The last couple of weeks have been spent working at different libraries around the area while my usual location is closed for a variety of engineering works.
As expected it has given me an interesting set of alternative working arrangements as I’ve blended in with different teams. It can be difficult sometimes to find a niche, especially with larger and more established teams, but I’ve been pleased to find that hasn’t really been an issue.
Next week I’m back to my usual location, so we’ll see what carnage has been left by the builders. I’m not taking bets on the amount of dust on the shelving units by the way…
So in between the pain and disruption caused by that small hospitalisation last week, we also had the weekend event that we were planning for my parents. My father is 70 this year, and my mother is 65 – so we had a bit of a think among ourselves about how we’d like to mark this year. The answer was to have a weekend where we could all gather together.
The venue that we picked was the Barton Grange Hotel, which is just outside Preston. The decision was mostly fuelled by my mum having mentioned that they had eaten at the Walled Garden (it’s restaurant) before, and that they had greatly enjoyed it. After a bit of back and forth, we got it all sorted, so I was looking forward to it immensely, despite the discomfort.
Our journey had to start later than most while we waited for my daughter to come back from a holiday with her mum on the Isle of Wight, but we were fortunate with the traffic and made good time, punctuated by reports from those who had already arrived that they were enjoying themselves. As it was, we got there a little after ten pm and this was where the arrangement to book us all in to a small converted cottage on their grounds paid off. We were able to stay and chatter away with convivial drinks and snacks without worrying over much about disturbing anyone else. It really helped reproduce the long nights of, well just plain wittering to be honest, that is often a hallmark of when we all get together.
The breakfast in the morning was excellent – and this really allowed everyone to both fuel up and appreciate the quality of the hotel. As with every other aspect of the planning and execution of our stay, the staff were helpful without ever making us feel crowded. T’other half made use of the gym facilities while we all pootled around and then went our separate ways for a while.
The big discovery of the day for us was the simple games room with a pool table. Lined with dark wood panels and split into smaller discrete areas, we basically had a very lazy day with drinks and endless games. My daughter and her cousin took the opportunity to squirrel themselves away back at her room so that they could do some writing and spend some girly time away from all the boring adults, so no one felt constrained to be in any one area. I think that’s part of what was so enjoyable. Despite it being a busy area, and with a wedding party arriving and starting to set up next door, we never felt under any rush or that anything was too much trouble.
By the time we came to the evening meal, I think it’s safe to say that we were all relaxed and looking forward to a grand experience. Although the bar’s lounge area was busy (full of people waiting for the wedding that was due to start at the same time as our meal), that soon emptied and we were invited to the large table set aside for us. One particularly nice feature was how they dealt with any superstition around the number of us seated that evening. There were thirteen of us booked in, so they also put on the table a small plush teddy bear called Igor – complete with a name badge naming him as our fourteenth guest. He was much admired and several people wanted to take him home.
The menu – wow, not only was the food perfectly executed and delivered with speed and charm, but the portions were good as well. I had some very spicy spring rolls for a starter, followed by an amazing grilled bacon steak, for lack of a better description. Pudding was one of the finest creme brulees I’ve tasted in a long time. A birthday cake provided through the hotel provided us with the opportunity to amaze, bemuse and even slightly embarrass both parents with an excuse to sing happy birthday at high volume at them.
A simple but very high quality cheeseboard allowed us to round off the evening gently and we all gradually drifted back to the cottage for post-prandial drinks and chatter.
It was a fantastic meal and we were all waddling slightly towards the end of it. I can’t praise the staff highly enough for the levels of service they gave us. They worked with me all the way from the first enquiry to allow the evening to go as smoothly as possible so that we didn’t even have any need to linger awkwardly and sort out the bills. This was because we’d already arranged to split the bills per room and prepaid much of it in advance. All that was left to do on checkout therefore was to sort out any drinks that had been charged to rooms – all very civilised…
I had to be somewhat abstemious – mainly because I was still needing to take strong painkillers. Even though I passed the stone quite soon after arrival, my body was definitely feeling aftershocks and pangs that were extremely uncomfortable – so I ended up drinking a lot of water and any other soft drinks I could get my hands on across the weekend. Even so – a great success and we’ll be going back at some point if only to eat next time we’re up there.
I’ve had a rollercoaster of a week. In the early hours of Tuesday morning I woke up with excruciating pain all through my lower abdomen. It was bad enough that t’other half took no nonsense and dragged me straight to St Peter’s Hospital, Chertsey.
The receptionist there took one look as we staggered in and had the phone in her hand to call for an emergency triage pretty much halfway through the first sentence. This has to be a first in my experience of NHS A&E walk-INS, setting a new record for me of being in a cubicle being examined by a series of doctors.
With a series of increasingly powerful set of painkillers being administered, I started to get some relief, and taking note of what was going on around me. Urgent XRays, arterial blood tests, prostate exams and an increased number of ‘we’re not sure’ responses led to CT scans and a rapid fear that we were heading into cancer territory. Rival theories included pancreatitis, renal failure or gall stones. I’m not embarrassed to say I was terrified, and T’other half did an amazing job of reassuring me and giving me that quiet, silent support in her presence that we sometimes all need.
This was not particularly eased by being rushed to the Surgical Dependence Ward, and it was only fairly late in the day that the diagnosis of diverticulosis was given instead. This was described to me as being like appendicitis but all through my intestines instead.
More tests followed, along with more head scratching, and heavy doses of tramadol, and morphine on top of diclafenic and alpha blockers. There seemed to be an awful lot of renal consultants stealing my notes and peering at the CT scan results. Intravenous drips came and went, along with more blood tests.
In the end, though whispered at late yesterday, I had a revised diagnosis of kidney stones instead this morning. I have never been so relieved.
The pain had settled hugely, though was still noticeable, so I’ve been sent home for bed rest, with a follow up blood test to follow on Friday, more xrays and a clinic in the weeks to come. Of course, Sod’s Law immediately leapt into the fray with the car journey seeming to set the stones on the move again.
So here I am, dosed up to the gills, but thankful that I’m not tethered to an IV stand and that I’m back in my own bed.
Given today’s news about Iain Banks, one of my favourite author’s who has today revealed that he has terminal cancer, I’m also counting my lucky stars, and sending my best thoughts to him, his loved ones and friends.