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.

Monday, 31 December 2018

Cold

Experiencing something for the first time today.

You know when you get a cold, and all your joints feel achy? I mean, I used to get that every now and again, before....

Since the stroke, I've generally been able to steer clear of coughs and colds, just because I suppose I'm in contact with so few other people. But I've obviously picked something up now because my throat feels like sandpaper and it hurts to move. I'm not sure it feels any worse than in years gone by, but the effect of the achy joints on my already-weak limbs is quite debilitating, it is really uncomfortable even to move around and I'm feeling unusual strains on e.g. my femur. I can only hope that this will all be long gone by the time I need to go out again, not for another week unless I feel up to it.

It does feel a bit funny because, as a cyclist, I never used to get any of these petty ailments, I always felt immune, so I haven't experienced a cold in years!

Saturday, 29 December 2018

People

I'm concluding in my old age that I don't like people much. My wife dragged me out to the local sales, there were lots of people about and the only things I had been vaguely interested in had either been moved, or seemed more expensive, not less, than before christmas.

When items have been moved, I just take it as a sign that the shop doesn't want me to buy a particular item, so find it easier to go without altogether than to try rummaging for it. This was in Debenhams, and I came straight back out.

In Marks and Spencer, I saw another sign. Everywhere I turned, even when I stood where nobody else was about, somebody would turn up a few seconds later, wanting to get past me, and I'd be in the way. A woman with a pushchair quite happily barged me out of the way - I thought I might get my blue badge tattooed on my forehead, but decided against it as it probably wouldn't make people behave any differently. I though of reminding her that I was a disabled guy but I doubt she'd have cared. And there were sufficient numbers of people out and about that I couldn't go directly from A to B without taking a roundabout route - and whoever would have thought that, one day, walking would take so much effort? And even though I'm hobbling, nobody gets out of my way, it always has to be the other way around. So, all in all, I'm glad I'm home.

Unforgiving

We have two cats. The boy has been asleep on my bed since I vacated it this morning. The girl is a little more active, and has been a bit friskier today, even spending some time on my lap.

It's funny, when she's in the mood for a fuss, she butts my bad hand as it to say "Come on, why are you only fussing me with one hand? Get your act together!" I've got a funny feeling that if I ever get movement back in that hand, the first time I'll notice it will be thanks to the cat.

Friday, 21 December 2018

Christmas Gathering

I popped into the Age UK office in Salisbury yesterday. They advertised a "mince pie" coffee morning for volunteers. Because I only go to the office at a pretty set time each week, I tend to see the same few faces, so these social events are good opportunities to meet volunteers who I don't see from week-to-week.

Yesterday, I met a lovely woman who did the same as me (telephone befriending) but who had only started doing it a few weeks ago. I mean, I'm still very much learning myself, but at least I have a few months under my belt. Of course we talked in general terms, so as to protect our clients' confidentiality, but we both had similar experiences. This woman admitted to being not-very-computer-literate, so only a couple of weeks in, feels like she's fighting against the CRM software that Age UK use. To be honest I consider myself very computer-literate, and still find some of the same. I tend to only push the buttons I need to complete my specific task, although the system does a lot more. And I'd expect user privileges to be a big part of any system, so I expect there's a lot of stuff it wouldn't allow me to see, even if I did. And, not least, this is "live" client data, on a system that is currently being used by Age UK, so it's not as if I can tinker as I might in a Development environment.

I also met the Age UK employee who asked me to become a telephone befriender in the first place. It was lovely to see her, I think we just clicked from when we first met, but I hardly see her during my normal volunteering hours, so it is about three months since I've seen her. But she's quite outgoing so she probably gets on with whoever she meets. (I'm not. I've probably become more willing to express "positive" since the stroke (just in terms of maybe paying someone a compliment), but that's not quite the same thing. I knew that getting out and meeting new people would help my recovery, but I'm naturally quite shy.) You kind-of think that it must be really useful for a charity to have somebody with that kind of outgoing personality, just in terms of quickly establishing a rapport with clients. For me, I feel quite grateful to her because she must have spotted that I didn't do much, and pitched the telephone befriending role to me. So I was finally able to get involved, having been quite passive up until them. I think it was a case of being happy to help out doing whatever, but just not knowing what the whatevers were! The stroke work was the same. I mean, I don't want to sell myself short here, though, because Age UK are probably grateful to me too - we both benefited from the arrangement (I'd like to think!)

Plus, this woman happens to be a similar age to me, and we have kids of similar ages. So we can regale each other with broadly similar experiences - she's going through the "first year when kid isn't home for christmas" this year, which I went through two or three years ago. And I get the impression that a lot of my clients were picked by this woman, so she knows a lot of the back-stories. I know from the entries in the logging system that she sometimes speaks to the clients as well. So there's more common ground, in that we can discuss a client (for example, if we have concerns over their welfare) on a professional level, so we're on the same page. Plus, she's often known these people for longer than I have and knows things about them, things I haven't really learnt yet. Just, really, because it doesn't come up naturally in my weekly telephone conversations with the clients, and I don't really want to pry.

So, yes, all-in-all nice to meet some new colleagues, plus a refresher on some existing ones. Next stop, christmas!

Sunday, 16 December 2018

For or Against

There's so much destructive talk around at the moment (against this, against that) that I wanted to write something constructive. What I want rather than what I don't want.

Of course I shall write about the relationship between the UK and the EU, it is a subject which is totally dominating UK politics at the moment. So, in terms of a future agreement, here's what would make me happy:

  • freedom of movement. I'd be happy for it to continue, just like (in theory) it does today. And, of course, if it is necessary, you guarantee the rights of people who do settle here. The UK has two sorts of immigration - that from the EU (which can't be controlled and which has decreased since the referendum), and that from the RoW (which can be controlled). While immigration from the EU has decreased, overall immigration has stayed roughly the same, so therefore RoW immigration has increased. But the point I'm making is that whenever a government minister talks about "control of our borders", I see it as jingo rather than something credible. It doesn't overly bother me, and I don't think it much bothers politicians either.
  • trade. I'd commit to maintaining (or even exceeding) EU standards. But only until further notice - I wouldn't attempt to bind my successors. For that I'd like for the UK to trade freely with the EU - I am wary of the term "union" because, depending on context, it often seems to imply some restriction of the two parties' ability to trade with third-parties. To be clear, I see something which allows the UK and the EU to trade with each other, but also which doesn't place any constraints on them trading with third parties. If either the UK or the EU subsequently chose to lower its standards, then I see no problem with the other party possibly walking away from the deal.

So, by those two stances, the problem at the Irish border goes away. We (the UK) don't fear people coming via Ireland, Ireland doesn't fear our goods becoming inferior (or vice versa) and flooding their markets. I mean, I'm more of a republican than a nationalist anyway, so I wouldn't be particularly bothered if NI wanted to align itself away from the UK somehow (either as an independent nation or as part of a united Ireland), so long as that's what its population wanted. But my beliefs make for a homogeneous border in any case.

  • On justice, the key thing for me is that the citizen is subject to a set of rules, and is judged by a court if they've fallen foul of those rules, and that court itself is implementing rules defined by by politicians who make up those rules and who are elected by those same citizens. So it kind-of comes full circle. I don't much mind whether the rules are made in London or in Timbuktu, as long as there is traceability back to the electorate. In the case where the UK is involved in EU institutions, we have to accept that we've now left the EU, so if an institution is then subject to the ECJ, so be it and the UK has to accept that. If we don't like that, we either set up our own parallel institution, or we do without.
  • On the system of representation, I'm happy to be represented (i.e. that somebody is elected to analyse proposed legislation on my behalf), but both the UK and EU systems are flawed. I've mentioned before in this blog about different countries of the EU having more MEPs per capita, where, really, that level ought to be flat. Similarly, I've mentioned how we could reform the UK's FPTP system - the one thing it was claimed to have going for it was that it gave a strong government, but even that is now clearly known to be nonsense. But I think that we need consensual politics rather than the adversarial politics we see at the moment. Every government should be a GNU.
  • On general sovereignty, I think it is a red herring. Just, really in terms of... if you want to do a trade deal with X, then X will have certain specifications that must be conformed to. So, who's calling the shots? I see sovereignty as pretty parallel- we're all so interconnected that sovereignty is an illusion. I suppose you might argue that sovereignty is the ability to decide whether you trade with X or not, but unless you trade with somebody, you're on skid row.
There's obviously a lot of stuff I've left out here, but I suppose these are my "rules of thumb".
 

"People's Vote"

I wanted to make a bit of progress on my app today, but it is a Sunday and I also wanted to talk about this idea of a "people's vote".

I watched a political programme the other day, which had Caroline Lucas claiming that we were all a lot better informed about the EU now than 2 years ago, so we should have another vote.

Caroline Lucas is the former leader of the Green Party. As avid readers of this blog will know, I was once a member of the Green Party too. So I'd expect synergy on many issues, but not unfortunately on this one.

Better informed? Well, I might be in a minority but if I felt ill-informed on an issue I might be reluctant to vote on it. But if you look at voter turnout, a higher proportion of us voted in this referendum, than have in any General Election this century!

Better informed with a view to what? To changing our minds? Did Caroline change her mind? No, she called for Remain at the time of the referendum and has remained of that view since then. (In fact, I haven't heard anybody calling for a referendum who wasn't originally a supporter of Remain.) But does Caroline know more than the rest of us? Very possibly, as an MP, but remember that she is calling for a fresh public vote, so, really, it's public knowledge is the important metric here. So if Caroline hasn't changed her view, why should she expect anybody else to have done so? I'm afraid it smacks of pompousity to me - I was sufficiently switched-on to think that the EU is a good thing, but you're a bit dimmer, maybe it has taken you a couple more years to come to my conclusion?"

Or maybe we haven't come to her conclusion.

I must admit that I like referendums, they are the public's most direct way of implementing democracy, and I would be happy to express a view on the final deal or on the future relationship with the EU, but politicians are somewhat more vocal, and are saying that one of the options should be to make as though the 2016 vote never happened. What am I afraid of? I'm afraid that by then, we're in a place in which somebody will decide to adopt some referendum results but will ignore others. (Who?) Just holding another referendum - let alone any result - shows this.

As I've already said, I once felt sufficiently sympathetic to the Green Party that I joined it, but I fell out with them on this issue. To this point I have been quite defensive about my reasons for not having a second referendum, but, really, I feel like going on the offense. I want to leave the EU because I think it is a flawed organisation - why don't they think the same? For example, is is acceptable to them that Malta has more than 10x the number of MEPs, per capita, than France does? I mean, you might argue this one by saying that the role of the European Parliament is not the same as national parliaments, that it is more "committee-oriented". Fair enough, but but bear in mind that our MEPs are the only people who are elected by the citizenry of Europe, so unless the parliament represents both the left-winger and the right-winger, where does that leave us? And,why is it acceptable that even people who are sufficiently senior that they sit on the Council of Ministers, are not allowed to even enter proposals to be discussed by that Council of Ministers. Instead, they must be proposed by the commissioners, who are the civil servants of the EU and are not elected. Can you imagine an elected politician not being permitted to even discuss their ideas for policy? (I could go on about the manner in which these commissioners end up in Brussels, i.e. sent rather than elected, but that, I think, is more of a national issue, certainly in the UK. I think Royal Prerogative has a lot to answer for.) But I could go on to talk about e.g. the Eurogroup. I can maybe buy that an avid federalist might be happy that the EU even has economic policies, although I myself don't. The name of the group would be rational, i.e. the finance ministers of those countries who have joined the Euro, were it not for the UK's Chancellor (Osborne) also to sit on it, even though the UK does not have the Euro. But that it also meets in private, behind closed doors? What value transparency here? The EU label this group as "informal" - but if it is that informal, why does it even exist?

In many ways I can feel quite close to a Remain/Reform agenda here, although my analysis is that the EU will not reform itself. But at least a Remain/Reform agenda acknowledges that there are issues with the EU. But it does disappoint me that, from the people who currently shout "Remain", aren't also shouting "Reform".

And aside from all my musings above, if people don't respect the last vote, why on earth should we think they'll respect the next vote?

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Glucometers

Did I tell you my wife now nurses at the local doctors' surgery? The reason for mentioning this will become apparent in a moment.

If buying my own glucometers, I like to plump for the Beurer GL-50 monitor, which has a USB port at one end, that I can plug into my computer. I like this monitor, because the means of connection just works. I walk the monitor over to the computer, I push a button on my Beurer program on the computer (which I downloaded from their site) and it automatically works out what data points it has already and just sucks in the new ones.

I've had the monitor go kaput a couple of times, frankly I don't think any of them are particularly well-made, but I keep going back to this USB interface. I am incumbent to set up the time and date of the device, every time I do so I have to open the manual to find out how (I downloaded one of those too), so it can be a bit out when e.g. the clocks change, but the difference is never massive.

The downside of this monitor is that neither the monitor, nor the test strips for it, can be got through the NHS, so I need to fund them myself. Strips are important because the cost of the monitor is roughly the equivalent of a month's worth of strips, so the cost of the monitor is soon dwarfed by the cost of the strips. Note that insulin-dependent diabetics don't pay again for medicines (i.e. medicines issued by the NHS) in the UK. I figure I've paid once through my taxes over the years anyway.

Anyway, I'm forever looking to make savings, and the guy at my local surgery offered me this other glucometer, called an AgaMatrix Wireless Jazz. The draw of this machine was that both the machine and the strips, I can get them through the NHS, so no (additional) cost to me. As regards connectivity, they have a little app which sits on your phone, it connects to the monitor using bluetooth, and I can then "share" this data to my computer - I can send an email to myself, or more commonly I store the file in my cloud storage. But my computer can then pick up the file somehow and I can copy/paste the data into my spreadsheet.

In practise this is nowhere near as good as my USB connection. In practise, the phone and the monitor can be right next to each other, yet can't "see" each other. I always got it working in the end, but have had to faff around pairing and unpairing the two devices in the past. Nowhere near as reliable as that physical connection I get with USB.

I first used this monitor on 16th August, and last weekend it decided to pack up, it persistently showed an error when I put a test strip in. Same error with many test strips. So that's about the lifespan of these devices - four months. Just long enough to pop in a fresh set of batteries, but I shan't cry about that. It makes sense to replace like for like, as I have approx 75 unused test strips (sounds a lot but I'll use them in the next few months) in my bathroom.

Anyway, the good part about my wife working locally is that she could just ask the pharmacist for a new monitor, which she duly got yesterday.

One plus point of this monitor is that it takes the date and time from my phone every time I sync the two. The phone, in turn, takes its time and date from the network, so in theory it is always accurate.

It is interesting to mote that my last few readings with the "old" Agamatrix were 9 point something, and when it packed up I used the Beurer instead, which read 11. Of course, this could just be that the readings were taken a day apart, so I might have eaten something which caused the higher value. But it could also be the differences between two different meters. In real terms, it is only 10ish% difference, I notice it because one puts me within my target (10) and the other puts me outside. Funny how our minds work. On the offchance that the difference is real, my sugar was 7 today, just because I've tried not to eat anything that might be dodgy these last few days, but the acid test would be to have tested both monitors at the same time, side-by-side. I do have some control solution somewhere (but even that won't be accurate to within 10%).

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Stroke Day

I had what I call a "stroke day" today. I'm past the stage where I do silly things (mostly!) and I don't lose days to fatigue, in the way that some survivors do - I tend to be more short, sharp shocks - but I just had one of those days where things seemed to take longer.

My first thing happened this morning. An indirect, rather than direct, effect of the stroke. I've been meaning to get a haircut recently, so went into Salisbury. When I used to drive, it was fifteen minutes each way, unless you got caught in traffic. Coupled with the haircut, about an hour? But, as I'm restricted to the bus, it was a 3-hour round trip. I mean, I'm grateful that I'm able to go anywhere after the stroke, but it's not quick. It was rainy today, so I got soaked to boot.

The other two things I'll mention are a direct result of the stroke. It stemmed from my decision to wash my bedding this morning. Along with the bedding, some white interview shirts were lying on the bed, I hadn't put them away last time. They were a bit creased so I put them in with the bedding. By lunchtime, the laundry was complete - I was determined to avoid my previous mistake so was determined to iron the shirts, and hang them up in the wardrobe.

Ironing a shirt. Two minutes, right? Then imagine ironing it with one hand. Every time I adjusted the shirt, I had to re-adjust it to try and make sure I didn't iron creases into it, before I actually used the iron. A good ten or fifteen minutes, plus my back was killing at the end of it just for having been standing in a not-very-comfortable position. So I still have two of the three shirts still to do!

Lastly, there was putting the bedding back on. I've learned a few tricks by now, so I can manage pillows ok - as long as I use my teeth. The duvet cover is always a struggle but I use single bedding these days, so I know I'm able to do it (a double duvet would defeat me). But it just takes that much longer.

The bed itself is still a double, so the base sheet is also a double, and therefore tricky to get on. I find one of the corners, but it fights back as I try to tuck it under the mattress. It pops out, I lose it, and have to start the process again. This time I had the bright idea, instead of tucking the sheet corner under the mattress, to hook it over the bedpost instead. That seemed to make things easier. When three of the four corners were in place, the fourth was easy to identify and to tuck under the mattress, and the other three followed suit. Not a bad job. But it still took a good half hour, a lot longer than when I was healthy.

I'm sure that each time I do these tasks I get a little bit quicker. I remember a couple of years ago, being in tears because I couldn't get this double duvet cover onto the duvet and then onto the bed. (It was summer and I even tried to enlist the help of our rotary washing line,taking everything out into the garden, still to no avail!) But I wonder if I'll ever get to the point where they don't take any longer than they used to?