Back to normal

No 34    Wednesday 14 November 2012

What happened to October? I didn’t produce a blog then.  The probable reason is that, inexplicably, I have been feeling low - not depressed or anything like that but it just seems that the whole day is taken up with ordinary things, mostly domestic ones. Anyway I’m now back to feeling my normal self (or as normal as I ever am).

I went to the supermarket today for my usual shopping expedition and  took advantage of the few reduced price items that were on my shopping list. I find it is a good idea to have a shopping list because then I only buy what is needed and it cuts down the time I have to be in the store. My only complaint is that there seems to be a tendency to pack some things in packages of 2 or more. This is all very well for families or even couples but when I want a Cornish pasty and find they’re in packages of 4 or 6 it is no use to me. In addition the Morrison’s supermarket (which is my nearest) has introduced a system for Christmas whereby if you spend more than £40 for a few weeks you get a £25 discount for Christmas. The problem with this, for me, is that I have never spent £40 in the whole time I have been going there. My average spend is around £28 - so, in effect, I am losing out by being unable to take advantage of this system. These systems, which effectively only reward people with a bigger consumption than I have, mean that people like me are on the losing end of these promotions.

The business of dictating the titles of tracks on CDs, which I mentioned in my last blog, is now virtually complete I still have one double album to do - which found its way to the last spot because the print is quite small and it has a lot of tracks with names which my program won’t recognise. I therefore have to type them in on the keyboard, which takes considerably longer. The current totals on the JB7, and this is before most of my vinyl records have been added, are albums 507 and actual tracks somewhere over 8500. I still have quite a lot of sorting out to do and this includes checking the spelling and arrangement of lots of track names.

A little while ago I decided it was about time I had my eyes checked and replaced my spectacles. I went along to Optical Express (where I had been previously) had my eyes tested and ordered some spectacles to the correct settings. While I was waiting for the order to be completed the company closed their Gloucester branch and it ended up that I had to go to Cheltenham to collect my order. Apart from the time it took and the inconvenience of making the journey it didn’t cost me anything because I have a free pass on the bus - which has recently been renewed for a further 5 years. This covers anywhere in Gloucestershire although my main usage is within Gloucester and even then, if the weather is inclement, I either use a taxi or stay at home!!


Health etc.

No. 33    Thursday 27 September 2012

Late again - as usual!! It was only because I am using my word recognition program to enter the track names of the CDs which I have recorded, that I remembered I hadn’t put anything on my blog lately. All of my CDs are now on my clever machine (a Brennan JB7) but I ended up with 77 of the 479 which it didn’t recognise from its database. It takes quite a while to dictate all the track names especially with a CD, which I had recently, with 28 tracks. At least I am progressing albeit very slowly.

A couple of weeks ago I had almost 2 days in hospital, not my most favourite place to stay. It turned out that the probable cause of my feeling seriously unwell was due to 2 different tablets which I take for different functions had similar side-effects which doubled the result. This meant that between them they dropped my blood pressure a little too far - that was the explanation the consultant gave. Thinking back that also explains problems which I had intermittently since January and which two visits to A&E, the attentions of three doctors, multiple ECGs and numerous blood and urine tests had failed to solve. Now all I have to do is reduce the frequency of one of the tablets - with the approval of my GP.

My stay in hospital was not as horrid as I was expecting. The nurses were very good, cheerful and obliging. I have to keep a rolled up crêpe bandage in my right hand to stop it closing up altogether, and the one I was using when I went into hospital was pretty grubby because I hadn’t got around to making a new one. One of the assistant nurses on the night I was there had noticed this and asked if she should make me a new one. I explained to her how it was done and so now I have a nice clean one which she prepared for me. I also found that the food for the one main meal which I had there was very good and was served warm in a rather clever insulated container. I had chicken and ham pie and the lady who served it to me was kind enough to cut it up so that I could eat it with a spoon (a necessity because of my limited hand use).

I feel sorry for all the people affected by the recent flooding in various parts of the UK. At least Gloucester has escaped this time but I think that where I am living is very unlikely to suffer from floods, even though I have a small stream at the bottom of the garden. This stream runs in a channel which is about 2 m below the lower part of my garden which in turn is about 1 m below the upper part. When I bought this bungalow checks were done to see if there had been any flooding in the past - fortunately the result was negative.


CDs & moves

No.32    Saturday 25 August 2012

Exactly a month since my last blog - at least at least I've got a sort of excuse - the machine I mentioned in my last blog, on which to record my music, arrived a couple of weeks ago. It is absolutely magic and does all sorts of very clever things so I have been loading my CDs onto it. It takes about 10 min to load a CD provided that the details are on the database (which is absolutely massive) otherwise it takes quite a while to type in all the title of each track. Of the things I have saved so far I find that the database had about 92% of those I wanted to save. Those that were not in the database I am saving until later - to do a couple each day (perhaps).

I have been watching programmes called “Escape to the Country” and it struck me that I have been doing the reverse, escaping from the country. When we retired in 1998 we lived in a bungalow which we had bought in a hamlet in mid Wales (about 13 miles from Aberystwyth). In 2004 (my wife had died in 2001) I moved to a house in Coleford in the Forest of Dean which I suppose could be described as a country town. I had only been there for three months when I had my accident and spent the subsequent 10 months in various hospitals. During that time my sons had the house checked and found that it could not be adapted to take a lift to get me upstairs in a wheelchair so it had to be sold. Its replacement was a shared ownership house in Cheltenham (I owned a 65% of it). When a good proportion of my compensation came through I looked around for a house which could be altered to suit my requirements exactly and found the one I am in now in Gloucester. I have been here for nearly 3 years and the modifications that I had done have proved to make it ideal for wheelchair use. Although it was spread over five years that was my escape from the country - but I shouldn't think it would make much of a television programme!!

What a lot of people, especially older people, don't realise is that escaping to the country throws up all sorts of problems. There is the problem of shopping - where we were it was nearly a half hours drive to get to a supermarket. The next problem is weather - councils don't do anything about clearing or gritting remote country roads in fact we were lucky in that a local farmer cleared the worst snow off the roads with his tractor. There is also the difficulty of communication - many country areas do not have broadband and sometimes even the telephone system is a bit patchy. The final noticeable one is the distance from relatives - we were over a three-hour journey away, which is all very well if you're young and fit, but when you become older and more unsteady it is rather a long way for people to come and help - especially in an emergency!!

The wheelchair trial, which I mentioned last time, happened this week and the chair did everything I wanted it to in the spaces that I had available. I gather they are going to get one for me - but this will take about six weeks. The new one is much better over uneven surfaces than my old one in that the latter flexes a lot over bumps and rough surfaces where is the new one is much more solid. The lady who has tested me on it and who brought it to my home is an Occupational Therapist. When I discovered that I knew I was in safe hands because all the experiences I have had with them have been good ones and they really are the most knowledgeable people. We had about one for every four patients in the Spinal Unit at Salisbury and it was as much their guidance and efforts as that of the Physiotherapists which made it possible for me to live independently.



No. 31    Wednesday 25 July 2012

 Almost another month since I added my random thoughts to these pages. I don't know where the time goes but I have some idea that this delay is due to inclination as much as anything else. It isn't that I dislike doing blogs, in fact it's an opportunity to stick some of my wanderings down on paper, but I sometimes need the time when I don't have anything else to do for a little while so that I can do something about clearing everyday thoughts into some sort of order.

The wheelchair assessment, which I mentioned in my last blog, went off satisfactorily and it was decided that I need another one. Next month they are going to bring me one (similar to the one I tried at the assessment) to try around the house and if it is still okay then they will order me a new one. The advantage of the new one is that the back is adjustable electrically as is the ability to tilt (the seat and the back together). This means that I am not going to be fixed in one position as I am in this chair. The chair which I use for outdoor use, which I bought myself, is even more adjustable than this - it can even raise the seat about a foot which I use occasionally.

My comments in the last blog about watching television have been borne out by the BBC channels going Olympics mad. So much so that I leave my television sets tuned to Sky News instead of the BBC, and I find that, apart from the batches of adverts, it is as good and in some ways preferable. I have two televisions one in the sitting room and one in the bedroom. The sitting room one is on the Virgin Media cable system and the bedroom one on Freeview - which doubles up the channel numbers which I have to remember.

Among the piles of storage which I have in the second bedroom and in the garage is my collection of LP records. I have ordered a machine which stores music in MP3 format which will record from most sources. As my record collection is quite large (about 800) I decided that this would be a good idea. I did get a cheap record player to see if I could work records with my hand limitations - and found that they are not really steady enough when putting the stylus onto the record nor is the grip sufficient to get the records out of the sleeves. Because of this I have found a firm in Birmingham who will collect, convert to MP3, and deliver the records to me. They will record the MP3 recordings onto a hard drive (which I can then use as a backup) and also on a USB stick (for each batch that they do) which I can load onto the machine which I have ordered.

 Today was a shopping day when I take a 10 min ride to the nearby supermarket to stock up for the next five or six days (that's how long bananas last). To help my memory I prepare a shopping list on my mobile which I normally check before I leave the store. Today I forgot to check the list until I got home and found there was one item that I had forgotten!! Fortunately it wasn't something urgent and I can get it when I go shopping again on Monday. At least that was a change from forgetting to take my mobile altogether!!



No. 30     Thursday 28 June 2012

I think I must have syncopated blogs. My reasoning for this is that somebody once described syncopation in music as "staggering irregularly from bar to bar" and looking back my blogs seem to be staggering irregularly from month to month!! Anyway at least I have managed to start another one today - and I don't know why it has taken me so long.

The solar panels, which I mentioned in my last blog, are working well. Everything was fitted as planned and it didn't even take a whole day for the actual fitting and electrics to be done. The panels produce something even on a cloudy day but on a day when there is wall-to-wall sunshine it is obviously better. A cloudy day, at its worst, will produce about a fifth of the electricity that are fully sunny day will produce - even so that bodes well for the winter. I get paid 21p for each unit generated and 3.1p for each unit exported back to the National Grid. In the legislation about solar panels the government has decreed that, for smaller units (like mine), it will assume that we export 50% - which is, I suppose, a fair average. I was advised by the surveyor who fitted them that I should use as much of my electricity during the day as possible, for example charging my wheelchairs or using a washing machine, thus using my own electricity.

When my indoor wheelchair was checked, some time ago, they noticed that I needed some adjustments, so they fiddled some of them. I think the problem is that I never had a proper assessment done when I first had this wheelchair - I was just presented with it. As a result I am going to have a proper assessment done on Monday (2nd) which means I have to go to Cheltenham. Fortunately the assessment is in the afternoon so it gives me plenty of time to collect my scattered wits - I am not at my best early in the morning.

As far as watching television is concerned I will be very glad when the summer is over what with Euro 2012, Wimbledon, the Olympics and Paralympics and even the Olympic torch relay. These all seem to monopolise some of the TV channels but at least some of the channels which I prefer to watch are not blighted by this problem. I won't carry on about this because I explained my sporting interests in blog No. 28.

I am having an interesting problem with my printer. Microsoft put out a number of updates recently one of which has upset the communication between computer and printer. I have found a way round this which is just a little bit long winded but I don't need to use the printer very often. It would be nice if Microsoft got their act together a little better before putting out updates which have an adverse effect on other programs. I have a feeling that a small problem I had with Dragon NaturallySpeaking (the program which converts my speaking to typescript) was also due to this batch of updates - however that problem is now sorted. I use this Dragon program whenever I have a significant amount of typing to do such as these blogs or longish e-mails. The reason for this is that, only being able to type with one hand, my typing is very slow.



No.29    Sunday 20 May 2012

This must be an improvement, only 14 days since the last blog!! Recently I did some more clothes shopping (on line) basically for trousers because the ones I had were getting a bit tatty. In addition I decided to get some colour coordination into my very limited wardrobe. Getting trousers and other items intended for disabled people can be a bit difficult but sometime ago I found an excellent company who specialise in such things - Able2wear - based in Scotland. What a lot of people don't realise is that sitting down in a wheelchair trousers need to be higher at the back for comfort, furthermore users of a leg bag need more space in the trouser leg to accommodate this. With this company all those little considerations, and more, can be taken into account - and they produce clothes of all sorts, for men women and children, for all kinds of disability. Their website is and it gives a good picture of their wide range of products.

My fitness improvement seems to be variable at the moment, one day up one day down, for example yesterday I was bright enough to go by wheelchair the 10 min ride to the supermarket to shop for frozen meals. Today I was certainly not fit enough to go to my Quaker Meeting this morning. There seems to be something about Sundays because most of my bad spells have been on a Sunday.

I have decided to go for the Japanese solar panels because the company that supplies them (and fits them) seems better organised; they even provided all the information, and quotation, on a USB stick shaped like a business card. The scaffolding (for access to the roof) should be installed tomorrow and the panels on Tuesday so hopefully my next blog will be able to report on the success or otherwise of the scheme. I don't know if I will be round long enough to see the advantage of the electricity savings over the cost of the installation but it is going to be an interesting exercise.

Thinking about some of my music I often wonder what Gilbert and Sullivan would have made of the RAF if it had been around in their time. After all they made fun of the legal system (Trial by Jury), the police and army (Pirates of Penzance), the Navy (HMS Pinafore) and the Japanese (The Mikado). Of course in music there are various types of humour, and not all artists are always funny, for example Noël Coward has got some very cleverly comic songs in among other stuff; Mrs Worthington and The Stately Homes of England being among them. On the other hand someone like Bob Newhart is almost always amusing. I think I have more than 15 different artists who have come up with amusing songs or monologues.



No 28    Sunday 6 May 2012

With my last blog I must have been a little premature because for the last week I have been significantly unwell. I suspect that some of this is due to the side-effects of an antibiotic which was prescribed for me and, fortunately, I take the last dose on Monday morning. I won't bother you with the peculiarities of what laid me low because I seem to spend too much time detailing my troubles.

This is not the place for politics so, apart from saying I didn't vote for any of the major parties, I will merely mention that it is nice and convenient for me to be able to vote by post. The ballot paper arrives in plenty of time, and usually I am able to get my vote in before I start getting paperwork from the various political parties - only three of the five candidates in this ward even bothered to send anything. Needless to say the guy I voted for was not elected!!

With the World Snooker Championships on I have been watching rather more television than is good for me. I do not normally watch sporting programmes apart from occasional car racing, but with snooker it is slow enough for the speed at which I can think comfortably. I cannot understand why people get all worked up about football, rugby, tennis, etc. But then I have not been interested in any of them anyway which presumably explains my lack of understanding. I even got through my Air Force career doing nothing more energetic than smallbore rifle shooting, acting as scorer at a cricket match and playing three games of badminton which I couldn't talk my way out of.

I have decided to have solar panels fitted on the roof of the bungalow. One of the agents who came to give me a free survey told me that my roof was almost ideally positioned - at just the right angle and not far off facing south. I have had three surveys done and am still trying to decide between two of them - there seems to be little to choose between them in that cost and performance are both pretty similar. It looks as though it is going to be down to whether I want Japanese or American or German panels.

Flanders and Swann certainly knew what they were making fun of when it came to their Song of the Weather - the verses for April and May seem to fit what we've had this year;

April brings the sweet spring showers,
    on and on for hours and hours
Farmers fear a kindly May,
    frost by night and hail by day.

I will give your eyes a rest now and pack up for this issue - hopefully there won't be such a long gap until the next one.