My Kind Of Weather

In the UK, the BBC brings us regional news. Following the main news broadcast, there is a regional news programme for each area of Britain. In Norfolk, we have ‘Look East’. The weather report on that mentioned colder weather over the next few days, and that frost and ice was unlikely, with temperatures staying well above freezing.

Then she said, “We have had no significant rainfall in this region for well over a week now”.

That’s my kind of weather report! 🙂

Going Private

Sixteen days ago, my wife found a significant lump on her breast. She went into our local doctor’s (where she works as a receptionist) and had it examined. She was told it might just be a benign cyst, but the doctor contacted the Norwich Hospital, and put her on a 14-day referral for investigation. Under government guidelines, potential breast cancer is considered serious, so nobody is allowed to wait more than fourteen days to be seen and examined.

When the fourteen days were up, she phoned the hospital to ask why she had not received an appoinment. They immediately blamed the Covid-19 pandemic, saying that they had to reduce numbers in the clinics, so there were delays approved by the health authority. The told her she might be seen in late December, possibly later than that.

Over two weeks of worrying about a breast lump was beginning to take its toll. Lack of sleep, constant concern, and genuine worry that it might be a cancerous growth spreading out of control.

I decided to telephone the local private hospital, Spire Norwich. As much as it went against all my principles to seek help in the private sector, I was not prepared to let Julie carry on like this for another six to twelve weeks.

The lady apologised that the Wednesday clinic was full. However, if I was prepared to drive to Genesis Healthcare in Newmarket, fifty miles south, they could see my wife on Tuesday. Of course, I accepted the appointment, for 5:10 pm today.

The clinic is very swish, and cost ÂŁ7,000,000 to set up. I was not allowed to go in with Julie, due to Covid-19 concerns, so had to sit in the car out in the car park. She was welcomed, given a latte coffee, and all of her details were taken by an impeccably polite receptionist. When she was shown in to see the doctor, she was chaparoned by a female nurse, and put at her ease. Following a short examination, the doctor sent her for a mammogram on both breasts. Just in case.

The good news was that he was 99.9% certain it was caused by ‘fatty lumps’. Whilst that may sound a little embarrassing, who cares? It is not cancer. He will arrange to confirm his diagnosis with an ultrasound in around three week’s time, at Norwich Hospital. That will be free of charge, under the NHS.

Julie was in there just over one hour. The charge for that? ÂŁ460 ($610 US)

Relief all round, nothing sinister.

We had the money to pay the bill. We don’t regularly change our old cars, do not take foreign holidays, or spend money on unnecessary luxuries.

Nobody is a greater defender of the NHS than me. I spent one-third of my life working as an EMT, and my wife still works for the NHS now. But the current problems mean that for the first time ever, it let us down. Consider that the doctor today is a consultant at Norwich Hospital, in his regular job. So too the nurse, and the specialist radiographer. All three were trained at the expense of the Britsh taxpayer, yet the system allows them to work the minimum hours for the NHS, then add lucrative hours at private clinics such as Genesis, to boost their already substantial incomes.

We have both paid into the NHS all our lives, but have been forced to dip into savings to get some treatment that was not offered under the self-imposed rules.

That goes against the grain for me, and makes me seriously doubt the future of the NHS as we once knew it.

My Doggy Doctor

(Not Ollie of course. He has no uniform)

It is well known that dogs can detect illnesses in humans.

Here are some examples I found online.

Last week, researchers presented evidence that dogs could tell from sniffing someone’s socks whether they had malaria. After several months of training, a labrador and a labrador-retriever could tell if a child had the disease even if they were not showing symptoms.

Prostate cancer
In 2015, Italian researchers announced that they had trained two German shepherds to detect chemicals linked to prostrate cancer in urine samples. The dogs were correct in 90% of cases, while the standard PSA blood test is not considered reliable enough for screening. There is an ongoing study in Milton Keynes hospital NHS trust that aims to evaluate dogs’ abilities in a normal clinical setting.

Dogs are already used by diabetics to detect when their blood sugar levels are dangerously high or low. A charity called Hypo Hounds trains dogs to smell tell-tale changes on their owner’s breath or in their sweat. The pets can detect a problem earlier than a glucose monitor.

Parkinson’s disease
Researchers at Manchester University are attempting to train dogs to detect Parkinson’s disease years before symptoms emerge. The work is inspired by the work of a human “super-sniffer” who detected a change in her husband’s odour six years before he was diagnosed.

Breast cancer
Dogs are also being trialled at Buckinghamshire healthcare NHS trust for their ability to detect breast cancer. If dogs could detect this form of cancer from a woman’s breath it would allow more frequent screening; currently, women over 50 are screened only once every three years because of the exposure to radiation involved.

Ollie sniffs me intently, any chance he gets. He will also sniff my clothes when I get undressed. If I have a scratch or a cut, even one so small I might not have noticed it, he will suddenly start to lick my leg, arm, hand, or foot as soon as he smells the tiniest trace of blood. It is believed that licking a wound can actually hasten healing. Hence the old saying, ‘licking his wounds’.

Last week, Ollie started to refuse to take any treats from my hand. If I put them in his food bowl he would eat them, and if I gave them to Julie, he would take them from her. But he flatly refused to accept them from my hand, for the first time ever.

Then on Saturday, I was watching TV quite late and wearing a dressing gown. He suddenly got up and walked over to sniff my legs. He was concentrating intently, sniffing very small areas. Soon after, he began to lick both of my shins. He kept doing it so obsessively, I had to stop him and tell him to go and lie down.

On Sunday, I remembered those facts about dogs detecting illness and injury, so examined my legs for any small wounds. I couldn’t find any.

As for illness, I feel fine at the moment, and have no obvious symptoms of anything. But this morning, he still refused his treat from my hand.

Perhaps I should be worried?

Geriatric Acne

A post from eight years ago, when I had not been blogging for very long. It is reposted for the benefit of new followers, as it appears that only one person ever saw it. 🙂


I was lucky as a teenager. I missed the spots and acne that plagued so many of my contemporaries. Can’t say why, it just didn’t happen. They were all busting spots frantically, or being scarred for life along their necks and backs, and I just had a nice tan, and hay fever instead.

A life spent in a city, with traffic, smog, pollution, and fumes. Working all sorts of shifts, eating and sleeping erratically, stressed out like an over-tuned violin string. You would think that all of this would have played havoc with my skin. Smoking heavily, drinking lots of wine, and almost never enjoying fresh air and relaxation; surely the breeding ground for spots and associated blemishes? Apparently not.

Give up work and move to the countryside. Enjoy the freshest air you have ever known. Walk the fields and forests, stress free, and unworried by work and time commitments…

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A Song In Your Head

You know what it’s like when you get a tune or song in your head? It is usually random, and not because you have just heard it. Sometimes, it is one you really don’t like, or something as obscure as an advertising jingle from your childhood. It can hang around for days, sometimes weeks, and the moment you stop concentrating on what you are doing, there it is, overwhelming your brain.

Last night, I was preparing some vegetables in the kitchen, and this popped into my head.


It’s not that the song is terrible. The film is fun too, and was a big favourite of my mum’s. But it won’t go away now. I lay in bed trying to sleep, and there was Phil Harris singing about Paw Paws and Prickly Pears. This morning, I woke up to the chorus playing in my head, my right foot tapping uncontrollably as I waited for the kettle to boil.

“The bare necessities of life will come to you
They’ll come to you”

Somebody make it stop!

Thinking Aloud On A Sunday

The Sun.

Last week, I read an article about the future of our sun. It contained this section.

‘In a few billion years, the sun will become a red giant so large that it will engulf our planet. But the Earth will become uninhabitable much sooner than that. After about a billion years the sun will become hot enough to boil our oceans.’

I woke up thinking about that this morning.

Everything will be gone. Every vestige of our history and culture. Every building, natural wonder, and every human being and animal. Not one living thing will survive, and it will be as if the earth never existed. No records of it ever being there; and no memories of great thinkers and writers, or the work of renowned artists.

It may well be that by then there will be colonies on distant planets, unaffected by the exploding sun. But they will have to be far distant indeed, to escape a similar fate.

And what if such colonies are poplulated by then? Unless all our human treasures are taken there to be stored, and some kind of space ark used to convey animal species to the end of the galaxy, they will have only pictures and documents stored on computers. It won’t be long before it is all beyond the living memory of anyone left.

So I have to wonder.

Is it all worth it?

Climate Change: Something Else To Worry About

Anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis will know that I suffer badly from insect bites during the summer season.

If something is capable of biting a human, it will choose me above anyone else who happens to be in the vicinity. Then it will follow me home, to feast on me at its leisure.

In an effort to combat them, I spend a lot of money on repellent sprays and creams. I also wear an impregnated bangle, and have to take daily tablets to control the itching on the bites that get through my defences.

At least the arrival of colder months gives me some relief from those bites, on my daily walks with Ollie.

I certainly do not expect to be bitten in November, that’s for sure.

But we had a very long spell of relatively mild wet weather during October. When the rain stopped, the sun came out and had a surprising amount of warmth in it. It got to temperatures unknown in November since I lived here, and we didn’t even need to put the heating on until after dark. After three days of bright sunshine, I was able to start to enjoy my walks with Ollie as I was not getting soaked. Then yesterday, I noticed huge clouds of midges on the path next to the river. I decided to backtrack, to avoid walking through the visible swarm.

Close to the time I was heading home, I met a dog-walker I hadn’t seen in a while, and stopped for a socially-distanced chat as the dogs checked each other out. At one stage, he remarked “You have a lot of flying things around your head”. I moved away from that spot, and said my farewells.

This morning, I woke up with five large itchy bites at the back of my head, and a swelling in front of my left ear.

They got me again. And it is November!

Ollie’s Sister

Last week, we heard the sad news that one of Ollie’s sisters had to be put to sleep, after suffering acute kidney failure.

I don’t have a photo of Milly, but she was identical to Ollie in every way, as the only other brown pup in the litter. She was somewhat smaller than him physically, but otherwise they were impossible to tell apart facially.

The lady who had Milly lived in our nearest town, and a few years ago, she brought her to see us. Ollie seemed to know her instinctively, licking her face, and sticking close by her side.

He doesn’t know she has gone of course, but it made us feel so very sad.

RIP lovely Milly. 2012-2020.

Lockdown Number Two

On the 5th of November, we begin a second national lockdown in England. Once again, bars, pubs, hotels, and restaurants will close. Only essential shops will remain open, and travel will be restricted to work, food shopping, child care, and some emergencies.

So far, it is planned for a period of at least 28 days, but there is no actual time cap if the current high infection rate continues.

To many, this is frustrating. Small business like hairdressers and beauticians have just got going again after the last time. Some entertainment venues were hoping to open in time for Christmas, but now that probably will not happen. Gift shops, toy shops, card shops, and many others reliant on the huge spending boom before Christmas are likely to go bust, with their biggest trading period of the year cancelled.

Some believe it is necessary, to slow the alarming increase in ITU admissions, and subsequent deaths.

But if so, why are schools and colleges remaining open? You tell people that they cannot visit an 80 year old grandmother, or go and have their hair cut on a one to one basis, but it is okay for your child to attend a school with perhaps a thousand other children every day, possibly bringing home the virus to the rest of the family.

To say that Boris Johnson has handled the pandemic badly is an understatement.

Ollie And The Cows

For a while now, we have been unable to venture onto Hoe Rough, as the Wildlife Trust wardens are allowing a small herd of cattle to graze there.

One of them in particular doesn’t seem to like dogs, and gave us the ‘evil eye’ when I fist noticed the cows there.

It was a lot like this one.

Now Ollie pays no attention to cows, but they certainly pay attention to him. That means I have to walk extra circuits of Beetley Meadows instead of going to Hoe Rough. Ollie doesn’t mind that at all, even though I find it boring.

But the cows are still watching…

Earlier today, i spotted the big black and white one staring at us from across the river. It carried on looking at us until we rounded a bend and were out of sight.

I will be pleased when they are back on the farm.