Monday, November 28, 2011

Britain's Wonderful Care Workers

Here in Britain recently there has been a great outcry over the standard of home care for the elderly and infirm. There has been much gnashing of teeth and big banner headlines splashed across the toxic tabloids and television shouting that Britains' elderly are are being systematically abused by their uncaring care workers. As a fair minded cavy I would like to redress the balance a little. My male staff's poorly mum has care workers three times a day, morning, noon and night, and as far as I can see they are all wonderful. They do an amazing job under what are often very difficult and unpleasant circumstances. What's more they do it cheerfully and they treat people with as much dignity as possible.

My male staff's mum's morning carer comes at seven fifty every day and after feeding me and cleaning my cage she gets male staff's mum out of bed, makes sure she goes to the toilet, then washes her all over, She dries her off, applies moisturiser to wherever it needs to be applied. My male staff's mum is then dressed and led safely to the breakfast table where she is presented with a plate of burnt toast. The carer then gives me a treat of parsley, brushes my fur, kisses me on the nose, combs my male staff's hair and leaves. The carer has forty-five minutes to do all this.

A different carer comes at lunchtime. Usually she arrives on a push bike, no matter what the weather. After feeding me a bowl of dry food and cos lettuce her job is to make sure that my male staff's mum is comfortable and clean. She washes her if necessary and makes she she uses to toilet if she needs to. Before she leaves she gives me a cuddle, kisses me on the nose and straightens my male staff's tie. She has only fifteen minutes to complete these tasks.

Then in the evening another carer comes. Once again she washes my male staff's mum, undresses her and helps her put on her pyjamas and dressing gown ready for bed. She kisses me on the nose, changes my water, gives me coriander for supper and tucks my male staff into bed with his teddy bear. She has half an hour to do this and she does it with a smile on her face and some cheery banter on her lips.

Now I'm sure that the vast majority of carers are like this rather than the abusive type and I think it would be nice if they received  the credit they deserve. My male staff's mum is one of their easier jobs too. They wipe bums, clean poo off the floor, mop up vomit, administer medication and often simply give the elderly someone to talk to for a few minutes each. You'd think they'd get well paid for this, but actually my male staff is better paid - and I pay him with bush chocolate. They are paid about seven pounds an hour, which is bad enough, but get this. They are not paid to travel between jobs. They might have to drive for half an hour or more to get from one job to another, but they have to do this on their own time. They get a pittance of a petrol allowance but that's all. They may work twelve hours a day, but only get paid to eight. It's outrageous.

These poor carers are employed by private companies who are contracted by county councils who believe that it is cheaper to put the care of the elderly and disabled in the care of the private sector. It probably is, but that doesn't mean that that the care provided is better. All it means is that the private companies contracted will cut their costs to the bone in order to make a greater profit. Even a guinea pig knows that.
Care workers are exploited and those being cared for inevitably receive a lower standard of care because carers are so rushed. There is no way the private sector should be allowed anywhere near the elderly and infirm.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Walking Frames and Wheelchairs

On the third Wednesday of each November in Britain it is traditional to take your oldest and wrinkliest relative to the nearest garden centre. Had my male staff known about this quaint custom he wouldn't have suggested another day for a trip to his mum's favourite garden centre to buy some winter pansies. As it was, we were all crammed into his car. Me, my male staff, my male staff's mad sister, their mum and mad sister's long suffering hubby. It's amazing how many people you can squeeze into a FIAT 500. I must admit that getting my male staff's mum's wheelchair and walking frame in as well was pretty tough. Mad sister's long suffering hubby was driving and all things considered he did very well to get us there with a walking frame leg in one of his ears, while peering through the spokes of the wheelchair. Still, it was only twenty miles and we didn't run over anyone important.

We arrived at garden centre at the same time as seven other wrinkly containing vehicles and it was a race to get the handicap sticker out and make it into one of only six handicap parking spaces. It wasn't pretty but at least the local panel beaters will have enough work to keep them going for a few months. Then it was a mad scramble to get my male staff's mum into her wheelchair before the others because we knew there would be a race to get to the tearoom where there was only room for six wheelchairs. As it happens we were quickest off the mark. This was due to us having our own wheelchair, so we had a head start while the other wrinklies fenced viciously with their walking frames, desperately competing for the free loan wheelchairs that the garden centre provide. One poor old soul had his colostomy bag punctured while standing next to his son's work vehicle, then the shit really hit the van. So, while they were cleaning that up we made our way to the teashop and tucked into our lunch. I rode on my male staff's mum's lap while my male staff pushed her wheel chair. Fortunately I had a carrot to distract me and calm my nerves as my male staff doesn't have a great track record with wheelchairs.

Amazingly the rest of the visit passed without major incident. I had fun chomping on passing leaves, though some were snatched away from me. I assume these were either poisonous or that my male staff wanted them for himself. We purchased the required winter pansies and piled everyone and everything back into the car to begin the journey home, this time with mad sister at the wheel. Not surprisingly we hadn't got very far when the poor old FIAT 500 coughed, farted and burped. Come to think of it, that may have been either my male staff or his mad sister. In any case we ground to a halt with a resounding "Bollocks!" from mad sister. Post profanity she leapt into action, dialling the good old AA on her cell phone. That's the Automobile Club by the way, not Alcoholics Anonymous, though she is equally familiar with both. My male staff says he remembers when AA repair men wore a smart uniform with a peaked cap and they saluted motorist members of the AA in military style. Two hours after mad sister's phone call a spotty teenager in greasy overalls turned up. With him came a kilo of metal face furniture and an attitude that said "I hope you bastards realise you've disturbed my cocaine break." At last he stuck his head under the bonnet/hood, fiddled about and finally emerged looking even greasier than before.
  "Well?" Mad sister asked.
  "Shit in the fuel pump." Replied the youth.
  "Jesus Christ!" Said mad sister. "How often am I supposed to do that?"  

Monday, November 21, 2011

Piddles The Cat

My male staff is always telling how wonderful British television used to be thirty years ago. There were numerous cerebral quiz shows like "Mastermind" and "University Challenge". The Mastermind questions were so hard that my male staff only managed to answer two correctly over the entire time that the show was being aired. And who do you think was the most successful winner of Mastermind? A university professor, a physicist, an airline pilot, a brain surgeon, a rocket scientist? Nope. It was a taxi driver called Fred Housego.

According to my male staff there were people like Fred all over Britain, doing everyday, menial jobs; sometimes through choice but often because Margaret Thatcher' anti-intellectual stance and policy of making everyone jobless made it hard for really clever people to find good jobs. Now, having been forced to watch twenty first century British television for three weeks I can officially reveal that British television has been dumbed down to a level that has barely twice the intellectual content of Australian television and only four times that of the United States.

Mastermind and University Challenge have been replaced by "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here." and "Deal Or No Deal". We have Deal Or No Deal in Australia too, but there it's only a half hour programme; twenty two minutes actually if you don't count the commercial breaks. In Britain it's an interminable hour. For those of you fortunate enough not to have seen it, it involves contestants choosing numbered boxes each containing a sum of money. In the Australian version the contestant picks a number and that's it. In Britain however, each choice is analysed minutely.

Host:  "Why did you choose box number four.

Contestant:  "Because it was the number of legs my cat had"

Host: (Absently as though bored stiff.) "Ooo! Four legs. That's unusual. What was his name? Was he a special cat?"

Contestant:: His name was Piddles.

Host: Piddles?

Contestant: Yes, he kept pissing on the carpet. He was very special indeed.

Host: "Why was that?"

Contestant. "Because he was so tasty."

Host: "Splutter!" (Spits coffee over contestant.)

My Male Staff: "GET ON WITH IT!"

Then there's "I'm a Celebrity Ger Me Out Of Here." This is a so called reality TV show and involves about a dozen F List minor celebrities who are so past it and desperate that they are willing to take part in a show that sees them eat mushed up cockroaches, mice tails and other such delights while camping out in what is supposed to be a remote Australia jungle, but is actually the grounds of a four star resort close to the Gold Coast. Another ordeal makes them grope around in boxes of creepy crawlies in search of various items. When they've had enough torture they are encouraged to shout "I'm a celebrity get me out of here." University Challenge it ain't.

So, my male staff and I were sitting in his mum and dad's lounge watching this sort of stuff and he turned to me as I was munching on a pile of lettuce and capsicum on the sofa and said. "Crap on the telly tonight Billy."
Being an obliging sort of a cavy I did just that. On the telly, beside the telly and all around the telly. Then my male staff complained when he trod in it and squashed it into the carpet. Honestly, sometimes you just can't win.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Come The Revolution

I don't want to worry you unnecessarily but sooner or later you humans will relax your guard and then we animals will take over the world, and quite naturally as creatures of superior intelligence (Apart from Badger of course.) cavies, and in particular guinea pigs will inherit the earth. So, come the revolution comrades there will be quite a few changes made. You humans have had your chance to make the world work and quite frankly you've totally stuffed things up. Even the dinosaurs did a better job when they were in charge and they were forty ton creatures with brains the size of a pea. Anyway, you'll all be extinct soon because you've poisoned the air you breath, eaten all the fish in the sea and chopped down all the rain forests to grow stupid palm oil that even rabbits won't eat and they're not fussy. All your politicians are corrupt, even though they all pretend that they're not. All, that is, except for Signor Berlusconi who doesn't pretend anything. He's absolutely blatent about it. I suppose a man who owns most of his nation's media can afford to be. When you look at it like that you might say that he is the planet's most honest politician.
What follows are a few of the laws that will apply as soon as we guinea pigs have deposed the current crappy batch of so called world leaders.

Neighbours" and "Home and Away" will, with immediate effect be removed from the airways & replaced with some sort of entertainment.

Guns will be confiscated from humans. Their brains are too primitive to be able to handle them safely.

Anyone caught drink driving will be sentenced to drink a gallon of cheap tequila and eat six slightly off donner kebabs within an hour.

Anyone abandoning an animal will be summarily sentenced to death by elephant trampling.

Humans found talking or texting on a mobile phone while driving will be sentenced to having their phone rammed up their bottom passage sideways...............on vibrate mode.

Any human caught throwing a cigarette butt from his or her car will be force-fed the contents of a Malaysian bar's ashtray.

Racial abuse and racial discrimination will be punished by having the perpetrator indellibly spray painted the same colour as their victim.

Airports rostering only two immigration officials to handle fourteen arriving Airbus A380s will be closed and turned into crappy down market shopping malls. Many airports are already halfway there anyway.

Shops and shopping malls displaying Christmas decorations prior to the tenth of December will have the offending decorations torn down, confiscated and made into those nice silver, heat retaining blankets which will be distributed among the world's homeless.

Managers of shops and shopping malls broadcasting Christmas music before the tenth of December will be locked into a sound proof cell and forced to listen to "There's No One Quite Like Grandma" on a loop for twenty four hours.

People writing to newspapers to complain about speeding fines will have to swap their car for a unicycle.

These simple laws will form the basis of the new regime. Anyone who has read "Animal Farm" will know the score, except for all that bollocks about all animals being equal. Humans will be second class citizens - obviously. They will be forced to live in crowded, disease ridden ghettos like Sydney, San Diego and Harrogate. Animals will not be required to work, except for horses of course. Their job will be to fertilize my parsley and coriander. Viva le Revolution Comrades. By the way you can all call me Che in future.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Far Canal

What fun! My male staff and I took his mum to Foxton Locks in Leicestershire. It's only a ten minute drive from his mum and dad's house in Market Harborough, so we figured it should be reasonably safe to let my male staff operate the car. So we loaded the car up with my male staff's mum's wheelchair and walking frame and headed for Foxton Locks. We'd got about halfway there and were having a nice time listening to the radio (I was dancing to a typically cheerful ditty by Leonard Cohen.) when we realised that we had forgotten to load up my male staff's mum.

Never mind. A quick handbrake turn in the High Street and we were heading back home. This manoeuvre somewhat surprised a policeman on a push-bike who lost his balance and fell in a puddle. Fortunately we ran over his fingers before he could write down our registration number. Back at the house my male staff's mum was still standing by the side of the road looking somewhat puzzled. We bundled her into the car and set off again. Ten minutes later we reached Foxton Locks. It's an historic and scenic series of canal locks that clamber up a hill, it's quite a spectacular site. Not sure which canal it is. It may be the Far Canal that my male staff is always going on about.

Once we arrived at the Locks my male staff prised his mum from the car and deposited her in her wheelchair which immediately took off down the hill because he'd neglected to apply the handbrake thingy. With a cry of "Far Canal!" my male staff leapt into action. He's really quite agile for a one hundred kilogram gorilla and he caught up with wheelchair just before it tipped into the canal much to the disappointment of the many onlookers. At this point, as he was asking his mum if she was alright and whether or not she needed to go to the toilet, a movement caught his eye. The Far Canal once more got a loud mention as my male staff noticed that he also forgotten to apply the handbrake on the car and it was slowly rolling towards the water.
He shoved his mum in the wheelchair at the nearest bystander with a cry of "Quick! Grab this." and raced off to save the car. He leapt head first through the open door and jammed on the handbrake as the car teetered on the brink. This was turning into a very good day. While all this happening I was happily munching on some grass but I had to pause to applaud this rather marvelous display of incompetence.

After all this excitement we needed a cup of coffee, well I didn't - the humans did. I would have preferred to have stayed where I was, surrounded by juicy green grass. However, there were ducks about and we all know how vicious they can be. So I toddled along behind my male staff who was pushing his mum along in her wheelchair. After what seemed to be an eternity we found a coffee shop. Sadly the door was too narrow for the wheelchair. My male staff has never been a great judge of distance (For example, he always underestimates the space between his ears.) and the wheelchair jammed in the doorway, almost catapulting his mum out of the chair. With his mum jammed fast in the door, my male staff had to climb over her and the wheelchair to order her a cup of coffee, which she then had to drink while wedged between the door posts. She didn't mind, but the queue of people behind her were a bit put out at having to clamber over her in order to get to their morning coffee. In the end, my male staff had to borrow another customer's ham sandwich to lubricate the door posts with butter in order to free the wheelchair. It was a great morning's entertainment which left me so exhausted that my male staff's mum had to walk back to the car while I took my life in my paws and rode back in the wheelchair pushed by my male staff.

Friday, November 11, 2011

What's a Grecian Urn?

Busy day today. My male staff's mum came home from hospital and he and I spent the afternoon sorting out her medication. She has to take nine tablets every morning and seven every night. She has steroids to shrink the swelling around her tumour, she has tablets to prevent seizures and one to prevent cramp. There are painkillers, things for her tummy and a calcium tablet the size of a Frisbee. While my male staff sorted them into morning and evening doses I tried each one to make sure they were safe. They were, but now I rattle like a tin drum full of dried peas. I'm looking forward to passing them to see what sort of effect they have on my bush chocolate. Many of the tablets are bush chocolate shaped, so I'm interested to see whether or not passing through my digestive system alters their appearance at all.

Other things less important than the shape of my bush chocolate have been happening in the world today too.
Insignificant things like the Eurozone's third largest economy teetering on the brink of a large toilet, threatening to flush the rest of the world's economy into the financial sewer with it. It seems Signor B has been spending rather too much on young prostitutes and pizzas, and who can blame him, we all like a good pizza now and again. However if it means bringing the world's economy to it's knees most of us would probably resist the temptation.  At the same time Greece's moussaka mines and ouzo wells are all about to close down.
To paraphrase the old joke -
Q. "What's a Grecian urn?"
A. "Too bloody much to sustain a national economy based on the export of feta cheese." 

Of course Britain is somewhat insulated from all the chaos on the continent because shortly after the Falklands War ended Mrs Thatcher employed the Royal Navy to tow the entire island westward because she couldn't stand the smell of garlic wafting across the English Channel from France. This had the added benefit of bring her closer to her two friends across the Atlantic - the somewhat senile Ronald Reagan and the somewhat brutal Augusto Pinochet.

Meanwhile here in jolly old Blighty the Conservative/Liberal Democrat government is up to it's receding chin in bush chocolate, for several reasons actually, but for the moment at least mostly because they've forced Brodie Clark - a senior civil servant with the UK Border Force to resign because he authorised a relaxation of passport checks during the peak summer months. This meant that all sorts of undesirables may have entered Britain undetected. Terrorists, criminals, Australian tourists. The problem is that he says he had the authority to do it from the Home Secretary, Theresa May. Consequently the bush chocolate has hit the fan and the Prime Minister is saying that he backs the Home Secretary all the way. In other words she's as doomed as clump of coriander at a cavy convention. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Granny's Frog Impersonation

I've just returned home from visiting my male staff's mum in hospital with my male staff and his dad. She was quite well, despite living entirely on hospital food for more than a week. My male staff took her some grapes, but I ate those. Very nice they were too. The hospital ward is a depressing place. My male staff's mum - who has an inoperable brain tumour looked to be about the healthiest person there, including many of the nurses. My male staff's mad sister says it is the ATC ward (About To Croak.)

Still, my male staff's mum is doing rather well and expects to be discharged later this week if she doesn't escape first. She'll stay at home with my male staff's dad with the help of carers, but in the end her tumour will expand and worm it's way into vital parts of her brain, and when that happens the steroids that have improved her wellbeing so much over the past week will no longer be effective and she will begin to die. I really can't begin to imagine how my male staff's dad must be feeling as the end of his life's partner's life relentlessly approaches. Meanwhile, my male staff and his mad sister and trying to cope with the sadness of losing their mother by trying to ensure that her remaining days are spent in comfort and dignity.

Spending time with my male staff and his mad sister is like attending an inappropriate joke convention. Maybe it's some sort of defence mechanism, but normal people eavesdropping on them and their sense of humour would probably think them utterly callous bastards. I was with them in a shop on the eve of Halloween when they found some Grim Reaper outfits and were discussing the possibility of wearing them into the ATC ward and saying "Right then you lot. Everyone get on the bus please."

I think they must get their macabre sense of humour from their mother. This is one of her favourite jokes.
A little girl - six year old Jennifer, was playing with her granny while her mummy was out shopping.
  "Granny?" She said.
  "Yes Sweetie."
  "Granny, will you do your frog impersonation?"
  "What do you mean Jennifer? Said Granny, a liitle puzzled. "I can't do a frog impersonation."
  "Yes you can Granny." Insisted Jennifer. "Mummy said you could."
  "Mummy did?"
  "Yes. I heard her say "I hope Granny croaks soon, then we'll all be rich." 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Mike Tyson Lookalikes

My male staff and I were at Brisbane airport. He was playing with his computer and I was scuttling about the floor scaring the living daylights out of little old ladies by running between their legs squealing like a girl. Such fun. I like to see how often I can get the paramedics called out per hour. So far my personal best is seven. I'm aiming for double figures next time I visit an airport.

A few minutes before we were due to board the flight my male staff decided that his bladder needed to be relieved of some of it's contents. Must have been the bottle of chardonnay he'd guzzled before we checked in. So he tottered off to the gents with me balanced precariously on his shoulder. As he stood there at the urinal sighing with relief his trouser button suddenly gave way to the immense pressure from his belly and plopped into the pretty yellow liquid in the bowl in front of him where is bobbed jauntily like a little life raft. For a moment I could see that he was tempted to roll op his sleeves and fish it out. This was an unnerving moment because I really didn't want him to bend over and tip me in with his button. Luckily with a soft but heartfelt "Bollocks!" he hoiked up his zip, which was now the only thing keeping his trousers up, washed his hands, dried them on my fur (There were no paper towels.) and boarded the plane. It was hard for him to walk properly because he had a hold his trousers up with one hand, carry his hand luggage with the other and balance a furry mammal on his shoulder.

The result of all this was that when he let go of his trousers to put his hand luggage in the overhead locker they slipped down and settled around his ankles. Actually he did very well not to trip over them and I could tell that the other passengers were very impressed with his blue and white striped underwear. Thankfully they were clean on less than a week ago. This happened several times during the twenty three hour journey and provided a great source of entertainment for both passengers and crew alike. I could see them nudging each other and whispering to their neighbours. "Pssst. Look, he's going to get up again. Better cover little Emily's eyes."

Trouser incident aside it was an uneventful trip and having spent a night a male staff's mad sister's house we went to see male staff's mum in hospital. Once again I was smuggled into the ward by being stuffed down the front of my male staff's newly mended trousers and ordered not to make any sudden moves. I was sneaked past the Mike Tyson lookalike nurses and then my male staff sat down by his mum's bed and opened his fly so that I could poke my head out and eat his mum's grapes. So there we sat - the five of us, my male staff, his mad sister, his dad, his mum and yours truly all looking at each other and making stilted conversation. At least the other four did, I stuffed myself with grapes until I felt sick. Now and again a Mike Tyson lookalike would come in to check on my male staff's mum and I would have to be hurriedly tucked back into my male staff's trousers without getting my fur caught in his zip. Heaven knows what the Mike Tyson lookalike thought was going on when she came into the room to find my male staff frantically stuffing something hairy back into his fly.

Anyway, the good news is that we've been back to see my male staff's mum a couple of times now, and each time she's looked better. The poor old thing has an inoperable brain tumour and it had been growing and putting pressure on her brain, causing seizures and other symptoms. They've got her on steroids now which shrink the swelling around the tumour but don't affect the tumour itself unfortunately. They also give her biceps like Sylvester Stallone but that's a small price to pay.