So, as the world has gone completely mad, I’ve not had time to talk about Stanmore.


First – it was a long day. Left here at nine, got home at 23.00 and didn’t get to eat in that time.


The physios were lovely (Physio H, hips, and Physio T, shoulders) and have started me off with a simple shoulder exercise; Lie on back with arm out sideways at shoulder height and forearm bent at ninety degrees. Rotate arm so that forearm travels from pointing towards your head to pointing towards feet, without using pecs or lats – The consensus is that I have basically no stabilising muscles in my rotator cuff, and my pecs and lats and other shoulder muscles (all frankly huge) are doing the work. As H put it “You’re lifting your arm, and activating a muscle that’s meant to pull the arm downwards. That means that the ‘arm’ that you’re lifting weighs probably about twice as much as your real arm”.


H opened the session with talking about swimming, and really wants to focus on getting that fitness to carry across to landlocked exercise as well. Like, serious emphasis on doing dryside training in between swimming sessions and using that to get me back up to strength. T, having a good close-read of my actual shoulders and back (Actually looking at and touching, not just vaguely gesturing! She reminds me of Physio C, my benchmark against which all other physios are compared) agreed with Dr Hd from the last Stanmore consultation that I have the muscle pattern of a serious competitive swimmer, right down to slightly shifted and split insertions and heads from a land mammal. She also made me blush by grabbing a handful of lat and going “ooh that’s just lovely to see isn’t it H? Real muscles, and all easy to get at, nothing in the way…” Very much in a professional tone, as one would evaluate carcase quality in beef cattle, but I am easily flattered.


The bad news – They think that I would benefit from inpatient, even if I do just stick my headphones on, or nip off to the pool for a session during the basic or counterproductive stuff. I worry that given a torrent of lies-to-children level information about pacing or prognosis, I’d cause disruption. not even deliberately, just by asking questions.


Anyway, step one is to return for more outpatient on the 15th of December, nine days after my bike test. Oh, did I mention we have no central heating, and haven’t had for… Over a month now. Ow. And it’s snowing.


Ah well, off for that swim. Got to keep on impressing the physios.


Another major win – If I can manage a win per week, I will be happy – was discovering the local naturist swim.

I’d intended to go back in November, where instead I broke my leg, and then had somehow been busy every time the session was on since.

Signing up was a bit like joining the Masons, or something – Not meant to say exactly when it is, or where, and specifically not meant to say who was there. Arriving, I said “One to swim, please!” and got the guilty-sounding reply of “The normal swim, or…”

I quickly confirmed that I did mean the naturist swim, and suddenly everyone was all smiles and welcome – I was led through to the poolside, introduced to everyone with a broad arm gesture, then generally got to swimming.

As ever, I was the fastest person in the water, and one of the youngest (Though there was a handful who were definitely younger than me, or about the same age), and it was generally lovely to feel warm water, and steam, and to be around other people for a short and defined period of time, having light-hearted, basically meaningless conversation. Everyone was slightly over-keen to engage in conversation, but they avoided the usual topics (Crippledom, tattoos) and instead I discovered that a huge number of the local naturists are also bikers (I knew that there was a big naturist-biker overlap, but it’d hadn’t occurred to me what that would mean in practise). Which was a delightful realisation. My complete inability to remember names means that all the bikers are now stored in my memory by their scoots, and all the non-bikers are stored by vaguely where they live. I’m sure I’ll get people’s names eventually, and they seem like generally the type of people that would forgive me for forgetting. I ended up nicknamed within about ten minutes of meeting him by an old gent who looked like a second world war flying ace, and was generally accepted by everyone there basically immediately.

It is basically true that, absent social clues like clothes, we all start being much nicer to each other. Or possibly just that the kind of people who go to naturist events are more prone to be nice to each other in the first place. I was (slightly awkwardly) hugged by a woman who was probably about my age, and who swapped numbers with me and who immediately wanted to be friends. I must admit, I was about as gleeful – We’d both admitted to not seeing people very often, being not-far-off-housebound, and generally finding it difficult to get into conversations. It was refreshing to have this just be “another fact” rather than a point of shame.

The bath itself is one of the late Victorian ones, with the massive skylight, wrought-iron galleries, and plumes of warm steam in the air, making the swim itself look a bit like an odd re-enactment of Jean-Léon Gérôme’s Harem Bath painting, complete with people showering in the background, small groups sitting chatting with their feet in the water, and (sadly) one person limping around in the foreground, being held up by one of their fellows, in this case with a dislocated hip. It took about ten minutes in the steam room to heat it up and put it back together, but other than that it was just a lovely evening out.

Definitely going back next time. It’s a short, pleasant ride away from home, at a convenient time, and with nice people. Plus, it’s exercise – After three months of no-swimming after three years of swimming at least three nights a week, I am feeling floppy and useless. Hopefully this will make me more mobile and fitter again, as well as giving me a designated time to go out, forcing me to interact with other humans, and getting me some very simple regular bike time.

All good. Hopefully, it’ll stay good.

The best of intentions.

Today was overall a win. I went out to the charity shops, which I now plan to do once a week as a leg-stretch and an attempt to do some weight-bearing exercise.

An armful of purchases:

– One big lump of hammer-broken red-brown-orange-purple cullet glass, that’s about the shape and size of a lung, which reminds me of a similar lump of glass which my great-aunt used to keep for luck at the bingo. Hers was green, and we have no idea where it is now, other than that I hope it’s still in the family. I’ll photograph the one that I have, and ask my Mam if she remembers it.
– One silver candlestick, to add to the slightly Victorian feel of my living room and also because candlelight is incredibly relaxing when in pain.
-One crystal ship’s decanter, to add to the collection (or I may yet give it away as a present).
– One massive industrial weaving shuttle, for keeping my medication in – Sadly I couldn’t afford to buy the second one, which had artificial flowers glued into it and was a proper bit of Yorkshire folk art.
– One cheap denim jacket, on which to sew my NABD patches and assorted others.
– One turned brass goblet, which looks like it fits into the category of “Things that someone made whilst working in manufacturing, when they should have been making something else” which is my favourite category of things (Probably because much of my grandparents’ house when I was little was furnished with woodwork and metalwork that my grandfather and great-grandfather had made when they worked in the shipyards)
– One walking stick, with ice crampon.

All for less than about £15 total, and all of which will get good use.

But there was also a disaster – There is always a disaster.

At the hospice shop, just as I was about to leave – And after a lovely twenty-minute conversation about Northern glassworking and history and stuff – one of the staff cornered me.
“Have you had an operation?”
I wasn’t immediately uncomfortable about the question, but her body-language bothered me. She’d cornered me into the shop, between two aisles, so I couldn’t get out or away, or even turn aside.
“Ha,” I said “No, just unlucky.”
99.8 percent of the time, people understand that this means that I don’t want to talk about it.
“Oh, so are you weak then?”
I didn’t answer, I just sort of shrugged noncomittally and tried to step backwards. She stepped forwards, and asked again, a bit louder;
“Are you weak? Is it weakness? Or is it pain? Or do you get tired like?”

I realise now that I should have just said “I don’t want to talk about it”, but it’s very hard to say that when you’re trying to stay polite, and when your mental conversational options are either “The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” or “Fuck you and the goat you rode in on”.

“Dislocations.” I replied, then as her arm came out to pat me on the back, I added “I’m really fragile, I basically can’t be touched.”

So she took this as an invitation to hug me around the shoulders, as tightly as she could.

Both shoulders, one of which was already pretty stressed from holding me upright on the stick, and the other which was already under stress from having a heavy bag dangled off it, concertinaed inwards.

I let out a little scream, and crumpled towards the floor. She tried to pull me up by the arm, as I protested “No, no, please let go of me, I just need to get down to the floor. I’m a bit faint. I’ve got two dislocated shoulders.”

After a long few seconds, I was kneeling on the floor, clutching my useless arms and trying to remember how to inhale, and she was standing over me and apologising profusely.

“You’ve gone all red. I’m really sorry!”

And she really was really, really sorry. She obviously cared, and was worried that she’d hurt me, and was having to come to terms quite fast with the fact that she’d crippled someone who was barely upright in the first place.

I shrugged out of my leather jacket, and started popping my shoulders back into their processes. – Both clavicles were out of place, both glehohumerals were out of place. Nothing too complicated, just painful and taking a while to reset.

“Would you like a cup of tea? Or a hot chocolate? Or water?”

I wanted out, as fast as fucking possible, but I still had things to pay for and still had to get back in one piece.

“A glass of water, actually, that’d be good” I said, to get myself some space.

She went off to get one, and I continued re-setting my shoulders. The other assistant came over, bringing a stool for me to perch on, and said;

“Oh you know, we’re really sorry, she’ll not sleep tonight I bet. She didn’t mean any harm. I mean. She couldn’t have known. Can I help at all?”

I thought for a second, mulling over how she definitely could have known, if she’d listened for a second, and pragmatism overcame pride;

“Can you put a hand on the flat of my back here, and push as hard as you can?”

“Ooh, not too hard…” she said, obviously still knowing my condition better than I do, and gave a feeble press onto my scapula. I pushed back, raised my arm, and cracked my shoulder into place. She flinched a bit, then said “I’ve seen people faint with pain from a dislocation before. You must be very brave.”

I shrugged. I wanted to give my speech about how it’s not brave – How every time you say “You’re so brave!” to someone just for living with a disability, you’re basically saying “How aren’t you in an institution?” or “How aren’t you dead?” She started patting me on the shoulder. Repeated taps with a little circley-rub in the middle, basically the worst possible thing to do to a freshly-dislocated shoulder.

“Please, don’t. Be careful.” I said. She stood up and backed away;

“Ooooh, sorry. You know, it’s just instinct. Hard to not.”

Reallyy? Really person-who-met-me-two-seconds-ago, it’s hard for you to not keep bloody touching me?

The first assistant, the one that had started the whole debacle, came back, just as I said;

“Even my closest friends can’t just touch me without warning. We shake hands, carefully.”

Honestly, I didn’t think that it would have ever been something that I’d need to explain to strangers. I and my friends tend to hug in an extremely gentle, basically-rest-your-head-on-the-other’s-chest-or-shoulder-and-put-a-hand-on-their-waist kind of way, which is both tremendously rare (Why hug someone when it’s probably going to hurt?) and tremendously intimate (Again, if it’s that rare, of course it has emotional value).

She sat down opposite me, as the second assistant went back to the till, and said;

“So, have you been like this since you were a baby, then? It must be very hard.”

I shrugged.

“It’s not as bad as it sounds.”

“But have you always been like this? Since you were a baby?”

I think that the worst part is when people just repeat questions, when you don’t want to answer them. Where there is no reason for them to ask the question, and no reason for them to need to know the answer. Suddenly I wasn’t the interesting person that knew all about the local mills and the Sunderland glassmaking tradition, I was The Cripple. And people talk to The Cripple about Disability.

“It got worse when I was about twenty. But I’m doing fine. Cracking on.”

“So, can they do anything for you?”

That is the question that I wish could be stricken from the vocabulary of anyone. Sorry, you must reach at least Level Fifteen Friendship before you can force me to confront my prognosis of increasing pain and decreasing function until the bottom of the morphine bottle looks like a lovely destination for a really long one-way trip. Do not just casually ask a disabled person “if anything can be done”. The answer might well be “Well, surgery next year, and then I’ll be abled again,”, or it might be “Lots of medication and physio and hard work”, or “Actually I’m dying”.

Think about that one.

I answered, anyway;

“Painkillers, mostly.”

She looked sympathetic.

“It must be terrible.”

“It’s fine.” I insisted.

She patted me on the shoulder, giving it a good hard shake that re-dislocated it, and I doubled over in pain again. She started apologising, again. This time, evidently, it was at least a little bit amusing – After all, this ridiculous, completely unpredictable thing had happened twice now.

I popped the shoulder back into place, and took an enormous swig of morphine. First assistant tried to catch what was on the label.

“Well,” I insisted, standing up, “I’ve got to be off.”

She helped me into my jacket, and I let her, since that would probably give her some sense of absolution, and she held out a hand for me to very carefully shake.

I went on my way. Feeling like shit and in a lot of pain, and wondering why I was more worried that I’d traumatised two shop assistants than about the persistent, twitchy pain in my shoulders.

In better news – I got out on the bike yesterday, for the first time since the last time I went to the garage, and it was… To go to the garage and buy a mudguard. On the other hand, I now HAVE the mudguard, so I can hopefully ride up to the whittling workshop in the woods tomorrow (Delicious alliteration there). And the day before yesterday, Dearest joined the motorcycling fraternity, with his like being delivered next Wednesday. And he’s joined the NABD too. And our year bars for 2016 have arrived. It’s all very exciting. Might be going to my first rally in May as well, if I feel up to camping…

City of Mabgate

Last week, in my infinite curiosity, I finally got around to trying the other local baths, which I’ll call B – It’s a bit further away, it’s not run directly by the council but by a community organisation, and its big draw is that it’s basically a perfectly-preserved Edwardian bathhouse. Opened in 1904, fell derelict at some point in the 20th century, then restored and reopened by the council in 1992, then threatened with closure in 2012, and passed into the hands of the community in 2013, where it’s now staffed by a mixture of enthusiastic volunteers and paid staff, and is a proper community hub again.

The most striking thing about it, from my point of view, is how green it is – Everything that in a “modern” bath would be blue is green – Green lane markings, pale green tiled walls, green wrought ironwork around the balcony and holding up the beautiful glass roof, green painted wood on the cubicle doors and even green lights in the corridor into the main bath. The slipper baths are long gone, and have been replaced by a gym, but there’s a hot plunge pool that I plan on investigating, and a banya that’s still in good working order and is frankly much needed. The pool is accessed by two sets of stone steps, the pool edge is brilliantly non-slip gritstone, and it ranges from 90cm to 175cm at the deep end – Not deep enough for anything other than a shallow dive, but also not so shallow that a tuck-turn is impossible (Though it is a challenge at the 90cm end if you’ve got long legs and shoddy technique, like I have).


When I was there, there were lane ropes in, and the swimmers ranged from “slow” to “standing completely still”. I’ll try a few more sessions to see if any sense of lane discipline can be instilled into the regulars, but if not I’ll make it my Official Floatytime Pool, where I go to relax and steam, rather than to train. And honestly, floating in salt water, lit by gaslamps, staring up at the stars? Not a bad way to spend an evening.


Relatedly: This is all making me very hopeful for the reopening of Newcastle’s 1920s Turkish bath and city pool, which I used to swim in as a teenager, and whose restoration was announced just a few months ago.


Anyway, I rode over on Monday night, parked in the incredibly convenient disabled parking space right outside the front door, swam about 400m, steamed, did a further 400m, steamed again, then 200m, then more steam, then rode home again. i might do the same in daylight later on this week.


Also this week, the social worker has been around again, has worked out that she can’t help me at all, other than to see if I was eligible for a personal budget to hire a carer, and now I don’t want anything, because the thought of having to talk to someone, even as an employee rather than a friend, is horrifying. On the other hand, having someone to take me swimming, possibly even swim with me in the water to help me keep pace, then ladle me back into my clothes and help me get back home could be useful.


And, finally, I’m researching bikes again, specifically “How on earth am I going to push a bike around the Mod 1 track?”


So here’s some stats; My 125 weighs 140kg, and is 95 inches long. The bike that I eventually want (That Suzuki Intruder VZ800 that’s been sitting at the local garage for months, calling to me…) is 98 inches long, and weighs 200kg.



(That’s her. That’s Trudy. 2010. Less than 9k miles. £4,ooo. She’s been fluttering her eyelashes at me ever since I picked up the Marauder after his 30,000 mile service.)

This is not a huge difference, but it might be enough to cause me issues. I think it’s about time that I booked in for some Direct Access lessons, to see how I feel about getting out and about on a big bike. Instinct and experience suggests that I’ll be smiling so much that the top of my head will be in danger of falling off, but caution also says that I need to really think hard and prepare well before trying a test.

Logic also says that since the Mod 1’s expiry is tied to the theory test’s expiry, I should try to do the two as close to each other and as close to the start of my DA lessons as possible, to give me the longest possible time before needing to re-take anything, in which to take my Mod 2.


As it stands;


My CBT was passed in August, giving me 21 months remaining.


The weather and, importantly for my mental health, daylight starts to pick up in about March, and that’s when I’d want to start doing my lessons. If I did my Theory in March, I’d have 18 months remaining in which to get my Mod1 and Mod2.


Finally, my lessons will take about a month or two, at the shortest (Starting with 8 and going from there), meaning that I’ll probably want to take my Mod1 in about April or May.


Assuming a pass in May, that’d give me a neat sixteen months in which to pass my Mod 2, and about five months before the weather got bad again and we lost the light going back into Autumn.


So, a vague timescale would be to take my Theory in March, my Mod1 in May and then my Mod2 in about July, giving me enough time to do plenty of lessons but not to have too long a gap after the last one before taking a test, since I know that I’ve already got bad habits on the 125 that I need to stamp out before doing a test (I spend far too much time with the clutch pulled in, for example).


It’s all pretty hopeful.


Finally, sadly, it’s pissed it down all day today, so I’ve not had time to take any pictures of my nice, clean, rust-proofed bike that I love possibly slightly too much to be natural. Tomorrow I’m going to wax him again and get photos before it gets too miserable.


Memento Morrigan

I went for my swim, and changed in my cupboard like a good little cripple.

My diagrams were wrong, by the way – It’s fifteen metres further down the external corridor, meaning that it’s a thirty metre detour.

I got stuck in the doors on the way in, since I had my boots, jacket, bag, towel, morphine, waterbottle and locker token in one hand, and my crutch in the other, and the door was pull-only and weighed a tonne. After ripping my arm out of the socket trying to open it and dropping everything I was carrying, Lifeguard L (The really nice one who always chats) came over, rang someone else to mind the poolside, and helped me carry my stuff to a locker and get down to the poolside.

She confided that she also thought it was a bloody ridiculous sign, and that it made no sense. She asked what my ideal outcome would be, and I said “To get people to tell their bairns that it’s rude to stare”, and she ruefully agreed that the world was a difficult place. I said I’d think for a bit longer about what I’d accept as a reasonable adaption, and that’s what I’m working on now.

In the pool I was knackered – My arm was off at an angle and trailing in the water, though at least I got 600m down, and was swimming with a bloke who was faster than me – Probably faster than I’ve ever been – Who was both an incredibly polite and considerate lanemate and frankly a pleasure to watch.

I got out, limped to my locker, picked up all of my stuff with great difficulty, shoved out of the changing room using my hip as a battering ram, dragged myself down the corridor, where I started notably shaking, not only from the cold but also the fatigue, and got back into the changing cupboard.

This is when I noticed that the floor was completely flat and there were no coat hooks or benches, at either wheelchair or standing height. So I dropped my gear on the floor, and went to try to wash in the shower anyway, sacrificing my stuff to being wet for the sake of getting the dirty poolwater off my skin and the mud from the corridor off my feet. The water was cold. I suddenly remembered that, a year ago, when going to the disabled swim, I’d used the disabled changing room and found that the water was cold. I realised that, even though I’d told the centre staff at the time, nobody had repaired it.

Given the choice between washing in water so cold that it set off muscle spasms, or staying covered in chlorine, with my hair matting into a bleachy lump and my skin crackling and flaking off, I chose the latter.

I got dressed, with no stable bench to sit on, nowhere to put my clothes to stop them getting soaked on the floor, and no chance of calling for help if I fell. The red emergency cord was cut off at about hip-height, useless for anyone that’d fallen.

I found myself running BS8300 through my head, and finding it lacking.

I came out, knackered from having changed more so than from the swim. And despaired.

Water torture

So, today I rang the pool to ask them to confirm the state of the disabled changing rooms (Since, thanks to the new sign, I can’t change in the general population changing room anymore).

Here’s a quick diagram of the pool to help anyone having difficulty envisaging the layout;

pool layout

So, this evening, being more than a week since my last swim and thus getting very, very sore and out-of-shape, I rang the pool to ask about the disabled facilites. I’d used them before, and vaguely remembered there being no lockers in them, but thought I should ring up to check whether I’d just missed them.

And the phone call went roughly as follows.
Me: “Hi, I was wondering what the disabled changing facilities were like, for the pool?”
Reception: “They’ve got everything, a shower and all that”
Me: “How about a locker?”
Reception:”No, you’d have to use the locker in the ladies’ changing”
Me: “Aren’t they through those heavy doors?”
Reception: “They’re all on the same corridor”
Me: there’s two really heavy doors in the way, and a right-angle turn that I’d have to do carrying a bag. Which will be really difficult, on crutches”
Reception: “I don’t know what you’re talking about, it’s just there on the same floor, the ladies’ changing.”
Me: “But they’re not accessible, that’s why there’s a disabled changing area.”
Reception: “You’d have to go through the ladies’ anyway to use the shower before getting in the pool”
Me: “But there’s step on either side of that”
Reception: “Oh, you could get someone to help you”
Me: “No thanks, I’ll leave it”
Reception: “Oh well, suit yourself.”

So, here’s that same diagram annotated with the paths that a disabled person is meant to do, as compared to a hypothetical perfect abled person, and the path I’d been taking. Lest we forget as well, the corridor between the disabled changing room and the pool is single-glazed and when the door is open, is open to the elements, so it always cold enough that on wet, bare skin it’s dangerous. Abled people are never asked to try to walk through it in their wet swimming kits.

The paths the disabled are asked to take;

pool layout paths

The path the abled are asked to take;


And the path I’d been taking;


And I seem to be the only person who is looking at this and thinking that it’s completely ridiculous. They’re asking people who can’t safely use a small changing cubicle to risk their health even further by adding 2-6 extra door pushes/pulls to their routine, doubling their walking distance, and crossing a freezing-cold external corridor whilst first in only their swimming kit, and then in their swimming kit and soaked to the skin.

All because someone tutted at the thought of seeing people getting changed.

Changing times

I’ve been going to the same public baths for about seven years, and I’m very much a creature of habit. I put my bag down on the end of the bench, whichever end has the least people near it or least used lockers, open the door, put my shoes in the bottom of it, then get changed into my skin. I put my clothes in the bag, then put the towel on top of everything, lock the locker, and tie the key to my ankle. Then I get a quick splash under the shower (The only person who actually takes notice of that bit of protocol…) and get into the pool.

On the way back out I get into the showers again, strip down, wash the chlorine off myself and wring out my fastskin, then return to my locker, get dressed, and leave.

The changing room has cubicles, about five metres away from the lockers, which I don’t use.

I don’t change at my locker out of some kind of principle, I change at my locker because it’s unsafe for me to use the cubicles – They’re small locked boxes with no grab-rails, no room to balance properly on a crutch, and if I fall I’ve not got the space to catch myself before I hit the ground. Plus, if I faint or injure myself in the main room, I’m able to easily get help – This isn’t a complete hypothetical, this has happened more than a dozen times since I started coming to the pool in 2009. Not to mention that carrying a towel, a rucksack, my coat, my boots, a water bottle and a bottle of morphine back and forth from a cubicle to the locker over a series of trips would probably knacker me out before getting in the pool, and likewise would make getting changed back at the end of the session impossible. Try doing all of that one-handed whilst balancing on an elbow crutch.

In the showers, I take off my fastskin and rinse, because washing whilst wearing it doesn’t adequately rinse the chlorine off my skin. I’ve got incredibly sensitive skin, so letting dirty pool water dry on it under the water-resistant fastskin makes it dry, itch, then sometimes flake off entirely. It’s not a matter of principle, again, it’s a matter of staying healthy.

The baths don’t really have disabled changing rooms, or rather the ones they do have are on the other side of a freezing corridor, behind two heavy doors, and don’t have lockers in them. The shower also, on the one occasion I tried to use it, had no water pressure and ran cold.

Today, after my swim, I saw a new sign up in the changing rooms;

“Would all customers please change and shower discreetly when schoolchildren are present”

I gave it an eyebrow raise, and finished getting dressed, then caught the duty manager on the desk on the way out.

“So, I just saw the sign in the changing rooms” I said, more than a bit nervously because frankly this conversation could never go well. “I think this means I can’t use the changing rooms anymore, since I can’t use the cubicles and I can’t not shower in the showers”.

“Yes,” he said “But it’s because of the changing rooms…” he trailed off, and looked embarrassed, and as if there should be some shared cultural understanding that changing rooms were not places where humans should get changed in.

“So, can you look up when there’s going to be a swim where you can guarantee there being no schoolchildren in the changing room, then?” I asked, trying to see if he could see the problem here.

“Oh” he replied “Well, you can just go to the adult swims, then.”

I thought for a second, then got the timetable from the desk between us, and read it slowly.

“But,” I said eventually “They’re always bookended by club sessions and things, which are full of bairns, so I’d still be sharing the changing room with them.”

He looked again, and highlighted the sessions, then started writing on them;

“Well,” he said, explaining what he was doing “You can just come up fifteen minutes later to the sessions, they’re usually gone by then.”

I looked at the paper as he handed it back to me. I could go to five sessions, all of them now cut short by fifteen minutes at least, turning a sensible hour-long session into a forty-five minute one, and presumably into a half-hour one if there were any children in the pool (As there often are after club sessions, when they want to stay on and keep training beyond the end of their allotted time).

I thanked him, turned away, and went home.

Upon getting home, I started explaining the issue to Dearest, and he confirmed to me that there was nothing unusual about changing at ones locker, indeed that everyone in the men’s side did that.

There are two problems here;

  1. If I do go back and change as normal, now that I’ve “been warned” so to speak, I feel like there’s a chance I’d end up on the sex offenders’ register.
  2. If I start this fight, I will always be the one that had a mardy about not being able to get changed in public.

There are a couple of advantages here;

  1. I could use this to get the boot in the door about the baths getting better disabled changing, since ideally there’d be accessible changing for disabled people, which I would much rather use than having to make-do in the general population room.
  2. I’ve got an In with the local council.
  3. The Equalities Act is probably on my side.

Right now though, a lot of crying and bemoaning the loss of the last vestige of my physio plan is in order.

Toktogi is on

Fluffy flotsam

Actually, today came good.

  1. Did my taxes first thing this morning, so am now up-to-date on the 2014-2015 financial year.
  2. Picked up my prescription without any hassle.
  3. Got, if not a good result at the GP, at least a non-horrible result, and Dr L2 is really nice.
  4. Best of all, got a post-illness kilometre PB – 14.07 freestyle. Doing 39 racing turns in a row will make you dizzy though.


This has been a horrible, horrible week.

Over the past ten days I’ve nearly drowned (Blacked out in the water at the pool, fished out still-unconscious by lifeguard, couldn’t get right leg or lower spine to support me, had to get ferried home in the car by Dearest), nearly gone under an HGV (See the long post about the bike) and on Friday, after my dog had spent half an hour screaming every time he tried to move, requiring him to go to the vet for an emergency consultation, I was bluntly told that he probably had terminal bone cancer. From that point on I’d been so worried about him that I barely stopped crying all weekend, and haven’t wanted to talk to anyone about him, for fear of jinxing him.

Well, today (Tuesday) I found out that he didn’t- Despite all the howling and painful noises, he’s just got a soft tissue injury from climbing over the wall to my downhill neighbour’s house too many times. This is a massive weight off my mind, and has basically blasted the horror of the last week away into nothingness, since now I’m just so relieved that he’s all right. It’s no exaggeration to say he’s my best friend. He’s certainly the only person I’d ever get a matching tattoo with (Within a year of getting him, I had the racing number that’s stamped in his ear tattooed onto the back of my knee, at about the same height as he is).

Better than that, the vet today said that he was in remarkably good shape for his age, and not showing any of the signs of decrepitude that she’d have expected.

So here’s to things looking up.

Hopefully, the problems of last week will now be repaired in reverse order – My bike will be returned to me, preferably in one piece, and then by the end of the week I should be swimming again, even though I now kind of don’t want to because it’s just too embarrassing. I’ve also just made some enquiries about getting fabric for winter clothes (I think I deserve some fully-lined wool trousers) and have bought another parcel of norgies (A norwegian-style heavyweight shirt from the army-navy shop). And the fire is lit, so at least the living room is warm – it was down to six degrees in the bedroom last night, which is about the limit of my tolerance before I start wearing a nightshirt and piling on the wooly blankets and extra sheepskins.

So far, the judicious use of Best Friend’s old light therapy unit, along with the sun simulator generously bought for me by a forum friend, along with absolute comfort literature (The Harry Potter books, Discworld and Sergei Lukyanenko’s Night Watch series all do an amazing job of making Autumn not seem like a terrifying spiral of dizzying golden light that ends in an anxiety attack…) seem to be keeping the worst of the seasonal stuff at bay, so other than the horrible sense of anticipation and the clinical knowledge that I’m reacting poorly to stress as compared to in the middle of summer, I’m doing all right. Another friend is fighting the seasons by going for a very long walk in the hills, and I’m both glittering with envy and plotting how I can bolt off to find somewhere remote and green and rainy in the next few weeks.

Physically, I’ve been too wound-up to even understand that I have a body very much since Thursday. I imagine that tomorrow I’ll wake up and find that I’ve got a lot of dislocations that I’d not noticed, or at least that I’ve got not-all-that-mysterious sore muscles and knackered joints. But that’s tomorrow’s problem. Tonight, everything is fine.

Do you believe in valkyries?

So, today was Bike Trip One – Going to see Bike One, in Orrell, 50 miles, three trains, a bus, and a short, muddy hike away. Thankfully, I was spared most of the short muddy hike by the bike’s current keeper driving down to the railway station to collect me. Whilst out, I also dropped off the change bucket that I’ve been storing up since 2007 at the bank, and found myself £106 richer than I thought.

It’s a good looking bike – 2005 Suzuki Marauder (In a colour I can only describe as “Utter twattock red”, and thus perfect), 30,000 miles on the clock (owch), Cat Ced more than five years ago for “something cosmetic” which has since been repaired (The painted parts of the bodywork are pristine), lost most of its chrome (mope), but it’s like riding a Shetland pony – Short and fat and heavy, not particularly quick, but comfortable, comfortable. It’s got saddlebags and a sissy bar, so at some point it was evidently someone’s two-person long-distance ride, even if recently it’s been a to-university-and-back vehicle for a lone student. It’s promising, and it’s a few hundred quid below market value, due to it taking up too much space in the owners’ garage.

There’s basically a slack handful of companies that I’m looking at (Suzuki, Honda, Yamaha and Kawasaki), either a custom-cruiser or a commuter bike, but since at 125-size the difference is negligible I basically mean “Any unfaired or minimally-faired bike, with a comfy, upright-ish riding position, room to carry stuff, and preferably a teardrop fuel tank and wire-spoke wheels because I am a complete fool for pretties”, and with a budget under about a grand, since that leaves me with money enough to pay my tax and insurance, get my theory certificate, and some Big Bike (Direct Access) lessons before taking my test.

My travel radius to find said bike is, apparently, about fifty miles – That covers my city, all the other cities and towns in its conurbation, and the nearest big cities to the north, south, and west. This of course leaves the problem that I might have to do my first solo ride, on a new bike, on unfamiliar roads and up to a distance of fifty miles, after a rail journey of, apparently, up to about three hours once I’ve allowed for the bus to my railway station, changing trains in little towns and taking branch lines into adorable villages where there’s only one train an hour.

Suddenly, it’s all the more obvious why I want a bike, and it’s not just about the fun of actually riding it – I want to be able to leave the city without having to take a whole day just to get to and from my destination. Today I spent seven hours travelling, for a half-hour of looking at a bike. This, in my world, is about normal. I used to travel two and a half hours each way to spend two hours a week volunteering at the Greyhound Trust. Likewise, I used to happily travel two or more hours each way to go to naginata or iaido practise, in three different cities. When I did roller derby, that was an hour’s commute, on two trains and a bus, three times a week. I can’t afford that much time now, but I bet that if I was a bit more independently mobile, thus with shorter journey times and less pressure (The difference between “ten minutes late” on the train, when missing a connection by a minute can make an hour’s difference at the other end, and “ten minutes late” in private transport, where that ten minutes is the same ten minutes at the end of the journey), I would get back into doing that sort of thing. Hence, bike.

And, after the ridiculously long day (Which started with me waking up at half past five to deal with the dog vomiting everywhere – He was fine, in the end, but it was terrifying for all of us) I decided to go for a swim. Well, it turns out that “Three bottles of Lucozade and a flapjack on the train” isn’t exactly the breakfast of champions, so tonight’s swim was slow and disheartening. On the other hand, I’m now sleepy and warm, and have license to go to sleep. Tomorrow, all I have to do is phone a couple of bike sellers (Two more GZ125s, one of them closer to home) and maybe think about ringing around for double glazing, since the house is starting to leak.

And the day after that, I might be going to Cleethorpes on holiday. Three holidays on the beach within the year – Look at me being decadent!