Monday, 19 March 2018

Still Broken and so's Everything Else

Another eight days until my plaster comes off, and yet I am still not getting a full night's sleep as I keep waking up in pain after intense dreams about my feet and kicking myself awake. The cat is very worried and comes and purrs and dribbles in my face. Or, he might be hungry and thinking I'm awake so that means breakfast time now. Who knows the minds of cats...?

The frugalling is very mixed: I can't get to the shops, so have not been coming back with half of Aldi's special aisle every week... A tad too much spent on takeaways... Rather a lot of frozen veg eaten... Same meals several days in a row... I've run out of 30p chocolate...


I have only managed to get to the pub once since last blog and I only had my walker when I got there so had to climb over the steps. OH arrived with my crutches to get me back out of the building with more dignity. Well, I say more dignity, if you can have any after midnight when you've been on the Thatchers and only have one leg. Besides this, we had a boozy couple of cans-at-home days the week before, but generally much less in the way of alcohol than the early days of gloom, so I am hopeful that the expanding belly has not expanded as much as I'd feared. I can still get in my grey combats anyway. Plus, witness me on a friend's telly yesterday, looking kind of like a small child*!

* specifically, Wednesday Addams.

On a snowy day, I made my way to Northampton College to take part in a debate about Northampton County Council being slammed in Max Caller's "Best Value" Report. I was there representing library campaigners, and I was really concerned that libraries only got mentioned once in the report once, and it seemed to be to blame NCC for not getting rid of library staff already to save the money. This makes me really worried that when the commissioners come in a poo situation will become one of such deep guano, it will be visible from space and we find more penguins in it. Not Penguin books, either.

As I nearly brained myself getting there (falling over on the ice as soon as I got off my front step, and slipping several times on the path up to the college), I was a bit miffed to be told I was question 4, and they only got up to question 3. So, yet another political debate programme next to my long-haired husband, where we have smised, looked miserable, and not got to speak (we are Northampton's Posh and Becks of politics). 

Of course, I had to be sitting next to Jim Harker, former head of NCC until 2015 whose fault the mess most definitely mostly is, but no torches can reach him like they could Heather Smith. He seems a nice enough fella, but my goodness, does he seem blithe or what?

I think what the report does seem to indicate is a lack of strong management, but is riddled with p-taking statements like "In Local Government there is no substitute for doing boring really well." Things like that are hilarious, but not really very helpful. I agree with Gareth Eales speaking in the programme yesterday, that services will need transitional funding, not just some vague statement within about "This may require some transitional funding to ensure the effective establishment of the new authorities and also the postponement of any local elections due in May 2019." What, does that just cover the cost of elections? Whoop-de-doo. Unless the commissioners can come in and help run the services as they should, and not just make things worse, then what is the point?

So, what the report doesn't do is wave a magic wand over the incredible cheek of the March 13th cabinet notes and make them go away. Community groups have now been offered a range of packages to take over their closing libraries from bronze to platinum, and they are so crappy. Bronze is 500 books for £6K for 1 year. Silver is the same for £6.5K but shelf-ready. No idea what you are getting either, all blind. Gold, you have to buy silver package first, then can start adding on the NCC library management system (1 scanner, 1 terminal, system support - but read on - catalogue and manual) for £3.5K per year, plus £1.75K set up costs, and then you need to pay an annual charge of £600 for telephone/email support. You must buy Gold and Silver to then buy Platinum bolt-ons inclusing a self-service terminal at £650 per year, a training session on how to use the stuff at £500 for a 6.5 hour day, participation in schemes like Bookstart and national reading challenge charged at (mystery) cost. Plus if you need on-site help after, that's £100 per hour plus travel expenses please!

Of course, you could just go your own way. And at these prices, that's what many are planning from what I've heard. Totally manual, uncomputerised systems, sourcing their own book stock, hoping the volunteers keep coming and users too. And they'll be spending a fortune on leases and running costs. I've heard some are taking out special loans for the village to pay back. I mean, that's... wow. Might as well shove your old Martina Coles in a telephone box, call it a library and save yourself the heartache. I think many such things also have defibrillators in them, which is not only very useful, but handy if you suddenly go into cardiac arrest at the realisation that this is kind of the best some places can manage. 

My heart is utterly broken.

Still, we keep campaigning and fighting for our libraries.

After leaving filming, I went to The Lab to run a comedy creative writing workshop, and had a lovely Sunday lunch and a great time with the Arts Lab crew. It started snowing again then. Even though the Lab has ramps for easier access to the pavement, getting out over the ice was traumatic, and it took 4 people to get me to the car. I had decided to let the ice melt a bit before venturing out today as my little walker brakes can only do so much and I don't have help getting from the station to the office. Means I've had to take it as holiday, but what can I do?

Can't wait until I'm a bit more mobile again. Just worried about the pain now.

I've cheered myself up with booking a convention for October

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Frugalwench is broken

The wench is broken! I broke my ankle almost three weeks ago when I got lost on the way to a gig at Leicester Comedy Festival. I found myself being led by Google Maps over a scary traffic bridge, where I panicked and fell over. 

No, I'm not sure either, but I keep doing this, especially on tall stairs and footbridges. The temporary stairs at Northampton station were an absolute nightmare to me, and for some reason when I have gone to fall sometimes, it hasn't been in the safe direction. I've frequently ended up having to quickly sit while the crowd flows past me tutting, because my hand-rail is suddenly occupied by someone in the opposite direction who won't let go either. People have asked is it vertigo, and I do get vertigo as well, but it's not that.

I just hate heights.

A pants way to end what had been a great day. I'd gone to see the Adventures of Baron Munchausen, starring my mate Nig Lovell and others - a fantastically funny improvised storytelling event, which was a real hit with the grown ups as well as the kids.

We spent some time with the storytellers before heading off for food, and then Lucy Thompson's show "Shake it Off", except I went and broke my ankle in between.

We did make the gig eventually, through much pain for what I assumed was a mere sprain, but only after reaching the wrong venue first - a skate park called Broom, instead of a bar called Broood.

Broom looked like a cool skate park, and I winced at every skilful landing the skater kids were doing as though they were about to do what I had just done, while OH and the attendant worked out where we should have been and tried to sort out how I might get there, as apparently it was not the sort of area where the taxis would go.  Uh oh!

Massive gratitude to the attendant who went and ran for a taxi for me, and we got to the venue okay. The show was really good too. But... ow!

The next morning, my ankle was looking distinctly odd, so we looked for the details online as to where was best to check it out. Very important you do this as sometimes it will not be your A&E .

It was very quickly ascertained that I had a broken fibula and I got some crutches and a temp cast before my fracture clinic appointment, and my brill friend Jen took me to that. And so I got a purple cast!

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It quickly transpired the crutches were not going to get me to work and I kept having clumsy accidents in my house, so I have had to splash on kneewalker hire. I get lots of enquiries from other fracture sufferers, and I know I'm lucky to have had some savings to cover the cost, as some people have been very crestfallen when they realise it's £23 a week. I think it has helped me lots, and even though I've been in lots of pain, and not slept, I at least have this which helps me maintain my balance to cook, wash up, or even pursue the crumbs OH leaves on the floor with a broom like some demented polo player. And of course, go to work... as I don't get sick pay.

It's not perfect, I have hurt my knees using it, and some basic things are still beyond my power, like carrying a plate or cup. To get round this, I have a screw-top thermal travel mug, which I still need to be very slow and careful with, and a screw-top lunch pot that I can out in a bag hanging off the bars.

Some tips if you are going to use one of these to get to work on a train. It's not common knowledge, but you should arrange for ramp assistance 24 hours in advance of when you need it, and turn up to the station 20 minutes before you need to travel. Try to travel in quieter times if you can, as people walking through the train can be oblivious.
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I've been accommodated by work to work from home this week, but that has to change as I have classes. I've been spared the need to walk in the snow (I am out of food, chocolate and ibuprofen though), but I am worried about coping next week. Big time.

Also, the other bones in my foot keep relocating themselves as gravity pops them, which is a shocker. And cramps.... ai ai ai!

What's it like to have a broken ankle, apart from painful and sucky?

Well, I've had to cancel gigs, signings and weekends away. I've got addicted to social media just to feel like I'm keeping in touch with things. I can see great swathes of housework not being done and feel antsy. I'm having to sleep downstairs as my bedroom is inaccessible due to a danger landing. I have to make sure OH is on hand with my cast cover to help me shower as the danger is getting up our Victorian stairs. Our Victorian lean-to toilet is my accessible toilet. Yep, in this weather, I'm practically going outside. I'm not wearing my Fitbit because it's depressing. I have had to throw lots of defrosted fruit I was going to make into jam because I am not capable of that. Thanks to a slow and careful removal of the foods OH was blithe to, at least the fridge no longer looks like the one in  Minority Report, but I'm very frustrated at not being able to go shopping for things we need now. I'm eating Christmas Panettone, I'm that desperate!

A lot of convenience food has been bought to save my poor overworked OH the bother, and I'm neither feeling healthy nor frugal. I am beginning to see the point of Wiltshire Farm Foods.

So, what's to come? Six weeks in this cast (2 weeks down), then a boot, then crutches alone. This is gonna be sloooow.

And my X-Rays don't really show healing, but they show I'm still aligned. I have a sliver of bone that was cracked before , and now wedged out like a triangle, but apparently that's okay. It just means my fibula will be thicker there.

Oh great. Asymmetric cankle!