Sunday, 5 December 2021

The boy whose suffering touched a nation.

 Like most people, I suspect, I've become a little bit immune to the daily dose of mindless violence which besmirches our newspapers and TV screens.  On the other hand, like most people who've read or heard about it, I find the cruelty inflicted upon poor six-year old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes almost defies belief.  How anyone could do something like that - least of all his parents -  is certainly beyond my comprehension: it's so far outside the range of normal human behaviour that you couldn't make it up (not that anyone would want to make something like up, although the wicked stepmother apparently tried to claim during her trial that people were making chunks of it up).  It made depressing, harrowing reading , raising the question "What the hell were those people thinking of??"  To which, of course the answer is "Themselves!"  They certainly weren't at any point thinking of poor Arthur, that's for sure. 

 In a lovely tribute to his short life, football fans up and down the country yesterday broke into applause and wore T-shirts with "We love you, Arthur" in reference to his plaintive cry of "No-one loves me", captured on video during the last day of his life.  Less convincing is the government's announcement of a "no stone unturned" review of what went so tragically wrong, because clearly something did and although this is certainly the worst case of child cruelty that I can remember reading about, it sadly isn't the first, and they keep happening despite officialdom's attempts to stop them from happening again.  Will this time be any different? 

At least the jail terms of 29 and 21 years apiece will have got justice of a sort for Arthur, so props to the West Midlands Police for building such a strong case and securing the conviction of two such determined and manipulative liars.   I don't believe they thought they were going to get caught.  I'm quite sure neither of them envisaged they were gonna be put on trial for murder, found guilty and sentenced to spend the rest of their lives in jail for what they'd done!  R.I.P Arthur.

Wednesday, 17 November 2021

Grieving at last

The year since Carol died has on the whole passed more peacefully than I thought it would. So much so, in fact, that I started to worry that I wasn't grieving properly.  I miss her, of course, but on the whole I've come to accept reality in a way which might seem a bit cold and matter-of-fact to an outsider.  Or maybe I just don't show it much. It all hit me yesterday, though, somewhat unexpectedly, and I'm not sure what brought it on.

When we were given the news of the cancer diagnosis in December 2018 it came as a huge shock.  Carol took it in her stride far more so than I did: she said she wasn't afraid of dying.  I suppose the way she looked at it, she'd had the proverbial three score years and ten and a good few more besides.  We didn't know how long she'd got, and I'm not sure I'd have wanted to know: they can't predict things like that with any degree of certainty anyway.  But we were both determined to make the very best of however long it might turn out to be.  She was adamant she wasn't ever going back into hospital come what may, and we got one of those Living Will "advance decision" things drawn up for her to say so.I knew, of course that I just had to let nature take its course and I was powerless to influence that, but at the same time I wanted more than anything else in the world to be able to look back afterwards with pride, knowing that I'd looked after her to the very best of my ability right through to the end - as I'd vowed before God that I would do when we got married.

But I reckoned without the truly atrocious treatment meted out to me/us by  a combination of Coventry District Nurses and West Midlands Ambulance Service, who both made no bones about the lousy way they thought I was doing the job.  Fortunately it didn't cut any ice with the Social Worker we had who was superlatively supportive and went well beyond the bounds of what she was actually obliged to do.  But I had to endure some diabolically hurtful criticisms: they just didn't care about my feelings at all.  They did their referrals, ticked their boxes and that was all that seemed to matter to either of them.  

It became obvious at the beginning of October last year that the end wasn't far off.  I could do little more than just sit and keep Carol company, saying the occasional prayer and watching her life ebb away before my eyes.  It was one of the most difficult things I've ever had to do, and I never in any of my worst nightmares envisaged that I'd one day have to do it.  But I did it,. and I was glad I was able to able to be with her, by her side, through to the very end. I'm wiping away the tears now, but I am immensely proud of the way I looked after her through thick and thin, and grateful for all the happy years we spent together - more then I deserved, possibly, but I'm content to let the good Lord be the judge of that.  

Maybe in time I can find it in my heart to forgive the District Nurses and WMAS: I'm not normally one to bear grudges and it's not going to bring her back.  But for now, if I never have to have dealings with either of them ever again it'll be too soon.  

Saturday, 16 October 2021

First anniversary.

Yesterday marked the first anniversary of Carol's death - 15th October 2020. Perhaps understandably I didn't feel much like writing about it, and today I have more of a sense that I ought to mark the occasion than I particularly want to.  On Sunday at Communion, the priest had read out Carol's name among the list of parishioners on the anniversaries of their deaths as he always does: I'd remembered when it was, so I wasn't taken by surprise, rather, I suppose comforted by a feeling that she was now in a better place than the one she'd left.  Looking back, which I try not to do too often, the last couple of weeks were altogether pretty grisly and it was with a definite sense of relief that I realized her time had finally come.

The post year hasn't really been much like I'd expected it was going to be - although truth to tell I didn't have much of a clear idea of what to expect.  I didn't go to all pieces (or at least, I haven't done yet) and I dealt with all the practicalities early on quite calmly and efficiently.  I shed a tear or two at the crematorium  but mostly at home it's just been learning to accept reality... remembering the good times and all the happy years we spent together, and nothing's ever going to take those away.

 One thing I've still got to tackle is the legacy of all the stuff Carol left behind: the tons of craft material, her books and DVDs, which are still all as she left them.  It's because I simply don't know what to do with them rather than I can't bear to touch them or anything like that.  Eventually I know I'll be galvanized into action and come up with a plan of some sort, but I don't sense any great urgency at the moment.  I've dealt with everything that was urgent in order to maker the place habitable for me, and the stuff that isn't can wait a while longer.

Monday, 11 October 2021

Best birthday present ever

 I went for my ultrasound scan this afternoon. I elected to go privately: University Hospital Coventry were supposed to have been sending me an appointment through, but such is the massive backlog of work that Covid has caused, nothing had materialized despite my GP having marked the referral as 'urgent' and I really wasn't prepared to wait any longer.  The NHS are very good at some things, but appallingly bad at others, and I was glad I could afford to pay for it myself.  I was, as befitted my status, treated like a valued paying customer, and my arrival at the BMI Meriden hospital was just like checking in to a posh hotel.

 An extremely nice doctor talked me through what was going to happen (I was expecting to radiologist to do it) and it was pretty much like the Abdominal Aorta Aneurism scan I'd had done five or six years ago.  I  was instructed to take deep breaths and hold them, and there were a couple of times when it was a little bit painful as he pressed down quite hard with the little transponder (is that the right word for it?).  About twenty minutes I think (I wasn't really keeping tabs on the time), and it was all done.

The result? It turns out I have gallstones which have been causing my gall bladder to become inflamed.  I said we'd suspected I had liver trouble, but he said no - there's nothing wrong with my liver.  So all that worrying for nothing!  Well, not quite nothing, I've still got to decide what to do about the gall bladder, but that's going to pale into insignificance compared to the prospect of something a liver transplant.   I can't easily express how relieved I feel: it's a tremendous weight off my shoulders, and worth every penny of the £320 I'm shelling out to have it done.

I mentioned that my mother had had gallstones: they're apparently quite common and while they're not hereditary as such, they do run in families.  She had hers removed: I can't remember whether she had the gall bladder itself removed as well or not, but I daresay I knew at the time.

Sunday, 26 September 2021

What does it all mean?

 Earlier in the year - June, I think it was - I suffered a bout of severe indigestion culminating in my being violently sick and ringing 111 for advice (it was a weekend).  The person on the phone was really nice and was going to do me a prescription for some Omeprazole (they're a sort of anti-acid reflux capsules.  As luck would have it, I had some left over from when Carol used to take them regularly and they were still in date. The out-of-hours people sent a report through to my GP telling him what had happened and we didn't think much more about it.

Until Saturday a fortnight ago, when I had a repetition, very considerably worse than the first one. This time I had a severe pain in the stomach and back and I couldn't sit or lie down comfortably: I couldn't even sit long enough to hold on on the phone waiting for someone from 111 to answer.  I tried three times before giving up.  I somehow must've managed to doze off as when I woke up it was Sunday morning and the back pain had thankfully gone.  I made it down to the walk-in centre on the Monday and got a fresh supply of the capsules and a bottle of Gaviscon. I'd never had it before but apart from being a little on the sickly side it's quite palatable - and effective, which is the main thing.   A doctor there felt around and pronounced my stomach to be feeling a bit tender and advised me to get some blood tests done.

 Fast forward to the end of that week, when I got the results back.  Apparently I have abnormal levels of alkaline phosphatase and bilirubin, which are indicative of trouble with my liver and/or gall bladder.  I remember my mother having to have gallstones removed: she kept a little pot of them on the mantelpiece until we persuaded her that they weren't quite the thing to display to visitors.  I never have, though.  Despite my usual tendency to adopt a 'if it ain't broke don't fix it' approach to medical treatment, an occasional bout of indigestion I can cope with, but this was something else again and I'm keen to avoid a possible recurrence.  I've got a second round of blood tests booked to have done on Wednesday (the Doc didn't really explain what these might show up that the first ones didn't) and then a liver scan to be arranged.  We should then know more, hopefully.  

I'm a little jittery in case it turns out to be something really serious, but on the other hand at the moment I have no way of knowing and so fearing the worst isn't a particularly productive line to follow.  I'm just glad it happened when it did, so I no longer have Carol to consider, although I miss having no-one to talk to about it.  The waiting and not knowing is always the worst part of something like this: your mind wanders and conjures up all sorts of grim outcomes which probably/hopefully won't happen.

Wednesday, 7 July 2021

To mask or not to mask... that is the question.

As part of the 'roadmap' setting out the easing of Coronavirus restrictions, the PM has indicated that the wearing of face masks will no longer be a legal requirement in England - or it won't be a Government 'diktat' as he put it.  It's not quite as simple as that, for despite it being the intention to allow people to take responsibility for their own decision as to whether to wear one or not, a number of businesses have already announced their intention to make them compulsory for customers.  All well and good up to a point: businesses have an implicit right to choose who they do or don't want to serve, as long as it doesn't amount to illegal discrimination, who's going to enforce this?  To have some train companies, for example, requiring them and others not, is a recipe for confusion: how are passengers supposed to know?  And shop assistants have been reporting a massive increase in assaults on staff, so to have something which isn't a legal requirement any more is asking for trouble.  The police aren't going to want to get involved if it's no longer against the law, and you might as well not bother having something that relies on voluntary co-operation if the majority of people don't agree with it.

 I'm very happy to see the back of mine: they're a pain in the backside for those of us who wear glasses, and the evidence is far from cut-and-dried as to how effective they are anyway.  It's unfortunately somewhat symptomatic of a lot of the muddled thinking and make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach which has characterised the govenment's response to Covid all along. 

Saturday, 26 June 2021

 So.. that odious smug Matt Hancock may be about to get his come-uppance, I see.  Being caught with the proverbial trousers down was pretty careless to say the least, and a half-baked 'sorry' for being caught in flagrante delicto boesn't quite cut it.  I feel sorry for his wife and kids: being 'exposed' by the gutter press can't be pleasant, even when you're the innocent party.

 The question now is... where's JVT when you need him?  I quote his memorable response from this time last year "In my opinion, the rules are clear and they have always been clear.  In my opinion, they are for the benefit of all, and in my opinion, they apply to all."  Well said, that man!  Pity Boris doesn't appear to agree, but the weight of public opinion may yet force his hand.