A medical enigma

If in 1981 I’d written a blog (if there was such a thing then?) about my dad surviving to see his 80th birthday, readers would have thought I’d gone mad. Not because his mum and dad died young, but that year saw him hospitalised due to a sinus problem and the emergency operation resulted in him sustaining brain damage.

He spent six months in a London hospital, with my mum travelling daily to visit whilst as teenagers, myself, brother and sister tried to carry on as normal not knowing whether we would have a dad for much longer. Eventually he did recover enough to come home, but from that moment onwards life would be very different for his family. He was 40 years old.

Dad had suffered brain damage as a result of the botched operation. It left him with limited mobility due a stroke, loss of sight in one eye and only peripheral vision in the other and short term memory loss. His injuries were such that it was difficult to say how long he would live so whilst we were relieved to get him home, we really didn’t know how long we would have him around.

In the early nineties, dad suffered another setback, when his consultant had to remove another sinus mucocele, the same issue that caused him to go into hospital first time around. This was shortly followed by a pulmonary embolism, a blood clot in his lungs and then incredibly he was diagnosed with a pituitary tumour, which was also operated on to remove. In the early 2000’s he suffered another PE, followed in 2010 by another.

During the eighties, mum started proceedings to sue two Health Authorities for negligence in mis-diagnosing his original condition and the Queens Hospital, London for causing the brain damage during the emergency operation. They all eventually settled out of court in 1990, basing the award on his expected life expectancy of 15 more years, which would take him to 65.

Fast forward to 2021, and dad has defied all medical logic and is still going and is about to celebrate his 80th birthday later this month. He has to have a live-in carer as, sadly, mum passed away in 2014, ironically by suffering her first and only pulmonary embolism. When she passed, the expectation was that dad would have to go into a home but incredibly seven years later he still lives at home and coping reasonably well. Even Covid-19 hasn’t got him.

His health has deteriorated in recent years; he’s starting to struggle to speak properly and his mobility has slowed considerably, although he is still capable of going out on him mobility scooter. But considering what his body has been through, for him to reach the ripe old age of eighty is nothing less than a miracle.

Sadly it doesn’t look like we’ll be able to celebrate his birthday with him this month due to the ongoing lockdown restrictions but I’m sure once things relax we’ll try and sort out a get-together, hopefully including his surviving younger brother and older sister.

I’m Back

Once again there has been an extremely long gap between blog posts, with my last entry posted just before Lockdown 1 last year. The post was the ninth in a series documenting my return to woodworking and subsequent excursion into the world of CNC machining.

Looking back now, I cannot recall why I suddenly stopped the blog articles; maybe it was the sudden shock of coping with lockdown and the realisation that the world had more serious things to think about rather than my drivel about V Carving MDF clocks and Watford FC badges. Or maybe it was just that I couldn’t be arsed.

Of course, just because life became different and restrictive it didn’t mean things stopped and on reflection there’s quite a bit of updating I should really do.

So I made a list.

  • A list of topics I should write about.
  • A list of things that have happened in the past 12 months.
  • A list of things I’ve made.
  • And a list of things that will be happening soon.

And I’ve set myself a challenge to start writing about them.

So watch out for updates on lockdown, holidays, electric cars, CCTV as well as more completed CNC and woodworking projects.

And I promise they’ll be published sooner rather than later!

Building my new workshop

It was around this time last year that I had the notion that I wanted a proper woodworking workshop, with all the fancy machines I’d ever dreamed of owning but never could afford. So when I got wind of a favourable bonus coming my way I got to work on planning how I would spend a sizeable chunk of it.

57AC8EBF-321F-4628-A6F0-2A8433A4D84EFirstly I had to address problem of creating the space; the garage had accumulated so much crap over the years there was very little room to walk around it let alone site a new table saw or router table. IMG_0319The rafters were full of boxes containing kids school books, toys and loads of old training manuals and paperwork from work and the floor had garden furniture, a cross trainer and a bicycle taking up vital workshop space.

Having decided there was far too much to take to the local recycling depot, I ordered a 6 yard skip, confident it would be big enough to cover all my needs. Yeah right!

IMG_0349IMG_2051Eventually though I did manage to reduce the pile of things to keep and set about storing the many boxes back up in roof space above the garage. A quick paint job of the floor gave me a lovely canvas and space to start filling with some machines. Phase 1 completed.

Next job was to tackle the garage doors. The existing doors were the up and over type but over the years had become more and more difficult to use. In fact the right hand one couldn’t be opened due to a fault spring so had to be screwed shut. So the first big spend was to replace them with two roller shutter doors.

I found a local company that could change them out at a reasonable cost and soon had new doors.

IMG_0441And so to start filling the space. I’d researched some of the machines I’d want; I’d always fancied a proper table saw and so went for a 8″ cast-iron model from Charnwood along with a sanding station and dust extraction system from the same manufacturer. This was then followed up by a Lumberjack bandsaw supplied by Amazon and a router table. It wasn’t long before the garage floor space was starting to fill up again, but this time with lots of new toys to play with 🙂

Another part of the workshop build was to create a wall that could be used to hold all my hand and power tools so I set about erecting a french cleat system, using my new machines to rip down the timber and sheets to the right size. I then built an outfeed table for the new saw, which gave me storage to keep other tools. Phase 2 complete.

My next post will continue to run through the evolution of the workshop along with highlighting some of the projects I have undertaken so far.

Empty Nest Syndrome

Well is it really four months since I last blogged, how remiss of me,  must admit I’ve completely lost interest in adding updates!

Since the last blog, there’s not much been going on; I got an Apple Watch, which is pretty cool. I changed roles within Virgin Media and am now based in Birmingham (not loving the longer drive every day though) and we’ve holidayed in Turkey (really loved Kalkan).

But otherwise it’s been pretty normal; lots of hassles with dad’s care (not the carers, just the financial side of things with the council) and Rio being his normal self, needing attention all of the time.

Big news on the family front though. Abby, having finally split with her husband earlier in the year, has landed a nursing job in Jersey. We’re a bit sad that we won’t get to see her so often, but we’re really pleased for her and at least we’ll have an extra excuse to go and visit the island more often (my sister already lives there so we can kill two birds with one stone so to speak!).

And the other piece of family news is that this weekend saw Matt move out to live with his fiancee Chloe, to a house in Kettering. They’ve moved into a lovely two bedroom place, which will be a perfect starter home for them both.

So that means that our nest is empty once more 🙁

Just as I was typing this out Tina remarked that this will be the first time in 25 years that we’ll be living on our own again. How time flies!

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Nearly there…

I thought I’d better update my blog as to the progress of the bathroom I started a couple of months ago as I am close to completion, with only a bit of painting and some fittings to put up. You may recall that the DIY hasn’t been straight forward; with a number of incidents setting me back, including putting my foot through the ceiling below and cutting through an electrical ring main, but since then things have been going fairly smoothly.

IMG_1585Well, when I say fairly smoothly, I must mention the ‘cowboy’ company who let us down with the tiling by failing to turn up twice despite promising to have someone on site to start the work. Flytte appeared to be extremely professional leading up to the agreed start day sending two separate people around to quote and technical assess the job. But when it came down to it they let us down, with no apology or contact afterwards. Very shoddy.

So it was left to me to take on the tiling; I didn’t particularly want to but with the refit dragging on we really wanted to get the bathroom back in service. I took my time and finally completed it during the week, reasonably pleased with the finish.

And so to this weekend and I finally got around to fitting the glass shower screen, the new toilet and sink, as well as the laminate flooring. I did have a bit of a panic this morning when I unwrapped the glass panels to find a support bar missing, doh! A few frantic phone calls to the Bath Store and they confirmed that the part should have been included and will send it to me next week. Fortunately I was still able to fit the panel and do the silicone sealing around the tray so the day wasn’t completely wasted.

I must admit I have thoroughly enjoyed doing the bathroom; it’s given me the appetite for DIY again and Tina subsequently has drafted a list of jobs that need tackling over the coming months. I have also benefited from a few new ‘tools’ which has helped me carry out the bathroom fitting and made the job so much easier. They include…

  • a circular saw
  • a reciprocating saw
  • a jig saw
  • a manual tile cutter
  • a water-cooled tile cutter
  • a set of diamond drills
  • a cordless drill

Whilst the bathroom has been a petty expensive project, I think by doing it myself I must have saved a couple of thousand quid even if I include the additional tools I ordered.

Back to the tiling and there was a personal benefit of the company letting us down; they were going to charge £600 for the work which now has enabled me to order a certain watch which is about to be launched next week 🙂

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Carpet ‘wrong’

carpetrightBack in the summer we decided that the light coloured carpet in the living room didn’t cope well with a puppy who liked to dig up the garden and bring the mud indoors and chew bones covered in blood so we wanted to change it for a darker pile.

We decided to use Carpetright as they often held sales and we’ve used them before without any issues and soon found a carpet which was a good match with the hallway carpet which is adjacent the living room. Fortunately the weekend we ordered the carpet, the store was having an extra discount sale and we got what we thought was a very good quality carpet for a very reasonable price.

Obviously having a new carpet fitted in the living room meant all the furniture being removed, but as we have too large leather suites, we arranged for a two-man crew to do the work so they could move them out into the garden. Of course, I also had to disconnect the TV and surround sound system; which if you looked at the back of the TV unit is no easy task. A real pain!

Anyhow, two weeks later the carpet fitters arrived and lifted the old carpet, which was still of good quality and too good to scrap and relocated it into the study. The new carpet went down fine and looked a good match with the adjacent carpet as hoped, as well as the furniture and leather suites. Of course I then had to re-install the TV etc, making sure I got the cables wired up correctly.

A couple of weeks later on and we started to notice that the carpet was shedding some of its pile; at first we thought it was just the dogs claws catching it when he charges around like a mad thing but on closer inspection it was clear the carpet was faulty. Knowing that to replace the carpet meant re-emptying the room we just ignored the issue, hoping it would settle down.

But it didn’t.

In fact it started to get worse, with clumps of pile coming up after every vacuum clean. Eventually I decided to call Carpetright and they agreed to send out an assessor. He took one look at the problem and agreed that the carpet was faulty but would need to confirm it could be replaced by the manufacturer which would take a couple of weeks. H e said that the rubber backing had clearly not been put on thick enough which meant the pile was working loose. A month later we finally got the decision we were expecting and that we could have a replacement carpet to the same value as the previous. As we had got the original on such a good deal and it was just the colour Tina wanted, we agreed to go for the same carpet, on the understanding that it would be a new batch off of a different roll.

In December we, once again, emptied the room and had the replacement carpet fitted. When the fitters asked Tina whether she wanted to keep the old carpet, Tina stated that she was expecting it to go back to the manufacturers but a quick call to Carpet Right confirmed we could keep it. Result as it would be perfect for Abby’s old bedroom, which would have low foot traffic once it was turned into the spare room. It was placed in the garage ready for fitting in the future.

Fast forward to last month where we started to notice piles of carpet starting to lift from the new one, surely it couldn’t happen again? We left it a couple of weeks then agreed it was clearly faulty again, obviously they had given us the replacement carpet off the same roll. A quick phone call to Carpetright and this time they agreed over the phone to replace it, again, to the same value as the original or if we chose an more expensive carpet we would need to make up the difference. Yeah right!

Geared up for a fight, Tina and I then visited the local store and again we given a maximum price we could go to for the replacement. The problem was that as we’d got the original carpet on such a good deal we couldn’t see anything of similar quality at the same price or less. In the end we chose a more expensive carpet and told the sales guy that we wouldn’t be paying any extra. His manager saw sense and agreed with our way of thinking 🙂

And so today we had our third carpet fitted; not before emptying the room for the third time. Again, the fitters asked us whether we wanted to keep the old carpet and after some negotiations they agreed to fit it in the spare room, agreeing to come back to fit the one in the garage into Matt’s bedroom at a later date.

So hopefully that’s it now; we have another replacement carpet fitted in the living room; a nearly new, albeit faulty carpet fitted in the spare room and another faulty carpet, albeit six months old in the garage ready for fitting in another room. Somehow I think we’ve probably done alright out of the problem even if the whole experience has been inconvenient and you can’t knock the service we received from Carpet right, even if they did try it on a bit with the price of the replacement carpet. Still I wouldn’t hesitate in using them again!

In the name of recycling…

Having just got back from walking Rio I was shocked to see the state of the streets where I live, and all in the name of recycling. Now I was all for the new wheeled bins when they were first deployed eighteen months ago but I soon came to realise that these are not the ideal solution, especially when we have windy weather. Unfortunately what tends to happen is on collection days the lids get lifted off and the contents get blown out and deposited across the road, path and gardens making the whole place look untidy.

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This morning it is even worse as there is almost a months worth of recycling material being left outside due to the inability of the bin men to get their lorries around the untreated roads following the snow. And I don’t suppose the bin men will have time to pick up the loose packaging that has got away from the bin either.

I’m all for recycling; I think it’s worth the effort to sort through the rubbish and better it gets reused than put into landfill but there must be a better way than this to ensure our streets are kept clean?

Going electronic

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog so I thought I’d get something down on the first day of the traditional blog-a-day-in february, which was first started by mate Mark over at www.masher.tv.

My blog posts have been a bit sparse of late; a combination of apathy, a mundane lifestyle and a very active puppy that constantly wants walking. Whenever I sit down at my iMac, I get a nose up against my side and a sort of whining noise and although I keep telling her to stop, Tina just won’t leave me alone!

So to my blog…

Last week I started reading an e-book on my iPad entitled ‘Paperless’ in which the author described how he had managed to go completely paper-free in his home and office, converting every piece of literature to pdf before filing in an orderly fashion on his computer. Now me being an organised type of person thought this idea worthy of some consideration and started to look at how I could incorporate this way of saving the planet into my life. But how to achieve such a feat?

Well firstly I had to look at my work and how much paper I consume on a daily basis. What with printing for meetings, one to one’s with my team, notices and process documents it was going to be a tall order but I was certain I could make it happen. I started by scanning in the large pile of paperwork that had gathered on my desk; there were a number of forms that needed to be kept but they didn’t necessarily have to be in paper format. Fortunately we now have access to an all-in-one-scanner that e-mails the output straight to your inbox. It wasn’t long before I was filling my system with exact copies of the forms, in pdf format, neatly entitled with a standard filename so I could easily retrieve it. Great. Then came the 121’s and the tricky problem of sitting down with my engineers without filling in reams of paper from which the new appraisal scheme requires. So I went electronic. Now my engineers will be able to store their performance evidence on their laptops and e-mail me once we’ve been through it. They, therefore, don’t need to carry an encyclopaedia-sized folder to the meeting and I can upload what is required for the scheme onto my storage area should anyone want to audit it. I’ve also stopped printing everything I get sent to me and instead now read it on the computer screen and then file it. I just hope our IT department do regular backups as I’m really putting my faith in this electronic medium.

ScanSnapS1300iAnd so to home. To be fair I have tried to cut down on holding on to bits of paper over recent years; the advent of the electronic utility bill and paperless bank statements have greatly reduced the amount that I have needed to hold and I have regularly scanned any statements that are sent by post onto my Mac using my as-in-one-printer, but was a long and laborious process and so I decided to invest in a dedicated scanner. I purchased a Fujitsu ScanSnap 1300i scanner and I must admit I’m pretty impressed with it’s ability to scan the documents, OCR them and file them, with just one press of a button. I’ve managed to scan a number of documents that I am reluctant to just throw away just in case I need to refer to them again, taking minutes rather than hours to transfer them to my system.

As a precaution, I’ve set up a backup routine where I have two local copies of my files and an off-site back up too so I have every confidence that when the documents go through my shredder I will be able to retrieve them.

So I’m not sure whether my contribution will save any trees; most paper these days is made from sustainable forests but at least it gives me an excuse to use tech and now I have the ability to get to my documents remotely. Very 21st century!

Happy reunion

For the first time this summer we experienced a lovely, warm day yesterday which was fortuitous as we had organised a BBQ for the friends we met in Egypt in 2010. For the past three years we have held a reunion at one of the couples houses and this year it was our turn. We kept an eye on the forecast all week  and were relieved to see that yesterday was going to be perfect outdoor eating weather, with temperatures likely to rise up to the high twenties.

Everyone duly arrived late afternoon (including an edition to the group as one couple had a baby girl earlier in the year) and we were soon catching up on news, enjoying the warm weather which reminded us of our happy times in Egypt three years earlier. It was really nice that we have kept in touch especially as we are such a diverse group of individuals, with a wide age gap too.

The youngest couple, Santosh (postman) and Catherine (solicitor) were blessed with a girl, Riya, in January and she was so laid back and calm throughout the day. Catherine told us all about their recent trip to Nepal (where Santosh was from) and how they coped with a baby under six months old in such a remote part of the world. Karen (Teacher) and John (between jobs) hadn’t changed at all and were grateful for the invite, using the opportunity to see Karen’s brother who lives at nearby Sywell. John had explained that he’d lost his contract job at the MOD earlier in the year and was considering his  employment options but was enjoying working outdoors in a temporary job clearing lakes. And finally Stuart and Barbara who have been retired a few years and had recently become great-grandparents.

Of course for us the news was of Rio, who was the new addition to our family. I was a bit apprehensive on how he would be with so many people in the house, but he behaved remarkably well. We had to keep him on a close lead for most of the afternoon/evening and everyone said he was a lovely, well behaved dog.

I cooked the food on our new BBQ, using it fully for the first time this year and it was such a nice, relaxing evening; it’s amazing how some decent weather can make outdoors eating such great experience. The only downer was the insects that decided to join the party late on. As soon as the sun went down we started getting bitten; both John and I being attacked by ants on our feet and others being pestered by kamikaze mosquitos. I woke this morning with two itchy bites on my legs and a large, double bite on my back which I know will drive me crazy for days to come.

Still, it didn’t really spoil the evening and as everyone left we were already organising the next reunion in 2013 when Karen and John will play hosts at their house in Dorset.

Kitchen update – phase 3 – day 3

Paul arrived on time and got to work cementing the remainder of the tiles down. I was pleased with the way he had laid the tiles yesterday, and the the pattern he’d set out ensured the tiles looked good from any part of the kitchen. With a couple of spare tiles he then added a shelf to the window sill, which originally we were going to leave just painted but decided that it would probably get knocked so decided to add the tiles instead.

After a lunch break Paul then began the arduous task of grouting the floor, something I was glad not to be doing. I suppose doing a large area is not a problem for a professional but I would have got bored after half an hour and rushed to the finish.

Paul filled the gaps between the units and threshold with mastic rather than cement to allow for movement, which really finished off the tiles.

And so he was done…

And the kitchen was done (apart from the splash back and plinths)…

And it looks stunning…

At the weekend Tina and I will complete the job by painting the walls and skirting boards.

We are all extremely pleased with the kitchen; we have suffered a fair bit of disruption, with many takeaways getting us through. The dog has also endured lots of confusion too; his water bowl has been moved so many times I’m surprised he’s not paranoid. But generally he has been very good; making the decision to take time off to keep him out of the way of the workmen was the right thing to do even though towards the end of the ten days I was starting to go stir crazy. I never thought I’d say I was happy to go back to work bu

I hope the blog has been a good read, it certainly helped me get through the period by writing down the experience.