Day Trip to the Seaside

Easter Saturday, a fine sunny day, perfect for a trip to the seaside with 2 friends.

Set off on the 9.10 train to Cleethorpes. Friends delighted when I produced bucks fizz and plastic wine glasses from my bag. Hilarity as tried to pour without spilling on table. Poor chap occupying fourth seat asked to move – not because he was getting off, but because we were getting lary.

First time for me in Cleethorpes.  Very excited because I love the sea, having grown up on the south coast.  Living in landlocked Sheffield, had not seen the sea for 3 years. Friends said the sea at Cleethorpes is in fact the Humber estuary and very tidal. When tide is out, there are acres of sand flats, so you can barely even see the sea then.  Well, if I go all the way to the seaside and don’t see the sea, there’ll be trouble.  Fortunately when we got off the train, the sea was all there.

View from the pier

View from the pier

On the pier

On the pier

Pretty awful run-down seaside tat around the station. Pier had been cut down to a few yards in wartime. Traditional seaside donkeys and hardy British bucket-and-spaders despite chilly wind.

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Strolled down the prom to the bird sanctuary and were passed by a delightful miniature steam train going ‘toot-toot’!  Everyone waved.

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Stopped at the point where the line of zero longitude crosses the east coast, marked by a signpost and a metal plate in the pavement ‘Greenwich Meridian Longitude – zero’.

Greenwich Meridian marker

Greenwich Meridian marker

Found the miniature train station complete with traditional signage, men in railway uniforms of yesteryear, and a stout man in a bowler hat announcing departures via a cordless microphone. A fusion of old and new in one fat controller!

Then came across a wonderful boating lake, big, with 3 islands and a host of ducks, geese and swans. And tourists trying to row against the stiff breeze off the North sea. I have sea legs so insisted we join in. Seven quid for 30 minutes, he said, but we filled our boots for an hour and no-one minded.

On the boating lake

On the boating lake

Boat man held boat steady as we clambered out, and asked him where’s the best place round here for fish and chips? Steele’s in the market place, without a doubt.  Found Steele’s, and even though it was nearly 3pm and past the lunchtime rush, a queue out the door. Worth the wait. Slap-up fish and chips, traditional style. Comes with a pot of tea and bread-and-butter. Pot of tea comes with a jug of hot water – the mark of quality. Dessert menu included banana split, knickerbocker glory, and spotted dick. Wonderful. But a bridge too far for us.  Besides, there were freshly-baked donuts to buy back on the prom. And sticks of rock. And cinder toffee.

Seaside rock shoppe

Seaside rock shoppe

Back on the prom, the sea had gone!

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Bye-bye seaside,

Till next time,

L x

 

Justice – at last!

It’s been a horrendously stressful few months but at last it feels like I’m turning a corner.

It all started last July when I fainted, fell over and broke my ankle. Then on the day I returned to work with leg brace and crutches, my employer told me I had to accept a pay cut of nearly 50% or be dismissed.  It seemed like a redundancy to me but she was very unclear about it and managed the whole process very badly. I claimed and got my 3 months’ notice period.

In August an attempt was made to constructively dismiss me by accusing me of stealing bubble wrap from the warehouse. I easily disproved this by naming the date the bubble wrap was used up, the customer order it was used for, and two witnesses who saw me use it. However, the insult, shock and outrage that this caused cannot be overestimated and the perilous nature of my position was suddenly very clear. I had worked at this company for 16 years and had thought there was a high level of trust, respect and friendship between us. Sadly, it was wiped out in a single, devastating blow.

The rest of my notice period was extremely difficult for me but at least it was finally agreed that I was being made redundant. A redundancy calculation was made, but would only be paid to me in tiny instalments over a period of years. Astonishingly, I was told that if I wanted the lump sum I would have to sue her for it in a tribunal court, and if I chose to do this she wouldn’t ‘take it personally’.

The court date was 11th April and in the meantime there was masses of preparation to do. I had to respond to the other party’s submissions, which were a depressing catalogue of half-truths and evasions. Yesterday in court was the most stressful day of my life. But the judge found in my favour and I was awarded compensation for unfair dismissal. My case was untypical and the legal arguments, lesser known precedents and technicalities were fascinating. I was utterly relieved when it was all over. As soon as I got home I necked a bottle of champagne.

Whilst all this was rumbling on, I was looking for a job but could only get temporary office work. So I set up my own art publishing company. It’s very early days, but I’ve really enjoyed the learning process and as a small business it’s got a lot of potential.

Even better, last month I was headhunted by the MD of a local bag printing company who had my CV on file from a previous application. The job seems great and I really like the people. It is only a 30-minute walk away so I’ll be leaving the car at home and saving a fortune in petrol. I might even drop a dress size!

Here’s hoping that this year pans out a bit better than the last!

Till next time,

L x

Office Politics

I am enjoying my temporary job at a large office complex in Chesterfield. I have never worked amongst so many people before. The place is a labyrinth. There is a beverage kitchen where, instead of a kettle, they have a hot water geyser – boiling water on tap – so you don’t have to wait around for a kettle. How modern!

Also in the kitchen is a fridge where the 20 or so workers in this corner of the rabbit warren keep their lunches, and milk for tea and coffee. Now, I drink black tea and cuppa soup, so I don’t need a milk supply. But sometimes in the mornings, if I’ve arrived especially early, I need the sort of caffeine shot you only get from a nice cup of milky coffee. There is an abandoned jar of powdered coffee creamer which I am welcome to use. But it’s not the same as proper milk, as we all know.

So I have become furtive. The fridge door is stuffed full of all kinds of milk, one pint, two pints, semi-skimmed, red top, blue top. All carefully marked with initials. I have no idea what the initials mean: a person? a department? But I nip into the kitchen when the coast is clear, open the fridge, scan the milk cartons, grab one that’s fairly full, and pour a drop into my cup.

That’s better!

Fingers crossed I don’t get caught in the act. The embarrassment would be huge.

Till next time,

L x

Officially unemployed

After 20 years of full time employment, my contract has been terminated.  I am officially ‘on the dole’. I have been to the Great Hall of the People (the Job Centre) for the first time in my life, and I am humbly accepting as many hand-outs as I can apply for.

They make you register on their jobs website, so that a civil servant can go online and track your job searching activity. If they see that you have not been using the site, they may decide to withdraw your Job Seekers Allowance. Now I think this is only fair. You should be at least trying to get a job, after all. The trouble is, I find I am either overqualified or under qualified for just about every job advertised. Or I don’t have the right background. I used to run the office of a fine art giftware company. So I could run the office of an estate agent or a training company, right? It’s called having transferable skills, right? Wrong! They want people who have actual experience of property management or training courses.

What I would really like to do is to make full use of my existing skills – for myself, if nobody else wants them. I am working on setting up my own company. OH is building me a website. As soon as it’s ready, I’ll let you know. It is nothing to do with knitting! But the knitting will continue alongside, as it did before.

I walked home through the park yesterday. The leaves made this beautiful pattern on the grass. The ducks and geese were mooching about under the trees and the sun was low. Autumn is so pretty!

Weston Park, Sheffield

Weston Park, Sheffield

Till next time,

L x

A Lady of Leisure

My job has ended. Although I am officially ‘on holiday’ until the end of next week, I am never going back. It is a very strange feeling, having worked full-time for 20 years, to now have no structure or routine other than what I decide to impose on myself.

So I have entered a phase of change and possibilities. Although the ending of my job was stressful and traumatic, and I still have to fight a legal case against my employer, I can now focus my attention on other things.

One positive is that I took some advice on my CV and job applications, and as a result I have just got an interview! I was told that the post attracted 800 applications, and I made it to the shortlist of 20. So I must have got something right, and I take great encouragement from that.

Fingers crossed! And with many other plans in the pipeline, things could start looking up!

Thank goodness I can airbrush in Photoshop

Thank goodness I can airbrush in Photoshop

Till next time,

L x

Big Changes Ahead

Stressful times at KR. This morning I simply had to get out of the house so I grabbed my bag and keys, and set off walking. I considered walking and walking and walking all day, but after a brisk half-hour I felt calmer. It is unseasonably warm and sunny here, and I turned homewards, thinking of a cup of tea in the garden and some reassurance with the OH.

I have just four more days left in my job of 16 years. My redundancy is going to be paid in tiny monthly instalments, instead of the lump sum I am entitled to, and was counting on, since I have no other job to go to yet.  I have to take my employer to court in order to get the lump sum.  This could take months and will incur costs. Financially, this is a huge worry. In the meantime I have to turn up and do my job, through gritted teeth and with a false smile on my face. I am very sad about this because I have enjoyed this job very much, and I never thought it would end like this.

Still, fingers crossed that I will get another job soon, even if it’s only temporary.

Yesterday I spent the afternoon with a dear friend in the city centre. The sun was shining. We took our picture reflected in these great spherical water features in the Peace Gardens.

Water feature in Sheffield Peace Gardens

Water feature in Sheffield Peace Gardens

Onwards and upwards!

L xx

Heatwave

Here in Sheffield, UK, we have had an unbroken spell of baking hot summer sun for the last 2 weeks. This is most unusual for this country and particularly for the northern regions. Temperatures have nudged 30 degrees, which is almost unheard of.

Friends have said it must be awful to have a leg in plaster in this heat. But actually it’s OK. I don’t have to worry about cold toes, slippery conditions or getting the plaster wet. Getting dressed is ever so simple as I don’t have to put lots of layers on. Most of my trousers are not wearable over my ‘pot’, so I am living in summer skirts.

I am signed off sick until I am more mobile, but I have been doing some work from home via my laptop. It’s mostly repetitive, data-entry-type work so I can happily sit in the garden, in the shade of the tall trees, and play some music as I go. My phone is beside me at all times in case the office needs to call me. I like to think that they are struggling without me.

At the weekend some friends kindly took me to their house which was lovely. We sat on the deck and had a go in the kids’ paddling pool. Then we went to the pub and I got signed, including ‘Get Well Soon’ in Chinese! It was wonderful to have a change of scene and to be surrounded by cheery people.

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I had a lovely visitor yesterday who happens to be a trained homeopath, and she brought me some arnica tablets. This is meant to reduce swelling and bruising, and aid the healing process. I have never tried homeopathy before, and I am completely befuddled as to how it can possibly work, but I am willing to try it. My friend is very aware of the controversy surrounding homeopathy, so she discretely handed the tiny bottle of pills to me and I hid it away, in case we attracted attention and started a debate. It felt terribly risqué, like she was my drug dealer.

The cats are finding it far too hot to move. They are more sleepy and snuggly than ever.

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Till next time,

L x

Knitting Suspended

I have had a week recuperating at home after my ankle-pinning operation. As I have not had surgery before in my adult life, I did not realise the impact it would have. Firstly there is the inconvenience of keeping the injured limb elevated at all times. When standing, I am strictly not allowed to put any weight on it at all. When sitting or lying down, it must be elevated.

Secondly, I was hit by the sheer fatigue of recovery. Every day I begin to feel exhausted at some point in the afternoon, and I have to lie down and sleep for 2-3 hours. At first I thought this was a side-effect of the painkillers I was taking. So, with my doctor’s support, I reduced the dose and stopped it altogether, hoping to get my days back. But today, the second drug-free day, I lasted until 5 o’clock when I was overcome with fatigue and slept until 8pm.

My arms and upper body are strained from using crutches, and although I have a wonderful OH who has taken over all the chores, and who serves up wonderful lunches, dinners and cool drinks, I am determined to do what I can around the house to support him. I can carry small items in my hands whilst holding the crutches. Larger items I can carry in my backpack. I can carry the laundry slung around my neck. I can tidy up in the kitchen by going slowly and leaning on the counters. I can do the ironing sitting down.

Still, moving around the house takes a lot of time and effort. Just getting up, having breakfast, feeding the cats and doing some light chores takes me two whole hours. After a rest and a cup of tea it’s almost lunchtime. Then I have a 3-hour window in which I can get some work done before I start drooping and have to lie down.

Tomorrow, as it’s the weekend, I can use the 3-hour window to actually do some knitting. And on the plus side, all the sleeping must be doing me some good: the ankle pain is much reduced.

Nap time with Monty

Nap time with Monty

Till next time,

L x

A Bit of a Shock

Not much knitting has been achieved this week. Sometimes the unexpected happens, and not always in a good way.  On Monday I managed to break my ankle by falling awkwardly in a dead faint. I thought it was a nasty sprain, having sprained my ankle before. By the end of Tuesday it was so painful, despite plenty of rest and icepacks, that next morning I went to the local hospital and got it x-rayed. The radiographer took one look at it and said ‘I think you’ve broken it, love’. As soon as he took the picture, he said, ‘Yes, it’s gone’. It was a spiral fracture of the fibula.

I’ve never fainted in my life, so the faint was the first shock. On top of that, it never occurred to me that I might have broken my ankle. That was shock no 2. How could it be broken when I walked on it, albeit painfully, for 2 days? Right after I fainted, I went to my doctor who was more concerned about the faint than the sprain. He didn’t even look at my ankle. If he had, he probably would have sent me straight to A&E.

Shock no 3 was Thursday morning at the Fracture Clinic in the main hospital, where the consultant looked at my x-rays. ‘This fracture needs pinning’, he said, ‘or you will get arthritis in the joint. We’ll do it today. When did you last eat?’ I couldn’t believe it. I had seen the x-ray and the bone wasn’t displaced, so I thought they would just re-plaster it and send me on my way.

Because I had eaten a banana at 9 o’clock, they would not operate until at least 3pm, so I was taken to a bed in a ward to wait my turn. I’m usually fit and well, so a hospital is an unfamiliar environment to me. Still reeling from the shock of my situation, I was a brave girl and waited patiently, trying to read the paper and swapping text messages with the OH. I had already seen 4 different doctors and 3 nurses, who were all terribly careful about taking my history and explaining the procedure. The anaesthetist marked a big black arrow on my knee pointing towards my ankle, which I found rather comical, since they could hardly do the wrong leg – as if the plaster and the black and blue swollen ankle underneath it wasn’t enough of a clue.  The battery on my phone was very low and 3 o’clock came and went and I was still waiting. My leg started to throb and I was suddenly very tired. I lay down on the bed and the tears came.

The nurse came to tell me it was time to get the dreaded gown on and found me a blubbering mess. Far from telling me to pull myself together, she kindly fetched me tissues. The theatre nurses were just as patient with me. ‘Are you feeling anxious sweetheart?’ But I wasn’t anxious about the procedure or the anaesthetic. I just couldn’t believe this was  happening. I didn’t much like the idea of pieces of metal being placed permanently in my leg, all because I had fainted – the very first shock of the week which still needs investigating.

I was processed very efficiently and very well looked after on the ward during the night. It helped that the lady in the next bed was friendly and talkative. She had just had her entire shoulder replaced. I realised that the other 4 women on the ward were also suffering much more than me, including a young mother who had broken both her legs and 3 ribs trying to reach her child. At least I had one fit leg to hobble on.

The surgeon came to see me and told me the operation had gone well. But it was essential that I rest with my leg elevated for 2 weeks. I was still under the impression that I could go to work on Monday, on crutches. He said absolutely not. If I put any weight on my injured ankle, I could undo all his good work. Get a sick note and stay at home. This was another blow. I work in a very small company and my absence for 2 weeks or more would be hugely inconvenient. I started to think about contingencies and how much work I could do from home.

Back at home, our entire routine has changed. I can’t walk very far, or stand for very long. I can’t carry things around as I don’t have free hands. I can’t drive. Getting up and down the stairs is tiring and I’m scared of losing my balance. OH has had to take over all of the shopping and housework. During my first night back at home, the hospital drugs wore off completely and I woke at 5am thinking I was being stabbed in the ankle. The pain was very frightening and I screamed at the OH to fetch my painkillers. No-one had warned me it would be this painful after the operation, but I’m glad they didn’t. Now I understood why they fed me painkillers every 4 hours and gave me a large stock to take home with me.

Writing this has helped me to process the shock. Thank goodness for blogging! Slowly I am getting stronger. The weather is beautiful and I am surrounded by my hot, sleepy, snuggly cats.

Herbie therapy

Herbie therapy

Till next time,

L x