I had weird dreams again, about being framed for a crime I didn’t commit by the KGB (some of my family believed them) and pursued by a tiger that was owned by the Thursday night shiur (religious class) rabbi. I think it was all one dream that switched back and forth between the two threads. I guess I feel like I’m being hunted at the moment, albeit by life rather than by spies and tigers.
My main achievement today was phoning about New Style Employment and Support Allowance (benefits). They have really awful muzak, even by the standards of awful phone muzak for big businesses or state institutions. It has a sort of flushing noise! Who thinks that muzak is a good idea? As Lily Tomlin said, “I worry that the person who thought up muzak might be thinking up something else.” I got through after over half-hour, only to be told that if I haven’t worked continuously for the last two years, I am not eligible because I won’t have paid enough National Insurance (NI). This did not seem like what I was told when I phoned a couple of months ago, but I wasn’t sure what to do other than hang up and double check my payments online. I went back to the HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, which sounds like something out of a book on seventeenth century smugglers, but is actually the UK tax office) website and found that I do have full NI payments for the last two years even though I was not working continuously. I’m not sure how I have them, but I do. So – phone again and eventually got through and the person on the end of the phone passed my details to my local Jobcentre, who will phone within a week (hopefully) to offer me an appointment to look at my form. Some of this does seem like a job-creation scheme for Department of Work and Pensions staff.
I would like to claim for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) too, which is supposed to be intended for people with long-term illness or disability, but I know from experience the claim form is geared up to people with visible, consistent illnesses or disabilities, not mental illnesses that come and go, or can be overcome up to a point with a great deal of effort. “I have no arms and need someone to cook for me” is OK; “I have no energy so it takes me three hours to cook a basic dinner, sometimes, but not always” is not OK.
I get wary of complaining too much about benefits or public services, because I’m aware that the demand on them is potentially infinite, while the limits on what they can do are very real and not to be overcome simply by raising taxes (or borrowing) to increase spending. Nor would I want to just live off benefits. Still, it is frustrating that my parents have contributed their share of tax all their working lives, and I’ve even contributed a little, but they are left to support me unaided because my issues fall in the gaps between recognised symptoms and behaviour.
I did at least move ahead with the formatting of my Doctor Who non-fiction book while on hold. The main decision left to make is whether to include a formal bibliography of the stuff I read while preparing the book. My instinct is not to do so, not least because of the time it would take to prepare one, although I have prepared notes for making one. I was vaguely hoping that I would produce something that could potentially appeal to cultural studies students as well as fans, but lack of knowledge of/agreement with critical theory makes me incline to aim this primarily at the fan market, especially as there are a number of more formal books out there now. I probably should really write something about the current series too, but (a) I’m not enjoying it and really don’t feel up to sounding positive about it, but don’t want to end the book on a downer and (b) keeping a book about an ongoing TV programme up-to-date is a potentially never-ending task. Bear in mind that when I started the blog posts that the book grew out of, Matt Smith was still the Doctor. I really I want to focus my creative efforts on my novel now.
Also while on hold, I had a clear-out of my email, so it was not totally wasted time. I then tried to get a doctor’s appointment about the stomach cramps I’ve had lately (which I had thought were a side-effect of medication, but am increasingly thinking may be a stress/anxiety symptom), but the surgery didn’t release any appointments online. I don’t know why the surgery make it so difficult to get an appointment, but, again, this is symptom of a national problem partly caused by free-at-point-of-use services and no one wants to talk seriously about what can be done about that. The easiest way to get an appointment at my surgery is to phone at 8.30am when the surgery opens, which effectively amounts to a barrier to getting an appointment for many depressed people who are too depressed to get up early. My parents have often made appointments for me in the past, but I feel embarrassed about that.
The surgery also has a policy that you are a patient of the surgery, not a particularly doctor, and they make it hard for you to consistently make appointments with the same doctor. If you make an appointment by phone, you can’t choose your doctor at all, only whether you want a male or female doctor or have no preference. If you book online, you potentially have a chance to find a particular doctor, but there is still a large element of luck in which doctors have available appointments. This is problematic if you have very personal problems and want to see a trusted GP, or at least someone familiar. I particularly would like to see my usual GP in case this is a stress or anxiety issue, as he knows my very long and involved case history, but it’s not hard to think of other examples of people who might want to see a familiar doctor, particularly in cases of mental health or sexual health. I don’t like throwing around words like “ableism” but this does seem not thought through particularly well, even though I can see they might want to avoid a situation where different doctors have very different caseloads.
My mood was mostly OK, perhaps because I spent so much of it on hold, feeling frustrated by that rather than anything more serious as well as having my negative thoughts crowded out of my head by muzak. I did have sudden moments of sadnessa nd despair though, particularly when in need of food.
I managed about thirty-five minutes of Torah study before feeling too exhausted to continue, which is good, although I only did so much because my reading of Tehillim (Psalms) reached chapter 27, which is very familiar from the liturgy, as we read it twice a day for nearly two months of the year, so there were perhaps fewer difficult words to deal with.