Word on a Whim

LOST OUR BELOVED DOG TO RAT POISON – PLEASE BEWARE

About five months ago we became aware of rats in our loft.  I was amazed how noisy such a small animal could be, scuttling across the plaster board at night and then scrabbling around, along with a rapid thumping noise that’s probably bonking.   The ‘scuttling’ is a startling noise that jerks you awake each time it happens, however familiar it becomes … after five months.

I am a rat lover.  I have enjoyed them as pets in the past.  Whilst I didn’t want to let them chew through electrical wires and reproduce in the loft, we are animal lovers and there was loads of advice on the internet about getting rid of rats safely and humanely. There was no need for poison.

So, Julz went up ladders to block up any tiny gaps he could find where they might be getting in and soaked cotton wool with peppermint oil and distributed it in the loft.  Next we bought the ultrasonic beeper, a strobe light, and even some product containing fox piss that is supposed to deter rats.  Then Julz tried boiling up his own brew of rat deterrent and sprayed it around up there.  We also had humane traps baited with Nutella, including one that claimed to catch multiple rats as there is a double trap door and they tend to follow each other, and of course humane traps involve regular loft visits in case anything has wandered in.  We heard a litter of rat babies up there but it seemed a shame to disturb them – then a couple of nights where they seemed to be fighting, before it went quiet.  They had used the loft insulation as a cosy winter nest but now they had gone. Julz disposed of the filthy, stinking patch of loft insulation and that seemed to be the end of it … until the familiar rat-a-tat-tat returned and seemed to expand.  Neighbours also had rats, so it seemed we were shooing them out of our loft into theirs, and then they were coming back again.  We had removed the compost bins and bird bath and anything that might attract rats, so our garden was now quite bare; but looking out of an upstairs window across a row of small gardens we sometimes saw a rat eating from beneath a neighbour’s overloaded bird table.

One evening I was sitting at the computer in the corner of the living room and suddenly heard the familiar scratching and scuffling start up above my head … but I was downstairs!  In horror, I ran upstairs, expecting to find them running around the bedroom – but there was no sign.  I went back down and then heard the noise again.  Then I heard scratching noises in the wall, just in front of me.  The rats had found their way into the wall cavities and were now in the space below the bedroom floorboards … the space where the electricity cables were concealed.  I was scared.

We had tried everything, including prayers and energy work and even advice from a professional dowser – but I ended up calling in Pest Control.  They came and put poison in the loft and left a ticket with a box ticked to indicate there were adults, children or pets at risk.  A phone call to get clarification on this reassured us that a dog would have to eat lots to be affected, and they tended not to because it tastes bitter.  Our dog weighs 45 kilos and doesn’t go upstairs.  I didn’t worry.

That night I listened to the rats scurrying around excitedly, and I felt like a murderer.  But then life went on and I somehow started to think of them differently, so as not to feel bad about calling in Pest Control.  Someone (or a combination of people I had talked to) told me that this type of rat was cannibalistic and that nothing deterred them because they had such short lives anyway.  The same day the Pest Control guy had visited, Julz found what appeared to be a cannibalised rat inside the garden shed, with its guts spilled open.  It made me feel less guilty, if that was the lack of respect the rats had for each other.  After a day or two came a sense of relief that the problem had been handed over to the professionals, so I no longer had to worry about the rats.

About ten days after the Pest Control visit, on Saturday evening, Gandalf was keen as ever to go on his evening walk.  He listened patiently whilst I had the usual phone chat with Mum and Dad, and when I said “Lots of love” for the second time he knew the call was finished, got up and stretched and led me up the road like a man on a mission, following some interesting scent he had picked up.  I wondered if there was a bitch in season somewhere, especially when he seemed unsettled after his walk and wasn’t interested in his evening food.  A wedding party was going on up the road in a marquee in a field, and of course they had to have bloody fireworks.  This was a particularly massive and wasteful display, and of course it freaked him out.  When he gets like this we have found the best policy is to carry on as normal rather than make a fuss which might reinforce his stressy behaviour.

About three o’clock in the morning I heard a bit of a whimper and he was at the door wanting to go out – not unusual.  I shone the torch on the garden and he stood for a while, sniffing the air with his tail sort of lifted up a bit.

Later on Sunday morning he was still restless and panting and hadn’t eaten, and his rear end seemed swollen.  Enlarged prostate, possibly?  I asked the neighbours if their bitch was in season and when she wasn’t I was suddenly worried, thinking maybe he had an infection.  I phoned the vet who asked lots of questions to ensure it wasn’t something that could wait until after the bank holiday, then asked us to come along to the surgery.  I put his collar on and he went to the door and got in the car good as gold, maybe relieved that we were going to get this sorted out.

He’s never really minded going to the vets and sniffed around the surgery, interested in the new smells, whilst I bibbled on about how he gets like this with fireworks etc.  She said his heart was racing far too fast for a dog his size.  “Isn’t that because he’s panting and hyperventilating?” I asked, and she shook her head and showed me the bright red blood vessels showing in his gums.

Then Julz mentioned the poison, and the vet confirmed that these symptoms were classic.  I went into denial – it couldn’t be anything to do with the poison – that was just an inconvenient coincidence that was leading her to misdiagnose the problem.  “But the poison’s in the loft!  There’s no way he could have got it.  And look at the size of him, he’d need loads and he doesn’t eat rubbish – if you give him something new he examines it first…”  I can still hear myself now, denying the possibility that I had poisoned my beautiful Gandalf, but then agreed that she could only treat the symptoms she was seeing.  She was going to keep in him and put him on a vitamin K drip; but warned us that rat poison can take a long time to work and by the time the symptoms are displayed it is normally too late.  She also told us that if a dog ingests a rat that has been poisoned, this it more potent to a dog than if it eats the actual poison.  Why didn’t the Pest Control people tell us that?!  And these were not what I would have imagined to be the symptoms of poisoning.  I would have expected pain, vomiting, diarrhoea – not just panting and restlessness.

We went home stunned, trying to piece together what had happened.  Gandalf wouldn’t eat a rat; we would have found remains in the garden. Then we remembered the dead rat that was in the shed.  But the shed was always closed – how could he have got at that?  The only possibility we can think of is that he found the dead rat in the garden (he wouldn’t catch one) and had a bit of a lick of its poisoned blood before it was dragged into the shed by other rats.

We waited around the house in a dreamlike state, but it was a horrible dream that we could not escape from.  It is hard to remember the timing of events that day, or how long we had been home before the first phone call from the vet.  Heads together on the phone we both listened to her explaining about blood platelets and internal bleeding, but we knew, by the tone of her voice what she was saying.  I asked if it was possible he had a tumour.  It was bad enough trying to accept that we were losing him, but not in this way!  Not by something that could have been avoided.  She agreed to do an ultrasound scan and found there was so much blood in the abdominal cavity that it wasn’t possible to get a very clear image of the liver, but there was no evidence of a tumour, and his system was shutting down.  We went back to the surgery and cuddled him, telling him what a wonderful boy he was and I told him how sorry I was for letting him down. The vet exchanged the vitamin K drip for whatever it is that puts them to sleep.  He seemed calm, the panting had stopped and he was cooler than usual to touch.  The vet explained this was because he was going into shock.

I think we were also slightly in shock.  The speed at which all this had happened made it feel as though he’d been killed in a sudden accident.

Back home, Julz removed and disposed of the rat poison from the loft and warned the neighbours to be vigilant of their pets, and since then we’ve mostly been grieving and analysing it all and replaying the past.  We’ve been told that people in the locality who don’t have pets are buying poison from shops and putting it the garden.  If Gandalf did die from licking the rat that was in the shed then the poison must have come from a source other than our loft, as the dead rat was found on the day the poison was put there, and it takes some time to work. This may sound crazy but I want to believe that it wasn’t the poison in our loft that killed him – although of course it makes no difference whose fucking poison it was – and imagine how angry we would feel with the neighbourhood if we hadn’t ended up resorting to poison.

I know I have rambled on a bit here and gone into too much detail but writing about this is helping in some way. This is day four after it happened, and I no longer feel so permanently choked up. Some people lose children and somehow manage to carry on, and I know this doesn’t compare.  We are gradually disposing of the things that make us cry – brushes with his hair still in them – that kind of thing, but I wonder how long it will be before we stop opening door so carefully in case he’s behind them or turning to pick up his water bowl to fill it.  That reminds me; I’ve learned that poisoned rats tend to go to water as it makes them thirsty.  Poor rats.  So, if you have pets in the garden beware of birdbaths etc.  This also reminds me that when Gandalf went out at three o’clock on Sunday morning I noticed his water bowl was nearly empty and filled it up, but just thought it was all the stressy panting that was making him thirsty.  Poor Gandalf. I take some comfort in knowing he had eight good years, and deerhounds don’t live to such a grand old age so he missed out on the last year or two that would have seen his decline.  Looking at photos taken just a week before his death he is showing his age a little. It is chilling to think that on that lovely day the poison was already taking its insidious course and we had no idea what was about to hit us, and of course I am worried about all the other dogs and cats in the neighbourhood.

I want to spread the word about the danger of using rat poison.  I have written to the Pest Control company, begging them to give their customers more information about the product they are using, the way it works and especially the hazard of dead rodents.  I am amazed how widely available this stuff is in shops – when they will only sell two packets of paracetamol at a time.

I think this post has finally dried up, thank goodness.  I feel strangely disconnected at this moment, as if I’ve been writing about something that happened to someone else, but will end this now with two of my favourite photos:

 

Gandalf Running

 

Gandalf:  7/03/2007 – 24/05/2015     Canerikie Celtic Chief.

Our beautiful darling doggy who will be loved and missed forever  XXX

Bank Holiday weekend

The weekend saw the arrival of my first ever, and possibly last, Ikea purchase. I have never visited the store having only ever heard colleagues complaining about ‘having to go’ there, presumably to please their partners, so I thought the £35 delivery charge might just be fair exchange for not having to go anywhere near the place, even though the sofa I bought was only £95.  At that price, I wasn’t expecting much but was still disappointed when it tuned up damaged.  I guess some people would have sent it back, but the damage was only evident once it was unpacked from the rather large box that we had nowhere to store other than the middle of the living room floor.  I justified not sending it back because it was a replacement for Gandalf’s day bed, which had reached the point of being utterly minging.  At least this smells clean and fresh, and I won’t be too bothered if he damages it since it’s already been thrown around a warehouse.  I’d have preferred something better quality but second hand but anything bigger than this would have blocked the doorway – and there’s an awkwardness with second hand seats that I want to sniff before I buy but can’t politely do that in a charity shop!  Anyway, Gandalf is pleased with it:

2015-05-02 17.22.55

Oh, and here’s the old sofa:

2015-05-03 13.51.57

Not wishing to exaggerate Gandalf’s powers of destruction, I should add that it’s all in bits because Julz sawed it up into manageable chunks because I fancied a trip to the tip on Sunday to get rid of it. The car park and surrounding areas were heaving with with people who had gathered to watch Morris Dancers. I suppose some of those people packed into that small space must have been enjoying themselves, whilst many others might rather have been chucking their old junk into a skip.

I also did my usual weekend run, which is gradually becoming more of a ‘jog’. I’ve been running for thirty-plus years but lately it has become more like hard work than pleasure and I’ve slowed down considerably.  I keep thinking back to when running was effortless, with occasional but memorable highs, such as one evening running the last few miles along a deserted beach when I became a galloping horse and pounded faster and faster with abnormal energy and a feeling that I could run forever …

I guess the decline is just down to ageing, as I’m not doing anything different, but just feel tired and heavy. Never really been into exercise and fitness but I’m aware that if I were to give up running I would do nothing other than sit all day at a desk or in a car.  Dog walking doesn’t count – there’s too much standing around waiting whilst he sniffs and marks everything, and watching out for little dogs that are going to snap at him owing to his height.  Running has always suited me because of the solitude it offers and the escape from conversation other than the persistent rubbish that goes on inside my own head. I feel awkward though, running, and have probably mentioned it before – that straight mile stretch when I recognise a neighbour approaching and find it difficult to decide the correct distance to start smiling at them!

I thought about getting a bike, but would be nervous of the traffic bombing around these narrow lanes, and, as a careful driver, I find bikes a nuisance and frequently drive a few miles behind bikers going at twenty to twenty-five mph before I can safely overtake.  Yet as a runner, (or jogger), I feel like an obstacle when a swarm of bikes from a club rides past bellowing “ON THE LEFT!” straight into my right ear, as they pass me.  Apparently this is standard practice and they are warning the bikers behind that there is some idiot obstructing the road; on the left.

Other than that, I spent some time with my lovely ninety-one year old friend who is as independent as possible and with a very calm, reassuring manner that I love. I met him through doing care work and still visit regularly.  He was an accomplished athlete in his youth – I saw some sepia photos of a young man receiving trophies and got him to talk me through them.  But hasn’t been well just lately. He attempts to laugh things off when it’s clear that he’s struggling – so it was really good to find him so much brighter at the weekend 🙂

Olorin

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.

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? 😦

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