I fear that holidays are doomed this year – mine anyway!

June 23, 2015 at 6:47 pm | Posted in Barcelona, Me | 4 Comments
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After the Barcelona fiasco earlier in the year (we were supposed to go and we both went down with something fluey, which I topped up with sinusitis), I’d decided to treat myself to a little break this week – a two-day ‘painting with coloured pencil’ course in Wiltshire. I can’t tell you how much I was looking forward to it! (Lots!) I set out at a bit after 9 o’clock this morning, and had planned my first stop to be Anglesey Abbey near Cambridge. I’d planned in three main stops on the way down – fun places to visit rather than just a roadside café or services, and that was the first. I was only seven minutes away according to the Satnav, at a rather odd road junction where the left-hand lane takes you on to the A11 and the right-hand two lanes remain as the A14. I assume what happened next was that that the lorry I was driving past, me in the middle lane and therefore left-hand lane for the A14, he in the left-hand lane for the A11, suddenly realised that oops, he wanted to be on the A14 … so he pulled over. I couldn’t swear that he actually hit me – I know I saw him coming and panicked and I know I lost control of the car – and I also know that I wasn’t speeding because I’d just checked my speedo. I think he must have actually hit me because there is damage to two sides of the car – the left-hand side, which he presumably scraped and pushed, and the right-hand side where I hit the central reservation. I then spun and bounced back to the left-hand A11 lane where I pulled to a stop and put on my hazard warning lights. After a few minutes I realised that I couldn’t safely pull off the road from this point and I couldn’t easily assess the damage … and cars were having to pull round me causing chaos to all the traffic in the area. So having ascertained that there wasn’t smoke coming out the bonnet I waited for a break in the traffic and pulled out … thumpty-thumpty-bump … OK, this isn’t good! Double flashers back on and drove, so the police told me afterwards, half a mile or so up the road until there was a safe stopping place big enough for me and a breakdown van.

Apart from shaking a lot I thought I was fine so priority number 1 – ring my breakdown cover! That sorted – text hubby. Then phone the police. I was just about to call the police when hubby phoned me and a moment or two after that, having reassured him that I was fine, I said, ‘Got to go! The police have arrived.’

A very nice copper came over and said, ‘Was it you that called to say that you’d hit the central reservation?’ I said it wasn’t – that they’d been next on my list, but that my priority was the RAC! He laughed and said that was probably an indication that I was OK!  He said he’d secure the area and put cones and warning signs out and then come back to find out what had happened. Before he’d finished, a very short time later, and ambulance pulled up. I told them I was fine but of course they had to do their thing, check everything and make sure. They were absolutely lovely! A very different experience to the only other accident I’ve had (other than someone reversing into me a while back – no ambulance needed!)

They checked for neck injuries by the side of the road, although as they agreed, I’d already walked out of the car and waved at them when they arrived, so not a lot of point saying ‘Don’t move your neck!’

Then I got on board and they checked my blood pressure (‘Slightly elevated, love, but better than mine!’) and took a blood test (presumably for alcohol and drug testing). I asked for some water. ‘’cause we can love – or would you prefer vodka.’ I said I would but I thought the police might not be too impressed if they breathalysed me later, so they gave me water. ‘Any illnesses?’ I mentioned the RA. ‘OK, but no strokes or heart attacks?’ ‘No.’ ‘No asthma, diabetes?’ Nope. ‘No amputations?’ ‘Actually this arm’s false’ I said with a grin. ‘Hmm,’ he said, ‘not sure how we’re getting blood pressure from it then!’

Then he checked various things, eyes, movement of limbs etc. to ensure everything was fine. All seemed very thorough – the only thing missing was a nice cup of coffee! (I was mighty grateful for the water though!)

‘Let me be the first to say,’ said the ambulance man, ‘and believe me I won’t be the last, the important thing is that you’re OK. The car is only a lump of metal and it’s done its job in protecting you, and nobody else was involved, so it’s all OK.’

I wanted to say, ‘Of course it’s not all OK! Yes, that’s the most important things, but my holiday’s screwed AGAIN, my car might be a write-off, I’ll have to go back to work tomorrow, I’m going to have to tell everyone endlessly about this, I wanted to go on my painting course and basically I’m FED up,’ but I just agreed pleasantly. He’d been FAR too nice to be grumpy with!

Oh boy was he right though about not being the last person to say it!

They took the various paperwork details they needed and had a general chat, all very relaxed, and then the policeman came and joined us, having closed the lane I was in with cones etc. He was also very relaxed , took some details and asked what had happened, wrote a short ‘statement’ and got me to sign it. ‘At least you’re alright though, that’s the important thing.’ I bit my tongue. Then a colleague of his arrived – knocked on the ambulance door, poked his head round and asked my name. ‘Oh good – it is your car then!’ Then he saw his colleague and they had a bit of a chat and the one in the ambulance got out. Then hubby rang again – nice ambulance men let me sit there and talk to him, and once I’d done that they said they were happy for me to leave, ‘Unless you want to go to hospital. We can take you if you want.’ NO THANKS! I spend enough time there as it is, thank you very much!

Then back out to the road side, by which time MORE police had arrived – first policeman, first policeman’s colleague and now some ‘traffic police’ who probably patrol the A14 as a full-time job as it’s a notorious road for accidents!

Both of the ‘ordinary’ police and one of the traffic policemen commended me on moving the car on from the original accident site – which was lovely because having done it I was thinking, ‘Oh dear! I expect that was a bloody stupid thing to do. I shouldn’t have moved the car.’

One of them came over and said, ‘I’m really embarrassed to have to ask, ‘cause you’ve handled everything brilliantly and you’re clearly completely sober, but I’m afraid I’ve got to ask you to take a breathalyser test.’ I assured him it was no problem … like I had a choice, but of course it was no problem! ‘I have to ask you … have you had an alcoholic drink in the last 20 minutes.’ ‘Not unless what the ambulance men told me was water was actually vodka!’ You always hear people saying, ‘For gawd’s sake don’t try making jokes with the police – it just makes things worse’ etc. but he was laughing too so that was OK! Of course the breathalyser came out with a zero reading. (I should think so too!) ‘May I present you with this tube you just blew into a souvenir of the event?’ I thanked him prettily and said I’d treasure it. Then he said, ‘At least you’re alright though … and no one else is hurt. The car’s …’ etc. etc. My tongue was starting to hurt from all the biting.

They told me there was CCTV on the road … but it wasn’t looking in the right direction at the time – of course!

I couldn’t remember who my insurance company were, having had the fiasco with Churchill last year and changed companies, so the police very kindly looked up all the details for me and gave me the insurance company, the policy number and the number to phone!

Then the traffic police decided that actually they didn’t really need the cones and warning signs as where I’d pulled off was pretty safe, so they took them all down again! Seemed like a bit of a waste of time, but of course the first policeman, when he started securing it all, hadn’t even got the details of where the accident happened so perhaps thought it was there and there could have been stuff in the road. (Actually, given the state of the car – just about every panel damaged plus two completely flat tyres and one more puncture) I suppose there could have been!  Anyway, the traffic police cleared everything away again and said they’d be off – I felt rather lonely, they’d all been good company and the RAC had just rung to say I’d have another hour’s wait. (This had all taken an hour already from when I first phoned them.)

So I decided I might as well use my time sitting by the roadside wisely! I phoned the insurance company. Well, as you can probably imagine if you’ve ever had to notify an insurance company of an accident, that took a good half hour or so – but they were mostly very helpful. When I first phoned he could obviously here all the traffic noise. ‘Good heavens – are you still roadside?!’ I explained I was but might as well speak to them while waiting an hour for the RAC! ‘Are you OK though?’ I explained that the police and ambulance guys had already been and I was fine. ‘Oh well, that’s alright then, that’s the important thing …’ etc. (Don’t get me wrong, I KNOW they’re right, but it’s a surprisingly uncomforting thing to keep hearing!) He took various details and was helpful and sympathetic except for when he wanted to know what the damage to the car was – at this point I guess he was more reading his script than actually thinking! ‘Starting with the passenger side front, can you tell me what damage there is on the car?’  So I told him. ‘And passenger side back?’ So I told him. ‘And driver’s side back?’ ‘Don’t know for sure – there’s damage but I’m not stepping out into the traffic to assess it for you!’ ‘Oh no – of course not. Sorry! What about the undercarriage?’ ‘No idea – and again I’m not going to go crawling around on the ground to find out!’

When I got off the phone to them, there was a voice mail (if one good thing has come of this it’s that I’ve FINALLY learnt how to pick up voice mails on the iPhone!) from the RAC. ‘Just checking that you’ve been picked up. Our recovery contractor says he’s at the scene.’ WHAT? No he flaming well wasn’t! So I phoned them back and she tried to coordinate with him while I was still on the line. Of course I didn’t know exactly where I was. Hubby pointed out later that the SatNav would have given me a precise location if I’d pressed the ‘help’ button, but I didn’t think of that! Anyway, he finally did find me, having driven past and then had to find somewhere to pull off and come back.

Of course he hadn’t actually SAID he was at the scene – it’s a tracker van – i.e. they can check on the map where he is, and they’d seen him go past and their super whizz technology had decided that meant he’d done the pick-up! Anyway, he was a terrific young lad too when he actually did arrive, and he was able to take me into the garage in Norwich that the insurance had allocated, from where Hubby was able to pick up. We chatted all the way there. ‘Oh well, at least YOU’RE alright … that’s the important thing.’ (Bite, ouch.) He was also telling me all about his hobby – ‘Drifting’. This involves driving high-performance cars around proper race tracks, causing the back wheels to spin and then just ‘drifting’ around the track – competitively! ‘The exhilaration of knowing you could hit the crash barriers at eighty miles an hour is just fantastic!’ To which I replied that I had just had the pleasure of hitting the crash barrier at about 70 miles an hour and it wasn’t especially exhilarating. His cheerful response to that putdown – ‘Ah, but you should try it in a high-performance car.’ Boys!!

The garage were great too – very pleasant and sympathetic and FINALLY, five hours after leaving home and about six after my last drink other than the ambulance men’s water, I got a coffee. What a relief that was. ‘What happened? Oh well, at least YOU’RE alright …’

While I was at the garage I phoned the guest house I should have been staying at. They’re absolutely lovely, and they were able to refund my deposit because they were able to let the room to someone else, so that worked out brilliantly too. ‘Well, the important thing is you’re alright. That’s the way to look at it really – I mean it’s a real shame, but that’s the most important thing’ said the lovely Mary, quite correctly! (Ouch – poor tongue.) I definitely want to still go on a painting course and I’ll definitely try to book them again – they’ve been so helpful!

Then hubby kindly picked me up … ‘Oh well, the IMPORTANT thing is that YOU’RE alright.’ Well, yes, and I’d certainly hope that my own beloved hubby would think so, BUT … at this point I was about ready to thump the next person that said it!

When I got home I phoned my friend Gerbil, who had a not dissimilar experience a few months ago. She gained HUGE brownie points by NOT saying that fateful phrase and giving my tongue an opportunity to cover.

Now the biggest worry, ignoring the fact that YET ANOTHER holiday has been ruined, is that the car might or might be a write off – and if it’s a write off it’s going to be expensive and stressful to find another one! Wish me luck on that score!

You know you’re stupidly busy when …

June 9, 2015 at 11:04 am | Posted in arthrits, Me, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 1 Comment
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… the only time you can arrange to meet with your mum to give her some important advice about embroidery is at the doctor’s surgery!

In fairness, it’s partly because she’s stupidly busy too and away for the rest of this week!

We both needed a blood test, and we knew there’d be a bit of a wait, so we met, appropriately enough, in the waiting room! You may remember from my last post, things hadn’t exactly gone according to plan with the blood test attempt, but this time it couldn’t have gone better! When I got there, mum was actually having her test, having arrived a little while before me. It couldn’t have worked out better. As I sat down, she came out from the phlebotomist, we had just enough time to go through her needlework problem and I got called in!

I only waited about ten minutes to be seen and I needed that ten minutes to sort mum out!

Hurrah for the surgery – and I don’t often say that! When things run well, they run really well … a pity they don’t run well a little more consistently!

The latest on the blood test fiasco

January 29, 2014 at 3:12 pm | Posted in Me, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 8 Comments
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Here’s the thing. You may remember that I said back in November that the hospital were happy for us to have 3-monthly blood-tests for methotrexate? Well it turns out that I’d misunderstood. It appears that the hospital are happy for us to have monthly blood tests but only see the surgery rheumy nurse three-monthly. They are NOT happy to have methotrexate patients checked only three-monthly.

Well that would mean attending the walk-in blood-test appointments, and if you reading my most recent post on this you’ll know they’re a joke – or they would be a joke if they weren’t a tragedy. Today I attended my three-monthly test and had a wee chat to my lovely rheumy nurse about the monthly tests.

They seem to have put the blood tests on a Wednesday now, although my last notification was for a Thursday – perhaps it’s both now. If so, it’s not helping. The nurse freely admitted that the system was a disaster and I witnessed the rugby scrum as the board with the little numbers stuck to it was brought out by the receptionist.

Walking-sticks flying, old people beat others out of the way as they charged toward the board, knocking down the poor receptionist who was trying to attach it the wall. An ambulance had to be called to  cart off the trampled people when the scrum was over.

OK, I exaggerated just a tad there, but not as much as you’d think!

In spite of the fact that there’s a notice up saying ‘Unless you have a really important personal reason or work, please don’t come in before 9:30 for the blood test’ I don’t think one person in the scrum was under 80. Now the thing is, from experience they all know that there’s going to be a 1.5-2 hour wait, and they have lives too – why on earth should they wait 2 hours just because they don’t have work – so I don’t blame anyone, of any age for coming in at 8:15 plus rather than 9:30 – but the whole thing is just a failure … and surprise surprise, staff are going off sick with stress – so would I be, I think, under the circumstances!

The only light at the end of the tunnel maybe, maybe, maybe, the hospital will see that people are not ‘complying’ with their monthly tests and then tell the surgery they have to reinstate tests with the rheumy nurse each month – I don’t suppose that will happen though. They’ll probably just tell the patients off instead.

It’s not the lack of rheumy nurse I object to – it’s the lack of an appointment time , and a sensible one at that, that doesn’t assume each patient can be dealt with in 2.5 seconds or whatever their crazy trial showed!

Three-monthly blood tests

November 19, 2013 at 9:56 pm | Posted in arthrits, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, joint pai, Me, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 7 Comments
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The hospital has decreed that patients on methotrexate for RA no longer need monthly blood tests – they will now be three-monthly instead. Now I don’t have a problem with having my blood tests every three months – as yet I’ve never had a single blip in my tests and if the hospital say three-monthly is safe I suppose I have to believe them and not just assume this is purely a cynical money-saving exercise: ‘Hey, what’s the odd life lost compared to a few thousand pounds saved, eh? Let’s do it! Right lads, down the pub …’

What I do have a problem with is the fact that they can’t book tests three months in advance, and yet we’ve been told to contact the rheumy nurse to make the next appointment. There IS NO WAY to contact her except by making an appointment to see her … a bit of a circular argument! My sensible and lovely nurse realised this straight away and in fact pointed it out to me with a comment on the lines of ‘I’ve told them ALL individually in reception, so don’t take any nonsense if they tell you that you should have booked it through me!’

OK, so that’s hopefully sorted out even before it becomes a problem, but how crazy that we can’t just book the tests when we see the nurse!

The surgery have also arranged monthly ‘walk-in clinic’ tests for the months we don’t see the rheumy nurse … but that’s a whole nuther story … a post to come in a day or so.

Bloodless penguin – and more surgery hassles

September 24, 2013 at 9:57 pm | Posted in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 3 Comments
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I mentioned to the facilities manager as I left work this morning that I was off for a blood test. When I saw him later he asked, ‘So did they manage to confirm you had blood then?’ Well – actually it was a bit of a struggle! The first attempt to prove I had blood was a dismal failure – in went the needle, out came … nothing. The rhuemy nurse waggled the needle about – nothing happened … except that it hurt … she waggled it about some more … OUCH! We mutually agreed that perhaps trying another spot would be better. It wasn’t. Hmm … I’d walked in rapidly and everything, the blood should have been flowing … but perhaps the problem was that it had all rushed to my head a moment before! 

‘Why would it do that?’ I hear you cry. Because she’d just told me that the system of monthly blood tests was changing – in fact it was going. The new guidelines from the hospital are that we only need three-monthly blood tests done by the rheumy nurse. Well OK … that’s fine by me… but here’s the rub. 

At the moment I go in for my blood test, have a chat about my arthritis and general health, query anything that’s bothering me rhuemy-wise (usually not a lot, ’cause I’m lucky most of the time!) and book the next appointment. Now the appointment times are being reduced, so I will only see her every three months and have less time for a chat about how things are going because she will have less time per patient, even though she’s not seen us for three months. On top of that – she can no longer book the next appointment – because, mind-bogglingly, ‘the system’ won’t allow booking three months ahead!

I do wonder how much this has to do with the computer system and how much it has to do with the fact that the further in advance appointments are booked, statistically the more patients are likely to fail to attend! So now, instead of a simple month-by-month process of blood tests and booking, I have to remember to do an extra thing – phone about three weeks before my next test is due and book it.

Well, that’s not so bad – after all it’s only three-monthly, isn’t it? I’m still spending less time than I was before attending monthly? Not so fast … I am also supposed to attend in the two intervening months for a 2.5 minute appointment with a phlebotomist, who will just have time to say ‘Hi’, take the blood and throw me out again – but on top of that, that won’t even be an appointment but a ‘walk in’. So if they’re not busy (hah, what are the chances of that, especially as I happen to know they’re short staffed) I could get seen straight away, but if they are busy I could be waiting who knows how long.

I told my nurse I would probably simply not bother attending the phlebotomy walk-ins and she said she thought I would not be alone – she’d heard the same from a number of patients! Of course you could say, and quite rightly, that we’re putting our own health at risk doing that and the service is there … but in six years I’ve never had a blood issue, and I do have a full-time job and I don’t have time to sit about for an hour waiting for a blood test, so … we’ll see.

Anyway, back to today’s blood test – when she scraped me off the ceiling and calmed me down and got the blood flowing round the body again, she was finally able to draw blood … which, I hope, will be fine as usual!

Blood test delay – well handled?

July 19, 2013 at 11:47 am | Posted in Me | 2 Comments
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I went into the surgery for my blood test yesterday. I got there in good time and signed in, waited until ten minutes after the appointment was due and went up to the desk to make sure the auto sign-in had worked properly. The receptionist asked who the appointment was with and I didn’t know as it wasn’t my usual nurse, so she found me by my name and assured me I was signed in. I then asked her whether I was the next patient and she said there was one person in front of me.

While not delighted, at least I knew there was a delay so I went and sat down again. Ten minutes later another receptionist called out ‘Is Pollyanna Penguin here?’ and I went up to the desk. It was now 20 minutes past my appointment time. She explained that the nurse I should have been seeing wasn’t in and that another nurse had hoped she could see both sets of patients but was (understandably) running late. She assured me I would be seen if I wanted to wait, but said that otherwise they could re-book for a week’s time, if that was OK.

This is a vast improvement on the way things ran a year or so ago, when the receptionists would just let you sit there all day, and if you went up to ask what was going on they didn’t know! I’ve had a couple of bad experiences like that in the past, so I thought this was a pretty good way of handling it.

The only thing is … when I went up to ask after ten minutes they knew the situation, so I wish someone had thought to tell me then. I know, I know – it’s only another ten minutes, right? But still, I had a busy day yesterday and I could have spent those ten minutes more productively at work than sitting in the doctor’s waiting room playing Angry Birds and feeling like one too!

I see trouble ahead (but then I usually do, don’t I?)

February 3, 2010 at 2:02 pm | Posted in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | Leave a comment
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Apparently a simple blood test could predict RA years before symptoms appear. Now this could be a great thing – it could mean that in families where RA is known to be prevalent doctors could test those not yet showing symptoms and then keep a special eye on anyone who tests positive, to make sure they’re diagnosed as soon as symptoms start to appear, and treated accordingly. (I say in families where RA is prevalent because I can’t see it becoming a standard test that everyone receives, like TB used to be in this country.)

However, I can also see problems. One problem is that any test can be overly relied upon. I’d put money on it that if they’d tested me I would have come back negative, since my symptoms even now are so mild and my RF test result was so low (although positive … just…) Another problem is one that rears its ugly head almost any time such tests are mentioned … although oddly The Telegraph seem to have missed a trick this time in not mentioning it. It’s not great from a health insurance point of view, is it? Or rather it’s fantastic from a health insurers point of view. They just need to insist anyone they take on is tested first – if you’re positive, ‘We’ll insure you for anything except rheumatoid arthritis …’ Can’t you just see this one coming?

Reframing a rubbish day in positive R.A. terms

October 5, 2009 at 9:32 pm | Posted in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 7 Comments
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I have had a bad day … but a good R.A. day!

Here’s how the day’s gone:

1. I had completely forgotten I had a blood test this morning, went sailing off to work, got there, realised that I should be going to the GP, turned around, and the red petrol light came on. Mad dash to fill up with petrol from my spare can before the appointment, because I KNEW that otherwise I’d forget.

Positive R.A. stuff:

  • All results from the previous test were fine – in spite of a recent increase in MTX.
  • The nurse only had to have one go at getting my blood instead of the usual Penguin is a pincushion routine.
  • I got the top of the petrol can and it didn’t hurt!

2. For some reason the red light wouldn’t go out, so I decided to go and buy some petrol. Just as I’d driven PAST work on my way to the petrol station, the petrol needle readjusted and the light went off!! Aargh. Decided to get some petrol anyway and fill up the can. Filled up the can, put some more in the car, went in and joined the queue. There was a man in front of me but I didn’t take much notice of him, as you don’t. When I got to the front the conversation went something like this:

Penguin: Pump 2 please

Assistant: Wha’?

Penguin: Number 2 … please.

Assistant: Huh?

Penguin: Pump … number … 2 … please?

Assistant: Ohmegawd, ohmegawd, ohshite, ohmegawd, stop Mr Pratt … Mr Pratt, Mr Pratt!* oh no he’s gone. Lydia, Lydia, shite, heeeeeelp.

As you may or may not have guessed, the aforementioned Mr Pratt had told her that he was on pump 2 and she hadn’t checked. It was obviously not deliberate as he had an account with them so it can be changed on that, but it caused havoc as far as me paying went, and added about ten minutes to my already delayed start at work.

Positive R.A. stuff:

  • I worked the petrol pump and it didn’t hurt at all! (This is not usual at all for me.)
  • Standing about patiently (and then mildly irritably, and then impatiently) while the assistant sorted herself out didn’t hurt either. My feet were fine.

3. I get to work, tell ‘the boss’ what kind of morning I’ve had and firmly announce that from now on the day is GOING TO GET BETTER! I am determined that this will be so. I am thinking positively. NOTHING ELSE is going to go wrong.

Then, at about 10:33 I realise I’m supposed to be in the cafe down the road meeting a friend for coffee …at 10:30. Aaaaaaaaaaaargh. I tell the lass that works for me (a.k.a. the boss) that if my friend phones, say I’m on my way (she’s a good lass, she could have worked this out for herself, but I’m panicking at this stage), throw my coat on and run (well, jog … well OK, walk fairly fast) down the road.

I’ve only gone a couple of hundred yards when a horrible realisation dawns. I phone the boss and ask her to check my calendar. Sure enough it’s NEXT Monday I’m meeting my friend for coffee. Another few minutes wasted out of a busy day!

Positive R.A. stuff:

  • Racing down the road and my knee didn’t even twinge!

4. Had to take middle-sized cat to the v-e-t this evening. Hubby rang at about 4:30 to say there’s no way he’d be home in time. ‘That’s fine,’ says I, ‘I thought you wouldn’t be.’ I wondered why he was sounding so bothered about it. Then I got home, put MS cat in the box, picked it up and thought, ‘AH! That’s why hubby’s worried.’ I’d forgotten that MSC weights a tonne (approx.)

Positive R.A. stuff:

  • OK … it hurt, I can’t deny it … but it didn’t hurt anything LIKE as much as it has done in the past!

So hurrah – what a great day – what a lot of signs that the MTX might be doing its job properly at last!

* Names have been changed to protect the idiot.

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