Quick review of July & August …

Well this is going to be quick and probably consist of a bulleted list (again), because not very much happened really.


  • We had a spell of good weather, you could even say we had a proper summer and it was even extremely hot for a couple of weeks.
  • I did 5 webinars to help fulfil my work CPD requirement.
  • We went to 2 events at the Cheltenham Music Festival both on Saturday, 13 July – the first featuring a discussion with Guy Barker (a jazz musician) + another rap / beatbox improviser discussing the areas of the brain involved in improvisation (so a bit science-based too) and the second featuring Wynton Marsalis (another jazz musician). None of the other classical or world music events appealed, but it means that we will manage to attend all four Cheltenham Festivals (Jazz, Science, Music & Literature) in 2019.
  • I enjoyed a couple of self-indulgence sessions having massage and separately having my nails painted.
  • Having tried an Audible 3-month trial with a Douglas Adams sci-fi book, an Adam Hills (comedian) memoir and concluding with “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood – so I thought I had covered a wide range of books – I decided that I really didn’t like listening to other people reading books to me and much preferred to read them myself, so that I could apply my own interpretation. I’ve subsequently bought a copy of “The Handmaid’s Tale” for my Kindle, because I think that I would enjoy reading it.


  • The weather deteriorated – still warm, but intermittent rain and unpleasantly humid.
  • I started to have two 30 minute hand exercise sessions (privately) each week to try and improve my dexterity & grip, with a lady working as a rehabilitation and physiotherapy assistant at our local hospital. The lessons are held at our house, which helpfully lies almost midway between the hospital and her house meaning that she can stop off on her journey home most of the time.
  • For work: I had 1 more webinar and I spent some time contacting my Clients & catching up with my online Financial & IP work management software.

As I warned you – pretty mundane and not very interesting really. However, next month we are visiting my parents in France and in October we can look forward to a full programme at the Cheltenham Literature Festival … so there are more interesting posts to come.


The Cheltenham Science Festival …


Continuing my efforts to catch up with the important events that have happened so far in 2019, the ‘other’ reason for departure from my parents in France on 4 June 2019 was that we had booked a huge programme of events at the Cheltenham Science Festival. As well as all the usual favourites: the International Fame Lab Finals, the Overambitious Demo Challenge etc., we also attended several events related to climate change and of course events relating to the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements (both serious and some more light-hearted). General trivia: 1869 is considered as the year of discovery of the Periodic System, Dmitri Mendeleev being a major discoverer. Thus, 2019 was the 150th anniversary of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements, hence the number of events surrounding this ‘anniversary’.


Gustaf Holtz & the Planets?



Now Cheltenham is also known for Gustav Holst – indeed there’s a statue of him in Imperial Square at the heart of the festival. And this being a science festival, there’s a particular affinity between the festival and Holst’s Planets Suite … and so they’ve built an installation around the statue representing planets.

Thing is, this must be the remixed version of The Planets Suite – not to mention cosmology itself – as I don’t quite recognise some of the planets. Apart from Earth as the largest, we also have Planet Orange Glitterball, and the slightly dented Chinese lantern planet ..




Only at Cheltenham Science Festival … we’ve just ended this evening with a Scotsman in a kilt demonstrating the various configurations of electron orbitals within an atom through the medium of samba dancing (!), followed by the audience collectively singing Happy Birthday (and a cake with magnesium ribbon candles) for the 150th “birthday” of the periodic table …

Sounds perfectly normal to me


Signs you’re unlikely to see outside of your local science festival …

– feel free to explore E.Coli, but please don’t touch its delicate structures (!)

– photosynthesis and UV florescent drink [not something I’ve ever seen in a vending machine !]

– flame-throwing water cooler explosions (!!)



All that Jazz …

As I am still trying to catch up on all that’s happened to date, I will miss April 2019 in its entirety – I can’t remember back that far and my calendar doesn’t have anything interesting to note. So, let’s roll on May 2019 …

The first thing of note is that as usual, we attended lots of concerts at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival. I know that we really enjoyed it and my calendar lists all the events that we attended (including Soweto Kinch, Abdullah Ibrahim, a double piano act with Nicki Yeoh & Zoe Rahman and Omar Sosa amongst others), but we have no pictures and I have to be honest and admit that I cannot remember the details – except that it was GREAT!

We voted in the European Elections & I saw my MS nurse for my usual six monthly review.

… And then, at the end of May, we went to visit my parents in France for our birthdays (30th May) and to attend “Jazz sous les pommiers“, which just happened to coincide with our birthdays this year. Having looked through their brochure, we couldn’t find anything that particularly inspired, except for 2 concerts that just happened to be scheduled for the early afternoon and evening of 30 May 2019. Both concerts I would categorise more as ‘world music’ than Jazz, particularly the first one – “Le mystère des voix bulgares (Bulgarie)“. This was a real treat, because I had first heard the group many years previously (although their composition has obviously changed over the years).

Le mystère des voix Bulgares (Bulgarie)
Young soloist in beautiful national dress
2 singers linking arms & more national dress

The singing was impressive and as I remembered. It was lovely to see a group obviously enjoying singing together, smiling, glancing at each other and holding hands / linking arms. A truly wonderful experience.

After a drink in the sunshine (augmented by some chips bought by my mother from an adjacent stall), we went for a wheel / walk around Coutances to see what other free events were taking place. Finally, we set off to look for a restaurant that was serving food (dinner) a bit early i.e. about 6 p.m., so that we would be ready for our evening event with Rabih Abou Khalil and his group in the theatre at 7:15 p.m.. This was closer to Jazz, although the musicians came from all over the world (Libya, Portugal, Italy, Turkey and the USA).


We had all thoroughly enjoyed our day out & Kevin and I had a great birthday and came away with two T-shirts to mark the occasion! Now all that was left was for Kevin to drive the one-hour or so journey back to my parent’s house.

We stayed with my parents until 4th June (to try and avoid the forthcoming celebrations scheduled for 6th June to celebrate 75 years since the Normandy landings during the Second World War). I should explain that we were due to catch the ferry from Caen – Portsmouth and as Caen and its environs were of significant importance, we knew that there would be a lot of traffic (even including parades with tanks!)

Display in the main area of the Ferry: Mont St Michel

As usual, our cat Charlie had been royally looked after by his regular visitors from ‘Home Loving Cats’, who had even provided a new and extremely enjoyable toy!


FAMILY · HEALTH · Multiple Sclerosis · PLUMBERS · WORK

Bellringing coach trip lurgy … TV in bed & hoist / crane

My parents arrived in the UK on 07 March 2019, to meet up with their bellringing friends in Froom prior to commencing a ‘bellringing tour’ (by coach) to Cardiff and its environs. Normally, this would not be worthy of note except that the coach appeared to be the ideal breeding ground for transmission of an infection that by the end of the tour had managed to lay most of the participants out with a cough, cold and general malaise.

At the end of their visit to the UK, as usual, my darling parents had arranged a couple of days stopover with us in Swindon prior to their return via Portsmouth to catch the ferry back to France (14 March 2019). They arrived at our house during the evening of 12 March, both with snuffles and head cold, had a taste of our dinner and immediately took themselves off to bed. So far, all had gone pretty much as normal except that the following morning my mother just about staggered out of bed to fill us in on the brief details of their trip before returning to bed – with profuse apologies – to join my father, who was still sleeping. We spent the next couple of days having occasional visits from my mother and father, but the remainder of the time they spent in bed snoozing / sleeping etc.. Too much time has passed for me to accurately remember how much of their time was split between seeing us and snuggling back in bed, but it was not the normal split (of that I can be sure). Upon their return to France, the lurgy continued to lay them low for weeks – although, it appeared to end with a prolonged period of coughing.

From our perspective, the first to succumb was Kevin, which is rather surprising considering my illness and propensity to pick up bugs that have rather unpleasant consequences. Now for Kevin it was cough, cold and general malaise (just like my parents), but for me a  day later it resulted in a complete body shut down & lack of appetite (I ended up living on a very small intake of drinks) and I simply could not sit properly or stand up on my very wobbly legs. I was almost permanently sleepy and ended up spending days confined to bed. Fortunately, Kevin had kept all the bits for the TV stand that I used to use around my assisted exercise bike and so he was able to rig up the TV at the end of our bed so that I could watch it during my waking hours.

Me in bed & TV
Debra hanging from ‘crane’
Debra leaves the bed

When I say “waking hours”, I really mean it – they could occur at any time, day or night – I didn’t really notice the difference, but thank heavens for Amazon Prime, because it meant that I could watch lots of shows at any time.

Looking back through the e-mail communications at the time between Kevin and my parents, I was ‘out of it’ for a lot longer than I realised. Unfortunately, my calendar backs him up on this and so I can’t really argue with his e-mail comment: “And on the sixth day Deb awoke and rose from her slumber …”. I realise that I am extremely fortunate because my default position (even from when I was a very young child) is – feel unwell … fall asleep.

Apparently, the next day “the crane” (otherwise known as a hoist) wasn’t required and the improvement continued from there. My Mum and Dad apologised profusely for unleashing ‘the lurgy’ on us both, but it seemed to linger longer with them than it did for either of us. As I commented in an e-mail to my mother on 23 March: “I am over worse of the bug and managing to catch up with some of my work, but I still have the occasional coughing fits. Fortunately, as I spend most of my time sitting at my desk, I don’t really notice the “lack of energy”. For the last few days, I have even been able to cycle ‘actively’ for over 60 minutes on the exercise bike, whilst watching TV.” So, my ill spell was sandwiched between two sessions of work. On 11 March, before my parents visit – I had an e-mail exchange with a potential inventor (unfortunately, this came to naught) and as soon as I was able to get back in my office to my computer I was able to catch up with all my work management tasks i.e. finance, IP management database etc. – one of the benefits of working for your own company, from home.

23 March 2019 – the plumbers are back to fit the ‘replacement’, reduced depth sink, although the drainage is not quite working when the sink is at different heights. The plumber came back from lunch with some more bits, which will hopefully rectify things. Hooray, it worked! We now have a sink arrangement that is much more discreet (i.e. doesn’t stick out into the toilet area) and functions perfectly at all various heights.



New bathroom – Kevin + Plumbers for the “Final Final Fix” … (Version 2)

Now this will just be a very quick post giving an update on the rebuilding of the sink wall and replacement of the sink to a smaller, less intrusive sink.

At first, Kevin decided that his job for the weekend was to make good and paint the ceiling and replace all the lights with proper IP65 sealed LED units that are safe and legal to use in the shower.

Sink area, low shelf (version 2)
Sink area shelf (version 1)

OK, so once the lighting etc. had been finished, Kevin was in the mood for some ‘demolition DIY’ himself and so he spent the next couple of days carefully removing the tiles in the sink area (saving as many as possible), deconstructing the high shelf and rebuilding everything to form a much lower shelf.


Version 2: The wall behind the sink has been taken down and rebuilt so that it is ready to call the tilers in for a second time to re-tile the modified wall. Once the tiling is redone, the height adjustment mechanism and sink need to be remounted on the ‘new’ wall.


Kevin had identified a replacement for the Pressalit sink – the Roper Rhodes Breathe 610. The basic requirements being a shallow front edge suitable for a wheelchair, wall-mounted, roughly 600mm wide and ideally about 400mm deep (the Breathe 610 is 430 deep, which is 60mm shallower than the Pressalit).

We were nearing completion (at last) … just a couple of final small jobs were required from the plumbers.
  1.  Replacing the heater element for the towel rail in the bathroom (it blew the moment Matt wired it up).
  2.  Better securing the Geberit toilet to the wall/floor.
The plumbers had sourced a new flexible waste that is connected at both ends & Matt had a 600W element ready to change.

05 March 2019 – FINISHED …




New bathroom – Plumbers for the “Final Fix” … (Version 1)

We’ve had two plumbers in all day (14 February 2019). Unfortunately, this job has taken sooo long that Steve, the guy doing almost all the work, is now off on holiday fishing in Cape Verde. This is a nuisance for us, as he’d familiarised himself with all the specialist bits of kit being installed, plus he knew where he’d put the noggins in to support the sink (thankfully he’d scrawled dimensions on the wall in pencil, though it took some time to interpret them). It meant that the guys spent the first two hours this morning just trying to understand the monstrous height adjustable sink mechanism.
At the end of the day:
  • the sink is hung on the wall, but not plumbed in;
  • the shower is fully installed and working. If you want to make a plumber purr, buy a Grohe shower – they’ve all been very keen on the shower, the one we originally bought for our previous house in Goddard Ave.
Grohe shower, body dryer & drain
  • the shower drain is installed, tested, and works well. The plumbers seemed almost surprised how effective the fall was in the shower former in directing water towards the drain.
  • dual fuel towel rail hung and partially installed. Rather glad Kevin went for the very tall/very narrow radiator – it was a guess at the time, but having seen it we agree that it fits the space better than the shorter/wider version originally proposed.
Of course nothing goes perfectly, and we’ve got a couple of problems:
The main problem being that the height adjustable sink sticks miles out into the room. We forgot to take account of the depth of the bracket mechanism, which is huge, plus didn’t know that we’d have to reinforce and box out the wall behind the sink. Combined result is that the sink sits out much further out into the room than we’d expected – right in the space where Kevin would normally stand to transfer me (Debra) onto the toilet. We’ll see how much play there is in moving the toilet across a little, but otherwise there’s nothing we can do about this right now, we’ll just have to try it and see if we can live with it.
Sink up
Sink down

I (Debra) am very happy with how things are looking, but Kevin is more concerned – the sink, and how far it sticks out into the room, is annoying. The super duper height adjustable bracket is far fancier than the one Kevin originally specced. However, we’re looking at solutions here, particularly keeping the bracket (which I like), but seeing whether it can be used with a different and less deep sink. The plastic back to the toilet/cistern cover is also concerning Kevin – He is not sure how well it will survive those occasions where he drops me (Debra) onto the loo. So we’re looking at toilet back rests to solve this.

The space or lack thereof dilemma!

Still some things to do – the towel rails/radiators in both the bathroom and our en-suite are plumbed in as radiators, but not yet connected up as electric towel rails, although all the wiring is in situ. The care screen is missing – we returned the one originally ordered to be replaced by a custom order in a different size, but that won’t be available till next week. Looks like there’s a minor leak in the drain for the sink, which is not surprising, as both the plumbers who’ve looked at the flexible drain have cursed it, as it appears to be a non-standard size.

Finally, a tale of two contrasts: On the left, the remote pneumatic switch for the body dryer – a simple rubber squeezer that sends a puff of air down a flexible tube to an air pressure sensor on the body dryer to turn it on and off – so no electric switches in the shower. On the right, the fancy two-way remote for programming and controlling the toilet.

Left – shower control button & Right – toilet control remote

We came back from the gym on Friday to hear the two plumbers giggling like little girls as they played with the loo, trying to work out whether everything was connected correctly and working. Kevin is most upset that he can’t get the “fart extractor”(Kevin’s description) to come on automatically when you sit down (I’m not kidding you – that’s the button with the fan/flower and wafting breeze). I think that the manufacturer’s describe it as an “odour removal system” or something equally genteel. Hopefully once setup we can tuck the main remote away in it’s holder in the loo and just use its *second* controller, which is a simple infra-red proximity switch that you stick somewhere convenient, then run your hand or foot past it to automatically trigger the toilet to flush and then do a wash and blow dry cycle. (It sounds more like a hairdressing accessory than a toilet!)


… Back to the ‘new’ bathroom … Next the tiling gets done …

First fit finished by the plumbers, tilers due tomorrow (Tuesday, 05 February 2019) at about 7.15 a.m., because apparently they prefer to get started early so that they can leave early too. Apparently, they have been known to arrive to jobs at 6.45 a.m., but helpfully, our plumbers had warned them not to arrive until after 7 a.m. so that Kevin had a chance to get up before their arrival and that then I (Debra) may still have to disturb them to pass across the corridor from our bedroom to my office.

Floor in and raised – a millimetre or two lower than Kevin would have liked, but have to work with the thicknesses of the boards available (plus when we had the landing levelled the carpenter deliberately inserted a separate removable strip by the doorway precisely so we could adjust for any slight differences in the level of the bathroom and landing).

So the tilers arrived to schedule and rang the doorbell at 7.15 a.m. to be let in by Kevin (apparently they had arrived before 7 a.m., but as instructed they had sat in their van outside, listening to music). In fact, the radio remained on all of the time that they were working. As expected, they left early having completed most of to walls and promising to return to finish the rest at about the same time the next day.

Shower area with former for shower base
Sink area ready for sink
Window including waste outlet for toilet

Next we come to the non-slip safety flooring, which led to a problem with the contractor chosen to fit the specialist safety flooring. Kevin’s thoughts / discussion with the plumbers on how to resolve the problems with the AKW wetroom former and drain cover – as AKW had been no help whatsoever!

Kevin – The best options are either to improvise and work with the bits we’ve already got – if Step Floors are happy with that – or to replace the former. The gulley cover AKW supplied comes in three parts – a frame that bolts down into the former and is meant to go under tiles, a surround that is meant to be cemented on top, and a drop in drain cover. Obviously the surround is useless with a safety floor, but I wonder whether we can use the supplied frame, still bolted into the former, but on top of the vinyl floor to clamp it down. Step Floors weren’t happy with this idea initially, because the frame is cut away in the extreme corners, meaning the vinyl would only be clamped along the sides, with a gap for water to leak through in the corners. However, what is the issue here – if it leaks in the corners the water is only going to go into the gully anyway, which is the whole point of a drain! I guess the issue is whether the water could get back up under the vinyl in the corners. We’d also need to file off the edges on the frame as they are square, sharp and not meant to be exposed, but that’s a minor issue. I guess it all comes down to whether Step Floors are happy with this.

Plumber – That was my thought too. How can we make the existing tray work? I had already phoned step floors and requested their fitter to call me to see want he would be happy to lay on that works for all parties.

Current plan – both us and the plumbers, so we’re both on the same wavelength – is to collectively beat up on the flooring contractors and tell them to stop being wusses and improvise with the bits we’ve got.
Arranged on Tuesday, 12 February that the floor would be done Wednesday (13 February) afternoon. Instead, we got a call very early Wednesday morning asking if they could come in first thing to do some prep work. Supposed to be just 30 minutes – instead took 2 hours to lay a very fine screed to cover up all the screws in the floor. Impressed that the guy could trowel on such a wafer thin layer of cement. Main floorers followed shortly after to radius the corners, lay the floor and weld the joints. All done in about 4 hours. Looks good!
Shower area & that pesky drain!
Specialist non-slip flooring done.