Monthly Archives: April 2018

Mixed blessings

Last week was pivotal in my life, as two revelations that will potentially change my life forever have come through — but it remains to be seen whether good or bad will come from it…

Firstly, my pay at work has gone up just enough to set me over the monthly gross limit that means Student Loans will probably deny me the chance to defer my repayments for another year.  They may accept the Jan-Mar payslips I’ve already sent them (I only found out my April pay at the end of the month), but if not, I’ll have no alternative but to start paying back my debts, after so very many years of interest.  If so, it means my pay rise will be more than wiped out!

However, a Lannister always pays his debts, and if I’m on a very high pay rate now, it’s surely about time I started, instead of lingering on lower pay packets like I’m somehow gaming the system and am smarter for getting away with it.  So, if necessary, I will indeed start paying it back — but for my sake, not for that of the debt holders, who are private businesses now, rather than the taxpayer.  I’ll feel better getting the debt off my shoulders once and for all, and since my pay will still increase over the years, it’ll get easier.

(Besides, I don’t want to get in trouble for what they may perceive as attempted fraud, and have to pay back all three loans in one go, or else end up in gaol!)

The other mixed blessing recently has been the inexorable time it’s taken Charing Cross hospital to arrange brain surgery for me — something that was supposed to be set up, with a two-month waiting period, back in February.  Indeed, it’s taken so long that I was encouraged to ask for a whole new referral to a different hospital!  While I continue to worry about my brain condition, and wish I could stop taking medication (which doesn’t always prevent me from getting bursts of “mind static” at odd times, though nowhere near as bad as in December 2016), the delay has given me the chance to keep on living, and relax back into my normal routine.  Hey, I even bought new things — a printer (much faster than the one I got in 2012), and a Freesat digibox that I can use to record things!

However, this mixed blessing has now been entirely reversed: on Friday I finally received a phone call from the team my mother and I have been chasing up for months, and it turns out my surgery has been arranged for mid-May, with a pre-op assessment at the start of the month.  Everyone tells me I’ll live through it fine, and that it’s better to get it over with sooner rather than later, but still, I feel a great deal of trepidation — it’s so sudden, and I worry that my life will be on hold for weeks afterwards, as I slowly recover my strength.  And that’s assuming there are no complications, and I don’t need any significant post-op treatment (like chaemotherapy)!

Still, getting it done soon will at least reduce the time before I can start climbing again (if all goes well), and perhaps more importantly, start donating blood again some day in the next decade.  I was called by the blood donor organisation last week, having not been for a while, and the bloke on the phone confirmed that, as I’d suspected, the anti-epilepsy medication I’m taking does indeed disqualify me — worse, for three years after I stop taking it!  So, if all goes well with the operation and I can stop popping pills, it’ll be mid-2021 when I can finally resume making deposits at the blood bank, and thus appease Dracula help people who need transfusions of my rare blood type.

And finally, while this is a serious and intense period of my life, it’s made me realise just how many people I’ve got who care about me (even “boss lady” is being comforting and patient), and want me to get through it alive and with all my faculties intact.  It’s also a mixed blessing, as it means a lot of people would be sad if I died on the operating table, but I have no intention of doing so — I want to come back from this stronger than ever… and I’ll gladly agree to start paying my student loans back if it helps my karma!

Traffic really grinds my gears

Jenny: For your information, pal, that was a yellow light back there!
Starman: I watched you very carefully: red light, stop; green light, go; yellow light, go very fast.
Starman (1984)

I’m more likely to be this terrified than any actual car driver in London, seeing as I’m the one in danger

I’ve finally urged myself into writing in this blog again, and it’s a complaint about people driving (and operating other vehicles) here in London.  Aren’t you lucky I found the strength to type?  After all, I don’t want to neglect this, even if the only people signing up seem to be random Outlook.com addresses, which don’t seem to increase my number of subscribers…

Long-time readers may remember my first ever serious complaints post, and even back then, I was slagging off London cabbies; this hasn’t changed, as they still drive through red lights, apparently hoping that pedestrians won’t start crossing for a couple of seconds — because hey, your convenience is more important than pedestrian safety!  In all honesty, screw the bullies of the road, regardless of how good they are at “the Knowledge” — I’d rather people were late for appointments than I was lying dead in the street.

Having said that, my current medical condition has made me a lot more brash in crossing London streets: if I have to die some day, it’d be a lot worse for it to happen on the operating table, thus risking the NHS’s future, than on the bumper of some arrogant driver who would deservedly lose his licence.  Like the idiot who turned into the side street I was crossing, but didn’t flash his indicators — I calmly walked in front of his SUV without flinching, and refused to hurry up and get out of his way.

(My mother’s probably gasping at my recklessness even now, but don’t worry, Mumsy: I have no intention of actually dying any decade soon!)

It didn’t help back when I worked near King’s Cross, and simply trying to cross the road would often mean dicing with death: drivers would often race the yellow light at the top of Grays Inn Road, but risk getting stuck in the middle of the junction and trapped by the cross traffic on Euston Road — so naturally, they’d force their way through the busy pedestrian crossing at the foot of York Way, acting as though they had right of (no pun intended) way!

And years later, working on the nearby Pentonville Road, when I crossed the foot of Caledonian Road (which in its southernmost reaches is one-way), and a sports car tried to swerve north into the junction!  I suspect it was only the opposing traffic waiting patiently at the lights that stopped him going any further, otherwise he’d have not only endangered pedestrians (i.e. me), but continued going the wrong way up a one-way street!

But it’s even worse when drivers are not breaking the law: there’s a box junction at the place where New Cavendish Street (which I walk along to and from work) crosses Portland Place (the road which, further south, becomes Regent Street), but only the southern segments of the two lanes of the latter road have pedestrian crossings with lights, and for some reason drivers are allowed to U-turn from the southbound lane into the northbound lane (which are separated by a traffic island), there being an absence of a “no U-turns” sign.

This means traffic moving through each phase of the traffic light pattern — westbound on New Cavendish (it’s one-way), northbound on Portland and southbound on Portland — can go through the signal-free pedestrian crossing in the northwest part of the junction, and thus there’s technically no safe time to cross!  But oh, if they stopped to let people cross, they’d get fines for stopping in a yellow box junction, which is far worse than running someone down…

(And don’t even get me started on boy racers, who do it for kicks… does anyone, anywhere, respect them?!)

It’s not just arrogant car drivers I hate, however: the other day, at that exact junction, I refused to get out of a cyclist’s way, as he tried to go through a red light while the pedestrian crossing was showing the green man.  I’m sure I have a lot more support here: I have zero respect for cyclists who don’t obey the laws of the road, and act like a red light is their signal to go!  No, idiot, you stop like all the other vehicles, and go when the light is green — got that?  If you can’t cycle safely on the road, DON’T CYCLE!!!

And yes, that also applies to cyclists who ride on the pavement (“sidewalk” if you’re American) — that’s actually against the law, no excuses, especially if you’re just doing it to go the wrong way down a one-way street (which itself makes no sense if the next street over goes the right way).  It always seems to be twentysomething blokes with hipster beards, who nonetheless obey a different law: wearing a helmet while riding a bike.  Why, you’d almost think they were more concerned with their own safety than that of pedestrians!

Okay, fine, one time I foolishly tried to cross Tottenham Court Road (also one-way) without looking first, and had a foreign-sounding cyclist call me a “stupid man” for nearly being hit by him, but am I still being punished all these years later, to atone for causing him a minor inconvenience, and possibly wear on his brakes?  What about the cyclist who knocked down my old work friend outside King’s Cross, while she was crossing at the correct time, and just got back on his bike and left without even apologising?

Fortunately, nearly every time I see a cyclist breaking the law, I see other cyclists on the road obeying the law (possibly even wearing helmets), and I still remember the time in the early 21st century, when I cycled in Worthing, that I followed a cycle lane onto the pavement and got shouted at by a passenger in a parking car (who couldn’t see the cycle lane due to the parked cars between us)!  There are good cyclists, just as there are good drivers (well, my mother and “best mate”, to name two), and a lot of honest, well-behaved drivers are punished these days for violations (parking and moving) that it seems they were tricked into, especially here in Barnet (see, for example, Mr. Mustard’s blog here).

Whatever problems I may have with drivers, I don’t want them ripped off — fines are supposed to change behaviour, not act as a revenue stream, and if a lot of drivers are making the same mistake, surely that indicates there’s an issue with confusing or missing signage that needs to be corrected, not left as it is out of a blatant desire to make money unethically?

However, there’s one group I can’t stand or sympathise with: motorcyclists.  Even after escaping from Caledonian Road, where every passing biker’s two-stroke engine would interfere with my digital TV reception, I’ve hated them all — they deliberately tune their engines to be as LOUD as possible, like they’re compensating for something.

(Maybe they should be forced to put noise-cancellers on their bike, which replaces the engine sound with “HEY EVERYONE, I’VE GOT A REALLY SMALL PENIS!”?  Or would that be stating the obvious?)

But that’s just a side issue: too many bikers drive like reckless (feckless?) fools, endangering real people out of a desire to thrill themselves and act tough.  One time I was crossing Seven Sisters Road near Finsbury Park, on my way to the Castle after a bus journey, at a pedestrian crossing with the green man showing… and one of a group of bikers coming north along the road accelerated and raced through, even though the traffic light was already long since red!  What was he trying to prove?!

And the other day, in the western extremes of the aforementioned New Cavendish Street (near my workplace), I saw a biker, with a passenger, driving dangerously: he swerved and came back down the one-way street in order to turn into a side street he’d missed, and I looked down that road to see him then swerving onto the pavement in order to get around some queuing cars!  At least he didn’t threaten my safety, like another biker who didn’t even slow down when I was crossing a zebra crossing — aside from breaking the law (driving through a zebra crossing that a pedestrian was using), he endangered someone (i.e. me), and deserves a ban!

Phew, I feel better getting all that off my chest… there’s no real resolution or conclusion to this blog post, it’s just a disorganised series of complaints about road users (and pavement intruders) who really ought to change their ways.  But hey, maybe if Peter Dibdin had taught them to drive, they’d be remotely competent?

— — —

P.S. One time when I lived on Caledonian Road, I witnessed two of my hates battle: a London cabbie had knocked down a chavvy cyclist (without a helmet) who had apparently tried to cycle across the zebra crossing right in front of him, and I found myself hoping both sides would be punished for their crimes (the cabbie for not stopping, the cyclist for cycling where pedestrians are king).  Sadly, the chav was up and cycling moments later as the cabbie got a talking-to…

Advancing at rest

To my shame, I haven’t read any actual printed books during my time off

I should have posted here over the past week, since I had plenty of spare time, but somehow it’s just so much effort to write something coherent in this blog nowadays… but it’s worth saying that I’ve at least had a nice ten-day rest from my busy and stressful job, and have improved to the point that I am eager to get back to work!

I was originally going to take the Thursday before Easter off, to let British Gas in (just for an annual checkup, nothing else had gone wrong!), but one of my housemates was in that day instead, so I worked right up to the day before Good Friday; it worked out fine, because I was better off having all of the week following Easter Sunday off instead — the Northern Line was all but closed over the Easter weekend, with further organised chaos planned for the Tuesday and Wednesday (and even that went wrong — I wouldn’t have been able to commute on Tuesday morning at all!), and I had to be in on Friday morning to let in someone from Thames Water to examine our pipes (another general checkup, no problems reported).

The bad news is that I’ve had no useful information from the NHS as yet — absolutely no indication of when my surgery will be taking place (the silver lining being that at least they hadn’t arranged one that I’d missed due to lack of communication, so I don’t owe any fines), and just the same ol’ popping pills to keep the static out of my brain — although I may still need to increase my daily dosage, as I still get dizzy spells now and then, albeit seldom as bad as before (though my mother’s looking into CBD oil).

The good news, however, is that, looking back over my diary from the mid-noughties, when I first came to London, I’ve come to realise I was a lot unhealthier back then than I am now — indeed, aside from an uncanny no-colds period in late 2004 to mid-2005, I seemed to be getting sick literally every other week, to say nothing of never getting enough sleep!  Perhaps whatever I have now has been growing in my grey matter since I first came to the Smoke: if this is the case, it’s taken a long time for my symptoms to become this bad, which is a good sign that it’s not a malignant tumour (and thus not cancerous), and that its removal will restore me to good health, once I recuperate from the surgery.

I will not be calling him “Capital P” again, at least not as long as he behaves himself!

There’s been other good and bad news concerning this household: although one of my housemates is moving out, the one who wants to take over her room (which is larger than his) is willing to find a replacement, as he wants to take her room and get a new housemate for his (small) room… and believe it or not, but the man he replaced — the one I’ve called “drummer-trucker” in this blog — is coming back to the Finchley area!  Don’t worry, he’s been restored to his cheerful, amiable old self, with no trace of the drunk, bullying jerk he was being before, especially in 2017.

(Perhaps leaving London for several months fixed his brain?  Do I need to do the same?)

And finally, our landlady might actually be about to do some repairs in our house, at long last: not just the the upstairs bathroom, but the big, gaping hole in the kitchen wall left by British Gas just before Christmas 2016, which oddly seemed to precipitate my (and “drummer-trucker’s” mental issues!  And, joy of joys, she’s willing to let me buy a new mattress for this room, to replace the two thin, uncomfortable mattresses I’ve had to use since moving in here, six years ago (and they weren’t only two years old in February 2012, so I’d say they’re well past the widely-held eight-year usage limit, possibly by a decade or two).

Don’t worry, I’ll try to write more frequently in this blog over the coming weeks: not just the posts I’ve planned regarding “cool things” (like Game of Thrones, and a band I got back into recently), but also, hopefully, good news concerning my health.  Perhaps someone in the NHS will finally be able to arrange my surgery, so I can endure that and get my head together (even if it means having to recuperate in dull old Worthing), and perhaps CBD oil will work better than levetiracetam in terms of repressing my mild epileptic dizzy spells, though I’ll need to check with my neurologist first.

For now, I need to get a good night’s sleep so I’m fully rested and ready to return to work tomorrow morning, and as enthusiastic as ever when it comes to fixing people’s computers!