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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Ins and Outs of Les' Hospitialization

"In Turkey, you are not allowed to be left alone in the hospital. The nurse teaches the family how to do things, and somebody is always there with the patient." ~Dr. Mehmet Oz, Turkish-American Physician

   Up at 5 am, we gathered our wits and Les' belongings and trudged out the door, up the towpath and caught the 6:32 a.m. bus to Watford General Hospital. At the very next bus stop, the bus engine died and would not start again. All the passengers sat quietly while the bus driver repeatedly assured us the engine would eventually turn over. "It does this every morning." Really?? Well if that were my regular morning bus to work and it made me late every morning, Arriva bus lines would lose my business and I would seek an alternative form of transport--even walking--which is what we opted to do. As soon as we moved to get out of the bus, others followed suit. We were eight minutes up the road and the number 320 bus rattled up behind us, and threw open its doors. It did eventually start again!
  We checked in to the sixth floor surgical unit, and waited until 10:30. In the meantime Les and I traipsed in and out of the seating area to be grilled er--I mean--to answer the same questions several times about allergies, illnesses, dentures, etc. etc. etc. The surgeon reviewed Les' file and explained that he would not know for certain if Les' prostate was actually the issue or if there was a stricture of his urethra causing the problem. There were several possibilities and once they got up there and sussed it out then they would take the corresponding action. Les could expect to remain in hospital for two or three days if all went well and be home by the weekend. All righty then!
   Eventually Les was called to change into a hospital gown, Ted Hose (super support hose to discourage deep vein thrombosis), and funny frilly paper panties which the attendant insisted Les wear to the operating room even though the operating staff would soon remove them to begin the operation on his urethra. Go figure!!
   As there is no waiting room for the relatives of patients--"just go home and we'll call you when your loved one has returned from recovery,"--which makes it sound like YOUR loved one is returning from a salvage operation--I went across the street to the Spice of Life Cafe and coughed up nearly ten quid for a terrible sandwich, pretentious, overpriced Costa coffee which was dispensed from a machine and completely undrinkable. I returned to the hospital a short time later, stopping at W.H. Smith's for a Red Bull energy drink to clear the fog from my brain. As I stepped off the hospital elevators three female housekeeping staff were waiting with large bins of soiled laundry. They smiled and got all 
excited when they saw my Red Bull. One woman cracked, " We should mug for that feel good drink, we should," smiling as she went by me. 
   "I went over to the Cafe for a Costa Coffee and it was terrible."
   "Oh it's shite, it is," and they all bobbed their heads up and down as the elevator doors closed. 
   I sat in the hallway chairs facing the elevators on the fifth floor which is where Les was supposed to return to sometime after 1 p.m. I passed the time reading my Kindle. Eventually my phone rang and a ward sister (floor nurse for Americans) told me Les had just come to his room.
   I am pleased to report my best beloved was awake, alert, and alive. He was feeling no pain and wearing a hospital nightie and a big smile! Les was also the ONLY patient in the ward!! Five empty beds stood waiting for others who were even then in recovery.
   With a urinary catheter in place, Les was resting comfortably, slugging down glasses of water and filling the plastic urine bag with slightly blood tinged liquid. After two hours the surgeon's assistant, Dr. P stopped by to say Les' prostate is in great shape--small and healthy! An endoscope was inserted and allowed the surgeon to view the interior of Les' urethra. His urethra had been narrowed with scar tissue from a urinary tract infection many years ago. That in turn slowed down his urine flow, resulting in small bladder stones. Dr. R dilated Les' urethra and flushed out the stones. 
   Dr. P told Les that he would be sent home by this weekend with the catheter in place and called to come back in next week for its removal, and then taught by a nurse how to catheterize himself. He will have to do this procedure daily for two weeks and then once a week until his urethra is fully healed. The catheter keeps the urethra from narrowing again. 
   The doctor looked carefully at Les' urine output, commented on how clear it was with hardly any blood and then looked at Les intently. 
   "You look great, there is barely any blood in your urine, your output is good and the procedure went well. How would you like to go home today?" Neither of us could contain our excitement. 
   "Okay then, I'll send you home," and Dr. P left the ward. Of course it is all well and good for him to say this and then leave. In reality it took another three hours for everything to be organized--antibiotics and pain meds ordered and collected, leg bags and night bags found, paper work filled out. 
   In the meantime the ward filled up with other men who were recovering from similar procedures, and I suddenly didn't know what to do with my eyes. Les was laying sprawled in bed with PJ bottoms on and no top. The bloke across from him--a very big man--had his right leg in full bandage and propped on pillows. He fell asleep and snored, his legs relaxing and his gown pulled tight across his thighs. The man in the bed closest to me was sitting up facing me, eating dinner, and his hospital gown had hiked up to the top of his thighs while he scooted into place behind the table. Suddenly I was surrounded by male "gentles" as I call them and it was too much on view for my comfort. 
   Suddenly in the doorway appeared the floor matron--none other than the matron with whom we had developed such a "close personal relationship with" on our first visit to the hospital. She asked how we were, we joked a bit, she brought us up to date on some changes being made at the hospital, and Les told her he was supposed to go home, but it was dragging on.
   "Could you use your influence to get me out of here?"
   The matron took off and in less than two minutes a nurse appeared with all the kit we needed and hooked up a leg bag for Les. Bed rails lowered, cannula removed, Les was dressed and ready to go in a shot! We met our daughter in law Bev downstairs and arrived home soon after. HOME at last!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The stable that became a hospital

From the basin moorings exiting where the little arm used to be brings you onto South Wharf road and facing the building pictured to the left. This is the building mentioned in the `Thirsty, try canal water` post about 10 days ago. Just a few steps indie the gate can be found the areas pictured below.

 It is now the Mint wing of St. Mary`s Hospital but when built in 1878 it was stables on three floors.
The stables, holding up to 600 horses, were for the Great Western Railway who`s trains arrived in next door Paddington station.
The site was it seems first occupied by a mint but I can find no reference to it.

Above and below the same view, just 88 years apart and some extra windows on the right.
© National Railway Museum  1926

Again then and now. These would have been strictly railway horses as an old map of the canal basin shows two stables along it`s wharves.

Left the horses worked in the goods yard moving wagons.
On the right the horses were used to pull delivery vans. 

Above an aerial view from; 
As I have mentioned before the `Britain from above` site is very interesting. Just sign up to be able to zoom in otherwise you can view the images at distance, not much fun. No catch in signing up and it covers the whole country.
There are 8 images around the station/basin this one is the 1932 image. On one you can zoom in and see the horse ramps in the stables.
A is the site of the original 1838 Paddington station. In 1854 the present day station was built at B.  The Yellow shaded part is the stable block and just to the left of it is the canal basin. The exit referred to is on the right of the bend in the canal.
If you look carefully to the far end of the basin you can see two other arms exiting to the left.
Writing this I wish I had entered the building to see if as I suspect the building is not full of patients beds but  just admin and stores.
Something else that came up while surfing the web is being reminded that growing up in Paddington meant I also grew up in Middlesex. This county has now disappeared but if being a Londoner of a younger age than yours truly you might be surprised to realise you grew up in what was Middlesex. What is now Greater London was once Middlesex. It was bordered by Surrey, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Essex.
Click HERE and scroll down to check if your part of London, or the suburbs, was part of this very old county.
More on Middx HERE.
Surgery tomorrow, Jaq will keep you posted on how it all goes.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

London 2104: St. Katharine Dock and a Shout out to Molly in America

 "The Thames is liquid history." ~John Elliott Burns, English trade unionist, socialist politician and historian.

  We sauntered back across Tower Bridge at street level where I spotted this door, right. Why I wondered, does the Bridge Master require his own dining room built within the base of Tower Bridge and what does he dine on when he's in?
   We were going to go on home but Les spotted a large ocean going vessel of the dutch barge design with huge masts and furled sails moored up out in the Thames and I thought my barking feet could keep going long enough  for us to walk down and take some pictures. 
   Fortunate indeed was our decision to linger because the boat was waiting for the lock at St. Katharine Dock to allow the large sailing vessel--Ardwenna of London and several smaller cruisers--to come in. Les was totally in his element, thrilled at the site of the large masted ship gently inching her way in first and tying up carefully, the small plastic cruisers gingerly coming to a stop in single file beside the large wooden hull. 
   Both lock keepers were women which impressed me no end. I am of the age that remembers still when women weren't allowed to take on anything that was traditionally undertaken by men. Les asked the lock keepers scores of questions to which they answered with a smile while raising the outer lock wall to the Thames.
   The cost of mooring in this marina is not cheap. At £5.45 per meter per day it would cost us £95.00 a day to tie up here. NB Valerie is 17.5 meters long. One can also purchase a weekly, monthly or annual berth at £23.30, £70.00 and £560.00 per meter. We will let you do the math! 
   This is a non-residential marina which means one can come in and out of the marina with one's boat and one can visit it, but one cannot live aboard. There is also an additional charge for electricity. Water is available at every berth provided you bring your own hose. Mobile and fixed pump out for sewage is available upon request--and an additional charge. Surrounding the marina are VERY posh places to eat and shop, and facilities such as a washeteria (laundromat for Americans) and toilets. The boats and small ships moored in St. Katharine Dock Marina are worth many millions all together. This is yet one more way in which those with financial means and a yen for adventure can cross the Pond (the Atlantic) and visit Britain. As for me--there are no ships large enough for me to feel comfortable crossing an ocean. I will gladly stick to canals and rivers. 
It's hard to believe there might be any room in this lock for another boat...
...and yet the lock keeper managed to fit two cruisers in as well.

Les knows no strangers! He is chatting up the lock keeper about how the lock works as she waits for the dutch style barge to come inside. One can see Tower Bridge quite well. Across the river, the tall building in the background with the crane--just beyond the bridge--is Guy and St. Thomas Hospital. We are set to visit the south bank of the Thames and a fascinating glimpse into medicine's past on day three of our London visit.
The small plastic cruisers make haste to join the large barge in the lock.
   For those who know us well, you may remember the post I wrote on Tuesday, September 25th, 2012 title, "It's a Bird, It's a Plan--No It's a Hot Balloon and There's an American on Board!" Wherein Les was so gobsmacked and delirious at seeing hot air balloons floating low over NB Valerie that, when I wondered aloud if the second balloon would follow the path of the first, he honestly thought he was hearing the voice of an American on one of the Balloons!  I've extracted the urine many times over this bit of silliness as it made us hysterical with laughter.
   I have to say I was tempted, as I watched Les scamper with excitement up and down the lock side with camera in hand, to yell out in a muffled voice, "It's so different from mooring up in America," just to see if he was gullible enough to repeat the performance! Les was having so much fun--and it was a treat to see him happily engaged after all we've been through and still have ahead of us--so I chose to sit quietly and behave instead of attempting to take the piss out of him yet again.
The lock barrier on the Thames side begins to rise.
Finally the lock is full and even with the marina.
   St.Katharine Dock lock filled slowly and then the boaters on the small cruisers began poling flotsam and jetsam forward of their boats. A bright orange floating boom was thrown out to catch the garbage off the Thames. 
Boaters coming off the Thames wait while the lock keeper poles the rubbish to the front of the boats.
She pulls the orange boom across, catching the garbage which is pulled over to one side out of the way.

After the rubbish was caught up and pulled aside, the large red lift bridge across the marina entrance went up and the small cruisers exited first.

Ardwinna's tall sails and rigging inspire awe in a narrow boater!
 Finally the portly barge made its way slowly, pivoted out of the lock and gracefully pivoted once again to line up with a second blue lift bridge further on, by means of mooring ropes around giant bollards, hauled slowly by human hands. Then with a grace unbelievable for such a large vessel in a very crammed space, Ardwinna of London made slowly for the second lift bridge.
 Eventually she came to rest moored up near another of her kind at the far West Northwest side of the marina.
The blue bridge inside St. Katharine Docks Marina rising for the graceful masted ship.
Two similar boats wait for their sister ship. Xylonite left the marina once Ardwinna was moored up and the lock was allowed to fill for vessels going out on to the Thames.
This public art installation by Dale Devereaux Barker has greeted all who walk along St. Katharine Docks since 1998. DD Barker has an amazing portfolio of public exhibits and commissioned work.
Les in a hurry to enter St. Katharine Dock to see the sailing ships.

By the time the blue lift bridge was back down again we were on our way by bus back home to NB Valerie. With this third London post we ended our FIRST day in London! 
   I also want to take a moment to give a warm shout out to Molly in America--a transplanted Staffordshire "gel" who recently made our daughter Shiery's acquaintance and now follows our blog. Welcome along on our journey Molly!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A sunny day in Paddington Basin

Lunchtime is busy around the basin most days but sunshine and the food fair bring people pouring from the glass and concrete towers to either sit or eat beneath  their tall prisons.
Free table tennis in Spring and Summer.

About 7/8 different food choices.

The colourful deckchairs are supplied by the land management company.

Large queues at the food stalls.
Lots of daytime events take place and today it`s stand up paddleboards. Some future events including ferret racing and Formula 1 wheel change listed HERE.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Merchant Navy Memorial and Tower Bridge

 "Three hundred years ago a prisoner condemned to the Tower of London carved on the walls of his cell this sentiment to keep up his spirits during his long imprisonment: 'It is not adversity which kills, but the impatience with which we bear the adversity.'" ~Father James Keller, American Priest

   After wandering about Seething Lane, Les and I wandered through nearby Trinity Square Gardens and visited the Memorial to the Merchant Navy and those lost at Sea in WWI and II. It is a very touching monument, with Father Thames above it, on the side of the Port of London Authority Building, pointing the way to the River and out to sea. The engraved words convey the loss and loneliness of those whom these thousands of drowned souls left behind.
"The twenty four thousand of the Merchant Navy and fishing fleets whose names are honoured on the wall of this garden gave their lives for their country and have no grave but the sea."
   In a sober mood we crossed the street to Tower Hill and read the information boards regarding The Tower of London. Begun by William the Conqueror to subdue the Anglo-Saxons and Celts, this once magnificent and formidable palace fortress was added to by several other monarchs over the centuries; once it was a palace from where every Monarch's coronation route began. Now it is a well kept tourist attraction, dwarfed by 21st century buildings. I wouldn't mind taking the night tour of the tower but for now, walking around and considering its long history was enough for me to take in. We ate fish and chips while people watching. 
  I love these two pictures above and below because one cannot tell if it the year 1314, 1514, or 2014.
The infamous Traitor's Gate at the Tower: This gate leads to the grandest of all the river stairs. It was built by King Edward 1 (1272-1307) as a royal entrance. Later many prisoners accused of treason were brought to the Tower through this gate, including Sir Thomas More, Queen Anne Boleyn, and her daughter Elizabeth.
   The gate at St. Thomas' Tower as it was originally known opened straight into the river, but the wharf was eventually extended across its front in later centuries. The entrance gate and a portcullis guarded the water filled basin beneath, which was deep enough for boats to dock. 
   In March 1554 during a thwarted rebellion against the unpopular Queen Mary 1 (Henry and his first wife Katharine's daughter raised as a devout Catholic), she had her younger half sister Elizabeth imprisoned in the Tower and questioned as to her part--if any--played in the rebellion. Elizabeth is said to have said as she rose from the rocking boat and stepped out at Traitor's gate, "Here stands as a true a subject, being prisoner, as ever landed at these stairs."
   Mary's councilors recognized her reign would never be secure as long as her Protestant half sister was still alive. Some of the councilors were working to bring the twenty one year old Elizabeth to trial for treason to the crown. 
   Fortunately the young princess had supporters of her own amongst the government and they convinced Queen Mary to spare her sister's life. After three tense and dismal months Elizabeth was removed from the Tower and held under house arrest in the gatehouse of Woodstock Manor for over a year. 

The Queens' Stairs: Elizabeth and her mother are the only two queens to have used both the stairs at Traitor's Gate and these stairs. One can well imagine the many times Gloriana--The Virgin Queen--both names by which Elizabeth was known, gave a pause to consider that very poignant thought. 
I can close my eyes and hear the night time sounds of ancient London floating across the Thames; the lap of oars and the whisper of voices as a regal woman's laughter crosses the water ahead of her. Elizabeth is returning from an evening at the Globe theatre and one of Master Shakespeare's plays...
A menagerie was also kept at The Tower--animals given as gifts to the Sovereign. These incredible lions stand guard on one of the old walkways. They remind me of my friend Artist Rhea Giffin's papier mache pieces. I don't know how the artist created them but they are magnificent. Hard to believe they are created out of chicken wire!
   As the afternoon advanced we walked over to Tower Bridge and took the tour. The feat of engineering which produced such an amazingly beautiful and functional bridge led me to tell Les that now I can understand how the British built the Suez canal. One look at the marvels of this bridge and it is easy to think, "A canal across the Isthmus of Egypt?  No worries mate."
   Of course the views up and down the Thames are amazing. There was also an exhibition titled The Sixties with large photos of 26 cultural icons. Les commented at one point that we were looking at his youth on the walls! The music was fabulous--early rock and roll, and the exhibit was wonderful. Les will write a post with further details about it soon.
Looking up the Thames, from left to right: The HMS Belfast moored of the South bank, St. Paul's dome in the distance of the North bank; London bridge directly upstream.
The upper deck of the tower is enclosed in two linear sections. The far side displayed an exhibition of great bridges of the world. The near side in the picture above held the 1960's exhibit.
It's a spectacular view no matter how overcast the weather!
   Brits have given the modern architecture nicknames. The large building sticking up directly at left, above, has been christened the "Walkie-Talkie." Directly on its right is the "Cheese Grater," and to its right is the Gherkin thrusting upwards. Sadly these modern architectural marvels dwarf the Tower and other magnificent older pieces of architectural history such as the London Monument which is lost in the maze of skyline above. It commemorates the Great Fire of London in 1666.
The Pickle...
   Treated to amazing views of the London skyline I enjoyed my own private joke: I've nicknamed two famous buildings: London City Hall is the "Olive," and 30 St. Mary Axe in the heart of the financial district which Brits call the "Gherkin," I call the "Pickle!" It's an American thing. 

   We walked on across the bridge to the south side of the river and sat drinking very good Italian lattes and enjoying the ground view of the "Olive," which actually slants away from the Thames in the back like a wonky growth straight out of Alice in Wonderland.

...and London City Hall--or the "Olive", from the North side of the river in front of The Tower.

Monday, April 14, 2014

In addition to the last post

Came across this and it might explain the way water reached the reservoirs.