Monday, 31 January 2011

Hey there ...

That was a pun. A slightly sour one. I ran out of hay at the weekend. Fortunately for me the lovely chap at the local Feed Place had set aside some haylage for me in tightly-sealed plastic wrapping and so I've got enough of that to keep Hoss going until Mr Hay Man can deliver.  But the hay is there (probably up country, where they didn't have such a dreadful haymaking year as we had in 2010) and Hoss is here and it seems ne'er the twain shall meet.

Sunday, 30 January 2011


Extraordinary. A soulless pre-dawn with a sky full of sulky clouds too lazy to move was transformed by the sun rising over the distant line of hills. Instantly birds started chittering all along the hedgerows. Snowdrops nodded at me from the banks.  The air smelt fresh and clean.

The beauty was all there moments earlier - but was only noticed when the sun came up to cast a different light over it.

I've known that expression forever but this morning it really meant something.

It must be Sunday: I only ever get like this on Sundays.  Don't worry, I'll be back to normal tomorrow.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Goodbye Luttrell Memorial Hospital

The old Luttrell Memorial hospital is about to close. Its beautiful - and Listed - facade will soon be locked up and the walking wounded of the town will not be able to roll in for stitches or plastercasts or a quick pee in decent loos. Its slightly down-at-heel but very characterful interior will soon be stripped out and left to its dust and memories. The ridiculously confusing rabbit-warren of squashed- up and squeezed-in departments will soon be silent and empty - bar the occasional drip through the added-on flat roofs round the back. No longer will a patient needing transfer from Theatre to the Ward need to be folded into the too-small-for-the-trolleys lift. No longer will the Casualty staff (sorry, Minor Injuries Unit staff) be able to hear every scratch and sniff of every patient in the miniscule department by just standing in the middle of it. No longer will the secretaries and admins have to twist around up steep narrow stairs into their eyrie  rooms.

The Powers that Be, before this recession kicked in, organised a magic wand and built a New Hospital and recession or no bloody recession, we are about to move a mile away along the coast a bit to Our New Home.

They had an Open Day at the new hospital this morning. It's on the outskirts of the little town (pop 14000 on a good day) instead of right in the middle where the old one is, so the shoppers will have further to go to Casualty (must remember to call it Minor Injuries Unit) when they fall over.  And the inebriated will have further to stagger when they fall over. 

The new hospital is an extraordinary colour - range of colours - and to be honest is not very pretty from the outside.  Looks to me like someone with art deco ideas built a warehouse, changed his mind and lost the plot and then slapped the remains of varying shades of blue paint on the front to make the whole thing look 'arty'. There's a purple bit round the side but fortunately most people won't see that, except for the residents of the houses just beyond the perimeters on that side. They'll have already planted their fast-growing Leylandi in self-defence.

But - there is always a 'but' for better or worse and this is a better: there is parking.  Lots of patient-parking (there was absolutely zero at The Old Luttrell Memorial). And there's a fair amount of Staff parking too (beats the dozen or so spaces at TOLM) although some of these spaces are rather bizarrely marked 'for shared cars only'. I think it's for people who give other people a lift in to work. I give that idea six weeks before it's ignored.  The local bus, when it has detoured into the local Tesco store will then come right up to the glass entrance of the new hospital. So far, so good. You can do your outpatient appointment and your Tesco Trip in the same morning.

Inside, the place gives a visiting patient the feeling that this is a Proper Hospital. Massive reception hall, wide corridors, a children's play area and an airport lounge of a waiting room. There will apparently be a television screen though goodness knows what they will have showing on that. If there are arguments over who has the remote at home there's going to be a riot in there with 50 people waiting. Rather too many of the seats do not have 'arms' to help a person rise from them and the lime green colour is faintly nauseating but no doubt they'll get decorated with blood and sick and chewing gum before very long - this is, after all, not only All Outpatients/X-ray/Physio but also the Casualty (sorry, MIU) waiting area.

Access to the consulting areas will be by staff escort only and the staff are going to have to remember to have with them at all times their 'ID swipe cards' which have to be used to get through all the electronically-secured doors. I ought to have mine tattooed onto me to save hassle.  Everything smells so lovely right now - wood and clean air.  You wait - six weeks in and it'll smell just like any other hospital. 

The corridors are, compared with the Luttrell Memorial site, very wide and light and airy - and extremely long. The poor cleaners are going to be exhausted. There are only two levels for patients - I did find a third but it appears to house the starship Enterprise and is out of bounds except for the maintenance techies. The Ward (politically correct, with Male and Female sides) is wonderful - lots of single rooms, one four-bedder, all kitted out with ceiling-mounted rails for hoists, all with windows (don't laugh but there truly weren't windows in one of TOLM's ward rooms and it housed 9 patients) and all with televisions and telephones by each bed.  People aren't going to want to go home.

The Operating Theatre looks brilliant, can't wait to go and play with those lights and that great big washing machine thing and all the swinging kit that comes down from the ceiling. I think the Powers that Be might like to redesignate the Fire Escape route, however: at present it's marked to go right through Theatre and I'm sure that's not appropriate ...

As for the Rehab - 'Therapy' - department ... Their gym is supplied with everything an olympic-training athlete could want, never mind some post-op knee or hip patient. There's even a trampoline. And there's this dinky little kitchen where the occupational therapists can assess that patients are able to make themselves a meal or a cup of tea back home.  Staff, however, according to Matron, will not be allowed to have tea or biscuits or their lunch anywhere except in the designated area. So if you're really busy and can't leave your station that's tough luck, I suppose. I give that idea about six weeks, too. 

There's a mental health unit on the ground floor and lots of things TOLM didn't have: enough storage space, fancy artwork (to be seen to be believed, whose idea were the balls on sticks in the courtyard?) and a real state of the art alarm system.  Can't wait to push one of those buttons and see if the fire curtain really will drop from the ceiling in reception.

Well, we move in in the week beginning 14th February. Someone's idea of a twee joke, do you think, transferring over on Valentine's Day?  As a nice nod to the old place, the new one's address will be 'Luttrell Way' - a spur off the linkroad from Ellicombe to the sea ... and the local holiday camp.  Wonder if anyone's thought about the congestion there will be twice a week in summer when thousands and thousands of people on their holidays will be completely clogging that linkroad on Changeover Days at said camp?

Friday, 28 January 2011


The Vet's going to be busy next week.  One way or another, the puppy-procreation rate on this edge of the Moor has got to be curtailed. There are two rival culprits for the title 'Daddy Of Them All' at present: WorkingCollie from Farm A and RatterTerrier from Farm B.  So far between them they've been responsible for about fifty puppies, all of which have eventually found homes but most of which were originally unwanted, certainly by their mothers' owners and probably by the bitches themselves.  After an eye-watering nine in one litter I'm surprised that Wagtail hasn't changed her name to TailBetweenLegsAndStayingThereToDenyEntry.

WorkingCollie must've made use of his speed and stamina. He's a good, very fit sheepdog (collie/springer spaniel) and got to Wagtail one just one occasion, we reckon during his lunch hour and he lives three miles away. Yesterday he was seen in his lunch hour chasing the German Pointer bitch at Farm C and we think he must've caught her because Farmer C was grumping about humping as he took her into town to have 'An Injection' at the vet's this morning. He'll be Having Words with Farmer A about WorkingCollie.

RatterTerrier either has more freedom or better escapology techniques and he spends whole days pining outside shut-up-bitch accomodation all over this side of the Moor, only going home for supper. He's in the farmhouse all night, but come the next day he'll be straight back out again until the bitch in question goes out of season and his undying love for her suddenly drops dead and he's off home until another scent comes to him on the wind.

Both CasanovaCanines have lovely natures and the puppies they've produced - mostly of almost recognisable breeding because both dogs are snobs about having only purebred bitches - have been super. But enough is enough. Nemesis, already mentioned on this Blog, is about to strike.  RatterTerrier, unbeknown only to him, is off to the vet next week to Be Done.  He'll meet some old flames there, even though WorkingCollie beat him to the Nine-Puppy-Producing episode, because Wagtail and her purebred Springer Spaniel sister are also off to the vet to 'Be Done' next week.

WorkingCollie is looking very smug. Nobody has threatened him with a (de)bollocking.  However there is an Angry Owner at a certain property not many miles away and if he strays over there again, it won't be a shotgun wedding he'll need to be worrying about.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Meet the Residents

Got in a bit late tonight by the time I'd given Hoss his goodnight hay. Sat in the car and stuck my wellington-shod feet into a Co-op bag-for-life (they won't want this one back, I can tell you) and then removed my feet from said wellies and put my clean shoes on. Parked bag in passenger footwell with dead torch, power-unit for electric fence and a mousetrap. Finished listening to the Archers by which time all three HKCs (HunterKillerCats, I shan't tell you that again, keep up) were on and off the bonnet of the car, all but pointing at their watches and miaowing that the restaurant should've been open twenty minutes ago.  I escorted them to the restaurant, shovelled food into their bowls and sent them to eat in their various corners.

 HKC3, a ginger ex-tom of indeterminate age and breeding, dines in the ancient stairwell on about the sixth rise. Whoever put the stair carpet down had vile taste  (orange brown and white stripes) but it's extraordinary what a good match HKC3 is for it, he could be related. He is solid and very broad and has been known to bring the catflap into the cottage with him if he is on a panic-escape-run from the Black Bastard next door. (Is one allowed to describe the local Tom in these terms on a BlogPage?)

HKC2 is what I call a purebred Tycoon - a first cross between a Siamese and a Maine Coon - and  he eats in the sitting room.  You don't get tabby carpets with white paws and a bib but if you did, HKC2 would be related to them. He's a tall, fit and sleek fifteen pounder and he has to crouch and crawl through the catflap - he might have got through it elegantly when he was about 3 months old but never since.

HKC1 is the Matriarch, all six ridiculously-fluffy pounds of her. She gets to eat with me in the kitchen because she needs protecting from the other two at mealtimes. There isn't the carpet style made that could call her a relative, but it'd definitely be of the shag*-pile variety if there were.

*She's been neutered, as it happens, so there won't be any of that carry on in this cottage. 

And dear HKC1 is the only cat who can comfortably step up to the catflap and simply nose her way through without any contortions at all. Unfortunately she is capable of taking out a full grown buck rabbit or even a pheasant and it is these trophies that have, in the past, trashed the bloody catflap as she's manhandled them indoors for our dinner.

The 'C' Word

Somebody Up There has got it in for me and has chosen the letter 'c' to be my nemesis. My old car quietly died on me at the end of last year and was replaced by a gorgeous 5 year old kingfisher blue Ford KA. (PS how do you pronounce that?) Six weeks, two breakdowns and a flooding later that car was sent to jail without passing go or collecting £200 and was replaced by another, a 4 year old Ford KA (I still can't pronounce it) which has now been back twice. It developed a non-functional door-lock, dodgy dashlight and gearstick top that pings off like the top of a hardboiled egg. The Boys at the garage have been lovely about all my return journeys, we're on first name terms now.
OK, just bad luck.
About the same time my computer became ill with what I am reliably informed is called the 'Blue Screen of Death' - and after a couple of attempted repairs it was decided to replace it.  The new computer is back at the PutaDoktaMan's workbench - for the second time in the 10 days since I collected it - being re-instructed in its new duties. I'm not sure it wants to be owned by me.
On Sunday last, my Cob (a type of horse, for the uninitiated) whom we shall call Hoss went down with colic. Colic for all equines is agony: they have an enormous mileage of gut in there and any distension of it is trouble. MrVetMan came out (twice) to sort poor Hoss out and thank you they have now both recovered from the experience.
So that's Car, Computer and Cob, surely these things only come in threes?
But I'm watching the cats very carefully ...

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Theatre Tickets and a Light Sauce

Spent the day in Theatre at the soon to be Ex-Hospital in the local town doing a lot of box ticking.  No, not box office ticketing, more's the pity. Just ticking things off lists - mostly outside the boxes. A large proportion of my life is spent being a bit outside the box so I'm good at that sort of thing.  The Manager's Secretary and I spent HOURS going through lists of wince-makingly expensive equipment that has to be checked, validated, booked in for attention from the electronic people and generally ticked off one list and added to another, ready for The Move to the New Hospital Site next month. By the end of our session there were just two pieces of kit with question marks over them: A superduper new Reprocessor had no serial number attached to its name and an old and nearly obsolete Light Source had two. I was all for just giving the spare number to the Reprocessor but this idea was firmly rebuffed. When I've got time I'll go to the New Theatre and hunt out the missing identification. The twice-serial-numbered item was easily dealt with: we just ran the two sets of figures into each other with a hyphen between, like a double-barrelled name. It's of old and honourable lineage and deserves a posh number.  La Bosse says that it isn't used as a Light Source any more anyway, only as a spare air-leak tester.  Maybe the second number was to go with its second job.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Second Thoughts

Is this a good idea?
Who am I talking to? What should I tell you? 
Here's my plan: let's pretend you're an Old Friend who's been abroad and out of touch for a while, who wants to know about my life since we last met 30 years ago in a clandestine meeting covered by the Official Secrets Act somewhere on Vauxhall Bridge Road. 
That's it!  My Blog Name shall be 'BlogThoughts from A Broad'
I'll start by telling you about where I live now: It's a cottage at the foot of a Moorland slope on a bend in the lane by an ancient well that has never been known to dry up. This cottage is the most idiosyncratic place I've ever lived in: front door key weight, 95 grams, length 13 centimetres, age about 300 years. It won't fit on my keyring and if I lose it I'm stuffed.  'Key QuickCut' in town, who so obligingly made me a new key for the field padlock, took one look at this one and laughed.
I've been very careful not to lose this key. It goes into the lock upside down and turns the wrong way to open the door. Maybe an Australian designed it. Did they have Australians on Exmoor 300 years ago?
Having decided to try my luck in the Blogospheric Etherdom, I've finally landed on this BlogSpot and am wandering around without a SatNav wondering what happens next.  Unlike the Forums (OK, Latino Experto - Fora) I've been on, this site appears to have Only Me on it.  So do I talk to myself then?
I'm good at that. Inanimate objects have a habit of answering me back and the HKCs (there are three of them, get used to it, it stands for HunterKillerCat) are experts at letting me know what their own BlogThoughts are: feed me, why have you fed HIM and not me, why can't I play with this rat in the kitchen?
As I write, there's a big white blob over my script, called New Improved Preview and I'm having to type blindly through it, hoping I've not put anything stupid under it.
Let's have a look and se what this first foray is like