Former NHS Nurse and manager now contemplating the NHS from outside

Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Seeking closure and embracing new opportunities

It is only two days since I ceased to be employed in the NHS and I know that it will take a little longer for my mind to defog and my brain to clear. The main thing for me right now is the amazing tiredness I feel. On one hand I want to do so much with my free time, I want to sort out the spare room and make it in to some kind of office space – I have brought home a load of personal and also kind of work related stuff that I think will be useful in the future. I also want to have a bit of a spring clean around the house, I want to declutter and I also want to do some fun things. I want to organise trips away. I am also mindful that I will need to work at some point soon, so I have some work to do in following up contacts and preparing for work.

Usually, I find myself rushing around, doing a bit of this and a bit of that. Rushing to complete things over the weekend or during a few days off. I am aware that this is different. I no longer need to rush anywhere, to complete everything in double quick time. I am also aware that I do feel weary as I said above.

I need to spend some time right now reflecting on what has happened, thinking about the process that I was involved in. A process that started with me feeling incredibly hopeful that I would get a job and a good one at that and ended with me being made redundant. I hope to use this blog to help in that process. I have been a poor blogger for a couple of years now. Firstly it was because I was unhappy in my commissioning job, then too busy in my new cancer network job and then because I feared saying something which could ultimately get me into trouble with my employers.

This morning, there is lots on the news programmes about the various changes that have come into force in both the NHS, in welfare and in local government. I feel I should be able to say some profound things about all of this, today, indeed right now. But actually I don’t think I can.

I am going to take a few days. I am going to read a book or two. I am going to get back to reading  some of the blogs around and about, and update my blogroll here. I am going to start sorting out the spare room and I am going to look around the shops. After all a girl is entitled to retail therapy when she has been made redundant!

Then in a few days, as my brain and my mind begins to clear I will write about the past and about the future. I will talk generally about my take on how things are in the NHS and also about my role in it (if I am to have one). I am not meant to work for the NHS for a month. I don’t think that will be a problem for me.

My first day has started a bit strangely. I was happily blogging, sitting up in bed when the phone rang. My son who went off to visit and stay with friends yesterday called to say he was on the train and could I pick him up shortly. I found myself scraping the ice off my car at 7.30am; not the way I expected to start my first day of freedom!

Happy New Year!

So 2012 has arrived. It is good at this point in the year, i.e. at the start to reflect back on the good, bad and ugly of the previous 12 months and to look ahead to the coming months. 2011 was pretty eventful. In June I was interviewed for a job which finally in October I was able to start. In December I was at last allowed to stop doing two jobs at once, just as well as the new one has just got pretty busy. There are lots to do to help support the improvement in services for people with cancer. I just hope that this job can last past the end of my secondment (March 2013); as the year goes on that should become clearer as we await a report on the future of clinical networks which is due in the next few weeks. The great thing about a new job is that it means you have new things to learn, and things have moved on massively in the world of cancer care since I was working clinically so my learning curve has been pretty steep. I actually look forward to going to work each day and that is a pretty good thing.

I am also pleased to report that my dad, who was coincidentally diagnosed with cancer around the time of my interview, has completed chemotherapy and at present seems to be doing well. This is a huge relief as the cancer is secondary and probably cannot be cured. It was great to see him eating and drinking well and buzzing around us all as usual. Fingers crossed that the scan he had a few days ago confirms this.

My son, who is studying in California for a year is home for Christmas. It has been great having him home even if it seems to have doubled the amount of washing and ironing I have to do and has increased the food bills considerably. He goes back on January 15th, but this time we can look forward to seeing him just a month later when hubby and I visit for his 21st birthday.

So I start 2012 hopeful that this might be a reasonable one for me personally. At work we continue to live through the protracted process of the new NHS Bill which is not yet law, but which is causing a fair amount of change for the sake of change. The GP commissioners are flexing their muscles but at the same time discovering that commissioning is not about telling people what to do and expecting it to just be done. From my new position within a clinical network which will be part of the Commissioning Board I am finding all of the PCT related stuff interesting. People are not surprisingly positioning themselves and that is always fun to observe!

New years resolutions? Well probably best not to promise anything but I will try to blog more (but then I have tried that before).

I wish everyone who takes the time to read this blog post a happy and healthy new year. I hope 2012 is full of promise for you too!

Its been a long time

Over two months to be precise. Since my last post in April the NHS has paused so that the NHS Health and Social Care Bill can be properly consulted on. Sadly it looks like there will be little significant difference to the way in which health services will be commissioned and provided. Andrew Lansley’s legislation continues its slow and painful process through Parliament and PCT employees not already redundant or moved await their fate. I on the other hand have taken a small step towards safety. In a bit over a month I will start a secondment with our local Cancer Network, I am taking a job with responsibility for improving the quality of cancer services. This is a pretty tall order, but will be an interesting challenge. I hope that this secondment will lead to something permanent once the future of Clinical Networks are secured.

In other news my son will soon be off to California to study at Pitzer College for a year. He is excited and I am excited for him.  It will feel pretty strange though to have him so far away.

The NHS pause, a general feeling of malaise with my current job and some family health troubles have prevented me from feeling inclined to post to my blog. Guess what though? I am now feeling more inclined to write more and I’ll be back soon!

Four Years ago

I wrote a post to celebrate the birthday of my 16 year old son. Today as he leaves his teenage years and turns 20, this post considers how he has grown up and changed. He is no longer that boy / man, but pretty much all grown up.

On that day in 2007 I wrote these 13 things about him:

  1. As he told me today, he is bigger than me, and reminding him that I knew him when he was a tiny babe in arms (and before that actually if you count when I was pregnant) does nothing to change that.
  2. I no longer appear to have the right to know exactly where he is and what he is doing at all times. After all I have no need to worry ‘he will be alright’!
  3. I am unable to keep the fridge well stocked enough for his needs, where does all that food go to?
  4. Money is the most sought after birthday gift of a 16 year old, the more the better!
  5. Apparently Eric Clapton is ok at the guitar, but not that good! Mind you teen son has only had his guitar for 2 weeks and therefore is nowhere near Eric Clapton class yet!
  6. Cannabis is a less dangerous drug than alcohol so I am told. Maybe or maybe not, but please don’t take either you are 16.
  7. 16 is not too old to re-read Harry Potter or to eagerly await the publication of the latest / final book
  8. I am so senile that apparently I have bought him the same birthday card 2 year running, but it is ok to do that apparently!
  9. He might consider a part time job now he is 16.
  10. I have put him forward (with his cousin) for 2 weeks manual labour renovating a friends house in France this summer. It will be hard letting him go though.
  11. 16 year old boys don’t like to cuddle their mums. In fact he tells me he doesn’t do cuddles, just hugs and I haven’t had one of those in a while.
  12. Today he told me that after university he may live abroad!
  13. Whatever he may think, he is still my baby boy, born 16 years ago today!

Today in 2011 I write these:

  1. He is pretty much the same height as he was at 16, and just as skinny. He appears to be able to eat his weight in food but so far burns it all. I guess the walk to and from lectures helps!
  2. He is living away at college so I try not to worry about what he is or isn’t doing. The adjustments to our life when he returns and rolls home at 4am can be more tricky!
  3. The fridge empties less frequently until he arrives home. But then I am keeping another fridge stocked up in a kitchen in Colchester!
  4. Money is ever more important, and more easily spent at aged 20
  5. He has swapped his guitar for some CDs or a game (can’t remember which). He still loves his music and goes to the gigs of groups I haven’t heard or can’t remember the name of. Occasionally he introduces me to a great new act – like Mumford and Sons for example
  6. Mainly he appears to stay home and not drink alcohol, but it is clear that when Matt and his mates are out partying they drink a lot. He is often heard to say he is never drinking again, but so far his memory is short. As for other drugs, well we can only hope not
  7. Books are a constant part of his life, for both studying and pleasure. Harry Potter emerges from time to time!
  8. No cuddles for me, but a kiss everytime I drop him off
  9. I bought a great card this year and its not the one from last year. My mad moment this year has been to tell the whole family he lives at number 5 when his door number is 8!
  10. Jobs are tricky to find, he has an interview next week for a job in the student union shop!
  11. That summer was great and the friends he helped out still rave about him. I doubt he has painted anything since!
  12. This autumn he is hopefully going to California for a year to study. He has to come home to finish his degree but afterwards? Who knows?
  13. You know what? He is still my baby!

Tuition fees – politicians just don’t get it!

Yesterday I watched a clip of Nick Clegg meeting a group of students. He was quite brave to sit in a room with them given the pledge he and his party made before the election and subsequently ripped up. I guess the students had made their own pledge not to rip into him physically but they certainly had plenty to say to him about his broken promises.

On one hand we are told the country is in the worst debt ever. A debt so bad that we could soon be another European basket case (along with Greece and Ireland). A debt so bad we are all paying for it in VAT, petrol tax and any other tax you might mention. On the other hand it is quite ok to encourage students to take out the biggest debt ever known to students ever. This assertion is made on the basis that the government promises that no student earning a low wage will ever have to pay much of the debt back. Well I have a few thoughts on this matter.

  1. We are told that if you go to University you will earn more in your lifetime than someone who doesn’t. I guess you just have to hope that you don’t earn too much more.
  2. While many students are able to apply for means tested benefits to add to their sustenance loan, many are not. Many of those people’s families are not rich and struggle to support their off spring. This is because part time jobs are now like gold dust since unemployment in the population of under 25’s is 20%.
  3. The student loan is not the only debt. There are overdrafts. When your student child lives on their overdraft you get sleepless nights and you end up sending them even more money you really can’t afford.
  4. Just because today’s government tells today’s students not to worry – your repayments will be low, the debt won’t affect your ability to get other credit in the future, it will be written off after 30 years – how do we know we can trust them.

My dearest student son, still a teenager for a few more days, is off to the USA this Autumn to study. Fees in the USA really are high, people really do struggle to send their offspring to them, debts really will be high. I recognise that we are lucky on this score. This does not however make it ok when it is pretty obvious that our current government cares little for the long term needs and prospects of the young people of this country today. After all many of the cabinet are already millionaires and when their children want to go to university they will just be able to write them a cheque!

Picture: Greece may be a financial basket case but it is a lovely place for a holiday!

Resolutions for 2011

The last day of 2010 and I think that means it must be time for a blog post. I won’t apologise any more for not writing  my blog, nor will I make any promises about blogging more; it is pretty likely I will break any resolution like that before the year is a few days old. All in all I’d say January 1st is a poor time to resolve to do anything, after all many people are either hung over, or sleep deprived or both. Although I have titled this post “Resolutions for 2011″ I think it might be more apt to spell out my “intentions for 2011″ then I can justify my failure when things don’t work out. So here goes:

  1. To continue to have a job throughout the year – 2011 will see the continued NHS changes, with the Health Bill published later in January. The year will be an uncertain one as we don’t know yet just how much of the change will take place; PCTs won’t be abolished until March 2013 but change will be progressive.
  2. To save as much money as possible – Matt plans to study in the US for a year from this autumn and it is going to cost us a pretty penny. Not to mention the fact that we will need to visit too. This year will be a year of austerity for the country and for us.
  3. Having said the above, I intend to take a break somewhere new this year. Florence in Italy would be my current favourite.
  4. To get fitter and slimmer – usual thing but after about 2 years of pretty constant weight, I have slipped up a bit over the last few months and put on a few pounds and what is more haven’t been to Zumba or pranced about infront of my Wii for 3 months. That must change and change as soon as possible.
  5. Linked to the above, both Barry and I have slipped into a bad routine of having a drink when we get in from work. That also must change and alcohol needs to be for weekends and special occasions. This will be better financially, for health and for my weight!
  6. I’ll try not to fall out with any of my relatives (particularly those only related by marriage) but at the same time I am going to try not to allow myself to be walked all over.

So there you have it. I’ll be back at some point to see how these intentions are progressing…..

Meanwhile a Happy New Year to anyone who happens past this Blog!

NHS 2010

What can I say? My latest post proclaiming an imminent return has come and gone. In effect my promises are as empty as those of most of the politicians currently infecting my TV screens. The post at the bottom of the page when I logged in this morning was written and posted last July. I am clearly useless, have little to say. Or else there is another deeper meaning? Well no doubt the reasons are not deep. I am just generally lazy, I spend too much time on the evil facebook (that post still gets me 600 hits some days – why?) and my general disgruntlement with the NHS pretty much disappeared during the last year.

The job, while not necessarily the best paid has been pretty fulfilling not to mention busy. I also think I have had a reasonable amount of fun on the way. I have been learning to live my life post-child-leaving-for-university. This has involved me doing more than work, cook dinner (anything involving pasta and curry though not together), wash and iron jeans and tee shirts (the clothes of a teenager) and act as a taxi service to a boy who ought to have passed his test by now. No, hubby and I have travelled the country (well been to a few sea side towns and London), stayed in hotels we can’t really afford and eaten in good restaurants. We have also been on a couple of longer trips abroad and generally enjoyed ourselves. Mortgage rates are low, the debts are reducing and some months hubby even has some overtime. Yes life has been good.

Now however we need to get real. It seems that some of us haven’t taken this recession seriously enough. We have enjoyed a period of growth (more money in our pockets and more money in the NHS). Now though all that must end. Firstly the new government (whichever gets into power) will need to tighten the belt (maybe higher VAT or national insurance or both), and the public sector will need to take a hit. The bottom line at work now is this: THERE IS NO MONEY.

This is a depressing message in whatever language you might translate it into. Reading between the lines of: The job of a commissioner is to redesign services to obtain the best value for money tells me that quality is pretty much out and saving money at all costs is in.

A lady interviewed on the London News last week caused a massive chill to move up my back and into my head creating a headache which hasn’t actually left me yet (though the virus keeping me off work today could be responsible for that). This person, a member of the London Assembly I think and who was a Tory said that NHS bureaucrats are dispensable (or something similar), she stated she saw nothing wrong in getting rid of folks like me. This is set in the context of my organisation which has told us it needs to save 30% on management costs (more on that in my next post) and a Tory leadership that would like to freeze public sector jobs as they become vacant.

Over the last few years I have often been critical of the target driven, central control exerted by the Government through the Department of Health. But at the same time there has been progress, and while I  might not think this if I was still nursing at the bedside, I do believe that Commissioners can be a good thing. “She would say that” I hear you cry. Well of course as I am one. But having people out there who ask doctors, nurses, midwives, therapists and other clinicians why they do what they do in the way that they do it can only be healthy. The idea of leaving “front line staff” to get on with what they apparently “know what to do best” is frankly scary. I am now just plain scared that on 7th May I will awake to Dave preparing to move to Downing street. I am scared mainly that this will be followed by a large amount of ‘throwing the commissioning baby out with the bathwater’ to save money.

We do need challenge and we do need people to wonder if services are being provided with the patient rather than the practitioner in mind. We do need to make sure that value for money is being thought about because in my experience not everyone treats public money in the way they would their own. Or maybe on second thoughts they do which is why the country and many individuals are in quite so much debt.

Back to the drawing board…….

Off to University

colchester02aIt is with great pleasure that I have to tell you that my Son Matt and his cousin Brad are both off to University in just a few weeks. Both have got the grades they need and are off on what might be the biggest adventure you can have at the tender age of 18. I don’t care if I am boasting here, but as far as I can see an A in English, a B in History and a C in Business Studies are good grades and I am a pretty proud mum tonight.

The day started with me unable to sleep after hubby left for work (I hate to admit but this was about 4.30am). Finally I dropped off at about 5.30 and woke to the alarm at 6.30. The news told me that A level results would once again reach record levels (people who already have degrees telling us that things were tougher in their day) and that people not getting the required grades had no hope of a university place due to a shortage. Just what you want to hear!!

At about 7.30 there was movement, and eventually Matt appeared. The UCAS website informed him that he hadn’t been successful at Sheffield but had a place at Essex. Trouble was that while we knew at that point that he didn’t have grades AAB that he needed they were at least BBC. The stupidy of the system therefore was that he knew that he had a university place but couldn’t get his acutal grades till 10am at school. Technology is a double edged tool!

Off I trek to work. In hindsight I might as well have stayed home, gone for a walk or gone swimming, for the good I could be while I waited. Matt kept me waiting till 10.45 before giving me the great news.

So he is off to Colchester, formerly the capital of England. A proper seat of History, for a 4 year course which will include a year abroad – this year can be in Europe or in America. Whatever happens it will cost me, but I think it will be worth every penny.

Brad his cousin is off to Bath Spa University. The two cousins who grew up together, who played together, holidayed together are off to different places, but will have lots to share as they are both studying History!! Good luck to them both!

The pictures below are  them in Rome and most recently at my mums 70th birthday.

Roundup of events

Ok, so this is a lazy way of blogging, to write one post about everything that is currently going on in your life. But when you don’t have a great deal to say aboutu specific topics then maybe this is the way forward and at least people know you are still alive!

Firstly the blog. I have carried out a bit of maintainance and removed the inactive links from my side bar. I was sorry to see that Disappearing John had well.. disappeared. Sadly he looked up the medical records on his child while they had been a patient – something I’ll bet he isn’t the first to have done, and got found out. This, unsurprisingly, made him extremely nervous of carrying on with his blog. I hope things have improved work wise and that he will return to the blogesphere one day soon. I am now in the process of adding to my blogroll, so if you read this and want adding let me know.

I am still wondering how I might be able to write more candidly about work related stuff myself without risking the sack, but so far I haven’t quite worked through that one. As I have said before, I am the only maternity commissioner in this county and one of not that many in the region which makes things a little tricky. Having said that I do have a few posts in the pipeline about my work.

Tomorrow is a big day in this household – it is results day. It would be true to say that I am displaying greater nerves than the boy whose destiny depends upon those results, but then it is the job of a mother to fret on his behalf. I am hoping that tomorrow I will be posting something exciting and excitable – watch this space.

This month has been a big one in my family – a number of birthdays including my mum’s 70th and my own less special and rounded birthday. We have also had a weekend away in a swanky hotel celebrating my parents’ Golden Wedding – now that is something these days isn’t it? 50 years of married life. What is more it saw all 3 of us siblings present, along with our partners to celebrate that great milestone.

So that is your round up of events in the life of Julie, now I am off to carry out the best job of the week – putting the rubbish (garbage if you are that way inclined) for the bin man. From next month they want us to put food waste and cardboard into our garden waste bin. Not sure about what I think to that, but as with all recycling I’ll give it a go!

Locking the stable door after the horse has bolted?

relationshipsI expect I will need to read the entire report that the media have taken small elements from today. That abortion clinics will be allowed to advertise on TV and that Adverts for condoms can be shown more widely and earlier than they can now. Our young people are really not all that well educated about sex and while generally most of them don’t have sex before they are 16, a fair number do and when they do it is often fueled by alcohol. Education in school seems to be no better than I received 30 years ago. It is generally about the biological act of sex rather than being about relationships, about love and about how to have those relationships without sex.

Girls and boys need to be able to form relationships of all types with each other and with their families and teachers. They need to know how to trust, and to understand the issues of real life in the 21st century. They need to know that they can get the best possible education, they need to be able to aspire for the best possible exam results, job and life in general. They need to know that we adults will do the best for them, and that we won’t cause them harm.

Teenage pregnancy and the kind of sexual behaviour associated with it is often concentrated in particular town and parts there of. It is associated with poverty, with poor attainment and attendance at school. These are the same children who are hanging around the streets, maybe getting drunk, they may have families who are complex and who themselves are not in work. Teenagers who become pregnant are often the product of a parent who became pregnant themselves before the age of 20.

By all means advertise condoms and where to go if you become pregnant. But lets actually do more to educate our young people, to love and to nurture them, to care for them and to teach them about relationships not just about sex.

Mothers Day

Here in the UK we celebrated Mothers Day yesterday. I am not sure but I think that it is celebrated at a different time elsewhere. I am lucky enough to be a mum and also to have a mum, indeed being a mum has probably been one of the best things about being an adult. I am proud of my son and what he has achieved so far, I am pleased that he is turning into a wonderful young man and I do my best not to embarrass him too much (though of course I am bound to do that from time to time).

When I wrote about Jade Goody yesterday, I hadn’t really reflected on how her  mum might feel, losing her daughter on mothers day. Jade’s children are also of course without a mother. Being young, they have little understanding of what mother’s day is about and sadly will probably not really know it in the way my own son does. Of course, because he has his mum he doesn’t necessarily make it a massive deal – a card and small present is enough for us both. Having him around is also important. For my mum too a lot is placed on having family around you.

My relationship with  my mum is complex, often uneasy. There is a lot unsaid between us. She often irritates me and I probably do the same for her. When I was the same age as my son, 18 and right up to my mid twenties, I often said things that I should have bitten my tongue over. This was because when she irritated me, I would tell her. I would let the irritations run over me, until I opened my mouth and stuff came out! I am older now, and generally I try not to be irritated and if I am I try to keep it hidden. Yesterday I found that a very hard thing to achieve. My mum is in less good health than she was; last year she suffered from some strokes. She is less mobile than she was, she struggles more with some of the tasks of living and she also has some trouble concentrating. She is becoming more insular, but then her and my dad’s lives are smaller than they were. But she is selfish. This isn’t something new but I am beginning to notice it more. Assumptions are made and my hackles are raised, I want to say something, but know it might open up wounds that have been plastered over for too long.

I guess this is real and normal life. I am grateful for the fact that I still have a mum, trouble is that often in life we don’t quite appreciate the fullnes of what we have. Perhaps until it is lost. Therefore, I will just carry on, smile when I hurt inside and try not to allow my irritations to show. Next time that I suggest going out for mothers day dinner, and she says that we might as well come to her as she has some meat in the freezer. Next time I say I’ll bring pudding and help with the vegetables. I’ll check that she understands what I mean by the word help, because arriving and then having to prepare everything myself and then cook it is not what I had in mind. Am I just as selfish as her for being irritated by it?

Sometimes we need to speak the unspeakable


Rose was a great lady. She was a wife, a mother, a grandmother and a great grandmother. Rose died yesterday at the age of 97. Imagine, when she was born in 1911 the twentieth century was but a few years old. Most people still remembered the life of Queen Victoria. London, where she lived was a busy but dirty place. It was not uncommon to die at a young age, people were used to horse drawn transport. Life expectancy was 54 and there were only 100 people alive who were 100 years old. 1911 was a time of suffragettes and for the first time unemployment benefit was paid.

Rose married and had one child, a boy, George born in 1935. That little boy was evacuated to Kent during the war and she worked in an ammunitions factory while her husband fought in Europe. Sadly she was widowed at the age of just 50, waking up one morning to find her husband dead from a heart attack next to her.  Rose contined to be an important part of the life of her son and his family.

By the time I came on the scene Rose had been living alone for almost 20 years. She was someone I saw at Christmas and a couple of times in between. We were too busy being young and having our own son. Some years ago, Rose became unable to look after herself and we began to visit her periodically.

I never really knew Rose properly, by the time we began our more regular visits, any meaningfull conversation with her was unlikely. For myself I had my own grandparents, for my hubby he had another more preferred granny. Once they had died Rose was already past her best, she already lived in a limited world. My mother in law blamed her for keeping her son on her apron strings and not encouraging him to expand his opportunities. In the last few years she remembered little of her life, all of those 90 odd years she knew she had lived.

She remembered us all though till the end. For all the small world within which she existed she recognised us. She observed when I had put on weight and said so. It was lovely that she recognised in the last 18 months that I had become slimmer. She recognised that her great grandson Matt had become tall. At times she confused me with my mother in law (I guess she missed her and had things to say to her), at times she thought Matt was Barry. She called George the boss and in the end he was.

Yesterday George, Barry and I were there until the end. It was a privilege to be there. We can only hope that she knew we were there. It brought back memories of my nursing career at the bedside. I do not know what memories it brought for George but I hope  that ultimately they will be good ones.

RIP Rose 7 Sept 1911 – 15 March 2009


A teacher in 6 months?

teacher1I am grateful that my son, just turned 18 is soon to leave school.  We live in an area of our county where the schools while ok are nothing special, we have never been able to pay for education and what is more at 11 he was no high fligher. Now though he is doing well. A combination of good teachers and serious commitment since GCSEs mean that he is in sight of a very good University place. The school though will not be so lucky, it will be the victim of over provision despite the fact its results are better than those near by that will survive. This year, when my son has left, there will be no year 7 intake. I wonder how long before the teachers start to look elsewhere? I wonder before changes in local residents mean that it is decided a mistake has been made?

If your school is not the best then you cannot always command the best teachers, this has definitely been the case in certain subjects at certain times. What then if you could attract out of work professionals during a recession and between now and the new school year in September allow them to become teachers? A Post Graduate Certificate in Education, the basic qualification for teaching following first level degree takes a year, but apparently if you have been made redundant from the city and wish to teach maths or science you might soon complete this in 6 months. Today’s teenagers are wise, they are demanding, they are confrontational and that is only the ones who actually see the point in learning. Can you learn how to manage classrooms and their occupants, even with the knowledge of life in 6 months?

Whats next? Qualified nurses after a year, a doctor after 2?

I have never been more glad that I have an 18 year old son and not an 11 year old. I don’t need my child’s education mucked about with on the whim of government ministers trying to sort out the country’s mess.

This blog post comes from a Labour supporter and the granddaughter of a lifelone Labour supporter from the working class north east of England. Give me strength, I am starting to sound like Doctors Crippen and Jobbing!!

In my next life I’ll become a jetsetter

rome-feb-2009-033I have decided that city breaks are the thing to do. With the price of flights and our close proximity to mainland Europe we are after all ideally placed. Of course this needs to be set against the political incorrectness of utilising too much carbon footprint and the worryingly poor Euro to Pound exchange rate.

Rather than buy Matt a gift he can keep for ever as an 18th birthday we bought he and his cousin a trip to Rome so that they can have memories to keep for ever. What is more, we went on that trip with them and what is more, it was a fantastic way to spend a long weekend. We ventured through Rome for the day on our cruise a couple of years ago and promised ourselves that we would return for a proper visit. Last weekend was was when we took that visit.

To adopt the highlight / lowlight style of Miss Nemesis whose blog I very much admire and who was in Vegas while we explored Rome this is my take on the Italian capital:

Best bits -

  • The proximity of our hotel to history – at the bottom of our street Via Cavour was the Colosseum, Forum and Palatine; which I thought was really cool
  • The little coffee shop / bar across the road from the hotel where we got cuppuchino and pastries for 2 for 3 Euros
  • The meal we ate on Saturday night overlooking the Pantheon
  • The Vatican including Sistine chapel
  • The fantastic icecream consumed a few streets away from there
  • The Italian language – if I ever try to learn another language I’d love it to be Italian it just sounds so exotic!
  • The weather – warm and sunny days which led to coffee, wine and lunch outside
  • The great time the boys said they had, and the way they enjoyed the culture as much as their time out on a bar crawl!

Less good bits

  • Chilly nights which led me to wish at the start of the trip that I’d broughtt my hat, scarf and gloves with me
  • The people persistently trying to sell tat
  • The people trying to get us to buy a Vatican tour to ‘miss the lines’
  • The red wine which would have been nice if it had been offered at the right temperature
  • The size of our hotel room, though the bed was comfy, and the room was clean plus it was cheap
  • The cattle herding feeling you get traveling with Ryanair – does cheap need to be like that?
  • The fact we were ripped off by taxi drivers – next time, the bus!

So that’s Rome tackled, now if we can just pay off our now enormous credit card bill (winning the lottery might help) we can pick up that European weekend break lifestyle and go somewhere else soon….

Normal life is suspended

snowmenThe last time I personally saw as much snow as this I was within a hospital building, confined as I awaited the birth of my son. 18 years ago I didn’t have to negotiate ungritted roads and pavements. I didn’t need to spend hours in traffic in my car and I didn’t worry about school closures. I don’t know if in 1991 people gave up on work before they tried to go in, I don’t know if trains and buses were cancelled, I don’t know if health and safety issues kept schools closed.

In my particular town we have had about 3 days or nights of snow. On sunday several inches fell and it was very cold. The UK is apparantly not set up for this kind of thing. We only get snow round here on one or two days each year, and even then if often doesn’t last till lunch time; much to the disappointment of children and their sledges. This year the whole winter has been more severe, therfore if we were ever going to get significant snow it was going to be this winter. On Tuesday when I went to work the main roads were fine. The smaller roads in a town centre area where my place of work is were pretty much an ice rink, people were skidding into the kerb of a large roundabout. Having parked my car in the car park (I was amazed later to find it was actually between two white lines) I then had to negotiate some seriously treaturous pavements. The only place gritting had taken place was by a department store and my office building next door (oh yes folks I work right next to a John Lewis, and that is a story to tell one day!)

Schools were cancelled for 2 days and again today. My husband has so far worked a one day week. But children have had a good time, learning in a different way. Parents have taken days off work and actually spent time with them playing in that snow. On Tuesday morning as I drove slowly along my road a car passed in the opposite direction and the driver actually smiled at me. People walking along the pavements appear to be concerned about each other.

So my assessment is that yes it is mad that we can’t cope with a bit of snow. But if it means that people are nicer to each other for a day or two, if parents spend quality time actually playing with their children then I can’t see how the economy will be poorer in real terms.


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