Category Archives: Life

Default category and posts where I just talk about life in general

Hole in the Wall

From this (rotten, been there years and been getting worse, had it ‘repaired’ twice so far).

To this (done it myself, over two weeks, bit by bit, don’t care about how messy it looks as long as it keeps the rain out).

Regrets …

I often joke that regret is one of the four pillars of my life, but I don’t really dwell much on past decisions once I’m over the ‘angry at myself’ period.  I do regret not spending more time in my 20’s being more hands on with stuff, decorating, DIY, repairs, etc.  It’s a confidence thing mostly, but it prevents me doing even small jobs around the house, and as a result, the house slowly rots.

One of the things they don’t teach you at school is how to find reliable craftsmen.  We paid a guy last year to repair some rotten wood, he did 2/3rds of the job and never came back (used the weather as an excuse, but then just stopped responding to us).  Turns out, he only did 1/3rd of the job and I’ve been repairing the mess he left for the past two weeks (good weather, so taking my time sealing up the hole with multiple layers which I’m allowing to dry in-between).

So we’ll once again be on the lookup for a ‘handyman’ who can do lots of little jobs, because there’s loads of stuff which needs fixing once the Covid19 shit is over, and unless we win the lottery we can’t afford to get the whole house done in one go.  Typical example of Samuel Vimes’ ‘Boots’ Theory of Socioeconomic Unfairness.

Covid-19

We can’t say for certain if I’d had (got) Covid-19, because there’s no testing unless you’re hospitalised at present, however, I’m reasonably confident I’ve had it.  I have my flu jab every year and this year’s jab is ‘reasonably effective’, so there’s a good chance I didn’t have flu, the symptoms I did have line up with Covid-19, and the timeline looks like it’s a match.  Recording this here, like other posts, just so that I have it in one place.

Around the 17th or 18th March I was suffering from mild diarrhoea,this isn’t entirely unusual for me especially if my diet changes.  However, on the 19th March I felt unwell, and on checking my temperature found it was over 37.6C, so just in to the mild fever range.  I had no cough.

On the 20th March, I had two bouts of intense shivering (the first lasted over half an hour, the second was shorter) and several periods of mild shivering, along with severe muscle pain.  The pain might have been as a result of the shivering.  I won’t lie, I wept at one point during the first bout.  The diarrhoea was also significantly worse and I had a headache in the morning.  On the 21st I developed a cough (and retained the headache).  I wouldn’t describe it as frequent, and it was generally more of a background irritation, but it was dry and unproductive.  My temperature was still up and down throughout the day.  I was also, as Greté would describe it, pretty foggy.  On the 22nd and 23rd, the cough was still present, but very mild in nature.  My temperature on the 23rd was pretty stable for the latter half of the day and well within normal levels.  On the 24th (today), there’s been little to no cough at all and my temperature has been normal all day.  Tomorrow is my official last day of forced isolation.  Sadly, Greté then has another 7 days to see if she develops symptoms.

We’ve been trying to remain apart and keep surfaces clean while I’ve been showing symptoms, although it’s virtually impossible, and I’ve made multiple errors while not thinking (handed her the house phone at one point).  It’s entirely possible Greté’s already had this anyway, she had a very slight cough, very slight temperature and headache for a day before I showed signs of anything, but it was so mild it barely registered until I was showing full on symptoms.  The physical separation has been hard, but we’ll be able to hug by the end of tomorrow so we’re looking forward to that.

Then it’s back to the challenge of trying to shop.

Personal Journey

My father died when I was 4 (1975), my mum died in 2012 and my sister passed away in 2015.

After my father died, my mother never spoke about him to us. My sister had more memories of him because she was six years older than me, but my memories were hazy, and a lack of conversation meant they faded over time. I found out after my mum died why she hadn’t spoken about him much, it was because she was still heart broken. She missed him so much every day that she couldn’t even bear to talk about him. I know this because of the words we found on his gravestone, which myself and my sister saw for the first time when we buried my mum.

After my sister passed away I realised I’d lost all immediate connection with my past. My grandparents were all deceased, and although my mother had three sisters I’d moved away from them a long time ago, and wasn’t really in touch with any of my cousins on a regular basis. Over the past few years, two more of the sisters have passed away, one very recently, leaving only a single sister remaining.

There’s really no one left who I can talk to about my dad, or in fact my mother’s life when she was young. I know almost nothing about either.

What I do have, are some photographs. Not many, and almost none of them are labelled or written on. But I do have some photos. I’ve been scanning an album today with Cyprus on the cover, made in Germany, and full of photographs of my dad, his army buddies, and some of my mum, maybe my sister, and other members of the family.

A lot of them are people I don’t know and will never find out who they are, mostly in the army. My dad was stationed in Cyprus for a while (it looks like my mum didn’t go), and Germany (my mum lived there with him for a while). I have no idea who took these photos, where they all are, or what year any of them were. Most of them I guess are the 60’s and 70’s, but one is from the 50’s and one has a car in it which looks to be 50’s era as well.

I’ve been meaning to scan these for a long time, but it’s meant,

  1. removing the photographs carefully from the album, but inevitably losing some of the photo corners they’re stuck in with at the same time
  2. spending a lot of time doing it

b) is easy to solve now I’m in self isolation, and a) I realised I’m the only person left in the world who I can ask for permission, so I gave it to myself.

Here’s my mum,

And here’s my dad,

They’re photos they sent or gave to each other, while my dad was stationed away (because they’re among the few to have something written on the back).

I’ve put all the images (or nearly all of them) on Flickr, and a photography forum I participate in, and some of them have been confirmed as Cyprus, which is good to know.  This is a post I originally made on the forum, but wanted to duplicate here for my own blog so that I didn’t lose it.

Lockdown

Well well, we’re locked down.  The UK government has finally decided to close all but essentially shops, limit gatherings to no more than 2 people (unless all close family), and fine people if they’re out and about without an important reason.

I’ve got 3 days left before I’m out of self isolation due to presenting symptoms, I just hope it was Covid19 and that you can’t get it twice so that I can stay confidently healthy.  I’ll just need to hope for the best on that front.

Plenty of folk will be chronicling this time, daily updates, isolation blogs and diaries and the like.  I don’t feel compelled to do that, although I had hope to do a photo journal of the outside world.  That’s probably scuppered now.  I will try and carry the little camera with me if I go out for essential supplies, and grab a few shots of nearly empty streets.

The World Has Changed

What a strange situation we find ourselves in.  Covid19 will change the world.

I’m pretty sure I’m on day 5 of my own personal infection.  Fever, cough, headaches, the whole set, but very mild.  Doing what we can to delay / limit Greté’s exposure but the physical separation is extra hard on her.  We’ve got enough supplies to get us through to the end of my isolation, and then we’ll just take it day by day.

Trying to do something with the hours we’re stuck in the house, scanning some old photographs.  Which has me thinking about family and friends.

Just a quick post to record the fact that I think I had the virus and this is day 5, because without this blog I’d have little chance of recalling my own life events.

The silence is delicious

For the past couple of months or so we’ve been able to hear water moving through the cold water pipes in the kitchen and bathroom.  Turns out, as I previously posted, it was caused by a leak in the pipework outside of the property.  It’s now been repaired, I’ll probably post a blog when it’s fully finished, at the moment the path still has a hole in it.

But I just wanted to quickly post about how insidious the sound was, something only made clear by its absence.  Obviously, when in the kitchen in the quiet moments or in the bathroom, the sound was very obvious and loud.  However, now that it’s gone it is hugely apparent that I could hear it even in a noisy house, and even in other rooms.  A constant background cavitation noise from the pipes.  Like an audible version of Chinese water torture.

I was in the bathroom earlier, and it’s silent.  So, very, very quiet.  It’s truly delicious.

Water movement

Looks like we might have movement on the water front.  Severn Trent are coming out, possibly Wednesday, to repair the leak in pipe between us and the mains.  Fingers crossed.  That’ll be an absolutely huge weight off my mind.  You can clear hear the leak from inside the house now and it’s getting louder – the sound of running water constantly is not pleasant when you know it’s basically going out of the pipe and in to the ground!

Memories are made of this

I don’t remember life events very well.  When they happened, what year, where I was, or in many cases, that they happened at all.  Reading back over blog entries really helps.  So I’m going to try and keep writing them.  I never thought actually keeping a diary would be useful, but I guess it would have been given how bad my memory appears to be for this kind of thing.  I can probably recall  the command line parameters for AIX commands from 1998, but not much about my life in that year (except obviously, I got married).

Fizz is back home.  She was in the vet’s for one night, and was much brighter the next day.  She didn’t really eat while she was there (and judging by the poo this morning, she didn’t shit while she was there either), but they felt that was more because she was stressed and unhappy with them, rather than unwell.  So we agreed we’d bring her home.  She’s mildly anaemic, and seems to have sporadic bouts of sickness which trigger the lethargy.  So we’ve agreed to manage symptoms rather than put her through multiple tests which might not help anyway.  She’s 16, and overall she’s happier and more active these days than she was a year or so ago (we’ve introduced an anti-inflammatory for her arthritis, and a laxative to help with ‘regular movements’, both of which have had a visible and positive effect on her behaviour).  We’ll keep an eye on her, and manage any symptoms and ensure she’s got the best quality of life possible for however long she keeps going.  At the moment, we’ve got no reason to doubt that could be a lot of years yet.

No progress on the mains leak, Severn Trent haven’t been back in touch and we don’t know what that means.

No progress on the wood repairs, the guy is waiting for a dry day to come and do the final sanding and staining.

I’m three or four weeks in to a new photography project, documenting the area in which I live.  You can see the album of hundreds of photos so far on Flickr.

Dear Diary

Over two years since I last blogged anything. So long in fact that WordPress is completely different. There’s some kind of weird block editor that I don’t understand. Why can’t I just write text in a huge box like I used to? 

Aha, installed a plugin to turn that off, and back to normal simple text input in a dialog box.  I guess they think people will only blog tiny missives these days, but I’m here for the epic long hall and the block editor does not suit!

This will be a rambling blog post with compressed and confused timelines, missing information, out of sync actions, and no conclusion.  You’re welcome.

There are always grades of discomfort, I think I might have blogged that before, and my life is easy compared to very many people in the world.  I don’t think I really understood privilege when I was blogging a lot a few years ago, but over the last couple of years or so I’ve come to understand it a lot better.   So I’m privileged, but as should be obvious, it doesn’t mean that shit doesn’t cause anxiety.  And so September, October and now November are the months that just keep on giving.  I’m blogging because I want to rant partly about work, and that means I can’t use Facebook (too many work colleagues), and I can’t use Twitter (240 characters).  So I need somewhere I can vent sure in the knowledge no one will ever read it, and so my personal blog seems like the perfect choice.  This is not going to be one of those posts where I focus on 3 good things and how lucky I am.  That’s never the person I’ve been.  I can’t fight against it really, I’ve always looked at the problems and thought about the issues, and that includes my own life.  It’s what made me excellent at my job in technical support, but it comes with a burden that it’s hard to see the good things amongst the broken.

I am, as anyone who’s read this blog will know, terrible at owning a house.  The last few months have tested that to the limit and continue to do so.  We noticed some woodlice in the corner of the dining room, we knew what it was, rotten wood, we just weren’t sure why.  But dealing with that takes energy, and the last three months have been low energy periods for us for several reasons.  So we didn’t deal with it straight away, and then it started preying on our minds, making it harder to sleep, consuming more spoons, adding more to the cup, whatever metaphor you prefer.  Eventually, Greté found enough energy to contact a handyman on Facebook, and it’s being handled.  Never as bad as you fear, but never as easy as you hope.  It’s half fixed, but now we’re waiting for some dry weather for the guy to finish the job (for which he’s already been paid).

There’s also a leak in our mains water supply.  A good few weeks back now we noticed that the cold water pipes were making a noise as if someone was running a tap.  Initially, I didn’t think much of it, but then I began to think about what it might imply before finally realising it probably meant a leak.  At first, I assumed it was in the house, and so I spent 3 hours one night, until 2am, because when else do you panic about this stuff than at 11pm before you go to bed, trying to find it.  There wasn’t anywhere in the house that obviously had any water leak.   I formed the view the leak was outside.  What followed was is rather frustrating.  We had a British Gas appointment to check the boiler anyway, and they provide plumbing repairs and quotes, so we asked them to also ‘check the plumbing’.  The guy who arrived thought he was only here to find a plumbing issue, Greté managed to get him to do the boiler service, and he agreed he thought the leak sounded like it was outside in the mains pipe.  He had another guy come the next day, from Dynorod (who I think British Gas own) to confirm that, and he did.  There was some confusion that included being told if we signed up to the extended home care agreement it would cover the problem.  So we signed up.  We them had an appointment scheduled for many weeks later for Dynorod to come and ‘find the leak’.  However, before that occurred, Dynorod called us to say it wouldn’t be covered because the cover only covered internal pipes.  Many furious conversations later didn’t provide any progress.  I then called our insurance company, but their ’emergency cover’ line told me because I’d already had a plumber look at it, they wouldn’t cover it, even though they literally just listened to a pipe.  Our regular buildings insurance doesn’t cover it (most likely) because it’s wear and tear.  But they advised us to ring Severn Trent first anyway, which we did.  About three weeks had passed now, with the sound of water leaking in to the ground present in the house all the time.  We also asked Dynorod to come and quote in case we needed them to do the repair.  A lovely lady at Dynorod rang us the day they were supposed to be here, to tell us they were running late and to berate us for getting them back when they said it wouldn’t be free.  I explained we were getting them back to quote, and that if they didn’t arrive soon we’d have to go out.  She told me she could quote and we never needed them to visit anyway, at which point I was pretty pissed off.  So, anything from £700 to £2000 depending on where the leak is, but that’s open ended if access proves hard.  Meanwhile, Severn Trent have now been twice, once to confirm it’s a leak (sounds like it), and once to put a boundary box outside the property, and a meter to measure the rate of loss.  Now however, upon ringing them today, they’re not sure what’s happened, who we may or may not be passed to, and what the status is.  So several weeks after first hearing the noise, we can still hear it, and there’s water leaking in to the ground somewhere between us and the mains.  It’s like water torture for real.

In Tesco car park, sometime in the last two months or so, it’s a blur, I was slowly reversing out of a parking bay when someone drove in to the back corner of the car.  Their passenger side front corner impacted my passenger side rear corner.  The insurance company didn’t even bother debating it, I was reversing so my fault.  I would maintain I checked, it was clear, I reversed slowly, and someone travelling too quickly drove in to the car.  However, I’m now £300 worse off (excess) and we’ll see what it does to the premium.  First insurance accident claim we’ve ever made, since Greté started driving in 1997ish.  Not a big deal, but I’ve never had to deal with car insurance companies, and my natural ‘must follow the rules to the letter’ behaviour gets in the way when those rules are fucking unclear and contradictory.  Just another spoon theft I don’t need.

Fizz has been unwell for a few months now.  She had full on heart failure a while back and we got to her to the vets and essentially saved her life.  Since then, we’ve been extra vigilant, as you might imagine, and are managing her thyroid issue, and several other conditions.  Over the past month though she’s had another serious health scare, and a couple of periods of extreme lethargy, including yesterday.  We felt we might lose her overnight, but this morning she seemed brighter.  We took her to the vets at 6pm today though, to be safe, and they’ve kept her in overnight for more tests.  She may be anaemic which has many possible causes.  She’s 16, and we’ll need to think carefully about how we manage her quality of life in the face of any new challenges.

Work is bitter-sweet.  There’s some good news coming for me personally, a new challenge, new opportunity, but it’s amid a complex, ego-driven, murky, cost-saving-focussed organisational battle.  People are burning out, and being burned out.  I look around and wonder if this is what failing organisations look like, but we refuse to believe it.  Or maybe I’m just more exposed to it now that I have an increased level of involvement in senior management.  Who knows.  I still manage to leave it behind when I get home, for the most part, which is a bonus over the job I had before, and some days it’s so terrible it’s truly funny and easy to rise above.  But I hate when people suffer, and I see a lot of suffering, and some days it saps energy I need to use to be taking care of Greté and the shit above.  When work consumes too many spoons, the balance is broken.

Greté continues to suffer at the hands of the DSS, in parallel to suffering at the hands of her health issues, one of which is literally suffering of her hands.  Around this time last year we got the regular invite to fill in the WCA form, which we duly did, and we waited.  We got an appointment in January for the face to face assessment,  and then last minute it was cancelled.  Apparently, they didn’t have ‘anyone with the specialist skill required to assess her’.  Okay, at least they were honest.  We waited for a new appointment.  And waited.  And waited.  And finally in September, we received this,

Your appointment at 2.45pm on Thursday 17th JANUARY has been rescheduled for Monday 16th of SEPTEMBER

Literally nine months.  Greté called them on the Friday before to ensure the recording equipment was available as instructed, to be told that it was being rescheduled because they’d got the booking wrong and hadn’t lined up a doctor.  For. Fucks. Sake.  They moved it to October 8th, making it nearer to ten months since the original invite and pretty much 11 months since we’d filled in the original WCA.  In that eleven months, Greté’s health has gotten worse, and medication has changed, and and and …

Anyway, we attended, the assessment went ahead, the audio recording equipment (actual C90 tapes) failed just over half way through but we got through it.  Ultimately, on October 24th Greté received the notice that she’d been placed (kept) in the ESA Support Group.  That’s the group that means you do not need to seek employment to continue receiving the ‘benefit’.  No indication of when that will be reviewed next, when we have to start that whole dehumanising process all over again, but it’s done for now.

Tragically, we won’t soon forget the date Greté got that news (which is bitter-sweet in and of itself).  It was also the day we found out that our dear friend, Lynda, had passed away overnight.

We’ve known Lynda for a long time, and I’ll keep personal details out of this entirely to maintain her dignity.  She lived with and in-spite of multiple serious medical conditions, she gave no quarter, she smiled and never stopped.  She didn’t fight her illness, nor lose to it, she rose above it in life knowing the inevitable conclusion.  We will miss her forever.

None of these issues individually are unmanageable.  Some are tragic and heart breaking, some are annoying, some are frustrating.  But at the same time, grouped together, with some of them being a constant nagging worry / fear, sapping energy and spoons, they’re impacting both mine and Greté’s mental health in ways neither of us need.

We’ll be okay, we’ll get through.  I have a good credit rating, there’s equity in the property, the vets are looking after Fizz, and we’ll be able to handle anything which transpires, but fuck me it feels hard sometimes.