Sunday, 11 June 2017

Singing On A Sofa With Your Dad While Morphing Into Daniel O'Donnell

I will get around to finishing the story of my latest health mishap but I just wanted to drop this in here to let you know that it hasn't all been bad recently. I have had some enjoyment amid the vile medicines, nebulisers and assaults on my limbs.

Having been released from the hospital on the Friday I was free to go to Manchester on the Saturday for the Robbie Williams gig at the Etihad Stadium. We stayed at The Brittannia which for those of you visiting these pages for access titbits is accessible only via the Wave Bar next door. The hotel concierge has to come outside and lead you through into the bar, which was as packed as you might expect a bar in Manchester city centre to be on a Saturday afternoon when Robbie Williams is in town, and use the lift to circumnavigate the steps which sit at the entrance to the hotel.

It's a spectacularly bad lift, too. Once you're inside the door doesn't open, almost as if they don't want you to use it without the concierge standing at the top waiting to open the door for you and let you out. Before you hit reception you are led through a very nice bar area. It was strangely quiet when we arrived there and the queue for checking in was beginning to stretch back towards Wave Bar. In this bar by reception four Budweisers sets you back £10. Anybody who drinks regularly in city centres knows you take that and tell checking in to your room that it can wait.

So a very pleasant couple of hours was passed storing up trouble for the days ahead via the medium of lager. Truth be told I knew there was a bit of risk involved in having a few beers after the shenanigans I'd been through earlier that week but how often are you going to a Robbie gig? How frequently do you expect to find yourself drinking reasonably priced Budweiser in a very nice if not totally accessible hotel? You have to live for today.

The plan was to get something to eat before getting on the tram over to the Etihad. Trams in Manchester are so much more accessible than trains. Despite the manic crowds at an event like this you are very unlikely to find yourself left on the platform swearing at a staff member who is not even trying to create the illusion that he gives a shit. For one thing the staff are helpful and therefore useful and for another the platforms are flat anyway. No ramps required, no phoning ahead to your destination to try to make sure you're not stranded. It's a system which, while not perfect, is very much aware that it is 2017 and not 1917.

We tried Wave Bar, Emma having had to take the stairs and play concierge to make sure I didn't spend the night in the lift, but like many other places it was too busy. One of the things about knocking about with biffs is that you have to find a seat for the able bodied person in a bar otherwise there's no point staying. You can't really have a conversation in a noisy bar if one of you has to stand up. You end up sitting in silence which is not particularly troubling if you're with someone you live with and have known for nearly 20 years but must look a bit odd to others. This is just one of the myriad things you able bodied types don't have to worry about. In that situation you can just stand together and have a drink and a chat. We had to go.

We found one American grill place but nothing on the menu that inspired, and Ask was offering a table only after a 45-minute wait. So we had a tuna sandwich in Pret-A-Manger, basically Ian Beale's cafe with an inflated sense of its own social standing. It served a purpose. An important gap was filled.

We did get chance to visit a couple of pubs before we got on the tram. There was a Wetherspoons in which I repeatedly tried to ask a woman if we could take the spare chair at her table only to discover when she eventually turned to face me that she was deaf. I was at the side of her but a level below at the bottom of a small set of steps. Until she turned her head she didn't even know I was there let alone that I was talking to her. I get that a lot with women so it came as some surprise when I realised that she was deaf. She gave us the chair. In the Piccadilly Tavern next door I spend a very pleasant 10 or 15 minutes watching Wigan get annhialated by Hull FC. No matter where I am in the world or what I'm doing there is always pleasure to be had in watching Wigan get battered.

I'll skip the tram journey and move swiftly on to moaning about the lack of WiFi or indeed any internet coverage at the Etihad Stadium. We had decent seats, closer than last time we saw Robbie there in 2013 but I had to go back out to the concourse to get on to the internet. It wasn't unlike A & E at Whiston in that regard although I still had high hopes of enjoying this experience rather more than I savoured a Shit Smoothie and a cannula or three.

Charged with helping me do that were Erasure. An almost forgotten relic of the late 80s and early 90s Erasure are as camp now as they were then. Singer Andy Bell has mercifully put away the shorts but still manages to somehow get away with strutting around in sparkly trousers. Now, as then, he is accompanied by several enthusiastic female dancers while bandmate Vince Clarke stands some distance away at the back of the stage strumming his guitar almost reluctantly, as if he isn't with any of these embarrassing exhibitionists at the front. He may not be all that visible but the whole shooting match would collapse without Vince.

There's no big screens in operation at this point. So it's just as well that I would much rather listen to Erasure than look at them. Bell's a very good live performer and his voice doesn't seem to lose anything live. It's surprising how many Erasure songs you know when you hear them again after 25 years or so. We all remember 'Sometimes' and 'Respect' but what about 'Victim Of Love', 'I Love To Hate You', 'Oh L'amour', 'Blue Savannah' and 'Chorus'? Bewilderingly, Erasure were able to play a 45-minute set of songs that I mostly knew without once having to resort to an Abba medley. When they left the stage I remember thinking that, far from dragging on, their set was a bit short.

But it was almost time. On each side of the stage were two massive screens, the shape of Robbie's head, chest and arms. With boxing gloves on. No, I don't know why either. His entrance, like a lot of his show, was somewhat self parodic. An alternative version of Land Of Hope & Glory, the words splashed across the Robbie-shaped screens. He's always had a bit of humour about him but he's full on playing this for laughs now. And then he appears, mercifully before it goes over into Russ Abbott territory, back to the crowd and dressed in a red boxers robe. It's all gloriously tacky. It's The Heavy Entertainment Show.

The first half an hour is rip-roaring. He follows the 'Heavy Entertainment Show' with a rousing and satisfyingly predictable rendition of 'Let Me Entertain You' and straight into one of my particular favourites 'Monsoon'. 'Party Like A Russian' is energetic enough to keep the place rocking even if it's not one I'd have chosen, and then it's the first of a couple of Take That numbers. There's not too much wrong with 'The Flood' and 'Never Forget' is almost universally loved whatever the state of Gary Barlow's tax bill. But if you're being churlish you might grumble about listening to Take That songs when you've paid to see Robbie Williams. I like both but not everybody does.

Robbie's first solo hit, before 'Angels' forced cynics like me to listen to Life Thru A Lens and take a different view, was a cover of George Michael's 'Freedom 90'. With Michael's relatively recent passing I suppose it's no surprise to see Williams belting out his own version at every live opportunity. It's quite a fitting tribute even if I just want him to play 'Karma Killer' and 'Me And My Monkey' instead. Before the soundtrack to my life that is 'Come Undone' he offers the anti-soundtrack to it, the altogether too cheery and positive 'I Love My Life'. It's a pleasant tune but I'm not feeling the sentiment, not even at a Robbie gig with a beer in my hand. I'm going back to the hospital in the morning.

Presumably to give himself a rest Robbie then opts for a bit of a chat to the audience, in between a medley of seemingly random songs performed a capella. Like The Flying Pickets. No? Ask your dad. These include 'Living On A Prayer' by Bon Jovi, 'Take On Me' by A-Ha, 'Rehab' by Amy Winehouse and others finished off with a bit of Take That's 'Everything Changes'. Well....he did sing the lead on that one at the time. Buried within are a couple of bona fide Robbie tunes such as 'She's The One' and 'Old Before I Die' but again it's a little off topic for the more hardline Robbie enthusiast.

Then things get really strange. There's a guest appearance from Rick Astley. Yes, it's really him bellowing out 'Never Gonna Give You Up' and he's doing so in a way that Robbie can't match. Astley owns that song so yeah, you can join in, but don't be offended if you get out-performed even if you are Robbie Williams. How much you enjoy it depends very much on your attitude towards nostalgia and to Stock, Aitken And Waterman classics. I enjoyed it but can we have 'No Regrets' now? 'Something Beautiful'?

No. After Rick we get the dreadful 'Rudebox', a perfect opportunity for more drinks from the bar. 'Kids' is more like it but it seems that Astley's old stable-mate Kylie couldn't be persuaded to appear. The stand in is an outstanding singer but well....she'll never be Kylie any more than I'll ever be Robbie or Rick Astley. As guest singers go though the next one sees the show reach an uncomfortable nadir. Things can only get better from here as Robbie introduces his dad Pete, a club singer more at home on Phoenix Nights than in a packed football stadium. As father and son sit together on a couch singing ' Sweet Caroline' I remember noting darkly how far removed this is from Knebworth. Robbie had a bit of attitude then, a bit of rock'n'roll. If he keeps this schmalzy sentiment up he'll be about as relevant as sir Cliff before he turns 45. Maybe he doesn't care any more but he's morphing into Daniel O'Donnell.

He does lift his game with a sensational performance of 'Feel', but that's a song written when Robbie Williams was Robbie Williams. Troubled, hedonistic and prone to bouts of drug and alcohol-fuelled depression. He's found happiness now. Marriage, kids...which is great but it's all a bit happy-clappy for me. Before the encore there's just time for 'Rock DJ' which is a song I hate but is at least performed with the vigour and actual oomph that is classically Robbie.

The encore is spectacular. Eagle eyes will have noted that he hasn't done 'Angels' yet so there's that. Say what you like about Robbie but 'Angels' is one of the greatest songs ever written. People gnash their teeth and mutter about pop music, painting their walls black and burning their Kings Of Leon albums as soon as they get a hit record, but you will struggle to find a more brilliantly structured pop ballad than 'Angels'. It will be played 100 years from now much like the very best offered by Elvis or The Beatles. Hopefully 'Rudebox' will not.

Accompanying the mighty 'Angels' is a version of 'Strong' adapted in tribute to the victims of the recent Manchester Arena terror attack. You may have seen him perform it at Ariana Grande's benefit gig at Old Trafford the following night. I can confirm that he hit the high notes here much more easily than he did at Ariana's gig. He was demonstrably struggling by then. By the way Ariana... Again, pop music might not be your thing and I'd never heard any of her music before the bombing, but the way she has carried herself throughout the whole ordeal has been nothing short of heroic. She's an inspiration and they ought to give her the freedom of Manchester.

Back to Robbie, and the crowd pleasing 'My Way' to finish. This is in my own ropey karaoke repertoire which gives you an idea of how easy it is to sing. But it is no less enjoyable for all that, much like Robbie's performance as a whole. It's Heavy Entertainment, and the only thing I'd change about it is....well.....the set list....

Friday, 9 June 2017

Swigging On A Shit Smoothie As Your Arms Fall Off

It's been an eventful week.

This time last week I had got home from work and started to feel my heart beating a little too fast. It had actually started on the Tuesday but when it settled down throughout the day on Wednesday I thought it had passed. But by the time I'd got home and eaten it was quickening, my breath was shortening and I could feel a feint tingle in my arms. I woke up very early on Thursday morning, unable to sleep. The quickening was rapidly becoming a palpitation if not a pounding. I was going back to the hospital.

I'd been here before of course. In 2013 I spent two July nights in Whiston Hospital during which I had to endure a permanent catheter and spent several nervous hours awaiting the results of a kidney scan. At that point I hadn't had my kidney function measured since 2007. I didn't want to know, frankly. Buried my head in the sand. If my kidneys were going to fail they were going to do so as I fell from my chair in some dingy karaoke bar, not after years of life-altering dialysis. I still feel that way about it. The only difference is that now, having had that experience, I've learned that there are ways and means of keeping the worst at bay. But those ways and means involve engaging with a nephrologist three or four times a year and taking a boat load of drugs like a good boy. You do what you must.

So I had some idea what to expect with these symptoms when I arrived at A & E early on Thursday morning. The first thing they do is a blood test and an ECG. The first of many, countless blood tests as it turned out. The nurse couldn't find a vein. She jabbed me twice in my right arm and twice in my left, all after several minutes of tapping and general manipulation of my apparently bloodless limbs. No joy. She suggested that it might be because, this being early morning, I could be dehydrated. I hadn't thought to have a drink before I came out. I just wanted to get to the hospital, get on with the business in hand and get home.

The ECG had shown my heart rate at 108 bpm. This is above what is considered the normal range for anybody but for me it's outrageously high. Anyone who knows me well will testify that I am not exactly excitable. My heart rate would be unlikely to raise to that level unless I was being chased by a lion or I'd opened my wardrobe to find Jennifer Lawrence hiding in it. I haven't even got a wardrobe. Not one you can hide in and certainly not if you're an instantly recognisable Hollywood superstar.

With the nurse unable to locate my blood I was moved to a small treatment room within A & E. The doctor would have to try. Dr Bob. Bob wasn't his full name but that's what they called him. His full name was unpronouncable and for it to appear here would rely on my having seen it written somewhere online and the use of copy and paste. It seemed odd at the time to think that Dr Bob would have any greater blood testing skills than the nurse. Surely she does it more often while he's away looking at charts, making life-changing decisions and whispering? Doctors do an awful lot of whispering in my experience. It makes me nervous and adds to my dislike of them. Predictably, Dr Bob couldn't find a vein either. It must have taken him another half a dozen attempts during which he was not shy about moving the angle of the needle in my arm to try to persuade more blood to flow. The medical equivalent of twisting the knife. They do some heroic work medical professionals but it takes a certain type of someone to be able to wiggle a needle around in someone's vein so matter-of-factly.

Finally successful, he left me in that tratment room alone for fully 45 minutes except for the time it took to hobble back to the waiting area to phone my boss at work to let her know what was going on There was no mobile signal in the treatment room and while it's probably fair enough to assume that patients in need of urgent attention aren't going to prioritise updating their Facebook status it would have been nice to have been able to make a phone call from where I was. They offered me the use of their phone but that still would have involved a pathetic shuffle to another room. I was already feeling the effects of the multiple injections I'd been having in the search for my blood. It's hard to push a chair when your wrists and arms are bruising up.

I needed a cannula. The waiting - 45 minutes for Dr Bob to come back and check on me and easily another hour waiting for the result of the test - ended with the news that my potassium was at 7.4, over two points above what is considered safe. The short explanation for this is that mashed kidneys like mine can't get rid of potassium as a healthy kidney can. Something to do with a lowering of sodium bicarbonate, to give you what Jennifer Anniston used to call the science bit. So the cannula - in layman's terms a tube inserted into the body as a means of getting unpalatable but useful substances into the body - was specifically so that I could immediately be drip fed sodium bicarbonate, glucose and insulin.

I was familiar with those things from my 2013 visit. They're standard for dragging your potassium levels down from the stratosphere. Yet there were a couple of surprises in store. Firstly came the nebuliser, a breathing mask held to the nose and mouth which enables you to basically inhale mist with destructive properties. They use it to treat cystic fibrosis. I had a friend who had to use one every day at school. Probably still does. Not at school, obviously but you know what I mean. Yet here I am dramatising 15 minutes of it for your reading pleasure. I don't know I'm born. In truth it isn't particularly unpleasant. Just annoying and a bit disconcerting the first time you are asked to use it. It helped to relieve the shortness of breath almost immediately to be fair. Tsk...medical experts....Still, I wouldn't want to have to use it regularly. It's just....inconvenient....as I would find as I was repeatedly presented with it by the nurses in the days that followed.

The second surprise was a notch up on the unpleasantness scale. The nurse distracted me with chit-chat about how she knew me from my job, before placing a small paper cup down on the trolley in front of me. She told me she'd need me to drink the contents, that it was something else that would help bring my potassium level down. I wasn't keen to begin with. I'm a tablets person more than a medicines person. Who isn't? I've never encountered any medicine that tasted like anything other than liquid animal waste, and this wasn't going to buck the trend by the looks of it. It was an orangey-brown shade, the colour of a cup of tea you made two weeks ago and forgot to either drink or pour down the sink. It tasted every bit as foul as it looked. That sour, putrid taste so common in medicines was accompanied by a vile chalkiness of the kind you might expect to encounter if you chewed on a handful of painkillers. It's called Calcium Resonium and I recommend that you avoid it at all costs. It's basically a Shit Smoothie.

It was going to take six whole hours to fully administer the amount of sodium bicarbonate I had been prescribed. I wasn't going home tonight. I was still in the A & E treatment room as a very distressed young girl in the room opposite was carted off to Aintree Hospital where, she was assured, they had what she needed in the ear, nose and throat department. That's another troubling facet of hospital stays. You come across people in all kinds of states of hysteria and most often you don't get to find out what happens to them when they or you are moved elsewhere. In 2013 there were a couple of similar cases and the even more disturbing memory of an almost completely yellow man being shouted at by nurses for complaining about the prospect of being sent back to the nursing home. He looked gravely ill, the colour of a Simpsons character. I never saw the girl opposite again.

Two and a half further hours passed sleepily on the sodium drip, the glucose and insulin having already run their course. I asked to be unhooked so that I could go to the toilet (which one young nurse mortifyingly took as a request to be physically taken to the toilet...who trains these fucking people?...oh..) and that's when things got complicated. When I came back I was informed that I was being moved to Ward 1B. It was 6.00pm, around 10 hours after I had reported to A & E. They would hook me back up to the sodium when I'd been transferred.

My new nurse on 1B asked me a series of boring, scarcely relevant questions before suffering from her own dose of the local nursing disease of being unable to treat me. I had two cannulas in by now and she couldn't get my sodium drip to resume via any of them. She just complained that the machine was beeping and giving her an error message as if I would have some wise advice on what to do about it. Then she left and returned several times, fiddling and twiddling around with it until she was satisfied that it was up and running. She left me alone for a couple of hours during which I answered a few messages I had received, called my mum and messed around on social media until hopefully I felt sleepy. Except in hospital I don't really get sleepy at night. It's too light, too much conversation going on outside the room in the corridor and in other rooms on the ward. All of which you can hear every word of. So what I was really doing was waiting for my exhausted, emotional state to knock me out. It never really did.

That is due in no small part to the fact that I had to spend most of the night still hooked up to the sodium drip. At around 9.00 the nurse came back in and told me that the sodium had not been feeding into me properly. At all. Not for the two and a half hours that I thought I'd been on it in A & E and not for the three hours since I'd arrived on 1B! I'd been prescribed six hours of this stuff remember. That meant that, toilet breaks aside (and I don't go in the night no matter how many young nurses offer to assist me, what kind of people do that?), I'd have to be hooked up till 3.00 the next morning! It was going to be a long, long night....And it was. If I managed two hours sleep I did well. It didn't help that a nurse came into my room at 11.40pm with another Shit Smoothie and some sodium tablets. They had other priorities. I can understand that. It's the NHS. But if I'm low priority then you can understand why they find it such a hard sell when they tell me that high potassium can stop my heart. Which is it? Is my condition dangerous or not? If it is then why isn't my treatment high priority?

Now the real floater in the pint here was that I had an important appointment on Saturday night. We'd bought tickets to see Robbie Williams at Manchester's Etihad Stadium. So I had to get out of there before then. I have previous for discharging myself from hospital without permission and would have done it again had it come to it. This is Robbie Williams we're talking about and anyway have you seen the price of a Manchester city centre hotel? It's not something you want to be cancelling, much less contemplating that cancellation over a Shit Smoothie and soggy toast on a Saturday night in June. But I didn't really want to have to discharge myself any more than I wanted to cancel the hotel and miss the gig. It would have only resulted in a worsening of my condition and a return visit. That was on the cards anyway as it turned out, but at least if I didn't force the issue I could say that it wasn't totally my doing.

At around 10.40am on Friday, following another round of all the treatments, a doctor came to see me. As they took yet more blood (I was starting to bruise in places you don't bruise by now) the doctor told me that if the latest test showed a big enough reduction in my potassium levels I'd be sent on my way home. If that sounded encouraging I was remembering that I'd had three blood tests in the previous 12 hours and not been advised of a single result. As positive as the doctor had sounded I couldn't help feeling that they were keeping something back from me which couldn't be good. Why withold good news? The more I thought about it the more I started to believe my potassium had sky-rocketed and that I'd be here for as long as Alan Partridge was in that hotel. Surrounded by blonde bastards.

Then the waiting resumed. The bed was at least more comfortable than an A & E treatment room but no less stressful for that. One of the few good things about being in hospital is that you get a bed that you can incline and recline remotely at the touch of a button. Hours of fun. Well...it makes it easier than lifting yourself up and back down again as required when your arms are falling off. I had my blood pressure checked around lunchtime and then again around 3.00pm. On that latter occasion the nurse told me that rather than start packing up to go home I should get ready to be taken for another ECG. The lunchtime test had shown my heart rate was up just above 100 bpm again. I was tacchycardic, she said. You hear this a lot on Holby, usually reserved for the most horrifically injured single appearance characters whose survival is far from assured. The kind that fall off buildings or get mown down by Masdas. Just as I was explaining this latest setback to Emma as she got back from the coffee shop the nurse came back in and said that my 3.00 reading was much lower. I was no longer tacchycardic and so there'd be no second ECG. No one-off appearance on Holby.

At around 3.40pm, five hours after they had taken the latest blood test the doctor confirmed my potassium had shrunk to 5.7. This is what they call the upper end of normal but the important thing, the only bit I really listened to actually, was that I was being released. I was going to Manchester. To The Etihad. To Robbie. On one condition. Since my potassium was still fairly high albeit in the safe range I was told I would have to come back on Sunday for yet another blood test. I'd have to come in, have the test and then wait around for an hour and a half to two hours in case the result meant more treatment. It seemed like there were better ways to spend a Sunday. What's more I had no veins left. Barely any limbs left. But I agreed immediately just to get out of there, with just the nagging feeling at the back of my mind that a few beers at the gig could land me a quick return to the ward.

But what are you going to do? It's Robbie.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

A Recently Deposited Stool From A Horse That Has Recently Consumed Several Especially Potent Curries

They say you shouldn't write while you're angry. Or at least I think that's something 'they' might say. They're wrong if they do. I find that writing while angry has a cathartic quality. There's things you can't say but you can write. Harrison Ford said something similar the first time he saw the script for Star Wars.

So I'm angry. Here's why. Two main reasons today. We're going to ignore the things that drive me slowly insane every day otherwise this entry will take too long and it's not that often that Emma's Sheffield Wednesday are live on television in a decisive play-off game. The first occured early this morning. I can't go into too much detail lest my employer force me into some Cersei Lannister-like naked walk of shame. Good luck getting me to walk you capitalist piss hat, but you get my drift. Their wrath will come down upon me in some other way. Something worse than having to work for the bloated behemoth's hovel for possibly the next 25 years. More if I live that long and Zelda from Terrahawks keeps raising the age of retirement at the current rate. The point of all this is that my employer revealed to me today that it places my value and that of my colleagues at something around the level of a recently deposited stool from a horse that has wolfed down several hundred especially potent curries. We are nothing to our employer we just exist. Take your meagre pay and fuck off home and 'oh would you like to come and help us with....'

No. Fuck off.

So, already feeling devalued and disrespected (what else is new? every time a woman opens a door for me I feel demasculated to the point where I want to cut off my own head) I was not in the mood for the chicanery which took place at Lime Street Station this evening. Emma had texted me at lunchtime to say she was going home. Something had gone wrong at her branch of the clown factory and she'd had enough and just wanted out. The problem was that I had the front door key and she had got quite close to the train station before she realised this. So since she had to walk all the way back up towards the bloated behemoth's hovel I thought I'd take the car keys with me and give her the option of taking the car home. I'd get the train. No problem. I'm all about showing willing.

With about 20 minutes to go before the departure of the 5.17 to Thatto Heath I bought a ticket. Apparently £2.60 for a single is a discount because 'you're in a wheelchair'. It's not and I'm not. It's still fairly scandalous and I'm a wheelchair user. But at this point I just want to go home so I avoid debating the appropriate language and progress to the gate. They have gates now. All professional and shit. The type where you put your ticket in and it clicks or whirrs and the gate opens. Not long ago you just went through unchecked and if the guard never asked you for your ticket on the train well then £2.60 extra went in the beer fund. Not now.

But you know, I am happy to pay if the service is good quality. Or at least if the service I receive is only as shitty as the service everyone else receives. I ask the man on the gate if I can have a ramp brought to platform 1;

"Have you told someone?" he asks me.

What?

"I'm telling you."

This seemed a reasonable response to me. There were still around 15 minutes before departure and he looked suspiciously like railway station staff. Who else was I meant to tell? I couldn't think of anyone better equipped to provide a ramp at a station platform than him but to cover the bases I told 300 people on Facebook. Perhaps I should have fucking cc'd the Minister For Transport. Or gone out onto the concourse with a megaphone and announced it;

"EVERYONE!! THERE'S A CRIPPLE TRYING TO GET ON A TRAIN AT PLATFORM ONE!! SAVE YOURSELVES!!!

Clearly I didn't do enough. I waited and waited. With about two minutes left before departure the man I had asked earlier came whistling by. He asked me where I was travelling to and there seemed to be hope. But he never gave me any further information. He just kept on walking by down the platform. I didn't know whether to follow him or not but with time running out I decided to. He stood chatting to the guard on the train....my train.....and when he turned around to see me he looked surprised. Surprised and inconvenienced. He made an attempt to unlock a ramp by the platform that was frankly an insult to the term half-arsed. He spent no more than six seconds twirling an oddly shaped tool in the vicinity of the lock and then gave up.

"I can't do it." he mumbled. Then after another brief consultation with the guard he blew his whistle and said;

"It's too late mate, we've had a signal."

With that the train pulled away. Too late. But I'd been there 20 minutes. I stormed back down the platform towards the gate. You could even say I flounced. Use whatever word you like. I was positively frothing with rage.

"Who's in charge of this fucking shit show!" I asked of a man stood uselessly by the gate. He denied it was him, as did two other men who I was incorrectly passed to. By this time I had completely lost it and one of the useless bastards asked me to stop swearing at him. With more than a trace of irony I told him to fuck off and advised him that I'd be using whatever language I liked until I was afforded some respect.

Now, swearing at railway station staff isn't big or clever, but in this situation it served a purpose. If, as a wheelchair user, you sit there and politely take this sort of shit you are going to achieve nothing. You might as well apologise for being a cripple and promise to let them bend you over and screw you any time they like. Besides, I challenge anyone to live with a disability as stigmatised as mine for 41 years and not feel the need to tell someone to fuck right off every now and then. It just continually takes basic rights away from us, a situation exacerbated by a society and a workforce that does not give a flying fuck. Legislation helps in some ways but largely it just causes us to be viewed as a problem to be got around. It doesn't matter if I miss a train because they can apologise and promise to 'look at' their 'procedures'. Not good enough.

So only swearing would do. It was all I had to register the depth of hatred I had for the rail service at that particular time. People who are offended by that need to have a word with themselves. Anyone with a modicum of intelligence knows that they are just words. I could say some really offensive things without using a single swear word just as I could pay you a sincere compliment using the most foul vernacular. I needed emphasis and shock value to wake the cretins up. I did that.

They offered me a place on the next train but you can imagine where I told them to shove that. It cost me £37 to get home in a taxi but I'd rather pay that than meekly accept the piss poor rail service I was offered. It's not about the money. It's about the fight to be treated like a human being, especially by people whose superiority complex is unfathomable and unjust.

I'm driving home tomorrow......

Friday, 12 May 2017

This Just In - The Poor Don't Exist

Memoirs Of A Fire Hazard has never been so productive. Following on from my last two depressing entries on the subject of the whole country going to shit and nobody caring any more I’m compelled to spew out more political musings which are likely to be just as bleak.

The biscuit has been well and truly taken this time, as one Facebook poster informed me (presumably with a straight face, I don’t know because I couldn’t see him) that my view is all wrong because actually….and get this……..there is no such group as ‘the poor’ in the UK. So that’s it then, we’re fine. Everyone pack up and go home. Crack on Theresa you are doing one Hell of a job. We've obviously never had it so good…

Except. Except that there is evidence to suggest that there are some people in the UK who might reasonably be classed as distinctly wealth defficient. The number of visits to foodbanks has gone up from the tens of thousands into the millions in the last seven years since the Tories came back to power under pig-ploughing former Premier David Cameron. Now, some people may need to visit a foodbank more than once so the fact that something like 1.2 million food parcels were handed out in 2016/17 doesn’t necessarily mean that 1.2 million people are poor enough to have to resort to this desperate measure. But if people are going more than once doesn’t this show just exactly how poor they are? The poor, it seems, are very real outside of the entitled, spoiled world of your average Tory. Consider what the Facebooker believes exists instead of poor people;

“What we do have are a massive range of citizens... the majority of whom make life choices the consequences of which dictate an income level.”

Which is another way of saying that if you haven’t got any money it is your fault, so don’t expect the billionaires of this country to bail you out. They already pay enough tax remember, since the top 1% pay 30% of all tax. Aye, but firstly that is not enough and secondly that is 30% of all tax collected. What about tax that is not collected, dodged, swerved? How many people would have to use foodbanks if the rich paid their tax? I’d venture to suggest the figure would be significantly lower. This country can afford to rid itself of poverty, there just isn’t any appetite for it to do so amid the clamour to acquire more, more and more for yourself. Worse than that, this is money that these people don’t even need. They already have more money than they know what to do with. It’s a status symbol and nothing more.

Oh but it’s not ‘fair’ to make them pay more. Bollocks it isn’t.

Our Facebooker went on;

“Cruel Tory austerity" has been an effort to balance the books... to make sure as a country we are living within our means.”

No it has not. It has been an effort to make those with less foot the enormous bill because if you are a Tory that seems like the fairest thing to do. We’re all in this together, after all. For an encore he hit me with;

“We want to sustain the level of state assistance for as long as possible for people "genuinely" in need. That's only possible with financial prudence and Jeremy does not seem to understand that.”

I could tell you that I have had to correct his grammar but that would be just cheap points scoring. We don’t need that as you can see because he’s outed himself as someone who really believes it is fair and right to turn a blind eye to the greed of the rich and instead bash the poor (less wealthy? Under funded? I don’t know but we obviously can’t call them the poor any more) over the head with more austerity measures. In this context living within our means equates to the people with less living within their means while the mega-rich crack on snorting cocaine off the backsides of expensive whores. It is cruel and heartless to ask them to give that up.

His final point was that all that my previous post offered was “nothing more than ‘it's our fault because we don't believe it's possible.’”. But as I said in my post it isn’t so much that they don’t believe it is possible but that they don’t believe it is desirable to have the things that Corbyn aspires to provide. You can question his maths all you like but what kind of human are you if you question the desire to have fully funded schools, a free NHS and an end to tuition fees? And four extra bank holidays for feck’s sake. Who doesn’t want that? As someone else pointed out, there is a whole section of the Labour manifesto which talks about ending elderly loneliness that is simply sneered at by the me-first sub-species that has been created by Thatcherism. It’s a desperate state of affairs, but it now seems that people want markedly different things than they did in years gone by. Somehow, some time during the Thatcher years, everyone became a self-centred arsehole in reaction to the late 70s winter of discontent. And if you are still left wing after that experience you are branded ‘naive’. Naive as in compassionate and capable of empathy. Incidentally, if the right wing are that worried about a return to the 1970s why do they want blue passports, imperial measurements and no immigration?

Empathy towards others is something that is now in very short supply. Another contributor to the debate on Twitter informed me that psychologists estimate that there is a global empathy deficit of about 50% compared with just a few years ago. What this basically means is that nobody cares about anyone else any more, or maybe more specifically only half as many people care half as much. And that is from a few years ago when if you had asked me I would have guessed that there was a heck of a lot of self-centredness about even then. Years before that we used to have a sense of community and caring for others until Thatcher taught us not to, that all for one and one for all was the very definition of evil and that you were on your own in a dog-eat-dog world. Since then capitalism and greed have got worse through successive governments (including Blair and Brown’s Labour, sadly) to the point where now there are actually real, living and breathing people who believe that there isn’t any such thing as the poor and if there is then it is their own daft fault for failing to ‘make something of themselves’.

It is hard not to despair from this point. All the signs are that the greed is good mob are the majority and that we can therefore expect another five years of obnoxious Tory-ness in our lives following the forthcoming General Election. The number of people using foodbanks will grow, the most vulnerable will be denied the funding they need to continue living independently, and a load of posh twats on horseback will once again be allowed to chase a terrified fox through the countryside before ripping it literally to shreds with total immunity in the name of ‘sport’. All that I will have for comfort is the knowledge that I can vent my spleen on these pages which, to my knowledge, have not yet been shut-down for being a Communist vehicle.

It’s a fairly depressing scene and enough to make you want to move to another country. Somewhere sunny in Europe perhaps. What? Oh…

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Another Bit Of Politics

I can’t help but feel negative today. Over the last 12 hours it has become quite clear to me what kind of a society we are now living in. That we are just four weeks away from a General Election makes this realisation all the more terrifying and well….frankly….depressing.

Social media is as good an indicator as any of the way the land lies politically. Certainly better than YouGov polls, which as Dave Gorman once memorably demonstrated show that one or both of Ant and Dec are more right wing than Hitler. If they are, they would fit right in on my Twitter timeline. I never knew I associated with so many me-first Disciples of Rupert who really couldn’t give even half a shit about the effects of austerity or the future of the NHS.

It all started last night when one of my followers began ripping into Jeremy Corbyn’s maths skills, claiming that the Labour leader could not afford to make good on the promises he looks set to make in the party’s manifesto. He claimed that Corbyn’s plan to fully fund schools, the NHS and to scrap tuition fees is ‘a lie’. But it isn’t really that people don’t believe that Labour can pull these things off that really gets under my skin, it is the fact that people don’t want seem to want it to happen. They actually don’t support fully funded schools, the NHS, or the abolition of unfair tuition fees which, by the way, did not exist when most of these fuckwits who are in power now started their slimy climb up the political ladder.

Another pulled me up on my assertion that Tories want the disabled to die (which they do if their plans to cut funding for the most vulnerable are anything to go by) by claiming that we don’t have a problem with tax evasion in this country. Justifying this he informed me that the top 1% of earners already pay 30% of all tax, as if this somehow justified the evasion of tax by others. I pointed this out, along with the fact that far more money is lost to this country through tax evasion than it is through benefit fraud and yet we still continue to blame the poor through austerity and the privatisation of services and he kind of seemed to agree with me. But then he reverted to the default right wing position of blaming it all on ‘yerp’ and that nasty EU that’s busy ganging up on us right now.

Nostalgic isolationism at its finest. Let’s get our country back and while we’re at it, let’s watch as the north of the country is left to gently sail away from the power base in the south until it becomes part of fucking Iceland. Nothing good that has happened in this country in recent years from greater disability access to improved human rights and regeneration of northern cities would have happened outside the EU under a Tory government and you can expect it to stop if and when Evil Theresa manages to negotiate a deal for us to leave. But never mind all that, at least Tarquin won’t have to give up a larger share of his £387billion fortune which he has worked so hard to earn ever since his fucking daddy left it to him.

More and more now there is an acceptance of all of this and that consequently, we should no longer expect a free health service. One Tweeter made a comparison between the NHS and dentistry, for which we all now pay apparently without complaint. Excuse me? I don’t know what placid, stiff upper lip types this guy lives among but personally I don’t know anyone who doesn’t think that the amount charged for dentistry these days is anything but an absolute disgrace. We accept it because we have to, it’s done now and once that happens it is very difficult to go back. But the idea that we never question it is beyond berserk. Also, you cannot really compare it to the NHS in any case. Dentistry is important but it is very rarely a matter of life and death. If the NHS is privatised you are faced with the very real prospect of people dying because they can’t afford the treatments or medication they need. It will be a society in which the wealthy will survive and prosper and the poor will wither and die. Tory ideology is that this is fine because I’m alright Jack. I don’t need to worry about being unable to fund my own health insurance so screw those that do. There isn’t a more depressing thought than that as far as I can see. It makes my head hurt.

Of course there is a possibility that this is scaremongering, and that the NHS will still continue to operate as it does now, free at the point of access. Yet with parts of the service having already been auctioned off to the highest bidder and with the Tory manifesto making very clear indications that it will not continue to fund the health service can we really afford to bet on the chance that they are bluffing? That’s a gamble even Joey Barton would shy away from. The awful truth is that Tory ideology involves governing as little as possible, and instead selling everything off to be run by the highest bidder. When that happens, the customer is the one who pays the highest price and some are inevitably unable to keep up and literally die off. I can’t have that on my conscience even if I have more than enough money to get by in that kind of system. I don't vote out of self-interest like an increasing, alarming number of people seem to these days.

Thatcherism has eroded any sense of community, of caring about the fate of others that we had. It’s every one for him or herself now and if you can’t keep up you get branded a lazy good for nothing while the rich cream ever increasing amounts off the top. Society has changed, capitalism is here to stay which is why there is such a seething media outcry against Corbyn’s left wing ideas. The BBC, Sky News and several of the best-selling newspapers are all in the government’s pocket because under their rule they will be allowed to keep doing what they do, fleecing the public for peddling their pungent, often preposterous shit. Anyone left wing is now laughed out of town as a dreamer and a bleeding heart. Caring for others has become taboo in the race to get more, more, more for your fucking fat self.

I am disgusted. You can probably tell.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Absolutely Not Imposing My Political Views On Anyone

We've all been warned. Despite the fact that there is a General Election exactly one month from now we have all been told in no uncertain terms that we must not, under any circumstances, use our social media pages to try and impose our political views on anyone. Instead, we'll carry on posting amateur philosophy imparted by Minions from Despicable Me and....er......Minions. That and pictures of our meals only, please. After all it's only a ballot to decide who gets to form the UK government for the next five years. It's not that important and well....it's boring isn't it?

So in a dutiful bid to comply with this rule and so avoid boring everyone silly I've decided to post my thoughts on the General Election here. That way you'll only see it if you're interested enough in politics to click on the link. If not, scroll past to the pictures of tortured animals that people post because...actually....why do people post pictures of tortured animals? Nobody on my friends list would be on it if I thought them capable of torturing animals and I'm sure your list is similarly free of animal torturers. So who are these posts aimed at? Chances are that by posting this sort of thing you're just upsetting people who are as horrified by the mistreatment of animals as you are. And if I can't post anything political there must be a similar rule which prevents these types of posts.

So, the General Election. Reading social media recently it has become increasingly apparent that not only are people ignoring the golden rule of not posting anything political but also that they are using their various platforms to make sure that nobody, not even Labour voters, especially not Labour voters, votes Labour in the forthcoming election. The reason? One Jeremy Corbyn, twice elected leader of the Labour Party and by margins for which the term landslide is barely adequate. We must not vote for Jeremy because he is in no particular order, a terrorist, an IRA sympathiser, financially irresponsible, indifferent to the idea of defence of the UK in terms of its nuclear arsenal, anti-EU, too old, unelectable and generally a boring, beardy git who invents problems on Virgin trains where there aren't any.

I must confess to having one or two reservations about Corbyn myself. His unelectability, although mostly a media-led and self-fulfilling prophecy, could ensure an easy victory for Evil Theresa May and her couldn't-give-a-fuck-about-you rich boy cronies also known as the most right-wing Tory party since the crazed reign of Thatcher. And though he must be aware of this Corbyn refuses to step down from his role to allow a more popular, middle of the road candidate to run for number 10. Someone like Tony Blair. Someone who would never start an unnecessary, illegal war and then lie about it afterwards. In refusing to step down Corbyn is displaying a worryingly deluded narcissism and almost certainly leading Labour to a huge defeat.

But he's doing it with a masive helping hand from traditional Labour voters who ought to know better. If this lot aren't voting for UKIP in a bid to get rid of Johnny Foreigner and get our country back from those who have no right coming over here performing life-saving surgeries and educating our children, they are busy declaring themselves 'disgruntled' with Jeremy and his Stalinist ideals and with the Labour Party as a whole. Corbyn would be a dreadful Prime Minister they say, and they are ever so keen to let you in on the fact via their Twitter feeds.

The problem, of course, is that if not Corbyn's version of the Labour Party then the UK government will instead be a May-led Tory one. Aside from their policy of wanting disabled people to die (13,000 disabled people in the UK face a cut to funding which will mean they can no longer afford to live independently in their own homes) my principal objection to Conservatism is its commitment to unfairness. It deals with a financial crisis caused by the rich by making the very poorest foot the enormous bill. It calls it 'austerity' and tells us that we're all in it together. Then it further embellishes this lie by demonising benefit claimants while turning a blind eye to tax fraud among its wealthy pals. Turning the working classes on each other becomes an effective strategy in drumming up support in areas where you would think that voting Labour makes the most sense. Most towns possess enough monumentally thick people who genuinely believe that the Tories were born to rule and that therefore they must know best.

The mistake being made here is not in being disgruntled with Labour. They're an unholy mess who need to do a lot of things differently if they ever want to return to their late 1990s high in terms of popularity. The mistake being made is in believing that there is a genuine alternative to either Corbyn's Labour or the evil, shithouse Tories. It's one or the other in a General Election. A Labour government or a Tory government. It's been that way for a long, long time. The other parties, whatever their pros and cons, are largely there to make up the numbers and to get in the way of the big two. Most of them couldn't form a government if they were asked to, while others don't even have enough candidates to make an election victory even a mathematical possibility.

What Labour voters need to do, instead of expressing their disgruntlement and muttering darkly about communism, is get out and vote Labour on June 8. If Corbyn is an unfit Prime Minister he will prove himself to be so and be challenged for the leadership of the party at some point during the parliament. Deny him that chance and there will be no opportunity to elect the centrist candidate that seems to be so desired until at least 2022. By then the NHS could well have been sold to the highest bidder, more jobs will have been lost and we will be well on our way to establishing the kind of overly-nostalgic, isolationist policies so beloved of Trump'n'Theresa.....

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Six Days Of Stress And Anxiety Amid The Already Existing Stress And Anxiety

I'm fuming. Here's why.

I went to the hospital yesterday. For the THIRD Tuesday in a row. This time it was to have a blood test following my nephrology consultancy last week. I should have had the test done last week but I was late for a meal with the family for my Dad's birthday so I sacked it off, not knowing that this type of test can only be conducted on Tuesdays. Like fucking bin collections or something. So back I went yesterday for the blood test.

The blood test itself is no big deal. Apart, that is, from the 45 minutes to an hour it takes for your turn to come around once you have taken your ticket from the machine and found a seat among some very sick looking people indeed. The problem comes afterwards because what they are testing for apart from kidney function is potassium levels. I have a tendency to get high potassium. I can't eat bananas. They're like Kryptonite. It's all kidney related but anyway if you get high potassium they ring you straight away and demand that you call into your local A & E to do a lot more waiting, a lot more blood tests and finally, if it comes to it, to have seven kinds of shite pumped into your veins in a manner that is time consuming as well as weirdly uncomfortable and sometimes painful.

It's an unpleasant business, so heading home after any blood test for me means spending the rest of the evening looking at the telly but not really watching it because I'm expecting a phone call from some crazed, panicked doctor to tell me that I need my potassium levels reducing right now lest my heart explode. And that's when you get the treatment. So I waited, and I waited, like a really long and boring Guinness advert and the call never came. I went to bed at about 11.00 last night and still there had been no call.

Now ordinarily this means that there won't be a call. High potassium is a grave enough concern for them to insist on ringing me as a matter of urgency, so when I awoke this morning I assumed I had dodged the bullet this time. The morning passed uneventfully (and oh, equally as boringly as any A & E department) until the end of my lunch break when my doctor, the otherwise personable Dr Chow, rang to tell me that unfortunately my blood samples had been mis-handled and would I mind awfully going back next Tuesday to take another test? You're ahead of me if what you are thinking is 'oh, but doesn't that mean another evening of anxiety and possibly time consuming and weirdly uncomfortable treatment?' Well, yes it does. She confirmed that they did not get a read on my potassium levels but stuck to the story that this type of test can only be conducted on a Tuesday afternoon, which maths fans will have worked out is fully six days away. I could go to A & E, but if I do that they probably won't get the actual kidney function results that they also need. Not that my kidney function has changed much in the last 10 years since they started pumping me with 50 shades of shite to stabilise it.

So there now follows six days of stress and anxiety, waiting to have the test which will then determine whether I again need to have the treatment. In the meantime, if my heart explodes (highly unlikely but I have been feeling a bit palpy recently which is why I didn't just dismiss the idea out of hand) then at least it will mean I won't have to go back to A & E for any time consuming and weirdly uncomfortable treatment. I don't mean to moan, you know. I really don't. I recognise that there are people far worse off than me but I just think that the way they have been handling my situation recently is an absolute piss-take. A couple of weeks ago they informed me in the waiting room that they had cancelled my nephrology appointment without informing prior notice. Must have been because of the bank holiday, the nurse told me. This shows me how much of a shit they do not give about the state of my health, but show them an even mildly threatening test result and they are rushing about like Charlie Fucking Fairhead on speed.

In addition to this ranty, desperately unfunny blog I have written a long, boring and futile complaint to the people who deal with this sort of thing at nephrology at the Royal Liverpool. I remember making a similar complaint about the way I was treated during a hospital stay in 2013 and having precisely nothing done about it. Yet we should rest assured that they are striving to improve their services. Now you could argue that I am the common denominator in all of this complaining and it is fair to say that I don't get all that excited about hospital visits. But it does not help when the incompetent plebs who pick and choose when to worry about your imminent heart attack can't do something as simple as correctly handling a blood sample.

It is customary to end pieces like this with the phrase 'rant over' but I like to think myself a proper writer so I am not going to do that. Instead I shall simply say 'sod off' and hope for all our sakes that I am not writing any more angry rubbish like this for some time to come.