Saturday, May 23, 2020

Off topic, but I hope useful info : A visit to A&E

What happens if you need to go to A&E just now?  Is there a risk of picking up a Covid infection? Well  dear readers I can tell you because yesterday I had to go.  I found the experience quite interesting, so I though I'd pass it on here for info.

1. The injury

Here is our new cheapo gazebo from Argos - modelled by Kath in its shade

Can you see the little wall bracket for the guy rope at the left hand side? On Thursday I was drilling a 2.5mm hole in a strip of aluminium, making that little bracket when the drill bit broke and as the drill jumped, the stub pierced my left hand index finger.  Ouch!! I rushed into the house with my finger in my mouth and said to Kath "oi illd ooo my inger".  Eventually she worked out what I was saying and expertly applied a pressure bandage to stem the prolific bleeding from the entrance wound.  What we didn't realise until changing the dressing next morning was that the finger had also been bleeding from the other side.  Sure enough on the other side of the finger there was an exit wound, so the drill had gone right through!

2. The decision to go to A&E

I can't remember ever having had a tetanus injection, or if I did it would have been many years ago, so having read up on the seriousness of tetanus, and in spite of a fear of picking up 'The Virus' I decided I should take myself to A&E at the Royal Berks Hospital (fifteen minutes drive) to get a jab and let them look at the wound in case of infection.  There are known to be quite a lot of Covid patients at this hospital so I wasn't a trivial decision.

3. Covid screening

On arriving at the A&E building I was surprised to find people queueing  outside in the yard (all at 2m spaces and many wearing masks and looking somewhat like a gang of bank robbers).  The Reception desk had moved into the entrance lobby and nurses could be seen just inside the doors attending to people booking in.  After half an hour it was my turn and on stepping inside the lobby  I was pointed to a chair only just inside the door and sat while a masked man interrogated me on my social contact history while he took my temperature, blood oxygen level and blood pressure readings.  He also went through a list of Covid symptoms asking if I had experienced any.  Having thus decided that I probably was not carrying the Covid virus. I was given a "certificate" to go to another (presumably Covid free) outbuilding for treatment to my finger.

4. Treatment

Arriving at the second building and handing over the certificate, I was briefly interrogated once again, then let into a waiting room with chairs spaced at 2m intervals.  A nurse came and looked at my finger.  "Ooh that's a good one. Better XRay it just to check no debris or bone fragments to cause infection".

Another nurse escorted me to yet another waiting room, complimenting me en-route on the pretty mask which Kath had made for me.  More spaced out chairs and a ten minute wait for the XRay.

To cut a long story short, the XRay showed it was only a clean flesh wound and I was given a tetanus jab and sent home. "Looks like you got away with it." said the nurse.

I'm happy to say that the wound is healing up remarkably quickly and I hope to be back to guitar practice in a few days.

5. Conclusion -Is it safe to go?

Well nothing is 100% safe, but it seems like a good system and I would go again if I needed to.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Something got done!

Howzabout that then?  A fresh stock of fodder for Herbie's new, and as yet  unused, stove. Kath, bless her has been sawing all day to cut up one batch of beech logs kindly donated by the council worker dealing with a fallen bough across the footpath outside our house, and another batch of holly kindly donated by our next door neighbour who has been indulging in the non trivial task of hacking at his hedge.  The hedge along the back of our houses  actually belongs to the church beyond  and is very old and some of the holly trunks are eight inches or more thick.

Regular readers of this blog will not be surprised that I have weighed and labelled one of the logs to monitor its water loss over time.

Some of the logs will need splitting, for which I shall be using our trusty log splitting mall which we bought at Aldi some years back. One clout is all it takes (as long as you don't miss).

Holly and beech both burn well and are both very dense and hard, the holly being very white against the orangey colour of the beech.

While Kath was spending her calories on the sawing, I have been having a go at reinstating our shed to a properly functioning store rather than a mere inaccessible junk pile. It was getting over full. I'm asking myself why we have a lumpy patchy scruffy lawn and three lawn mowers.  Something has to go.  

Once I got the shed emptied (finding all manner of lost items in the process including the collar tag of Treacle, our little Jack Russell over forty years ago  and a useful book on how to play the ocarina), it became clear that the shed's polycarbonate roof was in severe danger of collapse.  No matter.  Amongst all the stuff I found at the back of the shed was enough stout timber to effect a repair. Out came the trusty drill and a box of screws and a couple of bracing hours (geddit?) later its good for another few years. Result!

I hope this won't be the last post I will ever write, but just in case, I'll report that I persuaded my doctor (over the phone, because the surgery is shut) to prescribe me a change of blood pressure tablet.  For years I've been taking beta blockers - famously used by some snooker players to steady their hands. (apart from Bill Werbernuik who I seem to recall used several pints of lager)   Reading around I discover that they might just be contributing to my shortness of breath, so now the doc has given me a substitute and I made the mistake of reading the list of possible side effects in the accompanying leaflet.  So if I collapse on the floor wheezing and vomiting with my skin bursting into blisters and falling off  in large patches, you'll know the reason.  My children will no doubt be amused to know that the name of the pills includes the word Retard.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Lockdown diary - relaxation?

Lock down next phase.  Great excitement - not. This morning an email arrived from Wigrams Turn announcing that the marina will reopen on Wednesday.  We are welcome to visit our boat provided we observe social distancing etc and use our boat's toilet rather than the marina one.  However, in line with the small print in Boris's 50 page thriller, we are not allowed to stay overnight on the boat.  As I write, an email has also arrived from CRT with much the same message - you can visit but not stay or cruise.  So it hardly seems worth it just now.  CRT says they will publish plans in a few days time indication how the canals may reopen at some future time. So we'll give it a couple of weeks and reconsider a short visit. I'm not complaining about the continuation of restriction. We have to remember that this pandemic started with one person, so as long as someone somewhere has it, it could all start again.  I'm content to stay put for a while yet.

It's now seven weeks since I fell off the wall and bust a rib or two and although it's a lot better, my back tells me I still can't do any heavy lifting.  I can feel myself losing fitness though. The old blood pressure is creeping up. Note to self- get more exercise.

Not to worry, I'm finding worthwhile stuff to do.  For a start I quickly knocked up a bird feeder post now that the tree where they used to hang is now so heavily in leaf that the feeders were hidden from view.  Kath on seeing the new post made some cheeky remark about Calvary.

You can see my camera set up to get birdy photos.  Birds are very clever you know.  When I point the camera at the fat balls, they land instead on the seed feeder and when I point it at the seed feeder, they go mad for the fat balls.  I have got one or two good shots though.

Notice my exotic chicken wire fat ball feeder.  Elegant it might not be, but the birds are fine with it and it cost nothing.

I got my last batch of bird seed from Sainsbury's but I shan't be using that again.  What happens is that the birds land on the feeder, then chuck nine tenths of the seeds on the floor while they hunt out the sunflower seeds.  The great tit snap above shows him caught in the act. The upside I suppose is that we have at last found a good use for our resident squirrel.  Now instead of raiding the bird feeders, he sits on the ground clearing up all the seeds that the tits have chucked out.  Result!

In a bid to attract goldfinches I've also bought a new feeder and filled it with nyger seeds which they are supposed to love. A neighbour two doors away gets lots of goldies that way.  Results so far in our garden?  Zero.  Ah well, it might take them a while to spot our new feeder. A blue tit landed on it yesterday but only for a second on its way to the fat balls.  

In other news I found a way to waste some more time indoors when the cold snap arrived.

This dogs breakfast of crocodile clips and wire is a prototype 2 watt guitar amplifier.  How does it sound?  Bloody awful to be frank, hums and crackles all over the show but that's not surprising with all those dodgy connections.  Anyway as it sort of worked, I made a proper soldered up version and installed it in an old wine bottle box (like you do) and now sounds rather better and it looks like this.

Hmm still need to tidy up the wiring. Notice also the elegant use of gaffer tape to stick the circuit board to the box - all PA equipment has to have gaffer tape by tradition and custom, so it's there purely for the purposes of authenticity you understand. The idea is to use the amp when I'm sitting on the sofa in the garden or in the conservatory.  Running off a PP3 battery it's not even loud enough to be heard in the next room but that's not the point really.  It just allows me to play a solid body guitar with a more realistic sound.   And as a bonus, there's room to hide a bottle of beer inside. As it could take anything up to 20 volts I did consider running it off one of Herbie's old domestic batteries I still have in the conservatory, but a 30kg battery driving a 25 gram amplifier circuit did seem a bit over the top, not to mention rendering it somewhat less portable. Either way,  I don't think Marshall or Vox will be panicking over the competition.  The cost to make? £1.18 for the amp chip.  The other bits and bobs, capacitors etc, I had lying about.  Oh I tell a lie, I bought a new speaker for it.  That was £7.94.  No expense spared.

So you see my time in lock down has not been wasted - well alright it has, when I should have been doing proper jobs, but at least I've been doing something.  Clearing out the shed can wait until my back is a bit better.

Friday, May 08, 2020

How to start again

How do we get going again when they let us?  If you are a UK boater, you've probably had an email from CRT asking you to complete a short survey about your post lockdown boating plans.  As soon as I started to fill in my response I quickly realised that we might have some hard decisions to make.

Regular readers may recall that we abandoned Herbie's move from Cropredy Marina to Kings Bromley Marina part way and that she now rests pro tem at Wigram's Turn.

CRT asks whether we would first just go to visit the boat where it is, or perhaps venture out locally for a couple of days, or whether we would plan to make a longer trip.  Hmmm.  Good question.

Let's say that sometime in June, they allow non essential boat trips. Certainly we'd want to go and check over the boat and collect a few things we left there that we find we need at home.  I'm thinking that, given fine weather, we might pop out and moor up in the sticks for a couple of days.  Presumably social distancing rules will still apply, so we'd have to find a quiet spot.  But would we carry on up to Kings Bromley (taking a week or so)? 

Well, we'd need all the food for the journey because the pubs would be shut and I still don't feel ready to go into shops if I don't have to.  Then what would happen when we get to the other end?  We'd need to get back to our car at Wigrams.  I can't imagine feeling ready to use public transport for quite some time.  No, I can't see us completing the journey in the early days of any relaxing of rules.

We'll just have to wait and see what unfolds I suppose, but I'd be surprised if we got to Kings Bromley before August or September.  Actually, just to go out to Herbie and spend a couple of quiet days on the towpath in the sticks would be enough of a treat for a while.

I'd be interested to know how other boaters plan to emerge.

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Boating in our prime, plus a prime event.

I've lost count now of how many weeks we've been incarcerated.  The days seem to merge into one another.  I should be busy in the garden and clearing the shed but my busted ribs still start to hurt if I do anything at all strenuous..  I've also lost count of how many weeks it is since I fell off the wall, but I must be getting close to the six to eight weeks they say it takes for them to mend.  Never mind, at least we haven't picked up the lurgy yet.

About now, we'd normally be on our annual sailing weekend on the Norfolk Broads.  I don't know whether to feel sad or not, because some years they are blissful with sunshine and mild breezes and other years we get frozen and wet and terrified as the winds hurtle us helplessly this way and that.  Of course the company of old pals is always the best bit, a number of us who go have known each other for nigh on fifty years.  I think our first sailing outing together was in 1973 when we hired the famous old Wherry Albion for a week.  At least five of us from those days still meet up to sail these days.

Albion at that time still had her old heavy black tarred canvass sail which had an enormous weight.  Young and fit though we were, it still took two of us on the winch to wind her up into place.  The boat (built in 1898 if memory serves me right) had no engine, so if the wind didn't blow or was in the wrong direction, you had three options a) stay put, b) send a party ashore with a rope to haul you along like a canal horse or c) use the long 'quant' poles to shove the boat along.

Here's what c) looks like

ably demonstrated by our dear departed friend Roy and behind him looking very young, and dare I say sexy, Marilyn (of Herbie blog fame) with a young but not so sexy Rick looking on.  We must have quanted for many a mile that week. 

Option b) was used too when the river was too deep to quant, here's the shore party on their merry way to the bank with the rope.  Once again featuring Marilyn plus my friend Esther on the oars, and I'm sad to say I can't remember the names of the others.

Excuse the quality of the photos, my old colour slides have deteriorated somewhat over the years.

This next photo shows Rick feeding out the rope, while I sat in the tender to take pictures. Rick is clearly under the instruction of our long time friend PDS seen on the left here.  PDS still comes with us to Norfolk every year. The competition between them as to who is the better sailor thrives to this day.

Finally here we all are on Barton Broad, little knowing that that night there would be a heavy thunderstorm  with each of us lying in our bunks hoping that someone else would go outside and lower the mast.  No one did.

It's fair to say that lowering that huge mast is a non trivial task at the best of times let alone in the middle of the night in a thunderstorm.  Despite being hard graft it was one of the best weeks afloat I ever had, and no doubt contributed to my love of boats and waterways in a big way.

Talking of good old times   I recently came across a somewhat fuzzy on line poster showing the line up of the Windsor jazz &blues festival in 1967.

Bonhams : A poster for the 7th National Jazz & Blues Festival,
  This festival later morphed into what is now the reading Festival.  I remember going down there from Bedford on my little Honda 50cc bike on the Sunday.  I think I paid £1 for a ticket and for that I saw (hold your breath)  Cream, the debut of Peter Green's Fleetood Mac, Jeff Beck with his pretty much unknown new singer Rod Stewart, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Pentangle and quite a few more.  I've been to many musical events over the years but I can't recall another with such riches.  I consider myself very lucky to be born when I was.