Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Bits And Pieces

This, as the title suggests, is post of little bits of news, updates and observations. As I write I find myself in a slightly peculiar situation. Polly has gone to Buckingham Palace with her mother for the day and I am left here with the children. The Buckingham Palace visit was arranged as a birthday present for Pam and involves a tour of the state rooms and various exhibitions, but not, as both Pam and Polly secretly wish for, a chance to poke around Her Majesty's and Prince Phillip's private quarters. I am, however, not left alone with boys. Polly decided to make use of some of the help offered to us by various agencies at a meeting held a while back. As a result I am writing this with a woman sat silently in the corner of my living room. She is poised to do my bidding but I don't have anything to bid her to do. The boys are behaving in an exemplary manner, happily engaged in various games and I am finding it vaguely disconcerting having a stranger sat watching our every move. I'm sure she is very nice. I just don't know what to do with her. I'm busy writing this so I can pretend to be busy and not have to talk to her.

We have had the boys for nine and five years respectively and have managed not to break them. Then, in the course of one week, we discover that Sam has had urinary reflux and could, theoretically, have damaged his kidneys and that Matty needs glasses. Sam has always been prone to urinary tract infections but it is only after this weeks ultra-sound scan that we discovered how potentially serious it could be. Fortunately the kidneys don't appear to have suffered any damage, being of normal size and shape, but further tests may be needed to check for scarring. We have noticed Matty squinting a little recently and so Polly took him to the optician. He returned home sporting a rather smart pair of glasses which he now will be wearing most of time. Matty is not particularly upset by this because glasses are quite trendy at the moment at school and he reckons he suits the geek-chic look.

Meanwhile, we are breathless with excitement as the new car is due to arrive on Thursday. I can hardly wait. Polly, however, has had her patience tested to the limit getting the new car insured. Despite every other TV ad being for car insurance, getting an adapted vehicle insured can be tricky. You need to approach a specialist broker, of which there are a few but nowhere near the number available to non-adapted vehicle owners. We have had the old Renault Kangoo van insured at a reasonable rate with a company and were happy to transfer the cover to the new Volkswagon Caddy. Only the Volkswagon Caddy is not a van but a car. You might suppose we intend to drive our new car to Basra via Helmand province carrying crystal chandeliers and open bottles of Nitroglycerin by the amount of time it took Polly to complete the transaction. She was on the phone for over an hour and a half. Normally we like to insure our vehicles for anyone over 25 to drive. Now you have to be over 30 and have the proven ability to yodel whilst reversing.

Right, I'm off to see if my lurking stranger can teach the kids country dancing or something.

Until next time.

Friday, 24 July 2009

You Swine

The school holidays are under way. Traditionally in our household one or other or both of our children instantly become sick a few seconds after the final bell rings and spend the first week of the holidays dosed up on Calpol and Ibuprofen. It is as if their little bodies struggle through the final weeks of sports days, class assemblies and dressing up days - this year a circus theme. Matty and Sam went as strong-man and elephant trainer respectively – and then, when the excitement is over, they wilt and cough and sneeze and descend into puddles of sweat and puking misery. This year however both boys seem fit and healthy, if a little tired and scratchy.

Obviously this is good news, doubly so because of the lurking threat of Swine flu. It is a relief to know that H1N1 (the post code for Walls, incidentally) is typically a mild variant of the influenza virus, and only a danger to those with underlying health issues. Of course, being someone with the odd underlying health issue I have to refrain from poking the television with a stick every time some smug government spokesperson assures the country that Britain leads the world in pandemic readiness. I'm glad we do lead the world but when we are told “So-and-so died of complications arising from Swine flu BUT they had underlying health issues,” I am not, unlike the vast majority, greatly reassured.

I refuse to cower in self-imposed isolation but I would appreciate it if you are feeling under the weather that you stay (say 15 metres) away from me. At least until the much vaunted Swine flu vaccine is available. Meanwhile, I'll be clutching my batch of Tamiflu close to my chest

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Party Animal

I am so OLD. Well obviously I am, I had my birthday last week. Thank you for all the best wishes received and for the occasional expression of surprise that I've made it this far. My family combined, in case you are wondering, to give me an Ipod Touch, 32 gigabytes of pure gadgety loveliness. But it is not my physical age that concerns me, but rather my level of mental decrepitude.

Last night we went to a party. A school friend of Polly, “I haven't got a thing to wear”, was celebrating her 40th birthday, and had hired the events room at a rugby club in deepest Surrey. We didn't set off until nearly 8 o'clock, and Sam kept whispering to me, conspiratorially, that it was past his bedtime and that he hoped mummy wouldn't notice. Both boys were thrilled to find, upon our arrival, that there was an abundance of children to play with, and all thoughts of bedtime vanished like the drinks at the free bar.

What struck me first was the sheer volume of the music. The function room was dotted with large round tables, down one wall was a finger buffet and in a corner was the bar. In the opposite corner, before which was an area cleared for dancing, was a DJ with an array of decks, speakers and flashing lights. The only thing missing was a volume control.

This is where I come across as all fuddy-duddy. The room was full of people sat, or standing, in groups, huddled together, shouting into each others ears. Any conversation conducted more than six inches from ear to mouth involved advanced mime and sign language gesticulation. After a few minutes bellowing at Elaine, our hostess, and with Polly, I found myself sitting, nursing half a pint of cider, in a kind of audio-isolation.

I amused myself by watching the series of photographs being presented one after another on a TV monitor affixed to one wall. Countless pictures of Elaine's childhood and family cycled by, intermittently punctuated by photographs of her with friends. Every now and then a shriek went up as someone recognized themselves (during a brief hiatus in the cacophonous music, obviously). I spotted Polly a few times, a distinctly unpromising pre-pubescent teen in horizontal stripes, and wondered at the processes that had transformed her into the vibrant, beautiful woman, dancing with our boys to Wham and a medley of Abba songs.

Judging by the pictures, one of the defining elements of growing up in the eighties was hair. Big hair. The array of perms, bouffant and otherwise, was dazzling. There was a particularly unflattering photo of Polly with an angled fringe. She punched me on the arm when I asked if it was from her Hitler period.

At one stage in the evening, when Polly had taken the boys to the loo, someone came to talk to me. I think his name was Colin but he was competing with 'Billie-Jean' at the time. (Apparently the kid is not his son.) I think Colin was asking me how I knew Elaine but he might equally have been asking for my opinion of global warming.

I realised, as a bleary-eyed Sam came and curled up on my lap, that I am not naturally a party animal. My cider had lasted all night and as much as I enjoy 80's popular music my ears were starting to bleed. Let's face it, I realised as I stroked my son's hair, I'm a grumpy old git.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Not Just A Mattress

For anyone who has been following the saga of the mattress, you will be thrilled to know that we have made significant progress. Well you may not be thrilled but I am. A few days a go a new mattress arrived that whilst similar to the previous one is subtly different. Instead of tubular cells filled with air this one has square cells. I am no longer slowly rotated at night but instead I lie supported and immeasurably more comfortable. Of course the new mattress is not really a mattress but is, in fact, an Advanced Dynamic Floatation System so obviously it is going to be more comfortable than any boring old mattress.

The last few nights have passed with a delightful lack of wakefulness and both Polly and I feel much better for it. I was even able to face Sam's sports day and see his team aquit themselves well in the beanbag-on-the-head and the potato-in-a-sieve relay races. I also went to see Matty perform all sorts of kicks and punches as he qualified for his orange belt in Karate. Matty is now able to protect himself against barefoot children in white pyjamas who shout “ Ai! “ whenever they move slowly in a threatening manner.

Bye until next time.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Perchance To Dream

It is probable that during the course of this post I will fall asleep. The last few nights have been truly miserable and I ache and I am grumpy and I can hardly keep my eyes open.

It is all the fault of the bloody air-mattress. It seems like a simple proposition. You lie on a mattress inflated with air. The air is gently circulated around chambers in said mattress thus reducing the likelihood of pressure sores and, as an added bonus, allowing a small degree of movement to anyone with strictly limited movement. Someone, picking an example out of the air, like me.

I have been complaining about my mattress for quite a while. Until recently I was sleeping on one with the comfort rating of a kitchen work surface. It moulded to my body in the way that granite doesn't. Any circulation of air was only detectable with instruments purchased from the manufacturers of the CERN Hadron collider. The children refused to bounce on the bed because they said it caused compact fractures.

I currently have an air-filled overlay on a memory foam base. Now I can feel the air circulating all right, but the effect is to cause me to roll backwards in my sleep, turning me like a frankfurter on one of those warmers you see in cinema vending areas. I then get stuck in unbearably contorted positions that require Polly to engage in bleary-eyed remedial disentangling procedures. Last night there were seven such instances and I feel like a piece of string at a cub scout knot tying practice session.

I have now tried all the alternatives available through the community occupational therapy service. I have identified the product I think I need. I have at least two senior consultants saying it is a medical necessity. Everyone seems to agree that it is worth trying but can I get hold of the bloody thing? Can I buffalo. Emails and phone calls vanish into the ether. The details wander lost through cyber-space and everyone seems to want one more level of clarification before they can act. It's only a mattress! I know it's quite an expensive one but surely we could hire one for a few weeks to see if it helps. It must be cheaper than paying for the hours of anger management therapy that I will require if I don't get a good nights sleep soon. And think of Polly. Every time I need moving I have to wake her up. We've barely had an uninterrupted nights sleep in months. For pities sake, if any of the many health care professionals reading this don't act soon there will be a tragic case of matresscide to explain to the public inquiry that will surely follow. Act now and save your careers and reputations.

Right, I'm off for a coffee. Triple espresso I think.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Don't Bat An Eye

I am so sorry for the lack of posts recently. This is entirely down to the fiendishly tedious manner by which I am compelled to type these days. It is terribly frustrating, laborious and time consuming and deeply depressing. I know some profoundly disabled individuals manage to write entire novels by batting their eyelids one letter at a time but they must be blessed with powers of persistence and patience way beyond mine. Even though I am using sophisticated text prediction software just writing this paragraph has taken more than fifteen minutes. At some point in the near future I am going to have to invest a great deal of time and, no doubt, money in improving the situation.

The last week or so has seen the south-east of England in a heatwave, with temperatures regularly above 31C. Generally I enjoy hot weather but sitting on a metal ramp in a metal wheelchair has been a bit much even for me. It's been like carrying your own radiator around with you for a week.

Right, enough for now. I will be trying to write little but more often in future. Please bare with me. I will be exercising my left eyelid in preparation for future posts.