Friday, February 25, 2011

mad as a box of frogs

"Good morning," said my husband as I came into the kitchen. "And say good morning to your friend here."

Sleepily, I looked round for the cat. "Where?"

"There, in the corner." He pointed to the nook between the washing machine and the plinth under the kitchen cupboard. A brownish, motionless lump.

My first thought was, "How did the cat manage to crap in such a small space?" and my second was, "It's got legs. And claws. And eyes! IT'S A FROG."

"Oh my goodness. How did that get in?"

He shrugged and went on making his mug of tea. Outside, the cat paddled at the windowpane. "Let me in! It's raining! I'm hungry!"

"I'd better put the frog out, or she'll eat it." Knowing that it was likely to jump if I put a hand on it, I chose an old glass off the shelf.

"Damp the glass," suggested my husband.

So I did. I held it behind the frog, and put a finger in front of its nose. It didn't move, so I pushed it gently. It was cold, heavy, and damp. Suddenly it turned and leapt into the glass, then became immobile again.

With one hand over the top of the glass, I unlocked the back door. The cat rushed in and I went out and tipped the frog onto the grass. It sat so still and unblinking, I wondered if it had died of shock, but no, its throat pulsed with its breathing, so I left it there in the rain-swept garden. And came back indoors and fed the cat.

Of course, the question was, how can a frog get into a locked kitchen? The clue was in the washed-out glass: traces of coal dust. Froggie must have been in the coal bunker; been scooped up by my husband's shovel, and poured with the wet coke into the hod. I'd stoked the fire from that hod before I let out the cat and went to bed. I don't know how many lives a frog has, but she used up two of them last night.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Loss of Blood

Five year old Naomi has had to travel yet again to Newcastle from Cockermouth for a blood transfusion during her chemotherapy. This, despite an "agreement" with their more local hospital that "ordinary" things like transfusions can be done there to save the family a 200-mile round trip.

Then on Facebook I see the messages:

Robert B
Thinks my wife may be about to explode. If one more thing cocks up stand well back.
about an hour ago via iPhone · LikeUnlike

Jackie ჱܓ Awww what's happened now?
about an hour ago · LikeUnlike
Robert B Blood results!!! Whitehaven have let us down again!
41 minutes ago · LikeUnlike

Some days you're the dog, some days you're the lamp post...

Robert B Blood transfusion is about to start!
28 minutes ago · LikeUnlike

28 minutes ago was 17:30 and they've been in Newcastle since 13:30.

HOW DOES A HOSPITAL LAB MISLAY OR MISINTERPRET BLOOD SAMPLES? Not just once ... but repeatedly? It's difficult enough for a family to live with a child who has cancer, and all the poisonous drug treatment that entails, without having to face frustrations in the system that is supposed to be caring for them.

[Jennifer B]
hospital sucks
so I gather
[Jennifer B]
I am still waiting for the iv anti sick medicines which were meant to be put up just after 7
no wonder she feels like crap
she is at least sleeping now
what is the problem with that place!!!
[Jennifer B]
i have no idea.
Naomi is getting stressed when they are setting up her line to a drip, god knows what she'll be like when she has platelets on thursday at whitehaven, she's so anxious she's making herself sick
And its because we spend so long waiting around for things to happen.
what is the worry with the drip?
[Jennifer B]
coz they put things through it so bloody fast and she can feel it in her neck, it's that that makes her sickly, she won't eat because she doesn't want to be sick, same with drinking
sooo ... who do you bug to sort it out?
[Jennifer B]
fuck knows, I have tried to talk to the consultant and it makes no difference. it's like these anti sick medicines, I went out and asked at quarter past nine if she could have them, as she was still waiting answer was "oh yes I'm just putting up this chemo." Where the flaming hell are they hanging it, timbucktoo?
nurse has just been in to say that she's coming now to do naomi's medicine
i'm nearly in tears with anger
yeah, I can tell
[Jennifer B]
a vet wouldn't treat an animal this way
the iv drip has been set up for over an hour waiting for these drugs,
I will be complaing to the poons team tomorrow about it, they have the ear of the consultants and the nurses
[Jennifer B]
i'm sick of it, it's not just us its everyone.

Notices in every hospital entrance hall announce "zero tolerance for violence towards staff". That's fair enough, but how about zero tolerance towards incompetence?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Spring has sprung

We didn't "do" Christmas; that was partly on account of the snow, but more because our grand-daughter, aged five, spent the whole holiday period in hospital. Somehow, jollifications didn't seem in order, and the usual tidying up didn't happen either. I've been ignoring it for months. Not putting it off, simply refusing to acknowledge that my house needs re-organizing.

Suddenly, this morning, I feel compelled to pack unwanted clothes into a bag for recycling. Also, I hear the tractor start up outside. I look through the window, and there's my husband, driving the front-loader which is pushing his very very vintage Nuffield down the yard. Only two wheels out of its four are still capable of rolling - no danger of a runaway there, then. He gets down every now and again to adjust the steering so the Nuffield turns towards the workshop doors. My God, he has finally decided it's time for some restoration!

I had better get him up into the bathroom NOW. Otherwise, though Spring may have provoked us both into re-organizing and restoring, it could be summer before he gets the shower mended.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

there are fairies at the bottom of my garden

I was packing up a couple of books to post to America when a pickup parked on the front layby and someone tapped at the door.

The young man on the doorstep had a photocopied map in his hand and a very large wooden gatepost in the bed of the truck. He had been sent, he said, to repair our gate on the footpath through the hayfield. Was it dry enough to drive the pickup in? I told him it was, and away he went.

By mid afternoon he'd dug a hole, sunk the gate-post, driven the hinges, righted the three fenceposts that had been lying down, tacked-up the sheep netting and hung the gate. Complete with little sign saying "Public Footpath - please close the gate." This last is redundant since the sheep have access to all the fields, but we hope that walkers will use their common sense and leave this gate, at least, as they find it.

I can't work out how replacing a fence and a gate in a gap that was originally thirty feet wide makes it easier for walkers to traverse our field, but it hasn't cost us a penny, so thank you, whoever you are, who sent the young man along. You have restored my belief in fairies.

Wednesday - the Co-op awakes. At last.

I emailed the Co-op on 25th January, and my email was forwarded (thank you) to Penrith Co-op. However I heard nothing back from them - not even an acknowledgement.

So I sent another, concise, enumerated email to the main customer relations department on 4th February. This time I didn't hold my breath. Today (16th) Ah! A response! The gentleman who has emailed me appears to be based locally (by his telephone number). He thanks me for my email and comments which he says "just came to his mailbox" yesterday. Eleven days for an email to arrive in his inbox? Do I hear the grinding of the mills of God?

He will take up my comments "directly with the store manager" and will let me know the outcome in due course.

It's not necessarily the store manager who is responsible for the inconvenient shop furniture, though, is it? I get the impression that the ordering is done much higher up.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tuesday - Mud Angels

Mr T the Fell pony is a chauvinist. If there is food, he claims it. If there is danger, he graciously lets his stablemate Ruby go first. Today, on being let out, what he most wants is to roll. He chooses the wettest part of the yard and his waterproof sheet changes from navy blue to black, leaving a mud angel when he gets up. Ruby is grabbing hay from the half-barrel by the stable door. T strolls over and scowls, and she shrinks away and goes to roll on the spot he selected. Now I have two ponies wearing matching black sheets – but they have clean bodies underneath.

I’m at the computer congratulating myself on my forethought when the cat hurls herself at the handle of the back door, which opens. She stalks in and leaps onto my knee, covering me in muddy footprints. You can’t win.

Foot in Mouth

It’s the evening of 14th February. Valentine’s day – Orton Scribblers meeting – and I am on TV in an Inside Out documentary about Foot and Mouth Diaries. Which do I look forward to most? The writers’ group of course. Sorry darling.

We are meeting at Jackie’s house so she can pop through every now and again to look after her husband. We listen to readings from each other’s work in progress – a short story, the start of a chick-lit, the opening chapter of a historical novel. We offer comments to make our fiction more convincing. Tea and biscuits help of course!

The biggest fiction of the evening turns out to be the TV programme. My husband says it introduced me, not as a retired university lecturer, or a writer, or a web designer, even a grannie (all of which I am) but as “a retired horse trainer.” NEIGH.

Knowing how the Cumbrian grapevine works, those 20 seconds of fame will take me at least a year to live down.