Sunday, June 29, 2008

ATOS Calling

11.30 am, Sunday morning, and the telephone rings. The caller asks if I’m me, a disembodied voice from ATOS, the private medical arm employed by the DWP, proffering me a date to attend a medical in York. It has got to be York (not Leeds, my preferred option next to a home visit), in the most dismally oppressive claustrophobic building, where one is locked in the waiting room, outer door locked behind you and the door to reception locked in front of you. If you need the toilet, one has to get the attention of the receptionist and traverse the corridors beyond the receptionists room; an ideal setting for people who have problems with their physical and/or mental health.

The date suggested by the disembodied one is a Tuesday, to which I have to point out that I’d already explained on my form that Wednesdays are the only day when my beloved chauffeuse is available to transport me there. Of course, they had an available time on the Wednesday so they’ll be sending a confirmation letter regarding the date and time of the appointment.

In less than one year’s time, I shall be in receipt of a State Pension, as well as a couple of other policies maturing; the big question is, will I be in receipt of incapacity benefit until that time? The unpredictable nature of my condition, how I will be from one day to the next, (the only certainty being that if I overdo it I’ll be wrecked for several succeeding days), has prevented me from taking on any voluntary work or having what I used to consider a normal social life. To be honest, if I was to declare myself as being available for paid employment, I would be lying to myself as well as any potential employer. I’m sure they’d all rush for the opportunity to give employment on the basis that I would only attend when I was fit or alert enough to attend, at the whim of my erratic achingly exhausted body.

The only viable option, should they (under their remit to attack the most vulnerable members of society) deny my eligibility for IB, is to live off my savings, and make the necessary national insurance contributions, for the next eleven months.

Just something I had to get off my chest, at the same time acknowledging that there are far too many people in a worse predicament and condition than myself. I just wonder why I should be made to feel guilty about having a health condition which is not immediately obvious, except to those like my beloved who have to live with its effects.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Mal Takes Stock

Today's general blog post, TAKING STOCK, can be found on 'Mal's Murmurings'. I have also posted some poems from the archives on both 'Mal's Factory' and 'Archive Mined and Freshly Spun'.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Archbishops fail to condemn violence against lesbians and gays | Ekklesia

When given the example of a lesbian women from Uganda who had applied for asylum in the UK after being jailed, raped in the police station, and marched for two miles naked through the streets of Uganda, Archbishop Akinola said: "That's one example. The laws in your countries say that homosexual acts, actions are punishable by various rules. I don't need to argue."

"If the practice (homosexuality) is now found to be in our society" he continued, "it is of service to be against it. Alright, and to that extent what my understanding is, is that those that are responsible for law and order will want to prevent wholesale importation of foreign practices and traditions, that are not consistent with native standards, native way of life."

Archbishops fail to condemn violence against lesbians and gays | Ekklesia

Presumably Akinola and his ilk would also remain silent in the case of violence being practiced against supporters of the foreign practice and tradition of Christianity, inconsistent with the native way of life.

There are times when I think that Jesus, with his stance against bigotry and injustice, died in vain.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Spice of Life

Do you ever get that feeling that you’ve been bone idle for the past ten days or so, until someone reminds you just what you’ve achieved? I know, by my generally shattered state of being, that I’ve not been quite so lazy as I like to imagine; if anything, I’ve probably overdone it but, when one’s level of emotional and physical stamina is at the most one third of those distant pre-illness days, it’s far too easy to fall into that trap.

The paucity of blog postings has little to do with having nothing to say, more a case of not knowing where to begin or, even having sufficient emotional resource to make such a complicated decision.

The recent trip to Northampton, even though I spent much of the time resting, took more of a toll than I’d realized at first; so often these events catch up with one when it’s least expected! Still, they do say “variety is the spice of life”, in which case I’m a very lucky man; variety of the surprise kind must be even spicier than that of one’s chosen course of action!

Most of my activities have been garden and greenhouse related; assembling a “love seat” adjacent to the garden pond, building a small cairn of reclaimed stones, boulders, granite, sandstone and limestone, to provide a little haven for various insects and wee beasties in the wildlife end of the garden, as well as re-potting a few of the tomato plants. I’ve also lost track of the number of tomato plants we’ve given away. The fact that my beloved has been on holiday from work, and doing a splendid job of tackling some of the more tenacious weeds in borders and rockeries, has served as a splendid incentive for me to slightly expand my usual pottering about activities.

As I’ve been writing this, I’ve been somewhat distracted by a 35 minute commercial for the Spanish Tourist Board, on BBC1, under the title ‘Songs of Praise’. So now I know where not to go on holiday, to the Costa del Sol, as it seems to be primarily a community for British expatriates, a haven for golfers and visitors to zoos. The tourism promo was occasionally interrupted by hymn singing!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Many Happy Returns

I make little secret of the fact that I’m not the best of travellers so, having just returned from a visit to Northampton, today is going to be a rather quiet celebration of my birthday. At the time the Beatles released “When I’m 64”, such a great age seemed almost unimaginable for this wreck of a twenty-something but, now I’m there, health problems notwithstanding I’m going through one of the happiest periods of my life. My only requirement for contentment is the presence of ma belle amoureuse, tending to the garden when stamina permits, and observing the flora and fauna hereabouts.

Sorry; that paragraph took off in a direction I hadn’t anticipated, even though every bit of it is true. Come to think of it, any direction my rambling takes is something of a surprise, not exactly stream-of –consciousness more rivulets-of-idleness. I don’t even know what I intended to say; just crossed my fingers and trusted in the keyboard to make it plain!

Let’s start at the very beginning, it’s a very good place to start; when you read you begin with A,B,C, when you write you begin with me, me, me … So, travelling is the cue. The reason for the visit to Northampton was, for my beloved to celebrate her sister Margaret’s 70th birthday; the six siblings were to go out for a celebratory dinner on the Friday lunch time. Helen and myself don’t like the idea of being apart for even one night, so we decided that I would travel down with her, provided I could overcome my travel anxieties. Being a poor traveller, this necessitated a two night stay, arriving on the Thursday afternoon and returning home on Saturday morning.

Most of my time on the Friday was spent in our room, at The Innkeepers Lodge, resting and sleeping. I occasionally ventured out to amble around the pine tree surrounded grounds of the establishment and, grabbed a couple of starters in lieu of a main meal at the adjacent carvery. I’m grateful for the time spent sleeping, otherwise, it would have seemed an extremely long day whilst my beloved was out with her siblings. What kept me going was the thought of being back home around lunchtime the following day. Please note, it’s the arrival that matters not the journey.

The return journey went much more smoothly than we could possibly have anticipated but, nothing can match the joy of ones return to the homestead.

A highlight of the return journey was a sign, presumably referring to ongoing maintenance work, stating “DELAYS ARE LIKELY UNTIL AUTUMN 2010”; my God, I thought, I have difficulty coping with a ten minute hold-up (hyper-ventilating panic attacks etc.), I don’t think I can survive one for 2 ¼ years.

A little further along the motorway, a large poster in an adjacent field read, “PREPARE TO MEET YOUR GOD”. The way some people were driving, crossing lanes without signalling, cutting in without leaving an appropriate space between the other vehicles, it seemed quite ominous. If the intent was to proselytize, it was sufficiently distracting to ensure that potential converts may not survive long enough to repent or convert. Must admit, I appreciated it more as the work of a prankster with a sick sense of humour, rather than a wayside pulpit.

This posting also appears on Mal's Murmurings

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Let The Sunshine ...

Glorious sunshine today, rather too warm to risk doing too much pottering about and, Cathy who had joined us for lunch (one of my special chicken & vegetable Madras dishes, served with saffron rice and a side-dish of tomatoes and cucumber in natural yoghurt) basked on one of our sun-loungers close to the garden pond, whilst my beloved sought the shade of the parasol.

Heat notwithstanding, after a little postprandial rest, my beloved boldly managed to fight a victorious struggle with invasive ground elder and yellow loosestrife as she cleared some of the shadier areas of the garden for me to plant some of the pansies we’d been given yesterday.

Having mentioned yesterday, I should mention our enjoyment of Afternoon Tea in the local Methodist Chapel. Although the chapel has not been used for worship for a considerable time, the former members (now dispersed elsewhere in the circuit) meet occasionally for coffee mornings and other social events, the proceeds from which all go to charity. Although I never actually attended this chapel, I’m made to feel very much a part of the community.

Had this event been on Friday, I certainly wouldn’t have been in any fit state to attend, the entire day having been spent, by yours truly, in an achingly exhausted woozily zonked-out state of being. Much of this zonked-out state, I suspect, was in response to the previous days acupuncture treatment. The overall effects of the treatment, in terms of pain-relief and energy boosting, are invariably most beneficial but, I have rather learned to expect this preliminary slump before the positivity shines through.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

a glorious compensation

The garden is alive with cheeps, twitters and chirps, as generations of our avian friends share the feeders and the wilder area of the garden. Wherever one looks, the garden is abuzz with their activity. Juveniles squeal, wings all a tremble, seeking attention, their gapes extended in eager anticipation.

I always enjoy these garden gatherings; the species may be common enough, starlings, blackbirds, collar doves, wood pigeons, house sparrows and dunnocks, being the most frequent attendees. Blue tits and coal tits weave their flight between feeders, shrubs and plants – I suspect a lot of greenfly and other bugs are being garnered to feed their young.

Each time I wander to the kitchen door, for the occasional nicotine fix, I’m cheered to hear the glorious concatenation of bird song; a glorious compensation on those days when either the elements or lack of stamina prevent me from pottering around out there myself.