Author Archives: bibbysmith

Christmas 2018 … New Year 2019 (a two centre / country approach)

Yes, we celebrated Christmas 2018 (with both our parents on 25 & 26 December) in England – where Christmas is the bigger celebration – and we celebrated New Year 2019 with my parents in France – where New Year is the bigger celebration. However, that is not really the reason for our two centre celebrations, it’s much more mundane than that – the simple reason was that I had a regular medical appointment which just happened to fall in the middle of the two celebrations and the NHS nurse providing the service required no matter what was working during this period and if she was required to work, we felt that it was only right that we should make the effort to attend the appointment.

CHRISTMAS 2018:

Christmas lights (outside)

Christmas stars (upstairs)

 

 

 

 

 

 

All went without a hitch, with my parents arriving from France in the evening of 22 December and departing in the morning of 27 December (the day of my medical appointment), Kevin’s family spending Boxing Day with us all, meaning that we get the chance to use our large table at the rear of our huge living room and here are some photos from our traditional English Christmas.

Christmas tree & presents (inside)

Christmas lights (indoors)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NEW YEAR 2019:

And now it was our turn to make the ferry crossing from Portsmouth to my parent’s house in France, which we did on 29 December (giving my parents a couple of days in which to prepare for our arrival – late). This also gave us time to drop off the key with “Home Loving Cats”, who were looking after Charlie whilst we were away (and so the only photos you’ll get during this period are those of Charlie).

New Year also went fairly smoothly, with us eating far too much and as the weather was not good, I have very few photos (i.e. none) to share. We left France for the return journey to the UK on 4 January 2019.

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2018 moving on to 2019

Now, I know that I am really awful at keeping a record of what’s happening (as I’ve said before), but this is just too bad! OK, I’m going to try and reconstruct the intervening 6+ months in date order and in several posts, but I can’t swear that it will be completely accurate as I am having to use my computer calendar to remind myself of what has been going on. Where there is something which deserves a more detailed discussion, I will try and include a separate post about that particular occurrence.

I will start (in my next post) with my first ‘detailed’ write-up of Christmas 2018 moving (literally) to New Year 2019.

Now to the more mundane part of this post (gleaned predominantly from my computer calendar & looking at my online ‘exercise’ spreadsheet). That last phrase has made me realise that you probably don’t know that I love to record lots of things in a spreadsheet, containing everything from the fruit and vegetables that I’ve eaten each day, my daily physio exercises, the exercises that I complete in the gym at my local MS Therapy Centre & a record of my performance at home, on my assisted exercise bike. Mad, I hear you cry, but that’s just me and seemingly I am much more disciplined at maintaining my spreadsheet records, which I started in around 2009/2010, than I am at maintaining a diary or blog.

As this bit is rather ‘boring’, I have no pictures and hence very little detail, I am afraid that I will now revert to another of my pet preferences – a bulleted list:

  • I completed the “wheelchair driving test” in the monstrosity that is my huge, personalised & very complicated electric wheelchair. I kid you not, I actually had to take the wheelchair outside (with my allocated wheelchair OT & the technical guy making all the adjustments as necessary), drive it down my street, do the Green Cross code at the drop curb and then cross the road when safe to do so – not difficult in my case as most of the street is one way, there are virtually no cars and people often just walk down the centre of the street – then turn around through 360° and make the return crossing to the drop curb before driving back to my house and returning back inside.
  • We had a quick visit from my parents before their trip down to various English friends + a few days stay upon their return in readiness for their trip back to France via Portsmouth.
  • I did a few webinars, just keep my CPD for work up to date, drafted and filed a few GB patent applications & did the necessary paperwork including finance.
  • Finally, I had some massage sessions at the aforementioned MS Therapy Centre & my hair cut / fingernails polished in readiness for Christmas.

There, I told you it was pretty mundane and so a bulleted list was quite sufficient! (For anyone interested and following on from my last post: in November 2018 I actively cycled 195 km & in December 2018 I actively cycled 205 km – made up of cycling about 30 mins to 1 hour every day).

… 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).

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.