What Just Happened?

I’ve been without regular, reliable wifi for the last six months or so and for the two years before that I was living in a community where the residents valued their confidentiality so I eventually decided not to blog. Last night I bit the bullet and paid BT £39 for 30 days. I’ll be trying to get as much out of it as I can. Here’s a wee teaser/taster: this afternoon I was covering the tourist information desk in The Mill On The Fleet in Gatehouse of Fleet. It reminded me of Joseph Heller’s “Something Happened” but without the pages full of words.

That’s right. Nothing happened.

Then it happened again. Quite a lot.


ATOS Assessment Day – kinda

I am so tired.

I got up at 8.39am approximately, for an 11.20am appointment, and began my ablutions, which I will explain in A Typical Day or have already explained in A Typical Day, depending on when you read this.

Even though I didn’t disinfect the bathroom floor this morning it still took me until

(That was Tuesday the 4th June. I didn’t write any more on Tuesday the 4th June. Time passed)

It’s Wednesday now. I’m still very tired but a bit better than yesterday evening when I started writing this but stopped from knackeredness.

(I didn’t write any more on Wednesday the 5th June. Time passed)

It is now the following week and a day, Thursday 13th June. I suppose I could delete those two false starts but I’m not going to and the fact that I’m not going to maybe tells you something about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Or maybe it just tells you something about me personally. Or maybe it tells you nothing at all about anything except that life is full of puzzles and this blog isn’t likely to provide you with too many answers.

I had an appointment with my GP yesterday and she is quite happy to support my request for the DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) to revise their decision that I need to attend a face-to-face assessment interview. Here’s why.

I finally got out of the flat just before 11am last Tuesday and walked down to Cadogan St. I was walking fairly fast, thinking that I was going to be late, but in the event I got there with a couple of minutes to spare. Obviously I was already stressed, had been for weeks if not months although that had been pretty much in the background, but in the last couple of weeks I had tried to imagine the various possible scenarios and make preparations.

The first problem was going to be whether or not I could sit on the chair in the interview room. This is one of the things which is fairly difficult to explain because I can manage to sit in some places. Sometimes. And sometimes I can’t. And sometimes I can’t really put into words the reason why. It might be that a seat does actually look a bit mucky or has some gunk on it, but then again it might not be obviously dirty-looking at all but the problem could be related to something I’ve seen on or around that chair previously, say for example someone picking their bag off the floor (which is almost always untouchable for me) and the putting the bag on the chair. Or it could be something even less concrete than that. And notice how often I said “sometimes” in that paragraph. The same chair might feel usable one day but not another. Tricky, eh?

Tricky? No. Pain in the bahookie? Yes.

My first thought when I was sent the appointment had been that I would just stand for the 20-60 minutes the interview would take. I’ve done that sort of thing quite often before. But I hate being like this so I had psyched myself up and decided I would try to sit on the very edge of the chair so that my bahookie would have minimum contact. Then, making sure in advance that I had clean clothes to change into, I could return to the flat, roll my t-shirt up a bit so that, if the bottom of it had touched the chair at all, that bit of the t-shirt would be rolled inwards and I could pull it over my head without it touching my skin. I could then take off the jeans, put them in the laundry bag, and hope to get away without having to go through a complete shower ritual which, apart from taking a couple of hours, also makes my skin sore.

The other major problem was going to be touching anything in the building with my hands. This is quite difficult to explain as well. It’s similar to the chair thing. Sometimes I can, sometimes I can’t. The crucial thing in this case was going to be that my hands would have to be clean enough so that later I could use my key to get back into my flat without feeling the need to disinfect my front door including the door handles and inside the locks. The solution for this was to make sure I had a few paper tissues so I wouldn’t have to touch any door handles at the ATOS building and simply not touch anything else while I was there.

That was the plan.

However – there’s often a “however” – I hadn’t anticipated having to wait in a crowded reception area. With seats.

Getting into the building was OK. The doors were all swing doors so I just pushed each one open with my foot. So far so good. Then at reception when I was asked to show my appointment letter I explained I had phoned and been told it would be fine as long as I had some ID with me. I had my Glasgow University staff card. (I do a few hours IT tutoring a month in case you’re wondering how I have a staff card if I’m claiming Benefit. All declared and above board.) I explained to the receptionist that I could show her the card but that she mustn’t actually touch it. She was fine. Then she wrote a couple of things on a form and asked me to sign it. Sorry, but I can’t. Again she was fine but explained that she would have to write “unwilling to sign” where my signature should have gone. I asked if she would write “unwilling/unable” and she did.

She then invited me to “go and sit over there” and I’d be called shortly. I said I wouldn’t sit down but I’d go and stand over there. I think she indicated a different place from the one I had pointed to, not sure about that, and again used the word sit but not in an unpleasant way. The upshot was that I went and stood over by the window, in between two rows of chairs but making sure my jeans didn’t touch them. There were maybe twenty other people there, all sitting, and one or two did give me a strange look. Whatever.

I was getting more and more agitated now. I don’t take panic attacks. That’s not one of my difficulties. My ex-girlfriend used to though so I’ve seen what it’s like. I’ve seen others too. That ten minute wait is probably the closest I’ve ever come to a panic attack, just hovering on the edge of the flight response. Clearly the receptionist could see this and after about ten minutes she called me over and explained that they were running late and I might not be called for up to about half an hour. When I asked if it was likely that I could be called within another fifteen minutes and she said no I told her I just couldn’t wait any longer.

Fair does to the woman. ATOS staff get a pretty dreadful press but this receptionist was very considerate and offered to get me another appointment at 9am, first of the day, so that there would be a minimum of waiting. I was not really thinking too clearly by this time. I just wanted out of there and when I hesitated she offered me a 1pm slot, first of the afternoon and easier to get to on time. I agreed, she phoned somebody, and told me there would be a letter in the post. I used my feet to open the doors again and if Meat Loaf had been there I would have left him trailing in my wake.

If timing was bananas…

…I’d have a lovely bunch of coconuts.

I finally manage to get this blog going again, and start telling folk about it too, less than a week before a deadline for something else. The Scottish Poetry Library were looking for expressions of interest from poets and artists to work together on a project entitled “The Written Image” with a closing date of Wednesday 22nd May at high noon. That’s right folks, today is the 22nd May. You can get more details here – Scottish Poetry Library Calls For Work – although my timing’s so crap you’ll be too late by the time you read this.

It sounded like a good opportunity to get some of my poyums out there and become rich and famous which quite frankly can’t happen soon enough for me and my piggy bank. However I don’t know about all you other writers – that’s a fib, I do – but when I have a deadline to meet and a “note of interest” to write and a blog to think up I find that’s the perfect time to read a lot of Facebook and drink wine. Classic avoidance, as a universityhospitalful of psychologists would tell me. Something just happens to my brain which goes a bit of a blank or alternatively starts to feel like there’s a mini version of spaghetti junction sitting about two inches in front of my forehead. Result? Not very much, certainly not in terms of alphabetical characters joining together in same-sets marriage and making sensible words which are likely to get me a shot at having my poyums illustrated.

And yet, dear reader, about an hour ago, and inexplicably, I did actually hit the send button on my thunderbird email and off went four poyums and an application. I wish I knew how I did that. And I’ve even managed to write a bloggy thing about it too.

I deserve my bed. Goodnight.

I just called to say…

Jings! That was (unexpectedly) painless.

As I blogged yesterday, I had to phone ATOS about my wee identity crisis so I did it today. The number they give on their letter is an 0800 freebie, but I only have a mobile so even a few minutes would cost me a significant percentage of the Benefit they might be going to take away because I’m a malingering scrounger.

Fortunately there’s a Web site – there usually is – which gives alternative numbers for some of the 08… ones. It’s called www.saynoto0870.com/ and it gives a landline number. Since 0800 numbers are free and I’m not doing anyone out of money they genuinely deserve, I think it’s OK to tell you: 0800 2888777 on the letter can also be reached by calling 01264 325540.

Oooh, I’m such a subversive. Consider it stuck to the man.

What an anti-climax when I actually phoned. I was given the option of a Welsh language menu, which would have been interesting since the only words I know in Welsh are Plaid Cymru, and then I chose the “appointments” option, and then I found myself talking to a perfectly reasonable and reassuring young(-sounding) person who told me that as long as I had some form of identification I wouldn’t need to take the letter which I couldn’t take because I have OCD and it touched the outside of the envelope (see previous post), and I wouldn’t need to bring the passport which I don’t have nor the driving licence etc etc etc.

And that’s all there was to it. I was so wrong-footed at not being able to be livid about something that I completely forgot to ask that they make sure the person who carries out the assessment has some understanding of OCD otherwise I might find myself in a situation where they are speaking English (or Welsh) and they think I’m speaking Klingon.

Or Klingoff.

I had an experience like that once before, nearly ten years ago, when I was given 1 point out of a possible 16 or so. For a 20 year history of being incapacitatedly mental!?


I’ll tell you about it some time, if you like.

It’s ATOS Up

This is probably the third or fourth or even fifth time I’ve tried to get this blog started and each time I didn’t, or rather I did but I didn’t get it continued.

However, given that this is Mental Health Week and that co-incidentally I’ve just received a letter from ATOS telling me to attend an appointment on the 4th June, when I will be assessed to see if I really am enough of a looney to receive £100 per week Incapacity Benefit or whatever it’s called this month, now seems a good time to try again.

The letter, like all the mail I get, immediately posed a problem because I feel I have to remove mail from envelopes without the contents touching anything which has come into contact with the outside of the envelope or the inside of the letterbox. Or the outside of the letterbox for that matter. Fortunately I’m quite dexterous and sometimes manage this. But sometimes I don’t. And the ATOS letter was one of the latter.

These wee nuisances don’t usually matter too much. I just read the contents, throw the letter away and wash my hands.

However the ATOS letter wagged a big pointy finger at me saying, “Bring this letter with you.”


It also told me to bring identification like a passport (which I don’t currently have) or a driving licence (which I don’t currently have) or three utility bills (which I _____ _________ ____)* because I do all my bill stuff online to avoid having to open too much mail because, yep, I prefer my skin to be attached to my hands so I devise as many strategies as possible to cut down on handwashing.

It will thus be incumbent upon me to phone ATOS tomorrow to explain all this. Wish me luck.

*You’re intelligent people, fill in the blanks yourselves.

Washing for Scotland

Yes, my initials really are CJD.

No, I don’t have Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.

“O, CD!” you might exclaim at such wry wit.

Yes, I do have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and on a bad day I could wash for Scotland.  In fact, over the last thirty years or so I’ve probably washed most of Scotland.

Which is what this blog is probably going to be about. Probably, because I do have a tendency to go off at tangents, change my mind, then do it again, and get bored very easily, even of myself. So who knows what detours I might take or where this wee adventure might end up. Not me, that’s for sure. I might start talking about writing for children, or storytelling, or computing, or all of these at different times. Or at the same time. Or in no time at all, which is not the same thing as at no time at all. (Maybe I should choose Chaos Theory as my WordPress theme.) Yet worry not, Dear Reader, for my Buddhist friends tell me that getting lost is all part of the journey.

So get lost. That’s what I’m going to do.

Losar Tashi Delek
(Happy Tibetan New Year)