Friday, 15 April 2011


The minipond in our mini-woodland garden.

Well hullo my hearties, my beauties!  I must kick off with the most profound apology.
Well, a double apology.

First, it's been three disgraceful weeks since I set so much as a tiny toe into the delectably warm, oozy, cuddly ocean of the blogosphere.  It would be shamelessly egocentric to imagine that any of you were waiting with eager anticipation for my next offering of pointless drivel but self-deception can be comforting.

Secondly, I've been terrible at keeping up to date with everyone else's blogs.  I've even been a recalcitrant and inconsistent twitterpater, so tweetie friends and fellow bloggees, please know that I still care and - well, you know . . .

The excuse, as some will know, is a recent hip replacement.  I won't bore you with disgusting clinical details but want, briefly, to put a word in for our poor old, much maligned National Health Service.

About 30 years ago in palmy days, I had a hernia operation in a private hospital near here.  The service was  good, the food disgusting, the medical treatment and its after effects fine and everyone was happy.

Exactly 3 weeks ago, I became an inpatient at the NHS Peterborough City Hospital for four nights.

The hospital is new and sparkly.  The polyglot ancillary staff were busy, competent and managed to keep the great machine running reasonably well.  I quickly made friends with the people who took food orders, and then delivered plates of matter which bore not one jot of resemblance to the descriptions in the Hospital Trust's five star menu booklet.  The servers were utterly charming and efficient; the food was institutional – Colditz-cum-Somme trench fare.

The medical staff, including His Nibs, my Royal Navy surgeon, his devastatingly attractive anaesthetist –who had the most artistically chaotic hair in the style of a young, sexy Eleanor Bron, if you can remember back that far - the duty physicians, nursing staff, physiotherapists and medical porters were, without exception, wonderful.  They were kind, attentive, helpful, encouraging, comforting and at all times remarkably positive.  I was better looked after than in that posh private hospital of thirty years ago, and much more solicitously looked after than when staying at the Doha Four Seasons.

I've travelled a very great deal, in my 67 years.  I've lived in Kenya, as a child, in New South Wales, Upstate New York and even Norfolk.  And visited, extensively, much of South East Asia, South Africa, Europe, Central America and the Caribbean, and a number of other spots.  (I've even seen Komodo dragons on Komodo and the piled skulls of the Toraj people in Sulawesi.)  And I can tell you that we are pretty damned lucky, here in Britain, to have what we have in the NHS.

I may have paid dearly through my taxes, for this service, but I'm glad to have it.  Deeply, profoundly glad, and no less happy for my dosh to flow into government funds for health, than to some grubbing giant of an insurance company that squanders squillions on ritzy head offices.

Hobbling about with 1.5 legs and two crutches has a mass of disadvantages but several HUGE plus points. Being lame has reminded me to stop, stay still and contemplate.  

The PG, who has been an absolute pillar of wonderfulness, blending kind support and help with stern reprimands every time I disobey the 'hip precaution' rules, drove me to a bluebell wood, on Wednesday and yesterday, to one of my favourite birding woods.  In the former, because I can only walk short distance, I learnt to stand, stock still, and simply gawp at the ocean of violet-blue, the contrasting brown oak and grey ash trunks, the curious angles of fallen branches, the exquisite beauty of a sudden patch of primroses, or a twig with back-lit, green-gold baby leaves.

Yesterday, at  Callans Lane wood, Lincolnshire, where one can see both willow tits and marsh tits, together, thereby solving their exasperating i/d differences on the spot, I had a sensory feast:
I'd remembered to put on my hearing aids and while standing stock still for about ten minutes, heard the distinctive songs of black caps, willow warblers, white throats, chiffchaffs, song thrush, blackbird, robin, dunnock and wren.  A heavenly symphony, I thought, and although I longed for a nightingale - they do come to that wood - was more than happy with with such a rich, aural feast.

Back home, our tiny woodland garden has been sublime this spring and the mini-meadow is also limbering up for a great season.  Oxlips in the wood have been shamelessly promiscuous with wild cowslips in the meadow, so we have some outrageous mongrels popping up all over.  Do I exterminate these, to keep stocks pure?  Have I the heart to?  Probably not!

I beg you to forgive the paucity of piccies, in this post.  I promise a feast of them next time.

Meanwhile, I beg you to imagine the bluebells, the wood anemones, our newly returned swallows and the bizarre sight of me, putting on my underpants with a long-handled litter picker.  I have to be extremely careful that I grab cloth, with the thing, rather than flesh!

The title is a line from Keat's Ode to a Nightingale.  You can read the rest here

I'm listening to El Bodeguero from a CD I bought directly from the band 'Maguey' when in Havana, Cuba.  They performed in a bar called Las Minas and a man made cigars in the front, where one sat and drank mojitos.

This time 3 weeks ago, I was pretending not to be terrified, while being wheeled off to the operating theatre.

This month's films have been The Stieg Larsson Trilogy The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, etc.  A violent but compulsive trio with immaculate plotting, competent acting and a constant, wearing sense of menace.  I think they're terrific.

Too many words again - please forgive,
Toodle ooh!


  1. Bravo you must be on the mend if you are blogging - I have missed you. I have had both private and NHS treatment and never had any complaint about the NHS at all I think they offer a wonderful service

    I like your mini-wildlife pond

    Hope you recovery continues to be speedy

  2. Hi good to have your blog back again. Do hope you will be up and about very soon and returning to walking and cycling around our village.
    kind regards

  3. So good to see you blogging and tweeting again Nigel. Thanks for the reminder that we all need to stand still and take stock from time to time.

    I've been appreciating the rat tat tat of a woodpecker today :)

  4. So glad you're back. So glad the op went well.

    Delighted that you have bluebells and willow tits to help ease convalesence bores.

  5. Your bluebell wood forays sound like perfection - and you are so right about taking the time to just contemplate the beauty around us.

    Agree wholeheartedly with you about the NHS, I appear to be a season ticket holder these days and have relied on them very heavily in the past 3 years. Cant fault them for the most part.

    Not so keen on your film choices, whilst I agree they are brilliantly written, I found the abuse too much; too graphic; I didn't need to witness that.