A winter-storm of discontent



The last week has, in any terms, been pretty crappy and I’ve ended up getting totally derailed in so many ways and on so many different fronts it has been a real act of bravery to remind myself what it is that I’m doing and WHY it is that I’m doing it.

Last Monday, I started a pain in the junction between my neck and shoulder. Initially, I thought I’d slept on it  funny, but as the day went on it got progressively worse, so that by the time I’d got the kids off to bed I was a whining, snivelly shell of a woman, stinking of self-pity and wearing my misery like a leper’s bell. Paracetamol and wheatpacks just didn’t cut it in the pain-relieving stakes, and my general sense of wellbeing was further eroded by the news that some evil bastard had nicked my name, address and credit card details and was quite happily ordering stuff for themselves and billing it to me. So, on top of all the pain, I had all the stress of contacting the company concerned and telling them to cut off this putative Ellsea, cancelling my card and all the associated CIFAS aggravation. I am sure it must have been online somewhere that it happened, but having virus checked the laptop and computers here AND checked back through my transaction histories the last couple of months, I’m totally stymied, which is a real worry, because now I don’t know which of my regular purchases I can’t trust.  I hate stuff like that, people taking advantage and using me to get what they want. It’s a real invasion of privacy. I’ve had to work for what I’ve got, why the bloody hell can’t they? Scum.

On Tuesday, the pain was much, much worse. I couldn’t turn my head or move my neck without enduring total agony, and I had arranged to drive to London (I know, total lunacy) to see my sister and brand-new nephew, delivering several bags of baby clothes and other gubbins in the process. I should have known the fates were against me when I hit a traffic jam on the way out of the village where the children go to school and sat there for 30 minutes making little-to-no progress. When we finally got moving, I bless the satnav makers who provide me with such goodness as trafficmaster and detour planning, because it took me backroads and put me on the A3 literally 100yards ahead of the accident that was causing a tailback as far as the junction I usually would get on at. Euphoria shortlived, because of course as soon as you get past Roehampton, you’re effectively into London and driving becomes a teeth-grinding test of nerve and endurance. I’m a pretty relaxed driver, I like to go fast when it’s safe, but I’m not competitive and I like to be courteous. So, of course, I’m like a lamb to the slaughter in London traffic. I have *never* been so scared in my entire life. The levels of stress, aggression and risk-taking associated with driving in London, the lack of space, the snarl-ups, the lack of proper signalling, road positioning and other standards that ensure a smooth and safe journey are so enormous that I honestly think that driving in London ought to be a certifiable action. I mean, you’d have to be mad to do it on a regular basis, or else it is something that would make you insane? And then there’s the parking. Now, I know that it’s a cliche, and it’s been said so many times before, that the parking permit and traffic warden (except they are now called Civil Enforcement Officers) system is purely and simply a revenue generating exercise for councils, but in cliche there is often truth, and in truth there is always mileage. So. I acquire my one day visitor parking permit. I scratch out the necesary boxes, careful to scrape all and only the appropriate ones. I fill in my reg nr etc, check I’m parked in a bay relevant to the permit, check that I’ve displayed the thing in the appropriate place. As I’m getting Bellaboo out of the car, one of these CEO’s watches me, I see him looking at the permit, I ask him if it’s OK. He’s noncommittal (perhaps they are only allowed to talk if they are issuing a ticket?), so I take this to mean that there is not a problem – otherwise he would have told me, right? (yeah, right). And off I go to visit my sister and the delightful baby, who is very cute and still at that all-curled-up newborn stage (but man, when he’s hungry, he knows what he wants!!) Bellaboo was very sweet with him & kept kissing him on the head and was generally intrigued, and since we came back has been carrying around Honey’s little Baby Bjorn and kissing it a lot and pronouncing ‘babby’ very proudly. Ahhhhhhh. ANYWAYS. We get back to the car after a lovely, lovely visit and lo and behold: A BLOODY PARKING TICKET. Apparently, my permit was invalid. In what way? I have no idea. Now I have a couple of choices. I can appeal. Who knows how long that will take, which puts me in a  quandary regarding the fine. If I pay within 30 days, it’s £40, but it doubles to £80 if I take longer. If I appeal and lose and it takes longer than 30 days, I have to pay £80. Which makes it tempting to sod it and just pay the fine, which I guess is what they are counting on. I don’t want to pay it, and I don’t think I should pay it, but I’m not sure I have the energy to tackle any further bureaucracy at the moment, because on Wednesday . . .

I received my Child Tax Credit award notice. And I immediately notice that I have acquired two children under the age of 1. Now, I know I don’t have twins, and that’s the only way it ought to be physically possible (though I guess mathematically it could be done, it’s just not something I want to contemplate). So, I have to phone the tax office to correct the erroneous dates of birth. Great. I just *love* hanging about on phone lines waiting to talk to someone. I honestly have nothing better to do with my time. (NOT!). I phone up, and start to jump through the hoops of security questions. My bank is quite happy with 2 questions, as are most other on & off line service providers. Not so the Inland Revenue, who want to know, it seems, my last recorded weight, height and hair colour before they will talk to me. Tellingly, the one piece of information I have to provide is the number and dates-of-birth of my children. I tell her, and explain very nicely that this may not coincide with their records, because they have incorrect information on their systems for those same dates of birth (this information is not shown on the form they have sent me, so I don’t know what they have input). The woman on the phone apologises and tells me that she is now not allowed to talk to me because I can’t correctly answer the security questions. I point out, very politely, that I have answered 5 other security questions correctly, and that I can’t give her the information she wants because I don’t know what her co-worker input erroneously into the system. Again, she apologises and says she can’t talk to me any further. I ask to speak to a supervisor, but am told that I will get the same response. I ask if I can write, and am told that they only accept phone correspondence and will disregard a letter. So I ask her how I am meant to solve this problem, and she again apologises and tells me that she is not allowed to help me. If it wasn’t for the concern that at some point in the future I am doubtless going to get shafted by the IR for providing false information on this subject, I’d think it was the most hilarious farce. Coming on the back of everything else, it is just annoying and bloody typical of the faceless bureaucratic bullshit that is rife in this country. Personal responsibility and accountability and autonomy dissipates in the face of enormous inflexible computer systems. In my mind, this has just strengthened my internal conviction that we should give the database state a huge heave-ho. Imagine if that had been the entirety of my personal records, and I was completely unable to access them? Coming on top of having my identity hacked (I refuse the word ‘victim’, I don’t like it. I will not be made into a passive receptacle of someone else’s vitriol), this is particularly worrying.

Actually, the rest of the week started to pick up, insofar as no fresh annoyances crawled out of the woodwork to plague me. The pain in my neck and back, however, showed little sign of letting up and turned me into the most dreadful whiny creature, and it was so bad I couldn’t write and couldn’t exercise, so all those goals started to slip, and I even struggled with sewing because looking down hurt. So, with everything slipping away, I fell into the awful vicious circle of pain-stress-misery-comfortbiscuiteat-guilt-stress-pain-misery-comfortbiscuiteat-guilt-misery-stress-pain-comfortbiscuiteat-guilt- (you get the picture) and it crippled me far, far worse than the actual pain did. I was trapped in this cycle and just drowning (or perhaps wallowing?) in this sea of awfulness. It made me realise just how quickly and how easily I could slip away from the path I wanted to be, when I had felt so up and good and empowered, into this black void of depression – and I could feel it sitting there, waiting to jump on me.

I think I got lucky this time. Some timely advice from twitterific friends (thanks @Sally & @TrevorMendham) got me onto icepacks and voltarol pain relief gel and reducing the pain helped me get focus back. I’m still clinging on by my fingertips a little, but in the last couple of days I have caught up (finally) on my How to Think Sideways coursework, AND finished a short story that ended up breaking the 20k barrier (and my o my is that going to need some major editing!) AND finished a couple of refashions – a black wrap with embroidered purple border to go around Bellaboo and I when she’s in the sling and a cute little tunic top for Bellaboo – AND I saw an advert for “power pramming” which looks like it could be good fun AND good exercise, AND I did a major declutter of our loft, AND read Anne McCaffrey’s Crystal Line (and enjoyed it, too).

So, despite the potential for derailment, I did manage to get a lot done in the week so I feel like it hasn’t been wasted. I guess the BIG learning points for me are:

1) Shit happens, deal with it and move on

2) Plans are not set in stone, I need to be flexible and change things around as and when needed

3) I should acknowledge and value what I have done, instead of dwelling on what I have not done

4) As long as I keep my key words – COMPLETE and ENJOY – as my guiding lights, I’ll stay on track

Point 3 is a huge step for me. I am always far too quick to step up and give myself a kicking over the things I have not done. Based on looking over the list of what I *did* do (and that leaves out all the normal, house-and-family-daily-maintenance activity I handle), I can’t even begin to describe last week as a waste of time or opportunity. I used my time in a slightly different way to how I had planned it. That doesn’t make it (or me) a failure.

I feel lucky. This is the second set of events that could have set me off into a massive downward spiral, but I’ve managed to pull myself. I know I need to get more on top of my personal health and fitness – not exercising has had a big negative impact on me, and I know I neglect myself, and particularly that my diet suffers horribly, when I’m miserable. *That* is something I will need to get to the bottom of, but I’m holding it off for now. I don’t think I’m ready to go there just yet. I don’t think I’m going to like what I have to deal with. And yes, that is a head-in-the-sand approach, but it feels right for now. (Terminally chicken? Damn straight).

The big task for this month is the Serpent of Colchis edit. And guess what? Serendipitiously, over at ForwardMotion, there’s an edit dare. I am *so* in that. I have a little crit-and-submit catchup to do, but I’m pretty much back on track. It’s looking possible.



2 Responses to “A winter-storm of discontent”

  1. 1 Catkins


    Found this site via No2ID and hope I can offer a (reasonably quick) practical solution. Take the issues to your local MP. Normally I’d recommend speaking to your local councillor about the parking ticket as it’s a local authorty issue, but you were outside of your local area. If you sought clarification from a parking attendent, I think you have a good case for appeal.

    In the latter case the Inland Revenue will be obliged to respond to a letter from an elected representative through their MP’s Correspondence Unit. If your MP is an oppisition MP they may even want to raise this disgraceful state of affairs with a minister…. ;). Jeez, it sounds like something out of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, so good luck!

  2. What a miserable run of luck! I can’t believe what a jerk that parking policeman was — or maybe I can. They’re the same the world over.

    Good luck with the editing — things have got to get better from here!

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