Stranger Than Truth

We have been watching Vera, the ITV detective series, not some random lady down the road. It’s amazing how fast everything moves in a detective drama. The other night was one of my favourites for speed. Vera wanted ‘armed response’ and ‘all units’ to some remote location. Because it suited the plot, they didn’t want Vera on her own at that point. Vera was in front, driving her beat up old Land Rover, she led the convoy of marked and unmarked cars including armed response. Obviously, that’s how it would happen in reality. If you need ‘armed response’ they would take up the rear and let an unarmed, and unprotected Vera go first. They had all responded, gathered and lined up behind Vera on a country lane in time to charge off after the criminals within minutes. At least she called on her radio and next thing they were there. Perhaps they ‘beamed in.’ You can’t buy that kind of entertainment; oh, wait a minute, yes you can.

At other points, forensics comes through faster than the speed of light or so slow you think it’s been held up by a ship on The Suez Canal. All depending on the plot needs. Bits of information turn up at just the right moment. Vera has blinding flashes of inspiration. Although, I do think she should have more blinding headaches given that she seems to drink more alcohol than she has food. Which is another point. This is a current police drama, yet she seems to be allowed to drink on duty, including at work! No one seems to be above her, yet she’s only a chief inspector. She breaks rules and is never brought to book. One time she actually said she can do what she wants. I bet Morse wished that was true for him.

For all of it’s plot and character weaknesses I love the series. It feels like they have taken a police procedural series from the 1970’s, added a dash of amateur detective to it and then a whole heap of fun. They are not bothered about accuracy or time lines. It’s just a good old fashioned murder mystery romp. That seems a very strange thing to say about a series that is about murder, but it is fiction and very obviously so.

Another reason I love watching it is the locations. Being filmed around the North East I often recognise the places. They stick Hartlepool in very often and in very incongruous ways. Of course, it’s not meant to be Hartlepool. The other week they used a couple of Hartlepool General Hospital Wards in an episode set in Northumberland.

If you have never seen the series, I hope I have piqued your interest. It is worth watching, it’s light entertainment. It’s certainly stranger than truth.

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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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Ten Hints & Tips

These are a list of ten things I have found make life easier when you are mobility limited:

1/ Litter picker/grab sticks. I can’t over state how useful I find these. Do look for ones that have a decent grip. They are still limited by two things, your strength and the weight of what you can pick up. But they are great to get smaller things that are out of your reach. However much it may sound fun, its no fun having to keep asking people to fetch everything for you. If you can grab what is just out of reach, that is really great. I have a piece of string on the top of mine so it can hook onto another thing I have lots of, hooks.

One type of litter picker/grab stick

2/ Hooks, I have a number of Velcro strapped hooks around my bed and on the wheelchair. As mentioned in the 1st point, a litter picker is on one. I have my Trabasac wheelchair tray/bag on another. You will find them very useful.

One of the types of hooks I use, yes they are pram ones.

3/ Panniers, I have several of these, all different types. Two on my bed, two on the wheelchair, one on my reclining chair and one on my bedside trolley. They hold medicine, remotes, snacks, papers, magazines, pens etc.

One oft the pannier types I have

4/ Sleep headphones, these are a soft headband with built in headphones. I can lie down and listen to music or my iPad films. You can get wireless ones, but I gather they last a few hours per charge.

Sleep headphones

5/ Multi charger unit, this is most useful in nursing homes, but also good at home. As I have a lot of technology it enables me to charge many USB and Apple devices at the same time, from one 3 pin UK plug.

Multi Charger

6/ iPad stand, I have a heavy based, goose necked stand and it is so useful. I can easily view or operate my iPad without having to hold it or balance it on my knee.

The iPad stand I have

7/ Non slip tape on my wheelchair footplates, I had non slip tape added to my footplates because I found that as I was being driven along my feet would slip forward and sometimes off the footplates. The tape keeps them in place. It’s especially needed for the times I have the enclosed bottom leggings on, as that has a smooth base. This may be specific to me, but you will know if your feet slip around.

8/ Water bottle holders, I have had to try several of these to find the one that works on my wheelchair as every chair is different. My one has to grip onto the side cover by the seat as there are no available bars. I also have one on my bedside trolley.

The water bottle holder that works for me

9/ Clip on hand sanitiser, I have one of the types of hand sanitisers used by health professionals in their uniforms. It came with a clip and a spring retracting wire. I attach the clip to my wheelchair side pannier and then can’t lose the bottle. It’s very useful to have out and about.

Hand sanitiser and clip

10/ A bottle of Neutrodol by the bed with a temporary cover. It can be uncovered as needed. When your bedroom is also your toilet, its good to be able to keep it fresher smelling.

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Review 4

The question on everyone’s lips is what bedpans and urine bottles do you buy? I’m sorry, but it would be top of your list if you were unable to go to the bathroom. But seriously these things are important to those of us limited with mobility and those who are Carers, paid and unpaid.

I’m a man, I feel like I should add, “ooh Betty I’m a man.” As I did love “Some mothers do ‘ave em.” So, I am limited in my knowledge of female toileting needs, I am married though. So, I will try and cover both.

Let me start by saying I have a soft bottom. No, I’m not boasting, it’s a fact that results from spending a lot of time in bed. Therefore, bed pan shape and design are important. Let me take a step back here, if you’re reading this eating your breakfast, you are probably thinking, ‘what am I reading?’ If you are walking along reading on your phone; watch out for that lamp post! If you are reading this at work, what are you doing? Get back to work!

Design; just imagine if your job was designing bed pans. It’s a very valuable job, but not one you are likely to shout about. I digress, as usual. A good design of bedpan has a wide smooth seat with rounded edges, think about a conventional toilet seat. Then think about depth, maybe not something you want to think too deeply about, no pun intended. But you are going to be filling this bedpan and a certain depth is needed for clearance purposes, if you see what I mean. “You feel me?” Is a ‘street’ expression that may be appropriate here. Another consideration is for your poor Carers, how easy is it to clean out. One practical idea is to put a temporary paper lining in before use. Much easier to dispose of. One problem that will decide on the depth of pan you buy is your degree of mobility. The shallower the pan, the easier to roll onto it. At least bedpans are unisex, now onto urine bottles, oh joy.

Here is a well designed bed pan

‘Ten green bottles, hanging on the wall.’ You won’t need ten and they hopefully won’t be green, but a urine bottle hanger is a great idea. I found chromium plated ones on Amazon very reasonably priced for a set of two.

Urine bottle hanger

The bottles themselves take some consideration. Will you only use them in bed, or out and about? If only in bed, then it’s less important that they are totally leak proof when sealed. If out and about, you don’t want them to leak. Also note the cheapest ones have sharp edges around the opening. They can cause nasty scratches, ouch, I know from experience. Most urine bottles these days come with an add on female adaptor. It push-fits in the end, like a shaped funnel. Or you can buy a female only urine bottle. Another consideration might be colour, do you want a see-through bottle? Or would you rather be more discreet if you have visitors or are out and about, you know bright red. Personally if you are a man and out in a wheelchair I recommend Conveens (See my blog ‘Not so public convenience’) If at home a urine bottle hanger enables you to hang the bottle on the side of your bed away from visitors.

Urine bottle with screw top, different colours available and female adaptor
Female urine bottle, no lid
Female urine bottle with lid

I found that trial and error was necessary to get what worked for me. Having stayed in several Nursing homes I also got to try several styles of both.

May your experiences be good ones. It’s a difficult and embarrassing subject. I hope my attempts to lighten it have helped rather than hindered.

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Review 3

Slippers and socks

This review is not specific about makes of slippers and socks, but types and designs. I have found that certain things work better and worse since being in bed and a wheelchair, so I wanted to save others that ‘learning curve.’

First socks, when you spend most of your time in bed or a wheelchair, your feet will swell. Plus having other people put your socks on, it’s a good idea to take pity on them. For those two reasons I have two bits of advice.

1/ buy socks about two sizes bigger than your feet. I am a size 9 and usually get size 6-11 socks, instead I now buy size 12 or 12-14. I also make sure they are loose topped ones, these are often advertised as being for diabetes or swollen legs. Believe me your feet and ankles will thank you, as will your Carers. I am also amazed that they never seem big on me.

Second I have given up on shoes. I figure that as I am not needing soles and if it rains I have waterproof covers, then slippers are warmer and cosier. Plus it’s a lot easier to buy easy open slippers. Look for ones that have Velcro and open completely up. (See photo.)

They are easy for your carer to put on and they can be done up very loosely, again a big advantage. In winter when it’s very cold I have 100% wool slippers, they don’t open up, but they are very large for my feet, so easy to put on. When I have worn these in nursing homes and disability hotels, other guests have always asked where I got them. Have a guess? Yes, Amazon, I get most things from them. But I also return anything that doesn’t work.

This is only a short review to highlight the importance of oversized socks with loose tops and easy open cozy slippers when you are in a wheelchair or a bed.

Slippers and socks

This review is not specific about makes of slippers and socks, but types and designs. I have found that certain things work better and worse since being in bed and a wheelchair, so I wanted to save others that ‘learning curve.’

First socks, when you spend most of your time in bed or a wheelchair, your feet will swell. Plus having other people put your socks on, it’s a good idea to take pity on them. For those two reasons I have two bits of advice.

1/ buy socks about two sizes bigger than your feet. I am a size 9 and usually get size 6-11 socks, instead I now buy size 12 or 12-14. I also make sure they are loose topped ones, these are often advertised as being for diabetes or swollen legs. Believe me your feet and ankles will thank you, as will your Carers. I am also amazed that they never seem big on me.

Second I have given up on shoes. I figure that as I am not needing soles and if it rains I have waterproof covers, then slippers are warmer and cosier. Plus it’s a lot easier to buy easy open slippers. Look for ones that have Velcro and open completely up. (See photo.) They are easy for your carer to put on and they can be done up very loosely, again a big advantage. In winter when it’s very cold I have 100% wool slippers, they don’t open up, but they are very large for my feet, so easy to put on. When I have worn these in nursing homes and disability hotels, other guests have always asked where I got them. Have a guess? Yes, Amazon, I get most things from them. But I also return anything that doesn’t work.

This is only a short review to highlight the importance of oversized socks with loose tops and easy open cozy slippers when you are in a wheelchair or a bed. I am not saying buy the same makes I have shown, although they work for me, they are just examples.

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Review 2

Smart switches, plugs and connectivity

When I first came out of hospital in January 2018, I was having far more of the episodes where I lose muscle function. These have been improved greatly by the new medication. It meant that at the time much of my day I was unable to move at all. My first priority was to buy voice activated controls. This gave me the ability to call for help, if Mary or a carer was in the other room. Request music or an audio book, adjust the heating. Then after later additions, control lighting and even TV and other devices. I also had several cameras setup and activated by voice so that my world was expanded. The most important being a view outside our front door. I will look at the devices that made all this possible and explain their strengths and weaknesses.

There are two main things needed for a voice activated system. 1/ An internet connection. 2/ A smart voice control system. I know of three, Amazon Echo (Alexa), Google Home and Apple Siri. There are others. The main two that offer connection to devices in your home are Amazon and Google. I use Amazon, but I have tried out Google.

You setup the system by buying one or more of your chosen devices. I bought an Amazon Echo speaker and a few of the small Echo dots as my first purchases. Having connected them to my internet router (instructions with device), putting the speaker by me and the Dots around the house, I was then able to listen to music (add reminders, check weather etc) and call to Mary or my carers. The Echo Dots can also listen to music etc, but their speakers are a bit small. We used them as an intercom system. After we added smart wi-fi cameras and doorbell it became necessary to upgrade my Echo speaker to an Echo Show. This has a small screen that can show the picture from the camera in the doorbell or external camera.

Echo Show

The other thing that we did at the beginning was have Hive heating fitted. This is where the heating control and thermostat is replaced by a wireless smart, internet linked controller and thermostat. Then you can connect it to an app on your phone or iPad and also to your Alexa or Google Home, you still have a wall thermostat. So, I can say “Alexa change the heating to 20 degrees.” Or “Alexa, ask Hive the temperature.” We were fortunate that the initial cost of fitting Hive and the first Amazon Echo was covered by a grant. This is because of its benefit to me in giving me control in my limitations.

Hive Thermostat

There are weaknesses with the Echo system. Sometimes it doesn’t hear you right. I have often had to repeat myself many times when trying to add a reminder. Even the heating can be a frustration at times, either Echo or Hive can have connection problems. But for the few times that happens I would not swap it. It gives me such a great satisfaction being able to control my environment. It’s very difficult being able to see but not reach light switches and thermostats. I wake at 4am, long before Mary, so I can turn the heating up in winter when I wake.

If you are thinking of getting a smart system. Consider if you will get cameras, if so, buy an Echo Show, or the Google equivalent. Amazon have upgraded versions of their system, but that means they are selling off the old ones cheaper. I would also consider security. The smart devices listen all the time. Amazon and Google say they don’t record and keep your conversations. Do you trust them, that’s up to you? If you buy an Echo Show or the small Echo Spot as a bedside clock, remember it has a built-in camera. Do you want a camera by your bed?

Echo Spot for a bedside clock?

I extended my smart system over the last year and a half with smart switches and plugs. There are many out there, just search smart plugs, sockets or switches. I would recommend Meross. This is because they are well made, easy to setup and the app they supply is well laid out. One point on this, I have several devices, and each has its own app for my phone. It’s better to try and stick with one manufacturer or you have a lot of apps, like me. They all work with Alexa or Google Home. Just to explain that. The app on your phone and/or iPad gives you control of your smart switches, plugs and cameras from anywhere you have internet access. But all of them also connect to your home hub via your Amazon Alexa or Google Home. So, you can voice control them at home.

Meross Smart plugs

Smart plugs or sockets enable you to plug anything in (check power rating if you are planning on plugging in a kettle or tumble dryer). Smart switches replace your wall light switch with a device that can still be turned on or off at the wall, but also voice or app operated. A few things to note about that.

1/ Not all smart switches are dimmable.

2/ It is complicated to buy a multi way switch (one that operates two lights up and down stairs)

3/ the wiring in your house needs to be modern (have a neutral wire) so consult an electrician, don’t do it yourself.

I have several smart sockets and switches setup, which means I can turn lights on and off by voice and cut power on various things in the house by voice.

Smart light switch

The smart cameras and doorbell I use are all Netvue. I have not tried others, but I can say the Netvue ones work great. The only downside being that to record movement you need to subscribe to their cloud service. Otherwise without the subscription you just get notice there has been movement and a snapshot. They are currently beta testing human only recognition for movement. Anyone who has tried CCTV cameras and setup movement sensors will know how annoying animals or sunlight triggers can be. The beta looks good so far.

Netvue exterior camera

The Netvue doorbell is very useful. We got it after a particularly persistent visitor rang and rang our doorbell when Mary was in the bath. I thought it must be urgent, but by the time Mary got out the bath and to the door we discovered it was not. With the camera and voice doorbell, I can see who is there and chat to them. If necessary, I could give them a keycode (in an emergency). I would love to be able to afford an electric door lock, to let people in.

Netvue Doorbell

Smart technology is a great blessing, although not perfect. I know I have pushed Amazon Echo. But that is the one I know best. The little I know of Google Home; it is a more limited system. If you are looking into smart tech maybe try buying one of the older Amazon Echo Dot’s to try out. See how you get on. Or get the new better one and then if you don’t like it return it within 30 days for a refund from Amazon.

One last thing. When setting up any smart device, do follow the instructions to the letter. I tried skipping steps and had to reset and try again. You really must do it properly. That’s especially true with setting the device up on your phone or iPad, you must use 2.4ghz not 5ghz. You can set it back after setup.

I hope you get to try smart tech and it benefits you as much as it does me.

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Reviews 1 – Trabasac Lap Tray/Bag

I will be looking at items I have found helpful with my limited mobility. Where I have tried several versions I will explain why I use the one I do. If I tried one and it worked I will tell you why.

Trabasac lap trays.

One thing I use the most is my Trabasac lap tray. I have owned a total of 3 of these. Two of the Trabasac Curves, one wore out as I used it for 6 years. Then recently I changed to a Trabasac Mini.

First to look at the Trabasac range as a whole.

This lap tray come rucksack is a unique design I have found nowhere else. If I did I would buy it, as they are expensive for what they are. The idea is a combination of a rucksack (not a roomy or multi pocket one) and a lap tray that can attach to a wheelchair or car seat via quick release straps. They include straps to use as shoulder straps.

Trabasac Mini

Trabasac Curve

Trabasac Max

Coloured Curve

However, they have too wide a design idea. They can be used as laptop rucksacks for business travellers (especially Reviews

I will be looking at items I have found helpful with my limited mobility. Where I have tried several versions I will explain why I use the one I do. If I tried one and it worked I will tell you why.

Trabasac lap trays.

One thing I use the most is my Trabasac lap tray. I have owned a total of 3 of these. Two of the Trabasac Curves, one wore out as I used it for 6 years. Then recently I changed to a Trabasac Mini.

First to look at the Trabasac range as a whole.

This lap tray come rucksack is a unique design I have found nowhere else. If I did I would buy it, as they are expensive for what they are. The idea is a combination of a rucksack (not a roomy or multi pocket one) and a lap tray that can attach to a wheelchair or car seat via quick release straps. They include straps to use as shoulder straps.

However, they have too wide a design idea. They can be used as laptop rucksacks for business travellers (especially the larger one that I don’t own), wheelchair trays that double as secure bags or play tables for children in cars (they do a coloured trim version for kids and a rather cheap and tacky waterproof cover. The ‘connect’ versions just have a velcro surface to stick things to, such as their so called media holder. This is just a velcro sausage that you shape to hold things.

The features I like and reason I have bought 3 over the years are:

1/ they have a storage area inside, like a bag, I keep my phone and wallet in it.

Storage inside my Trabasac Mini, it can also fit an iPad

2/ they have quick release straps that are in two parts, one connects to the tray and the other to your wheelchair or car seat. Then they have a quick connect to latch in place.

Range of straps that come with it. Note quick connect for tray end and in middle.

3/ they have a beanbag underneath for your lap and a slight ridge around the top work surface (the surface itself is getting poorer quality over the years)

Ridge round worktop

I find the Trabasac Mini big enough for an iPad 9.7”, plus a phone, wallet and some small bits and bobs. The Curve although bigger never fitted more into it, but always felt more bulky.

I find I can eat my lunch off the top of the tray, although a very large plate is a squeeze. I do find that it is not level enough on my lap to trust an open drink. But I tend to have water bottles in a side holder. These I will review later. I should note that the angle of the tray will depend on your seating position.

A plate on a Trabasac Curve

On the whole I would really recommend Trabasac lap trays. I get nothing from them for saying that. Whenever I have been places with other wheelchair users and they have seen my tray, many have asked where I got it. Maybe I should be on commission.

I buy mine from Amazon purely because of the ease of return if things go wrong. In case you don’t know, even after the 30 day easy return window closes on Amazon you just go into help, chose contact and either phone or email about your order.

I will be continuing to review other items in the coming days.

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