Disclaimer

BEFORE YOU START: Please note that although I currently volunteer for both the Stroke Association and Age UK, the views expressed in this blog are strictly my own. I am not a spokesperson for either (or, indeed, for any) organisation, and I accept complete responsibility for the views expressed herein. I've tried to use the Glossary to explain any ambiguous terms, but if you think there is anything I've missed, please message me.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Steady Joe's

My mum died in early 2012, and my dad followed suit on Christmas Day of the same year. After mum's death, I was concerned at how long the process of probate was taking, a mix between my reluctance to deal with it, and the pace at which external things, over which I had no control, worked. When my dad died, I decided that, rather than renew my contract with my clients, I needed to take time out to get everything sorted.

I finally sold me late parents' house a year later, in January 2014. It was a large three-bed semi, must have been twice as large as my house, and was full to the brim with "stuff". Once the house was sold, I had money in the bank and followed my love of cycling (doing it as opposed to watching it, although I liked that too). Since I was able, I decided to try my hand at a change of career, and in summer 2014 was training as a bike mechanic (training which I subsequently passed). Dates tend to fade in our memories, but events.....I remember watching the 2014 World Cup final from my hotel bedroon over near the course in Lincolnshire.

Fixing bikes was far harder than IT. I knew even from the training that I was slower than my 20yo compatriots, but I was thorough and did a good job. Do you remember Lance Armstrong? At the time he was being talked of in terms of the "best cyclist of all time", and he owned a shop in Austin, Tx called Mellow Johnny's. I guess it is still going, although I don't know whether Armstrong is still involved. Anyway, what a good name, I thought. So I tried to think of something similar. Steady Joe's was the best I came up with. I don't even know anyone called Joe! but it had a ring to it. In my ears, at any rate.

Unfortunately, repairing bikes was far harder than IT, just establishing myself as a business and getting regular clients. Also, most of the money in bike shops is on the sales side, and it was repairing them that interested me.

So, in autumn 2015, I had a long hard think and decided to go back to IT. I was, after all, pretty good. But I wanted to =work closer to home, I didn't want to spend three hours per day on the train any more. It was slow and took a while, but the UK's Ordnance Survey (the "official" UK map-maker) is based in Southampton, twenty miles away from me, and I secured an interview with them.

Unfortunately, the day the interview was scheduled, I'd been in hospital three weeks following the stroke. I never even found out that an interview had been scheduled until I went through my emails after I left hospital, in the middle of March 2016. Timing, eh?

It's funny, because at one of my clients in London, one of the boss-ladies shocked me in a meeting once by saying, "if you see a gap in their CV, it means they've been in prison!" and it kind-of haunts me now that that's exactly how my cv looks! As a consolation, I do have a City & Guilds certificate from the Bike Mechanic course, plus of course I have DBS (criminal record) certificates from the charity work I've done since the stroke.Honest!




Papal Visit

I'm in the UK. The pope is visiting Ireland at the moment. I follow some Irish feeds on social media, plus the UK media has a passing interest, so I'm kind-of aware that it is going on, although it is pretty much a passing interest for me too.

Certainly from the UK media, a lot of the coverage has been from the angle of "abuse by clergy", many of these stories are now quite widely known. Not just in Ireland, although Ireland is certainly included. But I must admit I feel for someone like the pope, who has been very contrite about all this. I mean, I'm making an assumption that he had no personal involvement in any abuse, but really, all these apologies divert from his main aim, which is surely spreading the christian message. Make no mistake, it's a great shame that some people have used the church as a cloak through which to abuse others, but really, these people are responsible for their own actions, it's nothing to do with the church. If anything they've exploited the church as well, just by using it to get themselves into a position where they've been able to abuse people.

I mean, it is good that the pope says something, the abuse was wrong so it is the right thing to do as far as the abused are concerned, it also distances the church from the abusers, i.e. the church recognises that it was wrong.But, really, I don't this he bears any personal responsibility here. Without doubt, The church could have done better, both in terms of its staff selection, and even moreso in terms of the subsequent cover-ups, but most probably, the guy who is now pope would have been some distance from all of this (both time and space).

I do see some parallels here with party politics. How many times does someone say or do something stupid, then someone else, who happens to be on the same team, is forced to try and defent them? How embarrasing must that be? And, of course, because politics is so tribal, they do attept to defend them, while the rest of us are sat there, thinking "what an idiot!" . Worse, in this case.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Hospital Outpatient Appointment

My wife went for a hospital appointment yesterday, it was something respiratory so, before the appointment, she needed to get a chest x-ray. As you can imagine, that's not uncommon for respiratory appointments.

So we got to the appointment and were immediately told to go to another department to get the x-ray. This might have been our fault, we might have turned up at the wrong place to start with. Except that when we got there, the x-ray people had never heard of my wife. Not even late, but non-existent! So there's then 20 minutes in the waiting area while somebody is trying to find out what is happening.

And we see at least three people rock up to x-ray, all with the same story, all patients at this respiritory clinic, none of whom are expected. Presumably this happens every Tuesday, and somebody's day consists of just chasing around after widow/orphan patients. You'd think that, when a respiratory appointment gets created, the system would have the option to create an x-ray appointment too, but that appears not to be the case. And nobody's doing it manually, either at the same time as they create the respiratory appointment, or even when the patient arrives on-site and checks-in!

I've got a lot of sympathy for the Labour criticism that our hospitals are starved of cash, but I don't think cash is the only answer, there's a basic lack of common sense. How many people must go into the NHS with similar ideas to mine, and just get ground down by the system such that nothing changes? That's the serious part, and it's very sad.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

PIP

In the UK, the primary disability benefit is PIP, or Personal Independence Payment, and the stated purpose is to help provide some funds for those little extras you have to fork out for because of your condition. I suppose taxis is an obvious example, although they don't really exist around here. If I took a taxi to Salisbury and back, it would cost me over £50, which would soon nullify the benefit.

Anyway, theyrun assessments for this benefit, basically to check you're as impaired as you say you are. I had mine at 10 o'clock this morning.

I know that PIP works on a points system. No points if you're ok at something, one point if you're not all that good at it, five points if....forget it! A lot of the points are scored if you're reliant on somebody else to do things for you. When you've finished, you tot up all the points, and if you score enough, you get the benefit. I spent yesterday morning reminding myself of all this, as well as looking at the specific areas covered by the PIP questionnaire. My main resource was here.

Having now had the assessment, I'm very glad that I looked at this site, since the questions asked at the assessment were very similar to those presented on the site. I took the time to prepare answers to the questions, to cite examples, and to commit many of those answers to memory. This was a very useful exercise because we go through 90% of life trying to be as "better" as possible, but there are a small number of instances when we need to tell it like it is. I'm glad I put that extra thought in.

One example was cooking. Can I prepare a simple meal? Well, on the face of it, yes I can. I can quite easily process that information, use the hob or oven, and come up with something vaguely edible. But think on for a moment. I'm one-handed, so if that simple meal involved getting something out of a jar, forget it. Slicing things, forget it. My cheese these days comes via an electric grater. Similarly with tins. For these I need to use my electric tin-opener. Even those tins with ring-pulls risk breaking my teeth instead! And then, after the meal, the washing-up. One-handed, so I can't wash dishes all that well. Once again I sidestep the problem by using a dishwasher. There's a pattern forming here - all these gadgets I'm using (or other people) to live a normal life. And I think that's what the PIP people are looking for - things you can't do unaided.

Plus, of course, things like socialising. I could be flippant and say that I never had much of a social life anyway, but actually, I used to work in London, and would sometimes go out with friends up there. I used to ride a bike, and many of the people I used to meet because of that, I don't even see any more, just because I no longer move in those circles. So, really, these things do require consideration.

So, my advice to anybody facing a PIP assessment is basically to look at the type of questions they ask. I've mentioned one source, but there are others. And deliberately take some effort to think about the answers, because the "headline" answer is not necessarily the most accurate. Having said that, I might have been assessed as "null points", so who am I to give advice????

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Anti-Semitism

I must admit I feel a bit sorry for Jeremy Corbyn. He seems to have some dodgy acquaintances, but as far as I know there's no evidence that he himself has ever been anti-semitic.

Having said that, I don't think it's enough for him not to be anti-semitic. It's fine for somebody like me to be judged on what I say and do, but the only person I'm representing is myself. Corbyn, however, is representing thousands of people. So I think he needs to go one step further.

This then begs the question, what more should he do? Unfortunately I'm not sure there's an awful lot he can do, except try to ride this out. I know there was a kerfuffle a few weeks ago about Labour not adopting the same definition of anti-semitism as pretty much everyone else. I think this was dumb, even if, as they argue, their version was better.

But in the last few days, I'm sure I read a story about an allegation that a Labour councillor had called for Jews to be....was it executed? Even if this was meant as a joke, it is pretty way-out. In the actual story, Labour seems to have done the right thing by suspending this councillor, but of course it is worrying that this person is representing Labour in the first place. Poor old Corbyn can affect the present, and maybe will affect the future, but he can't control the past. That's why I think he needs to just do the right thing in terms of disciplinary procedures, and ride the allegations out.

I must admit to having a personal interest in this story, as my mother-in-law came to the UK as part of the Kinder Transport, in 1939. She was born in Belgium, and those members of the family who stayed behind didn't survive. As a result my wife has very few family members on her mother's side. I can totally buy that there must be a mechanism which allows somebody to criticise a state (Israel) without it being seen as criticism a religion (Judaism), but the flip side is that we all have a right to exist. It worries me when I hear people like Ken Loach (a film-maker whose material I generally like very much) talking about history being a matter of opinion, which appears to support holocaust-denial, but then I look at my daughter, for example, and realise that she probably has no idea what the Kinder Transport was.