Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Iron Man 3 - Reel Health & Safety

Most of you will already have worked out why this column is called Memoirs Of A Fire Hazard. You're a particularly clever and pretty bunch after all. But for those of you who haven't, I have again today experienced another fine example of the reason for this somewhat unusual title.

First things first I have been off work today. I had to take Emma to the hospital. She's ok. There's no fire. But it's always best to set your mind at rest and get things sorted quickly if you can. Unless you're me, in which case you find out that you have kidney problems and then spend the next seven years avoiding any medical advice whatsoever. Anyway, while we were winding our way through the new building at Whiston Hospital, through its various mult-coloured sections (we wanted yellow and it is a very, very good job we knew that) we came a cross a sign which said;


Beside it was an arrow pointing left and the bog-standard, spike-up-its-arse disabled persons symbol. It's no wonder none of us can walk when we spend our time impaled on protruding objects. So anyway even though I could see a door in front of me leading to where I thought we should be going, I followed the arrow. It's instinctive. Every time you see that symbol and an arrow you think it means that this is the way you should go if you need wheelchair access. In fact, on this occasion, it meant literally what it said;


Behind the screen where the arrow led were three or four battered, old-style NHS wheelchairs which must pass as the hospital's supply of loan chairs for day visitors without one. Or who knows? People who are stupid enough to have turned up without theirs. It happens, as anyone who read the story about me arriving at work without my wheels will testify. Since I was not the patient today the worst part of our visit after that is having to sit in the waiting room for 35 minutes after Emma's appointment time with Jeremy Kyle on the small television in the corner. That show is just one long argument and I really, really don't get why anyone would want to sit through it. If you want an argument, go and tell your other half they need to lose a few pounds.

So after doing something a little unpleasant we had decided we would do something nice later on in the day. That meant a visit to Reel Cinema in Widnes to see Iron Man 3. We chose Reel because we like Nandos which is just nearby. What with the hospital and everything and the way the wind was blowing and the alignment of the stars and whatever, it transpired that it was better to see the film first before we ate. Now previous experience at Reel tells me that I have to ask them if I can have a seat, and not just a space for my wheelchair. Believe it or not I prefer to take the opportunity to get out of my wheelchair when I am watching a film. Yes I know, I don't sleep in it either. Incredible.

So I ask the girl if I can have a seat;

"Yes of course, you'll need to leave your chair outside, though."

Excuse me?

She wants me to leave my chair outside. The one thing without which I shall be spending the night in the theatre, she wants me to leave outside by the side of the popcorn kiosk. People don't steal wheelchairs in the way that dogs don't bite. And besides, you will find that most wheelchair users are very reluctant to let their wheelchairs out of their sight even if they are not currently using them. I have this problem on planes whenever Emma and I fly anywhere. Airline staff seem to think a replacement which is 20 times wider than my arse and 40 times longer than my legs is acceptable. A wheelchair is a very personal thing, much like your legs. And if that sounds like we want it both ways then yes we do, what's so wrong with that? We want to be treated as humans, independent of a piece of metal and rubber, but at the same time we don't want to leave that piece of metal unattended in a public place. And we don't want to use anyone else's till we get to the fucking carousel. Is any of this making sense?

"No, I'm afraid I can't do that." I say, quite prepared to leave if need be;

"It's company policy, because of health and safety."

And there we have it right there. I'm a health and safety risk. A Fire Hazard, if you will. I stick to my guns because I know it has rock all to do with health and safety and more to do with the fact that they know that if I buy a seat and put my chair in a space then they will have one less ticket to sell. But there is no fucker here anyway so the debate is utterly puerile. And besides I'm right. As fucking usual, eh?

Eventually we convince the girl that it will be ok for me to leave my chair in the space and transfer my person (remember him?) to a chair. This is also probably a good time to mention that there were signs all over the place apologising for the fact that they had no 'carbonated drinks'. That means coke and everything like it. And they have the cheek to grumble over where my empty fucking wheelchair will sit? Christ's Arse!

The film itself was all good fun. I used to have a film column but I found that nobody read it because they didn't want to spoil anything they wanted to go and see later, and they didn't want to read about anything they weren't interested in seeing. I really don't know how Roger Ebert made a living. Save for the fact that he was a lot better at writing than I am. The girls at work had told me that Iron Man 3 was really good but they would, they're girls, and girls are pre-programmed to like Robert Downey Jr especially when he is throwing bad guys around and making cheap gags and behaving with an unpalatable amount of smugness. And no I am not bitter. Much. Look, it's a super-hero film and inevitably in super-hero films the climactic scenes tend to drag for me because you know what is going to happen. At one point I was sure that characters were dying more than once, which I found a stretch, but then I might have missed something important.

But not as important as MY wheelchair.

Monday, 29 April 2013

The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Biff

I'm so fucking sick of myself. Why don't I, instead of updating my Facebook status 100 times a day, do a few more lengthier articles with a bit more depth? Honestly, yesterday (Sunday) I updated my status no less than six fucking times throughout the day. On one occasion I did so just to vent my spleen at James Fucking Nesbitt for the heinous crime of being a Manchester United fan. Ok so there is some justification for that, but it doesn't make it any more interesting. By the end of the day I was reduced to simpy announcing that I was 'not feeling too chipper'. By which point nobody was listening not even, as the Hootie song might have it, the trees.

So let me tell you about my foray into the world of roadwork. Not wearing a hard helmet (please) and digging around randomly to cause traffic congestion, but actually getting out there on the roads to try and improve my general fitness. Since my not-trumpeted retirement from wheelchair basketball nearly seven years ago I have morphed into a Homer-shaped ball of biffiness and something has to be done. I've tried the gym but it's useless. You can't get much aerobic fitness from lifting weights, so sessions quickly become dispiriting. Especially when the rugby players and the plastic glamour models are pounding the steppers all around you. Actually, I quite liked the plastic glamour models.

On the road you can be on your own, with nobody to have to compare yourself to. I was inspired to do this by a friend of mine who has recently taken to running and has lost a good few stones in weight in the process. Both my technological duncery and my disinclination to take the trouble to top up my phone meant that I had to download the free version of the Runkeeper app for my phone, which uses GPS to track how far I go. All well and good, except it takes a full minute to find your location when you activate it. It's a minute you can spend either on your way regardless, or sat outside your house waiting for it to find you while the clock ticks, robbing you of precious seconds for your records. I choose the latter and just knock a minute off when I get back. It's unscientific, but it is at least consistent.

I started with a gentle push to Sherdley Park with Emma. We did one circuit around the park and came home, which left us with a grand total of 3.2 miles that first day. Since when she has come down with a cold, a cough and problems with her ears. Exercise makes you ill, officially. All of which has meant that I have had to go out on my own for the last couple of weeks. The first of those occasions I chose to try and make it towards Prescot. This quickly turned into the worst decision since Bowie's latest comeback. Don't you hate that fucking advert? It's just noise? And this man is a legend. Anyway, I'm digressing just a little there. It was a poor decision because between my house and Prescot is Scholes Lane, and Scholes Lane is long, uphill and incredibly steep. It seems to go on forever, and you cannot imagine how soul destroying it is to reach the top, haul yourself over the road to The Grapes and find that you have managed a quite apologetic 1.7 miles. If I had gone straight back home at that point I would have made it to 3.4, which is more than I had managed on my first attempt but not as many as I wanted. So I carried on to The Wellington which took me to just a tick over 2 miles, and within a hare's bollock of a coronary.

Typically, and in keeping with my fuckwittery, I had to share this information on Facebook immediately. As if sharing it with others would somehow motivate me or keep my interest. When I did I was informed by a friend that he goes on a 14 mile push around the roads near his home. I couldn't get near 14 miles in my sorry state, but I knew that if I could find a flatter route than the one to The Wellington then I could manage more than the 4.1 miles I eventually ended up with by the time I got back from The Welly.

So the next time I decided to push to the retail park on the edge of St.Helens town centre. There's a Boots there where I get my meds, but I declined to go in because whenever I do there is a near unresolvable misunderstanding and ensuing drama which simply does not allow time for getting fit. I took the long route down Dorothy Street, all the way up Elephant Lane (if you live outside Thatto Heath I assure you I am quite aware that I might aswell be describing areas on Mars), down the linkway past the gyppo caravan park, and then left at the McDonalds and on through the retail park past Boots. When I got to Smyth's toy store next door I looked at the Runkeeper and it crushed my spirit once more, informing me that I had managed 1.9 miles. It felt like 1.9 marathons. Determined to get past the 4.1 miles I had already done I began an absurd lap of honour around the retail park. Bemused shoppers looked on as I pointlessly rolled around the car park with no intention of entering a shop, much less buy anything. This might have provided a mild moment of interest for the several men I saw who's spirits looked utterly drained at the prospect of another four hours in B & Q, but this is an optimistic view. Back at Smyth's five minutes later and I had still only managed 2.3 miles. Add that to the 1.9 to get back (the reverse journey) and I was still only looking at 4.2 miles. Another lap. More bemused onlookers, one suspicious glance from security at PC World. Ironic that they might think I am the thief.

On the way back I bumped into the inevitable dog-walker down by the caravan park. Now, I am not scared of dogs, but I do detest it when the dog is straining on his leash to get to you, eyeballing you and salivating and his owners says;

"It's alright, he doesn't bite."

Surely this is what every dog owner says 40 seconds before their beloved pet locks his jaws around some poor unfortunate's head?

There's also a brief exchange of pleasantries with a couple of gyppo children and a quite agonising last few hundred yards past the League Of Gentleman shop on Elephant Lane before I get back and whack my unimpressive achievements straight on to Facebook. This time, I aim for irony with the admission that the marathon is looking a long way off. About 21.5 miles off to be precise. And anyway, if I enter the London Marathon there is a good chance that some female runner will step in front of me and ruin my chair and my race, and then I'll get all the blame from the BBC. And nobody wants that. But maybe I will enter a shorter charity event in the not too distant future. A five or a 10K might not be beyond me judging by what I have done so far.

Just don't expect me to keep it off fucking Facebook.

Friday, 26 April 2013

The Myth Of Friday

A little analysis of one's own work is a scary but a good thing. Looking back on some of the recent entries on these pages I have noticed that there has been far too much mention of Friday, and how absolutely fucking awful it is and how I hate it.

This is not a fault with my work, exactly. It's just that too much repetition is a bad thing. Originality is what we are after and so now, once and for all, I will attempt to put the whole Friday Is Shit thing to bed by dedicating an entire column to it.

The reason that Friday has become an issue is because whenever it rears its ugly head, once a week usually, a colleague of mine revels in pointing out to me that it is indeed Friday. The implication is that I should therefore be happy. Unfortunately I am a depressive, and therefore unlikely to be happy at any given moment. Annoyingly, I am not the kind of depressive who is blessed with a level of genius and who swings between manic highs and crashing lows. Either I feel utterly rubbish but not rubbish enough to start the car with the exhaust sealed, or I feel neutral. OK. Alright. Getting by. I am not at home to happiness.

Even if I were the type of person who filled easily with the joys of the blooming season, I still can't see the logic in being happy on a Friday morning, or at any hour before that when you arrive home from work. You still have to get through the working day, just like any other day of the week. That's ok if you like your job. I have heard some people claim that they do. But then I have also heard some people claim to be happy and I don't really believe that either. As I alluded to on a recent Facebook status (microblog, anyone?) only the deeply stupid among us can be happy all the time. Fine, if you want to pat Friday on the back do it when you get home when it is actually going in your favour, and you can put your feet up and watch whatever mind-crushing shite floats your boat.

No my friends Friday is a teasing whore. It is a bitch who fills you with promise and then, just as you are about to enjoy it, slaps you round the chops shouting 'it's Monday!' at you and laughing. Friday is massively over-rated. It is the 'Mad Men' of weekdays. The day I left my wheels at home was a Friday. Logic demands that this could have happened any day of the week, but by the same token it is also true that any other day of the week brings the same promise as Friday's supporters claim that it brings. If something good were to happen to me, and I am not for a moement suggesting that it will, it could just as easily be on a Tuesday as a Friday. The same Tuesday that my colleague says is the work of the devil himself, based on the quite berserk logic that you have just got over Monday and you are still no nearer to Friday. No nearer to another mundane day of the week which you will spend nailed to your desk looking at a spreadsheet wishing your life away and wondering what else you could be doing. In my case, it is a desk which is so soundproof and bricked up as to render me socially excluded. My desk at work socially excludes me more than my disability. My disability looks on in envy at my desk as the standard bearer in the field of socially excluding me.

So let us dispel the Myth Of Friday and instead accept the fact that the only days of the week that we really enjoy are Saturdays and Sundays. Saturdays and Sundays for me consist mainly of lounging around watching sport, eating and drinking badly and never, under any circumstances, paying even the remotest attention to a spreadsheet or a fucking travel claim. I do keep in touch with some work colleagues via the gift of Facebook over the weekend but that is not the same thing at all as something which is work-related. They are all extremely nice people and in no way represent the drudgery of my daily grind. They just happen to be unfortunate enough to share an office with a miserable, depressive, Friday-hating little fuck like me.

It'll soon be Saturday........

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

The Meds

I don't think, even in my blogging heyday, I ever published two pieces on the same day.

Blogging heyday. What the fuck? By this I mean the halcyon age when I had....oh.....10 regular readers I could name and a new, interesting and challenging subject to barf on about every day.

Regardless I feel the need to give it a go for a second time today. All of which conjures up dull analogies about waiting for buses for hours before 26 turn up at once. Only these buses are all going to Dullsville, via a stupid story about medication and whatever else springs forth into my distorted, tortured mind this Wednesday night along the way.

So the medication. To cut an agonisingly long story short I need to take a type of medication which protects my kidneys. We could go over old ground about how I went to the doctor one day to ask about a problem with my bladder and ended up in what looked and sounded like a tumble dryer. I was having an MRI, and there followed the interesting hypothesis that my kidneys may not last until tea-time that same day, followed by several weeks of depression as I contemplated the end of the life which, at that time and at various points even now, depresses me in any case. There is no point trying to understand the mind of someone who has bouts of depression but who at the same time finds the thought of ending his depression via the outlet of death to be...wait for it.... depressing. We're a different breed. Actually, I'm not sure there are any others like me.

All of that was six years ago. By now, the realisation that my kidneys are going to last somewhat longer than predicted has kicked in. Death is off the table. Just get on with it, and go and get your meds every month. I collect these from the same branch of Boots on the retail park once a month, and had had several discussions with Emma about the need to do this before last weekend. Her parents were coming to stay (which is a blog that nobody dare write) so there would be no opportunity over the weekend itself. And we could have sworn I was running out.

Now probably because Emma was off sick last Monday and Tuesday it slipped my mind on those days. And then on Thursday she had ordered an online shopping delivery from Tesco. We've long since given up the pretence that we actually intend to physically go shopping. Except for French loaves. Emma says she doesn't trust the online system to come up with fresh enough French loaves. It seems to me that if a system is sophisticated enough to arrange for two men to drive to your home in a large van containing everything you ordered (or close to it) at the touch of a few buttons, then fresh French loaves should be do-able. But not so. Since Emma's parents were coming up on the Friday that just left the Wednesday. But we must have forgotten to do it then also.

Only I didn't know this until today. On Monday night I noticed that my current supply of meds was running a bit low. Normally I just leave the opened box on the kitchen worktop but, with guests due, there had been much tidying of such items and general spring cleaning going on. The meds were not on the kitchen worktop and, when I asked Emma she said that the only box she had thrown away had been empty. At this point I will accept culpability for failing to conduct a more thorough search. It is a terribly male problem, that of seemingly being unable to search for and therefore find anything that is not placed directly under the nose. If it was not where I thought I left it, and in the only other place which I considered logically possible, then we had either not picked them up or Emma had thrown them away.

The story was much the same on Tuesday, so today after work I gave them a call that went a little something like this;

'Hello Boots Pharmacy!", voice going up as if they were asking me if they were indeed Boots Pharmacy. Surely they should know? But I do this myself, to be fair. Hello PLSU? Well, yes it is, obviously. Anyway.....

'Yeah, I just wanted to check something. This is going to sound a bit stupid but can you tell me if my prescription has been collected?'

There isn't a pause but I imagine one nonetheless. One which begins with supressed giggles and turns into a full blown conversation between the entire United Kingdom Boots staff about how some mad old bloke has rung up because he can't remember whether he has picked up his prescription, or even what his name is or where he lives. Maybe he doesn't know because he can't get here himself and he can't find out from the person who is supposed to go on his behalf. Either way I am being pitied in my mind about now, and anyone in my situation treats pity with the kind of disdain with which Elvis Costello regards Margaret Thatcher. Finally, the response comes....

"OK, what's your name please?"

I'm certain she's still giggling.

"Stephen Orford."

There I said it. Stephen Orford is someone who can't remember whether he went to the chemist to pick up his potentially life-saving meds (though even the specialist must be starting to question his original forecast after all these years) less than a week ago.

"I'll just check for you, Mr Orford."

Long, drawn out, awkward pause, last experienced when I naively phoned a girl who had given me her phone number in 1996. That didn't end well....

"Oh yes, Mr Orford, that's here for you to collect."

I end the call sharply and with as much dignity as I can muster, and when I arrive at the pharmacy an hour later nobody makes mention of it except me. Why don't I just stop with the self-mockery at this point? It's like I'm doing it to make conversation because otherwise we'll be talking about the weather or, God forbid, my all-time most hated topic of dullard conversation, that one about how fucking close we are to Friday. Or worse than that, how it actually is Friday when it is Friday. Friday's a fucking working day!

I can't remember whether or not I picked up my meds less than a week ago, but I know that Friday is no different to any other fucking day of the week.

I'll leave you to it now. I think the pulsating rush of being able to blog twice in a day after such a long drought has got to me a little.

This Is What Happens When You Forget To Charge Your Kindle

It's been on my mind that I haven't written for a while. In fact, my lack of input recently undoubtedly contributes to my general lack of self worth. I just had to go back and delete an extra 'l' from the word 'general'. It's been a long time.

March 15, in fact, when last I soiled these pages with tales of how Emma and I managed to leave my wheels at home after driving to work one day. That's far too long but what do you do? Write something for the sake of writing it? In which case it is likely to be a stream-of-consciousness, formless lot of bollocks which it is so far, or do you wait for something significant or interesting to happen? It could be a while if you do that. I have just spent the morning inserting data on a spreadsheet. Significance and interest seem a world away. In fact, they have fucked off on holiday with joy and hope.

It's lunchtime. I have just been downstairs where I intended to read my book. Nothing life-changing, just a bog-standard Grisham novel about two half-arsed lawyers (very much after my own heart, then) who try to litigate against a massive drug manufacturer. So anyway I switched on the kindle and basically it said no. I had forgotten to charge it. Again. Even had I remembered I would have been out of luck, because I have had my phone on charge all morning. It's limited battery-life has buckled under the strain of my endless Facebook rambles in leiu of anything substantial enough to transfer on to these pages. In leiu of any real writing talent, then.

There's nothing worse than switching on your kindle at lunchtime and realising it has no battery and you have forgotten to charge it. Well there probably is but right now it doesn't seem like there is. Not when I have another afternoon of data entry to look forward to, beginning in approximately 27 minutes time. The race is on for this piece to make any sort of sense before then. If you thought I rambled on Facebook, you have entered a whole new world of rambling by visiting me here. But I thank you for it anyway. It makes it all worthwhile. And anyway, I promised myself that I would get something down on these pages today. Or if not today then certainly this week. The lack of a kindle gave me a window, and has very probably given all of us a headache. I'm trying to work out what to write and you're trying to work out what the fuck I am on about.

I was going to write a piece about Thatcher. For those of you who don't know or who have been living under a rock for the last two weeks the old hag bought it a couple of weeks ago. Now this is undoubtedly sad for somebody somewhere, but it does not justify spending £10million of tax-payers money to send her off in the manner of a war-hero. Personally I'd have paid someone ten bob to drop her down a secret chute into the Mersey (what? you didn't know about the secret chute into the Mersey? Well, it is a secret) but I'm sure the appropriate arrangements were somewhere in between these two extremes. Anyway it all got me very mad, as regular readers of my Facebook 'wisdom' will already know. But in the end I did't write about it here because I had already said it all there. And far more people are likely to read a status on Facebook than a blog like this. That's life. That's 'microblogging', if that word isn't too pretentious and hurl-inducing.

What else could I write about? Luis Suarez is in trouble again. He bit someone. Again. The club have stuck by him. Again. Reputations no longer matter in Premier League football. It's all about business and flipping great sacks of cash and Suarez, his flesh-chomping tomfoolery notwithstanding, is Liverpool's most valuable asset. The club's owners are Americans, making it even less likely that they will take any action which could weaken their overall position. All of which is immoral and makes you feel a bit queasy. But there is not another club in the Premier League who would do anything different to what Liverpool have done. Furthermore, Fergie would probably have Bratislav Ivanovic up on an FA charge for putting his arm in Suarez's mouth if he were the manager of Liverpool. Suarez may choose to leave anyway given the lack of European football on offer at Anfield next season. Ignoring the moral debate, they're taking an awfully big gamble if they are relying on Suarez to repay the faith they have shown in him by sticking around and, perish the thought, behaving himself for five minutes.

Now that I have used the phrase 'perish the thought' in one of my pieces it occurs to me just how rusty I am at all this. I suppose the only answer to that it is to try and do it more often but with all the work I am doing for Redvee, and with spending my days looking at spreadsheets and engaging in some of the most puerile banter since Ziggy Greaves' heyday, I just haven't had the time or, if I'm honest, the dedication. But most of all, what has been lacking, is the inspiration. As crap as it has been over this past month, life has been pretty much devoid of any comedy cock-ups, blatant episodes of discrimination or sickening patronisation to rattle on about with smug, pompous abandon. I'm not in a good literary place at the moment.

But what do you expect? I've just written this piece in 20 minutes in my lunch break. If only that fucking kindle had been charged we could have all saved some valuable time. See you on Facebook.