Little things

This is one of those blog entries made up of several observations, none of which deserve an entry to themselves.

I’m sat in my new kitchen waiting for my new cooker to warm up before cooking a pie, which I will have with mash. The oven is electric; the first time I’ve used electric at home although when I stay in holiday cottages the ovens are always powered by the spark. This oven came with an instruction book. Now I’m old fashioned, and content with that. To me an oven is an oven. Video recorders came with instruction books. Cameras come with instruction books. An oven should be intuitive.

This oven has a clock and timer on board. I can use the timer, says the book, to start cooking at a pre-determined time and for a pre-determined period. But for some reason it won’t switch the oven off. IN order to do this, I need to press buttons 2 & 3 simultaneously and then press button 4 or 5 (but not both) to set the time. Or maybe that’s to set the clock? One of the buttons sets the timer in hours and minutes but another function sets it in minutes and seconds. I’ve just spent ages trying to set 25 minutes only for it to stop at 24.59 because it was in hours and minutes.! Read the manual! But at least it has a light to enable me to see my pie as it cooks.

After they’d finished the kitchen (apart from the under cabinet lighting – one can’t operate properly without the under cabinet lighting but I am trying my best), I went shopping for stuff. Many would call this stage of the new kitchen process accessorising. I prefer ‘buying stuff’. In the kitchenware shop, I was looking to see what was available – I have no idea of what accesso… er… stuff I need for a kitchen so I wanted ideas. I came across a kettle. It cost £99! I don’t understand how a kettle can cost £99. In preparation for the disruption of replacing the kitchen, I bought an emergency kettle for £5.99. It boils water, which is all I ask from a kettle. In the shop, I celebrated saving £93.01 by buying a mop. (It cost £6.99).

I gave blood today – my 29th time. If you’ve never done it, do it tomorrow and help save a life. It’s quick and painless and you get a chocolate biscuit at the end. Part of the process includes making sure you don’t dehydrate and that you maintain your fluid level. In the past, this was in the form of advice to drink before and after donating, along with a hot or cold drink immediately after the session. Recently, they have started giving us a pint of water before we donate. Inevitably there is a wait between drink and donation. With my walnut sized bladder, this rapidly creates an overwhelming urge to visit the toilet as rather than replacing lost fluid, the water somehow senses I still have my full volume of blood and makes its way to the nearest exit.

Negotiating the table on which I lie while my lifeblood pumps out of me, the 20 minutes or so of actual donation and the walk to the drink and biscuit table can be awkward when the bladder is protesting. After the sweet relief of a visit to the toilet, it only takes a few minutes for the body to sense it’s a pint of blood down and start complaining but it’s too late as the water is gone. The secret, then, is to drink in moderation over a longer time.

I chuckled at the warning card they gave me to read which stated that I shouldn’t donate if I was planning on working underground or going mountain climbing afterwards. Needless to say, my summit bid for Pen y Fan via the caves of Dan yr Ogof have been postponed.

The nurse that supervised my bloodletting talked about what to have for tea and we agreed that pie and mash would be ideal. Hence I’m sitting waiting for my pie to cook in an oven that requires a degree in food science to operate. 

 

More Rufus

When I wrote my last blog 10 days ago, I did it with tears in my eyes and with a dread that my next blog entry would be a sad obituary for Rufus. Without being too dramatic, I was depressed and still awaiting the results from the various tests he’d been subjected to. I couldn’t let myself think there was any hope. They’d had to keep him in under supervision and although he came home later that day, he was back in the next day with further complications. But the last sentence I wrote about the thought of losing him (“I’m not ready for that yet and deep down, despite all that’s wrong with him, I don’t think Rufus is ready either”) proved to be prophetic. Despite all he’s been through, Rufus is snoring happily on the sofa as I write this, having just returned from a nice stroll by the side of the River Tawe near Moel Feity.

It’s still not clear what was wrong and although initial tests have come back negative, there is still a possibility that liver cancer has caused the whole thing. But the vet thinks it more likely that it’s an isolated and unexplained case of Immune-Mediated Thrombocytopenia (IMTP – a condition in which the body attacks its own blood platelets, causing uncontrolled bleeding) which can occur in some breeds, Cocker Spaniel being one. This is what he is being treated for while more tests are done.

Judging by his recovery, the treatment is working. He came home from the vets on Tuesday and since then he has regained his mischievous character, the spark in his eyes and the incessant appetite. I’ve gradually taken him for longer walks, watching him all the time and stopping when he seems to be getting tired. It’s not as straightforward as that as Rufus feigns exhaustion when he realises we’re heading back to the car or to the house. He’s done it for years and the closer we get to ‘home’ the slower he gets. But I can read the signs and I’m happy that he’s regaining his strength.

This morning, I was woken several times by an enquiring nose and at 5.30 I let him out for his usual morning toilet patrol. At 7.30, a wet nose and wagging tail informed me that it was time to get up and go out for a longer walk. So after breakfast, we set off for the river in the Cerrig Duon valley. It’s one of Rufus’ favourite locations, particularly in the summer when he can cool of by paddling and swimming in the sparkling water. I thought it would be a nice treat for him during his recovery and I wasn’t wrong. We were out of the car for more than an hour and at no time did Rufus’ tail stop wagging. I watched him carefully for signs of fatigue and cold and there were none. He took the lead and set the pace. The river walk isn’t the most strenuous we’ve done but there is enough climbing, jumping and balancing on rocks to provide a bit of a work out for him (and me).

I took the opportunity to try and take some photos and here was another sign that Rufus was feeling better. Every time set up a photograph, a black Cocker Spaniel appeared in the viewfinder (see the photos below). It’s his normal way of reminding me of the main reason we are out – to provide exercise for him. Suitably reminded of my role in this morning’s outing, I simply strolled on, enjoying the sun and the companionship of my walking buddy.

We’re not out of the woods yet. The treatment for IMTP will last for around 3 months as the drug doses are gradually reduced. There will be more tests and I will worry while I wait to hear about each one. But for the time being, I have my boy back with me and he’s making good progress.

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Not going out

We’re not going out this weekend. “Too hot,” you say? Well, we tend to venture forth early to avoid the heat of the day, but that’s not the reason. “You have delicate and sensitive skin that you wish to protect from the ravages of the sun,” you ponder? Well, it is true that I was once approached to be the face of Nivea For Men*, but this is not the reason why either.

*Note: This is not actually true.

No. We are not going out today because on Thursday night, some small, sad youth smashed the driver’s side window of my car in order to steal my satellite navigation unit and my mobile phone. Only I don’t have a sat nav and I always carry my mobile phone with me. So instead he stole a pair of binoculars and a portable radio. Total value new, around £50. Total value to him? Probably less than the “four good blood samples and the two sharp fingerprints” he left behind (quote courtesy of the South Wales Police forensics officer).

All he left me was a mess. A small window shatters into several small windows worth of glass; the act of breaking triggers a biological response and each tiny crystal reproduces. And, I am assured by those who have also experienced the joy of a smashed car window, some of those crystals worm their way into the dark corners of the car only to emerge years later. The window is now double glazed with plastic and cardboard and so I can’t leave the car anywhere.

I count myself fortunate. No one of any consequence was injured (the young gentleman who did this deed is of no consequence). There are plenty of people in the world far worse off than me. So I find it easy not to be angry. In reflective moments, I even consider that the person who felt desperate enough to break in to my car probably has a drug or debt problem. But then I also consider that most people with problems do something constructive about them – and that choice of action is a far harder and more difficult thing to do than to hit a pane of glass with a hammer, fumble about in a car and come away with a large, bloody cut and two near worthless items.

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DIY – shall I compare thee to a summers day?

A summer’s day starts with a warm, empty morning waiting to be filled with nice things.  DIY starts with that dreaded ‘where the <insert preferred expletive> do I start with all this, then?’

A summer’s day has the sweet singing of birds to greet you. DIY has the clatter of dropped tools, the stubbed toe swearing and the agony of the trodden-on nail.

A summer’s day has the distant hum of a bee making it’s way between delicate flowers. DIY has the ‘BRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!’ of power tools on the verge of being out of control.

A summer’s day has the sweet fragrance of grass. DIY has the acrid smell of drill-burnt wood, brick dust and lightly oiled metal.

A summer’s day lets the sun caress your face and hair with warmth and the lightest of breezes. DIY assault your pores with cement dust, which also clings to every bodily hair and threatens to set hard if exposed to moisture.

A summer’s day brings a dew-like glow to the skin. DIY forces sweat out at high pressure, guaranteeing lasting discomfort and rock hard cement hair.

A summer’s day inspires you to write rich prose to celebrate the gloriousness of the day. DIY inspires you to chant swear words over and over and over. And over.

I’m off now to chant some more.

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