Janice's blog

Thursday, April 08, 2004


Ineptitude, frustration and the NHS

Yesterday in the morning my sensitive tooth felt sore so I wanted to rub some Sensodyne into it and discovered that there was a chunk out of it right at the gumline. I was worried (in case the nerve got inflamed) and called the dentist. The receptionist told me there were no emergency appointments until Tuesday because of staffing shortages and Easter and that I should go to the Emergency Dental clinic at London Hospital, Whitechapel. Off I went and found a clinic that had a notice, open after 7pm. I decided to call the dental office back to let her know and ask for alternatives. The receptionist told me to go to the one on New Road, third floor, around the corner.

I arrived at a very nasty building, rode the list to the third floor, where I was told by an officious woman I should be on the first floor. I walked down two floors and walked into another reception area. There was a large open floor with people being worked on, and three receptionists who were not too interested in looking up to greet me. The third one looked up lazily and greeted me the traditional London way: a'right? Not really, I replied, no one has helped me yet. (OK, OK. I was stroppy...) After telling her I needed emergency dental, she informed me it was on the first floor. I thought I was already there but apparently this was again the third. Could the lift buttons have been wrong, could I have hit 5 by mistake. Who knows!

On the first floor was a waiting room filled with very bored people. Another receptionist was chatting to a friend on her phone and tried to avoid catching my eye. I went ahead anyway and told her I need an appointment. She told me that to get one I would have to be there by 7:15am. Since it was noon, I left and walked over to Brick Lane to have some lunch, walked along Bethnal Green Road to my bus home.

Once at home I called the dental office receptionist again. I told her what I had been told. She was defensive, saying she didn't know. I told her she did now. She brusquely asked me to hold while she talked to a patient. I then listened to her laughing and flirting to two male patients, telling them cheerfully about they could come back for an emergency appointment if they wanted, while wondering if all female patients or just this one were treated with the opposite kind of response.

Back on the line with me, the tone was again one of annoyance. I could come in on Tuesday at 9am and sit with two other hopeful emergency patients waiting for a gap to be seen. I decided that I would try to do this rather than brave the nastiness of the emergency clinic, barring excruciating pain between now and then. She did, however, wonder if I'd tried St Leonard's (this was the first mention of the place). Seeing as I had an appointment there later, I called them to be told that they did not see emergency patients and would I like to come in in June... (sigh).

So far this week has been dismal, for reasons I am too depressed to talk about yet -- oh, I will! I've wasted time, more money than I am comfortable with, and dealt with people whose own agenda was more important even when I was the customer.

OK, I've been pretty negative. I will end by saying that my visit to St. Leonard's was mostly really good. I called ahead to say that I was going to be out of the country and would that affect the delivery of the results of the pap test I was going to have. I was told no and to come in. I arrived during yet another cold blustery shower that dampened my already sagging (and soggy) spirit. The front door was closed and a notice asked me to go to the back door. At the visitors' gate I asked the guard where the entrance was and he got out of his booth and walked me partway explaining cheerfully how to get the rest of the way. Bliss. A customer service person who cares! At the clinic I was reminded how nice the women were. The nurse sat and took time with me over a questionnaire, smiling and commenting and giving me advice along the way. She was reassuring about my blood pressure ('it's just fine!') and gave me a reasonably comfortable exam, chatting along the way. It almost fell apart when I reminded her that I might be away when the results came in. "We don't like people to come in for tests if they will be away during the following three months," she explained. "They should have cancelled." Well, damn!


Thursday, April 01, 2004


If Women Ruled the World -- the DE UK mailing list asked us to discuss this.

I think the most important point covered by the show -- which showed some hypothetical ways the world would change if women were the dominant gender -- was how differently women would work if they could. This same point was brought up at the Women in IT conference some of us attended last year. Women -- especially those with families and an even more special case for those older women in the sandwich generation living with children and aging parents -- find the 9 to 5 work day stifling. Greater flexibility in hours and workplace arrangements, telecommuting, acceptance of need to take care of family business without workplace/career penalty, would all make the working woman's world more palatable. The show highlighted the woman's day in an exaggerated but reasonably accurate fashion -- get up, make sure the rest of the family get off on the right foot, go to work, business lunch or eat at your desk, finish work, go home -- probably late, take care of family matters interspersed with business interruptions, go to bed, get up and start over. It is absolutely true that the working week is oriented towards the needs of the male.

Someone on the list asked why a woman of 50+ would be considering a new baby. IMO this is not farfetched. Older women going through menopause often have these thoughts, albeit nostalgic. Older women suddenly single may also experience fear that their final chances for motherhood are gone. And older women in second relationships also have these thoughts -- a new baby with a new man. If in the future -- as portrayed by this show -- they did not have to go through the pregnancy, did not have to worry about the health issues older motherhood may bring to themselves or offspring, and did not to pay the workplace/career penalties, this could certainly become somewhat of a reality.

The difficult part for me was seeing that the generation above and below the woman featured were not happy with things. Perhaps this is realistic -- generational gaps in philosophy will always exist. However, it did paint a picture of a world that may not progress in the right direction and of a status quo that might be flawed. So the writers' biases were showing. They were also showing when they portrayed men as the underdog, fighting for equal opportunity. I'd like to think that if women were ever ruling the world, we could take our own experiences and create an empathetically correct world for men.


Wednesday, February 18, 2004


I'm learning Jaws. It's a program that allows blind people to use the internet. So far I hate learning it. My menopausal brain can't retain all the details. Anyway, enough of that -- I already mentioned it once. I must be obsessed.

Today I went to Ludgate Hill to meet Andy for lunch. St Paul's has more scaffolding. The front of the building (or is that the back!) has a bizarre screen hiding the scaffolding with a screening of the actual building on it. Ludgate Hill has this ambience that reeks of old London, who knows what era. I imagine women with bustles and umbrellas and horses and carts. I don't know why. I just felt it, like ghosts along the road.

I'm totally unmotivated to do my walk today. I haven't missed too many. It is day 17 of my eat less move more plan. I refuse to weigh myself. I had a thought, you see. I am trying to feel and be healthier. So if it's about how I feel, why bother with the numbers? It's immaterial. After two weeks of feeling stagnant but sticking to it, on Monday suddenly I felt different. My jeans felt less tight, my body felt different inside my clothes. That felt great. Today I am more used to this newish me and I feel normal again. On to the next plateau!


Sunday, February 15, 2004


I'm back in London.

It's weird but I have culture shock. I have forgotten how to do things but at least I immediately remembered that the traffic travels on the left. I was nervous about that one.

London is unruly. It came to me in a rush almost as soon as I landed. It's chaotic and, despite the fact that rules are posted and broadcast by PA, by notice and billboard, by newspaper, radio and TV, There Are No Rules. People vault over barriers, they careen around in their cars assuming no one will notice that they are breaking the highway code, they sneak ahead of you in line/queue whatever you call it where you live, they ignore grammatical rules...innit? they travel without tickets, they are children grown very large and with money in their pockets. They look that way too. In London faces are a study in themselves. Looking around I see the oddest ones -- distorted, disproportionate, lopsided, with features at odd with themselves.

Toronto is orderly, neat and lawful.

So why do I love London? I could say I don't know...well, I don't completely...but its character is seductive. To be part of the chaos, or rather to stand just outside the chaos and look in, gets my imagination going. I walk around writing stories in my head, stories that rarely end up written down. The English don't really know they are odd, and of course they are not to themselves, but to this observer they are very odd. They are lumbering through life somehow hitting on getting through it, managing things despite everything, defying people like me who wonder how ANYTHING gets done, how I can possibly trust my life to a bus driver who can't converse above a grunt, and managing to remain fascinating and delightful.

In other words -- I hit on this the other day -- orderly and lawful can equal bland very quickly. Chaos is sexy.

Talking of chaos. Here is my life in a nutshell right now:

I have an article to write that I can't begin because I don't seem to have anything to say -- about social networking. The deadline is about three weeks away and I am terrified!

I am supposed to start writing for www.kwickee.com which is a fantastic idea if I ever get around to it. I also started teaching again -- I teach disabled adults to use the internet -- and they gave me a blind student. Next thing I know I am being hustled off to learn Jaws. It's absolutely dreadful. I will NEVER remember all those keystrokes. I'm a menopausal woman FFS!

On top of that I had to go to this very smelly flat in a horrible part of London and use a nasty 'lift' to go to the 12th floor (I am elevator phobic!) for each lesson. Shoot me! This week I have DE UK meetngs and they are counting on me to resurrect their zine which has just stalled -- am I CRAZY?

I'm going to a conference all day Friday for women who want to start their own business. I even get to have a personal coach -- yay! Fantastic but time consuming.

Finally next Monday I have my yearly mammogram and much more scared than I let anyone know.


Wednesday, January 07, 2004


Christmas came and went! I am finally on my way back to London and leave on January 26. I'm really looking forward to it, and more so as the temperature here plunges. I find myself wondering if anything will be familiar in London and suddenly remembering things and, oh yeah, that's it... Will I feel like a stranger or will everything come rushing back to me the minute I hit Paddington Station?

Hackney will seem very odd indeed after pristine Toronto. Even this scrubby Chinatown back alley is neat and clean compared to the avenues of Hackney! Will I be repelled or will I embrace them?

Robin is backsliding but I can't stay. I will do what I can in these next few weeks -- can you say concerted effort -- and launch him solo once again. I'll be back in June, after all.

I was talking to Geoffrey Rockwell (hi, GR!) about the guilt of not blogging. Well, it seems it's not just neurotic moi who has these thoughts. Unlike you, GR, I am not convinced that a blog is dying if time goes by without blogging...my blog evolves and morphs as it will...it's just the tides of time, the state of my mind, my desire to share, my need to SPEW... So, hell, it's my blog and I'll write if I want to!


Wednesday, November 26, 2003


Louise has inspired me to blog again. I was worried about not having something to say every day. But guess what, in her lovely blog she posts infrequently but eloquently. There's a lot to be said today but it's mostly feisty BP-raising rants so I shan't bother. Not now, anyway.

I am still in Toronto, feeling trapped.

Yesterday I was thinking quite seriously about going back to my original plan of gong back to London with Robin and then returning to Toronto mid-January with him; mostly because i feel so at odds here and missing K and thinking his rent situation is not letting him come here. Then I realised that Robin's benefit situation is in the same place so i feel trapped. Everything was galloping along with Robin seeing so many people, including the Best Doctor For Aspergers In The City, and now it's just stalled. He needs to get his benefit application sorted out because the BDFAITC confirms that Robin probably can't work. Until this is well underway, we can't go anywhere but WHO STARTS IT?

That's enough ranting for today. I'm off to have breakfast and shop!


Fees for writing. I am sick and tired of people who want to hire me not just telling me how much they want to pay. When they ask me, it puts me in a jam and it's bloody dishonest. I've had enough of saying something and then finding out they would have paid much more (and have to someone else). It's about tiem they just come clean and stop the insanity!

You know, I started writing (for money) in 19bloody83 and in this entire time no one has come clean about MONEY! FFS. What's the problem?


Saturday, October 11, 2003


Woke up early this morning and Kat was already awake. Groping my way to the balcony, I opened the door and was staring at a bright full moon directly ahead. Didn't it know it should have set?

Some thoughts on Toronto, anyway. It's so fucking clean. Why did I never notice? People are casual...yes, that's the word. They play on the streets. Streetcars are full of people who while away time between spots on the map and the air conditioned subway cars are like moving cocktail parties without the cocktails -- everyone chatting politely, the younger ones showing off to each other. You could eat off the floor of some stations. Well, maybe not. I shall wander off to the balcony now and stare a bit at the backside of Chinatown and the Sony screen announcing the latest issue of Sing Tao (in both Mandarin and English) and then away we go to the farmers market.


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