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Earlier this week got a text from a mate saying he was “donning his pinny and would we like to come round for the proceeds?”. Unhesitating reply in the affirmative. This man owns a fabulous catering company and sampling his food is not to be missed. It’s Good Friday, Bank Holiday weekend, short notice invitation so we are feeling fairly informal. Probably  six or eight of  us round for a spot of dinner.  Imagine our surprise when we were greeted at the door by a stranger in a sumptuous sparkly top and velvet trousers. I assumed she was another guest and thanked her profusely for offering to take my coat. “It’s what I’m here for.” she cheerily replied. I still didn’t twig. Until we walked in to the kitchen and saw it set for a party. A serious celebration was going to go down.
We were the first to arrive and were still reeling (but by now with Mojito in hand), when the next guests appeared. And were equally surprised. “You said it was casual!” a woman exclaimed and refused to take her coat off. “I’m in an old jumper and jeans!” Others jumped in on this and all agreed the host had misled many by saying it was casual. He continued to insist it was informal as his glamorous wife reassured everyone it was just a spur of the moment birthday party. Birthday?? No one had mentioned birthday. Guilt surfaced fleetingly as we had arrived with no card or present, but that was soon swept aside by great conversation and more mojitos.
The canapes appeared – visually stunning and even better to eat. Then the host demands that before we can have the main course (sublime beef tagine with quinoa and couscous), we have to move round and talk to other people. It was a very good idea as it is easy to spend the whole evening talking to one group of interesting people when there are loads more eqaully fun that are as yet undiscovered.
Hubby and I knew relatively few people there so it was rich pickings for us and we had a great time connecting over parenting teens, young people having difficulty getting jobs, and Radio 4. Ah the middle classes – we know how to party!

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It has been a year since I started blogging, and I have managed nearly 200 posts –  so just over one every other day on average.  I still seem to have a fairly eclectic mix of stuff rather than a ‘theme’. I had imagined it would be reviews mostly, but I got swept away with ranting and reminiscing at times too.

I have throughly enjoyed it all. Find it rather thereapeutic to bash something out.  And equally satisfying to spend longer crafting an occasional one. But of course the nicest bit is when people comment or like it. Or tell me they’ve enjoyed it. Everyone likes praise and apart from the Matilda debacle, all my readers are too nice to write nasty comments. But even that was enjoyable just to know others were reading my ramblings.

So, I think it is time to ask for some formal feedback. Do I blog too much? Would it be better to know which day they were going to appear? Should I stick to one theme rather than whatever takes my fancy? Here’s a little poll as a starter

So thanks dear readers (all three of you :)). One day I may become famous and then you can dine out knowing that you supported me long before I was trendy.

A-Maze-ing

March 28, 2013

21st 002

getting ready to assemble

getting ready to assemble

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Wonderful intoxicating smell of fresh lemons being clouded by dry ice

21st 011

Pork belly, pulled pork, wild garlic mash, various vaggies. Mmmmmmm

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The sushi at chef’s table

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mmm. not an exact replica of the chef’s version…..

21st 005 21st 008 21st 009 So last night seven of us rocked up to celebrate youngest’s 21st a few weeks early as she will be head down in her dissertation on the day itself. Well, in Manchester at least.

Had to make do without our middle child and bf who are still doing a ski season in the Dolomites, but we struggled on regardless. It’s one of those restaurants that you’d miss if you didn’t know it was there. Just a sign above the door on Grosevenor Square. Three of us arrived early and and sashayed in to the bar. Rather funky with jewel-coloured seating, a drinks bar and a sushi bar and lilac neon lighting. The staff were all really friendly, each of them greeting us and smiling as we walked past. Importantly our waiter arrived quickly and brought the champagne to start the evening off.

Once everyone was there and they had sorted our dietary requirments out, the canapes arrived. All so beautifully presented. From salt and vinegar popcorn (yum!), deep fried risotto balls, squid, tuna, beef carpaccio, something with goats cheese inside it……… and all washed down with continuous champagne. How could it get better than this?

Well, it did. We were on the chef’s table in the heart of the kitchens opposite the service station. our waiter, Kevin, was from Sierra leone and was absolutely awesome. Great fun, very knowledgable and easy going. Each of the following ten courses was introduced by one of the chefs and every course had amendements for me (fish allergy) or one of our nieces (Coeliac) so they had their work cut out! The somellier (an Italian) brought us different wine with every course and the obligatory modern insistence on water…

I won’t list every course but for me it is the whole experince that makes this thing special. Hearing about the 18 hour days the staff work every day (apart from those under 18 who do shorter shifts), starting every day at 8 am and finishing when the kitchen is cleaned after the last diners finish, usually around one am. They have an incredibly high turnover of staff not surpisingly and Tristan, the Head Chef is only 28. His second in command 23. Most of the others are even younger than that. Poor little Joey, a chef from Australia, presenting on the chef’s table for the first time, took us through the stunning sushi and we spent the rest of the evening shouting for him in a rising chant. Poor wee lamb. He looked about 12 but was 20. Expect he loved it really. The sushi was a highlight for me as have always avoided it being allergic to all fish. But this was fantastic -I had vegetarian ones and the wasabi blew my head off. The saki that we were given with it was utter shite though. Tasted like petrol and I had to transfer to something more palatable.

The girls got to construct a chicken dish, copying one the head chef made earlier and of course birthday girl won the prize of a Maze apron. Unfortunately we then had to eat their creations, grateful that at least they hadn’t done the actual cooking.

We were presented with an ice cream tasting quiz – ten fabulaous flavourss for us to guess. None of us got orange for fucks sake! Incredible when you have no clues. we sat there being entertained by these fantastic chefs and waiters for over six hours. It was the element of being at the chef’s table that lifted this meal in to the realms of being fabulous rather than the actual dishes. The food was lovely, the wines more than palatable and the company the best. Four plus stars.

Scrubbing up well

March 27, 2013

As a medical student you have to learn lots of procedures. I already blogged about learning to take blood. But even preparing to do a procedure requires training and practice. I am taking about aseptic technique. Where putting on a pair of surgical gloves is an art as much as a neccessity.

Aseptic tecnique is when you have to do everything under sterile conditions. Usually it means you are about to do something that could potentially introduce an infection in to the patient if you don’t make sure everything you use is sterile. So listening to a chest is not going to put the patient at risk of an infection so you don’t need to do that under aseptic technique, but doing a lumbar puncture possibly could so you do. Depending exactly what you are doing and the level of risk of infection (and mess)  will determine whether you just ‘glove up’ or ‘gown up’. If you are going to theatre to do something you will completely ‘scrub up’ to do things in a sterile (not just aseptic or clean ) way. The principle is to ensure that everything that touches the patient is sterile. Your hands, you clothing at the front, the instruments. Once you are ‘gowned up’ you can’t use anything sterile to touch anything non-sterile. So you can’t use your gloved hand to scratch your nose. Or tuck your hair back in to your cap. Or wipe your nose. Someone else who is non-sterile has to do that for you. Similarly if you are in theatre but not scrubbed up and therefore not sterile, you must only touch the things that are non-sterile.  It becomes second nature after you have done it a few times, but it is nerve wracking at first. Terrified to touch the wrong thing and cost the NHS time and money and potentially put the patient at risk.

So the first thing you have to determine is your glove size. They need to fit snugly so there aren’t flapping finger ends that mean you can’t manipulate your tools easily. or so tight that the circulation is cut off to your fingers. They come in various sizes and half sizes and I am a 71/2. But it took trying on a number of different ones and trying them out to work that out.

So when you are going to assist or carry out an operation in theatre, you will be dressed in your scrubs and have your surgical hat and clogs or wellies on and you will go to the scrub room just next to theatre. There you have to  wash your hands (scrub up) and put your sterile clothing on (‘gown up’).

Not as simple as it sounds when you are actually scrubbing them to try to remove any traces of bacteria lingering on your skin. So you start off  by ensuring you have no jewellery on and your arms are clear to your elbows. Turn the taps on to a comfortable temperature. Taps in operating theatres have long handles so you can operate them with your elbows once you’ve started because you musn’t touch anything that isn’t sterile once you start or you go back to the beginning aagin. So you press the pump-operated disinfecting scrub  – often chlorhexidine- based – with your elbow and wash and wash. You will have a sterile scrubbing brush to use that you need to get in every nook and cranny, always holding your hands up as if praying so that the water runs downwards, away from the fingertips. Scrubbing up takes a good few minutes, and your skin can feel sore and raw.  Once everything is rinsed off you need to dry your hands on the paper towels that have come in the pack with the sterile gown you are about to put on. If you are sensible you will have opened this before you start as the outer packaging is not sterile so you can’t touch it once you have scrubbed. If you’ve forgotten, a friendly nurse or ODA might help you if you ask nicely. if you are senior enough they will do it for you automatically.

So you dry your hands with the sterile towels and the next thing you do is put on the sterile gown. You unfold it and feed your arms in to the sleeves but do not touch the outside of the gown with your bare hands or you will make it unsterile and have to start again. Someone else will do it up behind you.

Sterile_surgical_glovesThen come the gloves. There  are various ways to get them on, but this particular technique was the one first taught to me. Someone will open the pack for you and there will be each hand laid out like two pages of a book. The cuffs of the gloves are turned up so that about three inches overlaps. You must not touch the outside of the gloves with your bare hands so you must pick up the first glove by the cuff and wiggle your hand in and esure the glove goes over the sleeve of your gown. . If you haven’t dried it properly this will not be easy. There is a packet of  sterile starch (like snooker players use) if you want to rub your hands in that to make sure they are dry and slippery.

Then, once you have got the first glove on comes the second.  You musn’t let your gloved hand touch the bare skin of your other hand or arm or you’ll go back to the beginning again. So you slide your gloved hand inside the turned over cuff and pick the glove up so the fingers are pointing down the back of your gloved hand towards your wrist. And you slide your second hand in, making sure no skin touches the outside of the glove, or you know what will happen.

Then once the gloves are on you have to get any trapped air out of them and bang them down in between your fingers and make sure your cuffs of the gown are tucked well inside the cuffs of the gloves. No gaps.  meanwhile someone will tie up your mask .

And then once you’ve done all that you need to walk in to theatre itself, always keeping your hands up in the praying position to minimise the risk of you accidentally touching something unsterile and having to start all over again.This usually involves going through double swing doors which you need to reverse in to to make sure you don’t desterilise the front of your gown or your hands by touching the door with them.

So, the first time I was assisting in theatre after spending ten or fifteen minutes laboriously scrubbing and gowning up, no one  was happy when I simply pushed the door with my hand. I was banished back to the scrub room and they did the operation without me. I never made the same mistake again.

Forgive me

March 24, 2013

A friend posted a status update saying “Forgiveness really means letting go of the hope that the past could have been any different”. She’d heard it on an Australian TV programme about couples, but I’d heard it ages back when Oprah said it was her favourite quote about forgiveness.
I’m afraid it doesn’t work for me. But perhaps I am interpreting it wrongly. For me “letting go of the hope that the past could have been any different” implies a resignation that what will be will be. Nothing could have been done differently by anyone. The outcome was already sealed in stone. And that would mean that nobody need take responsibility for their mistakes and I can’t agree with that. I’m a huge believer in individual responsibility.

What I want to do is recover from the hurt and live life to the full today. But I can still look back every now and again and wish it had never happened. But to get to that recovery the first thing I need to do is accept that whatever has happened has happened. Denial is a reflex in times of crisis but when the evidence is overwhelming then you simply have to accept it. There is no point struggling to try to make the past appear different or you will never be able to live in the present as you will be pre-occupied trying to reconfigure the past. It happened. Horrible as it was. You can’t change it.

Then I have to decide is there someone to blame? It could be me, it could be someone else, it could be a combination or it could just be bad luck – in which case the question of forgiveness doesn’t arise. But if there is someone to blame then I have to decide whether I need to forgive them. Not to make them feel better, but to make me feel better.

If I’m never going to see them again I don’t need to forgive them. If I want them to be a fundamental part of my life, then I will need to forgive them in order to have the kind of relationship that I want – where there is trust and a belief that the other person does not want to hurt me again.

In between those two extremes of never seeing again and being very close to is the area where relationships can cool off as one person is hurt by another’s actions and may feel unwilling to forgive but is willing to maintain some kind of relationship albeit more distant and wary than before.

The decisions are yours

The decisions are yours

If you can’t forgive them, then you will never have the full and trusting relationship that you want with them. If your hurt and anger are always there, bubbling away like a pot of acid ready to rot the relationship, then it is going to be a pretty shit time for everyone. And of course they need to want the relationship to continue too and be prepared to work at making it better.

So how do you forgive someone?

Firstly how big an issue is it? Somethings may be nigh on unforgivable, some things really minor. So it will depend on what equity there is between you already. I’ve already blogged that Experience tells me that whatever happens tends to reinforce our pre-concevied ideas about that person, so you will give more leeway to someone you love and also be more likely to forgive them their mistakes, whatever size they are. Sometimes forgiving can be easy for me – it is literally instantaneous.

But other times it is harder work. And then it’s fake it till you make it time. This holds true for getting over any shit – whether or not I need to forgive the person – because this is about my recovery and not letting the shitstorm take over the way I want to live my life.

So I focus on the outcome I want – it could be the happy family, the future , the friendship. I focus on all the positives about the relationship (be it between partners, family members or friends) – that it is worth forgiving someone because over all they enrich my life (or my family’s life) more than they bring it down. That not having them in my life would be worse for me or my family than keeping them close. The future potential is greater with them than without them.

Everyone fucks up sometimes. Some of us more than others. It doesn’t have to mean the whole thing is ruined for ever. It just means things won’t be exactly the same as before. But it could even be better if everyone learns from it.

Today is my husband’s birthday. My pension is in bricks and mortar in central London. I wrote a piece of doggerel to my husband on its acquisition and meant to give it to him on his next birthday but things conspired against me so I gave it to him a bit later.

Needless to say the vision I had for it has not yet materialsied. We haven’t even had a flat warming drinks gathering yet and it’s three years since we bought it! But I do love it. But not as much as I love him.

What Manchester Street means to me

We bought a flat in London!

The central swishy part,

It thrills me with excitement

To the bottom of my heart

I know you wanted France or Spain,

Or Dorset or the Lakes,

You wanted hills and walking

Not shops for goodness sakes

I know it’s not your first choice,

And don’t seem as keen as me,

You don’t seem to share my vision

Of what the place will be

I see it as a signal

Of days not far ahead

When we can have some us time

And share a brand new bed

A time to be together

Without children coming first

A time we never had before

That we have not rehearsed

A voyage of discovery

Of you and me and us

The way we should have started off

Before getting up the duff.

I’m full of much excitement

I hope that you are too

I can’t wait to start a dating game

With no one else but you.

With love in 2010  xxx

Make do and mend

March 22, 2013

I cannot deny we are well off. Not in the Wills and Kate league of course, but in the generally accepted sense of normal people. And yet I cannot shake of my mother’s training completely. She was brought up in the War and the years after were punctauted with the mantra of Make do and Mend. It’s now called upcycling or somesuch trendiness – but it’s make do and mend to me.
And today I am sporting my comfortable black shoes. That were khaki until two weeks ago when I bought the good old Dylon shoe dye and painted them. 5 minutes work max and now a pair of shoes I can wear routinely instead of once in a blue moon. I bought them khaki in a bid to move away from black, but that was a foolish decision. I always wear black shoes to work. Shouldn’t have tried to branch out.

The previously khaki and now black shoe

The previously khaki and now black shoe

And with the spare dye in the bottle I revitalised a pair of maroon knee length boots that have seen little wear since I got my bright red coat and they clashed so horribly. Hello world – for a fiver I have a new pair of shoes and boots.
Dylon has been a friend to me forever. It dyes sheets, towels, my summer linen clothing when it tires. It dyed my cheesecloth smocks centuries ago. Anything cotton or linen basically. It has transformed bathrooms from yellow towels (what was I thinking?) to blues, to greens to purples. Duvet covers too expensive to replace but needing a revamp have come under the Dylon spell. Mind you, for the last ten years I’ve bought nothing but white duvets for us in an effort to stop getting fed up.
My black linens start going greyish and fading so in they go to return to their former glory. It’s so satisfying when you have a piece of clothing you like and can continue to use it simply by throwing some salt and dye in the washing machine.  Unlike the days of handwash dying and tie-dying which were messy and time consuming and the results were only good to decorate a squat.

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