Sunday, December 30, 2007

puff daddy and parkistan

We stayed over with Sarah and Chris after the party and they kindly offered to look after George for a couple of hours while we went and had lunch on our own in an italian resturant in Wokingham

Sarah and Chris have been great - they've provided us with so much of their old baby stuff (including a great three wheel pram) and a lot of advice on navigating the minefield of baby commercialisation.

Two things on the radio this morning that I can't believe:

1) After bhutto's assasination - her 19 year old son is likely to take over! that's what we need in charge of parkistan - a teenager!

2) somebody on desert island disks picked "every breath you take" by puff daddy!


Saturday was Lisa's bridesmaid, Sarah's "open house" party. A nice evening with a bunch of people - all of whom apart from me, it appeared were experienced skiers and so, predictably, the late night conversation eventually turned to the art of plummeting unprotected down cliff faces with a couple of pieces of 2 by 4 strapped to your feet.

What puts me off skiing is partially the fact that anytime any group discusses the sport, the conversation goes something like this:

speaker 1: skiing's great fun
speaker 2: yes it is. and perfectly safe
speaker 1: that's right - I've been five times and I've only ever broken my arm twice!
speaker 3: twice? that's great. last time I went, I put my shinbone right through my neck.
speaker 1: ah - well, I've only broken my arm twice - but I do have a plastic spinal cord now.
speaker 2: yes - last year I had a bit of a trip - I'm more machine than man now.

and so on...

Still, it looks like I'm going to have to learn to ski anyway - if only so I don't panic when George flies off down the slope - I reckon I've got about five years to prepare myself for loosing a limb.

Later, probably due to the late night munching of various cheeses supplied by our hosts, I dreamt that I was pregnant.

Also featuring in the dream was a nature documentary describing a species of microbe which migrated to the moon every year in order to spawn out of the range of predators. Apparently they made their migration enclosed in little bubbles of oxygen... I'm not quite sure of the propulsion method though.

Friday, December 28, 2007

3.54kg - georges weight today

3.54 kG george's weight today
A stand-in health visitor replaced our usual one. This new one was drippy (as I think they have to be by law) but nice enough.

The day was a great wind-down after the Christmas rush, and bridged the gap nicely to the new year rush which starts tomorrow.

The only thing we really decided to do was go for a long walk - we got as far as the pub at the top of Lordship Lane, and (after a nice lunch) turned back because it looked like it was going to rain...

George has had his best day ever - smiling, giggling and sleeping all day. Hardly a cross word. He's turning into such a sweet little chap and he now has a whole range of expressions and moods.

He can do happy and smilling, giggling, happy but not smiling, and even thoughtful.

Of course it's possible, his character will change completely after his operation when he suddenly has more energy and less heavy food. we'll see!

The one thing he can't yet do is unhappy but not crying. Unhappy but not crying requires a whole other level of intelligence and conciousness, I think. It requires temperance, patience and the ablity to plan and abstract the future.

In fact without the ability to be unhappy without crying- to delay your pleasure and surpress your pain, there would probably be no love, money or civilisation... we'd just be concerned with instant gratification and we'd think nothing of the future.

And that's an interesting thought - maybe the current trends in therapy - getting people to 'free their emotions' and cry more - is not the cure for a sick society after all. Perhaps it's the reverse - a symptom of the destruction of society into self centred anarchy.

I'm sure that can't be true.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

strange breakfasts and doctor who

Strange Breakfasts
A breakfast of leftovers – we had kippers, cheese, cold meat, bread. Mum and Dad had cereal and Christmas pudding.

Later, everyone left. The house was suddenly empty after the madness of Christmas. Lisa and did a little tidying and then just enjoyed the silence. It’s great to have everyone over – it’s also great to get the house back to ourselves.

I even tried out the book on baking Lisa got me – and managed to make light, fluffy baguettes. My bread has always been a bit solid in the past, but I think the combination of precicely weighing ingredients, allowing the dough to rest twice and folding rather than needing the dough works wonders.

I Finally got to see the Doctor Who Chrismas episode. I was expecting the usual Christmas rubbish – lots of stupid crashing about combined with no plot and some trite Christmassy add-ins.

That’s exactly what it was, but this time it worked superbly – a rip-off of the Posiden Adventure – great fun and with lots of well used guest stars.

Kylie Minogue disappointingly died and even more disappointingly remained clothed throughout (albeit in a French-maid’s outfit).

George slept through it from beginning to end of course. Then we went over to Sams where Last Christmas' episode happened to be on. It's far inferior, but George was glued to it. His critical faculties are obviously as yet undeveloped.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

morrs dancing and the fear of the future

Waking up
This morning George woke us up a little earlier than the rest of the house. we fed him and he drifted back to sleep lying on my chest. so peaceful and relaxed. I make a point of remembering these moments.

With him still lying there, we discuss his future - particularly his education. we'll proably go with a private school (although we're both very concerned to make it one which doesn't just consist of and turn out toffee nosed idiots - we want a school full of propper children - not parent's accessories). The potential financial costs are pretty scary - 6,000 per year initially - rising as he gets older. we'll need a plan to put some money by. Hopefully the documentaries I'm currently making will help, but I may need to make more!

Morris dancing

We went to see the Morris dancers in Blackheath. Morris dancing is a bit of a tradition for Lisa – they’ve been going to see them in Sussex at Christmas for years and Boxing day is apparently a big day in the Morris dancing calendar.

We were in Worthing last Christmas so I went with them and found it a surprisingly good experience. I’ve never been too convinced by the Christian rituals of Christmas – not so much that I’m disappointed that the “true meaning” has been overturned by the constant pressure to sell stuff, but more that selling stuff IS the true meaning of Christmas in the Christian sense.

After all, Christmas never had anything to do with the birth of Jesus – it was invented entirely to sell the idea of Christianity to people who had their own winter celebrations – as a way to steal the fun bits out of older religions in order to persuade people to Christianity.

In other words, it hasn’t been hijacked turned into a fake by commercialism – it was hijacked and turned into a fake by Christianity.

Seeing the Morris dancers – they had their own carols – some of them ones I’d heard before, but sung louder, more drunkenly and to older tunes – some of them songs I’d never heard – about the sharing of food and drink between friends.

They weren’t mumbling, like singers in a church congregation – they weren’t self conscious about their rituals or sitting quietly around, paranoid that others would find them ridiculous – they clearly were ridiculous but since I find most things ridiculous, I’m always pleased to see others not trying to hide their foolishness.

I never thought I’d say it, but they may look like extras from a cross between the League of Gentlemen and the Wicker Man, but I think the Morris dancers have got Christmas about right – colourful, friendly, absurd and welcoming.

So when we knew we were going to have Christmas in London, I decided to look out for local troup (is that a collection of morris dancers – a troup? – not sure). We found some in Blackheath:

We met up with Gillian as well as Mark and Debs and their kids in the pub (the duke of Edinburgh – which promised to be in Blackheath, but felt more like Lewisham to me). As the dancing paused, I turned to chat to Lisa and when I turned back, a man with an impressive beard handed me a handkerchief. This apparently meant I was forced to join the dance. Gillian did too. I’ll put the footage of that shameful event up as soon as I get it from Sam’s camera.

Just to go on the record. All of this does not mean I’m joining a Morris dancing troup.

Lisa’s uncle Peter turned up to the pub – managing to delay the start of the dancing by faffing about with his car. He introduced his new girlfriend (a bit of an age gap there – about 50 years) – not quite sure what’s going on there. Peter had never met George, but he didn’t waste too much time on him. In fact, he didn’t waste much time on any of us and he was away within an hour to another appointment.

Still not watching Doctor Who

When we returned, we laid out a buffet of cheese and meat along with a huge salmon – which we decided to call George because it weighed as much as him. Later Jane and Nathan came over and we played Moustrap – although I’m not sure “played” is the right word – the rules are simple enough, but we didn’t seem to be able to keep to them.

I still haven’t seen this year’s Doctor Who Christmas special, and my attempts to avoid it continue. Of course Nathan’s seen it and wants to tell everyone what happened. I have to leave the room…

Fear of the future - or Not buying on ebay

My Dad went on ebay – not quite sure why, but he seems to like to look on ebay without ever buying anything. I’m trying to persuade my parents to get broadband - it would make their lives so much easier in ways they can’t even start to appreciate.

Watching my dad, it’s clear to me just how crippling not being computer literate is – even today – You can’t buy anything if you can’t go to the shops – you can’t manage your finances properly, you can’t communicate properly with your friends and family, you can’t find things out, you can’t take photographs or listen to music unless you can find it on tape. you can’t work, play or learn.

It’s a bizarre thing because NOBODY would use computers unless they made all these things simpler to do – so the fact that some people can’t use them, but can use the old methods must be simply a mental block – nothing to do with how hard or easy it is, but just that they’re scared of the IDEA of computers.

It’s such a terrible pity because it’s this lack of ability to use technology – far more than anything physical or mental that makes people become isolated and diminishes their lives as they get older. Hanging on to the way things work as society changes is absolutely essential to being a part of it and if you don’t want to do that, then you don’t want your family, your friends and ultimately your life.

So I’m going to make an undertaking right here and now:

It might just keep me engaged with life.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas day

Christmas day – and Sam turns up wet and miffed because she can’t find her flamenco dress… she returns a few minutes later with a suitable gown for the day and makes snowballs for everyone. Russ and Pietro drop in on their way to Pietro’s dad’s and we share a drink.

My parents arrive mid way through the morning’s present opening. They’ve already seen two car accidents on the way – people drive madly on Christmas day – Two years ago, we returned to Sam’s flat to find a trail of blood leading to her cat (Archduke Ferdinand) who was hit by a car. He still bears the scars. Sam taped up her catflap this year.

The digital picture frames we got for both sets of parents and Grace and Igor seem to go down well (once people figure out what they are!). It’s the one format in which the wedding photos we’ve got look good - our wedding photographer, before he disappeared did furnish us with very low quality copies of the photos (too low resolution to print) and in the absence of the full images we’ve had to make do with these, and the digital frames are a great way to do this.

Christmas lunch was courtesy of The Green – a French restaurant just off Goose Green. Knowing we’d have George at Christmas and guessing that families would all want a piece of him, we decided to avoid the hassle of cooking Christmas dinner by booking into a restaurant.

It turned out to be a great decision. Not cheap, but well worth not having to spend Christmas eve chopping veg, Christmas morning cooking, and Boxing day washing up! Everyone had a great time and even my Dad (notoriously fussy with his food) managed to eat well without having to re-arrange the menu.

Andrew, my brother was missing – he told us that he had a cold and didn’t want to come anywhere near George in his pre-operation state. However, Andrew hates Christmas and it’s more likely that he just didn’t want to come. He usually takes on any extra shifts he can at this time of year and avoids answering his phone.

The sound of Doctor Who

We didn’t want to end up having the TV on over Christmas with everyone sitting round it like overstuffed zombies… and we managed it (with the exception of the Coronation St Christmas special and the new episode of “to the manor born” which followed it). Most of us managed to avoid those too, by playing a game of Trivial Pursuits which started off in the normal way, but ended up (some hours later) with everyone playing for Sam’s team just so we could finish the game.

This meant that I had to avoid watching the Doctor Who Christmas episode. Not difficult, you’d think since the TV wasn’t on. However, in order to not watch it, I had to record it on the TV in our bedroom. That meant leaving the TV on (don’t ask me why, it’s a video/TV combined and it just works like that). George’s bedtime fell just at the end, so I had to sit in the bathroom playing with him trying not to listen to the sound of the episode in the background until the credits had rolled! Then in trying to turn “to the manor born” on, our parents somehow located the only channel showing a repeat of the episode and then couldn’t turn it off without my help… I managed to keep out of the way until the end of the episode – and ended up standing in the kitchen trying to avoid listening to the sound again.

The sound of Doctor who seemed to be with me all day – with Sally, Colin and their children (is Nephews-in-law a correct description?) having bought me an incredibly loud Doctor Who mug which played the theme tune and TARDIS sounds every time it was picked up. I did figure out pretty quickly that you could remove the noise making part for washing, but this only meant that it stood in the kitchen and went off whenever anyone tried touched the kitchen surfaces…

Calling Grace and Igor
We phoned Grace and Igor to wish them a happy Christmas, but it wasn’t one. Grace had a couple of bad turns over Christmas – her breathing is not so good especially when she’s stressed – and she had to resort to the oxygen bottle in her room. This must be frightening for her and Mum and Dad were in two minds about whether to come to us at all.

Igor told me it was his “worst Christmas ever” but that he’d just have to put up with it. He’s been in a real poor mood for months now (not that I can blame him) but he could make a lot more of his new life in the home if only he’d decide to try to engage with it. I know this has to be hard given what they’ve both been through, but it’s his only choice.

Sociability and Skype

George at least seemed to enjoy having lots of people around him, being passed from person to person, and being happy to laugh, cry, sleep or pooh on anyone. He’s not showing any signs of illness apart from the fact that his head gets a little sweaty (something we’ve been told to look out for). It doesn’t seem that bad, but we’re keeping an eye on it.

We also Skyped Lucinda and Giancarlo in the US in the afternoon – it’s great to be able to have a conference call with everyone joining in – so much better than a phone conversation. I couldn’t get our side of the video link up to work, so they couldn’t see George, but it was nice all the same.

Another dream
I had another dream last night. This time I was performing heart surgery myself – on a mackerel. It was a bit of a Heath Robinson job, but if you ever need to do the operation, here’s how it works: you open up the fish and locate its heart. You then place the vibrating mechanism from a mobile phone battery just behind the heart, and seal it up again. Now, if the mackerel has any problems, you can re-start its heart simply by phoning in.

Later in the dream, I was attacked by my uncle Roy in the streets of Hertford. It wasn’t a serious assault, more friendly than that, but when it became clear he wasn’t going to win, he ordered in re-enforcements – a squadron of 8 or so trained babies. The babies were no good in a fight – but I was impressed that he’d managed to train them to move together and respond to verbal instructions…

Santa Claus is coming

Am I the only person who finds the lyrics to Santa Claus is coming to town disturbing and threatening?

You better watch out

You better not cry

You better not pout

I'm telling you why

Santa Claus is coming to town

He's making a list,

Checking it twice;

Gonna find out who's naughty or nice.

Santa Claus is coming to townSanta

He sees you when you're sleeping

He knows when you're awake He knows if you've been bad or good

So be good for goodness sake

he sounds like some kind of sharp-fanged-monstrous psycho-vigilante - doesn't he?

Monday, December 24, 2007

George Gets a date and finds his thumb

George gets a date and finds his thumb
An early and unexpected Chrismas present arrived today in the form of a phone call from the hospital. We now have a date for George's operation. He's going in on the 7th, having the operation on the 8th, he'll be in intensive care for two days and he's expected to spend the next 10-14 days in hospital. He'll be on Camel ward in the Evelyna Children's hospital again.
I for one really thought the operation would be delayed for a couple of months, but it seems that the consultant who saw us decided we were more of a priority than he was letting on.
Later on, George finally managed to get his thumb into his mouth. This doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it means he can now calm himself down when he’s feeling stressed and doesn’t need to scream all the time. The fact that we haven’t got a dummy for him means he’s a little more demanding, so being able to comfort himself is great.

East Dulwich's gentrification comes into its own at this time of year. With the best butchers, bakers, fishmongers, dellis and cheese shops in the country all in one street (at least according to the Guardian whose food editing guide editor must live somewhere round here I think). There's also an old-tyme sweet shop. Entering it is a little like stepping into a fairytale style gingerbread cottage (without the threat of being eaten by a mad witch). The shop stocks all the sweets you remember from childhood and behind the counter huge bottles are stacked containing every type of pick and mix sweets. )

we picked up a couple of pieces of last minute cheese and a salmon called George (because it weighs the same amount as he does!

The Davies Car pool

Cars in the Davies family are a very fluid property. They're nominally owned by different people in different places, but in practice, whoever's closest uses whatever car is outside their home for however long they need it. Hence, "our" car came from Lisa's parents after they'd leant it to Sally in Manchester. Sam's car broke down, so she took it to Worthing, and now has ours on loan. We're using Lisa's parent's car on and off while Sam has leant "ours" to Mons and Abi for their trip to Scotland over Chrismas. Of course, Mons already happens to be listed on the car's insurance because Lisa's parents apparently always assumed that mons and Abi would be using it to help ferry things around for Sam... Mons knew nothing of this and seemed strangely surprised that he was a named driver on a car he'd never even seen before.

Mons and Abi are off to Samye Ling - a Tibetan Buddist centre in Scotland.

The couple got married there and Lisa attended a few months before she and I started seeing each other. Lisa was going through a tough time. Her relationship wasn't going well, neither was her job, and she wasn't enjoying where she was living.

Before the wedding, Lisa was introduced to meditation. She always says that it was thoroughly useless for her. That she didn't get anything out of the meditation. That she couldn't clear her mind and that she spent the whole time thinking about shopping lists.

A few hours later, she went for a walk with her sister Lucinda. During that walk, she decided to dump her boyfriend, change her job and move house. Her whole life changed, and she ended up seeing me.

Lisa completely refuses to put this down to her session of meditation and maintains that what she really needed was a good walk.

Either way, from my point of view, even though I've never been to Samye Ling, I've heard Mons and Abi's reports of the healing properties of the place, and my life has been changed because of it. The Samye Ling centre is mythical in my mind...

Good things spread out like ripples and have an effect way beyond anything intended directly - and even if nobody knows the connections, they are there in the background propping up our lives.

Recipe: Onion chilli relish

This is something I make every Christmas. it's a spicy pickle which acts as a great accompanyment to cheese or fish. it gets stronger the longer you leave it, so it's best to make it a few weeks early (although I always end up doing it the day before Christmas Eve) anyway, it lasts for ages in the fridge if you bottle it properly.

1lb red onions

1 cup muscovado or demerara sugar

a couple of sticks of cinnamon

about 10 cloves

2 cloves of garlic chopped

balsamic vinegar

1 chopped chilli (with seeds)

a pinch of chilli seeds

fry the garlic, chillis and onion in a large saucepan. when they're cooked, add the spices, sugar and chilli seeds, and add enough vinegar to give the pickle a sharp edge. cook to combine the flavours, and then bottle.

Leave for as long as you can before eating.

Jon Climpson's Chrismas meet up

A friend - Jon Climpson - one of the past Residents of 4 Pendrell Rd - who's been living in Japan for 4 years returned this Chrismas and we went to the pub to meet him along with several other ex residents (Pauline, Phil, Sam and Debs) as well as many others I met through them.

He was looking slightly shell shocked which could have been due to the company, the jet lag, or the fact that he generally does look slightly shell shocked. but it was good to see him again.

I actually had jon's email address on a yellow sticky attached to my computer monitor for about a year and a half and never emailled him. Does the perminent nature of your Internet footprint mean you never need to loose contact with anyone? or is the reverse true - that because you can instantly get in touch with anyone anywhere, you constantly put it off until so much time has passed that you feel it's more and more difficult to start a conversation as you drift further and further from the space you were in when you last spoke and your life has changed so much you wouldn't know where to start in telling them your news?

I suppose, in some ways this blog is an attempt to answer that question - if I can keep updating this, then at least everything is out there - so that even when I don't talk to someone for an unconcionable length of time, it's still possible to talk without having to "catch up" (A process which always involves you leaving out the important points because - for example - the fact that you've got married and had chilldren since you last met is so blindingly obvious to you and so central to your life that you don't think to mention it).

Again, the event turned into a kid-fest with lots of children running around. Billy was also there - with yet another new identity. This time he's combining a check suit with a moustache to turn himself into something between a world war II spiv and a butlins children's entertainer.

Apparently, he's been asked to make a full scale Dalek drinks cabinet by an editor for playboy videos - at least that's what billy says.

Billy says a lot of things...

The Christmas roast

As we're going out for Christmas Dinner, we decided we'd need to have a Roast with brussels, cranberry and bread sauce and roast parsnips at least one day - so we had it last night at Sams. Lisa's mum came late because working for Peter (her brother) apparently means that he needs her to spend the day shopping for him (he's perfectly able to do it himself). She wasn't happy when she arrived, and quite rightly - he takes advantage of the fact that she's helping him out at his work and seems to use her to run errands he could easily do himself. This seems to be always at the expense of her spending time with her family and it appears to be in order to exert control rather than because he needs her help.

We'll see him on Boxing day... so we'll see if he tries to do the same again.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Mulled wine party

Rhythm and blues

One sure way to calm George is to stick your finger in his mouth - press it to the top of his pallette - he'll suck on it forever even though he knows he's not going to get any milk from it. sometimes he doesn't even suck - just keeping the finger there is enough. This will calm him almost instantly almost all the time. If it doesn't work, then you can be pretty sure that nothing will.

However, there are other ways to calm him. George loves music. His tastes are quite eclectic, but he generally prefers light rhythmic music rather than heavy rock. That makes Christmas music absolutely ideal for him and probably explains why he's so happy right now (although we're going to assume it's the good company and friendlyness). if you can stomach it, play him jamiraquai.... If George grows up being a fan of jazz, I'll be mortified!

He also relaxes with rocking and patting and I think this is part of the same need. In fact he loves anything rhythmic and repetitive. people say this is to do with the heartbeat heard in the womb, but I think it's more than that. I think there's something in the human make-up that loves - and even depends on rhythm in all its forms.

From the pleasure of music to the need to wake and sleep and eat in a regular way to the reassurance of seeing familiar faces (in real life and on TV) to the patterns of the seasons. From the repetitive beat of a techno track to the traditions that last centuries, everything comes back to rhythms. With them we know how to plan, how to think, how to live our lives. Without them, we quickly loose control of everything.

Maybe it's that once a pattern of behaviour or a habbit is set up, we don't need to think about it - we can free our minds to think further ahead. but it also works the other way - making us set in our ways and preventing us from thinking in new ways...

anyway, George loves rhythm just like the rest of us... He also loves lights - and will stare at them, entranced - Perhaps he's half moth...

lidummies,music,expressions, blinking,extremes,babbabysmells,

The mulled wine party
today was our annual (another tradition being established - another rhythm being laid down) mulled wine and mince pies do.

It all went very well - with lots of different groups of friends getting on and even talking freely with each other. It was either a very grown up party or a very childish one. Grown up because nobody was throwing up or snorting anything - and the following day wasn't taken up with clearing away beer cans full of fag ends. Childish because there were children and babies everywhere. 10 or more at a time - and all of them being passed from adult to adult so that the affair ended up a little like a massive game of pass the parcel.

There was a lovely surprise for us from Barry who brought over a CD full of pictures from our wedding. he's a really good photographer and it was unexpected and great to see since our official photographer ran off to South Africa and never gave us our photos!

among my memories of the day: Sam was very impressed to discover that Andy had been a member of the Rah band (although that's probably the least impressive of Andy's many pop music credits! Pietro bizzarely came up with a plan to take his idea of producing false teeth for babies to Dragon's Den, and laura turned up with a very popular selection of home made sweets..

We asked Gillian to become one of George's Guardians - and she was delighted (even tearful) saying that she'd take the job very seriously and always be there for us when we needed her. Actually we already knew that - we already knew we could completely depend on her in any situation and she's already shown us that over the years. it's one of the things that made us ask her. She said we could call on her any time of the day or night - but she didn't need to say that. it's the mark of a good friend that you already know you can rely on them... (even if you can't always rely on their being on time!)

Her and Sam (his other guardian) will be sure to look after George well - not just guiding him through the difficulties of life, but also ensuring that he knows that there are many other ways to live, think and feel than following the predictable set of patterns and rhythms thrown at us every day by the established world.

One thing having a good party does show you is how lucky you are to be able to surround yourself with such good people, and there were plenty of them there today.

The non-alchoholic mulled wine alternative we put on was an alchohol free Wassail - an ancient English brew dating back to the middle ages. I first heard of it last Chrismas when we heard morris dancers singing about it in a pub near Worthing... more of that on Boxing Day when we try to repeat the event in Blackheath...

Anyway, here's the Wassail recipe we followed - and it tasted a lot better than the mulled wine, i thought!

2 litres: Apple juice
1 cup Orange Juice
1 cup Lemon Juice
1 cup Pineapple Juice
lemons and oranges cut into segments
3 sticks Cinnamon
2 teaspoons Whole Cloves

Combine all ingredients. Heat for 1 hour to combine flavors. Of course, all the quanities are rough - when it comes to parties, people generally end up pouring in whatever they bring with them, and the recipe evolves throught the day.

Of course, mulled wine always has to have whole oranges studded with cloves floating in it. I always forget what a horrible job pushing cloves into oranges is so this is a note to myself to not do it next year! you always end up with splinters of cloves under your fingernails. Also, handling spices means that i can't comfort George with my thumb!

Friday, December 21, 2007

George was a happy little chap this morning and for most of the day. Obviously saving the crying for me in the evening. Lisa and Sam did all the Christmas food shopping this afternoon - they seem to have been unable to make up their minds what to buy and just bought EVERYTHING. Still, I expect we'll eat it all.

Lisa's first evening out without me or George tonight and I'm staying in. George didn't react well, and cried pretty much from the moment Lisa left until he went to sleep.

Lisa's with her Mum and Dad and Sam at the Old Vic's pantomime.

Me, I'm watching Die another day - probably the most ludicrous of the bond movies - on the new TV... or one of the two accidentally delivered TVs.

Tomorrow, we'll be mulling wine and mincing pies... I don't think there's too much to do to prepare for the party, but I'm sure there will end up being.

I think we both feel completely unprepared for this Christmas. We'd already scaled it down knowing we were going to have George -so although we've got families coming, we booked to go out to a resturant on Chrismas Day. We thought for a while that we were going to be spending it in hospital, and we've spent the last few weeks concentrating on George, so we've really only spent a couple of days even thinking about Christmas plans. Now it's upon us, it's taken us a little by surprise.

I'm sure it will all work out.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

too many TVs

Some days, everything seems to happen at once. Today we got the house cleaned by three enthusiastic cleaners in time for Christmas (we hadn’t really cleaned for a couple of months, so it was worth getting someone in). The health visitor also turned up and listened sympathetically to our stories of hospital transfers. She took plenty of notes, but I don’t think she’s actually going to do anything. I wonder what her actual brief is – I mean what is she supposed to be doing beyond finding out if Lisa’s depressed – and what would she do if Lisa was depressed?

We also got our old TV taken away by someone who asked what was wrong with it only after he’d thrown it in the crushing machine at the back of the rubbish truck. And we got our new one delivered. More accurately, we got two new ones delivered. Two identical 32 inch widescreen TVs. No idea why they’ve sent us two. We checked the invoice and it was for one. The delivery man said he couldn’t deliver just one because his note had two on it, and the only solution appears to be for us to keep both until the company concerned works out what they’ve done.

I have a feeling that somewhere along the line this is going to turn out to be our fault. Because nobody else is able to take responsibility. Still, the funniest delivery was yet to come.

George's month's supply of milk arrived. 400 bottles of high fat formula milk. along side of which we were given two large brown boxes. When we opened these we discovered we'd been sent not one, not two but seventy two spare feeding tubes - the same kind that has caused us so much grief in the last two weeks and which George ripped out on Saturday.

Each one lasts for 6 weeks!

I had a dream
I had a dream last night that I was going in for heart surgery. There were two surgeons. One was a cheery fellow who made light of the whole thing and didn’t want me to worry about what was a ‘routine’ piece of surgery. The other was dismissive and sarcastic – leaving me with the distinct impression that if I died on the operating table – and I might well do – that it was my own damn fault for having a congenital heart defect.

The cheery surgeon wanted to party through the night the evening before the operation. The other one – who seemed to live one floor above in the same house – insisted that he needed a quiet night’s sleep in order to do his work.

For some reason it was my job to keep both of them happy and stop them from fighting. Nobody seemed concerned as to whether I was up to this job – being on the eve of major emergency surgery and all – and I just had to do my best to keep the music turned down…

Luckily, George woke me up at 3:30am before the surgery (which I was required to watch for some reason) got too far on. I’m quite pleased he did decide he wanted feeding because the operation seemed to me to be a lot more like an autopsy than a treatment…

Strange thing is, I think the two surgeons were both the doctor we met yesterday. Thinking about it, there is a duality about the advice we’re being given – on one hand we’re being reassured that everything’s fine by cheery faced doctors . On the other, terms like “heart failure” and “emergency surgery” are being tossed around and we’re having to snatch at clues to when the operation is to be (and in some cases what the correct treatment is).

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

3.12Kg George’s weight today

3.12Kg George’s weight today
We took George for a check up at St Thomas’ today and it’s the first time he’s been weighed since we left hospital on Thursday and he’s up to 3.12kg. This is great and it looks like his “failure to thrive” has been overcome.

He’s healthy enough to keep us awake for much of the night – I do wonder if he would have kept to his happy sleeping pattern if we hadn’t been disrupted by hospital. His face is rounder and although he still needs to put on some fat in his body, he’s looking much better.

The check up didn’t really tell us anything – except his weight – although the doctor did another ultrasound scan and measured the hole (5-6 mm apparently – or about a quarter of the size of his heart). He’s certain now that surgery will happen, but couldn’t offer any explanation as to why it had been cancelled, when it would be or what would govern the answers to these questions.

We did find out that surgery meetings are on Wednesdays (next Wednesday’s boxing day, so no meeting) but even when I asked him when we’d get a date for surgery, he didn’t say it would be after one of these meetings. He said it would certainly be in January, but then booked us in with another appointment with him at the end of January – saying that IF the surgery was before that, we could cancel the meeting – implying it might not be January.

He did say George was no longer an emergency case (which ties in with something somebody said while we were in hospital – that if we went home, we wouldn’t be blocking a bed, so we wouldn’t be considered urgent). I suppose that’s good and I understand why they can’t give us a date.

What I’m puzzled by is why they can’t give us a date for when they CAN give us a date.

Pointless products
We ran a few errands in Soho after the hospital. There’s a market stall in Berwick st which never seems to have anyone serving at it. Many times I’ve stood there with a bag of groceries in one hand and a fiver in the other for minutes on end and nobody’s come to relieve me of my cash. This is very rare in Soho and you’d think it’s commercial suicide… still, month after month, the stall is there, loaded up with tempting goodies…

Further down - in Chinatown, there’s another curiosity I’ve never worked out. All the Chinese restaurants have strings of huge bright orange squid hung up in the front windows. Now, I’ve never been served anything in a Chinese restaurant that had big lumps of orange squid floating in it – and I’ve never seen big orange squid on the menu, so what are they? Decoration?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

saving the earth from space

George has had a couple of grizzly days, but his moods are becoming more and more defined. He makes it clear when he’s happy or sad. He likes the early mornings – just before breakfast probably because he gets Lisa and I to himself and he gets to lie between us getting attention from both of us. He’s usually just been fed and he’s cheerful for an hour or so, rolling his head back and forth to look first at Lisa, then at me. He looks like he’s watching a tennis match (except that he looks interested).

An idea
Here’s an idea I’ve been toying with since I discovered that you can launch a 10x10x10cm satellite for about £30,000. I mocked up a couple of image ideas today to see how it would work (click on them to see the full size image).

The idea is simple enough:

To launch a satellite into orbit containing a digital time capsule in the form of an mp3 player filled with messages from the Earth – in the spirit of the voyager mission.

To invite anyone to submit text messages, photos, audio and video files to be included on the satellite via a website accessible globally before launch.

To charge an amount for the messages which anyone can afford.

To use the proceeds to buy and preserve an area of rainforest large enough to be visible from space

Possible extra aims:

To include on the satellite dna samples from the world’s most endangered creatures

To include on the satellite camera and other scientific equipment and make control and use of that equipment freely available to anyone via a website – democratizing space for everyone.

I said it was simple. But it’s also terrifying. The technical side isn’t difficult – or at least it’s not insurmountably hard. However, the scale of it is huge. Half of me thinks it’s so big I can’t possibly do it. I’d have to get corporate sponsorship, put together a satellite building team, get a major charity on board, get celebrity endorsements, get a global publicity launch going, get a team to build a charging system… and that’s before we even get to launching the thing into space. It’s so far beyond the realms of achievability that it’s ridiculous.

And then there’s the other half of me. The half that thinks that this is an idea which will appeal to an awful lot of people. That there’s the potential here to raise an incredible amount of money for an environmental charity… and that having had the idea, I can’t possibly not do it.

I’ll let you know which half wins.

Monday, December 17, 2007

George Makes his first decision

George Makes his first decision
After all the fuss surrounding George’s feeding tube over the last two weeks, with all his care having to be much more complex because he’s got this feeding tube stuck up his nose. And after we had to be taught how to use it and kept in hospital for an extra day while we learnt, and after countless conversations about how it’s never used to feed him except when he’s asleep and we don’t want to wake him up, and after the tube had to be replaced for a more permanent one once his operation was cancelled, before we left the hospital (a procedure which none of us could stand to watch), George finally took matters into his own hands on Friday night.

He decided the whole tube thing was just more trouble than it was worth, and pulled it out.

Good for him! We’d have done the same if we’d had the nerve.

I’ll bet they won’t put it back in now.

Christmas is back on

With George’s operation cancelled, Christmas is back on. In other words, we now have two weeks to buy presents and food and get cards sent out… We spent Saturday in Bromley doing our Christmas shopping – a whirlwind tour which saw almost everything done.

Public transport was a bit surreal – we were told we couldn’t get on the 37 bus because they already had 2 prams: that could be seen as a symptom of living in East Dulwich where people look at you a bit oddly if you haven’t got a pram with you, or it could be a symptom of the 37 bus which appears so infrequently that it’s always overfull. The 37 route claims to operate every 6-8 minutes, but every 30 is more like it. I’m sure this isn’t us being subjective – the people running it must be well aware that they don’t provide a service which lives up to the claims in the timetable.

On the way back, we arrived at Herne Hill station just in time to see a steam train passing through. I was pretty certain it wasn’t the Hogwarts express, but assumed instead that it was probably due in 1935, but was operated on the same timescale as the 37 bus.

George learns to Laugh
George figured out how to laugh for the first time on Saturday. It would have been great if he’d not figured it out at 3am, but his body-clock - and thus ours has been completely thrown out since being in hospital.

Laughing right now is a bit like crying. He makes the same noise, but sometimes he does it with a frown and sometimes he does it with a smile.

The hospital treatment has also had an effect on George’s feeding. Lisa was intending to carry on breastfeeding after this little hole-in-the-heart episode, but because we’ve now switched entirely to the high-fat formula milk, Lisa is less and less able to breastfeed. St Thomas’ were well aware of this issue and made sure Lisa had help and the machinery for expressing – just to keep things going while the formula feeds were being given. When we moved to Kings, that support stopped and Lisa has now all but given up hope of being able to breastfeed George after his operation.

This is rather bizarre on the part of Kings considering the fact that they were the ones who were so obsessed by the idea of breastfeeding when George was first born that they wouldn’t even offer formula milk when George was dehydrated in his first few days of life.

Friday, December 14, 2007


On my way to Manchester to do some interviews at Jodrell bank this morning. I step up to buy my ticket and again I’m told it won’t be valid by the same guy who told my my ticket to Glasgow wouldn’t work. I eventually get the ticket this time, but I put it to him that last week he attempted to overcharge me for my ticket by £150. He said “I just go by what it says on this screen” a predictable but insufficient response. Now that he has been made aware of the problem with his sytem will he raise the point with the people running it? Will he take steps to avoid defrauding the customer in the future? Will anybody accept the responsibility for this? Will any systems be changed? I doubt it. The rail system will continue to institutionally defraud its customers and nobody will be made responsible.

I’m guessing the companies make millions every year from mis-sold tickets.

Last night I got a summons from Salford council for non-payment of council tax on my house there. I’ve been continually sending letters to them to prove that the house was empty and derelict for the period they’re trying to charge me for . Each time, the emails have not been received or the letters lost. Finally I’ve sent them a package containing recipts (which they requested). I got no response from this, no rejection of my appeal, no further bills, no note with the slightest indication that there was any kind of problem. Then suddenly yesterday, a summons.

This is clearly wrong – and it’s not just a matter of a letter going missing – it’s continual and sustained incompetance and irresponsible behaviour. Will anybody accept the responsibility for this? Will any systems be changed? I doubt it. The council will continue to take people to court without making a responsible effort to asses their claims.

It’s the same with George’s treatment yesterday. The two hospitals failled to commun icate so until we intervened, Kings were ready to up his dose of medicine without carrying out the required safeguards - potentially endangering his life. The notes passed from St Thomas’ to Kings failled to convey what needed to be done. They also failed to explain what had changed in his condition that made operating before Christmas impossible.

Actually they didn’t say impossible. They said “his operation should be delayed possibly until after Christmas”
I asked the doctor who read it: “does this mean he possibly won’t need the operation”

“No, he definitely needs the operation”

“then does it mean it will possibly be before Christmas?”

“no. it won’t be before christmas”

“so what does ‘possibly’ mean then? Does it mean definitely?”


We seem to be living in a culture in which whole organisations are structured around making sure that nobody ever has to take responsibility for anything. Whatever goes wrong, the buck can always be passed contiually. \Nobody is ever empowered to say that they made a mistake and the consequence is that nobody is ever able to rectify that mistake in any but the most temporary way. The doctors can redress the problem by testing George, but they can’t stop the confusion between hospitals which presumably puts thousands of other people in danger. The ticket office can issue me with the correct ticket when I argue with them, but they can’t change the system that incorrectly sells the tickets. The council can cancel my court case, but they can’t stop sueing innocent people.

Communication is always blamed – but could it be that they’re right – that these organisations are made up of thousands of perfectly working, perfectly spinning cogs doing their jobs perfectly but that their work is rendered useless by the oil – the connections between the cogs?

Well, it’s true that as we segregate and specialise further and further – as responsibility for jobs has to be handed on from one person to another when people go on and off shift and when the needs of the case change – the potential for things to be got wrong increases.

That would make the protocols we use to transfer information between people and systems the central challenge of most of our working lives - the single most important thing to get right in any job. I’m certain that it isn’t considered to be.

In any case, it doesn’t answer the problem. Protocols are designed by people, managed by people and used by people. There’s still responsibility there. Or there should be.

The other option is that the buck does stop somewhere – or more specifically that somebody’s getting an awful lot of bucks or at least saving an awful lot of bucks by making problems iinvisible.

People make mistakes, but if they’re not made aware of them and they’re not allowed (and forced) to accept them then those mistakes multiply and grow. Failng systems are perpetuated and become models for other failing systems.

I eventually get my ticket and move to the platform.

Both magpies are there today.

I put my ipod on and select Howard Jones
“No one is to Blame”

Thursday, December 13, 2007

2.90kg George’s weight today

2.90kg George’s weight today

Another increase and it looks like he’ll be on target for his operation.

Only he’s not having his operation. It’s been cancelled.

We got word this morning that the surgery meeting at St Thomas’ decided that they wouldn’t operate until after Christmas. Why? We’ve no idea at all and they’re giving no clues.

St Thomas’ also decided to up his medication – which meant that he would have to stay in hospital while the observations were done to check the medication did no harm.

However, the nurses were ready to up the medication, and keep us in the hospital, but not do any of the required monitoring. Lisa was in tears.

It turns out that because ST Thomas’ are a specialized cardiac ward and Kings are not, the two hospitals have different ideas about what’s normal monitoring. So when St Tomas’ say George needs monitoring after the medication is changed they mean blood pressure tests every 15 minutes for an hour followed by every half hour for 2 further hours.

Kings, however know nothing about this and would just monitor every four hours.

We just happened to mention that there were different rules at St Thomas’ and we were on the ball enough to insist that it was checked. And a good job too. If we hadn’t, and there had been a problem, nobody would have known about it for four hours! Or until the Crash team were called to resuscitate him!

How can this kind of misunderstanding happen? Surely it’s one of the most basic things in medical care?

The nurses tell us later that this kind of thing happens all the time.

Anyway, once everything got straightened out and explained it turned out we could be release from hospital at 8:30pm after the monitoring had finished.

I’m now determined to watch everything that happens in hospital – and not to be afraid to push it if things don’t seem to be as they should be.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

2.88kg George's weight today

2.88kg George's weight today
He's up again. This is promising - and our first day in the new ward at Kings.

Everybody here is friendly and helpful, but bemused by the fact we've been transferred here at all. Nobody can work out why St Thomas' have sent us for two nights in a completely different hospital and not just sent us home from St Thomas'. The dietitian and head nurse sound like they're going to complain.

At lunchtime we decided to try to push to find out when exactly we were being discharged - I'm going to be in Manchester on Friday so we really need to get them back tomorrow. After a lot of to-ing and fro-ing it turns out that what's stopping us from being discharged is the tube in his nose.

Because he's had this tube fitted for feeding we need to be trained to feed him through it and the doctors need to see us doing it confidently enough to feel we can do it at home. Reasonable enough, except that the tube was fitted at the beginning of his hospital stay in case he wouldn't feed in the normal way.

Fortunately, however, he's always been perfectly happy to take everything he's been given from bottle or breast and the only time the tube has ever been used has been when he's been asleep and we haven't wanted to wake him - we could do without the tube very easily.

There's now a whole care package being set up around making sure somebody's available to change the tube, that we know how to use it and that it's monitored - when the tube is really just an uncomfortable, unnecessary and disturbing piece of jewelry.

So anyway - we now know how to suck out George's stomach acid and test its acidity (something I for one never thought I'd need to know) and how to administer his milk slowly through a pipe directly into his stomach.

George, luckily is oblivious to most of this and what's bothering him most is a case of thrush for which he's being treated with oral medicine and cream.

No news yet about when the operation is going to be. The surgery meeting was supposed to have taken place this afternoon, but nobody's phoned through with a decision, so we'll have to wait until tomorrow to find out our plans for Christmas.

Grace and Igor's house clearance
Grace and Igor's house was cleared today and the keys handed back to the landlord. They're safely - if not happily - in the home now and they knew it was going to happen and are resigned to it.

The clearance firm turned up with too small a lorry and Mum and Dad (with Carol and Roy) had to spend the day packing and sorting. The clearance firm had underestimated the job - and with Grace and Igor's huge collection of possessions, who can blame them. Thousands upon thousands of videotapes, piles of stuff bought from catalogues and never used. Far more furniture than the house could reasonably have expected to fit.

That must have been a hard job mentally and physically for Mum and Dad - although they didn't say so because they don't want to burden us right now.

There's something brutal about having to simply throw out a lifetime of someone's possessions - 93 years of accumulated junk. especially when the person is still there to know you're doing it. And especially when it's being thrown because nobody has the time to sort through it. Still, it had to happen and none of the house contents will be needed.

The clearance company will now be sorting through deciding what they can sell and what they can throw away. Doubtless they'll be having a good laugh at some of the tat they find.

Of course, Grace and Igor's life is far more than what they own, and I can only hope that cutting the ties with their old house and their old possessions will free them to get back the zest for life I remember them both having. In some ways you could say they've been restricted by the sheer weight of clutter in their lives over the last few years.

I do feel it's been the isolation of their house in Stapleford along with the clutter within it that's restricted them just as much if not more than their age, and if they chose to now they're in a home - accessible and full of opportunities as it is - they could re-engage with the life they've withdrawn from.

The've seemed so tired and unwilling recently, and I think it's because of the things they know they have to let go of, but have devoted so much to. but now with the clearance, those things are gone. They are free of thinking about them. There was definitely a spark when we showed them their new Great Grandchild. It's George they see as the future now and perhaps he can give them a positive view of that future again.

Mum isn't telling them about George's operation. I'm not sure if that's a good or bad decision, but I am sure she's a better person to make it than me.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

2.84 Kg George’s weight today

2.84 Kg George’s weight today
Going up! The dietician has now appeared, but since we’re moving hospitals today, we’ll now be under a different dietician with different advice, so our current’ one’s advice will only be current for the next 3 hours.

George’s madness of Kings
Didn’t go into hospital this morning as we’d been told that Lisa and George were moving, but we didn’t know when or whether it would happen. Throughout the day things continued to change. First they were moving, then there was no bed for them. Then they were being sent home until the operation.

Finally, a bed was found but only for a couple of days until the community care package could be set up (whatever that is). In the meantime, Lisa has a room of our own and a much better bed.

A good result apart from the fact that the unit at Kings (the “Toni and Guy” – and I’m not joking- ward) is a generalist ward whereas the Camel ward (and I’m not joking about that either) at St Thomas’s is a specialist cardiac unit (where, they of course play Heart FM all day!).

The result is that when we arrived we got asked questions like:

Nurse: “is his sight and hearing ok?”
Lisa: “yes, it’s fine”
Nurse: “and he’s got no heart problems”
Lisa: “yes – he’s got a hole in his heart – that’s why he’s here – look it says it in big bold letters on his report”
Nurse: “and how about his feeding?”
Lisa: “he has 52 ml of food every three hours and in between I’m breast feeding him”

Nurse: “so which of you is staying overnight?”
Lisa: “me – I’m better at breast feeding”

One great thing about having George in Kings is that we can pop out to the “sun and doves” pub on the corner and we know George will be looked after.

For the first time in ages, we went out and had propper dinner together in a proper pub and we shared a proper bottle of proper wine. It felt like being on a date – even though it was just an hour.

The other great thing is that we’re within an easy bus journey from home – although that’s not why we’ve been transferred there. On my journey in, I sat next to a boy on his way home from school. I think they must work them very hard because he was so fast asleep for the whole journey I had to check that he was still breathing.

Getting rid of salesmen

I’ve discovered a useful tip:

Any unwanted conversation (e.g. with a cold calling salesman) can be ended almost instantly by using the phrase “my baby is in hospital having open heart surgery”.

Note: Don’t try this with jehova’s witnesses. It tends to have the opposite effect – lengthening rather than shortening the conversation.

Not having to go in this morning meant I could catch up with work and all the tasks that had been piling up. I managed to finish off my overdue deadlines, do some emails, make some phone calls and generally sort out the crap that accrues when you suddenly have to put life on hold.

I now feel so much better – I even managed to email people about various Christmas stuff – so Christmas this year might actually happen.

So where does that leave us? – well, Lisa is going to be in Kings until Thursday after which she’s coming home (I’ll believe it when I see it). Apparently one reason they didn’t send her home before was because if she’s in hospital, she’s blocking a bed so they’re less likely to cancel the surgery!

However, we’ve been told that sending her home won’t make it any more likely that the surgery is cancelled now. Unless he puts on weight in which case they’ll wait until after Christmas when he’s heavier and that makes the surgery safer. Nobody’s ever mentioned things that make the surgery safer, less safe or what “safety” even means.

Funny how words like “routine surgery” and “safer surgery” suddenly become very important without anyone ever quantifying what “safe” or “routine” actually mean. I’m always worried when someone describes something as having become “safer” when they’d always told you it was “safe” in the first place. it makes you wonder what criterior they’re using:

Safe like a properly prepared walk in the park or safe like a properly prepared bomb disposal operation? Nobody tells you.

While I’m on the subject of hospital confusion: what makes it essential to keep a patient in hospital when there’s a bed for them, but OK to release the same patient into the community when there’s no bed available?

Monday, December 10, 2007

2.8 KGs George's weight today

2.8KG again today

He's gained no weight again possibly because the dietitian who was going to up his food dosage hasn't appeared to do it. George is on what Mons describes as blue whale milk but he’s supposed to have more of it and can't be given more until the dietitian OKs it.

Non existent bird spotting

Arriving at East Dulwich this morning I saw a single magpie in the trees beside the railway line. Traditionally this means bad luck because magpies mate for life and seeing one alone means their mate has died. But I know these magpies and there are definitely two of them. They’re a modern couple who, like many here have moved to London because there’s such a concentration of shiny things here, but have now discovered that collecting them means leaving home early and getting back late. Still, at least they’re on the commuter line.

There’s another non existent bird at the hospital. In the main corridor, there’s a seating area in front of a huge window. For some reason the calls of a song thrush are piped into the area throughout the day through speakers in the ceiling. On the other side of the corridor a giant photo of the houses of Parliament hangs as perhaps the most superfluous artwork in history. Superfluous not because of its style, but because of its content – because the huge window looks out onto the Thames and the shape of the real houses of Parliament fills the view.

Lisa and George will be moving from st Thomas’ to Kings tomorrow we’ve just learnt. The’ll have to return for the operation and recovery, but this week she’ll be in Kings. This suits us fine because it’s where George was born – just a few minutes drive from home. Kings isn’t as well equipped or designed as the part of the hospital we’re in now – which has great facilities.

Looks like the number I’ve given you for the bed will be different from 2pm on Tuesday. I’ll put the new one up as soon as I get it. I just hope the dietitian can get to us and prescribe the right dose of food before we get whisked away.

We had a word with the doctor today asking whether the operation would be the end of his treatment. It looks like he’ll still need regular check ups for years to come and he’ll always need to go on antibiotics if he needs dental treatment. The doctor didn’t think he’d need to be on other medication forever… “didn’t think” is not as definitive as the answer I’d hoped for.

The boy in the bed opposite had his operation today. The parents had nothing to do but sit around cutting out Christmas decorations for the ward. A nervous time for them, and we saw ourselves in a week or so. The other children on the ward who have had operations are recovering quickly though. In a day or so, we see them moving around more confidently and getting back to their old selves. That’s more heartening.

I’m going to stay at home tomorrow morning until they’re transferred. Hopefully I can catch up with some work.

Psychiatric Accidents

Mons presenting a confusing picture to George

Mons dropped in to visit today as he was in the area – it was good to see him. Tomorrow he’s starting a placement in Kings Accident and emergency dept as part of his course. His specialty is psychiatric patients so I wondered what kind of accidents required psychiatric intervention.

It turns out he’s there primarily to deal with people who’ve attempted suicide. He volunteered for the posting, and over Christmas too – when more people try to kill themselves than at any time in the rest of the year. Sounds a bit like starting your career as a bartender on new year’s eve in a pub next to Trafalgar square. He’s a brave man.

Still hopefully he’ll pop in to visit to cheer us up too…

Lisa’s mum visited on the way back from Manchester, and managed to calm George down. No easy task because he hadn’t had a good morning – with doctors and nurses making repeated attempts to put a cannula in and eventually failing to do anything but give him multiple stab wounds in his hands and arms.

Later we gave George a bath. I took him to the mirror and for the first time he seemed interested in what was there. He looked closely at himself and at me in the mirror. I think he realised that it was me looking at him from both sides of the glass, but I’m not sure whether he realised that he was looking at himself too. When do you first realise you’re a person like other people but separate from them. That’s got to come as a bit of a revelation….

Sunday, December 9, 2007

2.8kg georges weight today

2.8kg georges weight today
ok – he’s lost 2grams – no big deal. We managed to talk to the Doctor who told us there was little chance the hole would close of its own accord now. Surgery is all but certain and will take place the week after next – date to be decided on Wednesday. Lisa and George will be in for about 2 weeks after that, so Christmas in the hospital is almost certain.

We’re going to continue with our plans for Christmas anyway – and Lisa’s going to try to be there for as much of it as possible.

Going to Hospital

On the way to the station in the rain there was a sleeping bag lying in the street - soaking wet. Obviously a rough sleeper had left it there - but why? If I had to sleep on the street, keeping that dry would be my first priority. Maybe it's occupant lost it. Maybe it was placed somewhere dry but blew away. Maybe its owner thought they were coming back for it - maybe they thought that they weren't.

Either way somebody's plans changed last night so that a dry sleeping bag became less important than something else. I thought of moving it out of the rain, but I didn't. I walked past.

It occurred to me later that I thought I'd seen a sleeping bag in a doorway as I came in last night. I don't think it was the same one but perhaps the owner of the doorway simply threw the bag out into the rain without a thought.

Croydon council says it has an average of 6 rough sleepers on any given night. Why so few? Well, it’s apparently because the more they say there are, the more they have to do about it – consequently the figures get massaged downwards to hide the problem

The woman sitting opposite me on the train as I began to write this has a coffee cup. Every few seconds she is compelled to drum here fingers against it, look closely at it and grin widely. She seems to have no other problems apart from this compulsion and on balance I think that smiling too much is probably less of a disorder than that exhibited by the glum faces of the rest of the passengers from Croydon to London bridge.

Turned on the ipod on the way out of Waterloo station again. Don't need ELO this morning. Daniel Powter Bad day:

“Where is the moment we needed the” most (right here)

You kick up the leaves and the magic is lost (not that I’ve noticed)

You tell me your blue skies fade to grey (Well Ok- it’s still raining)

You tell me your passion's gone away (Nope)

The song finishes and I scroll down the alphabetical list. Bob dylan comes up, but it'll be a while before I'm ready for that. I go for Robbie williams - Advertising space:

“There’s no Earthly way of knowing what was in your heart when it stopped going.”

I quickly scroll on.

Lisa thinks one of the babies in the next ward died this morning. The crash team apparently ran in at 9am and there were a lot of red eyed nurses running around.

Good Weather for D.U.C.Ks

Good Weather for D.U.C.Ks

Dark grey day with rain pouring down as I come out of Waterloo station heading for the hospital. It's the pick up point for London's Duck tour - where bright yellow world war II amphibious vehicles take tourists on a land and water tour of London. But I've got my ipod on playing MR Blue sky by ELO at full blast.

Sun is shining in the sky (no it isn't)

There ain't a cloud in sight (there's nothing but clouds)

It's stopped raining (no it hasn't)
Everybody's in the play And don't you know it's a beautiful new day (hmm...)

But it doesn't matter. Suddenly despite everything I want to dance through the station and into the street. I feel great for a moment.

Thank you ELO. Thank you Apple. Thank you the breakdown of the copywrite industry which will eventually lead to every creative person including myself having to work for nothing.

Funny how the tiniest things can turn you over up and down.

We're all shallow in the end

Just to compound the irony, I put “Here comes the sun” on straight after.

I stayed with Lisa and George until 1:30 and didn't discover anything new about George’s condition or treatment. I do feel we've been a little deceived about the treatment. We were definitely given the impression that there was a strong chance that the treatment would close the hole in his heart, but it turns out there was never any real expectation of that on the part of the doctors. Still the treatment we're getting is good and everyone is friendly and helpful.

Later it's the Doctor Who fan’s Christmas meal in Croydon. Russ, Pietro, John, Kathy Phil Fiona Martin and Evelyn all meeting for a traditional English Cristmas curry.

We’ve known each other for years. Phil, I went to school with. Russ and john I met at the first couple of meetings of the DWAS (doctor who appreciation society) Hertford local group. Pietro and Evelyn appeared at the Fitzy (a monthly doctor who gathering on the first thursday of every month in the Fitzroy tavern off Tottenham court rd). Martin appeared later and he and Evelyn got together and married while living at Russ and Pietro's house in Croydon.

Pietro and Russ married just last year from the same house - pretty much as soon as the law allowed it (or as soon after as it was practical to organise the level of spectacle required). Phil met Fiona in Congleton and they married. John and Kathy met later and married in Rickmansworth. We're a pretty eclectic bunch, it has to be said.

I suppose when you're a Doctor Who fan (especially in the 80's when it wasn't trendy as it is today) you had to be pretty accepting of the individuality of others. To find a group where nobody’s afraid to be nerdy and the only peer pressure was towards being yourself was, I think a godsend to all of us and changed us all in our own ways. Even now, when we do get together it's always a good night. Everyone wished george well.

John is now one of the governors of Jamie's (his son)'s school and has been given the job of access auditing it for disability discrimination act compliance. It’s amazing that someone with no experience is being asked to check the school for disability legislation – it’s a bit like asking me to do open heart surgery. If it all goes wrong, the school won’t be covered and John will get the blame. Luckily Lisa is one of the few people in the country able to sign off buildings for DDA compliance, so she can at least give John some pointers. John meanwhile would rather, it seems be growing vegetables – his new hobby.

Evelyn is running the marathon this year and training is hotting up (at least, she says she's not sick quite so often after training now). Of course she's running with a set of five teddy bears - one for each of the Kaiser Chiefs.

Phil's work maintaining the 146 aircraft he built in the earlier part of his carreer seems increasingly to be taking him everywhere in the world. Royalty uses his aircraft and a few years ago, the Prince of Wales was allowed to land a plane and ended up driving it off the runway causing £1m damage.

The papers hinted at technical problems with the aircraft, but Phil was involved in the investigation. There was no failure of the aircraft. Our future king just isn't a very good pilot. The prince hasn't been allowed to fly since.

Apparently the cockpit recording makes for interesting listening. The prince's use of language is colourful.

After the meal (which ended at 8:30 - children and distance have changed our timetables in recent years) I kept thinking I should get home but when I came to ask myself why, all I could think of were all the tasks and chores that were waiting for me

I decided to stay at Russ and Pietro's and they were great allowing me to crash at ten thirty - a real luxury.

Saturday, December 8, 2007


George’s weight today 2.82 kg
George has gained a little weight this morning. Apparently his potassium levels are quite high (whatever that means) so they’re not upping the dose of his medicine today. Basically he’s on some medicine which needs to be increased gradually until he’s on a full dose and only then can they think about letting him go home.

However that’s looking less likely now. We’re having a meeting on Wednesday to decide if he’s having surgery and when – but it looks more and more certain that he will have.

When asked when that might be, Lisa was told that the surgeons go off for Christmas on 17th so it would be before then. That means they won’t come home before the surgery and they won’t come home for about 10 days afterwards. They can’t operate until he’s 3kgs at least.

So realistically, we’re looking at the new year before they come back, and a Christmas in hospital. I’m really hoping Lisa will think about whether she needs to be there all the time – or whether she can swap with me for a few nights – I think she’ll need to come home for a rest. Hospital’s not a good place to be – especially when you’re not ill.

At least George isn’t in any danger – but I did see a leaflet in the parents’ room yesterday from a support society for “heart babies”. It was a picture of a baby who’d had surgery – with a big scar across his chest and descriptions of the problems parents with “heart babies” face. I know it’s the best thing for him and that the leaflet is there to help, but it wasn’t reassuring. I haven’t shown it to Lisa.

here's the society link though -

Friday, December 7, 2007

Light relief, smoked salmon and London busses

Lisa’s parents visited the hospital today on their way up to Manchester. Last night was Lisa’s uncle Peter’s party – a yearly Christmas event in which he invite his work colleagues and family to the flat he rents in a block in Docklands. The block has a great location looking out over London, but you have to sign in with security in the foyer to get in. This makes it feel more like a workplace than a home.

Anyway, his Christmas party usually involves him buying in lots of top notch party food – sushi, nibbles, etc. and champagne, and only using half of it. Consequently, Lisa’s parents arrived with a suitcase full of snack food – enough to mean the hospital’s food could be avoided all day (although I’ve had about enough Panamanian king prawns to last me for a while now).

Well, it now seems that it is the heart problem causing his lack of weight gain – at least they haven’t been able to find anything else that it might be.

Lisa asked one of the doctors what the treatment George is having is supposed to be doing to help close the hole in his heart. “nothing at all” was the answer.

It seems more and more likely that this weight gain (necessary though it is) is really aimed at fattening him up so he’s ready for surgery. It looks to us like that’s the way it’s going and I’m pretty certain we’ll be back in the hospital around Christmas or just after for the operation. Nobody’s said that in so many words, but Lisa’s resigned to it already. The way she puts it is that if it doesn’t happen, it’ll be a bonus.

Lisa’s having to express milk (using a machine that looks like it belongs in a metalwork lab) to keep her milk going while George feeds on the bottle. Luckily he’s drinking both the breast milk and the formula feed without any trouble.
We managed to get Lisa to come out for an hour in the café – leaving George to sleep. I think she did relax, but she’s still tied to the ward. I’m convinced she’s going to be at the end of her tether by the time she comes out.

Russ and Pietro
Russ and Pietro came over after work. It was good to see them and we sat in the parents room eating smoked salmon snacks and fallafely things while somebody who’s husband was very keen on the alpha course read trashy magazines and didn’t watch a video of “liar liar” with jim Carey that they’d put on the TV.

After visiting, Sam, Pietro, Russ and I went to a café/restaurant (even though they were supposed to be going to a Christmas meal) just down the road for a bottle or two of wine. I was so glad of their company – such a good diversion and a great laugh. I’ve been doing nothing but going from home to hospital this week. Tomorrow I’m going to the Christmas meal – which should be fun again.

I’m acutely aware that lisa has no such freedoms – she’s stuck in the hospital all the time and even though George is well looked after there, she doesn’t feel she can leave. I can understand that, but really feel for her.

oh, and we had a quick trip to Paris via the hospital's cromakey wing:

Sam persuaded me to try going by bus instead of train, as the route to the hospital is straight and easy. On the way there, the driver got into an argument with a passenger and when asked refused to show his ID and wouldn’t move the bus for about 10 minutes for no reason I could gather. On the way back, the bus juddered to a halt outside a shop bearing the words “continental delicataessant” – spelled backwards and upside down. The shop was in between the strangely named “Rimworld” which described itself as “a fusion outlet” (which I took to mean they dealt in nuclear weaponary) and the strangely named “mixed blessings bakery” (which I took to mean they sold freshly baked bread mutated by the effects of “rimworld – a fusion outlet”).

The bus driver quickly announced the reason for the stoppage. He said the road ahead had been closed by an “RTA” and that we’d be better off walking. The passengers looked at each other in confusion for about five minutes before the driver realized the problem and announced “an RTA is a Road Traffic Accident” at which point most of the passengers left the bus. Walking for us wasn’t an option since we were miles from home, and at 10pm on a Friday night cabs weren’t an option either.

However, about five minutes later, the now nearly empty bus moved off and continued its journey.

I think Ken Livingston is trying, but the service has a way to go yet.


Good news, Lisa called this morning to say George’s weight is up to 2.76kg. We’ve been told to hope for an average of 30g per day, but not to be surprised if it varies wildly. It’s encouraging, but until we see a few days in a row of increase, we can’t make any judgments.

If you want to call Lisa at the hospital, she’s on 07046 485 727.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

2.68kg - georges weight today

More tests - and a fete

Another long day and I’m typing this at midnight – but I want to make sure everyone knows what’s going on.

Visiting Lisa and George in hospital today wasn’t fun. Sam and I went in at 11. They’re staying in “camel” ward in St Thomas’ – a brightly coloured and trendily decorated new wing of the Victorian hospital. The hospital seemed to be playing host to a traditional country fete today – complete with a tombola and home made jams.

Seeing George, I was very upset to see the pipe stuck up his nose. I suppose it brought it home to me that he is actually ill – despite the fact he doesn’t behave as though he is. Still, lots of people on the ward are putting up with more serious and worrying complaints and the atmosphere is friendly and positive. His weight is 2.68kg - no more than when he was born.

George is the youngest inmate by a long way, and we chatted to one woman whose child had just had open heart surgery. It seemed as though her problems were much more serious, but they’d been happy to leave it a year before operating, and the operation was a complete success.

He’s had lots of tests, and the most thorough scan of his heart I’ve seen (even I recognized what it looked like – I’m getting to be quite an expert in reading scans what with George’s right aortic arch, the hole in his heart and the empty sack we found at 14 weeks of Lisa’s first pregnancy), but no conclusions yet.

For the first time the idea was mentioned that it might not be the hole in the heart that’s stopping him from gaining weight. Other babies with holes don’t have a problem, so it may be that there’s something ‘underlying’. Don’t like the sound of that, but I’m trying not to jump to any conclusions. It could just as easily be something LESS serious stopping him from growing.

We saw a dietician who put him on high-calorie milk, and he’s now on stronger medication. Let’s hope he starts to gain weight now. It looks as though they’ll both be in there at least until Tuesday.

Lisa is staying over – on a very uncomfortable bed – so Sam and I are trying to make her more comfortable by bringing in food and comforts. I hope tomorrow, I can persuade her to take a couple of hours out and leave the hospital – if just for a walk around. Understandably, she doesn’t want to leave George while he’s there.

We stayed all day – and took in a selection of snacks. Unfortunately Dyke couldn’t get in to see us as his flight was just too tight. There will be more visitors tomorrow, though – and hopefully more positive news. We’ve been warned against expecting his weight to rise suddenly, but it’s hard not to be impatient.

Geoge is in St Thomas' hospital

Lisa and George are in hospital.

I managed to get an earlier train than I’d intended and as I left Glasgow at 17:40 Lisa phoned to say she’d got a call from the doctor and they’ve been found a bed. George hasn’t put on any weight and the doctor has insisted that he’s malnourished and something needed to be done. The hospital has given in and found a bed for them.

I feel so far away here on the train. I wish I was there with them. I’m upset that Lisa didn’t call to tell me as soon as she found out. She was trying to spare my feelings, but I would rather have known.

Anyway, they’re monitoring George now and looking after him. They’re fitting a canular to his little and and they’re going to have to feed him with high energy milk and step up his medication.

It looks like they’ll be in for about 4 days. That means we can’t meet up with ben and karen and Russ and Pietro tomorrow. It means we can’t meet Dyke whose in the country for a day (although maybe he’ll come to the hospital before his plane leaves). It also means the Christmas meal looks a bit iffy - at least for Lisa. Lots of people to disapoint, but they’ll all understand.

In one way I’m glad because at least he’s getting the intensive treatment he needs and hopefully he’ll start putting on weight too. He’s in the best place.

However, I can’t help feel cut off from it all, and I’m not looking forward to going back to an empty house tonight. I also can’t help worrying about the speed with which they’ve whisked him in. they’d intended to wait for 4 weeks before concluding that the medication wasn’t working. Even when they realised he wasn’t putting on weight, they were talking in terms of the end of the week or next week. Suddenly, they’ve found a bed and have to bring him in today. It’s not reassuring.

Just remember: this is a common complaint and they deal with it every day. Even if it comes to an operation, there’s nothing to worry about… but still I worry and still I wish I was with them.

Mum went home today before finding out, but lisa’s going to phone her. They’re organising to have Grace and igor’s (my grandparents) house cleared out in the next week. Now that the two of them have gone into a home, there’s no point keeping all the piles and piles of stuff they have in their house and the house has to be returned to its landlords.

It’s the family’s decision to have the house cleared, but both Mum and I thought that the best option would have been to have the contents put into storage for them. Not because any of it will be used again, but just because it would make Grace and Igor happier to know that all their belongings hadn’t been simply given away to a clearance company. Of course keeping the stuff would have cost money, but I don’t think that’s a good enough reason to have it all cleared out.

Dad and Carol(his sister) see the whole thing in practical terms, and practically a house clearence is the best move. Mum and I see things in emotional terms and feel that practicality’s only point is to make people happy. Logic has its limits in my opinion - or more accurately, logic exists only to provide mechanisms to achieve the goals of the heart - and occasionally to tell the heart that there are other hearts out there with their own greater needs.

All of which falls down when you consider that it really doesn’t matter what we do with Grace and Igor’s stuff - they will not be happy. Igor has always been a little miserable and since his stroke stopped him from driving, he’s taken it to a whole new level. Grace is less miserable, but nonetheless isn’t happy to be living in the home.

Again, practically the home offers them a better life than they had in their house. They can move about, go on outings, go to a lounge to chat to other people if they feel like it. They’re also closer to Mum and Dad who continually offer to take them out to town. But logic is not important. They have both spent a lifetime gathering things around them. Particularly Igor has filled their house with a nurotic level of posessions, from dozens of cans of condensed milk through to camping stoves, fairy lights, VCRs (along with literally thousands of recorded films), heaters, fans, bycicles, and basically anything he can order from catalogues (to the extent that Grace ended up cutting out and throwing away the addresses from mail order catalogues to stop him ordering more stuff that will never be used).

Mum thinks (and I agree) that it’s probably because as a child he was forced to flee his home in Estonia with the German army as they retreated in the face of a Russian re-invasion. Apparently his father had been a minister in the government who had been arrested and shot by the Russians in the early part of the war. When the Nazis arrived, Igor befriended them and ended up working in their hospital. When they withdrew he was told he could come with them or stay with his family to risk being rounded up by the Russians.

He opted to flee leaving everything. It wasn’t until the colapse of the soviet union that he was able to trace his family again and find a brother (who later committed suicide).

Igor was 6 weeks away from working in a U-boat (one of the war’s most dangerous occupations) when the war was ended and he ended up working with the peacekeeping force and eventually made his life in England (where he met my Grandmother at a country and western dance - although that’s another story).

We think that Igor’s obsessive hoarding and collecting of possessions is due to his having to leave everything early in life.

Now, he finds himself in a home, with his possessions gone and little control - even of his body. I can’t blame him for being miserable - even though he could be a lot happier if he allowed himself to be.

Still, the decision is made and the house will be cleared. Igor is resigned to it, and appears to have resigned to anything. He’s even saying he wishes he was dead.

George seemed to make both he and Grace very happy though!