2 WEEKENDS OF ACTIVITIES & NO POSTS (AGAIN !!)

Sorry for the dearth of posts once again, but I have been doing lots – really!! So now I’m afraid that this will have to be a consolidated post again and also you will have to excuse my definition of a weekend, which includes the preceding Friday too (on both weekends).

Friday, 22 April 2016 we had booked an ‘advice surgery’ appointment with our local MP to discuss our issues with moving house and the implications caused by SDLT announced in the recent 2016 budget. Hardly something to look forward to, but I have to admit that I did look forward to it and it was ‘FUN’ in a rather perverse way. It was raining at the time of our appointment and the MP was running a little late, so we had to wait under the overhanging ‘shop front’, which was fortunately just wide enough to accommodate my wheelchair if I sat parallel to the window. While we were waiting, we noticed several parking spaces being vacated opposite the MP’s office and so Kevin went off to collect the car to be closer in case it started raining even harder at the end of our meeting. Eventually the previous meeting ended and the MP himself came out to greet me, apologising profusely that our appointment was late. He wheeled me into the office preceding all the while to refer to me as ‘sir’ – not a good start for him and in accordance with my ‘evil streak’, of course I didn’t make any admission of the fact that I was actually the ‘Debra Smith’, who had booked the appointment and therefore was not a ‘sir’. Once inside the warmth of the office and upon his observation to his assistant that we were “just waiting for Debra Smith, who was currently moving the car”, I felt it only fair to say that in fact I was Debra Smith and it was my partner who was moving the car. (Not the ideal way to start a meeting in my book, but that’s the reason that I found it ‘fun’ and quite liberating really!) So, we had the meeting, said our piece including pointing out how simply the draft bill could have been written to exclude those people unintentionally (?) hit by SDLT despite having no desire to own a second home or buy to let property, but requiring modifications to their new property before they could move in. For us, we need a lift installed, which has a 6 to 8 week lead time and we did point out that SDLT meant that we were having to take out a loan (for which we pay interest + set-up fees) just to provide HMRC with an interest-free loan which we knew they were required to repay, supposedly within 14 days. We’ll see! Having worked for the MOD (civil service) in the past, I commented that unless HMRC were planning a major recruitment drive, I thought this was highly unlikely! The MP tended to agree.

Meal with Kevin's family

Meal with Kevin’s family

 

Valerie & Maria

Valerie & Maria

Saturday, 23 April 2016: Unusually, we drove into West London (Cheam to be exact) to meet up for dinner with Kevin’s parents, his sister, aunt and eldest cousin. This was a special opportunity because neither Kevin nor I had seen his aunt since she visited us at our basement flat in Chelsea (and that was years ago!). This is because both his aunt Valerie and cousin Maria live in Majorca, Spain and were over for a couple of days because his cousin had meetings in London. I have never met his cousin Maria before, but she is almost the same age as me (she was born in January and I in May of the same year). I thoroughly enjoyed myself, which undoubtedly meant that I was being my usual, extrovert and ‘naughty’ self. (Maria is the one who described to me as ‘naughty’ and she also said something in Spanish which neither she nor her mother were able to translate and I speak no Spanish – however, they assured me that it was complimentary! Mmm.)

 

Now spin forward to the following weekend – Friday, 29 April 2016. The Friday started fairly inauspiciously with me having to go to the hospital for two eye appointments, the first a visual field test (awful – me having to transfer from my stable wheelchair to a very unstable/freely rotating ordinarily chair with no arms – it was terrifying!). This was followed up by the usual orthoptic appointment where the findings were much the same as before, but this time were repeated with my new distance and reading glasses. Conclusion: Do nothing, but repeat appointment in 3 months time. I’m really beginning to wonder if there is any point in these regular appointments as nothing seems to result and I really find them quite stressful. Fortunately, on this occasion after an awful start of the day I knew we were going to see our first jazz concert at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival that evening. We saw Penguin Cafe (lead = son of the original Penguin Cafe Orchestra), which everyone had told me was great, including my father and they were quite right!

Penguin Cafe

Penguin Cafe

Saturday, 30 April 2016 we knew was going to be tough as we had booked to see five concerts starting at 12.00 hrs with the Trondheim Jazz exchange (group 2 were excellent and really different – it made you feel a bit sorry for groups 1 and 3) and ending with ‘the Printmakers’ at the Parabola Arts Centre (Cheltenham Ladies College), my favourite venue, at 9.00 p.m. It was a really enjoyable, but very tiring day, not helped by a mix-up in booking to eat at Pizza Express, which left us very little time to change venues and eat at Ask Italian. In fact, we had to slip out early from every one of the last 3 concerts, just to give us time to scurry between venues.

Zoe Rahmen Courtney Pine

Zoe Rahmen & Courtney Pine

Courtney Pine

Courtney Pine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fortunately, Sunday, 01 May 2016 was a much more relaxed affair, with us managing to have a lie in as our concerts (only 2 of them this time) didn’t start until the afternoon / early evening. As the weather wasn’t too good and I didn’t really want to eat outside as I was cold, we went to Ask Italian again for an evening meal which was much lighter, more relaxed and altogether more enjoyable than the previous evening. And that’s where it ends … Our Cheltenham Jazz Festival was over for 2016 and now we just had to wait until early June, when we had lots and lots of tickets for the Cheltenham Science Festival. Hopefully, our rather over heavy schedule on the Saturday will allow us to plan things a little more successfully – although looking at the calendar, every day seems to be a ‘heavy schedule’ at the Science Festival, so much so that on occasion I have no idea when we are going to make time to eat!

Tim Berne

Tim Berne

“Nimble Kickstarter Competition” – Combined personal, technical & professional interest

Now, there’s a first – I never thought I’d compose a blog post which combined both my personal and professional interests in one!

I have to introduce you to a neat concept called a “Nimble”, which was first introduced to me via another blog written by stumbling in flats. I was interested enough follow the link included in that post and I’m really glad I did – see https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/version22design/nimble-the-1-finger-wonder-tool. The design looked interesting and particularly useful for me, because of my inability to consistently manage to open almost any package including presents and letters etc. due to occasional tremor in my hands, which can be most frustrating! Furthermore, the site piqued my professional interest in new designs/gadgets etc. and the potential benefits of Intellectual Property protection. So there you have it, the relevance of the title to this post. Look at the website, it’s fascinating!

To anyone that has seen my recent posts, this has also given me the ideal opportunity to demonstrate my innate desire to procrastinate and not write the “to be continued” element of our recent house hunting escapades. There is also another reason for this, because it’s looking very likely that we will soon be able to move house and we have been very busy organising lots of things, but I don’t want to ‘jump the gun’ and write said post until things are a little more sorted/finalised.

12 March 2016 – Disabled Access Day

OK, so despite my last post you are still going to have to wait for the ‘continued’ saga of our house hunting – there’s lots going on regarding the house move at the moment, but nothing conclusive to report as yet.

I have something much more interesting/fun to write a post about tho’ and this one will have photos attached – so something colourful to break up all the text.

We took part in the ‘Disabled Access Day’ (again) just over a month ago and believe me going out and about in March is vastly superior to a freezing cold day in February (see my post for the same event last year, which also includes photos but in them I look absolutely frozen – I was!) … Whoops, just looked back through my earlier posts and realised that I hadn’t started this blog in February last year. So, just for comparison, here are a couple of photos from ‘Disabled Access Day’ in February 2015 – me ‘freezing’ and needed coffee & cake in the warm & dry.

This year, I managed to obtain special, pre-opening tickets for ‘the Magic Garden’ at Hampton Court Palace in London. I was so pleased because I really had no ideas or inspiration for somewhere different to visit. True, we were visiting West London (which I have avoided like the plague for many years now – after working & living there when I was in my 20’s), but the weather was sunny and warm, we managed to leave the house about 10-10.30 a.m. and the traffic on the M4 was surprisingly good. What I had failed to take into account was that this was also the day that England were playing Wales in the rugby six Nations cup at Twickenham. Now this shouldn’t have been a problem except that we were travelling from Swindon to Hampton Court Palace (not too far from Twickenham) along the M4, which is the route that most Welsh supporters would also be following!

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‘The Magic Garden’

Anyway, as luck would have it we didn’t meet too much traffic on the M4 and the weather was lovely. We had a great day out in the sunshine watching all the children playing in ‘the Magic Garden’, including some impressive tumbling routines from a couple of girls in the Astroturf bowl at the centre of the gardens. I had to admit that I was slightly disappointed by the ‘fire-breathing dragon’, who didn’t really breath any fire at all and just puffed out the occasional whiff of water vapour – still, as Kevin pointed out with all the children climbing on the Dragon they could hardly have it breathing real fire!

To conclude, here are some colourful photos!

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On top of the world?

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No, I won’t fit down the tube, with or without wheelchair!

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A ‘dead’ (no fire!) dragon in the distance

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The wobbly bridge + dragon (background)

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Pensive – watching ‘tumbling’ preparation

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Resigned  – could never do gymnastics anyway

FEBRUARY 2016 – 29 DAYS OF NOTHING SPECIAL?

… or so my recollection went. (Unless you’re a leap year baby I suppose, when it probably is – quite rightly – quite a momentous occasion.)

However, apart from the on-line tutorials (me) and dentist (Kevin) already mentioned previously, upon reviewing my calendar for this period I realised that this month also represented the start of our really determined search for a new house, partly driven by the fact that there seemed to be a sudden surge of new properties coming onto the market. So I guess my summation of February as when “nothing special” happened is probably a little unfair. In fact, it marked the start of a flurry of activity on the house front and it really seemed as if we might manage to move well before Christmas 2016 and hence could resume our alternate location (France / England) for Christmas each year. On a positive note: we might even be able to have bought a new house in time for our birthday at the end of May!

Our first viewing was a Victorian house just around the corner from us, which was at the top of our price bracket, was not perfect (yet), but had planning permission for a basement extension which meant that it could have worked for us in the long term – as long as we could find the money from somewhere (difficult, as we neither do the lottery, other gambling or have a distant relative with lots of money stashed away somewhere).

Our second viewing (29 February) was another house just around the corner, which lay well within our price bracket, but again would require substantial work. It was a more modern house than I would usually consider, but did have the potential for some interesting modifications. Note: after 5+ years of looking I am at least starting to try and have a broader outlook of the various possibilities! We are getting a bit desperate now.

Our third viewing had real potential and took us back to the area in Old Town, Swindon where we had looked at houses when we first came to Swindon some 20+ years ago. However the more observant probably have guessed that this third viewing could not have taken place in February and you’re right – it took place on 01 March and on that note I will leave the details until my next post.

As they say on the TV, … to be continued.

JANUARY 2016 – HERE WE GO

So, we arrived back in England on 03 January 2016 with stair climber safety located in the boot (because I was a little feverish and not feeling too good) to a freezing cold house – we subsequently found out that our boiler had packed up and there had been no heating on. No wonder the cat was meowing pitifully and loudly! I was feeling awful, but at least we had made it home and now I just had to negotiate the stairs safely and crawl into bed. Believe me this was no mean feat even with the stair climber, which I had previously refused to use on our stairs at home.

Let me explain: we live in a Victorian house with a very steep staircase having particularly shallow steps i.e. whereas in France said stair climber works wonderfully because it lifts you up to each step and then you are able to pull the device to the back of the step adjacent to the next step up. Sounds easy doesn’t it! However in our house, said stair climber lifts you up on to the next step moves barely a couple of centimetres before hitting the back of the next step and then you have to lift almost immediately again. This makes it extremely arduous for the operator (Kevin) and is terrifying for the person strapped into the seat (i.e. me!) However, when needs must it is a tiny bit safer than me being manhandled and encouraged to walk up the stairs. Anyway we made it and Kevin and I immediately flopped into bed, if only to warm up under the duvet. What was that I said about it “couldn’t get any worse than end 2015”?

Now I’d started taking antibiotics (that we happened to have with us) just before we left France and so I was hoping that after a few days I would be beginning to feel a little more human. That was before we discovered that there was no heating – not good when you’re trying to overcome a fever! Luckily, our usual boiler repair man was able to come out immediately-ish (i.e. the morning of Tuesday, 05 January 2016). He spent a good long time checking the electrics, vacuuming out the filters etc. before giving an effective whack in the appropriate place with a spanner. Hey presto – it worked, and even better Kevin had made a mental note of the precise location where a sharp whack could force the boiler into action.

To finish off, just a few jobs and fun things that we also managed to do towards the end of January: to end on a fun and more positive note.

  1. We went to see the new ‘Star Wars’ film at the cinema – not particularly mentally challenging, but quite good entertainment any way.
  2. A few more medical appointments for me (eyes and foot) and for Kevin (dentist).
  3. We went over to Wantage to visit my old secretary and her friend for cups of tea/coffee and exchange of presents.
  4. Kevin’s parents came over to visit us and we exchanged Christmas presents/had nice meal.
  5. The car got its annual service and MOT.

Oh yes, and somewhere in the middle of all this, I extended the patent applications and filed an equivalent UK design application for a previous client.

THE END OF 2015 & CHRISTMAS

As I have been so bad at keeping a record of all the things that went on up to the end of 2015, I decided to write a very quick, consolidated post. Much to my surprise I found that upon reviewing my calendar and then looking at the ‘categories’ that I had set up previously to decide which were appropriate for this consolidated post, I had done quite a lot really i.e. virtually every category applied!

WORK:

  • I did an online Oral Hearing (patent application) for my old employer and the patent was upheld and Granted
  • I did some online professional tutorials for trainees preparing to sit the European Qualifying Examinations for patents in December, January and February

HEATH:

  • I have had numerous medical appointments both MS and non-MS related for previously mentioned foot, eyes, continence services, Occupational Therapist, wheelchair services and last but not least 6 monthly dentists check-up. In fact it would be accurate to say I pretty much had a full MOT from head to foot – some more successful than others.  I won’t go into much more detail because a. it’s boring and b. it seems so long ago now that I can’t accurately recount all that happened
  • BUT I will make an exception for the foot, because I have written a post on this before and although not resolved before Christmas, at the beginning of January 2016 I finally had a steroid injection in my left foot and hey presto it now seems to be resolved! I know it isn’t a permanent fix, but it is so much better than it has been for the last few months. So, fingers crossed

CHRISTMAS & LOCATION:

  • Now usually my parents and I/Kevin alternate location for our Christmas holidays at each other’s houses. However, despite much effort on my/Kevin’s part, we still hadn’t managed to move house before Christmas (we’ve only been looking for the past 5 or so years)! Added to that, my parents no longer stay at our house because of a lack of bathroom facilities and I was still having problems with my foot. Therefore, we made the late decision to switch order and for Kevin and I travel over to France for Christmas (note. My parents are now the proud possessors of one’s stair climber.)
  • Christmas went OK, but nothing particularly memorable in a pleasant sense. Come Boxing Day, Kevin had problems with his teeth and had to see a French dentist and by the end of the holiday, I had a urinary tract infection which meant I couldn’t wait to get home.

So, that was the end of 2015 (a bit of a damp squib really) and we were all ready to get started with 2016. After all, it couldn’t go much more downhill could it?

THE UNDISCIPLINED DIARYIST

I did mention that I was notoriously bad at keeping a regular diary (or blog for that matter) didn’t I? Particularly when there’s lots going on and one should really be having lots of inspiration for keeping a record somewhere – Well, at least I’ve proved my point. Voila, my ‘lovely’ computer blog records that I’ve not posted anything for 5 months and  we’re now coming to the end of the first quarter of 2016! However, so much has been going on, good and bad, methinks a flurry of retrospective  blog posts is in order.