Thursday, January 19, 2017

A new recipe

Because I don’t really like tomatoes (I find them quite sickly) when it comes to things like spaghetti bolognaise and lasagne I tend to stick with the sauces that I know ‘don’t taste of tomatoes’.

When we’re making lasagne I’ll use Dolmio low fat bolognaise sauce and for spaghetti it’s Colman’s spaghetti bolognaise mix.

It was the turn of spaghetti bolognaise for dinner that night so with me as chef de cuisine and John taking the role of sous-chef we prepared dinner.

After taking a couple of mouthfuls I turned to John and commented, “it tastes different today”.

John nodded in agreement.

“I’m not sure I like it”, I said, “there’s something not quite right about it”. 
“Do you think we’ve used sausage casserole mix by mistake”, replied John.

I checked the bin bag and staring straight at me was indeed the empty sausage casserole packet. “At least we know they don’t use the same mix in all their packets”, I said.

I don’t think this new recipe for spaghetti bolognaise will be making it into my cook book….


Friday, January 13, 2017

The world’s favourite airline – I don’t think so!

A couple of days ago, the BBC news correspondent Frank Gardener was left stranded for half an hour on an EasyJet aeroplane because the wheelchair lift at Gatwick airport had not turned up. Quite rightly he was not amused. 

I can sympathise as the treatment of disabled passengers in airports around the world is downright shocking !!!!

In 2011 I had my first experience as a wheelchair airline passenger, having had to start using Wizzy in 2009, and it was not good. You can read all about it here and here

Two Customer from Hell complaint letters were sent to both British Airways and Heathrow special services department. A grovelling apology and a bouquet of flowers from special services and a half-hearted telephone apology from BA.
Since then every flight we took we’ve encounter problems and discrimination. Things came to a head in November when the Customer from Hell had had enough.

We were flying home from Barcelona airport having been on a short cruise around the Mediterranean. At the departure gate an announcement was made for passengers with infants and those who required extra time boarding to make their way to the aircraft. BA’s policy for boarding disabled passengers is to allow them to board first. This is so they can take their time getting on the aircraft safely.

However when we tried to board we were told that because I was in a wheelchair I would have to board last with the rest of the wheelchairs passengers. When I queried this I was told in no uncertain terms that this was a BA policy and I would have to take it up with them.

To make matters worse, even though I was right next to John, he was then asked if “I could walk”. John snapped, “instead of asking me, ask my wife”.

Imagine the outcry if BA told its black passengers that they have to board last, and then ask the white husband of a black passenger ‘can she read or write’. Yet for some reason, BA thought it was perfectly acceptable to discriminate against wheelchair passengers.

Because of segregating the wheelchair passengers and making us board last we delayed the flight by about 10 minutes. Thankfully our seats were in the second row so it wasn’t too much of an obstacle course trying to avoid tripping over passengers feet sticking out. However I still had to put with the stares from other passengers like I was some kind of freak show.

Once we had landed I got chatting to the wife of a fellow wheelchair passenger and she was not happy about how we were boarded. Her husband, who I think had Parkinson’s disease, was extremely upset at passengers gawking at him.

When we arrived at Heathrow’s terminal 3 I was told by the cabin crew that a special service assistance would have to take me to terminal 5, as that was where Wizzy was going to be taken.

As BA’s flight connection policy states that a wheelchair can be delivered to the aircraft door I explained that I would like Wizzy brought to the aircraft. It had, after all, been given an orange ‘return to aircraft’ label.

I was told “this isn’t how things are done in terminal 3”. Having had problems in the past with Wizzy going missing and eventually turning up in several pieces on the baggage reclaim belt, I ask again for it to be brought to the aircraft door.

The cabin crew were not happy. I overheard one saying to another, “you can have a go at talking to her as I’ve tried and she just won’t listen to me”. When this particular cabin crew person walked passed me I said, “I heard that”, to which he replied that I was ‘being unreasonable’.

As I was refusing to move from the aircraft until Wizzy was brought to the door, which, consequently meant that the cabin crew couldn’t leave, it finally arrived.

When you have a complaint to make against BA they ask that you send it to customer relations, or something like that. I sent my letter to their CEO which was ignored… Not a good idea when you’re dealing with the Customer from Hell. I found his email address on google and sent the letter again.

Eventually I got a reply from one of his minions saying he apologised for any distress caused bla, bla, bla. What is really worrying though, is he couldn’t guarantee that this kind of behavior or discrimination wouldn’t happen again. I may as well be talking to a brick wall….

A couple of days later John received an email from BA’s customer service, which went something like this:

‘Dear Mr Harper. We understand that you have contacted BA’s CEO regarding a complaint. Could you please complete this short questionnaire in relation to how we dealt with your complaint’.

What was I saying about a brick wall !!!!!!


Monday, January 09, 2017

Out of hours

While we were preparing dinner on Thursday John mentioned that his elbow was sore. I had a quick look at it but there wasn’t anything to indicate a knock or bruise. As we’d been Tesco shopping that morning we just put it down to him twisting it the wrong way either handling Wizzy or the shopping bags.

It had been a little uncomfortable for him during the night so I suggested he have another hour in bed. We hadn’t anything planned that day other than our usual Friday night take-away in the evening so nothing was spoiling.

When he finally rose at midday, he looked rough. His elbow was now swollen and slightly red yet there was still no bruise to indicate a knock, which was a little perplexing.

John felt a little better in the afternoon so just pottered around in his work room. I was busy working on my laptop and watching some DVD’s in the living room, when he came downstairs at his usual time to head out for the Friday night pizza, or in the case of this particular Friday, Chinese. 

Looking extremely grey he asked, “can you check to see if I have a temperature as I don’t feel so good. I’m hot, achy and shivery”.

I hunted out the thermometer from the medicine box but the reading said his temp was normal. I wasn’t convinced so said I’ll try again later after reading the instructions in case I wasn’t pressing the right buttons on it.

“I think you should go to bed”, I said.
“What will you have to eat”, he asked, seeing as there would be no Chinese take-away that night.
I reassured him I would find something and also a way of getting it from the kitchen to the living room – walking with two crutches does limit your carrying ability somewhat....

After getting him settled in bed I went into the kitchen to sort out some dinner. We always keep a couple of frozen pies in the freeze for emergencies so I would have that and some oven chips.  While they were cooking I racked my brain as to how I could get them into living room. 

I eventually came up with the idea of covering the plate with cling-film to stop them sliding off, then put the plate into one of the large recycle grocery shopping bags.  It was a tight squeeze as our new dinner plates are larger than the previous ones. I had intended on slipping the carry bag handles over my fingers whilst gripping Stickies, but the bag kept bashing into them and I was worried the plate would break.

Time to put plan B into action. Using the bag handles I was able to stretch out my arm, put the bag on the floor, walk the couple of inches to the bag then repeat the process until I got to the sofa in the living room. It was an extremely slow process but I got there in the end.

It was about 11.30pm when I retired to bed. John was still feeling pretty lousy so I took his temperature again. This time it did show that he was running a temperature. His elbow was now extremely sore and swollen, bright red and very warm to the touch.  

Earlier in the day John had googled elbow pain and everything was hinting at tennis elbow. Given his new symptoms I wasn’t convinced so whilst John was sleeping I got my Kindle Fire out and did some searching.

Whenever I kept putting in John’s symptoms it came up with the same answer – infection, see your GP immediately. It was the early hours on a Saturday morning. Our GP surgery doesn’t work weekends and the earliest appointment to see any GP was four weeks (on Friday morning I checked the status of the prescription I’d ordered online and out of curiosity looked up available GP appointments).

Having suffered at the hands of infection before (eight weeks in hospital and a stay in intensive care) I am a little cautious. Even though it was 1.15am I woke John and explained my concerns.

“What about ringing NHS direct”, I suggested, “they might be able to help”.
I know they’ve had a lot of bad press but the odd times I’ve used them they have been very good.
“It’s worth a try”, replied John.

A couple of press one for this, press two for that later I passed the phone to John. The advisor took the various details and advised John to take some paracetamol to bring down his temperature and arranged for an out-of-hours GP to give him a ring within the next six hours.

The GP rang at 6am and had a long chat with John. Not wanting to blow my own trumpet, I was right. John had an infection of the elbow joint so the GP would fax over to Lloyds the chemist a prescription for some antibiotics. 

Having read the blurb what went with the antibiotics I don’t think the GP was taking any chances. There are two strengths of this particular drug. John has the strongest one and has to take two of them four times a day for a week.

I’m pleased to report that John’s feeling a little better. His temperature is back to normal and the shivers and aches had gone. His elbow isn’t as swollen, sore or firefly hot as before. The redness though is still there, in fact its spread nearly to his hand.  John, however, was warned that would happen.

Whilst the symptoms of the infection have subsided, he’s been hit by the side-effects of the strong antibiotics, so is feeling a little spaced out. Bless him...


Monday, January 02, 2017

I want….

At this time of year newspapers and magazines have articles about New Year resolutions. I don’t do resolutions – never have – but what I do have though is a ‘want’ list.

After finishing my list I had a look back at previous ‘want’ entries and every list had pretty much the same things on it. Oh dear!!!

It’s written now so I may as well put it up. Below is my 2017 want list.

 I want to…. 

  • ….win the Euro lottery. Over £50m would be ideal but I’m not greedy so £10m would do.
  • ….get through the massive collection of books I’ve accumulated both in hard copy and on my kindle.
  • …. lose some weight and do more exercise.
  • ….. get back to playing the piano and the clarinet.
  • …. get back to my writing. Novel two and the second draft of novel one needs finishing. Plus I’m writing a non-fiction book too.
  • …. finish off the two tiger cross stitch patterns.
  • …. stop neglecting my blogs.
  • …. finish off my knitted cable jumper before I start on yet more knitting projects.
  • …. finish off building the four foot model of the Queen Mary II cruise ship.

I do have a couple more ‘wants’ but they are sewing related so I’ll post them on my sewing blog.

When I report back in six months time will there be any changes to the list? On past form no, but who knows…


Sunday, January 01, 2017

Happy New Year

"Every time you tear a leaf off a calendar, you present a new place for new ideas and progress"

We wish you a very happy and peaceful new year.

Marie & John xx

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas

Have a wonderful Christmas

Marie & John 

Bloody Italians

 UPDATE - for some reason blogger has decided to date this post 25th December - most odd....

We've all heard tales of how striking French air traffic controllers can bring about chaos. Well yesterday the Italians decided to give it a try.

Thursday saw us fly from Newcastle to Heathrow with no trouble whatever. On Friday we set off from our Heathrow hotel at the unearthly hour of six am. Travelling with a wheelchair you learn to leave plenty of time.

The flight to Copenhagen was scheduled for 9:50 but sometime around 7:30 we heard that it was cancelled. Aircraft stranded in Italy. So we were booked on a hastily chartered flight leaving at 12:50 arriving at about 15:30.

Now it gets interesting. By being early in the queue I got the last available business class seats. However the flight was put back to 14:30, arriving at 17:15 local time. Fifteen minutes AFTER the ship sails. Not good. Fortunately there were twenty of us in the same predicament, and this made up about fifteen percent of the ship, so they delayed sailing to nine pm. Just as well as we finally got in the air five and a half hours late.

We arrived at the ship around 7pm, exhausted both mentally and physically. We missed the safety lecture and the welcome party, but made dinner so all was not lost.

And as an added bonus, our butler unpacked our suitcases while we ate. Not a thing we normally do, bur most welcome.

So where are we now. We're at sea somewhere in the gap between Denmark and Norway, heading into the north sea. Here is todays veranda view. Not very exciting I'm afraid.

We're about an hour or so away from a storm. the wind is at present about 71 kph though the ship is quite stable. It's the Captains welcome reception tonight. black tie and all that  so here's hoping it stays reasonably calm.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Land at last

So, no blog yesterday because the ship's internet was down. The good news is that we finally arrived somewhere. The sea was too rough and the wind too strong to get ashore in Flam or Gudvangen. Winds of 60mph and waves over 15 feet high beneath leaden skies and temperatures in single figures celsius (call it 50 in farenheit).

Remarkably the ship was very very stable, though some joker asked the Captain if they had to go round tightening bolts afterwards.

And yesterday we were in Alesund and what a difference. Blue skies and the temperature in the mid 70's (I'll use farenheit since Norway isn't in the EU).

We took a look at our neightbour, the Queen Elizabeth which next to our ship is HUGE.

Then we took a walk around town, visiting craft shops and the likes. And after  that it was time to head back for Pimms and lunch on the pool deck.

Today is another day at sea, cruising among the islands and fjiords just south of the arctic circle, which we should cross at about 9pm tonight.

Tomorrow we visit Svolvaer the nmore fjiords.