Bless my Kith and Bless my Kindle – Part 2

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Yes. ¬†It is backward ūüôā

Okay, Hub has gone to work and Gap Boy is horribly awake having slept all day – he did a 30k bicycle ride this morning (it was actually 27k but he has managed to increase his stats whilst asleep – exaggerate? GB? Never!).

I spent a good hour and a half being woken intermittently by¬†his thundering feet as he stomped up and down the (wooden) stairs this morning. At one point I was convinced that he had invited several friends in to tap dance in his (laminate) floor.Or perhaps they were rehearsing for ‘Strictly’. Hub and I laid that flooring so I suppose it is our fault really – who am I kidding EVERYTHING is our fault!

Neighbours from across the road woke me up at 0150 hours – why do they feel the need to stand out in the street and yell at each other? To be fair, the couple that were arguing were young and probably the offspring rather than the house owners. ¬†I’ve a feeling that the male was out there a couple of weeks ago, wandering around the cul-de-sac in a drunken haze yelling ‘Dead! Dead! Dead!’ at¬†the top of his voice.

I checked the local news for a couple of days after that but there was no sign of any gory murders in the locality.

Anyway, thanks to them – they had a poor little shivering dog with them too – some people are REALLy thoughtless – and GB, I got about five hours sleep last night.

When I staggered to the bathroom at 0730, GB passed me on the landing in his cycle attire – he has inherited my latent desire to be dressed appropriately for the occasion.

This is something of a handicap as he is reluctant to organise any more motorbike lessons at the moment because he doesn’t possess the right gear for wet weather.

When I pointed out that having lessons in inclement conditions would be very useful with regard to handling his motorbike whatever the weather, he gave me one of those horrible superior looks that both my boys are SO good at, and told me that I knew nothing about motorbikes and it was none of my business.

Once he had ridden off into the red sky yonder (I¬†was praying that the shepherd’s warning wouldn’t start just yet), Scoob and I did have at least one quiet hour before he came roaring back again.

Whilst out on his mammoth cycle ride this morning, GB managed to collide with a stray bramble branch and perforate the side of his ear.

Much blood!

Fortunately it had dried off by the time he got home but  the sight of a blood soaked youth seemed to have put the frighteners on the mad mothers driving past to school as he rode up our road.

Like all good mothers, I cleaned him up with an antiseptic wipe (I knew I had one somewhere and the bleeding had stopped by the time I found it).

As is his habit, GB texted me a shopping list but said that he would like us all to go shopping once Hub had finished his breakfast.

Hub was rushing his scrambled eggs on toast in order to take me to my appointment with the osteopath, after which we were going to town to do some banking, sort out Hub’s motorbike helmet visor and maybe take in a spot of lunch somewhere.

We did not want to go food shopping, especially for a loud, sweaty, bloody and demanding GB.

There was a frank exchange of opinions and as a result, we went to the osteopath and GB went to bed – grumpily.

Result! Oh Go us!

After the initial ache had worn off from the pummeling delivered by the Phizard (my osteo is a wizard with physio) I felt spry enough to accompany Hub to the motorbike shop -a¬†huge place with a Biker’s Bistro on the top floor. The smell of fresh cappuccino alone¬†was sufficient for me to agree to¬†a return trip when Hub gets paid next week.

Thence to town and a pleasant lunch at Caffe Nero watching the wage slaves rush back from their lunch hours.

Tee Hee.

This afternoon I flopped on the sofa with Scoob and got my daily Jezza fix; some very bad hairdos  and missing teeth today!

Eventually we shopped for us – and¬†the deeply ungrateful GB – who emerged from his mancave just as we were watching ‘Only Connect’ and didn’t take kindly to being shushed.

Victoria Coren Mitchell or GB? No competition.

So here I am burning the midnight oil up in my back bedroom office, tappity tapping and eventually getting around to writing about me and my Kindles.

I have five Kindles – yes that probably is rather extreme but then I have always been something of a gadget girl and don’t like to think that technology is leaving me too far behind.

I always had a Walkman; moving through audio tape to CD player to MP3.  I even have a special MP3 player that lives in the bathroom and has its own peacock-blue speaker so that I can listen and sing along whilst in the shower.

Uni Boy and Gap Boy are very scathing about my gadget prowess. They both feel that their abilities and knowledge are hugely superior compared to mine. I feel that UB has the edge because he did actually build his own water-cooled computer with his birthday money last summer, whereas GB seems hell-bent on breaking his computer¬†judging by the number of replacement bits he orders on his dad’s Overclockers account.

I would never admit this to either of them.

You will note that Hub does not even enter the running in the gadget knowledge stakes. He knows what he needs to know about his computer and his mobile, what he doesn’t know, he asks me and if I don’t know, I’ll check the Internet and only ask one of my frightfully knowledgeable children if there is no other option.

This is one of the reasons why Hub won’t have his own FaceAche page but piggybacks onto mine. As a consequence we have a curious but hugely entertaining pool of friends between us. There are times when Hub’s paintball friends want to tag him in pictures or invite him to games, and have to tag me instead.

No, I don’t play paintball and I’m not an air traffic controller but I know a very lovely man who is.

Back to the Kindles.

Hub and the boys bought me my first Kindle for a birthday present. It is a first generation Kindle without a touch screen. I eagerly filled it with free e-books, cheap Kindle books and audio books. Being a prototype, Kindle no 1 has some features that the later models don’t have, particularly the text to speech feature.

It means that I can put my scribblings into a PDF, load it onto Kindle no 1 via a USB and then have the excitement of hearing my own words spoken back to me (rather haltingly) by a male or female American voice.

Having filled up Kindle no 1, I bought a Kindle Touch and transferred all the books onto it, leaving Kindle no 1 purely for audio books and my own stuff.

I was quite happy with my two monochrome Kindles; one audio, one visual.

Then Amazon brought out the Kindle Fire.

A dinky little full colour sweetheart that I could use as a tablet; I could even watch TV programmes and films on it, and play games.

I should have been content.

I would have been content.

Then Amazon brought out a big brother for my little Fire; full tablet size, HD and even more goodies on board. Christmas was coming and Santa brought me a big Fire for being SO good.

Then came the Paperwhite Kindle.

I had to have it. It makes reading remarkably easy on the eyes.

On a train journey to visit Best Mate a couple of months ago, the train operator put on two carriages with no lighting.  They very kindly supplied us with guards at either end of the carriage wielding torches in case anyone should decide to panic when we went through a tunnel.

Cue a very smug me, continuing to read my Paperwhite when the dark engulfed my fellow travellers.

¬†I look after my toys. All my Kindles have covers; no 1 has a nice black and white flowery padded pouch, the Touch has a more utilitarian leather book cover and so do the two Fires. The Paperwhite has a beautiful 50’s lady cover that attracts attention in the strangest places.

The Big Fire and the Paperwhite went to Amsterdam with us and came under particular scrutiny at security in case I had concealed explosive devices inside them Рor so I thought.

Security at Liverpool seemed particularly interested and I started to panic a little when I was beckoned over.

The security guard wanted to know where I bought the cover because it was ‘gorgeous like’.

During the period of enforced immobility caused by a large object falling from some height onto my toe, my Kindles saved my sanity. So wonderful to be able to search through the works of Shakespeare (free), the collected novels of H P Lovecraft (also free), wallow in Robert Frost and Wilfred Owen, and renew my acquaintance with the authors of my youth; Austen, Bronte and yes, even good old Zola – all for free.

The Kindle library at Amazon is expanding daily. ¬†I’ve managed to acquire some much-loved (and lost in a house move) books that are now out of print and would cost a fortune if I tried to track them down in hard copy.

In a fit of nostalgia I downloaded all the Enid Blyton school stories that Lizzy and I revelled in at primary school. They were not only very cheap but had been put into collections covering the various terms.

Bliss!

Whatever my mood, if I have my Kindles nearby I can read books, poetry, listen to my own words and those of others, check out FaceAche, look at my photos, watch TV and films and yes play games of endless patience.

Packing to go away is much easier too; courtesy of Amazon’s Cloud, all my book purchases and audio books are nestling nicely in metaphorical fluffy cotton wool stuff and I can download whatever I want to read before I go. Hub is enjoying not having to take a separate bag because of of my holiday reading matter.

My Kindles don’t stop me buying books however.

There are some authors – especially my much-loved cousin Ali Sparkes – whose books will always need to be a tangible presence on my bookshelves.

So now that

‘Angels of Amsterdam – part 1’

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My lovely Hub was presented with some vouchers to be used towards travel from his airport – a nice tribute for having been there for more than twenty years. We ummed and erred and decided on a short break in Amsterdam because Hub had visited Schipol Airport for work purposes and wanted to see more, and because it was somewhere I’d always wanted to go.

He bought the flights and I booked the hotel – we got good deals because we booked so far in advance.

This had its disadvantages too.

Ever since the attack of the kidney stones, my back has been causing me grief.  Lack of exercise has also made the arthritis in my knee swell up and become very tender.

I am hopping and limping with my stick in addition to seeing my wonderful osteopath, but the pain stops me from getting more than two hours sleep at a time, I should take out shares in Ibuprofen and my motivation is sadly sapped by the sleep deprivation.

Our romantic break in Whitby was severely hampered by the pore ole leg (POL), and as the trip to Amsterdam came closer, I wondered if I would be able to manage.

Hub booked seats on the plane with extra leg room for me Рwe were side by side on the way out and he sat behind me and held my hand over the top of the seat on the way back.  He also requested special assistance as the POL makes me go very slowly and it gets tired if I make it walk too far.

At my last physio treatment before Amsterdam, my osteopath expressed concerns about the lack of progress in freeing up my back and easing the pain in my POL. ¬†He suggested going to see a doctor – they don’t normally do that .

I called the surgery on the way home and was amazed to find that there was a cancellation at twenty to eight that night Рwith the GP that I have been boycotting for the past eighteen and a half years because he was mean to me once.

Pain and panic forced my hand. ¬†Hub came with me and promised to referee or hand me tissues depending on the GP’s attitude.

Perhaps both of us have mellowed over the years. ¬†He was actually very kind. ¬†Impressed by the fact that I can touch my toes (I shouldn’t be able to), stick my POL up in the air whilst lying on my back (I shouldn’t be able to) and do Tai Chi every morning (I shouldn’t be able to do that either).

He told me not to worry too much about my raised blood pressure Рthat could be due to the Ibuprofen,  to get as much exercise as possible, to go to Amsterdam and have a lovely time, and to come back afterwards and have a cortisone injection in my knee. Hmmmmm.

He also prescribed some amitryptiline  and explained that although it was an anti-depressant, it was used in small doses to overcome nerve pain.

I used to work for a neurologist before Uni Boy was born and I can vaguely remember this being one of his treatments too. ¬†So Hub and I took my prescription off to the very nice pharmacist in Tesco – who was sympathetic about the POL because he had one too, and advised that one tablet would be enough and to make sure that I took it around seven pm or I’d turn into a zombie – better than a gremlin anyway.

The standard dose for adults is 75mg per day and I was on 10mg per day so I didn’t think the side effects would be too bad. Hmmmmmm. I took two tablets the first night and the second. Not a good idea.

Sleep deprivation has enhanced my dormouse-like abilities to nod off whenever the action stops – if only for a few moments. The addition of the amitriptyline turned me into the walking dead – no more playing ‘Bejewelled Blitz’ on my laptop in the early hours – my eyes wouldn’t stay open. I also got impressive dizzy spells – which go under the heading of ‘acceptable side effects’. (Acceptable to who?)

Bezzie Mate came to stay for the weekend before we went away.  I managed to limp around Tesco with him without falling over, and once Hub had woken from his post night shift slumbers, we went off to what was left of an air day at a local airfield.

How can people leave when the planes are still in the air and performing so courageously?

Love the sound of them, love the sight of them wheeling and crossing trails in the sky, even love the smell – from a distance though because close to makes me wheezy. Hub and BM had a wonderful time taking pictures and talking about planes. ¬†I sat in my director’s chair and lapped up the sights, sounds and the evident enjoyment of my two favourite plane spotters.

BM went back Home that night and the next day was spent packing and getting ready for our seven pm flight.

We just had cabin luggage; I had been awfully efficient and researched what we were allowed to take with us.  Finding the right size resealable plastic bags was a trial Рbeing summertime the shops were sold out and the OCD in me did not want to wait till we got to the airport to get them.  I had to leave my face cream at home because the economy size pot was too big.

My Kindles, the electric toothbrush and our cameras were put at the top of the cases but in fact Security were only interested in the Kindles.  The guard wanted to know where I got the case for my Paperwhite from.

To backtrack slightly; we called at the special assistance desk when we arrived at the airport, and I very foolishly turned down the offer of a helper and a wheelchair. We were told to go through the wheelchair section of security anyway.  It was much quicker but very painful when the guard patted down my POL and I nearly shot through the roof.

We sat at the gate and waited for assistance to arrive as promised.  Our seats were in the front row of the plane and we thought that meant we would be boarded first and exit last Рso as not to hold anyone else up.

Our special assistance helper turned out to be a very small girl in an over large high vis jacket. I was glad that I hadn’t said yes to the wheelchair – so embarrassing if it had been too heavy to push.

She was very sweet and led us down to the apron via the lift.

The other passengers were already boarding and I had visions of having to wait for them all before I could make my slow and stately progress up the stairs.

Not so; this tiny girl marched forward and stopped the passengers with great authority.  She followed us up the stairs and waited until the hosties took over.  I was impressed.

I love flying.  I love the moment when the plane leaves the ground and never fail to marvel at the fact that this great lump of steel is flying gracefully through the air. With Hub beside me and room to stretch out the POL, my stress levels subsided.

Only an hour in the air and we arrived at the same time we left – technically.

If I felt well looked after at Liverpool, then Schipol assistance staff made me feel like royalty.  Declining the wheelchair again (oh foolish pride!) we were escorted to a minibus and driven (for miles it seemed) into the airport.  They handed us over to the most charming of young men who, though slightly disappointed in my wheelchair refusal, lashed said chair to a buggy and whizzed us through to passport control.

On finding that we were getting the train into Amsterdam, he then escorted us to the ticket office, told us what tickets to get and then took us down to the correct platform.  His English was impeccable and his courteous manner even better. We were sad to see him go. We had no idea however that he was only the first of our Amsterdam Angels. Curious coincidence 1 Рhis sister lives in London and works for King Рthe company responsible for Bejewelled Blitz.

The train was a revelation – it was a double-decker! We sat on the emergency seats on the mezzanine so that I didn’t have to do stairs. ¬†It was still light and Hub, a lover of trains as well as planes, was happy as a pig in muck as he gazed out of the windows.

We knew that our hotel was near to the station so we decided to walk.  Hub had the two cases on wheels; I had me, the POL and a stick.  We stopped on a bridge over the canal and took the picture at the top of this blog. I felt relieved that we were nearly there.

I am not good at crossing big roads.

When I was ten years old I was knocked over by a green station wagon whilst crossing the road in the middle of town.  I came off quite well Рa cut to my ankle and a grazed knee. Unfortunately they banged my head on the roof of the ambulance when putting me in and I had to stay in hospital overnight because of the concussion.

It left me with a fear of big roads though.

I managed to control the fear over the years until the day when, after dropping the boys off at school I tripped over crossing the big road that stood between me and the bus stop for work. Falling into the path of the fast lane, I managed to throw myself forward and land closer to the kerb.

I got up.

I didn’t cry.

I caught the bus to work although my knees ached, my hands were grazed and I wanted someone to pick me up and take me somewhere safe (preferably not bumping my head on the roof at the same time).

At my last but one workplace, there was a big road to cross in order to get to the bus stop.  I got palpitations every time I crossed it. A friend in the next office found out about my fear and made a point of calling in as he was leaving to see if I wanted to cross the road with him.

Of course I did.

Hub is aware of my fear – as is BM – and they are both very solicitous about getting me across the big roads. They both have very reassuring arms.

We had been warned about the bicycles  and scooters in Amsterdam.  I knew there were trams Рand cars Рand even at ten thirty at night Рlots of people and noise.

The green man crossings were a welcome and familiar sight but the combination of POL, big road panic, lack of Hub’s ever protective arm, a dizzy spell, tiredness and a protruding tram line and I was down.

Like a sack of spuds.

Hub left the cases and was by my side – I was still on the tram line with a big white and blue monster bearing down on me.

From nowhere it seemed, an angel in long dark pigtails who spoke beautiful English was there at my other side.

“We must get your wife off the tram line. ¬†It is very dangerous here. I will help you.”

And she did. ¬†The kind words, her firm but safe hands, Hub’s arm and the good old stick got me up off the floor and to the safety of the island.

The temptation to blub and shake was very strong but it vanished as the angel admired my newly polished purple glittering nails (thank you Sarah) and then imparted the following information:

  • Think bicycle/scooter first – then tram – and always use the crossings with the green man because the trams won’t move until you are clear and the red man lights up
  • Be careful in the very touristy areas because pickpockets are rife
  • Don’t buy a one hour tram ticket – you can’t get anywhere in that time and a twenty-four hour ticket is much better value
  • Visit Smits Koffiehuis by the station. the food is good, they speak English and it is next door to the Tourist Information Bureau – the VVV.

She showed us the way to our hotel. shook hands, wished us luck and was gone – back into the night.

Our hotel was just around the corner. The receptionist was very sympathetic about my fall, also spoke excellent English, and within a few moments we were in the lift and in our peaceful air con room courtesy of another angel.

POL was sore.  Other leg took the brunt of the fall and has some very impressive bruises.

But we had arrived.  We were safe.

And Amsterdam was proving to be a place of kind angels.