Uncharacteristically Me

               Today I have done a number of uncharacteristic things. Perhaps this is the reason I have come back to my blog. For months now, I have found updating my blog a real struggle. Nobody wants to read about writer’s block, it is very dull but this is not what I had. My noticeboard has a list of titles I have not yet written “on the plus side”, “quiz master’s rules” and “have you seen Granny” among them. The problem has been that I had lost interest in writing, it felt like a chore and I gave up. Then today happened…

  • This morning I managed to fall down an entire flight of stairs while holding a glass of water. I must have bounced spectacularly as I have lovely bruising on both the front and the back of my legs. It doesn’t hurt too much yet but lets see how I feel tomorrow. I managed to keep the glass from smashing, but the water went in every direction (including all over me)
  • I walked to the supermarket to do my weekly shop. It is about 20 mins from my house, then I realised I had forgotten my mask (I had put it in the wash) so had to go all the way home and get another one. Once I had finally got my shopping and taken it home, I found I had purchased a ‘paper pot maker’ which according to the box allows me to ‘make a limitless supply of biodegradable seedling pots from old newspapers’. The thing is, I have no memory of putting this in my basket or seeing it at the checkout or any point until I found it in my shopping bag at home. I checked the receipt and there it is… I am already racking my brains to think of somebody I don’t really like who has an upcoming birthday…
  • Then I went to take my washing out of the tumble dryer. I had kept an eye on the timer and after the cycle had finished, I went with the basket to empty the machine but it was empty. It turned out that, everything was still in the washing machine and I had set the dryer to do a full cycle with nothing in it.

So, clearly my brain is melting. Perhaps this is why I spontaneously applied for a dream job that I don’t believe I have any realistic chance of getting.

The job I currently have is fine. I was supposed to be doing a part time job in a care home running activities, then my colleague left a month ago and since then nobody has applied for the vacancy which means I am now working full time, I don’t really mind, I appreciate the extra money and it’s not like I have a full diary…

Working in a care home is an unpredictable environment. Every day is different and entirely dependent on the mood of the residents, most of whom have dementia. Two separate people think I am their son (they had an argument about it last week) while one lady screams every day as she thinks lizards are dancing on her stomach. There is also something weird about logging in to my computer each morning and seeing if any of my clients have died overnight. This happened ten times in six weeks earlier in the year and is certainly a challenge to deal with. I must write sometime about the positives of being autistic but not getting emotional about all this, is certainly one of them.

I noticed a job ad for an apprentice journalist for a national radio station based in central London. It is four days in the studio and a fifth at college getting an NVQ. I thought that it would be fun and so today, I applied. I have no reasonable hope of getting it. Who wants an apprentice who is unqualified and nearly 40? It will doubtless go to somebody in their early 20s and because I know this, I won’t be disappointed when I never hear back (after all, I am sure they will have hundreds of candidates).

As part of the application we were asked three questions. The first two were ‘tell us about yourself’ and ‘what do you think of the radio station’. These are easy, I know about me and I listen to the station so have plenty of thoughts. The third question was ‘give us an example of a story you would like to cover’. I wrote about the care home and my time there. Why are there so many vacancies when millions of people are unemployed? Perhaps this is my advantage, I have real world experience. On the other hand (and equally likely) I might win the lottery and all this will be void.

In the meantime, I have work to prepare for. I wonder if the over 90s have any use for a paper pot maker?

*** Update – 11th June. After just six weeks after the closing date, today I got an email “We have carefully reviewed your CV against the role and unfortunately we have decided not to take your application forward at this time”. Oh well…

Eggy Easter

               Running activities on a cruise ship with an international staff, I was often asked by my team about the national holidays of England with a view to recreating them for the enjoyment of our guests onboard. Many people have a basic understanding of the major events of other nations such as Chinese New Year or Rio Carnival. There are also holidays of other cultures that many tourists didn’t previously understand but really enjoy finding out about like Diwali and then there are holidays that are just a big party like July 4th, Australia Day or St Patrick’s. In fact, there are many brilliant national days from around the world that we could introduce our guests to. The problem comes with trying to explain the holidays of England.

               There are only eight public holidays here (one of the lowest in the world). Christmas Day is a fairly obvious one, after that it gets trickier. What actually happens on any of the others? New Year’s Day is when many people get a day to sleep off a hangover but what is the August Bank Holiday for? What do people do on May Day? Are there any Easter Monday traditions? Even the purpose of Boxing Day is hard to explain to my international friends. Many would say that the national day of England is St George’s Day which isn’t actually a public holiday and that might be because we don’t seem to do anything for this either. In brainstorms all we manage to come up with for most of these is going to a beer garden, which is often not the greatest idea in early April.

               This brings me to Easter. I have been trying to run events for years at Easter time but they are often a bit of a failure. A few years ago, I ran an Easter Egg hunt, only two people came to take part. It seems children have been eating Easter eggs for weeks by this point and now get so many that they loose all impact. I have tried dressing as the Easter bunny but this seems to make children cry (although maybe that says more about my performance than the costume).

Perhaps this bunny would be less scary

So, the team meetings go, ‘what else is there to do over the four-day Easter weekend?’ ‘Is there a traditional Easter meal?’ ‘It must be lamb, or is it chicken?’ ‘Isn’t it served on the Sunday?’ ‘Does that mean it is just a normal Sunday lunch?’ ‘Then what about traditional Good Friday food?’. I feel I should know the answers… Let’s be honest, the only things we are certain about for Easter are Church services (which only certain people are interested in) and chocolate. So, eggs it is.

At the meeting this year, I thought we agreed I would get the eggs. So off to the discount supermarket I went. I had 38 people to buy for plus a few spares for prizes so I got 50 eggs for £1 each (bargain!) and at the till the lady told me somebody else had just bought 50 eggs too. I thought nothing of it until I got back and of course, my colleague was the ‘someone else’ and now (on the evening of Good Friday) we had 100 eggs to get rid of. Cut to this morning when an email arrived from the manager “don’t worry about the Easter eggs, I picked them up on my way home”. So somehow, due to a communication failure, there were now 150 chocolate eggs sitting in my office (to be shared by 38 people).

So many eggs….

Now, everyone is getting chocolate. Eggs for staff, eggs for the families of staff, eggs for the neighbours, eggs for the chef to melt into recipes, we even tried giving eggs to people passing by but it seems taking chocolate from strangers is a little taboo.

As I write this, tomorrow is Easter Sunday and I will be going round again with more eggs, hoping people have eaten the previous ones, I will be doing this fairly slowly as nothing else really happens at Easter and then going round again on Easter Monday…

“Eggs, get your chocolate eggs”.

“Please, take some”.

“Please”.

I’m An Artful Dodger

We are about to reach the first anniversary of the UK Covid-19 lockdown. As a result, there have been a lot of articles recapping the events of the last year (as if we had forgotten). Generally these are fairly similar in mentioning zoom quizzes, banana bread, graphs on TV and outdoor clapping. I did an internet search to try and find who the clapping was for and found the answer was ‘clap for the NHS’, ‘clap for carers’, ‘clap for key workers’ and also ‘clap for heroes’, each vaguer than the one before. No wonder we got bored of it all.

There is also a lot of coverage featuring people who have learned new things about themselves. Some are more resourceful than they thought while some are better in their own company. I have seen several reports of people ditching their city lives for more space in the countryside. Other people have discovered new skills or taken up new hobbies. For me, a number of discoveries have been made.

Firstly, I can’t be bothered with art. I have spent years going round art galleries pretending to understand, feeling there must be something faulty with me as I don’t get it. The galleries themselves are echoey and often overcrowded, the prices are expensive and it takes me longer to get there than I spend inside. I fully appreciate that other people love going to see art but I am now happy to admit that it is all wasted on me and I am fine with that. On a similar note, I am also going to stop trying to understand Shakespeare. Just typing that feels like a weight lifted.

This was also the year I finally realised that living on meal deals from supermarkets is a terrible way to live. While it is true that I am still awful at cooking, making my own sandwiches (rather than buying them every day) is cheaper, easier and tastier. It is slightly embarrassing that it has taken a global pandemic to teach me that. I am also no longer terrified of chip & pin cards and have not used a cash point in months although my new phone (the one that took me days to sort out), remains unused, sitting on my shelf next to the old one, so some things remain consistently unchanged.

Next, I always thought I was the kind of person who enjoyed working. Actually, this year with its enforced ‘stay at home’ has shown me, that I work to live rather than the other way round. I have started dreaming of retiring very early and buying lottery tickets to make it happen. I was very excited last week when I got an email to say I had a winning ticket. Upon logging in, I found all I had got was a free entry for the next draw, which in turn got me nothing. Still, maybe one day…

Although, even if I do miraculously win enough to retire, I still won’t be spending it on pre-made sandwiches in art galleries.

Flowing Laterally

               ‘Don’t worry, it’s very easy’. This is always a terrible thing to hear. It generally means, ‘Don’t ask me how to do it’. In this case the ‘it’ in question is the Lateral Flow Test (LFT) which as part of my work at a care home, I am required to do twice a week for the Coronavirus.

I am also required to take another weekly test, the PCR, which according to Google, stands for polymerase chain reaction, a term somebody brighter than me will have to explain. The results of the LFT are said to take thirty minutes but in my experience, are obvious after about two minutes which is very handy. The problem is, they are said to be unreliable and also require the user to honestly declare the true result into the Government website. This is why we need the PCR backup which is sent away to a lab, the result appears by text message in the middle of the night. I am not sure why the results can’t be sent during daylight hours thus avoiding waking everyone, perhaps this is a question I could ask at a forthcoming Downing Street press conference.

Upon opening my box containing 25 Lateral Flow Tests, I encountered 16 pages of instructions written in a font so small, that a microscope is needed to decode it but ‘don’t worry, its very easy’ they said.

  • Step One – Specimen Collection

There is something awful about the word specimen in a medical context and collecting my own specimen is not something I look forward to. There is a medical swab to unwrap and I am instructed to ‘wipe the pharyngeal tonsils’ with ‘moderate force at least three times’. This sounds like a line from a horror script. I am guessing that ‘pharyngeal tonsils’ just means ‘tonsils’. Then the same swab should be ‘rolled five times along the mucus inside the nostril’. How lovely. This process inevitably leads to gagging and sneezing so should probably not be done in polite company.

  • Step Two – Result Extraction

The swab should be placed into something called an extraction tube which is basically a small plastic bottle. The next step is to ‘press the extraction solution bottle to drip 6 drops of extraction solution into the extraction tube’. On a side note, perhaps a thesaurus could have been located to avoid having an extraction solution bottle, extraction solution and also extraction tubes. Six drops strikes me as a strange number and when I try and get the correct number of drops, I always end up with more of a small squirt. I am yet to discover how many drops equals a squirt.

Anyway, only two drops from the tube are needed for the test cartridge and the manual tells me to ‘start the timer’ which makes it sound very exciting, like we are breaking a world record. There are three possible results. A line appears at C, means negative. A line appears at T means the test is invalid and a line at both C & T means positive. Why the letters C and T are used remains a mystery.

  • Step Three – Reporting

With the phrase ‘don’t worry, it’s very easy’ still ringing in my head, I am asked by the government website to create an account. It needs to know my gender, ethnic group, ethnic background, date of birth, address, email and phone number. After answering all these tedious queries, I am now ready to enter my result which I was hoping would be much quicker but no such luck. More questions come:

                              Who are you reporting a result for?

Who was the test for?

What is their unique code?

Which of these best describes you?

When did you take the test?

What is the test strip ID number? (which I need to enter twice)

Do you know your NHS Number?

As more and more questions arrive, I wonder if a set of breathing exercises could be suggested to ease the stress. Eventually the big moment comes and I am finally allowed to enter the results. The sense of relief is overwhelming, that is until both my emails and phone ping simultaneously with an automated message telling me:

Even for people who are a little forgetful, it seems unnecessary for the government to send out messages telling me things I only told them moments earlier.

And with that my LFT is finally done, until I need to do it all again in three days time, complete with obligatory sneezing.

Free For Three

Last week saw the third anniversary of my ‘medical discharge’ from my 12 year sea going career and the start of my adjustment to life as a land lover. I feel like I have changed a lot over the course of the last three years as I have tried to learn more about myself and how my brain works.

The first part of this was figuring out I was autistic, before going on to be formally diagnosed which I have written about in previous posts, though the debate regarding which of my behaviours I can blame on being autistic and which are down to my frequent bad decisions continues.

Since then, it has occurred to me that having strategies to cope with stress would be helpful to lessen potential meltdown situations, sleep better and just be a better person. This time last year I got a telephone assessment with talking therapies, it took me weeks to pluck up the courage and I was surprised by how quickly they got back to me with an appointment once I finally asked (only a few days). However, in those few days, lockdown was announced, I lost my job and as a result had to move house. Basically, I was too stressed to complete the stress prevention course.

Over the last year I (like everyone else) have had a lot of spare time, so I have undertaken a lot of free online courses (sometimes three a week), these have included:

  • Big Data and the Environment
  • An Introduction to Children’s Visual Culture
  • How To Read a Novel
  • The Tudors
  • Fashion In A Changing World
  • Content Management

Looking back over the eclectic list of completed courses on my account, I am struck by how I have forgotten most of them. One I recently signed up to was Mindfulness. This is a term I have never previously understood but I learned from the course it is a series of techniques to better connect to our surroundings. After week one, I discovered it is a lot of sitting quietly and breathing. While I am sure it is great for many people, I realised I am quite happy not knowing what is going on around me. It seems like the more aware of my surroundings I am, the more there is to be stressed about so perhaps that for me, ignorance is bliss.

What has been more useful has been learning about CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). This is a way of becoming aware of negative thoughts so they can be dealt with. It doesn’t stop the thoughts from appearing, but it stops them becoming overwhelming. An example would be somebody with arachnophobia. Doing CBT would not stop them hating spiders but would let them get on with their day rather than quivering in a corner.

For me, I want to use it to sleep better. I have spent many midnight hours getting annoyed about minor incidents that happened twenty or thirty years ago. CBT is showing me that I need to recognise that it is not useful to keep going over all these things everyone else has forgotten. So when something pops into my mind at 3am, I must find something else to focus on so the destructive thoughts don’t ruin my whole night.

Of course, it is taking quite a lot of practice but I feel it is starting to work, I am sleeping better and it is now rare for me to have a terrible night of sleep. Although is that because of the CBT or is that because my life is currently relatively stress free? Also, it is true to say that I might be doing it completely wrong. After all, I haven’t formally done any CBT, I just read about it on the internet…

Let’s see how that goes…

The Big Day

As I write this, tomorrow is set to be a big day. The Prime Minister is due to announce the plans for England to leave lockdown and we will all find out what our futures hold. This will be broadcast live on TV and judging by previous announcements, he will be surrounded by flags (perhaps it will be fun to guess how many) and sat at a small desk which has the draws facing the camera (rather than the person using the desk) meaning it is back to front.

How does he get things out of the draws from there?

               It is likely the opposition parties will say that whatever is announced will be ‘too little, too late’, which seems to be their default position and then there will be a long stream of people asking ‘why if you can do this thing, why can’t you do that thing’ for which there will be no answer. Judging on previous experience, it will be weeks until the guidance is produced meaning that whatever is announced will be unclear. Some people will say the reopening is too fast, others will say it isn’t fast enough and we will get endless news footage of people outside shops being asked their opinion while wearing masks incorrectly.

               Even though, it is no longer a novelty, I am still very distracted by what is behind the scientists being interviewed from their houses. It is now very rare for children or pets to get involved and bookcases are becoming less popular too. My current favourite is a scientist from the University of Liverpool who has a hobby horse in the background. I imagine him running around and asking for sugar lumps between interviews.

A hobby horse spotted in the office

To be honest, I have no idea what I would choose for my background, probably a blank wall would be safest, although it seems a longshot that any journalist would be asking me what my opinions are regarding virology (or anything else).

What would be nice, is if the announcement made some kind of sense and won’t need days of clarification but if sitting on the correct side of a desk proves challenging, perhaps we shouldn’t be too hopeful.

Technophobia

               According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a technophobe is a person who fears, dislikes, or avoids new technology and so this means I am a technophobe. I have written before about my reluctance to try any new piece of equipment, mainly because everything I have, I can work and I am fine with that.

               My opinion on this is starting to change. I am beginning to understand that technology is designed to be easy to use and it wouldn’t be popular if it was difficult. So technophobia is a choice. It is not that I can’t work new things, it is simply that I don’t want to.

               The pandemic has forced me (like many people) to adapt. I can now successfully operate You Tube, I have downloaded (though admittedly, hardly touched) Spotify and I finally understand why everyone uses chip and pin rather than carrying lots of coins. There is a great satisfaction in ‘conquering’ a new piece of tech, even if the rest of the world has been using it for years.

So much to learn…

It has become obvious to me that my life would be better if I didn’t keep using paper maps and out of date bus timetables, printing out paperwork or just hoping nothing has changed since I left the house. So this week, I took a major step forward when, for the first time in over a decade, I decided to order a new mobile phone.

As there are no shops open I can avoid the problem of a shop assistant having to explain things to me like I have been in a coma since Queen Victoria’s time. Instead, Amazon will have to do. I typed phone into the search and I was informed there were ‘over 60,000’. Why the number was so vague is a side issue. I have no idea what makes a good phone and so I settled on one that fitted my price range and had a high number of stars from other reviewers. It was the OPPO A5 2020 Snapdragon 665 5000 mAh Dual Sim 12 MP Ultra Wide Quad’. There is pretty much nothing in this description that I understand. Neither have I any idea about what I will do with the ‘internal gyroscope’ or why it matters that ‘It combines Frame Boost and Touch Boost’.

I decided not to pay the extra £4.99 for the next day delivery but it arrived the next day anyway. Because my old phone is a museum piece surely worthy of display next to plastic cups connected with string, I had to order a new SIM card. I learned this from a website as none of the words in ‘OPPO A5 2020 Snapdragon 665 5000 mAh Dual Sim 12 MP Ultra Wide Quad’ translate in English as ‘manual included’.

Automated phone services are always a nightmare and I learned a while ago that the best way to navigate the robot voiced menus is to repeatedly press numbers that are not one of the options. Eventually you get a human. Mine was called Owen. I don’t know why this was important, but he told me three times. I was ready with a ruler to measure the slot to work out what size I needed but as everyone (except me) knows, new SIM cards are all the same size.

What do these things all do?

“The best way to get a new SIM is from one of our authorised retailers” Owen informed me.

             “Do phone shops count as essential retail” I asked, knowing that they didn’t and as such, were all shut. Owen paused.

             “Well, as a special treat, I can send one out to you free of charge, saving you £1.50” came his reply. I very much enjoy that for Owen a £1.50 SIM card counts as a special treat.

             While I wait for this, I have managed to install the updates, download a couple of apps and correctly attach the case. Weirdly, getting the case on was the hardest of those tasks.

             I am still not caught up yet on all this technology though, I have never used a TV streaming service or taken a photo with anything other than a camera while the point of posting anything on social media hasn’t really become clear to me. But these are things for another day, I am still figuring out what to do with my internal gyroscope.

Rolling Out The Red Carpet

I once heard a theory that the Queen must think everything smells like paint as everywhere she goes has been recently refurbished in anticipation of her arrival. The same must be true for company executives. Nothing puts the fear in a branch manager more than a notification that somebody important ‘from corporate’ is on their way.

               The run up to the big visit sees an extraordinary set of events take place. Absolutely everything in the building is purged, if it is untidy, it is gone. Waste paper bins vanish, useful notices are binned and large amounts of money is spent on new furnishings. The poor maintenance team need to work about 17 hours a day putting up new flatpack cupboards, painting walls and examining historic paperwork. Obscure stockrooms and outbuildings become urgent priorities and rotas are altered so the more ‘problematic’ staff members are absent. Then come the flagged emails telling the whole building there is a chance they will be questioned by the VIPs on a previously unknown procedure we are supposed to be following.

Panic spreads….

Of course, what actually happens is nothing of the sort. The visits are usually brief and unremarkable. The CEO never seems to run their finger over the newly dusted curtain rail, the Chairperson doesn’t look behind the door of the third floor supply cupboard and for all the training urgently undertaken, the Chief Operating Officer fails to ask the new recruit from logistics what point seven of the customer service excellence scheme is. The reason for all this, is that generally speaking, they don’t care. They are here to see the manager and have no interest regarding the dates of the memos on the noticeboard.

               I was put through the trauma of one of these visits recently. I knew something was up by the number of fresh flowers that suddenly appeared. Then a van arrived full of boxes, the curtains were taken to the dry cleaners and the unfortunate deputy was tasked with looking over everything to make sure the old logo was nowhere to be seen.

For them, it a nice day out…

The day before the visit, our manager discovered that the big day was only a couple of weeks before the CEO’s birthday so this would be a great opportunity for a surprise party. A chef was hired to cook a special meal, a cake was ordered and the already overworked secretary was sent round to gather everyone’s signature in an oversized birthday card. We were all summoned to sing happy birthday and pose for photos on their arrival. However, it transpired that the branch visited prior to ours had the same idea so all our visitors arrived full of cake and couldn’t eat a thing.

               Over the following few days the waste paper bins reappeared, we were allowed to unlock the messy (but useful) cupboards and everyone could go back to having ‘personal items’ on their desks.

               I am sure that company executives must realise how much chaos their visits must cause and question why all their premises have a waft of varnish in the air. One day, when I am actually allowed to talk to one of these executives, I might subtly suggest that video conferencing would be a good option rather than a site visit. On the other hand, I might just carry on hiding out of the way until it is all over.

Compulsory Training

There are many things to learn upon starting a new job.

  • The names of the other people in the office
  • What all the acronyms mean
  • Which is the toilet nobody uses and what the reason for this is
  • How strict people are regarding breaks
  • Who is that person, who has been there for decades and can’t deal with even the smallest change while talking about how ‘social’ it used to be here.

However, alongside this, in the current era of lawyers, a whole new set of obstacles are put in our way. Compulsory training that has to be completed the moment somebody passes through the door, yet will not actually be arranged for months until just before the auditors are due. Fire prevention, manual handling, first aid, data protection, health & safety are inevitable among the list of torture.

This looks thrilling…

Of course, these things are important but the focus is often on making sure the company is ‘in compliance’ regarding the myriad of government regulations rather than any benefit to the employee. The training will need completing no matter how relevant it is to the position held within the company. It is unlikely that anyone would be bribing a cleaner with trips to Silverstone but if that cleaner works in big business the anti-bribery training will need to be taken. When working with the cruise ships, I was ordered to spend a whole day on sluice pump training in case I accidently dumped sewage in the ocean half way through the bingo, even though I had no need to know what a sluice pump actually was nor where to find it.

               Larger companies may have a designated training provider, a poor soul with whom nobody makes eye contact and spends their time telling people that ‘it is a company requirement’ that they learn about the Manual Handling Operations Regulation Act of 1992 even though they are a phone operator. They will tell you it will be brief yet drone on for hours and will accompany the presentation with a series of information videos from the late 1980s that will take ages to find on their computer and will be too dark/quiet.

Check if it will let you complete more than one course at the same time.

Other times it is undertaken online. This is far more preferable. There is usually a test at the end with a pass rate needed of about 80%. Based on my experience, here are a few tips.

  1. There is no need to read the information. It is likely to be very straight forward and you will save about two hours by skipping to the end.
  2. TILE stands for Task, Individual, Load, Environment. For some reason, this is always a question in computerised training.
  3. Be careful, sometimes it records how long the course has taken to complete, so don’t go too fast. Open the page, then go and watch TV for a bit, come back later.
  4. Read the questions carefully, how many answers are they looking for? Don’t forget, you can always Google it.
  5. The emergency assembly point will be on the far side of the car park (it is always there).
  6. When the test is over and you get your congratulations screen, print it out. The last thing you need is for the connection to fail and have to do the whole thing again.

Then just when you think it is all done, somebody with a spreadsheet informs you that it has expired and will need doing again. Just remember, far side of the car park.

Just A Slight Scratch

               When I applied to run a schedule of crafts, quizzes and bingo at a local care home for the elderly, I hadn’t realised this would qualify me as an ‘essential worker’. Surely, this is people the country can’t do without like police officers, nurses or teachers not bingo callers. However, upon enquiring, I was informed that my role is vital for mental wellbeing so I am in the club. Incidentally, I was amused during a recent government press conference when a scientist advised against ‘going with reckless abandon to places like bingo halls’. It seems telling that, for him, bingo counts as reckless abandon.

               At the end of last week, I got an email saying my ‘special status’ qualifies me for my first Pfizer vaccination against covid and I was to book an appointment. The odd thing about this is that the residents at the care home are yet to receive this privilege and the vaccine does not prevent us transmitting to them. So much for protecting the most vulnerable.

               The second slightly odd thing is that despite having a vaccination centre a ten minute walk from home, I was being sent 17 miles away to the other side of the county. The 7:30pm appointment time wasn’t great either. I phoned up to ask but was politely told it is ‘not possible’ for the booking to be altered. Oh well, I thought, I shouldn’t complain too much, I realise I am in a privileged position getting the vaccination months ahead of others in my age group.

               I was surprisingly calm about the vaccination itself. There are many people who are very hesitant, and I work with (at least) three health workers who are declining the offer due to a variety of conspiracy theories but none of that interests me. However, I don’t have a great history with medical stuff. At school, I would predictably faint when medical procedures were discussed, it became a running joke. Even today, I can’t get through a first aid course without becoming a casualty. I get clammy, lightheaded and then make my escape at the very mention of counting chest compressions or the Heimlich manoeuvre but this didn’t really bother me.

Such a lovely night….

As I don’t drive, I took a taxi on the 17 mile journey in the dark through driving rain and puddles deep enough to take a bath in. Was that wise? I guess the taxi driver was just glad of the business.

               My email told me to follow the signs towards ‘coarse fishing’ which made me think it was nice of them to sort out the foul-mouthed fishermen from the more family friendly variety. The vaccination centre was round the back and upon my arrival was in full swing. It was an impressive operation, eight rooms each of four people, changing round every ten minutes. I had to bring my appointment letter and some photo ID but neither was looked at, perhaps because it was 7:30pm and a heavily tattooed bodybuilder in a tight t-shirt/face mask combo appeared in front of me with a laptop asking me to confirm my address. It was somewhere I hadn’t lived for years but he said that wasn’t important.

               “How are you with needles” he asked.

               “They are not my favourite” I replied. Mr muscles reacted like this was the most hysterical thing he had ever heard but thankfully, the procedure itself was painless and no ambulance was required.

Just a slight scratch

               On my departure I was presented with an appointment card for 11 weeks time. Clearly a meeting was held, some people thought it should be ten weeks, others twelve and a compromise was arrived at. At this point, my ID was examined. Perhaps a little too late.

               The journey back was even more ‘exciting’ as the pounding rain turned into thick snow. I closed my eyes and turned the music on my headphones up louder. Due to the ongoing lockdown a medical appointment in a blizzard was my first night out in weeks and the first time I left my town in months. I wonder if the next time will be in April for my follow-up dose? Either way, it is done now and I can’t help feeling like I am one tiny step closer to getting back to normal.