Monthly Archives: March 2006

Dear Sir

Dear Sir
I feel I need to write to you to express my disappointment and concern at the level of service provided by your office.
When my father was demobilised from World War 2, he chose not to apply for his medals as he felt he had done nothing heroic or special. He also felt guilty because he was invalided and in hospital at a time when his entire battalion was decimated at a major engagement. Of recent years, however, and especially since he has had grandchildren to share his stories with, he has begun to wish he had the medals to show them and to talk about.
Eighteen months ago, therefore, I wrote to your office to claim them, sending clear details of his army service record so that they would be easy to identify. You replied that, due to a change in office, it would take nine to twelve months to process the claim.
Please imagine my distress when, eighteen months later, a reply comes to my enquiry. “Before we can assess your father’s entitlement to medals we would be grateful if you could complete the enclosed Certificate of Kinship and return it to this office with your father’s death certificate. Please be aware that the department has placed a priority on the assessment of cases for surviving veterans, therefore it may be some time before we are able to assess your father’s entitlement.”
I contacted the office by telephone to explain that, while he has been diagnosed as terminally ill in the time since I first sent the letter, he has not yet passed away, and my letter had been very clear in stating that my father was still alive. I did not really take kindly to a request for his death certificate. However what made me far more distressed was the callous way in which the gentleman on the other end of the phone dealt with my call.
This is an office dealing with people involved in a war which took place over sixty years ago. The people in question will clearly be nearing the end of their life and so I would think it important that the people dealing with their claims should have some training in speaking to families who may be recently bereaved or may be facing up to losing their loved one. However there was no apology for the mistake, no sense of urgency in dealing with the claim. When I said that my father was terminally ill and asked if he could be given some priority, I was told that I would have to prove he was dying. I should send an official letter to confirm that he is terminally ill and naming me as next of kin.
While I can understand that there may be some need to confirm this in order to avoid queue jumping, I cannot believe that it could not be more sensitively handled. My father lost a lot when he fought for his country and I am disappointed that, in claiming his medals, he is not treated with more dignity.

Going grey

I was highly perturbed to discover this morning quite how many grey hairs I have.

It shouldn’t really have surprised me. I mean, I’m getting on a bit now, and all our family have gone grey fairly early. And it’s not as though I don’t have any stress.

Smudgelet is in disgrace for yet more stealing (sweeties, but nevertheless, stealing and lying about them) and for planning to find my password for the computer so they can go on the internet when I am not aware and can play games when they are supposed to be asleep. Ah, bless him. Underneath those twinkly blue eyes and beaming smile there lies a devious little brain. He is now on last warning – one more false step and he will not be going on his school trip!

Tiddles is in even more disgrace. I phoned the school to ask to come in and discuss his behaviour before I throttled him… and they replied “Funny you should say that!”. He’s driving them insane too. Now, in addition to his fourth total PE kit, most of which they suspect is lying around the school, he has lost a week’s worth of dinner tickets (another £10 down the drain) and four, yes four, temporary bus passes as well as his proper bus pass, which he is supposed to have paid £% to replace when he originally lost it. One more false step from him and he will not be going to the end of term watersports trip or the School Prom. (He has a treat, though – the school has nominated him for six weeks of free sailing/canoeing lessons…. on the sea!!! Lucky lucky boy. And it’s just what he needs, too!)

There seems to be a horrendous mix-up with Dad’s attendance allowance, which means that, unbeknown to me, I have been paying his carer out of my own money instead of his…. and have managed to run up an overdraft without realising! Now I have the fun of battling to get it back. Add to this my discussions with the insurance company to get my door paid for in time for my brother to do the work when he’s next down to visit. Fun.

Balancing Dad’s illness and the varying responses we seem to get from each organisation involved with his care doubtless contributes yet more grey hairs. The latest news from the Hospice is that I should be upping one of his painkillers. This is in direct opposition to the advice from the MacMillan nurse to decrease it. The same has happened with another medication but in reverse. The MacMillan nurse says under no circumstances to stop it altogether, the Hospice has said he needn’t take it if he doesn’t want to. This is all against the background of him suffering increasing pain, a pain which means he can neither sit nor stand comfortably for long. Luckily the Macmillan nurse is coming to talk about it with us tomorrow. This is particularly important as Dad is fairly sure – and I am becoming increasingly suspicious – that the medication they have told us to increase is that which is making him feel so sick much of the time. It’s certainly making him have some very vivid and extremely weird dreams!!!

As for school – we have OFSTED looming (rumours have it that the boss expects it straight after the holidays… oh bliss). My beloved group of madcap Year Five children were tested this week and, much to my surprise (not) they have made absolutely no progress whatsoever since they joined us in September. I’d be worried about my skills as a teacher if the other three classes I teach weren’t making such good progress. Hey, any teacher types out there will understand my utter delight when my entire Year Eight class, bar two who have significant learning difficulties, managed to achieve a good Level Four in their practice SATs papers this week. Hooray! It means they are sufficiently able at Maths to obtain a GCSE at high school… and also that despite their special needs they have made average progress over the four years that I have been teaching them and have not dropped any further behind 😀

And now I have reports to write.

So all in all, it’s no wonder I have so many grey hairs. But the problem might have been exacerbated by the fact I’ve been painting the door frames!

Truth or hope?

I am in the unenviable position of knowing slightly more about Dad’s illness than he does. It’s a dilemma – I don’t like it very much. It’s only a couple of details which are no different than the conclusion we had come to for ourselves, my sisters and brothers and I. Dad’s cancer has stopped responding to treatment and is progressing apace.

Dad, on the other hand, is in a state of denial. He is making optimistic plans for the summer and keeps talking about “when I’m well again”. I know deep down he knows the situation, but he doesn’t want to face up to it and who can blame him. The optimistic streak is keeping him positive and helping him cope and do far more than we’d expect – even if it sometimes leads him to overdoing it!

It feels wrong to keep things from him, especially as he suspects I’m keeping more from him than I actually am. But then, if I tell him the treatment isn’t working, he’ll lose confidence in the treatment and it will probably work even less. And am I afraid of him sinking into despondancy for him or for me? Probably both, if the truth be told. The problem wouldn’t have arisen if I hadn’t been held up talking to the doctor yesterday. He only knew that I was in there a long time talking to the oncologist and is presuming we didn’t tell him anything. The truth was that we were waiting for a nurse to go to the computers and get some blood test results for the doctor to see because Dad’s file is so massive that you can’t find anything in it…. and when she finally arrived with the printout it had omitted the particular result he wanted so she had to go and get it printed off again. In the meantime, the doctor and I were just making general conversation – but Dad thinks we were deep in conference and is getting worried about what was said. So I am in double trouble – he doesn’t believe that so little was said and nothing I say will convince him, and yet there is something I know and feel it would do untold damage to tell him. AAAGGGGHHHHH

Meanwhile this morning he had a little op to remove a rodent ulcer from the top of his head. They think they may not have caught it all so he may need a more major op in the future. 🙁 As if he hadn’t enough to contend with. So that’s two more appointments in the calendar. But hey, the stitches are really interesting – no dressing, just a plastic skin sprayed on over the top. How long do you give it until the stitches get tangled in his comb?


cartoon from

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

Dave, I love the new site. Must remember it’s there! This cartoon seems to typify life at the moment. If there’s a difficult way and an easy way to do things, then the difficult always applies. The form came for me to relicence the car. You can do this very simply online these days, just going to the appropriate website and typing in the reference number. Did it work? Did it ‘eck. No, despite the fact that I pay my car insurance by direct debit and so it never actually expires, because the date of renewal has only just occured, the record of the policy hasn’t been added to the database of insured cars. So, they have proof I have an MOT but no proof of insurance online. Hence I must go to the Post Office before the end of the month and wave before them my insurance details (which are here on my desk) and my MOT certificate (which is somewhere deep in my “administration”!) Can they simply check my MOT online at the Post Office? The Post Office? Technology? You must be kidding.

There goes my Saturday morning!

Horizontal to vertical

Goodness, almost two weeks since last I blogged. I hope you’ll forgive me – it’s rather hard to blog when you’re horizontal and I have certainly been pretty horizontal for a week out of the last two. Acute sinusitis is such a delight, especially when it sets off the lingering remnants of glandular fever. I became very attached to my bucket and my bed – and very very grateful to my sister J and my friend M who came racing to the rescue in looking after the Smudgelets and my Dad. When I said I could do with a lay in, that was not quite what I had in mind.

Life with the Sudgelets has been rather up and down just lately, sickness aside – hence the other reason for bloglessness. I am beginning to get the impression that the coming year or so is going to be rather demanding on my patience, tolerance, strength etc as Dad gets weaker (not such good news today from the hospital) and as my eldest hits the teenage years… indeed I think a phone call to renew his counselling might not go amiss. I could do with a slightly longer tether, I think, as this last fortnight I have got rather close to the end of mine as far as my pubescent emotionally-immature teenager is concerned. Last night he broke down and promised to turn over a new leaf and I’m trying frantically to believe him…. but have a sneaking suspicion it’s simply because I said that if I didn’t see a massive improvement in his behaviour, he wouldn’t be going on the school trip to Wight Water or to the rather swish dinner-dance the school holds for its leavers at the end of next term.

On the plus side, my fantastic brother has offered not only to lend me the money to have the repairs done to my home but also to come down for the week and do them. J has agreed to take the boys out of the way for the week and a pricing session at B&Q shows the jobs to be doable for far less money than I have been quoted for the door alone. We are taking the risk and replacing all the internal doors as well as the front door – and even risking glass in two of the doors – instead of just replacing the ones which Tiddles generally doesn’t take his wrath out on. Fingers crossed. Actually, toes crossed, legs crossed, eyes crossed, too! With redecorating the hall and kitchen and having new carpet put down in the hall, I won’t know myself in two months’ time. Shame he can’t do the jobs until after my visitors have been for Palm Sunday weekend’s Wightmeet. (By the way, we have three cabins on a houseboat seeking occupants for that weekend if anyone fancies joining us. See the Wightmeet thread on Ship of Fools for the plans for the weekend!) In the meantime people will just have to take us as they find us – which is in total chaos!

Dad’s latest blood tests aren’t too good. They show the cancer is not responding to the hormone treatment any more and is growing fast. The radiotherapy hasn’t worked too well either, which means that future radiotherapy won’t be likely to be any more successful. Dad doesn’t know either fact and is just pleased that the doctor said he didn’t think it worth taking Dad over to Southampton for more radiotherapy if increasing his painkillers would do the trick. So the painkillers are to be increased as Dad’s pain is getting worse. I’m having to be a bit more sensible and painstaking (no pun intended) when doing his care too, as apparently he has picked up some MRSA – not a dangerous amount but sufficient for me to have to be even more scrupulous with handwashing etc. My sister M is here for the weekend and the two of us took him out to the Lavender Farm for tea, but were given a bit of a shock when he tried a tester for lavender handcream and was so overwhelmed by the aroma that he almost passed out. Good job we happened to be standing either side of him at the time and could grab on fast, though we had a close shave when his walking stick flew from his grasp and landed with a bang on the nearby glass cabinet. They say lavender is supposed to be relaxing but that was ridiculous!!!

Still, a bit of a break this weekend. M is here looking after Dad. My friend M and I are going out for the evening tomorrow. Smudgelet is stopping overnight at my friend’s house after Cubs tomorrow night and going straight from there to a Cubs Skills Day all day on Saturday. And Tiddles has Music Centre rehearsals all day until the evening, when they’re both taking part in a concert which we’re hopefully taking Dad to see. And tonight? Well, tonight I have the exciting prospect of finding my MOT certificate so I can tax the car. Now where on earth did I put that for safe keeping a year ago????

Wonderful day

Dad really not too bad today – ate quite a considerable meal (and was most surprised when his tummy was taken by surprise) – though he’s gone slightly confused with overtiredness tonight and has had a disaster with his catheter which needed sorting out at just before 11. Good job I was still awake and busy nattering to my nephew.

It is just so unbelievably wonderful to see him. My sister being quite a bit older than me, my nephews and I grew up more like brothers and sister than aunt and nephews and I am incredibly fond of them. I rarely get to see them these days and communication is never that brilliant, them being men and me being slightly busy, but news is invariably passed between us via their mum and it’s always great to see them and catch up directly with how they are doing. And, of course, in a life fairly devoid of social life, it’s been really great this evening to chat endlessly with someone of my own age, or thereabout….. even if he resolutely refuses to take my advice that teaching is NOT THE JOB to go into! He seemed almost willing to help me tackle laying the new flooring in my hall, but seemed even more relieved when I said I was only joking. Shame.

Dad’s face when he arrived was a treat. I hadn’t told anyone he was coming, just surreptitiously made the bed up and nipped off smartish to collect him from the ferry.

This afternoon held an additional treat for me and the Smudgelets. Finally a month has passed since the last time a Saturday fell on the 11th of the month. This may mean nothing to you, but to me it was quite significant. It meant that this time when I took the boys to the church for a Living History day it was actually the correct day for it! It was absolutely fantastic and the boys are full of it. It was an 18th century day. They got to hold a musket and learn how to fire it; to use flint and a steel to create a spark and light a fire; they had their teeth pulled by a surgeon’s apprentice, an arm amputated and blood let; they watched spinning and hat making and fan painting and talked with an agricultural labourer. But two bits were a dream. One was getting to write with an authentic quill pen, to sand the wet ink with ground cuttlefish bone and to seal their letter with gum arabic in order to bring it home. And best of all was being allowed to churn butter. The milkmaid was brilliant and taught them the whole process – a process they are both keen to experiment with at home with some creamy milk in a jamjar – and the resultant butter pat looked extremely tempting. (Sadly blooming health and safety rules prevented us testing it… that and the lack of piping hot toast!). It was a fantastic afternoon out and it was all I could do to drag them away. What a way to learn history! And how proud I was of the interest they took and the way they spoke to and questioned the living history team who were demonstrating. I think the team has two pending new members!

What did I learn? That the most successful surgical operation, which dates back to before Christ, was trepanning – cutting out a piece of fractured skull which is pressing on the brain, covering the hole over with a flattened and pliable silver coin and sewing the skin over the top. That you can make charcoal for your tinder box by putting rags in a tin with a tiny hole top and bottom and putting the tin in the fire, watching the smoke gush out and then, when it turns to flame, removing the tin from the fire and extinguishing the flame by blocking the air holes. That you can get the buttermilk out of butter by washing it with very cold water. That it was not sand that they used to blot the ink when writing with a quill but ground cuttlefish. And, as I already knew, that two small boys will learn far more by doing than by reading about it!


I came home from taking Smudgelet to Cubs to discover there had been a phone call from my nephew.
He never rings.
We’re pretty close but I can’t remember him ever phoning me. Ever.
But he’d left a message saying that whatever time I got in, I should phone him tonight.
My heart started pounding. All I could think of was that my sister had been in an accident – both sisters and brothers-in-law are meeting up in a hotel for the weekend this weekend (woe is me, all left out!) – and C was phoning to break the news. How was I going to tell Dad?
I called several times and got the answerphone. “The person you are calling is on the phone”. No, I don’t want to leave a message, I want to know why on earth C is phoning me so urgently.

I had better pop over to Dad’s and surreptitiously make a bed up, I think. Tomorrow we’re having a surprise visitor overnight 😀 😀 😀


There was still some resolute lack of repentance from the Smudgelets, a residual case of them not really appreciating that they’d done anything wrong. Enter mean-minded-mummy…. mwahahahaha

This evening I apologised to them. “I have been searching my conscience about why you regularly stole money from me to buy sweets and I have realised that I am totally to blame. I have always discouraged you from eating too many sweets. I have put my concern for your health and complexion and teeth before my concern for your happiness and that was clearly wrong of me. So this evening I have decided I am going to make up for it so that you won’t feel the need to binge on stolen chocolate at Music Centre tomorrow”.

Well, wasn’t the tea I served them every child’s dream? A bowl full of liquorice allsorts and jelly babies for starters followed by Haribo jellies for pudding? Smudgelet’s comment was quite telling: “Mummy, I think I prefer learning the easy way than the hard way in future”. Strange, he didn’t finish his tea tonight.

I suppose I’d better put the bucket ready, just in case!

Boo hoo

Someone has perpetrated a dastardly deed. Ooh, how I love the word “dastardly” – summons images of someone twirling a thin black moustache and uttering those fateful syllables “mwahahahaha”. But indeed it is true. Someone has clearly invaded my home during the night and squirted cavity wall insulation up my nose. Why else would my sinuses feel as though every molecule of space (can you have a molecule of space?) has been occupied with something which is slowly expanding? The glands in my neck are enlarged – just as they were for glandular fever – and tender to the touch, so please, if you’re planning to strangle me, could you wait until they’re a bit better so it won’t hurt so much. And my throat feels as though I’ve been snacking on barbed wire. I really fancy a bowl of icecream or some hot rice pudding, but I’ve given up all that sort of thing for Lent and somehow an apple doesn’t quite do the same trick for me.

At least I have a sanctuary to hide in. The Smudgelets are learning a lesson about trust as they have been banned from the lounge until Sunday. A 1:1 talk with each of them reveals that they have been running a bit of a racket, one of them spotting any money within easy reach and passing it quickly to the other one to hide. They have been using it to buy sweets at Music Centre on a regular basis – which explains why they were coming home saying “I only spent 15p of the money you gave me for tuck, mummy, as I didn’t want to overdo it with sweets and spoil my lunch, so you can have the rest of the change” to which I’d been responding, of course “You can keep the change and put it in your money box”! It aslo explains why their appetites have been considerably diminished on a Saturday. Tiddles continued oblivious to having done anything wrong. Not sure if he feels the same way now, though. When the car went into the garage to have the windscreen wipers done, his radio, his pride and joy, was in the front seat. When the car came home again, there was no radio to be found in there. “I can only imagine someone at the garage must have taken a fancy to it, Tiddles, and decided to take it for themselves.” His face was a treat – such anger that anyone would dare to purloin something of his. “Yes, I would go and challenge them about it, but then, I know you’re quite happy with the idea of stealing so they might as well just keep it, it doesn’t matter”. Indignant? He was indignation personified! “Would you rather I called the police, then? The thing is, if I call the police in about your radio, then I need to call them in about my money, too” Penny begins to drop. “Because the only difference between your stealing at that stealing is that the radio was stolen by a stranger who doesn’t care about you and my money was stolen by two people I love and trust and who I hope care about me”. Ouch! Maybe, after a bit of thinking time, I’ll get the radio out of my boot and return it to its rightful owner. Maybe.

But for tonight I think I might just curl up in a ball under my duvet after a nice hot soak in an olbas oil bath.