Ollie At The Vet (Again)

Ollie had to go to the Vet again today. That’s why I am late posting my serial episode, (for those of you that noticed) and just running late in general. Any break in my fixed routine makes me feel that I lose the rest of the day trying to catch up.

Anyway, Ollie had to have his annual booster injection, and general health check. In addition, I was worried about a sore eye that was troubling him, and the fact that he just cannot seem to stop shedding hair out of season.

Excited to get in the car, he was less impressed after the 12-mile drive deposited him at the hated Vet. Not that he balks at going in, but once inside he shows obvious signs of distress about what may be about to happen. Luckily, there were lots of other dogs there already, so his attention was distracted. Two Golden Retrievers, a young Rottweiler, a barky Labrador, and a nervous Poodle all gave Ollie the eye as he came in, and there was a great deal of mutual sniffing. Only the trembling Poodle made sure to avoid my dog.

He weighed in at thirty kilograms. This is a one kilo increase on last year, and a two-kilo increase on his weight at the age of two. The Vet checked his heart, looked in his ears, and gave him the booster jab. Then he was examined around the eyes, as I talked about the never-ending moulting of fur. He had to have an ‘indicator solution’ dropped into the bad eye, and after a short delay, the colour change (to green) indicated Conjunctivitis. The issue with the fur was diagnosed as yet another yeast infection on the skin, causing the fur to constantly fall out and re-grow.

The treatment will be seven days of eye drops to clear up the right eye. The Vet agreed that we should avoid yet another dose of oral antibiotics and steroids for the skin, but has suggested weekly baths in the special shampoo for the foreseeable future. That in itself is going to be a mission, getting Olie in and out of our small corner bath, and trying to dry him off. I could take him to the groomer every week, but at £32 a time, that option is too expensive.

As he filled out the report on his computer the Vet also discussed Ollie’s age. He will be 8 years old in February. For a Sharpei, that is the human equivalent of 65 years of age, and is why he is slowing down more each month, and sleeping longer. He casually added, “If he sees double figures, I will be happy, but surprised”. I was shocked, and asked him if that was really true. Might Ollie only live for less than two more years? He shrugged. “The oldest one I have ever seen was ten years old. I have never seen one older than that. Too much in-breeding, I’m afraid.”

I paid the £60 bill, and we left. As I was driving home, I wondered if the Vet’s gloomy prediction could be correct.

Life without Ollie in it just doesn’t seem possible.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday


What better to think about on a Sunday, than Sundays?
When I got up this morning, I had forgotten it was a Sunday.

At one time in my life, Sundays were a big deal. Getting up late, reading comics, my parents relaxed after a long week at work. My Dad would get ready to go to the pub for midday, while Mum started preparing everything for the big meal we would eat around 2:30 when he got back. After eating, they usually went for a ‘lie down’ in the bedroom, leaving me to my books or toys.

It was a long time before I worked out what that Sunday ‘lie down’ was all about.

By 5:30, Mum would have prepared a meal called ‘Sunday tea’. In London, this usually consisted of assorted fresh seafood, bread and butter, and slices of a cake she would have baked earlier. Fortified with this, my Dad would leave again, to get to the pub by seven when it opened. This left Mum and me watching television together, until Dad got home around midnight. It never occurred to me that he was drinking and driving. Back then, everyone did that.

By the time I was married, the Sunday tradition had altered for us, but not much. Reading huge Sunday papers in bed, followed by a bacon sandwich and more coffee downstairs. As there were no shops open in those days, we would usually visit my Mum in the late afternoon. She was on her own by then, and still preparing the big traditional dinner, followed by cake. If we stayed home, we ate later, and had anything we fancied, not always the British Sunday Roast. With work the next morning, there was rarely anything done late at night, so we were usually back in bed by eleven.

To be honest, I found Sundays really boring.

Once I started to work shifts as an EMT, I had to work at least two Sundays a month, sometimes three. That completely shattered any notion of a traditional Sunday in my life, and it soon felt like just another day.

When I retired in 2012, I discovered that Sundays here in Beetley were seemingly frozen in time. People mowed their lawns on Sundays, washed their cars, carried out some DIY tasks, and mostly still ate that traditional Sunday lunch around two in the afternoon. By then, shops were open from ten until four, so younger people might go into Norwich or Dereham to look around the shops, or to buy some food from the supermarket. Traffic here on a Sunday can be worse than during the working week.

In less than a year, Sundays lost their rediscovered novelty for me. When you don’t have to go to work on a Monday, or rush to get home from work on a Friday, the weekend starts to feel like any other day. Ollie has to go out for his walk, and I can prepare anything we want for dinner, eating at around the usual time for us of seven in the evening.

Other people do different things of course. Religious people still attend church, though in fewer numbers than in the past. Those with small children might take them to the park, or drive them to a regular activity, like a football club, or dance class. In better weather, many flock to the coast, enjoying the beaches and activities in the sea. It is only thirty minutes away by car, but you have to get there early to find a space in the car park.

Once winter arrives, few people venture out. They stay in in front of the fire, or the warmth of central heating. The huge choice of entertainment provided by television, phones, and computers these days means they are not bored, as I used to be in my teens. For them, it is school tomorrow, or work. That ‘Monday Morning’ feeling as the day draws to a close.

But for me, Monday is just another day, as is today.

These days, I have to be reminded it is a Sunday.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Weights and Measures.

I woke up quite late this morning, no idea why. But I was thinking about millimetres, for some reason.
Come to think of it, I remember the reason, as it had to do with it being spelt differently in America. (Millimeters)

By the time I started to see things in England described in litres, centimetres, or millimetres, I was already pretty old. This country still cannot seem to make its mind up about the metric system, even though we changed to decimal currency in 1971. Directions (and signs) are still given in miles, and most haberdashery shops will sell you cloth by the yard. When you go to buy carpet though, it is sold by the square metre, and I have to use Google to translate that into something I can understand.

Petrol is sold in litres, as is milk, wine, juice, and soft drinks. But I can still buy a ‘gallon’ bucket, or a ‘five-gallon’ container. Meat, cheese, and loose produce are now sold in kilos and grammes. That means little to me, so I translate that into pounds and ounces in my head. (A kilo is 2.2 pounds) I have no concept of how long one centimetre is, but an exact idea of the size of something that is a quarter of an inch long.

Clothing is another problem. I can still buy shoes in a size I recognise, but the length and waistband of trousers is show in centimetres. Before buying most clothing, I have to translate the number from inches, so I know what to order. When it comes to large items like cookers and washing machines, the dimensions are all stated in centimetres. But I have an extending tape rule that has feet and inches on one side, so I measure with that so I know something will fit.

It is not unlike having to use two different languages. Imagine ordering clothes in Italian, but having to read direction signs in German. Remember the old saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”? In my case, that is true.

Much of what I learned at school from 1957 is now obsolete. Telling younger people about such ‘ancient’ measurements usually brings on a smile, followed by a look of complete boredom. However, some of those old measurements still exist, in specialised forms. Take a ‘Furlong’ for instance. This originally derived from ancient farming measurements, and came from two words ‘Furrow long’. This was the ideal length to plough a furrow in a field for planting. At school, I had to learn that there were eight furlongs in a mile, so the length of one was 220 yards. You may think that this is of little use today. But did you know that every horse race in Britain is still measured in furlongs?

I also had to learn that one furlong was equal to 10 chains, with one chain being 22 yards. There was even a physical metal chain used to check this. If you think this is silly and outdated, then you should know that to this day, one chain is the distance between the wickets on every cricket pitch in the world.

Fluid capacities were important too. Not centilitres or millilitres, I had never heard of those. We had Gallons, Pints, Gills, Flagons, Bushels, Pecks, and Firkins. I knew the relevance and size of every one, by the age of eight. And not all of those have disappeared. Beer is still sold in pubs here in pints and half-pints.

I could go on and on, but I can see your eyes glazing over from here. A Hand was used as a defined measurement, stated at four inches. Who uses that these days? Every horse is still measured in hands, so it is widely used by horse breeders and trainers, stables, and jockeys. When I was young, an average weight of a grown man was said to be around 11 stone. So if someone was 30 stone, you knew that they were very big, and almost certainly obese. When I am weighed at the doctor’s now, they tell me my weight in kilos. For me to make any sense of that, I have to translate it to stones and pounds.

So the next time you are thinking about how long, wide, or heavy something is, just hope that someone doesn’t come along and change all the measurements to something you will never understand.

Living In The Dark

I didn’t get up until 8:30 this morning. I thought it was much earlier, as it was still dark.

When I went into the kitchen to let Ollie out, I had to switch on the lights. Then I went into the living room and opened the curtains, only to discover that it was as dark as early evening outside. I checked the clock on the microwave as my kettle boiled for coffee. Definitely morning.

Once the computer had fired up, the clock at the bottom of the screen confirmed it was really almost 9 am, not pm.

It is now 11:48, and still more or less dark. It will officially be dark just after 4 pm today.

But I will hardly notice any difference.

On the plus side, it isn’t raining!

A Mobile Resolution

Earlier this week, I wrote about the frustrating issues with my mobile phone. (Cellphone)

The post attracted a lot of interest and comments, as well as some much-appreciated advice.

I thought I had found a solution, when my wife gave me her old phone. It was reset to ‘Factory Reset’, and my SIM card put in. I would now have a more modern and hopefully more reliable phone, and not have to pay anything.

I should have known it was not that easy. The Android-operating device required a Google log on. But when I tried to do this, it would not recognise my password. Turns out that it has to be the original owner logging on, with their details. If we had done that, then my wife’s details would have been stored on the phone, not mine, and we had no idea what problems that might cause later.

So on Tuesday I drove to the outskirts of Norwich, to a retail park where the network provider has a dedicated shop. I was served by a very helpful man, and fortunately for me, he was over 40 years of age. He confirmed my fears about using my wife’s phone. Apparently, her details had been ‘synched’ to the phone, and it wasn’t about to let me use it. I could just let her log in, type in all my contacts, and carry on paying my regular monthly amount. But he also thought that wouldn’t work, as the phone would not let me proceed to recognising my number.

At a loss what to do next, I asked for his suggestion. Being a salesman, he naturally suggested selling me a two-year phone contract on a shiny new smartphone. He showed me some, and after my old HTC, they seemed enormous. Remember when phones were getting smaller? Now they are getting bigger again. “It’s to watch films and You Tube”, he told me. As I was resisting his sales pitch and considering going back in time to a cheap, ‘basic phone’ option, he recommended a deal that got my interest.

Choosing one of the new huge phones, he told me that he could do a deal for only £4 a month more than I am currently paying for SIM-only. Not only that, but I would get unlimited minutes to most networks and landlines, unlimited text messages, and a monthly allowance of 1GB of Internet data. That was tempting, but I told him that after the days of grief with the previous two phones, I was reluctant to even attempt to try to work out how to use an all-singing-and-dancing modern phone.

Then he said the magic words.

“But I will do all of that for you sir. Set the phone up, import your contacts, show you the basic controls. You get a gel case, as well as a solid glass screen protector. No money up front, and no increase in the basic cost of the contract for two years”.

I told him that if I could leave the shop with a working phone that had all my contacts and photos on it, and keep the same number I have had ever since getting a mobile, then he had a deal.

Forty minutes later, I was holding this.

He regaled me with its impressive specifications. Dolby stereo, three lens options on a camera that takes (ridiculously large) 48 MP photos. A 5000 amh battery that will last longer than most other phones on the market. All that tech stuff meant little to me. But it was working as promised, and had a lot to offer for only £4 a month more. It is made in China, but that doesn’t bother me in the least as so many are now, even when people don’t think they are. And now I am back on contract, any issues with this phone will be down to the network provider, not me.

All I have to do now is to work out how to use it.

Telephonic frustration

My mobile phone is getting on a bit. Close to six years old, in mobile (cellphone) technology, that is as good as steam-powered. I rarely use it, and mainly keep it for emergencies, like a car breakdown, or if the power goes out and shuts down the house phone.

A while ago, I cancelled the contract, and changed to SIM-Only. That saved me a fair bit each month, but also meant that I couldn’t upgrade regularly. Still, I now owned the phone, and didn’t need a new one. That sounded pretty good to me.

Until Thursday.

Because of the low use, and because I don’t have the Internet access of Wi-fi switched on unless I need it, the battery used to last me 5-6 days before needing to be recharged. On Thursday, I noticed that I had just 1% battery showing. As it was fully charged on Tuesday, that seemed strange. So I put it on charge, and a couple of hours later I noticed it was back up to 100%. So it was unplugged, and put back on the desk. Two hours later, the message alert sounded. I checked and found a text message from a relative.

But I also noticed that the phone was already down to just 16% battery.

This afternoon, I drove into the nearby town of Dereham, and made a rare visit to one of those shops that deals with multiple providers of mobile networks and phone handsets. I intended to buy a new battery, after accepting that the old one had reached the stage where it was no longer viable.

They don’t sell one for this phone. Furthermore, they no longer make this phone. In addition to that, the company (HTC) that used to make this phone has been bought out by Google, and has ceased to exist, at least in Britain. No accessories, no batteries, and nothing compatible are sold here any longer. The man in the shop was very helpful. He told me I could buy a battery online that would work with my phone, but that I had to be very careful, as many of them are unregulated imports, and the electronics might catch fire.

Not wishing to buy something that could burn the house down, I thought over my options.

Eventually, I decided to tell him that I would take out a regular phone contract again, which would provide me with a new phone, and only cost just over £6 a month more than I am paying now. He suggested a Samsung A10 as a replacement, and began to fill in my details on his computer. Almost finished, he suddenly mentioned something. “You are aware that you will have a different number of course?” I was more than a little flabbergasted. I told him that I had the same number for almost 25 years, so why would it have to change now.

His explanation made me feel as if I was being wrapped in a techno-spider’s web.

It seems that when I changed to SIM-only, I lost the option to keep my number in any other contract. Naturally, the guy who sold me that option in Norwich never bothered to tell me that at the time. I cancelled the order before he could press ‘Send’, and asked what he suggested. I really do not want to change my number. For someone with my level of technical skill, changing my mobile number is something that fills me with dread. Besides, my current number is one of those that is remarkably easy to remember.

He offered to sell me the phone, for a one-off payment. He will put my SIM in it, and that’s that. I will pay my monthly fee for the SIM deal, and have a new phone with better features, and a hopefully more vital battery. The price seemed reasonable too, at £139 all in. I smiled. “Sold!” He turned to get one off the shelf, and I was relaxed and chatting as he started on the paperwork. “Will you transfer all my contact numbers and photos over before I go, please?” I said with a smile.

He stopped completing the form, and shook his head. “I’m afraid that your HTC list of contacts and photos are not compatible with any other brand of handset, sir. Before you activate this phone, you will need to write down every contact detail, and then enter them all manually into the new phone”.

I thanked him for his time, and left.

They are out to get me. They really are.

Christmas Bounty

Now the dust has settled on the festive season, I spent some time going over my pile of ‘bounty’, the gifts I received this year. Having made the decision not to just get more ‘stuff’ that we don’t need, it was nice to open my pile of presents and discover that everything I had was something I wanted and could use.

So without boasting, or rubbing it in for anyone who didn’t get anything, this is a list of what I found under the tree on the 25th.

The Phantom Atlas.
This is a sumptuous hardback book featuring detailed reproductions of antique maps.
Most of them are wildly inaccurate, or deliberately misleading, and that makes the book all the more enjoyable.

A new keyboard for my PC.
I have the desired replacement for the one I am using now that is almost worn out.
It is a Geemarc brand, ‘big key’ keyboard, with black letters on a yellow background.
Perfect for not straining my eyesight after long hours at the computer.

Two long nightshirts.
Looking like very long T-shirts, I like to wear these under a dressing gown when I am mooching around the house.
It has to be extra cold for me to wear them in bed.

Four bottles of red wine.
This included one ‘special reserve’ in a fancy box.
I have only drunk one of them so far.

A tin of Scottish Butter Shortbread.
The best biscuits (cookies) you can get, in my opinion.

DVD films.
First Reformed, starring Ethan Hawke.
The Guilty.
A German film a about a police emergency operator.

Chocolate-covered Brazil Nuts. (Two bags)
I don’t eat much chocolate, but these are in dark chocolate, which I prefer.

A selection of Baklava.
Those Greek/Turkish pastries full of chopped nut and honey syrup are a big favourite of mine.

Chocolate-covered fruits and nuts.
This mixed box included Pecans and cranberries. All delicious.

One was a Sharpei calendar, with a different dog for each month.
The other a Dogs Trust charity calendar.

Joint presents for Juie and I from two of her children.
One is for a meal for two in an Italian restaurant, Prezzo.
The other for a special afternoon high tea, in a well-know Norwich restaurant, Bourgee.

I think you will agree that this was a very good selection of gifts. They came from Julie, her children, my cousin, and some of our neighbours in Beetley.
More importantly, they will all be used, read, watched, worn, or eaten.

I hope all of you had an enjoyable time.