The silence is so Loud though.

I have three windows that overlook a path which leads down to the River Almond, a haven for walkers, families, dogs and sometimes even horses. There is also a kick pitch and tennis court located there so, despite it being a dead end, cars do congregate there albeit in low numbers to use the services or access the river walk. This same path also provides a short cut to the main shopping area and industrial estate, for all of those people living on the west side of the Village. All of this contributes to a miasma of people, vehicles and animals passing by our windows, albeit colourful but with monotonous regularity. A couple of years ago we purchased shutters since many of the walkers feel the need to nosey in as they pass by. And since two of the windows are on the kitchen we might be mid meal when this happens. Not that we use them all the time but increasingly privacy has become necessary as the better weather invites increased numbers of people tracking back and forth and the peering eyes were becoming tiresome.

All of this is a daily feature of life at the Danders, except that is for Christmas Day. Not for the first time on Christmas Day I have been struck by the loudness of the silence. No one walking dogs, no-one driving past, no one out for a river walk. The silence of Christmas Day has a rich quality that conflates with the magic of Christmas morning, adding to the weight of serenity and anticipation of the day ahead. A feast for the ears. it is broken only by the clanging of a single bell from the local Church announcing Christs birth and the beginning of the service. I have always noticed this silence and valued it, appreciating what it adds to my experience of Christmas. But it’s now something we are experiencing daily as part of Lockdown and I fear not only that the magic of that one day has been stolen, but strangely I am longing for the noise, the detritus of community life to return.

The first notable silence was created by the lack of flights, we do sit beneath one of the routes into Edinburgh Airport. This is not so much about the noise but the constant sight of aircraft coming and going and the wistful envy to be aboard the ones heading out at least. The vehicles were next; the growl of the engines, dependent on the age of the drivers, signal the speed, age of the driver and make of the approaching vehicle before we see it. For some vehicles it was so regular we knew just from looking at the clock who was coming and going from the neighbours across the bridge, to the man walking dogs as a business. It is a dead end and walkers often stroll carefree on this road, the corner concealing the walkers aided by the neighbours fence, which does not provide any signs warning “SLOW DOWN pedestrians” and so we often watch heart in mouth as some cars increase the revs as the downslope appears. It can be such a hazard when you cannot see ahead of you but thankfully we have yet to experience any causing any harm. Now only the Police Cars are making that journey, prowling for any of the rule-breakers.

Lone walkers, (presumably they are heading to work given their backpacks) heads down, earphones protruding either linked to their phones by wires or Bluetooth, getting in the zone for the day ahead, have been massively reduced in numbers as the economic shutdown has taken hold. Cyclists on the other hand, have remained a constant feature, the Lycra wearing cyclists mainly, usually serious about their activity and seeking the thrill of endurance. Since we are on the R75, the main cycle path between Glasgow and Edinburgh, the Lycra wearing cyclists are fairly frequent. Now they are joined by those families eager to break the chains of Lockdown, some with helmets some without, none with Lycra, most with jeans, many with children in tow can be seen tackling the Brae up from the River. Chatter seems to cease ahead of the Brae as all energies are garnered as they prepare to tackle the steep hill or Brae leading to the choice of routes to either the east or west.

Families and dog walkers, of course have continued to feature just in greater numbers. An assortment of woolly hats, bulky jackets, prams and scooters toddle past at a leisurely pace. Even in the good weather this is the attire (we are in Scotland!) If I am in the kitchen I am 4 feet higher and look down on them like a giant. This can be quite frightening for the little ones so in these difficult times I needed to show my friendly side. I now have a rainbow thanks to my young neighbour and that delights the children as they add it to their counting list, pausing for a moment to admire it. Sometimes my grandchildren wander past out with their mum, dad and the dog. Well every other day actually. I can hear the wee tiger cub and the mermaid calling in unison “GRAN” ( please note not Papa aka the Lion, they know where the bread is buttered) as they approach in the hope we are close enough to hear them. We often make a joke that the three windows onto the path are a bit like a trip to MacDonalds. And so it is that they stop at each window to put in an order for the chocolate biscuit and a drink. Since Lockdown the shutters are gathering dust, standing open at all times, demonstrating the need for contact through a socially acceptable distance and because we now appreciate the passers by waving in, smiling and peering in as such a welcome addition to our day.

Lockdown, like any other circumstance that forces change, of course has it’s benefits. Taking the passers-by and the noisy landscape for granted demonstrates how much we relied on it in the past, and missed it when it was gone. Something so simple that puts us back in our box, longing to make eye contact with other people, longing to hear aircraft filling our skies, longing to hear and see our grandchildren for more than a biscuit.

We ourselves have also been out and about waving and smiling at others we pass at a safe distance. We have also been taking time to stop if a face appears in the window, seeking to reassure them that life is still going on despite the national crisis and if they are OK or need anything. Our daily exercise a much needed escape from the confines of the Danders, which despite being my Shangri-La, does not respond too well to the lack of people within it. And so it was we were out for our daily exercise, a good five miles moving at a reasonable pace when quite innocuously my hip went snap….. the sair leg was back again, just like that, and suddenly I could walk no further………

Christmas at the Danders

The big hamstring update, Merry Christmas everyone. Chapter 31

It’s now been 17 weeks since my accident so before we say goodbye to what has been our very own annus horribilis perhaps it’s time for a final update, to give those who have followed my story some christmas cheer . It is actually a good time to do this as I had my first real physio appointment yesterday. After weeks of this horrendous stage 3 hamstring injury how far have I come? Have I done as well as expected? Would life ever be the same again? Well I am pleased to share some good news with you at last, we are going out on positive note.

For the last two weeks, I have been managing around the house without crutches, the home physio team were more than helpful in setting me on the path to this independence. Small flexion exercises and encouragement from my Lion made this transition seamless. I am now able to make dinner, sit at the table ( albeit for a limited time) and more importantly lie on my side in my bed. Ah the simple things we take for granted!! After we had to cut our Caribbean holiday short because of my father in laws recent fall, the home physio team from the NHS came back for a second visit and were delighted with my progress, particularly managing without the crutches. And tout suite I was discharged back to the hospital physio where the real work could begin.

But first I had a big test, our regular catch up with old work colleagues, affectionately refereed to as the ‘tapas crew’, was planned for 15 December. This was a daunting prospect for me because the meal was in Edinburgh and of course this meant I had to revisit the scene of this terrible accident and this particular meeting (other than the delight of seeing good friends) can be a wine fest. It had been almost 14 weeks since I had a proper drink, so this, aside from the good points, had all the makings of it being a disaster.

The simplest of train journey’s was one of mixed emotion; I could remember so well that fateful day, messaging my family, responding to emails, making plans for the future and, I thought, well prepared for the torrential rain. Today I wasn’t travelling alone, my Lion was by my side and was an assured presence, and I had crutches. The train station was busy with people and I was instantly overwhelmed, terrified I would be knocked over or trip, it was the weirdest feeling. But the crutches were akin to having the power of Moses, and on sight of these I was able to part the crowds.

I should have known the day would have gone well these friends, who started out as work colleagues, are now among my closest friends. Their support as with so many others, had been incredible and mattered so much on my lowest days. We had a great time and after much chat, laughter and copious amounts of wine we opted for safety and took a taxi home. Another day and another achievement, it had made me feel almost normal.

This was the last day I took painkillers, I only had them in the morning that day. And since then have managed without them. For the last week I have only taken them on the very odd occasion when I have over done it. Admittedly there have been times when small changes or improvements lull me into a false feeling that I’m back to normal, only to find actually I’m not that well yet and I need to remember to take time. The date of the physio was looming and I was looking forward to making it into the actual appointment and staying for the duration.

The Lion dropped me off, and I confidently strode into the hospital. I didn’t falter, I made my way directly there without stopping and took a chair and waited comfortably for the therapist to appear. She was instantly delighted at how I responded to her arrival, I stood up with ease, I walked toward her without hesitating and she had a look of sheer amazement on her face. The last time I had been here she had to wheel me out to the car in a makeshift bed. So it was no wonder she was incredulous at the sight before her now. It was akin to a miracle.

I almost hopped onto the bed; it was incredible how my confidence grew just on the back of her reaction and admiration. She was so pleased with me she wanted to write down the positives; I was back working, I had stopped the pain killers, I was still managing without the crutches in the house. A recent day out without them had reminded me I couldn’t rush this, but on the whole things were so much better.

The therapist got out her meter to measure flexion and movement in my ‘bad’ leg. This was a comparative excercise looking at the difference between each leg to give me a more informed insight as to how it was progressing, The good leg had, on a scale of 0-5, a five, while the bad leg had a four. A FOUR, go girl! I was so delighted with this news I could have coasted out the door fuelled by sheer ecstasy.

When I first visited the Physio I had to complete a questionnaire, setting out among other things my goals and one of these was to get back on my bike. And after this meeting I have been promised a work out on the static bike at the next appointment. I cannot believe my good fortune. And yes it is good fortune, not to be sniffed at, but a timely reminder of how important our health is and how quickly it can alter.

In what is my last blog before Christmas, I am happy to share this good news, it’s by no means a full recovery but a bit of recovery that has kick started hope as we head into 2019…………………..

Stage 3 hamstring- 3 months update. Chapter 26

That has now been 3 months since my awful slip in Edinburgh, I’m excited to reveal my progress and what a person might expect by now if they have had the misfortune to experience a stage 3 hamstring injury. Not wanting to appear ageist, but if you’re younger than 55-60 then you might have a slightly different prognosis and experience. Although I was active and reasonably fit, there is little doubt healing takes a bit longer when you are middle-aged and menopausal.

The good news is I am now able to dress myself without assistance, take a shower (but slipping is a real and present danger) and use the toilet without a seat raiser. In the morning, for about 40 minutes, I can walk freely without sticks, I feel very little pain at this time but movement is cautious and restricted. Managing the stairs one at a time is laborious but it is possible now to manoeuvre these more than once a day.

Continuing the positive vibes, I’m now able to fix my own breakfast, dependent on the 40 minutes of freedom window, if that diminishes, it means I need the sticks to ambulate around my kitchen. It is also impossible to carry what ever delights I have created and my morning cuppa into another room. I still need assistance to do this, as sitting at the kitchen table continues to evade me. I have mastered new ways of achieving this if no help is available; I can carry my hot water bottle, that goes everywhere with me, (including the Caribbean) by my teeth. This additional holding vice also allows me to balance my mug of tea, albeit precariously with spillage highly likely, on the left handle of the crutch. If I get the right grip, and tread carefully, I can slowly hobble through the lounge and into my sanctuary- the TV room.

Impressively I can now walk outside with the sticks. The distance can vary dependent on pain thresholds which alternate continually, but the pace is inordinately slow. It is not unusual for actual turtles to move past me with ease, as I have found to be the case on this trip. Other holiday makers become impatient to get to the pool so I can be side-tracked to allow them to pass which inevitably slows me down even further. More exhausted.

Walking now requires an enormous amount of concentration, this I’d put down to my lack of right/left distinction. Coordinating the left stick and the right foot alignment in strides, just normal gait, takes me a few seconds to consciously call to my mind. So if I’m hovering like a humming bird before a step is taken its normally because I’m trying to work out how to start (or it could be a little pain has given me brain stagnation). The fairly simple and inherent ability to walk is further rocked by the fact that I’m left footed and right handed so the brain is entirely flummoxed by having to get the right foot moving first. Oh, I’m exhausted just explaining that.

I cannot swim but we have a hot tub in the pool, just perfect in 80 degree heat, because the hot water gives me instant relief. Much like my fellow travellers seeking the coolness of the swimming pool I’m in the hot tub about 8 times a day just for some reprieve from the pain. I cannot reach the tub without my sticks which are fascinatingly now amphibious and have become as frequent a feature of the poolside furniture as cocktails, floats, and loungers.

I have found, and catalogued previously, that missing meds just won’t wash. Even self medication, mainly of the red wine variety, has to be taken in moderation as I haven’t the stomach for it frankly. If I do miss the meds to increase the red wine intake Lord I pay for it the next day. On these days I have constant sharp excruciating pain in my left thigh when I move or stand. Normally this is a dull pain when medicated but without sufficient intervention I’m constantly reminded that I have a debilitating injury and my movement and just ordinary comfort is elusive. Even if meds are re-introduced I’m lagging a day behind and all because I wanted a glass of wine. So lessons still being learned and I cannot do without the pain killers yet.

Even as I type I’m laying here 10 hours good sleep in thanks to Codeine but the pain is already gnawing at me and will dictate any activity I’m able to achieve in the day. This leads me rather awkwardly into other natural bedroom activities. Normal service cannot be resumed there, they have been severely curtailed and are currently off piste. So we are all piste off about that.

However, there are so many positives for me to regale at this point, mainly that we got to our holiday despite it all and lying in the sun rather than fighting back the winter frost is glorious. I’m going to be a little bit tanned more on the front as laying on my belly causes the hamstring to sink and sting like misery. Ah the joys, 3 months down and 6 months of recovery to go……………….

The Pleasure Principle. Chapter 18

After the second failed physio, it was apparent  that my husband was grudgingly accepting us missing out on the Caribbean.  On our journey back home he was so quiet, although there is nothing new in this, he’s a man of few words usually, but I knew that resigned look. His horror  was obvious when I had been transferred out of the hospital on the makeshift bogie.  Then, as if  that was not enough, I was unable to get comfortable  in the car on the short drive home, and therefore highly unlikely to be able to travel on a plane.

When I got home I made sure I took the appropriate medication as it was clear that this was a defining factor in managing the pain. Lesson learned there, oh yes.  So it was that no two days were the same with this injury.  The day after physio failure I was more ambulatory, which was entirely due to taking the right amount of medication,  just as well as I had  two appointments I needed to attend.  I could tell that my husband , who was also my personal chauffeur, was more than a bit  flummoxed by the shifting fortunes of his hapless wife.

It was nothing short of uplifting the level of pleasure I derived from preparing for my meetings.  Putting on a bit of slap and smart clothing also made me feel better. After all I had been wearing PJ’s for nigh on 8 weeks. I still needed help to get my knickers on and my left sock but it was worth the hassle when I looked in the mirror.  And it was evident I had lost weight which was the only plus side of this particular drama. I positively waltzed down the stairs. (Ok lying about that, but I did feel 1000% better than the day before).  We set off for the first meeting and it  was pleasing, even a bit of an indulgence,  to be going somewhere other than a hospital.

After the meeting I felt so uplifted that  I had managed to get out, stay out and behave as close to  normal as possible.  “Let’s have lunch out”  I said, but my whimsical suggestion fell on deaf ears as  my ‘chauffeur’  headed back in the general direction of The Danders.  Ever the pragmatist he was denying  me any further gratification because I had  a second appointment in 2 hours.  I knew he was right. It had just been so exhilarating doing normal things, being normal for that hour, but resting, as he reminded me, would ensure I was able to make the next appointment. My husband’s reiteration of the  consultant’s advice to rest was paying dividends.  I was feeling mentally strong, albeit the physical side was still a work in progress.

Pleasure, guilty or otherwise hadn’t been too  achievable these past 8 weeks. Our social calendar had been decimated;  concert tickets had been resold, dinners had been cancelled, we missed days out at the races and a wedding.  It was punishing for me and worse even simple pleasures were  hard to achieve.  For example, prior to my injury I have never watched a single episode of Strictly Come Dancing, but Saturday nights had become  so dull. This essentially  masochistic decision forced me  to watch all those fabulous female dancers. They were  strutting about in fantastic costumes revealing those long, lean,  flawless legs,  seemingly without a care for where they trod or placed their feet.  Watching them caused me to burst into inconsolable  tears as they left me wondering whether I might ever dance again.

So as pleasures were clearly few and far between, despite my husband’s misgivings,  I was determined this holiday was going to go ahead.  I made contact with the airline and booked mobility assistance, contacted the travel insurance and advised them about the injury and contacted the hotel to get  accommodation suitable for my condition. It was  almost sorted, with some physical improvement  there was  now a good chance we would be able to go………….

woman in pink dress doing jump shot while extending arms under white clouds
Photo by Haste LeArt V. on


The Caribbean is like melting ice cream. Chapter 17

8 weeks in and our Caribbean Holiday was teetering on the brink of cancellation. This was a bit of a bummer,  because we’d been looking forward to it and couldn’t have predicted  that a slip on the wet pavement would threaten it. I mean really! 8 weeks and still I  cannot walk any distance or sit, it’s almost unbelievable but that’s where I am.This made physio the number one priority. We had two weeks to decide if this holiday  was on or off.

I was banking  on my second appointment being the catalyst for change, and keen to make a real effort given we  had to abandon the last one.   Preparation for  the arrival, and maximising participation were crucial.   Our holiday depended on it.

The appointment happened to be the day after the burnt vegetables,  statistically  failure can be traced back to seemingly unconnected past events.   And the charcoaled vegetables triggered  a chain reaction; I couldn’t eat the meal, that  contributed to me missing some medication and later forgetting to take it at all. The ensuing  chaos meant everyone was stressed, the house was filled with smoke and the pots were blackened. My tolerance for drama was limited and I couldn’t settle in bed so didn’t get much sleep. All of this played directly into my pain management and the following day I would pay dearly for this.

Still blissfully unaware of the impact of yesterdays events my other preparations went according to plan. I arrived on time, avoided the  car park, was deposited at the door albeit by myself. I  trundled into the department unaided and  a tad undignified as I was still dependent on the crutches. I followed the green line and slowly made my way into the sanctuary of promise and hope.

The reception area lay as far away from the entrance as possible. You were teased on the approach  with rows of inviting comfortable seats, only accessible when you’ve finally discharged patient responsibilities and checked in.  Having accomplished this I grabbed the nearest seat available hoping my therapist would arrive soon. My pain was slowly building to a crescendo.  Lack of pain relief the day before was reducing  my resistance to  anything but a basic tolerance. A woman I knew walked by me and I looked her way but  I was sufficiently distracted to forgo introductory manners. She was deaf so it didn’t seem to matter, and she sat down next to me.

I was struggling now and incredible pain was starting to engulf me so making polite conversation was the last thing on my mind.  I stood up, I sat down, I shifted from side to side, I put my leg on the coffee table but I could not  find comfort. She was deaf not blind but failed to notice I was paying her no attention, and kept talking. I wanted to scream in her face to ease my tension. (Wanted to but wouldn’t, as I say basic tolerance.)   Just as I was about to explain she was summoned and I was left  grateful, writhing  and waiting for my turn.

Then the physio arrived and I inhaled a faint aroma of the Caribbean. But I knew the moment I got to my feet, I’m not going to manage any  of the planned leg gymnastics.  And sure enough 3 minutes into our appointment and she’s looking to discharge me thankfully suggesting that I might benefit from home physio, as  getting here was taking so much out of me. I started to weep, ( I know its getting to be a habit), but I could  feel the Caribbean was beginning to slip from my grasp.

Defiantly I stood up drawing on every ounce of determination, balancing precariously on the crutches but she could see I was verging on hysteria. She brought me a wheelchair, combining this with a four wheel zimmer and bridged them with a pillow, where I could rest my leg. Then she and her colleague guided me rather haphazardly on the makeshift bogie  out to the exit and my husband waiting by his car.

How the hell would we make the Caribbean  when I couldn’t undertake a 10 minute appointment with the physio. Like a melting ice-cream on a hot July day, it was starting to slip through my fingers………….

woman dropped fail failure
Photo by Gratisography on,

Salvation, but not on this occasion. Chapter 16

The physio department at my local hospital has an intricate signage system provided to navigate you to exactly where you need to be.  Coloured lines lead to X-ray, Physio and various  Out Patients departments and while it’s all a bit WIzard of Oz it’s nontheless effective. I needed the green line to get to my physio appointment.  As I had been so eager to get there and start the rehabilitation programme I’d left plenty time to arrive ready for action. Well that was the intention.

I’d opted for  an appointment 6 weeks after my accident, as I’d been advised an extended period of inactivity  would maximise my chances of recovery.  So having been laid on my back for the past 6 weeks (Harrogate aside)  the day of reckoning had arrived. Parking at our local hospital is a fine art, it shares the car park with the local health centre so spaces are always at a premium unless its midnight. Our first task, when we arrived,  was to secure a space as close to the entrance as possible. Since I had already agreed to walk to the appointment, that proximity was an essential determining factor in our selection of a space, but selection was simply a delusion; its a dog fight in that car park. We were 500yds away.

Bearing in mind this was my first sortie,  walking any unnecessary distance was not my wisest decision. But then stagnation does impact your  brain function.  That also accounted for the poor choice of clothing; it was freezing and the lose fitting pyjama bottoms that were the closest thing I had to joggers were ill equipped to fight the elements.  Jack Frost swirled up my legs unfettered, licked my wounds with his acid tongue and nipped me with his nails. I was shivering and exhausted by the time I got to the  hospital entrance.

Now frantic with pain and frozen I quickly identified the green line that would guide me to my saviour. Like an apostle I was transformed  by a singleminded mission; I refused to allow others to transverse or hinder me in on the route to my salvation. I had a 10am appointment but had arrived a good 20 minutes ( not including the walk in) early  to allow for delays. I didn’t factor in the 10 minute delay their side. So by the time I was summoned  I had succumbed to the  emergent pain from the walk, the cold and having to sit down.  This impacted substantially on my ability to walk another 200 yds to the consulting room, so by the time I saw the bed I lunged at it seeking  immediate comfort. I really did need a miracle now.

The physio observed with interest and could see I was struggling. She  had the patience of Job, working through my wincing she used the time  to assess me, monitor my reaction to pain ( shambolic) and determine how we might proceed.  She asked me to stand to measure my legs, which by now resembled cocktail sticks wrapped in rice paper.  Overcome by the pain, the occasion or something else I became  dizzy, unsteady and, unable to retain my composure, I collapsed in a heap on the bed. It was increasingly apparent that this particular  saviour was going to have to work miracles to bring change and improvement. We agreed to abandon this appointment in favour of another the following week. With her assistance I  used the remainder of the time to re-locate the green line and hirple back toward the car park.

Feeling fragile and a failure, the reality of the matter stung at my eyes and once again I was left inert, unable and incompetent. I was beginning to get the measure of the damage a stage 3 hamstring injury can do.

bird s eye view of parked cars
Photo by Pok Rie on

Is it bin(trash) day? Chapter 15

I’ve had a less than gracious fall  from Fab🤾‍♀️to Flab 👵🏼 in 8 weeks. This must be having a big impact on my better half.  Especially as it took no real effort, was  an alarmingly  simple  transformation in fact,  and I’ve been its main protagonist. In this period I’ve descended into an easy  inertia, become a sloth 🧟‍♀️ addicted to TV and with little prospect of immediate  improvement, unless of course there’s a miracle 🧞‍♂️ around the corner. Stage 3 hamstrings can  have that affect on you and the entire household is suffering.

In all honesty, it’s not been that difficult to lie in one place for 8 weeks, that is the crazy 😜 part. This speaks volumes about how debilitating it’s been  because prior to this injury I was an active 50 something menopausal 😨 woman working my ass off to get to a happy place with the way I looked. I was cycling 🚴‍♂️ up to 30- 40 miles weekly. I was playing badminton 🏸  regularly with my old schoolmate  and walking at least 4 miles a week  🚶‍♀️ with my ladies. I had my hair  💇‍♀️ coiffed and dyed very 6 weeks and nails 💅🏼gelled every four.  Be assured it was not always  ‘ladies who lunch’ after all  you have to do something physical to balance that level of indulgence 🍷. But in the past 8 weeks all of that has fallen by the wayside.

Mayhem 🌪 has replaced the ambience of peace  🌞 and tranquility that envelopes  The Danders and the surrounding community.   I usually  do all the food 🍱 shopping, cooking, gardening💐,  planning  and anticipating pretty much everything that happens with our home, family  and other key events. I buy cards, presents🎁, do the gift wrap, review menus, plan and prepare meals,  when necessary I look after my grandkids and my mother, maintain friendships, plan our social calendar🎉, entertain, book holidays✈️  and of course work, which is all pretty  central to balancing  my world order. Not that my husband does nothing;  he golfs 🏌🏻‍♂️, manages the bin 🚛 rotation and collection (for the entire street), golfs, ⛳️ does the cleaning, washes the car and, oh yes, golfs 🏌🏻‍♂️.

Now the size of the commitment and endeavour necessary for effective bin rotation and management🚚  cannot  be underestimated. Just ask my son-in-law! He  gets weekly texts to remind him which bin 🗑 has to go out.  My man is a living  encyclopaedia on weekly refuse collection.  So, how bad did it hit him when  in the very early stages of my incapacitation, clearly stressed, he actually put out the wrong ❌  bin?  (I’m blaming the chaotic  new world order that now prevails)  However the entire street, who having bowed to his superior knowledge on all matters refuse,  did the same thing.  So no-one had their bin emptied that week.🙀

Joking aside the injury and ensuing incapacitation has transformed 👾 his world completely.      Of course he still manages to golf,🏌🏻‍♂️ but he’s been thrust into a new world🌎 order with little preparation and  he has embraced it. Albeit standards were likely to alter during this period. For instance last Sunday,  on his rare day off, I put the chicken 🐔 in the oven, and roasted the potatoes 🥔.  Unbeknown to me,  as I lay prostrate resting,  he put the veg 🥦 onto boil a tad early and became engrossed in the football. So we had charcoaled brussel sprouts and carrots🥕  for tea. My pots will never recover no matter how hard he scours them. I’m no good at being a passive member of any team  and there’s nothing worse than looking after someone who keeps 👼  noticing things, like the table needs polished, or the carpet needs hoovered, maybe those windows could do with a clean………..and perhaps that veg was put on too early.

So, I’m still confined to barracks. I’ve not had my hair done 💇‍♀️ in a while and,  although the nail technician 💅🏼 came to me, the previously toned legs now have the appearance of dried up asparagus 🎋; lean, knobbly and wrinkly.  Not charcoaled but then  not fab,  not at all.  Despite my obvious fall from power,  despite the additional burden he’s carrying and the constant need for attention,  I’m grateful  he has managed to maintain the equilibrium  in our lives and thankful that through it all somehow he still manages to love ❤️ me………….6085E18A-E861-4839-8899-49AA11489E79

Subverting the crystal maze. Chapter 14

The Job Centre staff were more affable;  they speak my  local dialect, they sounded closer(?) and most importantly they don’t have a crystal ball let alone a maze. The immediate advantage of not going through a call centre was having direct access to humans with real emotions and compassion. Their response felt real. When  I was  transferred to my local Job Centre, Anne Marie took my call. I won’t lie, it was challenging  initially to disentangle what assistance I required from her, but at least we both spoke Swahili.

She quickly realised  that what  I needed was  a home visit as opposed to a home assessment.  (the difference was lost on me but apparently this was the main challenge to understanding back at DWP). Anne-Marie confirmed that I had in fact already  been referred to the home visiting team, but the lady with the appropriate skills  to visit me, was off for another two weeks.  This was another of my lucky white heather moments.  It was also quite obvious  from Anne- Marie’s commiseratory tone that my previous  febrile outburst  with the DWP, had been communicated by some unseen red flag, to alert  call takers that I had rabid tendencies.

Anne-Marie anticipated my frustration  realising the appointment was some weeks away. She deftly averted another outburst by convincing me to leave it with her to allow her to amend that delay.  Her tactics included a promise to call me back. I have to admit I was sceptical about this; even in a short space of time throughout this process I’d lost faith in basic human ability to keep promises. I felt vulnerable; I was uncertain, could I  invest my trust in this individual given the faltering  progress I’d made with this claim for ESA?  Shame on me. Anne- Marie was not a Ben, she did more than her job required.  Unable to contact the home visiting team personally she also emailed them about my plight hoping to awaken their sense of compassion and arrange an earlier visit. Not only had she done this but knowing she was not coming to work the following day,  she had tasked a trusted colleague to contact me and confirm that the home visiting team had at least been in touch.

I received a telephone call from the home visiting team, unaware of Anne-Marie’s efforts in the background. I considered that in the absence of a call back from her she had forgotten about me. I was just so grateful someone was going to come and visit me and get this claim form organised.  An hour later, a second call from the Job Centre, confirmed Anne-Marie was a woman of her word.   Not only had her trusted colleague followed up on her request to check the home visiting team had taken action, she was making sure I was happy that something  was finally in place. Lost faith was instantly  restored. Not only did I receive a call to confirm the stand-in arrangements,  a letter confirming the appointment arrived and a text message was pinged to my phone! Technology was alive and kicking at Universal Credit  after all. At last,  I had subverted  the crystal maze.

On week 6, an officer arrived to take my claim, not assess my ability to be seen at home. He  was demonstrably relieved that I had a form I completed earlier (saving him an hour) and he was elated that I was able to provide him with, not only my verifying documents but signed photocopies to take away. Owing to my preparations he spent 15 minutes on my visit. And I’m wondering what all the fuss was about.

All I had to do now was wait for a decision and payment……………oh and physio.

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Photo by Oleg Magni on


Is there anyone able to help? Chapter 13

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Photo by Startup Stock Photos on

Five weeks after the accident I was still confined to bed 🛏 . I was managing to navigate the stairs with help and take a shower 🚿 if my husband was around. I was still in considerable pain 💊 and this was limiting everyday normal physical activity. The same might be said about my brain,  🧠 as it was being impacted  by both boredom and meds. So I could not work.

The home visit for my ESA remained elusive so I had no choice now but to chase it up. From my call log I identified the number☎️  I used before to ring for an update. Learning from previous failures  I called at 11am which,  even with the crystal maze element,  🔮proved useful as it was answered within 20 minutes. In fact this caught me a little by surprise; Mozart  was playing on a loop on loudspeaker on my phone. The monotonous lilt was boring me into a semi-slumber, although the relaxation 😋 was a welcome relief,  when a brisk “Hello” interrupted my reverie. I grabbed the phone  before she had the chance to hang up and managed to articulate reasonably quickly  that I was calling about my planned home visit. Was that a stifled a laugh? 🤪

This was the call that rumbled the dirty tricks 😡. deployed by the previous two encumbents.  Claims were recorded over the phone at this call centre.  Not emailed. Despite the two earlier calls to this number I  learned, despite my details having been taken, they had no trace of 😵 me. She was about to start the process of form filling when I begged her to check again.  Up to this point I must have been speaking Swahili 💩 as she could hear me  but  clearly not understand what I was on about. I’m  unaware of what exactly caused her to stop in her tracks and  check some other system,  but she finally found my details and lo and behold  agreed I had been referred for a home 🏡visit. My elation was short lived, but she could not help me,  I now had to call the DWP.

The DWP has a slightly less confusing version of the crystal maze 🔮to permit  you access  to a human person. I felt quite smug to have made it through on the first attempt. This was another trick.  The human person that answered my call  was only programmed to provide responses to the right questions. There are no clues🔬 provided as to what these questions are. There is a strong assumption that you have  been on Mastermind 📺 with DWP/ESA as your specialist subject. No normal, polite interactive conversation  where you each take turns at trying to find common ground where they assess your need and direct your enquiry, here. Every thing was responded to with  with a sneering 🤨combination of “I don’t know what you are talking about”,  “who gave you this number?”  “This is not a Universal Credit Line”

I don’t know if it was the pain, the boredom, the frustration,  or my patent  lack of ability in all matters benefit, but I lost it. 🤬 He had the ability to put me through to a Job Centre in my area but  was electing not to. I fumed and snarled, (articulately of course) the rabid dog 🐕 was back, go Jax ! And somewhere in the tirade I must have appealed to his inner conscience, either that or he just wanted rid of me, because mid stream🐸 he put me through to a helpful person at the Job Centre………….

You need to eat well to climb Everest. Chapter 11

I:Daniel Blake was a moving and tragic story 😕 of  a man denied employment and support allowance (ESA)  when he falls ill and cannot work.  The dramamentry was designed to evoke extreme responses at the horror 😈 and unfairness of the bureaucracy that engulfs the system.  It made me desperately sad, and deeply ashamed at the way we treat those in need.

However here I was in a similar situation albeit less dramatic.   Reflecting on my experience I’d suggest navigating the process is akin to conquering Everest.🏔  For the uninitiated  the best place to start is Google.👀  This promptly directed me to the government site for all things ESA. I wasn’t actually prepared to leave my brain 🧠 at the depository but after an initial forage into the unknown it was clear mine was not wired for this particular  escape room. It would have been helpful 😺 to know someone who had done it before but I only had Daniel Blake and we know how that story unfolded.

Climbers burn 20,000 calories on the day of the summit climb on Everest  and an average of 10,000 a day on the rest of the climb. My appetite 👅 hasn’t been that great so I wasn’t particularly  physically able for this  challenge either.  It affected my ability to process effectively the information available; confusion  😵 began on the website.  There are 3 types of ESA, new style, contributory and income related. I selected contributory, easy. Well you’d think so. Although there are 3 types  an important distinction before you decide on your choice depends on whether or not you live in a Universal Credit 👾 postcode. This is important as it immediately reduces your choice  from 3 to 2 types. Universal Credit it seems  is not universal at all.  😡

I typed in my postcode and reviewed the extensive list before I deduced that I did not live in a Universal Credit area.❌  Except I do.✅  Told you brains are not useful. You can only claim contributory ESA if you don’t live in a Universal Credit area. As far as I could see I didn’t, so I phoned ☎️ to make the claim. That’s when my climb to the summit definitely  demanded more calories; it took 90 minutes to answer the call.  “Sorry you need to make a claim for new ESA you live in a Universal Credit area” “ How do I do that?”You’ve guessed it another  number and another 90 minute wait on the phone.⏰

You need to be entitled to claim Universal Credit if you want to claim new style ESA.  Universal credit is a benefit based on your income. I do not meet the eligibility for Universal Credit. I know I’ve made sufficient contributions but according to the new rules and guidance I won’t get it. 🐷 This is immaterial however as I was claiming contributory ESA which is incorporated in new style ESA but only in Universal Credit areas.  Still with me? I’m losing sight of that summit, and the will to live.  🤢

My call was now ringing well after closing time but determinedly I hung on. It was answered  but rather than have a meaningful or informed conversation I was hurriedly asked for my details and sent a claim form by email  and rather smugly  I was thinking  “Yes I’ve smashed it!” 🤩

I completed the form and then combed the website for the next steps. OK maybe I didn’t comb more of a skim.  Eureka! Its the job centre. I despatched my husband 🙃 off to our local job centre with the completed, printed form in a discreet envelope ( he doesn’t like drawing attention to himself) and he dropped it off before making a bolt for the exit. He’s much better at escape rooms than me.  🤪

There I am lying staring at the ceiling when the phone rings, “ Hello, Is that Jacqueline? It’s the job centre here, you’ve dropped off your claim for ESA,  sorry you don’t do this. You need to make a claim over the phone then make an appointment at the job centre, can you get the person who dropped this off to come back for it………………”


photography of man in black hooded jacket and red backpack facing snow covered mountain
Photo by Avinash Patel on