Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Forced onto the shelf by your friends

So, an interesting conversation took place yesterday between me and one of my closest friends, a friend who I respect the opinion of, you know, the guy who when the chips are down has got your back and is mostly the voice of reason when everything just seems bewildering and incomprehensible.

We were talking about things in general, Christmas, parties, what was going on with other friends, you know, bloke gossip.

Then for some reason we got onto me. Normally, i’m not a subject for discussion but its Christmas so meh! Anyway, i’ve been single for, well, realistically, nearly 7 years – not exactly by choice but for the most part its fine.

So, my friend suddenly comes out with “you’re too disorganised to have a girlfriend”. I couldn’t make head nor tail of this at first so we chatted for a while and he actually meant was that my life is too full – where am I going to make space to see someone?

This was an angle which deeply amused me, not what he’d said but the way in which it translated.

Isn’t this a vicious circle I asked myself. You’re single, you’ve got one of three choices realistically, you can just hook up with the first person that comes along then spend the next three years hoping they’ll change and become what you were looking for because you don’t want to be on your own. You can sit at home every night after work on your own with a dwindling number of friends you can hang out with because they’re coupled up – your only company being your huge amount of electronic gadgets and look on at your collection of perfectly ordered DVD’s and CD’s and just stare at the TV every night and become addicted to the mass of reality TV – because that involves “real” people.

Or, you can do what most sensible people do – you find something to fill your time, you get involved with things outside of your normal friend circle.

I’ve always been a pretty busy guy anyway, I run a small business, I have a number of clients, I have friends all over the UK and some spread across the globe which I try and get to see. I’m involved with Hospital Radio at Blackburn (something my friend referred to as a “hobby”?).

So, isn’t this a vicious circle, you’re single so you find things to fill the void in the hope that those that interact with groups will lead to meeting someone but if these things fill your time, how will you find time to spend with someone you do meet?

I think one of the worst things I did though in this conversation was try to justify myself to my friend - something I don’t normally do with anyone. I was defending the fact that my high-input with RHB at present was down to training etc – actually, a little lie, I am really enjoying it – and not just the studio time and presenting but going out and talking with patients etc – it’s a world outside my world.

So, what’s the answer – do less so that should I actually meet someone i’d have time to spend with them – but doesn’t that make you “too” available?

I don’t know but it does, at 36, sound to me like comments like this – even though meant with the best intentions and humour really do make you feel like your friends have already put you on the shelf.

After all, if your friends describe you to outsiders as a true friend, dependable, whitty, great cook, trustworthy, honest and other such adjectives, why do they never perceive you as being available and introduce you to the likewise dependable, trustworthy, honest singletons they also know? Why do your friends want to help you with every other aspect of your life except for being happy?

Is this because they’re frightened that if you pair up with someone then you’ll stop being around when they need you? Is it because they’re not comfortable with setting up a meeting between two people who are looking to meet someone? Or is it because they want to keep that person they could introduce you to hanging around in the background as a potential go-to person for themselves?

Are we then single because of being single?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Radio Hospitals Blackburn - Diary of a volunteer application - My First Broadcast

Tuesday 24th November 2009

Ok, so everything’s progressing swimmingly, my references have gone back, i’ve had my interview, Dave’s happy and it’s time to start the official training so, tonight’s my first night running the requestline show.

No big deal, come on, I mean, how hard can it be?

Well, after spending weeks on the other side of the desk just talking into the mic and doing vocal segments and facts and it looking easy, I can tell you with absolute certainty – it’s not as easy as it looks. Don’t let that put you off though, its just that first few minutes that gets you and apparently it’s ok, it’s not a big deal and it happens to every other trainee.... Yes, i’m talking about mindblock!

Mindblock! That numb feeling that you go through, no matter how much mental preparation you do; planning, sorting, typing things into lists, your mind just simply stops working for a minute.

We did Dave’s number one hits show as normal, we did the set-up for me doing the next hour, segue’s were flying out fantastically.

I decided i’d better concentrate and not try and fly it by the seat of my pants like i’d done oh so many times before on things (my first night DJ’ing in a club included) and let big Mark do some of the talking while I prepared the request list.

For those that don’t know, we get requests by a couple of methods; people can ring the station – we have an internal and external number with voicemail, they can ask the nurses to call us or we have request collectors who go around the wards on a daily basis getting requests, the only problem is that the volunteer who does Monday/Tuesday hasn’t got the best handwriting in the world and given that I don’t have the best eyesight in the world either you can imagine there’s some comedic moments in store on air if I try to read the request slips directly – so, enter the new addition to my techno family – the netbook.

What I do is type up a brief note for each request for each patient, you know, their name, ward number, song they’ve requested and if they’ve just asked for “anything” by an artist, what we’re going to play plus any dedication. This is straightforward, I just type a whole bunch of stuff into notepad, increase the font size and scroll down as I go – brilliant solution! You think!

Right, so, it’s 7:56 and we’re playing the last tune of the number 1 show, closed the mics and Dave says, “Right Mr, get your butt round here, its your turn.”

Ooh, I thought, my turn to use the presenter headphones!

I’m all set. The top of hour jingles play out, Netbook in prime viewing position, mic eq adjusted, headphone volume set, the opening bed plays, I open the mic and then my mouth decides to malfunction!

What came out wasn’t gibberish, it just didn’t seem intelligible – well, maybe to the animal kingdom but not to the poor souls with headphones on. In fact, it’s entirely possible that some patient’s may have asked for a brain surgeon or at the very least, a scan to make sure it wasn’t them.

What I was trying to do was say hello to a few people, mention a few tunes we were going to play and dispense with the fact that one particular artist – an obscure request, we just couldn’t play because we simply didn’t have it.

What came out was a lot of repetition of the same basic sentence – I won’t write exactly what I said – I think it’s more fun for you to imagine it.

After that, things got better, I got past the stammering and did my first link just after the end of the bed and over the intro of the first request, closed the mics, sat back and let out a huge sigh in gratitude of being able to escape for three minutes and forty-five seconds.

Dave, the professional and great friend did exactly what a professional and great friend does in a time like this – he let out a huge laugh, looked at me and said, “I’ve seen worse!” – cheers mate.

I went through the next few requests, back-announcing and forward-announcing as is the custom format for the show, each time gaining a little more confidence with using the equipment – specifically losing the mouse pointer on the dual-screen system constantly.

We used CD’s, we played with the old fashioned jingle machine, I even got brave and found a musical bed of my own choosing and inserted it into the playlist – just forgot to turn the volume down.

This is going to sound like an excuse but I guess I should tell you all that Myriad is configured for four playout devices and the studio has a four output soundcard which means we can individually control the volume for each player on the desk – a better configuration than studio 2 has but the problem is that when Myriad decides to play the next item automatically, you don’t always know which player it will put it in – i’ve since found out that it cycles from 1 through to 4 in order so as long as you check the screen, you can match that to a fader. Ok, excuses over with.
We carried on through the show, I threw it to Mark and Dave to do some of the requests, we did the phone numbers, we talked a bit, we mentioned people, we did dedications, in our own 10ft x 8ft world - we rocked!

It came to the back end of the hour and as normal we were overrunning and we were getting ready to wrap up when Dave said, “do you want to go on till 10 and do some other stuff”. Too right I did!

We did the last of the requests, let the pips play and then welcomed everyone back and then my confidence grew two-hundred-fold – I didn’t have to read off a script so our second hour was, in my opinion, definitely better than the first although i’m sooooo looking forward to next week which will be a bit confusing to some people as we’ll be there but not there – i’ll fill you all in in that entry and keep you guessing until then!

Have fun and until next time.....

Looks like no more public wi-fi!

Our wonderful government has been proposing what it lovingly calls the "Digital Economy Bill", it has come to light in a couple of articles in The Guardian that there are some rather clandestine parts hidden within its bowels that you should know about - specifically concerning wi-fi.

The two articles in question which raised my concerns were "Pub [allegedly] fined £8,000 for customer's illicit downloads" and "How the digital economy bill is trying to kill open Wi-Fi networks" both of which relate strongly to the constant yammerings about how downloading copyrighted materials is killing the industry.

What these articles were basically saying is that if you have a wi-fi connection - secured or unsecured and someone else uses it and downloads copyright infringing material then you, the person with the account can end up getting the wrath and having to defend yourself.

I had an open wifi network at home until a few months ago when I discovered a neighbour was leaching - downloading BitTorrent stuff quite excessively - i'd have had no problem with the user just browsing and doing a bit of facebook and email but this was slowing my connection up quite badly which was stopping me doing business. I've now added WPA2/PSK security - but even that's breakable.

Under the DEB it would be my IP address that would get traced back to my ISP and then i'd get the letters and ultimately the disconnection - fortunately i'm with a smaller provider who charges more and hasn't signed on to the DEB thing - not to say I sit here downloading music and movies all day - I don't. I'll freely admit I download TV shows from the US. I either try a show out (flashpoint, flashforward) and then decide no thanks or if its something I like, I generally keep the downloads until the DVD's are available and then go and buy them and delete the downloads.

I'll make it clear here that i'm not condoning downloading things but there are a few reasons why people in general do do it.

  • TV Shows: US TV shows a blinding amount of good stuff that our networks either don't pick-up or don't properly advertise when they're showing so we miss them and who really wants to go through their so called "on-demand" service which requires a sign-up to their system for each one - oh and that's if it works properly [4oD].

  • Music: Some things just aren't published anymore - fact! Some rare classics are only available via file-sharing. In my opinion, if the music industry wants to whinge about profits, it should make sure its entire collective [industry] catalogue is available to buy either legitimately online or on physical medium. Why should I be penalised for downloading what was a great tune for me when I was a kid just because the rest of the chart music buying public didn't agree and it went out of print and someone who owned one of the few original copies that were produced was nice enough to encode it for the rest of us to hear it again.

  • Fair Use: DRM (digital rights management) sucks! If I buy something, I want to play it back on whatever I want, whenever I want, whereever I want. It worked for years with records, tapes and CD's and you could record them to something else just as easily. I have a network of PC's with a homebuilt media server with a massive amount of disk space - the music is stored on there so I can listen wherever I want in the house. DRM prevents me massively from doing this. iTunes doesn't lend itself to a human interface (like a TV remote) unless you buy an Apple TV device but I don't want my movies in MP4 format - or more to the point, I want to play back anything - so Windows Media Centre wins here! iTunes/AppleTV requires your library to be stored on a PC running iTunes which means Windows or Mac - neither of which lend themselves cheaply to mass storage in one single volume - yes, i'm bragging, I have 10TB of RAID storage on a Linux server. Plus that backs me into having an iPod/iPhone which I believe I live in a country where there's supposed to be freedom of choice - maybe I want a different MP3/AVI player like an Archos because they have a bigger screen!!!!

So the DEB is basically trying to do the [commercially speaking] right thing. Mandleson is going to effectively kill the ISP industry in one move - here's why.

If you download illegal things and you get noticed (the means by which has not yet been clearly defined by the way) then you'll get a warning letter from your ISP - three stikes and you're cut off. Jump ISP's and repeat and you'll get banned from having an internet connection at home forever. Go do it at work and they'll get the warnings and if found, you'll probably get the sack.

So, who is the DEB really penalising - well ultimately, the ISP's.

Here's what will happen in a nutshell - you get cut off forever, that's one less customer for every ISP in the UK - one customer isn't so bad, right take it to the next level, 100,000 customers get cut off permanently - same thing but the ISP's running costs are the same - therefore their only option to keep afloat is to put prices up - no more cheap internet access from talktalk, tiscali, sky etc which then means that the people who took up broadband service because it was cheap aren't going to be able to afford it anymore which cascades the number of cancelled subscriptions very quickly as people will start to consider if they really need internet access. Soon that 100,000 becomes 2-3 million and so on - that's 0.5% of the population of the UK permanently banned or not subscribing because costs are back to being too high - is the government going to bail out the ISP industry like it did the banks - I think not - however, they would make better use of 54billion.

The only reason we get cheap internet is because of basic supply and demand principles - the more people want it the cheaper it can become - the less it's used the more it costs to supply and there's a ripple effect all the way up the line here - it's like the whole shebang about using less energy - use less and the corporate ass-hole electricity suppliers will just simply charge more - they have shareholders to pay out every 3 months and they're like Paulie from Goodfella's - people are using less energy - fuck you, pay me!

So, well done Mr Mandleson - your lovely bill is more than likely going to start another super-recession.

I'm all in favour of keeping the music and film industry alive but instead of them banging at the governments door when their profits are down, maybe they should consider their running costs and the absolute tripe they put out that apparently constitutes music. Its obvious that the UK's tallent has gone offshore because they have to be on TV every 6 months looking for the next big star - yes Mr Cowell, i'm gunning for you too. Why don't you send your A&R guys out like the old days around the pubs and live music venues scouting for the talent that's trying to make it. There's a place in Darwen in Lancashire called Marigold's - i've poked fun at them a few times because the bands they hire play a lot of the same material (not their fault) but i've seen more talent in what gets left in the toilet by some of their cheaper bands than some of the winners on X-Factor, Pop Idol, Britain's [not] Got Tallent and all the rest of that reality crap that a friend of mine watches and avoids the real world because of put together.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Radio Hospitals Blackburn - Diary of a volunteer application - The First Ward Walk

Monday 19th October 2009

So ok, i've skipped a night in the studio, last Tuesday was pretty exciting but not eventful, Dave showing me more of the technical stuff that you can do and me asking a lot of questions and him not being able to answer a few. I'd also started to hunt around on making jingles and producing couple as well as figuring out what format I could produce audio in at home - you know, an average day for a tech geek.

Anyway, application had been sent in so i'm urged to start doing ward liaison work, its all a bit of a blur still at this point, apparently I need to do a minimum of 6 weeks according to the membership rules, however, the question in my mind is what happens after that? Surely if all applicants are processed in 6 to 12 weeks then if we've no new applicants, doesn't this mean nobody's going out doing promotion.

I got picked up by Donna (Dave's wife who I still get the credit or blame for getting them together) about 4:30 and taken to the studio for the big gathering, i'm about to meet the other people who are going through the application and training process.

So we all gather at the studio, there's me, Donna, Sean, Heather, Louise and Sophie (although she'll be joining us in a bit). Donna's with us as we need a badged volunteer to get us on the wards and supervise us so, like an army troop we set off to march around the wards and recruit new listeners.

Blackburn has about 500 beds in total but not all of them are kitted up with the Hospedia system, there's some older multi-bed bays that haven't got it and private rooms that have and the same the other way around. It's something to do with it not getting added to quite a bit of the old part of the hospital and that Hospedia are rolling out a big upgrade in the next 12-18 months.

We arrive at our first target location, sorry, I mean ward, we went to the nurses station to check its not a bad time and Donna pipes up "we're from the radio station is it ok to go talk to some of the patients?" well, straight away I could see why the sister on duty looked a bit bemused - after all, which Radio station are you from Donna? Anyway, it becomes apparent after a few seconds and we're given the green light and told which rooms not to go near for infection control reasons etc. We hit our first bay and Heather, like a right trooper storms in, there's 5 of us so I figure its a bit daunting for the patients to have a mob descend on them so I hang back and listen - after all, its my first day, shouldn't somebody really be training me?

Heather's got a nice clear voice and with absolutely no fear, strolls into the middle of the room and gets the ball rolling. "We're from the radio service, is anybody interested in listening to the free radio service we have at the hospital?"

"When's it on?" says a very nice lady who's sat in her chair relaxing.

"Well it's on from 6:30 to 8:30 tonight and you can win a prize on the competition."

This made me a bit curious, after all, the station broadcasts 24/7 and has done for about 18 months so where's this bit of information. Surely isn't it for the good of the station in general and the benefit of the patients to tell them as much as possible but in a concise and clear manner? Ok, i'll let it go and maybe bring it up some other time.

We get a bite from a patient who wants signing up and we get them registered and listening and move on.

The procedure, and information is repeated from bay to bay, ward to ward and we sign a number of patients up but as i'm walking round with everyone and taking in what i'm seeing and hearing, its becoming obvious to me that the station needs its profile raising, an awareness drive and best of all, patient bedside units that actually work.

It's All A Bit Fishy!

We head back to the studio at this point, we've done as much as we can, a lot of the patients are already set up, we've got some new listeners, we've made people aware of the Monday night show and now its time to have some fun.

Already in session as we arive is Mr Monday Night, the saviour of RHB, 30+ years in the business in DJ'ing, Mr Charlie Tuna along with his co-presenter Dave Mayo but apparently we're missing one of the team tonight, Billy Bass. I detect a bit of a sea-theme here with names. Donna jumps into the mic-2 position and Heather and Sophie are kind of hanging at the back. I discover that Donna's on-air nickname on this show is "The Button" and Heather has been given the name "Little Mermaid" - i'm sorry, I had to chuckle as these are all quite appropriate names. We haven't got a name for Sophie at this point but later on she'll be known as "Kylie Minnow".

They get on with their show, its a good selection of music, requests, chat and a quiz they do called scrabble dabble, I pop into Studio 2 to speak to Dave as there's too many in the main studio to be comfortable at this point.

Its been a fun evening, ward walk, meeting people, chatting with patients etc but a few things are turning over in my mind about how it all fits together. What are these other people going to do when their training is over? Are they going to do their own shows? If they've already established a personality with a nickname on the Monday night show are they going to be able to translate this to another programme or are they going to feel like they can't progress? All this will surely get answered somewhere down the line but the bigger question is this - if there's an average turn around of 2.5 days on each bed, who is doing the station awareness the other 6 days of the week?

Radio Hospitals Blackburn - Diary of a volunteer application - The Application Process

Monday 12th October 2009

The application process for being a volunteer can be quite lengthy, ok so you're not getting paid, its your time you're giving up etc but there's still a whole bunch of red-tape to pass. Dave got me the application forms of which there's a few but there mostly just formalities. You get a general volunteer application form, an occupational health questionaire, a disabilities at work form, an introduction letter and then a CRB check form.

Why do I need a CRB check to sit behind a radio console? Simple. You will be interacting with patients directly at some point or other so naturally the hospital likes to know what your status is, however, its not as simple as that.

You need two references at a minimum, these have to be completed and returned to the volunteer services manager at which point you're invited for an informal interview and you fill in your CRB form and its sent off and processed.

The volunteer services manager at Blackburn is an incredibly nice lady called Janice Atkinson, she co-ordinates about 500 volunteers in total so you can imagine there's an influx of people coming and going and there really aren't enough hours in the day to get everything done as you'd like so be patient (no pun).

At RHB part of the conditions of training (as set out by the committee - signed, sealed, sent back and forth etc) are that you do ward-liaison work. This involves collecting requests for the flagship requestline show (every night from 8-9pm), generally promoting the station and helping patients get signed on to the hospedia system to be able to listen - yes sirreee, gone are the days of a simple plug in the wall, you have these bedside units which are basically a flatscreen monitor run by a PC which has a telephone module attached - you wouldn't normally know this but occaisionally they crash and as an IT geek, you see the familiar BIOS screen that lists all the devices etc - you know, the one where it normally crashes and says "no system disk or disk error" so naturally I found this quite amusing.

Anyway, i'm set to go with Dave again and sit in on his Tuesday show tomorrow so we'll keep you posted.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Radio Hospitals Blackburn - Diary of a volunteer application - Background

So, long story short, i've kinda allways been interested in Broadcasting, i've done a little bit of behind the scenes work on TV stations as part of my IT career - you know, bit of running for coffee, photocopying a few things, dragging equipment around, holding wind baffles on outside broadcasts etc and you get to know everyone in the team really well and of course, I leaned more towards the technical side so got to see how it all ticks. Anyway, i'd done web-radio back in 2000 for a couple of years on a station called DanceTraxx - there was always a frustration with technology and as a perfectionist, if you can't do seamless studio handoff when you're both in two physically seperate locations without disconnect and reconnect - well, i'm just going to lose interest as well as listeners pretty fast.

Fast forward to 2008, I went on a tour of Radio City Liverpool with the Institute of Electrical Technicians - fascinating to see how far forward things had come over the years, i'd had an experience of doing radio at a school I was at but we were fairly limited on budget so it was good to see how the big boys did it.

During the early part of 2009 with having an eye infection and being in a lot of pain, all I could do was listen to the radio so I started putting together in my head how everything worked, playout, show structure, voice links etc and was becoming more and more interested in getting involved with Radio.

A new client came on the scene who introduced me to a business colleague who was doing a web-radio and internal cable broadcast station, they wanted me to be the technical manager so I wanted to know how the real-world did it.

A practically lifelong friend of mine, Dave Peacock is the chairman of the committe at my local hospital's radio station (Radio Hospitals Blackburn), he's also a presenter, webmaster, show producer etc so I figured I could ask a favour and get a look at the computer system they've bought, P-Squared's Myriad suite. I'd seen another couple of playout systems, Dallet, Vira and OTS so getting a look at another was a bonus and more to the point, see it being used live.

Tuesday 29th September 2009

So, Dave picks me up from my place and we head up to the studios, they're located in an outbuilding at Blackburn Hospital, very hush hush, top-secret and all that, several coded doors, armed gards, showing of various passes and a bumpy elevator ride that reminded me of the Tower of Terror later and we're at the Studios.

RHB are lucky enough to have 2 fully functional studios and an office space, the trust spent over 40,000 on the fitting out after they moved from Park Lee Hospital - you see, this is why its called "Hospitals" plural, RHB used to broadcast to 5 hospitals at once - now that's a captive audience, sorry, I mean listener base!

Dave gave me the grand tour, I mean, the works, here's what we've got and this is a guy who speaks with pride about what he's involved with. Both studios have pairs of CD players, mini-disc, disk based jingles, Technics SL1200/SL1210 turntables, radio tuners (an emergency feed nowadays only), broadcast microphone mounts, multiple presenter and guest positions, Studiocraft Series 10 consoles and of course, their pride and joy and my reason for going up there - computer based playout.

Dave's always been into radio, he'll deny it but he's been practicing intro links for as long as I know, he used to be resident DJ at a bar called Marley's in Darwen and he'd talk over the beginning of the record upto the bit where the singing starts and he'd do it so perfectly, close the mic, turn to me and say "just like they do on the radio!" - we used to laugh and naturally as a friend i'd pick fun but inside i'd always be thinking; "he'll get there!".

After the grand tour and a good look at the computer system it was time for Dave's normal Tuesday night show to begin. The all-too-familiar pips played in perfect sync with the clock on the wall followed by the barrage of top-of-the-hour station jinges and show idents and Dave settled into his regular routine, opened the show and then made the biggest mistake of his life........ he introduced me on-air!

Even though i'm not exactly unfamiliar to talking on a mic from many years of DJ'ing, this was a bit unexpected and threw me for a second but I soon got into it, we chatted a bit and Dave asked me about a few things and we got onto the subject of why I was there and of course, I forgot for a second that we were on-air and accidentally ended up mentioning the name of the web-radio station I was going to be working for - oops, oh well, never mind, what's done is done, we moved on past it pretty quick and carried on with the show.

Each link opportunity, Dave had me say something or other, nothing eventful, just talking to me about the tracks we were playing and stuff that was going on - I think some radio professionals call this "waffle" and then, exactly at which point I can't remember, came the turning point. Dave said on-air, "Have you enjoyed being here tonight?", "yeah, of course, thanks for having me sit in with you it's been great" (as professional as I could be) and then came the bombshell, the mistake that we'll laugh about forever probably, the start of it all, the question; "I think we're going to probably get James signed up and have him come work for us".

And here came my own big mistake, a journey back into the past of my rash decision making, quick answering and getting swept up in the glitz and glamour - I said yes!

And there began the start of this journey. I'm keeping a diary of this to encourage anyone else who comes to volunteer at RHB or indeed any other hospital radio station so keep your chin up and stick with it.

Next time.... the application!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Mysterious Hospital Stay

Ok, so here's the deal, somewhere around beginning of Feb I was walking into town to go to ASDA, it was one of those rare snowy days nd while walking up the road, a piece of grit or snow got flicked up off the road and into my right eye. I didn't give it much thought, blinked a few times and got on with life, went to ASDA, got the stuff I needed, came home, cooked tea for me and my friends, went to bed and started a new day.

However, the following day, in the afternoon, my eye was itching quite badly, I left it alone, didn't wear my contact lenses and got on with the day, went to bed and started Wednesday with a building intense pain everytime I looked at something bright. I made an appointment to see my optician and soldiered on.

My optician diagnosed that I had a small corneal scratch and put me on some drops to help clear it up, 5 days later it still hadn't gone so I went to my GP who referred me to the hospital's emergency eye clinic.

The (first of many) doctor subsequently diagnosed the condition as iritis, put me on the appropriate antibiotic drops, sent me home with an appointment for a check up a week later.

I went back and saw another doctor who then declared that this wasn't iritis, it was a cold-sore in the eye and changed my medications to an ointment.

At first, when this all started, I noticed that the vision in my right eye had gone a fraction blurry and that there were a few halos around letters, this then got worse with the ointment but after consultation with the staff at the hospital, ointments will make your vision more hazy and the infection will cause blurriness. So far, i've seen my optician, my GP and two doctors at the eye clinic all with differing opinions.

The intense pain would come and go, this I found out was called Photo-Phobia and is caused by the iris spasming as it tries to synchronise with the good eye as it focuses.

I went back to the hospital on an emergency appointment between scheduled appointments to try and get the pain under control to no avail.

Finally on Monday of last week, I went for a scheduled check-up, actually feeling somewhat better and was told that I had 'pus' growing inside my eye as the infection had spread further through the cornea. I was admitted to hospital to get it under control and have spent the last week going insane laid in a sweaty hospital bed having drops poured into my eyes by, to be honest, what can only be described as some of the best care staff i've met.

People give the NHS a hard time but once you're in the system they do their best. I'm now under a single consultant who i've met on several occaisions, on the right antibiotics and antivirals and the 'pus' is decreasing in mass.

They've let me out of hospital today with a fork-lift truck full of medications to use and an appointment for Friday of this week to be re-checked. Fingers crossed that all will still be on the mend in a couple of days.

While in, i had to have a procedure called a corneal scrape - it's not a particularly pleasant sounding procedure but it's necessary to get rid of/collect dead cells for analysis. They do numb your eye first but it's a bit sore after that wears off.

Other highlights included an excess intake of ibuprofen and codeine tablets - and the subsequent having to come down from them, sleeping tablets called zopifloam and the bounceback effect they have during the day and becoming numb watching endless amounts of daytime TV and re-runs of the Professionals and Minder on ITV4!

The outlook is that when it all clears up there will still be some scarring of the cornea which will result in some further decreased vision in that eye (boo) and it could still take another 6 weeks to clear up.

One good thing - I manged to get my CVI (certificate of visual impairment) sorted out.

I'll post more after my appointment on Friday!

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