Friday, June 29

Pad Thai

Today’s troubles on TV brought back nostalgic memories of WC haunts. Fridays were frequently beer and Thai food at the Lemon Tree in Covent Garden. So - as I’ve been a good boy - Mrs G. has agreed to prepare Pad Thai for tonight’s dinner, having previously stocked up on the amber nectar. Unfortunately, nothing stays the same: it appears from comments on the 'beer in the evening’ web site that new management has already screwed the old place. And speaking of brightly coloured concoctions… the pins in my leg are now leaking a noxious green substance. Should I be worried?


Whoops, looks like it was a bomb after all. Guess my terrorist fatigue comes with the territory. Despite the broken limb, it suddenly feels a lot safer being billeted in the south west. That’s assuming you discount the line of calor gas bottles outside our back door, my shed full of 4-stroke, and the truck load of fertiliser in our neighbour’s barn. The crucial difference being that Countryside Alliance supporters are unlikely to put these things together in the back of a tractor, and to park it on a side street off of Haymarket.

Bomb plot

I like Sky News, but they have that frustrating habit of latching onto a story and milking it to death. Some retard in a clapped out E class Merc who’d had one too many at the family BBQ swipes a dustbin, before legging it down Haymarket. All of a sudden, we’ve a new al Qaida front and the Cobra Committee spring into action. Mind you, it’s a little disturbing to see the vehicle parked next to a cash-line I’ve use regularly over this last twenty years. Have even had an occasional beer in Tiger-Tiger (although my regular pit-stop was the Tom Cribb, around the corner). Gives Mr Grumpy an opportunity to appear on TV, looking statesmanlike, and for our new Home Secretary to take centre stage. It’s good old public vigilance time again. This usually results in people looking meaningfully at anyone who resembles a kebab shop employee, or to shake their heads and proffer derogatory comments at women in burqas. Still, good overtime opportunity for the boys in blue; big mortgages to service.

Thursday, June 28

All change

The Boss dropped a large dish on her foot, and there are now two ‘limp along Leslies’ at the barn. At least it’s stopped raining for a moment, affording Mrs G. an opportunity to nip outside and mow the garden. Could have done without our early start - courtesy of a screeching pheasant at the door, and two crows on the window sill, digging their breakfast out of the woodwork. And then there’s the geese! Worse still, the new duck pond adjacent to our neighbour’s chicken coup has been completed and sits waiting arrival of yet more chirping/quacking types. We’re forever evicting slugs and snails from the barn - so much so, a queue of frogs sits outside the door. And the cats remain veritable killing machines. I may not be able to get out and about, but thankfully, as the rain's eased, there’s something to follow.

Monday, June 25

Weather warning

A snail surfing the window pane is about my only exposure to wildlife in our current circumstances (torrential rain and gammy leg). That’s assuming, of course, I discount our domestic spider population. In my previous life, closure of the golf course as a consequence of inclement weather would have had me climbing the walls. Here, books and the radio suffice well enough. Looking outside, it’s hard to imagine it getting worse, yet within the past hour a severe weather warning has been issued for the area.
Mrs G. is busying herself with the daily service of my Ilizarov. I appreciate it’s a painstaking operation, but have reassured her this is excellent practise for the day that dementia and incontinence arrives at our door. From the look on her face, I suspect Memsahib has plans in place for such an eventuality. She reads far too many crime novels for my liking.

Saturday, June 23

This morning's visitors

Damn rain; look at the length of grass, out back. It'll keep Mrs G. and the mower occupied for days to come.Outside of Cormac McCarthy, Sebastian Faulks has been one of my better discoveries during the last couple of months. Engleby, his last novel is a beaut. Dare I say it, a male read - and a disturbing one - particularly if psychopaths make you uncomfortable, and you're laid up under these unremittingly dark skies with a cupboard full of pills and bottle of Jose Cuervo’s finest. Would love to write a review, but fear I’d only offend. The story’s timeline is perfect, for me; I’ve even met Geoffrey Archer, and remember only too well those work practises of bygone days. Loved every minute. You’ve only to watch the current Glastonbury festival to realise it’s been downhill ever since. I’m following Royal Ascot on TV… Wimin spent decades fighting their corner, yet Faulks is right: it’s still about frocks. I’m afraid the world’s going to hell in a handcart.

Friday, June 22

Unpopular birds

A ragged looking beast, as are most of the Ponderosa’s birds just now. Fledged swallows perform aerobatics overhead, swooping, to below shoulder height. A handful of chaffinches, the ubiquitous pheasant and four crows - and that’s about the lot. You think the plague of magpies might have something to do with this?

Thursday, June 21

Still game

Ouch. My session with nurse Mary yesterday left a lasting impression. Thought I’d done a satisfactory job of keeping the limb in a sanitary condition. However, half an hour’s scab picking with her satanic tweezers and a liberal scrub of my offending wounds brought more than a tear or two to the old eyes. It transpires the dark coagulations were concealing a variety of noxious substances that have since left twisting, snail-like trails along my limb. I was expecting another ‘cleanliness is next to Godliness’ speech, but she settled for the standard dire warning about the perils of pin-infection. I don’t know why I can’t just spray some Dettol-like aerosol about the place and forget about it, the way they do on TV.
It’s blowing a hoolie out there, and the accompanying rain is proving to be a stubborn partner. I remain surprisingly cheerful; managing to avoid the necessity of seeking solace from that bottle of malt, staring down from the shelf. Mind you, it’s only been a month; there’s plenty of time.
The Boss is still cooking up a storm. Last night’s roast chicken dinner remains my favourite meal. Her gravy and the oatmeal stuffing is to die for. The glass of Bourgogne didn’t go amiss, either. At some stage - probably when summer arrives - I’m going to have to resort to salads and other healthier fare. Mrs G. has been looking pointedly at the BBQ, but I don’t see myself standing out back in the rain on one leg as a serious option at present. The kebabs are going to have to wait. It’s at times like this you miss those Turkish lads from Lewisham; but then you can’t have everything. Unless my ears deceived me, there’s a chance of curried goat turning up again this weekend.

Wednesday, June 20

Day out

Hurrah, my weekly day out. I got to go to the hospital and have my stitches removed, X-rays reviewed, and the Meccano set serviced. Not a lot anyone can do at this early stage; it’s primarily about keeping an eye on things, I guess. With a lifetime’s experience of growing old in airport lounges or corporate waiting rooms, hospital queues are a breeze - even when they run 1-2 hours behind schedule. I watched as a number of punters writhed on their chairs, wanting a piece of someone; all they were doing was winding themselves up. I was certainly in no hurry to have the holes in my limb probed, or the cat-gut torn out. And it’s hard to complain when they’re all so damn nice.
If an effort to counter the side effects of my Tramadol tablets, Mrs G. has been feeding me copious amounts of prunes. I’m big on dried and reconstituted fruit at the best of times, but this latest batch is excellent; stewed in a mixture of Earl Grey, wine, Muscovado sugar, orange peel and star anise. Great with lamb. Although her pasties didn’t need much help, either one could have fed the entire day shift of a Cornish tin mine.
To date, this hasn’t exactly been the summer of our dreams, but I live in hope. Our year may yet provide a taste of the idyll we’d envisaged when departing the capital. At least the chaffinches have returned to feed at the barn. We were down one magpie this morning. The evidence points to one of the feline fiends from next door, both of whom are adept at climbing trees and raiding nests.

Monday, June 18

Hand washing cats

It’s lashing down. Mrs G. is trekking across the moor to our medical centre, collecting supplies. The sky is black and there’s an ominous rumble of thunder. Don’t blame me, I offered to drive. If she hadn’t hidden my keys I could have run down and picked her up. Must admit, I envy the lady, at least she’s out and about. My only company is the cat that’s outside in the garden, hunting small mammals.God, I’m hacked off now, think what I’ll be like in a couple of months. What I wouldn’t give for a walk across the fields to the weir. Actually, it would be good for a laugh: my attempt, that is.
Not to worry, I’m due one of Memsahib’s home-made mutton and vegetable pasties for dinner. To tied me over (and in an effort to shut me up) she’s left half a bottle of champagne and some fried cashew nuts. I’m half way through CJ Sansom’s Dissolution, and have taken to watching repeats of Cadfael on afternoon TV. Going through my medieval period. Speaking of 16thC medicine… apparently, rose-hip powder is the new miracle cure for rheumatoid arthritis. Who needs drug company mega-budgets. There’s also further confirmation that 25% of NHS trusts are failing to hit targets for tackling bugs such as MRSA and C diff. You wonder how the monks managed. Research by the Hygiene Council indicates that only 1 in 3 people in England wash their hands before eating; I’d like to believe that doctors were a different breed.

Saturday, June 16

Itchy feet

It’s now a week and a half since they reset the leg, and I’m impatient for results. Stuck indoors, you loose touch with the sights and smells of the countryside; what our move here was all about. Mind you, it hasn’t been quite the same on the farm since the cattle arrived. At times, the air can become a little too fresh. The dawn (and dusk) chorus is still as loud; the woodpeckers arrive in pairs. And thanks to the rain, everything is growing with an Alan Titmarsh-like vigour.Unfortunately, because of the rain, a head out the window is all I’ve managed. It’s hard to hop when there’s a foot of mud beyond the door. What with running around, tending to my injuries; the six mile treks to town for a bottle of milk; mowing our meadow and chopping firewood, Mrs G. has developed a marathon-runner’s physique. Despite her less onerous duties, I’m pleased to say the standard of food remains high; boiled mutton for dinner, with a nice bottle of Majestic’s finest. One of their vans was kind enough to drop by this week with emergency supplies. I’ll give it another couple of days, then one way or another, I’ve got to get out of here.

Wednesday, June 13

Pit stop

Quick run to hospital so that medics could check the state of play with my injured wing. Thankfully, they removed the smelly post-op bandages. Doesn’t look much does it? However, you’d be surprised at how many things this damn contraption manages to tangle itself in whilst I stumble around the barn.Everything seems to be in order, albeit it’s not a pretty sight. Didn’t appreciate I’d acquired an amount of stitching, along with a couple of holes from the initial set of pins. Had a chance to meet and swap notes with other similarly afflicted individuals. They’ve had the same piece of kit installed for some six months already, with no end in sight. Terrified of it failing to heal and losing the leg. Maybe arthritis isn’t the worst thing I have to worry about. Wandering between departments became an ordeal as my lack of fitness betrayed me. Looks like a few press-ups wouldn’t go amiss.

Tuesday, June 12


Been scouring the shelves for anything I may have missed, prior to returning for second reads of the better, most recently acquired books. Have just finished Donna Leon’s Through a glass, darkly. A who-done-it, featuring her Venetian Inspector Morse on the trail of local glass blowers.
Dolly the sheep and her extended family are back in the meadow. The lambs have grown into fairly hefty beasts that will translate into mucho dineros at High Street butchers.
My broken wing has certainly put our plans on the back burner. Neighbours are busy tending their vegetables and excavating ponds. I’d hoped we would be doing the same. Local agents still call, sending details of newly marketed properties. I’ve decided to wait on the crash that's forecast.
Memsahib can be heard fighting the jungle with her strimmer. I’d love to join the fun, but in my enthusiasm for the freedom that crutches afford, a sprained ankle (the one that isn’t broken) has grown to the size of a fifa regulation football. It’ll give the physio something to bleat about.

Sunday, June 10


I’ve just measured my legs. One is two inches shorter than the other?

Ilizarov apparatus

The frame on my leg was invented by a Russian chap with the name of Gavril Abramovich Ilizarov. It’s preferred for more complex fractures and (hopefully) avoids some of the complications that result from internal fixators. Everyone stresses the need for exercise, so that muscles don’t shorten; and applying weight to the fractures (apparently) speeds the healing process. Need to keep up the blood’s supply of oxygen. My initial problem is lack of clothes that fit. You can forget pulling on a pair of Y-fronts or boxer shorts as they won’t go over the frame. I’m currently wearing an old pair of football shorts that I used when painting the house; they look like the property of some old git that’s dribbled his toothpaste and food over everything. They’re also a bit draughty ’round the vitals. The dried blood stinks a little, but that’s the least of my problems. Hopefully, they’ll clean the thing off (and my leg) when I return for physio.
I’ve got Mrs G. running around like a blue-arsed-fly. Have to be careful not to push it too far or I run the risk of a saucepan being bounced off my head. I’m still taking a zillion assorted painkillers, although I’ve already started to reduce the number. I’d rather suffer a few tears at bedtime than continue to ingest so many drugs. I continue to feel lucky that (a) it’s only a mangled leg, and not my head or a broken back; and (b) that I’m holed up in a reasonably attractive environment. Then again, a beach and blue lagoon would be nice.

Saturday, June 9

Consent forms

I know I was inside for only three days, but it’s great to eat a decent meal again. The guy in the next bed had lost 24lbs during his brief stay; and no, it wasn’t because they cut his legs off. You should have seen Mrs G’s face as the admittance doctor waved my consent form… ‘Before you sign, I should warn you there’s a chance of a blood clot breaking free during surgery and which could result in a heart attack!’ Great morale booster. If you’re over 35 and smoke, the risks of surgery seem to outweigh any benefit; i.e., you’re screwed. Two in my ward elected not to have surgery and checked out. Another got fed up with waiting and transferred to a private clinic. Given that infection appears the NHS’s principal problem, I wonder at their visitor policy. Two of the younger lads on the ward had 15-20 visitors each over the course of last night. The place was jumping. For the poor schmucks that were trying to convalesce, it was more akin to a night club. If you’d have seen the ward lavatory after to hordes had departed… When we were finally ready to hit the sack, the hospital was hit by 17 admission from traffic accidents, etc. As I made my run for it at lunchtime, there were only two beds available in the building.

New kit

I thought the last contraption was something; this new one weighs a ton. Three circular steel rings are placed around the leg and fixed in place by means of vertical rods between the rings, and horizontal pins screwed through the leg into the bone. Smaller but salvageable bits of the shattered bone have been skewered by tensioned wires that stretch diagonally through the leg and are clamped onto opposite sides of the rings. A mass of other bits (surgeon says crazy paving) has been left floating free, but is now - I guess - surplus to requirements. The numerous holes in my leg are plugged by wads of iodine soaked rag. It seem the practise is to leave it as it stands for five days or so following the operation, prior to cleaning the leg, pins and frame. The physio (an attractive lady with a no-nonsence attitude) already has me trying to put weight on the damaged limb. Am taking four different painkillers in tablet form, plus (last night) the odd phial of morphine. Keep your fingers crossed that no infection was introduced during surgery. I met three victims in adjacent beds, and it’s not a pretty story. Now that they’ve opened up the leg, infection sits lurking on the sidelines.

Wednesday, June 6

Round 3

Off again. Let's hope that this time they're in a position to fix things; I believe Mrs G. would refuse to have me back. You'd think I was off on vacation, given what's been packed. You can never have enough clean handkerchiefs. As always, the Boss provided a decent last supper: super fresh haddock from our itinerant fish man, and a glass of something nice to send me on my way. Hospitals aren't good on fine wines; though it was gratifying to hear that 40-50 units/week classifies one a moderate drinker. If you don't hear from me it's good news; at least I hope it is.

Tuesday, June 5


Another glorious day at the Ponderosa. The smell of wood smoke, roar of JCBs and competing quad bikes, the crack of shotguns. We have our own springwatch here on the farm that is thankfully free from the irritating lad on TV. Finches and tits are long gone; blackbirds, sparrows and magpies now predominate. The gang of jackdaws are always here, of course, along with an odd crow. A large buzzard circles overhead. I’ve been left to my own devices on the backdoor step whilst the Boss treks to market for an appointment with our itinerant fishmonger. A bottle of Pouilly-Fumé that bears my name - but no Government health warning - sits cooling in the fridge. The block of ice remains perched, perilously, across the broken bits of my leg. Let’s hope we can move this thing forward in the near future. All I need now is for my leg to become sun burnt, or for the swarm of wasps hovering overhead to sting it. I’m covered in the tiny but spectacular ruby-tailed variety. Mrs G. must be counting the hours to my departure so she can get her life back.

Monday, June 4


You’ve got to chuckle at the proposal by a group of GPs to charge patients £20 a throw for so-called ‘out of hours’ appointments. They’re taking the piss, in large measures. Most of my drinking/golfing partners who are GPs are coining it, big time; and doing less work for their six-figure salaries since they junked after-hours cover. Can you imagine M&S charging ten quid more for a sweater because you purchased it during late night opening hours.

Itchy feet

Some poor guy and his two kids have just died in a suspicious house fire along the way. Police have arrested a local man. Not a good start to the day. That said, it doesn’t take much to lift the spirits; a decent night’s sleep, a shower and a shave does it for me. I suppose it’s also true what they say: you never miss a thing until it’s gone. I’d love be able to walk down to the Kwik-E-Mart just now; even better, go for a run on the new cycle. Seger’s ‘Roll me away’ is playing in the background as a wind up. Must admit, like many men of a certain age I was sorely tempted to spring for a Harley. Unfortunately, whenever I get astride a bike, bridges and brick walls spring from behind trees to ambush me. So sanity prevailed. Actually, Mrs G. threatened to break my legs if I came home with another machine.
I’ve moved on with my reading material to back numbers from Elmore Leonard. He’s an old favourite, along with Raymond Chandler and Mickey Spillane. Most of my library sits in removal boxes at the back of the barn and I’m running short. Rather than wreck the place, it’s easier to have Amazon deliver. That said, I’m hoping not to be around; am going to be severely disappointed if the hospital doesn’t re-admit me this week. I’ve sat for 14 days with my leg in pieces; the sooner they bolt it back together, the quicker I’m on my feet again. The Boss is supplying large slices of apple cake to sustain me during the coming ordeal.

Sunday, June 3

Punk rock

If you’re following Radio 2’s 60s season you’ll have seen the marvellous Sergeant Pepper’s 40th Anniversary show last night. As part of the celebrations, Geoff Emerick and a couple of his lads tried to recreate their original ’67 Abbey Road sound on the back of some interpretations by contemporary artists that included The Kaiser Chiefs and Brian Adams. I remember the album’s release and can appreciate the reasons for its iconic status; but at the time, I just couldn’t buy into the knee jerk adoration. Truth is, I was never that keen on the Beatles; remained indifferent to Lennon’s subsequent output, and thought Wings a bunch of tossers. I was much more excited by Episode 3 of the Seven Ages of Rock, the Blank Generation. Following years of pretentious and self-indulgent garbage, the Sex Pistols and Clash arrived. There’s been nothing as significant on the rock music scene since.

Saturday, June 2

Another couple of bruises

Although there were no complaints about hospital food, I was pleased to return to Memsahib’s kitchen. Given I’m only burning 72 calories/day, I’ve developed a more cautious approach to the quantity that’s consumed. That said, when incapacitated, mealtimes can mimic those of long-haul flights: something to pass the time. And if you’re travelling first class, so much the better. Last night’s dinner was a chicken stuffed with 40 cloves of garlic; potentially embarrassing, should the district nurse make an appearance. Today looks to be a choice between mutton in caper sauce or my old favourite, curried goat. If only I could persuade Mrs G. to issue me with a couple of cold ones; she has doubts regarding my ability to manoeuvre the barn’s obvious pitfalls whilst under the influence. I’m still in her bad books after discovering I’d miscounted my drug supply and the great lady had to set out on an urgent mission to our GP’s surgery. It’s a six mile walk, and it was raining. This was followed by one of my more spectacular falls whilst trying to urinate, balanced on a single limb. All Mrs G. saw was a body exiting the bathroom at a great rate of knots, before coming to rest on the utility room floor. You’ve got to chuckle; though she doesn’t always see the funny side of things.

Doctors call for compulsory NHS income tax. This is sure to be a winner with the crucial Blairite/Cameron swing vote electorate. Doctors favour a progressive tax which would stick someone on £50k/year with an annual bill of around £10,000 - paid by their employers. Naturally, the less fortunate would receive a means tested exemption. On which planet do these guys reside?

Friday, June 1

Tough job

The quality of a hospital stay can be determined in part by the patients sharing your ward. Must admit, I was fortunate in being surrounded by a predominantly younger crowd that were better able to dismiss their injuries and smile in the face of adversity. You’re also less likely to feel sorry for yourself when flanked by a lumberjack who missed the tree and chopped his leg off; or a sub-mariner that impaled himself, Dracula-style, on a large wooden stake. Complaining about broken limbs strikes everyone a touch wimp-like.
One thing becomes obvious very quickly: without a basic level of agility, balance, body-strength, you’re screwed; an accident, waiting to happen. Hospital bathrooms can be a minefield - particularly if you haven’t been issued with crutches. And your chances of sneaking outside for a cig or downstairs to one of the snack bars for a chip butty are non-existent; you’re entirely dependent on the ward staff for mobility. So, if you happen to be an old boy in your 80s and are non too sharp on your pins, it’s easy to become a drain on resources. One patient can require as much effort from the staff as four semi-mobile inmates, particularly if they’re suffering a dose of the runs. After being wheeled to the lavatory 3-4 times in quick succession, he’s likely to get a bed pan bounced off of his head and told to stay put. Unfortunately, all this will accomplish is his toppling from the receptacle, soiling the bed with excrement, and elevating himself to the position of public enemy number one. Pain and suffering aside, loss of dignity is huge. All the poor guy can do is to grow a thick skin and bear his misfortune with whatever stoicism can be mustered.
I suspect that nursing staff aren’t too dissimilar from teachers. Very few want to work in the sink school that caters to chavs from the local housing estate: how much more satisfying to lecture those receptive students at the grammar. Likewise, servicing a ward that’s dedicated to cuddly infants or indomitable spirits sounds a lot more attractive than catering to the requirements of several incontinent Victor Meldrews. That they do, and so cheerfully, says a lot about the majority of individuals who choose nursing as a career.