Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Fifty and Counting

Welcome to a 50th birthday celebratory blog posting written by me, using my trusty old stylus and an iPad. Extraordinary as it may seem I have made it to 50. There have been a number of occasions over the last fifteen or so years when that achievement had seemed a trifle optimistic and so it was with some relief that the 13th of July arrived without the accompanying sound of sirens and the flashing of blue lights. In fact the bulk of the day passed uneventfully what with the children at school and Polly having an appointment at the hairdressers. I had been told that my mother-in-law, Pam, had booked a table at a local Harvester and that we were all going out for a meal that evening. I was a little suspicious of this because Polly had put out socks for me to wear and so I suspected we were going somewhere slightly more upmarket, Pizza Express perhaps.

As we turned off Wimbledon Park Side I had an inkling that we were heading upmarket of even Pizza Express and that our destination was Cannizarro House, the hotel where Polly and I had spent the first night of our honeymoon nearly 18 years ago. On that occasion our little red self-drive hired van had squeezed between S class Mercedes and Porches to take pride of place opposite of the main entrance. This time our VW Caddy looked slightly less incongruous but I was grateful Polly had had the car cleaned recently. She apologised for the deceit and hoped I wasn't too disappointed that I would not be availing myself of an all you can eat salad bar. In fact, she explained, we were meeting Pam here for a drink and then she would take the boys on for a burger leaving us to have a cosy, intimate meal for two. (Polly and me that is, not Pam and me. That would be weird under the circumstances.)

On entering the hotel we were led by a member of staff away from the main dining room and through a private dining room laid out for a large private do and on to a patio overlooking the park. It was at that exact moment that I realised I had been throughly suckered for there before me was my entire family. My mother, whom I'd been told I would be seeing next week, was there. My brothers were there and both my aunts were there. All my nephews were there. Most surprisingly my sister Helena was there when she really should have been in Texas. She, Andrew and her two boys had all flown in especially.

We were served canapés on the patio and then retired to our dining room where we were served a pork and cherry pate followed by cannon of Romney Marsh lamb. We finished up with a chocolate birthday cake (with 5 symbolic candles) and petit fours. By the time coffee was served I was sated. It was a fabulous evening and I greatly appreciate the effort that was made on my behalf.

Oh, and in case you are interested, among my gifts I received the promise of a new flat screen TV and a genuine little apple tree already growing apples.

On Saturday Polly arranged a drop in birthday and house warming party. She had cooked enough chilli to feed an army laying siege to the Alamo, a greenhouse full of salad, a gallon or so of Pimms and three huge cakes. I sincerely hoped people would turn up or my choice of meals was going to be somewhat limited in the forseeable future. Thankfully people did come, many bringing plants for the garden including, to my delight, an ornamental Japanese tree, an Olive tree and a vine. We made my friends Paul and Harvey plant the trees because they were dressed in kilts and it was therefore both funny and useful.

I had a great 50th birthday. Thank you so much everyone who made it special.

Next we are off on holiday. Not to Wales and the rain but to Cypress and the Mediterranean sunshine. All we need to do is to get from Carshalton to Polis via Gatwick and Paphos with two children, my mother-in-law, a large electric wheelchair and enough medical equipment for a small respiratory ward. What could possibly stand between me and a relaxing holiday? I will let you know.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

The Right Move

Regular readers of Quicksketch’s ‘How to be an inspiration’ blog may be familiar with a couple of lads that shared his childhood with him. May I introduce my self as being one of those two boys and I go under the blog moniker of ‘Rock God’ although the name that my mother gave me was Paul.
I imagine that many of you have become concerned that Quicksketch or ‘Stephen’ as his mother likes to refer to him when he’s in the dog house has not put pen to internet paper for over 8 months now and you may by now be thinking the worst.
Can I right from the very outset reassure you that Stephen is still very much with us and has plenty of stories yet to tell.
However; as you will undoubtedly be aware from this blog Stephen’s condition has begun taking a more aggressive toll on his ability to undertake many of the day to day tasks that most us take for granted. This sadly includes Stephen’s ability to write.
Although with the aid of an Ipad and a stylus he is still able to correspond in way of e-mail, the time it would take to construct this blog would be prohibitive as well as exhausting. Although his creative mind is as sharp and witty as ever his physical prowess is now considerably limited to short e-mail sentences.
Stephen’s writing style also prevents him from just kicking back and reciting his beloved words of knowledge as he likes to see the written word unravel in front of him. Well, that’s his excuse any way. Personally I can well see him reclining in his boudoir, sipping champagne and nibbling on the occasional goat hoof whilst pontificating words of wisdom to a bespectacled sycophant.
This being said it was brought to Stephen’s attention that his loyal readers were already in a state of withdrawal and that all those that don’t know him personally might begin to suspect that he may have gone and fallen off this mortal coil.
And so finally he allowed me the privilege of penning a few short words just to keep you loyal readers informed of the proceedings in the lives of the Quicksketch family.
The biggest piece of news is that the council of ‘wherever’ have finally got their oversized thumbs out of their collective rear ends and have granted the family new housing.
By new housing I mean a brand spanking new three bedroom house that is specifically equipped for the disabled including proper hoists and a lift that will allow Stephen the luxury of going upstairs to bed (myself and fellow childhood friend Darren spent a happy afternoon going up and down in this I can assure you, although we were informed by Stephen’s wife that the majority of those that had enjoyed this experience thus were actually children).
The house has a brand new purpose built kitchen with work tops at a lower level so that Stephen if he is inclined can actually reach things (their previous kitchen work tops were so high I had to step on tip toe and I am nearly six foot tall).
There are two bathrooms that will afford both Stephen and Polly the luxury (my wife would site this as a necessity) of having a long soak in a bath. It also means that Polly and the boys will be able to get themselves ready at the same time as Stephen and he will no longer have to wait until they are done with their ablutions.
The best part of the house is a large living room that has a magnificent view of their new garden. Yes, QS will be able to sit and enjoy the grounds of his very own estate.
This family have never asked for anything from anybody. Both Stephen and Polly have worked hard all their adult lives and continue to do so. They have paid their taxes and have never expected or asked for hand outs. Personally I think it is a disgrace that they have had to wait for so long for the one thing that they have needed a bit of a hand with and they certainly didn’t ask for anything that millions of people in the UK take for granted. But that noise is just me falling off of my soap box again.
Anyway, Darren and I were well excited with the new family dwelling and we were doubly impressed as always at how Polly held all the strands together (she took no prisoners and greeted us on the door step with tools and instructions…we had a happy afternoon dismantling things, something we do best).
God willing this new abode will make life considerably easier for the family and you never know, it might inspire QS to consider dictating his memoirs to a willing scribe.
With his blessing I will pop by from time to time and keep you up to date with what is going on in our favourite author’s world. Just please be patient, I live in another part of the country to Stephen and so I don’t have as much contact as I should or want. So please just drop in from time to time to see if anything new is up.
On Stephen & Polly’s behalf, thanks for your interest, concern and if you are so inclined prayers.

Monday, 4 October 2010

They Call Me Mellow Yellow

Another reason for my summer silence was that I turned an unnatural colour. It was August, a week before we were due to go on holiday to Wales and the day before we were going to see the play Anne Boleyn at the Globe Theatre. Polly came home from work and asked me if I knew I was a shade of yellow. I pointed out that she was wearing a pair of lemon yellow shorts and that the sun was just reflecting off them. Yes, said Polly dryly, that's probably it, but just in case we'll pop up to the hospital on the off chance that it's not caused by my trousers.

Many hours later a doctor was trying to admit me to St Helier hospital because she was a bit concerned about some markers in my blood. After some tense negotiations she let me go home on the understanding that I returned first thing in the morning for further tests. But we have tickets to see Anne Boleyn at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, I wailed. The doctor just sighed and said "you've gone yellow, Mr Deal. You have jaundice. Don't you think it's in your own best interest to find out why?"

The next day, despite my best efforts, they admitted me. I tried to explain that I am ill-suited to hospitals but the consultant dismissed my concerns with an airy wave of a manicured hand. "The pretty little nurses will look after you," he didn't quite say but might as well have done. The pretty little nurses were slightly less confidant when faced with my BiPap, wheelchair and need for hoisting, a profiling bed and an air-mattress. They looked at Polly and said, "You won't be leaving, will you?"

They wanted to stick me in a scanner so they could look at my liver but soon realised that this would be complicated in the extreme because I can't lie flat on my back without suffocating. The slightly less confident consultant agreed to try an ultra-sound, blithely unconcerned that the technician would have to achieve this while I stayed in my wheelchair. Unsurprisingly the results were inconclusive.

I spent an unhappy night plugged into a drip feeding some kind of antibiotic into my vein. The preceding two hours it had taken to get me in to the bed convinced the nursing staff and the more junior doctors that I would be better off at home since there was not an awful lot they could actually do for me. The consensus was that a gall stone had broken up and passed through my liver but since they weren't about to risk giving me a general anaesthetic so they could have a poke around they couldn't be 100% certain. Eventually the almighty consultant was persuaded by his underlings that I should be allowed to go home on condition that my GP organised regular blood tests. I fled to the car park still wearing my hospital gown.

Whatever was going on in my liver took a while to clear up because the markers in my blood that concerned the doctors remained stubbornly high for what seemed like a long time. I suffered some minor discomfort and felt a bit run down, missed a play, but, on the whole, reckon I got off relatively lightly.

Until next time.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Return Of The Blogger

I'm back.

Thank you for your patience. It's been a long, and for the most part pleasant, summer and I feel I owe an explanation for my absence from the blogosphere for it's entirety. Way too much has happened for me to cover in one post but I'll give a brief summary here and expand on details as time and my typing allow.

I left you back in June because the long decline in my dexterity finally reached a kind of tipping point and my typing became so unreliable, erratic and difficult to perform that anything otter than essential email communication became all but impossible. I have not yet found a satisfactory remedy for this but I have purchased an iPad which, with it's superior touchscreen keyboard, helps a little. It then took more time to find a suitable, but hugely expensive, stylus with which to poke at it with because my fingers are no longer up to the job. I missed blogging but the longer I left it the more things kept happening and less I felt able to catch up. Consider this post a kind of bull being taken my the horns sort of thing. I'm getting back in the saddle and mixing metaphors once more.

You may remember that long ago we started the long process of being rehoused which resulted in a slightly surreal meeting with, and letter from our MP, Tom Brake. (See Cometh The Man back in March.) Well the wheels ground awful slow but we were at last notified of a new development being built that includes wheelchair accessible accommodation complete with through lifts to move users up and down between floors. We were told, unofficially, that we were 'pencilled in' for one of these desirable properties. For weeks and then months we drove past the development and watched the walls going up and the roof being tiled. At least one extra bedroom was on offer as well as an extra bathroom and more space generally. All ideal. A few weeks ago an Occupational Therapist arrived to discuss our specific needs; hoists, bathroom adaptations and the like. He took notes, measured the wheelchair and then disappeared back to OT Land. Days passed. Then we received a phone call from him to say that lift that was being installed was too small to take my wheelchair. The lift shaft had been built into the fabric of the house and it was too late to change it. We wouldn't be moving after all.

We contacted Tom Brake again and stiff letters are being written but in the current climate of cuts it seems unlikely that new housing will get built in the foreseeable future. It seems a pity that no one thought to wonder what kind of wheelchairs might or might not fit in the house before they built them. I suppose they didn't want to waste precious space.

I will call it a day for now. Next time I'll tell you how I went yellow in August and ended up in hospital. Thanks for reading.

Until next time. (Soon, I hope.)

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

And So To Bed

I'm writing this at 10.30pm which is well past my bedtime. Things were going so well. It had been a busy and fun weekend; we'd had the local carnival on Saturday where the boys had gone on the Ghost Train and climbed inside inflatable plastic balls to roll around a huge paddling pool. We'd watched reluctant birds of prey take part in a falconry display like sulky teenagers begrudgingly performing their party piece at the increasingly irate behest of their parent. We'd watched marching bands and cheerleaders put on displays helped and hindered by an intermittent fault on the PA. All jolly good fun. On Sunday the boys and I watched Polly run a 10k race around and around our local park which took up 65 minutes and 31 seconds of a sunny morning. The race was billed as a fun run which conjures up images of people dressed as Buzz Lightyear jogging alongside groups of firemen chained together waving buckets to collect coins for kittens stuck up trees. Forget that. This turned out to be an excuse for the local running club to put themselves through their paces under race conditions. There was a lot of Lycra on display. The male winner whizzed home in just 31 minutes and 39 seconds. Polly came in a very respectable mere 15 minutes after the fastest female.

Now the reason I tell you all this so past my bedtime is because I am awaiting an engineer to come and repair the hoist in the bedroom. The carers had come as usual to lay me down to rest and we were at the final stage of hoisting me from the wheelchair into the bed. The hoist, after some coaxing, lifted me airborne and over to the bed. What it would not do was to lower me down on to the aforementioned bed. I was left hovering like a fatigued Thunderbirds puppet two feet above my mattress. No amount of button pressing had any effect. The emergency release cord had mysteriously disappeared so I had no alternative but to dangle helplessly while Polly and the carers tried turning the power on and off and swinging me around a bit in an attempt to unstick whatever was stuck. After a few minutes I was beginning to feel distinctly uncomfortable, scrunched up in the sling as if I was a particularly large and unappealing fisherman's catch of the day.

Eventually, just at the point where I was considering having the straps of the sling cut through so as to allow me to tumble down on to the bed with a hope that the resulting dislocation of joints wouldn't be too painful, I had a brainwave. My super-duper wheelchair is capable of raising up several feet in the air. By carefully moving the hoist and therefore myself over the chair and by me performing a kind of wriggling contortionist act as the carers eased the sling off around me I would only need to fall inches. With a defiance of health and safety and with a bodily dexterity that would surely have earned me a place in the semi-finals of Britain's Got Talent I fell gracefully in to my risen wheelchair seat. Meanwhile Polly rang the emergency engineer.

The next day. . .

Well, the engineer came at 11.00pm, cheerfully declaring that he had had one foot in the bath when his supervisor rang. Apparently a previous engineer had fitted the strap back to front causing the whole kit and caboodle to get tangled up. It took him 20 minutes to undo the mess. It took Polly a further 20 minutes to transfer me to bed on her own, the carers having long since departed.

At least the emergency engineer turned up quickly and fixed the problem efficiently and without a fuss, unlike another company who have a contract to maintain my wheelchair. More details forthwith.

Until next time.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Watch The Birdie

Once again Polly and I dragged ourselves over the speed-bump strewn roads of South London for me to attend the Lind clinic at the Royal Brompton Hospital. Once there, and having located one of the rare and obscenely expensive parking spaces, Polly vanished to have coffee with a clown doctor friend who lives conveniently nearby, pointing out that she hadn't taken a day off from working in a hospital to spend it sitting in another hospital, especially as she wasn't being paid. I sat reading and patiently went through the whole blood-letting experience so my blood gases could be analysed. Sometime later I was seen by a stereotypically efficient German doctor who informed me that my CO2 levels had fallen satisfactorily and that they won't need to see me again for a whole year. Polly reappeared and we stop-started our way back through the London rush hour just in time to take Sam to his first ever Beavers meeting.

I am, of course, delighted that all that faffing about in March when I had to stay at the RBH has paid off and that the changes of masks and BiPap settings have achieved what they set out to do, namely make me feel better. It is a slightly unsettling experience to be in a position where at least one aspect of my condition is improving rather than spiralling ever downwards. It is my ambition to confound all those health professionals who anticipate the worse. Viva Stephen!

On a completely different subject altogether, Polly, as you may remember if you have been paying attention, has spent months renovating my sisters house in Surrey while my sister runs what's left of the global oil industry. The house is still looking for a tenant and has a couple of agencies squabbling over who should manage the property. Last week we got a phone call from one of them to say that a bird had flown down the chimney and expired in the living room. “It's made a bit of a mess, “ they said. Sighing, Polly made her way to the house armed with some cleaning equipment to discover just how much mess a trapped magpie can make. It turns out that it makes a lot. She phoned me to say that the house looked like a scene from CSI Surrey. “What should I do with the. . . er. . . body?” she asked. I suggested she put it in a plastic bag. It was only on the way home that Polly realised the irony. She'd interred the magpie in a Sainbury's Bag for Life.

Until next time.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

The Whole Tooth

It is half term already and it seems as if the boys have hardly been at school since Easter what with in-service training days, bank holidays and elections. To compensate for the lack of orthodox education we have enrolled the boys in a couple of courses at a local theatre. Today Matty learned to be a stuntman taught by someone who worked on Sherlock Holmes. He came home confidant in his ability to be zapped by Harry Potter or to burst through a wall made of foam blocks. Tomorrow Sam is going to learn African drumming which given his complete lack of rhythm when playing Lego Rockstar on the PS3 might present his teacher with a bit of a problem. Sam has discovered that by hitting any random drum in any random order very very fast can get him a higher score than his equally tuneless brother.

I celebrated half term with a visit to a rather jolly dentist who poked and prodded and declared all well except for a dodgy wisdom tooth which needs x-raying with a view to having something done to it. I have to go back in a couple of weeks. Next time though it will be without Sam being an aeroplane around the surgery.

Right, I'm off to watch dancing dogs on Britain's Got Talent.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Say It Loud

I am fully recovered from my visit to planet Noro I am pleased to say. Thank you for all the messages of sympathy and I'm sorry if you have suffered similarly.

Yesterday Nina, the speech and communication specialist, came for another visit. During our conversation last week I had mentioned that I often have difficulty making myself heard in noisy environments because I am unable to project my voice loudly enough. Nina was excited because she had a solution to this problem and this week she had brought with her a plastic case containing a voice amplifier. The device was about the size of an old fashioned Sony Walkman and came with a transdermal (throat) microphone. The EchoVoice has a built in speaker, an on/off switch and a volume control and that's pretty much it. The idea is that you can speak at a low volume and the device amplifies the voice through the speaker. Simple.

Unfortunately not only is the device the size of a Sony Walkman it also looks like it was designed by Amstrad and built in the 1980s being made primarily of beige plastic and with a speaker that wouldn't have been out of place in a transistor radio. As soon as I turned the volume up to a useful level my voice distorted as if it were being fed through a guitar fuzz box. It would be perfect if I wanted to announce the 2.37 from Paddington and not want anyone to understand but not so good for a chat in the school playground. Nina, who had tested the EchoVoice in her office, was disappointed by the reality in the field. I sounded like a rather breathy Dalek. Unfortunately not a very loud one.

Nina left to see if she would have more luck finding something to speed up my typing. I'll let you know how we get on.

Until next time...

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Sick And Tired

If you are unfamiliar with the term Norovirus you are exceedingly fortunate. I mention this because I am now on more than nodding terms with the little packets of DNA and RNA wrapped in protein. The last few days have not been particularly pleasant. I admit that I am self-diagnosing here, and I may be infected with a distant cousin of Noro but since my carers inform me that another of their clients has had the virus I think I'm justified at pointing the finger at the micro-parcel of misery.

Sickness and wheelchairs are not an ideal combination in anyone's book. I'm fortunate that I've had only a relatively mild case but it has still been distinctly grim. I'm over the worse but still feel a little delicate.

Today I had a visit from a Speech and Communications specialist called Nina who came to assess me. You will be surprised to hear that I do, in fact, have the ability to communicate but Nina plans to help me do it better. She is looking into technology that might help speed up my typing and also a system that could help me communicate in noisy environments. We will be meeting again next week. I will, of course, let you know how it goes.

Until next time.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Birthday Boy and Quiz Night

Saturday was Sam's sixth birthday. We have been counting down to the day for months. It is beyond my abilities as a writer to communicate just how vibratingly excited my second born has been in anticipation of the day. His maths has improved no end as he's mastered subtraction and the day has been built up in his mind to a day of birthday perfection. No pressure then. At six o'clock am precisely our bedroom door flew open and our newly minted six-year-old burst in followed seconds later by a slightly blurry-eyed older brother.

Amidst the mass of wrapping paper covered presents was a blue camera from his great aunt Megan. From then on it was like being in bed with a Paparazzi, a blinding flash going off time and time again. Fortunately he was eventually distracted by a game for the Wii which required a retreat to the living room, although every step of the way was photographed and recorded for prosperity. All the time he was clutching a yellow furry thing called a Puffle which Matty had given him.

Later that morning we found ourselves at Kidspace in Croyden, one of those indoor maze of climbing, rope, plastic and tunnels in garish colours that children vanish into to scream and chase and perform death-defying slides in foam encased safety. Eight of Sam's friends, plus Matty were in attendance for this much anticipated party. We had booked the party months ago and all we had to do was turn up with some children and a cake. The cake, Sam had specified, was to be in the form of a caterpillar with each segment a different colour and with each child's name written upon it. The staff at Kidspace were taking care of the rest, including the food, in the exclusive birthday party orientated Orange Pod. You will be unsurprised to know that I managed to find a table and a cup of coffee to retreat to.

That evening we left the happily exhausted birthday boy in the loving care of Pam, his grandmother, and attended a quiz night at the school. As previously mentioned in these pages, I love quizzes and become insufferably competitive when partaking in one. For years I have competed in the school quiz and for years my team has come second. This year, unlike last, I was not suffering Oxygen deprivation and a lifetime of accumulated trivia came to the fore. Yes I knew what Dane Godtfred Kirk Christiansen gave the world in 1958. Where was the Magna Carta signed? Easy. Ha! Who was Queen Elizabeth II first prime-minister? Ask me something challenging. The chemical symbol for Potassium? Okay. Fortunately I was a member of a team who knew such things. They also knew such useful things as the number of dominoes in a set. By the time of the final round, general knowledge, it was neck and neck Which superhero's secret identity is Steve Rogers? If my facial muscles were capable of it a huge grin would has spread across my overly smug face. We had that round nailed.

The final scores were totalled up and we, by the massive margin of 1 point, had snatched victory. At last my awesome talent had been recognised. As Polly and I wandered home, our victory bottles of wine clinking together, we considered that, all in all, it had been a pretty good day.

Until next time. . .

Answers – Lego. Runnymede. Winston Churchill. K. 28. Captain America.