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Unravelling the story I'm trying to tell

On looking after small people.

If I’m not careful the Midget will have written more about this trip of ours than I have. I’m blaming this on the fact that she’s completely trusting me to have everything organised and sorted. Since we’re travelling with only the vaguest of plans (we’re going to be in Prague in 2 and a half weeks) it means that part of my brain is in constant calculation.

The Midget is a solid leader in many situations, as far as I can tell ever single one in which I’m not around. However I’ve spent years brainwashing her into thinking that my way is the best way. Being the big sister means you’ve got to be aware that this youngerling has spent their life following you.

Hence we were the last (bar one) onto the plane out of Heathrow. And hence the twenty minutes of confused wandering just off the wrong street named mariasomething or other in Vienna. And hence the ‘oh dear all the shops are shut on a Sunday – what are we going to eat – dilemma.


And today she missed some of the fishing huts along the edge of the Danube (I have sketches in my diary that I’ll locate when I’ve got a real computer), because I’d worn her out dragging her around viennese parks late last night (yes we almost got locked in – I was too busy prancing around pretending to be a greek goddess). Under the influence of the gentle song of the catamaran engine she fell asleep.

I’m doing ok. As far as I can tell, her biggest complaint is that cake doesn’t constitute breakfast, lunch and dinner. I bought some plums to balance her diet out. It was the first time I managed to find someone who didn’t speak English better than me, it was a lady who only spoke german.

The lady asked me what I’d like, and then a series of would you like that in a bag etc, with me answering first in Italian, Spanish or French and then in English before finally twisting my tounge into German. How do multilingual people cope?

I finally got to “dankeschon” and she laughed bemused uttering a sweet “auf wiedersehen”.

I’m not a natural linguist, although I’m making headway.

We’re now in Slovakia, and since I’m not so lucky as to have learnt slovak, I found myself at that awkward moment of not even knowing how to say ‘thanks’ as we paid for our groceries.

Luckily the very kind man in the ice cream shop (40p for an ice cream…) didn’t mind slowly repeating “dakujeme” until I got it.

[Posted from the tablet whilst travelling]


A rant about doctors, the NHS and my brain

What it feels like when I have a migraine

I had some really bad headaches and a weakness in my arm, so I went to see a doctor, Dr A. She told me that I should visit the optician and have the pressure in my eyes tested. She also put me on some drugs, drugs 1.

The optician said he’d do a pressure test of my eyes, but that he suspected it really wasn’t the problem and that Dr A was going in the wrong direction. He gave me some glasses, to reducing the strain caused when staring at a computer.

The headaches continued, including a rather peculiar incident where I kind of collapsed. So I went to see Dr B as Dr A was unavailable. I said I didn’t want to stay on drugs 1. Dr B said I should stay on them (although I could stop if I chose). Dr B also suggested drugs 2 and 3 and a brain scan.

I have a history of unexplained headaches and weaknesses in various body parts.

So I booked my brain scan on ‘choose and book’ and waited the 70 something days for the appointment. The confirmation letter came saying I had an appointment in neurology, that it could take 3 hours and I should some form of entertainment and/or bring a friend or relative.

So I arrive at the hospital, with the boyfriend, and I’m called forward to see the Neurologist, Dr C. He asks me how I can help. I want to say ‘don’t you already know’ but I politely tell him that my doctor referred me to him for a brain scan.

He seems surprised, and says this is just an appointment. I look at the boyfriend sat next to me and wonder why I’ve dragged him here.

Dr C continues by asking my age, doesn’t he have my date of birth?

I summarise my medical history, focusing on the most recent events, and Dr C tells me that he doesn’t feel a brain scan is going to show anything. He makes me walk across the room.

“My foot is a bit bruised,” I say.

“How come?”

“I fell over when I was spinning in the garden.”

He doesn’t smile.

He bangs my elbows, wrists and knees with his stick, checks I have a pulse and a heartbeat, and that my eyes can follow his finger.

He doesn’t make a single change to his facial expression as he asks:

“Can you lift your right hand and touch your fingers to your thumb.”

I raise my hand and do as instructed.

“And now your right hand.”

He asks me if I’m allergic to any drugs, I say yes and tell him. He asks how the allergy manifests, I say I had no idea since I was identified as allergic when I was a small child and therefore haven’t taken any since.

The allergy is highlighted at the top of my medical record. I’m sure all this electronic health record stuff is very important and very useful, but none of the doctors seem to read it. Since most of my medical history that relates to the brain scan is about events that happened before I was 15 years old, I don’t think I’m a greatly reliable source.

Dr C was concerned that doctors A and B hadn’t taken my blood pressure. He also was surprised that Dr B had suggested drugs 2 and 3 saying that these would be unhelpful and that any of drugs 5, 6, 7 and 8 would be a better option. Drug 1 he said was commonly used to reduce headaches in such situations, but he seemed a lot less insistent that I really needed it, certainly a lot less insistent than Dr B who had said she expected I’d be on it permanently, for the rest of my life.

I’m pretty sure headaches are the symptom not the cause and to me, treating the symptom isn’t a suitable permanent solution. Especially if there’s an alternative.

Despite this, Dr C didn’t take my blood pressure either and he did refer me for a brain scan. It will be in 4-6 weeks.

He’s also referred me to see a heart doctor (Dr D).

And since I’ve moved house I need a new GP, Dr E? Even though the surgery of doctors A and B is on my way to work.

I’m a bit fed up with it all.

The human body is complex. I don’t believe a doctor, any doctor, can in twenty minutes identify how to make mine more reliable.

They certainly can’t if they don’t read the damn record.


The misshapen perspective of a child.

books and reading

So yesterday’s Google UK doodle was for the author Diana Wynne-Jones. It was quite a lovely doodle and intrigued me, so I clicked on it.

She’s dead.

When I first saw she was dead I was worried she’d died tragically young. She was 76 when she died. She was born in 1934.

I’d expected her to be younger. I read Charmed Life when I must have been ten or so years old. It had a shiny new cover and I assumed it was a new book, written in the nineties for children like me.

So, on investigation I was surprised to find that the book was published in the seventies for children like the Father. It’s amazing how much we judge from a book’s cover, not only about the story, but about the author as well.

Of course, I’ve never had a problem reading old books. I devoured the Chalet School books by Elinor Brent-Dyer and the first of these were published in the 1920’s.

The Chalet School books I read are all owned by the Short Aunty and live in the Grandmother and Grandfather’s house above the my bed (incidentally previously the Short Aunty’s bedroom and where on occasion the Little Mermaid now sleeps). The bookshelf is conveniently located just above the bed, and beneath it is a reading light.

When I stayed there during the holidays, I read the chalet school books obsessively. I think I’ve done more night time reading at the Grandparents house than anywhere else. It was the only place I was allowed to lay in the following morning, and the only place you could reach the bookshelf for the next in the series without getting out of bed.

I read the Famous Five, Secret Seven and Biggles books in the same manner.

Sometimes I fear that I was a faster reader then than I am now.

I don’t particularly recall reading any Diana Wynne-Jones books, but I vividly recall the cover.

The orphan boy in Charmed Life is named Eric, but called Cat. I can’t remember thinking this was strange when I was younger, but now, for a girl also known as Cat this is unnerving, it’s like finding out that Cat Stevens is a man.

Why was Cat Stevens called Cat?

He’s now named Yussaf (Joseph), after the well-loved technicolour dreamcoat owner.

Who incidentally, according to the Qur’an, married Potiphar’s wife after Potiphar’s death.

Which gives a completely different perspective doesn’t it? She used to be the evil woman, associated with women like Cruella de Ville and Snow White’s stepmother.

I was already worried about Andrew Lloyd Webber’s identification of the Egyptian King as a Ramesses, of use of the title Pharaoh and that in my study of Ancient Egypt I’ve not yet come across a prison. (And I’ve got a book on laws and punishments of Ancient Egypt).

Maybe it was a Hyksos custom? Which wouldn’t make it all that Egyptian at all. More Palestinian like.


[This was the leading train of thought that took me through Saturday morning. It’s amazing how much time you can lose to Wikipedia.]

The battle wounded tribe: Handstands and cartwheels

doodle of jumping across tree stumps

  • One limp
  • One aching wrist
  • One sore shoulder
  • One nauseous stomach

I’m in a magical house, one where time seems manipulated. It’s full of peculiarities such as a frightening pink and grey bathroom, vast cellars, and a toilet happily stood next to the washing machine in the same room that leads to the garage, just to name a few.

Things are a little topsy-turvy—like the two back doors that open onto the front garden, and the front door that opens onto the lawn.

On the lawn is a wooden swing looking out over the small white fence that prevents small children falling into the stream. You often see ducks and a solitary goose paddling here. There’s rumoured to be a kingfisher, but I’ve not yet seen him. Across the stream is a field with roaming cows.

And there’s a steam train.

Steam train

Somewhat different you might say.

So there we were. A gathering of adults enjoying one another’s company, discussing computing, sport and books like perfectly normal people.

Before I knew it, the Boyfriend was running up the hill, as if he’d been cast in ‘the sound of music’, and all to see a train. The Midget and I were shoe-jousting on the swings. The Noph was leading circus tricks of handstands and cartwheels on the lawn and the Grump had his shirt off—apparently it got in the way when he was upside down.

The Dutch-Kiwi laughed at us as we wheelbarrow raced down the lawn. Not unexpectedly the Grump and the Boyfriend with their average height at 6’2.5’’ beat the Midget and I with our average height of 5’4.5’’.

Deep Thought folded his arms disapprovingly.

Back to handstands, and the men argued over technique in their insistent on perfecting the art. I cartwheeled across the lawn, satisfied that what I was doing was recognisable as a cartwheel. As always, the Noph was somewhat more elegant.

The Grump held the Boyfriend’s legs in the air so he could see if he could do a press-up from a handstand position. He could.

So could the Midget.

I put my arms out and span. The world turned into a blur.

“It will end badly,” the Boyfriend said.

And I fell over with a crunch.


Picnics and protests; explosions and emotions

Didcot Power Station

Protests for ubuntu in Gaza

Yesterday many people marched through London in protest at what is happening in Gaza. I wanted to cross the road and sit on the grass in the shade of a large tree in Hyde Park and chat with some of my tribe whilst eating an extensive picnic. Instead I stood and waited as the hurt and angry protesters marched past with their placards, chanting.

Dust, rubble and destruction in Didcot

At 5am this morning our local power station collapsed in on itself after 180 kg of explosives exploded. The Boyfriend, Deep Thought and I watched from a safe distance. We heard the boom first on the radio, and then louder as the sound wave hit us.

The enthusiastic radio reporter interviewed some of the people watching, and each time they stated how emotional an experience it was.

It was an impressive display of destructive power. I was glad we’d gone out to watch, even if it had meant sitting at the roadside from 3am desperately trying to stay awake (and from time to time failing). I felt that it was something that ought to be witnessed.  It’s a new perspective on buildings, a reminder of the throw-away attitude of today’s society.

Fear, anger and excitement, and nothing

Maybe it’s because I’ve only lived here for two months and the land isn’t really home, but the cooling towers disappearance in a cloud of thick dust wasn’t what I’d call emotional.

And maybe it’s because they’re not my family and friends that I’m not moved to act when it comes to Gaza?

Or maybe it’s because I don’t feel that there’s anything I can do?

Or maybe it’s that the world is so incredibly big, so overwhelming that I don’t know where I’d start if I did act on my beliefs on any scale?

Girl sitting above the clouds looking down on civilisation