Saturday, March 28, 2009

More PA Stuff

Wednesday was my second session with my PA. We went to the Pump Rooms in Leamington which is a sort of combination of art gallery, museum, library, tourist information desk, cafe, and function rooms. It was interesting, but in a slightly weird way.

We were wandering around looking at all the exhibits about the history of Leamington Spa, and of course a lot of that is information about, you know, the actual Spa part of it. Some of the more experimental equipment looked downright scary, but a lot of the descriptions made the spa experience seem like a lovely way to spend a day. The Victorian visitors to the spa would drink lots of water (although apparently it didn't taste very nice), and then you'd have a soak in this and a massage with that and a steam treatment over here and then you'd go through to a cooler room and relax on a sort of sun-lounger while someone brought you a drink and a snack. The place was purpose-built and therefore extraordinarily accessible, since a big chunk of the target market would by definition be elderly or infirm and therefore being wheeled about the place. However it is also beautiful, since another important aspect of its function was to be a pleasant and relaxing environment rather than a clinical one. Afterwards, you went across the road to Jephson Gardens to enjoy the gentle recreation and surroundings.

God, it sounded like bliss, the absolute art of relaxation. Which was the weird bit. To be a disabled and kind of stressed-out (don't ask) person, sitting in an accessible hydrotherapy and relaxation facility, which is no longer in use but gets given money to produce displays and information about how fabulous it once was...

I still haven't got the hang of having a PA yet, though. The problem isn't her - she's lovely and doing really well. I just can't seem to get my head around having an employee.

For example. On Wednesday, when we got back from our outing, I was feeling pretty rough, and I wanted a cup of tea. So while my PA brought in the wheelchair, I shuffled through to the kitchen and started trying to make a cuppa. I was visibly and obviously having trouble, and my PA asked if I'd like her to do it. Full marks to her for asking rather than muscling in. But I messed up - I autoresponded with "no, no, I can manage" just like I would if a friend was there.

But my PA is not there as a friend. She's there as an employee. Helping me with the normal stuff (like tea-making) that is difficult or painful for me to attempt to do is not an additional favour that I would be unreasonably demanding of a friend who has already put themselves out for me by taking me out. It is the entire reason she is there and is what she is getting paid for. It is unfair of me as an employer to expect her to stand around like a lemon watching me struggle when she is aware that her job description is to help me so that I don't have to struggle.

I really have to try and get to grips with the whole idea. Intellectually I get it, but in a more immediate sense, it's just... I get through my life by insisting that I am capable of being independent, that I can Do Things, although they might be more difficult or take longer. In my day-to-day life I do any number of things that are stupid or reckless or painful simply because they need doing and no one else is likely to do them - like hanging up laundry or heating up food or washing up dishes - and then I fall over or spill stuff or scald myself or break something - and then I basically yell at myself to stop being such a useless pansy and get the hell on with things. But it gets worse, because then on the occasions when I am offered help, I push it away! For instance, I'm so sick of people assuming that Steve does everything for me and waits on me hand and foot, that I overcompensate in trying to make sure he doesn't do anything of the sort. It's even worse with people I don't know well. Admitting I can't do stuff and asking for help is like doing a DLA form. I hate it. It makes me feel vulnerable. It's also really irrational and I need to find a way of sorting it out.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Good Start

Today was the first day with my new PA and I don't think it could have gone better.

She came round this morning, bang on time, which is always a good start. We spent a while going through the formal paperwork (and hooray for P at the Rowan for making sure I knew exactly what needed doing to each piece), and I also gave her the instructions for what to do in case of those little emergencies, so frequent in my life, that aren't 999 emergencies but involve me being too incapacitated to explain what's going on as the situation unfolds. I'd used an online translation tool to print up those instructions in both English and in her own first language, and she seemed a bit surprised by that, but in a good way. I was a bit concerned about whether it was the right approach - on the one hand, I wanted to be 100% sure she would know what to do in such a situation rather than have to translate as well as cope, on the other hand, I didn't want to seem patronising as her English is pretty good - but it seems to have gone okay.

After that, it was just a question of showing her how to take apart and reassemble the wheelchair and we were off and away into town. Nice and relaxed, we went into a few shops in the generally quite accessible central part of the town. She listened well to advice about how to best tackle certain obstacles (such as the trick of going backwards to get through a door with a lip), and in shops she was really good about browsing nearby without hovering over my shoulder or making me feel rushed.

The weather was gorgeous so we sat outside at the Olive Garden Café and I had some juice and a snack and enjoyed watching the world go by for a bit. Then we went to the park for a wander-around. Turns out this is something we have in common - we both love the sunshine.

I guess it sounds like a strange thing to get excited about. "It was my day off. The weather was nice. I went into town, looked in some shops, bought a couple of things, had something to eat, and then went to the park."

But the really exciting parts, you see, are things like:

  • I'm having a bit of trouble with my condition at the moment and usually that would prevent me from attempting to go out unless absolutely necessary, but today it didn't have to.

  • Usually at the park I'm feeling grateful and indebted to whoever is pushing me and feel bashful about giving directions (especially when I want to go uphill), but today I didn't have to, I could go wherever I wanted and that was very empowering. Of course I've done that on the scooter, but,

  • When I started to feel very unwell and crumpled up, I didn't have to try and find my way back to anywhere, or fend off any concerned passersby, or use up reserve spoons I don't have trying to cope, as someone was there to keep me safe and help me medicate and generally take charge of the situation.

  • Once I'd got home and rested, I woke up feeling my version of "normal", rather than having arms and legs screaming from the effort and wondering why I did this to myself just for an amble about. I should still feel alright tomorrow - I haven't overexerted myself for the sake of a watch battery and a cheese and ham panini.

Next week I think I might see about going swimming. I fear that part of me is going to run into trouble thinking of Things To Do, now that I have someone available to help me do them. Suggestions would be very, very welcome.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Nobody knows what's going on...

Being one who cannot walk or drive or use public transport, I sometimes make use of the local Community Taxi scheme. This is administered on behalf of the local council by a local football club whose premises are also used for all sorts of "community ventures". A journey by community taxi isn't as cheap as a bus, is only available during daytime hours, and you have to book a couple of days in advance, BUT it's door-to-door, it's guaranteed accessible and it's about half the price of a normal taxi, so swings and roundabouts. Generally, for unplanned things I need to use a normal taxi, but for planned things like say a dental appointment I use the community taxi. So far so good.

In February I got a letter from the football club telling me that the Service Level Agreement with the local council would expire at the end of March and that the council had decided it would not be renewed. The letter told me that the council would instead be issuing "taxi tokens" for people who could not make use of a bus pass.

Today is March 16th so there are 15 days left until the change from community taxi to taxi tokens. I still hadn't heard anything from the council, but we know that some of our post is *cough* going missing *cough* so I thought I'd phone the council to make sure I hadn't missed the letter and ask things like "what are taxi tokens?" and "when can I have some?"

The chap on the phone said they don't know what's happening yet. He said they were hoping a decision would be made within the next two weeks and that then people using the community taxi scheme would be written to and informed of what was going to happen. I don't know how long it will then take to physically distribute these "tokens" or where/how they might be redeemable.

So basically, having tossed the old system, which wasn't perfect but helped a lot of people, they hope they'll have decided what new system they want to use before the old system expires.

All of this makes me even happier to be able to report that it shouldn't bother me too much, because I now have a PA to take me places. She starts this week. A big round of applause for P at the Rowan Organisation who has very competently and patiently guided me through the entire process of getting Direct Payments and becoming an employer and hiring a PA, from advertising to insurance to contracts and everything else that goes with it. It's an awful lot to try and understand, especially with my brainfog on, but P has always been able to answer my questions and explain things clearly, thoroughly, and (this is important) without making me feel like a moron.

Regrettably the local council's SLA with the Rowan is also expiring at the end of March, so I'm losing the marvellously competent, efficient and trustworthy P, and in much the same way as no one can tell me about these taxi tokens, I still don't know who I'm getting transferred to instead to steer me through my first months as an employer.

I fear April may be Interesting.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Knitting - G1 cosy

G1 cosy - front
Originally uploaded by girl_of_bats
I've recently upgraded my phone to a G1, and one thing about the G1, there aren't a lot of cases available. It comes with a plain black neoprene sleeve to protect it from knocks, but I wanted something a bit more personal, so I made this. It makes use of deliberate mistakes and was inspired by Kate Haxell's "sheryl" bag in issue 14 of Let's Knit! (Jan 2009). I made it with DK yarn leftovers that I happened to have handy, but I'm considering making another one with purpose-bought yarns, maybe in more summery colours.


Just under two 1/2 skeins (60 yds each) of dk yarn in contrasting colours. I used Rowan RYC Extra Fine Merino DK in red (Yarn A) and Rowan Pure Wool DK in indigo (Yarn B). Any DK yarn should be fine.

4mm needles (or size needed to get gauge)
3.5mm needles (or a size or two smaller than previous needles)
Cable needle
Tapestry needle for sewing up

This phone cosy is knit as a single strip of fabric, folded once, and sewn up the long sides. It is supposed to be in addition to the functional-but-boring case provided. It has one decorative side, and one tighter-knit and plainer side, to protect the screen of the G1 if you aren't using the original case.

Using larger needles and Yarn A, cast on 22sts.

Row 1: (k1, p1) to end. Repeat for a further 9 rows (moss stitch).

Starting with a k row, work 6 rows st st.

Row 17: k7, c6f (put 3 sts on the cable needle and hold at front of work, k the next 3 sts, then k the 3 sts from the cable needle), k to end.

Row 18: p

Row 19: k9, m1, k to end.

Starting with a p row, work 5 rows st st.

Row 25: k15, p1, k1, p1, k to end.
Row 26: p3, k1, p1, k1, p1, k1, p to end.
Repeat these two rows twice more.

Row 31: k3, switch to Yarn B (YB) k3, switch to Yarn A (YA), k to end.
Row 32: p16, YB, p3, YA, p3.
Repeat these two rows once.

Row 35: k3, YB, k3, YA, k3, drop stitch (DON'T PANIC! This is the m1 stitch from row 19 and so will only unravel back that far), knit the next stitch tightly, k to end.

Row 36: p15, YB, p3, YA, p to end.
Row 37: k3, YB, k3, YA, k to end.
Repeat these two rows once.

Row 40: p15, YB, p3, YA, p to end carrying YB behind work to end of row.

Row 41 (YB) purl. This forms the fold line for the bottom edge of the case.
Row 42: purl, and switch to smaller needles.

Row 43 (and all odd rows): k3, YA, k3, YB, k to end.
Row 44 (and all even rows): p15, YA, p3, YB, p to end.

Repeat these two rows until the second half of the case is the same length as the first, not including the moss stitch section. For me, with these yarns, this took me to row 76. Carry Yarn A to the end of the final row.

Row 77: YA, change to larger needles, knit to end.

Row 78: (k1, p1) to end. Repeat for a further 9 rows (moss stitch).

Row 88: Cast off.

Making up: fold the fabric at the fold line and sew the two long edges using mattress stitch. Sew in ends. Make sure the dropped stitch has laddered properly, back to the cable. Tie a little of yarn B around the cable, or any other adornments you want.