Category Archives: Medical

Reaction to the incompetence of the UK’s National Health Service…

Yesterday’s blog was me bitching about the inefficient, mindless bureaucracy of the NHS. In particular, about how they sent me three self-contradictory letters about changing my meeting with a Consultant in June (in four months’ time) from an in-the-flesh meeting to a telephone call (because of the infection risk during the current COVID outbreak).

Inevitably, about ten minutes after posting that blog, I got a phone call from the NHS about changing from flesh-to-telephone a different appointment I have tomorrow with a different Consultant at the same hospital.

Something of a pity that I am not seeing him in the flesh because last week I had a recurrance of the vertigo I suddenly had without warning three weeks ago… and the neck/shoulder/arm pain which has recently got worse since it started back in November… and, of course, the fact I have not had a proper night’s sleep since I was in hospital in May last year – I wake up at least once every hour during the night, dehydrated, with my throat and mouth parched and having to drink water.

This means – because of the water – having to go to the toilet a lot during the night, which is not helped by falling-over vertigo or a painful and restrictive neck/shoulder/arm problem which is easier to describe visually rather than over the phone.

It also means I will not be given a blood test to see how my calcium level/kidney function is progressing or not. Those were involved in my problem last May, the cause of which is still a “mystery” (technical term).

Anyway, I got a fair number of comments about yesterday’s blog. These are a few…


Andy’s response was:


You should raise this with The Minister at The Department of Administrative Affairs. The response will be that to change a standard NHS letter issued by a single key stroke that generates three different but essential standard letters to the same person whilst informing several departments of the change is essential in effective running of the appointments system. 

Whilst admitting that this does appear to be wasteful and confusing, particularly if the three letters received by the patient are opened in the wrong order, to alter the system requires the employment of a number of consultants and support staff over a period. It’s estimated, that may extend over several years because there is no central office for administration within the NHS. 

You’ll recall the failure of the government proposed computer system to link all the the NHS computer systems into one seamless system. It’s considered that to fix this issue, which is considered mostly harmless, would take in the area of £736,000,000 and is therefore not worth doing.

In addition, all of the Ministers’ friends are all currently overstretched in other government projects they’ve been awarded so won’t be able to start work in this until at least 2037.


‘King1394’ observed:


Yes it is the efficient work of computerised automation. Once there would have been a thinking clerical worker managing your appointments. But computers are cheap to employ even if they produce three contradictory letters where one would suffice.


Alan commented:


This is the same bureaucracy that, when medics were crying out for Personal Protective Equipment, refused to deal with many suppliers who had stockpiles of exactly the right equipment, in date, authorised for medical use… They refused to purchase it because that particular supplier couldn’t be added to the procurement system due to a lack of past dealings.

Every once in a while there’s a cry-out for everyone in the NHS to receive a pay rise or bonus due to the hard work they’ve done in fighting the pandemic.

While I wholeheartedly agree that every single person in the NHS who has been right there in the hospital, facing danger, risking their own health as well as that of their families should get something, I’m still very reticent to make it a blanket award as I don’t want to reward those who made it more difficult or who simply did their job from home at no additional risk to themselves or others.


…and Sandra said:


The NHS? I have been lucky in my treatment from them in the main.

Apart from the time when I was sent for physio, when in fact my hip was on the point of fracturing.

Plus one other doctor whom everyone avoided.

As it turned out, he mis-diagnosed my condition, complained about the price of the meds he was about to prescribe, then ran after me begging forgiveness because he had given me the wrong prescription. Bastard. 

And I told him so, leaving out the word bastard…


Obviously, I realise my alleged problems are only relatively minor inconveniences, but – hey! – look – it’s my blog. It needs writing and where else can I selfishly whinge up my own arse if not in my blog?

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The mindless administrative mess that is the UK’s National Health Service…

(Photo by Bofu Shaw via UnSplash)

This week, on one single morning, I got three NHS letters in two envelopes from the same London hospital, all posted from Bristol and all written on the same day, five days earlier.

The first told me (in paragraph 2) that my appointment to see a doctor at 10.30am on Friday 18th June had been cancelled “as part of our response to the COVID-19 outbreak”. 

In paragraph 3, the letter explained that, although the second paragraph “states your appointment has been ‘cancelled’, this is not the case. You have been placed on a waiting list.”

Attached to this letter was a second letter saying: “We’re sorry but we have had to cancel your appointment” at 10.30am on Friday 18th June.

Both these letters were in the same envelope.

In a second envelope which arrived at the same time on the same day was a third letter dated on exactly the same day as the first two letters.

It said: “This letter is to confirm that a telephone appointment has been made for you at 10.30am on Friday 18th June. When you have a telephone appointment you are not required to attend the hospital.”

So basically, entirely reasonably, to avoid people attending the hospital in person during the COVID-19 outbreak, my in-the-flesh appointment at 1030 on Friday 18th June (over four months away) had been changed to a telephone appointment at exactly the same time.

To do this, I was sent a letter saying my appointment was cancelled but not cancelled… an attached letter saying my appointment was cancelled… and a third, separate letter saying my appointment had been changed from physical to telephone.

All that I needed to receive was one letter saying my appointment had been changed from physical to telephone, not three letters, all sent from the source on the same day.

Have I mentioned before how much I hate mindless bureaucracy in general and what an administrative mess the NHS is?

… CONTINUED HERE

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A pain in the neck: Why I really don’t trust the UK’s National Health Service

Bad: cut head. Good: if you have freckles, no need for hair…

I got my Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID vaccination yesterday. Apparently over 12 million people have now been given the jab.

No side effects so far except that, about half an hour after getting the jab, I fell over backwards in my back garden.

I was unable to control the fall, landed flat on my back on the concrete path and hit the back right side of my skull against the sharp edge of my back doorstep.

Now I have a very sensitive-to-the-touch large domed bump on my head and a V or Y-shaped cut. Surprisingly no blood.

Nothing to do with the vaccine, of course – I just accidentally clicked my heel against the slightly raised concrete path by the grass and fell backwards. But it’s a kinda clickbait way to start a blog.

The execution of the vaccination itself was stunningly efficient. A steady flow of people entering the venue, being rapidly processed and exiting. I can only assume the organisation of it was set up by the Army not the NHS and not politicians.

I think anyone who has ever worked with me knows that I do not get on well with mindless bureaucracy.

All large bureaucracies are inherently mindless, inefficient and incompetent, no matter how well-meaning the staff may be.

Aye and there’s the rub. 

Settle back with a nice cup of something hot. This is a lengthy, self-indulgent blog.

Early last week, I contacted my local doctor because I have a persistent pain at the right side of my neck, across my shoulder and in a straight line down the outside of my right upper arm. The pain has been there since late November. It is now early February and has been a bit worse the last month or so.

I think it is a muscular pain and the problem is really in my neck. I could be wrong. 

My shoulder was broken in 1991 – pulverised in two places

In 1991, while standing on a pavement, I was hit by a large truck. It pulverised (technical talk for “powdered”) my collar bone in two places. The back left side of my head was cut open when it hit the edge of a low brick wall as I fell.

It also turned out later that my spine had been damaged at the bottom. The same effect as a slipped disc, though I don’t think it’s medically called that. And it hasn’t mended.

After the knock-down, I was in my local hospital for a week.

I was in the bone section ward of the hospital because of the shoulder injury; but I was bureaucratically under the care of the brain section people because of my head wound. These were/are two different departments/wards on two different floors of the hospital. 

It meant that, in the hospital, although the nursing staff in the bone ward cared for me and looked out for any after effects on my shoulder and brain, the consultant supervising the bone ward ignored me.

“He is not our responsibility,” said the doctor, passing by.

One day, I heard him say, as he approached my bed with a bevy of (I presume) eager and attentive trainee doctors: “This is Mr Fleming. He is one of Mr XXXX’s patients, so he is not our responsibility.” And, as normal, he passed by my bed without stopping or talking to me. 

Mr XXXX, who was on a different floor of the hospital, never visited me.

Eventually, late one Friday afternoon, an exhausted and I presume very over-worked junior doctor who worked for Mr XXXX came down, had a brief chat with me and told the nurses in the bone ward I could be sent home. Presumably they had advised Mr XXXX that I had no long-term head problems. (Which was not the case, as it turned out.)

After I was sent home, there was no physiotherapy, no after care of any kind. Much later I discovered there should have been but – hey! – it’s a big organisation. Shit happens. Some things don’t.

For about the next nine months I had waves of inability to think properly, I presume caused by concussion. I am still unable to read books because of concentration problems. Oddly, I can write books on a computer but I cannot read printed books.

I also buggered my shoulder. Mea culpa.

Because of the fractured bone(s) in my shoulder, I could only walk very carefully and slowly. I discovered walking is quite a violent shock to the torso. Who knew? Every step was a jolt and a knife stab into flesh because my bone had broken diagonally, creating two very sharp pointed ends. And I had to sleep on my back at night. Throughout my life I had previously slept on my side.

To avoid turning over, I slept with my left arm stretched out at right angles to my torso. This meant I mostly did not turn over but also had the side-effect (not realised at the time) that my shoulder bone, fractured in two places, mended with the bits of bone overlapping rather than re-attaching as before.

Not me (Photograph by Dylan Sauerwein via Unsplash)

This, in turn, I think, had the result that my left shoulder is slightly shorter horizontally than it should be and muscles around the back of my neck are a bit bunched-up.

So, occasionally, the back of my neck gets very tense and bunched.

In November last year, this was happening again and the right side of my neck started having an occasional vertical pain. As this developed, it also went along the top of my right shoulder and, for some reason, in a straight line down the outside of the upper half of my right arm.

Currently I get a pain on the right side of my neck and in that line down the outside of my right arm. I can’t really lift my arm more than halfway up my torso without a shooting pain.

All this, I think, is muscular and related to my buggered back-of-the-neck – not anything to do with bones or trapped nerves.

So I phoned my local doctor earlier this week. We are, of course, still in mid-COVID pandemic, so seeing anyone is pretty much of a no-no. The first person I talked to put me through to a second person. She told me: “There are no appointments left today. You have to phone back at 8 in the morning to book an appointment.” I was not asked why I wanted to talk to a doctor.

The next morning, I set my alarm for 0756 and phoned back at 0800. 

This was the same number I had successfully phoned the previous day.

The answerphone said: “Thankyou for calling. This number is no longer in operation. Should you require urgent medical advice, please hang up and dial 111.”

111 is a general NHS advice number.


As an aside… In May, I was advised after a negative COVID test to contact my doctor because I had odd non-COVID symptoms.

When I phoned the GP surgery and told them my symptoms, their initial reaction was: “It is not our responsibility. Phone 111.”

When I phoned 111, they told me to phone back the local GP surgery and tell them that 111 said I HAD to talk to my doctor and he had to talk to me within three hours. I did. He phoned back just over three hours later and got an ambulance to take me to A&E because he believed I had had a stroke (although I had no symptoms of having had one). 

When A&E tested me, they took me into hospital immediately. I had dangerous kidney function/calcium levels. Someone later told me I was probably within spitting distance of being on kidney dialysis machine.

Anyway, back to this week…


I phoned back the surgery’s number again after a few minutes gap. Same message. “Thankyou for calling. This number is no longer in operation. Should you require urgent medical advice, please hang up and dial 111.” 

I went online and checked the surgery’s number. It was the correct number. I phoned back again.

“This line is no longer in use,” a different message said.

I phoned back again. The answerphone again said: “Thankyou for calling. This number is no longer in operation. Should you require urgent medical advice, please hang up and dial 111.”

I phoned back again. Same number. This time, I got a receptionist who put me through to another receptionist who asked what, in general, was wrong with me and said a doctor would phone me back “sometime today”.

Later that morning, the doctor phoned me from a very echoey room. He was either in his kitchen or a very small room with hard walls. It sounded like a toilet but I felt that was unlikely.

He listened to the symptoms I had had since November. I told him I had tried rubbing on Deep Heat, Tiger Balm (suggested by Boots chemist) and Chinese Wan Hua Oil, all to no effect.

He suggested I take paracetamol or some other simple over-the-counter pain killer.

This is why I largely distrust Western Medicine. The object is to relieve the pain and hide the symptoms… not to cure the cause which will continue, masked by the drugs.

“Pain is a sign that something is wrong, Rosemary…”

I have, perhaps, been unduly influenced in my thinking by a line in Rosemary’s Baby… “Pain is a sign that something is wrong, Rosemary.”

I somehow, perhaps foolishly, doubt that I am pregnant with the Devil’s baby, but pain is my body telling my brain that there is a problem in some part of my body, its seriousness reflected in the level of pain transmitted.

I would rather know there is a problem and try to solve it rather than not know and let it develop unknown by me.

I have a feeling that a good neck massage might help me, but – hey! – we are in a COVID pandemic where no-one wants to get to close to anyone else.

The doctor did say he would text me two NHS online exercises for neck pain and shoulder pain. And get a physiotherapist to contact me.

Whether this physiotherapist actually will contact me or not is in the lap of the Gods, but I had a look at the two pages of NHS advice as sent by the doctor.

The one for Neck Pain says: “See a GP if pain or stiffness does not go away after a few weeks”.

The advice for Shoulder Pain says: “See a GP if the pain is getting worse or does not improve after 2 weeks”.

As I mentioned to my GP, I have had pain since November.

I can’t imagine this NHS treatment happening in a pandemic…

Ah well, I should look on the bright side. I am seeing my Chinese doctor in two weeks.

The good thing about Chinese medical philosophy is that they try to cure the problem not mask the symptoms. 

Western Medicine and the NHS is a pain in the neck.

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That was the weak… Being unbalanced maybe with vertigo in a time of COVID

This is more of a self-centred, up-my-own-arse aide-mémoire diary entry for myself than a blog for others. Proceed with caution and without anticipation. You have been warned…


A page from Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse-Five”

MONDAY 11th JANUARY

Tonight, around 9.30pm or 10.30pm, I became unbalanced.

Dizzy is not the word. The world around me was not spinning. But I was very swoony. Inside my head. I felt I was going to overbalance and fall over. In my house, if I walked across my living room, if I went upstairs or downstairs, I felt I was going to fall over and had to touch the walls to stay upright.

Since I was in hospital for one week in May (with an abnormally high calcium level and dangerously low kidney function) I had been waking up at least once every hour during the night with the interior of my mouth bone dry. No spittle, no lubrication, just totally Sahara Desert type dry. My dry tongue would feel it was stuck to the dry roof of my mouth or inside of the cheek. I had to drink water to lubricate my mouth and this, of course, meant I was having to go to the toilet a fair number of times during the night.

TUESDAY 12th JANUARY

Last night, if I stayed still and horizontal in bed I was OK but, if I stood up and walked into the bathroom, my balance went haywire. I needed the reassurance of nearby walls to touch as the inside of my head was all over the place.

It was the same thing this morning.

Not dizziness as such but a bit like being drunk (which I’ve only been twice in my life, in my long-ago twenties) – I was a bit sway-ey when I moved around. My foot-placement and balance were not 100% under my control.

This was pretty obviously NOT the COVID virus – I had no temperature, no new persistent cough, no loss of taste/smell – but I was unbalanced.

I thought: I’ll phone my local doctor tomorrow if I’m still feeling this way then.

Getting access to a GP during the current Coronavirus problems in the UK is not easy, as I know from my experience back in May. They don’t really want to talk to you; too much hassle.

This afternoon, I phoned my friend Lynn, whose husband has a slight medical background. She thought what I thought: that it was a dramatic symptom but probably something to do with an infection of the inner ear – BPPV, she suggested – when crystals in the ear dislodge. She said what I was feeling was vertigo and it might well resolve itself. She suggested I try the Epley Manoeuvre which aims to sort out the crystal problem.

There were some videos online

When I looked up BPPV online (never look up anything medical online) it turned out the loosened crystals involved are calcium crystals. I did not find this reassuring given my calcium problems back in May.

I talked to someone else I know. “Definitely sounds like vertigo,” she said. “I get vertigo attacks a couple of times a year as a result of having Meniere’s Disease. Usually brought on by dehydration in my case.”

Ah, I thought. Dehydration is why I have been waking up virtually every hour every night for about the last six months!

I had never thought of the word Vertigo until Lynn mentioned it but, when she said it, a lightbulb lit up in my head. Ping!

If lightbulbs go Ping!

I used to think I was frightened of heights but, after flying in a bubble-nosed helicopter in the US and travelling in multiple cable cars in Switzerland, I eventually realised I was not literally frightened of heights. I was frightened of overbalancing and falling… because of something that happened in my childhood.

To this day, I cannot walk across the Wibbly Wobbly footbridge or the Hungerford footbridge across the River Thames. They have no visible means of support when you are on them and I panic; I can almost feel the levels in my ears go out of control and I want to throw myself down on the surface of the bridges for safety.

This overbalancing feeling was like that… and a bit like part of what I felt before I was taken into hospital in May. Lightheaded. Unbalanced.

A week of saline drips back then got my kidney function up to a less dangerous level. 

Since then, I have been an outpatient of the local hospital’s Kidney Man and seen his mate the Calcium Man; though neither took any obvious interest in my constantly waking with a dry mouth. And no-one has found what caused my sudden kidney/calcium problem. 

I am scheduled to see the Kidney Man again in February, the Respiratory Team in May, the Calcium Man in June and, yet to be scheduled, an Ear, Nose & Throat person. All hoping they might find a cause for what happened in May.

It seems easier to see them than to get through to a GP…

Anyway, throughout Tuesday, I spent the day in bed and was still unbalanced whenever I got up to go to the loo.

I thought: I’ll phone my local doctor tomorrow if I’m still feeling this way then.

But do I trust my GP even if I can get hold of him? Not really.

WEDNESDAY 13th JANUARY 

I spent another day in bed but was maybe 60% less unbalanced when I was up and going to the toilet.

I stayed in bed until around teatime, then went out and walked to the nearby shops and back. I was a bit meander-y with slightly uncertain footing and, on the way back, my body felt very hot internally – inside the torso – which, I think, was just because I had over-exerted myself. It was only a 10 or 15 minute walk.

(Look, I told you in advance this is more of a self-centred, up-my-owm-arse diary entry for myself rather than something of interest to others. You were warned…)

Back home, I booked a COVID test just in case. I had none of the main symptoms, but my post-May symptoms sufficed. I also managed to slightly twist my lower spine by bending down to pick something up – never a good thing to do since I got hit by a truck while standing on a pavement in Borehamwood in 1991. So I had to sleep on the floor tonight.

(Like I said in the brackets above, you were warned…)

THURSDAY 14th JANUARY

Same as yesterday.

I stayed in bed until around teatime, then got up and walked to the nearby shops and back. I was a bit meander-y with slightly uncertain footing and, on the way back, my body felt very hot internally – inside the torso – which, I think, was just because I had over-exerted myself. It was only a 10 or 15 minute walk.

Yup, like I said, same as yesterday.

Though my balance was very slightly better.

I thought: Shall I phone my local doctor tomorrow? I think I’m feeling slightly better.

I didn’t phone.

I slept on the floor overnight, to try to mend my back.

It was all getting a bit samey.

FRIDAY 15th JANUARY

My balance was slightly better.

I thought: Is it worth phoning my local doctor with all the hassle and evasion that will involve?

I didn’t.

I took the self-administered COVID test which had now arrived and sent it off.

I slept on the floor overnight, to try to mend my back.

SATURDAY 16th JANUARY 

My balance was slightly better.

I slept on the floor overnight, to try to mend my back. 

SUNDAY 17th JANUARY

My COVID test result arrived by email and was unsurprisingly negative. That’s my seventh negative test, including three during my week in hospital in May. Did I mention I had been in hospital in May?

My back had mended. But the back of my neck and right shoulder remained occasionally painful. That has been going on for about the last three or four weeks and is, like my spinal problem,  connected with the after-effects of the being-hit-by-a-truck incident in 1991. I may not have mentioned that incident…


Those were my travails over that one week.

But they were minor and mean bugger-all. They are mild inconveniences. Over that same week, the DAILY death figures from COVID in the UK were around 1,000 to 1,500. The following week, they got up to 1,600 and 1,800 deaths per day.

At the time of writing this, there have been – as of yesterday – 97,329 deaths due to COVID – another 1,348 yesterday; and the number of COVID patients on mechanical ventilators in UK hospitals has passed 4,000 for the first time – 4,076, according to the BBC.

I know someone who had COVID very badly at the beginning of last year and, about a fortnight ago… one day… two of his toes fell off. One of his big toes and another toe. 

It kinda puts my problems of a dry mouth and being a bit unsteady on my feet fnto perspective.

Apparently what sometimes/often happens when a person is critically ill and on a life support ventilator – which he was for months – is that drugs called vasopressors are used to support the patient’s blood pressure. He had to have vasopressors for a long time to keep him alive. These drugs constrict the blood vessels in order to increase blood pressure, so that blood circulates through the vital organs to keep them alive. 

A horrible side effect of directing blood to the central organs is that it can induce ischemia (reduced blood supply) to the extremities. The toes are most commonly affected but some COVID patients have lost fingers. 

In his case, his whole feet were affected. The nerves in his feet were damaged by lack of blood supply and they were in constant pain. The toes on one foot did not recover from lack of blood supply and turned black. Rather than amputating the affected toes, the doctors decided to leave them to ‘auto-amputate’, which is considered safer than surgery. 

The process tends to take about a year – in this case it took ten months. 

Even though he knew it was going to happen, it was obviously mentally traumatic. 

Two of his toes fell off.

Apparently another two will follow.

So my minor ailments are nothing.

Life is shit.

All shit is comparative.

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More blood has to flow during the coronavirus pandemic in the UK…

(Image by kropekk_pl via Pixabay)

Yesterday, I got a phone call from the NHS Blood Transfusion Service asking if I would like to give blood.

Normally, I am a blood donor but, I was in hospital for a week in May with a high calcium level and a very low kidney function.

I am still not quite back to normal levels and the doctors still do not know the cause of the problem despite endless X-rays, scans, blood tests et al. 

So, last time I was due to give blood, I checked and was turned down and told I could not safely donate until I had finished being an out-patient at my local hospital. 

My blood is Group O+ which is, I think, the most common type.

I asked the Blood Donation person on the phone: “I’ve got dead common blood. Why are you phoning me – because people aren’t giving as much blood during the pandemic?”

And this, indeed, turned out to be the reason.

I was told there were fewer donors than normal because of the coronavirus pandemic and – also because of the pandemic – some of the smaller donor centres (hired for the day) have either closed-down permanently or are currently shut because of the ongoing lockdown provisions.

Blood donations have lowered to the extent that they are now phoning up existing donors to encourage them to give blood soon.

More blood has to flow.

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John Fleming’s Weekly Diary No 42 in a week of fishy things and phishy things

… CONTINUED FROM DIARY No 41

Posted slightly belatedly, this is the last of these Weekly Diary blogs and proof – if proof were needed – that 42 is not the answer to everything…

SUNDAY 1st NOVEMBER

Since I was hospitalised in May, I normally wake up with a bone dry mouth 8-12 times a night and have to drink water. Last night, although I had hiccups and heartburn shortly after going to bed, I slept through and only woke up once with a dry mouth at around 0600.

Are the Chinese pills I started taking last week having an effect?

Maybe.

MONDAY 2nd NOVEMBER

Something fishy in the US – President Donald Trump

It is the US Presidential Election tomorrow.

In the meantime, Dutch comedy judge and linguist Louisette Stodel sent me a fishy picture of salmon-faced Donald Trump with the message “Lox him up!”

I am much less of a linguist and had to look it up to find out Lox is Yiddish (and North American) for Salmon.

Also today, in the Netherlands, a metro train on raised tracks in Spijkenisse, near Rotterdam, crashed through a barrier at the end of the tracks and did not plummet 32ft onto the water and footpath below but ended up delicately balanced atop a giant polyester sculpture of a whale’s tail.

A ‘fluke’ accident in Holland and one whale of a tale of a tail

Apparently whales’ tails are known as ‘flukes’. Reuters and some excitable UK newspapers reported that, coincidentally, the sculpture’s name was ‘Saved By a Whale’s Tail’. But Dutch sources said it had the rather more mundane title ‘Whales’ Tails’.

What are the odds of a ‘fluke’ accident like this happening? Quite high according to a Fortean Times article I read years ago.

The odds of you being killed by a pig falling on your specific head this year make it massively improbable. The likelihood that someone somewhere in the world this year will be killed by a pig falling on his or her head is quite high. 

The most improbable coincidences and unlikely/impossible events happen every every day.

TUESDAY 3rd NOVEMBER

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. A sequel to Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.

As if to prove this, my eternally un-named friend and I settled down to watch the second Borat movie on Amazon Prime today.

I had seen the first film; she had not. So I helpfully explained that the people in the film were (mostly) ‘real’ people, not actors, as it is not necessarily obvious.

I had been slightly uneasy with the opening scenes of the first film when I saw it. They were set in Kazakhstan and were basically about laughing at people who were poor. I was surprised roughly the same thing happened at the start of the second movie.

But I was able to tell my eternally-un-named friend that, in my opinion, the first movie – which I had seen and she had not – had been better because the scenes were longer and the only bits which really worked in this second one were the sequences with some drunken students and a Christian meeting.

Bizarrely, when we got to the end, the much-reported sequence with Rudy Guliani being put in an allegedly compromising situation with Borat’s (fake) sister – and some separate much-commented-upon sequences with a babysitter – were not in the movie shown on Amazon Prime.

It took a bit of online Googling to see how and why these scenes were missing.

It turned out we had been watching the first movie not the second one and I had remembered not a single second of it.

My memory has never been of the best.

WEDNESDAY 4th NOVEMBER

President Vladimir Putin – a highly successful fisher of men

The US Presidential Election was yesterday. Today, no result.

Well it looks like, whoever gets most votes, Vladimir Putin has won… Either way he wins. Trump re-elected or America divided. All this and a thriving door-handle business. Putin is on a roll.

I got a letter from the NHS saying I am seeing the Calcium Consultant on 27th November.

THURSDAY 5th NOVEMBER

The first day of the second COVID lockdown in England.

The US Election still undecided.

Who knows what the outcome of either will be?

…Agatha Christie kept me guessing beyond the last page…

It reminded me of when, as a teenager, I bought a paperback copy of Agatha Christie’s whodunnit Murder on the Orient Express at the WH Smith bookshop in Ilford.

I got to the end of the book only to discover that someone had torn out the last couple of pages, so I did not know who dunnit.

Smith’s did not have another copy so ordered one for me.

It arrived about two months later, by which time I had forgotten the details of the characters and clues.

I never did know who dunnit until a film was made of it, produced by Lord Brabourne, who was later blown up with Lord Mountbatten by the Provisional IRA, in a boat in Ireland.

Oh what a tangled web life is.

FRIDAY 6th NOVEMBER

Phishing (Photo: Bermix Studio via Unsplash)

In the morning, my landline rang: a rare thing, as most calls are on my mobile phone.

The caller claimed that the insulation in my loft had been found to be dangerous and to cause mould and they would sort it out for free.

He said they were a government advisory group. When I asked twice who financed them, he hung up.

I don’t know what the scam was but, after the pitch, he only got as far as “Can I confirm you are the homeowner…” before it ended.

It makes a change from the normal scam/phishing line: ”I understand you had a car accident in the last six months that wasn’t your fault…”

SATURDAY 7th NOVEMBER

I woke up with a bone dry mouth about ten times last night and had to drink water.

Are the Chinese pills I am taking having an effect?

Clearly not yet.

It’s been that sort of day/year/life, really

The US Election has been called for Joe Biden but Donald Trump has refused to accept the result, claiming with no evidence that there has been voter fraud.

This is perfectly normal in the new world led by social media where, if you say anything, however fanciful, it becomes a fact.

In the afternoon, I received an email headed: demur we had around kinda placement for emergency pecuniary resource 8767178744116284

The message, in a reality beyond the fictional world of Borat, read:


Don’t expend all along you acquire, save and put at least, 10%-20%. This too bad is one after another of the commonsensible principles of personal finance. It is canonic wisdom non compos mentis to pass altogether your wage but to bring through approximately of it for the rainy twenty-four hour period. Unitary of the things you would discover if you scan the record book, “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”, is that rich people spare/place maiden and then pass the left while skint mass pass firstly and then write the odd fellow (if on that point is anything left). I am likewise really shamefaced of this. I sometimes incur myself doing fronting the compensate thing to do, and boast away my every week income on a weekend.


That is one hell of a piece of translation software the scammers are using.

The scammers have been scammed.

Fiction, fantasy and reality have merged.

The world has been spiralling increasingly out of control.

(Photograph by Norma Contreras, via UnSplash)

 

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Sleepless nights, gushing waters and a new lockdown – My Weekly Diary No 41

… CONTINUED FROM DIARY No 40

SUNDAY 25th OCTOBER

In my last diary blog I mentioned that, as I am not seeing my NHS Kidney Man again until next February – and as the Ear, Nose & Throat and Calcium blokes he suggested are but mere possibilities in a bureaucratic future mist – I was thinking of seeing my Chinese herbal doctor. Pricey but value for money.

I asked my friend Lynn what she thought. She suggested I should pursue the two misty-futured NHS blokes to gee-up the bureaucracy and not go to Chinese doctor – or, at least, do both. Try the Chinese path AND certainly try to gee-up the NHS. But I can’t be bothered, NHS bureaucracy takes its own sweet time, even if it kills you.

MONDAY 26th OCTOBER

“Wrongly mistaken for anxiety or nervousness”

In my last blog, I also mentioned that my tendency to witter is sometimes – wrongly – mistaken for anxiety or nervousness whereas it is simply mindless wittering.

After reading this, comedy uber-fan Sandra Smith emailed me:


Re your blog and anxiety.
I can see how you could present as anxious, having seen a couple of videos of you being interviewed. Your speech speeds up without pause and you constantly fiddle with your ears. If the the interviewer is female, a slight self consciousness creeps in. You appear much more comfortable as the interviewer.


I replied:


Mmmm… Interestingly, I’m not nervous being interviewed. In fact, I always did badly in job interviews; I think because I never got nervous so came across as being over-casual and therefore potentially unreliable! I have never noticed the ear thing. Must stop that.


In fact, what I thought was: “If the the interviewer is female, a slight self consciousness creeps in”…  Oo-err. What’s that about? and Is that a good or a bad thing?

TUESDAY 27th OCTOBER

All this came after sticking out my tongue…

I saw my Chinese doctor at lunchtime. As always, he took my pulse and asked me to stick my tongue out at him. That’s Traditional Chinese Medicine for you.

I think the theory is that the tongue is the only internal organ which you can see externally and so its state – cracks in it etc – reflect the state of your body.

He thought my sleeping and dehydration problems are connected with my kidneys – in fact, in the 1990s, he said I would have kidney problems in the future.

I got a month’s worth of tablets and made an appointment to see him again on 24th November.

WEDNESDAY 28th OCTOBER

In yet another reference back to my previous blog, the NHS Track & Trace mobile phone app again sent me two too-fast-to-read notifications – A COVID alert followed by a message saying it signified nothing.

I also got a message from my eternally-un-named friend.

She told me she had been crossing a pedestrian bridge at Canary Wharf, looked down and saw a group of skimpily-clad people in a hot tub sailing by.

“The weather was dry but chilly,” she told me. “There was a little fire in a front funnel, so I guess that must have been heating the water inside the tub.”

I was left fairly speechless. So was she.

Not a normal sight in the waters of Canary Wharf, London, in the chilly late weeks of October…

THURSDAY 29th OCTOBER

I never used to remember any of my dreams until this recent calcium/kidney problem which has resulted in me waking up 8-12 times every night. So the world of dreams is new to me.

“…gushing water, tumbling down towards the platform…”

Last night, I dreamt that I was rushing to get on a plane at an airport and the escalator down to the departure platform – Yes, platform… It was a narrow platform like a railway platform with tracks on both sides – the escalator down to the departure platform was covered in gushing water, tumbling down towards the platform.

What on earth was that all about? 

FRIDAY 30th OCTOBER

This probably won’t be happening until 2022.

I had another disturbed night of waking up pretty much every hour with a totally dry mouth, my tongue almost sticking to the inside of my mouth… made more entertaining at one point by simultaneous hiccups and heartburn… That’s potentially an hour-long Edinburgh Fringe show there. I have seen worse.

Online, there was the news that the Edinburgh Fringe will probably not be back properly until 2022 (its 75th anniversary) as the COVID pandemic effects will still be screwing-up things next year.

SATURDAY 31st OCTOBER

Chris Dangerfield: “How much of what he said is printable?”

For a forthcoming blog, I had a Skype video chat with sometime comic, always controversial raconteur Chris Dangerfield, who now lives in Cambodia. How much of what he said is printable is something I will have to grapple with.

He told me I looked well.

Clearly he is not a reader of my blog.

Boris Johnson precipitated a surge of toilet roll buying…

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that, to try to slow the recent surge in coronavirus cases, England will go on a second total lockdown from next Thursday for a month (November 5th to December 2nd).

I thought it was probably bad PR for him to announce this on Hallowe’en, the precursor to the Day of The Dead… and to start the lockdown on Guy Fawkes’ Night, which is about blowing up Parliament.

When I went out to a supermarket later, it was obvious that, as in the previous lockdown, a sudden panic-buying of toilet rolls has started, which makes no sense – the coronavirus, as far as I am aware does not result in diarrhoea and there was/is not a shortage of toilet rolls. Come to that, there is a wide variety of alternatives to toilet rolls – kitchen rolls, newspapers and small furry woodland creatures.

The COVID-19 effect: devastation in the toilet roll section of Lidl supermarket, Borehamwood.

… CONTINUED HERE

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My doctor, the COVID notification and the warning – My Weekly Diary No 40

… CONTINUED FROM DIARY No 39

SUNDAY 18th OCTOBER

“…in fact, I was totally calm and relaxed…”

My friend Lynn popped in to see me as she was on the nearby M25 motorway. She hadn’t seen me for a month and told me I looked better than the last time.

I mentioned that, twice when I was in hospital in May, staff had thought I was very anxious when, in fact, I was not remotely: I was totally calm and relaxed. Lynn told me my wittering comes across as nervousness.

I remember once walking across an open plan office at Granada TV in Manchester and someone asked: “What on earth has happened, John?”

Apparently I looked as if my entire family had been killed in a sudden air crash or a freak attack by a rogue herd of rabid wildebeest. In fact, I was particularly relaxed, happy and at ease with the world.

To quote Rabbie Burns:

O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us.

MONDAY 19th OCTOBER

After a two-month gap, I saw my Kidney Man at the hospital again. He/they still have no idea what was/is wrong with me.

I am much the same. Waking up maybe 8 or 10 or 12 times every night with my mouth bone dry and having to drink water.

He told me my blood test results… My calcium level should be 2.2-2.6. Last time it had settled at a good 2.4 but it has gone up to a little over 2.6. My low kidney function, which should be 60+ and which was 19 when I was taken into hospital – rising to 33 a week later and, after a couple of months, to 44 – is now around 50.

He is booking me in for another appointment in 4 months but may move that if required and he will recommend I get seen by two other different specialists before then – a calcium man and an Ear Nose & Throat man.

Afterwards, I had a new blood test, the results of which I will presumably hear about in 4 months time.

TUESDAY 20th OCTOBER

This morning, unlike previous occasions, when letters took several weeks/months to arrive, I got a copy of a letter from the Kidney Man to my GP about yesterday’s meeting.

It said I had last been weighed in 2002 rather than 2020 and that my next appointment would be in 2 months not 4 months. Attention to detail is always reassuring in someone who is diagnosing me and who may, at some point, perform surgery on me.

Later in the day, a notification flashed-up on my iPhone from the NHS coronavirus Track & Trace app saying I had maybe been exposed to COVID-19. It was followed immediately by another notification to the effect that they had checked and I could ignore the whole thing!

This seems a very ineffective notification system. No idea when/where/how it occurred. (Though I was inside a hospital yesterday). And seemingly designed to give old people with paranoia a jolt big enough to trigger a heart attack. 

Track & Trace sounds like the name of a more successful female pop duo of the 1980s.

WEDNESDAY 21st OCTOBER

I woke up even more than normal last night – maybe 15 times. Mouth bone dry. Needed to drink water.

My eternally-un-named-friend e-mailed me to say:


The friendly Gents (not the Ladies) toilets at Canary Wharf

Yesterday I saw an elderly woman stripped to the waist washing her armpits at the sinks in the toilets at Canary Wharf.

She apologised to me, saying it was because she was hot.

I said: “No need to apologise,” and offered her a few of my tissues to dry herself off with. She also helped me locate a tap with running water as the first two didn’t work when you waved your hands underneath. It was like being at school. It was heartwarming.

She looked quite fit for her age. Well, for any age. It did help that she was slightly slim

I wonder what her story was.

Maybe she just didn’t have hot water at home or maybe she was homeless, though she didn’t actually look that rough with bags and stuff. 

I saw a woman maybe last year in the toilets at Marks & Spencer in Oxford Street. And you could tell she was a street homeless person.


THURSDAY 22nd OCTOBER

Aha! That letter I got on Tuesday from the Kidney Man… the one which arrived so quickly… was NOT from the previous day’s consultation! A duplicate of the letter arrived today with an extra sheet on the back.

It was written on 7th October about my meeting with him on 3rd August, modified on 14th October, printed on 20th October and presumably posted on 20th October (although I actually received a copy through the post on 20th October). So bureaucracy at work and all the details to my GP are 2 months out of date.

I also got a separate letter this morning – from Bristol – about my next appointment with my Kidney Man – in London – on 15th February next year… so the 4-month gap between appointments was true.

FRIDAY 23rd OCTOBER

Last night I woke up less often than normal – maybe 5 times – with a bone dry mouth, having to drink water.

In the afternoon, Ariane Sherine‘s 9-year-old daughter was telling me about a woman who is addicted to eating bricks… and how cuttlefish hypnotise crabs. Both true.

It was an educational journey.

Later I received an email telling me that (after a complaint) YouTube have admirably put an age-restriction on one of the videos I posted 14 years ago – unsurprisingly one featuring the late Malcolm Hardee – though, mysteriously, there is no hint what the age restriction is… I think Malcolm would have been shocked not by the age restriction but by the fact it took 14 years to happen…

SATURDAY 24th OCTOBER

I am thinking of seeing my excellent Chinese doctor, as the NHS are not really getting anywhere on figuring out what caused my calcium/kidney problems nor why I am waking up dehydrated maybe 10-12 times every single night with a bone-dry mouth.

My Chinese doctor is not cheap. But he has always been value for money.

On my mobile, there was a notification which said: Your iPhone continues to look for possible exposures on your behalf.

When it was pointed out to me that this was a message about the COVID-19 Track & Trace app, I felt strangely disappointed.

British Summertime ends tonight and the clocks go back one hour.

I received a message from my eternally-un-named friend:

… CONTINUED HERE

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John Fleming’s Weekly Diary No 34 (a) – My dog clone and a bat swoops down

… CONTINUED FROM DIARY No 33

I was determined NOT to get into medical whinging in this week’s blog diary, but it didn’t work out…

Andy Dunlop weighs up the mysteries of the codes

SUNDAY 6th SEPTEMBER

In my last blog, I mentioned that, at St Pancras station, I had heard an announcement for ‘Inspector Sands’ which I said was a coded message meaning that there was a major emergency in the building.

World Egg Throwing Federation President Andy Dunlop today reminded me that the phrase “Inspector Sands“ was used because of  the need to throw sand on a fire.

So it is fire-related.

“It could just be a bin fire,” he told me. “Major stuff (bomb, other terrorism, robbery, armed people) tends to have different codes… No, I’m not telling you what they are.”

Wikipedia reckons ‘Inspector Sands’ can involve bomb threats, but I trust Dunlop. He has been around a bit and is a President and therefore beyond reproach.

I also asked him about my doppelgänger dog Rigby, who had been exhibiting the same symptoms as me.

“He is doing great,” Andy told me. “Treatment working it seems. Very happy.”

I can only dream of having treatment.

MONDAY 7th SEPTEMBER

I had a bath. I had been having trouble recently – with no warning – getting out of my bath.

My new technique is to put in more and more and more water until the bath overflows, casting me out in a tidal wave of Archimedean proportions.

That may not be altogether true; but what follows is…

I got a text from my GP:

Injecting a little bit of uncertainty into my mind and arm

“If you DO NOT want a flu vaccine we would appreciate it if you would email us to let us know so we can remove you from our RECALL list. This is very important as, this year more than ever, vaccines supplies are expected to be in extremely high demand. Thank you.”

I have no idea if being injected with a small dose of flu when I already have some unknown calcium/kidney/other problem is a good idea. I will have to get advice.

In late afternoon, I got raging toothache.

What next? Gout? Hiccups? Bodily takeover by aliens from Alpha Centauri?

TUESDAY 8th SEPTEMBER

My raging toothache got worse overnight. A veritable symphony of comedic ailments. Might be an abscess. Might not.

After a couple of hours of not sleeping, I took a couple of paracetamol. No effect. I also managed to develop heartburn and, after an hour or so, chewed a Gaviscon tablet. And I then developed very loud, OTT hiccups. My nose started to get a bit sniffly. Then a hacking cough, though I think that was from the heartburn.

Obviously taken after-the-event and, frankly, really rather over-dramatically posed…

The only way to stop the heartburn was to try to sleep sitting upright in my bed, with a pillow between my head and the wall.

After about three hours of sitting upright, half-sleeping, I woke up with the raging toothache worse and the back of my neck and my right collarbone giving me pain. But that was to do with getting hit by a truck in 1991, not any current problem.

Well, I did say there was a symphony – a veritable cacophony – of comedic overnight ailments.

Obviously, when I woke up, there was my of-late normal bone-dry mouth – no moisture inside my cheeks, nor on the roof or floor of my mouth, nor on my tongue, which felt almost stuck to the inside of my cheek.

I drank water. As always.

All this pretty much repeated itself throughout the night, though the heartburn went away and I sort of was awake at 8.30am, having slept vey sporadically and, it seemed to me, rarely.

At 9.30, I phoned my dentist. There are still restrictions because of the coronavirus. Basically, you can only get an appointment if it’s an emergency. I could only see my own dentist for my toothache in a fortnight; I could see another dentist in the practice next Monday. I could have a ‘normal’ appointment in October.

A stronger, hopefully more effective, bedside

As the paracetamol tablets were having no effect, I went to Boots the Chemist and they recommended I try co-codamol (paracetamol & codeine) of which I can theoretically only take two tablets four times a day for three days (because, after that, it can become addictive). In fact, the pharmacist told me, it would be OK to take two consecutive three-day courses, which would get me to Monday. And I also bought some Orajel Extra Strength to rub on the tooth; again, limited to four times a day “short term” (whatever that means).

For the rest of the day, the pain – not ache – pain – ebbed and flowed, depending on how close I was to the four-hourly point of taking the tablets/gel.

To add to the jollities, in the post, I got a CCd letter from my Kidney Man consultant to my GP telling him how I was doing. This was a duplicate of the same letter I got last week, except with an extra page showing dates.

The letter had been written by my Kidney Man on 29th July about the phone appraisal he had with me on 6th July. The letter had then been transcribed by his secretary/assistant on 6th August, modified by my Kidney Man on 28th August and the letter was posted out on 7th September.

It referred to a future meeting the Kidney Man would have with me in August which, of course, has already happened.

As if to confirm the dream-like nature of the day… at dusk, a bat appeared in my back garden.

My eternally-un-named friend tried to attract it by rubbing the edges of two 10p pieces together; then tried to ward it off by holding aloft a large bulb of garlic. I think this merely ended up confusing the poor winged creature. My eternally-un-named friend wore a jacket with her hood up in case the creature was suddenly attracted to and got entangled in her hair.

I can barely believe all this either.

But all this is true.

Spot the fast-flying bat, held at bay at dusk by a bulb of garlic held by my eternally-un-named friend

… CONTINUED HERE

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John Fleming’s Weekly Diary No 33 – An anarchist’s death, baths and sleep

… CONTINUED FROM DIARY No 32

Another weekly diary blog that’s maybe more than a bit self-absorbed. Apologies.

(Photo by 21 swan via Unsplash)

SUNDAY 30th AUGUST

For the last 3 or 4 weeks, my legs have ached when climbing long flights of stairs eg at stations. Really tiring and aching.

I had a lot of trouble getting out of the bath this morning.

But things could be worse.

My eternally un-named friend commented: “It’s a good day when you don’t have a hand grenade thrown through your window.” Something with which I cannot disagree. We think it’s a reference to the 1942 movie Went The Day Well?

As if to prove the point, both in general and a propos hand grenades, later in the day, my friend Lynn told me that (alleged) Angry Brigade anarchist Stuart Christie,whom I blogged about in October last year, died, aged 74, on 15th August. I had not noticed any obituaries at the time.

MONDAY 31st AUGUST

A couple of weeks ago, at Euston station, I heard an announcement for Inspector Sands (a coded message which means that there is a major emergency in the building).

I arrived at St Pancras station tonight and there was another Inspector Sands announcement – this time in English AND in French.

Everyone ignored it. I am still alive to tell the tale. If this happens a third time, I will be forced to conclude that the railway companies have actually been foolhardy enough to employ someone genuinely called Inspector Sands.

My yellow chum bobs in turbulent waters…

TUESDAY 1st SEPTEMBER

I had a bath this morning.

Despite my age, I try to keep mostly clean.

Also, I enjoy farting in the bath and watching my yellow plastic duck bob around in the turbulent waters.

Anyway, I had trouble getting out of the bath again, but it was not as bad as on Sunday.

Later, Ariane Sherine‘s 9-year-old daughter – never to be underestimated – told me that my birthday (28th July) is appropriately National Milk Chocolate Day.

WEDNESDAY 2nd SEPTEMBER

I slept just over 10 hours last night and woke up 12 times needing to drink water.

Today is my mother’s 100th birthday. She is dead, of course.

Ariane Sherine’s 9 yo wished my dead mother a happy 100th

Ariane Sherine’s daughter sent me well-wishes and a design she had created to celebrate my mother’s birthday.

For some reason, she had my mother’s maiden name down as McHamilton instead of McLellan, but my mother is dead, so no harm there.

Not that there would have been any problem; she would have been very happy. Very honoured.

Perhaps Ariane’s daughter is writing a musical. I would not put it beyond her.

THURSDAY 3rd SEPTEMBER

I slept from 2200 last night to 2000 tonight with a couple of short periods awake to eat and a very large number of wakings-up to drink water.

When I woke up, l had a bath and still had some trouble getting out of it. The muscles in my legs or somesuch.

“It seems to have been a Thursday for at least eight days now.”

It seems to have been a Thursday for at least eight days now.

A friend commented on my ongoing sleeping problems: “It seems quite uncope-able with, no? Not much of a life? You seem to just have an existence of being asleep, merely waking to eat or gasping for a drink.”

But maybe that description covers a very large percentage of people’s lives.

FRIDAY 4th SEPTEMBER

July… August… September… It all merges into one…

Ah! The (in)efficiency of the NHS bureaucracy!

This morning (September 4th) I received a letter from the Kidney Man posted yesterday and written on July 29th about a July 6th chat referring to a future early August appointment. It was sent to my GP with a CC to me so I presume he also received it this morning.

In the afternoon, I had a shingles vaccination at my GP’s. Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, none of the GPs are there any more. They all work from home.

The nurse giving the injection CLAIMED it was OK for me to have, despite my recent problems – cause still unknown.

Apparently, the Shingles vaccination is not annual – it’s one in a lifetime. Of course, if it kills me next week, that would still be true.

I found out too late to celebrate that today is National Fish & Chip Day.

SATURDAY 5th SEPTEMBER

Easier to get out of the bath, Almost back to normal.

Well, as far as getting out of the bath is concerned…

Like I said at the beginning, this blog is maybe more than a bit self-absorbed. Apologies.

… CONTINUED HERE

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