I’ve just been watching a couple of programmes on Philip Larkin. There are four on tonight but I can’t take so much concentrated culture. I hadn’t realised that he died when he was 63. I may have left it a bit late to become a famous poet, as I am now a year older than he was when he died and nobody has heard of me.
I was finally able to talk to a doctor about my adverse reaction to the medication. They hadn’t been able to fit me in for a telephone consultation yesterday and the receptionist was in the middle of fobbing me off again when I stopped her and told her I was confused as I’d been told I could ring about adverse reactions to medication at any time. The words “adverse reaction to medication” worked like a charm and a doctor eventually rang me to discuss it. It seems it’s a well known side effect. I already knew that. They are going to change my medication to slow-release capsules, which should, with luck, solve the problem.
Backlit Sumac Tree in the MENCAP garden
At work, there were a few parcels to sort and the normal phone calls to answer.. Julia rang in the early afternoon to ask me for a word she couldn’t call to mind. It’s normally “sumac” because she has a blind-spot concerning that particular tree. They have one in the Mencap garden so it does crop up in conversation.
This time, however, it was “name a motorway services in Cumbria”. She meant Tebay. Fortunately I am a husband of many talents.
They are known for their pies. Most of my pictures which include Tebay in the title feature pies.
The inside of my right elbow (known as the antecubital fossa, in case you have ever wondered) currently looks like it has been the victim of a vicious assault. This is probably an exaggeration, but it is showing a variety of bruises from three blood tests over the last three weeks. Nobody seems able to grasp the concept of “trying the other arm”. It’s partly the fault of the layout in phlebotomy rooms, which always seem to be set up to allow the phlebotomist easy access to the right arm.
The NHS has a fetish about the right arm. A few years ago, during my three month adventure with the urology department, a junior doctor told me he had come to insert a cannula. I queried why it was necessary, as I was only in hospital briefly while they treated an infection. I was told it was standard practice as it saved time if I needed to have one put in later. Clearly this was unlikely to be the case, but they do have a one size fits all approach and it’s easier just to let them get on with it.
“Can you put it in my left arm?” I asked.
“No, I’m sitting on this side of the bed and it’s easier to put it in the right.”
Not better for the patient, easier for medical reasons or anything like that, just easier for some pompous newly qualified doctor with the bedside manner of a city trader.
They are, in case you’ve never had one, difficult to insert if the subject has veins that don’t like having needles inserted. The record was, I think, 13, when I counted the marks from all the false starts they once mad whilst inserting one. Then you have the problem that after a few days they start to itch and become sore. All in all, I’m not a fan . . .
I woke at 6.30 and washed, sat on the bed to put my socks on and immediately felt hot again. This turned out to be due to hot air that had built up overnight, as it was, fortunately, cooler downstairs. Outside it was quite pleasant and the bees wee working happily on the teasel.
Reporting to the surgery for my blood test at 7.50, I asked what time the switchboard opened, because I wanted to book a telephone appointment with the doctor. They didn’t seem too keen, but I played my ace with a symptom I knew they couldn’t ignore. I won’t pass this information on as it would make you wince, but it meant that within 50 minutes I was face to face with a doctor.
I hadn’t anticipated this, and had actually planned on being in work to get the parcels off, as we are slightly behind due to the partial close-down for the heat. I was further delayed by going to the pharmacy to pick up anti-biotics, but still made it to work before 10.00. The anti-biotics are for the chest infection, not the other thing. These days I tend to save a few symptoms until I have enough to make it worthwhile navigating the appointments system.
In the afternoon I managed to salvage the rest of my day off, with lunch fro two at KFC. They were cleaning out the hot drink machine so I had to have a fizzy drink. As an apology they gave us a very nice, though unhealthy, chocolate and fudge chip cookie. As I said to Julia as we shared it a the end of the meal, it was ironic that it really needed a nice cup of tea to wash it down properly.
Started the day with bacon croissants. I was thinking of getting up and making them but Julia got up quicker and read my mind. There are some benefits to moving slowly.
Completed my jury service form online. I still wonder why they need to threaten me with a £1,000 fine all the time. I suspect it is because the sort of people who draft these letters like the feeling of authority given by the ability to bend others to their will. I’ve noticed this in other people over the years, particularly since lockdown gave encouragement to petty tyrants.
They are generally people of low intelligence who have been frustrated by their inability to rise in their chosen career, or any career. Their parents didn’t love them. They never learned to say please and thank you. I could carry on, but I feel I have conveyed the essence of my contempt.
As a result of completing the form on line I now have a pre-paid envelope addressed to the Jury Central Summoning Bureau. I am seriously tempted to send them a letter querying their whole approach to jurors.
In the waiting room at the surgery I was privileged to witness four different complaints against practice staff. One women wouldn’t name her complaint – she wanted the practice manager.
One man was complaining about the late arrival of his drugs. He had clearly ordered them late. And he also clearly needed help with anger issues, and possibly with voices in his head, as he muttered and swore under his breath.
Another woman was complaining that she had rung for help in treating the skinned knee of her daughter and didn’t like the answer she had been given by another receptionist (get some ointment from the pharmacy). “She’s not properly qualified.” she kept repeating. If you need a medical qualification to treat a skinned knee there is something wrong with the world, and If a parent can’t cope with a skinned knee there is something wrong with the parent.
Finally we had the man who was trying to make an appointment. You can’t make appointments these days – you have to ring in and hope you get through and then hope that the doctor has a free slot to ring you back. He ended up confused and asked “What would happen if I walked out of here and collapsed?”
Him, I sympathise with. Though I also sympathise with the receptionist, who is forced into a corner such as this by the people who run the NHS. In the end she had to give the obvious answer – “I’d call you an ambulance.”
We went for lunch (we actually ate in the restaurant as part of my return to normal), Julia went to Hobbycraft, who have now emptied their top floor, and I went for tea in the back room at the jewellers.
Back home, I filled in my pain survey and, with painful, clumsy fingers, folded the A4 sheets of paper in three and put them in the (to small) envelope provided. I had assumed that “Page 6 of 6” on the last sheet meant it was the final sheet. But no, as I rifled through the remaining pages (they do tend to include a load of junk too) I found “Page 7 of 6”. What logic is there behind that? I’m afraid that as I completed the final two questions I added a rather terse note a\bout page numbers and envelope sizes.
These people have doctorates, research budgets, staff and big wage cheques (to name but three things I don’t have) and they come up with “Page 7 of 6”.
A light tea followed, to make up for the burger and chip lunch, and I am currently feeling hungry but virtuous as I type.
This was written yesterday, I seem to have drifted off into catching up with reading other posts and forgotten to publish. So here you are, yesterday’s post . . .
I have been in communication with the surgery three times today. Once they rang me but I couldn’t talk because I was driving. Then I rang them back when I stopped – they gave me my blood test result for the Warfarin – I am in the correct range and have another two weeks until my next test. Hurrah! he said ironically. In the early afternoon the original caller rang back to give me the same news – they hadn’t told her I’d called back. This confirms my suspicions about communications within the practice. Finally, in the evening, a doctor rang. I’m never keen on doctors ringing a it is seldom good news . . .
For the first time in my life they were ringing to congratulate me. They are, it seems, very happy with the way I am losing weight and, according to my blood tests, becoming healthier. This is unusual, and not entirely welcome. It’s a little like being smiled at when you meet an undertaker, as if they know something I don’t. However, they did remind me there was still more to do, and told me to stop eating bananas. That was my fault, I shouldn’t have admitted to it in the first place. I already knew they were bad for my diet. That’s why I try to say as little as possible when I talk to medical people.
Another unusual occurrence was me forgetting a submission deadline, and even more strange, not being concerned about it. I’m not sure if this is good or not. On one hand, it’s good to have ambition and discipline. On the other, I’m doing it for enjoyment o why should I make it hard work?
Today was a day for packing parcels and listing foreign banknotes on eBay. also rang for a blood test appointment. There were queues of 12, 18 and 9. I didn’t fancy any of them but eventually, at about 2pm, decided that I would have to join the queue of twelve. It took me 31 minutes to get through. Thirty one minutes of appalling twangy music. The time was incidental to the mental anguish of the music. Every so often a dopey male voice came on the line to tell me I was “now in position . . .” and a female voice then added a number. It’s all very strange but at least they have removed the bit where they say my call is important to them.
Fortunately there were no customers and no phone calls in that time. I say “fortunately” but customers are really the point of having a shop . . .
I have a blood test appointment for 8.45 on Wednesday, which will give me plenty of time to help Julia with the list of errands that need doing. I’m looking forward to my “day off”.
I’ll tell you one thing that has really suffered during my recent illnesses – fluency. I used to be able to sit down and rattle off 250 words without thinking. They just came into my head. They weren’t all coherent, or spelt correctly, or even grammatical at times, but they were there. Now I struggle to find 150.
Even now, after over an hour of trying (not, I admit, continuous effort) I’m only just creeping up to 250, my self imposed lower limit.
And now I’ve done it, I’m going to bed. See you tomorrow.
Julia saw an iridescent cloud today. I didn’t even know they existed. She sees better things than I do.
I had a phone call from the doctor today. It was a cheery enough phone call, because I am a lucky man and like my doctors. However, the news was rather depressing. I have been reclaimed by the anti-coagulant team and been put on Warfarin again. My next blood test is Monday.
It seems I am too heavy to be put on the new drug, which may not be powerful enough to do the job. My fault for being so fat, nobody tied me down and forced m to eat, so there is nobody else to blame. It would have been nice if the doctor had spotted this before giving me false hope, but I had a pleasant two or three days before it all fell apart.
The problem is that the anti-coagulant team runs the department like a bunch of petty tyrants. They can’t abide the thought of anyone evading their clutches and they can’t envisage a life without Warfarin. Despite the claims in the video they play you as part of the indoctrination, it does interfere with your life and they make no effort to be flexible. They once demanded that I break off in the middle of a holiday to drive 40 miles to hospital and have a blood test. When I told them there was no way that was going to happen they decided to be more flexible. It was a five day holiday and I’m not spending the best part of a day messing about with a blood test.
Another time they set a student nurse onto me. She rang me then told me, quite aggressively, that I had to start taking my Warfarin properly as my test results were unacceptably inconsistent. I had, it seemed, failed to hit the target on nearly fifty percent of the tests. (Teaching them how to bully patients is obviously a responsibility they take seriously). I did a quick calculation in my head.
“I think you’ll find, ” I said,” that I have hit the target every time for the last six months. The problem is with the early tests when i was being tested two or three times a week and you couldn’t get my dosage right.”
She then went silent, tapped a few keys and agreed that I was right. The simple truth is that Warfarin is a very imprecise treatment and the anti-coagulant team aren’t much use when it starts to get out of control.
So there you are. Imagine me as a victim, teetering on the edge of a pit as arms reach out to garb my legs and pull me down…
I went for Big Brother today, as he’s the nearest thing to a pit of demons that I have in my media.
The first half of the morning’s plan is complete. I got to hospital for 7am, found the last remaining parking space (as someone left), had my tests done (3 tubes this week) and went back to the car park to find a number of empty spaces and several people wearing NHS lanyards getting into cars in the (visitors only) car park. At the moment I am filling in time before going to the doctor to be lectured on my weight. She dressed it up as a discussion on anti-coagulants, but weight came into the conversation at the end, and I can imagine what is going to happen.
I am now off to complete the second half of the morning’s plan.
That was the doctor’s visit. It started badly when I was held up behind a couple demanding information on getting a Covid Passport so that they could go away on holiday and help spread the disease. Bad enough they want to go abroad, without cluttering up the surgery when I need to get to the desk.
The good news is that I am the same weight I was when they last weighed me four years ago. That’s even better when you think I ddi put weight on but have managed to bring it down again over the last few months. I’ve used the Tootlepedal diet – cutting out a little bit here and there, and it’s working so far.
The doctor was able to make some helpful suggestions and has also changed my anti-coagulant to one where I will only need one blood test a year. I can’t start it until the blood results come in, but if it’s OK I will be able to have blood tests every year instead of the current weekly tests.
It’s all looking quite good at the moment. I’ve been advised to lay off the cereal and go onto eggs for breakfast, which is good, as I like eggs. However, it’s also bad as I can’t prepare them in advance or take them to work with me. Swings and roundabouts, as we say.
The third part of my plan, which I forgot about until just now, which renders my maths obsolete regarding halves, was that the pharmacy had all my stuff in and it was correct. I didn’t bother complaining that they hadn’t texted me last Friday as promised. There’s just no point…
I seem to have lost a day. I’m not quite sure how I managed it, because I’m convinced I wrote something, but there’s nothing there. I’ll just have to put it down to having a senior moment. I’d feel better about it, to be honest, if it were associated more with drinking than old age. Poets drink – Larkin and Thomas were famous for bending an elbow. That’s Dylan Thomas. I’m not sure if Edward Thomas drank. Probably not. There’s something a lot more appealing about being a hellraiser than there is about being a respectable old man. If there was only me to think about I’d much rather go out with a bottle in my hand than a rug tucked neatly round my knees.
Unfortunately, drunks don’t make particularly good husbands, and I imagine the kids would hate it if they had to come and bail me out after a night of revelry, so it looks like respectability will be my fate. I wonder how many men out there, like me, still think fondly of their drinking days when they were much funnier and had more fun. Well, we thought we were much funnier, Once I actually gave up drinking I realised that this wasn’t actually the case.
Today is the first day of meteorological winter, and almost the end of lockdown. cases of Covid are going down, so it seems to work. I’d like to book another month of lockdown for next April, when the weather is likely to be better. I’m getting quite used to the time off.
According to government figures only about 54% of people intend getting vaccinated, and when you show them various bits of misinformation, easily found on the internet these days, this goes down to 48%. All that work so that 52% of the population can decide not to bother.
It calls the whole nature of education into question. Why bother studying for years to become a doctor when you could know more than a doctor by pressing a few buttons and reading something off the internet?
I managed three posts yesterday – one in the morning before we went out, one when we came back and one because I had time to do it and no distractions. There was nothing decent on TV and Julia was in the dining room talking to her sister on the phone.
This proves that when I have time and inspiration I can write multiple posts. Time and inspiration, hmmm…
I’m going to think about that. I can probably improve my capacity for being inspired, and if I get plenty of sleep I can probably cut out the evening naps, though that’s not quite as likely. I did have plenty of sleep last night, but still managed to fall asleep when Julia went to cook the curry.
The new day came round too early and we left home at 7.05 to get Julia to the doctor for an appointment. That went fairly well, but she forgot to pick up a prescription for me. We found that out when we got to McDonald’s and my early morning cheerfulness, which is brittle at the best of times, quickly cracked.
The dispenser at McDonald’s was out of BBQ Sauce. This is the second time in two visits and the fourth in six visits. How difficult can it be to keep a sauce dispenser filled?
Back at the doctors, I allowed a woman to go through the door ahead of me (because my parents brought me up properly) and she spent the next twelve minutes trying to get a prescription for extra pain killers from a receptionist. It doesn’t work that way, but she wouldn’t take no for an answer. Sometimes I wish my parents had brought me up to be selfish and use my elbows more.
Then they gave me only half the prescription and I had to make them find the other half, then traffic built up and roadworks slowed us down…
As I say, we left home at 7.05. I got to work at 9.55. And at that point I realised, with a feeling of numb resignation, that things were not going to get better.
For lunch I had tuna with cream cheese, spring onions and lemon zest. It was a bit sharp. Tuna mayonnaise would have been easier, but I had cream cheese left over from the mackerel pate. It seems a bit wetter than mayonnaise and I had to drain it by leaving it a sieve for a couple of hours. More work needed, I think.
This seems like a good time to go for a cup of tea. Julia has just returned home and it will be nice to talk to someone. I say talk, but really I just saw her slip a bar of chocolate into her pocket, so I am nurturing hopes of being fed.
The header picture is a new Robin picture for Lavinia.