Monday, October 29, 2007

Now I've Heard it All

Not really meant to be blogging as am frantically trying to finish a book. If I hit my target for this week I do promise an Auschwitz blog, but later rather then sooner.

However. I just had to drop by and say this...

I think it is time we added another -ism to the many exisiting -isms which benefit us all on a daily basis.

I have just been listening to the Jeremy Vine show where they have been discussing the obesity epidemic.

A very learned professor came on to say that a) there is no obesity epidemic and b) it only exists in the minds of the upper and middle classes who don't like looking at fat people.

As a middle classed person I am clearly guilty of fattism every time I stop my children eating the Macdonalds they so richly deserve and giving them some of that awful home cooked stuff.

Perhaps the learned professor might like to ask himself if he perchance is guilty of middle classism. It seems most of the chattering classes have it in for us (which is pretty rich really as they're more middle class then we are).

I see also in today's paper that wicked middle class parents are at it again in the form of social engineering. Apparently children who are born earlier in the academic year do better then those that don't, so now we're all at it like bunny rabbits in late December/early January to make sure our offspring arrive in the autumn term so they can get ahead of the rest and have an unfair advantage over their working class peers whose parents weren't clever enough to read the same piece of research in the papers.

Hmm... Apart from the bleedin' obvious fact that babies don't always come to order like that, I can't say that I know a single person who has planned their babies that way. (Me, if I were to have my time again, I'd go with what I've got, summer babies who get to school a whole lot sooner). And it doesn't really account for the fact that no 3 is an end of June baby and read earlier then no 4 who is a February baby (although of course she falls foul of the edict that states as the youngest in the family she is also going to be the thickest).

The world's gone completely mad...

And if further proof weren't needed, I also read in today's paper that there are at least 60 Iranians studying nuclear physics at our universities. And it is only now that someone has questioned whether this is - er - a good idea.

Although in that instance, plus ca change. Twenty years ago I looked after a bunch of foreign students in Liverpool. Most of them were from the Middle East and at least five were from Iran. They were ALL studying nuclear physics and the one Iraqi chemical engineering (I kid you not). Even then I thought it was barking....

But presumably by merely saying this I am going to end up with creating another ism - perhpas antiIraniannuclearphysicsstudentism.

But then.

I am middle class.

What do you expect??

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Fear of Flying Part 2

Diazepan and champagne.

Well that works.

Though the headache the next day was a bit much.

Having spent the weekend away from the bosom of my family I feel it is only fair to spend the rest of the week in the bosom of my family, so it may be some time before I post a proper account of my trip.

I have just realised as well that my deadline for book 2 is scarily close, so if I'm quiet for a bit, that'll be why...

Friday, October 19, 2007

Fear of Flying

"We're going to fly very high, and very fast."
Peter Richardson, Comic Strip, South Atlantic Raiders c 1990

The feelings of terror felt by the passengers on board the plane Ricky Coltrane ended up flying in this hilarious episode just about sums up how I feel every time I go on a plane. I hate flying. And what started as a slight angst some years ago, is now a pathological terror. I utterly disgraced myself on the way back from Menorca to the point where no 4 was holding my hand saying, There, there Mummy (surely the wrong way round). The alternative of course is never to go anywhere at all.

So this week I swallowed my pride, went to see my very lovely and understanding GP (who is so lovely and understanding he is partly the inspiration for my hero in Pastures New) and now have a nice little box of Diazepan to take if I get nervous. Not the whole lot obviously. And not with alcohol, or as he put it, too much alcohol...

My proposed alternative is forgetting the diazepan and drinking lots of champagne instead as that got me through one flight very happily. I ended up feeling that we would just bounce off the clouds like cotton wool as we came into land.

Hmm.... I wonder what diazepan AND champagne will do.

Best not go there I think.

I am also feeling rather twitchy about the fact that I am not going to be picking the kids up, though my lovely friend is, as I've never done this before. Which is clearly ridiculous as Spouse is only round the corner. But there you go. As I posted some months ago, if there is something to worry about, I will find it.

That aside, I am looking forward to Poland tremendously. I've never been before, and it has a romantic hold on my heart from my teen days when being the good catholics we were we cheered on Lech Walesa as the hero of Gdansk, and all wore Solidarnosc badges.

And of course, Krakow is where the last pope was born. I didn't always agree with him in life, but I did think the manner of his dying was particuarly moving.

On top of that, once I have got over my angst and guilt about leaving my family behind. I've got a whole weekend off. No children. No responsibilities. No worries.

Spouse reminded me seriously last night that we were to remember we were abroad and not get drunk and disorderly in late night drinking holes. Just in case I had forgotten how to look after myself. I think we might all be a bit long in the tooth for investigating Krakow's nightlife, but I'm sure we'll have fun anyway.

I will be blogging about it on my return, but it's half term next week, so I may be a wee while.

Must dash, as I still have to pack.

And remember to take my diazepan....

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Flat as a pancake.

I've had a slightly surreal day.

Tomorrow I'm off on the epic Polish trip (trying desperately to keep my flying nerves under control and NOT feel guilty about leaving the sprogs), so I spent the day in the main sorting the house out for the onslaught of four children and a husband home alone.

I was planning to go for a run, but then realised I needed to pop into town to pick up various bits. I know, I thought in a moment of brilliance, I'll take the bike (biking being the bit of my triathlon training that somehow I never get to).

The only trouble with this brilliant idea was that my tyres had gone flat since I last got on it, so I had to pump them up first. The back one didn't seem too happy at all, and in fact the whole cycling thing turned into a bit of a nightmare as it was squeaking away like anything by the time I got back. I know I don't cycle very often, but it shouldn't be THAT knackering to do it...

I got home in time to finish sorting washing before Spouse arrived home for lunch. Thursday lunchtimes usually involve Spouse dashing in for half an hour and a sandwich, while I sort the kids out a picnic tea as they do tennis later.

Thursdays are my most complicated day of the week, as I pick the younger three up from school, drop no 2 off at no 1's school for tutoring (we are doing the same for no 2 we did for no 1 though we may leave it up to her if she sits the exam or not), and then take nos 3 &4 to their tennis lesson. No1 meanwhile has taken to sitting in the library till 5pm to do her homework and then walking down to meet us. I pick up a friend's daughter from school, so she drops no 3 back to me.

Though this all sounds hideously complicated, I actually enjoy my Thursday afternoons as there's quite a big gaggle of mums most of whom I know fairly well, and we actually get to talk to one another while our sprogs play tennis. In between lessons they also run riot with their mates in what is a pretty safe environment.

Today, however, nothing went according to plan.

I got in the car at 3pm ready to go to school. I started the engine which died. I tried again and second time it fired up. I should have been warned, but once it was going the car seemed fine, so I forgot all about it.

Until I walked back to the car with four children and only quarter of an hour to spare to discover the bloody thing was dead as a dodo. Oh shit. I'd probably left the lights on last night and the battery was flat. Spouse would be sooooo pleased (it's not like he never nags me about that or anything).

I piled all the kids out, plus the back pack with all their clothes in, tennis rackets and a cold bag with their tea, thinking oh bugger, it's a long way to the school with all this gear, when I ran into a very generous friend (who is already helping me by having ALL the kids tomorrow), who bailed me out and took us to drop no 2 off then back to the tennis club. We did have to take an old chair out of her car and put it in mine to fit everyone in, but still...

I got to tennis, sorted the little ones out, rang the AA who on learning that I was actually ten minutes from my car, said they'd text me in fifty minutes. Fifty minutes took me to ten minutes before no 2 was due to be dropped off, so I left a somewhat less then coherent message on my mate's phone (which she later told me she heard while she was in the middle of teaching her class, as she'd forgotten to turn her phone off), and THEN realised that my sodding phone was running out of juice too.

Luckily Super Organised Friend was there and said ring them back and give them my number. As I was about to do this, the AA sent me a text to say their man was on his way. Phew. I rang no1 to tell her what was happening and SOF kindly said she'd sit with everyone till I got back, while I raced back to my car.

I then texted my friend back to say I'd be back in time and waited for the AA man. As he arrived my phone rang. It was my mate, but as I went to answer it my phone died. So now that battery was flat too.

AA Man was very efficient and diagnosed a very dodgy elderly battery (so not my fault then. Double Phew.), and told me to drive it for half an hour and it should be ok. Only trouble with that scenario was that I was worried it wouldn't start again if I left it for too long at tennis. So I decided the best thing to do was to go home, try and recharge my phone, ring Spouse and get him to pick us up, and cycle back to tennis.

All of which I duly did, so I was able to text my mate to say all was well and ring SOF to say I was on my way back. I pumped the back tyre up again, thinking maybe I'd not done it enough earlier. I DID have a moment of thinking perhaps I should go on Spouse's but stupidly it was only a moment and I got on mine instead.

I was two minutes away from the tennis club when I realised the ominous squeaking my back wheel had been replaced by the sound of metal hitting concrete.

Now my bloody tyre was flat too.

It just wasn't my day.

Spouse's first words when he greeted me were, you've left the lights on one too many times, so though I didn't think I was to blame for the state of the battery, apparently I am.

We left the bike where it was, brought everyone home and Spouse went out later to fetch no 1 from her tennis lesson and my bike.

Luckily HIS car's battery isn't flat.


Saturday, October 13, 2007

Is it really sad...

... To be so stressed and anxious about watching the rugby that I can't bear too so am sitting at my desk trying to pretend to write instead. But because I can't bear not knowing what's going on, I keep checking the internet at intervals, so I know we are a point adrift?

I think it probably is.

Luckily if England get through tonight to torture us further I will be away in Poland and likely to miss it.

I am going to Poland to celebrate the 40th birthday of a very good friend. Some months ago we met up with Lovely Friend (who has featured on this blog before) and suggested a day at The Sanctuary as a birthday present. Turns out that VGF has always wanted to go to Poland and visit Auschwitz, which cheerily is what we are doing. Having visited Buchenwald once (Spouse's German grandfather was imprisoned there by the Russians after the war - a little known fact is how many Germans died at Russian hands there. In the main these were ordinary folk, not Nazis, but that's another story) I have a feeling it is going to be an intense and probably quite difficult experience.

Spouse and I drove to Buchenwald from Wolfsburg not long after the Wall came down, and when the East German roads were still in their original parlous state. I can't remember how far we travelled but it took us about four hours longer then expected, so we arrived at Buchenwald at dusk, which was too late to actually go in the camp. It was incredibly spooky walking around the perimeter though, and without wishing to seem too fanciful, there was a pervasive sense of evil in the atmosphere. Just before we left we stumbled across a path going into a wooded area, where a stone slab had been erected in memory of the thousands of Germans who died in the period following the war. And as we looked into the wood, we were suddenly grimly aware of hundreds and hundreds of crosses. Of the five people who went into Buchenwald with Spouse's grandfather, only he and one other survived, and his health was shot to pieces.

Spouse and I were so shaken by the experience I remember we travelled in silence for about two hours, neither of us willing to speak about what we had seen. And yet, we really saw very little of the real horrors, because of course aside from what the Russians did, there were the cruelties inflicted by Ilsa Koch the so called Beast of Buchenwald.

It was a grim experience visiting the scene of such horror. But I think an important one too. If we are ever to learn the lessons of history, then we have to face what has happened in the past (something until recently the German people have, perhaps understandably been very reluctant to do).

So though I can't say I'm exactly looking forward to visiting Auschwitz, I am pleased to have the chance to go, as without VGF I probably never would have opted too.

And on a somewhat lighter note. I get a weekend away with three girlfriends. Something I have never ever done before.

Last time I went out with LF and VGF we got chatted up by some builders. There was one nearly young enough to be our son who took a shine to VGF. It was therefore somewhat embarrassing for her to meet him some weeks later with her husband (also a builder) and discover that they er - know each other.

At least if you chat up a Polish builder, VGF's husband (also known to this blog as pyromaniac builder) he won't know me.

Oh dear. Oh dear.

I think Krakow won't really be ready for us...

I have just been informed by no 2 that Johnny Wilkinson is the best (I agree) as he has taken us to 14 -9 and I am hoping that that will be enough. So the stress continues for another week, which coupled with the stress of Lewis Hamilton only being 4 points up in the Grand Prix, makes me very glad I'll be away.

PS From the cheering downstairs, I take it we won....

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Oh and...

Here is my very lovely and gorgeous cover. With many thanks to all the lovely people at Avon for working so hard to make it happen (particularly the very long suffering designer, who is probably cursing my name by now).
Pastures New is coming out on December 3,to a Tesco's near you, priced £6.99.
I am working very hard on trying to get a website up at: but having problems between computers so there's nothing there yet, but I will keep you posted.
I am hoping to organise a launch party, and will probably also do an online version as per my Running on Empty party. If I can get my act together and work out how to do it, I may also follow lovely Marie Philips example and sponsor my launch party for my favourite charity, Tadworth Court Children's Trust. Spouse and I went to a charity ball in aid of it the other week, and I am feeling inspired to do something again. Last time we attended a similar ball I ended up running a marathon, but I think sponsoring my launch might be a tad easier...
As you can see. My real name isn't Jane Henry. But I think you probably knew that by now.

A bonus from the charity ball was that Spouse bought some kit from the Formula 1 Williams team (well, it had to be done, and it was for charidee.) We brought home the most expensive, fleece, shirt and cap we've ever purchased, only to discover looking at the labels that Frank Williams has trademarked the Williams name.

Which leaves me wondering rather, if I'm going to get in trouble with my cover...
Perhaps I should revert to using Jane Henry after all....

On having too many children...

I realise that I have been rather quiet on the posting front recently. This is mainly because I am trying to be disciplined about my writing, as for the first time since I have been at this game, I actually have a deadline. In fact it is a scarily close deadline... So I'm in a bit of a panic.

Added to which I seem to have more freelance work then I've had in a while (great), am trying to get a website together when I have only got internet access on my laptop (long and boring story) and my laptop refuses to take the website programme I am using (even longer and more boring story.) So I have a work in progress vis a vis the website sitting on my main computer and I can't transfer it to the internet. If the truth be known, internet access or no internet access, I think I might have trouble as last time I tried to do it I had to rope my lovely and helpful computer whizz kid bil in.

On top of which, I have too many children.

It's simple as that. One of them simply has to go.

After weeks of paying more attention to no 1 because she has started secondary school, during which her siblings have helpfully not demanded my atttention (much) the worms are turning en masse.

Take today for instance.

It rained. I was going to walk everyone to school anyway but nos 3&4 fought so constantly and vociferously from the moment they awoke to the moment we left the house, we ended up late and I took the car.

I got home and had to do some housework, yesterday having been spent chucking myriad amounts of chemicals down our horribly blocked drains. Spouse ended up rodding the ruddy things out in the dark (another long story). I did however manage a chapter of the book yesterday.

Today I put washing on (I couldn't for three days because of the blocked drains), cleaned out bathrooms and loos (dittos) and tidied bedrooms. Then I had a phone call from no 1 to say she'd forgotten her pursebelt - again - so I dashed out to leave it in the office for her (a totally fruitless trip as it turned out as no one knew anything about it when I went in), managed to do a bit of editing work, grabbed a bite to eat, and popped in on some of Spouse's rels who were visiting mil (mil you understand, doesn't grasp the concept that working at home does actually mean that you aren't on call for social visits).

After school, I cooked tea in a hurry, went to pick up no 1 at 4.30 as she has computer club, fed no 3 in more of a hurry before taking her to brownies at 5.15. At 6pm bil and sil arrived to go to the gym with Spouse, so we all had a cup of tea, before I sat down for five minutes with no 4 to help her with her homework.

So far so good...

No 4's homework took up so much time (oh, ok, I was multi tasking and making soup at the same time, in between checking my emails), that we were late for brownie pick up.

Nos 3&4 picked up where they left off and ended up disappearing up the stairs in floods of tears. No 3 being particularly put out that somehow the puppet she had made at brownies had mysteriously broken... No 4 swore blind it wasn't her.

After much cajoling and a few biscuits (there are times when only bribery will do quite frankly), I got the little ones to bed, in between trying to help no 2 print off pictures of King Arthur which she needed to inspire her to do a drawing of him. It was about half an hour before her bed time when she suddenly let slip (having not even started said picture which had to be in for tomorrow)that actually she had some geography homework for tomorrow too, and could Mummy just do something about mountains for her.

No, Mummy bloody well couldn't was the not (I felt) unreasonable response when I realised what she was after.

Besides, I said when did you get this homework?

Today, she said, butter not melting in that particular cheek.

Well I'll just write to your teacher and say you didn't have time because of your other homework.

But Mummy, you can't, she wailed.

Mummy not seeing the wood for the trees lost the plot rather when no 2 hysterically announced that she would be in so much trouble for not doing it.

I'll just do it for you and write a letter to your teacher to say that she should give you more time, shall I? I said, which of course produced more hysterics, plus a lecture from no 1 on a)how mean I was being and b) how this really wasn't helping.

I couldn't quite get to the bottom of the hysterics until no 2 finally admitted she'd actually had the homework for a week. So cross was I that she had left it to the last minute, I forgot completely to tell her off for lying to me.

It transpired that all she needed to do was find some information about mountains. We have a big book about the Earth, with pages and pages on mountains. It is positively Mountain Manna to a desperate mother in need of a miracle. So she took that to bring into school tomorrow. Problem solved.

Why did you tell me your homework was given to you today, I asked, when I remembered about the lying thing.

Because I thought you'd be cross, was the sheepish answer.


This is to the mother who has always made a point of saying, whatever you've done, however cross I am, I'll be crosser still if you lie about it...

Still lesson learnt and all that...

Nice evening? Spouse said as he walked in from the gym.

Oh, yes peachy....

I'm just off to lie in a darkened room.

For a very very long time.

I think I might have to stay there till my children grow up....

Monday, October 01, 2007

In Stitches

Many moons ago, I blogged about the proposed demise of our local hospital's A&E. Despite a valiant campaign fought by our brilliant MP Chris Grayling, our A&E department has already been downgraded to minors only and should I need the assistance of an ambulance it will be taking me to St Helier some five miles (and forty minute drive in heavy traffic) away.

I do as you can imagine, feel rather strongly about the issue of local hospitals being shut down as I think it is only a matter of time before people start dying as a result of this wrongheaded and foolish policy.

So it is with great pleasure that I am happy to promote In Stitches by Dr Nick Edwards, himself an A&E doctor, who is spearheading a campaign to get the tide turned. Nick says he believes in the NHS and the principles of the NHS. Me too. So do go and get hold of a copy of his book. And if you are unlucky enough to be living in an area where your local hospital is facing closure, kick up as much fuss about it as possible. Eventually someone somewhere will have to start listening...

PS I don't know Nick personally, but as soon as I read the comment by Patricia Hewitt I knew I had to get a copy - Patricia Blewitt being the person who finally put the nail in the coffin of our A&E by declaring that as the people who live in my town are all rich we don't need an NHS hospital. If you live in Surrey you are automatically able to pay for health, schools etc....


A new book (In stitches; the highs and lows of life as an A&E doctor, by Dr. Nick Edwards) has been written looking at what it like working in the NHS and A&E in particular. Despite its tongue in cheek style, issues important to anyone who works for the NHS or uses the NHS are addressed. It has been written by a doctor who with one hand supports wholeheartedly the ideals of the NHS and in the other hand is frustrated by the way it is being run.

It is hitting national interest, appearing in the Guardian Newspaper and Newsnight amongst others. It can be bought from good book shops, a couple of not so good book shops and from (type in stitches in the search for books bit.)

Read on for a synopsis of the book…………

Despite the headlines, actually the NHS has just had its best year ever.'
Patricia Hewitt, Secretary of State for Health, eulogising to the BBC, 22nd April 2006

'Despite what the politicians say, things seem to have gone a bit tits up recently.'
Dr Nick Edwards, A&E doctor, ranting to his mates down the pub, 22nd April 2006

Dr Nick Edwards is an Accident and Emergency (A&E) doctor working in the UK and a passionate believer in the NHS. However the reforms, political correctness and the Anglo-Saxon culture of binge drinking and fighting and the resulting A&E visits are a strain on his sanity. So to keep up his morale, he began writing down his feelings - a form of literary cathartic therapy - the results of which make up this book.

From dealing with cardiac arrests and car accidents, to people with 'Arrest Avoidance Syndrome' and others who hadn't quite read the big red sign above their heads as they walked into A&E, In Stitches paints a vivid picture of what it's really like working at the sharp end of the NHS today. It's funny, it's heartbreaking and it's infuriating. It's also more informative than any government press release.

So join Dr Nick Edwards as he describes the frustrations and joys of working in the NHS. The traumas and tragedies, the patients and colleagues and most of all the successes and humour that make up life at the front line of medical care: Accident and Emergency.

Note to reader: Ever-conscious of meaningless targets, the author would like it to be known that 98% of the stories contained in this book were written in under 4 hours!

Example Extract from the book

A sign the world has gone mad?

What has had happened to my patients today? They seemed to be getting lost when I sent them for X-ray. I'd given the same directions as normal, there had been no secret muggers hiding in the hospital corridors and as far as I know, no problems with space - time dimensions in our particular corner of the universe.

I went to X-ray to investigate. I found it quickly because I knew the way. However, I looked for the signs for X-ray and they were gone. The nice, old-fashioned and slightly worn signs had gone; they had been replaced by a sign saying 'Department of Diagnostic Imaging'. What the hell? I know what it means but only just and only because I have been inundated by politically correct 'shit-speak' for a number of years. What a pointless waste of money; to satisfy some manager, they replaced a perfectly good sign with one that means bugger all to 90% of people. Why don't they change the toilet sign to 'Department of Faecal and Urinary Excrement' or the cafe to 'Calorific Enhancement Area'. Who makes these decisions? Who is employed to do such pointless stuff? Why? Why?? Why???

I needed a caffeinated beverage in a disposable single-use container - management-speak for shit NHS/Happy Shopper instant coffee. I went to sit in the 'Relaxation, Rest and Reflection Room', previously known as staff room. There, the nurses were moaning that tonight one of their colleagues had called in sick and to save money their shift would not be covered by a bank nurse. In A&E, staff shortages can seriously undermine the safety of patient care.

I am sure this genius plan was decided by some personnel manager who I doubt has ever seen a patient, cannula or trolley, and therefore is obviously an expert at making nursing planning decisions. We have a hospital that can fund unnecessary new signs, but not replace nurses when they off sick. So, tonight who is going to go looking for the patients when they got lost on route to the Department of Diagnostic Imaging?