Friday, March 28, 2008

Hospital Tales Part 5 - The Farce Continues

I finally got to speak to the clinic which I was having trouble with earlier in the week and they have received my referral. "You are now on a waiting list" she informed me. "We will write to you to tell you that you are on a waiting list and will be contacted within a maximum of 4 weeks". "So I can't book an appointment now", I queried. "No", she said, speaking slowly as if I were stupid, "You will get a letter in 4 weeks asking you to call to make an appointment. We send out a bundle of letters and then it is first come first served as to the appointments".

So I have waited 2 weeks for the referral whereon I will have to wait another 4 weeks to receive the opportunity to fight to get an appointment on a first come, first served basis from a clinic which will only answer their telephones on Monday, Wednesday and Friday until 4pm, except if you call at lunchtime, when they don't answer them and you get put through to Islington PCT and the line goes dead.

There has to be a better system.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Alpha Mummy

The Alpha Mummy posters are up in arms again today. For once they are not at war over the stay-at-home vs working mothers debate (although no doubt that will re-surface presently). No, they are outraged because some people have 'hijacked' their debate. It seems the Alpha Mummies want to ban anyone from commenting on 'their' threads who is not an 'Alpha Mummy'.

It seems that what has got them het up is a MAN has infiltrated the blog attached to a national newspaper which is ONLY FOR ALPHA MUMMIES. And not only a man but one who expressed a different opinion, although it has to be said, in a slightly oafish fashion. To be fair to him I don't think his method of expressing himself varied that much from some of the other regular commenters. His crime was to start off his comment (on a post debating the pros and cons of the embryo bill - a view on which cannot surely be limited to mothers) by stating where his point of view comes from (male, a father, a catholic, a scientist and lawyer) which I think can be helpful on a thread which contains so many separate points of view. His basic, if long winded point, seemed to be that life starts some point between conception and birth and at that point (whenever it is) the embryo is entitled to protection. Ergo if 'it' is entitled to protection then it is not right for 'it' to be sacrificed for the grearer good; his viewpoint was that this point was at conception therefore embryo research in this context should not be permitted. What the alpha mummies objected to was this statement: "unless there is/are god/s then all ethics are abitrary." In actual fact, I think he is using arbitary to mean something other than coming from nowhere, rather that ethics are not based in concrete facts, to which I agree. It seems an unusual place to start an argument though, as it the existence of god/s is not something that can be 'proved' in the scientific sense. However, it is not necessarily a statement which deserved jumping on in such vitriolic fashion ending with Jane writing "My original objection to xx's behaviour here was that he arrives out of the blue, not an Alpha mummy but as a guest, and then posts in a way that makes me think his ambition is to control the debate by setting the questions that he wants us to answer".

How they wish for an alpha mummy to be defined, I don't know. Certainly some of the regular commenters go by female names and appear to have children, but as we all know, you can take on any persona on the internet. Most of them claim to have Oxbridge firsts and be busy, but quite frankly they can't be that busy if they debate so often during the day. They also seem to be unaware that they are attacking people for behaving as they are doing.


Tried to leave work early tonight. Finally managed to leave at 6.38pm and ran all the way to Exmouth Market to try to get to the Unpackaged shop before it closed at 7pm. I got there with one minute to spare and was very pleased that Catherine had not shut.

I had brought with me my empty Ecover washing up liquid and washing liquid containers so I had them refilled whilst I had a quick look round the shop. Large bins filled with flour, rice, oats, pasta and other dry food stand in the middle of the shop whilst shelves surround the other sides of this beautiful old converted dairy. I didn't have any time to remember what else I wanted and I hadn't brought any of my containers so I left it for the evening but I will be bringing back my empty oil and vingar bottles to be re-filled and stocking up on dried goods next week.
The owner, Catherine, was very sweet and would have stayed open later if I had wanted to buy anything else. We had a great chat about the products that she sells and the ethos behind her shop. If anyone lives anywhere near, the Unpackaged shop is a fantastic local retailer and if you bring your own containers you get a 50p discount per item which is a great incentive for people to cut down on packaging as well as just recycling it.

Hospital Tales Part 4

Just when I thought my experiences with the NHS were getting better, this happened.

Referral from my GP to a(nother) clinic. According to the paper she gave me I needed to ring them 2 working days after the referral to make an appointment which would be approximately in 6 weeks time. Instead of being able to ring up each day of the week and arrange an appointment when available, I could only ring on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday, with each day relating to appointments booked for a specific day. I.e. call on Monday for a Thursday or Friday appointment. So far, so good, if a little confusing. I, however, was referred last Tuesday so the next day that they were open to book appointments was the Friday. Which was a bank holiday. Or Monday, which was also a bank holiday. I finally called the following Wednesday where the conversation went along the lines of this:

Me: "I'm calling to make an appointment for XX clinic. My GP referred me last week"
Them: "Date of birth"
Me: "xxx"
Them: "which clinic"
Me: (repeats initial statement)
Them: "what's your name?"
Me: (spells name)
Them: "your date of birth?"
Me: (repeats date of birth, again")
Them: "how do you spell your name?"
Me: (spells name)

Turns out, they couldn't find my referral. "Your GP must not have sent it. Contact them and ask them to fax it, marked urgent". Phone went dead. So I called the GP surgery where I was greeted with a barked "hold the line". A few minutes later I explained the issue. "Date of birth?" she asked... "Yes, you were referred to XX clinic last Monday" she confirmed, confidently. "Well", I responded, "they don't seem to have any record of it being received. Can you re-fax it today, marked urgent?", I pleaded. "OK" she snapped and again the line went dead. So, as I have to wait 2 (clear) working days, that will bring me to Monday, two weeks after the initial referral.

Strikes me that Islington PCT could do with an integrated computer system...

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Hospital Tales Part 3

Back to the hospital for another scan today. Same hospital; different department. Last week I wrote about the problems with administration which I encountered. Over the weekend I went for a drink with some friends, a group which included one who works for the NHS. "How do you find the administration in your hospital?" I asked her, explaining that at the hospital I go to I had found it lacking. "Appalling" she replied cheerfully, considering the wine list in the bar that we were in. "Last week", she continued, pointing to a bottle, "we had a live donor op. You know, kidney passing from mother to daughter, or whatever". I nodded, both in agreement to the wine and also concurring that I was following her story. "Well, the donor was on the table in theatre when suddenly someone realised that the donee had a temperature and was still on the ward". She ordered the bottle and the bar man handed me the glasses, "someone had forgotten to write it down and pass on the message". We went to sit down and she ended, "still, at least they hadn't started cutting" and poured the wine.

So it was with some surprise that I found myself back on the street a mere 10 minutes after the scheduled time for my scan. Granted, the department was much larger than the one I visited last week, being an entire outpatients department rather than simply a clinic, with a much more ordered reception desk, queuing system, note system. In fact, the whole system seemed far superior to that of the clinic upstairs, perhaps simply because these staff appeared familiar with theirs and knew (or appeared at the very least) what was going on. Anyway, I arrived with ten minutes to spare, presented my letter, my notes were found and details checked. I had just sat down to read whilst waiting and I was called in. It was over and done with in ten minutes and I was free to leave. I was so surprised I didn't know what to do with myself.

So I called a friend who works from home and went to his house and am sitting drinking tea, playing with his cats and waiting for him to finish work so we can go and watch another friend's band this evening.

Easter Weekend

As a child Easter meant a trip to Yorkshire, to see Grandparents, packed into the back of our Volvo with my two sisters, Dad driving through the night and carrying us into the house in the early hours of the morning. It meant a service on Good Friday, usually outside in the Cattle Market/Auction Mart. On other days the yard would be full of farm trucks and land rovers, animals being loaded and unloaded by farmers in green wellies and tweed jackets, the air thick with the sound (and smell) of dozens and dozens of sheep and cows, the auctioneer's voice raised above the general melee. Yet on Good Friday the only sounds were the voices of 30 or so villagers singing hymns and the preacher's voice against the quiet air, punctuated only by the occasional wheeling cry of a curlew, the yard quiet in contemplation and prayer, faces lifted to the warmth of the spring sun. Saturday morning was always spent at the church, helping Granny construct the miniature Easter garden, complete with a large stone rolled away and real flowers hidden in tiny glass vases behind stones and moss, which would then be blessed by the vicar at the Sunday morning service, prior to the Easter Egg hunt in the church garden.

This year was supposed to follow suit only illness put a stop to it and so we found ourselves at my parent's house instead. It didn't really feel like Easter at all, with it being so early in the year and being in Berkshire and neither of my sisters being present. While we used the opportunity to catch up with other friends and see, for the first time ever at Easter, my other grandparents, I felt rather nostalgic for the security of the familiarity of childhood.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Petition calling Chinese Governement to respect Tibet

I just signed an urgent petition calling on the Chinese government to respect human rights in Tibet and engage in meaningful dialogue with the Dalai Lama.

"After nearly 50 years of Chinese rule, the Tibetans are sending out a global cry for change. But violence is spreading across Tibet and neighbouring regions, and the Chinese regime is right now considering a choice between increasing brutality or dialogue, that could determine the future of Tibet and China. We can affect this historic choice. China does care about its international reputation. Its economy is totally dependent on "Made in China" exports that we all buy, and it is keen to make the Olympics in Beijing this summer a celebration of a new China that is a respected world power. President Hu needs to hear that 'Brand China' and the Olympics can succeed only if he makes the right choice. But it will take an avalanche of global people power to get his attention. Click below to join me and sign a petition to President Hu calling for restraint in Tibet and dialogue with the Dalai Lama -- and tell absolutely everyone you can right away. The petition is organized by Avaaz, and they are urgently aiming to reach 1 million signatures to deliver directly to Chinese officials"

Please join in with your support and sign the petition.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


It is what seems like another day in an endless stream of grey and rainy days; cold, damp and miserable. Walking home last night it could have been November were it not for the sudden strong scent of wet blossom glistening in the orange light of the street lamps. This small reminder that spring is on her way provided a small amount of compensation for my wet muddy feet which left little sock prints all down the hall when I finally returned home.

Yet Saturday will not be remembered solely for the rain or the fact that I went all the way to the Tate to sit in the members cafe and count the cranes on the sky-line. No, Saturday for me will be remembered as the day I ate a ladybird and realised just why they are so brightly coloured.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

More hospital tales

Arrived at hospital for appointment at 10am at 9.55am. Waited at reception counter for a few minutes until it was my turn. There were several administration staff at the desk, all equally incompetent, rifling pieces of paper attempting to look efficient but becoming increasingly flustered. "I've got an appointment at 10am" I said and she finally found my name of a piece of paper and started filling in the form. "Can I check your details?" she asked and proceeded to reel off my personal information, all correct. Until she reached my GP surgery, which was the old one. "Sorry", I said, "that's the old one. I wrote a letter to you to tell you the new details". She looked annoyed "I wasn't here that day" she replied, although I had said nothing about when I sent the letter. I gave her the new details although given the early time of day and my tired state I accidentally said "x x surgery" instead of health centre. I was instructed to take a seat and wait for my appointment so I asked how long the wait would be. Obviously I wasn't expecting a precise time but I was a little surprised to find that they were still on the 9.05am appointments and it was now 10.10am. I called work, explained the situation and sat down to read my book. After a few minutes the administrator accusingly called me to the desk: "You said x x surgery but it is actually x x health center. I have found it now" (implication that this was my fault although I had attempted to update records via letter), "we have updated your hospital record but not this scan clinic record. I have updated it now for you". Which is presumably why my GP never received the results of the last scan and why, after the scan which finally happened at 11am or so, I asked the consultant if I could take the letter to my GP myself. He agreed. Presumably he too has witnessed the inefficiency of the administrators.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Bought some new liquid soap type thing for the shower. Laughter, it says, "conjures up the early evening paseo, when bathed and refreshed after a day on the beach, locals enjoy a leisurely stroll along the Spanish sea front. An uplifting blend of lime, rosemary and juniper enlivened by an unexpected sweet, spicy bite of ginger carried in the breeze".

Sounds a lot better than plain old body wash, non?

Saturday, March 08, 2008


An unexpectedly free Saturday afternoon. The day dawned rainy and grey and I thought I would make the most of a few spare hours by doing some de-cluttering and cleaning.

I am a hoarder. I keep everything 'just in case'. Even the 2 bags of clothes destined for the charity shop have not made it past the front door. Today I decided to tackle the papers which were stacked inside the shredder. Those shredded and re-cycled I decided to take the brave step and shred some more things. Hidden at the bottom of my bookcase were 3 paper carrier bags of brochures, application forms and rejection letters; the product of 4 years of job applications. One by one I fed them through the shredder, watching years of trying and failing to secure my career being eaten by the whirring jaws and been spat out as I should have seen them all along. Little pieces of paper.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Book Review: Petite Anglaise by Catherine Sanderson

Another day, another book of another blog...

As you might or might not know, depending on what you read and whether you are a blogger or at least reader of blogs, Petite Anglaise is not only the nom-de-plume of Catherine Sanderson, a 35 year old British girl who lives in Paris who started blogging to escape from her reality of motherhood, an imperfect relationship and the grind of everyday life, but her first book as well.

Though the blog Petite Anglaise has lost a little of its initial charm - these days there is a only a blurred distinction between Petite and Catherine; the majority of the Catherine's writing is promotion of the book - it is still an interesting read. The blog's inception was as a comment on her life in Paris but gradually Petite Anglaise took on a life of its own. Indeed, Catherine wrote somewhere that Petite became a glossier, wittier version of herself; a character whose first name was Petite, surname Anglaise. Catherine began living a duel life - as Catherine/Mamam she looked after her daughter and her long-term partner, worked as a bi-lingual secretary and carried on much as before in her beloved but increasingly care-worn Paris. In the evenings via her blog and then at blogging events in person, Catherine became Petite. She moved on from merely describing Paris to examining details of her personal life - the more her partner worked and pulled away from her, the more she craved his attention, using her blog to write open letters to him, knowing that he would never read them. But others read it, in their droves. It wasn't too long before Catherine started chatting to some of her regular readers, one in particular. It wasn't much longer before she started an affair with this man, initially through e-mails and texts but eventually a rendezvous in a hotel whilst she was to supposed to be at work. In that moment, in the one afternoon where Catherine and Petite collided, Catherine's life (and those of her family) altered irrevocably. Returning home to her partner and daughter, she ended her long-term relationship and moved into life as a single mother. She later wrote about the meeting on her blog - something which when the blog finally reached her boss's radar was used to sack her immediately. She may have won her case when she took him to an employment tribunal but the damage was done. Petite continued to gather momentum; via crushing hurt when she discovered that Lover realised that he had fallen in love with Petite but not necessarily Catherine and that he couldn't love either enough to carry on with their relationship to the sacking which brought with it an 'outing', as well as readers in their thousands. A book deal and eventually a new relationship and an engagement in the early hours of New Years Day followed.

And on that note, to the book. Most people reading it will know the background in one form or another yet it is an intriguing book, Petite Anglaise. As a reader of the blog details of Catherine's life are not unfamiliar yet this was not a collection of posts lifted from the blog. This was a year in her life, a background context if you will, to the subject of her blog. She returns to her initial blogging subject - her love of Paris and life as an English girl living in Paris - fitting into it an analysis and commentary of her actions and thoughts in relation to her blog. She attempts to examine herself and some of her motives behind what and why she writes yet the style is that of the familiar chick-lit formulae emphasised by the pink cover with line drawings. Catherine occasionally indulges in standard cliches but by and large it is readable.

It is an odd thing critiquing someone's book which you know is actually about their life. There are clearly biased opinions and all the detail is saved for the descriptions of Paris rather than developing the characters. James (Lover) manages to come across as a rather weak character and one can only assume what he will make of his starring role in someone else's fame. Of Mr Frog, to whom the book is also dedicated, there is even less detail save that he seems bigger than could be expected to still treat Catherine kindly after all she put him through. I hesitate to criticise Catherine too strongly for I feel she, through the book, admits that she has not behaved entirely appropriately but managed to stay true to herself. For example, Catherine states that her relationship with Mr Frog was floundering when they decided to have a child. The moral streak in me suggests that those are not the best intentions with which to enter into parenthood let alone words to be written down where the child in question might one day read them. Yet Catherine has the ability to be honest and examine the rights and wrongs of those actions, so who I am to (necessarily and arbitrarily) judge them.

All in all, I enjoyed reading Petite Anglaise and would recommend it to any of the followers of her blog. It satisfied my curiosity to know more about Catherine and her life leading up to and behind Petite, although her admission that she occasionally embellished and distorted the truth to make better posting on her blog made me wonder if some of the elements of the book had not suffered the same fate. In general though I admired her honesty - she didn't paint herself as either a perfect person nor one who had suffered at the hands of others. Indeed at times she alluded to the fact that she became Petite and behaved how she had created her persona to behave. It will be interesting to see how she reconciles these suggestions as her blog continues post book launch and whether or not she feels the need to add a second installment to her memoirs.

Monday, March 03, 2008

16 or 26?

My body and mind are a little confused this week. A weekend involving a gymnastics class, watching some unsigned bands and attending an RN cadet event? Those were favoured past times of my sixteen year old self. So it was with some nostalgia that I met up with an old CCF friend whose URNU ship was moored alongside HMS President for the weekend on Saturday evening, joining the crew for scran which turned out to be spaghetti bolognese and discovering I had not lost the old art of sitting in a group of people I did not know, eating slightly bland food whilst the ship rolled and elbows banged and the noise level rose.

It was with more nervousness than nostalgia when I started my first gymnastics class in 10 years on Sunday afternoon. Despite being incredibly out of shape my body remembered all the moves (even if I am incapable of executing them presently) and I soon reverted to the discipline of a 2 hour advanced class. My muscles the next morning are a different story though as I can feel every single last one of them, long forgotten and protesting at their spring reawakening. Gymnastics class over I hurried to MacDonald's for a quick calorie level and salt upper before heading to watch a friend's band play a battle of the band style competition. My nostalgia returned more sharply than before as I remembered gigs where I would stand uncomfortably (my boyfriend being the bassist of a long forgotten band) watching the set and trying to look 'cool'. These days I care much less whether I fit in aesthetically, my emphasis being on individual style and, dare I say it, comfort. I had also forgotten my make-up bag so I was bare-faced in light blue skinny jeans, white converse, a cotton top/dress my sister brought back from Thailand and a cardigan. Not a drop of black in sight. Although I stood out rather from the rock/indie/metal-goers my 26 year old self didn't even worry about it. That I was also able to consume beer without worrying about ID no doubt helped ease the situation.

So, from one extreme to the other. My 16 year old past-times relived 10 years on, interspersed with my normal 26 year old activities. A dinner with friends on Friday evening followed by a prolonged poker game. Retiring to bed as it got light knowing my days of staying up all night and carrying straight on with the next day are long since over. Housework, laundry, cleaning, tidying, eating lunch complete with chutney I made myself. A visit to the Tate Gallery (members bar for lunch, followed by exhibitions). Walking along the South Bank. Getting up for work.