Thursday, 29 November 2007

A good new game.

One of the pieces of advice from Mum's physio was "Stride Out, take bigger steps". In an effort to provide some walking practice, I took mum to Sainsbury's in Truro. The floor is smooth, and flat, and there is a trolley to hold on to. Mum was doing OK but was using very small steps. She then complained that the trolley was getting heavy, and would I please pull. What a good new game.... towing Granny round Sainsbury's. I made the pace just fast enough to make sure she had to take reasonably big paces to keep up and just slow enough to avoid a complaint. All we need now is sole use of the place for a couple of hours... I suspect that in the run up to Christmas, that is one favour that the Sainsbury management will not grant us.. Shame.

Watching a professional

It is one of life's great pleasures to watch a really expert professional do whatever it is they do. Whether it is sport, music, medicine or whatever... I had such a pleasure yesterday having been present during an assessment of my mother by a senior physiotherapist. Slowly and gently without raising her voice, she coaxed all the answers she need from mum. (It has to be said here that most of us have raised our voices after the first question).

Having got all the answers she needed, she then proceeded to identify the major issues with mum's mobility and recognised that it was all a matter of confidence. Within minutes, she had mum striding up and down the physiotherapy room using big strides and with her head held high. What a change from the slow, small shuffling steps we are all used to seeing.

After a good talking to, Mum had grasped the basics, and had been given some exercise sheets. There is enough nagging material here to keep me going for months. I've turned in into small posters which have appeared on all the walls of the bungalow, so my poor mother has no escape. However, if she is ever to get anything like mobile again, it is what she needs. Can't wait until we go back for the next session.

Monday, 26 November 2007


Usually, I am not a big fan of Mondays, but this one is different. I've had an opportunity to genuinely help someone with an aspect of her job and it was satisfying to do so.

The weekend passed in a lot of travelling and a visit to the theatre in Guildford. The piece we went to see was a monologue by an Irish actor. It is the story of a theatre critic's interaction with vampires. It is certainly a memorable piece of writing and the story will stay with me. When I see and hear such a piece of work, I realise that my creative powers are minuscule in comparison with the intellect that thought this up. Entitled St. Nicholas by Conor McPherson, may I recommend it, provided you do not want easy-going entertainment....

Friday, 23 November 2007

Birthday Walk

Today is my Birthday, and so far it has been fine.

I had to be in the chiropractors at 8:45. I have been letting John twist me, push me and jump on me for years and I always feel better after his ministrations. Today, I explained he had to be nice to me as it was my Birthday, and he gave me the consultation as my present.

My lady suggested we go for a short walk this morning, so we went to the Burton Dassett Hills Country Park near Gaydon. The sun shone and the wind blew and it was COLD! We had a good look in the church there which was very beautiful, but Jeez it was cold.....

I've had sketch pads and a special pencil that I wanted for my presents, and I think Robin may have something when we see her tomorrow. And I've got fillet steak for dinner tonight. A glass of red wine will help it go down.

I really am very lucky.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

It's only a game.....

Following the almost inevitable failure of the England football team to qualify for Euro 2008, the media output has been illuminating. There has been an analysis of the FA, McLaren (always the wrong man for the job), the players, the effect on the economy, the effect on the population at large (apparently the leisure industry might be one of the few to benefit as we all look for something to fill the time when we would otherwise have been watching football), and just about every other aspect. No-one has conducted a study to confirm the effect on my beloved wife who can't stop grinning and giggling - she thinks it is wonderful and is as happy as Larry.

Ladies and Gentlemen, It is a GAME. We lost. We deserved to. Let's get over it and start worrying about more important things.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

My walking mate

My Walking mate and I went for a walk today before the rain started hissing down. Her name is Holly and she stood still just long enough for me to take the picture. She gave every impression of enjoying herself and she was hugely pleased to see me, so I hope I'll be allowed to take her again.

New versus Old

Flipping through the TV channels last night, I came across an edition of Fifth Gear which really got me thinking. One of the items was a staged crash, virtually head-on, between a J reg Volvo 940 Estate weighing one and a half tons and a two year old Renault Modus. The Volvo was known as a safe car when it was on sale, and the Modus is the first small car to score 5 in the NCAP safety programme. The cars were crashed together at a speed of 80 mph. We viewers were asked to choose which car we would want to be in, together with a loved one, at the time of the crash. The presenter explained that the experts on the site were not at all sure of the outcome. Being a big believer in technology, I plumped for the Renault, but this was a decision I took with my head. My emotions told me that the much bigger and heavier Volvo was the place to be. The tension was rising (not helped by the obligatory commercial break) and then the crash was shown. The story is here.

I for one was amazed at the outcome. The Modus's structure dissipated all the energy and the cabin remain more or less intact. The door still opened. The crash was staged so that the drivers were facing each other at the time of the impact. The right hand front of the Volvo was completely stoved in, and the right front wheel was in the drivers footwell. The Vovlo's dashboard had deformed badly and the dummy's legs were trapped and crushed. It was pointed out that with no air bags, the drivers head had probably hit the middle of the steering wheel, causing head injuries.

The little Modus had fared much better. The airbags had all gone off, the dash was still intact and, more or less, in place, and the drivers footwell was barely damaged. The airbags had prevented the driver's and passenger's head hitting anything, and they could both, probably have walked away from the crash.

A big lesson is that a newer car with a high score in the NCAP tests is going to protect you a lot more than a big old one.

Monday, 19 November 2007


I don't like Mondays much. Today has not been too bad for a Monday. Sainsbury's was empty, the traffic was slight and Homebase had what I went there for.

No photos today. I have confirmed that Holly can be borrowed tomorrow for a repeat of yesterday's walk. Let's hope the weather is better than it was this morning.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Lazy Sunday

Sundays can be lazy days here. My aunt invites us to Sunday lunch which means that catering duties are suspended for a day. I get up late, take mum to church and then have two hours to read the paper.

Today an ample lunch was followed by a walk. I have noticed a footpath in the village and never walked down it, so I rectified that omission. Being completely ignorant of the exact nature of the path I found myself going down a very sleep and very wet path. It then leveled out a bit and I saw a sign for Percuil which is a hamlet I know as a sailing centre with a boat yard.

The distance quoted at this point was 2 miles which surprised me a bit. Normally I drive there and it doesn't seem that far. I forgot, of course that the path follows the edge of the creek which winds and twists around.

In thinking about the distance, it occurred to me that Cornish miles might not be quite the same as a standard mile.... then, as I was clambering over stiles and through several gates, I was struck by the variety of these barriers. Perhaps we shall see the imposition of a European Standard Stile?

As the light was fading slowly I decided to test the camera in the new mobile and the results are on the left here.

En route I met various forms of wildlife and some cattle who seemed mildly surprised that anyone should enter their field, but not a single person. The only real sound was that of birdsong and jolly pleasant it was. I wish I could name the varieties of birds doing the singing, but I can't. Another gap in my education.

In all the walk that I though might be thirty minutes lasted seventy five, and I enjoyed every one of them. The cup of tea at the end was most welcome.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

New look

My regular readers (are there any?) will notice a new look to the blog. I'm afraid I was just getting bored with the old template and so chose a new one.

Like my son-in-law, I too have a new mobile phone with a camera in it. So, I thought "Anything he can do, so can I". Hence two pictures taken with my new phone are below.

Paul's photos which can be seen here are probably more artistic since Paul was faffing about with the "effects" on his new device, but mine show the Cornish coast off Falmouth in the sunshine this morning. It was pretty cold and windy standing outside to take them, but I'm reasonably pleased. (By the way, it is only fair to point out that the "Anything he can do, so can I" aspiration above is definitely not true. Paul understands these devices in a way that I never shall. He even hosts his own cat's blog...... How sad is that?).

Our outing this morning was to find somewhere Mum could walk, and despite the wind we managed to find a lake with ducks and swans on it. Mum managed quite a decent walk and the ducks were in feisty mood as quite a lot of the male ducks were scrapping with their neighbours. One small child watching suggested they were dancing, and his mum didn't hgave the heart to enlighten him. I wonder what misleading information we gave our children when they were toddlers?

Thursday, 15 November 2007


I'm now back to the Cornwall "To Do" list and one of the things we have had to do is post birthday cards. No1 and No 2 sons are twins and today is their 20th Birthday. The time has whizzed by. Every time I see a mum pushing a pair of twins in a buggy, my mind goes back 18 or 19 years to the little lads who occupied our every waking hour (and quite a few of our sleeping ones too).

Having twins is a gift not given to many. It is also one of the biggest developmental experiences one can have. We have a fund of stories of the exploits of our twins, and I don't suppose they were particularly evil or mischievous. Simply, two will get up to things that one won't. They egg each other on and where a single child will get bored, twins will keep going to amuse each other. A twin has a ready made, ever-present friend, collaborator and audience.

From a parent's viewpoint, there is much more than twice the fun and pleasure. Simply watching them interact with each other is a great pastime. One learns to live with the outcomes quickly, it is simply too much effort to try and control everything they do when they're little.

The photo shows No. 1, No 3 and No 2 sons from left to right respectively. To look at them you would not think Nos 1 and 2 are brothers, let alone twins. It certainly fooled their school in the first few weeks.

This is a reasonably recent photo at the start of a 60 mile cycle ride they did one day simply as part of an exercise to prove me wrong. I'm pleased to report that at the end of this particular day, they had the grace to admit that I had shown wisdom in dissuading them from tackling a 60 mile ride on two consecutive days with a nights camp between. Another victory for old age and experience!

As they come to the end of their teens, we are immensely proud of them and what they have achieved, and have no doubt they will go on to great things. I just wish they'd ring home now and again.

Have a great day chaps.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Being Home

Life at the moment is alternating between two To Do lists - one for Cornwall, one for at home. Most of the things on the "At home" one have been ticked off and it is back to Cornwall tomorrow.

On Saturday for the first time in ages, I washed a car. I made an awful job of it, so Prestige Valeting of Acocks Green have nothing to worry about. Saturday was also for taking lanterns to Leamington, for some show or other that No. 1 son is involved with.

The weekend was enhanced by the arrival of Firstborn and her spouse on Saturday afternoon. We went for a cold and windy walk yesterday, followed by an interesting show at the Midlands Art Centre last evening entitled Futurology Live. Highly amusing and great fun. If Johnny Facade is in your area, do go and see him. Details of the show are here.

Today was a lie-in followed by cooked breakfast and then a trip to Compton Verney. This is a gallery we've been meaning to visit for a while. Details of the place are here and it is well worth a visit.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Coming Home

Gosh it is nice to come home. The technology works well, and I can talk to, and even see my family every day for no real cost, but nothing beats seeing them in the flesh. Both my beloved wife and no. 3 son have been unwell with the flu. The look on their faces when I meet them again makes the travel worthwhile. They are both very understanding about my absence, but it is clear they miss me. I realise just how much I miss them too.

No. 3 son is off to Dublin on Friday for 10 days, and he is really excited about it. Provided I remember to get him some Euros tomorrow, he will have a wonderful time.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

I spent a good proportion of yesterday at the Royal Cornwall Hospital, Treliske, Truro. This hospital trust was recently adjudged to be the worst in the country. Well, I'm no health care expert but three things struck me.
  • The Good. The people I met were wonderful. They did everything they possibly could to help, including bending some rules.
  • The Bad. Since this hospital cares for many disabled old people, you would think they would have a large stock of wheelchairs. They don't. Together with at least four other people I met, I spent the best part of an hour trying to track down a wheelchair. The system there is that they use a supermarket trolley system and you put a pound coin in a slot to release a wheelchair, and get your pound back when you return it. Please, Royal Cornwall Hospital get some more.
  • The Ugly. There were hospital workmen all over the place. Judging by the water sucking vacuum cleaners and very large fans they were cleaning up after a flood. One lift did not work, and the next one along was struggling to cope with the volume of traffic. People muttered and mumbled, but their good nature remained.
For the life of me, I just can't think of any reason why the Bad and the Ugly situations described above were allowed to continue. I bet any manager from Tesco's would have had both sorted out in double quick time.

Monday, 5 November 2007

A day of visitors

Some days mum and I get no visitors and then we have a day like today when we get loads.

The first was Julie, the lovely lady who cleans for mum. She regaled us with tales of getting ready for her move and the actual move. It sounds like it was something of a nightmare, in the middle of which someone stole her garden equipment. Then came two foals that were not expected. Julie now seems to be in that stage where she is in a new house with lots of boxes of stuff for which homes have to be found.

Next to appear was Peter the gardener. He has given one of the Leylandi a good trim and it looks much neater.

Joan and her dog Holly came to tea at the same time as Colin the Social Services handiman came to fit the key safe and shower seat. The kettle was working overtime making fresh tea and the biscuit tin took a bit of a hit, but the shower seats works well, and Holly enjoyed the biscuits. Christine, our wonderful next door neighbour appeared, and over a cuppa, the world was put to rights, village gossip swapped and plans for future activities finalised.

At the end of all this mum has to drink a pint of water in which some chemical which shows up on a scan is dissolved, and I have to cook supper (Cauliflower cheese tonight)

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Too tired

I'm just too knackered to think up something sensible today.

Saturday, 3 November 2007


Cornwall is lovely. My mum lives in the Roseland peninsula which is a most picturesque part of the world. The people are friendly - they say "Good Morning" and "Good Afternoon", whereas in Solihull people just walk past one - and the weather is very mild. However there are some aspects that make me think I could never live here. In no particular order they are:
  1. Everyone stays in after dark. No-one goes out, the roads and streets are just about deserted.
  2. There are almost no take-aways of any sort. The nearest Fish and Chip shop is in St Mawes which is some 8 miles away and the nearest Chinese restaurant is 12 miles distant. I have not found a curry house yet. Contract this with Brum where there are take away food establishments everywhere.
  3. One has to drive to get anywhere.
  4. More or less no nightlife, so young people get awfully bored.
  5. The local shops have a huge range of stock, but no choice for any one product. e.g. the village shop stocks a wide range of food, toiletries, stationery, papers, hardware, booze,soft drinks, dairy products, etc. etc., but if you want shaving gel, it has got to be Gillette. The shops are open all hours, and do everything they can to help there customers, so it is not really a complaint.
  6. There are no coffee shops.
Having written and reviewed that list, I can see that I'm being very picky, and if I was forced to live here, most people would say I was very lucky.

Friday, 2 November 2007

Not what I expected (twice) and just what I expected.....

My mum is not very well. She is now old and lots of bits of her seem to be wearing out at the same time. Yesterday morning, I was in a bit of a state about what I was going to do to ensure that she continues to be safe and well, and that if assistance was needed it would be provided in a timely fashion. Her neighbours, friends and my uncle are brilliant, but I thought that something a bit more structured was needed. Last week I had made a phone call to Social Services and yesterday morning a young (well, he looked young to me) man turned up and did a very thorough assessment of mum's needs. He discussed his findings with Mum and me, and explained that in his opinion the best thing would be to arrange for a carer to call for 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening to check that she is OK, can get dressed (or undressed and ready for bed), and has taken her pills. He also thought that he could provide a handle to help her get out of bed safely and a device to help with the putting on of socks. He left us at about 1:30. At 4:00 he phoned to say that he had sorted the visits and they would start on Saturday and he would be round today to deliver and fit the equipment. He was as good as his word. He arrived when he said he would, fitted the bed handle and left the sock device after showing Mum how it worked.

So, Ladies and Gentlemen, a big hand please for Mr Chris Gibson of Social Services in Truro, who is an absolute hero. Thanks Chris, you handsomely exceeded my expectations.

Another organisation which really impressed me today is the Just Perfection hairdressing salon where Mum and her friend get their hair done. Rather than wait, I booked a haircut - "I can just squeeze you in" said Sarah the owner - and off we went to arrive for 2 p.m. We could hear gales of laughter and noisy chatter emanating from the premises before we got the car door open. Mum was treated like Royalty, while I was treated as any man would be in such an establishment - as something of a necessary evil. I got a good haircut and a nice cup of tea. In a discussion over my hairstyle, I was advised that if it was any shorter it would be "Choppy", but as I didn't really understand that term (and still don't, if I'm honest), I went for it anyway. I'm pleased with the haircut and the treatment I got was a joy. Thanks to Sarah and her colleagues.

The one thing I did expect was a piece of really prattish driving by an old boy in a Saab estate, who looked very much as though he was sitting on where his brain lives. He couldn't have made life more difficult if he had tried (perhaps he did, but I doubt it). I really wanted to get out and bludgeon the pillock to death with a wheel brace, but I'd left it at home. Lucky man.