House-Moving and All That

Having decided that at eighty, a house move must be tackled sooner rather than later, and with my house on the market, I have embarked upon the essential de-cluttering that downsizing means. The first stage of clearing shelves of files containing news, views and events that took me on the campaigning trail sixteen years ago has been under way for a few weeks and large spaces are now appearing.

The amount of paperwork has been staggering. A great advocate of filing and keeping records, I now realise this is a two-edged sword that is proving hugely time consuming. I was prudent to tackle it now, rather than wait for a buyer to happen along. Who could have foreseen that getting angry over other people’s problems would result in shelves crammed with so many black lever-arch files that once emptied, would pose the question, ‘…what do I do with the remains?

The immediate problem was solved after making some local inquiries; the files and their hundreds of multi-punched plastic pockets found good homes, but then the contents of those plastic pockets needed attention; many contained sensitive material so caution was needed before disposal. This meant looking through and reading everything so nothing confidential could fall into the wrong hands.

Now that doesn’t sound too onerous, and though the reading has been superficial, the content has raised many ghosts. I have been hag-ridden by the spectres of those who have had to live with the consequences of the injustices dealt them by circumstances and life in general.

Some of the cases were won by our little group, others we lost. One case took two years before the local health board issued a written apology for the neglect that caused the death of a family’s elderly father. Letters to the minister at the Welsh Assembly, the health Ombudsman, the chair of the local health board had all come back disclaiming responsibility and making excuses as to why they could not be involved in an individual case – but after a public enquiry had found in favour of the plaintiff – all capitulated and an apology was issued.

The prolonged pain and stress of that family would have been so much less had the apology been issued by the hospital in the first place. Just saying “Sorry – we’ll make sure this never happens again” would have sufficed.

Looking through my notes has made me realise that a simple apology on the part of the official body concerned could have saved so much pain for the victims in most of the cases. Why are the words, ‘I’m sorry’ so difficult to say?

Thoughts on Our National Health Service

Too many people and not enough money to go round. It has been like this for a very long time. Money will always be found for war, but there’s never enough for peace. Growing old is a curse that all must come to – if they survive long enough. Being valued for what you have contributed throughout your lifetime is no longer relevant. If you’re old – you’re a nuisance as soon as you need those regular visits to the GP or hospital. Continue reading

Second Round and Still Standing

The second operation has been as amazing as the first, but second time round everyone on the ophthalmological team recognised me and there were smiles and greetings from them as I passed from one to the other in the chain that is this amazing ophthalmological team before entering the operating theatre.

Having reached the sterile outer sanctum, seventeen of us were sitting on our chairs, all gowned up, hair-netted; socks on feet, and clutching our notes plus precious box containing the all important lens for transplanting, when the clinical assistant, who’d been responsible for sterilising the area around the eye; then applying several eye drops to dilate the pupil, as well as administering the first round of local anaesthetic to the cornea, looked at me and started chatting in English. The conversation meandered until he was asking me what I did before I retired because I spoke English so well and it was the first time he’d ever spoken to an English person who spoke English he could understand!!!!  at which point, we were interrupted by two elderly men who piped up with the same observation, to which I replied that it was all part of my job as a TEFL teacher plus other things – then followed a further explanation of what was TEFL of course, since not everyone thinks about teaching English as a foreign or second language.

Anyway, before we could  get involved further it was my turn to be ‘done’ and this time I was determined to notice everything so was really alert and nosey rather than scared stiff and almost suffering a panic attack when the sterile sheet was popped over my face so only my eye was revealed. This time round it all seemed to take place more quickly and in no time at all I was being helped off the operating table and walking out when I spotted the little elderly Sri Lankan woman who was in a wheel chair and shaking so much they’d put a blanket around her shoulders, so I went up and gave her a hug, we smiled and I gave her the thumbs up sign, which brought another smile to her face.

Later, after my Sri Lankan friend  Nanda  helped me dress and I was enjoying a cup of tea and one of the Hemas  Hospital’s very ‘dainty’ (a la Lady Bracknell) sandwiche, with my fellow patients, while the chap who’d weighed us and popped in the first set of drops; marked the eye destined for treatment with a dot of Primapore plus cotton patch on a flap of the same adhesive tape, gave us a pep talk, which Nanda later translated to save the poor fellow having to give the same spiel twice.

This is now the second day and the eye continues to be comfortable. I am able to see everything very clearly and sharply. I can manage without glasses, but my varifocals, useless before, are proving quite helpful for using the keyboard of the laptop I’ve been given the use of during my stay here.

It remains a mystery as to why I have had ALL this amazing laser surgery, plus implants, medication, blood test, ECG, etc., for so much less than it would have cost in UK as well as doing without the predicted long waiting time had I waited for the NHS post-code lottery.

Ah well, off my soap box. Enough ranting for one day.

A New Look at an Old Problem

The decision to visit Sri Lanka after a seventeen year gap was a coincidence, and all because I got angry and frustrated at the prospect of my diminishing sight as the cataracts affecting both eyes, decreased my vision as well as my confidence in my driving ability. This, in addition to the frustration and aggravation of finding that the expensive varifocal lenses I’d habitually worn were no longer effective, so I required an additional pair for reading and using the computer.

It was a recipe for frustration and anger when I learned I had about as much chance as a snowball in a hot place of having the necessary surgery in UK on the NHS as waiting lists were for marathon runners only. Of course, if I wished to pay, as  a private patient,  the current fee of several thousands of pounds to a British ophthalmologist, I could have the procedure within days. That’s when the idea of revisiting Sri Lanka was born.

Friends living there reported they’d had their cataracts removed by laser surgery and corrective lenses implanted so they could see to drive, and even read those pesky motorway signs that seemed to rush up and pass one before allowing you to read what’s on them. It wasn’t difficult to make my decision when they issued an invitation to visit and consult their Sri Lankan ophthalmologist.

I found myself applying for a new passport two years after my old one had expired. I’d not thought I’d be renewing it, but, with that and my return ticket in my handbag, I duly set off on 5th February. Now, on the 25th February I await the second procedure on my right eye on 1st March, secure in the knowledge that I can already see clearly with my left eye since the removal of the cataract and insertion of the corrective lens almost two weeks ago.

Why, I keep asking myself, is it possible to get such amazing state-of-the-art laser surgery, in pristine conditions, with a dedicated team of clinicians in Sri Lanka,(and even in Poland, so I understand from friends who have undergone the procedure, there is a similar option) for under five-hundred pounds, when patients in UK , personal friends included, are being charged as much as two thousand pounds for the removal of one cataract, from one eye, without an implant? Could it be that the medical fraternity in UK has been smitten by the same bug as that prevalent for many years in the USA – they all want to be millionaires yesterday rather than tomorrow.

Books are Reflections of the Soul


Books (Photo credit: henry…)

Often when I read, I think the book I’m reading is a reflection of what is in my soul when I find myself agreeing with the writer. Just lately, I’ve found myself speaking aloud my protestations against items in the news. Today was no exception when I heard that politicians are once again meddling with the examinations that will mean so much to the lives of our young people. Long ago, when I was young, we knew we had to pass our school-leaving certificate, then, soon after World War II, the Meddling Matties got busy and started the long list of changes that has gone on ever since.

The results have been falling standards in literacy and all things to do with education. I don’t mean only academia either; I mean all things related to what is regarded as the education of young people in their preparation for life. There once was a subject called Domestic Science which helped girls in particular gain a useful knowledge of all that might help her feed and keep her family healthy. I not only learned to cook, but also learned the right and the wrong way to do simple tasks around the house.

Much that I learned was duplicated at home by my mother and father; being an only child, my mother demanded I learn all that a girl might need to know, while my father, having caught me messing about with an electric light switch and witnessed my giving myself a nasty electric shock, insisted I learned the right way to go about things. The results were to save me a great deal of money because I was never afraid to tackle most DIY jobs around the home, and gained even greater personal satisfaction on completing a good job whether it involved cutting out and sewing a garment, or sawing wood to put up new shelving.

Learning by Doing

Learning by Doing (Photo credit: BrianCSmith)

And that is where my love of books has paid off because having a passion for books has resulted in hundreds of them on my bookshelves; giving me access to almost any subject under the sun. With the help of books I have created garments to wear, prepared and cooked delicious food to eat, landscaped several gardens, decorated all six of my homes in various places here and abroad, and still, when I need to learn about something, or get away from it all, I have my books. They are the friends who may get a little older, a little shabbier, but never fail to comfort, even when what they have to say is as familiar as the face I see in a mirror.


Oh Dear, More Warnings

Oh dear, more warnings from the scaremongers determined to keep us tip-toeing along a knife edge as they issue their pronouncements about what is, or is not, good for us. Now it’s the turn of non-steroidal painkillers that might lead to a minute increase in the risk of a stroke or heart attack. I’m beginning to think the answer is to ignore all such and get on with life while bearing in mind the age-old advice of all things in moderation when eating and drinking.


I was prescribed a minimum dose of statins when a blood test revealed a near-the-borderline cholesterol level. I did as I was told and took one every night, but over the ensuing months; my joints began swelling, becoming both stiff and very painful. I had to go for walks along my country lanes using two walking poles; climb stairs one at a time, coming down the same way; after one hour of shopping I was exhausted, while drinking a cup of tea or coffee needed two hands as one was no longer strong enough to hold a cup by the handle.

After reading through the leaflet in the packet of, by this time, my third or fourth prescription, I noted that my symptoms were described as worth reporting to my doctor. This I did and the medication was changed for another brand, but the symptoms persisted, so I told my GP I would abandon the statins and watch my diet; cutting out, or reducing my intake of foods considered most detrimental.

The one I most lamented was cheese, all varieties of which I love. Now, I indulge only on rare occasions when I have guests to lunch or dinner – and as that is such an uncommon event these days it might indeed be classed as a rarity, which is why I relish the visits of my son or daughter as an excuse to splurge when they travel from Sussex or Worcester, staying for the occasional week-end when they can get away. That also gives me an excuse to indulge in my love of cooking too.

So, it was back to my sensible good food diet and long-term tried and trusted food supplements. Gradually my mobility returned as the swelling, and the pain in my joints disappeared. Now I can trot up and down stairs; walk unaided; kneel in the garden – on my kneeler it’s true, but crouching to pull out the odd weed presents no problem, while strolling behind the petrol-driven lawnmower is a doddle, and the glass, or two, of wine I allow myself afterwards tastes all the better.