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
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
That sounds like a
bitch. It's hard to home in on that one-minute beep.
How many do you
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
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
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
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).
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.
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
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'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
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
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
How warm has it been? It was around 25-30°C 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
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
its fur was white and fleecy.
Then it got foot and mouth,
now it's black and
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
I meant anyone with
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
Wow! What areas have
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
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
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
Dentist agrees with
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
Is it legal in the U.K. to ask
potential employees about their family arrangements? Because it isn't
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
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
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
was a wonderful reply and really cheered me up.
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
I thought he had a
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
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,
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
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
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.
they have towed a car away it is your word against theirs where it was
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
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
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
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
Yes, and that certainly demonstrates the
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