Eye, eye! Part 1

It was Goose Fair time yet again.  That could only mean one thing.  The Park and Ride was out of action.  I had an appointment at the QMC for 8:30am for my pre- op chat.  Now because of Goose Fair, my usual route in was blocked. Normally I park at the Park and Ride and glide in by tram. In my usual parking space was a tall tower with capsules at either end.  The tower would spin vertically while the capsules would rotate to much screaming inside.  I don’t think my eye appointment would be quite so adrenaline pumping.  But you never know…

So how to get to the QMC?  Driving, like for most of hospitals up and down the land, was out of the question.  My husband mentioned I could always park in the special, secret parking space.  Everyone who regularly goes to a hospital has one of these.  My husband’s one was about a fifteen-minute walk from the hospital.  Plus, I don’t think it was that secret anymore. So, what to do?

Another reason why I was also feeling anxious was also due to my appointment letter.  I had a purge of burning my hospital appointment letters after the barrage of MRI scans that I had in September.  In the purge, I had foolishly burnt the appointment letter for my eye op.  Not to worry.  The hospital sent me a text reminding me of the appointment.  However, the text said I had an appointment at the QMC at 8:30am.  Where in the QMC, the text couldn’t tell me.

“Go and ask at reception.” Said my husband.

“But what about data protection?”

“It’s YOUR data for Christ’s sake!”

Good point.

So, I arrived by magic carpet at the QMC and ventured to the reception by the Main Entrance.  They were perfectly happy telling me where my appointment was. We did the usual pre-flight checks.

“Ooooo… summer of ’76 eh? That were a hot one…” said the receptionist who then preceded to tell me her memories of it.  The only thing I contributed to the conversation was, “I think I spent most of it in my nappy.” which wasn’t great.

Anyway, my appointment was in eye outpatients so off I trotted.  When I got there, I was met by a queue of five people and a harassed looking receptionist, searching files.  All of the five people in front of me had appointment letters.  Not good.  The man in front of me in the queue was smartly dressed, wearing a blazer with and RAF pin on the lapel.  I’m not too sure what he was expecting from the eye clinic, but I had the feeling that he might be disappointed.

My turn came and I was shooed around the corner to the pre- assessment part of the clinic.  I went around the corner and was greeted by a huge, empty waiting area.  On the far wall was a huge TV showing Heartbeat.  Strange choice for half eight in the morning.  After about five minutes, a professional woman in a business suit appeared.

“I’m afraid the clinic doesn’t open until nine.”

“Well, my appointment is for half eight.”

“That can’t be possible.”

“Well… it is.”

I was dreading the obvious next question regarding a letter.  But I was saved by a jolly looking nurse.

“Oh! You must be my first appointment.  Please take a seat and I’ll just get my bits together.”

I smiled smugly and the woman bustled off.

Soon I was shown into a small windowless room.  My height and weight was measured as was my blood pressure and temperature.  She asked me a lot of questions as to whether I had any illnesses that I had never heard of.  The life-threatening illness I did have wasn’t mentioned at all.  It soon raised its ugly head when the topic of regular medication came up.  She believed Herceptin wouldn’t affect the sedative.  Phew.

She described what would happen on the day.  I would check in, have the op and then recover on the ward.  Once I had eaten and passed urine after the op, I was then free to go.  As I would be wearing a gown, she strongly recommended that I bring in a dressing gown and a pair of slippers.  The way she described it, it sounded like a visit to the day spa in Centre Parcs, rather than an operation.  Here’s hoping….

The discussion took a strange turn when she outlined what happened after the op.  For twenty-four hours after the op I couldn’t drive, use heavy machinery, use electrical items like kettles or microwaves or sign any legal documentation.  Urm OK…

“Do you have a responsible adult at home to look after you after your op?”

I snorted.

“Well there is my husband…”

You could tell she had heard this joke many times before.  I didn’t need to finish the punchline.  I signed something to say that I had understood what was going on and off I went.  Spa day at Centre Parcs.  That’s all it was…

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Curb Your Enthusiasm

Life is often far stranger than fiction.  None more so than in the world of Larry David.  Larry, twenty years ago, created Seinfeld, which grew into one of the greatest sitcoms ever screened.  It’s popularity, especially in the States, was ground breaking.

Seinfeld finished quite a while ago and Curb Your Enthusiasm documents Larry’s life ever since.  Although the premise doesn’t sound great, it’s absolutely hilarious.  This is mostly due to Larry himself and the weird and wonderful scenarios he finds himself in.  Some elements are very like Fawlty Towers.  Each episode revolves around a farce. A series of events are introduced which then lead to a conclusion where everyone is shouting at one another.  With Larry himself, like Basil, we are either laughing with him, rooting for him or, more commonly, laughing at him.

Curb is great because it also shows how ridiculous some of the first world problems we have are.  In one-episode Larry gets annoyed with a woman who he views, is abusing the free samples rule in an ice cream parlour.  The way the confrontation occurs is done in such a way where you are either with Larry or against him.  It’s only when he is retelling what happened that you see how bonkers the situation was.

I’m catching up on Curb and still have a season to go before I am ready for its return in October. The last episode I saw was one where Larry’s girlfriend was diagnosed with cancer.  Larry, at first, is sympathetic.  Then, a couple of days after the diagnosis, his girlfriend asks him to drive her to somewhere.

“Why? Just because you have cancer, it doesn’t mean you can’t drive.” says Larry.

His girlfriend isn’t at all happy with this and a huge row ensues.  However, they are both right.  Larry is right in that his girlfriend CAN drive.  Why should she stop because she has cancer?  His girlfriend is right because she has just heard what is the worst possible news that anyone could hear.  Her mental state must be all over the place.   This coupled with the medication that she is now on, could mean that in no way should she be in charge of a vehicle.

And here is the crux of illness.  When you get ill, it infects the whole body.  The biggest organ that gets infected is your mind.  You may have a broken leg, backache, cancer, whatever.  The thing is that your life won’t be as it was before and this will affect your mental outlook.  That’s why, in my opinion, all illnesses are mental illnesses.  This is not to say that mental illnesses have any less impact on their sufferers than physical illnesses do.  In fact, it’s far worse.  At least if I have a broken leg, others can understand why I’m not feeling great.  Having depression doesn’t quite have such an obvious visual cue.

Also, illness ebbs and flows.  You have good days and bad days.  What irritates others, especially employers and institutions, is when these good and bad days are.  It annoys me when you get people spouting off about the flexibility of the workforce.  I’m all for more flexibility, but it’s one sided.  We must be flexible to work at a drop of a hat, but should we need time off for illness or to care for a sick relative, the door is slammed shut.

The nature of illness is changing.  People are living longer and living with illnesses.  Yet there has been a lack of funding in services, benefits, respite, social care, wages to help these people get on with their lives.  Until this changes, Larry better pull his finger out as living with people with illnesses certainly isn’t black and white.

 

Wanted Down Under

Wanted Down Under is a daytime staple.  For the uninitiated, a family from the UK go “down under” to either Australia or New Zealand for a week.  During the week, they weigh up the pros and cons of emigrating.

Over time it has become rather formulaic.  The family compromises of a husband, wife and three kids.  Normally it’s the husband who is the driving force behind the move.  He’s had a gap year down under and yearns to relive that experience.  The wife is not that keen.  As for the kids, the youngest is up for it, the middle one is won over during the week but the older teenage one, refuses point blank to shift.  The mum won’t go anywhere without all the kids in tow, so there is a stale mate.

Wanted Down Under flies the family over and puts them up in a lovely house.  They spend the week perusing houses, jobs, schools, way of life and the difference in costs.  All the while the oldest teenager pouts their way through.  When it comes to the climax at the end, most of the family votes for life down under, while the teenager remains undecided.  And then it ends.  We are left dangling wondering if they ever went.

There have been episodes where we do find out what happens next.  In those episodes, we find out that life down under isn’t all sun, sea and surf.  It’s bloody hard work, living so far away.  That’s the thing with these types of programmes.  They are selling a dream.  Work is work no matter where you live, even if it’s sunny.

As my appointment with the plastic surgeon looms, I can’t help viewing it all with a bit of caution.  Like the people on Wanted Down Under, I feel at times that I’m being sold a dream, that might not necessarily come true.  I have a nagging feeling that it may be harder to recover.  No one seems to know how the radiotherapy will affect the healing. But the drooling is getting worse and worse.  It’s getting so bad that I can’t say more than five sentences without someone handing me a tissue.  It’s not so bad with friends and family, but when you are talking to all those neutral people in your life, shop assistants, delivery men, builders, it’s just plain annoying.  Of course, everyone is far too polite to say anything. But weirdly, I kind of wish they would…

Fargo

“This is a true story.  The events depicted took place in Minnesota in 2011.  At the request of the survivors, the names have been changed.  Out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred.” Welcome to Fargo where all is not what it seems.

The latest series of Fargo dealt with a story as old as time.  Brothers, jealousy, death and money.  You can’t get any more ancient than that.  Yet it was the ending that was so brilliant.  The big baddie of the piece V.M. Varga, who is a Brummie of course, is finally caught by a freshly promoted Gloria Burgle who now works for the Department of Homeland Security.  Gloria revels in telling Varga the fate that awaits him.  Locked up in Rikers Island with no hope of parole.  Justice will be duly served.  Varga has other ideas.  He mocks Gloria for her naivety.  He is the grease that keeps the corrupt world we live in turning.  He calmly informs her that someone far superior to her will walk through the door, have a quiet word and he will be free to go on his merry way.  Gloria isn’t convinced.  Varga insists it will happen.  The camera then focuses on the door.  Who will come through?  Will it be Gloria’s federal agents or Varga’s evil overlords?  We are left hanging.

I had a similar experience in the eye clinic.  Well sort of anyway.  Last week I received an appointment to go to the eye clinic on Saturday at 1:30pm. Welcome to the seven day a week NHS folks!  Lovely but I had another appointment at the eye clinic in two weeks’ time to discuss my operation.  Maybe they had brought it forward?  I didn’t recognise the name of the consultant, so I was hopeful.

After the obligatory eye test, it is the eye clinic after all, I sat and like Varga, awaited my fate.  When the door opened it was… Mrs T. Great.  She ushered me in.  I mentioned the operation.  She wasn’t interested in the slightest.  She asked me about the cancer.  I wasn’t interested in telling my story for the umpteenth time.  We had reached a stalemate.  She wasn’t interested in me and I wasn’t interested in her.  Yet there was a chink.  She booked a scan to check the nerves in my eye.  That could be good and quite useful for the surgeon.  I explained I was on holiday the week following the appointment.  She snorted.  Did I really think the scan would happen that quickly?  She said that she would see me in three months’ time.  Not before I see someone who can actually help me first.

The League Of Gentlemen

Life seems to be becoming ever more like the life in Royston Vasey.  For the uninitiated, Royston Vasey is the fictional town where the League of Gentlemen is set.  The League of Gentleman was a comedy series that followed the lives of several of the citizens of Royston Vasey.  Many of the characters have weirdly morphed into real life.  The most obvious example of this are Tubbs and Edward who run the local shop for local people.  Extreme Brexiteers before the term was even formulated.

My favourite character has to be Pauline.  Pauline is horrific.  Pauline, brilliantly played by Steve Pemberton, is the tutor of the finding a job programme at the Job Centre.  She enjoys the power she has over the job seekers and regularly threatens to stop their benefits if they question her in anyway.

There are certain similarities between Pauline and my line of work.  In the first episode, she asks the group to shout out names of jobs, only to tell them they don’t have a hope in hell in getting any of them.  This was quite like a class where I got my learners to do an A to Z of jobs, although I wasn’t quite as dismissive about their job prospects.

Pauline shows how ridiculous some of these courses are.  Mickey, one of Pauline’s jobseekers, gets an interview.  However, it’s in the middle of the course.  Pauline threatens to stop his benefits if he goes to the interview as he must finish the course first.  Sadly, this mirrors what happens in reality.  On our courses, if a learner is enrolled to do an exam, there is an expectation that the learner will sit that exam come hell or high water.  If the learner gets a job, becomes ill, has a baby, we are expected to drag them in to complete the course and do the exam.  It’s all about the spread sheet darling.

The spread sheet has spread into all aspects of life.  Obviously when you are dealing with inanimate objects, they serve a purpose.  Yet humans aren’t like that.  Humans change.  We are an evolving species after all.  Yet the gap between those who scrutinise the spread sheet and those who are on the frontline gets wider and wider.

It’s all been a bit quiet on the health front recently, spread sheets aside.  However, the drooling is getting worse and worse.  I went to a concert with my sister in Hyde Park.  We tried to take the obligatory selfie.  I looked awful.  “Try opening your mouth a little.” I did. I still looked awful.  So now I have become like Mariah Carey in photos.  Mariah Carey is famous for never showing the left side of her face.  If it’s good enough for Mariah, it’s good enough for me.  Bring on the face lift!

Bucket List

Thanks to Mr Facebook, I know that it has been two years since I was attached to a handsome man and jumped out of a plane.  It wasn’t quite the experience I was expecting.  I did it because I am quite lazy and couldn’t be bothered to train for anything exhausting like a marathon.  The first man who ever ran a marathon, died straight afterwards.  That’s all you need to know about my view on marathon running.

Anyway, inspired by memories of Janet Ellis on Blue Peter leaping out of planes, I thought why not?  It’ll be over quick.  Everyone I spoke to who had done a sky dive kept saying how amazing it was.  A few were envious that I had had the opportunity to do it.  The allotted hour arrived and there I was, sat between the legs of a very attractive parachute instructor in a rickety plane, that kept climbing higher and higher.  Everyone in the plane seemed very chilled.

“Right. I’m off then…” said a jolly bloke as he jumped through the open hatch, like he was popping out to Tesco’s.

Then it was our turn.  I had stupidly paid for a video of the occasion which was a huge error.  I dangled my legs out of the hatch, with a loon who had a camera fixed on his head asking me how I was feeling every five seconds.  The instructor slowly shuffled forward and soon I was dangling under the plane. Then we dropped…

When we landed, the camera loon ran up.

“So, how was it?!?”

“Interesting… I think I might be sick…”

Not exactly the answer he was hoping for.  I was quickly disentangled and made to put my head between my knees.  I felt a lot better after that.

Sky diving is often high on people’s bucket lists.  I’m a bit dubious about bucket lists.  It’s all a bit organised for me. The best fun and experiences are the ones that are unplanned and spontaneous. The planning aspect somehow, takes the joy away from that, for me anyway.

I was in two minds before doing my sky dive.  I had started going to a women’s cancer group and one of the women in the group, Lou, persuaded me to do it.  Lou and I got on well from the start.  We shared a similar taste in humour.  Lou had breast cancer and found out that she had the BRAC-2 gene, made famous by Angelina Jolie.

“Believe you me that is the one and only thing I have in common with Angelina Jolie.  Mind you if she ever fancies trading Brad in…”

When I first mentioned the sky dive, she urged me to do it, just to ogle at the instructors at least.

“They are all gorgeous!”

A week after the sky dive, Lou took a turn for the worse and was admitted to hospital.  I went to see her.  She was in a bad way and was drifting in and out of consciousness.  Her mum asked how the sky dive went.  I told my story of it and I thought I could see Lou smile in the corner of my eye.  Lou’s mum asked who the instructor was. It turned out that Lou had done a sky dive five year previous with the same instructor.

“He was absolutely gorgeous!”

Sadly, Lou died the next week.  Myself and another woman from the group decided to go to her funeral.  Lou lived in a small village on the outskirts of Nottingham.  My Sat Nav failed big time and we were ten minutes late for the service.  As soon as we ran into the church, the vicar was finishing the eulogy.

“Lou was quite often late for things.  She would rush in apologising which made her even more endearing…”

You could almost hear Lou muttering,

“Honestly you two, what muppets!”

Arise Sir Liam

While I was working in the Czech Republic, a film came out over there about two Czech pilots who fled to Britain flew and fought in the Battle of Britain.  When the younger of the two came over for training, he couldn’t believe the calm attitude of not only the British pilots but also the civilians.  It was a very close thing, the Battle of Britain. Churchill ordered inventories of all the weaponry in museums.  That’s how close it was.  So why was everyone so calm?

“They’re not fanatical.  That’s what’s going to win this war.” The older Czech pilot told his colleague.  It’s this attitude that is finally shining through the darkness of the last few weeks.  It was also seen in the brilliant One Love Manchester concert.

I missed the first half hour of the concert as we were trying to get our heads around House of Cards again.  We decided to take a breather and I flicked it on.  A chap called Scooter was giving a long introduction for someone.  It was a bit rambling.

“I’m off to the garage.” announced my husband.

The long introduction was for Adriana Grande of whom I know absolutely zilch about.  She came on and the song was OK.  What was amazing was the response of the audience.  The look on the faces of the youngsters who were so proud that this megastar had chosen to return to Manchester, make a stand and promote love and unity.

After a couple of songs, a school choir came on stage.  When Ariana came over to join them, many in the choir broke down.  It turned out that some of the choir were at the previous Ariana concert but the kindness, sympathy and hugs from Ariana shone through.

As the concert went on, some performances were good, some amazing but Ariana was the link that held it all together.  I shuddered when Will.I.Am strolled onto the stage with the Black Eye Peas and said, “Here’s to you London!”  Had he not got the memo?  However, he quickly addressed this by quickly referring to the events that had happened at London Bridge the night before. Phew!

My husband emerged from the garage just in time for Katy Perry.  She was quite good he admitted.  Then Sarah Cox announced that Justin Bieber was next.

“Right I’m off again.” And back to the garage he slunked.

Bieber was very emotional.  The only Bieber song I know is Baby, Baby and judging by the acoustic guitar, he wasn’t going to sing that.  Again, it was the response of the audience that was so incredible.  He hit just the right note and I hope someone gave him a big hug afterwards.

After Bieber was Coldplay.  They always crop up at events like this.  Although I think I would probably get on quite well with Chris Martin down the pub, I find his music and performing extremely annoying.  Out he came skipping in his glittery yoga pants, hopping up and down like normal.  Ariana came on to join him for Don’t Look Back in Anger.  Not too sure what Noel made of that.  Coldplay finished with glitter cannons.  I’m always suspect of bands that use pyrotechnics, glitter canons and other gimmicks.  It should be about the music, man.

Off skipped Chris Martin so who was next?  We didn’t have to wait long.  There was a loud guitar riff and in swaggered Liam Gallagher.  The glittery yoga pants were swiftly replaced by a bright orange anorak.  Nobody embodies a city as much as Liam Gallagher.  There’s a Liam Gallagher swaggering down every other street in Manchester, not giving a fook about anything thing.  He didn’t say much.  He didn’t need to. His arrogance was enough to show that we don’t put up with this kind of shite.  Just get on with it and have a good time people.

It was a shame there was no Noel.  Whatever happened in that airport lounge still must be worth brooding on.  Yet I’d like to imagine that Noel, sitting on his throne in Supernova Heights would have approved.  Yes our kid did good.