Week 160

8th January, 2012

Off to the paper shop in beautiful sunshine. I drove past a magnificent camelia tree in full flower. Mum would have been so jealous of flowers in the second week of January.


After watching Man. U. beat City 3-2 in the FA Cup, I produced a spreadsheet of my drug stock and projected forward to the first week of October. These are the sorts of ground breaking things you can do in retirement. I joke but the process is absolutely crucial. I cannot afford to run out and I really cannot afford to buy these drugs in Greece if they were obtainable or not. I’ve worked out that, on the open market, my drugs would cost me £150.00 per month. With the help of our previous doctor in Yorkshire, we have managed to build up a stockpile which reaches to the beginning of October but we need to continue building this up for future years. It seems strange to us that we need to be manipulative like this. Upstanding citizens with a right to medication but who want to travel abroad for six months at a time.

9th January, 2012

Had to go for my annual Diabetic Eye Test this morning. This takes about an hour. I have drops in 20 minutes before the tests. By the time I’m ready, I have to be led by the hand. Nowadays, I have a number of photos taken of the back of my eye. Hopefully, all will be well and I will return for another test next year.

This afternoon, we continued to address our investments which have matured and require attention rather than let banks stick our money in nil-return holding accounts. I’m cooking dinner tonight – seafood linguine – as Pauline has done all the cooking recently.

10th January, 2012

Pauline is brilliant. She has had a little lump – maybe a ganglion – on her shoulder for six months or more. She is prone to these. Ten years ago she had one in her forearm that was pressing on the nerve and had to be cut out in a Birmingham hospital. This one appears to be associated with tingling in her arm and the arm feeling icy cold. Today she went to see a doctor about it. He has referred her for an x-ray. At the same time, she told him about our drugs dilemma when we go to Greece. He immediately reassured us that we could have the drugs that we need on prescription. This was particularly apposite because the Greek News is reporting:

For patients and pharmacists in financially stricken Greece, even finding aspirin has turned into a headache.

Mina Mavrou, who runs a pharmacy in a middle-class Athens suburb, spends hours each day pleading with drugmakers, wholesalers and colleagues to hunt down medicines for clients. Life-saving drugs such as Sanofi (SAN)’s blood-thinner Clexane and GlaxoSmithKline Plc (GSK)’s asthma inhaler Flixotide often appear as lines of crimson data on pharmacists’ computer screens, meaning the products aren’t in stock or that pharmacists can’t order as many units as they need.

“When we see red, we want to cry,” Mavrou said. “The situation is worsening day by day.”

The 12,000 pharmacies that dot almost every street corner in Greek cities are the damaged capillaries of a complex system for getting treatment to patients. The Panhellenic Association of Pharmacists reports shortages of almost half the country’s 500 most-used medicines. Even when drugs are available, pharmacists often must foot the bill up front, or patients simply do without.

The financial crisis is brewing a “Greek tragedy” of slowing access to medical care and worsening outcomes for patients, Martin McKee, a professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, wrote in an October article in The Lancet.

The Greek Ministry of Health didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment.

It has always been a problem but is worse now. Pauline’s discussion with the doctor has really reassured us.

11th January, 2012

Another warm and sunny day. We had the front and back doors open to let in the ‘Spring’ sunshine. Greece, on the other hand had this:


Not only had Athens received a dumping of snow which stopped traffic but the winds were Beaufort 9 which stopped all the ferries.

12th January, 2012

Early start this morning. I was outside the Woking Walk-in Hospital at 6.45 am for my INR test. I have found this the best way to get a quick test. Unfortunately this morning, I found myself with the ‘Butcher of Surrey’ and she really hurt me. She had two, vicious but unsuccessful attempts on my left arm. She laughed when she couldn’t find a vein and I was in agony. She took my right arm and began to excavate it with something sharp but failed, once again, to find a vein. Finally, she stuck something akin to a pick axe into the vein on the top of my hand which fountained blood and then swelled up. I walked out in to the still dark morning, covered in swabs and plasters.

After going home to lick my wounds and have breakfast, we went to the Woking Leisure Park. It is, literally, a park which also contains a swimming building with three pools, steam rooms, jaccuzis, etc and another huge building containing gymnasia, etc. We went at 11.30 am. One pool was absolutely empty. Another pool was lightly used. The third pool we didn’t get to see at all. We used to pay £80.00 per month (almost £1000.00 per year) for swimming in a Health Centre. Because we are 60, we can have access through the main part of the day, which is the only time we want to go, for £40.00 per year. We join on Monday.

13th January, 2012

What a lovely day – Friday 13th with clear blue skies and strong sun. We did the London – Brighton Rally today. Well, we did Woking – Brighton in about an hour. It was a delightful drive. We headed for a trawler shop to buy freshly landed fish. It was coming off the boat as we arrived.

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We bought enough fish – Sea Bream, Bass, Haddock, Cod, etc., to last us a month and then we drove down to Brighton Pier. We deliberately did the ‘old, retired couple’s thing’ of sitting on a promenade bench eating our ham sandwiches and bathing in the winter sun. The sea was flat as a pancake. It was reasonably quiet apart from the sea gulls.


We drove home and went to see the Halifax Bank in Woking. Over a month ago, we had transferred a matured ISA each into a new fixed-rate ISA package at 3.5%. We signed all the forms and left. After five weeks, we had received no confirming paperwork. When we contacted Head Office, we were told that the money hadn’t been moved. So customer sensitive are they that, without prompting, they gave us financial compensation and backdated our ISA to the original date but on the new, fixed rate of 3.7%. It’s great when the customer is king as Greece is finding out.

14th January, 2012

Heavy frost this morning. Out early to get the paper. I found the owner’s wife, a nice, big Polish woman, plastering the windows with Closing Down notices. She told me that tomorrow will be her last day of trading because the new Asda which opened up about a mile away has taken all their trade. I’ve only just got to know them and they are so convenient! They are offering the shop to rent so, maybe, someone else will take the battle on.

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