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!


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.


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

 


How I Survived My Very Own Financial Crisis

Wednesday 16 May, 2018

Hello there. It’s been a while since I updated about something personal (Who am I trying to kid? Almost everything I write about is layered in personal) but lately I went through something and I feel like sharing about it.

It was just a spate of bad luck that all happened at once. My whole family was sick at the same time as daily living expenses went up, plus I had appointments I had to travel for, and then my beloved pet got sick so I ended up with vet bills, and paying for the taxis that got me and my beloved pet back and forth to the vets. We had, as the old advert went, “More money going out than what [we had] coming in”. It was stressful and it’s only now that things are beginning to level out.

So, how did we survive? Well we couldn’t do anything to bring more income in at that point. For the family members that work, days off sick on 0 hour contracts are days you’ll never get back unless the boss will give you more hours (they didn’t), and it’s not like you can get more ESA just because your heating bill has gone up whilst you’ve been sick over the winter. Personally, I scrimped and saved and became a bit of a Scrooge. I’m ashamed to admit that I noticed i was over charged 70p on a money saving multi-buy item because of a glitch and contacted Morrisons about it to get that 70p back. Even now the vice-like grip of impending destitution (Hi I’m A failed Journalist and I like Hyperbole) has eased, I’m still being as cheap as possible until I really feel like the danger has passed.

First was that any and all points on any loyalty cards were used. I’d saved up quite a few Morrisons points over the last year and a bit, enough to get a lot off the Christmas shopping and still had some money left over to build up on from the new year, not to mention some £10 vouchers for the delivery being late. So £10 a week off the weekly shop helped a lot. Same went for Sainsbury’s. I hardly ever shop in Sainsbury’s, but I have done my fair share of ebay purchases over the last 10 years, and points have built up which I’d never had opportunity or need to use before. Whilst family members who normally care for me were sick with the same flu I’d had, those points went a good way to helping me buy microwavable meals. Boots was another that I had accrued over 10+ years, and £13 covered a nice little Boots spree that’ll keep me going for a few months.

One of my Morale treats is Subway. I originally got addicted to Subway, and yes, addiction is accurate – back before I went to Uni the first time. I loved the smell of the place, I loved the way the bread toasted and the cheese melted, and the way the tang of the gerkin mixed with the sweetness of the BBQ sauce. There was nothing quite like Subway. Unfortunately their ableism became too much for me to handle so I stopped going there, until the last couple of years where the one by where we moved started begging me to go in. And even better, these days Subway has ramps! Not always suitable seating, but ramps, and a disabled toilet! And the staff don’t talk to me through the mostly soundproof glass! Well, these days my food allergies and intolerances have changed my diet a bit, but a nice chicken salad does me no harm. And even better, once you get enough points, you get a free sub! I had enough for one and was well on my way to a second when my Financial Crisis Hit. I got the free sub for a free lunch, and kind companions without their own cards or apps have been happy for me to have their points so I could get a second within a month.

The second method was vouchers. And I hope you note the problem is with all this discounted food. I have the Burger King app. At full whack, you can pay £5+ for a meal at Burger King, with the app vouchers it allowed the same meal cost £2.99. And then McDonalds brought out it’s Millionnaire Winners tokens. With my Unidays app I got a meal, with the token I got from that that I got a McChicken Wrap and Fries, with the Fries I got a cup of tea. I’ve been given unwanted tokens from Carers and Friends. I had five meals for free or under £2 thanks to those tokens

The problem is, I hope you’re starting to notice, is that most of this quick, easy, discounted and free food is all fast food and convenience food. But nobody is thrusting a free lettuce into my face that isn’t on a burger, and nobody is offering me a half price home made roast dinner, and I can’t look a gift horse in the mouth (I’ve heard it’s nice in lasagne).

I save on bus fair by wheeling where I can, when my carer’s can manage the walk. I’m sure if I could walk places or even self propel, I’d be burning off all the calories I’m getting from the fast food but alas, I’m fully electric. If Jeremy Corbyn fancies extending his free public transport idea to under 45s, I’d really welcome that, too! Carers don’t travel for free, you know!

I wouldn’t like to imply that there was even a good thing about this, because I’d go through bankruptcy if it meant he’d have had something treatable that I could have bought medication for. But it does mean no more emergency transport to the vet, and the electric bill  go down as

So that’s foods, toiletries and transport. What about hobbies and other daily stuff? Well, luckily for everyone, I already had enough hobby fodder in from bulk buying on sale two years ago. So that’s keeping me going. I’m on the cheapest phone tariff I can find. I’m using a free student trial of Amazon Video to keep up with film watching and I told NowTV I could no longer afford their services, so they kindly offered me the movie pass for half the price I was paying. That has now run out but it was nice whilst it lasted. I didn’t have any other subscription services other than Cinema Paradiso, which I cancelled back in February.

On a bizarre twist, I went further out of my area with my travel pass for a cheaper trip to the cinema. The disabled travel pass meant my train journey was free, the cinema is a short walk from the station, and the ticket itself was £5.75 with a free carer ticket, and I don’t bother with concessions on a normal day, so I definitely didn’t bother on my “keep the price as low as possible” kick. With my local cinema it’s almost £20 there and back in a taxi, and between £8 – £11 for a ticket. The only downside was that the wheelchair seat was way too close to the front so I won’t be repeating that money saving venture again!

I might have come across as a neurotic scrimping fiend the past few months, but all I can say to those that helped me and gave me their freebies, is that i’m grateful. Indulge me in my hyperbole here, but helping me keep things as cheap as possible kept the stress and the tears at bay. And, I’m relieved to say that the clouds do seem to be parting. Working members of the family have been back in work and back to normal for a few weeks now, prescription costs are back down to a more affordable level, and the weather is improving so some of the household bills are down. But the books balancing doesn’t mean the money’s stacking up, it just means for now, the waves are settling. There will always be water, and rain clouds can gather again to flood us out of house and home, and there’s not much I can do to build up a defence against it other than what I did this time; And next time, if I’m knocked off kilter again soon, I won’t have anywhere near as much of the safety net I’d incidentally created for myself.

Sorry, unsually for me, that’s all I’ve got. It’s hard to end this on a positive note.


12 Year Memorium

Monday 16 October, 2017

You and I have memories
Longer than the road that stretches out ahead.

1985 – 2005


Please don’t take our straws away

Friday 1 September, 2017

Hello, yes it is I, AFJ.

Funny story, I did plan to write film reviews, but here’s what happened shortly after my last entry. My laptop died a terrible terrible death, so not only was I without a desk with which to put my laptop on so that I could type up entries with ease, I was without the whole kit and kaboodle to type on.

It has been hell. But here I am, on a borrowed keyboard set up, and I want to talk about something which is kicking up a fuss on the internet that has me concerned.

As you may know if you read here regularly, I am all for saving the planet and cutting down on waste. I think frivolous purchases don’t do anyone any good and I think the throwaway culture we have is destroying the planet. I still have a fountain pen that lasted me 11 years, through my GCSEs, my A Levels, many hand written stories, uni the first year and a bit of uni on the second attempt, in my drawer in the hopes one day I can get it repaired. I find it disgraceful that we’re encouraged to just throw away things which at one point could have been repaired and buy new. So I really don’t say this lightly.

Do not take plastic, disposable straws away from shop shelves. I’m not asking, I am telling whoever is in charge of this world-wide campaign against straws: Do not take them away, it will have an inproporitonate negative affect on those of us who need them:- The Disabled Community.

Over the last year or two, things which have been, or could have been useful to disabed people have been mocked and revered by the able bodied eco-friendly campaigners. Explanations for how certain things make all the difference to disabled people is met with condescention and virtual shrugged shoulders. I am, of course, talking about the night everyone on twitter was up in arms about pre-sliced oranges in plastic containers, and pre-peeled avocados in similar packaging. And the latest item to be villified are straws.

I first became aware of this campaign when I saw this article on the BBC Website, which is worded slightly differently now than it was when I first read it. What has become a third-party re-write was originally an opinion piece by waste management spokesperson, Mark Hall, about how awful straws are and how anyone over the age of 12 using a straw were failing at being an adult, with the title of the article being the provocative statement “Only kids need straws with their fizzy pop”. An able-ist statement if I ever saw one. The article went on to suggest alternatives that should be used, and agian, only for children.

What these campaigners such as Mark Hall are failing to acknowledge is that many people depend on straws, and the alternatives are just simply not as good as what we currently have right now. I say this as somoene who only depends on them infrequently, but when my back and neck sieizes up I’m not able to lift a cup to my mouth and drink from it, and I certainly can’t tip my neck back to finish off a well earned cup of tea. Many of my friends are in the same boat, all of the time. The only way they can drink and stay hydrated, without having to have an invasive operation or depend on saline solutions delivered by a drip system, is by using straws.

I have read on twitter that wax paper alternatives don’t last as long as their plastic counterparts, they can be warped by heat. Are disabled people meant to just stick to cold drinks? I have also read reviews about metal ones, some people have found they’re not able to clean them properly, even if they have a washing machine. Usually there’s a public outcry if a children’s drinking cup or bottle catches drink remnants and goes mouldy, but claims on straws are met again with shrugs. As if those who use straws should just expect to ingest mould every now and then as a punishment for using something deemed childish and unneccessary by some. It’s not just a worry about the types of drinks that could catch in the straw, many medications come in liquid form which also need to be drunk and i don’t think mixing them would be a good idea either.

I’m aware my opinions come from people who might not know what they’re talking about, but I think I’d rather take my chances with people on twitter who have no stake in their claims, over businessmen who do and haven’t thought about the implications of their opinions and attitudes. And it’s one thing to have to scroll through the fire and fury people on facebook direct at novelty straws and multi-packs alike, it’s a whole other to go in to shops looking for straws and being told they don’t have any due to request of the public, which is starting to happen.

Campaigners might be patting themselves on the back, but disabled people are worried about being left thirsty or having to resort to drastic measures just so that they don’t dehydrate.

 


Impending Exam: I am worried

Tuesday 2 May, 2017

This is a personal blog, which I haven’t written in a while.

I have an exam in a month’s time and I am very worried about it. I do not have the best track record with exams. I struggled to revise for my GCSEs, when I tried I did not take anything in, and when I didn’t try my mind was filled with everything but important information. When it wasn’t instinct to me, I did badly. When it involved maths, I did very badly.

My A levels, it didn’t matter how hard I tried, how many different ways I tried to revise – group revision, flash cards, write and recall, I went in to those exams knowing I knew this stuff in the back of my mind but couldn’t get my answers into order, and subsequently came out with a Two Ds and an E.

I swore off taking another exam again after that. I am no good at them and in my mind, I’ve recognised a limitation and done my best to stay within it. I don’t know what it is about them, or about my brain, but we have never worked well together and my results almost always reflected badly on my capabilities.  And now I have more health problems than I did back then, so I have more to battle against, in exam conditions. Which I will be sitting on very little sleep because I know for a fact I’ll be kept awake all night thinking through what questions I might face and going over how I might answer them, and all the things that might go wrong.

So when I say I am worried about this exam coming up, I’m not saying it lightly. This isn’t a plea for complements about my level of intelligence or knowledge on certain topics. I don’t want to hear “it’ll be fine” or that I “can do it”. I don’t necessarily want to be told it won’t be fine or I can’t do it, but I want acknowledgement that it might not be fine, because when it comes to exams, it just never is. I don’t want people to act as if I have nothing to worry about and that I’m being silly. I don’t care if this is a new me and a new course, and that my last experience with exams was years ago. If anything, that’s more reason for me to worry. My last exams were years ago, I was in the settings of exam preperation for the last few months of of 6th form and I don’t have that now, here, on my distance learning course as an adult and I can’t replicate it.

And if I don’t pass this exam, it’ll be two years worth of work on the line and I will have to take a resit in September, and if I fail the resit, the last two years will have gone to waste. Because whilst you can retake the year, I sure as hell am not repeating this module just to meet another exam at the end of it, and I’m no way dealing with the SFE for any longer than I have to.

You might be thinking, “AFJ, you’re putting the horse before the cart” and that might be so, but it’s hard not to when I’ll be sitting the first exam I’ll have sat in years and my health is nothing like it was back then, and I can’t see me passing this exam in those circumstances. I have memory problems from being tired all the time. I have always been bad with numbers, now I’m worse. I forget words in the middle of sentences. Because of me being tired, I don’t deal well with early mornings anymore outsde of insomnia bouts, and I flag again by either mid-morning or early afternoon. Just the travelling to the exam centre is going to have a toll on me.

I can construct a hell of an essay with the information I have learnt to hand, to read and double check details, and when it’s a good question to answer, I can do it quickly. But this will be an exam, I won’t be able to edit as I go along to re-structure my essay, I won’t have any resources to hand to refresh my memory and just the stress of having an hourly deadline will the situation harder for my body to deal with. I will have to dictate my answers to an ~emmanuensis~ which I haven’t needed to do since before my GCSEs (Or possibly during, I can’t remember if I had any scribes during my GCSEs but I remember my hand writing going very downhill during my geography exam) so that’s an extra element. And I know for a fact that even if I last the exam and I give decent enough answers, I will have to face the fall out my body will feel due to putting myself through that.

There is nothing good about this up and coming exam and I can’t emphasise this enough about how worried I am about it. I might know my stuff because I’ll have learnt it, but I might not be able to recall it on demand. I know for a fact that anything interesting I tell people, I sound like a fool who doesn’t know anything because my brain “vagues out” on specifics like dates and names of people.

And now for the biggest source of my frustation:

The Open University is meant to be the ~maverick~ university for those who, for whatever reason, can not or would prefer not to attend a regular “brick University”. It was meant to be open for everyone, no matter their personal circumstances. But in the last few years, they have been bringing themselves in line with other “mainstream” universities, it also means switching the EMAs to Exams. (Not to mention the expense, no more Educating Rita at the Open University!)

I have believed since I was 16 and sitting my GCSEs that all exams are, are memory tests. And they’re not even accurate memory tests, because evidence shows that stress affects memory and ability to convey information as accurately as we have learnt it, and exams are that stressful hardly anyone is able to do as well they would be able to in, for example, a relaxed conversation about the topic. So I really think switching EMAs to Exams really pull the rug out from under disabled students in a variety of ways, but especially for those of us who are unable to sit for long periods of time and have memory problems, whether nuerological or tiredness-induced. An EMA, which allows for well constructed arguments to be made when the student is at their best and a deadline of two to three weeks, I think is far superior to testing to see whether a student has grasped the concept, but hey, what do I know? I’m just a student.

If you have any practical advice, please feel free to suggest it.
If you have platitudes, you might mean well but I don’t want them.

 


Snap General Election

Tuesday 18 April, 2017

May has announced a Snap General Election to be held in June:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-39629603

Please, if for some bizarre reason any of you voted conservative, maybe family loyalty, maybe as a one issue voter, do not vote for them again. They have killed so many people with their policies, to vote for them Yet again after what we know from the Coalition would be saying to me “Yeah I don’t care if you suffer and die”.

At this point, I don’t care if you didn’t realise it would be this bad last time now, despite everyone who would be affected screaming their lungs out trying to inform you all, but if you see all of this chaos around you and think it’s what we need more of, then you are part of the problem.

Think of the future, don’t vote conservative. Preferably, vote Labour. I know, I know, they’re not perfect but they’re the only ones outside of Scotland who care even a tiny amount of the issues real people have. Under Jeremy Corbyn, they are the only ones who have fought for disabled people and carers. They have been infiltrated by Blairites and they have caused the problem, but look at the fundamental issues of the real labour members. They aren’t perfect, but they’re our best bet to get perfect.

The last election, out of the people who voted, Conservatives got in with about a third of the turn out. The rest was made up of people splitting themselves between the rest of the parties. If you add up all the left wing parties who were voted for, you get just under 60% of the vote, but because that is not how the system worked, Conservative got a single biggest chunk of the pie, so they got in.

Don’t let the break down of the voting pie go the same way. Labour have historically given more to the majority of the people, see the social security and the NHS as evidence.


6 Years And Counting

Tuesday 22 November, 2016

I know it’s not much of a celebration. Frequency of posting is way down in comparison to last year, and for the last two years, this here blog has been more inactive than active.

But, I am still here! And this is 6th year of being here. So for that alone I am happy, and I hope you are too.

Watch this space, we’ll make it to the 10th year together, and with any luck, we’ll also ring in 100 entries in that time too.

-AFJ-


2016 So Far – An AFJ Summary

Saturday 22 October, 2016

Hello Everyone who may or may not be reading this. It has been a while, yet again. I still don’t have a desk so I still can’t type in comfort, and so for a few months there, the priority of typing went to my essays, which I had to write to pass my first year of university. It was very difficult, let me tell you.

So, by the time I had any time to spare, so much had happened that I didn’t even know where to start. On top of my own personal ups and downs which slowed me down, this country went through so much in so little time that we could make a whole new version of Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start The Fire based on the last 6 months alone. By the time I was able to get down my thoughts and feelings about an event of whatever sort, people had already moved on and somebody else had written my thoughts and feelings in a much better way than what I would have done.

So what exactly has happened through the year so far and why couldn’t I have written about it at the time? Well, if you read on, you’ll find out.

First of all, Ian Duncan Smith Resigned. Huzzah!

Apparently all he ever wanted to do was to help disabled and poor people into work. And the proof is clearly in the pudding with their Concentration Camp motto (Work sets you free!), the sanctions leaving people without money to attend the job centre or job interviews, sanctioning people for going to job interviews on the same day as a job centre appointment (despite people informing the job centre and being given the AOK by the person on the phone). God forbid you had a heart attack on the same day as a job centre appointment or a work capability assessment.

I said Good Riddance to IDS, but knew that whoever replaced him would be the same, or worse.  (Different Monkey, same old zoo).  And whilst I was saying good riddance to him, I was also dedicating as much time as I could to writing an essay on Benin Bronzes. I found that was the hardest essay I had to do, made harder by my limited time I could type for. And made even harder one night when there was an intruder in the back garden. Then I came down with the flu.

 

Then, shortly after IDS left, the Tories proposed to cut ESA by £30 to bring the Work Related Activity Group’s payments in line with Job Seekers Allowance. Here’s the problem with that, and I do believe I’m preaching to the choir when I say this but just incase there’s someone form outside of the echo chamber here: People in the Work Related Activity Group are people who are still unfit for work or only able to do minimal work. This idea that cutting a safety net in order to entice people into work does not work, and it’s really not going to work for people who can’t work in the first place. It is like putting knives on the inside of a maze that blind people have been made to walk through as a guidance technique. It’s no actual use and only hurts people. It’s unnecessary and cruel.

The problem when you’re disabled and sick is that you might have to call in sick at the last minute, have many days off for being sick or hospital appointment, or hospital stays; Or once in work, leave early or not work much for multiple days on the run. I’m not saying disabled people can’t work, because clearly many of us can, but I am saying some of us can’t no matter what accommodations are made, and some of us can only with accommodations, and employers aren’t willing to accommodate and colleagues can and do become hostile. And this has been proved time and time again by employers who employ less qualified people than the more qualified applicant who just happens to be disabled, and when they force someone out of their job by constructive dismissal. It is experienced by teachers who are told they’re being unprofessional by sitting down to teach and are not given classrooms that are wheelchair accessible; administrators who are refused accessible set ups and find the quality of their workload suffers as a result, and find complaints about their work get continually logged against them.

Despite being bounced between the House of Lords and the House of Commons, the pleas were ignored by the Tories yet again and in their own interests alone pushed the proposal through. MPs, who get paid almost £75,000 per anum, and their living expenses paid for, and feel they can’t afford £15 lunches on their salary or even 55p for a cup of horlicks have decided that disabled people, who face extra costs in life ad have no other income, should live off £73 a week.

And what was I doing whilst this was happening? I was catching up on the two and a bit weeks of Uni work that I fell behind on due to coming down with the flu. It was back to back, three lots of chapters and an essay to do for an extended deadline, and then straight onto the chapter I fell behind on, when used that week to write the essay. It was exhausting and painful, and I was slowed down yet again by a strained back that does not like me typing for very long.

“Oh but this entry is long” you might say. Well, I’ve been working on this entry since before september!

May is a bit of a blur of essay writing and ranting about Me Before You. In the days leading up to my final essay of the academic year, the world was psyched about a film many in the disabled community found insulting and offensive. The general public did not understand and did not care. People said that a film deserved to be watched in it’s own right and for people to decide for themselves whether it was disableist or not. The biggest problem with this line of thinking is that, oddly enough, people who aren’t part of a miority demographic usually fail to see the micro-aggressions set up against that demographic. This film, based on the book of the same name, essentially was about a man who was paralysed and didn’t think he had anything to live for, because life is so miserable in a wheelchair. His parents managed everything about his care, and hired him a PA, who he initially didn’t want because of the aforementioned feelings of having nothing to live for. Then he fell in love with his PA and still felt like he had nothing to live for so (Spoiler alert), so he gets an appointment with Dignitas and goes and kills himself. It was both flawed and offensive, to both disabled people and those who provide care. The main character wasn’t even played by a wheelchair user!

And may I just say, a point I didn’t see many people make: Someone who is paralysed from the neck down would absolutely have a head rest. It’s not just a support for those who can’t control their heads, it’s a safety measure to protect the tendons in the neck. Any impact to a person sitting down can throw your neck back, and with no headrest, and little control in the back to lessen the movement, the tendons can overstretch and become permanently damaged. Can you imagine driving a car without a headrest? No.

For the record, my essay was about the history of the modern holiday and I finished it with 10 days to go to the deadline. I then woke up on the day of the deadline and remembered the title was not underlined, so I had to fix that up quickly and re-send it.

In June, the Wheelchair Vs Pram debate went to the supreme court. We are still eagerly awaiting the outcome. Anything other than Wheelchair users having priority will be an insult to disabled people. I shouldn’t have to explain why, but I will:

Everybody should have equal access to public transport. Many disabled people put their lives on the line 30 years ago to get us that access to public transport, and though what we were eventually given is Still not we can call equality, it is something. One space per bus and train. Giving wheelchair users priority for that space over prams ensures that wheelchair users have equal access to get on the bus. The idea that it is first come first serve is an insult to those campaigners who fought against the establishment to get those spaces, whom without their fight we would not have those spaces for pram users to mis-use in the first place. It also makes no sense. Without ensuring wheelchair users can get that space, wheelchair users are prevented from travelling, therefore that is not equal access to travel.

We have one space between many of us, and regularly we are up against each other for that one space. Why on earth should prams, which didn’t even need a space until a wheelchair space was built into the designs, get priority? Our parents and their parents managed just fine without, with lifting folded prams on to the bus, with walking to and from places, why can’t this generation?  More importantly, if buggies need more space, why on earth aren’t parents doing the campaigning for them? Why must disabled users always have their accommodations become general use to the detriment of their lives?

Then we had the farce that was and still continues to be Brexit. We all know how that turned out. Whilst I was awaiting for the results of my final essay of the academic year, we had one of the most important decisions to make as a country. This country, which couldn’t even be trusted to name a research vessel sensibly, was instilled with the future of the United Kingdom.

People bought into the lies and those of us who faught to remain in the UK were called scare-mongerers, naysayers and bleeding hearted lefties. It apparently wasn’t about race, except people have admitted they thought they were voting to “get the immigrants out”. It was about this country being over populated, it was about the NHS buckling under the pressure of health tourists. Well, what happened to the £350million the Leave campaign promised to pay to the NHS? Oh, apparently they didn’t make that promise, it was a figment of all our imaginations.

The pound is now at it’s lowest it’s been in a very long time, people who were not born in the UK are all facing mass deportation, including the many nurses and doctors who keep the NHS functioning despite it’s chronic underfunding. And the NHS won’t be getting any money at all, despite really needing it. “Back to British Values” seems to be about taking us back to the Victorian era, with a  nice stop off to the third reich on the way.

We all know what happened after that. David Cameron Resigned. Andrea Leadsom, Michael Gove and Theresa May all entered the race to become the next Prime Minister. Then Michael Gove dropped out so it was down Andrea Leadsom and Theresa May. Then Andrea Leadsom made some silly remark about this country needing a mother, and because Theresa May isn’t a mother (a very sensitive issue) she couldn’t possibly understand what this country needs, and a backlash followed, and she subsequently  dropped out. Apparently not because of the comments, the timing there is just purely coincidental.

Now, I never thought Theresa May was the best person to be Prime Minister, but it has all to do with her beliefs and voting policies and nothing to do on whether she is a mother or not. I may dislike the woman, but a remark like that is just not needed or wanted. Leadership skills does not depend on motherhood.

All the same, anyone else would have been better than Theresa May, who’s voting history was worrying for the disabled, unemployed, women, children in school, teachers, people who emigrated to the UK, people born in the UK to non-British born parents, asylum seekers, and people who work for the NHS. And now she actually is Prime Minsiter, all my worries are coming true.

Whilst all that was happening in the interests of the General Public, I got some great news! My hard work and backpain paid off. I passed my first year. I also did more interview days, which were hit and miss. Mostly miss as many unsuitable people applied and people with good CVs did not turn up to their interviews.

Then we had the farce of Jeremy Corbyn, the leader the grassroot voters all voted for, having to go through another leadership election because the PLP did not want him in charge. Call me cynical, but maybe that’s because they were all Blairites and Tory Lite and a man who does believe in pandering to well paying friends frightens them. The man is not perfect by any means, but he has been one of very few labour MPs who has consistently fought for disabled people’s rights when we hardly rate a commiserating shrug from others.

He was up against Owen Smith, clearly a blairite in left clothing, who believes in austerity and the work capability assessment. Then Angela Eagle joined the race, after crying on television saying the labour party needed unifying. She cried about how awful it was to work under Corbyn because he didn’t listen to anyone… and then, she announced she was running against Corbyn, surprise surprise. Except her campaign start date was actually dated 3 days before she announced it, and a day before she cried live on air saying she was leaving because she couldn’t work under those conditions. Suspicious timing? What suspicious timing!?

She then said her life was put in danger when a brick was thrown through her office window. It was then revealed that the broken window had been there a while, and it wasn’t even Angela Eagle’s office, it was the window on the stair case shared by many offices. Then she resigned, so it was just back to being between Jeremy “Fair society for all” Corbyn and Owen “Abstained on the welfare cuts vote” Smith.

Whilst all that happened, I had one good interview day and had to choose between two very good applicants. Looking back, clearly I chose the wrong one, as the person I hired did not turn up to their first call, I couldn’t get through to them over the phone, they did nothing to contact me, and they didn’t even get in touch when I sent them a dismissal letter.

In summary of my months off from uni, I was sick a few times and bored quite frequently. I watched a lot less films than I planned to, but I did manage to read some books. My hospital appointments all came in thick and fast as multiple clinics all wanted to see me, and see me again after test and scan results went through. Days following hospital appointments were spent in bed. Twice I was at the same hospital two times in one week, and I almost had it happen again recently but I had to cancel due to being sick with the flu again. (What, you don’t get the flu twice in one year?!) My plan to get drafts off my plate and onto here fell through, as no PA meant no trips to the library to work in a more comfortable setting. Some extra physical mobility problems meant I was prevented from going further with trying to work at a desk at home.

I am now back to Uni and dreading the first essay of the academic year. The good news is, common sense prevailed and despite the purge of Corbyn voters, won with 60% of the vote.

Honest to a god I don’t believe in, I don’t have a clue what’s going to happen next.

And that’s now you up to date. If you read all of this, then you, my friend, deserve a cookie.

Thank you very much for reading. If you feel there was anything I missed out, please let me know!

AFJ