What a new look to general practice! Deannie and I are very fortunate having found a local practice which is much like the one we left behind at Feltwell. A relatively small building with a few doctors and ancillary staff. Our new practice, however, is one of a large group of practices “owned” by a third party, such as an insurance company. So far, the practice has retained the personal and human touch and I hope this continues.
Last week, we had cause to visit a nearby megapractice for a hearing assessment. The practice is housed in a massive old building which, throughout the 1800s and 1900s, made metal and fabricated some of the very first steam engines to run in the Midlands. The old brick shell of the building has been retained, with massive steel girders in the roof and all the original windows with leaded glass and semicircular tops incorporated. Fascinating history and an interesting conversion. They have inserted a massive upper floor throughout the entire building and, all around the edge of this floor, are cubicles, each about the size of half a lorry container, most of which incorporate one of the old windows. This set up provides 30 consulting rooms (yes, thirty) and the practice has 11 GP partners and another 6 regular Gps. The other 13 rooms are occupied by nurses, and most of the downstairs is given over to the secretariat. When a patient came out of a room, the GP could be seen, looking forlorn and lonely in his/her box, and I could not help thinking how I would have disliked working in such a superb but isolating building. I shall let you know ore as time goes on.
There are five doctors living in neighbouring houses. One is an anaesthetist working 50 miles away who fell asleep and hit a lorry. Another is a GP who seems to work in different practices as needed and I shall talk to her about the megapractice.
We went to see Tom Jones last night. I went under sufferance because Charlotte had forgotten a parents’ evening, but I have to admit to thoroughly enjoying myself .Tom was performing a live outdoor concert at Ragley Hall and we all sat on our deckchairs and paid for ice creams with gold bars. The tradition seemed to be for everyone (except me) to stand up and jiggle when a popular song such as Sex Bomb was sung and I shall long carry the memory of hundreds of very well fed ladies bopping around. One particularly vigorous lady held her ‘phone out to video Tom’s performance, little realising that her ‘phone camera was swinging bak and forth in a 45 degree arc and the resulting video would be unwatchable without the aid of medication for travel sickness.
Deannie and I visited Ikea again today. It is only 20 minutes away and the triick is to arrive early and have a full English (£2.45}before shopping and a full lunch (about £4) before returning home. We bought several bookcases which, when I put them together, were two inches too wide for the room and I had to re-jig the project. It’s all OK now.
A police patrol car was parked outside a pub at closing time. They noticed a man leaving the pub so apparently intoxicated that he could not walk.He stumbled around the car park for a few minutes, eventually found his car and took several minutes finding the door lock with his key. He then sat in his car for a few minutes while most of the other cars left the car park. He started the engine, honked his horn, switched his hazard lights on and off a few times and then, after all the other cars had left, he inched out on to the road, straight into the arms of the waiting police who breathalysed him. To their utter amazement, the test was negative and they told him that the machine must be wrong so they would take him to the police station. The driver told them not to bother as “Tonight, I am the designated decoy”.
A rich man decided to holiday in India and took his dog along for company. The dog chased butterflies and got lost. He noticed a tiger approaching menacingly so he turned his back to the tiger and sat down beside a pile of bones, munching on one and saying “Ah, that was a delicious tiger. I wonder if there are any more around here”.A monkey witnessed the scenario and told the tiger how he had been fooled. The tiger was furious and told the monkey to jump on his back while he went off to “sort out” the dog. The dog noticed the duo approaching and realised he was in big trouble. He sat down with his back to the tiger and, as they approached, he said “Where has that monkey gone? I sent him off over an hour ago to get me another tiger. Shortly after this he turned around and realised that he was alone. Best wishes to you all Ian Nisbet



This has been the longest dry spell for 40 years and exceedingly high temperatures combined with a moisture sapping wind have led to serious drought conditions. Following a wet winter and spring, there is apparently enough water in reservoirs and underground water levels are high but a 30% rise in consumption has led to problems delivering sufficient through the pipelines. During the severe drought in 1976 restrictions on water use were introduced. Ironically, a Minister of Drought was appointed and shortly afterwards saw the start of several weeks of heavy rain.
We’ve all found that some plants are better at coping with drought conditions than others. When it’s really dry those at most risk quickly set seed. They themselves might die but they attempt to reproduce before this happens. Everywhere the grass is brown, but grass is very resilient and will come to life again when we get some proper rain. The immediate shortage of grass however is of huge concern to livestock farmers who not only rely on it as summer feed for their cattle and sheep but just as importantly to provide fodder for the winter. Streams which normally provide natural drinking water for livestock have dried up and alternative supplies have been needed. Locally many farmers have built reservoirs for watering their crops and the irrigating they do must have helped wildlife survive. Wheat is not normally irrigated and might look as though it’s ripening but it is in fact dying off. The grain will be sub-standard and straw supplies may be an issue later on. Heath and grass fires are an ongoing problem. A layer of peat lies beneath heather moorland and once this catches light it will continue to burn underground making it extremely difficult to extinguish.
Like us animals and birds suffer from the heat and use various ways of trying to keep cool. Obviously seeking shade is the primary method. Nearly all animals sweat but to varying degrees. Perspiration evaporates providing a cooling effect and water consumption is increased to compensate. Humans, primates and horses have the most sweat glands. To a lesser degree other animals sweat not only through their skin but also the pads of their feet. Cows have only 10% of the sweat glands we have and as a last resort attempt to cool down by opening their mouths. Birds and many other animals, in particular dogs, pant to avoid overheating. Water evaporates from the moist lining of the oral cavity and pharynx. To lower their temperature species which have big ears increase blood flow to them. Pigs, hippos and rhinos however don’t have any sweat glands so rely on wallowing in wet mud to protect themselves.

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August Gardening.

While the list of gardening tasks for August is shorter than in many months, there are still ongoing tasks to perform in the garden. Your main concern will be ensuring an ample supply of water for your plants. Take advantage of any cooler days to take care of grooming and weeding. Weed control is also very important, because with the warmer weather and increased watering, weed seeds will germinate and grow faster.
If you are looking for perennials to brighten up your borders then look no further than Penstemons. They are one of the most valuable late summer-flowering perennials and, in all but the coldest winters, are easy and reliable. Their pretty colours and elegant habit allow them to blend seamlessly into the herbaceous border. You can plant them with roses, between daisies (asters, rudbeckias and echinacea) and weave through softly flowing grasses such as Stipa.
Penstemons are easy to grow in any fertile, free-draining soil in full sun or light shade and they will tolerate dry conditions once established. Removing spent flowering spikes helps promote a long season of flowering.
Hardiness can be a problem, although most are killed by winter wet than severe temperatures. Some varieties have narrow leaves and these prove the hardiest. Generally, the broader and fatter the leaves the more tender the plant. As an insurance policy against loss take cuttings in late summer or early autumn – using soft leafy shoots about 3in-4in in length. Trim each cutting below the leaf joint, removing bottom leaves, and place three cuttings in a 2-litre pot containing a half-and-half mixture of sand and compost. Place in a cold frame or in a sheltered place and pot up individually in April, to plant out in May or June.
Penstemons can become woody and leggy if they are not pruned annually. In autumn, limit wind rock and tidy up borders by cutting back by about a third, being sure to leave enough foliage to provide winter protection. Once the worst of the winter weather is over (usually in late April) trim again to tidy; until then old stems provide valuable frost protection for the new shoots.
My favourite varieties are: ‘Blackbird’ (deep-purple), ‘Raven’ AGM (black-purple), ‘Osprey’ (white and soft pink), ‘Garnet’ (deep red) ‘Snow Storm (white with a tinge of pink) and ‘Sour Grapes’ (greyish blue).
Top Tips for August:
• Keep bird baths topped up with clean water, if hedgehogs visit your garden put a saucer of clean water out for them too.
• Camellias and Rhododendrons should be well watered at this time of year to ensure that next year’s buds develop well.
• Cut back herbs now to encourage a new flush of tasty leaves you can harvest before the frost.
• Divide clumps of Bearded Iris now so they have time to form roots and flowers buds for next year before the cold weather arrives.
• Take cuttings of tender perennials such as Pelargonium and Osteospermum.
Whatever August brings, I hope you are able to enjoy some time relaxing in your garden, or visiting others for inspiration.
Rachel Sobiechowski, P&R Garden Supplies, Fengate Drove, Brandon, Suffolk, IP27 0PW

Oh I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside

Phew. What a lovely summer basking in the sun on a sandy beach with clear turquoise sea as flat as a mill pond -and we are in England!!!
If the weather was always as good as we have had it for the last few weeks, who would want to go abroad?
As I write this at the end of a fantastic three weeks in Dorset I can only marvel at the wonderful adventure we have had.
A visit to The Eden Project in Cornwall, a visit to the Royal Signals Base in Blandford (not my choice) a short cruise along the Jurassic Coast learning about the World Heritage Site with it’s 250 million year old rock face and best of all going on a fossil hunt with about 50 other excited children – and adults – including us – to learn about the fossils that can be found on the beach at Charmouth, where we were staying, and being allowed to collect them and take them home!
The picture at the top is a stencil of an actual fossil called an ammonite and they are millions of years old. Before we went on the guided fossil hunt I thought it was looking for a needle in a hay stack, bearing in mind the number of stones scattered under the Jurassic cliffs, and so I persuaded hubby to buy me a real ammonite fossil from the fossil shop. It was not the biggest in the shop as some where many hundreds of pounds, but it was about 7inches high and was a dream come true as I am an avid collector of all things ancient – after all I love my hubby!
But, low and behold we found an ordinary looking stone on the beach, with tell tale crystal like lumps at the side we were told to look out for, and after calling to our guide, who gently hit the stone with a hammer, a baby ammonite was exposed- a creature entombed in it’s hiding place and not seen for millions of years.
That tiny fossil meant more to us than the bigger one bought in the shop because we had found it. To hold something that ancient puts into perspective what the world is all about and how small a part we humans play in the grand scheme of things.

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