Time Passes, Things Change

28 August 2020

Whilst walking along a corridor at the Care Home here one day, I saw a few Carers all standing at the doorway to an inmates room. It made me wonder just what the collective noun for such a group of Carers might be. A Cluster, perhaps? No, not likely, that would be too easy! A Conglomerate of Carers? The jury is still out on that one…

Meanwhile, a Facebook friend tells me a man has been injured at a teddy bears picnic. He’s ok, but he’s not out of the woods yet… I told him, no big surprise there, then!

(Yes, I can hear you all sighing from here – it wasn’t that bad a joke, surely!?!?!)

Anyway, back to reality. I was chatting to a Carer and saying how quickly time now seems to pass as we get older. As a child, I soon learned to occupy my time with a lot of reading, as well as making stick-together kits like Airfix models – I really enjoyed those. To begin with I was putting together small aircraft, but I then went on to making the bigger items like old sailing ships, using black cotton to imitate the rigging. Once done, those took pride of place on a shelf! Making all these was good therapy for my weak right hand – I guess it also kept me quiet and out of any trouble!

As I got older I carried on reading, finding certain authors whose style I enjoyed. Of course I was also going out with friends, I was singing in a couple of choirs, I found I enjoyed ten-pin bowling (sadly that place was closed down), but still the time flew by. At one point changes at work meant I had to think quickly as we were told that computers were to be introduced! With my weak right hand I couldn’t type, but my father kindly let me have the use of his typewriter so that I could at least learn the  layout of a keyboard. That way I could type fairly well with my left hand, as I was not searching for the letters all the time! I found it helped a great deal.

Then in 1981 I saw a small computer in a shop, it was a Sinclair ZX81 but unlike the computers we have nowadays, this had no ‘permanent’ storage capability for any programs or personal data. All it had was an operating system. The programs had to be either typed in manually each time the computer was used, or they could be loaded in using sounds stored on a tape via a cassette recorder. The sequence of sounds were recognised by the computer and cleverly converted into a program. The output volume from the cassette recorder had to be set exactly right, too! I used to buy a few computer magazines where programs had been printed and I spent absolutely hours copying the computer code into the computer. Except sometimes there would be a mistake on the printed page and the program would not work – it was extremely frustrating, especially when the error was corrected (with an apology!) in the next edition of the magazine.

The ZX81 had a memory capacity of one kilobyte, or 1,024 bytes. Each ‘byte’ then equated to a single character, which was a letter or a number, a comma, full stop, a space even, so that was not much. There was an extra 16k RAM (Random Access Memory) pack that could be plugged in to the rear of the computer, but that wasn’t ideal as moving or knocking it even a little bit was enough to lose a connection, so that the computer had to be restarted, the tape wound back and the loading process begun all over again! Oh yes, and the computer didn’t have a screen – to view and run the programs, a small black and white tv was needed.

Happily the following year a much better computer came along, this was a Sinclair Spectrum. It had a colour display rather than black & white, although a separate tv still had to be used. My ZX Spectrum had 48k (49,152 bytes) of RAM memory, but just as with the ZX81, as soon as it was turned off all the programs were lost and they had to be loaded back in when the computer was switched on again. I was delighted when Sinclair Computers were taken over by Amstrad, who made a Sinclair 128 with 128k of memory. I’ll let you work out how many bytes that was! It also had a disk drive and this meant all programs and data could be stored and reloaded much more quickly. But this was still before the days of CD’s, DVD’s or any kind of storage on the computer itself.

In 1993 I bought a modern computer with a monitor, keyboard & mouse which had a huge amount of memory compared to the Spectrum 128. It had four megabytes of RAM memory as well as in-built storage for both programs and data, which was retained even when the computer was turned off! Ever since then I’ve continued to enjoy using a range of computers, I’ve learned a basic computer language, but as with most things, the more I learn the more I find there is to learn. Actually I shouldn’t have written the computer language name as basic, as it is actually BASIC – Beginners All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code! My computers to this point were using an operating system made by Microsoft which they called ‘Windows’. Later on I had to learn about computers made by Apple and they have a slightly different operating system but it is easy to get used to.

Nowadays the latest computers have a really massive amount of storage space, gigabytes and even terabytes! For more detail on this, have a look at the Data Measurement Chart at: http://www.wu.ece.ufl.edu/links/dataRate/DataMeasurementChart.html

Technology has changed, there are clever people out there, but what I find so very entertaining are the people who come along with what they think are new ideas, but quite often they are in fact the same ideas as we had when we were younger. I am reminded of a fun item in an old radio series done by the late, great Douglas Adams, called ‘The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy’, where a group of people from another planet were inventing the wheel. Before getting it into production they were having a bit of trouble agreeing quite what colour it should be! There are times when the simplest of things can be made to be unnecessarily complicated.

Time passes, the world turns, many things change but many things remain the same. We are presently dealing with Covid-19, so I wonder what our lives will be like in, say, one years time!?!? I’ll let you know, please watch this space….

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This Web Page

21 August 2020

I have been asked “Why is this web page so named?” You may have seen in the Introduction at the very bottom of this page I explain the origins of the name ‘Diary of an Inmate’. But the web page name? That’s different. It goes back to 1979, when a singer called Judi Tzuke released a song called ‘Welcome To The Cruise’. I liked the song.

Much later, in 2010, I had a heart attack. I had to have regular check-ups, but I was doing well so when I reached sixty years of age in 2013, I treated myself to a proper holiday, something I’d not had for quite a while. Now, when I say a ‘proper’ holiday, it was the like of which I’d never had before! I’d managed two weeks in Portugal a couple of times, I’d also been to the USA twice, but for no more than two weeks maximum.

So when I phoned my dear Mum to tell her I was going to be on holiday for a while, it came as something of a surprise to her when I said I’d be away for three months, because I was going on a round the world cruise! I agreed to send her details of the 99-day journey and I thought I could also write a daily diary. I’m sure you can guess what title I decided to give that!

As it turned out, I did send over the details of each days journey to Mum and these details were well received, as she shared them with the other inmates of the Care Home she was in at the time. I learned a while later that they used to talk about all the places I visited, it gave the folks there something very different to chat about. I’d never considered that. But I didn’t do a full diary each day, as many of them were spent simply travelling at sea and there was little to report on. I also enjoyed having a proper break, doing as much or as little as I wanted to do each day. It was a real holiday. But I kept the web page and decided to use it for this, my journey as I cruise through my life as it is now!

Interestingly the journeys are surprisingly similar as I am having excellent meals, I’m being well looked after, meeting all sorts of different people, the temperatures vary, there’s rain and sun and I get to have a walk round as much or as little as I can or wish to do. The view from my window doesn’t change, there’s green grass rather than blue sea outside and the building doesn’t move like a ship does – that took a bit of getting used to when I was back on dry land again, as after 99 days at sea I was very used to the ship moving around!

As a result, when I came up with the idea of writing this blog, I thought here we go then – ‘Welcome to the Cruise!’.

I cannot leave this weeks writing without sharing the tale of what happened to me one evening this week. My supper arrived as usual, it consisted of a mug of tea along with a plate of bread & jam, also a packet of crisps. The usual night-time snack. But the packet of crisps had been placed on top of the bread & jam, so one side of the packet now had jam all over it! My weak right hand made it difficult for me to hold the packet and clean it with a paper towel, so I pointed the problem out to one of the carers, who kindly cleaned the packet for me. I thanked them, but to me it was the best way I knew to resolve the problem in a kindly way and at the same time highlight just how unthinking someone had been! Ah well, these things happen don’t they! The folks here have a great deal to do and it isn’t easy for them.

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Sunshine and Showers

14 August 2020

We know that on this lovely planet there are days of sunshine, of showers or a mixture of both. Occasionally we can get storms with thunder and lightning, though not everyone enjoys those as much as perhaps I do. I know of a dog in one Care Home who definitely doesn’t like them!

But come rain or shine, we get good days & nights along with some not so good ones. Over the years, first working for a large company and then running my own business, I learned that I really did need a better work/life balance. I also had to learn to slow down and realise that if I wasn’t here, the world would not end.

So a combination of age and poor health  meant that I retired. However, that retirement was not the beginning of the end, to me it was a whole new beginning! I began to learn to try and take better care of myself, so the other day after a lovely shower I was given a haircut as my hair was getting long again! The carer did a brilliant job and I felt so much better as a result. My thanks, you know who you are.

Our lives can be like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, except we don’t always know what the big picture will be until nearer the end! Some bits can be really boring at times, like fitting in bits of plain blue sky, but then the sun will appear and (literally!) shed light on the proceedings. Often we work with others, some can be a help whilst others a hindrance, insisting they know exactly how and where certain pieces should go. But that’s often to suit their big picture, not yours.

It sometimes feels like I’ve been working on several different jigsaw puzzles, but only now do I begin to realise that they are in fact all part of the same, big picture.

Now, I hope I’m not revealing any secrets here but I’ve discovered that where I am at the moment, they are looking to start a ‘Carer of the Month’ scheme. It sounds like a good idea, but I wonder what prize the winner will get! We shall see… Good luck and well done to all the staff as they do a difficult job very well here. I know the inmates (as I call them) may not all show their appreciation for what is done for them but the thanks is surely there and they would express it if they could. If not, they really ought to!

One of the reasons I say this is because downstairs in the dining room some days there are inmates calling out for a cup of tea, despite it being lunch time. Normally we get a choice of either blackcurrant juice or orange juice, but plain water is provided if asked for. However, one day an inmate tipped some of his soup into the jug of orange juice that was on his table. He thought it was funny, but naturally the staff were not amused! There are times when some of the inmates here truly are behaving like children.

Just as the days are a mixture of sunshine and showers, so must our lives be. It would surely be a boring, robotic life if every day and every thing was the same. I feel for some of the inmates here as they may not now see how things truly are, but they are alive and being well cared for. So many of us can look back on how things used to be, perhaps wish things had been different, but things happen the way they are meant to. I am a firm believer in that.

Many years ago I moved to a house near Chesterfield, even though my work was in Nottingham. This was a decent place and my fiancée approved so all was well! Later on when our marriage didn’t work out, I stayed in the house I’d bought (well my bank owned it really!) but that turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because although to begin with I was doing a good deal of travelling to and from work, most especially when work got me moved to Birmingham,  it made life easier when I got a job working back in Sheffield.

That led to me becoming a ‘trainer’, able to teach others in the firm. When work was moved, this time to Manchester, I was part of a team of trainers teaching others there all about the work they would do. Sadly some of the folk in Sheffield weren’t too happy, I think they thought I’d been brought in to assist in getting their jobs moved, but that wasn’t the case at all.

Happily a good friend told me about jobs with the same firm but in Leicester, where my training skills would be utilised. I was able to get a transfer there and later on these same skills enabled me to start up my own business, which I did for a few years.

Throughout all of this upheaval, moving to different places, coping with changes, all the time I had a mixture of good and not so good days, of sunshine and showers. In the next few days we are likely to get some thunderstorms here, but they will clear away, the rain will dry up and the sun brighten up the sky again. It will always be so, even though we may not see it that way sometimes! I have even suggested that I might try doing a ‘rain dance’, but that might not be quite so easy for me to do whilst I am holding on to a walking frame!

Sunshine and showers, grey skies and blue, life may not always be quite as we would wish it to be but we can, as I have said before, change things as necessary. I’ve had to move house, I have had to accept the things I can no longer do but I look upon these things as page turners, a new chapter each time in my own book of life. Perhaps we might all try our best to enjoy both the sunshine and the showers, as they can all be refreshing in their own way.

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07 August 2020

As humans we are not just a body, we are a mind too. Whilst not everyone may agree with me, I believe we also have a spirit within us. So when it comes to the question of healing, for our body we see a doctor or go to hospital to seek specialist help. Likewise if our mind is troubled we seek help from a trained specialist. The same is true for the spirit and we can seek help from spiritual healers.

Covid-19 is creating so much extra work in hospitals, but it is also having a knock-on effect in other places. Lockdown means no visits by relatives or friends to Care Homes, so patients and their families are suffering as a result. We are limited as to how close we are allowed to get to each other and for many that can be most frustrating.

Spiritual healing may be done in a few different ways and there are a number of therapies available nowadays. One which has been and continues to be good for me is a particular relaxation therapy called Arka Dhyana. It has been taught to me by Srinivas Arka, a man who is also well-known around the world as an author and philosopher.

Some healers use their own hands to heal those they are caring for, but Arka Dhyana uses a combination of ones own touch, sound and breath. The sound is a unique one and the breathing is done in such a way as to make the person more aware of it, as under normal circumstances our bodies breathe automatically. As with some other healing techniques it is known that there are certain energy centres in the body. In this technique, by simply touching these centres and making a particular, unique sound the healing is energised.

I will mention at this point that this has nothing to do with any religion, I have not altered in any way my belief or faith in God, nor have I been asked to do so at any time. What I have found is that this healing technique works for me and for a great many others around the world, in many different countries.

As a result of all this I am a much calmer person, learning to adapt to all of the changes that have occurred in the last few years and most notably those in the last few months! My body is getting healthier, my mind is clearer and I am now much more at peace spiritually.

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Life Changes

31 July 2020

There is a saying I like which is “Anything and everything is bound to change from one form to another at some time in the universe. Hence change is the only constant in the universe, besides the eternal universe itself.”

In the same way we are subject to change in one way or another as we grow, being affected as we are by everything around us and how we react to those changes. Sometimes we learn from these changes, though often it takes us time to do so. Sadly some never learn, doing the same things over and over again but expecting different results at some point. That does not occur!

What I have found over the years is to try and learn from my mistakes, to not repeat them (even though that can be difficult at times) and to make those changes, even if it means coping with quite big changes at times.

When I was much younger, attitudes by others towards me and my disabilities meant I had to act so that others did not notice them. For example, finding a different way of tying shoelaces – I found my own way of doing so because my right hand was (and still is) too weak to do the job the way others do. Happily I have found that over time more and more people seem to accept that whilst we may look similar, we are all different. I now find that I am generally treated in a far better way, but that may also be because I behave slightly differently now. I take the time to explain my disabilities and show how I try my best to cope, but equally how I accept there are some things I simply cannot do unaided.

Sadly there are some people I have met who have found it difficult to accept the changes it was necessary for them to make in order to survive. One lady I knew who had cancer almost demanded that the world should change to suit her. A man I knew who was a brilliant musician was advised to lose weight but did not do so, whilst another dear friend ignored the words she was given about changing her life. They were offered choices, given a chance to change their ways in this life but did not do so. As a result their lives on this earth ended earlier than they might otherwise have done.

Even now I am facing further changes in how and where I live, as I am unable to get out and about the way I used to. But what has sustained me in these difficult times, apart from my faith in God, is that I know these changes are what I need for the next chapter in my life. We cannot know in any definite way what tomorrow may bring, but by looking after ourselves, with proper food, with gentle exercise and appropriate relaxation we can not only be helping ourselves but also then be able to help others. There are many forms of exercise, many different foods and many different forms of relaxation. I have found what seems to suit me best, for example I do not eat red meat. I am learning to walk again and have been taught an excellent relaxation therapy which others also find to be of great benefit. As previously said, I shall write more about that later. Suffice it to say for now that for me, this has been a major contributor in coping with this particular life-changing experience.

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Relaxation Therapy

24 July 2020

Where I am at present, medication is usually supplied around the same time night and morning, but one night it was provided very late. I was concerned and I had to ask one of the carers about it, because it is important for me to get my treatment at regular intervals. It was sorted and I remained calm as I waited.

In this Care Home there are a variety of inmates with various difficulties. Some are more serious than others, but whatever their circumstance I try to treat everyone the same as far as I can, acknowledging their needs and difficulties. For example one lady wanted to sit in the gardens so she could smoke a cigarette, so I gave up my seat for her to use it. Anywhere else would have been quite difficult for her but for me it was easy to move. But then more folk were starting to smoke and with the Formula One motor race starting soon I went back inside and to my room, where I listened to the live radio commentary. I was tired afterwards but it was all really relaxing.

I was starting to feel much better and as a result started moving around more. Sadly it was a mistake, I was trying to do far too much too soon. In the early hours of the morning I woke up and had an epileptic fit, in my case a myoclonic seizure which only lasted a few seconds. I was conscious all the time and had no after-effects, but I had a restful day and told the nurse in the Care Home what had happened. I was fine afterwards, but it was a warning to me to not try and do too much too soon!

Some years ago I was likened by a friend to be as a swan, looking all calm above the water as I swam through life, but in the waters below my feet were paddling like crazy. At that time it was true, but I have learned to calm down and be at peace in myself. I have realised that when I am no longer in this world it will not stop as a result, life will go on and I must therefore make the most of whatever time I may in fact have.

About twenty years ago a friend told me about an author, teacher and philosopher named Srinivas Arka. I was invited to one of his talks and began learning about his method of relaxation therapy which he calls Arka Dhyana. I learned the basics of it and found it most useful. Over the years it has helped me stay calm in a variety of stressful situations, especially recently. It is something I shall write a bit more about. For me though it has shown how vital it is to be able to relax in body, mind and spirit.

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Lost and Found

17 July 2020

When I became ill, I was collected from my flat and taken to hospital. The clothes I had been wearing were removed, so all the time I was in hospital I just wore a nightgown.

I was moved to a Care Home, so a friend brought me some clothes from my home, but when it became time to move me to a different Care Home a while later all my personal items were put in plastic bags and taken to the ambulance. Except the bag containing absolutely all my clothes simply disappeared. So all I had to wear were the clothes I was wearing. As a result, a friend had to go out and buy new clothes for me, but with many shops shut as a result of Covid, that wasn’t easy. I complained and over the next few days some clothes were found, but each time none of them were mine. My own clothes were never found.

Care homes provide a laundry service and at the first one this worked well, but on being moved again I lost a few items. Where I am now the plan is for my clothes to be marked, probably with my name and perhaps my room number, so that problem will not occur again.

I had been taking regular medication since my first epileptic fit in 1973, so I was well used to taking tablets on time and ensuring I had regular stocks of all the items. When I was moved recently from one Care Home to another, I had a call from a close friend to say that the old Care Home still had some of my tablets at the old place. I was assured that sufficient tablet stocks were at the new place but I then was advised a few days later that this was not the case! The manager of this Care Home wasn’t happy but went and got tablets for me. It meant I took my morning doses late that day, at around 11:00am.

I was also advised that I could now leave the room and join the other inmates for my lunch, which I did. It was the furthest I had walked in over three months. During lunch I saw how dementia affects different folk. One lady clearly didn’t want to drink all of the juice she had been given, so carefully got a napkin, folded it and poured some of the juice she had been given into the napkin. I realised it gave the appearance that she had drunk more juice than she really had! I am sure the carers saw what she had done though.

Afterwards I sat in the tv lounge for an hour or so, then I returned to my room. I was a bit tired. As a result I had my tea in my room and rested as usual. Over the next few days I continued doing this, one day sitting in the gardens for a while. The sun was lovely and hot, I’d not been in the fresh air for such a long time. I was really weary at the end of each day but I slept well and was slowly feeling stronger.

I also had a chat with a nurse in the home about how I was coping mentally. Back in the hospital I was quite emotional at times but now I was feeling more settled with how my life was. I was chatting with a few people and having a laugh at things. For a while it seemed I had lost even myself, but I was back – I had found myself again.

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Our Caring Community

10 July 2020

I hadn’t been taking good care of myself for a little while, I’d been eating the wrong foods, mainly ‘instant’ microwave meals that didn’t provide a varied diet. I wasn’t exercising enough either, so as a result in March of this year I collapsed. Because my neighbours hadn’t seen or heard anything of me for a while, thankfully they entered my flat but found me collapsed on the floor.

I was rushed into Leicester Royal Infirmary where it was found I had major heart problems along with kidney failure and it was necessary for me to have electric shocks to get my heart rhythm back to normal. Once stabilised I was transferred to the General hospital, where I stayed for a while before being transferred to the Clarendon ward in the Evington Centre, Leicester. There I was found to have the Covid-19 virus and I was later moved to a specialist unit on Lutterworth Road. I was kept in isolation for quite some time but eventually moved to a Care Home in the Braunstone area of Leicester and after two weeks was found to be Covid negative. This meant I was moved again to another Care Home, this time not too far from Oadby where I am likely to stay  until a more permanent place can be found for me to live.

It is a challenge for me though, getting used to the other ‘inmates’ at this place because some have dementia, so are calling out for help or for their mother, etc. There is a fairly strict routine to be followed here, with most folk being put to bed around 9pm and woken in the mornings between 7 and 8am. I have made it clear that I am used to doing as much as I can for myself, thankfully all this has been accepted, but it is taking some getting used to.

For me, all these events have required more than a little acceptance to change in my life. What I have found though is that all the staff, (nurses, carers etc), that I’ve seen in the last few months have been caring and helpful, despite being under great pressure at times. They don’t always get things done as quickly as perhaps some might like, but things do get done.

I give grateful thanks to all those who have kept in touch with me at this difficult time – thank you, one and all! I am slowly regaining my strength and in time, when circumstances for me and in the outside world permit, I will rejoin the wider community. In the meantime, whilst being an inmate here and in solitary confinement (for a while yet, anyway!) I will continue doing what I can, providing further updates on events etc.

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10 July 2020

This isn’t about an ‘inmate’ as you might first think of the word. That word is usually associated with people in prison, but it reminded me of war films where folk can be kept in isolation and this feels to me like it is a war we are fighting. So this is the ongoing diary of me. I had to go into hospital for several weeks, then I was moved between a few different Care Homes where I was kept in isolation because of the Covid virus. Happily I was finally declared free of that. To begin with I was bed-bound and needed a great deal of care, but things are beginning to improve. Slowly.

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