Thursday, 31 March 2011

Cards from the Bump

I'm over-blogging at the moment, I know that, but I just couldn't resist this. Apparently, there are now greetings cards available for expectant mothers "from the Bump". This is a (genuine) sample verse:

"Although we haven't met yet
I just want to say
You're loved so very much
In a very special way."

Without wishing to be unkind, if the writing goes belly up, I think there just might be a vacancy or two for verse-writers. In fact, if anyone can come up with a really brilliant one (ie greetings from the Bump), I'll send them a prize. And that's a promise.

But my favourite card ever was one I saw years ago which said, simply, "Happy Easter from the Dog". I've regretted every since that I didn't buy it.

A frustrating morning/dustpans and brushes

I've had a frustrating morning, what with going to the market twice (the first time to do my shopping, and the second time to go back for all the things I'd left behind), and then I forgot my name in the chemist's.

But the high point was overhearing a woman asking a stallholder if he had a cream* dustpan and brush, and then going away disappointed, because he hadn't. And it set me wondering whether perhaps she'd just had her kitchen done up, and wanted a matching dustpan and brush, or whether she just fancied the colour, or whether she thought it would brighten up the dull job of housework, or maybe she just wanted something pretty to show her friends. Then I tried to remember what colour our dustpan and brush is/are. Blue, I think, but I don't think the brush matches.

I'll have to go and look.

*An unwise choice, because it will show up the dirt. And cream's a horrible colour.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Living for ever?

I have just been listening to a radio discussion on the subject of ageing, and this moved on to the issue of experiments to incease longevity.

It has always seemed to me extraordinary that there seems to be money for this kind of research in a world where so many people die young of diseases whch will one day (sooner, presumaby, if more funds were available) be curable, and where so many are starving. As for the desire to live for ever, is this because we are afraid of death, or do we really want to live on indefinitely?

And then there are those who have gone to the extreme of paying to have their deceased bodies frozen in liquid nitrogen against the discovery of a cure some time in the future (for disease, old age or whatever), when they will be unfrozen, cured and launched once more into the world. Born again, you could say.

This raises several issues. One is, what would these (mainly very old) once rich newly-defrosted people look like, never mind do? And how would they fit into the (probably very different) world in which they found themselves? And in any case, would anyone bother to defrost them at all, given that they would hardly be in a position to sue if they were left in their frozen state?

No. I am prepared to die - I think - when my time comes, provided it's with my wits intact and with some dignity and with minimal work or distress for my family. As Woody Allen said, "I don't mind dying. I just don't want to be around when it happens".


Monday, 28 March 2011

Uncle re-visited

I have just returned from another visit to my uncle in his nursing home*.

These visit always leave me feeling sad and angry. Sad, because to see a once-vibrant, fiercely independent, highly intelligent human being reduced in ths way is an insult to us all; angry, because he shouldn't be alive.

About three years ago, he was found unconscious in his own chair in his own home. Up until then, he had managed well, with the help of his devoted houskeeper and her husband, but things were begining to fail. If only he hadn't been found. If only he had been able to die, like that, where he wanted to be, ignorant of the real indignities of old age.

But he was found, and taken to hospital, and then started a round of hospital treament and spells at home, his frail wits gradually departing, together with his physical strength, until he was admitted to the place which is now his "home".

It's a pleasant place, the staff are kind, and he is well cared-for. Some might say he is fortunate to be able to afford a place like this (although it was not of his choosing). But it is not (dreadful expression) "what he would have wanted". Incontinent, confused, not knowing where he is or (as today) who I am, he seems to live in an ongoing nightmare, from which he emerges from time to time to manifest a few brief moments of normality. I'm not saying he's unhappy all the time. He's not. But I can only imagine what goes on in his head; the un-joined-up thoughts, the discomfort, the bewilderment, the time travel (sometimes, he's in the here and now - almost; at other times, he's in a past I never knew). It is cruel; it is horrible; it is not the way anyone should end their life. My family (they include three doctors and a nurse, so they should be able to manage it) have strict instrustions as to what to do if this ever happens to me.

At one stage this afternoon, he told me I was 107 (he is much preoccupied with people's ages); at another, he thought I was my mother. As I hugged him good-bye, he looked at me with tears in his eyes and said: "I miss you so much. There's so much to make noises about."

Isn't there just.

*I know I've posted about this before, but it's on my mind today.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Foot in mouth (Lucas again!)

I remember quite clearly the time when I could put my foot in my mouth (literally, not metaphorically. That's a skill I've never managed to lose, and not for want of trying). It was always the right foot; never the left.

But now, my feet seem such a long, long way away...

Free gifts

"Free gifts" infuriate me. Quite apart from the obvious tautology - after all, a gift is by definition free - the whole concept (a useless piece of tat rather than a cheaper product) is unpleasant. From the plastic cowboys which fell into my breakfast cereal when I was a child, to those rather hideous tumblers which came with petrol, to today's gripe: make-up.

Today, I went into a branch of a very well-known chemist's, spent over (over what? I can't remember how much. Well, I overspent, anyway) and was awarded a free gift.
It looked like a child's pencil case.

My free gift and I made our way home, where it transpired that the pencil case contained six of those itsy little samples which are neither use nor ornament, and which hang around in drawers until they are stale enough to throw away (the cosmetic equivalent of saucers of green fur in the fridge). There's "Energising Moisturiser" (I wish), and "Lift and Luminate Night Cream" (lift and luminate what, exactly? Can I smear it on my boobs?), "Beauty Serum", Radiance Revealed" exfoliator (I don't exfoliate anything, being of the belief that a good wash and some simple skin cream is quite enough, and all those horrible dead skin cells will probably drop off anyway without any assistance from me), a tiny mascara (thank you. I'll use that), some plum-coloured lipstick (ugh), and the kind of bright blue eye shadow that was around about thirty years ago.

So if anyone would like any of the above (apart from the mascara. You can't go to far wrong with mascara...can you?) just send a tiny SAE to me and I'll happily send it to you.

Friday, 25 March 2011

The best view in the world!

There is no better view on a lovely sunny day like today than that of the countryside seen from the back of a horse. I took this photo this morning (with, I have to say, considerable difficulty).

My mobile requires a lot of fiddling about before it will take photos, and I need reading glasses to see what I'm doing. Add to that the fact that the horse said something to the effect that "if you're going to make me stand here while you're buggering about up there, we might as well go home", and tried to do just that, and you get the picture.

But I too got the picture, and I think it's rather good. Hasn't he got lovely ears?

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Sat at my computer

I am a pedant where English usage is concerned. I don't mind new words, or different uses of old words - language moves on - but grammar is a different matter.

Has anyone else noticed that people no longer say that they are "sitting", but that they are "sat"? "He was sat at his desk writing a letter". This literally means that someone picked him up and sat him there, with or without his permission. It does not mean he sat down unaided. But I'm afraid that this particular usage has come to stay.

And then there's pronounciation. There are certain words that no-one, even (or should I say especially) the BBC, can get right. The one that really gets to me is "vulnerable. It is invariably pronounced "vunerable"; that is, without the first letter L.

(This is a rather grumpy post for a lovely day. It's probably because wonderful Devizes market does not seem to supply wall planners.)

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

A very boring post about calendars

I am disorganised. So I need a diary. Being too mean to buy more of those very expensive Filofax pages, at the beginning of the year I bought a page-a-day diary. Quite a nice one. So far so good.

But it doesn't work. It's no good looking at one page at a time, because you (or I) need to see that day in the context of the whole month. I need to see all the things that are happening around it, so that if there are clusters of things all happening close together, then I know that that is not the time to invite twenty people to dinner or re-carpet the stairs. Furthermore, I need to see it all up on the wall, clearly, staring at me, challenging me to forget an appointment or a birthday.

So today I went shopping for a calendar. Not easy in March, as I discovered, but I finally ran one to ground in a card shop. I had a choice of Vintage Transport or Warplanes (I would have preferred plain, but never mind). So I now have a Vintage Transport calendar hanging above my desk (complete with March picture - a "1908 Vulcan Roi des Belges", no less - which looks like a cross between a Tesco trolley and a pushchair), and inefficiency will be a thing of the past.

(Apologies to anyone who has managed to get to the end of this exceptionally boring post. All I can say it that you were warned. But I'm currently suffering from a form of writer's block (see post below) and buying calendars and writing about them beats doing housework.)

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

The dreaded block...

There's a good article in today's Times about writer's block ("the fabled terminator of literary careers, the paralylser of talent, the murderer of the muse", as it so poetically puts it. No writer's block there).

Of course, there's the usual question about whether or not writer's block exists at all. My own feeling is that if anyone says they've suffered from it, then it exists, just as I usually trust someone if they say they have a headache. I can't see the headache, but I tend to believe people who say they have one. I've certainly experienced writer's block, and I don't mean the "I'll just shampoo the cat/clean the car/ pickle the onions first" variety, which for me comes under the heading of Not Getting Down To It; that's a different ailment altogether.

It's comforting to know there have been many eminent sufferers, including Joseph Conrad, who described it thus:
"Sometimes it takes all my resolution and power of self-control to refrain from butting my head against the wall. I want to howl and foam at the mouth ..."

Yep. That just about sums it up. The people who say WB doesn't exist tend to be those who have never suffered from it. Well, good for them. But isn't it a little arrogant to assume that because they are fortunate enough to have the kinds of minds that are constantly overflowing with wonderful ideas, anyone who is not so blessed is inventing a condition to cover up their inadequacy?

Monday, 21 March 2011

Health and Safety - the man who never sleeps

Isn't it comforting to know that - like the off-duty policeman who intercepts a bank robber, or the holidayng fireman who extinguishes a fire - the Health and Safety people too are constantly on the qui vivre.

Our local supermarket had some scales; little hanging DIY affairs among the fruit and veg, to help people check the weights of their purchases. But not any more. Oh no. Because a Health and Safety official, off duty, doing his shopping (as even H&S people have to do from time to time), decided that the scales were a hazard and has had them removed.

I am seriously annoyed about this, on several counts.
1. If a customer was very short and very clumsy, he just might have been able to give his head a gentle bump on the scales. But he would have to have tried pretty hard. And there are trained First Aiders on hand who would have been delighted to come to his aid. So no real danger there.
2. I liked those scales. Being of a certain age, I like pounds and ounces; I like to be able to be sure I'm not confusing pounds with kilogrammes, and catering for eight, say, instead of four. Those scales were useful.
3. Official interference is bad enough. Off-duty interference is just not on.

That's all.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

A Widow's Story

Very occasionally, I read a book that seems to speak closely of my own experience, and Joyce Carol Oates's A Widow's Story is just such a book. Written in the (almost immediate) aftermath of her own husband's death, it is a poignant and very personal account of her own experience of widowhood, and as I read it I wondered whether readers who have never experienced anything like this can identify with it in the way that I did.

Everything is there. The isnomnia, the despair, the fear, the feeling of beng apart - different, isolated - from the rest of the human race, the terrible aloneness, and perhaps most of all, the ever-present possibility (opportunity?) of suicide: the door through which the bereaved can choose to pass if the experience becomes totally unbearable. When it happened to me, I wondered whether I was more than a little mad. The answer (from this book) is yes. But that's okay. That's normal. Bereavement is a form of madness.

Joyce has no children. This in a way is the elephant in the room (elephant in the book?) because while her relationship and her marriage are described in detail, there's no mention of children; of whether they wanted and couldn't have them, or whether they decided against having a family. I had children. They were my reason for staying alive. Her reasons are not so clear. Friends, her writing, life itself perhaps? But nearing the end of the book, I wonder whether, without my beloved children, these things would have been enough for me.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Flash fiction

Just a quick note to say that the deadline for the Fish Publishing annual flash fiction competition is 20th March. The prize is 1000 euros, so well worth the 14 euro entrance fee. Details on this link:

Red Nose Day. Ha ha?

Am I alone in being very unamused by Red Nose Day? I know it's all in a good cause; I'm sure lots of people enjoy it; I'm also sure that, on balance, it's probably a Good Thing. I went round Sainsbury's this morning, and everyone was wearing silly hats/noses/trousers. A man in a long blond wig and a strange outfit asked me how I was (fine, thanks), and someone was having all his hair shaved off by the checkout. All good clean fun.

Maybe it's because it's all been going on for so long (it started in 1985) that the novelty has warn off. Or maybe - awful thought - it's because I haven't got a sense of humour. Not GSOH but NSOH, or perhaps just W(wrong)SOH. Oh dear.

So I shan't wear a red nose, or stick one on the car, or watch the programme this evening (although I'm tempted by the special edition of Outnumbered). In any case, I'll be out. Of course, I'm not against charitable giving; like everyone else, we give to charity (especially The Smile Train and the Ethiopian Fistula Clinic; I thought I'd give them a plug. As it's Red nose Day).

It's just that I don't think today is any funnier than any other day.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

How to ride on a bus

Apparently BBC employees are being offered a day's course on how to ride the buses in Manchester. Isn't that a great idea? I have been on many courses in my time, and I can tell you exactly the kind of thing they'll be up to.

1. "Breaking the ice". This may involve a game. For example, John Humprheys throws a ball to Jeremy Paxman shouting "Jeremy!", and Jeremy throws the ball to Eddy Grundy shouting "Eddy!" etc. etc. until we all know who everyone is.

2. Brainstorming, with a large flipchart and someone important wielding a felt marker writing down words like "bus stop" and "timetable".

3. Map-reading (this is a guess; I have never been on a course where maps were involved, but then I have never tried to navigage my way round Manchester).

4. Dividing into small groups. This is an absolute must on any course. The small groups discuss things (routes around Manchester; how to hail a bus; that kind of thing), and then re-form in the larger group to share their findings. There will be a huge sheet of paper and another felt marker for each group.

5. Conclusion. Have we enjoyed ourselves? What have we learnt? Followed by the handing out of sheets of paper for Feedback (score each part of the course from no.1 = useless, to no 5 = wonderful).

6. I guess this is optional, but they may just get to have a ride in a real bus.

There will be tea/coffee and biscuits throughout the day, but as a licence-payer, I do hope they are providing their own sandwiches.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Falling off the wagon

Well, that didn't last long.

We decided to give up alcohol for Lent*. Ash Wednesday went well, as did Thursday and Friday. Saturday was our wedding anniversary, so we let ourselves off, and Sunday, says John (more ecclesiastically informed than I am) is always a feast day, so you can drink on a Sunday. Monday was ok, and then we got to Tuesday... we had a good DVD to watch, but something was missing. A nice bottle of red, that's what. So together, we fell off the wagon. Joint decision. No-one but ourselves to blame. Oh dear. And we really meant to stick to it, too.

*Personally, I'm not much in favour of giving things up for Lent; better to do something nice/good instead, I always think. When I was at school, I was nice to Susan W, a girl I couldn't stand, for Lent. I thought that was a more positive approach. But John is more into giving things up. (Hasn't worked, though, has it?)

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Emotional engagement

Over the past couple of days, I have been thinking about not only identification with a (fictional) character, but identifying with that character's emotions, too.

I have recently finished two books - True Grit, and Room - and these have both had a smiliar effect on me in that while I found it easy to identify with the narrator, I found it very hard to connect with the story emotionally.

True Grit is written from the POV of a 14-year-old girl. It is a harrowing tale of her mission to avenge the murder of her father. She endures danger, physical suffering and deprivation, and yet because she is so heroic - so brave - and her story told with so little overt emotion, I found it very hard to engage with the fear and pain she must have felt. I enjoyed the book, but it didn't draw me in the way many other novels do. The same with Room. It is a very cleverly-written account of the ordeal of the little boy and his mother, imprisoned in the Room of the title, yet because the boy doesn't realise the seriousness of his situation, I didn't feel any of the emotional tension I might have expected to feel. When I'm reading a novel, I need to feel emotions with the central characters or their situation, but in these two cases I didn't, and both left me feeling strangely unsatisfied.

Is it necessary to spell out emotions in novels? I don't know. Like everything else, it's so subjective. But speaking for myself, I need to feel what the protagonist is feeling, or at least get a feel for the tension, the emotional journey, or whatever, otherwise the story hasn't truly gripped me. In both these novels, I wanted to know what happened, but in a detached and interested rather than emotional way.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Nanny comes to dinner

Apparently there is a move afoot to make restaurants put the calorie content beside all the dishes on their menus. Isn't that a great idea? Just when you thought you had escaped from your diet for an evening, there it will be, lurking among the prawn cocktails and the garlic mushrooms. There will no doubt be a choice of fat soup (500 calories) or thin soup (5 calories). You will be able to choose from plain steak (250 calories), steak with jus (300 calories), steak with jus and broccoli (305 calories), or steak and chips (5000 calories). There. Simple, isn't it?

And the puddings. Oh, the puddings! There we'll all be, with our little calorie counters, totting up what we've eaten so far, ditching the bread and butter pudding in favour of the sorbet, because we overdid it with that creamy peppercorn sauce.

I can't wait. Can you?

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Tall, bald, ugly dentist

Don't you just love him? Well, girls, the good news is that he's looking for a partner (and not one in his dental pracice, either), and his advert is in our Sunday paper (details on appilication). I don't like dentists, not that keen on ugly, don't mind about bald, love tall. Which would normally mean, on balance, a thumbs down. But he obviously has a GSOH, and provided he has N/S and WLTM me (and can guarantee free painless root canal treatment), I have to say, I'm tempted.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

In love with a horse

I love horses. I think I've always loved them. There is something about them; the beauty, the smell (everything about a horse smells good; yes - even that), the grace, the dignity, the gentleness. Of course not all horses are gentle, but that is usually because they have been ill-treated or are in pain. Essentially, the horse is a gentle animal; harmless in the best sense of the word.

The horse has the largest eyes of any mammal. This is strange since they are far from being the largest animal (think giraffe; think whale). Large eyes always appeal, don't they; "the windows of the soul". Eyes are important.

All this came to mind this morning, when I was reading Melanie Reid's weekly column in The Times. Melanie broke her neck and her back in a riding accident last April, and she writes of her experiences in what she calls her "spinal column". She is making a slow recovery, but has limited use of her hands, and little function in her legs (although she is heroically learning to walk again). In today's article she writes of horses, and her thoughts of ever sitting on one again. "Part of me yearns to be close to a horse, to bury my face in its neck and inhale that smell. But the sense of loss that will come with that is terrifying".

I can so identify with that. Part of me knows that soon I too will probably have to hang up my riding boots. To career around the Wiltshire downs on a very energetic (and not always obedient) ex-racehorse at my age is not the most sensible thing to do. But then I look at my horse - beautiful, dark, leggy, with those huge brown eyes; by far the most beautiful animal (or even posession) I have ever owned) - and I think, no. Not yet. Not for a while.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Scarves; the finale

Well, I bought them, and here they are. This photo does not do them justice, but never mind. I love them. The one on the right is the originl silk one, and on the left, the flimsy little cotton one. A Sunday one and an everyday one.

Okay. That's enough now. I promise not to mention scarves again.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

The scarf revisited

Well, spurred on by a certain amount of cyber advice, and trying to learn from my mistakes, I went back to have another look at The Scarf. And I still love it. But I'd forgotten my voucher. So I have reserved it (well, that's the next best thing, isn't it?) and also its little friend, a flimsy pretty cotton number. That makes two scarves. And I'd still have change from my voucher.

Now all I have to do is make up my mind to go back and actually buy them...

Cigarette, anyone?

So the government in its wisdom has decided that cigarettes must now be hidden in shops and supermarkets to put them out of the way of temptation.

Does anyone really think this will make the slightest difference? And as for children, if anyone thinks it will deter them from buying cigarettes (they're not allowed to, are they?) then they don't know much about teenagers.

I am not a smoker. I dislike cigarette smoke. Since experimenting at the age of ten (to impress my mother, who wisely took no notice at all), I've never really bothered with it. But if people choose to smoke, then that is their right, as is mountain climbing, riding motorbikes, extreme ironing, or whatever. As a nurse, I have even helped terminally ill patient to light up the cigarettes that have killed them, because they were too weak to do it for themselves. They had a right to smoke that last cigarette.

When will successive governments STOP TELLING US WHAT TO DO? We know the dangers of smoking; most of know that too many chips will make us fat, and that we should eat up our greens. But we have a right to pig out on burgers and ignore the broccoli if that's what we want to do. The medical profession has a duty to inform and advise, and to support those who wish to improve their lifestyles, but not to run our lives for us. And if we die early because of our lifestyle, then that will save the state money on all kinds of things, from pensions and healthcare in later life, to bus passes.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Schindler's List

Last night, we watched the film Schindlers List. It's a film which stays with you for days afterwards; sensitively done, but sparing none of the horrors of the Holocaust.

The first time we saw it was many years ago on the big screen. After some discussion, we decided to take my two younger boys, then aged 12 and 15. This was something we felt they should know about, and if they watched it with us, we could all talk about it afterwards.

I'll never forget the evening. The four of us left the cinema in total, stunned silence - what was there to say? - and began the drive home. On our way, we came across a man in an advanced stage of inebriation, crawling along in the gutter. We stopped the car, picked him up, and returned him to his (exasperated) wife). That broke the spell, and got us all talking. And talking.

I'll never forget that car journey, or that man, and all because of an extraordinary evening. The Holocaust is something which never seems to lose its power to shock and horrify, does it? Every single time. We are given frequent reminders in films and documentaries, and I think this is a good thing. It poses the obvious question: how could this possibly have happened, adn so recently? And the not so obvious: would I have been capable of anything like that? Is there something in all of us - perhaps only a tiny seed - that, under certain conditions, is capable of unimagineable cruelty?

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

The responsible pharmacist

In the pharmacy department of our local Boots there is always a printed notice telling us that "The reponsible pharmacist today is (name)". Which begs the obvious question: who is the irresponsible pharmacist today, and what is s/he doing? Is she partying in the back, high on morphine? Running giggling down the high street wearing her knickers on her head? Using the Boots telephone to chat to her relatives in Australia?

By moving one word - "responsible" - and placing it after "pharmacist" the meaning would be clear and unambiguous (but, let's face it, not nearly as entertaining).

PS Not worthy of a post on its own, but I've just read this lovely quotation:
"Culture is describing Jane Russell without using your hands".

Monday, 7 March 2011

Stylish blog award

Someone very kindly gave me this award last week, but I was in a rush, and I can't remember who! So whoever it was, please forgive me, and thank you again (I did thank them at the time, but I think my thanks were on the donor's blog and not mine). Please remind me who you are!

Since I blog rather a lot (far too much at the moment, because I'm waiting for publishing news, and blogging helps with the waiting), I feel that any readers probably already know more than enough about me already, but here are seven short things:

1. I hate heights and deadlines.
2. My son and son-in-law are both rheumatologists, but orthopaedic surgeons would be more useful (see below).
3. I've broken my back twice...
4. ...and a toe, an elbow, a wrist, another toe, and (probably) a collar bone.
5. I've been in love with horses since I was about seven (three of Nos.3-4 were horse-related. The rest were carelessness).
6. I lost my virginity on a top bunk*.
7. I have never cleaned an oven.
*Not recommended, for all sorts of reasons.

I will now think about whom I should pass the award on to. Quite a few of my favourite blogs already have it, so this may not be easy.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Our relationship with water

Okay, so this is a rather slender excuse to post another photo of Lucas (I've been looking after him this week-end), but I've always been facinated by our relationship with water. Not just water to drink and wash in, but water to look at, swim in, paddle in, and sit by. Isn't it interesting that we are happy just to sit by water; lakes, streams, the sea - it doesn't matter which. We'll sit and picnic by it, fish in it, watch it, photograph it, whatever. You see crowds of people sitting on beaches on (increasingly rare) hot summer days. Just sitting and looking. They wouldn't dream of facing the other way round, however fascinating the view.

I love swimming in the sea. I hate swimming pools, but swimming in deep sea water is the next best thing to flying (and I know this, because I do a lot of flying in my dreams). The sense of freedom, the taste of takes a lot of beating.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Indecision and necklines

I can't make decisions. I've never been able to, especially when shopping. One of my sons is the same. We both prefer to browse through catalogues. This way, there's no-one breathing down our necks saying can they help us? (No. Leave us alone).

But this too has a downside. Because one can dither over a catalogue, too, and when I've finally decided that that really is THE top (pair of boots, jeans, whatever) I HAVE to have, it's sold out. Only in my size and my chosen colour, but sold out.

It's about to happen again. Another (non-dithering) son gave me a voucher for Christmas for the wonderful Bluestone Gallery in Devizes. It sells beautiful hand-made jewellery, ceramics, prints, silk scarves. I even like its knick knacks (I'm not usually a knick knack kind of person, not least because that sort of thing needs dusting). They have, for example, lovely little china sheep. I don't want one, but I love them just the same.

I've just been in there this morning, browsing with my voucher. I looked at the beautiful hand-made silk scarves, and imagined myself looking like Judy Dench, who wears her age (and her scarves) so elegantly. I've got to the age where I need to cover up my neck, because everything is beginning to drift southwards, and this scarf would look great. Lovely E (I don't want to embarrass her by giving her name) modelled it for me, told me the best way to tie it, assured me it would look great on me. But did I buy it? Of course I didn't. Do I want it? I think so. Will it still be there next week, when I finally decide to buy it? Of course it won't Sigh.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Another French edition

Apparently The Birds, the Bees and Other Secrets is doing ok in France, and they've just brought out this large print version. Even more chocolate-boxy than the smaller edition, but (bewildering title notwithstanding) rather smart in a coffee table kind of way...?

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

The current state of nursing

The recent publicity around the care of the elderly in care homes and hospitals has highlighted a growing problem in the health service: quite simply, nurses are no longer nurses.

I have had a bee in my bonnet about this for years as I have watched nursing move from a practical, hands-on profession to an all-graduate one, with disastrous results. Who hasn't heard tales of nurses chatting round the nurses' station while patients lie in their own excrement, or can't reach a glass of water? I have seen this for myself. It is not a lack of funds, or even a lack of staff (when I nursed back in the dark ages, we were often short of staff, but no patient ever went hungry or dirty) that is at the root of the problem. It is the lack of the right training and the right candidates. People who would make excellent nurses are deterred by lack of qualifications or the willingness to take a degree, and thus we are losing many caring young people who would make excellent nurses.

Once, I was proud to say that I was a nurse. Now, I feel a deep sense of shame that a profession which was once so great has fallen to such depths.

Ask yourself this. If you were in an aeroplane, would you rather be flown by a pilot who had a degree, or one who had learnt his skills in the cockpit? Flying aeroplanes is also a profession. A practical profession. I know which I'd choose.