Tag Archives: Health

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.

An open letter to BioWare: Thank you

I broke my foot (lisfranc fracture) and arm (upper humerus, with displacement) playing short tennis on holiday in late August 2016.  I had surgery on both of them (plates and pins) and have been recovering since the start of September.  The first few weeks of that meant no use of my foot at all, so stuck in one room in the house peeing into a bottle and using a commode.  My arm was in a sling, and I was under strict orders not to bear any load on it.  For the past few weeks, I’ve had a heel-load bearing cast on my foot, which means I can hobble short distances, but I’m still pretty much limited to a single room because I need to keep the foot elevated as much as possible.

When my wife spoke to the occupational therapist (they did a home visit before the hospital would discharge me) they talked about exercises and what I could and couldn’t do, and my wife mentioned the consoles.  The OT was quite happy for me to use the Xbox One controller, because it would exercise my wrist and fingers without putting any load on my arm, and keep some activity in that part of my body.

Mass Effect 2 LogoI was in too much pain for the first few days at home to do anything though – which meant a lot of television.  Eventually I decided to stop the brain rot caused by that and whacked Mass Effect 1 into the Xbox One now that it’s playable under the backwards compatibility feature.  I completed a full play-through with all the DLC.  That led to Mass Effect 2 (360 only, not backwards compatible yet) and some fun and games getting the ME1 saves to import (saved on the Xbox One, but used on the 360).  Another full play-through with all DLC.  Inevitably, I finished ME3 (and all DLC)! after that as well.  It’s not the first time I’ve played them, although I’ve played ME2 most, I’ve completed ME1 and ME3 a couple of times at least.  I think that was around 120 hours of gaming.

I have Dragon Age: Origins, Dragon Age: Origins – Awakenings and Dragon Age II, but only on the 360 (and it was started to smell pretty hot on the days I played ME2 and ME3).  Also, although I absolutely love DA:O & DAOA they do feel a tiny bit tired now.  I’m not as enamoured with DA II overall, although the DLC improves it.  So, I put Dragon Age: Inquisition into the Xbox One and then played that (and all the DLC, which is new to me), and have just finished.  164 hours in total.

One hundred, and sixty four hours of game play.

daI’ve loved BioWare games for a long time, they’re a part of my gaming history on the PC and consoles.  Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights have special places in my gaming memory.  I loved the dialog, I loved the characters and the phrases.  Hell, myself, my wife and our gaming friends are still using quotes from the Baldur’s Gate series1 , when roleplaying, gaming and sometimes shopping.

Here’s a short list of why I love the games.

  1. Commitment to single player content.  Look I get it, I played Everquest for over 7 years – I was seriously into that MMO, so I know the joy of gaming online with actual real folk, having conversations with real human beings and sitting up until 4 o’clock in the morning with someone you’ve never met to help them win a piece of loot that’s just pixels backed by a database entry.  I understand multi-player fun.  But when I’m playing multi-player games, I want to collaborate.  I don’t play tabletop roleplaying games to fight against the players, and if I play online multi-player games I don’t want PvP to be the whole point, even if it’s team based.  More than that – sometimes I want a single player experience.  Sometimes I want to read a book on my own, not watch a movie with 300 other people, and gaming is no different.  I want to be the protagonist, to drive the story with a supporting cast, at my own pace, using my own imagination and in my own little world.  You guys deliver that, you guys get it, and you guys clearly love it.  Please, never lose that.
  2. Massive games.  Truly huge.  With structure.  Not huge in the Oblivion or Morrowind ‘er where do I go now’ way, but huge in scope and content, with a solid, structured layered story that helps you decide where to go and what to do when you get there.  It’s a truly fine balance and you guys usually tread it perfectly.
  3. Dialog.  You don’t always get it right, but when you do, it’s sublime.  It might be cheesy, it might be corny, it might be sentimental, but man we love it.  I love it.
  4. Complex morality decisions.  I cure the genophage every time, I have to, someone else might get it wrong.  But every time I’m forced to think about it, to think about the nuances and the impact.  I forgave the Wardens.  I unify the quarians and the geth, even though I know it’s futile, because fuck war.  Sometimes, I sit and stare at a single conversation option for 10 minutes, sometimes longer.  Do I save you and condemn the galaxy, or do I condemn you and save the castle.  Yes please.  More.
  5. Characters.  Your characters will stick with me for ever.  No less than some of the best books I’ve ever read.  Minsc, Wrex, Tali (yes, yes, I’m always a Talimancer), Oghren, these are characters I’ll never forget, and the interactions between them all are moments I’ll enjoy like the best form of entertainment in any genre.

You don’t make games.  You make interactive fiction of the highest order, and I salute you.

I have loved your games for a long time, and stuck in one room for weeks has allowed me to enjoy them all over again with an intensity usually disrupted by trivial things like sleep, eating and work.  In a world of expensive entertainment, your games offer some of the best return in pure gaming enjoyment, well before you factor in any of the ongoing conversations, memories and replays.

Long may it continue, long may you continue, and long may you focus on content rich, single player focussed interactive fiction which puts the player in charge of the outcomes.

In summary – thank you for the last 18 years of games, and thank you for keeping me occupied during my recuperation.

NB: This time, I actually didn’t mind the ME3 endings either, I tried all three, I’m sure the blue one is best overall.  No spoilers.

NB2: Now the 360 has cooled down, maybe I should give DA:O and DA:OA another shot.  Tired or not, I think it’s time a lowly dwarf from Orzammar saved the world, again.

  1. Give a man a fish and he can eat for a day, give him a sword and he can chow down on the marrow of evil! []

How come it’s only Wednesday?

Feels like it should be at least half way through Thursday by now, if not next Tuesday.  We finally got Greté’s ESA submission completed and sent off.  It arrived on the 8th December, just in time for Christmas.  So thoughtful of them.  As usual, the mere existence of the form made a big dent in Greté’s confidence and overall management of her depression.  Being asked to describe how bad your illness is so that someone else can judge whether it’s bad enough to deserve welfare isn’t exactly the most confidence building of actions.  Doing so when you’ve had to appeal and subsequently win twice previously just makes it all the harder.

I’m still not convinced the financial cost of processing the ESA submissions and subsequent appeals outweighs the financial cost of just paying anyone who applies for it in the first place (never mind the health cost to those affected).  There’s a flat percentage of people who’ll take the piss, and they don’t mind lying on the forms.  Most honest people who aren’t trying to deceive anyone are honest on the forms anyway, and still get rejected until the appeal stage.  I don’t see how anyone wins at this process.

Anyway, we’ve filled in the forms, honestly, and we’ve included the letter we sent in for the 2013 appeal, and we’ll see what that results in.  We’ll keep trying to manage the impact on Greté’s health and hopefully get her back to a more stable position.

Update from the snot-front

Grete’s still pretty ill, she had a mix of sickness-bug and cold yesterday, her temperature got up over 102 last night.  We spent the early part of the night just trying to keep her cooled down, she’s a little better today.  I’ve still got a cough (and the associated headache) and generally snot-issues, also feel like I still have a temperature.

Really sucks the energy from you – the house looks like a bomb site which is a real shame since it was really clean when our friends visited.  We’ve been existing on whatever food is in the house or takeaway.  We managed to get out today and pick up some food though so that should help.

With the lack of energy comes a lack of writing for NaNoWriMo, but I’m confident I’ll start up again in a few days, despite now being three days behind.

And today is the 4th November, which means Americans get out to vote (in case you hadn’t noticed).  Good luck Obama.  Good luck America.