Monthly Archives: March 2019

Breaking away

Nothing to do with Brexit or the lack thereof tonight, though I’m sure one thing that can bring Remainers and Leavers together is universal loathing of our Conservative government, which will give us neither a second referendum as demanded by millions of marchers, nor a no-deal departure from the EU on the scheduled day, but just keep voting on the same deal, unchanging, over and over again… oh, sorry!

(And yes, I fear that no-deal would lead to us metaphorically fellating Trump’s America anyway, which would be unmitigated, especially in affordable medication terms!)

No, I’m instead going to focus on entirely personal matters, this being my blog about recovering from depression and anxiety (the brain tumour completing the trifecta, of course).  Although recently I blogged about items I’ve long owned and used pretty much every day, it’s worth noting that I’ve also stopped using a number of things over the past couple of weeks, recognising when something’s no longer of use to me, and in need of replacement or outright abandonment.

Not just clothes, which wear out, or cookware, which… er… wears out — no, sometimes I got hold of things which sucked.  Take, for example, the keyboard and mouse I bought year — yes, time for naming and shaming: Corsair, where although they worked well at first, my computer kept losing one or the other — the mouse sometimes at startup, and the keyboard almost every time I locked Windows.  Yes, I could still type and mouse around, but the system tray-based program, iCUE, stopped controlling the keyboard’s lighting system, returning it to the default flowing rainbow pattern, and unplugging/replugging, even while holding down certain key combinations, didn’t work every time.

This went on for months, despite numerous patches, and so eventually I gave up and started looking for a new manufacturer — but every PC World I went into seemed to have only affordable gamer keyboards with loud, clackety keys… or worse, media control buttons that are just the F-keys combined with Fn (or equivalent), rather than separate ones sitting at the top of the keyboard, with a volume dial or roller!

Hmm, this sounds rather petty, doesn’t it — hardly as bad as having a dead-end job with a lousy salary and the prospect of homelessness (or worse, having to move back to Worthing), but I’m grateful to $DEITY (or possibly ka) that I’m earning well enough to do such a thing; suffice to say, between this and other purchases I’ll go into below, March has been an expensive month, because I’ve given in and bought a better keyboard and mouse (which actually store their lighting settings internally, the iCUE counterpart only being needed to set them up initially), and all is good now.

(Don’t worry, the Corsair equipment hasn’t gone to waste — it’s now down in Worthing, working rather more consistently with the Frankencomputer, which also has my previous motherboard and processor!  And all other mice and keyboards work, and can go to charity…)

Okay, here’s something rather more serious: Fitbit.  Yes, that sentence clause doesn’t require a verb, does it?  I’ve been using one or another wrist-mounted step-counter and pulse “monitor” since the start of 2016, and for all I know, having its Bluetooth signals so close to me virtually 24/7 could have contributed to my cerebral catastrophe (though I think my periods of horror in 2011-2 and 2014-5 are more likely to have encouraged the “space invader”).

That’s not the worst part: aside from charing up regularly and replacing the strap several times, the thing has angered me even more than the Corsair equipment: my pulse rate all too frequently showing up as “- -” (and quoting Groucho Marx’s “either this man is dead or my watch has stopped” got real old real fast), leading to me hitting the thing in frustration; the unequivocal evidence of my broken sleep patterns last summer as I recovered from surgery, which only depressed me even further; and recently, as a final touch, my obsession with getting 250 steps per hour, 8am-6pm (except at the weekend, me not being quite that obsessive), which was broken last Tuesday when I had to sit through a longer-than-usual staff briefing at work, simply because I was making sure the Skype equipment was running properly (it was).

I’ve thus, with my mother’s permission, finally taken the damn thing off, and although I haven’t smashed it to pieces with a hammer (which would be ill-advised on my carpet), or deleted my account, I wonder if I’ll ever go back to wearing it (or a less-battered replacement) ever again.  Don’t worry, though: I’m still recording my weight every night in Wii Fit Plus, and I’ve got a different wrist-mounted device to wear instead: the movement-powered watch I got 19 years and a week ago, which had run out of power due to me not wearing it for the past three years, but which still works fine, and with which I may one day be buried!

Events this weekend led to two more replacements, but amazingly, one desire to stay.  For Mothering Sunday, which I spent with my folks, I bought my mother a new PC monitor to replace the small one she’s had for almost exactly 11 years (and my old one, which I brought down to Worthing but which was too big for her to look at… ooh, Matron!), and she’s happy with the result — in size terms, it’s juuust right.  Worth noting that she herself also did away with the computer desk she’s had since, probably, Christmas 2003!

Secondly, at the same place I bought a replacement alarm clock radio for myself, to replace the one I got in a sale back in 2017, which can’t keep the time properly (it updated to account for British Summer Time, but never gets the seconds right, thus turning on before or after the “pips” on Radio 2 at 7am).  This in turn replaced the older alarm clock radio I brought from home back in November 2013 (with a built-in CD player, upon which I listened to MMLP2 the first time), but I only replaced that because the buttons weren’t working properly: I liked it a lot more than the DAB one my folks got me for Christmas in 2007, but which made a thud noise at 1am every night as it checked the time, but still somehow missed the correct night for the clocks to go back or forward.

(The new radio is DAB, so maybe I can find the radio station upon which Chris Evans is now doing the breakfast show, and break away from Zoe Ball?  Damn, I miss him… well, slightly, considering how tired I am in the mornings, and not as much as when he hosted The Big Breakfast in 1992-4!)

Thirdly, this weekend “best mate” let me know that a letter had come from our energy company, E.on, in my name — thus showing they’ve finally transferred our household’s account from our late (RIP 2013) landlord’s name, in which it had apparently been since he and his wife (our current landlady) bought the property in 2010.  To demonstrate why I’ve named and shamed them, this required me to make TWO phone calls to them in February (during working hours, thus getting me told off mildly by “boss lady”), both giving me different information (and repeatedly asking if I’m the new property owner, no matter how many times I said I’m a tenant).

I did this because when “best mate” took over paying our bills last summer (while I was convalescing in Worthing), instead of simply doing a one-off payment online (effectively on our late landlord’s behalf), like I did each quarter, he accidentally set up a full online account (in our late landlord’s name), and under their system, this defaults to “no paper bills” — hence we weren’t getting our quarterly bills in the post, and were only receiving late reminders, threatening us with fines!  This was clarified only when he made a rare check of the seldom-used e-mail account whose address he gave to the company on that occasion (don’t worry, he apologised for his mistake).

Although one of the phone jockeys last month said they’d make “my” account apply from this month, the other one actually backdated “my” account to start in February 2012, when I first moved here (even though I’ve only been the one directing our collective housemate money to their online payment system since “drummer-trucker” moved out in mid-2017) — but something wonderful may have happened: I don’t want to jinx it, but “best mate” called them to confirm, and for some inexplicable reason, it seems we’re now over £2,000 in credit! If all goes well (i.e. they haven’t made a mistake, or they have in our favour and they won’t realise it later), we won’t have to pay an energy bill again for a year or two… and on that basis, and that basis alone, I won’t be breaking away and transferring our account to a different energy company, despite my folks recommending it because they’d had their own bad dealings with this shower.

One final thing to note is that not one, but two housemates are about to break away from our household (and so won’t benefit from reduced energy bills); one is the current female occupant of the large back upstairs room, the fifth person to live there in my time (the original being our household “leaderene”, and the bill organiser in those days), and the fourth being someone who was there for two months last summer (mostly while I was convalescing in Worthing).  It’s up to her to find a (hopefully female) replacement, and with luck, our landlady won’t object and make us all move out (or increase our rent to the level she claims is common around here).

The other is the bloke who moved in to replace “drummer-trucker” in 2017, and who was moved out of the tiny box room and into the full-sized downstairs lounge (which increased his rent), but it’s been arranged by “best mate” for one of his friends to move in there when the bloke moves out.  In the meantime, “new guy” will be staying with us in the aforementioned box room (despite it being legally too small for our landlady to have a sixth housemate living there as she’d planned), and his possessions are in the house already.

Perhaps he’s going through what I went through when I broke away from Caledonian Road in 2012, and moved here, my stuff in the lounge for a week while I couch-surfed…?

— — —

P.S. I’ve also been taking a break from the dating scene (I won’t name-and-shame my dating app as it’s worked fine), partly because I’ve been almost constantly suffering from colds since Christmas Eve, and partly because I feel a certain hope regarding “Polish female best friend”, who’s been on a break from Britain, but will be back here before Brexit!

Going back, in more ways than one

I’ve been looking back at the past… yes, I know, entirely normal situation for Dave-ros, but this time it was more than just scanning photos of the cute little dog I grew up with: at the weekend, I went back to the first town where I can remember my family living… Gillingham.

(No, that’s “Gillingham-with-a-juh” in Kent — you’re thinking of “Gillingham-with-a-guh” in Dorset, a place I’ve never been and have no interest of visiting!)

We moved out of that place in early 1985 (back when Colin Baker starred in Doctor Who), and all things considered, we were lucky to escape, as we lived in a terraced house near Watling Street, close to Chatham, birthplace of the chav.  Still, my earliest clear memories are from there — watching Doctor Who, going to playgroup and a certain school once attended by Sir David Frost, visiting the park, shopping at either end of town (as well as accompanying someone to the “video shop” across town, in the early days of VHS!), or just being at home with my mother, grandparents and (until we sadly lost him) uncle, as well as an old dog until she died, and a young dog when she joined the family.

However, I had a lot less nostalgia than expected — and this might be simply because, almost exactly 11 years ago (and that almost exactly 23 years after we moved away), I visited the area for precisely the same reasons: reliving the past.  Back then in March 2008, when I lived on Caledonian Road in London and worked in a council office as a generic admin officer, somehow it felt more like I was reaching back to my childhood, but this time it was more like going through the motions.

Having said that, I did a few things I didn’t on my original visit — the first being to get off at the actual train station, instead of having to get a rail replacement bus there from across the Medway!  I’d only seen the station itself from the inside once or twice in my childhood, most certainly the day in (probably) 1983 that my uncle took me to Charing Cross in London so we could see Return of the Jedi on the Strand, and stuff ourselves with junk food; nearby is a footbridge over the railway line, with meshed sides, which I crossed with my folks many a time (with the optical illusion that the railway wasn’t “moving” as I ran across).  I missed it in 2008, but this time I crossed it, albeit rather taller than I was back then…

While I photographed our old pad (with the converted loft where my mum used to have rather more space than my own box room) back in 2008, and used this picture to let her know about my trip after returning to London, this time I just stood in front and spoke to my folks on the phone (a rather more advanced one than I’d had back then) for ages, having repeated my old walk home from school; I even recognised the papershop on the high street, though I couldn’t quite work out where the greengrocer’s used to be (with a worker back then who reminded me of Kenny Everett).  However, I’d made a decision to walk from my old homestead to the forest on the edge of a hill, to which my grandfather and uncle had walked me many times in the early 1980s… but when I got there, I saw a sign saying it’s not a public footpath any more, presumably due to the new corporate buildings nearby!

I thus ended up walking to a shopping centre way down in Hempstead (called “Presto” or “SavaCentre” back in the day), which left my legs knackered, though at least I met a friendly, face-licking dog along the way.  Seeing this place again was nostalgic, albeit for not entirely positive reasons: my grandparents used to take me shopping in the supermarket at the back of the mall, and one time I became separated from them and wandered outside crying… and at the front doors, two strange men (one of them reminding me of Christopher Biggins, who was big on TV back then) picked me up, to comfort me!  Fortunately my grandfather ran up at this point, having been looking for me, and may just have saved me from an early demise — I would have been five or six at the time…

(Worth noting that although the exterior had been done up, and the shops inside bore no resemblance to the 1980s, the floor looked like it had been around several decades!)

Unlike in 2008, this time I was in the vicinity of Chatham I didn’t run into a gang of chavs who laughed at me for not understanding what their pyjama-clad leader had mumbled in my general direction (though there were a couple of chavs at the station who couldn’t understand the announcer saying the train would be going to Strood, and asked if it was going to Strood!).  Yes, although the area is much quieter and less populous than anywhere I’ve lived in London, it seems you’re more likely to run into obnoxious, swaggering teenagers who think you’re the dopey one if you’re not dressed like them… perhaps it was a good job I stayed away from the network of alleyways (which distinguished the town from everywhere else in my childhood), and also didn’t walk to Cha’am itself, passing under the railway bridge (the gigantic-seeming arch of which may have made me dream of night engulfing half the sky, after my grandmother walked me there one day).

What have I taken away from my two trips to Gillingham?  Well, while back in 2008 I killed time before the rail replacement bus left by going to the nearby shopping area and buying an uplighter light shade, which is still with me after moving from Caledonian Road (but which I forgot to mention here before), this time around all I have to show for my trip is a copy of Private Eye (fortunately not a 1985 edition!), which I bought at the supermarket as an excuse to get cashback (which I turned out not to need anyway).  This is because I was so late back to the station (thanks to my excursion) that I couldn’t visit that shopping area, where I’d hoped to find second-hand CDs in the charity shops!

(And it’s not just because Keith Flint died recently — almost exactly five years after Dave Brockie — that I want to find more albums by The Prodigy, I just need to improve my music collection!)

What else did I take away from this trip?  Aching legs, mainly, thanks to my step-count for the day going well over 23,000 — but that’s something I may never do again: partly because I’ll not make such a stupid mistake as walking so far again (especially now I know the local buses allow contactless payments and actually give you a receipt!), but mainly because, as I’l say in my next post here, I’m doing away with Fitbit, at least for a while…

And yes, although I’m playing Batman: Arkham Knight at the moment in London (with Shadow of the Tomb Raider to follow), I’ve also relived the past by playing old games, such as Gorf on the VIC-20 (which my mother bought) and Pole Position in arcade form (they had it at the fish-and-chip shop to which I accompanied my uncle, very possibly missing Michael Jackson’s Thriller on TV that very night!).

Finally, I listened to as many songs I remembered from those years living in Gillingham as I could on the train in, including “Close (to the Edit)”, “Sweet Dreams (are Made of These)” and “Don’t You Want Me”, but one I don’t currently have in my collection is one I remember clearly from Top of the Pops in 1984…

Aktion T4 on the cheap?

My MRI revealed that, with most of the invader removed, the left side of my brain has recovered most of its shape!

February came to an end with at least some good news for me: the remnants of my brain tumour haven’t started regrowing yet, nor are there yet any signs that they’re about to do so, and thus, unless I start getting unusual symptoms (for now it’s more like I’m returning to my old self, perhaps due to a change in medication), the quacks won’t need to scan my noggin for another six months.  I’m not out of the woods yet, but for now, I can relax.

And this is particularly good news to me, because disability wouldn’t just be frustrating and depressing, leaving me unable to do things I enjoy, perhaps rendering me housebound, or finding difficulty communicating (wonder if it’s a coincidence that I empathise just a little with the protagonist in King’s Duma Key, having occasionally to remember a word by thinking around corners), but under our current government, it could leave me starving in the streets, having been declared “fit to work” no matter how ill I turn out to be.

Yes, it’s time I finally wrote angrily about the many, many news stories I’ve been compiling in a list since October last year, thanks to posts on Facebook by groups calling out the Tory administration for unfair treatment of the disabled.  I know, I know, “Facebook — serious business”, and some of them come from “left-wing press” such as the Mirror, the Guardian and the Independent, but I’d love it if all of these stories were false, scaremongering, fake news… in the words of Donald Trump, believe me.

(And the Mirror hasn’t been edited by Piers Morgan Moron, a man even more despicable and unlikeable than Trump, for years!)

I originally planned to write this after one month of recording, to cover such things as people being declared “fit to work” and denied disability benefits for such ludicrous reasons as being able to make a cup of tea, or being the chairman of Scope, and if the application process run by non-professionals isn’t intimidating enough (a man with a brain tumour expected to fill out a form for six hours, apparently because he belongs back in Scotland), and those with mental health problems (such as autism) being treated unfairly, and people being driven to attempt suicide (including women), despite a minister supposedly being appointed to discourage this, it seems genuine cases of disability are being refused, with evidence of deliberate lies in assessment cases, the DWP itself potentially altering reports, and the possibility that it’s down to Iain Duncan Smith himself, who thinks the disabled are just parasites and need to be driven back into work (presumably including that chef who went blind), his opinion encouraging others to attack them in public, despite the fact that they’re getting less than in the 1970s, have to pay for their own diabetes medication, and face starvation under Universal Credit, the inequality they endure being made permanent — not that the Tories would allow you to see their own paperwork about it, though they admitted medication may be unavailable if there’s a no-deal Brexit!

No, that’s not five months’ worth, that’s just a selection of the stories published in October last year.  Shall I go on to November?  The DWP screwing up so badly that a disabled man was evicted, another man getting cut off benefits for eight months due to missing a single appointment, a girl having to sleep in her school library, and the Tories acting like they cared when actually they weren’t openly admitting they needed to improve things?  And while this was the DWP under Esther McVey’s watch, it’s possible she didn’t quit in protest over the Brexit negotiations, but to avoid embarrassment — and her replacement, Amber Rudd, immediately dismissed the UN report that had been acknowledged by the select committee as worth investigating (not that parliamentary enquiries are necessarily honest, of course).  Still, at least the assessments seem to be recorded now, and a lot of benefit denials are being overturned on appeal, which should help the Belfast man being interrogated despite being unable to move, talk, see or eat (just to show it’s not exclusive to England).  And unpaid carers who receive benefits aren’t being treated decently either.

But December, that was leading up to Christmas, wasn’t it?  Well, one early present was the final admission that Motability, the private company employed to provide modified transport for the disabled, was operating a ripoff service, which prompted its overpaid boss to quit, its service apparently being bad under him.  Why, even the Daily Fail criticised him for lining his pockets (and the company as a whole for sitting on a huge amount of money), so he didn’t appeal to the right-wing press either!  Which is surprising, as you’d think they’d support a government who removes benefits from the disabled when they move to Universal Credit, and makes things worse for them instead of better, with things like the bedroom tax leading to threats of eviction, the police targetting disabled people in public protests, and even large numbers or even proportions of people in the regions losing disability benefits, even ex-soldiers.  Fortunately, despite massive cuts in legal aid by the Tories, some are able to challenge and get their benefits reinstated (even in Northern Ireland), for all the good that does in some cases.  However, this means the government has been wasting even more money fighting this, apparently still thinking the disabled are scroungers, but they themselves deserve to be rewarded and the disabled left with virtually nothing at Christmas!

2019, however, has seen entirely positive treatment of the disabled right from the start of January… well, aside from a woman losing her transport, a dyslexic man almost evicted because he can’t complete a form, a mother left unable to pay rent, a man denied benefits despite a heart attack officially rendering him “unfit for work”, a Belfast girl rejected despite having Down’s syndrome, a dying mother given nothing thanks to a falsified assessment, a mentally-handicapped man left in debt because he can’t use a computer, and even a cancer sufferer and his brain-tumoured mother being cut off.  Oh, and a Paralympian being cut off and losing his job.  And a man who needs kidney dialysis being left living in a caravan.  But hey, at least one man was back-paid, even if it was just after he died, so all’s well, right?

The DWP itself admitted many thousands of disabled people died while waiting, presumably thanks to a useless group of MPs who achieved nothing — and note that while they were supposedly trying to make society more “inclusive” for disabled people, it seems those with mental health issues, including those who can’t do their sums, may effectively be punished for working!  And when even Murdoch’s Sun has something to report, instead of just the “left-wing” press, you know this government really is screwing the disabled out of money… even those who work for them!

And finally, February: presumably so people could be denied benefits despite barely being able to walk (whether old or young), having three brain tumours or even only one leg, the DWP has now told doctors not to give out sick notes and ignored its own safeguarding methods, and ministers decided the disabled should still be sanctioned (even if they sent a letter to the wrong address) — and never mind people dying waiting for decisions, even those who have already died apparently should be harassed!  And that may include the disabled among their own staff

— — —

It took me this long to find the courage to actually write this blog post (hence I ended up saving so many article URLs, the ones here being only the most “interesting” and relevant ones).  A number of these have involved brain tumours and mental health issues, and while I’m doing okay at the moment, the possibility remains that my condition would deteriorate in a similar manner — indeed, when it comes to further treatment (such as radiotherapy), which can cause further problems, it’s a matter of when rather than if.

My mother’s already worrying about how she’d need to take care of me in addition to my grandmother (if she lives that long), despite herself potentially needing care in the autumn of her years — but I’m not going to contemplate suicide just to avoid burdening her, and will fight through this situation (which, ironically, I’ve found easier to face than my depression in late 2011 or my anxiety in late 2014).

If one day I’m unable to care for myself but have no-one to help me, and the DWP situation in this country hasn’t gotten infinitely better (which is hopefully a yuge “if”), then yes, I’ll consider euthenasia, which will prompt me to write an epitaph utterly condemning the government (and damning their families for three generations) for what appears to be a cheap and dishonest version of Nazi Germany’s Aktion T4.  While Hitler openly regarded disabled people who couldn’t work as a burden on society, he wanted them to receive “mercy killings”, which would have required additional manpower and resources; our current right-wing government, by contrast, claim to be helping the disabled, but seem to be secretly finding any excuse (up to and including faked assessments) to declare them “fit for work”, cut off their benefits and leave them to starve (or commit suicide), not even paying for their funerals.

However, due to the legal action enabling reinstatement of benefits and the resulting back-payments, the DWP have allegedly spent MORE money than they would have done if they’d kept the disabled on the same benefits they’d received before the rise of UC.  This has been much like adult social care here in Tory-run Barnet: privatised a few years ago, it needed a massive taxpayer bailout after ONE YEAR!!!

Thus, I conclude that when it comes to helping the non-working disabled, the Tories are at best incompetent, and at worst callous, cruel and devoted to killing them off entirely, for the sole purpose of saving money… and still incompetent!

On that basis, there’s as much chance of me ever voting Conservative in this country as there is of me voting for Trump in the USA… and yes, I know I’m not an American citizen and thus not entitled to vote in a Presidential election — zero equals zero!