Sunday, October 09, 2011


It's been a weird week; in that nothing much happened, but it was still far more stressful than I would have hoped for.

When I say nothing much happened, it did have a few things which have left me feeling like I have zero future. I know, that's a pretty doom-laden statement, but at the moment I don't see a great deal of optimism...

For starters, it appears that my awesomely bad back - which has been plaguing me now for almost a month - could have been another prolapsed disc; or to be more precise, the final collapse of the disc that slipped about a year ago. On or about the 7th October, 2010, I had a slipped or prolapsed disc in my spine - the one between L5 and L6, for those of you that understand the workings of the human spine better than others. It caused all manner of nerve damage and left me with a left leg that was a little like having a passenger that didn't belong to the rest of my body. Crucially, it meant that I ended up being off of work between October and the middle of January - the second long period of absence from work I'd had in two years. By the New Year, I was largely free of pain in my back, but the resulting sciatica made doing day-to-day things pretty much a chore. I had months where I struggled to put my own socks on; developed a way to put my boxers on that involved an old wire coat hanger and, it turns out a slightly irrational, fear of a repeat performance, which the specialist said was probably unlikely; 'You have as much chance of it happening again as any one else.'

By the time I got made redundant, I felt like I had my life back. I'd dispensed with the walking stick, which, heh heh, I might have used as a crutch and more importantly to me, not only did I regain control over my left leg, I actually felt healthier than I had for two years. It was a good time to be feeling fit and optimistic; I needed to find a new job.

Two weeks ago, I applied for a job in an organisation that knew me, was aware that I would have been an asset to them and I would have expected to have a better than a cat's chance in hell of getting it. However, I didn't even get an interview. I did get a letter from the CEO thanking me for the my (unsuccessful) application, which I thought was odd, places like this don't send out acknowledgements or unsuccessful letters unless you fail at the interview stage. Not even getting an interview for a job I was essentially doing for the last 18 months I was at YOT, and doing well, was a real kick in the teeth. It had more of a debilitating effect on me than all the physical woes I've suffered since 2009.

Then, while I was out, struggling to walk the dogs on Thursday, I got a message on my mobile answer phone. It was a former colleague from the days of my Intergenerational Project; she wanted to know if I fancied catching up for a coffee. Because I have no money and can't afford to use fuel needlessly or frivolously, travelling to the other side of the county for a chin wag was not going to happen. So when I got home I gave her a call. Nothing of note happened in the first few minutes of the call, until I mentioned that I'd possibly had another slipped disc and physically I was shot to fuck. Her response was muted; but then I mentioned the job I failed to get an interview for. She knew I had been for the job, because the girl who did the job I had applied for was known to both of us. In fact my friend had recently been to lunch with this girl - her opposite number - and my name had cropped up in the conversation.

After a wee bit of coercing, I heard something that bugged me even more than not getting an interview. Apparently, when I applied for the job, the CEO was quite excited about it. I wasn't a shoo-in for the job, but he had high hopes I might be. But, he had been talking to one of my former work colleagues - I don't know who - but is in a higher management position (which means it could be one of about 10 individuals) and the CEO discovered that I had accrued 187 days off sick since January 2009 and that seemed to sway his decision not to employ me...

Now, in all honesty, had I been selected for an interview at the moment, I would have hobbled into the meeting, because of my back and that would have probably tainted my chances even more; but it didn't get that far. Now, you could argue and suggest that this is disability discrimination and I should do something about it; but how can I prove it? And, more importantly, to be able to successfully sue for DD you need the support of your GP and I don't believe I have that.

Back in March, when I saw my GP for the last time, she was adamant that my 'problems' would subside; they were, after all, not arthritic in nature, but just general wear and tear. She did not feel that I was disabled in any way and wouldn't support any claims I considered making, for any benefits. I would not qualify for DLA, I was not incapacitated, I was not eligible for a parking pass from the council and there were a lot more people out there, worse off than me, who didn't have any support. In the best possible way, my doctor basically told me to just get on with my life, stop worrying about my aches and pains and, reading between the lines, stop bothering her. So I did and like I said, for a few months I got on with it. By the time I lost my job, you would have claimed that she was dead right. I had more mobility than I had for a couple of years and even if I was now unemployed, I had a lot of optimism about my job chances and my health. That obviously changed during September.

When my mate told me she had heard that the organisation weren't interested in me because I essentially posed to much of a risk; it brought back something my unemployment advisor commented on when she referred me to the DEA advisor when I last signed on. I'd had 187 days off sick in 26 months. Nearly 200 days out of nearly 500 working days; that's either pathetic or a cause for concern, depending on whether or not you accept I have a problem or just think I'm a malingerer. To be fair, I might have abused it a little towards the end of my job, but by that time my employer had virtually annexed me away from my colleagues and contracted job, so I could either be off sick and get paid for it, or go into work and be tucked away in my own little space, away from everyone else and forgotten about. The fact I spent the last five months at my job with absolutely nothing to do at all is a sorrowful indictment of my former employer's ability to do their jobs. But that is a story for another time. The point is, my advisor thought that my sickness record and my record of back, shoulder and joint problems indicated, to her, that I'm disabled, even if my own GP refused to acknowledge it.

I have an appointment to see my regular GP in about 10 days; the waiting list to see her is remarkable; I booked this appointment on the 29th September! I have to say that I don't expect my back to ease in the next ten days - I'm convinced that my disc has collapsed completely - when I rang the doctor's earlier in the week for a repeat prescription, the practice nurse said from the way I was describing it, I was probably right and if it got too bad I should see a locum. I don't see the point in seeing someone who isn't familiar with me; all he or she can do is give me more painkillers and I've been taking so many of these for the last three weeks, I think they're having a detrimental effect on my general health. So I will wait, in pain, until October 19 and then hope that I can garner some sympathy from my GP and possibly even the start of a solution to rid me of this now persistent problem once and for all. I also need to discuss the amount of time I'd had off of work before I was made redundant and the fact that had I not now been unemployed, I would have had at least the last three weeks off of work - five if you count the time between now and when I actually see her. This is not normal and I do not accept that it's just wear and tear! She can resist all she wants, but specifically my back, but also other joints in my body, is giving me horrendous gyp and I'm beginning to think that this is not something that most people have to suffer at my age. Yes, if I was in my 70s I could understand it, but I'm not even 50 yet.

It also doesn't hide the fact that I have an absolutely abysmal sickness record and that is probably the main reason why I feel I have zero future at the moment. Any prospective employer is going to find out about that and it surely can't be seen as anything other than negative. The irony is between October 1982 and December 2008, you could probably count the number of days off sick I had on two hands and one foot! It isn't like I've just suddenly developed a phobia about work; I used to really enjoy my job and have loved working in social care since I started doing it.

So we now have no money, the prospects are bleak and I'm scared that it's going to get a lot worse before it gets better.


Just to add insult to injury, this morning I cut the top of my thumb off with a sentient potato peeler. I would have beaten it to death with a rock, but my thumb was bleeding everywhere...


The weekend proved to be another nadir for England teams. The football team would be world beaters if matches lasted 44 minutes and the rugby team were not spurred on by copious amounts of booze, misbehaving and dwarf chucking. It ended up with me feeling as though Internationals are dying. The Premiership - be it football or rugby - now has a more important place in my and many others hearts and internationals now seem to be a hindrance and a waste of time. We're not very good, so why screw up the fitness or the clubs the players come from just to have all of our expectations pissed on by foreign players who are more up for it than we are?

I bleated on about this on the Sports Discuss ( blog I do with Roger (and now Mark) a while back and that was before I had to endure more childish Rooney antics, the failure to beat a side with less population than Iceland and saw the rugby team confirm my suspicions that the only winners in this World Cup are the Aviva Premiership teams without international players.

Former Man Utd and England arsehole Gary Neville says that England are not good enough to win Euro 2012 and that they lack mobility and invention. I'll go one step further and say they lack players of world class. Unlike the rugby team who should and undoubtedly will do better in the future, the football team has some stars, but they're either petulant wankers, injured or dead. The rest wouldn't even get into a Montenegrin team.

We might all be going to die, but it would be nice to head that way with the memory of England teams (other than cricket) that stand a hope in hell of making us all proud...


More TV bollocks...

Haven's season finale is during Christmas week, with a title called Silent Night, it obviously has some festive connection. What makes this worthy of my time to mention it is because the last episode undoubtedly took place in the middle of summer and it ended on a cliffhanger. The fact there's a 10 week gap between episodes 12 and 13 could mark the kiss of death for it for me. Part of me has this horrible feeling that episode 12 was the end of season cliffhanger and the one to be shown at Christmas will be like the lamentable Eureka and Warehouse 13 Christmas episodes, which were essentially nothing to do with the plot or the ongoing series and could quite easily be considered irrelevant.

The thing is, I don't really care. The fascination and disbelief has gone and all that's left is habit.

I've been immensely underwhelmed by the new season of TV shows, especially those from the USA. As I mentioned briefly last time, Ringer was shite; but some of the others have been equally disappointing. Secret Circle has been dumped by us; it's pretty bloody awful and hasn't got the bonkers charm of The Vampire Diaries, which seems to be morphing into a 21st century Buffy more and more every week - and that's no bad thing, really.

Terra Nova is expensive crap. Where the expense is, I'd like to know, because so far the dinosaurs have been pretty sub-Jurassic Park fare and the story has been a mawkish and Waltons' like as that other dreadful Spielberg produced pile of dog doo-doo Falling Stars. I described it recently as 'Eureka with dinosaurs', but that's a truly horrendous insult to Eureka.

We've just started watching American Horror Story, which, hopefully, won't fall prey to the same fate as the superb American Gothic, because it's made by a cable channel and there tends to be a longer commitment to shows that aren't governed by the Nielsen Ratings. However, is it any good? Well, on the evidence so far it's trying to be the new Twin Peaks and failing miserably. Yes, it's intriguing, but so much weirdness in the pilot episode seemed to do nothing for the characters' development and only the daughter - Taissa Farmiga - came out of it with any credibility. Dylan McDermott spends most of the show with his arse on show and his wife is about as attractive as a Black & Decker Workmate. I'll reserve judgement on it for the time being, but I think it might need a story to go with all the mystery.

Fringe needed a kick up the arse and it took most of three episodes to do it. The series so far has been substandard and has 'felt' wrong. The climax of the 3rd episode gives me hope that we might start getting back on track. The end of that episode offered the chance for a 'game changer back' scenario and a subsequent confrontation with the mysterious Watchers.

Dexter's back and it was business not quite as usual and utterly brilliant. I love this show. This time around, I think the show is going to look at religion as the root of all evil.

There are three other programmes due to premier in the coming weeks. Grimm and Once Upon a Time are both shows about fairy tales in reality and odds suggest that at least one of them should be worth watching. The other is Awake, the new Jason Isaacs show about a man living in three realities - one where his wife and son died in a car crash and the others where only one of them dies. The premise is great, whether it proves to be any good is another thing.

I watch too much TV...

However, I did watch Green Lantern last night and I thought it was better than critics suggested. The director did the comic justice; it wasn't changed drastically from the original concept and I can totally understand why it bombed at the box office - just don't ask me to tell you why.


My latest musical discovery is Zola Jesus. She is like a cross between Elizabeth Fraser (of the Cocteau Twins) and Siouxsie Sioux of the Banshees. She is also American, but don't let that deter you.


Was talking to a mate of mine last week who said that his wife had started buying on sustainable fish, which meant she was no longer buying cod or haddock from her local fish counter. I said this was admirable of both of them and he wrinkled his nose and said, "She's buying coley. It looks like cod and has absolutely no flavour at all. It's bloody awful stuff."



  1. Hey Phil,

    Sorry to hear about your back woes. Listen, if you need stronger painkillers, then maybe you should get in touch with your locum/G Doc. Assuming you're not on a whopping great dose of opiates, they might be able to augment your current medication with different types of painkillers. The locum will have access to your medical notes, and L5/S1 disk prolapses are pretty common, and so it shouldn't take too much explaining.

    Anyway, not meaning to nag; followed your link here from the comicbook blog, and I'm really enjoying the gossip about CI, a publication I used to love in the nineties.

    Hope you feel better.

  2. Thanks for that :) I'm seeing my GP in a week; I have just about enough drugs to see me through and I have some zomorph (from a friend with a pancreatic disorder and he's on morphine) that takes the major pain away but makes me feel like I have the flu - but I'd rather have the flu than a bad back... Groan - it's giving me gyp tonight :(
    Glad you're enjoying the Diaries. Thanks for all the links on your page as well - much appreciated.
    I was wondering, were you just a CI reader or might I have met you along the way?

  3. Oh and rather than bore people to death with another review of shit telly... Terra Nova #4 does nothing to change my mind about what an abysmal waste of time, money and resources it is. #4 was almost so bad, so signposted and so pathetically poor that I am not going to waste another 42 minutes of my life on it! You all shouldn't either :)

  4. Hi Phil,

    I don't think we ever met-- the closest I got to the CI crowd was meeting Rich Johnson a couple of times in Glasgow in the mid-90s (and that's a long time before he became the L'enfant terrible that he is today).

    No worries about linking to your blog; I can't promise heaps of traffic, as I just use mines as a way to kill a few hours here and there. Oh, if you really wanted medical attention fast, tell 'em that you're getting pain and numbness in both legs and you haven't peed for the last twenty four hours. See how fast they jump ;-)