davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
I feel like I want to write something longer, possibly thoughts on the Paralympics, but I'm currently being driven to distraction by itching, mostly on the palms of my hands. This is the third day, and last night I ended up wearing wheelchair gloves to stop myself tearing my palms to ribbons. There's no rash or anything, so my guess would be opioid related, possibly compounded by general tiredness, but that's not a side-effect I get very often - and it's not one I'd like to see any more of, thank you!

davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
[personal profile] sovay was asking if there were any shots of Durham cathedral being created from fountains dueing the Kynren performance, I knew I'd seen a pic last night, but couldn't find it again, which turns out to be because it's on a youtube clip - not great quality (people had been told not to use cameras and phones), but it'll give you an idea. The arches are about the 30 second mark, and if you watch through to the jousting, I was sitting directly in front of the target they're tilting at:

(Clip of a Kynren performance, showing various scenes from among the crowd).

The gothic arches are a repeating theme, the fireworks are set up to create similar shapes (the fireworks were superb, being integrated into the imagery rather than just the usual big bang)and the volunteers are known as Archers. And they repeat in the landscape.

Shot of the 11 gothic arches of Bishop Auckland Viiaduct towering over the valley of the Wear

davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)

The advert, not actual Kynren footage

Footage and interviews from the press preview night, which is when the rest of my family saw it. That first interview is a proper Bishop accent!

I'm just back from three weeks in Bishop Auckland, my home town, but before I left I saw Kynren at the weekend, as an early birthday present from my sister. It's based on the Puy de Fou shows in France, which have developed into a theme park, and is being funded by my home town's local city fund manager turned philanphropist, who bought Auckland Castle (until then the seat of the Bishop of Durham) a few years ago. Reportedly there's been £35m invested to get it up and running, and that's well believable, because it knocks any son et lumiere I've seen before into a cocked hat. They've head-hunted the directorial staff from both Puy de Fou and the London Olympics Opening Ceremony, but the cast themselves are local volunteers, including my sister, who is variously playing Roman slaves, medieval peasants, miner's widows and Canadian Mounties, all in the same performance.

The showground lies in a loop of the Wear below Auckland Castle, in the shadows of the viaduct (from which the production company, Eleven Arches, takes its name) and is centred on an artificial lake, with significant parts of the show actually taking place on the lake. In front of that is the field where most of the action takes place, and rising from the back of the lake is a stone terrace, which becomes the backdrop when 'Auckland Castle' rises from it. From the back the seating looks like a wooden fortress, but from the front it's 8,000 steeply ranked seats which give a good view over the staging. As a wheelchair user I was in row A, actually in front of row A, which was great for seeing everything on the field, but one or two things on the lake were slightly obscured by the low angle. To be honest I'd still take the proximity and the slightly blocked vision if given the choice of a higher seat.

The show started at 8:30PM, which was full dark at the start of September, and that's apparently better for the spectacle. My brother in law was with me as my wheelchair user +1 and he said it was definitely better in full darkness than the dusk he'd first seen it in.

Anyway, Kynren. There's a linking narrative involving a young boy named Arthur, who boots his football through the pre-war Bishop's window and is rewarded with a lesson in British history, which in 90 minutes covered:

Joseph of Arimethea and the Holy Grail - complete with tree emerging from the lake

Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table

The Roman Withdrawal from England - with four horse chariot, Roman cavalry, legionaries, slave wagon.

St Cuthbert and the coming of Christianity to the North. The Lindisfarne Gospel.

The Viking raids, the wandering of St Cuthbert’s remains and the founding of Durham Cathedral - they built a cathedral from fountains, I was awestruck, so was everyone else.

The Battle of Stamford Bridge - Arthur gets the crucial role in the story the Viking on the Bridge

The Battle of Hastings, Harold and William - which features a crewed Norman ship emerging from the lake

Medieval Life and Tourney - complete with sheep, goats and geese, and with knights tilting at targets no more than 15 feet in front of you if you're in the wheelchair row

Battles against the Scots - flaming drumsticks!

Henry VIII and the Field of the Cloth of Gold

Queen Elizabeth and William Shakespeare meet at Auckland Castle - this is apparently historically attested, blew my mind!

The Civil War and the execution of Charles I

The coming of the railways - from Bishop Auckland to the world! (The Stockton and Darlington railway was built to service the Bishop Auckland coalfields). Complete with working Locomotion.

Mining disasters - very poignant, especially as many of the cast and audience will be descendants of miners, our family certainly is.

Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee

WWI and the Christmas Truce - I may have had a tear in my eye here

The Durham Miner's Gala - first time I've seen the Charleston done in wellies

WWII, Arthur goes to war.

And all wrapped up with a curtain call and Land of Hope and Glory, during which my sister cunningly positioned herself in exactly the right spot for us to spot her.

It is non-stop, often with four or more layers of activities happening at once - track, field, lake, terrace. My brother-in-law kept prompting me which way to look.

It absolutely peed down all day, including during the performance, but it was so good it really didn't matter. Though I did have to practically hose down my chair the next day to get rid of the yellow dust that it had picked up from the chippings used on the paths. Car parking would have been good, properly laid out disabled spaces in a dedicated car park, but the car park volunteers were telling people to ignore the markings and park closer to the next car (someone said something about part of another car park being flooded). Advantage of knowing someone in the cast was the feedback that this is a problem for disabled people, especially wheelchair users, and the gaps between cars are there for a reason, was on the official system by Sunday lunchtime.

There've been some stories about the car parks being jammed until midnight, but we managed to get back to the car, out of the site and be in the pub by 10:20, complete with my sister, who'd had to do a quick change and find us.

There's a handful of almost sold-out performances left this year, Fridays and Saturdays 'til September 17th, but they're already planning for next summer. It's pricey, but if you get the chance, go, you won't regret it.

davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
 On the 12:01 Darlington to Kings Cross, passenger assistance at Darlington were killing themselves laughing, apparently their roster says that not only am I on the 12:01, I'm also on the 12:00 from Kings Cross to Darlington, and they've been betting which way I'm actually going all morning. That's taking multitasking to extremes!

Just hope assistance is there to get me off at KX!
davidgillon: Me, in a glider cockpit in France (Gliding)
Sitting in my sister's garden in the sun, just lazing and catching up.

Life is hard ;)
davidgillon: A pair of legs (mine) sitting in a wheelchair (wheelchair)

My trip North was decidedly mixed. I got over to Rochester station okay, in fact the taxi was at my front door before I got it closed - he said he was passing my road as the call went out - and had time to do a couple of things I wanted and still catch the train before the one I had planned on. First negative hit 5 minutes outside of Rochester, I was reading my Kindle and suddenly felt travel-sick. A quick bit of experimentation confirmed head-down=travel-sick and escalating neck pain, head-up=fine. Fortunately I'd packed a collar (in one of the underseat bags[personal profile] kaberett

  recommends, though I was too cheap to buy an actual Black Box), first chance I've had to use it and definitely worthwhile. Thankfully the collar mostly solved the travel-sickness and neckache+headache (and a couple of ibuprofen fixed the rest), though not being able to bend my head forward made reading slightly more of an issue. I suspected it was an issue last time I caught a train, though I was hoping that was purely down to it being a Pendolino on the West Coast Main Line, which is a tilting design, but this time it was the Kent Coast Line and the East Coast Main Line and non-tilting Javelins and 225s. So looks like that may now be a thing - the wheelchair tech pooh-poohed the idea I needed a headrest, not happy to be proved right! (Though fortunately it's limited circumstances where it applies).

The transfer from St Pancras to Kings Cross was fine and I was chatting away for a while with the guy doing passenger assistance, which may have been responsible for him announcing, when he'd been off and found the guard, "Change of plans, we're putting you in First Class" - fine by me, I'll force myself to suffer people trying to ply me with free food and drink. The chicken caesar wrap was tasty, but more wrap than anything, the white wine was very nice and I'd have had a second glass if they'd offered it before York rather than after, given I was getting off at Darlington in 20 minutes.

And it was Darlington where things went very wrong, They got me off the train fine and I was sitting waiting for the 15:54 Bishop Auckland train when I overheard the platform staff taking a message that there were major signal problems at Middlesbrough, which is where the Bishop train comes from. The woman who was doing the passenger assistance came straight over and repeated the bits I'd heard, plus that it might be 18:30 before they got anything moving. They waited 30 minutes, then made the decision to put everyone in taxis, which was about 25 of us. If they'd asked I'd have pointed out I can transfer and that the chair dismantles, but they didn't and a wheelchair taxi quickly turned up. Assuming they'd want to squeeze the maximum number of people aboard I stayed in the chair (plus I'd not travelled in the chair by road before and there was a novelty value). I wish I hadn't, it was worse even than the Pendolino, not helped by there only being one front clamp for the chair, which the driver didn't bother with. I spent the journey with my foot tucked under the seat in front to stop the chair tipping backwards every time he accelerated. I'll pass in future.

But for all that I was only about 45 minutes late, and that included pushing from the station to home as there was no point trying to ring for a taxi when they were likely all half-way to Darlington with the people who'd been waiting at Bishop!

Hopefully the return trip will be smoother!

davidgillon: A pair of legs (mine) sitting in a wheelchair (wheelchair)
Heading North for three weeks in the morning. I deliberately haven't ordered a MIFI SIM, so expect updates to be intermittent as my folks don't have net access and I'll need to wander over to my sister's if I want to get online. I decided against MIFI in the hope of encouraging myself to make some serious progress on the WIP.

Actually booking the train ticket to get there was an exercise in frustration. I've had enough of trying to book through SouthEastern (my local train company), who always seem to have an issue with me booking the wheelchair space, so I thought I'd try with Virgin instead as it's the Virgin East Coast Main Line segment I need the wheelchair space booking for. I'm also switching to travelling from Rochester rather than Chatham due to better access - the new Rochester station has level access between taxi-ramp and platform, Chatham is more 'Oh my god, oh my god, can I stop in time?!). On checking Virgin's online booking I found that it would actually let me book wheelchair assistance as part of the process. Score - no need to phone them! So last Monday I tried to book, got all the way to it contacting my bank for payment, and my anti-virus decided to throw a spanner in the works. So of course I needed to wait to check it had definitely failed and I hadn't been charged. And similarly on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday as I tried different options to persuade the AV software to behave, including changing browsers. Eventually I disabled the AV software for the transaction, only to find 1) I could now only pick up the ticket from the station (which I was expecting) and 2) it was telling me I couldn't do that. That seems to have been purely an issue with overnight maintenance, so Friday I went to finish the process.

Enter all the assistance data yet again (it wanted home number, mobile number, email, and wheelchair dimensions(?!?)), all ready to book and I thought I'd better check the seat reservations, which turned out to be the middle of the wrong carriage, both ways. and you can change to any seat but the wheelchair space), so now I have to contact Virgin online, who tell me it's because of people trying to book it for luggage and prams (except you can't book it for luggage or prams) and that I need to phone passenger assistance to book the wheelchair space. So that means I can use the online system to book all the assistance I need to get on and off the train in the chair and save having to phone assistance, but not  the wheelchair space itself. (What happens if I then find all the wheelchair spaces are already booked I have no idea). {Roll Eyes} {Headdesk} {Roll Eyes}

So eventually I got the ticket booked and picked it up from the station, but I started the process Monday evening, and finished Saturday afternoon. I knew travel would be more complicated when I switched to the chair, I had no idea it would be this unnecessarily complicated and just plain irritating!

And of course I have to hope nothing goes wrong tomorrow (current odds based on exising data of being forgotten about , not expected. or assistance turning up at entirely the wrong station, c50%)


Aug. 2nd, 2016 01:31 am
davidgillon: A pair of legs (mine) sitting in a wheelchair (wheelchair)

A wee bit of a twitter firestorm broke out earlier when the World Fantasy Con panels were posted and one of them was called "Spicy Oriental Zeppelins" Apparently the title was based on a 'joke' that had only every been made by the WFC Head of Programming, Darrell Schweitzer, and he'd been repeatedly warned it wasn't funny in advance.

With just about every SFF author on twitter going WTF WTC? that was quickly changed to "Outrageous Aviation Stories, Flying Pulp Oddities."

What got a lot less attention, and has been more subtly changed was another panel:

"7. Freaks, Sideshows, and Human Oddities. From “Hopfrog” to Freaks to Geek Love. Is this the last taboo, the final frontier of bad taste, or something (perversely?) alluring even yet?"

Which became

7. Freaks, Sideshows, and Human Oddities. From “Hopfrog” to Freaks to Geek Love. Is this the last taboo, the final frontier of bad taste, or a persistent archetype in literature?

Schweitzer had been warned in advance about this one as well, and specifically that it was ableist. I'm glad to see it has been changed, but I still think it's deeply problematic and I'm horrified something so negatively objectifying about disabled people ever made it out as a formally released program item.

And it's not as if this is the first issue WFC has had with disability in the last year. WFC 2015 had major access fails, never mind they had a disabled guest who had talked to them about her access needs, and then earlier this year WFC 2016 instituted a significant price rise despite disabled people telling them they couldn't book until they had published their disability access policy. The price rise had no sooner gone into effect than they published their access policy, which looked to have been written in five minutes on the proverbial back of a fag packet. I got the distinct feeling that was sheer spite.

ETA : File 770's on the story:  Outrage Greets 2016 World Fantasy Con Program
davidgillon: Text: You can take a heroic last stand against the forces of darkness. Or you can not die. It's entirely up to you" (Heroic Last Stand)
I bought myself a Fire TV stick during Amazon's Prime Day, given it was reduced to £20. Technically it isn't letting me do anything I couldn't already do with the Kindle Fire and its TV dongle, but I rarely have the Kindle in the same room as the TV, so that hasn't been working out and I invested in Prime largely to have the extra programme choice it offers.

it's very well put together, remote about the size of an iPod, while the stick itself is about the size of a Mars Bar (note it does need a power socket). I've mostly been using it to play my Amazon-purchased music through the TV's sound system, which is the only decent one in the house, or ogling the absolutely gorgeous screensaver landscapes, but last night I finally got some time to watch stuff.

Content Warning: Here Be Spoilers

First up was the Tom Cruise vehicle Live. Die. Repeat aka Edge of Tomorrow

I did have a problem with the picture here, it was offset down and to the right, though I couldn't work out how much by, I did manage to sort it later (see below).

I wanted to see Edge of Tomorrow when it was at the cinema, but didn't get around to it. The scenario is Earth has been invaded by aliens, the mimics (thought they don't seem to actually mimic anything) who have taken control of Western and Central Europe, but have been stopped at the Channel in the west, and by Russian and Chinese forces to the east. Now equipped with powered exoskeletons, the allies need to launch a cross-Channel invasion. (A nice historical touch is that the invasion is codenamed Downfall; Downfall was the code name for the planned invasion of Japan in WWII)

Cruise is Captain Bill Cage, the proverbial REMF, an officer whose talent is for marketing, not fighting, responsible for producing recruitment ads.

When informed by the commanding general of the allies (Brendan Gleeson, looking perfectly at home in British battledress) that he'll be playing combat cameraman in the first assault wave, Cage tries to talk his way out of it, and ultimately tries to blackmail the general, as it becomes clear he's a complete coward. The blackmail attempt ends with Cage resisting arrest and getting himself tased. He wakes up at Forward Operating Base Heathrow, rebranded as a private impersonating an officer and guilty of desertion. He's promptly assigned to the mixed British-American J Squad, who are ordered to beat him 'until he can't pee standing up' if he tries anything, and the next morning he's fitted out with an exoskeleton and dragged out to the aerial armada headed for France.

The special effects are fantastic. The main part of the invasion force is in CGI created quad tillt-rotor 'dropships', and one shot shows Heathrow covered with them, and with exoskeleton clad infantry filing aboard, but flying among them are real Chinooks and V-22s and you need to know your aircraft to tell which is which. Unfortunately for the allies, what the effects show are the invasion force getting completely hammered. The aliens were waiting for them.

Cage makes it down to the beach, only to immediately see one of his squadmates crushed by a falling dropship. He tries to save a female soldier (Emily Blunt), but fails and spends most of the battle trying to work out how to disengage the safety catch on his guns. Finally reunited with J squad, he's just in time to see them wiped out by a mimic that was buried in the sand. Our first good look at a mimic shows us they're vaguely octopus like, but in motion they're like a thrashing propeller blade. Moments before the mimic kills him too, Cage triggers the claymore mine on one of the dead trooper's armour, killing them both.

He wakes up at Forward Operating Base Heathrow, rebranded as a private impersonating an officer and guilty of desertion. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Each time through the battle, Cage gets a little more competent, and eventually manages to save the female soldier, who turns out to be Sergeant Rita Vrataski, the famous 'Angel of Verdun,' who killed hundreds of mimics in her first battle. You can tell she's hardcore because she's wearing a black exoskeleton and using a cut-down helicopter rotor blade as a sword. When he explains how he managed to save her she tells him "Find me when you wake up". Then they die.

Back at Heathrow, Cage has to escape J Squad. This takes several attempts. Eventually he does manage to find Rita, and convince her of who he is. Rita reveals that she became the Angel of Verdun because she was like him, repeating the same day time after time, learning the sequence of moves that would let her survive, until eventually she lost the ability. But she and a scientist did figure out that the ability she had was acquired from the blood of an atypical mimic she killed, and that it ultimately came from the alien's central commander, the Omega, who had the ability to reset to the previous day anytime it sensed it was losing. Only no one ever believed them. Now Cage has the ability, and Rita needs to train him so that he can get her off the beach so that she can kill the Omega.

Cue a sequence of Cage being repeatedly mangled by the mimic simulators, which are a bunch of thrashing propeller blades. Eventually he gets good enough that he and Rita can make it off the beach and head off in pursuit of the the Omega, but time and again Rita is killed. Succumbing to combat fatigue, Cage absconds into London, and learns that the beach isn't the only human defeat, the aliens counter-invade while the focus is elsewhere and London falls.

In desperation Cage tries a tactic Rita has warned him about, because it always leads to 'psych wards, or dissection', and she's right, but it does eventually give them a shot at the Omega. But there's a hitch. (Of course there's a hitch!)

I liked Edge of Tomorrow, though I'll admit a certain amount of the pleasure comes from seeing Tom Cruise die repeatedly and horribly. I'm planning to watch it again now I've sorted out the picture problems.

I followed Edge of Tomorrow with the first three episodes of Constantine, the series based on the John Constantine: Hellblazer comics, previously the vehicle for a Keanu Reaves film. The opening shot is the gates to the 'Ravenscar Home for the Mentally Deranged', which was so far off centre I went to get the Kindle Fire to check where it should be. It should actually have been dead centre, but for some reason linking in the Kindle solved the problem and the picture has stayed centred since then.

Pilot, Non Est Asylum

Constantine's business card says "Exorcist , demonologist, and master of the dark arts", though as the pilot opens he notes he's thinking of getting it changed to "dabbler in the dark arts." He screwed up an exorcism, condemning a 9yo girl to Hell, and himself along with her. He's taking refuge in an asylum in Northumberland, hoping they can persuade him demons don't exist. That they aren't succeeding is demonstrated when one of the residents becomes possessed. Exorcising her reveals a cryptic message "Liv Die" Fortunately for the story's continuity Constantine knows who Liv is.

Cut to Atlanta. Where Liv Aberdine is headed home from work, or would be, if her car's electrics weren't misbehaving, shortly followed by her car falling into a gaping pit. Enter Constantine, exit Liv, convinced he's a creep. That night Liv's next door neighbour is murdered, later the murdered corpse tries to drive the mortuary van through Liv's office. This doesn't convince Liv to listen to Constantine, but seeing the ghost of her grandmother does. Constantine explains he used to work with her father, who could see ghosts and scry for problems, and that Liv is developing the same powers. Constantine meanwhile has encountered an angel, Manny, who wants him to commit himself to the Good Fight, which he hints might save Constantine's soul.

Constantine uses Liv to lure the demon stalking her into a trap. Problem solved.

He's an exorcist, she's a seer, they hunt demons!

Sorry, no. In a blatantly added-on coda, we're informed that Liv has lit out for the West Coast, but not before bleeding all over a map of the States with scryed troublespots. Meanwhile a female figure is frantically drawing images of Constantine

2, The Darkness Beneath

Liv's map takes Constantine to Heddwich, PA, a Welsh-settled mining town, where there are knockers in the mine and one of the bosses just burned to death in his shower. Within minutes of arriving he literally walks into our mysterious artist, who turns out to be Zed Martin. Despite the name, Zed is Hispanic, and desperate to know who Constantine is. Constantine claims she's trying to scam him and slips away, but not before Zed relieves him of his wallet. Resourceful lady. Finding her in his hotel room, Constantine relents for long enough to show her that she is what he calls a clairsentient, able to scry by touch. Then he gives her the slip again. It doesn't last.

After following a series of false leads, Constantine finally tracks down the cause of the problem. Someone is driving the Coblynau, the friendly mine spirits, to murder. And this is where the narrative lost me, badly. I'd already gone 'Oh, hell, no,' when a character was introduced, and I was right. The gypsy did it, and not only did the the gypsy do it, but she came onto Constantine at her husband's funeral, compounding which we have Constantine stating "There's nothing darker than Romany magic". Talk about demonising a minority!

Nor is that the only piece of poor writing. There's a claim from Constantine (who admittedly is spinning a line at the time), that he 'grew up among the pits of Liverpool' or something like that. What pits of Liverpool? The idiocy is that Matt Ryan, who plays Constantine, is Welsh and could easily have claimed to be from the Welsh Valleys, which have a far stronger mining history, spinning a link with the town's Welsh heritage (the name, a Welsh flag in the pub and the Coblynau in the mine seem to be the extent of it). There's also a line about the mine having dug too deep, when we see it it's a drift mine, by definition shallow.

3 The Devil's Vinyl.

Zed shows up at Constantine's fortress of solitude, and as Constantine needs a lift to Chicago for a maguffin hunt, she's in. The maguffin is 'the acetate', raw recording from an old sound studio that caught the moment the Devil came to take the soul of a legendary Bluesman who had sold his soul for his voice. The maguffin turns out to be a bargaining chip in someone else's deal with the Devil, with enough extenuating circumstances for Constantine to help.The problem is an old rival of Constantine's, unscrupulous voodoo priest Papa Midnite, who also wants the acetate. And when two of Papa's minions get their hands on it, things go from bad to worse as the problem with minions is they're always succeptible to someone doing their thinking for them, even if in this case it's a 60yo record.

I did love the scene where John charges to the rescue with the Sex Pistols' Anarchy in the UK blazing through his earbuds, but that doesn't outweigh the problematic portrayal of voodoo.

It's annoying, I can sense there's a good series fighting to get out, but it keeps being strangled by poor writing and low production values. When Matt Ryan plays Constantine performing an exorcism, you get a sense he really is engaged in a desperate struggle against a powerful foe, and that's what Constantine should be, but it doesn't make up for cliched and borderline racist portrayals of Voodoo and the Romany.

davidgillon: A pair of legs (mine) sitting in a wheelchair (wheelchair)

Distance covered yesterday, c 900m there with a descent of 24m in the first half, pretty much braking all the way - I've reached a landmark and worn my first pair of wheelchair gloves through to the gel on both thumbs. Hands were unpleasantly hot by the time I'd slowed onto the level!

c950m back with a 22m rise, 2m of which happens in about 10m on a corner. I'd have to choose a different route if I couldn't get out and push those 10m. I in 5 is not practical. But apart from that I pushed it non stop, if very slowly in places. I did have the traditional little old lady asking if I would like a push, but she did it aboot 10 feet from the crest of a slope, and there's a straight 150m with a slight descent immediately after, so of course I whipped by her as soon as I crested it.

So total distance about a nautical mile, which I think is the furthest I've pushed apart from the couple of days in Athens (and that was all downhill).

What taking the two slightly different routes confirmed is that I have substantially more difficulty on cambered pavements, and that my left arm is only capable of getting me up a kerb with difficulty. Because of a car being awkward, I ended up doing one slope on the opposite side to usual, The side I usually do it on has flat paving, the opposite side has the same slope, but is steeply cambered, it was far more difficult than it normally is (this is where I had the little old lady intervention). It's not simply a matter of me, though, the new chair isn't great at holding a line on a cambered pavement, it has a strong tendency to turn into the slope. The clown chair was  just as bad, the GPV, with cambered wheels, made it not an issue.The particular problem I have with this is it means I need to brake with the uphill arm while pushing with the downhill, and if my dud left arm is the downhill one, this is massively less than ideal.

I rang Wheelchair Services on Friday to say I definitely need a 3" cushion as discussed (and noted) at the handover, the seat to footplate gap is too short otherwise and my legs aren't flat on the cushion. I strongly suspect they measured me while I was sitting on a 3" cushion. I'm currently using the 2" they gave me, with a 1" I had in the house under it, which makes the difference between being in intolerable pain within an hour or so, and being able to sit for at least three hours.. Apparently fixing this will need one of the therapists to ring me back and discuss it. I'll raise the camber issue at the same time. I've checked the manual and the XLT can have cambered wheels, but you need an extra part in the wheel mounting to accomplish it, rather than just adding a couple of extra washers as on the GPV, so that'll probably need to be ordered in if I can get them to agree to it.

davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
That 'Shockingly Bad' is my quote, in fact the entire first half of the article is one long quote from me. And I wasn't just writing for effect, I commented in a side note to John Pring, the journalist whose article it is, that I'm genuinely appalled.

TLDR: A government disability scheme is so bad it can't even get the legal definition of disability right.

We used to have a scheme called "Two Ticks", which had a logo of, surprisingly, two ticks, which employers could sign up to to say they were disability friendly, in return for agreeing to five measures.Measures like always interviewing disabled candidates who met the requirements, and discussing whether needs were being met on a yearly basis. So not exactly onerous. In practise companies used to sign up, put the logo on their paperwork and do nothing as it was almost never checked (Evil Aerospace are the only company I've ever heard of having it taken off them). Needless to say it fell into disrepute.

We (disabled people) were promised several years ago that a better replacement would be along soon.

In the meantime we've had the worse than useless Disability Confident proclaiming that employers are just embarrassed about disability.

It's now emerged, they aren't confident enough to do a proper launch, that a revamped Disability Confident is the replacement for Two Ticks and will have three tiers.

Tier 1 asks companies to make a single commitment in comparison to Two Ticks five, is self assessed, and once they've sent in the trivial paper work, they get to use the new logo.

Tier 2 asks companies to sign up to several more commitments, roughly equivalent to Two Ticks, and again it's self assessed and they get a pretty logo. The commitments basically amount to agreeing to do what is already legally required under the Equality Act 2010. (Yes, that's right, Tier 1 signs you up to do less than you're already legally required to).

I thought 'well, at least Tier 3 will better than Two Ticks'. More fool me.

Tier 3 consists of getting yourself assessed on Tier 2. You can pay to get yourself assessed, but you can also be assessed by your mate whose company is already Tier 3, or your mate who runs a Disabled People User Led Organisation, even if it has no interest whatsoever in employment. Pass this and you get to call yourself a 'Disability Confident Leader' and use the appropriate logo.

They've taken a scheme that was worthless because everyone signed up for the logo and never followed through on the commitments, and replaced it with one where you don't have to make the commitments.

The other quotes in the article are interesting, even the people who worked with DWP on producing it, including a DPULO that's stopped being a DPULO and rebranded itself into an assessment company to take advantage, are describing it as a lost opportunity. While others openly say 'if we asked companies to stop being disablist none of them would sign up'.

Talk about being seen to be doing something.





davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
... with a friend of mine.

I posted a link on FB to the Indy's long and depressing article on the scale of post Brexit racism.

His immediate response, 'I voted Leave and I'm not racist and I'm sure the majority of leave voters weren't racist.' Followed by a po-faced line about how free movement of labour isn't working.

I never mentioned Leavers, or free movement, and neither did the article.

And what makes his post doubly hypocritical is half his friends work in the EU.

I reminded him that the kind of people who launch racist attacks are precisely the same the same kind who attack people like me, or him, for being disabled in public.

davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)

Recently Read:

Velveteen vs The Seasons, Seanan McGuire

Surviving the previous two Velveteen books has left Velma Martinez, aka superhero Velveteen, seriously indebted to the anthropomorphic personifications of Winter, Spring, and Autumn, and it's time to pay up. Vel is committed to spend one season in the Seasonal Lands with each of the three seasons, and at the end choose whether to move to one permanently, becoming one of its personifications, or return to the Calendar lands (aka Earth).

Being in debt to Santa Claus may not sound too harsh, after all it's Santa, and one of Vel's best friends is his daughter Jackie. But the big man isn't the only power in Winter, there's Jack Frost and the Snow Queen, Jackie's true parents, and there are powers yet un-named, and the seasons have been putting on their best faces for Vel when she visits, Being tested by the seasons is an altogether harsher process. One she isn't guaranteed to survive.And if Vel makes it out of Winter, there's still Spring, the season of destructive rebirth, and Autumn, the season of Halloween, to face

Like McGuire's Indexing series, the Velveteen series is structured as a chain of linked short stories, each entitled 'Velveteen vs'. Threats this time include "Hypothermia", "Santa Claus", "Spring Cleaning", and "The Consequences of Her Actions" amongst others. Scattered in among them are a handful of "Velveteen Presents" chapters as the friends Vel left behind deal with the aftermath of bringing down The Super Patriots Inc.

The theme here really is the consequences of her actions, for both Vel and her friends. The Velveteen books have always been darker than they sound, but this time the gloves are off, and not everyone will make it to the end of the story.

Velveteen vs the Seasons has what looks like a rather gaudy cover at first, but it's worth a second look when you're done. I didn't realise it at first, but all four women are actually Vel.

Definitely one to pick up from the earlier books if you haven't read them, with the stories from Book 1, Velveteen Vs the Junior Super Patriots Inc available on Seanan's site. There's a note there saying the ebook versions of both it and Velveteen vs the Multiverse are out of print for contractual reasons :(

A Red Rose Chain, Seanan McGuire

The ninth Toby Day book opens with Toby reporting her latest bit of heroing to Good Queen Arden, newly restored to the throne of San Francisco's fae Kingdom of the Mists, only to be interrupted by having the body of Arden's chancellor, Madden, dumped on them. This isn't an assassination, Madden isn't dead, he's been elf-shot to sleep for 100 years, it's a declaration of war. A century ago, Mists, under the usurper queen Toby recently deposed, fought a war against the neighbouring Kingdom of Silences, won and installed a puppet monarch, Rhys. Now Rhys wants Mists restored to it's 'rightful' queen, or it's war.

Dealing with Arden's initial panic requires Toby to get a little physical with her monarch, so when Arden needs a 'volunteer' for Ambassador to try and stop all this happening, guess who is first in line. Of course Toby isn't known for her diplomacy, she's much happier hitting things.

So it's Toby, her fiance Tybalt, King of Cats, her squire Quentin and her wierd sister May off to Silences. But with Silences slinging elf shot about, she needs an alchemist for her team, so poor chemistry professor Walter gets dragged out of his lab again. Only poor Walter turns out have been hiding things, such as being from Silences. He's not quite a hidden prince, but he's close.

Silences is a nightmare. Rhys isn't just a puppet of the usurper, he's a pure blood fanatic, and Toby isn't pure blood. She might be more fae than she started out, but she's still a part human changeling, with changeling vulnerabilities. Rhys's game isn't kill the ambassador, but nothing else is off the table (and in fact most of the attacks take place at table). And if the situation is bad for Toby, it's far worse for the changelings stuck permanently in Rhys's court.

There's no hope of bringing Rhys round, not when he's both fanatic and a puppet of the usurper, but Toby tries to stay on the diplomatic path, at least while the threats are directed solely at her. But when they stray to her friends and family the gloves come off, and this is a woman who has already brought one monarchy tumbling down. Her friends just wish she wouldn't bleed quite so much while she's doing it.

This is another solid entry in the series, there's not really any sense of where the series as a whole is going, but Toby is continuing to grow into her power, and there's a sense of every ball that's been tossed in the air still continuing on its arc. About the only thing missing this time is the Luidaeg, Toby's scary monster of an aunt, who only appears offscreen via a couple of telephone calls. But one thing is certain, the consequences of what happened in Silences are going to rattle through Mists too, and probably all of the fae kingdoms.

Red Rose Chain also has a cover that repays another look once finished. It's very subdued, but there's a wonderful amount of referencing to key elements of the story.

Up Next

Defying Doomsday, ed Tsana Dolichva and Holly Kench

An anthology of stories of disabled and chronically ill folk surviving doomsday. I've started with Corinne Duyvis' "And the Rest of Us Wait," with a teenaged Latvian one-time pop-idol and her family waiting out a comet impact in a Dutch public bunker, a situation complicated by her spina bifida. I love Iveta's voice, and Duyvis (who is autistic rather than physically disabled) seems to have done a good job of her research. Iveta and I seem to have roughly equivalent levels of mobility and it seems very well done to me.

Currently Playing

The Amazing Adventures of Van Helsing

Picked up in the Steam sale for £5.20, including all three DLC sets. I'd call this a Rogue-Like, I've also seen it called a Diablo-like, but I've never played Diablo. It's a RPG/shoot-em-up in which Van Helsing and his faithful companion Kristina (who's a ghost) are called to Borgovia, home of things that go bump in the night, which is suffering an outbreak of steampunk. The objective is basically kill anything that moves, while fulfilling various missions. Presentation is basically 3d isometric, but the 3d is somewhat wasted as you can't really see the detail that's there if you zoom in. It might be better on a large screen, I'm playing on my laptop at the minute, but there tends to be a lot on screen.

It's very frenetic, but if I can manage it with my dyspraxic coordination it should be accessible to most people. About the only problem with the game is that Katrina is very cliched. Expect to be annoyed.

If you're playing in Win 10 you need to kill one of the minor Windows services or it will crash after 15 minutes (you can google that on the Steam forums), but apart from that it seems pretty reliable.

I wouldn't have paid full price for it, but for a fiver it's good value.

ETA: Webcomics

I don't think I mentioned starting to follow Shattered Starlight, which is a new comic from Nicole Chartrand, who writes and draws Fey Winds, one of my favourite comics. Set in Montreal, it's only just taking shape, with a protagonist, Farah, who is a former magical girl, now all grown up (she's 28) and out of the defender of the earth thing. Unfortunately she has a temper, and her powers, and blasting her boss through a wall and four cubicles just got her reassigned to work at Cafe Le Dead End, which is as far as the story has gotten so far. The artwork is a real contrast to Fey Winds, which is full colour typical cartoon style, while Shattered Starlight is a detailed black and white style, though with occasional highlight tinting (mostly Farah's pink hair).

davidgillon: A pair of legs (mine) sitting in a wheelchair (wheelchair)
Professor Farah Mendelsohn (the author) mentioned this paper in the Fans for Accessible Conventions FB group (she's a well known UK fan as well as being a disabled academic) and it should potentially interest a few people: UK PhD Accessibility, A Pilot Study I don't think there are any astounding revelations, but it does collect a bunch of stats in one place and confirm there are issues.

I've been shooting off my mouth to journalists again, and seem to be responsible for the title of :

Drop in Access to Work numbers shows DWP ‘is strangling the scheme’

TLDR: Disability employment figures supposedly rising, yet the number of disabled people accessing government support to work is actually down slightly - either employers are cherrypicking people with minor disabilities, or the scheme is increasingly difficult to access. (What makes this all utterly ridiculous, government was making £1.40 in tax revenue for every pound spent on AtW, so the Tories cut the scheme).

I won't link to anything as it's more a cumulative effect thing, but there seem to be quite a few people raising questions about how accessible Pokemon Go is. I'm not really a mobile game person, but I'm not remotely attracted by a game that requires you to walk around.

davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
Horrific story in the Guardian with three deaf women in Haiti murdered for allegedly being 'lougarous'. Trigger warning for a horrific disability hate crime.

Link to story

davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
Recently Read:

New Amsterdam, (New Amsterdam #1),
Elizabeth Bear

He’s a wampyr, she’s a Lady, they fight crime!

Lady Abigail Irene Garret, Th.D, Detective Crown Investigator, forensic sorcerer, with a scandalous reputation, a once noted beauty, and connections in the highest places. Now one of only three DCIs in Britain’s New Netherlands colonies, and the only one who is actually competent.

Lucifugous, Over the Atlantic, March 1899

Don Sebastien de Ulloa, renowned Great Detective, less well known as a wampyr, is fleeing Europe and its memories in the company of his protégé Jack Priest by airship, when a passenger goes missing.

Wax, New Amsterdam, April 1901

A disturbed night and a body in the street leads to the discovery of an entire household vanished leads to a case for Detective Crown Investigator Lady Abigail Irene Garret, soon joined to her evident annoyance, by Don Sebastien de Ulloa. But with the case setting her between the Lord Mayor of New Amsterdam, and her lover, the Duke of New Amsterdam, Abby Irene is soon grateful for the help.

Wane, New Amsterdam, March 1902

Abby Irene receives an invitation from an old lover, Prince Henry, the heir to the throne. But there is murder at the ball, a royal reputation to protect, and once more Abby Irene finds herself caugtht between the Lord Mayor and the Duke.

Limerent, New Amsterdam, October 1902

A wealthy Fenian is found dead inside a locked room, a pistol in one hand, a Rosary bead clutched in the other. But if he knew he was in danger, how did they get to him? And then there is the bigger, political, question, is his business partner, pro-independence Lord Mayor Peter Elliot, involved? And will his political opponent, Abby Irene’s patron, boss, and lover, Richard, Duke of New Amsterdam, accept any answer bar guilty?

Chatoyant, Boston, December 1902

Someone is killing high class male courtesans, and if Sebastien can’t investigate, then Abby Irene, newly fled from New Amsterdam, can. And then a figure from Sebastian’s past arrives. And war breaks out.

Lumiere, Paris, December 1902, January 1903

Sebastien and his court have travelled to Paris, the city of Light, city of Tesla’s marvellous broadcast electricity, to seek French aid for the rebels in the American colonies. But aid comes at a price. Ghostly wolves are invading Paris during its harsh winter, and someone needs to hunt them down.

Overall it’s a rock-solid collection. The political aspect took me by surprise, but the forensic sorcery aspects were everything I had hoped for, with a well thought out magic system. And each story stands as a competent mystery in its own rights, while simultaneously contributing to the overall arc.

Garret Investigates, (New Amsterdam #5), Elizabeth Bear

Five more stories from Bear’s New Amsterdam sequence. I actually read this straight after New Amsterdam as I wanted more of Abby Irene

The Tricks of London: London, April 1879

Told from the PoV of a young detective sergeant, London faces the return of an old threat, and a young Lady Abigail Irene is the Detective Crown Investigator charged with hunting it down

The Body of the Nation: New Netherlands, April 1897

A locked room mystery, on a river steamer, with a dead Bavarian princess, and bonus Sam Clemens.

Almost True: New Netherlands, 1900

The first Abby Irene story written, this sees her caught up by an attempt to assassinate her lover, the Duke of New Amsterdam. She’s a rather more physical force in this than in the other stories.

Underground: Paris, April 1941

Despite the collection’s title, this one doesn’t actually involve Abby Irene, the focus here is her former housekeeper, Mary Ballard, now working for the Resistance against Paris’ Prussian occupiers, and charged with getting someone hunted by every side out of the city.

Twilight: London, 1941

The last Abby Irene story. She’s an old woman now, but preserved by her sorcery, and she and Sebastien have not sat out the Prussian occupation. But now the Prussians are fled, the King is back, and the intention seems to be to pension off not just her, but the entire Crown Investigator service. But not before one final case that draws in all Sebastien’s surviving court.

The collection is a little varied, but well worth reading if New Amsterdam left you wanting more of Abigail Irene.

The White City (New Amsterdam #3), Elizabeth Bear

In this double-stranded addition to Bear's New Amsterdam tales, the wampyr Don Sebastien de Ulloa takes his court to Moscow both before and after the events in New Amsterdam and Paris, and both visits are marked by murder. (If the order I'm reading these seems odd, I'm trying to read them in chronological order rather than publication order).

The stories are interwoven, and the second finds his court marked by grief, so this may not be the best place to start (try 'New Amsterdam' for that), but if you like the structure it's well worth the time. Unlike the other books I've read in the New Amsterdam sequence, this is a single short novel (182 pages), rather than a collection of short stories.

In the earlier thread, Sebastien's protege Jack continues his habit of running with the revolutionary crowd, seduced by the artist Irina, and introduced to someone who may have the potential to be this universe's Lenin (Ilya Ilych Ulyanov? - that patronymic and surname combination is too big a coincidence), only for Irina to find herself framed for murder, allowing Sebastien to roll out his Great Detective persona.

The later thread again revolves around Irina and her acquaintances, as Sebastien stumbles on a body in her studio, and into the orbit of the Russian investigator Dyachenko, which allows Lady Abigail Irene to dust off her forensic sorcery skills. There's an interesting contrast in this one as the Russians have done away with forensic sorcery, and invented conventional forensics, so Abigail Irene and Dyachenko get to play 'let me impress you', to the amusement of Sebastien.

And lurking in the background to both stories is the enigmatic wampyr Starkad.

I really liked this, and Bear's prose continues to be gorgeous, but the resolution jarred a little - it makes sense, but there's a sequence that goes 'Ah, it was about A. Oh, it was really about B. Ah, so it was actually about C' that left me a little whiplashed

Penric and the Shaman, Lois McMaster Bujold

Four years on from Penric and the Demon, Penric is a fully qualified sorcerer-divine of the Bastard's Order, once more living in Martenbridge in the court of the Princess-Archdivine and spending his time trying to spread the medical knowledge of Learned Ruchia, the previous host of his demon, Desdemona, through a rather clever spell.

And then, just as winter sets in, there arrives Oswyl, a Locator in the Father's Order, hot on the heels of Inglis, a Royal Shaman, who is suspected of murder. Oswyl is very, ahem, dedicated to his work and the rest of his team have headed off in the opposite direction, convinced they know better than he does which way Inglis will have gone. Penric isn't exactly enthused by the prospect of a trip into the high mountains in winter, but being a sorceror-divine of the Bastard, the god of everything else, means his job is whatever comes his way.

Meanwhile, up in the mountains, Inglis has gotten himself into a bit of a pickle.

Oswyl, and most everyone else, start off dismissing Penric because of his youth (he's 23 in this story), but Penric has matured into his role, and he's actually far more at home in the outdoors than any of the other protagonists. It's also not the first time he's gotten caught up in the affairs of gods, and their habit of tugging the strings of their pieces on the board is one he's a lot better placed to recognise than most.

If you like the world of the Five Gods, this is another solid entry. It's written as rotating third person limited point of view, but once or twice I found myself having to page back to check whose PoV we were in. It's mostly not a problem, and the story works better for it (and maybe I was just tired), but worth your while to pay attention to PoV shifts at the chapter starts. About my only other criticism is we don't see enough of Desdemona. She has her moments, but this isn't a tale that requires overt sorcery, nor much reference to her well-travelled background. If you're new to the world of the Five Gods, this works more than well enough as a standalone, but you'll get more out of it if you've read both the first Penric novella and, especially, The Hallowed Hunt, which establishes the background of the shamen in Wealds society. Marketed as a novella, but at 160 pages it's definitely pushing into short novel territory.

Up Next

Probably Seanan McGuire's Velveteen vs the Seasons if it's out in the UK, S L Huang's Plastic Smile, the new Cas Russell book, if it isn't.

Forgot to mention I've started following another couple of webcomics: How to Be a Werewolf, and Kismet, which has one completed long story, Hunter's Moon, and another, Suncutter, in progress.

How to Be a Werewolf is contemporary set fantasy, the protagonist, Malaya, is a 20-something Filipina-American barista who was bitten by a werewolf when she was five, but has never had contact with a pack to learn how to be a werewolf, and has led a deliberately sheltered life. Now someone has found out about her and she's in trouble, but she turns out to have more allies than she realized. Several great gay characters and a core mixed race family.

The Kismet stories revolve around the eponymous moon, home to a small colony basically run by crime families, which makes it pretty idosyncratic. Hunter's Moon is about the local offworld militarists running a particularly nasty plot to take out an old terrorist threat. People die. Lots of people die. Suncutter is a separate tale running partly in parallel, about a bootleg spacedrive development programme also being run on Kismet by those same militarists, with some deep family linkages between the two stories, but only limited crossover characters. Despite that I'd definitely read Hunter's Moon first.


Jul. 12th, 2016 03:33 pm
davidgillon: A foot, mine, in a camwalker brace (Boot)
I finally had the dressing changed on ex-nail today - it was supposed to happen at the 48 hour stage, but they forgot to give me the number for the wound therapy clinic (conveniently based at my GP's, but booked via a central number) and I didn't get hold of that until 48 hours gone, at which point today was the first available appointment, a full week on from surgery.

2:45PM appointment, home by 3PM, which is a bizarre contrast to last week's surgery and refusal to release me.

The wound itself is a lot tidier than I expected, while the weal from the spilled phenol looks like a burn that just failed to blister. The verdict is both are okay, so no more appointments, just keep covering both with plasters for another week to protect them. That is - fingers crossed - a lot better than last year's experience, when it took about two months for the cholesystectomy wounds to heal.

So I was home by three and the sun was gorgeous, so I pencilled in book, beer, sun for the rest of the afternoon. Which of course meant the skies immediately clouded over, the wind whipped up and the heavens opened.

British summers, sigh!

davidgillon: A pair of legs (mine) sitting in a wheelchair (wheelchair)

I managed to give the new wheels a decent test drive on Saturday, and they're so much better it's ridiculous. It also helps we're finally having some decent weather, though a touch too sticky.

I ended up parked in the further of my two regular parking spots in Rochester, which is about 700m from our regular Saturday haunt on the High Street, so a decent but not excessive push, with a helpful downhill slope going (the height difference is about 40ft). So it's about 50m on the road I park on (no handy kerb cuts to get on the path), across a busy junction into the Vines, a local park, 200m on its paths, which are tarmacced but not exactly flat as the avenue of trees has some major roots under them. Then out into the precinct at the back of the cathedral for about 250m on bricked roads (the paths are partly possible, but the heritage flagstones make them worse than the road and there's one stretch where neither side is passable for a chair), then out onto the main road between Castle and Cathedral, a quick cut through the disabled car park (which you can never park in - only 6 bays, and which they now want to sell for development - grr!) and on to the High Street

I'd realised the chair was significantly better than either the clown chair or the eBay chair as soon as I pushed out of Wheelchair Services on Thursday, but this really showed it off. I'd expected it to be better than the clown chair, that was the whole point of moving to a rigid frame, but not that it would be markedly better than the eBay GPV, which is another rigid. I'm tentatively putting that down to inflatable tyres vs solids (which were an unpleasant surprise on the eBay chair, but at least I didn't end up paying for them). Rolling resistance appears to be significantly less, the Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres seem to have quite a narrow contact area, in fact I was a bit worried about slowing down at that first junction, which has quite a sharp descent into it. It was fine in the Vines, though I nearly lost it coming out of the park and onto the road behind the Cathedral - there's a driveway I've been using as a kerb cut, but if I'm hitting it that little bit faster then I need to be taking it at closer to a right angle, which means slowing down however I do it.

I'd say the ride on the bricked road was actually better even than the GPV. In the clown chair (which is now back with Wheelchair Services, presumably to be refurbished as a fleet chair) it was literally tooth-rattling, the GPV smoothed that out to a rumble, and with the XLT it's barely even that. Not much to report on the ride past the Castle, apart from motorists who see a wheelchair on the road and freeze like a rabbit in headlights, nor really on the high street, though people who erect scaffolding on the pavement and then block the way through it with barriers for no reason are not my favourites! One definite advantage to the new chair is that I don't need to fold it to get it through the doors of the George Vaults, I still need to get out, two steps up inside the door, but the XLT is light enough to pick up and lift in if I want.

On my own for lunch unfortunately, one set of friends are in France, the other has a sick family member, but no problems getting a table, and I took a chance on the special (a chance as the waitress's description was a bit garbled) and oh, boy was it worth the wait - chicken breast (the bit I heard) on a bed of freshly made ratatouille, with a smear of pesto (the bits I didn't). The ratatouille was absolutely gorgeous.

Back to the car was a bit more of a chore, 40ft uphill rather than downhill. On the bright side I made it almost all the way without stopping, the first time I've actually managed that, though I was close last week. It's pretty clear my shoulders are a problem on even fairly slight upslopes, though there's a slow improvement. And the 'almost' is effectively a mandatory stop, there's a 10m stretch of path that's too steep to safely wheel going uphill. Especially if you've forgotten to put the anti-tips out....

I'm still figuring the best way to fit the dismantled chair into the boot of the car, there may even be a way to do it without dropping any of the back seat (the boot in my Yaris is pathetically tiny), but I need to spend some time experimenting.

Next stop was PC World, checking their ink prices - £10 more than HP? Thanks, I'll pass. I've actually taken all three chairs to PC World to try them out on a decent-sized  flat surface almost as soon as I've gotten them, and the XLT is just a pleasure on that kind of surface (so long as salespeople don't step out in front of you!).

And at least I didn't have to demolish any displays to get into the aisles this time, he says innocently ;)

Then up to Asda for some grocery shopping. Thankfully the XLT will connect to their wheelchair trolleys, the GPV wouldn't, the vee front is too narrow and I was worried I might have to revert to online orders only if the XLT wouldn't fit them. Of course they were a) in the middle of restocking, with pallets of stuff blocking my way everywhere I went, and b) they'd decided to rearrange all the aisles so no one could find anything, which made it a thoroughly irritating experience. But at least the chair was a non-issue; well, until the trolley broke free as I wheeled to the car and pivoted out into the roadway. So only just connects, I guess.

Back home after that, and asleep on the sofa from 7PM til Midnight, sigh. My body is all too predictable in its reaction to exertion.

New chair!

Jul. 7th, 2016 05:06 pm
davidgillon: A pair of legs (mine) sitting in a wheelchair (GPV)
New chair! Picked it up from Wheelchair Services this afternoon.

Far better than the old chair, you can tell that the moment you start to push, but with a couple of minor niggles. The back is higher than expected, nearly as high as the old chair, where I have to use it folded, but as it's the correct width, that isn't quite such an issue. And the cushion set-up isn't ideal, the lower part of my thigh isn't properly supported.

We've agreed I'll give it a couple of weeks in the current setup before doing anything, but if I want they'll chop the uprights and push handles off level with the top of the upholstery and/or swap me to a three inch cushion rather than the two inch they've given me. I'm pretty certain after sitting in it for a couple of hours and getting uncomfortable that we will be going for the three inch cushion. I've temporarily added a one-inch underneath and that seems to be better, but I can't really tell if it's a complete solution until the discomfort wears off and I can start from scratch.

Getting it into the car is slightly more complex than the old one (cushion off, skirtguards off, fold back, wheels off, lift), and needs part of the back seat dropped as my boot is tiny and it's a rigid frame, but the weight to be lifted is trivial compared to the lump that was the old one.

Side-on view of a rigid framed wheelchair

davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)

Back in December I somehow rammed my left big toenail back into my toe - physically shunted it backwards at least 3mm, which got tediously infected. I finally had a hospital appointment to look at it a couple of months ago and the decision was the nail needed to come off. Ironically within a couple of weeks of seeing the surgeon the infection dried up, but it was clear the nail was slowly being ejected, so no change in the plan. After a couple of changes of date yesterday was the day for surgery.

Admitting time for the Pre-Operative Care Unit (POCU) was 7AM, and no sooner had 7AM come around than they called for me, which given I'd been warned at the pre-op assessment I might be there all day was a bit of a relief. So I was escorted through to a little room of my own (armchair, chair, sink and not a lot else) and left, for an hour. Then I fairly rapidly had visits from admissions nurse, surgeon (not the one I'd previously spoken to, a humongous, jovial Indian guy), and anaesthetist (not quite sure of her origins, but likely somewhere speaking a Latin language), and was eventually taken through to the pre-op room. This was when things got a little weird.

The anaesthetist noted I was down for a local and said "are you really sure about the local, we usually do light general for this?" and explained the op could be done fine under local, but putting the injection into the two nerves of the toe was extremely painful. I said I was willing to be guided, but the surgeon had said local. At which everyone in the room got a rather you than me look on their face. They did check and the surgeon bounced into the room, said 'oh, definitely local', and bounced out again.

So local it was, and by god was the anaesthetist right; forget extremely painful, try excruciating! I didn't quite turn the air blue, but I was swallowing the words to do it. Despite the pain the local was instantly effective, I could feel vague pressure on the toe, but not a great deal more. And the rest of the forefoot was slightly numb. I was through into the operating theatre about ten to nine, and the op started pretty much on the dot. Some vague clipping noises and I was told the nail was off, and then it was time for the 'phenyl ablation', intended to stop the nail growing back as a problem. I did get a burning sensation as they put that on, oddly over my middle toes rather than the big toe. And seven minutes after starting we were done. At which point I was wheeled through to Recovery.

The Recovery Ward had a dozen beds, and I was about the tenth patient to arrive, being hooked up to a blood pressure monitor on my left arm and a blood oxygenation clip on my right index finger. So I was pretty much pinned in place, but they did fetch me a cup of tea, Despite the nurses randomly breaking into snatches of Give Me Joy in My Heart (clearly one of them had earwormed all the others - I suspect the little West Indian nurse, probably not the Hungarian one*) they were ever so slightly in crisis mode; not only did they only have two senior nurses rather than three (one had rung in sick), but they were also dealing with having had three patients overnight in what is supposedly a day-only short-stay ward (which presumably meant every other bed in the hospital was jammed - this is what happens when you have one acute hospital for a city of 270,000+). So the two senior nurses were run off their feet trying to cover 6 patients each rather than 4, the junior nurses were having to cover where the seniors couldn't be and surgical nurses were being forced to hang around until they could corral one of the seniors to do a handover (one of the surgical nurses was someone I knew, we did eventually have a chance to have a catch-up when she was stuck watching a semi-comatose patient in the bed opposite).

Initially this wasn't a problem for me, I was enjoying watching the comings and goings and noting them down in author-brain, but then my foot started to hurt. And not just this is a bit sore, but fuck, this is burning! I finally kicked the blanket off it as unbearable, and there was a bright red weal from the second joint of my middle toe running about an inch onto the top of my foot and then trailing off towards the outer edge. It was pretty clear what had happened - they had spilt some of the phenyl onto me, that burning sensation during the op had been right where the problem was, but the local had been enough to obscure the fact it was still doing damage until it started to wear off. So I needed to flag down a nurse, but of course 'my' nurse had vanished, the beds on either side had curtains drawn, cutting off my view of the rest of the ward,  and every nurse I could see was handling something urgent. On a normal ward I'd have had a call button, and I could have pressed it so someone would come as soon as they were free, but the Recovery ward beds/trolleys don't have one (this strikes me as dangerous, so I'll probably write a letter). In the end it probably took over half an hour to flag someone down.

The nurse wasn't exactly dismissive, but it was fairly obvious that she thought the scenario I sketched in was unlikely. OTOH she did agree to contact my surgeon. He popped up eventually (I couldn't expect instant response if he was in surgery), I explained and he too said he thought it was unlikely, but he'd clean my foot off to be certain. He was back fairly quickly with saline and a scrubbing brush, but as soon as he started he said "You're right, I can smell the phenyl. I don't know how it happened, we put it on with a cotton-bud to stop this". Of course being right doesn't makes someone scrubbing a chemical burn any less unpleasant, but it did at least deal with it. It ended up as a dull weal rather than blistered, which they covered with some gauze to protect it. I haven't checked under the gauze yet, but I've not had any more pain from it.

Time started to tick by, and by Noon even patients who had been brought in after me and unconscious from a general were being released to the discharge ward. Someone eventually mentioned the hold-up was one of the nurses in POCU was worried about releasing me given I'd driven myself in and live alone. And then about 1PM  one of the senior nurses was on the phone to that same nurse, about me, and came over to my bed to check my notes. "Looks like you're here overnight' she commented to me as she discussed it, "there's no way you can drive home with only one leg usable." That was when I stuck my oar in, pointing out I don't use my left leg to drive, and that being a wheelchair user doesn't make it more of a problem, it makes it a non-issue. Which got a collective 'Oh!' and 'We'll go sort out your discharge papers then'. There was a short delay while we waited for my chair and clothes to turn up, but by 1:30 I was on my way to the discharge lounge. (Which incidentally explained why 'my' nurse kept disappearing. Every time she had someone to discharge she had to walk over to the discharge lounge, which is at the opposite end of the hospital, at least five minutes walk away. Add 10 minutes to do the handover and she's out of the ward for 20 minutes a patient). Once she'd handed me over I just needed them to print my discharge letter and I was home by 2pm, asleep in the sun in the garden by 2:30pm.

*Once again, the people caring for me emphasised just how much the NHS depends on immigrants to keep it running.


davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
David Gillon

September 2016

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