Monthly Archives: October 2009

Literary indulgence

Education is to thank for introducing me to English Literature and yet, at the same time, to misleading me into thinking some of it as dull as ditchwater.

I am sitting watching Emma on BBC 1 this evening and realise firstly how amazingly well I remember it, considering that I studied it thirty years ago and have not read it since, and secondly how much I would have enjoyed it if I’d studied it with Mr S rather than Mrs D at school.

What a coincidence that it should be on TV on the very day that I was telling the Smudgelet about Mr S, the best English teacher in the world. Some teachers inspire a love of literature, others can put you off certain books for almost ever, or at least until you read the book without the contraints of character and plot analysis.


A phone call from my sister.
“I was talking to a friend today and you’ll never guess what she said. She went through a period of intense stress and suddenly developed double vision just like you described. It’s permanent, but she was prescribed glasses with a prism in and can see perfectly well now, able to drive and read and work and everything like normal as long as she wears them.”
That does make waiting for the scan a little easier.
And then another phone call from my sister.
“I was talking to a different friend today and you’ll never guess what she said. She went through a period of intense stress too and also suddenly developed double vision just like you described. It’s permanent, but she was prescribed glasses with a prism in and can see perfectly well now, able to drive and read and work and everything like normal as long as she wears them.”
Now that’s uncanny. I notice that my sister is the common factor for all three of us….

Sunday afternoon treat

There really is something quite special about walking along a corridor or up a flight of stairs, seeing the stones worn from the feet of people through the centuries passing precisely the same spot as you are walking now, and realising that amongst those feet were people who were not just characters in the history books but real people, with feelings and thoughts, delights and fears, hopes and dreams, just like you. When we were on the Isle of Wight we walked in the footsteps of Queen Victoria and King Charles, here we get to walk in the footsteps of King Henry VIIIth and his court, not to mention William and Mary. An amazing feeling, an amazing place.

Our Historic Palaces Pass was a gift from some special friends when we moved here and is a real treat, allowing us to visit Hampton Court Palace (amongst others) whenever we want (as well as entitling us to 10% in the cafe – something we are keen to take full advantage of!) So after church and Ski Sunday, we caught the bus to Hampton Court to eat in their Tilting Yard cafe (delicious), to explore the palace kitchens and the great hall (amazing), and to sit in the grounds for an hour reading our books (freezing cold, but rather pleasant, and a good way of enjoying an afternoon of reasonable vision, apart from a rather odd moment when I realised that the two swans I was watching on the fountain pond were not really synchronised swimming but were actually just a single swan in the wrong part of my peripheral vision!)

Photos from our last visit to Hampton Court can be seen on Page 3 of my Flickr account:

Hampton Court PalaceFountain Horse and tram ride

Suburban Ski-ing

How long will it be, I wonder, until suburban skiing becomes the next olympic sport?

We spend a happy half hour after church as spectators of a truly spectacular event, as approximately 40 competitors took to the slopes to contend in the downhill time-trials of
Surbiton Ski Sunday.

It is indeed an honour to live in the town which saw the birth of suburban skiing, a sport which brings skiing to the people.

No, I didn’t have a go.

Are you sure that’s what you meant to say?

Sadly neither of these recent verbal exchanges works quite so well in writing. Work with me on this one.

A nice young man waiting on tables at a wedding recently handed me my chocolate mousse and said, “You’re sweet, madam.” At least, I think that’s what he said.

It was a lot nicer than a couple of days before when I’d been stood for ages at the Post Office counter while the rather nice young man serving there sorted out a problem he was having with the till. Eventually he served me. Then, as he sold me a bar of Galaxy which was on special offer (Yes, I know, strange post office – I’d gone in for stamps!) he said, “I am so so sorry about your excessive weight”.
At least, I think that’s what he said.

The difference between gym instructors

The difference between my two gym instructors can be typified by this one scenario.

When shown to a particularly torture-chamber-style weights machine, I am told to do 12 repetitions.

I do seven repetitions, and then say “I’ve lost count. That was number ten, wasn’t it?”

Instructor number two says “No, it was seven. Five more to go.”

Instructor number one says “No, it was four. Eight more to go.”

I much prefer an instructor who beats me at my own game, even if I come off worst! I need to be able to protest.

Now we’re getting ridiculous

Today is going to be a true “get fit or die in the attempt” day, by the looks of it.
Here is the agenda:

8.30 am – frantically turn the place upside down looking for the card for the gym which I foolishly took out of the rucksack when the Smudgelet went to camp and which I then put in a safe place. Bad move. I found it, just in time to have to walk slightly more quickly than anticipated to the gym.

8.50 am – walk (with a sense of determination) the half hour walk from my home to the neighbouring town where the gym is. I felt very virtuous, seeing as I could have caught a train and been there in just three minutes.

9.30 am – run back and forth between the gym and reception as the door to the gym is operated by a swipe card and it refused to let me, or the receptionist, in. Nobody could understand it as the card seemed to work ok on the reception terminal, just not on the gym door. Hmm… OK, so who was ever so slightly embarrassed when they discovered that the key to opening the door was to… er…. read the label alongside the swipey thing which said “Insert card with black strip to the right” and actually interpret the word “right” correctly. I blame my double vision! 😉

9.30 – 10.30 My second session at the gym. Very nice young man (though sadly without much of a sense of humour, alas. Had his hands full with me!), very challenging programme to follow.

10.30 Go to reception to have my photo taken for my membership card. Alas, I somehow managed to break the camera 😉 Bid a hasty retreat from the leisure centre and go to do the shopping. Fill rucksack with ridiculous quantity of rather heavy items.

10.45 Set out for home – another half hour walk (at a slightly but not greatly reduced rate, seeing as I wanted time to relax at home before going out again).

11.15 Arrive home to discover my keys are in the bottom of the rucksack, with the exception of the little key to my bedroom door which I’d providentially slipped into my pocket as I left. Shame there’s a mat which has rucked up behind that door, making it almost impossible to open. Having succeeded in opening it about 30cm, I managed to squeeze through and complete the 20m sprint to the loo!

The rest of the day looks like this:
In five minutes’ time, set out to walk to a new friend’s house, about a 20 minutes walk away. She’s invited me for coffee and a sandwich. An hour later, walk from hers to the bakers (I knew I’d forgotten something in the shops this morning) and thence home, where my afternoon is planned out helping the Smudgelet with his homework and tuba practice.
Then this evening, be picked up by another new friend and transported to the bowling alley where a group of people from church are going bowling. So a bit more arm, back, knee, shoulder exercise. I’m hoping my vision will be up to the flashing lights, but there’s one advantage – I’ll have twice as many pins to aim for as everyone else! 😀 The Smudgelet is meeting me there after taking part in an open evening at his new school (he is certainly seeming a little more settled there), so it will probably be a bus-ride home and collapse into a crumpled heap in bed. Will I be able to move tomorrow? I doubt it!

Still, the doctor has forbidden me from driving, working or cycling outdoors (oh, how sad I am to have that news!) but has said that reading and computering, going to the gym and lazing around with my feet up at home are all acceptable ways of spending my three weeks off work, as long as I stop the first three if I find my eyes getting too difficult to control or my head aching or hurting. “Don’t overdo it” was rather pleasant advice.

Oops, time I was off on my next walk. My poor, poor body! The gym instructor said there was no gain without pain, so I reckon I’ve gained plenty today already. (Trouble is, I don’t want to gain, I want to lose!)

Double, double, toil and trouble…

OK, so what sort of a cruel hospital designs the approach to the neurology department so that it is an uphill slope where walls, ceiling and floor are a highly polished dazzling white, the lighting is low and reflected in the floor, and the walls are adorned with what are probably quite beautiful paintings but which are water scenes and deliberately distorted (like the “warp” setting on photoshop). I set out for the hospital this morning unsure of how bad my eyesight was, but that corridor certainly made sure I reached the neurologist feeling dizzy and disorientated!!! Good job I had my good friend with me, supporting my morals to great effect.

Looks like I might be off work again for a while. Interesting that the MRI department’s interpretation of the word “urgent” underlined three times is “in about two to four weeks”. And strange how the comment “Go home and don’t worry” isn’t precisely reassuring. But the neurologist was lovely and I feel confident that he’ll get to the bottom of what’s going on with my vision.

Meanwhile it’s amazing how much you take for granted with your sight. Sorry, I should say how much I take it for granted, as it may be that you appreciate your good vision far more than I. But it’s really quite telling when you begin to feel a bit bored and start to think about what you could do to pass the time while not at work. Read? Go on the computer? (I probably shouldn’t be here, but what do you do?) Watch TV? DO some knitting? Sort the books on the bookshelf? Take the Smudgelet for a game of badminton? Go for a drive? Go window shopping? Get on with my local preacher studies? Write a letter? Not that I can’t do any of those things except the driving or probably the badminton, but they’re far harder when it takes every bit of concentration to focus and keep everything still!

But on the positive side, I can feel myself getting fitter and fitter with all this walking. 😀

Smug and self-satisfied

Yesterday was a decidedly shitty day and best consigned to a deep dark filing cabinet in my memory, preferably one encrusted with cobwebs and century-old dust. And to add insult to injury, my eyes deteriorated again for the day, after two days of thinking they were much better, which means that my car is now stranded at work waiting for me to be able to see clearly enough to drive home safely.

But today I don’t care.

Today I walked the half-hour walk to the leisure centre, and very pleasant walking it was too. It’s quite a nice route and the weather today is gorgeous – bright but not too hot, just right for raising the spirits when walking.
Then I had my first session at the gym. I am afraid he’s going to work me hard! But my trainer is nice and friendly and even made the session with the tape-measure less than too tortuous. (Mind you, I am a little concerned about the distance from the treadmill to the loo. In my Isle of Wight gym you could pause the programme for 90 seconds while you sprinted to the loo, but here it’s at the other end of the leisure centre and through a card-operated door, so I had better start doing a few more pelvic floor exercises of an urgency!!!) An interesting point about the treadmills in this gym is that some of them actually have a telly attached. You can plug your earphones in and watch the telly while you walk!
Best bit of being measured at the gym – I discovered that I need to go on a trip to the tip to dispose of my bathroom scales because they LIE. I have lost weight, after all, if the leisure centre’s ultra-accurate scales are to be believed. I have lost about 10 pounds since I last weighed myself on the Isle of Wight. Yippee 🙂 Amazing how motivating that news was – as a result I actually chose to walk the half hour home instead of catching the train as planned.

I also managed a little bit of exploring in New Malden and discovered a really lovely little cafe where I treated myself to a healthy lunch. The economy drive was blown slightly, though, as both my boys seem to have been having a growth spurt. Two pairs of trainers (one each) and a new pair of hiking boots for the Smudgelet (who’s off on a night-hike at the weekend) made a nice little dent in my finances. The shop assistant was not impressed with my suggestion that they might make a fortune if they marketted a spray for boys’ feet to stop them growing so fast (with added deodorant as a bonus feature). She pointed out that this would have a bit of an impact upon their turnover of shoes.

My sense of feeling virtuous was increased by me deciding to pack the Smudgelet’s bag for camp (he won’t have time to do it himself, unfortunately) as he’s off tomorrow night. Now all that remains for today is to tidy the lounge and the kitchen in anticipation of a visitor calling in to deliver something for the Smudgelet and then I can think about what delicious ways to spend the rest of my day.