Thursday, 17 August 2017

EE ba gum

The most stressful thing about moving is dealing with the utilities. I hate dealing with utilities. I hate using the phone, and I cannot stand dealing with call centres. I just can't do it.
I had EE broadband before I moved, and had been very happy with it. I went online and completed the requisite details for moving, which seemed pretty straightforward. OK, it took a fortnight, which I was a bit pissed off about - if I'd known that I'd have done it sooner. But still, confident that in two weeks my phone socket would magically come to life I sat back to wait, relying on Jim's mifi in the interim. Just before the two weeks was up, I got an email from EE. 'We would like to talk to you regarding your Broadband and Landline services', it said. 'Please call 0800 0790 283 as further information is required regarding your account with us.' Naturally I replied to the email, saying I don't use the phone, please can you ask your questions by email. That was five days ago, and naturally I have heard nothing since. Meanwhile, Jim's mifi data has run out (6 gb in a month; how?) until tomorrow so I am writing this at work.
That is as nothing however compared to my experience with Extra Energy, whose gas and electricity 'services' I inherited with the house. No, I had never heard of them either. I went online, set up an account, and sent them meter readings. I didn't get a bill, but I got a threatening letter saying I hadn't paid the bill. So I emailed them some more meter readings. The emailed back saying they couldn't deal with it as I had used a different email account from the one I had registered with them. OK, that sort of makes sense. But they said, could I phone them instead. So if someone pretending to be me had emailed from a different email account, that's something they are absolutely security conscious about; but anyone could phone pretending to be me and that would be fine. Also, as per my previous gripe about CRT, the only thing this imaginary imposter could do would be to pay my bill, so that doesn't seem such a massive security threat. I have now established some sort of email correspondence with them, albeit with massive time lags on their part, but that hasn't stopped them sending me another threatening letter yesterday. Now, I want to pay the bill (the sooner I can, the sooner I can find another supplier) - but I want to pay an actual bill, not their wild guesswork. I've given them the information - and updated it twice - but so far all I've had is one grossly over-estimated bill, in between the two threatening letters. Meanwhile the letter-sending-out machine seems to have no idea what the emailers are doing. 
Worst of all, the threatening letters only provide a phone number - no email; no postal address (just a tiny head office address hidden at the bottom). I told the email people that I don't use the phone because of a disability (!) and they fell over themselves to assure me how seriously they take this. Yeah, right.
On the other hand, a highly commended for Yorkshire Water, who have dealt with everything smoothly and by post, including a very nice, clear and friendly letter explaining why I couldn't pay quarterly like I did before (because I don't have a meter at the house! Baths all round!)

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

When does an adjective become an identity?

This is a Rivetcounter post really, and I will post it there too for what that's worth. It's too early to say whether Rivetcounter will finally take off but my thoughts have been turning to autism matters aagain lately.

Since getting my assessment over eighteen months ago now I've just been quietly getting on with being Aspie, not thinking about it a lot of the time; forgetting it sometimes. After all, I haven't changed; my life hasn't changed - I just acquired a label, a description, an explanation (of sorts) for what that life feels like. It's still the only one I know, and it still feels normal to me - because it is normal for me. The most interesting thing is getting an insight into how other people are different from me, which I never really appreciated before.

One of the things I've been doing is looking into setting up an autism network at work - and I'd particularly like to have a network for autistic women - partially because our experience is often different, and partly so as not to be totally outnumbered by men from the computing service... In the course of this I met up with the author of this blog, and then I read this post, and it got me thinking.

I've dipped into a few autism blogs, but (as you may know) I don't do Twitter or Facebook, and I'm not really that au fait with the world of autism activism - perhaps I have all that to come. But I've long been quite interested in the idea of identity politics, primarily because I don't really get it. So it seems to me ironic that autistic people should be arguing whether being autistic constitutes their identity, or is seen to, and whether this is a good or a bad thing.

From the start, I felt most comfortable saying that 'I am autistic' - even better, because I think (hope) it gives a more accurate impression, 'I am Aspie' - and wishing there was a more 'official' adjective for that. I much prefer this to saying 'I have autism', or 'I have Asperger's Syndrome', or 'I am a woman with autism' - or even worse 'I have an autism spectrum condition', or worst of all, 'I have an autism spectrum disorder'. Because having someting, even something as neutral-sounding as a 'condition', still - to me at least - implies a pathology.

But when I say 'I am autistic', or 'I am Aspie', I am not asserting an identity, or defining myself. I am not an autistic; I am not an Aspie. I am applying an adjective. It describes an aspect of me (the way my brain works) in the same way that other adjectives like brunette, right-handed, or ticklish, describe other aspects of me. But when I say I am female, white, heterosexual, to me those are still just adjectives. Feminist, liberal, atheist. Even English. To me these are all just adjectives. They describe me but they do not define me. But to many people at least some of these categories of description would constitute their identity, or at least an important part of it.

And I had the feeling that it was perhaps a particularly autistic perspective to see things like this; to not be happy with - or able to - adopt any identity other than 'I am me' - and not really knowing what that is, from day to day.  Which is why the idea of autistic identity politics feels contradictory.

However, as I think about it - and I'm going to start rambling now - I begin to see how an off-the-shelf identity could actually be especially attractive to someone who has always struggled to define themself and find their place in the world, and that the perspective I've set out above is that of a mature and relatively confident woman. The me of thirty years ago might well have felt - in a way she probably couldn't have articulated - quite different.

So the answer will no doubt be different for different people for all sorts of different reasons - but it's still an interesting question. When does an adjective become an identity?

Monday, 14 August 2017

Celebrating with relish

When I moved to Sheffield in the autumn of 2012, the crew of Warrior welcomed me with a bottle of the local delicacy, Henderson's Relish. I'd already experienced it, on a meat and potato pie (with peas) that Linda brought to Langley Mill a year previously, so I knew that it was both tasty and versatile - whether on chips (or peas) or in a stew - and also vegan. The bottle they bought me was a special commemorative one, celebrating local lass Jessica Ennis' 2012 Olympic gold medal.
So... ahem... Nearly five years later, in a lentil stew last night, I finished my first bottle of Hendos. It's top of the shopping list to replenish - but it is a little embarrassing that it's taken me that long.

I know there are at least two other Sheffield residents who read this blog... How long does a bottle of Hendo's last you?

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Day release

Work on the house has been pretty relentless, especially for Jim, so today we took advantage of the perfect weather for a walk in the Peak. It was an eight mile walk, with my Ramblers group, taking in Froggatt, Curbar and White Edges. I like the gritstone
of the Dark Peak a lot better than the limestone of the White - I like the dramatic and sometimes bleak scenery, and even more, I like the fact that it's not slippery! There was nothing bleak about it today though with the heather
in full flower and the distant hills all shades of purple,
and the quartz in the grit sparkling in the sun. It was a popular walk with 26 people signed up. Ricky came along and seemed to enjoy himself.
He has a new harness which we bought him yesterday, which has a sort of grab handle on the top. (Shown most clearly in the second photo.) We thought this would be useful when boating, if he were ever to fall in (perish the thought!) but it proved itself today as well for keeping him under close control when passing sheep and, especially, cows, of which there were quite a few, and some rather belligerent examples.
The weather was perfect, mainly sunny but not too hot.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Developments in the fireplace

You may recall that I was initially very pleased that the shape of the front room fireplace so neatly mirrored that of a Lily stove:
However. There's always a however, isn't there. Because the hearth isn't flat, indeed, isn't even all there - see that gap on the right?
You can see all the way down into the cellar... So Jim decided that the thing to do is to get a sheet of steel cut to fit into the fireplace and extend out to fill the space within the fender which has now come up from Sussex. But working out the angles and the measurements of the definitely asymmetrical trapezium-plus-oblong combo proved too much, so it was decided to take the wing walls (for so they appear to me) out after all. A few minutes work with the bolster and a nice clear rectangular space materialised.
To be fair, this probably does look nicer. I would like ultimately to tile the inside, to provide a light coloured but cleanable background to the purple stove. Next we're going to get someone to come and check out that the flue is as viable as it looks - if not, I'll just have the stove as an ornament, but if it is, it'll be worth going to the trouble of getting a pipe (and adapter) made and plumbing it in.
The presence of this liner protruding down the chimney (I thought I'd rotated that photo!) gives me hope...

Saturday, 5 August 2017

A bit steep

When I first moved to Sheffield, I wondered why my legs ached so much. I's just spent nearly a year living on a boat, walking three miles to the shops and back most days... along the towpath. After a couple of weeks I twigged - Sheffield is very hilly. It's hard to walk any distance at all within the city without going up or down a noticeable hill - and usually both.

I fairly quickly got used to the terrain in Broomhill (clue's in the name!), where it as steadily downhill all the way to work, the city centre shops, or the station. So if I was going to the station or the shops, I'd walk down and get the 51 bus back.

It's not so simple down here in Walkley. It's actually a bit nearer work, but with a lot more hill in between. The last leg of the return journey is the most challenging bit. But just how challenging I only discovered yesterday. Apparently I live one street away from what is quite possibly the third steepest residential street in Britain, and approximately half of it is betwween me and work, and me and Tescos.
What's more, I think it's the steeper half! The BBC/OS figures are an average for the entire length of each street.

The view from the top is a pretty impressive vista of Sheffield.

Whilst that from the bottom is just somewhat daunting.

When it snows, I'll be staying indoors for the duration.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Blossom's back!

I recently weeded out my old boat blogroll, and removed anyone who hadn't posted for a year (sadly quite a high proportion, leaving just four stalwarts - all of whom are flagging a bit. One of those culled was Darley. But a chance glance down Halfie's comprehensive blogroll recently revealed that Blossom is back! His excuse for not posting is that he's been boating - pah! Someone had better catch him and train him up in the dark arts of mobile blogging (not me, I fear, as I still can't post photos from the iPad).

I really do hope you keep it up Blossom - always love reading about your exploits, past and present - here's to the future ones. And you're back on the blogroll!

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Books I read in July

Sophie Hannah The Carrier (Gongoozler Cafe bookswap/sale)
There was a whole collection of Sophie Hannah here but I'd read all the others. I find her always gripping and readable, but sometimes a little far fetched - this one was even better for being reasonably credible. I always forget the strange and complex detective pairing who get to grips with Hannah's mysteries, and it's a treat to rediscover them.

John Grindrod Outskirts: Living Life on the Edge of the Green Belt (new, Amazon)
Bought this on the recommendation of Diamond Geezer, and because I really enjoyed Grindrod's Concretopia. This was disappointing; the combination of history and memoir seemed disjointed and it never really gelled into a single whole.

Kate McCabe The Love of Her Life (local library random pick)
An everyday saga of love and loss, conveyed with all the drama, passion and humanity of a shopping list. Less, probably.

Edward Marston Steps to the Gallows (local library random pick)
Plodding early nineteenth century police procedural. I had only a few pages left to read when I went away last week, but never bothered picking it up on my return.

Peter Robinson When the Music's Over (WH Smith, New Street station)
Robinson's Alan Banks is one of those policemen who definitely ages at about a third the rate of the rest of us. Robinson however seems to have acquired more than a touch of the PD James in his latter years - this story is didactic and laden with heavy handed contemporary relevance.

Helen Fielding Bridget Jones's Baby (local library random pick)
It doesn't matter what the genre is, quality is quality. Good stuff.

Lisa Scottoline Most Wanted (local library random pick)
American, surprisingly gripping thriller let down by a predictably saccharine ending.

Nicholas Searle The Good Liar (local library random pick)
Intriguing and apparently (but only apparently) rambling emotional thriller with twist upon twist.

Grahan Masterton White Bones (local library)
Police detectives in Cork this time. Decent characters, slightly far fetched plot, and enjoyably fluent - only marred in this edition by being translated into American. It turned out I'd read this one before, and I'm pretty sure it wasn't full of Travelers and cellphones then.

Graham Masterton  Blood Sisters (local library)
Not in American this time, thank goodness. All the above still holds.