Thursday, 18 July 2019

Outsourcing, why not?

I celebrated the Eucharist at St John's this morning with eight others. Curiously the CofE calendar today celebrates the memory of Deaconess Elizabeth Ferard, founder of the Deaconess Community of St Andrew, which pioneered Anglican women's public ministry in the 19th century. The Church in Wales on the other hand celebrates St Elizabeth of Russia, a German noblewoman who became an Orthodox nun,  serving the poor and was martyred by the Bolsheviks in 1918. Very different women both called Elizabeth. I wonder if our own Queen, with her own very strong sense of public ministry and duty, grew up learning about either or both of them?

One of the St John's regulars had hip replacement surgery yesterday, after an eighteen month wait. She's an NHS patient but the job was outsourced to a private hospital in the Vale, so great is the demand I guess. When, I wonder, will the same facility be made available to shorten the queue of people with taxing ailments needing minor surgery? My condition went from acute to chronic during the long wait for treatment last autumn. I believe delays in the inevitably long course of treatment since then are hindering healing. 

I thought I had a clinic appointment booked for today, but there was nothing in my diary, so I went to the clinic after lunch to enquire, but the place was closed, the staff being out in the field, I guess. So, I went over to St David's hospital where our local Community Nursing teams are managed from and asked the nurse manager there to check if I'd missed one today or had one to come I'd forgotten to add into my diary. There was nothing entered, so I booked one tomorrow morning there and then. 

Frankly, I'm not as organised or focused as I need to be this week, perhaps because the changing wound condition is having a destabilising impact on routine. Last weekend's setback has repeated itself after a few quiet 'normal' days. The wound closes, then breaks open again unexpectedly. I have written this afternoon to Mrs Cornish the surgeon again to express my concern about this. I suspect increasingly that the over-granulation will have to be dealt with surgically, as chemical remedies are not working.

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Catching the moon

Last night, at the end of the ten o'clock news, the announcer encouraged viewers to go out side and catch a glimpse of the partial eclipse of the moon, which was just reaching maximum obscurity. We had to climb up to the loft bedroom to get a good view, as the moon rises and proceeds westwards almost along the line of the rooftop for several hours before ascending higher into the sky, at this time of year. I didn't have time to prepare well, so my pictures were no better than previously. I've a lot to learn about getting the best camera settings possible for low light and astronomical pictures, having relied on pre-sets and auto features for far too long. We suffer from haze and light pollution here in the city. Editing and processing don't improve things much, unfortunately.

This morning, I celebrated the Eucharist with half a dozen at St Catherine's, and did some shopping before returning for lunch. Late afternoon, a good six mile walk through the fields up to Llandaff and back along the Taff. I got a few curious bird photos, curious in the sense that I'm not sure if they are unusual gull species or immature birds. I've had a couple of glimpses of an egret, or maybe it was a little heron flying down the river, but not within range of a decent photo.

There's nothing much of interest on telly at the moment, which is just as well, since the long daily walks leave me wanting to go to bed early, struggling to stay awake saying evening prayer.

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Closing the books

While out shopping this morning, I went to Riverside Clinic for some supplies, and had a brief chat about the trouble I've been experiencing over the past few days with one of the nurses who knows me well. Thankfully, I've been in somewhat better form today, and needed to be, as I had an appointment with a HSBC bank business adviser in town after lunch.

This was to sort out the problem caused by the bank's unilateral closure of Cardiff Crime Limited account before CBS could produce the 2018 Annual Financial Statement to submit to Companies' House. This is the final reckoning for the not-for-profit body set up to manage funds for the work of Cardiff Business Crime Reduction Partnership which ceased to function after the resignation of the Business Crime Manager it employed at the end of 2017. It will be a relief to me as the sole account signatory to obtain formal closure of this ill-fated undertaking. Everything is accounted for. No money is owed to anyone or owing to this account. It was set up as a not-for-profit undertaking, and has fulfilled its purpose, albeit causing a lot of grief, due to administrative errors on the part of the bank from the outset. Never again, I say to myself. Never again!

I finished the second Pablo Poveda novel 'El Aprendiz', which morphs from political thriller into an odd kind of sci-fi extrapolation of a world in which lies spun by the powers that be through virtual reality and fake news have entirely taken over and control society. The romantic intellectual hero of the first novel becomes the figurehead of a militant resistance movement at war against Big Brother state. He's not a particularly appealing character, and the characterisation of people portrayed isn't well developed. The story seems to be what matters. It's complex and full of surprises. I could see it being made into a TV movie series. The books have used a wide range of Spanish vocabulary which I have had to look up to get the full flavour of the narrative, but It's been pleasing to find how much I have been able to grasp the narrative thread, at my present intermediate language level.

Now I must hunt for the third part of the trilogy. First, a visit to Waterstone's, and if unsuccessful, I'll have to buy on-line. I'm reluctant to do this unless I have to. Bookshops are important cultural places, and like libraries, we're losing them at a lamentable rate.

Monday, 15 July 2019

Paying the price

After Saturday's outing to Leamington, I felt unusually tired and was relieved that I could attend the Parish Eucharist and not have to officiate or preach. Clare went off to her study group in Bristol after Sunday lunch. I spent the afternoon stretched out in bed, reading more of the Pablo Poveda novel, then walking up to Llandaff Cathedral, returning along the Taff Trail. I've pushed my average daily walking distance to over six miles now. It's pretty tiring, but it guarantees that I sleep well, even if I'm still having to get up and change an uncomfortable dressing during the night. 

Monday was much the same, with the wound giving me more trouble than I'd expected. So I asked my GP for a brief telephone chat, to discuss how to manage a situation in which I'm having more pain and discomfort than I have done for several weeks. It's not debilitatingly bad, but it seems that as the outer layers of tissue heal, and nerve endings re-grow and connect, skin can become ultra-sensitive to whatever the wound exudes. 

It seems the secret is to clean the wound to use a fresh absorbent dressing more often that I have been used to this past few months and this helps the incision dry out. The wound isn't closing as it should, because it over-produces tissue in response to being kept open with a suture for an unusually long time, as part of the fistula treatment process - hypergranulation it's called. This can reduce naturally once the wound finally dries out. I'm nearly there, but not quite. 

I'm not sure what good it's doing to wait so long between operations. I'm pretty sure that internal healing has been progressing over the past six weeks, and that it would have been beneficial to be suture free to permit the natural healing to work. But, there's an NHS queue, and the surgeon's work is not well supported by admin that can maintain effective relevant communication between doctor and patient.

The physical stress of Saturday's train journey has certainly had an impact on the condition of the wound. It's been something of a set-back. Today has also been miserable, and it was an effort to get out and walk, albeit worthwhile. Funny how I can keep walking a good distance every day and generally experience steady improvement, but if I have to sit for too long in a less than ideal position, it always seems to make matters worse. I'll need to go carefully for the next few days.

Saturday, 13 July 2019

Train outing for a kids' show

After breakfast we walked to Cardiff Central Statio to take a train to Birmingham New Street, then a connecting train to Leamington Spa, a journey of almost three hours, to watch a performance of Kath, Lucy and Anto's Wriggledance Theatre company, as part of a children's arts festival set in the lovely parkland of the town's Jephson's Gardens. Their current touring show 'Out of this World' is a 45 minute fantasy trip into space for under fives. Thus far, it's been done successfully in libraries or community arts venues. 

Tomorrow, the three final shows will take place in the foyer of Birmingham Repertory Theatre. Today's was a unique challenge, taking place in a large marquee in daylight, where none of the usual lighting effects would work, and noises off from other events in the vicinity could have been a distraction. In any case, it went very well indeed with about thirty children and a dozen or so adults taking part. I'm so glad we got to see it at last, having learned about the show's development at each stage since its conception as, as a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first man to set foot on the moon.

It was well worth the travelling, although I found this a bit stressful, as the train seats were narrow and uncomfortable, largely due to wear and tear. It proved very difficult to settle and the effort was a drain on my physical energy. British trains are no match for their European counterparts. As we travelled out of Cardiff to Severn Tunnel Junction, it was interesting to see the extent of progress made on installing the equipment for electrifying the line from Paddington to Cardiff. 

It was gone half past eight when we arrived back in Cardiff. Rather than wait for a bus, we walked home via the 'Rock & Malt' the local chip shop, where we bought what we thought was a small bag of chips for supper, which turned out to be big enough for three of us! It was just the right remedy for tiredness after six hours of train travel.

I often complain about the terrible litter problem we have in our streets, Council workers can never keep up with the task of clearing the mess, except in the city centre, for appearances sake. Little is done to expand the number of strategically placed litter bins either, but extra bins would require more workers to empty, and public spending cut-backs rule this out. I noticed that on Birmingham New Street station, there were no litter bins to be seen anywhere. Plenty of shops selling take away food, however. 

The station is kept clean by a patrolling squad of workers, so passengers discard the cup or sandwich box they have just finished with anywhere they fancy, including perching them on seats which other might want to use. They stay there until collected by the patrolling cleaners, but how long is that in practice? At peak travel times, or shift changeover times? Far more seriously it takes away from travellers a sense of obligation to clear up after themselves. It promotes a culture of dependency on 'the travel system' created by smart modern management. I don't imagine that urban architects conceived of their shiny new icons of progress, with rubbish strewn around their elegant spaces as an adornment. The gulf between the ideal and the reality is immense. No wonder urban society is in such a mess.

Friday, 12 July 2019

Making the most of the sun

Clare drove me out to Llandough hospital for my pre-op assessment check mid-morning. Same routine as before, except that I am fitter and feel better for being able to exercise more. I see the surgeon in another four weeks from now, and some time after that will get a date for the third round of surgery.

I returned home on the bus, and then did some necessary weekend shopping. Making the most of the weather, Clare took our large double duvet to the dry cleaners on her way to the gym. I collected it at the end of the afternoon and hung it out in the sunshine for a couple of hours to give it an extra airing, and make it smell extra fresh, naturally.

I went for a walk after supper, spent an hour editing my Caldey photos, then went to bed early to read some more of the Pablo Poveda novel I have been neglecting lately as I've not found time to settle and read. I've not watched much telly lately either. When the sun shines,  and it's not fiercely hot, being outdoors is what matters most. As a result, I look as sun-tanned as when I  spend time in Spain, and the same happens in deep mid-winter.


When I did teaching practice in the mid eighties, some kids in an all white class asked if I was a Pakistani, because my Welsh accent was unfamiliar to them, and I was dark skinned compared to them. Was it a wind up, or sheer adolescent ignorance of anyone outside their cohort? I'll never know.


Thursday, 11 July 2019

Useful spares

Ann left for Felixstowe after breakfast and Clare went off to school for her weekly kindergarten eurythmy session. As I was leaving for church, Mary came across and said that BT was refusing to let her access her email, posting a warning message about using an 'insecure browser'. I couldn't do anything about it at that moment and promised to return and sort it out after lunch. She's still using Kath's elderly Acer Aspire, which reached the end of its useful life with Windows over five years ago. I got it running nicely with Linux Mint, and gave the machine to Mary, and it's given her little trouble ever since. Interesting ... what's happened?

Following our trip to Caldey on Tuesday, I was glad of the opportunity to go and celebrate the memory of St Benedict at the St John's midweek Eucharist. It's amazing to think that St Samson, the first Abbot of Caldey's Celtic religious community was a contemporary of Benedict. So too was St Illtud, Samson's spiritual father and teacher in the monastic settlement at Llantwit Major. The movement of the Spirit that inspired the 'flight into the desert' of God seeking individuals dropping out of society, uncomfortable with the rise of Christianity as an established religion under the Emperor Constantine, began a century earlier with St Anthony of Egypt, St Basil the Great and the Cappadocian Fathers. 

Latin and Celtic monasticism also evolved at this time and communities organised themselves, in their own distinctive way and flourished wherever they were able to plant themselves, whatever the challenges and difficulties this entailed. Were they each aware of the other's existence, I wonder? The 5th-6th century monastic pioneers probably knew of their fourth century predecessors and their teaching, but not necessarily about their contemporaries. Where monks settled, lived, worked and prayed, they attracted neighbours, and benefited from each others skills, experience and labour, and as a result social and economic development occurred. 

There wasn't a grand social networking plan or a mission strategy as such. Everything evolved around a life of worship that was accompanied by hard work of one kind or another. Thus the Benedictine way of life spread across Europe, to ever more remote regions, bringing know-how, technologies, education, and transformation of the very landscape itself. European civilisation, and even British religious culture owes much to the movement Benedict's rule inspired. He's a suitable patron saint for the continent as a whole. 

After the service I visited the wound clinic to collect a supply of dressings and returned home to cook lunch, then went and inspected the problematic laptop. I quickly found it couldn't complete its update cycle - 'Repositories not found ...' was the error message. Well, surprise surprise! The Linux version installed has run for five years, and hadn't updated some of its components: i.e. to the new Firefox browser version. The older the version, and eventually some secure sites will refuse to make use of it because it's been labelled 'insecure'. If the repository links weren't functional then the best answer would be a re-installation of a recent Linux Mint version, destined to be update supported for another five years. So that's what I did. Well, did twice actually, as I removed the installation medium to soon at reboot and borked the process. Still, by the time I left, the machine was running normally again, probably better in fact than recently. Eventually the hard drive will go. I have a few spares I can used. If anything else dies, the machine goes for scrap. I have several spare machines, as people given them to me, when they upgrade. You never know when they'll come in useful.