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“A Rottweiler, Frank & I”

Part One – Some Recollected Matters

Edition 4.1 October 08
[Pages 1 – 38] Copyright © RFI
[First Published June 2006]

1
MEDICAL MATTERS

LIKE A RUNAWAY TRAIN

 

So there you are, not so much riding the rollercoaster of life, more driving down its motorway on cruise control, when:

 

1. You are made redundant without any warning after 10 years with your current employer.

2. During a routine shopping trip, you wake up in the local A&E ward without any knowledge of how you actually got there - I know what you’re thinking but please don’t judge us all by your own standards.

The staff – who bore very little resemblance to those dedicated ones working in shiny hospitals on BBC1 - give you the news; they have “found something in the scan” and you are to be referred. In this case, referral meant an immediate ambulance ride in the depths of night to another hospital.

To reduce the dramatic tension somewhat, have you ever been lost in an ambulance on a hospital approach road network? “It must be straight on here, no… erm…didn’t we take that turn the last time? Ask that chap over there…”

Referral is, as we will later see, a very significant word defined in the dictionary as “... to have recourse to some authority; send on or direct...” The recipient hospital – particularly charmless and built as a form of concrete shrine to the 1960’s – conducts some further tests.

The Consultant and Oncology Nurse now invite you into whatever spare room [or broom cupboard] they can find to pronounce the verdict - you have a Brain Tumour that, due to its location, is very likely to be terminal.

Immediate surgery is recommended and the risks of various options are mentioned. This process is called “Informed Choice” and, like referral, it will be a theme that we will return to later. At what point do I actually wake up and find that this rollercoaster ride is a dream? Actually, a rollercoaster ride has an up and a down – I was only receiving “no news or bad news” at this time.

By coincidence, a BBC1 programme Life on Mars about a policeman who, after a car accident, awoke back in 1973 provided an eerie backdrop to the unreality of the events unfolding before me. You should note however that my Consultant did not wear flares and instead [rather worryingly] resembled Uncle Albert from Only Fools and Horses.

The required procedure – a Craniotomy - will also include the taking of a sample for biopsy to confirm the classification of the tumour. What is a Craniotomy? Try thinking of how you eat a boiled egg if it helps. Apparently, there is an official scale used in these matters running from “Fluffy Rabbit” to “Furious Rottweiler”. Actually, this is not true, the use of adjectives was recently banned in the NHS following new government guidelines – they are now considered as being too discriminatory. In their place, a rather more prosaic Grade I – IV scale exists.

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HEROISM IN THE FACE OF BOREDOM

For somebody who had rarely had cause to even consult a G.P, an extended stay in hospital was a new experience. Not having any obvious symptoms meant day after day of waiting with nothing to do – especially as the NHS patient day is very long with routine tests performed at 0700 and 2230 and the time in between being punctuated only by noise. Whilst waiting, I could not actually leave the hospital as I would then lose my place and the operation would not be performed as planned.

A patient in the next bed had obviously suffered a head injury and was not yet “compos mentis”. The meals were delivered to him and then collected some time later – “Not hungry today then?” Many – but not all nurses – were clearly graduates of the Rosa Kleb School of Nursing. I can only imagine that this was how it felt to be a prisoner of war – I of course had the stoic Alec Guinness type role. “…despite this overbearingly intense heat, we must stand together against the enemy chaps…” [Steady on now, don’t overdo the metaphor.]

Eventually, after the operation and nearly a week of post operative monitoring, I was released back into society and there followed an anxious wait for the definitive biopsy result. This was eventually communicated to me at home [by telephone] as being; “No trace of tumour found.

This mantra was then repeated endlessly in the face of my obvious questions. The result had of course identified the need for another broom cupboard liaison. What does it all mean – am I now OK?

Which of the following do you believe to have applied?

 

A. A bearded, very irritating man came out from behind the curtain and revealed that it was all a jolly TV prank.

 

B. I was advised that “it is illegal to discriminate against tumours and therefore the matter was being taken very seriously [Sir]”

C. It was later revealed as a gross act of negligence on behalf of the hospital and I appeared on GMTV [being interviewed by the “twittering” one] as well as receiving handsome compensation.

D. It was simply a fact that the bits they originally took out could not be identified in the Haynes Manual for Brain Surgery and further samples would be required to classify it. A Stereo-tactic biopsy will now beckon; what is this? Have you ever seen an Eskimo fish? If you would like to take part in this competition, please send your answer [with money of course] to:

THE ANSWER IS “D"
ANOTHER PHONEY MONEY RAISING NON-COMPETITION CAROL VORDERMAN’S TV WORLD
GMTV
P.O BOX 1234

Why not text your answer? Send any long word to 12345. Standard rates of £1 / entry plus £1 per letter will apply. Don’t forget to get the approval of an adult – anyone will suffice [even that strange one at the bus stop.] Winners will be announced – honestly!

THE WORLD IS YOUR LOBSTER [courtesy of Arthur Daley]

So, there you are, this chain of events explains how I became the proud owner of a Rottweiler [sorry Grade IV tumour]. Actually, I would hate you to assume that I have been using alternative therapies such as Visualisation. The Rottweiler – without any name – didn’t actually exist in case you are still confused. The tumour called Glioblastoma Multiforme unfortunately did.

The final broom cupboard meeting waves you off with the standard prognosis - one year or maybe two years life expectancy. As a private patient, I also received an additional [but chargeable?] pearl of wisdom; “You will never be better than you are now, so get out there and enjoy the time you have left!” This is somewhat akin to being driven to a cliff edge and then being asked politely “What would you like to do next Sir?”

Unfortunately, there also remain a couple of academic points to mention:

1. You will find obtaining suitable travel insurance at an affordable price [if at all] extremely difficult.
2. Ah yes, and there is also the little matter of further treatment.

A FULL RECOVERY IS EXPECTED

Before my recent experiences, I would have assumed that this very significant medical phrase meant that everything would revert to normal after some brief medical intervention or crisis.

I now realise that it only relates to the conclusion of an individual procedure. It is therefore perfectly possible to have a “full recovery” from an operation without actually curing your particular ailment. I cannot understand why this ambiguous phrase is used - unless to deliberately avoid revealing the more complex reality of the situation to a patient. Sadly, I can report meeting at least one that could not appreciate the subtle difference based on what they had been told.

Whilst I have the dictionary out, it is also worth mentioning “ Remission; [noun] diminution [reduction] of force”. There is a public misconception when headlines claim that somebody is “in remission” that the turning point has been made and the path to a complete recovery inevitably beckons.

Sometimes, but not always, the situation may indeed allow for such a favourable interpretation of these phrases.

 

RAIN IN THE MORNING, RAIN IN THE EVENING

Success in the handling of terminal Brain Tumours is always going to be relative and therefore very hard to define. The resolutely gloomy prognosis offered to me so far led to my undertaking further independent research – something that I recommend anybody in a similar situation doing.

A few immediate conclusions I drew were:

1. Early diagnosis [and therefore commencement of treatment] is critical to success. I was fortunate enough to present symptoms that required an immediate scan. Incidentally, I love that medical phrase “the patient presented symptoms”; would Sir like them gift wrapped for that special touch? Others might have months of tests [and even misdiagnosis] before reaching the same point – possibly too late.

2. Your age and general health are predetermining factors. I was “lucky enough” to be diagnosed in my early forties – a double edged sword if ever I saw one though!

3. Successful cases often involve patients who concurrently adopt a vitamin and herbal supplement regime - thus forming a more integrated approach to treatment. This is of course a subject in itself and, as this book is not intended to be a reference guide, I do not propose to take the matter any further. Incidentally, finding anybody to give a balanced view – or even to consider it a serious option – from within the NHS is nearly impossible.

4. Be wary of US web-sites where the claims of success in attempting various alternative therapies are the more fantastic with supporting evidence such as “she was given a month to live three years ago so imagine my surprise when she passed me in the New York marathon!” Disregarding the plainly bogus claims, I think I can explain this phenomenon from first hand experience. Once people are aware of your situation, your disappearance for a time from normal contact leads them to an unconscious assumption that you are already dead. Any subsequent sightings will therefore create potential astonishment and it is this that fuels the mythical claims.

You should now use your accumulated knowledge to make decisions on what you personally are going to do. I resolved not to return to the huge volume of material – of varying quality – available on the internet. As far as I could see, there appeared little point in buying time just to use it reading about the condition or treatments.

A FORENSIC EXAMINATION

For such a rare condition you might be surprised by the total lack of interest expressed in my personal and medical history – not exactly Quincy ME then. I happen to know of three cases [when including my own] all from an area of less than a hundred or so square metres.

In addition, when I visited my G.P after discharge from hospital, I noted that he did not appear to be “firing on all cylinders.” A few weeks later, a note appeared in the surgery window giving the sad news that he had been diagnosed with the same condition.

Whilst these are probably just an unhappy coincidence, for those seeking answers, reading the literature on the subject will enable you to comfortably rule out all possible contributory causes – what a relief then!

Incidentally, talking of Quincy earlier; in the 70’s crusading, dedicated and fearless [to a fourteen year old viewer] soon becomes pompous and self righteous today; a nightmare employee – how flexible would he be with his holiday entitlement for instance?

PLAN B? – THERE ISN’T ONE

Back in the NHS, a post-operative treatment plan would now be developed using a balance of radiotherapy and chemotherapy. These are the only options offered and surely fail to grasp the possibility of a complex multi-disciplined approach to these matters.

As my general health and age were on my side, it was proposed to try Radical Radio – incidentally, this has nothing to do with pirate stations playing cutting edge urban beats. Radical Radiotherapy actually involves 30 doses over a six week period adding up to your life time safe exposure limit to radiation.

Chemotherapy can start concurrently, or immediately afterwards, and the drugs used will still depend on whether you have private medical insurance – Brain Tumours are not as common, or as well publicised, as breast cancer. Having insurance gave me a wider range of options but, earlier on, I had to fight to get this recognised as my consultant felt that it should not play any part in the treatment option availability. True though this might be from a moral perspective, it would have been positively perverse of me not to pursue this path having paid the premiums for many years.

Standard protocol now determines that this process continue indefinitely [only being punctuated by monthly consultations] until your health dictates otherwise.
Your further options would then be based on:

1. Repeat surgery – carrying obvious risks with an uncertain return.

 

2. Minor changes to the existing chemotherapy regime pending any alternate drug developments.

People often refer to chemotherapy as “ chemo” – as if, simply by giving it a small friendly name, it somehow makes it easier to deal with. Fancy a spot of chemo tonight? No? What about a curry then?

Chemotherapy damages the bone marrow thus affecting your white blood cell counts. Protecting your immune system is therefore very important and makes the lack of a multi-disciplined approach – as mentioned earlier – all the more disappointing.

If your levels do fall unacceptably, antibiotics may be suggested as an additional option to reduce the risk of rare [and possibly fatal] infections that the body can normally just shrug off. As I have always been wary of taking drugs just to counteract the side effects of others – it seemed to me that this was a slippery slope – I attempted to achieve a satisfactory result [when facing this very situation] with my own herb and vitamin routine. As the readings returned to normal, I did feel somewhat vindicated but, as always, I would urge you to weigh up the evidence and make up your own mind. Unfortunately, it would be impossible to have examined the potential outcomes of the two alternative paths so it remains a matter of faith.

SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN

I used to regard private medical insurance as being expensive. Having now had a range of operations and treatments, I have collected a rapidly rising series of bills. As an example, a routine monthly round of chemotherapy [with its associated consultation] costs my insurer £1500.

It is obvious that it is wrong for people to be denied appropriate treatment but, ultimately, somebody somewhere has to actually pay for it. It is also not a problem that can simply be laid at the door of the pharmaceutical companies, as development costs and approval timescales for their investments are significant.

Legislation would only serve as a disincentive to research and development into new treatments. The typical TV portrayal of a patient denied treatment therefore adopts a simplistic view that very few viewers would argue with; the overall balanced picture is usually ignored.

It is likely that your own opinion will ultimately be informed only by your personal circumstances, an uncomfortable thought? It should be. WHAT A TRAGIC STORY, IT’S ENOUGH TO BRING TEARS TO YOUR EYES
00010.jpg

Principal of “Informed Choice” – A simple guide

[The game continues until the options are reduced and/or your time runs out]

Based on the information and results available, I think we should first consult my colleague… I see nothing that might lead me to believe a problem

exists with either option.

So what do you see as being the best course of action for me as I have to decide

today?

2
EMPLOYMENT MATTERS

WHAT SKILLS SHORTAGE?

Having been made redundant from a management role in traditional manufacturing, I was already finding it difficult to adapt to the new demands of those twin engines of the modern economy – the NHS and civil service sectors. Now fate had dealt me an even more difficult hand – a form of disability.

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Reviewing the detritus of over twenty-five years of education and employment revealed countless certificates – some clearly worthless; those starting with “has successfully attended …” for instance. How can you unsuccessfully attend – only by not actually being there surely?

I updated my CV to say that I had “unsuccessfully attended” every course ever – apart from those specifically listed. Actually, I particularly enjoyed not attending that one on Bullying in the Workplace – I had cancelled when I found that is was not going to be about how to actually do it.

My difficulties went far beyond just “adapting my skills set” and involved more fundamental questions such as:

1. What the hell is the job?
2. What does one actually do?
3. How will I know if I have done it?
4. How many people will report to me? [Think pay-scales and status not efficiency here].

The purpose of any role in these sectors seems to be to refer – ideally without actually doing anything in between or, heaven help, making decisions. Thus, employing lots of people with no clear results equals success!

AN APPLICATION TO THE TASK

The absolute zenith of these unfathomable opportunities had to be the local metropolitan borough advertising for a Persistent Offender CoCoordinator.

I had assumed that this was all part of a new government initiative and the purpose of the role would be to ensure that the necessary equipment and training were available to help improve the efficiency of criminals working in the area.

I was already preparing in my mind for a potential interview:

 

1. Maybe planned manning rotas to avoid embarrassing duplication of break-in attempts on the same night?

2. An information database [very IT / modern efficient thinking here] containing all the lock details and house layouts for the area.

3. A “buddy” system peopled by “cooperative old lags” looking to give something back? [Please do NOT send in requests for particular items of jewellery to be given back as you will only be showing yourself as “Not on message” if you do so.]

4. Most important of all [and we must always be mindful of this], the Heath & Safety issues:

a. Working Time Directive 1998 - regular health check-ups for criminals working the nightshift and a general observance of a 48 hour maximum working week.

b. Undertake a risk assessment for stress in the workplace – was it really acceptable to expect people to work under constant fear of apprehension? With this in mind, you will now notice that the police are trying to avoid interfering in these matters altogether.

One half of me actually wanted to proceed with an application and, during the hoped for interview process, soldier on with such a woeful misunderstanding of the role.

Sometime later, I witnessed a commendably straightforward vacancy for a Trainee Tree Climber advertised in the local paper. As it was about as literal as any job title could possibly be, would it be worthy enough to tempt an application from my colleague Frank?

TRAINEE TREE CLIMBER Minimum 48 hours per week Aged between 18 – 24 years

Full training given to right applicant Must be good with heights 07*** ****** 13th March 06

 

Dear Sir, My name is Frank and I wish to apply for the position of Trainee Tree Climber.

I am currently living in a private zoo near Plymouth that is due to close down. As a chimpanzee, I can definitely offer you the skills required and my friends might also be able to help out.

I should tell you that I will not wear personal protective equipment as I would find it as demeaning as when I was forced to wear flat caps to advertise PG Tips.

If you will not interview me, I am told that I should consider taking the matter up under recent Animal Rights Legislation.

Thanks

 

Frank

 

Some considerations for you at home:

1. Did Frank adopt an overly confrontational approach in his application – such as refusing the use of PPE or threatening litigation?

2. Training will be given? [Perhaps starting with small trees such as dwarf conifers and eventually progressing to the big oaks?]

 

3. Good head for heights? [Too subjective]

 

4. Age range 18-24? [Discriminatory – what about that pensioner I saw snow-boarding on GMTV this morning?]

 

5. The employer was the potential customer for Frank’s skills - how well do you think he managed to convey his suitability?

 

THE FINE GAME OF RUGBY

Back in the real world again, I had begun to think about how to resume my employment search now that my circumstances had changed. An obvious starting point seemed to be the Job Centre?

Contact No.1

Enter the Disability Employment Officer. I can only imagine that the purpose of this role was to place on / take off people from Incapacity Benefit according to government targets. I joined where it had occurred to them that it cannot be possible to have the whole population of the UK unable to work through disability. A Brain Tumour is not your typical disability and it soon became clear that this was not going to be easy. In my case, I am lucky enough to have only lost a small amount of vision plus some hair through the radiation treatment.

Contact No. 2 and 3

I was immediately referred on to a charitable trust dealing in finding, shall we say, “Disadvantaged People” employment and a place in normal society. This referral involved two meetings [one a home visit] and resulted in the conclusion that it was difficult to pinpoint what exactly could be offered. In my case, even if anything had been highlighted, I would have felt a fraud - there were others who could have surely benefited much more from their limited resources.

Contact No.4

Next, I was referred to an agency dedicated to finding employment for people on Incapacity Benefit. Having registered my details [and explained my situation fully], I was invited back in again – to fill in more forms and to make an appointment to see somebody else!

Contact No.5 and 6

The next person, flushed with a superficial enthusiasm, asked me to fill in my details and explain my situation to them yet again. A follow on visit was arranged during which I met another person who would now [finally] be handling my case.

By this time, I was beginning to refer to myself as the “human rugby ball” in all correspondence. Rugby is a game where the ball [or candidate] is passed along a line – direct forward progress is not allowed. If successful, you are said to have “tried”.
Can anyone explain to me though why the rules also allow hand-ball and, when somebody has missed the goal by kicking over the bar, they are said to have “converted” [to which religion exactly?]

JUST LOOKING FOR A JOB

Three further visits to the same employment adviser promised nothing and delivered on it. Attending for a chat without any hint of progress towards identifying actual opportunities seemed futile:

“Tell me something about yourself”

 

You have my details - I am looking for a job

 

“I’m concerned about you – are you keeping well?” Why? I am only looking for a job

 

“What hobbies do you have?” Counting days and looking for a job

“Do you like music?”
Erm…Erm… I am looking for a job! [YES!!]
[Was this question designed to play on my short-term memory weakness?]

“How would you actually like me to help you?”
By finding me a job?
[It was at this point that I realised I had entered a Police Station in error]

I offered to attend at any time in the event of potential employer interest – including visiting the customer premises on a purely speculative basis so they could appreciate my continued “normality”.

Unsurprisingly, with such a precisely framed challenge, the calls and meetings dried up. Eventually, I received a letter informing me that funding was no longer available for this “support”. Tragic I know, but at least they “tried”!

RETAIL THERAPY

Next up then – and with my expectations now slightly lowered – came the General Assistant vacancy at a local supermarket [the one where “every little helps”.] The application form included a psychometric profile to which I decided to be brutally honest in my answers. Which best describes you?

o I am the kind of person who goes out of their way to get on with people

 

o I try to listen to other people’s point of view before making a decision

 

I never discriminate when dealing with people - or when listening to their points of view - because I hate everybody equally

 

Despite my best efforts, I was still called in for an interview with the manager. Another round of profiling type questions followed:

 

Q1 - When was the last time you kept a secret?

 

Today – when a member of your staff asked me what I thought of you

 

Q2 - When was the last time you helped a colleague?

Helped?
A colleague?
Your psychometric profiles are not up to much are they?

Q3 - When did you last learn something new?

 

Just a minute ago

“Well, you are just the type of person and age we are looking for - we find that younger people are unreliable. I think I will sort out a quick work trial for you now”

After what seemed an age, the manager returned looking slightly flustered. He had apparently “…spoken to somebody and, what with the potential Health and Safety issues; he was not sure whether he would be able to do anything for me.”
I assured him that I could undertake the role without affecting the safety of myself or others but wanted him to employ me on merit, and not because he felt obliged to under fear of disability discrimination legislation.

In the end, it was left with the Area Manager who would be consulted for guidance the following day. I received no further contact but, at least as a registered disabled person, I had not been placed at risk or taken advantage of in any way. Another classic case of what I call ER syndrome.

ER syndrome applies when, after much hand wringing and group sympathy sessions, an event actually causes the scales [controls] to be tipped in the other direction thus creating a different and, very probably worse, outcome.

In case you are interested, O.K perhaps half a notch above torpor will do, the ER acronym has nothing to do with Emergency Room - as in the US medical drama.

I have consulted my New York lawyers on this; sorry, make that my new, York based lawyers Chargemore & Runn. They have advised me that I must not comment any further.

Oh well, “That’s Life!” for you. 00015.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00017.jpg00015.jpg00018.jpg00019.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00018.jpg00020.jpg00020.jpg00021.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00016.jpg00017.jpg00022.jpgFrank [not previously known for his contemplative nature] takes rejection for the Tree Climber vacancy very badly

3
RELATED MATTERS

WHAT CONSTITUTES BRAVERY?

I know that this is not a new argument, but what is “Bravery” when used in the context of terminal illness? I am unaware of anybody who actually chose to be in this position. Surely fortitude is a much more appropriate word?
“Bravely fought…” is even worse, as it implies that there are those cowardly ones out there that lack the fortitude to simply survive.

In the early eighties, I lived in Cornwall. For those that don’t know, Cornwall is a wet, windswept area of the UK that didn’t actually appear on any maps until 1975 – it actually lies about 10 years to the west of London. There is a local saying “If you can see Carn Brea it’s going to rain, if you can’t, it already is” and, if you stand still for long enough, you will be guaranteed to turn mouldy.

In 1981, during a particularly ferocious storm, the Penlee lifeboat Solomon Browne was despatched to save those aboard the Union Star freighter that had flooded engines and ripped its anchor chain. As it headed for the rocks, the accompanying Sea Rescue helicopters had to return to base as the waves were now high enough to be sucked into their engines. After some initial success, the lifeboat stayed on to make further attempts at removing the remaining crew. They eventually failed in their bid at the cost of all the lives onboard both vessels. I think we can safely say that this act was brave.

Incidentally, why this event is not ingrained in our national psyche and therefore the subject matter for TV or film I do not know – I certainly commend you to find out more if you can.

Subsequent to [but not because of!] my writing this, a BBC1 Documentary “Cruel Sea: The Penlee Disaster” was shown.

 

A VERY PUBLIC UNDERSTANDING

Can he talk? I know that most people find the whole subject of terminal illness difficult – and therefore best avoided – but, sometimes I get that deliberately exaggerated enunciation, as in “CAN…YOU… MANAGE…STAIRS?” In fairness to them, it is very hard to define what kind of a “disability” a Brain Tumour actually is – especially as symptoms can vary enormously with time.
Perhaps I should have a T-Shirt printed with Glioblastoma G4 on one side and a list of potential symptoms on the other. This might be informative and help in shopping queues or when finding seating at airports.

Actually, I have now revised my thoughts on this matter as:

1. I have no wish to promote TV manufactured pseudo classical rubbish. [For those whose life actually extends beyond TV, G4 were an act on talent show “The X Factor”.]

2. I would probably be advised by the local “boys in blue” that I was providing information liable to promote discrimination towards tumours – see Medical Matters if, like me, you have that short a memory.

JUDGING A BOOK BY ITS COVER [a]

Until my own recent misfortune, I would always be at the front of the queue when making snap judgements; “Just look at him, he always walks to work – must have been banned for drink driving…”

Recently, I visited a refurbished local pub – part of a large chain offering “two-for-one” meals. At the bar, I ordered drinks and took a menu - at the same time vaguely overhearing something like “you can’t wear that in here”. As I had left my Cat Woman suit at home that day, I naturally assumed that these comments were aimed elsewhere. Again, but more specifically this time, “you cannot wear that cap in here”. I explained that I wore “that cap” to cover an operation scar and the loss of hair from radiotherapy – this seemed to satisfy.

Having sat down to consider the excellent fair on offer – dried spaghetti straight from the mould, desiccated fish and so on – I was approached by the Assistant Manager who asked me to remove the cap. I repeated the reasoning behind my wearing it and added that I had no wish to be a “circus freak” provided for the entertainment of the ensuing crowd.
Actually, hang on a minute… exactly how much do you think circus freaks make nowadays?

I was informed that no exception would be made to the rule, to which I protested that I had effectively therefore been banned from the premises. This allegation was of course denied, but the net result remained the same.

I wrote to the brewery pointing out that their handling of the situation had caused me unnecessary embarrassment. Later, I received a sympathetic letter basically endorsing the manager’s actions. Chargemore & Runn suggest that I do not comment any further; we therefore once again require the services of Frank:

Pathfinder Pubs
Albany House
Albany Rd
Wolverhampton WV1 4JT

17th June 2006

 

Dear Sir,

I am presently taking part in preproduction filming for a planned documentary looking at the popular advertisements of the 1970’s. It is hoped that the end product will become part of a series “Carol Vorderman’s TV World”.

In a break from filming, we recently visited the Oak Tree public house in Rednal. You can but imagine my initial disappointment at the size of the Oak Tree in question but, I am happy to say, this was more than compensated for by your apparent hat policy.

Having been forced to wear hats for so long in my TV work for PG Tips, it was so refreshing [a pun?] to be asked to remove them before entering.

I must admit to being slightly confused however - why are we forced to wear them but homosapiens are forced not to? Regards,

Frank Since first regaling people with this particular tale - and with the benefit of hindsight - I would now handle any similar situation differently. If you are confronted in such a manner, simply state that if they really want an explanation of why you are wearing a hat, you will give it to them. In return, they better ensure that it is the right person being offered to receive it, as you will not repeat it again to anybody else.

Having identified the “right” person, provide them with basic details. Depending on how they react to this, decide how much detail you will submit them to; an obnoxious employee, why not calmly take them through the whole process from diagnosis?

JUDGING A BOOK BY ITS COVER [b]

When made redundant, I had to claim Job Seekers Allowance. This involved a fortnightly signing on procedure and, post operation [whilst still waiting for the result], I signed on as normal. Well I say normal; I sat with a wool hat stretched to its limit over a large bandage whilst underneath sweating profusely.

Having received the result, I returned to inform them of my position and to apologise for my rather strange appearance at the last meeting. The officer remembered me but had not noticed anything unusual in my demeanour – what this says about your average Job Seeker I simply dread to think!

ASS [ACQUIRED SUPERIORITY SYNDROME]

There is a famous proverb that I believe to be of Chinese origin – “You are what you eat.” I have my own paraphrase of this; “You’re not where you work”. I had the misfortune to work at a company that was not recognised as being “world class”. Consequently, I found myself regularly judged as being of inferior ability by automotive industry clients. Just because you have the right company badge or uniform, it doesn’t make you automatically superior in any way.

Likewise, what is it about Personal Assistants to the Chairman that leads them to think that appearing next to them in the company tree actually makes them No2 in the organisation?

Why do people working in “officialdom” adopt that “sales prevention” stance when dealing with you? The next time you are completely ignored at a Post Office try lighting up a cigarette [even if you don’t smoke]. “You can’t smoke in here” will be their immediate reaction. “Well, I’ve got your bl***y attention now haven’t I!”
“… I’ll have a book of first class stamps and a smile please.”

DAY OF THE WALKING DEAD

Another phenomenon somebody in my position is liable to experience is that of becoming a non-person. This is created [with time] by your losing most of the normal reference points that social event small talk requires:

1. What do you do for a living? – I count days. [So if you don’t work, how can I possibly know what kind of person you are?]
2.
Did you see that new BMW on Top Gear? – No [Suspicious]

 

3. What car do you drive? – I can’t drive because my licence has been suspended. [Obviously a drink driving ban]

 

4. What car did you drive before? [I really, really need to know if I am only talking to a manual worker here]

 

INVISIBLE MAN WANTED

 

Experience preferred, but full training will be given to the right candidate. Sounds ideal for me these days?

 

00023.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00023.jpg00025.jpg00026.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00025.jpg00014.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00024.jpg00027.jpgThe author pictured standing naked by a pond

 

SOME PUBLIC TRANSPORT BACK TRACKING

I had always thought that people aged between 18 and 65 should not use buses – have you no self respect? This rule has now been revised as I have to use them myself - given my driving licence suspension on health grounds. In summary, it is now very fashionable to use all forms of public transport – maybe even buses.

During my rehabilitation into society, I also had occasion to make my first solo train journey. The day was fine and warm but I was wearing a wool hat to cover my scars – rather odd in the circumstances so I was very conscious about my appearance.
On an incidental note, I am apparently [cranially] very well endowed and therefore could not find any other form of hat to fit. O.K, as you ask, all together now…“Ooo missus, 7 ¾ in English!”

As I stood waiting on a deserted platform, a gang of youths appeared and began climbing up and down off the tracks.

Next, two elderly gentleman arrived – one appeared to be the others carer or guardian. The supervised gentleman then proceeded to shout incoherent allegations at all present.

Finally, to complete this apparently random sample of human life, an average middle aged woman arrived.

 

I developed various scenarios in my mind:

1. Youths take exception to the barracking from elderly gentlemen. Fracas ensues resulting in innocent woman falling into the path of a train. A Crimewatch reconstruction appeals for the “the sweating, suspicious looking man in a wool hat” to come forward.

2. Train driver sees youths on the track and applies emergency braking. A track fault leads to a partial derailment. People wander around dazed and bandaged while… Hang on a minute; that was Casualty last week.

In reality? The woman appeared to become confused about the platform choice and sought help – presumably from the most normal looking candidate she could find amongst this bunch? Yes! Bless you madam.

Mind you, I still chose to send her to the wrong one – after all, what did the cheeky cow think I was? ; A walking information booth?

 

MODERN LANGUAGES

Never a strong point of mine, I always used to say that I could ask the whereabouts of a station in five different languages - unfortunately, I couldn’t understand the answer in any of them.

After my recent experience of hospital signage and documentation, I can now add to this ability a further ten languages when submitted as written requests. Unfortunately, the bit about not understanding the answer in any still applies.

The use of language can sometimes be a source of mirth, often unintentionally. Why not try picking a rarely used word [at random] from the dictionary each week? Now use it at every opportunity and see how its use will insidiously creep. I really wanted to try this technique during my regular hospital consultations but the exposure time would probably not be adequate.

At my last employer however, I once decided to use the word “Nefarious” which I then believed to describe any spurious or random argument. I now note that the definition is “… adjective wicked.” Having recently revisited them after a year’s absence, I recoiled at their continued and rather inappropriate use of the word. What exaggeration – what ignorant bastards!

And, despite the canards, “insidiously” was not this week’s word.

 

CANARDS OF GLOOM

 

[Canard: noun unfounded rumour] I can do no more; the rest is up to you. I will however be checking again in a few weeks.

So now that I have truly just about finished with my first book – I know that forty four is a bit late to finish reading it but, once you get into the plot of an Enid Blyton, you just can’t put it down.

The opening section of Medical Matters hits hard and fast – like an unintentional [?] simulation of the actual diagnosis and treatment themselves. In any case, it would be difficult to have been more descriptive for you as the principal events occurred when I was otherwise engaged!

From there on in however, it became a simple matter of counting days or “taking each day as it comes.”

Nobody will truly appreciate the enormity of this phrase unless they too have a terminal illness. The cod cheeriness associated with your own historical use has now been replaced by an awful reality; I actually have to live this way because I really don’t know how long I have to live. What about doing that expensive dream cruise around the world during the coming winter months? Maybe

So there you are left in The Waiting Room living a life more akin to “Derek’s Bonfire” than Dante’s Inferno. This may seem to be a rather gloomy note to end on and, before another G4 man jogs past in Reeboks cajoling me to stay positive, I remain so despite some of the best efforts of bureaucracy and officialdom along the way.

How do I judge myself then after these recent experiences? - As a “Positive Realist”. Oh yes, as a Positive Realist currently waiting for a steam train stood on the platform of Churchston Station.

In the end, my story took about 7000 words to relay, thanks for listening and would you shut the door behind you on your way out?

 

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MARKING METAPHORS

 

D+

Once again, this is a very disappointing effort. You have used a confusing number of analogies and metaphors that seem to lack a clear unifying purpose. Who, or what, exactly are Frank and the Rottweiler as this was left unclear to me?

Have you considered turning to the Church as they could surely help you in these matters? In the meantime, unless you show some immediate signs of improvement, gainful employment will continue to elude you.

I would have liked to expound further, but I have just found out that even I have been used merely as a metaphor; in my case for the “omnipresent and shallow nature of celebrity”.

Oh well, but this doesn’t stop me from saying to you that you can’t wear that hat in here.

 

Carol Vorderman 00035.jpgA Restaurant that allows hats! [Pity the menu and atmosphere were so disappointing]