The Story Behind the Photo

This was my Silent Sunday Photo on the weekend (many thanks, by the way, to everyone who offered words of support):


Ellie was in hospital, & on a drip. Neither she nor Jake have ever had to spend time in hospital like this since they were little babies; obviously it’s been a difficult time for all of us.

So why was she there? Continue reading


And they say the NHS isn’t working!

Dr. Ellie was in the house.


There are a few instruments missing but Jake & Ellie decided that they needed them in bed. And I’m not sure what the carrots are doing there.

She was looking for work & needed a patient.

I was It.

Something got stuck into my ear.

I asked the Doctor, looking suitably concerned, what it said.

“You’re very hot”, she said.

She gave me something to drink, out of what I thought looked like a bottle of pills.

It tasted horrible!

Then there were more tests.

Things were put in my mouth. Jake joined in by injecting something into my chest.

1-DSC00930Then the Doctor became concerned about my knees.

She went in for a close look with her specialist knee-viewing instrument.

After some time, she looked up.

She seemed worried.

“They’ve got fish in them”.

Umm – can I have a second opinion please?

This post is part of the ‘Shoulder to Shoulder to Day’ blog-hop series: bloggers on a mission to cheer up a Mum of 3 while she is having treatment for cancer which isolates her from her family for a month.

Today it’s being hosted by Secrets of the Sandpit & InstinctiveMum, so have a look there for more posts like this 🙂

It’s also a ‘Wot So Funee?” post, so just click the pic for more of those

Shoulder to Shoulder to Day

Wot So Funee?

An Adventure at the Hospital

The logo of NHS Wales

The logo of NHS Wales (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You may know that there’s a measles epidemic based in Swansea, & that it’s spreading. It seems to be the result of children not receiving the MMR vaccine in the light of the 1998 Wakefield debacle where MMR was falsely linked to autism & bowel disease, herd immunity now wearing off & a misinformed campaign by a local newspaper.

We live too close to be unconcerned. Jake & Ellie have just turned 3 & are starting pre-school in 2 weeks. There may well be infected children there!

Measles is a highly infectious viral disease, spread respiratorily. It is at its most infectious for 4 days before any symptoms appear. Complications can affect as many as 1 in 15 & can result in permanent disability, even death. Roald Dahl‘s 7-year-old daughter, for instance, died from encephalitis – inflammation of the brain – as a result of catching measles.

So we’re taking no chances! Jallie were due their 2nd jab in July but following official advice from Public Health Wales in response to the epidemic we brought it forward. We’ve just come back from the hospital where a special vaccination session has been organised.

Even though we arrived at the starting time of 10am there was already a queue outside at least 60m long!

It was heartening to see that so many have responded. It will slow the spread of the epidemic, & will very likely have prevented serious illness, disability & maybe even death for the children there & others they will come into contact with.

It would have been better for us if there were fewer there though!

Jake & Ellie were great. They’re very good at making their own fun. They’re very sociable & were going up to other children in the queue, chatting away. There was space enough to run around in & they were soon playing with another boy & girl who we thought were also twins but who were in fact cousins. There were walls to hide behind, sticks to wave around, spinning to be done.

It was sunny, but cold: they didn’t seem to mind at all. I love how sociable & fun-loving they are!

It was an hour before we got inside, & by this time the queue looked to be at least 100m long. It was very crowded, but staff there were efficient & organised. There were some great little toys & books there so they were quite happy.

They were seen quickly, & didn’t even seem that bothered by a needle in their shoulder muscles. Jake cried a little bit, but they were both fine afterwards. Especially after as many mini chocolate eggs as they wanted! They were so good: they deserved it!

After being there for an hour & a half we finally headed home, the twins quickly drifting into a much-needed nap.

I guess we should be annoyed with the people who caused the epidemic. The corrupt Wakefield for his falsified ‘research’, the media who promulgated his lies, & the many ‘misinformed’ parents who have – & still do – put mistrust of authority & belief in unlikely conspiracies ahead of solid scientific evidence.

But actually we just feel relieved. We’ve only lost 2 1/2 hours of 1 weekend, & the twins actually seemed to have fun. And got to eat lots of chocolate mini-eggs.

No, we can now be 98% certain that they are safe from a catching a dreadful disease, safe from the horrible complications it can cause, safe even from possible death.

And that’s got to be worth a bit of queuing.

I’d like to say a huge Thank You to Public Health Wales for their quick & efficient response to the crisis. And to the many NHS staff, at hospitals & GPs’ surgeries all over the region, for their hard work & for their time & effort. The NHS has its problems, & I for one have been vocal about them, but here they’ve really come through for us, & for that we are grateful.   


I’ve been memed, not once but twice. I love being memed! So thank you Tom Briggs at Diary of the Dad & Blue at bluebirdsunshine

These are the (combined) rules:

You must post the rules
The only rule of the blog memes is that you don’t talk about the blog memes
Thank the blogger who has awarded you and link back to them.
Post 12 (7) fun facts about yourself in the blog post
Answer the questions the tagger has set for you in their post and then create 12 new questions for the fellow bloggers you plan to tag
Tag 12 (5) people and link to them on your blog
Let them know you tagged them

It’s just possible that I might have made up 1 of the above rules

OK? Let’s go:

12 Fun Facts

1) “Fun facts about me” is probably an oxymoron

2) I like to use fancy-sounding, often obscure & sometimes completely made-up words to make myself seem more cleverer than I really am.

3) I like irony but I hate ironing

4) I have scars on my left forearm & left knee (bike crash*), right knee (surgery after a rugby injury) & the palm of my left hand (trying to open a can with a staysharp knife). It’s just occurred to me that my scars probably represent my life in microcosm…

5) Somehow, somewhen I my fractured left clavicle (collar-bone) & now have ruptured shoulder tendons as a result. I’ve had this for at least 4 years. It causes acute pain & restricted movement in arm & shoulder, both worsening. I was going to go into a rant about how shitty my local NHS hospital were in taking over a year in diagnosis & then – it appears – deliberately preventing me from having the op I need. And about how I think that this sort of thing is indicative of how the NHS badly needs radical reform, & how I have a deep, intense & entirely justified dislike of NHS Managers & some admin staff.  But then I remembered the ‘fun’ facts thing. So I won’t. Although I was going to refer you back to fact no. 1…

6) I use ‘fun facts about me’ memes to have a moan about my bad shoulder & the failings of the NHS.

Christchurch City (New Zealand) from the Port ...

Christchurch City (New Zealand) from the Port Hills. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

7) As well as my home town of Christchurch, New Zealand (yes, the one flattened by the massive earthquakes last year) I have lived in Chicago & Atlanta, USA; Brentwood, Essex; Wood Green, Green Lanes & Lewisham in London; Brighton in Sussex & Erdington, Birmingham. I am also about to move to south Wales from my current home near Birmingham

8) I regularly played club rugby with a bloke who went on to win the Rugby World Cup. Playing in my position, on the wing. And he wasn’t even quick back then! I’ve always thought that it should have been me. I’d hate him with a passion but he seems like a pretty decent bloke.

9) I sort-of hold the New Zealand 100m sprint record for under-14 boys. I always will as they changed the age criteria just after I broke it! 11.7 seconds, in case you’re wondering.

10) I used to write film reviews for a company magazine, & had my own film reviews website back when the word “blog” was just a twinkle in its creators’ eyes.

11) I once spent £100 on a taxi ride from London to Dorset. I was determined to visit my cousin & his family there for Christmas, I didn’t drive & I didn’t know that public transport virtually disappears on Christmas Eve. I think that may have been the best Christmas present that that cabbie ever had!

12) My 2-year-old son can Beat-Box. FACT

12) I am unusually anarchistic in my attitude towards numbered lists. And I believe that any number greater than 12 isn’t really worth bothering with.

*I’d say “bike accident” but it had more to do with stupidity than anything ‘accidental’. I was young…

12 Answers to 12 Questions

1) Where is the most memorable place you’ve ever been? Skinny-dipping with my wife on my birthday in a hot pool in minus 10 degrees on a mountain in Iceland

2) If you could change the end of any film, which would it be and how would you change it?  Mamma Mia. The end should be scrapped entirely. As long as ‘its end’ is defined as starting exactly 1 microsecond after its beginning.

3) What would be your dream job? Getting to scrap the ‘ends’ of really bad films

4) What is your favourite smell? I love the smell of burning celluloid in the morning

5) What is your greatest extravagance? Cream in my coffee. Several times a day. Every day

6) If you could be a condiment, what would you be and why? Salsa. Because people like to say “salsa”

7) Where do you stand on the dunking of biscuits? I stand as close to the biscuits as I can, so I can eat them

8) My colleagues Lee and Fran are being cheeky; which one should I slap? I cannot condone violence of any kind in any way. But you could slip laxatives into their coffees. They are both really annoying

9) What is your favourite scary movie? Mamma Mia. Anything so utterly execrable & yet so popular makes me fear for humanity 😉

10) If you had to read one book from your school days once more, which would it be and why? My head says George Orwell‘s ‘1984’ but I think I’d find it too depressing to have confirmed how accurate were so many of its predictions for our society. I’d go with my heart then & reread ‘Puppet on a Chain’ by Alistair MacLean; because I remember enjoying it.

11) How much of your life did you spend on this meme? For this post I have carried out exhaustive research, both online & at the Library. I have searched my soul, wrung my hands & probed my conscience in anguish over & over again. I have lost track of the vast investments of time & energy I have made in the writing of these words.

12) Was it worth it, or do you hate me now? My life will never now be the same! And yes I do, but only on Mondays.

12 questions for the next victims participants to answer. 

1) Would you describe yourself as a ‘glass half-full’, ‘glass half-empty’, ‘just grateful to have a glass’ or ‘why isn’t this glass chrystal? And full of Cristal?’ type of person? And why?

2) How important to you in your blog writing is correct grammar, punctuation & spelling?

3) Jedward: Evolutionary throwback or the future of mankind?

4) While writing this post I came to see that my life could be, somewhat crudely,  summarised by my scars. Have you had any unusual insights into your life recently, & if so what? (That question almost sounds as if it could have come straight out of ‘Blind Date’. Sorry).

5) What are your pet hates?

6) What in your life most brings you joy?

7) Do you move around a lot, like me, or have you mainly lived in the same place?

8) Do you have a “It shoulda been me!” story? And if so, what is it?

9) What is your main claim to fame?

10) How long have you been blogging & what prompted you to start?

11) What is the most extravagant purchase you’ve ever made, not counting house or car?

12) If you were to enter Britain’s Got Talent what would your talent be?

You’re ‘It’!

If you feel that you have better things to do with your time I fully understand, & I apologise if you’ve already been tagged or even made a post for any of the memes that seem to be going around at the moment.

So, my Dirty Dozen:

Here Come the Girls
Not Just Another Blog
daddy of two blog
Trouble Doubled
Chronicles of a Reluctant Housedad
Dad Who Writes
The Crumby Mummy

So go for it! It’s quite fun, honestly. And I’m looking forward to reading what you come up with 🙂

It’s Just Not Healthy!

As we were trying to get ourselves & the twins ready to go out to Twins Club this morning we had a ‘phone call. It was from a very smug Doctor from Birmingham Children’s Hospital, responding to a message we’d left

– in November.

She seemed to think that this was perfectly OK, & only apologised when pressed. It was about trying to get the promised follow-up appointment that they seemed to have forgotten for Jallie’s reflux problems.

They’re OK now, basically because they’re several months older!

Sadly this level of dis-service, incompetence & rudeness seems to be considered acceptable, even the norm for the NHS; at least in my neck of the woods.

The human shoulder joint

Image via Wikipedi

Anyone who has been reading my “Dear So & Sos” will know that I’ve been having huge problems trying to get a much-needed shoulder operation done (ruptured tendon, probably the result of a fractured clavicle). It’s been at least 2 years – to be honest I’ve lost track – since I first went to the GP about it. After referrals, physio, X-rays, lost x-rays, redone x-rays, a scan, consultations I finally got a date for it: June last year. Unfortunately in the time they took for all this to happen my wife had become pregnant & given birth to twins, then 3 months old!

Even with the 2 of us at home 24 hours we were struggling. There was no way I could just ‘take time off’ for 6 weeks, even with 1 arm available. So I had to postpone & was given a Pre-Op Assessment for early September, which I passed, with the Op a month later.

3 weeks later though I’d come down with a seasonal allergic catarrh & chesty cough. Having been told I shouldn’t have the Op if I had a chest infection, I spent an incredibly frustrating week of ‘phone calls where I was transferred to every department & back again, messages left on voice-mails, many “I’ll ‘phone you back” lies & still I couldn’t find anyone who could advise me as to whether or not I should proceed. The day before the Op I finally got to speak to a Pre-Op Nurse, who said I shouldn’t. I then phoned the Waiting List Co-ordinator for the millionth time, who then had a go at me for leaving it so late to cancel! She’s lucky she wasn’t within my ‘phone throwing range. At least she didn’t transfer me to Cardiac that time, although I was getting to the point where I needed to be.

I was postponed ’til  November, then December, then November again. Lots more ‘phone calls & aggravation. Unfortunately by November I was still chesty: bumped again! Patient Liaison told me that they thought it was a deliberate scam just to clear room on the waiting lists.

More ‘phone calls, transfers etc. etc. later & I was given appointments to see the Anaesthetist & the Surgeon on December 20th & 22nd. They both cleared me immediately, & I was told that I was at the top of the waiting list.

A month later & I still didn’t have a date. I had made it clear over & over that January was the latest I could have the Op due to ending parental leave & looming work commitments. More ‘phone calls, aggravation, less hair & more wrinkles later & I was finally given another Pre-Op for: February 1st! We’d actually managed to push the deadline back a month so February would have OK,  just. What Op date did they give me? March 22nd! 3 months after being cleared by the Surgeon, nearly 5 months after the last Op date!

I’ve given up.

The incompetence, stupidity, callous bureaucratic indifference & rudeness I’ve encountered has been staggering; bad even by British business standards. To stay I’m p*ssed off about this is 1 of the century’s understatements. My shoulder is painful & getting worse, & I’m having to carry two increasingly heavy & active babies around, & up & down 2 flights of stairs several times per day.

I am aware that there are many much more badly affected than me: people, including babies, have died needlessly due to negligence & incompetence here.

Even so, the NHS has badly let me down.

Sadly in my experience this is pretty typical NHS. Its clinical staff are among, if not the, best in the world; the admin & managerial staff are mostly utterly useless.

Believe it or not the point of this post isn’t just to have a rant. From where I’m sitting it’s clear that the NHS – to use a phrase from the last Government – is not “fit for purpose”. It needs radical reform.

I know the coalition Government are shaking things up; to be honest I don’t know the details. What I do know is that its hard to find anyone who thinks they’re doing the right thing.

Please don’t misunderstand me: free universal health care is something this country should always be proud of; an example to, & often the envy of, the world.

But that’s not much good to me when I can’t get the operation I badly need, or to the thousands of others who have had similar or worse experiences.

In its present form it’s just not working. What’s the solution? I don’t know. But it has to change.

The Gallery: Children

This week’s subject for Tara Cain’s Gallery at Sticky Fingers is an even tougher one for me, maybe the toughest yet.


You’d think it would be easy, right? Not for me.

My children are the reason for this blog.

For the 10 months of their lives & for most of the time they were inside their Mummy they have been my life – & have lit up my life.

Not only that, they’re now pretty much the main reason for my existence.

Virtually any post I make here could be an entry.

So I’ve tried to select a photo that encapsulates this. I wanted it to be one I hadn’t used before, but I really can’t think of a better one than this.

Me, holding my newborn twins for the first time, when they’re literally minutes old.

Happiest day of my life.

Hello children!


This image was originally posted in “What a Day!“, still this blog’s most viewed post, the first of 2 about Jallie’s dramatic birth.

Why not have at look at all other entries on Children in this week’s Gallery: it never fails to disappoint.

Dear So & So: Violence, Legal Action & Security. Plus Some Nice Birdies

Dear So and So...

Dear Jallie babies

Thank you for respecting my request for a lessening of the bollocks-kicking activity. I think I’m on the mend now.

However when you wake up overnight & we’re good enough to let you sleep with us, please don’t wake me up at 5am with kung-fu kicks to my head.  Not hitting me while I’m trying to get you back to sleep would be nice too. And I know it’s with open palms, but it still kinda hurts.  (Yes, I’m looking at you, Jake…).


Bruised Daddy


NHS logo

Image via Wikipedia

Dear Good Hope Hospital

I think a rebranding exercise is in order, don’t you? You need a brand, an identity, that more accurately reflects who you are & what you have to offer the British public.

I suggest: “No Hope Hospital”.

Or how about “Bloody Hopeless”?

I even have a slogan worked out for you. Writ large over your front entrance: “Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here”.

Otherwise  someone may sue you under the Trades Descriptions Act.

It won’t be me ‘though: I’m already busy suing you under every other Law I can think of, you nasty psychopath.

You are a disgrace. It’s places like you that give the NHS a bad name…*

Sore Daddy. But you may call me “The Plaintiff”


Chris Packham

Image via Wikipedia

Dear Chris Packham & the Autumnwatch team

Thank you for your earlier suggestions for bird-foods for this time of year. They’ve gone down very well here, especially those niger seeds.

Did you mention sunflower hearts too? Also mixes specifically for ground-feeding birds? They’re also very popular here.

There are a lot of happier & less hungry birds here now thanks to you, & to shops like Wilkinsons & Tesco who stock their food

Birdy Daddy


Dear Jallie

Sorry to bother you again.

Just an update on the security situation.

We’ve got some nice new door gates so we don’t keep having to keep all your doors shut, shutting out that nice shiny light that you like & making us all feel a bit claustrophobic. Or piling doorways with Pampers box bunkers  that would make a World War 1 soldier proud, or your old Moses basket full of toys. Especially as you eventually seem to be able to figure out how to get through them. You little monkeys!
We also now have bed-guards, so we can all co-sleep together instead of Mummy & Daddy having 1 of you each surrounded by, admittedly impressive,  pillow fortresses. If you rolled over onto a wooden floor you really wouldn’t be very happy, trust me! And neither would we.

Now, I know you don’t like being penned in; but it’s for your own safety, honestly. One day you’ll understand.

Also: I’m nearly finished converting the storage room into a big old play room: you’ll love it, believe me!


Safety-conscious Daddy

"We shall, we shall be FREE!!"

* I have to point out that whenever we’ve had problems or health concerns with Jallie they’ve been excellent. And the surgical team who delivered them were outstanding. So I guess they’re not all bad. My main problem is with its administration & the admin staff; they’re just abysmal.

Related Articles

Dear So & So: Coughing, Rubbish, Dirt, Yelling & Kicking. With Cupcakes

Dear Jake

I hate you coughing at night: please get better. You & your sister are welcome to sleep with Mummy & Daddy any time you like if it makes you feel better.

Love, Daddy (& Mummy)


Dear ‘family who stayed with us this week’:

Thank you for your company, & for your help with the babies, & for your cooking & cleaning. But especially for the cupcakes.

Love, grateful me


Dear Birmingham Council

Well done for finally collecting our rubbish. Although I do like to think it was because I yelled at you & threatened all sorts of legal action.

Now: the recycling?

Slightly less smelly me


Dear neighbours’ contractors

Well done for finally filling in the ditch you dug in my front garden. Although I think it was because I yelled at you &… well, you get the idea.

And you were so smegging polite I couldn’t even be mad at you

Relieved me


Dear Hospital

Still waiting for a date for my Op. Looks like my yelling at you wasn’t enough. Playing hardball eh? Well I feel a strongly worded letter coming on! So there!

Still sore me


Dear babies

Thanks for not kicking me in the bollocks recently

Slightly less sore me

Dear So and So...

My Bloggy Year

Totally ripping off Inspired by this post by MrsLJHall here is my year in blog posts & pages, with stats, starting with the most read.

I’ve included some posts written in 2009 or earlier from “Random Ramblings, Pretty Pictures” that have still had views in 2010.

I’m reasonably pleased with my blogs now, especially considering that this, my main one, had a 6-month gap with no major updates. I think they both look a lot better now that I’ve learnt a few tricks of the trade; & have been allowed some time inbetween the demands of demanding twin babies!

A small percentage of the worldwide web seem to have enjoyed reading them, & for that I thank you.

I hope to continue onwards & upwards for the coming year & beyond.

What a day! 88 views

20 Ways to Annoy People on Twitter 88

Knee-Deep in Nappies 81

The Gallery: Motherhood 78

You Had Me At “Agoo” 76

Silent Sunday: Learning & Loving 62

Silent Sunday: Ho Ho Ho! 59

Silent Sunday: Babies Should Be Washed Separately 58

TwinTrek: The Voyage Home 58

What a Day! continued 54

Silent Sunday: Ellie’s New Friend 52

I’m not fat, I’m sympathetically pregnant! 48

The Gallery: Emotions 43

This Blog Is Pointless 41

The Gallery: Love 39

– Huh? What are you, some kind of tramp? (a.k.a. “About”) 38

We Can See Your Halo 38

Through a Scanner, Darkly 35

Creatures (The Gallery) 35

The Gallery: Black & White 34

Alive and Kicking 34

T-7 And Counting: Gearing Up For TwinsLaunchDate 32

Gig Review: Faithless, N.I.A. Birmingham, Dec 10 2010 32

Their First Noël 28

The Gallery: A Photo I’m Proud Of 28

The Gallery: Show Me the Funny 28

Silent Sunday: A Very Jallie Christmas 27

My Favourite Music 26

Silent Sunday: It’s Cold Outside 23

Yesterday Once More? 23

The Gallery: Sparkle 22

About Me & This Stuff (Random Ramblings, Pretty Pictures) 21

The Gallery: Black & White, (The Sequel) 21

The Gallery: White 18

Drolgerg Does Istanbul #1: Why You Shouldn’t Always Listen To Your Mother 16

What’s in a Name? 12

10 More Ways to Annoy People on Twitter: A Celebrity Special! 11

The Gallery: Seasons 10

It’s been quite a year!  I’m hoping that 2011 will be even better. And maybe less dramatic 🙂

Thanks again for everyone who’s taken the time to read, & especially to those who have kindly left comments.

A Happy New Year to you all!

TwinTrek: The Voyage Home

My wife & our new children were in the hospital for another 4 days. They were moved out of the HDU to an ordinary room in the Maternity Ward on Saturday, the 2nd day. I mostly remember from there that I learnt how to change nappies, doing it reasonably well  from the start – to the amazement of all. At some point an ear specialist came to test their hearing (both fine, I’m pleased to say). She told us that they had the most perfectly formed ears she had ever seen. My wife’s reaction? “I bet she says that to all the boys (& girls)”. They are very nice, though. Judge for yourself:


On the Monday we were told the babies looked a bit jaundiced  – nothing serious, fortunately – so we relented & allowed more blood to be taken. We had noticed that they cried vigorously if they even just got a bit wet or cold, so concluded that the blood-taking wasn’t as distressing for them as it had seemed.  It turned out they were a bit jaundiced, so we stepped up their feeding regime. We were moved twice: first off the delivery ward to the regular maternity ward, then to a much bigger room: with a double bed! The staff were good enough to let me stay the night, which was a great help.

When they weren’t crying to be fed or changed they were mostly sleeping, but the times when they were awake & alert were precious:

Although it was all a bit much for some:

The boys are very tired

Then on Tuesday: Home!