I fear that holidays are doomed this year – mine anyway!

June 23, 2015 at 6:47 pm | Posted in Barcelona, Me | 4 Comments
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After the Barcelona fiasco earlier in the year (we were supposed to go and we both went down with something fluey, which I topped up with sinusitis), I’d decided to treat myself to a little break this week – a two-day ‘painting with coloured pencil’ course in Wiltshire. I can’t tell you how much I was looking forward to it! (Lots!) I set out at a bit after 9 o’clock this morning, and had planned my first stop to be Anglesey Abbey near Cambridge. I’d planned in three main stops on the way down – fun places to visit rather than just a roadside café or services, and that was the first. I was only seven minutes away according to the Satnav, at a rather odd road junction where the left-hand lane takes you on to the A11 and the right-hand two lanes remain as the A14. I assume what happened next was that that the lorry I was driving past, me in the middle lane and therefore left-hand lane for the A14, he in the left-hand lane for the A11, suddenly realised that oops, he wanted to be on the A14 … so he pulled over. I couldn’t swear that he actually hit me – I know I saw him coming and panicked and I know I lost control of the car – and I also know that I wasn’t speeding because I’d just checked my speedo. I think he must have actually hit me because there is damage to two sides of the car – the left-hand side, which he presumably scraped and pushed, and the right-hand side where I hit the central reservation. I then spun and bounced back to the left-hand A11 lane where I pulled to a stop and put on my hazard warning lights. After a few minutes I realised that I couldn’t safely pull off the road from this point and I couldn’t easily assess the damage … and cars were having to pull round me causing chaos to all the traffic in the area. So having ascertained that there wasn’t smoke coming out the bonnet I waited for a break in the traffic and pulled out … thumpty-thumpty-bump … OK, this isn’t good! Double flashers back on and drove, so the police told me afterwards, half a mile or so up the road until there was a safe stopping place big enough for me and a breakdown van.

Apart from shaking a lot I thought I was fine so priority number 1 – ring my breakdown cover! That sorted – text hubby. Then phone the police. I was just about to call the police when hubby phoned me and a moment or two after that, having reassured him that I was fine, I said, ‘Got to go! The police have arrived.’

A very nice copper came over and said, ‘Was it you that called to say that you’d hit the central reservation?’ I said it wasn’t – that they’d been next on my list, but that my priority was the RAC! He laughed and said that was probably an indication that I was OK!  He said he’d secure the area and put cones and warning signs out and then come back to find out what had happened. Before he’d finished, a very short time later, and ambulance pulled up. I told them I was fine but of course they had to do their thing, check everything and make sure. They were absolutely lovely! A very different experience to the only other accident I’ve had (other than someone reversing into me a while back – no ambulance needed!)

They checked for neck injuries by the side of the road, although as they agreed, I’d already walked out of the car and waved at them when they arrived, so not a lot of point saying ‘Don’t move your neck!’

Then I got on board and they checked my blood pressure (‘Slightly elevated, love, but better than mine!’) and took a blood test (presumably for alcohol and drug testing). I asked for some water. ‘’cause we can love – or would you prefer vodka.’ I said I would but I thought the police might not be too impressed if they breathalysed me later, so they gave me water. ‘Any illnesses?’ I mentioned the RA. ‘OK, but no strokes or heart attacks?’ ‘No.’ ‘No asthma, diabetes?’ Nope. ‘No amputations?’ ‘Actually this arm’s false’ I said with a grin. ‘Hmm,’ he said, ‘not sure how we’re getting blood pressure from it then!’

Then he checked various things, eyes, movement of limbs etc. to ensure everything was fine. All seemed very thorough – the only thing missing was a nice cup of coffee! (I was mighty grateful for the water though!)

‘Let me be the first to say,’ said the ambulance man, ‘and believe me I won’t be the last, the important thing is that you’re OK. The car is only a lump of metal and it’s done its job in protecting you, and nobody else was involved, so it’s all OK.’

I wanted to say, ‘Of course it’s not all OK! Yes, that’s the most important things, but my holiday’s screwed AGAIN, my car might be a write-off, I’ll have to go back to work tomorrow, I’m going to have to tell everyone endlessly about this, I wanted to go on my painting course and basically I’m FED up,’ but I just agreed pleasantly. He’d been FAR too nice to be grumpy with!

Oh boy was he right though about not being the last person to say it!

They took the various paperwork details they needed and had a general chat, all very relaxed, and then the policeman came and joined us, having closed the lane I was in with cones etc. He was also very relaxed , took some details and asked what had happened, wrote a short ‘statement’ and got me to sign it. ‘At least you’re alright though, that’s the important thing.’ I bit my tongue. Then a colleague of his arrived – knocked on the ambulance door, poked his head round and asked my name. ‘Oh good – it is your car then!’ Then he saw his colleague and they had a bit of a chat and the one in the ambulance got out. Then hubby rang again – nice ambulance men let me sit there and talk to him, and once I’d done that they said they were happy for me to leave, ‘Unless you want to go to hospital. We can take you if you want.’ NO THANKS! I spend enough time there as it is, thank you very much!

Then back out to the road side, by which time MORE police had arrived – first policeman, first policeman’s colleague and now some ‘traffic police’ who probably patrol the A14 as a full-time job as it’s a notorious road for accidents!

Both of the ‘ordinary’ police and one of the traffic policemen commended me on moving the car on from the original accident site – which was lovely because having done it I was thinking, ‘Oh dear! I expect that was a bloody stupid thing to do. I shouldn’t have moved the car.’

One of them came over and said, ‘I’m really embarrassed to have to ask, ‘cause you’ve handled everything brilliantly and you’re clearly completely sober, but I’m afraid I’ve got to ask you to take a breathalyser test.’ I assured him it was no problem … like I had a choice, but of course it was no problem! ‘I have to ask you … have you had an alcoholic drink in the last 20 minutes.’ ‘Not unless what the ambulance men told me was water was actually vodka!’ You always hear people saying, ‘For gawd’s sake don’t try making jokes with the police – it just makes things worse’ etc. but he was laughing too so that was OK! Of course the breathalyser came out with a zero reading. (I should think so too!) ‘May I present you with this tube you just blew into a souvenir of the event?’ I thanked him prettily and said I’d treasure it. Then he said, ‘At least you’re alright though … and no one else is hurt. The car’s …’ etc. etc. My tongue was starting to hurt from all the biting.

They told me there was CCTV on the road … but it wasn’t looking in the right direction at the time – of course!

I couldn’t remember who my insurance company were, having had the fiasco with Churchill last year and changed companies, so the police very kindly looked up all the details for me and gave me the insurance company, the policy number and the number to phone!

Then the traffic police decided that actually they didn’t really need the cones and warning signs as where I’d pulled off was pretty safe, so they took them all down again! Seemed like a bit of a waste of time, but of course the first policeman, when he started securing it all, hadn’t even got the details of where the accident happened so perhaps thought it was there and there could have been stuff in the road. (Actually, given the state of the car – just about every panel damaged plus two completely flat tyres and one more puncture) I suppose there could have been!  Anyway, the traffic police cleared everything away again and said they’d be off – I felt rather lonely, they’d all been good company and the RAC had just rung to say I’d have another hour’s wait. (This had all taken an hour already from when I first phoned them.)

So I decided I might as well use my time sitting by the roadside wisely! I phoned the insurance company. Well, as you can probably imagine if you’ve ever had to notify an insurance company of an accident, that took a good half hour or so – but they were mostly very helpful. When I first phoned he could obviously here all the traffic noise. ‘Good heavens – are you still roadside?!’ I explained I was but might as well speak to them while waiting an hour for the RAC! ‘Are you OK though?’ I explained that the police and ambulance guys had already been and I was fine. ‘Oh well, that’s alright then, that’s the important thing …’ etc. (Don’t get me wrong, I KNOW they’re right, but it’s a surprisingly uncomforting thing to keep hearing!) He took various details and was helpful and sympathetic except for when he wanted to know what the damage to the car was – at this point I guess he was more reading his script than actually thinking! ‘Starting with the passenger side front, can you tell me what damage there is on the car?’  So I told him. ‘And passenger side back?’ So I told him. ‘And driver’s side back?’ ‘Don’t know for sure – there’s damage but I’m not stepping out into the traffic to assess it for you!’ ‘Oh no – of course not. Sorry! What about the undercarriage?’ ‘No idea – and again I’m not going to go crawling around on the ground to find out!’

When I got off the phone to them, there was a voice mail (if one good thing has come of this it’s that I’ve FINALLY learnt how to pick up voice mails on the iPhone!) from the RAC. ‘Just checking that you’ve been picked up. Our recovery contractor says he’s at the scene.’ WHAT? No he flaming well wasn’t! So I phoned them back and she tried to coordinate with him while I was still on the line. Of course I didn’t know exactly where I was. Hubby pointed out later that the SatNav would have given me a precise location if I’d pressed the ‘help’ button, but I didn’t think of that! Anyway, he finally did find me, having driven past and then had to find somewhere to pull off and come back.

Of course he hadn’t actually SAID he was at the scene – it’s a tracker van – i.e. they can check on the map where he is, and they’d seen him go past and their super whizz technology had decided that meant he’d done the pick-up! Anyway, he was a terrific young lad too when he actually did arrive, and he was able to take me into the garage in Norwich that the insurance had allocated, from where Hubby was able to pick up. We chatted all the way there. ‘Oh well, at least YOU’RE alright … that’s the important thing.’ (Bite, ouch.) He was also telling me all about his hobby – ‘Drifting’. This involves driving high-performance cars around proper race tracks, causing the back wheels to spin and then just ‘drifting’ around the track – competitively! ‘The exhilaration of knowing you could hit the crash barriers at eighty miles an hour is just fantastic!’ To which I replied that I had just had the pleasure of hitting the crash barrier at about 70 miles an hour and it wasn’t especially exhilarating. His cheerful response to that putdown – ‘Ah, but you should try it in a high-performance car.’ Boys!!

The garage were great too – very pleasant and sympathetic and FINALLY, five hours after leaving home and about six after my last drink other than the ambulance men’s water, I got a coffee. What a relief that was. ‘What happened? Oh well, at least YOU’RE alright …’

While I was at the garage I phoned the guest house I should have been staying at. They’re absolutely lovely, and they were able to refund my deposit because they were able to let the room to someone else, so that worked out brilliantly too. ‘Well, the important thing is you’re alright. That’s the way to look at it really – I mean it’s a real shame, but that’s the most important thing’ said the lovely Mary, quite correctly! (Ouch – poor tongue.) I definitely want to still go on a painting course and I’ll definitely try to book them again – they’ve been so helpful!

Then hubby kindly picked me up … ‘Oh well, the IMPORTANT thing is that YOU’RE alright.’ Well, yes, and I’d certainly hope that my own beloved hubby would think so, BUT … at this point I was about ready to thump the next person that said it!

When I got home I phoned my friend Gerbil, who had a not dissimilar experience a few months ago. She gained HUGE brownie points by NOT saying that fateful phrase and giving my tongue an opportunity to cover.

Now the biggest worry, ignoring the fact that YET ANOTHER holiday has been ruined, is that the car might or might be a write off – and if it’s a write off it’s going to be expensive and stressful to find another one! Wish me luck on that score!

The last few weeks – mostly ‘pants’ but some great highlights!

May 3, 2015 at 12:48 pm | Posted in arthrits, Barcelona, crafting, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 2 Comments
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It all started on Good Friday (aka the first day of passover). I had to work all day and when I got home I had a slight cough – but hey, I often have a slight cough. I thought no more of it and went of to dinner with my mum and visiting bro and SIL (aka Mr and Mrs Mooseface). A very nice dinner it was too. We got home and I felt cold … then I felt REALLY COLD! Eventually, when huddled under two duvets, wearing a dressing gown and thick bed socks and with a hot water bottle cuddled up to me, I thought ‘Hmm, I wonder if I’ve got a temperature?’ I did. it was 101.2 degrees – pretty high. The next day was a big Passover celebration with a bunch of cousins and I missed that completely! NOT HAPPY!  ‘Heck!’ I thought, ‘we’re supposed to be off to Barcelona in just over a week – I hope I’m OK for that.’ It turned into a very nasty bug with a sore throat, cold, stomach problems and aches, similar to flu.

To ‘cut stories long and short’ as a South African coach driver I once met used to say (a lot, which is why it’s stuck in my head for over 30 years!) I wasn’t – and neither was hubby, who trumped my temperature by going up to 102.2 two days before we were due to fly – by which time I had also contracted sinusitis.

We didn’t go!

(Mind you – if we’d had travel ‘fun’ like Mr and Mrs Mooseface did on their recent holiday, maybe we were better off staying at home!)

I’d been looking forward to this trip for years – literally years – since I was last there, in fact. A bit of a disappointment then (says Penguin with true British understatement). I was also off work for the whole week before our ‘holiday’ which caused some problems, as you can imagine. I was determined though that as a) I still felt pretty rotten and b) I was darned well going to have a holiday, I wasn’t going back in my ‘holiday week’ so I didn’t … which caused more problems. At least the boss couldn’t tell me off ’cause I’m self-employed.

Toward the middle of what should have been our Barcelona trip, hubby started to feel better, and my antibiotics for the sinuses began to work, so we decided on a couple of days’ holiday on the north Norfolk coast – ’cause neither of us felt up to driving very far. I found a hotel on TripAdvisor in Old Hunstanton which was really lovely and the weather couldn’t have been better – in fact weather-wise we could have been in Barcelona! The hotel was very quiet, had excellent food and a bar open all day, and was less than ten minutes walk from a rather lovely beach – just right for a pair of old convalescents! It did us both the world of good!

Unfortunately it ended all too soon (although Enormous Cat says it went on far too long*) and we had to come back home. I did manage to get some crafting done at the weekend though, before I went back to work – I nuno felted four scarves, so pretty pleased with myself there! (No photos as yet, I’m afraid!)

All this time the RA had been pretty much dormant, quiescent or however you’d like to describe it, which was generous of it given everything else that was going on!

Then back to work – oh boy was that hard after two weeks away – and we are SO busy, and stupid things kept happening, mostly my own fault – or at least the fault of the fact my work-brain was temporarily disconnected! That situation (both the business and the disconnected work-brain) hasn’t really resolved over the last couple of weeks!

I have got very into my nuno felting though and then I discovered ‘paper fabric lamination’ here at Felting and Fibre Studio. A whole new world of nuno felting potential! Unfortunately I also discovered that the RA’s back … it’s probably not even ‘flarette’ stage right now but it’s niggling away and making me tired and somewhat achy, not helped by the fact that the beautiful weather we had briefly has now gone and it’s dark and gloomy out there again!

Bee amd flower

Bee and flower – the bee is a chocolate wrapper and the flower is rag paper – note to self – don’t use rag paper again – it’s tricky to scrape off what you don’t want!

Ammonites 2

Ammonites – the Ammonite shapes were Japanese lacy paper. The colour is brusho wash. The fabric they’re felted into is cheesecloth and yellow and gold wool along with some silk strands are nuno felted into it

I have just about (with many small breaks for coffee and a sit down!) managed to make a couple of small samples with paper fabric lamination and nuno felting (see above) – and I reckon that this could easily be incorporated into scarves and other clothing and would wear just fine – even the metallic bits – see the bee in ‘bee and flower’- so that’s quite exiting. (Well it is for me – but I’m a bit odd like that!)

Felting, however, is NOT kind to RA joints! I’ve been working on ways of minimising the problems, like using a sander (noisy!) and a tumble drier (not enough control) so I’m back to just doing it in small spurts and in small pieces! These two together are only a about 10 inches across and 6 down! When I feel better I’ll try it in some silk chiffon and then maybe make a scarf or two incorporating some fabric paper laminated features.

Hasta luego Barcelona – I hope!

September 24, 2009 at 8:14 pm | Posted in Barcelona, Me, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 6 Comments
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I sent a postcard to hubby on my first day in Barcelona. It said, ‘Start learning Spanish – we’re coming back!’ It’s a truly beautiful city – especially if you love Art Deco and Art Nouveau as I do; the people are friendly, the food is amazing and the hotel they put us up in … well, that’s one bit I probably won’t go back to. No, don’t get me wrong – it was estupendo, fantastico, fenominal (I’m sure translation is not necessary!) … but so was the price. Not an issue for me since I wasn’t paying, but I think if I go back to visit with hubby we’ll maybe just about afford a drink on the roof terrace there for old time’s sake. (Might have to share the drink!) If you have money to burn then Hotel 1898 is probably THE place to stay in Barcelona.

So, was it useful from an R.A. point of view … well, I met some great people, from UK, Spain, Malta, Greece, Israel, Argentina, Romania and Sweden, all R.A. ‘victims’ and all chosen because their attitude was precisely the opposite of ‘victim’ or ‘sufferer’ – these were all people who were getting on with their lives in really positive ways, often doing a lot to help others on the way, and the event was to celebrate their achievements. Made me feel a bit of a fraud, meeting some of them – quite humbling. Terry, for instance, was diagnosed at 16 (ouch) and has put up with SEVERE R.A. for 20 years now – and she raises significant amounts of money for NRAS and still has time to hone her wicked sense of humour on unsuspecting companions (i.e. me). I shall get my own back photographically later on. Theresa from Sweden was diagnosed at eight and … wait for it, wait for it … went on to become a professional dancer!

‘But what did you have to DO?’ I hear you cry – ‘Surely you had to sing for your supper – there’s no such thing as a free lunch, let alone a free three night stay in a fabulous hotel, full board, heavenly food, comfy beds, friendly staff …’ Well … I think we spent a total of about 1.5 hours in groups and interviews on Monday and Tuesday and the rest was free time! There was what they called a focus group to start off with, divided into three groups as there were 28 ‘patients’ altogether, some with carers in tow, so too large for one group. It wasn’t really a focus group – more of an ice breaker. Everyone told their stories briefly and then we all went off for a lovely lunch. In the afternoon there was a short chat about how to deal with the press, how to control a press interview; how to think in soundbites really. (Not the way she put it, and she might be insulted to hear me describe it like that, but that’s how it came across to me!) Then on Tuesday morning at 9.30 I did my short piece to camera and then had the rest of the day free until the celebratory dinner.

Apart from the absolutely abysmal travel arrangements, my only quibble would be the arrangement of this. It started at 5.30 with drinks and canapes (standing up) for half an hour, followed by paparazzi hell (a.k.a. a photo opportunity for the press with Jane Seymour, who presented the certificates) with all of us in a group photo. Then a video telling the story of Samantha, one of the participants, and one of the many amazing people there. One young lady (carer for one of the Greek ladies) got clobbered on the head with an enormous telephoto lens, but other than that it went O.K. Then we wandered into the dinner room and sat down to a video telling the story of one of the participants, Samantha, just one of the extraordinary people there, a speech from Jane Seymour, a speech from a Spanish consultant (a whole story in itself, but I’m not going to go into that now!) and a speech from a patient group representative who bravely did her talk in English (which she didn’t really speak.) It was a very good try, but really, as we had simultaneous translation, it would have been better to do it more naturally in Spanish, rather than reading the PowerPoint presentation word for word in English! Thumbs up to her for trying though – a brave effort.

THEN we had to all go and get our certificates individually from Jane, who also gave us a signed copy of her new book. Seems like a nice lass – I’m jealous though as she’s about fifteen years older than me and still looks like a ‘lass’!

Then the OTHER guest of honor, Javier Bovea Ahis, an R.A. ‘sufferer’ as well, who had had to give up his career in the police force due to his R.A. and retrained as, of all things, an opera singer, going on to win various Spanish talent shows and make quite a name for himself, sang. And boy did he sing – he had a terrific voice, but the room just wasn’t big enough for him. He also had an eye for the beautiful ladies, whom he serenaded repeatedly later in the evening, and even danced with in one instance. I was grateful not to be one of them as I think their ears were still ringing the following morning.

Then ANOTHER group photo and then … FINALLY they FED us. This was a bit of a cultural issue; it must have been about 8.15 by this point – the Brits were STARVING, the Spanish were probably just about considering the possibility of getting a bit peckish!

My quibble isn’t with the late food – more with the fact that the event started at 5.30 and we finally finished the meal at 11.00 and that’s a LONG HAUL for anyone with rheumatoid arthritis I reckon! Some stayed up even later than that … you could spot the bleary eyes at breakfast the next morning!

So – was it worth it? For me, si! I had what amounted to a fabulous short break in Barcelona. For Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, who funded it? I really have no idea. The idea is to put together a website to encourage people to take time out to really learn about their condition and learn to accept it and live positively with it. (My Day for R.A.) That’s what we were all there for and that’s what the piece to camera was for … but as yet if you go to the site you’ll still find application forms for the event that I’ve just been to, so when they’ll get it updated, who knows. Hopefully in time for World Arthritis Day on October 12th!

Photos of the event, including the serenading opera singer and Terry with her new best mate Jane, are here!

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