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, 30 September 2018

Labour

A couple of things happened yesterday which re-affirmed my belief that if we elected the Labour Party (in the UK) we might well be getting more than we bargained for.

To explain the first, I need to explain the current news. Over in the USA, a guy has been proposed by Trump as a Supreme Court judge. Once selected and approved, they hold this position for life, so pretty important. The guy is going through the senate hearings at the moment, and a woman has come up and testified against him, saying that he sexually assaulted her. I mean, powerful stuff, but so far it is just an allegation - nothing has yet been proven and this guy has never been charged with any of this. It is, after all, a criminal offence.

Anyway, on the strength of this allegation,my cousin (who is an affirmed Labour Party supporter) shared some posts on Facebook, to the effect that this guy is an abuser, and shouldn't get the job. This would be totally fair enough, if the guy had been convicted of something. But, at this stage, nothing is proven. Indeed, by posting this stuff on Facebook, folks might well be harming the case against this guy, just because his lawyers might say that it shows the guy won't get a fair trial.

But the point I picked up on was the willingness to let due process go out of the window, to forget that somebody is innocent until proven guilty, in favour of lynch mob justice, and that scares me. I'm left feeling that in their ideal world, they wouldn't bother with things like courts, and that worries me.


The second event happened last night. A guy I don't know, but who said he worked for the Labour Party. He posted a clip of some young kid going into the Tory Conference, and being pelted with eggs. And it was posted as if this is an acceptable way for people to behave. In fairness, this kid seemed totally obnoxious, but despite that, it showed that for people who didn't agree with him, it was ok to assault him.

So, I see that event and worry that free speech itself is at risk. I see this, and envisage the Brownshirts.


I can possibly feel for Jeremy Corbyn. It doesn't worry me one bit about his links with the IRA or Hamas - these are groups with a clear political agenda, if Corbyn happens to share the same politics, I'm not bothered. Whether I agree with him or not is a different matter, but I don't really attach any significance to him having those views. But these Facebook posters follow him and are extremely vocal in their support, but he has no reciprocal say about how sound their ideas are, whether he actually wants their support or not. Presumably, as a politician, he's just happy as long as people vote for him? Certainly, when I have seen Corbyn interviewed, his own ideas seem well thought out, but the trouble is, he can't do it all on his own. Sooner or later, you have to delegate to people like these Facebook posters, and you're at the mercy of their prejudices, which aren't immediately apparent from manifestos. So Corbyn, unfortunately, is not the issue, it is his supporters, and, unfortunately, the guy can't do anything about them.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

End of an era

Well, not quite, but I've decided to place some other commitments over my Wednesday afternoon peer support group, Salisbury Stroke Support Group. In truth, the attendances have not been brilliant for a while, and yesterday I turned up and was on my own (again). I actually took my wife with me yesterday, so strictly speaking, I wasn't on my own, I just mean that no-one else turned up. And, at least I got a lift home afterwards, so I didn't have to hang around for the bus. But the two of us spent half an hour just chatting to each other, something we could easily have done at home any day of the week.

It's good, I suppose, that people feel they have recovered to the point where they don't think it is useful to come along to the group any more, but at the same time a little sad. Moreso really because I think of it all as a bunch of mates getting together rather than just peer support. And, of course, there is the perennial question, "what if someone new needs support.?" There are precious few avenues as it is, and we've just closed off one of them.

Certainly, whilst I'm not working, I had a very straightforward view that I had nothing better to do than to go into Salisbury every couple of weeks, so I was happy to go along. By that I mean that there was always other stuff to do, but generally these days I don't have to be in a certain place at a certain time, so I was happy to go to the group. But, really, if I'm going to go along - leaving the house at midday and not getting back until 5pm - and sit there on my own, there are far better things that I can be getting on with. I may even end up going into Salisbury anyway, but at least I won't be constrained by meeting times.

Monday, 24 September 2018

Ties

On the subject of getting myself back into work, I'm really happy because last week I managed to pick up a suit in the sales, which just about fits. And today, I got a pack of white shirts - I'd already got a couple of silk, clip-on ties, and have just checked myself in the mirror and...I look impressive!

I haven't had to wear "smart" clothes since 2013, and really, it's good that I can wear all that garb again. And of course I'm a lot bigger - at the height of my cycling I remember buying 28" waist trousers, and now I am a healthy 34" at least - what few pairs of jeans I have are 34" but when I tried the suit on, I should probably have gone for 36". And my neck has got a lot thicker - I needed 17" shirts! The rest of my torso hasn't increased as much, in fact the shirts look a bit tent-like apart from around the neck! But I can't really complain, I'm coming back after a stroke, after all. And it is true, I'm more sedentary now, but I'm hopeful that a job will get me moving about a bit more in any case.

One other bit of semi-good news today. It's nothing definite yet, but when I was consulting, the first trick was to have a CV which was attractive enough to make agents bite. That was always the key. If I could achieve that, and get the CV in front of the client, then it would normally impress them too, and I would get to meet them at interview. I mean, that was always another kettle of fish, but unless the CV turns heads, you've fallen at the first hurdle.

As I said last time, I consider that when I worked up in London, it was Premier Leage stuff (even though it often didn't feel like it!) and I developed a CV to match. I could pretty much guarantee that I'd get an interview if I went for a job. Anyway, I sent it off in respect of one job last week, and it obviously still ticks the boxes because the agent phoned today to say she wanted to put me forward.

I mean, there is a potential hitch now in that I have all this experience at quite a senior level, and the work around here is somewhat lower-key: my experience might put some people off - although I have to admit this is a good start.

On the same note, I am going to a job fair tomorrow, and am feeling quite optimistic about things, although I'm not sure what to expect, or whether it'll be a total waste of time.

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Technology

I must admit I do quite like how I'm able to use technology. Not just stroke-related stuff, but more just to get my old life back.

My working background, before the career break and the stroke, was in IT. I worked in the City for 20-odd years, and before that had a spell in New York. So I was at quite a high level, as IT goes.

I'm now recovered enough from the stroke that I want to find a job. It's not only money, although earning several tens of thousands per year would be preferable to earning £100/week disability benefit. It's wanting to do something productive once again.

To that end, I've spent the last month or two sharpening my technical skills up to where they were in 2013 - at the top of my game. In many ways, it is largely about getting myself back into the discipline of sitting down and spending the day working, but I have been able to be quite productive too, picking up and using new technologies. Or, in fact, there is very little that is new, it's more just moved on a version or two.

Of course, a lot of the stuff I used to do in the enterprise can't be mimicked on my laptop, but, actually, a surprising amount can. For example, I can write code or develop databases. And, some web technologies have come along - or rather, matured to the point where they're usable - which I've been able to pick up. I mean, I have built web applications (as in "programmed", rather than "graphic designed", but the real advantage of the web is that it sidesteps deployment issues. If you can find another way to crack deployment, then putting an application on someone's desktop is far more powerful. And, by those standards, what I'm doing is noddy compared to what I used to do, but you have to do what you can.

On that note, by the way, I have redeveloped the family web site using some of the latest technologies. (It's only a few pages - I have done other stuff too!) One of these technologies is pushed by Microsoft (who you'll likely have heard of!) called ASP.NET MVC. ASP.NET is Microsoft's way of building web applications, which I have been familiar with for many years. MVC stands for Model-View-Controller, and is basically a specific way or organising your web site. I won't get bogged down in too much detail, but MVC has actually been around for 50-odd years as a way of developing applications, and there are lots of these (they're called patterns) out there, all of which are subtly different, but all of which aim to avoid your program becoming one big heap of spaghetti! But it is only really in the last 10 years or so that Microsoft has picked up MVC and built a framework which developers can use to build stuff. What they've done is not absolutely pure, but as long as you follow a few rules (for example, on what you call things), it can be very labour-saving and can help with organisation. As it happens, the way in which the web works fits in well with the MVC pattern, which is no doubt why Microsoft built around it.

To summarise, http://www.hurford.me.uk. It's only really a couple of pages, but I have a contact form on there where I've been able to use this MVC approach.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Salisbury

I guess a lot of posts from now on will be reminiscing about stuff.

I was in Salisbury yesterday, was waiting for my wife, who was at the opticians, and sat on the edge of the Market Square just watching the world go by. It is weird about having a brain injury - certainly immediately after the stroke I never thought I'd see Salisbury again, then when I did get out of hospital, going into Salisbury was like going to a different world. Part of that undoubtedly is because my habits have changed - rather than shopping, I've got everything I need so am happy to sit and watch people, but that trend of downsizing was happening anyway, even before the stroke, so possibly a healthy me would have behaved just the same?

But yeah, the fog is clearing now but it certainly felt like the Twilight Zone. I suppose as I've become more able to go places, my world has gradually gotten bigger. I do recognise that getting to the bus stop was my first mega-milestone, just because it allowed me to get further afield. If I hadn't have made that one, I've no doubt it would ultimately be fatal.

What's quite strange is that I must have improved gradually over time, I've always kind thought along the lines "aren't I doing well?" I mean, I'm stronger now, certainly, than a couple of years ago, but even back then I don't remember thinking "I'm a wreck now but I'll be better in 2 years". I mean, I certainly think the second half of that - that I'll keep getting better - but certainly not the first half. I'm confident that there'll come a time when nobody will know I ever had a stroke. I'll always know, but nobody else will.

I probably haven't said things very well. Reading it back, I don't think I've particularly done a good job.

The other nostalgic thing which happened yesterday was that, quite by accident, I met the guy who was my next door neighbour in hospital. They put us next to each other because we were both youngsters, in fact I think this guy was only in his thirties, even younger than me. He hadn't had a stroke, but had had some other brain injury, I'm not sure which. I wouldn't have taken it on board at the time. We both happened to be in a music shop, we recognised each other, I knew I knew him but I couldn't place him. He recognised me, though. He'd put on weight from what I remember, but then so have I. I don't know if he gets fatigued, if that makes him more sedentary than he used to be, but I know that fatigue is not just limited to strokes. Unfortunately my wife and I were just on the point of going back to the car, and this guy was just getting served, it would have been nice to have a proper catch-up with him. I hope he feels he's doing as well, if not better, than I've done.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Schooldays

I remember the first time I ever got into trouble at senior school.

I went to an old-fashioned grammar school, which selected just 90 pupils each year from the whole of the Liverpool area. It sent a few people to Oxbridge each year, and had pretty good sports teams etc.

I must have only been about twelve or so, and a group of us were trying to work out nicknames for classmates. We had a guy in the class whose name was Meneer - this sounded vaguely like "manure", so we decided to call this guy "horsey". Real schoolboy hunour.

Unbeknown to us, this guy didn't like this name, took it personally, and complained to a teacher. This chap never said anything to us - with hindsight this might have been enough, certainly a quiet word from a teacher would have been. It was the kind of place where pupils respected teachers, especially twelve-year-olds.

So, the next thing I know, I'm being publicly identified as the person calling this guy names. I can't remember what eactly was said, but I remember thinking it was all so unnecessary, especially when the guy had himself been taking part in this game with us. It's funny with the passage of time - you forget the details but remember the feelings. I remember being baffled, because this chap had said to us that he liked the name, yet had subsequently complained.

It's funny, in seven years at that school, I never particularly got on with this teacher after that. I suppose I realised which way the cards were stacked.