Friday 27 February 2009

Back to where it all began

Last weekend we went down south. Recently when we gone down there, we have taken to staying in the hotel where it all began. It being married life. We have tried out a few hotels when we have gone down south to visit relatives and have found The Ship Hotel at Weybridge to suit our needs. We had our wedding reception there and I always think as we turn into the hotel car park that this is the first place that we came to as man and wife. It was not my first choice for my wedding reception but as I had only ten weeks to arrange the wedding I think that we were lucky to find anywhere to have a reception. Why did we do it at such short notice? I was making sure that he couldn't change his mind. No, we had a holiday planned that we decided to make our honeymoon.

The reason for the trip down south was primarily because it was my mother's ninetieth birthday on Saturday. But before we could get to her my brother phoned to ask where we were. Our conversation was brief. We had a good afternoon with my mother. We took her out for a run in the car then I replaced the desiccated remains of the flowers that I sent her for Christmas with the flowers that I had given her for her birthday and re-arranged the flowers that my brother had given her. We had birthday cake and tea and a chat.

Whilst down there we also had to visit my mother-in-law's flat in Surbiton (now sold) to read the gas and electric meters and we managed to squeeze in a quick walk around the Royal Horticultural Society's garden at Wisley.

We have been members of the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) for some years, as the Wisley garden is only a few miles from where we use to live, but when we lived down there there was always something else to do and we rarely visited the garden. Now, whenever we are down there, we attempt to visit the garden. The weather for our walk around Wisley was fine and sunny. There were snowdrops everywhere, quite a few crocuses and some hellebores but surprisingly not one daffodil. However, the dogwood by the lake was spectacular (see above). Some areas of the Wisley garden were cordoned off to visitors for a variety of different reasons. The most notable being as a result of the recent heavy snow which had resulted in damage to the branches of many trees.

Friday 20 February 2009

Home Sweet Home

This post is probably not about what you think it is. Recently dementia has started to figure on the government's agenda and John Suchet, the former ITN newscaster, has raised the its profile, highlighting the problems that he is having coping with his wife's dementia. This current interest has resulted in letters to The Times supporting both the care home and remain in your own home options. One letter from an 80 year old grandparent did not want the life of their daughter and grandchildren blighted by having to look after them in their old age, implying that for them a care home would be the preferred option. Another letter from a Consultant Stroke Physician suggested that rather than investing in a network of dementia care homes, that elderly suffers should be cared for in their own homes by an army of carers. Do you have an elderly relative with dementia? And where do you stand in this debate?

So, you are wondering where does this fit into a blog about relocation and renovation? Well if we had not relocated 200 miles north west of where we used to live, we would not now be 250 miles from my mother, who has vascular dementia. (Do not worry she does not read my blog let alone know that I write one). I strongly believe that she should be able to remain in her bungalow for as long as possible with the help of carers and that is what she wants. Well to remain in her bungalow - I am not sure about the carers. My brother lives just ten minutes drive from my mother but cannot or will not arrange for carers to look after my mother. This has left me with no option but to look for a suitable residential home for her close to where we live as it is not practical for me to look at homes that are 250 miles away.

I started this task, which I have to say is rather daunting, by writing or emailing twelve homes in this area which I found on a care homes web site, requesting a brochure and details of fees etc. Of the twelve, only five responded with a brochure. I had a quick look at the brochures and decided that initially I would look at the nearest residential home to us which happens to be on the outskirts of the village that we live in. It also happens to be the most expensive and based on the glossy brochure provided, it looked to be the best. When I phoned to make an appointment to see the home I was asked if it was for me. I quickly informed them that it was for my mother as I thought ' do I sound old and doddery?' I was advised that I could go any time to see the home as long as I avoided meal times. The home which is set way back from the road and has a large and attractive garden, was clean and tidy and odour free. I was impressed and there was nothing that I could fault apart from the fact that it did not look as glossy as the brochure had led me to expect. The manageress took down some details then informed me that the one problem she had was that they do not take people with dementia. Right, back to the drawing board, I thought.

Back home I had another look through the brochures and tried to work out which homes took patients with dementia. I decided that I would simply have to ask before I arranged to view a home. Fortunately the next home that I approached specialises in patients with dementia but I had to make an appointment rather than turn up when it suited me. They sounded a bit disorganised but I should not pre-judge them. By now it was 12 noon and meal time I supposed, so it would not be convenient to be calling homes. I waited until about 2 pm, by which time I thought that lunch time would be over, then tried phoning another home. The phone rang and rang. I got no answer. So I came to the conclusion that the staff at this home must be having a nap with the patients. Never mind there was another home that I can try. I felt certain that I would not want to put my mother in this home but they say that you should look at as many homes as possible. This home is on a busy main road with a small garden at the rear. It was clean and tidy but somehow it was a bit dowdy. I was shown round by a large and jolly man who looked like Friar Tuck in a nurses uniform. As we climbed the stairs I asked if there was a lift. No, was the reply but there is a chair lift on the other stair case. We looked at bedrooms and bathrooms and chatted until we came to the other stair case. Looking down from the top I thought for a moment that I had been transported to the chair lift at a dry ski slope. It didn't look terribly safe to me.

So next to be viewed was the home specialising in patients with dementia, which had given me the impression of being disorganised. Well this turned out to be the best home so far and I would be happy for my mother to be in this one. It is in a village not far from here, surrounded by fields. It is modern, clean, warm, smell free. In fact everything that I was looking for and the manager was very helpful and understanding. So I think that Mum's name will be going on their waiting list, but I know that I also need to continue to look at some more homes.

Saturday 14 February 2009

St Valentine's Day Massacre

Towards the end of 2005 the builder had finished, at last. We had a short break in Rome and then started to get on with decorating the cottage, from top to bottom. Now that we had the cottage laid out as we wanted, it was time to think about updating the burglar alarm. The concrete and asbestos garage had been replaced by a brick built garage with a slate roof, the outbuilding which had holes in the roof had been replaced with a much smaller double glazed conservatory and the large bathroom had been converted into a smaller bathroom and an en suite shower room. The old burglar alarm consisted of a large control panel in the hall containing an elastic band and a piece of string plus three sensors. Discretion did not come into it. The control panel was obvious the minute you were through the front door. So we got an estimate the for job and thought about it and in late January 2006 I went ahead and booked the installation. The company suggested Tuesday February 14. It was a convenient day for me, but I had a few reservations about it. I had my evening class that night and it was St Valentine's Day but really it is just another day and my husband was going to be away anyway.

When the engineers had not arrived by 9.15 am I phoned up to ask where they were. One of the two, assigned to our job, had had to go to the dentist. They would be along shortly. After another hour's await and another phone call his mate arrived to make a start. About 12 noon I had the full compliment of two engineers. This job was supposed to take a day and a half. How were they going to achieve that when they had already lost half a day? Important things first, they had lunch then had a walk around the cottage with specification for the job. By now it was time for me to have my lunch. As I sat at the kitchen table with my sandwich I wondered why I could hear knocking coming from the water pipes. I went to see how they were getting on and found the mate with his finger stuck in the living room wall trying to stop the flow of water from the pipe that his partner in crime had drilled. In the ensuing panic they switched off everything that they could in the air ring cupboard and anything water related. They also attempted to drain every drop of water from our water works and all of the water out of our oil fired boiler, thinking that it was a gas boiler. Eventually they realised that they were out of their depth and phoned for a plumber who had time to fix the leak but nothing else. In the short time that the plumber was in the cottage the mate managed to drill into another water pipe in the cupboard under the stairs. The plumber had obviously only been asked to repair one leak and left pronto. By now panic had set in and the engineers were phoning their colleagues for re-enforcement. Eventually they found an engineer colleague who had done a bit of plumbing and was able to come to their assistance. He managed to fix the second leak then set about getting the central heating boiler started unaware that the whole system had been drained of water. So his initial attempts to get the boiler going just filled our central heating system with air. After switching back on what they thought was everything that they had switched off, they managed to get the central heating boiler going. But the system was full of air and every radiator needed bleeding. By the time that they left it was too late to think about going to my evening class. One day's work and what had they done? Drilled into two water pipes and laid a few cables.

Two days later when my husband got home at about 6 pm they were still crawling around the house trying to finish the job. One and a half days work had taken three days! As a result of the Valentine's Day fiasco we were draining air from our radiators for weeks before we managed to get the system clear of air, the central heating boiler kept switching itself off and the first time that I tried to have a shower I found that the water supply to it was still turned off. Luckily I had chosen to use the shower over the bath so was able to use water from the bath taps to wash the shower gel off me.

The next day was Friday and we were due to go away for the weekend, but before we did my husband phoned the burglar alarm company with the intention of speaking to the Managing Director only to be informed that he was currently on a cruise down the Nile.

Tuesday 10 February 2009

A refreshing toast to the respected blog

Many of you will have already seen this article and be aware of the furor that it has caused in blogland. I know that the article is now nearly two weeks old, but I only came across it on Friday afternoon. Although we take The Times I did not read the article in the hard copy as it did not register with me that an article accompanied by the photograph a of a tarty looking girl would be about blogging. The article writes disparagingly about social networking via Blogs, Facebook and Twitter, heavily criticising the 'nothing is off limits' culture of some. Don Mills Diva was just one of the bloggers quoted without her full knowledge. She has started a campaign to 'respect the blog' which you can do by putting this logo

on your blog, linking it to her article, leaving a comment and writing a post about it yourself if you feel strongly enough.

Now onto a more pleasant aspect of blogging. I have been given this rather novel Lemonade award by A Brit in Tennessee, who is a Cheshire expat.

I had seen this award on other blogs and liked the look of it. Thank you to A Brit in Tennesse for thinking of me. Now I have to pass the award on to eight blogs which show great attitude or gratitude. Not an easy task. I am sorry that this award is not a BAFTA or a Grammy and that it is not something stronger. My nominations are as follows:
Congratulations to you all! Now it just leaves me to propose a lemonade toast to the respected blog.

Thursday 5 February 2009

Keep taking the tablets......

Driving home through the snow on Monday evening I didn't see many other cars on the road and and I wondered how many other drivers were also on their way home from work after 9 pm? The snow looked very pretty as it clung to the trees and fell onto the slushy roads. I played safe and drove steadily. My 15 minute journey took 25 minutes. I had no desire to end up in a ditch as round here the farmers do not clear them and they are currently full of freezing and dirty water.

By Monday evening I had worked four out of the last five weekdays, working three different shifts. One early bird shift, one siesta shift and two graveyard shifts. An early bird shift is he first shift of the day and means getting up at some God forsaken hour. The siesta shift covers the middle of the day and the graveyard shift is the evening shift. Some unfortunate pharmacist has to be there to over see the sales of Calpol, Benylin and Night Nurse in the winter and Piriton and Calpol in the summer. No two shifts are the same, although the routine is always the same. Standing for hours on end. Sometimes it is hot. Sometimes it is cold.

Last Friday as I worked the siesta shift I found myself thinking 'why are you doing this? you used to like it but you don't anymore.' I had started at 11am, by now it was well after 1pm, I had never stopped. I was tired and hungry and the prescriptions would not stop coming in. When was I going to get my lunch? Not until after 2.30 pm. Pharmacy has changed unbelievably, from the sedate and gentleman like profession that I was so proud to join over 30 years ago, into a money spinning supermarket side show.

When I qualified medicine labels were hand written. Most of the medicines, which keep the world ticking today, had not been discovered and nothing came in a blister pack. Hand written became typed on a type writer and now labels are computer generated, which is just as well as the clever computer has also been programmed with all possible drug interactions. Once I only needed to remember that aspirin and warfarin interacted. Now there are too many interactions to memorise. My generation of pharmacists were taught to formulate creams and ointments, triturate powders and compound suppositories. Skills which I have never used and we are no longer allowed to make up medicines from scratch. The patient has to wait a week for a contract manufacturer to produce them.

Today, I am expected to dispense a prescription at the same time as supervising the assistants on the counter and while also juggling the supply of the morning after pill, giving smoking cessation advice, handling telephone queries, repeat dispensing, minor ailments scheme supplies, medicines use reviews (MURs) and any other requests from customers for my advice. Oh, and in my spare time I need to keep up to date by participating in Continuing Professional Development (CPD). You may think that GPs do all of this too. Yes, but they only see one patient at a time by appointment. Every week there is something new to get to grips with. One of the most recent is Clamelle, an antibiotic for chlamydia, a STI (sexually transmitted infection). The diagnostic kit plus course of antibiotics cost a mere £45. Who is going to stump up for this when they can get it for, at most, a prescription charge of £7.10 from their GP or GUM clinic (genitourinary medicine). You think that I am writing a foreign language. Yes, so do I. Then, coming soon is Alli to help with weight loss. I am not sure who is pushing through all these new ideas. I think that it is a combination of the NHS, the government and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB). Now the RPSGB is thinking that its members may be stressed! It is a possibility.

My working life started in hospital pharmacy then I moved into the pharmaceutical industry before finding my way into retail pharmacy. On a personal level hospital pharmacy is he most rewarding whereas the pharmaceutical industry is intellectually the most stimulating. I can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. I have set the date by which I intend to hang up my mortar and pestle. In many ways it will be a sad day.