Home Again

Sep. 6th, 2017 03:27 pm
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
I made it home yesterday without any major issues, I even managed to squeeze in a haircut before travelling. On the other hand I'm fairly beat, 4.5 hours of travelling (6 door to door counting the haircut, a coffee with my mother and a trip to the bank) is tiring, even if I was sitting down for all of it. I was amused that passenger assistance at Darlington Station now recognise me and know that I live down South, that's not bad when I only pass through three times a year (six if you count both directions), at other stations I'm impressed if they just remember to turn up on the day!

I didn't see quite as much of my dad as I'd have liked, my sister being away for the middle 10 days limited how often I could get over to see him (or her for that matter), and the one time we tried taxiing over he slept through the entire visit, but still good to see him, and he was on good form and clearly pleased to see me when he was awake, and of course I saw a lot of my mother. Other than that, a couple of Sunday lunches were the only time I stirred from the house.

I think I'm officially declaring today a holiday to recover from the holiday, I'll think about getting back into my normal routine tomorrow. Maybe.

davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
Made it to Durham without issue. Dad was on fine form for his 80th and pleased to see me. OTOH I went to visit him today and he slept through the entire visit. (Which happens semi-regularly).

My sister celebrated my arrival home by booking a late holiday and fleeing the country! They hadn't been able to book earlier for various reasons, so I can't really blame her. I saw her for a few days at the start of my stay and I'll see her again at the end, but timing could have been better!
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Crutches)

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.

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davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
One thing that's been a pain in travelling back and forth to Durham is needing to carry a spare pair of crutches or sticks. About the only time they get used is if we all go out somewhere - my sister's car isn't big enough to sit all four of us and take my chair, and my brother-in-law is currently driving a two seat coupe, so forget that! In practice it's always been a pair of folding sticks as I've never managed to figure out carrying crutches on the chair and still being able to push - and I don't want to add crutch-carriers. But even when they fold, they;'ve been the largest thing in my bags, and awkward enough that they eat up half the space.

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/B006J7FX8C/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o02_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
No particular problems, in fact there are a few posts either half-written, or half-planned, but I got back from Durham only to go straight into what's usually my most energy-depleting, if fun, weekend of the year, which left me with not a lot of spoons and doing my daysleeper routine. I'm hopeful I'm getting things back under control, though it may take me a while to catch up with what's being happening with everyone.
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
Still up in the North East, enjoying family, back on line in a few days. Highlight of the trip so far, not quite making it into the Cauldron's Snout - I'll explain that next week, it's already largely written up ;)
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)

It's 5:30AM and I'm eating pizza and drinking G&T, which means my schedule is really shot again.

I'm heading up to Durham on Saturday for a fortnight, so expect postings to range from occasional to non-existent. I was out running a few pre-trip errands earlier and apparently a little bit of exercise, a little bit of sun and a beer with tea on the patio added up to fast asleep on the couch from 6PM til midnight.

I did get a smile from the GP's receptionist. "Hi, I'm here to pick up my repeat prescription -- aaaand I'll need photo-ID for that, which is in the car. Hang on, I'll be back in a minute." OTOH they're still trying to figure out their new process for controlled drugs, never mind me. I had to remind her I was supposed to sign for it.

The other reason for heading into town was to pick up a birthday card for my sister, which hopefully will get to her today as I really had left it until the last moment. I'll see her on Saturday if not. Unfortunately I also had to pick up a condolences card as I found out on Wednesday night that my close friend Angela's son has died. It wasn't unexpected, Chris was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer a bit under a year ago, and I've hardly see her since as she's been caring for him almost 24/7. This is someone I've watched grow up from age three or four and he really had turned into a decent adult who was starting to build a reputation as a stand-up musical comedian (which was a completely unexpected turnaround as at 8 his mum was lamenting to me "he's so serious, I have this nightmare where he grows up to be a Conservative MP") .  I last saw him a couple of months ago when I gave him and his dad a lift home when I bumped into them in Rochester and stayed for a cup of tea. I'm glad my last memory of him will be him poking fun at the questions and answers on Pointless, but I can't imagine what this is like for Angela. Just thinking about how she must feel is making me feel sick, and givng me a new appreciation of that line that parents aren't meant to outlive their children.

davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
Still in Durham and only getting internet when I get over to my sister's, but surviving. Weather is incredibly mild - 8c today, when we'd normally expect it to be hivering around zero.

Christmas was slightly topsy-turvy as we have a tummy bug working it's way around the family, we ended up doing presents on Boxing day instead and I bailed out early on New Years Eve as I wasn't completely over my bout with it. OTOH I left the house with £40 in my pocket and came back with £55, so that wasn't bad ;) (I'd still rather have had the bottle of whisky my -- teetotal -- Mother won in the raffle, OTOH I did win a hamper of chocolate in the Christmas one).

Normal service should be restored in about a week.

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

 Made it up to Durham without too much trouble - the usual 50% hit rate on boarding assistance for the train - one waiting on the wrong platform with the ramp when we pulled into St Pancras, and the help at Kings Cross finally turned up just after they locked the doors. Fortunately the on-train staff stepped in in both cases. I was so ahead of schedule getting to Rochester that I was running an hour and a half of schedule. Of course that didn't help when I was on a fixed train out of King's Cross.

I've spent the last week doing nothing much at all, and enjoying it thoroughly!

Season's Greetings to everyone!

davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
I'm headed North for Christmas with the rest of the family in the morning and I can't find my mifi hub, so getting online is going to be a case of wandering over to my sister's - i.e. intermittent.

Given which: Season's greetings to everyone, in whichever is your preferred format.

I'm hoping the break in routine will let me reset my sleep pattern so I'm actually getting more than 4-5 hours sleep a night, which clearly isn't enough. I'm fighting to stay awake right now for long enough to pack, though fortunately there's not a lot of packing needed. I'd say I was feeling exhausted, except I've just seen my friends who are caring 24/7 for their adult son who has brain cancer, and my gauge for exhausted just got reset.

Stuff I'm hoping to do while away: work on book 2; consider rewrite of book 1 based on [personal profile] yhlee 's excellent comments; promised beta read - planning to load this onto kindle in a minute for tomorrow's train journey; respond to two different government consultations - work and health and disability hate crime - both due by January; and possibly blog on disability hate crime as well as I just realised the way prosecutions aren't working in court can be construed as forcing disability hate crime to pass a double jeopardy test.

Of course most plans don't survive contact with reality.

Checking in

Apr. 5th, 2016 04:41 pm
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
Still in Durham, with net access only by wandering down the street to my sister's, so only checking in every two or three days.

Journey up was straightforward, though Passenger Assistance at Kings Cross didn't seem to know about me despite ringing Virgin to get the reservation changed to the wheelchair seat. Must call them to check the journey down is properly booked.

Nice to see the family, though my sister only saw me for a couple of hours before fleeing the country I'm covering for her with the parents while she's on holiday, though of course my mother insists she is perfectly capable of looking after herself - she left the house before 10AM this morning, and won't be back 'til 8PM, I wish I had a fraction of her energy!
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
Expanding on the previous post...

My trip north went largely as intended, though I got the distinct impression I wasn't on the booked assistance list at Kings Cross. They still got me on the train, though not without a frown or two. The train itself was surprisingingly empty for a week before Christmas, but the rest of the trip was trouble free I was picked up from the station at Bishop Auckland by my sister, who immediately spotted my new Kunzli boots and remarked "They look a bit, um, specialist". I had to admire her word choice. I'd actually considered leaving them at home to avoid family reaction to the orthopaedic look, but in the end they're just so damned supportive I decided to go with them. And the family can always be talked around by a good bargain, such as getting them at 75% off ;)

Visiting the family has become quite strange, because of the situation with my dad I'm left alone in the house from 2PM until somewhere between 7:30 and 8:30PM, while my mother spends the afternoon and evening with him at the care home. I went along once and walked home (I can't manage much more than about 45 minutes with him because of seating issues), but after that it was decided* I was better off going along in the evenings with my sister as I can get a lift both ways.

* Apparently I don't get a vote in the matter. The family is still a bit inconsistent in handling my walking limitations. At times they'll be overprotective, and at others they're pushy.

Dad is very variable. Some days he's very much with it, and capable of making jokes about the immediate context, other times he sleeps all day, or is awake, but pretty out of it. It's clear that not having the aggressive physio he was getting in rehab has caused him to regress physically, but scheduling it for his good days was and is impossible. His speech is still very much affected, and not helped by him mumbling or whispering, or his insistence on using a sentence where a word might do. OTOH it's a lot clearer when he's annoyed! Apparently I'm now referred to as 'Goldenboy' by my sister, because he can always remember my name even if he hasn't seen me in months, whereas he can't always remember my sister's, even though he sees her daily. Whoops! Fortunately my sister takes it in relatively good heart, and her devotion to him, and, especially, my mother's, puts my efforts to shame.

We had our Christmas Day lunch at the care home as the only way of managing to get the whole family together. I thought it was a little sad that out of their 60-odd residents, only one other relative did that (though a few residents were visiting families for the day). I think my mother was a little stressed over how it would turn out, though given she'd normally be stressing over the cooking that wasn't too much of a change from normal, but in the end it was fine. The food was good, better than any works Christmas Meal I've ever had, and if the portion wasn't huge, it was more than adequate. And Dad was on fine form, so that was a result.

New Year's Eve was less of a success. I went along to the local club (as in working men's, not night-) with my sister and her husband, which we've done in previous years, and we even got my mother to pop in briefly when she came home from the party at the home, and while the beer was fine and there was a ridiculously large buffet laid on, there weren't the people who've laid on entertainment in the past, or even my brother-in-law's drinking cohorts, so it just died away, and when someone decided to stick MTV on for music, rather than say Jule's Hootenanny or one of the other New Years programmes, it just killed it (I didn't object to the music myself, but it was completely wrong for the evening and most of the audience and no one had the sense to claim the remote back and change it). So we left before midnight and I was actually in bed by the time the New Year rolled in - sad!

And the next day I came down with a savage cold, which managed at various stages to cover all the traditional woes: streaming nose, hacking cough, up to and including feverish chills. The most annoying part of it was the randomly varying pressure in my inner ear, with associated randomly varying hearing loss, which was just plain irritating. Every time I tried to watch something it was alternating can hear him-can't hear him-can hear him-can't hear him. I think that was actually more irritating than just not being able to hear at all! And it's still doing it ten days later, even though I'm over the worst of it; there'll be a sudden pop and I'll suddenly be able to hear much more clearly. Unfortunately I gave it to my mother and possibly my sister, though neither got it quite as badly as me. And of course it meant I had to stay away from Dad for the last week I was there rather than risk giving it to him, though I was well enough to see him the night before my trip home.

I had meant to be online while I was up there, ordering a 3GB data sim, which should have been more than enough to last me while I was away. It took a few days to arrive, but when it did I hooked it up, did a little light catching up (mostly DW and webcomics), and after 3 hours it announced I'd used up my entire data allowance. I was not impressed. I was initially cursing myself for not turning off Windows Updates, but after a little poking around the system Windows told me that even with updates enabled I had only used 740MB of wifi in the last month, less than a quarter of what Three were claiming I had used in three hours. Not Impressed! But it's an impossible argument to win with the mobile companies. I could have bought a top-up of course, but I was understandably loathe to risk throwing good money after bad. And when I did finally risk their cheapest deal, a) their website crashed, b) Firefox took offence to Kaspersky's ebanking functionality and blocked access to my bank. *Headdesk* *Bah, humbug!*

Being stuck without net access meant I couldn't do the literary agent research I'd been promising to do over the holidays, though I did manage to work my way through the Acknowledgements pages of most of the books of my Kindle - surprisingly few authors credit their agents. On the brighter side it meant I was able to concentrate on writing instead and I'm now 15,000 words into the new novel with a much better idea of where the plot is going (Answer: Underhill).

My trip back worked even better than the trip up, this time everyone knew I was travelling and all the assistance was waiting for me when needed - in fact I had three separate people turn up to get me off the local train at Darlington - driver, guard, and passenger assistance! The only slightly worrying moment was when I came down the ramp at Kings Cross and even with my hands clamped on wheels it was steep enough the chair skidded. (In a masterpiece of not thinking the issues through, the train stops with the exit from the carriage with the wheelchair spaces right next to where the new escalator lands on the platform, meaning there's only just room to get off the ramp before hitting the side of the escalator, and if a passenger chooses to step into that space at the same time you're skidding down the ramp... well, it's just as well she had good reactions...). My subconscious was so completely thrown by booked assistance working without a flaw for once it keeps hitting me with dreams about missed connections!

Weatherwise we escaped the flooding that afflicted most of the North. It was decidedly soggy, but the worst of it was east of us, then south of us, and finally north of us (and of course being a couple of hundred feet above the river doesn't hurt). I saw an awful lot of flooded fields on my trip south, though fortunately nothing to disrupt train travel. Compared to previous years, when we've had to worry about trains being cancelled due to snow, it was positively uneventful.

And so that's Christmas done for another year. Same time next year?

davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
I'm heading north for Christmas tomorrow, and, while I've ordered a data SIM for my mifi rig to keep me online in the internet deadzone that is my folks, that's being delivered up there rather than in my hand right now, so I may be offline for a few days until I get it.

On the offchance that stretches as far as the 25th, I'll take the chance now to wish everyone the seasons greetings of your choice!
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
I did mean to comment on my visit hime, but it sort of slipped me by after I commented on the alarums and excursions of the trip there and back.

The family seem well, my mother (who is 76) is still ridiculously active, spending at least 5 hours a day with my father at the nursing home and sometimes much more, though hopefully longer hours are going to be less common based on a few changes in arrangements that were being put in place while I was there. My sister was taking what advantage she could of the summer break. while still spending some time at school most days. She was also relieved to have Ofsted (schools inspectorate) off her back, having just been assessed on the Religious Ed she was brought into the school to overhaul, and passing with largely flying colours. We managed to have a couple of family meals while I was up there, including a gorgeous Sunday lunch with a huge pile of meat on your plate for the princely sum of £7!

I was slightly amused when my mother expected me to wheel back and forth to the Home, I might have made it back, but going it's a mile uphill with kerb cuts and driveways every 20 metres. I had a look in Google Earth when I got home and there actually isn't that much total change in elevation, but it's humps and bumps and significant enough you feel it when walking, never mind pushing. We settled on going by car (if my sister was available) or taxi, and my walking back using my sticks after spending an hour visiting. I managed five visits in the six days I was there, with Dad having a hospital appointment on the day I missed. Unfortunately he slept completely through my final visit.

Dad's physically well, within the limitations of the stroke. He's been driving everyone nuts by repeately managing to dismantle the side of the chair they have for him, which usually results in him falling out. How he manages it no one quite seems to know, so they resorted to screwing the sides on while I was up there. Cognitively he's mixed, he hadn't seen me since New Year, but his face lit up the moment I walked in, but there were days he struggled for my name. His speech is still badly affected, I pretty much had to rely on my mother and sister to interpret, and they say even they have to just nod along at times, but some of the comments he makes show that he's well aware of his surroundings and thinking about what things mean for other people, not just himself. He's still sleeping an awful lot, which unfortunately means he's not seen as suitable for rehab at the moment.

I'm much happier having seen the Home as well, no matter it's had positive reviews from both my mother and sister. I knew roughly where it was, next to the church we used to attend, but it's on the other side of it to where I thought, which means it's sat right on the extreme corner of town, with a 270 degree elevated view out over the valley of the Wear, giving absolutely gorgeous views. I'm told there are 54 residents, but probably didn't see more than about 20 (there's an Alzheimer's ward on the upper floors), he seems to be one of very few male residents, but my mother's close enough in age to get on very well with many of the female residents. Facilities seem fine, I've stayed in hotel rooms comparable to the one Dad has (though apparently his is larger than most due to the wheelchair), there are two nice lounges (one with bar!) and a large dining room - my mother is eating there as well as Dad and she says the food is more than adequate - from her description Dad is certainly getting through plenty of it! And all the staff go out of their way to talk to Dad whenever they pass. Of course there's a price to all of this, £600 a week, which is eye-watering, but fortunately he qualifies for full funding from the Council due to his degree of disability.

I'm probably going back up in September for a week or two, and I do feel slightly guilty for not being there to help all of the time, but just those few days were enough to tell me that I probably couldn't keep up a daily visit schedule without worsening my own situation, so it's probably just as well I'm still down here.
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
I'm headed up to visit the family, so I'll be offline for a week. (I initially meant to order a data SIM for my MIFI rig, but Amazon are out of stock on the one I wanted, so I've decided to take advantage of that and spend a week offlinhe catching up on writing). 
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Crutches)
So the situation with my dad remains complex, though not quite as bad as it might have been.

We had two things happen just before Christmas, the first being that dad started having minor seizures, particularly when he's asleep - and we're talking one every couple of minutes while they're happening, for fairly extended periods, so they are going to have some sort of knock on effect, even if they are relatively minor. Some of the staff tried to dismiss them as just twitches, but we got the doctors to agree with us, so they are being treated, but we're still in the find the right medication process. (And my sister and I are convinced he had a couple of clear absences while we were with him and he was awake on Saturday, though of course there wasn't a nurse there to witness them).

The second thing is that the care home that had agreed to take him backed out on Christmas Eve, saying that they didn't think they could provide the level of care he needs. This would have been disastrous (and distressing), but for the fact the seizures mean he isn't ready to be discharged - and in fact we've been told to hold off on trying to find a home until things settle and we have a better idea what kind of nursing he'll need. That didn't stop one or two of the nursing staff trying to argue today that they should hold a discharge meeting this Friday, which needed my sister to put her foot down, pointing out that the normal procedure is for someone to be discharged 5 days after the discharge meeting, and we have no idea if he will be medically stable by then. She won the argument, and it looks like they'll be hanging on to him for several more weeks until they figure out what's happening and get it settled.

Which is good, but does mean we're back in limbo and he likely isn't going to be settled into a care home while I'm up here.
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
So, I'm in Durham and generally wobbling about being mostly myself but without much in the way of energy.

One of my FB friends pointed me at the MIFI solution to being online she uses when away from home and I ordered it at the last minute before leaving, for delivery to Durham. I guess it's a measure of how washed out I am that with a new tech-toy to play with I left it from Tuesday until Saturday to actually plug it in.

Christmas was quiet, my mother spent it at the hospital with my dad, so Christmas dinner was courtesy of my sister and her husband - fortunately just 4 doors away. Pretty traditional, but she'd planned around my newly imposed low fat diet by doing roasties with 1-Cal spray, which I'd thought I'd have to skip. I did cheat in a couple of places - Marksies pork stuffing is just so yummy..., but kept the amounts low and, fingers crossed, no reaction to it. Sister-dearest also wins the award for the best Christmas present ever by realising Jelly Babies are fat free and Wine Gums are almost fat free. I have a serious Wine Gum habit, but had assumed sadly that they would be fairly high fat - not so, yum....  
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
Off to Durham in the morning, possible limited connectivitity, yadda, yadda, yadda, so have a good Christmas/rest from work/whatever, folks!
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
 I'm due to head North again tomorrow (only due because my back is currently in a state where even standing isn't currently guaranteed), in which case this may be my last post of the year, in which case Season's Greetings of Choice to everyone. I should still be able to interact with other people's posts via kindle, but no new posts as the kindle won't negotiate that form.

If my back improves to the point of being able to get out and about today, then I may buy a wifi dongle for the laptop and see if that will let me on line from my folks, but reception at their place is fairly lousy even if I manage it, so no guarantees.

So in case I don't get on line again: Happy Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Solstice, Happy Winter, Happy Summer (to antipodean friends) and Happy Anything Seasonal I've Forgotten, hope you all have a lovely holiday season. Love, Me.


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

September 2017

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