Saturday, 26 September 2015

Me And My Carer. X

Well after a quiet week last week this one has started very differently. Of course, there's always the mundane, and when Sally made a chicken, leek and mushroom pie for tea I pointed out a couple of flaws in the plan. Firstly, I don't really do pies as part of my healthy living, and neither does Ole whose body has recently become a temple, albeit one with a tuck shop just inside the entrance. Secondly, Ole doesn't like mushrooms. By the time I got home on Thursday the pie had had a chicken and leek stew extracted that was then smothered in mashed potato and gravy for Ole, the rest remains in the fridge. It should reach the bin later today.

Credit where its due, she did make a very nice Italian chicken.

Wednesday was apparently a very exciting day. Whilst I was staying in Bicester Sally and Zac gathered to watch the live episode of Coronation Street. Social Media was awash with praise for the flawless broadcast, though Zac was less than impressed. "They had to have a break to reapply the makeup," he scoffed.

Friday morning was the big day. My self appointed carer, Sally, took me down to the Alexandra where I was having a knee arthroscopy. The receptionist took my details and handed me over to a porter who showed me to my room. I was then visited by a ward clerk, caterer, nurse, consultant and physiotherapist, each with an increasingly worse prognosis as to my recuperation time. There was concern that the anaesthetist was late, but he was travelling from the High Peak so was probably stuck in traffic. The thought of a last minute jab without a proper assessment and sitting through the operation half awake was worrying, but then he appeared and all was well. My clothes arrived, a standard theatre robe with matching dressing gown, and paper pants. Yes, paper pants. Dont think they were the edible ones, but Sally found them highly amusing and wanted a picture of me in them. You will be pleased to know I wouldn't let her. My consultant drew a big purple arrow pointing upwards on my left shin, giving me the assurance that anyone dabbling in the operation would know exactly where to stick the knife. My carer decided to go off to nearby Handforth Dean for retail therapy and coffee with a friend, whilst I was taken down to theatre. Actually it was up, and I had to walk. Its all part of the Lean process, or thats what my carer said. Anyway, a chatty assistant kept me talking whilst the anaesthetist scrunched together my veins and injected the fluid that sent me to sleep for around 90 minutes. I awoke to water, coffee and a ploughmans lunch, but my blood pressure was worryingly low. Orange juice had some effect, and then my carer reappeared. Suddenly my blood pressure shot up, and I was free to go.

I lay down in the lounge as my carer provided a drink and a packet of peanuts, and Hell Dog arrived, but with the prospect of driving later on the familiar champagne corks failed to pop. This probably induced stress, and when our visitor left my carer went for a well deserved post shopping lie down as she got through her soaps, bake off, and the usual Friday night crap that passes for mainstream tv these days.

She did nip in with some flat bread pizza. Fortunately Zac appeared, and after asking what would happen if he stuck his fingers in the wound, he went into the kitchen to remind my overworked carer that I had asked for coffee an hour or so earlier. At this point the aneasthetic laced with anti inflammatories and general painkillers was still going strong, but I hobbled to the utility room to get some Dicloflex to maintain the pain free experience, not wanting to further disturb my horizontal carer.

Here's a question, the Dicloflex is from 2010. Will anything have happened to it in five years? "It will be fine," my carer called through from her prone position on the settee. As the night wore on I was confident enough to make myself a cup of tea, whilst my carer brought in a plate of meat before she retired for the night. Zac put the cats out and I continued to watch Rick Stein until he got on my tits, which generally doesn't take long with Rick Stein.

My carer was sleeping soundly, and although I undressed as quietly as I could, manouvering shorts over a heavily bandaged leg in the dark, it was not quiet enough and my carer was disturbed. She awakened, complained, and then went instantly back to sleep as I tossed and turned trying to get comfortable.

At 5am I was wide awake. By 7am, so was she. "Did you sleep well?" she asked, diligently. "Not particularly. I've been up several times in the night and I've been awake since 5." "I didn't hear a thing," she admitted, seemingly proud of the achievement, but as she went downstairs to make coffee I couldn't begrudge her the 9 hours that is still one or two less than she normally gets, as she would have a full day of caring ahead. A thought struck her. "With that bandage on you won't be able to have a bath for four days. Perhaps you should sleep in the spare room." How thoughtful and caring!

After coffee I went downstairs to make breakfast, and set myself up with an extension lead, laptops, phone and painkillers. I wrote her a shopping list, and she came in to see how I was. Then she saw the extension lead. "What's that doing here? That belongs in the garage." "Would you like me to move to the garage?" "Yes," she replied, and I'm not altogether sure she was joking.

Yesterday it seemed like I had had nothing done. No pain, I was hobbling about, just an inconvenient bandage and a yellow leg from the iodine that seems to have been splashed around liberally. Today, movement is pained, crunching, and I'm not sure the operation has been a complete success. The consultant came to see me after the op and said he was happy with it, but one of the first things that he did mention was the possibility of a high tibial osteotomy. These are a whole lot different to an arthroscopy, with a much longer recuperation period. I'm not sure my carer is up to it!

Amongst all of this the phone line is knackered. I dialed home yesterday morning and it said "You have dialed an incorrect number". I tried it later, same message. Then Sally and Ole both tried, and it was the unchanged. We can make calls out, but no one can call here, which has its advantages. Anyway, I rang Sky and they could not find a fault. "Try ringing the number," I suggested. "Can you do it?" they asked. "Well not really, as I am on the phone to you." "Can you get someone else to ring?" So I got Sally's phone - same result. "Why don't you just ring and you will see the problem?" I suggested again. "Is your internet working?" "Yes" "Can you unplug everything from your main socket and just plug the phone back in?" "Right - I've done that. Now what?" "Is your internet working?" "No, you just told me to unplug it," "Ok - just wanted to check. Can you try ringing the landline again?" "Same problem." "Ok - can you get a screwdriver and undo your main socket so you can plug the phone and internet into the test socket?" "Can you just try to ring the landline and you will see the problem? I haven't got a screwdriver handy." "I have to follow the troubleshooting procedure." "Well, we will have to continue this tomorrow." "Ok - I will make a note that you rang." "Can you also make a note where we got up to?" "Certainly." "In fact, can you get them to call me in the morning - then they will see what the problem is." "But they won't be able to get through." "Exactly!"

With no further progress I will probably have to call back today, but I am not sure my contract states "You will have to troubleshoot all problems yourself before Sky will get involved"

Briefly back to Madrid and the feedback has been very positive. So much so that next Year's Trip is already in the planning stages. I fancy going to Baku, There's a street there where I have always wanted to play saxophone.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Madrid - a Culinary Guide

It seems like it has been a quiet week, but not really! I suppose 4 days on The Trip in Madrid could never be called ‘quiet’, particularly with the penchant that the Madridistas have for going out in the middle of the night and partying until the middle of the morning.

Of course, the aims of this blog are to frequently tantalize, occasionally titillate, and always entertain, but what goes on The Trip stays on The Trip, as a well known Trip member who once did something very embarrassing on The Trip often said. However, I can give you a few snippets about the glorious capital of Spain.

Firstly, the Drum & Monkey do a fine breakfast. I know that’s not really Spain but they had a Greek night on Saturday so its near enough. We landed rather late, by English standards, and after a quick change got dropped off in an area that the taxi driver thought  would be good for tourists. Bad move. The street hustlers plagued us as soon as we came out of a bar or showed any sign of indecision, which, if you have ever been on a Trip, you will realise is very frequent. Come to this bar, go to that bar, have a free shot of some chocolate and petrol concoction that will remove your tastebuds. Oh yes, and don’t buy the onion and cheese pie. Especially if you are hungry.(Madrid culinary tip 1).

The following day we discovered that our hotel had one major design flaw. The swimming pool received exactly zero hours of sunshine as it was neatly tucked away in the middle of some very tall structures. Unsurprisingly it was very cold, and welcomed nothing more significant than an outstretched finger into its icy depths.

The hotel breakfast was substantial, though beware yellow drinks with brown topping – this turned out to be thick custard and stale Coco Krispies. (Madrid culinary tip 2).

Traffic in Madrid is busy and chaotic, but we got dropped outside a couple of ‘local’ bars and sampled excellent food and beer. Madrid, to me, will now always be synonymous with good burgers. However, beware the Japanese chicken which is about as well cooked as Sushi (Madrid culinary tip 3), and if your burger is particularly thick be prepared to discard the completely raw meat in the middle (Madrid culinary tip 4). Having said that, nobody died! Another bargain was the Spanish omelette. The size of a spaceship and enough egg and potato to feed a family of four for about 10 Euros. (Madrid culinary tip 5). Far removed from the infamous omelette bitch of Malaga.

We stumbled across the Plaza Mayor, controversially NOT where the Mayor lives. This large square is surrounded by cafes (not the best places to eat – Madrid culinary tip 6), and there are a lot of buskers and street artists. Of particular interest was a fat Spiderman who thought Elliot could be his son. Hilarious, though somewhat personal. There was also a box containing 3 heads, only one of which was real. Quite effective after a few beers. Just beyond the Plaza Mayor was one of our best finds, the Mercado San Miguel. This is the equivalent of the Arndale Centre’s food court, but so much more besides. The market contained dozens of stalls selling tapas of every description, different types of paella, sangria, beer, cider, wine, mozzarella, desserts, sweets, fruit and vegetables, and all very reasonably priced. A great venue for lunch or a quick snack (Madrid culinary tip 7). The black paella, coloured with squid ink, is very tasty, but it can have a strange effect the following morning when a visit to the loo resembles a week of drinking Guinness (Madrid culinary tip 8). The Gulas is amazing. Looks like little white and black worms, though it is actually the fish pollock sliced thinly to resemble the texture of elvers (who ever thought that was appealing outside the sound of the Bow Bells?). Raw, and very nutritious for the health conscious (Madrid culinary tip 9).


Madrid nightlife is never dull, with many bars offering free tapas if you are drinking. However, the tapas is rarely the best! (Madrid culinary tip 10). On one particular street we sat half way between MacDonalds and KFC, sharing the promenade with shoppers from M & S and various Spanish boutiques, whilst gaily dressed prostitutes wearing incredibly short shorts and expensive looking shoes tried to tempt fathers away from their family gatherings.

A must see in Madrid is the Santiago Bernabeu, home of Real Madrid. The stadium tour costs 19 Euros, and it is worth every cent. Particularly when you get to meet Ronaldo!

It is glitzy, informative, extensive and cheesy, all rolled into one. And like any good tour, the last stop is the hugely overpriced souvenir shop! Seriously though, it makes the Old Trafford equivalent seem poor by comparison, though Los Blancos are yet to include a plane crash in their illustrious history.

Madrid airport is a splendid place, with lots of choices for food and drink. I would avoid pizza with too much cheese, giving off the rich aroma of sweaty feet (Madrid culinary tip 11), but I would recommend the Foccacia (Madrid culinary tip 12).

Away from Madrid it really has been quiet, although there have, as ever, been a few items of note. Zac’s football team have been virtually unchallenged for two weeks, giving Zac the opportunity to practice his celebratory dance whilst idling in his bright goalkeeper costume. Ole’s team have also started to win, though in their last match this was at the expense of an unfortunate opposition defender who hit a post with one leg excruciatingly either side. We wish him well.

When returning from 4 days away it is natural for a husband and wife to give each other a hug, and this we did in the kitchen. Zac was not embarrassed, but he did remark, “I’ve got a friend round. Just saying.”

And speaking of Zac he has been giving his opinion on several things, as you might expect. Top of his list was the scoring situation for the second team. His view is that £20 is nowhere near enough for a full day's work, in fact it is illegal as it is below the minimum wage. I pointed out that he would get his tea too but he wasn't interested in that, and then he turned his ire to the current scorer. "Tom Heyes ruins it for everyone. He would do it for nothing so the money will never go up".

He also has an opinion on his maths group. He confidently announced that he was about to get moved up into a higher set after a recent homework exercise. "What did the teacher say to you?" his mum asked. "Nothing - I just checked out everyone else's homework and mine was the best."

Monday saw a big waste of time! I am checked in for an arthroscopy on Friday, and I had a pre op assessment scheduled for Monday evening. I left work in Nottingham early and drove through various small towns for over two hours to get to the Alexandra in Cheadle. I was shown into the treatment room where a nurse shoved a swab up both nostrils, mine not hers. She then asked me to drop my trousers and pull my pants together to expose my groin. Same procedure, a swab on each side. At this point I considered whether I was the right patient, or was she really expecting someone who was having a combined nose job and vasectomy, but no. As she efficiently told me that I was done, less than two minutes after entering the room, I asked what was the purpose of the swabs. MRSA screening. You could have got your GP to do it.

And so to Friday. The arthroscopy is to be done under general anaesthetic. And I need to have a responsible adult with me for 24 hours afterwards. I asked Sally if she knew anyone that fits the bill. Judging by her reaction I don’t think that she does.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

I Can't Be Arsed!

Lets start with Zac. He always gets a bit lippy when his mates come around, and on this occasion not only was his mate around, his mate’s mum was around as she had come to pick up her son. Mum was, as usual, questioning the lack of tidiness of her youngest, with statements such as “why didn’t you do this?” and “why haven’t you put that away?” Zac considered his stance, occasionally looked up from his iPad, and eventually responded with, “I can’t be arsed”. Mum was understandably taken aback. Not necessarily because the response was totally unexpected, but because he had said it in front of his mate’s mum. "I beg your pardon Zachary!" was her reply in mock astonishment, and using his Sunday name for effect. Then to his friend’s mum she claimed, ”I don’t know where he gets it from.” “I can’t be assed,” he corrected himself, which still wouldn’t do. This could have gone on for some time, but a rather harsh two day ‘grounding’ was imposed and that was the end of it. But who was really at fault? Zac for getting lippy, as he usually does, or mum for faking surprise at behavior that she has previously deemed acceptable by default. I will let you make your own minds up.

Anyway, last weekend we had a rather pleasant trip to London. We got in a taxi from home to Macclesfield station, driven by the excellent Dale Shirt whose number we got from Hell Dog. For the next 25 minutes Sally pressed the unsuspecting Dale on his roots, his friends, his experiences driving a taxi and before that when he worked in a factory, as well as what he thought of her own friends, whether he had picked up her brother, how he was getting on with his new baby (yes, she found out all about his family life too), and whether he had any school contracts. I switched off before the Pott Shrigley turn, and there was, no doubt, a whole lot more that he had to endure, but eventually we reached our destination. We strolled up the steps to the footbridge, at which point Sally casually remarked, “He was chatty wasn’t he?” I was genuinely shocked. The poor lad could hardly get a word in edgeways. No sooner had he begun to offer an answer to a random question, than another equally random question was thrown his way. To describe him as ‘Chatty’ is like dropping a rabbit off a hundred foot bridge and calling it ‘bouncy’.

Anyway, we continued on our merry way to London and met up with American friends Greg and Kirsten at the Savoy. It is as grand as you would expect in the American Bar, where we had several drinks before heading to the shops. Selfridges, to be specific, where Greg and I hit another bar whilst Sally and Kirsten bought perfume, soaps, and other stuff that they didn’t really need, generally to show off the brand names in the form of carrier bags. Sally may have met her match in the shopping stakes as Kirsten seems to see it as her number one priority, whilst Greg has not quite got to grips with the British style of drinking, and in particular the categorisation of Fosters as a ‘Breakfast Beer’. As afternoon turned towards evening we went to Pollen Street Social; a Michelin starred restaurant owned by Jason Atherton. No, I’d never heard of him either. We had the ‘Tasting Menu’ which consists of 8 courses of tiny portions, each accompanied by a different bottle of wine. By the end of it the dishes all rolled into one, but one that I will never forget is pea ice cream. I am sure Mr Atherton is a wonderful chef, but pea ice cream? It was billed as ‘chilled broth of garden peas and Scottish langoustine’. Perhaps it was a little too chilled, but the garden pea part was definitely ice cream. And the langoustine? Well, it was so small as to render its nationality an irrelevance. As I have said elsewhere, it seemed like a bad idea from an early round of Masterchef. I have to say that the whole experience was fun, if only to listen to the sommelier describe the origins of every bottle of wine as if his life depended on it, but for someone who prefers to consider the differences between Becks Vier and Estrella it was perhaps a little wasted. It was casual fine dining, which made for a very pleasant ambience, and if you are feeling extravagant I would definitely recommend giving it a whirl.

We got home to find Zac in one room and his teenage babysitter in the other. “Has he been ok? Has he even spoken to you?” we asked the rather embarrassed looking girl. “Not much,” she replied, but she didn’t seem to mind. “Haven’t you spoken to her at all?” we asked Zac. “I gave her the wifi code,” was his succinct reply.

Its been an interesting time for the boys, with Ole starting College a week before Zac started High School. The College gig seems to have gone seamlessly, although the prospect of a £1300 trip to India appears to have materialised. Sally thinks it would be wonderful for him, as he is naturally a caring kind of a boy. “He will love all those African schoolchildren,” she said. I kid you not. High School is a lot cheaper, with the extent of Zac’s spending being 80p on a one way bus trip. It would have been double, but he snuck on coming home. It would have been nothing at all, but he got caught trying to sneak on in the morning, and that’s just his first day.

I saw yet another consultant on Monday, and he was a very nice chap who specialises in knees, which is fortunate. Anyway, he said an osteotomy was a possibility, as was an unloader brace, but before all of this he did several x-rays and then gave his considered opinion that an arthroscopy would be a good next step. Not only would that give him the opportunity to trim my torn meniscus, it would also give him a good idea of the extent of the damage and whether an osteotomy is feasible. So, 25th September I will be going under the knife. It's keyhole, using a camera and a scalpel. If I get the chance I will post the video here. It will be like Fantastic Voyage without Raquel Welch’s boobs.

Zac was informed that Wednesday would be the day that the queen becomes a record breaker as she will have reigned longer than any other British monarch. “Imagine if she died on Tuesday,” was his unique response.

Finally, its been a busy week in the kitchen cooking. I made an upside down sponge, and followed that with Rocky Road, Flapjacks (but don’t tell Helen), and chocolate digestives, all because Sally is leaving work and wants to take some treats in. I also saw a programme on how Heston Blumenthal makes burgers.  His methods are quite ridiculous, and it would him take several days just to make a humble burger. His recipe seems good enough, in terms of the mix of meats, the grinding process and the toasting of the bun, but then he put French’s mustard on it! WTF? But, he admitted, its all down to personal taste. So, I am going to give it my own twist. I could follow his recipe to the letter, but, as Zac would say, “I can’t be arsed”.