Monthly Archives: July 2013

NHS Direct – where are you?

When Pickle had those early signs of appendicitis and I was supicious that that was what it was, I reached for the phone at 11pm at night.

111It had only been 4 years earlier when I had been a regular caller to NHS Direct.  They were a godsend to a new mum.  Especially one with a little baby girl who was ill on a very regular basis.  I consider myself to be quite sensible but some things that a 1 year old “gets” can be a bit leftfield.  How much is too much sick?  At what temperature does a trip to A&E become the right option?  Intense shivering?  A strange rash?  I had no idea.  Thankfully other people did.

So instead of heading off for a 100 appointments at my GP or driving my baby girl to the A&E department I rang a very nice man or woman on the NHS Direct line and they talked everything through with me, reassured me and most importantly, told me the trigger points for taking it seriously and seeking further help.  I must have called them 10 times in Pickle’s first 2 years of life.  I never once went to A&E.

So who did I call on that night 3 weeks ago with my suspected appendicits?  I had no choice but to ring 111.  I live in London and the NHS Direct helpline doesn’t exist anymore.  What did I get?  I got someone who was unsympathetic who kept asking me the same question about 5 times, ignoring the information I gave them and asking something else.  I was suitably unimpressed but through my own questioning of her symptoms and my concerns I somehow got them to agree that a trip to A&E would be a good idea.  Although what was the point of that?  I’d basically convinced someone myself. This was the first trip to A&E, where I gave up because of the wait and came home again.

I thought the 111 line was pointless.  I guess my gut instinct was right, but I’d always had a good experience discussing it with health professionals before and to find someone on the other end of the phone that sounded disinterested, unqualified and told me nothing I didn’t already know, made me think it was a complete waste of taxpayers money.

I’m lucky that my son has been relatively ill free and being a second time parent I’ve got a few experiences under my belt to pull on to make a diagnosis.  I would absolutely hate to be a first time mum again without the NHS Direct helpline available to me.  What an absolute shame it has gone.

So with the news that the supplier NHS Direct is pulling out of certain regions of the UK where it supplies the 111 service, I only feel ambivelent.  If you can’t supply an ACTUAL service that is helpful to people, then why supply one at all.    As for the idea that it will put less strain on 999.  Those numpties that ring 999 for minor ailments will continue to do so.  They won’t suddenly downgrade their “numptiness” and get a stab of morality.  They’ll dial the number that they’ve memorised and still be a drain.

For those of us that know 999 isn’t a good option but who are worried just the same give us a good health professional at the end of the line who we can talk to.

It’s a simple as that.


Taking the Plunge

Well, not literally.  I suppose it’s just as well we have no cliffs in London because the last few weeks at work would have certainly made the thought of it very appealing.  The trouble with having a difficult time at work is that it inevitably creeps into your home life too.  Hubby and I were arguing more and I was losing my patience with my children.  Nobody likes to be “that” mum.  The whole thing ends up spiralling up until you really don’t think you can take it anymore.

You may have remembered that I had a bit of a “losing it” moment with a senior executive a couple of weeks ago.  Well, not content with having one emotional angry moment I decided to book end it with another.  This time with my bosses boss.  This isn’t generally seen as a good career move, but I think it really summed up my general mood at the time.  Thankfully this man has a bit more emotional intelligence than the other guy and pressed me to the point where I was in fight or flight mode.  I was either going to shout “Fuck off” to him or walk out and even I was a bit apprehensive at which way I was going to go.  He saw the whites of my eyes, backed down and wandered off.  I knew I hadn’t won.  I had been lucky though.  I could have really made a mess of that.  We met the following Monday, much calmly and sorted out the disagreement in the right way.  Thank goodness.

So I’m at a cross roads.  I’ve been here 10 years in March and I recently decided I was going to find another job.  I’ve got lots of obstacles to getting there, but none that can’t be overcome.  I just need to break this all done in nice manageable chunks.  I’m concerned I’m going to miss out on my long service leave in March.  An extra 2 weeks holiday on top of the 4 weeks (Pro-rata for me, but works out the same).  It may take me that long to find the job I want, I can’t let that be a reason to hang on.  “I won’t earn as much” – Well, you never know.  “I won’t get the same benefits” – you never know, and at any rate, being happier is much more important. “I haven’t got a CV” – schedule the time to work on it.

The plan was that I start to look for a new job and then that would dictate where we might move out to.  We really want to move.  I feel stifled where I am.  The trouble is I don’t want to get a job somewhere only to discover all the areas around it I don’t want to live in.  We are, therefore, planning to go and do a bit of snoop around in areas we might like.  Hubby knows these places quite well, but I’m been a Londoner for 17 years and have never been to most.  First stop is this weekend.  Off to Hampshire to sample the delights that this county has to offer.  I’ve got a couple of villages recommended to me by people on Twitter (we nearly went on Sunday with hangovers, but some friends cancelled a weekend with us this week, so we thought we would use that), so we are going to check them all out.The Woods

We are making a whole weekend of it and will be staying overnight at relatives in Newbury which also gives us the opportunity to have a look West of Newbury too.  I’m really excited about it.  If we find an area we like I can find out about school and other amenities and then look for jobs that sit somewhere between there and where I am now.  Then I can commute for a while from here, hopefully with some flexibility and Pickle can complete Year 1 at her current school without me feeling guilty for pulling her out early.

All sounds so simple on paper though doesn’t it.  I’m hoping it pans out that well.

Any advice on what to look for in a new area, other than good schools?  What do you think makes a good place to live?

Competitive Parenting

I think I’m missing a special gene or something.  The gene that tells you that a 5-year-old child should be over achieving and focussing solely on maths and English and little else.  I don’t know why I don’t have it but I sure as hell am VERY VERY glad it’s missing.hard working school girl

I have had my eyes opened to the competitive parent this week.  School reports were sent home on Monday and it was very exciting for me and the hubby. Our little girl’s first report. New education measures have meant the reports have changed (although having not seen a report for a good 20 odd years, we didn’t really know what we were missing).  For Reception children there is a new grading system of 3 grades.  These are listed as “Emerging”, “Expecting” and “Exceededing”.  I think I’ve got a pretty bright little girl, she comes from pretty bright stock, but I’m not really one to start shouting it from the rooftops, or for that matter put a load of pressure on my daughter.  We’ve spent our first year in school focussing on the enjoyment, understanding how homework fits into homelife, learning to read (woo hoo) and being creative with the ways we learn (numbers with cooking, reading street signs, counting in twos on the house numbers).  I’ve not wanted anything more as I really wanted Pickle to get a thirst for learning, the joy of passing on that knowledge either to me or her brother and the understanding of what needs to happen in a classroom, how to conduct yourself, follow instructions, be kind to your classmates.  At any rate, her report had her at “Expected” on every level.  I was happy with that.  It was her first year.  She’ll find a subject she really likes and I’ve no doubt she’ll get a few “exceeding” scores in years to come. I just liked reading her teacher’s comments. Glowing comments about her being a joy to teach and her social skills.  She has a good grasp of everything. Well rounded I’d say.

However, being in the school grounds on Tuesday was apparently not for the faint hearted. Hubby was there for an end of year picnic and the other parents were up in arms!!  Over what, you might say?  Well there were two things specifically.  Firstly, the wishy-washy scoring system.  “What does it mean, exactly”? spouted one irate mother.  “So she is exceeding.  By how much?”.  “What is it she isn’t doing that means she gets “expected”” shouted another.  Geez!!  You’ll note that these were all mother’s of girls.  They happen to be my daughter’s friends parents.  I’ve never been so glad that they are all being split up in Year 1. Hallelujah.

The second thing that one such mother talked to me about this morning was about the comments on the report. “I don’t want to know how she’s feeling or about how she moves her body” she complained, rolling her eyes.  I want to know what maths problems she’s working towards. FGS!! These are 5 year olds, people. 5 YEAR OLDS!

When I was 5 in Australia, I was doing water play and playing in the sand pit in pre-school.  I hadn’t touched a book.  It was fun.  I learnt to read very quickly from the age of 6 and as I got older, some grades slipped and some went through the roof.  I somehow muddled through it all.  I got there.  I came out the other side an intelligent woman. I’d like to think I could do anything I put my mind to.  I’m still learning now. It never stops.

I loved all the stuff in the report about Pickle’s social skills.  At this age, it’s so important.  All the bloody high scores in the world, but if you can’t actually conduct normal relationships with people then how will you ever be fulfilled?  I loved hearing about her PE skills too. Nice to know she is coordinated and enjoys it.  All of it was heart warming, comforting and demonstrated to me that she will be a good student.

Clearly it’s just me though. I have yet to find a parent in her class who isn’t fuming.  I’m actually gobsmacked, truth be told. I appear to be one of the few parents with a child that didn’t get an “Exceeeding” score on one of the areas.  I had no idea people started getting so worked up about grades at this age.  As if these grades set the scene forever.  If Pickle had got “emerging” for everything, maybe I might have been a little concerned. Maybe I’d have chatted to the teacher about getting her up.  How can anyone be upset that their child has achieved set goals though?  At this age?

The mother I spoke to this morning informed me that her and her husband had spent all night on the internet downloading homework for her daughter to do over the summer break.  I looked at her aghast. “Really?  I’m letting Pickle have a well deserved break”.  She replied “Oh no.  We are getting on with this.  She did some homework this morning before she came to school. She loves it.  She gets bored otherwise.  I’ll let her have a week off when we are on holiday and then she’s back on it”.


I feel incredibly sad for her daughter, because if this is what her parent’s are like now, what will they be like when she’s 8, 10, 11?

I’m clearly in the minority.  Education IS important but enjoying learning and doing so in a measured way, at your own pace, surely that’s important too.  I WILL be doing homework with Pickle. I will be teaching her over the summer break, but it’ll be accidental.  She will be reading books she has chosen and enjoy and exploring her new knowledge by using it in everyday settings.  I’ll probably be teaching her without even realising.

She’s 5 FGS!!

The Big Chop

I have had long hair FOOOOREVER!  Well, for a very long time.  I started growing my hair in 1992 as I had  a perm for some time (I know, I know, but it was cool, man).  Over the years I have had a few minor haircuts, bringing the hair to up a bit, but generally it’s been long.

More recently it’s been VERY long. It’s probably been this long for about 5 years and I did like it.  I liked it on the Saturday, just after I’d washed it (30 min), combed it (30 min), blow dried it (45 min) and straightened it (10 min).  You see the problem there.  Nearly 2 hours had to be put aside to make it look nice.  That was just one day though.  Due to the level of care I needed to put into it, I only did that once a week.  It was alrightish on Sunday, acceptable on Monday, Ok on Tuesday but pretty much after that it looked a mess.  If it wasn’t messy it was requiring constant brushing or dry shampoo.  I was having to be inventive with hair styles (side plait, plait, side bun, bun, low pony tail).  I’m a busy working mum and frankly it was driving me to distraction. I’d had enough of it.

I blogged about it here in October and I’ve been counting down the days until my hairdresser returned from maternity leave to do it.  Between that time I have swung wildly between wanted to have it done and thinking I’m a complete idiot!  On a Saturday, I love my hair, but I had to focus on the other 6 days when I really didn’t like it.  As well as remember the length of time it took to look after it on that Saturday.

So, here is my Saturday hair.

Long hairApologies for my goofy face.  Not my best look.  Look at my hair though………my lovely flowing loooooong hair.

So, then I booked D day.  It was 2 Saturdays ago now, but as you may remember I was languishing on a hospital camp bed on the Friday as my daughter was going to be wheeled into surgery, so I texted the hairdresser and said I was unlikely to make the appointment, but I didn’t want to cancel it just yet.

On Saturday morning hubby came up to the hospital with The Monster and I headed home with TM for a bit of rest, some house tidying and for him to have a lunch time nap.  I had forgotten about the appointment.  However, thankfully my hairdresser didn’t and she rang the doorbell and there she was, ready to do the big chop! Was I ready.

Well, yes I was!  It was hot, I had had a bit of a time with my daughter and hospital and my hair was annoying me.  After my colour was put on we went through my Pinterest board of hairstyles (Can’t believe I ever said I didn’t “get” Pinterest) and we worked out what she was going to do.


Here it is.

Long Bob

Now, I only took the photos on last Saturday, so this is not hairdresser completed hair (it was a week old by then). None the less, I achieved this wash, blow dry and straighten in under 30 minutes and quite frankly I LOVE IT.  It was so liberating.  The front is longer than the back as requested and as soon as I saw it I said “I love it, but next time, let’s go shorter on the back”.  I really want it to look more angular.  So there you have it. I did it.  For a hundred reasons, this cut is so much nicer and easier.

I have had a lot of compliments about it and people have said it is very flattering.  Hubby was surprised that he liked it so much, although he did add that he though it was a “grown up” hair style.  Well I’m 40 now, about time I took a moment to have a grown up look.

So what do you think?

Saying Goodbye

I’m not really one for social gatherings. I’m a fish out of water. I hate small talk, I’d rather get to the crux of the issue and have an in-depth conversation with someone I know than fanny about talking about jobs, schools, holidays or where they or us live.  300mmx150mm-exit-rightGive me a conversation on how people choose pet names or the criteria you use for choosing which toilet cubicle is the one for you.  Better still, be passionate about something I’m passionate about and we’ll wax lyrical about how passionate we are. Lovely.

However, like most of us, I’m often thrust into social situations because, you know, it’s the right thing to do.  Strangers are only friends you haven’t met before. Blah blah blah.  My hubby is very social and he likes people to meet me.  He loves a good social situation and can chat to almost anyone.  He’s a good barometer for shit people really, because if they aren’t happy chatting to him, they sure as hell aren’t going to like me!

So, in the 17 years I’ve been with him I have been to many a gathering, party or social event where I’ve known very few people.  Occasionally it has meant I’ve been introduced to the likes of Catherine Tate (“and this is Catherine”. “oh hi Catherine, how are you?” – like I DON’T KNOW YOU ARE!!), Chris O’Dowd and Andrew Lincoln. I should add though if you do get introduced to a famous person they do look at you like a rabbit caught in the headlights for the first 2 minutes of the conversation because they are waiting for the very next nanosecond which will define whether or not you are a nutter.  Gushing about how amazing they are (which I did on one occasion with Eddie Izzard (oh the shame) only makes them look for an exit.  On the whole though, I don’t get introduced to that many famous people and end up chatting to mates of mates of mates who endless droning on about their job which really doesn’t do them any favours.

It’s the goodbyes I have a big problem with.  The goodbyes at the end of the evening.  For the life of me I can’t quite understand why it has to happen.

A WHOLE bunch of people, some of which might be close friends and some of which most definitely aren’t and I have to go around saying goodbye to them. No thanks.  I’m drunk, I’m tired, I just had a mental picture of my bed, my homing beacon is on and I want to just turn around and walk out and head off to start the journey that will eventually lead me to that lovely bed. That lovely, soft, warm bed.

Hubby has other ideas.  “Oh we just can’t leave”.

“Yes we can”

“Not really.  Oh well, just let me say goodbye to John. I haven’t had a chance to talk to him”.

“Ok, you do that. I’m going to the Loo”.

20 minutes later I’m standing like a plonker at the door and hubby is still chatting.  He’s then intercepted by someone else.  Another chat.  I do the walk of shame over to him. Smile plastered on my face.

“Hi.  Are we not going?”

“Yeah, just a sec, I will just say bye to Margaret and we’ll be off”.

And so it goes.  Another hour can easily pass. I’m tired, I’m fed up and I just WANT TO GO HOME.

Now, when I go to a company party on my own.  I get to that critical “Homing Beacon” point in the evening and literally spin around and walk off.  Not a single goodbye. I had a lovely time, but its time to go.  Most of the time, nobody notices.  Which is fine.  The next day we have a giggle about who was drunk, who snogged who, who passed out and compare when we all left.  Nobody cares I didn’t say goodbye.  Why would they?

Bloody goodbyes.  Do you like them?