Two class society, the digital TV divide

There’s a news item today about the fact that Cumbria will be the first region in the UK to switch over from analogue TV to digital TV. The transmitter in Whitehaven will be switched over on October 1st 2007. The item on the TV news described the complete cock up by the government, in its attempt to help the ‘old and vulnerable’ to get their TVs sorted out with set top boxes. Basically, they will have to change the law because the Data Protection Act prohibits the Department of Work and Pensions giving details of the ‘old and vulnerable’ to the department that is going to help the ‘old and vulnerable’ get their TVs ready for digital broadcasts. The law will be changed several months after the switch over. Nobody will be surprised about this.

However, nobody seems to be bothered by the great chunks of the UK who can’t receive and digital terrestrial broadcasts however many set top boxes they buy. In fact, where I live in the Peak District, I can’t even receive analogue TV except for BBC1 and the reception is awful. Its better in the winter where there’s fewer leaves on the trees.

At least analogue TV is trying to get through. Some Digital Radio isn’t even bothering at all. My local transmitter in Chesterfield transmits at 6W, just enough power to not quite reach the edges of Chesterfield itself, let alone the rest of Derbyshire. Oxfordshire’s Beckley transmitter in contrast covers Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire.

It looks as if the BBC might have to recommend that everybody use Sky, its main competitor as satellite is available to everyone.

Who needs a colon anyway!

August 2nd 2006 is the day I had my colon removed. As you know from previous posts, up until now I’ve been rather ill with Ulcerative Colitis. Well finally the medical profession have given me up as a bad job and passed me over to the surgical team to remove my colon. They have not just removed my colon, they have also built a ‘pouch’ out of the end of my small intestine, which will replace my rectum. This also had to be removed as part of my colon.

The reason they can’t just remove the diseased part is that the good bit of my colon will also get Ulcerative Colitis if they leave it there. The operation is called a restorative procto colectomy – which means that I will have a illeostomy bag for a few months while the ‘pouch’ bit heals  and then they will put it all back together again hopefully.

OK what did I think of it all then? Well the operation took about five and a half hours and afterwards I felt terrible. I felt so sick for about 3 days afterwards. I also could hardly move. Now I thought that once you had the operation, after a few days you are up and about. What a shock I had. Not only do they remove half your digestive system, but they also render you completely immobile. Initially you can’t even roll over in bed let alone get up and walk. Finally after a week or so you can stagger to the loo, and as soon as that happens they say “Right, Mr Sheppard, you can go home now”.

I have to say, the care I received from the staff at the John Radcliffe was fantastic. The nurses were absolutely brilliant and so were the doctors, I feel very privileged to have some of the top people in their fields looking after me. (Tell me, what is the point of going private?) As an observer, all I can see is the medical staff trying to get on with their job while the Government does its utmost to interfere and  make their lives as difficult as possible, while bleating on about how much money they are costing.

Well all I can say is thank you very much NHS, I feel really cared for and looked after. That sounds a bit sarcastic. Its not meant to be. I really do feel very cared for by the NHS

Getting a prescription from your GP (Part 2)

Well, my experience with prescriptions has reached new heights of ridicule this month. A few days ago at the end of June, we moved from Oxford to Derbyshire, in fact we actually now live in the Peak District. Due to my massive drugs requirement from the NHS I need frequent top ups with drugs, hence an inevitable visit to the doctors.
Having got over initially being treated as an asylum seeker as I had little documentation and “we’ll have to wait for your notes” etc etc, the doctor finally agreed to give me some more drugs. I actually only needed 4 folic acid tablets to last me 1 month. Now this is the kind of drug the NHS likes to prescribe because we patients get stung for £6.65 and it will cost about 20p for a 20 tablet packet.
However, not content with this amazing profit, the doctor actually prescribed 4 tablets, so the pharmacist had to cut out 4 tablets from the strip. Thus rendering the rest of the strip of tablets probably unusable. This must have saved the NHS 16p I only needed 4 tablets because I was due to have an operation in 1 month. I know the NHS never cancel operations these days but you can never tell.

Directory Enquiries

OK, this isn’t about ringing anybody up, this is about using the Internet to find out the telephone number of a business. To be specific, I wanted to find out the non emergency number of the police in Oxford so I could report a car which looked as if it had been stolen, then crashed and then dumped outside our house

I first tried BT ( and at the bottom they offer “The phone book” and then helpfully “Find a person” and “find a business”. So I clicked on the latter and duly entered police and Oxford. It first wanted to clarify that this was the Oxford that you find in Oxfordshire, as opposed to the Oxford you might find in Stoke on Trent or did I really mean Oxford Circus in London.

Once we had clarified that it then listout out all the entries it had for “police” in Oxford. After some entry headed Oxford City Council (which if I had read it properly would have been the right one) starts off with the Anti-terrorist hotline and then lists all the telephone numbers for the Hertfordshire Constabulary! I’m not kidding. After headquarters, its followed by ‘stations’ Baldock, Berkhampstead, Bishops Stortford, Borehamwood etc etc.

So I decided to try YELL ( which went the opposite way. This told me “2 results for police, No results in Oxford so your search has been widened to Oxfordshire” How ever did Morse manage. Clearly St Aldates Police Station doesn’t really exist. Whatever do they do in that building opposite the Courst Of Justice in St Aldates. Their next suggestion was “Henley Police Station” Well done YELL, you are several miles closer than BT can manage. To be fair to Yell, the next entry was the right one, and to be fair to BT the first entry under Oxford City Council was also the right one but it was completely confusing. What has the Thames Valley Police got to do with Oxford City Council

Aren’t solicitors wonderful

I’m in the process of buying and selling a house and can’t wait to tell you how wonderful solicitors are. My own solicitor is not only handling the selling of my own house but also handling the purchase of my new house – all at the same time. Now, he was instructed with these two transactions in only March this year and after only 9 weeks he called us into the office to sign the documentation, as he said, “because we are ready to move”. Very exciting this was.

Now, poor lamb hadn’t actually had the time to read much of the stuff, so when we arrived he needed to read each document before telling us the answers to our questions. But never mind. The trouble is despite the fact that I told him at the begining of April that there was a problem with the boundaries, he hadn’t noticed until we saw him that he was only dealing with half the property. However, and this was the fantastic bit, he had noticed that we didn’t own the access to the house and therefore coudn’t get in the door. What would we do without him. I’m so glad he told us because I’d really quite forgotton that this was exactly the problem I tried to explain to him in early April, unfortunately he wouldn’t listen because he said it would be all sorted out when the ‘deeds’ came in.

As he’s such a brilliant chap, he’d got straight on to the sellers solicitor and queried this, hadn’t he, well er no actually he hadn’t. Still he’s been very busy, his office was absolutely covered in files and folders; he must find it really difficult to find anything.

No matter I rang him the next day to check things were progressing and he told me that the sellers solicitor had that very day written to tell him about the second Land registry document that they had forgotton to send him. Unfortunately both of them had forgotton again about the little strip of land that allows you to get to the front door but it was OK because I’d found that for hime so he didn’t need to worry. I’d found it by going to the land registry website and putting in the postcode – bit tricky really.

I wonder when we are going to exchange contracts

I can’t wait to tell you how wonderful solicitors are.

Getting a prescription from your GP

I have to say I have a bit of a love hate relationship with my GP surgery. Basically when I feel they are looking after me, I love them and sing their praises, but the rest of the time they are driving me MAD!

I’ve attended my local surgery for the past 21 years (plus) and I can see that some aspects of it have really deteriorated, yet others have improved. They used to open late and they used to open on saturday mornings. This meant that I was able to go there without missing work. Now I have to go during work time which means I lose money. 20 quid per hour probably doesn’t seem much when you are on £80,000 – £100,000 per year as GPs allegedly are.

The thing that really annoys me to death is their policy on prescriptions. Basically you are only allowed to ring up to request a repeat prescription between the hours of 12:00 and 16:00 hours Monday to Friday. I rang up today and it was 16:30 and the receptionist wouldn’t take the prescription because I was half an hour late ringing up for it. Years ago you could ring up any time. Not only that but if you deign to ring at the right time they won’t have it ready for you until the after 2:00pm of the day after the next day. So ring up 12:00 midday on Monday and you can pick up the prescription after 2:00pm on Wednesday. However, I don’t finish ’till 6:00pm so they will be shut then and ….. Grrrrrrrr!

I have to admit that there’s a ton of work to be done during those 48 hours. The receptionist will have ticked some boxes to pick up the items one requires.
She will then click a button and the prescription will be printed out. The doctor then has to …..wait for it ….. sign the piece of paper! How does the doctor manage to fit it all in? The receptionist will have already checked that the patient is allowed to have this medication as its all preapproved in the notes. So in view of all this work, its probably pretty good to get it  done so quickly. I just marvel at how they used to turn around a prescription in a day – years ago – because back then they had to write out the prescription by hand as well.

While we are on the subject of value for money, I took in my NPPL (National private pilots licence) medical certificate to be countersigned in the autumn. They wanted £100 for doing it. I asked around the flying community and nobody had ever been charged that much before.

We have decided to move to the Peak District! A bit dramatic I know but it’s not just becuase of the prescriptions.

Education in the UK

As mentioned in a previous post, I’m really sad about the NHS. But I’m really angry about the way successive labour governments have completely screwed up the education system in this country. And intervening Tory governments have done nothing to repair the damage. Just like the NHS they continue to out do one another in see who can mess it up the most.

Having screwed it up for everybody else, its now not good enough for Tony Blairs children, so he sends his own children to a selective fee paying independant school. What staggering hypocracy. It says in the introduction to ‘The Oratory School’ on their website;

Boys enter the school either at the age of 13 through the Scholarship
or Common Entrance Examinations, or at 11 by a brief, informal
interview and examination, or by direct entry into the Sixth Form
depending on GCSE results.

And now he is ramming a new Education Bill down our throats that makes it illegal for state schools to have any form of selection. Yet paradoxically, by doing this, the Labour government is actually forcing the ‘Good’ schools to only have wealthy parents children, and poor parents children will only be able to go to the duff schools.

The reason for this is that the children are now only chosen by their proximity to the school. Therefore house prices in catchment areas of good schools are much higher than similar houses near failing schools. At least if the allowed academic selection it would allow children from poorer families attend the so-called ‘good’ schools.

They really can’t see beyond the next election can they, or maybe their party political prejudices blind them to the reality of what they are doing.

Konica Minolta

For serious amateur photographers, some shocking news was announced today. Konica Minolta have decided, after 103 years to quit the photography business. You can read al about it here. Personally I’m stunned having just purchased a Konica Minolta Dynax 5D SLR! Its the most fantastic camera I have ever used.

I was a bit  concerned when the merger was announced between Konica and Minolta in 2004, because I could see Konica must be struggling as they manufacture photographic film and paper. I wonder if this has pulled both companies down. The are not closing down completely, just concentrating on other aspects of their business, medical imaging and photocopying etc. They are transferring some of their digital SLR assets to Sony who are bring out a new range of cameras in the summer using the Minolta mount lenses – so hopefuly, Minolta lenses are still going to be made. They say in their announcement,

“…In this relation, we have decided to withdraw from camera business (except for digital SLR cameras and interchangeable lenses produced for Sony.), such as film cameras and digital cameras, within Konica Minolta Group as of March 31, 2006. …”

I wonder if reading this again, they are going to stop making all film cameras and all digital cameras but will carry on making Konica Minolta digital SLR cameras which Sony will market under their name. I hope this is a correct reading of the announcement, as I feel very sad that one of the most technically advanced cameras on the market should just be dumped.

The NHS tragedy

I feel really sad and upset about the state of the NHS. As a ‘user’ of the service for the last 50 odd years I have watched as the health service has deteriorated over that period. Successive governments and professional bodies have joined forces to create a synergetic partnership of incompetence. Each body seems to stuggle to outdo their predecessor in screwing things up. Anyone who works ‘on the front line’ must be very demoralised and disheartened to see the authorities putting bigger obstacles in the way of them getting on with your work.

I’ve just spent nearly 2 weeks in hospital at the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford. The standard of care from the staff has been absolutely fantastic. The doctors have been trying everything to sort out my disease and the nurses and other staff have worked hard to make my stay as comfortable as possible. And now we hear on the news that the Oxfordshire NHS has overspent by £15 million this year. What do they mean ‘overspent’. Basically I assume some bean counter who knows nothing about anything (probably a politician then) has decreed that Oxfordshire NHS receives £Xmillion for this financial year. They spent £15 million more than this. What does that mean; the bean counter guessed wrong? Oh no, patients are to be denied care so that the bean counter and its political masters don’t look stupid, because obviously that’s most important. Other things that are more important are spending billions on messing things up in Iraq so that we are keeping that jerk in the White House happy.

Listen UK Government, we don’t want choice for where we go to hospital, and we don’t want you to waste our money in Iraq. What we want is for the local hospital were we live to provide us with the medicines and care to make us well. We don’t care whether you think they have spent more than you think they ought to have done. They obviously didn’t spend it on big nights out and lavish dinners for international guests like you did at the G8 summit in the summer, they spent it on keeping the NHS going. Are you listening Mr Blair. Or is this a master plan to deny Gordon the chance to play at being PM.

A weekend at Askern

Landing MW6 Askern Fly-in is the last fly-in of the year for the MW Club. As mentioned previously my one desire has been to get back into flying and I had a real treat this weekend. Everyone seemed keen to encourage me to fly my machine and I’d like to thank everyone for their efforts. Primarily to Mick for building such a fantastic machine, then to Toby and Bob for taking me up and giving me a great experience. Bob particularly for pushing me until I could roughly get a circuit right without killing myself. The photo above shows me coming in for my first attempt at landing. The flying was terrible but I got the approach reasonably good, perhaps the nose is a bit high. Anyway, my next 2 flights, the flying improved immensly and the approach and landing got worse! I can’t wait until the Spring when I can start getting my licence back.