Cold

Experiencing something for the first time today.

You know when you get a cold, and all your joints feel achy? I mean, I used to get that every now and again, before….

Since the stroke, I’ve generally been able to steer clear of coughs and colds, just because I suppose I’m in contact with so few other people. But I’ve obviously picked something up now because my throat feels like sandpaper and it hurts to move. I’m not sure it feels any worse than in years gone by, but the effect of the achy joints on my already-weak limbs is quite debilitating, it is really uncomfortable even to move around and I’m feeling unusual strains on e.g. my femur. I can only hope that this will all be long gone by the time I need to go out again, not for another week unless I feel up to it.

It does feel a bit funny because, as a cyclist, I never used to get any of these petty ailments, I always felt immune, so I haven’t experienced a cold in years!

People

I’m concluding in my old age that I don’t like people much. My wife dragged me out to the local sales, there were lots of people about and the only things I had been vaguely interested in had either been moved, or seemed more expensive, not less, than before christmas.

When items have been moved, I just take it as a sign that the shop doesn’t want me to buy a particular item, so find it easier to go without altogether than to try rummaging for it. This was in Debenhams, and I came straight back out.

In Marks and Spencer, I saw another sign. Everywhere I turned, even when I stood where nobody else was about, somebody would turn up a few seconds later, wanting to get past me, and I’d be in the way. A woman with a pushchair quite happily barged me out of the way – I thought I might get my blue badge tattooed on my forehead, but decided against it as it probably wouldn’t make people behave any differently. I though of reminding her that I was a disabled guy but I doubt she’d have cared. And there were sufficient numbers of people out and about that I couldn’t go directly from A to B without taking a roundabout route – and whoever would have thought that, one day, walking would take so much effort? And even though I’m hobbling, nobody gets out of my way, it always has to be the other way around. So, all in all, I’m glad I’m home.

Unforgiving

We have two cats. The boy has been asleep on my bed since I vacated it this morning. The girl is a little more active, and has been a bit friskier today, even spending some time on my lap.

It’s funny, when she’s in the mood for a fuss, she butts my bad hand as it to say “Come on, why are you only fussing me with one hand? Get your act together!” I’ve got a funny feeling that if I ever get movement back in that hand, the first time I’ll notice it will be thanks to the cat.

Christmas Gathering

I popped into the Age UK office in Salisbury yesterday. A mince pie/coffee morning for volunteers. Because I only go to the office at a pretty set time each week, I tend to see the same few faces, so these social events are good opportunities to meet volunteers who I don’t see from week-to-week.

Yesterday, I met a lovely woman who did the same as me (telephone befriending) but who had only started doing it a few weeks ago. I mean, I’m still very much a noob myself, but at least I have a few months under my belt. Of course the conversation was limited to generalities so as to protect our clients’ confidentiality, but we both had similar experiences. This woman admitted to being very computer-illiterate, so only a couple of weeks in, feels like she’s fighting against the program that Age UK use. To be honest I consider myself very computer-literate, and still find some of the same. I tend to only push the buttons I need to complete my specific task, although the system does a lot more. Plus, I expect there’s a lot of stuff it wouldn’t allow me to see, even if I did look around.

I also met the Age UK employee who asked me to become a telephone befriender in the first place. It was lovely to see her, as she is normally based in their other office. I think we just clicked from when we first met, same kind of age, kids the same age, and so on. She has daughters, too, so we swapped stories. She is just about to celebrate that first christmas without one of the kids, which we did a year or two ago. She seems naturally very outgoing, so I guess she’s generally very popular at the charity. With me, it is a bit more forced. I’ve probably become more outgoing since the stroke, just because I’ve met people with such diverse backgrounds, but it is still an effort. I guess it must be really useful for a charity to have somebody like this woman on board, just in terms of quickly establishing a rapport with clients.

She obviously spotted that I wasn’t doing much, and pitched the telephone befriending role to me. So I was finally able to get involved, having been quite passive up until then. (When I originally volunteered, I had something within walking distance in mind, but the role requires travelling into their office in Salisbury.) But beyond that, I just wanted to help out, I had nothing specific in mind. The stroke work was the same.

I get the impression that a lot of my clients were met first by this woman, so she is familiar with back-stories, although doesn’t speak to them every week as I do. If I have any concerns, she is my first point of contact, so it helps that she has met them too. She often knows a bit more of the history than I do.

So, yes, all-in-all nice to meet some new colleagues, plus a refresher on some existing ones. Next stop, christmas!

For or Against

There’s so much destructive talk around at the moment (against this, against that) that I wanted to write something constructive. What I want rather than what I don’t want.

Of course I shall write about the relationship between the UK and the EU, it is a subject which is totally dominating UK politics at the moment. So, in terms of a future agreement, here’s what would make me happy:

  • freedom of movement. I’d be happy for it to continue, just like (in theory) it does today. And, of course, if it is necessary, you guarantee the rights of people who do settle here. The UK has two sorts of immigration – that from the EU (which can’t be controlled and which has decreased since the referendum), and that from the RoW (which can be controlled). While immigration from the EU has decreased, overall immigration has stayed roughly the same, so therefore RoW immigration has increased. But the point I’m making is that whenever a government minister talks about “control of our borders”, I see it as jingo rather than something credible. It doesn’t overly bother me, and I don’t think it much bothers politicians either.
  • trade. I’d commit to maintaining (or even exceeding) EU standards. But only until further notice – I wouldn’t attempt to bind my successors. For that I’d like for the UK to trade freely with the EU – I am wary of the term “union” because, depending on context, it often seems to imply some restriction of the two parties’ ability to trade with third-parties. To be clear, I see something which allows the UK and the EU to trade with each other, but also which doesn’t place any constraints on them trading with third parties. If either the UK or the EU subsequently chose to lower its standards, then I see no problem with the other party possibly walking away from the deal.

So, by those two stances, the problem at the Irish border goes away. We (the UK) don’t fear people coming via Ireland, Ireland doesn’t fear our goods becoming inferior (or vice versa) and flooding their markets. I mean, I’m more of a republican than a nationalist anyway, so I wouldn’t be particularly bothered if NI wanted to align itself away from the UK somehow (either as an independent nation or as part of a united Ireland), so long as that’s what its population wanted. But my beliefs make for a homogeneous border in any case.

  • On justice, the key thing for me is that the citizen is subject to a set of rules, and is judged by a court if they’ve fallen foul of those rules, and that court itself is implementing rules defined by by politicians who make up those rules and who are elected by those same citizens. So it kind-of comes full circle. I don’t much mind whether the rules are made in London or in Timbuktu, as long as there is traceability back to the electorate. In the case where the UK is involved in EU institutions, we have to accept that we’ve now left the EU, so if an institution is then subject to the ECJ, so be it and the UK has to accept that. If we don’t like that, we either set up our own parallel institution, or we do without.
  • On the system of representation, I’m happy to be represented (i.e. that somebody is elected to analyse proposed legislation on my behalf), but both the UK and EU systems are flawed. I’ve mentioned before in this blog about different countries of the EU having more MEPs per capita, where, really, that level ought to be flat. Similarly, I’ve mentioned how we could reform the UK’s FPTP system – the one thing it was claimed to have going for it was that it gave a strong government, but even that is now clearly known to be nonsense. But I think that we need consensual politics rather than the adversarial politics we see at the moment. Every government should be a GNU.
  • On general sovereignty, I think it is a red herring. Just, really in terms of… if you want to do a trade deal with X, then X will have certain specifications that must be conformed to. So, who’s calling the shots? I see sovereignty as pretty parallel- we’re all so interconnected that sovereignty is an illusion. I suppose you might argue that sovereignty is the ability to decide whether you trade with X or not, but unless you trade with somebody, you’re on skid row.

There’s obviously a lot of stuff I’ve left out here, but I suppose these are my “rules of thumb”.