Papers, Papers, Everywhere


I am reporting from under the cover at Charing Cross hospitals, being submitted to a ward of approximately 30 beds.

Patients are being looked after by a handful of nurses and health care assistants. There are also cleaners and those taking care of the meals. And there are a lot of paper-shufflers, that’s for sure.

Just take a gentle stroll around the ward in an attempt to get some circulation going, and you’ll find half a dozen of people at least, at any time of the day (but not the night), either standing around in important conversation or waving impressive paperwork. Most are easily recognised by their plain dress or the uniform designated to the upper ranks, armed with a biro, a bundle of forms and folders and a good deal of importance.

I am guessing there are at least as many paper shufflers on duty as there are people doing actual work.

Diet: Standard (Bulk)


While I hold residence here at Charing Cross hospitals, I am officially on Diet: Standard (Bulk).

That’s what the printout states, and I think it is a fair description of what is being offered and served.

What goes as salad consist of a small handful of shredded Iceberg lettuce, half a industrial tomato (red but hard and flavourless), a spoon full of the main ingredient (caned tuna, shredded chicken, etc) and two packs of salad cream. I spotted a sweet corn on one occasion, but maybe that was a case of cross-contamination from a different dish. A ploughman’s salad didn’t come with bread, but a side order of a mayonnaise-rich potato salad was available. The omelette, documented in the printout on the left, didn’t come with most of the requested side orders. The omelette itself was dreadful, dry and cooked to death. You would think they’d make an omelette fluffy and nice by stretching the egg with milk, but no.

At the time of this writing I am on nil by mouth. Not the worst thing to happen, I think.

Time To Go Home


While I work on my under the covers report from inside the Charing Cross hospitals, Google Now keeps showing helpful card with the time to go home.

32 minutes to home, it says, with normal traffic on the A4.

Ah, that’s good to know.

In truth, home is at least 32 hours away, and I won’t be fussy about the A4 traffic when it comes to going home.

Are You Alright?


I am undertaking a bit of investigative journalism for you and selflessly submitted myself to the NHS (national health service) and to Ealing and Charing Cross hospitals in particular for solid under cover research.

All in all the experience is a lot better than what media makes us believe. That must be said.

I didn’t experience prolonged waiting for treatment or ambulances, no standing around in cold hallways or wards in disarray. All staff is friendly and helpful, even though some nurses need prompting at times. Don’t you think the dressing needs changing? Don’t you think you could give me some water give that you insist I drink lots of it? Things like that, but all in all good.

The food, however, is everything the media makes us believe. A healthy and balanced nutritious diet seems hard to come by, even if they manage to deliver a whole meal complete and as requested. More often than not, parts are missing. Maybe it is better that way.

192 Hours

20150407120941I released the Bananas from their winter protection on the 8th, when I took the first picture. The second picture was taken on the 16th. 8 days, or 192 hours.

Can you spot the difference?

Their speed of growth is simply amazing. One plant in the middle stands out, but the others show similar growth (not as evident from the photo).



It Happened Today

DSC_0565Today is the first day of this year which I even start out in shorts and T-shirt. Long pants are pants, at least as long as this warm weather lasts!

All fruit trees in bloom while the tulips are still going strong. I can almost see the newly sown peas emerging from my window. I can definitely see the radishes emerging, and those Swiss Chard plants which overwintered in the bed are already in full production by mid April.

Makes me think that summer can’t be too far away, no? Certainly feels like it.

My Painting Hero

DSC_0509.JPGFor once we managed to view the John Singer Sargent exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London before the last day, and I am very glad that we did. Even though, or maybe because we had to book a ticket for timed entry (we chose 14:00), there was no queuing and a very relaxed atmosphere.

And every one of his paintings well worth a good look, and another one.

I like his loose stroke for the out-of-focus parts, the background and the frilly bits of the sitters clothes, and I adore his confidence with tonal painting. Just superb.

Go and see the Singer Sargent exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery if you are in London.

A Word Of Advice

DSC_0097Here’s a word of advice: make sure to keep a record of all your travels across your home country’s borders. All of them. For ever. Record the date of departure and date of return, destination countries, possibly add additional comments regarding the purpose of the trip.

The trouble is that, one day, you might want to apply for something where the application form requests that you list all such travels over the past five years – for example, an application for British citizenship. Or how about ten years (Russian business visa)?

Madness, and probably almost never entirely correctly filled out. I wonder what’s the point of this, but I certainly wish someone gave us that advise ten or more years ago, especially when you consider a busy international travel schedule like the good wife’s.

Public Service Logic

DSC_0692Here’s a question which bothers us as often as once a day. Like, for example, when we read news of Sodexo Justice Services, a private company running a good portion of the UK’s privatised probation service, announcing 30% job cuts (at least 700 posts).

How on earth would anyone in his or her full mental capacity examine a public service such as the probation service, and conclude that a profit-oriented private business can provide that service at lower cost and higher quality than a not-for-profit government organization?

I have no doubt that government organizations, much like large companies, suffer from inefficiencies, incompetence and similar maladies. Surely, these need addressing, as much as the mental health of those who make those ludicrous privatization decisions.

Enough Is Enough

20150407120941Our babies have come out to play!

The banana plants were covered with a sheet of reeds and bamboo to stop harsh winds or heavy snow from reaching them, covered on top with an old linen sack.

When we returned from our short break mid afternoon this Easter Monday, the thermometer reported a glorious 17 Celsius in the shade, and the bananas had lifted their protective covers up by more than a foot. A clear sign that they thought enough is enough.

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Almonds In Bloom

DSC_0414We arrived a week late and some of the almonds were already nearing the end of the bloom, and had been beaten about by heavy rain and hailstorm a few days earlier. However, seeing the entire area covered in white and pink blossom rather than the usual lush yet boring rows of wine is quite something.

Almost every house, street and road, every front garden and hillside is covered in the delicate flowers.

Check it out! Die Pfalz is always worth a visit.