Chapter 12: Fire.

Slow reply, I got hit by a flu bug yesterday which knocked me out for about 18 hours.  Maybe connected with the mini-heatwave we just had - four days of sunshine.  It's raining again now of course.
I've heard that weather changes can make people sick, but I've never had it happen to me. 
Mum said it sounded more like a migraine attack because I was light-intolerant as well as headache, nausea and vomit.  Maybe that is more weather related.  Anyway I'm OK now, but it would be nice to be able to predict and avoid such things in future.

She also said that Dad has had his heart pacemaker installed and seems much better.  I can't remember if I told you the background, I think maybe you were 'inside' at the time.  Since getting an ear infection he has been suffering from general weakness and low haem count (he is 86).  They have tried various things, but little change.  Last time I was there I saw him have a TIA, a mini-stroke.  Mum said he had had a few such incidents, although not as bad.  So they agreed to go to the GP and report this the next day, and I wrote up my observations and opinions as well.  So they put him on anticoagulants, did ECG etc., found irregular heartbeat and kept him in until they could get him a theatre slot for a pacemaker.  She says his colour is now noticeably better, although until she saw the change she hadn't realised it was bad.
So much for socialized medicine killing people off... I don't know many insurance companies here that would pay for an 86 year old to receive a pacemaker.  I'm glad he was able to get one, and that he's doing well.
Wow, I hadn't thought of it like that.  The things we take for granted.  Until this recent decline he was and healthy person.  He and Mum walked a mile or two every day, did the Guardian prize crossword (that is one of the hardest available in UK up-market newspapers) every week, although they don't always finish it.  Wow!  I do American crossword puzzles very well and quickly, but English crosswords completely flummox me.  I'm impressed.  I wouldn't associate either of them with life-threatening illness.  OK his concentration isn't what it was, and his hearing was getting poor, but nothing significant.  Its so long since he had anything to do with doctors and hospitals he was totally naive about the systems and procedures.

I, myself, was sleeping peacefully (though full of Zofran and Benadryl) when one of the G.D. smoke detectors started giving its I Need New Batteries chirp every minute at 1:45 this ayem.  David is out of town. 
Well, after dragging a rickety antique Chinese chair around the top floor, standing on it while full of things that make balance a dim and distant memory, and finally unplugging ALL the G.D. smoke detectors on the top floor, I am WIDE awake.  Dammit.
That sounds like a bitch.  It's hard to home in on that one-minute beep.
How many do you have? 
One in each room, none in the bathrooms, one in each hall, and none in the stairwell (because no one would be able to reach it.)  So ten all together. 
We only have a couple, and I put them critical places like in the stairwell where they will pick up on rising air/smoke currents, and where I can reach them.  ( I know this isn't recommended because there are also dead places in the stairwell, but I've SEEN where the smoke goes.) Now that we have a good powerful kitchen extractor (and a no-smoking rule) we get very few false alarms.  In the kitchen we have a temperature-rise alarm because we proved that smoke alarms just can't discriminate between cooking and burning.  That is mains-powered and hooked up to a Banshee siren that you really can't miss.  It was a leftover from an industrial project. Mains powered means you can turn it off too, but it doesn't get left off because the doorbell does a short blip on the same siren, making a frequent system test.

Did I ever tell you about the smoke alarm that went off about two weeks after the fire.  I could hear the thing, but I hunted all over and couldn't find it.  Eventually realised the noise was coming from the back yard.  By extensive direction-finding I ended up pointing at a large cardboard carton full of decorators waste, wallpaper scrapings etc.  I emptied it out and sure enough, one smoke alarm had been swept up in the scrapings.  After two weeks of sitting out in the rain, the water had finally penetrated the alarm and screwed up its electronics, making it sound.
 
Come to think of it I think that story is on the website, what the heck.

Allan Grossman (alt.support.cancer.breast contributor) is here, and we're planning on meeting him tomorrow and having dinner.  Please God let David be civilized and let us have a good time please please please.
Have a good dinner!
Oh, yeah, right, and now he'll know how fat and ugly I am now compared to the picture on my bio page.  Argh.  Must lose 40 pounds and grow hair by tomorrow night.
Perhaps if I buy him dessert he won't tell all of you The Awful Truth.

Girl, I don't think it's your body he's after :-)
Anyway we all know that the disturbingly attractive picture in the bio was taken a while ago.
I've been there and seen what this disease does to a beautiful woman, remember, and I'm sure it is worse for the victim that for those that have to watch.  Lyuda never could come to terms with no longer being a head-turner.  Between the ages 40 and 48 her appearance aged rapidly from 25 to 70.  The first part was natural female middle-aged 'catching up', the second part was cancer.  I felt like I was caught in a time warp, a little of what it must feel like to be immortal.
I don't think buying affection or silence is a good idea.

Phew, phew, phew.  We had a good time with Allan and David behaved himself all afternoon.  What a relief.
Glad to hear it.  Allan mentioned somewhere in the newsgroup that they had enjoyed themselves too.

Off to get the MR-2's little electric problem fixed.  I can't wait. 

Sorry, I couldn't resist this.  I'm not sure why.  It is a press announcement of a new version of the Love-bug/Kournikova virus. The content is really irrelevant - the message should be just don't open '.VBS' attachments unless you are sure.  I think it was the celebration of National  Bottom Week that left me giggling.  The press really do make a meal of these things.
"A new variant of a previously discovered virus is luring excitable readers with the exotic promise of seeing Latino lovely, Jennifer Lopez, naked.
In honour of National Bottom Week, an anonymous virus writer has unleashed an email attachment virus named after the pint-sized pop star with the prize posterior."
I thought she was 5'7", as I am, and I have always regarded myself as rawther tall and stately.  Hmph.
I saw it, too, but in the paper, not on the Net.
I'm sure you are.  As I wouldn't know who she was even if she came and slapped me across the face (naked even), I can't really comment, but the commentator might have been referring to width rather than height.  After all at 5'7" high 'pint sized' is only about 3/4" wide.  Even gallon-sized would be fashionably anorexic.

I got very industrious today and roasted and peeled about five red peppers.  (Capsicums?)  Anyway, they are neatly sliced and resting quietly in garlic and olive oil, ready for me when I feel the need to put a big yummy slimy chunk of vitamin C on a sandwich or something.  They are also awfully good mashed with cream cheese and spread on  things.
That sounds good.  I don't often get to do that sort of thing, cookery has to be pretty much confined to what Natasha will eat, else I am cooking two separate meals for one (unless Artyom deigns to join us).
I'll bet Natasha would like roast peeled red peppers.  They're very gross to make, and they're sweet and slimy to eat.  Mmmm.
You would be amazed how conservative children are about eating.  They'll try absolutely any excuse to reduce the diet to burgers, chocolate and crisps. Most kids I know would like to be able to find one food they like and then eat nothing else. (I think some even do.)   Natasha won't even have the burgers if they have onions on.  Fortunately she loves fruit and salad so it won't harm her.  I look forward to her reaching an age when she wants to start experimenting with food, and at least we could have an occasional curry.
Quick response for now... it has always worked for me and on me when you pretend that the curry is something very very special, that only grown-ups can eat.  
That's how my mom got me to eat any number of things.  I always fell for it.  Now I see that my niece always falls for it.

It's a nice idea, and I'll give it a try with something, but quite a few things, salmon for recent example, she used to be happy to eat but has now gone off, and I don't suppose she's gullible enough to fall for it under those circumstances.

Well, OK is perhaps the wrong word, but you sound troubled. Anything you want to talk about?
It's just the same old same old:  did I make a mistake in marrying this guy, will I be better off with or without him, how do I get rid of him if this appears to be the right choice.  I'm tired of boring folks with this.
Plus I haven't been sleeping very well, and I feel stupid and cranky.
Hmm, I went off on an installation job for 3 days and forgot one bag - the one that had my portable phone in it, so I had my laptop but no way of connecting it to the net.  It was like a holiday - working 12 hours a day on one job all the time, camping out on the factory site (a converted farmyard) in my van in warm sunny weather and eating in a country pub a mile down the road.  Walked to the pub of course, the van engine never started until I left.  Got home utterly knackered about 3am today.
How lovely.  Ploughman's lunches or good food?  The pub's menu was wonderful, I only got there for evening meals, eg "a pint of best and the poached salmon please".  The village was rather up-market, houses for sale around 700k, (mine's worth about 100k), Porsches and Ferraris in the drives.  Overhearing a conversation between two middle-aged ladies on the next table, one was discussing how to use the proceeds of her divorce, her share of a show-jumping stables, how she was going to purchase a stable in the south of France -and- a cottage in the UK.  Her friend was obviously giving her legal advice, I at first thought her a lawyer or accountant, but then she started describing recent judgements she had handed down in the county court - she was a judge, no less.
How warm has it been?  It was around 25-30C where I was, although only around 15 back in Manchester. A bit hot and sweaty for physical work considering that I had left one of my bags behind, the one with my change of underwear (and a portable phone, which I didn't really want but could have connected my laptop to the 'net)!  When I got home (at 0230) I got straight in the bath before I even went to bed.
And what did you do with The Child -- leave her to Artyom's tender mercies, or did you have a professional in the house?
She stayed over at Cindy's house three nights, and with her friend.Emily the last one.
This is what Natasha is singing right now:
    Mary had a little lamb
    its fur was white and fleecy.
    Then it got foot and mouth,
    now it's black and greasy.
How much is his fault and how much is boredom?  What's changed since you got married.  Hell, you've got the guy there, he wants to be there, that is a position of power, he must be useful for something.  You're a bright girl, I'm sure you can think of workarounds for these problems.  If you spend your time thinking of ways to take advantage of the situation instead of ways to escape it you'll probably be happier. 
That's true.
Here's an example.  He's a brittle diabetic and in very poor health, and doesn't control his blood sugar as he should.  He now has diabetic retinopathy and is scheduled to go blind in the next ten years if he doesn't straighten out and fly right immediately.  He has already had surgery on his left eye, and is scheduled for the right eye next week.  I was sweet and caring and empathetic for a month or so, and then made the mistake of suggesting that he start learning Braille NOW, while he can still see.  (I thought, as empathy isn't working, I'll try a constructive idea.)  My, what a mistake.  He pouted for a week and didn't speak to me for three days.  Which was fine with me, as I loathe people over the age of fifteen who still sulk.
That is not a mistake!  That is attacking the problem now, before it gets any harder.  The mistake, if any, was not to do it sooner; the longer you ignore an oncoming iceberg the harder it becomes to steer around it.  Having finally accepted that this really is a collision course, you implicitly accept that you may have to steer to wind'ard to go around.
Maybe in a few weeks he will come around to the idea, perhaps having made it his own.  On the other hand maybe you'll have to do it again and again until he either leaves you or accepts the idea.  Arguments, rows and sulks are the bread and butter of marriage.  You truly believe in the iceberg.  He doesn't.  One of you is wrong.  This is not a situation to be ignored or walked away from.  Either you come to an agreement, one of you leaves, or you conspire to ignore the problem.
The last is not what I would consider an acceptable option.  If you can't eventually get to an agreement, its better to have him leave because he can't accept your sense than for you to leave him because he won't agree with you.  Be a STOP sign, if he runs into you, you are a lot softer than the hazard you are warning of.  Surely you are not going to give up just because he didn't roll over and submit straight away.  I think you are harder than that.  The only way out you should be leaving for him is to convince you that the prognosis is wrong and that he can maintain his lifestyle without going blind.  And he'd better come up with a long list of references too.
And of course, what I can't say is this:  Other than the cancer, I am in rude good health.  Believe me, though, if a doctor said to me you must stop doing X or you will GO BLIND, I would stop doing X that day; I don't care what X is.  I guess I am lucky; the only thing I have been told not to do is eat food with lots of estrogen in it, like yams and tofu, and not drink, as I'm on morphine.  Neither of those prohibitions were bad news for me.  I love candy and salt and butter and etc., but if I were told I must stop eating them, I could.  But really... I've been cooking him all this food for diabetics and doing a very good job of it, if I do say so myself, and then I get in his car and the back seat is awash with soda cans and candy wrappers.  Oh, well.  I've worked with drunks and drug addicts long enough to recognize the behavior, even though now it's in my own household I can't seem to deal with it.
I don't really believe he can defeat you in argument simply by sulking.  I don't really believe that you think you can defeat his candy addiction without a fight.  Taking on his mental blocks is going to HURT.  This is normal in marriage, it is part of communication.  Keep trying: the guy has quite a lot going for him, and he needs you.  That is a pretty good start. Don't run away from fights, go through them, at least until there is a risk of violence.  Its worth it.  Leaving him is a defeat and a cop-out.  If you want out, drive him away, let him be the one to quit.  Either you get out or you get your way.  You can't lose.
Marriage may be uncomfortable, in my experience it always is, (but that is not statistically significant) but the alternative is not very comfortable either.  If you got rid of him how would you live? 
This is true.  I love living by myself so much, and yet don't make enough to do so.  A friend from Midway is thinking of moving to Oahu (she's on the Big Island right now), as her son wants to move to the big city for his last year in high school.  We are thinking of setting up housekeeping together, but it's so expensive in Hawaii, and I wouldn't be able to afford my own car anymore.  I'd have to bus everywhere, which I hate doing.
And what about the insurance?  What if you become unable to travel by bus?
Maybe you need to find someone else before you get rid of what you've got?
And the question is will I ever find anyone else, with no boobs and now these horrific scars all over my right thigh and buttock?  The aforementioned friend from Midway keeps wanting to fix me up with various lesbian friends, as they have money and don't mind a lack of breasts, but I really don't swing that way and would REALLY feel honest doing that. 
Yes I know it's hard to think positively in your situation, with your body chemistry constantly driving you the other way, and I know "its easy for me to say", but from here "say" is all I can do.
Find me a lovely rich guy in Richmond who has a nice house and likes fat, deformed, sarcastic American women.  I can cook!  And I'm really good at teaching maids how to keep my house as clean as I want it!
If I meet any nice single rich guys I'll let you know.
And I'll keep looking out for single rich women too.  After our last conversation I had a long think about my reasons for being alone.  As I'm sure you noticed there was an area I wasn't prepared to look.  Like a seismic survey, the conversation made the hole visible to me.
It goes like this.  A recruitment consultant I once dated told me that most jobs are filled by cold calling.  That sounds like a simple and fairly unimportant statement, but it goes deep.  Most people don't accept it, at least in the way they behave.  Most people look for jobs by reading advertisements or mailing CVs even though it is statistically ineffective. The trick is to look at the recruitment situation from the employers point of view.  If you have a job to fill, first you look around the people already working for you for someone who could do the job.  Failing that you look around people you know, your own network.  Failing that you advertise or collect CVs.  So the real way to get jobs is to network, reading ads is a last resort, and really is more a way of expanding your network - getting a rubbish job so you can meet people who know where the good jobs are.
There are close parallels to finding a partner.  The reason why I don't find partners is simply because I am too independent.  I don't have a network of friends to meet people through.  I let Lyudmila's jealousy drive away what friends I had.  Being a single parent is an even bigger excuse not to network.  Before I married I joined dating agencies.  Of course, like with job ads, you only meet the desperate.  I had noticed that there was a sort of catch-22 involved, that if I dated someone then I was quite likely to meet interesting girls while with them, but of course I had to be already with someone and so unavailable (if only in their eyes).  That's partly because perhaps I took it too seriously and wouldn't consider 'cheating' on the partner I had, even if it was an unsatisfactory relationship.  I felt I should make every effort to make work what I had, not to be looking for alternatives.  Considering the above statistical theory, that is a non-survival attitude.
I first learnt this statistical method when hitch-hiking as a student, and ought to apply it more often.  When learning to hitch-hike what you do NOT do is copy the guys standing at the side of the road.  They are the ones who -can't- get lifts.  The guys who are good at it you don't see, they spend all their time riding in trucks.  People in dating agencies are analogous to hitch hikers at the side of the road.
It is even apparent here.  I can develop an interesting relationship with Catharine here because I was communicating with a network of people for some other reason.  It's the network that does it.  The trouble is of course that I have chosen a poor forum to be involved in to meet prospective partners. My grandfather's advice to my mother as a marriageable young woman was "Do not marry for money, but go where money is."  So if I really want to find a partner I have to get involved in unrelated activities which involve interacting with a suitable group of people.
So I worked a bit harder on writing that letter I said I couldn't write, and came up with a form of words I found acceptable, and sent it.  It probably won't get a reply, that isn't really important, what matters is that it signals a change of attitude.


The first sign that something was going on was a change in the sound. There was something different about the birdsong in the back yard.  What I was hearing was similar a blackbird's roosting call, but muted.  Sure enough there was a blackbird flying around the yard with some bread in its bill.  Nothing unusual there, blackbirds usually nest in the undergrowth on the cliff face at this time of year.  I vaguely wondered why it was calling while taking food to its nestlings.
It was calling them in for supper.
I woke the next morning to the same sound.  Again, the same bird, again with its beak full.  Later I watched it frantically bashing a slug against the paving flags to divide it into bite-sized portions. 
Oh, yum, just what I needed to read with nausea swirling about my ears. I loathe slugs, having stepped on one barefooted when I was eight.  Ick gag bleccch barf.
Oh you want a real barf?  We used to get slugs in the kitchen a lot,attacking the catfood.  I eventually stopped most of them by sealing all the gaps around the back door, and sprinkling salt around, but it took a lot of effort.  It was worth it because now and again I would go in the kitchen in the dark wearing socks.  If stepping on a slug barefoot is yuk, then try getting one smeared all over your sock.  You can't wash it out, it's too sticky and doesn't dissolve in detergent.  You have to SCRUB the yuk out inthe sink.
Ha.  Silly man, that doesn't make me barf.  Even the poorest person knows that smeared slug on a sock means you take the sock and burn it and its mate (so the mate won't pine).  There is no cure for that.
I know people eat snails, and sea slugs (which I don't think are the same thing) but does ANYONE eat land slugs?  I haven't heard of it
.
Blackbirds, apparently.
I meant anyone with opposable thumbs.
The job done, it did not take off to the nest but continued hopping around the yard, calling quietly.  At last the situation became clear.  Concealed in the iris-leaves of a luxuriant patch of crocosmia was a grounded fledgling, answering the calls and gaping as the parent approached. Oh, no, poor little thing!
This has happened before, our yard being at the bottom of a 20' cliff with 10' walls / fences / vegetation all around is a hazardous landing zone.  Absolutely.  Sounds like the approach to Sitka, Alaska in miniature.
Some larger birds like magpies have difficulty with the necessary steep take-off even full-grown, and for an exhausted fledgling it is just too much.  The usual end for these young birds is in the mouth of a cat, ours or a neighbour.  Today however was a lucky day for birds.  A steady drizzle made the attraction of bird hunting pall, and no cats were in evidence all day.
Sometime in the afternoon the sounds returned to normal.  The bird had flown, leaving nothing but patches of droppings in the leaves.  Yay!  (Or maybe some nocturnal animal got it?)
The next morning in drier conditions, our cat ventured forth, sniffed the air and went straight to the spot, spent some time investigating the site, and finally disdainfully settled elsewhere.  This was old news.
Too darn bad, is what I say.  Eat your Whiskas and be quiet, Mr. Cat.
High drama, indeed.  I never know whose side to be on, as I am about equally fond of cats and birds.  (And often slightly more on the side of cats, as a bird ain't nothing but a fluffy reptile.)

As you know, a few months ago we had the pleasure of a free improvement to the frontage of our house.  As part of a neighbourhood improvement scheme the area where I park my van was cleared, edged and filled with gravel. Various contractors would appear unexpectedly and without logical sequence, do a small part of the job, then leave.
For example a sandblasting unit came and cleaned a garden wall.  Then an excavator came and cleared the site.  Then the sandblaster came back and cleaned the newly exposed bottom foot of the wall.
The excavator driver was duly concerned about the streams that drain across  the land (in contrast to all the other contractors who seemed be unfamiliar with the concept of water in general), and in the course of his work discovered a large and pristine Victorian culvert that had been largely bypassed and forgotten.  So a week or two later I began excavating around the culvert with a view to reestablishing drainage into it.  After a fortnight, while I was out working a truck came and dumped a couple of tons of topsoil along the edgings, covering my excavations and blocking a stream.
Frustrated, I roughly cleared the stream so that at least we didn't end up with a mud pool.
Summer came and weeds began to grow on the new soil.  Of course I had no time to cultivate it, and was still contemplating removing it and continuing the water works.  Willow-herb, nettles and the like grew as on the adjoining bank.  Yesterday my attention was attracted by a bright orange flower, which the wildflower book identified as a long-headed poppy, not uncommon but new to our garden.  That provoked a closer inspection and we identified five more species of meadow wildflowers, and found several we could not identify. All these, even a common daisy, are plants which do not currently grow wild in our garden.  Natasha was thrilled and immediately began weeding out the 'common' species to allow the newcomers room to grow.  This infusion of new soil has significantly enlarged the gene-pool of the dozen or so 'indigenous' wildflowers.  Several appear to be thriving in their new habitat and will probably spread beyond the edging 'bed' next year.
How wonderful!
One of the treats I had when we moved to Washington is seeing flowers in life that I had only seen pictures of, as I'm from Hawaii.  Lilacs, rhododendrons, tulips, daffodils, etc.  I was also thrilled with the wildflowers:  blackberries, Queen Anne's Lace, heather, lupines, and more etc.  We don't have any wildflowers in Hawaii, and "classic" flowers, like roses, etc. don't grow well there.
What's also exciting for me is that the tropical flowers in Hawaii, except for things like plumeria (frangipani), some of the gingers, and jasmine, don't really have any smell.  So to smell the lilacs this spring was intoxicating, and I walk around the neighborhood sniffing other people's roses.  I hope they don't mind.


Today I am miserable.  I don't want to write when I am miserable, I want to curl up in a dark hole somewhere..
But sometimes writing is just what you need.
I don't want to write to Catharine when I'm miserable because your problems make mine look trivial, and I feel like a whining dog if I complain about how life treats me just now.  So I've got toothache, but it will be cured and will go away.
No, no, no.  See, with cancer one ALWAYS gets sympathy, but with things like the tooth problems you describe below, you don't get enough.  And yet things like tooth trouble and sinus trouble are WORSE, because they affect everything you do, like breathing, eating, drinking, thinking, etc.   I don't think your troubles are trivial at all.  And to be sick in the middle of all the work you're doing and the financial trouble you're having, and you haven't killed anyone yet! Don't think I haven't thought about it. My God, you are Superman.
On the other hand, if the roles were reversed I would want you to write, because often someone else's problems can take your mind off your own.  I think perhaps I am falling into the trap I so often tell others about of pussy-footing around the 'patient'.
Absolutely.  I'm not the patient today.  I'm feeling fine, just got back from swimming a mile (!)(slowly)(Yes, I am mermaid, hear me roar!), and am doing laundry.  Of course, I have chemo Tuesday and Wednesday, so I won't be feeling this fine this time next week, but it's great now.  
 So I dig myself out of the trap and write.  I don't really think it'll make you feel any worse and it might make me feel better.
The immediate downer is that I seem to be developing an abscess on root canal I just had done last week. 
How can this be?  I thought one did a root canal to clean out an abscess.  You must be in very bad shape, immune-system-wise.  Very tired, etc.?  I thought so.  Tsk tsk tsk.
Tired yes, possibly having a cold was relevant.  We'll see what the experts say tomorrow. 
How did it go?
Got the expected antibiotics.  Didn't think the cold was relevant. Interesting story about the antibiotics, he says don't drink alcohol.  Oh, is the side effect interesting? Well, if you think stomach cramps are interesting.  Apparently when this drug (Metronidazole) was tested they discovered this side effect, isolated the metabolite that was causing it and marketed it as a drug for alcohol dependency.
The root canal was for structural purposes not infection.  I break teeth fairly regularly, something to do with a deep bite.
And the U.K. doesn't fluoridate its water, does it?
Yes it does in most areas that don't have natural fluoride.
Wow!  What areas have natural fluoride? 
I suppose those where the water runs through fluorspar deposits.  This would be in lead mining areas such as Cornwall and parts of North Yorkshire, I guess not a million miles from your beloved Richmond. 
Ahh. One of the reasons I think people love Austin, Texas so much (they're loving it to death, by the way) is that there is naturally occuring lithium in the water table there. 
 I recall this being the argument when the politicans discussed fluoridating water, that they were not experimenting with the nations water supply, they were merely bringing the levels up in 'deficient' areas (even my geology textbook uses that phrase) because statistics showed better teeth and no other problems in areas where fluoride was naturally high.  I don't think they actually named the areas, although I think Cornwall was mentioned.  Of course there were and still are those who complain that the nation is being poisoned. 
Oh, heavens, yes.  I can't remember if I told you, but the island of Lana'i is scheduled to have the first fluoridation in the state of Hawaii.  They've been fluoridating the water on the military bases in Hawaii for years, and of course nothing has happened, but the twinkle-fairy-ding-dong-California-woo-hoo people are just all up in arms about it.  It makes me tired.  I wrote several letters to the paper a couple of years ago when we were discussing it; the ridiculous other people's letters have been appearing again (I read the online edition of the Star Bulletin) and I'm wondering if I should jump back into the fray.  I just get so TIRED of it all.
This one had been filled long ago, had developed decay under the filling and shattered like an eggshell on a cherry stone.  My dentists favourite solution is to bore and peg. The Creator in his infinite wisdom left a convenient hole down the centre of the tooth to allow steel reinforcing bars to be added in later life.  Isn't that handy? All one has to do is discard the rather pointless nerve which normally lives there. This is my third or fourth, at least one is holding up a crown.  In this case the clean out had been done, and the peg was fitted on Monday.  The pain became apparent on Friday and has been getting slowly worse  There is inflammation around the jaw line under the operated tooth.  That to me sounds like a root infection picked up with the insertion.
Yup, sorry to have doubted you.
Dentist agrees with diagnosis.
Of course these things happen on a Friday evening, too late to see the dentist, and not really bad enough to declare an emergency.  I just have to keep popping aspirins or paracetamol or something until Monday, when I am seeing him anyway.  Not really a serious problem, but the persistent pain creates a depression and makes everything else look worse.  Yes, absolutely. This is the latest of a series of petty niggles, every day here seems to be something.  Before the dental work started I got a sudden head cold, so I had the combination of a broken tooth and an inflamed sinus. When it got drilled, I had that general battering plus the local anaestheic on top of the cold which was working its way down into my throat. The cold developed into an ear infection, which cleared up on its own after a few days, but that was more misery. So I have been suffering minor irritations more or less continuously for a few weeks now.
God, how utterly awful.  I am a wuss and refuse to go to the dentist when my nose is stuffed up.  How did you breathe?
By then I wasn't stuffed up, but had a sore throat.  My colds always seem to do go through these phases, starts with sore sinus, then bunged up and runny nose, then sore throat, inflamed vocal chords and finally bronchial cough which fades away.  The bunged up phase usually passes after a couple of days, but the cough can take months.
Huh.  Mine are sore throat first, runny nose, stuffed up nose, post-nasal drip, cough, bronchitis, more cough.  How interesting.  I wonder if that's just how our bodies react or if we have different rhinoviruses circulating among our different populations.
I think its me, not the virus, because when a virus goes around it doesn't affect everyone else exactly like that, although other features are the same.  The general downward drift is the same though, so I think it is just a matter of sensitivity in particular areas.  I was always sensitive in the sinus area, I can detect car exhaust fumes that way before carbon monoxide becomes a danger.
Could be.  I had three or four episodes of strep throat a year before my tonsils came out; after that, I have had it once a year or so.  So it makes sense that my throat is my weak point.  May I be gross for a minute?  Warning:  possible more information than you ever wanted coming up.
Imagine my mortification when, in my wild post-divorce pre-taking AIDS serious days, I went in for a throat culture, expecting strep throat.  Two days later, instead of the strep phone call, I got an embarrassed phone call telling me it was gonorrhea!  Ack!  He didn't ask, and I didn't tell.  I just took my penicillin and insisted on raincoats forever after.
I wouldn't know anything about that (being British).
Oh, come on, I just read a stupid book by Harry Secombe (sp?) about his early days in vaudeville, copyright 1972, and it was FILTHY.  Not only sex but also potty humor.  Yeah, the Brits and their rectitude.  
Anyway, at the dentist's I mostly have my mouth open, so breathing isn't a problem.
Here the dentists all use dental dams.  It's a latex square that clamps onto the tooth in question, and then clamps on to one's lips, too.  It's part of universal precautions for HIV control.  So, as latex is difficult
to breathe through, one must have a functional nose.
Wow. Never seen one of those.  They just wear rubber gloves here.
I think we're a little more paranoid here.  Ask your dentist about it; he's probably at least seen pictures of them, and could tell you about them.  I will.  He's gone on holiday now he's given me the antibiotics, so it'll be
a few weeks.
 Not to get nasty again, but that's what we handed out to lesbians for safe sex in Hawaii, when I was working with prostitutes.  I always called them "dentaldams," all one word, and was surprised when a dentist actually used one on me for the purpose intended!
The other side is work.  I let go the queue and started doing the outstanding project jobs.  These are always stressful, because sooner or later I have to work to a deadline, which has no respect for being called out on breakdowns or the demands of family, and the last part of the job is usually installing a piece of equipment in a factory, which means being away from home for three or four days.  So it means working pretty hard and making demands on others as well.

Then on top of what I'd scheduled, someone, an established customer asked my to help a newly starting company that he was connected with, to install some secondhand machinery.  Well, I didn't want to, but reluctantly went to the site to assess what they needed.  The immediate issue was they needed at least a week's work by an industrial electrician.  Could I do that?  No way! Could I find a suitable electrician then?  Ok, I'd try.  So luckily the local electrical contractors had a guy free for a week, so I sent him.  I had to subcontract him because they wouldn't give credit to the new company.
I checked with my contact (the established customer) and was assured their credit was Ok.  So that work was done, except the electrician got sick and left a bit before the job was finished.  I'd said that when he had finished I look in and tidy up any loose ends, make sure everything was wired up Ok etc..  So I went in early and finished up the wiring, sorted out the loose ends, and found several pre-existing faults with the machine that they assured me had been running before it was moved.  So they wanted me back to sort out these problems, and I ended up spending a lot of time on it, and delaying other part-completed jobs.  So I got one of the two machines to run, although it still had a lot of problems.
As kids holidays and the next scheduled job were coming up fast I told them they would have to get someone else to do the rest - I could help over the phone but I had no more time for site visits (it was 200 miles away). 
 
So they said right, if I wouldn't do any more work on it then they wouldn't pay me.  Anything.  Jeeezus God, f**k that.  I am screaming for you. 
That leaves me short of 5000 in income and with subcontractors bills of 4000 to pay out.  Of course I am going through the available processes, the guy who gave them a reference has been leaning on them and trying to mediate, I have issued a Statutory Demand which is the first step in bankrupting their business through the courts.  Naturally that is not what I want to do but it should force them into some action.  So far I have got silly solicitors letters which say they are disputing my bills, but don't give any reasonable grounds for doing so, just meaningless things like  "they didn't order the electrician" and "my charges are quite unreasonable".  That last is a matter of opinion, but I can prove that they knew my rates before we started.

I think there is a good chance I will get paid in the end, but there is a possible disaster scenario.  As long as they want to run their business then I can lever them against that.  I am assured they have the financial resources to pay their bills.  But if they decide to abandon the enterprise and go into liquidation then I lose most of it. 
But why would they want to do that with a new facility?  Surely their financing people won't let them do that.
They would if they came into agreement with the general consensus that their business plan is shit and won't fly.  They might decide that it is costing too much and to continue would be to throw good money after bad.  Mind you it takes a pretty hard businessman to make that sort of decision, to admit he was wrong and he just trashed the capital.  It is more usual to carry on until the inevitable happens and then try to find someone to blame for it.
I don't think these guys are that hard, that experienced or that humble. The risk is I might find myself cast as scapegoat, they might see my winding-up threat as a way of getting out of an increasingly embarrassing situation and being able to blame someone else to the financiers; bullshit but I could imagine someone trying it.  But yes, someone else has to lose more than I do.  Anyway I don't have to carry it through if they won't pay, it's supposed to be mostly bluff, a shot across the bows, so maybe I'd just have to change tack and go through the regular slow channels of sueing and getting the bailiffs in, and hoping no-one else liquidates them in the meantime.  That takes at least three months whereas a Statutory Demand only takes three weeks and generally scares the shit out of a trading company. At least it brought them back to negotiation. 
Well, that's good.  If I have to go the slow way I've still got to deal with the cashflow problem and I'm still broke for over three months. Hmm.  Well, I'm hoping for Pennies from Heaven.
It just depends how their finances are set up, but they probably are financed by debentures that they call down as required, and so if they liquidate there will only be the visible assets, ie the machinery, to sell off to pay the creditors, and that will include the debenture holders.  Oh.  Oh, absolutely f**k that.  I'm now having a panic attack for you.
Maybe I ought to buy the public information about their shareholding, but knowing doesn't really make any difference, either way it is a disaster.

So I have to look at the possible implications for my life if that happens. That is pretty depressing.  It means that all my disposable income for the next year or so would go into paying off the subcontractors and there will be no opportunity for a break from work in the forseeable future, so we can forget about anything like house repairs or holidays or any sort of social life.  Not that that is any change from the last couple of years, but at least I thought it was for a limited period.  I am angry with myself for letting this happen, under pressure from all sides I took my eye off one of the balls I was juggling and trusted people instead of insisting of cash up front.  I didn't think through the implications of giving them that much
credit, or even add up how much it was.  As usual, more interested in the engineering than in the finances. 
That is so Classic Engineer.  You and my father.  Yeah.
Not only that but I have been too busy to keep my accounts up to date, so quite a few customers have taken advantage and not paid their bills and I now have owing to the business more than a year's pay (I mean a year of my wages, not total turnover).
I have a lot of frequent-flyer miles.  Shall I come over there for a couple of weeks, cook weird American food for y'all, and use my threatening American accent and direct American manners to call your customers and batter them about the head and neck?  That's what my job was on Midway.  (The calling people, not the cooking part.) 
Do you really want to?  I don't need anyone to be ruder than I am, but it would be nice to see you and you would be welcome.  I guess you've got to get through this chemo first.  We ought to explore that idea.
Well, yes, I would really like to come help, but who knows when I'll be done with chemo.  Besides, you know the saying about fish and visitors and when they start to smell. 
However, 'twon't be soon.  For several reasons.  First off, I can't find my passport.  That's good for a few minutes of panic -- my papers are not in order!  What could have happened to it?  I seriously wonder if David might not have snitched or hidden it for some paranoid reason but don't wish to go into that. The other reason we may wish to hold off for a while is that I know how children's minds work, having been one.  I don't want Natasha to get the idea that all ladies have breast cancer.  I should wait until I have more hair, at least.  I can fake the boob part.
Hmm, yes I thought about that.  She knows plenty of other ladies who don't, so I don't think its really a problem, but I know what you mean.
So for the next month or so the Sword of Damocles hangs.  Right now I feel like quitting and looking for a regular job. But then who would employ a 50 year old single parent, however skilled.
Well, they hire my 52-year-old husband, who is fat, in very bad health, and is rude and smelly, too.  But he's a cell-phone expert.  I'm not sure what you're really an expert about, and it may be too technical for you to explain right now.  Me in good physical shape, but brain pile of cooked spaghetti with no sauce. I don't believe the no sauce bit.
What I'm an expert at is faultfinding control systems.  I have an exceptional talent for empathising with machines.  So when a machine breaks down I go to the factory, sit and talk to the machine a bit then point to where the trouble is.  Then, if there is no-one else around I can order to do it, I have to get my tools out and get dirty and fix it.  I do it with software too sometimes.  Quite often I do it over the phone, but then I don't get paid for it, unless I can tack the time onto another bill, or it was a big enough job to be worth raising an invoice.
Ah.
Is it legal in the U.K. to ask potential employees about their family arrangements?  Because it isn't here.
Probably not, but it is quite legal to ask them to work outside school hours and to be upset if they take days off because they have a sick child, or just because the school closed unexpectedly due to snow in Hull or something.  It is theoretically possible to be a single parent in regular employment, and some do it, but it means more or less handing Natasha over to professional minders five days a week, including school holidays.  I don't think Cindy could handle that much work, and it would probably mean different people for different parts of the day, and frequent changes of staff.  I really don't think that is good for the child and I wouldn't do it unless there was really no choice.
I don't think it is a problem, as long as there is consistency.  I think children like a bit of hustle and bustle and new faces during the day, as long as they are new and familiar faces and there is time for a nap in the
afternoon.
Well, I'm off to go to overnight chemo tomorrow.  I'm making banana bread for them this time.  To make really effective banana bread, one needs to allow the bananas to get thoroughly brown, and David doesn't believe that.  He thinks they've rotted.  He just has no clue... I'll just have to give him a slice, still warm and heavily buttered, tomorrow morning.  That will change his mind.
I don't think heavily buttered banana bread is a path to fitness!
Well, I didn't eat it, she said virtuously.  I have given up preaching to the husband, and now just cook what ever makes him happy. 
Oh, God, I hope you sort things out soon.  Let me know if there is anything I can do.  I can't drive a stick shift, so it might actually be more trouble that it's worth to have me there, but you could send me your customer's details and I could write them scary letters on my good paper. Believe me, when my heavy artilliary turns to face the offending customer,it gets pretty scary.  Nobody crossed me twice.
- Catharine the Dim but Loyal Bollocks
That was a wonderful reply and really cheered me up.

 That's something you could hire your step-son to do.  (I can't think of his name right now, but I know it begins with A.)  Have him put on a thuggish accent and call the customers up.
It's Artyom, and he's adopted not step, for whatever difference that makes at his age.  That's it.  I'd like to be able to hire him to get out of bed.  
I thought he had a job?!?
He did.  He arrived late a few too many times so they didn't quite sack him but relegated him to 'casual worker', so now he gets one or two shifts a week.  Oh, well it was too good to last.
Thuggery is really not difficult.  I suggested paying a bunch of guys 50 each to take a day trip to the factory and do a bit of reposessing.  No problem getting takers for that.  But really, breaking their legs might be fun, but it is rather a last resort, I don't think it would get me paid.  I get regular phone calls from a 'forceful debt recovery' agency offering their services.
Ha.  I'd love to hear an English forceful debt recovery company at work. It is to laugh, white boy. 
You never heard of British gangsters?  Or even wheel-clamp cowboys.  These guys are scary.
What are wheel-clamp cowboys?  Guys who will remove your Denver boot for a small fee?
This is mostly a London phenomenon, and even 'sweet nothings' sound threatening in Essex English. 
I don't think so.  Most of my time in England was spent in Cheltenham  (before I met Colin from Leeds), and so that's kind of my base English accent.  It's funny, though I've picked up accents from other parts of the country, I haven't really picked up and Britishisms, well, except for "I dunno" and FOOOOOOKing hell, which I say when I'm incredibly angry because it just sounds so much more violent.  But a Texas accent is good for swearing in.  On the rare occasions when I say sh*t it is in two syllables, just as I learned it in Texas.
Parking is a serious problem in our capital, and there is a bit of a free-for-all over policing it.  Freelance companies have set up to help land owners remove unauthorised parked cars.  These guys first place a wheelclamp on the offending car, immobilising it, then call a tow truck and remove the car to their own compound, and charge an extortionate fee (of the order of 100) for returning it.  There have been some dreadful stories such as disabled people having their cars removed, of violence and threats being used against owners, and other examples of the clampers exceeding their duties.
I haven't yet heard of anyone parking their car illegally or offensively and fitting four wheelclamps of their own before leaving it.  That would seem to be the logical solution.
Now, see, as someone legally entitled to park in disability spaces, I don't think that disabled people have the right to park in an unauthorized place any more than anyone else does. 
The issue is identifying what is an authorised place.  These guys do not go out of their way to advertise their rules, nor do they particularly abide by them themselves.  Ah.  Well, that's fairly stinky. Seriously.
Once they have towed a car away it is your word against theirs where it was actually parked.
I am not complaining that I got a parking ticket outside the hospital because I was about 10mins over the time for disabled on-street parking, the car park was full, and I was queuing in the pharmacy for morphine for Lyudmila who was more or less writhing on the floor in pain.  That is a different business.  What I am talking about is criminal activities by so-called security people.
Are there separate time limits for disable parking?
The 'disabled' badge basically allows parking in areas and times marked for 'loading only' in town.  Oh, cool.  That's much better than here; here all we have is certain parking spaces that are marked.
The kerbs are marked with a yellow line in the gutter if parking is restricted and yellow dashes on the kerb if loading is restricted.  'Loading' means parking for about five minutes (I think it is up to 15) for access.  Signs on the lampposts specify the actual hours of restriction in both cases.  The street outside the hospital in no-parking during weekdays, and no-loading 4pm to 6pm, during the commuter rush.  So disabled parking was permitted until 4pm, but because of the emergency visit to the pharmacy I didn't get back to the van until 4:15.
Oh, well.  It was in a good cause.
That was my attitude.  I contemplated complaining to the city council, I even mentioned it to a city councillor who is an old college friend.  It seems a shame that the hospital car park is so cramped and inadequate,
considering it is the main cancer hospital for the whole North of England. Ok, it is in a dense residential area, but the new Sainsbury's supermarket half a mile away has a big car park which is never more than half full.  It is a matter of priorities.
Yes, and that certainly demonstrates the priorities!
Next time they call I might just have a job for them, but so far the diplomatic channels are still working on it.  They got a solicitor to respond to my Demand.  He came out with all sorts of crap that they had told him, I countered every point, demonstrated that I could prove in court that they were lying and reminded him that if his client expected not to pay me unless a 'satisfactory result' was achieved, he was probably in the same situation.  He replied to that last with a lot of  "confidentiality" "cannot disclose" etc., but ended with "point taken".  Hysterical laughter.  I think the message was in the last two words and I would love to be a fly on the wall at their next meeting.