Helping someone having an Epileptic seizure

Something completely different than what you might expect to find here…

My partner is an epilepsy sufferer, and was very open about this early on in our relationship, while we were still really at the dating stage. Her epilepsy had been under control for a long while and she hadn’t had a seizure in over ten years.

A couple of years ago, the seizures started to happen again. Still relatively rare, with a long gap (of a few months) between them, and usually with a fairly clear initiator: in her case the seizures are triggered due to lack of rest, so they would happen if she’d just flown a ‘red-eye’ flight in economy class and got no rest, or if she’d had very broken sleep because of some other problem such as a bad cough, cold or flu.

A further complication is that every time an epilepsy sufferer has a seizure and crumples to the ground, there is a chance they will hurt themselves when they fall. In my partner’s case, she almost always falls to the same side, and it’s caused problems in her right arm and shoulder.

This has the ability to initiate a “vicious circle” – have a seizure, hurt your arm, have the pain from your arm affect your quality of sleep, to the extent that you have another seizure, and your arm which was slowly recovering is now even more painful. Lather, rinse, repeat…

So this was the position we found ourselves in. The seizures becoming more frequent. One problem exacerbating the other.

Nothing can prepare you for the first time you see someone you care about have an epileptic seizure. I’m a (lapsed) First Aider, and even though I’ve helped someone having a fit in the past, it’s different when it’s a person you know going through the process of a seizure. It really is quite a shock as the person you expect to find is “absent” during the seizure, but for their sake, you have to try and stay calm and keep a lookout for them until the fit has passed.

Here’s a few hints to help you help someone having a seizure:

Continue reading “Helping someone having an Epileptic seizure”

A local map for local people

Nothing for youuuu here!
A Local Map for Local People

I love maps.

I’ve been fascinated by them ever since I was a child. We’d get the appropriate maps out of the local library and play along with Treasure Hunt on the TV. It had nothing to do with Anneka Rice in a jumpsuit. I was more interested in the maps, the tech (remember those colossal two-way radio packs?) and the helicopters. At least initially…

I could spend hours pouring over maps and atlases, and make boring rainy days indoors simply flash by.

In the UK, official maps are published by the Ordnance Survey, a UK Government department which is the official mapping agency for Great Britain – but not Northern Ireland, if the omission of Northern Ireland confuses you, then CGP Grey can explain – not why the OS doesn’t cover Northern Ireland, but the whole UK/GB/NI distinction. Anyway, I digress.

I live on the edge of South East London, well if I ask the Post Office I live in Kent, even though I’m a resident of a London Borough, have to pay for the Metropolitan Police, and get to vote for the Mayor. One of the advantages of living out here is that there’s lots of lovely green belt to go walking through.

Now, the disadvantage. The OS make lovely 1:25000 scale maps (the “Explorer” series) which are aimed at outdoor leisure. The downer is that I live almost on the join of four of the map sheets, so when I go for a day out walking, I often need to take at least two maps, and as many as all four, with me, along with their extraneous detail of places I’m not going to, such as Lewisham, Peckham, Barking and Croydon.

Before anyone asks “Why don’t you use your phone?”,  even though you are tantalisingly close to civilisation and 3G (or even 4G) mobile data, you’re not that close. Deep in the woods, you’re far enough away to have poor or no service, and most mobile mapping products don’t have things walkers need like contour information.

So, as quaint as they may seem in this age of satnav and gps, paper maps it is for your weekend amble through the local countryside.

The boffins at the OS have a solution to “living on the join”: Custom Made maps (ta-dah!). You go online and define what area you want covered by the map (e.g. plonk your house, or somewhere close to it, in the middle if you like) and they will print it from the digital source maps, after you’ve given them some money (£17 in this case).

You get to choose what it says on the front, and you can even upload your own cover image (or choose one from their library of inoffensive landscapes).

Now that Summer is allegedly round the corner, I thought I had a perfect excuse to get one. No offence to Lewisham intended, but I’m tired of carrying you around in my day pack.

They laser print it on some humungous laser printer, maybe have a bit of a laugh at your choice of subtitle, package it up and it lands on your doormat a few days later. Exciting, eh?

For those who love geeky details, it even gets it’s own ISBN number. Coo. Right, best find my walking shoes…

Product placement vs. artistic statement

If anyone has happened to watch a Lady Gaga music video, you can’t have helped notice the appearance of commercial products.

So, the question is…

Is it just blatant product placement to help defray the costs of making a music video?


An artistic statement by Gaga about the commercialism and consumerism of our everyday lives?

Shallow? Or deep? Just wondering…

Looking at the “back” of a city

Anyone else notice how a train journey in or out of a city such as London, is a view of the “back” of the city?

The view from the windows is almost always of the “back” of things. Backs of houses, back gardens, faceless backs of warehouses, shops, offices, interspersed with car parks, yards and allotments, with glimpses of the “front” peeking through the gaps.

“This is coach 11 of 8” and other nonsense

Coach number 11 of 8Recently seen on a journey from Victoria – this train was to split en-route at Faversham, with the front 8 coaches going to one place, and the rear 4 going forward to somewhere else.

Thanks to a software bug in the train’s passenger information displays and automated announcements, it gave out confusing information as shown in this picture. The software could understand the train would split, but couldn’t understand it was a 12 coach train at this point.

I’ve written about this sort of automated ridiculousness that we have to put up with before – Torrential Tannoys – all about the endless stream of hectoring announcements a user of public transport has to deal with in the UK.

What’s doubly annoying is that the announcements are frequently verbose and use patronising language, or worse still, use flowery and unclear language, which means they don’t get their message across.

I heard an announcement at Finsbury Park a few weeks ago, advising of upcoming weekend engineering work. The announcement went on for about two minutes, starting with something along the lines of “Can I have your attention please, this is special information for customers who might be travelling this weekend. As we invest in the railway, we will need to make changes to the train services at the weekend”, blah, blah, waffling on about “services will be subject to alteration and road transport might be provided if appropriate”.

Why couldn’t it just say, “Travelling this weekend? There is engineering work, a different timetable will be in operation, some trains will be replaced with buses. Check your train times.”

We also have the situation where the staff on a train will use the PA, and then the automated announcement will repeat, almost word for word, what the human being has just said – reminding us to “watch the gap”, “take personal belongings with us”, “look out it’s raining and you might slip”, and “report anything suspicious to the Perrlice“… Why say something once when you can repeat yourself, eh?

Which brings me onto the terrible pronunciation on these recorded (or synthesised) announcements. If you’ve been through Kings Cross St Pancras tube station, you can’t have failed to notice “Laydees and Gentle Men”, right? Apparently, one of the speech synthesis systems can’t even pronounce “Wrotham” (which is pronounced “Roo-tem”), so the station is now just referred to as “Borough Green” by the automatic system.

The Transport Minister, Norman Baker, has now spoken out in the media against the never ending announcements. I don’t know if it will do any good.

Really, the people responsible for this at the train companies need to actually realise that by bombarding us with automatic announcements, we’re making the actual important stuff less easy to pick out. Announcements need to be clear, concise, correct, and to the point.

A stranger in my own land

We’re looking for a cleaner to come and do a couple of hours a week, just keeping on top of the dust, and doing the things like bathrooms and kitchens which a good cleaner seems to be able to do in less than half the time I’d be able to do it and at least twice as well.

So, when a card came through the door from a local cleaning agency, professing that their cleaners speak fluent English (no jingoistic tone intended, this becomes relevant in the next paragraph), I gave them a call.

The first person I spoke to sounded cheerful enough, and despite obviously having an Eastern European accent, spoke good English. However, it soon became clear from the blank silences that she couldn’t understand me.

Yes. I’m from the North West. Yes, I have an accent. Yes, I can talk in local dialect when I’m with my fellow Northerners. But as far as I can tell, I was speaking my best London-ified Queen’s English. Oops.

So, I was asked to hold, while someone was found who could understand my peculiar accent.

Then got cut off. Then someone else phoned me back. Didn’t speak as clearly as the first person, but could understand me. Then we got cut off again. They called back. Part way through the discussion, we got cut off again. They also kept talking v e r y  s l o w l y to me like I was the one who had a problem understanding.

Left feeling like a stranger in my own land, when they tried phoning back again, I didn’t bother picking up. It all seemed like too much of a faff, and it seems they can’t even employ people in the office that could work a telephone.

Suffice to say, I’ll go and look elsewhere.

On a Swedish plane…

…in Sweden, in a Scandinavian published magazine, a Yorkshire-born Brit writes about British pubs, in American English (you say “crisps”, he writes “chips”, railway/railroad, po-tay-toe/po-tah-toh), and thinks that “Thame Parkway” sounds like an entry in “Jane Austen’s address book”.

I sat in my seat and cringed.

Serves me right for reading an inflight magazine, I guess.

Shine a light!

Or, go somewhere really cold and be astounded…

Abisko Aurora

I’ve just come back from a fantastic weekend in Northern Sweden. Inside the Arctic Circle. Landing and taking off from a snow-covered runway at Kiruna Airport. Mostly eating reindeer.

Looking up from time to time, so I’ve been able to take amazing photos like the one above.

I’ve learned how to ride a snowmobile. I’ve also learned how to crash a snowmobile. Fortunately, landing in a couple of feet of snow is a cushioning experience, and the only bruises I came away with were to my pride, and to my wallet because a small plastic fairing got broken.

I’ve glid across deserted frozen rivers, almost silently, moved by nothing but dog power.

I’ve spent a (very chilly, -29C!) evening with top Aurora photographer Chad Blakley, picking up tips on how to get the best out of your Aurora photography, and how to set up and look after your camera in freezing conditions.

When the temperature gets down below about -15C, ice forms on any exposed hair (such as eyebrows and facial hair), up your nose, and in my case, sometimes on my glasses, as the moisture from your breath freezes.

The whole experience has been fantastic, and everyone we dealt with has been friendly, welcoming, and shared their love of the amazing area around Abisko.

We arranged the trip through Weekend a la Carte, who gave us first class advice in terms of being prepared for the Arctic, and put together a seamless experience for us.

What an amazing experience. Brilliant. Coming home to a damp 11C feels positively balmy.

Lapporten IMG_7912.jpg

Off the Rails: Why would you want a wooden steam locomotive?

Okay. It’s not really a locomotive, it’s a stage prop. From Cumbria.

Train derailment at Woodhead, from Wikimedia Commons. Attribution: Ben Brooksbank.
This is not the train you’re looking for. Move along.

A friend drew my attention to this ITV local news article… Wanted: new home for a life-size replica of a train

The spokesperson for the theatre involved really hasn’t got a clue – offering to donate it to a museum or railway preservationists – but at the same time saying that “Gordon needs to be kept indoors as he’s made of wood”.

Most museums wouldn’t want “Gordon”, because it doesn’t represent anything, because it’s just a wooden stage prop – however painstakingly detailed.

As for railway preservationists, they have enough problems finding enough space to keep real trains, made of metal, that can actually pull coaches and make money, under cover to keep the worst of the elements at bay. The majority of preserved railway sites have either no covered accommodation at all, or a desperate shortage.

What was the production thinking?

I suggest that “Gordon” would be more at home and appreciated in a kiddies play centre.

Things to do in Sheffield when it’s raining

The City of Sheffield is nestled in the beautiful Peak District, with plenty of opportunity to go for pleasant walks among the reservoirs in the Derwent Valley and visit cosy countryside pubs. However, when it’s raining, things are different. Just what can you do when it’s raining in Sheffield?

1) Get wet.

2) Nap.

3) Wake up your friend who is an F1 (first year) Doctor before she’s about to do a night shift on New Year’s Eve.

4) Get wet while shopping.

5) If you don’t want to get wet while shopping, you can go and have your soul crushed while shopping in the dry at Meadowhall.

6) Take a trip to Eyam, according to the Peak District Online web site. (Plague not included, and I strongly suspect you will still get wet.)

7) Go and eat Bakewell Tart in Bakewell itself. Along with everyone else sheltering from the rain.

Any other suggestions?