Thursday, January 22, 2009


The job advert for my Social Care Personal Assistant (PA) has been confirmed to run in a local paper next week, as well as to be put up at the local Jobcentre and the nearest university. The closing date for applications will be three weeks after that, and provisionally I will hold interviews two weeks after that.

So hopefully, in the next month or so, I will have some help to Do Things other than work, to the tune of three hours a week. "Things" essentially means anything out of the house that I can't do by myself, so some of it will be leisure activities (like going swimming or shopping) and some of it will have to be essential nonwork activities (like going to the CAB or hospital appointments).

It's going to be a great relief to be able to get help with these things rather than having to either depend on the goodwill of friends, or weigh up an activity against whether Steve could be allowed to take time off work and whether we could afford for him to do so (as a contractor, Steve is only paid for hours worked, with no rights for sick days, holidays, care duties, etc).

The learning curve for How To Be An Employer is astounding, and this despite the fact that I am having my hand held all the way through by the Rowan Organisation. I suspect I'm not making it any easier for myself by trying to be the kind of employer I would want to be employed by, while bearing in mind it is a job that I do not have the physical capacity to do.

The other bit which does my head in is that the going rate for a PA is £7.70 an hour plus mileage and expenses. This is substantially more than I earn, so basically we're saying that my assistant's time is worth more than mine is. That stings a little.

Still, it's not my money, unless I want assistance for more than three hours a week. If I'm lucky I'll manage to find someone really good, who is willing to go beyond just pushing the wheelchair where I ask her to, and actually help me develop my life a bit and come up with some fun things to do. In return they get what's really one of the less arduous ways to earn £20, not to mention the opportunity to participate in various leisure activities without having to pay any entry fees. It's a great job for the right person.

My next task is to try and think of about a dozen questions for interview. Some are no-brainers, like "tell me more about what you're currently doing," or "why do you want this job?" and then there's good old-fashioned trick questions like "so what are you doing with the rest of your day?" but beyond that I've no idea. Is it too optimistic to shove in one about the social and medical models of disability? As ever, all help gratefully received.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

99 Things

I don't usually do memes but this one from Carie looked interesting.

If you join in, please leave a comment so that I can read yours.

Things you've already done: bold
Things you want to do: italicize
Things you haven't done and don't want to - leave in plain font

1. Started your own blog. You cannot imagine how hard it was to resist leaving this one in plain font.
2. Slept under the stars. Although not for an entire night.
3. Played in a band. If you count school orchestra. If you don't, then I haven't and do not want to.
4. Visited Hawaii.
5. Watched a meteor shower.
6. Given more than you can afford to charity. That would be daft. Plus, since cripdom I've become unsure about charities. It seems that they end up doing an awful lot of things that really, our taxes are supposed to cover one way or another. It's not a tragedy that little Bobby aged seven and three-eighths will need to use a wheelchair for the rest of his life, but it's a goddamn disgrace that neither the NHS nor social services will provide a suitable one and he and his family are forced to beg for pity from strangers...

7. Been to Disneyland/world.
8. Climbed a mountain. No, I have quite enough adventure and struggle getting around Sainsburys. You guys climb the mountain and I will stay at the ski lodge making sure the hot chocolate is up to standard.
9. Held a praying mantis. Not a lifelong dream, but I'm not squeamish and will touch/hold anything that is offered (oi, stop sniggering at the back).

10. Sang a solo. You don't want to hear me sing.
11. Bungee jumped. Again, not a lifelong dream, but give me half a chance and a change of underwear and I will be totally up for it.
12. Visited Paris. One day I will actually get my passport sorted out.
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea. Although from the mainland - not while on a boat.
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch.
15. Adopted a child. Although if, when we get to that stage, it turns out Steve and I can't conceive, I would certainly consider it.
16. Had food poisoning.
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty. Not likely, see No 8.
18. Grown your own vegetables. Mandy started it and I put it in a sack of compost and it grew and bore fruit. It counts.
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France. I'll be happy to look at it and say "ooh" if I happen to be there, but I'm not likely to go out of my way to see it.
20. Slept on an overnight train.
21. Had a pillow fight.
22. Hitch hiked.
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill.
24. Built a snow fort.
25. Held a lamb.
26. Gone skinny dipping.
27. Run a marathon. Not likely. See No 8.
28. Ridden a gondola in Venice. Wouldn't say no, but not desperate.
29. Seen a total eclipse.
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset. Many times - living by the sea has pluspoints.
31. Hit a home run. But only on WiiSports.
32. Been on a cruise. I want want want to do this. A couple of weeks in a self-contained environment headed for somewhere with nice weather, with all needful things close at hand (rather than having to arrange lifts or taxi rides), with the time and the facilities to do nothing but unwind, rather than having to go to work and plan epic journeys to Sainsburys and keep on top of the laundry and housework - it's my idea of heaven! Sadly it will never happen as it's Steve's idea of hell. And if I do it without Steve, then as we have seen, I will come home to enough stored-up housework to make the holiday and relaxation a complete waste of time.

33. Seen Niagara Falls in person. See No 19.
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors. See No 19.
35. Seen an Amish community. See No 19.
36. Taught yourself a new language.
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied. Satisfaction for me is not having to panic about how to cover the essentials (eg rent, bills, food, medication, transport). Everything else is window-dressing. Enough money to own our own home or go on a big holiday would be nice, but isn't integral to feeling satisfied with life.

38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person. See No 19.
39. Gone rock climbing. See No 8.
40. Seen Michelangelo's David in person. See No 19.
41. Sung Karaoke. Least said the better.
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt. See No 19.
43. Bought a stranger a meal in a restaurant.
44. Visited Africa.
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight.
46. Been transported in an ambulance.
47. Had your portrait painted. Cartoonists count, right?
48. Gone deep sea fishing.
49. Seen the Sistine chapel in person. See No 19.
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Is there a lift? If yes, see No 19, if no, see No 8.
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkelling.
52. Kissed in the rain.
53. Played in the mud.
54. Gone to a drive-in theatre. Never even seen one of these.
55. Been in a movie.
56. Visited the Great Wall of China. See No 19.
57. Started a business. Um. Does a school newspaper when I was 12 count? With no teacher involvement beyond getting my English teacher to agree to back me up when asking the head for permission, I raised the capital, I approached the school reprographics unit and negotiated a deal for paper and photocopying, and I organised a "staff" of other students. As a group we wrote the articles and sold it at breaktimes, getting out approximately one issue per half-term, except the time when we devoted the whole front page to reporting on a food fight, when I was called in to see the head and told that since a lot of copies went home and were seen by parents, the school would not allow me to continue with the paper if I distributed that issue. We made a profit even after repaying the capital and paying the running costs and providing prizes for several competitions. At the end of the year we were all leaving the school so we left some 'start-up capital' with the head of English, to give to anyone who was interested in doing a paper again, and split the rest between us - it wasn't a fortune, but it was enough for me to go to Woolies and buy all the stationery and bits and bobs I needed to start high school.

Now I put CDs in boxes, for a few pence per hour over minimum wage.

58. Taken a martial arts class. Aikido, when I was 16/17. It's supposed to be one of those forms which is pure self-defence, more about agility, poise and using your attacker's strength against them, than about competitive fights, big muscles and breaking bits of wood. As such it often gets marketed as very suitable for women. This is probably why I was usually the only female in the group of about 15 students.

59. Visited Russia.
60. Served at a soup kitchen.
61. Sold Girl Scout cookies.
62. Gone whale watching. See No 19.
63. Been given flowers for no reason. Well, for no reason beyond "I went into the supermarket and saw the flowers and thought I'd get you some." I get chocolate for the same reason. Steve is good like that.
64. Donated blood. And in the process, got over my fear of needles. I'm not allowed to donate any more, which is a little bit upsetting although I understand why.

65. Gone sky diving.
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp.
67. Bounced a cheque.
68. Flown in a helicopter. Although it's a bit No 19-ish.
69. Saved a favourite childhood toy.
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial. See No 19.
71. Eaten Caviar.
72. Pieced a quilt.
73. Stood in Times Square. See No 19.
74. Toured the Everglades. See No 19.
75. Been fired from a job. Nope - only ever left of my own accord or on health grounds.
76. Seen the Changing of the Guard in London. See No 19.
77. Broken a bone.
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle. I ride on the back of Steve's sometimes. We have been on the motorway, so we've done "speeding along" in the sense of "going really quite fast", but I can't see the speedometer from behind him so I have no idea about whether we've been actually speeding as in "going at illegal speeds".

79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person. See No 19.
80. Published a book.
81. Visited the Vatican.
82. Bought a brand new car.
83. Walked in Jerusalem.
84. Had your picture in the newspaper. Local paper only. I was a kiddie, it was something to do with the library. The clipping is in with my envelope 'o' childhood Stuff.
85. Read the entire Bible. Although I do follow it on The Brick Testament and I have more of a working knowledge than you might expect - my agnosticism is a considered and informed personal conclusion rather than a frivolous abandonment of my Christian duties.

86. Visited the White House. See No 19.
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating. I reckon I could, and I'd certainly give it a go if I had to - I have no problem with the idea of eating dead animals or handling dead flesh. But I suspect it is be better, not only for me but also for the animals concerned, to leave slaughtering and butchering to people who know what they're doing and have the right tools for the job. I'd be more likely to give the animal a nonfatal wound which would not only make it distressed and fight-y but also make it so slippery with blood that I wouldn't be able to grab hold of it to finish things. Not good for anyone.

88. Had chickenpox. I *think* I was vaccinated.
89. Saved someone’s life. I'm not going to say I want to do this as that would require someone around me to be in a life-threatening situation.
90. Sat on a jury.
91. Met someone famous. If it was someone famous who was actually worth admiring, see No 19.
92. Joined a book club. Keep meaning to do this, in a sort of end-of-a-roll-of-sticky-tape way. But not an online one. I meet lots of people online. I need to meet more people in the real world.
93. Lost a loved one. I have very little experience of death. My great grandmother, my grandfather, and one of my uncles have died within my lifetime - but while I loved them I wasn't exactly in frequent contact with any of them and we didn't speak the same language, and we were discouraged from attempting to make the journey to attend the funerals. I suspect that losing someone very close, with whom you have a frequent or very intimate association, is something very different.

94. Had a baby. If we ever get round to it. My biological clock, which has never really been silent, is clanging that my prime fertile years are all but over. My rational brain is shouting that first we need to find a different, more suitable house (even if we can't buy, renting would be fine) with, for instance, a toilet on each floor and so on. My neurotic brain is shouting that something is bound to go wrong and that if we need any kind of fertility assistance, we'll only get it if we start actively trying to conceive before I'm thirty and that means we've only got three years left. My preferred prospective co-parent agrees with the theory of the two of us having a kid but is reluctant to take steps towards actualisation.

95. Seen the Alamo in person. See No 19.
96. Swum in the Great Salt Lake. See No 19.
97. Been involved in a law suit. I don't have the capacity to deal with something like that on top of my job, housework, life essentials (like showering and grocery shopping) and so on. This is why the DDA has no teeth. It is dependent on disabled people pursuing lawsuits, and many of us do not have the time/energy/physical wherewithal/mental stability to do so.
98. Owned a mobile phone.
99. Been stung by a bee.

Things I've already done: 28
Things I want to do: 8
Things I haven't done and don't especially want to do: 63

From which we surmise that I'm an apathetic underachiever who doesn't live in America and doesn't get excited about going to look at things "in person".

To balance things up: got married; got divorced; broke up a fight; danced on a bar; climbed a tree; slept with someone old enough to be your parent; done volunteer work; been written poetry by a lover; partied until the sun came up; ended a violent and abusive relationship; watched every episode of a TV show; swum in the sea; protected a child from violence; been sincerely thanked for making a positive difference to someone's life; got the hang of cooking something your mother used to make; admitted being wrong; persuaded someone in authority to change their mind; built a computer from parts; bought something beautiful even though you know you will probably never use it... there we go, I feel better about my life now.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


...uuurgh. I have Additional Lurgy in the form of a cold.

Happily it's not the rotten sort of headcold that wimps try to insist is "flu". Just a cold that is a cold that is a cold, with a sinus-y headache, a sore throat, and a metric smegload of snot.



So yeah, another job in the paper I'm thinking of going for. It's a receptionist/admin assistant position, 15 hours a week, for a children's charity. BUT, I have to phone the Mr Director for "an informal chat" about the position, and right now on the phone I sound so icky and goopy and contagious that he'd probably want to autoclave the phone after speaking to me, rather than encouraging me to send in a germy application form. So it'll have to wait a couple of days.

In better news, I'm on track to become an employer myself - my Direct Payments are ready to go just as soon as I've advertised for, interviewed and selected a personal assistant. For this I have sought assistance from the Rowan Organisation but if anyone's got any top tippery they care to share, the comments are open as usual.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Not Blown Up After All

... just a bit tired out.

The New Year fireworks were a resounding success, with the only casualty being one of L's gloves which got singed by a lighter. Then Steve and I enjoyed one day to rest, one day back at work, and one day to get the house passably tidy in readiness for my mum to come and stay for a few days.

We got lots of nice Christmas presents from my family, including a shiny and very spiffy set of saucepans. Nice as they are, sadly, these have not been the accessibility revolution Mr Rhodes seems to think. Firstly, as you will see from their lovely little "42" diagram on that page, the recommended angles only work if you have kitchen surfaces at well below waist height. Secondly, if you watch the video, you'll see that to drain from the saucepan, you need to hold on to the knob on top of the lid as you tilt - fine when it's empty, but in a real world situation that means your fingers are right in the path of the concentrated column of steam as you drain the boiling water away. And thirdly, you actually need more strength in your arms to manipulate it than with a standard pan, because there's no way to get a two-handed grip in order to use the handle as a lever to create stability.

So don't buy them to try and make cooking easier. But, that said, they are very nice saucepans, with a lifetime guarantee. Using the variable draining-holes in the rim of the lid to release varying amounts of steam is handy. And they are fully backward-compatible with a regular colander in the normal way. ;-)

Christmas dealt with, it was just about time for my birthday, which was the main reason for mum visiting. I took down my lovely tree and packed it neatly away for next year.

Between all of them, and Christmas and my birthday, my family have bought me just about every book that was on my Amazon Wishlist. I was absolutely bowled over. I always have to read every book at least twice before I can consider it not-new, and I can't read just new books (it's an ME thing) so this should keep me excited about having books of newness for at least three months, if not longer.

It was good having mum about for a few days. We've always talked lots. As a kid, she would tuck me in to bed every night and we'd chat for a few minutes. It was my opportunity to talk, as there was no getting a word in edgeways with my sister about. In sixth form, my Thursday morning free period was designated as our Cream Cake Day. When I lived in my little flat, I would come over to use the washing machine and stay for a cuppa and a bit of a chat about nothing very much at all. When I got sick, we had a cup of tea most days, and it added routine and a strong element of familiarity to a world which had been turned upside down. Since I've moved to Warwickshire, we still email or speak on the phone if we have anything particular to say... but it was nice to once again just sit and enjoy a quiet, non-pressured chatter with each other.

That said, it was also nice when mum had left, to be able to come home from work and fall apart by myself, without feeling that I had to put a sociable face on. I love my mum but we probably shouldn't live together.

The people at work gave me cake and flowers, which made me squee with delight. Steve is getting me a watch, just as soon as we actually have a spare half-hour to go into town together so I can try some on. He's also sort-of got me a combination printer/scanner/photocopier doodah, which will link to our wireless network and allow us to print from anywhere in the house. He says this doesn't count as a birthday present though, since it's for both of us to use and it wasn't wrapped, he just happened to buy it the evening before my birthday. I think it counts though. It was definitely a surprise - he only went out for a pint of milk.

So far being 27 isn't much different from being 26, except it's increased that feeling of being stuck in a rut.