Tuesday, 28 January 2014

MY BIRTHDAY ............... anyone else's?

It was my birthday on Saturday - I'm not saying how old I am - suffice to say any cake with the same number of candles as my age would be inedible after the candle wax melted onto it!

I always knew 25th January was Robbie Burns' birthday, then I discovered a few years ago that 25th January was also the day that Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII married.  However, a few days ago I read on another blog ( that the 25th January is Wales' own Valentines Day - in fact it is St. Dwynwen Day, the Welsh Saint of love and lovers.  Maybe that's why Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII married on that day ........... but then again, maybe not!  Then today I discovered, for the first time (and why I didn't already know this is beyond me) that 25th January was also Virginia Woolf's birthday.

It would seem I am in very good company.  Is there anyone else born on 25th January.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

What's in a name?

Why do people feel the need to change the names of things - just for the sake of it?

Since when has Turkish Coffee been called Greek Coffee?

Since when has Turkish Delight (Lokum) been called Cyprus or Greek Delight?

I did a little investigating on the internet and discovered that in 2007 the Greek Cypriots applied for and received PGI status for Cyprus Delight (loukoumia or lokum).  The town of Yeroskipou (Eriskopu in Turkish) in Cyprus is known especially for the production of Cyprus Delight.  The town is now the only place in the world which has Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) for the dessert.  To receive this status the entire product must be traditionally and at least partially manufactured (prepared, processed or produced) within the specific region and thus acquire unique properties.

Well .................... you could have knocked me down with a feather.  For me Lokum is, was and always will be Turkish Delight.

Sharing a turkish coffee with my daughter

So this afternoon we had a little dessert - Affogato - Chocolate flavoured turkish coffee poured over chocolate ice cream and sprinkled with pistachio flavoured turkish delight. Yummmmmmmmmm.

Friday, 18 October 2013

The Milk of Human Kindness ................

The Milk of Human Kindness .................... natural kindness and sympathy shown to others ................. care and compassion for others.

The phrase is from Shakespeare's Macbeth "Yet doe I feare thy Nature, It is to full o' th' Milke of humane kindnesse".

I'm not sure that we can be too full of the milk of human kindness, but I know that there are times when there's not a lot around.  A few articles in the newspapers this week have highlighted this for me, take the Headmaster from Bath who said that if children are bringing their party invitations into school to distribute then they must be for all members of the class.  Now, my children's primary school had this policy also and to be honest I quite agree with it - if you can only afford or only want a small party why is it so difficult to hand out invitations outside of school?  The headmaster has been misinterpreted by many (one of whom is in my class at College) he isn't saying that all children's parties must include the whole class, he is merely pointing out that it is kinder not to distribute invitations to only some members of the class in front of all of the children.  My College colleague takes the view that life is like that and the sooner the children realise it the better - is this a kind view?  I think not.  Why must we teach our children that because life is harsh they should behave in this way also.  Yes, eventually they will come to realise that disappointments are a part of life but I don't think young children need to be taught so early on, surely, if we teach our young children to be kind to others they will grow up to be kind adults and think of another's feelings before stamping all over them. 

Then in today's newspaper we have the MP Jo Swinson standing in the House of Commons on Wednesday (she being seven months pregnant) whilst others sat, and apparently a source close to her said that it was "quite sexist" to suggest that the Minister was not capable of standing.  Quite sexist?  Miss Swinson later tweeted that she was "About to get on the Tube - seat offers welcome and definitely not sexist.  But I was happier standing at PMQS yesterday".  Maybe she was happier standing and maybe she was offered a seat but declined but why is it "sexist" in the workplace but not on the tube?  My eldest daughter who is 19 always offers her seat to a pregnant woman when she travels on the tube, I have never told her she should do this simply because she does it anyway, she happens to think it is the right thing to do.  On some occasions she has given her seat and then a male passenger has given my daughter his seat - why? because he thinks it is the right thing to do.  Sexism doesn't come into it.  If a man was standing in a meeting holding a heavy box that he was unable to put down would it be sexist to offer him a seat?  It's a small courtesy to offer a pregnant woman or an older person a seat - a small kindness, doesn't it make our society better to act in a kind way. 

Have you ever noticed when driving how if you let another car in from the side road because it is convenient to do so how the driver of that car then does the same for another car further along the road?  A small kindness that has a ripple effect - and a little kindness when driving can go a long way.

The other newspaper article was that in which the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt says that "Britain should be ashamed of the way it treats its grandparents".  He is to say in a speech today that "a million elderly are left forgotten and isolated because friends and relatives fail to visit them".  Unkind?  Need I say more?  We're all going to get old one day (we hope) is this how we would want our friends and family to treat us?  If the answer is "no" then it's time to do something about it today. 

Oh and one more thing before I go .............. Food Banks.  A national disgrace really.  Yet some in the media would have us believe that only the feckless are using them.  How would they cope if they were to suddenly lose their job and have no income for months .................... you have to walk in someone's shoes to know what it's like but it's not so hard to imagine how awful it must be to reach that stage, the humiliation they must feel that they can't provide for their family.  Jack Munro of the blog A Girl Called Jack  quotes Desmond Tutu often in her blog and every time I read the quotation it sends a shiver down my spine "there comes a time when we have to stop pulling people out of the river and go upstream and find out why they're falling in" .............. well David Cameron, George Osborne, Nick Clegg, Ian Duncan Smith - can you tell us why people are falling in the river?  If we're all in this together you should be jumping in to pull people out.

A couple of years ago Vanessa Kimbell whose blog Changing the World One Day at a Time is so inspiring, called for us all to make a cake for a neighbour or a friend or relative as a Random Bake of Kindness - I think it's time to start baking.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

The Meadow

The weather having been so beastly for so long prevented me getting into the garden until this weekend.  As always seems to happen to me, I always have time for the garden when the weather is bad, and, never have the time when the weather is good. 

This has happened so frequently of late that the garden now resembles, and we have taken to calling it, the meadow.

Do you see what I mean?

So, on Saturday we had one hour, which was whittled down quite a bit by the time we got all the equipment out and dusted it down.  But with my little helper (younger daughter) we did manage to use the strimmer on the first half of the garden, in preparation for the lawn mower!



We had so little time that no "after" photographs were taken.

I do feel rather ashamed at the state of it, which somehow looks worse in the photographs than in reality, but making it public is my incentive to deal with it. 

I have three pots of strawberries which have been there for a few years, yet we only ever get half a dozen fruits at the most - the birds and slugs/snails help themselves.  I don't know whether to ditch them or leave them as food for other creatures.

So that my shame is complete - here are the rest of the photographs.

My one consolation is that with so many daisies and buttercups - the bees should have been happy.

And I'm quite happy because the apple tree has lots of baby apples, which is rather unusual - we had lots of apples last year and it's only supposed to fruit every other year.  This has happened before but not for several years.  My lovely Blenheim Orange apple tree is self pollinating and comes highly recommended for both cooking (it holds its shape really well) and eating (quite sharp if picked too early).

If I could have anyone's garden it would have to be Nigel Slater's, although come to think of it I'd rather like to have his kitchen too ...................... I can but dream.

Lots to do in the garden - no time for dreaming.

Thursday, 16 May 2013


I attended a Campaign Meeting last night for the Basildon branch of Cure the NHS - a newly set up organisation by family members of victims of poor care and treatment at Basildon Hospital, the hospital where my husband died in September last year.  Some of the stories are heart breaking and the levels of care given appalling.

What has happened to the staff in our hospitals who think it okay to treat people with such disdain.  Not only is there a lack of compassion but just common decency and kindness. 

It's hard to foresee how the many failings are going to be addressed.

Let me relay a couple of stories I know of first hand (not including my husband) - my brother in law had been quite ill with heart failure and various problems for a few years, one evening when he had trouble breathing he was taken to hospital by ambulance, now he was a fairly old man, his wife would always stay with him all day and all night if the hospital allowed, but in this particular instance she was told she could not stay and would have to leave when visiting hours ended.  During the day she had been asking the Nurses when he would be given the various medications that he had already been taking at home because the time for these medicines had come and gone - she was told that they were busy and would give him his medication when they did their drug round.  The Ward Sister then spoke to my sister in law and told her to stop harrassing her Nurses.  The first night he was there my sister in law went home as told but was phoned at seven o'clock the following morning and asked to come in, her husband had taken himself to the bathroom during the night, fallen over and had lain there for two hours!  That's what it took to happen for him to be given a side room which would enable my sister in law to stay with him, which she was then allowed to do until he was well enough to leave.  Why could the staff not see that by allowing her to stay in the first instance would lighten their load because she could do things for him herself instead of having to wait for the Nurses to do it.

My mother suffers with Parkinsons, and because of this illness she often has falls in the home, a couple of years ago my mother had a fall, we called an ambulance, they said she had broken her wrist and would need to go to hospital.  I went with her in the ambulance.  At the hospital they tried to reset her wrist and then sent her for a second x-ray to see if it was set properly.  Whilst waiting for the x-ray results she was given a sandwich (it was early afternoon and she had had no food at all because of how early she had fallen she had not yet had breakfast).  Unfortunately her wrist needed to be pinned, but because she had been given food they would be unable to give her an anaesthetic so she would have to stay overnight and have the operation the following day. This turned into a stay of five days because each day they would postpone her operation for another more urgent.  She was on a ward with four other women.  At this time my mother only needed her walking stick to get around, but still without the stick she was stranded.  Each evening they would place her stick far enough away from the bed (for health and safety reasons) which meant she could not get out of bed unless given assistance to reach her walking stick.  The staff overnight were two male nurses.  The elderly lady in the bed next to my mother was also unable to get herself to the bathroom and would use a commode - which obviously had to be brought to her.  During the night she would ring her bell to no avail, by the time one of the Nurses arrived she had already done what she needed the commode for, but in her bed.  These men would scold her.  They were so intimidating that the poor woman would say to them "Oh, please don't tell me off, I didn't do it on purpose".  Eventually, my mother would ring her bell to get their attention because they wouldn't answer her neighbour's call.  That's not just a lack of compassion, it's actually cruelty.  My mother's medication for her Parkinsons have to be taken at set intervals during the day and at the same time of day every day - did she get this in hospital - no she didn't.  The staff should have been aware of this or made themselves aware of this when they took the medication from her on admission. We knew none of this until my mother had eventually been discharged and her wrist pinned - she was afraid that either myself or my father would kick up a fuss and she would then be made to suffer.  A year later my mother had another fall on a Friday evening, her other wrist was badly swollen and very painful, she endured the pain until Monday morning when she visited her Doctor, who sent her immediately to hospital with a broken wrist.  Fortunately they were able to set it that day and we took her home.  Now, based on her own experience and from what she reads in the newspapers she has said, regardless of what she suffers from or what may happen to her she is not to be taken to hospital EVER.

This is what our country has become.  I know that not all staff are cruel - I have a very good friend who is a Nurse at another hospital and she is the kindest person I know, for her to treat anyone badly would be incomprehensible.  When she was still a student and working on the Geriatric Ward she would often have to wash the bodies of those patients who had passed away - when we asked her whether it was awful she said no it wasn't, it was the last kindness you could do for a person.   I know there must be others just like her and I have to say on previous occasions when my husband was in hospital for hip replacements we could not fault his care.  Likewise when my children were born, I had no complaints at all, yet here we are some fifteen years later since my last daughter was born and the horror stories from the Maternity Ward are awful.

Maybe everyone around the country should set up a Cure the NHS group for their local hospital, it's time we started being pro-active and did something about all the problems rather than sitting back and complaining - not that we have no right to complain - these people need to be made accountable and know that it's no longer "okay" to ride roughshod over us.

My advice to everyone who has a relative in hospital or going into hospital is to watch everything and do as much as you are able yourself, keep a diary of events, ask questions, don't be afraid to question what is being done ...... or not done!  If you have elderly neighbours or relatives going into hospital, go and visit them, let the staff see that they are not alone.  People go into hospital with simple problems and either come out with worse problems or don't come out at all.

If anyone is reading this who works in a hospital and is doing a good job I would say well done and thank you.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Merry Christmas 2012

I know I haven't blogged over the past few months - but I intend to rectify that next year.  In the meantime, wherever you are and whoever you are with I wish you all a very happy and peaceful Christmas.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Inspiration ..............

I bought a card in Marks and Spencer today and have framed it to give me inspiration when I need it most ....

Life isn't about waiting for the STORM to pass.

It's about learning how to dance in the rain.