Friday, September 21, 2012

One Down, Three to Go

Woohoo, I have my Albanian police check! One down, three to go. My former director (of the school I taught in) took my scanned passport & parents full names (that's all he needed...??) along to the scruffy little office, paid over the money & a week later they have it. And it cost about a tenth of what the international police checks website over here was going to charge. Yay!

I must say I rather enjoyed the moment when a former Albanian colleague sent me an email saying her husband had 'contacts' in the government if I wanted him to 'fix it' for me.....Ah, I felt briefly nostalgic for that Albanian way of life which relies not only, negatively, on corruption & bribes, but also is fundamentally built on relationships, networks & who you know who can sort something for you.  It made me smile.

Speaking of Albania, we have an Albanian friend staying with us for three weeks, while she finishes her PhD.  She is pregnant & is trying desperately to finish by the end of October. As a result of her arrival I have been neurotically cleaning the house. Albanians are obsessed with cleaning their homes. The day she arrived she offered to help  me with cleaning. She looked around & said "It's fine, but if you would like me to help you do a really good clean, we could put our trainers on & spend Saturday doing that'. Not my idea of a fun weekend, but clearly my idea of cleaning is not hers either.... You can take a girl out of Albania, but you can't take Albania out of the girl obviously........ I had cleaned the house from top to bottom the day she arrived. I felt a bit deflated.All that effort to waste! I clean it once a week, not everyday. I remembered how I used to move the mop round the flat to make it look like I had cleaned in between my Albanian cleaners 2 weekly THREE hour visits.

Today she came home & saw some rubber gloves on the stairs & wagged her finger at me & said "Have you been cleaning the house without me?" I confessed I had been.

Tomorrow is Saturday. I'm hoping for a lie in, but maybe I'll offer to polish the door handles, to appease her. Or maybe it's just that she's pregnant & it's the Albanian form of nesting kicking in.  In which case I should let her embrace it & get on with it. After all I'm not pregnant....or Albanian.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Fine Upstanding Citizen in Search of Work

Just how hard can it be to work in this country? Clearly the answer is quite hard, if you work with children & need a CRB check.

First of all I discovered you can't apply for one as an individual. You can't 'submit yourself' to investigation & police checks, to prove what a fine upstanding citizen you are. . Oh no, Heaven forbid. An organisation has to do it for you. So I can't work as a freelance supply teacher without a CRB, but to get a CRB I need to have a job or work for an agency.

So I decide to apply to work for a supply agency. I fill in an application & cough up £50. I am slightly concerned that 2 of my last 3 addresses from the last 5 years are foreign ones & wonder how they will check those out.

Imagine my surprise when my CRB comes back within 2 weeks. wow, that was a bit easy I muse. Furtehrmore the Supply Agency tell me it has 'full portability' which besides meaning it's a flimsy bit of paper which tucks neatly into any handbag, it more importantly means I can use it to work in other places.Yay!

Today I spoke to the personnel manager (yes in a school - how times have changed...) of a large secondary school which needed an English supply teacher & where I had heard on my social grapevine that there was  a part time job coming up soon.

Turns out that they won't accept my agency CRB (as most schools wouldn't she said) so I need to pay out another £50 for another CRB to be done (my CRB certificate has only been in my grasp for two days & it's already out of date/invalid) & furthermore I would need police checks done for Sri Lanka & Albania too. Hmm, that could prove tricky. Then she dropped her final bombshell. "Actually, just looking at your CV, I see you worked in France & South Africa too. You actually need a police check done in every country you have worked in since you were 18"........

Long silence.

"You mean when I worked in South Africa 24 yrs ago & when I worke din Paris 23 years ago, I need a police check done?"

Yes, we wouldn't even consider you until the police checks were in place"

"But I worked for Oxfordshire for 15 years, after living in South Africa & France, &was 'CRB-ed' no problem. How come it was ok then but isn't now?"

She said, rather prissily;

"I'm not saying this is you, but look at what Gary Glitter got up to in those countries he visited years ago."

Another long silence. What can I say to that? Guilty until proven innocent.....

So even though I worked for Oxfordshire L.E.A for 15 yrs before moving abroad, complete with a CRB check, to work in Oxfordshire again now I have to have police checks for when I was abroad before I ever worked for Oxfordshire. Seems a tad illogical to me. I guess I never had an international police check done.

 I did a bit of research online & discovered that for the princely sum of £115 I can get a police check done in Albania, & for another £115 one in Sri Lanka & for another £115 South Africa. France is a 'bargain' £94.

So £439 to get 4 international police checks. And that's just to get through the preliminary application process.  To be even looked at by a school. Never mind be offered the job. Woe betide me if I got a job & then changed school, I would need another check done as they are 'in theory' only valid on the day they are issued. So the supply agency told me. Presumably I wouldn't have to do the foreign ones again would I? Though when my husband needed one done for some reason in Albania, they asked for a UK one to be done even though he hadn't lived there for 5 yrs.

I am so frustrated.  there must be a better system? 

I despair. The personnel manager did say their school was particularly stringent, but I fear until I have international police checks done for the 4 countries I worked in overseas, this will be a constant bugbear, not to say obstacle to getting employment.

Maybe I should just give up trying to teach again. Maybe I should open a teashop. I would call it Jammy Dodgers, in honour of my status as a CRB Dodger....

The thing that really upsets me about this is that we,or at least I, am paying the price for having gone abroad to do something we felt was good and worthwhile. I gave up a very good part time English post in a good secondary school, where the deputy would ask me each year whether I wanted to increase or decrease my hours, even which days I preferred to teach. I was known, respected, had good relationships & a successful job. Now I am back; my friends who were all SAHMs when I lived here & worked, are now in jobs, new careers or doing further study & I am once more out of sync, scrabbling around trying to find my place, trying to get work and trying not to wonder what on earth I am doing. Once a trailing spouse, always a trailing spouse it seems.

I don't regret going abroad. I don't regret the meaningful experiences that season of our lives enriched us with. I don't regret how it changed me, how we grew through it and most of all how it helped poor and vulnerable people through what we did.  It's just that now we are back I am counting the cost, not of moving abroad & leaving friends, family, home, job & security, but the cost of coming home & trying to make a life here. Somehow I thought this would be the easy bit.....

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Year and a Day

A year and a day ago we returned to England from 5 1/2 years living abroad.

So how do we feel  a year on? Well, firstly I can't believe it's a year already. I am still at that stage where I feel the need to get 'I lived in Albania' into the first 10 minutes of most conversations I have.  It's so much a part of my identity now. The whole living abroad thing is really.

To sum up I would say my three alliterative words are wobbly, wistful and weird!

I feel quite wobbly still, in terms of adapting to life back here. Both my husband and I would sum it up saying we feel flat, detached, as if we are observing life here but aren't fully involved. Life has been very busy and much fuller, mainly due to school and church stuff, but also because we have so many more friends here than we had living abroad, we just don't feel a part of  'Life in Britain' yet.  We still feel a bit 'The Alien Has Landed. What IS This Place?'

My husband, the introvert, who was rejoicing at no commutes, and working uninterruptedly from home, is finding the reality of it quite isolating, he doesn't feel part of a team, is working alone and could go for days without even leaving the house. In fact he has done. Some days he has been known to not even get dressed, but sit at his computer in his Boden baggies! Actually they're not Boden, but that was just to give you the mental picture, or you might be conjuring images of flannel tartan pyjamas with piping cord. Not good. we're not that middle aged. Not quite yet anyway.

He misses going 'into the field', being at the chalk face, managing people and working with a team, in a cross cultural environment. He has seemed quite unmotivated to get some exercise (very unusual), join things, meet people for coffee etc. In a way I am glad he now knows how I felt at the start of our two postings when I didn't have a ready made social /work sphere and struggled to motivate myself to make a life there and not to get down. He realises that "Snap out of it. Get out there and meet people" just doesn't cut the mustard! I'm glad because it shows it's tough, it's not just me being a wimp. These are known culture shock symptoms. They even happen to him (well reverse culture shock does, he never seemed to get the normal kind!)

We feel wistful because of course we miss the weather, the mountains, the fresh produce, the coffee, my teaching job which I loved (perfect conditions-small classes, part time,delightful kids!) being able to live within our means and eat out, have a cleaner, travel to new places, be out of the rat race etc:  all the things that helped ameliorate the trash, sewage seepage, power cuts, bureaucracy and general craziness.

We feel weird, because we feel different, we have made different choices and feel ambivalent about being back. People have been very welcoming and it has certainly been heaps easier coming back to friends and a community where we are known. But, it also feels quite boring and pedestrian back here. We even miss the craziness and unpredictability!

I had a debrief with a counsellor, who said there seemed to be a lot of stuff to do with our experiences in Sri Lanka, and in particular our daughter's heart condition diagnosis, which I hadn't processed and was still very close to the surface.  She also felt there was a lot of identity loss issues with not only having been a trailing wife and putting my husband and children's needs first, but then also coming back to a new job for him, new schools for the children and nothing for me, coupled with them growing up and being more independent of me at the same time. So at least I have an excuse for being an emotional wreck! A professional vouches for me.....

I have felt out of sync especially amongst my peers, who as I said in the last post are all working, retraining, studying and have all 'moved on' in many ways. I have moved on in myself, but not in my circumstances.  It looks (and feels) like I am right back where I was 7 years ago. I also find because I have not been working I am always the one available to look after other mums' children, fetch them from school, etc. You do rather lose yourself when all you seem to do is meet other people's needs. And now I am faced with the prospect of needing to get a job but really not wanting to go back to teaching in the UK with all its pressures, stresses and demands. But I don't know what else I would do.......

I am very proud of the children though, who, being children, have adjusted to life back here so well. They put me to shame, taking everything in their stride. They have integrated well into their schools and are both doing really well. Between them they have learnt German, French, Latin, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, netball, cricket, rugby, hockey, not to mention picked up on who's who in the pop world. All new subjects to them. I miss the tight knit family life we had, where your family are also your friends much more when in a place with no family, and fewer friends and activities around. They are both desperate to spend every available moment with their new friends. It makes me a little sad, that change. But it's all about seasons and I must learn to enjoy each one.

On the other hand, they do seem to need me for 'chats' much more than they used to. I chew the cud with them most nights before lights out. Oh and after two weeks back in England, with each having their own bedroom for the first time ever, they both decided it was a bit lonely & they preferred sharing. Not many 8 and 12 year olds would say that I imagine. Now that is a special legacy from the closeness which developed from their years abroad.

So all in all, let's just say life back here is very much a 'work in progress.'

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Town or Country Living?

We're going to see a house today. Together. This is the first house my husband has got really excited about or been to view with me. He has even been doing a few sums to work out if we can afford it. We probably can't, unless they accept a lower (much lower) offer.  And then there's the issue of getting a mortgage when my husband is on annual contracts & I don't have a job.  And we've been overseas for 5 1/2 years. Off the radar.

Before we moved back to the UK we said we would definitely move house. We decided we would move to a village. It was all settled. I started looking on the Internet as soon as we knew we were moving back, so that's been 18 months now. I couldn't help it, it's one of those nesting things. Very little suitable has come up, even less that my husband would consider. Part of it is that I have much more of an eye for what you can do to a property. I still desperately want to move. It's one of the things which has made me feel much less settled and in limbo. It also feels a real step backward, being back in our old house, with the same people round the corner, doing the same things we did 6 years ago. Did those last six years really happen? They feel as though they are being compressed and squeezed into a mere hourglass of time, rather than the tome of experiences it was for us. I know I should be grateful we have a community to move back into, but I have changed & moved on, yet this just feels like I am being squeezed back into who I was & where I was in 2005.

I was hoping that moving would give me a project as well as help me put down roots and settle. My husband has his new job, my children have their new schools, I over exuberant puppy & a mid-life crisis.

I want to be in the house we will be in here, so I can make it a home and get on with life. Doing a place up has always set my creative juices flowing and I would love to put my mark on somewhere rather than make do with what we inherit from the previous owners which is what we have always done before. After all I am 46 now. I've waited 21 years for this opportunity!

We have constant circular discussions about what to do. Mealtimes, late night debates. Town versus country. Which is better? My husband changes his view weekly. One week it's too expensive to move at all (stamp duty), another week it's to move way out into  the countryside to get more for our money. The next week it's to convert our cellar. And then my Country Boy decides our suburb is so convenient we would be fools to move.  It doesn't add to my feelings of security. But I feel equally paralysed by indecision.

Where we live is 5 minutes from the bus stop to school & town, a 10 minute walk to shops, library, tennis courts, six lots of friends are walking distance away. We share lifts to school, to youth group, clubs & can even have dinner & enjoy a nice bottle of wine with friends & then WALK home! BUT there are loads of student lets on our road, it's a rat run so quite a fast, noisy road and busy at rush hour. And just very urban.

Part of it is also that it's just not where I envisaged  bringing my children up, but then life often thwarts our expectations and dreams. Part of it is that I keep hoping & dreaming. Maybe I just need to let go of my dreams.  My husband is much more pragmatic & down to earth (and probably realistic)...

He had an idyllic childhood, living in a huge house, with rope ladder fire-escape from the top floor, an acre of garden, tennis court, zip wire, tree house & rope swing in the garden & what I call 'glorious isolation' - not that I would like it. I would hate to be 2 miles from my nearest neighbour!  He seems to feel if his children can't live somewhere like that, which of course they can't, then he would rather just stay put & live where we are & not try & get something a bit better. A bit more space & a bigger garden.

I did one of those pros and cons lists of 'suburb versus' village and they came out very equal but on different things. So that didn't really help either. Most people think I'm mad to consider moving and are very envious of the community we are in!  But then all my life I have felt out of sync with what everyone else is doing,  so no change there.

A few friends have said that as their kids get older, they quite like the 'limiting' nature of a village. i e their children CAN'T just be out and about all the time. You can maintain some degree of control by ferrying them around even though it is a pain. Our children have both just turned 12 and 8, so maybe we are too late for the country life and we need to be in town for the teen years......

Oh I don't know.......

What do you think? What would you do? Are you a town or country mouse?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Diamond Jubilee

Today is my daughter's school's Diamond Jubilee celebration. They re-enacted the Coronation, had a trestle table lunch outside & a crown competition (which my daughter won) and did a rendition of the National Anthem on recorder  They also had to dress in red, white and blue and bring a plate of food in for the party. Yr 3's remit was 'something sweet' Great, patriotic cupcakes it is then. Easy.

Apart from Sainsbury's having had a run on union jack decorations, it all went smoothly. These ones I used, I found away from the other sugar-bling, on a lower shelf amongst the raisins, in a broken tube. So in true Albanian fashion, I took them up to the till and asked if she could do me a 'special price' on the broken tube of red, white and blue sprinkles, as it was the only one left.

She could, and so my daughter didn't have to re-invent the union jack colour scheme, because of Sainsburys' stock crisis. Other shops seem happy to do this, however, with their sky blue, pink & cream renditions of the union jack on every kind of bag and soft furnishing imaginable. Somehow for the Diamond Jubilee celebration, it just didn't seem 'proper'.

My daughter has, of course, also been planning her outfit for weeks, asking my opinion, ignoring my opinion, tweaking the combo, trying to reduce the number of spots, stripes going on in the whole ensemble (seemingly a feature of red white and blue children's clothes- many are spotted or striped)

She has also been checking the forecast daily for slight meteorological changes. She had one outfit & two contingencies lined up you see..... So it was quite good that today was much cooler as her best outfit was the red cord skirt, blue & white striped top, white socks and shoes and a red flower slide in her hair. The only slight anomaly was the navy tee shirt she wore over the long sleeved one. It said 'Hello Paris' on it.....

Actually it is quite appropriate, as we are in fact going to Paris for the Diamond Jubilee, mainly to take advantage of the bank holiday long weekend.  Several people, however, have expressed surprise that we would choose to miss the Diamond Jubilee celebrations here. But celebrating the Jubilee in a suburb, hmm; Our street isn't having a street party and I'm quite glad. I'm just not into that sort of thing, hanging out with a bunch of strangers.  It's not that sort of street; it's a weird mix of student lets, a few family homes, empty houses, flats etc. I would actually rather be abroad for it, strangely. I wouldn't want it tobe a damp squib. Abroad, you feel special, just being British, at such a time. Everyone asks your opinion about the events.

I loved being in Tirana for Will and Kate's wedding. All the Brits were invited to a barbecue at the British embassy. It was a boiling hot summer's day, everyone was in garden party garb and some even in hats and wedding outfits, with G and T on tap, lots of wide screen TVs to watch the ceremony on, bunting, union jacks everywhere and a really festive atmosphere.

So I will enjoy, once again being abroad, with our ex pat friends living in Paris, & observing proceedings from afar and feeling, for once, a little bit nostalgic about living overseas, rather than feeling homesick for England

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Flip Side of the NHS Coin

I think I will draw a veil over the day after the operation, when my daughter was hobbling around with her catheter & bag, like a little old lady with a bad dose of piles. It was quite pathetic to see. She couldn't sit down either. However she coped well & just got on with it. I think we both thought the cystogram would be a breeze. (This was to check the reflux had been cured.) Unfortunately that wasn't to be. She was in a lot of discomfort, it didn't go smoothly & the radiographer seemed quite inexperienced, being told by the motherly, very competent nurse-in-charge how to move the bed up & down & kept making helpful suggestions about what to do next.

Thankfully, the surgeon himself arrived at the door after they called & said the op had worked. The cystogram showed no reflux. She was in the 70% of patients it works for. Hooray.

We bought a sticker book on the way out as a mini reward for being so brave & I offered my daughter a hot chocolate in the cafe but she said, still very shaky,

"Mummy I just want to go home." Who could blame her.

On arrival home she donned her beloved new dance dress, spotty tights (with no bulky 'wee' bag stuffed into them) & glittery shoes with heels & spent the day lounging glamorously on the sofa, putting her stickers in her book.

But actually, the thing I was going to write about was the less good side of the NHS: the NHS's 'low priority' policy. Or perhaps would be better called NHS Austerity Measures.

My daughter, as you may or may not remember, has a facial scar from a light fitting falling on her in Albania when my husband was changing the bulb. It slashed her cheek necessitating 3 stitches which were very quickly & ruggedly done by an American doctor there.

I went to see the GP back here & asked for a referral to a plastic surgeon. I wanted to see if the scar could be improved upon, as it is on her face & quite noticeable, particularly when she is either hot or cold it goes quite red & angry looking.

We went through all the hoops before getting a letter back saying that Oxfordshire PCT (primary care trust) has a low priority status for such things which meant, they said, they wouldn't even give her an appointment to get a plastic surgeon's opinion.

The GP was not happy about this, but said although we could appeal, it was unlikely to be successful & printed off for me the policy for 'aesthetic surgery'. This details all that they will not do.

Much of it is fair enough e.g breast 'lifts', augmentation, breast reduction (including male breast reduction..), tattoo removal, hair grafts for male baldness, laser hair removal, surgery for 'bat ears, face lift, liposuction etc.

All seems reasonable enough. But neither will they remove any warts, benign skin growths, skin tags, sebaceous cysts, pigmented or benign moles, OR keloid scars or any cosmetic 'revisions' of scars, even on the face it specifically says. I think facial scars should be an exception.

My husband gets keloid scars & 12 years ago the GP suggested to him that his keloid scar, post shoulder surgery could go on a non urgent waiting list & be dealt with. So he no longer has an ugly 5 inch caterpillar snaking across his shoulder, caused by the scar bursting open. The plastic surgeon did a beautiful job of it!

Both he & I commented on how we would be a whole lot more warty & moley given this current policy as we both had lots of finger warts, verrucas & moles removed as children, as I think many children do.

My brother is a GP & he told me he has had a verruca for 5 years. He treated it every day for about 18 months with liquid nitrogen which didn't work but even he can't get it cut out.

I had a 5 year old verruca cut out by a Singhalese dermatologist in Sri Lanka. It created quite a hole, the root was so deep. This dermatologist clearly loved her job, she used to sing as she worked & whilst removing 2 of my husband's suspicious moles on his back said "I might as well do a few more whilst I'm at it."
And she proceeded to dig away at his mole-strewn back with the passion of a person who has discovered her life's work.

So unless we pay £200 for a private consultation &, what the GP called 'substantially more', for the actual scar revision, my daughter will have to live with the scar & cover it up with make up as best she can. It is not disfiguring & people say they hardly notice it. But when near her it is very obviously there, plumb across the apple of her cheek.

At times like this I confess I pine for the health insurance we had whilst abroad, which still couldn't buy any decent treatment in Tirana, but it meant we could probably have got this seen to on our insurance if we had flown back especially. It hadn't occurred to us to do this as we assumed it could be done on the NHS once back. And we couldn't have claimed for the flights as it was non urgent.

Overall though, I think the NHS is fantastic & am so grateful for it, & for the dedicated, friendly & unstuffy medical professionals we have dealt with.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Day with the NHS

Today was the day of our 7 y-o daughter's 4th surgical procedure in her short life. She was having a minor operation to cure her reflux, which she should have grown out of by now. She has had repeated urine infections since she was given the wrong antibiotic in Sri Lanka so the infection lingered & scarred one of her kidneys.

I am always at a loss as to how to play these occasions. I always feel I am deceiving her or betraying her trust.When I used to take her for her many vaccinations, & for all her investigations, I used to wonder just exactly when to tell her what we were doing. I am sure she doesn't remember the dreadful experiences she had in hospital in Sri Lanka but they have left a legacy of anxiety about hospitals & a need to know EXACTLY what they are going to do.

On this occasion she wanted to know how exactly they were going to get a camera inside her bladder (I think she had visions of SLRs not Borrower sized micro-cameras) & how they would make sure she didn't wake up mid operation. She mostly seemed more interested in their professional expertise rather than what they were going to 'do to her'. Fairly reasonable I guess.

She was unusually chilled & apart from a slight weepy wobble briefly this a.m, she was fine. The nurses even commented on how relaxed she was. I was amazed, & relieved. Though after several hours wait she did have a small weep & admit to being scared.

But, compared to our overseas experiences, it was great! I never cease to marvel at the amount of information given, the play nurses (play nurses?!), the caring (paediatric trained) nursing staff & non-condescending consultants. Having "Where's Moshi" read to you whilst your numbed hand has a canula inserted in all of about 10 seconds flat, with no 'brute force' or coercion in sight, was, let's say, rather a pleasant experience.

An Aussie ex-pat friend very kindly, had offered to have coffee with me in the cafe whilst Annabelle was in surgery, & was as good as her word, providing me with scintillating conversation to distract me. I have only known her a few months too. It was a really kind gesture. She also brought some chocolates for 7 y-o, the loan of her ipad for the day, & a Little Girl-Gorgeous ice-dance dress her daughter had grown out of. It had a pink velour bodice, a strappy back with a diaphanous, very short, twirly skirt. It was the perfect distraction needed when my daughter woke up.

Unfortunately they gave her a urethral catheter rather than a tummy one as the surgeon had said he would, because the consent form I had signed, had evidently specified urethral not tummy one. Who knew? So even tho I had verbally agreed, it wasn't in the dang paperwork, so urethra it was.

So the aftermath wasn't so great. In fact it gave me a flash back to her in the recovery room after her angiogram in Sri Lanka & her heart surgery at Great Ormond Street. Both times she woke up furious, (understandably after her angiogram in Sri Lanka because she was, literally, elastoplasted by both legs to a board & couldn't move.) After her heart surgery, she had been pulling at all the tubes & wires coming out of her. On this occasion today she was very weepy, sore & uncomfortable & not at all impressed by the catheter, pulling at it & the bag & trying to see what was going on.

But she was also angry. I am glad in a way. It is this feistiness & strength of will that has seen her through her chequered medical career I feel. This time the angry 7 year old version was, in a hissed whisper;
"Mummy, I thought you said these people were experts? Why am I so sore then, they didn't do a very good job."

I explained that they did do a very good job, but unfortunately operations made you sore. Oh dear, there I was deceiving her again. I hadn't mentioned this beforehand.

So she was offered pain relief, insisting it was not making any difference & said yes every time more was offered, so has happily quaffed paracetamol, codeine, nurofen & something for her bladder spasms.

I must say a girl can never seem to escape very far from wardrobe dilemmas, even at the tender age of 7 & in a hospital. We made the wrong choice this morning for 'post-operative day wear'. Trying to negotiate Charlie & Lola pants past said catheter & then stuff the catheter bag into her (tight) leggings without looking like a severe case of early onset varicose veins, was a little taxing.

We return tomorrow, hopefully in more accommodating clothing, for her micturating cystogram to check it's worked. It works in 70% of cases. This evening my daughter looked wistfully at the floaty pink velour number at the end of her bed & said;

"Mummy tomorrow for my scan, can I wear my new dance dress?"

Hmm. Concealing catheter tube & bag in such a skimpy number (when the bag has to be lower than bladder so is strapped to her leg) would be optimistic & would necessitate a similar varicose vein impression of nobbly bits under tights. Not to mention the snow outside making it somewhat impractical.

I suggested we stick to something a little more concealing. She seemed happy with that.

And I am happy to be back in a country which has health care which I really can't complain about.