Thursday, April 26, 2007

Walking Stick?

There's a restaurant here that I like to go to. It's quiet, they do lovely food, have generally good service, aren't stupidly expensive, and manage to be family-friendly while not being a kiddie restaurant. The layout is of lots of different "rooms", up and down various flights of stairs, but they've made the effort with accessibility - the main entrance and bar (and the toilets) are ground-floor and totally accessible, and a combination of Stannah stairlifts and ramps/level access fire escapes mean that while a wheelchair user can't access every table in the place, they can use most of them. Usually they ask if I can manage the stairs and make an effort to seat us at a table with as few stairs to contend with as possible. Yesterday, Pip had a few hours without the Littlun, so we decided to go there for a spot of lunch.

Mary and Pip enter the restaurant, and approach the reception desk.

PIP: Good afternoon, could we have a table for two, please?

The waitress stands in silence for a few seconds, staring at Mary and Pip in utter shock or possibly disbelief, before turning and running off up the stairs.

PIP: Was it something I said?
MARY: Maybe "table for two" has become a slang term for something unspeakable.
PIP: (peeking up the stairs) I hope she's okay.

Enter the waitress, slowly making her way down the stairs with much trepidation. She stares at Mary and Pip in silence.

PIP: Is everything alright?

The waitress continues to stand silently. Mary and Pip start looking about for another staff member, to alert them that their colleague may be unwell.

WAITRESS: (slowly, pointing) Walking stick!
MARY: (baffled) Yes, yes it is.
WAITRESS: (pointing) Out there. Fire door.
MARY: Excuse me?
PIP: You want us to go in the fire door out there?
The waitress nods and without waiting for a response, runs off up the stairs. Mary and Pip exchange a glance, shrug, and make their way back outside, round to the fire door, which is open, and into the restaurant, where the waitress is beaming proudly by a table with two menus on it.

Strangely - or perhaps not - once we were seated, the waitress had a full and complete grasp of conversational English, albeit with a lifelong Suffolk accent.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Knitting and the Unholy Experiment

making a stitch, one
Originally uploaded by girl_of_bats.
The last few days have been mostly taken up with knitting activity. This has had two main facets - the Group, and the Unholy Experiment.

The Unholy Experiment was Steve's idea (go on, you can all act surprised now). We were having a Lazy Monday, with no plans to go out or to do anything particularly energetic, partly so I could be ready for Active Tuesday (which turned out a lot more active than I'd imagined). He was fidgeting with small screwdrivers while printing off some study notes, and I was curled up knitting.

Him: Would it be possible to knit on screwdrivers?
Me: I don't see why not.
Him: How geeky would that be, knitting on screwdrivers! X, Y and Z would be so jealous!
Me: (taking screwdrivers) It would be tricky, but definitely possible... hmmm... go grab the orange yarn.

Click on the picture to go to my flickr stream and see more process photographs.

I am pleased to confirm that yes, knitting with screwdrivers is perfectly possible.

We used one Phillips-head and one flat-head, but it would be easier with two Phillips-head screwdrivers. The main problem we encountered was that the screwdrivers are not of a uniform diameter - there's the thin black bit which is just shy of 3mm (US size 3), then the smooth silver bit is 4.5mm (US size 7) and the ridged silver bit, as well as being ridged (gaa) is 5mm (US size 8). We could have overcome this by using larger screwdrivers with handles, but I feel that the weight of the handles would have made knitting even trickier and dropping/fumbling one of them and thus losing stitches even more of a possibility. The second difficulty was avoiding tearing the yarn with the sharp bits. The third problem was that while knitting needles are made to slide comfortably against each other, these scrape. It's not as pleasant a knitting sensation as normal needles offer.

They're going to come and take me away soon, so moving swiftly on, Active Tuesday.

Someone on flickr had recommended Web Of Wool as being "the best knitting shop in Leamington" so I decided I had to try and find it and that Tuesday would be a good day to do this.

53 Regent Grove, Holly Walk. I didn't know Regent Grove but Holly Walk is where Social Services and the Jobcentre and all that sort of thing are. I decided Regent Grove must be some sort of house-name (it's that sort of area). I figured a wool shop would be easy enough to spot, and set off.

Alas, Regent Grove is NOT a house, but a street which then morphs into Holly Walk. Alas also, Web Of Wool not only looks very much like a residential house from outside, but is next to a florist, which is bright and colourful and very "there" in the way that florists are, and it's near a corner. Because of the arrangement of dropped kerbs and crossings, I didn't go all the way along that strip of pavement - I looked along registering "hotel, florist, couple of regular houses" and then started scanning the pavement for my next crossing point.

After two and a half laps of Holly Walk I decided the hell with it and wandered into one of the businesses to see if their receptionist could offer a clue. She directed me to what appeared to be a tailor's shop, and thankfully they were able to tell me that Web of Wool was "next to the florist's over there".

About half an hour of poddling about on the scooter, I wasn't disappointed. Web Of Wool turned out to be as nice and relaxing and friendly a shop as you could wish for. The lovely Anna helped me look for a pattern that might be good, helped me pick some yarn for the project I chose to do, and also told me about their knitting group, which is on Tuesday evenings.

So after a rest at home, Steve drove me back into town and I attended my first ever knitting group. It was great! Since leaving work, I've become really unused to sitting in a room with several other people. But everyone was really welcoming, and while I couldn't participate much in discussions, it was nice listening to other people chat rather than reading it off a screen. The knitters were helpful when I ran into trouble with reading my pattern (it still looks like a cat jumped on the keyboard to me) or wanted to check something. It took a lot out of me, which was a foregone conclusion. But I took away several email addresses, and I feel that I'll be welcome to join them again next time I'm in Leamington, and hopefully I'll be able to make a couple of friends over here. Not next week though, as tomorrow I'm going back home.

Steve came to collect me and we went to get something to eat at a nice, quiet place. To be honest, we could have gone to the Ritz or McDonalds and I wouldn't have noticed the difference, I was so shattered. But definitely happy.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

New Doctor

Firstly, after the bout of knitting woes, things started going better again. I now have a blue swatch of ribbing and am part-way through a blue swatch of seed stitch (aka moss stitch). I think this is my favourite so far to look at and feel, but it does seem to take a bit longer to get to the end of the row.

Secondly, I've had a letter from the Disability Living Allowance people, explaining that they have received my claim renewal, and want to write to my GP for more information. That's pretty normal and nothing to worry about. After all, it'd be a bit pointless if they didn't check with at least one medically qualified person.

When I first applied, just under two years ago, I was quite pleased to hear that they would contact my GP. Dr W has known me and my family since I was a kiddie. She saw my childhood illnesses, my mum's long-term health problems, my marriage and subsequent divorce, my teenage smear-test scare. She's the person who diagnosed me with The Lurgy. She knows me well enough to know I'm not the sort of person who would be trying it on. She knows the sort of lifestyle I had before I got ill, and how it compares to the activity levels I have now. I could not think of a non-family person better placed to give the DWP useful, in-depth and accurate information about my health.

She is also, currently, on maternity leave.

I have seen Dr M, the locum who is covering for her, twice. Both times were follow-ups regarding an ear infection I had a while back. She was very nice, efficient, and gave the impression that she knew what she was talking about. Unfortunately my ear infection had sweet buggerall to do with my Long Term Lurgy, unless you count that I've had as many, if not more, visible "oozy" acute infections (yum) in the last couple of years since I got ill, than I had in the fifteen years before.

So, when I saw her about the ear thing, I mentioned that I was working on a DLA renewal and that they might want Dr W's input, which may fall to her. She smiled and said this had already happened with one of Dr W's patients - what she would like to do is make a long appointment with me once they contact her, and we can go through her part of the form then.

No problem, right?


My diagnosis label is "ME/CFS". In non-medical terms that means "we don't know". There are three main schools of thought. One is that people with ME/CFS have a psychiatric problem - that the reason we experience the physical symptoms is because of some past uncovered trauma, or low self-esteem, or stress issues. Sort of like a panic attack, only instead of the physical manifestation of our mental issues being shivering and trouble breathing and pounding pulse, we get the pain and whatnot, and instead of it being for a few minutes at a time, it's more or less constant. Another viewpoint is that people with ME/CFS have a biological problem that medical science doesn't have a conclusive test or cure for yet. Medical research from the biological viewpoint is ongoing but underfunded - after all, ME isn't a spectacular illness with a high death rate. The other widely held opinion is that people with ME/CFS are making it all up, for fun/attention/time off work. Thankfully this is more rife among the general public than the medical profession.

I do not know which of these theories Dr M subscribes to.

Dr W can confidently feel certain I'm not malingering, because she has known me for many years. How to convince Dr M, who I've known for all of fifteen minutes, that I'm not a workshy scumbag?

Similarly, I know that if Dr W thought my problems were psychiatric, she would have immediately referred me for whatever flavour of psychiatric help she deemed most appropriate. As such, on my original DLA forms, the minor mental health trouble I had were listed as a secondary effect of my illness - in other words, that I got bouts of depression and mood swings because I lost my job/was unable to go out like I used to/got frustrated by my physical limitations/was in a large amount of pain. But what if, this time, Dr M puts it all in as "mental health"? Will they consider my illness to have changed, and would I get into trouble for that?

Or even if Dr M accepts that I'm not making it up and am psychiatrically sound, how do I properly describe the effects my illness has on me without sounding like a whinger? When I'm meeting people, particularly if I don't know them well, I try to be positive and upbeat, try to make a good impression. I'm full of painkillers and if the illness comes up I say things like "the hourly pay sucks but the parking's great" or "meh, it's only a bit of pain, it's not actually going to kill me". What the DLA people need to know about are the bits I don't like people to see - about the pain that is so bad it reduces me to tears, the dizziness that makes me vomit, the lack of dexterity that makes me drop my plate of dinner all over myself and the floor. See, you can hear those violins already. So how do I give a clear picture without giving a bad impression?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Look Ma, No Stitches

It's not been a great 24 hours for the knitting efforts.

I've mostly being working on the basic garter stitch scarf Mk II which is coming along slowly but surely.

However, yesterday I got my new knitting book - Stitch 'n Bitch by Debbie Stoller - so I picked up my test piece to have a bit of an experimenty.

As the knitters in the audience will be aware, a piece that is just stocking stitch tends to curl in on itself, so I had the bright idea of doing a few rows of normal basic garter stitch before embarking on anything else. I could probably do garter stitch in my sleep by now.

This confidence may be the reason why the needles leapt from my hands, pulling several stitches off themselves, which promptly undid, due to me tightening my grip on the yarn as the needles dropped. I tried to kind of slide them back on but it just wasn't happening.

A few choice curses later, while I ripped the swatch apart, and I figured, hey, it was only a test piece, no biggie. So I cast on again to start trying to do what I was planning to do - some ribbing. Cast on, did some rows, rested, did some rows, showed it to Steve, who agreed it was coming out right. Marvellous. I thought about getting up to grab the camera and take a picture, but decided that instead I'd go to bed and then in the morning, try to make a square of it and then cast off.

Two rows into the morning, I'd somehow acquired an extra stitch (probably from not putting the wool to the front/to the back correctly) and was getting in one hell of a snarl-up where the yarn was unravelling and I think I must have shoved the needle through the yarn rather than through the stitch. I tried to undo it but with limited success, and just as I thought I'd got it, out plopped the right-hand needle again, taking the yarn with it.

This was the point at which I threw the needles.

I just don't get it. It's wrapping string around a stick, for pity's sake, how hard can it be? Also - how come I never stuffed up like this while doing the first scarf, the first casting on, the first zillion rows of garter stitch?

Anyway, I've cast on again, with the now rather battered blue wool, and I've done about eight rows of ribbing. Again. If it cocks up this time I'm going to cut the yarn and try again with a non-wibbly length. Or get stabby with the knitting needles, either's good.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Lovely Day (and Twitter)

Another church
Originally uploaded by girl_of_bats.
As I'm at Steve's at the moment, and the weather is getting warmer, we've wiped down and charged up the scooter and today I took it out.

I had planned to simply trundle off to Asda, and get some milk and whatnot for the weekend. It's a nice enough little trundle and has the added bonus of being productive.

However, Steve convinced me that it would be a better idea for me to go into town, maybe go to the park, have an ice cream, that kind of thing. I didn't take much convincing - it's just been far too gorgeous a day to waste.

So off I trundled into town. After a bit, Steve got on the motorbike and came to meet me for lunch at the Victoria Coffee House, and then we went for a walk in the park, Jephson Gardens. It's easy to control the scooter with one hand, so we were able to hold hands like any other couple - because it's nice, rather than for support. I think a few people wondered why he was holding a motorbike helmet though.

Regrettably I had to turn down Steve's offer of taking me out for dinner tonight, but nevertheless, he went and got some takeaway and we've had a wonderfully relaxing evening in. Ahhh.

In other news, I've started playing with Twitter. I'm not entirely sure how to find people on it, I think you need to exchange email addresses first so that one of you can send the other an invite? but really I am a long way from certain about that. If you use Twitter and you want to be added to my friends, post a comment containing your email address. I'll then invite you, but won't publish your comment, so your email address won't be shown to the world from here.

(edited to add tags)

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Haute Cuisine

This evening for dinner Steve and I cooked pork chops, mash, and bacon. The idea is that I'm the one who knows how to cook stuff, but he's the one who's able to safely get stuff out of the oven, or turn off the gas and sort things out if I start fitting or if I collapse, that kind of thing. So it's a team effort, but he tends to regard it as me cooking.

So anyway, this meal. There are a number of cooking things I regularly cheat with to save time, energy or washing up - instant gravy, pre-peeled/chopped veg, that sort of thing - and this meal was no exception. The mash was Smash, and the bacon was pre-diced. He mixed the Smash, I fried the bacon, we mixed the two together, huzzah.

The pork chops, however, I did from scratch the way my mum used to, with a certain amount of various seasonings, an eggy-breadcrumby coating, pan-fried and then baked for a while covered over with foil. Obviously mine are never as good as my mum's, but then nothing is as good as your own mother's home cooking. They're perfectly passable though and might well fool the casual observer.

We sat down to eat, and as he often does, Steve started enthusing about the meal. "Mmmm, this is fantastic. Thankyou darling, this is gorgeous. We must never feed my dad this, he wouldn't want to leave," and so on. Of course, I asked what it was in particular he liked, for future reference... of course, he was on about the bacon-y Smash.