Tuesday 29 March 2011

A to Z Blogging Challenge

A to Z of Leicester in 40 words and why this is a quadragintal blog

Every day in April, with the exception of Saturdays, I will be blogging about an aspect of Leicester working my way through the alphabet. Each blog will be precisely 40 words. It concentrates the mind and it's easier to read. Oh yes, and I’ll still be posting my usual chatty blogs once or twice a week.

During the month I’ll be visiting as many other A to Z Bloggers as I can and leaving comments. If you’re an A to Z Blogger then welcome and do please leave a comment. If you’re not but you’d like to join then visit Tossing It Out or Talli Roland and you can add your name. There’s still time.

And finally, about that word quadragintal, I follow a blogger at Coffee Rings Everywhere who writes drabbles. She explains that a drabble is a blog that contains exactly 100 words. I searched the dictionaries but could find nothing to describe a 40 word blog. I tweeted a query and Alison Bacon a blog friend, came up with the word quadragintal. We have introduced this word into the world and so it now exists. Impressive, huh!


Friday 25 March 2011

How to Spoil a Day at the Spa

It was meant to be a double treat – a day out for Daughter because it was her birthday, and for me because life has been difficult lately. We’d made an agreement. Mum’s illness and Daughter’s work worries were to be forbidden topics. We’d just chill. What we hadn’t bargained for was the disappearance of Mabel, one of our lovely new cats. She had gone out in the night and not returned for breakfast. We looked everywhere. We called her name, banged her food bowl, but there was no sign. We assured each other that she would soon be back and set off, just a little late, to Ragdale Hall.

With thoughts of Mabel sitting heavily at the back of our throats we launched ourselves into a ‘spa experience’. The variety of steam rooms and relaxation pools was amazing. We went from rose sauna to volcanic steam room to a storm shower cave complete with thunder and lightning.

My favourite was the candle pool. We entered down steps into a room filled only with warm water, candlelight and calming music. We lay on moulded beds with soft head rests. It was exactly the ambience I always fail to achieve when running my bath at home.

Coming a close second was the outside pool with its hot water, steaming jets, waterfalls and Jacuzzi outlets, while all the time the sun was shining down on us and we were hot and this was March and we were in the UK... if only Mabel... but that had become another forbidden topic.

After lunch came our massages, a back massage for me, followed by a full facial. I’m normally uncomfortable about massages but I was overtired, overstressed and these treatments were exactly what my body needed. I almost fell asleep – amazing! Relaxation is really not my thing.

Last of all was our manicure. As we sat overlooking the gardens, fingers out straight, resisting the temptation to see if we were ‘touch dry’, a text message arrived from home. Mabel had returned. It was 4 pm and she had strolled in as if she’d only been gone a minute.

We did have a lovely day at Ragdale but I have to say that the best bit was that text message. We’re going to return and do it all again, maybe in June... only this time we’ll keep Mabel well and truly shut in until we get home!

Wednesday 23 March 2011

From Blog to BBC TV News Appearance

The other day a TV camera crew came to our house... well it was actually one TV cameraman with his portable camera but it was quite an experience nevertheless. We did light checks and sound checks and, with a little soft lighting, he converted our living room into a desirable bijou residence. I began the interview in a stilted manner, very conscious of what I was saying, but by the time we reached the part that they actually used I had warmed to my argument and was in full flow. The man knew how to do his job. I was delivering sound bites to fight for.

I’ve included a link to the BBC TV news programme but in case that is no longer available I’ve taken a photograph to show you what I look like when I’m in full flow.

There’s also a photo of the TV cameraman himself. He was taking shots of letters and photographs just in case they might be needed. In total he took 18 minutes of film although the piece they used was only a fraction of that.

Progress is moving along slowly. 6,500 nurses and healthcare workers will receive a nursing care refresher course. You can read about that in this newspaper article from the Leicester Mercury. I was taken onto Ward 2 at the Leicester General Hospital last Friday and shown the changes that had already been introduced regarding raising the profile of the nurse in charge – the big red badge scheme - and making hourly checks on all patients. And there’s a meeting next Tuesday at Leicester’s Town Hall to further discuss the issues regarding hospital complaints. I’ll be there and, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, I’ll be blogging about it.

Had it not been for this blog I doubt my complaint letter would have got anywhere near this far. I was demanding that changes be seen to be made but the hospital had merely sent a standard acknowledgement offering me a written report within 25 working days. A written report was not going to get changes either made or seen to be made. Nobody was really listening to me. Then I remembered The Leicester Mercury. They had picked up my blog postings before for their First Person feature and, as I anticipated, they were very interested to take up this issue. Once they were on board my complaint grew wings... and now it’s well and truly flying.

So if anyone tells you that keeping a blog never leads to anything worthwhile, don’t believe them.

Sunday 20 March 2011

What makes a person powerful?

I have been awarded a Powerful Woman Writer Award so thank you very much to Deirdra Eden Coppel for that. It’s always exciting receiving a blog award and this one is no exception. It's great that someone has viewed my writing as powerful but it has set me off asking rather a lot of questions: 

If I am a powerful writer does that mean that I'm a powerful person? I certainly don't feel powerful. I’m stubborn, yes, and sometimes a tad stroppy, certainly... but powerful? I’ve submitted a strongly worded letter of complaint to the local hospital trust and it looks as if they’re making improvements based on my complaints but does that make me powerful?

So what exactly is a powerful person?
  • Is power held only by those with wealth?
  • or by people who are clever?
  • or is it for those who stand firm with their head held high?
Is being a leader the same thing as being powerful?
  • Do people become leaders because they can’t bear to see things not being done properly?
  • Or because those around them feel confident in their abilities and so push them into the position?
  • Or because they truly believe that they are better than anyone else?
Could it be that the most successfully powerful person is the one who does not wield that power like a sword, but spreads it out evenly among their peers creating a fine mesh of support for everyone?

Thanks again to Deirdra who not only gave me this impressive award but set me off thinking about the meaning of power, people and everything...

...and for those who are worried that I’m sounding a little too serious of late, I thought I’d let you know that it’s daughter’s birthday in a few days time, so we’ll be off for a day of pampering at the local spa. I may even blog about it!


Tuesday 15 March 2011

There's a postman at the door!

Last week the advanced copies of my latest book arrived, A Children’s History of Leicester. I wasn’t expecting them. I had Mum on my mind, her extreme agitation and the beginnings of what we suspect could be cancer-related delirium. I had Rod on my mind, his run of infections following all that chemotherapy, and yet another course of antibiotics for him to take. And I had the new cats on my mind. The postman’s visit meant that the front door was open and the cats were still confined to quarters. In fact, the last thing on my mind was a delivery of books which made their arrival all the sweeter.

The cover was shiny, tactile, exciting. I turned the pages and felt that (almost) familiar thrill that I hope will never pall. All my words are there, all that research and writing, selecting and editing, but I had only ever seen them as black on sheets of white A4. Now the colour and illustrations have brought my words to life.

Two have already been placed on The Shelf. It may not be heaving with books quite yet but it’s starting to look almost respectable, don’t you think!

Wednesday 9 March 2011

People are Frightened of Complaining

They say that the British are bad at complaining. We’d rather sip at cold soup than ask the waiter to return it to the kitchen, but when it comes to our health care we should be able to speak out. Since I sent a letter of complaint to the Leicester General Hospital about the negligence of my mother I have been amazed by people’s responses.

Many comments were along the lines of, 
“You are brave. When something similar happened to my mum I didn’t dare complain.”

Some said things like, 
“I do admire you. I was so exhausted by the experience I didn’t have the energy to complain.”

Others have made less encouraging comments like, 
“Well done for putting your head above the parapet but rather you than me.”

I don’t often feel passionate enough about an issue to raise my head quite this high but care of the frail elderly is one issue that I can’t ignore.

Readers of my blog will know that over the last few years I have, unfortunately, become a regular visitor of the Leicester Royal Infirmary, especially the Osborne Building. I have always been impressed by their high standards, particularly in the Bone Marrow Unit and the Haematology Wards. But seeing these areas of excellence has shown me that hospital wards can work and has further highlighted the low standards of care experienced by my mother at the Leicester General Hospital.

So has putting my head above the parapet done any good? I hope so. I have had several meetings with members of the Leicester NHS Trust, including Malcolm Lowe-Lauri, the Chief Executive, and what’s more they’ve listened to me and they’ve taken on board the two issues where I felt my input could make a difference.

To ensure that on each shift there is an easily identifiable nurse-in-charge working alongside the ward team.

To ensure that the hospitals’ complaints procedures are easily accessible and fear-free.

The first item has already been addressed. The Trust has initiated a big red Nurse in Charge badge to be worn by the Nurse in Charge of each shift. They have instigated daily Matron ward rounds at visiting times to ensure visitors and patients see the Matron and this is also expected of the Nurse in Charge.

The second item is not so easy. I’m still unclear about the difference between PALS and PILS but apparently PILS is the department to approach with complaints about Leicester hospitals. It stands for Patient Information Liaison Service and has a Freephone number 08081 788337.

I’ve also had a meeting this week with my local councillor, Andy Bayford, who is Chair of the Leicester Health Scrutiny Committee. (Yes, I have been very busy!) Cllr Bayford has promised to include the issue of hospital complaints on the agenda of his next Health Scrutiny Committee Meeting and I’ll be there to listen to the discussion.

But the big problem of fear still exists and I do understand why. I was harassed by the nurses the day after I made my first formal complaint, but my mother was hungry and dirty. I couldn’t stand by and do nothing. Malcolm Lowe-Lauri has made a pledge to address this fear. I hope he’s successful.

We all have a basic right to complain. We should be insisting on zero tolerance to neglect in hospitals because if everyone who is affected complains, then together we will make a difference.


Sunday 6 March 2011

A Stylish Blogger? What, me?

I’m not stylish, not in the fashion sense of the word. You’ll never see me in designer wear. I have no end of trouble colour co-ordinating an outfit but since I stopped going out to teach each day and started writing on my laptop instead, any fashion sense I had has disappeared into the folds of my jogging bottoms and baggy jumpers... but I digress. This is about blogs not clothes so a big thank you to Duncan D. Horne for awarding me the Stylish Blogger Award.

Accepting a Blog Award is a bit like going up to receive a TV award in that you’re expected to give a speech. In blogger-world the speech is often along the lines of 7 things about me that you don’t already know, but I’m going to keep it brief and list out 3 updates instead.

Update No. 1 – My Hospital Negligence Campaign

I have two meetings tomorrow with members of the NHS Trust and I will be writing up the outcomes as an article for the local newspaper... and of course in full in this blog. I’m still trying to establish exactly what can be realistically done to make changes so please don’t think I’ve given up. On the contrary I’m all the more determined. As I type these words there are elderly frail people in hospital wards longing for a cup of tea or a change of clothes, and generally be neglected in the way that my mother was. I have to do something.

Update No. 2 – My New Cats

I now know the difference between my two grey ladies. It’s Charlie who loves to sleep on laps. She’s on my knee again now forcing my laptop to become a ‘next-to-me-on-the-settee-top'.

Mabel is the one who (in keeping with her name) is still under the table. She does appear at meal times so that’s a good sign but she’s such a timid little girl. I do hope she’ll get used to us soon.

Update No. 3 – An A to Z Blog Challenge

I’m going to take part in the A to Z Blog Challenge. I’ll be posting a short blog on a topic beginning with a different letter of the alphabet every day of April (with Saturdays off for a well deserved rest.) It begins 1st April with the letter A and ends 30th April with the letter Z. I’ll blog more details later but if you want to join in then visit Talli Roland’s blog or Arlee Bird’s blog.

And finally

I’d like to pass on The Stylish Blogger Award to the following three bloggers:

To two blogger/twitter friends:
Rebecca Emin at  http://ramblingsofarustywriter.blogspot.com/

And last but, as they say, by no means least, to a new blogger who is cataloguing his fight with migraine at http://anothermigraine.blogspot.com/


Wednesday 2 March 2011

Adopting Cats

Two Grey Ladies

I’ve always had at least one pet in the house. I once had a dog, two cats, a rabbit, a gerbil and three hamsters. But now the house is silent. It’s almost six months since our darling dog, Josh, died and nearly two years since our elderly cat, Rosie, passed away. Coming down in the mornings is the worst. There’s no one to demand instant feeding, no one to trip me up as I make an early morning cut of tea, no one to wrap themselves round my arms as I check my emails.

I know I have a lot going on at the moment and it would be easy to not bother but as soon as I spoke to the lady at Leicester's RSPCA Animal Rescue Centre I knew the house wouldn’t be silent for long. She told me about two lady cats who had been in their cattery for a couple of months. They aren’t kittens and they’re not the confident ‘look at me’ type of cats so people had been passing them by. Even before I saw them I knew that they were about to be mine.

I must admit to being anxious as I was taken to meet them. What if they didn’t like me? When we were introduced I really couldn’t tell if they liked me or not. They were timid and withdrawn. One of them (I think it was Mabel) was so quiet that I asked if she was ill. I was assured that they were both healthy but were becoming increasingly depressed. By the time they were in the car they were both bright eyed and watching everything that was going on. Their energy levels rose still further as they explored their new home and now Charlie is asleep on the chair while Mabel (I think it’s Mabel) is rubbing up against my hand as I type this blog.

Aren’t they lovely? All I’ve got to do now is to work out which one is which!