Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Rough news yesterday. Brother in law's long time girl friend died. She was 32, had a long history of alcoholism.

Simple really, as much as death can be simple. Had too much to drink, had a cardiac arrest, spent a week in hospital on life-support, and her family decided to switch her off. Off she went :(

She was bright, intelligent, sharp and engaging, and as I told her many times, a silly twot (but I like you)

You'll have to excuse me. I'm somewhat angry.....

Wednesday, 20 July 2011


My Bear says I never grew up.

'Tis true. The first app I dowloaded for my phone was the NASA one. I was the swotty kid with the star charts on the bedroom wall and who made The Eagle moon lander from balsa even before it reached the moon. Never, ever ask me anything about space travel. You will be able walk off, have a bacon buttie and a cuppa, come back and still find me talking with a happy smile....

Happiness was completing a miniature Watt engine from scratch, or being told off for holding a super-hot soldering iron in my teeth (not recommended!) surrounded by wires, paper clips, drawing pins, a dismantled remote control and the smell of burnt hair. See teeth.

This time, I've been told off because I came across a teeny little program that puts lots and lots of very realistic flies crawling all over her desktop on startup.

Well? How was I to know she'd scream, jump backwards, trip over the coffee table, go head over ass and land on the couch with a thump?

And the cat is just fine thank you, though I must admit I've never seen it shift so fast. It's true. They DO land feet first. I didn't ask it to land claws first on her chest tho' did I?

Despite what she says, I'm quite well aware of whom my parents are, and much of what she suggested I'll have to Google, but I'm quite certain it's physically impossible. There's probably a picture somewhere.

Oh, look, the same bloke does one with cockroaches.

That is So Cool!

Monday, 18 July 2011

Blowed if you don't......

I dunno, for someone who's never set foot in a Jobcentre, or claimed JSA, I seem to spend a lot of time advising people or pointing people to others with specialist knowledge that can.

Here's a couple or three little no-so-obvious oddities I've picked up on my telephone travels.

Disability Living Allowance isn't means tested (not counted as income) - which effectively means that one can work while on DLA as long as the job/work doesn't contradict the reasons WHY you've been granted DLA. Bit of a minefield that.

But there's a little publicised fly in the ointment. Under the present DLA system, there are two components. Mobility ( 2 levels) Care (3 levels) If you receive level 2 or above Care, who aren't allowed near a Jobcentre.

Assuming you're brave enough to battle the complexities of fulfilling the (rightly) tough criteria to be granted Care level 2 or above, and use any abilities you may have, you won't get any help from the Jobcentre to find work, and you can't claim Job Seekers Allowance. You're on your own. Jobcentre's do have Disability Advisor's. But only for ESA or DLA level 1.

Note to the tabloids. Please stop getting Incapacity Benefit (now called Employment Service Allowance or ESA) mixed up with DLA. One is means tested, the other isn't. It's annoying, and misleading, and leads to prejudice against the disabled by those who don't know or can't be bothered to find out otherwise.

This applies to everyone.

So you're bored with your job? Or maybe want a better paid job? Perhaps you've lost your job, but you aren't entitled to Job Seekers Allowance because you have too much savings? (which is good). Maybe you are just the kind of person who may be entitled to state help, but would prefer, for whatever reason not to claim?

Off to the local Jobcentre? Er.... no. Unless you're being paid an employment related benefit (ie. Job Seekers Allowance) they won't help you. They may helpfully refer you to their Online page but otherwise you're on your own. Daft, isn't it?


Picking up on my point above about those that may prefer not to claim benefits, even if their entitled.

Lots of reasons why someone might do that. Pride. They've managed and have always managed. Perhaps they come from a generation and a background where they find state aid distasteful.

Sometimes people come from close families that help each other out. Others may belong to religious organisations that help them out, or perhaps are aware of the increasingly common free Food Banks, free furniture and often amazingly understanding landlords. Voluntary homeless and anti-society? I could go on

There's a problem with that. If you aren't paying benefit, voluntary or wage deducted contributions to society such as tax or national insurance you'll get 'red flagged' as suspicious, and you may well be passed on to a department that, um, will go out of their way to help you 'make the right claim'.

Forced to make a claim? Who'd believe it? Catchya :)

Monday, 11 July 2011

Golden days..

I was lucky enough to have a metal-work teacher at school who enjoyed electronics as a hobby, and had a real passion for sharing it. He was also an ardent militant trade unionist.

Peter Knight ( I know, some parents are cruel - Pee Tonight, a gift to a schoolboy) also offered the incentive that if you stopped the full two hours at his weekly after school club, he'd cook unlimited giant chip butties with salad cream.

Bit of a no-brainer really. Even now, I can't look at a chip butty without recalling the smell of hot flux and chips, and vice-versa. Three guys went onto the then almost unknown job as electrical engineers, one went on to run his own TV repair shop, one a Veg shop, and another still runs a chippy, repairing consumer goods on the side.

Me? I spent my holidays as a jobbing repairman to supplement my education, and spent the first three years of my working life as a metallurgist ( £19.35 a week!), left to work in the health service as an admin, then a couple of years at a now defunct designer electronics firm.

Defunct because the admin, working practices and wages were crap. (£1.35 an hour when the industry standard then was min. £2.40) This shop steward took umbridge, led them out on strike, (err.... umm..) and they went wotsits-up in three days. They were getting away with low wages by taking on skilled people for 6 months 'assessment' and then continually extending the 'assessment period'.

Metallurgist, Electrical engineer, Admin, Trade union activist? I look back to the 1970's, and Peter Knight with fondness.

In case you're wondering, I've sometimes been asked do I regret 'being responsible' for losing 100 people their livelyhoods? Heck no. Sleeping overnight on their workbenches, cold, no heat or cover? up at 6, but being paid for 7 hours minus going to the toilet and meal breaks? Nah.

My life has changed lots since then. I retain a sense of social justice, and I'm less vocal - seriously, I am:) and I've learned the value of thinking before I say what I think. Mostly....

Tuesday, 5 July 2011


"But we have some in the freezer?" Bear said, checking her hair in the mirror. Again.

But.... It's really had to get around that kind of women's logic. All I'd suggested was that "We" - see what I did there? Used an inclusive term to defer future conflict? - "We" made some home made fish fingers for Don't-call-me-Tots when she got home from school.

But..... She had me there. "Birdseye" she said firmly, when I didn't answer.

I knew she was watching me in the mirror.

Actually, I was fighting the urge to run around the front garden screaming, waving my arms about, wearing nothing but my underwear. Or 'kegs' as my neighbour calls them.

American readers may be forgiven that a quick Google will show numerous references to 'Barrels'.

"They need using up" said Bear. That wasn't a question. I was being told.

Any normal bloke would belt up. Not me. "Have they been opened?" I offered nonchalantly.... (- Thrust- )

"Will be when I do" Damn! (contré-parade

"Where's the fish then?" She said. (-Thrust!-)

Careful Wheelie...(- en guarde-)

...Ah, no, wait for it..."Not in the freezer by any chance, is it?" Checking her, well, something, again...

Oh, gawd, all I wanted was to make some bloody fish fingers.

"Birdeye it is then" said a quiet firm voice behind me. Ouch. It's true y'know. You can hear someone grin smugly.

I will not turn round, and you can't make me.

If you'll excuse me, the garden, and me and my barrels beckon.....

Monday, 4 July 2011


"Why do raise your voice to your wife? It's not like she's deaf, is it?" he said.

I'm sure, despite the bad tempered delivery, and the attempt at a rhetorical question, they meant well. Humph.

Putting aside that (a) No-one tells me off, not even The Bear, and (b) how I talk to my missus is between her and I....

Well, yes. As it happens, She is. Very. Totally deaf in one ear, and only 10% hearing in the other. Which is why, when she has her back to me, I tap her on the shoulder if I need to speak to her. Why when she uses a phone, to get her attention, I often have to flap around a bit if I need to get her attention.

She always uses road crossings, because she can't hear which direction traffic is coming from. She often appears inattentive and 'ignorant'. She doesn't mean to offend. She just doesn't know you're there.

Even Sigma The Dog learned very quickly to ask me, to ask her, if he wants walkies. Bright young chap that dog.

And yup, I do raise my voice. The hearing she has got is clearer in lower frequencies, and I have a 'Barry White' voice and 25 years practice. From day to day, she is able to function quite normally.

More amazing, she's also pitch perfect with a great love of music. Have you ever met those really annoying people who can pick up absolutely any instrument and play it? Play an out of tune piano or guitar, in tune, without retuning it? Meet the Bear :) It's called savant auto-transposition by the way.

Naturally, she can sing like an angel too.

She doesn't consider herself in anyway disabled. Her deafness is a result of an illness as a very young child, and she can't remember things being any different. So much so, she doesn't think about it, and doesn't tell anyone. I can't say I blame her. Some of the loveliest people, once they're told, talk to her as though she's somewhat dim.

Bear is very sharp, very on the ball, highly intelligent and very well qualified. For many years, she had a successful career in the Civil Service. As she says, deafness can have a plus side - she isn't easily distracted :)

I really wish she would tell people sometimes though. Most people are bright enough to pick up the little clues - the TV being that little bit loud, or that you need to get her to face you to talk to her.

But now and again you get the odd one who seems totally clueless.

Like she says, you can't tell just by just looking at someone, can you? She's much more patient with the clueless ones than I am. So remember. If you hear a raised voice, it may well not be in anger or disrespect.........

A deafy and strokey eh? Interesting combination, yes? Chuckle!