Sunday, November 23, 2008

It's that time of year

A little song about Santa.

First of all, a big thank you to all the people who left such supportive comments on my last, rather depressing, post. Judicious application of cups of tea, hugs from Steve, a Chinese takeaway, a DVD (Quick review: Colour of Magic, I liked it, David Jason does a cracking job as Rincewind but I can't help wondering what will happen if/when they do Mort, which requires Rincewind and Albert to simultaneously be in the same room), and a good night's sleep have seen me back onto an even keel.

Now for some good news: my laptop, my gorgeous shiny laptop, is resurrected.

Last weekend some sort of particularly nasty... thing... triggered and wriggled its pernicious little way all through my system. One of the specifically nasty features was that it blocked access to the sites for my anti-virus and my anti-adware/spyware updates. It did something to the way my computer accessed google as well, so that clicking any results links from a google search would take me instead to sites for more nasties. The computer would freeze and/or turn off completely and every reboot pushed the nastiness deeper into the system.

Steve did his best with it but it was bedded right in there. Eventually we took the decision to scrub the computer completely and start right over from a fresh install of Windows. After all, we had all the original disks and codes and whatnot, plus a backup of most of my files on an external drive. The backup wasn't perhaps as recent as it should have been, but I know all the important files from this year were on there - all I'd be missing would be a few pictures, half-finished blog posts, savegames and stuff.

And lo, for on the third day it rose again, and here I am, trying to get back into typing on a full-size keyboard (Quick review of eeePC: Handy. Functional. Light. Portable. Small. Very small. But bigger than a phone. On the whole I liked it. But, how can I say this... it's an ideal secondary computer) and desperately trying to remember my passwords for the sites on which I was logged in permanently. I've got most of them now, although I haven't done any shopping yet.

One slight hitch - you know how I was all relaxed because, hey, backups of most of my files on an external drive, nothing to worry about! Well it could help if I could find the aforementioned external drive. It's about the size of a cigarette packet and is somewhere in this house. I'm fairly certain it's not in the kitchen, toilet or bathroom. Unfortunately that's not helpful as this is a three-bedroomed house containing two geeks and therefore any amount of likely-looking wires, defunct remote controls, old mobile phones and various other oojamaflips which get your hopes up but turn out to be Not What You Were Looking For.

Other than that I really need to get on with my Christmas shopping. I think we've already passed the last guaranteed date for getting stuff shipped from the US to the UK before Christmas. I'm also now horribly aware that although within the UK, the last date for which the Post Office guarantees delivery of packages before Christmas is something like 20th December, that doesn't mean by extension that it's okay to order stuff on the 19th and expect it to arrive on time, as it has to be processed first. For our place, depending on factors like how many people we have working, how efficiently our deliveries arrive, and so on, we can process about 150 normal-sized orders in a day. If, on the 19th, we suddenly have 400 orders to process... well, we'll do our best, work overtime, draft in as many extra hands as we can fit in the room, but the room is of finite size and the day is of finite length, so it's likely some people will end up disappointed. Now is the time for online Christmas shopping if you want to be sure of getting the things you need without a panic.

Despite having no idea what to get anyone, I was all super-efficient and made sure people can have an idea of what to get me and a fuss-free way of getting it by making an Amazon wish list. But now I'm worrying that it was a little bit... off... when Mum said "so what sort of things are you after?" to respond by emailing an Amazon link - it feels like making demands. I did follow it up with a more personal email explaining that it's just some ideas and I don't care whether I get all/none/some of the stuff on the list. But even so I can't help thinking that a handwritten letter to Santa, referencing my intention of compliance with the "being good" clause for another year, with pictures cut out of assorted catalogues and stuck on with pritt stick to indicate the Things I Would Like Please, would have been more acceptable.

Actually that's another thing I'd like - a book of etiquette and household tips for such things as Making Christmas Lists As A Grown-up, Avoiding Being Healed At Dinner Parties, and Extracting Loved Ones From The Duvet On Cold Winter Mornings When They Have To Go To Work. I have Nanny Ogg's Cookbook which has much valuable insight, and VideoJug which offers a lot of practical help, but I still often feel like I'm floundering with things like this.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Interview Fail

I had my interview this morning. It was basically the job I'd interviewed for back in the summer, same interviewers and everything. It lasted about three minutes - a very good and positive three minutes, it must be said, although it mostly concerned the weather and how much nicer it had been on the previous occasion - before it became apparent that we were talking about a full-time position, 37 hours a week.

I cannot do 37 hours a week. I wish I could but there is no Reasonable Adjustment in the world that would make it possible.

I don't know what happened. I apply for all the part-time admin jobs on the website, but never the full-times because I know I can't do it. Maybe I misread or mis-clicked. Maybe they'd left a part-time designator on the title by mistake. Maybe it was a callback of candidates from the previous (part-time) post in the summer. Who knows. Upshot was, I'd got myself geared up and excited about things and suddenly I was in an interview for a job that I could not possibly manage.

If there is one thing I hate more than "not being able to do things that I want to do because of my disability", it is "having to admit to other people that I cannot do something."

As I explained to the interviewers that I would not be able to do a full-time job and apologised for having wasted their time, all the adrenalin and good-outcome visualisations that had me psyched up and positive and confident for the interview got snarled up in the crushing sensation of having to admit my inadequacies. God knows what my face must have looked like.

The interviewers were being really nice about it, and the nicer they were, the worse it got - I wanted to just shake hands and find a bolt-hole where I could cry for a minute and then recompose myself, but they could see I was disappointed and embarrassed and they were offering me a drink and asking if I was sure I would be okay to get home, because if I had a lift arranged they didn't mind me sticking around for a while, and did I want to call anyone...

Then I tried to stand up, fumbled my walking stick, it fell away from me and I tried to bend down but I couldn't, and one of the interviewers passed it to me, and I just felt smaller and smaller and smaller.

Scuttled into the loo on my way out, had my minute of crying before realising that on autopilot I'd gone into the disabled loo. It is one thing to tie up one of several available stalls in the ladies for a snivel, but quite another to tie up the only accessible toilet for a purpose other than the obvious. So I rushed a half-arsed job of calming myself down, didn't hang about to repair my makeup, and took the lift down to the foyer to call a cab. As I stepped out of the lift, there were the interviewers, coming down the stairs, taking advantage of the unexpected half-hour break, and there was me, blotchy of face and obviously far more upset than any sane person should be over a goddamn admin job. They were nice again, making sure I could call a cab and so on, and I did my best to brazen it out - oh well, hopefully you won't mind me coming back if there's another part-time job here and I haven't embarrassed myself too badly, ho ho ho - but there's only so much bluff a person can pull off when the world can see that the tears have only just stopped rolling, and while they said I absolutely should continue to apply for future part-time jobs, well, what else could they have said?

The problem isn't that I didn't get the job. The problem is that I didn't get the job because of factors beyond my control that I cannot find a way around. I do a pretty good job of convincing myself that despite my illness, I am doing okay at life, and with a few exceptions, I can do anything I put my mind to. The exceptions rankle though, and one of the biggest exceptions is my inability to consistently and reliably function at a high enough level to be able to hold down a full-time job.

Back home and with a cup of tea inside me, I know I probably should have continued with the interview, made them love me, and then tried to persuade them to drop the hours down, but I didn't have it in me.

The best thing about today so far is that last night I had the foresight to cast on for a sock to take with me and occupy myself while waiting for my post-interview cab. I would have gone nuts if I hadn't had something to do with my hands while waiting. Especially when the next person with "here for interview" tattoed on their forehead (ok, but) strolled into the foyer and took a seat to wait.

That'll teach me to get lulled into a false sense of security by life going smoothly.

My computer is unwell at the moment so I'm not online so much. Right now I'm using Steve's eeePC which is, well, it's okay but the screen and keyboard are tiny, it's not a main computer.

I'm back in my jeans and t-shirt now, feeling like a massive loser and really not ready to go and spend another afternoon of my life putting CDs in boxes. If I'm still doing that when I'm thirty then I want one of you to come and euthanise me, okay?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Did you ever have a couple of days when things just went... right?

It started on Tuesday, worryingly enough with the laundry. Anyone without a tumble drier will understand where I'm coming from - I have enough space to hang up to dry all the clothes that I wash, but the things like towels and sheets cause a bit more of a problem unless you (1) don't care about your heating bill, (2) have the space and strength to wrangle with acres of heavy, damp cloth and (3) don't mind a climate inside your house that is similar in heat and humidity to a tropical rainforest.

So I decided that a graceful admission of defeat was called for, and looked into laundry services. I knew of service washes and I figured that although taxis to and from a laundrette would be expensive, it would get it done, one-off expense, and that would be that. So I made some phone calls.

Ten minutes later and an arrangement had been made for someone to come to the house after I'd got home from work, collect two black bin-liners full of laundry, and bring the contents back, clean and dry, at the same time the following day. Simplicity itself.

Off to work, where I had a busy and productive but thankfully not too awfully hectic afternoon. More and more Christmas-themed things are being ordered. At the end of the afternoon, I finished everything that wanted doing, made my way down the stairs, and reached the bottom just as my cab arrived to take me home.

At home I relaxed for half an hour, then a polite young man collected my laundry, then about ten minutes after that Steve got home, bearing fish and chips. Delicious. That consumed, it was time to go to knitting group for the rest of the evening, where I had a great time chatting with my friends and making steady progress with my current project (Christmas present, sorry). A couple of hours later Steve came to take me home and then I snuggled into bed with a heat pack and a good book. Hot chocolate was offered, but I didn't think I'd stay awake long enough to drink it.

You'd think it couldn't really get much better, and so I may have approached Wednesday with some trepidation. Wednesday, being my day off work, has a horrible tendency to become a Busy Day as I cram in all the stuff I haven't been able to do during the week (I'm home in the mornings, but I can't go out and get stuff done as I have to save my spoons to be able to go to work). This week was looking particularly harsh as it was going to entail a trip into town which is sometimes a real adventure. I braced myself and called Shopmobility to check availability of scooters (I didn't have the spoons to drive my own all the way into town and back) - no problem, a scooter will be ready and waiting. Called a taxi to take me into town, taxi was outside my front door within five minutes.

It was like falling through a door that you expect to be heavy and then someone on the other side opens it before you realise.

First task was to go to the post office to post a thank-you present to the charity which supported me with my DLA appeal. There was no queue, just straight to the desk and sorted.

Second task was to go to the building society to transfer the big lump of DLA back-pay (the money they should have paid me over the nine months leading up to the appeal) into my ISA. No problems whatsoever.

Third task was to go to Boots and fill my prescription. A fifteen minute wait was about normal, I sat and relaxed for some of it and got a bit more knitting done with the rest. The pharmacist was thoughtful enough to bring the bag over to where I was sitting rather than shouting to me, which was nice.

Finally, I had to go to a bank to set up a new account in order to use Direct Payments to hire a Personal Assistant for a few hours a week as per my Social Services assessment. It must be a new and separate bank account so that the payments are transparent.

To briefly explain: DLA is money I get in recognition of the fact that I have various additional expenses due to my disability. I get £46.75 a week for Mobility. But no one cares whether I use it all for taxis, or whether I use some of it to repay friends directly or indirectly for giving me lifts, or whether I count shopping delivery charges, or whether I blow it all on cat food. It's up to me how I spend it - or indeed if I save it. Direct Payments, however, is more like reimbursement of a Personal Assistant's wages. So I will hire my Personal Assistant and I will pay them, and Social Services will give me the money to pay them. However, all of this money must be directly accounted for. If I've been granted 10 hours of care, but I only use a PA for 5 hours, then I will only get the payments to cover 5 hours of care. So there has to be a dedicated bank account for these payments to make sure everyone involved can easily keep track of what money should be and is going in and out at any given time.

The whole thing is a bit chicken and egg, really - to get Direct Payments, I have to go into town and set up a bank account, but that's a major excursion for me, so really, I need Direct Payments to pay a PA to go into town with me to set up a bank account so I can get Direct Payments to pay a PA...

Anyway, it's a task I've been sitting on for a couple of months now, waiting for a day when I had enough spoons AND enough time AND during bank opening times, to be able to try and tackle it by myself. I admit, I was also a little anxious about whether a bank would let me open an account when I don't have a driver's licence or a passport, and I can't say how much money will be going in and out of the account, or when.

But today, ah, today I was charmed... I picked a bank on the basis of "first one I saw", mosied in, explained I wanted to open an account and was told someone would be with me shortly. Shortly enough, someone was with me, ushering me into a private room and offering me a hot drink. Opening an account? No problem! Your wages won't go into it? No problem! Chequebook, no fees, no problem! No passport or driver's licence? Well, I'm sure something in this sheaf of documentation you've brought along will suffice... WIN.

It got better. Steve came to meet me for ten minutes in his lunch break, which meant that not only did I get extra bonus hugs, but I also got to offload the enormous bag of medication which was starting to get in my way. I found a quiet restaurant with a decent lunch offer (a main course and a drink for £8.50) so I decided to treat myself. Then I started to make my way back to Shopmobility via a couple of shops and found (1) a nice top and (2) a book from a series I'm collecting which was reduced from £6.99 to 50p because the cover had got slightly torn. Dropped off the scooter and made my way to a nearby bakery where I had a cup of tea and a chocolate fudge brownie while waiting for a taxi to pick me up and take me home.

But we're not through yet! There was post waiting for me at home - I've been invited to another interview, which is nice, although I know better than to hold my breath. They want my permission to contact my current employer for a reference, which is fine, but I really should give my current boss a heads-up first.

And finally, to round it all off, the guy from the laundry brought back two big bags of nice, clean, dry, folded towels and bedclothes, and that was when I discovered that the price he'd quoted me wasn't per-bag but for the whole lot, so it only cost me half of what I was expecting! The amount of pain and hassle it saved me is phenomenal, so I expect I will be using that service a lot more in the future.

More days like this, please.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Back home and having trouble getting started again

knitting and beach
Originally uploaded by girl_of_bats
I've been home for a while now. The week of holiday was very badly needed. I saw friends and went places and had some time off from the usual daily grind. Pip insisted that I did no housework of any kind - he even made my breakfast toast - and although it was sometimes confusing in the mornings trying to cope with the noise of kids TV and sort-of-talking Boy and attempting to figure out the plan for the day ahead, it was definitely a good break.

This picture of knitting at the beach is for Carie as per the comments on my last post. To Mandy, I can only apologise for the lack of pretty shells - walking on sand for more than a couple of metres is pretty well beyond my capabilities and as you can see, the tide was right out. In my defence, I did bring home Tacky Seaside Fudge for the knitting group. I looked for sticks of rock but it's not in season.

This picture was taken shortly after the following conversation with the Boy, who had been being Very Good for the whole morning getting-up getting-dressed having-breakfast routine:
"You're being a very good boy! What do you want to do today?"
"Eat crispies."
"No, we only just had breakfast, so no crisps. Do you want to stay in, or go out?"
"Stay in."
"Okay... so what would you like to do while we stay in? We could play with your trains, or do your jigsaw..."
"Stay in, eat crispies."
"No, we're not having crisps now. On that understanding, do you want to stay in, or go out?"
"Go out."
"Okay, where shall we go? Shall we go to the park, or to Adventure Island...?"
"Go out, eat crispies."

Unfortunately I came home to discover Steve had been having one of "those" weeks, which meant that the third of a loaf of bread that had been in the cupboard when I left, was still there and enthusiastically waving at me when I got back. Likewise the washing up, the bin, and the bathroom. On the sort-of-plus side, the washing up hadn't really been added to in any significant way as in my absence Steve hadn't been eating properly. While it's true that in some ways that's better than getting back to a house with an extra week's dirty dishes piled up, I'm still having trouble seeing it as an altogether good thing.

Hopefully I'll know better than to go off on holiday again. If I do, I will endeavour to remember (and regular readers should feel free to remind me) that I need to take a couple of extra days off beforehand to make sure the house is in a fit state to leave. I'm not exactly houseproud, the only things I want to be able to eat off are plates and the only things I need to see my face in is the mirror. But there's a dividing line between "liveable mess" and "biohazard" and while I can live with grubby rather than gleaming white surfaces, it's gone too far when they start to turn green.

I've got a lot of it sorted out, but for the time being, and what with the additional demands of work (the volume of orders is steadily increasing, Christmas I think) and the setbacks caused by the colder weather (snow is lovely but causes a sharp increase in my joint pain and a reduction in my endurance) I still feel like I'm playing catch-up and like I may never get on top of everything.