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My Story - Finally

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  • My Story - Finally

    To begin - my apologies for lousy English, appalling punctuation - and any repeated bits; I've not been too good in an upright position for quite a while, so a lot of this has been done in spurts and drips as it were as and when I've been able to spend some time upright other than clutching the vacuum cleaner or struggling with the filth from the buses - or just to have a shower and other essentials. Plus there may be some back-and-forwarding in chronology - inevitable with such a long and complicated situation.

    This is a story that is being replayed all over Bristol in one form or another - wherever there is council housing - and bad tenants. Of course, those who are for one reason or another unable to help themselves and do not have access to help from any outside source cop for it worst, but any decent person who gets stuck in one of the "bad postcode" areas has serious problems in that the council flatly refuse to keep all the homes in that area up to a reasonable standard irrespective of the individual tenant's standards and behaviour because so many of the tenants prefer a disordered lifestyle that results in their housing becoming a slum - they must do, because the council, when forced to redo a house fully because it has been burnt out - find that within weeks the place has been allowed to fall apart - or has been kicked apart.

    A tenant who keeps what they have as best they can is treated as badly - at least - as one whose home can be mistaken for the town tip; the Housing Department are completely - impartial, I expect they would call it but uncaring would be more like it - and penny-pinching to the point of neglecting housing until it is structurally damaged, is certain.

    First - the 'neighbour'hood.

    Nearly 8 years now - of screaming kids - not just calling and shouting in play but bellowing and screeching with all the power they can muster; footballs; motorcycles not just ridden past - but up and down the little bit of 'crescent' in which we live which is only two semi-detached houses long. Up it, turn around in the junction at the end, back down, turn around that junction . . up . .down . . each slowing accompanied by a declutch then a lot of deliberate over-revving before the clutch is let out and the gerbil goes round the wheel once more . . .. The power tools. Petrol hedge cutters for 3 yards of privet. Rotary mower for a tiny patch of lawn (only that because there isn't enough space to turn a ride-on).

    DIY. All with powertools. Panel beating (at 2am in an attempt to remove the evidence of a crunch before the police call); drunken fights; drunken kids slinging their empties over the hedge; junkie kids slinging their evidence into the hedge - nasty to find when cutting it as you don't know what the blood is carrying; condoms hanging in the hedge. Late night lavatorials in gateways. Both kinds. Vomit. Constant obscenities from adults and children - pre-school and up. Being stoned while out in a wheelchair. House being stoned, eggs thrown at windows, litter and kitchen refuse thrown into the garden. False complaints made to the council. (Easily rebutted - especially when accompanied by a five page list of the complainant's behavour - but the pain involved in sitting and composing that letter; the time wasted. Initially, the fear of losing our home because someone chooses to tell lies about us. That sort of thing has now stopped because it doesn't work and has a very nasty habit of rebounding on the liar - or at least the council have ceased to bother passing them on to us.) The burglaries/incursions - until we bought the cousin of half the police dogs in Bristol. The police only buy sound-bodied intelligent dogs of good temperament so I found out who was the breeder most patronised by the police and bought Janus II. A definite improvement. There was and is far more - fireworks, for one thing; last year from September until after the New Year, continually, night after night after night. No pretties, just endless explosions. I lived in Warminster, close to the School of Infantry home training grounds - that was blissful peace compared with that. This year, we have been listening to fireworks since mid-May.

    The list goes on and on and on. The occupiers of the other half of our semi - owners, having bought their council house. NFH 1 and female partner. He is a violent drinker who once lifted a concrete block and was about to throw it at my ex-husband whose back was turned as he bent over our then small pup - until I rapped on the window and showed my camera, whereupon the block disappeared. She is a fishwife drinker (nickname: aasvogel - Afrikaans, vulture - because she sounds like one and also resembles one first thing in the morning before the hair is done, the slap put on and while wearing about the rattiest bathrobe I have ever seen, with a fag hanging off her lip - shudder) - who can be heard through the wall every time she opens her mouth - especially when she is shouting over ITV/C4 and cable. We cannot use our living room for the noise as we tend to be quiet workers rather than party types - my son plays lead guitar in a metal band but does his amplified practice in a hired practice sessions venue and for his home practice just sits and picks the strings with the guitar disconnected. Sometimes he runs it through his pc - but as he only has a small pair of ordinary pc speakers - a couple of watts at the most and if they are turned up full they distort so badly he never does so. Just occasionally he plays using his practice amp - but NEVER after 9pm and in any case he plays well so it doesn't sound awful and no drums at all, which makes a world of difference. They've not even bothered to try complaining about that. Just once, early afternoon on a Saturday, he has given them an idea of what life could be like if he cared to play until 11 - and start again at seven. With the amp. at half power.

    NFH 2 is the occupant of the first half of the semi next to us, but not attached. A miserable old ***.

    When we first moved here, for a while all seemed well. We exchanged commonplaces over the fence, talked gardens - ours had been left like a junkyard/jungle and generally, things seemed to be alright, which, because NFH 1 and partner had already started behaving as if we were unspeakably behaved aliens, although it was they who were letting us know what their drinking and fighting habits were and how irritating their non-stop yapping Yorkies are, was a considerable relief.

    After a while, he had to go into hospital for a heart bypass surgery. Knowing how soon people are kicked out to fend for themselves even after serious operations, no matter what their home circumstances, I suggested that should he have any problems after he came home, to call 999 - and then call me, as I am a trained first-aider, nursed before my back forced me to give up - and most importantly - could get to him a lot faster than an ambulance which is based a couple of miles away with terrible traffic to pass through first to get here and then to get back to the nearest hospital with an A&E department. He accepted gladly, gave me his phone number and also his daughter's - all very amicable. Went off to hospital, returned, had no problems and soon recovered sufficiently to return to his part time job filling shelves.

    Our house had been in a DISGUSTING state when we moved in - the council having failed completely to observe the terms of the HomeSwap scheme - very thorough inspection of the property when the tenant is applying to go on the list and again a very short while before leaving; the property is supposed to be in the best possible condition. This they did not do. The filth was indescribable - not even the bath had been cleaned in months - you know the kind of things that will be found in a bath that has been neglected for such a time - especially in a hard water area, which Bristol is - very.

    Cleaning it up damaged me badly. After an eventual 37-year-late diagnosis of a condition normally diagnosed at birth and the damage I suffered because I did not know I should do no heavy manual work, even avoid very active sport - anything that could damage soft tissues - from skin and muscle, to tendons and ligaments, I had spent a long period resting and taking only beneficial exercise - swimming. I was able to go shopping using only a stick and with an arm to lean on over rough ground or dodgy footing, providing the main travel was done in a car or taxi. My condition would not degenerate unless I underwent further physical strain.

    After the move and the clean-up, I needed a wheelchair. It was that bad. Thanks to that damage, I could no longer cope with the stairs.

    Unfortunately my bedroom was upstairs and the bathroom/wc downstairs (total, 100metre round trip inc long flight of angled stairs) - with no suitable room downstairs for conversion to a bedroom as there are only living room - which is the only passage to the kitchen/bathroom/back door - AND now the only way through to the back garden, moving me to an accessible property was not an option - because I am 'too tall' - I need a chair which fits me (as do most people - I asked the Occupational Therapist (OT), who visited us after I had written to the Social Services re getting now desperately needed alterations made to the house, if she bought kiddy chairs for her dining room/living room etc? No reply. Anyway, a chair that fits me and accommodates my need to be partially reclined (cos of my spine - completely upright it just slides out of joint - over bumps etc. it jerks out abruptly; whichever way it happens, nerves get trapped to varying degrees - 'only' severe pain/loss of sensation in feet/interruption of arterial circulation right up to complete paralysis of lower body, which when I lie down and 'stretch' my back - which pulls the loose, damaged ligaments back into position and - hopefully, and often only partially, restores the bones to their correct alignment, taking pressure off the sciatic and other nerves and takes varying times for whatever effect the dislocation has caused to wear off.

    BUT such a chair is 'too long' for a 'standard' accessible house, as well as for such transport. In Bristol one must be a standard size and have a standard disability. If not, forget accessibility. It's my own fault, you see, for not being 'standard' so the Council feel completely happy with the situation, because they have provided for the 'standard' disabled so meeting the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act.

    In reality, of course, this is not so - but as there is no legal aid for civil litigation - 'help' but not full legal aid; I would have to part with one third of my disability allowances every month until the case was resolved - whether or not anything is actually happening in court, or any work of any kind being done by the solicitor, just as rent for the file to sit in a cabinet! - and as these cases take as long as they care to delay them for . . . the full allowances are not sufficient for most disabled person's needs - for instance, the winter heating allowance, although those who are mobility impaired cannot exercise to keep warm and many of us have problems getting layers of bulky clothing on and off - we need it, but do not get it. Many pensioners are far more active than I can ever be - but get the allowance, even if they have moved to a warm country! To help pay for the air conditioning and the gin slings I suppose.

    Daily life is exhausting just coping with the basics - dragging washing out of the machine and hanging it (air's too filthy to dry it outside - plus the occupants of the pigeon lofts so beloved of all the the NFHs; about ten of which can be seen from the kitchen window alone - their libations are copious to say the least ) even washing myself is a terrible struggle in a tiny bathroom with no room for a seat, walls that run with water so one cannot even hang dry clothes - or a dressing gown - on a hook behind the door and all drying and dressing have to be done hopping on one foot on an ice cold wet floor - on hips that are now four separate bones only loosely joined by ligaments stretched like old knicker elastic, not good.

    The total loss of all our rear access also means the dog has to come through twice a day no matter how foul the weather because we can't keep him in the front garden or we'd not get any deliveries because some of the locals are so idiotic about being scared of him that they won't pass him when he is secured on a chain that will (and used to) hold a horse, by a collar AND a harness - this is a chain that stops 20ft short of the door/path . . . the postpersons have no trouble with it, but some of the carriers are such dillies they think the dog can break a 20-ton-test chain!

    You can imagine what filth this brings into the house - what is the first thing a wet dog does when he comes in?? Of course, now I find heavy cleaning so easy! I can't do it, simple as that.

    We have no porches - either back OR front - where he could do his shaking, wet clothes/shoes could be kept - AND THE DRAUGHTS KEPT OUT!!!! The OT refused to 'assess me' as requiring one, even at the front, where I had to get the chair in and out; said it wasn't necessary - despite the fact that now the front door has been changed - by order of OT - to outward opening I cannot get out or in again in my powerchair without getting soaked - because I cannot get far enough forward to shut and lock the door while wearing the rain cape/cover that keeps both self and chair - electronic controls that cannot get wet! - dry. I have to have a carer there at the time I go out and when I return. Since I do not know what time that will be - and cannot afford to have someone there simply to lock the door for me - no way can I go out when it is raining or likely to within the period I will be out. As British weather is known worldwide for its unpredictability esp. regarding rain - even during summer - I simply cannot go out. There is no way I can go out and spend several hours sitting in a chair that has got soaking wet while I locked the door - a control system that may pack up any minute because it too got wet - wearing clothes that also got wet. I have enough trouble keeping warm as it is without being soaked to the skin and sitting in a pool of water as well.

    There are no 'accessible' taxis or private hire vehicles that can safely load and carry my chair - because I am so tall it has a 'long' wheelbase - which means a few inches longer than the norm, and it is, of course, being powered, heavy, with 2 80amp/hour batteries. Hardly any vehicles here have decent ramps or a lift - it doesn't need a fancy lift, just a decent ramp, not those twin alloy channels which are not tied together so slide apart when one tries to drive up them - as all outdoor use wheelchairs' front castors have a narrower base than the rear wheels, whether the chair is manual or powered, this makes the ramps come apart. They are not strong enough either.

    Headroom too is a problem - I am 'too tall' according to the OT's from Soc Srvcs. It was they who screwed up the building of the extension so badly - first demanded 'a letter from a consultant' - not necessary; I thought this, made an appt. to see a solicitor about it - when she heard this she said hastily:"Oh a GP's letter will do!" - something she'd had over a year before . . . . she had been lying the whole way through.

    After 2/5 years the extension, designed by an architect who had good understanding of my needs and capabilities, got underway. THEN - Ms. OT steps in again and makes a few changes to the plan. Just a few - but ones that rendered the building practically useless.

    One of the changes put the entire building back four feet - removing all access to the back garden. "THe building line." "The building line" wasn't important when someone built a two-storey shoebox brick box onto the side of a house just up the road. Ditto another garage-and-over job up the other way and round the corner. Quite a few others here and there, too. Built when Thatcher flogged off the housing stock - without planning permission - maybe with a brown envelope or two changing hands, possibly . . .

    That, combined with the poor construction and stolen materials (the contracted construction crew) - AND the incredibly stupid mistakes they made - the first and worst was to lay the floor - concrete - 4 inches too high. Had to jackhammer it up - lovely vibration!!!

    (Oh - I forgot to mention - although the work involved tearing the side of the house off - the side of the stairs down which I and the rest of the family had to walk to access the bathroom - this in January through April in the coldest spring we have had for years - 6 inches of snow, from which we were protected by a sheet of plastic and at night, a sheet of plywood, snow that drove all the vermin in the area to seek shelter in our living room - stacked to the ceiling with our possessions - we had to remain in the house the entire time. Despite the fact that my youngest son's psychologist had requested the work not take place in his O-level year - it did, which badly damaged his results. Like me, he has ADD - and an IQ over the 96th percentile, meaning that he is in the top 4% of the population, intelligence wise. Having to revise and take the exams under this sort of stress helped a lot. In lowering his scores. Helped my condition deteriorate too. It is a non-degenerative condition, meaning that if I am not forced to do something that strains me, it does not get worse. A several times daily steeple chase up and down a staircase covered in dusty slippery plastic - with one banister missing and the other loose - and too narrow for someone to support me, then over heaps of bricks and other impedimenta - to the bathroom, plus the horrendous amount of cleaning necessary daily did wonders for it. Just as did the dust for my emphsema - part of Marfan Syndrome.)

    After relaying the floor at the correct height - which put the whole operation wildy behind schedule - it had to be dried out rapidly as possibly - dead easy in the thaw which was starting. They brought in heaters and powerful dehumidifiers - which they operated with the drain hoses emptying into UNCOVERED vessels . . . so the heaters simply re-vaporised the drain tanks and the dehumidifiers put it back into the drain tanks . . . this went on for several days until someone noticed!

    Unfortunately, while the air was being alternately moistened and dried, the woodwork, which had been done by the only worker who knew his job and WAS very good - warped so crazily that now nothing shuts properly, doors drag on the floor, no frame is square . . . .

    The hastily relaid floor is level nowhere - and in the bathroom, under the shower, instead of all water draining into the drain - it runs all over the bathroom - AND out of the door into the bedroom straight under the one place a bed can be placed. The floor is covered with a lino-like substance (actually used in car showrooms for traction) to minimise power wastage through wheelspin. It was supposed to have an underlay for warmth. The contractors left it out. Along with various other things - like one hell of a lot of paint. The specs were several coats of washable paint. I got one dilute coat which when a damp - not wet - cloth is applied - even very gently, just comes straight off, leaving bare plaster. Presumably the paint went where the underlay went - and the material that should have lined the roof under the silly tiling that 'keeps the building in character with the area" - character? What character? Bog standard brick council house circa 193/45 (construction halted by war) mit tile roofs . . . we are on the very edge of the estate; on the other side of the road are houses of all different types of construction, some like this one, some even more shoe-box plain - with varying styles and types of roof covering. (oh yes, those other extensions - plain flat roof, tiling that differs from that of the main house - you name it . . . ) Not one of them has lost access to the rear door/garden either.

    Back to the cockups. Like the shower - so the lavatory - one so badly designed that it splashes terribly - and again, water used to clean up does not remain in the bathroom, it too runs along an unintentional channel to join the stream from the shower running under the door to under the bed.

    The OT insisted on the bathroom door being sufficiently wide for my powerchair to get in and turn!!!!!! 1) I do not need to use a shower chair. Even when I do, a shower chair is not dissimilar to the type of wheelchair used ON BOARD an aircraft - except entirely plastic and water-friendly, of course - it is very narrow and will pass through a normal width doorway - AS WILL MY POWERCHAIR AS SHE VERY WELL KNEW!! She several times saw me drive at full speed from the living room to the kitchen - through a standard internal doorway. Just as the door to the living room was originally a standard frame. As was the front door. There was a problem there - the angle of the front door and living room door - 90 degrees to each other and the stairs - with a 'hallway' being only a square big enough to open the front door - about 3ft square. Even so I was able to get the chair in and out - even unassisted - because it is so maneouvreable - and powerful that it would ride up over the weather sill without trouble. Just had to take the legrests off. Also, it became easier after the wormeaten door frame to the living room broke away! (the entire house is infested - including the roof joists . . . . )

    The shower - also presumably intended to accommodate my powerchair (!!!!) is not an enclosed cubicle. Because of my deliberate growth and resulting inconvenient non-standard height , a standard shower curtain is FAR too short - as the curtain rail has to be placed above my head, naturally . . . . so the entire bathroom ends up soaked when the shower is used. (when showering I spend more time dashing out to squeegee water back down to the drain than I do showering - and getting freezing cold in the process. Partly because the enormous space - the width of the room and 5ft deep - that is NOT enclosed by the inadequate curtain which reaches neither floor nor ceiling and so doesn't get nice and cosy with steam - and partly because there is an exhaust fan directly in front of the curtain rail which drags freezing air into the showerspace but does practically nothing to remove moisture.

    NOW NFH 2 makes his appearance - in his true character. If he hasn't already been spying through any crack in the window to see what he can see . . . caught him at that several times. Gave him a very nasty shock once - by waiting in the bathroom, after putting on the light to indicate that it was in use, under the window . . . and when I saw his shadow thru the frosted glass, popped up and yelled: "I **SPY** - WITH MY PIGGY LITTLE EYE . . . !!" - right in his face (having opened the window wide enough for him to do what he did when he thought I would be behind the shower curtain - stick his head up under the opening section of the window; of course, he instinctively backed off - and slammed his thick head into the window frame . . .

    yeah, sure, naughty of me I know - but if he hadn't had his head where it most certainly shouldn't have been it COULDN'T have happened. And he knew it.

    He had a cob on.

    The roof - after the building having been pushed back so that the wall was now the boundary line - extended out over "his" (rented from the council, just like ours) driveway by - a whole 4"!

    This at about 7 feet from the ground. Interfered terribly with his parking his vehicle . . . a gigantic . . . Reliant Robin.

    Which he started parking so that the exhaust pipe lines up precisely with the window - and whenever he came in and the window was open, sitting there with the engine running high - pumping the place full of exhaust fumes. One day he did it when I had left the window open to dry the place out after a deluge-and-flood session - sorry, having a shower - and the old swine sat there with the engine running so long that the room was BLACK - great cobwebs of soot trailing from everything (they certainly weren't spider webs - no way did any spider have time to make any web with my having to mop the walls top to bottom to get rid of as much splash and condensation (the external bathroom walls face north and north-east) as possible.

    Took me hours of hard painful work cleaning it up - and I had to repaint half the untiled wall because so much paint came off. Fortunately this happened before I had the big shelf up in there - the builders not having provided anywhere at all to put anything other than the window sill - and all my shampoo and so on was still in a carrier bag hanging on a hook - but I had to chuck the shower curtain and get a new one - two towels fit for nothing but cleaning tools or drying the dog - as for my toothbrush . . . thereafter I had to remain within feet of the window if his car was out - so I could shut it before he got up the drive.

    Another nasty trick he had was peering through any crack in the window to see what he could see . . . caught him at that several times. When I finally got fed up with his spying and having to close the curtains -even during the day, when the fully frosted glass of the window should be sufficient for privacy, I decided to put a stop to it - by waiting in the bathroom, after opening the window and starting the shower to let him know I was in there . . . . and when I saw popped up and yelled: "I **SPY** - WITH MY PIGGY LITTLE EYE . . . !!" - right in his face because sure enough, he had done what he usually did when he heard the shower splash - stuck his head up under the opening section of the window to get the best view thru the shower curtain; of course, when I appeared right in his face, he instinctively backed off - and slammed his thick head into the window frame . . . HARD!

    Yeah, sure, naughty of me I know - but if he hadn't had his head where it most certainly shouldn't have been it COULDN'T have happened. And he knew it.

    Another thing he moved specially for my benefit was his dustbin - formerly parked beside his back gate, about 15 feet away - he took to keeping it under my window. He is not one of those people who put rubbish in bin liners before chucking it in the bin - no, everything goes in as is - including the contents of his deep fryer when the oil gets so full of bits that there's no room for chips. Even the dustmen gave him a mouthful one day when they rolled his bin to the ashcart, hooked it to the tipper - and got showered with stinking oil because they didn't know it was in there and hadn't known to stand back - disgusting, all over the road, slippery and stinking to high heaven - in the end, the person outside whose house the bins had been tipped was forced to empty a couple of boxes of washing soda and half a bottle of detergent on it - then scrub it with a yard broom and hose. The odour lingered for weeks though. A bin kept in that condition stinks to high heaven - and attracts all the blowflies which are usually busy on the dog mess.

    Having eaten their fill out of his bin - lid left propped ajar for full appreciation of the odour - they fly straight up - and into my bathroom. Next to the window is the basin. Anyone like blowflies landing on their toothbrush? No, neither do I. Fortnight of that and I lost my rag. The council had refused to tell him to move the damn thing - it is his sainted right to park his bin where he pleases - even though I told them he had moved it deliberately to get at me - just as he was parking his car differently so that he could pump the place full of poisonous filth; this is also his sainted right. What about my right to 'enjoy my home in peace and privacy' as stated in the terms of tenancy Nothing about a right to fill someone's house with filth and poison! Not a word. So - I simply reached out, took advantage of the long reach that comes with deliberately induced height - and pushed it over - hard - spilling the entire contents all over his drive. His choice - leave it where it was and walk it into the house, or pick it up. I wouldn't be any worse off - it smelt the same to me and the flies on the deck or in the bin with lid open. He picked it up (I chose the morning of bin-day - and timed it so that he'd miss collection - and correctly guessing what would happen did he put it back under the window - moved it well away. Very well away. He knows I have a long strong extending rod that I use for hard-to-reach jobs - he'd seen me using it for various purposes.

    The only thing I have not stopped him doing is the exhaust trick - because the bathroom is unusable for so many other reasons that it isn't worth the effort - just the water running out of the bathroom is enough because the under-bed space is my only covered storage space in the room - there is a closet but because the doors are louvred, everything in there gets filthy anyway if it isn't packed in plastic - airtight plastic. Can't hang clothes - they get black within a couple of days. If I put them in covers - the covers get filthy so I have to wash my hands after touching them and getting the clothing out without it touching the outside of the bag is so difficult . . .

    Why is it so bad? Because under the fancy tiling there is no lining. The tiles are just a louvre, like the wardrobe doors. The roof is supposed to be lined under the tiling. I know, because when I lifted the loose acoustic tiles that form the "ceiling" in the bathroom to reach a joist to put a weightbearing hook into - the roof was lined - up to the end of the bathroom. The builders lined the roof up to that point - because when the major work of the bathroom was done was the time the building inspector came - when the drains were in. He didn't call again - and they knew from old that he wouldn't. So he sees drains OK - but not the fact that water won't run into them and where it DOES run to - and a roof apparently properly lined against noise, dirt and cold. The remainder of the roof - by far the greater part and that facing the road where there is a bus in either direction every 10 mins - so a bus every 5 minutes, which, because the stop is a few yards away, blasts the filth that a diesel engine accumulates while it is idling straight at our house. Plus the filth from the depot close by - where there are several engines running 24 hours a day. Also, there are the buses that come in at night from other areas - they are travelling fast - and go over the sleeping policemen - one outside our house on the other side - with a hell of a bang. Especially the low-body 'accessible' ones - which I can't use. The drivers delight in seeing how hard they can bottom them out, just like the louts enjoy seeing how big a trail of sparks they can make dragging their exhaust pipe baffles over them. Which also makes them dirtier and noiser, of course.

    Again, the council - neither H&E nor Housing - will do anything about any of it. Police are far too busy.

    Of course, this wonderful roof - without lining - which allows the wind totally free play under the tiling - has an equally wonderful ceiling below it. It is acoustic tile - sitting in a wire-suspended framework without any sealing whatsoever, so that every gust of wind lifts the tiles - which allows the - expensive - heat out and the dirt and freezing air in. As a bonus, the edges of these tiles, which appear to be made of that recycled paper cat litter pulped together, scrape against the framework on every lift and fall, showering me with dust and all the particulate which has accumulated after coming under the tile on non-windy days. the result is a room so dirty that I may as well be living on the pavement. Everything I touch is filthy. I spend every day struggling to clean it up. I then have to clean myself up, my clothes . . . and then collapse into a bed which apart from being way too small for my size - is also filthy.

    As the pipes which bring the water from the boiler come into the gap between roof and ceiling, only one of the 2 small radiators gets even remotely hot. Up full heat I can still put my hand on it - and keep it there as long as I want. the other gets no more than just tepid - slightly over blood heat in that I can feel that it is warmer than the wall. In winter I can get the room no warmer than 54F. Result? I sleep in heavy clothing which is hellishly painful on the joints - and feels disgusting. I have an Arctic quality sleeping bag designed for winter mountain bivouacs - in fact a good deal of my winter clothing comes from a climbing shop. It is only the ease of movement designed for mountain climbing that makes it possible for me to move at all - 'ordinary' thermals would truss me up so that I couldn't move.

    Sheepskin boots imported from New Zealand - nothing made in this country is good enough - to insulate my feet from the concrete floor. It is only lifelong fastidiousness that gets me stripping for personal hygiene - especially in a bathroom (the old one) which has to have its window kept open permanently because the wet rotten wood under and around the bath - caused by the lack of sealant and missing tiling - stinks so badly that constant ventilation is the only way to keep it under control - and when one showers, the condensation is appalling and takes hours to dry.

    The entire house needs the old lath and plaster and all the woodwork stripping out. We can't do anything about the state of decoration because there are so many layers of filthy old paint and paper on the walls - and great chunks of plaster constantly fall out of the walls - the woodwork is too rotten and wormy to paint and again, covered in thick layers of slapped-on old paint. Great chunks of skirting board are missing where worm-damage has softened the wood so badly that it crumbles at the vibration of footsteps - even though the boys don't thunder about - oddly enough, because they've been taught that in a semi-detached house it would disturb the neighbours . . . Since we've lived here, over the years, given the hellish row from next door, that reason has worn thin - but they know that the vibration hurts me if I am standing on the same floor as they - and also, that the downstairs lath-and-plaster ceilings are very likely to collapse, given the length of time the plumbing in the airing cupboard leaked - after being fitted brand new when the old heaters were pronounced unsafe - something the council can't argue with because the gas board inspect those - by law.

    However, because the lowest tender got the job, we got the worst work. Plus little extras like fag ends left all over the airing cupboard - despite requests not to smoke in the house.

    One of the new heaters installed in addition to the central heating I created hell to get - was left - after I had been told it was safe to use - with plumbing joints so loose the nuts could be turned with fingers - gas was POURING out - good thing I have an excellent sense of smell. I lit it for the first time and went into Jimi's bedroom to get something from the airing cupboard while the room warmed up . . . while in there my nose started twitching . . . . that was when I discovered how loose the joints were.

    Fitted by CORGI engineers. Well, you can imagine the use I made of that particular appellation.

    When informed of the state of the fire, I was messed about endlessly as to when the engineers would return to deal with it; when I called Housing one time and said that I really did have better things to do with my life than spend my entire time with the room prepared for yet another dose of filthy work - the mess they had made - and left - was incredible. (As I said, when we moved in here, I was able to go out shopping - without a wheelchair. After that work was done, I needed a wheelchair, so much damage did the clearing up do me.) A cheeky little brat at the Housing office replied why was I bothered about that - after all, a cripple like me didn't have a life, did I?

    I stayed silent for a moment - then asked my ex who was on the extension if he had heard that. Yes he replied. Oh dear. Poor little *** didn't know he had an audience . . . as unlike taping it is not a legal requirement to inform someone that they are in fact talking to two people on a telephone. The fact that the third person has not yet said what he has to say - and whose presence is therefore unrealised, is unfortunate. For him. He did, however know his P45 when he saw it.

    That is pretty typical of the council's true attitude towards disability. Never mind the smarmy patronising smirk that is the public face of political correctness - he thought he was talking to 'just a housewife' - and a crip at that, and let it all hang out. Picked the wrong one, I'm afraid.

    I have discovered that the roof is *partly* lined - so obviously the intention was that it should be fully lined, and as it is would not fulfil building regs anyway - why line *part* of the roof when the entire space above the suspended ceiling is one because the partition wall between bath and bedrooms does not extend above the suspended ceiling to the roof, dividing the lined part from the unlined; that my attempts to tell Housing that they were being blatantly ripped off that were ignored; I had actually heard the workmen discussing what they could nick. In the old bathroom, what was one of the two outside walls is now the dividing wall between house and extension. That wall had a window - bricked up - and also an airvent. An airvent they forgot to brick up. All that covered it was a little piece of board they put there to stick the tiling to. So someone using the old bathroom, then the only one, could hear anything said in the new bathroom, which the workmen were using for their frequent coffeebreaks because it was sheltered from the appalling weather, the main room having had the middle window left open to the ground to serve as a temporary entrance. They used to gather at the end behind the partition - directly adjoining the old bathroom and right under the airvent. I heard them discussing how they could cut corners on the specs - the foreman was being given cash to take to the builders merchant for supplies - and obviously receipts were either not required or it was some regular fiddle that the clerk at the merchant's was in on so would give false receipts for a cut. Whatever.

    Because I did not have taped evidence - mine was bust at the time, when I wrote to the person responsible for the entire contract at the Housing office, I had to be discreet about what I put on paper. I stated that I had information of a nature that it would be very much in the fiscal interest of the Housing department to hear and would he call to discuss it with me? He ignored it, and the repeat letter.

    All that, put together with the OT's lies about the necessity of a consultant's letter - provable because I made such a pest of myself to the consultant insisting that this was what Social Services were demanding - IF I were able to cope with the paperwork there is enough to take to the Ombudsman - but no way - with my workload and my condition I can't be certain of being able to produce stuff by deadlines . . . and doing it without ANY means of ever getting out to get hold of people rather than always waiting for them to get back to me . . . it is a shame, because the whole put together could do the Council a lot of damage if done right. I could certainly do it with help - but I have none. At all. The boys have enough to manage already - and anyway, they don't have the needed skills and experience. I would quite happily take my own case to court - were I able to GET to court. I have worked for solicitors - I know where to find what info - familiar with the jargon - and can talk the hind leg of a herd of donkeys - I would get form filing fees waived on my income - and one doesn't have to have legal qualifications to take a case to court - many people don't realise this - or that the Clerk of Court will give a lot of help . . . and as I am not over-awed by courts, judges or other stuffed shirts and assorted suits, I would happily argue my own case. Of course, I would infinitely prefer the legal aid I feel that I am morally owed given what has been done to me by the system as a whole - I am at base as lazy as anyone and much prefer watching someone do my work for me - as long as they do it properly - but I'd probably end up firing whatever suit I hired and doing it myself in the end.

    I myself did not see the point of a letter from a consultant as a GP is in much more of a position to be aware of a disabled person's daily needs - but the OT wanted it and nothing could go ahead without it . . . she will remember me. I still have hard copies of my letters in any case - one of which went to my GP and so should be in my notes - although that too is something of an issue between myself and the practice - he does not bother to keep proper notes. Two years after my husband and full-time carer had left, he told my eldest son he did not know - when in fact I had called him and told him personally - not the receptionist, my doctor - that this was the case. I did not want my husband turning up the next day to collect my prescription for narcotics quite apart from anything else. I also wanted to make it clear that my workload had quadrupled overnight. He didn't bother to put this in my notes. Which makes me wonder what else he hasn't bothered to note. (When I wrote complaining of this I was told by the senior partner that 'this was normal practice'. What - failing to keep proper notes? Is a severely disabled person's sudden loss of their carer not an event likely to have an adverse effect on their condition - a condition which deteriorates only if the body is asked to do that with which it cannot cope? Normal practice? Are they doing this sort of thing to everyone? The letter certainly implies it! I am sure he did not read it through before sending it. He types his letters himself. Really odd - he uses a manual typewriter, no headed paper. The practice DOES have computers and a printer . . . . the prescriptions - the ordinary ones anyway - are done on one. One of mine has to be written out by hand in full under the Controlled Substances regs. - which causes endless delays because over and over again someone has gone to pick up my prescriptions - which I have to request FIVE days in advance each week - and discovered that the prescription for the narcotic has not been done properly - and only the doctor can do it so it is either walk home and back again at four - or wait there until four. The surgery is about two miles away with no bus that takes one far enough to be worth waiting for. Great in the winter and when there are other things to be done. I have taken to faxing my requests in twice - at least - with a note on the bottom that says the dispensing chemist requests that the prescription be written in the manner required by the appropriate legislation . . . .!

    They want me to take myself off to another practice. Problem is - there isn't one. The only other one in the area has already kicked me off it's list for making a fuss over a 6 month delay in the provision of the necessary wheelchair - which cost me my OU place. I complained to the engineer - and the oily rag objected to getting a rollocking from on high for not filling in forms correctly. The oily rag responded by kicking me off his list. I didn't mind - he was a lousy quack anyway - I went there because it was the nearest and I was having problems with transport . . . .

    As you have read if you are not asleep or dead by now, my transport situation is nil now. This doctor does not have a valid reason for kicking me off - but at the same time, apart from painkillers which need changing, I am not getting medical treatment. Thanks to the problems of coping with this house in my condition without help other than from my very good sons - but boys are boys . . . and they are obviously far more interested in playing in a band and tearing the innards out of computers, programming, designing websites etc. - than they are in doing housework meticulously. I dont' blame them. They miss out on a lot - David having to be here to exercise the dog daily - he is much stronger and heavier than Jimi and is certain of his control - the locals having taunted the dog so much that he is quite likely to have a go at anyone who even looks at him the wrong way - never mind the fools who actually risk making any kind of gesture or aggressive sounding remark or noise when he is out on the lead. Does it never occur to them that David might let the dog slip? Teased, he suddenly lunges, a finger gets twisted in the leash so the hand opens in pain automatically trying to prevent further damage . . . the second he was free it would all be over.

    I have been making complaints about this tormenting to council and police since the dog was a pup so it is well known that he is not vicious - just ill-treated by certain people - including NFH 2 - who deliberately glares at the dog, trying to stare him out - just about the silliest thing one can do to an alpha male dog!

    This progressed to standing in his garden, behind our shed, where he thinks he cannot be seen, making lunging movements at the poor animal, and waving his fists at him, winding him up until he is not simply barking but barking on the out breath and seemingly growling on the inward - lips drawn up to show as much tooth as possible - which is a lot - with all his back hair absolutely upright. The stupid old fool is relying on the dog's boundary training, and a five foot weldmesh fence that has barbed wire in a one-foot diameter coil along the top. Also as I have a young blackthorn hedge planted on our side of the mesh, there is a piece of sheep wire keeping him - under normal circumstances - from getting close to the fence because I don't want him cocking his leg on my delicate young bushes! We all know what dog pee does to plants when they get regularly watered with it. The sheepwire is only standing there propped by a couple of bits of concrete, hooked to the shed at one end by its own cut ends and held against another smaller shed by another piece of concrete propped up. It also leans against a stick at one point. It is a deterrent only NOT any kind of barrier - and in any case, a dog his size is perfectly capable of clearing the lot at one bound. One day he may well lose his rag and do it. As both the boys spend most of their time at home upstairs with their pcs and guitar - and I often have trouble making myself heard as acoustically this house is awful - and my voice is quiet because of my emphysema; it takes me time to get to the intercom - and then they have to stop what they are doing and go to the landing and press the button before they can hear me - I certainly can't make it outside fast enough to be effective - and in any case, if the dog was that maddened it would take a lot to make him even notice the presence of another non-threatening person, so there is no way he could be called off before it was too late.

    Besides, anyone with sense doesn't plough in and try and haul an attacking dog off - not if they value their hands! I just cannot understand how anyone could be so stupid - just as I couldn't understand his fussing so much over four inches of air space that he does not own, cannot even reach, never mind use - and if he could reach it what would he use it for??? Planning on building a prototype Concorde Mk II in his driveway?

    Rolls Royce/British Aerospace are at Filton not Filwood Dork! Even the Housing dept. got mightily fed up with his attitude when the extension was being built. He did well out of it - got a new driveway laid and the hedge torn out so he no longer had to cut it - or put up with the woodlice and other insects which used to pour out of it and up the walls of the house - as well as in through the airbricks. When that hedge was there, go into the kitchen at night and the floor would be swarming with woodlice, silverfish and various other things with too many legs. (Tho the silverfish were mainly down to the filthy conditions previously existing - plus all the old wallpaper paste on which they love to feed; now we rarely see one and the woodlice are very much fewer, spiders etc. ditto. )

    He refused to let the workmen take rubble out down his drive - ours having disappeared - so it got carted through our living room and hall. This took place while I was banged up in the bedroom upstairs - trying as much as possible to avoid the dust - had I realised what was going on there would have been hell to pay - they wouldn't have been able to get it through the house either - Janus was being kept in the fenced off other half of the front garden while all this was going on - I would have simply gone down and fetched him and told them that they barrowed the rubble through the dog before the living room. That would have been the end of that stupidity. As it was, everything in the front room - all our stacked possessions - although supposedly protected by a plastic sheet, got absolutely plastered in grit - the carpet was totally wrecked and we have never been able to afford to replace it - not for a room we can't use properly anyway owing to the noise from next door as well as the drafts from the throughway front to back which howl through gaps between doors and frames which are too wide for insulation to do any good - the undersides of the living room/kitchen door was cut to clear carpet - despite the fact it is already fitted with rising hinges - and whoever cut it didn't possess a straight edge, the cut is crescent shaped, with the top of the curve in the middle - almost an arch about an inch deep. We have put a strip of wood on the frame in the gap on the latch side - and it STILL doesn't fit. There is an uneven gap at the top . . . enormous gaps between the barn doors the OT had put in the living room which are totally unnecessary - and the removal of wall to take them made one hell of a lot of unnecessary mess - and left even fewer places to put furniture. These houses are designed for a cottage suite and a TV. Nothing else. God help you if you want a bookcase! Tiny little hall, nowhere for coats or shoes - no understair cupboard - that is in the kitchen and has the freezer in it. Those have to go in the living room as does the vacuum cleaner - nowhere for that in the kitchen or anywhere else. So the front room is now simply a store room cum passageway - we keep the workbench and big vice in there, all the dangerous tools which are unsafe to be left outside where someone who is aware that the dog spends most of his time at the back just might chance sneaking in at night. Things like the pickaxe and sledge, the sickle and shears which are lethally sharp and too prone to rust to go in the back shed - and besides, I can't trail through the house in clay-covered footwear to fetch them from the back shed. My chair - batteryless now - at £300 a pair, I can't afford to let them sit and die through being kept charged but not used enough - but if I keep them without charge - the chair is useless because it takes 16 hours for a full charge - a little long before the next lot of rain or if one suddenly feels like going somewhere . . . and there is someone here to do the doors . . . guaranteed rain-free days when there is someone willing to sit around until I get back . . . don't happen but 2/3 times a year. So about 4 grand's worth of Motability sits there useless.

    Anyway, that is enough for now! I've added quite a bit to what I had already - I hope my editing has made sense of it.

    Maybe I'll get round to the rest of it someday - but that is the meatiest chunk of it all. Basically, people here are wierd. I have had someone from the Housing Dept. say so. Our new community copper said so.

    So it isn't just me - nice to know for certain. I've never had these problems before - no way!

    Sorry it was all so long - but as I said - it is complicated - they've made it so. I prefer the simple life - live and let live.


  • #2
    blimey Tanns!

    I need a cup of tea after reading that, bet it didnt do your hands much good!

    just said to matthew we should get a working party together and come and sort your house out!

    you really have been treated unfairly by a lot of people.

    and I know you have written to loads of departments about your problems...maybe the next step is local tv news station?

    talk to you soon


    • #3
      Tanns, what I can't understand is why they won't re house you to something more suitable - it sounds like anything would be more suitable. Plus you have the NFH to add to what is already a horrific situation. Okay councils have a hard job to do - but your situation is a catalogue of errors and would shame any council.

      How are you getting on with your website? This needs to be made public as Beth says. How about contacting the local TV news people? Please consider it.

      Publicity is definitely needed here.

      Reading your story and comparing it to the ***** red and white tower story on 'Neighbours From Hell' last night....


      • #4
        I know what you mean Spinks!

        talk about getting things into perspective, and theres me having a little early morning moan!

 and white chimneys or not being able to live in your own home due to other peoples fowl ups...what a choice!

        A chimney I could live with any day.

        you always remind us Tanns how lucky we are.


        • #5
          Beth - tisn't so much my hands that suffer - it is my back - sitting upright makes vertebrae slide out of position, ditto sacrum and ilia gradually become misaligned, trapping nerves and squishing all sorts of things depending on where what bone ends up. I learned to type on heavy manuals and have done heavy work most of my life - typing on an electronic board is no more tiring or straining for my hands than drumming my fingers to music would be! I don't get carpal tunnel syndrome because having been trained properly for office manuals - which are hellish to use as producing the force needed to strike aqz\and p;'./ - or the keys that were there in those days (fractions on the right hand) with the same pressure as index and middle fingers produce, which was very important because otherwise ring and little finger characters were very faint and the letter/document looked awful). Having done that - and mostly on legal documents which must have NO ERRORS OR CORRECTIONS AT ALL - and engrossments have to be typed so that they can be bound together like a book (with the pink tape that is called 'red') so that no pages can be taken out without it being apparent - which means a carriage twice the width of the typewriter, paper a similar size to A3 typed in 2 columns - one would be page 2 and the other maybe 9 or whatever, depending on the length of the document . . . computers are a doddle. It's the sitting bit that isn't funny. My shoulders drop out of joint under the weight of my arms too.

          Spinky - this extension would have been as suitable as I would be likely to get out of this council - had the council left it as the architect designed it - and of course, the workmen known their job and been honest.

          The architect was sensitive to my needs, designed it to have a path wide enough to get the wheelie bin around the back (therefore, also the wheelbarrow could be used on the path, the dog could have used it - and dirty boots could have gone round to the back - instead of everything dragged through the house and straight past my door so that every time I open it the suction draws in dirt, dog hair - the lot. Including the litter that blows off the street, up the path and in the door. Neither did the architect plan for such a wide door to the bathroom that my sex life (and comfort as I am too large for a single bed - I need to sleep diagnonally in a double - a kingsize is essential if I am sharing) is dictated by the fact that only a single bed can be used in the room - and there is no room for even the smallest bedside table with that - because the door is in the way. That I regard as inhuman. I can't get out of the house - and I can't have anyone stay with me. Assuming that I am going to remain celibate and single because I am disabled? At forty-five?

          The architect knew that I didn't need the huge double barn doors to the living room either - just the slightly wider hall that the removal of the outer wall gave us. Or the changing of the front door from inward opening to outward. He agreed that I needed a porch too - but couldn't design one in because the OT/council refused to admit it was necessary. The door and lack of porch are the sole reasons I am housebound. Changes made by the Council and the OT. (Social Services - council dept.)

          One thing I forgot - one of the workmen sexually harassed my eldest son's then girlfriend who was staying with us at the time. Both she and David were only 16 at the time - and she was a tiny little thing - the workman who trapped her at the bottom of the stairs and tried to rub up against her - wouldn't let her pass, she only got away because someone came through so he moved off - was a huge six-foot-plus tub of lard . . . I was banged up in my room at the time - trying to avoid the dust, she was getting ready to go to work. She didn't say anything about it immediately - David noticed she was quiet and upset about something and I persuaded her to come out with it - and with her permission kicked up hell. Ended up with a security guard in the living room at the bottom of the stairs. It was after that that the stealing and really bad work began. The floor and incorrect use of the dehumidifiers were genuine - if incredibly stupid - mistakes, but I am pretty sure the rest of the bad work was 'revenge' - the workmen's 'solidarity' decided we had to be 'punished' because Fatso was kicked off the job. They kept complaining to the council that we 'deliberately held them up' - by demanding to be able to use the lavatory. Presumably we were supposed to cease eating and drinking for a couple of months in order not to inconvenience the workmen.

          They had their own onsite lavatory - a Portaloo which was rather unpleasantly planted right smack in front of the house so we had to put up with both the sight and stench of it day and night although there were other places it could have been sited that wouldn't have been quite so unpleasant.

          The council don't regard tenants as humans with any right to dignity or consideration. (That is why we have been without a kitchen sink for a month. It is to be installed on Wednesday next. That is supposedly 'priority' because of my disability. I don't know how long we would have had to wait were I able bodied.) That was what I meant about treating all tenants like pigs even the ones who don't behave antisocially and turn their homes into slums.

          The thieving was probably habitual - normal practice. The council made it obvious that they thought I shouldn't have 'made a fuss'

          Website? Don't have time - takes me all day just for personal hygiene, laundry and removing what filth I can. Dealing with my bed - can't just get out of it and leave it . . as it isn't a proper bed (because of the lack of storage space and to maximise the space I have to stretch out, it is a built in platform under which I have to keep a lot of my possessions - bookcases take up the remainder of the wall space that is usable - not window, blocked by door use, the over-wide doors I don't need, has a radiator on it - and all the space under the windows is taken by a narrow bench which is all the space I have for my pc - and everything else.) The dirt means I have to pull it apart and fold everything and put it in the cupboard - the one with the louvre doors which let in the dirt, so everything has to be wrapped in plastic. What passes for a mattress has to be aired or it gets damp - lethal in winter being unable to keep the place warm. By the time I am up, a slow process, being stiff as a board - and having to cope with the old bathroom which is in a terrible state as well as not having enough room to turn around, never mind hold a chair - dealt with the bed, struggled with the vacuum - it is usually very late. If I use the computer at all it is dawn before I get to bed. It is 05.06 now. I have to be up at midday to help the boys remove part of the old sink unit - which has so much mould and fungus growing behind and under it that I daren't leave it to the workmen - they will sweep vigorously, spreading spores all through the air in the house - which will end up growing in my lungs because I can't cough fully anymore to get rid of accumulated irritants and moisture. So we will have to do it with minimal disturbance and the Dyson.

          Remember - I was a lot more mobile and generally healthier before I had to put up with living in the house while we had contract workmen in twice. I can't risk a third lot of damage and mess to clear up. We would have replaced the sink ourselves had the unit not needed replacing too - I couldn't afford that. We could have bought a secondhand stainless sink easily enough - 10-15 quid - but not a sink unit. The old one was a sort of wrinkle-finish plastic - the most stupid type of thing possible in an area with such hard water as Bristol's; the limescale gets in the wrinkle bits, NOTHING will get it out. It was put in crooked so the drain is higher than the far side of the sink . . .

          So my website will never get done now.

          The papers don't want to know. The local daily is owned by a would-be Rupert Murdoch - who prints nothing that will upset the council - besides, it is all too long and involved for them. They like neat little stories that will fill odd spaces between ads. Same with tv - far far too long for them.

          Most of all - I am not local. It is my own fault I am here. The fact that the council did not obey the terms of the HomeSwap scheme has nothing to do with it - neither does the fact that I was too disabled to get down here to inspect the place personally - had I done so, of course I would not have taken it. We were shown a video - of a house of the same type - but not this one; I know now because the bathroom in that video was pink - there has never been any pink paint in this bathroom at any time - again, now I know that because I have seen the place stripped down to brick - in patches.

          So - the local media can't give a damn, and the whole thing is far too long for tv.

          No family. The so-called 'caring' professions - don't. I can't afford the law - and don't have the time to take the case to court myself - which I certainly would had I time and transport.

          My partner who did see the place a couple of days before the move was a good deal to blame - although the previous tenants very craftily had furniture, crates and so on over the worst of the bad bits - but because he was down there to collect the truck (he is a truck driver) to bring their stuff up and take ours down - he thought - FOOL - that it was too late to back out - stupid *** -possession is nine points of the law - and in any case, the place simply wasn't fit. We would have had every right to back out, even at that point. He didn't say a word to me when he called me . . . I would obviously have said: "I am staying PUT"

          - that is why he is my ex., basically. It is the root reason - although there were other contributing factors - one of which was the mess the contractors left after the building of the extension - because he became such a lazy pig; he would happily watch me do the work he wouldn't do - clean the bathroom properly, removing limescale - basically, redoing everything he half-did . . . like the kids, he would happily go shopping - anything out of the house, but housework - dab at a work surface with a filthy dishcloth - that was his idea of clean, he became extremely unfit - sitting in front of the telly was what he was good at once he stopped driving and became my 'carer' - and coping with the mess gave him a hernia. He then announced with a smirk on his face that he couldn't possibly do any work - and that I'd be nursing him again as I did after his industrial accident. (Which nursing involved carrying him up and down stairs to the lavatory - that place had wc downstairs and bath upstairs. He was twelve stone plus. I am eight plus. Have always had the Marfans even if it wasn't 'official' until I was 37.

          What do you think I said? The one thing he thought I'd not dare say - because of my condition - "Your keys please. You know where your bags are."

          I had done a lot for him. It was a marriage of convenience - had to do with his wife's moving another man into the house, throwing him out - then denying him access to the children. The court's attitude toward single males then was mediaeval. Towards gay males . . . I helped him out of the closet, helped him come to terms with himself - not easy with a public school (Blair's school as it happens ) and army background, was willing to take on his FOUR sons. Initially I didn't do too badly out of it - but once my body finally packed up under the strain - the going got tough for him for a change, so he just basically sulked and went on strike, doing as little as possible. Actually had the cheek to accuse me of reneging on our bargain. Bye bye.

          That was why I had a husband in the first place. Why I have one no longer. It may have seemed like cutting off my nose to spite my face - but no way was I going to put up with that. He wasn't exactly a loss anyway. The dog contributes to the household commonweal far more than he did. At least he does his job for his keep, and he is sweet tempered - to us, anyway

          If I could have done anything about the situation I would have done it already.

          My only hope is something I discovered on Friday. I thought that the changes in licensing for motorbikes - there have been several changes in who can ride what since my first licence - meant that everyone had to start on something ridiculously small and keep taking tests on progressively bigger bikes. Unaffordable.

          No. I called the company who sold my father his Commando just to check - motorbikes having been on my mind recently . . . sometimes good ideas come from some pretty murky starts . .. and discovered the 'Limited Access' licence - and the cracker - four day course, test on a 500cc - full licence for all classes of bike.

          I can still ride a bike - just as I can still ride a horse. Bikes don't need the same amount of heavy labour to care for. Their bits are small enough for me to handle still. No engine hoists needed.

          Jimi told me about the theory test. He had been told about it by a friend at college who has taken it. I think I know what a white sign with a red circle and thirty in the middle means. Although I don't totally agree with dragging an unconscious body off the road willy-nilly if there is anyway I can avoid doing so - but out of the choices one is given apparently it is the obvious option. I don't think that will be a problem.

          I have a lifetime's experience of road conditions and am an excellent driver.

          Fowler's - the sales place - put me onto the training school they use and he was going on about having to do a U turn in a narrow road with one's feet up. Thought about it. Said I reckoned I could manage that. Thinking he meant with one's legs held up around handlebar height rather in the manner of some of the exercises one does when learning to ride a horse. Used to play the fool like that all the time off-road. Oh no he said - with your feet on the pegs. I was amazed that anyone would put their feet down unless the conditions were absolutely appalling - oil, sharps on the road, flood . . . apparently a lot of people can't do a u-turn without putting their feet down.

          Anyway - this fearsome test everyone is so bothered about doesn't seem to be anything remarkable - so I've started saving. As from now.

          Horsefans - if you read this - Fowler's still do Triumph as well as Jap-***p - do they still make Bonnies?

          Another Norton would be a tad heavy now but a Bonnie I could manage.

          Thing is - this offers a future. Before - no way could I ever afford a car. No way therefore could I have a hope of getting out of the city. All sorts of prospects open up - going to Linux school . . . living in a home instead of a superannuated pigsty . . . going OUT . . . making friends . . . getting off my son's backs at last.

          That is the way I am looking. When I am mobile - then I drop the council in it. Big time. Until then I am powerless - it is lack of mobility that has stopped me dealing with this situation. I put bikes out of my mind along with all the rest of the fun as poor women have to do unless they are lucky, when they have kids - unless they are prepared to neglect said kids.

          For some reason, I simply forgot that now I don't need to take them with me everywhere I go - transport them . . .. I can have a bike again.

          A bike I can take right to the door where I want to go - not park heaven knows how far away and then still need a chair to get the rest of the way. Once I get INTO a building I am alright. If I need to lie to stretch my back, then I carry a sleeping mat with me - one of those thin foam things. Folding stick.

          Best of all - when the NFH bike brats see a bike turn into our road - bump up onto the pavement outside our gate - go in . . . they will expect to see a stranger - or maybe David when the helmet comes off.

          Surprise surprise. I wonder if they will be silly enough to try and burn me off on their 125s?? I wonder how their parents will like it if I start using their road as a gerbil wheel? I bet those nasty little bikes disappear very fast.

          So - I doubt if my website will happen now - and the only reading I will be doing will be the latest highway code - I probably won't be able to do it til next spring now - still supporting Jimi through school - and by the time I had saved enough the weather would be lousy and I don't want to add cold problems to the course and test - but at least there is light - real light - on the horizon.