Monday, February 20, 2006

Stood at Limehouse station this evening with the wind whistling round my blisters a non-stopping train whizzed past. My jaw nearly hit the platform when I saw the second carriage - bright orange/yellow with block red text COUGH FREE ZONE! (Exclamation mark mine).

Back in December someone mentioned c2c had introduced non-coughing carriages but I really didn't believe it. It was a gimmick; unworkable. Well, I stand corrected. I've seen it with my own eyes.

New York, New York

Those of you who read Pat's blog will know that the preparations for his work trip to New York haven't been exactly trouble-free.

I do know that he wouldn't wish me ill but I do think he was rather upset by the fact I didn't have TB. It would have been the perfect excuse not to travel - 'I might have it too'. (And what thanks that would have been for buying me dinner!).

I helped out by countersigning his passport application and even offered to lend him my bright pink suitcase.

It would seem he had one last favour to ask of me. Make sure he was up this morning bright and early to catch the plane. I'd only have been too happy to oblige had he not sent the message to my work email address at the weekend. I read it approximately three hours too late.

I can only assume that he made it of his own accord or is holed up in his flat for the week.


I do have four plasters on my right foot as a result of rubbing shoes. I had to wait TWELVE minutes for a Jubilee Line tube due to a signal failure. I nearly got knocked over in assembly by an eager member of my form who wished to welcome me back. (He's rather little and managed to hug my knees). Another tutee spilt salad all over my chair at lunchtime and someone asked me if I'd had 'chicken flu'. I got a round of applause and a cheer when I was welcomed back in morning briefing. I think they've missed me.

Sunday, February 19, 2006


There is always the danger that when you've been ill for sometime and have done almost nothing for a number of weeks that you think you're ok and then realise you're not. I decided to have a day out in London yesterday. If I survived that, all was well.

The football was a little too early for my liking; kick off at 12.30pm. The breakfast menu would still be out at the highly recommended family-run Italian eaterie on Great Castle Street - Café Lido - and I was craving spinach and ricotta cannelloni. It really is the best. The waitress and the kitchen came up trumps and let me order it even though it wasn't quite 11am. Sets you up for the day.

We made our way to the Freemason's Arms on Long Acre. There is the obvious connection gleaned from its name (it's the old-fashioned briefcases that make me laugh; you don't see them anywhere else) but it was also home to the first meeting of the FA. This is where the first football league rules were decided. Where else to watch the FA Cup match between Liverpool and Manchester United?

We got our usual table (if we go to watch sport during the day it is always here). There's a nice mix of locals, day-tripping Londoners and tourists. During the course of our visit the table joining ours was variously colonised by a grey-haired, grey whiskered, bespectacled Italian (with too-long fingernails) who had just taken part in the Asahi Pure Logic Sudoku Championships which were being held upstairs, a French couple, a crusty sporting a Blackberry and a massive bag from the Disney Store (v. strange), two women who had 'done' the National Gallery and the shops and a couple of Notts Forest season ticket holders who were here for the weekend. (They had tickets booked for the London Eye today which is a shame as the weather has been lousy).

I was very good and stuck to four pints of Guinness (less than one an hour) before we moved on to China Town. I somehow managed to order the wrong set meal but we scoffed it all the same. A Tiger there and a Bailey's near Embankment finshed the evening off.

The verdict? No hangover but my ribs and back hurt like hell. Look's like tomorrow is going to be fun.

Back to Work

Why, oh why, did I say to the doctor that I didn't need signing off for another two weeks? Why did my parents not bring me up to be a malingerer?

The thought of going back to work tomorrow fills me with dread. It's like going back to school after the six week's holiday except I haven't been off galavanting and enjoying myself.

The stories I have heard in my absence, if shown on a TV soap opera, would push the bounds of reality. I'd be sat there screaming 'but things like that don't happen in schools'.

I've made my list. I've got my best suit and high heels ready. This girl means business.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

I like you. Do you want a kiss?

I think these were my exact words when the lovely Dr Syed told me I no longer required a lung biopsy.

I'd been sat on a trolley outside the CT scanner feeling a total fraud. I could quite clearly have walked from the ward to the radiology department. I now understand this is a blasphemous thought which could cost a poorly paid porter his job.

A quite beautiful English voice emanated from around the corner; shortly followed by its owner. A very smart, not unattractive, doctor clutching a can of cold Coke.

When the nurse said “This is Emma”. He looked at me in horror. Admittedly, I'd had the worst night's sleep of my life and have been ill for six weeks but even so I thought it a little rude. “How old are you, Emma?”

I'll forgive him the look of revulsion. He was concerned that I was far too young to have such a risky procedure. The doctor was brutally blunt with me as he described how it was unlikely he could carry out the biopsy without collapsing my lung. I felt very strangely reassured that someone was being honest with me rather than wanting to run for the nearest door.

I signed the consent forms after we'd struck a deal. (The forms, incidentally, have to list every possible consequence of the treatment including 'pain' and 'bruising'. A sad reflection on our litigation-happy society. “But, the doctor never said sticking a ruddy great needle into my lungs might hurt or leave a bruise...”). I would have an up-to-date scan and if it showed that the lesion was any smaller the biopsy wouldn't go ahead.

To everyone's delight, not least my own, Dr Syed was able to tell me that there was virtually nothing left; the biopsy was unnecessary.

I like you. Do you want a kiss?

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Gurus and ploughshares

After the ordeal that was Pamuk's The Black Book I am pleased to announce that my faith in the written word has been restored.

Francis Wheen's How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World, was given to me last Christmas but had somehow slipped between the bookshelves. I found it trying to dig out Austen's Sense and Sensibility ( I had the idea of reading her novels in chronological order but fell at the first hurdle, ie. the first one has disappeared). This really is one of those books where you nod your head in agreement, shake your head in disbelief and force a wry smile of acknowledgement. You will love it if you believe in the Enlightenment, rationalism and reality. If you like self-help books, cried like a loony when Diana died and sincerely believe you are going to win the lottery it probably isn't the book for you.

The other book I would recommend is Marina Lewycka's A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian. It's an easy read rather than a literary masterpiece but it is intensely funny. It starts thus: 'Two years after my mother died, my father fell in love with a glamorous blonde Ukranian divorcée. He was eighty-four and she was thirty-six. She exploded into our lives like a fluffy pink grenade, churning up the murky water, bringing to the surface a sludge of sloughed-off memories, giving the family ghosts a kick up the backside'. I can see this one being made into a film.

Essex Girls? We're the Best

My headteacher's notion that 'her girls' would be disadvantaged by the Essex Girl stereotype prevelant in the national tabloids in the late eighties and early nineties made me hysterical with laughter. I quite seriously thought that the only thing stopping me from getting ahead in the world would be me.

I spent the next four years at uni being the butt of everyone else's jokes. (My only respite was a year in Strasbourg where I was subsumed into the the hard-drinking, loose-living stereotype of les anglaises).

I am amazed that a decade and a half later we've only moved on to the extent that the Essex Girl stereotype is being championed not just by the tabloids but by Germaine Greer in the Observer.

She'll be telling us next that she enjoys nothing more than watching Desperate Housewives and Footballers' Wives. Backward-looking programmes which promote the 'virtues' of ignorance and good looks.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

TB or not TB?

Good news is usually celebrated with a bottle of red wine or a pint or three of Guinness but alcohol just isn't on the menu at the moment. The fantastic news that I don't have TB (hurrah!) was celebrated with a mug of Green & Black's hot chocolate. Very different but just about acceptable.

I do still have to undergo a lung biopsy next week which sounds particularly nasty. The only real danger is a punctured lung. It would leak air and a) heal itself or b) a tube is inserted and (I stopped listening at this point).

Not wanting to exaggerate or anything but it feels like I've cracked my ribs and/or torn all the muscles on the right side of my body from coughing so much. The sooner I get some medicine the better. (And the sooner I found something more interesting to talk about).