Monday 31 December 2007

This letter may contain excessive amounts of information

Note: It might make more sense if you read the previous post before reading this one.

To whom it may concern.
I am writing with respect to recent medical treatment that I have received at the [...] County Hospital in the orthopaedic fracture clinic.
It will be easier if I first explain the circumstances of my visit to the hospital together with the resultant care and diagnosis at which point I will raise my concerns.
On the morning of 11th December I crashed my pedal bike and fell over the front bars breaking my fall with my left hand and resulting in trauma to that arm. Initial symptoms were limited movement, swelling and pain to the elbow. At the time my hand seemed largely unaffected.
I visited the A&E department at circa midday on the 11th. After being examined by an A&E nurse (whom I shall refer to as Person 1) I was sent for x-ray of the elbow (2 were taken). On being re-examined with reference to the x-rays, Person 1 diagnosed effusion of the elbow with displaced fat pad signs and a radial fracture at the elbow. No traumatic injury of the hand was decided upon. Person 1 then arranged for a follow up appointment at the fracture clinic on the 14th December and I was sent home with a sling. Pain relief and anti-inflammatory pills were given. I was very happy with the care and information provided by Person 1 during that visit based on the information available to him at the time.
I returned to the fracture clinic on the 14th and met with Dr. Gajidan (I am fairly sure that I have mis-spelt his name and for this I apologise). I shall refer to him as Person 2. Person 2 showed particular interest in my left hand and did this via a physical examination coupled with the use of an x-ray of that hand. In what was a fairly brief consultation Person 2 diagnosed a suspected fracture of the scaphoid. He also indicated that I had a fracture of the left elbow. Person 2 arranged for me to have a below elbow cast fitted with a follow up appointment on 24th December. No further x-rays were taken.
Later on the day of the 14th it dawned on me that Person 2 had based part of his diagnosis on an x-ray that had not been taken at A&E on the 11th. I recalled the left hand being x-rayed at the [...] Clinic earlier in the year, 27th April to be precise. I was also somewhat concerned that no thumb spica cast had been applied, as my understanding is that it is important to immobilise the thumb when there is a suspected scaphoid fracture so as to reduce the risk of displacement.
Based on these concerns I phoned the fracture clinic on the 24th but unfortunately it had closed. I left a message asking them to contact me on Monday morning. I then phoned the A&E department in an attempt to speak with somebody there but this was denied. I called NHS Direct for advice. They confirmed that a thumb spica cast was normal practice and that I should return to clinic on Monday about this and to confirm the use of an old x-ray.
Come the morning of Monday 17th my elbow and hand were now both heavily bruised and swollen, movement was greatly restricted and the sites were uncomfortable. On returning to the fracture clinic I was told that I would need to book in via A&E a second time before my concerns could be addressed. This I did. It just so happens, that Person 1 examined me again. Person 1 was able to confirm very quickly that the only x-ray the hospital had of my left hand was from a visit to [...] Clinic on 27th April and that the only x-rays from my visit on the 11th December were 2 of my left elbow, neither of which contained images of my hand.
Person 1 then arranged for my cast to be removed and a number of x-rays of my left hand to be taken. These x-rays were reviewed in my absence by another consultant at the hospital, whom I shall refer to as Person 3. Once again I was very happy with the care and information provided by Person 1.
I was informed that Person 3 had diagnosed fractures of both my capitate and scaphoid. I was placed in a second below elbow cast, which once again did not include my thumb. The cast was top arm/back of hand only and did not extend under forearm.
I returned to the hospital on 24th December for my 2nd follow up appointment. I met with Dr. Williams. Based on a physical examination and the x-rays taken on 17th December, Dr. Williams confirmed the radial head fracture and also diagnosed a chip to the little finger side of the wrist, which I understand to be to the triquetral bone. I believe the radial head fracture is of a straight type I. Dr. Williams was adamant that I had not broken either my capitate or scaphoid. I left without a cast and with no follow up appointment. Dr. Williams was very confident in his diagnosis and at the time I was convinced by it. Dr. Willians demonstrated point sensitivity to the triquetral and there appeared to be a displaced fragment on the hand x-ray, he also demonstrated point sensitivity to the radial head and what appeared to be a fracture line on the elbow x-ray.

[At this point in his first draft, Bert wrote:
As an addition please note that my source of income results from manual labour and software writing and I have been a triathlete for the past 15 years as well as being engaged in other physical activities. It is crucial to me therefore blah de blah de blah.
Having stated all of the above there are a number of concerns that I now wish to raise.

And now I return you to the final version.]

I have been discharged from the hospital.
I am adamant in requiring that the care and treatment I receive results in the very best long-term outcome. This is important on many accounts; I have been a triathlete for the past 15 years and wish to continue in this sport. My income is generated from manual labour coupled with software writing. Any detriment to my hand or arm will severely limit my potential in all of these fields with a resultant negative impact on my future well-being.
Since my visit with Dr. Williams I have become concerned at the differing opinions that have been put forward. Despite Person 2 using information from an old x-ray his diagnosis of a fractured scaphoid was also based on a physical examination. Person 2 came to the same conclusion but felt that the capitate had also been broken. Person 1’s use of an old x-ray also brings into some doubt the diagnosis given back in April. Since my cast has been removed and my hand is now exposed I have been experiencing point sensitivity on the left hand in a location other than the triquetral. This is at the base of the pad on the underside of the hand at the intersection of lines drawn from the thumb and third finger, and is in an area sensitised by Person 1 during his examination.
I do not wish to create additional workload for the NHS but it is imperative that a definitive diagnosis is arrived at. The immediate and effective treatment of a broken wrist is paramount in preventing future medium to long-term detriment including loss of mobility, arthritis or worse. The lack of consistency in diagnosis suggests to me a rather cavalier approach as to what my injuries may be or that there is insufficient information being provided by the x-ray data to arrive at a consistent outcome, this then begs the question as to whether or not other techniques should have been employed.
In conclusion I ask that my injuries be reviewed with immediate effect and, if your consultants cannot reach definitive agreement between them, that further investigation be pursued. Without this I will remain concerned at what the future may hold for me.
This letter has been hand delivered to the hospital and I therefore expect it to be processed quickly. I would be grateful if you would send an acknowledgment of this either by writing to the above address or more preferably making contact by telephone (see above) or via email to [...]. I would also be grateful if you would confirm my injuries in writing once these have been reviewed.
Should I be required to attend the hospital I will be able to do so at short notice.
Yours sincerely,


Sunday 30 December 2007

Christmas Break

This Christmas will be remembered as 'the one when Bert had a broken arm'. Or possibly had a broken arm. He has had more diagnoses than we've had turkey dinners, and his cast has been on and off like ... well ... like a tart's drawers.

And Bert has talked of nothing else. I now know everything I need to know (and a bit more besides) about scaphoid, capitate and triquetral fractures of the hand.

Spot the red electrical tape on the cast - this was Bert's addition after reading up about scaphoid fractures on the Internet, and deciding that they hadn't supported his thumb properly. (I don't know what he is doing with his 'good' hand...perhaps expressing his views about the various doctors he has seen.)

For those of you who can be bothered to find out the whole story, see my next post for the letter Bert has just hand-delivered to the hospital (using his good hand, obviously). In the meantime, here are a few pics of Bert 'taking it easy' over the Christmas break.

Hey - a unique advertising opportunity!

It's surprising how many household tasks can be undertaken one-handed (although squeezing the mop and changing the water were quite challenging - thank goodness he's got me on hand to order around).

Another of those essential Christmas tasks - refitting the kitchen plinth (as you do). Oh dear! Bert's good hand just got stuck and all I can do is laugh (and take photos).

When the electric mixer broke down at a critical stage of making the christmas cake, Bert had a brainwave. Lucky he's got so many powertools. And yes, that's a wooden spoon fitted into the drill. The cake was fab.

Tuesday 11 December 2007

I've just been tidying up my text messages, and I thought I'd share a few from Bert. These are the more wordy ones; usually they consist of "yes", "no", "maybe" etc. in response to texts from me. Of course I've generally forgotten my question by the time I get the cryptic replies. However, the messages below prove how articulate Bert can be when he wants to be (i.e. when he is pissed, which applies to all of these except the last one).

I went camping without him in the summer. Night 1:

Weather iffy sat
shit sunday
u may want to come back then

Night 2:

hows ur curry?
meaning 'I'm in the middle of a gorgeous Agra curry and you're in the middle of a field'

Night 3:

how big is your steak?

In October Bert went on a trip to Antwerp with some pals from his university days. Night 1:

Da da doo
doo doo
doo doo doo doo
doo doo doo
doo doo doo
doo doo doo
doo da doo
doo da doo

Night 2:

Am I drunk?
do I love you?
am I having a piss?
does that matter?
as it is

Night 3:

We need to enjoy each other more
btw having another piss

21st November:

Woman in bakers
thinks i look like
famous tennis player

I've just asked Bert if he minds me putting his texts on the blog. "Texts? What texts? *sigh* Oh, do what you like." He's got other things on his mind, like trying to make his bedtime cuppa when he's only got the use of one hand. Filling the kettle seems to be particularly challenging.

(Personally I think he should get pissed instead.)

Tasting the tarmac

"I can't push the teabag against the side of the cup."

Then Bert farted loudly. "That's not like you!" I remarked. (It really isn't like him - he doesn't like to show a lack of control.) "I know," he said, "But I'm in pain here."

I've mentioned Bert's physical jerks before. He goes for a long run or bike ride four mornings a week, whatever the weather and no matter how he's feeling. This morning, for example, was freezing and as he was setting off I said, "You really know how to punish yourself."

Forty five minutes later I heard the key in the door and then wondered why Bert took so long to appear. I looked up and saw that his posture was strangely stiff. He said, "You know what you said about punishing yourself...?"

He'd crashed on his bike in a rather spectacular way and had had to phone his brother to come and pick him up in his van. I asked if anyone had stopped and helped. In fact about fifty cars had stopped out of necessity because Bert was sprawled across the middle of the road. One woman had wanted to take him to hospital.

"No, I'm fine," protested Bert. "I just feel a bit dizzy." "You're going to go over!" the woman exclaimed, and Bert said the next thing he knew he was lying on the floor. "Oh my god you fainted!" I said when he was relating this. "No I didn't." said Bert. "I just...lay down without remembering it."

Later, after a couple of hours in A & E where they diagnosed a possible elbow fracture, Bert said "I really wanted to do the skirting board today." You'll be relieved to hear that he is undeterred as ever, and as I speak is patiently doing a one-handed sand of the skirting.

Louise has just come in and said, "Does Dad ever take it easy?"

Tuesday 4 December 2007

What a bunch of Dix

We're back (and we've been back for ages!). I'll offer no excuses, and simply hope that today's classic Bert story will win you round.

First, the background. On 12th November we ordered a telly from Dixons with a promised delivery date of 26th. You know the story: one delay/excuse follows another but finally we had a delivery arranged for this afternoon.

I was out and Bert wasn't sure he'd be around so my brother offered to wait in for the delivery. I phoned Bert's mobile at one point and my brother answered. "Bert can't come to the phone - he's arguing with the driver." "Oh dear," I thought. "I wonder what's wrong."

A bit later on I got a call from Bert. "I've got Dixons on the other phone. They won't talk to me without your authorisation, so you need to tell this woman who you are." So there I am on the high street with buses flying past, being jostled by the pre-Christmas crowds and shouting my details for all to hear. "Job done," I thought.

(Later my brother described how Bert had held the two phones together in a loving embrace, and coordinated the conversation by occasionally speaking into one or the other. ("Did you get that?" "Is that OK?") Afterwards he remarked "That's the best use of mobiles I've ever come across.")

A while later Bert called me again. "You might get a call from Dixons. You want a refund. I've ordered the telly from somewhere else." "Oh, okay" I replied.

When I got home Bert explained what had happened. When the delivery arrived, the driver asked Bert to sign the sheet while he fetched the telly. After about ten minutes Bert wondered what the driver was up to so he approached the van. "There's a bit of a problem, sir." We'd ordered a Panasonic, but Dixons had sent a Philips. "Do you want to take it?" asked the driver. Bert declined, and proceeded to rip up the delivery note. "What did you do that for?" asked the driver, sounding upset. Bert said that the delivery note indicated that he had received the item when he hadn't. He then tore off the bit with his signature on and handed the other bits of paper back. The driver left.

Then Bert phoned Dixons. The first person he spoke to said, "We can only talk to the account holder." (I had made the order.) "Oh that's OK," said Bert. "I'm Mrs. [...]. My date of birth is [...]. I live at [...]. Is there anything else you need?" "No, that's fine sir." That conversation was friendly enough but the guy couldn't help. A second call went similarly. Bert called a third time and got through to Mrs. Robinson. Mrs. R. denied everything, including any possibility that the delivery driver had turned up as there was no such information on her screen. After arguing with her for half an hour, Bert realised that observing niceties was getting him nowhere.

Bert: Tell me one thing, why are you working for Dixons?

Mrs. R.(sounding bemused): What do you mean?

Bert: Have you ever thought about working for the Nazis? [pause] And I suppose that'll be the end of this conversation.

Mrs. R.: I'm putting the phone down.

Bert wants me to point out that he put the phone down first. And tomorrow I have to phone Dixons and demand my money back.


By the way, this whole process was immediately followed by my brother going through a strangely similar routine with 02, this time with Bert in the supporting role. What is the world coming to?

Wednesday 17 October 2007


Oops. It's been so long since I last posted I accidentally typed 'lovingwithbert' into Google. Anyway, on that note I thought I'd better offer you a quickie.

Here are some possible reasons why I haven't posted for a while:

  • Bert left
  • I left
  • I was showing solidarity for the UK postal strike
  • The Internet was broken
  • I've been away
  • I won the lottery
  • Bert stopped being funny

Ergonomic working conditions

Sorry to tease - of course it is the most mundane of reasons. Our Internet connection (left) was broken. It was fixed a few days ago, but only accessible from Bert's PC (right). Bert is on his computer 90% of the time (and wonders why his shoulder hurts) and the girls account for another 9%. I found my 1% access too limiting, and sitting at Bert's ergonomically challenged desk wasn't overly inviting.

Anyway, having lured you back in I am going to go off again. We are off to Florida for 18 days (wonder if those McEnroe fans are still lurking?). We are going with our pals the Scouse Gits so there will be plenty of fun and no doubt a few too many hangovers.

We are setting off at 5.30 am tomorrow morning, and of course Bert has not even thought about packing. He has just announced that he still needs to:

  • go and get currency
  • go shopping for toiletries and Patak's curry pastes
  • wash his only pair of jeans
  • find his one pair of shorts and sandals

So to my fans - both of you - I bid a temporary farewell and will soon be back with more Bertisms.

Wednesday 3 October 2007

Shit Stirring

Bless me, what a sheltered life I've led. Of course there are enema fetishists and poo porn fans out there. I've been checking where people are coming to my site from, and there are more than you might have thought. Or is everyone at it and I just never realised?

Now, if I were to include phrases like 'shit smearing', 'enema angels', 'Rubber Latex Inflatable Enema With Thick Sheath Fetish' on my blog, I would probably get loads more hits. But how disappointing it must be for them when they end up here! No pictures or anything. And Bert might be perverse but he isn't perverted.

But that reminds me - when we first met and I told him he was perverse (because he was and still is), he really wouldn't believe that I wasn't calling him perverted. But then, he is much more comfortable with numbers than with words. Around that time, he also insisted that 'invariably' meant 'most of the time' and it doesn't it means without variance, that's every goddamn time!

(I hope I'm right.)


Recently we've been arguing about getting things done. Bert likes to posture that he is 'a doer', i.e. that he 'gets things done', whilst I'm a lazy good-for-nothing. He doesn't quite put it like that (what he actually said was "you come across as rather ineffective"). It is true that he appears (ok, is) more physically active than me but I do way more thinking and emoting than him.

Anyway, I like to annoy him by saying that he might be a 'doer' but he's not a 'Completer Finisher'. "What do you mean?" he asks, looking worried - clearly he doesn't like the sound of this. "I mean that you're a 'Starter Stopper'*. You start loads of different jobs but you always move on to the next thing before you finish the one you're doing."

(*'Starter Stopper' isn't one of Belbin's characters but it's one of a few I'd add, along with 'Argumentative Sod', 'Invariably Perverse' and 'Starts Jobs Involving Lots of Tools and Mess Just After the House Has Been Tidied'.)

Very soon I will add some pictures to illustrate Bert's Start-Stop tendencies.

You may need to remind me.

I might be too busy doing nothing in particular to remember.

Wednesday 26 September 2007

Consorting with the enema

A few weeks ago I had to have a barium enema. It's not the most pleasant experience to have but at least it wasn't painful like the sigmoidoscopy, just rather embarrassing. I wonder if there is an enema fetish club? Maybe I could sell them my pics.
"Please turn this way madam, bottom in the air...fabulous!"
"Now the other side...careful with the tube!"
"If you want to let anything out just go ahead."
"Lovely....just hold it there for a moment."
"Try not to look so serious...excellent! It's a wrap!"
Porn for poo fans.

Once again it was interesting to actually see one's insides (this time in x-ray). "Of course it is very low-dose radiation, and completely safe," they assured me as they huddled behind their protective screen.

Afterwards I told Bert that the doctor had advised us not to engage in anal sex for a while unless he wanted to end up with a glow-in-the-dark dick. He looked quite shocked. "Really?"

No, not really.

Wednesday 19 September 2007

Head case

So, I've had my hair done. It looks pretty good for an older, prematurely grey-haired woman with mad, dry hair.

The girls both noticed immediately and said how nice it is. No comment from Bert.

A bit later G (Bert's brother) turned up and said, "Oh! Have you changed your hair or something?" (He's one step further up the developmental ladder than Bert.)

So I said, "Yes, and everyone has noticed except Bert."

"Oh I noticed, I just didn't say anything."

"Well, what do you think?"

"What do you want me to say?"



Anyway, G wanted to know whether I'd mentioned him on the blog lately. He's only interested if there's an ego trip in it for him.

But at least he reads it occasionally. Bert was quizzed by a friend of mine recently at a party, after he'd admitted that he doesn't read this blog. She was astonished - how could you not read a blog that is all about you? "I don't have the time," he said, "And anyway, I don't need to read it because I know what I'm like." Pause. "She hasn't said anything about biscuits, has she?"

Tuesday 18 September 2007

Hair raising experience

Cleverly combining the 'lack of compliments' and 'hair-do' themes of recent posts, here is a transcript of a conversation Bert and I have just had.

(Note: I went grey at a young age and usually dye my hair.)

Me: I'm getting my hair done tomorrow. Do you have any views on what I should have done, or are you indifferent?
Bert: Well, how do you want it done?
Me: I'm asking for your opinion.
Bert: I think you should have it done to please yourself.
Bert: Well, OK, I don't think you should get it cut short. I think for older women, short hair is ... it's ... it can look a bit hard.
Me: What about the colour?
Bert: Oh! I don't think you should go grey just yet.
Me: OK, so there are some things that I shouldn't do. But is there any way you'd like my hair done?
Bert: I quite like it tied back actually.

(At this point I am momentarily speechless at the fact that Bert appears to have expressed a positive opinion, but sadly he fails to capitalise on the situation.)

Bert: The thing is your hair is very dry, so when it's loose it goes a know...mad.

Friday 14 September 2007

Are you talking to me?

I just remembered that at that meal we had with my family Bert had very unusually and unexpectedly, in the midst of the tense atmosphere, paid me a compliment.

This is the guy who has never paid me a real compliment in all the years we've been together. When we first met, he said that my nose was almost perfect. But since then it's been a round of:

Me: How do I look? [whenever I dress up, e.g. on our wedding day]
Bert: Fine.
Me: What do you think of this dress?
Bert: There's nothing wrong with it...are you ready to go?
Me: Do you think I am good-looking?
Bert: Well...I think you're similar to me, neither good-looking nor ugly.

As you can see, I've had to fish for even these tiny tidbits.

Recently, a friend was a little concerned at the apparent lack of affection emanating from Bert, and said "Come on, I know you love her really, so give me ten reasons why you do". After squirming for some time, Bert finally came up with:
  • Well, she's kind...
  • ...And she's a good mother...
  • ...........and............
After a further struggle, he suddenly said as if inspired, "I love her for what she used to be!"

(At that point I went to bed in disgust.)

So anyway, at this meal, he suddenly complimented me on my blue top, saying how well it matched my eyes.

I'm afraid my instinctive response was, "Are you trying to be funny?"

They say that a relationship can survive as long as you talk to each other. Do you think this counts?

Thursday 6 September 2007

You cannot be serious!

Actually, that last post reminds me that Bert doesn't just look like Krusty the Clown. The same mad hair thing gives him a passing resemblance to John McEnroe.

The first time Bert got mistaken for McEnroe was when we were in one of the theme parks in Orlando. A couple of pretty teenage girls ran up to him screaming, "It's John McEnroe!" Rather than disappoint them he went ahead and signed their autograph books.

(As McEnroe, not Bert. But imagine: you recommend this blog to all your friends, and they recommend it to their friends and so on, and suddenly it really takes off, and then an agent says Hey, this should be a book. And then one day, in Florida or wherever, some girls run up to us screaming, "It's Bert!!" ).

Anyway, the second time was recently in a car park when a couple came over and the guy said, "Hey, did you know you look just like John McEnroe?". We chatted politely for a couple of minutes and related the Florida anecdote, and then as they went off the guy said, "It's a real coincidence, because I look just like Liam Neeson." "Oh, yes, now you come to mention it...," we said.

But he really didn't

When I started this post I was thinking that actually I didn't personally really see the John McEnroe thing. But I just did an image search and I suddenly got it. It's Bert!

(And the funny thing is, we're always telling him off for tucking his shirt in his shorts.)


Bert wants me to cut his hair.

In the century we've been together, I'm the only person who has ever had the privilege of cutting his hair. Actually, he's quite funny (funny peculiar, not funny ha-ha) about anyone even touching his hair. I've got one of these and every now and then I like to sneak up and have a go on Bert. It's quite dangerous though - he is liable to hit out before he can stop himself.

As well as being untouchable, Bert's hair is quite mad. You can't really tell from the Seine photo (and I don't want to put another photo up because Bert does have the right to remain anonymous - hehehe), but when it grows longer it starts to look like Krusty the Clown's ... (I tried to choose a Krusty image with a typical Bert expression. This one is just after he's made his regular order with the Agra, and is giddy with anticipation).

Anyway, I'm not sure I'm going to cut his hair until I'm good and ready. I've been asking him to come for a 'walk and talk' for weeks now, and he is always too busy (scared, more like). So he can grow a bit Krustier for a while. Just until he's a bit less busy.

He's never very grateful in any case. For someone who looks so Krusty, he is very fussy about the length and in particular always thinks I cut it too short. A couple of haircuts ago, he was moaning and moaning about how long the bits on the floor were looking, and wondering out loud whether I was scalping him. I was getting crosser and crosser, and so was he. Then Louise piped up, "Oh mum, that is quite short..." (it really wasn't in my opinion). So when he had a real go, I ended up lobbing the scissors across the room (taking care to avoid the children) and saying the usual "Fine, f*ck off then" type of thing. (I have realised since starting this blog that I need to use more imaginative language when we argue. And stop wondering why the kids swear too much.) Anyway, neither of us wanted to apologise so he had to wander around with half a haircut for a week or so.

(He gave in first.)

Wednesday 29 August 2007

Les Misérables

We had my family to stay last week, and Bert seemed to find it a bit stressful (it coincided with him being particularly busy). So for a few days he was stomping around being generally grumpy and uncommunicative, which he can do so well.

Anyway, we sat down for dinner one night and chatted about this and that. Suddenly, apropos of nothing in particular, Bert announces that "some people are just so miserable, they might as well be dead."

"Hmm," we said.

Paris revisited

Our friend K reminded me of this funny moment from our Paris trip.

I mentioned previously that Bert doesn't speak French, but I was being a little unfair because he did try once...

Bert: Deux bieres
Waiter: Gruyère??

This was the night of the 900g steak. Luckily the waiter didn't bring a cheese board as we were rather stuffed. As well as the giant steak, we had consumed a huge amount of lovely chips that came with it, and a starter. Anyway, Bert was so impressed with the steak that he made a joke with the waiter about whether it was 'buy one, get one free'. The waiter didn't seem to get the joke and we realised why when he returned with...another plate of 'frites'!

(Which we ate. Just out of politeness, you understand.)

Tuesday 21 August 2007

Very public transport

Bert's mum was up for dinner on Sunday and was telling us about her week. In amongst complaints about the weather and failing to book a holiday was the following gem.

She was on the bus the other day and saw someone she thought she recognised - a woman called Gay(nor) that she had worked with quite a few years ago. When she stood up to get off the bus, she stopped by the woman and asked, "Excuse me, are you Gay?". When the woman blushed profusely and looked extremely shocked, Bert's mum realised how her question might be misconstrued. She ended up missing her stop while digging herself into a hole trying to explain what she'd meant.

Things you should know:
  • Bert's mum has a loud voice
  • We live in the gay capital of Europe
  • The woman wasn't Gay(nor)
  • But we still don't know whether she's gay

Sunday 19 August 2007

Back to nature

Remember G, Bert's brother? I've been intending to mention that he is now officially an Iron Man, albeit a slow one as Bert constantly reminds me (14+ hours to finish). G is now in post-recovery mode and starting to risk actual physical movement once more.

G's wife was not at all pleased when he decided to gatecrash her Hot Yoga class. I hadn't heard of Hot Yoga before - apparently it takes place in a specially heated room to warm the muscles and ensure that toxins are sweated out.

To begin with, the class had to do some stretches that involved spreading the legs as wide as possible and touching the floor in between. (It's probably this one.) G couldn't do either and appeared to be standing motionless even though he was in fact trying pretty hard to spread and bend. He demonstrated this for us the other night, and adopted a pose similar to someone trying to read a map (with the map being held in their hands, not laid out on the floor).

Worse for G's wife though is the fact that he, like Bert, never (and I do mean never) uses deodorant or anti-perspirant. I've never been quite sure whether it's a macho thing, or whether they're just a pair of skinflints. They're both particular about what they won't 'waste' their money on, like flowers, birthday cards, etc. (probably anything that gives anyone pleasure). Anyway, don't forget this is Hot Yoga...G's wife said everyone kept edging their mats further and further away from him. When she was telling us this the other evening, their daughter looked horrified. "You two are completely disgusting," she exclaimed at G and Bert. "You're just so.....natural!"

Tuesday 7 August 2007

It's all the Seine to me.

Well, Paris was fab. Bert looked after our wellbeing by making sure we didn't overdo the Metro and got plenty of walking done. There was a lot of sightseeing and general mooching, some nice meals out, and not nearly enough sitting in pavement cafés watching the world go by.

Just in case the sights weren't sufficient in themselves, Bert provided us with some additional entertainment.

If you read my post on Taking the biscuit, you'll remember his little trick of leaving half or quarter of the biscuit behind. I was relating this to our friends on holiday, and K suddenly laughed out loud. "You have to see this!" he exclaimed, and fetched a blister pack of Rennie's indigestion tablets that Bert had borrowed earlier in the day.

How on earth do you break a Rennie into four pieces?

What sort of meal requires such a precise amount of digestive assistance?

Why am I living with someone capable of this?

Anyway, here are some memorable quotes from the man himself:
  • (On arrival) "Well that's it, no Harveys for a week."
  • "The trouble with France is it's so flat."

  • "The French have got so much time on their hands." (The evidence for this is that they paint their pylons.)
  • "The Louvre is rubbish. It's full of old crappy paintings."

  • (When asked what he wanted to do, e.g. Montmartre, Eiffel Tower, Latin Quarter etc.) "Not fussed. Go to the Agra when I get back."
However, I am glad to report that he thoroughly enjoyed the French wine after all, and had to cart his Aussie stuff back home again. He also consumed the biggest steak I have ever seen. Bert selected the restaurant on the basis of this menu item: 'Côte de bœuf grillée (min. 900g)'. It was of course meant for two which at least saved me deliberating what to have, and I had approximately 50g all to myself. (Oh - maybe that's why he was being careful with the Rennie's earlier in the week.)

Unfortunately I didn't get a photo of the steak, but just to finish off here's Bert enjoying the Parisian sights.

"Hey Bert, look, we're just passing Notre Dame!". Zzzzzzzz.

Friday 20 July 2007

L'homme qui a l'esprit ouverte* ( pas!)

*I think that means 'The man with the open mind' but I guess it's a bit late to be practising my French because...

...we're off to Paris tomorrow! (With some very good friends of ours.)

Bert's first act of multi-cultural open-mindedness came when he announced that he was taking with him a curry from our (admittedly excellent) local takeaway 'The Agra' for his first night's meal. "What about the rest of us?" I asked, perhaps a little plaintively. "What about you?" was the predictable response.

Then he phoned our friends and made them (reluctantly) promise to take some Australian wine with them. "I'm not drinking that French crap," he announced with some disdain. We will no doubt remind him of that once the Australian is exhausted and we're all tucking into a particularly fine claret. Needless to say, Bert does not 'parlez la langue' so he won't understand when we tell him "Tu es vraiment dans la merde".

This is our typical last-minute scenario (and it's looking promising so far):
  • "You haven't packed yet". You can say this to Bert at any point up to, say, 45 minutes or an hour before we set off, and you will be telling the truth.
  • Bert invariably has a large number of (non-holiday) tasks to complete before we set off.
  • Bert will be highly stressed for the last couple of hours before we leave.
  • Just as we are all ready, Bert will go and do a lengthy dump (by 'dump' I mean 'have a shit', but actually he has been known to go to the municipal tip before we can load the car up).
  • Approximately 15 minutes after setting off Bert will suddenly and magically mellow.
  • Sadly, by this time the rest of us are irretrievably wound up.
C'est la vie!

Thursday 19 July 2007

Taking the biscuit

Bert has many annoying habits - well, he is a man after all. I feel a need to share these (spreading the pain, remember). Of course, I am a perfect zone of annoying-habit-freeness myself. Apart from keeping this blog.

Biscuits. Bert can't just take a biscuit. He takes half a biscuit (as exact a break as he can manage). Sometimes he takes half of the remaining half, so that I find a neat quarter of biscuit in the pack. Not only is this annoying in and of itself, but my own sense of neatness makes me eat the half or quarter as well as the whole biscuit or two I went for in the first place. Or something like that.

Towels. When Bert's had a shower and washed his hair, he likes to carry a towel around to continue drying his hair. It doesn't matter how many times I politely mention the scrumpled wet towels lying around the bedroom, living room, kitchen, hallway etc., it simply has no effect. Of course they all smell musty by the time I find them so they have to be rewashed. And whatever was underneath them (bank letters, school reports, nice new silk cushion, you know the sort of thing) is now crinkled and damp too.

Drawers (as in chest of, not knickers). Why is he incapable of closing any drawer whatsoever? (But speaking of 'knicker' drawers, he likes to leave his flies open too. See Things My Boyfriend Says for a great explanation for this behaviour.)

Using every bit of horizontal surface as his paperwork office. Not letting me move said paperwork because otherwise he will forget to do things. Liking to put a strange object in the middle of the hall, because it is so strange he will notice it and then remember why he put it there (to remind him of some completely unrelated task).

Constantly losing things (especially keys), and then accusing others of moving/stealing/hiding them.

Incidentally, that last one reminds me of one of the most unpleasant rows we ever had. A few years ago when the girls were little, Bert was looking for his shoes to go to work. Over a few minutes he worked himself up into an absolute frenzy. Effing and blinding, despite the fact that I was helping him by looking everywhere. I was getting more and more wound up by his ungrateful attitude and when he eventually accused the girls of having put them somewhere I blew up. "Just f*ck off out of the house will you and don't bother coming back!" or similar. He did (f*ck off), and later in the day I got a sheepish email (and, I seem to remember, flowers). He'd left his stupid shoes at work.

Oh God, that's all I can bear for now.

Friday 13 July 2007

A Bad Day in Bertville

Well, this conversation could have gone better.

Bert went out last night - I wasn't invited as it was an all-male 'business' dinner. Hmm. Hmmmm.

I was up the garden pottering (we have a very long garden) and Bert yells to me at top volume so the whole neighbourhood can hear, "I can't find my smart trousers anywhere and I'm going to miss the food!" Anyone who knows Bert understands that he really cares about food.

Rather than treat the neighbours to "F*ck off" delivered at the same volume, I stomp down and into the house. Now, explain to me why I then find myself ironing said trousers and sticky-rolling the cat hairs off? Realising my own feebleness did nothing to improve my mood.

I stomped back downstairs and said, "There's your trousers you cheeky f*ck, and is there anything else you'd like the little woman to do before you go out for your man-meal?"

Oh dear. Talk about light the touch paper and retire.

My counsellor is helping me get in touch with my anger. It may be working.

Tuesday 10 July 2007

Mysterious wood

We were round at our friends' house, sitting around a little fire in the garden and having a nice chat about inconsequential stuff.

Bert looked thoughtful. "What is wood?" he asked.

We thought he was being unusually philosophical, but of course he just wanted to know its molecular make-up (answers on a postcard...).

Thursday 5 July 2007

Anything you can do...

G has now set off for Austria, to become A Man of Iron. I hope he will be OK - he has had to leave the 'G team' (osteos etc.) in the UK.

We sent him some messages of support.
Me (text):

Just wanted to wish you luck and say what u r doing is amazing
we will be thinking of you and willing u to get round xx

Bert (email):
Good luck but BTW I beat you to it.

Concrete floor, dug, bagged and carried; 8 hours
Inventory+paper work; 3 hours;
8 mile run; no split

Sub 12 hours to beat!
I accused Bert of being jealous, which he vehemently denied. "I just wish I could have turned up and beaten him, that's all." Oh, ok.

Sunday 1 July 2007

It's all me, me, me

Funny conversation we had today.

You'll need to pay attention.

I have a problem remembering my own mobile phone number, so I keep an entry for 'me' in my contacts. Last time I got a new phone, I transferred the sim card from my old phone and then gave that phone to Bert. Some quirk of how it stores numbers means that he has a mix of his own numbers and my old ones.

Today I lent my phone to Katie.

OK? Follow all that?

On the way to town I'm checking Bert's phone and notice he has 2 'me' entries. I change one of them to [my name] and then we arrive and so I don't bother to check if the other 'me' is me or him.

In Topshop Bert's phone rings and cuts off before he can answer. He consults his phone.

Bert: "How can I miss a call from myself?" [nearby people lol]
Me: "From yourself? Oh! Does it say me?"
Bert: "It says call from me."
Me: "Oh. That means me."
Bert: "How can it mean you?"
Me: "You had me as 'me' on your phone, but I changed it to [my name]. There's another 'me', but I don't know if that's you or me."
Bert: "So me is you?"
Me: "One of the me's was me but I changed it to [my name]. But there was another 'me'. Did you have a 'me' that is you?"
Bert: "A me that's you? What do you mean?"
Me: "There were two 'me' entries on your phone - one was me, but I don't know who the other 'me' was. I changed the first 'me' so it must have been the other 'me' who rang - it has to be me or you - was there a 'me' that is you?"
Bert: "I don't know. I don't think so."
Me: "So the other 'me' must have been me too, but I don't know why the phone used that 'me' rather than [my name]"
Bert: "So did you just call?"
Me: "No, it must have been Katie. She's got my phone, so she's me."

We're so happy living in la-la land.

Friday 29 June 2007

Meldrew is alive and well

Uh oh.

Bert's got a new campaign. He's going to eradicate parking on pavements (I think just in our road, but who knows...?).

He is rubbing his hands together with anticipation and has that evangelical glint that I recognise from the wheelie bin days (I'll come back to wheelie bins another time). He has spoken to a community police officer already and his next step is to tackle the council.

  Me: "For god's sake leave it - life is too short."
  Bert: "Life is never too short." (!)

Bert loves having something to rant about, and I think he's a little bored with other recent topics:
  • legislation/rules that are "a license for people to print money" (like 'Part P')

  • councils leaving rubbish at beauty spots (specifically dead badgers: 4 phone calls and a letter so far)

  • online banking systems who take months to open an account due to their crappy websites

  • "w*nky drivers" who run cyclists off the road

  • even w*nkier drivers who chase abusive cyclists and threaten to tear their knackers off

  • the extortionate cost of birthday cards
In the end I just said "don't do anything that makes it obvious where we live" - he was threatening to walk up and down photographing cars, and to keep a load of bags of rubble on the road to stop them parking on the pavement outside our house.

He is, and always has been, a complete Victor Meldrew. Once a friend (of mine) commented, "If he's like this now, what the hell is he going to be like when he's old and retired?"

He's just said "Don't make me sound like a f*cking Tory."

Wednesday 27 June 2007

The end is in sight

I spoke too soon. Not only has Bert visited G's osteopath, he was so impressed he has booked me in for a visit too. As he said, I need a treat.

Bert is being uncharacteristically kind this week because I had a sigmoidoscopy (if you don't know what that is, it's a camera up the bum). It was a deeply unpleasant experience. Firstly, I looked at the screen too soon and saw something no-one should ever see: their own arsehole (mine is a tad hairier than I would have hoped). And secondly, it was so incredibly painful I couldn't believe it. In the end I couldn't watch the screen any more because it was showing me that they were carrying on even though I was crying and nearly broke the nurses hand.

So when we got home, I had to go for a lie down in a somewhat traumatised state. After a while Bert crept in and asked "Is it ok if I use some power tools?".

Shame the doctor didn't ask the same question.

Monday 25 June 2007

Physical jerks

Oh dear, the garden is now well and truly stalled in its half-dug state.

Bert suggested I should take over: "You need toning up." Luckily for me, the weather is awful. And the pickaxe is vewy heavy.

Bert's shoulder is still bad, and yesterday he was complaining that he had also, somehow, pulled a muscle in his arse. I offered to kick it. Tempting, huh?

Bert's brother G is doing an Ironman in Austria soon. Bert isn't jealous. No way. He's been doing triathlons himself for years, and has nothing left to prove. So I don't know why he said,"If he drops out, I'll turn up on the day and do it myself." But G has a coach and a team of physiotherapists, chiropractors, osteopaths and witch doctors to hand, and is determined to go ahead despite an array of injuries (mostly in the groin area so let's leave it at that). One of B and G's shared characteristics is the ability to be deeply focused on their own ailments whilst oblivious to those of others (or is that just a 'man thing'?). In G's case he throws money at a host of treatments and cures, while Bert does a more macho "I'm in real pain but I don't have time for doctors who haven't got a clue anyway, so I'll just go on and on about it instead." (I call it pain transference.)

Incidentally, Bert proposed to me while he was taking part in a triathlon. He ran past and shouted, "If I make it round I'll marry you!" I didn't catch what he'd said (even though for once I had managed to turn up before he finished), but unfortunately his mother and our daughters heard it loud and clear. So there was no getting out of it, and he was running too fast for me to catch him up and trip him or something.

Monday 18 June 2007

Birthdays and Bertdays

I told Bert today that I had started a blog about him. He looked a bit puzzled. "A blob?" Bless.

Last week it was Katie's birthday and I made Bert write the card. I like to watch him struggle - it's like 'emotional gym' for him. He thought it highly appropriate to urge her to work hard over the next year (OK, I admit he added "and don't forget to enjoy yourself too").

Mind you, he finds buying cards difficult too. As it happens it is his mum's birthday the day after Katie's, so as usual I found myself in Clintons looking for 'Mother' cards. Then I thought "Hang on, it's his mum, he should do this." So I took him card shopping. He took one look at the bank of cards, picked one out and said "That'll do." But when he checked the code and worked out it was £5, he started throwing a wobbly. "£5 just for a card? That's £8 once you gross it up!". (He was talking about the tax he'd already paid on the £5.)

I think 'grossing it up' is a great way of describing most of Bert's observations.

I mentioned recently that Bert had started digging up the garden. This has 'ground' (sorry) to a halt. He has hurt his neck and shoulder in some strange and immobilising way but won't see the doctor and insists it is unrelated to digging up loads of solid chalk with a pickaxe and wheeling umpteen barrows of this through to our (permanently resident) skip out the front. "It's bad knees you get with gardening," he maintains. No wonder I've not got that fit doing the garden. I've obviously been doing it all wrong.

Friday 8 June 2007

Driving me crazy

Today Bert drove me to work in his car (normally I go in my own car). There was a really bad smell and Bert explained he had water running into the car because of a blocked filter. [If you're reading this, Bert, could you explain that bit again about the 'skirt' on the tube attached to the filter being such a bad design? I'm afraid I drifted off a bit at that point, but you're probably right that having a kink in the pipe instead would be much more effective. Shall I contact VW customer services and let them know?]

Bert said that the leak was causing problems with the electrics (his windows had been playing up). It was raining this morning, so we soon came across another minor electrical problem: the windscreen wipers wouldn't work. Bert was taking an 'interesting' route ('better' than the route I normally take), so I was already a little tense by now.

Bert tried the wipers again from time to time, and a couple of times accidentally sprayed soap over the screen so we were both bobbing our heads up and down to find bits of the windscreen we could actually see through. Eventually we had to stop in order to wipe the screen manually, only to find that Bert's scraper had no rubber on it. You try wiping a windscreen with a bit of scratchy plastic.

Anyway, with the help of a few old tissues lying around, Bert finally cleared the screen and we set off again. At that point the car beeped loudly and I jumped.

  "What the hell was that?"
  "Just the low fuel warning." (looks at me) "Are you not enjoying this journey, then?"

OK, I was able to laugh. After all, I've had much worse car experiences with Bert over the years. Our first ever car was a lime green Morris Ital (probably Rover's worst ever car and the cause of their downfall). The first time we took it over 50 miles per hour the bonnet flew up and completely obscured the road ahead. But I shouldn't complain; it didn't happen every time we went at that speed.

The next car was a Chrysler Alpine. This was actually a reasonable car (as you can see we're not very image conscious). However, in its later years it developed a problem whereby it would stall without warning and not start again. I remember so very well the time the car died at traffic lights while I was in the outside lane. I was on my own but it was OK because I had Bert's instructions to hand (he was in Korea at the time which is just as well):
  • Lift the Bonnet
  • Get the Hammer
  • Tap the Starter Motor
  • Get Back into the Car and Try Again
  • Repeat if Necessary
  • (Only if All This Doesn't Work) Push the Car to the Side of the Road
  • Call for Help But Don't Expect to Use a Mobile Phone Because They Haven't Been Invented Yet
I still get anxious when I replay this memory.

Tuesday 5 June 2007

Meet Bert

Bert is one of those people you love or hate. I experience both, sometimes (confusingly) at the same time. I've lived with Bert for many years (oh, hundreds) and the one thing I can say is that he's not boring. Exasperating, infuriating, mind-bogglingly bad at knowing what makes me tick - but not boring. (Well, OK, maybe every now and then.)

Why am I basing a blog on living with Bert? Because I don't see why I should be the only person on the planet who has to know what it's like. Because other people should feel the pain too, if only vicariously.

Actually, there are two other people who know what living with Bert is like: our daughters Katie (15) and Louise (12). It drives them mad too, and apart from the odd guilty moment for giving them a bonkers dad, I do feel that they are developing some fantastic life skills. If they can cope with their dad, they'll cope with pretty much anyone. Sir Alan Sugar? He's a pussycat. Tom Cruise? He needs to try much harder if he really wants to control his family.

The song 'I Was In Love With A Difficult Man' by Christine Lavin pretty much sums it up. Though I haven't actually left yet.

Recent examples of classic Bert behaviour include:
  • Two years (and counting) building and fitting our house extension ('things take longer than you think'; 'if you want a good job doing you have to do it yourself / you can't trust tradesmen'; 'quality takes time'; 'why are you hitting me?'). And don't imagine for one moment it's actually finished yet.
  • Phoning me in a panic after accidentally smashing the £1000+ brand new induction hob in the newly fitted kitchen. I asked him why he sounded so out of breath: 'I had to go for a walk'. If it had been me who had smashed it, this blog would have been called 'Not Living With Bert Any More'. And don't even ask about contents insurance and whether accidental damage is worth paying the extra for. That's an old argument. Bert won.
  • Digging up the garden just as we were at the point of being able to have a party (to celebrate 'the extension nearly being finished'). We now have a multi-level soil bath right outside our back door. The cats love it - we get a new kitchen, they get a new toilet. A big one.
  • Oh yes, the cats. We have three. Bert hates cats (see, he doesn't always win). You'll hear more about Bert and cats as we go along.
Anyway, that's about enough for one post. Looking forward to sharing more wonderful Bert moments with you all.