Bastille Day. Chapter 19

It was becoming apparent I was a bit of a jinx where holidays were concerned.  While  it was bad enough wondering whether  I would make our Caribbean holiday,  another holiday was  also beginning to look a bit uncertain.  I’d booked a further two holidays while laid up, determined to make the most of my available  time.   The latest booking was to Australia, a bit of a  dream since my retirement in 2012, but it had always seemed a journey too far for my other half.  Until this accident.   In a moment of  weakness strengthened, I suspect,  by sympathy  he finally relented agreeing at last we could  go to Australia!

I didn’t need telling twice  and immediately sent for the brochure expecting  to make a hasty booking before he changed his mind. It was not unusual to be reserving another holiday before we left on the current one  and, although usually meticulous,  haste was a key factor in the uncertainty that was now unfolding.  Notwithstanding this, and before the jinx element of this story can be realised, there’s another holiday drama which plays directly  into  this story and the emerging uncertainty for our Australian trip.

It happened last year when we went to Florida  with our daughter and her family.  We had two weeks in a villa experiencing the most wonderful sights of Disney through the eyes of our grandchildren. Our daughter and son-in-law took full advantage of the on-hand  baby sitters having time to explore the adult aspects of the parks. After a full two week break we were due to fly home on Bastille Day;  the 14 July.

As we approached the last few days of our holiday we painstakingly planned our final schedule  to allow everyone the opportunity  to do exactly what they wanted and still  leave ample time to prepare for going home on Saturday. On the Friday, my daughter and her husband elected for a date day at Universal Studio while we remained  at the villa with the kids to make a start on the packing. I dropped them off glibly telling  them to take as long as they liked and enjoy their day.

I  arrived  back at the villa around noon. The kids wanted to get in the pool but papa had kept them waiting till I returned. This epitomises his cautious nature; he thrives on preparation and planning, nothing spontaneous, he does not do surprises.  Despite the delay and now the rain we all got in the pool where much fun and hilarity ensued. I made lunch about 1,  then put the youngest for a nap while the mermaid and her papa went back in for a swim.

A few texts back and forth between my daughter and I established that the kids were fine and that  they should relax, have a great time and stay out as long as they liked. I was truly an earth mother; equal measures of  satisfaction and magnanimity emanating from  my selfless actions  which had  ensured everyone was happy.    Saturated with smugness  I wanted my son to share in this rare display of earth motherliness and experience  this aura of happiness and calm I had created,  so I face-timed him and his wife whilst leisurely laying at the pool.

After this I quickly glanced at a  few Facebook posts, an almost automatic reaction before putting the phone down, only to immediately pull it back into my face when a reference to Bastille Day flickered across my screen. I’m smart enough to know that is on the 14 July and that realisation suddenly  caused a nauseaous bile, propelled by panic, to flood into my throat. I glanced at my husband and the mermaid  frolicking  in the pool and snuck unnoticed into the villa.

A quick look at my emails  identified a flashing red reminder from British Airways.  I clicked on the link fearing the worst and to my horror confirmed  I had  to check in immediately-my flight was leaving  in 2 hours. Trying to contain my  panic  I was also fast forwarding  the events about to unfold as I tentatively walked back  to the pool side to ‘surprise’  my better half  “You’re not going to like this………….”

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Is there anyone able to help? Chapter 13

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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………….

Enter your post code after the tone. Chapter 12

Fresh from our embarrassing and uninvited visit to the Job Centre, (it’s fine we just peaked too early).  I now had a new number to call  to process my ESA claim and make an appointment to progress it …  guess where, at the Job Centre.

Nevertheless, I made the call. The government call centre’s are automated; you mainly just press numbers  but they do ask you to speak your postcode. Postcodes, remember, are important because they determine if you can claim Universal Credit. Universal Credit eligibility enables you to claim ESA etc, etc.  Anyway I have no idea why they make you speak the postcode?  Wouldn’t it be interesting to discover how many calls fail due to frustration at this stage?  I certainly gave up, albeit after six attempts, and in at least one of them I was shouting at the phone.

It is not as if we have an obscure post code; it concludes with an F, so  I always use the phonetic alphabet for clarity, especially on the phone.  However, the auto-Matilda didn’t permit that helpful approach (this reference to the Handmaid’s tale  not entirely misplaced). Neither does she have any tolerance for the well spoken  Scottish dialect. So I hung up.  Fuming.

I re-dialled when I regained my composure two days later. In my defence I was not well and was easily stressed.  I had a  couple of gobstoppers  stored in my cheeks  to aid diction.  And, with all the determination of  a lemming  driving blindly towards the cliff’s edge,  I managed to navigate the system just before I was lost in the abyss. A cautionary note, during this process Matilda will ask questions about your Universal Credit claim.  Be warned this is a trick, don’t fall for it, keep listening and wait for the option that takes you into ESA.  It is not easy but DO NOT LOSE FAITH at this stage. Just persist, persist, persist.

Once I passed through the crystal maze I waited a further 90 minutes (wondering at this stage what the key performance indicators might be for this call centre?) to be spoken to by a human person. I was again perilously close to the 6pm deadline which I’ve since realised heightens the chance for  errors.  If you are able to make the call well before 4pm;  catch them  fresh.

What should happen ( although this was not made known until much later in the process) is that  the call taker should have verbally taken me through the form and completed it at their end (some 50 questions= Some 60 minutes). Then an appointment is made for me at the local job centre to do the same all over again but this time in person.   Crazy. However, as you will recall I’d already been sent the form and completed it, totally unaware this is not normal procedure.   So the call  taker,  half an hour to finishing time,  was audibly relieved when I declared this and moved straight to making the appointment for the job centre.  But I cannot walk, or sit, or travel to a job centre I panicked. “No problem,” says he “we will arrange a home visit.”

Well, I was taken aback by this offer and quite chuffed I’d achieved it. However, I waited, and waited, and waited but the home visit didn’t materialise. I began to worry,  then I started to think they were spying on me monitoring my movements from a white van, to find ways to bust me as a fraud for asking to be seen at home. Never mind that I was genuine, applying for this benefit was beginning to make me feel as if I was some kind of cheat. I was feeling a lot like Daniel Blake…..

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Masters in Mixology. Chapter 10

Without question not doing very much for several weeks has been soul destroying.  For anyone with an active and busy lifestyle I’d equate it to someone removing hair from your armpits with tweezers. Pulsatingly painful and tedious. So it was exhilarating today when I managed to leave my cell. (Sorry room).

It has been 7 weeks since my accident and today  I was coaxed out into the autumn sunshine for a little stroll. I felt like a baby being dangled by the arms by an overly keen parent as my husband tried to make sure I managed to complete this task without ending up on my backside. I soon found my rythmn with the crutches but the drop in temperature  was like a boa constrictor  crushing the muscle and making it loupe. So  it was  an abrupt about turn and back to the house.

It’s a bit of a miracle I could do this as Monday, when I went for physio,  I was reduced to a blubbering idiot.   The short walk into the department, combined with a lengthy seat in the waiting room,  just put too much pressure on the injury and I was in extraordinary pain by the time I was seen.  In the end we had to abandon the session. So what made the difference today?

Pain relief.  Managing the pain has been troublesome from the beginning.  Initially given co-codamol augmented later by diazepam and then  5mls of morphine it was clear this pain needed a particular strength of relief.  Since then I’ve also been prescribed  paracetamol, oramorph and  ibruprofen. I used to work in a bar but mixology when it comes to drug cocktails is not my forte.  I also agonised over taking so many  tablets so at the first sign of improvement I jumped at the chance to reject them.  Anyone who suffers pain for longer than a day has my sympathy because finding a long term solution isn’t easy.

In my situation there were a couple of factors; medical people were split between  using the least and best available. Mixing or combining is confusing; it needs a masters in chemistry and it’s never quite clear anyway what combination will  bring the best relief until you’ve mastered it. When you are in so much pain its difficult to concentrate  or even remember what works best.

Then there’s the “Oh I’m actually fine today”  and you skip the meds in the vain hope you might be on the mend. Monday was the result of one, two skip a few, 99, 100. The main culprit was in missing the night-time morphine, which had been bringing me instant relief. And much needed sleep when finding comfort through the night was almost  unachievable.  I was so cocky I took nothing and the next day I paid for it.

Medication is not a cosmetic comfort.  Any medic will advise you of this. Take the medication and take it regularly, particularly in this type of injury. At present the only relief is with the morphine, paracetamol and the ibruprofen. It does not numb the pain completely, its still there, but I am much clearer about the need to stick to the plan if I want to get up and go.

That is why today I was as graceful as a gorilla, a little less like Frankenstein looking for Halloween. I passed my mixology exams and finally got to strut my stuff outside………

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And it was those block heel boots! Chapter 1

I am fed up lying here looking at the ceiling. I’m not thinking of England or anything like that, (no such luck) no, indeed  it’s unusual I’m lying down at all.  At my age I  really should have known better, so what brought me to this incapacitation anyway?  Well a stage three hamstring tear did … and you’re right its “aaagggggonnnnny” 🤢.

Don’t panic I’m not an athlete 🏃‍♀️ it’s not  caused career limiting devastation  but,  all the same, it’s restricting. Surprisingly  ‘Google’ had little in the way of informing me  about this condition so “life’s little dramas” has been driven by the absence of material on line and has resulted in my very first blog.  Back to the details..

Have you ever been so looking forward to something? I was that day. I was meeting a former colleague  to hatch work plans. He’d just finished working on a programme for the BBC so my inner actress had been ignited and  I had arranged lunch with wine ( of course) to contemplate our next collaboration.

I pulled out last years winter boots, 👢the ones with a bit of a block heel ( they still looked good ok  😙 don’t judge, but they are important in the story).  I felt they would give me height, elongating my  less than lean silhouette and conceal the inevitable  menopausal midriff , making me  look  at least 20 years younger ( it was for TV after all).

By some unintentional alignment of the stars I even managed to have scheduled my nail appointment before my meeting,  to ensure the appropriate  level of sophistication and colour would  gracefully  enhance my glass holding action. As everyone knows essential details for every budding actress 💅🏼.   The girls at Fabulous do such a fantastic job on nails and the atmosphere is so Steel Magnolias. Why not visit them?   I digress….

Iphones are irreplaceable  for the modern menopausal woman, especially the weather app  to advise me on what clothing is suitable?  This naturally then leads to  the right choice of  handbag 1)  Is it the right colour for the coat/boots?  and 2) Can my brolly hide gracefully among the  unchecked detritus that lurks within?  I can confirm all the right choices were made as the  drama that day was to prove………

I answered emails, made appointments, surveyed Facebook,  skimmed Twitter and generally managed my life through my iPhone like the rest of the  world does on the train. It’s only 20 minutes 🚆 so  my screen time was limited in case you’ve become concerned that the iphone is  featuring a little too much in this story. I am by definition a silver surfer but do my best to maintain a mainstream interest in all things Apple.

I arranged  en route to meet my colleague in Waverley prior to our lunch at Bon Vivant where I was looking forward to nice food, wine and a catch up. If you haven’t been it is a lovely restaurant with great ambience and fine wines. Give it a whirl … we couldn’t that day…..

It was pissing with rain in Edinburgh🌧, and I was   slightly smug  at my preparations when I noted my colleague was missing  his galoishes and sou’wester. He was however  very smart in his matching tweed jacket and waistcoat.  Fleetingly I wondered whether  bald men were irritated by the rain, I can’t tell you what it does to my hair,  hence the hood and the brolly!🌂

After a swift cocktail🍹, with  no real alcohol content of any note,  we ventured out into Princes Street and the  torrential rain. My colleague was less than eager to venture out so I thrust my  slightly despoked brolly up, which  the grandchildren had used  to catch balls in the summer. I wrapped a congenial arm through my colleagues and off we trotted in good spirits despite the torrential rain toward our restaurant. We gibbered and glided with best foot forward into the recently refurbished  St Andrew’s Square.

At this point I want to point out he was  just a colleague; yes  we have enjoyed a few glasses of wine and lunch once or twice.  We had  worked together in our respective roles but in all honesty he was   still just a colleague and had never really seen me vulnerable.  You  do know what I mean by that?  VULNERABLE? It’s not really a condition I like to publically  display to colleagues or for that matter strangers. 😲

But within minutes of entering the water laden St Andrew’s Square, my rubber block heel (remember those) left boot aqua-planed quite gracefully but unexpectedly across the recently laid  marble styled paving. With my arm entangled tightly around my colleague to share the brolly, the resulting action from the sudden slip was to start to impersonate Bambi on ice. Down I went squealing with pain and twirling in a pool of incessant rain.  Legs akimbo, fear etched on my eyes, writhing in agony,  feeling trepidation,  suppressing anxiety,  recoiling in distress but most of all ‘greeting like a big wean…….’   what the hell just happened?

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