Reminiscing in the Barley

We have only one car at the moment and Whizz is away on business in it until tomorrow. This is not too much of a problem as, although we live in a village, it has many amenities such as a Post Office, two general stores, a farm shop, a coffee shop and even a library.

There are plenty of lovely walks for the daily dog tramp too but the one I have been using lately takes me ‘among the fields of barley’ to the chalk quarry mentioned in previous posts. The other day, the sun was beating down and the heads of barley were crackling in the heat. A familiar smell rose from the fields and I puzzled for some time over what it reminded me of.

It came to me the next day. It was the aroma of my straw school hat. The memory got me thinking about my school uniform; I can’t imagine any state school child today being seen dead in a summer boater or a winter beret, the latter in a horrible purple with a gold coloured badge and with thick school blazer to match.

blazer pocket
Blow me down I found a picture of my blazer badge.
That’s me on the right. Lawks, our summer uniform was worse than the winter one.

Everyone hated their school uniform didn’t they? In my school we tried to make it a bit more acceptable by rolling up our waistbands to make our skirts mini even though the pleats then stuck out like a tutu. Carrying round an interesting bag instead of a satchel also helped us to be individual. Hair was important: a pair of curtains, my mother used to call it. A parting in the middle then straight down either side a la Mary Hopkins or Julie Felix. Other girls – more sophisticated – would be found in the loos at lunch time back combing their bobs and painting illicit eyeliner above their lashes.

On one occasion, during a hot summer when the girls were staying cool by eschewing tights and stockings, we were called by the head to a special meeting. He told us we must wear tights, as they were part of our uniform. My friend and I were so affronted at the unreasonable demand that we made a point of wearing tights full of holes and ladders.

When we left school there was a ceremonial destruction of our school boaters.Some tore the rim from the crown and flung it, Frisbee-like, across the quad, but I discovered the natty trick of concertina-ing the rim and squashing it into the crown. When it popped out it looked like the hat of a flower pot man.

Boys of course had long hair. The rule was that it should be above the collar at the back. This was in the late 60s so rules were made to be broken, man. The main rule was Don’t Get Caught. We had a fantastic Headmaster, Mr Hayward. He would sweep through the corridors in his cap and gown – another uniform of the past – and the boys with the longest hair would dive for cover until he had gone by.

It doesn’t seem very long ago really but it is history already!

Nits in the Knots

human head louse: pediculus humanus on hair
Thanks to Boots the Chemist for this picture of a head louse. Bleah!

Yesterday, one of the highlights was Mavis, Whizz and I staring at one another while we dripped with oily nit killer.

By the time your child reaches the age of almost-14 you expect the days of nits to have passed but somehow Mavis managed to get too close to someone whose head was home to a colony.

To make matters worse we have just been on holiday and Mavis shared a double bed with Amy, who today, heads off to Bahrain for a month to stay with her dad (I’m itching as I write this).

Both my girls have provided homes for nits on occasion so the dripping experience was not new to us. The first time Horace had nits I didn’t know what they were. I didn’t notice anything crawling about on her head but there surely must have been because her scalp was black with their faeces. She had just visited a very upmarket hairdresser in House of Fraser when I discovered the problem. I think the stylist probably threw away her comb after cutting Horace’s hair. The generous parents had also been to visit so they had to treat themselves too.

On an occasion when Mavis sported the little blighters I had the treatment stuff in the house ready. That evening I treated her hair and after the requisite ten minutes, I washed it out and sent her to bed with it still damp. The following morning the hair looked as if it was still wet. It wasn’t, it was just oily but there was no time to wash it again so I sent her to school looking like a greasy teenager.

We did not buy the school photo, taken that day.

Hot Tottie

My Husband says I’m hot in bed,

Well he’s hot too.

With the sheets thrown off, our naked bodies writhe and buck in the gloomy, curtained air.

We’ve been married for 30 years but at night still we steam,

Not bad for an old pair.

His hand reaches for mine,

Get away! say I, you’re too hot to bear.

In the small hours I wallow in sweat,

So does he,

It’s age for me,

For him it’s the beer, you see,

What a pair!

NHS My Recent Experience ( a bit late)

Christmas was nearly here and Whizz, Mavis and I had decided to spend it alone so we invited my parents for a mini Christmas on the weekend of the 14th December. I cooked a huge roast with all the trimmings; we had wine, port, liqueurs, chocolates and cheeses. By the end of the evening we were, in the tradition of the festive season, over indulged and quite tipsy.

I just need to scoot back a couple of weeks. I had suffered a pretty acute pain in my calf that started while walking the dog and Whizz, the one who reads all the articles on the internet so he can keep me informed as to our opinions, said “Ooh; Deep Vein Thrombosis!”

“Don’t be ridiculous. DVT, I’m not the type of person who gets a DVT. I exercise, drink in moderation (not) and anyway I’m far too young.” After a trawl through the internet however, I rang the doctor. “My husband thinks I have a DVT so I’m ringing you so that you can tell me I don’t!”

The doctor asked a few questions then told me to come straight to the surgery.

The complication is that I have a game left leg. I wear a built up shoe and it is noticeably thinner than the right leg, which is over developed to compensate. The main symptom of a DVT is a swollen leg but it wasn’t possible to tell if my right leg was swollen so off I was sent to Stoke Mandeville hospital, home of the paralympics and lurking place of the unspeakable Jimmy Saville, for a scan. There was nothing to be seen. A week later, another scan, still nothing.

“We’ll assume it’s a pulled muscle announced the doc,” massaging my calf until I nearly hit the ceiling. “Exercise and stretch it.”

As I limped out he stopped me at the door. “If you feel discomfort in your chest or shortness of breath, get yourself down to A and E.”

I left, shrugging off the advice as I was definitely as fit as a flee.

You have probably guessed by now that during our mini Christmas, my chest got tighter and tighter until, as we were going to bed, the doctor’s words returned to me.

“Blast it!” I said (or words to that effect), I think we need to go to A and E.

I was wearing my pyjamas and by then feeling pretty uncomfortable. Whizz re-donned his clothes and drove me to the hospital.

It was Saturday night and the Accident department was full of people. Apparently, Wycombe Hospital had to closed its A and E department but, unsurprisingly, not enough allowance had been made for the extra pressure on Stoke.

I was whipped in for a consultation (triage) quite quickly and breathed alcoholic breath at the young woman at the desk who took my details. Quite soon I was wired up for an ECG and sent for blood tests but once it was decided that I wasn’t dying, I sat in a corridor beside two girls with pouting lips and skimpy dresses who had fallen off their high heels, and a lad with ear-ache. Ambulances came and went in the distance.

I was prepared for the long haul and that was just as well. What drove me mad was that I kept being interviewed by one or other person and each time they asked me the SAME QUESTIONS. They had my notes in their hands but they just kept on asking, “On a scale of 1 – 10, how bad is the pain?”

“When did it start?”

“Where do you feel it?”

I remained relatively calm, on the outside. Everyone else was rushing about and nobody had time to explain anything.

At 5am Whizz went home for a couple of hours sleep as he needed to collect Mavis from a sleepover some miles away.

By the time he and Mavis had returned to the hospital – I’m not sure of the time, perhaps 9.30am, I was in a bed. No doctor had been to see me but eventually a young woman in a white coat turned up and sat on the edge of the sheet. “So,” she leaned towards me companionably, “tell me about this pain.”

I was sent for a scan in the afternoon and by then I was in agony. I had my first ride in a wheelchair – a little scary actually. I laid on the table and followed instructions. Still no communication, just the need to endure the pain and the boredom.

My mum and dad came to visit me; by now I was in Emergency Ward 10. My dad was worried. I had a sandwich. We chatted awkwardly – what is it about hospitals that kills normal conversation?

I should think it was about 6pm when a doctor finally rushed in and told me casually, and almost in passing that I had a Pulmonary Embolism. She rushed out again. I was astonished. I had been convinced in my ignorance that if I had something chronic I would have received speedier treatment.

I’m fine now and I am sure that all those poor doctors and nurses in the hospital are exhausted and well intentioned. My grumble is that the emergency department is clearly understaffed so there is no time for communication, between the staff or to their victims

The whole experience has left me determined that if I make it into old age and become ill, I’m going to barricade the doors and chain myself to the bed so that nobody can take me to hospital.



Caravan Disasters

Those readers who follow this blog will know that my family and I are keen but rather unsuccessful caravanners. Years ago we bought a brand new folding camper and then Whizz found himself with so much work – oh happy days – that we hardly used it and it sat in our drive collecting flies and bird poop and losing value. One day, when we needed a new bathroom, the pristine camper – yes we gave it a wash – was sold at half its original price.

We acquired a dog and wished we hadn’t sold the folding camper. Camping in some form seemed ideal for a family with dogs. Continue reading Caravan Disasters