change the subject. I have over the past few years written a few short stories. They are not brilliant, but I enjoy writing them and that is the main reason I do it. I have been posting my offerings on here in the form of pages as I don’t think I am good enough to publish properly yet. I have now had the idea, that I should create another blog on WordPress. Simply to ‘publish’ as it were, the stories that I have written. Would that be the right way to go or am I better off keeping posting them on this blog? I am 50:50 as to which to do. If I create a new blog, will it get seen? Do I upload them as posts or pages? Should I be thinking of trying to publish them elsewhere? Are they as poor as I think? Any suggestions would be welcome.