Monday, 28 September 2009

Why would they think that's a good idea?

There are many mysteries in this world:

Why is belly-button fluff always blue?
Can you be someones right-hand man if you're left handed?
Would they allow voting if it changed anything?
When the guy that designed the drawing board got it wrong, what did he go back to?
What was the best thing before sliced bread?
..... etc etc etc .....
This weekend, I was privileged to witness another of life's great mysteries. To set the scene...
It was a nice day, so SWMBO and I decided to go for a drive out in the country to get away from the confines of the house and see something other than our own four walls. We loaded up the wheelchair and various other bits and bobs that may be needed, and set off for nowhere in particular. After a couple of hours, we arrived at the coast. It wasn't where we had thought we would end up, but it was fresh air and there was a promenade, which meant that we could get out and go for a wander. (SWMBO being in a chair and me currently on crutches meant that it had to be somewhere flat!).

Well, we went a couple of hundred yards along enjoying the salt-laden air and blowing away cobwebs with every step, and decided that (I in particular) deserved an ice cream from the shop, as it was the furthest I had managed to go for nearly a year. "99" in hand, we went and sat on the promenade wall, (well I did anyway, SWMBO just parked-up next to me!), and enjoyed watching the kids playing on the beach, boats sailing around and all the other sea-side goings-on.

Eventually we decided that it was time to return to the car, and so headed back. As we approached the car, we noticed several people pointing and laughing at something and wondered what could be so funny. We soon found out! There was our car, all windows wide open, both sun-roofs wide open, headlights on, doors unlocked and hazard warning lights going. To top it all, there was a seagull sitting on the dash-board tearing seven-shades out of a packet of crisps. He'd obviously enjoyed getting to them, as there were bits of crisps everywhere, and a couple of sparrows sitting nearby that looked as if they had helped themselves to some crumbs too. As if that wasn't bad enough, he'd left his "calling card" all over the dash and the drivers seat!

Once I'd shooed him off, and cleaned up, I started to wonder how the car had ended up like this, as I knew it was locked when we left it. Well, according to the AA man we had to call out when we found that it wouldn't start either, "Sometimes these things are done as a form of safety device when certain fuses blow. Mind you, I've never seen it operate so many things before". I find that incredible! We were really lucky, as no-one had leant into the car and carried off our sat-nav or sunglasses that were on the dash, or looked into the glove-box to see what was there. A subsequent enquiry to Renault wasn't exactly helpful, but then again, they rarely are! They think it's possible the fuse is to blame, but couldn't say for sure without running a full diagnostic check on the car. Not a chance in hell! The last time they did one of those, I had a fault showing on the dash that they took over 2 hours to trace and then found that a fuse had blown. This resulted in a bill of over £200, of which parts was £0.50, one fuse!!!

So, as it hasn't done it before, and so long as it doesn't do it again, I'll keep the car away from the dealership and the cash in my pocket. I'll write the inconvenience of cleaning seagull "poo" from the dash and seats down to experience, and attempt to gain another few free drinks at the local on the strength of the story.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Why I don't want to go skiing!

I think that this is explanation enough...

Monday, 21 September 2009

Life's not always fair!

We're always being told that life's not fair, but another example of this cropped up in my life over the last few days. SWMBO is a full time wheelchair user because of MS, and because of her disabilities uses an electric power chair as she doesn't have the strength or co-ordination to manoeuvre herself in an ordinary (manual) wheelchair. Her current chair is adapted to enable her to adjust the position of her legs, back and head - and also will raise her up so that she can reach the top shelves in supermarkets etc. This last function is often the one that gets the most use, without ever going into a shop. For years we had to put up with people (literally) looking down at her and assuming that as she is in a wheelchair, she is obviously brain-dead. Fortunately, or otherwise, this is far from the case as she was an accountant until her MS got so bad that she could not continue at work any more.
Anyway, back to the seat-raising. We both work with disability groups at a local level and often have to attend meetings or functions as group representatives. We found some time ago, that people will talk to her completely differently if she raises the chair up so that she is at eye level with the rest of the people in the room. The problem is not really applicable when we are around other people involved with disability in some way, but it's really noticeable when entering "normal" society. It is also worth saying that the higher up the promotion scale someone is, the harder they seem to find it to accept that a person in a wheelchair could be equal or above them socially, intellectually or in any other way.

Well, last week, the batteries on her chair started to fail and wouldn't hold a charge for any decent length of time. This led to the bit of unfairness that this post is about. We contacted the wheelchair company to ask about replacement batteries and were told that they were available at a cost of £186 each (the chair takes 2) plus post and package of £36. Once I'd picked myself up off the floor I thanked them for the information and told them that I'd be in touch, thinking "not a chance in Hell"! It's also worth remembering, that these are ex-vat prices, as vat is not payable on disability items. Next I contacted our local disability shop and was quoted £159 each. Well at least it was going in the right direction. Then I had a trawl around the interweb thingy and checked out ebay too. This got the price down to £144 each, although there were some advertised at £395 each, labeled as the best battery money can buy. For that price, I'd want them gold-plated, hand-delivered and fitted by nubile young nymphets! By now, it had become something of a challenge - how low can the price go?

I couldn't get the price any lower than this until a chance remark by a neighbour who is VERY into his boats. He told me about a company that he knew who provided him with all his batteries at a very reasonable cost. Well, by now I was prepared to try anything once. I contacted the company, a marine supplier, and got a very pleasant surprise - £105 each and I could have next-day delivery for £20 or collect them myself whenever I wanted. As the opportunity of a day by the sea-side is not to be sniffed at, we arranged to pick them up the next day!
When we arrived late the next morning, we were met by a very nice guy, who asked us to give him a minute while he went to get the batteries out of the back. When he found out what we wanted the batteries for and when we were going to collect them, he had taken them into his workshop and given them a trickle-charge overnight to make sure that they were fully ready to go. He even spent 15 minutes helping me to change them on the wheelchair there and then - the kind of service that, most of the time, you can only dream about!

The really remarkable thing about all of this, is that the batteries that he supplied us with are the same ones that we had been quoted for by the disability companies. He then gave us a card with the details of his supplier on, and said that if we needed more and approached them direct, we would get them even cheaper. Sometimes you get lucky!
So, this begs the question; if disability companies are "looking after" one of the most vulnerable groups in society, why do they have to rip us off like this, and why can a marine chandlers supply identical items at almost half price? There is no reason for exploitation like this, other than the disability tag, and I really feel that it is something that should be looked into. It is not unusual for this to be the case, as many items given the disability label are overpriced too. Sometimes the same item will appear in two different packages, one for everybody and one for the disabled. The distinction will be in the price, as the disabled one will, inevitably, be dearer. Oh, on reflection, it's probably to pay for the extra ink in the printing as they use a larger type-face for disabled goods. This is one more reason to mourn the passing of Woolworths, as they were one of the few suppliers who did not do this, and actually kept the prices down.

Right, rant over - it's time for a laugh to lighten the mood. At least it would have been if I'd been able to insert the picture that I wanted to upload at this point, however, the only place it will post it is right at the beginning of the post, and that's not where I want it. You'll just have to take my word for it that it was really funny, and wait until I have sorted out what I'm actually doing here. God, this technology's hard to get to grip with! Why is it that a (supposedly) intelligent person like me struggles with it, yet my eldest grandson and his "mates" have the combined intellect of a single amoeba but could program the space shuttle whilst speaking only in grunts?

Sunday, 13 September 2009

In the beginning.......

Well, it was bound to happen in the end. I've been reading various blogs on the web for quite some time now, without really thinking too much about writing one for myself. I have commented on blogs, but that is a different matter. I reasoned that my life was both not quite "normal" enough and decidedly boring to anyone outside my close family. There are however, quite a few things, actually thinking about it for a second, one hell of a lot of things that really get my goat and as a fully paid-up GOM (Grumpy Old Man) I thought that this might just be the place to get it all off my chest.

For the main, I am a mild-mannered, easy-going old fart that just likes to take things easy, have a laugh, and let the world go on in its own gentle way. I'm also a soft-touch (apparently) where my grandchildren are concerned. Sometimes though, it would be nice to have an outlet where I could just let my thoughts out instead of fuming silently or building up useless resentments.

Therefore, I have decided that this will be my outlet! Ostensibly because it is the best way to keep me out of trouble and give me something to do, but there's also the fact that it's free to take into account.

I have thought long and hard about what will and will not be put onto these pages, and I've come to the conclusion that sex, drugs, religion and politics will definitely not be omitted!

Actually, sod it! Whoever or whatever - it's all fair game.

One topic that will undoubtedly recur, will be disability. This is due to the fact that both SWMBO (She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed) and I are disabled, and there are a lot of injustices out there for disabled people. We are very lucky in that we have each other, and have the ability to find solutions to most of the problems that have occurred in our lives. There will probably be quite a bit of humorous stuff too, as life is far too short to take seriously for too long and a good laugh is often all it takes to brighten things up. In any case, I've got hundreds of pages of cartoons and jokes that people have sent me over the years, and it would be nice to do something with some of them. I may also be tempted to put up one or two photos from time to time, for no other reason than I like them. It's my blog, so there!

Whatever and however it turns out, I am working on the assumption that I am basically writing for myself, to myself and without an audience. That said, if you happen to chance by, I hope you will find the posts to be either thought provoking, humorous or something in between. Please feel free to comment on anything that I've written, and I apologise in advance for the fact that I will probably make a complete b****s-up of it at some stage. My grandchildren are trying to drag me into the 21st Century with laptops and mobile phones, but I'm quite comfy settled into the 3rd quarter of the 20th, thank you.

Mobile phones!!! Now there's a subject for at least a months supply of blogs. I have taken to the laptop computer (eventually) but still feel that the mobile phone is a total bloody nuisance. All mine seems capable of, is taking photos of the inside of my trouser pocket, (67 at the last count)! The only calls I get are from my kids who want me to pick up their kids or do some shopping for them whilst I'm out, or more annoyingly, other mobile operators trying to entice me to use their services with offers of call packages that I will neither use nor understand. Not the use that I had envisaged for it.

I only agreed to have one as we thought it would be useful for SWMBO to contact me if she had a problem when I was out at the shops or something. She is a full-time wheelchair user, with no sense of danger or impending doom, and has a tendency to attempt to do things that are beyond her capabilities on a fairly regular basis. This is not a new scenario, as she has been in a wheelchair for 15 years or so, so obviously she knows when she can do something herself - NOT! As a result, she has found herself on the floor more than once. This, inevitably, is a one-way journey, so I carry a mobile, pocket-photographing thing that I hate just in case.

Well, by now you should be getting an idea of my world.....but if you're will do if you return on a regular basis. The blogs will not be daily, but that's because I have other things to do, age is getting to me, and I'll probably forget that I've got a blog to write. After all, I managed to forget that I'd started this home page over a year ago!