I’m bored with alphabetizing my DVDs

Friday 3 May, 2019

Sometimes when I couldn’t sleep when I was younger, I used to rearrange my CDs. It would be like a rota of late night organising to see me through my insomnia, until I felt tired enough to sleep. Sometimes I would swap from them being alphetised by artist and band, to alphabetising them by album names. Sometimes I would rearrange them so that all the bands beginning with “The” would be alphabetised so that the second word was what was counted – The Beatles came under B, The Beach Boys came under B, The Beautiful South… also came under B…. I guess I like a lot of bands who begin with B. Oh, I also like The Ataris, and they would come under A, and of course, The Proclaimers, who would come under P. So now we all know how the alphabet works, I’ll move on.

The VHSes were put through similar flights of my fancy, in the day during school holidays. We didn’t have many (as in with case and cover) because we tended to tape off the telly (and we had loads of those!) but at one point my parents were members of a VHS club, and I don’t know what the terms and conditions were or even why, but every month for a while, we got a fancy schmancy full on VHS (as in not taped off the telly) through the letterbox. This meant that we had Stephen Seagal films, James Bond films, various thrillers and the occasional rom com. In fact, it was the sudden prevalence of Romcoms, which my parents did not watch, which led to my parents ending their subscription to this film club in the end. But, thanks to that club, we did have 4 Weddings and a Funeral, While You Were Sleeping, and a Tom Hanks one I can’t really put a name to. And what I used to do was, I would rearange them from alphabetical, to rating, to genre, to colour of the case – and it used to annoy the crap out of me that so many James Bond films had that black and gold spine, but then randomly one was blue!? And then, after my Dad bought some tapes from the local renting tape shop’s closing down sale, we also had two oversized white VHS cases, which was even worse than blue! How was I meant to keep our tapes in some sort of order with that?

I’ll tell you how, sometimes I also rearranged by height.

Anyway, lately in my life, it’s been a bit stressful.  I’ve not been well, i’ve had problems with my wheelchair, I’ve been trying my hardest to keep my head above water on my degree, and so as a source of comfort, or maybe just plain old disctraction, I’ve been itching but unable to rearrange my DVDs. I’m physically no longer capable of kneeling, sitting on the floor, or bending. So if I want my DVDs arranged, not for a whim but because I’ve been on a DVD sale purchasing binge (hello, CEX 10p DVDs! And also hi charity shops that sell three DVDs for £1!), I have to wait to have time with someone – usually my PA – to put them in the order for me.

But lately…. alphabetising hasn’t felt “right”. Like with the CDs and the VHS, I need to change it up and around a bit. I can’t physically do it myself right now, but if I was able to…. I’m unsure as to how. As in, I don’t know which order I should change it to.

I considered by rating, but they actually changed the rating system in 2002, so I don’t want to do that on principle of not liking 12A as a rating. I think it’s ridiculous and just very, very unneccesary.

I could go by colour, and I’m tempted to go by colour, I have a couple of pink spines there that would make it interesting, but there’s a lot of black spines too and I can see that being a problem for directing people to the right movie for me.

I’m extremely tempted to arrange by genre. I feel like the boredom of alphabetising is shoved over quite forcefully when I think of arranging by genre! It’s exciting to think about! I’ve been alphabetising my DVDs for 10 years! By genre will be a new experience! But it’s also complicated. Which genre goes first? Do I alphabetise the genres? I plan to alphabetise inside the genres, as in 10 Things I Hate About You would go before 27 dresses in the romcom section, so it would make sense, but should Romcom come before Thriller, for example?

And exactly what genres are there? Because I look at my DVDs and I see (some) romcoms, I see animated Disney, non-animated Disney, Disney Pixar, I see 80s classics, I see Sci-Fi, Sci-Fi comedy, Sci-Fi kids. I’ve got fantasy movies, pirate movies, animated pirate movies, comedy, horror comedy, slasher, drama, period drama, drama musicals, musicals, kids non-animated musicals, thrillers, coming of age, and historical fiction!

What genre does Attack the Block fall in to? Horror, Sci-Fi, Coming of Age or Comedy? Does anime deserve it’s own genre, or do I put Endless Walts under Sci Fi? Is Fame a musical, an 80s classic or a coming of age movie!?

And then there’s the few “inspired by comics” movies that I have, do I put them all together in one section, or alphabetise them into Sci Fi too?

I just don’t know!

It’s exciting times at The House of A Failed Journalist.

Anyone have any suggestions? I’m all eyes!


The weight loss diaries 2: Back in the habit

Saturday 13 April, 2019

So I suppose this is my quarterly update! To be honest, I don’t know what to say. It seems like all other diet and well being blogs focus on numbers and meals that they’ve depended on, but without a way to weigh myself, I don’t really have any numbers to share, and I wouldn’t want to focus on “the numbers” anyway – it’s not my way of doing this – and I don’t have a miracle meal that’s seen me through.

The ultimate thing is that I have lost some weight.  The clothes that I’ve worn for years that were getting tighter on me are now a bit looser, and I can now get my favourite jeans on passed my thighs. I just need to lose a bit more to actually button them up and sit comfortably whilst wearing them.

I thought the hardest thing about eating better and going back to a vareity of foods would literally be the variety aspect. Over the last ten years I’ve ended up with a wierd hodgepodge of intolerances and allergies, and I can’t keep track of them and it seems neither can my body. It’s sspecially wierd because three years ago when I really wasn’t well, I seemed to have bad reactions to a lot of things and I had to swear off a lot of things – for example, bananas, eggs, fresh tomato, and all citrus fruits, and these reactions were anything from agonising pains in my stomach, stomach upsets, to itchy rashy skin, but over the last year or so, I’ve risked some things again and found myself okay with them; Others haven’t been as bad as I was expecting, like lemon, but still the itchy tingling sensation I got in my mouth leads me to think that i’m best staying away from ingesting lemon again in the near future. So as it is, the variety is okay. It’s not the best, but it’s better than it was.

The hardest thing about eating better and losing weight is actually the boredom eating and the lack of infratstructure in the big wide world.

So with the snacking… I have a history of comfort eating. It started after my friend died in 2005 and every now and then I uncontrollably fall into that same need to eat whatever chocolatey, sugary, biscuity snacks we have, in the evening a couple of hours after tea. I could psychobabble myself through the explanations but I think all that’s relevant is that these days it’s because of boredom, stress or needing a sort of edible procrastion. So it’s been hard to tell myself no. Because this is not hunger, it’s literally either wanting something to do, wanting something extra to do whilst doing uni work, or wanting to take my mind off whatever I’m stuck on with uni work. I’m worried it’s always going to be a constant battle. How can I take eating healthy seriously when 8’clock rolls around and all I want to do is eat a whole packet of jaffa cakes? It’s like I get hit with a sense memory of jaffa cakes, the taste, the soft texture of  the cake mixed with the smooth texture of the jelly and the tang of the orange, the sound of the package crinkling, the smell after the package is open, and it doesn’t go away until I’ve eaten enough Jaffa cakes to feel like I could throw up. The havoc it’s caused on my acid reflux in the past is ridiculous. So the boredom snacking, you could probably even call it binging though that feels like a loaded term that I woudln’t like to misuse for risk of trivialising people who struggle with binging – that’s been very difficult.

But, the other thing that’s made it difficult is that when out and about, there’s no real eating places if you take your own food. Sure, there’s a few benches here and there, but there’s no picnic tables, or if there is, they’re not wheelchair accessible. I thought my biggest problem would be keeping my food edible between leaving the house and eating it at lunch time, but actually even though my home made ice block made from a sponge has it’s problems, the biggest problem is comfortable eating. I can’t believe I didn’t think of this before, but it’s like city centres and towns want you to depend on them for your food choices. If you want to eat at a table, you need to eat in a restaurant of some sort, and then you have to trust that all the health information is accurate.

Now recently research was done that discovered something I have always felt to be true, that fast food chains tend to be healthier than resteraunts. This is because they have smaller portions, and, because of their reputation, now have decent ingredient/food intake information on everything, and everything is basic. That’s not to say it’s bad, it’s just they don’t go out of their way to add a million ingredients in the bid to make their food better. It’s basic cuts, basic eggs, basic flour, basic deep fat frying, where as restaurants don’t measure how much “non-ingredients” they use, and they use a lot. So of course there’s going to be a difference between a basic chicken mayo – the aforementioned cut, egg, flour, fryer, to a gourmet chicken burger, which will have high quality of oil, herbs, peppers, possibly a mixture of bread for the bread crumbs. Even though it’s not really listed, it’s still ingested, and it all adds up.

So yes, I have found myself going to McDonalds and subway when out and about, because a) it saves struggling at a bench with a sandwich on my knee and you can forget about the rice and pasta idea!
b) I know exactly how much is meant to be in it, though I understand if it’s a bit off but it’s going to be closer than what I guage with my own ingredients being made by my wayward family who don’t listen to my instructions. You can’t tell me a basic chicken salad from McDonalds or Subway is going to be worse than any salad with a dressing I can’t even bare to eat, possibly with ingredients I have bad reactions to, from an upmarket restaurant.

But I really believe if we put the infrastructure back in, with picnic benches, with public areas that welcome you to eat your own food in comfort, we’d see a lot less people eating salt and sugar rich restaurant food of any kind. And maybe, just maybe, why that’s why we don’t see picnic tables around city centres or parks anymore, because why allow people to eat their own food for free when you can make them eat unhealthy food and make money off the commodity of comfort?

Also due to my health and my parents health and carer availability, i’ve also been depending on microwave meals. Again, not the healthiest, there’s a lot of salt in them I wouldn’t eat if I had the choice, but the fact is I don’t. I try and get the healthiest ones I can – I’m quite partial to getting Marks and Spencers mini meals, but the cost wracks up so I can only get them if I know I can afford them.

Maybe with all of that combined, it’s why progress might be considered slow. But actually, given how close I am to fitting in to my favourite jeans once again, I’m doing well. I mean, I am undoing a year’s worth+ of over eating and comfort eating here, and being unable to exercise,  something must be going right just with portion control.

(Portion control comes from a lot of diet and health apps and general health and well being advice, which seems to be a mixture of calory counting and making sure as many as the different food groups are represented on one plate. We’re talking less chips and potatoes – not none, just less – and more green vegetables at it’s most basic).

So let’s see what happens in the next four months.


Spontaneious Travelling: Chester (Part 2)

Saturday 23 March, 2019

After we ladies who lunched in McDonalds, we headed over to Chester Cathedral. This was not a revisit from me and my Nana’s day out in Chester, I’ve just always wanted to go to Chester Cathedral, mostly to compare it to our Anglican one here in Liverpool (We don’t talk about the Catholic one). There wasn’t a set ticket price to enter, however there is a certain pressure to “donate” a “suggested amount” at the entrance before you enter, in the form of an intimidating donation box with a sign as you pre-queue to go in, passed a staffed desk by the doors. I paid the donation, but due to free carer tickets being the standard, I only paid for myself and my Carer came in free with me. I think it was quite fair!

It is nicely done! It is not 100% wheelchair accessible, but it was accessible enough for me to finally feel welcomed somewhere. I would say it’s got a different feel to it indoors than the Liverpool Anglican cathedral, and because I’m biased I might be inclined to say it’s not as beautiful as the Liverpool Anglican cathedral, but that would be unfair. It has it’s own beauty to it and it was nice to look around. We arrived just at the start of a short afternoon service, so me and my carer stayed at the back, admired the architecture and when the priest finished his short service, we went looking around the grounds

I’m not religious now though I used to be, and although there’s a lot that doesn’t sit right with me when it comes to religion – and never did, as a matter of fact – but you have to give credit where it’s due. This building, like the Cathedrals here in Liverpool, have become half way houses to meet the needs of the religious and the tourists, and it is a very peaceful place to wander around.

The side of Chester Cathedral at a corner. A cast iron fence in the foreground at the bottom of the screen, with a bit of green garden between that and the building. The building is mostly a dirty brown. On the bottom floor is 8 glass windows, the second floor shows 10 glass windows, with spires obstructing their view. Above those windows are more spires and the top is the tower bellfry with three chimneys showing

And, like all tourist places, it even had a gift shop! It was a bit cramped, but you’re reading the words of someone who got through Liverpool Anglican Cathedral’s gift shop without knocking a single item over, so rest assured, no items were smashed in the procurement of labelled pens! There was also a lovely stain glass window effect magnet that I now regret not buying.

Finally, after what felt like a terrible morning, my mood was shifting and I started feeling a bit better about this outing and my lack of mobility. Ironically it took an almost 2000 year old building to do that, against a backdrop of modern businesses. Modern businesses in a similar-ye-olde-aged-building, admittedly, but modern nonetheless, with modern customers who are no longer institutionalised in institutions…

Ahem.

Where was I? The only downside was the battery on my wheelchair. Thanks to our stop and start tour around the Cathedral, and the weather warming up temporarily, I found my battery was still hovering on full orange when we first came out of the Cathedral, however 10 minutes later after trying to get my maps on my phone to work to see where the roman gardens were, I turned my wheelchair back on to see I’d gone down a full orange.

I still decided to continue on and risk it. After all, what’s a day out without risking battery failure in the middle of the main road, right? I did let my carer know what was going on, at this point… but not to the degree that I could have. I told her, at that point, I was losing power a bit more quickly than normal, but we should have enough power to get to the park and back. With her faith in me, we continued.

So we eventually got to the park, but not without a few false starts. IE, I can’t read maps and even when I’m following the directions I always tend to go to wrong until the arrow sends me off in the right direction. Unfortunately, it was winter, so the beautiful gardens with the beautiful roman mosaics on the floor didn’t shine up on me like it had all those years ago. Don’t worry, I plan to go back and admire it in full bloom!

So I took a few photos but, the temperature had dropped again, we could see our breaths despite the bright watery sun in the sky, and worried my battery – at this point flickering between one orange and two oranges – would leave us stranded at the bottom of the ramp, we didn’t go much further than half way, and turned around.

“Can we get a hot coffee?” my carer asked.

“Yes,” I said, “And I’ll get a cup of tea.”

The plan at that point was to head back to the train station, get something to drink there and wait around for our train back. However we saw a nice little quaint tea and cake shop on our route which had a ramped entrance and, frozen to the core and my carer’s caffiene levels dropping as fast as my battery power, we ducked inside for a mid-afternoon, pre-train snack.

Elements of a fancy tea - a jug of hot water, a jug of milk and the teapot behind, all white on top of a white tablecloth with a blue layer coming through the lace. A nicely manicured hand is in the background, the nails visible show an orchid magenta and a light pink on the third nail. To the left of the photo there is a pot of sugar and salt sachets

I found the tea was lovely. My carer ordered coffee and a traditional cream scone which she also thoroughly enjoyed. It was only after drinking my tea and finding myself in need to use the toilet that I realised I’d failed to do the first basic check when in a food establishment – ask where the toilets are first! This place did not have a wheelchair accessible bathroom and their non-disabled toilet were down a set of internal steps.

Bugger. I do hate giving money to places who only want my money, not actually cater to my needs.

On those grounds I can not recommend this place, and that’s also why I won’t be naming them here. You know who had an accessible toilet? McDonalds and the Cathedral!

Oh well! We continued our journey for the trian back. It was at that point I told my carer how bad the battery situation was – I was critically losing battery power, flickering between the last orange and the first of only two reds, and that I thought the taxi driver had done something when he tied his straps around the wrong place on my wheelchair. This wasn’t the usual cold weather battery loss. So the walk back to the train station had to switch to the bus – which was easy to catch once we knew which bus stop we had to go to, and unlike the shuttle bus, it stopped at a normal stop opposite the train station and we got out no problem.

On arrival at the station I nipped to the toilet – red cord was tied up and there was a bin in the transfer space – and then with the help of staff and my Carer, got on board the train. At that point I was down to the reds and wondered if I was going to make the switch between platforms when back to Liverpool, but that turned out to be the least of my worries when I was on board.

I won’t go into details, but basically I got harassed on the train, the staff did nothing to help and next time I go to chester, I will go by bus. On the plus side, thanks to the warmth of the train and being stationary for a while, by the time we got back to Liverpool, I’d gained full oranges again. With the change over to the Northern line and then the pavement journey home, I managed to get back on red, going at a snail pace.

I do plan on going to Chester again, especially because shortly after I got back I was made aware of a guardian article that said Chester was one of the most accessible places! But I would do things a lot differently. Whilst the rows is accessible – as in you can get to them from the ground floor of the shopping centre – it’s not completely accessible, and most of the shops on the rows have steps to get in to them. I have a policy for life – If I have to ask to get in, I won’t go in and i’ll go somewhere else. It could be that the shops have ramps inside, there might be alternative entrances, but that to me is shifting the responsibility of access on me, not them. If there are alternative entrances, why are they not good enough for everyone to go through?

And the shuttle bus situation needs to be fixed. I sent a complaint letter shortly after I visited chester, and I never heard anything back. I should probably chase that up!

But that cathedral is very much worth a visit. I think on a warm, sunny day, just sitting in the gardens would be lovely, and next time I go I’d like to try the cafe instead of depending on McDonalds.

On the matter of this being an affordable day out, let’s tot it up:-

Train Faire:- £5.20, day saver
Begdrudging Taxi Faire:- £10.00
McDonalds Lunch consisting of a McChicken Sandwich, Medium Fries and a cup of tea:- £5.37
Cathedral “suggested donation” entry fee:- £4
Afternoon tea:- £5.50
Emergency Bus Faire:- £2.40

Total:- £37.97.

A bit high for a day that was only half enjoyable, I must admit, especially when you think that taxi faire was completely unneccessary, but for the distance travelled and in comparison to a day out in, for example, London, I think it’s not as bad as it could have been. Especially when you compare it to London even one step further and think how long it takes to get between places when in a wheelchair. At least in Chester, the furthest part ouf was the park.

And for anyone interested, I went out a few days later and despite only being out a couple of hours I came back on orange. I called up the wheelchair repair people and the guy who came out confirmed what I suspected – the battery case had been cracked, and also a wire connection had been broken. There is only one way that could have happened.


Spontaneous Travelling: Chester (Part 1)

Saturday 16 March, 2019

So I got the news a short while ago that something I contributed to was no longer going ahead. It was originally thought up 2 and a bit years ago, but sadly after a few false starts, it just wasn’t meant to be.

One of the things I did for this project, I only did last year, when things still looked to be going ahead. I was not going to be a regular contributor, because of my health and degree, but I was going to give something when I could. And now I am free to do what I like with it, here it is:

A journey review of Chester. From a disabled person’s point of view, not planned to the nth degree.

I live in Liverpool, and it’s very easy to do, especially for able bodied people, to just hop on the train and go to Chester from any Merseyrail train station with the change at either Central or Moorfields. And it’s pretty cheap at the cost of a Merseyrail Day Saver. I had a vague plan set out. I’d last been to Chester when I was a teenager, and I remember having fun with my Nana, so I wanted to do similar things I’d done with my Nana back when I was a manual user.

I would say this started off badly as soon as I tried to book the ramp. I hardly ever book ahead when it’s Merseyrail, I don’t believe in it and I think expecting disabled people to book everything in advance is holding us to a higher and stricter standard than able bodied people are. However, st the time of this journey, I was experiencing a lot of problems with Merseyrail and their unfair policies that put disabled people at a higher disadvantage to travel than able bodied members.

A member of staff who, for health reasons (she was pregnant), could not deploy the ramp. Merseyrail’s policy was, instead of having two members of staff on shift or having that member of staff in a different role whilst another member of staff was on platform, so that wheelchair users could continue to travel freely on the network, they left that staff member to stay in their role and ordered taxis for anyone wishing to travel.

Now because I complained and explained it was discrimination to expect someone to wait up to an hour for a taxi to turn up, just because they wouldn’t have a second member of staff on to do the ramp, they booked me a taxi to turn up at the time I would get to the station. The problem is the train journey to Central is 17 minutes, with 2 minutes to get from my local station to the next station by train. By road, it takes 10 minutes on a good day, 15 on an average day and 20 minutes on a bad day, meaning I wouldn’t only miss the train I planned to get (the 12 past 10), I would potentially miss the next two, eating in to the time I had available with my Carer for the day in Chester. It was all so incredibly unfair and frustrating.

My carer couldn’t turn up any earlier than 10’clock so we got to the station with 2 minutes to spare before the train arrived, meaning we would have been able to get on the train had I been able bodied. But I’m not, and there was a taxi waiting. My second issue with the taxi situation is that they use the same company that my hospital uses when there’s not a patient transport ambulance available, and I’ve had enough negative experiences with them through hospital transport, that I no longer get this company’s taxis, and I wasn’t happy having to depend on a driver from this company to get me to the next station when I could have just been on the train. And then the day got worse.

The taxi driver was annoyed he’d had to wait, and then he got the ramp down. The staff member had left us to it, because of a previous intense conversation where we clashed over the ramp situation a few times before. I know it’s for medical reasons, but I felt it was partly her responsibility to fight disabled people’s rights to access the train. By continuiing to both be on the station without a second member, or at all, it allowed the continuation of discrimination from Merseyrail.  So, understandably, she left.

I asked the driver to put the seats up, so I could turn around. He became… I won’t say aggressive, but certainly confrontational. “Er, Why?”

I said it was so I could turn around and travel backwards.

He said No. I asked why, and he said he wasn’t going to let me travel backwards, because the wheels turning around in his car would rip up his carpets. I said I always travel backwards, I’ve never ripped up anyone’s carpets. He would not budge. Then he told me I’d be fine, because I’m in an electric wheelchair, and I should travel sideways anyway because that’s safer. They are both lies.

  1. Lightweight electric wheelchairs skid and tilt if not either wedged in or tethered down. I am not heavy enough to increase traction or to keep four wheels on the floor if we take a corner badly, and I’ve already tipped backwards in a taxi once, I don’t wish to experience that again.
  2.  It is not safer to travel sideways, it is safer to travel backwards.

At that point I had the choice of sending the driver away, having my PA go up to the station and tell the staff member she’ll have to call another taxi, wait up to an hour for it to arrive, at the risk it would then take 20 minutes to get to the next nearest train station, (when able bodied people could just get on the train and go 2 minutes up the line!!!) meaning another potential hour and a half eating in to the time with my Carer to get to Chester and back, or travel sideways. I compromised, and said fine, but I needed the straps.

Then he argued with me that I didn’t need the straps, because i had breaks.

I’m going to let you in on a secret that manufacturers don’t like you spreading: The breaks don’t do anything unless you’re on free wheel. If you’re on Powerchair mode, which as an electric wheelchair user, I almost always am, the breaks don’t do anything because it’s the motor that stops the wheels from going around, either by being turned off, or by being on but not pressing the joystick to go in a direction. And as I’ve explained already, I skid, which means the wheels are skimming the tractionless floor without turning at the axel. It is the same as being on a boat in your car, and not being tethered down. If the waves are rolling, your car’s going to be too, even if the breaks are on. It’s basic physics. And I say that as someone with dyscalculia that almost failed physics.

I eventually got him to put the straps on, and in that process, he broke my wheelchair. As he tied the strap down in the wrong place, because he didn’t listen to my instructions, nor did he have the right straps, he tightened the belt and I heard a small crack. That crack led to my wheelchair losing power a lot quicker than normally over the process of 6 hours.

By the time we got to our next train station, we literally got there just as the second train was pulling out, so we had to wait for the third. The journey, thankfully, went smoothly from there, getting to Central and then it didn’t take too long until we were in Chester.

Chester has a shuttle bus of sorts that takes you from the station to the city centre. First we tried to find out where it would be, we were told to look at the information board, but it wasn’t actually on the information board, so then we went to the actual information desk, waited in the kew and the information desk said they were only train information and weren’t sure exactly where the bus stopped but if I went outside the main doors, I would either find the bus there or other poeple waiting for the bus that I could ask.

We did, and then we waited. And waited. And waited. And then the bus turned up, and I couldn’t get on it. It was wheelchair accessible, but it was a middle door type situation, and the problem was the bus driver couldn’t get that middle door close enough to the kerb to deploy the ramp because the front of the bus was blocked by a sharp crescent terminus. I don’t know if I believe him, because he wouldn’t even try.  I had people offer to tilt me and lift me on, which the driver recommended I do!!! But otherwise, he couldn’t help and I coudln’t get on.

I said that wasn’t even remotely accessible or appropriate, and we left, allowing a gentleman in a manual wheelchair to be lifted on the bus instead. I make no judgement on people who choose to be lifted, but I’m not a child nor a parcel from amazon, and that ramp is there to be used. I did not get the chance to get a photo of the ramp I couldn’t use, but here’s the front of the bus the driver told me I could get on instead:-

The picture shows a red bus with it's door open, four people's legs in the queue, one lady clearly in jeans and a gentleman in front of her with dark grey trousers on. A man also in jeans is crossing in front of the photo. The bus's front steps overhangs on the curb awkwardly with a ten inch gap

So, we got a taxi to the city centre. I went backwards, and I was strapped in with the proper straps! It costed £10, including the tip (I’m from Liverpool, we tip). I thought it would start looking up. I took photos of the nice buildings, I took photos of the clock, I took photos of a roman soldier wandering around and then hoped I wasn’t breaking some sort of etiquette, and then we headed in to The Rows. Now, I remember the Rows from when I was there with my Nana, and I remember being pretty impressed. This time, it left me somewhat dissappointed!

I could get around the ground floor, great. And then we went up. I could get from one side of the outside, to most of the way around the building, but I could only get in one or two shops due to those shops having steep steps either up or down into them, then I had to turn around and go back the way I’d came whilst people who could use stairs had free run of the whole place. Either I’ve misremembered how good Chester was, or I didn’t care at that point because I loved spending time with my Nana, or something’s changed in Chester since then.

It had gone lunch time by then, and to say I was down was a bit of an understatement… and then I noticed my battery gage. Talking of things being down… I had full green when we left the house, and I was suddenly on the last green, except what had really caugtht my attention was the flickering out the corner of my eye. It was going between at least one green and just the oranges. I can lose battery in the cold quite quickly, but it hadn’t been that cold, even if it was, this was quicker than even that, and I’d never seen it flicker between two colours like this before. It wasn’t quick, but it seemed that any time I changed direction, or stopped, I would gain or lose a bar, respectively.

So we tried to get lunch in somewhere warm, hoping my battery would re-calibrate itself. Or I was, anyway. I, er, neglected to share this news of impending battery death with my carer for fear she’d make us go home 3 hours early…

It didn’t go well. I mean, lunch plans specifically, not the battery issue. Either places I could get in did food I wasn’t kean on – I might have mentioned previously, I eat pretty bland foods with simple recipes. No herbs, nothing spicy, nothing too heavy, and nothing I can slop down myself; And the places I wouldn’t have minded trying, all little eateries, had no wheelchair access. We ended up in good old McDonalds. My Carer wasn’t best pleased…

But hey, McChicken Sandwich, Chips and a cup of tea. 10/10, would recommend!

A photograph of a meal from Mcdonalds. A cup of tea in a jazzy style cup a mcchicken sandwich in the middle with stray bits of lettuce in the box and a carton of medium fries on the right with a monopoly sticker showing. The fries are spilt on to the tray.

Chester Nay McDonalds yay

The question is, did the rest of the day get better? Tune in next time to find out!


AFJ’s response: Fireworks.

Saturday 2 March, 2019

A couple of days ago, I became aware that Parliament is launching an enquiry into why, over the last few years, there have been a sudden increase of petitions from the general public asking for the government to create new, stricter laws in regards to fireworks. As the words on the webpage go on to say, the committee are asking for people’s views on the current laws on fireworks, and what needs to be considered when looking at changing the current laws on fireworks.

And on one hand, I’m grateful for someone elevating this issue, not just purely on fireworks, but also for noticing that so many people keep signing petitions, and each time are effectively fobbed off and patronised. The last time I signed one of these petitions, I was disgusted, yet not surprised, to find the response was basically “We don’t need to do anything more, because there are current laws in place that deal with the issues being addressed by this peititon”. So I do think it’s a good thing that someone is asking for our views further. The problem is, these views have been covered by every petition to date. Even in the webpage, they have listed what some of the reasons they’ve found on the petitions they’ve looked at, and still want people to contact them with their reasons, in their own words.

I feel like that’s slowing down the process they could already be making, and it’s putting responsibility on the general public. For example, I did eventually get an email about this, but I originally only even knew about the committee because my friend linked me. How many people would love a say and will miss out because the call for their input hasn’t reached them?

But, I have got the call and I will be sharing my views directly with them, using their contact form on that link. And I will say a better written version of the following:-

I’m afraid of loud noises. I don’t have any specific reason, i’ve just always been that way. And yes, admittedly, somehow during my teenage years I managed to supress my distressed reaction. Then late teens hit and I found I couldn’t suppress it anymore, then the twenties hit and I found every phobia I have is ten times worse than what it was in childhood. And it’s not just fireworks out in the wild, it’s also pyrotechnics at concerts, thunder storms, and even, depending on the tones, loud angry shouting and loud bangs in film.

But let’s focus on fireworks. My fear of the noises they produce means for a week before the 5th of november to the week after, and all through the christmas period to some weeks after January the 1st, I am caused significant distress, because the fireworks are available, and people will just set them off because they can.

I do my best to protect myself from the bangs of the fireworks, and I want to just make it clear here that this specific issues is literally just the loud bangs, if the pretty twinkly ones didn’t end in a loud explosion, I would be fine; But the problem is, they aren’t just silent twinkles, they are loud explosions, and they seem to be louder every year. That means a week of earphones in, loud music that drowns it out, from maybe 6 o’clock in the evening, to 2 o’clock in the morning,  hoping that no random bang from a firework will be set off outside of those hours, and what is set off isn’t so loud I can hear it over my music.

And I am not alone in these fears, and I feel many other people have a much better reason than I do for having these bad reactions. There are people with autism, there are war veterans who are triggered, there are people with non-autistic sensory issues, and then there’s the animals. And they are suffering. We shouldn’t have to live like this!

And that’s just the noise!

Around here in Liverpool, though I imagine it’s the same up and down the country, fireworks seem to go hand in hand with anti-social behaviour. If irresponsible kids aren’t setting off fireworks in the parks and fields, late at night to the early hours of the morning, anytime between September and January the 15th, they’re setting them off in the middle of the road in the direction of cars and buses. Just a couple of years ago, a firework was aimed at the side of the bus, reportedly so it would go in through the open doors, but luckily it went off course. They’re setting them off in random bins, with no care for what might fuel the fire in the bin and cause a spread to the building (which also happened here, right opposite my flat!) and they’re setting them off as pranks, and sometimes, they’re setting them off with the deliberate aim to hurt people. The response to the last petition talked about the laws, but let’s face it, the kids run off before the police get there, and the damage has already been done, and when do the kids ever get caught? If the bangs aren’t coming from somewhere definitive, how can the police even get there in time to catch them?

The current laws are not stopping the irresposible ownership or setting off of these fireworks,  they’re not helping after the fact if they’re not caught red handed, and how can the police catch anyone red handed when police numbers have been cut?

It’s just ignoring the key issue. These things wouldn’t happen if kids couldn’t get ahold of them in them in the first place, and I really believe they wouldn’t be able to get ahold of them, even illegally, if they only went direct from warehouses to organised public displays and pyrotechnic specialists thereof, and controlled via licenses. We understand a lack of access to guns means less gun-related accidents and crimes in the UK, why not with fireworks?

And, with public displays being the only way to celebrate occasions traditionally celebrated with fireworks, we need to go back to only celebrating on celebration nights. Yes I am aware of diwali and chinese new year, and I am including these too. It is not a human right to celebrate with fireworks, and maybe if more people go to displays, the prices of them would drop back down. It is not fair to those of us who can not tolerate the constant barrage of loud noises to put up with it for two weeks at a time. The other year, Bonfire Night seemed to be every night from the weekend before, and the weekend after, and New Years, the week before christmas and on and on and on. Even if you take in to consideration of irresponsible kids just setting them off whenever they like, you still have a lot of responsible adults thinking their right to buy fireworks from any supermarket and newsagents in their area, and their right to set them off in their own back garden, trumps the health and wellbeing of everyone else around them. It doesn’t. I honestly don’t care if the 5th falls on a Tuesday and people are too tired from work, I should not have to spend a fortnight dodging explosions coming from far beyond my home and neither should anyone else, nor animals who can’t understand what exactly is going on.

So, to summarise my feelings on fireworks, the noise levels of those explosions need to be brought down, firework purchasing should be only for license holders, those license holders need to be managers of public displays, and those public displays need to be scaled down to just the day of celebration. Any unlicensed use or ownership should be treated as a criminal offence, stronger than “antisocial behaviour” by the fact it’s literally someone setting off explosives.


Healthy Eating: A Failed Journalist goes Lifestyle Mag!

Wednesday 9 January, 2019

Remember my financial crisis, which led to tokens for free or dirt cheap food at fast food resuatarants, which made me put on weight? Well, I was trying to lose the weight I’d gained, which is very hard when you can’t really move without pain, and energy levels are almost all low, and all energy is needed to fight off the flu and get right back into the uni saddle to write a 1000 essay… holy run on sentence batman!

I don’t normally go for the whole new years resolution thing, or diets. Health issues notwithstanding, I find a lot of people make dieting too much about goal weight orientated instead of healthy living, and they want the weight off now now now. I can’t stand when food is considered “bad” or a person considered “naughty” for eating said “bad food”.

However….

However…

All of my hard work put in after the financial crisis:- cutting down on sugar. cutting down on big fast food meals when out on social calls, trying out chair exercises just to increase movement a bit – it was all undone by 10 days worth of family christmas meals and biscuits and chocolates. I don’t know how much I weigh, because it’s not like argos sells wheelchair accessible scales, but I was almost close to fitting into my favourite pair of jeans and now I’m not, again. So I think it’s safe to say, I’m back to square one.

I don’t know what I’m doing with blogging this. I’m not about to go all Take A Break on everyone and start talking slimfast shakes, but I feel like I’ll struggle to acknowledge my effort if I don’t blog about it here.

The problem I think I have, in comparison to other people I know on a New Year’s Resolution diet, which isn’t what I’m doing exactly but is close enough it might as well be; is that they’ve got something to start from. They either plan to cut out alchohol or ready meals or sweets, but my problem is I don’t drink any alcohol, I do need to depend on ready meals a lot because otherwise I wouldn’t eat any hot food on days my parents can’t make my food for me, and although I go through phases of eating sweets, sugar is hard to cut down on when you’re literally a CFS zombie without a kick of sugar half way through the day.

But, I start as I mean to go on. I have a lunch box for when I’m out of the house, an ice pack, and a love of fresh salad. I’ll be using a calory counter as I have been using for the past few months, and I guess I’ll figure out the exercise problem along the way, somehow.

I’ll now return you to your normal AFJ wordpress blogging.

-AFJ

 


I am not normal

Thursday 3 January, 2019

A few months ago, I wrote a post, which I locked, about how worried I was about the chance of being genetically normal. A few years ago, I was put in for a genetic map study because my rare undiagnosed condition had gone undiagnosed for too long. I was worried because I’ve had a few people in my life, at key times of my life, who have doubted that there was anything wrong with me at all. I was regularly dismissed as being an attention seeker and it’s taken me years to grate off the feeling that I am not disabled enough for help, not disabled enough to be disabled, that their outright and underhanded attitude towards me imprinted on me. I might have a terrible memory now, but I can still remember most, if not all, comments said to me that have hurt over the years, and I remember who said them and when they said them.

And I was worried about the results, because if it turned out I was genetically “Normal”, that would turn my identity upside down. I couldn’t think past the possibility of various conditions I’d come across and read up about, because there was always this chance that they hadn’t found any genetic reason for why my body is the way it is.

Well. I got the results and it’s taken me a while to write this entry, like five months nearly, but I am glad to say that I am not normal. Genetically speaking, i’m abnormal. To say I was relieved was an understatement.

I have a rare bone disorder, that is so rare that currently I am the 50th person to be diagnosed with it, in the whole wide world, and is currently the most severest and the most furthest advanced that my genetecist had seen. I’ve lived with this for over 30 years, in mystery and in doubt and in pain. I had surgery to physically correct my body’s abnormalities that the genetic fault cause, at a time we didn’t even have genetic mapping.

The faulty gene was only discovered and named a year and a bit ago, and it was only in April last year that it flagged up on my sample.

I know this sounds suspcious, but I don’t want to share the name with everyone just yet. I’m just glad I have a piece of paper that confirms what I’ve been saying all this time, that my joints rest badly on each other, and that the pain I’ve been suffering from is bone pain. I have a piece of paper that says it’s a collagen fault, randomly occuring within me. I have not caused this myself, and my parents didn’t cause it, and more importantly, the doctors didn’t cause this by operating willy nilly on me when I was a child, as one unhelpful person suggested. People paint the 80s and 90s as if it was full of mad scientists eager to operate and to change and to improve without a care to the consequences, but as having lived through it, I know for a fact that whilst my doctors did some radical things to save my life, and to improve it on subsequent operations, they were never a moment too soon. I remember the pain of being left to wait too well.

If I was to have children, I would pass it on to them. You can’t have it and not carry it, but you can have it without inheriting it.

Now that they have a name for it, and as the word spreads more doctors will know what to look for, I hope it means more people looking for answers, because they live in pain and the current diagnosis of arthritis or scoliosis and or post-operative complications or they’re attention seeking or it’s all in their head, get tested and diagnosed too.

I am not normal, and that’s the best news I had in 2018.

I don’t know what 2019 will bring but i’m not sure it will top cracking a 30+ year old mystery.

 


They giveth and they taketh away

Monday 19 November, 2018

Hello all, hope you’re all well. It’s been a while since my last blog. But here I am again, to complain about something. As usual.

So, as I blogged previously at some point, a few years ago I bought a kindle. It’s a basic model, 5th Generation, and I believe that it’s the last version to have page turning buttons along the side on them. I bought it on sale at a time when the newer Paperwhite and touch screen versions were out.

That was in 2013, and five years on, my little kindle is getting, erm, sluggish. I don’t think it’s ready for the great recycling centre in the sky just yet, it’s only five years old after all, but I am getting the White Screen of Death sort of frequently, and even though the experimental browswer was put on there and never got further than basic searching, it now doesn’t work at all without crashing the kindle in to a White Screen of Death, making that feature completely unusable.

So I’m preparing myself to get a newer one at some point in the future, and here’s the problem. The newer ones don’t work for me. The Kindle basic 5th generation weighs 169g, and has buttons either side to turn the pages. Newer models are heavier and have no buttons, it’s all touch screen. I hold my kindle with one hand supported by a pillow, I can’t hold heavier models and if I can’t use the hand I’m holding the kindle with to turn the page, it won’t be any use to me at all.

To give a better comparison, even the latest ipad air 2, 32GB weighs 500g.

If and when my kindle does go on me, I really don’t know what I’ll do without it if the other devices are much of the same as we have today. And if goes sooner rather than later, it could even affect my degree. I put my text books on there and the tutorial hand out material too, so I can read along with the rest of the group as they read the paper handouts.  I don’t want to go back to struggling, but the Kindle solved the problems I had with reading, and if I can’t get something as good as it, I’ll be back to struggling.

For those of you who don’t know, I was fed up of struggling so much that I bought a mouse shaped device which had a camera where a rollerball on an old mouse would have been, called The Vision Booster, and the idea is you roll the mouse over the paper and read as you go… and it was terrible. There was a fisheye effect and you couldn’t read the inside margins, but you also couldn’t hover the mouse over the spine because then the words went blurry.

So, I have to know. Am I the only person affected by these changes with technology? Or are we, like the straw issue, the hidden minority who are forced to either adapt or be left out because we’re ignored in the drive for superior technical progress? Am I missing some really obvious solution


Plastic Straws vs other plastics

Thursday 12 July, 2018

I wrote a post just under a year ago saying that I was worried eco warriors would cause a blanket ban on straws, and so far at that point, there didn’t seem to be a good non-plastic alternative – not for me, and not for many disabled people. Hey, looks like I was right! And this has turned into an ongoing argument that has swept through social media. For everyone disabled person or carer saying why plastic straws are important, able bodied people will swan in and assume they know better, and will bestow their wisdom by making the same suggestions we’ve already point out won’t work, and shape the argument that we’re being stubburn. Disabled people could literally die without plastic straws, we have a right to be stubburn. This is a matter of life and death here, but it’s being reshaped as an inconvenience just because a straw to many people is a luxury.

Anyway, that’s not what i’m here to focus on today. A couple of years ago, whilst I was in Home Bargains, I suddenly became overwhelmed by the choice in shampoos and conditioners, and a member of staff shouted loudly from by the doorways (a good 10 feet away) to ask me if i was okay, because I was on my own, and at first I didn’t realise she was shouting at me. She saw me, sitting there by myself, looking at the variety available on the shelf, and made a show of me by shouting again to ask if someone was with me. For the record, I was fine, I was just looking whilst the person I was with was deciding between the toilet rolls, and she had no right to imply that I needed someone with me and that something was wrong if I didn’t.

It’s not the ableism that’s stuck with me since, it’s the fact that there are so many plastic bottles of shampoos and conditioners, and hand wash and body lotion and all matter of beauty products available on the shelf, in so many shops on the high street, in every town, in every city, all through the UK. How much plastic does that come to?

I was in Lidl this morning – They have a great deal on Wheetabix. 72 Biscuit bars for £3.99, when I was in Farmfoods the other day and they wanted £3.00 for 12! – and I spotted something. They now have a nut pick and mix area, which is exactly how it sounds. You can choose between a variety of nuts and put them in a bag provided. Nothing stops you from taking your own, but they provide a plastic bag like you get in the fruit aisle, and I have to wonder… could they not provide paper bags? I don’t know much about nuts, even though I quite like some of them, but they’re not very protected for freshness in the shop, so does a plastic bag really provide extra freshness that a paper bag wouldn’t once outside it?

Years ago my mum used to buy bars of soap such as Imperial Leather, Dove, Simple and Nivea, and they used to come in cardboard boxes. We then found places like poundland, and Home and Bargains, were selling liquid hand soap cheaper than the bars of soap and because of our tiny bathroom in our tiny house, it worked out better to have liquid soap nicely contained in a container than it did to have a bar of soap melting on the tiny ledge of the tiny sink. Now, because I’m aware of how much plastic I *need* that I can’t compromise on, I’m trying to cut down on things I can compromise on. Like the soap. But can I buy soap in cardboard boxes without the plastic wrapping? No. There’s nice soap caddies I would love to buy and use – unfortunately I still have to deal with a sink with no space for anything nice – but it’s got me thinking, where do you even buy liquid soap that doesn’t come in a 250ml plastic pump bottle? The re-usable caddy would be pointless. Shopping plastic free is difficult, it’s the infrastructure behind it, but it’s not life or death to replace the packaging soap come in, like it is for disabled people suffering through a straw ban.

Someone on twitter made a very decent point a couple of weeks ago. Disabled people need plastic straws to live, and in fact I’ve recently found out that they were invented for the purpose of disabled poeple to use, and disabled people simply wouldn’t be thriving as well today without them, but until someone invented the plastic credit and debit card, everyone was happy without them. They might have served a purpose originally, for security and fraud protection, but they are solely for convenience now. They get dropped, lost, forgotten, stolen, and cut up and put in the bin when they’re done with and replaced every 3 years even when they’re still in a condition to be used. In these days of mobile and internet banking, and paypal and direct transfers, we could easily mix the modern tech of today with the old tech of yesterday, with some innovative ideas to increase protection against fraud and theft, to eliminate credit and debit cards being used and thrown away.

Balloons are literally single use, they serve no real purpose and they end up in the ocean too. And how much plastic is put into our electronics? How much plastic is in the iPhone? Apple have a habit of making phones unusable to force people to upgrade to a newer model long before the tech has actually worn out, how many phones have ended up in landfills before their natural end?

It’s just infuriating me. Convenience for able bodied people is enshrined as “the way things are”,  but convenience for disabled people is too much for the rest of society, and actual life saving neccessities are shaped as conveniences when it comes to disabled poeple. Disabled campaigners are telling eco warriors that they will die without the simple plastic straw, and the response is not to be dramatic, or the fight isn’t against straws, it’s against the single use plastic, and then out come the same 5 suggestions again and again and again. I am tired of explaining that paper straws are no good, sillicone straws are no good, metal straws are no good, biodegradable plastic straws are no good, straw straws are no good. Yes I’ve heard some places do pasta straws, yes many disabled people don’t have carers which yes means they’re alone a large portion of the day. The worst are people patting themselves on the back whilst saying “we all need to make sacrifices”. Again, able bodied people who use them as a luxury is not equivalent to the “sacrifice” of dehydrating or aspirating through a lack of accessible options.

I only need to use straws intermittantly, but as the older I am getting, the more frequent those bouts are. But I am not fighting this for just my own benefit, I am fighting it for others and my friends who depend on them to live.

I will not be convinced that Strawgate is anything more than inflammatory self-congratulatory attempt to look good in the social climate, like a fad. Because until I look around shops and see some sort of dispensory service for shampoo and conditioner to be poured into non-plastic bottles, soaps back in cardboard boxes (or metal tins?), and a real cut down on plastic on the shelves on things that don’t really need plastic, right now it’s just coming across like Marie Antoinette telling the poor people they’re the cause of poverty by eating too much food.


Protected: Please don’t tell me I’m normal

Sunday 24 June, 2018

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