Cuckoo Fair

Gearing up today for the bank holiday weekend. Mayday is always the time of our local annual village fete, the Cuckoo Fair. It is billed as this twee country affair, yet in reality is somewhat larger and less personal. Lots of traders who will spend the summer months going from fete to fete, lots of fast-food stalls which leave you wishing you hadn’t bothered…. When we first came to the village, it was an occasion we marked in our diaries, but this has waned over the years. even before the stroke, to the point where these days I actively avoid it. Our sleepy village of 5,000 inhabitants, swells to 25,000 for the day, they close the main road and parking is generally a nightmare!

I’m not sure if my wife feels the same as I do, but certainly this year has made other plans. She is away for the weekend in the lovely Lyme Regis, some craft course or other.

My daughter, however, still likes such occasions, and has said that she will visit for the weekend. I suppose it is also an opportunity for her to see  the mates she left behind when she went into care, although we don’t need particularly good memories to remember all the times, before she left, when she would complain that she had no friends. So as you can tell, there is still contact between me and my daughter, although in reality most of her contact is with my wife – I guess a mother’s love really is unconditional!

But on these occasions when she does visit, they are invariably non-confrontational, mainly because we are both quite reserved with each other, and avoid contentious subjects. But all a far cry from when she claimed to be fearful of being in the same house as me. My wife is only away Saturday and Sunday, so we may even all go out for a coffee on the bank holiday!

Volunteering

It has been quite an uneventful week. Tuesday, I had an appointment at the Eye Clinic (“maybe some swelling in your eye but far too early to say for sure. Let’s keep an eye on it.”), then took the opportunity of being up at the hospital to do a drop-in visit. The visit ended up being monopolised by just a couple of people, not that that’s a problem, just that I was on the ward quite a long time.

A guy I chatted to was obviously eyeing going home, and he was asking me about benefits etc. – the kinds of things that become important once you get out. I chatted to a woman who thought that the Stroke Association should lay on a bus service to the local supermarket, a great idea but I’m not sure she realised just how thin on the ground resources are. As for liability insurance…nightmare!

On that subject, I had a mail from Age UK last week. Same old story unfortunately – some local council funding finished at the end of March, not renewed, so the knock-on effect is of redundancies. I mean, all of these charities are mindful of their volunteers, and are trying to keep things as “same” as possible, so fingers crossed. The trouble is, if you’re a charity, I don’t see how you can put a volunteer in charge of anything which carries real responsibility – a volunteer could say “I’m sorry, but I need to do X tomorrow, so I’ll be unable to volunteer”, and that’s perfectly valid. But I’d have thought that for a critical role, you’d need a higher level of committment. Maybe “committment” is the wrong word to use in this scenario : I certainly don’t mean to suggest that volunteers aren’t committed.

On the subject of volunteering, apparently my daughter has started doing some. For both of us, I suppose, it is a means to an end. Neither of us particularly see it as a permanent thing. For me, it is about doing something useful while I am building my strength up enough to get back into work; for her, well, her CV is empty right now, so it shows that she’s not happy just to be idle. I mean, in my case, I’d love to volunteer and work at the same time, if that’s possible.

Granny!

A friend of mine, it is her daughter’s 18th birthday today. I’m a couple of years older than her but she had kids a lot sooner than I ever wanted to (and also a long while before I met my wife).

I used the occasion to remind her that the next step on the evolutionary ladder is to have grandchildren!

Benefits

I thought I’d cover the subject of the benefits I receive from being disabled. A few of these, I have just stumbled across – so maybe they’re not obvious or maybe I’m just not tuned in to the system.

Dealing with the state benefits first, these are in the form of cash which goes into my bank account every couple of weeks. These are PIP (Personal Independence Payment) and ESA (Employment and Support Allowance). The PIP occurs because of the stroke. The ESA (which is finite in length) occurs because I closed my company, which made me unemployed. Both were difficult to apply for, in the sense that the application form was very long for both. They advertise it as very easy to apply, you can do so by phone, but in reality the phone call is just a precursor to them sending a lengthy form out. All of this falls under the umbrella of the DWP, although when you speak to them, you get the impression that it is two different departments. If you do want to speak to them, be prepared for about an hour’s wait on the phone – as far as I can tell this is pretty regardless of day or time of day.

I’m not sure about ESA, but PIP is granted on a points-based system, which is documented on the web, and which is worth understanding before applying.

I had no trouble at all in terms of being granted these benefits, no assessments whatever, although there seem to be a good few horror stories out there.

As regards local council benefits, the very first thing I applied for was a blue Disabled Parking badge, which we are allowed to use when I’m out in the car with my wife. This was immediately after I left hospital, a time which is very blurred in my mind – I know it was from the council but I have no recollection of the application process, it is likely that my wife filled the form out, and I just signed it. My impression, though, is that getting this first benefit was important in the council’s eyes, since other council benefits have been straightforward once they know that I have a blue badge.

A second useful benefit, from the council, was a disabled bus pass. This is a little smartcard which, I think, is identical to a pensioner’s pass. It is supposedly valid throughout the UK on local services (basically, valid on things like the No 1 bus, but not on things like National Express), although I’ve only used mine locally so far.

Probably also worth mentioning that I don’t get any help with my Council Tax. Again, this is sorted through the local council, although this is means-tested. Our local council has a “what if” calculator, and the question that trumps all others is “Have you got more than £10k in savings?” If you answer “yes” to this question, then no help is available (they stress that this is not their call, but parliament’s). On the “what if” calculator, I toyed around with this and tried a scenario where I didn’t have any savings, and I would have got my Council Tax paid completely.

One last thing – not a benefit as such, more of a convenience now that mobility is limited – is a Postal Vote. Council again. Just means that if I ever need to go into hospital, for example, I can still vote. I was in for a few days at the Brexit referendum and got very miffed, firstly that I couldn’t vote as intended, and secondly that jobsworth doctors didn’t want me to leave the ward, even for a half-hour.

Me

I just happened to be digging this out for something else, and thought I could include it here:

It is obviously from my pre-stroke days, but only by a few years. I was a keen cyclist back then – I still have that shirt and it was an XS! It was taken on the Dutch island of Texel (I didn’t cycle there, but I cycled while I was there), really close to a memorial (a mangled propeller) of a Lancaster bomber, which crashed there during the war.