Saturday, 25 May 2013

Blood Blog!

It’s been a bit of a week as I continue to recover from an operation that encountered blood clotting problems and a walloping great haematoma.

Being a parent trains you to deal with pretty much any crisis.  Feeling ill?  Mum’s here.  Want to throw up?  Mum’s here.  Missed the puke bowl?  Never mind, Mum will clear it up.  Funny tummy?  Mum will see to your tail.  From the moment a mother gives birth, she’s programmed to stomach dirty nappies and sicked-on sweaters.  But blood?  Um, no.  I can’t do blood.  So when my daughter uncertainly said, ‘Er, Mum, did you know your hair has gone very red?’ all common sense went out the window.  Going from blonde to redhead without a trip to the hairdresser, is not something I ever want to deal with again.  In the last 7 days I’ve had eighty-something mils of blood syringed out of me and, in the process, endured heart palpitations, rubber legs and an upper lip covered in sweat.  What is it about blood that sends some of us keeling over?

The first time I was aware that I wasn’t a fan of blood was w-a-a-y back in my school days.  I can still remember sitting, cross-legged, on the hall’s parquet floor during assembly while the headmistress enthusiastically told us about a visitor.  This visitor stepped up onto the stage to have ‘a little chat’ with us all.  Basically the gentleman was a scientist exploring beating heart patterns and looking for volunteers.  I can still remember him smiling and saying, ‘THIS is what a beating heart sounds like!’ before pressing the play button on his tape recorder.  Instantly the hall was filled with the sound of boom-boom...boom-boom.  Gosh, that’s interesting, I thought, and listened rapturously to the sound of an anonymous person’s heartbeat.  Except...what was that?  A duet was going on with another more persistent noise.  A sort of...squelchy gumboot-stuck-in-runny-mud noise.  And as I sat there in my pale blue cotton uniform, I suddenly felt distinctly odd.  I can still recall a teacher tapping me on the shoulder.  ‘Deborah!’ (Nobody called me Deborah other than teachers and the very way it was uttered was enough to instil the deepest fear of being in trouble).  ‘Deborah, come with me, you’re not well.’  I was amazed at my teacher’s ability to deduce how I was feeling.  ‘How do you know?’ I asked.  As I stood up, swaying, I realised my cotton uniform was wringing wet and had completely stuck to my body.  And no, I didn’t volunteer for the visitor’s project.  Nor have I ever been a blood donor.

 My mother, a retired nurse, had always hoped my sister and I would follow her into the nursing profession (she harboured hopes of us bagging eminent surgeons as husbands and living out a Mills & Boon happy-ever-after future).  However, much as helping others appeals, the thought of assisting a handsome doctor in Theatre is something that would have me swooning for all the wrong reasons.  I wonder what it is that makes some of us cope so well with blood, and others run off with the screaming heebie jeebies? 

Which reminds me.  What do vampires use to sail cross the sea?  Blood vessels...

Sunday, 19 May 2013

GCSE Blues

This week my daughter started her GCSE examinations.  There was much muttering prior to the first exam with complaints of being stressed out and wails of, ‘I’m going to fail and it’s all Miss’s fault.  She hates me.’
          Why my daughter thinks her tutor dislikes just her I don’t know.   Personally I think most of the tutors dislike all their pupils, which is hardly surprising considering some of the ‘leaver pranks’ that have been going on in the last week.  No doubt an army of Year 11 pupils up and down the country have reduced their teachers to gibbering wrecks as stink bombs have detonated in canteens, bags of flour erupted over opening doors, and any classroom featuring a clock (all of them in other words) has been stripped bare.  One motley crew went a bit too far and tipped red ink over sanitary towels which were then used to wallpaper the visitors’ cloakroom.  Gosh, how I’m sure those teachers laughed.  Not.
          ‘I hope you aren’t taking part in these pranks,’ I said sternly to my daughter.
          ‘Of course not,’ she replied with very wide eyes.
          It’s the eyes that give a lie away.  Many years ago I watched the wonderful Derren Brown live.  He told the audience that he wasn’t telepathic or psychic or any other amazing thing, just that he’d learnt to read body language.  Tip Number One.  If you want to lie, don’t blink while telling your porky pie.  It’s a total giveaway.  Tip Number Two.  Stay away from Derren Brown because I’m convinced he’s also telepathic and psychic – he blinked while telling the audience he wasn’t.
          Anyway, I digress.  Daughter came home from the first GCSE exam totally euphoric and cackling gleefully.
          ‘Ah, it went well!’ I beamed.
          ‘No, it just means that I can now put all this,’ she waved a stack of papers at me, ‘in the bin because I never, ever have to look at them again.’
          Unless she ends up doing re-sits of course.
          Which reminds me.  The following questions were set in last year’s GCSE examinations and are claimed to be genuine answers from 16 year olds.

Q. Name the four seasons
A. Salt, pepper, mustard and vinegar

Q. Explain one of the processes by which water can be made safe to drink.
A. Filtration makes water safe to drink because it removes large pollutants like grit, sand, dead sheep and canoeists

Q. How is dew formed?
A. The sun shines down on the leaves and makes them perspire

Q. What guarantees may a mortgage company insist on?
A. If you are buying a house they will insist that you are well endowed

Q. In a democratic society, how important are elections?
A. Very important. Sex can only happen when a male gets an election

Q. What are steroids?
A. Things for keeping carpets still on the stairs

Q. What happens to a boy when he reaches puberty?
A. He says goodbye to his boyhood and looks forward to his adultery

Q. Name a major disease associated with cigarettes
A. Premature death

Q. What is artificial insemination?
A. When the farmer does it to the bull instead of the cow

Q. How can you delay milk turning sour?
A. Keep it in the cow

Q. What is the fibula?
A. A small lie

Q. What is the most common form of birth control?
A. A condominium

Q. Give the meaning of the term 'Caesarean section'
A. The caesarean section is a district in Rome

Q. What is a seizure?
A. A Roman Emperor

Q. What is a terminal illness?
A. When you are sick at the airport

Q. Use the word 'judicious' in a sentence to show you understand its meaning
A. Hands that judicious can be soft as your face with Mild Green Fairy Liquid

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Fabulous Florence and Perfect Pisa

I can’t believe a whole week has passed since I was in Italy enjoying a long weekend exploring Florence and Pisa.  Time goes nowhere and already those days seem like a very beautiful dream.  Thank goodness for digital cameras to preserve the memories.

It was an early start last Saturday morning.  When the alarm shrieked at 3.45 a.m. there was an overwhelming desire to ignore it, but like all good tourists we flung back the covers, grabbed the pre-packed suitcases and set off for Gatwick Airport.  As the car sped down the motorway I had a nagging feeling I’d overlooked something.  Dog in kennel – check.  Cat being looked after by daughter – check.  Passports – check.  Tickets – check.  What was it?  No matter, it couldn’t have been important.

Easyjet now have a bag drop rather than a check-in.  Frankly I couldn’t spot the difference.  Oh, hang on, the nice lady weighing our suitcases told us we had apparently booked Speedy Boarding.  Good heavens, had Mr V and I taken leave of our senses and unwittingly splurged just to get to the front of boarding queue?  Apparently yes.  Along with everybody else on our flight.

Half an hour later we were on the plane.  Mr V skimmed through the Duty Free Shopping magazine in thirty seconds flat and then declared he was bored.  How to pass the flight time?  Some conversation?  I nearly fell off my airline seat from shock.  Take away a television and its football channel and my husband is a lost soul.
        ‘Okay,’ I said, ‘what shall we talk about?’
        ‘Gosh I don’t know,’ Mr V rubbed his chin thoughtfully, ‘what about work?’
        ‘Work?  But the whole purpose of this trip is to forget about work for a few days!’
        ‘I work very hard.’
        ‘So do I.’
        ‘Not as hard as me.’
        ‘Rubbish!  When you come home from work, that’s it.  Your day is done.  Mine is still going.  I work from the moment I get up to the moment I hit the pillow.  I not only do the day job, I run a home which is a 24/7 job.’
        Mr V adjusted his seating position.  Clearly a few words were about to be spoken to redefine my so-called hectic days of work.
        ‘Just because you slap an egg between a muffin in the mornings, does not mean you’re working flat out.’
        I idly picked up the Duty Free Magazine and wondered if Easyjet had ever witnessed a passenger being whacked with it.  Instead I distracted myself doing some people watching.  People wear some very strange clothes on airplanes.  Take him over there.  Blue and white striped shirt, pink jeans and orange socks tucked into bright green shoes.  I regarded my own footwear – flip flops abandoned under the passenger seat in front of me in favour of a pair of in-flight socks that looked like something my granny used to wear.  So cool...

When we arrived in Pisa the sun was beaming away in welcome and the temperature was 27 degrees.  And who forgot her shorts?  Was that what had bothered me so much on the journey to Gatwick?  I rummaged through my thoughts.  No.  It was something important.  I just couldn’t quite ... put ... my ... finger ... on ... it.

Dumping the suitcases we immediately took off to see the famous leaning tower of Pisa.  Except we ended up at the train station.  So we turned around and retraced our steps down narrow streets lined with quaint trattorias sporting hanging baskets and scrumptious menus.  But not even the aroma of tomato and basil could distract us.  For there, peeking over the rooftops, was the tip of the tower.  I can’t really describe the effect it had on me. It was like a magnet.  I found myself breaking into a jog and dodging the tourists as it came into full view.  And suddenly it was revealed in all its glory.  A vast cylindrical building, partially sunken and tilting precariously, but apparently standing up and not toppling over. All around us tourists were doing the ‘holding it up’ pose.  The architecture was stunning and the stonework glorious.  But not just on the tower, but elsewhere too.  To the left of the bell tower were the cathedral and baptistery, both of which were grandiose masterpieces.

Florence was another beautiful place to explore with its breathtaking palaces, vast cathedrals and incredible museums.  The camera was working flat out that day.

But all good things come to an end.  And regrettably our love affair with this historically rich country is over.  For now.

And when we finally landed at Gatwick Airport, I found out what I’d forgotten to do.  I’d failed to book travel insurance.  This small but important detail came to light when a bottle of olive oil broke in one of the suitcases and Mr V’s beloved Armani jacket became a glistening mess.
        ‘Never mind,’ I trilled, ‘we can always claim on the insurance.’
        Or not in this case.

Which reminds me.  If olive oil comes from olives, where does baby oil come from??