Out of Focus - the diary of a student radiographer.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Is this £55 worth the effort?

Natwest owe me it. Last year they were offering incentives for signing up for a student account - a young person's railcard, or £55. At the time, you had to be under 27 to use a young person's railcard so I was way off being eligible. The rules have changed now and I would be eligible, but I hardly ever use the train so I wouldn't want one anyway. I don't actually need a student account but I'm not one to turn down free money.

I opened the account in November and made the first payment in February when I started the course, as I had read somewhere on a piece of paper that I can no longer find, that something like £500 had to be paid in before they would cough up. Studying then filled my brain leaving little room for anything else and when the holidays came around I realised my £55 had never been paid.

I phoned the branch and explained. They told me to phone the people who dealt with student accounts. I phoned the people who dealt with student accounts and they told me to phone my branch. You can see where this is going, can't you. I rang the branch number and was told I was speaking to 'branch support' (aka a call centre, presumably) and they would get someone from my branch to call me. Surprise, surprise - I never got called back. Now my 'holiday' is over I called the branch again and, miracles will never cease, I actually spoke to someone in the branch! However, he told me I would need to write to the branch manager so he/she could sort it out as it's been a long time and the branch people can't remember if they were offering money at the time or not.

I can't decide if I'm being tight and should let it drop or if I should pursue it because it's mine by rights. On the one hand £55 isn't that much, it's only the cost of getting my car trim sorted out. On the other hand, £55 is a lot of money, I could get a couple of text books for that. Or alternatively, just think of all the Lush I could buy for £55! Stupidly, I feel a bit guilty as I'm not really using the account, i.e. I'm not running up huge overdrafts on it.

However there is another £69 which is definitely worth chasing - the NHS student grants people have underpaid me my travel expenses. Why is nothing ever easy?

Monday, August 29, 2005

Last day of the holiday

Well for Adam anyway, I still have two weeks off but I will be going back to tackling the to do list tomorrow. We decided to head for the East Kent countryside in a bid to avoid the bank holiday crowds and we succeeded. We visited a woodland with a sculpture trail:

and Chilham, near Canterbury, while has some very tasty houses:

Sunday, August 28, 2005

A rather belated blog for Friday.

We went to London, to do caching and to see Guys and Dolls.

I have been to London hundreds of times (I used to work there) but I still find bits I haven't seen before. This time it was St Katherine's Dock. We hadn't taken the camera but I wished we had, as this area is rather pretty and doesn't look like central London at all. Never mind, the link I just gave you has plenty of piccies. We also spent a lot of time looking at a very interesting exhibition outside the city hall.

I really enjoyed Guys and Dolls - even Adam enjoyed it and musicals aren't his thing. I was especially keen to see this musical as I was in a production of it about 10 years ago - and I still remembered all the songs! However, we didn't get home until half past midnight, and for some reason I was tired all day yesterday too, hence the belated blog. Sorry.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Things we saw whilst out caching

The beautiful town of Rye in East Sussex:

The beautiful town of Winchelsea, near Rye:

Believe it or not, this windmill was in one piece as recently as 1987:

There's tupperware at the end of the rainbow!

Road sign of the week:

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Spam hell

Well, the best rain-avoiding tactic we thought of for today (apart from staying home and surfing the intermaweb) was to go to the cinema. We fancied seeing War of the Worlds, unfortunately the nearest place still showing it was the cinema at Kent's greatest temple to the god of consumerism. It seems all of Kent had the same idea of where to go to avoid getting wet.

I think the experience would be improved no end if everyone:

1. Didn't dawdle
2. Walked in the same direction that their face is pointing
3. Moved out of the flow of 'traffic' if they want to stand still.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


We took advantage of a lovely sunny day in between nasty rainy days to visit Sissinghurst Gardens, where we saw lots of pretty flowers:

Shhhh, don't tell anyone, but we got in for free. Last Xmas, we bought my Mum & Dad National Trust membership, as a thankyou for feeding our cats when we had weekends away. Trouble is, at the time they were having serious problems with their computer system. I won't go into gory details but after several phone call, e-mails and even two faxes the membership was set up three months later. As a result of all that they somehow managed to send my parents three lots of membership cards, so I decided Adam and I deserved to keep one set for ourselves as compensation for all the hassle. It didn't stop both of us feeling really guilty about using them though!

Monday, August 22, 2005

Aujourd'hui il a plu. Beaucoup.

Today we got up at silly o'clock (5am) to get the Eurotunnel train (to France, obviously). We pootled down the coast road to Boulogne, taking in the sunlit countryside and a couple of virtual caches. We wandered around the town in the warm sunshine before choosing a table outside a restaurant at which to have lunch. It then started to rain and continued to do so whilst we ate lunch (hastily relocated to inside of the restaurant), tried to make the most of our day in Boulogne and shopped at a hypermarket for a large amount of wine. I'm tired now and I'm going to bed, so sorry for a poor quality blog and no piccies. Hopefully I'll add some tomorrow.

EDIT: Here you go - piccies. Best we could do before it chucked down.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Durovernum Cantiacorum

Every holiday needs a shopping trip! When we went to Canterbury on Tuesday, I realised it had been a very long time since I had last visited the city, and the shopping area has been completely redone, so we decided to go back there today.

The city has lots of quirky old buildings:

The cathedral gatehouse:

Unfortunately we couldn't get any closer to the cathedral than this, as they were charging £5 just to get into the cathedral precinct! Blooming cheek.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Today it rained. Lots.

We decided to venture not too far from home and visited Fort Amherst. It's not very well known but it's very interesting, if you are interested in historical military stuff, with some slightly spooky tunnels and some great views over the Medway towns. We got absolutely soaked, so when we were done, we came home and I did my ironing.

Chatham, with Rochester in the distance:

Is Nelson's column missing a bit?

Thursday, August 18, 2005

More trains and animals

Over the border to East Sussex today, to play with a full size train set this time.

There were genuine ye olde trains:

genuine ye old stations:

with genuine ye olde adverts:

Then we went to see some cute animals.


and alpacas:

Proof PuzzleDonkey is really an alpaca:

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Caves & Birds

Today we went to Chislehurst Caves. The talk by the tour guide was interesting but there wasn't much to look at as the caves are man-made. Unfortunately a group of about 20 kids were on the tour, who were being far too noisy, and the tour guide kept moaning about them. I couldn't help thinking he was in the wrong job if he couldn't cope with groups of noisy kids. Half way through the tour he got his own back by telling them ghost stories, then jumping out on them to scare them. We laughed a lot.

In the afternoon we went to Eagle Heights which had much more to look at.

Lots of birds of prey:

Some reptiles:

Even some pygmy goats:

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Crab & Winkle

Last week, someone put one of the much coveted Interception travel bugs in a cache near Canterbury that is part of a series of three. The caches are on National Cycle Route 1, which runs between Canterbury and Whitstable and is close to the route of the world first passenger railway line - known as the Crab & Winkle Line. The cache setters recommend hiring biks in Canterbury in order to do the cache series on two wheels and today was the first day we had the opportunity to give it a go, as the cycle hire place is closed on Mondays. Luckily, cachers in Kent don't seem to be as on the ball as they are in some other parts of the country, so the bug was still there today for the taking. As an extra bonus there were two other caches on the route that we hadn't already found.

Now, I am possibly the worlds most incompetant cyclist - I'm not too fit, I hate going too fast and I can't be guaranteed to ride in a straight line, even when I should. And it's been well over a year since I last rode a bike. Bearing this in mind, we did quite well to get almost as far as Whitstable today, and we would have done if we didn't have to get the bikes back to Canterbury before the hire place closed. We reckon we rode 6 miles each way, which I managed without falling off or crashing into any other cyclists, and I felt quite good when we were done. Seeing as I was tired, sweaty and dusty, had a sore bottom, had gained a new bruise on my leg to go with the two I got last week and was pretty mucky from helping Adam change one of the inner tubes that came down with a puncture, it seems a bit weird that I felt good, but I did.

Anyway, apart from the puncture, we enjoyed the ride through some lovely countryside. I meant to take some photos for the blog but I clean forgot. Oh, except the ones I took whilst we were looking for a cache on the University of Kent campus.

Students, eh?

Monday, August 15, 2005

Holidaying at home

When we knew that, because of my course, we could only take a holiday in August, we didn't want to pay through the nose for a holiday in peak time so decided to holiday at home. It's all too easy to miss visiting what's on your own doorstep - even though geocaching has taken us to lots of parts of Kent, we do have a tendency to grab a cache and move onto the next one, without properly exploring the locality.

Today we drove to Dungeness to take a trip on the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway, which has some fantastic engines like this one:

We got off at Hythe, an attractive little town which is just like dozens of other attractive little British towns:

until you turn a corner an find this:

Back at Dungeness we went for a stroll where we found lots of strange buildings and objects rusting away:

there were wild cabbages as far as the eye could see:

and as we left for the evening, the seagulls were taking roost on the telephone wires:

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Reuse, recycle, regurgitate

The holiday to-do list was being tackled well at the start of the week. The major task of the week was to clear out the garage. We have a decent sized garage which enables us to store a fair amount of junk in it, yet still leaving enough room for the car. Yes, I know it's unusual nowadays, but we do actually put the car in the garage sometimes. Mostly I do that on cold days to save having to scrape ice off the car in the morning. Anyway, the junk had grown to the point where there was no room for the car, so it needed a clear out. It turns out that I had one or two plastic plant pots lurking in various parts of the garage and garden:

I was reluctant to consign them all to landfill, so I offered them on a freecycling group and they were snapped up a day later. Yay!

A hell of a lot of stuff went in the car to go to the tip. It's been a few years since I last went there and things have changed. There used to be a few places to stick the usual recyclable stuff in, like glass, cardboard and garden waste, but now they seem to have separate areas for just about everything, including metal, wood, rubble and wellies. The upshot of this was everything I took found a home in one of the recycling areas - even the dead microwave and an old plywood/chipboard cupboard (at this point I'll gloss over the 4 bags of non-recyclable stuff that went in the wheely bin).

And what did all these good karma-enhancing deeds earn me? Well, I got two huge bruises on my leg from manhandling that darn cupboard (it was big) and a day later I came down with some lurgy that had me laid up in bed with a headache and being sick, for the best part of a day and a half, ensuring my progress on the to-do list ground to a halt. Bah.

Then yesterday the lady who came to get my plant pots gave me a hyssop plant as a thankyou. So it wasn't all bad.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


It's over! I have survived the final ordeal of semester 1, known as The Exam, and I am free for 5 and a half weeks! Yipee! Now I have to do all the odd jobs I put off, citing the excuse "I'm writing essays", and later, "I'm revising".

The Exam was neither stupidly easy nor as tough as I pessimistically thought it might be. I'm pretty sure I passed, then again I know I haven't got 100% either. I cannot make a more accurate guess of my results than that. It was the usual mix of exam questions:
  • The ones I had a strong feeling would be asked and I made sure I knew the subject well. This included the assessment of a chest x-ray for technique and quality - pretty standard stuff.

  • The ones I had a strong feeling would be asked but I couldn't get the facts to permeate into my brain no matter how much I tried. Primarily this was the question asking for a description of the process of healing of a bone fracture - I don't know my osteoclasts from my osteoblasts.

  • The ones that completely surprised me and required a fair amount of guesswork and waffle. The prime culprit here was the question that asked the wavelength ranges of certain parts of the electronmagnetic spectrum. We had had a lecture on this but I had assumed it was just taught as background for the future physics lectures, I hadn't bothered to learn all the wavelengths and frequencies. After all, why would a radiographer need to know the frequency of infrared light? At least I could remember what order they were in.

  • And of course, all the stuff that I had learned inside out that wasn't in the exam, like the attenuation of radiation. I had no chance at all to prove that I knew that Ix = I0e-μx

The biggest trouble I have with exams is the actual writing itself. At the best of times my handwriting is messy and it has been all my life. Doing virtually all my writing on a PC nowadays has meant it has got worse. Under pressure, I tend to get letters the wrong way round, put capitals in the wrong place and the letters come out all different sizes. I have to assign myself a few minutes at the end of exams to correct any malformed letters. My hand also hurts when I hold a pen too long. Oh, and my grammer goes to pieces too. I pity the poor person who has to mark my exam.