Monday, April 30, 2007

Johannesburg: sunset and storm

Saturday, April 28, 2007

trials and tribulations, cont.d

I'm just back from Johannesburg, South Africa - been on a mission of mercy. My poor father has been diagnosed with multiple myeloma and is already in a fairly advanced stage: he's been in hospital with a severe bout of pneumonia and septicaemia. He was initially expected to pass away over the Easter weekend, but a change of meds pulled him through.

So, I have been resident for the last few weeks in my parents' retirement home - with no internet access and therefore no blogging.

Of course, I was out there last year aound this time, for about three months. He had had a stroke and a fall and broke the C1 vertebra. The hospital he was admitted to - a very zooty northern suburbs one - did not diagnose the stroke or the myeloma. I learn from my reading now that fractures are a primary indicator of myeloma (and advanced age and maleness), as are opportunistic infections of the lungs and renal system (both of which he contracted in a big way immediately upon entering the hospital for 'tests' - he was in their ICU for 8 weeks). So it is not comforting that they missed it, but of course we can't really complain as the condition is incurable anyway.

So. Poor old mum is not accepting the prognosis at all, so that was difficult. But on top of all this she was served with a court summons from last year's doctor alleging non-payment of his bill!! So I had that to sort as well. Luckily a close friend in Johannesburg is an attorney.

The SA medical system has given me a new-found respect for the NHS. SA is completely privatised, so everyone has to have medical insurance. Every medical practice handles their accounts differently, and the practices sometimes claim directly from the medicial insurers and sometimes don't, depending. Neither speaks to the patient, and if you ring the insurers it is typical call-centre hell. Chaos!

Anyway, we gritted teeth and dug deep and discovered Dr M had in fact been overpaid by the medical aid - significantly so. And my mother, confused by the doctor's accounts department badgering, had paid the patient portion three times over. Taken together, the bill was paid literally twice over. And now Dr M is trying for a triple!

One doesn't know whether the good doctor is trying his luck with an elderly and confused patient, or whether his own accounts department is up to something - unfortunately, I gather neither scenario is unheard of. I have compiled all our evidence into a summary of payments and our lawyer is taking to their lawyers.

It's all just beyond belief.

Jo'burg was looking good - had a look at the inner city and felt it was very clean and spruce. The municipality's regeneration project is clearly taking effect. We still had heavy thunderstorms in the afternoons, a typical summer weather pattern for Jozi but very odd for autumn.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Easter weekend news roundup

Riot at Primark - Evening Standard. Exciting times on Oxford Street! I must check out this Primark place of which you speak.

The Queen's loaf is saved - Evening Standard (no link). Apparently, HM The Queen was devastated to hear rumours that Waitrose was about to discontinue her favourite brown loaf - the "Ascot". "Indeed, so upset was she that a member of the Royal household was despatched to Waitrose to ask them to reconsider their decision, and restore the 59p loaf to the shelves."

Happily, the Ascot loaf has not been discontinued but merely repackaged - now it will be known as "thin sliced brown bread".

Waitrose says: "We have been consistently selling our Waitrose thinly sliced brown bread for many years. The bread is the quintessential English loaf, perfect for delicate cucumber sandwiches, or to serve with smoked salmon." Ha! So now we know how to make the perfect Royal cucumber sandwich for tea.

More rather intriguing Royal news/gossip in the Evening Standard:

The very curious world of the royal odd couple (no link, ES 05/04/07 p18). Where did Camilla go to recuperate from her hysterectomy? One of the three Royal palaces she shares with Charles? - or her own private house, away from Charles? The second guess would be correct. The article is interesting in that it reflects on issues arising in the royal marriage, mainly to do with his thoughtlessness. The moral this reader drew from the story: be wary of answered prayers, Camilla. One thing being the bit on the side. Quite another to be the main event.

Gay couples given keys to the Magic Kingdom as Disney relents - The Guardian Now gays can get married at Disneyland!

Chaos on sinking Greek cruise ship - BBC. It is quite unbelievable that a cruise liner can run aground and sink virtually in the Island's harbour. I definitely intend to avoid Louis Cruise Lines. Another of their boats had an engine fire in the English Channel last year, and apparently the company also owns the resort where the two English children died of carbon monoxide poisoning recently. Two French tourists are missing in this latest tragedy.

Finally, some shocking local news: Pregnant woman shot dead at flat. A few weeks ago, a teenager was shot near Clapham North station. This new murder seems to be related to a feud with a neighbour over parking. Just off Northcote Road, this is the epicentre of Nappy Valley, in estate agent speak "between the Commons", one of the most desirable stretches of property in this area. In BBC parlance, definitely "residential".

eggs eggs eggs

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Backlash on Chesil Beach

Our national living literary treasure Ian McEwan has long remained gracefully dignified in the face of various moronic allegations of plagiarism. However, Natasha Walter's Guardian review of his new book On Chesil Beach obviously got to him in a big way.

However, unlike Jeanette Winterson, who famously and magnificently turned up on the doorstep of a disagreeable critic (in the middle of a dinner-party), McEwan has restricted himself to a critic slap-down on The Guardian's letters page:

" . . . she reported that my views about the peace movement stuck in her throat.

. . . I accept that being forgiven by critics is an occupational hazard, but just for the record and Ms Walter's throat, perhaps I could set this matter straight. When she was still at her primary school I was campaigning, writing and speaking against nuclear weapons. I was a member of European Nuclear Disarmament . . . "

His letter builds up to a thrilling climax:

"I sometimes wonder whether these common critical confusions arise unconsciously from a prevailing atmosphere of empowering consumerism - the exaltation of the subjective, the "not in my name" syndrome. It certainly seems odd to me that such simple precepts need pointing up: your not "liking" the characters is not the same as your not liking the book; you don't have to think the central character is nice; the views of the characters don't have to be yours, and are not necessarily those of the author; a novel is not always all about you."

Take that, Natasha! Oops! Oh, the shame.


Some exciting milestones: firstly, this is my 100th post! Hooray me! ~ and secondly, The Guardian reminds us this week marks the 10th anniversary of the birth of the blog. Now, a blog is born every second. Go, blogs!

Entertainingly, The Guardian's article quotes Andrew Keen, "a former dot-com entrepeneur" and the author of the forthcoming book Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet is Killing Our Culture. The title truly says it all. Mr Keen seems to think that most of web 2.0 is "digital narcissism": "It's seductive in the sense that it convinces people to think they have more to say and are more interesting than they really are," he said. "The real issue is whether it adds any more to our culture. Most of it is just so transient and ephemeral."

Hmmm. That's Life, Andrew. Methinks the description "former dot-com entrepeneur" is indicative - sour grapes, guy! The quality argument is completely fallacious, and has been made of every advance in communication technology since Plato dissed the invention of writing. I do like the "digital narcissism" quote though - I may borrow that for my profile!

The other pundit The Guardian quotes, Dan Gilmour (author of We The Media) is far more blog-friendly. I tend to agree with him:

"Blogging and other kinds of conversational media are the early tools of a truly read-write web," said Dan Gillmor, author of citizen journalism bible We The Media. "They've helped turn media consumers into creators, and creators into collaborators - a shift whose impact we're just beginning to feel, much less understand."

Friday, April 06, 2007

coffee break with shaggy blog stories

Yay! It has arrived. Taken a pic to mark it's delivery, and also as part of the Shaggy Blog Stories flickr group marketing campaign. Clicky on piccy to take you to flickr, then click on the Shaggy Blog Stories link to see the rest of the pool.

Alternatively, just buy yourself a copy! To date, just over £2,000 has been raised for Comic Relief.

Those Fox's Creations Luxury Milk Chocolate Shortcake biscuits are my absolute favourites currently. Honestly, Sainsbury's can't restock quickly enough.

They have the ideal choclate:biscuit ratio, which is much more chocolate than biscuit. Yum!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Quote London

"London has survived Britain's century-long decline to carve out a role for itself as a semi-independent city-state. But will the price of becoming the global city prove too high for those who actually live here?" - A City of Capital, an essay in Prospect (via Daily Dish)

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

weekend news roundup

Miracle Nun: 'I wrote John Paul II's name and I was cured' - The Guardian A nun from Aix-en-Provence is cured of Parkinson's by writing the name of pope John Paul II. This may possibly put JPII on the fast-track to sainthood.

Can I get fired for blogging? - The Guardian. Well, yes. But Catherine Sanderson (Petite Anglaise) has won almost £30K + costs from her ex-employers accountants Dixon Wilson from a Parisian tribunal last week. Yay for her! I really don't know why employers are so touchy about blogging. My policy is not to discuss work at all, and certainly not even to blog from work or in official work time.

Blair: I'll be treading the boards again - The Observer Apparently, Tony has acccepted an offer from Kevin Spacey to act in a production of Arthur Miller's The Crucible at The Old Vic later this year. Tony will play the role of the Reverend John Hale.

This is exciting news. America has had a President who used to be an actor, and we here in the UK are about to have an actor who used to be the Prime Minister! Well done Kevin Spacey! - it's bound to be an amazing success, even if only for the novelty value. But apparently acting was Tony's first love, and his sketch with Catherine Tate for last month's Comic Relief television appeal was actually quite good, so the potential is there. I certainly plan to go.