HOUSE · PAIN · PETS · WORK

OCTOBER to end NOVEMBER 2019

Somewhere in the middle of my last post (primarily about the Cheltenham Literature Festival), I mentioned that first thing in the morning on Thursday, 10 October, we had our new 2-seater sofa + 2 matching chairs delivered. Charlie has already walked round and under them repeatedly, but will only sit on one of the chairs (well actually an old, folded blanket quickly unloaded from our car!)

Stairs – BEFORE
Stairs – AFTER

 

 

So, what else did we do at the end of October? Well immediately after the Festival had finished, we had the carpet fitter in to lay carpet down our stairs and also covering the upper landing (if you look closely at the photo above, you can see that since the stairs were renovated we had still not had them carpeted) and since Charlie loves to chase his tail at the top of the stairs, tumble all way to the bottom and then return to the top to do the whole thing again … We decided that just this area i.e. upper landing & stairs would be carpeted, both for reasons of sound isolation and more importantly (or so Kevin likes to tell) for safety reasons for Charlie.

 

 

Unusually, I had to make an emergency appointment at the dentist because my back teeth on the left-hand side were giving me toothache. Not the usual constant, dull pain but every so often a sharp, electric shock, which was only exacerbated by my electric toothbrush. We had to see a different dentist to normal, who assured me that my teeth looked very good although there was some swelling of my gums in the place indicated – so he gave me some antibiotics and all seemed fine for a couple of days – before the whole shenanigans started again. So off we went to the dentist again (this time to see my normal dentist), who confirmed that my teeth & gums looked fine, but he could see some striations indicating that I was ‘grinding my teeth’ – perhaps that was it, but I don’t recall consciously ‘grinding my teeth’ – I’m obviously just becoming a hypochondriac!

At some time during this period, Kevin took up the last remaining carpet upstairs (in our guest bedroom) and fitted yet more bamboo flooring, this time coloured as dark wood to fit in better with the surroundings. I also did lots and lots of webinars to make sure that I fulfilled my professional CPD requirement (including watching a live stream of a discussion about “Brexit Readiness”. Luckily, it won’t affect me too much as most of my work is Patent related, but those relying on trademarks particularly will have a real headache! For me, it will only affect my ability to file EU Registered Designs, but we’ll see …

My monstrosity of a huge power wheelchair (that I haven’t used and is not practical) was serviced during October and at the time, Kevin took the opportunity to explain that it was really not what was required – so at the start of December, wheelchair services came to take it away (hooray), which freed up some space and started Kevin’s general sorting out and getting rid of loads of unwanted items on Gumtree. So, this period has been pretty boring really and more and more depressing as the November announcement of a December General Election approached. I stopped watching the news & ignored much of the vitriol spewed on Twitter and Facebook, it really was pretty hateful and upsetting that supposedly ‘normal’ human beings have the capacity to be so nasty to each other, but that’s for the next post and I will finish this with some more pictures of Charlie luxuriating on his ‘special’, new carpet.

OK – Charlie here … silly servants didn’t post this in time & instead went downstairs to do something called “celebrating the New Year” – it was very noisy and full of bangs, which were a bit frightening! I DO LOVE MY NEW CARPET …

FAMILY · FESTIVALS · FUN · HOLIDAYS · HOUSE

OCTOBER – The Cheltenham Literature Festival

The more observant amongst you will realise that September has ‘disappeared’ despite my last (rather mundane) post – Also, that I am late with this post as it is nearly the end of November (whoops, just turned December) … and now we are approaching the end of 2019! So much for my ‘best intentions’ of keeping a regular blog on-line. I can manage to keep a multiple page spreadsheet daily, but the idea of having anything interesting to write about each day just escapes me.

Well first, looking back on it I can’t really remember much interesting happening in September – yes, we did visit my parents in France and it was pleasant, but I can’t really remember much else about it. The weather must have been  quite sunny, because I have lots of photos from Kevin of outdoor plants and butterflies, insects etc. – I think my summary of September will be just a few of the photos.

Plants:

Butterflies:

AT LAST … THE CHELTENHAM LITERATURE FESTIVAL:

And so we started on Friday, 04 October … fairly gently at first with just 3 events covering “Out of the Woods” (how nature can affect mood/mental health) to “Dark Side of the Mind” and ending with a discussion about “Stories of Statelessness” … so gradually easing ourselves into it, because we knew the following day was going to be all out politics – so either really depressing or possibly enlightening! Our day started early (for us) – midday, with the edifying prospect of a discussion entitled “Populism: The Death of Democracy”, which was surprisingly not too ‘heavy’ and much more interesting than at first feared. We then had a more entertaining discussion with James O’Brien and his views and experience of the bizarre twist of events in the previous 12 months. Then we headed to “The Election Generals”, which elicited (as expected) quite a divisive but interesting discussion. Finally, just to ensure that we should try and consider recent events in light of the past, our last event was called “Don’t Look Back in Anger”. I have to admit that having been somewhat concerned by the ‘serious’ nature of our second day, it really wasn’t that bad at all and provided plenty of issues to think about. Because of my fairly pessimistic view of how Saturday was going to turn out, we had deliberately picked a much lighter program for the Sunday, which started with “Who’s Next for the White House” – very enlightening if not a little scary! Then we continued with a discussion called “Life Off-Grid” – lovely idea, but not very practical for me with medical condition + wheelchair. Our day ended with a very pleasant discussion about Tove Jansson (most famous for her Moomin series) with her niece Sophia Jansson about Tove’s life, loves and island refuge.

Now I am honestly having to look back at my on-line calendar for October to remind myself about the various events that we attended, so apart from those that have ‘stuck in my mind’, I think it only fair that I merely relate the number and titles of the events that we attended. On Monday, 07 October, we started off all ‘arty’ with an event entitled “Ways of looking at contemporary art” (I can’t really remember much except that some items I could appreciate the artistic merit and some I just didn’t ‘get’ at all!) Our next event was entitled “Life on the NHS Frontline”, where the panelists were an ex-nurse and an ex-junior doctor both of whom held their own extremely well and really didn’t need any chairperson / facilitator. Now our final event that day was GREAT! It had been placed in far too small a venue, which was packed and everyone enjoyed it – it makes such a difference, when the main speaker is professional and practised – both of which characteristics were true of Dom Joly. The talk was entitled “The Hezbollah Hiking Club”, which obviously was the title of his latest book (now one of the items on my Christmas list from Kevin’s parents). The talk was interesting, funny and the host kept everything moving along smoothly. As I’ve said it was GREAT!

Looking at my on-line calendar, the next day (Tuesday, 08 October) was a really mixed bag and although I remember that everything was really interesting, that’s about it. Our day started with an event entitled “We Need to Talk about Putin”, the next event was entitled “In the shadow of Vesuvius: A Life Of Pliny“, which was fascinating at the time but I can’t really remember any of the important details. And we finished off with an event entitled “Science(ish): Hollywood Wants To Kill You“, which I think (from memory) was understandably weird. On Wednesday (09 October) we only had two events neither of which I can remember in detail, but I am sure that they were both entertaining. Anyway, the titles of the events were “The Knife’s Edge” and “The Art Of Trees“. Thursday, 10 October started with the delivery of our new two seater sofa and matching two chairs in the morning, before we immediately set off for the Literature festival and again the first two items I will just list the titles, because I cannot really remember much detail – “1919–2019: The Irish Century“, “Lucian Freud“. We finished the evening with a highly entertaining discussion with Louis Theroux, which we learnt had SOLD OUT within about the first 3 – 5 minutes of going on sale. As members of the Cheltenham Festivals get a few days head start when booking, this probably meant that the entire audience were members of the Festivals! On Friday, 11 October we saw the following events, which were all good but again I cannot really remember the discussions and so the titles will have to do – “The Best And Worst British Prime Minister?“, “NATO At 70” and “Melanie Reid: The World I Fell Out Of“.

Now as I hope that you can appreciate, we were starting to ‘run out of steam’ and although we had booked for 3 events on the Saturday (12 October) we bowed out of all but the first event– “The Times Debate: Is the Party Over?” with ex-Conservative MP Rory Stewart (now standing as an Independent in the contest for the Mayor of London) and Labour MP Jess Phillips, which ended up as the only event we attended as Kevin was beginning to come down with a cold. The discussion was very civilised and particularly enlightening regarding the resources required to run as an Independent and the restrictions on taking such action and leaving an established political party where you don’t necessarily agree with the leadership, but require the backup of the party structure because of financial responsibilities and the fact that that you feel a better chance of reforming the party from within rather than from the outside. In retrospect, I found this position comforting when facing the reality of “Tactical Voting” in the GE that was announced in November.

So yes, the Cheltenham Literature Festival was a mixture of fun, weird stuff and lots of Politics! As this post has taken so long to compose, I think that I will leave the turmoil of the end of 2019 until my next post – which I will try to do before the New Year!

 

 

 

 

 

PAMPERING · WEATHER · WORK

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.

JULY:

  • 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.

AUGUST:

  • 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.

FUN

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 (!!)

 

SCIENCE IS FUN !!
FAMILY · HOLIDAYS · PETS

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.

 

PLUMBERS

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 …