Downton Abbey

It’s funny. I knw myself well enough these days to know that I don’t particularly follow the crowd. My tastes are quite unique.

On serious matters, on something like politics, my priorities, and therefore my views, are not common. Indeed, I was surprised to find, when I looked at some online politics groups, to find some people who did agree with me. On certain issues, anyway.

On lighter things, take television. A lot of programmes I’ve simply never seen. The Saturday night “make an unknown person a star” shows, for example. I see these for what they are – cheap, low-quality tv. Another popular show in the UK is The Apprentice. I think I watched the first season for novelty value, but stopped, ironically as it grew in fame. I’ve probably posted about that show before, but my objections to that show are quite serious. The premise that the bottom line is the beginning and end of everything offends me. Money is one commodity, sure, but there are others.

On the subjet of tv, the other day I watched a re-run of the first few episodes of Downton Abbey. I think this aired for the first time around 2010-2015, but missed me completely. I suppose, at that time of my life, I started off in London, had two years sorting out my parents’ estates, then spent the last few years trying to get the “bicycle mechanic” thing to fly. So I guess I was quite busy.

I mean, I’d certainly heard of it, I knew it was a massive production, but still never watched. But having taken the opportunity second-time around, I’m impressed. Of course this upstairs/downstairs thing is absolutenonsense, but I suppose a fairly accurate portrayal of the time. On the strngth of these episodes I’ve just ordered the box-set of every episode, and, really, you can count in years when I last bought a dvd.

So yeah, a promising start. Let’s hope that the other fifty-odd episodes live up to the standard.

Oh, and note to readers – there isn’t really an abbey (or anything remotely similar) in Downton! The outdoor shots were filmed at a place not a million miles away called Highclere Castle, although the story is entirely fictional, set up in Yorkshire.

Facts and Figures

I have posted various one- or two-liners about stroke and the health service, but thought I should probably be a bit more detailed.

Firstly, somebody having a stroke has almost a 90% chance of survival (i.e. surviving more than thirty days after a stroke), so there are lots of us about the place. According to the Stroke Association, there are more than 100,000 strokes in the UK every year, and around 2 million stroke survivors in total. Think about that statistic for a moment. 2 million. The UK has a population of 60-odd million, so that’s one every thirty of us. Stretching that somewhat, this means that when you see a football match on television, there might be a thousand stroke survivors in the crowd. But that would mean a uniform distribution of stroke survivors in the population, personally I don’t know any survivor who gives a hoot about football!

I know that for me, the physiotherapy I received in hospital was brilliant. In contrast, condultants (the top doctors) were irrelevant and the quality of the general nursing variable – literally from very good to very bad. For me, hospital ended pretty much as soon as I was on my feet again, although I came home in a chair and was very unsteady at first. And there the help stopped. Unfortunately, I’m judging the whole package – acute care plus the rehabillitation afterwards – so my overall verdict is “poor”. I’ve heard the same verdict many times over, although my knowledge apart from my personal knowledge, is anecdotal. I have also heard some good-news stories, somebody receiving appropriate treatment a matter of minutes after having had a stroke, or having a really high level of rehabillitation, so I think treatment could best be described as patchy. I think when you talk about a stroke strategy, the very first goal must be universality.

Going on to disabilities, although most people will survive, almost 2/3 of survivors will leave hospital with some kind of disability. In that respect, I am absolutely common! The current disability benefit, PIP, then comes into play. It is a points system – I get points for not being able to use my arm. I get some points for not being able to walk far because of my stamina and my dodgy leg, but not enough to affect my overall result. If my arm were OK, I wouldn’t get the benefit at all. I was quite surprised at how little the benefit was. To give a point of reference, my weekly benefit used to take me about an hour to earn when I was at the height of my career. I think this is entirely deliberate – disabled people are not high enough on the radar to matter, because he who shouts loudest gets the most attention. The level of care after a stroke, and of benefits, leaves me in absolutely no doubt that, if you have a stroke, the state just expects you to die. My benefit has reduced since the stroke, just because I’m getting better, walking further etc. In principle this is fair enough, because I need less help than I did, although my expenses haven’t really changed. If anything, they increased once I was able just to leave the house.

There’s another side to this too. I’ve been strong enough to go back to work for some time, but not really to travel up to London on top of everything else. So, I’m constrained to looking locally, which reduces the number of opportunities considerably. I can’t blame anyone for that, except the stroke. My own fault for living where we do. And, where I used to be able to walk into the top City banks and not only get a job, but be well thought of by my co-workers, I now can’t even get an interview with local employers. I can consteuct all sorts of reasoning in my head to explain this – that my experience was so specialised that local employers feel intimidated by my cv – but really, at that point, I’m just playing mind games with myself. The Stroke Association again provide some estimates here to help. If the likelihood of an able-bodied person being out of work for eight years is x, then the probability of a stroke survivor still being unemployed eight years after their stroke is 2 or 3x. Personally, I still keep an eye out still, but I busy myself writing my own software from home – keeps my brain active and might actually help people. I’m fortunate enough to still have a small amount of savings tucked away, and have the knowledge to kick off a project from start to finish just by virtue of my experience being my own boss.

As if getting back into work isn’t hard enough, I spoke to one woman once who had been made to sit on her own, away from everyone else, just in case somebody “caught” her stroke! Not a word of a lie, this is people’s intelligence. The last I heard, her union was acting on her behalf.

Please, in writing this, the last thing I want is sympathy, I just wanted to give an insight.

Doomed to Depression

I mentioned the other day about my mother. It’s funny, because I often think that my mum’s generation will turn out to be the most “have it all” generation in human history. There’s a balance between the advances of civilisation, and trying not to screw the environment. My mum enjoyed much of the former, but probably worried very little about the latter.

To a cerain extent, I could probably count my own generation as right up there. One could argue that I’m in that category too, but  I’m not sure my daughter’s generation will be exempt. I’m certainly aware of my footprint, but a lot of other people don’t share my concerns.

We went to Starbucks today, that emblem of the throwaway society, and you can see that they’re using plastic like it’s going out of fashion. Well, it is, I suppose. If I go there, I’ll only ever have a hot coffee, no matter what the weather, to drink in. The reasons? Because takeaway drinks are served in single-use paper/plastic cups, and all of their iceddrinks seem to come in plastic cups (despite photos above the counter showing the contrary). At least with mine, they wash it (let’s not mention for today how detergents also pollute) and somebody else uses that same cup. Even when people big-up recycling, to recycle something is only ever second-best, because re-use is what we really want.

Even my attempts to be frugal came short, though. For one thing, I had a bap – which came with a plastic knife that I didn’t ask for or use, and which probably got chucked out, still unused, after I left. Not even single-use plastic, but zero-use plastic! And, even my wife commented on how chilly the place was. It was quite humid today but not overly oppressive, although obviously Starbucks’ aircon was in overdrive.

I find it all very depressing. I consciously don’t eat much meat – very little these days – just on the grounds that it takes so many resources to grow a cow. I consciously don’t fly, because it’s unnecessary. I poo-poo my wife’s plans to go away somewhere warm in the middle of winter, for that reason. I’m aware that I could go even further, but we all have our limits. But at the same time as I’m trying to do my bit, other people don’t give a shit.

I must admit that I have become an awful lot grumpier as I’ve gotten older. The more I see of the world, the more it disappoints me. I see politicians lie about important things – to me that’s enough to kick them out there and then but other people vote them back in. I saw the NHS for myself and it was pretty shit. yet people wave flags to indicate how good they think it is. I see how few people get involved in charity work to help others, and how nobody would even dream of giving up their seat on the bus for me, despite my disabilities. And I generally see other people trying to undo all the effort I’m trying to put in. It’s depressing because the older I get, the more things I see that we really could do with changing. And one kind-of concludes that this must be true for anybody who thinks about the big picture, anyone who has a view on how the world should be. Whatever their politics. Dissatisfaction. And just as I am depressed that I live in a world where nobody gives a shit, so somebody like Margaret Thatcher would have been disappointed at not being able to turn society more into her vision. Finally worked out something we have in common! But anyone who cares, we’re all doomed to depression in our old age.