Wednesday 17 April 2013

Soap Soliloquy

It is said that the humble bar of soap is going out of fashion, with a majority of people now opting to use shower gel instead. It is claimed that in our busy lives, this is a more efficient way of washing ourselves and that it is more cost effective.
When I say that there is more to a bar of soap than just washing, I hope that you will not think that I am referring to anything untoward, it is just that bar soap purchase and use, requires more attention than just sloshing a gel out of a plastic bottle. I'm not actually going to write about all the things that you can do with soap apart from washing. You can find plenty of articles on the internet about this; and of course they are all fascinating! So if you are really bored out of your skull, get searching and reading about soap use. You may then find that the things that you thought were so boring, were actually rather exciting.
My interest in soap, (some would say predilection,) stems from the days in my youth, when at home we had to make do with some very basic blocks of the stuff. My mother would buy bags of the cheapest and most colourful kind of soap. She was moved to do so out of need for economy, but I remember that the soap would function for about a half of its volume, when it would then resemble a fragrance and lather free block of wood which would resist any further use.
Her sister, unburdened by the costs associated with having any children, by not having any children, used a more upmarket soap. This was not actually much more expensive, but my aunt made my mother feel that it was the pinnacle of soapy excellence, because she saved the end stubs of her soap and gave them to my mother for her use and delectation.
Quite naturally this infuriated my mother, who felt looked down upon as a poor relation. So the gift of soap stubs was a fester in the mind of one sister and a graceful and generous act in the mind of the other. Nothing was actually ever said about the matter. 
After I left home and went to sea, the quality of soap that came my way did not improve. The shipping company I worked for provided us with a bar of "Buttermilk" soap each week. After a period of about ten years of using this self same soap practically every day, my ennui  was such that I was encouraged to become more adventurous when it came to the time that I had to purchase my own.
Perhaps it can be said that I was a lucky man for not ever having to buy a bar of soap until I was 25; but by that time I felt like a change. Even small differences can make your life feel more interesting.

I was living in Singapore as a student and I discovered in one of the Indian shops in Change Alley, a stock of Morny soaps. They were big and round and looked like the type of spheroids used in lawn bowling, only slightly smaller and more fragrant. I could not really afford them, but I bought three anyway. Back in my rented room, my bathing arrangements consisted of a tin can with a wooden handle across the top. This can had to be dipped into a big earthenware tub of cold water and then you poured it over your head. Even in these simple surroundings, the use of my new soap made the whole ritual seem more luxurious. Overnight I became a soap aficionado. 

Now in later life I continue to find and use many different brands of bar soap. If asked if I follow the soaps, my reply is that I most certainly do. In a sheltered life, this is about as adventurous as it gets.


Thursday 11 April 2013

Don't Stone The Crows.

When a raucous and unruly gang of Carrion Crows gather in the garden at the crack of  dawn each morning, to unleash a jarring and loud cacophony of their version of "song", I am reminded, (actually I never forgot,) of just why these birds are no favourites of mine.
There is however, a reason why I do not berate them for their lack of melody and why I do nothing to deter them. These crows do not like their cousins the Magpies and I agree with them in that.
Both types of birds are omnivorous, but the Magpies are voracious nest robbers, whilst the Crows, though egg eaters, are less of a danger to other birds in this respect. You only have to witness Magpies attacking and eating young nestlings a few times, to find yourself beginning to dislike them. They may only be doing what comes naturally to them to fend for themselves, but I would rather that they wouldn't do it in my sight.
Now, when Carrion Crows are in the area, they do not tolerate the presence of the Magpies and because the Crows are bigger and stronger, the latter tend to keep out of their way and this helps to reduce the number of songbird nests that get destroyed in the garden.
Last year it so happened that a pair of Magpies built their domed twig nest in a nearby tree and the female laid a clutch of eggs. One morning about six crows flew in from all points of the compass. Some of them distracted the breeding pair, whilst the others gained access to the nest and breakfasted on the eggs.
Call me a unfeeling ghoul, but I was quite happy with that result. 

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Wednesday 10 April 2013

Paper Before Patients.

For years now there has been a general awareness that bureaucratic insistence on excessive paperwork, has resulted in reduced standards of care within the NHS.
We have been repeatedly told that this is being addressed and things are going to improve. Unfortunately, people in the pen-pusher positions never write themselves out of a job. As they have to look as though they are doing something to earn their keep, they write new instructions and design more forms to be filled up at the coal face.
My wife has been working on the hospital wards for over seven years and she reports that there is now a greater preponderance of required paperwork than ever.
Last month a new form covering patient wellness came into force. This is supposed to be filled in every hour for each patient. If implemented as written, the sleeping sick would need to be awakened in pursuit of their wellness. Most of them have said emphatically that they will call if they are feeling unwell.
The idea is meant to be helpful, but the result is just another time wasting exercise, which results in nurses having even less time to spend with their charges.