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Double Edged Sword

Double edged sword has always struck me as an odd expression. I am not a knight; King Charles take note. If I were, I guess sword fighting is no longer common. Mind you, at school I did do fencing. The amount of gardens I could enclose in an afternoon was outstanding… of course I don’t mean that kind of fencing. En Garde! Parry, lunge, riposte, feint, it was all second nature to me. After all, I did get my bronze certificate in fencing. They don’t give that out for nothing… oh they do. Swimming, fencing and English were the only subjects I enjoyed at school.

Where was I? A double edged sword. Care, what on earth has that got to do with fencing? My mind would make a fascinating study for someone doing psychology, so if you are studying…

Back to the subject at hand, Care, it is a ‘double edged sword.’ That’s what I was thinking. Then I thought, ‘aren’t all swords double edged?’ What do I know about swords and then I remembered I used to fence. You see, there is logic in there.

Right, care is a double edged sword. Are we all agreed? I haven’t even explained myself yet. How can you agree? OK, here we go, hang onto your seats. Buckle up, we are off on an adventure, or at least an idea or two.

When you need care and it is supplied. That is if you are able to find carers in these days of an underfunded and under paid care sector. When carers are as rare as hens teeth. But that’s another blog subject. When you do get carers you have a whole new… I was about to start singing ‘a whole new world,’ but I resisted, I bet you’re relieved. You have a whole new problem. I am not suggesting that the carers are a problem. Mind you, in the 9 years I have had care, they have not all been perfect. That’s me being kind. There have been a few issues. Let’s ignore that for now and look at the majority of carers who are brilliant. We will forget about the lady who turned up to do my care on a mobility buggy, then hobbled in with crutches! She stood there, both hands holding her up with crutches and asked, ‘what do you want me to do first?’ Answers on a postcard. Best to forget that. I obviously have no issue with disability, but we are slightly limited in the physical things we can do. So those of us severely limited ourselves, don’t make the best carers. Back to the subject at hand.

So, the good carers, walk in the door, unhindered. Having parked a car, not a mobility buggy, outside. Then it starts, or rather, it ends. You see, before you have care everything is different. If, like me, you have a partner, they may well be doing a lot, or all your care. That is really hard work for them. One of the main reasons for outside care, if you have complex needs, is to give your partner a break. As a couple, you get settled into a routine. You can get ready as and when you want. No one disrupts that routine. Whereas a carer has a set time to arrive and go. They come in, get you ready and leave. Things are worse if they arrive early or late.

The routine, or lack of it, that you have had, ends when care starts. Things change, which they probably need to. But that’s why it’s a double edged sword. Help and support is needed. Disruption to a routine is hard to adapt to. A new person in your house is difficult to get used to. Routines change and everything is turned on its head.

A new person in your home can feel like an invasion. Much as they are there to support and help, they are also unknown at first. Imagine a complete stranger coming into your house and starting to help you with intimate and personal things. Within a very short space of time they are doing things that most people would struggle to cope with. Who was the last person that wiped your bottom? Have you ever had anyone help you with washing and dressing?

OK, I have given you a glimpse at one side of the sword, the negative. Now the other, the positive. Having a good regular carer, that you get to know, is life changing. They can be so helpful, caring and supportive. In the past, down in Somerset, we had a group of carers who were brilliant. Now that we are in Hartlepool, we are setting things back up again. It can work really well with the right people.

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Visual diagnostics

I don’t know why we need doctors. The amazing visual diagnostic ability of the average person in the street is astounding. People can take one look at a disabled person and immediately know everything about their medical history and make a prognosis. More than that they can see if a person is in pain, tired, dizzy, having balance issues, feeling sick and a myriad of other symptoms all without any diagnostic scanners or instruments.

Yet can these aspiring doctors really be so perfect. Even the most skilled professionals with the best equipment don’t claim the diagnostic speed and accuracy of these amateurs.

Disease and illness are, in the most part, invisible. That might seem an odd thing for me to say. If you ever seen me, I am a full-time wheelchair user. So, you might think my disability is very visible. What we see on the outside, is a part of the effect that an illness or accident has on people’s bodies. It can even be the effect of treatment rather than the illness itself. It’s a bit like viewing an iceberg, you are only seeing a very small part of the whole.

Just to make it even harder to really grasp and understand an illness, disability, or the result of an accident: humans don’t show their full feelings. When you we are limited in some way we try and put on a brave face and push forward as hard as we can; smiling. You really do only see a tiny part of the whole picture.

There needs to be a mindset change in how to look at disabled and long term ill, people. I understand wheelchair use best, as that is how illness has limited me. But not everyone in a wheelchair is the same as me, I realise that. It is possible to need a wheelchair some of the time. It can be a means to travel further than their legs can carry them. That does not mean they are faking it. They need the chair to get around, in some cases that will be because day by day their condition varies. In others it will be because they can’t walk far. Cut them some slack. No one chooses a wheelchair for fun. Wheelchairs are uncomfortable, embarrassing, and difficult. You only have one if you need one. Wheelchairs, especially ones provided by the NHS; do not get issued unless you have a medical need.

Next time you see a wheelchair user be kind and understanding. You don’t know if you might end up in one in the future. Whether that is part time or all the time you will not find it fun. Don’t be quick to put on your doctor hat. Instead put on your caring hat and be understanding. Think, “there but for the grace of God, go I.” Be thankful, be considerate and be kind.

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One Step Removed

Some time ago I wrote a blog ‘Fly by Wire.’ It occurred to me that most people would not get that concept. But almost everyone will have used a PC, tablet, smartphone or smart tech. So, you will get this:

You want to do something on your PC, tablet or Smart phone. Open an app, check an email, play a game, write a blog or use a smart devise. You use the screen, keyboard or mouse and there is a delay or it does not quite do what you want. You ask a smart devise to do something and it ignores you. Frustrating eh? All forms of electronics devices, even Apple products, yes I really invoked that sacred name; can have delays. I know because I have an iPad and it can be unresponsive at times. Any complaints about that comment please send to: complaints@mikesnotlisteningnow.org.com.uk.eu

My point, because I always have one is this: trying to control an electronic device is one step removed from the actual physical devise. No matter how good the interface (that is just the bit that enables you to control the device) you are always a step or more away from the actual hardware, (the device itself.) Be that a PC, smartphone, tablet, iPhone, Kindle, Echo, Ring Doorbell whatever smart device. There is something between you and it (wiring, circuit board, touch screen, mouse, keyboard, wireless connection)

It gets frustrating when that ‘something,’ that extra layer, that one step of control, is too slow or sticky. It doesn’t have to be very slow either. Even a few micro seconds feels slow when you are using a smartphone or a computer. You press a button and there is a fraction of a seconds delay. You move a mouse and the thing you are moving is not quite moving at the same time as your movements. You click a keyboard or on a screen and the response is just a fraction behind. You scroll and the screen does not refresh at the rate of your viewing. You all know what I am talking about. That frustration when an electronic device plays catch up. No matter how small a delay.

Now apply that sense of delay, lack of response, not doing what you expect, to the human body. Imagine that your brain, your understanding, was you as a user of a device, and your body was that device. You want to move your legs, but there is a delay between trying to do that and it happening. Or your legs don’t respond in the way expected. It’s not that you cannot move them, they are not responding as expected. It feels as if they are ‘one step removed.’ As if the control system is broken.

I believe this is where a lot of the misunderstanding about disability comes from. Because a lot of us with disabilities have neurological conditions. The nervous system is the equivalent of the control system in a PC or smart device. It sends and receives signals between the brain and body. You start messing with that, even a little and you get delays and messed up signals. That is what diseases do, they mess with that.

Neurological conditions are many and varied. But a common feature is fluctuation. My earlier illustration might help you understand. You know how sometimes your computer or smartphone just won’t do what you want. Other times it runs as smooth as butter. Then there are times it gives an occasional glitch? Diseases can be like that, they can vary hour by hour, minute by minute, day by day. Someone can take a few steps but still be a wheelchair user. MS is one of the most confusing conditions for an outsider to view. A sufferer can look normal one day and be totally unable to walk the next. But if you remember damaged signal lines, faulty connections, it makes sense. The problem can fluctuate.

In my own case, my legs do not respond as I want them to. I can move them, but it feels just like using a control device that is one step removed. They respond sluggishly and in the way they want rather than as I want. They also lack stability and reliability. I can’t stand up or walk on my legs. Imagine it this way, you have a robotic pair of legs with a seat on. It is operated by a remote control. Every time you test it, the legs wobble or collapse. Would you sit on that seat and try to walk the legs around? My legs feel to me as unreliable as that. They are not a safe and reliable platform.

Another way to understand a bit about neurological conditions and the disconnect they bring is this: Have you ever been so exhausted/over tired that your body does not feel your own? That sense that as you walk your legs and arms are heavy and disconnected. The problem of trying to pick things up, but ending up knocking them over? Or perhaps you have been very drunk or needed to have powerful pain killers? You might remember how that feels? The clumsy disconnected feeling. All of these things will give you a small idea of what it feels like to have a neurological condition that disconnects you from your body. That affects your ability to control what you do. From fine motor control, to large motor control. For example: it could be problems with writing, picking things up, pressing a button. And/or problems with making your legs/arms move in a direction you want. Remember that all these problems can fluctuate in level/intensity minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day. Add into the mix extreme pain (neurological pain is different to muscle pain, much more severe and harder to treat) and the lack of feeling that comes from nerves not working, and you start to get a small glimpse of what it is like.

I did not write this blog to gain sympathy for me or others. I wrote it to gain understanding. Without knowledge, there is only ignorance. Ignorance of the plight of others brings about a lack of care and understanding. Most of us with neurological conditions have been where you are, diseases often hit later in life (not always, some are born with them.) This blog is to give you an insight into where we are and hopefully open eyes.

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Weight Lifting

No, I have not taken up a new hobby. Nor have I had a sudden healing. I didn’t leap out of my chair yesterday and grab a dumbbell. This is about a different kind of weight. Oh, you’ve all fallen asleep or stopped reading. Come back! It is worth reading.

Ever been flattened by life? You know that feeling when everything crushes down on you and life is too much? You may be feeling it now. If you are, don’t give up. Life is worth living.

I know that feeling. I understand it. Yet people see my smiling happy face and assume I don’t. I want to explain how I can smile in the midst of pain, frustration, and anguish. What keeps me going in the depth of despair.

Don’t worry, all you atheists can relax. I am not going to say God or Jesus. Oops, I just mentioned them both, and of course, they are my rock. But this blog is not about God and Jesus. There we go again.

Thought experiment:

Imagine the scene, I throw a fully loaded rucksack at you. Hang on, this is not a threat. It’s a thought experiment. You are imagining the idea. I throw a fully loaded rucksack at you. One so heavy it is at your maximum lifting capacity. You would buckle or collapse under the weight. Because at your maximum lifting capacity, you need to adjust and take the weight on board. Distribute it and brace yourself. Throwing it at you, gives you no chance to do that.

Now suppose I gave you the empty rucksack. You put it on and adjust it. Then I added things bit by bit. You keep adjusting the straps and getting used to it. I take it right up to maximum load. You will keep standing. The rucksack will be heavy, but you will manage it, if it is your maximum load.

The difference is gradually adding the weight. You have a chance to brace yourself and adapt to the increasing weight. Some people could probably go beyond their maximum weight. A slow addition of anything gives us a chance to get used to it.

Long term illness, pain and disability can be like that. It comes on over time. It is chronic (long term) and so the illness itself, the pain and disability increase over time. An aside here, there are still periods of sudden acute and increased pain in this picture. I am only talking general principles. Those bursts of intense pain would be akin to me dropping a very heavy weight in the rucksack part way through loading it. Your knees would buckle.

How do I and many others with long term illness cope? Because the limitations, pain and illness have come on over time. That does not mean it is easy. Take on board what I said about sudden bursts of pain. Also remember that someone with a long-term illness or disability must wake every morning and take that rucksack back up. It is not easy, just because we have adjusted to the weight. The background pain is still there. The illness has not gone. The disability stays.

Chronic pain and limitations have their own unique agony. They grind you down. Pain is exhausting, it makes you feel miserable. It is the thing I refuse to give in to. I will not act the way I feel. Why should everyone suffer, just because I am.

Perhaps the clearest way to express it would be like this. Very occasionally I wake up free of pain. It is so rare that I lie there for a moment waiting for the expected pain to return. Then having raised my bed. I look around and feel something that is almost indescribable. An inner joy that bubbles up and overwhelms me. There is a side of me that does not want to move in case the pain returns. Another side wants to dance (I can’t of course, as I can’t even walk) A massive smile breaks out on my face, and I enjoy the moment. I’ve not known this to last longer than a couple of hours. But it is a blessed relief.

To finish let me look at my rucksack analogy. This assumes you don’t already suffer long term illness/disability. If it were possible to instantly pass what I am experiencing to you. All the pain, limitations, and yuk. It would flatten you. You would have no opportunity to adapt. It would be like having that rucksack thrown at you. But when you experience these things yourself, they come on slowly. I am not saying that makes it easy. Far from it. Many days I struggle to keep going. I know that lots of people with long term illness struggle. My analogy is just to help you understand how I can smile and laugh in the face of adversity. Chronic illness and pain are really tough. Don’t assume that my smile means I am not suffering. I am just choosing not to be miserable.

I should make one quick finishing aside. Accidents are a whole other thing. I have had a life-threatening accident, so I know. Your body uses a mechanism to delay response to sudden accident. It is still a very traumatic event and causes great long-term distress. This blog is not looking at accidents.

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How to get help?

Something that comes up time and again is how to get help with long term illness/disability. I want to try and answer the following questions. What to do after:

  1. You are taken ill that leads to long term limitations.
  2. You have an accident that leads to long term illness.
  3. You have a relative who is limited long term to their house.
  4. Gradually a condition you or a family member has deteriorates. Leaving you or them more limited long-term.

In all these situations where do you turn for help?

We tend to think that the medical profession are the answer to medical questions. In theory, they should direct you to the right place. In my experience, that doesn’t always happen. This blog is not perfect, I cannot accept responsibility for your care needs. This is only a rough pointer. But I hope it may help direct you to help. It only applies to England and is only for over 18-year-olds (adults)

Who you gonna call?

In England and that is all I know about. You contact your local Adult Social Services. Look online or in the directory, it may be listed as: ‘Child and Adult Services.’ If so, look for the section dealing with adults. There will be a hub or central number of some sort. Get through to the main number and say something like this:

I would like a care assessment for (name of person needing care)

If someone is providing care long term (i.e. family member) then request it for them too.

Explain basic details of why the assessment is needed. This phone call is not where you give every detail.

What happens next?

They should send out, at the very least, a social worker. I know, we all think of social workers as the people sent out in socially deprived areas or to kids being abused. But, they also have a role supporting adults needing care. They are your first point of contact in this situation.

Let me just make a quick aside here: If you have a medical emergency phone 999. If you have a medical need contact your GP. This blog is only talking about ongoing care needs after a medical professional has dealt with your acute needs.

Depending on your level of need. You should also get other people sent out. I would think at the least an OT (occupational therapist) nothing to do with work. They look at moving and handling. It is the OT who looks at things like specialist equipment to help you manage around the home. In some areas that includes profiling beds. They will be the one to check your home is safe and suitable. So, if you are living somewhere that is no longer suitable. The OT is the person who can assess that for you. Unfortunately moving somewhere more  suitable is not so easy.

If your needs are mainly medical, highly complex and variable. Then the social worker should look at a CHC (continuing healthcare) assessment. You can request this if you feel your needs are complex, variable and mainly medical. The local authority is really set-up to deal with less complex health care needs. You can always seek advice or request an advocate if you think that you are not getting the correct level of help.

Different areas have varying approaches in the way they deal with district nurses and physiotherapists in the community. So I cannot give you any hard and fast answers on that. Ultimately it will depend on your needs. But your start point will still be adult social care.

A note about Wheelchairs

A specialist team of OT’s and other health professionals deal with wheelchairs and that normally needs a GP referral. In most areas you would need to have virtually no mobility to get an NHS wheelchair. But if you are struggling to mobilise, ask your GP about it.

Then what?

After your various assessments, a care package (if needed and agreed) will be arranged. How costs on this work, are a whole other area. I suggest googling that specifically. Or seeking advice on that. But in essence, if you have no savings and are on benefits, you won’t pay for care. There is a sliding scale after that.

To note

Care provision in the UK at the moment is limited. Too many people needing care and too few carers. Hopefully that will improve. Some of that is due to Covid and some post-Brexit.

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Enabled by your Environment

What a positive world we live in. Apparently I am not disabled, I am differently abled. I guess being negative is seen as… well… negative. One day, Bam! I was hit in the face. Not literally you understand. I have not been attacked by people who disagree with my blogs. Although that might well start after this. Then, Wham! Not the 80’s pop duo. You see I had an epiphany and it’s not even Christmas.

My wham, bam, epiphany came last year actually. Don’t accuse me of rushing of a blog every time I have an idea. It was when we moved to our new house last summer. I would say our beach view house, but I don’t want to make you jealous. Too late, I said it. I realised, We can be, enabled by our environment. Let me explain:

We moved in to this new build house. Now I need to pause a moment. This house is M4, no it’s not in the middle of a motorway. The M4 category of housing is an accessible housing category. It means that a house is built to be wheelchair visitable. That means exactly what it sounds like. You are meant to be able to visit it in a wheelchair. The government have a strategy to make all new houses M4… eventually.

An aside here, I cannot visit the majority of my family and friends. I can think of one house that might (I haven’t yet tried) be accessible to me; in part. You might be unmoved by that. But imagine being unable to visit your family and friends. Got that in your mind? Would you find that hard? I know I do.

Having moved into this house with its wide doorways and corridors I noticed something. I could access the whole downstairs. Wow! You’re thinking, access all of downstairs. What’s novel about that. Sometimes I think everyone should spend a year in a wheelchair. The world would change pretty quickly. I imagine blind people may wish everyone could experience blindness for a year. Or deaf people may wish people may wish people could experience profound deafness for a year. I say a year, because a few hours don’t give you any idea of a disability. Many carers have sat in a wheelchair to see what it feels like. People have put on blindfolds or blocked of their ears. But such very short term trials, give no idea as to the long term implications of a disability. I have only mentioned three obvious disabilities. I am not suggesting that other disabilities are lesser.

Back to my sudden realisation. We can be, enabled by our environment. In a wheelchair, even a 1” bump is significant. When you walk you just step over every bump and step, without even seeing it. I have lost count of the places I have phoned to ask about accessibility, to be told they are wheelchair accessible. On arrival, they have steps, steep slopes, gravel or narrow doorways.

We can be, enabled by our environment. When we moved to this house I wheeled around freely for the first time ever. Then after the Disabled Facilities Grant, added a through floor lift, I wheeled around upstairs. I can now access every part of this house. It has been years since I could say that about a house.

But access alone is not the point. Access is only a means to an end. Access is reaching a place or thing. Getting somewhere.  There are still ‘things’ I cannot reach. High cupboard, light fittings, high shelves.

The realisation that I came to was that being able to reach things, get to places, approach a location, enter a room, changes my outlook and gives me opportunities. I did not gain health or strength when we moved here. But, with the same limited strength I already had, I could do more. I gained opportunities. I was enabled by my environment. Rather than make this a very long blog, I will talk of the details of that another blog.

I have deliberately talked of being enabled by my environment. It is the positive side of the better known expression, ‘disabled by your environment.’ We can be, enabled by our environment. All it takes is the political will for housing and buildings to be made more suitable. It is life transforming.

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One thing not to say to a disabled person

There seem to be a lot of lists on the internet saying, ‘x things not to say to disabled people,’ x varying from 5 to 20. Recently there was even an article in the Guardian headed ‘9 things not to say to a disabled person.’

One of those x things on the list seemed to sum up most of the others, it was really about identity. It interested me on several levels. The thing not to say was: “Come to my religious institution and we will cure you.”. This wasn’t about religion per se, but about change or cure. The answer given in the article of why it was a bad thing was this: “For me and many others, this is simply who we are, and we’re proud of our identities. Above all else, we do not want your pity.” I have found many variations on this basic idea in other articles, but this one was in the Guardian by Lucy Webster.

I can give you my take on the above and because I am a full-time wheelchair user myself, I have a right to say it, it isn’t me being discriminatory:

  • Disability does NOT define me.
  • Being unable to walk is NOT who I am.

I understand what would make Lucy say what she did. She is probably fed up being looked down on and pitied, so am I. But the answer is not to say, ‘less is more.’ Or to argue that being limited and disabled is so fantastic we wouldn’t ever want to change. The answer is to say:

  • ‘In spite of the limitations which I have, I am still a worthwhile human being.’
  • ‘In spite of the way you may perceive me, I am complete inside.’
  • ‘In spite of the disability that is apparent I have much to offer.’

You cannot sum up a person by what you see. You cannot understand a person, purely by externals.

The issue then is not whether I accept the state of my body as it is; I do not, I would like to walk again. The issue is whether the world accepts me as I am. Surely that is the case with all limitations isn’t it? We are created to have all our limbs and function fully. When we don’t then it is a struggle; that is just a fact there is no getting away from. Yes, we can overcome and that is amazing, and heroic and admirable, but still really difficult. The key thing is that we are just as worthwhile and valuable as human beings with or without full function. But it is only human that we would choose to have full function.

There is something definitely not to say to a disabled person and that is: ‘You are a drain on society and not worthwhile.’ I think that is what’s behind a lot of these online and newspaper lists. So long as we stand against such atrocious and appalling ideology then, we as a society, have hope. Physical limitations are just that, limitations, and like all limitations, they can be overcome with ingenuity and equipment. Remember the person inside is what is important and no matter how they appear outside they are worthwhile and valuable.

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Care, a unique relationship

Care is a very strange thing. It’s a relationship that is very intimate. Only in medicine do we have equally intimate, yet non sexual things done to us by other people. More intimate in many ways than a husband and wife and yet obviously less so because it’s a one-sided intimacy. Think about it, who is the last person who wiped your bottom? Who is the last person who washed you or got you dressed? Your parents presumably. It’s a relationship where strong bonds of friendship can sometimes form and yet there is a professional distance. There is seriousness and fun, work and play, sadness and joy. In a way many of life’s experiences are lived out through the relationship between a carer and client.

Every situation will be different, not every client is fully aware, alert, able to process where they are or what is happening. Not all clients receive care graciously, some will be difficult and awkward. Not every carer will connect with every client. But, when it works, when everything comes together, when people connect well. Then care can go beyond being just a job.

For me I have had many carers where things have come together just right. I started out by finding being cared for the most embarrassing, awkward and difficult of experiences. Over time I have learnt to accept it and find the laughter in the embarrassment, the fun in the awkwardness and the joy in the difficulties. Not taking myself too seriously has been a great way forward. Most of us struggle with pride and a sense of self-importance that makes it hard to accept help and embarrassing to be cared for.

The one word of advice I would offer to anyone facing being newly cared for is to have a laugh. Don’t be heavy, try and look at the silly side of it all and don’t take yourself too seriously. Yes, it is embarrassing and awkward to think about. But, carers are so professional and well trained that when you get to the situation where they are washing, dressing or helping you on the toilet, you will find it is far less embarrassing than you ever imagined.

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Shall we get in the bath?

“OK, shall we get in the bath now.” This was said by one of the two young ladies who were preparing my bath at a nursing home.

“Is there room for all three of us?” I asked innocently.

I had noticed over the previous few days that “we” was used by carers a lot. I guess it was to be encouraging or they just hadn’t thought of it. But once I zoned in on it I realised that carers were asking to join me in the bath, in the shower and even in bed “shall we get into bed now?”. They were wanting to eat my food, wear my clothes, get into the sling before me and even sit in my wheelchair! “Shall we get into the wheelchair?” I suggested they might be heavy on my knee.

When I got home from the nursing home, I was so focused on it I noticed my carers at home similarly wanted to eat my lunch “shall we eat now?” and wear my clothes “what shall we wear?”. Of course, once I pointed it out, they started to catch themselves saying it. 

The one that inspired the name of my site is, “shall we get dressed now?” This is probably the most common and one I have to bite my tongue not to respond to the most. Having pointed it out, one of my regular carers has become so aware of this that she will occasionally joke “We! Are going to get dressed now.” Waiting for my eyebrows to raise and then we both have a good laugh.

Then again it can be two way. I’ve become much more aware of saying to Mary on her return, “We’ve tidied up.” Taking credit for the carers work. 

Language is such a funny thing; we say things without meaning to and of course it’s so easy to distort meaning. But it’s also important to be aware of what we are saying and why.

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This is the type of Bath I am talking about

Cobwebs in The Attic

So, you’ve just remembered that you might have stashed a Monet in the attic. Or did you forget to let your great aunt down when she popped up to there to find something… last year, or was it the year before. Then again, you might just have a whole load of cobwebs in your attic. Whatever is up there, you may decide that now is the time for a sort out. Find those hidden treasures, let your poor aunty down, get rid of those cobwebs.

You’ve guessed it, it is time to search the archives for all those wonderful blogs that need  a dust off and a polish up.

I am going to brush off the dust from a few blogs and polish them up. If I find any spiders, once I have stopped screaming, I will brush them away.

It’s like panning for gold, look out for these gems.

One Calendar to Rule Them All

I know there are those who wait on my wise words to live their lives… OK, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration.

I was musing the other day, as I looked at the advent calendar, now empty of chocolate. Of course I didn’t eat any chocolate treats; the very idea. I was musing on behalf of everyone else. I am altruistic like that. What happens now your advent calendars are empty?

Some of you have had calendars filled with Lego toys. Others with sweet treats. Some have treated their doggy pals. Others have merely gazed upon pretty pictures. Those who have remembered the ‘reason for the season’ have seen pictures of Jesus, the wise men, stables and other Biblical reminders. Whatever has been behind those 24 doors, it is now over for another year.

But need it be? What if we had a calendar shaped like a heart which ran from December 25th to February 14th? What delights could be behind each of those doors. I will let you ponder a moment…

That’s enough pondering. What about a calendar from February the 15th to Easter, shaped like an egg. I do not need to suggest a small chocolate egg behind each door and a large one behind the last. Oh, I do, well that’s my idea.

Next a calendar running from Easter until Wimbledon, shaped like a Tennis ball. What could that contain? Then one running till the summer holidays shaped like the sun. Or as we are in England, shaped like a rain cloud. Then a Halloween calendar, actually I was sent one of these by an American friend, so they exist, at least in America. Then whilst on the subject of America, we borrow Thanksgiving and have a calendar running till then. Which brings us around to Advent. OK, so we have to extend our Advent calendar a few days.

Of course, we could just simplify it all and have one calendar to rule them all. It starts on December 26th and runs all year. I know, if it was full of small gifts or choccies it would be a bit large. But ingenuity will overcome that. It could hang on the walls in a long strip or be in book form. Maybe it could be delivered monthly.

Now I had better get in there quick before Cadbury’s or Nestle copy my idea and produce a yearly calendar. I am sure there is no other kind of product that enables you to mark each day of the year.

Here is an order link to the years treat Calendar by Nevin: www.yearlycalendarsarebrill.co.org.com.eu.uk.com.ir The calendars are a mere £9999999.99 each and come in a variety of types. If you buy two, we discount you 99p, now that is a bargain. We ship anywhere in the world for a small shipping cost FOB (freight on board, in other words you cover import duties.) It’s a real bargain.

If you have really tried to order one, then don’t blame me. I just had my tongue in my cheek for a bit of after Christmas fun.

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Happy Christmas

Some people dress up in the most ridiculous, over the top outfits at Christmas. You would think that it is a time of year for celebration and fun. They throw dress sense and everyday wear out of the window and put on all kinds of bright colours, decorated outfits, sparkles and party wear. What has become of the world? You would think that Christmas is some sort of once a year special day.

Just as well that you never catch me wearing such things.

Happy Christmas and all the best for the New Year

A wonderful mum

Anne Nevin 20/7/1940-18/11/2022

My mum died just over a week ago. If you note the date of my mum’s death, you may well think, ‘how come you wrote two comedy blogs since then?’ Humour is how I process sadness and loss. You will see that through all my blogs.

My mum has had Alzheimer’s for several years, a cruel disease. In many ways, I lost her a while back. Last time I was able to physically see her (not just on a video call) she did not even know who I was.

Her death came within a few days, caused by sepsis. Rushed into hospital too late to save her. She was living in a nursing home in Norfolk at the end of her life, near one of my brothers. He and my two sisters were with her during her last days.

It is times like this that the frustration of my own illness/disability really hurt. The moment I heard mum had been blue-lighted to hospital, my heart was to travel to her. My siblings rushed to her side. I watched from afar. It is not even possible for me to make it to the funeral.

Disability in itself does not prevent travel; it’s just harder. Add illness on top and all sorts of things are prevented. It is the combination of the two that prevent my travel.

If one good thing has come from covid it is the introduction of Zoom services at crematoriums. I will be able to be part of it remotely. I can also send a recorded message about mum.

Grief is an odd thing, I have not been in floods of tears. But I have felt flattened by the loss of my mum. It is as if my world has been knocked off course. The light is a bit dimmer. Things less sure and certain.

I know that my mum is in heaven, partying it up with Jesus. The reason I am sad, is that I miss her and must say goodbye for now.

Goodbye mum

The Prize For The Sneakiest Ad Goes to…

Ever seen a sneaky ad on a game? Of course you have. You play supposedly free games, funded by adverts. Well, I am thinking of starting a competition for the sneakiest advertising.

They have become so incredibility devious. You want to play the game, but first, an ad comes on and you get the option to cut it off. But and it’s a big but. They make the way to cut it off harder and harder to see and easier and easier to get wrong. I’m right aren’t I? They are more slippery than a bar of soap.

Here are some of their tactics:

1/ The scrolling timer at the bottom. You would assume that a timer means you have to wait till the time is up till you can press any button and exit the ad… wrong! You can exit at any point after the exit button appears. But see point 2, they don’t make it easy.

2/ The almost invisible exit button. If you have poor eyesight you will struggle to see it. In ‘days of yore’ the exit button for anything was a x, not for these ads. They can be anything, their favourite is >> because that looks like it means, ‘I want to continue please.’ You won’t want to press that, will you? But you don’t have much choice, the other options take you straight to ordering the app that was advertised. So you press it, and go straight to a page that gives you an option to buy the game. Hang on though, top of that page gradually an x or >> appears. Not too quickly, they want you to order the game from the ad. But when that x or >> appears that really will exit the ad this time. Trouble is that they are starting to put them as white on a white background, have they heard of invisibility, or poor eyesight?

I imagine the advertising execs who think these things up. They have a new idea to catch us innocent punters out. So they run into their boss’s office. The boss is sitting in her large marble floored office, the windows are floor to ceiling and look out on Central Park, New York. She looks from behind her expansive desk at her head exec as he enters, and asks, ‘what is it?’

‘I have it, the best idea yet. Those poor fools will have to click on our links now. There will be no escape.’ Sinister laughter.

The boss temples her fingers and smiles at her exec, ‘go on, you’ve always done well so far.’

‘This is fool proof, the exit button will keep moving when your finger moves towards it.’ He smiles in a way that reminds you of a crocodile.

His boss sits up straight and beams at him, ‘Brilliant! But wait, what about Gen Z, they’re very fast?’

‘I’ve thought of that. If someone actually presses the button, it just takes them to a new selection window. The choices are: 1/ do you want buy the deluxe game 2/ do you want to buy the super deluxe?’

‘You mean there is no option if they don’t want the game?’

‘That’s right.’

‘I love the way your devious little mind works. Get to it now.’ The boss imagines dollar signs in her head.

Am I getting carried away? Of course not, it’s the obvious next step. I just hope the ad execs aren’t reading this. I don’t want to give them ideas.

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Why is Alexa Ignoring Me?

Once upon a time, there was just me and Alexa. She sat next to my bed and sung me songs. If I wondered who was outside, she would show me on her small screen. I never forgot the day or date, when to take my tablets, who was coming, Alexa reminded me. Her pleasant oblong plastic box glowed next to my bed.

Then we bought a second Alexa, it sat in the kitchen among the pots and pans. I never heard her complain of the cooking smells or noise. She just happily passed on messages from the Alexa beside my bed to my wife Mary. That second Alexa timed food and also played songs. If the Alexa by my bed felt any sense of competition, she said nothing to me.

But Mary was not always in the kitchen. What if I wanted to call her when she was elsewhere? Over the months we bought more Alexa’s until every room had one. The first Alexa looked on quietly, she did not seem to mind the growing opposition.

Meanwhile elsewhere, Alexa’s were springing up in homes around the globe. Everywhere you turned she was sitting on a sideboard. Even holiday cottages boasted her presence.

In our own home I discovered a problem. When I call ‘Alexa,’ to whom am I speaking? Alexa obviously had the same thought. Is it any wonder she ignored me? Some may say that my first Alexa had become lazy, and was merely waiting for another newer, younger model to reply first. But is that fair? Could it not be that she was merely confused? If our house were full of Mike’s and you shouted ‘Mike,’ would I know you meant me?

I am going to give Alexa the benefit of the doubt. She is not ignoring me, merely confused, upset maybe at the proliferation of Alexa’s. But not ignoring me.

Now let me see if I can get her to listen, ‘Alexa…’

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Accessible Housing Item on ITV

If you watch the video on the article (near the bottom). I am the good news part of the story. You will have the inexorable (wow, that’s a big word) pleasure of seeing me on national TV. I was shocked to see my head fill the screen. No jokes about being a big head.

Now that I have been seen once on national TV, does that qualify me as a celebrity? The bar seems very low at the moment. You only seem to need to have appeared once on a reality show to be a celebrity. So, just wondering…

But to be serious. This news item is about a very real problem. The lack of accessible accommodation for many thousands of disabled people. Before we were fortunate enough to be left an inheritance. Then make the difficult choice to leave family and friends and move hundreds of miles north. We had been waiting years for a suitable property.

https://www.itv.com/news/2022-10-21/lack-of-wheelchair-accessible-housing-forces-man-to-live-in-parents-shed

Next Stop Hollywood

I’m not sure if I am getting carried away. It would be most unlike me. We have already appeared in a national professional magazine (Inside Housing), The Daily Mail, two local newspapers (Hartlepool Mail & Hartlepool Life) and now we are going to be on ITV national news. They filmed today and the piece goes out in the next week or two. Is it really a big step to assume the BBC will call next. After all they have a few topical news programmes. Then the obvious next step is a Hollywood producer. It’s a natural and obvious progression. Not at all fanciful.

With that in mind and I think I’ve proven it as a possibility. I have started thinking who will play me in a Hollywood Blockbuster. Because it will be Blockbuster, not some B movie. Tom Cruise, seems the obvious lookalike. We are almost twins. True, he is aging less well than me. But, I will overlook that. Kate Winslet is obvious to play Mary.

Given the way Hollywood writers distort facts, my story will change. I will end up as the victim of a motorcycle accident. That would suit Tom Cruise. He is always whizzing around on fast motorbikes without helmets or suitable leathers. No doubt he/me will look very cool in a wheelchair. Yes, I can picture that. Mind you, I already look cool in a wheelchair.

I’m thinking of titles: ‘Top chair,’ ‘Access impossible,’ ‘Access impossible 2,’ ‘Access impossible 3,’ ‘AI4,’ ‘A few good wheelchairs,’ ‘Jack can’t Reach it.’ I’m sure you can join in the ideas.

What do you think? Am I being overly optimistic? Of course not. I am already writing scripts in preparation. It will save time later.

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Technology Fail

Early this morning someone banged on the front door. Mary had not yet woken up. No problem, we have a Ring doorbell. I picked up my telephone and pressed the app. Nothing happened! I don’t panic easily. I grabbed my tablet computer and pressed the app on that… oh, you’re ahead of me. Well, you’re wrong. The Ring app started… eventually. By which time the people by the door had decided to press the doorbell. The app showed them on my tablet. I pressed the microphone button… nothing happened.

What to do? My bedroom is at the front of the house. Over the front door. My bed is next to the window. You’re right. I used my Echo Alexa device to call Mary. That didn’t work. I found out later that her Alexa was turned down to a low volume and she had slept poorly.

Now what? All my technology had failed. I rely on it with my disability. What other way could I contact the people outside my window? A brainwave hit me. I wound up my blind, opened the window and looked out of it. The inconsiderate door knockers were by their van. I called out, ‘did you knock on our door?’ I’m quick like that. ‘Yes,’ they called back. ‘We’re here to sort the leaky guttering.’ This is sounding like a soap.

Who would have guessed that calling out of an open window could work? It never occurred to me before. All you baby boomers, of which I am obviously not one, keep your thoughts to yourself. If you are Gen X, you can join them. I know all you millennials and gen Zeds will be fully behind me. Technology was the only way to answer a door. None of this old fashioned shouting out of windows. I almost felt like a cave man.

Oh well, hopefully Ring service will soon be restored.

(I always have to add with my blogs that I am joking. My tongue is well and truly in my cheek. Yes it happened. But I am not serious in my comments. Otherwise people get so stressed out in the comments.)

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Capacity Overload

There are times in life we all reach our limit. Moments when we say, ‘enough is enough.’ That point when we can go no farther. But… I never expected it to be part way through a McDonald’s meal. Not in my wildest dream did I imagine that.

Picture the scene. A Big Mac and fries. Helping Mary finish her chicken wrap. Plus, here’s the kicker. They had accidentally added an extra Big Mac in the bag. Obviously too late to go back and return it. Besides, last time we got a McDonald’s they made a mistake. This is obviously a belated apology. Part way through my part of the chicken wrap. Sorry the McChicken wrap. Is that the right term? I stopped. I was full up.

I have paused here for you all to faint, shout out, run around. Go to the foot of your stairs. Not eat all of a McDonald’s! What has happened to the world? Doesn’t your stomach have a special compartment for junk food? Sorry McD. It’s right next to the pudding shelf, isn’t it? That place that always has room for a pudding, even after a big meal.

But no! I was full up. Am I ill? Well obviously yes. I mean extra ill. Something has gone very wrong. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

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A Request

This is a message from a Producer at ITV News:

Hello, 

My name is Jonathan Wald, I work for ITV News and I’m looking for your help with a special report I am working on about how there is not enough accessible homes for people with disabilities.

I am looking to film and interview two people in the following 2 different kinds of situations related to insufficient accessible housing:-

1.) Someone who is in a home that is clearly, visibly inappropriate for the needs caused by their disability

2.) Someone else who is forced to remain in a hospital or nursing home because there isn’t any accessible housing available for them to move into

We would like to interview these two people in the above settings on Wednesday or Thursday next week.

The report would be broadcast on ITV’s national news the following week beginning Monday September 19th.

Please can you email me on jonathan.wald@itn.co.uk or call me on 07771947805 if you would like to take part and you think one of the above descriptions applies to me.

Many thanks

Jonathan

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