Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Access Most Areas

Tonight's post brought to you by an inability to sleep (I knew I shouldn't have had that cup of tea directly before going to bed). Why do lava lamps take half an hour to warm up? Quite apart from the colossal waste of energy (when I die and go to heaven, God will send me away because I single-handedly killed off the planet with my love of 1970s-style molten meditation), it means I can't have it lull me to sleep without waiting around for it to start.

Anyway, enough of the pointless rambling, as we return to the slightly more pointed rambling. I'm just back from the ever-fabulous Greenbelt, a very open-minded Christian arts festival that I go to most years. And I have to say that, despite a few problems, provisions for wheelchair users were really very good (although I wouldn't mind joining their Access Team and helping them find ways to keep the accessible toilets free of idiots who can't be bothered to queue and the lifts free of bored teenagers just along for the ride). It was an odd weekend. Not like most Greenbelts, where I usually pack six seminars, two worship sessions, a lot of hanging out at the campsite, and something artsy and alternative into each day. In total over the three-and-a-half day weekend, I went to four talks - two by the same speaker, because he was funny and awesome and talked about love and made me cry (in a good way) - and I just didn't DO a lot, really. Partly that was because there was a feeling of 'this has all been said before' this year. I was hoping for more of the new, edgy, challenging, justice-focused, forward-thinking theology and spirituality that I usually associate with the festival. I wonder whether it was just a less-inspiring year than usual, or whether Greenbelt is losing its edge. We shall see. But it was also because we weren't camping. With Marvin in tow, and the necessity of charging him up regularly, plus my need for a decent's night sleep every now and then, we stayed in a local B&B. This was comfortable and accessible, but I won't be doing that again - I missed too much of the festival atmosphere, just by not being there after 9 or 10 most nights. That said, I accessed it all in the best way I could, and it went OK. Marvin ('leccy wheelchair) was my saving grace, although I did have to take a deep breath each morning before driving out into the crowds and hoping for the best (responses to me ranged from the usual stares as I got out and left my wheelchair behind while I went to the loo, to glares from the dozens of people who kicked my foot-rests while I was stationary but still seemed to think it was my fault). All-in-all, not bad. There are more spiritual-type thoughts going on in response to a few things that I heard/took part in while there, but those will have to wait until I've formed slightly more coherent responses to them than someone said something, it was in a tent, it was nice, it made me feel warm and fuzzy inside, also it was sunny, also I ate potato wedges, other pleasant but ultimately meaningless post-festival hippy thoughts. In other related news, thanks to the sunshine all weekend, I am a quite impressive shade of brown. Not impressive in the general sense, you understand, but more in a 'I didn't think people of Irish origin could tan at all' sense. It's made me happy, anyway.

And now we're back to reality: writing letters in which I threaten to sue my local council (just as soon as my printer can be persuaded to start working), interviewing prospective PAs (at least one of whom I dearly hope will be able to make it into work more than once a week), panicking over Access to Work applications gone wrong (but it's all good, because even though they can't buy me a shiny new wheelchair right now, they're hiring one for me in the meantime, and would I like to choose it myself? Ah, if only all government organizations could be this lovely). Holidays can't last forever, people - there are whole hordes of people just queueing up to get a chance to make my life difficult. What fun that must be for them. And I start work on Thursday. Argh.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

It would all be so easy if it weren't for...1

First, there's the amazing disappearing PA. She's been wonderful and awesome for most of the two-and-a-half months during which she has had the pleasure (that may be an exaggeration) of being in my employ. She's good. She runs around the house, like me on the wrong dose of antidepressants, zooming effortlessly from one task to another and then asking what else she can do for me. Efficient, I think the word is. And friendly, and all of that. But she misses a day a week, every single week, and has vanished from this dimension entirely since Thursday. I should contact an agency and get someone temporary in. However, the last time I used an agency it was like volunteering to have my internal organs boiled in jam. Plus, the woman may turn up again like nothing happened on Monday. Erk.

Then there's the Council that's STILL refusing to tell me why they won't fix a lock onto the gate even though they know it's a requirement of the DDA that they do. Thanks to them, I'd be entirely housebound if it weren't for my PA. (Oh...) In the meantime, aforementioned Council has told its contractors to work through the weekend on the renovations on the flat opposite, 8am to 9pm, including on SUNDAY (it's the Lord's day, people, and I need to sleep through it), even though the same Council's own noise restrictions ban them from doing so. Arse crap bugger.

Then there's the neighbours of whom I am now so nervous - thanks to the 'she doesn't really need that wheelchair' incident I may have mentioned before - that my garden is becoming overrun with weeds (think Day of the Triffids only on a slightly smaller scale) because I'm too afraid to go outside. Gaaah.

And why can't I get Facebook to let me play Scrabble online?

And why is Hebrew such a tricky language, what with those weird random letters that all look the same?

And why have I run out of TV series on DVD to watch?

And why will no one come out to the pub with me tonight?


1I had several non-ranty thoughts that were going to become a variety of interesting blog posts, but none of them made it through. I may be losing the plot ever so slightly. I really, really want to go back to work... Which meaks it a good thing that I got the job.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Interviews, access and other great joys of life

Sorry about the long silence. I was away. Now I am back. Not much has changed at the Would-Be-Superbly-Accessible-If-The-Council- Would-Get-Their-Act-Together Flat. All is good otherwise, though.

I finally got a visit from an occupational therapist. I was referred to them back in the dawn of time (OK, March). Then I was told it would be a year-long waiting list. Then I wrote to complain and ask what exactly I was supposed to do about the fact that they had banned me from taking a bath (no, seriously) and then stuck me at the bottom of the waiting list and buggered off. Then, as if entirely by magic, The Girl got a phone call saying someone would be with us in five weeks, to sort out the most immediate problems. You see? I'm always saying complaining works. Now if only that applied to the sodding Council. But I just can't be bothered to update on the train wreck that is a tiny reasonable adjustment to the side gate of my building, and the fact that a certain North London borough council keep giving me excuses for why they can't just get on with the bloody work. Um. Where was I? Ah yes, the OT. She was nice. A BSL user, so she came with an interpreter - I wished I had the confidence to say a few things in her language, but Stage 1 BSL has only really taught me how to say 'thank you', 'toilet' and 'turn left and the library is at the end of the corridor', so it would have been a limited conversation. Anyway, it was another round of the same sorts of detailed, slightly tortuous questions that I'm getting so used to, but it was worth it. I've now been promised a bath-board, plus a few other things including a trolley to carry things round on, if I want one (I'm considering it, although it may make me feel even more like an 80-year-old than I already do, but then it would also mean fewer cups of tea ending up all over the floor). She also had a look at the access arrangements for the flat, and she may be able to intervene with the Council for me. Hurray. Except that I got the impression it would take a long time. Of course. Nothing ever happens in less than six months. Ever.

Yesterday I also had a job interview. Yes, folks, I'm actually considering returning to the wonderful world of Being An Economically Useful Member of Society. It's scary, but generally a positive thought (at the moment, while actual work is still long ago enough that I don't remember how exhausting it all is). I could do the job with my eyes shut and my wheelchair batteries removed, but I'm not sure how much I really want it. The thought of taking less-than-exciting work, even if it's still in my general 'field' of education, is depressing me slightly at the moment. But of course, we all know the joy of the six months stuck in bed if I overdo it. Dilemmas, people. I'm applying for actual teaching jobs too, then we'll see how it all goes. Access to Work, and what they can help me with, might make or break it all yet.

Note to self, for future job interviews: Do not agree to hand-write a case study for half an hour. Remember to sit properly. Insist on regular breaks. And do not, ever, under any circumstances, let them make you sit a numeracy test. The helpful-sounding offer of “We’ll give you an extra half hour, since you’re dyspraxic” turns out only to extend the terrible pain. Argh.