Saturday, 20 June 2009

There are TWO pilots on the plane, damn it - revisited...

Just when I thought my blood pressure was safe on this subject, along comes the sad tale of the Captain who died en route to Newark. A very sad thing to happen for his family - I really feel for them. But get this, people - there was NO DANGER, and there was NO EMERGENCY! Because, and I'm going to say this quietly - there is more than one pilot on the plane! Shock, horror, probe, hold the presses!

(If you're experienced in aviation, you can skip the next paragraph. But if you're not, I recommend you read on. Particularly if your name is Jim Ferguson! More on that later....)

This, my friends, is because, even on a short-haul flight, you will have two pilots on the flight deck. One is called the Captain, and one is called the First Officer. They have exactly the same training, the only difference between them generally being experience (usually, but not always, Captains have flown more hours than First Officers) and responsibility - because it's the Captain who ultimately carries the can for the safety of the aircraft. When it comes to flying, though, there's nothing that separates them - they each take turns to land, take-off, or operate the radio - one becomes "pilot flying" for each flight, and one "pilot not flying" - but each has their own role, and as I said, they take turns. Yes, that's right, an FO might have landed the plane you were on when you came back from Spain last year! I know - shocking, isn't it?! Anyhow, ultimately, First Officers will generally become Captains themselves after a certain number of flying hours, and having passed the simulator for promotion. So, each Captain has been a First Officer at some point.

So, are we all clear so far? Good.

Now, take a look at these fantastic nuggets of journalism. (I apologise for not putting in the hyperlink - that feature doesn't seem to be working at the moment).

They contain such brilliant lines as:

Most of the passengers had no idea of the danger
That's what co-pilots are for, he says - to stand in for the pilot in case of emergency

And this brilliant piece of fiction by Jim Ferguson:

Jim Ferguson - an aviation writer from the UK - told BBC News the plane would have been difficult to land with only one pilot at the controls, as might have been the case on flights manned by only two pilots.

"You could, I gather, land a 777 single-handed - but it would require a lot of effort and it would appear [in this case there was] a very young co-pilot - so if there was another one, that would help.

"It would be very difficult, very distressing. I don't know if this [scenario] is carried out on simulator training or not.

Be still, my beating heart.

So, my dear Jim, if you're reading this - this is for you.

I hate to break it to you, but really only one person lands a plane anyhow - sure, the other one is on the radio and assisting, but there's only ever one person "at the controls". So it's not such a huge leap to cope with it all by yourself. And as for whether this is done in the simulator - I think the Captain "dies" on my husband every time he goes into the sim! Pilot incapacitation is practiced all the time. How can you possibly be an aviation "writer" and not know that? The mind boggles.

Golly, I feel much much better now. Much more healthy writing it all down than shouting at the TV!

Does anyone else share my annoyance?

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Infertility nightmare

The other day, I agreed to meet a new British woman I'd just met on the compound for coffee. She texted me to say that she was meeting a few friends in the afternoon, and would I like to come? Naturally I agreed, always eager to make new contacts here.

So, I turned up at the coffee shop and found her sitting with her baby, one other mother and baby, and two other women. I sat down and was offered a cookie. It was then I noticed that the woman sitting next to me was pregnant. As I was taking this in, my new friend told the others that "another baby was coming too". And then the horrible truth dawned on me - this was her mother and baby group!

As the conversation, which was entirely baby related, began around me, I just suddenly felt this massive panic. I just wanted to get out of there, and considered making an excuse and walking out, but I knew that would look odd. Then the woman opposite, who was really quite sweet, asked me whether my husband and I had children, and I couldn't stop the tears. All of a sudden I burst into very embarrassing sobs. The women around me, none of course who I knew at all, just looked at me in horror. They asked what was up, and I mumbled "I'm really sorry, I'm having fertility treatment".

Only half the women understood what I'd said, but thankfully one of them - the only woman there who as far as I could see, wasn't pregnant - came over to give me a hug, and said "I know how it feels. It took me 11 years, and IUI, to manage it. Now I'm six months pregnant". Bless her, she was so overweight, I'd managed not to notice she was pregnant too! But it was such a lovely thing to say, and made me feel much better, so I stayed with the group when they all went for a swim, and chatted to this lady about her fertility treatment.

We have a fridge magnet which says "this would be really funny if it wasn't happening to me". Couldn't agree more - this was definitely one of those times. Inviting an infertile friend to your mother and baby group, eh - a classic!

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Prepare for take-off

Lights on, doors locked. Cross-checked.
Fuel ok. Then the walk round -
Same as ever. Garden bedecked
with summer finery. The ground

in need of some good, longed for rain.
A much neglected easy chair.
Scattered Sunday papers remain:
50 ways of saving power; 20 ways for summer hair.

Upstairs, evidence of the suitcase battle.
In the end you succeeded,
But not without casualties. A rattle
of painkillers here, and there a lonely sock you needed.

I put them back where they came from.
Then, washing basket in hand, I go
to the garden, and peg each item up along
the line. And looking up as I do so

I catch sight of a glint of metal in the sun.
I wave. I imagine you doing the same.
The forecast said it would be showers:
And so it will, before we are together again.

Friday, 12 June 2009

A waiting game

It occurred to me last night that I've been off the pill now since last August. So, it's been almost a year since we threw caution to the wind and decided we'd like to have a family. I remember how secretly optimistic I was that we'd get pregnant in the first month! How ridiculous that seems now. Having said that, I don't really consider that we've really been "trying" for all that time. After all, I didn't have any sort of cycle until January, and then my husband was away in another country for two months! So it's not as bad as it seems (or at least, that's what I keep telling myself).

Amazingly, all my blood tests were completely normal. My consultant went so far as to say that, given the results, she'd be inclined NOT to diagnose PCOS, despite my cystic ovaries during my scan last October. This is all very reassuring. My FSH, for people who know and/or care, was 5, which I'm told is good. My oestrogen, which had been a cause of concern in the past (because it was FAR too low) was normal. Having said all this, despite the fact my blood tests don't confirm PCOS at this stage, that doesn't mean I don't have it. All it means, really, is that the drugs I'm taking and my lifestyle are managing it. Which is good, too, of course. The doctor said it was possible that I was just the sort of person who had late ovulation. We shall see, I suppose.

As for other PCOS symptoms - the only one I really have is mild acne. It was a big concern for me when I came off the pill, as I had a big problem when I was a teenager, but all I have now is a few spots and slightly greasier skin. So nothing LIKE as bad as I'd feared. Nothing a bit of make-up can't cure, anyway! It's a tremendous relief to me that I don't have the excess hair that many PCOS women have. It must make them feel very un-feminine and unattractive, which is not what you need when you're dealing with everything else!

The consultant confirmed that the 100mg round of Clomid is the next thing to try (which is just as well, as I'm mid-way through the cycle!) No sign of ovulation yet, but I live in hope. Then, if that doesn't work, we move on to injectable fertility drugs. Mmmmmm, can't wait!

All this baby making of course relies on me actually being on the same premises as my husband, which has proved tricky this month. His roster has taken him to the other side of the world rather a lot! He's just set off this morning for another trip to the US. Thankfully, though, once this trip is out of the way, the second half of the month is a lot lighter. I can't wait to spend a bit more quality time with him! Yesterday we headed to a lovely hotel for lunch. We sat outside afterwards with our coffee looking out at the sea, listening to the birds chirping merrily away and soaking up the heat (it's 47c here at the moment!) It was lovely. We certainly made the most of his two days off, but I do wish it had been longer!

Talking of which... Last night I caught him checking out staff travel for Business Class standby to the US for me, so I can come with him on one of his trips! Awwwwww...... And there was me thinking I'd have to go in the back with the cattle. Trust me, there's nothing like his airline's Biz class - it's fantastic.

I love my husband, I really do!

Monday, 8 June 2009

I can see clearly now

I'm having a really good day. I suspect this might have something to do with the apparent dominance of oestrogen in my body at the moment - I've read that many women feel very creative and motivated during this phase in their cycle, and so it is for me. I feel very full of energy and able to tackle tasks that at other times I've been unable to face.

I've just finished taking my second round of Clomid, this time 100mg a day, twice my previous dose. It wasn't a pleasant experience. I felt a cloud of depression descend on me whilst I took it, and I felt tired, headachey, nauseous and emotional. Oh, and not forgetting the hot flashes! I also developed an extremely weird side effect - a stuffy and/or runny nose, which only lasted as long as I took the tablets.

Although I knew that how I was feeling was medically induced, it was still a wretched period of time. My poor husband didn't know what to do about it, but tried manfully to cheer me up, anyway. It was hideous.

Anyhow, as I said, I'm feeling much better now. I have yet to see if I ovulate on this dose. I'm taking my temperature every day and charting to see if I can identify ovulation. Fingers crossed. My husband is away for a lot of this month, so odds on I'll ovulate when he's not around, but hey ho, such is life! At this point I'd settle for just ovulating and having a normal cycle length. That, we can work with! I'm heading back to the consultant later this week. She'll have the results of my blood tests. It will be very interesting to find out what on earth my hormones are doing!

We had a fantastic outing at the weekend with a couple we've become good friends with. They've both lived here for a long time and are experienced desert drivers. We had a wonderful (and sometimes rather scary!) time driving up steep sand dunes in our 4x4s, and watching the locals "doing tricks" - things like driving almost completely on their side along the side of a dune. Quite breathtaking stuff. Then, we went to the beach and swam in the gorgeous warm, clear water. A perfect afternoon, Gulf style.

I'm also in a good mood because I had a trial day at a potential employer yesterday, and it went very well. They said some very nice things about my abilities. It's been a while since I've had that sort of feedback, so it was fantastic. I'm feeling very buoyed by it. There's now a contract "in the system" but given the way things work in the Arab world, it may still be a long time before I'm gainfully employed again! Nevermind, it will happen, eventually. You have to learn that attitude when you live in the Gulf, otherwise you'd go crazy.

Insha'Allah, as they say here...



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