Jane & family

Jane & family arrived around 1545.on Sunday.

Although it had clouded over after lunch, the sun started showing through in the early evening – very pleasant time on the lawn. Theo got my old phone (Chloe had got a new one recently), and seemed very pleased with it. I lent him my SIM card so he could turn it on and check out all the features, after he’d originally tried Jane’s SIM which was not compatible. Supper around 1930: chicken, green salad (lettuce, watercress parsley), carrot sticks/radishes/olives, baked spuds etc. Melon to start. Kids retreated to watch the other Simpsons DVD, a pause of around an hour before stewed apricots for pud (kids had some leftover ice-cream that Mark had brought over last time).

Everyone (except me) went to bed around 2200h – I think they had not slept as well as usual on the couchettes. Fairly slow getting up as well – it was after 0900 before there were stirring noises – most unusual! Leisurely breakfast, and some discussion about possible bus routes to Euston (Jane won’t take the tube at the moment). However, finally decided that it was too much hassle with bulky luggage, so I booked a minicab for them for 1130h (extra cost £6 for an estate car).

A very drizzling day all day. Very unpleasant: ,much pain in both lower back and shoulders, so I took max painkillers, and had several dozes during the day. really did not do much at all! I’ve left the bedding, as Toby and Chloe are back on Fri, but must do a tidy round and put the sleeping bags away before hen.

Phone call mid-evening from Sim: they’re losing the caravan this weekend (earlier than expected), so it may work out better if I don’t go down til early Saturday. This suits me: I have a kind of idea that I may be asked to a meeting in Ealing on Fri, as its the last day before Steve Barton goes on leave for a week. And it would be good to see Toby and Chloe on Fri – even if only briefly. Possibly, I could see if Tony Hedge is going to be around, and catch a train to Acle to see him for lunch on sat before meeting Sim & Geoff for the boat thing.

Watched ‘Revenge of the Sith’ mid-evening: not really a good film, but better that ‘a New hope’ as Lukas has finally taken the point about the revolting Jar-Jar. However, Skywalker pretty much eye-candy, so it wasn’t a total loss. Relaxing bath, and bed around 0100h – back and shoulders still painful.

Sim & family

Sim & family arrived just before midnight. Phoebe in a state of great excitement: her (second) tortoise egg is apparently showing signs of imminent hatching, and she’s worried that Auntie Sue will not be able to cope with the demands of a newly-hatched tortie! I looked up train times and they’re going to catch the one a couple of hours earlier than planned, which meant leaving about 0830 on Sun. Phoebe obviously very tired, and went to bed quickly: the rest of us were up til around 2. Up again just after 0700h for breakfast and to see them off.

Also checked towels etc and put a couple of loads of washing in. I’m OK for bedding with 2 sets of visitors in a weekend, but it does slightly stretch the towel situation. May be I’ll ask for a couple more bath towels for Christmas.

Sim& family

Did the usual clean-the-flat-before visitors. Tesco delivered at 1105h – initially he’d wanted to leave the boxes of stuff at the doorstep, for me to pull out the bags of shopping and carry them in. however, I was pretty firm about saying that this wasn’t possible – apart from anything else, I couldn’t bend down to ground level to get at it. So he carried the bags in, albeit a bit grudgingly.

Afternoon and evening taken up with baking – usual bread, and a seedy-cake for visitors over the weekend.

Phone call from Sim around 1600h, to say that they were just leaving their gite.

Had a baked spud and ham for supper, and made up the spare bed and sofabed. A quick hoover round, but wasn’t really feeling up to much housework.

Occupational Health, family, etc

Got a call from OHU just after 11 this morning, offering me an appointment at 1300h. Bit of a mad scramble to get there (I had meant to iron a shirt & trousers last night, but didn’t get round to it). OHU Reception is now in G08 – the old Halls Bookings Office, and the main unit is on the 3rd floor. When I arrived, the lift to 3rd floor was out of order – not unusual! It was rather a struggle to do the stairs … although a very kind lady from OHU accompanied me in case I slipped, which I was worried about doing. I made it up as far as halfway up the final flight before having to stop for a bit.

Shown into the waiting area – the room that used to be my office until June 2003! The view from the window hasn’t changed … brought back a bunch of memories (mainly bad ones), so I was in a bit of a strange mood when the Doctor finally called me in (around 1340 – running very late). A new doctor, who hadn’t read my file. Not happy! When I got home I emailed Steve Barton at Unison about it – the relevant parts are:

OHU have a new doctor – Dr Thompson – who was not familiar with my case and didn’t really seem all that on top of things. I have given her permission to contact both the NHS consultant at the Pain Clinic I have been attending, and the private consultant I saw in April. (This last was an effort to speed things up a bit – although it doesn’t seem to have helped). This may introduce yet more delay – if I need to re-visit the Pain Clinic before the consultant will write a report on me, waiting times are around 4-6 months for an appointment usually.

Dr Thompson informed me (with apparent equanimity) that early retirement on medical grounds can take up to a year, from this point. As I have been discussing this possibility with my line manager (while I still had one!) informally since February, and as you know raised the matter through you with Jane Battye in May, I am not too chuffed that it has taken eight months to get this far, and I face the prospect of an indeterminate but prolonged period without pay. I confirm that I was last paid at the full rate on 25th February, and my understanding therefore would normally be that the last payment of the six months on half-pay would be made on 26th August 2005.

Could I also ask you to try to establish whether I have a line manager, and what my position is considered to be? I have a medical certificate to submit, and it would be helpful to know where to send it. Also, as I gather Halls Services either no longer exists, or will not exist as of the end of the month (some staff now being part of the contact centre, and others transferring to FM next month as I understand it), I take it that I should assume that I am now in a “supernumerary” position?

Actually, I was so not happy that when I got out of OHU I went round to see if Steve was free, but he was in meetings all afternoon.

I spent half an hour talking to Halls duty managers (Steve and Pam), and met the guy who is about to take over the final part of my job for the last month that Halls exists. I’ve told him to ring me if he needs to about anything. Dennis – who was brought in as temporary cover for me – is leaving at the end of the week.


Got home around 1700h. Back really acting up (too soon after last weekend to do that much time sitting around, and the Piccadilly line train was a very bumpy one) – both pain and restricted mobility. So I have conceded the point, and placed an on-line Tesco order for delivery tomorrow (Sim & family staying tomorrow night) – bulk catfood, shitty-kitty-litter, flour and all sorts of heavy stuff. Eighty quid ! (including £6 delivery). However, it includes a pack of 100 camel, so about £60 on “shopping” stuff. This is four weeks worth at least, for the non-fresh-food stuff. Must remember to take out much less from the cashpoint on a weekly basis from now on.

I’ve put the fridge on to de-frost (some frozen food on order for tomorrow), with everything piled in the picnic coolbag under a couple of towels, so I hope it will be OK in the morning. Started cleaning the kitchen, but not really up to it tonight (at 2100h), so it looks like a fairly busy day tomorrow.


Nice e-mail from Sean to me & Oli, suggesting we meet up next week. Would be good if it happens. Also an e-mail from Mike – we’ve provisionally agreed to meet for a meal on the evening of Monday 12th September, while he’s over for PLASA. I am both exhilarated and terrified at the prospect – it’s been 3 years since I last saw him, and he’s got married and gone freelance in that time. But we were very close for a dozen years, and he still means a lot to me (in spite of the fact that my feelings were for a while too mixed up to make correspondence easy).

Also a phone call from Toby, asking if he and Chloe can stay on Fri 26th. which they’re very welcome to, of course. It looks as though I’m away that night, as the fishing weekend starts Sat 27th, unfortunately, but if work is still in a state of “might need to see me at short notice”, I might see if I can juggle things to go to Suffolk early on the Saturday, rather than Fri pm. It would also save carrying a day’s worth of clothes!


Freezer defrost happened much quicker than I’d expected (although it’s a warm night) – all melted by 2245, so I was able to mop it out and put the things back. Will save a bit of time tomorrow, anyway.

bright, bright, bright sunshiney day !

Spent last night dozing from about 2230 onwards – woke around 0030 for an hour and went to bed properly, didn’t wake until 1130 ! Obviously had not been sleeping deeply for the past three or four nights, and I’m sure its done me good to get caught up. Brilliant sunshine today! Back is a bit stiff -too much lying down, probably – but pain is nearly down to the usual residual level, so I’m more-or-less recovered from Saturday’s busrides.

Managed to put a washing-machine full on – white T-shirts mainly. Flat is looking a bit grubby – as Sim & family are due on Fri night I will try to get a bit of a start on bath-cleaning and stuff, but it doesn’t matter if I don’t get very far as there’s tomorrow and Fri daytime. I must also think about washing some sheets from the last set of family visits (Jane & Toby’s I’ll re-use when they come at the weekend, and the sleeping bags are OK for the kids) and making up beds.

A very pleasant hour in the garden lying in the sun again – and, for a change, both cats were happy doing their own thing, rather than trying to lie on my stomach all the time.

pain clinic, work

Started the morning yesterday rather better than the past two days, but not back to normal. Review meeting at the Pain Clinic this morning – I think it was much the worst I’ve scored myself on the “how do you feel today ” sheet!. I seem to be getting as much benefit from the unit as can be expected – which is gain in mobility, giving me the option of doing more before I relapse into a bad state, but not really all that much difference in the maximum pain level. The next stage – if I’m interested – would be injections (epidural or intramuscular). Given as I really hate injections, and given my body’s propensity to react to many drugs with a wide range of weird side-effects,, I’m not keen to go this route at the moment.

We also discussed the headache and slightly migrainous feeling I get if I use the TENS unit to the max for a day or two. She has suggest that I try turning the pulse width down from the normal setting of 180 to around 150, and if necessary I could go as low as 100. I’ll try this next time it becomes a problem. No further TENS review meetings are needed. So I have left it that I am OK for the time being in the fairly warm summer weather, but that if Autumn storms (predicted to be bad this year) cause the trouble that I’m half-expecting, I will ring them to arrange a further meeting with the consultant (Dr Evans), with a view to his considering injections. At the moment though, I’m generally very grateful to be as good as I (on average) usually am. The past two days have been an unwelcome reminder of how I was feeling throughout most of last autumn!

Got home to find an e-mail from Angela Servias. Apparently, I was expected at work Occupational Health Unit yesterday for a meeting with the doctor! I tried to call Angela, but she was out so I e-mailed her to explain. Caroline Ward mailed me back to offer an appointment on 5th September – oh well.

I spent a couple of hours lying on the lawn in hot sunshine – the pump I bought a couple of weeks ago means that I could do so on an airbed!! Yay! It is a great improvement to be able to sunbathe flat on my back (jeans on, but topless).

Phone call from Steve Barton (Unison) around 1600h. I brought him up to date on the current sate of play, and explained my worries about pay etc. Further exchanges of e-mail pm with OHU and Angela. So, if there is a cancellation before 5th Sept I may be offered a short-notice appointment, otherwise 5th Sept stands. Checked the doormat – the letter inviting me to OHU yesterday (15th) has now arrived. Postmarked 9th – ie Tues of last week.

Other exciting arrivals include my Maestro (was Switch) card. I have the PIN for it. This means that I can now order really heavy/bulky shopping on-line for delivery – catfood, flour, and suchlike. I will have to keep a careful eye on how much I use it – especially given uncertainty about getting paid next month. However, there might be a saving on being able to buy larger sizes, or in bulk a bit … to offset the delivery charges. Ocado (Waitrose) is free over £75, min order £25; Tesco has a £5 delivery charge for 2-hour (apparently unreliable) slots. I will have to think about this a bit. Probably best to start a spreadsheet for the regular heavy stuff, & keep notes on what I use how often. Ain’t life complicated sometimes!

Evening spent watering: even though we had dampness and showers on Sat-Mon, the ground is very dry. A run round the assorted pots with the hose, then a good hour on the top bed, and an hour with the sprinkler on the bottom of the lawn / little bed / twisted cherry area.

two very rough days

warning: self-pity section!

I continued to have constant pain in my back, and intermittent intense referred pain from my right testicle, all day Sunday, and most of Monday. Mobility actually not too bad in terms of bending forwards/backwards, but excruciatingly painful if I attempt any kind of twisting of sideways motion. As quite often happens if this kind of pain sets in, I got “bitten by the black dog” on Sunday afternoon, and have been in a state of serious depresso since then. The usual bursting into tears for no reason, total loss of appetite, and a mild headache with slightly migrainous visual problems.

Maximum use of TENS unit, but I’ve had to cut back on that because it’s reached the point of shifting muscle tenseness up to my shoulders… which makes the headache /eyes thing worse. I did manage a walk to PC World to pick up some blank DVD’s: thought the fresh air might do me good, and my mobility is actually OK, but it didn’t really help. Back via Tesco to pick up supper and catfood.

Nearly 2300h on Monday as I write this, and I’m really not feeling much better yet, despite max doses of co-codamol, regular mild use of TENS unit, and re-starting St John’s wort. Hope that a bath (and with a bit of luck going to sleep earlier than the six am that has been the case for the last two days) will mean I start off tomorrow a bit better: I’ve got to be in Hammersmith for 1015 for a TENS review. The thought of an hour on the tube in my present condition is actually almost unbearable.

This is what I SO FUCKING HATE about my disability. I can cope with having limited mobility, think I’ve adjusted pretty OK to feeling that in some ways I’m old before my time… have a reasonable grip on the frustrations of having to get others to do things (DIY etc) that in some sense I still feel I “ought” to be able to do for myself, and accepting that there will just be days when i can’t hoover, or empty the dishwasher / washing machine, or whatever. But when I have more than a few hours of unremitting intense pain and the weather is damp enough for it not to be localised to my lower back, the black dog bites.

To be reduced to bursting into tears for no reason, to feel totally yucky, emotionally fragile, and physically in pain (even if mobility is not particularly poor) is the pits. I know it will pass in two or three days. I know the frequency with which it happens is a LOT less than it was (down to about once every five or six weeks or less on average, from about once a fortnight ). And I certainly generally don’t feel that life is not worth living – there has been so much positive in my life this year. But Oh God it is so hard to deal with sometimes … all I can do is curl up and whimper and wait for it to go away!

Positive learning outcome: DO NOT STAY ON ANY BUS, TRAIN, ETC that I can feel doing me damage. It is SO not worth it, for almost any reason. So I guess I’m gonna have to get up especially early tomorrow, so that I have plenty of time to catch Silverlink to Gunnersbury then district line back to Hammersmith … and to pass up the odd train if it starts bouncing around for any reason.

Mark’s visit

Mark came round about 1945 – good to see him. He was on a bike, as the car is in for repair (no dashboard lights – must have been a horrid drive up from Suffolk yesterday). Supper of a rather nice chicken pie from a butcher in Peasenhall, icecream & red & black currants.

Went through the intro page with him – he’s a bit of a white space merchant, certainly not a subscriber to the idea that all info should be available without scrolling. i made some mods while he took a bath (only 1/2 hour … hope he didn’t feel rushed as he usually takes a good hour, the same as I do). A few minor mods to the intro page and we’re both happy. Some of the links seem to need a mod, so I’ll sort that out later (weekend, possibly).

Then watched an episode of Dr Who I’d recorded that neither of us have seen yet (episode 8) – evening ended around midnight.

had a text from Sean today asking if I am going to Oli’s. He seems a little nervous as he also won’t know anyone – I’ve emailed him back saying I’m in the same boat, and offering to meet up first if he wants. E-mail back – late eve – saying he’ll ring me Fri to fix this up.

quiet day

followup e-mail from Oli confirming that he’s going ahead with Saturday 1400-1800h. It might be interesting to meet his other friends, but I’m rather nervous at the prospect (being a lot older than he is, being disabled, getting to the point of hearing loss where things like parties can be a problem, not liking parties much …. all the usual crap). But unless the weather is absolutely foul I’ll certainly go along – this is supposed to be the year where I operate rather outside my (hopefully former) comfort zone. Anyway, Oli would undoubtedly give me a certain amount of gentle ribbing if I don’t make it – one of the things I most value about him is the way he can constantly challenge me,without ever pushing too hard.

Did a bit more work on a couple of demo pages for Mark, otherwise a gentle day recovering from yesterday: why do I always overdo things when I go out? But at least I can now choose to do this if I want to – the TENS unit is a blessing in that sense.

garden, GP again

Spent the morning in the garden – pleasant sunshine, 24 degrees, and the first of the dark Morning Glory flowers is out … possibly because I’ve been watering every day for the past week unless there’s been significant rain. The acid-yellow snapdragons are coming to an end, but I think the one that shares the tub with the morning glory has another flowering left in it: they should look fantastic if I can get them flowering together!

The fuschia on the waterbarrel is starting to do well: it seems to be an exceptionally prostrate form, which is excellent for the spot. Next year I might try to add one of the white trailing ones as well – it’s just a little bit ‘same-y’ at present. Geranium (pelargonium) ‘apple blossom’ is in full flower in the pot on the top bed – but the one outside the back door is always late (if at all) – due to lack of sunlight, I think.

Doctor’s appointment at 1410: Dr Sergeant is now only working as holiday relief, so I got a new guy who I didn’t take to terribly. But I needed a new certificate for work, and also more co-codamol (much cheaper with a prescription for 400 than over-the-counter, but he’d only give me a scrip for 200. Still a slight saving though).

Came back via Hammersmith …I’d decided to change my phone contract as I no longer need so many inclusive minutes now I’m not at work. So I’m now on 25 inclusive minutes rather than 60. I’ve stopped itemised billing, as well, but kept on the insurance. Total cost now around 37 a month cheaper … every little helps! Also upgraded my phone … didn’t want to shell out money for it, so I got a Sharp GX25. Just a little smaller than my present one, 640×480 camera, no sticking out antenna, plus the essential iRDA. The old one can go to Theo or Chloe (I’ll ask Jane which, as Chloe got my last old phone a couple of years ago).

Back rather painful after spending the afternoon on public transport etc. Evening spent deleting stuff off old phone, transferring numbers etc … the IR beam from the PDA is fine, but the phone rejected quite a lot so I had to do it by hand. I suspect that some fields in Outlook are not fully compatible – there is a CD-ROM with the phone, so I may decide to spend money on the USB lead for it. But for the time being the USB lead to PDA, then iRDA to phone, and the same in reverse, works well enough.

Rang Oli around 1900h – he is going ahead with having a garden party or whatever on sat (13th) from 1400-1800h. He seemed tired, but has had a good time in Paris.

E-mail and followup call from Mark: the upshot is that he’s coming round on Thurs eve for a bath and final go at the website as he’s in London for a couple of days. He volunteered to bring food and cook – sounds good.