Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Quiz Question IV

Unsurprisingly, the burn in test result was a FAIL. In two-inch high, black and red flashing letters.

We recorded the session but at present we're unsure of legal ramifications and so are not yet posting it on the web. But here's a quick rundown of what happened:

The engineer turned up and turned on the monitor and saw "FAIL". That's when the excuses started. "That one's just the A-drive, because it didn't have a disk in it probably, and the CD drive, because that didn't have a disk in it either, ah, that one's the sound card..." and then he trailed off.

Next time he spoke, it was to express surprise at how slowly the machine was running. He agreed with us that we had not touched it since he left the previous day.

Steve told him that we had had enough. Forget fixing the thing - we wanted the shop to take the computer back and to give the owners their money back and call it quits. This is part of why I have not yet disclosed the name, address, website, etc of the shop in question - I have been hoping that things can be sorted out amicably.

At this point the engineer - who yesterday had been trying to befuddle us - started up on a theme of "I agree, I'm on your side". On the recording he can clearly be heard making the statement "I'll be honest with you, I came back here this morning half-expecting it not to work." He also made a couple of other comments about how he would feel and behave if all these problems were happening with a computer he had bought. However he preceded these with "off the record, and please don't quote me..." so I shouldn't really document precisely what was said. He insisted that he was just an engineer, and as such had no way of getting our money back, so he couldn't make any promises or take the computer away, we would have to speak directly to the manager. We agreed that the engineer had half an hour to call the shop and report the failure of the test to the manager, and then we would phone to discuss things.

I am extremely glad it was Steve who handled that phone call as it would have left me floored and god knows what it would have done to the owners of the computer.

The manager refused all suggestion of taking the computer back in exchange for a refund. He then accused us of tinkering with it, cited the "favour" he had done the owners by "repairing" the computer after the owners "messed it up" (trying to repair it themselves with the Windows disk). The pièce de résistance had to be when he told Steve that the computer had left his shop with all the hardware components it was supposed to have and therefore someone outside the shop must have tinkered with it - to us this sounded a lot like he was accusing us of opening it up, deliberately stealing pieces of hardware, and causing the issues ourselves, deliberately (I'm not sure why we'd do that?). Steve was shocked at this and asked him to clarify that this was what he meant. The statement was repeated, and not retracted.

The outcome of the conversation was an agreement that we should bring the computer in (again), he would test it (again), and call us by lunchtime the following day. If he found ANY problems with the machine, the owners would get a full refund. If not, the machine would be returned to us as a fully working, as-specified computer.

Ladies and gentlemen, place your bets...

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Quiz Question III

At this point I decided enough was enough. The owners of the computer were getting increasingly upset, not to mention the fact they'd been charged an additional £20 to "fix" the computer that hadn't worked since day one - but the "fixing" had evidently been ineffectual since the computer still didn't work.

So at their request, I took over things, and phoned the shop and asked to speak to the owner/manager/director by name. After all, I considered him to be a reasonable bloke, someone I and my friends had done business with in a very happy manner for a number of years. Perhaps all these problems were simply bad luck, the expansion of the business, maybe understaffing or staff sickness, the run up to Christmas, whatever. This was about my birthday, so I figured the Christmas stuff should have all been dealt with and we would be able to get a result.

The manager was as apologetic to me as I would have expected. As I detailed the catalogue of problems - and just kept going, and going, and going - he kept expressing how very sorry he was, how he didn't want to lose a customer, how he would like it if the owners of the computer could come in so he could apologise in person... we agreed that Steve and I would bring the computer into the shop, and he would test every individual component and then the whole system, at no charge. The thoroughness of testing necessary would mean the computer would have to stay in the shop a couple of days and he hoped that would be alright. Steve and I brought him the computer and all the driver disks, etc, that went with it, left my contact details and went on our way.

Two weeks passed and we were all starting to wonder why none of us had heard from the shop. Eventually, the owners of the computer phoned the shop to ask how things were going.

Owner #1 was told on the phone that the computer was ready for collection, that it had been tested "more than any other computer we've had in here before" and that no problems had been found.

Owner #2 then drove to the shop to pick up the machine. He was told that they had found a couple of problems with things that had been installed but it was all sorted out now.

I do not know which of these is the truth.

Upon being asked what would happen if it still didn't work, the manager suggested to the owners that "maybe it just doesn't like your wallpaper or something". He said that if there was a problem, he would send an engineer round, and if it was the shop's fault, this would be free, and if it was the computer owners' fault, he would charge them.

In other words, this computer that they paid £450 for (it didn't work), then paid £20 to have it repaired (and it didn't work), they may well have to pay even more for (and will it work then?).

This is turning out to be a very expensive doorstop.

With that in mind, the owners didn't plug it in straight away, but waited a couple of days until Steve (eg a qualified person) could set up and test the computer for them at their own home. That was today. Steve approached the problem from the beginning. He plugged in the bare essentials of monitor, speakers, keyboard and mouse (so no printer, no internet, no USB add-ons of any sort that could be blamed) and started up the machine.

First test, he ran the antivirus scan. It worked! It completed the scan! That's the best performance we've had out of this machine so far! Things were looking hopeful... did the owners, almost three months after paying for it, finally have a working computer? Next he started up Windows Media Player, playing one of the sample songs that is preloaded on any Windows machine. The music played! How encouraging! He clicked the visualisation to go full-screen... and that's when it crashed, Blue Screen Of Death, approximately twenty minutes after being started up.

Off and on again, and then more playing about with the things that had already been put on the computer at the shop, eg Paint. This time it lasted very nearly an hour before BSODing.

Finally, Steve decided to have a look at the system spec. That was when we discovered more discrepancies.

1. The owners had requested, and paid for, a gig of RAM. The computer contained 512mb.

2. The owners are really into their music and had specifically asked for a good sound card. However the machine was using onboard sound.

3. That said, there was a spangly 256mb graphics card in there. Which I am sure lots of people would appreciate, however, the owners of the computer don't play any games beyond Freecell and Solitaire. A nice graphics card was not on their specification and is frankly no use to them.

We did wonder briefly if we had picked up the wrong machine - but no, the owners' names and so on were all on there correctly. We phoned the shop to confirm the spec that had been asked for, and sure enough, the machine we had plugged in did not match the spec. That was enough. In no way could it be "our fault" that the machine wasn't as per spec, so the shop could bloody well sort it out. One of their engineers was dispatched to the house.

After an insistence that the router had been set up wrong (funny how every other computer can use it, and anyway, we haven't even tried to connect to the router yet this time) and a brave attempt to insist that the computer had booted up fine and therefore was "working perfectly", the engineer realised that Steve was keeping up with all the techno-bull-sh*t he was trying to confound us with and not swallowing any of it, and asked if Steve did this for a living?

His face went... interesting... when Steve responded "actually I'm a [company] network engineer." He made some more efforts to blag his way out of it but ended up by putting a "burn in test" onto the computer from his own USB stick. It was agreed to leave this test running overnight - he started it up and then with his approval the screen was turned off. The machine is being left on overnight, exactly according to his instructions.

He will return to the house tomorrow morning, to see the results of the test and fit the missing RAM. We will be there too. It will be interesting to see what the result is.

How much coffee should we allow Steve before the showdown tomorrow morning?
Should we videotape it?

Monday, January 29, 2007

Quiz Question II

Okay, thank you for your answers to the previous post.

The first two problems with the computer were:

1. The build sheet had included a 3 1/2 inch floppy disk drive, since several important and often-updated files were kept on floppy disks. However, this was missing.

However this was not terribly important, in fact it was forgotten, as
2. The CD/DVD drive wasn't working. Therefore none of the home software (for instance, the drivers for the printer or the wireless doodah) could be installed. Nor could files from CDs be put on the computer.

Back to the shop, where they took out the CD/DVD drive and replaced it, same day and free of charge.

This rather important issue being dealt with, the owners of the computer (one hopes they can be considered to own it - they paid several hundred pounds by credit/debit card, but are still, a couple of months on, waiting for any paperwork beyond the card slip) took it home, plugged it in, and tried again.

Do you think it worked properly this time?

No, of course not.

Let's consider what the computer-owners asked for.

"I want to use it to access the internet."
The house has a wireless internet connection set up. It was set up by Steve. Steve is a networks engineer by trade. It is fairly safe to say he knew what he was doing. There is a desktop pc at the house (running XP Home) using that connection with no problems at all. It also has been cheerfully used in a problem-free way by four different laptops and two different sorts of PDAs. The internet connection is sound.

This little computer though, once we had installed the antivirus recommended by the shop, and installed the drivers for the wireless... decided to play silly buggers. It would run MSN messenger, for instance, but none of your contacts could see you were online. It would also run Internet Explorer, but after a short period of time (usually about two minutes, sometimes less, occasionally as long as 45 minutes but that was a maximum), the program would crash, and sometimes the computer would Blue Screen Of Death as well.

They tried installing FireFox. Same thing happened to that as had happened to IE. Standard, reliable, "safe" sites, google, eBay, BBC News, crash, crash, crash.

They decided to cut their losses and use the non-internet functions and ask Steve to check the network.

"I want to use basic office software."
Crash. Lockup. Blue Screen Of Death.

They tried to run the virus scan. It wouldn't complete the scan, it just crashed. Repeatedly.

They tried to run Scandisk and Defragmentation. Crash, crash, crash.

Finally, they recalled that the Windows XP disk had a "repair" function and decided to do that. They put in the CD... but it DIDN'T have a repair function. It did, however, suggest reinstalling Windows. So they decided to try that.

Crash. Blue Screen Of Death.

At this point they gave up and took it back to the shop. The people at the shop asked what had happened and agreed to fix it. Technically one would hope that, it being only about a month since they'd bought it, and certainly less than a month since a working CD drive was put in, it would still be under warranty (although of course they have no paperwork).

No. They were told that normally bench-time would be £40, but "because you've admitted what you did to mess it up" they would "only" be charged £20.

For some reason it was impossible to explain to the shop in a way they could understand that it was messed up before anyone did anything to it...

Anyway, to avoid confrontation (the owners were getting quite upset at effectively being told "it's your fault the brand-new computer doesn't work"), they paid up the £20 and took the computer home, again.

Who thinks it worked right this time?
Is it unreasonable to expect something you have purchased to do the things the retailer said it would do?
What would you have done at this point?

edit 12:13 on 30/01/07
Apparently the owners of the computer never got a credit card slip either. But it is on the credit card statement they have since received.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Quiz Question

Imagine you are in the market for a new computer, after your old one has succumbed to the ravages of time and given up.

You go to a local computer dealer who has been a pleasure to do business with for several of your friends and family. Unto him you say,
"I want to buy a new computer. I want to use it to access the internet, manage my music collection, and use basic office software for writing letters and managing my household finances."

The computer dealer asks you a few questions and then creates and prints out a couple of build-sheets with price quotes. You peruse these, pick one, and ask him to go ahead and build it (and to install the relevant OS and other basic software included on your personalised build sheet).

Some time later, a man from the computer dealer comes to your house with your shiny new computer. Hurrah!

Now for the question.

Read the above background information carefully, and give a brief description of what you would expect this new computer to be able to do. Answers should be submitted via the comments form. Extra points may be awarded for wit and creativity.

Monday, January 22, 2007


I first saw this over a year ago.

It still pleases me immensely.

Requires sound. Not suitable for work.

You have been warned.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Accessibility, Equality and the Need To Pee

If I'm feeling well enough to, say, go out for dinner, then I'm probably feeling well enough to walk (with my stick, but nevertheless walk) from the carpark to the restaurant, rather than use up a load of energy assembling and dismantling the wheelchair. I'm extremely lucky to have that option.

I do still need to use some of the concessions available for disabled people though. I need to park in a space close to the restaurant, for instance, with enough room for Steve/Pip/whoever to open the car door wide and help me to get out. I don't use my blue badge frivolously, we even usually pay for a parking token at car parks in which we could park for free - but I have no qualms about using it when it is necessary.

And I generally use the disabled loo. At first I wouldn't unless I was actually in my wheelchair - the disabled loo, I felt, was for people in wheelchairs who needed lots of space to maneouver, and I would not want to be taking up a resource I had no real claim on which other people needed. What changed my mind was that I kept falling into the flimsy chipboard from which the cubicles are constructed. This was upsetting other toilet users in the vicinity, particularly since the Inside-the-cubicle-view was "someone just banged on the partition and oh my god, now there's a hand coming through the gap between partition and floor, some pervert is trying to get into the cubicle with me!!" (although in fairness, when that particular woman saw that the hand and wrist she was stamping on wasn't moving, she investigated further and was very helpful as I regained consciousness). I decided to start using the disabled loos, with solid walls and useful grab-rails.


Within a few months I had changed my opinion entirely. The disabled loo is NOT for people in wheelchairs. The disabled loo in the majority of establishments is there to meet a requirement. If I had no legs, or my legs had no movement at all, it would be taking my life in my hands to attempt to use the facilities.


Toilets that wheelchairs can't get to.
"Where is the disabled toilet, please?"
"Just up those stairs... oh."
I wish I was joking.

The other version of this is:
"Just up those stairs, but we have a Stannah stairlift, hang on."
(Much faff trying to remember how the stairlift works)
"Right, that's me up to the top of the stairs, now what about my wheelchair?"

Seats you can't sit on.
Or more specifically, seats which aren't fixed to the loo and slide out to the side if your weight isn't perfecly balanced. To pull oneself sideways onto a seat like this from a wheelchair seat is asking for trouble.

Grab rails you can't grab.
Places buy a standard set of assorted grab rails. I have seen several loos where you cannot reach the grab rails from the seat. They have been put where it is convenient to put them rather than where they are needed. Even better is when the rails are not fixed to the wall. I saw many forms of vandalism in The Ladies, but it takes a very special vandal to go around with a toolkit and undo all the bolts they can find.

Emergency Assistance cords you can't pull.
Disabled loos are required to have an emergency pull cord in case anyone is hurt or injured in the disabled loo - for instance, if the floor is wet and slippery (as it usually is) and your wheelchair, despite having the brakes on, goes skidding out from under you when you try to transfer. These cords are supposed to be bright glow-in-the-dark orange, with a plastic circle or triangle so that you do not have to be able to grip a string in your fingers to pull it. They are also supposed to reach all the way to the floor, since the floor is where a disabled person is most likely to be if they've just had a nasty accident and need assistance.

I see a lot of them looped up high out of reach ("so that people can't pull them" apparently, which rather defeats the object), or dangling in the corner behind the loo, so pulling them either means being able to stand and lean into the corner, or, from the floor, cuddling up to the porcelain trying desperately to reach past the pipework. I've also seen some where the fitting is there, but no cord, "because the orange didn't fit in with the decor."

Even if the establishment isn't actively trying to maim you in one of these ways, they're still likely to try and get you on disgust or embarassment that an able-bodied person wouldn't put up with - and isn't asked to put up with either. "These facilities are checked and cleaned regularly." I really, really have trouble believing that.

The Baby-changing Room.
Anyone who has kids knows that on a regular basis they produce real humdingers of nappy-contents. If they do one of these poops at home, then the parent generally scrapes off the nappy, cleans the child with babywipes, puts all of this into a scented and sealed nappy baggie and THEN immediately runs with it to put it in a bin with a lid at the far end of the yard, and this is only because they lack the facilities to seal it in lead and concrete and dump it in the North Sea.

In a disabled loo/baby-changing room, they leave it sitting on the opened-out change table (which is usually just the right height to hit the head of anyone in a wheelchair, and also can't be folded back up by anyone who can't stand). The reason they leave it on the change table is because the nappy-bin is full of, and wedged open with, similar offerings. Nice.

The Love Shack.
How anyone can want to have sex in a toilet cubicle is beyond me. It's hardly comfortable, or romantic, is it? What is even further beyond me, is why people who enjoy having sex in toilet cubicles would leave the used condom in the sink. Ew.

Please Miss, can I go to the bathroom?
Sometimes, in a bid to stop it being used for babychanges, illicit sexual relations, able-bodied people who simply can't be bothered to walk the extra steps or wait thirty seconds for the Gents/Ladies, etc, the disabled loo is locked.

The correct way of doing this is with a RADAR lock. Disabled people may obtain a RADAR key from the RADAR website (you only pay something like £3.50 postage), or from local disability organisations which may be able to provide them free of charge. These keys are also used for assistance bells (when, for instance, a pub in a listed/inaccessible building doesn't want passing kids ringing the assistance bell, they can fit a bell which can only be activated by a RADAR key).

I'll explain why having a RADAR lock is important.

If an able-bodied person wants the loo, they excuse themselves from the table, find the Ladies or Gents, open the door, do what they do, and come back to the table.

If I want the loo, I excuse myself from the table, find the disabled loo, flip the lock with my handy RADAR key, do what I do, and come back to the table having locked the door behind me.

If the lock isn't RADAR though, it goes more like this: Excuse self from table, find the disabled loo, try key, swear under breath. Find member of staff. Say "Please miss, I need the loo (a phrase I thought I wouldn't have to use any more after primary school), can I have the key please?". Have minor debate about whether I'm "really" disabled and "can't you just use the regular loo? Why not?" before being told the key is kept at the bar and I will have to ask there. Get to bar - did I mention walking is painful and difficult for me? Queue for attention - did I mention that standing for any period of time is painful and difficult for me? Ask for key. Ask for key again, louder, upon which everyone's attention is drawn to the inevitable debate about my level of disability and toilet needs again. Finally get handed a key attached to an "anti-theft device", generally a large yellow rubber duck, the idea being that I won't then be able to walk off with their precious key. Traverse restaurant with big bright duck in tow. Unlock door, do what I do, return to table (I tend to leave the door unlocked and the duck in there - save some embarassment for the next disabled sod who comes along).

This is not equality.

I'm going to stop ranting about toilets now, but if anyone reading this works in a public-use building, perhaps you're the cleaner or perhaps you're the owner or perhaps, heaven help you, you're in charge of Health and Safety, please just think about things like this for thirty seconds.

Also, let me know if you find any places which don't have ANY of the above problems. I promise to be impresssed.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Sorry this post has been such a long time coming. I've been trying to recover from Christmas, New Year and birthday, and fighting a bit of a sniffle, while still keeping on top of things like doing the dishes and whatnot. Looking at the computer screen has been causing problems.

Anyway, Steve and his plotting. He'd spent pretty much all of the Saturday (the day before my birthday) out with Pip, so that I could get some big proper rest in and they could scheme and connive.

We went to mum's house, where everyone except my stepdad was feeling much better. I got a gift token for my favourite massage place - well, I say "gift token", mum had expected to go in and buy some sort of monetary-value voucher, you know, "£20 towards treatments at..." Instead Jane asked her to choose a blank-inside greetings card, and then asked her to please come back the next day so she could "do it properly". The result is a beautifully calligraphed card, not even fill-in-name-here type of thing but all written out nicely. Apparently mum felt awful about scrawling "with love from Mum xxx" on it, even though her handwriting isn't bad.

Mum also suggested we go on a bit of a shopping trip at some point, which will be nice. Alas, we both have to be feeling well enough for it, so this may be more "Easter" or even "Summer" than "January sales".

Steve encouraged me to have a nap before we had to set off for the "lunch appointment", which turned out to be at a nice restaurant with Steve, Pip and the Littlun. That was when I got my presents. Pip is a bit skint at the moment, but he'd got me a bag of my favourite dark chocolate from my very favourite chocolate shop. I always get a very little bit when I'm in that part of the city, but this is a big bag. I have declared birthday chocolate to have no calories and am thus able to fully enjoy it.

The other gift in the bag was from Steve. A box containing a brightly coloured wooden duck-on-a-string, on wheels. This is the first gift Steve gave me on Kingdom Of Loathing, (in a virtual sense - it's a handy weapon in the game) and so he wanted to get me a real one. So far so sweet, and I was very happy, and I assumed that was where the swimming reference came in: duck, water, wet.

I was then encouraged to get the ducky out of the box, to play with it. That's when I found another present, inside the duck packaging - a little jeweller's box containing a gorgeous pair of diamond earrings. I was beyond gobsmacked by then. Pip and Steve gleefully told me about the look on the jeweller's face when he offered to gift-wrap the earrings (cinnamon stick anyone?) and they cheerfully announced that they already had their own packaging and plonked Ducky onto the counter. I get the impression it may have made Pip's year...

After lunch, Pip whisked the littlun off "for his nap", there's wishful thinking as, at two and a bit, Littlun is starting to feel that he doesn't really need a nap most days (instead he starts to grump and rub his eyes at about 4pm, until the dinner-bath-bed routine starts). Steve and I got into Steve's car, and he told me to pick some music for about 45 minutes worth of drive, during which I may want to nap.

Just under an hour later, we pulled up here. Not only that, but we were booked into a big, and I mean BIG suite. Four-poster bed, couches, chairs, a chaise longue, and a bathroom with a shower cubicle, two sinks, and a whirlpool bathtub bigger than the whole bathroom in my flat!

The next 24 hours were pure decadence. Steve had sneakily packed me my stuff, pills and whatnot, while I was napping, and we were able to buy me a surprisingly-not-hideously-overpriced swimsuit at the hotel so I could enjoy the leisure centre (this is the one bit where the Sprowston Manor falls down - the accessibility around the leisure centre is a nightmare). We had a good time splashing about and then went back up to the room to de-chlorinate in the amazing bathroom before dinner. Dinner was a wonderful four-course job in the hotel's lovely restaurant, and we even had late check-out so we could have a lie-in, take our time over breakfast, and have a really leisurely bath before gathering up our stuff and leaving. Steve even offered to take me into Norwich for lunch and shopping, but I was just too tired (although I realise this makes me a disgrace to womankind).

I don't believe I've ever been quite so spoiled. It was great! :)

Now all I have to do is work out what I should do for Steve's birthday, in February. Eep.

Sunday, January 07, 2007


Happy Birthday to Me,
Happy Birthday to Me,
Happy Birthday dear Mary
Happy Birthday to Me!

Steve has already given me cuddles and brought me a cup of tea in bed. Now I'm up, and I've had my weetabix, and I'm ready to face the world... I hope! He's planning something. Apparently we go to see my parents this morning (they're feeling much better now), and then I have "a lunch appointment" but he won't tell me where or what happens next. I've had to pick out a spare outfit, including shoes, "in case I get wet" and he asked if I had a swimsuit, but when I said it was at his he said it didn't matter.


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Epic Journey

or, Popping To The Shop For Some Milk.

It's my own fault really. I decided I was going to be so big and clever and go to the shop for some milk. Ordinarily when feeling like this I'd have asked mum to pick me up some when she next went, but since mum (and everyone else) is ill then in my eternal wisdom I figured I would take the chance.

The result was me spending half an hour slumped on the stairs of my flat block, with several bruises and a wet arse.

I managed to get TO the shop. Then I had a little rest perched on a kickstool, and then I got my milk and left.

Halfway back (and this is a journey of maybe 50 yards) my legs went out from under me. I caught myself with the nearest wall and then sat on a step for a minute. That's where the wet arse came from.

Into the flat block, across to the stairway, and started climbing on all fours. Perhaps I wasn't concentrating as much as I should have been because I got most of the way up and then my legs went again and a wonderful tangle of me, carrier-bag, and walking stick went bouncing down the stairs, nearly to the bottom. I now have bruises all down my right-hand side.

After getting my breath back, I started to rather awkwardly climb again, but three steps later I nearly threw up with the combination of dizziness and headache and two steps on from that I actually lost consciousness for a moment or two. That was the point at which I decided that maybe I should call for a bit of help after all.

And THAT was the point at which I discovered my mobile phone has no reception in the stairway of this block of flats.

I think if I'd screamed and shouted "help! help!" then someone from one of the flats might have come to see what the problem was, but I'd really rather save that for when it's needed, pools of blood and broken bones and so on.

So I sat there.

And I sat there.

And I still didn't feel any better, so I sat there.

A quick look at my receipt showed I'd left the shop at 11 o'clock. It was now half past. I decided to climb again, resting on each step for a minute instead of attempting a continuous climb. I got to the top and lay there in the hallway for a bit before crawling to the door, unlocking it, and crawling directly into bed.

I've had sleep and painkillers and dry clothes and a chat with Steve now, but it really really pisses me off when stuff like this happens, and it's happening far too regularly, and there's sod-all I can do about it. Gaaa.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


I'm about to write a sentence I didn't think I was going to get the chance to write in the forseeable future. Wait for it...

I am currently the healthiest member of my family!

They've all got the lurgy, some kind of horrible flu-type thing. First to succumb was Little Sis, who came home from work unexpectedly a few days ago while I was having a cup of tea with mum. She staggered in on the arm of her current boyfriend (also co-worker), who'd driven her home after their boss basically told her to go home, go directly home, do not pass Go, do not collect £200, and get into her bed with a hot drink and some Beechams. She was not in a good way. Shivering, fever, face and glands all puffy, nose running like a tap, kept falling into things, the lot.

She's not good with being ill at the best of times - a stubbed toe can be a calamity sometimes, unless she has a party to go to - and I think that's why mum seemed to be swaying between "oh god, Mary's illness started with flu, what if it happens to her too?!" and "good grief, she didn't milk it this much when she was a four-year-old!" (these are paraphrases).

Then mum came down with it, two days later, and combined with other stuff that's up, she's become totally laid up in bed. That's not like her at all. A few years back there was a possibility of her needing spinal surgery (didn't happen in the end) and the biggest problem was going to be how on earth to get her to lie down for several weeks.

And now my stepdad thinks he's getting it too. He's getting something - he's diabetic and whenever he's fighting a bug of some sort his sugar levels go wacky, and they've been doing that since just before Christmas, but now he's starting to feel rough as well.

I've been laid up most of today anyway, but that's just the usual mundane ME/CFS symptoms letting me know they haven't abandoned me, and since I've got all this stuff*, and have developed alternative ways of Doing Things, I've still been able to shuffle round the flat, get a drink, eat a sandwich, etc. I'm 85% certain I'm not infected. I hope I get a good day tomorrow though, because it's hard to think of anything that would be quite as satisfying as ringing them up and me being the one saying "do you need me to get you anything from the shop?" That said, I reckon that my stepdad's sense of humour would lead him to ask for six pints of milk and ten pounds of potatoes, so perhaps I'll save it until Pip can help me.

*I have cheered up considerably since I posted that photo, now I think of it as useful stuff that helps me have a better quality of life, rather than a depressing indication of how much my life has changed. And I have better flat shoes now, too.