a quick visit

Very quiet few days: not feeling up to doing much, although quite cheerful!

Mark rang the doorbell unexpectedly – in town for the weekend to do some work on his flat and get ready for prospective flatmates. He’d had a bit of a falling-out with his landlord, (who’d changed his mind about fixing shelves to walls), so Mark had come up to Wickes to get wood for building shelves. Only to find that he’d come out without cards or cash … and didn’t really want to go all the way back to get them So we had a quick chat, which gave him a chance to let off some steam, and I lent him £40 to get DIY bits. He’s looking well, and perpetually youthful.

visit from an old friend

Clare W. came to lunch today: it was really great to see her again. It’s around a year since we last met, when I walked over to the workshop when I was staying at my mothers. recent visits home have all been fairly short (mainly because I can’t carry much), and I just haven’t managed to see Clare at all.

I was not altogether at my best – Sat and Sun were thunderstorms – but it was very pleasant to sit and chat in the kitchen, and have a gentle stroll and stand in the garden during a brief sunny period. She’s given me a couple of mugs that she made:

As I’m definitely planning on being in Oxford for the weekend of 15th Oct (school 525th Gaudy), we’ve provisionally arranged that we’ll meet up for coffee at some point then, although details will have to wait until nearer the time. I’m not sure how many old schoolmates will be going this year (although AWK can’t make it), but I think it likely that we’ll meet up on the Fri eve somewhere. We may also do something on sat eve after the Gaudy, and possibly Sun am.

gas continued

Got up fairly late – by the time I’d had a coffee and called Transco to come and sort out the gas meter it was around mid-day. Supposed to have an engineer visit within four hours – which it just about was: he turned up about on the dot of 1600h.

Turns out that it wasn’t a run-out-of-credit thing: the rechargeable battery which powers the electronic display had run down.A quick replacement and I was good to go (and there was still nearly £2 on the meter, but I fed it the card anyway). Bit disappointing, the engineer didn’t do the usual “do you have any pilot lights on boilers or cookers” thing – in fact, he didn’t even check to see that cooker etc were turned off.

As a result of staying in for the engineer, I didn’t get in to town for a haircut – this is now getting urgent!

Managed to get an assortment of jeans washed for going away – and to have the heating on for a couple of hours, which was not altogether needed, but helped with the drying.

correspondence, friends

Spent the morning and early afternoon getting caught up on correspondence: cheque to MCS for the gaudy on 15th October, writing to Specsavers to cancel the Direct Debit arrangement for contact lenses (I seem to have 120 days worth in hand: as I only wear them two or three times a week, this will last for the best part of a year!), sick-note to work, and electoral registration. this last is now available on-line – hooray!

I had a further go at the Disability Living Allowance application form, as I hope to discuss it with Anne next week: she’s going to try to get the up-to-date list of points for it. Writing down the changes I’ve made in the way I live makes it all sound so much worse than it actually feels when I’m living it … until I started really thinking it through, I hadn’t realised just how much my day-to-day life has changed: simple things like always being within arm’s reach of a wall or furniture, in case I stumble. I guess they’ve pretty much become automatic by now!

I also sorted out my movements for the weekend; Tony is around, so I’m meeting him at 1005 on Saturday at Brundall station, and he’ll drop me off in Stalham at the boatyard to meet the others at around 1345 -1400 ish. It will be excellent to see him: as I didn’t go to the 525th anniversary dinner, and we didn’t meet up for a cricket game this year, I haven’t seen him since Christmas.

Also had a phone call from CW, who I haven’t seen for just over a year! I know it’s silly, as she only lives 100 yards from my Mum, but things are always so rushed when I go home (because I only stay one night, mainly because I can’t carry enough for any longer). She is coming up for a visit on Monday 5th September – which I’m really looking forward to. So that’s two of my oldest friends that I’ll be seeing within the next fortnight.

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Gas ran out or meter gave up midafternoon – bugger. I put £20 on the card and stuck it in, but the meter is still displaying a stubborn blank. No time to report it and hang about for an engineer as I was going out, so it will have to wait until tomorrow – shaved etc in water from kettle.

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I’d been due to meet Oli & Sean in Trafalgar Square at 1900h, but it was a damp day. Oli rang me mid-afternoon and we agreed to meet in Starbucks Leicester Square at 1830 instead, both arriving just about dead-on 1830. Oli was looking particularly well. Text from Sean saying he was running a little late: Oli texted him back saying where we were, and he joined us just after 1900h. After the usual discussion of options Sean proved keen to go to Wagammama, so we did. A very pleasant meal, seated in the low bit at the back, which was marginally less noisy than the main part … although I was still struggling to hear quite a lot of the time. However, it apparently didn’t show, and the lighting was good, which always helps.

As always, a very pleasant evening with these two guys – it’s a very good grouping. Oli stayed out later than normal … I walked up to Warren Street tube as my back need a break from 2 hours sitting, getting there around 2200h (Oli & Sean caught the tube from Tottenham Court Road).

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Home to a surprisingly warm flat, but of course no hot water for a bath. Feeling very good – rather stiff, but little pain. Maybe I’m finally over the problems of the past ten days … although going away, especially to go boating in damp conditions – may not be the wisest possible thing to do. Last year was OK, but the weather was a lot better. However, I’m determined to keep pushing myself, and not give way to doing nothing at all.

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.