Category Archives: Ranting

The Great Parking Fine Con in the News

Throughout my time of writing ’50’ I was involved in a long-running battle with Euro Car Parks about a parking charge notice (aka “parking fine”). Right from the beginning, I wrote that it felt like a con, a money-making scheme, a honey trap for the owners of the car park and nothing to do with me parking in a prohibited place.

On November 12th 2019, I write: “I’ve decided to contest the parking charge notice. It came about because I parked my car outside, but adjacent to, a car park in town in an area where there were no signs about parking restrictions and no yellow lines of any kind. It was just a neat little space outside a car park, on the road. In front of it was a large planter for some kind of bush. Behind, two other cars were parked either side of a small barrier, neither of which were in the car park either. It seemed to be a well-known spot. I had had lunch with Lindsay in a café and when I got back to the car there was the dreaded yellow pouch attached to the front windscreen. I won’t win the appeal, no-one ever does, but if I have the courage to take it further and not back down when they threaten court action I could avoid this unfair fine. It’s a game of chicken. These car parking companies repeatedly menace and pressurise you, but if you don’t back down you have a chance especially, as in my case, when you haven’t even parked in the carpark that the fine applies to!”

I didn’t back down and for over a year ignored threatening letter after threatening letter – usually written in large print with red banners warning me of imminent court action, debt collection, and a greatly increased amount to pay. My ‘fine’ was tripled in price.

For months I felt harassed, bullied, and frightened, but because I strongly believed it was an immoral practice I refused to give in, I refused to pay up (although I did think about it a few times because the letters were so intimidating). Sadly, I’m sure the sheer persistence of the letters and the way they were worded so aggressively would have been enough to make most people pay. But somehow I found the courage to continue to refuse. I emailed Euro Car Parks several times and hand wrote them a letter until, a year-and-a-half later, the letters dribbled to a halt and they apparently gave up. I never paid the money. But I bet 95% of people who undergo such a horrible experience do.

And then this morning, three years later, I read this on the news: Minister Neil O’Brien said: “Private firms issue roughly 22,000 parking tickets every day, often adopting a system of misleading and confusing signage, aggressive debt collection and unreasonable fees designed to extort money from motorists.”

It’s such a vindication, such a glorious paragraph to read, because it exactly sums up my experience. It’s wonderful to have it recognised officially that these car parking companies enact aggressive money-making schemes on often innocent members of the public. It’s so greedy and disgusting. I’m very glad the government is finally recognising this as a dishonourable practice, capping ‘fines’, and cracking down on the worst offenders. AT LAST!

How I Could Have Died Getting Breast Implants on the NHS

It was Spring 2004, and the day after my breast augmentation operation I developed a really weird sloshy ring, like a spare tyre, around my waist. I asked one of the nurses what it was and she dismissively replied, “oh that’s normal dear.”

I’ll never forget those stupid, wrong words. It wasn’t normal. I never had a spare tyre of sloshy liquid around my waist before in my life. I was a skinny minny, 5’9″ and only 9 stone. There wasn’t an inch of fat on my body – except now there was a completely liquid ring around my waist. I guess the nurse must have thought that I was being vain and complaining about a bit of fat on my body, but she didn’t stop to discuss it further, she was already walking away in irritation.

I didn’t know it at the time but it was blood from internal bleeding (because I didn’t have drains put in post op). The next day I fainted when I tried to walk to the toilets. In total, I was in hospital for five days. All the other girls had recovered and been sent home, yet I was struggling and exhausted and still utterly feeble. No-one thought to question this. It was decided that I’d been occupying the bed for too long so was sent home without any checks on my health. I must be fine – it had been five days since the operation – I was a lazy slacker (or at least that’s how I was made to feel, as if I was taking a long time to recover on purpose).

I continued to feel unwell for a couple of months (weakness, feebleness, headaches every day, fatigue, tiny appetite) and eventually, after really insisting, pressurising various GPs and getting nowhere, I went to A&E. They said, “you have a tension headache.”

I knew in my heart they were wrong so I insisted that it wasn’t. Thank God I had the strength to battle. A young doctor reluctantly ordered a few blood tests and not long after that I was hastily admitted. The next day I had to have a blood transfusion I’d lost so much blood – leaking out of my breasts into my abdominal cavity and settling around my waist…. It was my first ever blood transfusion, and I haven’t needed one since. I will forever feel annoyed that I was forced to have one because of the surgeon’s error.

“Have you been bleeding?” he demanded to know when he came to see me. “You weren’t a bleeder during the operation. The blood must have disappeared somehow!” I didn’t say anything because I didn’t know what to say. The only thing that had happened to me was the operation he performed. I was fine beforehand, unwell afterwards. I didn’t realise that his failure to fit me with drains caused the problem and risked my life. But he must have known as he interrogated me with his ridiculous question.

I was lucky the situation wasn’t any worse.

How To Get An NHS Doctor’s Appointment Today

Well, it’s a nightmare. It’s a battle. It’s hit and miss. It’s a protracted and exhausting procedure that I’m sure puts most people off bothering.

Today I suddenly broke and realised I can’t continue living the way I am – every day in pain and agony from my hip, back, knees, and head. Something isn’t right. I can’t cope with the pain any more. And why do I have all this pain anyway? What is WRONG with my hip, my back, my knees..? And why do I get a headache every single day and migraines most day? Why do I wake up every morning with a splitting headache? I honestly can’t take it any more. it’s making me a bad mother and a miserable human being. I need to make a doctor’s appointment.

BUT… Gone are the days when you simply pick up your phone, call the surgery, and book an appointment. Gone are the days when you can go online, select a day and time from the list, and make an appointment. No, no. You can’t do anything as simply or easily any more. Why? I do not know. Perhaps it’s because they’re using the coronavirus pandemic (that isn’t a pandemic in the UK now) as a continual EXCUSE to keep patients away so doctors can have an easy working day, but if so, this is a stupid strategy long term. We are all so ill and suffering, and we’re only getting worse and worse alone at home, making our injuries or diseases more complex and harder to treat every day that slips by that we don’t have any medical attention.

But back to my story. Having decided I need to see a doctor to find out what on earth is wrong with me, I went straight to my GP surgery’s website where I discovered that unfortunately I can’t do anything today or tomorrow because it’s the weekend and, naturally, the doctor’s are closed. You can’t phone, text, email, or fill out a form – they are shut, closed, offline. This is extremely inconvenient.

Meanwhile I’m resigned to the fact that, even on a weekday, I won’t be able to see a doctor face-to-face because… Coronavirus Excuse, so Monday (in two days’ time) is the earliest I’ll be able to fill out the electronic consultation form. I will hope against hope that the vicious triaging guard dogs allow the form to be seen by a doctor, and then hope that a doctor, any old doctor (I never see the same one twice) replies and sends me an email to say that I have permission to phone to book an appointment with him or her, by phone. It definitely won’t be a face-to-face appointment straight away because Coronavirus Excuse. I will then get on my knees my knees and pray that the appointment they make for me isn’t scheduled too far ahead in the future (and not at a time when I’m already doing something important – because I get no say at all about when my appointment will be. If you don’t accept the one they offer you, you get the feeling that there won’t be another one and you’re made to feel utterly ungrateful). It could be up to two weeks away. When I finally do get that precious telephone appointment, which will obviously be without any eye contact or body language or any physical examination, I will have to ensure I convince the doctor about how much pain I’m in every day, and how I can’t go on, and desperately need help. (Why does it have to be that I’m absolutely desperate before I seek help?) After that, it’s anyone’s guess. Most likely they’ll offer pain killers but no exploration as to what’s causing the problem. If I’m extremely, incredibly lucky, I may manage to somehow convince him or her to allow me to come into the surgery and sit down opposite them and have an actual real, life face-to-face appointment. This would be like some kind of miracle, a similar feeling to winning the lottery. If they examine me, they will be shocked at how much I’m suffering and FINALLY, I might actually get some help – hopefully a referral to a specialist. But in reality, a face-to-face appointment with a doctor is extremely unlikely.

This is what it’s like these days in the NHS. No exaggeration. It’s easier to get a hairdresser’s appointment, your nails done, a virgin media technician or even a plumber to come to your house. Massive problems are being stored up for the future and patients will be dying in their thousands because doctors – the first port of call for us ill and suffering people – are trying their best to keep us away as long as possible.

I’m usually proud of the UK and England, but right now I’m losing that. The GP service is not fit for purpose. The NHS is failing its people. God help you (me?) if it’s cancer.

What Does A Slipped Disc (Herniated Disc, Prolapsed Disc) in Your Back Feel Like?

The pain of a slipped disc in your lower back is a pinching, sharp, burning kind of pain. I describe it as “high-pitched.” It’s not an ache, or a pulsing a pain, it’s more of an intermittent sharp pinch. You can tell it’s nerve irritation and not anything to do with bones or muscles. For me, the pain of a slipped disc can’t be relieved by changing position. It makes no difference if I’m lying down or standing up, the pain is just as bad, resting doesn’t make it go away. If anything, resting makes it worse. Walking and moving feels better, sitting down in a chair increases the pain.

I use a hot water bottle on my back but when the pain from the prolapsed disc is bad it doesn’t really do anything. I could use ibuprofen but I don’t want to drug myself. I don’t like using medication to dull the pain. The pain is there for a reason, and I’d much rather be treated so that the pain doesn’t arise in the first place. When a slipped disc doesn’t get better over years or decades (as in my case) what are the treatment options? I wish I knew. I wish I was under a consultant. I wish I was receiving treatment.

But of course, you can’t get anywhere near a doctor or specialist these days. GPs aren’t minded to refer anyone, and triaging means that you rarely get through to a doctor anyway. The excuse for not seeing patients and keeping them at arm’s length is coronavirus, which doesn’t make sense because there’s barely any around now and we’re all vaccinated anyway. The severe triaging that goes on at GP surgeries, ensuring patients aren’t able to see doctors face-to-face, is a national disgrace. The protracted battle to get an appointment is exhausting and stressful and must put so many people off even trying. Which is the case with me. I have three or four problematic things wrong with me that I would love to get treated but I’m not even trying to get a doctor’s appointment. It’s a waste of time. They won’t see me. It’s a telephone appointment anyway and that goes nowhere. Lets hope I don’t have cancer, like so many others, who aren’t getting seen by the medical profession. We just live in discomfort and wait for a time when GP surgeries are forced by the Government to be welcoming to patients again.

Peace of Mind

I am three weeks on from my first Covid vaccination jab. From this time forwards the protection is working. My body has learnt what to do with the virus if it gets into my system. It gives me a great feeling of confidence and security when I’m out and about. I still wear my mask and wash my hands regularly of course, but there’s the knowledge in the back of my mind that if I were unfortunate enough to contract Covid-19 again, it wouldn’t be severe and I almost certainly wouldn’t need hospital treatment. Isn’t that astonishing? The virus only came into the human population in December 2019, and 12 months later we have a highly effective, widely available vaccine. It’s truly incredible.

I wish to God that the world would work just as fast on climate change. In my mind that is an even greater disaster than Covid and we don’t seem to be doing much about it.

Trees (50 excerpt)

Today, as we walked along a river in the evening sunshine, I realised that the older I become the more fanatical I am about nature and beauty. I complain loudly every time I walk past a tree that’s been pollarded or ‘severed’ as I like to call it. It pains me to see how humans are always seemingly randomly hewing off tree branches, denuding and emasculating them, turning them from magnificent, sweeping, tangled structures into stubby, frilly amputated shapes unnatural in every way. It disgusts me. My eye longs for thick trunks to swell upwards and outwards narrowing gracefully into twisting squiggles, ever smaller and thinner until they naturally end in a leaf. Instead, we find thick trunks callously sliced off, and sprouting out of them like nasty, pathetic hair, lots of thin, leggy twigs where proud branches used to be.

“UGLY!” I’ll shout as I walk by, scowling and staring. “THAT’S THE UGLIEST THING I’VE EVER SEEN.”

My children don’t flinch in embarrassment yet, but I’m sure it won’t be long. Out of respect for them I’m trying to hold in my comments, but occasionally they blurt out, such as this evening when we came upon a once beautiful weeping willow that now looked like a human hand with five fingers, stumpy, stubbed, bare, and subjugated. No leaf or bud, no light green shoot, nothing. It looked like a dead thing. And this is spring!

I honestly can’t find enough words to express my outrage at this human interference, no doubt carried out solely for the reason of saving money, in case in the distant future an aging branch just so happened to fall on someone’s car and the owner sued the council (or whoever owns the land we walked on).

One of Those Weeks

It’s been one of those weeks. I’m plagued by migraines and battling with trying not to take too many triptans. Because OF COURSE, the medication to prevent the pain of a migraine causes severe headaches as a side effect. I mean, any other side effect in the entire world would be fine, but headaches as your punishment for trying to prevent headaches? Well that’s just stupid!

I had to have an MRI on my lower back and pelvis and my claustrophobia took over. I did warn the radiographers about the possibility I might freak out but they didn’t put me in the wide bore machine (I didn’t know there was such a thing until they told me AFTERWARDS). The tube I needed to be put into was so narrow and long that I cried and panicked and had to stop the procedure. In the end I did manage to get the scan done in entirety but it was touch and go and such a lot of drama and sweating and worry. And I got a migraine of course.

When I got home there was ANOTHER speeding fine waiting for me. I had been snapped doing 39 in a 30 on a lonely country road where they had inexplicably put up permanent average speed cameras. I had never driven that road in my life before (the satnav failed and I couldn’t see because I need glasses for the screen but no glasses for driving. It was a nightmare with the glasses going on and off every few seconds). I’m especially short of money this week, I’m not sure I even have enough to pay the rent. A speeding fine was the last thing I wanted. And I already have six points on my license.

Then I got an appointment through with the date I need to have a mole removed from my back: exactly the same day and time as my son is booked in to the dentist to get his mouth measured for braces. What can a single mother do? It’s LOCKDOWN but I can’t be in these two places at once, and changing appointments is not something you do these days. Appointments are like gold dust. If you cancel there won’t be another one for MONTHS. So I’ve had to ask my ex-husband to take our son, even though it mixes our two households. But I don’t have a choice. Single mothers rely on help from family and friends merely to get by and have a normal life.

The weather is awful. It’s dingy and GLOOMY and very windy and rainy all day long. Day light arrives reluctantly and vanishes as soon as possible. It’s 10:00 o’clock in the morning and yet we need the lights on inside the house. I need to do something to buoy me up so I might rifle through the garage to see if I have any fairy lights I can put up. Fairy lights are sparkly, cheery mood enhancers. And I’ve decided to put the Christmas tree up at the end of November. We need to do everything we can to keep our spirits up.

The Virus Has Mutated

17 million mink on farms in Denmark have been killed because a mutated version of Covid-19 has been found which could reduce the effectiveness of a future vaccine against the disease.

So because humans want to wear the fur of mink as a fashion statement, millions of animals spend short, miserable lives in prison before being murdered because humans want to protect themselves from a virus they gave themselves because of their cruelty to wild animals.

What do you call that?

One Million

One million people have now died with coronavirus across the world. This is a grim milestone – and yet it’s only the known and recorded number of infections. In reality it’s probably much higher than that. When I started writing 50 in July 2019, the virus that causes Covid hadn’t made the leap from pangolin to mankind yet. It was a different world. In December, in a town called Wuhan in China, it was first noticed that there was a strange pattern of deaths surrounding a particular wet market, and although there had already been many victims and hospitalisations the authorities were still denying there was any possibility this new virus could be transmitted between humans. The world should never forget Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist working in Wuhan Central Hospital, who alerted the authorities to a new and dangerous virus, but was told to stop spreading false rumours! He was summoned to the Public Security Bureau where he was told to sign a letter stating that he was “making false comments” and that he had “severely disturbed the social order”. Not long after, he himself caught Covid-19 and died (despite being only 33 and healthy). This shows the arrogance and ignorance of the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party. They would rather their citizens died than tolerate, or listen to, anything that sounds like a contradiction to their power. Now the entire world is severely affected thanks to Chinese cruelty to animals. Millions of people will probably die in the future. Vegetarians and vegans throughout the world can’t describe their frustration and anger. Environmental destruction, false beliefs about traditional medicine, and a total lack of compassion towards animals has caused covid-19 to exist. Human beings have to change the way they treat animals and the environment unless they want more of this in the future.

Home Schooling (50 excerpt)

Early April 2020

Question one of the first worksheet the school had sent us to was:

Write the factors of each number in the pairs: 24, 40

The problem with this question was that the children didn’t know what that meant. And neither did I. I don’t know what a factor is, or why there were pairs of numbers and not just one single number. Amy immediately got stressed and started thumping the desk and shouting that she didn’t understand. Jack, on the other hand immediately answered all the questions, wrongly, in about ten seconds flat, then stood up and loudly boasted he’d finished already, waving his paper in our faces. Amy screamed at him to shut up and go away. Confusion reigned. I looked up ‘What is a factor’ on Google, but I didn’t understand the information so couldn’t explain it to the children. Amy started crying and saying she HATED MATHS and was RUBBISH AT MATHS. Jack rubbed out all his work after I told him it was wrong (even I could tell his answers were just random numbers). His ADHD means that he’ll skim read a question and get the meaning wrong, then rush the answers which are themselves all wrong, before he realises he has to start all over again at the beginning by reading the questions properly. He doesn’t do slow and logical. He doesn’t do methodical and careful. And he doesn’t learn from his mistakes because he approaches his school work in this exact same way every single time.

At this point I decided I needed help so I phoned a friend. Lindsay very kindly attempted to explain the question to us via WhatsApp video call. I half understood, but neither of my children did. I then had another go at explaining it to them myself, expanding on Lindsay’s information (third time lucky?) but both children glazed over and interrupted saying it wasn’t making sense. I got cross and told them to keep quiet for GOD’S sake and LISTEN whilst I try to explain. In response Amy threw her pencil across the floor and shouted that she didn’t understand anything. Now I shouted for everyone to shut up and behave. Both of them again repeated how much they hate maths (even though at school Jack used to enjoy maths and do well). Everyone’s stress levels were sky high.

The twins attempted to answer the first question one more time — one crying, the other in a world of his own weirdness and confusion writing down numbers and circling random printed digits on his page (although I didn’t understand why on earth there were numbers printed in the boxes where he was supposed to be writing down the answers). After a few minutes Amy stopped struggling, tears running down her cheeks, and said she still didn’t understand it. But neither did I, so I couldn’t help her. I could only shrug. I noticed Jack was staring out of the window.

Forty-five minutes had somehow passed and it was the end of maths. I marked their ‘work,’ but when I looked at Jack’s paper I suddenly realised I’d accidentally given him the answer sheet instead of the questions. No wonder he already had numbers printed in the answer boxes, no wonder he was confused. I hadn’t noticed before because I thought those numbers were somehow part of the question. That’s how bad my understanding of maths is.

Everyone was unhappy and exhausted. If asked, we couldn’t do the same question again tomorrow because we don’t know how we got the (mostly incorrect) answers this time. How is that teaching? Amy sobbed and ran upstairs. This was the first lesson of the day. I’m simply not equipped to teach maths. I have no training, no ability, no understanding, and I can’t do it. I’m making my children worse at this subject. I never expected to have to be a maths teacher and would never set myself up to be one. I can’t do this alone without the support of school. Jack does have quite a good understanding, but I’m gradually confusing him and undermining his confidence. And with my assistance Amy is solidifying her block against it.