Still glad of the stick

Well, ten or eleven days post-off, how are things?

The pain continued to be pretty bad for most of last week. Couldn’t sit, stand, or lie comfortably, and the movements required in changing from any position to any other position were exquisite agony. Met a couple of friends for a pizza on the Thursday before Christmas (22nd?) in Prezzo restaurant, part of Aldo Zilli’s business empire. Had to use the loo. Didn’t fancy the long narrow twisty flight of stairs down to the loos so decided to use the accessible loo on the ground floor. Door blocked by a bin, door locked. Asked waitress to let me in, she had to unlock it with a knife. Once in, the toilet was like the Trainspotting toilet if you let it dry out for six months. Unusable. Struggled, crossly, up and down the stairs and sent ranty email to the company about their requirements under the Equalities Act.

On Saturday, Christmas Eve, I was on my way to Yorkshire for Christmas with my family. Friend kindly helped me to the station, carrying my stuff down the stairs from the flat for me and dropping me off in the station. Managed to get help to get bag on to both trains (one connection) but not off, so struggled with that. Hip was just about singing a tune by the time I got there. Mum’s house has no banisters and the stairs are steep and narrow – good job my stick on stairs technique is pretty good! On Boxing Day we went into town and I walked the length of the main street and back (with stick) so probably 1.5-2 miles, and was just knackered afterwards. Got home, fell asleep in chair.

On Tuesday my lovely lovely boyfriend arrived and on Wednesday we went into town and went for a walk in the park, which isn’t a huge distance but it was very windy and I was struggling. Very tired and sore afterwards. We came back here yesterday and it was great having someone to help on the train with the luggage, made for a much easier journey although I was still v sore when we got home. This morning we got the bus round to Stores to collect the bike and then walked back with it, which was about 2 miles in total and I was a bit out of sorts afterwards, out of sorts enough that I couldn’t face walking over to the Bike Co-op to look at the sale. Walked about another mile this afternoon which wasn’t very troublesome, but my hip is lightly throbbing now.

It’s easier to find a comfortable sitting position now, but it’s still hard to lie comfortably in any position. Getting into bed, getting out of bed and turning over in bed are still very very sore, twisting is sore, sometimes sitting down and standing from sitting are sore, and sometimes bending is sore. I know they said the x-ray was clear, but the pain I have doesn’t feel like muscle pain, and it feels like the bones are a bit wrong, so I think there is a fracture and it just didn’t show up. It’s very common for pubic ramus fractures to be undetected on first x-ray, and the treatment would be rest, painkillers and mobilise as able, so I don’t think it’s worth going back to A&E although they said to go back if it wasn’t better in a week. I’m getting about the house without the stick, other than first thing when I’m just up and sore and last thing when I’m tired, and I’m managing stairs much more easily, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable walking outside without it yet. I’m not sure I’m steady enough on uneven ground (and everything is uneven round here, cobbles, holes, knackered tarmac), and I’m tiring quickly, and it acts as a warning to other people that I’m not quick or nimble just now, so I’m sticking with it for now. Ha ha see what I just did there.

I had wanted to go to the torchlight procession tonight but I just wasn’t up to it. And it’s pissing down, so that worked out ok. 😉

In cheerier news, my lovely lovely boyfriend is here and will remain here until next Wednesday, and that automatically makes everything better. 🙂

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Ouch in the dark

Following yesterday’s off, I remain in considerable pain. (This is like the bulletins they used to pin to Buckingham Palace gates when the King was ill). Had some difficulty finding a comfortable position to sleep in last night. I usually sleep on my right, but my right thigh has a huge bruise which is also a lump – a big multicoloured lumpy bruise – and the inner part of my left knee also has a big bruise, yellow last night, purple today, so sleeping on my right was awkward. At some point last night, my neck got sore too and today I’ve been one of those people unable to turn their heads; I have to turn my whole body.

Knee

Hip

That thigh looks very cellulitey, and it is, but the lumpiness is mainly the bruising. And I promise, it’s not a picture of my arse, it’s well down my leg. But it’s hard to take a photo of the lateral-posterior aspect of your own thigh.

I ache everywhere today. In addition to the pain and stiffness in my hip, I have sore knees, sore arms, a sore neck and sore shoulders. Having spent the day doing nothing, I thought I was feeling better, but 15 minutes of cooking dinner had my hip beyond painful. And then there was a power cut, so I was making risotto by the light of a bike light, trying not to trip over my stick. I was thinking about going back to work tomorrow, but I think I’ll give it another day.

What really pisses me off is that the council have been asked over and over again to grit the cycle paths. There are several good off-road cycle/footpaths in Edinburgh, mainly on old railway lines. My route to work via the cycle path is just over 3 miles, downhill most of the way there (uphill most of the way back), well-surfaced with tarmac, more than wide enough for two bikes or a bike and two pedestrians to pass each other safely, no traffic, well-lit through the eastern half, dark and spooky in the western half, and always something to talk about – sofa in the burn, corpse in the undergrowth, various burnt-out things by the side of the path, trees on fire, pig’s head in the tunnel – always something new and interesting to see. And it takes me 15 minutes. If I went round by the road it would be a mile longer and take at least twice as long, assuming I wasn’t squished by a lorry on the way. The cycle paths are very well used, by cyclists and pedestrians, but they’re never a priority for gritting. Edinburgh wants to be a model cycling city. Edinburgh wants to encourage active and sustainable transport. But when it comes to doing the things that facilitate active and sustainable transport – like making sure the good routes are fit to use, forget it. We’ve got millions of pounds to piss up against the wall in the name of mythical trams, but when it comes to the day to day realities, well, those things just aren’t important enough.

You know when Superman goes flying through the air with his arms out in front?

I did that this morning, but it wasn’t through the air, it was across tarmac, and my feet were still attached to the pedals. I said some bad words.

I’ve not been cycling for the past few weeks because it’s been icy and cycling on ice really scares me. But it rained all night and it looked quite mild so I thought I’d give it a go. Was going along the Innocent and it was fine – none of the usual dark icy hollows were dark or icy and  all went well until just east of the little bridge over the burn before the gates before Duddingston Road West. All of a sudden I was flat on my front, and sliding and sliding and sliding. I don’t know when the bike and I came apart. I knew straight away I was in a wee bit of pain so I lay on my front swearing loudly until I could sit up again, then knelt up for a while swearing loudly until I thought I could stand up. That was tricky because I’d hit a massive icy patch – more like slush than ice.

I managed to limp round to our community equipment stores which is in the industrial estate behind the wall and went to check myself over – grazes and bruises mainly, and some hip pain. Decided to try to walk the remaining mile and a half and hadn’t even got as far as the chicances when I stopped being able to walk,. Hobbled back to Stores, stuck the bike in the warehouse, and the rapid response driver gave me a lift to A&E. Not the best choice of vehicle – climbing in and out of a transit van isn’t easy with a dodgy hip but he wouldn’t let me sit in the back.

A&E X-rayed me because they thought I might have a fractured pubic ramus, but the X-rays are all fine so it’s almost certainly just muscular. They’ve given me a stick – the nurse laughed when he brought it and I stood up with my arm in position to be measured for it – and gave me an ibuprofen the size of my head which has taken the edge of things. I have to rest it for a couple of days and then do some gentle range of movement stuff with it. Am hoping to be back at work on Thursday.

Ouch ouch ouch ouch ouch ouch.

Shall we dance? On a bright cloud of music shall we fly?

Went to see The King And I last night at the Festival Theatre. I had wanted to go, but didn’t have the cash, and then a friend texted to say he had a spare ticket and I didn’t need to pay till January payday, so I jumped at the chance.

It’s a production by Leicester’s Curve. Mrs Anna is played by Josefina Gabrielle, who apparently has been in lots of stuff but the only thing I recognised was she was Ofelia in the series of Auf Wiedersehn Pet where they went to Cuba. The King of Siam is played by Ramon Tikaram (Tanita’s brother) who has been in loads of stuff, none of which I have seen. Quite a few women said to me “oooh Ramon Tikaram, he’s gorgeous” but he’s nowhere near as hot as Yul Brynner was when he was the King of Siam. No, seriously, he’s really really hawt in that. I remember being very surprised when I first saw it.

Anyhoo, the relative hotness of Kings of Siam aside, I don’t think I have ever enjoyed a theatre production more than I enjoyed this. I know the whole thing is full of rampant cultural imperialism and white Western delusions of superiority, but set that aside and just enjoy the show. The songs are great – I’ve been irritating everyone by singing “Getting to Know You” at work all day – particularly irritating because I only know about three lines of it. Shall We Dance is lovely, and I always forget that I Whistle A Happy Tune is from that show; in my head it’s a Disney song, possibly sung by Jiminy Cricket although I know really that’s Give a Little Whistle (and always let your conscience be your guide). The development of the respect and affection between Anna and the King is subtle and touching and the ultimate inevitability of them coming to love each other but never being able to be together is sad. But where this production really excels is its visual beauty. Sets, costumes, lighting et cetera et cetera et cetera were all just gorgeous to look at. Two massive gold Thai Buddha statues dominated the stage, beautiful Thai dresses (they’re not saris and they’re not cheong-sams – I don’t know what they are), wonderful massively hooped dresses for Anna that made me want to put one on and flounce down a staircase somewhere. And the lighting – the most beautiful thing in the whole show was when Burmese present to the King, Tuptim, was having secret meetings with her lover Lun Tha. They did it with beautiful orange and blue paper lanterns hanging from Oriental-looking wooden frames, lowered from the ceiling. The whole thing was so beautifully put together, it was just stunning.

If you like The King and I anyway, or if you just like musicals, then it’s worth seeing for its own sake, but I really think that this is a production that’s worth seeing even if you hate musicals, or plays, or historically racist stories about governesses in the Far East, just because it’s such a beautiful beautiful show.

Same sex marriage – what is the problem?

The Scottish Government, bless it, has recently held a public consultation on whether or not to legalise same-sex marriage. The usual groups are protesting that marriage is only between one man and one woman because that’s the way god wants it. I can’t be bothered going into why I think that’s a crock of shit, or why I think “but it’s always been this way” is not a reason to consider changing things. Instead I want to talk about a gay couple I know.

I know this couple through work. They are in their 30s, they have been together for at least ten years, to my knowledge. One of the couple, let’s call her M, was diagnosed with a hereditary progressive neurological condition in her late teens. It’s a condition which will eventually be fatal. Her partner, H, is fit and well. I don’t know if the couple were together before M was diagnosed, but I first knew them in 2002ish when M had been diagnosed and symptomatic for a couple of years, and they were together then and I think had been for a while.

The condition M has is not curable and not really treatable. People who have the condition don’t usually start showing symptoms until their 30s, 40s, 50s – M was very unlucky to be symptomatic so young. I’ll be surprised if she’s still with us in 5 years. H has stayed with her, loving her, helping her and caring for her for at least the last ten years and shows no signs of not being around for whatever the future brings. Like I say, I don’t know how long they’d been together when M became ill, but they certainly didn’t have 10 or 20 or 30 years of commitment behind them, or the legal and moral obligations of a marriage. Lots of couples, married or otherwise, split up under the strain of debilitating illness. Lots of people feel unable to cope with the reality of their role changing from partner to partner and carer. Some people with an illness don’t want to continue their relationship, because they don’t want to be a burden (as they see it) or other reasons. For an unmarried couple who hadn’t been together very long to still be together, devoted, and dealing together with the shit that is this condition, in some ways seems to me remarkable. The bonds they have together, the commitment they have shown to each other and to their relationship, the care and support and assistance that H provides for M, all of those seem to me to be what the commitment of marriage demands. I absolutely feel that those things can and are found in relationships which are not married relationships, of course, I’m just saying that this relationship exemplifies what marrying couples vow to do for each other. And yet, the law says they cannot be married because they are both female.

I don’t understand why Kim Kardashian being married for less than 2 months to a man is more acceptable than H and M being married to each other for years and years and years. I don’t understand why J-Lo’s apparent need to marry every bloke she goes out with is ok, but H and M being married would make a mockery of the institution.

I’ve never had any strong desire to get married (I would, however, love to have a wedding 😉 ) – I think it’s perfectly possible to be committed to each other for life without marriage. I’m not anti marriage, and I’d accept a proposal if I felt that level of commitment anyway, but I wouldn’t be waiting for a proposal, if you see what I mean. But it’s absolutely ludicrous that any old arsehole can get married to any other old arsehole, with no commitment to making it work, no real thought going into it, no determination to be faithful and loving, as long as they’re different sexes, but loving, committed, devoted, caring couples who happen to be of the same sex can’t.

I really hope the Scottish Government makes it legal, no matter what the religious groups say.

More news from the cold front

Last night I put some Olbas Oil on a tissue and put it inside the pillowcase so it would keep me decongested as I slept. Fine. But in my sleep I must have shifted so my face was right on it and the heat from me enlivened it, and I woke up convinced my face had set on fire in the night.

Or maybe I just hallucinated that bit. Nightnurse does funny things to my brain.

People who park like fuds, part 1

According to the Highway Code, parking on the pavement is prohibited except where expressly permitted, and parking within 10 metres (32 feet) of a junction is prohibited unless in a designated parking space. As I walk and cycle around Edinburgh I see people ignoring these rules, usually so that they can get to the bookies’ by my office five seconds quicker. It really really pisses me off. Parking so close to – or on – a junction makes it very difficult for people to pull out of the side street safely, and when you’re on a bike, you want to be absolutely sure you can see what’s coming because you don’t have a metal cage around you. And now a little garage has opened under the railway bridge near one of our offices (I will refer to it as The Arches, in a Phil Mitchell voice) and their owners/employees/patrons* are parking on the pavement. One of my colleagues saw a woman having to push her child’s pushchair into the main road to get round the Range Rover on the pavement. We’ll be phoning the police every time we seem them parked on the pavement. Maybe in the future I will do a blog about the tyranny of the car and the sense of entitlement it engenders in some people, but for now I give you People Who Park Like Fuds (Part One).

*I don’t know which; it could be any or all of them.

Public sector pensions strikes – what the Government isn’t telling you

This is what I was banging on about on facebook which prompted someone to ask why I didn’t have a blog yet. I’m just going to copy & paste it here ‘cos it’s quicker and we in the public sector like to be efficient.

The government is proposing 4 changes to public sector pension schemes
– increased contributions
– increased retiral age
– change to career average instead of final salary
– change from calculating pension increases based on Retail Price Index to Consumer Price Index

Right, we are all agreed that demographic changes mean changes are needed for the pension fund – but these have already been made. Changes were made to the pension fund a couple of years ago which have addressed the changes required as a result of a growing ageing population. So the government saying that changes are required on demographic grounds is nonsense. We’ve already addressed that. So part of the reason for the dispute and the strike is that the government are saying more changes are required on demographic grounds and they’re not.

Second thing – increased retirement age – fine if you’re fit and well in a sedentary job. Not that great if you’re a road-mender, or a physio, or a janny, or something else which requires a high level of strength, fitness and stamina. People in many public sector jobs are unlikely to be able to work until 68 because they just won’t be fit enough. I was talking to a man today who works in a residential unit for teenagers with challenging behaviour. He was expressing concern that the Government expects him to be able to do his job until he’s 67. He spent this morning being assaulted by a 15 stone, 6ft2″ teenager. He doubts he’ll be fit enough to deal with that at 57, let alone 67.

Change to career average salary from final salary – for some people this might work out better, but there are lots of ways to calculate a career average (remember doing mean, median and mode averages at school?) and they haven’t said which way they want to use. So this might be better for some people, but it might be much much worse, especially for women who are more likely to have years out for childcare because of the patriarchy and that. Should we accept a change when even the government don’t know how they want that change to be in reality? We could be signing up to something that sees us all much much worse off. Would you sign a mortgage agreement without knowing how much you’d have to pay every month or how long the mortgage term was? Would you sign a credit agreement for a new telly without being sure you’d actually get the telly?

Change from calculating annual pension increases based on RPI – CPI – already imposed without agreement, means pensioners are receiving much lower increases every year – pension increases have been reduced by about 15%. The UK is the 6th strongest economy in the world, but thousands of our pensioners die every year of cold-related illnesses. Making pensioners poorer will not keep them fit, well or alive.

Proposal for increased contributions – government wants us to contribute considerably more each towards our pensions, saying we’ll need this to cover demographic changes. Firstly, see above – already addressed – government are fibbing. Secondly, they’re fibbing. If this was about making us pay more to increase the pension funds, you’d expect to see the pension funds going up. But what the government want to do is make us pay more, then reduce the local government grant (which is the money central government gives to each local authority every year) by the amount of the increased contributions, so each employer will reduce their contributions to employees’ pensions. So we pay more, central government pays less, and overall the pension funds do not increase. So it won’t address demographic changes at all. It just means we pay more and the government has more in the Treasury to pay for illegal wars, MPs’ duck-houses, Nadine Dorries etc. So, fibbing. The Scottish Government have said that if the increased contributions bit was enforced, they would pay the increased contributions for local government employees in Scotland so our contributions would not go up – Westminster government has said if the Scottish government did that, they’d just make some legislative changes to impose it on us anyway.

Furthermore (I do like a good furthermore, don’t you?) there is no lack of money in local government pension schemes in Scotland. Lothian pension fund is so far in surplus that we could all stop paying in tomorrow and it could meet all of its commitments for the next 20 years. It appears to have been managed sensibly and well over the years and has a very healthy surplus. If these changes go through, people will stop joining, existing members will come out – several people have said to me that they can’t afford the increased contributions and would leave the scheme. The scheme relies on being attractive to members, being a good thing, so that people want to join – if it loses members it loses money and then it will have problems meeting its commitments. And if people only have the state pension to fall back on, as legislation stands just now, they’re likely to be entitled to top-up benefits, and some of those benefits entitle them to other benefits. So they’re costing the state money anyway. Where’s the logic?

I don’t think these changes are anything to do with affordability. They’re about a government that hates the public sector, thinks we’re a waste of space, hates the fact we’ve managed to retain reasonable terms and conditions when private sector employees haven’t fought for their rights, and wants to see us worse off. They want to take our pension money and spend it on whatever nonsense they want to spend it on – massive pensions for MPs being one of the things they’re happy to keep paying for, even if they’re voted out after one term.

I think it’s a crying shame that private sector workers have had their terms and conditions cut over the years. But cutting ours won’t bring theirs back. Decent pensions are affordable for all – support us in our fight, and then start fighting for your own.

So, this is my first post

I’ve had a myspace blog for a long time, but I can’t remember the last time I used myspace, so the blog is there, doing nothing in cyberspace. And it’s linked to my real identity. I’d been half-heartedly considering setting up a new blog on a proper blog site, but never got around to doing it. I think that’s partly because there’s still a little bit of me that thinks blogs are a bit narcissistic. Why would anyone think the rest of the world wants to read their thoughts? What makes me think my thoughts are worth publishing?

The other day I published something on facebook and somebody whose opinion I very much respect asked me why I didn’t have a blog yet. So that was the trigger for this. Blame him. I have chosen to keep this blog anonymous and I ask those of you who know my real identity to please respect my choice. I work in a public sector job and if readers don’t know who I am, that gives an added level of security and confidentiality to the service users I work with. I will state here and now that if I do talk about work, service users will be mentioned in very vague terms and I will be doing all I can to disguise their details to make them non-identifiable. This could entail changing ages, conditions, locations and other details while keeping the gist of the post the same.

I will be using this blog to talk about the things I think about. That might be my job, my trade union activism, how much I hate this Government, what it’s like to be a cyclist in this city, feminism, cake, what it’s like to be in a long-distance relationship with a man so lovely I feel like smiling just because he exists (when I told him I was starting a blog he asked me not to embarrass him. I seem to have blown that already), things I like on telly, books I am reading – anything at all that passes through my jumbled messy attic of a mind. I’m willing to discuss and debate but I’m not willing to be abused on my own blog – if you want to make a comment, fine. If you just want to call me a cunt, fuck off and set up your own blog for abusing people on the internet. I should say now that I do swear, quite a lot, especially when agitated. Given that I hang out on cycling forums, I’ve picked up some quite creative swears (thank you Charlotte for fuck-haired imbecilic cockwomble) and I’m not afraid to use them. I don’t think swearing is the sign of a small vocabulary. Face it, I know the normal words and the swear words!

I’m still getting used to how this site works so I might make technical errors. Point and laugh, I don’t care. The person who never made a mistake never made anything. (Aren’t clichĂ©s great?)

I think that might be all for now. Shall I get on with the proper blogging?