Winds of change

Still pondering how to live somewhere with greater daylight while maintaining my loving hold on the mighty NHS (Gods bless her and all who sail in her!) This was brought home to me, yet again, by finding that a self-employed friend elsewhere has to, by law, pay E300 a month to ensure health insurance, which as anyone who has had to deal with any type of insurance will be aware, won’t cover everything or pay out without an argument. In the meantime having signed up to dental insurance I’m having a similar battle as the person on the phone explained that they “don’t understand” basic arithmetic. We shall see how that works out.

In other news, we have finally put the heating on. So far we’ve been lucky enough to be able to rely on neighbours from exotic climes finding things so cold that their heating is always on full whack, thereby heating us too. That and the real open fire should we be feeling chilly, which the rest of the time now has a removeable board over it as the wind whistles down the chimney and out through the closed doors and windows. The problem with the house is that it was built to be draughty, so blocking holes causes mould and constant heating will cause shrinkage. But when we heard of the snow at the other end of the county, on it went!

Sorting through stuff is sort of happening. We have new cupboards up, kindly donated by friends who were gutting their kitchen, and I have been able to empty nine boxes of books into two of them. The boxes were well packed, but even then a big cupboard space can be more efficient. Not found many duplicates yet, but the pile for charity is growing.


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Autumn travels

Back from more travels and immersed in “stuff and thingies” as my uni mates say.

We’ve been having Autumn late, as we started it on a visit to the midlands and the land of panoramic views that make The Netherlands look hilly. Then we saw the house prices and were very quiet, pondering a move.

Next was a visit to Germany, passing through France, Belgium and The Netherlands. We felt it was best if I didn’t drive. Passing signs that simply said ‘France’ highlighted that over here we could be missing out on something, especially when we saw bridges and landscapes that couldn’t exist without people actually talking to each other.

Then back home for pumpkin carving and a rousing real fire. Somehow or other we’ve managed to acquire flame retardant wood, which we’re impressed about and shall be replacing shortly. It’s the time of year when part of me can’t understand why we don’t move south for the sunlight, then the rest of me wonders at the practicalities.

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New circumstances and suddenly I’m reading books that have lain undisturbed in boxes and on shelves for years. The latest, after Boris Akunin’s ‘Pelagia and the white bull dog’ and James Herriot’s ‘Vets might fly’ is ‘America’ by Stephen Fry, the book written to accompany the TV series were he visits all 50 US states. Like him, I nearly had a far closer association to the place than I otherwise would have had, so I am finding the book interesting. He paints a positive picture, to the point that the member of the household who’d like to visit the USA again has almost convinced me to go.

But contrast that, the positive, welcoming nation, full of different culture and ideas, landmarks and scenic beauty, with the discovery I made when renewing my travel insurance recently. Apparently, it costs nearly double to insure me to travel to USA than it does to travel to Ukraine. Any part of Ukraine, including parts that could be viewed as ‘politically unstable’. Apparently, USA healthcare is that expensive and unforgiving, that in comparison Ukraine is cheaper and more reliable in immediate and longterm outcome.

Does this suggest something is wrong with the system?

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Hard graft

There’s a saying that dogs and their owners tend to look alike.

I wonder if it’s the same with cars?

Yesterday I had some fairly serious dentistry. My travel insurers et al already know about it so I can say that it involved a bone graft and a piece of titanium. So far it’s all looking ok, even if it does really, really hurt and I’m feeling sick at the thought of fruit juice.

Today Dragon failed its MOT, its annual test done by a government approved garage to check it’s still roadworthy no matter what has happened to it during the year. New parts are on order, although we do know that it’s nothing to do with any added jiggery-pokery that’s lately in the news as Dragon is too old for any of that.

And what did Dragon fail on? A small hole in the skeleton, “we tapped it with a hammer and it went right through.” They are looking at sending it to a skeleton specialist to work wonders through grafting. I think there could be something in that saying after all.

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Cornish Meaning of Liff

Just back from holiday. In June we travelled 2000 miles around Cornwall, seeing up to 11 monuments a day. This time round we got there and went, “blergh”, managing only 380 miles, including the journey back. Part of this was a curtailment caused by the newly fixed Frankie becoming unfixed, necessitating a visit to a nearby garage and nervous journeys since. At least we didn’t reach the point of the bloke at Leigh Delamere services who got out of his rusting beetle and hit the undercarriage several times with a rubber mallet.

While wandering, and wondering, I got to read a lot of maps. During this I came up with a few additions to the ‘Meaning of Liff’, most of which I’ve now forgotten.

‘London Apprentice’: someone who you can see is brilliantly talented, but sadly not at what they’re trying to do right now, who you have no idea how they got to being here in the first place, but you feel strongly that they would be much happier somewhere else, which is somewhere they should be as soon as possible.

‘Helsford Passage’: a road, usually a blind bend on a single laned national speed limit, on which someone has set up a small table on which they have laid various bruised local produce in the sun, which they now would like you to stop and buy for 50p a quantity.

‘Tressick’: the feeling of disappointment at the unreasonableness of people felt by someone who has set up a Helsford Passage who at the end of the day has failed to sell any produce, despite how incredibly fresh, home-grown and reasonably priced it was.

We’ve managed to see all sites belonging to English Heritage in Cornwall now, having visited the secluded moated site of Penhallam Manor and the mysterious opening times of Launceston castle. The next question is whether to start on Devon or go somewhere new.

In other news, where a headline tells a story, I liked this year’s ‘Diagnostic Medicine Prize’:

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New is better?

I keep being told that I should replace Little Dragon because newer cars are so much more efficient, with less emissions etc.


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It lives!

This week, after 4(?) burned out alternator brackets, Frankie has been resurrected. Nothing has fallen off yet, but we’re taking it carefully in case it does.

Dragon has a new friend in its lair, same colour, same make and model, same vintage. No one’s sure who owns it which makes getting it moved tricky. If Frankie wants to come back I’m not sure there’s going to be room. Still, I’m sure Dragon is happy communing with another version of itself with even worse paintwork.

A change of circumstances means that I’m finally going through stuff, chucking it or sending as much as possible to charity. The charity even sends letters (a new thing they do now) saying how much it went for. A friend visited since and commented that they could see space that hadn’t been there before. Hooray!

Something odd happened at a charity shop though. It was a national charity, with signs in the windows saying they want and accept anything. The person in charge though wasn’t just unbelievably rude, but she demanded I walk across town to another branch to donate as nothing donated could ever be relevant to her branch. I informed her that next time I’d be donating to her rival then left it with her anyway out of principle. Her underling looked mortified at her behaviour. Later I visited another branch and they said they said to ignore her and that their own branch would happily take anything, even if it was unsellable, as it can still be sold for recycling.

There’s more to go, but the hoarder in me is better at letting go if I have photos first. There’s a coat I particularly like and would like one day again even if it’s hand made, so I want proper photos so that’s possible. It’s not big, so it will keep. I already acknowledged this is one reason I became an archaeologist – hoarding the ‘important’ things for a nation allows clear outs on a personal level.

Was reading about life in a submarine, how to cope in a small space. Organisation is the answer. This could explain why I fitted better three times into rooms 6ft x 9ft than one 3x the size, but then it was also about useable space – I rearranged the furniture before I moved in and opened up the small spaces, but the larger space came with unmoveable furniture that had been designed and fitted by someone who’d never lived there.

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