Saturday, 28 June 2008

The Bottom Line

Today I had a toilet installed by social services. Readers of a sensitive disposition are assured that no major detail will be gone into, though mild toilet humour may be evident.

It has been christened Bob The Talking Toilet. As I think I explained previously, this is a toilet that does everything but talk. It is both toilet, bidet and warm air blower all-in-one. It has elbow activated controls on the cistern so you don't have a flush to grapple with. And a foot pump to activate the bidet.

This is what sprung to mind on experiencing the bidet for the first time:

Lake Geneva's colossal fountain

It is wise to ensure that you are seated fully on the toilet with no gaps, otherwise the whole bathroom gets sprayed with water.

The dryer is also a little alarming. An electric element somewhere deep inside the toilet heats air with such rapidity that a strange burning smell is produced. Naturally, on first use I assumed this burning to be my bottom. But then I realised the smell was distinctly electrical.

So, somehow the inventors of this really quite amusing machine have managed to work with water and electrics. Whether I will live beyond a week remains to be seen. I think an eject button may be handy just in case the whole thing bursts into flames. Shame you can't just notch up the bidet a tad. That would be enough to both propel me into space and extinguish a bathroom inferno in one. Just be thankful I am not male ;-)

Saturday, 21 June 2008


There's a lushness sweeping over the country at the moment.

Although the unpredictable bursts of rain have been frustrating at times, the result is rich and abundant growth in parks, gardens, hedgerows and roadsides.

I'm noticing it every time I go out. I even want to do a Front Gardens Project on my route to school, celebrating everything that is good about making an insignificant patch of gravel or path something special. I plan to get permission, get other people involved to do their streets and put together an exhibition (if they'll let us) in the community centre. Our neighbourhood lacks trees, so front gardens are very special to me. And I have an advantage in sailing past at a slow scooter pace at exactly the right level to see what lies behind the garden walls.

In the past week I took my camera to an open gardens scheme and out into my own back garden where less is happening perhaps. But there are moments. I didn't get the clematis this year, but the rose is in full bloom and I promised Donimo some shots of Lady's Mantle after his beautiful hostas inspired me. Some leaves are made for raindrops. So my son and I went out and grabbed these...

My son took this one

I think I took this one

And I've no idea which of us took this one but we were just caught up in a miniature world of diamonds on green for a while

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Is This Progress?

This week I was sent a questionnaire by my local council. They are modernising services for adults with physical disabilities.

Modernising. This word is used in conjunction with the phrase 'more choice and flexibility'. As if the former is needed to achieve the latter. Maybe it is. But something jars, as if a 'more modern' way of thinking has to be adopted to achieve social inclusion. What does that mean?

The move is to be away from 'traditional day centres' towards community activities provided by the council, voluntary and private sectors. There is to be greater choice and flexibility, and wider availability of services at existing premises.

Everyone who uses day services (I don't as I am not well enough to attend a day centre) is to be offered an assessment of need and care plans will reflect the outcomes of this.

And that's the sentence that got me worried. As soon as assessments and care plans are mentioned, you know that there is the potential for people to disappear under mountains of paperwork and for very little change to be effected. And for people to not be able to access services they formerly had access to, either because the service no longer exists or because they are now being directed towards a new service, and one that may not be appropriate.

This is a negative response, I know. So I'll include more of the council's vision.

The 'vision' includes the following statements:

To enable individuals with physical disabilities to live as full and equal citizens. Recognising their rights to independence and self determination and providing access to local community facilities.

To develop a more socially inclusive model to 'traditional day care' giving people with physical disabilities and their carers more flexibility, choice and control over their chosen activities.

Choice and access to shops, leisure, arts, sports, education and employment in their local communities and in the city centre. (In line with the social model of disability endorsed by the council).

Access to information and support enabling people with disabilities to have choices about a accessing a greater range of activities.

To give people with disabilities more choice about the type, time, length and location of activity they wish to partake in, and who they wish to do this with.

To work with individuals in a way that they can express how and when they would like activities to take place for example in the evenings or weekends.

To promote disability awareness in the general population enabling better access to all universal services.

My questions are:

  • How are local community facilities going to meet the very different needs of people with very differing disabilities?
  • How will greater choice and flexibility be achieved?
  • How is the council interpreting the social model with regard to access to shops, leisure, arts, sports, education and employment?
  • How will the council promote disability awareness? Who will they consult? Will there be a campaign? How will a campaign be drawn up and delivered?

I told them on the form that I am currently unable to access any leisure activities as there are no facilities for people with my condition in my area. For me to access 'activities' they would need to be close to my home, and involve small groups of people with a similar condition to my own.

I ended up wondering whether I would be able to access any 'leisure activities' at all. I would not, for example, be able to access aqua aerobics at the local pool, golf, shopping sprees, loud concerts, college courses or employment.

But if they can sort a trip to a local art gallery, or painting classes at a local gallery, or photography classes for wheelchair users, or group relaxation sessions for people with debilitating physical conditions...well it does get one thinking.

I cautiously welcome the mention of the words 'social model' within a council questionnaire, but I do wonder what the eventual outcome will be. And I'd welcome your thoughts. Really, I'm not sure what to make of this one.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

A Journey

I discovered loose chamomile tea at a teashop last week. Whole flowers at £3 for 50g. Lovely taste but expensive. So I thought "I know, I'll grow my own."

This seemed like a great idea. I remember when I was very ill, a friend of mine had some Bulgarian friends to stay. They were shocked by my sickness and jaundice and when they all went off camping they spent a prickly hour handpicking me nettles, which are known to soothe irritated stomachs and improve digestion and liver function. How nice was that? I didn't know these girls (and they were girls, just 17 or 18) and yet they thought nothing of doing this lovely thing for me. In Bulgaria they regularly go out harvesting chamomile and nettles, borage and all manner of herbs for use at home.

Now, a bit of research has revealed that over an acre, a single worker harvests just over 1lb of chamomile flowers an hour. That's just ten 50 gram bags. Ten tiny bags an hour! Which then get packaged up and sell for £3 a piece. Slow, slow work, and hard work. Lots of bending down and the rules state flower heads only. Hmmm. I'm starting to wonder where my chamomile flowers are from. Croatia. Okay. Are they Fair Trade? It would appear not. How they are sourced? Who farms them? Who picks them? How much are they paid? Remember, whole flowers in any herbal tea are likely to have been hand-picked. So I go online and find after a long search that Fair Trade chamomile flowers do exist, but you have to ship them from the States. Fair Trade versus carbon footprint? Oh dear.

Now I really want to grow my own. But doing the maths and scaling down from an acre to little more than four square feet produces an amusing yield for the chamomile lawn I was planning in my back garden. Precisely 0.15 lb which is 2.4 oz, which is little more than 67 g. Which is not much considering purchase of plants and the time it would take me to rake the lawn for the flowers. And that's if any flowers grew at all. My garden can't compare to sun-drenched Croatia, or Egypt (another major source for chamomile flowers it would appear).

The Fair Trade versus carbon footprint dilemma is a tricky one. Shipping a bag of tiny daisy-like flowers halfway around the globe seems ridiculous. A bit like this post really, but hey, I felt it was worth checking out. So many things on my shopping list aren't Fair Trade. And I drink gallons of chamomile tea. So the guilt offsets any benefits gained from sipping the heady brew of whole flowers, that's for sure. It is lovely though. Sigh. If any UK farmer is reading this and has an acre to spare, let me know.

Maybe one day we'll have a 'Pick Your Own' situation much like strawberries. And that'll be because of global warming caused by all the planes carrying foodstuffs like organic Fair Trade chamomile flowers around the planet. Ironic or what?

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Wheelie Travels

Well, since its repair my scooter has made it further than you think.

All the way to Canada in fact where it features in Donimo's Monday Quiz over at Chronic Holiday.
I've been a fan of these quizzes for a while and it was both an honour and a giggle to be asked to put one together. Be there or be square. What a great expression that was back in the day. But why was square considered so insulting? Be there or be hexagonal? Equilateral? Parabolalular? I flunked Maths. It's late. Forgive me.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

A Celebration

This morning I was bereft. My scooter sort of blew up yesterday. Well, that's an exaggeration but there was a lot of smoke. A repair bloke told me over the phone he didn't want to charge me the call out only to tell me it was beyond fixing. Which was nice, but heartbreaking.

Then, after much persistence, I found a small family run company with no call out charge. They came to my house within an hour and found it was the brake disc rubbing against metal. Which was causing lots of smoke and a burning smell. Fixable, at a price but far less than what I was facing for another one off ebay. I will have wheels again by the weekend. Though I have to say had the Wheelchair Service provided me with a wheelchair I'd never have had to go through any of this. I'm still waiting. And I'm not giving up.

Suddenly being without my scooter was a huge shock. I had no idea just how much I need it, and I have no idea how I coped staggering about without one for so long. So, to celebrate, this came to mind:

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Say It Loud

It's OK.

You Don't Have To Think So Hard About
How To Say You've Been Thinking About Me.
Because I Know You Haven't.

The thing I love most about half term is time off from the playground. I hate it in there. It's a minefield of intricately woven social networks to which I no longer belong, unspoken prejudice and judgements and largely former friends who now ignore me or default to pleasantries.

To be fair there are lots of kids to chat to and it does me good to get out of the house and watch my son play. But the adults have normally scarpered long before I've turned the key in my scooter to go back home. These are the same people who, apart from a couple of exceptions, are happy for me to entertain their kids but rarely return the favour. So not only do I get discriminated against, but indirectly, or directly in fact, so does my son. I have memories of not being invited to friends' houses as a child because of how the other mums felt about my mother's mental ill health. And it pisses me off that 35 years later things are no different.

Something happened yesterday that really pissed me off. I bumped into a woman I see quite often in the playground. I was on the High Street. She said it was "nice" to "see me out and about" and asked me how I was. And then, as my son wasn't with me she asked me how he was. Which probably meant "Where is he? What have you done with him?".

Then she asked me "Does he mind?" before nodding vaguely at my seated position.

Mind WHAT? Me being on a scooter? NO! But I mind her thinking he minds. I was speechless and just shook my head with a dazed grin on my face. Which I suppose she took to mean "No, not at all."

When I think of a choice remark much, much later I often want to get it printed on a T shirt. In this case:

Don't Ask.
It's Probably A Stupid Question.

Does anybody else ever get this urge? Or am I just experiencing a double helping of anger with lashings of benzo rage?

Slogans I have fantasised about include:

How Am I?
Come Closer And Read The Small Print

Yes, The Weather is...
a) Shit
b) Lovely
c) Not Worth Talking About Really

Yes, You Have Seen Me Walking.
No, It Wasn't A Miracle.

Warning! This Is A Smalltalk Free Zone.
Tell Me Something Interesting or Piss Off.

I must emphasize that these are just fantasies. My son would be mortified. But oh, the feeling of satisfaction! I was always one for behaving badly.

There are many more of these, largely forgotten. I dare say my line in T Shirts would probably not foster greater understanding between the disabled and non-disabled. Do I care? I have a son. Yes I do. Without him however, I think I'd have been wearing these months ago. Loud and proud.

Stand Back! I Smell And Dribble.
And When It Amuses Me, I Fart.