Chapter 8: Foot&Mouth, Dying.

We are living in interesting times. School was closed yesterday, apparently because of the snow.  I don't know why, there had been little fall since the day before and the roads were clear, and it looks the same to me today.  They don't seem to think about parents who have to leave work or make emergency childminding arrangements - why couldn't they keep a skeleton crew running a crèche if they can't get enough staff in to actually teach.  Not all the teachers live on inaccessible farms out in the hills.  Maybe their movement is being restricted by the emergency livestock regulations.
Well, Tuesday I was feeling pretty crummy and went to the doctor for a nurse check after my adriamycin infiltration of last week... and ended up being hospitalized, do not pass Go, do not collect $200, for neutropenia. What a drag.  I must say, though, that LAST time I got neutropenia from adriamycin I was a LOT more floridly sick (fever of 104° F, violent, simultaneous vomiting and diarrhea, hallucinations, etc.) so it was nice to discover that I should call the doctor when I just feel "pretty crummy." Had I not had the appointment for the nurse check, I probably wouldn't have gone in... and then I would have gotten a lot sicker, I believe.

I was on a ward that is used as an oncology ward.  Incidentally, the Seattle earthquake was Wednesday morning; the split second it started, I thought it was me and thought, "Oh, I'm dying.  This sure doesn't feel like I expected it to."

While I was there, two separate people died in the room across the hall from me, and I really need to talk about death and dying.  Sorry.  Log off now if you will be distressed.

I am really scared.  One of the people who died had brain mets and was whooping and hollering incoherently all day long up until around three hours before she died.  (I've been such a big brave girl, and now I'm whimpering and crying my eyes out as I type this.)

Are brain mets inevitable?  Am I going to end up dying crazed?  I don't want that.  I don't want my family to see that.  The grief that the families were going through and their horror at the smells and sounds, etc., were also very frightening to me.  Both people were well-medicated (according to my very kind, sympathetic and informative nurse) but it didn't seem to be doing any good.

If I have extensive bony mets now, that did not respond to Taxotere yet, and I'm having more pain even with the new Taxotere + adriamycin combo, what am I most likely to die of?  And why can't I find out when?  I know that no one can give me an exact idea, but my oncologist is very resistant to giving any kind of bad news.  Has anyone ever gone to another oncologist just for a second opinion about "how fast am I going to die?"

And let's see.  I'm probably going to have three or four total rounds of Taxotere + adriamycin.  The first round was complicated by the Coumadin I was on after my surgery, and I felt like total crap for the entire 21 days of the cycle.  The second round has already seen an adriamycin infiltration and neutropenia, even though I was dutifully trying to eat well and taking my Neupogen shots.  Am I likely to go into neutropenia AGAIN, since I have done so twice already on adriamycin?  The doctor is afraid enough of another infiltration during the 24-hour infusion that he wants to do the two subsequent ones in the hospital... and I am secretly afraid of being around dying people again.  It really saps my resolve.  What a wuss.

My doctor is planning on doing a bone scan next week and frankly, if there is no improvement in my bone mets, I'm gonna quit chemo.  I can't taste anything.  My libido is in the toilet.  I have enough cognitive impairment that I can't enjoy reading or even watching TV or movies.  (And I live to read.)  I am getting NO pleasure from anything!  I refuse to spend my last year or whatever feeling crummy.

So... I know someone else said (on another group) she had two or so months to live.  How so?  What makes your doctor say that?  What do you feel like? Are you still doing chemo?

Does dying of breast cancer in and of itself make you feel nauseated?  Or make you not enjoy your food?  Or make you unable to read? Or make you scary and/or disgusting to your loved ones?  I yearn to die surrounded by my family.  I'm really scared of it but also secretly yearning for it... I'm just so TIRED of all this.  But I don't want to freak them out. Hearing the crazed woman shriek and then seeing her sister come flying out of the room to throw up just horrified me.

It's funny, though I want to be surrounded by my family (or at least my sister), I want to die in the hospital or in hospice.  I have been at enough home deaths to think they are a big fat hassle, and I dearly want my family to be able to just leave the death facility rather than have to clean up and etc.

Oh, and does anyone think it would be tacky to ask to be moved to a different room when hospitalized in such distressing circumstances?

One other horrifying question.  Has anyone had any experience with banning someone from the room when dying?  I really want my mother not to be there. When my grandfather was dying, he was in agonal breathing and CLEARLY dying, and he would JUST start to ease off (we could see it on the monitors) and she would burst into loud sobs and grab his foot and say, "Don't die, Dad, don't die," and he would rally and start gasping for air again.  I imagined that I could feel his frustration.  What a horrible thing for me to want me to do but if I am finally dying and my mother keeps interfering I am sure I will be SO angry on SOME level.

I am also going to post this on another newsgroup I frequent, so my apologies if you wade through it twice.--

Emotions exist to provide alibis for inexcusable behavior.
                      -- Sunny the Parakeet, "Frisco Pigeon Mambo"
Oh dear Catharine

Being around someone dying so horribly is enough to shake up a normal healthy person pretty badly, never mind someone with enough problems of their own.  It would make me cry too.  No, this is not at all inevitable, and I can imagine it was kind of difficult for the hospital staff to handle. Lyudmila died quietly and peacefully, mainly from liver mets.  I think the doctors were being quite heavy handed with the morphine at the end, although no-one actually said so.  It was the only time when -I- wasn't controlling her dosages.  Her experience of patients dying on the ward was that when they got really sick they were moved to a side room, and then were usually not seen again.  All done quite quietly, calmly and matter of fact, but she still got pretty scared of that side room.  There is nothing wussy about hating to be around dying people, unless you happen to be a pathologist or something.

She was on Taxol, at about the same stage when things began to hit the fan, although her bone mets weren't so extensive.  They stopped the taxol because of anaemia, and she lived about three months after that.  There is absolutely no point in proceeding with it if it isn't stopping the disease - the QoL just doesn't add up.   And I would think you are quite likely to go neutropenic again unless they can think of a good reason why not.

Why the doctors won't say: well we've been through that before but no harm in rehearsing it again.  Firstly, they don't know, they know how advanced the disease is, could probably make a guess at the mass of the cancer, but not knowing exactly -where- it is means they can't tell how long before it breaks something important.  The path is littered with cases for patients still around several years after being given a prognosis of two weeks.  If you really want to know, ask a long-served nurse.  Our District Nurse seemed to have far more understanding of the progression of the disease in general systemic terms (rather than of specific organs and symptoms) than any doctor.

The other reason of course is that they don't like talking about it any more than anyone else, and they are protecting their own emotions.  To be fair, they have to do it a lot, and need some protective cover to remain detached and impartial, but it isn't what the patient needs.  Medical training is making considerable progress in this area, but there is still a way to go, and it isn't easy.  I listened to a radio documentary about it the other day: they are using actors trained to play patients while trainee doctors give them bad news, and then the actor tells the doctors how she felt during the interview.

Yes advanced cancer can make it difficult to eat, feel nauseated, not enjoy food.  I was told this was because the cancer was pressing on or displacing the stomach or intestine, acting rather like a partial bowel blockage.  So I guess you could expect symptoms similar to the side effects of constipation.
Side effects of various drugs accumulate to produce similar problems too. Your ability to metabolise them deteriorates for one reason or another so the side effects increase.  The last few weeks we really had a struggle to get enough calories into Lyudmila to keep her going.  In the end we had to be satisfied if we could keep her adequately hydrated.

Ask for what you want.  Move to another room, absence of Mother, whatever. They are supposed to be supporting you, not the other way round.  You are the star of this show.  Be a prima-donna.  The only thing that would be tacky would be refusing your request.



Hope you are surviving the environmental and personal disasters (and George W's budget arithmetic) and enjoying married life.
Yes, well... neutropenia ain't fun, nor is anything else.  Thank you for your kind and informative reply on the newsgroup.  I was quite the hysterical puccle of protoplasm when I got home.
How awful about the trainwreck.  Ick.
Well, must go downstairs and eat a piece of toast.
Yes that was seriously awful.  I feel for you.  As far as I know that sort of thing is pretty rare.  From what I have seen and been told most people go through a sort of progressive shutdown and end up asleep.  I guess there has to be the odd case where it doesn't work like that though.
Oh, I didn't have a completely bad time in the hospital.  I am proud (and codependent enough) to be the room where the nurses, under the guise of twiddling with my IV pump, come to relax and chat for a while.  Also the receptionist and both chemo nurses from my doctor's office came to visit me (on their days off!) and we had a hilarious time.
I piss and moan about how I don't have any friends here and I'm loooooonely, but I guess I do have friends.  They're just disguised as medical personnel.
That sounds more like the normal Catharine.  You had me worried for a moment then.
It's amazing what a few hours of sleep will do.

BTW I meant to wish you a happy World Book Day in the last message, but I guess it wasn't very happy anyway.
What is World Book Day, anyway?
World Book Day sounded like your sort of thing.  I guess its one of those odd definitions of 'world' as in "A pint's a pound the world around".  As that one defines 'World' as 'USA' maybe this definition of world excludes the USA.  It was 1st March and our schools gave out book tokens for £1 to all the kids to encourage buying books and, hopefully, reading.

Well, obviously, it wouldn't apply to the U.S., where no one reads.
But seriously.  I thought it was (World Book) Day.  There is a sleazy brand of encyclopedia here that used to be sold by subscription called the World Book, and I thought maybe they had arranged a Day or something.
Actually, if you *want* to get books, if you are a kid in the U.S., it's fairly easy and inexpensive.  Of course there are the lending libraries.  Then there are bookmobiles that take books out to remote areas once a month or so.  There is a company called Scholastic Press that puts out a four-page catalog monthly in schools, selling inexpensive paperback editions of books for kids to buy.  The catalogs are distributed in class, and the kids get to fill out the order forms themselves!  (Exciting.)  I used to LIVE for that catalog to come out.  I spent all my allowance on it.  It was much cheaper than buying books from stores, and the books got delivered to you in class, which made me feel special and quite rich.
One of the things I am doing as I contemplate mortal coils and shuffling off them is thanking people who have made a huge difference in my life in one way or another.  When we moved here to Kent, I was surprised and delighted to find out that Scholastic Press has its headquarters not half a mile from me!  I marched over there with my tattered, almost thirty-year-old copy of "From The Mixed-Up Files Of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler," (a really excellent book, and my favorite when I was eight) and told them that I am one of their greatest fans and spent a LOT of money with them once upon a time.  (Well, a lot as far as a nine-year-old on a modest allowance was concerned.)  Their reaction was thrilling!  They took me on a tour of the press, introduced me to everyone, showed me stuff, said they were excited to meet an actual customer, etc.  We were all very pleased with ourselves.
We also have a federal program here called Reading is FUNdemental, (RIF)which gets free books to low-income children.  This country is really sad.  There are so many ways to improve yourself if you just bestir yourself a little.  I don't understand why kids now don't read.  To me, it is much more of a hassle to play a video game.  I'm about the laziest woman in creation, and lying on the couch turning pages is a very low-intensity activity, whereas I occasionally sweat while playing Nintendo.  However, I suspect that watching TV is even lower-intensity; you don't even have to blink.
I'm very excited.  I found ONE thing that got broken in the earthquake.  I am going to take a picture of it to send to all my friends to show the devastating destruction visited upon us.  Maybe they'll send us presents and CARE packages.  It was a little blown-glass rose that one of the nurses gave me the last time I was in the hospital.  Awwww.
I am living in interesting times again.
Today's pet peeve is contractors.  Civil engineers they aren't.  The local council got some money spilled from the Eurobucket to improve the look of our area, I think we were bringing down the tone of Europe or something.  What, you're going to start having tourists?  You have to get rid of all the gnomes and pink flamingoes.  Je pense que les françaises hate them.  So all the houses on our road had their frontages sandblasted and garden walls rebuilt free of charge.  Super, it was a bit messy with sand everywhere, a thin layer in the house, practically a beach outside, but it looks nice.  Well it turned out they had a bit left at the end and they offered me some extra works, being in a high profile position as the end house on the bend that you see for half a mile or so.  How lovely for you.  I see this coming. They would sandblast my other garden walls and put gravel on my parking area which is basically packed earth ( well mostly packed council contractors' debris from earlier escapades).
Sunday morning at 8am I was woken by the doorbell.  I put on a gown and went to the door.  No-one there.  Back to bed and sleep.  15 minutes later doorbell again.  This time a contractor stood there - can I move my van or it will get sandblasted.  Not "Please".  He got some rude words, I went and got dressed, apologised for the profanity and moved it.  Patience, patience. 
Now, see, had you been an Amurrican he would not have got an apology.
He got lucky that  time.
This morning as usual I was walking Natasha to school at 8:45, just in time, none to spare.  Parked on the pavement outside were a digger, a truck, a car and three men.  "Move your van."  "No, I don't have time."  "We'll tow it."  "I'll sue".  The rest faded into the distance as we went to school.  When I got back they were still there.  They wouldn't say who they were or who they worked for, but eventually after much posturing admitted that they were here to do the gravelling.  Well by this time I was fed up and told them to go (which they wouldn't).  I called the council and the police and complained loudly.  After a while the contractor's management called me, and I complained at them too and told them they no longer had permission to do the job.  After about an hour they packed up and went, and I got apologetic phone calls all round, and a promise that a different contractor would be sent to do the job, and he would make an appointment, and that this one would be disciplined.  Sometimes you just have to make a stand.
And you still get the free job!  How fabulous.  Of course, it will happenin 2015.
Well they made an appointment to come at 08:30 Monday morning, so we'll see.
My contractors are back this morning as per appointment, no problems so far.
Yay!  You must post a picture of your stunning front yard on the newsgroup, or at least send me one.  I'm dying of curiosity.
Isn't the chemo sickening enough?  You want a picture of a gravel patch with a beat up old van parked on it too? 
If you insist, the webcam can oblige.

So far they have scraped the surface, dumped some gravel and levelled it.  They have yet to sort out the drainage and put in edgings.  To the right of the first photo you can see the ditch they have left as a temporary drain for the springwater.  Had they not done that the site would be underwater by morning. 
The interesting part is they uncovered the old Victorian drainage system, as well as several more modern attempts in various states of disrepair.  We had a bit of a history lesson this morning.  Not for nothing is the house called Springside House. The 800' contour line runs through the back cliff wall, about which I think I have spoken before (or else see my website), and the spring line is just above.  
At the rear you can see a small stone building with three bricked-up doorways.  This is the toilet block for the three cottages that once stood on this plot adjoining my house.  In front of the foliage on the extreme right of the pictures is a bus-stop lay-by of recent construction.  When they built this I diverted the springwater into the drains they laid around it. (It did not seem to concern the contractors that they had just built across a small water course.) 
After scraping the surface off we broke through a recent land drain, and just a bit deeper found the old clay drains from the cottages, and up close to the quarry face a dry-stone (well quite wet actually) culvert large enough to crawl down and in excellent condition.  From this we can see radiating various land drains, some of the entrances to which had been lost. 
The main culvert begins under the otherwise rather pointless dry-stone stack to the right of and in front of the privies and runs to the right, behind the foliage .  It drains into a smaller channel running toward the street, and has a branch which appears to collect from the downspouts on this side of the house.  When I bought the house the springwater was running across the pavement into the street gutter, a fun slide in winter.  Now it is clear that this should have been draining into the culvert somehow, but the entry had become obstructed.  We are now diverting it back to its original destination.
This is part of a general street improvement project which included sandblasting the front and side walls and rebuilding  the little boundary walls at the front, complete with cute iron railings (2nd photo).  We were supposed to get wrought iron gates, but as yet they haven't shown up, although other houses have got them, so I guess they were deleted.
Thank you.  I love the way your house looks.  It looks, sadly, exactly as I had expected it to.  I adore row houses.
It looks so ENGLAND.

But England is made of bricks.  Stone building is a distinctly northern phenomenon.
Sorry.  The resolution on the photo didn't let me see it was stone.
The colour is the give-away, 90% of English houses are red brick, made from soft red (Triassic) sandstone. (For contrast there are three bricked-up doorways in the disused toilet block in front of the van.)  Only in places like the Pennines is stone (millstone grit - a hard sandstone layer in the carboniferous, between the 'coal measures' and the limestone) the main building material.  It is creamy in Lancashire and more yellow in Yorkshire, but buildings went black from pollution before smoke abatement regulations in the '50s.  Most have now been cleaned.  Oddly the most famous type of brick is Accrington brick.  Accrington is about 3 miles from here and is entirely built of stone.  The famous brick was originally made as an engineering brick for building the cotton mills.  It was particularly suitable for withstanding the vibration of weaving looms.  Later it became popular in many areas as an exterior finishing brick for houses because its high glaze made it very weather resistant.  Stone built houses have solid walls about 18"-24" thick.  These are not as good insulation as a cavity wall but they are almost totally opaque to sound, and store heat for a long time.  I calculated the thermal time constant of my house at 43 hours.  This keeps it cool in summer and warm in winter.  Of course if you ever let it get cold (I  let it go down to about 40°F once) it takes a week to get back up to temperature.  (After 24 hours continuous running of the boiler it just about made 60°F)
Anyway I thought you were interested in the gravel patch.  It is progressing very slowly. 
Are they putting some kind of plastic mulch underneath it to prevent weeds?
They have finished it now.  They stripped the topsoil off and laid about a foot depth of rough chippings, then a couple of inches of sand-and-gravel to make a firm surface, and finally a couple of inches of sea gravel, round stones that will remain mobile.  It seems to work OK for other people.  We don't have much topsoil anywhere in this area, so the weeds don't go deep.
I have a garden area I made by shovelling about 2' of clean topsoil (which had built up under the trees) onto an area which had been weeds growing on demolition debris, after first excavating all the useful stone and un-diggable debris.  Despite comments by passers-by the underlying willow-herb and nettle roots could not find their way through that much smothering.  Between the cultivated plants only came shallow-rooted weeds and grass.
The contractors turn up now and again and do a bit more.  They have finished the drains and put in most of the edging.  Discovery of the culvert puts me in mind for another earth-moving project.  I always wanted to do fountains, simply because I have springs about 20' above street level.
What about a spring-fed goldfish pond?  Or is it too cold there?
I have thought about it.  There is a Koi farm across the valley, and they do have some outdoor pools, but I don't think they are year-round.  (It's probably the only farm not worried about foot-and-mouth!)  I am sure the spring water as it issues is too cold, it hurts to put your hand in it.  I discussed it with some people and the consensus was that it could be done but would not be very successful - you would have to breed fish specially to withstand the temperature and you'd have to lose colour variations etc..
I tried it in the back yard, but the pressure was far too high and it was very noisy.  And it blew around and made everything wet all the time.  I did build a pressure regulator which worked for a few months, but it is difficult to avoid debris and lifeforms getting in the works, and anyway it ended up getting vandalised.  Now out front where the culvert is the noise wouldn't matter, and fountains could be sited on its roof, which is higher, so less pressure in the first place, and draining away the water would be no problem.  It is covered in a few feet of earth of course, but this is probably the result of landslips, it looks as if it was originally exposed. I already built an about 8' high dry-stone retaining wall above it (completely by hand, over several years, mostly for exercise.  I have put on weight steadily since I stopped doing that.), so the landslip is no longer a problem.  From previous excavations I know the earth is mostly leafmold and silt washed down by the spring, mixed with demolition materials from the cottages that used to be there, and other garbage.  I once dug up an intact 1950's milk bottle.  They had rather ornate silk-screened health advertising slogans ("To health via milk") on them in those days, and the paintwork on this one was in perfect condition.
Where is it now?  Sell it on e-Bay!
I gave it to the local dairy farmer who delivers my milk.

History of the house:
It's not exactly a normal 'row' (terraced) house, our block is a pub and two houses. 
How conVENient.
Well the general situation is pretty convenient.  What is convenient is being five minutes walk from school, bank, post office, shops etc., the bus stop outside serving the express bus to Manchester, and a slip road opposite straight on to the bypass and so to the motorway network.  I used to reckon I could get my MG to 90mph in 90 seconds from a standing start on the parking area.
Over the years the pub has had a chequered history and has been a mixed blessing.  When I arrived in 1985 it was closed and boarded up.  Its last incarnation had been as a biker pub, and after the landlord did a moonlight departure, the bikers kept on running it for about six months before the brewery noticed that no-one was paying the bills and withdrew supplies.
Then a family I knew bought it and did it up and that was quite nice for my (single) social life.  They found that the disco was the best money spinner, so it drifted into being a disco pub, with the son and daughter-in-law of the family running it.  This was noisy rowdy and 'interesting' (as in "May you live in interesting times").  They had riots, one night I had friends to dinner and there was some ruckus outside.  I looked out of the door and saw a bunch of regulars faced off in the middle of the road against a gang from (probably) Bacup, ten miles down the valley.  While the atmosphere was hostile, it was temporarily quiet, so I got their attention, explained that they were upsetting my guests and asked them politely to move their fight down the road a bit.  The locals laughed and said "Sure, no problem, we were just seeing them off that way anyway."  It only worked because at the time I drank in the pub two or three nights a week, and had occasionally done defence duty with the local heavies when violence threatened.  I even got to hospital once for a quick suture occasioned by a blow to the head from a studded belt.  I got £100 for that one when it went to court.
They played it well, filled the place to an unsustainable level then sold out at a great profit on the basis of the recent turnover.  The day it sold we had a party that went on pretty late and we forgot to lock the doors. About midnight the police walked in and wanted to know what was going on. They eventually left, accepting that it was a private party and no-one was buying drinks, honest.
Needless to say the suckers who bought it did not do well and it declined. The landlord's wife left him and one day he went out leaving the chip pan on.  Unfortunately for him the neighbour across the road spotted the smoke and the fire was out before any major damage, or insurance claim, was done.
There were a few more half hearted short lived and unprofitable attempts, then an elderly Italian chef and his son took it on. They turned it into a successful Italian restaurant, still keeping the pub side going too.  That was fine for a few years until the boss retired, and his son wasn't so good a chef or so keen on the business and last year he decamped to Italy, possibly to avoid creditors.  There was another brief interlude if nondescript and unprofitable beer-selling, and it has just been reborn as a traditional English restaurant, run by a former customer of the disco pub. At least he remembered me from there, I can't say I remember him, but then I was probably drunk at the time.
Just a little aside from this story, yes I used to drink quite a lot, and no I don't now.  This was not a gradual transition, more a sort of burn-out. On my 39th birthday I rather wildly celebrated not being 40 yet.  I ill-advisedly bought a drink for everyone in the pub.  (Yes I was richer then too).  Why ill-advised?  Well of course I didn't; have to buy many more drinks after that, everyone was trying to buy me one back.  Official closing time was 11pm, but this tended to be 'honoured in the breach' and around 1am there were still a dozen or so drinks 'paid on' for me.  The pub's policy was that about an hour after the law said they should stop selling, they would restrict purchases to spirits only.  Some bright spark thought that would be a laugh and got all the credit as a half pint of brandy, which I blearily then attempted to drink, with predictable results.  Yes, I awoke face down in a pool of vomit.  That was Saturday night.  Sunday was just one big hangover, and Sunday evening I had to drive down to the Midlands for a job on Monday morning.  I checked into the hotel and went to my room to freshen up.  When I bent down in front of the mirror to rinse my face I caught site of a cartoon face drawn in lipstick on the bald top of my head!  How embarrassing!  Anyway that episode put me right off alcohol for some time.  It was six months before I felt like a beer, and two years before I could touch cognac again, and I have never since drunk to excess.
The two houses were built as one house in 1865 for the manager of the (long gone) neighbouring brewery which supplied the pub (using the spring water).  When the original owner died (sometime around 1900 I think) his widow divided the house into two and sold off 'our' half to a doctor who set up a practice there.  The two halves are almost equal in floor area (about 200m²) but ours looks much bigger because they are L shaped and we have the double front.  The way I figure it, we have the main entrance and main stairs, servants room and reception rooms, next door have the servant's entrance and 'back' stairs, kitchen etc.  There is all sorts of historical evidence lying around, e.g. there are bell-cranks and gas lighting pipes in the roof void.  My family doctor's practice (now in the town centre) is the one which started in my house, he was very interested in the house when he came to visit Lyudmila.  I use the rooms which were the doctor's waiting room and surgery, for my office and workshop.

About 2 years ago a guy ran into my van in London.  Not an accident, a road-rage attack, he rammed me.  I saw him coming, decided no way his little saloon car was going to intimidate my 3.5 tonner and stood my ground, presenting a 'hard point' to his approach as he cut me up.  The corner of my front fender hit his passenger door, then scraped down the side of his car as he tried to drive off and eventually was hooked under his rear wing.  After some shouting of abuse and calling the police, who didn't want to know, we went out ways.  I had a scratch in the paintwork so slight it didn't even break the paint, and it is still there to this day.  Shortly afterwards I got letters from his insurance company and uninsured-loss recovery company saying he blamed me, which I sent back with my version of the facts, saying he had no witnesses because if there had been witnesses I would have pressed criminal charges, and they both dropped it.  "Hot potato" springs to mind.   Now, on Friday I have to go to court to defend myself, he is accusing me of having rear-ended his car. 
What took him so long?  Here you have a year to take people to court for small-claims insurance stuff.  
What took him so long was probably coming around to insurance renewal time and finding out that his insurers thought it had been his fault.  I think you get three years here to make such claims.
What he is claiming for is the £100 'excess' on his insurance that he had to pay (on his around £1000 repair).  The reason is that if he doesn't recover that he will lose his no-claims bonus from his policy, which will cost him a couple of years' premiums over time.  The guy is a complete asshole.  Sounds like it.I even have a copy of a body-shop receipt from his insurance for replacing a door, so how he squares that with being rear-ended I do not know.  It certainly will be edifying and entertaining to watch. But I still have to take the time to go to court.  He even tried to get the case moved to London.  I said OK as long as he was willing to pay £500 costs if/when he lost, and that went quiet.  Oh Bother! Bottom! Knickers! Spit!  (Who said that anyway? I've forgotten. Some kids' story.)
WELL!  It certainly doesn't sound like Rumer Godden, Noel Streatfeild or A.A. Milne.  OR the Water-Babies, for that matter.
I keep thinking it was Violet Elizabeth Bott from Just William, but she was the one who said "I'll scream and scream until I'm sick".  It was some young girl said this when she was annoyed, demonstrating the worst language she knew.

Yesterday I had to go to a customer in the south of Scotland, in Hawick.  This meant driving through the small market town of Longtown (near Gretna), which was where the Foot-and-Mouth disease outbreak was first found.  It was horrible.  The whole area was under a layer of acrid smoke.  There were columns of smoke based by small orange flickers of flame dotted around the landscape.  In roadside fields I saw half a dozen pyres, long 10foot wide trenches filled with dead cows and burning.  Also one film crew recording the carnage.  At one freshly lit one I drove under an arch of thick black smoke, rising from the heat of the fire, blowing across the road in the light wind, and descending again in the cold air into the field opposite.  All the livestock farm entrances have Keep Out signs, and/or a band of straw soaked in disinfectant across the road.  Farmers park their cars and trucks on the road outside the farm so they don't have to decontaminate every time they want to go to town.  Everything smells of burnt cow, an acrid and clinging smell, but not too offensive - I think it is mainly acrylic acid if memory serves.  I wonder how much virus there is in the smoke.
Oh, shudder.  That does sound horrible, and my shudder was not sarcastic. I have nothing against cows, and this all sounds ghastly to me, plus it makes me think of certain relatives of mine about sixty years or so ago.   I believe the technique is quite similar.
There's no medication for hoof-and-mouth?  Do the farmers have insurance, or is there some kind of compensation from the gummint?  (I think farmers are often compensated too much here, but I don't mind it when it's a public health thing like this.)
What a grisly thing to drive through.  Too bad the Good Taste Euro Police couldn't see THAT.

Yes the farmers get compensated by the gov. for the animals destroyed.  Of course there are a lot of other losses that are not compensated. The problem with the virus is it is highly infectious and takes about two weeks to show symptoms.  So once you know your cows have got it, it's too late.  You need to trace all the other animals they have been in contact with, and destroy the cows because the virus can even be carried on the wind to the next farm.  Given time the animals would recover, but if the disease ran its course the whole of Europe would get infected.  Some animals (eg sheep) can carry it undetected.
Yes.  When I was in high school in Round Rock, which was then pretty rural, I dated a guy who was in FFA.  (Future Farmers of America.)  (I primarily dated him because they wore cool jackets, and I'd get to wear it if we went steady.  Which I steered him into, because I wanted to wear his jacket.) 
What strange reasons high-school girls have for dating a guy.  Did he know that you only fancied him for his jacket?
Of COURSE not.  What kind of skank do you think I am?  I allowed him to think we were Romeo and Juliet, then dumped him when a person with a cooler jacket became available, and broke his heart.  I'm a good girl, I am.
You never chased jeans or shoes or whatever?  Only jackets?  I heard of guys chasing skirts but this is new to me.
Well, it was a way of advertising to all the other girls that there is a guy going steady with you. 
To this day I am still attracted to tall guys with long legs wearing boot-cut Wrangler jeans and, of course, cowboy boots.  But that's strictly superficial.
Anyway, his FFA project was raising two heifers, and I heard a lot about foot-and-mouth.  But it was always presented as a worst-case scenario, and not something to worry about much.
Well we seem to have bought the worst case scenario here.  New outbreaks are running about 10-15 farms per day.  Well, not quite the worst, at least the gov. is taking what seem to be sensible steps and there is a general consensus between min. of ag., farmers and the rest as to what needs to be done.  The worst case scenario is a cover-up like they did with BSE.  One weird thing is that last time we had an outbreak they buried the carcasses. Now they are banned from doing that by a Euro-regulation, they have to burn them.  This means that they lie around putrefying and infecting for a while until a pyre can be built and fired.  This seems to take a whole lot longer than digging a hole and throwing them in.  I guess its best in the long term, but it makes it harder to halt the spread.
Hey, in one district the police impounded all the farmers' shotguns in case they do something stupid in a fit of depression over their loss of income. I could just see that happening in USA.  I don't know how they are going to protect all the people employed in rural tourism, who have probably lost half their income for the year and get no compensation.  Or those who provide livestock transport or feed or trading services
Do not make fun of FFA. 
Would I do that, even if it does sound like a bunch of stockbrokers reaping the benefits of reselling wheat that does not yet exist?  (I guess those are the Futures Farmers of America).  In one of Terry Pratchet's 'Discworld' novels he has a pork futures warehouse full of virtual pork.
In the unexpectedly funny movie "Space Truckers," they were hauling genetically engineered hogs that were cube-shaped, for easier packing.
The FFA kids then entered their livestock in the Fat Stock Show in Fort Worth and/or the State Fair in Dallas.  The prizewinners were auctioned off, presumably for college money.  I had a girlfriend whose turkey (what a pathetic project, raising a turkey) took the grand prize at the State Fair and sold for $13,000.  And that was in 1979, when $13,000 meant something. 
$13,000 is some turkey.  Did the kids chose their projects or were they assigned, like "You do horses, you do sheep, you do turkeys"?
No, they chose them.  That's why everyone thought a turkey was so pathetic.  Kids who wanted to show their chops as REAL farmers picked things like cows and pigs. 
Sadly, she bought a fully-loaded baby blue F250 pickup truck with most of it instead of saving it for college.  But OH, did we envy that pickup as we jounced along in the school bus.
Aloha, Catharine (who now would not be caught DEAD in an F250, even if she COULD climb up into one.)

What the heck, she probably enjoyed the looks of envy far more than she would have enjoyed gloating over her peers unrepaid student loans.
Yeah, she said with a disgusted look on her face.  Hey, I got my master's degree seven years ago, and I just paid off one loan from that!  I only have $2300 on the other loan left to go!  :b
We only started with student loans on a serious scale a few years ago so it hasn't worked its way through the system yet.  When I was a student we got a government grant that was enough to survive on if you weren't dependent on any strange substances.  We have that -- the Pell grants -- but you have to be direly poverty-stricken, on an Appalachian or inner-city level, to qualify for them.
This was finally abolished a few years ago as part of a policy of allowing everyone to get a university education whether they had a brain or not.  If everyone goes to university then you can't expect the taxpayer to fund them I suppose.  The people who were in the first years of student loans are just getting jobs now, so the extent of repayment times has not hit home yet. 
Just wait until it does.  I did my undergraduate stuff on a combination of scholarships and working, so I didn't owe anything when I finished that.  Did my MPH on savings and loans, so I only owed around $18,000 when I finished.  My sister is about to finish her dissertation for her Ph.D., and has figured out that she will owe about $80,000.  I think that's horrifying, as the only thing she will be able to do with it is teach, and she will not ever make that much money.  Wow.  But she loves being a student, and I think she loved being on the dole, so to speak, for many years.  Now she has to worry about getting tenure.
That's what's scary about the system.  It establishes a sort of debt culture.  At least with grants there was a stop point, you had to make the grades to keep getting paid, and of course the higher you got the higher the qulaifying grades were.  This way there is no inbuilt limit - as long as someone is prepared to lend you money and someone is prepared to take the money to teach you the don't care whether or not you can benefit from it. And the monthly payments are so small, and start so far in the future, it's very hard to worry about them. This is pretty much what Artyom is doing, I don't know if he is really benefiting from his education, but it is an easy option for him to get enough money to live on now and not have to work but do what interests him. It is hard to make people think ahead when they don't have to.
Aaaaaah (disgusted, cynical camel-like noise).  No one benefits from their education right away.  The only immediate benefits I got were finally discovering how much alcohol makes me sick, how to do a Bunny Dip while serving cocktails, how to deal with obnoxious drunks, and how to get the kind of stain that nearly brought our government down out of various types of material.  Oh, and I did write a nice paper on the Black Death's effect on labor policies in the fourteenth century.  I was quite hurt years later when watching The Day The Universe Changed or Connections or something like that to discover that James Burke had had the same thoughts, and I was not nearly as intelligent or original as I thought.
(James Burke Rules!)
I don't think anyone takes their education seriously until they're really paying for it themselves.  And I was a LOT more serious about it in grad school.  I learned a lot more, too.  Of course, YOU were doing technical/scientific stuff, where you do benefit immediately.
I guess if you go on to postgraduate studies on the same scheme it can wind up that you spend the rest of your life repaying your student loan.  Yup.  See above. I don't think we are doing that yet (** below), and I think most are paid for by research grants and low-grade temporary staff positions in the university.  When I was a postgrad I had one quarter of a 'Demonstrator' job, which paid about 2/3 of the undergraduate's grant, and nominally obliged me to supervise undergraduates in the labs once or twice a week, although I was never actually asked to do it.  I did get to supplement this with the odd one-off teaching session - briefing students from another dept to whom my research work was incidentally relevant - which paid incredibly well.  It confused hell out of the admin office though, they couldn't quite get the hang of the idea of hiring an outside lecturer who was actually already on their staff. However they persisted and on about the fifth attempt they managed to produce a 'revised retrospective agreement' which actually allowed them to pay me.
** No-one has yet had the bright idea of guaranteeing postgraduate education for all; I'm sure it would be popular.  Also in this politically correct egalitarian society it has not yet occurred to anyone in authority to prosecute or persecute mothers of thick children for depriving them of their rights to participate fully in society.  :-}
I don't think you could prosecute, but I would love to persecute.  Especially since I think a lot of thickness is caused by poor diet, staying up too late and too much TV as a child.
Or smoking while pregnant.

A snippet from this week's New Scientist magazine letters.
"It is claimed that there are more fluent speakers of Klingon than there are fluent Esperanto speakers"
PS the spell checker offered "Clinton" as the best alternative for the unknown "Klingon"!  Maybe it knows something.