Virtually Real

I discovered a whole new thing last year. Virtual reality; my son lent me his VR headset and I so loved the experience that I asked for a set for Christmas. So I have re discovered VR again with my own headset, a non tethered one. The one I got is low cost, so not the highest spec one available. But for me it’s amazing. I don’t play games, so I don’t need super fast. My eyes aren’t brilliant anyway, so I don’t need 4K clarity.

I can visit space on the Apollo missions, yes that was me with Neil Armstrong. I was the one who got off Apollo 11 second, my words were “you’re wrong Neil, it’s a very big step for man” as I tripped off the lunar lander. I have jumped out of airplanes with a parachute, yes that’s what the screams were you heard in the sky. I have dived into the deep oceans. I was even present at last years fireworks on the embankment in London for the new year. I was the very tall guy that stuck out above everyone. The best bit is that whenever I visit museums and famous landmarks I seem to be the only one there. I’m not sure if that’s because I have bypassed the payment booths. Maybe I turn up on a day they are closed. But I certainly get an amazing view, I can even go right up to pictures in the Louvre, and into them. Bet you’ve never done that; unless you have a VR headset that is.

VR (virtual reality) is a brilliant idea for those of us in wheelchairs or bed. We can get places it would be impossible to go normally. Yes, I know even able bodied people may struggle to visit the moon. I was at the North Pole yesterday looking at the Northern Lights. Boxing Day I took a ride on Santa’s sleigh, you see he is real; mind you he must be starting early for next year.

I did a bit of research into how they create these amazing bits of VR film. As you may guess they do it by expensive bits of kit. A set of high definition cameras filming in all directions at once. But, there is a cheap and less high quality alternative that I am going to try for my blog. You can get dual dome lenses on a camera. One dome lens on each side. It films most of the way around in reasonable quality. So watch this space. I will also be doing some ordinary video of trips out, showing what travel is like in a wheelchair. So that should be interesting. I wonder what my red hair will look like in 360 degree virtual reality? What am I saying, amazing of course.

Virtual reality seems to be in its infancy at the moment. I can see a time in the future when the hardware will not be big chunky headwear. For those who don’t know, you have to wear a big headset over your eyes that is either linked to a computer or has its own ability to run built in, like mine. Sometimes people put phones into something called Google Cardboard, which started as cardboard headsets, but now includes plastic and expensive headsets. The things you look at in the headsets are either games, apps, photos or videos. I can imagine a time when we will either have no headwear or very lightweight headwear to view VR.

VR would have been great for me in the first few weeks I spent in hospital then at home when I was mainly on my back and hardly able to move. VR so opens your world. To think I could have witnessed a T Rex attack a Velociraptor close up in VR two years ago, if only I had the equipment. What am I saying, I could have watched Luminere dance on the table in Beauty and the Beast. The experience of watching ordinary films is also transformed as you watch them on the equivalent of a cinema screen in whatever environment you choose. My home VR environment, that is the place I start out in, is Monument Valley, Utah.

I am writing this in my favourite café, any guesses? Yes, Cleve Spa Coffee Shop. It’s a couple of days before the new year, so I can’t yet say I won’t have a wash till next year. At least I hope not. But I do wish you all a Happy and Blessed New Year. I pray you will find joy and happiness in 2020.

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To all those who care for others

To all those who care for others, professionally or as a friend or family. I want to say thank you.

You are amazing, awesome people. Without you those of us who are limited could not manage. You transform our lives.

Have a Happy Christmas. May you find peace and joy. If you are working over Christmas, may you find moments of calm amidst the storm. May you find peace in the activities. May you find Joy. If you have a break, may it be a time of relaxation and peace, restoration and up building.

Bless you for all you do.

Hello, good evening and welcome

I haven’t blogged in a while. Sorry about that, I’ve been unwell. I know I’m always unwell, after all I write a disability blog, but this is different. When I get cold or flu bugs, shall I call it man flu, no I shan’t, oh that sounded childish. When I get a cold, my immune system doesn’t fight it well. So rather than a streaming cold, which is actually a good sign of your system fighting the bugs. My system half-heartedly mounts a defence. Rather than get out the guns and firing at the germs my immune system stands there and shouts critical comments at the cold virus, hoping to shame it into leaving. Oddly that doesn’t work. So, I feel ill for weeks, then eventually it peters out.

As I lie in bed writing this, I have a Christmas tree at the bottom of my bed. It is beautifully decorated by my wife, Mary. It also has chocolates on it. I don’t eat sweets and chocolates, so they are a bit of a tease; but then I couldn’t reach them anyway. Still it looks very nice. I’ll let you into a little secret, so long as you promise not to tell anyone. I like multi-coloured lights, and decorations. Garish, gaudy and bright. Our tree is beautifully subtle, silver and blue; it looks lovely; just not how I would do it. So, Mary has added a multi-coloured string of lights just for me. The problem is that without all the multi coloured tinsel and baubles, the multi-coloured lights don’t look good. So, I don’t switch them on. Hence, we have a subtle tree. I said to one of my carers the other day that I prefer the tree without the multi-coloured lights. By which, of course, I mean unless you add multi-coloured everything. Hey ho! I was going to say, oh well, but ‘hey ho’ seemed more festive. You’re fortunate I didn’t say, ho, ho, ho.

For those who follow my antics on Facebook you will know that I had my hair dyed red recently. Well maybe dyed is a strong word. I had a red shampoo applied. I now have a red tinge to my hair. The plan is to have a red mouse applied soon and go bright red for Christmas. Although I don’t know how putting an animal on your head changes its colour. Is it the shock? I should have had this sponsored. I’m sure people would have paid to stop me.

I made it to the carols by candlelight on Sunday night at our church. That was great, so good to be there. Some folk reckoned I should have put reindeer antlers on my wheelchair. I thought putting my LED lights on was enough. Actually, I thought turning up was enough considering I felt rather rough with the cold. We are hoping to be at the carols around the Christmas tree outside the pub in Creech on Christmas Eve too, 6pm. I’m only saying that so that if anyone reads this goes you can say hi. I’m the one in the wheelchair without reindeer antlers.

I have finally sent off my manuscript of a film idea to the BBC. So, I am going to be famous very shortly. Or at least I will have been rejected by a major organisation, which is a brush with fame. It’s a good story, honest, wait and see. I won’t spoil it because it might be on next Christmas. You might be sleeping in front of it. I have never suffered from a lack of optimism. Realism on the other hand…

Santa; I just thought I’d say that. Santa; there I go again. Seems the right time of year to mention him. Of course, as a Christian I would be bound to point out that St Nicholas, Saint Nicholas, Santa (saint) Claus (Niclaus), Santa, actually only ever pointed to Jesus at Christmas. It’s his Christian actions that lead to him becoming a saint. Let’s not even get into Coca cola giving him a red outfit.

I think it’s time I finished this blog before I get myself in trouble. More trouble that is. This will be my last blog before Christmas, so have a Happy and blessed Christmas.

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Now for something completely different…

At the risk of being political I have to say this. I cannot stand by… literally I cannot stand by. I can only sit or lay down. So I cannot stand by and be silent. Anyone who knows me will realise that I can’t be silent for long. We are at a critical time, standing or in my case sitting in a hallway full of doors wondering which one to enter. It wouldn’t be so bad if they all just held rooms. Even if they all had similar rooms. But this is a time of extraordinary significance. Some of those doors lead nowhere, some lead to disaster, some to hope and some to despair. The choice is important.

Wouldn’t it be great if we all agreed which door was which? But for some crazy reason we are at a moment in history when everyone seems to have a different view. This must be one of the biggest tests of the notion that all ideas are equally valid.

If you have grown up in the last 40-50 years then you have grown up in a world of grey, no, not 50 shades of grey, but a myriad shades of grey. A world where every opinion is equally valid. If it’s right for you, then that’s OK. The old certainties, the idea of right and wrong, black and white have long gone. But if that notion were ever to be tested, then it is about to be. Is it really the case that all ideas are equally valid?

Can we all be right? Can all the doors ahead of us lead to somewhere good? Or is my statement correct? Will some doors lead to disaster and despair and some go nowhere, while only some, or maybe only one give us hope.

What are these doors? Where is this hallway? The hallway is the time and place we are in. The doorways represent the choices we in the UK all now face. Who do we elect to govern us and do we leave Europe. Much as we all want to be right, that cannot be true, can it? Surely there must be winners and losers. There has to be a right and a wrong choice in this.

When you are deciding how to vote and whether to leave Europe remember. Yes, the two are linked. It’s easy to justify looking after ourselves above anyone else. We have become a self centred nation. Selfishness doesn’t sound bad if we call it national pride, but it is. Xenophobia sounds better dressed up as fear of terrorism or disguised as protecting jobs, but it is still a terrible thing, I’m sure that the ordinary German citizens didn’t see what Hitler did in the 1930’s as a bad thing. After all, he was stopping the Jews from taking their jobs, and corrupting their society. They believed the propaganda. Are you believing the propaganda about immigration, about the EU? How will the future judge us?

Also know this, real people have suffered real hardship and real harm as a result of the changes to disability benefits carried out by this government. Many have committed suicide. Not everyone has visible, well documented conditions like myself. In the early days of many diseases a person can be very ill, but evidence is still being collected. Some mental health issues are very real and destructive. Such people need protection and help, not condemnation and hounding. We have a cynical government that is dishonest and yet distracts attention from its own dishonesty towards needy people. If you can in all faith vote for such people do so with your eyes open.

This is a very political blog,  because politics matter. The people who govern us affect our lives, we have a choice who they are. Make that choice wisely. They think it is a foregone conclusion who will win; prove them wrong. In case you are wondering, I will be voting Labour. I want a fair and just society. Jeremy Corbyn has been maligned by the right wing press, but he is only guilty of being a little boring and of passion for justice.

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Next Day delivery

Hermes, have an interesting service available. It’s called Next Day delivery. What do you think Next Day delivery means? That the parcel will be delivered next day perhaps? That’s what I thought when I paid £12.90 for this service for an urgent parcel. After all I wanted to be sure it got there next day. Royal Mail parcels would take 3-5 days. I couldn’t wait that long.

What a fool I was. Next Day, according to the small print means they will get it there when they can. There are NO guarantees about how long that is. They say it usually takes 1-2 days.

Advertising standards must find that an interesting notion. Next Day means ‘when we feel like delivering it.’ You have been warned.

I dropped my next day parcel off 3rd Dec for Collection 4th Dec and delivery 5th. It’s now 7th Dec and their tracking site says. Delayed please allow another 24 hours.

Sorry to rant about delivery on my disability blog site. But actually home delivery is vital to me. I have most stuff delivered to my home. So sending and receiving stuff at home is very relevant to me. Most times it works fine. But I have never had any good experiences with Hermes.

One time they were delivering to me and the tracking info showed them as in the road outside for five minutes. My carer went out t find them. No delivery van was anywhere around. Then suddenly the tracker changed to card left as you were out. Yeah right, I was lying in bed at home watching the front door camera while they were supposed to be out the front. I object to delivery drivers lying like that.

I have had similar experiences from Amazon logistics. But most times they are OK. Hermes only ever goes wrong. So I am a bit biased. Why didn’t I just send my parcel by Royal Mail and save money. Apparently I will be compensated, once the parcel is delivered. I won’t be holding my breath on the speed of that then.

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A long time ago…

It’s that time of year, excitement is building, kids are getting ready. Yes, a new Star Wars movie is due. Anyone who reads my blogs will know that I have my tongue well and truly in my cheek.

We were in Dawlish last week and we heard that someone had committed suicide at the railway station. Christmas is for many people a time of loneliness and sadness. If you are ill or limited that is exacerbated even more. Seeing bright lights and cheery smiles can just highlight unhappiness in yourself. Often we don’t focus on our pain and difficulties. After all it’s better to be positive. But how hard is it to keep that up when everywhere you turn the message is about fun and excitement.

I started with Star Wars for a reason; it’s make believe, it’s fiction. Life is not a movie, life is not perfect, life is messy, life is full of difficulties and trials. Yes there are good times and joys. But there are also tough times. My point in saying that is this applies to everyone. It’s easy at Christmas to see the images around us and think that it’s only us who are suffering. That is not true. Many people find it tough. We are not alone. You are not alone. Big smiles often hide broken hearts.

It’s easy to discount the central message of Christmas. A baby in a manager. Just a kids story, irrelevant, boring, untrue. But Jesus is the only person who makes sense of everything. He didn’t stay a baby. He is real, he is relevant and he is true. You might think, yeah he’s ok but his followers are a bit rubbish. All those church folk. There are certainly a lot of imperfect people who go to church. What a relief eh? That means you don’t need to be perfect to go to church. Church isn’t about the people who go to it. It’s about God.

Church is a family and family is a warm and strong unit that can support and help us. Yes families also get it wrong and occasionally cause each other pain. We are human. But family is great and at this time of year if you are feeling isolated and alone isn’t family what you want? Try dropping into a church and see what I am talking about. Who knows you might like it.

A long time ago… well actually now you might be struggling. It’s a tough time of year. But don’t give up. Maybe try the Church see if you can find family there. If that’s not your way forward, then chat to a neighbour, a friend or find someone to talk to. But please don’t give up.

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