Thursday, August 31, 2006

Post of the day

Do I blog pretty yet?

This arrived today and I read most of it on the train this morning. Here’s hoping some of the Mighty Girl magic rubs off. For your sake.


You. Yes, you. You with the mud-and-sand-coloured striped jumper. Standing there oblivious. You who are in the way of the people getting off the tube, and the people trying to get on the tube, and the people walking down the platform. In the way of me. You the unperturbed man-island that the commuter waves are flowing around, jostling each other and squeezing past you, how can you be so unaware and so in the way?

It’s kind of impressive, actually.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

GP update

So anyway, thanks to a bit of googling, I found out that my GP was ARRESTED ON SUSPICION OF MANSLAUGHTER! In January!

Police began a manslaughter investigation after ambulance staff complained that a doctor had not attempted to resuscitate a pensioner...

Edit: She's still allowed to practice, but she's already been replaced at the surgery. There are some conditions on her working as a doctor until July 2007, but nothing major.

I didn't realise that CPR skills are recommended for but not required by UK doctors in general practice. It would be interesting to know how many GPs have the skills. We might actually be 'safer' having our heart attacks on the street rather than in a doctor's surgery (while acknowledging that it's not as easy to save someone through CPR as it looks on TV).


There are two people who call me Auntie. One is five years old, the other is twenty-two and my nephew by virtue of marriage to my poet.

When my nephew H was born in Australia in 2001, I was overwhelmed by the strangest feeling – suddenly there was someone in this world who I hadn’t met yet, didn’t know, and yet I loved him, intensely.

Meeting him, when he was almost two, was wonderful but meeting him the second time, Christmas 2003, when he remembered me and led me out of the airport chattering away, was very special. He’d bought me a present, a Christmas tree ornament that matched one he’d bought for his own tree, apparently in the shop he was very insistent that his parents buy two, one for me and one for him. That year he could talk a little bit, and he had a special word he only used with me – neenah. He would come up to me (or climb up on me) and look right in my face, ‘Anne, neenah. Neenah.’ When we asked him what ‘neenah’ meant, he wouldn’t answer, until right at the end of my visit, literally at the airport, when I asked him again. ‘H, what does neenah mean?’ ‘Mmmm…….happy’, came the reply. I think he also bit me on the shoulder, but that was later. And I was leaving, so it was justified assault.

The postage I’ve spent on that child – letters and parcels and kids’ magazines and postcards so he doesn’t forget he has an auntie who lives pretty far away but loves him a lot – could probably sort out my overdraft, but that’s another post.

Last year my mother asked him if he remembered ‘neenah’ and he looked blank. When I was there, again for Christmas, I said ‘neenah’ to him one day, to see if there was a reaction. Neenah’, he repeated, a huge grin lighting up his face.

You could say we have a bond.

Postscript: I have a new Australian niece or nephew due in November, and I won’t meet him/her until next year (hopefully once the squally red newborn stage is over). I’m looking forward to being an aunt again.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Kiddie torture, or art?

Photographer Jill Greenberg is in the news for her latest exhibition, End Times, which illustrates her political views by showing distraught naked children.

The children I photographed were not harmed in any way. And, as a mother, I am quite aware of how easily toddlers can cry. Storms of grief sweep across their features without warning; a joyful smile can dissolve into a grimace of despair. The first little boy I shot, Liam, suddenly became hysterically upset. It reminded me of helplessness and anger I feel about our current political and social situation. The most dangerous fundamentalists aren’t just waging war in Iraq; they’re attacking evolution, blocking medical research and ignoring the environment. It’s as if they believe the apocalyptic End Time is near, therefore protecting the earth and future of our children is futile. As a parent I have to reckon with the knowledge that our children will suffer for the mistakes our government is making. Their pain is a precursor of what is to come.

To get the images she says she had the children's mothers give them a lollipop, then the mother took it away and Jill snapped their reaction. A bit cruel, maybe, but how long does it take to take a photograph, and how quickly did those kids forget once the lollipop was back in their grubby little paws. Then again, I don't know if I could volunteer my hypothetical child to take part in such a shoot. And maybe if I had a child, my reaction to this would be completely different. But comparing it to child abuse, as some misguided souls have done, is ridiculous, and offensive to those who have survived real child abuse.

If you want a rather different take on the photos, check out Thomas Hawk's blog. And here you can see the minor internet furore discussion of Jill's tactics has engendered.

In other news, it's the last night of a four-day weekend and the prospect of work is not looking too good just now. However, with the poet still away (8 days and counting) looking after his mother who was taken ill on holiday in Italy, it's probably just as well I have something constructive with which to occupy myself. I'm very independent, but come on, we just got married!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The sweetest pea

I'm still blown away by the fact that I put some little brown balls in the ground, watered them a bit, and this is what happened.

I like it when people collapse - it gives me something to draw

I'm really not sure whether this woman is for real or not. I'm hoping for not.

An interview in the Guardian quoted her:

'When there's a murder or something terrible happens it just makes my day. I have a cosseted lifestyle outside my job... so to be connected to the underbelly makes me feel more grounded and whole.'

She's got real power too, when she doesn't like the person she's drawing she 'add[s] a stronger line or a brighter colour or put[s] a slash of red in the background.' That'll show 'em!


Although it's definitely feeling like autumn, the garden is not ready to give up its bounty just yet.

Meat spirits

I've never eaten a great deal of meat, and as a teenager I actively disliked steak, but you certainly couldn't call me a vegetarian. This, however, this is pretty convincing:

'those fierce, revengeful spirits that proceed from the Creature, when the painful agonies of death are upon it... fail not to accompany the flesh, and especially the blood, and have their internal operation, and have their impression on those that eat it'. (Thomas Tryon)

Gives a whole new spin to black pudding...

Friday, August 25, 2006

Turns out

that it pays to chat with phlebotomists while they're drawing your blood.


I've had issues with my GP surgery since moving in with the poet. If you want to see an NHS GP (i.e. not pay) you are restricted to a number of surgeries near where you live. I dream of the days in Brisbane when I could register with a GP close to my place of work. Now I have to practically take half a day off work for an appointment, when you factor in the waiting times. British GPs are supposed to allow 10 minutes per patient - apparently the average appointment is only 7 minutes. Not ideal. But I realise that the NHS has to cater for a huge, and growing, population.

The receptionists were often rude and impatient, although they have someone new there now who seems ok. My actual GP is nice enough but has several times given me conficting advice (you should just stay on your antidepressants always vs you shouldn't stay on them too long, and the particularly helpful, time-honoured advice to someone who was depressed, and had severe endometriosis and might encounter problems conceiving - 'you should have a baby.' Uh. Thanks.

Plus she was quite slow and difficult to understand because she turned away from you when she spoke which did no favours to her fairly soft voice and 'Indian' accent. I didn't have a lot of faith in her ability to look after my medical care. The poet could not believe how dopey she was the time he accompanied me for an appointment. I had to basically tell her what blood test to do to find out why I was so tired all the time - my haemoglobin levels were normal but my serum ferritin was low. She did refer me quickly when there was actually something serious wrong though.

I considered changing surgeries several times, but was always put off by that fact that that surgeries I heard good things about were not taking on new patients, and the fear that I might change surgeries, only to find I had a GP who was just as useless, but not nice as well. At least she was pleasant, and I am an informed enough patient to be able to do my own research and ask for the right tests etc.

Anyway, turns out, according to the phlebotomist, that she is no longer at the surgery (last time I had an appointment I asked for the other doctor as I couldn't be bothered dealing with her) due to a 'spot of bother' of which he was not in a position to reveal details. And she won't be coming back.

I shall be writing to the local primary care trust (her employer) post haste, because I really want to know what happened.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Garden produce

So the photos of the luscious gleaming blackberries and faintly golden (and delicately perfumed, but you wouldn't have been able to tell that from the photo) plums have mysteriously disappeared from the memory stick in my camera (I suspect Tesco), but I can tell you: they were there and they were good.

Carrying that young plum tree all the way home from Crews Hill three years ago may have temporarily done for the poet's back, but what an awesome decision.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


I recently had a mole removed from my side. The doctor thought it was fine, but what does a Bangladeshi-English doctor know about skin cancer compared to an Australian whose parents have had more skin cancers burnt off than he has had bad curries? (ok, facetious outburst over). When I reiterated my concern over the uneven colour, the irregular shape, the fact that it has CHANGED COLOUR over the last year and other silly potential danger-indicating factors, he said he could remove it but there would be a scar. Fair enough, I don’t expect someone to cut a piece out of me without leaving a mark.

The poet, however, was not pleased. A scar?!! he exclaimed. No! We shall send you to the finest surgeon and pay many thousands of pounds for the finest scar-free removal. When he calmed down and saw sense, he accompanied me for the minor operation which just happened to be on the hottest London day for 10 years. Love my timing. Oh, and Dr K? Thank you for the trendy blue stitches but a clean, hair-free pillowcase on your ‘operating table’ pillow and a less grungy looking towel would be very cool. Especially if you’re telling me I can’t have a shower for 36 hours.

Cost cutting in the NHS is really quite amusing. As we had lunch after my appointment, I lifted my shirt to show the poet’s niece what I assumed was my relatively impressive bandage. How embarrassed was I later that night to see that the nurse had put a flimsy little plaster (bandaid) over the site!

5 weeks on, my doctor still hasn’t received the histology results, so I’m unable to either jump up and down in my rightness and say ‘Ha, told you it was cancer’ or quietly accept that I had a perfectly good chunk of flesh removed for no reason.

Friday, August 18, 2006


Currently a daily intake of:

1 x contraceptive pill – useful but grudgingly taken as prescribed for endometriosis
¼ of a popular antidepressant tablet– and the weaning-off period is going very nicely, thank you for asking
1 x multivitamin
2 x 1000mg evening primrose oil – again with the endometriosis
2 x 1000mg fish oil - brain food
4 x garlic tablets – garlic is GOOD
1 x co-enzyme Q10 – supposed to help with metabolism and tiredness
1 x peppermint oil capsule – you don’t want to know but again I blame the endo

When I remember and can afford to buy them, I also take milk thistle (for my antidepressant-battered liver). And sometimes valerian/lemon balm tablets at night if sleep is elusive.

Then there’s the 3-monthly B12 injection for my mysterious B12 deficiency, diagnosed last year flummoxing the haematologist when tests (go the radioactive B12 and collecting all my urine for 24 hours test!) refused to reveal any reason. I have a sneaking suspicion this is related to my intestines and endometriosis but, as the NHS have usefully given up at the first hurdle, will need to pursue this privately when I have the funds.

The poet used to be bewildered by the number of pills I take. Refreshingly, he now takes far more pills daily than I ever have: a daily regimen of more vitamins, antioxidants and herbal ‘things’ than you could imagine, courtesy of an anti-cancer, metabolic-boosting regimen he’s been on since some dodgy blood tests.

We have a lot of small bottles in our house.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Of tubes and elbows and flying pelvises (pelvii?)

Long before I met the poet, I’d been inducted into the unwritten code of travelling on the London Underground (the tube). You only make eye contact if there’s a weirdo/beggar/amusing or abusive drunk person in or moving through the carriage and you’re joining in the general carriage reaction. You don’t eat anything that’s going to stink up the carriage. You don’t bring your two giant, shedding dogs on the underground at peak hour. You don’t, unlike the man on my very first tube journey, sprawl across two seats drinking your 2 litre bottle of cider and allow your dog to lie across three more.

But most importantly, you don’t use another person’s portion of the armrest i.e. you use only the half of the armrest that is on your side. You get half an arm rest on the left and half an arm rest on the right, making one arm rest in total. Couldn’t be fairer? In reality, using just half an armrest is impossible, because the arm rests are so narrow that to comfortably rest any part of your arm on them means impinging on the seat next to you. And touching the person in that seat. London people don’t like to touch or be touched – and in summer, with the sweating and the stench and the sticky flesh, I do not blame them. And when you have a rather large person (tall, wide, whatever) sitting next to you, just the mere fact of their occupying the seat means that their elbows are in your space, however polite they are. It’s a complicated dance. Unless you have managed to nab a seat at the end of the row - this means you can lean against the ‘wall’ and spread out infinitesimally without needing an armrest at all. It’s the little things…

And then there are the ‘official’ rules, the ones on billboards and broadcast on board. Don’t put your feet on the seats? Let the passengers off first before attempting to board the train? Move right down inside the carriages? And that old Tshirt staple – Mind the gap!

But where’s the rule about keeping your legs closed? What is with those men who need to sit with their legs spread wide apart as though their pelvises are about to take flight? No, I do not need a full frontal view of your crotch, nor do I want my legs pinned to the seat by your knee.

And the ipods! I’m thinking of printing some natty little cards to hand out to the volume-challenged.