Sunday, August 29, 2010

Update on Mum

I am so very thankful to all of you who have been praying for Mum.

She is much improved and her kidney function is now much better than it has been for some considerable time. She is now catheter, IV and nasal oxygen free ! She is still in hospital as the prolonged bed rest has made her leg muscles very weak; she is being "rehabilitated" to get her used to walking very short distances and build up her strength.
There are mumblings that she may be allowed home sometime next week if she continues to make good progress :-)
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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

And Even More

Both of these Chris Ryan (another ex-SAS soldier turned writer) books were excellent. I would have enjoyed them even more if the hero hadn't been prone to having graphic sex with practically every female mentioned in the books, but that's just me......

Another gripping tale.  It is always fun finding titles which I borrowed from the Library for sale at the charity shops at knock-down prices !

Diplomatic Baggage is very funnily but dryly written account of the author's lifetime of being a Diplomatic Spouse (in every sense of the words !) and being sent all over the world. Priceless !

Holes is a classic teenager book which I had also never encountered. I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially when the bad guys got their well deserved just desserts at the end.  An excellent book.

The War Of Jenkins' Ear is a Michael Morpurgo book about the conflicts between boys at a boarding school and their village counterparts, and how the arrival of a new boy who believes he is Jesus impacts their community. A clever, often sad and always thought-provoking book dating back to 1998.

Confessions Of A GP is an enjoyable read about the life of a GP in modern England. It has some thoughtful moments, many incisive comments and much humour. A pleasant read.
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Recently Read

Finally finished this large tome. It was very well worth the time it took, and I was amazed to see a reference to John Hunter, the subject of the book "The Knife Man", which I reviewed recently :-)

Parts of the Stephen Fry book were very cleverly written, and supremely funny. Parts of the book deal with his utter disdain for religion and his belief that anyone who presumes to have any type of biblical opinion about homosexual behaviour is a fool beyond contempt.  I found this to be a sad form of bigotry in itself from an otherwise erudite man :-(

Professor Oliver Sacks 's books are always a delight to read. He manages to make the horrifyingly complex field of psycho-neuro-anatomy an accessible subject to a lay audience, which is a major achievement.  This book deals with a very serious accident he had when mountain climbing in Norway, and his subsequent surgery and recovery.  Nothing new in that, you might think,  but something very peculiar happened to him - he was unable to recognise his leg. His brain and his emotions were unable to accept that this piece of flesh, attached to his body, was truly his leg.  This unusual type of body dysmorphia  is actually commoner than one might think, and how he came to terms with it is explained in detail. I was fascinated, but it took me a long time to work my way through the relatively slim book because of the complexity of the subject.

I quite like the comedian Griff Rhys Jones, but why he bothered to write a book about his rather ordinary childhood, I don't know. It is going straight to the "donate to charity shop" pile.

Star of the Sea is a gripping book. Based on the experiences of a group of people on board the eponymous ship, ranging from titled aristocracy to poverty-stricken folk fleeing the Great Irish Famine of the 19th century, it is very well-written but graphic in its descriptions of how brutal life was for the ordinary folk at that time.

I laughed till I cried at this book.  Just how does the average family deal with their very elderly widowed father falling in love with and deciding to marry a gold-digging Eastern European middle-aged woman ? A very human comedy of errors, with some really sad parts. Beautifully written, I have no idea why it has taken me so long to discover it .........
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Mum was feeling a little better last night, and has been managing to eat and drink tiny amounts. She was much more alert and chatty, and has had an ultrasound of her bladder and kidneys yesterday.

We are waiting on the results and should know more in a few days, but at present, there is cause for cautious optimism :-)

Thank you all so much for your kind prayers !
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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Update On Mum

Mum is really not at all well at the moment.
She slept virtually all the time we were at the hospital, and she spoke fewer than 20 words. She is not eating or drinking very much either, acording to the staff.

She will be reviewed by the Consultant tomorrow, so hopefully we will know more when we visit tomorrow night......
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Thursday, August 19, 2010


Guess where I spent yesterday ? Most of it at the hospital with Mum.

She has started to show signs of seriously reduced kidney function, confusion and possibly another episode of pneumonia.

I am finding this all very hard to bear, and today is exactly 11 months since my brother's death.
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Monday, August 16, 2010

The Year Is Turning

...for sure.

Yesterday was gloriously warm and sunny, and when I woke up today, the sun was shining brightly.

When I opened the door to let the dog into the garden, however, the blast of positively arctic temperature air into the kitchen was enough to assure me that the best of the summer is over.

The season is changing, even if the weathermen say otherwise !
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My Day

I hope that all of you dear friends on the new calendar had a blessed Dormition feast, and that those of you on the old calendar are joyously preparing for the Transfiguration :-)

I was thrilled to have a full house yesterday afternoon, with my two oldest daughters and their loved ones visiting. We had a super afternoon - I do so love having all my babies under one roof at the same time :-)

Commending us all to the loving intercession and protection of the Blessed Mother of God ..............
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Sunday, August 15, 2010

What Kind Of Reader Are You ?

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
You're probably in the final stages of a Ph.D. or otherwise finding a way to make your living out of reading. You are one of the literati. Other people's grammatical mistakes make you insane.
Dedicated Reader
Book Snob
Literate Good Citizen
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz
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Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Very Best Of Truly Bad Writing !

The 2010 Bulwer-Lytton Award winners have been announced :-)

To read samples of the work of the winners and runners-up of the very worst fiction writing this year, wander over here and enjoy !
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Even More Books !

The Jane Grigson cookery book is a classic, but one I had never read before. I was thrilled to pick this up at a thrift shop , but I haven't cooked anything from it yet.

The Last Family In England - this is one of the cleverest, funniest, tragically heart-breaking books I have ever read. Narrated by the this particular family's Labrador dog, it chronicles his desperate attempts to keep his family happy and well at all costs.  Despite his non-stop care and vigilance, life goes pear-shaped, and his attempts to make things better just make things much worse, with an ending that reduced me to a blubbering, gibbering, tear-stained wreck. I don't think I could bear to read it again, so I have given it away.

Several members of our family have served in the Armed Forces, and I like reading books on that theme. Andy McNab is an ex-SAS serviceman who writes utterly gripping thrillers. I really enjoyed these two books and am looking for more of his.

Oh my. What can I say about The Knife Man ? It is the richly detailed, absolutely superbly written but utterly gruesome and scary biography of the 18th century surgeon, John Hunter. Hunter was the inspiration for Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and with very good reason. Affable family man, medical lecturer and surgeon by day, by night he was hand in glove colluding with grave robbers, who at considerable monetary cost provided him with the non-stop supply of fresh corpses he needed to carry out his scientific studies and provide "specimens" for his growing museum as well as to teach his paying medical students about real-life, hands-on anatomy. It details many of his truly vile experiments on living creatures and,  in same cases, humans. 
He seems to have truly believed that the end of gaining medical knowledge automatically outranked the means, no matter how great the suffering caused.  Definitely do not read at meal times or at bedtime unless you have an enormously strong disposition and are not prone to nightmares.
Hunter was  not a person I would wish to meet; he seemed  to have displayed many psychopathic and sociopathic tendencies, and in modern times, might well have ended up as a serial killer........

The Herbalist details the life and times of Nicholas Culpeper, the 17th century herbalist/astrologer/physician, and the rise of the medical profession. It is a fascinating and detailed look at the social, medical and religious history of the period, and how they interplayed to produce the Enlightenment in Britain.
I remain to be convinced that the Enlightenment was a wholly good thing, however, considering how it produced horrors such as John Hunter's relentless pursuit of knowledge  in the next century.....

Having absolutely hated Hilary Mantel's "Wolf Hall", and thinking perhaps it was just me, I was determined not to write her off on the basis of one book. I found Fludd for 20p, and read it. I have to say, don't bother.  Parts of it were very clever pastiches of Vatican 2, with obsessed reforming bishops creating havoc on parochial levels, but I found the whole book desperately sad and quite cruelly written.
Hvaing read and disliked two of her books, I think that gives me enough excuse not to bother with any more.
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Aha !

I have found a few photos lurking in the depths of the camera, which didn't make it onto the computer before the Big Crash of 2010 :-)

So here are some more Recently Read :

Twelve Babies On A Bike is a delightful memorir of one woman's midwifery training  in the days when the majority of British babies were born at home.  Well worth a read; I loved it.

The American Way Of Death (revised edition) was a real eye-opener. Not one for reading at mealtimes. Enough said.

Celebration is a gorgeous, large-format, profusely illustrated children's book dealing with Feasts and Celebrations across the world. Ethiopian Pascha gets a large mention :-)

The Faye Kellerman was fantastic. Gruesome, scary, funny in places, this collection of short stories and real-life vignettes was a brilliant bargain buy. 

 Ye Gods - well, I still quite don't know what to make of this one.  It deals with an agnostic, almost wanna-be Christian (but not quite wanna-be that much!) woman and her husband (who is paranoically opposed to speaking to anyone who isn't a native English speaker and whom he doesn't already know, which makes for some interesting encounters with the hospitable Greeks!) 's journey around Greece.  She speaks reasonable Greek and likes to visit both modern sites of pilgrimage and ancient pagan shrines.
They visit Paros and Tinos, Athens, Delphi, Delos, Patmos, Cyprus and Mt Olympus, amongst others. It is generally very interesting, but each time she throws in the comment that any of the places associated with the Mother of God  obviously have little to do with the Theotokos but are derivative heirlooms of pagan goddesses, it makes my hackles rise. I would be interested in what others think of this book.

Clarissa Dickson-Wright, one of the Two Fat Ladies of cookery TV and book fame is a superb writer. Brilliantly clever, and the youngest ever person to be called to the Bar (the British legal barrister system), she is a passionate devotee of country sports and good food. This book chronicles a typical year in her life, combining both passions with a handful of recipes thrown in for good measure. She is a character, in every sense of the word, and a great wit. A super book.

A photo of the previously reviewed Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England. Wonderful book :-)

More Faye Kellerman. I love her books, but they are not to everyone's taste.

Enjoy !
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Friday, August 13, 2010

Ups And Downs

{Edited for spelling issues :-) }

Mum has had a very mixed week. On Tuesday she was very nauseous, so I contacted the pharmacist to arrange for her prescribed anti-emetic to be issued. That did help a lot.
On Wednesday she was very drowsy, somewhat confused and ate/drank very little. I was concerned and our wonderful family doctor came round to check on her within 15 minutes of me phoning, and this was at 8.30 at night ! No signs of any infection at all, but she just wasn't "with it".

Doctor thinks this is just part and parcel of the gradual but inexorable deterioration of her health.

Mum's dose of morphine has been adjusted accordingly, and yesterday she was much brighter. Today she seems brighter again, and has been enjoying her food. She was pleased to see us :-)
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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Recently Read

I was planning several posts for this week, mainly about books I have read over the last few weeks. Due to the unscheduled eating of my photos by the main computer, I am unable to do this. Many of the books I read were library books which had been already returned to the library, of course........

One book I absolutely loved (and can give Ian in Oz *all* the credit for, due to his excellent revies of Dr Crystal's other books) was the wonderful linguist/speech pathologist Dr David Crystal's entertaining, witty and utterly absorbing "It's Just A Phrase I'm Going Through". This is definitely one I am going to buy for myself !

 Robin Cook's medical thriller, Outbreak.
A golden oldie, which I revisit every so often. Still has the ability to have me sitting on the edge of my seat :-)

Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love. 
I didn't think I would enjoy this, but I did. After ending her marriage, the author travels to Italy, then India, to visit the ashram of her guru, then to the Far East. She has many experiences and adventures, meets all sorts of people and has a variety of religious experiences, some of which would be described by our spiritual Mothers and Fathers as misleading at best, possibly demonic at worst. Even to this poor  Orthodox Christian, many of them appeared dodgy in the extreme.... but it was still interesting. Apparently, a film is being made of this book.

Ian Mortimer's A Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England.
If you have any interest in history, or a special interest in medieval life, you will enjoy this book. He writes on the premise of a modern day traveller being catapulted into medieval England and being utterly lost and bewildered and needing the equivalent of a Rough Guide to the age and place in which he finds himself. A substantial paperback, covering just about every topic you can possibly imagine a traveller would need to know to avoid getting into danger, trouble, or giving offence to others. An absolute delight, and I cannot recommened it too highly!
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So Much For Summer

According to the BBC 's internet local forecast for our town, the allegedly "light" (huh!) rain should have finished by now, the visibility should be good and we should be basking in sunny intervals and slapping on the sun protection cream.  I should, therfore, be readying my oung ones to walk up to town to visit the local library and exchange their books.

Absolutely no chance of that !

I am stretched out on my bed, laptop on lap, gloomily surveying the upstairs garden window, from whence the nearby hills are virtually invisible due to the mist and absolutely torrential rain, which shows no signs of stopping anytime this day. Possibly not any time this week. Apart from a few hours of fitful sun last Saturday, the rain has varied from being intermittent to non-stop for the last ten days or so.

You can tell it is the children's summer holidays,  because it is raining :-)
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Sunday, August 08, 2010

Stupid Technology

I am not happy. On Wednesday, the computer monitor died, but luckily we had  a spare one :-)

The main family computer has now decided to go belly-up, half-way through DH performing our data back-up.

I have lost about a thousand hours of academic research work, and lots of  family photos and photos taken over the last fortnight for the blog and not yet posted :-(        DH has spent hours over the weekend trying to salvage as much as possible, to no avail. He has completely re-imaged the machine and reinstalled everything. It worked for a few hours and is now coming up with serious error messages again . It looks like the hard drive is damaged.

So I am utterly reliant on My Precious at the moment.............ho hum.
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Friday, August 06, 2010

Felix Festum And Festivities.

A joyous Feast to those on the New Calendar !

I had arranged to meet up last night for dinner with school friends of mine (two from Primary school and one from Comprehensive) , as we hadn't met up for nearly three years. I nearly didn't go as I felt so exhausted after getting Mum settled at home.

 I am so glad that I did as we laughed and cried together over all the things that had happened to us and to our families, and we had a wonderful evening and a super Italian meal. We have all been friends for a very long time indeed. Many memories were shared, and much fun was had :-)

We are resolved not to leave it so long next time ! 
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Mum Is Home

Mum was finally discharged home yesterday.

It was a stressful day for me, and Mum is finding it very difficult to adapt to being at home and not being waited on every minute of the day by the nursing and ancillary staff  who cared for her 24/7  in hospital. At the moment she doesn't seem any happier home than she was in hospital, to be honest !

Early days yet, I suppose, and she has a lot of things to get used to, which is never easy when one gets older and more infirm...........
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Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Plague In Peru

There has been an outbreak of bubonic and pneumonic type plagues (yes, as in Black Death) in Northern Peru. The last outbreak in 1994 killed 35 people, despite the wonders of modern medicine.

Full story here.
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Monday, August 02, 2010

Utterly Gorgeous !

Children's lessons and poems in Latin :-)

These poems, written by Sara Coleridge (23 December 1802 – 3 May 1852) , the fourth child and only daughter of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and his wife Sarah Fricker are a delightful if somewhat unusual method for learning Latin vocabulary.

Coleridge lived in a small cottage near Hampstead Heath - giving flavour to the poems,which are rich in the names of birds, insects and trees. They were originally written for her own children, and later published in 1834 as Pretty Lessons in Verse for Good Children; with some Lessons in Latin in Easy Rhyme.

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Sunday, August 01, 2010

Mimi Asked.....

...what were the "12 Books That Changed The World" ?

The book was written by Melvyn Bragg, whose work I normally enjoy reading, but this tome I really did struggle with. Perhaps I was not in the right frame of mind to read it, with Mum being so poorly in hospital, but I really did struggle to get through it.

He describes the following as seminal works :

  1. Principia Mathematica by Sir Isaac Newton - fair enough; that was important and world-changing
  2. Married Love by Marie Stopes - she who disinherited one of her children for marrying someone who needed to wear glasses and therefore  was sullying the eugenic gene pool as she perceived it.
  3. Magna Carta (1215) - I'll allow this one, though whether it was entirely A Good Thing could be debated  :-)
  4. The Rule Book Of Association Football (1863) - well, I find UK football heartily boring. Enough said.
  5. On The Origin Of Species by Charles Darwin. Yawn.
  6. On The Abolition Of The Slave Trade by William Wilberforce - fair enough.
  7. A Vindication Of The Rights Of Women (1792) by Mary Wollstonecraft - fair enough
  8. Experimental Research On Electricity by Michael Faraday. Important, certainly. Boring, yes.
  9. Patent Specification for Arkwright's Spinning Machine (1769) Definitely important and heralding major innovation in Britain's Industrial Revolution. But fascinating ? Not really.
  10. The King James Bible (1611) By William Tyndale et al - well, this has had major influence throughout the world :-)
  11. An Inquiry Into The Nature and Causes Of The Wealth Of Nations (1776) by Adam Smith. Tedious.
  12. The First Folio by William Shakespeare - definitely "right up there" with the Bible, IMO
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