Ollie Looking His Best

Yesterday, I took Ollie to the groomer at 2 in the afternoon. She took one look at the amount of fur he was shedding and said, “I’m going to need an extra thirty minutes, so pick him up at 3:30”.

That was okay, as I had stuff to do.

The first trip was back to the Doctor’s, where my wife works. I had to hand in a ‘sample container’, and she was at the desk when I arrived. However, she needed someone else to book it in, as she is not allowed to deal with anything to do with her own family.

After that, I had to drive to the Vet in Swaffham, to collect Ollie’s regular prescription of Arthritis tablets. I went the back way, along the country lanes and through nice little villages. It made a refreshing change to avoid the busy A47 main road, even if it took 15 minutes longer.

However, it had been storming and raining since the early hours. After so long without significant rain, many roads were awash with water running straight off of the bone-dry fields. And I had to use my windscreen wipers for the first time in a very long while.

When I got to the Vet’s it was very quiet, and no customers were inside with their pets. So I jinxed the staff by saying out loud, “I have never seen it so quiet in here”. A lady told me off for saying that, then gave me the tablets. I was surprised that the price had increased since last month. In a little over a year, the 30 tablets have increased from a monthly cost of £38, to today’s price of £49.71. That’s almost £600 a year, just to try to keep our beloved dog pain-free.

He’s worth it though, of course he is.

By the time I got back to the groomer’s in Scarning, Ollie was ready, and excited to see me. He looks really good, smells fresh, and his claws are clipped as short as is sensible.

But I wonder how long it will be until he is like a smelly old rug once again.

Musings On The Last Sunday In July

This has been a strange week. I have spent much of it contemplating that I am actually quite old. Before you rush to tell me that 70 is not that old these days, I agree with that widely-held theory. However, I hope you will also agree with me that 70 is not remotely young. And my body has been reminding me of that fact.


Despite a significant drop in temperature from the recent heatwave, we still saw a humid 32C (almost 90F) during the week, with warm uncomfortable nights into the bargain. And despite rain being forecast at least four times, we remained dry in Beetley. Perhaps the driest summer I have known since moving here in 2012.
Then this morning, I woke up to heavy rain.


By Wednesday, I continued to feel so ill that Julie insisted I take a Lateral-Flow test for Covid-19. That was negative, but it was agreed that I would see a doctor on Thursday. That resulted in blood tests, and having to provide stool samples and a urine sample. They were sent off to the hospital pathology department, and I await the results with interest.


I received a Colon Cancer test kit in the post on Friday, courtesy of being of a ‘certain age’, and free of charge on the NHS. Generally known as the ‘Poo Sticks’ test, this served as a reminder that I was old enough to be considered at risk from this serious illness. Not a cheerful post to open. And strangely coincidental, given the concerns of my own doctor…


My energy levels are at a lifetime low, with me considering ‘an early night’ by 9pm. (But holding out until 11pm, so I don’t wake up too early the next morning.) On the plus side, having some worry about what might be wrong with you makes you less concerned about the political circus going on in Britain currently. It is surprisingly comforting to consider that you may not live to see the mess the next Conservative Prime Minister will get us in. Until the next election, when hopefully the public will see sense, and get rid of them.


On another plus side, Ollie continues to respond well to his numerous medicines. His fur is starting to grow back where it had fallen out, and his appetite has increased to levels that make me feed him a little less. He is still slow on his walks, and barely managed an hour yesterday. Then again, neither did I, having to sit on a bench and stare at the river for a good ten minutes of that hour.


Wherever you live, and whatever you are doing, I wish you a peaceful Sunday.


Well Done The NHS

Why is it that as soon as you have made an appointment to see a doctor, you always feel better? It’s the same with a toothache, which almost always disappears the second you sit down in the dentist’s chair.

After feeling ill for the best part of a week, I finally arranged a telephone consultation with my GP (General Practitioner) this morning. But when I got out of bed, I felt 75% better. By the time she phoned, I was feeling like a fraud.

However, after listening to my previous symptoms, and taking my age into account, she arranged for me to go into the surgery to have a blood test. That went off smoothly, and I was also given sample pots to bring home, with the advice to return them by 2pm today so they would go off to the laboratory on time.

I did as she asked, and went back with the samples later, sealed in their bags. Another reason to be pleased that our GP Surgery is only 2.5 miles away, less than six minutes by car.

Now I have to wait for the results to come back. I will be advised by phone or text if I need to go back and see her, or if I have nothing to worry about.

Some people complain about our NHS (National Health Service) all the time, but I think that was great service from our doctor. And it’s worth noting that as I had paid my National Insurance contributuions during my working life, it was all completely free of charge too.

My Driving Licence: An Update

As this seems to be the only thing on my mind at the moment, I thought I would update you with this week’s progress.

Yesterday, I posted the 10-page (5 pages, double sided) form back to the DVLA. This consisted of various medical information about myself, and also full details about my hospital consultant and family doctor.

One page was for me to give permission for the DVLA to approach the hospital consultant, and my own doctor. I had to give also permission for the DVLA to have access to my medical records if both doctors agreed. Just as well there is nothing too embarrasing on there!

Once this goes before their own ‘Driver’s Medical Committee’, the DVLA will then decide whether or not they want to send me for that threatened ‘Independent Eye Test’. One small encouraging paragraph stated, ‘This may not be necessary if your doctors are happy for you to continue to drive with your condition’.
(That condition is Glaucoma, by the way. Almost 500,000 people in the UK have that.)

Now I have to play the waiting game, which could take weeks.

This morning, I received an email reply from my Member of Parliament. This informed me that the DVLA would be sending me out paperwork to complete.

A bit late, but at least he tried…


This almost-unseen post from 2012 explains why I often mention Statins on this blog, and also why I no longer have sufficient strength to lift so much as a paving slab. If you are prescribed Statins, make sure to have regular blood tests.


About three years ago, I had a routine blood test at my GP. He diagnosed excessively high Cholesterol, and said that I would have to immediately begin taking Statins, a drug designed to reduce the Cholesterol in my bloodstream. I read up about this drug on the Internet, and voiced my concerns to the GP, before getting the prescription. He was having none of it. If I wanted to stay in his practice, I would take the drugs he prescribed, and heed his advice, or leave, and find a new doctor.

So, I began three and a bit years of taking Simvastin, the proprietary brand of Statin. Regular blood tests were carried out at the local hospital, and I received no more information, so presumed all was well, and that the tablets were doing their job correctly. When I moved to Norfolk this year, I was readily given a repeat…

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Ambulance stories (16)

Don’t look in the carrier bag

In the 1980’s, people in their late 70’s had been through the Second World War. The women in particular had endured special hardships. They had been left to cope without support from husbands, fathers, or brothers; often managing a life torn between work, and having to cope with young children, or trying to bring up large families. They did this during bombing raids, with rationing in force, and often having to work in hard, manual jobs, previously done by the absent men. It made them resilient, it hardened them to pain, and they also learned not to complain about things, as it made little difference. By the time they had reached old age, they were a force to be reckoned with.

One morning, we were called to an elderly lady, to take her into hospital for an arranged admission. Her age was given as 78, and the diagnosis was; ‘gynaecology-expected’. This could mean almost anything in the area of ‘women’s problems’, though due to her advanced years, it was unlikely to involve reproductive issues.

On arrival at the house, not far from the hospital that was expecting this lady, I was surprised to see her waiting at the door for us. When she saw the ambulance pull up outside, she waved to us, and began to lock her door. I got out to see if it was actually the patient, as it may well have been a visitor, or relative. She confirmed her name, and said that she was ready to go, handing over the letter from her doctor, as he had instructed her to do. I asked her if she had any bags, and she offered me a small, vinyl case, that was as light as a feather. I noticed that she was also holding a supermarket carrier bag, clutching it close to her leg, in an awkward manner. I offered to help her with that too. She smiled at me and said, “Better not, love. Me fanny’s inside it.”

This remarkable old lady had suffered a complete prolapse of the vagina. It had dropped down between her legs like a grotesquely swollen sausage skin, and though uncomfortable, was not unduly painful. Her simple remedy for this inconvenience had been to pop it into a handy carrier bag, and walk around with it, awaiting our arrival.

They don’t make them like her anymore, that’s for sure.

Ambulance stories (15)

Is that better?

Retention of urine is a common condition, primarily affecting male patients. As men grow older, the prostate gland continues to enlarge, and often constricts the urethra. This can result in inability to pass water at all, or in frequent, unsatisfying urination. Other causes might include physical obstructions, such as a tumour, though this is less likely. So, this condition is considered a run-of-the-mill job by ambulance crews, and is normally already diagnosed by a G.P. The ambulance is summoned to take the affected person to hospital, for a pre-arranged examination by a urologist, and it is not considered to be an emergency. In many cases, the man will make his own way to hospital, though if he has another condition already, such as a heart problem, difficulty in walking, or breathing problems, it is likely that his doctor will request transport by ambulance.

One late afternoon shift, we were summoned to just such a call.

On a small, neat estate, about two miles from our base, we were met at the door by a lady, dressed in clothes much too fine for attending a hospital. She was immaculately coiffured, and carried herself with the air of a disdainful aristocrat. She handed me a brown envelope, containing the letter from the G.P., and told me to wait for her husband, who was putting on his shoes. Her attitude did not bode well, but I chose to ignore it, and smiled pleasantly, shuffling my feet in the doorway of the tiny terraced house. When her husband appeared, he was a small, bespectacled man, aged about 70. He too was well-dressed, and he nodded congenially to me, before they both walked up the two steps into the back of the ambulance. After making them both comfortable, I sat directly opposite the man, and read the letter from the doctor. We started to make our way, and though we were less than three miles from the destination hospital, the traffic was at a rush-hour standstill.

I tried to make conversation, as there was the usual awkward silence needing to be dispelled. The man’s wife answered all the questions, leaving him to nod in affirmation, as she relayed the history of his various illnesses, and gave me a comprehensive list of all her husband’s current medicines. She spoke without opening her mouth, the sound coming through pursed, disapproving lips, that were covered by a thick swathe of bright red lipstick, which would have been envied by many a circus clown. This strange style of talking resulted in a nasal whine, which together with the affected upper-class accent, provided a really unique sound, which was extremely unpleasant to the ears. I looked at the downtrodden man, feeling sympathy for a life spent with this unappealing member of the opposite sex.

I decided to involve him directly, and asked him for his date of birth. I didn’t need to, as it was clearly stated on the doctor’s letter, but I wanted him to say something. I looked down at my folder of paperwork, preparing to write down his answer. What happened next, was completely unexpected; and I felt as if he had thrown a bucket of water over my head.  He had, in fact, vomited over me, in a projectile display worthy of the infamous scene from The Exorcist. His entire stomach contents had been discharged over the top of my head as I glanced down, completely soaking my hair, face, paperwork, and going inside my green uniform coverall, with sufficient force to also wet my T shirt, front and back.

There had been no indication that he had felt unwell. The vehicle had not been moving with enough momentum to induce motion sickness, and he had as much time as he could have needed, to tell me he felt nauseous. Instead, he thought it was completely acceptable to throw up two day’s worth of stale urine, and whatever else was in there, all over a person sitting inches away. His wife turned to him and patted his leg, adding the comment ‘Is that better?’ I was appalled at this behaviour, and would liked to have punched the fool unconscious, but of course, I could do nothing, except towel myself down, and ask the man why he hadn’t told me he felt sick, and asked for help. ‘I thought I could make it to the hospital’, was his lame reply.

Neither the patient, nor his sneering wife, made any vestige of apology, no matter how shallow and insincere it might have been. I had to escort them into the hospital, reeking of this man’s urine and vomit, and hand over to the staff. To the nurse in charge, his wife offered, ‘He was sick a while ago, but I don’t think he’s got anything left now.’ I walked away, unable to even glance in their direction, as I climbed back into the vehicle, to return to base, to shower and change. In the London Ambulance Service, you are used to many things. Assaults and threats, mad people, abuse and swearing, all of this is commonplace. But you don’t expect a respectable, elderly, middle-class man, to think that it is OK to knowingly, and deliberately, vomit all over the person that has arrived to help him.

Ambulance stories (14)

Is he dead?

Depending on where you work, a job in the London Ambulance Service will put you into contact with violent crime, and scenes of such crime; this may involve serious assault, rape, and murder. In a city of such size and diversity, crimes like these are sadly more common than you may suspect. Many are never reported in the media, as the culprit is quickly found, admits guilt, and only a cursory trial is deemed necessary. Despite living all my life in London, even I was surprised how frequently people are murdered, and how often I would come into contact with this crime during my time as an ambulanceman.

Unlike other incidents, people killed as a result of a crime, whether obvious, or suspected, are not removed by ambulance crews. The scene of the death will be secured by the Police, the local area canvassed for potential witnesses, and the CID will be handed the case, to begin their investigations. We have all seen this well represented on TV, and in films, to the extent that most viewers could probably carry out a reasonable investigation themselves, given adequate access, and resources.

What is rarely portrayed, is the initial arrival by uniformed Police Officers, and the first actions taken, on the discovery of a dead person. I am writing here about the mid 1980’s, and at this time, an ambulance was routinely called to the scene of a violent death. For the first Police Officers on scene, actual death had to be formally established, irrespective of the extent of the injury, and what commonsense may have indicated. Once the ambulance crew confirm that they can do nothing for the deceased, then an on-call doctor is summoned, to officially decree the same, by reason of their qualification to do so.

Late one evening, we were called by Police to a flat in the Westbourne Park area of West London. The call was given over the radio, as ‘male stabbed, query fatal.’ As the call had originated from Scotland Yard, we could assume that the diagnosis would be reasonably accurate, depending on the experience of the officers on scene. On arrival, we were met by a P.C., who asked if just one of us could accompany him to the flat. This was not unusual, as it reduced contamination of the scene. As I was the attendant (not driving) for that shift, I grabbed the first aid bag, and walked up the steps to the ground floor flat, which was part of a conversion of a much larger house, into numerous small flats. Another policeman waited in the doorway. I knew him well, and he nodded to me, muttering ‘it’s not too good in there.’

I walked into the entrance to the flat, and looked around the door. What had once been a large drawing-room, now served as living room and kitchen combined. At the rear, two doors led off this area, one presumably led to a bedroom, and the other to a bathroom and toilet. The decor was a matter of taste, best described as ‘early 70’s garish.’ The floor was covered in vinyl flooring, and a faded rug outlined the space differential between kitchen, and living area. It had been a very long time since any of the interior had seen a coat of paint, and cleaning was obviously not a priority of the tenant either. To my left, stretched out on the floor, was the naked body of a man. He looked to be aged about 40, and the whole area around him was completely covered in a thick pool of blood, extending to the edges of my boots. A six foot man, weighing about 12 stones, will have approximately 12 pints of blood in his circulation. If you can imagine getting 12 milk bottles, each holding a pint, and pouring them around your living room floor, you will have some idea of the extent of this blood loss.

The complete chalk-white colour of the body indicated that life was well and truly extinct. People who die in such situations are whiter than you can imagine. However, to play my part in this farcical scene, I had to touch the man, and confirm that there was no pulse, and no possibility of resuscitation. I walked through the blood, the few paces necessary to get close enough to do so. On examination, I could see that his throat had been cut, with some force, and a large spray pattern of blood up the nearby wall, confirmed this as the probable fatal injury. His nose had also been completely cut off, sliced away, leaving a strange appearance to his face. As his trachea was visible through the wound in his neck, and his body was stone cold, and pulse-less, I concluded that we could do nothing more. From the doorway, the first policeman asked, ‘is he dead?’ There was no irony implied, and none taken; we all knew the ropes.

I had to give statements of course, though I never had to attend court, as the murderer had actually been in the flat, and it was him that had originally called 999. I bitterly regretted the loss of my most comfortable boots, which had to be surrendered for forensic examination, and despite promises received, were never returned to me. We left the scene shortly afterwards, and would have not known any more about this job, if I had not bumped into one of the officers later that year.

It seems that the resident of the flat, the dead man, had made the acquaintance of his killer in a nearby pub, and invited him home for drinks. After a few glasses, the older man had disappeared into the bedroom, returning completely undressed, and made sexual advances to the other. In his defence, the killer stated that he had not expected this to happen, and tried to leave, the other man preventing him from doing so. In the struggle that ensued, he had grabbed a large kitchen knife, and in his words, ‘just waved it about.’ During this ‘waving’, he managed to completely slice off the man’s nose, and then cut so deeply into his neck, that he partially detached his head from his neck. He pleaded to manslaughter, with mitigation for self-defence.

I will leave you to draw your own conclusions.