Saturday, August 30, 2008

Don't buy a DELL computer

Let me clarify something here - DELL UK sell 99% of their computers direct. Until recently, you could not buy a Dell computer in any store. It is all direct. Just recently, they have started selling a few items in their range through some stores. But not this one. I don't know how they sell in the States. So I can't just take it back. There is NO shop. The contract is with Dell. However, I do know where their head office is. It used to be based in Ireland, but now there is an address in Bracknell, which I have discovered. It is not that far away. They may be meeting me. Soon.

Ireland was the country of choice for quite a few computer giants moving into the UK and Europe a decade ago, because of massive EU incentives to businesses developing the local economy. When we have had our previous confrontations with the company, it has been Ireland we have had to deal with and I suspect that all their computers are still assembled and configured to your requirements there.

I went to bed at 11. Still waiting for the promised call at 6pm. Michael Dell needs to be aware of how his company is being run. Not to mention Aonghus Hegarty, who appears to be the head of UK Home sales. I also found a disturbing piece of information on line which details how their Mumbai call centre was being run in 2007, and I have no doubt things still work the same way in 2008.

When companies get so big that all the human aspects get side-lined, we have a problem. The pursuit of great profit margins, aka corporate greed, and obsession with shareholder interests before customer satisfaction with the product they make leads to the exact opposite of what they want - greater market share. If I can personally stop people from buying their product, just because I have a small voice here, then they need to listen to me. DELL does.

Because a global voice, albeit small, is still a global voice. I don't want other parents to watch their sons' and daughters' joy and delight turn to disappointment. As I said, this is not the first time it has happened to us. The theory is that you get more for your money with DELL, than, say Sony. I happen to love Sony laptops. My daughter has one. DELL is everywhere. It is unfortunate that the first thing I saw in the hospital cubicle was a DELL computer. Yesterday, sitting sorting David's student bank account, what did I see? DELL computer on the desk in front of us.

And because they have such a massive market share here in the UK, they think that one small voice is irrelevant. Hah. We will see.

Edited to add: Dell people, if you are reading this, you need to scroll down a bit to read from the start. The post entitled Ding Dong DELL is the beginning.
AND: I am aware that there is a mega problem with the NVidia graphics cards for this model. If you sold my son one, knowing the unit was faulty, you will have a bigger problem than you anticipated.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Dell - day 8

I am still here. And still wading through calls to India. Just before 2pm this afternoon, I took a few deep breaths and called the customer service line yet again. After sticking around here for the past 3 days, I am losing patience. Not that I had much to start with.

I had a call a little while ago from a floor supervisor saying he still needed another 2 hours to "escalate" things. I can suggest a few ways to escalate things. It is now a week since the wretched piece of rubbish expired. I also happened to warn the man that I actually write on the internet and people actually read what I say. Not to mention that they will remember this debacle when they come to choose a new computer. I am of course, all sweetness and light. Always. You know that.

And this is also an appropriate time to say that our desk top computer which is - HELLO!!!! a DELL!!!!!!! seems to be ailing. It is doing very odd things. Like shutting down Windows on David's account. And refusing to load things I want it to load, and generally behaving as though it has a demon inside it. It is, might I add, less than a year old. Am I surprised???? Today???? That would be no. Not. At. All.

Hopefully, after the anticipated call at 6pm, I will be able to report that all is well and I am satisfied, and that life can now resume as normal. And I will hopefully NEVER have to utter the word DELL again in this lifetime.

Until then.....

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The day after....


I fell asleep on the couch at 7 last night. I was beyond shattered. Did Dell call??? What do you think? That would be right. They didn't.

I have called to make an appointment to see my GP today, and she is on holiday. The first appointment available is the 15th Sept. So I am seeing a locum, who appears to be Greek, this morning. Sigh.

You know, I sat there thinking in the waiting area at the hospital yesterday, holding a beeper in my hand, waiting for it to beep to tell me that "Wake Up! You are next!". (I hate the de-humanising of the medical services with a passion - all those nurses leaning on the desk chatting and laughing for the entire time I was waiting could easily have walked to the door and called me by name.) I thought about how I didn't want to be there. How I could pack up and depart without hesitation. How I was disillusioned and weary. How I, with all my verbal ability, intellect and daring, still couldn't get anything done. How enough was enough. I don't think I have ever been in such despairing place in my life.

Sure, it is the combination of a few years of "stuff" which has happened in my life. Teachers notoriously manage to make it through a term, and as soon as the holidays arrive, they get sick. In a sense, I am in the same situation. I have done what I set out to do. I have made it through David's schooling - holding everything together and keeping everything steady for him, and now he has finished, the walls are crumbling. A bit. His future now is not up to me. It is up to him. He will fly.

It has not been easy, you know. It has been diabolically difficult, if I am absolutely honest. Too hard at times. But I have got this far, doing what I had to do. And now I am sitting here, just as I was yesterday, in that waiting area, thinking - what now? What do I do now? I am tired of being a warrior. I am just tired. Full stop.


It is now evening and I am cooking as I write. No call from Dell. Useless visit to the doctor. Rest on the couch. Made apple sauce with some apples from the tree. Had calls from friends. Did I mention no call from Dell? I have emailed their customer services. Tomorrow their chief exec will get a letter from me detailing my ire. With a note saying the letter is to be published on the internet too.

And then my friend, Glynis arrived at the door, with a bag of things to cheer me up. She bought me a magazine, chocs, wine and fancy food bits as a treat to make up for the lousy day I had yesterday. What a wonderful surpirse. I was so thrilled.

And that has been the day. I am tired. Still.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Wed Pt 3

Dell didn't call back this morning as promised.

I made a call at 1pm to India, and was put through 5 different departments before someone called Kumar put the phone down in the middle of our conversation.

I called the Dell service number the tech left me. Twice. Before someone did what they promised to do, and emailed details of the tech's visit to a manager and asked for immediate call back.

Dell finally called back as I was leaving for the hospital. "I just want to make sure you are happy with everything" .........WHAT??????? I don't think so. A manager is calling back this evening.

My friend's car expired. The friend who was taking me to the hospital. So I had to call everyone I knew before I found someone at home and free to drive me. I came within a second of driving myself.

Stopped at clinic to collect MRI. "I have no record of your request" said the woman. Check. Ooops here it is she said 5 mins later.

The 12 year old registrar..... (he looked 12) well...... there is medial ligament damage and cartilage damage, and .....
Can I drive? - well that depends
Can I work ? - well that depends
Why does it hurt so much? - maybe it is the inflammation
Why is it so swollen? - maybe it is the inflammation
Why is it such an odd shape? - maybe it is the swelling from the inflammation
What do I do now? - take some anti-inflammatories. Come back in 4 weeks.

Give me strength. I don't know why I bothered. I am now going to heal myself, I have decided. I can't walk far, I can't climb steps easily. But I am going to find out how to fix it. If it has to be physio, then I will do it. Rest? Ditto.

Oh heavens - what a day. I am totally exhausted, and I still have another Dell call to deal with.

If it ever materialises.

Wed Pt 2

Dell man been. Said need new computer or money back. Unfortunately India was not available to speak to him. I await their call. Hair not an issue.

Hospital called. I do have the MRI don't I???? Um, no. The doctor has it.

Hospital called. Doctor is on holiday. I will be seeing a registrar. Who has no access to online MRI.

I do not have any faith in registrars. Especially new ones who have just started.

I called the MRI place, and finally shrieked enough for them to agree to give me what I paid for. My MRI.

Hospital phoned. Glad I tracked it down. I am beyond fury.

Hair done. Many tears shed. But I am now braced for the call from Dell. I hope they read this blog, because they will be aware then that any ANY attempt to fob me off will be met with an explosion the likes of which the bloggy world has never seen before.

Pt 3 to follow.


There may be little posts throughout the day today. I am sitting here with the head wrapped in a towel. I feel I need to share the joys of my life, and keep things real. I am not a picture of glamour. Well, not right now, anyway.

I have been up since 3am. Consequently, I am not full of energy.

I am waiting for the Dell man.

I need to iron everything I own.

I want today to be over.

I want to know what is wrong with my knee, but I also don't want to know.

One of my god-daughters has informed me she is getting married next year. In Thailand. I want to be there. If I fix the leg and start walking, I should make it by August. But then I would miss my grandchild. Oh decisions... decisions.

Maybe I should go and dry my hair. I may be more intimidating with dry hair and ironed clothes. And makeup.

Oh great - the Dell man just phoned. He will be here in 5 mins. The towel is behind the chair and I am slapping on makeup as I speak...back later

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

It is Tuesday (a breathtakingly original title)

It has been a Bank Holiday weekend here in England. A fairly quiet time, but the weather is actually warming up a little and we should have no rain this week! Summer! It may yet arrive!

We are officially now the host nation for the 2012 Olympics, and the party started on Sunday afternoon. All over the country. 1000s were in the Mall for the main Rock concert, and Michael Phelps, bless the boy, was there too, on his first visit to London. To say that the nation is proud of Team GB is an understatement. They way exceeded expectations, and we ended up 4th in the medal table, which, when you take the size of the population compared to the 3 above us, is a remarkable achievement. The "feel good factor" is alive and well in the country.

Remember that book I ordered back in June and have been waiting for impatiently ever since? The one which arrived last week? Well, I took that book into the bath to read while I wallowed. I read page 1, and page 2 and then I fell asleep and DROPPED IT IN THE BATH. It is now in a damp state and totally unreadable at the moment. I, understandably, am not all that impressed with myself. Sigh. I am being taught a lesson in patience, and the precarious consequences of reading in the bath. Ho hum. And the book? It is the Winding Ways Quilt - the latest in the Elm Creek books. It did not come with water wings. What a pity.

I am intrigued by how many of you who left comments on the laptop debacle have had similar experiences with Dell. One would think that they would move their call centres out of eastern parts and relocate them in the countries where they should be. Especially when there are technical things to be discussed.

Call centres drive me crackers. The worst one is British Rail here in the UK. If you phone a call centre, you get someone in Mumbai. And while they may have an excellent grasp of English, British towns are notorious for having names which sound totally unlike the way they are spelt. Bicester is pronounced Bister. Beaulieu is Bewlee. Norwich is Norritch, Plymouth is Plimith. You can see where there may be complications, and heaven forbid you may want to go to a Welsh town. At that point, there is no option other than to throw your hands (and the phone) in the air, and admit defeat. And forget the trains. Walk. Or drive. The loss of goodwill, not to mention sales, has to be more important than the profit margin on operating said call centres. Unfortunately there are not many sensible people like us there in big corporations. We are too busy rocking the cradles and ruling the world.

So tomorrow is the C day. Computer and Consultant. 68 days since I damaged my knee. Nearly 10 weeks. And I still don't know what is wrong with it. But I will tomorrow.

Yesterday, I made a Cape Brandy Tart. I dreamt of it the night before, and so I had to make one. It is years since I did, and it is just a delicious. It reminded me of Cape Town. And my youth. You eat it warm with cream, and it is the most delicious cake. It is made with dates, and is a sponge type cake, and then, the best part is that you pour loads of liquid syrup (with brandy) over the top, so it swims in the stuff, and soaks in, and it is sticky, moist and totally divine. I know. I ate a fair bit. Who cares re the hips. It also freezes well, which is a good thing, or I would be in serious trouble. I will take a photo when I feel the urge to eat some more. Which may be soon.

This is a random post which meanders off in all directions. But I think you guys are used to that. It is now 8.19am. Time for brandy tart yet????

I will be back.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Ding Dong, DELL.....

There is NOTHING that irritates, annoys and drives me into a fury more than

a. things which break 2 days after they arrive in this house, and
b. total and utter incompetence from people on the end of technical support phone lines in foreign parts who do not speak intelligible English.

My older son has bought my younger son a really good laptop for university from DELL (and YES it is in capital letters and I don't care how many things this post triggers - I am not happy) and it arrived in this house on Wednesday evening. He was beyond thrilled with it. So was I because it meant I had more access to this one, and also, I happen to love seeing my child really happy about things. He would have been happy with a basic one. This one had bells and whistles. He deserved it.


It lasted less than 48 hours. Yesterday afternoon, it died. The Dell logo comes up, followed by the black screen of death and a little white cursor in the top corner and that is it. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero. Deader than dead. So we embarked on the dreaded "let's phone the technical help line in foreign eastern parts". Oh joy. My loathing of foreign help lines is well documented.

I am sure there must be many wizards on the tech line who are good at their job. We got someone who was "a bit of a challenge" - I am being uncharacteristically restrained here - and the first 10 minutes consisted of me yelling "I cannot hear a word you are saying" followed by the " I do not understand a word you are saying" followed by lengthy silences followed by rising blood pressure.

I handed the phone to my son to do the techy things, and after trying many things we had already attempted, he was told to put the driver disc into the laptop. He did. It ate it and refuses to spit it out. When David got up and said the man had told him to get a screw driver to undo the machine and work on the insides, I grabbed the phone and informed him that under no circumstances was he going to do anything of the sort and void our warranty. And that they could send a new computer immediately and remove this obviously faulty and inadequate one.

It took nearly an hour. I asked to speak to a manager and none was forthcoming. That also escalated my ire. I do hope they recorded that call and use it for training purposes. At the same time, Andrew was on my mobile phone saying "do not touch anything with a screw driver" just as I was telling the man. They are sending a technician on Wednesday. I told them to make sure he had a new computer with him, or this one is going back on Wednesday afternoon and we want our money back.

I was exhausted. And David had this look of resignation on his face which breaks my heart. He loved his laptop. He is the kind of kid who never asks for anything, and is always happy with whatever he has, and this was so special for him. He seems to find it hard to believe that good things DO happen to him, and seems to be expecting things to go wrong, and I want things to go well for him. He needs things to be good and exciting and now the joy from receiving this gift has been tarnished with a doubt that it will work, with a worry that he will lose his work. In a way, it doesn't matter if he does get a new one. He will be waiting for the axe to fall. And I hate that even more than all the above.

So the blood pressure got some exercise. It must have been up there somewhere in the stratosphere. I was not serene and content. At. All. Our dealings with Dell have not been good over the years. At one stage the GM of Dell UK in Ireland and I were on first name terms and emailing each other on a daily basis because of the useless piece of plastic rubbish they had sent me. So I have no idea why I am surprised this time. I just keep believing that the next time it will not happen. And it does. And I have just deleted a few choice descriptive words that were not at all family friendly. You may insert your own at this point. Use your imagination.

So now we wait. This is not something I excel at. And when I finally get my own laptop, it will definitely not be a Dell.

Ironically, last night we were going out to celebrate a great week for David with friends. Peter, Glynis and Matt took us out to dinner, after also being appalled at my chocolate cookie celebration. We were picked up just after we ended the call to the helpline, and it is just as well it took some time to get to the restaurant. We did have a great evening though. They are great friends.

And when we got home, the first thing my son did was try to start his laptop again. Nada. Yes. It matters.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

4 o' clock in the morning...

Morning all - and it is dark o' clock here. I just watched those crazy women swimming 10kms in open water. I would have sunk long before the first one. In fact the first 100m might well have been a stamina challenge. They are mad. Totally mad. Apparently you can grab the person in front of you by the legs to stop her. And please tell me who decided that BMX bikes and beach volleyball were Olympic sports????

It is Wednesday already and there are just 12 days before the schools go back. And a week before I see that consultant. The summer is disappearing rapidly. I know I have spoken often about spending the summer on the couch and how frustrating it is, but yesterday I looked at my son, as he lounged in a chair and chatted to me, and I thought....this is a gift. If I had been mobile, I would have been doing things and whizzing about, and these times would have been rare. And it has also been a time when my closest friends have been sitting there too, chatting, laughing, and sharing their days with me. So there is always something to be thankful for.

Diana arranged for a cake to be delivered to celebrate David's results, and on Sunday, a little man from Tesco rang the doorbell and handed over a Dr Who cake to him. He was delighted. She was less than impressed with my offering of chocolate biscuits. Internet shopping is a wonderful thing indeed!

So here are a few things I am thankful for today:
  1. Thoughtful children (all 3 of them)
  2. Friends who pop in
  3. A kettle which works
  4. Laughter
  5. Great books to read (that book I ordered months ago has finally arrived!)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Watching the Olympics is exhausting!

Like the rest of the world, every waking moment seems to be taken up with watching the Olympics here. Did you SEE the 100m???? That man was jogging! And the rowing is great. Team GB is actually doing rather well, even if, as a friend said, we seem to win everything where you are required to sit. Cycling, rowing, sailing....Then there was the swimming, and forget the magic of Michael Phelps for a second, a British woman won 2 Gold medals and she is just 19!

I looked at son #2 and asked why he was not in Beijing swimming up and down and winning medals, as he was 19 too. He told me he was a little busy on the qualification day, so couldn't make it. Hmmm.

There is something magical about the Olympics, isn't there....

Yesterday, I gave in and had a friend drive me to Tesco to get a kettle. I had had enough of the pouring of water everywhere when I boiled it in a pot. The counter, the breadboard, the floor.... We will skim over the torment of actually having to ask someone to take me to the shops. I hate this - HATE it. At this point can I suggest that going to any supermarket with a man is not good. I had forgotten. Expensive kettles which sing and dance and do fancy things are good apparently. I slapped the cheap one in the trolley and ignored the advice. But at least I got my kettle. And having a chauffeur was great. I appreciate it. I really do.

Yesterday afternoon, I had a visit from a young friend, Kelly. She and my daughter grew up together here, and her Mum is my dear friend in Scotland. And as we sprawled on the couches and chatted about all and sundry, while watching the Olympics, it struck me that she (and my daughter) are roughly the same age as some of you. And age doesn't matter. We never ran out of things to talk about, and I never tire of hearing of all the exploits the young ones get up to either.

I am incredibly lucky, you know. I have some wonderful young people who love to pop in and visit me. Kate and her wonder dog pop in whenever she is home in the village too. They are some of my "chicks" and I love it when they are around at home. And I don't think they see me as the wizened old Granny sitting in her rocking chair. Yet. I think. Kate????

I miss my daughter. I wish she was sprawled on the other couch watching the Olympics with me, dancing about when we win Gold. Eating the chocolate cake Jean made for David to celebrate his uni place. Screaming at the tv screen as young athletes strain every muscle in their bodies to win.

The Olympics. They bring back memories. They are great. And I am exhausted. I have just rowed to a Silver medal while sitting on the couch. I expected Gold. It must have been the coffee......

Friday, August 15, 2008

Conversations from the couch....

Yesterday was such a happy day in the Casa de la Rocking Chair. David actually said - something is sure to go wrong, isn't it? I told him that was nonsense, and that we were going to enjoy every moment. So we celebrated with chocolate biscuits (cookies).

I am the last of the great spenders, as you can see. What is more, I put the biscuits on top of the microwave/convection oven, and forgot them there. Then heated the oven. Yes. Well. Melted biscuits still taste great! And we laughed some more.

Then my kettle died. I was not amused. My son must have the gift of prophesy. That is the 3rd thing to expire in the household appliance category. So I am now reduced to boiling water on the stove. I did not laugh at its demise. At all.

I did, however, have a nap on the couch for most of the afternoon. That was perfect. The pacing was not good, even though it did not last as long as I had anticipated. The dancing didn't help either, and neither did the walk around town while the delayed results were sorted. So I am creaking a little today, but I still have a grin on my face.

A whole era of my life is over, and the timing is so good. Just think - the last of my children is out of school, and now I have a grandchild on the way! 32 years ago, I was expecting Andrew, and now the full-time hands on stage of parenting is over. And it seems to have gone in a flash.

I don't know how many of you use Facebook. I do, and this morning, it all changed. I was sitting there staring at this totally strange new page which said "Welcome to the new Facebook!" and I thought - "I did not ask you to change. Go back immediately. I hate not being able to find my way round my own corners of the internet and just put it back the way it was, please. Now would be good." All in a nanno-second. And I remembered how much I hated having no choice but to change to beta when blogger did its thing too. And how, even now, I start hyperventilating when I need to update/change/add/adjust my side bar.

Just when I think I know what I am doing, I have to make adjustments and get used to new things.

Challenges. They are supposed to be good for us. Help us to grow. Become more. I am at the stage, though, where I would like to select the challenges I need to expend energy on - brain type of energy or other. And getting used to a new Facebook is not up there on the first 408675480 pages of my acceptable challenges. Or necessary challenges. Photoshop is. Writing is. Trying to work out how to design a new look for the blog is. Many many things are. FACEBOOK???? Humph.

How many of you use Facebook? And Twitter? Do I need to twitter too? Is this something I should be doing?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Results day.....

The TV is on and there are agile, immensely strong young men whirling around rings and bars as I speak. Falling off more than I expected too. I am with Barb here - I have no idea what the new scores mean. Bring back the old 10s or 9s or 8s. Those I knew.

I have been up since 4 something. Today is Results Day. The day the A level results are announced for all the school leavers in England and Wales. The day you find out if you have achieved the levels you need to get into the universities of choice. The day that essentially decides your future. Or for the next 3-4 years anyway. Sigh. I am a wreck. He, the son, on the other hand, is asleep. It doesn't matter how many times you have been through this with your other children, it never gets any easier. I just so want his dreams to come true for him. It has been a difficult few years.

The manicure was wonderful. I also discovered that they do a shoulder neck and scalp massage........ oh what a wonderful thought. It is supposed to be a stress buster. I absolutely love having the head massage when I go to the hair salon. You know when they wash your hair and then massage the conditioner in??? Just leave me there. Bliss. The absolute best part. And just think - I could go and have a shoulder neck and scalp massage for 30 minutes!

Unfortunately I would need a sizeable increase in my bank balance to do that. Groan. But it is all possible. Dreams are all possible. Otherwise they would be nightmares. 9.30 this morning would be a good time to have the stress busted. Right now would be even better. Maybe chocolate would work.......

By 9, I will have paced miles, which is not good for the knee, which is not good for the prospect of going back to work, which is not good for other stuff like financial survival, which means that I should not pace. So here I am writing drivel instead.

Now where did I put that chocolate.......


The son awoke, came downstairs and said - let me check tracker on the UCAS site. So I paced a little faster around the kitchen, and then his arms went up in the air and the grin split his face wide open, and he is IN!!! We don't know his results yet, but his place at Canterbury is CONFIRMED!!!! He is going to his first choice university in September, and this Mum is waltzing about the kitchen. Hmmm. WHO CARES!!!!!!


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Good and mediocre...

The great and the mediocre come together here today. The great part is that I WENT OUT! And I actually managed to fold my leg into a cinema seat. And I saw Mama Mia, the movie. If you haven't been, go. Go now! It is the ultimate feelgood movie of the summer, and I laughed till I cried. Meryl Streep is something else, and people, the lady is 59....... 59! There is hope still. I am obviously going to blossom in the next 5 years and go to Greece, and dance on a wall and a table. And sing like a dream and look amazing. And Julie Walters was so funny....

I am a little over the top here, but I went out. OUT. I loved it. And do you know what? Every single person in the movie theatre left laughing and smiling, and yes, there were men there too. Hello world. I am back. Robocop is alive.

The mediocre is that my consultant's secretary is away till the 26th August, the first appointment I can get is on the 27th, which makes me think the consultant is away too. It would have been good if he had mentioned this before my friends paid a small fortune for the rapid MRI - and I will be less than happy if the free one appears before he returns.

So while I have had it done, I know nothing. And treatment can't begin till after the 27th, which is 5 days before I am due back at work at the start of term on the 1st Sept. The same day David may be starting uni.

Back to the good - I am about to go off and have a manicure. The bride from the wedding a month or so ago, is treating me, her Mum and another friend, who helped with the dresses, to a visit to the salon in the village. There will be much laughter and lots of coffee involved.

I will be back!

Monday, August 11, 2008


Harvest time! Well, in a very small way really. Very small. Very.

But harvest none the less!

I have PICKED AND EATEN the first red tomato in my garden! I have watched it ripen over the past week and had to slap my fingers away more than once, and then last night, I ate it. Bliss. There is nothing quite like the taste of a freshly picked tomato. Or a freshly picked anything, come to that. Especially the very first one of the season. That is special. Growing your own food is the most wonderful thing, and why on earth have we moved away from the tradition of centuries? Millennia?

We have had broad beans, courgettes, peas, and lettuce so far. We are way behind you lot in the States, I think. The crops are growing, but if there was just a smidgen of sunlight, I think they would go beserk. So would the nation. Everyone seems to think that Autumn is early this year. Like right now. My apple tree is laden. The beans are doing well. The peppers are looking good. Small, but good so far. The herbs are great.

I read all about your canning, preserving, freezing etc, and think....hmmm. I may get round to this in October at the rate things are growing here. There is so much in the allotment at the moment, growing slowly, and we have plans for autumn planting too.

So here we are in the 3rd week of our school holidays. Halfway through already. To be quite honest, it has not seemed like a holiday. More like time spent in a waiting room, with too many restrictions on my movements. And have I used this time wisely? I don't think so. I should have managed it better. Frustration levels are very high today.

I have this weird sense that I am on the cusp of something. And that I could fall either way - backwards or forwards. I have no idea where the feeling has come from, but at the moment, I am swaying about in the breeze. You may well think I have lost my mind. You may be right.

So for the next few days, I will be "being still" and listening.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

What to do with the stones....

Rain and wind.
Visitors popping in.
Olympic sport to watch and marvel at.
A 5th wedding anniversary to celebrate.
Dinner out.
The house seeming full.
Chatter and laughter.

I can't remember where I read about stones. The stones of life. I can't even remember what it was about. Just the stones. Then I started thinking about how we use stones.

Stones for foundations. How we chisel them out of the earth and use them as part of the "hard-core" when we build foundations for our homes.

Stones we use to build walls. How we hone the edges to make sure they all sort of fit together to build walls. Look at the old castles - they were not built of bricks, but of stones. How high they are. Cathedrals - how they soar into the heavens.

And stones we file down and flatten as best we can to make pathways. They can't be too bumpy and uneven, or they will trip people up.

Stones we polish and wear in jewellery. Precious stones. Beautiful gifts from the earth.

So what if every person we meet and experience we have is a stone in the creation of our lives? What if we use them for the wrong things? Is it better to build strong walls or to build a pathway?

Stone walls reach toward Heaven. Stone paths lead towards a future. Walls vs Paths. Walls keep you safe, but they can also hide you away. Paths are open and leave you vulnerable to attack, but they also lead you forwards to places yet undiscovered. Adventures.

What do you do with the stones of your life?

Saturday, August 09, 2008

MRIs, Olympics and kids....

At the same moment that the Olympics opening ceremony began, I was having the MRI scan. It lasted 30-40 mins, and just before the end, I made the mistake of swallowing. And because I was flat on my back, I spent the next few minutes choking and coughing, attempting to continue breathing. Without moving anything. Cue booming voice over the loudspeaker - Stay absolutely still, Linds. Stay absolutely still. Unfortunately one cannot cough without moving body parts. And I needed to breathe. In the end, he did that bit again. But it is done. Thank heavens.

Anyway, the nice little man told me his lips were sealed and wouldn't tell me anything, but apparently my consultant will have received the pictures etc yesterday. And I came home to the Olympics.

Andrew, Ann, David and I watched the man running around the rim of the arena to light the flame, and the conversation turned to London 2012. You know BECAUSE WE ARE DOING THE NEXT OLYMPICS!! We discussed Health and Safety Rules Which Must Be Obeyed.

Just do not expect anything remotely resembling China's Opening ceremony in 4 years time. That man running around the roof would have had to be wearing a hard hat, with a safety/fluorescent /orange jacket, with scaffolding in place, and probably a face shield for the flames, and fire retardant gloves. Or maybe a totally fireproof suit. Not to mention the mile deep foam safety mattress on the arena floor.

However, we loved the footprints across the city, and we all practiced being doves in my lounge too. With enthusiasm and much vigour. And those 2000+ drummers were amazing. It was beautifully done. However, the march of the athletes could be speeded up just a little. To warp speed.

So - now I am off to make coffee, bake croissants, and enjoy the day with some of my children. If Diana were here, it would be just perfect.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The fun goes on....

I have discovered a slight hitch to wearing the robocop attachment OVER one's jeans. It only came to light after I made a made dash for the bathroom. Yes. It was not quite as smooth as one would have liked. I needs to think about that. I am wearing a skirt today. I am hiding my contraption. And before you suggest anything as stupid as maybe wearing the contraption under one's jeans, may I just point out that one's jeans have limits to their expandability which have been reached by having one's leg inside them.

As I seem to be chronicling my hospital experiences ad neaseum here, I have something new to add. We are at the rolling on the floor laughing stage, which means hysteria is not far off. I had 2 letters from the hospital yesterday. One was to tell me that my next appointment with the consultant is - wait for it - 28th JANUARY 2009. What????? I don't think so. So I sat down and battled my way through answer phones and all the rest and finally got a human, who seemed as perplexed as I was about that. That can't be right she said. No indeed it is NOT right. Anyway, I told her that the moment the MRI was done, I would be back as a fixture in her clinic. She seemed to undertsand my ire. And is making a plan. Good. That one seems to be getting sorted. I live in hope.

The second letter did indeed have me rolling about laughing. It was a request to fill in my opinions of the "booking an appointment" procedure at the hospital. I rather think they have got more than they anticipated with that one. Can we just say that my ticking of some boxes would have gone through 487 pages and took up considerably more space than the little boxes. Like half the page. I do believe my feelings will be quite clear. From the ticks.

So, so far there has not been one encounter with the place which has gone smoothly and correctly. I did ponder the wisdom of putting the name of the hospital as the title of a couple of posts and having them pop up as one of the most visited sites on a google search. Oh the power. I am quite sure no other site for this hospital has in the region of 300+ visits a week. I could be their first option. Hahahahahahaha, she cackles gleefully.

I restrained myself.

And on to other things. I occupied myself yesterday by writing a "Mother's survival guide" for my son. Yes, I know he is 19 and quite capable, but he needed basic essentials like what temperature to do his washing etc. Here it is all pre-set. Not to mention the favourite recipes. It was fun. And it was good to do while I kept a list next to it of all the things he needs to take with him when he goes. Things I still need to get for him, and things we have somewhere in this house. The weeks are flying by and before long he will be off. Where and when - that depends on his results. Universities start at different times here.

He is getting really excited about it all, and that is great. It is time for him to move into the next phase of his life and spread his wings a little. For now, the list of stuff I want him to do here before he goes is growing too. It is very convenient having a 6ft 5" son about the place, especially one who is as strong as an ox and can lift and do things I cannot do. I am seizing the moment.

Andrew and Ann are coming up for the weekend, and we will celebrate their 5th anniversary on Saturday. Back to that time flying thing. And I can sit and beam at Ann's little "bump" and dream of wonderful times yet to come.

See? Life is good. And it goes on and on and on......

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Brace yourselves...

Let me introduce you to the newest summer look for the legs. You cannot be without one. It is a MUST for the fashionable woman.....

Hahahahahahahaha. Yes, the brace has landed. One apparently needs an engineering degree at the very least, or preferably a master's degree in rocket science to put it on. Correctly, that is.

Louise and I went to the hospital yesterday (in the rain) to get the brace fitted. I had 2 delightful nurses to do the fitting, and they told me to hop onto the table. I reclined as instructed. The conversation was hilarious. I asked them how long it took to learn how to do it. They told me about the 2 minutes they had been trying so far. Right. Experts then.

When they had it in place, they handed me this - the extras. This is like Ikea furniture. You know what I mean? There is always something left over at the end and you are left wondering what you have missed. Maybe something vital.

Anyway, we left, and I walked slowly out of the clinic area into the main hospital. Then I stopped. You know that feeling where you are sure you are losing control of the elastic in some vital under garments? The feeling of slow inevitable descent? Yeah. Right. So I turned round, hobbled back to the clinic and informed them it was heading south. Just tighten a few straps they said. Hmmmm.

I was wearing a skirt, and the fortunate part is that the skirt was long enough to hide it completely. Or should have been long enough. However, the descent continued, as we got to the car, and by the time I had made it into the house, I was trailing it beautifully around my ankle. This is a particularly fetching look, and one I highly recommend. My son was crying with laughter. I live to amuse.

So I looked in the bag of extras, and FOUND AN INSTRUCTION BOOK! Brand new! Never opened! Yes! I am a woman. We read instructions! Well, some of us do. Nurses, however, appear to skip this step.

Tell me - does this illustration look as though the person (who is carrying a SURFBOARD on the box, while wearing this contraption - I clearly need a surfboard. At once. ) is reclining on a couch??? I don't think so.

See why I mention those degrees in fancy things???

And then here is the actual instruction page. I do believe you are required to SIT. Not recline. And No. 3 clearly states that patients should be instructed in the proper use of the contraption. Hmmm.

And what is more, it is very important to put it on in the order listed. I have no idea why, but it is. And those 2 delightful nurses just started at opposite ends and slapped it on. It is absolutely no wonder at all that the wretched thing descended my leg like an avalanche, gathering speed all the time. No mention was made either, of the importance of re-adjusting it after 10-15 mins.

So I sat in my kitchen, with the glasses perched on the end of my nose, and followed every instruction. And you know what? It stayed in place! Eureka! It just took about 30 mins of trying to identify all the straps, which are marked with numbers. However, I do not have eyes in the back of my head, and reading those numbers when they are behind my leg is somewhat complicated and requires contortions not possible if one is not a circus performer. But I got there in the end. Hopefully I will get faster as I become more familiar with the mechanics.

What a pity the nurses did not consider reading the instructions first.

You may call me Robocop. I just need one of those very large ammunition propelling thingies and I will be all set to star in the next action adventure.

You will not be seeing a photo of me wearing it. I have some photos. Maybe it will look better if I wore high heels and fancy tights. Or glitter and tinsel. I am not going through one of my more elegant phases at the moment. Sigh.

But hey! I can SURF! The box says so! How far away is the sea.....

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Keeping it real...

Well. Sunday disappeared in a haze of pain. My head was exploding and I lay on a couch and refrained from all movement. Including breathing at times. Breathing requires movement. And yesterday I re-entered the world. Slowly.

You know, a while back here I wrote about how you need to beware of turning 50. I was right. I have been the most outrageously healthy woman all my life, and suddenly, I turned 50 and so help me, everything went pear-shaped, and I am closely resembling the caricatures of old people sitting in the doctor's surgery with a catalogue of ailments and bits that appear to be falling off. Whatever. I am not impressed. Or happy. I HATE being sick. I avoid being sick. I never admit I am sick. And in the same category goes the broken bit too. I HATE being broken. Dented. Injured. Incapacitated.

I LOATHE taking medicine. Pain killers. Stuff. I want to be out there taking care of myself and my family. And my friends. And the wider world. I want to be walking through forests on the Alps I love so much. I want to climb up the mountains, and stand on the top. I want to run through the fields. On the beach. I want to clamber over rocks and investigate rock pools. I want to do all the things I have always loved doing. I want to garden. Work on the allotment. Go for walks along the river. Run. I want to DO things. I want to crawl over the floor pinning quilts.

And yes, I know there is a great deal of the "I" and "WANT" there. Not to mention the loving pleasant words like hate and loathe. I know. I know. But the "I and want" are not getting tacked on to the acquisition of stuff. I don't want or need things. I just want to be able to move. To get back my independence. I want to be the one who goes and gets all the things my son needs for uni soon. I want to take him to get his results next week. I want to be the one who takes him to uni for the first time. I don't want other people to do it. I want to. I want to be able to drive again. NOW. I really do appreciate all the help being offered, but it is not the same. To me.

And, much though I dislike my job, I want to be able to work. I want to be out there living. I hate being slowed down, and having the crutch as an appendage.

As you can see, I am not coping with inactivity and discomfort very well. Not today. Mind you, not yesterday either. I also realise that on a scale of 1-10, this is a minor. It could be so much worse. I do feel like a fraud in so many ways. I feel fine. I look fine. I just actually can't walk properly. People who don't see me often assume all is well. It has been 6 weeks, after all. I have had some calls asking me to please collect people from nearby towns. To go and babysit. To go out for meals. All assuming I can do things like drive. I can't drive at the moment, for heaven's sake. The doctor said no. And because I am also the world's worst passenger, this is also a trial. I am a control freak. I need to be behind the wheel. In control. I am also finding it impossible to ask for help. I mean, I have friends who all say - just tell me what you want. Oh yes. Great. I have made one or 2 calls in the past few weeks and if there is no answer, or if they are busy, I stop immediately and try to work out how I can do it myself. I hate asking. HATE it.

This is turning into one mega moan. Tough. It is grey and damp outside, I spilt make-up on my favourite top this morning and I cannot get it out, even after scrubbing, soaking, stain removing etc. I am still waiting for a call re the brace. In fact, I think I am going to start tracking that down this morning.

And yet there is something really special which happened on Sunday. The "non" day. From my letterbox, I collected an envelope, stuffed with enough money for a private MRI scan. From my friends. How cool is that. Incredibly special. I don't have to wait any more. I have every reason to celebrate and be thankful, and the moaning has to stop.

The blessings outweigh the trials. She says through gritted teeth. I need to work on the gritted teeth bit. I find it hard to receive. So hard. I am better at the giving bit. I need to work on a few things like grace and humility and thanksgiving, and to accept my limitations for now. If ever there was a time to acknowledge that I am "a work in progress", this is it.

The essence of the problem, people, is that I am not in control. Of anything right now. I am so far out of my comfort zone that it is no joke. I am used to fixing things. Not to being the one needing fixing.

And right now, I appear to be in the middle of a toddler temper tantrum, tossing my toys out of the pram. (Note the alliteration - I couldn't think of an appropriate "t" for the end. Tepee?)

Maybe more coffee would help. I will be back later in a better mood. I hope.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

The appointment

I could write a book about my experiences with one particular hospital. Today was no better. On the way there I told the friend who took me in that I was going with zero expectations, so I could hopefully be pleasantly surprised.

They were surprised. No-one had made the appointment. I had a call over 2 weeks ago to tell me the appointment had been changed to today. I even called them yesterday to say I had had no paperwork and what time was it and where did I go. They supplied all the info. Unfortunately they never actually MADE the appointment. Good start then.

I was approaching volcano status. "The consultant won't see you without an appointment". Hello. I am not moving. I am not here for a bunion, I am here because I have damaged myself and have an injury which should have been seen 6 weeks ago. I will not move. "But we don't have your notes". I am more than capable of telling the man exactly what I have done, and as there is no proper diagnosis as yet, he can sort that one out. "I will have to ask him, but I don't hold out much hope." You misunderstand me. I am not leaving till he sees me. And believe me, you do not want to make me mad right now. I will be contacting the chief executive on Monday morning as it is.

Much scurrying about with me sitting there wondering if I am about to be bodily ejected from the building. Then the nurse re-appeared and said "He has agreed to see you." Gee thanks. I am overwhelmed. Wise man.

To cut a long story short, he saw me. I told him. He looked at the knee. He moved it and it made some clunking noises, and he stopped and said - that does not sound good at all. It is not supposed to do that. And I burst into tears. Finally. A consultant who has recognised that something is wrong. I have to have a leg brace for the leg and that will be sorted at the start of the week. You can't get anything done on a Saturday. I need an MRI but the waiting list could be as much as 6 weeks, so I told him I would see when the appointment was - I should hear by Wednesday, and if I have to wait more than a week, I will pay to go privately. He agreed that would be best. Or guess what - I would have to wait 6 weeks to see him again. 6 weeks in a brace. Immobile.

It is not going to happen. If I have this *&!*&%$ MRI next week, he can decide on the treatment immediately afterwards. I can't wait any more.

He says he has no idea how extensive the damage inside the knee is at the moment, or how much damage I have done to it over the 6 weeks. The brace should protect what is left of it. The worrying bit was when he asked how old I was. I told him that I was not ready for the scrapheap yet, and that I needed a fully functioning knee.

So I came home. Wiped out. I have been up since 4am again. I toppled onto the couch and slept for 3 hours. Everything is a battle. Everything. And you know what???? I am tired of battles.

Now I am going to go and compose a couple of letters. Of the volcanic variety.

PS: There appears to have been a sitemeter/IE incompatibility problem today in the blogging world. I could not open anything this morning but it is working ok at the moment. Just as well. I was about to take an axe to the computer.

Friday, August 01, 2008

I have no ideas for a title today...

One more day till I see the consultant. One more. It is now 6 weeks since I wrecked my knee. Oh, the miracles of modern medicine. The speed is so astounding it takes my breath away.

I have been up since the wee hours again, and I have just looked at the hair. I have decided that curls and waves are "in". The humidity makes my hair do weird things. Or should that be "wired"..... both are completely appropriate right now. I look like the wild woman of Borneo. And no, you are absolutely NOT going to be seeing what a vision of staggering perfection I am.


I have no news. Life is not exactly a whirlwind of excitement here on the couch. I could take photos of my toes. Or the book I am trying to read. Every time I get past the first page (all of 12 lines) I fall asleep. I could also take photos of the dust. Or the carpet which needs vacuuming. Or the cobwebs. I am sure they are there, but I need my glasses to see. The remote control for the tv. My mobile phone.

Hmmmmm. I am clutching at straws here. So instead, here is a list of a few things I am particularly thankful for:
  1. That I am going to be a Granny in February!
  2. It is cooler today
  3. My son still makes me coffee without complaint after 6 weeks (after he wakes upthat is, and it is now 11.01am - not that I am in a hurry or anything)
  4. Chatting to my daughter both on the phone and on messenger
  5. My couch - am I ever glad we got the 2 couches!

And I am going back to the couch right now. If I wear sunglasses I won't be able to see any of the dust.

Oops - I have just remembered that I a) have been tagged to do a meme and b) have a couple fo awards I need to pass on. Tomorrow. I will do it tomorrow.