It shouldn’t happen to a Herbalist

As you know, I am a qualified Medical Herbalist, having studied 1995-2001 and then practising for over 10 years, with my own clinic for 3 of them. You may recall that various governments have been blowing hot-and-cold over our Statutory Regulation which would protect our title and ensure we work to high standards.

If not, you can read my posts on the subject here:

Doubts and Dilemmas
Learning to meet requirements
Herbal balance

Well here we are, well past Spring 2012 – and 2013 for that matter! – and STILL no Statutory Regulation! So once again I had the dilemma of what to do about my professional membership. This year, even finding the money to register as a non-practising member was a tall order and to be honest, I didn’t feel I gained anything from this last year.

So, I have made the decision to discontinue practising as a Herbalist and therefore to quit my membership and I feel very let down by the government over the whole business of Statutory Regulation both financially and practically.

When I first qualified in 2001 the profession was putting everything in place in preparation for SR and as such, since that time, I have been paying an extra sum of money in my annual membership fee to help this process. Well here I am in 2013 having paid my money but still we have no SR! If and when the profession DOES finally get it, I’ll have paid for it all these years,but not had the benefit. I have also spent a lot of valuable time and energy doing my part in the campaigning, as have friends, family and patients.

I expect I was not alone in feeling, once I qualified after many years hard work, that the world was just waiting for me to wow it with the miracle of herbal remedies. However, the years have ground me down and though I still believe in the power of the herbs and have confidence in my own abilities as a good practitioner I simply cannot live on pipe-dreams and am having to work full time in paid employment to keep a roof over my family’s heads. I am disgusted with the governments and their bad handling of the SR process and have no faith that we’ll ever achieve it. So as well as my clinic, I’ve let my herbal web domain go too.

During my time practising I have worked very hard to cultivate good relations with the local medical profession and in an ironic twist, I recently gave a presentation to them at the post-grad education meeting at the hospital which seemed well received. At the end I was asked how they could refer patients to me! Do I laugh or cry I wonder…. ?

A degree in toastology – and other things.

We like our toast in this house, and with five of us, we get through a lot of bread – and not a few toasters. Last time I had to replace this important piece of kitchen equipment – without which we cannot manage – we didn’t have much money at all so we had to make do with a very cheap and cheerful one. IT may have been cheerful, but we weren’t as it was rubbish! For a 4-slice toaster, we were lucky if we could squeeze in 3 slices, and bagels had to be flattened to get them in, and it was 50:50 whether you’d get them out again 🙁 So when this one died, we didn’t even mourn it, but I was determined that we weren’t going to repeat past mistakes and carefully researched our next mechanical member of the family. I finally settled on on which was the right style – a long, thin toaster, not a wide one as it had to fit in a specific gap. Four slices a must, variable thickness a must, and preferably not a garish colour as our kitchen is white and grey/silver. I found just the thing in Argos, bought it, and we immediately tested it out. Now we don’t have a degree in toastology but we do like our toast! We give this toaster 10/10. Several perfect slices later, we declared ourselves in love and looking forward to a long and happy relationship 🙂

Also in the kitchen, I harvested all the tomatoes which were never going to ripen after the “summer” we’ve had and made another batch of green tomato chutney – but decided to add a little more ginger, less sugar, and a few home-grown chillis which I’d previously blanched and frozen. It’s divine! 🙂

Also as last year, I’ve been doing plenty of apple baking again – pies, crumbles and spiced apple cake. Thanks mum 🙂

As there were plenty of self-seeded feverfew plants growing in cracks in the concrete in the garden, I harvested them as it seemed a shame to waste them. This a herb best used fresh rather than dried, so I decided to make a tincture with it and chose brandy as the base, so it is now happily brewing in a jar on the kitchen windowsill. The daft thing is that I’m not sure who is going to use it as its main indication is migraine prevention, but I don’t have this tendency. Anyone want some inexpensive home-brewed feverfew brandy? 😉

Lastly, I’ve started making my home-made veg soup again now the weather has gone cold. I happened to make the first batch not long after making a goulash so I saved a bowlful of the gravy from that and added it to the vegetables – resulting in a deliciously warming, satisfying soup 🙂

I do love pottering in the kitchen.

Herbal balance.

As you know, I scaled down my herbal activities when I gave up my clinic in December and think I did so just in time. I wanted to see what the government decided about the future of the profession before working out what to do in April when it became time for the annual dilemma about renewing insurances and professional membership.

The government DID commit to Statutory Regulation for Medical Herbalists, but not until April 2012. With the new European laws kicking in THIS April, this leaves a one year gap with us continuing as we were, but with access to less remedies.

I decided that I didn’t want to quit the profession as things may take off next year, and I’d hate to waste my 5 years training and 10 years experience. However, neither could I afford the fees required to practice, as there was little chance I would get enough income to justify it. So I have made the decision to remain a member of my professional body, but as a non-practicing member for a year while I wait to see what transpires.

It’s actually a bit of a relief to have some of the pressure taken off for a year and to be able to concentrate on my NHS work and the family. Since I have also managed to finish my accounts for last year and hand them in to the accountant, I’m feeling as though the weight of herbs has been lifted from my shoulders for a while and though I am passionate about the power of herbs, and helping people, I think I need this time out. It’s good to get the chance to keep on top of two things instead of merely keeping afloat with three.

Learning to meet requirements.

You may apparently not be able to teach an old dog new tricks, but if you’re a modern dog, you’re expected to learn a few and keep records to prove it. If, like me, you have two work hats, you need to do this in both – which keeps me busy, to say the least.

As well as doing my MOS course, the NHS has also had me doing my course so that I can maintain my continuing development records online in accordance with national guidelines. This was actually quite good and whilst it’s going to be time consuming uploading all my proof and examples of competence, once done it will be much better than the file stuffed with papers I currently have. It should make the whole system of having my annual appraisal much easier and quicker. Now I just need to find time to work on it! 😉

I continue to attend the weekly post grad education meetings and gain knowledge that helps with both my NHS job and my Herbal work – and this week’s was certainly helpful to both. It was an interesting and thought provoking session on Mental Capacity and I enjoyed the group work where we split up to discuss various scenarios.

As for my Herbal work – well, at long last, the government are honouring the promise of the last government made in 2000, and Herbalists will get their statutory regulation in April 2012. Great news! But….. it’s a bit confusing to me what happens in the year between the European Directive (April 2011) and this statutory regulation. From this article, it would seem it’s not entirely clear what happens after that either! I hope my professional body goes through it all and tells me nice and clearly what’s what. Once again, renewal of memberships and insurance is due and I can’t work out if I can actually prescribe any herbs for the coming year or not.

For those of you who responded to the public consultation on statutory regulation, the report can be found here.

So it’s all a bit busy work-wise for me at the moment and I’m doing a fair bit of overtime – but I’m trying to stay on top of my blogging, football, family, friends and home still. You may have to bear with me this coming week as I’m covering holidays and working at the hospital all week.

Something had to give!

As you know, I juggle home, hospital work and my clinic on a weekly basis and recently this has become so much harder to do, both financially and logistically. Having agonised for a few weeks, I finally made a decision that my clinic has to go.

I am paying rent for a room that I am currently using just 2 days a week and I am spending those 2 days a week there when the family and the home, and occasionally the hospital job, need my attention. It will be sad to lose the clinic after 4 years, though I do still intend to provide for my patients’ needs. I will instead run my business from home, but I won’t see patients there – I will either do home visits, meet in a mutually convenient public place, or be willing to do sessions at other clinics and practices.

I will no longer keep a stock of the herbal remedies, but instead take advantage of my two suppliers’ new prescription dispensing service which means I can continue to supply herbs. It means that the remedies would be delivered directly to patients by post from the supplier, who will have made them up according to the prescription that I give them. As you can imagine, there are stringent rules about this so I’ve had to set up my arrangements so that they are satisfied, and I’m now ready to go. Of course, this meant revising my fees too, which took a while – and a lot of number crunching.

I have had to write to all my patients, to the GP’s and consultants that have sent me patients, and of course, had to re-write my website! I still need to sort out a couple more things and then I think I am clear to go ahead.

What a lot of work! Still, hopefully, I will gain a bit more time that can be used constructively, and I shouldn’t be letting anyone down. It also means I have time to see what the government is going to do about the issue of Statutory Regulation and how it will affect me.

F.A.C.T – A very long day.

On Saturday I was taking part in an event for F.A.C.T which raises awareness of cancers of all types and gives people support, advice and practical solutions to the challenges encountered with cancer. The event was being held in the Metrocentre, the first event of its kind to be hosted in a shopping mall, and there were strict rules to which we had to adhere.

We had to arrive and set up well before the opening time of 9 am and the stall had to be manned at all times throughout the day, with all clearing up to be done after 7 pm. Nothing could be sold, nor orders taken so my Herbal Clinic stall offered literature and free 10 minute consultations. Billy had kindly agreed to be my glamorous assistant so that I could pop to the loo when needed and so we set off at 8 am – though by the time we finally found the right entrance and walked through from behind the shops to the Exhibition Square, we only had 10 minutes to set up. (Luckily this was eminently doable!)

As it turned out, my stall had been placed adjacent to fellow business owner and friend, Sarah’s (providing wigs both privately and through the NHS) and had we known this, Billy could have spent the day relaxing and watching The Ryder Cup as Sarah and I could keep an eye on each other’s stall if needed. Nevertheless, I was glad of Billy’s practical help and his moral support and appreciated it.

It was a very long day and there were times when it really dragged – and then little flurries of activity. I gave advice as planned, but I also did some networking with the other businesses and organisations there and got to know one really lovely lady called Pamela, from Look Good…Feel Better As luck had it, the stall opposite Sarah and I was Boots and they had store staff covering it in shifts doing mini-makeovers and handing out free samples – one of each of which found their way into each of our handbags 🙂 Billy sat with me at times, fetched coffee, food and water at others and occasionally managed a break himself though to our disappointment Wetherspoons was closed for refurbishment meaning he couldn’t go for to watch a bit of the sporting action. (In fact we feel there is a distinct gap in the market for a man-crèche of the bar-and-sports-TV variety in the Metrocentre!)

Friends also appeared during the day to say hello and see how things were going, and Nel arrived mid-afternoon to collect Billy to go to Pets At Home with her. She’d wanted a Roborovski hamster for a while, had been very unhappy since losing Nel the hamster and Simon and Claire had very kindly popped in to the shop the previous day to establish whether they had any in. Once Nel knew they had, she was keen to get one and needed someone over 18 to buy it, so off they went and when they returned, she was smiling broadly and clutching a little box – with TWO hamsters inside it! Apparently they are social creatures and like company and Nel was 100% sure that they were both male so opted for a pair.Everyone oohed and aahed and wanted to see but of course, the box had to stay shut for the journey home.

Lesley, one of the F.A.C.T founders and owner of Bouncing Back in Gateshead came round at about 5 pm with a box of fruit to keep us all going and we were all starting to flag a little by this time. However, Lesley felt the day had been a success and was very pleased so this perked us up.

Finally, 7 pm arrived and we cleared up, said our goodbyes and loaded up the car before deciding to treat ourselves to a quick bite at Pizza Hut as a reward for our efforts and to save us cooking when we got home. We chose to go to the one outside the shopping mall – which was a mistake I think. There were plenty of staff but all quite young and more interested in chatting together than in their customers – there was even some sort of disagreement and one flounced off to the kitchens clearly upset by something which the others found highly amusing. We sat next to a waist-high wall which separated the dining area from the walk-way between dining, kitchen and bar areas and at one point our waitress just leaned over it to put Billy’s drink refill on the table. The staff were polite but not sincere and certainly not in any hurry. We waited 15 minutes to have our order taken and were finally served our food at 8 pm. We finished by 8.15 and then had to wait an age, ignored by the rest of the staff, for our waitress to make up the bill so we could pay. Very unusually for us, we did not leave a tip as we didn’t feel one had been earned. All that said – the food was delicious 🙂

When we got home, I immediately went to see Nel and her new little furry babies and they are SO cute! They’re tiny and such a pretty colour. She has named them Lev and Mimski – Lev is a camera loving little scruff and Mimski is shyer and tidier.


Memski
Lev the poser
Lev on his house
Lev in his wheel

Jill, master of all trades.

This last week has been absolutely jam packed with me frequently swapping hats and yet somehow, at the end of this frantic week, I am somehow still pretty much on top of everything – bar my blog of course!

My colleague was off this week so I worked four days instead of two, and in that four days, managed to do five days work. For once, when I go in on Monday morning, I will have a clear desk, everything will be up to date and ready to go. 🙂 We had a gorgeous rainbow for all of 2 minutes on Friday morning and I managed to grab my camera phone in time to snap it from my office window before the heavens REALLY opened and it was gone:


Rainbow over hospital

On Wednesday I had to cram in all the week’s clinic needs as well as the shopping and household jobs. This week I have filled in and returned all the forms and requirements for the F.A.C.T event at the Metrocentre on October 2nd where I will be offering free 10 minute consultations. The requirements are very strict including the need to have one’s stall manned at all timed 9am – 7pm, so I’ve roped in Billy as my glamorous assistant 😀 I also received confirmation that I am now listed in the NHS Complementary and Alternative Practitioner Directory and can use their logo on my website and literature. I’ve been waiting for a couple of months to find out if I would be accepted, though I felt I did meet their criteria, so am really pleased to finally have it confirmed. I even managed to get to the accountants and sign my tax return forms and pick up my accounts. A good day’s herbal work on top of the usual prescriptions and patients’ needs 🙂

Also on Wednesday, I did the shopping but of necessity, went to Iceland so they would deliver it for me. When I checked my receipt though, they had charged me twice for two items (a total overcharge of £5) so I went back to get a refund. Apparently their scanners are known to scan some things twice occasionally so they didn’t bat an eye! I shall be sure to always check my receipts carefully in future!

When I got home that evening, about 5.45pm, the shopping had to be unpacked, the washing machine loaded, and lunches made for the next day. Billy had done a poor job of being a house husband and having my dinner on the table each night 😉 so he cooked whilst I did the jobs. The next day was his first as a locum optician and he was VERY nervous! So I spent the evening helping him prepare, trying to calm him down and be a positive influence – not easy when you’re worn out after a long day and are not a night person at all! 😛

After a poor night’s sleep (both of us) I got up at around 5.15 am to see Billy off as he had to catch the very early train to get to where he was working for the next 2 days. He was still very nervous and I spent the day thinking about him and hoping it was going well. And of course, it DID. He had a successful day and could therefore relax a little that night, knowing what he was doing the next day.

On Thursday and Friday evenings I was literally too tired to think straight and could barely manage to check my e-mails, never mind keep up with anything else, so I hope to catch up over the coming week. Why is it that things always happen all at once?

On the up-and-at-’em.

I don’t appear to have had much time for blogging lately but there’s lots going on in our lives right now and I’ve been a busy bee. I’m also feeling more myself, and though I AM still determined not to be walked upon, I’m a little less defensive.

Work is still stressful, and we’re now entering the period of changeover from our old hours, clinics, deliveries and routine, to the new. However I am making a determined effort not to let it get to me and to leave it all behind when I finish my two days. With the lunch time education meetings going on, this has been harder as I tend to call in to the office afterwards whilst I’m at the hospital. This means that I am not really able to switch off from the job until Wednesday afternoon, whereas now the meetings have stopped for summer, I will be free from Tuesday night. 🙂

In my own clinic, one of my patients has been trying to get the PCT to fund her treatment since she cannot tolerate conventional medicine yet is in need of help. To this end, I spent four days writing up a report for her regarding all the herbs she is using and the clinical trials that back up their use. At first I tried putting it all in a clip file, but soon there were far too many pages and I ended up using a display folder. It was so thick that when i handed over the report to the patient, she asked when the book would be published 😉 Let’s hope those four days hard work achieve the desired result. Naturally, I have also been seeing my other patients too, and my next task is to get on top of the accounts again.

Billy is starting a brave new venture – he is also going self employed as of the end of July. He’s been working for the same company for ten years or so now and it’s time to spread his wings. It was also getting very gruelling working 5.5 days a week, every week, and being unable to do much else. This new venture as a locum, is a bit scary but is hopefully a positive move and I do think it’s better to be in in control of your own life than always dependent on the whims of others. Billy alternates between being terrified and being optimistic, but nevertheless, is hard at work planning, buying his own equipment, and passing that all important driving test. Other than give him all my moral support and the odd little bit of advice about being self employed, I can’t really DO much, but it’s lovely to see him focused on something positive for a change.

One other POSSIBLE change in our lives, is that Stephen is considering moving out and sharing a house with friends in Newcastle. He seems to have thought it out, and, as he says, he’s far more likely to get a job in town than here. I’m pleased that he wants to be independent, pleased that Newcastle is just a short drive away if he needs us, and pleased to think my house might be a tidier, less power-consuming place. But I’d miss his funny jokes, comments, and generally amusing ways. Nothing definite yet, so we’ll see what happens. (Nel is already asking if she can have his bedroom for an art room! (NO!) :P)

The garden is still blooming, and I seem to spend a fair bit of time watering all the pots. I’ve started being able to harvest the salad leaves for my lunches 🙂 – though everything else is still growing and not yet ready. I’m LOVING the warm weather and finding it gives me energy and a sense of peace, so I hope it lasts a while longer yet. It also means I’ve been able to turn off the heating for the last month or more and our latest gas bill looked much healthier as a result 🙂 Electricity is still high though, what with all three men in the house having a tendency to leave on lights and TV’s all night.

As for the World Cup – I’ve watched a few games since the last round, but not all. I have seen Spain play a few times and thought they were far from convincing so was amazed at the performance they turned on against Germany. Well deserved finalists indeed. I missed Holland’s game but the final should be good tonight 🙂 I’ve enjoyed the football when I’ve had time to watch, but I shan’t miss those blasted vuvuzulas 😉 Oh, you want me to show that I know less than an octopus about football again don’t you? OK – a prediction then – but I happen to agree with Paul this time – Spain to win the final. 😛

Darn Sarf – London Trip

On Thursday morning, I packed my things (badly – in a rush and not knowing what the weather was likely to do!) in to my new bright pink ruck-sack (a present from Billy as I felt a rucksack would be more practical on this trip than a suitcase.) I had a smooth trip down to London though I was glad I had booked my seat on the train as it was very busy and Mum and I met at Victoria and then headed together to our hotel in Crystal Palace.

Before our trip, we had both bought a Visitor’s Oyster Card so that we didn’t have to mess about with tickets, change, and queues and throughout our trip, this proved to be absolutely brilliant. Highly recommended for anyone visiting London and it saves an absolute fortune in money, time, and planning. We had also booked our hotel in advance, and were a little wary of what we’d find since this was very much a budget hotel, a bit out of the way, and we feared the worst. What a pleasant surprise we had when we got to our room – we expected something small and dingy but instead found we had a large room with not two, but four beds!


Beds all in a row

Our room was in the basement and had a little courtyard backing on to it – though the gutter and other pipework constantly dripped and leaked. We just imagined it was a tropical waterfall and with the room getting very hot at night, it was easy to pretend we were on an exotic holiday 😀 We had dinner in the local Wetherspoons and then returned to our room and watched TV whilst I painted my nails in readiness for the next day.


England Nails

In the morning, we took the lift to the fifth floor for our inclusive continental breakfast and found it to be very basic, but certainly adequate. Many people were complaining about various things, but to be honest, at the price we were paying, Mum and I felt things were pretty much acceptable. There was a choice of cornflakes, Frosties or Cocoa Pops for cereal, of apple or orange juice, of toast or fresh rolls with butter and jams, and of tea or coffee. Nothing fancy, but good enough to get the day started.
Capstar & wristbands

Friday, being ST GEORGE’S DAY and therefore our annual celebration in memory of dad we exchanged cards, donned “Support the Coldstream Guards in Afghanistan” wrist bands, and set off to buy our red rose button holes on our way to the train station.

Cards and booze

Roses

Our first stop was the Guard’s Museum.

Guards Museum Anji
Guards museum Mum

We chatted to the ex-Irish Guard manning the desk for a while and then enjoyed working our way round the exhibits which mark the history and honours of the guards regiments right up to, and including, the Coldstream Guards in Afghanistan. This section was very moving, being so very recent and still ongoing, and at the end there was a poster which had a different picture but was something like this:

Hardest thing

We decided to picnic in St James’ Park and then we walked up to Buckingham Palace (where we identified the current guard to be the Grenadier Guards) and Horseguards – where the stands were being erected ready for the trooping of the Colour.


Horseguards

Then after a rest in Green park, we decided to visit The Tower – we even caught the sun a bit, as the weather was glorious.

The Tower


Tower Bridge

We saw quite a few England shirts and flags during the day – lots of black cabs, and even one bin lorry, were flying them 🙂 We had noted that Wetherspoons were offering a St George’s Day menu so decided we would have our evening meal there.

SGD menu

When I went to the bar to place our order, I said we’d like the sausage and mash meal and the barman was pleased we were being patriotic – and I was pleased that he was pleased 🙂 The meal was really filling but enjoyable and mum and I decided to have another drink. A man, whom we’d seen in there the previous evening with his England-Flag-Sporting friend, came and chatted, having spotted our red roses, and then he chatted about football and seemed pleased (but amazed) that mum is a fellow Palace fan. A little later, another man came over and again, congratulated us for celebrating St George’s Day. He was 74 (he told us) but was a tough little nut and we got the impression he was something of a character in the area. He seemed to take a shine to us and chatted for rather a long time, sitting (uninvited) next to mum and in no hurry to leave. He asked our names and I gave him mine (first name only, of course) but when he turned to mum, she gave a false one – which had me struggling to keep a straight face as I wasn’t expecting that! Fortunately, just before we had to resort to inventing a meeting with our husbands, he left – so we drank up fast, and went back to the hotel. He hadn’t spoiled our evening, but he did cut it a little short as we may well have otherwise stayed for another drink. Still, it had been a good St George’s Day and we felt Dad would have enjoyed the way we’d spent it, even if he would have had considerably more alcohol than we did 😉

Photobucket

On Saturday mum took me round some old haunts of hers. She showed me the house (in Crystal Palace) where we had been living when I was born – and told me how she used to have to walk up Anerley Hill when pregnant and dad used to push my pram up it once I was born – it’s an extremely steep hill so I sympathised. I had always thought, being born in BMH Woolwich, that were I to support the football team nearest my birth place it would have been Arsenal, but in fact Charlton is nearest (Ugh!) However, if I were to support the team nearest our home at the time of my birth, it would have been Crystal Palace 🙂 We also went to Forest Hill and mum told me about some of the things she, her sister Janet and cousin Pat had done as children/teenagers – showing me where they used to go swimming and the cinema where mum was watching a film when the film was interrupted to break the news that JFK had been assassinated. It’s now a Wetherspoons, though nicely done, and the name has been retained, and we stopped there for a coffee before walking on to see the house where my Nanny and Grandad lived. I have fond memories of that house – as I am sure, do my brother and cousins. Nanny and Grandad were always so welcoming and we loved going there. Of course, my memories of it are all from a child’s perspective and I remember climbing the really high steps up to the front door. Only when mum and I went there, I saw, from my adult’s perspective, that actually, the steps were not that high at all. 🙂 I remembered the old fire station and newsagent’s too, and mum was pleased to see that Forest Hill had not changed as much as she had expected.

We went back to the main high street for lunch and ended up in a fish and chip shop, and then headed off to Croydon and the Whitgift Centre as I wanted to take back some little presents for the family. Unfortunately, having done so much walking that morning, we found we had run out steam, so ended up returning early to Crystal Palace, looking at the pubs as we went, to see if any looked suitable for watching the Arsenal v City match. Sadly, there were none in which we felt we’d feel comfortable as two ladies alone, so we went back to the hotel and hoped they might have it on one of their large screens. When we got there, I asked a member of staff, who went off to find out whether the hotel had ESPN. Whilst waiting, a small group of people had come in, and I couldn’t believe it – one of them was wearing a City (3rd) shirt! I was wearing a City t-shirt too, and he couldn’t believe it either. He said he had come down for a party and was planning to watch the game on his laptop. In the end I gave up waiting for the staff member to return and went to the room. Mum and I ended up just vegging out on our beds for the remainder of the afternoon and I followed the match via City Twitter updates. I hadn’t missed any goals at least, and actually was quite pleased that we got a point out of it. 🙂

Having had a cooked lunch, we had a picnic tea in our room and actually spent 15 hours on/in the beds in total – anyone that knows me will be as surprised as I was. It was rather pleasant just relaxing though.

At least, it WAS relaxing until about 8.45pm when a group of people in the room on the opposite side of the courtyard, decided to have pre-night-out drinks int he room, along with their friends. We guessed there to be 15 – 20 or so of them and they were VERY noisy. They also managed to open the door into the courtyard (we had assumed this would be for staff access only as it allowed access in to our room via the large window if desired) and they proceeded to stand right outside our window whilst talking on phones. We felt very uneasy about this, not just because of the noise, but also because of the lack of security. We phoned down to reception twice to ask someone to get them to at least shut the door and stay inside, but with the staff speaking English as a second language, they seemed unable to even grasp WHERE we were talking about, never mind WHAT! We gave up staying up at about 10pm and reluctantly got undressed (turning off the bathroom light to do so since there were no curtains/blinds and we would have been clearly visible to those outside) and got into bed. We had also closed our windows which made the room hot and stuffy, but when the inconsiderate party had finally shut up (left for their night’s entertainment) at 11pm, I did open the smallest window a little. I felt they were unlikely to be returning before the wee small hours, having gone out so late, and I was right – mum heard them return about 4am but I somehow slept through their noise.

On Sunday morning, on our way out, I asked at reception about having breakfast on a tray in the room the next day as I needed to leave before breakfast was served in the restaurant. They said that they could not do this as there was no-one to make a breakfast. So I asked about the 24 hour room service menu (as advertised on a notice in reception) and said I’d pick something from that instead. The receptionist said that that had to be ordered in the bar which was only open from 3pm – 11pm so I asked whether I could do that when we returned later and they could do a tray at 6.30am. Erm, no, that was not what she meant, apparently – “24 hour” room service is only actually available between 3pm – 11pm ! We gave up! 🙁

Originally we had planned to go to Eastbourne by train, but engineering works meant it would be too much hassle, so we went to Brighton instead. We worked out that not only could we save ourselves the journey into London by picking it up at East Croydon, but that our Oyster cards would get us to that pick up point, meaning we needed to pay less for the journey in all. Good stuff! 🙂 As we arrived, we noticed lots of police everywhere and wondered what was going on – so I asked a policeman and he said it was for a St George’s Day march. We walked down towards Churchill Square where we were meeting Rick and Mel for lunch, and while we waited, the marchers came past with a huge police presence. We were pleased to see people supporting St George’s Day but we were not sure if these were just people being proud ot be English or whether they were BNP types – which is a step too far for us. They soon moved past and the roads cleared again. Shortly after, Rick and Mel arrived and we all went for a stroll down to the beach – it was a bit chilly and foggy, but had to be done as mum and I both wanted to visit the sea. We both miss the sea since leaving Sussex, and though Eastbourne would have been our preferred beach, Brighton did the job – and it had been a very long time since either of us had visited Brighton, though it hadn’t really changed a huge amount. We had a very pleasant 3 hours with my brother and his lovely wife and were stuffed by the time we left Pizza Hut 🙂 I blame Rick – he talked us into having starters, pizza AND sweet, though we didn’t put up much of a fight 😉

After they left, we had a little look round a few shops but weren’t really in a shopping mood. I did pop in to a phone-unlocking shop which had been recommended, to see if I could get my new phone unlocked. Sadly not, but the man there did say that the software required to do so should be out in the next few weeks so at least I have hope. We picked up a picnic tea for later, and an egg mayonnaise sandwich and a doughnut for my breakfast next day, in lieu of “24 hour room service” 😛 and then walked back to the train station. Just across the road was a likely looking café for a welcome cuppa, so we took advantage before returning to London.

We had a peaceful evening, the previous night’s party-goers having left, and I redid my nails a little more soberly, and prepared myself and my bag for my seminar the next day.

On Monday morning,I left the hotel at about 7.15am, walked to the station and caught the train up to Victoria, and the tube to High Street Kensington, arriving at The Kensington Close Hotel in good time for registration and coffee. The seminar was arranged by one of my favourite herbal suppliers and the speaker was one of my favourite Herbalists, Kerry Bone. I had a very useful and interesting day, learning more about Ginkgo biloba and a few other herbs, and finished promptly enough that I could get back to the hotel before rush hour reached its peak.

Mum had spent a quiet afternoon after a morning in Crystal Palace Park and had got us a picnic tea again, which I ate as I got changed into jeans and England shirt ready to go to Selhurst Park for the Palace v Baggies game. I borrowed mum’s Palace scarf too as she had her Palace shirt and fleece, and we set off for our first evening match here. Once again our Palace “ticket Daddy” had got us absolutely fantastic seats, right on the half way line not far back from the pitch. Thank you again, Patrick, you are a star – AGAIN!


Selhurst Park - view from our seat

The man who was sitting next to me was huge – and a bit unfriendly looking, so when I noticed him smoking, I wasn’t prepared to say anything. However, mum noticed too, and said, very loudly, “Is he smoking?” Yikes! Fortunately, he either didn’t hear or chose to ignore, but later it became apparent that he was “smoking” a cigarette substitute – though the “water vapour” cloud smelled a bit strange so he may, or may not, have had something in it.

That aside, we really enjoyed the match and on balance felt pleased with a point, despite the fact that 3 would have done Palace more good. (If the situation was not as it was, a point against West Brom would have been something of which to feel pretty proud.) The Baggies players were niggly, and very physical and we couldn’t believe that Bednar didn’t get booked on several occasions. We were sitting close to the away fans (whom I have never liked) and they did not endear themselves to us at all. Singing “We’re going up” when they already were going up, seemed pointless. Singing “You’re going down” was gloating, but singing “You’re going bust in the morning” was just plain disrespectful and rude. They spent more time singing about Palace’s woes than supporting their own team.There was also some trouble outside but mum and I avoided this by virtue of staying behind to clap the team and staff as they did a lap of honour afterwards. I was very pleased we could do this and mum enjoyed the opportunity to show her boys her appreciation of their efforts this season, despite the off-field trials they’ve suffered. Mum fears that may have been her last trip to watch her team, as she doesn’t know if her health will be up to it in future, but I hope we will go again, and we do both enjoy it so much.

On Tuesday it was time to return to everyday life. We seemed to have packed a lot in to our five days and were pretty worn out. Mum’s feet and hip, especially, had been somewhat overworked though we had tried to take it easy. Unfortunately, we both have yet to adjust and learn what mum can and can’t do now, but we’ll get there. This time last year, she couldn’t have managed any of it!

We travelled up to Victoria together and then went our separate ways – she to Euston and me to Kings Cross. My train was quite quiet which was a relief as during this trip, more than any other, I’d felt hemmed in by other people everywhere I turned, buses being the worst, with their lack of seating and two-door system) and was desperate for some space.

Billy came to meet me at Newcastle and we’d planned to spend a couple of hours in town and then have an inexpensive meal out before going home. But he’d called me earlier to ask if I’d mind him postponing our time together as he had been asked to help out a friend in need – by playing golf! I was less than impressed but told him only he could decide how important it was to help this friend and I’d trust his judgement. So we got the next train home, had a cup of tea, and then off he went! At least the house wasn’t a complete tip as Mrs Gem had been that morning. No washing or ironing had been done though, and there was my rucksack full of dirty laundry to add…….. Ho hum. It was good to be back 😉

A Break from the Bustle.

Having worked all week last week, and then had an open day in my clinic on Tuesday, followed by my usual clinic on Wednesday, I’m looking forward to a break.

I am going to London for a few days and my plans are:

Friday, ST GEORGE’S DAY – our annual celebration in memory of dad. Planning on going to the Guard’s Museum, maybe Buck Palace and perhaps a walk in St James Park – generally revisiting old haunts from dad’s army days and my childhood. I shall be flying my country’s colours with pride and hope that all my fellow English men and women do so too. Have a wonderful day however you mark the occasion.

Saturday and Sunday – free. Might visit Sussex (by train), wander round some more old haunts in London, mooch round shops etc. Who knows? It’s going to be a mental holiday as much as anything, doing whatever seems like fun at the time. I AM hoping to find somewhere to watch the Arsenal v City match as I DID have tickets, then thought I’d be unable to attend, and sold them to a friend 🙁


Arsenal tickets

Monday – I have a herbal seminar all day and am looking forward to it as I missed the last one. I learn so much, get the opportunity to hear/see a Herbalist whom I much admire, and catch up with fellow herbalists. In the evening, it’s off to Selhurst Park for the Palace v Baggies game and hoping desperately that West Brom relax, having nothing for which to play, and Palace can claw their way nearer to safety.


Palace tickets

I’ll be back on Tuesday and I’m sure I will have plenty to tell – bet you can’t wait hm? 😉