Sunday, 31 December 2017
One of the other things, I got quite close to yesterday, but didn't actually say it. If you imagine your waist, let's assume you have 360° there. If you're able-bodied, let's also say that this boils down, approximately, to 180° per hand, if you imagine things in a zonal kind of way. So I used to be able to pull my trousers up no problem, for example, easily being able to tuck shirts in etc. and generally looking pretty competent.
But now, with only one functioning arm, that "zone" has increased to 360°, which makes it more difficult to e.g. get a shirt fully tucked inside trousers. I often end up with a kind of almost-but-not-quite solution.
This problem manifests itself in terms of e.g. threading a belt, or fastening my dressing gown, too. Putting the thing on is one matter, which I wanted to mention briefly below, but actually tying the cord another. On my dressing gown, the cord is at the very extreme of my reach. I mean, I don't say that this is a major issue, but it is something else which makes the process that little bit longer. I won't dwell on how I actually tie the knot, but again teeth are involved.
Also on the subject of sleepwear, another issue is to do with my slippers. Basically, I have no movement in my left foot. The ankle is buggered, and I can't wiggle my toes on that foot. My knee and hip do have movement, just as on my right side. This leads to a state known as "foot drop" (you should be able to Google it), which is basically where gravity takes over. I won't go into massive detail here, but if you walk in slow-motion, you'll find that when we walk (as able-bodied people) we naturally put our heel down first, followed by the ball of the foot. When I walk, the front of the foot goes down first, just because this point is the farthest point away from the hinge which is my ankle. Exactly like something inanimate. Also, my foot tends to hit the ground on one side first. And, because there is no movement there, I can't subtly move my toes in order to adjust, say, a shoe.
Enter slippers. By their very nature, these are quite loose-fitting. Also, mine are made of lambswool/sheepskin, which is quite a smooth surface.
So, you add all these things together and two things happen. First, my slipper has a tendency to fall off my foot when I walk. Second, I have a tendency to put my foot down such that the sidewall of the slipper, rather than the sole, is in contact with the ground. Inside the house, these things are an irritation, a trip-hazard. They get less pleasant in the garden, where the chickens roam freely, including pooing wherever they fancy. I really don't want my slipper coming off out there, else I'll end up with a foot which is not only soggy, but also covered in chickenshit! As a result of my tendency to walk on the side of my foot, the slippers themselves get chicken poo on them, but I figure that this situation is preferable.
As a result, I wash my slippers every now and again. This may well not be what the manufacturer intended, and probably shortens the life of the slippers, but it has two advantages for me. First, and obviously, it takes layers of mud/chicken-poo off the slipper, and second, it makes the slipper shrink, albeit temporarily. This tightens the slipper on my foot, making it far easier to keep it on.
This is still an issue, in the sense that it still happens today, and actually is very annoying, to the extent where I've considered not wearing slippers (or at least the left one, which would look daft). I did have an idea of putting elastic into the slippers so as to keep them taut on my foot, but sewing elastic onto sheepskin is easier said than done.
The last issue - I'm conscious that my tiny addendum is now longer than my original post - was just about putting things like coats and jackets - and dressing gowns - on. The woman whose blog I read mentioned that the technique here is to make sure that your bad arm goes in first, which is entirely consistent with what I was told back in hospital. Very briefly, when you get one arm in, it is surprisingly difficult to find the second armhole. I mean, you know that it exists, but it is a faff to find it. This is one of those mind-over-matter scenarios, where you just rely on your brain telling you that the hole has to be there somewhere, you just haven't found it yet. But again, I mention this just because it is something which adds a few seconds when I put a coat on...
Saturday, 30 December 2017
When I think of a lot of things, we use our left and right hands to oppose each other, for example when opening a jar. Because I effectively have no functioning left hand, there is nothing to oppose the right. This comes into play when dressing too - you can imagine doing up the zip on my coat is a problem. If you can't imagine, try it!
Other things where I miss two hands working independently of each other are things like tying a tie, or shoelaces. Further, because this has been an issue since the stroke itself, I now feel that my mind has forgotten how to do these, although I'm sure they wouldn't be too difficult to re-learn if I were physically able. So for now, there are no ties (not a problem when I'm not working anyway), and I need to buy special corkscrew-shaped elastic laces in my shoes. But essentially, two problems for the price of one!
Early problems, which still crop up from time-to-time, include things as trivial as getting polo shirts back-to-front - incredibly, it is difficult to get the "orientation" right when you have only one arm to manouver the garment. Maybe it isn't for you, but it is for me. Little things like this are an obstacle. Another thing is putting socks on correctly. Easier said than done with just one hand, try it. The problem is that the heel of the sock ends up twisted around (i.e. covering something other than the heel of my foot!). But, as I say, I can get around these things easily enough these days.
Putting trousers on is another trick, just because I need to get them to waist-level (and possibly with a shirt tucked inside) before I can fasten them. Most easily, this involves sitting on the bed (for I dress in the bedroom) and lying backwards, i.e. doing things flat. This way, I can both fasten my trousers, and my belt. The fun then comes when I realise that I've forgotten my insulin, so need to pull my shirt out to access my belly, and then start everything over!
The other thing this woman talked about was making herself up, and doing her hair etc. Possibly one of the areas where it is advantageous to be a bloke. I keep my hair short enough so that I can wash it every day, and not have to comb it. So I don't really worry about a style. And, it's easy enough to shave with either hand. Squeezing either shower gels or shaving cream into my hand requires a degree of knack, but really, on a scale of difficulty from one to five, this has always been a one.
I suppose I'm lucky in that I don't really have any problem with things like buttons, my remaining hand is dextrous enough.
The last issue I can think of is hats - things like beanies etc. I have a few of these - I like the warmth they offer, especially at this time of year. But using one hand to get these things to stay on my head, which is essentially a sphere, is tricky. My technique, as with many things, is to resort to using my teeth. I'll let you work out the rest!
Thursday, 28 December 2017
131 / 81
with a pulse of 51. I've taken all my meds (to date, I'll have some more tonight) and clearly they're having an effect. So I now need to hook the monitor up to the USB and update the records on my computer.
An interesting conversation with the receptionist at the doctor's, in order to add this data to my record. I'm on the phone to her, with the monitor sitting in front of me displaying these numbers, and she says, "what you need to do is to write them down, bring the letter into the surgery, and we'll add it to your medical record". It sounded suspiciously like, "I can't be bothered doing anything, so wait a while, come to the surgery, and someone else will help you". Sheer laziness - this really is the level of service you'll be offered unless you talk back. So, talk back I did. "Can't I just tell you?", I replied. "I mean, I have the values in front of me, and can just about remember who I am". Begrudgingly, she acceded, and I was able to pass these values on. But I felt guilty afterwards, this poor woman had obviously had to log into her system to pull up my file. This was at Downton Surgery, where I live. God knows what this woman's name was, else maybe I'd be complaining about this.
Tuesday, 26 December 2017
Aside from that the treats were limited to a single mince pie. I had christmas dinner, of course, but held back on the roasties (which are really the only carb). And supper was just some turkey sandwiches (on my normal wholemeal bread). I think there'll be lots of turkey over the next few days!
So, this morning, my fasting sugar was 13, which is pretty average, for me. I mean, if you're healthy it's not so good, but I think my pancreas is pretty buggered. So I was quite restrained, I think.
Normal insulin doses today, then. I really need to keep these doses as low as I can, for as long as I can, and indeed it was just porridge this morning (3 croissants yesterday), so I'm already getting back to normal. I still have one of those individual christmas puddings tucked away somewhere, but I'll save that until I'm in the mood, or until the brandy sauce expires.
Monday, 25 December 2017
Saturday, 9 December 2017
So far today she has destroyed my china "chicken" mug, and is now attacking my hand as I type! She's eying up the chickens as if they're prey, except they are comfortably larger than she is. She'll sleep like a baby later.
Hopefully this is the closest I get to being a grandpa for a while yet 😊
Wednesday, 6 December 2017
It's funny, because we all had different stroke experiences, but a common theme was that we all felt let-down in some way due to a gap between theory and practise. I've said repeatedly to the Stroke Association that, as far as strategy goes, the first thing we should aim for is a consistent experience across the country, from Shetland to Cornwall and everywhere in between, including London. Initially, it really doesn't matter how good or bad the standard is - it is what it is. The next thing, of course, is all-round improvement.
The Stroke Association, by the way, are every bit as inaccurate as the NHS, in terms of saying "when such-and-such happens, then such-and-such happens in response". I can totally get that they assume that everyone will behave to their best, and they don't want to rock the boat with the politicians, but no, it didn't work that way.
Wednesday, 29 November 2017
Breakfast: porridge (oats/milk/water),
Lunch: 2 x Lincolnshire sausages,
Mid-afternoon: low-fat yoghurt,
Supper (& post-supper): Chicken Tikka Masala and rice, low-fat yoghurt, apple
plus, of course, many cups of tea (and a latte)! I note all this mainly for my own benefit, to try and better understand how my sugar varies. Every day is broadly similar, although I do like to snack on brown-breaded toast (from which I abstained today).
To counter this, my steps for the day are 4,500 (right now), but this does include a drop-in at the hospital. Other days can be far more sedentary. It's unheard of, these days, for me to get to 10,000 steps (which was effortless before the stroke).
Back on the subject of food, I was in the hospital coffee shop today (ordering my latte) and the guy in front baulked at this jam-tart-sized mince pie thing, priced at £1.79. Fair enough, but he also had one of their (instantly-forgettable) Bakewell Tarts for £1.39, not to mention a cappucino for, I think, £2.75. I mean, all vastly overpriced, including my own drink (£2.50), but I find it interesting to see that fine line where something jumps from "acceptable" to "unacceptable".
One of the things that happens during recovery is a gradual "hardening", back to the point I was at before the stroke ever happened. The same things are right, the same things are wrong, it's just that my coping ability has changed.
To that end, every other ad on tv at the moment is an appeal on behalf of a charity. People are desparate, animals are desparate. But you become immune to it. You realise that every cause is a good cause. but we all only have so much cash to throw around, so we need to make choices on how much we give, and who we give it to. By implication, this also means that there will be many causes where we have to say, "I'm sorry, but I can't help you".
Monday, 27 November 2017
It all sounds great, but I'd settle not for a diagnosis, but simply to be able to order my repeat prescriptions. I haven't actually seen my doctor since I had my stroke, and furthermore, because I test my own sugars and blood pressure, I don't really feel I need to see them. But fvery time I need some more meds - a couple of times per month - I am forced to take two trips to the doctor's surgery. I'd be happy to use some secure login to a web site so as to avoid these trips. There is the notion of electronic prescriptions within the NHS, where I can order my repeat meds online and pick them up straight from the pharmacy. A good idea, but it is not yet universal.
Thursday, 16 November 2017
When I was first diagnosed as diabetic, 20 years ago, my sugar would always be in the range 6-8 (mmol/l), which really is quite indistinguishable from somebody living without diabetes at all. There then followed a period where I didn't really measure myself, until the stroke. By definition, levels leading up to the stroke are far harder to know, although at one point in hospital just afterwards my sugar was over 30! (caused not even a half dozen Mars bars, but by white bread which I avoid since) Everybody got very worried, and the doctors put me on an insulin drip for the next twelve hours.
Anyway, after that scare my blood sugar is under far better control, but clearly I have damaged my pancreas. The result is daily readings, generally of between 10-15 mmol/l. Under 10 is good.
I'm obviously very careful with what I eat now, but there is room for, say, a slice of cake here and there. There is a definite link between the carbs I eat, and my sugar. Exercise also comes into it, although the link between the three - I can't tightly define it.
I got up yesterday and measured my sugar at 15. This is very much at the upper end of the scale regarding what I regard as acceptable. So it was a frugal day.
Just to give an idea, yesterday's menu comprised:
breakfast - porridge (oats, water & milk),
lunch - 2 x mini pork pies,
late afternoon - 1 x mini pork pie (they come in packs of 6),
supper - ½lb high-meat-content pork sausages (no carbs or veg yesterday) plus a low-sugar yoghurt
and that was it. Apart from the observation that I'll soon look like a pig, no snacks, apart from the one mentioned, whatsoever. And, a ward drop-in to boot, so probably a mile's walking to and from the bus stop. Tea, of course (I drink it by the gallon these days), but although I have it with a dash of milk, there are very few carbs being consumed.
The end result of all this was a sugar reading this morning of 6.9, which by my standards is very impressive, probably the lowest since the stroke (and bear in mind that there is now a dataset of hundreds of daily measurements). I was quite anxious, I really hoped it would go back down on its own, I really don't want to end up just taking more and more insulin (until?) So I feel able to relax a little today, as evidenced by the two muffins I just had for breakfast. Roll on tomorrow!
Wednesday, 15 November 2017
I was aware that I was primarily a guest on the course, and it was a subject I'd like to know more about, so I was happy to be quite flexible to get onto the course, to the point of paying for myself to get up to the hospital (too early to use my pass). It's the kind of thing that I can embrace as a one-off, but not really something that I want to make a habit of.
Anyway I got to the designated location a good fifteen or twenty minutes early, only to be told "oh, you're very early. We didn't expect to see you for another hour yet." So I wandered back to the little coffee shop and re-checked my email. Sure enough, I had arrived at the time requested on the message. Anyway...... Maybe the plans had changed at the last minute and they hadn't got around to telling me? I certainly didn't expect to be the centre of attention, definitely at this session.
So, anyway, I rocked back up an hour later, only to be told that my session had started an hour ago. Somebody had assumed that I was attending something different. I mean, thereafter everyone was extremely apologetic, but untimately I'd still put myself out and missed half of the session to boot!
Not very impressive. I mean, in my former life, I even used to be unimpressed with many of my clients' staff up in top London banks, so at our tiny provincial hospital in Salisbury, my expectations are lower still! I do think that in most things in life, there is style and there is substance. People tend to be good at the "style" side of things, but not so good at the "substance", actually being as good as they sound. And the poor old co-ordinator from the Stroke Association, also at the session, was also quite miffed.
Funny, we met someone last weekend who happened to be an Occupational Therapist who worked out of the not-too-distant Poole. One of the subjects that came up was the standard of life at Salisbury.
You kind of assume that there is a flat standard across the country, plus of course the vast majority of us only ever know one trust at most, so we're not qualified to compare. But I wonder....... Maybe it is little things like this, which taken on their own are pretty negligible, which aggregate and make a difference?
Still, the highlight of the day was meeting a couple of other survivors, as part of the session. I'm glad I got the opportunity to do that. With some very few exceptions, people are lovely. And speaking to these real people was far, far easier than the classroom scenarios. It may be that sufficient water has passed under the bridge, but certainly the conclusion I formed was that it was impossible to crack the hypothetical scenarios without some metadata passing between the parties. Maybe the thing to take out of all this is that, whether wuith aphasia in particular or stroke in general, is that we need to get to a certain level, in terms of recovery, or we're stuffed?
Up there again today to do a drop-in on the ward.
Tuesday, 7 November 2017
It kind of makes me think, "how do people perceive me?" I mean, if I'm just sitting there having a coffee, it'd probably take a keen observer to work out that I was only using one arm. I suppose when I'm moving about it is far more obvious, as I walk both jerkily and with a limp. I lose my balance quite easily (but am able to take remedial steps). I'd expect this to get smoother over time. And hopefully I'll be able to use the arm for more.
Interesting also that he has a clear memory of when his stroke was. Lots of people do, but I don't, possibly because for me it seemed to happen over several days rather than being a milestone event. I mean, I know things started going wrong on a Sunday in early February 2016. I delayed going to hospital until the Monday (possibly a mistake), when I underwent some tests(!) and was sent home again (so maybe not a mistake). With my co-ordination worsening, I went back on the Wednesday, when I was finally admitted. I was at least able to stagger at that point, although my memory of most of my hospital stay is not being able to walk at all. But anyway, spilt milk. I suspect I could deduce what these dates are, but I'd need to start looking at calendars/email trails to do so. And it doesn't seem overly important these days.
Sunday, 29 October 2017
But recently I have found some books that I want to read, so have been making an effort. Also, last week, I was forced to be sitting waiting with nothing to do, so I downloaded Amazon Kindle on my phone, and started reading a couple of books that I haven't looked at since the stroke. Now, I'd have to say that just going on size alone, my phone is not my favourite medium. But yesterday I downloaded their PC app and resumed this excellect tome about the Spanish Civil War. And the good news is that I was able to accomplish it. I mean, obviously it is harder and slower going, but I'm able to make progress.
Even as a youngster, I though that reading was the key to all sorts of knowledge, and it gave me such enjoyment. I'm finding that again as I near the end of my life.
Saturday, 21 October 2017
And then you think, "what if they're not going to the eye clinic?"
Wednesday, 18 October 2017
I mean I'm quite happy to chat to people, but quiet wasn't the word! Maybe as I myself improved some of the reservedness I once had is coming back? And talking to people about my own stay in hospital seems less and less relevant with time.
I don't know. I mean, I have this free time at the moment and I keep telling myself that if I can help other people make sense of all this, then it's a positive thing, but I wonder how much good I actually do?
Tuesday, 17 October 2017
I mean, even when I can get it to that height, my hand clenches itself into a fist (I have no choice here) so effectively only a poker, but that should be good enough to flick lights on and off.
Saturday, 14 October 2017
There was no phone call either the next day or subsequently, so I dared to think that the test may have been OK. Then, yesterday, I got this letter with an outpatient appointment to receive some treatment.
I might be quite laid back about such treatment. The problem, as I understand it, is that some blood is leaking into my eyeball (although I cannot notice it). Their default solution is to stop the blood flowing by cautorizing the leaky blood vessels. They do this with a laser. The only problem with this is that as well as cautorizing leaky cells, the laser also zaps any good cells that it happens to hit. Also, I have been told that no other solution exists.
The reason I know about laser treatment is because I've had it before. It didn't work, and I ended up having to have injections (which *did* work). But whilst the process is painless enough, my perception is that the laser worsened my vision. So, my wariness about lasers is borne out of experience.
It seems that the NHS wants me to have laser treatment again. I did say that I had been through the laser process, unsuccessfully, before, but it would appear that the doctor wasn't listening, or wasn't prepared to take my view on board. Hence my quandry. I'm 80/20 right now on skipping the appointment altogether. After all, I'm really not prepared to give my consent for this treatment without further thought, so there's little point in wasting this guy's time.
This disease - diabetes - really is awful. It is gradually robbing me of my health and my sight, and will eventually rob me of my life.
Tuesday, 3 October 2017
147 / 77,
which is still good (I put it on its own line in this post just in case I need to refer back to it in the future). I do have my own blood pressure monitor but it gives dodgy readings these days, hence borrowing the kit.
Also, it has been about a year since anybody at my surgery contacted me to get anything checked. I mean, I mostly manage my own health but for things like cholesterol, I need a blood test. So, I am diabetic but they haven't asked to check my sugar, I am hypertensive but they haven't asked to check my blood pressure, and on top of all this they issue a prescription to me every fortnight, so its not as if they haven't a clue who I am. To cap it all, I had a stroke about 18 months ago, so you'd think my name woulb not only come up, but in bold and red letters!
Of course, I realise that in all likelihood, they *don't* know who I am - I have dropped off their radar. It makes me wonder, having been an IT professional my whole life, just how poor their IT systems are.
Still, I will do the pro-active thing and contact them.
Thursday, 28 September 2017
I haven't really had a cold for years - that I cycled so much kept me immune from most ailments - and these days I come into contact with far fewer people, but I'm wondering whether being on an air-conditioned coach with a bunch of people for a week might have contributed?
This lurgy is on the mend now but it was bad enough last week to keep me away from the hospital. So there was no drop-in. I figure that in my state, the last person they'd want to see was me!
I mean, this is all something and nothing. I just mention it because at the back of my mind I wonder whether the stroke came into play somehow? It seems ridiculous, but one finds oneself thinking these things.
A consequence of this is that it "goes to sleep" through inactivity, especially in the morning. If I get off the sofa in the morning, for example, my first few steps are quite doddery. This is not the case if I move regularly, or in the evening (at least, that's my perception).
Another way in which this manifests itself is during the night, when I often suffer from cramps in my leg. Almost every night, it seems, I need to either jerk my leg in order to correct it, or sit out of bed altogether. I used to get cramp as a cyclist, after long rides, and put it down to dehydration, but not as often as I do now. And it occurred on the calf muscle itself, if I bent my leg too quicky, for example. These pains occur in my foot or the front of my leg, if I straighten things carelessly. So possibly different. And again, possibly dehydration - I don't like to drink too much in the later part of the day because I don't like having to get up to pee. And I can often aleviate it by using my other foot to lift my bad foot to 90°. There is a kind of acceptance that things are just "different" these days.
Wednesday, 27 September 2017
It's a funny illness because whilst it's generally associated with fatties, as I say above, that ain't necessarily so. It's only really since the stroke that I've padded out a bit, more through just the lack of that exercise than anything else. And whilst the headline Enemy #1 is sugar, the real danger is carbohydrates in general, although of course sugar being a carb will do the job nicely, in sufficient quantity. If I eat some potatoes, my sugar goes sky high, without any sugar cube in sight.
Whilst the cause of the stroke was unknown, this was one of red flags, and I didn't pay attention to my sugar levels in the way that I do now. The other biggie was my blood pressure, although to a large extent this is out of your control - you go to the doctor's, you get a tablet or two, and you hope that things get lower. Don't get me wrong - there are steps that people can take to reduce blood pressure, but let's just say that in my case they didn't stop me from having a stroke at 48! In my case, the management of my blood pressure was a problem for years, even though I was a skinny cyclist. While I was in hospital following the stroke, one of the things that got changed was my blood pressure meds. Lo and behold, my blood pressure is now well controlled, although it is only measured quite irregularly, so this says to me that I could have been on more appropriate drugs all along.
No sour grapes, I'm just saying... You do end up being fatalistic - if my blood pressure was/is the problem, then there's not a great deal I can do in any case! At least I can control what I put in my mouth.
Having said all that, I met my wife in Salisbury yesterday and we enjoyed one of those tiered afternoon teas! Finger sandwiches galore, although I was quite frugal in having just a single (dry) scone, plus a single cream cake (a minature chocolate eclair). My next task this morning is to test myself (which I now do daily), although I skipped carbs at supper so hopefully everything evened out.
Sunday, 17 September 2017
We stayed in a "normal" room, i.e. not one for disabled people. Deliberately so on my part. The holiday, however, was an organised coach trip to Scarborough, and was clearly aimed at more senior people. A lot of my criticisms of the package are based purely on this age difference. For example, the hotel was without internet, and what they said *did* work, *didn't*. Nobody seemed bothered, except for my wife and I.
Getting onto and off the coach was dependent on the actual terrain on which we were parked, but was generally do-able. There were plenty of things to hold on to, to give myself leverage. So too was manouvring about the coach. I did find that my bad leg was prone just to "relaxing" out of the seat into the central aisle, something I had to be aware of.
The room itself was en-suite, with a bath and a shower over it. Of course, there were no grab-rails that I'm used to, although this wasn't particularly a problem - again there were plenty of places where I could safely use my good hand to lever myself off the toilet; the shower was actually better than the one we have at home, and I didn't use the bath.
During the week, we visited the nearby Whitby, Pickering and Bridlington, plus of course had time in Scarborough itself. Also the village of Goathland (the TV series Heartbeat was filmed here, although I never watched it, so to me it was "just" a moorland village), and the WWII prison camp Eden Camp which is maintained as a museum.
Fatigue was a big-ish problem, and it limited my energy levels quite severely. I did a lot of sitting, although of course this was the coast! I did manage to see places, but these were very much one-off visits to see the town centres, rather than long, relaxed strolls about the place. My watch counts my steps - a normal day these days is just a few thousand, but here I think one of the days was 12,000. Because of this, my sugar was well-controlled, until I realised I could push it a bit with the odd piece of cake or ice cream. There were lots of mobility scooters about the place, although I didn't try one. Scarborough, particularly, is built on several levels, so there are lots of gradients. Worthwhile, but very hard work. Pretty much everywhere else was flat, at least the areas that I saw. Pickering is the terminus of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, and we were lucky enough to see a train arrive, although we didn't have time to travel. Pickering itself was pleasant enough, though there was precious little else there.
I have published a set of photographs under my real name, if anybody is interested. A taster appears below:
Wednesday, 13 September 2017
When I was in hospital, and afterwards, everything was first-person. Everything revolved around me, in my world at any rate. It's not surprising, I suppose, after all a stroke is pretty major. But I assumed that this attitude was caused by the stroke, and that becoming more selfless was a part of the recovery.
Not so, I've concluded. I frequently meet people who behave like this and who really should know better.
Thursday, 7 September 2017
For example, some time ago on a stroke forum, somebody was sounding off about missed doctor's appointments. Said people should be fined for missing them. As this was a stroke forum, I would assume that this person had either been touched by stroke themselves, or was close to someone who had. I asked whether this should apply to all patients. What about people with mental health issues, or dementia, which might mean they simply aren't capable of remembering appointments? And, what do you do when people either don't, or can't, pay the fine? Refuse to treat them? And how do you gear up the NHS so as to facilitate payments? How much would that cost? All sensible questions, which go far deeper than the original knee-jerk reaction.
I think it's very easy to buy into the tabloid theory that people who miss appointments are just out to mess people around, to abuse their "right", or that everybody on the dole is just lazy, say. We need to look beyond the headline and not fall into this intolerance trap.
Tuesday, 5 September 2017
Monday, 4 September 2017
As I brushed past, its owner happened to come out. I mean, clearly this guy had thought he was being considerate to other road users by reducing his footprint on the carriageway, but he had forgotten that he was, in the process, making life more difficult for anybody in a wheelchair, or pushing a pram, or someone like me who is decidedly unsteady.
This chap was obviously quite nice because, as he came to his car, he apologised to me, So I replied that it was quite all right, as long as he didn't mind the paintwork on his car being damaged, as I was not in full control any more of exactly where I walked.
I mean, I'm really beyond worrying about things. Even in Downton, you do occasionally find cars blocking the pavement. In fact one such occasion was pretty much the only time that someone was outright rude about my disability. "You can just walk round it", when every step takes a noticeable extra effort.
An interesting, even if academic, legal question. I mean, if I had have damaged this guy's car accidentally, I suspect one of the bearings would be this guy's negligence in placing his car in harm's way, even if technically it were me who damaged his property.
So, next time you think you're being considerate, ask yourself whether you're not, in fact, being inconsiderate toward someone else.
Saturday, 2 September 2017
Thanks to being diabetic, I've had problems with my eyes which actually pre-date the stroke (although the stroke made things worse). I had a couple of treatments at the time (some good, some not so...) and have had regular scans ever since. Last week I had a scan and was told that there were signs that I may need more treatment.
Now, we'd seen traces in earlier scans, which might have been precursors to this, but it was always a case of "we need to keep an eye on this". Last week, I saw a different doctor, and the story was different. I have no idea whether the scan was any different to previous scans, whether this was a different doctor's different interpretation.
I mention this because only a few days ago, my wife (who is a nurse) was expressing frustration that some of her patients had been labelled as "no action required" (by the doctor then in charge) when they clearly ticked certain boxes in terms of diagnoses. So it is possible for two different clinicians to look at the same set of results, and conclude two different things. One would assume that the higher up the tree you are, the more your professional judgement comes into play.
In my case, everything is further complicated in that the treatment which was mooted by this doctor was laser surgery. Painless enough, but I had a bout of laser surgery a couple of years ago which was largely ineffective. There is a definite cost to laser surgery, because whether it is deemed successful or not, the laser zaps good cells in the process, thereby causing a degradation in vision (although doctors argue that the loss is negligible). My vision is now some way short of perfect (due to diabetes, stroke, and possibly treatment) and I am concerned about reducing it further. So I'm very wary. And I have enough experience of the NHS to know that treatment decisions are cost-based rather than quality-based, so I want to be sure before doing anything.
At the same time, this new doctor was at pains to tell me that I was at risk of bleeding into my eye, so it is not as if I can afford just to take no action at all. But I think a second opinion is required.
I feel somewhat cheated because my sugar control has been exemplary since the stroke, and yet this shit is still happening to me. It is following me around and won't let go until I'm blind.
Of course, if something does happen, then it is unlikely I will be able to write further entries here for a while....
Friday, 25 August 2017
I've felt the former - my brain regaining control over my body - a little since the stroke. For example, I can clench a half-hearted fist. But I've seen enough be convinced that this is going to be gradual - I'm not suddenly going to wake up one morning and find my arm back to how it was.
However I have gained more movement, plus this movement has gotten easier. For example, clenching this fist has become easier over time. This too is very gradual, in the same way that if you're trying to get yourself fit, you can't see anything overnight.
I was heartened today, therefore, sitting down with my arm beside me, that I was able to flip my arm over such that my hand went from the back onto the palm.
Small fry, perhaps. But helps me maintain my hope that, eventually, I will get everything back.
Tuesday, 8 August 2017
I remember when I first came out of hospital, I felt somewhat divorced from reality, as if I were in some kind of perpetual dream. Nothing felt "real". I put this down to two possible causes: (i) the stroke itself, or (ii) the fact that the stroke landed me in the artificial environment of a hospital, where you're so looked after, for five weeks. I did have half such a discussion about this, with a guy who once spent a long period in hospital, he didn't experience this, so I'm guessing the former.
It doesn't surprise me in many ways. I used to be a keen photographer, and I would often put some kind of filter on the lens, to change subsequent photographs. Stroke is exactly like that. You need to add a "filter" into the loop, just to ensure that you process things as you did before. I've discussed this with another survivor, so I feel on quite solid ground here.
One of the ways in which this is noticeable is that the stroke has made me very "me"-centric. How will something affect me, for example? You have to remind yourself to consider other people. I still feel this, to this day. And it makes me particularly considerate of stroke partners, who get zero attention or support, but who have to live with the survivor.
My assumption is that this too is caused by stroke - which is,after all, a brain injury - although I am able to see this "me-centricness" in non-stroke people easily enough. In fact, the thing which prompted me to write this post was ostensibly a programme about how nursing has changed over time (which seems a worthy topic), but which instead seemed to be the presenter's vanity project. This woman's mother had been a nurse, so the programme had a very personal slant to it. Inoffensive enough, but not particularly interesting for me. And a bit weird that this person is impersonating a nurse (presumably for all of ten minutes!), yet seemed to hog the limelight so much. I'm not sure I'd have a lot of time for her.
On a separate note, I have been given access to some kind of training site by the Stroke Association. Thus far, nothing further has been said to me, but I couldn't help but notice that some of the courses were marked as "mandatory". Further, these courses seem to be aimed at a particular browser, Google Chrome, which I found quite buggy (so I use Firefox instead). So I'll just ignore this site for now. If someone subsequently says "we'd like you to do this online course" then I suppose I'll need to think about whether I want to install software and change browsing habits. It does seem strange that something is marked as "mandatory", but is aimed only at a subset of all browsers. But for now, I merely make the observation.
Lastly, we have some relatives visiting next week, and the house is tidy (although full!). There's a limit to how much I can do these days before I have to retire knackered, but I've been working steadily over the last five or six weeks, and had a lot of help from my wife, so it is just a case now of keeping on top of things like cat poo (remember, one of them is quite messy) smothered anywhere. Our daughter has also asked to come and stay, which could spell "mess". But, as I smell furniture polish everywhere, I am sitting with my fingers crossed.
Thursday, 27 July 2017
Booboo, the sickly cat, makes sure he is around for both! In fact, this morning, I got up at six o'clock and they both wanted food, Two sachets. I put the sachets down simultaneously, as even the greedy Booboo can't eat from two bowls at once. The other cat, Lola, who fortunately doesn't get anywhere near so stressed about food, is therefore guaranteed a place. That said, Booboo is sufficiently savvy that he will look at both bowls, and choose the bowl with the most food in it, even if it means changing bowls halfway. Poor old Lola just "fits in".
Anyway, my wife got up an hour later, and Booboo is acting like he's half-starved again. Three sachets. Fortunately, he's gone to sleep now so I won't see him until lunchtime!
On a more sombre note, I went up to the hospital yesterday and discovered that a guy I'd been chatting to for months (yes, he'd been in that long!) had died. Tony's stroke left him with communication difficulties, but for anybody who took the time and trouble just to chat with him, he was a lovely gent. I suppose this brings home that although I try to be light-hearted, a lot of people on this ward are actually dicing pretty closely with death. Quite sad nevertheless. I never really felt that close when I was there, but I'm very aware that I developed a kind-of tunnel vision, with me very much at the centre. I don't know whether that's the effect of a stroke, or the effect of a month in hospital. Probably, both, certainly stroke messes with a person's brain.
Thursday, 20 July 2017
Monday I met with a guy who, over 20 years ago, was a work colleague. We went out for lunch, just to one of the pubs in the village, and it was better than I expected. I had moules-frites, which of course in France is a staple, but in England they make it sound exotic and whack a large price tag on it. But enjoyable, and something I could eat one-handed!
Yesterday I went - for only the second time - to see a group of other survivors, who meet fortnightly for coffee at the Salisbury Playhouse. I've written about this previously. I get the impression that the group is quite established, and so was happy to fit into my role as "new guy", but was surprised when another chap turned up for the first time. He was interesting, his stroke had barely affected him apart from his sight. I often think that is the most difficult. With me, you can see something is going on as soon as I walk, but his disability isn't visible. There's another chap at the group who's exactly the same.
This chap had his stroke at the start of 2017, so was quite recent, by my standards in any case. I'm about 18 months down the line and I've only just started attending, so.... But it was interesting to hear him say quite bluntly, that so-and-so is ahead of so-and-so, in terms of their disability, and indeed in terms of their apparent recovery. But at first glance, it can be difficult to see the effects caused by a stroke. And certainly one of the ways my stroke affected me was to make me less likely to beat around the bush - it's only really now that I'm feeling the "old" me start to return. You know, just in terms in phrasing things diplomatically when I say things. But again, I'm conscious of all of this - you'd never believed how much more you think about stuff following a stroke! - which is possibly a good topic of conversation for the group.
Funnily enough, the new Stroke Association co-ordinator also turned up yesterday. I think she covers the whole of Wiltshire, poor thing, so spreads herself pretty thinly. But I get the impression that there is a desire to check out everything that is happening on her "patch". And so, inevitably, the question of change came up. Fair enough - even if you decide that things are fine as they are, it's always relevant to ask the question. The group runs pretty peer-to-peer at the moment, which was one of the things that I particularly liked (hey, I'm an anarchist at heart!), even though at this early stage of my involvement I'm pretty much an outsider looking in. I can see the value of having, say, someone who owns a mailing list, just so you can effectively communicate courtesy stuff like a "johnny won't be able to make it next week" kind of message. Also, it'd be useful to have someone as a contact for new attendees. But at the other end of the scale - someone coming up with a week-by-week itinerary, almost - that would be a little too regimented for my liking. Interesting, but as I'm such a noob I think my role in all this is really to keep my mouth shut, and to see what happens. The guy who rocked up yesterday also happened to ask whether there were any organised activities, though he didn't say whether that would have been a turn-on or a turn-off.
Anyway, time to stop this and listen to the very overpaid Jeremy Vine.
Tuesday, 11 July 2017
We have visitors coming in a month or so, and so I am trying to make the house clean & tidy, albeit I need to do things incredibly slowly. So yesterday I stripped a couple of cushions from one of the sofas. They needed to be washed because we have an incontinent cat, and...... So after a good drying day out on the line yesterday, I brought the covers in (just as it started to rain). But can I get the covers back onto the cushions?
In some respects I can live with this, I'll struggle with it some more, but can always ask my wife to help as a fallback. I mean, it is incredibly depressingthat I can no longer manage to do such a trivial task on my own.
Next, I was hugry so decided to make some porridge for breakfast. I took my insulin as a precursor, but in trying to get the oats out of the cupboard......CRASH! another box had been wedged into the cupboard, which fell out, smashed and emptied its contents everywhere. So, I am denied some cereal which I only bought last week, from a supermarket I hardly ever get the chance to go to, and of course, breakfast was delayed.
I took a decision, which proved unfortunate, to try and clear this cereal up with the hoover, next thing the hoover is blocked with the bloody stuff. So, I then have to unblock the hoover.
Does it sound like I need to always take three steps backwards in order to take one step forward? It feels like it to me. And, of course, breakfast was further delayed.
To make matters worse, I just made my porridge with oats and milk, and got the mix slightly wrong, so the porridge ended up far too runny. So I microwavedit for a little longer, lo and behold, the milk boiled over and covered the microwave oven with porridge. So I had to clean the oven afterwards. And breakfast was further delayed.
By this time, of course, I'm sitting in the middle of the kitchen, crying my eyes out.
I finally composed mysefl, salvaged what "porridge" I could (mostly hot runny milk) and retreated back through to the lounge. Just in time to fight the other cat off! I might have thought that the breakfast was pretty yukky, but it must have looked good enough for Lola to be interested!
So, once I have calmed down, there is still a load of cereal which needs to be cleaned up from the kitchen floor. And I need to make sure I've unblocked the hoover properly, and that the oven is truly clean. Then, I think, it is time to go back to bed.
Thursday, 6 July 2017
Daphne was a beautiful girl, but she kept humans at arm's length throughout her life. She was very much a wild thing at heart, unfortunately the best we could do was our garden.
Wednesday, 5 July 2017
In the event it was lovely. Most of the people there are survivors, most if not all more distant than me, so hopefully there are things I can learn from them. It is funny that you put all of us together, we all suffer from some stuff but not others, and you end up feeling lucky for yourself. It is perverse. I did say to them that I'd never be able to remember their names, as I had always been terrible at this, though at least I now had an excuse! In truth, that line is one of my stock attempts at a humourous ice-breaker.
But it is nice to meet people who've been through the experience, as one can leave so much unsaid. And especially with something medical such as a stroke - you inevitably meet a lot of people, and conversations tend to be quite narrow. In fact, I'd far sooner talk politics or current affairs, or road cycling even, a zillion things, than about my health, although I have a capacity for both. And when we do talk about the medical side of things, we start from a common hymn-sheet. It was interesting to see that other people had had similar quite poor experiences with the medical profession, although we didn't really get too deep.
So they meet every fortnight, and I must attempt to go again. It sounds quite mercenary, but there are things I can learn from people there in order to improve myself. And hopefully, something I can contribute.
Tuesday, 4 July 2017
Daughter come over - she'd been having trouble with her gall bladder again and had been in hospital - ostensibly to get some rest, but also to bury a couple of her guinea pigs, who had died quite coincidentally within a day of each other. I attempted to help by finding the spade for her, and was opening the garage door, when BANG, my daughter had come through the back of the garage, saw the door opening, and decided to push at door, at the same time as I was pulling. So, needless to say, there were lots of cries of pain, and I ended with a bruised and cut shin.
Then, on Sunday, I went through to the kitchen, without anybody telling me that they'd just wiped the floor and that it was currently quite slippery. So, over I go, slipping over onto my knee. So yesterday was spent in a fair amount of pain.
My family is funny about these things. They act as though, because these things are all accidents, that they hadn't intended for these things to happen, that they are no big deal. That in both cases I'm lying on the floor in pain doesn't seem to matter. It's reminiscent to me of the tiny difference between murder and manslaughter - sure, the intention comes into it, but you still have a dead body at the end of it.
It is my daughter's 18th birthday in a couple of weeks, and there is an amount of money, from my late mother, that we agreed she'd inherit when she was eighteen. In fact, I'd got so tired of hearing "can I have some money for this?" or "can I have money for that?" that I thought I'd signed everything over to her six months ago, but it turns out that there are forms to sign. Daughter had obviously found this out when she tried to access the cash, and mentioned this on Sunday night. So, I get up on Monday, and this all needs to be sorted that day. So I'm basically driven into Salisbury to sign this form, and to cap it all, daughter was unhappy at the amount of money i the account. I mean, given the current tiny interest rates, I didn't think it had done too badly, but Daughter was grumpy. Possibly she'd forgotten about the times that she'd already dipped into the account for stuff?
Anyway, it all angered me. Daughter is never satisfied, regardless. This is something that has never changed. No matter how much you do for her, she is never satisfied. But in the face of this ingratitude, my wife reminded her that she's lucky to get this. Most kids don't get anything. Certainly I'm not inclined to do anything for her, in the light of all the trouble she's caused for me, although I do feel honour-bound to carry out my mum's wishes.But I'm hoping it is now all over.
I must also pay tribute to Peony, one of our hens, who died last week. We were both quite upset, as Peony was our favourite of the hens, and was extremely likeable. Peony was always the brave one to come into the house, once she walked all the way through the lounge and ended up in the hallway! I'm not sure what happened, she seemed fine one day but was gone the next. She's the first chicken who's died on us, so we have no idea if this is typical. But she was only around three years old, so not particularly old. It is very sad.
Thursday, 29 June 2017
As I see it, possible reasons for this are:
(i) that there is no interest in the sbject matter.
I find this quite difficult to believe, since some people have travelled quite some distance - from our local city (Salisbury) and beyond.
(ii) that our village lies in the back of beyoud
This is obviously possible, since we do! A few people on the course have actually come looking for it, so maybe there jst aren't the people locally to generate the numbers for the course?
We're in a school which has quite an impressive computer room. There are lots of PCs there, all running Windows 10. The school is friendly and, as I say, quite well-equipped, I can totally understand why you'd want such an environment to prepare students for the outside world, but possibly our target audience has different needs? Unfortunately, I missed the first session, but I did suggest that it should cover things even more basic than computers, such as plugging a router into a phone socket, and getting an internet connection in the first place. One guy is a lovely chap in real life, but if you put him in his home environment, gave him a computer, and told him to go to such-and-such a site, probably wouldn't have a clue. But I've also heard a couple of people say that their internet (which they obviously have already) was set up by their children. Of course, I have no idea whether these people would *want* to find out about how the connection works, or whether the fact that it just exists is enogh for them.
(iv) changes in the session times
we (the volunteers) ourselves were a little confused, because whilst most of the sessions were on a Wednesday, there were a couple of sessions on a Thursday. I can't imagine that this is at all fatal, and certainly a phone call to the Age UK office would clarify things, but by the same token, everything was more complicated than it needed to be.
(v) rubbish tuition!
Of course, it's not a particularly pleasant thought for me, but it has to be there as an option. And I'm aware that the students are taking the lead role as tutors here, but personally, I'm more than happy to jump in and get my hands dirty. And I don't know if it's accurate but I have an impression that some of the attendees prefer talking to a 50yo than a 12yo. But by the same token, I am new to this type of work and could well be wrong.
I think it will be interesting if we ever sit down to discuss how we might have achieved things better. I watched a DR (disaster recovery) test at one client fail miserably, then be proclaimed a success by some middle-manager, dare I be so cynical as to think this could happen in a charity too?
Thursday, 22 June 2017
But after two "active" days, I'm now looking forward to a few more restful ones. I haven't even bothered to put my watch on yet today, so I can confidently say that the number of steps so far today is zero!
So, quiet days planned. There are a few things I'd like to get on with. I'd like to get one of my bikes out (I'll get the thing out OK, but there's a high probability I won't be able to ride it) and, I bought a weatherstation a couple of months ago which is still in its box. I have a pole to stick it on, but I need to cut a small groove into the pole, to stop the station from moving around. Then, of course, I need to align the thing toward north, just so it can give a vaguely accurate wind direction, but that should be easy enough. But maybe, just maybe, it is too hot for all that?
Wednesday, 21 June 2017
The heat - it is topping 30° here - is making it difficult to do much, including sleep. Ultimately useful, because it was an early start to catch a lift into Salisbury. I had an Age UK meeting at 10 o'clock and figured I could go in early, and have a leisurely breakfast beforehand.
Unfortunately, with the clock ticking, I had to forego the help of the FES, whose wires got lost somewhere under my trousers. I must have mentioned before that the FES is beneficial when walking, but that there is a trade-off in terms of getting the thing set up in the first place. And yesterday was the final straw, and there was lots of shouting and swearing and stress - and all at 7am! So I now need to contact the FES people, cancel future appointments, and arrange to return their kit to them.
Having abandoned the FES, I managed to get myself ready with just a couple of minutes spare, and caught my lift into Salisbury. A relaxed breakfast followed - calm was restored - in Costas. A nice cup of coffee but a "yesterday" croissant - stone cold, even if they'd just blasted it in their oven for a minute to freshen it up, it would have been better. Still, I was able to enjoy their wifi for the duration......
On to the Age UK meeting, which was a talk by a clinical psychologist from Salisbury Hospital - the art of conversation. Useful to formalize it, although there was not much new. It was also useful because this woman ran a team of volunteers at the hospital, so the talk was also applicable in terms of my Stroke Association work. They try to meet people who they think could be depressed, but by their own admission, the service is patchy and stops at the hospital door. Very unjoined - something they are acutely aware of. But yeah, implications for both stroke survivors and senior people.
Finished, out in the midday sun, and straight off to find a barber. Not a bad job, and cheaper than my normal Downton barber. Then a few hours browsing the shops, watching the market, and just generally finding seats to rest on for a few minutes. But when I looked last night, my watch (which knows these things) told me that I had walked 9,000 steps, an awful lot for me these days. I ended my day off as I started it, with a refreshing iced coffee, whilst I again waited for my wife and a lift home.
Whilst, of course, in the light of what has happened, I can think of these things in terms of "progress", I must admit to being anxious about what the future may hold. I enjoy volunteering, and I think I'm helping people, but I'm conscious that it's never going to pay the mortgage. And I'm acutely aware that even though I can offer a full stack of cards intellectually, there are limitations physically. Would an employer pay for this? I do find it totally unsurprising that this speaker finds so much trade in the hospital - these things really are difficult to get one's head around. I know that, when faced with a massive project, the trick is to split it all into smaller, manageable chunks, and the only way to complete the project as a whole is to develop tunnel vision to complete each chunk. But maybe those people who get depressed are just the people who concentrate on the big picture, not the tiny details? Maybe those of us who get tunnel-vision are just the thicko worker bees? It is surprising, but as I get older the more readily I am to question the views that I have held all my life. Aren't we supposed to get more entrenched?
Anyway I am going up to the ward again later, so I need to wear my happy face.
Wednesday, 14 June 2017
However I can mostly hide the effects of my limitations behind a keyboard. I used to be very good, just at communicating with people - at the end of the day, I was a consultant so had to be good at communicating - and I've still got a lot of that. I'm slower with things like typing, but I use things like spellcheckers on emails, and when people see the finished result it generally makes sense; people generally don't see that everything takes me that ittle bit longer. I see on Facebook that commercial grammar checkers are also available. So possibly this is the way forward?
Sunday, 11 June 2017
I still think that we need to have two levels of parliament. The lower house deals with all the day-to-day issues, the party politics, and forms the government. Exactly as today. The role of the upper chamber is really to hold the lower chamber to account. Not so much party politics, and a little more common sense. Again, generally the same as today. It is the composition of these two levels which should change. If push comes to shove, then the lower chamber has precedence, although I'd hope that there would be an amount of collaboration instead.
The main goal here is to try and make sure that the lower chamber is representative, in terms of the number of votes cast. It is to try and ensure that a party with x% of the vote also carries x% of the weight in parliament, to get away from the situation where such-and-such a party ends up with 10% of the vote, but with only 1% of parliament members,
At the heart of my approach is the question of whether we vote for a person, or a party. Personally, I feel the latter, although I think we can develop a system which caters for both. But this question highlights the limitations both of the first-past-the-post system, and of the obvious PR system (party lists - I have reservations about how fairly these lists are compiled).
First-off, you start with a constituency, so in that respect you could still think of yourself as voting for a person. However, each constituency is three times the size, say, as a present-day. So, we only have 1/3 the number of constituencies. The number "3" is arbitrary, unimportant, but bear with me.
It is worth noting that herein lies one of the biggest downsides of this system. A third of the constituencies means that 2/3 of current MPs would lose their jobs. So, in this respect alone, the system poses problems.
In each of these new constituencies, you have a vote, pretty much the same as we do today. However, in each constituency, the top 3 people will get to represent you in parliament. At this point, we introduce technology. Each candidate has a weighted vote in parliament, which is proportional to their share of votes in the election. Say, for exanple, that Candidate A receives 10,000 votes in an election. Candidates B and C get 5,000 votes in the election. Candidate D receives fewer that 5,000 votes. When these people get to parliament, this translates as:
Candidate A = 50% = 0.5
Candidate B = 25% = 0.25
Candidate C = 25% = 0.25
in parliament. Candidate D is not elected. In such a way, of course, you end up with the same number of MPs as we have today. Again, though, this is arbitrary - we could have a smaller (or a larger) number of MPs by varying either the size of each constituency, or by the number of leading candidates who are elected. A country such as France, twice the size as the UK geographically , has fewer MPs in its lower house, but this is not key.
Once you get into parliament, you frame all of your motions such that people either agree or disagree, a binary choice. As today. You can have amendments etc. with which people either agree or disagree. As today. Then, in parliament, when Candidate A goes through the lobby, their vote carries 0.5 weight. Candidate B goes through the lobby, and their vote carries a weight of 0.25, and so on. So, parliamentary votes become more complicated, because we no longer have a one-man-one-vote situation, but this is where we can use technology. Smart cards swiping past a reader, perhaps? It could be like a high-end Tesco!
Of course, this system is more complicated than the one we have at present, but also far more representative.
The problem I have with the current composition of the House of Lords is that everybody is appointed by the prime minister. If they like you, you're in. But it is all based on patronage, which I think is wrong.
An alternative approach would be to have an elected second chamber. But this would mean (obviously) elections, campaigning, and inevitably party politics. The second chamber begins to look much like the first. It becomes confusing, when the role of the second chamber is different to the role of the first. Election advocates have even suggested that the second chamber would be elected as a part of the general election process, thereby most likely making the composition of both houses to be identical. A second chamber which simply rubber-stamps the wishes of the first seems a little superfluous.
My idea would be to depart from both models, and to have a second chamber for which people qualify. I'm quite open on exactly who should qualify, but possibly people like ex-cabinet ministers? Basically, people who have had experience of dealing with issues, and might be able to contribute something useful? Remember, their job would be to scrutinise. Of course, cabinet ministers are still appointed by patronage, which I think is absolutely wrong, but this is something that can be sorted separately. These are obviously quite large changes, so need to be managed in smaller chunks.
Friday, 9 June 2017
Broadly, I'm satisfied that the UK ended up with a hung parliament. Nobody can make unilateral decisions, everybody will need to take other people's ideas into account. But the politicians have to make this work. I mean, it's not a bad mantra for life in general, let alone in politics. It's quite sad that it doesn't look like anyone from the Left will be part of the government, but in any case, majorities are so slim that I'm sure the left will find a way to influence parliament's decisions.
I voted Green once again - where I live, tactical voting goes out of the window, Tories get more votes than everyone else put together, so I don't worry about fragmenting the vote! - and I suppose that it wasn't a particularly ground-breaking night. I suppose it reminds us that the Green Party is very much a protest vote, and your share depends on how disillusioned people are with the main parties, as much as what you say yourself.
Personally, I always said that I liked Labour, I liked Corbyn, but that I thought him unsafe because of animousity amongst his parliamentary party. I like that the guy has principles that drive his stance, I like the principles themselves, I like that the guy appears to be more of a chairman than a dictator, but there are still plenty of Blairites in Labour I think. But now, he has shown that someone can be left-wing and still credible. So given his creditable showing last night, I may reconsider in future.
I'm hopeful that this site will contain some useful resources, although I must admit to having some reservations, in particular about being a part of a much larger organisation. You see, I spent my whole working life, almost, as an outsider, running my one-man-band and essentially parachuting in somewhere just to help out. So, I'm used to being independent.
Also, it made me focus - just how involved do I want to be with the Stroke Association? Certainly, I was unimpressed with the absense of any public comments in the wake of redundancies following recent local council cuts. I felt that they could have used the national media, at least, to mention this. (In their defence, I'm probably over-estimating the amount of clout they'd have in any case.) So I'm not sure that I could be guaranteed to be "on message" with them. It sometimes grates when people talk about the "wonderful" health service, and I just think "well, it wasn't particularly wonderful for me". And certainly, I've found other stroke charities which, I think, are more tuned in to my views, since I discovered the Stroke Association. I do tink with stroke, we're also talking about health service priorities, i.e. politics, and we're sometimes justified in being critical.
But I suppose, if we let the politics get to us, we'd all have stopped volunteering a long time ago, what with one thing or another.
Tuesday, 6 June 2017
I do find it quite premature that we have people calling for more powers for the security services. I'm not automatically saying these people are wrong, but both of these last attacks seem to show that there seems to be a problem with the anti-terror people being able to sort the wheat from the chaff, not so much with them having raw material in the first place. Whether this boils down to resourcing issues, who's to say?
As an observer (I cast my postal vote a few weeks ago, so am unaffected by current campaigning), I do find it a bit strange that given a simple binary choice, some people still say they trust Theresa May more than Jeremy Corbyn. I mean, I happened to see Amber Rudd (who is the Conservative Interior Minister) on tv, and indeed have since heard May herself, saying that we needed to vote for their party if we wanted to be safe.....and I couldn't help but wonder exactly what their definition of "safe" was! I mean, just by looking at the track record, it isn't exactly glittering. I'd be tempted just to give the other guy a chance, purely on the grounds that the incumbents have done quite a poor job. I'd say some new thinking was required.
But, of course, general elections are not a simple binary choice.
Wednesday, 24 May 2017
To meet this woman, I was forced to miss the kick-off event for Age UK's IT course. I'll obviously need to manage these conflicts, right now I have a simple rule that the Stroke Association takes priority. But I hope it went OK for them. And, attractive as afternoon tea sounds, my sugar was high this morning.
Monday, 22 May 2017
I only met this guy once and he too is a survivor. I remember him saying that he'd had his strokes (there were 3 of them, poor guy) 7 years ago. I remember being impressed because from his manners etc. it wasn't at all obvious to me that he'd even had a stroke! I remember that one of his milestones was to ride motorbikes again, something which I believe he achieved. Certainly his profile on Facebook is a lovely shiny red bike. It kind of reminds me about my own miestone, to get back on a pushbike.
I think I met him just before christmas, so it'll be good to catch up.
On a more serious note, it does kind of highlight how useful social media can be for people like me to find like-minded souls, which would be very difficult otherwise. I chat to a few survivors on FB. Meaning no disrespect to any of my other friends, who are very understanding, I can talk to them about strokey-type things, and the context is already there. No explanations necessary, because we already grasp the problem. It is very different from when I first left hospital, and felt very alone.
On more mundane matters, my wife was out all day yesterday, so I took advantage of the good weather to mow the front lawn. I got about 3/4 of the way around, before the mower decided it didn't want to start. So it all looks a bit of a pig's ear, although my wife says it looks ok (although she says it probably wasn't too bright to have started hitting the mower with a spade!). Anyway, will try to finish it today - whenever this happens I always smell petrol so presumably I'd flooded the engine somehow.
Thursday, 18 May 2017
Many years ago, I ended up doing some work for the Royal Bank of Scotland, a UK bank which has subsequently hit the rocks. It wasn't deliberate - I was doing some work for a bank called Coutts, which was then taken over by RBS. They "inherited" me!
Now, Coutts had its faults, but I was privileged to work there with some of the most intelligent people I'd ever met - and these guys were kind enough to include me in their circles. The bank itself was very prestigious and had a mantra of doing things properly - their clients were few in number but had very high expectations and lots of money to boot.
RBS took over and quickly promoted a "supermarket" culture. I remember on guy, a really switched-on bloke, who worked at director-level, was fired because he missed a deadline. I knew this guy well enough - he routinely juggled budgets worth tens of millions - to know that he'd probably had some impossible deadline imposed upon him. And the only thing anybody heard from the bank was that "so-and-so had decided to pursue his career eldewhere". Goodness knows how many other good people this happened to. It successfully turned a culture where people were productive and successful, into one in which they feared (rightly) for their jobs. In my final months there, I was asked to investigate several technologies, to save money, and was told up-front what the conclusion should be. The last straw for me was when I was in a meeting discussing something with an RBS "strategist", who eventually said to me "Look, who owns who here?" At that point, I gave up and just started taking the money. For the last period, I used to take my laptop up to London and basically did my own thing (learning .Net, which had just come out).
I mention this just to give some insight into my past. Even my wife doesn't understand fully what I used to do - she'd watch me leave the house each morning and not really have much of a clue what I did all day. And of course, anybody who follows the news would also be aware that the same people who were running RBS at that time later became very publicly unstuck. And I must personally admit to never owning either an RBS, or a Coutts, bank account.
Tuesday, 16 May 2017
There is a small cafe in the centre of the village, and this was the venue for a meeting with a few Age UK people. They are running a course soon about how we can get old folks online and making use of the net, and I have offered to help.
When I got home, I even had a call from the new Stroke Association contact, suggesting that we meet next week.
I love it when progress happens.
Sunday, 14 May 2017
Now, let's put to one side that if she says "personnally", it probably means that it isn't Tory party policy. And with these things, there are always two questions that you need to ask: (i) do I agree/disagree with something? and (ii) do I care enough to do anything about it? I'm sure that if I were contemplating power, there would be far more important things to worry about right now.
Also, we should also put to one side the fact that the ban is a popular law, apparently enjoying the backing a many voters.
But, of course, the very subject raises very emotive language on both sides. People in favour of the ban talk about "defenceless" animals. As a chicken-owner, foxes are far from defenceless - and we need to take anti-fox precautions every day to keep the chickens safe.
But equally, I heard a farmer the other day saying that since the ban, they'd had an increase in lambs taken, as the foxes get bolder. But does this mean that you need to dress up and get out on your horse with a pack of dogs? Is there not some way that foxes can be controlled, if control is necessary, without making the act of control a "sport"?
Storm in a teacup.
Wednesday, 10 May 2017
But since then....nothing. On the grounds that somebody would have told me if something was changing (wouldn't they?), I've just carried on doing my ward visits, on my own, on alternate Wednesdays. The girl who left told me that they hadn't decided who'd organise what yet, but that her area manager would likely take over liaison with volunteers. But no phone call or email from the new person to say hi. Nothing. So I went up there today and one of the nurses says, "I didn't think you did this any more". Well, I was only there a fortnight ago so I asked her what she meant. By the sounds of things, the other guy who visits - we went on alternate weeks so generally missed each other - has stopped doing visits. Reuben - the other guy - had a stroke several years ago, had been volunteering since a long time, and was obviously quite well known to people (although possibly more his purple garb, just like mine, than his face).
I feel a bit like I'm doing these hospital visits, but nobody at the Stroke Association has any clue that I'm doing them. One day, someone will approach me and say "what are you doing?" or "who the hell are you?" Or, possibly, "what are you doing wearing one of our shirts?"
I mean, this is only volunteering after all, but I'd have hoped for slightly bette organisation!
Tuesday, 9 May 2017
The news feeds have picked up on the fact that they have hijacked an idea from the Labour party of a couple of years ago. And the two parties claim to be diametrically opposed to each other...
But the thing I find interesting is that the Conservatives always advocated a free market economy, whereas they are now proposing an interventionist stance. To me at least, this is big news. Not that I'm complaining - I think that the market is far too short-term a thing on which to base your infrastructure policy (for example, whether your mines, farms or railways are viable).
By the by, I talk about my own energy arrangements here.
Monday, 8 May 2017
One reason I would not be a politician is that I have a set of views and am quite comfortable with them. But I would not want to foist these views on others, who have presumably done their own thinking about things (and indeed I think have a responsibility to do so). If these views leave me in a minority of one..... not a problem. And I think it would be very conceited of me to presume that "I am right and you are wrong".
So I really thought that my views were inconsistent with encouraging anybody to vote one way or another, although I was happy to declare publicly which way I would vote. In the end, I relented because a think a poster saying "Vote X" is more of a traditional slogan.
Same goes for religion, btw. I don't believe in any divine being, and am absolutely comfortable with that, but I'm fine if other people do. In my book, actions speak louder in any case. I do think that (all) religions (without exception) offer people good templates to live a positive existence, but there is absolutely nothing to stop someone developing those values independently. And, however they are derived, putting those templates into practise is important.
Saturday, 6 May 2017
But I must admit - I don't really know the difference either! Answers on a postcard, please (or in a comment)....
Friday, 5 May 2017
Elsewhere, I am satisfied that the extremists of UKIP have lost ground. Now that the UK has had its referendum, I think the general public is struggling to see its relevance. Of course they argue otherwise...
But I do see some contradictions, too. The Conservative party has effectively hijacked many of UKIP's policies, and yet rather than people being wary of their adopted extremism, they have strengthened their hand. And again, despite evidence that our infrastructure is deteriorating - high-profile evidence such as health and social care, but also visible, everyday evidence such as worsening road surfaces as councils can't afford to make repairs, people still prefer the Conservatives to other options. Certainly, for a party that uses a lot of rhetoric about economics, the numbers don't stack up.
I suppose it also says something about Labour's credibility, although other parties had quite poor result too. It's not reallly clear whether their results appear so bad because (a) they are exactly that, or (b) because they are such a large party, their losses appear magnified.
Plus, of course, the media doesn't help, trying to rile the politicians (I'm sure that confrontation gets much higher ratings) but their interviews really are quite amateur and superficial.
So is it really any wonder, in the face of skepticism of both main parties, that I looked for a different option? At least the Greens can claim electoral success last night - although in their case the numbers are so small.... But perhaps evidence that more and more people are dissatisfied with the larger parties?
I must admit, finally, that these results feel somewhat strange to me. It is almost as if I'm looking on as an observer, that I'm not directly involved. I certainly can't feel the passion these days like I used to. Interested, certainly, but passionate? No. But then my blood pressure is that much lower these days, too, and maybe there are other fish to fry!
Tuesday, 2 May 2017
This is to say nothing of my glasses & case being "relocated" from on the sofa to under the sofa since yesterday. Without them, I can't see the guide on the TV, so I was scrabbling around on my hands and knees this morning looking for them - no mean feat when I find it difficult enough to stay on my feet without toppling over!
Then, last night, my wife joined in. "Are you watching anything on TV?", she asked, as I am in the middle of watching the news. This is code for "I want the TV so I can play my computer game", so I turned the TV off and had an early night. No supper for me, which made gauging my Insulin dose quite difficult.
Fortunately, daughter left this morning, and I haven't bothered speaking to wife all day. I sorted my own supper tonight, I didn't see why I should starve two nights in a row!