Posts Tagged ‘doctor’

Two year anniversary

Today is two years since I got the biggest shock of my life.

Two years since being driven by a worried Danda at 2am to hospital with stomach pains.

Two years since having an unreasonable number of doctors look in places I would never have dreamed they needed to look!

Two years since I was stuck all over with needles which would live inside me for next six days, leaving me tiny scars that are still visible today.

Two years since a lovely kind doctor approached me with the terrifying news that he’d have to stick a tube down my nose and to my stomach to empty it.

Two years since being told I was next in the operating theatre and waking up hours later, literally stapled back together.

Two years since the every day functions of life were torn from me and I needed nurses to wash me, a tube to feed me and a catheter to wee.

Two years since being put on a geriatric ward and becoming a delirious TV addict with access to self medicating pain killer.

Two years since developing a fear of food and living off a spoonful of mash a day.

Two years since I became unable to stand for more than a few seconds without being exhausted.

Two years since telling Danda, “I don’t wanna go a walkies.”

And two years since I thought things were falling apart.

But they didn’t. Wonderful things happened. Friends and family were all mixed together and stuffed into a cubicle during visiting hours and it was brilliant. I would never have invited that combination of people to be together anywhere but I had no control over this and it turned out really really well.

Danda visited every day. Every single day. Every available visit. Twice a day. Him and my brother paid for vouchers so I could watch the TV or make phone calls, which I did. I made long rambling morphine-induced phone calls where I babbled and sniffled and sobbed and raged.

When I tried to understand the logic in what had happened to me and needed someone to blame or hate, everywhere there were people ready to support me and let me rage at them and at everything.

When I hobbled down the road for a cup of tea at the deli, fellow customers came to sit with me, bought me lunch, kept my spirits up when I felt low.

The doctors who repackaged my wide open scar every day were supportive and kept up constant chatter while I looked in horror at my insides on show!

And while it would be an exaggeration to say the process was a good one or that I’m glad it happened, if it had to happen, I had the best possible experience of it.

And now, right now, where I am in my life at this minute, I can’t remember ever feeling this great. Things are just lovely. I don’t have the anxiety of the teenage and early 20’s years. I don’t have the indecision of university years. I don’t have to always ask myself ‘what I’m going to do with My Life.’

And things are nice now. Very nice. I cook. I bake. I eat. I write. I read.

Two years ago, I thought I’d be angry forever over what happened to me. But I’m not. I’m just very happy and chilled out.

Of COURSE there won’t be snow in Africa!

I just have to say something which has been on my mind for a while now. That song, Feed The World, which I thought was Free The World until really recently. It’s ridiculous.

“And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmastime.”
Duuuuh! Of course there won’t. What that got to do with anything? Is that fact supposed to evoke pity in me?

O no, they won’t have snow, they must be soooo gutted. I bet all that sunshine and warm weather is really bugging them and that they wish, in their hardship, that they had snow. It’s so hard living in a sunny country.

It’s the worst thing ever. If, as we are led to believe by the song, everyone in Africa is sitting around starving and poverty-stricken, do you really think SNOW, of all things, is going to help the situation? Now they’re starving, poverty-stricken and dying of pneumonia.

As an aside, there also “won’t be snow” in Australia this Christmastime but they can think again if they’re expecting a load of food parcels because of it!

The next bit, “The greatest gift they’ll get this year is life.” Talk about talking down to people! Like we’re whispering with a doctor about a cancer ridden old lady. Africa isn’t one massive country unable to do anything for itself or work out how to get food. If you’d have told any of the people in the town in Namibia where I lived that the greatest gift they could expect was to not die, I’m pretty sure they would have found it hilarious. They were people like you or I and they were doing ok. Of course there are places of extreme poverty in many countries in Africa but as a whole, it’s just not possible to write one song, applicable to all, about how everyone is starving. It’s really offensive.

And lastly, “Do they know it’s Christmastime at all?” To be honest, I don’t think it’s very high on the priority list. A lot of African countries aren’t Christian. It makes absolutely no sense to say, ‘O, isn’t it awful? They don’t have any celebrations at Christmas.’ It’s like a Muslim country singing a song about how awful it is for us in Britain and “Do they know it’s Ramadan time at all?” Well, no, I don’t know when Ramadan is, not because I’m terribly unfortunate and you must raise money for me. Just because it’s not something I celebrate anyway. So to say about Africa, do they know it’s Christmas – probably some of them don’t. What on earth has that got to do with how poor they are or aren’t?

And that is my rant over and done with. I’ve been needing to let that out for years over this stupid stupid song.

Thank you.

PS I’ve just remembered that there was a town further inland from Luderitz, where I lived, which did get snow! Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Bob Geldof. Was it Bob Geldof?

Lazy Laura and the big hospital strop

Almost two years ago, as mentioned in C is for…, I had a bit of an emergency. Like a life-threatening, I-thought-it-was-some-mild-food-poisoning, extremely-rare colon thing.

It was a Wednesday, any old Wednesday, no forewarning, nothing out of the ordinary. I ate my dinner, felt a little ill, it got worse and worse til, by Friday, I hadn’t slept in two days and was becoming a little delirious. By 3am on Saturday morning, it dawned on me that it wasn’t going to be ok and I got scared and went to hospital.

It was supposed to be my first day back at law school after the Christmas break. I had all my books ready. I was hoping they could just give me a little painkiller and send me on my way and I could still make classes at 10am.

Then things went crazy. I didn’t have any time to prepare myself for it. I honestly thought I was going home in a few hours. Then all of a sudden, there were things being jabbed into me with liquid painkillers, there were x-rays being taken, I was in a ward full of people waiting for operations and, wait a minute, I was waiting for an operation! And they were talking to me about my colon and I couldn’t hear them properly through the haze of fear that was throbbing in my ears.

Anyway, I woke up from the operation later that day and proceeded to spend the next three days in bed, sulking over why I had become ill, “why me?” etc. Doctors and nurses would come round and be nice and friendly but I had turned into Little Miss Grumpy. I was having a tantrum at ‘Life’ and that’s how it was going to be!

I spent all day asleep, too terrified to eat anything so sleeping through meals or refusing them, then spent all night awake, with my headphones in, watching Supernanny or Gordon Ramsey’s Hell’s Kitchen on my little TV, gently weeping to myself like an idiot.

I was allowed visitors but mostly just watched while they talked. I think I had convinced myself that I was quite legitimately ‘depressed’ and that was that.

Then Danda came to visit.

“Try and get her up and about,” they had said to Danda. “She lies in bed all the time, she needs to be a bit more active if she’s going to recover.”

So Danda came to my bedside and shook me awake. I was sleeping, as usual.

“Come on, Laura. Let’s go for a little walk.”

I looked at him with my No Face.

“Come on. It’s been four days since the operation. You need to pick yourself up a bit. Don’t you want to get well so you can leave the hospital?”

I did my best quivery-lip, I’m-so-sad-and-ill face, which he ignored. What?! My sad face wasn’t working?! Panic set in. I’m busy sitting around feeling sorry for myself here! You’re interrupting me! Don’t you get it?

“Come on. Put your little slippers on. Let’s go for a little walkies,” as though talking to a child.

That was it. I had had it.

‘Danda, can I tell you a secret?”

He nodded and leaned close so I could whisper in his ear.

“I don’t WANT to go a walkies!” And I stuck my bottom lip out.

And suddenly he was laughing uproariously. He had to sit down and clutch his stomach. I heard what I had said and realised what a baby I was being and put on my little hospital-issue slippers and went for a walk down the corridor, which tired me out for the rest of the day.

But that, that little strop, that was the beginning of the recovery period.

These days, if I don’t want to go a walkies, I at least come up with a more decent excuse, like “It’s a bit cold,” or “I’m far too busy making this cup of tea” or “Family Guy is on.”

Top Tips, doctor’s letters and strange dolls

It’s time to check in with the crazy world of Chat again. But first, let me just mention an odd dream I had last night. I went on holiday to Marbella (I think) but I forgot to book the week off work so I was there, swimming and sunbathing, then I was flying back to England in the evenings so I could work in the morning and flying back to Marbella in the afternoons after work. Wierd.

Anyway, let’s get started. There’s a surprising lack of ‘I used to be 20 stone but now I’m not’ stories. Not one single weight loss story. Disappointing. Never fear, though! Chat never lets us down. We have instead a picture of a cat pushing another cat in a little trolley. I’m not joking. Look.

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Then there’s the usual page of photos about nothing, e.g. here’s a photo of me and John from Jedward. She waited eight hours for him apparently. I’m speechless. I didn’t think anyone took then seriously enough to wait eight hours. Another photo is just of a cat asleep. The caption says ‘Here’s our little cat Tigger, he’s fallen asleep in our bed.’ Nonsense.

Top tips next. This is always a good page. One of the tips is from a woman who says she covers her oven shelves in foil to save on the washing up. Another is a woman who has the answer to one of life’s big problems. You know when you try to fill up a large bucket with water but it doesn’t fit in the sink? Well, you shall struggle no more!

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Put your dustpan under the tap and direct the water down the handle and into the bucket waiting underneath.

Another lady has cut her old net curtains up and sowed the floral patterns onto her top. I mean, thanks for sharing, but I think I won’t be using that old-net-curtains tip.

There’s a really random letter on the doctors page too. Check it out.

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What. On. Earth. An extra thumb!? And she’s writing to Chat about it? And then Chat are like, ‘O yeh, tie a thread around it and it will fall off.’ Something feels a bit dodgy about all this. I’m going to have a serious think next time I put anything around my finger….

Another letter says, honestly, “I have a phobia of mice. I really freak out and have to run if I see one. Can I be cured?” Now, I shouldn’t imagine that this really needs writing to Chat about. How often do you see mice in everyday life in England? I saw one in the garden ages ago and before that it must have been years. So a mouse-phobia, however serious, is not really a major setback, is it? If the intervals at which you see one are years apart. Anyway. Maybe she lives in the country and sees them all the time. Who knows.

Lastly, a woman who collects and makes wierd dolls.

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She thinks they’re ‘cute’ and gives them to people for their birthdays etc. She gave one to her mother in law for Mother’s Day. I honestly don’t know what I’d do if someone gave me one of these for my birthday. Well, I do, I’d hide it somewhere no-one would see it. But I don’t know what I’d say right there in the moment, when you’ve just opened it and present-giver is looking at you, eagerly awaiting your reaction. I mean it’s fine her making and collecting them but what on earth would I do with one? I guess I’d give it a little hug and say ‘Wow, thanks, I love it. I was hoping someone would give me a little strange gothic doll thing for my birthday this year. And now, at last, my dream has come true. Thanks. You know me so well. You knew I’d love this. And I do. I really do.’

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“Are these donuts?!”

The local drunk. There’s always one, isn’t there? Every place I’ve lived, there’s a local well-known face, who spends all their time drunk, on drugs or generally being out of control.

The local drunk near me is a shuffler. You know what I mean, he’s so drunk all the time, that he can’t lift his legs up to walk properly. His hair is straggly and grey and he tells the most amazing stories. Were we to believe him, he’s been a doctor (a psychiatrist to be precise), a law student, a life-saving neighbour and an artist. In fact, any time he hears someone talking about something, he says he’s done it.

He heard me talking about studying for my exams, asked me which exams, then said, “O, I used to be a lawyer… Studied law… Yeh, I studied law… Really interesting…. ‘Sgreat, all that… Yeh, I studied law too… ‘sgood, isn’t it, law…” Mumble mumble, he went, about the law, about how interesting it is.

Seriously, this man can barely walk, I’m not sure how he studied law. Well, clearly there was a time before he spent all day and night drinking, so maybe he did.

A lady was once saying her next door neighbours had a new baby and it was up all night crying.

Along he comes, we’ll call him Mr Red Wine, as that is his beverage of choice. So Mr Red Wine lumbers over and says, “Yeh, my neighbours have got a baby… They’ve got a baby too!… And it was up all night crying… I thought it didn’t sound well so I went over and told them to take th’baby to hospital… All night I sat up with it… All night!.. wi’th’baby … In th’ospital…. Baby cryin… All night…. ‘sbetter now though…” Mumble mumble mumble, nonsense nonsense.

So this one day, Mr Red Wine was shopping for red wine. In he goes, to the shop. This day, he was looking especially manic. His hair shot up and out at funny angles. His t-shirt had a rip in it. He smelled more pungent than usual. His shoes had holes in.

Four hours after entering the shop, he has climbed the two steps that greet him at the entrance. He has shuffled to the wine shelf and, in doing so, has passed the fruit shelf. On it, he sees some Spanish donut peaches. Peaches. Donut peaches. They’re small, they’re a bit flat, they’re yellowy orange and furry. Definitely a peach.

His eyes widen in shock. He leans toward them to get a better look. His mind is boggled. He can’t understand quite what he is seeing. Picking up a box of the peaches, he approaches the till. He has forgotten his red wine mission.

He puts them down and looks at the girl behind the till, eyes squinting in disbelief, and asks, in shock, “ARE THESE DONUTS!?”….

When the girl says they are not donuts, his eyes widen. He can’t cope with this information. He shuffles back out of the shop and off home to think about what has happened that day.

The girl at the till has not seen Mr Red Wine for a while. She thinks the donut peaches were too much for his brain to handle.

P.S. The girl is me.

Trolleyology

I’m handing over to my guest blogger today for a bit of philosophy. Enjoy!

Today’s subject is in the area of philosophy but please don’t switch off. It will be, as you will see, very personal & very practical. What follows will I think challenge you to take stock of what you really believe about right & wrong. This particular area of philosophy has become known as something called “The Trolley Problem”.

Although the problem is as old as the human race this particular way of representing it is fairly recent & only goes back to 1967. It is defined as “a thought experiment in ethics” (Wikipedia). It is called “Trolley-ology” (I kid you not). Never heard of it? Let me explain. There are many situations we all meet in our day-to-day lives which are dangerous: crossing the road, driving, getting on/off buses or trains and for some people even swimming! However if I was to start by asking you if there are any circumstances under which you would take a decision resulting in the death of another person you would probably say normally ‘no’ but ‘yes’ only in very special situations – maybe in self-defence or in war. What I want you to consider is some situations that have to have an action taken which will unfortunately result in death. That can’t be avoided but it is how we make the decision which is important. We will look at a few imaginary scenarios, in order to do this, but with very direct applications to real life.

You may not think what comes next has any bearing on reality but I assure you it does and with situations which have to have a decision made. In other words you can’t choose to do nothing because people will still die if you do nothing. You can’t do nothing just because you don’t like what is going to happen or because you say, well, it will never be me who has to make that decision so I don’t need to bother.

Have a think on the following and see what you come up with.

Scenario 1: Suppose you are standing by a railway track and an out-of-control train (called a ‘trolley’ in the terminology of this field of study) is hurtling along. It is going to hit and kill 5 railway workers who are doing some work further down the track. You notice you are standing by a lever which operates the “points” at a junction on the track before the place where the men are working. If you pull the lever you can divert the train along another track where there is only one person working who would be killed. What would you do? Easy isn’t it? You divert the train (trolley) and only 1 person is killed so in the final settlement 5 out of 6 people are still alive. Job done. Feel comfortable? Probably, although obviously you still regret the one person dying. However their life lost has resulted in 5 being saved. Still good?

This type of situation is faced in various guises in real life but let me use an example from WW2. When the German military were sending rockets over to attack London the British found they were falling short of their target (London) and landing in the Kent countryside. The government took a decision to feed info back, via double agents and false reports, that targets in London had actually been hit. This would cause the Germans to send more rockets to similar positions but with the risk now that towns and villages in Kent could be hit and innocent people would die. It was a strategic decision and had to be taken in order to preserve the organisations dealing with the war effort in London itself. Ok for London? –Yes; not OK if you live in the Kent countryside where the rockets are exploding. Winston Churchill had to make that decision and he did – he fed the false info back and the bombs dropped in the Kent area, in some cases, hitting residential areas.

However consider a variation on Scenario 1 – what happens if I tell you that the 5 workers were all in their 60s nearing retirement and the one worker on the other track was just 18 yrs old. Would make the same decision now? On what basis would you either keep to your original decision or change it? Not so easy now, eh?

Scenario 2: You are standing on a footbridge over the railway. The same train (trolley) is hurtling out of control down the track. This time though there are no points nearby. However next to you on the footbridge is an obese gentleman. His bulk, if you pushed him off the bridge onto the track, would be enough to slow the train sufficiently for it not to reach the 5 workers. You know the question now don’t you? Would you push him off the bridge to save those 5? Well would you? Now it’s a lot harder because instead of just pushing a lever you actually have to push another human being to their death. More issues are raised, I think, because of the physical contact which now involves you in committing a criminal act to save the 5 people whereas pushing a lever didn’t seem to.

If you’re interested, in surveys done on this subject, most people answer Scenario 1 with a ‘yes’ but Scenario 2 with a ‘no’.

Scenario 3: You are a GP Doctor and one day a homeless man comes into your surgery. After speaking to him and examining him you find he just has some minor medical problem causing him the pains he’s complaining about. However you know you also have 5 patients who are all awaiting an organ transplant – each one a different organ. All of this man’s organs are healthy and intact. By killing him you could give life to 5 of your patients. Seems easy doesn’t it? A quick injection and it’s all over; he has no known relatives, no-one apparently will miss him or complain if he dies – 1 life taken and 5 saved. What would you do? Does the age of the homeless man matter – whether he is 18 or 70? Does it make a difference if among the 5 some may possibly be old or even terminally ill but would gain an extra 5 or more years of life with the transplant? Suppose, on the other hand, the homeless man is terminally ill (but the required organs are still ok to use)? Would you change your mind now?

To bring this one into the real world – a situation faced on-goingly by hospitals across the world: how do you allocate the money you have available and to which patients? A recent radio prog highlighted the difficulty. One hospital said they had a lady who required life-saving treatment which would cost £20,000 and her family, naturally, were pressing for that op to be done to save their relative. However the hospital also had 100 patients who would have their situations (not life-threatening) improved by a course of treatment costing £200 each. At this point, the hospital had only £20,000 to spend – so they could treat either the 1 or the 100. What would you do?

I hope you can see these scenarios are not really about runaway trains (trolleys) or imaginary doctor’s surgeries. They are about real life and a finite supply of money which cannot treat everybody. On what basis do we make decisions which have to be made and yet sadly involve the death of at least one person. They are about ethics and how we determine the rules we will live by. Is it more important for the individual to be granted his/her wishes for a longer life or that society takes a view on how to benefit the greatest number of people with the resources (financial & material) it has available?

There are a number of other scenarios in this field and I hope to look at a few more next week. For the moment ask yourself the question – what would you do if faced with the real life versions of these imaginary scenarios. What variations of the situations would make you think again? Definitely tough, isn’t it?

A day in Highgate

Now I’m not one to go to peices over a puppy or wax lyrical over my feelings and the inspiring patterns on a snowflake. But yesterday I spent an unexpectedly magical day in Highgate hunting down Samuel Taylor Coleridge. And I may, in this post, get a bit misty eyed and nostalgic. I’ll try to keep it under control but be prepared.

I started at Archway station and trekked up Highgate Hill. I had to double back and start again when I realised I’d missed the Whittington Stone.

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So I climbed the hill again and was pretty knackered by the time I finally got to the top. Having climbed so high, there was a fabulous view across London which I stopped and admired for a while (actually, I was just getting my breath back but I did look at the view once or twice).

Across the road from me was Lauderdale House, where Nell Gwynn first slept with Charles I, apparently.

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I saw Highgate Bookshop over the road too and obviously had go in. Obviously. In the spirit of my walk, I bought a book about Coleridge and one about the history of Highgate. It was £23.98. I had tons of pound coins on me and managed to count out £22! That’s why my bag was so heavy! I scraped together a few more coins and got to £1.50. I was 48p off. The coppers started coming out… I can do this! I can do this! The lovely lady in the shop was helping me. Eventually I said I’d have to pay by card because I was 20p short.

“No,” she said sternly. “No, I won’t let you. Not after all this.” (We’d been there for ten minutes doing this!) “Bring me the 20p when you get change,” she said kindly. I knew I wouldn’t be coming back past the shop on my walk but I figured it would give me a reason to come back soon. I already liked Highgate a lot.

Over the road and further up slightly was my first Coleridge stop – the chemists with the side door to the ‘back shop’ where he used to pick up his opium.

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The chemist is now a generic estate agent but this side door has been left mostly untouched.

I was opposite a public area called Pond Square and South Grove ran alongside it. Here I found the Highgate Literary and Scientific Institution.

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I knew you had to be a member to go in but I also knew they had a whole room dedicated to Coleridge things, manuscripts, paintings etc, that I was dying to see. I went into the hall but was super nervous. I couldn’t see anyone apart from someone behind one door on a ladder. The reading room to my right looked beautiful, full of ornate chairs, an open fire and loads of books and magazines. I knew it was members only but really wanted to go in. It was locked though, as was the other entrance door.

I didn’t mind not being able to get in because I was a stone’s throw from Highgate Cemetery so off I pottered, down Swain’s Lane, looking for the cemetery. It’s on both sides of the road and is £7 to get into the east cemetery and £3 to get in the west cemetery. Great! I’ll go in, look around, get some pics, this place is pretty famous, Dickens and Karl Marx are buried here, among others. Great. I entered the little hut to pay.

And that’s when I remembered! I’d given ALL my money to the bookshop! Every last little penny. I knew I was hoping for too much when I asked if they took cards. Dammit. I was all the way here and couldn’t get in! I took a few pics through the gates and left, feeling a bit annoyed. I should’ve just paid for the books on card!

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Back out of Swain’s Lane and the sun was coming out and beaming down on me. Damn me for wearing these skinny jeans! The air has NO chance of getting in. I was heating up unpleasantly. But then I stumbled across another Coleridge stop.

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This is where Coleridge came for tea with a doctor called James Gillman to ask for help with his opium addiction. Doctor Gillman suggested he come and stay in his house and he would treat him. Coleridge agreed and never left Highgate again! He spent the last 19 years of his life in this village. He later moved with Doctor Gillman to another house close by, which we’ll get to. But this is where he had the cup of tea and where he first lived in Highgate. The black iron gate and the pillars by the front door are the same ones from Coleridge’s day. Most of the other stuff was rebuilt after a fire though.

Further along the same road, toward the end, I reached St Michael’s Church, where Coleridge is buried. He was moved here from another site about fifty years ago. But it was closed! I was having another Highgate Cemetery moment, I was all the way here and I couldn’t do it.

As I was standing there, bemoaning my misfortune, a lady in a car stopped and said that if I waited til 2pm, the church would be opened and I could have a tour. It was ten to 2. I decided to wait it out. I sat on a concrete stub and noticed that I’d been smelling lovely perfumed smells for the past few minutes. I looked around for a particular flower but couldn’t figure it out. Then I realised it was just the smell of summery-ness, high up on a hill, where the cars were few and the trees were many. I walked about a bit, enjoying the smells until the church was opened. In the lobby, I found this.

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It says that it is the same level as the cross on St Paul’s Cathedral. I hadn’t realised I was so high until that point.

I located Coleridge’s gravestone and intended to move on but it was a really beautiful little church so I stopped for a bit longer, wandering around.

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(I can’t get this the other way round so you’ll have to lean to your right to read it)

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I came out of the church, blinking as the sun was even brighter and the floral smells were lovely and it all of a sudden seemed quite magical, this village on a hill in London with all this fascinating history.

I crossed over the road to a little pub called The Flask, which was Coleridge’s local during his stay in the second house he lived in in Highgate.

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From here, I crossed another road into a street lined with chestnut trees and started searching for number 3, not an easy task when it seemed the numbers were hidden for top secret purposes. Eventually I located it and peered over the gates to find two plaques, one saying Coleridge had lived there and one saying J. B. Priestley had lived there! Amazing! I hadn’t expected that at all and was quite excited.

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As I photographed the plaques over the gate, a man in a white van stopped behind me and said “Do you know who lives there now?” I walked over to him and asked who. “Kate Moss,” he told me.

What?! Now I’m not a Kate Moss lover, nor do I get star struck, but I was still reeling from the J. B. Priestley thing so was double surprised by this fact.

Suspicious, I asked, “Are you lying?”

“No,” he said and lowered his voice a little. Taking out a camera with a massive great lens, he said, “I’m paparazzi.”

“Wow.”

“And George Michael lives over there,” he said, pointing two doors down.

“Wow.”

Now I decided at this point to believe him because it increased the coolness factor of my walk by fifty million percent. You, however, do not have to believe the man in the van. I did check afterward and apparently they both do live in Highgate, so it may be true!

Between two houses, I found a path and pottered down. The sun was out, the smells were lovely, the houses were beautiful and I got a bit poetical. I was also walking down the lane that was Coleridge’s favourite walk onto the heath and eveything just felt lovely and amazing for a while.

At the bottom, without warning, the trees and houses stopped and I found myself on the open fields of the heath. I turned right, heading to the top of Hampstead Heath, to a viewpoint, said to be the best in North London.

On my way I saw this sign…

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…and happened to have my swimming stuff with me, because I was planning to swim in the outdoor pool near home on my way back. It was too tempting. It had been hot and I longed to jump in the water. It was only £2 for a swim.

And that’s when I realised it! I’d given all my money to the bookshop lady! Dammit. I went to one of the lifeguards.

“Is there any way of paying by card? I don’t have cash on me and I’m dying to go for a swim!”

“It’s fine. Just pay next time you come.”

More kindness! Highgate was turning out to be a real winner.

I changed quickly and got in. It’s not a swimming pool as such. It’s just a section of lake/pond that ladies can swim in. Amazing. There were moorhens and ducks swimming too and the sun was shining on my face and there were lilies on the surface and I remember thinking that this was one of the best days I’d ever had since moving to London. I swam round a few times then got out an changed.

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(Proof!)

I just had one more stop to make, at the top of the hill. I found this lovely little gazebo…

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…with this amazing view over London (it doesn’t look so spectacular on a photo but it was, believe me).

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The eagle eyed among you might be able to spot the Gherkin and the Shard, which was officially opened last night.

And that was my magical day in Highgate. London-based people, go there if you haven’t already. Non-London-based people, write it into your itinerary for your next trip here. It’s already one of my favourite places ever and I’ll be going again next week (to pay off my debts to the bookshop and the bathing pond, if nothing else!)