May the Farce be with you

There was nearly blood on the carpet at WeightWatchers yesterday. Before you can gain access to the inner sanctum (weighing, pep talk and the opportunity to purchase ersatz 1.5 point Bounty bars) you have to get past two ladies of a certain age who are in very self-important charge of registration and payment. I duly approached Lady Number 1 and presented my weighing card from which she immediately noted that I had missed last week's session. "Yes, I know", I said sweetly. "I was in hospital". Eventually my record was found in the miscreants' pile and I passed on to Lady Number 2 who had, I thought, been listening to my exchange with Number 1. Number 2 looked at my card and immediately remarked that I had missed last week's meeting. "I know", I replied evenly. "I was in hospital". I then received a lecture to the effect that any missed meeting must be paid for. "I know", I retorted briskly. "But I was in hospital". I was then informed that any elected absence must be pre-notified to the course leader so that "she can mark your card" to which I hissed from between clenched teeth, "I told the lady who was in your seat 2 weeks ago and she said it was OK if you were IN HOSPITAL !! Sharp intake of breath from behind the tables. I was sorely tempted (but held myself in check as I need to continue this trial of patience for another 20lb or so) to add that I might be a considerable number of years their junior but I will not be spoken to like a naughty school girl or a felon attempting to defraud WeightWatchers of 5.50 ($11) and if they persist in adopting this line of enquiry then next week there could be a hospital visit of a very different complexion . Then I processed into the weighing room to receive the glad tidings that I had lost another 3lbs, bringing my total to date to 8lbs in four weeks - averaging out at the 2lbs a week prescribed by Brian.

The hospital visit referred to was for the sorting out of a long standing but obviously non life-threatening heart condition. The condition is called SVT (paroxysmal Super Ventricular Tachycardia) or palpitations to you and me and I can tell you exactly how long I have had it - 23 years - as it started about 6 months into the pregnancy with Daughter Number 3. As she was quite a big girls (9lb 2 oz at term) carried high, she was determined to be the cause of the problem which should have disappeared post-partum or such was the wisdom of my then GP and midwife - it also gave them the perfect excuse to refuse me a home birth but that's another story. Well, it didn't go away and over the years the episodes of double speed heart rate had become more prolonged and debilitating to the point that even the day after an "attack" I was unable to climb stairs without collapsing breathless and light headed on the landing, to William's alarm and Brian's scorn.

Now I could have undergone this procedure (Percutaneous Translum Ablation of access pathway/modification of AV node) some five years ago but was put off by Brian who, around that time, underwent an almost certainly unnecessary angiogram, a not dissimilar procedure involving catheters introduced in to the heart via the femoral artery. When I went to collect him, I vividly recollect that he could barely walk to the car, let alone hop into the passenger seat owing to the tourniquet-type bandage suppressing the wound in his groin, nor was I thrilled to hear about how he was able, thanks to a handily placed monitor, to follow the progress of the catheter right into his ticker. An experience I could definitely do without but times and needs change and, following assurances that I could elect to be totally oblivious throughout and suffer no after effects I finally capitulated and so far am very glad I did. I am also very grateful that, thanks to Brian's employers, I was able to go into hospital as a private patient and enjoy all the attendant benefits - private room, TV, phone, decent food, hopefully a higher standard of cleanliness but best of all I did not have to use a bed pan on a mixed ward with only an ill fitting curtain to preserve my dignity and (Gordon please note) I don't think anyone else should have to either.

Weekends are for house hunting! Brian and I have been amusing ourselves in this way for the past 4 months, livening up what might otherwise have been some lack lustre leisure time. We are not idle nosy parkers because we do need to find a new permanent abode for ourselves and Sir William but in the present economic climate are in no great hurry. Estate agents, however, are falling over themselves to get us inside some of the myriad properties on their books. As unencumbered buyers with cash we are something of a hot property ourselves and rather enjoying our VIP status. Since the advent of Rightmove, Prime Location and the like, estate agents are largely superfluous - they just haven't caught on yet. While I am happy to be kept informed of property so new to the market it hasn't yet made an appearance on somebody's website, I don't take kindly to being rung at 8. 30 am with "news" of a house which has been languishing in the property media for weeks if not months. Nor do we need to be accompanied round a property by an agent eager to point out "fantastic features" ie a perfectly average staircase with a bend in it or "double" bedrooms which might just accommodate a 4' 6" bed if you don't mind clambering over it to reach the window and never close the door. In turn, I rather enjoy educating them on the difference between Victorian and Edwardian architecture- always a tricky one for the property "professionals" and pointing out that a reproduction period fireplace in a 1950's house is not actually "a lovely original feature". Sadly, some owners have not cottoned on to the change in the market either and are still expecting exorbitant prices for very average property. Unbelievably, some have apparently still not seen any of the ubiquitous house make -over programmes and think it is fine for prospective buyers to be greeted by racks of smelly trainers, stained carpets and dirty bathrooms. None of our previous 4 houses have been on the market for more than 2 weeks before a sale was agreed and between 1976 and 2002 all our sales and purchases were concluded by very satisfactory private agreement. Estate agency is not, in my book, a profession; it is a parasitic, opportunistic and unnecessary business and I for one will not shed any tears over what looks like inevitable redundancies in that sector.

Brian wants me to tell you about the fence-spraying incident. Our left hand neighbour came round one evening and confessed that during the day while we were out he had got a bit gung ho while spray painting his fence and had "accidentally" also spray gunned our utility room door, the brick work surrounding it and also the off side wing of the "Pretender". He had cleaned it all off, paying particular attention to the car as he thought, being merely renters, we would "not be too bothered about the house". As far as I was concerned, he thought right, but Brian was incensed, subjecting William and me to several outbursts of "Billy Bodger!" and "not fit to be in charge of equipment" and tellingly "just wanted to finish the job as quick as poss" for Brian, of course, would have done the job with a good old fashioned brush, dragged it out over at least 2 weekends and thrown a fit if the merest drop of paint had somehow found its way onto his fifth best pair of jeans. Fortunately we have no mandate for painting anything here so we dobbed the neighbour in to the letting agency and Brian has now directed his disapprobation onto the wife who has taken to sunbathing on the front step - not the sort of bird he expects be spotting in Twitcher's Turning, apparently.

As previously mooted, The Merchants' Tale has now made the transition to Blogspot and can be accessed at www.themerchantstale.blogspot.com where there are already several posts for your perusal. If you have any strong feelings about the future of themerchantstale.com, please let me know.

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