Thursday, 22 September 2016

Some Days I Just Want to Give Up, Is it me or my illness?

From the ME Association's website (
"The predominant symptom of ME/CFS is usually severe fatigue and malaise following mental or physical activity. The full extent of this exhaustion often becomes apparent only 24 to 48 hours after the activity (assuming, of course, the person was not already in a ‘recovery period’ from a previous activity)."

My Rheumatologist says I have ME. On the above definition I would tend to agree. I have had no zing for weeks now, and each time I try too hard to do something I just end up back in bed.

Is this a choice? Yes, I could slowly and painfully dress and wash and go down stairs, but is spending the day on the sofa any better than being in bed? In bed I have a toilet nearby, no stairs; in bed my laptop is placed on an over bed table with room for my wrist rest; in bed I can lie down and stretch out comfortably when I need to stop (our sofa is too short even for me); in bed I am not on view to the world passing by our sitting room windows.

A month ago the Rheumatologist at the Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield (OH has to take the day off work to take me there as the round trip is six hours for me on the bus/train), stated that my symptoms, diagnosed as fibromyalgia at Rotherham over six years ago now, could also be interpreted as ME. I wasn't sure how to take this as just changing the name for my problem wasn't going to help me ... or was it?

I also have Crohn's Disease (controlled by drugs and avoidance of triggering foodstuffs) and I have been asthmatic all my life (fairly well controlled except when I have a chest infection). My joints are not arthritic, but I have instability and pain, excessive exercise causes strong to severe pain in my muscles (last year I pulled a shoulder muscle hanging a net curtain, last week I came close to the same amount of pain after picking green beans). It seems that my recurrent knee problems are caused by an "oblique tear in the lateral meniscus" of my right knee (MRI result reported to me by the physio at Barnsley Hospital,  not by the orthopaedic consultant at the Northern General Hospital who discharged me saying there was nothing he could do). I was a Radiographer in a previous career incarnation, I know exactly what a tear in my cartilage can do!

All of this, plus the resultant loss of my social life (I was pitifully grateful when the OH agreed to me tagging along while he delivered CAMRA Good Beer Guide envelopes to far flung pubs, and yet an afternoon trundling around on various buses and only visiting four pubs worked out fine) have undoubtedly made me prone to depression.  I am the kind of person who hates that word! I won't take drugs for this, I can pull myself out of it. Writing this blog has helped me a lot in the past.

Sadly when I am tired little things seem more important, or take on sinister aspects that probably don't exist. Look, I know this ... I am not totally silly! But sometimes the best I can do is curl up and cry.

In the summer (it was June when the problems began but it is still dragging on) I frequently felt like banging my head on the wall when Barnsley Council's Library and IT department refused to listen to what I was saying. Another of my career incarnations was IT, so again I know what I'm talking about here! They installed 'free' wifi in our local library. We had been promised this since the previous November, it was installed in January,  but we weren't allowed to use it until April ('so everyone gets it at once across the borough'). At first we could connect by asking the ladies on the desk for a log in and password, this worked fine most of the time. We could get the History Group desktop computer, their laptop and our own tablets online during our weekly meetings. Very useful for looking stuff up on Ancestry, Find My Past, the CWGC, all kinds of useful historical resources. Then the system was changed at the beginning of June to a log in requiring a mobile phone. Two problems with this: firstly the phone signal in this part of Cudworth is appalling, in our house you have to stand upstairs in the back bedroom to get a signal; secondly, only one of our members regularly has a mobile phone with her. We submitted a complaint asking for the previous,  functional system to be reinstated.

Further problems became apparent as the weeks progressed. If the lady with the mobile, LL, used her phone to get a code so we could log on the group's computer, she could not then use it to get a code for her own laptop, or her iPad. On some days the signal was so poor LL (who is elderly, as are most of the History Group members) had to walk out into the car park to receive the incoming text with the code. What if it was raining? Snowing? Was this really a sensible thing to ask elderly people to do? The codes only lasted 24 hours meaning we had to repeat this rigmarole every week. Finally, in late August, a technician came out to see us. He agreed we needed a permanent connection for our desktop PC, with a password, yes, but controlled in a similar way to the library's public access machines. He agreed the phone signal in the library was very poor, he had to go out of the building himself to get the log in text. This made the system unsuitable for our location, but other than a signal booster he did not know what to suggest to solve this portion of our problem. Since then the wifi has not been working in the library and we have heard nothing back from the IT man. The library is still displaying posters reading,  'Don't Panic We Have Free WiFi'. No, they don't!

I pushed for an event for the History Group around CWGC (Commonwealth War Graves Commission) commemoration and a national project called #LivingMemory. One of our members made a plan of 17 WW1 burials in our local churchyard and created a leaflet with explanations of the CWGC and biographies of the servicemen.  Twenty two people, more than half not members of the History Group, turned up on the day and we had a nice walk around the churchyard.  People said they had learned things they didn't know before, it was very successful. Sadly the local newspaper had reported the event the week before as a service for 41 men who had lost their lives at the Somme. This angered the local priest who asked who was holding a service in his church? The report after the event only appeared in the paper two weeks later following a phone call by our secretary (LL again) to the local reporter. The resultant article did not mention the CWGC or LivingMemory. I am told we can't control the press, but surely after providing a description of the event, a copy of the leaflet, and afterwards a report and five fully captioned photos, I was within my rights to expect an accurate account?

My 22 year old cat died on Tuesday. She had been ill for a while, in fact I frequently blamed her for my disturbed sleep. But I am sensible, she was old, it was time. We gave her peace and dignity at the end. That is more than my father got when he died of cancer five years ago!

Last week a friend emailed me because she felt she had been slighted by another mutual aquaintance, in print, in public. Well, poor judgement and very poor scholarship had been shown I admit, but no personal insult had been directly given. It was much more upsetting to me that a member of the clergy (aren't they meant to be above petty squabbles?) remarked on Sunday that he would have refused to accept a new war memorial to140 fallen First World War servicemen if he'd known it would cause friction. I hope this was a misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the events. Remembering our Fallen, wounded and traumatised servicemen has become very important to me, replacing active CAMRA involvement to a great extent.

Last night I got very indignant about a perceived slight to our Project to Remember these servicemen. I am hoping that today's email will bring an apology or at least a reasonable explanation about why the Barnsley War Memorials Project (not just me, all our volunteers) were not invited to the 'official opening' of Barnsley Museum's 'Stories of the Somme' exhibition. I was told, back in August, just before the actual opening on 24th of that month) that the official event would not be until September so that people who might be away could attend. That seemed reasonable.  I was told, then and yesterday afternoon, that it would be an event for the new Barnsley Museums & Heritage Trust. Again, yes I understand that people who donate cash have to be thanked. What I cannot understand is how a voluntary organisation which happily GAVE vital information to the museum, saving them days of work, worked with them for weeks to ensure the information was accurate, who support the work of the museum and especially the Archives, were not sent just one token invitation to the event? Photos published last night on Twitter show relatives of soldiers featured in the exhibition at the event, they show bored, tired school children not listening to MP Dan Jarvis' speech at the event. The Mayor and our Barnsley Poet Laureate both seemed under the impression it was an actual OPENING (I've been twice and had a good look around since the exhibition opened to the public on 24th August!). The BWMP have been invited to similar events in the past, why could we not attend (without paying) yesterday!?

Am I being silly to let things like this, like the death of my cat, like my disillusionment with my fellow researchers and the established church, like my frustration with our local Council and Museum organisation, like my sadness that I can't attend CAMRA events unless they are suitable for my restrictions, am I being silly to be upset? Or is this all part and parcel of my reduced ability to cope, caused by my illness?

Maybe you can tell me.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Did you know Miners were sold Surplus Army Rations in 1947?

I'm at my Mum's for the weekend, we try to visit every three weeks or so and I don't generally take my laptop with me as it seems rude to work whilst I'm visiting, however as this is a long weekend and the OH is otherwise occupied I managed to carry a bag of stuff for the weekend and the computer on the long journey via the X19 bus from Barnsley to meet Mum at the Hare and Tortoise at Parrot's Corner, Rossington.  It seems this will be the last time I will do this too - the X19 will terminate in Doncaster from September and I'll have to change buses, so I might as well catch one all the way to Bawtry and make Mum's journey to pick me up shorter.
My route on the X19 Route from Barnsley to the right angled kink
just before the airport, takes 1 hour 15 mins
After a visit to the Retford Bookworm (a rare independent bookshop with a large second-hand section at the back) this afternoon where I couldn't resist several WW1 books, I was reading out a paragraph to Mum this evening about people now not having much idea about the kind of thing soldiers in WW1 had to endure.  I mentioned rations ... and Mum suddenly remembered that after WW2 her father, a Colliery Manager, was able to get hold of a box of surplus army rations, which were being distributed to all miners. She particularly remembered the chocolate and estimated it must have been 1946 or 1947 as she had been around 8 or 9 years old and living in Spennymoor, County Durham, by then.

As I had not heard of this before her comment led to a bit of Googling and a long search of the old newspapers on Find My Past. This is what I found:

It was announced in Parliament on 16 April 1947 by the Minister of Food Mr John Strachey that it had been arranged for three quarters of a million surplus army ration packs, each containing foodstuffs sufficient for one man for six days to be made available for purchase by coal miners all over the country through colliery managements and the National Union of Mineworkers. Hansard 16 April 1947 vol 436 cc185-6 

There were some brief reports of this in many newspapers, this is the best article I could find. From the Yorkshire Evening Post dated 17 April 1947.

750,000 Army Ration Packs
From our London Office
All underground miners are to be given a chance of buying one of 750,000 surplus Army ration packs, free of points and coupons. They are to be sent to mining areas under arrangements of the National Coal Board and the National Union of Mineworkers.
They will cost 30s each, but 7s 6d is returnable if the container in which the rations are packed is brought back whole, and 6s if the lid is broken.
The 50 cigarettes which are part of the pack will be a post-Budget bargain. Other contents are tins of bacon, vegetables, tins of fruit, soap, sweets, matches and tea.
The container is made of wood with a tin inside.
During the war packs of this type were dropped to isolated troops.    

There were some complaints in the press about the packs being offered only to miners, however In November in reply to a question in Parliament Dr Edith Summerskill (Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food) replied, "The packs are being distributed to mineworkers by the National Coal Board. Points or coupons will not be required in exchange. I regret that there are not enough of the packs to issue to farm workers and other heavy workers." Then in reply to a further question, "There are about 700,000 packs and approximately 700,000 miners, and this decision was reached during the fuel crisis when we felt it necessary to give extra rations to the miners." Hansard 3 November 1947 vol 443 c1318

In December 1947 some articles appeared in newspapers reporting the distribution of the packs. I found one in the Yorkshire Evening Post dated 22 December.

Food-Packs Distributed
Packs of food marked "Pacific", now being distributed to Yorkshire miners for Christmas, are surplus Army emergency rations identical with the standard packs issued to troops in Burma during the war.
Each pack contains sufficient food for six men for one day, besides cigarettes and sweets. 
During the week-end clerks at many pits in the Doncaster area assisted in issuing packs to miners on payment of 22s 6d.

Another item from the Dundee Courier dated 24 December.

Miners' Boxing Day Means Food
Fife miners were offered 20,000 Christmas boxes yesterday. Costing 22s 6d (or 30s with the case) they contained ham, sugar, butter, tea and cigarettes.
Before the parcels were handed over, each miner was asked to sign a declaration that he would not resell the contents.
Surplus army "compo" rations, samples had been tested before being distributed to collieries.

And finally, the one picture I could find, which is from the Sunday Post, a Glasgow newspaper, dated 28 December 1947.

"Hugh Nesbett, Kennoway and William Baxter, Methill, like thousands of other Fife miners, smile despite their heavy load. They're carrying home their Christmas box - containing a varied assortment of tinned meat, fruit, biscuits, bacon, eggs, and cigarettes. These surplus Army "Compo" ration boxes were made available to miners at 22s 6d." 
Happy looking miners hefting large boxes on their shoulders (from Find My Past newspapers)
My Mum was pleased I'd been able to find proof of her memories.  She said that the tinned fruit would have been a special treat. My next task is to check the Barnsley Chronicle to see how the distribution of the boxes was reported in our area.  That will have to wait until next week though. 

There you go Mum, especially for you!