Word on a Whim

What began as a blog about writing and publishing has become a blog of whatever I feel like writing. Jules Lucton.

Is McAfee a virus?

Feeling a bit flush after receiving an offer of a permanent job, I treated us to a new laptop. The old one had reached the point where you switch it on, put the kettle on, go for a wee, come back and type the password in, go off and make the tea then spend another few minutes answering error messages before it becomes usable to those who know its various quirks.

The new one came with Windows 8, which I disliked from the start owing to its Toytown interface and endless pre-installed shite. I expect to be allowed to choose what to install on a new computer, not to find it cluttered with all sorts of rubbish. Anyway, those were minor grumbles compared with the disappointment of trying to use the thing. It was so very slow, particularly when browsing the internet, and kept saying the page was unavailable or not found when it was a page I’d been on just half a minute ago. The internet speed in our area is not the fastest, so I thought it might be that Windows 8 needs a faster connection – or maybe I’d just gone too cheap on the laptop. (It was “on offer” at £200 instead of £300 but since the offer ended it has been priced at £229). My fella suggested it might run quicker without the McAfee antivirus – a pre-installed evaluation version. McAfee appeared to be a channel for other companies to advertise their products in that when you opened a browser, lots of other pages would start opening up until it all ground to a halt. I was in favour of leaving McAfee on until it asked for a subscription – but by then we were so hacked off with it that it ended up in a cupboard and the old Windows 7 laptop came out of retirement.

So, I started the new job (not in care work!) and they gave me a new Windows 8 laptop … with McAfee pre-installed and assurance that more RAM for it was on order. Using it, or trying to use it, was a déjà vu experience; “Have you seen the email I just sent you with the link on it?” “No, Outlook has frozen again … okay, got it now … but the link keeps timing out.”

A few days (and thousands of updates) later, I found I could no longer adjust the brightness of the screen. The slider went up and down but the screen remained dim. Not unusably dim but dim enough that I could see my own reflection all the time, which was disturbing! I googled and found others had this problem after Windows 8 updates, but I didn’t want to mess about with the graphics drivers and hoped maybe a future update might fix it. I consulted our PC/network guru and asked about the antivirus and he kindly removed McAfee and replaced it with AVG, a free download. Not only did the laptop run loads faster, but I was able to adjust the brightness again the minute McAfee had gone.

Back home, the Windows 8 laptop came out of the cupboard. McAfee was uninstalled and AVG downloaded. Result! A functioning laptop that can browse the Net at a reasonable speed; leaving me happy to have problems resolved, although puzzled and a bit miffed to think they were caused by a product I would have been expected to pay for.

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Thundershirt

Gandalf is a typical Sighthound; flat-out (running) or flat-out (dozing). He has a gentle and trusting temperament; welcoming visitors to the house but without pestering them once the greeting is done. If anything gets posted through the letterbox and disturbs Gandalf, he gives it a dirty look but does not move unless it actually lands on him.
So, why would a dog like Gandalf need a Thundershirt? Well, he’s a sensitive soul, and over the years has developed a few phobias. Thunder and fireworks are the common ones he shares, and the sound of gunshots – but he also gets worked up if it’s very windy and things are blowing around outside, especially at night. Hot air balloons are a particular phobia, and this was a real problem a couple of years ago when the sky was suddenly full of them. Not sure what happened to the balloons but the epidemic left him scarred so that if anyone in the neighbourhood is doing work with a blow torch or anything that sounds like a hot air balloon burner being fired, his anxiety is triggered.
Gandalf’s anxiety begins with general restlessness, a worried expression, pressing himself against us, and looking out of the windows. The next stage is panting, whining and shaking, which then leads to the worst bit where he attempts to climb up on to the highest surface he can find. Given that most such surfaces (desk, table, mantelpiece, kitchen worktops) are not just slippery but crowded with clutter and appliances, it is important to nip the anxiety in the bud, if at all possible.
My natural reaction is to cuddle and reassure him but from what I have read this is wrong. By making a fuss of him when he is pacing and panting I am supporting and encouraging his behaviour, and yes, I can see how ignoring the thunderstorm, firework display or whatever is happening might be the best policy – but my lack of interest does nothing to convince him that there is no reason to be afraid.
Some episodes are predictable, such as the weekends either side of November 5th, although fireworks seem to go off all the year round now, at birthday parties or whatever. Last November I bought some herbal calming tablets but I couldn’t say whether they helped or not, and didn’t know how soon they would take effect (if at all) and for how long. Without having two Gandalfs and giving the tablets to one but not the other, there is no way of knowing.
Anyway, l found the Thundershirt on the net and it had enough good reviews to make it worth a try. It is made of soft stretchy cotton jersey material and well-designed for the shape of the dog. The idea is that it gives him a reassuring hug around the chest but without being uncomfortable or constricting. I guess it’s a reinvention of the old idea of swaddling babies to keep them soothed.
This is what it looks like:

DSCF2700

The bit I have looped together fastens below the neck and the long flap goes down under the deepest part of the chest, wrapping around and up, and is secured beneath the side flap. It’s all held in place with Velcro, which is noisy to pull apart so it’s a good idea (and recommended on the blurb) to try it out first in none-stressful situations with food treats involved. I had wondered if Gandalf would tolerate wearing it, but he was fine. There’s no way I could wear one – can’t stand any clothing that clings. You can get also get them for cats … maybe you could get it on a very chilled-out cat in preparation for a visit to the vets or something … and hopefully not have to tear the Velcro apart too many times to re-adjust the fitting.
For the Thundershirt to be effective I think it needs to be put on at the first signs of anxiety, to nip it in the bud. I can’t imagine there being much point putting it on if a full-blown clambering up the furniture situation was already underway, and I would not leave a pet wearing one unsupervised – but the last couple of times he began to pace and pant and we put it on him, this is what happened:

Gandalf thundershirt

Not the best view of the Thundershirt as I took this discreetly from an armchair rather than standing over him with a pointy camera. He is still a little wide-eyed and tense, but the panting and pacing has stopped. Happily, we’ve only had cause to try it on a couple of occasions, but it takes the edge off immediately. Early days yet, it’s a recent purchase, but so far so good. Thirty quid well spent, I think.

Planting Christmas Trees in small back gardens

Christmas Trees

It’s an odd time to be talking about Christmas Trees but at this time of year I look at the postage-stamp sized back garden in the hope that they’ve finally stopped growing … but yet again there are new buds on the ends of all the branches.
More than fifteen years ago I moved here just before Christmas and bought a real tree, in a pot, with roots on. The next year I dug it up to use again and was surprised how well-established its roots had become in such a short time. I felt bad about wrenching it out of the ground, especially when it had looked so dead for ages before the first green buds of growth appeared. I promised the tree that if it survived I would never dig it up again. Yes, I know.
But it did survive. So naturally the next year I bought a new one … in a pot, with roots on …  There was even a third tree that I planted next to these two – so as not to uproot the second tree the next year – but the third one didn’t make it, thank goodness!
In more recent years we’ve had a small artificial Christmas Tree but didn’t even bother last Christmas as there was nowhere to put it other than on top of the printer and leaning at a funny angle – but we’d done that the year before and it was just a nuisance, apart from looking ridiculous.
I had somehow thought that Christmas trees were a special kind of fir tree that would never grow above ceiling height. I know nothing about gardening and have always lived in houses with established gardens. I never considered that previous residents had chosen and planted the stuff that was there and was amazed when I went round a garden centre with a friend who is a keen gardener and took a look at the price tags.
Given the space I could imagine the pleasure of planting something and seeing it grow – especially if it’s fruit or vegetables and I have great respect for trees; it has always upset me to see them cut down.
SO PLEASE STOP GROWING!

And the phone did ring…

The phone rang a few times – mostly about the same job. This sudden interest coincided with the media reports that we are coming out of recession; this was a “newly created” position that matched my CV very well – and also matched the CV of sixty other applicants. It particularly appealed because it was a small company where I felt I could make a positive difference and I was fairly sure that I could do the job well. It was me they were looking for!
I attended three interviews, at a cost of three days’ holiday and two hundred and seventy miles of petrol, with their final choice being between me and just one other. It seemed (according to the agency) that we both fitted the job description but had “different strengths”.
The Company was struggling to choose between the two of us. I told them I felt a bit gutted about this as I was sure the other guy was equally keen (managed not to say “desperate”) and I wished we could somehow share the job and our combined strengths to provide a solution that would be beneficial all round. They dismissed it, but kindly, saying that unfortunately there was only one available position. One of the interviewers remarked that I should not have been told it was between just two of us. I couldn’t agree more – even if I’d got the job it would have been difficult to celebrate knowing it was at someone else’s loss. But I didn’t get it. The feedback was that the other guy came across more “high profile” than me. I think that might mean he was more confident and self-assertive, but I’m not sure…
So now I must celebrate not having to do that bugger of a journey. The final interview was late afternoon and it took fifteen minutes just to get off the industrial estate. It was a typical new development; massive place, new construction but only two exit roads, and a good twenty minutes before I felt that I was heading home. Not that I had anything special planned for those particular twenty minutes – but there’s something about being stuck in traffic that makes minutes feel very precious. Other than that, there’s nothing to celebrate about not getting the job other than maybe the other guy might need it more than I do.
There was a good feeling about that place and the folks I met, and after three visits I had a sense of belonging. They did try to cushion the blow by saying (via the agent) something like “it’s only no for now but if another vacancy comes up we’ll be in touch”, which is a nice thing to say, I suppose, but I don’t envisage going back there ever again.
Such a cost attached to job hunting. It’s not only three days’ holiday/unpaid leave and two hundred and seventy miles of petrol it’s the massive amount of emotional investment; looking at new houses and cars, brushing up my IT skills and willing the phone to ring … and I bet it won’t cross their minds that it’s cost me anything.

Monday tomorrow so maybe I might get a call … ?

Nothing has happened that’s worth reporting and I did say I wouldn’t keep going on about care work but here I am having too long a weekend because I’ve said goodbye to the lovely old gent who was my weekend feature. Not only was he good company, sensitive and bright, but I was with him for a long block of hours rather than half an hour here and there – and regularly overnight – so it was financially viable as well as enjoyable. Now he has moved to a different agency – not of his own accord – it is to do with finance, but we have agreed to remain friends.
So what happens next? I could tell my agency I am now available for any other weekend work – but it would only be odd half hours throughout the day which might land anywhere between 7:00 and 23:00 with big gaps and unpaid travel time in between, meaning I could potentially be out all day but only have about four hours’ paid work. I would prefer to do something else at the weekend … anything really so long as it’s a job where they actually pay you for the hours you work. Despite what I said (in the previous post) about biting the bullet, I was quick to spit it out again and am feeling pathetically hopeful about the recent IT jobs I have applied for. That mild elation I felt from proving to myself that I actually can do care work was short lived. It does have its moments but mostly I am just spinning around with insufficient travel time between calls, apologising for being late and doing a bright and cheerful act – talking absolute rubbish because I am so bad at small talk and having the same conversations with the same people, day after day.
I yearn to be back in an IT team, or some similar team; behind the computer screen and in my inner world, where my incapacity to talk about nothing is appreciated by the majority, but where there is still a pervading yet varied and complex sense of humour. And it’s Monday tomorrow so I might get a call …
Anyway, here’s the end of a post about nothing – but it will serve to keep my blog alive … I see my blog as a cyber pet that might die if I don’t shake it about a bit.
Oh, I have something to leave you with – I do check my blog stats now and again and was pleased to see that this short story I posted a couple of years ago is still attracting a lot of traffic:

“The Snow Cock.” – Flash fiction
https://wordonawhim.com/2012/11/18/the-snow-cock-flash-fiction/

The surprising popularity of this story prompted me to check out the search criteria that had led people to this post. Of course, I cannot see who is looking, but sometimes I am able to see what they have entered in the browser. Was it “Jules Lucton” or was it “The Rise of Serge and the Fall of Leo”? Or was it simply my reputation as a writer of modern fiction that was drawing them?
Unfortunately not … the search terms that bring folks to this post are …

“cock flash”
🙂

Biting the Bullet

I said I would change the subject, and I am, sort of. I am changing my negative attitude to one of gratitude for what I have, and I am embracing the work that I am currently being offered. I was doing nothing with my spare time other than searching and applying for other jobs. Hobbies had gone out of the window as my mind was unsettled – a butterfly brain and raised hopes followed by constant disappointments were not conducive to creativity. One job application I was particularly hopeful about was still in care work with people in their own homes but was a 37.5 hour contract as opposed to zero hours. It was one of those applications where CV’s are not accepted and you have to answer questions on an application form, making the answers relevant to the job description. I thought I had filled in the application form rather well! I believed I would be ideal for the job and was convinced that whoever read my application form would think so too – but two weeks went by and I heard nothing.

Keeping the deal I had made with myself, I emailed my manager, telling her I needed to boost my income and asking about the possibility of night work – as night work tends to be a block of hours rather than half an hour here and there. I was surprised and pleased but also scared when she replied that a ‘sleep-over’ was still uncovered for the following night, which happened to be Last Night, at the home of a lovely old gentleman with a heart condition. Emotionally his heart is lovely, but medically it isn’t too good. Luckily, I had visited him before. Whilst I love everyone I attend (and they are all so different) there are some that, after less than an hour, leave me feeling like my head is about to explode and the living blood has been drained from me … but not this one. The only problem here was my anxiety – mild phobia even, about sleeping in unfamiliar places.

So, we watched telly and then went to bed. Given that he had taken the trouble to brief me about his nocturnal habits, and knowing the details about his heart condition, I was worried because I couldn’t hear him moving about. But what I could hear, loud and clear, was a clock that chimes the hour … three chimes at three o’clock, four chimes at four, and so on, with a single chime to indicate the passing of each half hour in between. I was also worried because I was starting to do my daft breathing.

Daft breathing is what others might call hyperventilation, but to me it is breathing that isn’t going anywhere. It is when you yawn because you are tired, but the yawn doesn’t work properly, so you do it again and then again – but rather than having the satisfaction of a yawn, it simply feels that some air has gone in and out of your mouth or nose, without going anywhere beyond that. So you yawn again. On a couple of occasions, many years ago, it turned into a panic attack … the grip of imminent drowning that is only released in the nick of time. The memory of this did not help, considering that my current responsibility was to support a vulnerable person. But then this was only supposed to be a ‘sleep-over’ not a ‘waking-night’. I think that was the issue. I was there on duty, but I had nothing to actually do, other than listen to that bloody clock! I didn’t hear it strike five but then woke with a jump and sat up in horror – hearing wailing noises and sirens – but it was only the boiler. The noise stopped just after six and the radiator was still cold so I assume it came on to heat the water. But I still hadn’t heard any sound from my friend in the next room …

We had agreed I would take him a cup of tea at 8am in the morning. I tapped on his open door; called his name and said “Good Morning” before entering and seeing him curled on his side, only his face showing above the duvet, greyish-white, and looking so different without his large spectacles. I stood there for a while, trying to detect the rise and fall of his breathing – but there was nothing … no sign.
Oh shit. Not on my watch. Please …

I went to his bedside, put the tea down on the bedside table and touched his shoulder through the duvet. He reacted by flipping over onto his back, clutching his chest and panting a little. When he was able to speak, he said; “My word, you came in here quietly!”

He did recover, quite quickly, said he had slept well and asked me what the weather was doing outside and I asked what he would like for breakfast. Phew!

I hope I have now broken the habit of job searching, and I will try to be happy with what I already have, and maybe build upon it, with night work or whatever. If they ask me again to do a sleep over for this old gent I will say “Yes Please” and next time I will wonder why I made such a fuss about it this first time. I will also yell a bit louder when I enter his room in the morning!

I promise to change the subject soon …

You know how it is when a house has been on the market for such a time that you think there must be something wrong with it? My CV must be starting to look like that to the IT agencies. I adapt it depending on the role I am applying for; rearranging the layout to put more emphasis on those skills that seem most relevant to the role. It is a while now since I spoke to an IT agent, but in the early days of redundancy when I was new on the market and therefore interesting; no-one suggested there was anything wrong with my CV.

A couple of weeks ago, I thought I had been head-hunted, maybe for the wrong reasons but I was nonetheless excited and hopeful. An agency I had never heard of had picked out my CV – it seemed I was ideal for a particular role. He was choosing his words carefully; “The company has a person-centred ethos … they are not necessarily looking for whizz kids but for people who live locally and are likely to stay with them.” I said, “You mean they take old people? Cool!” But he phoned back two days later and said that the finance for the new role had not yet been signed off, but they were keen to meet me as soon as it had been. Since then I have heard nothing, and I think I have seen the job he was describing advertised on the internet.

Meanwhile, the care work goes on. I’m thinking of asking about doing ‘waking nights’ as this would boost the income – being in one place for a big chunk of paid hours. At the moment there is someone I visit twice daily who lives out in the sticks and has formed an attachment to me; phoning the office to ask if I could visit more often etc. This is flattering and makes me feel good, but the two half-hour visits (which always over-run unless I have another call booked soon after) entail one hour and forty minutes travel time, so the morning visit followed soon after by the lunch time visit earns me a grand total of £6.60 and takes up most of the morning.

So far, I have kept one week-day as a day off to be available for interviews, but I have only had two. The first was back when I was still working my redundancy notice. The job description was vague and I was interviewed by two guys who didn’t seem entirely sure of what they were looking for. I didn’t get the job, and subsequently saw it re-advertised with a more specific job description. The second was booked about a fortnight in advance and whilst it seemed to go well I found it a little odd that one of the guys seemed to want to chat about the AS/400 I used to work on, which was not part of the advertised role. Then, just as I thought we were getting warmed up, he said “Thank you for your time,” and that was it. I suspect they had already found the person they wanted and were just going through the motions. Or maybe I came over as a complete weirdo.
If you want to sell a house but there has been no interest for a while, you can wait a while and then try again. If you are trying to sell yourself then it’s not so easy to take your details off the market. If you’ve read as far as this, thanks and well done – and I promise to change the subject next time 🙂

Aside from that, my son and his girlfriend are here this weekend. They had planned to visit the local Beer, Cider & Perry Festival but looked it up on the internet prior to catching the bus and found it had run out of booze!
“Due to a very busy day on Friday the range of drinks that we have on offer may soon become very limited. Sorry to those of you in the queue last night.”

Only in England, eh? 😦

“And I’m trying hard to fit among your scheme of things”

The care work is going well and I feel I have bonded nicely with the people I care for, to the extent that if I ever do get back into IT I would still wish to keep in touch with some of them. I like being out and about instead of chained to a desk and I love the instant gratification of the job – knowing I have made a positive difference to someone’s day; although not every day is gratifying. There is a lane I drive up frequently where a young lad has been building a dry stone wall for the past few weeks. Sometimes I think how good it would be to be working with stones instead of people.
Yesterday, I applied for three IT jobs advertised by different agencies – although two of them looked remarkably similar so I suspect they are the same job. I asked one IT agent why jobs I had applied for ages ago were still being advertised; haven’t they found the right person yet? He explained that in quiet times some agencies tend to put the same jobs out repeatedly to attract as many CV’s as possible to add to their database.
So why do I want to return to IT? A regular income is the most obvious attraction. As a care worker I have a zero hours’ contract but also signed something to say I was prepared to work in excess of forty hours. I started the job at a busy time when carers were on holiday and off sick. Now the work seems to have dried up, in addition to students joining us for the summer break. Other carers I have met on ‘double-ups’ have said they have never known it so quiet. I guess it will even out again, as carers will move to other agencies if there is not enough work. Having less calls makes the job more enjoyable as you are not against the clock and therefore have time to do extra little tasks if required or time to simply sit and listen to them talking and learn more about the person, but it’s disheartening when you get home after a seven hour stint to work out that you’ve only done three and a quarter paid hours and earned a grand total of £21.45. On a couple of days I’ve only had one hour’s work; divided into two half-hour visits at different times of the day.
I also yearn to rejoin a workplace that is run with some competence. The care agency’s management and administration is shambolic and I seem to spend a lot of time phoning to query details or emailing to ask for records to be updated with the correct information. When I first met my boss, she said; “You look great for someone who’s nearly sixty!” It might have been a compliment if I hadn’t had to tell her she’d got my date of birth wrong (off my birth certificate, passport and driving licence – in addition to my application form) and when my first payslip finally arrived it was thanks to the post office folk that it reached me despite the random address on the envelope.
Writing novels seems to be a thing of the past now that my mind is unsettled – not just with work but with wondering whether or not to relocate, and of course each time I apply for a local job the relocation idea is set aside. I used to drive to work on autopilot, complete the day’s routine and then write for an hour or so most evenings. Back then, in an introverted job, I was on the outside of life and looking in. Now that I am part of the outside world, there is less inclination to write about it. I switch on the PC to write but end up just looking at jobs and houses. Maybe I should try to get a job in a care home, where I will actually get paid for the hours I work? I have a recurrent internal lament; “Life is a lemon and I want my old job back.” If I’m not lucky soon I will have to stop looking for IT work and fully commit to being a carer. I guess that’s the only way to eradicate the lament, but how long should I wait?

Domiciliary Care Work

After attending an excellent training course and going out for a couple of days with an experienced carer, I was keen to get started as a Domiciliary Care Worker. I was called by the office to collect my company mobile that tells me where I should be at whatever time, and also serves as a tracking device so that the office knows where I am. The woman who is my line manager switched it on and was about to show me through the app but the battery immediately ran out. “Take it home, charge it up and have a play with it,” she said. Having been told I must not charge the phone in clients’ houses, I asked if a car charger was available. “I’ll put one in the post tonight,” she said, and whilst I wanted to say “Please go and get one now, whilst I’m here. It will save the postage and packing, and we’ll both know I’ve got it,” I thought she must have her reasons and simply said, “Okay, thanks.”
Suddenly it all took off; I got home and had a call to say there were some visits that same evening if I could please take them – and so it went on. I had told them I was flexible about availability but was nervous about starting something so new and we agreed I would be eased in gently with just a few visits at first. I believed this was best for the clients as well as for me. As it turned out, I was plunged in at the deep end over a weekend, starting early and finishing late and being sent to addresses that were difficult to find even with a SatNav. Houses in villages often have names rather than numbers. I was running late and going into the homes of people I had never met before and trying to befriend them whilst also locating and reading the Care Plan so that I had some clue as to why I was there – as well as plugging my phone into a spare socket to charge it enough to tell me where to go next. One night I arrived, apologising, expecting to be told off for being late, only to be made to sit and wait until a TV programme had finished. This was the last visit of the evening, so it was okay. I settled in a comfy armchair and told myself it could only get easier. Next time I would know where to find the addresses and I would know the people a bit better and understand what was expected of me.

Half an hour is not enough time to meet a frail old lady for the first time; read her Care Plan (to learn that she has anything from dementia to a colostomy bag) get her out of bed, washed, cream applied to her legs, dressed, bed made, commode emptied and cleaned, stair-lift downstairs, meds and breakfast given and forms to fill in to say that I have done so. Some require a cocktail of medications to be administered. Never have I had so much responsibility, and never such low pay. It takes me at least an hour to get myself ready in the morning. There is no time to chat – you are in and out as quickly as possible; especially when the next call is a ‘double-up’ with another carer because a hoist is required.

Fresh from the training course, there was one visit where what I saw left me particularly worried. Following procedure, I phoned and told the office, and then again the next day after re-visiting and still being worried. On my next visit to this place I found my new friend in distress and awaiting transport to hospital. I phoned the office and asked them to reallocate my evening visits as I was staying here as long as necessary so that this person was not left alone. I told them this was nothing to with the Company and their half-hour visit because I had QUIT and I was staying here with this person BECAUSE I CARE! Whilst that might sound like I was being assertive, it was more of an incoherent blubbering. I was overwhelmed, you see. The days had started early and ended late. My phone would not hold its charge, so any gaps that were long enough to pop home were spent charging the phone and looking at Google maps to see where I was going next. I couldn’t sleep because I couldn’t switch off from worrying about the folks I had just left (this one in particular), whilst still being anxious about the ones I was to attend in a just a few hours time. I couldn’t eat either, at first. The monkey in my mind would present the memory of the choicest smells and sights of the day in the space between my mouth and the food – but I think I have overcome that barrier now 🙂

They talked me into staying. “It’s because you care that you are exactly the sort of person we need – blah, blah, blah.” They agreed I could take the next day off to reflect and they would call me to renegotiate my hours. Taking a step back I was able to look at my schedule and realise that a twelve hour day only amounted to six hours paid work – an hour’s pay in this job being about as much as I’d get for going for a pee and making the coffee in my last job. Some of the visits are only fifteen minutes; most are half an hour, and some are forty-five minutes. Where the allocated time is clearly too short, they give you more travel time before the next visit – so you work voluntarily to make sure you have done the essentials in the time allowed before the next call. Mileage is paid, but not travel time. I really wish I did not have to think about the money. I have bonded already with some lovely people, and I wish that my connection with them was nothing to do with paying the monthly bills. I think many of the carers are youngsters still living with parents or young mums doing a few hours around child care or else women my age earning a bit of holiday money. I really couldn’t see it paying a mortgage, and I’ve yet to work out whether or not this will make ends meet.

Taking a step back and laying down some rules regarding my available hours, I have realised I can be assertive if needs be. I do have a home life and still want to be able to cook for my fellas sometimes and walk the dog in the evening. I had a call from my manager’s manager – another bossy woman – who tried various strategies and tones of voice to reel me back in on her terms, but by now I had realised they were desperate for carers so I stood my ground and told her what hours I was prepared to work. She agreed and promised to send me a car charger for the phone, and a spare battery. Still, I am getting texts to my personal mobile asking if I can help out by doing some outstanding calls, and I guess the women in the office trying to get the calls covered must be equally as stressed as the carers. The company appears to have taken on more clients than it can care for.
Taking another step back, and after sleeping well last night, I have also realised how much I am enjoying care work. I am looking forward to revisiting my new friends – now that I know how and where to find them. Of course, I have started at the best time of year and trying to do the rounds in winter weather might be a different matter – but I must try to stay in the moment.

Still haven’t received battery or charger for the phone, so I suppose I’ll have to buy them off ebay.

Going against the flow

On the front page of the weekly admag is an article about a woman who fears her children’s lives are being put at risk by careless drivers speeding past as they travel to school. How terrible, I thought; there is nothing that makes me angrier than cars speeding by, too close, when I am walking the dog and have to use lanes where there are no pavements. Then I read that she takes her children to school in a small cart, pulled by a Shetland pony. What?! Has it not occurred to her that she might be the one putting her children’s lives at risk? Will those children grow up respecting their mother for standing her ground over this eccentric but eco-friendly mode of transport, or will they shudder to think what might have happened? This is her choice, not theirs, whilst their schoolmates’ parents probably select vehicles for their safety data. If she smokes, does she share cigarettes with her children? Unlikely, I think.

I have occasionally used a bike around country lanes and felt nervous when someone drives round a bend too fast. It’s not so bad on foot – you can jump on the verge or press against the hedge, but on a bike you feel at the mercy of drivers who are under pressure to achieve timed deliveries and have been stuck behind a tractor for the last couple of miles. Of course, there are safety measures you can employ, such as wearing protective clothing – and I think those plastic flags are a good idea – you know, the ones that stick out at the side to make the bike wider and more visible. At this time of year when verges and hedgerows are overgrown, cyclists are particularly vulnerable, and so I was amazed last week to drive (slowly and carefully) round a bend in a lane to see a cyclist in front of me towing a little carriage with a baby in it. What a cock!

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