… Memories & new challenge for end 2018

I am back on my wonderful, assisted exercise bike again and have slowly got back to “active” cycling for periods of 30 minutes – 1 hour each day and thanks to inspiration from “My Peak Challenge” (via binge watching “Outlander” series 1 – 3 on Amazon Prime), which I only found out about late in 2018 – October to be precise – via one of their lead actors Sam Heughan, who is very into fitness, runs marathons etc..

“Assisted” exercise bike & TV

Now I could have been ‘put off’, as my days of climbing Ben Nevis (at 16 yrs of age) + walking the Nijmegen marches (in about 199?) have long since passed. I now use a wheelchair – due to Secondary Progressive MS. However, I still try to stay as active as possible and although walking any distance is a no-no, I do still try to cycle every day using my ‘assisted’ exercise bicycle and have in the past (about March 2018) managed to cycle every day for just over 3 to 4 weeks, for a sponsored cycle ride in aid of the MS Trust. Therefore, having just spent a couple of months going through a really bad patch, I wanted to try and get back to regular cycling on my ‘assisted’ exercise bike (and having very little willpower) I contacted @MyPeakChallenge via Twitter to see if it would be possible to carry out a “virtual” cycling challenge. They were very helpful and said that yes, of course I could do a virtual cycling challenge and in fact, they already had some people who had done just that. All I had to do was to decide what “my challenge” would be.

As usual, I immediately rushed into finding a route in the UK using Google maps to help me identify the appropriate cycle route, time and distance to complete it. My first thought was to cycle from Swindon (where I live) to Inverness and I set about calculating the route on Google maps. Bad mistake! Of course the cycling setting on Google maps assumes that you cycle at a “normal” speed and when I checked on the distances that I had covered during my previous, sponsored, ‘virtual’ cycling challenge back in March 2018, I quickly discovered that even at one hour cycling, the distance that I had managed to cover was ‘pathetic’ by comparison and therefore “my challenge” quickly changed to trying to cycle the distance between Swindon (where I now live) to Leicester (where I first moved, when leaving home from my parents at age 18). That seemed a much more achievable but stretching target and I decided to try and complete the distance by the end of 2018.

Stage 1 (2018) - Swindon to Leicester

“Virtual” cycle route from Swindon to Leicester via National Cycle Route 41

And now the important stats, from my previous efforts (March 2018), I knew that my ‘virtual’, active cycling rates were about:

30 minutes = 3 km,  45 minutes = 5 km & 1 hour = 10 km

Therefore, 171 km will take me about 35 hours of ‘virtual’ active cycling, which if I can manage between 30 minutes and one hour of active cycling each day should be possible by the end of 2018 (allowing for some missed days during the Christmas holidays).

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Memories, about turn & moving on

I know this has been a long hiatus between posts, but … I’ve been through massive changes over the intervening months and only now am beginning to ‘come out of the other side’. The cat (Charlie) – last post – is now well and truly part of the family and as you probably expect, is a bit of a character and incredibly friendly and amendable. As his erstwhile foster carer said: “he’s bomb proof”.

At the end of April, we had a sudden call from Swindon ‘wheelchair services’ saying that they had a late cancellation and therefore could we visit their offices that afternoon – we made the appointment, but after that (and all the intervening time) everything became / has become a bit of a blur and suddenly we were looking at options for a powered wheel chair that I could operate independently using a central control lever (as my arms and hands have been getting progressively weaker). Then, we took a late Easter holiday in France (with my parents), and almost immediately upon return to the UK at the start of May we were off to a full programme at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival (or so we thought). It was tough (largely caused by the difficulty of being able to get me in and out of the car) and we decided to miss quite a few performances – self-preservation being the better part of valour! To conclude quite a stressful few days, what better way to ‘pep yourself up’ than a visit to the solicitors to discuss updating/formalising our wills & discussing ‘living powers of attorney’ – weird I know, but that’s just how we like to do things i.e. have a session sorting things out. Next a visit to the “Complex Spasticity Clinic” in Oxford to discuss the pros and cons of fitting a Baclofen pump. Now for someone who has never been admitted into hospital, the cons definitely seemed to outweigh the pros. So May was really quite challenging – although being pleasantly interrupted at the end, by a visit from an old friend from College, his wife and his daughter (who was greatly enchanted by Charlie).

So now roll on June, which started with another full programme at the Cheltenham Science Festival, which we managed a little better than the Jazz Festival, but still missed a few events, although being sure to attend some old favourites – i.e. FameLab final, Science Festival Variety Night & the “Over Ambitious Demo Challenge”. Oh yes – and then back to “sorting things out”, housewise this time. 1. Visit from our usual plumber to discuss the installation of an ‘accessible bathroom’ (this saga still continues) and 2. Installation of large window on the landing at the top of our stairs. 21st June – “Mercy visit” by my dad (from France), because I have been feeling psychologically, physically & mentally s**t during the whole of the period covered by this post. A major change to occur as a result of the visit to ‘wheelchair services’ was our decision to reallocate the two spare rooms that we each use as offices. If we ended up with a larger wheelchair, which may be less manoeuvrable, we decided that I should take Kevin’s previous office (because of straight line access from our bedroom & only one turn into the bathroom, which could be made in our large-ish open landing area). My dad’s unscheduled, but very useful visit also allowed Kevin to finish the “tiger bamboo” flooring in what was my previously allocated office (hence the purple wall). I magically managed to get a Doctor’s appointment which was then closely followed up by a social care team visit – and June is over, but the “fun” is just about to begin …

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My “old” office – now Kevin’s + “Tiger bamboo” flooring

JULY: The senior Occupational Therapist (OT) visits me to have ‘a chat’, we sign the Wills, we travel to NEC Birmingham for “Motability: The Big Event” (which is surprisingly useful/interesting), the following week a mobile Hoist is delivered and we go back to Swindon wheelchair services to see the wheel chair rep, who is visiting and the next day the OT visits again, with a new design of sling (I think) and I complete my final mentoring meeting at Dorcan Academy, just prior to the final “Celebration & Review”. (I’m quite proud of the fact that despite everything that’s been going on, I am only one review meeting down on the recommended schedule). Continuing: I have my first massage session (very relaxing), we have the plumber back for another look/think & right that the end of July, we finally manage to get our wheelchair lift serviced (having waited since the end of last year).

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Monster electric wheelchair

And so on to August – it seems like nothing much happened to me really, although my mother had some knee problems & steroid injections into her knees and was also having serious and painful poly … rheumatica problems with her shoulders which also required a course of oral steroids (French style i.e. lots and lots for a long time). On 10 August, I am offered a specialist mid day gym session (with more help available) specifically to try and improve my arm strength and more importantly get my grip much more secure. This is followed up by another mid day gym session on 24 August (2 weeks later – I am supposed to practice in the meantime, but I have to admit that this doesn’t really happen). Toward the end of August, I have another massage appointment (we’ve decided this is a GOOD thing and will try to book appointments each month) and the following day we have a ‘sling assessment appointment’ with the salesman, who claims that he has a van full of slings that will fit just about anyone and after this appointment we all agree (salesman, OT & us) that I will need a large size sling, not because my waist is too big, but because the larger sling fits better under my arms and the longer straps allow the hoist to lift me without danger of my head hitting the crossbar on the hoist. So now we have a mobile Hoist + 2 suitable slings, but Kevin is told that he must NOT use this equipment as it really needs 2 carers (1 to control me dangling at one end and the other to operate the electric lift and move the hoist around). So we’re getting there, just very, very slowly.

SEPTEMBER: The Carpenter arrives to start work on levelling the floor across our upstairs landing and to replace the handrails, Newel posts and spindles around the open stairs. After a bit of misunderstanding (on our part, I’m afraid) he doesn’t do anything about the existing stairs or very wobbly hand rail from the ground floor to the first. However, he comes back just a week later and finishes off the job.

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Level first floor & banisters, Newel posts, spindles etc.

In the meantime, I have begun to feel much better, just in time for the “adult social care team” to swing into action. As we are self funding, the ‘lead’ person visits for the financial sign off on Thursday, 13 September and we agree that my first two-person carer visit should start on the following Tuesday (to allow the Carpenter to complete the stairs on Monday). The first visit is OK, except the carers haven’t been told anything about me, nor what they are expected to do i.e. get me up and dressed as quietly as possible and put me in my office, so that Kevin can try to get a little more sleep. (This doesn’t really work when they 1. Ring the doorbell and then 2. Call out “hello” just to let us know that they have arrived). We must have been feeling better, because it was quite funny really and we couldn’t help a little snigger. Also, the dressing bit didn’t go quite as planned – my fault really, as I should have suggested that they put my trousers on whilst I was lying on the bed, before they tried to fit the sling (one with which they were not familiar) to lift me and take me to the bathroom etc. All this meant that their supposed 30 – 45 minute visit actually took them well over one hour. It has to be said that after this first day hiccup, the next 2 days were actually excellent and all finished within 30 to 40 minutes. However, unfortunately after all the shenanigans and waiting, I was much better now and the carers were not really required yet. Still, we had a care plan in place, could be confident that it would work quickly if my condition deteriorated in future and so we decided to cancel the contract for the time being.

I seem to have made it into the midweek gym session now, except that the physio at the therapy centre was going on holiday at the start of October and we had to admit that we also would be busy at the Cheltenham Literature Festival from Friday, 5th October until Saturday, 13th October and then immediately thereafter we were off to France to visit my parents for my mother’s birthday. As with all the previous festivals, we did miss a couple of booked events but those that we did attend were great and we finished with a great show by Marcus Brigstock called “Devil May Care” which was terrific fun and made up for the couple of days that we had to take off after suffering from food poisoning.

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Tickets for the Cheltenham Literature Festival

Charlie here – I’ve made it (my new home)

I’ve been told that my servant’s previous attempt to adopt a new cat were a failure – what an idiot! It’s brilliant here and yesterday was the first day that my personal door was opened – so I can now go in and out as I please, My castle is very pleasing and there’s loads of room inside and only a few days ago I was even given lots of my very own toys. There’s mumblings that I’m not as pretty as some and that my tail is far too short – have they seen themselves recently! I’m perfect and my tail is just the right length to chase, before rolling down the stairs. (In fact I’m quite good at rolling off lots of things and even when on the floor I like to roll about to let the servant’s tickle my tummy – they seem to like that.) Anyway goodbye for now, because I need to catch up on a bit more beauty sleep.

(BTW the servants like to call me “Charlie”, but my real title is God King Adolfus Splodgicus III)

WILLIAM – the cat that beat us in just 5 days

Once the house had passed, we set off to the RSPCA, Bath Cats and dogs home to see about adopting a cat. Now Kevin’s extremely good with nervous and even feral cats, so we were very hopeful that with few requirements and confidence that we could handle anything (OK, probably a little overconfident and William soon brought us back down to earth !) we struggled through the traffic in Bath on Tuesday. Unfortunately, we found that although there were lots of Cats available for adoption, most had been “reserved” by one or two different people. However, there was one cat who had no “reservations”, was about the age that we were looking for (under 3), but was reported as having a nervous disposition. In fact, so nervous that we couldn’t see him anywhere in his enclosure. So Kevin went to see a member of staff who said that William was still available and let Kevin into the enclosure to see whether he could spot him.

Kevin found him quite easily hiding under a crocheted blanket on one of those cat pedestals, but having tried to coax him out of hiding, which he did for a brief while, he extricated himself from the enclosure and reported that he had never seen a cat so scared – it was literally shaking! William obviously didn’t like the cattery and who could blame him as there were people constantly passing up and down the corridor outside his enclosure. Anyway, to cut a long story short we were sure that he would be better outside the cattery and we hoped that we could increases his confidence a little once we had brought him home. So, into the cat basket he went (apparently with very little trouble) and off we went on the drive home expecting to have protestations from the back seat all the way from Bath to Swindon. Not a bit of it – he was silent and calm.

Now before I continue with our 5 day saga, this is the only ‘nice’ photo that we have of a beautiful ginger Tom called William.

 

As soon as we got home and Kevin has got me out of the car in my wheelchair, he went back to collect William in his cat basket. We then both retreated into the kitchen, leaving the door of the basket open – the first thing William did was to bound out of the cat basket and smashes face against the closed and locked cat flap. So Kevin moved the cat basket in front of the cat flap to avoid further incidents. Again we retreated to give William space to look around. However, are about 5 – 10 minutes, there was no sign of William in the lounge, but we knew he couldn’t have run past us in the kitchen/family room. Anyway, Kevin is not someone to give up and he eventually spotted William squeezed tightly underneath the dresser in our dining area, right tight in the corner. We decided that we needed to leave him alone, but Kevin built a ‘camera trap’ that we set up just above one of the many food and water bowls dotted around the house and facing towards the stairs. As well as hoping to witness his night time rambling, we also hoped that it might give us a clue about where to find him in the morning.

Now the next series of shots were all taken at night during the 4 nights that he spent with us, so the quality is a bit grainy – but he did do quite a lot of investigating between about 3 a.m. – 5 a.m. and we did think that we saw him drinking a little bit – BUT NO EATING!

    

Now the lack of eating ANYTHING was beginning to cause us some concern and by Saturday Kevin telephoned the Bath cats and dogs home to explain our concern and say that unfortunately we felt that it was only fair for us to return him to their care. Now William was a lovely cat, not aggressive at all (if anything he reversed into the tiniest gaps you can ever imagine. However, it became abundantly clear to us that he was not an indoor cat at all and spent most of his time trying to get outside. We reported this to the cats home when we returned him and suggested that his description needed enhancing – he wasn’t just a nervous cat, but he also needed to be outside.

        

He also taught us just how many hiding places there were in our house – he never returned to the same place twice once we had found him! The proof is in the photos.

 

 

NEW CAT? – The house passed inspection via photographic evidence

I know it’s not long since the death of Tramp, but I have had a cat (3 cats in fact) ever since I left home and the space left by Tramp had more of an effect than I could have imagined. I kept looking under the radiator in my office every time I went to bed expecting to see him lying there and in the mornings I also kept hearing tapping claws traversing our wooden floor … So we started searching online for various websites offering adoption for cats. We found the RSPCA Cats and dogs home in Bath, who were willing to assess the suitability of our house via photographic evidence and they seemed to have lots of cats available for “rehoming”.

STAGE 1: The house inspection. (Kevin took the photos and this gave me an ideal opportunity to actually include photos of the inside of our house, which I think I promised ages ago. So here goes …)

The commentary was provided by Kevin …

We live in a converted stone chapel, with two large rooms downstairs. The first is a kitchen/family room. For our previous cat we set up his cat food out of the way in the quiet corner by the stairs:

  

The other downstairs room is a living room/dining room. There is a door at the side of the front with a cat flap out onto the garden, though initially we’d leave that closed until the cat settled, and place a litter tray there instead:
Upstairs: landing with large floor level window – good spot for a cat to watch the neighbourhood cats out the back !
Our master bedroom and guest bedroom, with large low-level window … the front is south-facing, so the window sill used to be a popular place for Tramp to curl up and sun bathe whilst watching the world go by. Nice life, being a cat !
So, what about a cat? Yes, we did get one – a 5 day wonder but more about that in my next post.

Christmas to January 2018 – here we go! (Delayed by 2 intervening posts)

Now after a dreadful end (September, October & first half of November) to 2017 – note: December & Christmas not included – I didn’t really feel in the mood to write another blog post until now. The run up to Christmas was busy (particularly for Kevin, who painted the large expanse of blank wall in our bedroom – it’s blue again, just like in our old house). We also ordered and hung lovely lined curtains at the windows in the bedroom, which have been bare up to now and Kevin finished the strip at the base of the skirting, covering the expansion gap left around the wooden flooring.

So now, as Christmas was being held at our house again (because of aforesaid bad few months just preceding the festivities), we could start on the Christmas preparations – tree, decorations, presents etc. After all it was still only mid-December and last year we hadn’t even managed to buy a Christmas tree until 23 December ! I’m afraid I don’t have any pictures of the Christmas tree/decorations etc. – we were having too much fun. My parents were staying with us (apart from a couple of days when they visited some old friends, one of whom was recovering from an operation). Kevin’s parents and sister came over to visit for a lovely meal on Boxing Day and unfortunately, there is photographic evidence (see below).

  

(Gosh I hate photos of myself, but Kevin’s sister has the right idea because she doesn’t appear in any of the photos – taking on the photographer’s role.)

Then we had a visit from my cousin Jeff and his wife for an evening meal again, but fortunately/unfortunately there are no photographs to immortalise that event. So, Christmas & New Year 2018 went much better than expected and our cat was really lovely and friendly to everyone, which I guess is a nice way to remember him (see previous post, where it all went rapidly downhill during the first few weeks of January and we were forced to have him put down at the vets – see previous post.)

“YOU BEHIND THE ILLNESS”

A random post inspired by – ‘trippingthroughtreacle’ … Here goes  …

Four places I’ve lived:

  1. Leigh–on–Sea (really Southend), Essex
  2. South Kensington (& Chelsea & Putney), London – I know that’s cheating, but it was all while I was at studying
  3. Leicester (& Peterborough) – yet more cheating !
  4. Bristol – Apparently, a city & a county (never knew that, I thought it was in Avon)

Four places I’ve worked:

  1. GEC Research labs.
  2. Haiste Consulting Engineers
  3. UK Ministry of Defence
  4. Crown Packaging UK plc.

Four favourite hobbies:

  1. Attending Festivals in order of preference and surprisingly timing during the year (Jazz, Science, Music & Literature)
  2. Exercise (yoga, gym & assisted exercise bike)
  3. Visiting the countryside
  4. Reading

Four things I like to watch:

  1. Lucifer (Amazon/Fox)
  2. Mock the Week
  3. QI
  4. Sport – particularly tennis & athletics

Four things I like to read:

  1. Lots of different books (both fiction and non-fiction)
  2. Prospect magazine
  3. Facebook posts
  4. Other people’s blogs

Four places I have been:

  1. Québec, Canada
  2. Sydney, Australia
  3. Berlin, Germany (+ lots of other cities too)
  4. Copenhagen, Denmark

Four things I love to eat:

  1. Chocolate (preferably dark)
  2. Pasta & noodles
  3. Fruit and vegetables
  4. Indian, Asian & Persian food (OK, any good home-cooked food)

Four favourite things to drink:

  1. Fruit juices (any fruit)
  2. Tea
  3. Coffee
  4. Smoothies

Four places I want to visit:

  1. Norway
  2. Japan
  3. Russia
  4. China

Four bloggers I’d like to tag:

  1. em from think in decimals
  2. Mark from One Man and his Catheters
  3. emaweston from aheartbreakingmsblogofstaggeringgenius
  4. Hannah from stickmancommunications