NHS Survey for Greater Manchester


Fill in this survey. It’ll take ten minutes of your time and annoy the heck out of you. I have indeed vented my spleen on the survey pointing out I think that GPs should be the first port of call for sick people and that without that the rest of the system is too much of a magical mystery tour.
GPs are there to look after you yet increasingly it’s hard to get an appointment. And I don’t mean a same day appointment, even one in a few days time is impossible. The system doesn’t work like that any more. You ring up and get told that all the appointments are gone and can you ring back after 2pm. You ring back after 2pm and get told all the appointments are booked up and can you ring back in the morning. Rinse and repeat. You only have to do that a few times to feel really depressed and stop trying.
People go to A&E and fill that up when they can’t get a GP appointment. Do you think they want to be stuck in A&E? No, almost certainly they’d rather have seen their own doctor at their local surgery. But there comes a point when you are sick of ringing up for an appointment and can’t take it anymore?
If you’re in pain or think you need antibiotics then you want to see a doctor.
The only place to go is A&E.
There are mysterious walk in centres but these are amazing white elephants. They’re not next to hospitals – so if they get shut then they’re completely useless. The one in Oldham has a huge variety of facilies in the same building but it’s all a mystery as to what you can get seen there for.
I’ve been and got told you can’t be seen for anything you might need referring for or something you would need a follow up visit.
It’s a bit of a joke when your GP receptionist tells you to go up there and then they tell you they can’t look at you.
They used to do blood drawing to start with when they were open 24 hours a day all week. They don’t anymore. You have to go to the normal place at hospital now.
If they’d looked at walk in centres as a genuine option to reduce queues at A&E they’d have built them in a room next to A&E and put the amount of money into triage staff and extra doctors. This would have made much better sense and used the money much better.
And people would have known where to go!
Walk in centres are just such a stupid idea – they’re not a replacement for a GP service even if GPs want them to be. And they’re not A&E.
‘Build it and they will come’ is stupid in this case: just ‘build it where the people already go’!

I think GPs need to sort out the appointment system though so you can be seen by someone in an appropriate amount of time. It’s not always a same day appointment people want!  Just to be seen at some point soon.
Our GP uses it’s nursing staff quite well. One has asthma clinics, BP clinics and deals with contraception. Unfortunately that can mean she’s as busy as the doctors and there’s often a long wait for an appointment – but you can be given one weeks in advance! Which is all some of us ask!

Should there be brood this time of year?

Someone has asked that question on the beekeeping forum.

My first thought is what are you doing looking in a hive at this time of year. You should either be treating for varroa and leaving well alone, or leaving well alone.
Inspecting this late in the season could lead to the queen being killed.
But questions to ask this beekeeper include:

Have you got a mentor?

Where did you get your bees and what were they sold to you as? Where they a swarm, a box of bees off another beekeeper, sold as a nuc? What did they tell you about them?

How long have you had them? What inspections have you done? What are they in?

Are they in a full size hive?
How many frames are they over? (When you get to the brood box, how many seams are filled with bees, brood and what stores do they have?

Do you have a record of your previous inspections?
Are they noisy or agressive?
Have you had a varroa monitoring board in?
You can pop a varroa board in and after a day or two remove it and carefully look at the pattern of dropped materials. This can help you tell what’s going on in the hive. At this time of year it’s a much less invasive way of knowing how many seams of bees you have.

The darker colour specks will show up where brood is, the whiter bits are caused by making or uncapping honey, and the overall pattern will show you where the bees are mostly.
Pollen on the board means they’ve been bringing pollen in and have dropped some.

This is a varroa bug that’s a pest of bees. They’re almost everywhere and very tiny. Whilst many beekeepers use the varroa monitoring board to count varroa, the board itself is more useful than just that.

voarroa bug


IF the new beekeeper doesn’t have a mentor then they need one – either a virtual one or someone who lives near enough to pop by. As there’s not a huge amount to be gained from poking inside a hive at this time of year then there’s no real urgency for a local beekeeper.

The things you can see on a monitoring board will help answer some of the questions about your hive.



More things to be grateful for

1. I am grateful for all the honey my bees have made.

2. I am grateful my arm only hurts a bit now.

3. I am grateful that I have a wonderful husband who helped with the extraction of honey else my arm would hurt even more!

I will be making mead with some of the honey. I’ve not done this before so am looking forward to seeing how it goes. I have brewed a few different wines in the past: raspberry, blackcurrant, apple, dandelion, elderflower.  I have some demi-johns to bottle up at the moment and then I’ll make the mead.


The Grateful challenge

Every day for the next few days I need to write down a few things I am grateful for.

1. I am happy and grateful that all my family are healthy.

2. I am happy and grateful that my son is enjoying his university course.

3. I am happy and grateful that I have a wonderful new greenhouse on my allotment plot.

What’s the purpose of this post?
It’s more of an exercise in typing – the meme has been on facebook for a few weeks but no one has challenged me so I thought I’d use it as a writing kickstart.

I am actually very grateful that a neighbour has sold his noisy car. This means that the day has been more peaceful than it has for months. Hurray!

A few words on … beekeeping
I keep bees. I love keeping bees. I would love to keep more bees. I am not sure I have enough time to keep more bees. I would love to give up work and spend all my time on the allotment tending plants and looking after the bees.
I’d really love to buy a bigger house with plenty of land so I didn’t need an allotment and had more space to keep bees at home.

I would love a swimming pool and a tennis court but these are optional extras that would be nice but I could live without. We need a big garage, a workshop or three and several outbuildings for storing bee and gardening equipment in.
I’d like a couple of acres minimum and a dedicated honey extraction room.
I would love an orchard full of different fruit trees – if this was several acres that’d be amazing. I would make some more jam and maybe cider! I would love a proper kitchen garden for growing vegetables in and a large greenhouse. I would be very happy spending hours gardening.
I love my allotment and garden at home very much though and would think of them fondly whilst trundling round my new acreage!

Pretend you know how to ..

(unfinished writing group homework – we had to pretend we knew how to do something}

How to learn to sing


Just open your lips and throw out the words

Shout them loud and get them heard.

If your voice starts to waver it’s doing you a favour,
You do better with falsetto if you’re wearing a stiletto.

Carry on until you’re hoarse, no it doesn’t sound worse

Get that Barry White grove cos you’ve got something to prove
Sometimes louder is best, ignore those who tell you to give it a rest
Carry on until the neighbours bang on the wall, they’re keeping time that’s all.

I stand in the field my arms out straight

I don’t take off, try as I might
I race round in circles finding the runway
Won’t take off even on Sunday
Chocs away

Engines revving

I can’t fly no matter how hard I try.
I’m trying in vain, maybe I need a plane?

Blade poised over soft pale skin
Patient out cold, then you begin
Incision – where to? decision
This operation needs precision.
Blood oozes, insides glisten
Heart beating still? Listen.
Bones revealed, gone too far

Flesh and muscles under the skin
Sown back together with blanket stitch
Patient will have a lovely scar
Which will slowly heal and itch.


{unfinished sample descriptions}


The water slurps over the edge of the rock and tumbles down smashing into the rock before hitting the pool below. Even on a sunny day the dark green smudges of moss would make this a cool place. The dark water ripples, deflects and hides what’s underneath. Eyes watch from under the far rock, a movement in the sky splashes caution around and the eyes disappear creating their own ripples as they move to a safer place.
There may be fish under that dark water that ripples with tiny bubble streams from the mini-waterfall, but you will not see them hidden in the dark shadows.




It’s a quiet shady corner, under a wild cherry tree. The undergrowth is full of colourful berries. The blackberries grow in a tangled mess. Black jewels waiting to be picked, inviting me to grab them. Barbed wire thorns protect the ones just out of reach which are perfectly formed, untouchable: delicate hanging mines with explosions of purple that will stain your hands. The red rose hips are like Christmas decorations along the fence. The dark soil exposed is a soft floor.
Leaves cling to a broken branch, wilted, the branch thick with peeling strands of dark bark striped with thin pale bands. It is cool all day. The sun only shines in first thing, yet the berries ripen, the plants grow and thrive.  You could sit against the fence and be hidden from everyone. People move their cars just the other side of the fence, Conversation drifts over, snippets picked up and go unheard, just words.
A spot to watch the foxes and crows, only the blackbird is wary. Stopping its little run to look, peck at the ground, look and run again.

The clang of the gate means the peace is broken, another allotmenter is here.

The day facebook died


The day facebook died.

The year was 2026, it was known as AF. After Facebook.

There had been rumours that facebook would just stop working one day. Almost every person on the planet had an account. Becoming plugged in to the network was essential if you wanted to do anything. Even going to the pub required a log in at the venue. Events were all organised via the app. It was inbuilt to every mobile phone. Babies were given accounts when they were registered. Their given name was their account name.

It had been slow to move up through the generations. People didn’t see the point of it in the early 2010s. It was only after voting for General elections was made available on a verified account that the seniors got into it. And then they did with a vengeance. There was a massive wave of silver surfers getting their accounts banned for various photos that just broke so many rules that you couldn’t imagine, nor would you want to see the wizened photos of old people’s genitalia.

The newspapers died by the end of the 2019. They’d been stealing news from the great god facebook for some months before their circulation trickled to a final halt and eventually stopped. All those unemployed journalists were already on facebook so just needed to create their own pages and groups to write their vitriol in. Saying goodbye to print media happened across the globe at the same time. Many countries had stopped using newspaper as a medium during the second twitter wars of 2015. It was only when twitter died and many newspapers were sued for publishing direct responses from twitter feeds that they folded and crumpled up like yesterdays chip wrappings.
The last remaining paper in the UK closed in October 2019. It was not a sad day. The journalists had long realised their fate. The public surged onwards with facebook news feeds providing them the option to customise local news to meet their needs.

The first rumour about facebook closing came after a COBRA meeting of the UK government. They had met to discuss security issues and a leak let slip that there was actually some major flaws in facebook. It was rumoured briefly that the opposition parties had been buying out companies who owned shares in facebook with plans to take it out of public ownership.

The government, eager to keep their hold on the country invented a new social media format called lifelook. Lifelook combined all the information from your health, social security records and employment history and combined them with the ability to post inane comments on what you were doing. It was brutally different from facebook where people could invent jobs or job titled and add spurious references to the university of life degree they’d earnt whilst backpacking across Kent.

There was an incentive to use Lifelook. It was a small monthly income for the first twelve months. This meant their servers were bursting at the seams with eager people desperate to scrap a few pennies together. The general economy had floundered but the information networks had flourished. Everything was online.

Writing group homework – Addiction


I am an addict

Addicted to you
Better I suppose
Than addicted to glue.

I need a fix every day

To see your smiles
Yes I would indeed
Walk those 500 miles.


Oh you’re the sting
That causes pain
Time without you
Drives me insane.


A day without you
In my sight
Just the thought

causes me fright!

When I’m not with you
I talk about you a lot
Constant word flow
Without a stop.


You make my heart sing
You are my love
Even though to touch you
I need to wear a glove.

Sometimes I sit besides you
Nearly on my knees
And watch you flying in
My pollen packed bees.





Writing group homework – inspired by a painting



Oh he told me he’d make it worth my while.
I don’t think he could now.
I’ve been sat in this bloody boat for hours on end in his grotty studio. Sat still whilst he whistled and painted and talked and went away and mixed paint and came back again all in a fluster because of something he’d drunk.

How he got the boat up the stairs I’ll never know. It’s a big boat really and then he’s propped it up on some work horses so it’s a bit precarious once you’re in. The getting in is more fun. I’m allowed to get out every hour if I need to, and so far I have needed to.

To climb out I must first wait for his assistant to arrive. He shouts him from the window and eventually the muddy urchin comes in from the garden. It may be a girl or boy I don’t know, but they help me out and I gingerly find my feet back on firm ground.
One time, on the third day I think, I almost slipped and fell disturbing the boat and drapes slightly, so he tore off and came back with nails and a hammer. He hammered the nails through the boat into the wooden stands and now it’s steady. Which is good as I can fidget slightly when he’s not looking.

If he catches me wriggling though he screams at me, louder than my mother ever could, telling me to sit still or I won’t get paid.

I’ve been sat here for weeks in this boat, wearing my hair exactly the same each day, brushed out against the white dress which has been washed less often than you’d imagine. I have one eye on him the other looking more forward. It is a painful pose to keep and the chin must be just so. It makes me ache thinking about it at night. I long for this painting to be finished.
It could be worse. He could have made me sit in the boat on the lake, but instead he’s filling the nature in from other drawings he’s made. Intricate sketches of tiny details that you won’t notice unless you stand staring at the painting for as long as I have sat here.

I once tried to talk to him about the painting and what it meant, he laughed and cursed a little at me for moving and then said nothing. His countenance glassy as if in a trance as the brush moved along the flow of the canvas.


As if sitting still wasn’t bad enough I’ve also got to hold my hand out and hold this chain. That has slipped several times as my fingers have numbed. He pinned the cuff to the boat rails to keep it in place and this must also now be undone before I am released from my prison.

Oh for this painting to be done! My mother says I should be happy he’s not painting me in the nude; she had laughed when I’d said I’d got a job working for John William Waterhouse. She hadn’t heard of him; neither had I. He studio was filled with canvases and sketches though, so I was reassured on my first visit that he was a real artist. She came with me then and he reassured her so boldly that my honour would remain intact: “Mrs Flora,” he said in his wonderful voice, “She is to be painted not to be ridden like a rantipole.”


He has spent a week on the candles, lighting and relighting them until they looks dribbled enough. It is a work of art placing all the objects around the picture to fill in the spaces with colour. I am dizzied some afternoons by the warm smell of linseed oil and turpentine filling the room. I dream it is finished and one day soon it will be. I can tell by the look on his face today he is almost done.

Short story writing group homework – Stain

The coffee table tells it’s tales on you. The litter of magazines show your interests are varied. The paperback bent back on itself stays open tells me you are not a tender lover of books. The coffee stained rings that cover everything show you like drinking coffee and that you are messy. The empty mugs crowd one corner like they started walking to the kitchen on their own when their green fluffy innards outgrew the pool of coffee drying at the bottom.
On the floor lies an empty green glass wine bottle. It’s spilled its blood on the carpet and this has dried some time ago. There is dust on the bottle and I can not read the label without getting closer. And I am not going any closer that furry floor than I have to.
This is your life: the chaos of your lounge shows me who you are more than your curriculum vitae ever will. The program with the little red book couldn’t unearth the secrets your living space reveal.

You’ve at least tried to have a wash. I can see you’ve eaten what looks like egg or mustard recently though as your t-shirt is marked with a cowardly yellow streak. You could have brushed your hair though. You look like you’ve just woken up. You probably have. You have a tiny white dried spit trail from the corner of your mouth. Your face is marked with red lines where your cheek has been squashed on a pillow, and your face looks like it’s lopsided.


(ending one)
You blink at me as if you are surprised I am here. Do you remember calling us? I take your wrist in my purple gloved hand and feel for a pulse. There is one but it is weak. You open your eyes and see me as if for the first time. Confusion bursts from your mouth in a garbled chatter of nonsense that I struggle to understand.
“Slow down,” I tell you, “You’ve rung us because you think you’re having a stroke.”
Your head nods in an uncoordinated way and I realise you are now fitting.
We move you on to the floor and into the right position to stop you from smashing your skull open on the coffee table legs. I am now knelt on the crusted floor. The smell of the sick that oozes slowly from your mouth doesn’t bother me as much as the sight of the crushed mouse over by your kitchen door. It is caught under an encyclopaedia and has withered and dried like some ancient artefact to be entombed with the pharaoh. Through the doorway I see green wine bottles stacked in rows like a hidden army. It crosses my mind as I carry out my job that you probably couldn’t get into the kitchen to cook anything, but as I deal with your wasted body I suspect you don’t worry about food. My buddy goes out and fetches in the trolley and for a minute I am alone with you in this bleak room, feeling the pressure of your life weigh down on me.
Once you are stabilised then we move you onto the trolley to take you away.
My knees are stained and there is what could be a raisin stuck to my glove. I pull your front door shut behind us.

(ending two)
You blink at me as if you are surprised I am here as you adjust your seated position on the couch. The time was pre-arranged as to give you time to prepare. Your interview outfit is not the usual one I see, I make a note of the things I have already spotted and start the interview proper.

These webcam interviews have been a genius idea. The person who suggested them has been rewarded with a suitable bonus. My company likes to reward those who come up with good ideas. I suspect you sat there in your holey stained t-shirt are not going to be one of them.
You surprise me though with a clear confident tone, and your knowledge of our sector is evident. You are enthusiastic and keen to answer my questions. Your answers are flawless, perfect, and if it were not for the evidence of grot and mess around you then I would have already given you the job.

Only when you swung the webcam around to show me the rest of your studio and the three sets you had laid out for me that I realised you had played me for a fool.

Whilst you are the perfect set designer, you are actually as scruffy as you appeared that first day on the webcam. As you add the last perfect prop to the scene for Lady Mountford’s argument with Lord Markson I notice that you have that holey t-shirt on and there is still a yellow stain on the front.