Monthly Archives: November 2015

Zebras, crossing . . . (episode 82)

image by 'gameanna'

image by ‘gameanna’

November 23 1999

3A Hyde Park Terrace

Hello Mum

Thanks for bringing your bicycle (and yourself) to see me last week. I was sorry to hear about your difficulties exiting the guard’s van, but then pedals, and handles, do rather wind themselves around every projection, don’t they. And from the look of your scuffed left knee, they also wind themselves around the physical person of the cyclist herself . . . However, I must say that it was most easy to spot you on the platform at Paddington, owing to the fluorescent quality of your outfit. Where did you get those shoes? I should think they must be visible at about a thousand paces!

My only recent event was a near nose-to-nose encounter with Austen near a Zebra crossing last week. I had just exited from Hyde Park and was making my way home via the crossing and its attendant Beleisha beacons. Am I spelling that right Mum? I’m not sure. In any event, they were their usual spherical – and orange – illuminated selves and stationed at either end of the crossing. Austen, meanwhile, was slinking along on the other side of the road, accompanied by one of his golden Labradors, the one named Barkis (‘is willing’ . . . I thought when I saw the dog).

I don’t know if he had any intention of using the crossing but, if he did, when he saw me, he thought better of it. And I, sighting him, realized how far I had come – in the direction away from him – over the past four years. I had absolutely no physical pang of pain whatsoever when I realized who it was and merely felt determined not to deviate from my intended path. Austen, who has never uttered one word of remorse, or apology, for the devastation of his adultery decided to look at me sideways and essay a low ‘Hello.’ Well Mum. I expect he does want the whole thing to be over, and for us to be on a chummy footing, and to be able, even, to walk down my road (which offers up a shorter route to Hyde Park). However, without an expression of remorse – and an apology – I feel unable to forgive it or forget it. And this, as far as I can see, is where matters must rest, in perpetuity.

Luckily, at that moment, a car approached the crossing from my right and I had to pause and wait for it to stop. This sent Austen ahead of me down the road which led left (to the curtain shop) and right to Hyde Park Terrace. I walked behind Austen, on the same side of the pavement, and neither of us uttered a single word. I had not smiled. I did not speak. I did focus my eyes when he crossed over the road, for this indicated that he might not be turning in the direction of my own home. For, if he had gone that way, I really do think I would have uttered some blast of wrath and further singed his ears. I believe I saw both him, and the dog, then turn left and enter the curtain shop . . . I must admit Mum that I giggled somewhat when I saw this, for was he really intending to go in there? And did he come out with an order for several set of curtains? Ho ho!

All love anyway

Your former daughter-in-law (but not any longer)



The law relating to bicycles . . . (episode 81)


10 Forsythia Grove
Outer Hamlet

November 15 1999

My Dear Ralph

I am so glad that you are persevering in your new-found role as student nurse pet. I look forward to your starry rise into the upper echelons of the profession!

I myself am feeling a little discombobulated subsequent to this morning’s attendance at the Outer Hamlet swimming station. I did at least (this time) remember to bring the £1.00 refundable charge for the locker and the shampoo . . . I have now resorted to the making of an actual list of essential equipment before setting off across the blowy park to this destination. Once (can you believe it) I turned up minus the actual swimming costume! However, once ensconced in the – thankfully warm-ish – water, I did find it quite delightful to motor up and down the lanes for one-or-two lengths. The pool is (fortunately) fairly denuded of swimmers on a Sunday morning, and it is possible to make headway through the water without being head-butted by someone approaching from the opposite direction – or overwhelming one in a cloud of spray as they pass!

I did, eventually, decide to leave my – newly-serviced – bicycle behind me in Forsythia Grove for, although there are cycling racks outside the swimming station, one can never be quite sure that a whole bicycle will greet one upon exit from the building. And by the time one has removed the lights (front and back); front basket, and water bottle – and disrobed oneself of helmet and sparkly reflective outfit – there is quite some crate of kit to lug into the building. I am not even sure that the basket would fit into the swimming pool locker!

I have, in addition, been giving some thought to the matter of bicycle outfit legislation. As you know dear, I also motor about in the Banger 0.9L (Mk3) during the course of my day-time endeavours. And just recently, it has been absolutely tipping it down with rain in the early hours – making it difficult to see those cyclists who are decked out in muted-grey jumpers, a fuzzy hat, and no visible manifestation of lighting (front or back). When I looked into the subject of bicycle lighting, it transpired that there is absolutely no legal requirement for bicycles to be fitted with lights – and so, if you are riding about in the day, you are under no legal obligation to have bicycle lights on (whatever the weather and lighting conditions) if they are not fitted . . . This appears to be legal loophole pet! You are, of course, required to have both a front (white) and back (red) light on if you are cycling about after dark.

It is, however, apparently a legal requirement to have one’s bicycle fitted with front and back (and wheel) reflectors for day-time use. But, even if these are fitted, they surely do not give the same level of protection as actual lights?

I feel that, in this day and age, and bearing in mind the speed, volume, and size of road traffic – and the fact that there are around 19,000 reported incidents involving UK cyclists per annum – that bicycles should to be following similar legal requirements to the motor car, i.e. lights should be fitted (and used in conditions of low day-time visibility). I also feel that cyclists should be required to wear high visibility/reflective jackets during daylight hours, for this would also help them to be seen by drivers in cars. Well, mustn’t rant on dear. Before you know it, I might find myself progressing on to the subject of bicycle bells and the annual service!

What might be an idea is for Outer Hamlet to have a ‘Cyclists’ Lights and Clothing Day.’ This could even be fun and might involve local bicycle retailers and the cycling club. There could be raffle prizes (lights and high viz clothing!) laps around the swimming station, sandwiches, tea and cake . . . Gosh pet. I could wax quite lyrical – and for quite a while – upon this subject! Maybe I should suggest it to some personage in authority? What the day most definitely should not be called is: ‘Cyclists’ Safety and Behaviour
Day’ – for that might be a considerable put-off to anyone looking for a thrilling day out!

Anyway pet. I am heading off to the pub (safely ensconced behind the wheel of the Banger 0.9L) before I am in receipt of any boos and hisses from anyone who might be looking over my shoulder as I pen this.

Fondly, your

Aunt Evangeline

Mole intelligence: EPISODE 80


November 1 1999

Rural Outskirts Nurses’ Home
Nether Lane

Hello Auntie

Thank you for your reassuring phone call, which laid a balm of words upon my flayed feelings. It was good to hear that my days as a calm, confident, and ethical male leader are yet to come – even if they are still some years off!

I have been assigned – my first student nurse assignment – to a chronic chest diseases ward and am still in the grip of some considerable cultural bewilderment. On my initial shift (an early) I was allocated to the weekly urine testing of some 35 patients and remain unsure as to the actual sense of this. Does everyone’s urine really need testing? Am I allowed to ask any questions? Indeed, is thinking really encouraged? It does seem to me that only patients with specified conditions (diabetes springs to mind) need their urine testing every single week . . .

The other thing that caught my attention was the reams of ‘observations’ paperwork festooning the end of every bed. It was really hard to find the most current chart. And I am far from certain that it is really necessary to perform 4-hourly observations – temperature, pulse, and blood pressure – on practically everyone. Does anyone ever review the frequencies with which such measurements are necessary? Is there a page for summaries in the Kardex? I am tempted, Auntie, to pipe up but, at present, I am the lowest of the low and am positively petrified by the sight – and never mind the handling – of multiple pipes and tubes going into, and coming out of, some of the most ill of individuals.

One of the ghastliest things that has happened so far is that I was asked to wash, and dress, a lady with emphysema. And Auntie, do you know, she was too white and breathless even to stand up. I tried to be kind and reassuring, naturally, but I felt shocked by the depth of her disability and suffering – which did not seem to be much mitigated by the flow of 24% oxygen being piped to her through a mask. Later on that day, the same lady was pushed past me in a wheelchair. And she said, “Oh nurse. Do you think I’m going to die today?” I immediately replied, “Oh no Mrs Summersby. You look okay to me.” Well she did. She died that day. And I was mortified. In fact I think I am a changed man.

I was so changed, in fact, that when something similar happened a week or two later, I did speak up. An elderly man was sitting on the side of his bed, clutching an oxygen cylinder and gasping through a mask. And then I heard another student nurse (even more callow than myself) say, “He’s only breathless because he’s panicking.” Before I could even monitor a conscious thought, I found myself snapping back, “No. He’s panicking because he’s breathless. That is quite a different thing.” He was another one who expired within the next 24 hours, so I hope that girl learnt a lesson!

More cheeringly, Auntie, the young doctor, Thule, whom I may have mentioned before, overheard my remarks and – do you know – I think she may have smiled . . . I have not seen her at ‘Med Club’ and I think she may have more discernment than to attend a setting so redolent with alcohol, sweat, and sex. Perhaps I will start attending the library instead; I want to know more and the atmosphere is soothing in there – not to mention actually warm – which is a great improvement upon the nurses’ home.

Your loving – and learning – nephew