We need to be smart, vigilant and tough. We need the courts to give us back our rights. We need the Travel Ban as an extra level of safety!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 3, 2017
Successfully fitted the J3 to my chair.
This wasn't in fact difficult:
Unvelcro existing sling back - this was actually one of the least easy bits as I wasn't entirely sure where and how it connected under the seat, in the end it unvelcroed itself and fell off in my hand.
Unvelcro tension straps.
Unfasten extension tubes and push handles - I didn't actually realise the chair had extension tubes on the back uprights until I got the tension straps off. In retrospect the top of the tube being a different colour to the bottom was a bit of a clue.
Install clamps for J3.
Drop J3 in place.
After taking it up and down the street I decided I wanted it a bit higher, so reinstalled the extension tubes and push handles and clamped it onto those instead.
An unexpected bonus is the back will still fold without needing me to disconnect the J3 (which only takes a couple of seconds anyway), and in fact the J3 makes it easier to see if it has unlatched properly.
Looking at it now, it's giving me an additional two or three inches of support up my spine I didn't previously have, plus a noticeable amount of lateral support that I didn't have at all. I may possibly want to shift it back, or angle it back slightly, but those are slightly more involved, so I'll give it a day or two before I try that.
Jay J3 wheelchair seat back (mid-thoracic, mid-contour), with the mounting hardware, for £51 off eBay (that's including £10 P&P). Normal retail price £506. I saw it at £29 with 3 days to go and thought 'that price has got to go up', but it never climbed higher than £34, so I sniped it with 20s to go with a bid for up to £55*, and a last second counter-bid only pushed my bid up to £41. Utter bargain.
* I'd have gone higher, even waist-height J3s normally go for about £150 on eBay. but the pics weren't clear on the state of the upholstery, and the description only gave width, not precise model. Parcelforce just delivered it and the upholstery is about as I expected, used and a bit fuzzy in places, but should perk up with a turn through the wash - I just downloaded the owner's manual to check settings.
If I was buying new, I'd probably go shoulder-height and deep-contour (a snip at £572), the same setup I tried on kaberett 's chair. But for now, this is an incredible bargain.
I've finally talked to my new neighbour, they only moved-in in October....
But as he says, they work in London and they're never around during the week, at least in daylight. He was putting their rubbish out at the same time as me, so I took the chance to say hello. I initially thought Italian from the accent, and he physically looks like a couple of Italian guys I used to work with, but Polish apparently. It's the usual story of lived in London and moved out to find somewhere they could afford. He was asking about the neighbourhood, so it sounds like they really haven't talked to anyone else in depth.Maybe I'll get to talk to his wife before winter sets in ;)
Once around the two streets of my little estate is almost exactly half a mile. The last time I did physio, at the pain management class in 2014, my physio was insistent I get out and walk a little each day, so I started doing that circuit of the estate, which takes me about 15 minutes. But I fell out of the habit last year, when the infected toe meant I was bleeding every time I walked more than a few yards. I've been meaning to start again, and had a few false starts, but now the weather's warmed up I've managed it every day for a week, which is a good sign.
The route's sort of an inverted question mark, marginally downhill as you head away from the house, uphill as you head back, and all on footpaths. I've been doing it around 2-3pm and there tend not to be too many people about - usually mostly dog-walkers, who've been fairly good about keeping dogs to heel - I got nervous about the rottweiler that was headed towards me yesterday, but his owner reeled him in before he got to me. Car owners parking on the pavement are more of an issue.
My performance has been mixed. Real problems with foot drop making my toe drag the first couple of times, but that hasn't been an issue since. Which is surprising, I remembered it as being more of an issue. Hips, however, have been making themselves known, and they have a nasty habit of kicking in right at the furthest point from the house, when I can't cut the route short. But that's uncomfortable rather than a killer.
Now the trick will be to see if I can keep it up when the weather isn't quite as warm as it's been.
I've linked direct to volume 8 as that has links to all of the other volumes.
Theresa May just announced on national TV she's going to give Trump a bollocking over leaked intelligence.
That's an unprecedented level of criticism.After the Papal slapping yesterday, when he was very pointedly given a copy of the Encyclical on Climate Change, Trump's not having the greatest European trip.
When he started up again today I decided I might as well be out there as suffering the noise in the house or back garden and headed out to do something about my front garden. My back garden is big by modern British standards, but my front garden is a bit of a postage stamp, and noticeably sloped. There is, in theory, a hedge at the front, with planting behind, and then about a yard of grass before you get to the path to the front door. I've deliberately set things up not to need a great deal of management, but I might have overdone the not managing it.
I'd intended to strip back the hedge where it fronts onto the road, there's about a foot of growth at ankle height overlapping onto the footpath, but then I took a close look at the planting. Holly is not exactly a shy and retiring plant, nor is a rhododendron, nor christmas rose, yet they'd all been swallowed up by overspill growth from the hedge - apparently it's reaction to me cutting off all the branches on the streetside last summer was to make a determined effort to swamp the planting area. So I spent the afternoon snipping off branch after branch of hedging. You can at least find the holly now, you can't find the christmas rose because I trimmed back the flowering heads (see 'christmas') and the rhododendron was always tall enough to be seen, you can just see rather more of it than you could before. And I'd completely forgotten about the irises.
I think I'm about two thirds done. There's still stuff to come out, but I can at least get in to work now. The only problem is I've completely filled the garden recycling wheelie-bin, and that's not picked up until Thursday morning, so progress is at a temporary halt, Which is probably just as well. I had planned to work from the chair, I trimmed the hedge that way last year, but the slope meant that wouldn't work for the planting - I kept slipping out of the seat! So work consisted of spurts of standing and trimming, followed by sitting on the chair on the path while I recovered. And the periods of standing were getting shorter, and the periods sitting recovering getting longer and longer. When it got to the point I was doing two snips and having to go sit down again that seemed like a good sign I should stop. I think it was a mix of disability related fatigue, plus the temperature, I slurped back almost a litre of pineapple juice while I was recovering - it was a relief when it clouded over and a slight breeze kicked in.
And when I'm done there's still the hedge proper to do, and then the back garden....
It could have been worse, I could have been my neighbour, who'd reached the peaked roof of his porch, and discovered the corners were completely rotten due to sloppy workmanship. So he's spent the day replacing that, including sourcing material and cutting new bits to shape. From what he's said his simple couple of days retouching the porch is now headed toward £500 and at least a fortnight of effort.
One of the things we did while I was up in Durham was set up lasting Power of Attorney for my sister WRT my mother, with me as reserve. The forms were much longer than we expected, about 42 pages of print-out in the end, which caused a problem as my sister's ancient inkjet laboured to get that printed, with the end result I had to make certain everything got signed in the the right place and the right order before breakfast on the morning I was catching the train down to Kent.
That's now come back to haunt us slightly as, while the financial one was fine, they're saying there was a missing signature on the medical one, which means that primary decision making will rest with the doctors rather than us if my mother is unable to make decisions. Now if we missed a signature I'm damned if I know where it was, I caught two that weren't covered in the notes on what to sign, but there's not a lot we can do to argue about it. So £84 down the drain.
Apparently if we move quickly (the next couple of days) we can get the problem resolved (for a bargain price of only £42), but my mother has slightly thrown the cat among the pigeons by declaring tht if it came down to it she wouldn't want resuscitation anyway, which is the most likely scenario for needing medical PoA rights (to object to an unwanted DNR), and my brother-in-law has pointed out that even without a medical PoA in place for his mother the doctors always ran everything past him anyway.
So given that, and needing to respect my mother's expressed wishes, my sister wants me to figure out if there's actually any point in chasing after the medical PoA. Which would be easier if I hadn't had a sinus headache for the last three days. Can anyone think of a scenario where we might need medical Power of Attorney outside of objecting to a DNR?
Well, actually about six months worth of reading, since the last of these appears to have been in early December.
I'm not certain what I ended up reading around Christmas, I may have a poke around and see if my Kindle will tell me, but the New Year started on a bit of a tangent. I used to be fairly current on modern naval stuff, partly as a spin-off from the job, partly from personal interest, but that had gradually drifted over into a focus on between-the-wars stuff. Until January, when for some reason I can't recall, possibly just a news report or something else that caught my eye, I took a look, realised how out of date I was, and decided to bring myself back up to speed. Mostly I've been doing it through online stuff, but I've also been buying and reading a lot of stuff for the Harpoon naval wargame rules (written by techno-thriller author Larry Bond), which works to sieve down a lot of information into a condensed form. So that's been one thing, and has probably consumed several hundred hours - realistically that's more than I wanted to spend on it, but I do tend to obsess, and obviously that ate into time where I might have been reading fiction.
Spinning off from that (or possiby vice-versa?) I re-read all of 'The Last War', an ongoing web-based alt-history based on the Berlin Wall not falling and a NATO-Warsaw Pact conflict in 2003. I used to read it regularly (it has its own Yahoo group), but hadn't followed it actively in years. It now stands at somewhere over a million words to date, and he's only a couple of weeks into the war.... Very detailed, in the style of Clancy's Red Storm Rising, and wryly amusing for his habit of using TV characters for a lot of roles - so, for instance, you have Dirty Harry Callaghan as head of LAPD running their response to KGB-initiated rioting, and David Woodward's Callan acting as control to a rather nasty assassin. It gets truly bizarre when you have different characters played by the same actor running into each other, as has happened on a couple of occasions.
In fact big re-reading projects pretty much sums up the year to date. Reading Charles Stross's 'The Annihilation Score' led me to re-read the entire set of Laundry Files books up to that point (I'm still behind as 'The Nightmare Stacks' has just dropped down to a price I'm prepared to pay). I thought I'd reviewed the Laundry Files, but I've just checked and apparently not, so I'll leave those for now and come back to them en masse. As a spin-off from reading the actual Laundry books I also bought and read the RPG based on them, plus several of the supplements.
After that I had a bit of a reading hiatus, so deliberately picked up something I knew would be a light read to get myself started again just before Easter. That was the first book in Mercedes Lackey's Collegium series, which is a new timeframe in her Herald books. That turned into seven books in five days, all five of the Collegium series, plus the first two of the three book Herald Spy series. I slowed down a bit for the last of them, then decided I might as well re-read the entire series as the collections were cheap on Amazon. So that's another three trilogies: Arrows of the Queen, The Mage Winds and The Mage Storms (which I thought I hadn't read, but had). Annoyingly I can't find my copy of 'By the Sword', which lies between Arrows and Winds, and is probably my favourite of them all. And annoyingly it doesn't seem to have an ecopy available. I'll probably go on to read the Owl Knight trilogy, and maybe the Griffins prequel trilogy, I'm fairly sure I haven't read either before, but, like the Laundry Files, I'll probably cover all of these in a separate post. I have lots of thoughts, some favourable, some very much not.
And the most recent thing I've re-read is Mary Gentle's 'Grunts', which was an utterly bizzare turn for the author who had just produced the gorgeously gothic 'Architecture of Desire' etc. 'Grunts' is the story of what happens when great orc Ashnak of the fighting Agaku, plus a few of his nestmates and a couple of amoral halflings, are sent to rob a dragon's horde of weapons during the run up to the final battle between Good and Evil. It turns out the dragon was a militaria collector, and his entire horde is weapons the like of which the orcs have never seen, an entire hollowed-out mountain stuffed full of AK-47s and M-16s (not to mention tanks and gunships and worse). The dragon's dying curse is that the thieves will become what they steal, and the stuff they steal includes a complete set of US Marine Corps manuals. In just a few pages the Orc Marines have staged a fighting retreat from the plains of faux-mageddon and are figuring out what to do with themselves. If they can just stop magicians spelling their weapons into not working then they have a weapon against which magic has no defences (yes, that's a bit chicken and egg). They're orcs, they don't mind being cannon-fodder, but they much prefer being cannon fodder that wins (and they've had more than enough working for Dark Lords). That sends Ashnak and a few of his best orcs off on a quest to get the required talismans, which brings them back into contact with the two halflings, and their mother; which sets up unending emnity between Ashnak and the sons, and a rather more complex relationship with their mother. And then a whole lot more stuff happens: war crimes, election campaigns, alien invasions, and war crimes trials, and if no one actually says 'peace through fire superiority' then it's a concept the Orc Marines would understand perfectly (well, apart from the peace bit).
I remember thinking 'Grunts' was wonderful when it first appeared, but re-reading it a quarter of a century on I can see its flaws (and realistically I suspect I've changed a lot in the past 25 years). Some of the humour now makes me wince. Yes, they're Orcs and “naterally wicious,” (to borrow a line from Dickens), but beyond the pratfalls and the humourous fraggings those really are war crimes (and rape humour) we're being asked to laugh at. And more fundamentally, there's something a little incoherent about the narrative. It's basically Ashnak shooting his way to running the planet, and it is reasonable that we get the final battle between Good and Evil out of the way quickly, as it's a story about winning the peace, but the major portion of the book seems to be more 'and then this happened' than any clearly plotted progression. There's some nicely handled character progression - an elf who turns into a perfect Orc marine while stuck in an Aliens scenario, for instance - but there's also what looks like it should be a major character arc around an actual US Marine, only for it to be over in four randomly scattered scenes.
I still like it, and it was innovative when it was written, but it hasn't aged as well as it might and if things still make me smile, then it's more often a guilty smile than I'm comfortable with.
I initially thought it was just the weather had turned cold on Friday, but mid-afternoon I turned really feverish and ended up sleeping under the quilt on the couch from 4 through to 11 (on the plus side, 7 hours sleep is as much as I've had at one time in the last fortnight, so unexpected bonus).
I thought I'd kicked it when I woke up feeling okay, but it was just lulling me into a false sense of security and the sinus headache kicked in once I left the house. I had planned to get lunch over in Rochester, but the parking was abysmal. On the two streets I favour for giving me reasonable access to the high street in the chair there were probably five spaces, two thirds of one here, half of one there. Some of it was probably just circumstances, but at least one guy was deliberately taking up two spaces (parked outside the private school - sense of entitlement in action?) There probably wasn't any point in checking the actual pay car parks for spaces at that time of day (plus the traffic to them is regularly a nightmare), but I might have found somewhere a little further out, however I was feeling decidedly cranky by that point, so I gave up on lunch and went to grab some shopping from Asda.
On reflection I should have realised Asda was going to be irritating. It was mid-afternoon on Saturday and everyone was out doing their weekend shop. Plus the wheelchair shopping trolley isn't nearly as manouverable as the standard versions*, which means people are constantly in my way. But I couldn't help noticing that it was the same three people who kept getting in my way - especially a woman who was wandering around with a phone glued to her ear and paying no attention to anyone else whatsoever. This was not a good combination with cranky, headachey me.
I survived and got home again, and promptly fell asleep on the couch once more. I've been awake since midnight, playing XCom to occupy myself. I'm feeling (very) mildly headachey, and now I think of it I notice it there's a bit of tinnitus going on as well
Dear Sinus Bug, Bugger Off!!
* 4 casters means a standard trolley can move on the diagonal to move around people. The wheelchair trolley-wheelchair has six casters between chair and trolley, and two non-castering main wheels on the chair, which means you have to turn 4 times to get around people, pivoting the trolley about the chair, and with a full trolley that's quite hard work.
Easter Monday, I took advantage of having crutches available and my sister, her husband and I revived an old family Easter tradition and headed up into Teesdale to Cow Green and Cauldron Snout, which is right up on the high moors, where the sheep roam free for most of the year and the only thing at the side of the roads are the 8 foot high snow poles. Fortunately, this year we didn’t have any snow, though it’s something that can change quickly up there. We did get caught out one year and had to stumble back to the car through snow that was coming in horizontally. (I once identified Cow Green on one of Claire Balding’s Radio 4 hiking programmes solely from her line in the trailer ‘I won’t say where I am just yet, but the rain is coming in horizontally’).
The dales were at their most glorious, with rolling green farmland spotted white with sheep and lambs, then slowly becoming steeper, with odd cliffs showing the face of the Whin Sill (a granite intrusion that runs through the local limestone from the Lake District to the North East coast), and then patches of moorland starting to appear at the top edges of the dale, and gradually working their way down into the valley until moor starts to predominate over field and eventually you drive out of the valley onto the high tops. We stopped off on the way for lunch in Middleton in Teesdale, which is your typical picturesque dales town, clustered down on the floor of the valley. Unfortunately, all the cafes and tearooms were full, it being Easter Bank Holiday Monday, so we ended up having fish and chips for lunch from the local chippie. Nice, but it took forever to cook as they were only frying to order. I waited outside, but my sister and her husband came out laughing because someone had asked the staff “Where do you get your fish, Scarborough or Whitby?” and they’d answered “Newton Aycliffe” (Scarborough and Whitby are the traditional North Yorkshire fishing ports, Whitby is especially renowned, while Newton Aycliffe is a thoroughly industrial new town, about 5 miles from Bishop Auckland, and not remotely coastal.)
It was lambing season, so most of the sheep were down in the fields in the dale and being trailed by lambs. Cows had calves, and we even saw baby rabbits on the verge, but the award for cuteness goes to the gorgeous chestnut pony foal we passed just as we ran over the cattle grid that marks the point where fields give over to open moorland. I suppose the herd of several hundred deer at Raby Castle could have given it a run for the title if there had been any fawns in sight, but either they hadn’t calved yet, or the does and fawns were elsewhere. Other wildlife spotted included a pheasant or two, a swallow or swift flitting by, and a resplendent peewit (lapwing) just by the turning to Cow Green. Not to forget the inevitable gulls.
Cow Green is a reservoir on the Tees, with the dam built in the 1960s, and we’ve been making the trip since the very early 70s at the latest. I’m not certain if it was in my dad’s patch as the local council civil engineer, which was mostly Weardale, but it’s certainly not far out if it wasn’t. Once you take the turning for Cow Green there’s a drive of several miles across Widdybank Fell along almost single track road to get to the car park at Weelhead Sike, with not a house in sight and the only turning the one down to the dam. The car park is set back a couple of hundred yards from the reservoir which is very picturesque as these things go, with only the dam at the eastern end to say it isn’t natural. It’s far enough from anywhere it isn’t used for watersports beyond a little trout fishing (reputedly the best in the country), so there weren’t even any dinghies to disturb the scene. It’s also one of the highest spots on the Pennines, and the information point at the car park said we were looking at the actual highest point, but wasn’t precise enough to let us pin it down to which one of two hills on the far side.
New since I was there last was a note that as one of the few (or the only?) spots of sub-arctic habitat in England it’s now a leading site for monitoring climate change. For the geologists amongst us, it’s doubly a Site of Special Scientific Interest for the incredibly delicate Sugar Limestone that underlies the heather, so named because it will crumble to sugar-like grains even under finger pressure – so there’s warnings everywhere to stay on the paths, which have been made up to protect the moorland from foot traffic (plus it’s an old, old lead mining area, with poorly documented old shafts lurking just below the surface).
The only drawback with the car park is it’s slightly further from the dam than is ideal – about a mile and a half away (there’s closer access to the lakeside, but we always head for the dam). I’d forgotten just how far it is, and it’s deceptive enough you can’t tell how far by looking as there’s nothing to scale it to. It’s as well I didn’t check that before starting as I’d probably have bailed there and then as that's an ambitious sort of distance for me nowadays (and that's on the flat). The hardest going was the first quarter-mile or so of ‘nature trail’ which is a narrow, uneven, gravelled trail through the heather, and by trail I mean two feet across in the better places. I think it follows an old, narrow-gauge line from the old lead-mine behind the car-park, judging by the odd sleeper or two, and including one delightfully soggy patch where the path had devolved into a 10 feet wide puddle and the way round was over moor that had turned into so sodden a sponge that it visibly bounced under you. The trail eventually touched back onto the road, with a (locked) gate opening onto the narrow, tarmacked road down to the dam itself and a pedestrian kissing gate to the side. If we’d had a bit more sense we could have followed the road from the car park, rather than the trail, it’s probably a few hundred metres further, two sides of a triangle vs one, but much easier going.
The going on the road to the dam was fine, and it’s the kind of road where having to make way for two cars probably counts as rush hour. Mostly we were being passed by other hikers (it's part of the Pennine Way), many with dogs, and most of those not following the instructions to keep dogs on leads – but with the sheep mostly down in the dale that wasn’t really a problem. The road was narrow enough two groups passing have to tuck in to give each other space. It’s in pretty good repair, but I was glad I was wearing my boots with the built-in ankle-splints. They aren’t technically a hiking boot, but they make a pretty good substitute. (Apart from one steep section I’d say it’s technically doable in a wheelchair, and even that if you have a willing team of pushers for coming back, or a powerchair that doesn’t balk at steep slopes, but the pedestrian kissing gate where the road to the dam splits off isn’t wheelchair accessible unless you’re the kind of wheelchair user who can get out and lob their chair over a fence – which I suppose technically I am, but it’s not my preferred access method. The ‘nature trail’, OTOH, you aren’t getting over in anything short of a cross-country chair – the kind with four serious mountain bike tyres that looks like the illegitimate offspring of an active user chair and a quad bike, and maybe not even then).
The trek to the dam was nice (well, nice bar my ankles and hips starting to protest). It was only about 8C, but with the intermittent sunshine and the exercise it didn’t feel cold. In fact, with the sun on you it was pleasantly warm. There were a few too many hikers to feel truly isolated, probably a group every couple of hundred yards, but it’s one of those rare places nowadays where the only sound you hear is occasional birdsong – the odd peep from a swift, or peewit from a lapwing. Then about 200m short of the dam you started to feel the noise, a deep, infrasonic rumble that you feel in your chest before you hear it in your ears, and rounding the dam we could see the outlets going at full bore, the entire flow of the Tees being pushed out through a couple of pipes at the base of the dam, with eighty-odd feet of head of pressure behind it.
Unfortunately, by that point I was reaching my limits and I didn’t feel up to making the descent down into the valley (or rather climbing back out again afterwards), so my brother-in-law still doesn’t know why we hiked all that way, which was to see Cauldron Snout, the cascade of falls at the base of the dam as the Tees crosses the Whin Sill, which is a beautiful spot of truly wild water, and reputedly the longest waterfall in England, but it was a pleasant walk in a place with pleasant memories, so far from disappointing.
And then we trekked all the way back again - about a 45 minute walk at my pace. At least this time it wasn’t snowing in our faces (yes, that blizzard I mentioned blew up when we were a mile and a half from the car). Heading home, we headed over the gorgeously bleak moors into Weardale, passing the spot at Bollyhopeburn where we used to picnic to watch the Beamish Vintage Car Rally come past (not sure if that still runs, my sister says she hasn’t seen it advertised in recent years), and down the 1 in 6 slalom into Stanhope, where we would sometimes watch the rally come across the ford – 75 year old vehicles and rushing water being an interesting combination….
But this time we stopped at the Durham Dales Centre for coffee and cake in their tearoom. I had a slice of coffee and walnut cake, the others had lemon meringue pie – pricey, but yummy. We had a quick browse in their shop, but nothing caught my eye; though the clock in my living room came from there a good few years ago now – a rough slab of Weardale limestone, bored through in the centre for the hands and with the hours picked out in lead pyrites.
We were back home in Bishop Auckland by 5PM, and I was asleep in bed 5 minutes later, emerging 90 minutes later feeling much better. Next morning was a slightly different matter, with my hips being distinctly unhappy, and my ankles kicking in later in the week. I'm fairly certain I was still feeling the effects three weeks later! I can do distances like that as a one-off, provided I’m in reasonable shape beforehand, but it definitely isn’t something I can do repeatedly, and I need to keep reminding myself that I abandoned my crutches for the chair because of the cumulative wear on my shoulders, not because I absolutely can’t use them. Occasional use is okay, but I shouldn’t let it become a default assumption. (My sister kept coming out with lines like, 'see, you can do more than you think', and 'use it or lose it', but she's only seeing the outside, not what I'm actually feeling, or what it does to fatigue levels).
My phone ran out of charge just as we got to Middleton in Teesdale, so I don't have any pics, but this site has a pretty good selection, taken in very similar conditions, though it comes at Cauldron Snout from downstream rather than up. And I've found a few on google that show what we wanted to see.
So I was muttering about this as I packed, and then it struck me, just order a pair of crutches and leave them up there. So I did, and Amazon delivered them a couple of days after I arrived, in plenty of time to let us do stuff together over the Easter Bank Holiday. I was pleasantly surprised by the price, and that I managed to find the same pair that I used for years, and which have the most comfortable handgrips of any I tried. In fact I think I paid less for them this time than I did back in the 90s! By my reckoning that's six pairs of crutches or sticks I now own, though half of those are in the back of a cupboard or in the loft as just too uncomfortable to use.
If you're ever in need of a pair of crutches, I definitely recommend these: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/
(I made a bunch of notes while up in Durham last month that I'm finally recycling into posts).
That moment when the hidden joke in a book you thought you knew well leaps out and clubs you in the head. Or in this case a series. Lois McMaster Bujold has always said the Barrayaran Vor in the Miles Vorkosigan books started out as tax collectors, jumped up government thugs, before becoming nobility. One of the characters in my novel-in-progress is the boss of the Seattle Vory v Zakone, the ‘Thieves in Law’, aka the Russian mob. Mostly I call him by name, but this time I wanted to call him by what he is, and the singular of Vory is Vor. As soon as I wrote that down the connection hit home and my jaw dropped. Bujold’s Vor have turned ‘thief’ into a title of nobility – and arguably one that’s all too applicable for tax collectors! Technically I think Miles just predates the rise of the modern Vory post Perestroika and the break-up of the Soviet Union, but the old Vory were about for most of the 20thC.
(It's possible Bujold has said this explicitly somewhere, but if she has I've missed it).
I've been meaning to sort out the slightly undersized Quickie GPV I ended up getting for free after last year's eBay wheelchair fiasco (first they ruled the other person was right and paid them, then revised that to me being right and refunded me). It's not so small as to be unusable, just a touch narrow if you're wearing any sort of jacket. It might be useful to have a spare chair I don't mind getting bashed about. The main thing that needed taking care of is that the caster tyres were so worn they were in imminent danger of tearing across the width and peeling right off. So I looked up caster prices. How much!?! £45 a pair is the cheaper end of the spectrum! You can get a cheap transit chair for only a fiver more! That was rather more than I wanted to pay, so I've been watching eBay.
And this week one of the mobility dealers offered a very slightly used pair for £25. That's more like it, and it turns out they are very slightly used - they still have the mould mark down the centre of the tyre, so if they've been used outdoors it can't have been for long. Only one minor drawback, they're got built-in self-powered LEDs that flash as they spin. Oooh, shiny!
I've fitted them, which took a bit of delving about for every spare washer in the house as they're 1" width and my caster forks are 2.5", but it looks like I've got a functional result (I'm too cheap to buy proper spacers if I don't need to). I'll give it a try tomorrow to check they roll okay - I'm actually not worried whether they flash or not, I'd almost prefer they didn't., but for £25 I'll take what I get!
Chris died a month ago, a little short of a year on from a terminal brain cancer diagnosis, but the funeral was delayed until Tuesday this week, apparently due to availability issues at the crematorium. There was a quick service at the crem which I didn't attend, then the main service in Rochester. In fact at a church at the end of the street where he grew up. I used to live on the same street, but as St Margaret's is C of E I'd never actually been inside before.
I arrived early, and ran into a friend as I did. Her face was a picture, the church bells started pealing just as we saw each other, and she squeaked she was supposed to be one of the people ringing them! So we didn't really get a chance to talk. I took advantage of being early and the good weather to head to the far side of the churchyard and look out over the Medway, and Back Fields, the open bank between the church and the river. A couple of other early arrivals joined me, and pointed out the bench on Back Fields that's going to be dedicated in Chris's memory. It's the bench the kids considered 'theirs' growing up, so particularly appropriate. Apparently his old school will also be adding a prize for inclusion in his name.
St Margaret's is a reasonably big church, but it's just as well I bring my own seat nowadays as we filled it, and could have done with half as many seats over again. Being Catholic I'm used to full requiem masses, but this was more of a frame for remembrance, by both the family and his friends. Chris was a stand-up, so are many of his friends, and the audience were crying before they had finished, but crying with laughter. One line that sticks: "If the BFG and Mother Theresa had a lovechild, that'd be Chris" (he was 6' 6"). His mum was my first creative writing tutor, and the opening line of the poem she'd written sent a shiver down my spine "Chris did not go gentle into that good night, he fought." His dad took a different line, saying he's been finding solace in quantum theory. It may be the first time Many Worlds Theory has been cited in a funeral service, but the idea that there are many, many worlds in which Chris survives, or never became ill is a fascinating one.
The framing device for the service was music. Oh my. There were a couple of good everyone-join-in hymns, 'Here I Am, Lord,' (a favourite of mine) and 'Amazing Grace', but one of Chris's cousins is a professional chorister at St George's Chapel, in Windsor Castle - ie good enough his day job is to sing for the Queen at state events, and he'd brought three friends. I'd never really appreciated how appropriate the Beach Boys' 'God Only Knows' is for a funeral, but they also sang Orlando Gibbons 'Almighty and Everlasting God'*, which was simply stunning. It looks like we probably had two thirds of 'The Queen''s Six' performing. But the service opened and closed with recordings of Chris's own music, first his Pass You By performed by friends**, and then finally one of his comedy pieces, which had all his friends grinning and saying 'Dance to Win!' as soon as they heard the opening chords. Not a bad legacy.
And then everyone went to the pub.That's a proper funeral!
*They were better than this, including one of them singing the soprano part - extraordinary range for an adult male.
** Yes, we opened a church service with a song about spliffing up.