A non-driving day out…….

I’m a guy………so I love driving. I always have, (since first driving a tractor on a farm at 11!), I go to the driver’s door automatically when we go out, and the seat and reversing mirrors are set for me.

However, I am somewhat hors de combat just now, with non-driving the medical order of the day for at least two or three weeks. Meanwhile I have plenty of good neighbours, family drivers, and a bus stop only 200 yards away….but it’s just not the same!

I like using the skill required to negotiate our quirky Nissan Juke through traffic, over the bumpy tracks (sometimes called roads) and the notorious bends in the nearby Campsie Fells. But this has had to be delayed.

So what to do on a lovely sunny afternoon yesterday?……..

Well, how about a trip to Colzium Park, in Kilsyth, and the Lady of the House would drive. In a magnificent setting, with a house by the Lennox’s (who created the town of Lennoxtown, surprisingly), it was a place we would take the children when small, (nearly 40 years ago!) to feed the ducks, kick a ball, and have adventures in the extensive woodlands. There were still dog-walkers, a man in his motorised scooter, people with grandchildren, stones being thrown into the pond, shrieks from children as swans flapped their wings….nothing every changes. A brief chat with each renewed our social-interaction. Now, less-used, it is somewhat dilapidated, but still handy for an hour’s entertainment in the fresh-air. A carton of juice, and a lovely biscuit beside the car, allowed us to proceed on the next bit of the journey.

There is a wonderfully-named road close by called the Tak-ma-doon Road. It is not an easy road to drive at the best of times and by the most-experienced of drivers, due to the bends, sudden gradient changes, single-track sections etc, but as I said, this is something I enjoy. Good Lady, less so! The way from the Park to this road is at a very nasty , badly-sighted T-junction, where clutch control, handbrake, eyes, and accelerator need to be all fully-functioning. She handled this with aplomb, and we proceeded as planned, upwards and onwards towards Carronbridge.

There is a viewpoint at the highest point, where we stopped to get some photos. A car (which had allowed us to pass them earlier) pulled-in behind us, and I thanked them for their kind deed. We chatted and they were from Alberta in Canada, so we had a good blether about a visit we had made to Canada, and also about a pending one next year. Lovely people!

On past the beautiful Carron Valley Reservoir, with relatively quiet traffic to the delightful Fintry. The Crow Road which is better than the Tak-ma-Doon Road but must still be handled with care, then took her attention, and we returned safely, to the bosom of our house after a simple drive out.

It would not have been possible without the courage, and skill of my Good Lady, so a public THANK YOU VERY MUCH, is very much in order.

It was actually quite a good day……

I can’t say that I often think of a day of medical intervention on one’s body as normally a cause for celebration, of hilarity, or even pleasure.

A nagging pain, and the insistence of ‘Lady of the House’ meant a visit to my GP some time ago. A subsequent uncomfortable, and personal, examination at Stobhill Hospital, near Glasgow, discovered no under-lying life-threatening situation…. so relief was unbounded. However…… the pain was still around, and a visit to another practice GP showed that there were now TWO seats of pain to be investigated…..ugh! An appointment with a surgeon decided that knife-cutting was to be the answer.

We had a family cruise organised and knew that it was unlikely that a surgical team would meet us in Santorini, or Dubrovnik, to perform an operation, due to sensible, not-unexpected, budgetary constraints within the NHS. However the waiting list involved (which was within the guidelines) meant that no such options/decisions had to be made!

I slept better the night before the op than usual, and the alarm gently woke me. Daughter and wife saw me safely into the arms of the Receptionist, medics, and nursing staff, and I was swiftly re-clothed in the double front/back- tied surgical clothing. Strangely, it was printed all over with…. ‘Only to be Worn by Hospital Patients’……as if any non-hospital-patient person would be seen dead in it!

Then the re-questioning began…….again and again. Every member of staff who came near had to ensure themselves that I was who I was. Maybe a label attached to me like Paddington Bear, with all the details, might be more sensible…or is that what they do in a morgue?

The amount of technical information pumped-into ones brain, by the surgeon, anaesthetists (yes, I had two!), and ward staff, before the procedure, is astonishing…..as if one were able to retain it, and if necessary act on it under anaesthetic! On the trolley, going to the theatre, the chat is pretty trivial, enlivened only by me seeing a trolley coming the other way, and it looked as if we were in a race for the same theatre!

For me, the worst part of surgery is the holes they make in you, for blood samples, plasma drips, different anaesthetics, and nerve blocks in various parts of the anatomy….It’s a bit like the Tony Hancock comedy ‘The Blood Donor’ (You-Tube it). They can be painful, and you might well wish to call the whole thing off, before they get the real cutting implements out. But by then the numbing chemicals have taken effect, and no amount of complaining will come from your mouth!

Surgery started at about 9.15, and I wakened in the recovery room just after 11. Professional but very kindly faces asked on a regular basis, how I felt. This I was to indicate, on an index of pain. Since presumably everyone has a different threshold, it has little absolute meaning, but comparatively it gives an indication of improvement level. I like to work on the basis of ‘How would I accept having this for the rest of my life’, and it seems to work for me. I have to admit that I was not a happy bunny for some little time, (after all, they had worked on two parts of my anatomy!) and pain-relief protocols were discussed and applied. This all happened within a framework of daft jokes, laughter, and good-hearted banter. The anaesthetists came to see me and gave their professional advice.

I then had the cheek to ask if I could get up to go to the loo, (‘Permission refused, Mr Monroe, as protocol does not allow it just yet!’). A bladder scan suggested to them that it would not be necessary. Gentle persuasion and discussion of the consequences, allowed a compromise, and my bladder proved it WAS necessary…technology isn’t always right!

Alternating episodes of inactivity, brief walks, and coffee, hot choc, and numerous biscuits passed the afternoon with everyone in a jovial frame of mind (it was Friday afternoon after all!) Lady, and my Daughter arrived to take me home and I was discharged at 4pm. On return home, they indulged in a chilli con carni, whilst I made do with a bowl of cereal, apple pie and custard.

…………..and thanks to a lot of people, it had been a good day!


It’s a right pain!

Someone to whom we are very close has just come through many months of pain, medical tests, worry, taking of much blood, indecision by medics, and three intensive courses of chemo-therapy. This was then followed by a major operation! All this has been borne with fortitude with only the very occasional (and perfectly-understandable) complaint.

We have known this person for decades, and thought we knew them well, but the last few years have shown them in a sharper  light. Courageous, tolerant about the condition, brave, accepting of the treatment, helpful to others in the same situation and optimistic, all come out high-up in the list of descriptors which would apply.

No-one in their right mind would say that we should all have a dose of bad health, or bad luck, so that some alter ego could shine through ….because I think in a lot of situations it just would not work out that way! Many would become bitter, blame themselves or others, give up hope, and become introverted.

As we encounter the cutbacks in government and local services, with unemployment rising in both wealthy and deprived areas, it is going to require an immense amount of positive, courageous and original thinking from everyone in our society if we are to see through the tunnel towards the light. In fact, not unlike what this relatively-young person has had to imagine, meet head-on and now look forward to…….. a better future.

So is your glass half-full, or half-empty?

All clear…well not just yet!


Today, the Lady of the House was given the all clear that the macular hole in the retina of one of her eyes had been repaired successfully and that within about another three months she should have near-perfect sight again. This news was gratefully received, especially because some six years ago, two operations had failed on the other eye, and she now has no central vision there.

The operation was complex, and she had had it under local anaesthetic! Her only comment to the surgeon at the time was that they were not to talk of football whilst operating, as she had heard every word spoken the last time!

The joy that flooded her this morning was fully justified, as she has not been able to read, do sudoku, solve crosswords, type, drive, or carry out any job which required precision movements or views of something up-close.

So her life has been brought back from the brink, and for this we have to thank the learning, skill, dedication, and patience of a group of specialists. So for all the complaints we hear about the NHS, we have to acknowledge a large debt of gratitude to these people.

Be grateful that in this country, and the Western world in general, miracles still happen, and lives renewed. The same surgeon has a charity which saves sight in Ethiopia and a large cheque will be winging its way to help those less fortunate than have their sight improved.

Walking the walk……

Lady of the House, Son, and I were at Hamilton, Lanarkshire, last night  (the ASDA Car Park to be precise), to see off some 1300 ladies young and old on a Midnight Walk. It was a beautiful evening and the ground shook and lamp-standards vibrated to the dancing and gyrations of these ladies in ridiculous costumes. All sported pink, which is quite nice and feminine, but others had luminous tu-tus, sparkling tiaras, hideously-coloured leggings,etc, which were (I imagine) intended to chase off any male pursuers!

Their intention was to walk some 13 miles (half a marathon, for goodness-sake!) from Hamilton to Bothwell,  Blantyre and other assorted bits of the roads round the area. They were  seen-off by fire-engines, escorted by police, marshalled by stewards all along the route. Both ASDA and Tesco provided some much-needed facilities. We let them get on with it whilst we headed off to bed, and ultimately hear of their safe return.

The reason for the walk was to raise funds for St Andrew’s Hospice in Airdrie. This wonderful organisation has a tremendous shortfall in its finances of some £45,ooo per week, and with the government cutbacks likely to be announced this week, the situation will not improve. To put it in some kind of context, even one fewer shell per week fired in anger in our current battlefields would keep them afloat in their marvellous work…..think about that you politicians!

Women have been aware of the scourge of cancer for many years, and the effect it can have on their well-being, as it is talked-about quite freely between themselves, and in the media. Not so with men…the macho image most of them have of themselves and their bodies does not sit well with self-examination, or discussions with doctors etc.

It is well-known that early diagnosis and treatment is to be preferred, and yet the young virile male feels himself invincible and immortal. Not necessarily-so, guys! Take a lesson from the ladies, and maybe this time next year, we might see the equivalent walk with males, without the tu-tus, tiaras, and leggings, of course!

Having a break

Just now we’re getting a big return on the investment we’ve paid into the NHS over the years, so i will be having a sabbatical from postings during the near future.  Will get back ASAP.

……But I will try to keep in touch with all those who are still posting.

Kind regards…and keep us in your thoughts.


Earlier this year I unfortunately had to make use of the Scottish Ambulance Service to take me to Glasgow Royal Infirmary after my little ‘medical event’.

I could not fault the professionalism nor the care I received, and of course I made a full recovery.

That was the end of that, I thought!…but no…… Last night I received a phone call from some survey team (company?) purporting to be speaking on behalf of the Scottish Ambulance Service. they wanted to question me on how I rated the Service. Besides the fact that I most certainly did not feel in any kind of mood at the time, to assess how they were carrying out their job, I was just not sure how to take this questioning.

I asked a supervisor how they had got my name and phone number and was told that they had been given it by the Ambulance Service. I said that I felt that this was a breach of confidentiality, and refused reluctantly to answer any questions.

Has anyone in scotland or elsewhere had any such experience such as this?  Mine may be an isolated event, but maybe not, so I would like some facts before approaching them about the secrecy which I would have expected from them.

P.S. I still think they did a good job that day!

Another Good Man Gone!

We’ve just lost a good friend to a brain tumour. He was only about 52, and we got to know him when he came to join my choir. He showed an immense talent for music composition, keyboard skills and a wonderful sense of humour through even the dark days. He also came over as very thoughtful, caring and non-complaining.

He had looked forward to going to Ballachulish, Argyll in March to join in Evensong. His health had badly deteriorated, and we were very unsure about whether it was wise for him to go. If anything had happened while up there, the distance to a suitable hospital would have proved catastrophic, and we might have carried this in our mind for many a long year.

My final opinion was sought, and I had to say YES, as I could never have forgiven myself if I has said NO. In the event, two members very kindly looked after him over the weekend and he thoroughly enjoyed it. It was his last major event outside his hospital and hospice.

So, ‘CARPE DIEM’…..never let an opportunity of any kind go by….you may never get the chance again!

A doubt in the mind…..


For those of you who have nothing better to do, you may remember that I had a little ‘medical event’ a couple of weeks ago,which we all originally agreed was probably labrynthitis (a viral infection of the balance mechanism in the inner ear).

Both I  and the consultant  had a nagging doubt that it was not that, as I felt I didn’t have all the normal symptoms which manifest themselves. There was obviously no suspicious problem in the brain (that’s not what some people say!) as the CT scan proved clear. But we all do like having such occurrences named definitively don’t we?

Lady of the House spent some time exploring the Internet and, good for her, she found what was a  more-likely reason. Having read several relevant papers and my modern text books, it does seem to fit better with my symptoms. It is often mistaken for labrynthitis, and it is only relatively-recently documented to any extent. I can therefore not hold any criticism of my receiving consultant.

Viral  vestibular neuritis (as it is wonderfully called) is an infection of the vestibular nerve, often appearing after a persistent upper respiratory infection (as in my case) and can disappear very quickly (as in my case) or dribble on for a few weeks. It is also unlikely to return….

So you can see I am a lot more re-assured, and have proved that you can learn something every day!

Back to work tomorrow!…hooray


A week after my medical ‘event’ I feel ready to get back to work. It’s a strange feeling…..being off for a week, ill, for the first time in 25 years. I must be frank; for the first few days I gave the businesses no consideration at all…..things are quiet anyway, but we are lucky with the folk who work with us as they are perfectly capable and so as the week went on, I was able to stay relaxed about it.

It became a feeling of  ‘so this is what retirement is like!’  But of course it wasn’t. It was not a situation of our choosing, and there was uncertainty of the medical future. On the plus side, the clock became less important and we were able to establish a very simple routine…….

GP says he sees no reason why I can’t drive if I feel OK, which contrasts with the Consultant who said I should refrain for four weeks! So what to do? Perhaps I should only drive on alternate days, or drive on a journey one way and let the Lady of the House drive on the return journey?

Despite what I said in my previous blog, I have nothing but admiration for the medical staff. Non-judgemental, they had to deal with a 12 hour shift, swearing, bad manners, alcoholics, soiled beds, all with a calmness I would find difficult to maintain. They were always ready to help in even a small way, such as getting me a glass of water. So, if any of you are watching…. many thanks.

Cleaning and hygiene within the ward have exceeded all expectation and again have to commend all those responsible.

So for a couple of hours each day, I will slowly pick-up the threads again, and hopefully lay the ghost to rest…..and be thankful that the body systems have not taken a major jolt…..so thanks to all who asked after my health.