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So a few months ago, after a random meeting with a walker on the Isle of Wight in January who was using what turned out to be Nordic Walking Poles, and after reading various articles about the merits of having walking poles for a long journey as well as the various yays and nays of the merits and benefits and nuisance value of carrying walking poles about for anything up to 790 miles (thankfully I’m only walking 165 miles), on the various Camino forums, I finally decided I best get myself a pair…which I duly did in April.

nordic walking poles

propping up the corner in my bedroom….

Since then they have not only decorated my bedroom but have been carted around the UK from job to job, between Oxted and Ireland, Broadstairs and Ironbridge while I procrastinate (what’s new?) about getting them set up and actually putting them to use and learning ‘how to’.

 

Well I FINALLY set them up yesterday and used them for the first time!

 

 

 

 

Hoorah!!! So the prognosis is this…..I dislike them intensely, but they work. So I guess I’ll have to suck it up and use them LOL.

Initially I just strapped them to my wrist, unextended, the idea being to get used to having them in my hand. Horrible. They made my hands all sweaty and the wrist band around my wrist felt horrendous. Under normal circumstance I can’t bear ANYTHING around my wrists….which is why I don’t wear a watch or bracelets or anything such like…I don’t even wear shirts with button down sleeves…it’s that bad. Grim.

nordic walking poles

perhaps I should have left them on this bench LOL

But I persevered. When I arrived at Titsey Hill on impulse I decided I would just get them set up and at least try them out on the first stretch of the very demanding slope. A slope that usually has me stopping halfway; breathless and heart pounding. But……to my surprise I breezed up the slope barely even hesitating. Now unless I suddenly got super fit overnight, it can only be the benefit of the poles. They sure made a difference.

nordic walking poles

taking a rest on Titsey Hill

I then set off jauntily along the path, between the trees with the poles flying akimbo…. especially the left-hand pole that seems to go off piste all on it’s own from time time. Mmmm not sure about that, but I think with practice I may actually get used to using them.

Then it came time to go downhill…..and once again the poles came to the party and I whizzed down with my knees hardly noticing the difference. The end result is that….I still dislike them…intensely, they interfere with my photo taking, and getting my water bottle out the pouch and open is a challenge, but my joints took way less impact than usual and I felt more confident going downhill with my backpack on.

 

So today I decided to go without them and see if I could identify if there was any difference! Was there ever!!! Firstly I felt so free not having them strapped around my wrists and the annoyance of the left-hand pole just doing it’s own thing was a thing of yesterday….but and this is a huge BUT….boy did I ever notice the difference going up that slope again. Yesterday I nearly breezed up (not quite, but nearly) and found the going so much easier…but today it was back to heart pounding, breathless and stopping halfway to recover. Going downhill I very much noticed the difference with my left knee in particular tweaking and twinging in protest. Hmmm…..

nordic walking poles

going downhill on Titsey Hill…

So I’m guessing that despite my dislike for them the poles must go….with me on the Camino!!!

As for the backpack…wow, is this thing ever so heavy!!! I’m not sure how it is that 6.35 kgs can weigh 635kgs by the end of 2 hours, but it does. I’m really glad I decided to pack it and start practising now because I can see this is going to take some getting used to.

nordic walking poles and osprey backpack

my nordic walking poles and osprey backpack looking fairly benign….

One of the articles I read that I found to be of interest was on this website http://caminoways.com/walking-poles

With my walk from Southwark to Canterbury coming up soon I will have to make a decision on whether or not to take them….at least they fold up nicely into my backpack, so if I do take them and they annoy me I can just fold them up shove them back in.

Time will tell.

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Since deciding to walk The Camino, I’ve read a wide range of blogs written by the vast array of people; both men and women of all ages that walk the different Camino routes – some blogs are documentary, some short, some long, many are very personal; walking the Camino and lessons learned.

different paths; different journeys

different paths; different journeys

I have learned a lot about how some folks behave on the pilgrim routes – which honestly has come as quite a surprise.

One of the most profound stories I’ve read so far relates to sunflowers;

It started when I really considered the sunflower plant. I often leave town in the early morning darkness. That’s when the sunflower has its head bowed low awaiting that first ray of sunlight. Then it perks up and turns its face toward the sun and absorbs sunlight and energy all day. Then, at evening, it again bows low and rests for the night. After a period of time, it starts to lose the beautiful yellow crown surrounding its seedy face. It becomes more difficult to raise its head toward the sun. At last, it dies. That is, the plant dies, but the seeds live on.

Another interesting blog I read, also spoke about sunflowers:

That is, I had never considered their significance until the life cycle of a sunflower was explained to me by a German opera singer named Anja.  As she explained it, just before sunflowers die, they give up their seeds from the brown part of the flower (the seed head).  Their last act, if you will, is to give of themselves to ensure that future sunflowers will grow in that area next season.

and continued with a story about keeping the peace; relating a situation with a man called Ted – a story I found to be both interesting and shocking. It described how this man would get drunk and behaved in a manner totally unacceptable in normal society, never mind on a pilgrims route; it never entered my head that people would behave like that on the Camino!!

What I found so interesting was how they both said the same thing: I had never considered.

Another fascinating journey that I am following on instagram is Walking for Peace. It’s been so interesting to follow Mony and Alberto and see the lessons they are learning; some of which have reduced me to tears, given me goosebumps. It’s marvellous that they are so aware of what is being learned. So often in life the lessons we are meant to learn present themselves again and again before we finally accept them.

Since I started my ‘journey’ and even though I haven’t yet walked even one step on ‘The Camino’, I feel as though my journey has already begun. I’ve been walking a lot (604.89 miles since 01/01/2017), practising with my backpack, feeling my way with how much I can or cannot cope with. I have enjoyed hours and hours of travelling, walking and exploration by myself. I am becoming more observant of my surroundings, something that would please my daughter who gets very frustrated with my usual lack of observation!! My usual answer when she says “did you see that Mom?” – and I’m like “What?” But it was right in front of you!!! LOL

I find that I am slowly learning how to ‘let go’, although that is still a really difficult and annoying part of my personality; replaying over and over and over in my mind after an incident that disturbs me: ‘I should have said this’ or ‘I should have done that’, the emotions of the moment churning and churning till I want to go mad.do not let the behaviour of others destroy your inner peace - dalai lama xiv

I am beginning to believe that this churning incidents over and over in my mind relates very much to my childhood, a long period of time when I found myself in bad situations, times when I felt completely helpless, unable to verbalise my fears, afraid of what might happen if I did speak up.

I’ve noticed a common thread among these pilgrim stories; the real Camino begins once a peregrino returns home.

And as my journey draws nearer, I do muse on what lessons The Camino will hold for me. It has certainly consumed pretty much my every waking thought in the meantime.

walking the camino and lessons learned

the many paths in life we get to choose…..

Do join me on my journey as I prepare for what is the 2nd most important journey of my life. Follow along on instagram as I travel around the country, working, walking, learning and discovering more about myself and the country I now call home.

Buen Camino.

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15/03/2017 UPDATE!!!! The Government have done a big u-turn and WILL NOT BE HIKING THE N.I. ON THE 4.8MILLION SELF-EMPLOYED OF THE U.K. Bloody marvellous!! 🙂 🙂

Subsequent to the current Chancellor’s ‘spring budget’ I, along with millions of other self-employed people was dismayed (to say the least) at the increase in NI for the self-employed, 1%…doesn’t sound like much. Except when, as a self-employed person, trying to build a business, generate an income, and having to save for any annual leave you may wish to take, any sick leave you may need, not claiming benefits, and you’re already struggling to make ends meet, that little 1% can/could make all the difference between actually making any money or not, and to quite simply….in many instances just surviving!

I’m more than happy to pay my taxes and I realise the NI is vital to fund our national services like the NHS and to provide a pension pot (not that I can depend on that to survive in my old age). So when I saw the increase I was like ” urgh bugger, another increase, but hey ho, it’s not really that much and I’ll probably have to work an extra 10 days p.a. to cover the increase”. Peeved, yes! Unable to do much about it, no! So well fine then.

Then I happened to watch the speech Theresa May gave about said increase…and was dismayed to realise that once again this was a move to protect big business and tax smaller businesses (and more importantly in this instance; the self-employed) who don’t have the same Government allowable tax-avoiding loopholes and hand-outs that big businesses have the benefit of. That’s my understanding.

“The Prime Minister also said the shift towards self-employment was “eroding the tax base” and making it harder to pay for public services “on which ordinary working families depend”. – try closing the bloody loopholes that allow companies like Facebook, and Amazon, Starbucks and Google et al to avoid paying their fair share of tax on the profits GENERATED IN THE U.K. Then we will have more of a tax base!!!  2.5 million self-employed people is a drop in the ocean. (Apparently its 4.8million)

Consider this for 2016:

There were 31.84 million people in work, 37,000 more than for July to September 2016 and 302,000 more than for a year earlier.

There were 23.29 million people working full-time, 218,000 more than for a year earlier. There were 8.55 million people working part-time, 84,000 more than for a year earlier.

The employment rate (the proportion of people aged from 16 to 64 who were in work) was 74.6%, the highest since comparable records began in 1971.

So how is it that a mere 2.5 million (4.8million) self-employed people are eroding the tax base?

Of course millions of people around the country were just as upset as I, as well as which her MPs were apparently pretty pissed too! (see their subsequent about-turn aka a Political u-turn). But what our PM and Chancellor are forgetting is that the reason the number of self-employed is rising is because those big businesses she wishes to protect have a bad habit of going out of business and leaving people jobless. So instead of signing on to the Benefits system, they’re taking the plunge and starting up their own businesses….in other words they’re being innovative instead of dependent. You’d think this would be encouraged! Innovation is what drives business and the economy after all.

And then!!!! I saw a post on Facebook that one of my ‘friends’ had left!! And my blood-pressure went through the roof!

Why are peeps moaning so much about this TINY national insurance rise for the self employed in the Budget yesterday? If you are self employed and can’t make an extra £300 a year then really you should go back to being an employee“. What.The.Merry.Fuck!??? Is he serious? Does he not realise just how difficult it can be to generate an extra £300…which by the way is not JUST £300 but substantially more when you consider that by generating an extra £300 in your business you also pay more tax, have to attend more networking events, incur extra costs for travel, clothes, advertising/promotional material etc etc. So I replied that ‘I disagree’.

And then I set out why I disagreed!

I’m self-employed. If I work for an agency as an employee I earn less. If I want to earn an extra £300 a year I have to sacrifice what employees take for granted: weekends…ergo I have to work 25 days a month rather than 21…which means I don’t have those 8 days a month called weekends.

Also small businesses (mostly self-employed) face stiff competition from big companies who can cut prices due to tax loopholes that self-employed small businesses don’t have. Besides that, it’s not like big businesses are standing at their doors shouting “we have loads of vacancies, come on in so we can employ you”. Many of the self-employed are people who provide essential services. Many self-employed are stay at home Mums who are trying to make ends meet in a tough environment. They start a small business; ergo self-employed because it’s too expensive for childcare…and why WOULDN’T they want to stay at home with their children?
So…in my opinion ….It’s arrogant to make a sweeping statement of the like you just have. My daughter is self-employed. She works in a very tough environment where people want what she does for FREE. She goes over and above for her clients, sometime making only £30 profit and has to constantly look for new clients due to the fact that other self-employed businesses are also struggling and push prices down, or use interns to manage what needs skilled knowledge…because it’s FREE.
I don’t get any tax breaks. If I work for an agency I earn less. If I work for a bigly company like BHS I’ll be employed and get screwed over by the owners to whom I’ve paid my pension for decades so he can buy £10million boats and live the champagne lifestyle and then when it suits him fuck off without looking back.
So no, it’s not as simple as JUST looking for a job.
Actually the government are fcking idiots. They should be ENCOURAGING people who are at home to be generating an income rather than claiming BENEFITS who the employed bitch about all the time. How do you think Britain got the nom-de-plume BENEFITS BRITAIN? I think it stinks, many self-employed people are innovators through necessity and we NEED innovators rather than just a bunch of sheep who depend on other people to be innovative, start a company and employ other people so that they can pay them shit wages, claim tax loopholes and live the champagne life-style.” End of rant…or so I thought!!! Actually I could have said a lot more….I bit my tongue

And then!!! Some fuckwot who thinks he knows more about my life than I do leaves this comment on the thread of my reply:

“So many victim mentalities… reality is yours to create folks”.

My reply: “MENtality. Hardly victims. Rather, very tightly squeezed“.

And then he comes back at me with: “It’s still a victim mentality if something external of your own being is limiting you.
Have people created a different result? Yes. Therefore you can… you can’t change the tax you can change what you do, so change what you do, don’t moan about something out of your control.
If you’ve taken offence, good, it means its true

Now, firstly I read that as a challenge ‘If you’ve taken offence……’ And suggesting that I’m in victim mode!!! Red flag to a bull!!! (after I am a Taurean!!) LOL

My reply:
T.S., get back up your own arse. Seriously. That’s such a lot of PD bullshit. My job is not limiting me. I provide a vital service. I happen to love my job. Caring for elderly people unable to care for themselves. My beef is with the government penalising self-employed people who have the audacity to be self-employed and not working for a company. That’s pretty much what Theresa May said….in so many words.
If you take offence…then it’s true, you’re too far up your own arse.”

 

Then some other twit (I’ll refer to her as BG) replied: “Sounds like it’s time to increase your prices, Cindy!

Uhmm, really? And you know what I do for a living then, do you? So I replied:  “I can’t increase my prices B.G.!!! I work as a Carer for the elderly. Caring for the old people that need my services due to the fact their families can’t/won’t/don’t want to care for them. My rate on an hourly basis is less than the minimum wage. My clients and their families bitch about how EXPENSIVE I am. My rate is set by the agency who farm me out to said elderly people whose families don’t look after. I pay my own tax. I save for my own pension. I don’t get tax breaks. If I want to earn more I have to work more days or take on clients with alzheimers or dementia or challenging behaviour. In my line of work I’ve been attacked with a walking stick, sworn at, peed and pooped on, had sarcastic family members berating me, clients treating me like a servant. If I want to continue in this line of work I have to smile sweetly and take the abuse. So no, I can’t JUST increase my prices”.

By this point my blood-pressure was sky high and my mouth was heading fast towards the potty!! I love that American expression ‘potty-mouth’. So in order to save my health, I removed myself from the conversation. It raged on with some people really upset by the insults the ’employed’ / ‘arrogant know alls’ levied at the self-employed who were labelled as ‘victims’ because they were upset by the increase.

As one lass put it, she already struggles in her line of work because by pursuing her passion (which the same PD fuckwits suggest we SHOULD be doing) the companies she gets her business from are, of course, only interested in their bottom line and keeping their shareholders happy with big dividends, and therefor knock her price down. So how many more days, weeks and months of the year should she work in order to just magically generate an extra £300 p.a. The same goes for my daughter. It’s unbelievable just how many people expect her to provide them with a service for practically free and complain like heck that her prices are too high! Trust me they’re not!  These same people are totally amazed when she says no, she can’t provide what is a valuable service for FREE. ffs.

Now for the sceptics who may be reading this…..yes, it’s only £0.82p per day!!! If you work 365 days a year! But since it’s virtually impossible to work 365 days a year and not crash due to ill health brought on by over extending yourself (unless you’re a mother) then that little sum increases.

So reduce that by 105 = the weekends that the ’employed’ get without losing income, and you’re down to 260 days which = £1.15 per day.

Then take off the Bank Holidays = 8 and now you’re down to 252 working days and up to £1.19 per day.

Now take off the 28 days mandatory annual leave days an employed person is entitled to and not expected to lose income for and you’re down to 224 days and up to £1.34 per day.

And now for the fun stuff….Add to that the extra costs involved to generate the extra £300 and it goes up even more, then add to that the extra regular tax you have to pay on the newly generated £300 and voila…surprise surprise, it’s no longer £1.34 per day but goes up and up and up depending on your overall costs for phone calls, networking, travel costs, stationery, phone calls, advertising, making/producing/providing the extra product/service you’re in business for. Suddenly you’re no longer looking at JUST an extra £300. Try telling your clients you’re increasing your prices because the Government has hit you with an extra £300 per year!!!

I think the thing that annoyed me the most was the simple arrogance of his statement: “If you are self employed and can’t make an extra £300 a year then really you should go back to being an employee.

What an incredibly thoughtless, arrogant and totally lacking in knowledgable comment to make. This is where my potty-mouth wants to go into overdrive and I’m tempted to take Helen Mirren’s advice on using the work fuck more often! LOL

Now before anyone who’s employed gets their knickers in a knot, I have nothing against being ’employed’, I was an ’employee’ for over 30 years! I was also at the mercy of said employers and the very last company I worked for (in South Africa) put themselves into liquidation over a petty argument the 2 principal owners had! This resulted in dozens of people becoming unemployed, one of whom was an elderly gentleman who had a heart-attack from the shock and died within a few weeks. It also meant that a number of companies to whom they owed money didn’t get paid. Much like the BHS scenario.  As an employee you are at the mercy of your employer, many of whom are quite abusive….see the many headlines when people blow the whistle. You are at the mercy of the largesse of your boss when it comes to the annual increase in your salary if you’re lucky enough to even get an increase (not that the self-employed even have a faint smidgen of this luxury). You’re at the mercy of a bully boss. Stuck with hanging out at the same place day after day after week after year, unable to JUST move on if you’re unhappy – that doesn’t reflect well on your CV.  And then the company downsizes, relocates, gets sold, merges with another blah blah blah. I’d much rather be self-employed than depend on a business or corporation for my income.  So when this increase in the NI came through, I accepted it with disappointment and felt it was unfair.

Anyway, why is it that being ’employed’ is still seen as the be all and end all…the achievement of respectability, the golden handshake goal to reach for? It’s amazing how many times people who are employed look down on the self-employed as if they’re failures! Not by any means are they failures. It takes a HUGE amount of courage to branch out and set up a business, to be self-employed. No longer the perceived security of a job where you earn a set income no matter how shit you are at your job (remember all those employment laws that protect you!?), no longer do you have weekends free – clients expect you to be at the end of your phone or computer 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you don’t reply to an email ‘instantly’ at 10pm on a Sunday night they get shirty!! And this is not an imaginary scenario….it’s only too real. As a self-employed person you no longer have the benefit of annual leave and PAID Bank Holidays. Being self-employed has all sorts of ‘perceived’ benefits by the employed who think it’s a long extended holiday. It’s not. It’s tough. People don’t sleep at night for worrying about how to make ends meet. As a self-employed person you are responsible for everything that goes on in a business. Pricing your product to ensure you not only provide a fair price, but that you also make a profit (your salary), marketing said product/service, the accounting, sourcing suppliers, preparing quotes, visiting clients etc etc.

As an employed person you go in to work to do a specific job, in your niche, and the rest of the business magically happens around you. (n.b. I realise this is a variable, and all jobs are different).

  • The self-employed currently pay a lower rate than those in employment
  • The government says this was traditionally down to a lesser entitlement to benefits and pensions, but that these disparities have mostly been removed, so the difference in rates is unfair
  • But critics say it is justified because self-employed people are not entitled to things like paid holiday and sickness leave.

And anyway, as I pointed out to one of the protagonists, it’s not like there are 2.5 million jobs available. In fact many of the apparent job vacancy numbers the Government loves to bandy around are on the very controversial zero hours contracts, and the job market, even for graduates is not flush with vacancies.

An estimated total of 3,694 companies entered insolvency in Q1 2016
A total of 804 companies were subject to a compulsory winding-up order
in Q1 2016
An estimated 2,515 companies entered creditors’ voluntary liquidation in
Q1 2016
There were an estimated 301 administrations in Q1 2016
The estimated liquidation rate in the 12 months ending Q1 2016 was
0.42% of active companies (the report goes on to say) – the lowest level since comparable records began in Q4 1984.
I’m sure anyone who has been at the receiving end of said liquidation feels really comforted that it’s lower!!

Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/519466/Q1_2016_statistics_release_-_web.pdf

So yes, I am, like 2.5 million (4.8million) other self-employed people a tad peeved at the increase in NI. It certainly feels like we’re being penalised for having the temerity to be innovative and trying to earn an income rather than claiming benefits. Which the ’employed’ have much to say about…till it happens to them.

Rant over! Or maybe not 😉

🙂 and yes, as of 15/03/2017 the government have done a u-turn and WILL NOT be increasing the NI for the 4.8 million self-employed citizens of the UK. Excellent!!!

Now all we need is for the major corporations to pull on their big-girl panties, fess up and step up, find their integrity and PAY THEIR FAIR TAXES in the country where they generate the ACTUAL INCOME.

 

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A couple of months ago I sent back 23 letters from charities asking for money…that’s 23 charities I’ve donated to in the past, some of which I made monthly contributions to for over 5 years!! Every time I get home after a job I’m confronted with piles of begging letters… I mark them ‘return to sender’ every time and put them back into the Royal Mail system and STILL they keep sending letters asking for money.

If I donated monthly (which is what they ask for) to all of them I’d be working to support the charities alone and little left for anything else. I stopped all monthly contributions in 2015 when I realised I was working 1.5 weeks every year just to keep up with my monthly contributions. Now I’m getting tough…it’s ridiculous that I have to phone them to be taken off their lists.

Besides the fact that they pay their executives 2-3 times more than I earn in a year, they send reams of stationery and pens and shit that I really don’t want or need……total waste of the money already contributed. Ever since 92 year-old Olive Cooke’s tragic suicide in Bristol in 2015 I’m getting a bit less sympathetic with these charities. I know they need the money, and they are all worthy causes, but where do you draw the line? And don’t even get me started on the phone calls…..I’m so fed up with their aggressive manner on the phone…you end up feeling quite bullied, much like Olive was. You can’t just say no, because they talk right over you. I had an experience once with Greenpeace. I was already a supporter making monthly contributions and by the end of the call I was signed up to a 2nd monthly contribution by Greenpeace Australia, a contribution that during the call I understood was to be a small increase in my existing standing order.  But no! Suddenly I had these extra £6 p.m. donations going through. Fortunately I reconcile my bank statements on a monthly basis to the last penny/cent and stopped the standing orders immediately. And because the chugger had been so duplicitous, I stopped the original donation at the same time. So they lost out by being dishonest.

I am more than happy to make contributions as and when it pleases me and when it’s something close to my heart, but this bombardment by mail is ridiculous.  If you happen to make even just 1 donation to a given charity and have to provide email and address details, you end up on theirs and lists for other organisations you’ve not donated to at all.

I’ve started limiting my donations to requests from friends on Facebook who support an individual charity…people that I actually know and have met; and mostly now to the smaller more independent charities that focus on one particular issue. But even on facebook you get these ridiculous adverts asking for donations. Personally I think the charities need to readdress their internal expenditure, and assess the extortionate salaries that are paid to their executives, their superfluous spending and the rental for their offices, which are often these amazingly modern spaces that must cost a fortune.

I realise that the charities like Breast Cancer and Alzheimer’s and The British Heart Foundation rely on donations for research, however, that’s why we pay taxes…the Government should be allocating money towards this research in sufficient enough funds to manage this. It would benefit the system in the long run when cures are discovered or changes can be made and that would lift the burden from the NHS for health care. But of course that would mean relying on the Government to spend their money wisely…and we all know how that pans out!!!

It’s a really tricky situation added to by the ‘guilt’ you feel when you don’t donate. However, I’ve just had to harden my heart, donate to those that I relate to – which are still quite a few, and I mostly now use the text facility on my phone with which I can donate as I go when something catches my eye or tugs at my heart-strings.

I just don’t want to be hounded on a monthly basis or even bi-monthly with letters and envelopes filled with pens, or address stickers or such-like. Besides the cost involved to the charity for all this ‘stuff’, it mostly ends up, unopened in the trash…and that is not very ecologically friendly at all.

So much as I would like to support them all, it’s not financially possible and I do wish they’d review all the stuff they send out.

 

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I realise that we all need to buy clothes at some time or another, but I am not a clothes shopper. For me clothes are a means to cover my body. If perchance I look good at the same time, then that’s a bonus.

I’ve never enjoyed shopping for clothes. If I can walk into a store, pick up a top or pair of trousers, pay for them, take them home and wear them – that would be my ideal scenario. But it’s not always that easy. Generally you have to search through the shelves or rails, find something that you actually like, take them to a changing room, take off the current outfit, struggle with loops of ribbon hooked over the hangers to keep the item on the hanger, slip the potential outfit on…only to find that a) it’s too short b) it’s too narrow c) it’s too tight (seldom too loose LOL) or d) I suddenly don’t like the pattern -actually I loathe patterns…especially flowers or stripes. I’m a plain and simple kinda girl….one colour, no patterns, no fancy necklines, 3/4 sleeves, fit across the shoulders blah blah blah

If I go clothes shopping it’s out of desperation…..e.g. tonight I’m going to a friends wedding. There is nothing, and I mean NOTHING in my current ‘wardrobe’ that’s suitable for a wedding. Ironically, a year ago ago I ripped through my suitcases and sent a massive pile of clothes to charity. Yes, you guessed…within the pile were clothes suitable for a winter wedding!!! LOL The story of my life

Other than that, whenever I venture into a store to look at and possibly buy new clothes it’s because whatever I’m wearing either has holes in the seat, the zip has come apart, the hems have fallen out (I never sew up hems), or the seams are slowly coming apart thread by thread.

Mostly I buy my clothes from a charity shop (one of the things I love about the UK are the charity shops). This works so well for me. Walk in, aim for the trousers rack, check for my size, colour black, cost £3 or £5, pay for them, take them home, try them on…..if they fit I keep them, if they don’t I take them back and donate them to charity hahaha. Mostly they fit…occasionally I buy something that looks great, I love it but never get to wear it and a year or 5 later I donate it to charity.

So today, I decided to go shopping. I was in need of new bras anyway, so this seemed like a good time to get the dastardly deed over with. Besides which I had a £10 M&S voucher I wanted to use. Thankfully my daughter elected to come with me or I would have fallen at the first bar. Off we went….

Walk into the store, first rail = perfect top…loved it. Right colour, a few sparklies for the evening, and just perfect…..till I tried it on. Urgh. The shoulders were peaky!!!

Trousers next…grabbed the first pair that weren’t black (just for a change). Except I grabbed a ‘short’ leg. hahahaha OMG my face when I put them on. They fit perfectly round the leg and waist, but sat above my ankles.  Like I said, thankfully my daughter was there. If not, I would have put my clothes back on and left.

But she volunteered to go look for more tops that I could try and long leg trousers. By the time she returned I was chomping at the bit. But I humoured her and tried them on…one by one they went on and came off even quicker…and the ‘no go’ pile grew and grew. But to my surprise there was one top she brought…one with flowers on that I took one look at and mentally said “no way!!!” But I tried it on and hmmmm okay not too bad. On the ‘to buy’ pile.

Then finally, with the little short tops I saw and really liked, in the style I love, 3 different colours, off we went to the tills….and did I have the voucher with me? No! hahaha I remember clearly removing all the receipts from the last few days from my purse and lo and behold the voucher that I have kept safe and sound for the last 4 months was amongst the receipts.

 

shopping for clothes

my final selection

Oh well….another excuse to go shopping #not!!!

Another day then……and don’t get me started about shoes. The only time I buy a new pair is when water starts to seep through the holes in my soles!!

So this is what I’m wearing to the wedding…with the addition of my scarf from Paris and a long black jacket I bought about 11 years ago

shopping for clothes

the final cut….

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I was recently working at a position in Shepperton

exploring the UK

Old Shepperton

…..lovely lady, light cooking, not much to do in terms of housework, and not much by way of shopping…..but and this is a BIG BUT….it was a killer from a physical aspect and I eventually felt like I was broken. Every joint in my body was aching, my shoulders were aching – even my toes and feet were aching. The reason for this is mobility and lack thereof: I had to mobilise and transfer the lady up to 25 times a day….okay so the agency said she has a ‘Sara Steady’ to move her around, but what they didn’t mention is that even with wheels, the weight of moving her around the house, hauling the frame over the ledges between rooms, manoeuvering the frame into position countless times a day and the morning and afternoon and evening manual handling of a 9.5 stone lady who is semi-paralysed on the left hand side is excruciatingly exhausting and after 4.5 days I felt broken.

This type of role is not new, I’ve been in loads of similar positions before where there is a lot of manual handling and sheer physical graft. The training staff at the annual M&H sessions always say…oh, just do this, or just do that. They use us, the trainees….able bodied persons who instinctively assist and aren’t a dead weight, as the ‘dummy’ for demonstrating. Okay so fine. But although they always say ‘we realise it’s different when you’re on the job’, seldom is our physical health given too much consideration when placing us at assignments. We are given all sorts of tips and ideas to use to help our clients mobilise, which is all well and good if the client is unwilling or unable to position themselves or move themselves into a position that is suitable for us to then use that idea or tip. Many are unable to shift ‘first one leg, then the other’ because they are a) semi-paralysed bearing the full weight of their bodies, or b) too heavy from not getting any exercise due to their particular disability (obviously not their fault) or c) refuse to have the Carer use a strap/belt to lift them, preferring instead to ‘please can I use your arm’. If you say no, we’ve been trained to do it this or that way, they get into a sulk and then you find that they ‘don’t like you, or you’re not suitable’ = black mark against your name. Either that or you get the same old story ‘the last girl didn’t mind’ or managed alright. Hmmmm.

I’ve been doing this ‘job’ for the last 14 years. In that time, amongst all the other manual handling positions I’ve had to manage, I’ve had to push a client up a hill in a wheelchair because his son wanted his father to ‘go shopping with you so he can choose what he wants’ giving little thought to the fact that pushing a dead-weight and groceries up a hill in a wheelchair is extremely difficult and hard on the body of a Carer who weighs less than the client, wheelchair and groceries put together!!! In that instance it was Wembley Hill.

Last year I was at a position where I had to wheel someone who weighed 12 stone across a deep pile carpet in a hoist. The family just didn’t ‘get it’ when I said it was too heavy and after a few others choice situations at that particular assignment, they lodged a complaint about me…nice one, kill myself on the job and invite a complaint. More recently I was working, again with a hoist, and as I slipped my arm beneath the client’s leg to pull the sling strap through I twisted my wrist…I thought I had broken it. Fortunately I hadn’t, but it hurt like hell. But I didn’t give up, I strapped my wrist up, paid more attention to how I was using my hands and carried on till the end of the assignment…..that’s what you do. The alternative is quitting and losing pay and the agency usually don’t have any other assignments for you, as well as which they don’t always take kindly to their Carers quitting. Fortunately I was working with a double up carer and not on my own so at no stage was the client’s safety compromised. When I got home after that particular assignment I went to A&E and had x-rays done, and although nothing was broken it seems I damaged a ligament?? And that only heals with time.

I’ve had to lift heavy legs off and onto beds more times than I care to remember, allow a disabled person to grip my elbow while they raise themselves up coz even if you had a mobility belt/strap, they don’t have the proper bed, the right equipment or the strength to manoeuvre and due to their weight you can’t get the belt positioned properly under their body. Moving a 9 stone plus disabled person whether in a wheelchair, in a hoist, on a Sara Steady or using a slide sheet is exceptionally strenuous on your joints and body in general and eventually takes it’s toll….hence the damaged ligament!

14 years later and I am broken.

After 10 days at this last assignment I caved in, I reached a point where I could barely lift my arms and walking was agony….my poor toes were sore!! Since I really didn’t want to compromise my health any further or the safety of my client, I phoned the agency and asked to be replaced. Thankfully I got through to someone who was understanding (not always the case), and within two days I was handing over to someone new and on my way home. The family weren’t quite so understanding. The next time I hear the words “but the last Carer managed alright” I think I’ll spit!!!!

We do not come out of an Ikea flat-pack!

The bugger of it is that I’m heading towards my mid-60’s and won’t be able to manage these ‘heavy’ assignments for much longer…ergo my income will drop, which means I’ll have to work more days each month and my lifestyle will be reduced as a result – I currently work between 14-21 days per month; on duty 22 hours a day, of which 7-8 hours is for sleep, and my ‘weekends’ are the days I’m home….once on an assignment, it’s exceptionally rare to get more than 2 hours a day off.  Some months I get a 3 or 4 day weekend.  It’s not as if we Carers earn a load of money anyway, but once you start taking on the lighter roles, the daily rate drops, the number of assignments are fewer and so the process, like my body, gets broken.

I left the job just on 6 days ago now and I’m still aching…..darn!! LOL or not. Maybe I’ll do a Forrest Gump……I hear Orkney is quite lovely!! 🙂

On the plus side I got to explore another area of the UK and although the new part of the town itself wasn’t brilliant, the old town was quaint and pretty

old shepperton

Old Shepperton

and to my joy the River Thames was nearby; I managed to walk there a couple of times during my breaks which was a real bonus.

The River Thames at Shepperton

The River Thames at Shepperton

shepperton and the river thames

River Thames and Shepperton Lock

There’s always a plus side 🙂

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Two years ago my daughter up sticks and moved to Broadstairs. I’d heard of the place but never been there.

broadstairs

Broadstairs – a seaside town in Kent

My heart wrenched when I left London – I rent a room from her for the times I’m not working, so I had a choice of finding somewhere in London to live or continuing our previous arrangement. Saying goodbye to London and the River Thames was really hard.

twickenham bridge & the river thames

view of the Thames from Twickenham Bridge…I loved this view

I had many. many happy memories of our time in Twickenham/Richmond and spent so many hours walking alongside, photographing and just staring at the Thames that I could live another life, it is a truly beautiful area and stretch of my favourite river.

I camped out in an empty house for two days after she left on the 4th, but finally my time ran out and 2 years ago today, with suitcases and bags in hand (travel lightly you say!! How???), struggling to drag and carrying my load along the sidewalk and across roads to the station, I finally arrived at Broadstairs; 3 train journeys and 3 hours later.

What an amazing place…….and that beach!!!! Our lives are spent walking along that….

broadstairs

a view of the bay from the cliff top

The house is a tiny, charming little place, a home where we’ve since acquired a kitty by the name of Elsie, a rescue cat, who after months of lots of TLC has settled in like she always lived there!

The town a treasure trove of history and places to explore……

…..but the best thing about living in Broadstairs are the sunrise and sunset.

Now we don’t always get to see either of these due to the inclement UK weather, but every now and then a real charmer puts on a display like no other. Winter is the best time of year to watch the sunrise (for me that is) coz it comes up later and I’m not an early bird…although I have been known to drag on my clothes, eyes still sticky with sleep, teeth unbrushed, grab the keys and dash along to the esplanade….sans my first cup of tea!!! which is a miracle, but some days the miracle is happening on the horizon.

sunrise over Viking Bay, Broadstairs

sunrise over Viking Bay, Broadstairs

We’ve watched many a sunrise and quite a few sunsets since moving to Broadstairs. We’ve watched calm days when the water is so still you feel you could walk across it and other where the wind lashed the waves into a fury as they lash out and crash against the harbour wall.

sunset over Viking Bay, Broadstairs

sunset over Viking Bay, Broadstairs

Viking Bay and the beach that ‘belongs’ to Broadstairs certainly is in my opinion the most beautiful of all the beaches/bays in the area, is a constant gift of beauty. It is the first thing I head over to when I get home and usually the last thing I wander over to look at before I leave on my next assignment. It is a constant draw and even when we’re home, we walk along the esplanade just about every day.

viking bay broadstairs

beautiful Viking Bay, Broadstairs

I have explored the streets and museums, eaten at the tearooms and restaurants, walked this way and that along the coast; either northwestwards to Margate or south to Ramsgate. It is the start and end point of my practice Camino walks and has been like a cosy blanket in my memory when I am working away and longing for my bed and the familiarity of the streets.

broadstairs a seaside town in kent

wish you were here….

Now, two years later, I can’t imagine living anywhere else. It has become home……just in time for my daughter to up sticks and move again LOL At the moment she is house-hunting with a plan to buy her own home. I guess in the foreseeable future I will be landing somewhere else to watch the sunrise and sunset….who knows where?

So long as there is a beach 🙂 Life is after all……a beach!!

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