A National Insurance Joke
Aug 7, 2012
I just rang HM Revenue and Customs about the £30 they're chasing me for since I cancelled the direct debit. The man I spoke to told me it's paid in arrears, so even though I ceased to be a self-employed partner, the £30 is still payable. Since the docs reckoned I might last somewhere between a year and 18 months (that estimate was given to me about 3 months ago) with this cancer, I asked whether I could draw any pension. He said I couldn't draw a state pension under any circumstances until I'm old enough, ie in about 9 years and 9 months, but they might let me off with the £30 if I write to them explaining the situation. If I don't write to them, they'll keep on chasing me for the money.
You couldn't make it up, could you? I've paid into the system all my working life. I kept working through my illness - kept paying my tax and national insurance - and didn't claim anything from the state (though I did attempt to make use of the NHS, but that's largely staffed by dangerous idiots that made me wish I hadn't), and now they get to keep the lot. The mafia would be well impressed with such a system. They didn't even have to keep or invest the NI money for its original purpose. They took it on themselves to use it as another tax that could be p!issed up the wall on any passing whim.
I'm not going to write to them to beg to be allowed to keep the £30. They can chase me if they like. If they have to accommodate me and feed me in prison, I might get my money's-worth.
Ooh! There's Bats!
Aug 4, 2012
Haven't seen bats flying around the house for years. I think there are two or three of them - hunting flying insects. And it's fairly cold and wet out there. So happy to see them! I love bats
I hope my brother's s*dding , Ruby, doesn't get them. She was snatching swallows out of the air yesterday.
Can this really be legal
Aug 4, 2012
It must be somewhere between 10 and 15 years since my brother moved to this barn-conversion. It's got a bit of land with it. Upto a few months ago a farmer used Bill's 10 acre field for his sheep, for free. But then they had a falling-out - it wasn't enough that he got to graze his sheep for free for over a decade, he also wanted Bill to pay for the water for his sheep. So anyway, the man removed his sheep and Bill rented the field to some nice ladies for their horses (5 horses I think), which they came and took care of daily - feeding, poo-picking, visits from the farrier, vet etc. Bill recently semi-retired and thought it was about time he started thinking about alternative sources income. Those nice ladies left and he advertised the field to rent.
A woman turned up with 25 Welsh ponies, saying Bill's field was absolutely ideal for them. Bill knows nothing about horses or ponies and just assumed that people must love their horses the way we love our dogs - and would know how many could be sustainably kept on so many acres and wouldn't lie about it. This turned out not to be the case though. The woman simply dumped the ponies and hasn't lifted a finger to look after them since. They were thin and hungry, some have hooves that have grown into long, curled "slippers". There are about 9 stallions amongst them - all in-breeding with their mums, grandmas, sisters, daughters etc - all fighting over the mares and fillies, gashing each other and the mares with their lethal hooves. A new foal was born two or three weeks ago. While Bill was walking through the field with a neighbour (a lady who's kept Welsh ponies herself) a few days ago, one of the fillies aborted. According to the lady, this was probably because she was far too young to be shut in with stallions - too young to breed.
Once the grass had been eaten, the ponies started battering down the fences, braving the electric boundary, to get out and get to food. They galloped down the roads and through the woods - a hazard to people, traffic and themselves. Some brave folk from the next village spent from about 8pm to 11pm chasing the last lot through the streets, borrowed halters to take them to a field where a lady agreed to accommodate them for the night, then led them back along the road from that village to this, the following day. That couple don't know anything about horses except that they kick and bite and can do you a grievous injury if you're not careful. The lady who accommodated them with her own horses, was horrified by the state they were in and concerned that her healthy horses might catch some disease or worms from the ponies. I texted the awful brute who owns them, to tell her what had happened and all she said was that she resented the implication that her ponies might be diseased. Not one glimmer of gratitude for the people who rounded them up and secured them, or the lady who risked the health of her own horses to take care of them for the night. In fact, the lady contacted the loathsome owner on facebook to enquire about the escaped ponies, after they'd been returned to Bill's field, and the owner threatened the lady with the police, believing she was trying to steal them.
Bill demanded that she come and feed them, poo-pick, separate the stallions from the females, call in a farrier to trim the long hooves, get a vet to treat their gashes, worm them and so on. She said she would come over and fence off the stallions, then she was going to get a vet to castrate the stallions, then she was going to come over with "her" farrier. None of these things happened. Each time she and the farrier or vet were supposed to come, they either didn't turn up or she phoned with some lame excuse.
The RSPCA lady was angry - but apparently impotent. She couldn't do anything until the horses fell over and couldn't get up again, so she advised Bill not to do anything to help them. Of course, once they were in a sufficiently poor condition to fall over, the RSPCA could prosecute - but then the RSPCA would have to put them out of their misery, because they wouldn't have the resources to accommodate and take care of them.
Horses have to have passports and chips now. That's the law. So Bill's demanded to see the passports. The woman hasn't responded to that demand. So he contacted DEFRA ask whether they kept a database of horse and pony owners and passports etc. No. Apparently all sorts of people/organisations can issue passports and you can't find out anything. He asked what DEFRA do when horses don't have passports or chips. Nothing. They told him to contact Trading Standards. Why Trading Standards? (forget logic) - So Trading Standards told him to contact the police. He got an automatic reply from them.
He's feeding the ponies and picking the poo himself. They were going to be up to their knees in sh*t if he didn't and starving too. It's a full-time and expensive business. No wonder the pointless parasitic owner doesn't want to do the work that's required to keep the animals healthy. Apparently, she's been playing this game for about 15 years, according to a local horse charity that were trying to discover where she moved them when she left the field of her last victim.
To me, it just seems unbelievable that she can keep getting away with it - but the RSPCA lady told us that this situation is replicated all over the country. DEFRA hasn't the will to enforce the law on passports and chips. Extraordinary!
The NHS should come with a health warning
Jun 7, 2012
Over the last couple of years some people have got into the habit of sending me newspaper articles. They used to be about bees and fibromyalgia... I still get those, but now they can be about cancer and the NHS too. The most recent was a couple of pages from the 5th June issue of the Daily Mail, where a doctor lady with a very similar type of cancer - "small round cell" - (only hers sounds far worse, having spread further) to mine, laid out her experience in diary form. Most of her experience of the actual disease didn't ring any bells with me. For one thing, she's far more upset about it than I am. She cries a lot and I've yet to shed a tear over it. But hers sounds incredibly painful - which I find terrifying. That would certainly make me blub. And then she's only 30, poor little dab, and she was just enjoying a nice life when this disaster suddenly happened to her. I'm 56 and, for the last decade and a half, finding life to be a crock of the brown stuff.
But her experience of the treatment... that did ring bells for me.
Just done a search and found the actual article: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/a...-terminal-cancer-better-doctor.html
It was the part where she says her consultant knows she "thinks cancer doctors flog their patients, especially the young ones, with horrendous treatments until the last possible moment despite incurability" that got me nodding in agreement. Of course, she's a doctor, so her opinion carries a bit more authority than a mere patient, with only their own isolated experience to base a judgment on. I owe her. I was going through the hated chemo in order to prevent incontinence (that was the *lie* they told to trick me into it), but also to keep my brothers happy. Now my duty's done and I'm not having any more treatment. The 4th cycle of chemo was supposed to start next week, but I have a treatment review first and I'll have the satisfaction of telling them NO! And if they get very pushy and pressure me, I'll say yes, but then ring my MacMillan nurse from a safe distance and tell her to tell them I lied just to get out of the office and away from their overbearing methods of persuasion.
Since I last wrote about this in a journal, I've had a couple of alarming run-ins with the NHS:
1) The last (3rd) cycle of chemo. I got a mad nurse. An absolute nut-case. The same nurse deals with you all day when you're in for chemo. This one, as soon as she learned I needed a pillow behind my back to make sitting all day bearable for the trapped nerve in my spine, kept coming over to say she might have to take the pillow away for another patient, if another patient needed it. These pillows are scattered all over the chemo suite, for patients to rest their arm on while the needle is being inserted, ready for the drips. I'm the only one using the pillow for their back. Everyone else has discarded their pillow after the needle insertion. She doesn't need my pillow for another patient. Then, I ask her about the anti-sickness medication I'm supposed to be taking home with me after the treatment. She fetches my notes, looks through them and tells me there's nothing written in them by my Dr about anti-sickness treatment to take away. I ask another nurse to have a look. The other nurse finds the note straight away and says she'll show Gosia. The nut-case returns and says that although my Dr has written in the order for anti-sickness drugs to take away, she's on holiday and the Dr standing in for her hasn't written anything. So what, I say. My Dr wrote it in. Let me have them. "You should have made her write you a prescription, then", she says, "she hasn't written one". This refusal to let me have the anti-sickness medicine went on all day, right up until about 10 minutes before I left (I was the last to leave) then I asked her how to spell her name, so I could take up the matter with my consultant. At that point, she stopped pratting about and got me the medicine. Now I'm pretty sure that the only reason that insane woman is working in the chemo suite, is that she enjoys other people's suffering and she likes to make vulnerable people as miserable as possible.
2) My white blood cells refuse to recover after chemo, so they keep sending me home to wait for an improvement and telling me to come back next week when I turn up for chemo. This time they decided I should get a 5 day course of growth factor injections, to get my white blood cells to increase a bit quicker. The district nurse was to come over and give me the jab. Only they sent her to the wrong place and they didn't give her signed authority to give the injection. I did see her the once, when she told me I'd have to inject myself and showed me where to stab the needle into my abdomen - then I was left to my own devices with the collection of syringes. Sticking needles in myself was horrible. I hated it. I did it every day for 5 days and dreaded every one of them.
Now that's it. It's confirmed: the NHS is exactly the hellish, pointless organisation my instinct told me it was. And I'll do everything I can to avoid it in future. If the pain gets unbearable, I think I'll go out and get hypothermia or drown myself, rather than risk another encounter with that bunch of evil clowns.
Now what's happened to h2g2
Jun 7, 2012
It's taken me ages to get signed in... and then my page turned into one with that nightmarish new skin where you can't find anything and nothing works. Have they been fiddling with all the knobs?
Apr 18, 2012
I'm bald. The wig lady took off what little was left and gave me the wig. It's nice and cool without hair. Should've done it years ago
I went in for the second cycle of chemo this morning but it never happened. The blood test I had 2 days ago showed my white blood cells were too low, so they did another blood test to see if they'd increased at all... but they'd actually decreased since Monday, so they gave me the order of the boot and told me to come back next week.
Up and down like a fiddler's elbow
Apr 14, 2012
I decided not to have any more treatment after a week of pain and nausea. Started wishing I'd not bothered with the emergency trip to hospital in the first place and quietly bled to death. Nice way to go, I thought... fairly painless and quick. Anyway, I had a treatment review yesterday and the doc has prescribed better sickness and pain control (or so she assured me) and thereby persuaded me to have another cycle of chemo... also radiotherapy. I'd refused the radiotherapy before because they wanted to slice me open and bring my ureters to the surface so that my kidneys could drain into a bag glued to the front of me. Yuk! Not a hell of a lot better than being incontinent... which is what I'll be (or so she assured me) if I don't carry on with the chemo. She agreed I could have the radiotherapy without the disgusting rearrangement of my waterworks. So there it is. The hair is now coming out in clumps so it'll be a relief to get it all shaved off on Wednesday.
Journals may be slow to appear as I'm staying with my brother while this treatment continues and he has a very dodgy and intermittent broadband signal. I've been trying to get on line for days without success until now.
I now have some very important work to do... got to rack some apple wine.
From mellow to green
Mar 29, 2012
Feeling sick now. Comes and goes. Had the first chemo yesterday. Got to the hospital at 8.30am, ready for poisoning to commence at 9am... only they'd neglected to get a vital document signed by the consultant and so had to chase about for the next couple of hours trying to find and get the consultant to sign the form. So the first drip went up at about 11am and the treatment finished correspondingly late, at 5.30pm. I was the last to leave by a considerable distance. Other than that, it was okay. Lots of people in for treatment. Must have been a couple of dozen, plus a lot of companions.
Hair's predicted to fall out in about 3 weeks, so the wig lady is going to shave it all off and give me a wig. That'll be weird. Chosen the shortest and nearest to my own hair colour, which is sort of light sandy brown shot through with grey. It'll fool no-one. I looked an absolute fright in most of the wigs. Three weren't too bad, of which one actually fitted me. Surprisingly, they don't do the various wigs in different sizes, so I couldn't say I'll have a larger size in this one that's too small for me, for example.
Got in a pickle with the 2 days of oral chemo they gave me to bring home with me. Mixed the timing of the chemotherapy drug up with the steroid. No time written on the chemo dose, so an accident waiting to happen. Beyond that, they packed me off with a wagon-load of drugs for more or less every eventuality. Also, I have every incarnation of ginger, given to me by a friend, because, apparently, ginger is good for stopping you feeling sick or throwing up.
Had a bit of good news on chemo assessment day (Tuesday). They tracked down my missing PET/CT scans. This showed that the cancer hadn't spread up, as they expected, but had only spread out sideways. I don't think this changes the original prognosis. It just doesn't make it any worse. There's still a metastatic wanderer on one of my lymph nodes and all the rest.
I've told the folks at work that, once I've got Pam prepared to take over from me, I'm retiring. I'm planning to spend my final days playing with the dog and making booze.
Busy but mellow
Mar 23, 2012
I can see how this works now. Some doctor tells me something terrifying and alarms me for a day or two. Then, if nothing else changes, I'm back to my usual, mellow self shortly. I don't feel too bad now, which for me, is as good as it gets. And I'm busy. Been to work as usual all the days I haven't been stuck in a hospital. Showing one of the partners how to do my job - so if anything, I've been working longer and harder, coz after I've shown Pam as much as she can take in, I stay a bit longer to get some of my work done. I meant to try to get everything tidied up a bit on Wednesday, but then had to go back to the hospital (one of the three hospitals!) to collect a prescription for the pills that are stopping the haemorrhage...
Every one of the people I've met who works for the NHS, has been a nice person. But the NHS is a horrible mess. You couldn't call it an "organisation". Bill already understood why I tried to avoided going anywhere near any of their establishments, but this last few weeks has been an eye-opener even for him. Let me count the ways:
1) With no resistance after losing all that blood, they put me in a room with three ladies all coughing up a storm (two of whom had already got the cough from the first with the terrible chest infection - all three of them very weak and vulnerable, so they could all make the same complaint). It's taken me weeks to fight off the infection they saddled me with.
2) They prepared me for an anaesthetic in order to carry out a painful procedure, then kidded me on that it wouldn't hurt, so they could get me to agree not to have the anaesthetic... didn't even replace the general they were going to give me with a local. The effect on me of pulling that stunt, is that I don't believe anything that any of them say now - not just the b*st*rds who lied to me and put me through a hellish procedure that's now a source of nightmares.
3) At least 3 of my "local" (they're all about 16-17 miles away from where I live and upto 30 miles from each other) hospitals share staff and resources. So they made me an appointment with a different hospital for my oncology tests and treatment. There, the doctor complained about how difficult it was to do her job of assessing and informing me, when all my notes, scans and test results were at the other hospital and so not available to her.
4) Then they sent me for a scan at yet another hospital. The scan people told me to ring my consultant in 48 when the results would be in his/her hands. I didn't know who my oncology consultant was so I rang the hospital 48 hours later and asked one of my three nurses (yes, I have 3 now and one actually is a Macmillan nurse) and she didn't know who my consultant was. So she told me to ring the secretary of the most likely consultant. She didn't know either, so put me through to another consultant's secretary, who also didn't know. We eventually, by a process of elimination (since none of them could find any trace of me on their "system") found who it *probably* was. Then they couldn't find the PET/CT scan results and concluded they must have been sent to the wrong hospital - a hospital I hadn't even been to.
5) In the meantime, the blood loss is increasing and I'm wondering what I should do, so I ring the first of my nurses. She says she'll find a doctor to ask and ring me straight back. About eight hours later she rings back - at work - and tells me to increase the dose. Then she packs up for a week's leave. This is a Friday. When I get home and check the bag of meds they gave me when I left the hospital, I find I've got 4 days' supply of the pills that slow the bleed, if the dose remains the same - 3 days if I increase it. So it should last the weekend. They gave me no instruction when they gave me the bag of pills and potions as to whether the course finishes when the stuff runs out, or if I should get more. So if I'm to increase the dose, presumably I should get more. It takes till the following Wednesday, what with the weekend and all three nurses being unavailable for various reasons, to get an answer - then I have to go to the second of the hospitals and collect a prescription from one of the consultant's secretaries.
That'll do. The PET/CT scans were eventually tracked down and the consultant might, if they don't lose them again before she gets sight of them, tell me what they show, some time next week, when I'm in for the chemoassessment or (next day) for the chemotherapy.
On the brighter side, my brother took me in for the prescription Wednesday (so neither us did what we meant to do with our Wednesday) and later in the afternoon, I started a 40 pint bucket of beer. The keg of Wherry is nearly all gone. Everyone who tried it really liked the Wherry. I'm going to bottle this next lot. It's a different type of beer and I've added a few enhancements to it, so I hope it goes down as well as the last lot.
Just had an email from my other brother, Andy, saying he's coming up to see us tomorrow. So I'll be staying at Bill's the weekend again. I've hardly been home since all this drama started. In fact, I was critter sitting when it started and I've (mostly) either been in hospital, at Bill's or at work ever since.
There was another drama yesterday, that I only heard about when I finished work and went over Bill's for dinner. It's actually played on my mind and upset me more than this cancer thing. He took his motorbike out for a short ride - just to start it and make sure it was okay after sitting still all winter. And he dropped it. It's a huge brute of a thing and he came off on a cattle grid - got his leg pinned under it and his foot trapped in the grid. He could have been trapped that way for hours (this is on farm track between his house and the road, where there's very little traffic). Fortunately, a delivery van came within a few minutes and the driver helped him lift the bike and escape. Now the ankle is bandaged up... nothing broken. But it could've been really bad. I think it might be time to put the motorbikes away. Big, heavy motorbikes, aren't for old geezers.
Reality sinks its gnashers in deep
Mar 14, 2012
Up to yesterday I felt pretty well detached from the reality of what's growing inside me. The blow finally landed when I went for my oncology appointment. The Doc drew pictures of where the cancer is known to be already, where it's expected to go next and how far it's likely to travel. She wrote down its name. It's a small cell neuroendocrine and squamous cell cancer. This is, apparently, one of the worst types - it's what they call "metastatic", ie spreads to other organs - and they don't have to be adjacent organs to be infected. It's a real nasty one. It's already spread sideways a bit and it's touching my bladder, where it's likely to eat through. It may be blocking my left ureter and if the urine can't drain into the bladder, the left kidney will die. It may be spreading up but they need the PET scan to tell them that. The doc said there was a tiny chance of "cure" (she made the quotes sign as she said "cure" and indicated tininess with her thumb and forefinger) - if I agreed to the treatment. This is nonsense of course. I don't buy lottery tickets because I'm not a mug and I guess I'd have more chance of winning the lottery than a cancer of this type being "cured". Such a "cure" might last as long as 5 years, she said. I can only guess at the quality of life resulting from the kind of "cure" on offer here.
Still, the one thing that isn't on offer is the one that would be open to my dog if my dog was in this state. They just can't help themselves. They have to do everything in their power to keep you hanging on, by however thin a thread - however vile your experience of the arse-end of life. You WILL drink the dregs! That's what the NHS/Welfare State version of compassion has given us. You might call my cynical, but people's livelihoods depend on our illnesses, and that's no encouragement to put the miserable out of their misery.
No sudden death happening within the next few days then... probably. It might drag on for a while. So I've agreed to some chemotherapy, in the hope of preventing the incontinence that would result from that bl**dy cancer eating into my bladder - and the dead kidney, of course. Now I'm scared. The chemical they propose to use is called "cisplatin" and they say it's very harsh and "we intend to hit you very hard with it" (the doc's exact words). It'll make me feel sick and ill, my resistance to infection will disappear, my hair will fall out - and it's going to last 3 to 6 months. They should know if it's doing any good after about the 3rd treatment.
I haven't had my hair cut since I was about 20. That was 36 years ago. It's long. They suggest I should cut my hair before it all falls out. They can sort me out a wig. So people won't stare.
Mar 6, 2012
Long time, no journal. It must be time for an update.
So I went over to look after the critters for a few days... this would've been 24th Feb. Bill left for Brighton next day, which was a Friday - intending to come back the following Monday. But it turned nasty pretty quickly. I'd been bleeding what seemed like an ocean for months... varying between a trickle and a haemorrhage (in a sort of parody of a "period") - for about 2 years, in fact. I was managing by doing everything very slowly between frequent dead stops. The big one hit at about 4am on Sunday morning. (4am is like a magic time for bad stuff to happen - so that was about right!) A friend/business partner told me a while ago that I could ring her any time if something like this happened. I decided to hang on a while longer - for a less "ungodly" hour, when she'd but up and about on a Sunday - about 10am. Rang Bill and asked him to come home early. Packed some things ready, then rang Pam. Bill had already rung her in the meantime and our other partner (her husband) was busy panicking... bless him. Tom, my little poppet (Bill's dog) was very distressed - obviously aware something was going wrong... couldn't be persuaded to let me out of his sight - not even to go out for a pee. The cats, on the other hand, just wanted to be fed - but I wasn't quite up to the job just then. So they had to wait a few hours for Bill to get back from Brighton.
Pam arrived (really, you couldn't ask for a better friend or partner) and took me to a hospital A&E - and she stayed with me *all* day. There the doctor wagged his finger at me and told me I should've come sooner... 2 years sooner. They took blood tests and were terribly impressed that someone with such low haemoglobin could still be alive. The nurse reckoned it was the lowest she'd ever seen and the doc said he'd seen some that low in Ghana. They said a normal/good level would be between about 12 and 16, your heart required at least 8 in order to function and mine was 5. So, very naughty of me not to have come sooner... and why had I left it so long, by the way...
I was admitted to a gyne ward and Pam came too. Then Bill arrived bearing grapes, apples, oranges, bananas and... olives. Me and the docs and nurses had a bit of an argument about whether I was going to let them drip someone else's blood into me. I have very strong views about that sort of thing. I used to be a blood donor when I was younger but now (and for various reasons) I'm not remotely comfortable with the idea. It's a great way of spreading diseases that wouldn't easily spread otherwise, but more to the point, to me (a vegetarian) it's cannibalism. This is where my bruv and our partner/pal pile in and guilt me black and blue. So I end up having no fewer than 4 units of blood. Not that I'm any longer capable of being a blood donor, but if I was, I couldn't after receiving someone else's blood (several someone elses actually) because of the danger of passing on the vCJD ("mad cow disease") that they may have given me in that blood. That's what the leaflet they gave me to read informed me.
Next couple of days, many many scans. Didn't know there were so many different types: MRI, CT, ultra-sound, x-ray (still yet to have one (this coming Friday) - a PET scan). Results showed an inoperable cancer, about the size of an apple, in the womb. Next they needed to know whether it was cancer of the cervix that had grown up into the womb, or a womb cancer that had grown down into the cervix. Apparently that's very significant. A womb one growing down is less bad than a cervix one growing up. So they had to wait for the results of the biopsy they took on Monday (for which they'd starved me for about 16 hours, ready for the anaesthetic which they decided I didn't need because (they said) it wouldn't hurt much, so they didn't bother with the anaesthetic - they just carried out this procedure that was pure screaming agony - a torture! - and now I'll never trust a single word they say ever again.) Anyway. The results... it's the cervical one growing up.
They had a meeting (not just for me - they do it every Thursday) and discussed what they could do about what ails me. Three of them came to tell me. It can't be cut out but they could give a combination of radiotherapy (not Planet Rock) and chemotherapy, but as the radiotherapy was going to destroy my bladder, they'd have to carry out an operation to get my kidneys draining into a bag glued to my abdomen. In so many words (fairly polite ones in reality) I told them they could poke that idea where the sun don't shine. That's just an extension of death, not life! So where we stand at the moment is that they're going to try to keep me as comfortable as possible on my way out of shitville.
Oh, and I have a hospital acquired infection. They put me in a room with three ladies who were all coughing their lungs up. One of them had a terrible chest infection and I get the impression that the other two ladies got the cough from that poor old girl. Obviously, there was no way I was going to get away with it. So I've been coughing my heart up ever since. Anyone would think I had lung cancer instead of womb rot. And that would be just silly wouldn't it? I've never smoked... then again, that useless bag of blood: my uterus, has never been used.
I feel surprisingly cheerful about it... so far.
Justifying being rude to cold-callers
Nov 18, 2011
Yesterday, at work, the boss finally (after I'd been there a couple of hours) admitted he'd done something *really* stupid. The phone rang and the caller said they were calling from "Windows"; they (at "Windows") had been monitoring his computer and noticed it was very slow. He followed their instructions, doing this and that as they walked him through what they wanted him to do. At some point during this scam, it occurred to him that it was strange that someone with an Indian accent should make an unsolicited telephone call from "Windows" and try to fix his computer that they'd been "monitoring", so he told them he wasn't going to do any more and they'd have to call back later, and speak to me. They didn't call back later, of course. When I looked at his computer I found his anti-virus software had expired. He must have been seeing and ignoring warning messages about the insecure state of his computer every time he switched it on. I spent most of yesterday afternoon installing and running anti-virus, anti-malware and anti-spy software on his computer. Didn't get much of my own work done.
So just now, as I was editing my beekeeper association's newsletter, the phone rang and a lady with an Indian accent asked for me by name. Instantly annoyed at being cold called and suspicious after yesterday's fiasco, I said I wasn't buying. She said she wasn't selling, but she was calling on behalf of a "claims" company in Bristol. "Not remotely interested! Goodbye!"... and put the phone down.
Thing is, I sometimes do the angry/aggressive thing and sometimes I'm more sympathetic. It all depends. I might have thought: ah, poor woman, horrible job, maybe the only job available and she has to do it to support her family. Today, with yesterday's idiot-generated mess fresh in my mind, I despise and mistrust all cold-callers. How do they get hold of my telephone number? I'm x-directory. Why is it legal for people to intrude on perfect strangers and harass them in their own home?
That's my thought for the day... there may be others along later.
Oct 23, 2011
Just time for a journal before I push off to my brother's for another week of critter and house sitting. The plan for today is to make and paint a super. I put a drill battery on charge Wednesday, ready to go. In the meantime, I got swept up in a sudden wave of enthusiasm yesterday - to the extent that I actually drove in to town to see if I could buy a few things to get started. It's rare for me to go to town. I don't like towns... even small ones. So it was a big wave! And it was a small town - I failed to get any of the things I was looking for.
Bill's garden is full of rotting apples at the moment, as happens every year at this time. It's a terrible waste and I cannot stand waste. So I was just mulling this glut of apples over, thinking of filling a wheelbarrow and shifting some of them down to the badger set, when cider occurred to me. I'm not a cider drinker (yet), but Bill is. How difficult can it be, I wonder. I spent hours trawling the internet for information. The equipment seems to be very expensive. You have to crush the apples with one bit of kit and then press the mashed up result of the crushing with another. You could spend £100s on just those two items alone. Or you could make your own pulper and press.
Last night I happened to mention my idea to my beekeeping mentor - a woman of many talents - and she replied that she'd made cider and had all the kit for the job. Astonishing! Well, not that astonishing perhaps. She's one of those people that's done (and still does) all sorts of things that seem like esoteric wonders to most 21st century people.
Right. Gotta go...
Back through the looking glass...
Oct 17, 2011
Now, where's my mushroom?
And who's moved my hookah?
Tut... bloody cleaner wrasse!
Long time no journal
Aug 27, 2011
And it's not because nothing's happening. There's bees and wasps of course - but the main thing that's occupying my mind and my time, I can't really talk about. Although, I did say something about it elsewhere here-abouts a while ago... but I was so constrained in what I could say that I just had to drop it, like the unsavoury and diseased morsel it was... and still is. As my mother used to say whenever one of us picked up some dead rodent or festering something-or-other when we were infants: "Ewww, aggeeee! Put it down or you'll catch something!"
Well the aggeeee thing is only growing into something horrible and I still can't talk about it. I can't possibly mention the fact that I would very much like to bury a long, sharp, steel object in the head of the one who's caused it all. That would be an illiberal thing to say in such a liberal environment as h2g2 and my friends and fellow hootooers would get the impression that I, myself, am not entirely benign and mostly harmless... which would be a wrong impression, because I can control my urges... unlike the vermin who has caused and is causing all the problems for our once happy little partnership.
Other than that, I've just resigned as a trustee of my beekeeper association. The disaster unfolding at work is taking up too much of my time and I've been missing trustee meetings. I could mention that my own bees seem to be doing okay under the circumstances (massive numbers of wasps and robbing by other bees) - all six colonies have been fed and are mostly closed down to somewhere between 1 and 3 bee-spaces and surrounded by wasp traps that are filling up as quickly as I can empty and recharge them. The bees kindly allowed me to take 111lbs of honey from three colonies (actually they weren't all that happy to part with it - but I did feed them immediately after so I hope I'm forgiven). I'm in a bit of a quandary about treating them for varroa because now there are 2 adjacent neighbours keeping bees and you're supposed to co-ordinate with neighbouring apiaries, otherwise, if I treat mine before the others treat theirs, their bees (robbers and wandering drones) will just dump their varroa load on my clean bees. Then when the other beekeepers treat, my robbers and wandering drones will dump the pests back on their clean bees. Also, I have the impression that at least one of them has no intention of treating and is avoiding me because he knows I'm going to ask him. And if I leave the treating much longer, it might be too late. It has to be warm enough and autumn's early this year. Tut.
Tom the pup is doing well. Always in trouble with his boss, but always (almost always) behaves himself when I'm looking after him. He nearly got squashed by a horse, rolling in the grass, last week. One of those lessons pups have to learn when they live in the countryside, I guess: don't try to pounce on horses when they're having a roll in the grass.
S'pose that's about it.
Horrible monster cat
Jun 12, 2011
Horrible monster cat
Just finished feeding the pup and cats this morning, when I heard the big, fat, over-bloated, over-fed, over-indulged oaf they call "Mischief" (or Fatcat), jingling his hefty mass over the stable door. I went over to say hello to him but ended up shouting at him and threatening him with a dust-pan. He had a small baby hare hanging helplessly from his over-worked maw. I thought the poor little thing was dead and for a moment my only plan was to tell the damned cat what I thought of him... no point rescuing a dead thing after all. But then I thought, what if it's not dead? He's already done what cats do, and no doubt "played" with it. If it has any life at all left in it, he'll carry on torturing it until it ceases to entertain him. So I chased him off and scooped the unfortunate creature up with the pan, expecting to find it blind or eviscerated (like the last one). But it wasn't quite dead, so a good thing I got it off him before he ran off with it. It was trembling and its little chest was gently heaving and it was making quiet wheezing noises.
I found an old sheet and emptied a box of my honey jars and placed the baby critter in a nest in the box in a cupboard, expecting it to die of shock or its injuries shortly... but at least that monstrous brute of a cat wouldn't still be hurting and terrorizing it. I had a look in the cupboard a few hours later and it had moved out of the nest and was doing it's weak best to get right under the sheet. Perhaps a good sign that I could release it tomorrow morning - when all the cats are safely locked in the house. Looked again a few minutes ago and it was upside down, at the bottom of the box - dead, I thought.... but no, it was still breathing. Must've been too weak to right itself, so I turned it up the right way and it scurried away under the sheet. So there might be hope for the little chap yet.
Not for the first time, I wonder what it is my brother sees in cats (apart from Cato, of course, who's the nicest cat I've ever met). Okay, so Tom, the pup, killed one of next door's chickens a while ago - but he was only about 4-5 months old and probably thought it was squeaky toy - and he didn't torture it.
Here's a new video of my favourite pup and kitten, by the way:
More bees - new queens
Jun 9, 2011
My mentor ordered some Buckfast Queens (mated and marked) a little while ago - including 2 for me - and the day before yesterday (Tuesday, 7 June) she rang me first thing in the morning to say they'd arrived and she was bringing them over so I'd better have a couple of nuc (nucleus) hives prepared for them. I'd got the nucs ready a few days earlier: half-sized brood box with a frame of drawn comb including some sealed stores (inc a bit of pollen), a super frame of sealed honey and 3 frames of new foundation. No bees yet. So I had to take the nucs over to the corner of the garden where hives 1 an 3 (where I know there are laying queens) are and shake some "house bees" out of the supers and into the nucs to release and look after the new arriving queens. Needless to say, the bees objected to the piratical hijacking of their workforce... but they soon settled down again.
Frances arrived like a whirl-wind, delivered the queens and a lovely old (possibly antique) honey extractor that she's going to sell me if I find it easy enough to use - and rushed straight off to her next job, leaving me to install their majesties on my own. Gulp.
But she did give me instructions. The queens come through the post, in small cages blocked at one end with a plug of candy. There are 5 or 6 attending worker bees in the cages with the queens. These bees will, in addition to carrying out their queen-maintenance duties, also be working away at that candy plug, trying to gnaw their way out of the cage. As soon as the queens arrive in the post, you should get them installed in your hive or nuc. Frances instructed me to wedge the cage between the tops of a couple of frames, then close them up and leave them alone.
And that's what I did. By "leave them alone" she meant, don't open them up. I'm keeping an eye on them as they're small, vulnerable, child colonies. Other bees could rob them of their stores and leave them to starve. A lot could go wrong really. The house bees from hives 1 and 3 could just decide to kill the queens when they've chewed through the candy and got them free. It would be suicidal - but it happens sometimes. The weather isn't ideal. It was blowing a gale when I installed them. Maybe half the bees flew out when I opened the boxes to put the queen in. Being house bees from the supers, they'd never flown before and they had a hard job of it finding their ways back into the nucs. Dozens of them congregated in the ventilation holes where they could smell/taste the rest of the little cluster of bees but they couldn't get in that way. Then it tipped it down with rain. In the end, I had to shoo the bees away from the vents with a handful of grass and cover 2 of the holes with a lump of wood. They all found their way in eventually.
If all's going well in the nucs, the workers should've freed the queens by now and prepared some cells in the drawn comb for her to lay in. I can only hope. The wind has dropped at last, but there's just been another heavy down-pour. It's dull and unseasonably cold. I've put bricks and lumps of wood on top of the nucs to stop the lids blowing off - or the nucs blowing away altogether and to give them a bit of insulation (they're made of correx - so nice and light for me to lift but that obviously comes with some disadvantages).
So, fingers crossed!
Tom and Cato video
Jun 8, 2011
If you like watching puppies and kittens playing, you might enjoy this. It's Tom (my brother's puppy) and Cato (his kitten) playing. I managed to get the phone out and press the right button in time to catch the action last night (I'm baby sitting for them while Bill's on holiday):
The phone ran out of storage space before the game ended, but it was just another 5 minutes of the same madness so if you see how it started, you can imagine how it continued.
The cold, lonely watches of tonight
May 30, 2011
I could hear Bill digging somewhere not far away in the garden while I was hammering away at a new hive roof. Thought he was just digging over the veg patch. Of course, I know poor old Ben has come to the end of the road. It's taken a couple of years since that first time he couldn't get up and Bill had to carry him back to the house. The vet gave him an injection and he wasn't too bad for a while. But now it looks as though he's had a stroke. He's all lopsided and keeps walking round in circles - when he can actually get up at all. He can't find his food - though he'll eat a treat if you put it in his mouth for him. So Bill was digging a grave for him. The vet's coming over tomorrow. It didn't hit me properly till I got in the car to drive home. Then he and all the dogs I've ever lost came piling in on me.
May 6, 2011
I've got a swarm! It was the most dramatic thing ever! My bees are getting a bit crowded and to stop them swarming, I prepared a couple of hives so that I'd be able to split them into new colonies. But then, I noticed the house seemed to be filling up with bees (this is at my brother's house, where I'm still critter sitting while he's on holiday) and investigation led me to a spot under the eves where they were getting in... scouts, looking for a new home for their swarm (and these aren't from either of my hives, I should add). So I left one of the hives on a hive stand (just acquired) about 25 yards from the eves and put the other hive on a pile of trays in Bill's vegetable garden. They showed a lot of interest in the hive on the stand and a little in the other (this is yesterday) but by today there wasn't much activitiy round the hives. It was all round the eves - and it looked a lot of bees, so I added a super to the hive on the stand. Then I went off and emailed the BKA trustees to ask them for copy for the May/June newsletter.
I was just muttering and cursing the hated computer for all the usual rotten computer behaviour, when I chanced to look up and glance out the kitchen window. There was a dark vortex swirling round the hive on the stand. My god! What a sight! I've never seen anything like it... went out for a closer look from the back door and the noise.... it wasn't just a buzz, it was a roar!
Most of them are in now, but still a fair few flying about. I think they may require another super. They chose that hive within half an hour of my adding one super to the brood box, so I guess it's a big, prime swarm and the space under the eves and the other hive with its single brood box, just wasn't big enough for them.
It was quite emotional. I'm not generally much of a gusher, but the sight and sound of that swarm, coalescing from thin air and seeming to be sucked into that hive as if by a vacuum cleaner, really moved me.
That's made my year-so-far and even this evil computer isn't going to spoil it for me
May 1, 2011
I installed the Ubuntu operating system on my laptop computer (with plenty of help from the lovely researchers over on Ask) on 8th March, so I've been using it for a couple of months. And I really like it. It takes a lot of annoyance (though I have to admit that I'm fairly easily annoyed) to provoke me into doing something that might inconvenience me and increase my level of irritation. Windows Vista achieved this "most annoying" status, and so had to go. All's been well since... until yesterday.
Ubuntu invited me to update it to version 11.4. First of all I said no - not wishing to invite possible annoyance. But then it invited me again and again... and this started to annoy me. So, of course, I gave in eventually and said yes. I was right. It was annoying! It took 9 hours! with my brother's middle of nowhere, narrow, broadband signal. I've set up the computer in my bedroom, because if I use it where my brother uses his computers, the cats keep strolling across the keyboard and curling up in it (must be nice and warm I suppose). But, now I find that the broadband signal is only detectable up this end of the house (like half a football field away from the router) if it's more-or-less in line-of-sight of the router, with all the doors open along the corridor and my bedroom door open. So if this 9 hour marathon isn't to be interrupted by cats hoofing it all over my computer keyboard and kneading it and rolling around on it trying to get comfortable, I have to find some way to keep them out/off. I put a chair on the table over the top of the computer and parked a load of bags and boxes around it. That worked.
Then, at about 1.30am, when it had finished, I tried the new version, which has a lot of changes - and looks a well worthwhile update - and the new version of Firefox wouldn't work. It made me a little grumpy. I came back prepared to do battle with it this morning, and guess what! It's working fine now and I didn't have to threaten it with a hammer, or anything
Apr 25, 2011
I was bursting with the need to post this latest swarm news here, only to find I had no internet connection. It may become another damp squib result but still... in the meantime:
I got a swarm call on Saturday (day before yesterday) and this time I didn't bother to ask the lady for a photo or ask the trustees for confirmation that these were genuine honeybees, because the behaviour she described was the sort of thing only honeybees do. The lady said they were clustering on a tree branch, about 10ft from the ground. I warned her that this would be my first swarm collection and she seemed happy to let me do the job.
So I went over to Bill's to grab a hive and bind up its entrance and fill it with frames - some containing honey - and a few other things I thought I might need. Forgot my smoker, but then wouldn't have needed it anyway, as happened. And off I went - full of excitement and trepidation. Didn't much fancy climbing a ladder but I was keen to get my first swarm hived.
It turned out they were about 40+ feet above the ground in an Austrian pine - much taller than the huge Leylandiis that used to grow in my front garden. The cluster was amazing - a really big, brown slab of bees, with a cloud of flying bees still joining it. It's what they call a "prime swarm". I tried to get a photo but it didn't come out very well. Insane as it now seems, I was game and thought I'd see how I felt going up the ladder before concluding that it was a near-suicidal endeavour. So the lady went off to ask her husband to fetch out his longest ladder, which she assured me was *very* long indeed. He came out and applied his male spatial abilities to the problem and pointed out that even his very tallest ladder would be too short by about 2 - 3 sections, plus, even if he had one that would reach that far, then I'd have to reach out into space to bag the swarm that was near the end of a branch that was a lot longer than it looked. So that was that. My neck was saved by the nice sensible gentleman.
However, I did have another card up my sleeve. We set up the hive I'd brought as a "bait hive" to attract the swarm in. The moment I got it out of the car, there were scout bees investigating. With such instant interest from the bees, I thought it would be a cert that they'd move in by tomorrow (yesterday, as was) - but they still haven't. I called the lady yesterday to give her my mobile number in case she needed to call me while I was over Bill's and she said they were still hanging from the branch. They must be a very fussy lot is all I can say to that!
So I've done all I can and now all I can do is hope
BT fails again
Apr 24, 2011
My broadband signal has gone. Five separate calls to BT's technical broadband help, most ending in a promise to call me back, which never materialises, hasn't resulted in any restoration of service. I'm at my brother's, to print out instructions on how to use my blackberry as a modem. I would dump BT in a moment if all their competitors weren't also so useless. Dammit! I may be gone some time...
Preparing to collect a swarm
Apr 20, 2011
I received two swarm calls yesterday. The first wasn't honeybees. The second may be... the pictures the lady sent me look exactly like honeybees except hairier than any I've seen before. Still, there are so many imported honeybees and mongrels that it's hard to be sure. So I'm preparing to go and bag them. The lady with the possible swarm problem thinks they're in a nicely manicured bush in her garden and their scouts might be investigating her air bricks. It probably won't be possible to get them without doing some damage to the bush. But if they go into the air bricks and make their home under the lady's floor, it'll be difficult and expensive for her to get them out. It'll be a job for builders then - and most builders wouldn't want to tackle that sort of job.
Let us tarry not! Got to get my tools lined up ready.
PS Prepared for disappointment - there are thousands of different species of bees and some look very similar to honeybees. We'll just have to see...
Apr 17, 2011
Critter sitting this weekend. Just walked the pup and we saw:
May blobs in one of the ponds (early since it's only mid-April);
First wasp of the year (doubledammit);
Busy busy bees;
Iridescent blue/green wing (probably the remains of a kingfisher - victim of my brother's evil cats).
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